Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hierarchies (or, another COMC order)


Over time, and whether I intended it or not, my collection has fallen into a bit of a hierarchy.

I (obviously) collect a lot of things, and I'm always happy to add to any of those thousands of different things, but some cards naturally take precedence over one another. Most of what I buy on COMC belongs to the pinnacle of that hierarchy - if I'm gonna specifically seek out, purchase, and wait weeks for something, chances are it's pretty darn close to top-tier. Looking back through it now, I think my latest COMC order did a good job of illustrating that.

Some of my collections even have hierarchies within themselves - I'll always take any and all Beatles cards, but I specifically decided to plunk down a bit of cash for this one because it features all four Fabs together, in action, in full-on "She Loves You" screaming-girl mop-top mode.




Other times, you can tell where a card sits on my hierarchy by how much I'm willing to spend on it.

In terms of my 50-and-75-cent COMC ways, these weren't cheap - Reggie was about $4 & Jim Morris was around $6. But they've both been high on my list because I love alternate-universe Burger King issues (not to mention Reggie's one of my favorite player collections anyways), and Morris pitched exactly two games in the White Sox system before retiring.

Little did anyone know he'd come back a decade later with some team called the Devil Rays, and have a Hollywood movie based on him, to boot.




Minor league cards tend to carry more weight for me because you just don't see them too often - I own close to 200 Carlos Zambrano cards, but that's my very first one of him in the minors.




Didn't land any wow-worthy vintage in this order, but I did track down a few Dime Box favorites for loose change (Tug is an OPC).




Mini-collections definitely operate on a hierarchy - all throwback cards are cool, but I probably own a few hundred different White Sox ones, so the Frank Thomas is another brick in what is a large (but still glorious) wall.

That Nolan Ryan, on the other hand, is the first card I've ever seen of him hitting during his time with the Angels(!) - a photo obviously taken during the '72 season since the AL implemented the DH for the rest of his career.




My player collections definitely exist in a hierarchy, and these dudes are all at the top - I couldn't afford to collect 927 different guys that were all top-tier, could I?

(I promise that Kenny Lofton looks better than it scans.)




COMC likes to remind me that, despite my skepticism of online exclusives and "chase" cards, I still like picking them up secondhand (if they're cheap enough).

I'm particularly a fan of that hockey-puck-themed Future Stars Club design, which goes well with Justin Morneau's Canadian roots.




A couple photo variations I'd been eyeing for a while - that Zimmer cameo on the Ryno is pure gold.




Throwback Thursdays and shiny cards are just two of the many probably superfluous bells and whistles that I find impossible to resist.




One seller had a bunch of these Phillies stadium giveaways obscenely cheap, and I pretty much grabbed every single one because I can never have enough Greg Luzinski and Dick Allen cards.




I don't know if the proliferation of Dodger content during my time on the blogs has made me more of a Dodger fan/collector, but it seemed like quite a few snuck into this COMC order.

Grabbed a few more of those neat Finest Dodger ROY inserts, and the '78 SSPC Bill Russell sent me scrambling because it made me realize I didn't have his '76 SSPC card...only to quickly discover he didn't have a card in '76 SSPC for some reason?




Minis are always welcome in this house, and somehow I'm only now realizing that there were die-cut '72 inserts in last year's Heritage (and I kinda like 'em!).




My COMC orders are bound to have a glut of odds and ends, and here's a few that include my first card of a ballplayer cheering from the stands, and a rare glimpse of Manny Ramirez's brief stay in the Rangers' minor league system.




Other randoms included a nifty add for my new Dave Stieb collection and the only card I've ever seen of Eddie Stanky's one-game tenure as a Rangers manager in 1977 - I'm shocked a card exists at all.




A few older hardball heroes here - a day I add a new Harvey Haddix to my binders is a banner day indeed.




Lately I've noticed that COMC can be a good source for cheap Japanese cards, which is nice because the chances of stumbling upon any of these in the wild here in the States is almost nil.

And while a new Japanese Ichiro would probably be the thank-you-goodnight ending to any other COMC order, it wasn't this time...




...because he had to play second fiddle to a new Sadaharu Oh!

