Thanks to a moderate snowfall, I had some extra time on my hands today. I took advantage of the time catalog some new arrivals, listen to Van Morrison, and work on converting all my of my non-Pittsburgh PC cards to team-organized binder pages while watching Buffy.
As I paged through the various "stuff" I've accumulated over the years, I'm always struck by all the great looking insert sets the Bucs were left out of. I can't argue against excluding the likes of Al Martin or Jason Kendall from many of the great looking late 90's insert sets. But you'd think they might have made it into a couple here and there, just for some diversity.
Maybe that's why the parallel craze never bothered me all that much. Excluded from insert sets, parallel sets were the one place you could be guaranteed to find some fun looking Pirate cards. Do all the foil color variations get irritating? Yes, though I was never as frustrated as I am with Topps' baker's dozen versions of the same card.
Still, the world of parallels have their pros and cons.
On the positive side:
-base cards often offer the most unique photography, and can often be enhanced by foil/refractor/border color changes
-it's always fun to complete the "rainbow" of a card, no matter how easy or difficult that task may be
-parallels can often be more price-friendly than insert sets, game used, and autos
-parallels allow for more expansive collections of those middling players who would never, ever make it into an insert set
And the cons:
-you see the same card design over. And over. And over. And over.
-parallels, particularly ones that aren't numbered, tend to dry up quickly on the secondary market because many dealers view them as not being worth their time
-while there are some great looking parallels, insert sets are far more likely to feature die cuts, more intricate designs, etc
-Did I mention the redundancy?
Don't get me wrong - I like inserts. A lot. But for the better part of the last two decades Pirate collectors have had to make due with what has been given to us. Hopefully the emergence of Andrew McCutchen and wave of high end pitchers in the high minors may mean some more Pirates make their way into future insert sets.
But that won't change all the great looking card sets that will never occupy a space in my Pirate collection. Unfortunately the time has come and gone for those cards to exist in black and gold, and the card companies certainly aren't the only ones to blame.
But I suppose that's the nice part of having two far more (recently) successful teams in town. As much as I may lament the exclusion of Al Martin from some '99 Fleer Mystique inserts, I can undoubtedly find Jerome Bettis or Kordell Stewart in their football counterpart. A small consolation prize, perhaps. But I'll take it.