Saturday, January 31, 2015

For sale

I collect cards for my own amusement. It's been that way for 40 years. There is nothing to this hobby besides accumulation for me.

Except for a few fits and starts, I have rarely considered selling cards because I think this hobby should be as free of real world problems as possible. The formula should be simple: Have a little extra cash for cards? Buy cards. Enjoy cards. Repeat.

But after 40 years, that formula becomes less and less practical. I have lots of cards, but the space for them is shrinking by the year. I also have lots of cards that are practically useless to me. They don't fit in my collection and they're not easy to trade. And, of course, any kind of extra money would be helpful.

So, I'm considering again selling cards. Only a bit more seriously this time.

There has to be someone out there who is a Rays collector or a David DeJesus collector. If the blogs won't take care of my excess parallels then maybe ebay or COMC will.

I have resisted selling cards in the past not only because I want my hobby to be 100 percent pure enjoyment, but also because I've heard the stories about how selling cards online (particularly on ebay) has become more and more of a hassle.

So I'm asking for a little advice here.

Those of you who sell cards online, particularly on ebay or COMC, what kind of tips do you have for a newbie seller? Are there any obvious dos and don't?

I don't have a ton of cards that I think are worth selling. Besides some stray parallels from the unpopular teams among the card blogs (Marlins, Rays, Mariners, A's, Twins) there are abundant Dodgers that I believe I've circulated among the many Dodger collectors already.

So this will be a sporadic venture at most. I don't have the time and I don't want the hassle. But I do want the space and, oh, yes, I do want the money.

So if you've got tips, I want them.

And if that tip is "don't sell" then so be it.

I'm happy sticking with accumulating until the house explodes.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The alternative world of baseball card cartoons, take 3

Usually when I do these baseball card cartoon posts, I whine about how cartoons need to return to the backs of baseball cards, how I actually learned things off the backs of baseball cards, how if one of the 14 kids in the United States left collecting baseball cards had cartoons to read on the backs then maybe we wouldn't be finishing 110th -- just behind Slovenia -- in the ability to repeat semi-relevant baseball trivia to our co-workers.

But I'm not going to do that. Instead, it will be merely implied.

I was just going to mention that I have known by heart the number of times that Babe Ruth walked in his career ever since I pulled Ellie Rodriguez's card out of a rack pack in 1977. It was the first card I pulled, it was a Dodger, and I know that caricature Babe Ruth scowl anywhere.

But not all of the cartoons on the backs of baseball cards were meant to give you knowledge about the game. Sometimes the drawings helped you get to know the players.

For example, Ron Blomberg must be a very pleased basketball fan these days:

And Elliott Maddox collected something that I'm not sure they make anymore:

I'm assuming this has something to do with 8-track tapes.

The world has certainly changed. You will notice this right away when you view baseball card cartoons.

When was the last time there was a good joke about a mumps outbreak?

At one time it was amusing to depict a screwball as a fall-down drunk Dudley Moore-Arthur character. Booze humor for the kids! Excellent decision-making there.

By 1974, Topps had updated things so a screwball merely meant jamming an actual screw into a ball rather than inhaling a screwdriver and then delivering a pitch.

Time has advanced in other ways, too. How many front office types would be thrilled about a ball player broadcasting his love for speeding motorcycles?

But I know at least one player who was happy about it: Tim Johnson, a shortstop for the Brewers:

Better business for him.

Good luck getting a contract in 2015 with that hobby, Billy. That's why they make video games these days.

Finally, there were many reasons for me wanting to be a baseball player when I was a kid. The game is fun of course. You would be able to play it all the time. You would get to play on TV. And you'd get to go all over the country.

And some of the players also got to be bachelors. I didn't know what a bachelor was. I even had a difficult time pronouncing the word. But it seemed like bachelors were very well liked and something to be.

I'm not sure where I got that idea.

I learned more from cartoons than from four years of math classes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

We'll do it again

Next week is a big one for card collectors. The first Topps baseball cards of the season are scheduled to arrive, and no matter how hardened and cynical you have become, this news will always produce a thrill in your cold, unfeeling bones.

I already know that I will not be attempting to complete the set for a fifth straight year. But that won't stop me from taking more trips next week to Walmart and Target than I would normally make in an entire year. Every year, it's the same. I have to get my hands on the first few packs of the season. I'll do it again next week, or whenever the hell the cards finally arrive in this frozen tundra. But, regardless, I'm sure I'll do it again. And you'll do it again, too. We'll all do it again.

