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

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Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 Allen and Ginter - my thoughts

I've seen a dozen posts already showcasing the previews of Allen and Ginter. And this will make for a baker's dozen.

First, the base. This is a completely different design - the "trademark" fade-away background is still there, but the card receives some major artwork along the bottom. That has got to be the biggest use of space for a brand logo I've ever seen. It's a nice design, and as before, I will collect the set, but it's different.

I like the mini auto's. This Heyward is a nice one. Even without the blue border frame that this card will be encased in, the design is nice (well, not this card - the red autos go in the rip cards). The frame itself:
It's an attractive frame. The bold blue really stands out, the broken frame design along the corners lends a small touch of "artness" and the flowers - well they remind me of venus fly traps. With white pollen flying off of them.  I don't know, though - the point of an autographed or relic card is to showcase the memorabilia, and the border pulls away from the card itself. Speaking of relics:
I haven't seen anyone else mention that this puzzle piece box loader cabinet card thing has a relic inside. What keepsake would you want from Florida? Sand? Alligator tooth? What about New Jersey? What special relic would Kansas have to offer? Is New York going to come with a slice of pizza? The sell sheet advertises these as numbered to 50. And I'd love to put together one of these sets, relic or not, but I have a feeling it's going to get quite expensive.

Everyone wants to know who will have autographs in Allen and Ginter, and this year I find there are many I'm interested in. There are some big names, but I'm interested in Picabo Street, Hope Solo, Heather Mitts and Sue Bird for the women's sports collection (if the price is right - some of them have signed for other sets). Peter Gammons interests me, as does Guy Fieri. I have a friend who would love to have a Guy Fieri or Marc Forgione autograph.

I collect non-sports cards, so I'll probably complete a few of the insert sets. I'm looking at the Penultimacy, Mysterious Figures, Step Right Up, Uninvited Guests, Minds That Made the Future, and Ascent of Man. The idea of a plantable card intrigues me, but how well will the card stand up to the test of time?

Overall, with the autograph list and insert sets, this is the most appealing Allen and Ginter set yet, at least for my interests. The design is bold, ornate, and attractive. When this product finally arrives we'll see how well it does. If you want to see the sell sheet, it's posted here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

1994 Leaf Slideshow - This Card Is Cool

I remember when I was younger one social faux pas that really bored me to tears was when people everyone would sit in front of a big screen and show slides.

However, I've been sorting old photographs with my grandmother, and I sorted through several slides today. One of the great things about slides seems to be the image quality. There's something special about a backlit image that makes it stand out that much more. That's why this card is cool.
The 1994 Leaf set had a 10-card insert series named Slideshow. The cards are made to look like slides mounted in trading cards, and the image is printed on plastic (acetate?), giving it the appearance that it is a slide. I doubt you could put this in your carousel and project it on the wall, but it's a nice effect. As you can see in the picture, you know exactly when and where (and against whom) the player was when the picture was taken. Unfortunately, while the images are nice, there's not as much action as some other sets have (I can't think of a single Donruss/Leaf set where the photography truly stands out). The Juan Gonzalez image is really nice, as the colors of the fans behind make the image look even sharper and brighter. On the other hand, Frank Thomas' solid black jersey blends in with the shadowed dugout behind him. The other two cards I have - Darren Daulton and Tim Salmon - look pretty good.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Last of my eBay grabs from the past couple days.

For the last couple days I've been showing you some of the great oddballs I've found from eBay. Gymnastics cards, CD-ROMs, game discs, drink makers, it seems I've covered nearly everything. Now, the rest - stuff that is kind of boring for now, and other cards that I have plans on focus later on.
First, this 2008 Ben Sheets SPx Winning Materials jersey numbered /125. It has a nice shiny gold overlay and fits in my "super" collection. The piece of jersey actually looks like it once held a piece of patch. One more down, more than 26,000 to go...

El Dorke. How about those psychopath eyes? Mullet head? Poor Giambi. I picked up the 1992 USA team set pretty cheap for that part of my collection. It should be cheap - he's the best card in the team set.

Ah, now that's better. A 2002 Topps Gallery Heritage insert of Yaz. One of those numbered GH-CY instead of with a real card number. This fits in my This Card Is Cool collection - I'm trying to put together the set. The art on these Heritage inserts over the years remained pretty good. Too bad the picture is the only part that received the art treatment.

I also picked up 2005 Diamond Kings HOF Heroes of Fergie Jenkins, and a 2001 Team Best AAA card of Milton Bradley. What a name. Poor guy was named after a game inventor. It could be worse, you could be named Promiscuous. Some day I'll finally start a collection of players with fun names. Anyone remember Wonderful Fabulous Monds?

Cadaco All-Star Baseball

Starting in 1989, Cadaco issued a game that used these yellow-bordered discs. Every couple of years the game would change a little, so new issues were made in 1991 and 1993. This issue (with a copyright date of 1988) was expanded in 1990 (with a copyright date of 1990). In fact, the 1988 and 1990 copyright discs otherwise look the same, as far as I can tell.

These are pretty boring, and the back only has black and white vitals and past-five-years stats. But it's one of those oddballs that can be hard to find. I love good super sellers on eBay!

Stouffer's pops up on eBay

Haha, I made a joke. You see, this is a pop-up card. You can see the white outline around Don, who looks like he's throwing at DodgerTown in the spring. Pull where it says, and Don would stand up for you. On one side of the pull card is a short bio. I couldn't see the back of the tab because I didn't actually pull it out. The back of the main card does not pop up, but shows another picture (close up) in an older card style, along with DOB, batting/throwing sides, and a few career highlight bullets. Its simplicity is actually quite nice.

That makes for three food cards in one day. What's next?

Are you thirsty? Part 2

My previous post looked at the YooHoo chocolate milk issues in the mid-'90s. Now we'll look at the makers of the most famous chocolate milk, Nestle. Printed by Topps, this 33-card set issued in 1987 features players from the "Golden Era" (which covers the entire period from Babe Ruth through Johnny Bench). Actually, these cards were included with candy bars and sets could be bought through a mail-in offer. Ruth and Mickey Mantle are the set headliners.

Nestle also put out sets in 1984 (Topps clones and a Dream Team set), 1988 (made by MSA), and 2002 (again made by Topps and with random autograph inserts).

Between the Nestle and the YooHoo cards, I prefer the YooHoo. Granted, there was seven years between the two issues and graphics had changed, but the YooHoo card just looks better, and supplies complete year-by-year stats. Though both sets aren't that well designed.

Are you thirsty? Part 1

I picked this up along with a bunch of other cards you've seen and will be seeing on this blog. Your favorite watered down chocolate drink released card sets in 1993 and 1994 (pictured). All the players in the sets are retired, and most are in the hall of fame. Obviously, the logos are airbrushed off, leaving for plenty of blank grey space. This set was issued along with Rawlings, and all the 1994 players are Gold Glove winners. The 1993 set was just named "Baseball Legends" and contains Pete Rose. An interesting addition to the 1994 set were randomly inserted autographs of Carl Yastrzemski. Both sets are pretty inexpensive, and the Yaz auto is valued around $30.

