Sunday, March 16, 2014

Team Topps

 It's safe to say these days that I am definitively not on Team Topps.  But in the early 2000's, Topps was at the top of their game in my opinion.

Team Topps was a multi-set and multi-year effort that was essentially an extension of the wildly popular Archives product.  The premise was pretty simple, but the execution far more complex.  Autographed cards of baseball greats were inserted in a wide range of products.  The problem?  No real checklist existed.  No indication of what autos may appear in which products (or if all autos were inserted).

The cards were reprints of classic Topps cards, save for the small authentic auto and Team Topps foil stamping on the cards, but it was never too intrusive.  And since the cards counted as an extra hit on top of the guaranteed gu or auto count, you can't really complain.

The cards are great looking, though I don't think I've seen any in quite some time.  Both of these were pack pulled around 2002 or 03.  I've always enjoyed the reprint products like Archives, and the autos and designs of these cards feel so much more natural (and less overtly computer designed) than the recent offerings of Archives. 

I'm On Tromp of the World: A Different Direction

I posted about the crazy sale at Tromp's Sportcards the past week, and I was thrilled to see some other bloggers taking advantage of the deals.  I've been buying off of Mike for years, and his prices are hard to beat.

The down side to that?  My affinity for random pieces of cardboard tends to come out during such bargain hunting opportunities.  I was able to score a few new Pirate cards.  But the gems of my purchase had nothing to do with my beloved Buccos.

Tromp's sales have allowed me to quickly build my autograph collection of players who I liked growing up.  And thanks to the changing winds of the hobby, most players from the 90's and early 00's have some type of certified auto out there that can be had at rock bottom prices from where they were a decade ago. 

But before we take our trip down memory land, another interesting tidbit about this order stuck out.  Lots and lots of horizontal cards.  Now I don't exactly take inventory on this kind of thing, but I think it's safe to say the vast majority of cards in my collection are of the up and down variety.  So as I was scanning, it was a little surprising to find so many horizontal cards. 

Fret not vertical card lovers - the rest of the batch will be coming up in a separate post.

I've been going a little nuts on non-Pirate autographs lately.  But game used cards are getting in on the kick now as well.  The 01 WS game used card at the top of the post was by far one of my favorite pickups from this batch.  I remember watching the World Series games while our family was on a rare non-summer vacation, and desperately hoping the Yanks would choke.  The 01 D'backs team is still one of my favorite non-Pirate clubs, though ex-Bucs were well represented on the team in the form of Tony Womack, Jay Bell, and Turner Ward.

 But on the autograph end?  The logic behind the purchases becomes a little more sketchy.

 If you really want to press it, the logic is most likely "Hey, it's a buck!"  But I'd like to think I'm a little more discriminate than that.  I've always had a sweet spot in my collecting heart for all glove, no hit shortstops.  Hell, I have a huge Jack Wilson collection.  Before that the Wizard of Oz was one of my favorites. 

What can I say, I love the glove.

 But of course I've always had oa special place in my collection for those one hit wonders.  Chris Shelton was a Pirates prospect who got plucked during the Rule 5 draft.  His career wasn't much to write home about.  But he had one monster start to the season that sent his hobby stock into the stratosphere.  And thus he joins Chris Young, Jose Bautista, Tony Womack, and host of others in the "this guy might have been helpful while we were losing for two decades" sub collection.
 Other times?  A player just strikes my fancy.  Maybe it was a Sportscenter highlight that I caught before school one morning.  Or a late night watching Baseball Tonight in my bedroom during high school.  I can't honestly tell you why I think Peter Bergeron or Jim Parque were super cool, and worthy of a pocket in my binder.  They had their moments in the sun, but so did many other players whose cards I passed over.

Then again, the psychology of collecting is one rabbit hole I learned long ago not to go down.  It's not a happy place. 
 So I'll just be satisfied to know that these cards make me smile.  Reminders of a place and time where I had more than enough time to think about nothing but baseball.  To watch Sportscenter 5 times in a row, when it was a taped show replayed all day.  To think that somehow Jim Parque was going to be the next White Sox ace.
And for a grand total of about $6, I can't say it wasn't worth the trip.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Marino Monday

Dan Marino was my first true player collection.  Or focused collection of any kind.  By age 10 or 11, my dad started taking me to a few Pitt games each season at the now destroyed Pitt Stadium.  I instantly became a big fan, and was amazed by the fact that perhaps the greatest quarterback in the game, Dan Marino, had not just gone to Pitt, but was from the Pittsburgh area.

And so started my fleeting childhood obsession.  Marino instantly became my favorite player, and the Dolphins my favorite team.  Soon my bedroom was decked out in teal and orange, from the bedsheets to the garbage can.  And so started my humble Marino collection, since around that I also discovered the amazing world of local card shops.

My collection never grew to anything resembling epic proportions.  A couple hundred base cards, the odd insert or two, and the crown jewel: a serial numbered card!  At that age, and for the late 90's, it seemed like an amazing collection to me.

