Sunday, March 29, 2015

Facebook is only good for one thing...

I'm not a huge social media person.  

I mean, I have a Facebook page similar to pretty much anyone who would be reading this blog, but as far as any of the other major players in the social media world go, I don't participate.  I probably have a Twitter username, but I don't remember my password and I haven't used it in years.  Forget about any of the picture based websites like Instagram and such... I hate taking pictures and I'm bad at it to boot (see below photos...).  I even think my most recent Facebook photo of myself is probably close to two years old at this point.

I suppose some would argue that even having a blog and writing on it is a form of social media, and yeah... by definition, I'd have to agree, but I certainly don't think it's anything even remotely similar to the popular instant gratification/update sites like those already mentioned.  A blog is somewhere that you can't put thoughts on paper [screen] and think about them, edit them, and tweak them to your liking before anyone even sees them.

Working at ESPN, I'm constantly surrounded by a "NOW" mindset.  We even have a new page attached to our mobile app called ESPN NOW.  It highlights things that are currently popular and trending in the sports world.  Wonderful idea; not opposed to it in the slightest.  I'm just not the guy that is going to providing those updates.  I much prefer the sit down and think it through approach to just about everything in life.

That said, I joined a Facebook group not all that long ago relating to collecting Allen & Ginter minis.  I don't believe there are all that many people in it, but as they are my favorite card to collect, I thought I'd at least poke around and see what people were offering and talking about.  I still have yet to post anything in the group... maybe I'll get kicked.  But that's not important.  What is important is that someone posted there last week looking for a bunch of Allen & Ginter base cards and a few inserts.  I had quite a bit of what he needed so I reached out to him.  We eventually got a trade worked out and I sent him a big ol' box of baseball bits (that was missing 3 cards cause I'm dumb... he'll get them this week sometime) and I received some cards I was still missing in return.  Here's some highlights:

Steve sent me a handful of 2012 base SP's that I was missing.  One of these belonged to former UConn star Swin Cash (notice extremely shoddy photo... I really need a scanner).  I grew up and still live in Connecticut so this card hits home (literally...).  This is at least the third time that Ginter has featured a UConn women's basketball icon.  I know that Taurasi and Auriemma already have cards.  Sue Bird might have one as well... not sure on that.  Either way I appreciate the fact that the team gets recognized in a product like this.  I was a much bigger fan of theirs when I was younger and they were just starting to become dominant (the Taurasi, Bird, Cash era).  Nowadays, I feel like being a UConn women's basketball fan is like being a fan of Bayern Munich or the Chinese national figure skating team... there's no point... they just win.  I'm writing this the morning after UConn just absolutely stomped a decent Texas Longhorns squad by 51 points... in the Sweet 16.  Unheard of.

Here is even worse photo work (really guys... I promise Ginter is beautiful) of B.J. [Melvin] Upton.  For those of you who don't know, Mr. Upton decided to officially no longer be called B.J. (at least in the context of Major League Baseball) during this past off-season.  I'm not sure exactly why... perhaps he simply wants to sound and be viewed as a more mature baseball player.  All I do know is that the Braves still owe the guy $46.35 Million AND he's not playing til Mid-April.  That's definitely going to help his batting average... sigh.

Steve was also kind enough to send me a variety of inserts that I still needed.  Most were from 2012, but there were a few other years mixed in as well.  I received 4 or so of the above Historical Turning Points inserts.  In general, I enjoyed this set but I think that I quite possibly received the 4 most boring cards from the set (Fall of the Berlin Wall, Invention of the Printing Press, On the Origin of Species, and the above card).  None of the pictures were at all exciting so I picked one that I figured would never get much air time otherwise.  Hooray plants!

Another insert from 2012 yields the new St. Louis Cardinal Jason Heyward.  Traitor...  but not really... something had to give.  I'm certainly not excited that Heyward left, but I also see why it was necessary: one year left on his contract and recent woeful performances at the plate calls for a change in scenery.  When you get a top tier pitcher in Shelby Miller back, I'm really not going to complain.  

