Friday, May 30, 2014

All the Small Things

I was sitting at home last night doing some card sorting when my phone started ringing.  One of my college friends was calling.

Me: Hello, friend (editor's note: there may have been a less cordial greeting, implying that his head was made of feces)

Colin:  I'm driving to Toys R Us to buy baseball cards.  I've done this every day this week.  Tell me I don't have a problem.

Wait, what?  None of my friends have collected baseball cards since I was in about 7th grade.  I have a group of closer acquaintances within the cardboard world, but nobody that I could consider "be in my wedding" friendly.  Colin and I have been friends since college, when we found ourselves making snarky comments in the back of English classes together.  Our friendship was based more off of music, sarcasm, and a propensity to get into the occasional bit of trouble than it was baseball.  But as we got to know each other, we found a common ground there too.

Colin was one of the few true Pirate fans I knew in the Dark Ages of the mid 00's.  It may have been all too common for us to cut class make the 15 min walk down to PNC Park to catch a day game.  We've been close friends for years - he was in my wedding, and Kate insists we talk like a pair of old ladies.  It's not uncommon for us to talk on the phone once or twice a week, with conversations consistently stretching over an hour.

Which made it all the more surprising that he had picked up the Wax Bug.  This is the guy who mercilessly gave me shit about insisting that we get to game unreasonably early so I could get autographs, after all.  Now he's asking my advice on what blaster to buy?
As we got to talking, it wasn't a surprise that our reasons for collecting are pretty similar: the cards connect us with a childhood love of the game and the memory of opening packs that dad would bring home from work.  While we're both die hard Bucco fans, Colin's dad grew up in California, and he inherited a passion of the Dodgers.  As I feel more and more disillusioned, it was genuinely nice to hear somebody gush with enthusiasm about the Kershaw base card he pulled, or his three Garrett Jones cards.

And for me it took me back to when I got back into collecting in 2000.  All it took was a nice base card to make a pack.  I didn't need to pull a patch/auto 1/1 to be happy.  Just give me a card of Warren Morris or Brian Giles and I would have my week made.

 Apparently he has cleaned out the local Toys R Us, so I suggested checking Wal Mart or Target.  I didn't dare introduce him to a hobby shop yet, let alone a card show.  But in this day and age when we hear of more and more collectors leaving the hobby, and releases consistently coming out at $50-100 per "pack," there was something warmly refreshing about finding out that one of my good friends had stumbled into my hobby au natural.  And even better, was completely satisfied just ripping open a few packs of Flagship.

A few hours later I got a text saying he had pulled a Kershaw parallel out of a blaster of 2009 Topps, complete with a picture of him grinning from ear to ear like a damn 8 year old.

Part of me wishes I could go back to that place in my collecting life.  Forget the thousands of Pirate cards, dozen or so mini collections, and unhealthy amount of hobby knowledge seared into my mind.  Just a small shoebox with my prized collection of base cards.  But then again, I'd eventually probably end up where I am now one way or another.  But it was really refreshing to watch someone else find the same love of the hobby that I found years ago.  Having a friend to talk cards with?  Even better.  Having somewhere to finally offload some of my 1991 Donruss cards?  Priceless.

Needless to say, Colin's Pirate and Dodger collections will be growing significantly next time we get together.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Uniform Story

The best part of digging through boxes and boxes of cards for three days is the unparalleled potential to score some unique pieces of cardboard.  Not unique in the sense of being rare, but simply cards and brands that just don't find their way into cheap-o boxes too often.  Maybe it's high end product.  Or a 700 card set, where you need to flip past 200 generic cards to find one gem.  Or a one-off set released two decades ago that nobody opened.  Bring enough dealers from across the country into a large enough venue, and you'll find something special.

One of my favorite collections is my unique unis collection.  Throwbacks, special jerseys, or just plain weird uniforms are all welcome.  And thankfully my card show adventures were well rewarded in some cool looking cardboard.  