Yoo-Hoo is the only card set that starts with the letter Y.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Penn State Trading Cards

I've never been to Penn State. My only experience with the entire state of Pennsylvania was the day and two nights I spent in Pittsburgh, seeing some sights and a Pirates game, and the drive the next morning past Erie on the way to Buffalo. That doesn't mean I don't want to go back. I'm a big roller coaster fan and there are plenty, and then there's Philadelphia (I pretty much hate the Phillies but I still want to see a game there).

So why do I have three (soon to be four) sets of Penn State "The Second Mile" winter sports card sets? Well, the three cards you see, mainly. One of my collections is Women In Sport, and these sets are full of female athletes. Each set of about 20 cards has a few cards from each sport - mens and womens basketball, mens wrestling, and mens and womens gymnastics. In fact, I noticed one name from womens basketball (probably from my WNBA cards).

Most collegiate sets I see tend to focus on football or basketball, not surprising when those are the moneymakers. In fact, I rarely see collegiate baseball cards. College baseball isn't as popular or "important" because of the minor leagues, and this can be seen in UC Berkeley's decision to eliminate its baseball program (along with other sports) next year to cut the budget.

I have in my collection some Michigan gymnastics sets, and I know Georgia released some but I can't find them at a decent price. There were WNBA, golf, and tennis sets for several years, and some oddball issues (olympics, wrestling divas if they count) but that's about the extent of women getting on trading cards (except for Danica Patrick). Come to think of it, I don't have any Danica Patrick cards. I might have an Allen and Ginter card in a complete set, but that doesn't count. All of that is for another post or more, however.

Can I have it, please, mommy? (Craigslist moron)

Every morning I browse the new listings on Craigslist for "baseball" to find some good offers on cards. That rarely happens, and usually I see expensive but not crazy prices.

And then there's this:
I like 1989 Topps. I liked Oil Can Boyd, just because of his nickname (even though Topps didn't acknowledge it here). But I didn't know his 1989 Topps card is going for 200 dollers on ebay right know! I probably have 100 of those sitting in storage! I could have $20,000 to buy me a Babe Ruth cut autograph!

Yeah. I'm not contacting him. But I left the details there (I whited out part of the phone number for posterity) for some cruel freaks out there to have fun with it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Upper Deck PowerDeck - TCIC

Yesterday, I featured coins as the first post in a series of cards that I find are cool or unique. Today, I look at an attempt to market CD-ROMs as trading cards.

Digital trading cards have been discussed for years. The thought of having a card with lots of content - stats, biography, data, even video - was looked at with great interest.

There have been baseball CD-ROMs in the past. I recall Post cereal boxes having different CDs for each MLB division. I'm not sure what's on them, but I do have a CD somewhere. But this was released as a trading card - included with trading cards, actually.

In 1998 Upper Deck issued an Ken Griffey Jr. audio CD. This must have been a test of sorts before 1999, when they released a full PowerDeck set. The cards came in a $5 pack - one card-sized CD-ROM and two "auxiliary" cards in standard cardboard. There were one-of-one gold versions of the auxiliary cards, of course. The checklist features 25 current stars - and looking at the checklist in number order, it appears it is sorted in order of "hotness" at the time - Griffey Jr. and McGwire are #1 and #2, while Gabe Kepler and J.D. Drew hit the tail end of the set. There were four CD-ROM insert sets, three of which received the standard and gold cardboard versions, for a total of 45 different CD-ROM. There were two additional single-card releases (the Babe Ruth card shown in the image below and a Yankees SGA).

Three of the scans are from the Powerful Moments insert set. I popped the Ripken in the tray and let it run. The program runs full screen but was at about 640x480 resolution, leaving a large black border on my monitor, and opened with a short (15-30 second) video highlighting Ripken hitting home runs in three straight games and, of course, breaking the streak. Other options provided a 10-picture gallery, career stats, and a two-page biography. By design, every page and image dissolved in and out fairly slowly - this was designed back in 1997 and on a 2009 laptop it runs slow. It was fairly irritating, but I discovered I could usually speed it up (bypass the dissolve) by just clicking. I didn't check the web links to see if they still worked. I hit "quit" to leave, and I felt like I was forced to watch the opening credits for a feature film - I think about 5 different logos faded in and sat there before fading out (I clicked to get through as fast as I could but even that had a little delay - I think they forced you to look at each logo for a few seconds before it would let you click it away). Yes, I could have ALT-F4'd the program, but what good is that when you're reviewing it?

The set seemed to be popular enough (or Upper Deck had a backstock of video footage and a contract with Macromedia) to release a set the next year. This time, only 12 cards made up the complete set, plus two insert sets (a two-card Magical Moments set and a three-card Power Trio set) and two autographs /50. An additional insert set was made with 11 cards (approximately one per box in Upper Deck series 1, with three of the cards short printed). But that was the end of the CD-ROM idea.

I like the cards. They were a great idea. Sure, now everything is available online, but wouldn't it be cool (at least for card geeks) to have something like this on our iPod? Or perhaps make little SD card tabs that you could stick into the computer. Could you imagine the 2008 Documentary set being issued in digital content form? Perhaps each CD (or DVD, or memory card, etc) would have the full game video, broken down inning by inning, or even batter by batter. You could look at the box score and click on a player, and see his at bats or fielding chances in the game. You could have a tie-in with ESPN's Baseball Tonight or some other summary commentary as well. Maybe the newspaper write up for the day? A quick look around the league, or at least the division, current-as-of-that-game standings, leaders, and statistics... So much could be done with that one simple idea. I'm sure that would take a lot more work in programming and content editing. And a ton more cost. Or maybe not, if the template was set up properly. For regular issue cards, you could provide seriously detailed stats - game by game, by team, home/away, etc. Additional pictures and video clips (as a screensaver too?), you name it. 

Of course, I started that paragraph off by saying that everything's already online. But let's take this a step further. Remember those ToppsTown cards everyone hates? Or those codes on the back of every Upper Deck card? Why not make an iPod/small computer/web app that would let a code like that be entered and some extra content downloaded. Collectors would like the actual cards (hence the need for something like ToppsTown) but could appreciate the extra content when they want it. There would be meaning to the codes. And entering codes in an app could then lead to easy checklist availability when you're out and about. (All my data is digital in excel sheets already anyway.)

Okay, I'm getting way ahead of myself. But the digital card idea isn't a bad one - it was just poorly executed. Make it quick, make it high-res, and make it fun. (The more I think about it, the more I like the SD cards and the app codes...)

Money in Cards

Pretty much anything that a player has worn or touched has been included as a relic. Jerseys, bats, gloves, hats, pants, helmets, catching gear, balls, bases, walls... it's all been there. I recall stirrups being used in some Donruss products about 6 years ago (Absolute Memorabilia comes to mind). Has anyone used socks or underwear yet? I'm sure sweat bands have been used. And on the non-sports side, props have been cut up, the Berlin wall crushed up, and horse hairs cut up. Upper Deck made what look to be beautiful entomology cards for Goodwin Champions. I wouldn't know, I don't own one. And because plain swatches of stuff gets tired fast, companies have tried lots of non-relic relics. Manufactured patches, stamps, jewels, and, in 2003, coins. 

As far as I can tell, there has been only one set ever issued containing actual money in the card. The 2003 Topps Gallery Currency Connection set. Well, two sets - the HOF edition contained coins as well. Twenty-nine different cards were issued between the two, each containing a different coin. The Gallery set contained coins from the player's country of origin - the Francisco Rodriguez card above contains a coin from Venezuela. The Hall of Fame version pairs players with coins dated from players' career years. For example, Lou Gehrig's card includes a Buffalo nickel minted in his last full year.

