Friday, October 28, 2016

Story Time: Why Mini Haters are Awesome, Part I

You all know I'm an Allen & Ginter collector.  That much has always been clear.  I enjoy the old-fashion take on the hobby, the usually crazy or wonky non-sport inserts, and the MINIS.  Oh, do I love me some minis.  Along with the rare inserts, minis are what keeps Ginter fresh to me.  

If I went to the store right now, and found some discounted Ginter, I would most likely pick it up even though I've already completed the base set and the full-sized inserts (well... almost).  It's because of that one single mini card that is always guaranteed to fall out of every Ginter pack that I keep coming back.  Each one is unique and different to me and offers something special, more so than your normal base card.  Some people understand this and are right there with me.  I know many others that could care less and simply think the mini is "just another parallel."  Nay, nay I say.

Over the years of being a mini collector, there are some things I've learned about the hobby specifically related to minis:

  1. Minis are SO much easier to ship.
    • Not only does this make trading far more cost effective; it also allows trades to get much bigger without having to resort to expensive priority mail boxes.
  2. Minis take up far less space.
    • Once one commits to collecting a substantial number of minis, there are solutions available to both store and display minis that aren't available for regular sized cards.  Here's a couple examples:
    • 15 pocket page vs. 9 pocket page?  Yes please!  67% increased display efficiency!
      These felines are very unhappy that they are not yet complete...
    • "Double storing" minis?!?! Even better!  100% increased storage efficiency!  Note: I've found that this storage tactic really only works well (read: doesn't damage the minis) in monster boxes or the small, odd-shaped 100ct. or 150ct. boxes.
  3. Some people can't stand minis.
    • I suppose I understand this.  People don't want to have to find new ways to store cards, or they simple can't be bothered by different.  That's fine.  I have no gripes with you.  It means more minis for me.
Today's story is about that last point, point number three.  I first must give you one more piece of background information for those of you out of the "mini loop".  I'm also feeling this list thing today, so we're going to give you the four main ways that I obtain my minis... in numbers.

  1. Opening product
    • Obvious, you might think, but in this day and age there are many individuals that simply skip this step completely.  I prefer to keep it the foundation of my collecting habits, simply because I enjoy the thrill, it gives me trade bait, and it keeps the hobby going.
  2. Buying singles that are needed
    • The necessary evil... I try to avoid this as much as humanly possible (**cough** says Bubba, the one with multiple scans waiting in the 'to blog' folder that came from COMC and EBay).  There are simply better options available like:
    • You guys are awesome.  So many of my minis have come fellow bloggers, mini collectors, forum users, Zistle... the list goes on.  I always enjoy seeking out new trading partners and trying to make their day.  Everyone has a niche, and I do my best to find it and fill it with whatever I have available.
  4. "Lots"
    • Most mini collectors I know use this option the most.  This option entails going to your favorite site and asking fellow collectors for their unwanted minis because... some people can't stand minis.
    • This can be accomplished via buying or trading, but it almost always involves the other collector dumping almost every unwanted mini on me, usually at a discount.
One of my most common eBay searches is "[Insert Year] Ginter mini lot".  This is my bargain bin search; you know, that dime box you find that doesn't really look that promising, but you flip through cards 100 at a time just to see if anything catches your eye.  I don't bite very often.

I'm looking for a bargain.  I'm looking for unique.  I'm looking for someone like this who simply doesn't care for their minis and wants to dump them all.  I usually get one of these such lots a year and sometimes I get lucky, sometimes not.  The one above was alright; nothing to write home about, but it had a couple NNO minis and a Bazooka back (or whatever they call them this year).

No, this story is not about that listing.  It is about a somewhat different and much bigger listing.  My searching of "2016 Ginter mini lot" led me to a very unique item, featuring not 2016 Allen & Ginter, but the Topps online exclusive product 2016 Allen & Ginter X.

I purchased six boxes of Allen & Ginter X last year, which I honestly thought was fabulous. I originally thought the product was going to be unique to 2015 what with Ginter's "special" 10-year anniversary.  Not the case!  They released a very similar product again this year with a few changes.  More lists!!! :D

  1. The guaranteed hits have been completely revamped
    • Instead of 2 hits per box with a chance at an autograph, this year features only 1 hit, but the hit is a guaranteed autograph.
    • Also of note is that the autograph is now unique to this online product.  I believe they are mostly black minis with silver ink graphs. 
  2. Short print ratios have been changed
    • A lot of this might have to do with the fact that Topps messed up the Ginter SP ratio in general last year, but the bottom line is that short prints are again short prints in this version of the product (and that includes minis!).
  3. All mini parallels have been removed
    • No more ad-back minis, no more silver minis.  Just regular back black minis.
  4. No more inserts
    • You can no longer pull full-sized or mini inserts from this product
I think the real draw for many people would be that guaranteed, and admittedly very sharp looking, autograph.  It happens to also be my main problem with the set and why I decided not to purchase any boxes this year.  It essentially moved most of the value of the box to that one autograph you pull.  I don't particularly like that.  I prefer the minis I pull to hold value.

Last year's set had those hard to pull silver minis which drove some of the value.  Oh those minis?  They're kinda pricey now... 

Last year, I didn't come even remotely close to putting together the Ginter X mini set since no one seemed to have any of the cards. Figuring this year would be the same, I decided that I didn't want to pursue this year's Ginter X set.

That's when I saw this listing. 

I'll leave you with that little teaser.  You'll find out more... whenever I feel like writing another essay.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Trade Package from a fan of the NL Champs

Finally!  We've arrived at the last trade post from September!  The below cards are courtesy Dayton of the newer blog Retro Cub.  Dayton has been posting quality stuff for two months now and has also featured a couple really nice pulls.  Go check it out when you have the chance!

Aside from being yet another Cubs fan (and Cubs collector) to start blogging, I'm not entirely sure of Dayton's collecting niche yet.  However, I do know that he opened up quite a lot of Allen & Ginter from 2012 and that had me interested!  Of the six 'normal' mini inserts from 2012, Dayton was able to help fill in my want list for five of them!

I promise, I'll get back to reviewing Allen & Ginter insert sets in due time... and none of these have been featured in the countdown yet, but they are all solidly in the top half of the list.  2012 was a good year for inserts.

I do think my favorite insert from this trade package was Beethoven's stink/serious face.  His story (and music) always impress me, and I feel every time I read or listen about who he was, I learn some new or crazy fact about his life.

I will always add cards like these to my collection.  I have no particular great affection towards either subject (although traitor Yunel did play very well for my Bravos for a couple years), but I enjoy simply having more rare minis in my collection in general.  Google has learned that I do sometimes play golf in my downtime, so occasionally a targeted ad pops up featuring "the legend" Hank Haney.  Meh.  No interest.  I will not show your face on this blog sir. 

Speaking of more rare minis!  Two framed minis with subjects whose faces I will show!  I've mentioned before that, while I don't particularly follow tennis, I am extremely impressed by what tennis players can do.  Roger Federer is one of the biggest tennis names out there and I'm proud to add this piece to my collection.

Greg Gumbel will forever be linked in my brain as the host of March Madness.  He is so ingrained, that his other accomplishments (whatever they may be are completely irrelevant to me).  This is similar to Bob Costas and Olympic coverage, and more recently, Rebecca Lowe with Premier League coverage.  I enjoy all three of those hosts when they are doing that job.  Actually, I truly believe that Rebecca Lowe is an absolute master of her craft.  Many of you who don't watch the Premier League should have recently seen her help cover the Rio Olympics.

It's a shame that ESPN doesn't have anyone I can immediately point to like this.  Perhaps the closest talent they have at this level is Scott Van Pelt (who I usually enjoy, but whose niche is unfortunately golf) and maybe Bob Ley with his older work.

Dayton didn't forget I was a Braves fan either, sending me two retail only parallels.  The Freeman gold mini is obviously a welcome addition, as he might be the only position playing Bravo that has been with the team for at least a year and is collectible on a long term basis.  Sigh.

Tyrell Jenkins has been in the minors since late 2010 and actually made the move up to the big-leagues this year.  He made 14 appearances (8 starts) and going 6 innings for half of those starts.  His low inning count and a couple really bad starts have really inflated his current MLB ERA.  Hopefully this will be a guy that will step up for us next year.

Unfortunately, this package contained no Cubs or Indians so it didn't allow me talk much about the Series that started last night.  I don't particularly have a rooting interest, but I suppose if I was pressed for a decision, I would be rooting for the Cubs.  I just enjoy good baseball, and mostly good pitching.  Kluber's performance last night.  That's what I like.

Thanks for all the great cards Dayton!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Wild Mr. Haverkamp Appears!

Someone I have only ever heard about via the grapevine e-mailed me back in September (yes... this blog is still living a month behind reality).  I'm accustomed to seeing his name pop up on blogs from time-to-time associated with generous and vintage-filled trade packages.  I apologize in advance if you attempt to scroll down this post prematurely as you will find no vintage here today.

Instead, Mr. Haverkamp reached out to me about how he has been collecting Allen & Ginter minis since 2012 when he discovered Mike Schmidt was included in the checklist.  What followed was a fairly straightforward swap of minis in which Mr. Haverkamp hit my wantlist in the years that I simply wasn't collecting.

2008: I graduated high school in this year; holy crap, that's scary.  I had already started working at my LCS at this point so I was able to get some 2007 Ginter, but not much (since high schoolers tend to be poor).  I had almost no access to 2008 Ginter when it first came out as that would have been just as I was heading off for my first year of college.

When I got what I have: I purchased 2 or 3 hobby boxes of 2008 Allen & Ginter in 2011.  The rest of the set I have obtained solely through trades/single card purchases.

2009: I honestly don't remember much that happened in this year of my life; it is not one I particularly recall with too much fondness.  I do know for sure that I was not collecting baseball cards.

When I got what I have: I have only ever purchased a single hobby box of 2009 Allen & Ginter.  I did, however, obtain a handful of discounted blasters over the years.  Again, most of my acquisitions have been through trades.

2010: The start of my junior (and also my favorite) year of college came with a ton of life changes as well.  I worked a lot within the school-year and had an internship over the summer as well.  This was the year that I really learned that I had, what many would call, "disposable income".  For the most part, I was responsible with it and put the majority of it towards my schooling, but this would also be the first year where I starting poking around the baseball card hobby.  It just so happened to coincide with the year that the Braves started to nose-dive into irrelevance.  Perhaps the start of me collecting was a subconscious way to deal with the Braves being bad.

When I got what I have: There are only two years of Allen & Ginter of which I have never opened a hobby box: 2006 and 2010.  The reason for 2006 is probably fairly obvious... I started aggressively collecting this product between 2011 and 2012, and even just by that time hobby boxes from 2006 were out-of-this world expensive.  While they weren't $350 back then, they were still far more than I was willing to pay (probably in the $250 range).

As for 2010, I had a bit of a misunderstanding.  I've posted about the "World's Most Obnoxious Set" before and I knew I wanted to acquire some of it.  I had set aside some money to spend on 2010 Allen & Ginter, and had enough to either buy 2-3 hobby boxes or a bunch of retail.  I thought retail would be the way to go since I could get some of those retail-only World's Biggest cards.

I bought blasters... a lot of them.

I unfortunately got none of the cards I was looking for, but later found out that the special insert set only came in gravity feed retail packs.  It was certainly a bummer, but I also got the blasters for $10-$11 a pop since I bought them in bulk.

Those were the years that Mr. Haverkamp decided to tackle my mini want lists.  He especially loaded me up with minis from 2008, which happens to still be my favorite year for Allen & Ginter, so I greatly appreciate that!

In some other news this week, it has been announced that Beckett has acquired Zistle, an online card organizing/trading tool that I frequently use.  While one could see the writing on the wall from as long as a year ago, I'm still fairly upset hearing this news.  I used the site mainly to attempt to keep myself organized and help keep my want lists up to date.  I've even used the site to trade with other non-bloggers.  While I certainly don't have my whole collection cataloged in their database, I pretty much had every Allen & Ginter card I owned in there.  15,401 unique entries.

I have no idea what Beckett's plans for the website's future are going to be, but their track record isn't all that good in cases like these.  The above Benjamin Franklin was probably the last card I'll have ever updated on that site.

Perhaps I'm being pessimistic... if someone out there used/uses a site similar to Zistle and has had success with it, I'd love to hear it!  In the meantime, thanks for the trade and checking out my blog Mr. Haverkamp!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Small-Sized September Swap

The third of my September trades was inevitable.  If you mention Allen & Ginter and read blogs at all, I would hope you would think of three people: myself, Democratic Roadkill, and Nachos Grande.  If I'm missing someone who has that same passion for Ginter as we do, please let me know... because it probably means I haven't talked to him/her and I'd definitely want to!

In any case, this trade features cards from Chris of Nachos Grande.  He always opens a decent number of hobby boxes every year of this product and will chase the complete set down in addition to sometimes adding some extraneous subsets to his goals.

I usually do something very similar, so its a natural fit that we trade with each other two or three times a year.  Chris was kind enough to send me a good number of regular backed minis inching me closer to my goal of completing the set.

He also sent me a smattering of black bordered minis which are going towards an "Across the Years" frankenset of black bordered minis.  I'm still slowly working on exactly what that will look like, so I'm not going to explain any further at the moment.

Both of these black border designs feature that artistic design I learned about way back in 4th grade... tiling or tessellations.  I don't remember.  All I know is that when you scan the cards next to each other on the scanner bed, they come out matching almost like puzzle pieces.

The real gem of the package however, were these minis.  2008 Topps Allen & Ginter's minis.  McCutchen... in 2008 you ask?  Well... no, these are not actual Topps products.  These are custom minis from the Munnatawket Bat Company, and Chris overloaded me with a huge stack of these!

I have received a few of these from Chris in the past as he usually uses them a fillers or bonuses in his trades.  I actually requested a few of these in this trade because I enjoy them so much.  The maker of these cards includes modern baseball players (mostly super-stars) along with a plethora of non-sports figures like the above.  If it were up to me, this is the kind of thing I wish Topps would feature more often instead of the recent trend towards comedians and actors.

A recently inducted Hall of Famer next to a future Hall of Famer... yes please.  I actually received so many of these cards from Chris that I think I'm going to need to put together a want list for the whole set.  Just from some of the cards I've received recently, I think the creator of these cards is constantly adding to the set, so it might be a somewhat difficult set build.

Chris didn't stop there though!  He sent me four numbered minis as well!  To be honest, I think its a bit gimmicky to number a custom created set like this, but I appreciate the effort and the alternate back is pretty cool too.  

I'm honestly not too sure how widespread these customs really are.  I know (or at least I'm pretty sure) Chris gets them direct from the creator, and he seems to be the one that spreads these cards around the blogging world, but I also used to see these fairly frequently on eBay or other such outlets.  Its very possible that Topps shut this production down similar to how they recently reached out to defgav and shut his customs down.  That would make me sad... heck, it already makes me sad.

Thanks for the great trade Chris!