Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or...Trick?

Nothing much going on here for Halloween, sadly.  Nightmare Before Christmas and some wedding cookies.  I guess I've managed to adapt to the married life pretty fast, eh?

While the insanely terrifying Dave Parker axe murderer mask never made it to cardboard form, the Bucs did have something on the treat side of things: the Candy Man, John Candelaria.

As a kid, I always enjoyed the oddball candy - sure, I never minded a good Twix or Milky Way, but it was the more unique stuff that usually caught my attention.

The same goes for cards, particularly once you move into the vintage category.  The Topps releases from the 50's through 70's were, more often than not, strong sets.  They're loaded with star power and that ever-tempting nostalgia factor.

But fun?

If it's fun I want, then that requires a little more creativity. 

Hostess.  Kellogg's.  Apparently if you could eat it, you could find a cool card with it.  And for today, that is about as fitting as you could hope for. 

Hope everyone has a great Halloween.  While you're all trying to shake that sugar coma tomorrow, I should hopefully finally be escaping this wedding-induced zombie like state.

Speaking of which, make sure that Dave Parker image above isn't the last thing you see before bed tonight...

My Brain is Mush, My Cards are Cardboard

Happy Halloween/World Series end, folks.  I'm still working on reacquiring the ability to type complete sentences after the wedding wind-down.  But in the mean time...people writing their name on baseball cards!

The Nats have quickly become one of my favorite teams in baseball, and you have to love their uniform combos.  I haven't sent out many requests to current players thus far this year, so it was a nice surprise to get this one back.  Off-season, here we come.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Zombies! Wedding Zombies!

Well, I made it through the weekend relatively unscathed.  It was a lot of work, a lot of time, and came and went before I realized it.  The highlight was undoubtedly being barred by police cars from getting to the venue Saturday morning to finish setup because there was a zombie run, and the route just happened to be th only road to the venue.  Awesome.

I still haven't worked up the energy to get back to scanning, or doing much of anything with cards.  Right now I'm doing my best to find space for the mountain of gifts (tons of kitchen stuff!), but the cards have been piling up. 

It seems like any time I get caught up on organizing (or life, for that matter), something happens to throw the to do list back into chaos.  But hey, that's life.

I'll try to come back with some new content tomorrow.  But for now I'll let the wedding coma go one just one more day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Other Colts (aka Why Weddings and Blogging Don't Mix)

I survived the wedding, but it will still be at least a few more hours before I'm no longer fighting the urge to crawl back into a bed and can write up a real post.  In the mean time...Colts!

Dave Giusti was a relief ace for the Pirates, and an overall good guy.  But he also happens to be featured with the Colt .45's on two awesome vintage pieces.  I had a couple Pirates cards I didn't have signed by Giusti, so it seemed like a great excuse to send these in the mail as well.
Being a jersey nerd, I really like the fact that his compact signature doesn't obscure the jersey in either of these photos.  It's certainly for the best that the team in Houston switched to a, but like the Seattle Pilots, these cards are among my favorite oddball teams to get signatures of.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Recycled Air

I primarily stick to autos of lower end players, both for ttm mailings and for certified auto pickups.  There's a certain appeal to the unsung hero.  And my wallet certainly appreciates it, since it allows me to keep most of my card budget focused on my black and gold additions.  But every once in a while, some stars find their way into my collection in the most unexpected of ways.

At card show a few months ago, I came across an dealer with a box of autos marked $1.  I almost didn't look, but I'm glad I did.  Apparently the guy bought up a collection, and was looking to offload the uncertified autos.  Most were good ttm signers who I had little interest in, but I found a few gems, including half a dozen Steeler autos that will pop up on Battlin' Bucs.

  The Smits auto was undoubtedly the prize of the day.  I loved basketball in the 90's, and the Smits and Reggie Miller led Pacers teams were among my favorites.  I've also always enjoyed the Hoops sets, so it's a double win in my book.

The Smits may be the prize, but in pure star-appeal, this Tony LaRussa auto probably takes the cake of the bunch.  It's not perfect - I would have preferred a Cardinals or A's uni over this early-career Sox card.  But after a number of failed TTM attempts to my most hated division rival, I can't complain.
The Jaws pickup was a bit more impulsive.  I never saw him as a player, but have always enjoyed his work as a broadcaster, and he was someone I had wanted an auto of but missed the boat on his TTM days.

