Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 27: 1992 Topps #261 Tom Lasorda

If there's one thing in the hobby that doesn't have a whole lot of excitement, it's manager cards.

After all, there's not a lot of different shots possible. Most of the time, we just get a simple pose on the dugout steps or out on the field. Card companies never really went the extra mile with photographing managers.

That is, until 1992 Topps. The overall design of the set isn't the greatest, but I'll always be partial to it because it was released the year I was born.

1992 Topps boasts two of the greatest cards of the overproduction era. The above Tom Lasorda card and this beauty.

I'm still deciding which one I like better. The Ripken is a pretty serious card, foreshadowing his eventual capture of one of the most hallowed baseball records ever.

However, this one is simply fun. At the time this card was released, Lasorda was 65 years old. Yet he's still keeping up with the likes of Orel Hershiser, Gary Carter, and Kevin Gross, partaking in a morning jog with them with a smile. (Thanks to Night Owl and hiflew, I now know who the guy above Lasorda is. John Candelaria.)

That's what sets this one apart from all other manager cards. Most of the skippers we see on cardboard have serious looks on their faces. It doesn't look like they're enjoying it very much.

1992 Topps showed us that managing can actually be fun.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Every kind there is

"Just how many different types of refractors are there?"

This is the question I asked myself while I was browsing through some cards yesterday.

Whether you like them or not, it appears that refractors are here to stay in the hobby. Which is fine by me, as I have a weakness when it comes to shiny baseball cards that I just can't seem to shake.

I believe that the term "refractor" was first used in the '94 Finest set, a set shown above with one of those "obscure" guys I collect, Rheal Cormier.

They've been around ever since, only in many different shapes and sizes (and colors), as you'll soon see.

The other major type of refractor is the awesomely-named "x-fractor".

I'm not exactly sure when these were first introduced into the hobby. (I'd guess they were first used with these, although I could be wrong.)

I spent an hour or so this morning going through my collection and seeing how many different types of refractors I had.

Including the regular refractors and x-fractors, I came up with a total of 16 different variations, which was more than I thought I'd find. I know there's a few I don't have, like the sepia refractors from 2011 Topps Chrome. And I doubt I'll ever own a "super-fractor" judging from the going rates on those.

I'm sure there's still some I don't know about.

In order to not make this a "Here's this type of refractor. And here's another one. And another..." type of post, I've decided to rank them from my least favorite to favorite.

But even my least favorite refractor is better than a lot of other cards I own. It's a lot like saying my least favorite Beatle is George Harrison. It's not that I don't like him, he's just my least favorite of the four, and I still like him a lot more than most other musicians.

Anyways, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, refractors.

I'll leave out the regular refractors and x-fractors, so you'll see 14 different refractors in the "countdown". If you have any that aren't on this list, please feel free to comment, as I'd like to know just how many different types are out there that I don't already own.

And the countdown begins with...

#14: Copper Refractors

(A note: I don't know why, but "blogger" decided to put an extra space after lines with bold or italic text that I can't get rid of. My apologies.)

Like a lot of other types still to come on this list, these were a one-time deal.

Copper refractors were only found inside 2008 Topps Chrome packs. Copper just doesn't blend all too well with "shininess".

#13: Black X-Fractors

As is the case with a few others, this is the only one of this type of refractor that I own.

In fact, it's one of the lowest-numbered cards in my collection, limited to just 25 copies. However, like the copper refractors, the dark colors just don't work well with refractor-like qualities.

#12: Black Refractors

Same sentiments as #13.

#11: Green Refractors

Finest sure had a lot of wacky refractors.

That shade of green reminds me of this from my kiddie days watching Nickelodeon. To this day, I still wonder what the heck was in that stuff.

#10: Gold Refractors

If I was making this list a few months ago, these might have been a little higher.

But Topps made me a bit sick of "gold" this year.

#9: Blue X-Fractors

Yes, more Aubrey Huff.

By themselves, x-fractors are great. However, I'll always take the regular colored refractor over an x-fractor of the same color (like the black refractors).

#8: Blue Refractors

See what I mean?

#7: Orange Refractors

In the last couple years, rack packs of Topps Chrome have had a "special" pack containing three of these.

I probably would've never bought a single pack of Chrome last year had it not been for these.

This Ichiro was one of my best pulls of 2011.

