Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bidding January adieu

To put it lightly, this has not been a good month for me.

But, at the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, I guess there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, tomorrow is the dawn of a brand new month. It's always nice to turn the page.

Plus, 2015 Topps is scheduled to hit the shelves soon, and you can bet I'll be at my local Target sometime next week to scope them out. Plus, my birthday is in a few weeks, and I'm planning on hitting a card show to celebrate. It's looking like fun once again here in Dime Boxedonia.

One of January's handful of highlights were all the terrific PWEs and smaller packages I received throughout the month. One particularly interesting envelope came courtesy of Kenny, the man behind the fantastic blog "Torren' Up Cards."

Kenny's become known for his awesome Zippy Zappings during his time here, and my collection (as well as countless others) has certainly benefited as a result.

This wood-finished Nap Lajoie insert can certainly attest to that.

As can these two.

The Freese is a coveted short-print photo variation from 2012 Topps. While that is probably a statue of the Rally Squirrel in his hand, it looks a lot more like the Caddyshack gopher to me.

This probably comes as no surprise to you, but the Olt is the first card from 2013 Bowman Sterling in my collection. It's way more high-end than anything I'm used to finding.

I feel like I need to fill out a form or something to own it.

Thanks to the note Kenny attached, I learned that this Mo was actually given away at the 2013 All-Star Game.

This is great to know for a couple reasons. One is the fact that they're still giving away cards at baseball games. The other is that it gives me a new series of oddballs to try and chase.

Can't go wrong.

Next up is a guy who I thought had disappeared from the blogosphere forever.

Because he hadn't blogged for quite a while, I was surprised to get an email from Joe of "The Sandlot" a few weeks back. I love hearing that former bloggers are still alive and kicking in the hobby, and I was only too happy to set up a trade with Joe.

Because of his collecting ties, I wasn't surprise to see that much of the package was filled with Mets. This one of Carl Everett showing off his wood...I mean, holding his wood...I mean, you know what I mean...caught my attention.

It wasn't until the second or third viewing that I noticed Mr. Everett was wearing braces.

Joe may not be blogging much anymore, but he sure knows good mini-collection hits when he sees them.

That's a particularly violent double dip on the Ordonez.

I present these in case you needed any further proof of the greatness of 1992 Topps.

It's definitely up there amongst the most underrated Flagship sets of all-time.

One of the newer blogs to hit my blogroll in recent months is "My Life in the Sports Card Hobby," run by a young collector named Frankie.

From what I can gather, Frankie's in seventh grade, which might well make him the youngest blogger around right now. Go give him a read, because we all know we need people like him in the hobby for it to survive in the long run.

Frankie and I recently completed the first of what I hope will be many trades. He sent me an email asking what I collect, and, as you might know by now, I've never had a good answer to that question. I encouraged him to put together anything he thought was interesting or fun. This Jefferies certainly fit the bill.

Looks like he's about to take a fastball to the shoulder blade.

Frankie also managed to take down a few of my recent needs with these two.

Oh, in case you were wondering, Tim Lincecum's pastime is being a "gym rat."


I don't really have a place for graded cards in my collection, but I do enjoy the irony of slabbing a single from one of the most overproduced sets of all-time.

I'd say I see these K-Mart 25th Anniversary cards in the majority of my dime box digs. I have doubles and triples and quadruples of nearly the entire checklist. And now I have a graded copy of Steve Carlton's card.

Only a 9?

Maybe I'll crack it open and send it back in hopes of that elusive Gem Mint 10.

Last up is one of the PWE Kings of the blogosphere, Douglas over at the fantastic blog "Sportscards from the Dollar Store."

Shipping rates to Canada have gone from mildly expensive to flat-out crazy over the past few years, but I really do need to send something back his way. It's long overdue considering the great cards Douglas continues to shovel onto me.

This sweet impending-PATP comes from the long forgotten Pacific Paramount brand, another fine set from Pacific's massive catalog.

Although this particular shot reminds me of an image from the vintage Topps era.

If you're new to the blog, Douglas has made a habit of sending me hockey-themed hits to my many mini-collections with each passing package.

But, yes, he does still sprinkle in a good amount of baseball as well.