This has been ritual for me for 40 years. With only a few exceptions in the late '90s and early 2000s, I've sought out packs at the start of the year, getting those first glimpses of cardboard goodness.

To prepare myself for next week, I thought I would review the last six instances of my first pack purchases of the year. I've broadcast my first pack rips since 2009 on this here blog and it's been an event each time.


First card: Luis Ayala, Mets, #284
How I rate that first card (1-10): A 7. It's a night card. It's a happy player. This was a harbinger of good things to come for a set that I liked a lot and still enjoy.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Feb. 7, 2009
Did I complete this set?: Yes
Number of references to this set on the blog: 48

Other comments: I have mild nostalgia for this set just because it's the first set I tried to complete while writing a blog. There was an extra bit of excitement, and it helped that the cards were vastly better than the previous set in 2008. Looking back, these cards aren't as fantastic as I thought then (the foil is annoying, the card numbers are too small and some of the photos in Series 2 are plagued by shadows). But it's still one of my favorite base sets issued since I started blogging.


First card: Luke Scott, Orioles, #231
How I rate this first card (1-10): 5. I'm normally not a fan of back-to-the-camera photos and the less said about Luke Scott the better. But the card does show that Topps was trying, and the O's look pretty good in this set.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Jan. 26, 2010
Did I complete this set?: Yes.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 52

Other comments: Not as nice of a set as 2009. Topps was obsessed with being the logo king in 2010 and it's a little much when you see the set together in a binder. There is a weird look to a lot of the photos and I get the sense that Topps was trying a little too hard. But it is one of the more colorful Topps base sets in recent history and that is always a bonus around here.


First card: Russell Branyan, Mariners, #116
How I rate this first card (1-10): 4. I will never be excited by pulling a Mariners card and less so pulling a journeyman player who landed with the Mariners.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Feb. 4, 2011
Did I complete this set?: No.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 37.

Other comments: The honeymoon was over in 2011. Although 2011 is a nice design -- even classic -- I realized I wanted to do other things with my card money than chase Topps base every year. I still wound up with a good amount of cards just because I liked the look (especially the photos), but you can see the number of references to the set on this blog hasn't even hit 40.


First card: Blake Beavan, Mariners, #168
How I rate this first card (1-10): 2. Mariners in back-to-back years. I didn't know who Blake Beavan was then, I don't know who he is now. This also was a harbinger. I spent the entire year not wanting to have anything to do with this set.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Feb. 3, 2012
Did I complete this set?: Hell no.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 29.

Other comments: I still don't like the look of this set. The worst since the century turned. While I waffled in 2011 on whether it was a good decision not to complete the set, I never felt more justified in not completing something than when I saw 2012. I think a garage sale is needed to help me get rid of the remaining 2012 cards I have.


First card: Joe Nathan, Rangers, #236
How I rate this first card (1-10): 4. I'd appreciate no more AL West players as my first card. I want to be excited when I open my first packs, not sleepy.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Jan. 30, 2013.
Did I complete this set?: No.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 36.

Other comments: This is my favorite set among the Topps base sets released since I've had this blog. It's both original and traditional, quirky and colorful. I've often thought I should finish the set -- I have enough of the cards -- but I don't have enough space for sets I like even more, so I probably never will.


First card: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, #150
How I rate this first card (1-10): 8. By far the best first player I've pulled since 2009,
When did this set debut on NOC?: Jan. 31, 2014
Did I complete this set?: No.
Number of references on this blog: 19.

Other comments: Never a fan of the look of this set, I knew I wouldn't do much with it immediately. I have fewer cards from this set than any Topps base set since 2004, and I wasn't even collecting modern cards in 2004. McCutchen is also the only one of these "first cards" that I don't have anymore. I was so unimpressed that I traded away my "first card".

So that's what 2015 is facing.

My early thoughts on 2015 is that it's going to be very familiar and completely different. Whether 2015 Topps has any staying power will be determined by how many cards I buy and how often I reference it on the blog. But I think, at least in the early going, it will play out the same:

I'll be really excited, then kind of excited, then pretty cynical, then fairly bored, then checking out what Heritage looks like this year.

Before we know it, it will be 2016.

And we'll do it again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A stack is a stack no matter how thin the cardboard stock

Well, I butchered that Dr. Seuss quote, didn't I?

That right there is a stack of 135 cards from 1981 Donruss. The No. 1 defining trait of '81 Donruss is its supermodel-thin card stock. And I do wonder whether 135 cards made of much sturdier stock would look more impressive next to this stack. But I've just scanned a bunch of '81 Donruss and have no time for science projects.

