Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

Want Lists are located here. NPB Baseball Want List is located here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

State of the Blog Address: March

Here is a look at my 2014 goals and progress. My progress from a month ago is in green. I feel like I haven't made much progress, though I know things keep moving along.

1. 65% Japanese Type Collection. I need to update for some recent purchases. I bought several rare cards and recent releases (many of which aren't in my database) that need to be inventoried. However, I really need to update my spreadsheets with sets I now know about: Calbee 2014 and possibly some parallel sets; BBM rare, autograph, relic and parallel issues; and oddball listings added to Engel's latest guide. Currently, I'm at 61.45%.  (Last Month: 60%)

1b. Finish Calbee: I went backwards, because I added in some updated late 1970s series, especially 1978, plus I added in Homerun cards. I have more total cards in inventory, but due to the added sets I now need 27 cards. (Last month: 14 needed)

2. Continue Calbee posts: I hacked out a post for the 1975-76 set. I think once I get past the 1970s I'll move a bit faster. I've been trying to gather samples I'm still missing for the 1977-1979 issues before I write the posts. (Last month: 1974)

2b. Start BBM posts: I've been posting new releases as they come out, but as always this will be on hold until Calbee is done. (As always, 0%)

2c. Make a Table of Contents: I need a day to go through and finish this up. (5%)

3. Make new release posts on time: I've been keeping up pretty well lately; I just got Heritage out. I need to do Opening Day and some new BBM sets from last week. (Last month: 75%)

3b. Preview/review 2014 MLB sets: I skipped Tribute, but Heritage, Donruss, and flagship Topps have all been written. As I mentioned, next is Opening Day. April has a good release I expect to discuss. Maybe running about 60% now? (33%)

4. Do something with the Zoo: Nothing yet. Still nothing. (0%)

5. Finish the NPB Live Game Collection: I might have missed cards for the BayStars for two games. ...checking... yes. It looks like I have taken a step backwards. I would like to find a cheap BayStars team set from 2012 (or even 2011 or 2013) but I never see BayStars sets for sale. So, now I'm stuck at 92%. (99%)

5b. Start the MLB Live Game Collection: [This goal has been MET!] (100% in January)

6. Collect 2014 sets: Donruss is done. I won't get Topps until later in the year, but Gypsy Queen is due out in a couple weeks. Based on how many sets I'm expecting to buy, I'm at about 10%. (Last month: 0%)

6b. Collect 2014 insert sets: I have my Heritage News Flashbacks set. There are three other inserts that I really want to build: Topps 1989 Minis, Opening Day Between Innings, and Donruss Diamond Kings (subset). I just picked up some more singles so I'm going to probably build a couple more insert sets from flagship Topps. Next month, Gypsy Queen hits shelves and I want a mini-master set. I'm probably around 5% with 2014 releases, given that I'm sure I'll want about 20 insert sets from this year's offerings (including GQ, Ginter, and possibly some Panini product if I ever hear about it).   (Last month: 0%)

7. Post more information about Japanese card shops: [I should start planning how to do this...] Still at 0%.

8. Post about NPB awards[nothing yet, but once I finish my backlog of posts I'll go after this.] Still at 0%.

January: 1/14.
February: 1/14.
March: 1/14.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Just Commons Part 6: History All Over Again

 Are you ready for another history lesson? Continuing my obsession of collecting baseball cards without any baseball on them, here are some Historical Moments cards from Upper Deck's 2009 A Piece of History set.
 There are 50 cards in this subset, numbered as part of the base set. The history mostly spans the past 100 or so years.
 I think this is the first nighttime picture I've seen of the Hollywood sign as Hollywoodland.
 I've biked across the Golden Gate Bridge.
 The first inhaled anesthetic used was by Dr. Long, who has both a museum and hospital devoted to his name and his work in Georgia. Dr. Morton, of Boston, was the first to publicly demonstrate inhaled anesthetics.
 I haven't seen Mount Rushmore yet. I'm not sure if or when I ever will.
 I guess the last time the Cubs won the World Series, over 100 years ago, is a historical moment. The last Chicago Cubs World Series trophy is an antique, after all.
 I have finally finished this set after four years of building it; I also finished my never-really-started 2008 Topps Heritage News Flashbacks set in one go.
 These cards all look at 1959, and the design borrows from the 1959 Topps set.

