Sunday, April 26, 2015

Customs: Phase Two

I've had my team of crack scientists hard at work in recent months trying to find a way to produce more advanced customs.  The standard stuff has been a ton of fun.  But what about making my own parallels, inserts, foil cards at home?  How awesome would that be?

It's been a fair bit of trial and error in recent months.  Lots of researching online, buying a big ole pile of various materials, and a garbage can full of scraps of failures.

After enough trial and error to have me pulling my hair out, I finally have some results I'm happy with.

I'm finding the lighter colored material is best to make the card image visible.  I tried some darker colors, like reds and blues, but the image ends up looking washed out.

The one above is on a white sparkle material, though it doesn't come through great in the scan.

There's definitely still room for trial and error - perhaps playing around with the colors to try to get the images to be a little more vibrant.

In person, they look pretty cool, and the images come through more.  So maybe we're still in the design and development phase.  But this definitely opens up some cool new options.  Back to being a mad scientist I go!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Crusade On

There aren't many cards I consider absolute "must haves," but for years right near the top of my very short list were the 1998 Donruss Crusade cards.  In particular I loved the red version, which fit great since the color had been introduced into the Pirates color scheme in 1997.  The down side?  The reds are the rarest version at only 25 copies.

I have the reds for both Ron Wright and one-time Pirates shortstop of the future turned utility player Abraham Nunez.  Perhaps not the most spectacular names, but the cards look absolutely amazing in person.  One way or another, the cards are on a refractor type stock that I haven't seen duplicated since.

Panini tried to latch on to the popularity of the original Crusade cards over the last couple years.  The cards are nice, but they don't hold a candle to the originals.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Christmas in April (If I Had a Million Dollars)

The baseball card hobby makes it pretty easy to dream about cards you'll most likely never be able to afford.  Every so often - maybe once every year or two - I have one of those cardboard dreams that just feel so real you hope it's real life.  It usually involves me being at a card show or shop, and finding insane, but still kinda sorta realistic...ish, deals on great cards that I would love to own.

I came across this mind blowing ebay auction for what is apparently a 12 card holiday pack of 1952 Topps.  If you have a minute, take the time to read the auction description.

I'll never be able to afford a pack of 1952 anything.  And even if I could, I can't see myself paying that kind of money for cardboard, even if I was obscenely wealthy.  I'm just not wired that way.

But the thing that really caught my interest was just how strange the story is - original, nice grade Topps cards of a mysterious origin, probably sold anywhere between 1952 and 1962, or perhaps even all points in between.

Double the size of the 6 card nickel packs.

And add in the incredibly corny 1950's style graphics and shrink wrap, and it just seems like this perfect storm of nostalgia, pop history, and hobby drool puddling.

I'm sure anyone out there who can afford to shell out over a grand to try their luck on a pack of this is hoping for a Mantle.  Hell, even if its just a dozen commons it's still probably a better value than some of the super high end products on the shelves today.

But this just seemed too awesome not to share.  It's nothing I have seen before, and heck...if I ever did hit the lotto, maybe I would suck it up and try a pack.  In the mean time, please pass the towel to mop up this drool.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Checklists, Checklists, and Checklists

One of the things I have loved (and at times hated) about switching the bulk of my Pirates collection over to binders is that it has given me an excuse to flip through my collection countless times.  It's been slow going, and I sure wish the project would just get finished.  But it has always allowed me to appreciate some cards that otherwise got glossed over in my collection.
Like this one.  It's vintage.  It's technically a Clemente.  But honestly, it was the type of card that I was thrilled to find for about $1 at a show, cross off my list, and move on to the next item to hunt.

Just like checklists, so much of my collecting seems to revolve around tracking down the cards I don't have rather enjoying the piles and piles I have.  I guess it's fairly natural in this hobby.  Or at least I hope it is.

One of my goals for this year is to enjoy the cards I have just a little bit more, and shift some of that time spent shopping for new ones into flipping through what I already have (and saving a bit of change in the process).

