Tag Archives: Yankees

The Best: Kruk

I was a chubby kid and I loved sports, both watching and playing. Much as it stands today, I loved baseball and basketball. Early in my childhood I noticed one thing about my two favorite sports, not a lot of fat guys. This was especially true in basketball where I was limited to “idolizing” Oliver Miller as a fat kid. Baseball was also fairly short on fat “idols” but there were a few more stars who I could identify with. Baseball, due to a lesser emphasis on running, seemed more friendly to the overweight player, I would say it still is. Back then I could look at Cecil Fielder, David Wells, and Mo Vaughn as athletes with my body type, today you have Prince Fielder and CC Sabathia (I’m not saying these guys are out of shape, just “bigger”). I would never say any of these guys were my favorites, but it helped me believe that even if I never got my cardio in order I still had a chance to be a good player in something other than football. (I did get my cardio in order, somewhat later however, I can now run a few miles without keeling over but it has come long after my dreams of glory ended)

This all brings me to John Kruk. He is my favorite “fat” ball player (I will not refer to him as an athlete, as he does not refer to himself as an athlete). His gregarious personality and solid hitting made me a fan even if he didn’t play for my beloved Yankees. I also always loved this All-Star moment:

The man was just happy to live.

I also have to mention that mullet…look at the mullet.  Furthermore, I actually enjoy his ESPN shenanigans, which I can’t say for most former players. The man is a legend in his own time and he was also my most recent ebay pickup.

Krukograph

Krukograph

My fixation on Topps Archives continues and this was a must-have.  An autograph of one of my favorite non-star, non-Yankee players on a reprint of a set that I spent a lot of time collecting as a kid.  Truly classic, truly the best.

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Black Friday Update

As I mentioned in my Black Friday post I purchased a box of 2012 Topps Archive Baseball as part of my post-Thanksgiving haul. The box recently arrived and, much like my Panini Threads box, it was a winner.

A full review of Archives is probably not necessary, or timely, but since this is one of my favorite products of the year I think it’s worth a write up. For the record, this is my second hobby box of Archive (not to mention a few blasters) and was a bigger score than my first. I love retro products, so I need to establish that bias and I love, LOVE, retro reprint autographs (especially when they are on-card, like they are here). Besides the annual Bowman release, Topps throwback products are the releases I most look forward to.

The 2012 Archive base set brings back four classic Topps designs, 1954, 1971, 1980, and 1984. Out of these four, I prefer the ’71s and the ’84s. Both sets are iconic designs that feature excellent action photography and design flourishes that make them instantly recognizable. The 71s feature a black border and team coordinated text. The 84s feature an inset portrait and fun block lettering on the front. All of the designs are solid in their own way and it is always fun to see modern players on the better, classic base designs.

The set also features SP remakes of some fan favorite cards. The SPs range from all-time greats like Ken Griffey Jr. to lesser heralded stars of their day like Dave Righetti and John Olerud. The SPs make collecting a whole set a challenge, but that is welcome in a product where the base set is only 241 cards. They also provide added value to those collectors who want to recoup some money on the secondary market, as you get six per box and they sell pretty quickly at $1-$2 per card.

There are numerous inserts in the Archives set, based on past cards. They include the 1976 Cloth cards, 1967 Stickers, 1969 Deckle Edge, 1968 3d cards, and reprints of iconic rookie cards. The inserts are not the draw by any means but they are fun throwbacks to inventive (if not gimmicky ideas of the past). The only real seller on the secondary market are the reprints, which command a few dollars based on the player.

It wouldn’t be Archives without Fan Favorites autographs. A box of Archives yields two Fan Favorite autogrpahs and at the current price, these two auto boxes are a bargain. The checklist is a solid list of former stars and fan favorites including Cecil Fielder, Don Mattingly, Hank Aaron, Jim Abbott, Jay Buhner, John Kruk, Sandy Koufax, Will Clark, Willie Mays, not to mention the obligatory Bryce Harper autograph and the first Topps autograph of Ken Griffey, Jr. in a long time (if ever). The autographs don’t stop with the Fan Favorites autographs, Topps also included buyback autographs of guys like Griffey, Aaron, Mays, and others like Albert Belle. There are also framed 1983 mini autographs and box topper autographs of 80’s celebs like Vanna White and Billy Zabka of Karate Kid fame. (Sweep the leg!!!!!). See full checklist here. As a final note: ON CARD AUTOS!!!! That’s what I’m talking about. I pulled two Fan Favorites out of my box: Oscar Gamble and Jim Wynn. Gamble is a Yankee so his auto is a keeper to supplement my Yankee auto collection. Wynn is a $3 sale on eBay.

