Friday, March 31, 2017

The Youngest of the Three Aces

I'm 'usually' fairly okay with keeping up with thank-you posts to fellow trading partners out there.  I didn't say timely mind you... I said "keeping up with", meaning I'm good about not missing any and staying in relative order.  I try my best to say more than, "here's the cards I got!  Thanks!"

Well, this particular package from John over at Johnny's Trading Spot has been sitting on my scanner bed since November because my brain wasn't being creative.  Don't get me wrong, the package had plenty of goodies that fit into my collection!

Needed minis...

One of the first black bordered minis to hit my frankenset...

...and plenty of fun Braves cards, but I was struggling to come up with more than "YAY! CARDZ! The End."

The other day I sat down and rifled through the package again to try and spark an idea, and I saw this card.

A card I had already owned so I initially glossed over it as being part of the trade package and didn't even bother to scan it.  Clearly, its scanned now, and that's because there's a story behind this card.

My dad comes from a family of five children (all boys), all of which played baseball constantly.  Naturally, they had baseball cards, but the vast majority ended up with not my father.  I have no idea how old I was (probably 6 or 7?) when my dad gave me what was left of his baseball collection.  

It was a small cardboard box of not a whole lot of cards (at least by today's standards)... maybe 200-400?  A hog-podge of assorted singles from the mid-80's to early 90's.  I got the impression that he simply picked up a random pack every year or so, looked at them and then tossed them into this box.

The above card was included in that box I received and it instantly became my favorite card.  I was a burgeoning Little League pitcher who had just won my town's award for 'Most Accurate Pitcher' (yes, I still have the trophy), and these guys were my idols.  At the time, I simply knew that they were good pitchers and they all played for my favorite team.  Looking back now makes me realize how dominant they really were as a unit.

NL Cy Young Winner
1993 - Maddux
1994 - Maddux
1995 - Maddux
1996 - Smoltz
1997 - Pedro
1998 - Glavine

That's skipping Maddux's '92 CY with the gross Cubbies as well.

By far my favorite player coming out of that group of four was John Smoltz.  I've mentioned my fandom of his before, and a lot of it has to do with that fact that he played longer than Maddux, and didn't go over to the Mets like Glavine, but he also had the spirit of a competitor hard-wired into him...and it showed.

World Magazine did an article on Smoltz, focusing on his time of baseball inactivity (2000-2001) and what he did to help his kids and a school board survive turmoil and power struggles.  It also touches on the Smoltz contract offer from the evil empire (NYY) and how he declined it in order to stay in Atlanta.

To this day, Smoltzy remains one of the baseball players I respect the most, simply for his attitude towards the game, and his clear respect for other.  The fact that he's now a baseball broadcasting mainstay just puts icing on the cake.

John hooked me up with plenty of the Smoltzy's and I appreciate all of them.  Yes, even the ugly orange border ones too.  Thanks John!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2015 Topps High Tek

I got that itch the other day.  The one where you just need to open some new baseball cards and nothing else will make you happy.  I thought about stopping at Target on the way home to pick up a blaster of Heritage... or maybe Opening Day, but I had to work first.

It was Tuesday morning so that meant I was working my one day a week at the card shop.  That meant enduring hours of looking at sealed wax without getting to open any of it, and that didn't particularly sit well with me.  The only positive was that most of the new wax the owner had just gotten in was Panini stuff... which I mostly won't touch (yeah... looking at you ugly Donruss).  He did have boxes of Heritage and Series 1, but I wasn't about to go down one of those rabbit holes.

I sat and patiently worked the rest of the day away.

One of my favorite parts of working a hobby shop is meeting the different types of clientele that walk through the door looking for various things.  You obviously get to know the 'regulars' fairly well.  I'll give you some examples of a few of ours:
  • One guy comes in on roughly a weekly basis and buys a half box of some type of Heritage product every time (and that's usually it).  We set the box aside for him so that he can pick up the other half the following week.
  • We've got a guy who comes in 2-3 times a month who is addicted to our selection of older wax.  He almost always walks away with 3+ boxes of cards that are between 5 and 15 years old.  I guess he likes the 90's!
  • Yet another older gentleman is addicted to autographs of baseball and hockey prospects... and he wants them cheap.  Anything that guarantees plenty of autos at a low price point, he'll pick up.  Think Panini Elite Extra Edition, Leaf Perfect Game, the Panini USA Baseball sets... those kinds of things.
This last gentleman walked through the door about a half hour before close on Tuesday and he was looking for something to break.  We really didn't have much new for him so I had to start pitching him ideas.  His question is always the same, "How many autos does it have?"  Then he does some math in his head and decides if the box is worth it.  I don't remember what the guy walked out with that day, though I think it was a couple tins of the new Upper Deck Series 2 hockey product.

