As this blog nears its one-year anniversary, I can't help but notice how much I've learned.
I know I bring it up a lot in my writings, but it's been amazing to see just how monumental the changes have been.
My trading forum "collecting self" from a year ago is barely recognizable next to the present day.
Of course, there's the whole "book value" thing. Nowadays, I realize just how meaningless and hypocritical it really is.
However, this time last year, I treated it as the be-all, end-all for valuing baseball cards. I wasn't much different from most forum members in that regard.
The sheer diversity I've seen on the blogs opened up a whole new door for me. It's good to know that there are people out there collecting guys like Jeff Weaver or Cleon Jones, as opposed to the continuous stream of Pujols and Jeter collectors found on trading forums.
However, the single most eye-opening aspect of the blogosphere is a pretty easy pick for me.
It's the way trading is done here.
Fittingly, I have a few trade packages to show off that perfectly personify why that is.
The first grouping of cards I'll be showing in this post came from Mr. Michael Spiegel, author of the phenomenal blog "Nomo's Sushi Platter".
As one of the "friends of the blog", we've traded a few times already.
Before I knew it, we'd completed another swap. A short time later, I found a large mailer sitting in my mailbox.
Just like that, I was able to knock out the last of my 2012 A&G base needs with this Jon Lester short-print.
It seemed like it all happened in the blink of an eye.
That in itself is a great example of a major difference between blog and forum swapping.
The sheer quickness of the trades.
A lot of the time, it takes a few hours of back-and-forth on the forums to work out a trade. Taking out this card. Adding that card. Anything to get those darn "book values" to match.
For the years I was on the forums, I didn't mind. I came to accept it as a general part of what "trading" means.
Boy, was I wrong.
It took no less than two emails to work out this trade with Mr. Spiegel. It went a little something like this...
Spiegel: "Hey, wanna make another trade? I have some cards to send to you, and I can always use any extra Dodgers or HOFers you can spare."
Me: "Definitely! Let's do it."
Just like that, a trade was born. Just like that, two new Topps Gold parallels were in my mailbox.
No more long, dragged out negotiations.
It's definitely the way to go.
On the rare occasion that I do make a trade on the forums nowadays, I've gotten a little "lazy".
I can't go through with those tedious, boring "negotiations" anymore. I probably could've traded for some 2012 Panini Cooperstown on the blogs by now, but I really, really don't feel like going through all that other stuff.
In time, I'm sure I'll acquire most of the ones I need without much of a sweat. Mr. Spiegel was nice enough to include a quick "sample" of the set with this Joe Morgan.
After finally seeing one of them in-person, I must say that I'm an even bigger fan of Panini Cooperstown. I'm sure they'll start popping up in dime boxes soon enough.
I guess the simple, flawless way we deal here in the blogosphere has spoiled me. I mean that in a good way.
It's hard for me to spend a half-hour going through someone else's unorganized tradelist these days. I'm not too keen on digging through tons of set needs in order to "even out" those last two bucks in book value.
Although I've been a regular member of my current forum for a good five years, I never really got to know many of the people on there. Maybe I'm just being skeptical, but I can't be sure what their motives are as far as collecting goes.
Are they only building this set to "flip" it for a profit? Are they only collecting Mike Trout in hopes of a quick turnaround on Ebay?
Which leads me into my next point...
Trading is a much, much more personal experience here in the blogosphere.
In our last trade, Mr. Spiegel himself noted that I seemed to put real time and effort into compiling the last group of cards I sent his way.
I try and do that with every single trade I make here.
It is extremely comforting to know that an "outcast" card in your collection can be a cherished piece of someone else's.
Whether it's hitting a set need, finding a new card for someone's player collection, or simply finding a random card you'd think they'd like, seeing another bloggers' enthusiasm for cards I sent them is all I need to make a trade "worth it".
There's no doubt in my mind that Mr. Spiegel put a good deal of time into putting together this trade package for me. He seems to read my blog fairly frequently, which I vehemently appreciate.
From my past posts, he knows that I enjoy cards like this Cuddyer that show players in the process of signing autographs...
Or shots of "pitchers at the plate".
He probably noticed the recent oddball "kick" I've been on lately...
And he knows that I'm always interested in cards that simply feature "fun" photos.
The Daulton has to be the first card I own that shows a catcher prowling the infield, probably the result of some sort of rundown play.
Spiegel noted that a lot of the cards he sent me came from a nickel box from his LCS.
After the jealousy of having an LCS with a nickel box went away, I couldn't help but think of how cool that was. This guy specifically went and found cards to send me.
