Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Alive and kicking (thanks to COMC)

I haven't been anything near a proficient blogger lately, but don't mistake that for an ebb in my collecting.

I still have a lot of cards coming in, the most I've had in a while - only problem is that my time to file them away has dwindled, which explains why there's a big box full of un-bindered cards sitting on the living room table right now. These days, instead of near-monthly card shows and constant trades, I'm getting most of my cards online, since I can buy them from the seat of my pants at home, or even during downtime at work (but don't tell my bosses that).

It's no accident that I've had a steady stream of COMC orders coming in to Dime Box HQ over the past year or two, and not surprisingly the latest one showed up on my doorstep a couple weeks ago.

One of my favorite things about COMC is that I can decide when to have my cards shipped - meaning I can build up my backlog until it basically amounts to a card show in a box.

Even better is that I've usually forgotten about a lot of the stuff I've bought until it actually gets to me, which makes the cards in my order a second surprise. I unearthed a nice little TCMA trove that made me smile all over again as I was sorting through this latest batch.

All Short Term Stops are welcome here, but for some reason I find myself chasing anything of Duke Snider on the Mets with just a little more vigor than usual.

I've pretty much cleared out all the cheap Permagraphics on COMC, so I had to resort to buying ones in the next-highest price bracket this time around (right around $2 a piece).

Still a small price to pay for such plastic greatness.

COMC is a treasure chest of affordable SPs and/or variations - never thought I'd love a card of Ty Cobb golfing as much as I do.

I'm a big fan of regional oddballs, and one of the beauties of this technological age is that I don't even have to live in said regions to find them.

I think these Emerald Nuts cards were giveaways at Giants games a while back - they feature a lot of alternate-universe Topps cards with different photos, and even guys like Guillermo Mota who Topps straight up ignored for the entirety of his Giants tenure.

A few minor league gems here - Millar and Hinske are favorites of mine, and the bottom two cards ended up in my cart for the photos (obviously).

I still can't believe how cheap BBM cards can be considering they have to cross an ocean to get here.

That's my first Japanese card of Cubs favorite Seiya Suzuki, and my first card at all of new Mets sensation Kodai Senga.

Milestone unlocked: my first Calbee Ichiros!

(Liked the first one I bought so much that I decided it needed a friend.)

I found one COMC seller who was blowing out his Throwback Thursday inventory - all great cards, but man is that Bob Gibson a beauty.

I say it with each passing COMC order, but I've yet to find a better place to find online exclusives on the cheap.

It's kinda sad that a lot of this stuff gets relegated to the internet, because I know I'd be all over a set of SI covers if they were issued in packs.

A few random cards that didn't fit anywhere else in this post - including a blue Vida Blue and Bartolo Colon flanking a foggy Chicago skyline.

Also, I'm just now learning that Topps issued a commemorative box set for the inaugural 2005 Nationals, a team that, for whatever reason, featured a plethora of Obscure Guys I Collect like Jamey Carroll.

Mini madness!

(Dig the rare Bert Campaneris Yankees sighting.)

A few other oddballs for your viewing pleasure - the blank-front Red Sox great is George Kell, and I still have a hard time believing Stouffer's made baseball cards.

I don't think I'll ever have a firm grasp on COMC's prices - that nifty Bellinger action variation was cheaper than his regular Heritage SP(?).

I have a small collection of cards featuring dogs, but that Topps Now card (that I probably overpaid for) is my first that shows a cat - which certainly makes me happy, since I'm admittedly much more of a Cat Person.

Just in case you thought I forgot about the shiny stuff.

(I need more Fan Favorites refractors in my life.)

I realize this COMC order skewed heavily towards the newer stuff, but be assured I did throw in a few older gems from the likes of Squirt and SSPC for good measure.

I treat most vintage OPC as a kind of bonus in my collection: they're nice to have, but I don't often seek them out - Luis Tiant is one of the rare exceptions to that rule, because of course I want all of his OPCs!

My biggest purchase from this order - a '57 Topps Zimmer! - was also an educational one.

I'll sheepishly admit that until now I didn't know there was a scarce middle series in '57 Topps, which explains why I'd never seen this card before, and why it was noticeably pricier (a shade under $10) than most other vintage Zims I'd bought. Even with the hefty price tag, though, any day with a new Don Zimmer is a good one for this collector.

You may not hear from me as often, but as long as places like COMC keep deepening the goldmines, rest assured my collection will always be alive and kicking.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Keep your hands off my Big League

I broke down and grabbed a box of 2023 Topps Big League, which continues this year's recurring theme of failing to control my card-buying impulses.

With the recent demise of other cheap sets like Opening Day and Topps Stickers, Big League is really the last true low-end brand standing these days. Admittedly, I can't say I'll rue the axing of either of those two other sets - but the thought of losing Big League scared me. I probably wasn't alone in thinking Topps had killed it - the lackluster 2021 release didn't actually come out in early 2022, and there wasn't a 2022 Big League set at all.

Which made it an unexpected surprise to hear that Topps was planning a 2023 Big League set, and, better yet, that it'd be among the first releases of the calendar year.

I've probably spent more money on Big League packs/boxes than any other set over the past few years because it's simply a fun rip that provides a whole lot of bang for your buck - a trend that definitely included this box of the 2023 edition.

True to form, 2023 Big League gives us yet another solid design that mirrors what a good, minimalist design can bring to the table - I'd probably rank it a shade beneath my personal favorite BL designs of 2019 and 2020, but not by much.

