Friday, July 31, 2015

Where I'm the National and beyond (last chance for meetup!)

So I can't really string together many cohesive thoughts right now because my mind is about ninety-nine-percent focused on my trip to the National tomorrow.

This is a big event for me, and I have a theory that grand events in life tend to be clustered together. Well, once again, this was once again proved correct just yesterday, because I found out that, after over a year of applying and applying for jobs (and repeatedly getting rejected), I finally landed one.

It's at a bookstore, and a bookstore at O'Hare airport, no less. So, if any of you fly through Chicago on a semi-regular basis, feel free to stop and say hi.

Now, I'm still not sure about when I start or the hours or anything like that, but this means that, finally, I'll have a little extra money to spend on card and non-card related things. But, on the flip side of the coin, this also means that my blogging pace may take a decent-sized hit.

Then again, I'm lucky if I crack 20 posts a month now, which is a fraction of the frequency I was at a couple years ago.

So, yeah, there's that.

And, as I mentioned, I'll be headed to a little thing called the National tomorrow.

I feel insanely lucky, in that the convention hall is only a short bus and train ride from where I live (maybe 30 minutes each way). People travel from around the country to be at this thing, and I'm about a town away.

Now, I've already gone through what I hope to accomplish at this year's National, but I wanted to put another feeler out for any possible bloggers (or readers) that will be in attendance tomorrow.

I'm planning on meeting with both Brian and William at some point during the day, and, if anyone else would like to hang out for a bit, feel free to leave a comment and/or email me. Maybe we'll even share a good dime box dig.

My budget tomorrow will likely be a small fraction of what most people spend at the National (mostly funded by selling off a few cards I decided I could live without), but I'm sure I'll make do with what I can. I'm not really looking to make one big pricey splash this time around, more a bunch of little discounted splashes. Even at the National, bargain hunting will be the name of the game.

Wow. New job, the National, and, to add more to the pile, I'll be starting my final semester as an undergraduate in about three weeks.

It's goes in clusters.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Into the Sunset, Pt. 32: Luis Tiant

Some ballplayers are simply impossible to dislike.

I think it's safe to say Luis Tiant belongs in that fold. In all my years of being a baseball fanatic, I've never heard anyone say a bad word about the man.

The guy had perhaps the most entertaining delivery of anyone not named Chad Bradford, and he was one of the most fun-loving personalities the game has ever seen.

And, while some of baseball's most entertaining figures may not have had spectacular baseball cards during their respective careers, Luis Tiant most certainly did. I mean, just look at the shot on his '73 Topps issue. Red glove, in fielding position, a fabricated, wide-mouthed expression of surprise on his face.

After seeing this card, I want to have a beer with Luis Tiant...and so do you.

The Red Sox weren't Tiant's first team (Indians) or his second (Twins), but he is forever linked with the immortal Boston organization.

They virtually picked him up off the scrap heap in 1971 (he'd been released by both the Twins and Braves earlier in the year) and gave him a chance. Tiant rewarded them by becoming one of the more dominant pitchers of the '70s, transforming himself from a fireballing strikeout machine into a crafty finesse pitcher.

"The Pride of Havana" would enjoy eight successful seasons with the Red Sox before signing with the Yankees as a free agent in 1978. He pitched 55 games in the Bronx over two seasons, but never quite looked right in the Yankee pinstripes.

Aside from a cameo on Mike Easler's 1982 Fleer issue, this is Tiant's final Fleer card.

In reality, though, he still had two more stops to make before his career would come to an ultimate end.

In a perfect world, Luis Tiant would've received true sunset cards from every company.

But it's hard to fault Fleer for ignoring the final two years of his career. After appearing in just nine games with the 1981 Pirates (and receiving his only card as a Pirate from Topps), Tiant closed out his career with a brief six-game stint for the '82 Angels, going 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA in that span.

While Donruss was nice enough to give him a final ride into the sunset in their 1983 checklist...

...this is my far-and-away favorite of Luis Tiant's cardboard finales.