I don't pretend to know much of anything about Japanese card values, but stumbling upon this gem (from Japan's Calbee brand) for all of $2 one afternoon seemed like a helluva deal to me. I've since checked what these usually go for and I'm happy to confirm that, yes, this was a massive steal - the perfect combination of a great deal for a great card that will (of course) take its place near the top of my binder hierarchy. 

And if anyone out there happens to have any other two-dollar Sadaharu Oh cards lying around, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Less of a blogger, more of a reader


I think I've reached a point where I think of myself more as a reader who occasionally blogs, and less as a blogger who reads other blogs.

There's no doubt that I still love blogging, but over time, writing has become something I enjoy in sips rather than gulps. I look back at the early years of this blog and wonder how I was able to post once, twice, sometimes even three times(!) a day. That just isn't feasible for me anymore - if I blog once a week these days it's a success.

I certainly don't mind being more of a reader than a blogger - I've said many times that I respect the heck out that community of loyal readers who take the time to scroll through our stuff while fending off the urge to start a blog of their own. I think some fellow bloggers would also agree that readers also have the tendency to be the most generous people around - willing to send us stellar cards as thanks for whatever half-baked thoughts we might post.

One such reader is a collector named Dave S. who's been sending me heaps of cards like clockwork - the cards in this post span stuff I got from him a few months ago, up to a box I found on my doorstep just last night, in fact. 




Dave's boxes are great, in that some of the stuff closely aligns with my specific collections/want lists, and a lot of it is just a mash of whatever he has lying around - that kind of mix is always a blast to sift through.

Case in point: these odd reprints, which look to have been knocked off in someone's basement - there's no copyright info or anything else on the back that suggest they're licensed copies. They're the kind of things I could see a less-experienced collector bringing into a pawn shop and being completely unprepared for the bad news.

The Frank Robinson is even more curious, given that it's a "Card That Never Was" as opposed to a straight reprint, and thus even cooler.




Here's a few more conventional items from Dave - cards from the last few years are especially appreciated since I've bought next to no retail lately.




Sending inserts of big names like Aaron and Yaz are surefire hits for me, but I get just as excited over odd stuff like that Kids' Club Quentin because that's probably not a card you'll ever see again.




Shooter + Mother's Cookies = a gosh-darn fantastic baseball card.




Another box saw Dave scatter a few new needs across my bigger player collections - Mo earns additional points for the bonus broken bat!




Aside from my usual Series 1 purchases, I think the only retail I've bought so far this year was a lone blaster of 2022 Gypsy Queen.

And judging from what I've read, I think I'm the only one who kinda sorta likes GQ this year - it's a whole lot more distinctive than a lot of the other designs they've thrown at us the last ten years.




These are the kinds of scans I love to show on this blog - steel cards, Rod Becks, a neat Johnny Bench, and a Babe Ruth oddball I know nothing about.




Dave must've come into an Albert Belle collection or something, because one of the boxes he sent contained a small treasure of don't-call-me Joeys.

While Belle is in my binders, he's not someone whose cards I actively pursue - but shiny stuff of anyone is always welcome around here!




Oddball madness, including a minor league mascot card that kinda creeps me out for a reason I can't quite put my finger on.




My eyes lit up when I saw a couple West Coast stadium giveaway sets in this particular box - these things are like Bigfoot here in the Midwest, and of course that makes them all the more desirable to me because the toddler in me always wants what I can't have.

Regional sets like this Keebler Giants one are often great for off-kilter stuff like managers (Felipe Alou!) and obscure middle-relievers I'm weirdly endeared to (Scott Eyre!).




Somehow, this oddball set from Dave might be even better since it's from the heart of the Moneyball A's days - including short-term-stop Johnny Damon and perennial Dime Box favorite Chad Bradford.




Dave also knocked out a Dime Box Dozen need with this '85 Donruss Mattingly - a card I still love despite the fact that it looks like Donnie Baseball got out of bed two seconds ago.




In a of great timing, Dave's latest box showed up just last night, and thus allowed me to squeeze another round of cardboard greats into this post.

I don't think I've ever bought a pack of Topps Gallery - and now that I think of it, I'm not sure I've ever seen one - but the cards aren't half bad.




Random fun from the '90s to now - Topps doesn't need more brands, but I wouldn't mind them seeing them bring back Cracker Jack.




I'm by no means a Yankees fan, but they've obviously had a lot of greats over the years, which might explain why I'm on the verge of giving them a sixth binder in my collection - no other team has more than five.