So I'm happy I was able to check this card off my needs list.  I'm thankful some 8 year old kid didn't feel the need to put this checklist to use.  But I'm also damn happy that I can enjoy this piece of cardboard in my collection.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Another Weekend, Another Stack of Flea Market Pickups

Somehow the best and worst thing possible was discovering my flea market gold mine up the road.  I keep finding my way back there every weekend, and somehow cardboard keeps finding its way into my car when I drive home.  It's becoming a vicious cycle.

My real purpose was picking up the Malkin auto I posted yesterday.  But to make the grueling two mile drive, I had to stick around and see what else I could find.  I spotted a few boxes that looked new from my last visit and dug in.

When I hit the San Diego Chicken card off the bat, I knew it was going to be a good dig.  I've been looking for this card for years without finding a copy.

The vendor, Ken, has told me a couple times now that I'm the fastest I've ever seen at flipping through stacks of cards.  That's high praise in my book.  Over the years I've gotten pretty quick at going through stacks of cards and identifying what I'm looking for.

At a card show, you're dealing with a finite period of time to get through as many cards as possible.  And there's just something in my psyche that needs to make that process as efficient as possible.

The process has served me pretty well over the years.  There have been more than a couple occasions when I'm going through dime or quarter next to a guy who is clearly buying to flip.  Me?  My want list is usually pretty simple - Pirates, and anything else that looks really cool.  But flippers?  They'll grab anything and everything that they can sell for a cent more than they paid for it, or so it seems.  I ran into a guy at the Robert Morris show last year who was going through dime boxes and stripping out anything that wasn't a common - stacks and stacks of purple Bowman cards, or common parallels from sets like Turkey Red.  This guy was the quickest I've ever seen, flying through entire boxes in a minute or two.  I had to up my game to beat him to the few remaining boxes he hadn't completely gutted.

But I certainly don't mind taking my time on the way through a box.  This Mike Webster card immediately caught my eye, and on a faster pass I'd have probably simply overlooked it as an ordinary Pro Set card.  The 70's Steelers teams played some of the best football of their era, but most of the players rode off into the sunset of their careers in less than ceremonious fashion.

In chatting with Ken, I learned that these boxes had come from a card shop at the nearby mall whose owner decided to get out of things.  And by mall, I mean this place has like a dozen stores.  Did I ever mention how much rural malls terrify me?  We'll save that for another day...

There were some real gems in the boxes.  I picked out nearly a full team set of Pirates AA affiliate Altoona from a couple years ago, though it looked like all the cards had been stuck together and had paper loss on the fronts.  There were also a few of these WBC cards.  The Bernie Williams was of particular interest, since Bernie had briefly come out of retirement to play in the series.

Same can be said of the quartet of SI for Kids cards I found, all of which were in designs of various Pacific and Fleer sets.  Neat oddball issues.

You never know what you'll find in a dime box.  But the adventure is half the fun.

Sometimes the pickups fit into one of my various player collections or mini collections.  Other times, they simply end up in the miscellaneous binders that I have grouped by team for all of my autographs and anything else that I may deem binder worthy.  And Ted Williams in his San Diego uniform?  Definitely binder worthy.

As was this trio of legendary managers I came across.  I swear Tommy Lasorda had white hair for eternity.

Mike Schmidt's first minor league card as a manager?  Yes please.

And of course nobody can top Mr. Connie Mack.

In all, I plucked about 80 cards from the dime boxes, including about 30 new Pirate cards.  But I wasn't done quite yet.

I decided to flip through some of the higher end stuff available - mostly game used with a few autos.  I had noticed a couple cards last time that I was having second thoughts on passing on.

Fortunately they were both still there.

They weren't must haves, but when Ken said $5 for the pair, it was a done deal.  I've started to really appreciate the SP Signature design.  While I don't think I'll go for the set, these were both autos I wanted in my collection.  I actually already have signatures of both players - Joyner on an 87 Topps I bought for a dollar, and Wagner as part of my 1998 Donruss Signature set.  But I really wanted Wally in a Padres uniform.  I have been trying to get autographs of all the players whose Starting Lineup figure I played with as a kid, and Wally's 1995 or 96 Padre figure was one of my favorites.  So getting a Padre upgrade was a must.  And who can pass on an autograph of one of the best closers of all time.

