Thursday, April 17, 2014

If I were a supercollector

What is a supercollector?

To put it simply, a supercollector is someone who tries to acquire every single card ever made of a certain player.

Okay, so what makes them any different from a regular collector?

That's a good question. I'd say that your everyday collector basically takes what they can find of their favorite players. A supercollector, on the other hand, specifically goes out and tries to own every single card of their favorite player.

Take me, for instance. I collect hundreds of different guys, but I don't supercollect any of them. For one thing, I don't have the money to go out chasing low-numbered parallels of someone like Ichiro. I don't have the time to check Ebay day after day for new cards, either.

I tried being a Hoyt Wilhelm supercollector for a while. I'd dig through people's trade lists and hunt Ebay for Hoyts I didn't already have. I did a decent job, as my Hoyt collection is currently home to some of his rarer cards.

In the end, though, it just didn't pan out. I take my hat off to anyone that can keep up a supercollection, but it's not for me.

Still, if I were to ever come into a large sum of cash one day, I've composed a short list of future supercollection candidates in my head.

My favorite player of the last ten years or so is definitely Vladimir Guerrero.

Still, even with an unlimited budget, I don't think I could supercollect him. Some of Vlad's prime cardboard came during the late '90s and early 2000's. We all know how crazy those years were for the hobby.

There are literally tens of thousands of Vlads in existence, and I sure wouldn't have the time or energy to try and find them all. If I had the power to hire a collecting secretary, then maybe.

Someone like Ryan Theriot is a more realistic possibility.

For one thing, a personal bond is important when it comes to choosing a supercollection. Theriot is probably my favorite North Sider of the last decade, and he was the shortstop for the last legitimately good Cubs teams I've had a chance to see.

Plus, he's not a huge name, so that'd make things a bit easier on my wallet.

That's always a plus when it comes to this hobby.

Bo Hart is one of the unquestioned icons of this blog.

I've mentioned my appreciation for him many times in the past. The fact that he lasted all of two seasons in the bigs is somewhat sad, but it does make him an ideal supercollecting candidate.

Every single one of my 33 Bo Hart cards was produced in either 2003 or 2004. Though the hobby was drunk on impossible-to-find inserts and parallels at the time, I'd be willing to go through all that craziness for Mr. Hart.

He's worth it.

A good story is always a plus when it comes to supercollecting.

That's why I might just become a Rick Ankiel supercollector at some point in the future.

Few players in baseball history have had success as both a pitcher and a position player. Ankiel is the only one I've ever seen in my lifetime.

He went from a once-promising career as a pitcher in the early 2000's to a 25-homer outfielder in 2008.

I remembered seeing Ankiel on the mound from my early days as a baseball fan. I was in second grade when he debuted as a pitcher in 1999. When he burst back onto the scene as an outfielder, I was in high school. I couldn't believe that it was the very same Rick Ankiel.

Again, the fact that his rookie cards were issued during the peak of cardboard craziness would make a supercollection extremely difficult.

Then again, a story like Rick Ankiel's doesn't come along every day.

The vast majority of my family's heritage can be traced back to Italy.

I take a lot of pride in my background. Starting a supercollection of Alex Liddi would be a great way to show that.


Because he was the first (and, to date, the only) major leaguer to be born and raised in Italy. Liddi was once a hot prospect with the Mariners, but he's unfortunately flamed out in recent years. He's currently in the minors with my hometown White Sox.

Liddi is kind of like Bo Hart, in that the only cards he has were issued within a two or three-year span.

A supercollection of someone like him certainly sounds doable.

As far as supercollecting goes, I think the best bet would be someone from the '60s or '70s.

However, Hall of Famers like Mays or Killebrew would probably be too rich for my blood. Both of those guys made their debut back in the '50s, which means their rookie cards will especially prove costly.

That's why the best option would probably be a fan favorite type of guy. Mark Fidrych and Bill Lee would be obvious supercollecting choices for me, but Wilbur Wood would definitely be an interesting subject as well.

He played for a long time, but none of his cards are all that tough to find. Plus, it's not like '60s and '70s Topps featured a boatload of parallels or anything.

And, although I'd love to see Wilbur Wood pop up in some of today's sets, the fact that he doesn't have many newer issues would make supercollecting a whole lot easier. The most recent cards I have of his are his 2001 UD Decade (seen above) and 2004 Topps Fan Favorites singles.

Should I ever decide to try my and at supercollecting again, Wilbur Wood would definitely be on my radar.