#6: Retrofractors

I wish Topps would bring these back. They've been in hiding for about ten years.

The only major color that doesn't seem to have a refractor is yellow, but this is pretty close.

The "retro" is because of the old card stock-like feel to the back of the card. The above card is my personal favorite Jason Tyner card. (Another "obscure" collection of mine.)

#5: White Refractors

Another one-time deal, only found inside 2007 Topps Chrome packs.

I'm not sure why I like these so much, as you'd think white would be a horrible color for refractors.

But there's just something about them.

#4: Silver Refractors

This is the only silver refractor I own.

I want more!

#3: Red X-Fractors

Red is my personal favorite refractor color. It's one of the few that works great with x-fractors as well.

This was my first "big" card in my Marlon Byrd collection, so it holds a special meaning to me.

That and the fact that it's absurdly shiny.

#2: Red Refractors

I wish these were still around.

I've only got a few in my collection, but I love every one of them.

My favorite type of refractor was re-indroduced to the hobby last year after a lengthy hiatus. They were one of the few good things to come out of the mid '90s parallel craze.

Without further ado, here they are.

#1: Atomic Refractors

Just look at it. A thing of beauty.

I've only got two or three of these in my collection. They don't come up very often, but I consider myself lucky to have any of them.

Topps re-introduced these in last year's Topps Chrome, although they're a far cry from the mid '90s atomic greatness.

Even the name is fantastic. "Atomic".

Perhaps no singular thing has signaled a shift in this ever-changing hobby more than refractors. The difference between these and cards from the 1970's are so different that they might as well have been issued a century apart.

It really is amazing to think about how far this hobby has come sometimes.

Please Mr. Postman (A trade post) -- "Huff" and puff

Well, my first full day of spring break is off to a fantastic start.

The first thing that greeted me out of the mailbox this afternoon was a large white box stuffed with cards, courtesy of Collective Troll, author of the great blog "Troll Might Rule!!!".

The first thing I pulled out of Troll's box was a small case of minis. The one that caught my eye the most was the '08 A&G Jimmie Foxx. I love the "Baseball Icons" insert set, but I haven't had much luck finding any over the years. Foxx joins Mel Ott as the only ones in my collection.

After pulling out the two "Step Right Up" insert from the package, I decided that I'm officially going after the set. I'm already almost halfway there with these two and the ones I got from Ted.

And speaking of Aubrey Huff...

...the "Troll" sent me a large stack of Aubrey Huff cards.

A hundred and eleven Huff cards, to be exact. Holy cow, 111 Aubrey Huff cards?!

Huff is one of the players listed in my "Guys I Collect" tab on the blog. This immensely helps out my collection of his, to say the least.

Above are a few of my favorites from the box I received from "Troll".

And here's a few more.

It was a ton of fun going through all those cards. I'm planning on going through them again after I finish this post.

However, this was the crown jewel of the package.

Although I've soured a bit on certified autos in the last couple years, I always enjoy receiving in-person ones, especially an auto of one of my favorite players.

Is this too much Aubrey Huff?


Much, much thanks go out to Collective Troll for the stupendous array of cards!

Now I've got some sorting to do.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A&G: The perfect antidote

For the first time in a while, I was having trouble coming up with an idea.

I just couldn't think of anything. Maybe it's just that I'm still gushing over the fact that I'm officially on spring break. Not to mention that the Cubs' home opener is a week away.

But for whatever reason, I was drawing a blank. Eventually, I found the cure.

Allen and Ginter.

Tonight, I learned that there is always a blog post to be written about A&G. It's the cure for "writer's block" (if you could even call me a writer).

It doesn't seem like many people enjoy the non-baseball subjects A&G includes in their set each year.

I, however, love them. Call me crazy, but this Jack the Ripper issue is my favorite A&G card, baseball or no baseball.

It's easily the most mysterious card I own. It still gives me chills. You just know something shady is going on.

But its mystery is the reason I love it. I guess that goes for all the A&G cards of this sort. Sure, cards of the "hot dog guy" or the "Pac-Man guy" are odd.

But they certainly beat another A-Rod card any day.

Dime Box Heroes: The pride of Japan

2006 Upper Deck "Inaugural Images" #II-25 Ichiro Suzuki

The first two games of the 2012 MLB season are in the books.

