Friday, August 30, 2019

Consult the Archives

I think I've finally figured out why I always seem to exceed my budget when I make a card run at Target.

When I'm going there for something completely unrelated (pretzels, chips, etc.) I always tell myself not to even look at the card aisle. I usually walk out with cards. And when I say Okay, Nick: don't spend more than like $10-15 on cards this time -- like I did when I heard 2019 Archives was out -- I go over. True to form, I bought four Archives rack packs (in my favor, it's fiscally a way better deal than the blaster I originally planned on getting), lighting up the self-checkout lane with a number a bit over what I'd told myself just a few minutes earlier.

I think the problem lies in the fact that I try to constrain myself, and in an odd way I'm starting to think I'd spend less if I didn't set any kind of budget -- but for now, I'm ready to talk about those four rack packs of Archives.

Pack 1:

#39 Pee Wee Reese

Selfishly, one of the reasons I like 2019 Archives is because the pack wrappers themselves are so thin I could easily see the first card through the wax (or whatever wrappers are made of these days).

Thus, I knew all four of the packs I bought had a card I needed batting leadoff -- like this excellent Pee Wee Reese in Pack #1.

#44 Jackie Robinson

I couldn't, however, see the second card in there, so this Jackie Robinson (double Dodger legends!) was a joyous surprise.

#66 Rod Carew
#58 Ryan Borucki
#25 Yusei Kikuchi

#121 Tony Gwynn

I've long been a fan of mixing legends and current stars in a product, but this pack did make me wonder if a set like Archives would be best served as an all-legend set -- I'll take Gwynns like this over Ryan Boruckis any day of the week.

#109 Andy Pettitte
#172 Steven Duggar
#199 Jacob deGrom

#158 Richie Ashburn

The world needs more Richie Ashburn cards.

#TM-16 George Springer, Topps Magazine insert

Oh man do I like these -- part of the reason I went with the rack packs over the blaster was because you're guaranteed a Topps Magazine insert in every pack.

I always like periodical-themed insert sets, and this one passes with flying colors: the little replicated bar code in the bottom corner is especially cool (although good luck finding any magazine for $2.95 these days).

#94FS-17 Luis Urias, 1994 Future Stars insert
#230 JP Crawford
#232 Victor Robles
#242 Zack Cozart

#212 Robin Roberts

I was most looking forward to seeing what Topps would do with the '93s in this year's Archives -- while I was kinda disappointed on that front (more on that in a bit) this Robin Roberts is nothing short of magnificent.

#262 Honus Wagner

Same here.

#206 Carl Yastrzemski

Pack 2:

#62 Lefty Grove

Lefty aside, this pack was painfully dull, so I thought I'd use it to make some comparisons.

The '58s are probably the most true to the original design -- the only real flaw I can see is that the photos on the '58s are backgrounded behind the name, while the 2019s overlap it (I prefer the former).

#89 Whitey Ford
#96 Lucas Giolito
#46 Jose Berrios
#71 Harrison Bader
#13 Austin Riley

#139 Joey Rickard

Thinking back, '75 is a good example of a design I like that Topps hasn't yet reprinted to death (ahem, '87).

But for some reason Topps has never seemed to replicate it exactly right -- the team and player names here are noticeably smaller than the originals, and while I'm no expert on them the color combos seem off to me.

#163 Shane Greene
#138 Lewis Brinson
#112 Maikel Franco
#170 Edwin Encarnacion

#TM-19 Jose Altuve, Topps Magazine insert

Two packs, two Astros magazine inserts.

#I-10 Ichiro Suzuki, Ichiro Retrospective insert

You won't find a bigger Ichiro fan than me, but even I think these inserts -- a series of reprints featuring Ichiro's entire Topps catalog -- are just about pointless.

#282 Kyle Tucker
#249 Johnny Mize
#252 Carlos Santana

#223 Jesus Aguilar

I was most looking forward to the '93s, and on the one hand I'm happy for any rehashing of the design since it's one of the more ignored in the Topps canon -- and one of my favorites of the '90s.

On the other hand, this is an awful representation of the original. I usually have to do side-by-side comparison to tell whether something is off or not, but I knew right away that the names on the 2019s were way too skinny in comparison to the '93s -- so much so that it's really jarring. The team names and colors aren't quite right, either.

