Monday, December 31, 2012

What (else) I've learned

Today marks the end of my first full year of blogging.

It's been fun, to say the least.

Starting this blog is part of what made 2012 such an utterly fantastic year for me. Seeing as how my 2011 was less than ideal, it couldn't have come at a better time.

And I still can't believe that I've been at this thing for over a whole year now. It really doesn't seem like it's been that long at all.

Although I've said it many times in the past, it deserves another mention.

This has been the most revolutionary year of my card collecting life.

No doubt about it.

Way back in March, I wrote a post entitled "What I've Learned". As the title implied, I filled the post with the lessons I'd learned from the blogosphere.

But that post came just three months into my blogging "career".

After over a year in this thing, I've come to learn a whole lot more.

Seeing as how my blogroll currently consists of a whopping 170 different blogs, a number of different bloggers have helped play a role in teaching me these much-needed "lessons".

I know dozens of you out there helped contribute to this first one.

Thanks to the blogosphere, I've learned to have a deeper appreciation for my vast vintage collection.

Although I have some good ones, most of my best card-related stories involve a Target or a giant convention hall filled with thousands of people.

But none of them can compare to the number of heartwarming stories I've heard of collecting in the past generations.

The tales some of you have behind some of your most prized possessions are nothing short of incredible.

Because of that, I can't help but wonder about the stories behind my '58 Topps Rocky Colavito. Or my '60 Topps Harmon Killebrew.

Who knows where they've been?

That question in itself makes any piece of vintage infinitely special.

As far as trading goes, I've learned one very important lesson.

Never, ever think you've got it all figured out.

Because sooner or later, a blogger is going to send something that'll completely sweep you off your feet.

William over at "Foul Bunt" has added not one, but two new vintage Hoyts to my collection over the past year.

Those, coupled with all the other tremendous pieces I've received from fellow bloggers, have taught me to cherish each and every blogosphere trade package.

You just never know what might come next.

Before I joined the blogosphere, I wasn't very confident in the strength of this hobby.

Unfortunately, I can pretty much trace that back to my trading forum days.

I just wasn't altogether sure how long companies would continue to produce cards if everyone was collecting the same five guys.

I was basically a skeptic.

Again, the blogosphere helped to change that.

Although not everyone liked Archives or Heritage or whatever else came on the market this year, it was refreshing to actually see some analysis out of each product outside of simply want lists or trade lists.

I enjoyed reading about what everyone liked or didn't like about A&G or Flagship.

It made me realize that perhaps people really do care about these innocent little pieces of cardboard, enough for this hobby to survive over the long haul.

Although collecting might sometimes be generalized as a "dying" hobby, I look at it as anything but these days.

I'm confident that we'll see the Heritage designs carry on well into the '70s.

Even as far as 2024.

That's when we'll get to see the '75 Topps design featured, after all.

Before I joined the blogosphere, I wasn't exactly open to change.

As far as my collection goes, at least.

Yes, I still had my hundreds of different player collections, but they'd been the same couple hundred for a few years at that point.

I just couldn't bring myself to "induct" a new player into my binders.

On top of that, I didn't have a place for simply "cool" pieces of cardboard.

If I came across a neat card of someone who wasn't in my binders, my pre-blogger self simply put it back in the box. If the guy wasn't in my binders, it was of no use to me.

I think that's part of what life on a trading forum does to you.

There's not a whole lot of variety. 

I was led to believe that 99 percent of all collectors in existence hoarded cards of Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, or Alex Rodriguez.

From there, I figured that if they weren't going to change, why should I?

The blogosphere put an end to that thought process.

The amount of different collecting focuses I've seen during my time here has simply been unbelievable.

As with the Dodgers and Blue Jays blogs out there, I've witnessed a number of different team collectors.

As with Hideo Nomo and Tony Gwynn, the blogosphere is home to many different player collections.

And whether it's night card or serial numbered "frankensets", the many different "miscellaneous" collections out there have continually kept me interested in what else is to come on a day-to-day basis around here.

Because of that, the blogosphere has been an inspiration to me.

My readings over the past year have shown me that change can indeed be a good thing. 

I've "inducted" over a dozen new players into my binders during my time as a blogger.

And, if the above Augie Ojeda is any indication, I'm starting to buy cards that are simply "cool".

Even though he's not in my binders, I couldn't help but pluck that one from that "Hilton show" dime box from a few weeks back. I'm not sure I'd ever seen quite a photo angle like that on a baseball card before.

It's almost like we're seeing the play develop from the dugout.

That alone made it worth a spot in my collection.

After all, what fun is collecting without a little change every now and then?

But the lessons of the blogosphere go further than which cards I decide to welcome into my binders.

It carries over to the already existing pieces of my collection as well.

The blogosphere has taught me to take a deeper look at the hobby as a whole.

The first time this particular lesson really hit me came from everyone's favorite blogger, none other than Mr. Night Owl.

I remember going back through some of his older posts and coming across the amazing tale of Manny Ramirez and the "disappearing umpire".

I couldn't believe it. I'd had that Stadium Club card in my collection for a couple of years, yet I'd somehow never noticed the lack of an umpire on the front of it. (Much less the rest of the photoshopped backdrop.)

It all seemed so obvious. Yet, I probably would've gone the rest of my card collecting life without noting the glaring omission.

Ever since then, I've made dozens of new little "discoveries" with my own collection. Whether it's simply an odd camera angle or a unnaturally high uniform number, I've loved every minute of it.

