Saturday, May 30, 2015

Marketing for a Menagerie of Minis

The second of two Zistle trades from this past week involved far more cards than the first.  We were still both able to fit all of the cards in question into the small variety of the padded envelope.  Cheaper shipping!  This is because the vast majority of the trade was mini cards!  Here’s most of what Brian sent me:

That’s a lot of minis!!!  Most of the above is actually trade bait for those looking to complete mini insert sets, but there were also a handful that I still needed that went into binders.

Normally I wouldn’t go into what I traded away as I don’t really see the point.  You’re giving away cards… so you no longer have them.  Why would one bother writing about them?  In this case, I feel I must highlight one of the most unique want lists I’ve ever encountered.  And I love it.

Brian and I started talking trade over Zistle simply because he seemed to have quite a few cards I needed for set building.  I asked him to provide some details on what he was looking for and he seemed to pick out some cards for player collections and some for sets… just to give you an idea, he got some Machado rookies, Nolan Ryans, and Bo Jacksons (all A&G style of course… would you expect anything less?).  He also picked out some mini World Leaders from 2008.

Okay… nothing super out of the ordinary yet.

Upon the continuation of our trade discussion, it was realized that I needed to provide more cards.  I pointed Brian to my relic and auto collection and he picked out...

**not actual card. I stole this from Zistle cause I don't have the card anymore...

That would be none other than Miss USA Erin Brady.  Interesting choice.  Increasingly interesting is the 6 or 7 parallel (A&G back or black bordered) minis he picked out from my collection of various Ginter Gals including another Brady, Chanel, Bonnie Bernstein, McKayla Maroney, and a few more.  This is awesome.  I’ve never really thought about it very much but Allen & Ginter certainly does feature a decent amount of women in their sets.  I would expect that more than just Brian collects them.  I do wonder which was Brian’s favorite…

In any case, Brian sent me a few more cards that I wanted to highlight.  The first two being from the Co¿nc?dence set (another retail only set, but not nearly as difficult as the previous World’s Biggest set).

These are absolutely some of my favorite full-sized inserts that A&G has come up with.  I love the content on the backs as I’ve learned something new and exciting with every new card I’ve read.

Brian also sent me mini inserts of the more rare variety as well.  A case hit, a half case hit (about), and one of the World Leaders cards he sent my way just to fill up space on the scanner!

I think I just enjoy Mr. Kikwete staring at me.

Thanks Brian!  Fun trade!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

World's Biggest Obnoxious Set... a Zistle find!

I've recently completed two trades on Zistle (my username is Bubbasbums on there) this past week.  I'm beginning to enjoy the site more and more as I continue to use it.  The entire idea behind an online database where you can personally control your card collection and mark certain cards for trade/want is genius, and with a bit more work, I don't know why everyone wouldn't use this site in the future.

I suppose right now the issue is that there are simply too many options out there (each with their individual ups and downs).  When I started collecting cards in middle school, the main way to get people to trade with you online was through the use of forums, usually sponsored by the creators of the cards themselves.  In the baseball card world we also have Beckett and other third party sources that attempt to tell us how much our collections are worth.  People also flock to these sites (and thus their forums as well).  

I've been to many of these sites and forums and Zistle still remains my favorite because of its focus on the collector.  Instead of simply providing content (like Beckett with its price guide, or other sites with a constant flow of opinionated articles), Zistle simply provides a hub to catalog your own collection, at your own pace.  The downfall of this site would be the lack of a constant stream of steady activity.  Unsurprisingly, the Zistle forums are completely dead with almost zero chatter.  The only way to communicate on the site is through offering trades... but I tend to be perfectly okay with this.

On to the first trade!

I found a Phillies fan that needed a few of my mini parallels from various years.  I certainly didn't want them so off they went Virginia for the following:

Here's three of the 8 minis Dean sent me (all of which I was missing).  Minis from 2009 are always appreciated... I barely have any, and these were no exception.  The single card from the World's Greatest Military Leaders set puts my count at a measly 8 out of 20 cards... yuck.  Perhaps the next Zistle trade will help me out there...  In any case, these all went straight into the binder!

Dean also sent 4 regular minis from 2009 and 2010 that I needed.  No huge standouts or SP's there.  My favorite was probably a card of Mr. Louis Braille... a purple suit with a purple background.  Awesome.

But the main reason I jumped on this trade was for the final card below.  This card is from a COMPLETELY OBNOXIOUS set Topps released in 2010.  It is a 25 card set that is retail only.  The first 5 cards of the set can be found in any retail product.  The remaining 20 cards (i.e. this one!) can only be found in gravity feed retail packs... Wouldn't you know that I actually bought a fair amount of retail from 2010, but I tend to buy blasters.  I actually have 17 cards of this set in my collection but all of them are numbered 1-5.  Grrrrrr....

