Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The ultra spectacular trade post catch-up series

During my blog hiatus(es), I was lucky enough to still receive a steady stream of packages and PWEs in my mailbox from fellow bloggers.

This was comforting because I was somewhat worried that, with me not posting and all, people would forget about me or think that I didn't want to trade and/or collect anymore. That couldn't be farther from the truth, as all these latest trade packages made clear to me.

I guess one of the downsides to not blogging is the fact that I now have an overflowing folder of trades that need to be posted, though by do means to I want that to sound like an obligation. I enjoy writing trade posts, and I think it's only fair that if someone takes the time (and money) to pick and package cards to send to me, that I return the favor and thank them on my blog.

So thus begins what I'm calling the Ultra Spectacular Trade Post Catch Up series.

Tonight I'll be recapping a handful of PWEs and smaller packages I received quite a while ago now, the first being a star-studded envelope from Gavin of the ever-popular "Baseball Card Breakdown" blog.

You all probably know of Gavin's top-notch artistic talents by now, so I'll just comment on a few of the cards he sent. In addition to the sparkly J-Hey at the top of this post, Gavin also included this quartet of goodies.

The Donaldson was one of the last base cards I needed from 2015 Update, and I'd specifically claimed the other three at one point or another on Gavin's blog. The Jones refractor hits a throwback need, and the Reddick is a photo SP that I couldn't help but pounce on.

But my favorite of the bunch has to be the Ultra insert of Mike Piazza as a Marlin -- which I'd had on my want list for years -- because you can never have too many cards of Mike Piazza as a Marlin.

This customized Ho-Ho-(LaMarr) Hoyt! ornament actually hung on my Christmas tree over the winter.

That should (sadly) give you an indication of just how behind I am with my trades.

Even with ornaments and photo SPs and Marlin Mike Piazzas, two of Gavin's unbelievable specially-made customs predictably stole the spotlight in this epic PWE.

First, we have Ken Griffey Jr. in one of those so-bad-they're-good Turn Ahead the Clock jerseys, a hellacious promo that sadly didn't see its way onto much cardboard at the time (though it is a mini-collection of mine).

And then there was the custom Kris Bryant that Gavin whipped up, done in honor of the '89 UD rookie of -- who else? -- Ken Griffey Jr. himself.

I don't know if that was a coincidence or not, but it's no coincidence that this was one Hall-of-Fame-level PWE.

Next up is a few cards I received from Tom, a fellow Illinois-ite (Illinoisian?) and the man behind the "Waiting 'til Next Year" blog.

This Jeets double dip from 2005 Topps Opening Day put a smile on my face, but now I'm a little uneasy about the fact that I don't own the standard base version of it.

There's a quandary any collector can understand.

Tom threw in a second new double dip as well as that Chris Young gold parallel, which I believe I specifically requested on his blog.

At 6'10" -- and as this photo indicates -- Young sure is one tall dude.

For the second straight year, I won some cards as part of the annual World Series contest on Mark's "Collector's Crack" blog despite being wrong with my Fall Classic guesses.

I don't remember what my prediction was -- probably something involving the Cubs -- but I do know that I received some nice cardboard out of the deal.

Between this deGrom...

...this page of "Highlight of the Year" inserts...

...and this potpourri of various other Topps inserts, Mark knocked out a big chunk of recent set needs.

Not bad for an incorrect guess, huh?

Next up is a small PWE from Jeff of "Wish They Still Came with Bubble Gum" fame, who I've developed a nice back-and-forth trading rapport with as of late.

Vladimir Guerrero, as you might already know, is the man behind my most expansive player collection. One of my unofficial goals for 2016 is to pass the 1,000-card mark with Vlad by the end of the year, and this "Crash the Game" insert brought be one step closer to that.

I've found that my early love for 1955 Bowman makes me partial to any set with a TV-inspired design.

The pre-Cub Kessinger was a nice surprise, and the Uggla was yet another card I specifically claimed from a fellow blogger buddy. (Don't you just love comments sections?)

With Jeff being a Braves fan at all, I figured the sight of Dan Uggla kind of left a sour taste in his mouth anyways.

I help out when I can.

Finally, we have a monster PWE from my buddy Shane of the "Shoebox Legends" blog.

Shane pulled the foil and gold parallels of Sonny Gray's 2015 Topps Update card, which I went ahead and claimed (again) because I collect both Gray and "tip of the cap" shots.

I also claimed the Haren parallel because I don't know if any of us will remember that he closed his career as a Cub in about five years or so.

