Saturday, April 29, 2017

I'll bite on the 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge

If you're on Twitter, you may have already heard about the 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge started by Tony of "Off Hiatus" fame.

It's a brilliant concept, but not one I was planning on tackling myself because I'm simply not very active on Twitter (for many reasons too lengthy to list here). As of late, however, the challenge has been spilling over onto the blogs, and -- like a couple other bloggers I read -- I've decided to bite by simply tying all 30 days of the list into one tidy post.

So, without further ado, here's a whole month's worth of cards and card conversation from the Dime Box household. Ready?

Day #1 -- A card from the current year with a photo you like

I'm already breaking the rules a bit, because here's a card with an otherwise ordinary photo that I enjoy quite a bit.

I haven't devoted a blog post to 2017 Gypsy Queen -- and don't plan to anytime soon -- but I thought these neat "Fortune Teller" inserts deserved mention.

Day #2 -- A card with more than one player on it

Technically a player and a manager, but one of the all-time best combo cards either way.

Day #3 -- A card from the first set you tried to complete

This is a tricky one because I've never been a set builder.

I have, however, tried to complete a few non-baseball sets, the first being the 2007 SP Legendary Cuts "Legendary Americana" insert checklist. Each subject in the 100-card series is limited to just 550 copies, and master wordsmith Walt Whitman here was the first one I acquired. It was love at first sight, and I knew then and there that I'd try my damnedest to get the other 99.

Just about a decade later, I'm currently sitting at 99 out of 100...only Charles Lindbergh separates me from a completed set at this point.

Day #4 -- A rookie card of one of your favorite players

My one and only rookie card of Vlad, and what a beauty it is.

Day #5 -- A certified autograph of one of your favorite players

A spiffy signature from Jim Bouton, master of the mound and the written word who penned the single best baseball book in existence, if you ask me.

Day #6 -- A card you spent more than $10 to get

This actually works out well, because I've been planning to get this card into a post for a while now.

I've admired this '59 Topps "Symbol of Courage" Campy from afar for a long time, and I finally found a copy within my price range about a month ago when I found one on Ebay for right around $15 shipped, one of my biggest scores of the year thus far.

Day #7 -- A card you bought in-person and the story behind it

When I was first getting back into baseball cards around ten years ago, there was a great little monthly show at a local bowling alley.

I have fond memories of that place. I'd often go with a couple of my card-collecting friends back when I had friends that collected. One dealer in particular always had great vintage on display, and I remember thinking there was some sort of mistake when I found out I could own a real-live Goudey card for only five dollars: thus, Joe Vosmik became mine.

Sadly, that show no longer exists. I tried going a few years ago when it was on its last legs, only to find a single card vendor sitting in the middle of that strange neon-blue bowling alley carpeting with no customers at his table. It was one of the saddest things I'd ever seen, watching that once-great show trimmed down to just a single middle-aged man all alone.

At least I'll always have Joe Vosmik to remember the glory days of that place.

Day #8 -- A card that reminds you of a family member

My grandma became a big Steve Garvey fan when she moved to San Diego in the mid '80s, and she managed to acquire a fair bit of his memorabilia along the way.

At some point when I was first getting into baseball, she passed a good deal of her collection onto me, a collection which included this '71 Garvey rookie I'll treasure for as long as I live.

Day #9 -- One of your favorite cards from the 1950s

'Nuff said.

Day #10 -- One of your favorite cards from the 1960s

Giving some love to my Defunct Teams collection with a young Rusty Staub, the Colt .45s, and the Topps Rookie Cup all wrapped up into a single, monumental baseball card.

Day #11 -- One of your favorite cards from the 1970s

Does it get any more '70s than Dock Ellis on '72 Topps?

Day #12 -- One of your favorite cards from the 1980s

My, that Kirk Gibson is so dreamy.

Day #13 -- One of your favorite cards from the 1990s

Nothing you say or do can change my love for '95 Fleer.

Day #14 -- One of your favorite cards from the 2000s

My Target used to have gobs and gobs of 2005 Bazooka in their small, discounted $1.49-a-pack rack, which proved immensely helpful for picking up cardboard on the cheap when I was getting back into baseball cards around a decade ago.