I also pulled an additional auto. YU DARVISH!!!! (sorry for all the yelling).

2012 Topps Archive Yu Darvish Autograph

This is a special SP auto, and if I pulled it five months ago would have netted me three big ones. As it is, I got a cool hundred for it on ebay. The card is very nice, while it is retro it is glossy and the photo is sure to be a classic. I’m not a Rangers fan, so I was happy to trade it to someone who would appreciate more for a few dollars. This card paid for the box, plus some. My last two boxes have each produced $100 autographs, so I’m guessing my run of luck is probably up for now.

Topps also include a 1956 style relic set. Relics are not a box guarantee which makes them more exciting than normal because rather than wishing that your relic hit was an auto, you are happy to see this additional hit in your box. Fortunately for me I pulled one in this box (making it a four hit box) and it was Frank Thomas, who was one of my favorite players as a kid before I cemented my allegiances as a Yankee fan. The card is nicely designed and it is a bat relic, which is preferable to a single color jersey swatch but less preferable than a multi-color jersey swatch (this is based on a continuum I worked out some years ago, ordered from least prefered to most: single color jersey, single colored pants, bat, multi-colored jersey, multi-colord pants, jersey patch, hat patch, jersey logo, hat logo, piece of a base or ball (only if used in a specific game and touched by the player)).

2012 Topps Archives Frank Thomas Relic

Archives was one of my favorite products of the year, it has solid and varied base set, along with some fun SPs and a worthwhile autograph checklist.  For my tastes I can’t find anything wrong with the product, though for someone who is not a fan of the retro products or wants a more prospect heavy product this may not be for them.  The box, at $60 – $75, provides some good value with two autogrpahs but don’t expect to build a set on one box (or two, you’ll probably need three), so set set collectors beware.  Overall, 4.5/5

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Black Friday Recap

Black Friday.  That great annual celebration of consumerism where we all gather around the great mall and pay our respects to goods and services.  In all honesty, not my favorite day of the year.  For one, people act crazy, for two, it tends to only drive sales to large corporations rather than small business, and three, those line are long.  I do, however, appriciate a deal.  As a public employee I’m not exactly at the top of my earning potential, so I take a bargain where I can get it.  So here is my recap of my sports card-relevant black friday pickups.

Functional Friday Pickup

I finally purchased a printer with a scanner, so from this point on all of my images will be scans.  Let me just say taht I can’t believe I didn’t have one before.  It’s much easier than trying to find that perfect angle with the digital camera and the images are super sharp.  Also, I got it for $30.  Very nice.  I would recommend a scanner for anyone who sells cards on-line or blogs.

On to the cards….

I often purchase a few boxes on Black Friday, usually on-line at either dacardworld.com or blowoutcards.com.  Both have very good box prices and great selections.  I continued that tradition by purchasing a box of 2012 Topps Archives Baseball from blowout.  It was on-sale for an outrageous $59.  I’ve already opened a box of it this year, but I love retro stuff and I can’t pass up the chance at two more on-card retro autos.  Maybe I’ll get the Ken Griffey Jr. auto that I want so badly (wishful thinking).  I do not have this hand yet, so I’ll post again with my box bustin’ results later.

This year I switched it up a little and also visted my local card shop, Showtime Cards, for their black friday sale.  Normally, I only buy boxes on-line because they are so much more expensive at the shop, however I wanted to throw a little love their way this year because I truly enjoy having a good shop near my home.  While I don’t normally buy boxes from them, I do get packs and all my supplies there and they are always congenial and knowledgeable.  So I decided that it was time to fork over a little extra cash and I bought a box of 2012-13 Panini Threads Basketball for $108.  It goes for $96 on-line, so the difference wasn’t too extreme and I got to feel good about supporting my local card shop.  Let me say, it was well worth the extra money for peace of mind and also because of what I pulled.

First things first, my local shop was participating in the Panini Black Friday promotion, so I got my requisite pack of Panini Black Friday cards.  I pulled a Bryce Harper and a Cam Newton card, unfortunately no auto’s or inserts, but at least I got a couple bigger names.  The cards themselves are not my cup of tea, both are full of shine and cut out player photos. I’m sure they will be nice for collectors of these players and because of that they will be on eBay post haste.

On to the box.  As mentioned in previous posts, I am a fan of this years Threads product.  I like the simplicity of the design, I like the unaltered photographs, and I even think the wood card stock autograph idea is a good one.  Overall, I think Panini did a good job with this product and I would like to see it become the flagship.  It really reminds me, design-wise of the mid-90’s Upper Deck issues, which were always nice and understated.  While I will always prefer classic card design with white borders, unaltered player shots, and a simple aesthetic, I also have a soft spot for the borderless design that Upper Deck was using for a while.  For one thing, it helps cards grade higher, which is great on the resale market and for another it really takes away the potential for awful, busy designs (which Panini has a propensity for).  I was happy to open these cards.  Pictured below are a few examples of the quality design aesthetic at work.

