Sunday, October 11, 2020

Dealing in Pairs

I've been keeping the mailman busy over the last few weeks.  There has been a pretty steady stream of mail heading into my house.  It definitely seems like a less than ideal time to jump into buying.  Prices seem to be surging, or at least sellers are pricing cards like they *wish* they were surging.  

Shipping prices have jumped through the roof.  Anybody else remember when $2 shipping would get you a card in a bubble mailer?  It seems like $3-5 shipping is the norm these days.  Sometimes it gets you a well packed card in a bubble mailer, but I've also found that $3 shipping may mean I'm getting a toploader in a PWE these days.  

And with whatever mess de jour is going on over at COMC and who knows the next time I'll actually see the inside of a card show, options are limited right now.  But it's made for a fun game of cat and mouse to find cards that I actually want at a price I'll pay.

My Pirates collection will always be the bulk of my collecting focus.  Though there were some points where my more frequent readers definitely would have noticed that this blog would have been more aptly titled "A Bunch of Shiny Cards from the 90's."  But there have been a few projects that have been on my collecting back burner for years that I'm finally starting to put some hobby dollars behind.  And it's been really rewarding to see a range of sets and cards trickling in, rather than just feeling like I'm compulsively buying Pirates.

And it just so happens that I seem to buying in pairs.  None of these cards came from the same seller, making it that much more unusual.  But sometimes life just works out that way.

I've been slowly plugging away at the 1998 Donruss Signature autograph set for years now.  Due to some low print run cards of some of the stars, I'll never officially complete the base version, let alone any of the parallel sets.  But boy is it a nice set.

I added the Palmeiro for a measly $4-something shipped.  The man has 3,020 hits, and 569 home runs.  I don't care how you cut it, or whether you're for against him making his way to Cooperstown.  That's an absolutely absurd price to pay for his autograph.

And speaking of 90's stars...

The 2001 Donruss master set is another set that I've been picking up cards here and there over the years.  I'll never finish any of it - base, parallels, or any inset sets due to the star power and some of the low print runs.  But the Stat Line parallels are among my favorite parts of the set, and I couldn't complain about adding two decent names from the set.
But like I said, my Pirates will always be my primary focus.  I've been on a bit of a Jason Bay buying streak recently.  Now that his playing days are over, his prices have settled.  For a while, his stints in Boston and New York had driven prices to the point that I stopped even searching for his cards.

But those days are over, and now he's just pretty good player who had a couple of really good years.  Those are some of my favorite guys to buy - the Jason Bays and Brian Giles of the world who had a couple of magic years, but can be had for a song after they retire.  Sometimes I hate the "latest and greatest" attitude of this hobby.  From what I hear there is some big hoopla over the current crop of rookies, and prices are insane.  I honestly can't tell you how many baseball games I have watched over the last few years, so I'm willfully ignorant.  And I'm a-okay with that.  And when it comes to buying?  I'm perfectly fine waiting to pick up cards once the hype has come and gone.

Both these Bay autos are /25, and the X-Fractor in particular looks amazing in person.  Part of me wonders how many how many times a card traded hands, and what prices people paid before it makes a home in my collection.  

Mail keeps trickling in, and I have a few other pairs on the way.  So who knows, this may become an unintentional ongoing theme.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The One(s) That Got Away

 Call it a second wind, but being back in the routine of collecting has been a lot of fun.  I'm sitting around waiting for my mailman to arrive each day in a way that's starting to feel borderline canine.  

There are a lot of different irons in the fire right now.  I'm headed into the home stretch of getting my Pirate collection logged on TCDB, and have even struck up my first trades on the site.  I started browsing around the artist formerly known as Just Commons, which apparently has a new name and slightly better search interface.  And I've been taking a deep dive back into my own collection, and enjoying the thousands of cards I already have.

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the highlight is the mail. 

As I mentioned in my last post, if I was going to collect, it needed to be fun.  I missed that rush of each new pickup being its own event to be excited about.  And truth be told, one of the big things that burnt me out on collecting was the way the hobby has evolved.  Collecting started to feel harder than studying for a 10th grade chemistry test.  Just keeping straight which card I owned was a complex exercise in mental gymnastics.

Was it the blue shimmer sparkle wave refractor that I had, or the baby blue shimmer dot refractor?  

Logging the card into my collection became a scavenger hunt that ended up with 3 tabs open, 5 reference photos, and Scotland Yard on the phone.  

Ain't nobody got time for that.  So let's stick with the classics.

The 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game set has always had special memories for me.  2000 was the year I really started feeling like a "collector."  My mom would take me to the LCS to buy a few packs every week or two, and another shop opened in the local mall.

I mostly stuck to the low end products.  Fleer Impact.  Topps.  Maybe we'd get real wild and go for a pack of Upper Deck MVP.  

