Friday, May 31, 2019

A low-end guide to COMC

A noted scarcity of money and time have brought my new card acquisitions to somewhat of a halt lately, which I guess was the main reason I decided to pull the trigger and have my months-long accumulation of COMC cardboard shipped to me a couple weeks ago.

This, to me, is the site's main draw: I don't always have large chunks of money to throw around at card shows, but I can usually afford to drop ten or fifteen bucks into my COMC account and prowl the inventory for a while. It's a whole lot of fun for a relatively low-end investment.

Plus, I can't begin to describe the excitement you get when those cards you've been accumulating for months finally arrive in the mail in that big, bulky box.

Like most, I suppose, I have my own formulas on how to find stuff I need on COMC.

Mini-collections are perhaps my first and biggest goal, but of course there isn't any way to search by double dip or autograph shots (not yet, anyways!). Part of COMC's allure is the excitement of one click leading to another and another down an eventual rabbit hole that ends with me finding something I didn't even know I needed and/or didn't know existed at all. Other times I rely upon specific searches or pockets of inventory that I know are more likely to result in stuff that suits me.

Single-player base or insert sets, like these four and the magnificent Mays at the top of this post, are a good place to start when it comes to my mini-collections.

Better yet, I stumbled upon some kind of spring sale going on right around the time I had my order shipped to me, which enabled me to snag quite a few high-quality deals at the last minute.

That David Ross (featuring a Chicago Whales throwback!) is a good example -- I repeatedly saw the same copy listed at right around $5 until said sale, when it was inexplicably marked down to a whopping 70 cents(!).

Throwback Thursdays are usually my first search whenever I hop onto COMC: the sets are far too rich for my low-end blood, but some of the singles can be had for a song.

It goes without saying that I'm a huge fan of these, especially the ones that stray into non-baseball designs (or even non-sport in the case of that "TV Westerns" Arrieta).

I sampled a few of these excellent '78 Topps On-Demands in my last COMC order, but this time I treated myself to an all-out feast.

Mother's Cookies is another of my saved searches since these west coast-issued cards are akin to UFO sightings here in the Midwest.

But there's pages and pages of them available on COMC, and most for couch-cushion change (that Chili Davis is particularly nifty).

Permagraphics cards are also rare sightings in the wild in my experience, but again, you can get 'em by the gross on COMC.

Speaking of buying by the gross, here's a whole page of TCMA!

A large part of me wishes I could go back in time and order all these sets through the mail back when they were issued in the '70s and '80s. But until such technology is invented I guess I'll have to be satisfied with picking them up in droves on COMC.

Shoeless Joe and Campy and Teddy Ballgame are all neat, but my favorite might be the Kiki Cuyler in the bottom-right for the double oddity of (1) being my first card of him as a Cincinnati Red despite (2) coming from a set themed "All-Time Cubs."

But not every COMC search is calculated: these two came onto my screen by chance as I was looking for other things.

I always enjoy Burger King oddballs, but I'm especially partial to the few that feature different photos (and teams, in the case of that Morgan) than their Topps counterparts.

This latest COMC order didn't feature much vintage, sadly.

These two Kellogg's singles were the oldest cards I picked up, and the cracked windshields ensured they'd fit snugly into my budget.

COMC shiny!

I find it funny that I was able to get the Loney (a zero-year card!) for all of 37 cents considering it hails from a scarce, online-only, $1,500 set(!!!) -- if that's not a metaphor for my collection I don't know what is.

It ain't a COMC order without Legend Liquorfractors.

Perhaps my biggest steals from COMC's spring sale came in the form of Flagship photo variations.

The Kipnis was the lone variant in this scan that cost me more than a dollar, but you better believe it's my favorite since it's the only card I've ever seen that shows a dude sliding on a tarp.

Photo SPs for the Short Term Stop and mini-collection files.

Somebody must've been anxious to get rid of their leftover legend SPs from 2018 Flagship, because these beauties were obscenely cheaper than I ever imagined they'd be.

I don't even really collect Will Clark, but he probably has the distinction of having my favorite card from this latest COMC order...because I mean look at this thing.

Mine is a low-end blog, filled with low-end thoughts about a low-end collection: but with COMC in our world, the quality of the cards at my disposal, like Will Clark and all before him, remain anything but low-end.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 21: Numbers 181-189

Frankenset Page #61 WINNER -- 1983 Fleer #543 Ron Gardenhire (11 votes)

It's always fun when formerly obscure ballplayers become great managers, so I'm glad Ron Gardenhire won last week's page.

This fine autograph shot came on the heels of Gardenhire's only full season as a ballplayer (1982), and it's one of my favorites from '83 Fleer. The masses agreed, as Gardy collected 11 of the 38 total votes for the easy victory.