This is one of the few relic sets I want to collect. Unfortunately, the cards are hard to come by and are usually expensive. This is my second card from the regular set (I also have Andruw Jones). I have nothing from the HOF set. It's a process, of course.

Incidentally, Topps continued the experiment of coins in cards in another set that year - the 2003 Topps Tribute World Series Subway Series Fan Fare set (that's a long name, for sure) contained subway tokens to celebrate those years when the World Series was held only in New York. But since then, coins have stayed out of cardboard. At least in baseball.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

1988 Upper Deck

The story of how Upper Deck came to be is actually quite interesting. I'm not going to rehash it here. But during the push to get a license, the company produced two promos: one of Wally Joyner, another of DeWayne Buice. They were selected because they were supposed to be part owners of the company (which they ended up not being permitted to do because of being active players at the time). The cards look similar to the 1989 issue with only a few differences. There were three versions of each promo produced. The most common "A" version has the hologram at the bottom. There are about 12,000 of each card. The "B" version, limited to 5000, had the hologram extending to the edge, while the 1000-card "C" version placed the hologram at the top. These are the "A" version, which I got in the mail today (not sure what the scanner was thinking cutting off the Buice border):

As I said, the cards look similar to the 1989 issue. These really were Upper Deck's first cards ever released. It seems that they are not of as good a quality as the 1989 issue finally was. The printing doesn't seem as crisp and sharp. But even then, comparing one of these to a regular issue of Topps, Donruss, Fleer, or Score, this card is far superior.

The story of how Upper Deck came to be over the first five years is quite interesting and if you haven't read it, the book Card Sharks is an excellent read. It discusses how the company came to be, how difficult it was to obtain licensing, and some of the highlights (and troubles) over their first half decade.

There's no denying Upper Deck changed the hobby. They brought a change from the "same old" cheap cardboard, easy photography, and simple, boring design. They are the ones who brought autographed and memorabilia cards to the market. And while some people like these and some don't, Upper Deck brought more and better offerings to us. There was an obvious cost to all this - the crash in 1998 from oversaturation, the insanity of jerseys, parallels, and autograph inserts that resulted in nearly 4000 different sets issued in 2005, the end of Fleer, Score, Donruss, and Playoff over the years, and the strange card situation we're in now.

It will be interesting to see where the hobby goes in the next several years. I might make some people mad by saying I would like to see Upper Deck be able to produce maybe five sets a year, with a tight leash on what they're allowed to do price-wise. (The same goes for Panini - even though I don't collect other sports I can see what they're doing.) Let them do their base set, a cheaper set (Collectors Choice/First Pitch), a retro, and a premium, and perhaps something else (super premium like Ultimate Collection, perhaps).

Now, I know some people have been angry with Upper Deck about things like redemptions, and I was quite upset with them about collation (and so I stopped buying boxes - let other people try to get the autos). But I hear so many complaints about Topps - redemptions, collation, quality, etc - so it's not just them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'd love to say something interesting but... here's a graph instead!

I have some great ideas for posts. Well, I think they're great. There are topics to address based on my "what I collect" post, plus cards and sets I want to share, and there's a ton of other thoughts popping in and out of my head about baseball. Today's focus is on the biggest part of my collection.

What I call my "Super" collection is an attempt to have one sample card from every baseball card set ever issued. Yes, this is impossible. Even with Bill Gates-level money, there are people who will never give up their one-of-a-kind cards, which are the only examples from any given set. Included in the full "Super" listing are sets like "2005 Topps Chrome Update Barry Bonds Home Run History Printing Plates Cyan." At least those have a few hundred examples. How many 1867 Troy Haymakers CdV's are running around out there? Total? So, yes, the set will never be finished. But I can try to get somewhere close. I know most of the 1 of 1s won't be obtainable, but several of the hard-to-get sets from recent years are simply parallels of easier-to-find base cards and inserts.

The listing is based on the Beckett set listings. I have added in cards that aren't listed (usually team issues from the past few years) and keep a separate list of cards that probably won't ever be listed. I keep a fairly simple-to-use but large coded excel workbook to keep track of inventory. And while it's not fully accurate with tracking what insert sets I collect, it does accurately track the "master" collection at the same time (which I'll look at in a future post). (I have separate workbooks for all the sets, team sets, and players I collect.)

As of the end of last year, there are 31799 card sets identified in the database. I have 5326 of those, 16.7% complete. Since 1898, there has been at least one card set issued every year. Some of those card sets aren't really cards - Beckett lists ticket stubs, programs, and even books in their card database. The only listing for 1900 is "1900-99 Non-Fiction Books" which is a partial list of baseball non-fiction books, obviously enough. There are three listings in 1903, two of which are programs and ticket stubs for 1903-1999 World Series games. There are additional listings for the Championship Series games, but none for the divisional playoffs, and I don't see a listing for any stubs or programs after 1999.

This graph is pretty self-explanatory. Despite the Topps strangehold, team issues and premiums kept a decent number of issues during the '60s and '70s. In fat, you can see an increase in 1975. A lot of the increase in sets from that year on can be attributed to SSPC and TCMA issues. And notice that it wasn't until 1985 that the real increase in sets began. More team sets were issued, and the major manufacturers began issuing even more smaller packaged sets such as the 1987 Fleer Exciting Stars set. Many additional sets in the 1980s and 1990s were minor league issues. Despite the creation of parallels and the 1990s insert craze, the number of issues showed only minor inflation (1991: 612, 1997: 769) until 1998, when the number of sets finally broke 1000. And you can see the overall exponential growth, and the major explosion from 1998 on. The peak was 2005, at a whopping 3837 sets. 2004 saw 2720, and those are the only two years that broke 2000.

Also of interest on the chart are the two major decreases. 1995 saw a decrease from 678 to 535. It appears the decrease was due to a drop in team issues. And the decrease since 2005 is obvious - the end of Fleer, the loss of the Donruss license, the restrictions on numbers of sets released, and then the loss of the Upper Deck license.
This chart just zooms in on the number sets since 1986. The 2010 number will increase a bit once some of the last sets of the year are added (Topps Update, Bowman Platinum, especially).

Now, the years before the big explosion are fairly interesting. You can see some interesting areas on the chart.  The initial high number is due to me not spreading out the years prior to 1900. Not many sets were issued during the 1900s, most of them postcards. The explosion in the years after is due to the tobacco card craze, and the drop came when the tobacco companies merged. For a couple decades most issues were candy inserts, until the 1940s and the war. After hovering around an average of 13 sets per year for the 1920s and 1930s, it dropped to a low of 4 per year (all team issues) for 1944 and 1945.

Now for the fun stuff. With all those cards, how well am I doing at completing this collection? Well, let's look:
Overall, I'm about 17% complete. My best years (the 1990s) are due to all the product I bought and the lack of an insane number of parallels. Even then, the maximum I have is 35% of the 1995 issues, because I'm still missing tons of team issues and plenty of inserts. I started the graph in 1909, because before that, I'm 67% done with 1903 (I have a World Series program and a ticket), and 100% done with 1900 (one issue, the non-fiction baseball book).

