Tuesday, April 26, 2022

COMC transcendency

This card cost me $3.85 on COMC, which is, for this low-end collector, an expensive piece of cardboard - especially if we're talking modern stuff.

But that price is downright laughable when you consider Eck is an insert from a brand called Topps Transcendent - boxes of which sell for $25,000 (or, more than I make in a year). I shouldn't have to tell you how purely unfathomable a price like that is to me - a person who had to hem and haw about spending less than $4 on a card. Who the heck a) has that kind of money to waste, and b) decides to spend it on a box of cards where you don't even know what you're getting?

Plus, all things considered, my first (and, for the near future, only) Transcendent isn't even that exciting of a baseball card - serial numbers don't do much for me, and I've never been a huge fan of sketch-based inserts. Not to mention it's housed in a weird gilt frame that made it darn near impossible to slide into my A's binder. 

(And yes, now that I think of it, I might be the only person who has Topps Transcendent stuff in a nine-pocket page.)

I've found myself flocking to COMC more often than usual lately - didn't I just get an order from them? - and along with Mr. Eck, this latest batch featured a whole lot of stuff I'd probably never see were it not for their inventory.

I'll say again that I think a lot of Topps's online-only stuff is better than what they're putting in packs - I would've bought reams of those Super '70s cards if they were issued in normal (see: retail) form. Give me that Gary Carter over another Bryce Harper insert any day of the week.

Against my better judgment, I've decided to put Wander Franco into my binders, and while I'm not gonna pay the crazy prices most of his cards go for, I didn't mind shelling out a shade under $3 for that Topps Now card 500,000 people bought last year (and are apparently taking losses on).

COMC is even good for stuff I missed/never saw from sets I purchased in great quantity - the Biggio is a Canada Day parallel from Opening Day, and Johnny Bench makes appearances in both featured and cameo form here.

Not too early to start buying 2022 cards on COMC, is it?

Really went all-in with the Rizzos this time around (still hurts to see him in anything other than a Cubs jersey).

Mini-collection hits galore, including a couple sweet photo variations with the Ozzie & Dice-K (anyone remember him on the Mets?).

I feel like someone at SSPC missed the memo that Tom Seaver was, you know, a pitcher.

Finding a cheap oddball I need on COMC remains an incredible thrill - I could probably collect for 1,000 years and still not get all the '80s Fleer box set stuff I want.

TCMA will never let you down.

Buying minor league stuff on COMC can get a bit dull - takes a lot of sifting through guys who never got past Single-A to maybe find something I need.

Sometimes I start to question if it's even worth it...until I find that John Kruk or Tim Anderson I don't have and then OF COURSE IT'S WORTH IT!

Fancy cards of famous guys in unfamiliar uniforms - I'm on an unofficial quest to get all of Roger Maris's Indians cards.

A couple of our resident Dodger bloggers have posted about that Chrome "Rookie of the Year" set in the past, and while the Sutcliffe was a bit more than I planned on paying (a whole $2.75!) I bit the bullet because when am I ever gonna see that one again?

Shiny happy baseball cards.

A bunch of minis with absolutely nothing in common except they're all excellent - though my favorite has to be the Kellogg's Buckner (how did I not already have that one?).

I try to divide my scans into as many different (somewhat) sensible themes as possible, but inevitably there's gonna be cards that just don't fit in anywhere else - which is what we have here.

The Mauer was a prize from Topps's "Million Card Giveaway" mania about a decade ago (remember that?), and the Throwback Thursday Bernie seems especially fitting given Topps used a design from an '80s Duran Duran set there (wait, Duran Duran had baseball cards?!).

More randomness, including a card of Keith Hernandez doing a crossword puzzle(!) that was issued in conjunction with ESPN's (admittedly excellent) "30 for 30" series on the '86 Mets last year.

I can't think of any possible way to tie Ty Cobb, Steve Stone, Gaylord Perry, and Cool Papa Bell together.

I don't know if it's my imagination or what, but online vintage prices seem to be taking off, which means it's harder to find cheap(ish) ones I need on COMC.

I did manage to get that Schoendienst for pocket change, and I'd somehow never seen that '72 John Ellis before (note the Harmon Killebrew cameo!).

A couple big names that fell through the COMC cracks - an eager young collector scribbled red marker all over the back of the Drysdale, but I guess I should thank him because there's no other way I'd be able to get that card for five bucks!

Decided to make a big "splurge" and knock out a Keep Dreaming suspect with this '67 McCovey - it's a card I've long wanted, and for a whole $8.75 I figured it was time to put an end to coveting it from afar.

If, upon leaving for work one sunny afternoon, I walked out the door and, by some miracle, $25,000 fell from the sky and into my arms, I really don't think my card-buying habits would change very much. I'd still chase box set oddballs, shiny stuff, and more of the same types of crazy cards I always seem to snag from COMC. 

