I think by now, you have come to realize that I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of unintentional manufacturing mistakes. However, I don’t claim to be an expert because I’m always making new discoveries. My interest is due to the fact that this stuff was never intended for public consumption. This little fact has me sometimes feeling like I tricked the system when I stumble across these so called errors. Some are more devastating than others but all seem to spark my interest. I’ve been exposed to a lot of the following erroneous elements: reverse negatives, misspelling, color contrasts, missing print, wrong backs/fronts, blank backs/fronts, overprints, wrong pictures, and the like. With minimum order quantities (MOQs) sometimes ranging in the millions, it’s almost certain that some percentage of variation will escape into market. It’s hard to keep track of every single unit and as I’ve stated before, even the most scrupulous Quality experts get tired from time to time.
Sometimes, just when I think I’ve seen everything, I make a new discovery. I think that’s the part of the excitement about this particular hobby, new discoveries will always be made. No matter how long you’ve been exposed to the hobby, never will the day come where you can honestly convince yourself that you’ve seen it all. Baseball cards have been around since the 1840’s. I am 99% positive that over the course of the past 170 years, there’s not been one single production company that has ever had a 100% quality output. It’s simply not possible given the average output requirements. To be perfectly honest, that tiny amount of variation makes for great discussion and I’m likely more apt to talk about something that wasn’t supposed to happen rather than its intentional counterpart.
Enough with the jibber jabber, let’s move on to the meat of the discussion. I found this error to be quite confusing. It’s from 2007 Ultra baseball. When I first obtained this card, I stared at it for a few minutes straight. I couldn’t quite conceptualize it at first. There are so many things that don’t quite agree here. The card’s complete real-estate is comprised of not just one player, but three! The front depicts Gary Matthews, the Outfielder for the 2007 Anaheim Angels roster. Printed over that picture is the name stamp for everyone’s favorite Boston Red Sox Outfielder, Manny Ramirez. But it gets even better, flip the card over and who do you find? You guessed it, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies! Sure, sure, all of this makes plenty of sense if you live in Bizarro World but I’m yet to dine there.
I actually think errors such as this one keep products interesting and surprising. Because I’m not entirely convinced that this was an intentional error, consumers won’t have any idea that it exists until it reach’s their hands. However, once it does reach hands, the experience on point of the collector is enhanced ten fold. I say this because this is just the type of find that would validate the sunk cost required for a product break (i.e., opening packs). Often times, the experience is compromised if the case remains so that the break contains little to no content of any interest. Granted, the chase is for those cards which are stated to exist via product packaging. For instance, the package may state phrases that play to the key of “2 Autographs per pack” or “1 Game Used card per box.” In this context, the odds of pulling the so called available ‘hits’ are stated right there on the packaging. In which case, the consumer has certain expectations. They expect to pull those cards. Hence forth, upon product break, they know what they are looking for.
Consider for a moment that while you are searching packs for those stated hits, you stumble upon something unknown, something mysterious, something that was never intended for public release. The question in hand mutates from “where is that card?” to “what is that card?” The “where” implies that you know that it’s there, a little time however is required to find it. The “what” however implies something more obscure; it implies that you may have made a new discovery, something by which you have stumbled upon serendipitously. That which was expected (the product hits) has now taken a back seat to that which was unexpected (the triple printing error, depicted). Which would you rather discover? While you are pondering an answer to that question, I will leave you with the following statement:
Expected vs Unexpected
Sometimes the very element of surprise is buried under shards of normalcy and routine, sometimes even mediocrity. Symmetry is often viewed as the gold standard of aesthetic excellence. When things are viewed as same from left to right, that’s all that’s left, sameness. Over repeated trials, this sameness mutates into numbness and boredom, even worse so, expectation. When we adjust to the lack of surprise, we establish an acceptance for the notion that mediocrity is the definitive benchmark or plateau. This is the same moment when the subscriber freely condemns himself with convicting phrases such as, “this is it” or “this is just the way it is.” This is the type of thinking that poisons the creative soul and potentially threatens personal internal dynamics. With a short road and a dead end, this type of thinking does us in.
To ameliorate the common-place monotonous clause in the script of routine, a subscription to asymmetry should be strongly reconsidered. It’s this potentially strange but refreshing directive that inflates our lungs and keeps us alive in the sea of recycled daily themes. It’s the element of surprise that is the key to creative survival. As an added side effect, it leaves us with feelings of hope. It’s this hope that turns our phrase from “this is it” to “is this it?” The very question leaves us thinking that there is simply more to the puzzle than sameness. It keeps us searching for more. It’s the game of search and find that strengthens the element of surprise and enhances our experiences. Henceforth, our lives…