With so few issues before 1945, it's easy to try to advance those years. Of course, many of the cards issued during those years are either really expensive or difficult to find (usually both). Most of what I need are team issues from the past thirty years. If you'd like to talk about trades or anything, drop me a line. Keep in mind that my collection of cards that I have to trade is minimal right now (most of my cards are across the country) but we can talk business.

Any questions, comments, etc about this data? Let me know! I find this stuff interesting. I finally got in the writing mood tonight.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This card is cool! Or, how I came to the collection I have today. Or, what do I collect?

If you've read some of my other posts, you know a bit about my history. This is the whole story (ooh, shocking). This also introduces my want lists, which can be seen by looking at the sidebar.

I've already mentioned I started in '89 with a rack pack of Topps. The first few years after that were spent learning about the hobby. My first big purchase was a Jose Canseco 1986 Donruss RC (wow, great investment!), because he was at the time my favorite player. I quickly discovered card shops in the San Francisco bay area - in San Francisco, there was a shop on 18th Avenue near Judah, in Santa Clara, I would head over to Stevens Creek Sports Cards (still in business today), and when I convinced my grandmother to take me across the bay on BART, there was a store in Berkeley that I believe was near the university. Since I lived in Santa Clara, I would visit Stevens Creek most often. I've never seen a store like them to this day (I'm sure they exist). For those that have never been, they really do have it all - singles in cases, commons in boxes throughout the store, packs, boxes, supplies, figurines, souvenirs. I would go in there with a couple bucks or my mom and come out with a few packs of Topps, Donruss, Fleer, or Score. I believe I opened one or two packs of Stadium Club, Leaf, and Ultra. If I couldn't get to the store (by bus it took about 20-30 minutes each way), I could walk to the corner store (who we called Crooks for being so overpriced), or the long block to the Walgreens and grocery store in the strip mall, or the 7-Eleven the long block in the other direction.

In early 1992, I moved to Georgia, away from all the baseball card stores and public transit. In fact, there wasn't much of anything to do in the area (and still really isn't). There's a batting cage that's been around for decades, but even though that wasn't too far away I had to get a ride (ever try to walk on busy country roads without sidewalks?). Getting packs of cards meant going a long distance to K-Mart or even farther to WalMart. But my grandma would support my habit by having boxes and supplies shipped from Stevens Creek. This continued for about three to four years. During that time, a card store opened in my hometown, run by a former Mets minor leaguer. Eventually I was old enough to work, and most of my paycheck went to card boxes - I'd buy a box or two of pretty much every issue, and never really finish a set. He had some singles - he must have had one of his customers sell back inserts and such they didn't want - but he never opened product for set builders. So I'd open a box, be happy with what I got, go home and sort it and add it to the list, put it in a box or binder, and never think of it again. This happened for a few years, and well, without focus, I lost interest. I had become extremely interested in music and movies, and by 1998 I was working at Blockbuster, shopping on eBay for movie stuff, and I just kind of stopped buying stuff. This was during the great McGwire/Sosa steroid shoot-up competition, so I sold off my cards of the two players on eBay (and made a fortune, really), condensed the rest into boxes, and waited for the motivation to sell off the bulk. That day never came - my cards moved around my room and eventually into storage.

I didn't quit collecting cards. I'd see something non-sport in the store, or come across an auction on eBay, and I'd pick up a movie set or autograph here or there, but nothing baseball. My non-sport collection actually grew pretty big (it still is fairly large), and in search of new and exciting cards I started going to card shows in late 2003. I was back into collecting.

Browsing the show I saw so many new things I hadn't ever seen before - relic cards (I had heard of them back in '96, and was aware of them because of the non-sport cards, but didn't know they were so prevalent), new brands and sets, autographs galore, and all that "vintage" 1990s stuff that I had never bothered to finish or couldn't find. I had to have a focus this time, though. I knew I couldn't afford to spend $500-1000 on boxes every month to keep up with the new releases, and with so much out there I couldn't possibly buy everything anyway.

My first collection, which I don't have anymore, was Tony Gwynn and Nolan Ryan. They were my heroes as a young adult (after Canseco faded away from my mind), so I tried to get one of every Gwynn and Ryan card. I quickly realized that was impossible, with 1 of 1s and autographs being way out of my budget if I could even find them. Actually, I still have most of the cards, but they're in the piles of "extras" boxes. I could pull them out and refocus those collections later if I desire.

I decided that I wanted to try and collect a sample from every major set ever released. This would be issues from the big manufacturers, including some of the oddball sets, as well as some of the larger other issues, like the Exhibits, SSPC, TCMA, and Post. Overall, this represented approximately 1800 releases. I called this the "Master" collection, and I still keep a list for this collection - there are 225 card sets on this list through 2009 I don't have representation from. Some cards I need value in the hundreds of dollars (Cracker Jack or American Caramel, anyone?).

Of course, that wasn't enough, so I started a new aspect to my collection. This Card Is Cool. I went page by page through the Beckett Almanac and picked out any sets I thought were cool. That was the aspect. They went into one of two categories (now combined): sets to complete, and cards. The sets were generally art cards, such as Gallery and Diamond Kings, in addition to the Upper Deck Baseball Heroes series. The cards were generally what others would consider gimmick sets, like acetate and metal cards. There are 240 sets in the "This Card Is Cool" collection, of which about 130 are not complete (some of them not even started). (The Diamond Kings and Baseball Heroes sets not included in this count).

I expanded the Master Collection into something even greater - the Super Collection (my naming skills are awesome, right?!). One card from every set issued, ever. By the end of 2010, the collection's size is 32000, of which I'm a bit less than 17% done. What do I need? Team issues and other truly oddball releases, minor league team sets, and plenty of relics/autos, inserts, and parallels.

I was inspired to put together my own frankensets representing winners of awards, leaders in statistical categories, world series teams, hall of famers, and no-hitter pitchers. Well over 3000 cards are involved in these sets, and I still need over 1600. I'm also considering putting together all-star team sets for each year, but that's a future project. I need to finish some of what I have now.

I have a small autograph collection, consisting of perfect game pitchers, unassisted triple play fielders, certain Braves, Giants, A's, and Tigers players, and a few other players I admire.

My most recent collection is a spinoff of the Master Collection, which started with an attempt to collect a complete set of Topps for every year 1951-current. Checking my want list, you'll see that it's nowhere near finished (and honestly, if I can complete 1978-current I'll be quite proud). I recently added Upper Deck, Donruss, Fleer, and Score. Newest is Stadium Club, mainly for the photography.

I also had a Significant Sets collection started - the first Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss, and Fleer sets, which are already covered. This collection also includes '48 Bowman (not started), '90 Leaf, '92 Topps Gold, '93 Flair (all complete), and '93 Finest (not started).

I look at all these collections and think, wow, that's a lot. But when you get down to it, in the age of the internet, many of these concepts are easy to finish, if not costly. It's definitely a focus on quantity, but to me there is also a good bit of quality. Not in the cost (autos/relics only fit in the super collection and my small player collection), but in what it represents. The cards are ones that interest me and there's a meaning for each part of my collection.