Perhaps the most ambitious supercollecting route would be someone from baseball's early days.

Again, a non-Hall of Famer would be ideal. I'm sure Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth supercollectors exist, but I can't imagine how much money they'd have to make to afford such a conquest.

If I had to supercollect a turn-of-the-century ballplayer, I'd go with Fred Merkle. As many fans know, his failure to touch second base during a crucial Cubs-Giants contest in 1908 made him one of the game's most infamous and intriguing figures.

The fact that he played into the 1920's sometimes gets lost to history, though.

Should I ever have the money to do so, I'd kill for the chance to become a Fred Merkle supercollector.

On the plus side, I wouldn't have to worry about ten thousand different types of parallels. The backs of old tobacco cards may have a few variations, but it's nothing near the madness of today's hobby.

On the other hand, I'm sure I'd have a hell of a time trying to track down all of his cards. There aren't many oddballs from his era, but the few that do exist are darn near impossible to find.

Then again, that's the kind of thing you sign up for when you become a supercollector.

I tip my hat to the existing supercollectors out there, but I'm not ready to do it just yet.

I'll stick to regular old collecting for now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Covering the Bases, Pt. 14: Top 5 Topps sets of the 1970's

For my money, the 1970's remains the absolute best decade for baseball cards.

Admittedly, there were some dark days in my past where I didn't much care about vintage. Even then, though, I realized that the '70s were something special.

I think part of what made the decade so memorable was the sheer variety of the cards. Topps was the only game in town at the time, but they did their best to make each passing set as interesting and unique as possible.

There's no doubting that the 1970's have stood the test of time.

It's funny, then, that the decade came in with such a whimper. Most collectors, including myself, would probably place 1970 near the bottom of the Topps barrel. It'll always earn vintage points, but the majority of the set is painfully drab and doesn't bring much to the table.

The rest of the 1970's, however, was something else. I may not have lived through the decade, but I've definitely come to appreciate '70s cardboard as much as humanly possible during my time in this hobby.

With that in mind, here's my personal list of the Top 5 1970's Topps sets.

#5 -- 1976

My top four was never in much doubt.

The number five slot, however, was up in the air. I was on the brink of putting '77 Topps on this list, but I went with the memorable set from the year prior in the end.

For the most part, '70s Topps was full of color. Their 1976 release was simply a continuation of that trend.

From what I've seen, the set features a nice mix of posed and action shots. This Tiant is a personal favorite from the checklist.

Perhaps the most lasting feature of '76 Topps, however, is the little shadow figure that accompanies each card. Topps had done something similar in the past (as you'll soon see), but I think the '76 Topps version has better stood the test of time.

In any other decade, a set like this could've taken the #1 slot.

But not the 1970's.

#4 -- 1971

I've never been huge on black-bordered designs.

One enormous exception to that rule, however, has always been 1971 Topps. I've been fond of this set for what seems like forever.

The hobby had never seen such a dark design before '71 Topps came along. Though the set was among the first to feature a wide range of action shots, the black borders are definitely responsible for making this such a well-remembered release.

Although I'm not quite sure why, the usage of all lowercase letters for the player name and position is a little quirk I've always enjoyed. That's something I wouldn't mind seeing in one of today's sets.

After a trio of fairly boring releases in 1968, '69, and '70, 1971 Topps suggested that something new and exciting was on the horizon.

#3 -- 1973

This is probably the only set on this list without an above-average design.

The player and team names aren't anything out of the ordinary. The shadow shots were certainly new, but, as I said, I think the ones Topps used in 1976 were slightly better.

No, what makes 1973 Topps so legendary, of course, is the photography. If you've dabbled into the vintage market at all, you probably know what I'm talking about.

I can't imagine how collectors reacted when this set hit the shelves. Between used car lot backdrops and painful plays at the plate, '73 Topps was unlike anything the hobby had ever seen at that point in time, and unlike anything it'd see for a long time afterwards.

In any other year, Topps might've gone with a standard posed shot of Chris Chambliss. In 1973, however, they used an action image of him holding on pitcher Jim Kaat at first base.

Oh, and did I mention that '73 Topps features perhaps the first shot of a pitcher at the plate? That pitcher, incidentally, was Jim Kaat.

You crazy, 1973 Topps.

#2 -- 1972

Much like '73 Topps is remembered for being ahead of its time with photography, '72 Topps went into uncharted territory with its LSD-inspired design.

This was one of the few times where the looks of a baseball card set seemed to be in tune with the rest of the nation.