I would actually have to say that I'm more disappointed in the fact that Braves felt like they needed to get rid of Jordan Walden as well in that same trade.  He was performing extremely well as our RH set-up man (how many relievers that aren't closers can you find now-a-days that can keep their ERA below 3.00 and WHIP under 1.25??? Not Luis Avilan, Jason Grilli, Juan Jaime, Jim Johnson, Josh Outman, or Arodys Vizcaino, all Braves relievers going into this year.  The only other eligible Brave reliever with those kinds of stats is Mr. James Wood, former Cubby.  Good luck sir, you'll need it.)

Last, but not least, we have a 2009 Baseball Highlight featuring one of my (and probably lots of people's) favorite plays.  I'm no Yankee sympathizer, but I've always admired Jeter as a player because of his personality and general hustle while playing the game.  My absolute favorite part of this play is when Jeter emerges from the stands with a face that is all bloodied up presumably from concrete scratches.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reviewing 9 years of Allen & Ginter (Base Card Edition)

If you haven't figured it out yet, I collect Allen & Ginter.  In fact, I pretty much solely collect Allen & Ginter.  I dabble occasionally in other Topps products like Bowman, but for the most part, the vast majority of my baseball card allowance goes straight to Allen & Ginter.  I started collecting the set back in 2007 (I was a junior in high school) while I worked at my LCS.  2007 Ginter was the first hobby box I ever remember buying.  I don't really remember how I did, but I do remember loving the set and instantly wanting to collect it.  

The set offers a so much in the form of beautiful base cards, wacky insert sets, to rare inserts that can't (and shouldn't) be in any other baseball product.  This product is a spin-off of Allen & Ginter cigarettes sold in the late 1800's.  They used to include various cards inside each package of tobacco (hence the tobacco sized minis).  I was lucky enough to pull and Allen & Ginter original in my case last year.

This specific card is from 1889, the last year of the original Allen & Ginter's existence.  It is framed in the normal yellow 2014 Ginter frame and if you look at the card itself, you can actually see that it is in REALLY rough shape.  There is a pretty significant rip in the right middle portion of the card.  Kinda a bummer, but what can you expect from a card that is over 100 years old and is in Topps possession... not much.

Topps took this brand and created a baseball card set from it in 2006.  When the set was first announced, it flew extremely low and under the radar.  The main claim to fame for the new brand were two-fold: the introduction of a full base set worth of tobacco sized mini cards that really weren't around to speak of at all, and Topps' hiring of artist Dick Perez to create insert set of hand-painted baseball players.  Neither initially got much love or much hype thus Topps' first print run of Allen & Ginter was very small.

The product, however, took off.  When people saw the quality that Topps had infused, even into the base cards, distributors couldn't keep it in stock.  Topps also took another leaf from the original Allen & Ginter and didn't make the set completely baseball oriented.  Instead, the set was based on World Champions of the day (very similar to the most popular vintage Allen & Ginter set that include champion pool players, rowers, baseball, and billiard players).  The 2006 set included icons such as Danica Patrick, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, and other such famous individuals from that year and years past.

Topps continues similar designs and have added little changes from year to year.  I plan to go over each set and insert set that Topps has made, but today I decided to just focus on the initial draw to Allen & Ginter: the base card.  The simple 350 card base set (50 SP's) is easily the most beautiful base set of cards that Topps has ever done.  They are incredibly simple, but they are also almost always closeups that capture emotion and usually eliminate any and all extraneous background.

Below, I have posted a series of base cards from all nine of the current Allen & Ginter sets.  I was able to find a player that had a card in every single set (believe me, it was harder than it sounds to do that if you limit yourself to players that you like to look at... Jeter, Pujols, Cabrera).  Former Atlanta Brave catcher Brian McCann became the prime suspect.

2006 was the year that drew people in.  It's pretty easy to see why.  The artwork is phenomenal, as is the shading, and the subtly placed information text.  It tells you exactly what you want to know and nothing more (except perhaps team... but he's got a uniform on... who cares).  The card just exudes a historical feel to it especially with the off-white or "stained" card stock which, I believe, is exactly what Topps was going for.  Heck, even the more modern looking rookie symbol even seems to fit and blend in with the card.

