Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Inside the card show, Pt. 2: Let's form a club

Though I'd heard a lot of people talking about it over the past month or so, I'd barely had a taste of 2014 Stadium Club before Saturday.

I can't remember the last time I'd been so excited to get a glimpse of a specific set. The preview images I'd been flipping through online had been nothing short of spectacular. I could only imagine how terrific they looked in-person.

One of my big goals for Saturday was to get my hands on some Stadium Club. I saw someone selling a box for $65 about halfway through the show. Though it was a far cry from the $100-plus they were commanding a month ago, wax wasn't my focus.

No, my friends, I was (of course) hoping for a dime box of singles. And, wouldn't you know it, I got my wish on Saturday. I found a vendor with a whole row or two of Stadium Club base cards tucked away inside a 3200-count box, all at a dime a piece.

I could feel the excitement building as I sat down and went to work. And then I saw Shelby Miller. The yawningly "game-faced" Shelby Miller. And yet another recycled photograph from Topps, to boot. The very first card from the box was a bore.

Was Stadium Club being overhyped?

Had I set myself up for disappointment?

No and no.

While there may be a few uninspired cards here and there, Stadium Club turned out to be one of the best all-around sets I've seen during my life as a card collector. And that's not an exaggeration.

I don't know if words can describe how much fun I had digging through all these dime box Stadium Club singles.

All I can do is give a heartfelt thanks to the vendor who made them affordable for a low-end guy like myself.

In an era where everything seems so phoned-in and catered towards the money-hungry collector, it's obvious that Topps put a lot of work into making this set enjoyable for people like me.

I've heard that a lot of high-end people weren't big fans of 2014 Stadium Club. The precious "hits" weren't enough for them to recoup their expenses, I guess.

All I can say to them is COME ON. You guys already have Five Star, Inception, and the number of other high-dollar sets out there. Take the loss and let the low-end people get the W on this one.

If you're at all into the photography and pure art that goes into this hobby, then you're bound to find something to like in this year's Stadium Club. True, Topps tried to revive the brand back in 2008, but it didn't seem to capture the true spirit of Stadium Club. It was boring and gone in the blink of an eye.

The 2014 edition, however, is a masterpiece that I'll remember for a long, long time.

And, lest you think this is a horizontally-dominated set...

...think again.

No matter the layout, Topps managed to cram a few years' worth of slick photography into one checklist. And not to mention a slew of mini-collection hits as well. Autograph shots, throwbacks, double dips, the whole enchilada.

The first thing I put on my Christmas wish list this year was a complete 2014 Stadium Club base set. Guess I can cross that off. Though most of the bigger old-time stars were removed (Ruth, Cobb, Mays, etc.), I got pretty much everything else I wanted from this dime box.

In the end, the 130 Stadium Clubs I picked out became mine for the low, low price of thirteen dollars. Sure beats dropping five times that on a box.

Oh, and by the way, none of the awesome cards I've shown thus far weren't even in the top ten of the stack I bought.

I saved those for last.

#10 -- 2014 Stadium Club #145 Matt Kemp

Sure, Stadium Club may be a set of action, action, and more action.

But that doesn't mean they couldn't go outside the white lines.

Isn't that right, Matt Kemp?

#9 -- 2014 Stadium Club #133 Ted Williams

As I said, almost all of the older stars were tactfully taken out of this dime box.

I guess the guy missed ol' Teddy Ballgame here, and I couldn't be happier about his mistake. Rather than sticking to the norm and featuring yet another shot of Williams in his Red Sox uniform, Topps got a little unorthodox and picked a photo of him in his war uniform instead.

It's a refreshing change of pace and, at the same, a fitting nod to the Splendid Splinter's time in the military.

#8 -- 2014 Stadium Club #38 Robinson Cano

I love all throwbacks, but there's something about these retro Mariners jerseys that especially tickle my fancy.

#7 -- 2014 Stadium Club #29 Jose Reyes

I'm normally opposed to not being able to see a player's face on a card, but I think I can make an exception here.

Shots like these make me thankful for all the high-quality cameras we have at our disposal these days.

