Thursday, July 31, 2014

The National

I just got back home after my wild day at the National.  I'll hopefully be putting a post up later tonight/early tomorrow to recount the craziness.  But the teaser:  I think I probably picked up what will be the steal of my lifetime. 

The event was even larger than I imagined, but in other aspects it was a little underwhelming.  I tried to get a bunch of photos so those who didn't have the chance to go can see what it's like.  Even for a Thursday, traffic seemed pretty light compared to what I had expected. 

More to come soon. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My National Wish List

I'm less than two days away from hitting my very first National.  I hope making the trip out on Thursday will give me a bit of a jump on the crowds and the deals.  I'm really trying to take the experience in stride, since I don't know what to expect.  Or I suppose I should say I expect to see pretty much everything.  But I'll be focusing in on a few specific area.

1) Cheap wax  I've heard that you can find overproduction era wax pretty cheap at the National.  And I'll be looking to do just that.  I'm not much of a set builder, but there have been a few sets that I've been interested in.  It's been a long, long while since I've opened a box (2007?), so just busting a full box will be worth the price.  I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for boxes of 1993 Studio, 2000 Topps, and 1996 Upper Deck Silver Collection football.  I'd also love to snag a box of 2013 Pinnacle, if I can find it on the cheap.

2) Jack Wilson  Ah, the life of the supercollector.  I have what I'm pretty confident is the most comprehensive Jumpin' Jack Flash collection out there.  But there are still hundreds of cards I'm missing - mostly stuff that is pretty hard to find, or insanely rare.  But the National seems like just the place to find them.  If I can come home with even one or two new Jacks, I'll be thrilled.
3) Dime boxes!   I love digging through dime boxes.  But the National my cramp my style a bit, so to speak.  Dime boxes take time to go through, even for the fastest card flipper.  I'll have to carefully weigh  whether the particular seller has their dime box filled with enough great finds to justify my precious National time.

4) Mid range hits With the number of upper-mid range products released in recent years, there seem to be dozens and dozens of hits each year for the select few players Topps decides to sign to autograph contracts. But more often than not those cards end up with high prices on sites like COMC from wax breakers that don't want to take a total financial bath, and on ebay the $2-3 shipping costs usually outweighs how much I actually bid on the cards.  I'm not expecting $1 steals, but I'm hoping to find some good deals on mid-range cards.

5) Quarter and Fifty-Cent Boxes The thing that makes or breaks a show for me is the ability to find cheap serial numbered cards.  If I can find them, I go home a happy camper.  If not, I typically find myself buying primarily vintage.  I'm hoping that a huge show like this should have more than a few big time wax breakers looking to dump their lesser "hits" for dirt cheap.  You may not want a Bowman Blue card of a prospect that topped out in A+ ball in 2009.  But guess what...I do!

6) Vintage  My vintage needs have been cut drastically in recent years, mostly thanks to some big time vintage dealers at the Robert Morris show.  But my recently updated checklist shows almost 200 vintage Pirate cards I still need between Bowman and Topps releases.  Most are high number or star cards.  Vintage won't be high on my priority list for the show, but if I can snag a couple nice (but affordable) Clemente cards, I'll be a happy camper.

7) Pirates memorabilia  It won't be anything I'm actively looking for, but I'll have my eye out for some rare Pirates memorabilia.  Whether it's game used jerseys, or a 1960 World Series ash-tray, I'm hoping to have the budget flexibility if I see something cool that is in my price range.  Note: I don't expect to be coming home with a Honus Wagner gamer jersey.  But I'd certainly settle for Steve Cooke.

8) Show exclusives  This is at the very bottom of the priority list for the day.  I don't like ripping wax, and the prospect of standing in line for an hour or more just to do so and get some exclusive cards isn't that exciting to me.  But I may try to go for the rip 3 packs of Topps product and get a A&G exclusive mini.  I'll leave Jose Abreu to the dealers.  I'll be perfectly happy with the Albert Belle mini as a 90's memento of my National trip.

I'm giddy as a school girl for the National weekend to begin, and I'm expecting the work day to drag by tomorrow.  This should be a great experience, and I'm looking to just have a good time and enjoy the experience.  If there is anything special, big or small, that anyone wants me to keep an eye out for, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email.  I'd be happy to help anyone out if I can.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Regrets, I've Had a Few

I made an interesting little discovery today while browsing COMC.  They added a new feature at the bottom of the left hand navigation bar allowing users to search for "sold out items."  This is obviously a big step in their move towards offering comprehensive pricing.  But what does it mean for me?

It means I missed out on some really hard to find Jack Wilson cards, mostly at dirt cheap prices.  I came across about half a dozen cards that I haven't seen before, mostly numbered between 50-200.  The real kick in the junk?  None of them sold for more than $5, most well below that. 

