Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Relativism of Relativity

My lame card show angst is taking the blogosphere by storm.  Nick just posted a fantastic blog on his local card shop, and there have been some really great conversations in the comments of my last couple posts that have left the subject lingering on my brain.  I take credit (or responsibility, depending on how you view things) for the half-cogent ramblings here.  But credit for getting the wheels turning goes to come thought provoking discussion from Nick and Tony L.

For those just tuning in, I'll do one of those little "relevant plot points from the last few episodes that are going to be relevant in this episode" recaps that always annoy me on tv shows.  Except on Buffy.  Buffy can do no wrong.

*fade to last week's episode*
I went to a mall show last weekend with six dealers set up, and 4 of them had their cards priced like Mark McGwire was still hitting 60 homers.

/cut to close shot of disappointed face.

*abrupt cut with voice over*
Having lost all hope in card collecting, I went to the local card vendor at the nearby flea market.  People were excited to buy cards like it really was 1998.  I even bought some cards from 1998!  Except prices were fair, people were happy, and there was nary a Beanie Baby in sight

/fade to intro music

Alright, now that you're caught up...

The frustrations that boiled to the surface this weekend were a long time coming.  Longtime readers (if such people exist) might remember that I've often vented about the old, out of touch, and overpriced dealers at local shows for quite some time.  It just so happened that rather than being able to avoid the 2 or 3 most egregious offenders and buy from the other 5-10 dealers set up at shows, this particular show was rough.  There were simply almost no other options.  Cue the ranting.

I'll try not to revisit those issues too much here.  I was reading a thread on a card forum recently where a show promoter was looking for some advice.  He had a guy that always buys multiple tables and puts out low end boxes - the kind of quarter stuff many of us love finding.  Apparently a few other dealers had been complaining  that they wouldn't set up at the show if this guy was allowed to sell, because customers were spending too much time at his table looking through quarter cards and didn't shop with them.  Let's not even begin to analyze the logic of that.

The most interesting part was from a dealer who jumped in saying that he believes there should be "value" in the hobby, and selling cards in discount bins like $.25, .50, and 1 boxes conditions buyers to expect to be able to buy cards for cheap.

And I think, to one degree or another, this brings us to the core of the mentality and perspective that can be so maddening.

I understand the rationale behind the dealer who sets up at a show with cards priced at full book, or a set percentage off Beckett value.  It's very likely that this guy was, for all intents and purposes, able to sell cards through the 1980's, 1990's, and chunks of the 2000's quite successfully with that formula.  And when you get so set in your ways and patterns, it's no more than a hop, skip, and a jump to think that collectors should still be willing to pay those prices, dammit.  If a parallel /50 would easily sell for $15 in 2002, why should he put it in the $.50 box now?

We talk a lot about the changing hobby landscape.  Or at least I do.  The internet was a big change.  The shifts in manufacturers and the styles of products has unquestionably had an impact.  And the prevalence of 100 case group breaks and the like has probably done the hobby few favors.

But somehow we, or at least I, often skip over the most basic element: supply and demand.  It's a complex issue in and of itself, and ties in with the ways the manufacturers produce cards (remember when jersey cards easily sold for $5-10?).  But let's look at the demand side.  There just flat out aren't as many collectors around today as there were in 2005, let alone 1995 or 1985.  The secondary aspect of the hobby has always been rooted in scarcity, whether real or perceived.

In theory, a dealer can establish a set benchmark.  A gold refractor out of /50 should sell for...$4.  But that $4 figure was essentially a ratio between the copies available and number of collectors who wanted that card.  If the number of collectors who were willing to pay that price was close to the print run, then the value was on point.  If the number of collectors who desired the card went above the availability, the price would rise.  But what about when the number of collectors who desire a card falls well below the supply, even for a seemingly "rare" card?  Go take a look at COMC.  Some gold refractors I've purchased have sat for weeks or even months as low as $2 before I finally pulled the trigger.  I've seen some veteran gold ref's sit even in the $1 range.  Granted this is a gross oversimplification of economics.  But as the number of collectors (note: collectors.  Not flippers.  Not prospectors.  Collectors.) has shrunk, it's inevitable that prices would, or should, adjust accordingly.  But when you sold the same card for pretty much the same price for 25 years, maybe it's not unexpected that you wouldn't react kindly to the realization that buyers simply aren't interested in paying those prices.