Interestingly, I don't collect a team, other than Team USA. I've never really attached to a specific team over the years. I was a Giants and A's fan when I first started collecting, but I was thrown into the Braves excitement in 1992 when I moved to the Atlanta area. I still like the Braves, but coming back to California, I find that going to A's games could be a good bit of fun, and I've been visiting a lot of minor league teams over the past few years. But I don't really have much of an interest in collecting team sets of any of them. I guess I already have my hands full?

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? That's what there's space for just below this!

Another Mail Day and More!

Okay, got some more goodies in the mail today! Let's see what the postal Gods have delivered:
A Phil Rizzuto patch from 2003 UD Patch Collection. This is part of the "base" set. I'm trying to put together the patch portion of the set (and the patch inserts). This is the 20th of 63 cards I need, so I'm getting there!

I managed to find a second insert card from the 1993 Heroes of Baseball T-202 set - this is Tinker and Chance, with Evers sliding into third base in the photo. Three to go!

Finally, another USA team set, this from the 2010 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects set. Interestingly, the team set makes up card numbers 57, 58, and 93-110. How did those two get out of whack? And the cards are alphabetized by last name in numerical order, even with the two players who are pulled out of correct numbering. Odd. 

I somehow ended up at the mall today. I wasn't planning on going but I was in the area so I decided to take a walk (it's still rainy and cold, so walking outside isn't the most pleasant thing to do). I ended up at one of those mall collectible stores. I've only been in there once or twice - they carry a lot of figurines and MTG cards and such, and not many sports cards. Today I noticed something I've been looking for - they had some of those card+car blisters from Fleer and White Rose clearanced at $1.29 each, so I picked up a 1999 Vladimir Guerrero/Expos and a 2001 Mike Piazza/Mets. Finding anything in a mall for about a buck seems to be pretty rare, so I looked around a little bit more. It seems like everything there was actually reasonably priced. They even had 2011 Topps packs at $2.50 (the same price as everyone else I've seen in the area). I considered buying the Sidney Bristow in latex dress action figure while I was there, but decided to save my money for something better.

A cool contest!

A quick post for the afternoon: Crinkly Wrappers is giving away one card from every year Topps was produced - 1952-2011. Check out the blog! Personally, I love the idea of having one card from every year and I've been planning on creating a display using this concept for my collection. I just have been too busy to get around to it.  Anyway, enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today's Mail

It's been a couple days since I got something in the mail. I do plenty of business on eBay - it's easy to find the stuff that nobody's going to haul to a show, or stuff that can only be found regionally. (Or, stuff that I could find around here for way too much.) I want to get into the trading circuit, but most of my cards (especially pretty much anything worth trading) are still in Georgia, while I'm here in San Francisco. So, today's haul:

First, this Boston Globe Red Sox uncut sheet. From 2007, as if you couldn't tell. I'm still trying to figure out this scanner (I've managed to get it to scan documents to PDF, and I was able at some point to scan photos.) It actually broke off the bottom 1/3 of the sheet into individual image files, thinking they were separate photos. Good to know, I guess, if I want to scan multiple photos. (Strange, it didn't do that for the last image below, or the other cards on the sheet.) Backs are numbered 1-10, and this is a nice item to have as an uncut sheet - if I was a Red Sox fan I could frame this for the wall.

Second, one of the All-Time Heroes inserts from 1993. For those of you who don't remember, Upper Deck first released a 4-card "preview" set in 1992 featuring these T-202 Hassan style cards at the All-Star Fanfest. The cards featured Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Reggie Jackson. The set was insanely popular back then but can now be found for under $10. In 1993, a full set was issued, including special insert cards. The only real difference between the set and the inserts was that the inserts weren't numbered. The fronts of the inserts are reprints of original T-202s while the backs aren't. The base cards feature more recent players (such as, again, Mantle, Williams, and Jackson), but also had some original players (Tinker, Evers, Chance anyone?). Anyway, I bought a box of this back in '93 and managed to put together nearly a complete set of the regular set, and I ended up with maybe half of the unnumbered inserts. Fast-forward to December 2010, I finally found the last few cards to finish the base set, but now I have the inserts to complete. I found this Jennings-Cobb and picked it up. There are only 4 inserts left now and I have completed the master set!

Last, and certainly least (okay, I kid) are these two team sets. I don't know why I like Team USA sets. It's not because of the rookie thrill. I've never really been crazy on that. Maybe because it's special, not one of the 26, or 28, or 30 teams, but it's still baseball. Anyway, I picked up the '88 and '91 traded sets (and a few more I'm waiting on) to mark off my list.

That's it for today! Hopefully tomorrow will bring even more exciting bubble envelopes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Joltin' Joe in the Bay Area

I wrote in my first post that I started collecting in 1989. Before that season, I didn't know any baseball players. I probably knew who Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Jose Canseco were. In fact, Canseco was my favorite player for the first couple of years I collected and I still like him a bit, despite everything he's done. So the name Joe DiMaggio meant nothing to me in the 1980s.

Joe DiMaggio was born in 1914 in Martinez, California, which today is about an hour from San Francisco. The family moved to the Marina district in San Francisco when Joe was a year old. He was supposed to become a fisherman, like his father, but didn't like it. His older brother Vince got him in with the San Francisco Seals, but Joe didn't care too much for baseball until his 61-game hitting streak in 1933. The rest is history, of course. Joe played 13 years, all with the Yankees, and reached the all star game every year he played (the only player to ever do so), winning the MVP award three times. He was enlisted in the air force from 1943-1945. Joe eloped with Marilyn Monroe in 1954. He was elected to the hall of fame in 1955.

DiMaggio's legacy can be seen around the city and the bay area. Most visible is a collection of memorabilia at the museum and a boat, the "Joltin' Joe," in Martinez. But Joe is best seen in the city. His family lived in a flat at 2047 Taylor Street, and he learned to play ball at the North Beach Playground. The Seals played at 16th and Bryant, and looking around the area can reveal a few signs of the old ballpark (look for the parking sign on a building in the area). In his adult years, you could find Joe at Liverpool Lil's in his own booth, and played golf at the Presidio. He would take walks on the Marina Green, and attended SS Peter and Paul's Church, where he married his first wife, and where his funeral was held. When he married Marilyn Monroe, it was done at City Hall.

Joe DiMaggio wasn't a showy guy, but he had class. He lived in a modest home in the Marina district in San Francisco, 2150 Beach Street. This is where my connection lies. I grew up in Santa Clara, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco, but would spend my summers with my grandma here in the city. A girl about my age lived in the house behind hers, and we became good friends. Her parents had connections somehow, and they knew a lot of people, including the Galoobs (the family that brought you the Game Genie). They also somehow were family friends of Joe DiMaggio, and somehow I ended up at his house, in the '80s, a smart-ass kid with no idea who Joltin' Joe was. I don't remember much but his house and walking to and from it, and sitting with him and my friend in his house. Despite the lack of details, this remains as one of my favorite memories.

Once the weather clears up (rain all week, hooray!) I'll head out and do a photo essay of the places mentioned in this post. So, what inspired this post? I was browsing the baseball section in my favorite used bookstore and saw a biography sitting on the shelf. Interesting how stuff just comes to mind, huh?

2011 Topps is selling out?

A few random thoughts for today. It was wet and rainy all day long, but I was on a mission.