I started using COMC around late 2010 or so, my first real splurge in grad school.  I've been pretty diligent about checking the site regularly since then.  But I'm sure a few of these either sold before I found out about the site, or may have been gobbled up quickly after going live.

Either way, it's a bit of a bummer since my Jumpin' Jack Flash additions are few and far between these days.  Hopefully the National will yield a find or two.

Prepping for the National

At this point, I consider myself a seasoned card show vet.  I've been going to shows since I was 10 or 11, and in that time have seen everything from a 4 table hotel show to the 100-200 table extravaganzas.  But this week will be my first National.

I've been drooling over the concept of attending a National since seeing the annual writeups and photos in Becketts growing up.  In recent years I had a few chances to make the trip, but balked at the last second.  Cleveland and Baltimore were both within driving distance in recent years, but I decided against both trips.  With the National not scheduled to be near me again until 2018 in Cleveland, I can't pass up this chance.

But from what I've seen and read online, the National is definitely a different beast from my usual show prep.  I'm expecting to see more modern cards, more mid-end, and hopefully some great deals.  The National is definitely the place for high rolling collectors.  Online posts talk about people dropping a few grand, a feat that can be easily accomplished with some mid to high grade pre-war vintage.  But my budget will have a few zeroes knocked off of it from those figures.  And there isn't much online about the low end collector experience at the National.  Understandable I suppose when there are literally millions of dollars of cards and memorabilia changing hands.  My stack of dime cards isn't all that exciting in comparison.

Any tips, advice, or anecdotes from those who have been in years past would certainly be appreciated.  Tomorrow I'll be writing about my targets for the day.  But today, it's all about the show survival guide.

1) Food!  When prepping for a show, it's easy to overlook the non-cardboard necessities.  But any big show inevitably requires loading up one of the small compartments of my backpack with some granola bars, a bottle of water, and maybe a sandwich or two.

I want to maximize my card browsing time, particularly when I have a two hour plus drive each way.  And any chance to save money frees up some extra cash for the card budget.  Packing food kills two birds with one stone, allowing me to take a quick bite while walking between tables.

2) Checklists I admit I'm a little more disorganized than most.  Luckily having a photography memory has allowed me to get by without the most up to date checklists for years.  But at almost 13,000 Pirate cards, the photographic memory bank seems to be on overload, and I've accidentally bought more than a few doubles over the last year.  I'll be going fully equipped with paper checklist for my vintage needs, and an electronic copy of my master Pirates checklist.

I'm quite possibly the only person under 30 without a smart phone, so it does add a little challenge for the day.  But Kate's iPod touch should allow me to access wifi in the building.  I updated my website to have the most recent version of my master Pirates checklist, with scans for about 75% of the cards.  That should provide a nice backup option and visual checklist if I need it, though it will undoubtedly be a huge pain to get the pages to load at the convention center.

3) Trade bait   I'm usually not one to do trades at shows, but I have a Bowman Chrome autos from Mike Stanton and Evan Longoria that I pulled from blasters years ago that have just been sitting in boxes ever since.  I won't be actively looking to trade them, but having some extra bargaining chips in case I come across any must-have Pirates cards will be nice.

4) Comfortable shoes  A long day of walking, standing, and flipping through boxes on far from cushioned floors means a comfy pair of shoes is a must.

5) Notepad, pens, and venue map I've never been to a show that had a map before.  And I'm assuming that map is there for a reason.  I've read that having somewhere to jot down table number, isles, and anything else you want to come back and take a look at is a must.

I made a major dent in my vintage needs at the last Robert Morris show, and have already come pretty close to meeting my collecting goals for the year.  I'm hoping to just sit back and enjoy my experience at the National, without getting too stressed over what I do or don't find.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The "Other" Collections

Flea markets have pretty much become a weekend staple for us.  Kate chases vintage postcards and other odds and ends, by my interest is laser-focused on new additions to the collection.  Cards are usually hard to come by, at least in any form that is reasonably priced or worth flipping through.
And with the number of odds and ends collections that I've started or re-started in recent months, even boxes entirely stripped of Pens/Steelers/Pirates can yield some awesome additions.

Two things I'm always on the lookout for in a dime box are cards from high end sets, and low end sets.  These two ends of the hobby spectrum are often the toughest to find for me.  A lot of high end pack gamblers couldn't care less about base cards, and if they set up at shows are solely focused on the high end stuff.  Likewise, many low end products end up being retail-only these days, and can be tougher to track down in the hobby circles.