One of the products I pitched to him that day was our last remaining box of 2015 Topps High Tek.  He usually likes the newer baseball sets, so I thought there might be a chance that he would take a flyer on this one.  The standard "how many autos" question came out, and when I told him that each box only had one autograph, he immediately put it back.

Fast forward to store close and I had that same box in my hand with the owner laughing at me.  I had successfully pitched the product... to myself.  The owner gave me a bit of a discount as long as I opened the box in front of him.  I happily obliged and below are the results.

Starting it off with the two ugliest cards from the box.  There's something about seeing non-modern baseball players on these very modern card designs that really irks me.  Also, any Yankees card with a red and blue background doesn't really work.

This is a bit more like it.  Not only are these two guys "modern" players, but the color schemes here work way better.  Notably, the Rusney Castillo is a circut board design background.  Apparently this tier of parallel falls one per box, and considering you only get 7 base cards per box... well, it isn't really all that rare I guess.  Your standard backgrounds that fall 4 to a box are the spiral (Jackson), dots (Big Unit), waves (Franco), and grass (below on Henderson).  My box was nice and standard and I received one of each.

These last two base cards are my favorite and it all has to do with the color scheme.  The A's unis and the green and gold explosion make the card an immediate eye-catcher.  The Canseco is a stripes parallel and is supposedly a case hit.  Hooray?  A bit gimmicky in my opinion.  Actually, if you've been with me from the beginning, one of the first boxes I opened and showed off here was 2014 Topps High Tek (forgive my lack of pretty pictures back then).  I also got a nice Canseco in that box which has since left me.

This one's purty.  The scan doesn't do this card justice.  It simply makes it look like it's a giant color clash fiesta.  It's really not that bad.  Maybe I'm biased cause you know... the whole purple card thing.  Give me more!

One the other hand, I wasn't super happy pulling a redemption, but when I saw Freddie Freeman, it all made up for it.  Granted, he's probably not necessarily the super-star auto you're looking for when opening a box like this, but I was more than happy to pull a card that goes straight into my collection.  Admittedly, I was a bit reserved in my excitement until the physical card actually showed up...

...but it did just the other day!  I scanned this, and the card below this morning as I was running out the door.  I might have to look at my scanner settings because these two JPEGs don't look too hot, and I don't think there's anything terribly hard for the scanner to pick up here.  Oh well.  Topps graciously sent me a second card saying they apologized for the long wait on this redemption.  Thanks?  The redemption took all of ten days.

Topps must have done their research though because the second card that came along for the ride was a purple! parallel of Jose Bautista from Topps Tribute.

Overall, I was thrilled with the purchase and it definitely fixed my pack-opening need. Honestly, the only card the truly fits into my collection from all of these is the Freddie Freeman, so if you have a desire for any of the other featured here, speak up!  ...and yes, I'll even grudgingly give up the purple ones.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Blog Bat Around: My Cardboard Lifeblood

Chris over at Nachos Grande recently posed this question to everyone and my answer is beyond complicated.

Blog Bat Around:  What's the Hardest Set You've Ever Collected (or Tried to Collect)?

I consider myself to be a set collector above all else.  I've completed many, I've got plenty in the works, and there are certainly some I'd love to add to the want list.  I'm also generally pretty good at putting a lid on myself and my wants and tend to not stretch overly much.

To me, the two best parts of set collecting is the process and the feeling of accomplishment upon completion.  Collecting a set is not simply going to eBay and buying the it all in one go.  Set chasing at its heart involves opening a product (or a trade package!) and finding that you like a particular base card or insert set so much that you want ALL OF THEM!  The chase then begins.

All too often I see player collectors defining limits to their PC's. "This PC is done when I've reached [insert arbitrary number here] number of cards."  "I need an auto, relic, 1-of-1, five different colored inserts, and ten base cards and I'll be happy."  By no means am I saying this is a bad thing, I just know that I personally wouldn't get that feeling of completion if I collected in this manner.  I need a defined beginning and end laid out for me.