And I could never possibly learn everything there is to know about my collection. There's always something new, something waiting to be "discovered".

That's the best part.

In the end, though, the most important lesson I've learned from the blogosphere extends further than baseball cards.

As I've trucked further and further along with my writings, something special has begun to happen.

I've started to realize some of the major aspects of being a part of a community.

It's been amazing to read the encouragement I've gotten during my time as a blogger.

Whether it's from a quick "look at this card!" type of post or a long-winded, more in-depth write-up, I've appreciated the amount of readership and each and every single one of the comments I've received over the past year.

It really means a lot.

On top of that, I've learned how to "give back" to the community. I've done my best to return the favor with comments lately.

It's the least I can do for the great feedback I've received from all of you.

Unlike the simple "Thanks for the trade!" slips I put into my trade packages during my time on the forums, I try to include more personal and appreciative notes in my mailers to fellow bloggers.

They can certainly go a long ways.

Plus, I try to add in a couple "extras" with every trade I make these days.

I, like everyone else, have a great deal of "outcast" cards that don't really serve a purpose in my household.

I can't think of a better use for them than to send them to a better home. A home where they'll hopefully help put a smile on another collector's face.

Can you?

Here in the blogosphere, we support each other.

We encourage each other.

We inspire each other.

It has the true makings of a community.

And that's a special thing.

I am truly thankful for everything I've discussed in this post.

And every post I've written throughout the course of this past year.

Needless to say, I couldn't have done it without all the great folks out there who have helped teach me these important lessons in cardboard.

And some beyond cardboard, for that matter.

I tip my cap to you, fellow readers and bloggers.

Have a safe and happy new year!

I'll see you in 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: The set countdown

I've developed yet another card-related habit within the past few years.

Whether it consists of a single pack from Target or an entire hobby box worth, I find myself saving at least one pack wrapper from every product I open these days.

I guess it's my little way of keeping "mementos" from my past cardboard travels.

A few days ago, I found myself browsing through all the different wrappers I'd saved up during 2012, the contents of which you see at the top of this post.

Heritage, Triple Play, even...ugh...Topps Chrome.

And that's when my list-making urges got the better of me once again.

For whatever reason, I've always enjoyed making lists. The countdown-type posts I've written over the past year have been amongst my favorite to showcase on this blog.

They keep things fresh around here. Plus, they're easy to write.

As a result, you'll be getting another one of those here tonight.

I'll be ranking all the products I've opened during this past year.

Although I'm more of a player collector than a set builder, I do try and take the time to analyze each release, noting what I felt worked and what didn't.

It's always been one of my favorite aspects of this hobby.

Before I start, I should note the unofficial "qualifications".

1) I must have busted at least one pack of the product during the course of 2012.

2) A set can also qualify if I otherwise found a good number of the base cards throughout the year without the benefit of opening a pack.

3) For clarity purposes, I've combined Topps Series 1, 2, and Update under the umbrella term, "Flagship".

Because of that, you won't see sets like Bowman Platinum, Finest, and Bowman Chrome on this list. I never opened a pack of any of those, and I own a grand total of two cards from the three sets combined.

In the end, ten different sets qualified for the "countdown".

Let's see how many you agree with.

We start at number 10.


#10 -- Bowman

At no point in 2012 did I ever actually open a pack of Bowman.

Through trades and dime boxes, however, I've managed to find a good amount of them for my various player collections.

It's more out of habit than anything else.

When it comes to guys I collect, I don't discriminate between good and bad designs. I want them all, no matter what.

But if I did, Bowman would probably be the first to go.

It became obvious long ago that Topps doesn't really put much effort into the actual Bowman base set. It's all about the "prospects" these days.

Although it has basically been that way throughout Bowman's history, it's been worse than ever lately.

Even though I ranked it last, this year's design was actually an improvement on their past efforts.

However, that's more of a testament to how awful Bowman had been in the last few years.

I don't know about you, but I've never heard of anyone trying to build a Bowman base set in all my years of collecting.

That should say something.

#9 -- Gypsy Queen

I know a lot of collectors out there are head over heels for Gypsy Queen.

That's fine by me.

But I just don't see it.

Although I believed it was vastly overrated, I honestly enjoyed last year's GQ release. Just not to the extent that most others did.

This year was a different story.

Even though it again carried a lot of hype, I felt that Topps took a huge step back with 2012 Gypsy Queen.

The borders are too distracting. And, although I enjoyed it at first, I'm inclined to think that the whole "retro tobacco design" thing has been overused in this hobby lately.

To me, this year's Gypsy Queen was mediocre.

At best.

#8 -- Topps Chrome

The biggest gripe I have with Topps Chrome is the price.

Three bucks for a four-card pack is highway robbery for any set. Much less one that's basically a fancier reproduction of something else.

Taking the price out of it, Topps Chrome is an okay set.

I'm on board with chromatized cardboard. They look nice in binders. Plus, they're always a hoot to find in dime boxes.

But it's not very original.

Most of the cards are purely shinier reproductions of Flagship offerings.

Which is why it comes in at number eight here.

#7 -- Opening Day

Opening Day is basically a cheaper version of Topps Chrome.

And while I do appreciate the budget-friendly pack price, nearly all the base cards utilize the exact same shots as their Flagship comrades.

Again, while the different "variations" may look nice in a binder, Opening Day is widely lacking of originality.

I've always felt that Topps has wasted an insane amount of potential with this set over the years.