#6 -- 2014 Stadium Club #101 Mike Napoli

I don't know if I own a more heroic baseball card.

#5 -- 2014 Stadium Club #24 Anthony Rizzo

Nothing like signing autographs on beautiful afternoon at Wrigley.

I'm not exactly opposed to it, but I have to wonder how different this shot would've looked with a big scoreboard in the background.

Maybe we'll get to see one in 2015 Stadium Club for comparison.

#4 -- 2014 Stadium Club #21 Roy Halladay

It didn't hit me until just now, but there really aren't enough ceremonial first pitch cards out there.

How else could you get a shot of someone like Roy Halladay on the mound in blue jeans?

Oh, and let's not forget the mounties at attention in the background, either.

#3 -- 2014 Stadium Club #66 Matt Cain

The throwbacks actually take second-billing on this beauty.

What I find great about this shot is the fact that it basically captures the past, present, and future as far as pitchers go.

At 39 years old, Tim Hudson is probably in his waning years on the mound after a long and fruitful career. While he had a down 2014, I'm hoping it's only a bump in the road to what has been a terrific track record up to this point for Matt Cain.

And, after this past postseason, I'm sure everyone's itching to see what Madison Bumgarner has in store for the years to come.

It's almost like a triple-pronged timeline.

And they're all wearing rally caps.

#2 -- 2014 Stadium Club #141 Evan Gattis

I'm both scared and fascinated by this card at the same time.

In what is obviously a play on Gattis's nickname ("El Oso Blanco" or "The White Bear"), Topps decided to use a shot of the catcher surrounded by an actual bear hide.

There is absolutely nothing I can say to sum up my amazement over a card like this, so I'll let the photo do all the talking.

#1 -- 2014 Stadium Club #182 David Ortiz

Let's get one thing straight.

I hate, hate, HATE selfies. I hate the word "selfie" and I hate when people feel the need to stop and take a selfie every five seconds. (Do I sound like a grizzled old man yet?)

Now, if you're meeting the president or something, than I guess a selfie could be in order. Even if it is mostly a sponsored sham.

But, still, the sheer Inception-like feel of a picture of a guy taking a picture is pretty darn cool. And I'm almost positive this is the only presidential cameo you'll ever find on a baseball card.

I can't imagine the Commander in Chief plays second fiddle in many photos.

When you get down to it, 2014 Stadium Club is an indication that Topps does still care about putting out a quality product. While it may contain autographs and other high-dollar cards, the base set caters to the collectors in it for pure fun and love for the hobby.

Thanks, Topps.

I needed that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Inside the card show, Pt. 1: A march of dimes

As promised, I hit the local tri-annual card show this past Saturday.

Since I hadn't been to a show since March, I was looking for this one to be a big experience. I'd been socking away money since summer vacation in preparation for Saturday.

A good chunk of my funds came from piecing out parts of my game-used/autograph collection on Ebay in hopes of turning them into discount treasures at the card show. That, plus a more than generous grant from good ol' dad, helped turn Saturday into the memorable experience I'd dreamed about.

Oh, and before we get to the cards, I thought I'd mention that I did actually remember to snap some photos of my day at the card show. You'll be seeing them dispersed here and there throughout my upcoming series of posts.

What you see above is an action shot of yours truly on the dime box prowl. This particular table came about halfway through the show and had mounds and mounds of 2014 singles to sift through. It took a while, which is why I chose to take advantage of the chair the vendors put out.

As far as dime boxes go, however, the very first aisle stole the show on Saturday.


Because I bought a whole dime box.

This isn't usual for me. A lot of the fun of dime boxes for me comes from digging through the stacks and stacks of cardboard, waiting for those couple finds that make it all worth it. Buying a whole dime box takes the mystique out of the dime box process.

But, to put it simply, the guy made me an offer I couldn't refuse. And, more importantly, it involved the best of both dime box worlds.

The vendor had two of these double-rowed boxes of baseball at his table. I'd already dug through most of them and had a stack of around 120 cards ready to go when the guy came up to me.