Unlike the LaRussa, I'm thrilled this Dye is in a less familiar uniform.  Even though I loathed the 90's Braves teams, I was captivated by Jermaine Dye's play during the '96 season, his lone season in Atlanta.  Imagine the Braves impressive run had they kept Dye.  For $4 total, these are some great additions.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Mayor and The Kid

I think we can largely agree that game used cards have lost their luster these days.

And with some of the higher end products offering 2-3 per pack, it's like the damn things are the new base card.  But once upon a time, they were a little tougher to hit and a lot more fun to pull.

I've never gone out of my way to add non-Pittsburgh gu cards to the collection, but when I hit one in a pack that interests me it's locked down in the PC.

This bad boy came out of a few loose packs at a now defunct card shop.  Right now the Bucs are locked in a tight race with the Reds.  But I liked watching the team in the early 2000's, when Griffey could actually stay on the field.  Sean Casey will be in Pittsburgh this weekend to sign autographs at the Pirate game, and I'm looking forward to getting some things signed that I've been holding onto since his time here in '06.  I think this is actually the second or third Griffey gu card I own, though sadly none are of the Mariners variety.  That might be one game used card I'd actually be willing to shell out for.

Wedding Week: No Coherent Posts Guaranteed Beyond This Point

The next week is going to be nuts, so I can't promise I'll post.  If I do post, no guarantees to whether the words I write will be coherent.  Or related to cards.  Or in English.

The wedding is on Saturday, and should be a grand affair (after we spent today making 30 dozen cookies, to go with the 100 dozen my mom made, and who knows how many will be coming in from friends and family.  The cookie table - I've heard it's a Pittsburgh thing - does this sugar induced madness exist elsewhere?

One of my buddies will be coming up from West Virginia, and our friend who is doing wedding photos is flying in from Arizona Wednesday.  It should be a great week topped off with what should be a very fun wedding. But that also means I don't know how much time there will be to show off pretty pictures of baseball cards.

I was going to post up a throwaway post - some pretty pictures, some vapid text just to keep my readership convinced that I haven't totally gone over the cliff...yet.

But I realize that as I head down wedding road that I'm in a pretty lucky spot.  Great gal, super happy, etc etc.  But she's also incredibly tolerant of my cardboard habit.  Sure, she doesn't get it at all (though she has added the word refractor to her vocabulary, which she now uses to describe any foil card I bring in). 

But over the years I've realized the importance of having somebody who supports the things you enjoy (and vice versa).  Any time this topic comes up on hobby message boards there is always a few guys who chime in how much their significant other hates their collecting, or they have to sneak cards into the house, or any other number of horror stories that...don't sound like the heathiest of relationship signs.

So by those standards, I've got it pretty good.  There were never an objection when I tried to build out Ohio excursions back to civilization around card show weekends in Dayton or Columbus, or if I would slip off to a card show.  Heck, she even asked if I wanted to go to Chicago for the National this year, but the move killed those plans. 

Anyway, it's back to the wedding craziness for me.  I did manage to squeeze on some Topps Update purchases before going into full-time wedding mode, so if the mailman drops those off today I may be able to get a quick post up.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm An Auto Addict

Aside from my team collections, the other main focus of my collection is autographs.  I usually just stick to TTM autographs.  But quite a few players, especially current ones, don't sign very frequently through the mail.  So when something falls into my price range, it's always nice to add some certified autos to the collection.

All the cards below came from my buddy Mike at Tromp's Sportscards.  They pretty much all fall into the "impulse purchase" category, but are some interesting additions to the collection.
 Matt Bush may be the biggest #1 overall draft bust in any major sport.  Ever.  I absolutely love the design of 2004 Bowman Heritage autos, so for a mere $1 it seemed like a must add to the collection.  What can I say?  Being a Pirates fan gives you a certain affinity for failed prospects.  Even if they are felons.
 Eckstein was a scrappy player who was just flat out fun to watch.  I would have preferred to have his auto in an Angels uni, but he had a couple nice seasons in St. Louis.  Again, for a couple bucks it's a fun addition to the collection, and a very nicely designed card.
 Alright, we finally have some trade bait at Battlin' Bucs.  I picked up an Elite Status of Jason Kendall for myself.  But this beauty was too nice to leave behind.  Are there any Twins fans out there?  This (along with a ton of other Twinkies stuff) is up for grabs, if anybody is interested.