Flower power may have been on its way out by the time '72 Topps came around, but it's hard to argue that American culture at the time didn't have at least a little impact on the year's design.

As I've found, I have a soft spot for sets that use a wide variety of color. One of the kings in that department is undoubtedly '72 Topps.

This is the set that ushered in such loud colors that dominated cardboard for the rest of the '70s and beyond.

For that, I'll always be thankful.

#1 -- 1975 

If you've read this blog carefully, this shouldn't be much of a surprise.

I grew up hearing my dad's stories about 1975 Topps. He dabbled with cards in '73 and '74, but '75 was the year he became a devout collector.

As a result, I've always been drawn to '75 Topps. Many of the first vintage cards I ever acquired came from the set.

I'm not sure what I can say about it that hasn't already been said. Great colors, great design, great photography. Great everything.

If you were to poll the attendees of any given card show, I'd bet the majority would tell you that 1975 Topps is the most iconic set ever released.

I tend to agree with them.

I don't think we'll ever see another set quite like '75 Topps.

The same goes for the 1970's as a whole, now that I think of it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The dark side of collecting

By now, you probably know that today is Jackie Robinson Day.

Though he would mainly play second base throughout his career, Robinson made his big-league debut at first base for the Dodgers 67 years ago.

As one of the most important figures in American history, he won the first-ever NL Rookie of the Year award in 1947 and paved the way for future African-American greats throughout his Hall of Fame career.

Today, every single player will be wearing Robinson's retired #42 in honor of his legacy.

One of the ways I like to pay tribute to my favorite players is through my collection. I've made it my duty to obtain as many Jackie Robinson cards as possible throughout my lifetime.

Though anything Robinson-related can command a pretty penny, I'm proud to say that I own 105 different cards of his as of this writing. I took a look through all of them this afternoon.

One in particular that caught my eye was the SI for Kids issue you see above. It's probably one of the rarer Robinson cards in my catalog, and you rarely ever see them mentioned anywhere these days.

So, then, how did I come into possession of my copy?

Let's see if I can put this lightly...

I stole it.

And it wasn't just Jackie Robinson, either. I stole all of the SI for Kids cards I currently have in my collection, including this neat Mickey Mantle.

Part of me feels guilty about stealing cards of such noble ballplayers. Then again, I'm sure glad to have them in my binders.

One thing they don't tell you about baseball cards is that there is indeed a dark side to collecting. For me, that involved stealing. I'd be willing to bet that most collectors have their own dark stories when it comes to cardboard as well.

I stayed out of trouble more than most kids when I was younger, but I'll be the first to admit that I stole a few baseball cards in my day.

You see, the library in my grammar school always seemed to have issues of SI for Kids on the racks. I'd read through them every now and again, but I usually just had my eye on the panel of cards that came with each magazine.

So, whenever my class would take a trip down to the library for reading time, I subtly ripped out the cards and stashed them in my pocket.

Thankfully, no one ever caught me in the act. I did feel a bit guilty about it at the time, but the possibility of owning these oddballs made the risk worth it.

Baseball cards can make you do crazy things.

Though one panel featured all legends like Robinson and Mantle, most of the SI cards featured current athletes.

They ranged across all sports, even into strange ones like skiing and bowling. The only ones I ever cared about, of course, were the ballplayers.

Guys like David Wells called to me when I'd open up these magazines in my school library. Guys like David Wells forced me to steal. Besides, I have yet to find one of these in a dime box, so I would've left quite a goldmine behind had I not taken them.

That's what I like to tell myself, anyways.

A lot of these aren't your standard oddballs, though.

Some of the issues featured reprints of newly-released cards. SI reissued this version of J.D. Drew's 1999 Fleer Tradition rookie back in the day.

Remembering a time where there was actually a lot of hype around J.D. Drew actually makes me feel a little old, now that I think about it.

Here's a mind-boggler for you.

One of the magazine panels I stole came from a special April Fools Day issue. Hence, the image of Mark McGwire in a Cubs uniform.

The back tells a fabricated tale about Sammy Sosa asking the Cardinal slugger to suit up as a Cub for a day. It goes even further, saying that McGwire hit a homer for the North Siders, "throwing kisses to Sammy's fans" along the way.

Kudos to Sports Illustrated for the fine photoshop job.

Even if they did forget to airbrush McGwire's helmet.

This is easily one of my favorites of the bunch.