I'm hoping to find a dime box full of those Panini Classics sometime soon.

From what I know, this Fleer Extra Bases set was kind of a flop when it came out.

You still don't see it mentioned a whole lot these days, but oversized cards are always welcome around here.

Although I'm still not quite sure what's going on in the background of the one on the left.

This was the crown jewel of Douglas's latest envelope.

Even with a hundred tries, I'm not sure many people could guess who this player is. If I didn't know any better, I sure wouldn't be able to.

The player you see here is missing the mustache that made him famous during the course of his long career. I guess the Reds have a Yankee-esque ban on facial hair. Speaking of the Reds, the uniform might throw you off as well, since the guy never played a single game in Cincinnati.

Give up?

That's Jack Morris pictured on what is now a former Dime Box Dozen need from 1995 UD Special Edition. For the longest time, I thought this was the only zero-year card of Morris as a Red. Apparently not.

If there's one certainty in this hobby, it's that new zero-years will always manage to make me happy. Even in times that aren't exactly ideal.

Let's get February started already.

Friday, January 30, 2015

You ever have one of those weeks?

You ever have one of those weeks?

One of those weeks where you don't feel like yourself?

One of those weeks where you can barely bring yourself to look at your baseball cards?

One of those weeks where you feel like you've been clubbed over the head?

One of those weeks that seems like a headache?

One big headache?

One of those weeks that makes you want to scream?

One of those weeks where everything flies past you?

One of those weeks where everything seems backwards?

I just did.

I guess the important thing is to keep smiling.

Keep flashing the thumbs-up.

And maybe even dole out a high-five or two.

Hey, I'm feeling better already.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coming to my senses

It's easy to miss, but we really do use our senses quite a bit in the everyday world of card collecting.

On Friday, I posted a trade package from my buddy Tim of the great new blog "I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning." Apparently, Tim wasn't satisfied, because I received a second stack of gems from him a week or two ago.

I personally love the name of Tim's blog because of the sheer humor of it, but I'll be the first to admit that I do actually smell my cards from time to time. Am I crazy or just a dedicated card collector? (Probably a little of both.)

Vintage, as you probably know, has a smell unlike any other type of baseball card. It's hard to put into words, but they have kind of a musty scent. Almost all of my vintage cards smell like an old attic. even though I'm sure a lot of them have never been in an attic before.

Because it was a former Dime Box Dozen need, this Nettles also has the sweet smell of victory attached to it. I've had the OPC version of this card for years, but somehow never managed to track down the standard Topps issue.

It's a good thing Tim was there to sniff it out.

The most common sense attached to baseball cards, of course, is sight.

See card, want card, get card.

Some even come in the form of shiny, hypnotizing refractors. Most collectors will tell you that they're impossible to resist.

No matter how old I get, I'll always have a certain OOH, SHINY!!!!!! attachment to these things.

Mini-collections are all about sight.

I spy a throwback on the aforementioned Holland, and pitchers at the plate with these two.

Still, while I'm sure we don't consciously think about it a whole lot, feel is a very important part of the collecting experience.

You can slide your fingers across the Chrome or touch the roughness of Heritage's old-style cardboard.

I'm sure the higher-quality card stock in Upper Deck's early years felt strange to a lot of people at the time.

And, maybe it's just me, but recent Chrome cards seem to have a much different feel than older ones. It might just be that cards like the Livan Hernandez (from 2001) have had a little more time to age, which might explain why the surface on this Jeter (2009) is much smoother.

I guess Chrome has to age like everyone else.

Tim set his sights on some set needs.

You can't tell from simply looking at them, but the five Heritage cards on this page are short-prints.

Topps really needs to make those things easier to identify.

I've talked about A&G's "Across the Years" series many times in the past, but I wanted to give Josh Reddick here a mention.

This particular insert is special to me because Reddick and I share February 19th birthdays. The specific event A&G chose to honor here isn't exactly uplifting, but at least it's relatively historic.

And, while I'm proud to say that I share birthdays with people like Copernicus, Smokey Robinson, and Jeff Daniels, I'm sad to report that Topps did make a mistake. As much as I'd like to say so, Vlad and I do not share a birthday. He was born on February 9th, not the 19th.