Unfortunately, both the $1.49 packs and Bazooka baseball cards are long gone, but the fond memories remain, including this Joey Gathright which holds a place in my heart for reasons I can't quite explain.

Day #15 -- One of your favorite cards from the 2010s

Upper Deck just managed to sneak into the "teens" with what would be their final release in 2010, an unlicensed set, to boot.

It's not going to wow anyone, but 2010 UD did manage to show the hobby that a passable set could be made, that interesting photos could be utilized without the use of logos (I'm looking at you, Donruss).

Day #16 -- A card of a player whom you appreciate but don't like

Madison Bumgarner has already distinguished himself as one of the premier pitchers of my generation, and I respect the guy for that, but the vacant Don't-Look-At-Me personality has started to wear thin on me.

Day #17 -- A card from the first set you put together hand-collated

Again, a tricky one since I'm not a set builder: in fact, the only sets I have hand-collated are the awesome 2010 Topps American Heritage and American Heritage Heroes Edition checklists, both non-baseball-related.

If you ever dreamed of seeing Harry Houdini on the '75 Topps design, consider your wish granted.

Day #18 -- A card of a player who became manager of your favorite team

Dusty managed the hometown Cubs from 2003-06, and I firmly believe baseball is a better game when he's involved in it.

Day #19 -- A favorite card from a country other than the United States

I was tempted to go with something from OPC or the small handful of Japanese cards in my collection, but instead here's the only card I own that hails from Venezuela: a sticker of Reds great and Venezuelan star Dave Concepcion.

Day #20 -- Your favorite parallel card based on the parallel, not the player

I paid $15 for a mega-box of 2016 Update for the sole reward of getting the eight sparkly Chrome parallels inside -- that alone should tell you how much I love these things.

Day #21 -- A card of a rookie you thought you were "investing" in

I've told this story before, but this is the first and last card I bought for "investment" purposes.

Turns out I didn't hit the jackpot, but Rich Hill did (eventually) wind up becoming a solid big-league pitcher, so I'm happy for that.

Day #22 -- A card of a common player that always seemed to elude you

This is one of the good and bad things about coming of age as a collector in the technological era: common cards don't have to elude you.

I'm all for the "thrill of the chase," but if an easy card escapes me for too long, it's all too simple to say screw it and buy it for pennies online. Commons have never slipped by me for extended periods of time for that precise reason. I searched for this '82 Fleer Bill Lee -- one of the Spaceman's sunset cards -- at shows for months without success before breaking down and buying it for exactly 18 cents on the 'Net.

I've never been anything close to a "techie," but it sure does make things easier sometimes.

Day #23 -- A favorite oddball card from the 1950s

I'm not even sure this card is from the 1950s, as it's listed under "1947-66 Exhibits" in my big Beckett book, which means it could've been released during any of those years.

But I don't own very many oddballs from the '50s, so this one'll have to do.

Day #24 -- A favorite oddball card from the 1960s

Can't go wrong with Deckle Edge.

Day #25 -- A favorite oddball card from the 1970s

I am forever indebted to SSPC for producing the only card of Harmon Killebrew as a Kansas City Royal.

Day #26 -- A favorite oddball card from the 1980s

Come on, you didn't think I'd get through this whole post without mentioning Kellogg's, did you?

Day #27 -- A favorite oddball card from 1990 or later

A few months ago, my mom handed me a sheet of baseball cards and said: Here, these were in the paper today.

Apparently, the local Tribune had printed a set of Chicago Greats (as voted on by fans), and unbeknownst to me, the checklist included none other than HOYT himself!

Definitely one of the better surprises in all my years collecting baseball cards.

Day #28 -- A favorite relic/manufactured relic card

My general apathy towards relics is well-known, but I think we'd all agree that this is one of the greatest cards ever.

Day #29 -- A favorite card from before 1950, whether you own it or not

Here's a card I do own, because what fun is posting something that isn't in your collection?

I'll probably never have the budget to acquire a real card of any of the Eight Men Out, so this T206 of "Sleepy" Bill Burns here is most likely the closest I'll ever get. Burns pitched in obscurity for a few years in the early teens before becoming one of the gamblers involved in perpetrating the infamous Black Sox scandal.