One issue featured an odd mishmash of sports stars and youth pop culture. Pokemon was all the rage around 1999, which is when this one was released.

I remember it well. My friends and I used to trade Pokemon cards during recess all the time.

That made this Jason Kendall/Ash Ketchum combo a must-have for me. I guess it makes sense, in a way. Pokemon's famous motto was "Gotta catch 'em all!", and Kendall was, of course, a catcher.

It's still the only appearance of a Pokeball on any baseball card I own.

Despite the fun and innocent vibes this hobby might carry, don't be fooled too much. There's a dark side to this whole business.

Even if I didn't know it at the time, these were some of my first oddballs. And it wouldn't have been possible without my school library.

In fact, I'm glad I stole them.

There. I said it.

Baseball cards can make us do crazy things sometimes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An interview at Topps

Sometimes, I wonder just how in touch Topps is with their customers.

I've never heard of them doing any kind of market research, and I highly doubt they've ever clicked on one of our blogs.

With the continuous release of expensive sets like Museum Collection, it's obvious that Topps caters more to the high-end customer these days.

Despite what some others may think, though, I think they at least want to please the more everyday collectors as well. Topps know how important their Flagship product is to many customers, and they do a good job with keeping it interesting from year to year.

However, many of today's trends suggest that they are still a bit out of touch with everyday collectors like myself. I think part of the problem is that Topps wants to please us, but doesn't quite know how.

This is why one of my many pipe dreams as a collector is to have a job at Topps. I fantasize about Topps calling me in for an interview and asking...

Nick, what would you do to make this a better hobby?

Well, sir...

I wouldn't change the Flagship product much.

Aside from maybe changing up the photo choices here and there, I think you guys have a pretty good handle on it right now.

What I would do, however, is tweak a couple of the secondary features of Flagship.

Namely, the parallels.

I'm a self-labeled parallel nut. I go bananas for these things because of how great they look in a binder. Still, I'd be the first to admit that there's just too many of them around these days. 

I'm fine with the Target Reds and Wal-Mart Blues. Those are fun. But I don't think pea soup or camo parallels are necessary. 

I don't think I'm out of line saying that we could easily cut those out of the fold.

Also, Topps, let's talk about the inserts.

Way, way, way too many of those, sir.

I grew up during an era where inserts were gaining more and more steam for collectors. They're basically an expected part of the cardboard experience for me.

Though I'm a lower-end kind of guy, there is a certain thrill of discovering that neat insert in a new pack of cards. At least there used to be, anyways.

With the number of different insert series that have popped up lately, the pull of the insert is all but gone. Nearly a quarter of every single pack I open these days is comprised with inserts. That's not how it should be.

It's gotten to the point where finding that insert in a pack barely registers a blip on my radar. I'd assume that many other collectors are suffering from insert apathy these days as well.

We need to find a cure for that.

Topps Update is always one of my favorite releases of the year.

Seeing guys in their new uniforms is always cool. Reminiscing about the year's highlights is a pleasure as well.

Recapping the Midsummer Classic, however, could be a lot more fun. Much like the parallels and inserts, though, Topps continues to water down the All-Stars.

I think I counted something like 75 different All-Stars in last year's Update checklist. That's darn near a quarter of all the cards in the set. Guys who didn't even play in the contest, like Justin Verlander, still got an All-Star card.

That seems like a waste of cardboard, if you ask me. Worse yet, that card could've gone to a deserving middle reliever or bench player that hadn't yet received a card in 2013.

If guys actually play in the All-Star game, then I'd give them a card in Update. If not, then they shouldn't make the cut.

That seems fair to me.

If my love for throwback jerseys is any indication, I'm a fan of retro.

That said, I think you guys have taken the concept too far recently. Between old-time sets like Gypsy Queen, A&G, Archives, and Heritage, many collectors are on retro overload.

It seems lazy and unoriginal to just keep copying old designs. I'd say keep one or two of the retro checklists and come up with a couple exciting new set ideas to replace the others. (I'd gut Gypsy Queen and Archives, but that's just me.)

I think you're underestimating the concept of originality. You're playing too much on past successes and becoming rather one-dimensional as a result.

We need to try something new for a change. If it fails, at least we can say we tried.

And I'm sure a lot of collectors would at least applaud us for the effort.

One retro set that is still bouncing around these days is Turkey Red.

I've always been a big fan of this release. I gobbled up pack after pack of these things in the mid-2000's. Beautiful cards like this Mike Sweeney make for some of the finest centerpieces in my collection.