But now I have 18!  ...and this one is numbered WB14!!! Only 19 obnoxiously hard to find cards to go!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #92

I goofed... I knew I would.  I tried so hard to make sure I had EVERY Allen & Ginter insert set that existed before embarking on this mission.  I even have a spreadsheet that I created with all of them on it detailing the year, odds, what I might say about them, ect.  ...but I missed one.

Mr. Tony L. of Off Hiatus Baseball Cards commented on my post the other day with a seemingly innocuous comment where he made mention of the Ginter Code.  I forgot about the Ginter Code and the set that it brought with it in 2012 (It's even a set that I kinda liked!), Murder in Willow Cove.  Oh well.  I had to go back and change all the set numbers so that they look right now.  Honestly, I'm sure no one cares one iota, but I like admitting mistakes, so there you have it: I'm no Ginter guru.

On with the countdown!

Set: 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter Fields of Yore
            Total Cards: 10
            Stated Odds: 1:10

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 1:10
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 4.17

Favorite (Owned) Card:

There's really no particular reason I chose this card.  I'm no huge fan of the Indians or the Browns, but I also didn't have any particular love for any of the other stadiums in this set.  So I chose the one with my favorite photo instead.

This field was huge.  Obviously it had to be slightly bigger than a "normal" baseball field since it housed a football team as well, but I've heard tell that center field at this sucker rivaled the Polo Grounds and Houston's Minute Maid Park (with its berm).  This picture is sweet as well.  I love the supporting beams they used to use for the upper deck.  It definitely has that classic stadium feel and I love it.

One beef... why cover up home plate? :(

Notes and Comments:

First and foremost, part of the reason I love the Cleveland card so much as compared to the others was the fact that it featured a shot of the field itself.  Very few of these cards actually did that which I don't like at all.  The field and the style of seating are, to me, the most defining factors of any given stadium.  Sure, there's some outliers like the aforementioned Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park with the Green Monster, and Wrigley Field with its ivy wall, but most stadiums don't have that.

Instead, Topps decided to give us pictures of the stadiums as you would walk up to them.  I vote that the field shots would've been better.  In case you haven't seen what I'm talking about, here's half a page of my binder containing this set:

The picture choice aside, I think this set is wonderful, and it shows in trade requests.  This is far and away the set that I get the most requests for as far as Allen & Ginter inserts go.  I would say that this is partially because its a small and fairly easy to complete set, but I do also believe that it is beautiful.

As opposed to the recently reviewed Festivals and Fairs set, the huge title text and border on these cards still take up just as much room as the F&F set, but don't detract from the picture on the card.  The difference here is that the stadium is clearly the main focus of the card.  I won't go as far to say that I like the big border and text, but I would definitely say that, for this set, it doesn't detract from the card (except that home plate comment from above...).

I'm sure that another draw to this set is the absolutely wonderful theme.  Having a set about classic stadiums will draw in just about any kind of card collector, and I'm no exception.  These cards generally showcase the Golden Age of baseball and even though I wasn't even alive back then, I can certainly imagine.

Card back review: Card backs are fine. End card back review.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 85
Highest rating yet!  Not super surprising considering the sets we've covered so far... After I get a few more of these up, I'll get a living post going with my rankings in order as we go.

% of Set Completed: 100%

Missing Cards: NONE!!!

Extra Cards: FOY-01, 02, 05, 06, 08, 09, 10

Monday, May 25, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #93

Set: 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter Festivals and Fairs
            Total Cards: 10
            Stated Odds: Full sized inserts fall 1:2 (1:10)

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 1:10
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 4.17

Favorite (Owned) Card:

I'm not going to say too much about this specific card.  I like it... it's got a colorful picture (something very lacking in this set), and I enjoy the idea behind the festival in question.  Throw rotten veggies at people!!! YES!

Notes and Comments:
I want this set to be better than it actually is.  The theme is great.  It has everything I would want in an insert set.  The theme is something I can somewhat relate to and have heard of about half of these festivals, and the rest I get to read about or lookup online.  Perfect!  I love learning things.

My biggest problem with this set is the design (specifically the front) of the card.  The bottom text/picture/title takes up far too much space and this is exacerbated by the fact that the card is horizontal.  Many of the pictures featured on the cards are very mediocre probably because of this huge ribbon.  My other beef with the design is the featured picture of a theme park??? on every card.  It simply doesn't fit many of the cards!  It's a very modern image that is slapped onto cards that aren't necessarily modern or even of the carnival/fair ilk.  I guess it simply didn't make all that much sense to me.

The back of the card is pretty standard A&G insert style.  In this case, I don't mind the small ferris wheels, roller coasters, and slides as much because it simply doesn't draw as much attention and is nicely incorporated in the border.  I'll go as far to say that I like it.

Overall, I still do enjoy the set.  There's some pretty cool cards in it (like the one above), but it certainly isn't anywhere near my favorite.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 68

% of Set Completed: 100%

Missing Cards: NONE!!!