The inserts are actually a lot better than people may think. The incredible "Superstar Celebrations" series is among my favorite in the hobby these days.

If only they'd put a little variety into the base cards.

Then they'd really have something.

Until then, Opening Day isn't going anywhere.

#6 -- Allen and Ginter

Three years ago, I never would've dreamed about saying this, but...

I think A&G is on its way out.

It just doesn't have that special "feel" to it anymore.

While the base cards are still fairly spiffy, I feel that 2012 was the worst design in A&G's history.

And although I enjoyed the non-baseball "Musical Masters" and "Historical Turning Points" series, most of the inserts weren't much to look at, either.

Plus, there's simply no reason to create a 100-card insert set. Yet A&G did just that with their "What's In A Name?" series this time around.

I'm still trying to track those down.

If I would've made a list like this from 2006 to '08, A&G might've occupied the top slot all three years. I still rate '08 A&G as one of the greatest sets of my lifetime.

But, four years later, good ol' Allen and Ginter is starting to feel like old hat.

It's a shame.

#5 -- Topps Archives

If this year's Archives release was at all similar to the Archives from a decade ago, it most likely would've been at the top of this list.

2001 Topps Archives might well be my favorite "modern" set.

But, licensing restrictions and a changing hobby forced Topps into modifying the original Archives concept.

As a result, I had a negative mindset going into this year's release. I knew nothing Topps could do would top Archives from back in the day.

However, a blaster of this year's product left me pleasantly surprised.

It actually wasn't all that bad.

Even though it's a far cry from the original Archives, this year's version had a lot going for it.

Sure, the big trademarks and the glossy-like finish of the base cards didn't really give off the "old-time" feel that I had intended.

But, as I've already admitted, I'm simply a sucker for anything that pays an homage to classic cardboard.

Plus, the "Deckle Edge" and "Cloth Sticker" inserts were among my favorites of the year.

And, although they were short-prints, the inclusion of names like Gamble and Kranepool in the checklist is a gigantic plus for me.

Nice job, Topps.

I hope to see Archives back again next year.

#4 -- Panini Triple Play

Before this year, I'd only heard vague references to Panini over the years.

Their releases were mostly confined to football and basketball. And I didn't much care for the few baseball-related Panini designs I'd seen.

Before this year, the word "panini" simply meant a delicious Italian sandwich to me.

As I speak here on December 30, 2012, though, a different thought pops into my head whenever I hear that word.

"Baseball cards."

That dramatic shift in meaning came thanks to their Triple Play release back in August, a set that featured one of the greatest concepts in cardboard history.

I didn't always have that train of thought, though.

If I would've made this list right after I busted open my first Triple Play packs, I'd probably have ranked it at number 10.

I didn't like them at all. Given the wacky cartoonish images, I wasn't even sure if they were "binder-worthy".

However, after some deeper analysis and the passage of time, I came to see these in a whole new light.

I still see them as "quirky". But, these days, that's what I love most about Triple Play.

Plus, ninety-nine cents gets you a pack of seven of these things!

How cool is that?

Unsurprisingly, I never heard a peep about these on my trading forum. Thankfully, they got a bit of recognition around the blogosphere.

They've already started to gain "cult" status around the collecting world.

We'd never quite seen anything like them before.

And I'm not sure we'll ever see anything like them again.

#3 -- Topps Heritage

The last couple years of Heritage had been a bit of a disappointment for me.

Although I love anything vintage, I'm not the biggest fan of Topps' 1961 and '62 designs. They just aren't that high in my book.

As a result, I was pleased to see Heritage revert back to one of my all-time favorite designs.

1963 Topps.

I've always had a deep admiration for the colorful bars at the bottom. Not to mention the awesome dual-image design.

In that regard, Topps absolutely knocked it out of the park.

Although it may play a role in my ranking of other sets, the inserts in Heritage don't really factor into it all that much.

Topps has done a nice job of sticking with the same insert sets over the years, such as the "New Age Performers" and "Baseball Flashbacks" series.

Given that the focus of Heritage is (and should be) on the base cards, I've always liked that maneuver on Topps' part.

As a result, every pack of Heritage I opened in 2012 was an absolute blast.

#2 -- Panini Cooperstown

If you would've told me Panini would occupy two of the top four slots on this countdown back in January, I doubt I would've believed you.

I probably would've called you crazy, too.

But, to my amazement, Panini does indeed take both the fourth and second slots on this list.

As humans, we have a tendency to cast a better eye upon recent events. The "recency effect", as it's called.

It's basic psychology.

Now, I'm sure some of you might think that's what's going on here with Cooperstown in the second slot. After all, my initial pack-busting experience with this set came just five days ago on Christmas.

But I can assure you that this is a legitimate ranking.

It's not just because of the whole "recency" thing.

Panini Cooperstown allowed me to recapture a long-lost feeling. The feeling of opening an affordable legend-based set.

Fan Favorites was really the last of its kind, and its death rattle was way back in 2005.

That is, until Panini came around.

Adding new cards of guys like Nap Lajoie and Burleigh Grimes to my binders is something I haven't been able to do for a long time.

Thank you, Panini.

I hope to see you back around these parks in 2013.

#1 -- Topps Flagship

In the end, nothing bettered trusty ol' Flagship in 2012.

Without a Topps Total-like set around, Flagship is often the last chance for some lesser-known players to receive cards in a given year.

And even though I give Topps some flack for not reviving the Total brand (or introducing another similar type set), Flagship does a pretty good job with the player selection from year to year.

