Thursday, July 30, 2020

The return of Repack Wars

I have a habit (addiction?) of needing a soda to get through the work day, so while I was on break one afternoon last week, I went to the Walgreens across the street from my job for a quick Diet Coke.

I left with a Diet Coke and two repacks of baseball cards, because as I was on my way to the checkout line I remembered that Walgreens, of all places, sometimes has cards. As fate would have it, there were a pair of these 100-card repacks left in the toy aisle, and I bought them both. For better or worse, they're the first repacks I've bought in a long time. They no longer have the little window that lets you see the first card in the pack -- I've bought many of these based on that visible card alone -- but I still figured they'd be good for a cheap, fun rip.

Repacks were once all the rage on this blog, and it seemed like I used to buy (and post) about them weekly. Not so much lately. They're kind of like candy -- good for a little fun once in a while, but not the most pleasurable in bulk. You can only flip through so many '88 Topps commons, so it's no surprise that I eventually got burnt out of 'em. But the two repacks I bought the other day reminded me why I once loved these so much -- they obviously scratch the pack-opening itch I so often get, but on top of that, there's something satisfying about seeing a group of 100 different cards selected at random, no rhyme or reason between them.

For old time's sake, I decided to revive my old game of Repack Wars -- for your viewing pleasure, I've pulled a few of the more interesting cards from each pack, shuffled them up, and pitted them against one another to see which of the two repacks was the better stack.

A matchup of '80s stars leads things off here, but this one's a landslide -- gotta go with the nifty Sutcliffe from one of the seemingly infinite amount of those Fleer oddball sets.

Repack #1 leads, 1-0.

Part of the beauty of repacks is that you never know what they'll have -- everything from a cool '87 Topps common you've never seen before to a non-sport A&G oddity might be in there.

Even though I'm a truly atrocious pool player, I've still gotta go with Mrs. Lee here.

Tied, 1-1.

Always love seeing Pacific pop up in unexpected places, but I'm astounded that I've never seen that Jack Clark before, and he gets the point because I love everything about '91 Topps.

Repack #2 leads, 2-1.

Snow-covered '90s common, or a food-issued '80s minor league oddball?

I think you know the answer.

Repack #2 leads, 3-1.

The '80s produced an inordinate amount of dudes who look like my 4th-grade Social Studies teacher -- point Lansford.

Repack #2 leads, 3-2.

According to the box, one out of every four repacks contains a "hit" of some kind, and Repack #1 produced an autograph, which was quite jarring to see fall out of a stack of '80s commons.

But since I have no idea who Kyle Robeniol is -- he's still pitching in college -- I'll go with Tony Clark here, especially since I love finding defunct and/or long-forgotten brands in repacks (Leaf Preferred?).

Repack #2 leads, 4-2.

Against all odds, Repack #2 produced an autograph of its own -- and while I've at least heard of Christin Stewart, he's no match against a minor-leaguer named Rusty.

Repack #2 leads, 4-3.

Each of these Walgreens repacks contained an unopened pack, both of which turned out to be 1992 Donruss Triple Play.

This was a far better rip than the packs of 1990 Donruss that seemed to fall out of every repack I bought in the past -- I actually really like this set, and Repack #2 gets the nod (and the win!) for producing an Ozzie Smith card I somehow didn't already have.

Repack #2 wins, 5-3!

That little battle reminded me how fun Repack Wars are, and while 95 percent of the cards I got wound up in my doubles box, never to be seen again, repacks are always good for a romp through the cheap, random corners of the hobby.

All in all, not a bad way to spend my hour-long break from the general public, I'd say.

Monday, July 27, 2020

I just wasn't made for these times

While I wouldn't classify my adolescence as lonely, there were definitely a few areas of my life that made me feel alone, separate from some larger movement passing me by.