An ideal dimebox will have a mix of more mainstream sets like Topps or Upper Deck that can have awesome photography and the mix of obscure sets, oddballs, and the like.  Luckily for me, this box had all of the above.

I pulled about half a dozen cards from the Topps Kids set.  The colors and background patterns are great.  I have a pack or two worth of cards from the set when my dad picked up a pack at a gas station in the early 90's.  I managed to pull both Bonds and Bonilla in their Pirates goodness, but for the longest time my pre-teen brain couldn't process that these even counted as real baseball cards.  Beckett didn't list them.  And they looked like cartoons!  Real baseball cards aren't cartoons!  Luckily a small run of these cards in the dime box knocked out most of my early 90's player collection needs - namely Randy Johnson and Jeff Bagwell.

Speaking of the Big Unit, this dime box had some real gems of the future HoF'er.  I plucked half a dozen new cards, mostly from his Mariners days.  RJ has officially moved into the casual player collection category for me, but I haven't yet decided exactly what years will be included.  The Expos, Astros, and Mariners cards are locks.  And the Yankees are definitely out.  His DBacks and Giants years are up in the air.

Something tells me I'm giving a bit too much thought to a "casual" collection.

But the box didn't stop with 90's gems.  I have been after a Slammin Sammy card from his brief Rangers stint for a while.  I'm not sure if there are any others beyond this Topps Update issue out there to be had.  And while most Cubs fans would seem to rather forget him, most of my Cubs binder pages are made up of Sosa cards.

Dime boxes make for odd bedfellows.  Irabu went down like a flaming toad, but you can still find him in the occasional over-priced "good cards" box at a flea market, with pricing reflective of 1998.  Rollins on the other hand has gone on to have a HoF worthy career, and was a no brainer for a mere dime.

And it's always a nice bonus when cards hit two categories on the collect-o-meter.  Griffey has earned nostalgia player collector status, even if I'll never be able to afford anything but his base cards.  Add in a season highlight bonus, and you have a great card of the guy who looked like he was on pace to hit even more homers than he ended up with.  While Tim Raines isn't player collection worthy in my book, this is a cool oddball from the defunct KayBee toystore, which was my go to spot for boxes of Pro Set in the mid 90's.  But this one came home with me primarily to fit into my Nickname as the First Name collection.  It's a small but elite collection, made up exclusively of Rock, Boomer Wells, and Flash Gordon.  Apparently Topps didn't think printing Fat Toad Irabu on cards was quite as cool or acceptable.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mail Call

I don't have many good things to say about Topps' propensity for inserting cheap game used cards with low serial numbers into super duper high end products.  But I can say that I like it when I can add them on the cheap.
At least I can now call myself the proud owner of a piece of some kind of fabric somehow associated with a struggling AAA outfielder that's so incredibly rare that only 26 other copies share the same color scheme (please ignore the 374 other copies that are reeeeeeeally reeeeeally close...but not the same!).
The card set me back a little under $3.  Which is great, because I'd rank it somewhere near some 1991 Fleer cards among my favorite cards in my collection.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Have a Seat

Certain things about sports just have a way of sticking with you.

I was at the Dodgers/Pirates game last night with my friend from college.  We went Monday night with our lady friends; last night was just the two of us, just like when we would cut class and walk down to the park to catch an afternoon game.

So often the things happening on the field are just as important as the person sitting next to you in the stands.  Certain games stick out because of what happened, how they ended, or some amazing play.  But they stick out just as much because of who I was with - my dad, college friends.

I went to a lot of games in the summer of 2000, the final season at Three Rivers Stadium.  My dad worked in advertising, and got tickets pretty frequently for the company's luxury box to entertain clients.  Most times, I was lucky enough to tag along.  Scarfing down hot dogs, chips, and watching baseball from the fancy seats I appreciated the opportunity, but had little context for just how amazing of an experience it was.

One afternoon I was playing catch on our street with one of my friends who lived a few doors down when his dad came home.  He had tickets for the Pirates game that night, and wanted to know if I wanted to go with them.  More baseball?  Sign me up.

The Pirates were playing the Expos, led by Vlad Guerrero before years of astroturf destroyed his knees and speed.  I don't remember much about the game, frankly.  But I do remember the seats.  Right behind home plate.

Three Rivers had a unique configuration, where the area behind home plate stuck out a bit, while the dugouts were slightly recessed.  A sheet of plexiglass and a couple feet was all that separated the uppermost rows of seating from the dugout.  And suddenly I found myself sitting right behind the plate, our seats at the very edge of the row seated right next to that plexiglass.

I probably stared in awkward wonder more at the dugout than the field that night, watching for glimpses of Vlad Guerrero just feet from where I sat.  For some reason Lenny Webster, a journeyman backup catcher who ended his Major League career with the Expos in 2000, sticks out in my mind as well.  The Expos weren't exactly star studded.

