Tuesday, December 30, 2014

An Autograph a Day

Tuffy Rhodes didn't have much of an MLB career, playing in parts of a few seasons and slugging under .400 in the lone season where he saw regular playing time.  But in Japan?  The dude could rake.  He slugged 464 homers across 13 seasons in Japan, and has to be regarded of one of the better foreign players to play in the NPB.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Morning After

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas, and received lots of cardboard goodies.  I'm one of the lucky Christmas birthdays - the 28th - so when all was said and unwrapped, I ended up opening two boxes, with a couple more that I'm sure will resurface in a couple days.

I busted a box of 2013 Pinnacle baseball that yielded a couple nice inserts, but was a dud when it came to autos, and a second box of 2013 Panini Cooperstown.  No auto this time in Cooperstown, but it's still a fun break for $10.  I know a few people were working on the set, so feel free to drop me an email - I know I should have a lot of doubles after completing my set.

But perhaps the best "gift" of the weekend was an impulsive decision on Christmas Eve to dig up cards from my childhood collection from some of the sets I've enjoyed over the years and try to finish them off.  So in the coming days I'll have want lists together for 2000 Victory, 2000 Topps, 1993 Donruss (how did I not remember that this set was a 700+ card monster?), and 2000 Opening Day.  I think I'm relatively close on all of those sets, so any help towards finishing them off would be great.

Scans of all the fun stuff will have to wait a few days until I go back over my parents' for a birthday dinner this weekend.  In the rush of running around and making all of our holiday stops, I forgot the box with all the cards at my parents' house.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's holiday pickups.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Hope all my friends on the blogosphere have a safe and merry Christmas!  Things are looking far from a white Christmas in Western PA - looks more like a dreary, rainy fall day around these parts.

I'll be looking forward to seeing some breaks over the coming days.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

An Autograph a Day

Fun facts for the day:  Non Lieber was originally drafted by the Cubs, but didn't sign.  The team he did sign with, the Royals, didn't keep him around for too long either, shipping him to Pittsburgh for Stan Belinda.
 And then of course the Pirates gave up on him waywaywayway too soon, as he would go on to be a staple of the Cubs rotations for a few years.
 The best part of all this?  This last card is indeed a Royals card - kinda.

My First Polanco

I'm a budget shopped.  It's just the way I am.  Aside from cards in my Jack Wilson collection, I rarely pay more than $5 for a card.  Sure, I have plenty of $5 cards, but I typically wait until I can snag one at a better price.

But the recently released Topps Tek set had me excited from the day the set was announced.  I had high hopes that even with a small-ish base set, we would still see a fair number of Pirates.  After all, when you have the reigning NL MVP, why wouldn't there be at least two or three cards in the set.

Oh, that's why.  It's Topps.  While Topps did manage to include Orlando Hernandez and Rafael Palmeiro in the set, they somehow overlooked the NL MVP, a recent number 1 overall draft pick, and just about everyone else that wears a gold P.  Maybe they really did want to go to extreme lengths to mirror the original Tek sets.  After all, the Pirates didn't really have many players worthy of inclusion in a short set in the late 90's.  But hell, even the '98 Tek set had 2 Pirates, with Aramis Ramirez and Jason Kendall both making the cut.

What Pirate fans did get was Gregory Polanco.  Not a bad consolation prize, assuming his career pans out.  But it also meant that any hopes I had of a mid-tier player like Pedro Alvarez or Starling Marte sneaking in that would allow me to pick up cards on the cheap went out the window.

But after my case of Topps resentment passed (or at least faded), I started hunting down the best prices possible for these cards, even if it meant stretching my self imposed spending rules a bit.  I landed this Polanco for $10 about a week and a half after the product went live.  It was right at what I was willing to pay, and was the lowest price for the card at the time, though a few have gone for a dollar or two less since then.