While I do really like this design, with the copper flourish, the real reason I splurged on a box was because of the promise of three on-card autos.  The autos were to be of rookies of this years and last years class and they were to be on wood card stock, which is a gimmick that I like because of the retro feel and the connection to the basketball hardwood.  Opening the box created a lot of anticipation because of the breadth of the rookie class, guys like Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis had me excited for what was in those packs.  Remember the only rookie cards in this product are these autographs, therefore this box, moreso than the packs I bought, had the promise of amazing hits.

Rookie auto #1 – John Jenkins – great shooter in college, promise as a role-player but with great upside.  Solid, but uninspiring hit.

Rookie Auto #2 – Bismack Biyombo – Interesting player with good defensive potential, though I can’t see him being anything other than limited minutes shot-blocker.  Cool name, little esle to be excited about.

Rookie Auto #3 – Pack a Week HIT OF THE YEAR – Anthony Davis – This is the first time I’ve ever pulled an autograph of a #1 overall pick.  Davis is poised to be a star, he has the defensive ability and the offensive potential to be an Olajuwon or a Ewing, and as long as he stays injury free I think he will get there.  This has been a rough year on autograph hits for Pack a Week, but this is the sort of thing that gives you hope that you can occasionally get the big one.  It also makes me glad that I spent the extra money for this box at the shop.

Fear the brow! Seriously, fear that thing.

I also got a number of inserts, some ok, some bad.  I pulled a David West gold card, which is numbered out of /25.  It is the base design but with a gold bottom border instead of a copper border.  Given my affinity for the design, I like it, I’m just bummed it wasn’t a bigger star.

Also pulled were a few Floor Generals cards (including Kyrie Irving, who should bring a few bucks on the secondary market), A couple High Flyers (including Kevin Durant), some Century Greats (Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler), and a couple Talente Twosome cards.  Overall the inserts are uninspired, though inoffensively designed.  Most, other than the Century Greats feature full action shots and unobtrusive designs.  The talented twosomes really reminds me of subsets from the 90’s featuring teammates, which is an ok idea but probably not worthy of a full insert set, though I do like the single photos featuring two players.  The other ones just seem to be reaching for a theme and a design.  I also pulled a few of the Team Threads Jersey Die-cut Cards, including a Lebron James.  I’ve mentioned before that I like these cards.  They are kind of like the team stickers of our day and they add a little diversity to the product.  Overall the only decent inserts are the Team Threads and the different colored parallels.  I’m guessing we’ll see some of the bigger star’s platinums versions going for $30 – $70 on eBay.

Can I call him Durantula, or will that other guy sue me?

Finally, I pulled one relic card, Anthony Mason, which is not pictured.  There was also a pack of Kobe Bryant Anthology cards packed in the box.  Kobe is my least favorite NBA player of all time.  Bold statement, I know.  But I just don’t like his smug demeanor and his selfish style.  You can tell me he is a winner all you want and that he has that killer instinct, but it doesn’t change the kind of player he is and it’s not the kind I like.  The cards are simply designed no borders and Kobe’s name at the bottom.  If you’re a Kobe fan then this is awesome, if not…well…not so much.

After buying a box, I still really like this product.  I like what they’ve done with the rookie cards.  Making them all autos helps increase the value and also makes for something much more interesting.  The experiment of using wood card stock seems successful and I can’t wait for more of the same.  On-card autos is a double plus.  While I don’t love the inserts, three autos per box makes up for it.  The design is simple enough to withstand the test of time and I’m happy that Panini has put a decent set together given the fact that they are the only NBA game in town.  Overall: 4.5/5

Finally, after entering probably 30 Golden Giveaway codes with Topps this year I only came up with one card, which I received this weekend.  It’s Derek Jeter, which I like.  I like nothing else.  It is a non-sense die cut (why the jagged edges, does that symbolize something?), it’s shiny with some design in the background, and the picture is a cut-out.  Bleeeech.

