Thursday, February 24, 2022

I never wanted to be one of the cool kids (and other 2022 Topps musings)

I've never been made fun of for collecting baseball cards, but I've received many a raised eyebrow.

Much of my adult life has been spent underneath the outside perception that hoarding baseball cards is a "kid's hobby." Not in practice, of course - we know that adults outnumber kids about 100-to-1 at card shows - but I've always gotten the feeling that people on the outside don't see collecting cards as something adults do, or should be doing. Pretty much all of my teens and early-20s consisted of people giving me blank stares when I told them I collected baseball cards, and after I while I just kept it to myself.

Now, in 2022, I'm getting the sense that cards are being seen as a more and more "legitimate" hobby for those same blank-stared people I encountered ten years ago. I'd be willing to bet that at least a couple of the "cool kids" I knew in high school are the ones currently salivating over PSA slabs and Wander Franco's RC logo. Baseball cards, it seems, are everywhere, and people from all over are talking about them. For a long time, that's what I thought I wanted.

But at the risk of sounding like a gatekeeper, I have to admit that I kinda liked it better before - before people were fighting each other in the card aisles, back when I could feel like the hobby was something that was mine and only mine.

All of this, mind you, is just a roundabout way of saying I FOUND 2022 TOPPS!

I've always said the dawn of a new card year is a crazy and exciting time, which explains why I walked into a packed Walmart on a Sunday evening after work in search of our newest cards. I would do that for nothing else besides baseball cards. Luckily, persistence paid off, because there in a card aisle was a only partially-ransacked display of 2022 Topps, and I managed to grab a handful of hanger packs.

Breaking news: I pulled the holy Wander Franco, and please forgive me for being the 835th person who's shown it by now. I feel like I've seen that card at least 10 times more than everything else in 2022 Topps combined - which pretty much sums up where the hobby is in the hands of the "cool kids" these days.

But there's a lot of other star power in 2022 Topps, and while I think the Franco is a good, solid baseball card (but of course people aren't talking about how it looks), a lot of other stars in this set were rewarded with even better cards that blow Sir Franco out of the water.

Contrary to popular belief, there are 329 other cards in the this year's base set besides Wander Franco, and on the whole I think 2022 Topps is a massive upgrade over what we've seen the past couple years.

I'm not saying this set ranks anywhere near the top of the Topps canon, but it's certainly more enjoyable than 2020 & 2021. It's a fine design with readable player names (looking at you, 2021), as well as just plain better photos - not a ton of those ghastly zoomed-in face shots that have plagued the last half-decade or so of Topps.

Thankfully, Topps included a lot of late-season deals that they, ahem, forgot to put in 2021 Update - even digging into the rubble of Jake Arrieta's miserable four-game stint with the Padres!

Obligatory insert dump - I feel like a baby in a high-chair with Topps spoon-feeding us the '87 design over and over and over again while we cry for no more, no more!

Topps collation is equally drab this year - I once again received doubles and triples of many cards from my hanger packs - but 2022 is the first time I've seen equally horrendous collation with inserts (anyone need one of these?).

Back to the base cards, and some wonderful horizontal shots - Bichette is an addition to my not-quite-mini-collection of the Blue Jays' red Canada Day uniforms.

I was wondering how many of these City Connect jerseys would pop up in 2022 sets - Marlins aside, I don't like any of these very much, but they're fun little easter eggs to look for in this year's set.

(The Marlins should really consider making that their regular look.)

More cards I enjoyed for whatever reason - that Archie Bradley is a masterpiece and a photo that probably would've been eschewed for a close game-face shot five years ago.

I am convinced we have a budding cardboard legend on our hands with Kikè Hernandez - much like Frankenset MVP Kirt Manwaring, he's a decent player who somehow keeps getting star-level baseball cards.

And all things considered, the trend continued in 2022 with what might well be his best card yet - features the same mess of motion and flying limbs we saw in 2019 & 2020 & 2021. In a perfect world, this would be the card we'd be seeing over and over again in praise of the hobby, not the otherwise marginal Wander Franco I've seen enough for three lifetimes already, but one that the "cool kids" keep showing in hopes of a future payout from the cardboard slot machine.

I don't know what the future holds, but I hope we'll one day get back to the nuts and bolts of what a new card season means, showing and comparing our favorite cards, and just generally digging into that wonderful excitement of possibility only a new card year can bring.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Before I turn 30

Somehow, I'm turning 30 on Saturday.