After the demolition of Three Rivers, a number of relic-related cards popped up in 2001 high end products from Donruss.  As the memorabilia frenzy hit full swing, the cards were priced well out of my 13 year old budget.  But some random ebay searching led me to the beautiful card above, which I landed for a mere $3.50 with the only bid.  The card brings back great memories of Vladimir Guerrero sitting just feet away from me, and the red swatch of seat goes great with the color scheme of the card.

Sadly there is no Lenny Webster card in the insert set.

What's In a Name

Baseball has a long history of awesome nicknames.  And not the Chris Berman-esque variety, but truly unique and fitting nicknames.  Country.  Rock.  Penguin.  Scrap Iron.  Maybe it's the long road trips and excessive time sitting on benches.  Who knows.

I've started a meager collection of cards featuring player nicknames, which pretty much just consists of Topps releases for Tim "Rock" Raines and David "Boomer" Wells.  But I'm sure with a little effort I could expand the collection.

The Pirates have had their fair share of great nicknames, but how many teams can boast a nicknamed tandem?  Add in a pair of HoF plaques, and you have perhaps the most famous nicknamed duo in history.

Double your poison, double your fun.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Trying to Keep Up

I'm woefully behind on 2014 releases.  Last year the sheer volume of card shows in Ohio made it pretty easy to keep up.  Simply put, I was spoiled with plenty of quarter and $.50 boxes filled with the latest inserts, blue and red border, minis, and of course dime commons everywhere you turned.

This year, I think I'm at about half a dozen 2014 cards.  Total.  My Robert Morris show trip yielded plenty of spoils, but even commons from modern product was nowhere to be found.

I've always been a sucker for All-Star festivities.  And while I generally hate the glut of SP's in Flagship, I do try to pick them up when they can be found on the cheap.

This Pedro landed with me for a mere $1.99.  At this rate, I may complete the 2014 Flagship SP's before I pick up all the base cards.

No Cardboard, No Cry

The 4th of July usually means fireworks and baseball, but we decided to switch it up a bit and head to Rogers, OH for some flea market shopping.  We actually went last year over the 4th weekend as well, which was our first trip there.  It's a good flea market, but with any market it can be hit or miss.  For the number of vendors and the insane traffic and crowds, it wasn't a home run.  But I picked up some very nice pieces.
We walked around for quite a while until something stood out to me.  But when it did, it did in a big way.  I've been on a bit of a print/litho kick lately, if you've been reading over the last few months.  This piece features Maz, Stargell, and Clemente on the left, and the Pirates 1994 schedule on the right.  It's a little smaller than your average movie poster, so it would take up a good chunk of wall space.  I'm not sure that I want to dedicate that much room to an overblown pocket schedule that's 2 decades outdated.  I may cut/fold it down to just display the art portion, though that Iron City ad in the lower right corner may give me just cause to show off the whole thing.  And besides, maybe someday my future children and their friends can learn of a wonderful world before freaking interleague games every. single. day.  But I digress...
  The seller initially asked $10 on the piece.  Within a matter of seconds of me not responding to his initial offer, he had made 3 separate counteroffers, landing at $5.  I managed to bundle in a couple of 70's Pirate scorecards he had, getting the trio for $10

It was a program kind of day apparently.  A couple rows over I came across a regular dealer who usually has Pittsburgh sports memorabilia.  He had a stack of pennants, and some odds and ends photos, programs, and the like.  I picked up a 1962 Pirates yearbook with some slight damage for $10, and got him down to $5 on an awesome looking 2006 ASG pennant.

I've amassed a pretty nice pennant collection over the last year or so courtesy of local flea markets.  But the fragile tips and general flimsiness of them has me worried.  Pennant toploaders seem like a pretty pricey investment, but also seems like the only real option for longterm display/safety.  I'd hate to just ram a couple thumbtacks through them and stick them to the wall.

If anyone is more well versed in pennants than I, any tips on display/storage would be greatly appreciated.

What I had lacked in quantity, I easily made up for at the end of the day.  Kate was looking through a vendor with a few boxes of postcards (her first foray into collecting), and I wandered around a bit nearby.  I saw a dealer with some Penguins shirts in front of his table, where I snagged an awesome argyle print shirt with the 90's Pens logo complete with new tags for only $3.  Further back in his cove of tables he had some Pirate magazines - yearbooks, programs, some random stuff.

Nothing was priced, but he said they were $2 a piece.  At that price, I quickly grabbed up a half dozen or so that I was interested in.  The dealer came over and said I could take all the programs for $10.  Considering I already had more than $10 in my pile, I eagerly pulled out a ten while he boxed up the lot for me.