You can't sneak one past my eyes, Topps.

OOH, SHINY!!!!!!!!!!!!


Hearing might be the rarest sense when it comes to cardboard.

I do have a couple cards that play actual sounds, but that's not what Tim sent. No, Tim evoked the sound portion of the hobby by shooting a couple issues from Pacific's Eight Men Out checklist my way.

In terms of dialogue, Eight Men Out might be one of the finest films ever made, baseball or not. The quote on the back of that Buck Weaver/John Cusack card is perhaps the most lasting line of the whole movie.

I can still hear it in my head.

Oddballs are a combination of almost all the senses.

Lots of them look different then your standard baseball card. Some of them might feel different as well. And, although I don't have as much experience with this one, they might well smell different, too.

One sense that oddballs can bring to the table, however, is taste. No, I'm not talking in a literal sense. We don't eat our baseball cards. (Or at least I hope not.)

As you might already know, many oddballs are linked to various foods. That sweet new Abbott, for instance, was issued with packets of Kraft Singles.

Let's hope the cards aren't as processed as the cheese is.

I'm guessing that Tim was influenced by a previous trade package I received a few weeks back.

Fellow blogger Julie sent me a few of these nifty 3-D Nolan Ryan cards a little while ago. Tim followed suit by sending me an unopened pack of them, a pack that contained these two beauties.

They're certainly a treat to look at, but, until Marcus commented on Julie's trade post a few weeks ago, I had no idea they were linked to food. Apparently, these were issued by the Whataburger chain in the '90s.

I don't think there are any Whataburgers here in the Midwest, but I've heard nothing but good things so far. The fact that they put out baseball cards has me liking them even more already.

Oh, and if these 3-D masterpieces has you thinking about another brand of tasty oddballs...

...then you're on the right track.

In many ways, I'm a little late to the party with this hobby. I'll never know what it feels like to get baseball cards in cereal boxes. You kids of the '70s sure were lucky.

Still, I can't complain with the number of Kellogg's cards I've been able to pick up over the last couple years. Tim came through in a big way with this beautiful Bake. My McBride collection is only a few months old, but it's coming along quite nicely.

The fact that I know own a Kellogg's card of Bake instantly makes the collection about a thousand times better.

Smell, touch, taste, feel, sound...all the senses are here.

Oh, and smelling your baseball cards is completely normal.

Trust me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The All-Time Topps Countdown: 20-11

We're nearing the end of what has been a fun few weeks around here.

This is the second-to-last post in my All-Time Topps Countdown for Sy. On a personal level, I think the sets in the Top 20 were much harder to rank than those in the Bottom 20. After some deep thought, I've had to revise my list a few times in the past week or so.

I'm almost positive that my rankings will change in the coming weeks, months, and years, but here is how they stand as of this evening.

Let's get to it.

#20 -- 1977 Topps

UPS -- Pennant-based designs are almost always a good idea. Lots of great poses. Nice, colorful team names on the front.

DOWNS -- I wouldn't mind the player names being a little more prominent. Facsimile signatures are a little distracting on some cards.

My two cents...

It's hard to be rational with sets from the Golden Age of the mid '70s.

While I wouldn't be born until fifteen years later, I feel like I've lived through the era from all the stories my dad has told me. I'm sure that kind of nostalgia (if it's possible for a 22-year-old to call it that) biased my list a little bit, but I did my best to provide a fair, unaffected ranking.

It's hard to go wrong with a pennant design, and 1977 Topps is near the top in that regard. The muted, magical poses that made the '70s so great are packed into this checklist. Simply a solid design all around.

To use a bad pun, 1977 Topps was certainly a banner year for Topps.

#19 -- 1992 Topps

UPS -- I've always been a big fan of those colorful blocks for the team/player names. Some of the best photography the '90s had to offer. Backs are very basic and straight to the point, which is a compliment.

DOWNS -- Not usually huge on border-within-a-border designs. They make the photos seem a little claustrophobic at times.

My two cents...

Again, it's a little hard to be completely unbiased with 1992 Topps.