Sometime it seems like collecting throwbacks alone is just a little too easy.  There seem to be a couple throwback games each year that find their way onto quite a few cards.   For example the White Sox early century throwbacks were worn on and off through most of the 90's and early 00's, and can be seen on quite a few cards.  But finding a nice, visible photo of a throwback?  That's another task entirely.  Both the Pudge and Nomar cards above do a great job of showing off the full uniform, not to mention capturing two of the better players of the decade in their retro glory.

But retro glory can take many forms.  This Rollie Fingers Senior League card was one of a small stack of cards from the set I picked up.  The rest will be heading out for autograph.  But the combination of the ridiculous jersey and Rollie's awesome 'stache were too much to pass up.  Speaking of retro, can the DBacks do away with the horrible color scheme they have going on now and just bring back the illogically 90's black, teal, and purple?

After a while it becomes tough to decide just where to draw the uniform line.  Do I stop at one copy of each uni?  If only one, should it be the best player, or the best photo for showcasing the uniform?

If you guessed c) There is no such thing as too many throwback would be correct.
After all, uniforms come in all varieties.  This Matt Kemp card is just an awesome photo.  Add in a premium set card in the dime box and an awesome throwback uni and we have a winner.  But some cards are just as noteworthy for their...less than awesome photography.

The new(ish) fad in minor league jerseys is the one-off special event jersey.  They usually look terrible, but the team can auction them off for a decent chunk of change.  I'm not sure what exactly was supposed to be going on with the tie-dye esque patriotic acid trip uniform.  But then again, most minor league cities are places I dare not visit.

But others have even less of a place in my collection.  I'll pick up a white-cap Dbacks card any time I can - it's still one of my all-time favorite hats, even if it never actually made it onto the field.  And flipping through a stack of Topps football cards netted some football throwbacks as well, along with some great photography.  The best part?  Nothing in this post cost me more than a dime.  

Simply Splendid

Some players just stick with you, I guess.  There was something appealing, almost mythological about Ted Williams to me.  As a young kid, interviews with the all time great seemed like a true treat.  His gruff, John Wayne persona seemed in stark juxtaposition to the aged legend who reminded me of my grandfather.  And I guess that's what s came down to.  Gruff, yet loving.  Stern and distant yet compassionate and a natural teacher.  The Splendid Splinter was linked in my mind with my maternal grandfather.  I spent most of my summers with my grandparents while my parents were at work.  While grandma taught me how to bake bread or can jam, grandpa was a tireless worker even into his mid 70s.  He was always out working on something, until the summer of 2001 when lung cancer that spread through his body.

That summer I spent more time with the man than I had in all my previous 12 years combined.  And the life lessons he taught me that summer as his life slowly drained away have greatly shaped the person I am today.  Just weeks after the Dbacks took down the Yankees in the World Series, the cancer finally won.  I cried, we mourned, and life kept moving.  Less than a year later I was sitting in my grandparents back room watching Espn when breaking news interrupted the taped Sportscenter broadcast to announce that baseball great Ted Williams had passed away.

While it didn't even seem logical at he time, I could feel the tears immediately streaming down my face. A man I had little connection to beyond my great admiration for his ability to hit a baseball had died.  But suddenly the wounds of the previous summer felt opened once again.

A few weeks later my latest copy of Beckett came in the mail, recognizing the all time great.  Included was an article ...yes, they once had articles! on affordable Williams cards, highlighting his 70s releases from his coaching days.  The idea that Ted Williams could wear any hat but the Red Sox blew my teenage mind.  But the idea that these cards, unlike the gems of the 50s, could actually someday fit my collection?  For years the cards were mainstays on my Christmas lists, but always eluded me.  Even as my budget and collecting outraced expanded, the cards remained on my want list, but always slid in behind my other collecting interests.

And then there I was the other weekend flipping through a box of $2 vintage cards when that familiar stern expression was looking back at me.  I could feel myself shaking ever so slightly, memories of those summers with my granarents seeping in for just a moment.  It took me over a decade, but finally I have a vintage Ted Williams card in my collection.  It's my most valuable, rare, or unique card.  But it will be one that will always mean far, far more to me than a piece of cardboard could ever possibly let on.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dime Box Digging: I Collect Too Many Things

Even though my spurts of writing have come and gone over the past year, I still read card blogs on a daily basis.  One of the best parts about being part of this community has been the chance to see such a myriad of different cards, teams, and collecting interests on a daily basis.