It's my first Polanco auto, so I'm happy to cross his name off my list, and even happier that I was able to do so with an auto from a fantastic looking product.  The cards don't scan great, but look very nice in person.  My only complaint is that the autos are on the same Spiral Brick pattern that is the most common base variation.  Unfortunately, it's also my least favorite of the designs in the set.  But hey, I guess with the way Topps put the product together I should be happy I got a Pirate at all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

An Autograph a Day

 Geeze, he looks like those Sidney Crosby mumps photos in the first card.  Or perhaps a squirrel gathering nuts for winter joke would be more seasonal?  Either way, I'm glad more players have moved away from chewing tobacco and big buckets of bubble gum are more common these days.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

An Autograph a Day

Al Bumbry played for some really good Orioles teams.  But his autograph is in my collection for this awesome Senior League card I snagged from a dime box earlier this year.  In theory, the Senior League was actually a pretty cool concept.  Of course the financial realities made it tough to keep alive.  And if the next two decades of major league baseball in Florida were any indication, the SL may have seen better crowds playing in North Dakota.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's Like the 90's...Kinda

The return of Topps Tek this year was the one product I was looking forward to since it was announced.  However, Topps took their good ole time releasing any kind of checklist for the product.  So much so that one wasn't available until after the product was already live.  And as excited as I was, I wasn't about to see a repeat of Stadium Club, only to pull a couple $1 autos and see boxes for $25 in a couple months.

Needless to say, I saw pretty bummed when I saw the number of 90's stars included in Tek and really wishing I had a few boxes to open.  But logic prevailed, and after the initial wave it was pretty clear I could grab some great singles for far less than a few boxes would have cost.  
 The new Tek cards don't have the same thickness as the original cards, and I don't think they look quite as impressive.  The shiny parts can kind of get lost on the card unless the light hits them just right.  Still, I couldn't wait to get a couple of these in hand.
It was well worth the wait, adding two sluggers for $5 each.  I've always been a fan of Juan Gone.  And while Cespedes hasn't lived up to the potential he showed his first season, he's the kind of go big or go home that seems right at home in a 90's product.

Hopefully I can land a few more autos from the product once the calendar rolls over the 2015.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Tour Through My Team Binder

I had a pretty interesting discussion with my fellow team collector buddies about how we store our collections.  We're talking about pretty extensive team collections that are all between at least 10-15k  unique cards.  And while most of us had pretty similar approaches, it was interesting to see some of the differences in how we enjoy looking at our collections.  So I thought it might be worthwhile to take you all on a quick walk through how I set up my team collection binders.  At some point in the future, I'd like to do a full overview of my collection but I'm way too disorganized right now.  New Year's Resolution, anyone?

I used my 2006 binder as the example here.  We're actually starting in the back of the binder, since this photo gives some good perspective on the thickness of my binder.  My collection is arranged chronologically, with each year broken down by set alphabetically, base/parallels/inserts, and then by card number.

Minor league cards are in the very back in reverse order by level (AAA, AA, A, etc), and then any pack issued (Just, Pro Debut, Heritage Minors, the old Fleer and UD minor league sets) at the very back.

At nearly 14,000 cards, I like to think I have a pretty comprehensive collection.  But there are still a ton of holes in even some of the most common of base team sets.  I typically leave open slots to fill in base needs.   Any parallels come next.  As you can see with Bazooka, there are open slots for the missing base cards.  The gold Zach Duke signals the end of the base cards and start of the parallels.  If it's a parallel set that I have a good number of cards of or believe I can realistically complete, I will leave open slots for the parallels as well.  But in the case of Bazooka, while the parallels are relatively common, they're a real pain to track down without having to pay for shipping online.  So to save space, the cards were condensed onto one page until I find more.
 When doing my initial sort into the binders this year, I tried to group the parallels as much as possible from most common to least.  But various additions throughout the year tended to just get tacked on in an open slot, rather than have to re-slot the entire page.  The end result on this page is a Craig Wilson card that's sooooo close to being with his blue bordered buddies, yet so, so far away.
 There are still some sets that I'm hopelessly behind on.  The '06 Bowman Heritage set is one where I'm miles away from completion.  I actually have more of the mini parallels than base cards for the set.  Sets like this basically just get tossed into a page with the hopes that I'll be able to add a large number of the cards I need from a trade or justcommons, and give the cards a proper spot in their page.  Notice the Bowman Originals Blue Jason Bay in the bottom row.  It's the only card I own from that set, and again just sort of ended up on the misfit toys page until it can justify migrating to its own page.  I don't mind only having 2 or 3 cards on a page when it's completely unavoidable, but just one lonely card?  Nah.