After all, I wouldn't have been able to add cards of Tony Campana or Ryan Theriot to my binders without it.

As far as Flagship goes, the inserts were basically average. Except for the outstanding '87 Topps Minis, I didn't find a whole lot to get excited about.

In the end, though, all I really care about with Flagship are the base cards.

As far as I'm concerned, Topps definitely succeeded in that department this year.

Although others may not have enjoyed it, I got a lot of pleasure out of the so-called "surfboard" design. It's gave a nice touch to everything without being all that intrusive.

Where Flagship really earned its paycheck, though, was with the photography.

I cannot remember seeing a better photo-oriented set in my lifetime. Between "Reed Johnson and the Birds", a leaping Tom Gorzelanny, or simply a celebratory Mike Trout, there were tons of classic cards to be found within this year's Flagship checklist.

All in all, 2012 was a pretty good year for cardboard. Even though it had its ups and downs, it more than kept me interested in this hobby.

But, in the end, Flagship proved to be the best of the best in this household.

I know some others will probably disagree with me on this one. And probably some of my other rankings as well.

But that's the beauty of a countdown, isn't it?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The thrill of victory

A special thing happened to me about a week before Christmas.

I won a contest here in the blogosphere.

Although I'd like to be, I'm just not one of those people who wins contests a whole lot. It's been that way for a while now.

As you'll soon see, though, this awesome array of cardboard more than made up for the years of contest disappointment that I'd carried throughout my card-collecting life.

You could call it a "Christmas miracle", of sorts.

See, before the holidays, I put in an entry on a few of the "giveaway" lots over at "The Diamond King".

Given my past contest failures, you can imagine how surprised I was when my name actually came up under the "winners" section.

I had won "lot #3", a group of 50 modern Hall of Famer cards.

And, wouldn't you know it, I collect Hall of Famers!

It was a match made in heaven.

Even though Kevin, the generous author of the blog, had posted a tremendous picture of all the cards he'd be including in the lot, I was still taken aback when the cards arrived on my doorstep.

I couldn't believe it.

It was the single greatest lot of HOFers I'd ever received. And that's no exaggeration.

Although the cards weren't gift-wrapped and didn't have a bow on top or anything, I still treated them as a little "bonus" Christmas present.

Before I get into my "winnings", I'd just like to thank Kevin for such an awesome prize package.

It is greatly appreciated by this blogger!

I strategically placed that splendid Zenith parallel of Mr. Williams at the top in order to try and hypnotize you into clicking onto this post.

Did it work?

I know it would for me.

These are some rather high-end cards to be featuring on such a low-end blog.

But I don't care.

High-end or not, though, this duo is absolutely beautiful. Dizzy Dean and Johnny Mize have rarely been showcased in a greater light.

They'll look fantastic in my Cardinals binder.

Feast your eyes on some more shininess.

I still can't believe someone would simply give away such beautiful cardboard. Especially this wonderful insert of Mr. Killebrew.

I guess that's a testament to the generosity of the blogosphere, though.

The sheer volume of stars in this package was second-to-none.

From "Hammerin' Hank" to "Stan the Man"...

...and from "The Yankee Clipper" to Roger Maris himself, the names just kept on coming.

Heck, by this point, I was only halfway through my "spoils".

There was still a whole lot of Cooperstown goodness to go.

Numbered cards were no stranger to this mailer, either.

I've always had a deep affinity for Sweet Spot Classic's "Famous Firsts" subset. The few I've managed to pick up over the years are utterly fantastic.

Even after five days in my possession, I haven't been able to take my eyes off that Kaline. Numbered to just 1,000 copies, it's the first I've seen from those "Classic Studio" inserts.

Needless to say, I'll be on the lookout for more in the future.

Even with names like Williams, Dean, and DiMaggio, I was glad to see that Kevin added in a couple HOF Negro Leaguers to his "giveaway" package.

I think we sometimes tend to gloss over them when it comes to Cooperstown.

Card companies are probably partially to blame for that.

Although it was in operation for nearly fifty years, my entire Negro League collection is confined to just two small snap cases on my dresser.

Even after years and years of hunting down Negro League cardboard, I still don't even have enough of them to fill a binder yet.

Thankfully, this awesome Buck O'Neil insert brings me one step closer.

I've actually wanted to land a copy of this one for a while.

Personally, I think it's one of the more overlooked issues in cardboard history.

Card #3 in the '95 Topps checklist is fittingly devoted to honoring the 100th birthday of "The Sultan of Swat" himself, Babe Ruth.

The fact that Topps specifically gave a him a spot in their checklist that year should tell you just how big of an impact "The Bambino" had on the game of baseball.

But because it was released during so-called "wasteland" of the mid '90s, I'm not sure that many collectors even know of its existence.

No matter how you slice it, this is a true piece of cardboard art.

I thought something was seriously wrong when this one fell out of the package.

After several attempts, I just couldn't manage to slide this card of "The Mick" out of what I thought was a penny sleeve surrounding it.

Then came the grand reveal.

This card is actually laminated.

A first for my collection.

The gold stamp on the back of this one reads "Last Day Production".

I'm not at all sure what that even means. I'd have to assume that it was some type of marketing ploy on the part of Topps.

Nevertheless, this will make for a nice little "quirky" addition to my collection.

The Mantle was actually my second-favorite card out of the package.

"Best Of" honors went to a parallel of a card that ranked quite highly in my "Top 100". In order to not spoil anything, I held back from showing it in this post.

