Sunday, August 30, 2015

Digging for Gold

I always enjoy picking up minor league cards.  It's fun to see players progress through the system before reaching the majors.  And though minor league cards have become major league boring since Topps took over the exclusive license, I still try to pick up cards that strike my fancy.  And for about $2, this gold parallel /50 seemed like a great addition.
Despite solid play throughout the minors, Alen Hanson hasn't gotten a lot of love in the hobby.  He still has plenty of room for development in the minors, but he's a guy I look forward to seeing in Pittsburgh in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Super Friends

I've been waiting to post these for about a week.  Over this past weekend, Kate and I drove down to Baltimore for the annual Team Collectors Convention.  No, it's not quite the National.  But the group of team collectors I'm a part of try to have a get together each summer for anyone who can make it.  And at a little over four hours away, it wasn't too far of a drive for us to go check out a city that neither Kate or I had been to since our middle school days.

Better yet, it meant a chance to clean out boxes and dump a bunch of cards on their respective team collectors.  But I wanted to go a little farther.  After all, my customs have opened up a lot of new possibilities when it comes to card giving.
 Shiny, shiny possibilities.
 I held off on posting these cards until after the convention in case any of my team collector buddies read the blog.  It was fun making these customs, and experimenting with what designs and color combinations would look best with the Superfractor paper.

 As I mentioned in my last post, I tried a whiteout technique to make the image stand out that totally backfired.  And with all the packing, card pulling, and planning that needed done for the trip I decided to just go with a more basic look for the cards.  Still, I think they came out pretty well and I hope everybody enjoyed them.  Our Red Sox collector, who has a big Youk collection, even asked what set the card was from, and said he hadn't seen it before.  Then it hit him that it was a custom.
It was fun to put together a unique gift for my collecting buddies.  But let's be honest - the real reason I do these customs is to entertain myself.  And what fun would it be if I only used my newfound custom powers to do good in the world? (*insert evil laugh here*)  I had to make a few for myself as well.  This Jack Wilson is the second of what will probably be an entire run of Jumpin Jack Flash Supers.  Not that I'm compensating for the fact that I don't own a Jack Superfractor or anything...

And by far my favorite of the bunch, I absolutely love how this Clemente RC turned out.  Topps actually produced one in a reprint set last year, but from the scan I saw online I'm honestly partial to my version.  I think eventually I plan to have a full run of rookie cards for all the Pirate HoF'ers done in the Superfractor style.

I'll have a longer writeup on the TC Con later this week.  We broke a mountain of boxes, including a couple of monster pulls, and it was a great weekend just hanging around and bs'ing with a group of collectors with similar interests.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Now THAT's Super!

Late last week, I finally got in some supplies for my latest round of customs.  The materials had been delayed by the fine timeliness of USPS, and then a few more days by a friend coming into town.  But I had some down time Saturday night to work on my newest creations.  And I have to say I'm pretty darn pleased.
I'll probably never own a T-206 Honus Wagner.  But a Superfractor is a fine consolation prize if I do say so myself.

There's an element of trial and error.  I learned that the more white space the better.  And cards with colored borders seem to really mute the awesomeness of the superfractor pattern.

I also tried a few cards with the standout player cutout that is common of most Topps Superfractors.  The cards came out amazing.  But I didn't feel like scanning them Saturday night.  When I came back to them Sunday evening, I found the colors that had been sharp and crisp were now blurred and melted together on the highlighted area.  I don't know if it had to do with the heat (it was pushing 90, and there's no AC in our office where the cards were stores), or has to do with the materials I used.  So there is definitely some more trial and error involved.

But...Superfractor!  I'm looking forward to playing around with the concept a little more, and probably making a complete run of Jack Wilson Supers from the custom designs I've been making.

This definitely opens up some exciting options, and I'm looking forward to playing around with these some more to refine my process.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Flea Markets Finds: Picking Up Steam

Flea markets are always hit or miss for me.  Around here, there are always numerous vendors set up with sports stuff.  But more often than not, the guys act like they're a mall sports store (note: it costs like $10 to set up at the flea market...that isn't the same as having the rent for an actual store!).  Insanely high prices, acting like that common autograph is the holy grail of collecting, and hoping that everybody that stops by has absolutely zero knowledge of the card market.  More often than not, I end up walking by after a couple seconds.  The faded boxes of their bobbleheads are usually a dead giveaway, a victim of sitting out in direct sunlight for weekend after weekend after weekend at prices nobody will ever pay.  No, you aren't going to get $15 for your Ryan Doumit bobblehead.  Yes, there are 6 copies at the nearest Goodwill.