 The part of the discussion that I found most interesting if how the various team collectors handle their parallels.  Of our group, most of us are onboard with binders (though there are still a couple holdouts that have all their cards toploadered and in boxes), and had the same setup for base cards.  But some folks opted to group parallels by player, rather than my method of going by type and numerical order.  I can definitely see the appeal.  I love a good rainbow, and they look great on the page.  But I also love seeing the parallel colors grouped together.  The 2006 UD Special F/X parallels are some of my favorite cards.  The top row is the Green parallel, followed by my personal favorite Red, and the damn near impossible to find Blue Oliver Perez.

The binder setup ultimately makes it really easy for me to enjoy my collection, and hopefully will mean no more sorting and resorting everything every time I get cards out of order.

I know there have been some great posts in the past about how everybody stores/displays their collection.  Feel free to link any posts in the comments, as I'd love to reread them.  Anybody have similar or different methods for storing their collections?  I'm particularly interested to hear about team or player collections.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

An Autograph a Day

Remember when the Flying Elvis logo was new and novel and slightly less terrible?  I think it's about time the Pats are due for a new (or better yet, old) logo.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Autograph a Day

I had always written off the Ted Williams' sets as one of countless off-brand sets from the early 90's when just about anybody with two thumbs could get a card license.  But over the last few months I've come to appreciate the set a lot more, as it includes some of the retired players that were really good players, but have been ignored by the SP Legendary Cuts/Archives/Greats of the Game releases over the last 15 years that tend to angle towards either guys who are willing to sign a ton of autographs dirt cheap or Hall of Famers.
 Dave Dravecky is probably one of the better pitchers in Padres history, but I had absolutely no idea he suited up for the Giants.  Just one of those fun quirks to the Williams set that can be easily missed.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Autograph a Day

Beltin' Bill Melton had a pretty nice stretch for the White Sox as a power hitter, including leading the league in homers  in 1971.   But his career would be short lived, lasting only parts of two seasons and hitting 6 more homers after leaving the Windy City at age 29.
 Still, these are some of the cooler autos I've added this year.  I love the 1976 traded cards, the White Sox red/white color scheme just looks sooooo out of place after a couple decades of the white/black look, and how can you not love a signed league leaders card.
 Needless to say, Beltin Bill outhomered some pretty impressive names in'71.

COMC Haul - 2001 Donruss

As I've been on this streak of starting new, and possibly impossible, sets...why not add one more?  There was no set in 2001 that I loved as much as Donruss' return to the baseball market with its flagship brand after a two year absence.  I bought up all my local shop had to offer, scoured the newly opened Target for retail packs, and even had my family hunting hobby shops across the land on vacation hoping to land as much of the product as possible.

It's far from a perfect set.  The formula of short printing rookies and a small base set that had worked wonders in football didn't appeal to the baseball crowd.  The key demographic of set builders were alienated.  But 13 year old kids that loved finding serial numbered cards in every few packs and thought the pack within a pack idea was the coolest thing on the planet?  Yep, right up my alley.

 So I'm working on the set.  What that means, I have no clue.  I already have built the base set without SP's.  Most of the inserts can be had reasonably cheap.  And then there are those pesky Stat Line parallels.  I'd love to build a complete set of Stat Lines, but that's probably a pipe dream.
 With these pickups and what I already had, I probably have about a dozen Stat Line cards.  It's a start.
 I was hoping to add more than this, but unfortunately there weren't many cards discounted during the Black Friday sales.  I snagged what I could find at a good price.
 But ultimately the size of the set and presence of some super low numbered cards (plus high dollar cards of Pujols and Ichiro) make truly completing the set damn near impossible.
 So maybe it's more of a "accumulate as many cards as I can" kind of project.
 Still, if anyone has any 2001 Donruss inserts, rookies, or parallels available, let me know