Extra Cards: FAF-02, 04, 06, 09, 10

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Of Group Breaks and Deadly Snakes

I've been very busy this week and haven't had time delve further into my Ginter insert set overview.  I promise I'll get a few done next week!  Much of the reason behind my "busyness" is that I've been spending the time I normally invest in this blog and baseball cards by instead organizing said baseball cards and getting my spreadsheet and cards out Zistle to look correct.  This work yielded a couple Zistle trades which I'm sure I'll showcase soon!!!

I also spent some of my time this week re-leveling our patio that is comprised of stone bricks.  One of our cats decided to leave me a present near my work, one that I've never seen a cat actually catch before.

A snake!  No... it wasn't actually a copperhead.  My cat isn't THAT awesome.  It was just a common old garter snake that was very much dead.  I'm not a super big fan of critters and creatures that you find in your backyard, but I do like birds and snakes quite a bit.  My cat has now killed both these things and deserves punishment.  I shall put peanut butter on top of his nose.  In addition, I need to find a way to train the cat to still catch things but stay away from the birds/snakes.  Perhaps greatly rewarding the catching of moles/rats/mice and the like is in order.

I'm babbling.

I did get some mail this week!

As I mentioned previously, I joined a group break hosted by Nachos Grande picking the Atlanta Braves.  The break featured five different hobby boxes:
  • 2015 Topps Opening Day
  • 2015 Bowman
  • 2015 Topps Gypsy Queen
  • 2015 Panini Diamond Kings
  • 2015 Topps Museum Collection
I was looking forward to seeing Diamond Kings, grabbing a bit more Gypsy Queen, and hoping to get something I liked.  I am also always a sucker for Bowman and I was hoping that this break would get rid of that Bowman lust for me.  

Let's start with that... cause it didn't.  I was hoping to get a few chrome cards; I got one.  I wasn't upset by any means, but it does mean that I'll probably be breaking a box of this sometime down the road... we'll see.  I probably did the best on Bowman as far as base cards go... but who buys Bowman for base???  Boring.

Speaking of base, the Braves did not seem to want to come out of packs for this break.  I got very few cards from Diamond Kings, shut out of bonus boxes and Museum Collection, and simply ended up with a relatively small stack of cards.  I was not to be bothered though... I'm really not that much of a team collector so I have no desire for oodles of base cards flying around my room in unorganized fashion.

Honestly though, I didn't get all that much for inserts either.  Here's the highlights:

I know... I'm not really doing the cards justice with such a crappy picture, but I'm tired!  It's 10:30 at night and I need to get this post up.  I really like the Teheran mini and the Spahn paper frame.  I'm telling you though... that mini isn't making me want to go grab any more Gypsy Queen...

The Teheran Franchise Flashback is from Opening Day and I guess the card is okay.  The design is a bit too much for me though.  Way too "in your face".  

I hit a Gattis auto!  It made the group break go from complete and total bust to... well, now I don't know what to think about this break.  I got a hit of a player who doesn't play for my team anymore and is by no means a great player... yet it's still a hit.  So I guess I'm happy?

My favorite card that I received (besides the generous gifting of a Munnatawket mini of Hank Aaron... THANKS CHRIS!!!!) was probably that Opening Day base card... yes, I said base card... of Andrelton Simmons.  I love cards that highlight defense, and this card does just that with an absolutely beautiful photo of the league's best defensive shortstop.

I feel I must note that this group break that Nachos Grande hosted was, in general, a great success.  He ABSOLUTELY killed it in the boxes he picked out getting all kinds really cool hits and inserts.  There were tons of people that made like bandits in this break.  I will absolutely be joining another one of his breaks in the near future... just probably* not the one he's doing now (case of Topps Archives). 

*Well, I don't think so at least.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #94

Set: 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter World's Tallest Buildings
            Total Cards: 10
            Stated Odds: 1:10

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 1:10 
There are some sources that say this (and all other 2012 full-sized insert sets) might fall 1:8, but I've found more that say 1:10.  I'll stick with that.
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 4.17

Favorite (Owned) Card:

These towers look really cool.  That's pretty much my only explaination to why I picked this card over the rest.

Notes and Comments:
I remember my first impression of this set being great.  I enjoy the unique and creative theme of the set and I genuinely think that tall buildings are awesome.  I happen to live fairly close to NYC so I have seen the vast majority of the buildings in this insert set.  I do tend to question the inclusion of some of the older (and smaller) New York based buildings like the MetLife building.  They included the then in progress 1 World Trade Center.  Why not include the in progress Shanghai Tower or one of the coolest buildings that was completed in the year this set came out, the Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower.

Yeah, these two awesome sights.

Oh well, US bias.  I don't mind.  Anyhow, card design.

Not bad as far as the front goes.  The images that Topps used tend to be very muted which detracts from most of the glory of these buildings which is unfortunate.  The title and name text does a great job of existing yet not majorly distracting you... but there's a border.  Meh.