I sure wouldn't be spending it on a single box of baseball cards that doesn't, for my money, offer anything that's even half as purely enjoyable as a '67 Willie McCovey, I can tell you that.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Party like it's 2005

2005 was a strange year for yours truly.

I was 13 at the time, and despite all the other general awkwardness that comes from being in 7th grade, I made a weird & unprecedented choice to collect nothing but hockey cards that year. I've mentioned this on the blog many times, and I've thought about it a lot ever since - and I still have absolutely no explanation for why it happened. It's one of those almost farcical choices we all seem to make when we're 13.

I collected all the major sports as a kid, then went to just baseball for a bit, followed by the year-long foray into hockey, which was probably my fourth-favorite sport at the time when I actually paid attention to other sports besides baseball. While I still enjoy a hockey game with friends once in a while, I regained my senses in 2006 and went back to collecting baseball cards, which is where I've been ever since.

And it's safe to say I've never looked back.

All this, of course, means I missed out on a whole lot of baseball cards in 2005 - while nothing earth-shattering was being made that year, it's strange to have a big gap of a random year in my collection.

Enter longtime friend of the blog Mr. Shlabotnik of "The Shlabotnik Report," who contacted me recently saying he was doing a purge of a bunch of his '05 extras, and did I need any? I think I caught him a little by surprise by saying what basically amounted to I'll take any you've got! And that's how a big box of almost all 2005 cards ended up on my doorstep not long after, complete with so many of the sets and players I missed from my hiatus.

Pretty sure I never opened a pack of 2005 Donurss, and although it's not particularly memorable, it's cool to see that Zack Greinke & Albert Pujols are not only still active, but back on the teams they appeared with in this set a whole 17 years ago!

I've always had a fond appreciation for Donruss Team Heroes - it combines the deep checklists of Topps Total (Guillermo Mota?) with a few random and underappreciated legends (Tommy John!) thrown in for good measure.

Never opened a pack of 2005 Upper Deck, either, which apparently means I missed out on a whole lot of ballplayers diving at various points on the field.

I still don't know what to call this set - I think it's officially Fleer Tradition, but I've seen it referred to as base Fleer as well since the brand didn't even put out a Flagship set in 2005.

Unlike UD and Donruss, I've somehow managed to accumulate a whole lot of these in the years since, and even with the generic backgrounds I still think it's a decent effort.

Mr. Shlabotnik sent me cards from a lot of '05 sets in great quantity, but here's a few that he only had a handful of.

Always love those Cracker Jacks, and I'm starting to think Oliver Perez is gonna pitch until he's 63 years old.

I must've jumped ship for hockey right after the first 2005 baseball cards came out, because I do remember opening packs of '05 Topps.

Like it or not, there's no denying this isn't a distinct Topps design - plus it's replete with poses & full-body action shots that are rarities in today's Flagship.

Ah, Bazooka.

This set, oddly, is the main one I credit with getting me back into baseball cards in 2006. My Target used to have a small clearance rack with older packs many moons ago, and I bought up gobs and gobs of these discount Bazookas with my allowance. I did collect hockey and baseball simultaneously for a month or two, but after my energy and money both started to drain, I decided to dive headlong into baseball cards again. 

I think the comic-book design is top-notch on its own, but I'd be lying if I didn't say my love for these isn't tinged with a healthy amount of nostalgia, too (at least as much as one can have nostalgia for something from 2005).

One of the bad breaks of my hiatus was that I missed out on a pretty darn good Heritage set in 2005, one that honored the iconic '56 design.

These were probably the sweetest treats from Mr. Shlabotnik's purge - unlike the middling Donruss and UD, I lived the double tragedy of actually loving this set, but owning very little of it.

Most of this package was a 2005 party, but some of it widened the scope - including a bunch of '80s & '90s offshoot minis that I used to ignore but now find incredibly fun.

Mr. Shlabotnik also included a few nifty Cubs and a couple hits to my dwindling 2021 Archives needs.

And he continued the Archives fun with this groovy "Movie Poster" insert that features three of my all-time favorite Pirates - in what was a mostly phoned-in year for baseball cards, I'm starting to think these were some of the best things we saw in 2021.

Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, I think it's safe to say that I won't be giving up baseball cards again - especially not in favor of any of the other sports which I have a passing interest in (at best). And while I certainly question my decision to abandon baseball cards for a while 17 years ago, wrangling up all these 2005 cards I missed has been an experience that I can honestly say has been like nothing else I've dealt with as a collector. 

It's one thing to chase cards made well before I was born, but it's a whole other ballgame to enjoy cards that were around when I was alive and collecting, cards I somehow missed from the heart of my youth and can only now experience from the clarity of adulthood.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A hopeless Heritage fan

I can't decide if I'm justified in thinking the criticisms I've seen of 2022 Heritage are a bit harsh, or if I've simply become a hopeless Heritage fanboy.

