Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hold the phone

Remember when card blogs were about quirky backgrounds and spotting outdated equipment? Remember when people read and learned stuff? Remember when it wasn't all about snapchatting cat selfies in Trump wigs?

But I'm here to tell you that keeping your radar tuned to unusual elements on baseball cards still comes in handy. Even if quite a bit of pain comes along with it.

My story:

I was paging through binders the other day, pulling cards for another post that may or may not ever happen. I casually picked up the binder housing my complete 1982 Topps set and began paging through it in a quest for key cards.

I had paged through 16 sheets when the sight stopped me cold:

Yes, I still double-bag my binders. There are other people in the house who have to live here, too. That's not the point.

So, do you see it?

How good were you at match game when you were a kid?

I noticed it right away because I know well that old-time communication device of the '60s, '70s and '80s, the colorized hanging wall phone.

I was stunned to discover two John Verhoevens on the page!!!!!!!!!



Oh, this was not good. Not good at all.

One Verhoeven was in its proper spot -- at page slot #281.

The other most definitely was not. And it more than likely meant that I had NOT completed the 1982 Topps set when I thought I did.

The day already ruined, I went about looking up who actually was supposed to be in the card #293 spot.

It turns out it is Rob Picciolo, a light-hitting infielder during the fire-sale/Billy Ball A's years. I was a little relieved that it wasn't some star player, not that the '82 set is filled with hard-to-find cards.

I definitely don't have the Picciolo card. But I believe Bo from Baseball Cards Come To Life is already lining one up for me.

As always, when something like this comes up, I wonder what other dupes are in my complete set binders disguised as long-ago finds. I don't even want to think about it. I'll get nightmares.

No doubt about a suddenly discovered missing card in my Trump wig cat selfie set.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Style for awhile

I didn't watch the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies yesterday, probably for the first time in 10 years.

Part of the reason was the TV in the living room suddenly decided to stop cooperating (it's settled down since). But mostly it was because I wasn't feeling it. I already saw the Mike Piazza documentary, I'd had my fill. And while half my blogging compadres grew up with Griffey, I don't have that connection. We've entered the period where we're inducting 1990s players and my baseball-viewing was at an all-time low during that decade. I expect this disconnect to continue until the Hall starts inducting people from the Kershaw era.

Everyone made a big deal about Griffey putting his cap on backward at the end of his speech. That was what he was known for. Griffey had style.

But I grew up in an era when almost everyone had style. During baseball in the 1970s, you could put on style or take it off -- like Griffey's hat -- with the wild uniforms and caps. And then there were the folks where the style was a part of them.

I received several 2001 Upper Deck Decade '70s cards from The Writer's Journey recently (he's a noted Reds and Griffey fan, by the way). Among them were a couple of Rollie Fingers cards that I need.

Fingers featured the most permanent style-marker from my childhood, a handlebar mustache. I wasn't baseball-aware when he first grew the mustache, so I don't know how much attention it received. I'm sure it didn't get as much play as Griffey's backwards cap.

Of course, those were different times. There were only newspapers, radio and four channels on your TV. And there was one baseball card set.

Fingers' mustache first appears on his 1973 Topps card. But it's not of the handlebar variety. I believe -- although it's difficult to see -- Fingers' handlebar mustache first shows up on his 1974 Topps card.

The first time collectors got a real good look at it was in the 1975 Topps set. I'm fairly certain the photo is zoomed in so everyone could see the mustache-grooming.

From that point on, Fingers' mustache is a prominent part of the rest of his baseball cards.

Regardless of the team he played for, the mustache always came with him.

He kept it through his career, and then after his career, through his many appearances. He's a regular at the Hall of Fame inductions and the handlebar mustache is always on display. I hope someone gave him a lifetime supply of mustache wax long ago.

With the exception of his early cards, Fingers' mustache is part of all of his cards. It is his trademark. Griffey's trademark, the backward cap, appeared on a number of cards, but not at a greater percentage than Fingers' mustache.

I've got no issue with Griffey at all. I like him. I've always liked him (who doesn't?). He had tremendous talent, a super smile and loads of style. I'm just trying to hold on to what I consider the most stylish, noticeable period of baseball for as long as I can and before it fades away. The mustard-and-brown, the Stargell stars, the baby blues. All of it.

I mean look at all that.

I appreciate Rollie Fingers carrying that reminder wherever he goes.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Late is great

That early bird is an idiot.

Who needs worms? Late is great.

At least it is when it comes to cards. While everyone is hyperventilating over the newest card product, driving up prices on all the newness, being late has its advantages.

But first the backstory: I am not anywhere near completing my 2015 Allen & Ginter set. I still haven't finished 2014 A&G yet (*grumble, grumble, shortprints, grumble, grumble*). But when I started seeing signs of 2016 A&G appearing in stores, I knew I had to do my own tour.