An Autograph a Day

Remember when nicknames were cool?  Not just lame mashups of the player's actual name (ARod) or the player's freaking initials.  Real, badass, nicknames.  Cause quite honestly, there are few things that would frighten me as much as calling somebody the Mad Hungarian.  Sounds like the kind of dude that would cut off your ear and boil it in a stew.  One of those really funky Eastern Eurpoean stews, too.  Not some warm, homely English stew, dammit.
 In other news, check out the cap on the top card.  This is one of the throwback pillbox hats that were worn during the 1976 season.  It's definitely a unique look, and I think only a few cards feature players wearing those caps.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

COMC Haul - The Big Boppers

Since I joined COMC in 2010, I have been a pretty cost conscious shopper.  The vast majority of my purchases are of the $.50 and below variety, and I rarely add an card that costs over a buck or two.  It's not that I'm cheap (well, maybe it is...), but with the insane selection of cards, it's never difficult to get bang for my buck.  If a card I'm interested in might be a little more expensive than I'm willing to pay, it only takes a quick search or two to come across something else I can spend that money on that looks like a sweet deal.

But I decided to bend the budget a bit over the last month or two.  There haven't been any card shows, searching ebay is a huge pain compared to the ease of searching by player or team on COMC, and I was lucky enough to see some real gems pop up on the site at prices I considered absolute steals.  So here's the pick of the litter, if you will.

So for an appetizer, I've been after one of these Starling Marte Gypsy Queen autos for a while, but never was able to find one that was at a price I liked.  For $3.75, I was happy to pull the trigger on this one.  Marte still has some room to develop hopefully, and is one of the more exciting Pirates to watch in my opinion.
 This card has actually been sitting in my COMC account for almost a year.  But it was well worth the wait to see it in person.  The 99' Topps Tek Gold is numbered /10, and while I will never had a prayer at completing the entire pattern-maddness I'm happy to just have one copy of a gold.  At about $10, I paid close to the going rate.  But this was one of the few true "wants" I had been eyeing up.
 A few days ago I posted my Jose Guillen Century auto, and the Nunez fell into my lap during the Black Friday deals for about $5.  When the set first came out, you would have had to at least add a zero on the end of that price.  As I mentioned yesterday, I have fallen in love with this set, and the blues may be my favorite background color.
 Leaf has gotten a little redundant with the Valiant autos over the past few years, with no real tweaks to the design from year to year.  However, I have wanted this card since it came out, but was never willing to pay Marte's "prospect" prices.  Now that he's an established and successful major league regular, his prices have magically nosedived.  But that's cool with me.  This only set me back a cool $3.25, which is an absolute steal in my book.
 I love the look of Topps Black cards, but they are such a freaking headache.  I'll never come close to completing a team set, but when I can find a copy in the $2-3 range, it's mine.  Alllll mine!.
 But there two cards are the true unsung heroes of my COMC purchases.  I love the Donruss Stat Line cards, particularly the Season version with a rainbow foil finish.  This Mike Gonzalez card is fairly unsuspecting, until you flip it over and discover it's /10.  For a team set I might actually have a prayer at finishing, this card is basically the lynchpin to the set.  For $3, I couldn't hit the purchase button fast enough.
 And for the uninitiated, do a quick search for Donruss Crusades on ebay.  These are perhaps the hottest insert of the 90's, and for good reason.  The cards are drop dead gorgeous in person, and put any refractor to shame.  The Purple is perhaps the least attractive version in my book, but at 100 copies they can command a pretty penny.  Better yet, this copy was a victim of COMC's database issues, listed as the dreaded ??????.  I was able to wait out a couple price drops during the sales, and ultimately grabbed this for about $3.50.  Recent copies have gone for more than twice that, and it looks great alongside the Abraham Nunez from the same set I picked up last year.

Amusingly enough I now have both the Purple and Red /25 for Nunez and Wright, but am still missing the Green /250 for both.  Collecting is a funny thing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

COMC Haul - The Start of a New Project

I've been a team collector pretty much my whole collecting life.  But over the last couple years the number of new cards I really, truly want can be counted on a couple hands.  Most of the hit-centric products don't appeal to me, and I get sick of chasing 15 parallel versions of the same card.  So as 2014 winds down I've decided to tackle a few collecting projects from the days when I found cardboard to be a little more exciting.  After all, there are literally millions and millions of different cards that have been produced over the past few decades.  If the current stuff isn't doing it for me, let's find something that does.