And closing out the fun, the ageless wonder, Mr. Bruce Chen.  If any newer collectors need some perspective on how fickle the prospect game is, Chen made the BA Top 100 3 times, clocking in as the #4 prospect in the game in 1999.  Yes, you read that right.  Fourth best prospect.  In the game of baseball.  Bruce Chen.

Since reaching the bigs at 21, Chen has gone on to have a surprisingly lengthy major league career.  In the early 2000's, it looked like he was bound to be out of baseball within a few years.  Obviously his performance in Kansas City is a far cry from #4 prospect status, and he certainly didn't live up to the billing of joining Atlanta's killer rotation in the late 90's.  But 1999 UD MVP Pro Signs are one of my favorite 90's auto designs.  I busted a ton those packs (or what seemed like a ton at 12) back in the day, but never came close to hitting an auto.  For a dollar, now I have one.

Baseball Cards (In Motion!)

I came across a news story talking about a new site that posts animated gif's of baseball cards in motion sequences. Any time cards make the mainstream media it's at least worth a read.  Cool concept, though it seems pretty clear the author may be a little overly impressed.  You can check the site out at, which promises a new gif each day.  It's not the first time I've seen it done, and when I read the initial story I was expecting something unique - perhaps sequences of the same player, or cards from the same set. 

Not so much.  Instead they seem to just take a pile of junk wax in similar poses, and gif them together.  Still interesting, but surely anything with a decent sized stack of cards could replicate, right?

Well, I put that theory to the test.

I pulled out a box of commons that has slowly been migrating to binders.  The box had cards from 1996-2006, but had mostly been pillaged of everything except for doubles.  Flipping through the cards, I quickly decided I would try to do one of poses: either a player running, or a right handed batter being photographed from the left side of the plate.

This was actually a lot easier than I had suspected.  By the time I hit my 2001 cards, I had put together enough cards to roughly make both poses work.  If I expanded my search to include more years, I'm sure I could have made the transitions a little smoother.

Scan, crop, and put together with a free online gif maker, and the entire process took about 10 minutes.  Given the number of Jason Kendall cards in this sequence, I could probably make an entire gif just of Kendall.

It's a fun novelty trick, and something that I think anyone in the blogosphere could easily replicate.  If I get really motivated, I may try to fine tune this one a bit - I know there are some early 90's cards that are in similar poses, as well as some early 80's Topps sets that seem to photograph every batter from the exact same angle.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going Green: Why I Don't Buy Blasters

I guess I've always been pretty lucky.  Since my early teens, I've always had regular access to card shows.  Some big, some small, some certainly better than others.  But whether it was a mall show every few months or a large show attracting dozens of dealers, I've always been able to count on a show to get my fix.

Maybe that's why I never really caught on to the whole blaster craze.  I stopped ripping wax for good around 2005.  There was a slight relapse in 2007 over a box of SPx, but I quickly got back on the wagon after an Alay Soler auto as my big hit.

It just never made financial sense to me.  I'm frugal.  Or as my fiancee likes to say, "cheap."  And I'm ok with that.  I've built what I think is a pretty nice collection without ever feeling buyer's remorse over a purchase.  That's something I could never say during my wax breaking days.

Part of me avoids the blaster aisle at Target because I'm desperately trying to avoid a wax relapse some 8 years later.  But part of me knows it just isn't worth it.  For that $20, I can fill some holes in my Pirate collection.  Or grab some nostalgic 90's Steeler cards.  Or, for the days when my collecting interests stray a bit too broad, pick up some odds and ends autos.

And at the monthly show this past weekend, that's just what I did.  The Pirates cards were slim pickings - I came home with around 100 new cards, but almost all were commons.  Same for Steelers and Pens.  But while digging through a box of $.10 Gypsy Queen commons to fill out my 2013 team set, I decided to flip through the small box of unmarked cards.