It was obvious he wanted to clear inventory. That's the goal for most dime box vendors. So, in order to do so, he offered me one of the dime boxes for twelve bucks or both for twenty. I didn't want to carry both of them all day, so I just grabbed the one. 

Better yet, the guy let me put the cards I'd already chosen into the box I bought. I got my 120-ish carefully selected pieces plus a generous helping of other extras (a lot of which ended up making for good trade fodder) for a mere twelve bucks.

How can you go wrong?

Because the vendor seemed so eager to unload it, you'd think a box like this would be mostly overproduction era cardboard and other undesirables.

Au contraire, my friends. The vast majority of it was filled with post-2000 cards. Sure, there was a good helping of mind-numbingly boring sets like SP Authentic and UD Icons, but the gems I unearthed made digging through everything else worth it.

Fun cards like this McGwire are what dime boxes are all about.

Finding new mini-collection hits is a constant source of dime box joy for me, and this box was absolutely rife with them.

I'm especially fond of the Kirk Gibson in the bottom-left, a card that was sitting in my Just Commons cart prior to Saturday.

It's not often you see a throwback jersey in a set devoted to past legends.

Really the only overproduction-era cardboard I found in the dime box was a small stack of 1992 Donruss.

Even those managed to pack quite a punch. I found a good half-dozen double dips within a span of about 30 cards.

I swear, this set grows on me more and more with each passing day.

This was one of the next cards in line for my "Dime Box Dozen" list before Saturday.

I've always been partial to any type of milestone depicted on cardboard. Press conferences are an added bonus since they slot in under my "interviews" mini-collection theme.

I'm rather fond of the three baseballs spelling out "300" in front of Mr. Glavine as well.

I actually missed these two during my initial dig.

Only after buying the entire box did I discover what I'd passed up. I came this close to leaving them behind forever.

Even the trained dime box eye can overlook a few gems now and then.

What's a dime box without a little cardboard fun?

I doubt you'll find many cards with more interesting backgrounds than these two. Let's hope that Jorge Nunez didn't drown after that photo session.

Something about the shrubbery behind Ordonez reminds me of a high school pathway.

Also known as the hidden spot behind the bushes where everyone would sneak away after class and smoke weed.

Vlad is one of the most common suspects when it comes to dime boxes.

He was actually there signing at Saturday's show, but the fee was a bit high for me. I'm pretty much priced out of the autograph market.

In contrast, I can't remember the last time I found a new Craig Counsell card at a show.

OPC gets bonus points for featuring that wacky batting stance of his.

We'll close my twelve-dollar dime box with this work of art.

Like the Glavine, this one had been sitting on my future "Dime Box Dozen" list for a long time. I assumed it'd pop up in a dime box eventually. Until Saturday, though, I'd always come up short.

Has a more beautiful stadium shot ever been featured on a baseball card?

I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better one.

I guess it was something about that first aisle.

A few tables before my grand dime box purchase, I stumbled upon a 5/$1 bin with rows and rows of 2014 issues. I didn't spend a whole lot of time at the table, but I did come up with a stack of about 30 cards that I felt were worth a whole twenty cents a piece. (GASP!)

The Taveras is a new addition to my tribute collection of the late Cardinals prospect. Although I collect Chris Sale, the throwback was what convinced me to drop twenty cents on his 2014 Finest issue.

I can't be throwing around two shiny FDRs all willy-nilly now, can I?

And now for something completely different, let's take a look at cards of Keith Richards and Sigmund Freud.

I've posted about the Concert Cards series before, but I don't know what the hell kind of outfit Keith is wearing there.

One of my card show pet peeves is when vendors don't bother to organize their dime boxes by sport.

I came across one such table on Saturday. The people had about six big dime bins on display, which got me excited at first. A closer look, however, revealed that every single one was interwoven with football, basketball, and baseball. Baseball was easily the least represented of the three, by the way.

Every sport should have their own individual box. Is that too much to ask, or am I crazy?

I normally wouldn't have bothered at a table like this, but finding this quartet of awesomely awful Bo Jackson customs convinced me to stick it out.

I think I ended up with about 20 cards after all was said and done, but these four were the most memorable.