The back is what has become standard awesomeness for Allen & Ginter in these recent years.  A nice simple border with great title text, a unique graphic that is consistent throughout the set, and then a random blurb about what is pictured on the front.  I love it.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 72
This was a toughy.  I like the set, but I think it could've been better content-wise and could've used much better pictures (or at least highlighted said pictures more effectively).

% of Set Completed: 100%

Missing Cards: NONE!!!

Extra Cards: 1, 3, 5, 8, 10

Friday, May 15, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #95

Set: 2010 Allen & Ginter This Day in History
            Total Cards: 75
            Stated Odds: 1 per pack

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 21/24
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 3.57

Favorite (Owned) Card:

Eventually a Brave was going to get featured for one of these insert sets.  This just happens to be one of the better photos from the set.  I also am a big fan of Chipper Jones (surprise?).  I really won't go into much more detail about this card in particular as I'll talk more about the set below, but I will mention the fact that Topps decided to write all the numbers in 150 million on this card.  Being myself, I enjoyed that.

Notes and Comments:

Bleh.  This set makes me puke.  Yet another large insert set featuring baseball's star players, this set wasn't used as a "dummy insert" like the sets from 2006-08 so it isn't as thick, but it is just as bad.  Topps went straight into reverse mode after a decent 2009 baseball insert set; they took a typical Ginter-esque picture of a ballplayer and put it next to some old-fashion paperboy??? 

I suppose the cards aren't that horrible individually, but as a group, they are simply unbearable.  These are not baseball cards.  They almost remind me of the countless insert sets that Topps put out in 2007 that were all identical to each other… one of them was that A-Rod Road to 500 set in which all the cards were the same except for this giant number on the card.  Here… I’ll even show you a picture of what my binder of this crap set looks like:

Just an eye-sore.

The only redeeming quality of this set is the way Topps deviated from its super-standard card back.  This was one of the first years that Topps did this for Allen & Ginter and I really appreciate it.  I’m not a huge fan of fancy borders on the fronts of cards, but I’m all for it on the backs, and this set is no exception.  I love the border and especially the title text that Topps used for the card backs of this set.

I could take or leave most of the actual flavor text as I think they could’ve been much more creative with historic dates.  They seemed to grasp at straws for some of these dates which seems very strange to me as quick internet searches of random specific dates yields information out the wazoo.

Take the featured card of Chipper Jones... April 24th.  Topps went with the founding of the Library of Congress... kinda bland???  This site has the following other options that would all have been way more interesting:
  • 1st AL baseball game
  • Trojan Horse (traditional date… but who cares)
  •  J. Slocum completes boat trip around the world in an 11m boat
  • …and many more, take a gander!
Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 14

% of Set Completed: 98.6%

Missing Cards: TDH-17 Joe Mauer (bleh... barely even care)

Extra Cards:  Too many.  Can I burn them???  Anyone actually want them?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #96

Set: 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter National Pride
            Total Cards: 75
            Stated Odds: 1 per pack

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 21/24 (first year with 3 hits per hobby box)
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 3.57

Favorite (Owned) Card:

This is easily my favorite card in this set as it features arguably the best pitcher playing the game right now.  It helps that I appreciate Venezuela's flag colors and how it creates a unique, but still good looking background for King Felix's frame.  I would note that 6 years certainly makes a huge difference.  Felix Hernandez looks very young in this photo.

Notes and Comments:
Of all of the full sized inserts that show up at a very high rate (i.e. the large sets that show up once each year and always feature ballplayers), this one is my favorite.  It's not really that I like the theme of the set... in fact, I think the theme is identical to most of the rest of these types of sets (pick some random aspect of a players and plop it on a card so that you can print more mugs of stars).  If I had to pick one of these sets solely for their theme I would have to say that 2012's What's in a Name? is the most creative and (somewhat) interesting of the bunch.

Fortunately cards aren't all about theme and we get to talk about how they look as well.  I happen to really appreciate what this set does with the otherwise strange-looking 2009 Allen & Ginter coloring.  I enjoy the very legible player name and I think my favorite part of this set is the edited in background of the player's home country flag.  Granted, Topps didn't do a perfect job with the photo editing in all 75 cards, but the vast majority of them look very classy.

Not only do these cards look good, but they also have halfway decent card backs.  The standard Allen & Ginter card back is used for this set and it works just fine.  More importantly, the written blurbs are actually relevant to the player and usually fairly interesting.  A lot of the focus happened to be on the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but it also wasn't all that Topps wrote about either.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 83

% of Set Completed: 89%

Missing Cards: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 49

I should probably consider investing in a couple more boxes or blasters of this year.  As you'll see going forward, I'm missing quite a few cards from 2009.  I don't even have the entire base set completed.

Extra Cards:  Too many to list.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A look at a very strange autograph... a Zistle mystery!