It's always a treat when players wave goodbye on memorable Topps designs, and that's exactly what happened with "El Tiante" in 1983. Action shots are nice, but I tend enjoy the classic poses on final cards a bit more than the others. I want to get one last look at the guy before he goes off into the sunset.

If nothing else, it's good to know that Tiant was still making the Fu Manchu last up until his final years in the big leagues.

Then again, would you expect anything less from him?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The benefits of surfing the web at 1 A.M.

I am, by all accounts, much better at night than I am during the day.

Whenever possible, I like to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. I usually catch up on the nightly blog posts in my blogroll around midnight or so because I've found that reading about baseball cards relaxes me and puts me at peace.

One morning, a few weeks ago, a new post popped up right when I was about to shut the computer down for the night. It was, as far as I can remember, around 1 A.M. at the time, and the person who wrote the post was offering up a big stack of minis to the first person who commented.

The person behind that post was the ever-generous Judson of the great blog "My Cardboard Habit," and that first commenter was yours truly...because no way was I going to let free minis pass me by.

The box arrived a short while later, and digging through hundreds and hundreds of different pint-sized pieces of cardboard was one of the more entertaining trade package experiences I've ever had. In the end, I needed about half of what was in there, and a lot of the other half will be going to good homes in due time.

Among the "keepers" was this Bazooka mini of Byron Buxton, my first card of the Twins' uber-prospect.

A&G probably makes the most famous minis in today's hobby, and boy did this box have a lot of A&G.

The nine cards you see above come from various years and insert sets in A&G's long history, and each and every one added to my non-sports collection. 

I tried to build a few of these when they initially hit the shelves ("Musical Masters" and "Where Nature Ends," to name a couple), but never really came within a whiff of completing any of them.

Maybe I'll have them done by the time 2020 A&G comes out.

Judson represented most of the recent years of A&G in fine fashion.

The Damon, in some ways, was what first convinced me to pounce on this free lot, because that was one of the few cards I recognized from the initial giveaway post.

Coming from 2012 A&G, it's a sunset card and one of the few Damon ever had as a Cleveland Indian.

The vast majority of the A&G minis in this box hailed from 2013.

These, like the nine-spot of insert minis I featured earlier, helped out my blossoming non-sports collection.

Though I'll admit that, aside from one song, I'm not much of a Black Flag fan.

Yes, this box was mini-exclusive, but those minis were about as varied as humanly possible.

Horizontal minis...

Minis of current stars...

Minis of yesterday's heroes...

(And I apologize for the cut-off scans, because my scanner doesn't cooperate too well with the white borders of A&G...)

A&G back minis...

Regular back minis...

Black minis...

Name any mini imaginable, and it was probably in this box. I'm not exactly sure how Judson acquired all of them (if they were pack-pulled, I can only imagine how many packs he must've opened), but they ultimately found a nice landing spot with me.

Heck, I haven't even tracked down the base version of that Babe Ruth at the center of this scan. I'll have to get on that pronto, because I hate seeing minis all alone without their full-sized counterparts in my binders.

It's like a kid without parents.

And, no, Judson didn't forget the 2014s.

This was A&G's best effort in about five or six years, I think, and it looks even better in mini form.

Judson went heavy on the A&G, but absolutely overloaded on the Gypsy Queen.

I'd say about half of the couple hundred minis in this box were from 2013 GQ, if not more. Yes, for the millionth time, I'm not a Gypsy Queen fan...but, if you've learned anything from this post, I hope it's that I'll take minis in just about any incarnation.

Once again, we have a terrific crop of recent stars here, and I'm particularly excited about that Mo throwback in the center.

(Bonus: I'm not exactly sure why, but seeing that Frazier mini was what finally convinced me to start collecting the Toddfather.)

And, yes, the legend minis were strong with this box.

GQ, admittedly, does seem to provide a nice mix of retired guys. I spy Catfish Hunter, Don Sutton, Monte Irvin, and Bill Buckner (among others) in the same scan here.

I can't imagine those guys appear together in many other sets.

Hey, these are all photo-variation SPs, because I recognized them as obviously being different than the standard base cards, duh.