One of the worst parts is how many new collecting interests have popped up because of it.  Simply put, you guys have inspired me to expand my collection, while also tapping into a part of collecting I left behind a while back.  As a kid, I was just a pure and simple pack ripper - buy pack, open cards, hope for cool card.  That was it.  I amassed a small collection of cards that I just thought were cool - numbered cards, inserts, rookie cards.  But as I grew older, my collecting interests became more focused.  By the end of high school, I was decidedly a team collector, passing on countless awesome inserts or refractors that a few years earlier I would have gladly scooped up.

I was happy as a team collector.  Safe.  Stable.  Always knowing which jersey to look for.  It made collecting fun, yet structured.  And then you guys came along.

I started with a real simply goal.  Post about my Pirates collection, with the occasional post about Steelers or Pens cards.  But black and gold it must be.  But reading about the quirks and scores of your collections - your double plays, and night cards, dime box scores and flea market finds - made me want to dig those long tucked away treasures out of my boxes.

Within a few months, I started a second blog to post about my non-Pittsburgh collections and TTM collection.  Since then those posts have been rolled over to Battlin' Bucs.  Some months I think I post more non-Pirate cards than Pirate cards.  Maybe a more fitting name would be Battlin' With a Schizophrenic Collection.  Almost daily I see a card where I say "I have to get a copy of that."

Like this CarGo card.  Dimebox Nick posted it a few days before the Robert Morris show.  I knew CarGo had been well traveled, moving from the DBacks to the A's before finding a home in Colorado.  I even have a 05 Bowman Chrome card of his around here somewhere.  But the base Topps version just seemed - cooler.  So I was happy to scoop it up in a $.05 box over at the show.

Other collections have been a little more thought out.  A little.  I still only consider a few players to be true player collections - Jack Wilson, Warren Morris, Lou Collier, and Andy Van Slyke.  I have hundreds of Bobby Bonilla or Jason Bay cards, but they're just another chunk of the team collection.  But only recently have I started to admit there may be some non-Pirate players I collect.  Heroes of my childhood:  Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez.  There mashing glory will always have a warm home in my collection, even if I haven't been ready to commit to the "player collector" label yet.  Other players get more qualifiers.  Gary Sheffield, but only as a Marlin.  Randy Johnson, but only as a Mariner or Astro.  

The process of discovery and rediscovery has been a fun one.  These player collections are less complicated.  Less intense.  If I have to be quite honest with you and with myself, they may be a little more fun than the stress of keeping up with the latest releases and tracking down rare and expensive cards in my Pirate collection.  I'll never have all the Junior cards.  Hell, I'll probably never have more than a few hundred, and nary be willing to pay more than a dime.  But that's great - there are more than enough beautiful cards that fit perfectly into that price range.  Maybe some day I could even spring for an autograph.  But if not?  I'll still love looking at the cards just as much.
See, that's been the fun part.  Finding what I can find, and never having to feel disappointed at not finding card X, Y, or Z.  I never knew any of these cards even existed, but was thrilled to bring them home with me. 
Sure, there's a very good chance these side collections are quickly taking on a life of their own.  The number of binders they have suddenly taken up would sure say so.  But all it takes is a quick flip through a stack from the last card show to remind me that I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Making Up for Lost Time

Growing up there weren't many times when I wasn't playing with some kind of action figure.  As an only child, there was a lot of time to keep myself occupied, not that I really minded.  A good chunk of my time was tied up in one of three things: LEGO's, my WWF wrestling figures, or Starting Lineups.  

I had a pretty intricate system, at least for a 7 or8 year old.  Teams were drafted with a lineup and 1-2 pitchers, depending on how many pitching figures I had.  The fielders never changed, since it was always tough to find figures in a fielding position.  When new figures would come into the collection, they would have to wait until enough figures were accumulated to field an expansion team.