An unexpected joy was seeing the first (though obviously airbrushed) cards of Guys on New Teams, which always earns a set points in my book.

But 2023 Big League is not without one overwhelmingly glaring flaw.

The base checklist claims to be 310 cards, but that's a bit of a lie because Topps introduced a dumb staggering system where certain cards are way harder to get than others. Only cards 1-200 are true base cards, the last 110 are short-printed to varying degrees (with #s 301-310 falling 1 per case). These rainbow foils fall one per pack, and while I don't mind the idea of "chase cards," I think it's incredibly stupid to do it with the standard base checklist. 

Make the "chase" an insert or parallel or whatever else I wouldn't mind never owning - don't rob me of precious base cards in a set that's not even that big to begin with.

The real tragedy here is that I'm not really sure why Topps did this at all - the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage comes to mind.

I did luck out a bit with pulling Julio Rodriguez as my 1-per-box blue foil, but it's a card that seems even dumber when you consider that Rodriguez already has a card in the standard base portion of the set. 

It's a shame because I really like everything else about 2023 Big League - and that includes the inserts.

With Opening Day gone, Big League is left to carry the mascot torch these days - and while my video gaming years are long behind me, those "8-Bit Ballers" feature some excellent Nintendo 64-ish riffs.

Graffiti art is always welcome on baseball cards, which makes these "Roll Call" inserts a thrill.

They also feature the only "retired guy" appearances in this year's set, and although I don't think legends really need to be in Big League at all, I can't complain about a new Roberto Clemente!

These wacky inserts are teeming with 1992 Topps Kids vibes...and I absolutely love it.

Finally, we have the "City Slickers" inserts, which focuses on the game's "City Connect" jersey trend, something that's quickly been growing on my mini-collection radar.

It's kind of a weird thing to explain: do I like the Red Sox "City Connect" jerseys? Not really. Do I want cards that show them? Yup. All told, there aren't really any boring inserts in 2023 Big League, which certainly isn't something you can say about many sets out there.

I hesitate to say that the weird short-printing ruined 2023 Big League, because I still like this year's set a heck of a lot. Everything else about it is about as top-notch as you can ask for out of a brand these days.

If Topps could've just left their grubby mitts off of it, we'd have something that comes very near perfection...but, alas.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Collection chaos

I used to take a certain pride in the chaos of my collection.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still an insane collector hoarding cards of 947 different guys, but I like to imagine I've made attempts to lessen the madness recently, or at least control it a bit. I've had physical want lists at various times in my collecting life, but perhaps my biggest step in controlling the chaos has been starting to enter my cards into TCDB, which I've mentioned on the blog recently. 

I envisioned cataloging as something that would allow me to keep track of my own cards, and not necessarily to open up trades with people who see that I want/have certain stuff. However, Bo of "Baseball Cards Come to Life!" was actually nice and enough to comb through my TCDB lists (which, as of this writing, still only has my Angels cards on it) and find cards I didn't already have.

While my cataloging will probably always be a more selfish endeavor, it's nice to get a package of cards and know that everything in there is gonna be a need.

In addition to the Casey Kotchman at the top of this post (proud to say I'm the #1 Kotchman collector on TCDB!) came a few other relatively Angels dudes who I collect for whatever reason.

Don't think I've ever had anyone else send me new Brendan Donnelly or Robb Quinlan cards, which is just one reason I'm deeply indebted to Bo for going through my TCDB lists.

Here's a few of my personal favorite Angels guys, and ones who I own an ample amount of cards of, but that didn't stop Bo from finding a few I needed.

One of the dilemmas I had to face with TCDB was who and what to catalog - was I gonna enter everything, or just the top-tier guys?

I quickly decided on the former, mostly because I figured it wasn't worth the unnecessary mind games of trying to decide who was worthy of cataloging and who wasn't. If a guy's in my binders, that's good enough for me, and he deserves to be a part of my TCDB collection.

Someone like Wally Joyner is a good example - I don't really chase his cards, but as a relatively well-known name, he's earned a place in my binder and I'll certainly take any new ones that fall into my lap.

Bob Boone was the first star of my TCDB want lists - I couldn't believe how many painfully common cards of his I was missing, and Bo helped me close the gap a bit with that '88 Fleer.

(Also, I'm just now learning that, yes, there are actually cards I still need from that incredibly ubiquitous Pacific Nolan Ryan set.)

But it wasn't all just Angels from Bo - he took down three Dime Box Dozen needs in one easy swoop, and a fourth (Adenhart) that was one of the next in line to become a DBD suspect.

More prime player collection needs - I've still never gotten used to seeing Kenny Lofton in a White Sox jersey.

I obviously get great joy out of adding cards of bigger names like Tony Gwynn to my collection, but it's just as much fun to slide a new Jose Lima into my binders - perhaps even more so considering he doesn't have a million different cards like Gwynn does.

But I'll obviously never say no to new Gwynns or Loftons (especially not weirdly die-cut ones!).

This card just flat-out confused me - it's hard to tell from the scan, but both the "Topps Gold" logo and Olerud's name are printed in what looks to be silver foil.

Problem is, I can't find any record of a silver parallel set in '94 Topps, which has me wondering if it's was just accidentally printed without the gold foil. So that: is a misprint a "new" card? Or does it get banished to the doubles box like the rest? Given the way I collect, you can probably guess how I answered that question. It's sitting in my Blue Jays binder as we speak, snuggled next to all the fellow Oleruds for company.

Ah, who am I kidding - I can't help but embrace the chaos that comes with collecting baseball cards.