At a show, this usually means one of two things: junk cards in toploaders, or overpriced hits.  The seller usually has pretty fair prices, and a wide selection of new product, so I figured at worst it would be the latter...and it never hurts to look. 

Much to my surprise, the second card in the stack was a James Shields auto.  With a $2 price tag.  Two dollars?  This must be a mistake.  There was a Brock Holt auto sitting out on the table tempting me at an inflated $8.  How could James Shields possible be $2?  A throw-in to the Joel Hanrahan trade for 4X the price of the player who the Royals sold the farm for?

As I kept flipping through the stack, I noticed about half a dozen Gypsy Queen autos at the same $2 price tag.  I passed on most, since it looked to be the standard array of middling "rookie" autos.  But these two beauties came home with the total price of a pack.

Another table had your typical gu/auto blowout sale, mostly consisting of no-name Press Pass autos and relic cards.  But for another $2, this Brian Roberts jumped out at me.

Roberts is an auto I have been after for a couple years.  I loved the O's as a kid, and have shared a tortured fan bond with the team for most of the 00's (the same love can not be said of the Ravens). 

The last couple years I have been doing an autograph exchange with an autograph collector in Maryland - I get stuff signed for him at Piratefest, and he gets my stuff signed at O's Fest.  But each year Roberts has eluded me, probably due to his popularity in O's country.

Just getting a Roberts auto - and he sure does have a nice signature - would have made me thrilled for $2.  Add in a throwback jersey?  AND from 2005 Zenith, one of my top 3 favorite sets of all time?

For a grand total of $6, I picked up autographs of 3 All-Stars.  Now do you see why I don't open blasters?

Breaking Bad: 1980's Topps Coins

In case you haven't noticed, I've been holding back on the Pirate-related posts lately.  Hope you won't hold it against me, but after a tough end to the season a little break seems like the best medicine.   But hey, I'm not a one dimensional collector - what better time so show off other fun parts of my collection.

I've been pretty successful at staying away from wax for the better part of a decade now.  But sometimes opportunities are just too good to pass up.  I was at a flea market a few months back that had some loose packs of 80's and 90's junk wax.  At a quarter each, the price was still to high for me to bite on 1991 Donruss.  But Topps baseball coins?  Why not.

I grabbed one pack of '88 Coins and one from '89.  I was hoping to hit any of the Pirates in either set.  No luck on that front, but the packs were still a fun rip.  Remember when Danny Tartabull seemed worthy of inclusion in a star-studded set?

The best hit of the packs was definitely this Nolan Ryan from the 1988 set.  Ryan appearances as an Astro are pretty few and far between in my collection, so it was a welcome addition.

Perhaps not the most exciting break in the world, and I was a little bummed not to come across any Pirates, even though the odds were against me, but for $.50 you can't go wrong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ice Capades

 I don't collect much hockey.  My Pens collection is the smallest of my Pittsburgh collections, at just a little over 200 cards.  It's not that I don't have an interest in them; hockey cards just seem to be nearly impossible to find at decent prices in Ohio/Pennsylvania. 

Beyond my Pens cards, the entirety of my hockey collection comes from a huge box of commons I (my parents) bought when I was 9 or 10 at a garage sale - 20,000 cards for $20.  It was a goldmine for a kid.  Probably 7k of those cards were hockey, which are still sitting in a big box in my parent's house.  There is probably some TTM fodder in there, but I am so backlogged with requests I rarely look.

Except when something catches my eye.

I've said it a million times, but I love cool jerseys.  And by extension, I suppose I love goalies.  So when a name caught my eye while skimming successes on SCN, I knew I had to dig out a few cards from the mysterious hockey box.

 As much as I loathe the smug Caps these days, I love the old jerseys, and these are two great action shots.
The Lindsay was a little less romantic.  I knew he's  good signer, and dug through the rare hockey dime box at card shows until I finally found a card to get out to him.  It's not my favorite card, but I can't complain about adding a very gracious TTM signer to my collection.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Going Green: Unique Unis

The game used phenomenon has come and gone, despite the fact that companies keep pumping the cards out by the thousands.  At this point, I look at relic cards as little more but glorified inserts.  If they're aesthetically pleasing, I'll add them.  But they certainly aren't something I pay a premium for.