I just got done watching today's Mariners-A's game. Another good one, although I'm not expecting a whole lot from either team this year.

Although it made the schedule a bit funky (both teams still have a few more spring training games left), I loved seeing Japan's baseball culture first-hand. Much like it is here, every game is an event in Japan.

The one thing that stuck out the most was the "homecoming" reception for Ichiro. He's always been one of my personal favorites, but Japanese fans take the word "favorite" to a whole other level. He got an immense ovation every time he stepped up to the plate. They went crazy after each of his four hits in yesterday's game. He's bigger than the Beatles in his home land.

I can't imagine what it would've been like had he gone deep.

This is mainly why I'm looking forward to next year's World Baseball Classic tournament. I love seeing all the baseball cultures around the world, and it's extremely refreshing to know that baseball is being played around the world, even in places like Brazil and Colombia.

However, I don't think any other place can match Japan's enthusiasm for the sport, judging from what I witnessed over the last couple days. While the U.S. and Japan have obviously had their differences over the years, there's always been one thing we could agree on.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Saved from obscurity

I collect all sorts of things.

Some are of more established guys, like Ichiro, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and pretty much every pre-1980's Hall of Famer.

But then again, there's some guys I collect that are a bit more obscure. Guys like Tanyon Sturtze, Ross Gload, and Ben Davis. (Okay, they're a lot more obscure.)

A couple years ago, I was ready to add Brandon McCarthy to my "obscure" list.

I'm not exactly sure how I started collecting him. Probably because he was once a top prospect for the hometown White Sox. I vaguely remember watching his big-league debut in an interleague game against the Cubs in '05.

After a couple 4.00+ ERA seasons, the Sox decided to part ways with McCarthy, trading him to the Rangers in the deal that brought John Danks to Chicago.

That was the last I heard about him for a while.

He spent three injury-riddled seasons in Texas.

After missing the entire 2010 season due to a shoulder injury, he signed with the Oakland A's...

...and that's where this ESPN article comes in.

If you want to read a good piece about baseball, definitely give this one a shot. (Shocking, because you don't often see "ESPN" and "baseball" in the same category anymore, save for the Yankees and Red Sox.)

It chronicles how sabremetrics pretty much saved Brandon McCarthy's baseball career. I'm not all-in with sabremetric theories, but some of them have their points.

You can't argue with the impact they had on McCarthy, though. He went 9-9 last year with an outstanding 3.32 ERA, the best numbers of any A's starter last season.

So after all this, you can imagine how excited I was to see one of my favorite pitchers start on Opening Day, as the A's gave McCarthy the nod for their opener in Japan today.

I taped the game (which aired at 5:00 in the morning here) and watched it this afternoon. I don't want to give away too much for anyone who taped it or is watching the replay, but I'll just say McCarthy pitched well.

It gives me great happiness to say that Brandon McCarthy is no longer an obscure baseball player.

He's an Opening Day starter.

Zero-Year Cards, Part 27

1993 Pinnacle #498 Mike Scioscia (Padres)

It's a tale of two generations.

To the baseball fans of the past generation, Mike Scioscia is known as a Dodger, famous for being one of the greatest at blocking the plate.

However, I'd bet most of the younger fans, myself included, primarily picture him in an Angels uniform, as he's managed there since 1999. 

One of my first vivid baseball memories is watching the Angels-Giants matchup in the World Series in 2002. The Angels' comeback in Game 6 is still one of the most amazing things I've ever seen happen on a ballfield. Ever since that year, I've been an avid Angels fan.

They're still my favorite non-Chicago sports team.

No one, however, remembers Scioscia as a San Diego Padre. I'm sure it pains a lot of Dodgers fans to even see him playing in another uniform. I never even knew he was a part of the Padres' organization until I bought these cards and pulled his '93 UD issue. I thought that was the only one of him as a Padre until I found this Pinnacle card in a dime box at Saturday's show.

He signed with the Padres after the 1992 season. He missed the entire '93 season due to a torn rotator cuff, never playing in a game for San Diego. He attempted a comeback with the Rangers in 1994, but retired before ever appearing in a game with Texas.

Whether we remember him as a Dodgers catcher or an Angels manager, I have a feeling that Mike Scioscia will remain in the game of baseball for a long, long time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Point of no return

Once again, baseball cards are in the news.