First, and perhaps foremost, was my taste in music, and I worry I sound like every other typical in-the-know high school kid when I say that I disliked every bit of Top 40 stuff that dominated those years. Kids didn't listen to the Beatles because they were "too old," and when I told people I liked the Beach Boys, I got blank stares. A few of my classmates went so far as to describe them as "lame" or "boring" (exact quotes).

As I've gotten older, I've realized there are people my age who like good music out there -- working in bookstores has aligned with some cool folks over the years, and I've found I'm nowhere near as alone in my tastes as I once thought I was. I still love the Beach Boys, and Pet Sounds ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums, which made the recent decision to this card documenting the iconic album from Julie's "Pick Pockets" program quite easy.

Dad wrote a guest post on this set a while ago, but somehow this is the first card I've acquired from it for my own archives.

The other obvious source of adolescent loneliness that comes to mind is my fondness for collecting baseball cards.

I've mentioned this before, but the last time I had a friend who collected cards was when I was a freshman in high school, almost 15 years ago now. In terms of my social life, I've been pretty much on my own since then. Dad's always been there for me, and I of course have this wonderful blogging community, but a part of me really wishes I still had a friend to collect with. I can remember opening packs from Target with that friend in high school, and those memories are happy, but still a long way off.

But even if a collecting friend is a pipe dream, the blogosphere is a pretty darn good substitute -- because there's people like Julie who just give away minis for absolutely nothing.

Couldn't help but pick these awesome legends from Julie's pocket.

Shiny stuff, 3-D technology, and other general bells and whistles I'll never tire of seeing on cards.

One has to wonder why Julie's leaving such good stuff in her pocket, waiting to be picked -- I'd be guarding stuff like this with my life!

I actually claimed that Cubs card without even knowing who that player is or what set it's from -- turns out it's an excellent TCMA War Years card of one-time Cub Len Merullo, and might possibly feature his oldest son "Boots," a kid cursed with that nickname because his father made four errors in an inning on the day he was born.

In addition to Julie's "Pick Pockets," I've also been lucky enough to receive a few different PWEs from Jim (aka gcrl) of the "cards as i see them" blog during the quarantine months.

These two are from this year's AL All-Star set, and they actually feature different photos than the ones featured on Snell's & Anderson's standard 2020 Flagship base cards, which kudos for Topps for (finally) doing that.

I love when offhand comments I make on this blog wind up with cards being sent to me.

I forget when I said it, but at some point I mentioned I collect Geoff Blum (a 15-minutes-of-fame Chicago sports legend!), and not long after that I found a new Blum waiting for me (along with a bunch of other needs) in an envelope from Jim.

Further evidence for my suspicion that inserts get louder and louder with each passing year.

More random needs that Jim seems adept at finding for me -- I'm already starting to forget that Kyle Schwarber came up as a catcher.

A few randoms from my want lists here, including a Joe Musgrove throwback from 2019 Flagship that somehow flew under my radar all of last year.

Not sure how I didn't already own this obscenely common '92 Topps Winfield, but I'm forever indebted to Jim for knocking it off my Dime Box Dozen list.

It's been a joy connecting with people like Julie and Jim around the blogs who collect baseball cards every bit as rabidly as I do, and understand all the little joys and tiny victories that come with a life in the hobby. Hobbies, like music, are at their best when shared, and I get a chance to do that every day around here.

And so for now, I know I'm not the only one who likes the Beach Boys, and better yet, I know I'm far from the only person out there who collects these weird pieces of cardboard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Conundrum of the unnecessary

Every year, not long after A&G's annual release, a flood of these supposedly rare "hot box" singles seem to flood the market.

I don't know the odds or anything, but a select number of 2019 A&G boxes contained nothing but these gold-bordered parallels in place of boring old base cards. It's not the first time Topps has done this -- even I, a mere dime box peon, have managed to get my hands on a good amount of "hot box" cards in past years (mostly from, yes, dime boxes). This, of course, leads me to wonder how rare they really are in the first place.

One of our very own bloggers -- Alex of the terrific "Chavez Ravining" blog -- was one of the lucky(?) souls who hit on an A&G hot box last year, and thus reaped the spoils of said gold-bordered singles as a result.