It's also a good reminder that I really need to give Eight Men Out another watch sometime soon.

Day #30 -- Your favorite card in your collection

Bar none.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Zapped east, Zapped west

Most of you probably know what I'm about to show from just this card alone: yes, I'm about to reveal a trade roundup from the Luis Torrens supercollector himself, Zippy Zappy of "Torren' Up Cards" fame.

From the looks of it, ZZ printed up his own customs of Mr. Torrens and was gracious enough to send one my way. Since I don't keep much up with the prospecting game, it's my first card of the newest San Diego Padre catcher.

The term "prospecting" carries a negative label in the hobby: it's often code for people-just-hoping-to-make-a-quick-buck. ZZ, however, prospects in the true sense of the word. If you've read his blog at all, you know he's a minor league nut, and I can't even imagine how happy he must've been when Torrens got the call to the show.

While it's never been my thing, there is a relatable joy to be had in prospecting. 

Even with his minor league fandom, ZZ does appear to have some big-league cards in tow.

Along with the awesome Torrens custom, a trade package he sent me a while back resulted in this Vlad jersey card, which I'm pleased to see features a red swatch instead of the plain gray and white shades we've seen thousands of times by now.

ZZ included exactly two overproduction era cards in this mailing, and I needed both of them: what are the odds of that?

I can't believe I didn't own either of these already, and I'm especially puzzled at how the Sutter -- one of his sunset cards -- managed to slip by me all these years.

I'm still sad that my Jose Fernandez collection turned into a memorial collection overnight.

RIP, Jose.

A couple terrific mini-collection hits here.

Jeters will cost you an arm and a leg at most shows, and the Dandridge is a rare play at the plate from the days of black-and-white photography.

A second mailer I received from ZZ relatively recently showed remnants of his prospecting past.

Above are a pair of red and green tint Heritage Minor League parallels of a couple one-time Cubs prospects who never panned out. Mike Olt -- whom the Cubs acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal -- is currently bridging the Mendoza Line in Double-A with the Red Sox. Josh Vitters appears to be out of baseball altogether after playing in independent ball last year.

Despite their lack of success, I still collect both Olt and Vitters, and these are my first tinted Heritage parallels of any kind.

But those weren't the real story of ZZ's most recent mailing.

In addition to his minor league fandom, ZZ is also one of the premier Japanese baseball enthusiasts in the blogosphere, and he's let that be known in the trade packages he's sent out. I don't own many cards from the East, but ZZ's sent me at least half of the ones I currently have and pretty much doubled my then-current total with this batch.

First and foremost, here's what might well be the Greatest Manager Card Ever Made, and I don't think I have to say any more than that.

Bat flips and retro-style sets from the NPB.

Here's a couple names you'll probably recognize.

Munenori Kawasaki is a legend (and was a perennial .300 hitter in Japan), and I honestly had no idea Kosuke Fukudome was still playing in Japan after returning from his disappointing time in America, but there he is holding a bouquet of flowers on his 2016 BBM baseball card.

And in a nice moment of serendipity, today just so happens to be his 40th birthday.

It's an exciting day here in Dime Boxedonia, as these are first mini-collection hits of the Japanese variety.

And if there were cards of American players being thrown into the air by their teammates, you can bet I'd start a mini-collection of that, too.

But cards like this one just don't exist in the States, and that's a darn shame. Like Fukudome, Hisanori Takahashi also returned to Japan to pitch following a handful of years in the US and had a ball of it, from what I can tell.

Prospects, mini-collection hits, Japanese cards: you can't get much more of a variety out of trade packages.

This was truly a Zapping for the whole world to see.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Top Five: Babe Ruth

In a backwards way, Babe Ruth is so popular and well-known that he doesn't seem to get talked about much when it comes to baseball cards.

You don't really hear about people collecting The Great Bambino. It's just assumed that if you happen to obtain a card of Ruth, you're going to keep it.

He's always been a top-tier guy for me, but I haven't mentioned him on the blog a whole lot because how much more can you possibly say about a guy like Ruth? In baseball's rich history of larger-than-life characters, the Sultan of Swat was -- both literally and figuratively -- the largest. He was not only a game-changing player, but also a historical figure who (like Jackie Robinson) necessitated entire sections of history textbooks I read as a student.