 How cool would it have been to have shown Castro in a baseball uniform instead?
 Hawaii. There's a lot I'd like to see in the world, and Hawaii is on that list. But despite its natural beauty, the 50th State is quite low on my list.
The penguin says hello. I'm saying goodbye. I'm quite glad to have these two sets finished!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Just Commons Part 5: USA! USA! USA! Team USA Cards! (Oops. Updated.)

In the past three months, I've really worked hard to knock down my want lists. I've succeeded in finishing off several sets, including some Team USA team sets from recent Bowman releases.
 Bowman Platinum: a set I could do without. Seriously, this is everything I dislike about baseball cards. Boring use of foil background, boring design, players nobody's heard of on cardboard only because they might become major leaguers at some point... I do like the Team USA cards, though.
 The 1993 Stadium Club Murphy Dome set has been quite elusive thanks to the inclusion of a certain Yankee legend. But I've managed to gather all the singles I need for the Team USA team set. I still need the Dome set itself too.
I feel like Bowman put Team USA cards in every set it issued in 2011. These cards don't have an awesome design, but at least there isn't any foil to make for a poor scan.
Chris Okey needs a hat that fits him. At least Platinum used action images; the 1993 Stadium Club Dome card used what must be an actual game image.
 I remember when '92 Bowman came out. The foil cards were pretty cool back then, and even today they are just as nice. By my count there are 47 in the set, out of 705 cards, or one in 15 cards in the set. Since they were inserted 1 per 15-card pack, they aren't really short-printed, but they seem to carry a small premium sometimes. Anyway, I just finished my '92 Team USA set.
The only Upper Deck cards from Team USA sets in my order were these National Pride inserts. I have most (perhaps all, but I think I'm missing something) of the actual Team USA sets Upper Deck produced. I've fallen behind the past two years.

More cards soon!

Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 Topps Heritage Review: Close, but no cigar. One egg short of a dozen. One card short of a full deck.

I'm not crazy about Topps Heritage. I recognize its appeal, though. A large percentage - perhaps a majority - of series collectors were alive and probably collecting as children during the Golden Age of baseball. The designs bring back memories of when life for them was simpler. Generally, the release is geared towards set builders, with reproductions of poses, errors, and other nuances of the original set. And many of the designs from this era were quite attractive, some timeless.

But I don't have a connection with the 1950s and 1960s. My first packs as a child collector were bought in 1989. And, as I seem to mention every year, the designs are great but purposely making the photos grainy to match the originals is just irritating. I wish the Heritage sets for the painted sets were, well, painted. So I don't collect the base set. Besides, I have the flagship issue and a few other throwbacks to chase every year.

This post isn't about Heritage hate... not exactly. I don't think poorly of anyone who collects the set; it's just not my cup of tea. It's one of the releases for which I enjoy seeing the cards themselves and gathering singles for my type collection.
 The base cards this year are styled after 1965 Topps. I personally consider this to be the best design Topps used in the 1960s. The card backs are fun with a handwritten-style font and cartoon, as per the original. Gattis' card has extra space to mention that he had several prior jobs. I guess that's pretty rare these days, as most MLB roster members have probably never had a real job other than part-time work in high school... if that.

There are 500 cards in the base set; the last 75 are short prints. Four variation styles can be found as short prints for some cards: error replications (6 cards known), throwback uniforms (20 cards), action images (25 cards), and team logo variations (25 cards).
 100 cards from the base set have a series of parallels in varying quantities:

  • Chrome, #/999
  • Chrome Refractor, #/565
  • Chrome Purple Refractor
  • Chrome Black Refractor, #/65
  • Chrome Gold Refractor, #/5
  • Mini, #/100
Additionally, 25 cards have a blue-border parallel found only at WalMart, and 25 cards have a red-border parallel sold exclusively at Target. It appears that there is no overlap in those two checklists, but I think all 50 red/blue border cards are also found in the Chrome and Mini parallel sets.

All cards have a black-back parallel, which seem to be pretty rare. These replace the blue shading with a black (grey) shading.

 Topps Heritage has a few insert sets that come back from year to year. They borrow design elements from the base set design, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Two of those are the Baseball Flashbacks and News Flashbacks sets. Each set has 10 cards. There is a 10-card Baseball Flashbacks relic autograph set, with each card serial-numbered to 10. A look back at 1965 is an interesting history lesson - both in baseball and pop culture.
 Two other annual offerings in this year's Heritage set are New Age Performers, a 20-card set, and Then & Now, a 10-card dual-player set.
 Heritage has been known to contain inserts based on inserts or other releases by Topps from the year the  set is based on. In 1965, Topps released an Embossed set, and this year's Heritage has an Embossed insert set. This is extremely rare; a single card from this 15 card set is found about 1:15,000 hobby packs. Are these 1 of 1s? How many hobby packs are there, exactly?

The other pack-based insert in Heritage this year is First Draft, featuring players who were drafted in 1965's first ... well ... draft.
A 20-card embossed "Giant Baseball Players" box loader set is limited to 50 copies each, with a relic set #/25; 10 cards are also found in autographed versions, #/10.
The other form of box loaders are the usual advertising panels, which are strips of three cards on the front; the backs have one "traditional" card back with the other two cards' space being an advertisement for the product.
 There are two non-game relic card sets. One is the Framed Stamps set, a 16-card set serial numbered to 50. The other is 65 Mint, with 50 subjects in nickel (#/15), dime (#/10), quarter (#/5), and JFK half-dollar (1/1) versions.

Note, that based on the odds given for the framed stamps, different possibilities for the number of 2014 Topps Heritage hobby packs exist:

  • Nickels #/15 1:2830, 2,122,500 packs
  • Dimes #/10 1:5660, 2,830,000 packs
  • Quarters #/5 1:16,864, 4,216,000 packs
  • Half Dollars #/1 1:161,890, 8,094,500 packs.

Either some cards don't appear in all versions (I haven't really studied the checklist a lot), or someone has a problem with math at Topps. Regardless, using this data means that the Embossed inserts, which are hobby-only and found 1:14,667 packs, are limited to somewhere between 10 and 40 copies each. I haven't looked at the odds for any other sets to see if this pans out... keep reading and I'll see what happens.
 Topps Heritage has one true relic set, Clubhouse Collection. There are 40 cards in the set, with a gold parallel numbered to 99 copies. There are additional "Clubhouse Collection" sets:

  • A 5-card dual-relics set, numbered to 65 copies each.
  • A 5-card triple-relics set, numbered to 25 copies each.
  • A 5-card quad-relics set, numbered to 10 copies each.
  • A 10-card autographed relic set, numbered to 10 copies each.
  • A 5-card dual-relic dual-autograph set, numbered to 10 copies each.
Additionally, there is a 25-card patch booklet set, all as 1-of-1 cards, found 1:65,000 packs. The odds here show an even-lower hobby pack supply, about 1.6 million packs.

Real One Autographs are a big draw in Heritage, with on-card signatures from stars past and present. There are 56 subjects in this year's set, with a "Special Edition" red-ink parallel numbered to 65 copies. Additionally, there are 10 dual-autographed cards #/25, and 5 triple-autographed cards #/5, found 1:33,728 packs. And yet again, the 25 triple-autographed cards in the product indicate that there would be only about 800,000 hobby packs of Heritage.

Two mega-hit sets are found in Heritage: 20 1:1 cut signature cards and 20 1:1 celebrity cut signature cards. The checklists seem to show baseball players as some of the "celebrity" subjects, including Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, and Tommy Lasorda. There are some celebrities, like Elvis Presley and Betty White.

Hobby-only inserts seem to help get an idea of the print run for a product; extrapolations about retail supply could also be made with accurate data. However, Topps' odds are all over the place. Then again, my odds are based on those posted at Cardboard Connection, and they could be combined odds for some products. an 800,000 hobby pack run for Heritage is possible, I suppose. I read an article recently that Topps is seeing a decrease in orders and thus reduced its print run, and with the same-old same-old (yet straying from Heritage's successful formula) it should be no surprise.

When I first saw the sell sheets for Heritage, I had at least some interest in the Embossed cards. And when I saw the first actual card image online, I wanted the insert and box loader sets. But if they're really available only in quantities of 50 or less each, there's no way I could try to build a set. And that's how Topps loses customers... and that's why they're close, but no cigar in this release.

I do have a full set of News Flashbacks already, because I'm a minor history buff and I've been building the set since it began being inserted into Heritage. I don't have any actual Heritage cards in my possession yet, though. I hope to find some singles this weekend at one of the local stores (though it's a slim chance).

However, if there actually is a lower print run, this year's Heritage set could be highly coveted in the future.