It is, after all, my "birth year" set. I'm not sure when Topps released Flagship in the '90s, but there's a chance 1992 Topps and I share a close birthday. (I was born in February of that year.)

That aside, this set isn't #19 on this list only because of our birthday ties. To me, 1992 Topps might just be the most underrated design of the '90s. If not one of the more underrated Flagship sets ever, for that matter.

There's a slew of great photography in '92 Topps. I seem to keep discovering more with each passing day. The color-coded blocks for the team and player names are a nice touch and something that I don't think Topps has tried since.

Sure, the whole "birth year" thing might have bumped 1992 Topps up a couple notches, but it's a top-tier set no matter what.

#18 -- 1952 Topps

UPS -- This, folks, is how you get the most out of a facsimile signature. Museum-quality photography all around. The first set to ever feature stat lines on the back.

DOWNS -- Not sure I like the placement of the team logos. They clutter up the photos a bit.

My two cents...

This was a tough one.

It's easy to slip 1952 Topps into the Top 10 for the sheer fact that it was the precise moment when Topps became, well...Topps. I was tempted to put it a lot higher on this list for the history alone. I mean, we're talking '52 Topps here.

But, taking all that away, is this really one of the five or ten best designs in Flagship history? I don't think so. It's a beauty, don't get me wrong, but I'm not sure there's anything here that warrants it a higher spot in this countdown.

The biggest compliment I have about '52 Topps is that it's one of the only sets to use facsimile signatures in a way that I actually enjoy. They work perfectly within the design, and they're not distracting in the slightest.

Also, we have to mention that no other set in the history of baseball cards listed stat lines on the back until '52 Topps came along. From what I've read, this whole design was pretty much Sy's idea.

We can't thank you enough, Sy.

#17 -- 1983 Topps

UPS -- Got to love the double images on the front. Though it's done in a very subtle way, the colors really make the fronts stand out. Arguably the best set of the '80s in terms of photography.

DOWNS -- Not much to dislike. Maybe a more exciting font for the player/team names.

My two cents...

This is one of those sets that's hard to hate.

I am, by my account, a bit of a cynic. I can usually find a little something to dislike in almost every design, no matter how minute it may be. But I've barely found anything to nitpick about 1983 Topps. It's the very definition of a tight design.

Double images can get cluttered if used wrong, but this set structures them in a very concise way that doesn't take away from the overall look one bit. The action-vs-posed clash is an obvious tribute to 1963 Topps, though it does so without being a total knock-off.

I wouldn't say that I'm completely blown away by 1983 Topps, but I'd bet that it's one of the most universally liked sets in Topps history.

#16 -- 1960 Topps

UPS -- The last all-horizontal set in Topps history. Fronts are nicely split into three distinct sections. Love the timeline-structured bios on the backs. Very vivid colors. Some of Topps's finest cartoons.

DOWNS -- Some of the color combos don't exactly clash very well. It's easy to only see M L P P A on this particular card.

My two cents...

I don't know that we'll ever see another all-horizontal set, so 1960 Topps could well be the last of its kind in the world of baseball cards.

I personally love the concept of a horizontal-exclusive design, especially one that utilizes color as well as this. True, the whole appeal of the horizontal could wear off if every set used it, but I like the idea of having one every few years or so.

Aside from that, 1960 Topps is probably one of the more economical sets in the catalog. The fronts are succinctly divided into three sections (action pose, mugshot, team/player name) with plenty of room for each. I'm a big fan of the "Season's Highlights" timelines on the backs as well.

But, yeah, I think it might be time for another all-horizontal set.

It's only been, oh, fifty-five years.

#15 -- 1987 Topps

UPS -- Wood-grain borders, of course. Fantastic placement of the team logos. Perhaps the most memorable backs of the '80s and easily among the best ever.

DOWNS -- No positions on the front.

My two cents...

I'm sorry to say that 1987 Topps has actually dropped a bit in my rankings lately.

If I were to have made this list last year, it would've been a lock for the Top Ten. It might've even snuck into the Top Five. But here, in January 2015, the best I could do was #15.

That's not to say I don't enjoy '87 Topps. Far from it, actually. The wood-grain borders are still among the finest in Topps history and it has to be one of the most iconic sets ever released. The backs are probably some of the best you'll find as well.

