I've never been a big New Year's Eve guy.
You'd have to pay me good money to shove myself into a loud bar or crowded street corner on days like today. Whether it's in my house or with family, I just like to relax on December 31st.
Still, New Year's Eve is a time for reflection, for better or worse. I've already seen a lot of blogs recapping how their 2014 goals turned out. This won't be one of those posts, namely because I never made any card-related goals for the year. The way I collect isn't very goal-oriented. Plus, this way I'm not disappointed if said goals go unfulfilled.
To close out my end-of-year countdowns, I'll be presenting my own personal list of the top ten cards I added to my collection in 2014. Instead of dividing them into modern and vintage categories like I did last year, I decided to lump everything into one big mega-list here tonight.
I'll spoil a little of the surprise and say that The Mick here ended up on the outside looking in for 2014.
You know it's been a good year when someone like him doesn't make the cut.
#10 -- 1978 Topps #400 Nolan Ryan
How acquired: Found within penny stacks at a card show in February.
I may have bought "better" cards than this '78 Topps Nolan Ryan in 2014.
But I can honestly say that none of my finds could top the Ryan Express in terms of sheer shock value. That element of surprise is what earned him a spot on this list.
I decided to take a little of my birthday money and meet up with my buddy Jeff at a card show near his neck of the woods back in February. I must've stepped through some kind of strange time warp at some point, because I found a guy selling penny cards.
I had to make sure I wasn't stuck in the '50s when a penny could get you a loaf of bread. Nope, this was 2014, and there was a guy selling baseball cards for one cent a pop. Stacks and stacks of singles for just a penny each that, for some reason, had vintage Nolan Ryans in them.
Jeff met up with me just as I was getting done with my penny dig.
You better believe that Nolan was the first card I showed him.
#9 -- 1984 Donruss #324 Tony Gwynn
How acquired: A flea market 3/$1 bin.
Baseball lost one of its heroes in 2014.
Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of 54 back in June. I'd been picking up cards of his for a while before then, but I've started to collect him with a lot more passion since his passing. It's my little way of honoring the man's legacy.
Still, I came very close to not buying this one at all. I had eight bucks' worth of cardboard picked out from a vendor at the flea market a few months ago. I was about to put back the six higher-priced cards (all of 33 cents each) I'd found in an attempt to save a little cash.
I handed the guy a ten, and waited for my two dollars in change. It was then that I realized just how much of a moron I was. I was actually passing on the chance to own a second-year card of Tony Gwynn on my favorite Donruss design.
I came to my senses and told the guy to keep the ten, and I took the other six 3/$1 cards with me. Tony included.
I would've been kicking myself all year if I didn't.
#8 -- 1995 Bowman #90 Vladimir Guerrero RC
How acquired: A star-studded package from the immortal Wes.
I long ago resigned to the fact that I'd probably never own a Vladimir Guerrero rookie card.
They were, quite simply, way too rich for my blood. Most go for far more than I'm willing or able to spend. I accepted that my Vlad collection would always have a rather gaping hole.
But then Mr. Wes came along and saved the day.
There, amongst a rubble of other cardboard goodies, was what I'd been waiting for my entire life. A true, honest-to-God Vlad rookie. I couldn't believe it.
I still can't.
#7 -- 1933 Goudey #5 Babe Herman
How acquired: A card show discount bin in March.
You would think a stack of discounted Goudeys would feature nothing more than no-namers.
That's certainly what I thought before the tri-annual card show in March. That is, until I stumbled upon a table with loads of discount vintage. Among them was a hearty stack of Goudeys for four bucks a pop.
None of the names rung a bell. Not that I was surprised or anything. At that price, you're not going to find anyone who...wait, BABE HERMAN?! One of the stars of the beloved Dodger "Bums" of the '20s?
I handed over those four dollars as fast as I could.
#6 -- All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League autographs
How acquired: An insanely generous package from reader Mark back in January.
I doubt Mark knew it at the time, but I've always had a deep interest in the AAGPBL.
I just watched A League of Their Own for about the fourth or fifth time a few days ago. I've lost count at this point. Had that movie not been made, I have a feeling not many people would remember these women ballplayers. For that reason alone, it's worth a watch if you haven't seen it already.
