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!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Different Kind of Stadium Club

I've been sitting on this post for quite a while now because I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to approach it.  I was slightly behind the times when Topps released what I would probably consider the best set of the decade in 2015 Topps Stadium Club.  I was never able to get my hands on a box of it, but I did acquire some cards through both trades and a blaster or two.  Eventually it'll be a set that shows up on my want list.

I did look into collecting 2016 Stadium Club, but I really didn't enjoy the design or photos nearly as much as I did the 2015 set, so I passed.  I also had already decided to collect last year's Heritage set (something I certainly won't be doing this year), so that ate into my budget.

When I heard that Topps had announced a new Premier League set with the Stadium Club moniker attached to it, I was immediately interested and honestly quite excited.  To me, this was exactly what I was looking for... a low to mid-end set collector's set with beautiful design and/or photography.  The release day was December 22nd and boxes of this immediately went on my Christmas list.

I received one hobby box of the product and immediately ripped into it.  Here's what I got.


This Andre Gray is technically a parallel (that PL logo in the top right is unique to this card), but this is essentially what your base cards look like.  The logo, nameplate... heck, even the card backs are spitting images of the 2016 baseball set.


I suppose I don't mind this too much, especially since I don't have all that much of the baseball version.  The lack of stats and personal information on the soccer card is probably to be expected.  I don't really expect Topps to go diving into advanced soccer statistics just yet.


Before heading more into the base set, there were also your standard inserts in this box.  Other than the fact that I was happy I pulled an Aguero Contact Sheets card, I wasn't overly impressed with any of the inserts as a whole.  There's just a bit too much going on in these 'Golazo' cards and...


...this Team Marks insert is quite boring.  On a related note, how boring is it that I got two inserts of the same player in my box, when it only came with five total?


Hey!  More soccer players that don't know how to write!  I really don't understand this phenomenon.  The Terry auto is actually a fairly decent hit considering the auto list for this set.  These autos were just icing on the cake for this box and certainly not the reason I wanted it.


Just like your typical Stadium Club sets we get parallels.  I pulled four of these gold foils, two of these First Day Issue cards, and the above Andre Gray PL logo parallel.  Don't care.

I bought the box for the base cards, the good photography, and the set chase.  What I didn't know was that there would be no chase.  I received the entire base set of 100 cards in my lone box.  While I suppose I don't mind this, I can tell you that Topps lost out on more of my money.  I would have bought another three boxes of this to try and put this set together.  I guess it's not my concern... I have the set.

One thing I will say is that the base set photography seems very hit or miss to me.  The five above 'base set' cards (autos/parallels) are your standard 'in the run of play' type photos.  While I certainly don't mind some of this, they tend to get very old if its not one of your favorite players featured in the photo.  While I think there is certainly room for improvement, I also think Topps really outdid themselves on the top 20% of the set.  There are some really outstanding photos in this set... so I give you my top 10 favorites.

#10
Former Southampton man celebrating his late game-winner earlier this season against Crystal Palace.  Wanyama kept this game from being an embarrassing opener at White Hart Lane.

#9
One of the better goalie cards in the set with Cech getting up high.  It helps that Nacho Monreal and Arsenal are sporting their awesome blue and green kits.

#8
Firmino is emulating the Karate Kid here complete with ponytail and all.  Enough said.  Awesome shot.

#7
I don't know why I enjoy this shot so much, but you'll see two themes in this countdown.  The first being these goal celebration cards.  They always make great photos.

#6
See... great photo.  Which brings me to the second theme... Manchester United.  I can't stand the team, but they absolutely have the best cards in the set.

#5
Point proven.  It helps that this card features a superstar, is set in the middle of the night, and encompasses half of the stadium.  Zlatan's widespread arms also just show you how big this guy really is.

#4
Hate the player.  Love the picture.  Is that allowed?

#3
This card is simply awesome.  This rainy photography is something that we didn't get to see in the baseball version of Stadium Club since no one plays baseball in a downpour.  I really love the effect it gives the card.  Meanwhile, De Gea is floating.

#2
Man U's young phenom gets one of the best cards of this set.  Celebration.  Rain.  Teammates.  The referee giving the goal in the background.  A Hull City player looking dismayed.  What more could you want in a card? 

#1
Oh, this... this is what you could want.  What a stunning photo.  The only thing that could have made this shot better was if Fellani wasn't creeping in the background.  Even still, this photo gives the impression of one vs. one hundred, red vs. black.  The fact that the photographer caught the ball in the shot is just a bonus.