Ha. Just kidding. I had to pore over a checklist of the photo SPs because, aside from the Rivera, I had absolutely no idea any of these were short-printed. I wish Topps would give these a different border color, change the backs, or do something that would instantly shout SP! SP! SP! at you so I wouldn't have to do all the research.

That's the least Topps could do, because there's no way sane people are going to memorize 300 different images from a single set.

If I was hoping for one specific thing out of this giant box of minis, it was a throwback photo-variation SP from Gypsy Queen.

Lo and behold, out came King Felix here, shown in a fantastic old-time 1955 Seattle Rainiers jersey (a former PCL club).

I let out a holler of victory (yes, I really did) because figured I was holding the best card in this massive stack of minis.

But then...


If Hernandez caused a holler, than I'm not sure what you'd call the noise I made when I unearthed the immortal Hoyt.

It's not every day that my Wilhelm collection gets a new boost, and it was made doubly special because this particular Hoyt was actually a short-print in 2013 GQ. (Not a photo SP, mind you, just a boring, ordinary, standard short-print.)

In the end, Hoyt was a terrific and completely unexpected end to what was a spectacular box of minis, all courtesy of Judson.

I guess the best cards come out when the sun goes down.

Monday, July 27, 2015

When one blog leads to another

It feels like I've started dozens of posts by saying something along the lines of "One thing I like about the blogosphere is..." thing I like about the blogosphere is the fact that the majority of blogs out there have blogrolls to scroll through. I'm sure a lot of people discovered this blog that way, and, inversely, I myself have dug up many, many new blogs by perusing other people's blogrolls.

I bring all this up because I was recently contacted by a fellow collector named Jeff S. who wanted to set up a trade. He said he'd found my blog through Shane's, and, in the end, sent over a smattering of awesome cards in return for very little from my end. (Have I mentioned that readers are awesome?)

The bulk of Jeff's trade package comprised of more recent wants of mine, and, specifically, insert needs, including this fantastic "Fields of Yore" Shea Stadium insert from last year's A&G.

Not to be confused with Che Stadium, landing spot of The Rutles.

No brand has a higher base-to-insert differential than Gypsy Queen.

These designs are terrific (especially the Jackson N-154), but I've never been on board with GQ's base cards.

Jeff moved on to Archives from there, knocking out Larry Bowa short-prints and basketball-themed C.C. Sabathia inserts with ease.

The mix of non-baseball designs and current baseball stars is a surprisingly satisfying combo...

...and you can take a gander at Joey Votto there if you don't believe.

Topps reproduced their 1971-72 hockey design (yes, I had to look that up) for those terrific inserts.

Makes sense, too, considering Joey Votto is Canadian.

An old oddball design like Deckle Edge virtually cries for a modern reproduction, and Archives finally took the bait last year.

I'm especially fond of the Matheny since you don't see many tributes to his playing days here in 2015.

Jeff hopped on the parallel bandwagon with these two.

I know it's probably forbidden by law to pair Dodgers and Giants in the same scan,'s too late to change it now.

First trade or not, Jeff has this mini-collection thing down.

Autograph shot plus hologram equals a Barry Bonds card I actually don't mind adding to my binders.

A couple drool-worthy retro jerseys right here.

A Jose Abreu rookie is fine and good, but that throwback is what makes it a stellar card in my eyes.

Everything I've just shown is terrific, but Jeff really started to knock me off my feet when it came to my player collections.

In today's Andrew McCutchen-dominated baseball world, it's not every day that people just up and offer to send you a Cutch rookie card.

Matt Carpenter is part of a newer crop of player collections I've started, and I certainly thought it'd take a lot longer to add a rookie card of him to my binders.

And, now that I'm getting serious with trying to hoard Paul Konerko cards, I'm happy for any and all people send me, Wal-Mart Black parallels included.

I don't know about you, but I think I like the midnight borders better then the blue parallels Wally World had been putting out in recent years.

Here's a couple toughies for my collection of Mike/Giancarlo/Whatever His Name Is Stanton.

The Heritage card is a chrome parallel, in case the scan didn't make that clear enough. I'd honestly forgotten that there were chrome parallels in last year's Heritage.