When Kate and I hit the flea market last weekend, it didn't look promising.  After the first couple rows, I had spotted a few things I was interested in.  But the prices were either insanely high, or there weren't any prices.  Maybe I'm weird, but just like at a card show, I like to see some actual prices on your stuff.  I hate playing the "how much do you want for _____" game.
 After going down two or three rows without any hopes of making a purchase, I was starting to worry I could leave empty handed.  And there was no way I was going to let that happen.
 I came across a vendor with a few boxes out.  He's a regular, and I've looked through his stuff in the past, but always walked away due to inflated prices.  But I was desperate.

He had some boxes out front labeled as dime boxes, but he said anything in the boxes was a nickel.  Deal.  I started digging through the rows, which were broken down by year.  At some point, most of these cards have to belonged to an Indians collector, because each row had a short run of all the Indians star cards of the year.  And while there were only a couple Pirates cards, I did snag some nice finds for my collection.

In the late 90's, some of the rookies would have netted a pretty penny.  I also grabbed Bowman Chrome rookies of Travis Lee and Sean Casey, both of which sold for a nice chunk of change at one point.  For $.05, why the hell not.

Having accumulated a whopping $2 in cards, I needed to keep buying.  I needed to, dammit!  Or at least I needed to kill some time while Kate did her own shopping.  So over to the dealer's toploadered boxes I went.  Most of the cards were, as expected, overpriced.  He told the cards were 1/5th of what they were priced.  And while I appreciate priced cards, doing math is not as exciting to me.

 It looked like most were priced at full book or above.  A McCutchen Topps Chrome refractor priced at $20.  And while $4 is a better price, so is the $.50 copy on Sportlots.
 But I came across some autographs in the box.  The pricing seemed inconsistent.  $4 (post-discount) for a Zane Smith auto?  Nah.  But the significantly tougher Lee Lacy for $2?  Sure, why not.
 I ended up paying $2 each for all three of these cards.  The Freese is a high number, and while I may have been able to get a cheaper copy at a bigger show, it probably wouldn't be by much and this one is in nice shape.  Stennett is an auto I didn't have and have been after for a while, while the Lacy is an upgrade over a lightly signed ballpoint pen signature I have of his.

And I figured that even if that was it for my finds for the day, I did pretty well.  And then, like all my flea market finds, I stumbled on some stuff that would empty my wallet.  I guess I never learn...

I'll have the real goodies up in my next post.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sign Away

I never considered myself much of a set builder.  But I've been drawn to the awesomeness of 1998 Donruss Signature.  I'm never going to shell out the money needed to land some of the stars in the set, or at least not any time soon, but I'm more than happy to plug away at some of the fringes of the set.
 I had one of those prepaid Visa debit cards that had been sitting around since December that was my mail in rebate for the new laptop I bought for Christmas.  I sort of forgot about the thing, but was going to start getting slammed with a "maintenance fee" if I didn't spend the balance.  And while there were probably better ways to spend the money, I decided to divert a few bucks towards some cardboard.
 All of these cards are the unnumbered replacement versions that have found their way onto the market.
 And for $1-2 each, I was certainly thrilled to add them to the Signature Series collection.
I may never drop the bucks needed to truly go after the set, but I'm more than thrilled to plug away here and there when the opportunity presents itself.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

From Junk to the Collection

I've said a few times that on the blog that I could probably skip card shows altogether.  Any time I go through the boxes of cards at my parents' house, I always come away with a new stack of cards I want to add to my binders.  I guess it's my collecting compulsion.  But it's apparently not just my dime cards that sometimes get plucked from the stack.

This J.A. Happ auto has been sitting in my trade/sell box for a couple years now.  I bought it at my former LCS probably around 2005, when 2004 Donruss EEE seemed like the coolest set on the face of the planet.  I paid $5 for it, and thought I got a steal since the card was numbered /50, while the rest of the EEE autos in the box were numbered in the thousands for the same price.  This was back in my unfocused, "buy anything that looks cool" stage.  Which...I still do now.  I just also have a 15,000 card team collection on top of it.

The Happ sat and sat.  It became a reminder of why I was turning my focus to my Pirates collection, hobby dollars pissed away on a card I had no use for.

When Happ had his breakout year in 2009, I eagerly dug the card out of a box anticipating listing it on ebay.  I waited and waited, hoping he might win ROY.  When he didn't win, I still held onto the card even though a few copies had sold for $25-30.

And then J.A. happed himself.  And the card sat.  And sat.  I tried offering the card in trade to a couple of Phillies bloggers a few years back.  I didn't care what they sent back - I just wanted to be rid of the damn thing, a reminder of a hobby oopsies.  Whether oversight or disinterest, none of them ever responded.