But it was certainly a nice surprise, I'll tell you that.

In the end, I couldn't have asked for much more out of a contest.

After years and years of winning a whole lot of nothing in contests, this spectacular group of cards made the waiting worth it.

Heck, maybe I'm not that unlucky after all.

Maybe I'll go play the lottery tomorrow.

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 52: 1991 Fleer #689 Tom Glavine

It's interesting to think about the future of this blog.

Whether it be days, months, or even years down the road, I find myself doing it quite often.

Most of the time, it comes down to my theme posts.

How long will they be able to sustain themselves?

Amazingly, this is the 52nd "Gem of Junk Wax" I've featured in my writings. Even so, I'm proud to say that the well isn't even close to drying up yet.

But...will it be the same way when the "Gems" start to get up into the triple-digits? And all my other themes, for that matter?

I'm not sure.

For that reason, I'm constantly on the lookout for new theme ideas, something that can be a bit difficult given how random my collection can be at times.

Although a few thoughts have come and gone, one has been rattling around in my head for months.

I've always wanted to start a theme devoted entirely to showcasing my array of "pitchers at the plate" cards.

Or, in the case of Mr. Glavine, pitchers on the basepaths.

I've never specifically boiled down how I'd go about featuring it or anything. Or what exactly I'd write within each post.

It's only a basic concept right now.

But I've always thought it'd make for a fun theme.

If the idea were to ever come to fruition, I have to believe that Glavine would be one of the first "inductees".

After all, it's been in my collection for as long as I can remember, a card that surely played a role in kindling my current love for "pitchers at the plate".

Although he's on the basepaths, I guess you could technically say this is indeed a shot of Glavine "at the plate".

All these years later, it's still the only one I have of a pitcher sliding into home plate.

That in itself would make it a prime focus for a "pitcher at the plate" theme.

If I ever get around to creating it, that is.

We're not that far down the road yet.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Christmas Loot, Pt. 2: A very vintage holiday

Believe it or not, I received other non-cardboard presents this year.

My mom was nice enough to get me an awesome Seattle Pilots jersey, one that will no doubt be making an appearance at future card shows.

That's on top of the unbelievable box of Panini Cooperstown I showcased yesterday.

As usual, I received a whole lot of cold, hard cash as well. I'm sure some of it will go towards cardboard at some point down the road.

Hopefully the thirty-dollar Target gift card I got will last until the end of January. I'd love to treat myself to some 2013 Topps with it, although my pack-busting urges may get the best of me before then.

And, of course, there was that stuff from my dad...

Which is exactly what I'll be showing off in tonight's post.

Sure, he managed to find a few non-card gifts for me this year. Most notably, a cool Beatles t-shirt and a box of Skittles that should last me until February.

But, for the most part, the "loot" from my dad consisted of glorious cardboard.

Glorious, glorious cardboard.

Thanks to him, I found myself with even more Panini Cooperstown on my hands, courtesy of a retail blaster from Target.

Coupled with the 24-pack hobby box I received earlier in the day, the eight-pack blaster brought me up to 32 total Christmas Cooperstown packs.

That's got to be some sort of record.

I'm sure most of you got your Cooperstown fill last night, though, so I'll keep it brief here.

I'll just show the above Polo Grounds "Ballparks" insert, a pull which proved to be my favorite of the entire blaster.

What an extraordinary shot.

They really packed 'em in back then.

Like last year, a couple repack boxes found their way into my stocking from "pops" this holiday.

While I'm always up for busting some repack goodness, this particular grouping was fairly dry.

Even by repack standards.

Still, the cards themselves aren't necessarily what makes or breaks repacks. It's the sheer joy I get out of digging through all those forgotten pieces of cardboard.

In a strange twist of fate, though, this neat "Joey Bats" orange refractor stared out at me from the little "window" of the package.

It's not often you see "shiny" cards like these in a repack.

As a nice addition to my Blue Jays binder, I'll definitely take it.

I've recently decided to make Mr. Quisenberry one of my prime player collection focuses.

From what have in my binders thus far, I'd place him amongst the "cardogenic" ranks of ballplayers. I guess most sidearm/submarine-type pitchers seem to fall into that category, though.

They're just too awesome to ignore.

We'll close out my abbreviated repack recap with this one.

A pull which proved to be one of the better repack finds I've ever witnessed.

Heck, netting any OPC card from such an odd grouping of cards would've been more than enough for me.

But one of "Rickey" himself? A young "Rickey", too?

And a Hall of Famer?

That's gravy.

In the end, though, blasters and repacks proved to be small potatoes.

After all, the real "meat" of my dad's holiday gifts were yet to come.

Some of my readers from way back might remember the basis for last year's Christmas post on this blog.

Now, for the second year in a row, my dad went on a bit of a "Checkoutmycards" splurge in composing his main gift to me.

I'm starting to think that introducing him to that website was the greatest idea I've ever had.

Although he managed to add a fantastic array of cardboard to my collection last year, I think he bested himself this time around.

He knows my collection better than anyone else in the world, something that certainly showed in this year's gift.

Or should I say, gifts. Note the plural.

But we'll get to that second part later.

Much to my delight, I found a team bag inside the first neatly-wrapped present, one that was absolutely bursting with cardboard.

From there, I saw a '65 Topps Bert Campaneris staring up at me. A rookie card of one of my favorite members of the "Swingin' A's" on my all-time favorite Topps design.

It marked the second year in a row that "Campy" had found his way into my dad's holiday gift to me.