I hadn't planned on doing it. But then Stale Gum posted on Twitter that he spotted 2016 A&G in Plattsburgh, of all places, with photographic evidence. Plattsburgh is about three hours from me and even more remote than where I live. If '16 A&G was in Plattsburgh, it had to be here.

We headed out to dinner and to do a little shopping afterward. I asked my daughter whether we'd find A&G in Target or Walmart. She immediately said, "Target," not because she cares, but because, unbeknownst to me, she wanted to shop for clothes.

So we went to Target and took our separate ways. I scanned the card aisle and realized instantly that there was no 2016 A&G on display. Yet I continued to scan the shelves as I debated whether being in Walmart on a Friday night was worth the inevitable pain and agony.

It was then that I spotted an A&G blaster tilted on its side, randomly placed with some NBA blasters. I noticed the discounted price right away and immediately felt butterflies. You don't find discounted A&G product out in the wild very often at all (it's always NBA or NASCAR around me). Hell, this was even better than finding 2016 Allen & Ginter! This blaster would actually be useful.

So after waiting out the clothes-shopping marathon, I arrived home and dug in. I had less than 100 cards from 2015 A&G before I found the blaster. I was going to do some damage.

However, I quickly remembered the reasons why I soured on 2015 A&G so quickly.

All that close-cropping. Ugh.

I haven't looked at enough 2016 A&G online to see if the close-cropping continues, but I'm hoping it doesn't. The sameness of the photos really kills my interest. People complain about all the A&G cards looking the same already. At least in past years -- particularly my favorite year, 2008 -- there were head-and-shoulders shots mixed with full-body shots and a wide variety of crops.

The different-colored borders, like I mentioned before (like a whole year ago), are nice.

Those were the three short-prints that I needed. There was a fourth that I already had (*grumble, grumble, repeat shortprints, grumble, grumble*).

Those were the Starting Points inserts. I've read recently about a couple different people collecting these. Point me in their direction.

Some more inserts. I like the full-size inserts from last year.

My favorite full-size insert is Keys to the City. Unfortunately, I had this one already.

Relic of some comic dude.

I don't know who Brody Stevens is. I tried looking him up on youtube a few minutes ago, but got bored pretty quickly and then had to write this post. I'll go back again and make a true evaluation.

I get weird with these non-baseball player relics. I love the fact that there are non-ballplayers in A&G. It's the No. 1 reason why I have completed six straight years of Allen & Ginter. But as far as relics, if it's not a baseball player, I don't give a damn. (Stevens apparently used to play baseball, but I still don't care).

The minis, of course, are the highlight of any A&G blaster, as well as the reason to keep buying A&G blasters even after you're finished completing the set.


Sadly, only the two minis above made it into my A&G mini frankenset. The others were either mini inserts or will be destined for future trade packages.

The Chris Carter is appreciated because it's an SP mini and there are still a lot of holes to fill between cards #301-350. Also, I never enjoy adding a Giant to my frankenset, but the Crawford card did allow me to do this:

That is my first completed frankenset page!

It's not the most interesting page -- every card has to do with baseball -- but still very cool for cards 46-60.

After picking up the discounted blaster, I didn't bother going to Walmart to see if there was any 2016 A&G. And I didn't bother going back Saturday or today, even though there's a good chance it's there somewhere. The thrill of a discounted blaster can last a long, long time.

After all, it's going to be another 3 or 4 years before there's a discounted blaster that I want to buy again.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I'm a slob

Last night after dinner I was organizing some cards for packages that will go out next week.

In the process of stacking and crossing things off the spreadsheet, I realized I hadn't enjoyed a post-dinner treat. So I grabbed a small bit of chocolate and a napkin and went back to the cards.

Soon afterward, I noticed with disgust that I had gotten a small smudge of chocolate on the above Bowman Stephen Strasburg card. This has happened more times than you would think or that I would care to admit, but it was the inspiration for a poll I posted on Twitter.

I wondered:

How often do you get food on your cards?

It doesn't happen a heck of a lot for me. Probably under a dozen times since I've started this blog. But it does happen, and I figured it had to happen for others.

The Twitter polls are posted for a day and this particular one got some decent play because Beckett Media retweeted it.

The final results are in and here they are:

Yeah, I'm a slob.

These results surprised me somewhat, but not a lot. With Beckett retweeting it, I imagine there are all kinds of card-grading people who got a look at this who are horrified by the thought of human hands touching cards, let alone some sort of food product.

But it also seems there are a lot of commoner collectors who don't let food anywhere near their cards, which did surprise me. If I were voting in the poll, I probably would have selected "sometimes," but I'd be tempted to pick "hobby and food go together" because, in my life, they do.