 Games would take place in our basement, usually while my dad was watching sports at night or on the weekends.  The green carpet, a hideous remnant of the early 80's that is thankfully long gone, was the perfect Astroturf playing surface.  A line of those plastic ice cream helmets lined the outfield wall, with our couch posing as an makeshift Green (or more accurately, a hideous Fuchsia) Monster in Left.

Nine inning games could go on for hours, with scores into the hundreds.  After all hitting a little wadded up paper ball with an action figure bat is considerably easier than the real game.  Starting Lineup Randy Johnson was admittedly not throwing in the 90's.  Strikeouts were rare, and batters were only retired on a hit ball if they hit it directly at a fielder.

My Starting Lineup collection reads like a who's who of 90's stars.  Bagwell, Pudge, Will Clark, Clemens, Bonds.  But all those department store trips and weekend rides with my dad because we knew what day Toys R Us got their shipments never yielded a Pirate figure.  I don't remember exact configurations, but in my SLU heyday from about 1995-1998, I think lesser players were shortpacked, while stars were produced in higher quantities.  And needless to say, the mid 90's Pirates, when they even made it into a set, were in the lesser category.
I've been working on tracking down opened an unopened copies of all the Pirate SLU figures.  And while I have a few of the different Bonds, Bonilla, and Van Slyke figures from the early 90's, the mid 90's lesser names have been tough to track down.  I was just killing some time searching on ebay when I came across this lot - 6 figures: a Clemente/Stargell 2-pack from the late 80's, John Smiley, Orlando Merced (last photo), Jeff King, and Jay Bell in one of my favorite positions turning two.  I won the lot for a whopping $10 dlvd.  Less than $2/figure?  Yes please.

Maybe it seems silly, but there's nothing like recapturing my childhood.  The figures take me back to evenings on the carpet in front of the big screen tv.  During the HR Derby, always a sight to see in the muscle-bound 90's, my all stars would be hosting their own with tapemeasure shots to match.  I was on the carpet for the '96 and '97 All-Star games, and the '97 World Series - at least until my bed time.  My dad must have had saintly patience as this small human continued to jump up and down and run around the carpet in front of the screen while chasing little paper balls.  But me?  I'm half tempted to go get my SLU's out of their big popcorn tin, set up the field, and let these Buccos finally have a chance to play.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Odds and Ends from the Show

The long weekend has gotten in the way of my posting schedule, but hopefully some odds and ends from last weeks card show will keep the crowds at bay (pun intended).  There's just so much stuff here, it's taken me the better part of my free time this week trying to get cards entered into their respective spreadsheets and hopefully find their way to a binder soon.

I like to think of myself as the kind of guy who goes into a card show without any expectations.  Hit the tables, see what their is to see, and work within your budget from there.  Sure, there are always specific pieces or cards that I want.  But more often than not I need to hit ebay or another online retailer if I'm looking for a *specific* item.

But once in a blue moon, the item comes to you.

Last week I wrote about Jim, my new best friend from Bahston.  He rolled into the show with a van full of small and oddball items, and I ended up scoring some really cool pieces from him.   Everything in this post (and then some) came from Jim's table.

As we were wrapping up our deal on Friday, he asked if I had seen his signed balls.  When he pulled out the ball cube, I had a tough time keeping my tongue in my mouth.  One of the items on my most wanted list has been an '06 All-Star ball.  A signed one?  Icing.
A dual signed ball?  Collector heaven.  When Jim quoted me a price at $20, no haggling needed.  That beauty was coming home with me.   The 06 ASG was a pretty special time for me, coming during the summer between graduating hs and starting college .  But those weren't the end to the all-star festivities.
Though the 1994 ASG doesn't hold such fond memories for me (or any memories, since I think I had just started t-ball that year), I've been coming across a lot of '94 memorabilia lately.  The chance to have an all-star ball from '94 was too good to pass up, even without any autographs on this one.  The ball has some slight yellowing, but the black and gold stitching really looks fantastic in my opinion.
For a couple bucks extra, Jim threw in a '94 all-star hat.  Did I need it?  No.  Will I wear it?  Doubtful.  Jim was quite the masterful salesman.
But some items just sold themselves.  These mini-figures have been on my want-list since childhood.  I still have the team sets for the Patriots, Packers, Cowboys, Chieft, and 49'ers at my parents house from when these came out around 1997.  But all those toy store trips never yielded a Steelers set.  I've seen a few locally, but the price was always more than I was willing to pay.  For a couple dollars, into the bundle!
But the odds and ends didn't stop there.  I picked up two Pirate patches with the old logo, which may eventually find their way into some kind of framing project.  On top of that, I came home with a full array of Pirates shot glasses (I rarely drink, but they always seem to come in handy) and other odds and ends.
Perhaps the coolest of which was this Pirates pin set.  Remember when Blockbuster video used to...exist?  The set is from late 91/early 92, and features the major stars of a post-Bonilla Bucs team, along with rising star Orlando Merced.  Not sure what I'll do with them, but I do really like these pins.  For the time being I'll probably leave them bagged though, for the vintage advertising nostalgia along.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Nooooo Doubt About It: A Future Arts and Crafts Project