I wanted to find some more rack packs of 2011 Topps. I've got pack fever, and I want to try to finish the set. There are three Targets (and no WalMarts) within about 10 miles of me, all in the same general direction, and they're all on the way to the nearest real card shop (Peninsula Sports Cards, in Belmont). Well, three Targets later, and I managed to find nothing. No rack packs, no blasters, not even retail single packs were left. They had been there - I saw them last week and bought a few - but weren't any more. This is the first year in at least a decade that I'm trying to put together a set essentially through retail packs, so this may be a common scene, but I tend to recall always being able to find cards available. Even when everyone wanted the manufactured patches when they first started packing them in blasters, and even when those mini cereal boxes came out (I did like those). Do Topps packs usually sell out like this? I'm wondering if selling out like this is going to hurt overall sales, mainly because people may have heard about the diamond ring stunt and baseball cards might be on their mind.

Anyway, I ended up at the card store and picked up a few things. The 50% off case didn't have much that interested me (Rafael Palmeiro autograph, anyone?) but I picked up a 2007 Fleer factory set. This was the last year that Upper Deck produced a Fleer set. I actually hand collated the 2006 set when it first came out, but prior to the '90s I never really tried to put a Fleer set together by hand. Plus, the factory set includes 30 extra cards. Picked it up for $20, which I figured was a good enough deal (original retail price $30). I needed some cardboard boxes, so I have 4 more 900-counts, and I grabbed two packs of Topps at $2.50 each. That's more than I usually want to pay but I wanted to rip something. Between the two packs I pulled four more cards needed to finish the set (including Pujols), a Kimball and a reproduction card I needed, and my fifth or sixth giveaway code card.

After getting home there were a couple nice packages in the mail - a 1999 Upper Deck series 1 set, and a package containing a 1990 AGFA card and 1995 Conlon TSN Griffey/Cobb card (both of those I need for one of my collections). The AGFA card is nice for an oddball, even if the logo was airbrushed off - the image is pretty good for a 1990 card. And the Griffey card is nicely done for a Sporting News release. Which reminds me, I still need to finish the 1991-1995 Conlon set - I finally found the last couple singles I needed to finish the first four series, but it's virtually impossible to find the fifth at all (save for some guy asking nearly $200 on eBay).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blog Bat Around - 2011 Topps

There are a couple challenges floating around the blogs - this one is a bit older so I want to hit it now. So, here's the challenge or question from Stale Gum:

Michael Eisner has just fired the entire Topps Product Development staff and chose to hire you to take their place. Mr. Eisner has given you carte blanche to do whatever you want with Topps Baseball -- as long as you keep it under $2/pack.

If you were in charge of Topps, and based upon what you've seen of 2011 Topps Baseball Series One, what (if anything) would you have done differently?
I recently wrote my review of 2011 Topps. The set isn't perfect. What would I do? Let's look at the base set, the inserts, and the hits.

First, the base set. I like the design. Nothing wrong with it. Clean, crisp, easy to read. Great. But let's look at the content. There are 330 cards in the set, comprising regular cards and team cards. Last year there were two team cards for every team between both series. We're going to eliminate that. One card per team, and it's going in series 2. It'll feature a team photo taken with that year's opening day roster. All the players will be listed on the back with their jersey numbers and position(s) (and card number, if they appear in the set). Sure, some players won't have their own card, but there's at least a record that they exist. And you can mention the coaches and bat boy in addition to the manager. Series 1 will feature manager cards. Backs will contain team stats for his entire coaching career (wins, losses, pct, position, etc) and a short write up. And checklists will go back into the base set, instead of thin insert fillers. How about 9 checklists for the 396-card series one set - one with a photo of each starting all-star player for the team that won the previous year's all-star game (so, the NL players). The AL players would be in series 2. So by the end of the year each of the starting all-stars have two cards in the regular set, each team has a card, and managers get their own cards. 792 cards, just like the over-produced golden age. And card #7: let Mickey have his own card image still, but stick the insert checklist on the back of that one. Vintage variation SPs, sure, but they aren't part of the regular set.

Parallels? Nah. Well, except the diamond anniversary parallels, because they commemorate a special event in Topps' history. And I like the idea of the "vintage" style - thinner cardboard with the old school logo. But both parallels would exist only for this year. No more gold, platinum, or black, or silks. Now, if there's an agreement that Target, Wal-Mart, KMart, whoever get their own parallel, fine - stick them in there. Give black to WalMart and gold to Target. Number them if you want. And the plates can go in.

Now, the inserts. I like the ideas of some of the sets, but let's work on it a bit more. First, bring back some old subsets as their own inserts. This way, they mean something. Season Highlights (no-hitters, hitting for the cycle, triple plays, and other special notable events) - no "Pujols hits 4HR in one game" unless he does it back to back. Well, 4 home runs is fairly special. But the moments need to matter. Put the record breakers in with the season highlights. Team Leaders - one card per team. The front can feature a goofy photo, or maybe a shot of the team captain, etc, and the back lists the team's leaders in batting average, RBIs, wins, strikeouts, etc. Topps All-Stars and Topps Rookies - it's been done before but they stopped doing it. Bring it back. Make them retail-only - stick em in blasters and rack packs. When They Were Young - obviously, photos of current players when they were in high school or little league. Again, this can be retail only. Award Winners (MVP, ROY, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, etc), Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers would get their own insert sets. Postseason Highlights finish out the insert sets that would continue to repeat yearly. For this year only, do the Topps 60, and The History of Topps. I like the idea, but change the design - get rid of the book style. Also add a "The Making of Topps" insert set, a ten (or more) card set explaining the process of designing a set - initial ideas, design, photography, writing/stats, production, getting/cutting/assembling jerseys and autos, packing out, and distribution. Put a code on the card and they can enter it at a Topps website to see videos demonstrating that stage in the process. Also for this year, the 60 Years of Topps set would stay, and I would take it a step further - instead of original back variations, have original pack image front variations (with the back of the card explaining the make-up of the set or packaging, while the reprint card would feature an explanation of why that card is important to that year's set), and/or a variation showing an image of the card in production - a master photo image, or a sketch or rejected card design, etc. Hit the archives/vault for some real true never-before-seen stuff. the Lost Cards set can stay, too, maybe expanded. Yes, that's a lot of inserts, but if you don't like them, you can trade them off or sell them - putting some of them in the retail-only packs provides more interest for the kids, and inserts don't really cost more to produce than base cards unless you add extra foils or whatever, and you don't need that. And the Legendary Duos are gone. What about Kimball, you ask? or the Reproductions? Well, the Kimballs are beautiful. But they belong in Heritage or (even better) Gypsy Queen. And the Reproductions can just get kicked out. Why are these even in there? (I say this knowing I'm going to put that set together anyway, gosh darnit.)

Relics and autos would stay the same - keep the Topps 60s, the anniversary autos, even the giveaway cards.

Keep the packaging the same, even though I really don't care for HTA boxes. The manufactured patches/glove cards/etc could be kept - how about a manufactured glove card for the golden glove winners, and a manufactured bat card for the silver sluggers, and patches for the award winners.

The basic idea here is that there's a bit of everything because this is a set that should appeal to everyone in some way. The set isn't hard to put together, there are inserts that mean something, and the price point stays the same.