I don't have a lot of time in my day. There are a lot of things I have to get out of the way before I deal with eating, blogging and playing with cards. So guess what happens often? Yup, I have to do it all at once.

Many of my blog posts, especially when I'm working during the school year, are written at lunch time. I have a sandwich on my computer table, inches from the keyboard, and a stack of cards du jour in the same area, and I'm scanning and flipping and munching and typing all at the same time.

Food and card sometimes meet. I get it off as quickly as I can, but it happens. And I'm not all that shaken up about it. It's just the way things have to be. There isn't enough time to have both "card time" and "food time" all the time.

It's kind of odd when I think about it because I absolutely hate food stains when I see them on cards. But the part that bothers me is the "leaving it on there" part. Most food can be removed quickly. You didn't see any chocolate smudge on the Strasburg scan because it came right off -- shocking!

The funny thing about posting the poll is that it was obvious right away that people were alarmed by the thought of food coming in contact with cards, and yet that very night, at my house, it was all about food coming in contact with cards.

During the evening, I settled down in my favorite chair and turned on the Mariners-Blue Jays game. I grabbed some taco chips and a beer and a couple of baseball card binders and happily munched and slurped away as I watched the game and turned card pages.

I realized that I was probably getting taco chip dust all over the cards even with napkins in the area. I didn't care. This probably happens all the time. There is no greater joy in life than snacking while filing cards while watching a baseball game. You're telling me I can't do them all at once? I'm getting chip dust on my cards!

Of course I'm not going to eat french fries or anything greasy or messy while handling cards. But most spills can be handled with a napkin/paper towel/wet wipe. These cards are not putting my kid through college. They're just happy pieces of cardboard.

Later that night, while the Dodgers game was entering the 15th inning, I grabbed a small bowl of ice cream as fans often do in extra frames. I set the bowl down on my desk, when I realized I had done it again.

Sorry guys, I'm just a slob.

(P.S.: I took the Strasburg card out of the packaging pile. I don't want to scar anyone).

Friday, July 22, 2016

A bad year for being a Dodgers team collector

This post will be devoid of cards that I own. You'll know why in a second.

If you've been following the 2016 Allen & Ginter hubbub -- today is the set's release date -- you probably know that there is some sneakiness involving card No. 120.

The official Topps A&G checklist lists two Dodgers with that same number:

But since people have started opening the product, they've discovered that the Kenta Maeda card is the actual base card set. Julio Urias -- get ready to groan Dodger fans -- is a super short-print.

There is some speculation about whether there are different versions of that short-print, but so far I've only seen the one that box-breaker Brent Williams has shown:

There is actually a nameplate under Urias' image but it's very faint. It's printed in white so it's difficult to see.

As I am writing this, the Urias card is now the most difficult card in the entire A&G set to pull.

As a Dodger fan, that is simply outstanding in the most sarcastic way possible.

This only adds to what has been a lousy year for Dodgers team collectors.

I know the Dodgers are a popular team and a popular team to collect. I also know that Topps knows this. And I'm used to strangeness surrounding certain Dodgers cards because the team's collectors are apparently silly enough to pursue those odd cards to the ends of the earth. I'm sure it happens with Yankees collectors, Red Sox collectors, Cubs collectors, etc.

But, damn, 2016 seems to be one blow after another for us Dodgers fans, and I don't mean the starting pitching staff.

It started with the new ToppsNow project.

The ToppsNow cards are issued following memorable moments virtually each day of the baseball season and are weighted toward successful teams -- as they should be if you're documenting memorable moments in a season. But some of the Dodgers cards seemed suspect to me and now 19 ToppsNow Dodger cards have accumulated.

Only the Red Sox (21) and Cubs (20) have more at this point. The Nationals (19) have the same number as the Dodgers, but here's the thing: those three other teams are all in first place. The Dodgers are not. Meanwhile, the first-place Giants have 16, the first-place Indians have 11 and the first-place Rangers have 8.

Nineteen cards is a lot of money to spend if I want to team-collect the way I have been doing for many years.

At $9.99 per card (or the somewhat discounted prices you find on ebay), I can't afford that, and ToppsNow has officially made me throw up my hands and say, "That's it. I'll never get all the Dodgers cards!" (Even with all of the 1 of 1's, I still held out a completely unreasonable hope that I'd one day have them all, but not anymore).

So, I'm still dealing with ToppsNow's litany of Dodgers because obviously the season isn't over and ToppsNow is still issuing cards.

Meanwhile, Topps issued its Archives product a while back. Unlike last year, when it super-shortprinted the final 30 cards, Archives dialed it back a bit and decided to SP just the final 10 cards. People have viewed it as a reprieve, a much easier project to tackle.