I completed my first trade on Zistle the other day!  Someone from England reached out to me and asked if I was willing to send him a bunch of 2011 Allen & Ginter cards.  After visiting the post office and further convincing myself that those that work there have no other purpose in life than to make oneself miserable, I begrudgingly agreed to spend $12 to do so.

In any case, I went through his trade list on Zistle and picked out a few cards that I had interest in...

Here's two missing minis from the 2011 Animals in Peril set.  Very happy to get one step closer to completing these especially since this was probably the only half-way decent mini insert set from 2011.

Here's 5 regular back minis from 2011.  I was missing all of these so these are great additions as well.  You're probably wondering... Bubba... there's 6 cards there.  You said 5.  You're kinda dumb.

I would say yes, I am dumb, but for a different reason.  I had forgotten when I took these pictures that one of the minis was in fact a no number variant (usually a 50 card print run).  I was silly and took a picture of Mr. Billy Butler along with the other base minis.  Mr. Butler is in fact, much more rare than the rest of these cards.  Just trust me.

I also received 3 black bordered mini parallels from 2011 (apparently this guy liked this year's Ginter set...).  I didn't have these before, but these are mostly trade bait.  I'm not anywhere close to putting together a black bordered set from any year except maybe 2012.

This guy did have two code parallel full sized cards which I found interesting.  Zistle also taught me something about Allen & Ginter that I didn't know.  Apparently, these code cards did not span the entire 350 card set.  When I actually looked into my collection, I found that I had approximately half of them.  I've always thought that they were pretty cool, so I think I'll attempt to slowly put this set together... might take a bit, but I got MIGGY! :D

Last, but not least (well... maybe it is least), I saw that this guy had an Evan Gattis auto.  I enjoyed Gattis last year on the Braves and I figured it would be cool to have his autograph now that he's an Astro and there isn't much chance to pull his auto as a Brave anymore... little did I know.

There was no picture of this card on Zistle, and I didn't even bother looking the card up.  I really didn’t care all that much as this was more or less just him throwing the card into the trade. 

The autograph is on-card which is more than I could’ve hoped for, however the photo just makes me incessantly giggle.  I get that he is El Oso Blanco, but this isn’t a baseball card photo… (and it isn’t, one quick Google search shows this was taken for Sports Illustrated.  Topps stealing more photos.  Get your own and make them baseball relevant!)  Anyways, this card is now probably relegated to the status of “bring my useless card into work day” and show everyone how silly baseball cards can be… I know, that’ll draw so many more people into the hobby, but hey, I enjoy it.

Relevant point #2:  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently joined a group break hosted by Nachos Grande.  I obviously took the Braves and I’m sure I’ll write up a post about my haul when I get the cards, but I just wanted to mention now that one of the cards I’m due to receive is, in fact, a 2015 Gypsy Queen Evan Gattis autograph.  Yes, on the Atlanta Braves.  Huh???  So much for my brilliant thinking.  Here’s a link to the post that Chris wrote about the Gypsy Queen portion of the group break… has a nice big picture of Gattis’ ugly John Hancock.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #97

Set: 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Martial Mastery
            Total Cards: 10
            Stated Odds: Full size inserts fall 1:2 packs

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 1:8
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 3.33
So here's the deal with the odds.  Topps claims that the full sized inserts combine to fall at 1:2 packs.  This could be interpreted one of two ways.  The first being that the inserts are evenly distributed no matter the size of the set.  Thus, in a box you would get the same number of inserts from each set.

The second way has to do with the way cards are normally printed.  The cheapest way to print something is to have a card appear exactly once on a print sheet and then "copy" that sheet as many times as you need to.  If Topps actually did this for their insert sets, you would find it exceedingly difficult to pull inserts of small set sizes (there would simply be less of them printed).

This "problem" is not unique to baseball cards.  In fact, this phenomenon (if you can call it that) happens more often in gaming cards in which companies print cards with unique rarities.  There are two ways to achieve making a card rarer (more rare??? ...i don't know).  You can either print the different rarities on different press sheets (vastly more expensive) or you can simply put multiple versions of the more common cards on the same press sheet (thus making the card twice as common).

Back to 2013 Allen & Ginter... Going over my collection, I saw that I have roughly 60 cards of each of the 4 regular sized inserts that Topps printed this year.  This also agrees with what I remember from opening boxes of this; Topps definitely evenly distributed their inserts.

This almost certainly means that Topps has a factory sheet that has two versions of these Martial Mastery cards.  It is also why it's so freaking easy to complete this set.  I think I've completed this particular set 4 or 5 times over while still missing a card from one of the other 2013 Ginter full size insert sets... dumb.

Favorite (Owned) Card:

I have a thing for artwork depicting Native Americans.  Yeah, that set called The First Americans... one of my favorites.