But one afternoon we were in the mall, and while I was browsing the dime boxes (I was a young convert), the owner was telling my mom about the new product - Greats of the Game - with an unheard of 4 autographs in each box.  At this point I don't think I had ever so much as held and auto or game used card.  They were just eye candy in my monthly Beckett.

My mom has always been budget conscious.  I got it from her, she got it from my grandfather.  My wife says I'm cheap.  But I prefer frugal.

But my mom must have been feeling a wild streak that night.  She decided to try a pack from the half empty box.  I asked her if she was sure.  The packs were marked at $5 or 6 a piece.  For that price I could have a small mountain of Topps packs.

The first pack was a dud.  So was the next one.  And the next one.  We swung and missed.

But it's always been a set that's been in my mind.  Maybe it's the one that got away.  Who knows what else might have been in those packs?

It felt like the right place to start as I restarted collecting.  Even though prices are probably a bit elevated, most of the non-stars in the set can be hard for under $10.  The common HoF'ers under $20.  And damn the cards are *beautiful,* with a simple yet stately design.  The gold borders just frame the cards perfectly, the slight offwhite background and distortion on the player photos framing the autograph perfectly.

I'll never complete the set.  Some of the bigger names were SP's, and go for big money.  But I'm ok with that.  I'll chip away here and there, recapturing the cards I never pulled in the mall.  

Heck, I have a box-worth of autos right here.  And even if you don't factor in inflation, they cost me a heck of a lot less than what a box ran in 2000.

But I can't help but wonder what might have happened if we had opened just oneeeee more pack.

Anyone else have a "one that got away" set?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Finding Some Direction

While in many ways it feels like I never left collecting, a lot can change in two years.  I was read to be back on the wagon and post two days in a row until my scanner had different plans.  I had been using the same all-in-one printer/scanner since before my blogging days, but we bought a new printer in late 2018.  I've scanned some things for work, but never had to give much thought to resolution, quality, etc.

So after an hour and a half of fighting with the scanner, trying out different settings, and getting my image game back on point, here we are.  A day late, but at least the cards won't look like they're in a grainy ad for STAR baseball cards from 1992.

My biggest priority in coming back to collecting is making sure I'm having *fun* again.  By the time I stepped away from collecting, I was burnt out and dealing with new cards coming in felt more like a chore than a hobby.  

My collecting evolved over the years.  In my teens, my collection was subsidized by my mom slipping me a $20 before I drove to the local mall show, or maybe a few boxes of cards for Christmas.  My focus was pretty narrow, because so was my budget.  It was semi-easy to be a player collector on a terrible, small market team.  Jack Wilson was my favorite Pirate, but he wasn't somebody who was going to attract a lot of hobby dollars.  Even Jason Bay was out of my price range back then.

In college, I started branching out to trying to get an autograph of every Pirate who had a certified auto.  A pretty easy task at the time, relatively speaking.  The only guys you were going to pay above $10 for was Willie Stargell, Kiner, or Maz.  And even then, it wasn't by much except for Stargell.

The dime box diving started in college and continued through grad school, and I started building my collection from COMC and ebay.  I call those the "eat tacos for 5 straight meals" years.  I was living on my own, making what at the time felt like a decent wage from my grad school stipend (it wasn't), and cost of living was absurdly low for a guy living on his own.  Spoiler: tacos are cheap and let you buy more baseball cards.

I started this blog shortly after finishing grad school.  And my collection grew by leaps and bounds.

But at some point it just got to be too much to manage.  Cards were coming in faster than I could enjoy and appreciate them.  I'm still finishing up migrating my Pirate collection over to TCDB to get a final count.  But I have over 19,000 different Pirate cards.  I think the final tally should be around 20,000.  That doesn't count doubles, triples, and "half a row of 1994 Fleer Jeff Kings."

The feeling of realizing you were burnt out on a hobby that you had loved since you were a little kid absolutely sucked.  But the time away has been wonderful in many ways.  As I started to dip my toes back into the collecting waters these last few weeks, I really wanted to take a hard look at *how* I was collecting.

I was buying quantity over quality.  Sure, I was still buying some higher end cards here and there. But when push came to shove, I was far more likely to come away with 50 dime cards than I was to drop $5 on a nicer single.

When it was a mailer here and a card show there, it was manageable.  But at some point the quantity coming in was just too much to keep up with or appreciate.

My plan is to focus more on quality over quantity.  I'll always be a team collector, and I'm sure I'll continue adding plenty of lower end cards.  But I wanted to add some cards that felt like they were missing from my collection.  And where better to start than some of the all time greats.