Artwork and Poses: 5 (out of 5)
Text and/or Border: 4.5
Translation to Mini: 4.5
Overall: 4.67

2007 backtracked a bit in trying to capture the historical feel of the set.  The card is still very simple overall (which I like), but the art featured no longer gave that vintage feel that 2006 did.  You can tell they were trying, but the paintings came off smudged and less sharp and detailed on occasions.  Also of note is that Topps used images of players that were zoomed out a bit (torso shots).  This yielded less emphasis on facial expression which I had previously enjoyed.  It also showed off how thin Brian McCann was back in 2007!  I don't know if he's gotten out of shape today or if he's been to the gym, but either way, he's certainly put on a lot of weight since this picture.

Artwork and Poses: 4
Text and/or Border: 4
Translation to Mini: 4
Overall: 4

2008 was the absolute dream.  Artwork went from smudged to precise, detailed, and still featured close-ups.  The bottom feature text and white background is what put this set over the top in my opinion.  There is absolutely nothing extra on this card.  The text is simple and doesn't distract and the focus is clearly on the player.  This has always (and probably will always be) my favorite Ginter set.

Artwork and Poses: 5
Text and/or Border: 5
Translation to Mini: 5
Overall: 5

I don't get it.  I really don't.  This set was simply atrocious as a set builder.  This card is a bad example because it features an actual background of a baseball field.  Here... I'll get you another:

First of all, what's with his right eye???  In any case, let's start with the good.  The text at the bottom is not distracting and simple.  Hooray!  I'm a fan!  Now... complaints.  Image selection: HUH?  These two cards are just two examples of simply incomprehensibly bad image selection from Topps for this year (and I promise I didn't hand pick Votto).  They show little emotion and many aren't even the typical Ginter close-up.  In addition, the vast majority of cards seems like Topps had a gaggle of little kids come in and play watercolor paints with all their cardstock.  Many of the backgrounds of this set are similar to Votto with the red cloudy shapes behind him, however, unlike this example, the colors are sometimes completely nonsensical and definitely don't look good next to one another in a binder.

One other quick point about this set.  The reason I included the category "translation to mini" was primarily because of this set.  I hate the full sized base cards, but the minis are much easier to handle visually.  There is much less of the unnecessary coloring and the occasional action shots (like McCann's) look better in mini form as well.

Artwork and Poses: 1.5
Text and/or Border: 4.5
Translation to Mini: 5
Overall: 3.67

So continues the run of Ginter's over-complication.  I'm not a fan of the aquamarine (or whatever color you want to call it) background.  Most of the images are back to the usual close-ups and I like the painting jobs in general.  The green is just too much though.  Nice try, come again later.

Artwork and Poses: 4.5
Text and/or Border: 2
Translation to Mini: 3.5
Overall: 3.33

My least favorite set.  The art is fine and the normal white background is good.  The border is just sloppy to me.  First, borders tend to exacerbate centering problems, and though I don't think Topps has too much of an issue with it, a border will cause even a slightly off-center card to look bad.  Second, this border is simply over the top (especially for Allen & Ginter).  Topps decided to completely throw the vintage-esque look out the window for this set and it simply is out of place.  Third, this particular border doesn't translate to the tobacco sized card AT ALL.  It warps the card image and forces attention to the border and text instead of the subject.

Artwork and Poses: 4.5
Text and/or Border: 2.5
Translation to Mini: 1
Overall: 2.67

2012 and 2013 were almost identical sets.  I see virtually no difference between the two.  The art is mostly well done close-ups.  Most of the non-close-ups (yes, I used two hyphens... deal with it) are horizontal cards.  These cards have a very faded background of a crowd which usually look like splotches of paint.  Not a huge fan of these.  Both of these sets still have the same centering issues due to the presence of a border.  Otherwise, I enjoyed how Topps at least tried to go back to a bit more simple design.  If I had to give an edge to one set over the other I would give 2012 the slight edge due to a slightly less intrusive border.  Pretty close though.