I don't own any real Bambinos (obviously), but he has plenty of great cardboard out there, and I'm breaking my Ruthian silence by showing off my personal Top Five Babes this afternoon.

#5 -- 2001 Upper Deck Legends #42 Babe Ruth

Though he (surprisingly) never won a Triple Crown, Babe Ruth was, by all accounts, the King of Baseball, and no card shows that better than this one.

#4 -- 2011 Topps "CMG Reprints" #CMGR-1 Babe Ruth

You don't hear about the one-and-done "CMG Reprints" insert set much these days, but I thought it was one of Topps' better recent innovations.

I am a self-confessed reprint nut, but even I get tired of seeing the same cards being reprinted eighty times over (enough with the '52 Mantles!). In 2011, Topps came up with the brilliant idea of featuring lesser-known oddballs from the game's earlier days.

Card #1 in the set is this 1914 Baltimore News reprint of a 19-year-old Ruth, often considered his rookie card. It features Ruth's brief stint with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League before being purchased by the Red Sox, and no more than 11 copies are known to exist.

If you have north of a half-million dollars to play around with, then you're in luck: you can shove the reprint aside and have your very own Babe Ruth rookie card!

#3 -- 2009 Topps Update "Legends of the Game Updates" #LGU-18 Babe Ruth

A post about Babe Ruth would be remiss if I didn't mention his ultimate Short Term Stop with the Boston Braves.

With promises to eventually become the team's manager, Ruth joined the perennial cellar-dwelling Braves for what would turn out to be his final season in 1935. The 40-year-old slugger appeared in 28 contests that year and hit just .181 with six homers (though three of them did come in a single game).

Babe never did get to manage the Braves -- or any other big-league team -- and his time with the franchise became one of the more fascinating footnotes in baseball history.

#2 -- 2014 Stadium Club #3 Babe Ruth

This gem was recently sent to me as part of Matt's siege on my Dime Box Dozen list.

As I said then, Ruth falls victim to having the same few images repeatedly recycled on his cards, but this one features a terrific outside-the-box shot that I probably would've never seen had it not been for Stadium Club.

#1 -- 2007 UD Masterpieces #2 Babe Ruth

It's no coincidence that my favorite Babe Ruth card features a Masterpiece rendition of one of America's most iconic photographs.

The shot captures the final appearance Ruth ever made at Yankee Stadium, coming on June 13th, 1948, as part of a 25th anniversary celebration of "The House That Ruth Built." The Babe was ill and frail, needing the aid of a bat to walk up the dugout steps and onto the field. He'd pass away of cancer just two months later at the age of 53.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Upper Deck's baseball card licensing loss was the demise of their Masterpieces brand. It only lasted two years, but I'll be darned if it didn't feature some of the best, most elegant cards I've ever seen -- of both legends and current stars alike -- during my time in the hobby.

As he did throughout his life and career, however, Babe Ruth stands at the top, because this is, to me, the most masterful of all the Masterpieces.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The good part of people knowing you collect cards

When I tell people I collect baseball cards, I get a few different types of responses.

It's usually a) Oh, that's nice, b) I have these cards sitting in my basement/attic, would you mind looking through them and seeing if they're worth anything?, c) I've got this OLD Cal Ripken card, like from the '90s, that's GOT to be worth some money!, or d) Want this box of cards I've had sitting in my attic/basement for the last twenty years?

None of these options are very appealing to me. I've gotten better about sharing my love of collecting with my inner circle of family/friends, but it's still something I generally keep under wraps. Most people -- through no fault of their own -- just don't know that most stuff from the '80s and '90s isn't worth dollar one, and it's hard to have the heart to tell them that.

For these reasons, I wasn't particularly hopeful when my dad told me a buddy of his had found a box of baseball cards in his attic and was willing to let me pick out whatever I wanted. He wanted to clear space. It's a common tale. My dad flipped through them beforehand -- reporting that most of it was indeed filled with stuff from the early '90s -- and brought them over for me to dig through this afternoon.