There are probably a dozen games that really stand out to me as being special.  Of the hundreds of game I've attended and the countless more I have watched on tv, only a few really stick with me.  Special moments that define my fandom.  I've posted before about some of the great memories Brian Giles created for Pirate fans, even if he was kind of a dick.

I've been really focused on adding some cool memorabilia from the late 90's/early 2000's sweet spot of my baseball years.  The years between 1999-2009 were just really special years for me as a baseball fan and as a kid growing into semi-adulthood.  The only problem?  Not much for the Bucs going on in those seasons.  The final year of Three Rivers.  The 2006 All-Star game.  Jason Kendall, Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, and Freddy Sanchez.  Some of my all-time favorites, but not exactly anybody that will go down in history.  There were some amazing moments, but I've had a tough time finding memorabilia that would do them justice.

And the weekend looked like no exception.  Todd had dozens of beautiful pieces, but as you have seen they are largely centered around the sweet spot of Bucs history - 1960, the 70's, Hall of Fame players.  Not much love for the 100 loss cellar dwellers of the 00's.

 But flipping through a stack of odd posters and photos, I saw this photo.  Probably doesn't mean much to anyone.  Except for this little historical tidbit.

With two outs in the 9th, the were down 2-8 to the Astros.  About 20 mins later, they would walk off the field with a 9-8 win, capped off by a Brian Giles walk-off grand slam.  It was the magic moment of the 2001 season.

I asked Todd for a price, thinking for $5 or so I would love to frame the photo.  Until he said, "wait, did you see what else there is?" and flipped the oversized toploader over.
 Tucked behind the photo was an array of related memorabilia that he had hoped to turn into a framed display piece, but never got around to it.  The gem is the original scorecard kept by Bucs lead broadcaster Lanny Frattare, the voice of the Bucs for over 25 years (who can be heard in calling the play by play in the video above).  The scorecard also has some really cool notes on the margins, presumably stats, facts, and tidbits he wanted to work in throughout the broadcast.
The package also includes a ticket from the game (I have two of my own from the game, which I'll probably swap in for Todd's), a couple cards featuring the fist pump after the HR, and a few other Pirates promotional materials that also recaptured the moment.

There was no question that this piece was heading home with me, a major addition to the stretch of Pirates history that means the most to me.  Maybe it's not the most visually impressive piece compared to the other pieces I picked up, stuffed in a toploader awaiting the time and cash to frame it properly.  But this is undoubtedly one of my favorite Pirate memories, and it is completely mindblowing to me that I now have a one-of-a-kind piece of memorabilia from that game.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Little Unit

Please excuse the incredibly awkward title.  Some sports nicknames are just pass up.

Many baseball fans have probably forgotten about The Little Unit.  An entire generation of baseball fans have no idea just how big of a deal he was.

For the uninitiated, Ryan Anderson is one of the defining tales on how talent, promise, and can't miss prospects are things that can mean very little in the game of baseball.  A first round selection by the Mariners, and topped the club's Basebal America prospect list every season from 1998 to 2002, ranking in the top 25 of BA's top 100 each season and making the top 10 in 3 of the 5. 