And since some of you may be starting to doubt whether the title of this blog is still fitting, there was some Pirates action involved as well.  Taylor barely lasted a year in the Pirates organization before getting shipped to the Mets, but for $3 I couldn't pass on an auto of the former second round pick.  How can I say no to a shiny refractor of a Pirate, photoshopped logo or not?

The only downside to having nearby access to great cardboard every weekend?  I'm not adding new cards way way faster than I can possibly get them sorted and put away.  But that's a problem for another day.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

I made a stop yesterday morning at the flea market up the road.  I've had a card on hold since the week before Easter, and I've been itching to pick it up since, but last week just about all the vendors were MIA when we got there around 10:30.  

But here is it - my big impulse buy.  Or at least big for me.  The Pens are about 4th on my team collection depth chart behind the Pirates, Steelers, and WVU.  I keep trying to develop an interest in the game, but honestly pretty much just watch during the playoffs.

Still, I've been trying to pick up some nicer Pens cards for my collection.  When I was going through the stack of Pens/Steelers/Pirates autos the vendor had a few weeks back, I figured the Malkin would be out of my price range.  After all - hometown markup, superstar player, flea market, hometown markup.  Did I mention hometown markup?

But there's a reason I keep going back.  When I asked Ken for a price just out of curiosity, he said $15.  I'm a cheapskate, and I know it.  The stack of cards I paid $15 or more for in my collection would be a very small one, and just about every one would involve the words Jack and Wilson.  But the price seemed more than fair.  A recent copy of this card went for $26 on ebay, and even if Malkin cards aren't as hot as they once were it's a great addition to my (growing) Pens collection.

I'm thrilled to finally have this beauty in hand, along with some other cards I grabbed yesterday that I'll show off later in the week.  Better yet, the Pens were finally able to get some offense going and win a game last night.  It's still an uphill battle to keep advancing in these playoffs, but it should be entertaining to watch.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Flea Market Finds: Oops, I Did it Again Edition

This weekend got off to a pretty lame start.  Saturday morning, we headed up to the local flea market I've been raving about in recent weeks.  I had a card on hold from two weekends ago, and was looking forward to digging through a few more boxes.

I have no clue what was up, but more than half of the indoor vendors weren't there, including Ken, my card guy.  Just...tarps or fences over their stalls, and not a face in sight.  It was confusing since my last trip there was on a Saturday, and there was a pretty good crowd.  Kate and I walked around trying to find anything that caught our eye, but we both walked out empty handed.  I'm glad we drove a mile up the road.  Anything more, and I'd have been a little ticked off.

But I woke up this morning needing my fix.  I rolled over to Kate and asked if she wanted to drive to the flea market south of Pittsburgh.  It was a little bit of a risk - it's about an hour away, and being early in the season there wouldn't be as many vendors as peak season.  But off we went.

 We had cash, but Kate suggested we stop and get a little more out.  I was planning on keeping my budget tight, but in these circumstances it never hurts to be safe in case you find a big score. know how this one goes.  Things started slow.  I walked through 5 of the 6 rows, and had come up with nothing more than these two awesome 90's snapbacks for $3 each.  The Devil Rays hat will be perfect with the D'Rays jersey I wore to the National last year.  And while I don't have any real affinity for the Tigers (or the fashion fad of "vintage" hats...I'm just a uniform nerd), this is by far the coolest cap the Tigers have worn.
 But the big score came in the final row.  There's a vendor at this flea market who always has large stacks of jerseys for sale.  He always has a wide selection of teams, and lots of unique jerseys.  As best as I can tell, they're all legit - no China knockoffs like many flea markets.  Just old jerseys and dealer samples.  I've looked countless times, but never saw anything that caught my eye enough to buy.