Another pet peeve?

People that sit themselves in front of discount boxes without even the slightest regard for other shoppers. I always shift to the side and make room if I see someone approaching. It's just proper etiquette, people.

I don't know how they did it, two guys managed to take up almost that entire row of dime boxes you see in the picture of me at the top of this post. I tried inching my way in between them, but I got the feeling they weren't going to let me squeeze through anytime soon.

I paid for what I'd already found from the box at the only open spot at the very edge of the table (more on that tomorrow) and went on my merry way. I circled around for a bit and returned, happy to see that the pair of dime box parkers were gone.

I finally got my hands on what I'd spotted during my first trip to the table. Rows and rows of 2014 Bowman Chrome singles, all for a dime a piece. Probably the most effort I've ever put into voluntarily tracking down anything from Bowman Chrome, I'd say.

It wasn't so much the fronts of the cards I wanted.

It was more about the backs.

I'm all for "proper" stat lines, but reading the same numbers over and over again throughout the course of a card year can get boring. Give me something different, something outside the box.

Thankfully, Bowman Chrome, of all brands, answered my call. Say what you want about sabermetrics, but these are some of the most creative backs I've seen in a while. Spray charts, hot zones, it's all there.

Finally some new stats to absorb.

There's always a guy with oddball-tastic 12/$1 boxes at these shows.

He was back on Saturday, surprising me yet again with the awesome variety of oddities at his table. This Joe Cronin Goudey reprint actually has a bit of a glossy finish.

And, like so much of what I find from these 12/$1 bins, I can't give you the slightest bit of info on it.

Here's just a small portion of the oddities I dug up for about eight cents per.

I'm starting to realize that some of Fleer's oddball designs were better than their standard releases during the '80s.

The story of this guy's table in March was his box of '84 Donruss.

This time, it was his stacks of '85 Fleer. While it may not be the flashiest set around, I've always had a healthy respect for Fleer's 1985 release.

For whatever reason, though, I've had a pretty tough time finding singles from the set. I guess that's why I went a little nuts when I found a whole dime box of the stuff. All told, I probably scored about 60 new '85 Fleers from the guy's table.

I guess all those years of waiting were all leading up to Saturday.

We'll close things out this evening with another 12/$1 find that, for lack of a better term, just makes me happy.

I'd never seen this particular card before Saturday. Not in-person, not on the internet, not anywhere. That's shocking considering how '70s-centric the blogosphere can be.

Although we may not always know why, I'll bet we all have cards that speak to us in our own individual ways. Don't you?

I do.

And I can say with unabashed certainty that Jim Kern's toothy smile speaks to me.

It's cards like these that keep me coming back to the dime boxes with each passing show.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The dime box frankenset, Page 39: Numbers 343-351

We have a dime box frankenset first.

Last week's round of voting resulted in a tie between Derek Norris and Scott Servais. Each received six of the 28 total tallies. We've never had a tie before, so I wasn't quite sure how to settle the dispute.

My plan is this. I'm asking the first three people to read this post to comment on their choice between either Norris or Servais. The card that gets two (or all three) of the bonus votes will win the frankenset crown. (I, for the record, voted for Servais.)

I'll update the final results once the dust settles and we decide on a victor.

EDIT: We now have a winner!

Win -- 2013 Topps #334 Derek Norris (6 votes + tie-breaking vote)

Place -- 1995 Topps #342 Scott Servais (6 votes)

Show -- 1998 Ultra Gold Medallion #340G Desi Relaford (5 votes)

In the meantime, I'm proud to present the next page of frankenset inductees.

Let's see if we can get those vote totals back over 30 for this week's group.

Here they are.

1995 Stadium Club #343 Jaime Navarro

Jaime Navarro and his chopper will not be parted. 

1991 Bowman #344 Melido Perez

A rare frankenset appearance from Bowman thanks to a terrific Sox throwback.

2000 Upper Deck #345 Ismael Valdes

Pitcher at the plate!

1993 Upper Deck #346 Devon White

Posing in front of the beautiful backdrop of Yankee Stadium.