Although Turkey Red has been back for a few years now, you'd have to go all the way back to 2007 for my most recent card from the brand. Why?

Because it's an online-only release these days.

The shift towards online-exclusive sets is one of the more troubling trends here in 2014. If releases like Turkey Red, Topps Mini, or Heritage High Numbers made their way onto retail shelves, I'd probably pick up a few packs.

But there's no way I'm dropping big bucks buying directly through you guys. The way I see it, it's doing nothing but hurting collectors like myself.

There are plenty of cards I want from today's Turkey Red, but my hopes of ever owning them are slim to none thanks to the online-only trend.

It's just one big scam.

I've gone on record by saying that I like short-prints.

There's something gratifying about finding an SP that the vendor may have missed in a dime box, like I did with this Aaron Hill. It happens more than you might think.

Still, this is another area where you've imply gone too nuts. Every single set these days features short-prints in some way, shape, or form. It's maddening.

Yasiel Puig collectors had to cope with not one, not two, but three different SPs of his in last year's Update. On top of that, you continue to shove all of Heritage's biggest stars into the short-print portion of the checklist. And that's just the beginning.

This is why I'd be in favor of banning the short-print all together.

I'm not a set collector, but I can understand the hell it must unleash on trying to build something like Heritage or Gypsy Queen. I can't imagine player collectors of a guy like Puig have it too easy, either.

So, although I like finding new short-prints, I think it's time they left the yard. SPs have been nothing but a downward spiral these last few years, and I wouldn't mind seeing them go.

It might be a little radical, but I think it could very well work.

I think these changes could lay the groundwork for a better hobby. I'll always be a devoted collector, but I think there's a lot of room for improvement in the card industry today.

That's all I have for you today. I want to thank you for the opportunity.

I'll be awaiting your call.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Bird

Mark Fidrych passed away five years ago today.

Although he only had one masterful season in the bigs, the man they called "The Bird" has become one  of the more iconic figures in baseball history.

His antics, style, and dominance on the mound won the hearts of fans all across the country in 1976.

Being on the younger side of things, I never got the chance to see "The Bird" play. However, my dad was a devoted ten year-old baseball fan during the peak of Fidrych-mania. As I started to get more and more interested in the game, my dad passed his favorite memories of the man down to me.

Thanks to those tales, I feel like I was there with everyone else in '76. I feel like I've seen Fidrych play. Thankfully, I had the unbelievable fortune to meet the man.

In what may have been the first card show I ever attended, my dad and I stood in line for a good while to meet Mark Fidrych. I was ten years old at the time, and I remember every second of it.

When I handed him my baseball to get signed, I got to see that infectious smile that made him such an icon. He did the same when autographing my dad's copy of Rolling Stone magazine with "The Bird" on the cover.

That baseball is and will always be one of my most prized possessions.

As you might guess, my love and appreciation for "The Bird" has carried over to my card collection as well. 

So, in remembrance of Mark Fidrych, I thought I'd count down my five favorite cards of his this afternoon.

#5 -- 1981 Topps #150 Mark Fidrych

I'm not sure, but this could've well been my first Mark Fidrych card.

I probably had it before I met "The Bird", which means it's been in my collection for more than a dozen years by now.

By 1981, Fidrych was a shadow of his former self. Arm injuries made his legendary '76 season a distant memory.

The nine games he pitched in 1980 would be the final contests of his career. As a result, this is Fidrych's "sunset" card.

Though it was released just five years after his rookie season, "The Bird" looks noticeably worn down in this shot. Still, you can still see a glimmer of Fidrych's true colors.

His baseball career may have been over by the time this card hit the streets, but he was still "The Bird".

#4 -- 2006 Greats of the Game "Nickname Greats" #NG-MF Mark Fidrych

Unfortunately, there haven't been a ton of Mark Fidrych cards released in recent years.

This is one of the extreme few.

I've always thought an insert set of the game's greatest personalities would be a surefire success. Perhaps it'd include guys like Bill Lee or Phil Rizzuto. Or, of course, Mark Fidrych.

Fleer did something similar by including a "Nickname Greats" insert series into their 2006 Greats of the Game release. Thankfully, "The Bird" was one of the main features.

The collector gets a glimpse into Fidrych's tendency to talk to either himself or the ball while on the mound in this shot.

It was just one of the many antics that made him "The Bird".

#3 -- 1999 SI Greats of the Game #88 Mark Fidrych

Here's perhaps the most famous of Fidrych's mound antics.