Artwork and Poses: 4
Text and/or Border: 3.5
Translation to Mini: 4
Overall: 3.83

See above.  Oh wait... here's some crowd blobs. :D

Artwork and Poses: 4
Text and/or Border: 3.5
Translation to Mini: 4
Overall: 3.83

Last, but not least is the 2014 set.  I thoroughly enjoyed this set.  This has definitely felt the most throw-back-ish (did it again...) type set since 2008.  I like the removal of a strict border and though there is a lot of text and it seems busy, the focus is 100% on the card subject and image.  Whoever designed the card layout did a very nice job.  The images are very similar to those of 2012 and 2013, even including the horizontal action shots with blobs of crowd in the background, though I did see a little more distinction in most of the crowd backgrounds which made them a little better.

Artwork and Poses: 4
Text and/or Border: 4.5
Translation to Mini: 4
Overall: 4.17

That would put the overall order of base set preferences in the following order:

Let me know if you disagree or give me your own rankings!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trade with Nachos Grande

I very much enjoy cards.  Surprise!  I have a blog dedicated to the likes of such things!  I have been in and around trading cards of one type or another for as long as I can remember.  The first cards I ever remember buying and owning were probably Pokemon cards.  Sigh.  What memories.  I have since sold every single Pokemon card I have ever owned and was probably ripped off for what I gave them away for (I owned a bunch of that coveted first edition crap), but I'm really not going to complain as most of them went to another young boy that I thought would have fun with them.

Pokemon was conceived in Japan in 1996 and slowly made its way over to the US via the popular handheld GameBoy game.  In 1999, Wizards of the Coast picked up the Pokemon license and delivered to us the Pokemon TCG Base Set.  I was 9 years old.

I still remember my first pack of pokemon cards.  I went to one of my friend's birthday parties and it was customary to give out party favors to all the guests.  (I'm really still not sure if this was purely because I lived in what would probably be considered a very well-off town, or if this is how it is everywhere.  Either way, I don't get it.  You bring presents for the birthday kid.  The birthday kid's parents shouldn't be obliged to give out gifts to the guests.  Oh well...)  Our party favor was a bag of wonderfulness that included a single pack of pokemon cards.  Being 9 and 10 year old kids, we were naturally very excited and ripped open our packs probably damaging every single card inside.  We all compared pokemon that we got and naturally, the guy that got the biggest, brawniest monster (or a Pikachu...) was deemed the best.  Meanwhile, with my first rare, I ended up with...
...a Clefairy Doll.  Not too exciting, unless of course you're me, and you were much more interested in the game than collecting big monsters.  I got a card that could do nifty, cool, tricksy, and devious things!  Naturally, no one else wanted my card, so I didn't get to participate in the bulk of the trading that went on during the party, but I was okay with that.

I ended up collecting and playing Pokemon for probably around 3 more years.  The last set I remember having was this one.  In fact, I remember owning that Shining Gyarados featured two sets up from that one.  Wikipedia says that set was released in May of 2002 which sounds pretty much right on point.  I would've been 12, getting into the swing of Middle School where it probably "would not have been cool" to still be into Pokemon.  However, independent of the "coolness factor" I still would have gave up collecting and playing Pokemon in favor of another card game I got introduced into at that time called Redemption CCG.

Since then I have played Redemption and Magic the Gathering on and off and I'll probably have some stories involving both those games in later posts, but for now just mentioning this Pokemon story suits my needs.

Today I'm going to go over a trade I recently completed with Nachos Grande, but I want to first touch on why I enjoy trading so much.  As an actuarial science major, my thinking is very value based.  Everything has worth or value of some type and, as any good economics class should teach you, that worth/value can and will fluctuate based on a variety of factors.  These factors are part of what divides the two major schools of economic thought (Austrian vs. Keynesian).  The college I went to took the road less traveled and had us study Austrian economics which is taught in far fewer universities across the US than the more modern Keynesian.  Feel free to google this stuff if you're an academic nut, but I can tell you that, in a nutshell Austrian economics tends to be hyper conservative while Keynesian leans slightly left but is much more middling (and is probably why it is so much more popular).  However, one of the major differences in the two schools of thought is the fact that Austrian economics not only recognizes, but emphasizes an idea usually called the Subjective Theory of Value.  Essentially, what this says is that the value of a good is in the eyes of the beholder.