But that changed when I saw this 1999 American League All-Star game jersey right near the bottom of the pile.  At first, I couldn't believe it.  Regular blog readers know Dime Box Nick and I are trying to spread the gospel of Turn Ahead the Clock jerseys to the masses.  And while the TAHTC nights get most of the love, design elements from those jerseys crept into the All-Star jersey in 1999, including rotated league names on the front and the same treatment for player names on the back.

This jersey is blank backed, unfortunately.  But it's a thing of beauty from the late 90's - telling the future and the non-future.  The vest style of this jersey was pretty much absent from the game at the time - I think the Reds wore one at this time - but would become a short lived fad over the next few years.  The sideways team nameplates?  Not so much.
 But I'm a bundler.  As much as I loved the ASG jersey, I wasn't ready to pay $30 outright for it.  And right at the top of my jersey want list for the longest time has been a teal Marlins jersey.  The Marlins were my second team from the day they started playing to the day they went all art deco and broke my heart.  So much so that I actually decided over Easter weekend to start a second (and far less intense) team collection of the Fish.

This jersey was the perfect size.  There are some loose threads on the nameplate, but I should be able to snip those.  I'm not sure if this style was ever officially worn - the Marlins wore a teal warmup jersey, but all the photos I've seen had a black team name - but I'm still very happy with the pickup.  And...bundling!
 But I wasn't done yet!  The vendor - Bob - had a stack of old baseball gloves.  I just had to ask.  They were all store models, but had some nice wear.  Vintage gloves are the one area of baseball memorabilia that I know next to nothing about.  But I was feeling impulsive.

They had a great look, and I figured could make for a nice display piece with all my other game used items at some point.  There were some nice fielder gloves, but I've always had an appreciation for catcher hardware.  My dad was a catcher, and with his birthday coming up in June, this Roy Campanella model glove just screamed out to me.  His favorite player was Yogi Berra, and Campy may have been just a little before his time, but I hope he gets a kick out of it.
 More importantly, quantity makes all the difference in bundling.  The original quoted price on the glove was $30.  But my bundling powers were in full force.  For those counting at home, individually, the three items were priced at $30 each for a grand total of $90.
 And just for the record, this is what I go through to share my pickups with you.  Waldo felt the need to walk over and lay down on each and every item I laid out to photograph.  It's a hard knock life.
 There were a stack of well worn bats, and I asked if any were game used.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two were - a Gary Redus and Ronny Paulino.  I usually stick to game worn jerseys, but bats always make for nice display pieces.  I had checked in on the bats when I first got to the table, and the price was $40 each.  But with my bundling Jedi powers in full force, I wasn't leaving without a bat.  I decided on the Redus - it showed better wear, and I just love the Louisville Sluggers with the stamped signature.  And I'd imagine bats from early 90's Pirates teams are in relatively shorter supply.
 I think the bat came from the 1988 season.  The handle has 21 written on it, which was Redus' number with the White Sox before a mid-season trade to the Pirates, where he took number 19.  His time in Chicago was the only point he wore number 21 in the majors, and would make sense with Bob's story that the bat came from a Pirates clubhouse attendant.  I'd imagine Redus finished off his supply of bats before ordering a fresh crop for 1989.

I felt pretty good that I had enough leverage to haggle.  I know the usual flea market shoppers, and had a pretty good idea of what kind of merchandise Bob is able to turn over and what sits.  His football jersey supply was different every time I've been there, but many of the baseball jerseys were the same ones I had seen early last summer.  And the fact that the gamer bats were sitting alongside ones little Timmy used in his back yard probably meant there wasn't any great financial or sentimental attachment.

So sticker price?  $130.  But I knew there was no way I was paying that.  Bob shot me a number of $95.  I countered at $85, and was a little surprised when he said that sounded good.  More than I had planned on spending?  Definitely.  But apparently Kate knows my collecting habits better than I do.  As I tried to gently explain why all these items were such a great deal, she cooly cut me off and said, "It's fine.  Why do you think I stopped at the ATM?  You always end up finding something."  Guess I've got myself a keeper.