 

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Art: Left Field Cards

Sports cards are a visual medium.  This is a fact.  As a visual medium, one would imagine that there would be some importance placed on their visual aesthetics.  Unfortunately this is often not the case.  Sports cards are often hideous, ugly things.  Where good design exists, I appreciate it, though in the way I appreciate good graphic design.  This means I appreciate it for its thoughtful design and it’s ability to visually pleasing.  It does not necessarily mean that I think it is interesting in the way that good art is interesting.  Sports cards, for the most part, do not have any intrinsic value related to their worth as a visual medium.  What I mean by this is that it is rare that someone wants a card strictly based on how it looks.  People generally want cards for one of four reasons: low print run, autograph, memorabilia, or because it is a rookie card.  All of these main reasons to chase cards are completely independent of how the card itself looks, and, in fact, people often chase cards in spite of how they look (see my Gem-sanity post).

While I do chase cards because of who signed them or because they are a rookie (I do not, out of principle, chase low print run cards unless I like it for another reason), I also seek out cards that look cool.  I can often obtain cards that suit my aesthetic sensibilities on the cheap because they often don’t fall into one of the four criteria listed above.  While I appreciate that I can get the cards I want cheap, I also think it is a shame that I can get them so much cheaper than an ugly card which is limited to 50 copies.  We all make a visual medium our hobby, but very few of us appreciate it as art.  While a lot of is not art, we need to hold up the cards which are well-designed to be the standard bearer.  Only if cards can be appreciated based on their design, will the cards themselves ever be intrinsically valuable.  While an autograph or a memorabilia card can be intrinscially valuable becauase of what is on the card a card that is a /50 or even a /1 is not intinsically valuable in any way if no one appreciates it for what is on the front.

That brings me to the topic for today: Left Field Cards.  Left Field Cards are letter press baseball cards, which also double as post cards.  Left Field Cards is operated by Amelie Mancini, who (now I’m stealing from her blog) moved from Paris to New York in 2006 and became a Mets fan (I will forgive her for picking the “other” New York team).  She is an artist who turned her eye to art of cards in 2011.  Left Field has now produced four themed series of baseball cards/post cards.  These series include Bizarre Injuries, Edibile All-Stars, Marvelous Moustaches, and the timely United States of Baseball which feature players who share last names with presidents.  Each series contains ten cards split into two five card packs.

When I first saw her blog, and the cards, I was taken by the art style.  The drawings are simplistic in the right way, they highlight the details perfectly and are interesting on more than one glance.  The colors are bright and vivid.  The cards are interesting and beautiful (an adjective I don’t often use for cards).  They actually looked like art and I knew I must have them.  I decided to make my first Left Field pack Marvelous Moustaches Pack One.  I settled on this because as a bearded person I appreciate good facial hair and because it contains Don Mattingly, who is a beloved Yankee (his moustache is also referred to as the “Magnum” which is separately awesome).

I received my pack earlier this week and although I knew what was in it I was just as excited as I would be for a box where I was chasing something.  I knew immediately that I would not be disappointed because the outer packaging was stamped with the coolest return address I’ve seen in a while (if ever).

After tearing into the outside envelope, I laid my eyes on the best designed pack that I’ve opened.

Note the nice note attached. You’re welcome.

The pack itself has a place in my collection, but the cards themselves are the true treasure.

Amazing!

Because they are printed on a letter press, they have a cool texture that doesn’t show up in pictures and it makes for a cool effect.  The cardboard itself is high grade and these just feel like they are of the highest quality.  I’m not going to ramble on about how awesome they look, you can see for yourself.  These cards give me hope that baseball cards can be treated as something other than a commodity or a stock certificate and can be appreciated for what’s on the front, not for what Beckett says they’re worth.  These are cards as art and if our hobby is ever going to be something bigger and better than what it it we need more cards that allow us to appreciate them for art and photography and not low print runs.

Please support Left Field Cards, buy some packs.  Lets start a revolution where cards are thoughtful, well-executed, beautiful, and intrinsically valuable because of what’s printed on the front.

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The Best: The Captain

Baseball began for me in the early nineties.  You can look at my previous post about 1991 Topps Baseball for more on that.  When I began caring about baseball my favorite players were already established, guys like Griffey, Strawberry, Nolan Ryan, and Frank Thomas were established and, for the most part, had already had most of their great moments.  Griffey’s meteoric rise had already happened.  Ryan had already pitched all of his no-hitters, and Strawberry’s glory days were behind him.  These weren’t guys I grew up with, these were guys who defined the game before I was even interested in it.  I still loved watching their highlights and, even more, I loved chasing their cards, but they weren’t “my” guys.

All my favorite baseball players from 1992 in one place.

Around 1995 I started rooting for the Yankees above all else.  I no longer identified Ken Griffey, Jr. as my favorite player because he was not a Yankee.  I was true fan.  This was the influence of my dad.  He was always a Yankee fan and he made sure I became one too.  That season was a defining season for me and it was for the modern Yankees.  Though I watched in despair as the Yankees lost to my former favorite player in the ALDS, I also caught a glimpse of the future in the form of Derek Jeter.  The future captain got called up that season to play 15 games.  He hit .250 and I had no idea what was about to happen.