The Axford is another one of the retail-exclusive 2015 Topps Update Chrome parallels, a 50-card set that Shane recently -- and impressively -- completed.

I've very nearly pulled the trigger on one of those $14.99 megaboxes on my various trips to Target over the past few months, but why spend the money when people like Shane (and Gavin) send them to you for free?

Shane very nearly batted 1.000 with this PWE, as I think I needed about eight or nine of the ten-ish cards he sent.

That included these two 2015 Topps inserts of Billy the Kid and Ichiro.

This card singlehandedly inspired me to start collecting Lorenzo Cain.

I saw it and instantly felt like it needed to be in my binders. And the only way for a card to get in my binders is if I start collecting the player featured on it.

It seemed like the only logical solution.

Everything I just showed is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the thoughtful trade packages I received during my time off from the blog, so expect the Ultra Spectacular Trade Post Catch-Up series to continue in the coming weeks.

All I can say is it means a lot to know that many you were still thinking of me while I was away.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The dime box frankenset, Page 13: Numbers 109-117

We had a close one last week.

Win -- 1995 SP #104 Ray Lankford (6 votes)

Place (tie) -- 2015 Stadium Club #100 Alex Cobb, 1991 Score #101 Kirt Manwaring (5 votes each)

Show (tie) -- 1994 Pinnacle #103 Jerald Clark, 1996 Score #108 Mike Macfarlane (4 votes each)

The acrobatic Ray Lankford edged out a one-vote victory over a couple of fierce competitors in Alex Cobb and Dime Box Frankenset MVP Kirt Manwaring last week, earning six of the 28 total tallies last week, mine included.

Besides the obvious quirkiness factor, I've always loved the Lankford for the sheer mystery of what exactly caused him to do a batter's box handstand in the first place.

We've got a fresh page of cards this week, all looking to win that prestigious frankenset crown.

Let's meet the nominees.

2001 Stadium Club #109 Mike Williams

The rare pitcher-centric play at the plate. 

1995 Topps #110 Walt Weiss

Double dipping the psychedelic '95 Topps way. 

1993 Upper Deck #111 Brady Anderson

That hopeless feeling. 

1999 Stadium Club #112 Chan Ho Park

Tough to tell if that's Dubble Bubble or good old Bazooka gum.

1995 Pinnacle #113 Mike Macfarlane

One PO'ed backstop. 

2001 Upper Deck #114 Rey Sanchez

Turning two at Yankee Stadium. 

2015 Topps Update #US-115 Stephen Vogt

A touching, candid moment from last year's Midsummer Classic. 

1983 Fleer #116 Dennis Leonard

Quality time with the men in blue. 

1993 Upper Deck #117 Lance Parrish

We close with a sacred catcher-runner-ump PATP combo from the beautiful '93 UD checklist.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

That card show feeling, Pt. 3: The vintage spectrum

It wasn't long ago that I would've scoffed at the idea of paying a whole six dollars for a card from 1984.

Certainly big money like that (for me, anyways) should be reserved for real, true vintage, right? No way should a card from the mid '80s be my most expensive purchase of the day!

Eh, I'm not so sure anymore. For a long time, my collection was comprised of what I always used to call "old guys" and "new guys." I realize now that a lot of stars from the late '70s and '80s kind of got kicked to the curb because I never could decide whether they were old or new.

I've been doing my best to reconcile that now by picking up cards of guys like Don Mattingly wherever and whenever I can. More than that, I've also made a push to land simply iconic pieces of cardboard that are somewhat affordable despite their fame. (Just can't swing that '52 Mantle right now.)

You could argue that this '84 Topps rookie of Donnie Baseball might be the most recognizable card of the '80s, and that's why, for six bucks, I decided it needed a home with me.

As far as '80s guys are concerned, I've probably made the strongest push with my collection of the late Tony Gywnn.

Despite the fact that I recently surpassed the 200-card mark with Mr. Padre, I've known the entire time that I was missing the key cog to any passable Gwynn collection -- his 1983 Topps rookie. I'd searched for a low-grade copy at the last few shows I attended, all to no avail.

But, once again, the cardboard gods had a plan in store for me at this mid-March gathering, as I secured exactly what I was looking for -- a partially-loved, cheaper copy of Gwynn's rookie -- for the low, low price of four dollars.

I really don't ever think any of my collections are "complete," but at least now I can sleep a little better at night knowing I own this card.

The Yaz, a now-former Dime Box Dozen suspect, fell into my lap for the odd price of 37.5 cents (half off of 75 cents).