Notes and Comments:
This set is very strange to me.  Taken as a whole and at surface level, this seems like a terrific idea for a quirky insert set.  There are plenty of really cool looking weapons, warriors, and formations from all time periods out there ready to be made into a card.  This seems like what Topps was going for here.  Unfortunately, they didn’t quite seem to hit the mark.

None of the cards from this set seem to mesh with each other.  Sure, they have the same layout and format as each other, but it’s as each of the cards were designed independently from each other.  The artwork is nowhere near consistent and neither is the “theme”.  They certainly all contain information about warriors or formations or civilizations, but that’s the thing… it’s so diverse that I have trouble drawing parallels between the cards.

Another problem… if we look at another full-sized insert from this same year we see a set called Civilizations of Ages Past.  The differences between these two sets are so negligible that I get frustrated.  They both remind me of Age of Empires.  That’s great.  I love Age of Empires… but do we need TWO sets that do that?  This set would’ve been so much better if they trimmed the focus.  Talk about ancient warriors, military strategies, weaponry, whatever… but just pick ONE.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 40

% of Set Completed: 100%

Missing Cards: None!

Extra Cards: All of them!

Friday, May 8, 2015

What Mr. Jackson can get you at the LCS...

The answer to this age old question happens to be:

  • 1 2015 Gypsy Queen Hobby Pack
  • 1 2014 Bowman Draft Hobby Pack
  • 1 2014 Allen & Ginter Hobby Pack
  • 1 Dragons of Tarkir MTG Pack
  • some supplies I needed (boxes, team bags, penny sleeves)
We're going to skip the Magic pack because this blog really isn't about Magic, but if anyone's curious my rare was Berserker's Onslaught (booooo).

I picked up the first two packs because I hadn't seen any of the cards from those sets yet.  I picked up the A&G pack because it's A&G and I'm still missing inserts from last year.

Gypsy Queen:

I didn't pull anything overly special in this year's quota of one pack of this stuff.  I've never really been a huge fan of this set, but I also really can't put a finger on why that is.  I enjoy the faded type color scheme that Gypsy Queen brings to the table, but either the photos or the quirky borders seem to turn me off from the set every year.  This year is no exception.  I think this year it's more to do with the quirky border than anything else.

I do, however, really enjoy the one paper framed card I got (Juan Marichal above).  The wrapper claims these fall 1:17 packs which made me fairly happy.  These new paper frames make the image seem more important and draws your attention to different parts of the card than the normal base cards.  If you haven't seen one of these framed cards live, I would strongly recommend finding one before judging from this, or any other picture online.  It's hard to do the card justice with just a scan/photo.

I actually just joined a group break sponsored by Nachos Grande that contains 1 box of this stuff (not opened as of this post).  It also included a box of Diamond Kings which was opened yesterday and the only card that I hit was a framed (just like these Gypsy Queen cards) Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves.  I'm even more excited to see that card in person now.

The insert from the pack was a The Queen's Throwback card of James Shields.  Meh.  I'm spoiled.  I get to look at Allen & Ginter inserts all day.  This is boring, though I feel I must mention that Gypsy Queen looks like it tried a lot harder this year than it did most of the previous years.  I've seen other Gypsy Queen inserts from other blogs that actually look halfway decent (I think there's a defensive themed set this year that I remember looking pretty cool).

Bowman Draft:

I kinda just picked this up for ha-ha's.  The above was the best card I pulled as of right now (we'll wait 5 years and see I suppose...).  I swear this is a refractor because its way more shiny than the other chrome card I got from the pack, but the back doesn't say anything about it being so, yet Bowman is usually pretty good at putting that word beneath the set/number (it is their main selling point after all).  Perhaps they didn't print the word refractor in this set... don't know, not going to open more to find out.

Both the front and back are typical Bowman and pretty bland, but still a good design that makes the player the main focus (exactly what this type of set should be aiming for).  I'm not a huge prospector, but I tend to find myself buying base Bowman every now and then just for the simplicity and random autographs.  I suppose its my replacement for Topps flagship, which I usually don't touch.

Allen & Ginter:

This should have been a fruitless pickup.  I have a complete base set, the vast majority of inserts are complete, and I'm even over 80% complete on the mini set.  I got the pack simply because I like the brand so much.  Yet.... you never really know do you...

I only have one of these, which is a partial win for me.  It means I've got more trade bait for this set.

I got a SP which is nice.  It is, however, VERY miscut.  I've heard a couple people complain about miscut cards this year, but I really haven't seen too many.  This is very obvious (maybe not so much so in the picture).  Still, I suppose it's a SP...

Uh.... YES!  Case hit is a single pack?!?!?! YES!!!  We'll talk about this particular insert (much later) in my insert set series, but we can talk about this specific card now.  This kind of thing is exactly why I love Allen & Ginter so much.  Who makes a card about the world's strangest sport??? A&G does.  If you read the description, apparently Cheese Rolling has almost nothing to do with cheese (which I happen to love very much).  Instead, it is simply a downhill sprint with the victor being the first to reach the bottom.  Sound simple?  Well... for your enjoyment.