I'm torn on how to feel about these.

On the one hand, I'd be kinda upset if I bought a box of A&G and got nothing but cards like these -- one of my pet peeves is having a parallel of a card without the base version, and this would produce a whole box of parallels without base cards, which I get nightmares just thinking about that.

On the other hand, I must admit I really like the looks of these -- so much so that I claimed the Brooks Robinson mini shown above from a trade stack Alex offered on his blog, and heartily welcomed a whole box of other hot-boxers he was willing to pass along to me.

But no matter what I might think one way or the other, there's almost no argument to be made that these are at all necessary. There's no reason for these to exist -- they're not even "chase" cards because there's reams of them on COMC right now for 30-40 cents a piece. That's what the rational side of my brain thinks, but the rabid hoarder side seems to be saying GIVE ME ALL OF THEM!

So, I have to ask myself: is it possible to truly embrace a baseball card if it has no reason to exist in the first place?

For now, I guess I'm answering yes, because I'm happy to have the heaps of these hot-box things Alex sent me, minis or otherwise.

Alex has sent me a few different packages over the last couple months -- many, as you can see, A&G-related -- and because I'm (still) behind in my trade posts, all the goodies are heaped all together into this post.

Not all the A&Gs from Alex were of the hot-box variety -- some were black-bordered minis, and some just plain old regular minis, but all of them were equally excellent.

Old dudes posing in front of wood panels in Stadium Club, if that's the kind of niche content you're looking for.

Always nice to see people putting in the time and effort to look through my want lists.

Some people might argue that inserts are unnecessary pieces in the world of baseball cards.

Base cards are why I collect, so ideally I'd like to say I agree -- but it's honestly hard to imagine opening a pack of cards without that slight peek of an insert popping out from the middle of the stack.

Alex was even gracious enough to help out with some of my brand-new Big League wants here -- that Baez is in the early running for Card of the Year.

Chromey Cubs.

That Trout was an incredible gift from Alex, given that it's Heritage short-print -- with the way the hobby is trending these days it sometimes feels like I have a better chance of someone sending me a T206 Wagner than a Heritage Trout SP.

In his continuing attack on my various want lists, Alex even took down a Dime Box Dozen need with that Ichiro -- to reference back to my pet peeve of owning parallels without base cards, I had the green parallel of that one (as well as almost every other card from that 2003 Victory set) without the base version.

Doubling down with the Dime Box Dozens here -- while it's not the most flattering photo, this Alex Gordon was one of the two remaining base cards I needed from 2019 Big League.

And finally, here's a THIRD Dime Box Dozen suspect from Alex -- a standard A&G base card (not a hot-box version!) I still needed for my blossoming Sean Doolittle collection.

It's easy to drown in the rabbit hole of wondering which of the cards we own are really, truly necessary to our collections. My guess would be very few. But this hobby, I think, is about much more than boiling our collections down to the absolute essentials. I suppose I'm more of a maximalist, and not a minimalist, when it comes to cards. I have multitudes of different collections, and if a card fits into one of those, then I want it, and that card becomes necessary.

It's as simple -- and as complicated -- as that.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

On the reopening of card shows

I've been hearing rumblings around the card world that shows are starting to reopen in certain places.

I was worried this would happen, and I think it's incredibly dumb. I haven't checked if any shows in my area are running again, but even if they were, I wouldn't dream of going. It's been uneasy enough being at work in a fairly well-spaced out store with (most) people properly wearing masks -- could you imagine being in a cramped hotel banquet room with almost no masks in sight? (Let's not even discuss the fact that, at least from personal experience, a fair amount of people who attend card shows...well, let's just say they're not the most hygienic people in the world.)

Even in the best-case scenario of the pandemic fizzling out quicker than expected (which in my heart of hearts I don't see happening) I highly doubt I'll attend another show this year. I've said many times that I do indeed miss card shows -- but if I have to choose between a card show and my health, I'll take my health. It feels like the great divide between people's obliviousness between want and need has really been highlighted lately. There's a huge, huge distinction between the two.