After that, I knew I was in for a huge treat.

I tore into the rest of that team bag with unabashed enthusiasm.

"Lou" Burdette also proved to be a repeat offender this Christmas.

My dad included his error-laden '59 Topps issue in last year's holiday "loot".

For some reason, Topps could never quite get a handle on how to spell his first name.

Officially, Burdette's name is "Lew", short for Lewis. However, from 1958 on, Topps incorrectly listed it as "Lou".

Little quirks like these are part of what made early Topps issues so great.

Even minis weren't immune to my dad's COMC finds.

Given my past experiences with A&G and others, he knows that I'm an avid supporter of these bite-sized pieces of cardboard.

It doesn't matter whether they're from Obak...

...or vintage Topps.

I simply love minis!

But, between you and me, I love '75 minis a whole lot more than those other ones.

Just don't tell Obak, okay?

Although 1975 was a prime year of his childhood collecting days, my dad never knew about the existence of these until I started getting interested in vintage.

That's the great thing about technology, though.

Any card you want can be yours. Even ones you never knew about before.

I know I'm certainly happy to have Mr. Kranepool in my collection right now.

I'm sure my dad is, too.

As I said, my dad knows my collection better than anyone.

He knows my love for the ever-rare "player swap" errors. And he even goes out of his way to find new ones for my collection.

Before Christmas, I'd only heard vague references to "player swaps" in '75 Topps. I'd never actually seen one for myself.

But, thanks to my dad, one now proudly resides in my household.

That Larry Haney card doesn't feature Larry Haney at all.

It's actually former catcher and now-famous pitching coach Dave Duncan.

On top of that, my dad is the one who first got me interested in the likes of old-time baseball.

He's the one who introduced me to guys like Dizzy Dean and the famous "Gashouse Gang" Cardinal teams of the 1930's.

I guess it's typical that he managed to find a brand new "Diz" card for my Redbirds binder. And an oddball one, at that.

Not many people know how much enjoyment I get out of that. You people in the blogosphere are part of an exclusive club.

But, in the end, no one knows better than my dad.

I have been on an extremely powerful Gary Carter kick lately.

I've scooped up a few dozen cards of "The Kid" at the last couple shows I've attended.

Judging from this Archives insert, I guess my dad noticed.

The unfamiliar "57" on Carter's jersey leads me to believe that this shot was taken during the early stages of his career.

After I found this one in the team bag, I remember thinking...

"Could this gift get any better?"


Because beneath the knock-off Archives sticker, I found a pair of actual 1977 Topps cloth sticker inserts.

This duo doubled the amount of these in my collection as we speak. Cardenal and "Yaz" join Al Oliver and Mark Fidrych as the only '77 stickers in my binders.

Should anyone ever decide to do a "best Afro" countdown, I'm sure Mr. Cardenal would be near the top of the list.

A couple days ago, I had a crazy thought.

If I ever decided to get into the whole set-building thing, I'd bet these would make for a nice initial challenge.

They're certainly cool enough.

Look out!

It's high-number time.

After years of not being able to land any of the '72 "Traded" issues for my collection, I've managed to add two to my binders within the past couple months.

Thanks to a two-dollar vintage box, the Jose Cardenal found its way into my home.

And now, courtesy of my dad, I'll be able to add the elusive Joe Morgan to my Reds binder.

I'll take all the '72 high-numbers I can find these days.

Lately, members of my "Dime Box Dozen" needs have been dropping like flies.

With the '73 Cepeda, my dad managed to knock out the latest "suspect" as part of this awesome Christmas present.

So, why was it such a desired need of mine?

It's an "unfamiliar uniform" card.

Truthfully, it's probably a little more than that. After all, Cepeda's entire tenure in Oakland consisted of just three at-bats near the end of the '72 season.

He never even reached base in an A's uniform.

That's grounds for a "Dime Box Dozen" need any day of the week.

Even with my myriad of player collections, my dad seems to know which players take top priority.

This Jimmy Wynn 3-D/autograph combo certainly put a huge smile on my face.

Although I'm not huge on memorabilia pieces anymore, those Fan Favorites autos will always have a special place in my collection.

Now, I just have to figure out what the heck is going on with his autograph on that 3-D issue. 

Dick Allen has always been one of my dad's all-time favorite players.

As a result, he's become one of my favorites as well.

Few player collections bring me more joy than my ever-expanding group of Dick Allen cards. Every single one is a museum piece in itself.

Needless to say, it's a bit hard to explain how excited I was to add these to my collection.

If there's one thing I've learned in my years in collecting, it's this.

Dick Allen cards will always be cool.


I was more surprised than anything when this one fell out of the team bag.

I'd never really told my dad about my Virgil Trucks collection. And it's not like he's one of the better-known players of the era.

Yet, somehow, my dad had a feeling that I'd enjoy this piece of cardboard history.

Boy, was he right.

Currently, it's only the second 1950 Bowman card in my collection.

Although I collected Trucks before I joined the blogosphere, I've come to see him in a whole new light during the last year or so.

A few fellow bloggers have had nothing but nice things to say about his TTM signings and his personality as a whole.

He certainly seems to be a stand-up kind of guy.

So, here's to you, Mr. Trucks.


I verbally said that word when this one found its way into my grasp. I almost never utter it in my day-to-day life.

"The Bird" coaxed it out of me, though.

It's not just any ordinary Mark Fidrych card, mind you.

It's a minor league Mark Fidrych card, one that captures him during his stint with AAA's Evansville Triplets in 1980.