Unfortunately, the entirety of my box breaking days came during the peak of relic-mania.  Those $50-70 boxes would yield one thrilling hit, now worth approximately the equivalent value of a loaf of bread.  And not even the good bread.  We're talking day old Italian here, folks.

Still, my box breaking days yielded some cool cards that for both sentimental reasons and the sheer fact that the cards literally are not worth selling at this point, will likely remain a part of my collection.

This Dale Murphy jersey card came from a box of 2003 Donruss Team Heroes, one of my all-time favorite sets.  What it lacks in vintage-ness (I believe this was the second most recent player on the checklist for the Timeline Threas cards, with the majority of the others being superstar HoF'er types), it certainly makes up for in uniqueness.  I love the distended seam that runs down the swatch, giving an already well designed card some extra character.

The Yogi jersey card is one of my favorite non-Pittsburgh pieces.  Yogi was my dad's favorite player, so it holds some special meaning to me.  On top of that, the card also features an awesome vintage swatch that looks even better in person.  It may not be as flashy as a patch card, but this chunk of Yankees road gray is perhaps the one area where game used cards got it right - putting a piece of baseball history into your hand.

The fancies of collectors seem to come and go in waves.  I doubt we'll ever see game used cards reach the fervor they did in the late 90's, or even the interest that some high end patches drummed up in the mid 2000's.  But I'll certainly enjoy the pieces already sitting in my collection.  After all, it's not like there's any reason to part with them.

Blogger Mail!

Since joining the blogosphere, my mailbox has been full pretty consistently, and my stacks of incoming cards never seems to go down.  But little of that has had to do with Battlin' Bucs, or any trades I've cooked up.

I've had a few trades here and there, but it's not something I actively seek out.  I write because I enjoy writing, and I write about cards because I enjoy cards.  Simple as that.  Anything beyond that is gravy.

But I got a nice surprise when Duff over at Bleedin' Brown and Gold posted that he had come across some old Topps books at his local library, and he was offering them up free to a good home.  I can appreciate anyone who has a colloquially apostrophized blog title.  And I do love adding oddball Pirates stuff, so I claimed the Bucs book.

Talk about awesome.  The book includes full color photos of the entire team set from each season up through 1987, and a short blurb about each year.

I have a photographic memory, so I'll probably spend a few minutes pouring over the pages before the next card show that will be vintage heavy.  Checklists are great, but I've quickly discovered I am far too unorganized and impatient to be flipping through my checklist every time I see a card I think I might have.  The book is a really cool oddball piece, but still serves some functional utility.  Win-win!

Duff also included a few Bucs cards in with the book, and while my commons needs are becoming increasingly fewer and farther between, he hit a couple nice additions.   The Presley card is my first from 2013 Series 2, though I finished off the team set with a flea market stop this weekend.  the Jay Bell Tombstone card is one I didn't know about, and furthers my belief that cards can still look nice without logos.  It also confirms my suspicion that cactuses and baseball cards do not go together.

I took the opportunity to clear out a few Pads and sent Duff a little thank you.

From box to binder

 There have been plenty of black and gold additions in recent weeks.  In fact too many, as the piles on my desk are starting to build to monstrous proportions again.  But there are just too many fun cards in my collection that don't fall into the black and gold category.

Like this Tom Glavine card.  I had no idea Glavine was also drafted in hockey (well, I probably did at some point - I imagine it was the blurb on the back of '94 Topps or something).  This card is a pretty cool rendering.  I'd imagine a hockey/baseball two sport star would be a little tougher to pull off than the football/baseball combo.