The vendor said that the collection came from an estate sale, and that the owner had worked for the Pirates in some office capacity.  Cool story, and I figured I could go through things in a bit more depth when we got home.

And boy was I pleased.  The box contained magazines, scorecards, and promotional materials from the mid 80's through 2001.  There was a business card attached to one - apparently this guy had been in the Pirates front office doing financial work for the team.  There were relatively common items - the On Deck Magazine, four media guides from the 90's, a couple 80's scorecards (seriously, can anything scream "We're in trouble this year!" more than Steve Kemp, Sixto Lezcano, and George Hendrick on your scorecard?).

But the real treasures for me were the oddball items - a couple Pirates' investor reports, magazines from the late 90's touting the future PNC Park, a merchandise catalogue (does anybody else remember those?) from the 1994 All-Star game, and what appears to be a back-area pass from the 1992 Stanley Cup finals.
I guess this only adds to my problem of having way too much stuff and no idea how/where to display it.  But if nothing else there is some awesomely dated reading material in here.  I think I've been slowly building an unofficial Pittsburgh sports archive.  Even in this day and age of everything being digitalized and nothing ever really leaving the internet, it seems kind of cool to preserve some of these things that probably rarely got a second glance after they were published.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Less Binder, More Wall

I realize I have been posting a lot more memorabilia than cards in recent months.  For better or worse, my card pickups have been slowing down significantly.  There just aren't that many Bucco cards out there that a) I really, really want and b) are at a price I'm willing to pay.  

At current prices I won't touch most Cutch cards, and even secondary players like Marte or Alvarez go for more than I'm willing to spend.  

In the mean time, I've been able to pick up some awesome future wall decorations.  I'm sure the card bug will bite me soon (the National should be a good cure), but for less than a Cutch auto that would just go straight to a binder or box, I can pick up awesome pieces that I'll be able to see and enjoy day in and day out.

This bad boy came from my pickups at the Robert Morris show.  I don't know that I'm in love with the Fleer World Series cards on the sides, but otherwise this pieces is great.  If you look closely at the artwork you'll notice...not much worth capturing from the mid-late 90's.  Jason Kendall in the bottom right corner and Ricardo Rincon and Francisco Cordova commemorating their no-hitter.  Otherwise, lots of bumblebee uniforms.  

Striking Out On My Cleveland Roadtrip

Last weekend we took a two day trip to Cleveland.  It was Kate's birthday, and she wanted to check

Unfortunately we came home with a newfound appreciation for our fair city.  Cleveland might be ok for a daytrip, but it was far from what I expected.
out a different city.  Even though Cleveland is only about a 2 hour drive, neither of us has spent any real time there.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, the Cleveland/Pittsburgh rivalry goes much deeper than just sports.  You can find "Cleveland Still Sucks" tshirts worn year-round.  But we wanted to give the Mistake on the Lake a fair shot.

Our itinerary for the weekend was pretty wide open - hit some thrift stores, a couple vintage clothing stores for Kate, and try to go to the famed West Side Market and an Indians game on Sunday.

Things went south fast.  We plugged the eastern-most thrift store on our list into the GPS and were on our way.  As we pulled up, the metal gate across the door and handwritten sign listing what they sold were bad signs.  The store had an open sign sitting in the window, but it didn't look like those doors had been unlocked in quite a while.
And that seemed like a fitting metaphor for the entire city.  There were pockets of nice shops, nice homes.  But overall the city just looked beaten and broken down.  From a shopping standpoint, the day was a bust.  Kate found a few things, I found zip.  Half a dozen stops yielded fewer finds than the average trip to the Salvation Army store 5 minutes from our house.

But if there is one thing Cleveland did do well, it was food.  We stopped at Melt, a local restaurant with a few locations.  It was well worth the 45 min wait for a table - I ordered "The Dude Abides" a grilled cheese layered with cheese sticks, marinara, and two huge meatballs.  The sandwich weighed a ton, and I could barely finish half, with the other half heading home with me on Sunday.

The Cleveland art museum was by far the non-edible highlight of the trip, with a pretty impressive collection both in terms of scope and size.  They were lacking in major pieces, but more than made up for it in layout and the sheer size of the collection.

We headed to bed with a gameplan laid out for Sunday: West Side Market in the morning, a flea market stop for some bobblehead redemption, and then an afternoon Tribe game at what I will forever call The Jake.

The thunderstorm we woke up to had other ideas.  To make things worse, the West Side Market is apparently closed on Sundays (seriously, who does that?).  We tried to salvage it by going straight to a flea market.  A line of trucks streamed out as we pulled in; apparently we had just missed a big downpour that cleared everybody out.