I scored the OPC Ozzie from the massive fifty-cent bin I briefly mentioned in the first post of this mini-series.

Sorry to remind you of the Ozzie-for-Templeton trade once again, Padre fans.

George Brett and Andre Dawson are also guys who I'm ashamed to say I virtually ignored for the bulk of my collecting lifetime.

Their later cards have been surprisingly easy to find in dime boxes, and their earlier pieces of vintage haven't busted the bank, either. The '77 Brett came from that aforementioned fifty-cent tub, while the Dawson (try matching that pose nowadays, Topps) was $1.50.

Long live the Rookie Cup!

But let's not go crazy here.

Old time vintage will always be near and dear to my cardboard heart. Though I have been doing my best to recognize the Don Mattinglys and Andre Dawsons of baseball history, I'll never forget about the Elmer Valos.

Valo was a mid-range star in the '50s, but I began collecting his cards after finding out that he was one of the few big leaguers born in (what was then) Czechoslovakia.

For just $1.50, plucking this beautiful '54 Topps issue off the scrap heap was a no-brainer.

Sometimes I surprise even myself with what I buy.

I basically bought this one as filler from a small, well-loved stack of 3/$1 vintage. I had two cards in my purchase pile and figured I might as well add a third, which ended up being Mayo Smith here. 

I didn't think much of it at the time, and it was only after rehashing my finds later that I realized that this might be one of the most elegant manager cards ever made.

I'm still not a huge fan of '62 Topps, but that's never stopped me from snagging some from the discount bins.

The Looie All-Star card was $1.50, while the Al Downing rookie was a steal at two bucks.

Here's a pair of cheap Bronx Bombers.

Tony Kubek's sunset card was a mere buck, while Mr. Rizzuto's "Amazing Bunt" (sorry, Jeff, I'm keeping that one) was $1.50.

I don't own nearly enough Nu-Scoops as I probably should.

The one big disappointment from this show was the lack of '70s oddballs.

At 75 cents, Larry Bowa here was the lone Hostess single I found all day, and I came up completely empty as far as Kellogg's goes.

You win some, you lose some.

But by no means did I get shut out of the oddball game.

I see singles from the '68 Topps Game set quite frequently at card shows, so I'm surprised that there's still some I need. The Cepeda was worth every penny of the fifty cents I paid for it.

The Milt Pappas (RIP) is a game card from a late '60s regional contest, and I jumped at the chance to hand over a dollar for it.

I've been finding these early '60s Fleer Greats cards with a lot more frequency at card shows lately.

They're easy for me to love because a) they often feature guys like Burleigh Grimes and Luke Appling who aren't often remembered in today's hobby and b) they almost always fit well within my budget.

My wallet was delighted to see these fall into my purchase pile at just 75 cents a pop.

Time for some turn-of-the-century action with these two oversized oddities, secured from that fifty-cent bin I keep mentioning.

Both Delahanty and Chase led questionable lives, but, as pure subjects, they offer a couple of the most fascinating biographies baseball's canon has to offer.

Early on in the show, I passed on this Joe Pepitone poster at two bucks.

About three hours and many aisles later, I realized what a stupid decision that was and made a beeline back to the table where it resided, handing over a pair of Washingtons with glee.

It's a good thing I did, because I would've kicked myself the entire way home had I left Mr. Pepitone behind.

Now the show started to pull out its big guns.

Though not exactly in pristine condition, I thought four bucks was a fair price for what is now the oldest Brooks Robinson card in my collection.

Okay, so that '74 Nolan Ryan is missing an entire corner.

But that certainly wasn't going to stop me from paying a heavily-discounted $2.50 for it. And, hey, that '75 Topps Highlights card has all four corners, and it was still only a buck and a half!

Proof that there is affordable Nolan Ryan vintage out there.

In terms of value, the '67 Drysdale was one of my best finds of the day at just $1.50.

At four bucks, the Aaron was a surprisingly fair find from a vendor who seemed to grossly overprice all his other vintage.

It made waddling through all those ten-dollar 1978 Thurman Munsons worth it.

I still don't think '58 Topps gets enough credit.

Part of that is just bad luck, as it's sandwiched between two of my all-time favorite Topps sets. But, my God, look at the colors! Yellow and orange in the same set.

This pair cost about two bucks combined, and I'm irrationally joyful about the fact that I now own Marvelous Marv Throneberry's rookie card.