Which brings us to the small fish in the small pond.  Throughout high school and most of college, I pretty much stuck to the local mall show circuit.  If you went to one of these shows even in the best of times, vintage was hard to come by.  There were two of the old trolls we've been discussing, one who sells vintage for full book (actually overbook, since he sells just about everything at near mint prices) and the other who has the famous book price/our price stickers and big signs promoting everything being 30%(!!!) off book.  So for a long time, my vintage collection was about a dozen cards, many of which came through online trades or gifts.  If an out of town dealer set up or an older collector was selling his collection, I would be thrilled to pay around $2-3 per card for pretty much anything pre-1972.

Somewhere around 2010 I found out about the big Robert Morris show, a 100+ table show that is by far the biggest in the area.  My first day there, I was standing mouth agape when I saw dealers with rows and rows of $1.00 vintage boxes.  Later in the show I found dealers that had vintage commons as low as $.50 or $.75.  The show draws some of the biggest national vintage dealers, and while I'm sure they make most of their profit off of higher grade cards sold to set collectors, I've been happy to fill my team sets with mid grade copies.

But I've noticed a trend in my years of attending the Robert Morris show.  Prices have continued dipping downward.  Last year I picked about 50 cards from a 3/$1 vintage dealer.  And we're not talking late 60's cards, or low grade.  The cards were nicely centered with decent corners.  I found cards going back as far as 1957, with large quantities of 1960 and up.  Other dealers had gone as low as $.25 on some of their low grade commons.

These are dealers who spend their year traveling the country to sell at the largest shows, and whose cost for the weekend between tables, hotel, and food has presumably only gone up in recent years.  If their prices are getting slashed, I can only imagine it's with just cause.

Maybe it's all irrelevant.  Or at least relative.  I guess the local guys can continue to ask their dated prices, if the entire local market becomes them and their 4 equally out of touch compatriots.  Local collectors will either look elsewhere online or in person, or simply stop buying altogether.  Maybe a few will willingly or unwillingly pony up the inflated prices.  But the shift in pricing we see isn't simple enough to be attributed to that damn dealer undercutting everybody with his quarter box, or that confounded internets.  We may have simply reached the point of saturation where the number of copies available for anything beyond that top crust of the collecting spectrum simply outweighs demand in most cases.

I'm not sure what entirely that means for buyers or sellers.  Clearly many aspects of the hobby have adapted accordingly, from the biggest show dealers, to COMC, to the way we as collectors buy and trade.  And perhaps I feel a little sympathy for the dealers who are still unfolding their table and hoping suddenly those buyers from 1997 will walk back this weekend.

But that doesn't mean I don't wish they would cut the price on their Nate McLouth auto by about 80%...

Who Needs Card Shows? My Flea Market Finds

I was talking with Kate Sunday night, telling her about some of the cards I picked up over the weekend.  I mentioned a couple cards I had bought with the intention to resell and defray some of the costs of what was, for me, a rather lavish weekend in spending.  I was probably rambling on and on about how could somebody not realize how hard these cards to find, blah, blah, blah when she just looked at me and said, "You realize you probably know more about baseball cards than most of these people, right?"

And I had, frankly, never looked at it like that.  There ended up being a pretty interesting discussion in the comments of my last post about dealers at card shows.  I'm passionate about collecting, and the overall health of this hobby.  Heck, you have to love collecting to take the time and energy to write a blog dedicated to it.  But some part of Collecting Mark is still that teenage kid that assumes, or maybe these days hopes, that the people who take part in the commerce of the hobby have some greater knowledge about both the cards themselves and the buying and selling of them than I, Willie Lowman, Collector.