We made one last ditch effort to salvage the trip - an indoor flea market about 20 mins away.  It looked as sketchy on the outside as it was inside.  Rows and rows of shelves lined with junk, nothing priced and no vendors in sight.  But I spotted a few pegs of Starting Lineups, so I had to at least get a price.  I wasn't going back to Pittsburgh empty handed.  The customer service/owner/snack stand operator told me $3 each on the SLU's.  Music to my ears.

I picked out three Pirates.  I already have a copy of the Clemente at the beginning of the post, but for that price I figured this one could be an opener.  

The Al Martin brought back fond memories, since my parents humored me by scouring the countryside during a vacation to Niagara Falls in the summer of '95 looking for Pirate SLU's.  We didn't have any luck, but it brought a smile to my face to find one almost 2 decades later on a different vacation.  

 The Gary Sheffield was more of an impulse buy, but I've always had a soft spot for the early Marlins teams.  It's not exactly something I collect aggressively, but I've amassed a nice little Fins collection in recent years.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the weekend was the timing.  We went to Cleveland just a day after The Decision, Part II and LeBron announcing his return to the Cavs.  On another summer afternoon a few years back I was sitting in Columbus with my buddy watching the Pirates and Indians AAA affiliates square off.  As another trip-disrupting thunderstorm came in, the video board streamed LeBron telling the world he was leaving Cleveland for Miami.  You could tangibly see and feel the energy instantly draining from people.  The area felt deflated in a humid, sticky summer rain.

Seeing Cleveland, LeBron jerseys and homemade signs sitting in front of every business we passed, having something to hope for was such an interesting juxtaposition to watching an entire fanbase crumble before your eyes.  It was painfully clear that this is a city hurting economically.  A population that needs, and deserves, something to cheer for in their sports teams.  Don't get me wrong.  Cleveland still sucks.  But I hope the Cavs and Indians give the city something to cheer for.  The city deserves it.

But don't think I'm a bad person if I'm still hoping one of the Steelers knocks Johnny Manziel into the next century this year.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Flea Market Fun

Things have been slow-going for the collection this summer.  No card shows, busy weekends, and erratic work hours have kept us busy.  But we managed to squeeze in a little flea market time two weekends ago, making the trip about an extra 25 mins south of the city to hit a flea market before catching a 1:35 Pirate game on Sunday.

It was overall a bit of a bust for me, and most vendors seemed to be packing up when we got there around 11.  But I found one guy with some sport stuff mixed in with an otherwise random assortment of household stuff.  But nothing was priced!  My one pet peeve.  I was about to move on to the next table when Kate told me to come look at something.

I had no clue what I was looking at, but I knew it looked cool.  They were some kind of matted lithograph, featuring some pretty nice artwork.  And complete with serial numbered coa, since in the early 90's the best way to make things seem official was apparently a number and piece of paper.

In all there were three different lithos:  Jay Bell. Tim Wakefield, and Jaromir Jagr.  The trio ran me a grand total of $5.  Whatever they were, they were definitely worth that price.

A little digging upon returning home unearthed they are from a series of Kelly Russell lithography produced throughout the mid to late 90's.  I have seen some of the more popular ones, including Jr and Ripken, somewhere - maybe a card shop in the 90's?  But there doesn't seem to be any complete checklist to be found online, and the Bell and Wakefield pieces are presumably some of the earlier pieces.  A few quick searches didn't unearth any other copies, though they say there are 10,000 of each piece.  Either way, they come pre-matted, and are perfect to stick in a frame as soon as I can pick up the right size.  Bam, instant art.
The rest of the flea market was a bust, so I doubled back to the same dealer, and asked about a signed baseball he had.  For another $3, I picked up what looks like a BP ball with 6 signatures.

Josh Fogg, Mike Johnston, and Adam Hyzdu

Walter Young, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten

I'm not sure exactly where or when this ball came from - Hyzdu and Young were gone from the Pirates organization in 2004 when Burnett, Johnston, and Burnett all made their major league debuts.  Fogg made a couple rehab starts at AAA in 2003, but Burnett spent the year at AA, Young didn't play a game above A ball.  It could be from 2003 Spring Training, when all the players but Van Benschoten, a recent #1 pick, were on the major league roster to start ST.  It's possible he came up to get an inning or two in a split squad game, but the internet doesn't seem to have much info on 2004 these days.  Eithe way, it's a ball showing very nice scuff marks and some nice signatures from a not so great era of Bucs history.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Over the Wall

Long before it was drawn out to be a non-stop ratings bonanza where the "game counts," the Mid-Summer Classic was the highlight of my summer.