Sure, I want to go to a show, but as much as I miss the memories of those fond card show afternoons, it's not a biological need or anything.

Plus, it's not like I'm in a card desert or anything -- if anything the number of packages I've received in the mail has increased over the past few months.

One particularly fun assortment of cardboard came from Shoebox Shane, a longtime trade partner and friend of the blog. I've swapped cards with Shane enough times to know that a package from him is like a card show hammered down and shoved into a single yellow mailer.

This time around, he started off my sending me a bunch of these 2013 Target Red parallels -- and when I say a bunch of them...

...I mean a BUNCH of them.

I loved these at the time, and I still love 'em now -- seeing them all in one place like this really makes me miss those (seemingly) long-gone years when Topps cards had borders.

Shane has said that he never quite knows what to send me, and just picks out any random items he thinks I might find interesting.

He's shown to have a great eye for that -- and from the looks of it, the overarching theme of the lot this time around was spectacularly colorful parallels.

You could pick a stack of cards at random from a giant box, and chances are I'd be able to find a use for a good portion of them.

Shane nearly batted 1.000 with his selections -- including a new Bo Jackson that I didn't notice doubled as a hit for my "interview" mini-collection until the third or fourth viewing.

Apropos of nothing: Eck!

These sucked me right back into my adolescent card-collecting years -- I opened many packs of all these semi-forgotten years and brands, and I often wonder if I'm the only person who's nostalgic for a set like 2006 Fleer Tradition.

I think I actually tried to build this Inaugural Nationals insert set in 2005 -- I was too young to remember the Diamondbacks/Devil Rays expansion in '98 so the Nats were (and still are) the closest thing I'd experienced to a "new" baseball team.

I guess I must've given up that project at some point, because I didn't have this Cristian Guzman (don't look too closely at that photo, or he'll start to stare into your soul). And so as you've probably seen, everything Shane sent here had the appropriate amount of fun and randomness I'd expect to find at a show, and I barely had to leave my room -- or the seat of my pants -- for the experience.

Card shows rule, but they're not necessities -- hopefully it won't be too long before the rest of the collecting world realizes that.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Local man finds cards at Target

I realize what I'm about to say may sound improbable, and perhaps even impossible, but I actually found cards at a Target last week.

And it was little more than an accidental surprise: I was out with a friend one day and sheepishly asked if she wouldn't mind stopping at the Target we were about to pass. I walked in expecting the same card-aisle tumbleweeds and was pleasantly floored at the full display. It was even more surprising because I'd been to the very same Target the week prior and found the shelves absolutely barren. But alas, the baseball cards were plentiful this time, and stocked to the brim -- if you read Dad's guest post last week, you know why such a sight is so rare these days.

I knew I probably shouldn't have posted this picture on Twitter, but I did anyways, and from the reactions it got you'd think I'd just discovered cold fusion or something. I love opening packs, but I like to think my collection doesn't depend on opening packs -- from the Twitter mob on that post I unwittingly learned that, to some people, collecting means opening packs, and little more than that. My thoughts on the retail bros are well known, but on the grand scale of things it probably affects me less than most collectors. Packs, to me, are an appetizer, but not so much a main course.

Fact is, however, I did walk out of the Target that afternoon with some cards, because I just couldn't resist -- anyone wanna take a stab at guessing what my big purchase was?

If you said a blaster of Diamond Kings (way in the bottom-left corner of that photo), you're right.

I'm as surprised as you. I'd never once bought a pack of Diamond Kings before this -- mainly because they're obscenely easy to find in dime boxes. But, of course, card shows aren't a thing right now. And while I did nab a couple Series 2 rack packs, I figured picking up any more than that would be a huge waste because I already had most of the base I needed coming in a Card Barrel order. And after deciding against Select (12 cards for $20? Nope...) and Bowman (don't know 90 percent of the dudes in the set), Diamond Kings basically won by default.