Anybody familiar with old player model gloves?  I was a little surprised to be unable to find a match to the Campy glove on ebay or elsewhere online.  It's a Wilson model A2400 with some kind of interlocking webbing.  I'd imagine it's from the 50's or early 60's, but that's purely a guess.  If anyone knows of any resources or guides for glove collecting, I'd love to hear about them.  The last thing I need is another thing to, this glove is cool.  I can't wait to see my dad's face when I show it to him.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Feel Good Side of Baseball

I'm a sucker for feel good sports stories.  But for an industry that grosses in the billions, sports have felt all too...well, businesslike over the past decade.  It's all about "brand," tv deals, and maximizing profits.  And while some might not care much, so long as the on field product is entertaining...I'm one of those annoying moralistic do-gooder types, I guess.

So when I was catching up on the day's baseball news before bed last night, one story particularly caught my eye.

The Padres signed a player I had never heard of to a minor league contract.  Never mind the fact that the man has been able to play baseball - they've inked him to a deal for the past 20 years.  Matt LaChappa was a pitching prospect until he suffered two heart attacks while warming up for a game, ending his baseball career and leaving him with major medical issues.

The Padres had no obligation to LaChappa.  But they've signed him to a contract each season, providing some small income and access to much needed medical insurance.

I admire the Padres for the commitment they've shown to a former player, but I admire them just as much for the fact that this isn't their story.  I came across the story for the first time last night, but apparently it was first written about in 2005.  But at that point this had been an annual deal for a full decade.  The Padres don't release a PR statement, or tweet it, or pat themselves on the back.  It's just something they do, under the radar, because they can.  Because a baseball team spends more money to "rent" a Rule 5 player and bring them into camp for a few weeks just to take a look.  But in an age where every goodwill gesture - charity efforts, those obnoxious camo jerseys, the ad nausea stream of support our troops messages are accompanied with a press release, merchandise, and efforts to unquestionably build revenue and brand identification, I can't even express how great it is to see a team doing something heartfelt and genuine without asking for or seeking any recognition.

I'm not a Padres fan, but this kind of thing gives me a new level of respect for the franchise.  Now if we can just get them to change the damn uniforms...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

It's All Fun and Games

I'm a little wiped out today, after starting my first day at a school for students with emotional and behavioral issues.  The place seems great, and though the students might be a little bit much for some, I'm right in my element.  It's not easy coming in as a late year replacement, taking the spot of a teacher who abruptly walked off the job more or less.  So today was the "get to know you" day for both me and the kids.  I ended up playing board games with the group of middle school kids.

Kate will gladly attest that I despise games.  Cards.  Board.  Take your pick.  Can't stand them.  There's something that just really irks me about them.  Video games?  Not a problem.  Same goes for just about anything sports related.  

But it got me thinking.  When I was heading to bed last night, I started looking up Magic: The Gathering cards.  In high school, a group of friends and I played pretty religiously on Friday nights on my parents' back porch.  It was a ton of fun, but short lived as a drivers' license, girls, and slightly less nerdy pursuits overtook my life.  This was right around when MLB Showdown was at its peak.

The game caught my interest, but none of my friends were sports fans.  And with all the money I was sinking into MTG cards, the last thing I needed was another hobby to chase.  I had dialed back my card collecting for a couple years, hadn't yet joined hobby life was pretty straightforward.

I've been intrigued by Showdown in recent months.  It started when I realized there was a Jack Wilson Showdown League Promo card that was (I think) exclusive to Showdown "leagues" at game or hobby shops.  I suddenly had a hankering to play a collectible card game.  But if I was having trouble finding a playmate in high school, it sure as hell wasn't going to be any better with a wife, cat, full time job, and a game that hasn't been around in nearly a decade.

There have been some interesting attempt at baseball card-based games.  Some have had a longer shelf life than others.  But I don't know that any hit both the collecting and gaming element as well as Showdown.

I've been on the fence about buying a starter deck and giving the game a shot, even if a decade late.  I might have to find a way to bribe Kate into playing a few games with me.  But better a decade late than not at all, right?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Natural

Most of the Pirate minor league affiliates have been releasing their rosters over the last couple days.  The placements are for the most part unsurprising.  Just some minor excitement for what has been a slow spring news-wise for the Bucs.

But one name caught my eye.  So much so that I had to check and recheck three different places online to see if I was reading things correctly.

Wes Freeman.

The name probably doesn't mean much to you.  Not should it.
This isn't exactly the Josh Hamilton story.  Wes Freeman was a 16th round pick for the Bucs out of high school in 2008.  He signed for a decent sized bonus, back when you could actually do that sort of thing.  The guy was pretty well hyped as a well rounded talent, and at 6'4" 215 lbs, he seemed like the kind of guy who could do nasty things to a baseball.

He struggled initially, but put up a very nice .304/.338.492 slash line as a 21 year old in low A in 2011.  A lottery ticket to be sure, but maybe one that would at least have a shot at sniffing the majors some day.

And then, at least seemingly out of nowhere, Freeman announced his retirement after a really rough 2012 season.  Still, at just 22 and with a good pedigree he seemed like a player that might have a chance at moving up in the game.

And that...was pretty much it.  And then suddenly his name appeared on the roster for A-ball Bradenton.

Apparently something changed, and he was in camp with the team for spring training.  Admittedly, the guy is a 25 year old A ball player who has never played above A ball.  He was at best a scratch off lottery ticket to begin with, and the story carries none of the peaks and valleys found in more famous iterations of this narrative.

But still, he's a guy who I'll be keeping an eye on this season in the box scores.
He's acting as a player/coach, so it's probably just as likely as not that this is simply a way to springboard his coaching career.  But who knows - maybe this can make for an interesting story.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Starting the Season Off Right

Baseball is finally here, and I for one am a happy camper.  Sure, the Pirates game could have gone a little better yesterday.  The offense always seems to start slow, but Liriano had a very nice start and I loved Cutch screaming "get on my back" as he returned to the dugout after his home run.

A big thank you to everyone who joined the Opening Day contest.  The winner was Tony L., whose guess was right on the money with 20 for the combined line score of the Cards/Cubs Opening Night game.  A throwing error in the 9th ended up winning it for him.  Tony, email me your address and I'll have some goodies headed your way.

And what would Opening Day be without Opening Day?  2000 Opening Day was the set that brought me back to collecting, so the release has a special place in my heart each year.  And as luck would have it, my cards from a recent group break were waiting on me Sunday when I arrived at my parents, thanks to me foolishly forgetting to update the shipping address.

A team set and a couple inserts certainly have me a happy camper.  I still need to pick up the rest of the blue parallels and the mascot insert.  I like the feel of the Opening Day cards this year.  I'm not crazy about the heavy photoshopping, as I've mentioned in my Series 1 posts, but it looks like it's here to stay.

The Bucs are off tonight, so I'll be looking to check out another game or two tonight.  Hooray baseball!

We Can Be League Leaders, if Just for One Day

There's something exciting about Opening Day.  Ok, there;s a lot exciting about Opening Day.  Meaningful baseball games.  Spring.  The hope that your team, every team, still has a shot at a miracle season, if only for the next couple weeks.

But there's something else I love about the start to the season.  Something, well...weird.

I love the stat lines during the first couple weeks.  Once the "2014 stats" give way to a fresh slate of 2015 numbers, the best part of a batter walking to the plate is the flash of his stats across the screen.
April is prime ground for some ridiculous numbers.  The guy hitting over .600, or the future Hall of Famer batting an astounding .112.
I appreciate the game's new metrics.  I was on board very early, when a lot of baseball people were grumbling about the fancy numbers.  But I'm still a sucker for counting numbers.  And nothing beats when that's immortalized on cardboard.
Particularly Pirate cardboard.  Even if a Pirate isn't the leader in a category, it's great to see the Bucs recognized as among the best in the game.  There's something just really cool about being a league leader.  
Leader cards were missing from Topps sets for a good number of years.  Of course, the Pirates were largely absent from the leaderboards in those years.  But I certainly wouldn't have minded some Barry Bonds or Doug Drabek league leader cards in the early 90's, and perhaps Brian Giles could have made the card in a few categories in the 2000's.