Say what you will about the early 90's.  It's not my favorite period in card collecting either.  But in the days before exclusive licenses and multi-billion dollar revenues, the main concern of sports leagues seemed to be getting their name/logo/players out there.  Licenses were handed out like candy, with unique mainstream manufacturers and fun oddballs like this.  Now that Topps pretty much controls everything and anything printed on paper that has an MLB logo (cards, minor league cards, stickers, in stadium advertisements and promos), I doubt we'd ever see anything like this again.
 Speaking of things we don't see anymore, where have all the multiple exposure cards gone?  I'm no photo expert, but I'd imagine with all the advances in digital photography card photos should be getting more interesting, not less.  One of my friends is the team photographer for the Diamondbacks, so I'll have to do a little q&a if there's time.
 And while we're at it...what the hell happened to sample cards?  Oh, that's right.  The internet.  Sample cards are one of those fun collecting quirks that I love to add.  Sometimes they're incredibly bland: samples of base cards.  But there are some really nice onces, including samples of insert sets or this Pinnacle Certified sample.  The scanner kind of killed the refractor finish, but the card looks awesome in person.  And Bagwell was one of my favorite 90's players to boot.
 This card had actually been well on its way to my "someday I'll set up at a show and sell this stuff" box.  But I had second thoughts, and I'm glad I did.  Donruss Estrellas was a poorly executed attempt at a retail only Spanish language set.  I must say with the popularity of baseball in Latin America and Mexico, it is surprising that fewer companies have tried to tap into the Latino market.  Early Pacific cards in the mid 90's and Estrellas.  That's about it.  But then again...when you have a monopoly...
 This Morneau is a another card that was slated for the "sell me" box.  But his midseason trade to the Bucs has upgraded him straight from the move pile to binder status.  And my Twins pages are sadly under represented, so it's a nice addition.  Die cuts are all the rage with Topps right now, but this die cut in 2010 UD was the first I remembered seeing in a long time.  Granted it's not the most mind blowing design.  But's not Topps.
 I have nothing to say, except:

The Crime Dog was one cool cat.  Trucker hat baseball caps were not.
 The pinstriped Bulls jerseys were a thing of beauty.  I was a huge Bulls fan, but never a big Jordan collector.  I can't explain it.  But I do have a sweet Steve Kerr collection!
 I've never been a big fan of Barry Bonds.  Or overzealous expressions of patriotism for financial gain.  Or those little American flags.  But 2002 Studio was a gorgeous set, and this is a pretty great card.  Even if the flag does look comically tiny in Bonds roided up arms.
And for a reminder of what Giants baseball should look like...Barry's godfather winning the MVP, in a much smaller size.  I liked the Baseball Heroes releases Upper Deck did, and I think it helped add a more historical element to a company that was really just getting its feet off the ground.  It's a shame they didn't continue with them, but obviously the company has much bigger issues these days.

A Man of Many Hats

As I wrote a few weeks back, I'm combining my writing here and at Returned to Sender to one blog.  What does that mean?  Practically nothing, aside from a few more non-Pirate posts per week.  I wrote 37 posts at RTS, and there are some I'm pretty fond of.  I'm reposting a few of them here.  Most of you won't know the difference, but for the two followers RTS had, sorry for the deja vu.

 Some players just get around.

There are the guys who are perhaps as noteworthy for their mobility as for their production on the field - Matt Stairs and Octavio Dotel have suited up for quite a few teams, particularly during their latter career.

But some guys just kind of fly under the radar.  Or all over the radar, depending on how you look at it.

Jose Hernandez certainly found quite a few different cities to strike out in, including some time with the Pirates.  I already had a few of his Pirate autos in my collection, so when I noticed he had started signing TTM as a minor league coach, I decided to see what else I could get signed.

Apparently Jose wore many a hat during his Topps photoshoots over the years.  And there are still a couple teams unrepresented, so I may have to track down some more cards to finish off the "set."

He sent back this beautiful stack of autographs in under two weeks.  I knew about his time with the Bucs and Brewers, and knew of his time with the Dodgers because he was a favorite with then-Pirates manager Jim Tracy, who had brought him over after being fired by the Dodgers.  But the Rockies?  Not a clue.  Indians?  Like any good Pittsburgher, I make it a point to ignore most things going on in Cleveland.  Though from what I've been told most Clevelanders follow a pretty similar rule.  It looks like I have the Rangers and Cubs left (he ended his career with the Phillies after a midseason release from the Pirates in 06, but I doubt he was set-worthy at that point). 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Going Green: Shine Bright...Like a Diamond?