I guess experience should have taught my better by now.  I've dealt with plenty of dealers who, simply put, had no idea what they were doing.  Sometimes it's pricing, sometimes it's knowing what the card or how rare, and sometimes it's just basic people skills.  After all, all it takes is a couple boxes of cardboard and a few bucks in your pocket to set up at a card show.  It seems pretty foolish to assume that some of these guys have some greater Warren Buffett-esque understanding of the more intricate underworkings of the hobby finances.

But for as dissatisfied as I was with my card show trip Saturday, Sunday more than made up for it.
 I woke up early, before Kate was even close to waking up, and headed up the road to the flea market card stand I discovered last week.  I'd be lying if I didn't say I had been looking forward to it since last week.  There were still so many boxes to dig through!
 For all the things that the dealers did "wrong," walking into the flea market was the complete opposite.  Even early on a Sunday, the welcoming atmosphere I gushed about last week was still there.  Even though I had only been there for the first time a week earlier, and maybe we spoke directly for 30 seconds, the owner Ken immediately jumped into conversation.  He apologized for forgetting my name, but remembered every other detail that came up in conversation last week.

I have dealers I have been buying off of at shows regularly for more than a decade who act like they have never seen me before, let alone forget my name.  I found a couple new boxes, and dug in.  The conversation alone was enough to keep me coming back.  But the cardboard didn't hurt either.
 I started out digging in the $.25 box.  Or at least I thought I was in the $.25 box.  I started pulling out some really great cards for my collection, like the three above.  I found a nice stack of Vlad Expos cards, the newest addition to my on again, off again player collection.  And the McGwire home run card?  I remember when those were $10-20 cards.

But then I looked at the box again.  My eyes had tricked me: these weren't $.25 cards.  They were $.05 cards!
 When I started finding runs of Topps Gold parallels, I had double check with Ken.  I didn't want to unintentionally rip the guy off if these cards had been mistakenly put in the wrong box, or if I was misreading the pricing.  Nope, 20 for a dollar.

 Welcome to collecting heaven.
 But that's the thing.  Ken and I shared pretty similar philosophies on collecting.   And it showed in the steady stream of people that kept filtering into the stand as it got a little later in the morning.  One customer noted, "There are more people in your stall than the rest of the flea market combined."  The math may have been a little off, but not by much.
 Every dealer has their own philosophies on collecting.  I can't necessarily say any one is right or wrong, simply that some line up more with my own beliefs and others less.  The "my card, my price" crowd aren't are certainly entitled to their opinion.  I realize some people do this as a business, and to them an extra dollar in their pocket is the ultimate end goal.  The road there matters little.  And perhaps that's just the way of the world.  But to every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And for me, there is no such thing as a "must have."  I've gladly walked away from tables that had a card or cards I really wanted, simply because I found the dealer to be an entirely unreasonable human being.
 See, my dad has been in advertising for the better part of 50 years.  And whether explicitly or through simply observing, I have always been a firm believer that the way you treat people matters.  I'm sure some may disagree.  But the little things have always gone a long way with me.  Something as simple as a manager stopping over to ask how our meal was at a restaurant, or those little trays of cookies they put out at the bakery in the grocery store can be enough to win over my business.  And the stubborn Italian in me never forgets a bad experience.
And one thing I can definitely say is that treating people well and pricing cards fairly was working out really well.  In the couple hours I was hanging around, there were probably $3-400 of wax broken.  It seemed like there was a pretty consistent crowd of regulars who stopped in, some just to pick up a few packs while others were there as long as I was, alternating between chit chat and grabbing a couple packs of Bowman Chrome or football products.
As my stacks grew, my biggest purchase was the Nippert auto for a whopping $.25 (actually $.20, since I found 5 cards for $1).  But the time spent talking about sports, the Pirates chances this year, and cards were better than anything I could pull out of a box.  And believe me, I was pulling out some great cards.  But it was the environment and the experience that stood in such stark contrast to the drab, deflated card show I had gone to the day prior.
I've driven home the point enough times by now.  But if you grabbed someone off the street who knew nothing about sports cards and put them in the car with me Saturday and Sunday (we will, for the sake of this exercise, overlook the fact that kidnapping is frowned upon in our society) and asked them what they thought the health of the hobby looked like?  I think you would get radically different answers.