The next season Jeter became a regular, the Yankees hired Joe Torre, and the Yankees won the first of four championships with a Jeter/Torre combination.  I became all to used to October/November baseball and I got to witness the beginning of a career for one of the all-time greatest Yankees and my favorite player.  Since that time my dad and I have collected all-things Jeter, cards, coins, Starting Lineups, and miscelleaneous memorabilia.  He is one of the modern greats, a player with no ties to steroids (unless you talk to the skeptics and the Yankee haters), who played hard day in and day out and did it with one team.  His exploits don’t need to be recounted here, we all know them (first Yankee with 3000 hits, a .313 career average, five rings, and lots of unforgettable playoff moments).  Jeter is more than a great player for me, he is the one truly great player that I’ve been able to follow for his whole career and he has represented the last 16 years of baseball for me.

I own quite a few Jeter cards, including his Topps, Upper Deck, and Bowman rookie cards.  No matter the product, good, bad, valuable or worthless, I save the Jeters.  I know it’s funner to hear about the guys who collect the underdogs or the kooks, but I’m a Jeter guy, like a lot of other collectors, and there’s not much I can do about it.  We share a name and he’s the best player of the last 16 years (disagree with me if you want, but I think the arguments are pretty strong for him), he plays for my favorite team, and he’s the first guy in 25 years with even a plausible shot of breaking Pete Rose’s record.  I’m a Jeter guy and I’m not ashamed of it.  When he retires I’ll miss his sweet swing, his (unnecessary) jumping throws at short, and his diplomatic approach.  He has his flaws (most definitely a liability at SS for a while, doesn’t walk enough), but he’ll be remembered as a great and he should be.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Jeter card.  All of his rookie cards are solid choices (the Bowman is my favorite, but I’m a Bowman apologist), though the Topps card has always seemed a bit ugly to me (the background is plain stupid).  But if pressed I would have to pick the only Jeter autograph I own.  Let it be known that my Jeter autograph is the only card I’ve spent more than $100 on.  It is the only one I can imagine dropping that much coin on.  Also, let it be known that there is a Jeter autograph that I covet more than the one I own.  My most wanted card (in the world) is this:

1997 Bowman Autograph Derek Jeter. It’s so clean, the photo is perfect and the signature is immaculate. I will possess it someday.

This is the one that I own:

Forgive the dimness of the photo.

A 1997 Bowman’s Best Derek Jeter autograph.  Graded a 9 by BGS.  While I don’t love shiny cards, I love this one.  The autograph is perfect.  The photo is classic Jeter. And it is my most valuable card.  This will be my favorite card until I get the card mentioned above.

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The Best: Moose

Before there was Mike Mussina, there was the original Moose, Bill Skowron.  Moose Skowron was a favorite of my dad’s so, even though I wasn’t old enough to remember him, I knew how good the big hitting first baseman was.  He is an underappreciated Yankee because of who he played with, guys like Mickey, Yogi, Whitey, and Roger.  He played with guys who are instantly recognizable by first name alone, so you can’t blame him for flying under the radar.  He was an integral part of the Yankees in the fifties and early sixties though.  In nine seasons with the Yankees, he hit .294/.346/.496 with 165 home runs and he played solid defense at first.  He would have been a star for most teams during those nine seasons, but he was a Yankee and largely overlooked.

I picked up a 2002 Fleer Greats Autograph of the Moose at a card show last year, and it is a fantastic card.  The photo is a posed one, showing Bill in a fielding stance.  The card itself has a gold sheen on everything except Moose himself, giving the background a sepia-like tone.  The design gives a nice effect, like it is a black and white picture combined with a sepia picture.  It’s visually pleasing and gives the card the right feel, given the time period that Moose played in.  The signature is one of the most legible signatures I’ve ever seen.  It’s like he actually took his time when he signed the card.  It’s also signed with a thicker black marker which is something you don’t see too often.  And, of course, it’s an on-card signature.  Just the way it should be.

Moose, Pack A Week salutes you.

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The Best: The First

When I was 7 my grandfather died.  He lived with us at the time, but I was not really close to him.  He was old school, not a hands on grandparent like you see today, but this was the first time anyone I knew died.  My dad is from New York, as was my grandfather.  The funeral services were going to be held there so he could be buried with my grandmother.  My family, not having a lot of money at the time, couldn’t afford for all of use to travel out for the services so my dad went alone.  He was gone for a few days, I remember, and when he returned he brought back some gifts for for me and my sister.  I don’t recall what he brough my sister, but my dad brought me back a box of 1991 Topps Baseball.  Those were the first cards I ever opened.  That month in 1991 saw me lose my first family member but also saw me gain a hobby.