I grabbed all of these cards from the same ebay seller.  I may have overpaid a little bit - maybe 10% or so - but it's worth it after being away for so long.  The Parker SI auto is his first certified auto.  How can you go wrong with an on card auto and the classic bumblebee uniform?  

I only had one certified Maz auto in my collection - 01 Fleer GotG.  I have a handful of in person and TTM autos from Maz over the years.  But these two beauties are welcomed additions.  I was like a kid on Christmas opening up the bubble mailer.  And all for less than the going rate of a box these days.

I'm still feeling out exactly where my collection is going to go from here.  But these new pickups were a nice reminder of just how much fun you can have when you have the time to take in each and every card.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cardboard Therapy

I'm not really sure where to start this one.  Hell, I'm not really sure IF to start this one.

It's been two years since I've blogged, and pretty much two years since I collected cards.  I'm not really sure what to call it.  I wouldn't say that I quit collecting.  To me that implies there would be some kind of active decision.  It's more just that I sort of...forgot to collect.

For the guy who had been collecting uninterrupted since he was old enough to read the box scores in the newspaper, it's a strange feeling only in retrospect.  I had seen people quit collecting cold turkey, sell off their collections, and move on beyond baseball cards.  And my reaction was always, "I could never do that."  And well, I was half right.  For all intents and purposes I did quit collecting.  I didn't sell my cards.  Or look at my cards.  Or even think about my cards, even though they occupy a pretty decent chunk of my basement.

In fact, the pile of cards that I showed off in my last blog post some two years ago from the 2018 National stayed piled up, totally untouched, unsorted, un-anythinged for about a year and a half until I finally rounded up all the stray stacks of cards into a monster box.

The why is complicated.  More complicated than it's worth getting into in a blog post on a long-dead blog.  But the long and short of it that I was burnt out on collecting, and on my 20's.  I was sick of the cookie cutter products that card companies were releasing, had fallen out of love with my hometown baseball team, and dealing with all the real-life shit that hits you like a ton of bricks when you move into your 30's.

I honestly would have been perfectly content to leave it all in the rear view mirror quite a while longer.  After all, it's not like there has been any shortage of time to think about busting out the old collection over the past few months.  But life sometimes has its own ideas.

I was scrolling through Facebook (something I try to avoid these days) a couple of weeks ago, when I saw a post to the Team Collector's group I've been in for almost a decade asking if the Pirates collector was still active.  That's me.  I've been scarce from a group I considered friends.  People who I've traveled far and wide to get together with, share meals, catch a ball game, all from a shared love of cards.  And I pretty much dropped off the face of the planet, save for the occasional cards I'd send out or a quick hello.  But the gang was nice enough to keep my spot.  Or maybe it's just even harder than ever to find a Pirates collector these days...

Either way, I started thinking about collecting.  Not just the cards, but all the other stuff that comes with it.  The friendships, the interactions.  The best part of this blog was never about showing off my cards, but finding content that I knew my regular commenters would enjoy.  Reading posts on other blogs, and commenting back and forth.  And even the occasional unexpected package from a reader.

I burnt myself out on collecting.  I was obsessively trying to add more and more Pirate cards, and went down a rabbit hole with custom cards that was an arts and crafts project on steroids.  And with cards pouring in, cataloging and organizing my collection became its own anxiety inducing task.  Hence those NSCC cards that sat for 18 months.  

I realized I missed collecting, and I missed the community that comes with it.  My patience was tested early.  I came across a Jack Wilson card I didn't have, put in what I thought was an "win at all costs bid."  About double what the card would have sold for 2 years ago.  I was the third highest bidder.  That was almost enough to have me throw in the towel and leave my binders be.  

But I think I can truthfully say that I'm back collecting, and having fun doing it again.  I'm working on getting my collection logged on TCDB (username battlinbucs, if you want to be pals).  I'm finding it to be a much better site than it was 2 years ago.  I've been working on building out my Pirate haves/wants, and logging some of my oddball side collections as well.  I'm finding it so much faster and less stressful than my old system of multiple spreadsheets.  

So I guess this is Phase II of dipping my toes back into the cardboard waters.  I've missed writing.  When I started this blog, it's what I thought I'd be doing as a career (not penning the Great American Novel or anything).  I've carved out a career that I'm very happy with and proud of, but some weeks the most writing I do is the odd email.  

Who knows if anyone will read this.  I think blogs were passe when I started in 2013.  But it's a form that works for me.  I tried Twitter a few years ago, but I think my attention span is too long and my appetite for drama too short to be able to handle that community.  So in the mean time, who wants to get me caught up on the last two years worth of cardboard?  So far I've figured out that a) there is zero product in stores b) prices online are laughably high and c) I will do whatever it takes to own every Lloyd McClendon card from 2020 Archives I possibly can.