Quick example:

I collect Allen and Ginter minis.  I enjoy having pretty much any type of Ginter mini, but I also am attempting to put together a complete set of the base (regular back) mini from every year.  I frequent eBay to look for lots of these minis and attempt get them for roughly $0.25 a mini shipped.  Now there happens to be quite a few parallel sets out there, one of the most notorious being the A&G Back where there is no difference in the front of the mini but the back has a custom Topps design instead of statistics:

I'm not a huge fan of these particular parallels, so when I see a mixed lot on eBay that contains these or that doesn't necessarily specify if all the minis are regular backed, I simply won't bid as much on them.  This completely ignores the fact that these parallels are harder to get than the regular back minis (I would venture to guess that averaged over all the years of Ginter, you're looking at a parallel that is between 2 and 2.5X as rare as the base mini), but even though this is the case, I still put more value on the more common mini!  Horrors!

In any case, this happens ALL THE TIME in the wonderful world of cardboard.  Topps (or whichever company you might be dealing with) puts arbitrary supply restrictions on certain types of cards.  These restrictions absolutely affect the value of a card, but they certainly aren't the only one.  For baseball cards specifically, things such as a favorite team/player, a specific picture, a type of relic, a card part of a specific set, a specific card an individual might be missing, a specific number showing up in a serial number, all have effects on how people value individual cards (and these are just the few I could come with in the first 5 seconds of thinking about it!).

In the case of Mr. Chris Reed over at Nachos Grande, three main categories that stick out is his fandom of the Cincinnati Reds, his love of Ginter insert sets, and the fact that he's collecting a complete set of 2010 Allen & Ginter Relics.  Our recent trade consisted of me giving Chris about half of his remaining want list for this set of relics, quite a few inserts that I had doubles of including 7 Wonders of the World Cabinet cards, and a handful of (mostly) Reds minis from across the years of Ginter.

In return I received a GAUNTLET of minis.  ...and when I say that, I'm not kidding.  Chris hooked me up big time.  I probably received upwards of 150 minis along with a few base cards I needed to fill out some sets.  I got quite a few of those loathsome A&G back parallels, but when you get so many minis in general its not such a big deal (especially when someone takes the time to go through your want list and pick out the specific minis you need).  

An unfortunate thing about the trade was that the vast majority of the minis were from my least favorite edition of Ginter (2011).  I hated that year so much that I bought a case of the stuff, busted 6 boxes, and then set aside the rest.  I still have those 6 unopened boxes up here in my room collecting dust (and hoping that the price might go back up a bit eventually).  I still want to collect the mini set though because I'm a completionist, so these minis are just as good as if they were from 2008.

The other unfortunate thing about the trade is that there really wasn't a "fun" or "highlight" card from the trade.  It was 100% for set collection on my part and I plan on going through most of my favorite Ginter sets on this blog eventually anyways, so I'm not going to review them now.  Instead, I'm going to highlight some bonus cards that Chris included in his trade package for me.  I've seen Chris mention these on his blog once or twice while looking through his content preparing for this trade and had never heard of them before that.  He graciously included the following in my package!

These are custom minis replicating the 2008 Allen & Ginter design made by Munnatawket Bat Company.  At least, that's about as much info as I can glean from the cards themselves.  Here's the back of one of the minis:

I've never seen more than a handful of custom cards, but I can honestly say that these seem very well done.  The cardboard cardstock that the card is made of is similar to that of a Topps Base Series card or a regular gaming card.  This makes it significantly thinner than a regular Ginter mini (probably close to a third of the thickness) which would be my only complaint if I even had one.  I guess I simply have to be a bit more careful with these.  

They are all numbered (70 is the highest I received, so even if the set is only 70 cards, that would still be quite the achievement) and have the same large M design on the back.  I would have to say that my favorite card is easily the Spider-man as I think it to be a unique twist and a fun addition to a set of otherwise baseball players.  