The mall show was half a dozen dealers, and half of those were north of 70.  The dealers outnumbered the customers, and in fact a couple had abandoned their tables and were working out deals with each other.  I was far and away the youngest person there.
The flea market?  There were a couple other twenty-somethings or early 30's folks there.  Everybody was joining in the conversation.  Someone who had no knowledge of the state of the hobby or its ever shrinking economic footprint would probably think business was good.  And for this little slice of the cardboard pie, it is.
But enough about comparing apples and oranges.  The cardboard!  Between dime and nickel cards, my pile had started pushing 300 cards.  I decided it was time to cash out before I forgot how many cards I had or my precariously teetering pile took a tumble off the table.
The grand total for all that cardboard?  $10.  The prices were already dirt cheap - and then he knocked a few more dollars off the top?  I might be a little crazy, but I kind of felt bad.  As I said earlier, when I find a place that treats me well, I'm more than happy to give them my business.
I'm not the "cash burning a hole in my pocket" kind of guy.  Kate's favorite adjectives to describe me are "cheap" and "tightwad" (I prefer "frugal").  But I still had cash in my pocked, and I'd be damned if I didn't find some way to spend it with Ken.  He had a small row of some Pittsburgh autos and game used cards.  Most of the Pirates were more common prospect autos that I already had.  But I did spot this nice looking Marte jersey/auto.  I figured it might be a little more than I wanted to spend, but was worth asking.

The price?  $8.

Well, sign me up.  This is only my 4th Marte certified auto, so it's a welcome addition.  I think it's also my first relic of his as well.

There wasn't much else that caught my eye, but I figured while I was on a roll I would ask the prices on a couple of the hockey cards.  I'm not a big Penguins fan, but I do enjoy diversifying my autograph collection from time to time.

Fleury has been a bit of a divisive figure in Pittsburgh sports since he reached the NHL.  I like watching the guy play, but I can understand how his occasional inconsistency can drive fans crazy.  But I have wanted an autograph for a while.  His prices have dropped a little bit, but I was happy to pay $10 for this card, which seems to be about as low as his autos sell for.

I came away with one heck of a haul, and I think Ken was happy to see that many cards go out the door since most of his customers seem to be the wax only types.  There was one other card that had me nearly salivating when I heard how much he wanted for it.  But I was out of cash, and it was already getting to be lunch time.  So the card is on hold for me, which will probably have to wait until the weekend after Easter.  But I think it's safe to say it will be one of the biggest non-Pirate cards in my collection.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Card Show Recap

I'm pretty methodical about my card shopping.  Maybe a little too much so.  On family vacations, I would always be in the back seat with my drawstring bag holding my portable cd player and a few cd's, a couple books to read, and a printout of the location and a map to just about any card shop within a 30 mile radius of the route we would be taking thanks to Topps' old Hobby Shop Locator.  And my wonderful parents were usually kind enough to indulge my insane thirst for cardboard with a trip to a couple card shops that were along our route.