This morning, I came across the newest post from bdj610's blog.

Apparently, CBS ran a segment about baseball cards this past weekend. I usually enjoy it when baseball cards pop up in the media or pop culture.

My first clue that something was off in CBS's story was that they said Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps was his rookie card. It's a common mistake, but you should at least get it right if you're going to, you know, run a nationally televised news story.

I was disappointed to see that it was a gloom-and-doom look on the hobby we all love so much. I was, however, immediately taken in to the segment, because one of the first shots we see is a sign that says "10 Cent Cards".

The initial scene is one of the many local card shows across the country, a largely empty one at that. After a little while, it cuts to a crowd shot of the 1991 National Convention, which was attended by over 100,000 people.

Although I wasn't around at the time, I've read about the craziness of the "overproduction era" of the late '80s and early '90s.

It was all largely kicked off by Upper Deck's initial release in 1989.

We all pretty much know the rest.

The biggest problem I had with the clip was that it seemed to glorify those years.

It actually turned out to be the worst years to be a collector.

There weren't many people in the hobby for fun then. To be fair, card companies weren't really allowing the collectors to have much "fun" at the time. Obviously, the hobby has certainly declined in popularity since then.

However, I'd say the ratio of people who are in it for fun versus people who are in it for a quick buck is much, much lower today than it was then. I've encountered very few people who are in the hobby solely for the money in recent years.

Fun is originally what collecting was supposed to be about.

The hobby forgot that during the overproduction era.

One of the biggest complaints about the hobby is a common one.

"It's not for kids anymore."

One thing I did agree with from the segment was the role video games played in that change. Although they kind of glossed over it, they did get that right.

I'm one of the very few people I know who doesn't play video games. Now that I think of it, I don't know that I've ever even met anyone else my age who doesn't play video games on a daily basis.

If kids do partake in hobbies nowadays, it's video games, for the most part. It's the "cool" hobby to have. Not collecting baseball cards.

I'd never realized it before I saw the news clip, but there was a "perfect storm" of sorts. Video games and the "Internet boom" happened at right around the same time as the '94 baseball strike.

People were already starting to sour on the hobby by then. The video game boom simply came along in the right place at the right time.

However, the segment made it seem like there are absolutely no kids in the hobby anymore, which is actually far from the truth.

One of the dealers from the segment says that the hobby has "priced themselves out" in reference to the diminishing amount of kids in it. While that may partly be true, there's still plenty of room for the younger generation to collect cards. They aren't all $100 cards, contrary to the vibe that CBS gives off.

The card show that they cut to at around the 2:40 point in the video is actually the exact same card show that I was at this weekend. CBS must have been there a different day, because I didn't see any cameras.

On a side note, the table that has the "Bargains" sign (at 2:49) is the table where all this good stuff came from, including the above Burdette card. The clip of the person flipping through the cards at the 2:55 mark is also from that table. I know because each sleeve was individually marked with that exact same handwriting.

I looked again and again, but I wasn't anywhere in the footage from the card show. That would've been neat.

Anyways, what the segment failed to note is that there were quite a few kids there. And the convention hall was absolutely packed. I've been going to that show twice a year for about four or five straight years now, and I have to say that I seem to always see more and more attendees each time I go.

That's a great sign.

"It's going to die."

This is one of the final "uplifting" quotes about the hobby from the CBS segment.

While collecting has obviously diminished in recent years, I wouldn't categorize the hobby as anywhere near "dying".

Maybe it's because I'm on the inside looking out, but it seems like baseball cards are one of the most misunderstood hobbies in today's day in age.

Contrary to what CBS would have you believe, I'd rather be at a show with a couple dozen people who are in it for fun than at a show with 100,000 people, half of which are trying to scheme ways to make a quick buck. I am truly glad that I grew up during the current era of cards rather than the crazy overproduction era, no matter what CBS says.

It's still a great time to be a collector.

Please Mr. Postman (A trade post) -- Two of a kind

Two more trades in the books.

The first comes from Kirk over at "CaptKirk42's Trading Card Blog".

I was the victim of a "Vlad-ing", as Kirk sent me a healthy stack of Vladimir Guerrero cards with the above note attached.