At the time that I got those cards I had no interest in sports.  I had gone to some minor league baseball games but was more interested in the snacks than the game.  I had no concept of football or basketball at the time.  GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Nintendo were the extent of my personal interests.  My family wasn’t really big sports fans either.  My grandfather, before he passed, was a Mets fan so I remember seeing Mets stuff around and believed at the time that they were my favorite team.  My dad was a Yankees fan, but was not as passionate at that time as he was as kid or as he is again (I can’t imagine anyone more nervous about the Yanks current slump than him).  Sports cards actually fostered my interests in sports.  At the time, however, I was only looking for Mets cards, specifically Darryl Strawberry because he was the only Met I knew by name.  The only other player I knew was Nolan Ryan.  From ages 7 – 9 these were my favorite players.  I’m now a Yankees fan.  As my interest in baseall grew, it became something that me and my dad bonded over, so I began to adopt his favorite team as my own, I was a full-fledged Yankees fan in time to witness the whole Derek Jeter era.  I also became a Yankees fan in time to wonder why people always get so nervous around playoff time when  their teams were in the hunt, as far as a I knew you’d win most of the time.

So I opened the box.  I methodically pored over each card.  I set aside the Mets cards and the Nolan Ryan cards.  The rest were stacked up neatly.  My dad gave me the run down about not bending them or ruining the corners before I opened the cards, so I was set from a young age on card handling skills.  I loved all the pictures and thought it was pretty cool to learn about all the players on the backs.  I didn’t have much of reference point regarding the design at the time, but looking at them now I love them.  I’m not sure if that is just because I have fond memories of my experience opening them, but I really do love the multicolor borders and the large pictures (things that I still love in card design).  The action shots from this set were really well done.  The set is expansive (792 cards) and I know I never completed it.  But I did end up with some cards that I love.   I’m featuring the Chipper Jones rookie card.  At the time I didn’t know what a “#1 Draft Pick was” nor did I know who this “Chipper” fellow was, but it stands as the best card from the set.  It is also a very cool card in hindsight: an 18 year old future hall of famer in his high school uniform.  Chipper is slated to retire this year and he has always been one of my favority non-Yankees.  He’s had the kind of solid career that any fan wishes their cornerstone player would have and he’s done it all for one team.  Chipper, Pack A Week salutes you.

.304/.401/.531 468 HR & more walks than strikeouts. Simply amazing.

Most of the cards I got from that box were recently sold with about 40000 other commons that were taking up too much space.  I did save the ones I loved like Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., and Nolan Ryan.  I also saved my Darryl Strawberry card, but I gave it to my wife because the only baseball player she knew growing up was also Darryl Strawberry.

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The Show. Or, go to hell Topps.

Card show today.  Card show today.  So excited.

That was the reaction I had to card shows as a kid.  There were regular sports card shows at the El Con Mall in Tucson from my age 8 until I was about 12.  I loved them.  They were big shows by midsize city standards, with about 15-20 tables and plenty of oppotunities to buy packs and singles.  I generally had about $20 to spend at shows as a kid, and most of that was spent on packs.  None of this is particularly interesting to any audience but it sets up two things.  The first is that the communal experience and the build up to shows is what fed my love for sports cards.  It is those memories, primarily, that fuel my collecting to this day.  The second, is that it stands in stark contrast to the lame state of card shows today.

I went to a card show with my dad today.  I’ve always collected with my dad, so we still make it a habit to go to card shows when they are in town.  There are currently semi-regular card shows at the mall that is really far from my house.  These happen about 6 times a year and generally consist of about 6 tables.  Most of the tables are selling lower end autograph and relic singles and one table sells boxes.  No packs to speak of, which is a bummer, because I still love to buy random assortments of packs (which is my usual card shop fare).  I believe me and my dad are the only regular attendees of this semi-regular event and the sellers now lick their chops when they see us.  How else would they unload their Nick Swisher relics and Ian Desmond autographs?

Today saw the arrival of some new sellers.  Excitement ensued.  Then died.  They were selling vintage commons and semi-stars and an unholy amount of “in-person” autographs.  As an aside, I do like vintage cards…theoretically.  There are some fantastic designs (1956 Topps, 1961 Topps for instance) and a lot of history.  But the only cards I really want (Mantle, Clemente, Mays) are out of my price range, so I usually find myself admiring them then moving on.  I turned my attention to the tried and true guys, who I will refer to lovingly as “nice asian guy,” “fatty mcslob,” “long hair,” “nothing less than book,” and “the mogul.”  The mogul runs the show and sells the boxes, he is also and huge pain in the ass, more on that later, and got his nickname because his attitude reminds me of Dave Hester from Storage Wars.

