Friday, October 30, 2015

The Devil's in the Details

It's strange the way the hobby has shifted in recent years.  With a billion different "fractor" versions - waves, colors, prisms, galore - it's crazy to see how some versions have become insanely collected, while others are more or less ignored.

But the king among them is unquestionably the superfractor.  Honestly, they aren't as exciting to me as they used to be.  Especially after I learned how to make my own.  But it's still a superfractor.
There have been plenty of test proofs, samples, and whatnot filtering out into the hobby for years.  And as I've written before, I don't really care much whether the card came from a pack or the back alley of a print shop.  I just want the card.

So when I saw a glut of Superfractor proofs listen on ebay, there was no doubt I was going to be bidding.

The cards are nearly identical to the pack issued versions.  A couple of the cards were undersized, and the Diaz at the top of this post has a pretty strong slant on its bottom.  The cards were obviously hand cut, and not very well.

But considering I ended up paying less than $2 per card, I'm happy to add them to my collection.  They really do look great in person, and while I would never shell out the typical sale prices for a Super, I will gladly pay $2 to live without a 1/1 stamp.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Green

There's little doubt that the 00's in card collecting will be known for the explosion of colored parallels, just as the 90's were known for inserts.  The color-me-crazy fad that had collectors up in arms and partially led to the downfall of Donruss and Fleer has been exploited to the Nth power by Topps in recent years.  

It gets a little exhausting after a while.  But a select few of those parallels are just priceless in my eyes.  And the LCM Mirror Emerald cards are right near the top of that list.  At just 5 copies, they were consistently rare, unlike Topps numbering that often jumps from year to year.  And they looked daaaaaamn good.  This is actually my third emerald from the 2005 set, and I was more than happy to pay a mere $4 for this guy to come into my collection.  All hail Jose Castillo, 2B of the future...from the past.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Topps Update Update

As a team collector, there have always been few things I enjoy more than the annual Topps sets.  After all, how else can you get a card of Corey Hart or Cesar Izturis as a Buc?  But even with two series and an update set, Topps tends to make some omissions both small and large each year.

And being a little OCD, that's just not gonna fly.
 So slowly I have been chipping away at creating my own Topps Update Update custom cards to fill in any gaps that the brain trust at Topps may have overlooked.
 It's tough to completely replicate the look of the foil-heavy cards from the mid 90's through today, but overall I'm pretty happy with how these have come out.
 Of course not every cup of coffee player even has photos available, so my checklists aren't entirely as comprehensive as I would have liked.  I'm still trying to think of some workarounds on those cases.
 But slowly my checklists are fleshing themselves out.  Apparently I'm slowly creating my own dime box cards.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

McCutchen Super Mailday

Ok, so not THAT McCutchen.    But hey, I'm more than happy with the pickup.  Daniel McCutchen came over from the Yankees along with Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata, and Ross Ohlendorf.  None of the guys ended up even as solid major league regulars, but they provided some pretty solid value for those Pirates turnaround teams that got the club to its current Wild Card streak today.
And did I mention: ooo...shiny!

Monday, October 19, 2015

I Can See Clearly Now

With 2015 just hitting the streets, it seems fitting that I'm just getting caught up on last year's release.
2014 Tek was one of my favorite products, but the Pirates were left in the cold with only one player in the base set.  And of course that player had to be a well regarded rookie.  Polanco's cards were selling well last year, and that made finding solid prices on his Tek cards tough.

But as his prices have cooled, I've been able to add to my Tek rainbow.  At about $12, this auto /50 ran me about what I paid for the regular base auto nearly a year ago.  But live and learn.  I'll have a more targeted strategy for chasing down the Bucs in this year's release.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Weekend Arts and Crafts

Creating my own custom cards has added a lot of fun to collecting for me.  And at a point where much of the hobby has lost my interest, it's nice to be able to create the cards I want.  Getting them signed?  Icing on the cake.

I was able to whip up a few customs to include in my TTM requests a few months back.  I'm a sucker for unique uniforms, so I can't pass up the chance to get one signed.

It's fun being able to control the entire process, from photo selection to design.

And it's a lot of fun to have a good excuse to create some of my own cards.  I haven't sent out as many custom cards as I'd like, and it can be tough to find the time to put everything together after a day of work.  But hopefully it's something that I'll be able to jump into a little more this winter.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Setting the Low Score

I've been scouring ebay more often than usual lately.  And while that has mostly mean I've just been getting outbid a lot, I have added some cool pickups for great prices.
Like this Starling Marte autograph.  Marte has been one of the players to see a big surge in popularity and card prices as the Bucs have been winning.  I usually snatch up any auto of his I can find on the low end at $4 or so, but even those are rare.

I had this one in my watch list, but it's not the most eye catching auto, so I figured I'd throw in a low bid.  But winning?  Probably not.