I own more cards of Vlad than any other player I collect, with over 500 cards of his. Kirk's package just added to the "Vlad Madness".

Most of the Vlads were from the late '90s and early 2000's, the era in which I first started to collect.

I'm not exactly sure how Upper Deck got away with their Vintage sets. I like them, but that's only because they're direct ripoffs of 1970's Topps sets. (Look at this. And this. And this.)

The Vlad is an insert from one of the UD Vintage sets. I'm not sure why, but I like the all-red backdrop. It suits Vlad well.

Here's a couple "futuristic" Vlads that Kirk sent.

The Stadium Club card was easily my favorite from the package.

This is one of the most interesting cards I've ever seen.

It didn't come up too well on the scan, but there's a few "freeze-frame" shots of Vlad on the right side of the card.

I can't decide whether I love it or hate it.

The second package comes from one of the best in the blogosphere, William over at "Foul Bunt".

William's been nothing but gracious to me. He sent me a few cards of local hero Tom Gorzelanny a few weeks ago that I somehow never previously posted.

The cards I received from William yesterday can only be characterized by one word.


If you know anything about my collecting ways, it's that I love looking through random cards. William certainly succeeded in that department, sending along a Sportflics Phil Niekro and a kind-of-creepy card of the Nationals' mascot, "Screech".

But one of the cards William sent was actually a card I've wanted for a while.

This one.

I can't even begin to put into words how great this card is. All I can say is definitely expect to see it again in a future "Cardboard Masterpieces" post. (Or even a "Gems of Junk Wax" post.)

Much thanks go out to fellow bloggers Kirk for the "Vlad-ing" and to William for the great randomness, especially the Boggs!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cardboard Masterpieces, Pt. 1

2007 UD Masterpieces #20 Ty Cobb

And so it begins.

The first inductee into the "Cardboard Masterpiece" art gallery. 

Coincidentally, my favorite "masterpiece" comes from a set called Masterpieces, one of the nicest sets ever produced.

Ty Cobb is one of the most interesting players in baseball history, to put it lightly. If someone asked me to describe him, I'd show them this picture. It perfectly presents the type of player he was, constantly going "full throttle" (as it notes on the back of the card), about to bowl over a helpless catcher with a spike to the midsection.

One of the other great things about this card is the fantastic depiction of turn-of-the-century baseball. The old-time catcher's shin guards. The "oven mitt" styled catcher's glove. The brick wall backstop. The suit-and-tied members of the audience.

It's got everything a fan of baseball history would want.

In all the years I've spent collecting baseball cards and poring over old baseball pictures, I've never come across a better photograph than this one.

I don't think I ever will.

Thoughts and renovations

This afternoon, I'm just going to share a few general thoughts and praises I have for the blogosphere.

I've said a lot of this before, but it deserves to be said again. Over and over.

For one thing, it's been about three and a half months since my first post. I still can't believe it myself. And already 75 followers! I never thought I'd have near that many people interested in this blog. It's been a fun ride thus far, to say the least, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.

I just want to wholeheartedly thank everyone in the blogosphere who's helped me out thus far, whether it be by trading, leaving comments, or simply reading the blog.

It means a lot to know that people are interested in what you're saying. I had some reservations about starting a blog at first, but I am happy to say that I've looked forward to blogging each and every day. I love searching for that new topic to post about. Blogging has really made me think about baseball cards in a way I never have before.

Hopefully, I've even persuaded a few people to check out a few dime boxes at the next card show.

So thank you, everyone! Blogging has been far, far better than I ever could have imagined it to be, and it's all thanks to you.

Secondly, I'd like to note a few renovations I made to my blog last night.

You may have noticed that I have decided to retire the "short term stops" theme posts. I felt like I was forcing some of those posts and not putting my best work into them.

However, I've also created a new theme which I'll be debuting tonight, my "Cardboard Masterpieces" collection. (I assure you, the Jose Canseco card at the top of this post is not one of them. It was the best card I could find for the "renovation" theme since I don't own this card.)

As I've noted before, one of my new focuses has been to acquire cards that simply have neat pictures on them. To me, nothing beats a great baseball photograph. I've seen some fantastic pictures of other sports like basketball or football. And I've seen some breathtaking architectural or nature photographs as well.

But none of it beats baseball photography. Luckily, some of the greatest shots I've ever seen were introduced to me through the pieces of cardboard that we all know and love.