I haven't really given much thought or effort to the collection since then - the occasional Marino pickup at card shows if I find something in a dime box, but that's about it.

But I'll make an effort to show off both old and new pickups.  Both these beauties came from a dime box.  Edge was probably my favorite card company growing up.  I know a lot of collectors take issue with their cards, but they were shiny, affordable, and had some nice designs.  What more could a pre-teen want?

At this point my hobby funds are going in too many different directions, and the sheer number of Marino cards out there too overwhelming to seriously restart the collection.  The natural completest in makes my collecting endeavors all of nothing pursuits.  But it's definitely fun to revisit my collection, and hopefully some luck (or great trading partners) will allow me to add a few new pages to my Marino binder.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Since it still feels like winter...

 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 at shows

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.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Card Sales

If anybody has some time on their hands today, one of my favorite dealers is running a 60% off sale on his site today at Tromp's Cards.  It looks like there are lots of autos for around $1 and gu for even less. 

I buy from them pretty consistently, and even without a sale the prices are some of the best online.  Not much in the way of football and basketball, but I was able to reload my trade bait and a few new cards for my collection.

Fool Me Twice...: Mall Shows, Pittsburgh, and Me

It had been a pretty long work week, and the light at the end of the tunnel had been a mall show over the weekend.  A few hours of digging through dime boxes and adding some new Bucs to the collection is the perfect cure to take your mind off things.

Of course this largely depends on there actually being dealers present at said show to sell cards.  Or even have any cards.

Kate and I set out for the city - she would get to stop at a few thrift stores, and I would get some quality cardboard time, and maybe do a little shopping with the gift cards we still haven't used from the wedding.

The mall that was hosting the show is about half an hour south of the city, and while the shows there were never the strongest I'm almost always able to find something worth my time.  After all, dime boxes make me easy to please.

As we walked through Macys into the mall entrance, it was pretty clear this was not going to be a good show.  Right in front of me were a few tables of cards.  A quick count tallied up five dealers.  Total.  After a quick pass, one guy was selling nothing but Pittsburgh singles at well above book - we're talking $2-3 for a Jason Bay common, $5 for a Sidney Crosby base card.  Another table was selling nothing but grab bags in small flat rate mailers for $10 each.  No thanks.  Yet another dealer went the brown paper bag route on the grab bags, but their price was equally high and the piles of '88 Donruss scattered around their table as their "showcase" cards weren't a good sign.

And then there were two.  One table looked promising, with about half a dozen full dime boxes.  As I started looking through them, I realized they were all hockey cards.

But what the hell.  The trip was clearly a lost cause, so might as well dig for some Pens commons.  But even that was largely fruitless - aside from half a dozen cards most of the Pens had been pulled or picked over.  But in the middle of one row there was an oasis of hope.  What looked to be about a dozen packs of 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated.  It's a set I remember little about, and I knew I needed cards from.  But I had no idea the set was so...awesome.

 This pair of Marlins postseason highlights were the first ones to go into my stack, followed by the Eck Red Sox card up top.  I've always been a sucker for post-season highlights, and the '97 WS was the first Series I vividly remember watching as a kid.
I have quite a few examples of this White Sox throwback, since the team had been wearing it since the early 90's.  But this Belle is perhaps the best shot of the full uniform I have, since most cards capture the players in a batting pose.  Thanks Joey!

 And the dig wouldn't be complete without the guys behind the plate.  Charles Johnson was one of my favorite players as a kid.  First, he had the same name as Steelers receiver Charles Johnson.  As an 8 year old?  Blew. my. mind.  And his defense was perhaps the best in the game.
 But in the 90's catcher was just as much about offense as it was defense.  When you think of D behind the plate, Todd Hundley doesn't exactly come to mind.  Add in a cameo by the Man of Steal and you've got a winner.

 Among the hockey rubble there was an equally small pile of football cards.  Nothing too impressive, but a small stack of Metal inserts did stand out.  These cards look great in person with a rainbow foil background that really makes the cards pop. 
 Bledsoe and Leaf were two of my favorite players from the 90's - who doesn't love quarterbacks after all?  Both have worked their way to solo binder page status among my small football collection, though for very different reasons.
Grand total?  $2.

The quality was great, but a little quantity would have made the day a bit better.  The final table did offer up some Pirates goodies that I'll save for a second post.  But in all the show was a total wash.  Of the last three shows in the area, two have been a complete waste of time and gas.  It's really frustrating, since the region used to host great shows on a pretty consistent basis as recently as a couple years ago.

But not all hope was lost. 

While Kate looking for some deals on work clothes at the thrift store, I came across a Pirates jersey.  Steelers jerseys common finds at thrift stores around here, but Pirate jerseys are few and far between. 
It was a blank back version of this red alternate the Bucs wore for a few years.  Most folks hate it.  And for that very reason I've grown to love it.  I actually already have a Jack Wilson Authentic jersey in the same style, but for $10 I couldn't pass up the McDonald's vest.  The jersey was widely despised from day one, so I doubt many examples are floating around.