Friday, January 30, 2015

An Autograph a Day

The Hall of Fame has its fair share of liars, cheaters, racists, and probably enough narcissists to fill a small convention hall.  But there are also some damn fine human beings in there.  And while its the on field accomplishments that get you into the hall (well, mostly), Bobby Doerr has been one of the best friends imaginable to collectors.

Even at 90+ years of age, Doerr is still about as reliable of a signer as you'll find.  For a guy who was inducted into the HoF a year before I was born, it's amazing that he is still a gracious signer for collectors.

Side note: I imagine there can't be many, if any, other players from the Conlon set still alive.  It's one of the nicest sets ever produced in my eyes, and I'm beyond thrilled to have a card from the set signed.

Happy Friday, everybody!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Autograph a Day

Once upon a time, it looked like Adam Piatt would be crushing homer runs in major league parks.  In 1999, he hit 39 homers in AA, posting a ridiculous .702 slugging percentage.  The next year, he put up a very impressive .490 slugging percentage in the majors during his rookie campaign. 
 At only 24, he was the kind of guy who you could see being part of the next wave of big boppers.  But the 90's ended, the power in baseball went away, and Adam Piatt hit a total of 36 homers between the majors and minors through the rest of his career after that '99 season.

Baseball can be a fickle game. 

Fun in the Sun

Alright, I'm not entirely sure there's a sun outside.  But I think there is, somewhere underneath all that snow and clouds.  But after my last couple posts were bemoaning the state of my collecting interest, I thought it was about time something a little more sunny.

I'm pretty burnt out on a lot of aspects of the hobby right now.  But that doesn't mean there aren't cards out there that still bring a smile to my face.  I've fallen madly in love with the 1998 Donruss Signature set lately.  And looking at these cards, can you really blame me?

These two are actually from the '98 Preview set, which were inserted into packs of '98 Donruss.  Both these cards are some of the more common ones at 400 copies each.  The yellow borders are definitely unique, and give the set a distinctive look.

The set has been a lot of fun to search for.  I'm still holding my budget pretty firm so some of the bigger names are still absent from my collection.  But even on a bargain budget, I'm finding much of this set is relatively easy to track down.

And better yet - I'm having fun doing so!

Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Donruss: What Have You Done to My Childhood?

I've been writing (read: complaining) a lot lately about my general disinterest in cardboard lately.  And I'm taking the best and time tested advice of just scaling back for a bit.  But...sometimes those pesky bookmarks have a mind of their own and just take me to a baseball card site.  Damn computers!

I was pretty excited when I saw a preview gallery for 2015 Donruss baseball.  Donruss was always my go-to flagship product.  In my T-Ball league, I won boxes of 1993 Donruss Series 1 and 2 as part of some kind of end of year awards banquet raffle.  I remember my parents' keeping the boxes in their closet for a year or two, convinced that baseball cards would still some day be worth a fortune, before I finally begged and pleaded enough for them to let me crack the packs.  And I was hooked.  A few years later, my dad took me to a card shop and bought me a (presumably overpriced) factory set of 1990 Donruss.

Topps always just felt very bland, safe.  Fleer's cards, at least on the baseball side, always felt a little too crazy for my taste.  Yellow borders?  That obnoxious gloss free paper in 96 and 97?  And Upper Deck just always felt smug and overpriced to my 9 year old eyes, years and years before I knew the shady dealings doing on in California.  But Donruss?  Their cards were fun.  Cool designs, nice looking  inserts, and plenty of star players to be found.

When Donruss came back in 2001, I bought up just about every pack in the area I could find, and am (slowly) working on a master set.

And while I didn't rip any packs of last year's product, it was a favorite among my group of team collectors for group breaks.

So 2015, sign me up!

...and then I clicked the link.

Wait, huh?  The base design is actually not bad - colorful, but still featuring a nice photo.  But...that photo.  Panini, like Topps, has been on a "we just got our first copy of photoshop" kick for a few years, using any and all combinations of filters to alter photos, making cards look like something more out of the movie 300 than a baseball field.  And now, it's made its way to the flagship product.  You'll notice filters have been applied to make the background more pixellated, and also to enhance the contrast on the lines on MadBum's body.  The result?   It looks more like an actor in front of a green screen circa 1983 than a photo of a real, live baseball game.

But we were just getting started.
These cards do have backs, right?  Let's take a look at what is on this card.  Date.  Inning.  Opponent.  Distance.  Set name.  Player name.  and of all those, why is the player's freaking name the smallest font on the card?  Can't some...any! of that information go on the back of the card?  I know, I know, nobody reads card backs anymore.  Well, this solves that.  Just put everything on the front!  And unless there is some really awesome foil added to this card (fingers crossed), it literally looks like something a middle schooler could whip up in 10 minutes.

But my heart wasn't done breaking yet.
In 2001, the All-Time Diamond Kings set was part of what made me fall in love with Donruss.  The set featured beautifully painted artwork on a card that only accented it.  They were some of the cleanest, most compelling cards I've seen.  And this?  Fine, you won't pay for real art.  Budget cutbacks, needed money for the vending machine, whatever.  I don't like it, but...instead, you decide to just apply a filter to a picture, and pretend like that's kind of close enough?  Oh, hey...let's stick a little cutout on these too, so it looks really artsy.  But apparently so much time was spent on applying these time consuming photoshop effects (which do take at least 30 seconds) that any kind of design to the border didn't fit into the time constraints.  I'm not bitter.  Nah.

And I guess that's my point.  Where is the care and effort put into sets?  I don't mean how many different guys did you get to sign for your product.  I mean are these baseball cards that I will look at and think - Wow, that's just an awesome looking card.  The hobby has changed.  The collector base has changed.  The business of sports has changed.  I get that.  But for better or worse, what hasn't changed is what I want from a baseball card product.  I want good looking, fun cards of my favorite baseball players.  I want a card where it feels like care was made with the photo selection, rather than just picking one of 5 stock photos that have been repeated and cropped in different ways for the past 4 years.  So I guess when I say I'm losing interest in cardboard, I really mean I've lost patience with year after year after year of product that don't really offer me the things I want to collect.  And yeah, sure there are years and years of products to collect and chase that did offer the things I enjoy collecting.  But it's not that hard to imagine some bizarro world where the hobby changed just a little less, or a little differently, and 2015 Donruss is an amazing set that makes me want to go out and buy a whole case, rather than go flip through my 2001 binder.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Impulse Buys, Set Collecting, and the Art of Finding a Good Deal

I' mentioned a while back that I decided to start collecting the 1998 Donruss Signature Series autograph set.  I had the best intentions of sticking to the 99 card base red set.  I swear, I really did.  

And then...I didn't.  After all, most of the 90's star power was short printed to be in the parallel sets only.  So my altered mission statement was the red set plus whatever select players who didn't make have base autographs that I could afford.

I was browsing ebay last week when I spotted one of those very short printed cards - Ellis Burks.  Burks was perhaps one of the lesser of the Blake Street Bomber crowd, but this was a great chance to pick up an auto of him.  Better yet, it was only $1.99.  Reading the auction description, I noticed the card was an un-numbered version, presumably one held back as a replacement that later made its way out the door during a bankruptcy sale.   Such things rarely travel by themselves, so I checked the seller's store to see if there were any other '98 Signatures.

 As luck would have it, the seller had a handful of un-numbered greens and blues, all at decent discounts on what the card would sell for as the numbered, pack pulled version.
And after all...combined shipping, yada, yada.  So yes.  I technically violated my rule of just having one autograph per player in the set.  But...the blues just look so damn nice. 

All 5 cards ran me about $15.  That's the price of a single pack of the 1998 set when it released, which most likely would have yielded something like a Kevin Orie base auto.   Shot of winning the lottery there's no way I'd ever complete the actual master set.  But I do think I'll round up as many of the blues and greens as I can when they can be had for a decent price.

Or at least that's what I'll tell myself for now...

Burning Up and Burning Out

I've been feeling pretty wiped out with a cold the last couple days.  And as the cardboard mountains begin to grow around me, it becomes way too easy to start thinking about the things I love and hate about this hobby.

I've quite literally been collecting as long as I can remember.  My first pack of cards was a 1991 Topps pack from the local gas station (along with a slurpee) when I was about 4 years old.  Those packs from the gas station or when dad came home from work turned into to trips to the local card shop after music lessons with mom, which turned into multiple hour drives across states for the National, or taking a vacation day off work so I could get a jump on the crowds at a big show.

Card collecting has become an integral part to who I am.  It's a tangible connection to sports.  And it's a hobby where I have met some fantastic people.  But there are days when I sit here blowing my nose way too much, sleep deprived from barely being able to breathe all night where I wonder what the point of it is.

Don't get me wrong.  I had a blast hitting a local show last weekend.  I can't wait for the Robert Morris show in May.  I'm even tossing around the idea of proposing a long weekend in Chicago so I can have a day at the National again this summer.

But there's a real big part of me that just feels like I'm going through the motions when it comes to collecting.  I look at the stacks of cardboard around me that need cataloged and sorted - piles of COMC pickups, show purchases, and a few ebay additions.  Commons, shiny things, numbered cards.  Of those few hundred cards, there are maybe 2 or 3 that I would describe as a card I love.

Most of them?  Wants?  Sure.  But my affection for them is no greater or less than the other 20,000+ I already had.  There just hasn't been much that excites me about the hobby.  I don't mean excited the way I feel before a show, or during a COMC sale.  Those still get the adrenaline rushing.  I mean excited in terms of something new from this hobby that makes me say "I have to have that card."

I felt that way about the 2000 Gold Label reprints in Topps this year.  Or when I snagged a new Kordell Stewart rookie card I didn't have for a dime at a flea market last month.  But for the most part it's just...going through the motions.  A 2015 Topps case break because I'm not really ready to stop collecting.  New pickups here and there.  New mini collections popping up regularly.  Toying around with custom cards.  They're all fun, in their own way.  But all seem to be a larger symptom of just not really having anything that I'm excited about chasing, or collecting, or adding.

I'm a collector.  It's what I do.  And I could have 10 million cards, and I'd still be able to find *something* new that I wanted in a dime box.  But as far as something new, shiny, exciting that really gets me excited about collecting?  It's just not there for me right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The brown acid is bad

I don't know what exactly was being passed around the Topps offices in late 1974.  But whatever it was...I think we can safely say the 1975 set was the most unique in Topps' long history.  And from a custom standpoint, allows for nearly limitless color combinations.

Lunchtime Custom

I have a friend who lives near the White Sox spring training facility and wanted a few customs to get signed this Spring.

This is just round one.  I'll probably be whipping up a few more designs in the coming weeks, some classics, other my own designs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

COMC Boxing Day Pickups

I've never really considered Boxing Day a real holiday.  Or...even considered it at all, actually.  But COMC felt the need to run yet another promotion with free shipping, and who am I to complain?  The deals were mostly rehashes of the Black Friday specials.  But whatever - I can always find new cards to buy.  And this time was no exception.

I've already snagged many of the Pirate cards on COMC that are at a price I'm willing to pay.  But I was able to add a few new autographs to my small Pens collection for around a buck each.

What can I say?  I'm a sucker for autos.

 The baseball pickups were decidedly more exciting.  The green refractor was the bastard stepchild of the Bowman Chrome rainbow.  It was one of those obnoxious uncirculated cards in 2005, and then disappeared from the face of the planet.  But they are really sharp looking in person.
 Nick Kingham should be working his way into the Pirates rotation sometime this season, unless he ends up as trade bait.  I was pretty surprised to snag an auto for just $1.25.
 And while I don't add many Cutch cards since his prices have jumped, I was able to find good deals on two shiny cards.  The Topps reprint fad has gotten a bit old, but if you make it shiny...
 Meanwhile, Panini has actually put some creative and innovation into Prizm in my opinion.  The down side is the cards all have impossible to follow names.  I think this is a Target parallel of some sort.  But I could be totally wrong.  Either way, it sure does look purty.

Card Show Pickups

I was able to triple dip over the weekend, stopping home for my mom's birthday, visiting with some friends, and hitting a mall show nearby.  Overall it was a great weekend, even if the show was a little weaker than usual.

Pirate cards were pretty slim 'pickins.  I managed to find a whopping 5 new Pirate cards.  But the other areas of my collection benefitted, including more than doubling my Geno Smith collection.  When Geno was heading into the draft, I had every intention of starting a super collection of my former student.  When the pick was announced that he was going to the Jets, the only thing I could say was "shit."  Not only was he going to a team that would quickly throw him into a starting job that he frankly wasn't ready for, he also went to the biggest market, undoubtedly driving his card prices higher than I would want to pay.

Obviously the last couple years haven't been that kind.  I still believe he can be a solid NFL quarterback, but I certainly hope it comes elsewhere than the media circus.

But the silver lining is that the rough season has finally pushed his cards into some of the discount boxes and into my collection.
A copy of the Crusade card had been sitting in my COMC watch list for a good deal more than the $.33 I paid for it.  And I was thrilled to pay $1 for the Prizm card.  I'm sure some people aren't happy with them, but I love the crazy number of colored refractors Prizm has added this year to their football product.

 In addition to these awesome cards, I grabbed a stack of 10 or 15 base new base cards for ten or twenty cents each.
 Finally my Geno collection will look like a collection, rather than a few sad cards in a page.
 And of course I haven't forgotten about the other WVU alums either.  Me like shiny.

 Keeping with the college theme, I snagged this sweet Randy Moss Press Pass card.  If you haven't had the chance, check out the RandU documentary on Nextflix.  I've enjoyed the vast majority of the 30 for 30 documentaries, though I think at this point ESPN has produced way more than 30.
 And what fun would a card show be without some dimebox digging?  I've been wanting a copy of this Wizard of Oz card for a while.  I wish we would see some of the goofy 90's painted Fleer cards again.
 And keeping up the retro feel, I love the border on this Verlander.  Panini did really well with the inserts in 2014 Donruss.  Now if they could just stop screwing up base sets...

 I can never say no to an auto out of a dime box.
 The Fleer Retro products UD put out are probably some of my favorite from the past couple years.  It's a shame to see them losing the college license.  But money talks in today's card industry.
 I started a small Wil Myers collection a few months ago.  But I may be on strike from adding his 2015 cards until the Padres make some changes to their godawful uniforms.
 The Pirate pickups were uneventful at best.  For whatever reason, Pirate cards as about as plentiful now as they were in 2006 when the Pirates were losing 100 games.
 I was happy to snag this SP'd Marte Diamond Kings for $.33, which completes my Donruss base set.
 I'm still kind of lost as to why the Pirates get so little local love.  In the 20 years the Pirates were losing, I'm sure many collectors turned their attention to the Steelers and Pens.  They were championship caliber teams with superstar players to collect.  But I am kind of surprised how hard it has been to find cards now that the team has turned things around.
 But the real star of this show?  As I was hitting the last table of the show, one of two dealers on the upper floor of the mall who didn't seem to be getting much traffic, I almost turned and headed home.  It looked like the typical ebay+30% table, where common autographs were priced in the dreaded 5/$20 box.  Nothing craps on a show like seeing cards I know I can buy for $1 on COMC grossly overpriced.
 But I decided to look through the dealer's cheaper stuff.  And boy am I glad I did.
 His dollar box looked pretty much on par with the autographs - Jeter base cards in toploaders for $1.
 But when I hit the Geno green/yellow Prizm, I figured I'd keep looking in hopes of finding some other cool Prizm cards.  Instead, I found about half a dozen parallels from 2014 Topps Tek.
 I've been excited about the Tek set since it was initially announced.  I decided not to order any boxes since Topps waited until the release date to put out a checklist, and after the the trainwreck that was Stadium Club, I didn't want a $50 box of Chris Owings.
 I asked the dealer if he had any other Tek cards, and boy am I glad I did.  He said he had been waiting all day for somebody to ask about them, and pulled out a big stack.  He said he didn't bother with all the variations, so just pull out whatever I wanted at $3/1.  Most were the common patterns, but I did find a couple of the more rare patterns.
 All in all, I now have 3 glorious binder pages of Tek cards, mostly of the 90's players from the set.  Better yet, when all was said and paid for, I paid about $.20 a card for the commons.

Add in the 3 autos I purchased for a total of $20 on ebay a while back, and I basically have the equivalent of 3 boxes and some spare base cards of Tek for a grand total of less than $30.  Sure, I didn't hit a coveted Big Mac auto, but I think I would still be pretty darn pleased had I pulled all these cards from a box.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

An Autograph a Day

This one wasn't a ttm return, but rather a card I found while digging through a dollar box at a show.  Non-autograph collectors are always quick to pass up anything that isn't pack certified these days.  And that's fine by me, since I've found some amazing gems in dollar and two dollar boxes last year.  I'd much rather have Carter pictured as a Blue Jay, but for a dollar, I'm not going to complain.

Hopefully the same mall show this weekend will yield some more gems.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Autograph a Day

Dave Nied was the Rockies first pick in the expansion draft.  Which basically meant he was the best prospect who wasn't good enough for his team to protect.  But after an impressive minor league track record and success in a short major league sample at 23, it was reasonable to think the Rockies had plucked a pretty solid piece from the pitching-rich Braves.
 But the results weren't so promising in the pre-humidor Coors days.  His minor league numbers after two years in the majors weren't much better.  But I think this is definitely a case of "what if" had Nied developed elsewhere, and not been exposed to the horrors that were Blake Street so early in his major league career.  Coors Field - where arms go to die.