"The Bird" liked to do his own groundskeeping when he pitched. He'd get down on his hands and knees and carefully groom the mound to his liking.

For years, I thought that would've been the perfect image to capture on a baseball card. Little did I know that one had been floating around the whole time.

In one of my greatest discount bin finds ever, I unearthed this beauty from a 12/$1 box at the National a few years ago. The fact that it came in at #3 on my countdown of the "Top 100 Modern Cards" should tell you just how special it is to me.

It's pretty darn close to perfection.

#2 -- 1979 Hostess #77 Mark Fidrych (with autographs from The Baseball Project)

This is truly a one-of-a-kind piece.

I somehow came across a second copy of Fidrych's 1979 Hostess issue at one point. Because my dad is such a huge fan of "The Bird", I gave it to him.

He just so happened to have it in his wallet when he saw The Baseball Project at the Cubby Bear a couple years ago. (I wasn't 21 at the time, so I couldn't go.)

I've mentioned them on the blog before, but The Baseball Project is a terrific band that does all baseball-centric songs. Their tunes cover everything from Dock Ellis, Ted Williams, and Curt Flood. Plus, my dad says they have a baseball card-related song on their new album as well.

As luck would have it, a few of the band's members were lounging around the bar when my dad got there. In a stroke of genius, my dad thought to have them autograph the Fidrych card he had in his wallet.

This card features signatures from guitar player Scott McCaughey (near top), drummer Linda Pitmon (bottom-right), and bass player Mike Mills (bottom-left). I hope to one day get the signatures of guitar player Steve Wynn and guitar/bass player Peter Buck. With Mills, the Buck one would complete the R.E.M. combo.

I can definitively say that I am the only person in the world who owns something like this.

That's a special feeling.

#1 -- 1977 Topps #265 Mark Fidrych RC

Of course, no Fidrych list is complete without this one.

It is the very definition of the world "iconic". Every kid who collected during the 1970's probably remembers Fidrych's rookie card.

How could you forget it?

Between the legendary Rookie Cup, the golden locks, and that million-dollar smile, this card has it all. I don't know where my collection will be in, say, ten years, but I know this.

This card will always put a smile on my face.

It's the perfect image of "The Bird".

RIP, Mr. Fidrych.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reciprocity insecurity, Pt. 2

In case you missed last night's sparsely attended Part 1 of this two-part trade post, I'll be recapping the contents of an amazing blogger box sent courtesy of Jeremy, a fellow collector.

A lot of the time, I wonder where my collection would be without the help of the blogosphere. Had I not started this blog, my binders would be a shadow of their present selves.

Needless to say, the blogosphere has given me an entirely new outlook on this hobby. I'm sure most fellow bloggers would say the same.

For that, I don't know if I can ever fully show my gratitude for that valuable lesson. I'll always be in debt to the blogosphere.

Although the original intent of this blog was to showcase a few goofy cards from my goofy little collection, people have insisted on helping to build my goofy binders more than I could've ever imagined over the years.

Jeremy is one of those generous people. As if the spectacular array of mini-collection hits I featured yesterday wasn't enough, he also managed to knock out a couple treasured "Dime Box Dozen" needs.

Landing the Valenzuela you see above was especially sweet, as it was a part of the Just Commons order I placed that wound up lost in the mail. For a long time, I assumed his '98 Upper Deck issue was his only true "sunset" card.

Little did I know that there was another one floating around this whole time. Valenzuela's 1998 Collector's Choice card also features him during his brief five-game tenure with the Cardinals in '97.

As you might guess, this one is also a coveted "Short Term Stops" need as well.

In all honesty, I was surprised this one stayed on the "Dime Box Dozen" list for as long as it did.

As a common from 2011 Topps Update, I didn't think finding a copy would be all that difficult. To my surprise, though, it sat on the sidebar for months on end.

Before Jeremy came along, I came very close to breaking down and buying one on my own. Now I don't have to go that route.

I'm fairly certain that this is the only card of pitcher and fellow collector Pat Neshek as a Padre. He spent just 25 games with the franchise in 2011.

It may not be the most aesthetically-pleasing photo in existence, but I'm sure glad to finally have it in my collection.

Jeremy just kept piling on with the great cardboard.

He even sprinkled in a little vintage for good measure.

Although this '70 Topps All-Star issue of "Yaz" was technically a dupe, the one Jeremy sent along was a vast upgrade over the one that was sitting in my Red Sox binder at the time.