At surface level, there was a decent amount of please-God-no-more-of-these 1989 Topps and 1990 Fleer, though not as much as I thought there'd be.

The top part of the box was filled with scattered miscellaneous singles, and I found a few things to salvage.

I certainly won't turn HOF rookies away from my collection.

Also present was a complete or near-complete set of these 1993 Toys' R' Us oddballs, and I was surprised to find I needed quite a few of them.

I can't say I've stepped foot in a Toys 'R' Us in, oh, probably at least fifteen years, but like most kids who grew up in the suburbs, I have fond memories of the place.

From the looks of it, my dad's friend was a Mike Piazza collector/investor/speculator at some point, because I found more than a dozen new Piazzas for my budding collection of his in that box.

Most of the big box my dad's friend brought for me was comprised of two smaller boxes, the first of which was filled with nothing but 1993 UD Fun Pack singles.

This surprised me. A lot of people probably have late '80s Upper Deck and Score leftover from their collecting/investing days, and maybe a few spare oddballs for good measure, but I can't imagine many have whole boxes of 1993 UD Fun Pack lying around.

It was then that I started to believe this dig might be worth remembering.

I've always thought 1993 UD Fun Pack was one of the few sets to live up to its name: this set is indeed fun.

Trouble is, not many remember it these days, which makes singles kinda tough to come by. Granted, the Saved by the Bell borders do date the design a bit, but come on, does it get any more '90s than this?

I don't think so.

The subsets/inserts in this set are fantastic, too, and there were a whole lot of those in this box as well.

Foldouts, mascots, glow-in-the-dark stickers: like I said, Fun Pack is a blast. This is a set clearly marketed towards kids, and even a non-collector could see that.

And in case you were wondering, those two young lads in the top-left of this page are Roberto Alomar and Nolan Ryan.

The second of the two boxes-within-a-box was nothing but 1993 SP, and here's where I began to get unnaturally giddy, for a few reasons.

Like UD Fun Pack, this is a set you rarely see pop up these days. Unlike UD Fun Pack, this was considered a high-end set in its day. I'm not sure how popular SP was at the time, but I'm guessing that high-end categorization might have something to do with its relative invisibility now.

Unlike most present-day high-end sets, the photography in SP is top-notch, and that includes this awesome shot of Carlos Martinez gesturing wildly towards (what I imagine is) a pitcher while seeming to have a certain four-letter word on his lips.

Like the Martinez, I couldn't believe I'd never seen most of these cards before given how well they fit into my craving for left-of-center cardboard.

Mini-collection hits are abound in SP, and from the looks of it, Brian McRae takes after his dad pretty well.

More outstanding photography, more player collection hits, more awesomeness from SP.

The only bad part was a lot of the cards were stuck together, which is a good indication they'd been sitting in that box for years, perhaps even since 1993.

Now that you mention it, there was one other reason I was so thrilled to see a whole box of SP, and particularly cards from the 1993 release.

Lots of times, when someone gives you a box of cards that might have some promise -- or when you find one at a card show -- any hint of that promise is taken away. You might find a complete set of 1984 Topps...without the Mattingly rookie. A complete set of 1989 Upper Deck...without the Griffey rookie. Etc., etc., etc.

I figured that'd be the case with this box of 1993 SP. There's one very notable rookie in this set that a lot of collectors probably know about, and probably some non-collectors, too. I figured there'd be no chance in heck of me finding it in there.

But when I saw that some of the other big-name rookies hadn't been cherry picked -- like Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon -- I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and yes, that light was...


This is otherwise known as Derek Jeter's most famous and desired rookie card. A card that routinely sells in the triple-figures. A card that, now that I think of it, I've never actually seen in-person. A card I never thought I'd own, not in a million trillion years.

I was, quite literally, at a loss for words when I saw Jeets staring back at me out of that box, because wouldn't you be? This is the dream, the fantasy for collectors like myself when people pull "junk wax" cards out of their attic. This is the very card from that era most people are after.

And now it's mine, and yes, I'm keeping it, because the story of how it ended up in my hands is worth more to me than whatever an online auction could bring.

Sometimes, I guess it helps when other people know you collect baseball cards.