I think if I ever felt I put a large enough dent in my Ginter collection aspirations, that I would certainly consider chasing more of these cards and perhaps, eventually the entire set if I continued to like what I saw.  I would expect that this kind of design work would require tremendous amounts of time at an individual level and I applaud the person to created these.  I suppose I would wonder at what point of sale (perhaps this person doesn't even sell them) the MLB would require a license to print players teams/names on cards like this.  Who knows?  Don't really care.  The cards are cool.

I would say that my trade with Chris was a huge success putting both of us steps closer in our set collections... and that's exactly what trading is for.  It makes both parties happy when done right.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Discovering the world of Baseball Bloggers

I am quite the busy person.

I know seemingly everyone says that these days, but I truly feel like I have very little time to sit down and write up posts like these.  I work "part-time" (how they consider working an average of 32-35 hours a week part-time is beyond me, but they do) at ESPN doing a variety of work from live statistics for sports to web-site maintenance and layout for  I am also a certified baseball umpire and basketball official for our state boards and will umpire and ref high school games whenever I get the chance.  On top of that, I work one day a week at my LCS to essentially fund this and my board/card game hobbies.

I am quite the silly person.

Even with all of the above, I decided that it would be a wonderful idea to pick up tutoring locally.  My mother has done it for the past 5 years and has been happy with it.  I've always been good at teaching and working with the little young'ins, and one of our family friends recently got sick and asked my mom for help with AP Physics and AP Calculus.  Even though she went to school for engineering, she had no desire to try and re-learn all this material, so I told her I could help out.  I'm 25 and recently-ish graduated from college with an actuarial science major and physics minor.  I KNOW THIS STUFF!!!!!!  I CAN HELP!!!

All good, right?

Well... not exactly.

Because this munchkin was in our town's school system, I had to get officially certified (apply for the position, hand in a bunch of HR crap, get finger-printed at our police department, ect.).  Fine.  Not a problem.  So I hand in my paperwork and schedule my fingerprint for this past Tuesday, the 10th.

Friday, the 6th:

My phone rings no less than 3 times asking me for help with tutoring individuals for a variety of reasons and subjects.  This is outside of the individual who I originally signed up to do this for (in fact, as of writing this post, I have yet to meet with him).  Since we're between high school seasons for basketball/baseball, I have had slightly more time, so I told them that I could help ONE of these individuals.  They set me up with a student who is in the middle of switching schools and has to catch up in biology and english.  Awesome.  Now I get to rack my brain for information regarding genotypes, phenotypes, Punnet squares, and Fahrenheit 451 (which is a book that I probably read the first 40 pages of and then gave up and Sparknotesed the rest).

That is not to say I haven't appreciated what I'm doing so far.  The student I'm working with definitely needs my help and I'm more than happy to give it to him.  In fact, every now and then it makes me think about taking up math or science teaching later on in my life.  We shall see.

In any case, baseball cards.  I enjoy writing (as you can probably tell if you've already read the above), and I think I'm decent enough at it to have a blog that is at least mildly interesting (probably a success if you've already gotten here!!!!!! YAY!).  I've wanted to start a blog for a while, but I didn't want it to just be about my life.  I think that's dumb (I'm not quite funny enough for that, plus, who would be my target audience???).  So I had to pick a subject that had plenty of material to write about and one that genuinely interested me.  Hence, this blog of BANGIN BASEBALL BITS!  Hooray!

For the past month I've been durdling around the internet reading up on other baseball blogs and trying to figure out which direction I wanted to go.  I came up with a couple revelations:

Successful blogs seem to have the following:

  1. Posts everyday (or very close to everyday).
  2. Lots of pictures
  3. A central theme that keeps coming back
  4. A connection to other bloggers
#1 isn't happening for me.  No way, no how.  First of all, I enjoy sitting down and writing more lengthy posts and that takes way too much time to do everyday.  Second, I don't think I could devote a block of time to this everyday.  At least not yet.  So for now, I'm putting my goal at 1-2 substantial posts a week.  I think that is more than feasible for me.