So in the end I don't know how to feel about these: part of me is glad to see Topps give '93 its due, but still I can't help thinking about what could have been.

#209 Manny Machado

Oddly the first and last cards of this pack were by far the most interesting.

Pack 3:

#50 Mookie Betts

I knew this pack was coming home with me as soon as I saw the name "Mookie" through the wrapper.

#18 Freddie Freeman
#36 Justin Smoak
#65 Wil Myers
#32 Jose Urena
#149 Frank Thomas
#184 Danny Jansen
#200 Bryce Harper

#146 Kyle Hendricks

The only Cubs keeper of the lot.

#131 Adalberto Mondesi
#113 Max Kepler
#329 Kyle Wright SP

#TM-14 Derek Jeter, Topps Magazine insert

Yes, I'm gonna show all of these.

#288 Justin Upton
#298 Jose Ramirez
#201 Babe Ruth

#227 Rickey Henderson

Add Rickey Henderson to the list of dudes who always seem to get great cards.

#250 Roberto Clemente

One of the blog laws I adhere to is that any blogger who pulls a Roberto Clemente card needs to show said Roberto Clemente card.

Pack 4:

#6 Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is a recent add to my catalog of player collections, so seeing him through the wrapper supplied all the convincing I needed to buy this pack.

#81 Dylan Bundy
#49 Hunter Dozier
#1 Derek Jeter

#29 Vladimir Guerrero

This is pretty much the image that comes to mind whenever I picture the legend that is Vladimir Guerrero.

#189 Phil Rizzuto

I'm also still trying to decide if I like the way Topps collates these packs -- unlike last year, I didn't pull a gluttony of doubles (actually none!), but similar to 2018, every pack bunches the cards in order of design.

You get the '58s, then the '75s, then the inserts and such, and then the '93s. In each and every pack. Part of why I love opening packs so much is the randomness of them, not knowing who or what you'll see at any given time. Archives loses some points there. But it is kinda visually appealing to see all the same designs bunched in a row, akin to a visual tour of the set.

The jury's still out on my feelings there, but there's no indecision as to the greatness of this '75-style Scooter.

#118 Roger Maris
#125 Mariano Rivera
#117 Francisco Arcia
#141 Touki Toussaint
#114 Early Wynn

#TM-5 Ken Griffey Jr., Topps Magazine insert

By far the best of the four magazine inserts.

#25 Yusei Kikuchi, silver parallel /99

It wasn't long ago I was lamenting how I couldn't seem to pull a Yusei Kikuchi card to save my life -- now the dude seems to be stalking me.

#292 Griffin Canning

#247 Bobby Doerr

Quite possibly my favorite card of all four packs.

#243 Juan Marichal

I guess I'll close with this magnificent image of Juan Marichal at his sidewinding best.

#295 Robin Yount
#272 Mike Piazza

Archives was nearly my set of the year a few seasons ago (2016), but I don't think it's quite managed to match that greatness since. The concepts are there -- cool inserts, honoring sets I like (1975! 1993!), and just being a fun pack to open overall -- but I just feel like it could be so much more. More faith to the originals, more creativity in checklist selection (more cards of somewhat forgotten/ignored dudes like Lefty Grove would be ideal), more...effort.

I often wish Topps would run a sweepstakes and let the winner gain full control over a baseball card set of their choice -- and if I became that lucky soul, I'd probably choose Archives, just for all the potential it so obviously has.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 52: Numbers 460-468

Frankenset Page #25 WINNER -- 1993 Upper Deck #224 Jay Buhner (11 votes)

Bit of an upset for my money here: I was banking on Mike Armstrong/Milton Waddams to run away with last week's page.

But alas, readers honed in on one of the other humorous cards from the batch and deemed Jay Buhner the winner -- he (and his pal Ken) took 11 of the 38 total votes, edging out both Armstrong and the '72 Roger Metzger (8 votes each) for the crown. It's a nice bit of candid fun from what is easily the most frankenset-friendly set known to man.

Junior's a binder guy, and thus not eligible for the frankenset, but it's nice to know he'll be represented in cameo form in the Gallery of Frankenset Champions (though I'm not quite sure how Buhner slipped through the cracks when I was selecting binder guys at a young age).