Sadly, there aren't a whole lot of cards honoring the league. The few I did have were instantly blown away by this spectacular collection of TTM autographs from Mark. You can see the love they had for the league through the various inscriptions and overall care they put into the signatures.
It is an absolute honor to have these women pioneers in my collection.
#5 -- 1978 Kellogg's #8 Goose Gossage
How acquired: An Ebay auction, believe it or not.
The fact that I didn't own this card had been nagging me for the better part of 2014.
I finally found one as part of a three-card lot of '78 Kellogg's on Ebay, of all places. Aside from my occasional virtual bargain hunting, I usually stay away from Ebay when buying baseball cards. It's just too much of a hassle a lot of the time.
Thankfully, everything went as smooth as could be with this auction. I ended up paying about a buck for Goose, shipped, and he was on my doorstep within a couple of days. I'm a big Gossage fan, but the real reason I wanted this particular piece was because it's a rare shot of him in a Pirates jersey.
The only other card I know of that features Goose with the Bucs is his '77 Hostess issue, and that's an awful airbrush job. Kellogg's featured him in his full, unaltered, blinding Pirates gear here.
It's Goose in all his 3-D glory.
#4a -- 1988 Upper Deck Promos #1 DeWayne Buice
#4b -- 1988 Upper Deck Promos #700 Wally Joyner
How acquired: A flea market dollar box.
Looking back, I picked up quite a few white whales this year.
The Vlad rookie, the 3-D Goose, and now these. The legendary 1988 Upper Deck Promos. I'd been looking for these for about as long as I can remember, but most of the ones I'd seen were just a bit higher than I could afford.
If you don't know the story, these were produced as prototypes prior to UD's first official offering in 1989. Buice was a partner of Upper Deck's at the beginning and helped get the company's feet off the ground. They'd go on to revolutionize the hobby in the coming years, as you probably already know.
Finding these in a dollar box at the flea market is right up there with the penny Nolan Ryan for the single biggest surprise of the year. I'm still not convinced it actually happened, to be honest.
I can honestly say that I own the first two cards Upper Deck ever produced.
#3 -- 1971 Kellogg's #5 Roberto Clemente
How acquired: A legendary Christmas gift from Dad.
This is pretty darn close to being the perfect baseball card.
It's got vintage, 3-D, oddball, and Roberto Clemente all rolled into one. I don't know what else I could possibly want.
It's definitely my new favorite Kellogg's card and one of my favorite baseball cards, period.
New Year's Eve is always a little tough on me as well. I can't help but think of the loss of my all-time favorite ballplayer on the anniversary of his passing.
We miss you, Mr. Clemente.
#2 -- 1954 Topps #139 Ed & John O'Brien
How acquired: A card show discount bin in November.
The year of white whales continued with this iconic piece of cardboard history.
Like so many others on this list, I'd wanted this card for a long time. I thought it'd remain a want for a while due to the rather high prices the O'Brien twins often fetch, however.
That all changed when I spotted a slightly trimmed copy in a card show bargain bin last month. I was able to spear yet another white whale for the low, low price of just five dollars.
Topps didn't stray too far from the norm during their early years. You won't find too many oddities from their '50s checklists. The O'Briens are one of the extreme few instances of Topps going outside the box in their early days.
They're basically the forefathers to the wacky baseball cards I love so much.
#1 -- 1909-11 T206 #331 Fred Merkle (Throwing)
How acquired: Another memorable Christmas present from Dad, from the same batch of gifts that netted me the Kellogg's Clemente.
I've only had this card in my collection for six days now, but I can say without a doubt that it was my best pickup of 2014.
I already said this in my Christmas post, but it deserves repeating.
I am a HUGE Fred Merkle fan. Sadly, he doesn't have a whole lot of cards out there. This is only my eighth Merkle, and my first of the real, actual, glorious tobacco variety.
The copy my dad got me for Christmas is actually one of two versions of this particular Merkle. The other is a standard portrait, but, knowing me, I think my dad made the right choice by going with the action shot.
It was the perfect way to cap off what was a memorable 2014 for both myself and my baseball card collection.
In closing, I'd just like to thank everyone who has made this such a special year here on Dime Boxes. I wouldn't be here without you, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.
Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone!