Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ending the Year in Style

I'll be settled in watching some college football all day today.  I've never been a big New Year's guy, but there probably aren't many who are happier to see 2015 turn into 2016 than this guy.  And while this year has been a roller coaster for my blogging, including a disappearing act for most of the year, let's send 2015 out in style.

In my COMC package from their Black Friday sales, I nabbed a couple big additions to my collection.  I was able to spear a couple cards that at one point topped my want list.  And there's no sweeter feeling than that.  But first up, I may have a addition to my favorite cards.

Vlad Guerrero has long been one of my favorite players.  I still vividly remember a game against the Expos where a friend and I were sitting in the seats directly behind home plate and being amazed by how big and athletic Vlad was up close.  At his prime, I don't know that there was any player more interesting to watch in my lifetime.  He could do it all.

I've been looking for a Vlad auto for a while, but haven't pulled the trigger.  But as I was browsing through a seller's sales, I saw this card for $8.  It was an impulse buy, but one I'm glad I made.  The sticker auto doesn't look so bad on the awesome foil stock, and I'm glad I was able to get a card that pictured Vlad in his Expos road uniform.

 But the real gem?  This guy.  This Sean Casey auto is his only picturing him as a Pirate, and is insanely hard to find.  Before my Pirate collection went full scale, I was working on just getting an auto of every player who had a Pirates certified auto.  And aside from a couple high priced Heritage Real One autos, I had them all.  Except this one.

And after years and years of looking, I had only seen one copy that was already in another Pirates collector's hands.  I nearly lost my mind when I saw a copy had been recently added to COMC during one of my routine mid-week searches.  Better yet, it was listed for a whopping $1.25.

I couldn't click buy fast enough.  It may not be a huge value card, but man does it feel good to spear a card that has been near the top of my want list for a full decade now.
 While the back story isn't nearly as compelling, I added a couple of these Japan Fractors.  They just look awesome.  End of story.
 And my first Santonio Holmes auto.  Now I just need another one to turn into an awesome custom idea I have.
 And for the third year in a row, Starling Marte autos continue to be very affordable on COMC.  I was able to snag this one for about $3.  On card and Prizm?  Yes, please.
 And despite the top side damage, this is just an awesome pickup for my collection.  My first tobacco card, and an awesome WVU card to add to my collection.  Amazingly I was able to add a card that is over 100 years old for a whopping $2.  The scan doesn't do the card justice - the gold on the card really pops in person, and has a slight fleck like quality to it.
 There is no such thing as a bad PMG.
 And more Marte!  This is, to date, my only card from the 2015 Tek release.  But I can only hope there will be many more to follow.
And last but not least, another former Most Wanted card.  At one point in 2008-9, this Pedro was at the top of my want list.  He was, after all, the future of the franchise and his Razor cards were his only autograph releases.  I think they actually still are.

These cards have seen some major swings (and misses) along Pedro's career.  I think this officially counts as buying low, though.  The card cost me about $3.  At various points, they were selling for well above that.  But so the hobby pendulum swings.

So here's to 2015.  It was a year I can't say I'll miss, but I did add some great new cards to my collection.  Hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year, and happy collecting in 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Year in Customs

Far and away my greatest collecting accomplishment this year doesn't actually have anything to do with trading cards.  At least not in the typical sense.  This year I finally put some real effort behind creating and printing my own custom cards.  

I've been designing my own dream cards since I was a kid.  And even printed off my own customs as far back as a decade ago.  But it wasn't until early this year that I really put the time, energy, and funds into developing my creative skills and printing process to turn my customs into something that has the look and feel of something you'd pull out of a pack.  And it's become probably my favorite part of collecting.

No more griping about the companies not making the cards I want.  Well, let's not say no more.

 I even got some special requests from some folks who wanted one of my customs for their own collection.  There's no higher honor than that.
 And of course the cards also have filled some gaps in my own collections.  After two decades of waiting for winning Pirate teams, the insert craze has come and gone.  But no worries...I got this.

 Other customs are just plain, simple fun.
 There are so many classic 80s and 90's designs, and I love the idea of creating my own Archives set.
 It's been a ton of fun to crate my own cards.  And they look even better printed off.  My pile of my own customs has grown quite a bit.
 Like my Topps Traded Traded sets filling in the gaps that Topps missed.  Cause who could overlook Ramon Martinez's stint with the Bucs?
And of course it's been a ton of fun to channel my artistic flair into my love of cards.  So thank you to everyone who has read my various custom related posts this year.  I'm hoping to keep learning and creating in 2016, so hopefully I'll come up with some fun additions to my collection.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Year End Recap: 2015 Collecting Goals

With 2015 heading into the rearview mirror, I can't say I'll miss it.  This has been a year of ups and downs for me as jobs and life took a toll on me.  The year closed out pretty well with new jobs for Kate and I that we both love, and I'm looking forward to great things in 2016.

On the cardboard side of things, it was a hit or miss kind of year.  Looking back at my 2015 collecting goals, there's no doubt that my collecting and blogging was impacted by everything that happened in life.  But how can it now?

1) Get more cards going out the door.