And then the Pirates, making a push towards greatness, decided in their infinite wisdom that the only way to plug AJ Burnett's role in the rotation was with his alphabetic antithesis.  Think of it as the Reverse Flash to the Flash.  And Reverse Flash JA has.  He bombed his first start, and it was announced his spot in the rotation will be skipped on this next turn through.

But finally this damn card has a place in my collection.  It knocks out one of my needs for my Pirate autograph project of getting an auto of every player to suit up for the Bucs.  I was tempted to dismantle the card and pillage the sticker for a Pirate photoed custom, but after all these years together I just can't do that to my good friend JA.  Instead I'll probably just buy a cheap sticker auto off ebay or COMC to repurpose.  But this guy?  It will be going into my "Pirate but not a Pirate" mini-collection featuring one-time Bucs in other stages of their careers.

Finally, JA is at peace.  But damn, I sure wouldn't mind having that $30...

Saturday, August 8, 2015


There are pros and cons to tracking all your various collections in an Excel file.  On one hand, it has spared my from buying doubles for my Pirates collection countless times.  It makes it easy to track my needs and wants.  It indulges the nutty, ocd part of my brain.  And it makes it easy to hit arbitrary and largely irrelevant milestones!

Sure, it also means that any new additions must pass through a tedious entry process.  Kind of my own Ellis Island, where cards are first queued up to be entered.  Once they're in the spreadsheet, they go to one of a couple boxes, a holding area until they're finally ready to enter the freedom of Binderville.

But let's ignore that time consuming and maddening process.  Milestones!

While entering some of my recent TTM successes into my spreadsheet where I track all of my autographs, I discovered I just crossed the 5,000 autograph mark.  Many of those are Pirates, Steelers, or Penguins.  But there are also a couple thousand TTM autographs of other teams and a growing certified auto collection.  Fittingly, number 5,000 is a player who I loved watching during his brief time in the Burgh on a set that is among my favorites of all time.  The scan didn't take nearly as well, but the card looks sharp in person.

Flea Market Shenanigans

It's been a pretty busy summer around here, which at least partially accounts for the lack of posting.  While it hasn't been as often as I would like, we've hit a few flea markets this summer with some great results.

These cards all came from a flea market trip two weekends ago.  My regular vendor at the flea market bought the collection of a friend who had died unexpectedly to help the family out.  He's more of an old school vintage guy, and really didn't know much about what he bought, but wanted to help the family out at least a little.  This is actually my second time digging through the collection.  The first time, I picked up some great cards (which I'll get around to posting eventually), but didn't want to spend toooooo much, so cut myself off after a while.

I was headed out that direction to help my parents rearrange some furniture since the nearly year long house remodel is almost over, and figured a little flea market stop wouldn't hurt.

 I felt pretty good that I had gone through the cards pretty thoroughly the first time through and pulled out anything that was a "must have" for the collection.  There were about six monster boxes.  But the vast majority of the cards were football rookies and baseball prospect cards from the last couple years.
 I imagine there was some really nice stuff in there at some point, but the dealer said the family shopped the collection around at the big Robert Morris show, and some dealers picked off all the best stuff.  So while it wasn't exactly a treat to flip through 300 2014 Bowman Jameson Taillon cards, it was worth it when I hit some gems.  The Newcomb above was a welcome addition to my long-long term plans to put together the 1960 set in any condition.
 Going through the boxes, the collection was a bit of a mystery to me.  There was a box with a fair amount of vintage, mostly early 70's commons and a few early-mid 80's star cards.  And then the boxes upon boxes upon boxes of commons from recent Bowman products.  How many Dri Archer and Alen Hanson cards does one man need?  Apparently the answer is "a lot."  I'm guessing the original owner was buying up a lot of those Bowman paper lots that flood ebay.
There was some 90's and early 2000's stuff too, but not a lot.  Though I did fine a nice run of Kordell Stewart commons that will fill in quite a few gaps in my collection. 

 Best guess?  The guy collected some in the 80's, narrowed down his collecting in the 90's, left the hobby when the game used/auto revolution happened in the late 90's, and then came back to the hobby semi-recently using some of those old school "hoard ze rookies!" mentality.
 Maybe I'm weird (I am), but I always find it interesting to see how other people collect.  There are so many ways you can approach the hobby, and I find it interesting to see what make other people's hobby radar tick.
 There were some interesting odds and ends still in the box, but the majority of my stack was just plain old commons.  I added a good chunk of my needs for 2014 Heritage, Gypsy Queen, and a few of the other sets from last year that I'm woefully behind on.
 When it was all said and done, I had a nice stack.  I asked him how much, and the vendor said just give me whatever you think they're worth.  It's an interesting system we have - he always gives me a fair deal on the stuff he knows prices on, and trusts me not to rip him off on the rest.  And I get the impression he doesn't have much into these cards.  For a cool $10, everybody was happy.
 When I got home, I counted up the haul.  I ended up with just over 100 cards, pricing everything out at about a dime a piece.
 Can I count this as a dime box haul?
 While nothing is exactly going to set the world on fire, I was able to add some cool new cards and fill in some holes in recent sets.  I do everything I can to stay away from all the prospect-centric sets, so it's convenient when somebody else does all the legwork for me and I can pluck up what I need for my binders.