Enter 1998 Donruss Signature Series.  Playing around with custom card designs over the last few months, I decided to take a crack at '98 Donruss Signature.  It looked relatively complex, but nothing too tough to tackle.   Boy was I wrong.  The design took me the better chunk of a week working on it here and there, making it far and away the longest of my custom projects.  But as I built and rebuilt each layer, I found I absolutely loved the design.
 Reading Beckett somewhere around 1999 or 2000 I remember reading a multiple page feature about a collector who had completed the '98 Signature Series autograph set.  I mean the whole set, parallels, the Signature Preview cards.  The whole deal.  And then a multiple page spread showing each and every card from the set.  I didn't own a single autograph card, and still wouldn't for a couple years.  Something about it stuck with me, I guess.

When I started thinking about doing an autographed set, the Donruss/Leaf Signature sets immediately came to mind (along with SP Chiography and Skybox Autographics).  After all, I've been picking up a bunch of autographs from 90's players recently - why not get them all in the same set?  The '96 Leaf Signature checklist is just too large for me to tackle, with too many players I can't even remember.  The '97 set has more star power, which also means more cost.  But '98?  The base red autographs only have 99 cards, and only two of those - super short prints of Greg Maddux and David Cone are definitely out of reach.   

And COMC's Black Friday sales were the perfect way to make a dent in my needs.  Of the three cards above, the most I paid was $.85 for the Jacob Cruz.  I had my eye on a few others, but my timing for starting the set was fantastic.  A large lot of 44 1998 Signature autos was ending the day after I decided to start the set, and I landed it for just about $1/card.  I'll show those off down the road.

If anyone has any 1998 Donruss Signature autographs, or any of the parallel versions available for trade, let me know.  For now I'm planning on just doing the red set, but may start picking up anything I can in case I decide to go nuts.  Or win the lottery.

An Autograph a Day

Eric Montross was the 9th overall pick in the '94 Draft, but like man big men was never really able to deliver on that potential.  He bounced around the NBA until 2002, and is currently a color commentator for UNC basketball.

COMC Haul - The Backyard Brawl

Sports team allegiances can be a tricky thing.  I grew up a huge Pitt fan.  My dad had tickets to Pitt football games through work, and he would take me to a couple games a year, typically against the weaker matchups that clients didn't want to go see.  But what did a 11 year old care if he was watching the Akron Zips?  My first real focus in collecting was Dan Marino.  It blew my pre-teen mind that the greatest quarterback in the game went to this school half an hour down the road from me.  I had it set in my mind that I would be heading to Pitt when it came time to pick a college.  I have a Marino collection of a few hundred cards, but sadly most of his cooler cards are outside my price range.  But I was able to snag this one for about $2.

Apparently pre-teen me didn't understand too much about academics, and ultimately when better scholarship offers came around from more prestigious universities  it was still a tough decision to not go to Pitt.  But I still followed the football and basketball teams pretty closely, until I ended up in grad school at WVU.  Cue dramatic music.

 So now I collect both teams, but spread my focus between early 00's Pitt players and players from the 2010-12 teams while I was at WVU.  And while both teams have pretty strong followings, it's not hard to find cool cards on the cheap.
 I have been after this Curtis Martin auto for quite some time.  I forgot to bid on a copy on ebay a few years back for $5.99, which seemed like a great price for a rookie auto of a Hall of Famer.  Then I found a few copies on COMC for around $5, an even better price, but didn't pull the trigger.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see a copy sitting on COMC for $4.25 at 3am on Black Friday right as the sale went live.  I couldn't click the purchase button fast enough.
 I mainly try to stick to cards of guys in their college uniforms.  But at just $.65, this auto of former WVU fullback Owen Schmitt was too cheap to pass on.
 I know I've name dropped this a million times on the blog already, but I taught Geno Smith during his sophomore year at WVU.  He was a really nice kid, though some of his antics as a pro have me shaking my head.  I had planned on starting a player collection of him, but those plans went out the window pretty fast when the Jets selected him.  While it's been a bummer to see him struggle, it has finally brought his prices down to earth.  I'm hoping I can start to expand the collection during the offseason, and hopefully Geno can land with a different team that might be a better fit to allow him to develop.