A lot of you who've been here for a while probably know me as "the kid" in the blogosphere - I started this blog when I was 19! - but believe me, the prospect of being a thirtysomething is just as perplexing to me as it might be to you. If I ever realized my one-time dream of becoming a big-league ballplayer, I'd be securely classified as a "veteran" right now. It's strange.

My collection changed a lot during my 20s. I went from having little interest in vintage to being obsessed with it, from treating "book value" as gospel to not caring a wink about it. I now own cards I never thought I'd have in a million years. And while I don't think it was a conscious effort on my part, I've made a bit of a push to squeeze a few long-wanted cards into my collection as my 20s near a close.

It's great fun scavenging the corners of the internet for dime and quarter cards, but with a little extra money in my pocket sometimes you just have to go ahead and make a big splash - or whatever qualifies as one for me. I've been chasing a '61 Juan Marichal rookie for years, but unfortunately it's a prime intersection of a dream card that usually goes for gobs and gobs of money. I stumbled upon a relatively affordable copy on eBay about a month ago, and decided enough was enough.

At $75, it's the most I've spent on a single card in a while (and probably one of my top five or ten most expensive purchases ever), but definitely a thrilling white whale to finally harpoon before I hit the inevitable 3-0.

One thing that hasn't changed about me is that I still see "big" cards as anything that costs more than five bucks - only now I'm way more willing to spend that kind of cash if need be.

These biggies came from a combination of Twitter, eBay, and Sportlots - the beauty of that '63 Brock, for my money, blows his '62 rookie out of the water, and it's an immense relief to have a couple more scary '72 high-numbers out of the way.

Took 29 years to get my first Transogram cards, but here we are.

Any of these in nice condition go for more than I'd ever wanna spend, but thanks to the shaky hands of some '60s kid, I snagged these of perennial Dime Boxedonia favorites Rico Petrocelli & Denny McLain for about $10 together.

I'm also way, way more into oddballs than I was in the early days of this blog - the number of Kellogg's & Hostess collection has multiplied exponentially over the past 10 years or so.

The Oliver is a treasured alternate-universe '78 Burger King oddball - in that it's an altogether different card than his regular '78 Topps issue - and the Buhl is a fantastic regional oddball that was issued on the backs of milk cartons in Wisconsin in the '60s, which talk about a card I never thought I'd add to my binders!

While I mostly avoid Twitter sales and breaks and giveaways like the plague, there's a fun little vintage sales thread every Wednesday that's been a boon to my collection lately. 

There's a lot of high-end and/or graded stuff that I can't afford/don't care about, but once in a while I find someone selling vintage Ernies for insanely low prices.

These Drysdales have seen better days - the '63 Fleer is noticeably smaller than normal and possibly trimmed - but for $5 a pop they'll get a good home with me.

I find it incredibly cool to know I can interact with Andrew Aronstein on Twitter, son of Mark Aronstein who you might know as the "MA" from the legendary "TCMA" brand.

Better yet, I even bought a couple oddball sets from him recently - always love those All-Time Greats TCMA sets, and the other two came from a five-card set that was only sold at the Baseball Nostalgia card shop in Cooperstown in 1983 to acknowledge that year's HOF inductees (not pictured: Don Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, Luis Aparicio).

I paid a whole $15 for those five cards, but given that my dream trip to Cooperstown still looks to be at least a few years away, I couldn't let 'em go.

Forked over $20 for this pair of well-loved Robinsons, but even with a bit of water damage that excellent '64 Stand-Up alone will probably run you a couple times that anywhere else.

The Gwynn & Mattingly kinda ruin the surprise here...

...but these are all real, glorious OPCs!

For whatever reason, I've run across a bunch of people selling cheap OPCs on Twitter lately, and no matter how much I try to resist, I can't help but fall for their allure. The light backs, the French text, Joe Morgan's floating head, all of it.

I never planned on owning an '84 OPC Mattingly rookie - the Topps one is hard enough to find at a decent price - but thanks to a small crease you can barely see, I figured why not?

When I was 20, the prospect of owning a complete Topps run of Clementes seemed about as likely as being shot onto Jupiter.