If I'm out that way again soon, I'll definitely be stopping by for round three with these boxes.  They're probably picked over of all the really exciting stuff, but there were a few commons I realized I still needed and I may take a closer look at some of the Steelers and Pens cards just for the hell of it.

All hail flea market season!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Call Me Ishmael

I don't have very much to say that's particularly witty, punny, funny, or anything of the like.  But I just landed one of my whales.  Everybody knows I have a soft spot for early 2000's and late 90's cards.  Especially the ones I would drool over in the pages of Beckett as a kid.  And this guy was definitely right near the top of that list.

It's been a card I have wanted for years.  When I joined ebay in 2005, I remember searching for them religiously.  But copies consistently sold in the $15-20 range.  They've dropped since then, quite significantly really.  But every time I saw a copy pop up on ebay, it either was priced higher than the card's value today or the signature had darkened significantly.

But I had a copy in my watch list last week, and was amazed when it didn't go up past the initial bids.  I landed it for a cool $3.25 shipped.  Better yet, when the card arrived today the signature is a bold, bright blue that looks like it could be pack fresh as if it was just pulled.  Days like this, I love collecting.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Records Were Made to Be Broken

Baseball has a new home run champ.

...minor league baseball.

I came across this really cool story about Mike Hessman, longtime minor leaguer, breaking the all-time (affiliated) minor league homer mark.  When you think about the history of the game, and particularly of minor league baseball across all its levels, it's a pretty impressive feat.

I checked COMC and it looks like he has a few certified autos from Donruss products in the early 00's.  Looks like all the cheapie copies had been snagged up already, but he's definitely somebody who I would love to add to my autograph collection one of these days.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

It's Aliveeeee!: A Huge Custom Card Breakthrough

I felt like Dr. Frankenstein (or maybe Doc from Back to the Future) last night, running throgh the house to tell Kate  of my breakthrough.  I finally did it.  I figured out how to get a custom "high end" card looking the way I wanted.  And the answer was literally sitting in front of me the whole time.  But I'll get into that later on when I do some type of tutorial on making these sparkly pieces of goodness.

For those of you who have been following my custom card making adventures, I'm pretty happy with my process for making standard cards.

I started experimenting with some various premium foil versions, but wasn't overly pleased with the results on the cards I made.  They still needed some more pop, since the images just sort of faded into the foil.

Over the last couple months, I have spent way too much time and energy trying to figure out where I was going wrong.  I enjoy solving puzzles, but tend to get really, really frustrated when I can't figure something out.  But...problem solved!  There is still some room for perfecting the process.  And I need to figure out why it looks like the name says Roberto Clfmente.  But I'm really happy with this card, and it's a big breakthrough for my card making.  The colors didn't come through as well on my scanner, but in person the card looks pretty similar to the Topps Canary cards from a few years ago.

Now back to the drawing board to see what else I can come up with.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

No Number, No Cry

Unissued cards aren't exactly anything new.  For as long as companies have been producing cards, I'd bet that things have been slipping out the back door or getting sold off when the company folds.  But over the last few years, there have been quite a few cards popping up on ebay that are virtually identical to the pack issued counterparts, but missing the serial number.  Test sheets, replacements, and whenever else comes off of the printer.

I know some have mixed feelings on these cards.  After all, if they weren't pack issued, I can see why some people would consider them unofficial.  But to me, if the card came out as part of the original print run, it's all the same to me.
 And also a great way to save a pretty penny for my collection.
 One of my new projects has been picking up 1998 Donruss Signature autographs whenever I can.  Most of the base red autos are pretty cheap.  The green autos are limited to 1000 copies, and lesser players can be had for a buck or two.  But the rarest are the blue autographs, at just 100 copies.
 Iconic set.  Rare 90's insert.  Autographed.  Yeah.  Doesn't exactly jive with my collecting budget.
But I've found some sellers who have unnumbered versions of some of the autographs in the set available.  Sure, they aren't pack issued.  But if I can pay a couple dollars, versus $10 or $20 for the numbered version....sign me up.  After all, these blue autos just look amazing in my eyes.  And to be able to add a few players from the checklist, even if they aren't quite big name stars, makes me a happy collector.