I was more than surprised when I saw that I had won for $1.25.  Shipping?  That nearly doubled the price, at a full $1!  Grand total?  $2.25.

And going off ebay's completed auctions, that's the lowest a Marte auto has gone recently by a pretty fair margin.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Autographs at Work? Yes, Please

Along with a new job came the discovery that work can, apparently, be a lot of fun too.  My new position includes overseeing programming for our part of the United Way's middle school mentoring campaign.  It's really a great concept - middle school kids are paired with adult mentors from the community and local businesses.  The sessions are once a week, usually during lunch time for the kids, and only last about 45 mins.  But you'd be amazed at how much of a difference having a good, professional role model and presence can make in the development of these kids.
So I spent yesterday morning at a recruiting event for the middle school mentoring program.  The United Way did the leg work - I just had to show up at one of the big banks downtown, smile, and try to recruit new volunteers for the program.

 Added perk?  The United Way had arranged for Steelers safety Will Allen, who is very active in trying to give back to the community, to appear, sign some autographs, and hopefully convince people to show up so I could swoop in and tell them about mentoring.
It was a great event, and I'd strongly suggest looking into any similar mentoring programs in your area.  For a very small commitment of nothing but your time, you really can make a huge difference in the life of a child.

And now that the PSA is out of the way, I did print out a couple customs the night before.  You know, just in case.  Considering the Steelers had a Monday night game all the way in San Diego and Allen banged up his ankle in the game, I was amazed he still made it there right on time at 11:00.  Talk about committed.

Ok, maybe it isn't the prettiest signature in the world.  And I was a little bummed when he said he doesn't sign anything from his time in Tampa Bay.  But still not bad for a morning's work.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Playoff Beards

I have to admit I've never totally gotten the concept of the playoff beard.  As someone who has had a tuft of hair thick enough that birds could have been living in it without my knowledge for the past five years, I've always been a little off-put by the beard bandwagoners who feel they can only justify their facial hair for a playoff run.  The beard, after all, deserves year round celebration.

My beard has been a state of shambles lately.  I went clean shaven for my interview for the new job a few weeks back.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not one who struggles with facial hair.  Thanks to my Italian roots, I look like that scene in Tim Allen's The Santa Clause where he shaves his beard at night, and wakes up in the morning with a full beard.  But still, when I have, at points, looked like a less aged member of ZZ Top, my current state of facial scruff is a sad call from my glorious full beardedness.

And in all honesty, I would gleefully take the chance to watch the Pirates sad attempts at beard growing in October in some alternate universe.  Instead, I'll live vicariously through my cardboard.  This card came in the day before the wild card game.  Aside from its awesome die-cut-ness, I appreciated the full bearded Neil Walker.  The Pittsburgh Kid was rocking a beard for a good chunk of last year from what I recall.  It's not a playoff beard, but at least it's a nice beard.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mail Day: Combined Shipping is Your Friend

I promised myself I'd treat myself with a nice new addition to my collection to celebrate my new job.  And I've been looking and looking on ebay the past couple weeks, but nothing has really caught my eye.  But you know how ebay goes.  While I haven't found my biggie, I certainly came across more than a few smaller cards that ended up in my mailbox.

All of the cards in this post came from the same seller.  At $.99 each and $.10 combined shipping for each additional card, I ended up snagging a few cool cards that I'm sure fit in somewhere in my vast and innumerable collections.
 The Hammerin Hank refractors were a tough pull in 2000 Topps.
 And the Burres auto was an impulse buy.  I'll be stripping the sticker off the card for a custom at some point in the near future.
 There aren't many good things to say about Daniel Moskos, but this is a really cool looking card, and for a buck...why not.
 And of course I did manage to add some Pirate cards.
 The Longevity parallels were actually the whole reason I ended up buying from this seller.  2002 Leaf Rookies and Stars was a product I really enjoyed in the days when 1 hit per box products were still a new thing.

And I couldn't pass up a chance to add a nice pinstripe relic of my favorite Marlin.  Nice clean design on the card as well.

 Another bonus to combined shipping?  Finding cards you thought you already had, but didn't.  This Chris Duffy auto looked familiar, so I skimmed past it a couple different times.  Turns out I have a relic and base version that uses the same photo/design, but didn't have the auto.
 So now I do...

I'm still on the prowl for a nice Griffey or Ripken auto to add to my collection, but I certainly wouldn't complain if I stumbled onto a few more finds like this in the mean time.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Day After

The Pirates postseason, if you even care to call it that, ended with barely a whimper.  I was a bit pessimistic to begin with, expecting a 4-1 score favoring the Cubbies.  But things played out even worse than I could have expected, and the game felt lost by the second batter of the game.