I don't think we'll ever see any First Week Leader Cards, featuring the likes of David Ross and Alex Rios.  But the end of year variety are among my favorites every year. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Contest Last Call

Just one last reminder if anyone still hasn't entered my Opening Day contest.   Hope everyone had a happy Easter, and safe travels to everyone on the road this weekend.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Call Your...Wait, What?

I'm not even entirely sure where to start this one.  Remember Topps' Call Your Shot promotion?  The scratch-off programs the last few years have had various degrees of success, but seemed like a nice little added value to products.

The Call Your Shot promotion seemed like an interesting extension of that concept.  Rather than each card winning you something, most likely a 70's or 80's common, the odds went down but the quality of the prizes seemed to increase.  Collectors had a chance to scratch off a box for either an autograph or auto/relic.

Let's make no mistake about it.  This looked like a pretty clear sticker dump.  But I was ok with that.  There were some names on the autograph list who didn't already have Pirate autographs, and it seemed like a great chance to get some new autos onto the market beyond the same 3-4 players the Pirates recycle in each and every product.

Seemed is the operative word here.  I gave Topps the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they would print out some cards and slap an old sticker on them.

But hey, why invest $.30 in creating a new card if you can just send out those thousands of cards you have lying around that you won't send out to collectors to replace the cards you have no intention of making!

Yep, Topps is sending out back stock from previous products to fill the Call Your Shot prizes.  No special stamp or notation, not a new design or card.  Just Topps doing collectors a favor by clearing out all those cards they never sent out when...they were supposed to be in packs in the first freaking place.

It seems like many of the autos are coming from Five Star.  I've seen people saying they received autos of Fergie Jenkins, the Shields above, Jason Heyward, and Cole Hamels from Five Star as their CYS prize.

Others prizes seem to be 2013 Bowman Platinum autos and some 2013 Topps autographs.

Adding insult to injury, it appears that some collectors are simply receiving an autograph from the very, very broad player "group" for which they won an auto (100+ names in most cases) rather than the more exclusive list of 20 or so names that the winner screen said their autograph would come from.

I shouldn't be surprised.  I shouldn't make any assumptions about Topps going above, beyond, through, past, or anywhere within artillery distance of collector expectations.  But daaaamn.  This just irks me.  I get it - the redemptions they have sitting in their warehouse are a sunk cost from a business perspective, while the stickers are a value that they can continue to bleed out for essentially an unlimited number of years.  It's a self created and self serving cycle - Topps releases a product with a large number of redemptions.  Some redemptions are filled when the player returns the card.  Many redemptions go unredeemed by the relatively close deadline (ie Five Star was released in the middle of 2013, and its redemptions have expired and thus are now being shipped out in another program in the beginning of 2015), and absolutely refusing to accept anything that comes in even a day after deadline.  For something like the Five Star auto /386, how many redemptions were actually sent in on time?  200?  300?  The remainder is simply recycled value for Topps - the redemption counted as one of the hits in the box, but if it wasn't redeemed Topps still retains the actual value of the item.  On top of that, some redemptions are never even produced (or perhaps even intended to be produced), and are switched out for replacements - you know, those cards Topps promised as redemptions yet still has sitting in their warehouse.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that Topps owes collectors nothing.  They scratched off a card - a lottery ticket essentially - and are getting something virtually for free, less the shipping fee Topps charged.  And you're right.  If that's the way you look at the world, please enjoy your new redemption card and continue shelling out your money for Topps products.

But this, to me, is a whole new low.  Admittedly there was no guarantee or clarity as to what you'd get from the promotion.  But it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to think - hope - that even if you got some junk autograph of Jesse Crain, at least it would be a new and different Jesse Crain autograph from those already out there.  Maybe it would be his first White Sox auto.  Maybe even if he was one of the most common players, the number of copies for this card surely would be limited.  And maybe, just maybe, it would be worth a couple bucks to a collector, or a piece you'd like to keep for yourself.