The All-Star game still carried some weight to it, riddled with players who should be Hall of Famers in my book.  And the Home Run Derby was the crown jewel, with some of the strongest sluggers (natural or otherwise) the game will ever see clobbering 500 ft homers with ease.
Don't kid yourself.  Regardless of your current stance on 90's players and PED's, everybody loved seeing Big Mac's assault on the Green Monster in '99, or Junior letting majestic rainbows fly in Coors.  Nobody angrily changed the channel, screaming "these guys are cheaters!"

For the first time I can remember, I missed the HR Derby last night.  The format feels even more abbreviated for an event that is already made for tv.  And the players?  Sure, there are good hitters.  Even some great hitters.  But it's a far cry from seeing the strongest players in the game slug it out.  When Mike Piazza puts up a goose egg in the HR Derby, we laugh it off.  When Brian Dozier is out there, it's a little less exciting.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hey Now, You're An All-Star

With the National less than a month away in Cleveland, it's pretty exciting to finally be heading to my first NSCC.

As a wee tike, I used to love seeing the different exclusives that used to be produced for the hobby's biggest events.  Event exclusive cards just always had a certain aura around them for me.  Geographically and numerically limited, they're cool pieces that can be pinned down to one exact moment or memory.

It's really a shame that card companies (or at least the few left) don't do more event exclusives.  At the National, I won't be giving a second thought to any of the exclusives that will be available, which mostly seem like a money grab to cater to big time dealers and flippers.

It's a far cry from my experience at the 2006 ASG FanFest.  There were quite a few exclusives, including a 5 card set released by Topps, with a different card available each day.  I believe you had to rip something like 5 or 6 packs of Topps product to get the exclusive.

A handful of Opening Day packs later, I had a beautiful Roberto Clemente card.  The other 4 non-Bucco cards in the set didn't interest me.  But time does funny things.

While browsing ebay last week I came across this Ichiro ASG exclusive.  It's card #1, from the first day of the extravaganza, which I believe would have been a Tuesday or Wednesday.  The card was a little more than I would typically pay for an oddball type addition, but completed auctions were few and far between, and I assumed the print run was fairly limited to begin with.  And it was pretty easy to justify that $3.50 shipped was still less than it would have cost for me to rip a half dozen packs of Opening Day in 2006.

Anybody else have any event exclusive cards that are near and dear in their collection?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wait, When Did They Play There? Wednesday

The length of a baseball season and relatively large roster makes it inevitable that there will be a few players each year who only appear in the majors briefly.  And much to the chagrin of many team collectors, many of those players never find their way onto cardboard immortality.

Other times, a card has you asking "Who the heck is that?"

As of 5 minutes ago, here is what I know about Paul Geil:

He appeared on a Pirate card in 1960
I really like the 1960 set

Note, astute reader, that only one of these deeply insightful facts actually involves Paul Geil.

Geil appeared in only 20 games for the Bucs, including 16 in 1960.  He appeared in 102 major league games between 1954 and 1961, but was never particularly effective - or in the majors for all that long in any given year.

You could probably argue his football career was actually far more productive.  Gail was an All-American twice, finished second in Heisman Trophy voting, and won a trophy case worth of other awards as at the University of Minnesota.  All that hardware got him into the College Football HOF in 1975.  He also served as Minnesota Vikings color commentator from 1962-69, and as U of M's athletic director from 1971-89.

Oh, and did I mention he picked up two World Series rings (the Bucs in '60, and the Giants in '54)?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Into the Archives

My interest in vintage comes and goes.   I was born at the tail end of the non-glossy cardstock era, or more accurately the flimsy but not quite yet glossy era.  I love the history and "story" that comes with each vintage addition.  But sometimes I just feel like I'm crossing abstract names and numbers off of a checklist; connecting with history rather than actually drawing a connection to any particular player or card.

But there are a couple vintage sets that just absolutely bring out everything I love about collecting - particularly the 1960 Topps and 1955 Bowman sets.  I don't know that it's a coincidence  that both sets are horizontal.

Obviously 1960 holds all kinds of sentiment with the Pirates dramatic World Series win.  On the other hand, 1955 was a far less impressive season.  But there's some kind of nostalgic goodness that makes me absolutely love the old wood grain tv design.
I have the majority of the '55 Bowman team set, but a few of the cards are very well loved (read: creased) and will probably be upgrade-worthy one of these days.  

I Bought a Time Machine

 I'm working in reverse a bit as I try to catch up on the last month of my collecting life.  Kate and I spent the 4th driving out to the Rogers, OH to do some flea market shopping.  The event marked the 1 year anniversary of us moving back to PA, and we made a similar trip last year.