Freakin' awesome... that's what Cheese Rolling is.

P.S. I'd be the guy leveling people at the bottom of the hill.  That's even more awesome.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #98

Set: 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter United States of America (US State Cards)
            Total Cards: 50 (Surprise!)
            Stated Odds: 1 per pack

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 22/24 
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 2.27

Favorite (Owned) Card:

This is my favorite card from the set solely because I have no idea who this person is.  He obviously played for the Fish in '06, which wasn't a great year for them (what year really is???), and I suppose he is from Montana.  Nifty!  Anyways, I felt I should do a bit of research and wonderful Wikipedia had very little about this guy.  Even better!  Makes me love the card even more!  Anywho, Wikipedia also claims that this guy wasn't even born in Montana... huh?  Who should be trusted?!?!?

Notes and Comments:
Our third set in a row that features, what I would call, "filler inserts".  Just like the previous two sets, these inserts feature extremely thick card stock meant to dissuade pack-searchers from finding hits.  I have no idea if it worked or not, though I expect it didn't as we don't see these super thick inserts too often anymore.

Unlike our previous two inserts, this set comes off "passably" as an actual card that someone might collect.  For one thing, all the card backs are actually different!  What a novel idea!  We've got a title, a number, and a little blurb about the player in question and what state he grew up in (or went to school in).

The front of these cards are all roughly the same.  They all feature the same blueish background with a player picture in a ovular frame.  Also featured is the relevant state flag.  I think getting to see the various state flags is my favorite part of this set.  Some of the flags are really fun looking (like the Big Dipper for Alaska).  Going into this post, I don't know if I could tell you what any of the state flags were except for the flag of my home state, Connecticut.

Overall, I still think this set is exceedingly boring.  I'm not all that interested in which state players grew up in... not to mention that Topps definitely had to stretch for a couple states (see above...), so there is a definite lack of usual stardom in this insert set.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 32

% of Set Completed: 98%

Missing Cards: #25 Ryan Howard
Uh... *wince???  On one hand I'm very much ashamed that I haven't yet completed this set as its "so easy".  On the other hand, I obtained all the cards I do have just from opening boxes and packs (probably around 120 packs worth... some hobby, some retail).  I guess we can definitively say that my number up at the top is not what you should be expecting to complete a set.  In addition, the card I'm missing just happens to be on my least favorite team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies.  So I simply haven't actively pursued this card, nor am I willing to pay shipping for it... so the set sits incomplete for now.  

Extra Cards: Got doubles/triples of most (probably 40/50) of this set.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #99

Set: 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter Dick Perez Sketches
            Total Cards: 30
            Stated Odds: 1 per pack

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 22/24 (Again, packs with a hit did not have this insert)
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 1.36

Favorite (Owned) Card:

I'm no huge fan of A-Rod, but I can respect the fact that he is a good ballplayer.  Look what he's doing this year!  ...also, this seemed to be the best picture Mr. Dick Perez could draw this year (this one I actually do like.  It looks realistic and very much like A-Rod himself).

Notes and Comments: 
I cheated with this set... with all of 2006 actually.  I can honestly say that I have never opened a single hobby or retail pack of 2006 Allen & Ginter.  Yet I still own all the cards.  EBay is wonderful.  I was able to purchase the base set, the regular back mini set, and this 30 card insert set all in one go!

I'll talk a little more about the design today as I barely mentioned it the other day with the 2007 set mostly because I was talking about math (and I had to leave something to talk about today!).  In any case, I give this insert set way more credit than the '07 version simply because it came first and thus wasn't copying anything.  The border on the front of this card is vastly superior to it's '07 counterpart, but still isn't anything to write home about.  As I said before, the backs of the cards are almost identical and feature a bold, large font title of "Dick Perez" (clearly the name of the card, right???).  The name of the featured player is hidden (why?) in small font right below the number of the card in the set (19 of 30 in this case).  This irks me to no end.  It'd be one thing if the front had a clear player title, but it doesn't.  "Alex Rodriguez" is hand written within the drawing by Perez himself in slightly faded pencil???  Sigh...

Again, the back features a blurb about Dick Perez that doesn't change from card to card (and isn't even that interesting).  All of these problems compounded together make for two extremely boring sets that aren't very fun to collect at all.  The player drawings on the card fronts are mildly interesting at best.  I'm glad Topps quickly saw the light and dispatched of these inserts after 2007.  Sketches can now only be found as 1-of-1 minis which I would probably sell if I ever got one as I still don't really appreciate Mr. Perez's work all that much.  Oh well.

I promise these sets will start getting better and more interesting soon enough!

% of Set Completed: 100%!!!