I haven't.

That's mostly because out of the 10 short-printed cards, three of them are Dodgers.

No other team has more than two SPs in Archives (the team with two, weirdly, is the Padres).

I only had ONE Dodger to chase when 2015 Archives short-printed the final 30 (still haven't shelled out money for that one).

So this is where I am in 2016 -- 3 Archives SPs to chase, 19 ToppsNow cards for probably around $7-9 each to chase, and now a super-stealth Julio Urias Allen & Ginter card to chase.

Wow, Topps, you're mean.

You're probably saying, "you should be used to this by now," and, yeah, I'm somewhat used to the Dodgers checklist being larger than other teams' checklists (this year's A&G Dodgers team set is 17 players large while the Phillies have just 3 cards). I'm also used to there being more inserts to chase and parallels to chase. That just happens when you're a Dodger fan.

But this extra stuff that I'm seeing this year, it's getting demoralizing.

I'm sure those on the other end of the spectrum -- the fans of teams who get ignored by Topps -- have their own problems. They'd love lots of cards to chase of their favorite guys. But that's their problem and this is my problem, and my problem is:


So, what do I do? I'm not going to boycott sets that I like. I can't do that. I won't do that. I'm in this hobby for fun, and "fun" to me is buying whatever cards I want.

But I am doing something about it.

I'm defining myself -- and my collection -- less and less by team. Sure, I'm still a Dodger collector, but I won't pursue it with the same vigor. I won't update checklists with the same attention, I've already stopped doing that.

I'll do more with collecting my vintage sets, oddball sets, and various insert sets that draw my interest. And I'll collect Dodgers from the past. Because now that Topps has beaten me down on the modern team front, my heart is more with 1972 Topps, 1976 Kellogg's and so many other things I can chase.

2016 may be a bad year to be a Dodger team collector. But so many other years are great for being whatever collector I want to be.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New experiences

Just because I'm old doesn't mean I don't enjoy new experiences with cards. I dabble in them all the time; I still like sampling and trying out things. How do you explain that pack of Bowman I bought last week? (Oh, didn't I tell you about that? That's an indication of how impressed I was).

No, if I was truly finished with new experiences, you'd see nothing but pre-1980 cards here and a complete unwillingness to understand modern cards and card strategies, rather than the semi-unwillingness to understand modern cards and card strategies that you already see.

Why just in the last few days I've experienced a couple of "new-to-me" moments.

The first has to do with the card you see up top. It is a 2007 Fleer Ultra gold parallel (not to be confused with "gold medallion") of Nomar Garciaparra.

It's even numbered to /999 in that dot-matrix way that Ultra serial-numbered things.

But the "new" part is that I received it from Nachos Grande in one of those Trade Stack transactions.

There are a whole bunch of collectors who have taken advantage of the NG Trade Stack over the years. Chris is up to 74 different stacks now. But it took me 72 stacks before I bit on my first one. What can I say? I'm picky.

I grabbed the stack after only one card was up -- because I know what I like when I see it -- and, strangely, after I had just written a post that said I don't bother chasing minor parallels, such as gold-foil ones. The Nomar Ultra card is a gold-foil parallel. I am an enigma.

So that was the first new experience. I'm happy to say I've already mailed off my cards to Nachos Grande and I'm quite happy to recommend the Trade Stack to others, all 3 of you who haven't taken part yet.

On to new experience No. 2:

This card is from Matt and Bob Walk the Plank. Matt always has such fancy cards, and this is one I've seen plenty of times but never in my hand.

It is a framed parallel from this year's flagship. As you can see, Topps made 16 versions of this particular Andre Ethier framed card (I don't know if that means 16 silver framed cards only or just 16 framed Ethiers altogether. Knowing Topps, it's the first one).

The card is as thick as your average drink coaster, and after receiving it, that's what it reminds me of, something on which I might rest a cool beverage.

Don't panic, I'm not going to do that. I admit the card is pretty cool and well worth handling a few times to admire its weight and super smooth edges. But after doing that, my first thought is, "OK, I'm done with that now."

Unlike a regular card, it does not make me want to collect more of the same. I have one framed card, and that's all I need. Why would I want another one? I suppose I could set little book stands all over the house and rest a framed card in each one, but somebody I know would shoot that down right away. And if I'm not going to display them, then I don't think I need more than one.

It's cool for what it is and now I'm done.

But that's what new experiences are all about. You try them, you test them out, and then you decide whether you want to do it again or move on your merry way.

I think it's the preferable way of approaching new things, even at my advanced age.

It's a whole lot better than what my brother, who was a picky eater as a youngster, used to say at the dinner table:

"I don't like it. What is it?"