It's easy to forget that Ron Gardenhire was once an obscure Mets middle infielder, but thanks to you, that obscurity will now forever be immortalized in the Gallery of Frankenset Champions.

Thankfully, we're back to a full selection of nine cards this week: the Random Number Generator spit out #21, so we'll be looking at that page (#s 181-189) of the frankenset tonight.

Let's meet the nominees.

1973 Topps #181 Jack Brohamer

Another museum piece from '73 Topps.

1987 Sportflics #182 Marty Barrett

3-D cards scan like garbage, but you'll have to take my word for it that this is one excellent double dip (with a Dave Kingman cameo!).

1989 Topps #183 Oddibe McDowell

Between the bubble gum in hand and the "Oddibe" on the jacket, I've always enjoyed the muted beauty of this one.

1998 Topps #184 Jeff Montgomery

Fireman personified. 

1997 Collector's Choice #185 Geronimo Berroa

Not Kurt Bevacqua level, but still a formidable bubble. 

1993 Upper Deck #186 Mike Felder

The elusive throwback/dust cloud combo.

1977 Topps #187 Dick Pole


1991 Upper Deck #188 Shane Mack

Shane Mack, another relatively forgotten dude who always seemed to get great baseball cards. 

2018 Topps #189 Jedd Gyorko

Pure greatness from last year's Flagship.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Little Big League

I recently realized that I never got around to making a Sets of the Year list for 2018.

I'll give you the abridged version: Stadium Club was #1 (again), but after that things get a little more complicated. I really liked Flagship, Archives was solid but a tad disappointing -- and then there's the dark horse called Topps Big League, which I thought made a helluva debut last year. Nice photos, simple design, relatively large checklist, budget-friendly price. If I had to go out a limb I'd say it was indeed runner-up to Stadium Club last year.

All this makes me even more guilty that I didn't know the 2019 version of Big League was set to release until days after it actually came out.

Ironically, I only discovered 2019 Big League was on the shelves when I saw a Twitter photo of some dude buying 87 Bowman megaboxes, and a comment on that photo saying something along the lines of: Everyone else can buy Big League (the word bro may have been inserted in there somewhere, too).

HEY: I'm everyone else! Keep your megaboxes, I'll take Big League. I ran over to Target and saw that, yes, Big League was indeed in stock. I bought a couple blasters and a rack pack, and in the fun chaos that ensued, I came away with the opinion that I like the 2019 version more than its terrific debut. I know I like the look better: pennant-based logos always get me, and the design as a whole has a very familiar feel to it.

I don't know why, but I think of my Little League concession stand when I see these cards, which is a high compliment.

Big League is the only set around nowadays where I can honestly say I read all the card backs -- how else am I gonna learn that Eric Thames has a karaoke bar in Korea named after him?

While they're not the real draw of Big League, the parallels are still fun to get -- I believe the blues are exclusive to blasters, and the yellows to rack packs.

Better yet, perhaps my favorite aspect of Big League is back in 2019: I get to cut cards out of the blasters! Panel-based cardboard has long been a thrill for me (even if I can't really explain why), and I grabbed the two blasters with Shohei Ohtani and Kris Bryant as the cutouts. I've since bought a third blaster with a Mike Trout, but some other local collector (who I've yet to meet) hoarded all the Juan Soto blasters, which is the fourth and final card I need from the slim cutout set.

And so the Hunt for Soto is on.

The inserts are a smash hit with Big League as well: I honestly don't think there's a bad look in the lot (though I could probably take or leave those strange Caricatures).

I'm also particularly fond of the "Wall Climbers" since all 10 cards in it are mini-collection hits.

May release date = dudes in new (albeit photoshopped) uniforms!

Opening a set like Stadium Club is obviously exciting because almost every card is a masterpiece, but there's something to be said for something like Big League where photographic gems are thrown in here and there.

I know I wasn't expecting to pull anything like that Moncada (a dual mini-collection hit!) or that epic Chris Taylor when I sat on my bed and started ripping these packs open.

The random intervals of fun in this set almost catches you off-guard, and that makes opening a pack of Big League a thrill that keeps me wanting to come back for more.

It's probably not a set for the case breakers or deep-pocketed enthusiasts among us: it's a set for you and I, the "everyone elses" in the collecting universe.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 61: Numbers 541-549

Frankenset Page #56 WINNER -- 2017 Topps #499 Danny Valencia (8 votes + tie-breaking vote)

We've got ourselves another tie!

Both Jay Bell and Danny Valencia finished last week's voting at eight votes a piece (of 31 total), and we very nearly had a three-way deadlock since Gregg Olson received seven tallies. So, as usual, I employ the standard tie-breaking protocol here: I ask the first five people who'd like to comment on this post to leave their choice between Bell and Valencia. The first card to receive three tie-breaking votes gets the crown.