It was crowded, but the weather was fantastic.  I picked up some awesome finds, but the coolest addition had absolutely nothing to do with me.  After fighting through traffic and finding a parking space in what amounted to a field, we spent about 5 hours walking through the various vendors set up.  Overall I wasn't very impressed by the quality of the stuff for sale, especially the lack of sports memorabilia.  I added a few nice pieces, but the assortment of dime boxes, sports knickknacks, and bobbleheads that draw me to flea markets was lacking.

As the day wound down, vendors were starting to pack up and drive off by mid afternoon.  I was hot, hungry, and had already probably spent too much money.  As we plodded in the direction of the car, Kate stopped to look through a post card vendor.  Since she started writing her blog, Thriftburgher, Kate has slowly taken an interest in vintage postcards.  She has always been tolerant, even supportive, of my collecting habit(s), but had never been much of a collector herself.  So I certainly can't complain about shared appreciation for old pieces of paper, even if they are a little different in size.

The postcard search was actually one of the big motivations behind the trip to Ohio, since there are a mix of OH and PA vendors, which makes for a nice selection.  I was stalling time looking at a few booths that I had no intention of buying from while Kate investigated some postcards.  A few minutes later, she came over saying she had found some for $5.  I was tired, cranky, and slightly irked at the idea of spending $5 on some old postcard.  So we wrapped up the day and headed home.

It wasn't until later that night that we started showing off our finds to each other.  She had a hefty stack of postcards, and I with my sports memorabilia.  So I needed to see this $5 postcard.  What could possibly be that good, when there were plenty of vintage postcards available for 3/$1 or $.50.

Apparently I'm a bad listener.  It was actually an unused postcard collection, with about 20 cards front and back connected together.  Now for the awesome part.

The cards are postmarked from 1914.  The postcard folder uneathed a series of photos from my fair city exactly 100 years ago.

It was an awesome piece of the city's history from the early 19th century.  Better yet, there were some sports related postcards inside.

The card above features Exposition Park, the predecessor to Forbes Field.  The park was located about a quarter mile down river from the current site of PNC Park.  The park was replaced in 1909 as the home of the Pirates, but remained in use until 1915.

If you're interested in seeing the other postcards, check out Kate's post.  For $5, this may be one of the coolest purchases we've made.  Not that I deserve any credit for this find.  For being 100 years old, the cards are in amazing shape.  It's sort of overwhelming to think of the changes, the rises and falls, the city has gone through over the past 100 years.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

I Need More Wall Space

After another month long disappearance, I'm back to blog land.  And this time finally with a renewed interest in collecting and (hopefully) cards.  Flea market season seems to have brought out the best in me.  But I do feel pretty crappy that I disappeared before I got to show off the best pickups from the big Robert Morris show, including my Pirate card additions and two awesome framed pieces.

In the time since I went away, I have found some really amazing pieces at flea markets.  As my card buying as tapered off, my appreciation for other Pirates memorabilia has picked up steam.  The down side?  Wall space.  Namely my lack of it.  Most of the wall space in our current apartment is already accounted for.  We're looking to move later this year, possibly into our first house.  The plus?  Wall space and finally a man cave of my own.  The down side?  Makes putting new stuff up on these walls kind of tiresome when you just hope to take stuff down in a few months.

But boy will I have an awesome basement one of these days...

This was a pickup from the RMU show, and is probably tied for being my second favorite addition from the show with this piece.
It looks like the print came from the Pirates 100th anniversary in 1987, and aside from the somewhat questionable inclusion of Tony Pena captures all the Pirates greats to that point.  I might take slight issue with the size of Clemente in comparison to Pena, Stargell, and Maz.  But otherwise the colors on this print really stand out, and the blue/red and black/gold color schemes create some interesting contrast.

I'm a history junkie, and I think there's something that really attracts me to pieces that acknowledge a lengthy span of history.  One of the things I love about the Bucs is that their history largely parallels the rise of the city of Pittsburgh.  To fit all those eras and players into one space is just really interesting to me.

Now I just need to find somewhere to hang it...

Minors Monday

In the early 90's the Pirates had an interesting problem.  They had a crop of young, major league ready players who were blocked by superstars.  Kevin Young, Al Martin, and Jeff King all spent some of their first seasons as bench players behind the Pirates all-star cast before finally getting their chance in the mid 90's.

All three players would have fairly successful careers, but the strategy of stocking the bench with top prospects and then letting your stars leave via free agency seems almost unfathomable in the Rays/A's blueprint of maximizing the value of your assets.

The way of thinking about and handling prospects seems entirely counter-intuitive to today's super prospect hype where years of control and Super 2 status at times take priority over actual major league readiness or development.