Side note: it's curious how many of our cards we collectors label as 'sets' to try and obtain that sense of completion all with varying degrees of success.
  • The above stated PC delineations
  • Frankensets
  • Rainbows (more power to you if you can get that 1-of-1)
  • Team sets (though I would consider these 'true' sets)
  • There's probably more that my coffee deprived brain can't think of at the moment

I could sit here and tell you that my hardest set I've collected is the 2006 Allen & Ginter regular back minis or the 2010 A&G World's Saltiest Sailors, but I feel that'd almost be cheating as I picked up both of these all in one fell swoop.  I'm not saying there wasn't joy in picking these sets up.  In fact, much of the joy came with chasing them down over months trying to find them a great price, but that's not set building.

...and then as I started writing this response I realized that those two big purchases were simply stepping stones... little pieces of the puzzle.  I collect one big set; the Allen & Ginter set.  The other sets I collect along the way (the Chrome, Bowman, Heritage, ect.), those are all just mini projects that are (supposed to be) easy to complete to give me that joy of accomplishment.  If you must make me pinpoint it, then sure... the 2010 A&G master set is, and probably will be, the hardest set to track down with the sheer number of oddities and SP ratios that exist.

Yeah... this year truly was a Monster.

The biggest reason that I still buy Allen & Ginter today is because the entire thing is a set collector's dream.  Not only are there countless sets to chase with varying rarities, but you can pretty much decide for yourself how and what you're actually going to chase.  Trust me, when I say I'm a Ginter Master Set collector, I mean it in the loosest sense possible.  I know others that spend more time and money chasing down the minis I don't, or even other pricier items like autos or rip-cards.

Thanks for the Blog Bat Around resurrection Chris.  Looking forward to more of these!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plaschke Presents Perpetual Postage

I recently sent Greg of Plaschke, Thy Sweater is Argyle a big ole package of Gintery Goodness.  We’ve done a decent amount of trading in the past, so at this point I’m fairly certain Greg has pretty much run out of things that are specifically on my want list (as it doesn’t grow all that fast).  That certainly doesn’t stop us from trading though!

This particular package contained a complete mishmosh of all sorts of cards I enjoy… and the best part is that I only knew of two cards that I was getting.

See?  Completely random!  Braves pitching parallel… grrr, not purple and a card featuring a show that I wasn’t really able to get into.  However, The Guild does feature one of my favorite content creators in Felicia Day who is famous enough to be an Allen & Ginter autograph subject!  One that I own!  So I appreciate that gesture.

Next, Greg attacked one of the Braves’ great 90’s pitchers in Tom Glavine starting with some junk wax.  Surprisingly, I don’t think I had the 1988 Fleer on the right.

This card is from Upper Deck’s Legendary Cuts set in 2009 and was probably a pretty sweet dual relic pull on set release.  Billingsley was just coming a 16-10 (3.14 ERA) season and proceeded to make the All-Star team in 2009.  Unfortunately, his career went quickly downhill from that point, he eventually had to have Tommy John surgery, and hasn’t recovered since.

Greg actually did find some cards off my want list proper!  These 3 minis help to reduce my 2016 regular back mini set build down to 38.  We’re getting there!

These two cards made me real sad as they remind me how short life really is.  Tommy was one my favorite "modern" (read: post Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz era) Braves pitchers when he was still with Atlanta.  Unfortunately, he seemed to fall apart when he went to the Angels.  I simply choose to believe that the Braves have the best pitching coaches out there... and it all stems from the Leo Mazzone era.

What's a trade package without some fun relics???  Well... personally I'm not the biggest fan of these fabricated relics, especially when they're all plasticy like many of the newer Topps flagship versions.  This one I'm pretty okay with as it manages to still remain an attractive card.

The Fred McGriff is glorious AND its an EBay 1 of 1!  I believe this is my first hit of the Crime Dog and I remember watching him play as a kid.

These two were actually the only two cards I knew were coming in the package.  The Chris Johnson I wanted because he did some good work as a Brave and Gypsy Queen isn't a terrible look for an auto (like it is for its base cards).  The Jason Motte came my way purely because its on Allen & Ginter card stock.  I'm a sucker for framed minis and this happens to be one.

Johnson gets auto props for including his number... which, by the way, I believe he has only worn for the Braves. Otherwise his signature is mediocre.

Motte's... well I can read the 'J' and the double 't'.  I guess that still better than some of the recent soccer autos I picked up!

Thanks for the great package Greg!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Relishing the Ambiance

I promise!  Last soccer related post for a while for all of you baseball purists out there!

I feel like I have to write something about this recent pickup though, so here goes.  As you know, I've recently been scavenging around for a soccer set that's worthy of a chase and it's eluded me thus far.  The Topps Premier League Gold series has been too high-end to chase, Donruss doesn't feature anyone from the Premier League, and Topps Stadium Club, while great, isn't a chase (it was simply one box and done).

