I ended a major chapter of my life today.
After more than five years of membership, I have officially "resigned" from my trading forum.
And I have absolutely no regrets about that.
True, I've been spending a lot less time over there due to this blog's relative success. I'd been averaging about one or two trades a month over the past half-year or so.
In fact, most of my recent forum trades only came with the release of a new set.
Once 2013 Topps hit the shelves, I immediately composed a want list and threw it up on the forums. Just like I'd always done in the past.
After thinking about it, though, I asked myself one, simple question.
"Is there even a point to this anymore?"
I honestly couldn't think of a single reason to stay on the forums.
I'd spent countless amounts of time and money trading for cards in the past. With the release of a new set, I'd often go absolutely crazy with swaps.
But that's just not me these days.
I have no problem waiting to acquire the Topps base and inserts I need these days. I'm not some rabid collector who needs all the new stuff right away anymore. I used to be, though.
Besides, I'm sure my fellow members of the blogosphere will be there to help out with some of my "newer" needs throughout the course of this latest card season. My needs are already in the link on my sidebar, if anyone happens to be interested in swappin' some 2013s.
Which brings me to the real reason I recently decided to quit the forums all together.
One of the major "sub-themes" of this blog has been my constant differentiation between the forums and the blogosphere.
I know I bring up the topics of "book value" and "hot prospects" a lot when I talk about the forums.
However, the major reason I've become a full-time blogosphere "convert" is indeed because of the people.
I'm not saying the people on trading forums are bad, by any means. For the most part, it's actually the opposite.
It's just that the people in the blogosphere are that awesome.
Take Adam, for instance.
He's the ever-generous blogger behind the terrific blog "ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession".
Although I've long since stopped counting the frequency of trades I've made around here, Adam may well be the blogger I've traded with the most times.
In fact, we've developed one of those informal "I send him some cards, he sends me some cards" rapports in recent months.
I love that type of thing. That's something I never saw on the forums.
Adam recently mailed one of those always-welcome "surprise" packages to me early last week.
Although he managed to polish off a few of my dusty old "set needs" from 2008 and '09, the stack of Panini Cooperstown cards he included captured my fancy the most.
I tell you, that Lou Gehrig "Hall History" insert is certainly a welcome piece for my collection. Any "autograph" shot is an instant favorite of mine, much less one that features arguably the greatest first baseman in baseball history.
It certainly shows one thing.
The "Iron Horse" was definitely a stand-up guy.
These are just my second cards of both Tommy McCarthy and Billy Hamilton.
As members of the ignored "turn-of-the-century" class of Hall of Famers, I'm not at all surprised by that.
In fact, both of my others came from the same set, one that was arguably the greatest "impulse buy" I've ever made.
Cards like these are why I enjoy Panini's recent emergence in the baseball card market.
This pair certainly filled a gaping hole in my Hall of Fame collection.
Don't be fooled, though.
While I love collecting the few existing cards of guys like McCarthy and Hamilton, I'll always have an equally significant appreciation for "newer" Cooperstown inductees as well.
Despite the licensing restrictions, Panini still managed to produce fairly neat cards of both Don Sutton and Frank Robinson.
Few players have worn the #20 better.
I find this particular card utterly fascinating.
For one thing, "Wee Willie" Keeler is probably my favorite of all the "turn-of-the-century" ballplayers. At just 5'4" and 140 pounds, he took the "little guy" label to the extreme.
But, more than that, look at how far he choked up on the bat! His hands are about halfway up the barrel.
Judging from his .341 career average, though, I guess it worked for Mr. Keeler.
Looking back, I don't think I considered many people on the forum as "friends".
I had some great experiences during those five years, but I never really got to know many of the members and their interests during my tenure over there.
Needless to say, it has been quite the opposite here in the blogosphere.
After reading the writings from many of my fellow bloggers over the past year, I do indeed consider you to be my "friends".
I can't say that I've met any of you in person (yet), but it's been fun to develop a more personal bond with fellow hobbyists than simply trading cards back and forth.
Although the basis for many of our thoughts and posts revolve around the world of sports cards, I think the "community" feeling of the blogosphere goes much further than that.
When you get down to it, that's really what has kept me coming back here on a daily basis.
I'm proud to say that I've managed to make a fairly wide variety of "blogging buddies" during my time here.
Adam is definitely one of them.
And so is Mark, author of the fantastic blog "This Way to the Clubhouse...".