My hope is to share these great pieces of baseball history with my fellow bloggers.

I'm sure we can all share a love for great baseball photography, no matter what player or team the card features. Or what set or year it's from.

That's my hope.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The future is here

A few days ago, I read something that really got me thinking.

Robert at "$30 A Week Habit" recently made a post that dealt with the topic of having a "grand plan" when it comes to collecting. Whether it's collecting a specific team, a specific player, or a specific set, having a "grand plan" basically means having a clear focus of one's collection.

For anyone that's read my blog, you know that I don't even have the slightest semblance of any type of "plan". I collect what I like, and I like a lot. I've never gone to a card show with a specific want list in my hand. Any time my dad asks me what I'm looking for at an upcoming show, I always give the same answer.

"We'll see."

While at first I shrugged the idea off, Robert's "grand plan" post made me wonder. "Will I ever have collect with only a few interests in mind?"

That thought led to: "Will I ever have to downsize my collection in the future?"

And that thought led me to the question I think we've all asked ourselves at one point in time.

"Will I even be collecting in the future?"

It seemed like a silly question at first. I don't know whether or not cards will look like the Hunter Pence card at the top of the post in 2020, as Topps predicted with their futuristic-looking inserts from a couple years ago, but I'd still be collecting.

Of course I'd still be collecting.

Then I remembered that I'm in my twenties now. There's no doubt that I'm looking forward to seeing what the coming years have in store for me. But sometimes I wonder what will happen my collection as I get older.

Whether it's lack of money, time, or simply just interest, I've heard many stories of people that have put their collections on hiatus during the point of time that I'm nearing. I never thought that would happen to me, but then I started to have a bit of doubt. You just never know what's going to happen in life, especially during your twenties.

To get the real answer to my question, I had to look back.

When it comes to baseball cards, this is my earliest memory.

A seemingly innocent 1957 Topps Don Bessent.

I can't really pinpoint a specific age when I began collecting, but I'm fairly certain that this was my first big baseball card acquisition.

Best I can recall, one of my dad's friends was moving into a new house when I was about seven or eight years old. They came across a small box of baseball cards that had been left by the previous home owner, a box which included the Bessent card above.

Somehow, the cards wound up in my hands.

There weren't any Mickey Mantles or anything in the cards I got, but that didn't matter. These were cards from the 1950's, a time which must have seemed prehistoric when I was eight.

I've been hooked ever since.

There's never been a point in time which I've altogether stopped collecting. I was into cards of all sports early on in my collecting "career". I was interested in pretty much anything I could get my hands on. But I was still collecting.

As I got to middle school, I went into a brief period where I only collected MLB Showdown cards. No regular baseball cards, just those. I'd buy pack after pack of them, hoping for those legendary "foil" cards. But I was still collecting.

By the end of middle school, I was only collecting hockey cards. My theory on why that happened is because the previous year's strike had made me go a whole year without it. Even though I'm a hockey fan, I'm still not completely sure why I went all-out in collecting just hockey cards. But I was still collecting.

Once high school came along, I was in heaven. Once again, I was collecting baseball cards. Just baseball cards. Nothing else. That's where I stand today, almost six years later.

And I'm still collecting.

Even as things changed around me, I still collected with as much passion as any other point in my life.

After thinking about all that, I thought I had my question answered. I'll definitely still be collecting in the future, no doubt about it.

I was still forgetting one thing, though.

Times of hardship.

How would my collection fare during those times? Luckily, I had an answer to that question as well.

I've been pretty lucky thus far. I haven't really had too many crazy things happen yet in my life. I've gotten by so far with only a few scrapes. I saw a lot of other kids' lives start to complicate towards the end of high school. I felt lucky, because the biggest thing I could remember worrying about in my later high school years was whether or not I was going to pass Drivers' Ed. (I did.)

All throughout high school, I continued collecting through anything I encountered.

The most eye-opening experience I've had so far was going away to college a couple years ago. Like any other teenager about to be on his own for the first time, I thought, "This is going to be great!"

To put it shortly, it wasn't. I found out pretty quickly that it wasn't the most socially conductive environment. I roomed with one of my best friends from high school, but he ended up dropping out about halfway through the semester.