Now here's a card I've had on my radar ever since I was a young collector. It's hard to say for sure, but the tale of Curt Flood was probably one of the first I read up on when I was first getting into baseball's rich history. For that reason, I've long had a special attachment to his cards.

It always seemed like Flood's '58 Topps rookie was priced just a bit higher than I was comfortable paying. So imagine my surprise when a copy fell out of a 90% Off vintage bin early in the show for a mere three dollars.

It's hard to explain that feeling, the one you get when you finally track down a sacred card you've wanted for as long as you can remember.

We might as well close with Mr. Cub.

Another three-dollar find, this one fell out of the same 90% Off bin that produced the Flood. That price is even harder to believe when you consider that Ernie Banks cards are almost always marked up here in the greater Chicago area.

I admit, it's still a bit hard to believe that I paid twice as much for a card from 1984 as I did for this '62 Ernie Banks. Two times as much for Don Mattingly -- a man who was barely on my collecting radar this time last year -- than a hallowed Curt Flood rookie I've wanted since I was a pre-teen.

But, as collectors, we're continually changing how we do things. We can't stay in the same place on the same spectrum forever. That's part of the fun and allure of this hobby, isn't it?

And, if nothing else, those comparisons make the bargain deals I'm able to continually find on vintage at this local show even more staggering.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

That card show feeling, Pt. 2: Next stop, parallel city

Turns out I did something I thought I'd never do at the big mid-March show.

I bought a card from a Card Show Bro. I've detailed this crowd many times in the past -- the loud, rambunctious, twenty-somethings that solely bust high-end product, and, as a result, rarely have any affordable cards for sale.

It's not that I have anything personal against Card Bros. It's just that, being a quiet, shy guy like myself who likes to pick cheap cards up off the scrap heap, I don't often cross paths with such collectors. That is, until I saw one that had this Matt Harvey camo parallel in a small dollar box on display. (The presence of a dollar box at all is an extreme rarity for the Bro brethren.)

I admit, I felt a little silly handing over one dollar for one card when the guy had stuff priced in the three- and four-figures behind a Windexed glass case. But I was more than willing to swallow that feeling in exchange for a camo parallel of a superstar like Mr. Harvey for a single buck. (Wouldn't you?)

It is, and forever will be, known as The Bro Card in my collection.

Harvey set the tone for what would soon turn into a parallel free-for-all.

I don't know whether it's my imagination or what, but it sure seems like I've been able to score more and more parallels at cheaper and cheaper prices with each passing show. Blue, green, sparkly, framed, it hasn't mattered. The local card shows are turning into affordable parallel universes.

This entire page cost a grand total of ninety cents combined, each at a dime a pop.

Discounted refractors have been just as common.

I've never been a huge, huge fan of sets like Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, or Finest -- and I'm certainly not going to become a Prizm supporter anytime soon -- but you can't throw cheap refractors at me for dimes and not expect me to bite.

Aside from the Bumgarner centerpiece (a quarter), these were also, surprisingly, all dime box finds.

If you attend card shows long enough, you'll start to pick up on some cornerstone vendor tactics.

One quarter box vendor stocked the fronts of each row of cards with beautiful 2015 Topps Chrome refractors in various shades and hues to draw in customers, because it's just human nature to be attracted to shiny objects. Sepia, pink, prism, he had 'em all.

It certainly worked on me, despite the fact that the remainder of his quarter boxes contained very little of note. I think about 35 of the 40 total cards I walked away with were '15 Chrome parallels.

If nothing else, I learned that I'm now hopelessly in love with those bubble-gum refractors.

Topps Mini is kind of like an entire parallel set, and one vendor had a big box of singles from the 2014 edition up for grabs at a dime each.

I bought close to 100 of them, which allowed me to relive some of my favorite moments from 2014 Topps in mini form.

Aside from being just a whole lot of fun, card shows can be just plain efficient sometimes.

I've said this many times before, but shows are where I go to pick up newly-released base cards and inserts on the cheap, often in large quantities. Both in terms of my sanity and my wallet, it beats spending dollar after dollar on packs where I might get three or four things I need, if I'm lucky.

This entire page cost less than two dollars total. For less than the price of a pack of regular ol' Flagship, I sampled cards from sets like Tek to A&G, from Stadium Club to Archives, with a bunch of nifty Topps inserts in between.

And, if that Joc Pederson is any indication, I guess I'm just going to have to get used to seeing selfies on baseball cards now.

Along those same lines, the one big goal I had in mind for this show was to knock out a bunch of my 2016 Heritage needs on the cheap.