I've always been to have incredibly patient and loving people in my lives.  Saturday morning was mapped out with military precision.  We were heading over my parents' to make chocolate covered eggs with my mom using my grandma's recipe.  It was a family tradition that every year grandma would make these flavored eggs, and this would be the first time we would be making them on our own since she died.  But on the way, Kate and I had stops planned at a flea market and then driving 10 minutes out of the way to hit a mall show before going over my parents'.  Just the way Kate wanted to spend Saturday morning, I'm sure.
 I knew pretty quickly the show was going to be bad.  It's the same promoter who runs the shows I have gone to the past two months at a mall closer to my parents.  Unfortunately, different mall, same dealers.  I had found some great cards at the flea market just minutes earlier, but it was still a little disappointing.  Though I'm sure Kate didn't mind the fact that I wouldn't be there too long, since she has been trying to cut back on clothes buying and having to kill time in a mall isn't the most conducive way to do that.

As I walked the line of six dealers, there was only one new face from the usual crowd.  I was thrilled to find a box of 1993 Studio for just $5.

As I was waiting for him to count out my change, I looked down at his display case.  I'm not usually a "display case card" kind of guy.  My buying is usually more firmly cemented in the discount boxes.  

But I spotted this Cal Hogue Heritage Real Ones auto sitting with a $15 price tag.  I asked the dealer if he could do any better, and was a little shocked when he said he could do $10.

The early Real Ones autographs have become damn near impossible to find.  The signature is a little darkened, but I can't be picky on such a tough find.  I have been trying to get a copy since about 2005 or 2006 when I started a project to collect an autograph of every Pirate who had a certified autograph at the time.  That project eventually snowballed out of control to my 14,500 card monstrosity of a collection.  But the Hogue auto has always been elusive.  Hogue was a good TTM signer before his death in 2005, but I didn't get a chance to get his auto on one of the various Archives preprint sets he was a part of.  And even then, the Heritage auto was a tough find, with autographs falling far less frequently than do in today's Heritage cases.

I definitely got a good deal, and perhaps even better than I had realized.  I couldn't find any copies listed on ebay or any completed sales.  A copy with an unfaded signature sold for $35 on COMC.  But I'm just thrilled to cross off a card that has been sitting on my want list for the better part of a decade.

 And of course it wouldn't be a card show without at least a little dimebox digging.  I stopped by the boxes of the guy I bought my monster box of Pirates off of last time.  It looked like largely the same inventory as the past two months, but I did find a few new additions.  There was a large stack of 2000 MLB Showdown cards.  I never played the game, but have been wanting to buy a starter set for a year or two.  I picked out about 30 different cards, hoping to give myself a little variety if I ever do decide to play.  Yes, I realize I'm about 13 years late to the party.
 I had a couple really positive card buying experiences this weekend at flea markets, which I'll save for their own post.  But card shows?  Maybe the mall show is dead.  Or at least around Pittsburgh.  I don't know.  But looking around as I walked past the cases of the same dealers with the same tired inventory made me wonder if there was another way.
 Granted the mall wasn't the best venue.  In the last 4 months the mall had a gigantic brawl with dozens of teens fighting and a shooting, both of which made national headlines.  I'm sure that has impacted foot traffic.  But the shows around this area just generally lack any kind of reference point to the realities of this hobby.
 When I was living in Ohio, the monthly show in Dayton felt like it was largely in step with the pulse of the hobby.  There were dime boxes and vintage dealers, guys peddling nothing but a table of high end autos and patches.  But there were also two or three dealers who could always be counted on to have singles of the latest products, priced in line with what the cards were actually worth.  When Heritage hit, commons were instantly available for a dime and most dealers had their short prints out at $2-3 each.  A product like Donruss would have common parallels in boxes for $1-2, the lower end game used and autographs priced reasonably, and a full array of lesser cards to pick through.
 I found a dealer with some Donruss and Heritage at this mall show.  Short prints were priced at $10.  Purple refractors at $5.  Most of the Donruss cards were priced at $5 as well.  Sure, you might get the occasional sale to the passerby who wants to buy his son a card of his favorite player and doesn't mind throwing $5 or $10.  But I never see any collectors buying.  I never see the table so packed you have to wait 15 minutes until you see somebody walk away and a spot open up.
I know those guys in Ohio made money.  I set up alongside them a few times, and they were pretty friendly in conversation about their strategy.  I had a completely different kind of inventory, and also bought from them often for my own collection, so they probably didn't see me as competition.  I want to support local shows.  I like digging through boxes, and want to see those opportunities continue to exist.  But this promoter is scheduled to hold shows every month, alternating between malls.