Maybe he even said, "Hey, I bet Nick would really like that 'Smokey the Bear' card of Dave Parker. I bet he'd enjoy that quirky Molitor, too. I'll buy these for that trade package."
Knowing the great people of the blogosphere, I'm sure it went something along those lines. I know I've had similar thoughts whenever I find a really neat Dodger or Oriole card at a show.
I can't wait to send it along to a collector who will really cherish it.
Of course, even with the terrific Moyers, Zambranos, and Kingmans that this package held, a trade with the author of "Nomo's Sushi Platter" wouldn't be complete without...
You guessed it.
A few Nomos.
Ones that I will wholeheartedly enjoy.
Seeing as how they came from a guy who dedicated his entire blog to Mr. Nomo, it is an absolute honor to have these in my collection.
There's still a whole lot more to love about the way we trade here in the blogosphere.
In my ten or so years of frequenting trading forums, I'd never had anyone send me a "surprise" package of cards.
Sure, there was the occasional free card or two, but never anything completely out of the blue.
As many of you know, surprises are a regular part of being a blogger. It's one of the blogosphere's biggest benefits.
Last week, I was happily surprised to see a package from blogger Johnny fall out of my mailbox. You might know him better as "hiflew", author of "Cards From The Quarry", one of the first blogs I ever came to love back when I was just a reader.
I had no idea he'd be sending me anything. No email, nothing. That bright yellow mailer arrived on my doorstep without any kind of warning.
As I opened it, I couldn't help but think...
"Man, being a blogger is great! This type of thing never happened to me on the forums."
I don't know that I would've ever been able to experience the feeling of "surprise cards" had it not been for the blogosphere.
To put it lightly, it's one heck of a good time, I'll tell you that.
Digging through unexpected cards is truly invigorating.
If the Fielder is any indication, hiflew knows about my unforgiving weakness for unorthodox shots.
Cecil Fielder in a lawn chair? And a cameo appearance from the famous San Diego Chicken?
I don't know if it gets more "unorthodox" than that.
A few hand-picked "Gems of Junk Wax" are always welcome in this household as well, including a couple I'll be using for future theme posts.
I seriously hope that ump behind Rich Gedman is okay. It almost looks like he's about to, um...refund the remains of a long night of drinking.
That "what the heck is going on?" factor is something I love on a baseball card. Both of these certainly have that.
The great people of the blogosphere have certainly introduced me to dozens and dozens of those during my time as a blogger.
Perhaps more than that, it's awesome to know that people are specifically hunting down "zero-year" cards to send my way as well.
Unlike the simple "unorthodox" baseball card, these aren't as easy to recognize.
Most of the time, you can't just look at a card and say, "Yup, that's a 'zero-year' card."
These can involve a fair share of research.
I'm guessing that these were extras in hiflew's massive Rockies collection, ones that he recognized were of the "zero-year" variety.
Although it has to be the most tragic of all "zero-year" cards in existence, I'm glad to finally own a card of Doug Million.
The appearance of these "zero-year" cards in a trade package certainly is significant.
It goes to show the amount of time and effort we put into our trade packages around here.
Or, in this case, the "surprise" packages.
On top of that, hiflew added a few new pieces to some of my largest player collections...
...and even threw in some "sunset" cards for good measure.
Before this package came along, the '86 Foster was suffering a similar fate as the Rollie Fingers card I mentioned a couple days ago.
I'd long had a card of Foster's Archives reprint of that very same card, but had never been able to track down the real thing. Thankfully, they now proudly sit next to each other in my Mets binder.
Like peas in a pod.
As I said, this amount of care almost never goes into trades on forums. Most of the time, I'd just go dig for the previously-agreed-upon cards in my doubles box, package them up, and send them on their way.
Then, I'd receive the cards, ones I already knew were coming. While those types of trades certainly helped build my collection in the past, they weren't all that exciting.
In contrast, every package is like a "surprise" here in the blogosphere. Neither blogger knows what's coming most of the time.
That makes it a thousand times more fun.
At first, I simply thought I'd start showing "zero-year" cards or "gems of junk wax" because I thought people might enjoy them. I noted my sudden interest in "oddballs" because I thought it was interesting.
I needed an outlet for my thoughts about cards like those.
I'd never professed my love for these types of things on my trading forum. I didn't think anyone cared.
Thankfully, I've found that a lot of collectors do care. Especially the ones in the blogosphere.
And if these terrific packages from great people like hiflew and Mr. Spiegel are any indication, most bloggers even willing to assist in your "quests".
No matter who or what you collect, the people of the blogosphere will always be there to help.
After all, we look out for each other around here.