State of the NPN (Self) Address(ed) (Envelope)

My second foray into card collecting came in the midst of a dangerous era in the card world. It’s an oft-discussed, but rarely box-breaked era full of ridiculous parallels, nearly unlimited amounts of “limited” relics and the birth of the Dread Sticker Auto.

The time was, of course, the mid-2000s.

In 2003, I graduated from college with a not-yet-proven-to-be-as-entirely-worthless-as-it-actually-is Bachelor of Arts degree in cinema production. I had a perfectly good plan: move back in with my mom in Rockford for one year, work the same machine shop job I worked throughout high school and just generally save money for a move to Chicago. I succeeded in meeting all of those goals. 11 months worth of 70-80 hour workweeks later, I was in a basement apartment literally right behind Wrigley Field. Livin’ the dream.

But along the way, I got a bit sidetracked. You see, Rockford, IL is not (despite being the birthplace of both sock monkeys and Cheap Trick) the most exciting place for a young man to be. All my high school friends were still in college, Jon was finishing his second degree (a useful one is business management) and the rest of my college friends were off livin’ the pre-dream in their respective moms’ basements. Simply put, I was bored.

Sleeping in the same room I grew up in, I naturally found myself digging through my closets looking for buried treasure and I found myself spending some time with my old baseball cards I had feverishly collected as a kid. My first collecting life spanned the worst possible era in baseball card history: 1987 – 1995. Turns out that exactly 0f of my cards were worth even the property tax my mom was paying on the space they took up in that closet.

But still… the combination of the obviously forthcoming World Series trip for the Cubs in ’03 and mind-crushing boredom was a deadly one. I got The Itch again.

What that Itch got me into is a story for another time, but one thing I learned from trolling the Beckett message boards (then THEE online destination for card collectors) was that those No Purchase Necessary addresses on pack wrappers were no joke. No joke at all. You just send in a card with your name and address and blam-o! Free cards showed up in the mail. Sure, it was usually just a Juan Gonzalez parallel #/100 from Donruss. But every now and then, Topps’ blinding light would shine upon thee.

Pre-hop?

Bask in its glory! This is a card from a repack/buyback set called Bowman Originals that Topps released in 2004-2006. At the time I received this card (for the price of a stamp, remember), Soriano was one of the hottest players in the game. I was stoked. The real auto above the fake auto is off-putting though… I’m not sure why Bowman still has that feature. Now, I never bought a single pack of Bowman Originals. So I have no idea if a card of this caliber was hard to hit or not. In fact, I can’t find much information on the set anywhere.

My favorite Brave of all time next to Aaron. No joke.

Nor can I find much info on its counterpart set, 2004 Topps Originals. When I got this Murphy in the mail, I was seriously pumped. Whether or not this qualifies as a “hit” in this product is irrelevant to me. Dale Murphy was one of my heroes as a kid (owing in no small part to his 1988 Donruss cover boy status). Plus it’s 1989 Topps, the most iconic junk wax set of all time (IMHO). This is a card made in heaven.

This set looked stupid even in 2005.

Now, perhaps the cream of the crop. A 2005 Bowman Sterling Jacoby Ellsbury RC Auto Relic. He was a highly-touted prospect at the time and this would have been an incredible pull even if I had paid whatever ridiculous price they were asking for a pack of this stuff. But, at $.37, this card was unbeatable. While the Murphy is my favorite, I think Jacoby here has the best potential return on investment (though his stock has taken a serious hit due to injury last year).

All of these cards are for trade in exchange for some Royals on-card autographs. Who knows, maybe someone has one somewhere!

As for modern NPNs, I convinced Jon to send in a handful with me. Upper Deck has an online system, so no stamp is even required. But after sending in maybe a dozen or so each and receiving only unnumbered inserts from both Panini and Topps (and nothing from UD), I’ve determined that the golden age of the NPN is over. Rumor has it that NPNs were related to some law on the books in PA concerning sweepstakes that has lapsed or is no longer enforced. The NPNs remain only as a courtesy and have no incentive to carry the same odds as the pack states (as was the case once upon a time). Has anyone else had any luck with modern NPNs or am I right in my assumptions?

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