I already have a favorite in mind for tonight's batch, but let's see if my readers surprise me once again: as per the Random Number Generator, Page 52 (#s 460-468) is up for grabs this week.

Let's meet the hopefuls.

1971 Topps #460 Fritz Peterson

Awesome action from the wife-swapper himself. 

1994 Collector's Choice #461 Greg Myers

Deer in the headlights. 

2010 Topps #462 Alcides Escobar

Double play ballet. 

1991 Topps #463 Dwight Smith

Ivy leap. 

1972 Topps #464 Jim Roland

The happiest man on earth. 

1993 Topps #465 Tony Fernandez

A beautiful way to turn two. 

1994 Topps #466 Jeff Conine

A man and his tools. 

1998 Upper Deck #467 George Williams

Can't say I own many cards of dudes signing autographs in full catching gear. 

1999 Upper Deck #468 Donovan Osborne

With all the autograph requests I see at ballgames, I often wonder if players simply get overwhelmed sometimes -- this card makes me think so.

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

Happy voting!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The card show is alive and well

The card show I attended this past Sunday will forever be known as The One Where I Drove Through An Electrical Storm.

Seriously, it was darn near the worst weather I've ever driven in (I had to pull over at a gas station at one point), and as fate would have it, the hour-long drive carried me in the exact direction the storm was traveling. I felt like one of those weird storm chaser people on TV. Between this and the time my car broke down on my way to this same show, I started to think I'd done something to royally piss off the cardboard gods.

The only thing that would've been worse than driving through an electrical storm on the way to the card show would've been driving through an electrical storm on the way to a card show...and finding the card show barren and/or cancelled. That possibility stressed me out more than the torrential rain.

So, after an hour at the wheel, I stepped out of the car, high-tailed it through the parking lot, peeked inside the village hall, held my breath, and saw...YES -- the card show was alive and well!

So I grabbed a couple paper towels the village hall had so thoughtfully set up by the entrance, wiped down my hands and arms, and promptly found what is easily one of my Top Five Dime Box Finds Ever.

I suppose I can't really prove this to you, but you'll have to believe me: I FOUND A JIM MORRIS AUTOGRAPH IN A DIME BOX. Jim Morris is a bit of a cult baseball star, in that he's the basis behind The Rookie, a prime baseball movie of my youth (and a darn good story). I suppose anyone who hasn't seen/known about the film would treat this as any other prospect bust. But still...I almost never see any autographs in dime boxes, much less guys I know, much less guys I collect, much less guys who've had a Hollywood movie made about them, much less...etc.

I usually try to save my best finds for the ends of these posts, but I don't care: this deserves the lead.

But I don't want to give the impression that the rest of the show was any kind of letdown after such a monumental dime box find -- anything but, because with Morris already in the bag I couldn't wait to see what else the show had up its sleeve.

Also in that first little corner of the village hall was a vendor with a table packed with nickel boxes that saw around 200 cards go into my purchase pile, a large fraction of which was made up of new and awesome Gwynns.

Nickel cards of big player collection dudes.

I also found a near-complete set of these '88 Conlons in those first nickel boxes, fresh with names like Cobb and Merkle and Gehrig...and even Charles Conlon himself in very Victorian garb in the center (pictured with his wife Margie).

Monsoon aside, the only real complaint I had about Sunday's show was the lack of etiquette shown at various points throughout the day.

A different vendor had a nickel box full of Cubs, and while it takes a lot of sifting through '88 Donruss and '90 Score stuff, I enjoy stacks like these because they really give you a grand tour of the good (Jody Davis!), bad (Hee Seop Choi...), and ugly (Ghostly Ryno?) of team history. But three different times while I was at this table, someone came up, pushed past me, and absentmindedly shuffled through the very box I was looking through -- causing me to lose my place all three times.

I must've shown some frustration the third time, because the vendor not-so-kindly said to the oblivious dude: Sir, I think HE (me) was looking through those -- and I instantly wanted to be that vendor's best friend.

Other than that, the show was a smashing success, not the least of which because a THIRD nickel box(!) materialized right around the time the skies were clearing up outside.

This one, however, was packed with 2019 product from a cool vendor I'd never seen before -- I took care of a good 90 percent of my A&G base needs for nickels -- actually cheaper than that, because his stuff was priced at five cents per or 100 for $4(!!!). Got a bunch I'd been sorely wanting, including that Red Stockings one and a Tulo sunset card which will also go down in history as an ultimate Short Term Stop given the brevity (5 games) of his Yankees career.

