Friday, August 26, 2016

Blaster Break: When Computers Come to Life

Maybe I'm just an old soul.  Maybe I just watched too much Battlestar Galactica, and have very legitimate concerns about the machines taking over.  Either way, I'm decidedly behind the tech curve.  
As digital cards have become...a recent years, I tried to wrap my head around it.  I've even bought "packs" on and off over the last few years with the free coins you can earn by logging into Topps Bunt.  Still not seeing the appeal.

But when I saw that Bunt had been released as a tangible product, I was pretty excited.  The one thing missing from my collecting calendar (aside from multiple manufacturers who can use logos and Topps Total) has been another low end release.

We have super duper high end products out the wazoo.  We get the more throwback sets than James K. Polk would care to see.  But for the low end collectors, the only crack at a fun, cheap product comes before the first game is played, and the excitement wears off while superstars are still hitting below the Mendoza line.

 So the timing seems perfect for a mid-year low end release.  And while I have absolutely despised the Flagship releases over the last couple years, the design for Bunt actually really struck a chord with me.
 It's been a rough week work-wise, finding out that we lost a contract with a school that we had been told "was on the way" for months two days before the start of the year.
 So a little retail therapy was very welcomed.
 I enjoyed the break for the most part.  The inserts in my blaster box looked great, even if the player selection wasn't my favorite.  I'm a sucker for throwback uniforms, and the trippy Lightforce inserts are some of my favorites in years.  Add in a nice, clean base design that doesn't feel over-engineered despite the fact that there really is a lot going on, you we have a winner.
 My biggest complaint was the lack of inserts.  Unlike Opening Day, which has often yielded multiple inserts in the same pack, over half the packs I opened either had no insert or a coupon for a free pack of Topps Bunt (the online one).  I get the latter - after all, I assume the product was largely created to drive traffic to their digital platform, where they can rake in the cash without that pesky step of actually...producing...anything.

Still, it would have been nice to see more inserts out of the packs.  But given how stale and formulaic Opening Day has started to feel for me, this was a great change of pace for $10.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Going for the Gold

There's just something magnetic about colored refractors that match a team's colors.  And while it certainly feels like Topps has spanned the entire rainbow in recent years, the standard for the refractor has always been the gold refractor in my eyes.  The gold standard, if you will. 

And there's just something about the gold mixed with the Pirates traditional black-dominated uniform that really pops.

I've tried to shy away from prospect cards in recent years.  Since finishing college, I just don't have the time to closely follow the minor league system the way I did, and with the chaos that has become the Bowman brand it's just more hassle for me than it's worth in my eyes.

But as with most cards, the price of gold refractors seems to creep lower and lower.  I remember when I was thrilled to buy one for $4 shipped.  Then $3.  And now...well, there's a certain point where willpower goes out the window.

I added both these cards for just a hair over $2 each.  Delivered.

Setting the world on fire?  Not exactly.

But both are great additions.  Schwartzbauer is an alum of my alma mater, Duquesne University, and graduated a couple years before I got to campus.  Considering only a handful of players were drafted (including ex-Bucco Joe Beimel) before the baseball program was scrapped in 2010, it hasn't been tough to chase down cards of the few players that have them.  So this was a big pickup in my book.

And Supak was a 2nd round pick out of high school in 2014, who the Bucs traded away this offseason for Jason Rogers (he of 14 major league at bats this year).  Supak hasn't pitched great, but he's still very young with a strong pedigree.  And for the's shiny!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Worth the Wait

I'm still unearthing my card collection.  And it's great to have everything in the same place, but that also means...there are a lot of cards.

I recently dug into the stack of TTM returns that date back to late October of last year.  While I haven't sent out that many requests, the ones that did come back got quickly opened and piled up until I had the time to go through everything.

While there are some great returns that I'm excited to show off, nothing can top this bad boy.

I sent the request during Spring Training 2015, and it popped up in my parents' mailbox this spring.  Tack on another 5 months until I really took the time to appreciate the return, and it was still well worth the wait.

The consensus seems to be the returns are legit, and the signature certainly matches up well with certified issues, without any signs of being an autopen or stamp.

It's amazing that a star of Kershaw's magnitude takes the time to sign fan mail, in an era where there are A ball players who don't have time for the fans.  And it's an autograph I'm thrilled to add to my collection.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Custom Ink

There are a lot of nice things about moving (aside from the actual moving...that was terrible).  Going from driving an hour each way to being 10 minutes from the office is nice.  Not tossing a rent check into a financial black hole every month is great too.  But the best part?  Being able to stretch out a bit.  Our is a cape cod with about 1,400 sq. ft.  It's not huge, but after living in apartments or dorms since starting college, the idea of not having to store all your extra stuff in the same spot where you're also trying to live is a real nice change of pace.  And from a collecting standpoint, it's nice to be able to actually have my entire collection (well, mostly.  I still need to unload a few more boxes from my parents' house) in one place.

It had gotten to the point where new cards that came in were just getting tossed into boxes to be dealt with later.  There was no space to sort through them in our apartment.  Well, later has finally come.  There are probably 6 months + worth of mail that had just been added into boxes.  Cards that, for the most part, I had taken a quick glance at and then into the box they went.

In with that group were come customs that my collecting pal got signed for me during Spring Training this year.  She lives right near the White Sox camp, and I was able to whip up customs for lesser known players who didn't have many cards.  And she was gracious enough to get a few signed for me as well.

These two are by far my favorite.  It's almost impossible to find a photo of the LaRoche brothers together from their time in Pittsburgh.  This shot was the best I could do, even though I'd have liked to have both guys facing forward.  Andy signed this last year when he was in Sox camp as a non-roster invitee, and Adam apparently finished it up before he left the team this spring.

And the Zach Duke card is one of my new favorites, custom or otherwise.  Though they only wore them for 2 seasons and across a couple dozen games, it's amazing that no photo of the Pirates "McDonald's" vest made it onto cardboard.  Heck, even finding photo evidence that the jersey existed is tough.