Nice Asian Guy  is always my go-to.  He has a decent assortment of $3 autos and relics and will negotiate on some of his higher-end stuff.  Also, he is nice.  I mention this because some card guys, like comic book guys, can be a little hostile about their hobby, more on that later.  Nice Asian Guy didn’t disappoint, I picked up a 2010 Allen & Ginter Jeff Samardzija Relic (a guy I’m high on because of his apparent skill and his fortunate team association, Cubs fans will spend on their guys) and a 2012 Topps Museum Collection Alexi Ogando autograph (same reasons as Samardzija) for $5 total.  I’ll hold on to these for a while, the hobby upside on both guys is high.  Pops also picked up a Nick Swisher relic from Nice Asian Guy for three bucks. This is the second show in a row that he has purchased a Swisher relic.  I think Chris Olds at Beckett has some competition in the Swisher fandom department.

Fatty McSlob and Long Hair are usually busts and this show was no different.  Their inventory generally consists of late 80’s and early 90’s packs, along with team sets, and miscellaneous brick-a-brack like pennants.  These guys are for the casual collectors, not for seasoned collectors like myself (dismounts horse).   Nothing Less Than Book never sells anything for less than book value.  He has nice stuff, including the Bowman Albert Pujols rookie that I’ve been hunting for a good price.  But I never buy anything from him, because buying stuff for book value is not a good strategy.  At the last show he offered to trade, but I think he might be setting me up for one of those situations, as Mike Birbiglia described, where I end with less cards worth less money than when I started.  There is another dealer who is usually present, but noticeably absent this time, her name is “nerdy lady.”  Nerdy Lady sells cards and also Russian Nesting Dolls.  She usually has some good foot traffic for the dolls, but not for the cards.  Like Nice Asian Guy, Nerdy Lady has a good assortment of $3.00 autos and relics.  Sometime last year I got a Matt Cain auto for $3 from her that I turned around for a nice profit after his perfect game.  Who’s the mogul now?

Speaking of The Mogul, he is usually who gets most of my moneys.  He sells boxes at the show and has a monopoly on that.  He’s usually about $20 higher on the boxes than you can get on-line, but I can usually negotiate down about $15, so his prices end up nearly reasonable.  Notably, today he was selling a box of Topps Mini, see previous post, for $95.  This product is available, currently, on the Topps website for $50 a box.  That is ridiculous markup and I hate seeing people prey on the ignorant.  Shit like that is why people have such a hard time getting into the hobby.  He was also selling Topps Archive boxes for $99, which is almost $30 more than they go on-line, lame.  He sells singles for about half book price, which, to his credit, is fair.

I spent the bulk of my time today at the mogul’s table.  I bought six singles and a box from him.  The singles: 2007 SP Legendary cuts Paul O’Neill jersey card for $3 (I’ve always wanted more O’Neill memorabilia, he was one of my favority Yankees growing up and a woefully under-appreciated by the baseball loving community), two 2009 Bowman World Baseball Classic gold Aroldis Chapman cards for $4 each,  a 2001 Upper Deck Vintage Ichiro rookie card (very nice retro design) for $4, a 2005 Bowman Heritage Adrew McCutchen rookie card for $3, and 2005 Bowman Heritage Mahogany Andrew McCutchen for $3.  McCutchen is a beast, but you already knew that.  Odds that he plays his whole career with the Pirates? 1000:1? 10000:1? A million to one.

Now to the box.  The f***ing box. I decided that I wanted to make my first foray into the world of high-end cards today.  For reference I’ve never spent more than $20 on a single pack of cards.  I noticed that The Mogul had a box of 2011 Topps Tier One for $95.  I felt like this would be the right product to initiate myself into this world of caviar and champagne.  As usual, I refused to pay The Mogul’s full price for the box, knowing full well that it is $20 than on-line price.  So I offer The Mogul’s assitant $100 for my six singles ($21 total) and the box.  The assistant is not permitted to make this deal, appartently.  He finds The Mogul and conveys my offer.  The mogul inspects my six singles, twice, then references his price sheet.  Then a man walks up and asks The Mogul if he has any Peyton Manning cards.  The Mogul puts down my box and singles and begins helping the man find Peyton Manning cards.  Now, in general, Peyton Manning cards, with the exception of autos, are under $10 affairs, so at best the mogul stands to make $10-$20 off the new guy.  I still have a $100 offer on the table.  (Gets back on horse) You’d think he’d prioritize me?  Nope. (Dismounts).  He spends a full five minutes helping this guy sort through the Colts cards.  It’s worth noting that he is not particularly nice to new guy, so this is not one of those situations where he is an ambassador for the hobby, he is actually a bit annoyed to be taking on the task.  I look at the assistant, he looks back uncomfortably.  Finally the assistant clears his throat and reminds The Mogul about me.  The Mogul is annoyed.  This is weird, but reminds me again why “card guys” are not helping to expand the hobby.  We need to band together for civility, or something.  The Mogul looks at my singles two more times, says something to the assistant, who then comes over and says “how about $105.”  To which I respond, “he just made me wait 5 minutes and now he wants five extra dollars?”  Assistant goes back to The Mogul and returns to accept my original offer.  /End Rant.