The Jeter & Mattingly are a couple more of those mysterious reprints I mentioned earlier...




...and since we started with a Mantle reprint, we might as well end with one.

Blogging has its rewards - both in the creative fulfillment it provides, and the selfish enjoyment of people sending me cards - but readers like Dave occupy their own special place in the blogosphere, one that has no doubt kept this blog running for as long as it has.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Summers pass, and so does the flea market


As I get older, the months and years seem to pass faster, and I honestly can't believe we're on the cusp of entering September already because wasn't it just snowing a few days ago?

While I'm much more of a fall/winter lover myself, the sands fading from the summer hourglass is still disappointing because, along with the twilight of the baseball season, it also signals the end of one of my favorite summer places - the flea market. I'm no longer a week-in, week-out flea market attendee, but it's still comforting to know it's there if and when I need it - which mirrors baseball itself sometimes.

I guess a part of me knew this might be my last opportunity to hit the flea market this year, because although I had a few other commitments on a rare Sunday off work a couple weeks ago, I managed to get myself out of bed at 6 AM(!), which is quite an accomplishment for this perpetual afternoon riser.




Being a late sleeper as I am, I often forget there's a whole part of the human race that wakes up at sunrise - the flea market reaches its peak hours at about 7 AM when I'm still in bed.

The cards I find at the flea market are a bonus atop the simple pleasure I get from walking the aisles. My regular card guy was back this time, and he had some fun oddball stuff on display during my last trip. I know painfully little about those '50s Exhibits cards - the guy told me the Ted Williams at the top of the post was actually a reprint, and I have to believe him because why else would he let me have it for a dollar?

I hemmed and hawed for a bit before finally deciding to pull the trigger on this Fritsch Milwaukee Braves set for $10 - they're sadly a bit too big to fit in a nine-pocket page (more '56 Topps-sized), but I eventually caved because this is the exactly the type of thing I'd regret not buying and never see again.




The guy also had a small dollar box off to the side, mostly vintage with some other miscellany.

I rue the years of not knowing about that '67 Ed Charles because that is one BEAUTIFUL baseball card.




The Tito Fuentes rookie was another coup from the dollar box - everything else here came from the guy's main discount boxes, which were marked down to 5/$1 by the time I got to his table.

Living in this era of prospecting fanaticism makes it even harder to believe I found a Yadi rookie for 20 cents. 




This vendor, perhaps more than any other, has fueled my interest in oddballs over the years - Starting Lineup cards are a favorite of mine (which is nice because I have next to no interest in the figurines themselves), and I love that Nike Griffey even though I'm not quite sure what it is.




A few other gems from the 5/$1 boxes - though Jim Thorpe did play in the bigs, I collect all of his cards, baseball or not, because of my admiration for the guy.




A side benefit of attending the flea market is stumbling across tables with cards I've never seen before - most of the time it ends up being boxes of 1990 Topps, but every once in a while you'll strike a small goldmine.

One guy I found had a few 50-cent boxes full of overproduction-era stuff that also somehow had a few Hostess cards mixed in. I don't actively chase the Hostess Twinkies vs. Hostess Panels variations (the stains on these two indicate the former), but I figured it'd be worth a few quarters to see if Wynn & Blomberg ended up being needs.

This guy's dollar box resulted in the real coup from his table with that Cool Papa Bell - yet another fantastic card I know nothing about.




I had a few extra bucks in my wallet at the end of the day, so I doubled back and grabbed a few last-minute finds from a new vendor whose cards were half off the sticker price - the shiny Cruz was a dollar, and the others were a quarter each.

Edgar Renteria occupies a nominal place in my binders (at best), but he has one of the best-looking Bowman rookies I've seen in a while.




These were $2 a piece, and while that's probably not a price I'd pay at a card show or anything, I figured why not because a) phone cards are a neat '90s relic, and b) like the aforementioned Braves set, I can't imagine I'd ever see these again.




Among my final purchases of the day were a handful of unopened '90s packs from a vendor I always see but rarely buy from - I always seem to be running low on money by the time I find his table.

I love opening packs from the past and I often have to restrain myself from spending a small fortune when I see them - managed to limit myself to about $10 worth here, and even pulled a Jeets minor league insert for my troubles!