Quite honestly, my feelings on the season are mixed.  I attended a whopping two games in person, unquestionably my lowest total since 1996, if not earlier.  Heck, there were many weekends when I went to more than two Pirate games.  And I watched maybe a dozen more on tv.  After some of the marketing decisions made by the team that rubbed quite a few fellow season ticket holders (wait, they're called ticket memberships now) the wrong way, I made a personal decision that I wasn't going to financially support the team this year.  And I didn't.  Both games I attended were with some of my students.  The tickets were free, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world regardless.  But the fact of the matter is that I can't say I'm overly invested in this year's team.  Nor did I watch the team grind through 98 wins only to essentially be left out of the actual playoffs.

Still, watching last night's game was pretty soul sucking.  Two of my favorite Pirates are going to go out without the postseason stage they so greatly deserved.  Aramis Ramirez was the last real link in the game to the Pirates teams of the early 2000's that made me love baseball and this team.  And the chance to see him in black and gold once again was the only reason I watched most of the games I did.

And A.J. Burnett was the first player I really loved watching play since Jack Wilson retired.  He had a grit and intensity that just fit the personality of the city so well, and loved watching every chance to watch him pitch.  I had just expected to have one or two more shots at that in October.

And those things bother me more than anything.  What's done is done.  While the new wildcard format surely boosts revenue, ratings, and everything else, I think it's laughable that one way or another a 95+ win team was going to never get a chance to sniff actual playoff baseball this year.  It's a disservice to the game, and it's certainly frustrating for anyone involved.  But it is what it is.

Maybe next year will be better, hold something different.  Both for the Bucs and for my connection to the team.  I would have loved to see the team make a real run in the postseason.  Or even just get a chance.  But maybe I'm not as broken up as I could or should be about the way it played out.  Here's to 2016.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Great Day for a Ballgame

Here's to hoping for a little October magic tonight in the Burgh.  I'll be watching from home tonight, but if the atmosphere comes anywhere close to the 2013 Wild Card game, it'll be something special.  That is hands down the greatest game I've ever attended.

I've showed this one off a couple times, but this custom Russell Martin auto is one of my favorite items in my collection.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Welcome to October

I don't think there is any sport I associate so strongly with a season as baseball.  Hockey and basketball feel like a mercifully out of place ending when the winter sports wrap up as the shorts come out.  And while I love a good football playoff game in the snow, the holiday cheer makes the Superbowl feel a little anti-climactic to me.  But baseball?  After a long, sweltering, glorious summer, nothing feels as fitting as the weather begins to bite and the leaves begin to turn as playoff baseball.
 Tomorrow is the third consecutive one game play-in for the Pirates.  I'm hoping for another win, but the Cubs are a tough match up.  If the Pirates have a chance, they need to get the "good" version of the two guys in this post.  No player has been as frustrating to me as Pedro Alvarez.  For all his pedigree and early success, he has always been a maddening strikeout machine.
And while Polanco shows flashes of brilliance and is still very young, the margin of error couldn't be slimmer and a win and you're in, lose and we wait for next year scenario.

But win or lose, I'll be enjoying a glorious post season with glass of apple cider in hand.  Here's to October.

Just Missing the Find of a Lifetime

Sometimes this hobby can be a funny thing. My posting has slowed down a lot over the past year. Life has certainly had an impact on that. But collecting in general has changed for me. And I find myself going through the motions far too often when I do blog. Don't get me wrong; I love seeing and reading about other people's pickups. But I feel like almost all of my posts are just new additions. Maildays. Flea markets. The finds are fun for my collection, but they aren't exactly inspired writing on my part.  
It's gotten pretty hard for me to write about the hobby. It's not because I don't have anything to say. In fact, quite the opposite. But I feel like I'm a broken record. I'm frustrated with the collecting options, or lack thereof. I'm frustrated that some of the things I enjoy most about collecting, base cards, shiny inserts, and the like, have taken a back seat to $150 a pack, one card chases of that big hit.

So most nights, I end up writing nothing.

I was at the flea market up the street over the weekend.  I ended up getting up early, but took my time getting out the door, figuring it would take until 9am or so until more vendors were set up anyway.
I took a quick walk around the outside before heading in to see my card guy.  Apparently I missed the find of a lifetime by about half an hour, while I sat in bed doing nothing.  One of the guys set up outside had a binder of old cards.  It had a second year Clemente, a late 60's Mantle, Koufax and Ernie Banks rookies, and a assortment of other minor star cards.
The sale price?  A cool $30.  I only saw the cards from a distance, but they looked legit.  I had a knot in my stomach the rest of the morning thinking about the crazy find I missed out on.  There had to have been a couple thousand dollars of cards there, even if I would have been hardpressed to sell them.
Worse yet, the guy who bought them was the former school superintendent.  He said he was going to grade them and sell.  Cause...he clearly needed the money.

But I can't complain.  I finally have a job I love, and I've been stress free and enjoying life in ways that haven't happened the last couple years due to some less than ideal work environments.  But...a Sandy rookie card sure would have been some nice icing on the cake.