Excitedly, pops and I return to my house.  I extract the single pack from the double box.  I slowly tear into it.  Mel Ott. Justin Upton. Ozzie Smith. Umm…Adam Lind autograph.  This has to get better.  WTF…Brad Hand autograph.  Who the hell is Brad Hand.  No one knows who Brad Hand is.  Why is his autograph in a high-end product.  Nooooooooooooooooo.  Roberto Alomar relic.  Joe Morgan blue parallel.  Book value of my $80 pack, $35.  Expected realized value, when I try to resell this awful haul that I never want to think about again, $15.  Go to hell Topps.  Adam Lind, I can accept that, he seemed like he might have a nice career at a time.  Robbie Alomar is a hall of famer.  But Brad Hand.  In a high-end product.  Go to hell.  This is not right.  He wasn’t even a true prospect.  The cards themselves are printed on thick stock and have a simple, pleasing design.  The autographs are on-card and the relic is neither big nor small.  I just wish the players on the cards were as nice.  Product Design 4/5.  My Box -1000000/5.

Who?

I’m sticking to mid and low-end stuff.  At least when I get Brad Hand in those packs I didn’t spend $80 on it.  BTW, to all those people who consistently pull 1/1 and Ty Cobb cut autos and all that stuff.  Go to hell.  Just kidding, I’m not a hater.  But please, start telling me where you’re buying your boxes, because it’s certainly not at the Tucson card show.

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Topps CrCl4 (or something like that)

I mentioned in my Topps Mini post that I’m not a fan of the shiny cards.  This remains true, but since I’m now producing a sports card blog I figured I should overlook my personal biases so I can discuss the new stuff.  So without furthe ado, 2012 Topps Chrome baseball.

Chrome adopts the design of the Topps base set, so no need to go into that, and makes it shinier.  If you like the Topps base design or regular things made shinier then this product will suit your fancy.  Personally, I don’t see myself buying more than the two retail packs I picked up but that doesn’t make it a bad product, it’s just not a product for me.  It does have a solid autograph list, including all of this years relevant rookies and Mike Trout.  The rookies are signed on-card, which is always a plus.  There is also an autograph insert set called Chrome Encounters that has a really nice design, too bad neither of my packs yielded one.

Good looking design, bad sticker drop

There is also a limited number of autographed buybacks, featuring players like Robinson Cano and Prince Fielder autographing their Chrome rookie cards. There is also a die-cut insert that is everything I hate in cards, gimmicky, shiny, and takes the emphasis off of the photograph, I will discuss it no further.   As usual there are a plethora of different refractors, which are always popular amogst the completists and the obsessive compulsives (just kidding, I love all collectors and their goals).  In the end 2012 Chrome is exactly what you would expect: it’s shiny, it has a good rookie autograph checklist, and its heavy on paralells.  I’m not buying anymore but I’m not saying that it’s awful, 2.5/5.

My packs yielded a few rookies and a Kevin Youkilis refractor.  I also got a Madison Bumgarner base card, which I mention only only to talk about the fact that Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher (and is killing it for my fantasy team this season). Given the fact that Bumgarner has to share the spotlight with Cain and Lincecum, I sometimes think that he doesn’t get his due, but he’s sporting a low 3’s ERA, a 1.04 whip, is strikig 8.31 per 9.  He’s an ace on most staffs, even my beloved Yankees.  The advanced stats back up solid play, pegging him at a 3.35 xFIP, meaning that he’s ERA is right about where you’d expect it given his strikeout and walk rate.  He’s also only 23, so gievn the common conception that players tend to get better as they move into their mid to late 20’s, we should be seeing some improvement from the guy.  What I’m trying to say is that I want the Yankees to pull some strings and get Madison Bumgarner soon.  Trade Dellin Betances for him, do something.  Dave Cameron agrees with me, what else can I say.

Check out the Chrome checklist over at Cardboard Connection.

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