I was too distracted by the killer design.

Vlad cards are good, uber-loud Vlad inserts from long-gone brands like Ultimate Victory are better...

...but kooky Vlad inserts printed on authentic canvas stock are the best.

Of all the superb cards Jeff sent over, I think this one took the cake. I'd been familiar with the Private Stock brand before this package arrived, but I never knew they printed things like this.

It is, as far as I can tell, a card made of real canvas. You can see the little dots on the scan if you look close enough, and the design is made to look like a series of brushstrokes. It's bends and squishes to the touch as well, and it feels like a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork.

When you put it all together, this was a trade born entirely out of the fact that one collector found my blog through another, kind of a network trade, if you will.

If my blogroll can help someone out there discover just one new blog and one new trading partner, well, then I've done my job.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The dime box frankenset, Page 74 (The Final Page): Numbers 658-666

Well, it looks like we have ourselves a tie.

Both the double dipping/throwbacking (is that a word?) Jordan Danks and Aurelio Rodriguez (actually a Pittsburgh Pirates batboy) finished with eleven votes a piece last week. A deadlock in the second-to-last page of this frankenset. (My vote was with the batboy all the way.)

So, as has become custom with past tiebreakers, I ask the first three people who care to comment on this post to leave their chose between Danks and Rodriguez. The card that receives two of these three votes will win the page.

Let's break this deadlock.

EDIT: We have a winner!

Win -- 1969 Topps #653 Aurelio Rodriguez UER (11 votes + tiebreaker vote)

Place -- 2014 Topps #649 Jordan Danks (11 votes)

Show -- 1994 Topps #655 Charlie Hayes (8 votes)

In the meantime, it is my great, great pleasure to introduce this, the 74th and final page of my dime box frankenset, card numbers 658-666.

We're at eight of nine this week, as I have yet to find a candidate for the #665 slot.

Before we take a look at the nominees, I'd like to address what will happen after this final page. Yes, this may be the end of the frankenset binder, but it won't be the end of the frankenset voting.

See, I didn't start this whole voting thing until about a third of the way through my frankenset series, so the first 200-ish cards were not subject to competition. So, once this page is all said and done, we'll be reverting back to the first page so all of you can vote on those nominees.

Better yet, those first handful of pages have changed a lot since I first posted them, and, not to scare you away, but I think the decisions will get much, much tougher. So that's where we'll be going after this.

For now, let's meet the final eight nominees of this frankenset.

2011 Topps #658 Mitch Maier

Sorry, Mitch, but you're not bringing that ball back. 

1991 Topps #659 Oscar Azocar

Another fantastic baseball card from a man who was privy to cardboard greatness. 

1987 Donruss #660 Pete Ladd


1978 Topps #661 Grant Jackson

The grooviest of warmup jackets. 

1991 Upper Deck #662 Dave Rohde

The flip-side autograph shot earns Mr. Rohde a spot in this frankenset. 

1992 Topps #663 Greg Gagne

Double dipping with '92 Topps. 

1994 Topps #664 Jeff Tackett

Out at the plate! 

1991 Upper Deck #666 Mickey Hatcher

The frankenset ends with one of the infamous #666 Dodgers from UD's early years, and perhaps the very best front-back combo in this binder.

Well, that just about wraps it up. A fitting end to this frankenset, I think. The polls are now on the sidebar, but don't forget to break last week's tiebreaker first.

Happy voting!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Prep work: 2015 National edition (plus blogger meetup?)

It's a little hard to believe, but I'll be attending the National with my dad a week from tomorrow.

As is the case with every card show (and especially the National), I've been making a list in my head about the specific goals I'd like to accomplish. I've actually had a good amount of success with such lists in the past, which is surprising considering my scattered way of collecting.

But, before I get to that, I wanted to inquire about a possible meetup for any and all bloggers that will be at the National on Saturday (August 1st). We can talk shop, swap cards (if you'd like, think of the shipping money you'd save!), and hopefully even share a good dime box dig.

Let me know via email or in a comment and let's see if we can't get an "official" National blogger meetup together. It'd be nice to put some names to some faces around here.