Missing Cards: None

Extra Cards: None

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #100

Set: 2007 Topps Allen & Ginter Dick Perez Sketches
            Total Cards: 30
            Stated Odds: 1 per pack

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 22/24 (packs with hits did not have these inserts)
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 1.36

For those wondering, the above number is what I'll be using to put these sets in order.  I'm claiming that out of the 81 different insert sets, this would be the easiest to complete.  Assuming no duplicates and perfect collation, it would take opening 1.36 hobby boxes to complete this set.  Obviously, perfect collation is never the case, but if we assume this to be true for ALL the sets I'll be covering, then we can come up with a pretty good representation of how hard a set will be to complete.

A couple observations about this number (if you aren't much of a math person then feel free to skip this).  Otherwise, this number is far more accurate:

  1. the better the set odds per pack are.
  2. if you are a box or (even better) case breaker.
  3. the smaller the set itself is.
  4. the more "limited" the set is.
The first two relate to the way Topps collation "tends" to work and the law of large numbers.  Obviously, the more you break, the better (more accurate) these averages will tend to be, but also of consideration is what tends to happen when one breaks boxes or cases of hobby product (as opposed to retail).  It is apparent that Topps at least tries to avoid duplicates showing up in individual boxes/cases.  This phenomenon (if you can even call it that) is definitely easier to see working with base cards, but happens with insert sets as well.  I've opened a few cases of Allen & Ginter and have come across very few duplicate inserts (I know there are exceptions especially with the dreadful years of 2009-2011 where Topps seemed to lose all ability to collate properly, but in general, this seems to hold).  The harder a specific insert is to pull, the more these two points become irrelevant, which is why we have the final two points.

The last two points are solely related to the chance of pulling duplicate inserts.  The first of the two reasons has to do with probability; simply stated, it is easier to pull a specific card in a smaller set.  Let us suppose you were one card away from completing two different sets.  One of those sets was 10 cards and one was 30.  Given that you were guaranteed to get one card of each set in a pack, you would have a better chance of completing the smaller set (10%) than you would the larger (3.33%) with that one pack, assuming independent trials.  This is a somewhat decent assumption, though, as we've stated above, individual cases/boxes tend to somewhat negate this aspect of independent trials.

The last point deals with another aspect of independent trials.  We technically have a limited sample size.  There exists only so much Allen & Ginter in the world (whatever Topps happened to print for the year).  For most sets, this can be safely ignored and has almost no effect whatsoever.  However, that's not to say that effect is zero (especially when we start talking about the more rare sets).  I shall give you an extreme example.  Let's say we're dealing with two 10 card sets of which you possess 9 cards.  Set A is limited to 10 sets across production (100 total cards) and Set B is limited to 100 sets across production (1000 total cards).  If we take a theoretical pack that contains one of both sets, assuming independent trials would yield the same odds for completing either set (1/10, 10%).  If we look at reality, you already own 9 cards of each set so you cannot possibly pull any of those cards.  The odds change!  You instead have a 10/91, or 10.99% chance to complete Set A, and a 100/991, or 10.09% chance to complete Set B in that one pack (and this difference will compound over multiple packs with the given insert).  You can see that even at a fairly small print run of 100 sets, we're dealing with a pretty small difference from the previous assumption of independent trials (0.09%).

Besides (hopefully) teaching you something, I'm also going to be using the above points to break ties between insert sets when they occur, which is actually quite a bit more frequent than I was expecting.  This first set is actually tied with none other than 2006 Dick Perez Sketches (surprise!).  I'm using point #4 to break this tie, which, in this case, is almost totally irrelevant.  However, technically Topps printed less Allen & Ginter in 2006 than they did in 2007.  So guess what... if you have a portion of both these sets and you open a pack of both years, you have a slightly (note: VERY SLIGHTLY) better chance of not pulling a duplicate Dick Perez Sketch from 2006 than you do from 2007.

Favorite (Owned) Card:

Notes and Comments:
Things I like about this set:

  • It's 30 cards and features all 30 MLB teams.  This is good.
  • The players it features are different from the previous.  This BETTER be the case.
  • They put spacing in between the 20 of 30 and the artist description so the name stands out a tiny bit more.  It's still awful though.
  • That's it... I'm done.  Can't think of any other good things.
Basically this set is awful.  Apparently Topps decided to take Dick Perez's painted minis and blow them up to fit this design making the sketches even worse than they already were.  I picked Swisher as my favorite card simply because he had the least hideous drawing to look at (probably cause he's the only one smiling).  The border on the front is mediocre at best and the back of each of these cards is THE SAME as 2006 with only a few minor adjustments.  Even the little blurb about Dick Perez (which I already hated) is the same as 06.  BOOOOOO!

Figures that the easiest set to complete would be the worst insert set Allen & Ginter has to offer.  

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 8 (yes... that's not an 80)

% of Set Completed: 100%!!!

Missing Cards: None

Extra Cards: I have extras of all but #7 and #28