I noticed that Topps restructured their Premier League Gold product for this year to make it less high end and I was definitely intrigued...

...and I can't say I'm overly thrilled with the design.  It's simply not a base set that I'd look to collect.

However, while perusing through the set, I happened upon one of the insert sets that I think is beautiful.  I decided that I would simply purchase the set outright instead of grabbing a box and only getting one of the cards.

Front and back... yes, two different cards.  The set is called "Ambiance" if you can't read it from the scan and it features stadium scenes from all 20 current Premier League teams.  The combination of English soccer fans being who the are...

...and the sheer history of some of these venues...

makes this set awesome.  I actually wish Topps would do something similar to this for baseball stadiums (with the same level of photography).

Here are the four cards from the set that really stood out.

One of the newer Premier League stadiums, Arsenal's Emirates Stadium showcases modern construction technology at its finest.  The stadium was built to house fans... lots of them, and is still England's 3rd biggest stadium (Wembley, Old Trafford).

This panorama of the stadium shows off the masterful design even more, with the trusses covering the vast majority of the fan seating, but still leaving the pitch open to the elements.

Obviously I have to get my favorite team's stadium in here.  Another newer gigantic stadium with a pretty cool display of the colors.  I'm struggling a bit to figure out exactly how they got this particular shot because I'm fairly certain they don't have a retractable roof, and similar to Arsenal, their pitch is open to the weather.

I threw this shot in here simply because I like it.  It appears that West Brom covered their normal side facing facade with a giant poster of sorts and it makes for an awesome shot.  The Baggies are having their historically best season ever, currently sitting 8th in the table and needing only 9 points to surpass their best PL finish (2012-13, 49 points).

My favorite shot of the entire sets features a traditional old English, open air venue under the lights.  Simply stunning.

I picked up this 20-card set off of EBay for $30 shipped, which seems like a lot but these are seeded 1 per box so you'd have to buy 3 cases of the product to even think about completing this.  I'm very happy with the pickup.

Friday, March 3, 2017

I'm a Winner! ...complete with bad scans

I recently won a blogiversary contest over at Bob Walk the Plank alongside blogging extraordinaire, Night Owl.  While the cards I received from Matt were certainly quite different than those Greg received, the strategy he utilized was quite similar.

Here's NO's post from last night.

#1 Attack of the Sets Builds.

2007 Allen & Ginter has always been a sticking point of mine.  I still needed lots of base cards simply because I've never had the opportunity to open any of it.  Now I need significantly fewer of these beautiful base cards as Matt knocked out about 3/4 of my remaining want list.

I love this Truman card, and I miss the old Allen & Ginter inclusion of historical legends like this.  Hopefully we don't get another year full of crappy comedians.

This is now a set completed for me.  I was silly and traded away my only copy of this card without realizing it way back when I opened my case in August.  Now I have reacquired said Hammerin' Hank and the set is again complete (and now bindered away so I don't make the same mistake again). 

More set help!  This time 2009 style.  My favorite of this particular Ginter insert series featured some memorable moments from the 1990's and 2000's.  This Griffey Jr. one is awesome, and what a great artist rendition of that moment.

#2 Revenge of the Toploaders

In addition to the set help, Matt also sent the both of us some random goodies.  My love for minis was probably the catalyst for these two cards.  Unbelievably, that Freeman is the first Gypsy Queen framed mini I own.  I have a couple autos from the set, but they are all full size.  Framing always makes a card look better, and Gypsy Queen is no exception.

I was also apparently extremely lazy when scanning these cards.  I don't know why I didn't think to remove these cards from their toploaders before scanning, but I might as well stay lazy at this point.  It does show off the fact that Matt is clearly an experienced trading partner.

Painter's tape over scotch tape.  Check.
Reuse crappy toploaders for protection.  Check.

I greatly appreciate the Mallex Smith card coming a mere two weeks before St. Patrick's Day.  I love it even more because my friends from college have always called me a 'crazy leprechaun' due to my slightly red hair, my generally jovial nature, and my tendency to randomly heel-click whenever I feel like it.

I'm sure the Freeman is a parallel of some sort because its Prizm and that's what they do in that set.  It certainly looks cool enough... just missing the giant Tomahawk on the jersey.

#3 A New Snider

Granted, this is nothing like the Duke Night Owl received, but I'm willing to give this particular Edwin Donald Snider a new home.  I just wish that he actually signed his name as Edwin Donald... what a great name.

Thanks for the contest and great cards Matt!