I've discussed it at length over at Battlin' Bucs, but I love 2000 Topps.

It's the set that got me back into collecting, and it has some really fun quirks to it.

A few years back I picked up a few boxes of 2000 Chrome.  The product was super high end to me at the time.  I think my mom bought me a few packs once, but it was strictly base Topps for me back then for the most part.

The break was great.  And while I probably didn't even recoup my $20 a box value wise, it was a great break.

But I did come away with some awesome cards (not to mention an unreasonably large stack of doubles).

I somehow managed to avoid the curse of the scrub refractors.  In my two boxes, I hit quite a bit of star (and future star) power.

But not just regular base stardom.  2000 Topps had some cool subsets within the base release.  The first cards in each series were the special achievement cards like the Ripken, each having 4 or 5 different versions that were identical except for the accomplishment listed on the front.  The 82 ROY is definitely a cool for Ripken.

And the 20th Century's Best cards look amaaaaazing.  In the base set they're a foil card.  But in Chrome?  Mmm mmm good.  And considering other players in the subset include Lance Johnson and John Franco, I think I did pretty well.

Maybe Beltran wasn't the biggest hit in 2000.  And even after a stint in NY he doesn't get the hobby love his skills deserve.  But anything with the Topps Rookie Cup is a winner in my book.

But the biggest hit of the bunch isn't even a refractor.

In 2000, there was still nothing hotter than Mark McGwire.
A chrome reprint of the red hot McGwire USA rookie?  It was every kid's dream.  Despite ripping a ton of base Topps (or what was a ton in the relative world of a 12 year old, which probably equated to about a box and a half's worth).   Obviously a lot has changed since 2000.  McGwire doesn't carry the star power he once did.  Refractors seem to come two per pack rather than two per box.  And boxes of 2000 Chrome cost you what a couple of packs used to. 

But you can't have much more fun with a break than I did with this one.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The New Centerpiece to My Pens Collection

Hockey isn't my number one collecting priority.  Heck, it's not number two or three either.  But I've  m
ade an effort over the past year or two to try to watch some more hockey, and my Penguins collection has slowly chugged along from a couple dozen cards to about 300 now.  It still lags behind my Pirates and Steelers collection by thousands of cards.

So centerpiece is a word I use loosely, considering there aren't many cards in the running.  I think it's supplanted a Johan Hedberg as my favorite Pens card.  And the Moose wasn't exactly stiff competition.

But this card?  It's a beauty.

Anybody who was collecting in the 90's knows the mystique of Fleer's Metal releases, and specifically the Precious Metal Gems.

Actual Precious Metals have been well out of my price range when they do come up.  But Upper Deck was kind enough to revitalize some of the 90's designs with their Fleer Retro product last year.  And with it came some precious cards.  Pun intended.

I had been on the prowl for either of the Pitt Panthers in the football release - Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett.  But both had been a little higher than I wanted to go.  I figured the hockey side was simply out of the question, with Crosby, Malkin, and Lemieux being among the most collectible players there are.

But it never hurts to look.  Much to my surprise, I came across this Precious Metal without any bids a day or two before the auction was set to end.

When it was all said and done this beauty arrived at my doorstep for a little under $10.  It's more than I would have ever expected to spend on a hockey card, but I'm glad I did.  The card looks amazing in person, and I think the scan does it justice.  Now if only the Pens looked a little better on a red backdrop.

Going Green: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

As I wrote a few weeks back, I'm combining my writing here and at Returned to Sender to one blog.  What does that mean?  Practically nothing, aside from a few more non-Pirate posts per week.  I wrote 37 posts at RTS, and there are some I'm pretty fond of.  I'm reposting a few of them here.  Most of you won't know the difference, but for the two followers RTS had, sorry for the deja vu.

Since moving, my ttm sending has come to a halting stop.  There's just too much going on right now to have the time and space to send out a batch of letters.

But there's always time for more direct routes.  I found a few minor league autos of ex-Bucs I was interested in, and while checking out the seller's other items found some nice non-Pirate autographs.