I'd have to be an idiot to go back next month, knowing I'll have to drive almost an hour to pick through the exact same boxes I did this month.  And walk past the same showcases as the month before.  Most of the dealers I talk to grumble about how a lot of people in this area are getting out of the hobby.  How it's not worth the time and energy any more.  But what incentive do buyers have to drive to a show to see the same overpriced and repetitive inventory month after month?  If you don't turn over inventory and stock fresh product, I have little incentive to spend a dime with you, or even look at your table.  That Ian Snell autograph I decided wasn't worth $8 in 2007?  Yeah, I still don't want to pay $8 for it today.

I know I've given variations of this same rant a few times on the blog.  But it was both frustrating and telling to come home from a weekend of card buying and have a stack of about 500 cards on my printer, only maybe 40 of which came from the most logical and likely place to find baseball cards I wanted to purchase - a baseball card show.

But that Heritage auto?  That made it all worth it.  I'd be an idiot to go back next month.  But I may in fact be an idiot.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

1993 Studio Box Break

I think it's safe to say that when a card show is the least interesting part of your collecting weekend, you had a pretty good weekend.

I came away with a pretty impressive haul from two flea markets this weekend, and my scanner is piled high with stacks of cards that still need sorted.  The card show was far less impressive.  The dealers were largely repeats of the other mall show in the area...different mall, same story.  There were about 6 dealers, and two of the guys looked like they weren't going to sell a single card all weekend.  It looked like one guy had decided it was finally time to part with that late 80's fortune.  He had wax packs of overproduction era cards for a cool $2 each, and a box of late 80's/early 90's star cards priced at what I can only imagine was full book in 1991.  Unfortunately for him, the guy two tables down was selling boxes of wax from that era for a whopping $5 each.

I spent way too much time trying to track down a box of 1993 Studio at the national without any luck,  Cheap wax was everywhere, but 93 Studio was nowhere to be found.  So I was thrilled to see not one but two boxes sitting there.  I gladly grabbed one, as well one of the few singles I managed to find that I'll save for a separate post.

The box held 36 packs with 12 cards per pack.  In short, a crap ton of cardboard compared to the 5 card, $400 boxes that are so popular today.  Unfortunately the cards inside the packs were pretty well stuck together.  With a little effort, I was able to largely separate the cards without too much damage.  
The base cards are some of the nicest out there.  I love the pairing of the closeup shots of jerseys and caps, and the holofoil signature really pops.

But the inserts?  Not too shabby.  The Heritage inserts are great, and I think I hit three of the more interesting ones in the product.  Pillbox caps need to make a comeback.

The other inserts were a little less exciting.  Unfortunately the Superstars on Canvas inserts seemed to have issue sticking to the other cards in the pack.  Both copies I pulled had some damage.

But when every base card looks this nice, it's easy to not mind too much.

This has been a set I wanted to build for quite a while.  I thought buying a box would handle that.  The base set is only 220 cards, and with over 400 cards in the box math would seem to be in my favor.

Or...not.  Despite pulling 3 and 4 copies of quite a few cards, I'm still about half a dozen cards short of a set.  I do have some singles from my childhood collection, so hopefully I'll luck out and knock a couple other off that needs list.

The product just has a really high end feel to it.  I wish I could have been old enough to appreciate how radically the hobby changed in the early 90's.  Compare these cards to the other products coming out even a year or two earlier, and these blow them out of the water.  I'd put these card up against the famed Elite Series inserts any day.  The set just has a look and feel that holds up to this day.  Compare that to the pulp stock Topps cards of just three years earlier, and it feels like the hobby moved lightyears ahead in just a few years.