But what about series 2, you ask? The inserts above could be split between the two series, as done previously. The Making Of set could move to series 2. And in place of the 60 Years of Topps, do a retrospective set of the oddballs Topps has done through the years (with a short story on the back) - how about a reprint of that 1982 KMart reprint-ish set! And the Toys R Us rookies sets? But you could hit reprints of the deckles, and embossed, and stamps, etc.

Now go hit the printers and make it happen...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2006 Upper Deck, five years later

I'm staring at three cardboard boxes, which combined hold most of the complete 2006 Upper Deck set. I say most because it's missing a few regular cards and most of the series 3 SPs. When I finally finish this set (minus the SPs, first, and then eventually the SPs), it will be the largest base set that I finished. Now, before you get all excited for me, know I started with a a huge lot. But one of my collecting goals is to have a complete Upper Deck baseball set from every year 1989-2010, and this is the biggest hurdle in that race.

So what makes this set so great? Well, let's start with the size. The set was issued in three series. Series 1 and 2 were 500 card issues, and the update series was issued as a 250 card set. 1250 is a large number for a set. Upper Deck issued two other sets (2007 and 2009) with about 1000 cards each. Topps' largest base set was issued in 1993, at 825 cards (the largest Topps Total sets were the 990-card 2002 and 2003 issues). Stadium Club maxed out at 900 cards in 1992, Donruss and Fleer never broke 800, and Score hit 893 for a couple years. So by far this is the largest postwar standard-issue set. (Did I miss something? Let me know.)

Now, let's look at the checklist. With 1250 cards, everybody and their brother is in this set. There are tons of rookies, the biggest names being Prince Fielder, Jonathan Papelbon, Brian Wilson, Ryan Zimmerman, and Dustin Pedroia. Derek Jeter appears three times in the set (twice as checklists). Greg Maddux also appears three times - in series 1 as a base card, in series 2 as a checklist, and in the update set to signify a trade. But mainly this set is full of players. Obviously rookies make up a large portion of the set (without counting, the number appears to be somewhere around 200+ rookies). But other than checklists, there aren't really any "filler" cards like UD used to do (and in fact I love). Remember the 1993 Upper Deck "Teammates" subset? Nothing like that here. All Stars? Nope. Upper Deck saved those for the inserts.

Okay, lots of variety as far as players go, but what about value? The 2006 set is valued at $600 according to my January 2011 Beckett ($200 per series). Leave out the SPs in the update set, and the value drops $150. Commons price at 40 cents each. The common update SPs price at $2 or $8, so there's the $150 for the update set (and a large price tag for me to finish the set). But what about high value cards? Where are the keys to the set? The 2001 UD set is valued at $150, but the Pujols RC is $60 of that. Is there a Pujols-like RC in this set? Well, Adam Jones has an SP RC valued at $25. One of the Jeter CLs is an SP, and $12. And Dustin Pedroia's RC is valued at $12. Pat Neshek's RC is $8. Brian Wilson squeezes in as the only $5 card in the listings. The rest of the set books at $4 or less. So this is a set that is built for set builders, and that's reflected in the price.

As expected from Upper Deck, the photography is great and fills the whole card. Richie Sexson is just about to field a bouncing grounder, and you can make out the MLB logo on the baseball. Many of the series 2 cards feature spring training photography (especially Tampa Bay - who wants a bunch of dome shots?) and when there isn't action there's still something interesting happening in the picture (who's Ichiro high-fiving?). The design is simple - the Upper Deck logo in foil, a small team foiled logo over a black box, and the player's last name in large team colors. The player's full name and position is overlaid in foil over their last name. As usual, foil over an image can be hard to read (look at the image of Conor Jackson at the top). The vertical backs continue the blocks and team color scheme. A different headshot is in the corner, the card number next to that (which would have been much better in a corner, instead of off the corner). Vitals and a team logo finish out the top block. A short bio precedes the career statistics, both of which are black on white. Everything is pretty easy to read.

Pack rippers had plenty to pull. Parallels were gold (/299 or /99) and silver (/99 or /25) (including rookie foils /399, /99, /15, and /1). As expected, there are plenty of inserts, most of which feature relic variations. The first series featured a 100-card First Class Legends set, the checklist of which contained only five players (the first class elected to the Hall of Fame - how clever). The second series featured historic players in a much better manner - the All-Time Legends set contains 40 cards, but features 40 players. And found only in series 1 and 2 fat packs were Collect the Mascots cards, great for kids. The most worthwhile (and "unique", if there is such a thing) relic set is the WBC Collection jerseys, and the autographs were split between the rookie foils, INKredible, and Signature Sensations. This was the first year in a while that Upper Deck issued a large number of insert sets in addition to autographs and relics (although some of those sets featured relic versions).

Overall, this may be one of my favorite Upper Deck sets. If I had the money and the opportunity, I would have loved to open a case of each series and try to put together a master set (maybe sans the $200 Jeter autograph and $250 Ichiro WBC jersey). Granted, the design is very similar to prior years (and it reminds me a lot of the 1994 set) but it has a little for everybody - a great challenge for set builders with the usual great photography, the ability to pull a wide collection of inserts (for the kids, especially, buying the fat packs and other offerings in retail stores), and a good selection of autographs and jerseys.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Topps

Okay, everyone else is talking about it (what else is there to talk about, anyway?), so I guess it's my turn. I like this year's base set. And some of the inserts. I'm probably one of the last ones to collect the flagship Topps set. See, Topps Heritage is just that - heritage. It's taking a card design that's already been used, and copying it for another set. I don't dislike it, but it's not the same. I've never put a Heritage set together, by the way, simply because I've had to pick and choose and the thought of collecting, say, the 1961 Topps set, but with current players and lots of short prints on purpose, is less appealing than a set that focuses on being just a baseball card set. That's what Topps is. Does this mean it's flawless? Hah! Of course not.

I picked up my first packs early this week, and I've been back twice since. Total, I've bought 12 of those $5 rack packs I can find at Target. I sorted the cards for the first time and I'm about 2/3 finished with the set (those of you doing the math know I have lots of extras). This was after all the previews and early reviews and such had hit. They didn't build a great amount of excitement. In fact, I was planning on just buying a couple packs for the fun of it. Now, I'm committed to hand collating the set (much more fun, but obviously more costly). And instead of buying the insert sets on eBay, I'm putting some of those together by hand as well. At least it gives me a set-building mission for this year's releases. (So far, Gypsy Queen is the only other full set I might go for.)

The rack packs contain 36 cards each. The top section contains mostly base, along with the ToppsTown card and usually (I had one pack without) a 60 Years of Topps card. The bottom section contains more base and a sampling of the other inserts - a Kimball Champions, Diamond Duos, Topps 60, and then one or two others. For $5, you're paying about 14 cents per card, much better than other packing methods. Granted, the chances of an autograph or relic are slim, but the Diamond Giveaway cards are inserted every other pack, if that floats your boat. And I got lucky - in my second group of 4 packs I pulled a Jason Heyward auto. These packs are great for set building/inserts without paying too much for the chance of the relics/autos. If you read my last post, you know that my first pack was a rack pack, and I still like them for what they should provide - lots of cards at a low price.