Normally, I wouldn't consider Diamond Kings anywhere near blog-worthy -- there's not a whole lot to say about it -- but given the rarity of finding baseball cards anywhere in the wild these days, I figured I'd document my blaster for posterity, if nothing else.

Pack 1:

#139 Nick Solak
#113 Donnie Walton
#157 Kyle Lewis
#28 Joe Cronin, blue frame parallel

The main draw of Diamond Kings, of course, is the older guys -- they're the only reason I considered buying a blaster of the stuff to be anything near worthwhile.

A further plus in Panini's favor is that they tend to feature somewhat forgotten legends (oxymoron?) that are all but ignored by Topps these days -- Joe Cronin is one of those lost stars, which made this framed parallel a treat.

#DK-7 Nolan Ryan, DK 206

These obvious T206 rehashes are a good enough idea, but they kinda freak me out a bit...I'm not sure why.

Pack 2:

#132 Jose Berrios
#106 Kyle Seager
#119 Mike Piazza

I don't talk much about Diamond Kings around here because the looks and designs and concepts just tend to get incredibly repetitive and dull and start to bleed together after a while.

I wouldn't have a prayer of matching each DK design to its respective year and release, and this time next year, I'm sure 2020 Diamond Kings will have already lapsed into that oblivion.

#111 Michael King, Artist's Proof blue parallel

#AP-10 Aaron Judge, Artist's Palette

To me, the relative lack of flair from Topps these days makes colorful cards like these seem all the more exciting.

Pack 3:

#163 Nap Lajoie

There aren't nearly enough Nap Lajoie cards in this world.

#138 Trevor Story

#112 Tony Gwynn

Gotta show all the Tony Gwynn cards I pull -- it's a law.

#86 Josh Bell, Artist's Proof blue parallel
#3000-13 Cal Ripken Jr., The 3,000

Pack 4:

#156 Logan Webb
#131 Jake Fraley
#DKMS-BA Bryan Abreu, DK Material Signatures

Significant for the jersey/autograph, insignificant since I have no idea who Bryan Abreu is.

#ATDK-22 Vladimir Guerrero, All-Time Diamond Kings

Me, I'll take this over a jersey card a hundred times out of a hundred.

#GOS-14 Christian Yelich, Gallery of Stars

Pack 5:

#105 Adrian Morejon
#150 Jaylin Davis
#126 Manny Machado
#DKM-TD Travis Demeritte, DK Materials Holo Silver (/99)

I've at least heard of Travis Demeritte, and this is probably the first time in recorded history that I've pulled two jersey cards out of the same blaster (and in consecutive packs!).

#DK-2 Aaron Judge, DK 206

Pack 6:

#101 Tres Barrera
#144 Bo Bichette

Something I don't understand: the checklist for this set lists everything from Card #101 and up as a short-print...but almost every base card in this blaster was #101+.


#118 Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench has been well represented by many brands over the years, but I'll never, ever get sick of his cards.

#29 Joe Wood, Artist's Proof blue parallel

I pulled a Smoky Joe Wood out of a pack of 2020 baseball cards.

I love this.

#INT-15 George Brett, In the Zone

The one and only horizontal card in the whole blaster.

Pack 7:

#27 Jackie Robinson

I want any and all Jackie Robinson cards.

#162 Brendan McKay
#137 Fernando Tatis Jr.
#111 Michael King

#A-1 Kirby Puckett, Aficionado

My blaster closed with this Kirby Puckett insert that kinda looked and felt like all the other inserts in this blaster -- I prefer insert sets to at least have a concept behind them, and I still have no idea why George Brett is "In the Zone," or why is Kirby Puckett is an "Aficionado."

Overall, not a ton to say about Diamond Kings other than to offer some kind of hope that, yes, some Targets, despite the madness, are still untouched by the masses and do still have baseball cards -- it's proof that miracles can happen in this crazy card world.