Yet somehow, after securing this pair of '60s high(ish)-numbers for decent prices (good lord that '63 is beautiful), I'm just three cards away from completing that unlikely run. Two of the last three are '61 & '67, which are pricey but definitely attainable. My goal is to have both of those within the next year.

The other one, of course, is a '55 rookie, which I may need to sell a couple organs to afford - but who knows what kind of surprises my 30s have in store?

It's hard to pick a single card I'm most proud/relieved to have finally knocked off the block, but if I'm pressed for an answer it's probably this long-awaited '60 Yaz rookie.

This is a card I've salivated over many times over the past decade, always catching my eye underneath those dastardly glass cases at card shows. But each and every time, a quick peek at the price told me no chance. It's just not a card you see well-loved copies of very often. But thanks to a small tear at the top of this one, I finally managed to secure that hallowed Yaz rookie for about the same amount of cash as the '61 Marichal. An unthinkable sum for my 20-year-old self, but these days I know it's money well-spent.

And so I sit and wait for Saturday, waiting for that inevitable flip of final page that brings the binder of my 20s to a close - but given everything I've showed in this post you can't say I didn't end it with a bang.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Quality vs. quantity

I very much used to operate on the philosophy that quantity beat quality, every single time.

I vividly remember one card show a while back - right around the time I started this blog - where I didn't spend more than a dollar on any single card, and was quite proud of that. Dime boxes rule, of course, and their sheer mass has helped build the scope of my collection over the years. But while I'm by no means opposed to a good dime box dig that ends with me taking home 500 cards, I've come to realize that sometimes one great $10 card is just better than 100 decent dime box cards.

I like to think it's one of the ways I've matured as a collector, if such a thing is possible for this insane thing I call a collection.

But that's not to say there isn't a place for sheer quantity in this weird, wild world of baseball cards.

Take two different boxes (yes, boxes) I've received from Johnny of "Johnny's Trading Spot" in the last couple months. Anyone who's traded with Johnny knows his propensity for quantity. In fact, I can't remember many mailings from him that didn't show up on my doorstep in big ol' boxes. But the great thing here is that there's a good deal of quality within the quantity, like these neat '60s oddballs I found nestled within the giant trench of team bags Johnny stuffed into this box.

Send me all your Senators, and I'll certainly take that Bunning even though I've never been big on those '65 Topps Embossed cards (is anyone?).

The current era of cards seems to produce an inordinate amount of sets I not only haven't seen, but have never even heard of.

Don't know what Panini Absolute is(?), but I suppose any set that has an Edd Roush card in it can't be all bad!

I always appreciate when people go mini-collection hunting for me, because while sorting extras by player or team is fairly commonplace, I can't imagine many people have their spare "autograph" cards grouped at the ready.

Along with pitchers at the plate, throwbacks, etc., this is one of my favorite mini-collection projects - which is ironic because I've never been the sort to hunt autographs at ballgames.

As Johnny is always apt to do, his second box contained A LOT of Cubs - and while I say over and over again that I'm not a team collector, I can't help but smile at such a large lot of cardboard from my favorite team.

Only a stack of Cubs cards can get me excited over perennial greats like Greg Maddux, as well as incredible busts like poor Brett Jackson (and that's also the first of those orange factory-set parallels I've added to my binders!).

Cubs oddballs are often my favorite oddballs.

(Why do so many mascot heads insist on scaring the crap out of me?)

Shiny Cubs!

It should be noted that Johnny slipped a little non-Cubs flavor into this giant ocean of Cubs - most notably a couple excellent Negro League pogs, and one of the paltry few sportscaster cards I can say I own(!).

There are definitely arguments to be made in favor of quantity in this hobby - I treasure this "1st Day Issue" Olerud even though all that separates it from the normal base card I've owned for years is that little sparkly stamp on the left side.

I know there are many collectors out there who add like three cards to their collection a year. I've seen others who easily add tens of thousands. It's hard for me to imagine either, and I think my personal key to true cardboard enjoyment lies somewhere in that middle mass. No matter how much my dime box-crazed mind doesn't want to hear it, quality should and does win out over quality a lot of the time.

But if these boxes from Johnny are any indication, sometimes there's room for both.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Ten years, The End

And so here it is: the tenth and final ten-year giveaway post.