Every time I think I have most of the Fidrych issues out there, a new one finds its way into my hands.

My dad certainly knows how to keep an eye out for my collection.

To close out this post, let's move onto the "ultra gift".

A gift so great that it was separately wrapped.

Before the holidays, my dad had hinted that he'd found a huge gift for me this year.

To keep me on my heels, he gave absolutely no hints as to what it could be.

He told me it was indeed a baseball card. But that was it.

That was all I could go on.

A few things popped into my head.

"A new Hoyt Wilhelm card for my collection? Maybe even a 1950's Roberto Clemente issue or something."

I had absolutely no clue.

In the end, though, I wasn't even close with either of my guesses.

The actual gift proved to be better than anything I could've ever imagined.

A whole lot better.


Given that he wrapped it separately and all, my dad was worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype.

I thought he was crazy.

Of course this would live up to the hype!

It's the second authentic tobacco card I've added to my collection in the last six months!

But it gets even better.

On the surface, the five-year career of Bill Burns doesn't look like anything special.

Even with a solid 2.72 career ERA, he posted a 30-52 record with five different teams during his time in the bigs.

However, what makes this card so special involves the post-baseball life of "Sleepy" Bill Burns.

As I've mentioned before, it's long been a "pipe dream" of mine to add a real tobacco card of any of the eight "Black Sox" to my collection.

Trouble is, they go for quite a pretty penny. It doesn't look like a "dream" I'll be able to realize anytime in the near future.

So, my dad managed to find the next best thing.

If you've seen the movie Eight Men Out, then you probably remember Christopher Lloyd's role as one of the many gamblers involved with the "fix".

His character's name?

"Sleepy" Bill Burns.

The very same.

Burns was actually a big part of the scandal back in the day. From what I know, he was nearly penniless after the Series was said and done.

He testified against the eight Sox players in court the following year.

For better or worse, he was a major player in the fascinating tale of the "Black Sox".

And now I have a real, actual baseball card of his.

How freaking awesome is that?

So, yeah.

You could say I had a good Christmas.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Christmas Loot, Pt. 1: Cooperstown or bust

Christmas was good to me this year.

Although the holiday is less about the gifts for me these days, few joys are much better in life than opening a present on Christmas morning.

For the most part, I leave the gift ideas up to my parents.

Although I might not like to admit it, I'm really not interested in many other hobbies outside of baseball.

I don't play video games. I don't need a new cell phone or iPad or whatever other new technology is out there.

The one constant between most of my holiday gifts over the years has been baseball.

This year was no exception. In fact, I only asked for one specific thing this time around.

One could say it was my "Red Ryder BB Gun" of sorts.

Much to my pleasure, the very first gift I opened on Christmas morning was the very thing I had desperately wanted.

A box of 2012 Panini Cooperstown.

My mom certainly came through with this one.

I am an absolute Hall of Fame nut. This set's entire checklist is comprised of Hall of Famers.

It was really a no-brainer for me.

What you see above is an authentic Christmas morning photo, taken by yours truly moments before my box-busting urges got the better of me.

I should note that if any of my fellow bloggers have any extra cards from this set to spare, I have a wantlist up on the set needs page on my sidebar.

Aside from a one-card sample courtesy of a fellow blogger, this was my very first introduction to anything Cooperstown-related.

After all was said and done, this box certainly made a good first impression.

One of the very first packs I opened held this magnificent Ty Cobb issue.

Although others might understandably argue for Ruth or Williams, I still rate Cobb as the greatest player in baseball history.

He received the most votes of anyone out of the legendary inaugural HOF class of 1936.

Even though he played the majority of his career in Detroit, this shot looks to be from his later Philadelphia A's days, a tenure which is certainly near the top as far as "unfamiliar uniforms" are concerned.

Fittingly, "The Georgia Peach" is card number one in the 170-card checklist.

Although I believe Cobb is the greatest to ever play the game, he's far from my favorite player in baseball history.

That illustrious honor goes to Mr. Clemente.

Both on and off the field, the guy could do it all.

While I'm sure Clemente was proud of his 3,000 career hits and 1966 NL MVP honors, I'd bet that he'd be more proud of his off-field accomplishments if he were still around today.

I doubt we'll ever see a ballplayer quite like Roberto Clemente again.

He's a once-in-a-lifetime type of guy.

Even with the logo-less boundaries, Cooperstown is still littered with tremendous photography.

Although the back of this card lists Comiskey as an "executive", Panini nevertheless chose to showcase a shot from his playing days.

I was enamored with this one as soon as I pulled it from the pack.

Given that "The Old Roman" retired in 1894, this shot is a terrific example of glorious 19th century baseball photography.

Plus, the horizontal issues in this set are absolutely staggering.

I had high expectations for Cooperstown before I busted the box.

Once I saw this card, I knew it was worth the hype.

In the end, what I loved most about Cooperstown was the sheer variety in the checklist.

Given the demise of the all-legend issues in recent years, I'd forgotten what it was like to experience a set like this.

I have only brief recollections of busting packs of Fan Favorites and Archives back in the day.

On top of that, I've started to get sick of the constant revolving door of the same "legends" in recent issues.

Topps leads us to believe that there are only about fifteen guys in Cooperstown these days. And half of them are named Mickey Mantle.

To open a pack and find actual cards of pre-1900 ballplayers like Buck Ewing and King Kelly was something else.

Cooperstown really covered all the bases with this one.