I was less than halfway through the convention hall when I stumbled upon a vendor (the same guy who had the Topps Minis) with a big 3200-count box of Heritage singles. For less than the price of two rack packs, I eliminated about 90 percent of what I needed from the set.

Goal reached.

(Hey, why did no one tell me Pat Venditte had a card in Heritage this year?!)

A second vendor later on in the day supplied me with my Heritage insert fix.

My favorite from this quartet has to be the Eddie Mathews, because you sure don't see cards of him as a Houston Astro very often.

In one fell swoop, that same vendor finished off my yearly tradition of completing Heritage's News Flashbacks insert set.

I'd already pulled the Elvis card from a pack a few days before, and tracking down the other nine didn't prove to be too difficult.

Hard to hate a set that features space shuttles, hippies, and Evel Knievel.

As far as new singles go, however, one vendor stood leaps and bounds above the rest.

He was, as far as I could tell, new to this show, and I might've missed him all together had my dad not said Hey, what're those boxes behind you? as I was standing with my back to the guy's table.

I turned and saw a large sign that read ALL CARDS 10 CENTS EACH OR 11/$1 above a fairly hearty box of cardboard. It didn't take long for me to think that this might be something special.

I'm still not much of a Donruss fan, but how could I pass up a numbered parallel of the Big Cat at that price?

Some dime boxes are special because of the variety they hold, while others stand out because of the terrific deals they offer.

This guy's selection had a little of both. Since last year's 1951 Topps throwback set was an online-only release, I a) didn't think I'd be able to add very many to my collection and b) certainly didn't think I'd find them for dimes, considering online sets tend to be a little pricier than most.

And yet there was a whole stack of them in this guy's 11/$1 box, stars like Big Papi and Josh Donaldson mine for cents on the dollar.

I kind of like that Donruss is playing their own Heritage game with these retro inserts.

The Votto and Keuchel (notice the orange floppy hat in the background) came from that 11/$1 box, while the Arrieta and Rickey were a quarter each, coming from a separate box of individually-priced cards this vendor had off to the side.

In addition to being a Cy Young pitcher, Jake Arrieta has apparently also mastered the art of carrying water bottles.

Both Ichiro and the San Diego Chicken were dime box suspects, while the Sano was a quarter and the Schwarber a "high-dollar" pickup at fifty cents.

What I think I liked most about this vendor was that his prices were fair. Most people would be tempted to mark up inserts of big young stars like Sano and/or Schwarber, but this guy kept it within my price range.

You have to love vendors who work with the often feeble budgets of collectors like us.

You want to talk fair, how about a complete 20-card "Superstar Celebrations" insert set from 2016 Opening Day for just three bucks?

One heckuva price, especially considering this checklist features All-Star names like Arrieta, Bryant, and Trout. Year after year, I find myself gravitating back towards this insert set because of how gosh darn fun it is.

You have Ryan Zimmerman doused in chocolate sauce. Wilmer Flores with the Mets faithful. Chris Davis at the exact pie-meets-face moment. And Kris Bryant getting a Gatorade shower from Anthony Rizzo and Grandpa Rossy. (My dad was at that game, by the way.)

Hard to imagine three Washingtons going a whole lot further than that.

Let's go back to those magnificent 11/$1 boxes for what turned out to be the biggest development from this guy's table, and perhaps the whole afternoon, for that matter.

Pretty much an entire row of this vendor's 3200-count dime box was made up of all 2016 Topps parallels, which leads me to believe he's a case buster of some sort. I've never seen as many parallels in one place before, and, considering how wild I go for these things, I had the time of my life digging through his selection.

After the dust cleared, I nabbed right around 100 of 'em (that's right, a hundred parallels) for under ten bucks. And, yes, you're seeing that right...between the foils and golds are a trio of black parallels, each numbered to just 64 copies.

That's the first time I've ever found any of those in a dime box before, which is impressive considering how long I've been at this whole discount bin business.

If there was a cherry on top of this guy's table, it was that I treated myself to this three-dollar, art exhibit-esque photo variation SP of Giancarlo Stanton.

And, if there was a cherry on top of that cherry on top, it was the fact that the guy charged me just twenty bucks for what was at least $25 worth of baseball cards from his table.

With parallels being priced the way they were at this mid-March show, it's hard to imagine myself not going nuts for them, not falling in a passionate romance with the way they look in binders, not dedicating nearly an entire post in their honor.

Whether camo, pink, black, or sepia, I don't think it's a stretch to say that parallels are quickly becoming one of my favorite aspects of the modern card show experience.