And his inserts were bargain-basement as well: most were a dime each (or 30/$2) or a quarter (or 5/$1) on the "high-end."

Also, nickel High Numbers!

I wasn't sure anyone would have these because the set came out the same week of the show -- but I guess I shouldn't underestimate the turnaround times of my local vendors, because at least three of them were already flush with High Numbers.

Lots of dudes on new teams here, a sunset Ichiro SP (only $2), and the only Vlad Jr. card I bought all day (a big-dollar purchase at $3).

The local shows are where my want lists go to die.

Sunday's dime boxes were packed with sets I love (Big League!), sets I hate (Prizm), high-end sets (Museum Collection), sets I've never heard of (Panini Classics?) -- they're all there.

Couldn't help but bite on these Series 2 variations at $3 a piece -- the Sale is a mini-collection hit, and the Carter is...well, just an amazing baseball card.

While 2019s ended up comprising the bulk of the day's nickel/dime box purchases, the randomness was also alive and well, as these mini-collection hits should show.

I feel old knowing that the Rays, of all teams, now have throwback jerseys.

Obligatory dime box shiny.

These excellent oddballs all came from that first nickel box of the day, including a Keith Hernandez Indians sighting I had no idea existed and a nifty (if not slightly painful) zero-year card of Josh Donaldson as a Cub.

Didn't do much quarter box digging on Sunday, but what little I did paid dividends.

Time for some of my favorite cards to scan with each passing card show post: The Dime Box Finds That Just Didn't Fit Anywhere Else.

I found a substantial amount of Fan Favorites in one guy's dime box, and I don't know if I like knowing that Rick Ankiel  -- one of the most fascinating ballplayers of my youth/adolescence -- popped up as a "retired guy" in Topps Gallery a couple years ago.

More stuff that didn't really go with anything else, including Ugueth Urbina leaning on a cannon and a history lesson with that Colorado Silver Bullets card -- apparently they were the first professional all-female team since the AAGPBL squads of the '40s.

Also, I try to make it a point not to buy (much less blog about) Barry Bonds cards, but I had to show that one because I have no idea what's going on there -- to me it looks like he's leading a stadium-wide dance competition.

The last dime box of the day had a large offering of '90s minor league cards, which was fun because I knew a lot of the names in there.

But the dime box before that one turned out to be one of the real coups of the day, because I found early cards of a few minor league guys that often become tough finds when said minor league guys become desired names -- including not one but two different Heritage Minors Pete Alonsos (which included the newfound knowledge that a minor league team called the Rumble Ponies is a thing).

Josh Bell in particular was a star of this particular dime box -- seriously, I found so many early Bowman/Pro Debut/etc. cards of him that I decided to start collecting the guy right then and there.

My vintage haul wasn't anything like the bounty I took home the last time I attended this show, but the cardboard gods were still with me on Sunday because I found a '65 Bob Gibson for five bucks.

Also present was a '60 Drysdale for another $5 bill and a '62 Post Maris for three bucks.

It should be mentioned that the Maris sent me down another rabbit hole -- it's noticeably thinner than other Post cards because (as I discovered) it was actually given away as a promotion with Life magazine back in the day.

Discount bin frankenset vintage -- including the somewhat forgotten '71 Topps Second Coming of the Shades that I somehow didn't already own.

Sunday also saw me take home the single largest lot of '61 Nu-Scoops I've ever found in one sitting.

This is one of my all-time favorite oddball sets, and a vendor near the end of the show had a few pages full of these in an oddball binder -- the Campy was the big buy at $4 but none of the others set me back more than a buck or two (some as low as 50 cents!).

I'll close with this beautiful '53 Bowman Color Richie Ashburn -- easily my most expensive purchase of the day at a whopping eight bucks, but still a no-brainer buy.

The fact that the show had been packed all day, from rainstorm to sunshine, strikes me as a testament to the determination and joy of us collectors. And as the vendors packed up and the customers cleared out, I was left with the big bag of Sunday's spoils cradled in my arms. I pushed through the doors of the village hall and found the sun above and the sky a perfect blue, all traces of the morning's storm washed away.

I suppose there's something symbolic in that.