The regular vendor with the 50-cent binders in the first aisle did a small restock of his inventory this time around - nothing earth-shattering, but a few nice inserts I was more than happy to add to the archives.

(I don't know that I like living in a time where "Hot Sauce" inserts are a thing.)




A few 50-cent legends, and the Aaron short-print was probably the crown jewel of the recent restock because GQ SPs seem to get tougher and tougher as the years go by.




This guy's binders are mostly organized by player, and most of my past tours through them have seen me pluck a few favorites from each section and leave the rest for later.

This time, however, I decided screw it and just bought up every Stan Musial in there I didn't already have - I'm wondering what took me so long to do that.




A nifty mini Stan the Man made for a nice cherry on the top of yet another successful flea market run.

It felt weird leaving the flea market a little before 10 AM - that's usually about the time I'm finding a parking spot most times I go. I'm still not a fan of being awake at such an ungodly hour, and I don't plan on doing so again for as long as I can help it, but I'd say the cards I found made everything worth it.

And while I'm a bit sad that this'll probably be my last flea market trip of the year, I guess I shouldn't get too down because if the seasons keep fast-forwarding by at this rate, it'll be spring again in, oh, about three days.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Frontrunners


I caught most of the Cubs-Reds "Field of Dreams" game last week, and at some point I realized it was the first Cubs game I'd watched in, oh, about a month or two.

Seeing as how this is from someone who calls themselves a Cubs fan, I had to ask myself the question - am I a frontrunner? It's obviously a basic fact that a good team is more fun to watch than a bad team, but it wasn't so long ago that it hurt to miss a Cubs game because of work or other obligations. Nowadays I turn on more Sox games because they are simply a better team (albeit still disappointing this year) and give me more incentive to watch them. Still, I've felt like I'm abandoning my Cubs fandom with how little I've seen of them the last few seasons.

But being a fan is a two-way street. How can I expect to love a team like the Cubs that continues to field what is more or less a Triple-A lineup day after day? How can I root for a franchise whose owner rakes in piles and piles of money while crying poor? Aside from Willson Contreras, I can't say I have much of a connection to anyone on the Cubs roster right now.

Here in 2022, I find myself envying people like Dodger-fan extraordinaire Greg of "Night Owl Cards" who actually have a good team to root for.




I remember when the Cubs were making a mockery of the league, much like the Dodgers are doing these days - but those days are long behind us.

But whether my team sucks or not, it's always been comforting to have baseball cards to fall back on. They keep me connected to the game when my favorite teams are pushing me away. And best of all, people like Greg keep sending them to me!

In addition to the excellent mini at the top of this post - I always have a weakness for Rays McGriff cards - came these two legendary second basemen for the binders.




Greg tossed up a bunch of his Dodger extras on the blog a while ago - his doubles are probably better than my entire catalog of Dodgers - and I was lucky enough to get a few of 'em.

I'm probably one of a few thousand Nomo collectors in the hobby, but I can't imagine there's many other Todd Hollandsworth fans still out there - he's one of those guys I've always liked without quite knowing why.




A couple big player needs here - reprinting all of Ichiro's Topps cards in Archives a few years ago had to be one of the most unnecessary insert ideas ever, but of course I still want them because that's how player collecting goes.

(No, the sting of seeing Anthony Rizzo as a Yankee hasn't quite worn off yet.)




Greg's always been good about scouring my want lists, and he helped me land a few 2022 needs here - actually check that, because I keep calling 2021 Big League a 2022 set (but can you blame me?).




I often admire Greg for his regimented collecting ways - collecting a specific team and building specific sets - but he can get the randomness engines going sometimes, too.

Coca-Cola cards, stadium giveaway oddballs (with a Ken Griffey Sr. sighting!), and other scattered Cubs and Sox are all the exact kind of madness I love.




Greg also took down one of my Dime Box Dozen needs with this beauty - because how could I not want a card of The Babe with a big bat?

It's hard to know where the line between being a fan and a frontrunner is sometimes. I've always thought of myself as a fan of the game itself more than anything, but it sure helped when my favorite team was even anything approaching a decent ballclub. I just can't get myself too excited over watching a team that seems to make me wonder who's THAT? whenever they bring in a reliever or throw in another outfielder.

Alas, 2016 seems like a long time ago now.