And unlike some prospects who earn high grades based of projectability or promise, Anderson backed it up on the field.  Nicknamed the Little Unit due to his 6'10" 200+lb frame that resembled Mariners ace the Big Unit Randy Johnson both in stature and fastball velocity, Anderson blew through the majors.  By age 20, he put up a 3.98 era with 146 K's in 104 innings in the absurdly hitter-friendly AAA PCL.  Let me slow that down:

12.6 K/9
                      age 20

And that's about where it all fell apart.  Anderson pitched 27 innings over the next 5 years, as injuries and questions over his work ethic sent his career off course.  By 25, he was out of baseball.

During COMC's recent spring cleaning sale, I found this Little Unit auto for a whopping $.58.  It had to be in my collection, a reminder of what could have been, but also perhaps a reminder that there is no such thing as a sure thing in baseball.

On the Third Day of Show-Mas, My Dealer Sold to Me...

...a signed Maz poster.

This one is sitting in a poster tube, and is a bit of a pain to unroll since it's on thick poster board.  I hope you'll forgive the borrowed online photos.  As my purchases were winding down, Todd asked me if there was anything specific I was looking for.  I mentioned I would love to add a nice, large signed Maz piece.  He had quite a few to pick from, but nothing really caught my eye.  And then he said, "wait, you haven't seen this."  He pulled a large poster tube from behind his table, and pulled out a piece I had seen before.
But the big difference?  It was signed.  Maz added his signature in the black space at the bottom, along with his HoF year.  The original art was done by Burton Morris, who also designed the 2006 All-Star Game logo.

I love the '06 ASG logo, and the pop art feel to both pieces really resonated with me.  The top photo doesn't do the image justice - the blue background on the poster is a very vibrant royal blue.  On top of the look of the piece, I'm really happy to have a Maz piece that shows him turning two, since there are so many pieces commemorating the 1960 walk off HR.

I've wanted to start collecting some (non-sports) art, but any kind of art collection is out of my budget for the foreseeable future.  But I'm really happy to have some new Pirate-themed art pieces in my collection.  I think they'll add some nice variety to the array of photos and signed memorabilia I hope to display some day.  And in case you haven't noticed, I really love bright, vibrant colors.  And you can't go wrong with a Hall of Famer signature in your collection.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Big Show Pickups, Part II

The Pirates 1925 World Series poster I posted earlier today was a huge pickup, and the only piece of pre-war memorabilia in my collection.  But it's a little lacking in the color department.  Fortunately for my future wall space, the remainder of my pickups make up for that.

I'll let the picture speak for itself.  This was one of three items I picked up that weren't professionally framed.  Details on the piece have been hard to come by.  Todd had no idea where he found his copy, and online searches have been fruitless.  But I assume the lithograph is some kind of all-time team.  The players featured span all 8 field positions, a manager, and 3 pitchers - lefty and righty starter and fireman Roy Face.

From left to right starting in the back row: Danny Murtaugh, Harvey Haddix, Roy Face, Vern Law, Honus Waner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente  Front row: Ralph Kiner, Manny Sanguillen, Paul Waner?, Pie Traynor?, Bill Mazeroski

The colors immediately caught my eye, and I love the span of history covered on the piece.  The most recent player is Pops, who retired in 1982, so I imagine the piece is from the mid-late 80's.  I assume anything more recent would have replaced Sanguillen with Jason Kendall, or included Barry Bonds. 

The lithograph reminds me of a mural located under a bridge in downtown Pittsburgh.  The mural was right along my route that I walked almost daily during my first year of college when I would spend my down time reading and writing at the Point where the three rivers converge, so it brings back some nice memories for me.
At first glance I thought the background on the lithograph was some kind of desert scene.  But upon a closer look I realized it's actually the stands and backdrop of Forbes Field with Pitt's Cathedral of Learning towering near the center.