I cleared out a couple thousand cards that went to my team collector buddies at our Team Collector Convention this summer.  But I came home with just as many, if not more, than I gave away.  And when it comes to trades on the blogosphere, I've been invisible.

2) Finish my 1998 Donruss Signature Auto set


I added a handful of cards for my set, but still need a good mix of commons and the stars of the day.

3) 20% completion on either 2001 Donruss Star Line or 2000 Topps Chrome Refractor sets


I've passed 10% on the 2000 Refractor set, but that's about as good as it gets for this year.  Slow and steady, right?

4) 14,500 Pirate cards


As of this moment, I have 16,438 Pirate cards entered in Excel, with another small box that needs entered still.   I'm honestly shocked with how high my total ended up.  The down side?  There are loooooots of cards that need put in binder pages now.

5) Finish transitioning my collection to binders

Um, see above.  Let's push that back to a 2016 goal.

6)Build/finish three sets.


This one is on the back burner for now.

7) Fund a larger portion of my collecting through selling


I was keeping the balance about even through the first half of the year.  My spending picked up and my selling went down in the second half once I landed my new job.

8) Spend less time looking for new cards and more time enjoying the ones I have


The number of cards I added this year spiked up, but the time I spent tracking them down decreased significantly.  Less time on ebay, COMC, and at shows ultimately ended up being a good choice.  I added some small collections that filled some less exciting holes in my collection.  But spending the time flipping through my binders and appreciating the cards I already have was far more rewarding than the time and money that would have been spent chasing down new additions.

So there you have it.  For the year, I'd give myself a B-.  I accomplished my big goals of adding to my Pirates collection, while also cutting back my financial footprint and the amount of time invested in expanding my collection.  Some of my secondary collections suffered, but that's alright.

Here's to 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tis the Season to be Chromey

I hope everyone is having a relaxing Christmas Eve.  I'm wrapping some gifts at home, and will be heading over my parents' for dinner once Kate gets off work shortly.  Some more shiny goodies from my latest COMC batch.  I have to admit that Bowman is one of my least favorite releases each year.  While I loved getting cards of future stars in their early years, the number of parallels and general watering down of the player quality makes it a product I have little interest in chasing cards from.

Buuuuuut...there are some nice, shiny cards in there.  And while I couldn't explain to you the tiers of refractors, ice, waves, slushies, and whatever other type of cards Topps concocts each year if my life depended upon it...they sure are pretty to look at.

 So I'm more than happy to let COMC do the work of figuring out what's what, and I just do the easy part of clicking "Buy."
 The Ice cards are a nice change of pace, and I believe the first of the sort in my collection.  I always enjoy refractor cards.  While the Ice cards aren't quite as nice in my opinion, they are something different.
 And while I don't mind picking up Chrome autos for cheap, I'd hate to be the guy who busted a $100 box and ended up with a couple of $1 autos.
 And while I appreciate the thought, the photoshop jobs on the cards can be a little painful at times.  I think I might actually enjoy Chrome more as a set that featured players in their minor league uniforms.
 Come to think of it - it seems like at one point or another, most companies who did delve into minor league sets spun off some of their more popular products.  For example the SP Minors products in the late 90's were some great looking sets that brought the quality the major league product was known for to a minor league set of players.
 Admittedly, Topps would be cutting into its own market by taking Chrome to the minors.  But considering they have a freaking monopoly as it is, I can't see the harm in trying it out.  Especially since the formula of Pro Debut and Heritage Minors couldn't be much less interesting if they tried.

Hope everyone who will be traveling today has a safe trip.  It's in the 60's in Western PA, so my big debate will apparently be whether I should wear shorts on Christmas for the first time ever.  May your holiday box breaks serve you well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bowl Season

I'm officially a man with too much time on his hands.  Or at least I am until January 4th.  Work is done for the year, and that means the good stuff is just getting started.  I've promised myself I won't touch any work until next week, even though I'm officially off that week.

But the reality is that there just isn't all that much to occupy my attention.  Not even a day into my holiday, I've already knocked out a good chunk of the card sorting I had hoped to do and watched more Nexflix than I'd like to admit.
But one of the perks of being home for an extended break is that there should be a pretty steady stream of college football to watch at pretty much all hours of the day.

 If nothing else, it's some glorified background noise.
 I'll be watching closely for WVU and Pitt's bowl games, and plan to watch the college playoff games.  But beyond that?
 I'll likely be channel hopping, trying to find a competitive game or some teams with cool uniforms.  Yep, my sports watching priorities sure are advanced.
 My latest COMC order had a nice mix of some college uni cards.  It's probably the smallest portion of my collection, and rarely the easiest to add to.
 But I'm always happy to add some fun cards to the collection, and it breaks up the black and gold monopoly on my team collections.
 Hope the work year is winding down for everyone else as well.  It seems like blog readership and posting has tailed off pretty big time this week, so I hope everyone is busy with holiday fun.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday Funday

While it's far from a sure thing that the Steelers will make the playoffs this year, I can say as a fan this may be the most exciting team I can remember watching in quite a few years.  It's not your typical Steelers style, but I'm a-ok with that.  For a couple years the Steelers had looked like lame ducks, still trying to ground and pound the ball while the rest of the league was having a feast on their horrid secondary.