While I've always thought those "double vision" mishaps were oddly cool, I'd rather have a standard copy.

The power of random was alive and well in this box, by the way.

Take a look at these fun equipment-themed pieces. Ken Dayley is sporting two gloves for no good reason, and Kevin Young appears to be holding onto that gigantic bat for dear life.

That said, I still can't look past the awful blazer-blue jeans combo.

Personally, I've always found fishing to be one of the most boring leisures known to man.

Andy Ashby would probably beg to differ. Call me crazy, but I don't think he's going to get a nibble on a baseball field. Not unless he's at Marlins Park where they have fish behind the on-deck circle.

Now, if I were to pluck something like that Charlotte Knights mascot out of the water, I'd probably run for my life.

I can't figure out what the heck that thing is supposed to be.

Perhaps the most striking part of Jeremy's blogger box, however, was the amount of damage it did to my player collections.

I don't actively seek out jersey cards anymore, but I certainly won't refuse one of a guy like Vlad. That would be blasphemy.

On top of that, I would have to say the terrific Schmidt liquorfractor was the shiniest card Jeremy included.

That's not to say it didn't have some competition, though.

Monstrosities like these should show you just how crazy companies went around 2000 or so.

It's like a seizure on a baseball card.

Also adding to the shininess parade was this neat Ichiro insert.

I'm shocked that I hadn't seen any of these before.

More Ichiro for your viewing pleasure.

Although they're admittedly gimmicky, I've always had a soft spot for those see-through cards.

You can never go wrong with Mark Grace cards.

Even my doubles of his go to good use. My mom has her own Grace collection, so I simply hand off my extras to her.

These two, however, are staying with me. The throwbacks are a telltale sign that these shots were taken during the very first interleague Cubs-White Sox contest in 1997. Both teams wore 1906 retro jerseys to commemorate the event.

This is the first I'm seeing of Grace in the nifty duds.

Jeremy kept on going with these two tough player collection hits.

I can't imagine minor league cards of Matt Kemp are all that common. There something innately cool about seeing huge stars like him buried in the minors.

The Stanton was part of the 2010 Topps Chrome wrapper redemption program. Some of you might remember that they were basically an apology for the pancaking disaster from 2010 Topps Chrome.

I'd still like to know where quality control was on that one.


Trippy cardboard.

By the time these two new pieces for my John Olerud and Casey Kotchman collections fell out of the box, Jeremy had already gone above and beyond with his efforts.

If I was already so blown away with all the cards I've already shown so far... can only imagine my reaction when I laid my eyes on these.

Yes, these are all TTM autographs tailor-made to guys I collect. This was unlike anything I'd ever received in the past.

From left to right, we have Pat Neshek, John Olerud, Morgan Ensberg, R.A. Dickey, Mark Grace, Casey Kotchman, John Axford, Matt Cain, and Aubrey Huff.

The Neshek was the third different TTM autograph I'd received within the span of a couple weeks. My mom got a tremendous kick out of the Grace, as it's the first autograph of his in my collection.

On top of that...'s one more for the road.

That, my friends, is a freaking Bobby Grich TTM autograph.

It might well be the best Grich card I've found thus far. The fact that Jeremy would think to send such awesome piece to me says wonders about his generosity.

I can't thank him enough.

This is the man who made this whole box possible.

Jeremy threw a custom card of himself into this amazing assortment of cards, even personally autographing it for good measure.

Mind-blowing acts of generosity like this are what make the blogosphere such a special place.

After more than two years in the business, I honestly can't imagine my life without it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reciprocity insecurity, Pt. 1

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm doing enough for the blogging community.

I try and write as much as I can to keep my faithful readers satisfied, but I think there's more to being a successful blogger than that.

Heck, even if there wasn't, I haven't blogged in the past two days due to other conflicts. Because I'll be on my way to the Indians-White Sox game by the time you read this, I could've left this blog dormant for a third day. But that would've been unacceptable.

Another reason I'm feeling a little insecure is because I haven't mailed out anything to my fellow bloggers in a couple weeks. I don't have the money to send a lot of packages out at the moment, but I'd still like to ship a little something in the mail every so often.

On top of that, I'm still way, way behind in my trade posts. It bothers me that I have so many awesome packages that haven't yet seen the light of day on this blog. I'm getting to them, I promise.

Even with all that, people still find it in their hearts to send me great cardboard on a regular basis. Some say my writing is enough in return, but I'm not so sure about that.