Better yet the litho cost about as much as a blaster.  I'd love to get it into a frame immediately, but I'll probably hold off until I can get it professionally framed and matted.  But I can guarantee this will be a centerpiece of my Pirates display for a long time to come.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Went to a Card Show, But Came Home With More Than Cards

Editor's Note:  This post got a little out of control.  I think the word count on this post more than makes up for not posting for a month straight.  If you just want to see what I bought, scroll to the end.  If you decide to read all the way through the post, thank you - I hope it's worth the read.

When I was 5 years old, my parents decided that it would be a good idea to hold a surprise birthday for me at Chucky Cheese.  Let's just say that was the first and last time they surprised me.  In general, I'm just not a fan of surprises.  But on occasion I'm willing to make the odd exception.

And this past weekend's card show was full of surprises.  The good kind.  As I mentioned yesterday, the show held some surprises.  But there were some surprises from me as well.  I'm usually pretty good about adhering to a strict budget when it comes to collecting.  And while Kate is more tolerant of my idiosyncrasies and collecting habits than I could possible hope for, I think she does occasionally have nightmares of me trying to create an entirely Pirates themed house, complete with Bucco kitchen and bathroom (for the record, I plan to keep my collection nestled into my man cave.  I actually enjoy interior design, and we have some completely non-sports themed plans for our future house).  But when I found myself wavering on a big purchase, I was a bit surprised to see her actually pushing me to treat myself and spend over budget rather than the other way around.

Judging by some of the comments, many of you are probably wondering just what it was that I came home with.  A Clemente cut signature?  Three Rivers Stadium seats?  A signed Barry Bonds game used bat?  I actually saw all three of those items at the show this weekend.  But no.  I'll need to save for a few more years (read: decades) for some of those items.

I'm going to spread my big finds out in chronological order over the next few days.  And don't worry, I'll sprinkle in some cardboard adventures as well, though they admittedly pale in comparison.  I'll get into exactly how I found myself in this situation in the next installment.

For today, some back story.

I have what I think would be safe to say is a pretty impressive sports collection for a 26 year old.  About a dozen game used jerseys.  A few game used bats.  Nearly 13,000 different Pirate cards.  Nearly 2,000 Pirate autographed items.  Enough bobbleheads to fill an entire book case.  I hope it doesn't come off as big headed.  I've been a sports collector and fan for as long as I can remember.  But my collecting has always been done on the cheap.  Flea markets.  Garage sales.  Dime boxes.  I've never put purchases on the credit card or snuck hid my expenses from my significant other.  Just about everybody in this hobby has overheard a story at a local card store, show, or online forum of guys who have done so - and it never ends well.  Hell, I imagine Kate and my parents are probably sick of hearing about how excited I am because I finally found a copy of a Jack Wilson 2003 sticker that was only available from Japan, and the ensuing 3 minute explanation of how the set was distributed, and why this is a huge find.

See, the thing is that most of, whether we have incredibly supportive friends/significant others/pets or live alone, rarely get the chance to connect with other collectors.  That's part of the reason why we write and read blogs about sportscards.  And attend shows.  And spend time on online forums.  To meet those people with similar interests, passions, and maybe learn a thing or two.

I met Dan a few years ago at the very same Robert Morris card show, when he was selling off his doubles at blowout prices.  Except the thing was that his doubles were so nice - autographs, gu cards, low numbered inserts - that I thought he was selling off his actual collection.  Dan's a great guy.  Middle age, friendly, pretty good job, and a love of the Bucs.  We see each other a few times a year at signings, shows, and the occasional game.  You see, Dan has the collection that I wish I could afford.

I ran into Dan around 1:00 Saturday.  We were just chatting, discussing our purchases while I gave him crap for paying for Jim Rooker's autograph when he asked if I had seen his buddy Todd's table.  It was on the back row, where most of the grading companies, auction houses, and other things I have little interest in are always set up.  Once I said no, he said come with me and I'll introduce you.  This guy has some great stuff.