The team still has plenty of holes (and injuries), but watching throw after throw after throw yesterday sure was fun.

My COMC order from Black Friday is finally safely in my hands, after a two week long ordeal where the package had delivery attempted, but the wonderful mailman never left the delivery slip.  With COMC's terrible shipping times over the past year, I thought nothing of it.  Fortunately I managed to rescue it from USPS hell one day before it would have been shipped back to Washington, when I checked the online tracking to see it had been a mere mile from me for the past two weeks.

 The order was heavy on Pirates and assorted other mini collections.  But after the great game the team played yesterday, why not lead off with the few Steelers highlights?  I'm always a sucker for black refractors of the Pittsburgh teams.
 It seems like football, even moreso than baseball, is all about boom or bust when it comes to cardboard.  When Rashard Mendenhall was the Steelers starting back, he sold pretty well and was a decent, though far from spectacular, player.  Fast forward to a couple years after he is out of the league, and I have snagged a handful of his autos for under $2 each.  I think this one /65 ran me about $1.50.  Yes, please!
 And of course I'll always gladly add a new pickup to my Slash collection.
 And the bumblebees?  Yes please.
 Speaking of wonky football card values, I added yet another dud RB auto to my collection, again for about $1.  I think Dri Archer is still with the team, but I can't remember seeing him on the field this season.
 Alright, you're seeing the theme here?
 One thing I always enjoy about the big sales on COMC is scooping up all the cheap autos of my teams that I can.  This is pretty tough for the Bucs, since I have just about every run of the mill auto at this point, and just hope that there's a big price cut on some parallels or less common autos that I need.  But for the Steelers and Pens?  There are still plenty of holes to fill.
 And how can you pass up a dual relic/auto of a huge bust for a buck?  Well, apparently some can.  But not this guy.
 I've been trying to be more selective with my COMC spending, focusing on mid tier cards rather than just adding boatloads of parallels and high serial numbered cards.
But try as I might (and I do find the occasional solid price on mid-end cards), COMC is pretty much geared towards having good prices on lower end parallel types.  And while I'd like to stop my collection from continuing to grow at the scale it has for the past couple years simply out of space concerns, I never mind flipping open a binder and looking at cards like these.

Thanks for taking a look - I'll probably be finishing out the year with COMC posts, since my order was north of 300 cards, before jumping into a project that has me pretty excited for next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

He's Baaaaaaaack

The 2000's were unquestionably my favorite time to be a Pirates fan.  I'm sure a big chunk of that was where I was in my life - middle school, high school, and college.  There was plenty of time to watch just about every single game.  If I wasn't at PNC Park, watching the game was as easy as flipping on the game while doing some homework or hanging out with friends.

But as strange as it is to say, I loved watching the teams as well.  Those terrible, 100 loss teams.  They were teams full of players with potential, guys trying their hardest (usually) to establish themselves as big leaguers, or big leaguers looking to squeeze out another year or two.  While the results were rarely a happy ending, there were few things I would rather have been doing with my time.

So when I read that the Pirates had signed Ryan Vogelsong yesterday, I let out a noise that somehow captured both a cheer and a groan.
See, Ryan Vogelsong is one of those special players for me.

He was the definition of that talent black hole the Pirates were.  An anomaly to the nth degree.

He came to Pittsburgh in the 2001 mid-season trade of Jason Schmidt.  It was a terrible year to be a Pirate fan, a great year to be a baseball fan, and the greatest year in baseball for me.  And to some degree, the Schmidt trade was the hook I hung my Pirate fan hat on for most of the next decade.

Vogelsong was a big pitcher who threw hard and had wicked stuff.  If he just found that extra...something...he could be dominant.  Or so we hoped.

Instead, his wicked stuff would so often slide well out of the strike zone, or leave fastballs over the plate that would get clobbered.  But still...hope.

Injuries delayed his development, and a nasty year in the rotation made it pretty clear he wasn't a major league starter.  But still...that stuff.

I think around 2005, Vogelsong got the nickname White Flag.  His potential kept him on the roster.  With his sharp stuff, the potential was still there to develop into a dominant late innings arm.  And that was where most of his work came - the late innings in games that were largely lost causes.  When Vogelsong came in, the game had pretty much been called.

And the joke ran on through 2005 and 2006 before the Pirates finally gave up hope.

I assumed Vogelsong was out of baseball after a couple more years.  Boy was I surprised when he popped up in the Phillies spring training roster, when I got the two TTM autographs above signed.  And I was even more surprised when he morphed into the pitcher we always hoped to see him be with the Giants a year later.

While it was too little, far too late from the player I loved to hate, I was happy to see a guy who had always been very friendly the few times I met him cashing in on his big league dreams.

And now?  Oh my.  While I think the Pirates should and could have acquired a better pitcher, I think I have a reason to tune in every 5th game next year.  It's a victory lap for my childhood.  The pitcher I always hoped to see put it all together hopefully doing just that a mere decade after I had expected.

So welcome back, Ryan.  May nostalgia serve us both well this year.