A few things: 1) I'd once again like to thank everyone who's participated in these shenanigans - it really is a lot of fun knowing you're getting dupes/spares to good homes. 2) If you've claimed cards and haven't done so already, please email your mailing address to me at nickpecucci AT gmail DOT com. 3) I'm going to do my best to get all the spoils shipped out in the next couple weeks. I'll probably post an update on that on the blog at some point soon. (Also, if you collect a specific team/player/set, let me know as I have a lot of spares set aside that didn't make it into these posts & could be good padding for said PWEs/packages.)

This week's batch has somewhat of a special card at the top here - I received this shiny Carter Capps 1/1 from a reader a while back. It's definitely cool, but I don't really have a great place for it in my collection (if you can believe it), so I'm giving it away here tonight to anyone who can supply it with a proper/better home than my own.

That, and everything else below, is up for grabs to any of you beloved readers who've made these last ten years such a joy.

Page 1

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Page 2

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8)

Page 3

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Page 4

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8)

Page 5

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 6

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9)

Page 7

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 8

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 9

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 10

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Claim away!

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Crossing borders...four times

I'd like to note right off the bat that the cards you're about to see in this post have crossed national borders no less than four times in the last couple months.

Picture this: I bought a stack of cardboard from a Canadian seller off Sportlots recently - paid a hefty shipping charge, but the cards were cheap and excellent enough for me not to mind much. I waited and waited for a good month or so until it became painfully apparent that something had gone wrong. I held out a little longer until I finally had to face the fact that they'd been sucked into the USPS abyss. The seller, to his massive credit, offered me a full refund.

So I re-purchased the handful of cards the seller had multiple copies of, and received those shortly after without a hitch. But the vast majority of what I'd ordered were scarce regional/team oddballs, and understandably ones he only had the one copy of. It was like a knife to the heart knowing those would be forever lost (only a slight exaggeration). And I thought that was gonna be the end of the story. 

A tragic tale, really - the only thing worse than cards I need are cards I almost had and yet still need!

But then a funny thing happened: I got a message from the seller saying the cards from the first order had mysteriously showed up on his doorstep, and did I still want them?

OF COURSE I DID! The seller, again to his full credit, sent the whole thing back to me, knocking a few bucks off the original price for the inconvenience (which wasn't his fault in the slightest). I, of course, was grinding my teeth the entire time, assuming the worst would happen and they'd get lost yet again, this time for good.

But to bring a Hollywood ending to the whole ordeal, the cards arrived safe and sound about a week later - hooray!

So, best I can tell, these cards were shipped from Canada, got lost somewhere in the US, got sent back to Canada, and eventually wound up with me in Illinois after a long and winding road of confusion.

It's a weird thing, cards getting lost in the mail. We take it for granted that stuff we receive and send will wind up where they need to go - but when they don't it kinda throws you. I was really, truly bummed that these cards got lost for a while there, and overjoyed when they eventually got to me.

Finally, all the scarce minor league stuff of perennial Dime Boxedonia favorites like Rod Beck and Obscure Dudes I Like For Some Reason like Ben Weber were mine!

Seeing as how this package came from Canada, you probably already know what these are.


I don't usually go out of my way to chase '70s OPCs, but if they're cheap enough my penny-pinching soul can't help but bite.

Always a sucker for a nice batch of TCMA oddballs - including a new Toy Cannon and proclaimed "All-Time Padre" Tito Fuentes who played exactly one season with the club.

A few other randoms here, including a couple Classics, a neat Pepsi Eck (even though I prefer Coke myself), and a glorious Japanese TCMA oddball of former MLBer Vernon Law - all of which somehow cost me a mere 18 cents a piece!

I've mentioned it a few times before, but I've been on a gigantic kick with team-issued oddballs lately - but the ones in this order were extra special considering they were issued in another country.

These all seem to have been stadium giveaways at Blue Jays games (I've still never tried an Oh Henry! bar), and that's the first and only card I've seen of Failed Cub Corey Patterson's half-season with the 2011 Jays.

I don't claim to be anything more than a passive Blue Jays fan, but they certainly seem to have more team-oriented oddballs than most other clubs out there (and better ones, too!).

In the end, I grant a great big tip of the cap to the seller who made all this wonderful cardboard available for so cheap, and for shipping no less than three different packages out to me during those wild and crazy couple months.

The journey these took obviously wasn't ideal, but I have to admit there's something special about the enjoyment I got (and am still getting) out of cards I thought were lost forever.