I got outbid on an auto of prolific journeyman catcher Dusty Brown, yet I managed to score this sweet Josh Johnson rookie auto for just $.99 with free shipping.  Sure, his stock has dropped quite a bit after a terrible season north of the border, but I can't pass up a chance to add an All-Star autograph for less than the price of a cheeseburger.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Picture's Worth However Many Words I Just Typed

There isn't much down time nowadays with the wedding two weeks away (eek!), but I've been slowly working on getting some more Pirate team sets into binder pages.  It's fun to see to see an entire team set come together on a page (you know, when a large part of the team was actually represented in a set, unlike today's star only 100 card base sets).

And the photography?  Topps has stepped its game up in the last few years, but only because photo quality crashed and burned during the 2000's.

This 1998 Stadium Club set is

The photo variety alone makes the set (well, partial set - there's another binder page still missing a couple cards).  Different angles, eye levels, and a variety of poses.  Even an awesome Jason Kendall play at the plate shot.  And the Tony Womack photo next to it is an excellent action shot.

Simple design, great photos, and even some high value cards from the Co-Signers inserts.

As the binders slowly take shape, I may scan some more full pages.  I love inserts, and parallels, and all that good stuff.  But great photos?  You can't beat that.

Breaking Hearts and Taking Names

I came across these auctions this morning.  It makes for a good laugh and a better start to the morning.  And heck, $32 seems like a pretty solid deal if you're in the market for a 1984 Fleer Carl Yastrzemski.

But it also brings back a familiar narrative for most serious collectors.  There are thousands and thousands of people who did not get the memo that their 1988 Score cards are not a valid retirement plan.

Anyone who has ever been to a large card show or spent any time in a card shop has seen the story play out.  Person approaches with literal shoebox full of cards, asking if you want to buy some great vintage star cards.  The box is opened, revealing all the Bo Jackson's and Lee Smith cards the heart could possibly yearn for.  When said person is informed their cards are quite literally worthless (unless they're interested in a new heating source this winter), they become belligerent, accusing anyone and everyone around them of trying to cheat them out of their fortune of cards.

But the laughable situation does bring up some interesting points about the finer intricacies of our hobby.  The 80's/90's overproduction boom was driven by a speculative market and a sudden spike in the collectibles market in general.  Baby boomers suddenly wanted to get their hands on those cards mom supposedly threw out.  But as they started trying to track the cards down they discovered apparently everybody else's mom did the damn dastardly deed.

Supply, meet demand. 

The story is simple enough, and gets simpler.  Driven by speculation and renewed collector interest, the presses went into high gear in the 80's.  Hobby innovations and developments kept most of those collectors there for the better part of a decade.

And then poof.  Gone.

So my question becomes what do we make of the current lull in the market, and what can we expect from the next boom (which, unless you subscribe to the sky is falling view of collecting, will undoubtedly come at some point).  You see, the supply is once again limited.  And I'm not just talking about the ones with a number stamped on them.  Odds put the total number of 2013 Bowman Chrome cases at about 6,500 cases.  And that's one of the more popular product.  How many cases of 2003 Fleer Box Score or 2007 Topps 52 do you think hit the streets?

Of course the hobby landscape has changed.  People don't chase base cards the way they once did (well, except in blog-land, where we still love the simple stuff).  So maybe the drastically reduced production will have no real impact, since people will only want the glitzy stuff.

But we can't avoid the elephant in the room.  The cut in production also coincides with what is now called the steroid era.  While baby boomers can fondly go back and revisit their childhood idols of Mantle, Aaron, and Mays - undoubtedly men far from sainthood - their trials and tribulations didn't reach the public spectacle that today's environment created.  After all the insults, jokes, special sessions of Congress, and many adults will decide to scratch their midlife crisis itch with a collection of Barry Bonds cards, or tracking down those those beloved Rafael Palmeiro base cards.  More bluntly - how many kids collecting during that period even have fond memories of cards at all, let alone of those players.

I don't have any real answers, or even suspicions.  I enjoy the hobby for what it is, what is has been to me, and hopefully what it can continue to be.  It's not about the dollar signs, though I am curious to see where hobby trends go in the coming years.  With a little luck, maybe one of these days I can sell that 2002 Topps Total Greg Maddux for $32. 

On second thought, maybe not.