I ended up spending a lot of time by myself as a result, counting down the days I could finally leave the place. But a funny thing started to happen.

I relied on my baseball cards even more than I did before. In times like that, I would've thought I'd lose interest in "expendable" things like cards while I was learning just what a crazy place the world could be.

Nope, I was collecting with a passion and fury that surprised even myself. Looking back on it, I guess I was just looking for that one stable presence. I didn't have a family that I could go back to when things started to get too crazy at the time. Sure, I could talk to them over the phone during the week, but I was living on my own, after all.

I quickly found that stable presence. Baseball cards.

I'd ordered a box of 2010 Topps Update while I was on my own. When it finally came in the mail, I literally sprinted up to my dorm room. I've never opened a box with as much excitement as that box had. It was my first cardboard introduction to Stephen Strasburg.

It was also my first genuine piece of happiness in an otherwise dark period of time.

And it was all thanks to simple pieces of cardboard.

Thankfully, things are back to normal now.

Even better than normal, actually. I'm still excited that Heritage is on the shelves, and I can't wait for baseball season to begin.

I'm even planning to go away to college again in the near future. Only this time, I'll be better prepared.

Through it all, I've always had my baseball cards. They've always been there. I know that I still have a lot to learn, especially during the coming years. I know I'll still have to step in the box for a few more of life's curveballs.

But thanks to the blogosphere and a little retrospection, I now have a definitive answer to the immortal question.

Will I still be collecting in the future? Yes, I will.

There's no doubt in my mind.

Please Mr. Postman (A trade post) -- My new favorite GQ card

This is my fourth trade post of the week.

A new record!

Between the card show, the giant box o' minis, the Obak lot, and the hit to my "Fab Four", I don't know that I've ever added so much to my collection in such a short time period.

To top it off, I received what I believe is my new favorite Gypsy Queen card in the mail yesterday. One of the newer blogs out there is "2 by 3 Heroes", authored by Jeff.

Jeff contacted me about some Gypsy Queens he had from my set needs page. It didn't take long at all to finalize a trade.

One of the cards Jeff sent me was the Xavier Nady SP you see above, also known as my new favorite card from the GQ set. From the looks of it, I'd guess that the Nady is a night card. Plus, I love the faint sparkle on Nady's helmet.

Jeff also sent a couple Gypsy Queen inserts I needed.

I didn't buy much GQ last year. I don't really by much of any $3 Target packs that aren't Heritage or A&G. These cards are pretty nice, though, and I'm sure I'll pick up a pack or two once the 2012's come out next month.

Jeff also included some cards of a few of my favorite players as well, such as this treasured new addition to my Aubrey Huff collection.

I don't think he ended up making the catch.

Lastly, we have an A&G mini of my newest player collection, Ryan Dempster.

I'm already gearing up to see Dempster pitch on Opening Day at Wrigley. Not only that, but he'll be pitching against the phenom himself, Stephen Strasburg.

Much thanks to Jeff for the great trade and be sure to check out his new blog!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 26: 1992 Topps Stadium Club #387 Ruben Sierra

As far as baseball cards go, this is one of my earliest memories.

When I was a kid, I used to have this little blue binder that had all my "good" cards in it. I collected almost anything and everything from all four sports at the time, so it was tough for a card to earn a spot in that teeny-tiny binder.

I always had a place for this quirky card in that binder. As you might be able to tell from all the chipping along the edges, this card wasn't handled with much care.

But when you're ten years old, that's a good thing.

A decade and tens of thousands of cards later, this one is still prominently featured in my collection today. I still enjoy it every bit as much as I did when I was ten. The photo is just so much different than anything else I've ever come across.

I'm guessing it was taken outside of Sierra's home in Carolina, Puerto Rico, as listed on the back of the card. Stadium Club was one of the first high-end sets ever produced, which was well-deserved judging by some of the great photos in the set. (Like this one.)

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of using shots of guys without their uniforms. However, this one is an exception. I find myself wondering how much Sierra's house cost each time I come across this card. That's assuming that this is indeed his house. Hopefully they didn't just snap the picture in front of some random person's house and run.

I'm sure we all have those precious few cards that take us back to when we were younger. Whether it be Kurt Bevacqua, Herb Washington, or Mark Fidrych, they all own a special place in our respective collections.

To me, this is one of those special pieces of cardboard.