Still, when I step back and take a long look, I can't justify its placement over any of the fourteen sets ahead of it. Although I can't put my finger on exactly why, I don't see '87 Topps as a Top Ten set any longer.

It's fascinating to see how quickly my personal tastes can change.

#14 -- 1958 Topps

UPS -- Cards without backgrounds can be hit and miss, but this is a definite hit for me. One of the most colorful sets in the Topps catalog. Everything you'd ever want in a baseball card back.

DOWNS -- A good portion of the player names and background colors don't match very well. Red letters on a yellow background isn't exactly ideal.

My two cents...

I don't know if it's possible for the #14 set to be underrated, but I'm thinking 1958 Topps deserved to be bumped up a few slots.

It has the misfortune of being sandwiched in between two of my all-time favorite Topps designs. (Both Top 10 nominees.)

I know that some people aren't as big on '58 Topps, but I absolutely love it. It's in an eternal competition with '59 Topps for being the most colorful set of the '50s. I'm not usually a big fan of designs that completely omit backdrops, but this one makes it work.

It seems like '58 Topps has a card for every color of the rainbow.

#13 -- 1991 Topps

UPS -- Return of the horizontal! Some of Topps's finest photography. Clean, simple design, strengthened by the red borders on the back. My pick for the best Topps set of the last twenty-five years.

DOWNS -- Again, not big on borders within a border, although this set almost manages to make it work.

My two cents...

This might be the set that has risen the most in my Topps rankings.

I remember not thinking much of 1991 Topps when I first started this blog. It didn't strike me as anything special.

Oh, how times have changed. These days, 1991 Topps is my personal favorite of the overproduction era and one of the best designs of all-time, in my opinion. It's simple, subtly colorful, and mostly lets the photos do the talking. Those are some of the finest qualities a set can have.

Perhaps the biggest plus for '91 Topps is the fact that it brought back the art of the horizontal. You'd have to go all the way back to 1974 to find the last landscape cards in a Topps set. I think most of us can agree that a world with horizontals is a better world for collectors.

We have 1991 Topps to thank for that.

#12 -- 1976 Topps

UPS -- Like most of the top-tier sets, we have another colorful design here. The shadow figures are up there as one of Topps's better innovations ever. Can't go wrong with the green backs.

DOWNS -- Are there any?

My two cents...

Now we're getting to the point where I really have a tough time nitpicking the negatives.

I don't know that 1976 Topps has any glaring flaws. No facsimile signatures. Color-coordinated player/team names. Awesome backs. Tito Fuentes's headband. All positives.

The main selling point for '76 Topps is the addition of the little shadow figures in the bottom corner of every card. I'd have to go back and check, but that might be my single favorite innovation in the Topps catalog.

Merely listing the positions of each player would've been enough, but Topps really went the extra mile in 1976.

Like so many sets of the '70s, this is some of Topps's finest work.

#11 -- 1986 Topps

UPS -- The dueling black and white might be the best border choice in Topps history. I'm not sure what to call the large team name font, but it certainly grabs the eye. Great use of the position bubble. Solid backs.

DOWNS -- Not the best photography, but the design pretty much cancels that out.

My two cents...

If nothing else, 1986 Topps is proof that I can truly enjoy a set with mediocre photography.

While there are a few gems spread throughout the checklist, you're not going to find many captivating images in '86 Topps. Most, like this Brett, are your standard candid shots. 

In the grand scheme of things, however, that's not a big concern for me. Yes, I always crave stand-out photography on my cards, but that's not all that matters. Granted, it's not easy to make me ignore a lack of good images. Only the most inspired sets can make mediocre photos negligible.

But that's exactly what 1986 Topps does. The black-and-white borders make every card feel like a masterpiece, no matter the photo. The blue-black combo we have with the Royals (and a few other teams) is probably my favorite color clash of any set, Topps or not.

Like 1991 Topps, this is another set that wasn't all that high on my list a few years ago. Thankfully, I've come to my senses. 

Still, while I tried my best to sneak it in, I just couldn't put '86 Topps in my Top Ten.

You'll have to wait until next time for the grand finale.