Great was an understatement.  But I'll get into that later in the week.  Todd was downsizing his collection as he and his wife were moving into a smaller space.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a chance to buy some insanely limited pieces.  But more importantly, there's the human element.  As we were walking over, Dan told me Todd has the collection he wishes he could afford.  I was no math whiz, but I think by the transitive property that makes Todd my collecting dream squared.  And while I spent more than a few hours eyeing up all the pieces available, all the items I could possibly take home, the best part were the conversations we had.  Three dedicated collectors just talking about our collections, our love of the Pirates, and the ways that we materialize those memories into our collections.
That, more than anything else, is why I collect.  To take the love I have for the history and identity of the sports team of the city I will always call home, and those thousands and thousands of hours I have spent inside a baseball stadium watching a game - memories with my dad, with my wife, with friends and ex-girlfriends long gone from my life - and turn those memories into tangible reminders around me.  So with that said, my purchases had two goals in mind: 1) add some unique high end pieces to a collection that has a lot of little stuff, but few things that make you go "wow"  2) Add unique items that recognize the rich history of the team, without being too dominant in my collection

This was the oldest piece I bought chronologically, but also the last one I picked out.  This poster is absolutely amazing.  It's a reprint, which from what I've read online is from approximately 1980, of an original newsstand poster following the 1925 World Series.  The Pirates won the series in 7 games, defeating the Washington Senators.

I love the old-timey feel of the poster, and and the '25 team features some Pirates all-time greats in Kiki Cuyler, Max Carey, and Pie Traynor.  Only 4 reported copies of the original poster exist, but even the reprinted version I have appears to be pretty rare.  And how often do you find something commemorating the 1925 World Series?

You'll see the World Series theme pop back up as I get around to showing off the rest of the memorabilia.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, there were cards at the card show

 With all the excitement over the memorabilia I was buying, I still managed some quality digging time.  After all, with dozens of dealers set up there had to be some nice dime boxes, right?

I actually came home with a pretty impressive miscellaneous stack all three days.  When I put the three together, I was a little surprised by just how many cards I had added that weren't of the black and gold variety.  And the biggest representation?  The 90's.

Yes, I love the 90's.  The Kenny Lofton card captures it all for me - growing up in the 90's really was the wonder years of cardboard (at least for me).  I know 80's collectors wax nostalgically for days with few releases and 91 Stadium Club rocking their world.  But I'll take flashy colors, big designs, and some nice inserts any day.  Speaking of which...if anyone has any more of those Wonder Years cards, I may need to throw together a set.

The home run power was pretty much unmatched. And some snazzy advances in technology made for some interesting trial and error on cardboard.  Though clearly the added benefit of photoshop may have helped a bit.
 I've mentioned that some of the 70's and 80's oddball sets are in comparatively short supply in this area.  Kellogg's and Hostess cards aren't very common at shows in the area, and even with quite a few big time dealers coming in from out of town they were tough to come by.  But 90's oddballs?  Yes please.  I always liked the FanFest exclusive cards that they used to produce each year, and some of the ones I picked up in 2006 for the AS game in Pittsburgh are some of my favorites.  I think 2006 was actually one of the last years multiple companies produced ASG exclusives - a far cry from the mid 90's when just about every company under the sun tried to one-up each other at the midsummer classic.

There's just something about 90's base cards that I really enjoy.  Even during an era dominated by insert chasers, base cards still sold the products.  Or if nothing else, they were given more care than today.  The cropping and composition really stand out to me - there are lots of cards with cool photos today, but it seems like the unique photo is just slapped on the card.  Part of me would like to envision some Fleer employee agonizing over how to position the photo on this card - perfectly centered or off center? - to frame the photo with the gold leaf text.

 Dime boxes always offer a tempting draw - each and every one will have a different composition.  Sometimes you have to dig through a huge stack of 1992 Upper Deck to find the oddball diamond.  Other times, you have a box of formerly high end product sitting at your finger tips. 
 And the best part?  At a vintage heavy show, the few modern collectors there seemed more preoccupied with pulling out Bowman prospects than stocking up on Ken Griffey, Jr.  Fine by me.  I could easily have doubled the size of my pile without blinking, but I tried to be rather selective.  After all, my non-Pirate binders are filling up fast.

But we're just getting started.  Tomorrow I'll begin showing off some of the big finds for the weekend, with some more card post scattered in.  With some of my dime box digs from the weekend, it may be time to finally consider officially inducting some new members into my player collecting life.