You can't beat $5 a box for just any product.  But one of the nicest looking base sets out there?  This box made the entire trip worth while.

But what I spotted in the dealer's case while paying him topped everything.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Probably my only complaint about 90's cards is the fact that the Pirates were almost entirely overlooked from all the great insert sets during the hobby's insert boom.  Not that I can really make a case otherwise.  Brian Giles and Jason Kendall may have warranted inclusion in a few more insert releases.  But for the most part, the Pirates didn't have the players worthy of being in a set of the 10 or 20 best players in the game.

Fortunately it was a different story on the football and hockey side of things.  For a while, the Steelers had the hottest thing in the hobby.  Slash was just...well, cool.  It seemed like he could just about anything on the field, and perhaps more importantly do it in ways that hadn't been seen before.
 I decided to revisit my Kordell collection a couple years ago.  And by collection, we're talking the dozen or so cards I had pulled as a kid, including my treasured Stadium Club RC.  Some of the higher end cards still sell for decent money.  But with the insane number of inserts out there, there's plenty to chase that falls in my price range.
 All these cards came from the card show last month.  Better yet, there were only $.25 each.  A few are numbered, and a few others are inserts that would have been considered a big pull back in the day.
All the cards had price stickers ranging between $5-7, which I'm guessing would be about what they would have booked for in the early 00's.  The dealer said he had picked up a huge Stewart collection a couple years ago, and was happy to see somebody picking up the Slash cards.

Somewhere out there I'm sure there are some great Kordell collections sitting in boxes, collecting dust.  Hopefully one of these days I'll find them.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Great Start to the Weekend

Nothing tops coming home and and finding cards waiting in your mailbox.  My trading has nearly ground to a half in recent months, and my buying has largely been via COMC and in person at shows and flea markets.  Trips to the mailbox have been a little less exciting.

But it looks like we're starting the weekend off right, with not one but two packages waiting for me today.  Shane from Shoebox Legends and I both had some stacks sitting around that could use a warm, loving home.

 Shane sent me a great assortment of cards, and a good majority of them were new to me.
 Maybe it's just for me, but some of the most "common" parallels are always the hardest to track down for me.  The Diamond Sparkle parallels are still my favorite of the various foil variations Topps has done in recent years.  Slowly but surely, I'm closing in on the team set.  Very, very slowly apparently.

And while I'm pretty sure it wasn't intentional, Shane even managed to send me a couple new PC cards with his protective fillers.  I've been stockpiling a small collection of League Leader cards.  It's not a full blown mini collection (yet), but any time I see one of the big stat caterogies - homers, batting average, era, strikeouts - it's been working its way into a small pile that will probably get its own binder.  What can I say, while I consider myself pretty in touch with the new stat metrics, I'm still a sucker for counting stats.

And I had no idea Mike Sweeney was the Royals captain.  Then again, it's the Royals.

But hopefully this stack of cardboard goodness is just a precursor to the weekend.
 There's a (kinda) local mall show this weekend.  Ok, in reality it's about an hour away...not really that local.  And I really should be saving up my budget for the big Robert Morris show in May.  But...well, hi, my name is Mark and I'm an addict.  But the mall is in the direction we'll be headed tomorrow, so I can totally justify a stop.
 Kate and I are headed to my parent's tomorrow to make some Easter candy.  Every year my grandma made chocolate covered fondant eggs.  They're lightyears better than anything you'll find at the store.  And on Easter day, everybody got an egg when they went to visit.  Since I was grandma's favorite, she would usually let me pick which flavor I wanted ahead of time.  But they were all good.  
 I would bite off the smallest bites I could manage, trying to make the egg last as long as I could.  They were that good.  And grandma only made enough for everybody to have one, which always made picking my flavor that much harder.