In the meantime, let's check out my personal checklist for this year's big event.

#1 -- Hit the 2015 cheapies

My largest and most specific goal for the 2015 National is to pick up some 2015 singles on the cheap.

Series 2, Archives, and (if the big vendors have busted/sorted it by then) A&G are all high on my list, but the one thing I'm really, really hoping to stumble upon at the show is a dime box of 2015 Stadium Club.

I've had good luck with finding the case-busting vendors in the past, because the dime/quarter (but hopefully dime) base cards are just another way to recoup a few extra bucks.

And it sure saves me a ton of money on three-dollar retail packs.

#1a -- Avoid the 2015 dud brands

This is kind of an addendum to my first goal, and one I've failed to live by in my prior card show experiences.

I've been on record as disliking Donruss and GQ quite a bit, and, yet, I've often found myself coming home with stacks and stacks of cards from the brand from past shows. Yes, they might only be a dime each, but that can still add up after a while.

I blink and I've dropped north of 10-15 bucks on sets I don't even like. With a fairly limited budget like mine, that's a decent-sized chunk. At the National, I need to stop myself and only go after cards for my top-tier player collections.

Nick, you can live without your 236th different Chase Utley.

#2 -- Discount vintage, of course

With my budget, I probably won't be looking to make one big splash at this year's National. (Although I'll certainly consider it if the price is right.)

I'm more of a discount vintage type of guy, anyways. Stacks of loved, one-to-two dollar vintage are more my game. Maybe not as beat-up as this Lew Burdette, but you get my drift.

Actually, heck, give me cards like Lew if they're available for pocket change.

#3 -- Buy at least one pre-1952 card

This is a new goal of mine, and one that'll depend on how the vintage dealers price their inventory.

I don't own as many pre-1952 baseball cards as I'd like, and I'd like to change that at this year's National. I'd say my main goal is to pick up my first 1951 Topps Red/Blue Back, but I certainly wouldn't scoff at an early Bowman, Play Ball, Goudey...or perhaps even a cheap T206 issue.

Hopefully (at least) one can be mine if the price is right.

#4 -- A quartet of specifics

I never used to chase specific cards at shows.

I tried it out for the first time a couple years ago, and, since it worked well, I've been doing it ever since. I usually only target one or two cards per show, but, since this is the National, I've expanded it to a quartet.

That quartet is as follows...1965 Topps Luis Tiant rookie, 1968 Roger Maris (his "sunset" card), 1975 Topps Yaz, and a 1977 Topps Johnny Bench. The Maris would probably be the most expensive of the lot, as anything Maris-related tends to carry a high premium.

In reality, I'd be happy to walk away with two of the four next Saturday, though the entire quartet would definitely be the ultimate score.

#5 -- The rule of $20

This is a new rule I'm going to try and follow at this year's National, and the key word there is try.

If I can, I'm going to limit myself to spending no more than $20 during my first trip to any single table on Saturday.

If I happen to have money left over at the end of the show, I can always go back and make a return trip to certain vendors. But, with the sheer size of the place, I don't want to blow a third of my budget at a single table and then be broke before I reach the final aisle.

Now, obviously, this is easier said than done. I might make an exception if I find a vendor with an inordinately large selection of 2015s on display. And it'll be difficult to try and drag me away from an unfinished dime box dig if I already have $20 worth of cards picked out, but, God help me, I'm going to try and do it.

Which reminds me...

#6 -- Dime boxes, bro

This should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway.

I'll be doing some dime box digging next Saturday. You'd think that a big-dollar gathering like the National would be lacking in cheap stuff, but, having had prior National experience, I'd say it's nearly the opposite.

Some of the best dime boxes I've ever seen came courtesy of the National. Perfect combos of fun cards, scary cards, and jaw-dropping cards. (The Kruk is a combo of all three.)

And, as if you needed any more incentive for a dime dig, dime boxes are strictly a bro-free zone, which is more than I can say about most of the other parts of this show.

Yes, sir, there's still a place for the low-end collector at the high-end National.

T-minus eight days...