#2 could also be problematic.  Along with noticing lots of pictures in other blogs, I also noticed that everyone seemed to have a scanner.  In the (somewhat) recent post regarding my box break of Topps High Tek I had pictures taken with a camera.  I personally don't think they look terrible, but all the scans I've seen definitely are much more clean, so perhaps I'll have to invest in one.

#3 I can do.  Allen & Ginter and Atlanta Braves and pitching.  3 easy subjects that I love.

#4 Well hopefully this will grow.  I recently made a huge trade with blogger Nachos Grande who seems to be quite a popular baseball card blogger.  More on that trade later.

Something I've also discovered recently due to my perusal of blogs (and yet another reason why I haven't posted in a while) is this site called Zistle that some people seem to use to catalog their collections.  I'm pretty sure I like the site quite a bit.  I've been uploading my Allen and Ginter collection to it.  My only hesitation with it is that the site seems to not have a whole lot of people on it, so the trading feature doesn't seem all that useful.  We shall find out.

At the very least, once complete, this will let me link people to my collection on Zistle instead of giving them my huge excel spreadsheet that can be confusing for others to read (though I will absolutely keep it for myself).

OH!  ...and here's the obligatory picture that I NEED to have for a successful blog:

I give you what is now the core of my Bravos (minus Freddy Freeman).  This is all we got for this year folks.  Hold on tight!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2014 Topps High Tek Box Break

I'm mostly an Allen & Ginter collector and rarely will I open other wax (especially on a whim), but I decided to break a box of the new 2014 Topps High Tek last week.  Part of the reason was that my LCS happened to have only one box of it left and it was on sale for $60 which seemed significantly lower than any other place I saw.  I also watched someone break this box the other day and it looked interesting enough for me to try it myself.

When you open the box, you get one foil covered pack of 8 cards.  The pack is extremely heavy for so few cards not because the cards are any thicker than normal (though they may be very slightly), but because the cards are made of a heavy duty plastic/acetate type material.  It allowed Topps to make these cards transparent which yields (in my opinion) a pretty cool design.

My first four base cards featured a mix of old-timers and current players featuring different backgrounds.  At first I thought these backgrounds were based off that fact (old vs. new players) which I wouldn't have minded in the least until I saw the next two cards:

The Marcus Stroman I knew was some sort of pipes parallel from watching someone open a similar parallel earlier.  However, it wasn't numbered or anything (not something I usually appreciate).  When I saw the Fred McGriff I was confused.  Even looking at the odds on the back of the box yielded no answers as to what type of parallel this might be.  I later found this article.  I was less than happy.  So this Marcus Stroman is in fact a "circuit board" parallel (which is the 4th rarest American League parallel).  Gosh... Topps, you spoil me...

Not a huge fan of countless parallels like this.  Similar to how I hate A&G back minis, I like having a "base" set, maybe one non-serial number set, and you can go for it on the serial number ones (I really don't care how many you make... looking at you Bowman).  As long as they're serial numbered I'm happy.

On with the box.

This was probably my favorite card in the box.  Yet another parallel... gold waves... or something like that.  Anyways, it serial numbered! YAY! 16/99.  Nothing super great, but hey, HOF pitcher.  Not going to complain.  Only complaint is the countless number of times this guy beat up on my Bravos back in my youngster years.

The final card from the box is the one hit promised on card autograph of Jose Canseco.  This one is numbered 5/25 and probably got some parallel name associated with it... rainbow bubbles... swirly gumdrops... who knows, not going to look it up for you.  All I care for is those four little gold numbers on the back.  

This guy should be in the HOF by almost all standards except for his name (and all the lovelies associated with it), but while its certainly not a bad card, I was certainly not excited as I opened it.  

Even with all the complaints I had (we won't talk about how these cards are labeled with letters instead of numbers), I still very much like this modern design (its why I opened the box in the first place).  I'm definitely keeping the Pedro and Hammerin' Hank, but the rest are up for grabs if people want them.