Grandma passed the family recipe to my mom.  It's been three years since she died, and probably 5 or 6 since she was well enough to make the eggs.  So this will be the first years we've made the eggs since she died.  It's not meant to be nearly as sentimental as it sounds.  These are chocolate coated goodness, and I'm really looking forward to seeing if we can make them anything close to grandma's.

And, hypothetically, speaking, I may be looking forward to not being limited to one egg!
 There should also be some flea market shopping in store for me this weekend.  I'm planning to make a trip Sunday morning to the flea market up the street that I discovered last weekend.  Kate is hanging out with a high school friend that day, so I'll be free to dig through dimeboxes to my heart's content.

The last card of this post that came in the mail today was an ebay purchase.  One of the things I like about Donruss has been the number of parallels and numbered cards that you hit in a box.  This Neil Walker is the gold parallel /49, though it didn't show up very well in the scan.

I won the card for a whopping $1.04 with free shipping.  I was a little surprised when I ripped open the bubble mailer to find this card inside.  The seller paid $2.25 for shipping the card in a bubble mailer, even it sold for less than half that.  I appreciate the gesture, but I would have been perfectly find with a PWE.  I kind of feel bad the poor guy took a loss on selling the card, especially on a card I already felt like I won dirt cheap.  But at least I'll leave him nice feedback.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

All that glitters is gold

The whole game used thing?  Yeah, I'm over it.  But sometimes I just can't resist a pretty baseball card.  2003 Leaf Certified Materials was one of my first "favorite" higher end sets.  Not that I ever came anywhere near busting any of the product.  But it was the first nicer product featuring Jack Wilson after his rookie season.  Jumpin Jack Flash had both autos and game used cards in addition to the gorgeous Mirror base cards.  So I'm always happy to add another card from the set when I get the chance.

This Brian Giles Mirror Gold /25 was just calling my name when I came across it on ebay last week.  Can't beat black and gold.

Mixed Box Break Results

I had a blast online last night with my team collecting buddies as we had our latest break.  4 boxes of Heritage, 2 of Donruss, and 3 Opening Day.  Opening Day was a little disappointing compared to previous years, but the hits more than made up for it.
I'll just get the monster out of the way early.  We hit it in the first box of the night.  Talk about tough to beat.  The first box was better than some cases I've seen.

The Odorizzi is a gum stained variation.  We hit between 9-10 SP's in each box, including a few packs with 2 SP's in them.  I think that's just a little higher than the average odds.  And I luckily hit the Polanco SP, which is the only Pirates SP in the base set.  No luck on either of the McCutchen variants, though.

Heritage box 2 was a little less exciting.

But box 3 and 4 were solid.

The Samardzija is a mini /100.  We had pretty nice luck, hitting three autographs out of 4 boxes.  I don't know if autos are more common than in past releases of Heritage, but it's definitely a nice bonus.

Not much luck for my Pirates, but it's always nice to see the hits spread out amongst the teams.

Donruss was one of my favorite breaks last year.  The set has a ton of serial numbered cards, some nice inserts, and a good number of hits per box.

There wasn't much love for the Pirates on the checklist this year, but we had a couple solid boxes.
Box 1

Box 2

I was hoping to hit at least one McCutchen image variation, since he has them in all three products.  No such luck.  But I did hit a nice Gregory Polanco parallel /99 from Donruss.

And we had a ton of inserts from Donruss.

Opening Day was a big disappointment this year.  I don't like the blue rainbow foil nearly as much as the blue sparkle cards, they got rid of the serial numbering, and we only had about 3-4 blues per box.  I'm guessing they ramped up production this year, since I remembering hitting blues every 2 or 3 packs last year.

The inserts were pretty meh, and again not much in the way of Pirates.
But between all the boxes, we had plenty of inserts.  It seemed like things were pretty well split up among the teams, which is always nice for a group break.

By the end of the night, we had a 400 card box filled with inserts, SP's, and parallels.  Not bad for a couple hours of breaking.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Pirates I got, and I'll have a highlight up when I get my cards in.