When it comes to baseball cards, there's definitely a calm before the storm.
A couple weeks ago, I found myself having finally finished filing mounds and mounds of cards that needed to go into my binders. It was one of those rare times where I was able to bask in the joy of a clean desk.
That inner peace didn't last long.
I was rather happy with myself as I went downstairs to check the mail the next day. You did it, Nick. You finally did it. And that's when I saw it.
An absolute mega-box. The sheer weight of it caught me off-guard when I first tried to pick it up. I knew who the culprit was the moment I saw that familiar Mariner decal on the back.
T. J., probably better known to all of you as "The Junior Junkie".
Before I saw that box, I would've been perfectly fine with not having to file any cards for another week or so. But after I started digging my teeth into it, I knew there was nothing else I'd rather do than sort through the amazing selection T. J. picked out for me.
The thing just never seemed to end. I was pulling stuff out of this box for a good half-hour straight. Through his own blog and the comments he's left on mine, I know T. J. is quite the funny guy. The note he attached to this Alex Fernandez card says more about his sense of humor than I ever could.
I actually have a couple copies of this one already, but never noticed the "Can't Touch This" (da-na-na-na, na-na, na-na) M.C. Hammer hat on any of them. The player wearing it is actually Ozzie Guillen, as the note covers up the #13 on the back of his jersey.
The surprises were just beginning.
This is a card I've been secretly hoping someone would send me.
My Darryl Kile collection has grown by leaps and bounds since my entry into the blogosphere, but my quest for his fantastic 1995 Topps issue had gone for naught. I was about to bite the bullet and order it off Just Commons before this box came along.
No need now.
There's that Denny's place again.
I can't tell you how many Grand Slams I would've scarfed down if there was even a remote possibility of getting a new Jim Abbott card.
More eggs, please.
T. J. was even nice enough to hunt down a few mini-collection hits as well.
That Jose Oquendo double dip earns bonus points for the Ryno cameo.
Perhaps the most intriguing part about this package was the fact that it contained boxes within a box.
I swear, it was just like one of those little Russian dolls.
After a little digging, out slid a white box simply labeled "Set Needs". I believe it was an 100-count box, so I was expecting it to be about a quarter full. Maybe half if I was lucky.
Nope. T. J. packed the thing to the gills and massacred my so-called "set needs" (really player needs in disguise) from the last couple years.
One of the few he included that wasn't on my want list was this neat issue from 2014 Panini Golden Age.
A rare horse appearance on cardboard.
Before I get into all the wonderful set needs he sent, I should note another aspect of this box that kept on giving.
As if the cards weren't enough, T. J. also included a stack of at least a hundred Ultra-Pro nine-pocket pages. All the cards you're about to see are housed in pages from this mega-box.
We start with a GQ/Archives hybrid. Although I can't say I'm a huge fan of either set, there are a few diamonds in the rough to be had.
The Lowrie throwback is a particular favorite of mine.
T. J. pretty much every avenue of A&G you can imagine.
Base, inserts, short-prints, all of it. I can't get over the fact that Topps included Vlad as one of its select "retired" guys this year.
It seems like just yesterday he was bashing singles out of balls in the dirt.
Thanks in large part to T. J.'s gracious efforts, I'm down to a mere handful of Series 2 needs at this point.
Note the awesome Jordan Danks double dip/throwback in the center.
One thing I find fascinating about this batch is the fact that Topps stuck not one, but two cards of Randy Johnson as an Expo into a couple different insert checklists this year. And, as hard as it might be to believe, they feature different photos.
Topps feels compelled to use the same images of big names like Miguel Cabrera and Hank Aaron over and over again, but, at the same time, they put effort into finding two different shots of the Big Unit in those defunct powder blues.
I guess that's just the enigma that is Topps.
T. J. even threw in a batch of 2013 Flagship inserts for good measure.
It's hard to go wrong with a page that features Gary Carter, Yasiel Puig, and Deion Sanders.
A healthy selection of minis capped off this set needs extravaganza.
It's tough to decide which ones I like best.
I'm telling you, this was the box that just kept on giving.
I can honestly say that this was the first time I'd ever received a book as part of a trade package. Yes, you read that right. A real, actual hardcover book. The blogosphere never ceases to surprise me.
Although my pile of unread books is starting to become as substantial as my unsorted cards, I'm not one to ever refuse a new piece of sports literature.
T. J. hit me right in the childhood with this magnificent item.
I've mentioned my attachment to these SI for Kids panels before. About how I stole, er, borrowed them from my grammar school library.
Part of me wonders why I never kept any of the panels intact as a little memento. Then again, it's hard to understand much of anything I did when I was ten.
This one, I'm happy to report, will be staying together in its original state.
It's like reclaiming a lost piece of my childhood.
I guess T. J. figured set needs, pages, panels, and books weren't enough.
He felt compelled to add a stack of old packs to the mix as well.
I've heard of other collectors who have stashes of unopened wax stored away in their collection. That's not even a remote possibility for me. I don't care if it's 1988 Donruss or 2014 Topps Museum Collection.
If there's a pack of baseball cards in my hands, I have to open it.
Opening this batch of 1990 Score was a fun foray into a time when different-colored borders were still a thing. Blue, green, white, red, all there.
Who needs parallels when you have these?
I dug out a couple packs of 1987 Topps Mini Leaders from deep down in the depths of this box.
Topps tuck with the wood-grain borders for these, but the design is completely different from the standard Flagship design from that year.
These are nice, but I much prefer the full-sized versions.
Let's move from mini to giant for a moment.
At apparently just 40 cents a pop, T. J. was able to score a couple packs of these mysterious oversized Donruss issues.
They were completely new to me...
...or so I thought.
I'd already had a couple of these slick pop-up inserts in my collection already, but had no idea what kind of packs they came from.
It feels good to finally have an answer.
These were the base cards from the mammoth pack, if you will.
Can't go wrong with Ryno and Fernando.
Against all odds, this never-ending box did in fact come to an end.
One of the last items that slid out of it was this 2002 Fleer Box Score "Cooperstown Tour" boxed set. Not all 40 of the "basic cards" were included, as T. J. said he'd distributed a few to other team-centric bloggers.
Each legend you see here is numbered to 2,950 copies.
I especially enjoyed the mix of names Fleer included in this set. Sure, you have the bigger inductees like Rod Carew and Brooks Robinson. But you also get the more under-the-radar Hall of Famers (if such a thing is possible) like Jim Bunning and Richie Ashburn.
It's the best of both worlds.
Ah, but the surprises weren't quite done yet. T. J. actually sent along one extra-special pack that deserved a post all on its own. More on that in the coming days.
I can honestly say that it took me quite a few hours over the span of a couple days to get the contents of this mega-box sorted, scanned, and filed away into my binders. It was a lot of work, more so than almost any other trade package I'd ever received.
I wouldn't have it any other way.