Oh, and Decal Day is on July 1st, in case you were wondering.

1995 Upper Deck #347 Mike Blowers

Do you have the time, Mike Blowers?

1994 Upper Deck #348 Armando Reynoso

Proof that a pitcher has crossed home plate at least once in big league history.

1992 Fleer #349 Steve Avery

Yet another pitcher at the plate.

1995 Collector's Choice Silver Signature #350 Andy Benes

How 'bout one more? 

1991 Ultra #351 Geno Petralli

That poor photographer wants no part of this foul pop.

The polls for this page are now on the sidebar. Help break the tie from last week's frankenset group as well!

Happy voting!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Prep work: November edition

Tonight is Card Show Eve for me.

I'll be waking up bright and early tomorrow morning in preparation for the big tri-annual show. My dad and I missed the last one back in June. It's the first one of these shows we've missed in a good five years.

Thanks to a few Ebay sales, I managed to scrape up enough money to hit tomorrow's gathering.

I used to go to shows with absolutely no plan in mind. While that's still mostly true now, I like to try and set at least a few goals for myself. One of the reasons I'm able to pinpoint specific hopes at every show is because the thing is so darn huge.

How big? Think National without all the sponsored stuff. Tables as far as the eye can see, and...

Hey, why don't I just show you this time? With my dad's help, I'm planning on snapping some photos tomorrow.

I'm hoping they'll help bring the show to life for readers of this blog.

As for the actual cards, well, I have a few things in mind.

Knocking out some current needs is always a must when it comes to shows. I still need a decent chunk of 2014 A&G, Archives, etc., and I'm sure I'll find a dealer or two unloading some on the cheap. The fact that this show is held so late in the year should help my chances.

A&G is a distant memory to a lot of people come November.

It seems like forever since I picked up a pre-1957 Topps card.

While they don't often come cheap, I can usually find a few in the discount bins. I'm going to make it a point to pick up at least one of these oversized beauties tomorrow.

Creased or not.

I've had pretty good luck finding '70s oddballs at the last couple of these shows.

Of course, I'm hoping my good fortune will continue tomorrow. The amount of Hostess and Kellogg's cards I still need is staggering. If I see these in the cheapies, you know I'm going to pounce.

How people can let these go for loose change is still a mystery.

I'm planning on embarking on a new oddball quest tomorrow.

Pre-1978ish OPCs have been almost impossible to come by at these shows. Now that I think of it, I don't think I've ever actually found one. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.

I'll be searching far and wide for OPC tomorrow. If the price is right, I'd love to give some of them a loving home.

The backs on those '71s are worth the price tag alone.

What originally began as kind of a tongue-in-cheek declaration has actually begun to gain some steam.

When I said I'd be trying to get EVERY AUTHENTIC PILOTS CARD EVER MADE a couple years ago, I never thought I'd have an actual shot at it. The more and more I find, though, the more and more realistic the goal seems to get.

Pulling all my 1969-70 Pilots cards in preparation for this post floored me. I haven't actually done the research, but I have to believe I'm getting close to what I thought was an impossible mission.

With any hope, I'll get even closer tomorrow.

I've found that hunting for specific cards at shows is a lot of fun.

I'm making Wilbur Wood the main focus of tomorrow's gathering. I've been trying to finish his Topps Set for a while now. I still need both his '65 and '68 issues. They're both high-numbers, so I doubt they'll come cheap, unfortunately.

I was also shocked to discover that I didn't yet own a copy of his common '78 Topps card. The Wood's '65 and '68 issues might be a longshot, but I'll bet there'll a couple dozen of '78s hiding in a show as big as this one.

I'll be darned if I don't walk away with one of them tomorrow.

As always, however, I'll mostly let the discount gods take me where they please.

Whether it be player collection hits, cheap vintage, goofy dime box finds, or whatever else, I'll take it as it comes. Oh, and don't think I've forgotten about my blogger buddies out there. I'll be doing some discount hunting for all of you tomorrow as well.

I'm already counting down the hours until I wake up tomorrow. As my dad says, it's always a fun time at the card show.

Wish me luck!