The base cards look good. The pictures are clear, sharp action shots. As before, the team cards feature "fun" images of multiple players. I wish that the base sets would include team photos on one of the cards - last year there were two team cards for each team and at least one of the team cards had a stadium shot. I didn't see any of those this year, but series 2 could hold some promise for something different. I like the design - simple, clean, and I like the baseball in the team circle. I wonder if they could have put something else in the outer circle than the team name twice - maybe put the position on the bottom. But, oh well. I like the horizontal cards I saw and many of the images Topps used are interesting (or as seen on the Pujols sample, player-defining). It doesn't take a psychic to figure out what Brian Wilson's image is (his signature thank-you after a win/save, if you haven't seen the card, or you're not psychic, not a Giants fan, and didn't watch any playoff or World Series games or highlights). Good to see the rookie trophy logo is back, and maybe the all-star logo will return in series 2. I did feel like this series had an insane number of RC and rookie trophy logos combined. One thing I didn't like (or did, depending on the circumstance): the checklist cards are indistinguishable from the front. They look just like another player card, so you have to look at the back to determine it's a checklist. Now, as for the backs, they're pretty standard now for what Topps usually does. Has Topps ever done vertical stats in their base set? I guess they have too many columns to go vertical. Or they could shrink the font. Then they'd have room for better bios, other pictures, or maybe some nice cartoons. I like the large, easily readable card number, and it's a nice design.

I received several of every type of insert included in these packs. One by one:

  • Diamond Giveaway - I think I received only 4 in my 12 packs, but that's okay (I think the odds are 1:2). I didn't buy any Topps packs last year (had something else going on when they were released) so I didn't partake in the Million Card Giveaway. I'll redeem them sometime and let you know how it turns out. I get the feeling that these are more likely to be thrown away after redemption than ToppsTown.
  • Speaking of ToppsTown, this year's card looks nice on the front. Sure, they're one per pack, but at least now it seems like a totally collectible set, if you're into it.
  • Diamond Duos - I don't care much at all for insert sets with multiple players, unless they mean something. Some of the pairings mean nothing. How about highlighting the best pitcher/catcher duos in one series, and maybe the best shortstop/second base duos in the other? That'd be more fun for me. Or other players truly linked for a reason.
  • Topps 60 - what's the point of this set? I like insert sets, even meaningless ones. I like the fun they bring. I like relics/autos too, but other than certain players, they're just another insert to me. The cards I pulled are a mix of older and way-too-recent - Nolan Ryan, Andre Dawson, and a recent ROY (can't remember who) were a few. Is this supposed to be the best 60 that Topps has ever had? Or maybe just the 60 "stars" they could get to sign or make relics from? Inserts need to mean something...
  • Kimball Champions is a beautiful looking set, so I'll be putting that together. Nice that the checklist is on the back of every card.
  • The Reproductions set is nice, in that there's a bit of history on the back, but so many of the sets have already been redone (T205, T206, etc) as full remakes, or featured in other reproduction/remake insert sets lately. I'm kind of iffy on liking this, but I'll be putting this set together too.
  • The History of Topps set isn't really exciting, but because it contains information (I like reading!) and it's timed properly (on an anniversary) I like it. I'll collect this set too.
  • The last insert set is the 60 Years of Topps (along with the variations). I pulled one of the "original backs" in my 12 packs, and it goes in my archives, but I like the regular inserts, because there's a little commentary to them. Originally I didn't think I'd like the set, but once I've seen it, I think I'll like it, so it gets added to the list as well.
Now, the parallels - as usual there are gold, silk, black, and 1/1 platinums, but new this year are 1/1 and 1-per-pack diamond anniversary parallels. I like the look. They shine and sparkle like a diamond parallel should. However, the sparkle detracts from the photos. I'd like to put this set together, but I don't have it in me. It's just too superfluous. If I was going to put a parallel set together, though, this would be it - I like it better than the gold or black because it stands out better and, well, it's new.

Because I stuck with the rack packs, I didn't get any of the manufactured patch/glove cards, or the throwback cards printed on "real" cardboard. And of course, most of the relic/auto possibilities, or any 1/1s. But the previews of the glove cards don't make me want them. In fact, other than the UD Patch Collection from 2003, I'm really not interested in most manufactured patch types of cards.

But for a base set, this works. It provides kids with something relatively inexpensive to collect and a selection of inserts for them to chase. And it looks clean and fun. And isn't that all it's supposed to do? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First Post!

Welcome! This blog is an attempt to share my love of baseball cards. Simple, right? It's been done, right? Well, yeah, and a look at the list of blogs I follow will show you several others who feel the same way. So what do I hope to provide? Another insight, perhaps. I hope, over time, to give you an idea of what I collect and why, some of my favorite cards and sets, and takes on some collecting ideas. I'm quite eclectic, and my tastes and interests (even in cards) are broad. So, this blog won't have a direct focus, like bad cards, or night cards, etc. Just whatever comes to mind on cards. And this first post will be long.

Scholastic Book Club
So now, a bit of history on my card obsession. I started collecting in 1989, at the age of 11. Yes, I'm 32 now. It started with two things. The first was a Scholastic Book Club order of a starter collecting kit. I know I took those cards and rubber cemented them to poster boards by year or team or something. I remember them to this day, even though I don't think they really started my real interest in collecting cards. I was a collector before then, but I never had a focus. I guess I still don't (that's a topic for a future post, though). As a child, I would collect everything - Legos, Micro Machines, shells, rocks, books, Hot Wheels, etc. So it made a lot of sense that eventually I would become interested in baseball cards. I'm sure my mom thought it was some passing phase, but the kit was cheap, and I always bought a bunch of books, so there was probably some incentive offer that allowed me to get it for free or maybe get something else free. So I had my first baseball cards.

1989 Topps Rack Pack
In April of 1989, as we frequently did, my mother, some of her work friends, and I went up to Mendocino for a spring break vacation. Along the way, we stopped at a grocery store and I begged and pleaded my mom to buy me a pack of cards. They were Topps rack packs, and I convinced her to buy a couple of them. Now, there's not much to do in Mendocino, so I spent a lot of my time sorting the cards - by team, by player, by card number... you name it, I probably sorted it that way. And that started my interest. That summer, I visited my first card shop (now closed) and really started learning about cards. Interestingly, I had never seen a baseball game before that point, so I went to my first game that summer (a Giants game at Candlestick Park), and soon became a fan of the A's, with Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson as my favorite players.

Casper The Movie - probably the first non-sport set I tried to finish
The next few years were spent collecting as a kid normally would, mainly buying packs at a store, sometimes buying individual cards and small sets at the card store, Walgreens, and such (remember those small boxed sets that defined the '80s?). I moved from California to Georgia in 1992, and my habit grew via mail order from my favorite card shop. I would have boxes and supplies shipped from California frequently - whatever was new and fun. Eventually, I would buy a box of any card set I could get my hands on. I finished a few sets, but usually just had a selection of singles and inserts. I started college in 1996 and by then had also started a love of movies and music, and a small obsession with actresses like Alicia Silverstone. I still collected cards, but some time in 1998 I just burned out and stopped collecting. For five years, my only exposure to baseball cards was occasionally moving my collection around to condense it. At some point I seriously got into movie and other non-sport cards (which I had been collecting for a while, but only sporadically). Then, in 2003, I was back into collecting. Since then, my collection has grown and morphed into something I never could have imagined.

Today, most of my collection is still in Georgia while I'm in California, but I hope to fix that soon. Meanwhile, I continue to expand my collection. What that exactly is, I'll tell you about soon.

Thank you for reading!