While I love a good Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth card here and there, they aren't the only two pre-WWII players enshrined in Cooperstown.

Legends like Ray Schalk and Zack Wheat are often overlooked in this hobby and in baseball history as a whole.

I only own about five or six other issues of both Schalk and Wheat.

It'll be refreshing to add another piece to their respective places in my binders.

I haven't been able to do that for a long, long time.

While I may be a sucker for any old-timey ballplayers, I have a tremendous admiration for the newer Cooperstown inductees as well.

Thankfully, Panini managed to weave a few of them into their checklist as well.

Plus, any card that lists Rich Gossage as "Goose" is okay in my book.

Just when I thought I thought it couldn't get any better, Cooperstown had another little surprise in store for me.

The checklist included the legendary heroes of Tinker, Evers...

...and Chance.

Three of the defining figures of Cubs history.

Granted, Chance is probably the only one who really should be in the Hall of Fame numbers-wise.

But, for better or worse, the three names will forever be intertwined. 

Look no further than Cooperstown for proof of that.

I understand that some may have a beef with the logo-less design of these.

The "head-bumping" concern is definitely a legitimate one, and something that I possibly feel could've been avoided by the folks at Panini.

Plus, for some strange reason, Ralph Kiner has two cards in the base checklist.

Even though this particular photo is simply jaw-dropping, I'll never know why Panini gave Kiner two different spots in their set.

In this case, though, I could care less about the design.

I'm just a sucker for anything that deals with the greatest figures in baseball history.

It's that simple.

The last twenty cards of the 170-card checklist comprises of colorized short-prints.

I'm guessing they're fairly rare, given that fact that my 24-pack box only yielded two of these beauties.

It's probably been about a decade since I pulled an Edd Roush card from a pack.

Now these are some awesome parallels.

I understand we all have varying tastes in inserts and colors and whatever, but I can't see how anyone could not like these "crystal collection" parallels.

Limited to just 299 copies a piece, my box yielded three of these shiny masterpieces. (Mike Schmidt was the other.)

Even better, the Plank comes from the colorized short-print series I just mentioned.

I'm just starting to realize exactly why I enjoy these so much. They manage to combine old-time photography with a strictly "new-wave" design.

I love it.

On to the inserts.

I'll get the negatives out of the way first.

A few of the insert sets fail to provide an actual picture of the player on the front.

Some of the ones I pulled simply feature a piece of Cooperstown memorabilia. One of the packs yielded an insert featuring Bill Mazeroski's batting helmet from the 1960 World Series.

Although fairly bland, the above card has a nice wood-grain feel to it.

In the end, I can't really do anything with cards that don't feature a ballplayer on the front. They just wouldn't look right in my binders.

As far as the inserts go, though, the positives far outweighed the negatives.

These "Hall History" inserts are certainly fantastic.

But that's not why I enjoy this one so much.

From what I know, this is the first card in my collection that was made for the sole purpose of showcasing another baseball card.

As depicted here, Cooperstown is famously home to one of the ultra-rare T206 Honus Wagner issues.

A baseball card within a baseball card.

It certainly makes you think.

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of suit-and-tied ballplayers on cardboard.

Still, I think I can make an exception for those "Induction" inserts. Witnessing a shot of a player on induction day is certainly something to cherish.

I've always felt that more Hall of Fame plaques should be featured in this hobby. I only have about a half-dozen examples in my entire collection.

Although I doubt I'll ever complete it, I'll certainly be chasing more issues from the 100-card "Bronze History" insert set, each of which is numbered to 599 copies.

It's like owning a little piece of Cooperstown, in a way.

Which is especially sweet, given that I've never had the good fortune to actually visit the Hall of Fame.

The array of awesome inserts just kept on coming.

Whether it was a series devoted to the best voices in baseball history...

The greatest quotes in baseball history....

Or the greatest catchers in baseball history, these inserts had a little something for everyone.

I can count the amount of Roger Bresnahan cards in my collection on one hand. The Hall of Fame backstop and shin-guard innovator just doesn't get a whole lot of recognition these days.

Between the terrific old-time catcher's mask designs and the split-frame heart of the card, these were easily the runner-up as far as Cooperstown insert sets go.

The "winner" was never in much doubt, though.

These are what convinced me to ask for a box of Cooperstown this Christmas.

I love, love, love old panoramic baseball stadium shots. Trouble was, I'd almost never seen them featured on cardboard.

That is, before Panini came around.

The sheer beauty of these are second-to-none.

Just look at all those fans lined up along the foul lines at old West Side Park.

Look at all those suits and straw hats.

And look at how spacious that outfield is. The lone outfielder on the extreme right of this card could probably grow crops on the amount of space he had to cover that afternoon.

You could look at this photo a thousand times and continue to find something new to love about it.

I'll certainly make it a point to track down the rest of this 10-card insert set.

They're a great indicator of how much this game has changed over the last century.

Although it wasn't the reason I wanted the box, I was interested to see what my "hit" would be.

About halfway through my box-busting extravaganza, this fell out of one of the five-card packs.

A beautiful autograph of legendary manager Dick Williams, numbered to just 49 copies.

Although it's definitely a nice piece, it's available for trade if any of my fellow bloggers would like to own it.

After all was said and done, though, this was probably the best part of my holiday break.

Pulling a real, actual Hoyt Wilhelm card from a pack of baseball cards.

A card of the subject of my prime player collection!

It was an absolute thrill.

I really couldn't have asked for much more this Christmas.