I'll update this post once we have a winner.

EDIT: Valencia wins!

In the meantime, here's a look at this week's frankenset page, which is sadly incomplete as of this writing.

The Random Number Generator spit out #61, so we'll be taking a look at that page in the frankenset tonight. I've yet to obtain a worthy nominee for the #545 slot (though a quick COMC search provides at least one future candidate), so the polling will consist of just eight cards this week.

Let's meet them.

2016 Topps #541 James Shields

I will forever remain a sucker for these overhead pitching shots. 

1982 Topps #542 Ned Yost

A fine candid image of future manager Ned Yost.

1983 Fleer #543 Ron Gardenhire

Continuing the future-manager theme with this shot of Ron Gardenhire signing autographs.

2018 Topps Heritage High Numbers #544 Fernando Rodney

King of the crooked cap. 

1986 Fleer #546 Mike Krukow

Pitcher at the plate! 

1982 Donruss #547 Jeff Reardon

Since when does Donruss do airbrushing?! 

1999 Fleer Tradition #548 Bill Pulsipher

The face of everyone who tries to talk to me in line at Target. 

1998 Fleer Tradition #549 Devon White

Though it's one of my smaller mini-collections, I enjoy these rare behind the camera shots because of how very meta they are.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar, and don't forget to help break last week's tie!

Happy voting!

Friday, May 17, 2019

A victim of advertising

I like to think I'm smart enough not to fall victim to the world of advertising.

But every so often a situation comes up and shows me that I'm just as prone as everyone else. Case in point: you may have heard that a snack brand called Utz is putting baseball cards in their products this year. Now, I don't know about you, but I'd never heard of Utz before all this. Though the Utz stuff at my Target didn't have cards inside, I decided to sample a bag of their Sour Cream & Onion chips a couple months ago.

And I liked them so much that I now buy Utz, and only Utz, whenever I get a craving for potato chips...congrats Utz, you win.

I was just at my local Target yesterday and they still didn't have any of the baseball-card bags of Utz: thankfully, though, I seem to have an Utz source here in the blogosphere with immortal reader and longtime friend of the blog Mark Hoyle.

He sent me a PWE right around the time I first heard of the whole Utz promotion with not one, but two Cubs Utzes with Contreras and Quintana here -- and I didn't have to spend a single cent!

In a tale of good timing, I received two more Cubs Utzes from Mark in the mail yesterday, just as I was starting to prepare this post.

I'm not sure how large the Utz checklist is, but I certainly wasn't expecting a relatively obscure dude like David Bote to be included (though I'm sure glad he is!).

Mark also sent me this enormous jewel that I'm way overdue in acknowledging -- a 1970 Topps Poster of none other than Ron Santo!

I'm not usually a fan of oversized pieces, but I think we can all agree and say this is unequivocally fantastic.

I often wonder how susceptible I am towards advertising (what little there is these days, at least) with baseball cards.

I always tell myself that I don't have to run to Target whenever there's a new set out, that whatever I need will be available for loose change soon enough. But more often than not, I end up scouring the card aisles at Target -- the reason I was there checking the Utz bags at all yesterday was to see if Big League came in (it did!).

Even sets I'm so-so about, like A&G, typically produce a Target run -- these 2018 A&Gs sent to me by my buddy Robert of "$30 A Week Habit" fame and were much needed since I didn't pull them from any of the overpriced packs of A&G I opened last year.

A&G's baseball-themed inserts are fun to receive even if they do typically feature the same handful of guys over and over again.

I don't know if my chase for A&G's non-baseball insert sets can be called "set building," in that I'm currently getting them at a rate of about one or two a year.

These two excellent "Indigenous Heroes" from Robert doubled the number of these I'd previously owned (only 21 more to go!).

In my head, I fancy myself collecting (and living life, I guess) in a very anti-advertisement way -- when the Baseball Card Mafia says: go high end, buy 874 mega boxes of Bowman, and get everything slabbed, I say: give me base cards, give me $3 rack packs of Opening Day, give me the off-center, the creased, the loved.

It's a rare treat to receive killer vintage in the mail, but that's exactly what we have here with this '59 All-Star Luis Aparicio I unexpectedly received from the perennially insane blog legend known as JBF a whole back. It's in better shape than about 98 percent of the other '50s Topps I own. I have so much battered vintage that receiving a good-conditioned one seems like an oddity. I'm proud of that. When the industry says Chase Mantle, I say Give Me Aparicio!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a sudden craving for the bag of Utz sitting in my cabinet right now.