I don't think I've read a positive review of this set yet. And while I agree with the problems most people have brought up - the tired poses, the generic green-screen backgrounds, etc. - I think people are overlooking the fact that there's actually a lot of good stuff in this year's Heritage, too. It's far from the train wreck I've heard others proclaim it to be, and to me it's the most interesting editions of Heritage we've seen in a while.

I've made it well-known that '73 Topps is one of my all-time favorite sets because of how rogue it is, and unlike what many seem to believe, I actually think 2022 Heritage does a nice job of mimicking its weirdness.

As I've mentioned before, I cherry-picked almost all the Heritage base I needed at the card show a couple weeks ago, which was fun because I got to experience the whole set all at once, rather than in wax-pack fragments.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons 2022 Heritage seems better to me - I've already banished most of the boring poses to the back of my brain in favor of the full-body pitching poses and third-base leads that make this year's set a delight.

I've been a Heritage fan for pretty much my entire collecting life, and I think that's thanks in large part that I never got to see the original iterations of these designs in real time.

My voice is by no means the loudest here because I probably first discovered vintage designs through Heritage and other "modern retro" brands. So if someone who was collecting in 1973 says this year's Heritage lacks the pizzazz of the originals, I suppose I can't really argue against that. 

But as a kid who didn't experience the greatness of '73 Topps as a kid until decades later, I'll put my two cents in by saying that 2022 Heritage is, by and large, an excellent tribute to the original.

I suppose there's long been a part of me that's seen Heritage through rose-colored glasses. 

I'm guilty of showing the same handful of memorable '73 action shots over and over again, I think I often forget that - much like this year's Heritage - '73 Topps is mostly poses, too. Even the all-time great sets have a certain amount of dullness to them.

But I will also say that I've yet to see a Heritage set that explicitly reminds me of so many of the specific original cards - and I've created a list, in no particular order, of specific tributes that came to mind in shuffling through this year's checklist.

2022 Topps Heritage #40 Dominic Smith

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #370 Willie Stargell

I've seen this one mentioned a few times already, and while I would've loved to seen the crowd behind Dominic Smith in that photo, this is otherwise about as close of a true reproduction as Heritage has ever made.

2022 Topps Heritage #131 Jonathan India

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #181 Jack Brohamer

It's gotta be the Rookie Cup.

2022 Topps Heritage #153 Isiah Kiner-Falefa

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #111 Dave Nelson

I suppose if I ran a proper comb through the '73 checklist, I'd find a card that better resembles the Kiner-Falefa than the memorable Dave Nelson card that immediately sprung to mind - but who has the time for anything but gut reactions?

2022 Topps Heritage #88 Fernando Tatis Jr.

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #133 Dave Roberts

This one seems too obvious to be accidental - two Padres infielders looking skyward at Wrigley Field, albeit on opposite sides of the diamond (perhaps Tatis was in a shift?).

2022 Topps Heritage #285 Didi Gregorius

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #376 Frank Duffy

Hurdling over a careening baserunner is a tactic unbound by time - though Didi might earn a few more bonus points for the flexing ump in the background!

2022 Topps Heritage #13 Buster Posey

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #170 Harmon Killebrew

My brain admittedly made a bit of a jump with this comp - Posey is far from the greatness of that Killebrew - but both cards give me the impression that the guy hit the ball 800 feet seconds after the photo was taken.

2022 Topps Heritage #29 Raimel Tapia

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #11 Chris Chambliss

Always a sucker for a good holding-the-runner shot, and while the Chambliss features a much more intriguing pitcher on the basepaths cameo (I'm about 99 percent sure that's Jim Kaat!), the Tapia presents a good modern look at the situation.

2022 Topps Heritage #331 Blake Snell

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #430 Vida Blue

Modern Topps could take a page from vintage Topps in giving us more of these wide-cropped pitching shots.

2022 Topps Heritage #223 Ronald Acuna Jr.

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #452 Paul Casanova

Two Braves zooming around the basepaths.

2022 Topps Heritage #50 Roberto Clemente

reminds me of...

1973 Topps #50 Roberto Clemente

I think it's cool that Topps reserved the #50 slot of this year's Heritage for a straight reprint of Clemente's posthumous sunset card - I've gone on record many times as saying it is (and will always be) my favorite baseball card.

If nothing else, I'm hoping that people can judge Heritage as a whole, and see the fun in it, rather than deem it an overall failure due to the handful of cards that admittedly miss their mark. In a perfect world, Heritage would be a flawless reproduction of the originals we know and love. But for now I'm happy with the bits of perfection we're lucky enough to get. 

Signed, a hopeless Heritage fan.