Take this recent blogger box, for instance. My buddy Jeremy put together one of the best trade packages I've ever received with this one. I highlighted his new custom-based blog in a post not too long ago, and he started a second one not too long after that.

In the time since I received this box from Jeremy, however, I was sad to see that he deactivated both of his blogs. I hope he's still around the blogging community, because I really want him to see just how appreciative I was of this magnificent blogger box.

That should teach me to get my trade posts done sooner.

Perhaps more important than any of the cards he included, however, was the fact that I could tell he put a ton of time and effort into carefully selecting the perfect package.

He found so many, in fact, that this wound up as a rare two-part trade posts. And the first part, which you're reading right now, will be entirely exclusive to my mini-collections. A good third of the box hit on a number of my different themes. 

I guess it's fitting that Jeremy included this fun "cards with kids" mini-collection hit.

After all, I felt like a kid in a candy store digging through all the gems he put together for me.

Also present was this cool "behind the camera" need.

I still can't believe how many of these are floating around out there.

"Broken bat" and "award show" hits are always appreciated.

Mr. Griffey was just hitting his prime when he took home that 1992 All-Star Game MVP trophy.

I love a good "interview" shot, but I'm already amazed at the flow of "anthemic" cards I've received lately.

Those didn't become an official mini-collection until recently, yet many of my fellow bloggers have already done a great job of bolstering my new theme.

Plus, it's hard to go wrong with pink-bordered cards.

Bat barrels, anyone?

While it may seem like an odd mini-collection at times, the awesomeness of that Blauser reminded me of why I started chasing these things in the first place.

Throwbacks will forever be the basis for one of my favorite mini-collection themes.

Grabbing as many retro-themed cards as possible has been a quest of mine for as long as I can remember. I don't care whether the jersey is from 100 years ago or ten years ago.

I want them all.

Like any mini-collection hit, though, not all throwbacks are created equal.

Mr. Guardado and his epic Senators jersey kicks the tar out of a lot of other throwback hits I've found in the past.

Needless to say, it was one of my favorite surprises from Jeremy's blogger box.

I'd actually been plotting to make this one a "Dime Box Dozen" need for a while now.

As it happens, Jeremy knocked it out not long before it was slated to pop up on the sidebar of this blog.

"Junior" has had a lot of cool cardboard in the past, but this terrific multiple-exposure piece takes its place near the top.

I've often heard people preach the "quality vs. quantity" argument.

While I agree with that, who's to say that one can't have quality and quantity? Just look at this trade package for proof.

I'd never seen this many terrific "autograph" hits in one place before Jeremy came along.

Jeremy easily filled up a page of "plays at the plate" as well.

I can't imagine a more well-rounded batch of PATPs than these.

It's a perfect mix of horizontal and vertical cardboard. With names like Rickey Henderson and Darren Daulton, this page has a little star power as well.

Also present are cameos from Sandy Alomar Jr., Mark Grace, and even a pitcher with the late Geremi Gonzalez.

I'm especially fond of the centerpiece of this page.

That Blanco is the only bird's-eye "play at the plate" shot I've ever seen.

Jeremy managed to find an impressive bunch of "pitchers at the plate" as well.

As you might be able to tell from the sets featured here, the '90s and early 2000's were the prime era for cards like these.

The most striking aspect of this blogger box, however, were the "double dips" I received from Jeremy.

As evidenced by the fantastic shots seen here, he hit a home run with the quality of these things. Look at all those awesome double plays.

But, if you're a quality type of person, Jeremy had you covered as well.

If this isn't enough "double dips" for your viewing pleasure...'s nine more to tide you over.

Believe me, these were barely a fraction of all the double plays Jeremy found for me.

This was perhaps the most fascinating one.

I'm not even entirely sure that it's a "double dip" shot, in fact. I'm only assuming it is based on Hairston's leap.

Though it didn't really hit me at first, I quickly came to realize that this is one of the strangest baseball cards I've ever seen.

The fact that Upper Deck managed to find a midair shot of Hairston basically scrunched into a ball is an accomplishment in itself. Him being the only one in the frame makes it even more amusing.

It's a fitting end to the mini-collection madness that Jeremy unleashed on me.

I've been at this blogging thing for over two years now. In all that time, however, I've never received a more amazing assortment of mini-collection hits.

And, believe it or not, this is just half of the goodies that Jeremy sent along.

I'm greatly appreciative that amazing batches of cards like these still consistently wind up on my doorstep.

I still don't think I'm deserving of it, though.