The "blogging buddy" himself managed to once again sweep me off my feet with a tremendous array of seemingly random cardboard.
Somehow, he keeps managing to find little odds and ends that fit perfectly within the means of my collection.
Personally, I think "play at third base" shots are vastly underused in this hobby. If this "Spirit of the Game" insert is any indication, we really need to see more of those in the future.
I don't know about you, but I think Mr. Boggs got the tag down in time.
And while we're on the topic of Red Sox third baseman, here's a neat new "combo" for my Boston binder.
Mark sent me the card on the right, a "Cards Your Mom Threw Out" reprint of Kevin Youkilis's 2003 Topps rookie.
Although I'm not exactly sure where I received it, I've had an actual copy of that one in my collection for a long, long time.
And now they'll proudly sit next to each other in a nine-pocket page.
I'm telling you, folks.
Binders are the way to go.
Hey, remember these things?
You know, from last year?
With all the recent 2013 craziness, I hope you haven't completely erased 2012 Topps from your memory just yet.
As a current 41 year-old free agent, the end seems to be near for Jose Contreras.
For a while, I thought this would wind up being his "sunset" issue. However, I'm glad to report that Topps included a card of Mr. Contreras in their seemingly far superior 2013 release. I pulled it from one of my blasters.
I'll have to go through my collection one of these days and see which players received their true "sunset" cards in 2012.
Which, now that I think of it, might not be a bad idea for a future post on this blog.
I'm never one to turn down awesome stadium shots.
Judging from this one, I think Mark has picked up on that over the last couple months.
Here in the blogosphere, the most innocent remark can land you some cardboard.
I've briefly quipped in the past about cards of both the "bubble" and "ninja" variety in the past. That's what I've been calling them, anyways.
Well, Mark must've seen those posts, too. I can't think of any other reason for why he'd include these in the package.
The appearance of cards like these is quite uplifting. It shows that people do indeed pay attention to what I write around here and are willing to go the extra mile in composing a good ol' trade package.
That being said, though, I hope I don't make any offhand comments about 1990 Donruss or anything.
Please don't send me any of those.
Although I bet some of you will.
I see terrific cards on other people's blogs around here all the time.
However, I try not to actually say "I want that card!", even if said blogger has let it be known that the card is available.
Although I try and hint that I'd like the card in most cases, I don't often like to physically ask for it. I'm still not sure why that is.
Still, two cards from Mark's recent "400-Count Box" posts managed to bring out the kid in me. Although I didn't say "pretty please?" or anything, I did specifically request a pair of cards from him for this swap.
Although it is indeed a spectacular piece of cardboard, the "throwback" Norm Charlton wasn't one of them.
The "Fernando", on the other hand, was.
It pretty much has it all.
For one thing, it's a card from the widely-underappreciated and tough-to-find Collector's Choice brand.
Plus, I tend to place Valenzuela as a San Diego Padre into the "unfamiliar uniform" category.
And, of course, it's a new subject for my often-mentioned "pitchers at the plate" collection.
I really need to come up with a catchier name for those things, though. "Pitchers at the plate" is a bit of a mouthful.
So, what was that other card I requested?
Good question, my friend.
I'm sure there are a ton of terrific cards floating around that I haven't yet discovered.
That's part of the fun of this hobby, after all.
Then again, a select few pieces of cardboard have been on my radar for years. Yet, for whatever reason, I've never managed to track down copies for myself.
And then there's this one.
Up until a few days ago, it belonged to both categories.
Yes, from my standpoint, it is indeed an awesome card.
Oddly enough, though, I had actually held it in my hands in the past.
I actually have a great story attached to this one. I posted about it a while back. If you can get past some of my less-than-stellar writing from the early days of this blog, it's actually an interesting little tale.
If I were to find this card in a dime box nowadays, I'd plop down a dime for it without a second thought.
At the time, though, I didn't collect star pitcher and former L.A. Kings draft pick Tom Glavine.
Which meant that despite its awesome absurdity, I didn't have a practical usage for it.
Thanks to the people of the blogosphere, however, I've changed my philosophies in recent months.
Sometimes, you have to appreciate more than just the name on the front of a baseball card.
But despite everything I've shown thus far, we haven't even gotten to the best part of Mark's recent trade package.
So, without further ado, here it is.
I definitely made the right decision in becoming a full-time blogger.
With friends like these, how could I not love this place?