Instead?  You find the card you get in the mail is identical in every way, shape, and form to a card which already has 10 copies on ebay.  Or sells for $1.43 on COMC.  Or is the same one you had a redemption for from that box you opened for your birthday last month, but Topps wouldn't honor it because it was 6 days past their arbitrary deadline.

...well, maybe in that last case karma would at least be giving you a warm half smile and eye wink.

And maybe I'm just the guy ranting and raving over nothing.  Maybe this is something that is little more than an afterthought to most collectors.  But if we're stuck with one single, solitary manufacturer of licensed baseball cards for at least the rest of the decade, I feel like collectors deserve a little more effort and consideration than a corporation offloading their sunk cost trash onto us.

But then again maybe I should just be happy I didn't have cause to pay $10 for a poorly designed Ike Davis sticker autograph because it would have been his only one as a Pirate.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Best of Friends

Just a quick reminder to enter my Opening Day contest if you haven't already.

Some of the most treasured parts of my collection are the cards I've received from other collectors.  Over the years, I've been lucky enough to meet some fantastic people through collecting, and have been the recipient of some extreme generosity.  No matter how big or small, the cards I've received as gifts mean a little extra to me.

After all, this hobby is a lot less enjoyable without someone to share it with.  And I don't think many people out there could appreciate the mind numbing monotony of the stack of dime cards or an autograph of a guy who played 3 games in the majors quite as well as the terrific online communities I'm a part of.

I received a box in the mail right as I was heading out the door Wednesday from one of my team collector buddies.  It was a heavy medium flat rate, and I figured it was worth running a couple minutes late to take a peek inside.

The box was stuffed with bags and bags of cards, and a beautiful Mitchell and Ness Clemente jersey.

As I started digging through the bags, I saw tons of cards I needed.  No small feat, as my want list seems to shrink with each weekend flea market trip.

But I must have opened the bags in the perfect order.  In the next to last bag, I came across the Freddy Sanchez Chrome press plate above, and this amazing Ralph Kiner bat card.  This is actually my first Kiner relic.  And better yet the photo features him in the awesome 1947 uniform, which I gush endlessly about.

 But the best was saved for last.  At the end of the final bag of cards I opened, there was a stack of about 25 autographs.  To most people, it just looks like a long list of nobodies.  But for a slightly obsessive team collector?  Pure gold.  Because of the sheer obscurity, a lot of the guys are tough autographs
 Better yet, there were quite a few signed and unsigned minor league team cards in the piles.  I love minor league sets, and have been trying to track down the teams sets for each level of Pirates affiliates whenever possible.  A lot of the late 90's and early 00's sets are tough to find.  The Pirates were lacking in big name prospects, so I'm guessing fewer sets sold than some of the clubs with top stars, and now even fewer surface today.
 But the big hitter is at the top of the post.  I had been hunting for Jose Bautista autographs for a while back around 2007 or 2008.  I was a big fan of Bautista's versatility on the diamond, and thought he deserved more of a shot on teams where playing time didn't always make a lot of sense.
 There was a time when the card could easily be had for $4 or $5.  But ever frugal Mark wanted to wait it out, and see if I could save a buck or two down the road.  I think you know how the Joey Bats story went from there.
 So until Wednesday, my lone Bautista auto was a blue refractor that is one of my favorite cards.  But I can't gush enough about how excited I am to have this card in my collection.

These cards will always have a special place in my collection for who they came from even more than what they are.  The relationships I've built in this hobby are what keep it fun for me.  Showing off scans of my latest (and lamest) purchases with people who can relate is a big part of why I have kept collecting for as long as I have.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and a happy Easter.  I'll be splitting the weekend between Kate's parents' on Saturday and mine on Sunday.  It spaces out the food coma, but also keeps me running around all weekend.  Hopefully I can get a couple posts scheduled before then.  The countdown to opening day begins!