Instead, let's list some of the other traits for which '81 Donruss is well-known:

1. It's wafer-thin. But I mentioned that already.
2. It's plagued with errors. Every third card has something wrong with it.
3. Virtually all of the photos were taken in Chicago. That may seem repetitive, but after so many Topps cards in Yankee Stadium it was actually a relief.
4. Full names on the back. Toby Harrah is Colbert Dale Harrah.
5. Multiple cards of star players. Reggie Jackson, I believe, has 74 cards in this set.
6. Miscut cards, diamond cut cards, ragged edges.
7. Blurry photos.
8. The card backs are PINK!

None of the above seems very complimentary. But that just makes me want to collect it even more.

A couple of weeks ago, Kary, who has sent me some early '80s needs in the past, shipped me 135 cards off the 1981 Donruss want list. I now have less than 50 cards to go.

As with any set that comes from my first collecting period (1974-83), these cards were a delight. The set is filled with my most favorite players and my most hated villains.

But don't listen to me, see for yourself:

Look at that. Clockwise from top right, that is my all-time favorite player, a childhood favorite who I later interviewed, a comical figure from my youth who made hot dog commercials, and the guy who gave up Rick Monday's dramatic home run.

We're off that an excellent start.

Here are four more favorites from when I was a wee one. But I can't explain why as succinctly as I did above.

Another trait of 1981 Donruss is how many players are pictured with a bat on their shoulder. When I have the whole set, I will add up the grand total. My guesstimate at this time is 785 cards.

Managers! We appreciated both Donruss and Fleer for this, because manager cards were not a guarantee back in the late '70s/early '80s. I think both upstart companies got Topps off its ass in this regard.

By the way, look at youthful Tony LaRussa, plotting the devious ways he's going to ruin the game.

This card alone would make me collect an entire set. I don't know what state Dave Lemanczyk was in when this photo was taken, but if you told me he was up the previous night doing lines, I couldn't argue with you. Sorry, Dave if it was merely a bout with insomnia.

Please. For the love of God. Look out for the towels.

There are a number of photos in this set that look like they were taken by my grandmother. It's difficult to notice the blurriness on the scans, but, trust me, these photos would have been rejected by the DMV. The Cardinals, in particular, were treated very poorly in this set.

And this card photo looks like it was taken from Earth while Stoddard was on the moon, in black-and-white and then colorized.

More bats on the shoulder. From Stan, Gary, Benigno and Colbert.

The Reds look very good in this set. Sure, the photos are similar, but with all of the posed shots in '81 Donruss, it was great to see some action.

Almost every aspect of Wrigley Field is featured in this set, too. I feel like I toured the stadium after looking at these cards.


I don't fawn over star players anymore, but at this time I did. Bench was the only guy of these four that I didn't have an issue with, but I guarantee I would have stammered if I had to talk to any one of them at that time.


This is what passed for action back then. It's not all that bad, although I didn't grow up in an era spoiled by Upper Deck and Stadium Club. I particularly like the Madlock card. Very cool.

Three icons of the 1970s -- and card blogs.

I didn't like the Yankees AT ALL then, but I'm glad Berra got a card.


I'm really coming to my senses on '81 Donruss.

The card stock may have been thin, the photos blurry, the cards crooked and the poses unimaginative, but it's really a riot collecting this set.

Anything from this time period are the best cards I will ever know.

Even if 1981 Donruss is the Who of the card world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don't just sit there

I was reading another one of those articles the other day about how if you spend all of your time sitting, you're going to die much earlier.

These articles didn't used to bother me as I sat in front of the TV or my computer at work. But after experiencing a health scare three years ago, I now do some form of exercise almost every day and I am relieved that I do. I still spend a lot of time sitting at work (I'm now one of those annoying people who thinks it's a good idea to have everybody stand at work instead of sit). And I still do a lot of sitting writing this blog. But thank goodness I'm exerting myself at other times so I'm not so guilt-ridden when one of those articles appears again.

But I started thinking, how did we get so sedentary?

TV, for sure. Processed food, definitely. The ability to be entertained by a tiny screen, currently.

But I'm also going to go out on a limb (no, that's not one of my forms of exercise) and blame Fleer.

Yes, Fleer.

When Fleer started issuing cards again in 1981, it added a different personality to the collecting scene, and a lot of that has been documented by myself and others.

But one other thing that I've noticed is how much Fleer -- especially in the early days -- featured players actively sitting.

Think about it. During the years immediately prior to Fleer's return, players were show on baseball cards either in action or posing in some sort of way: standing with a bat, crouching with a glove, pretending to pitch, squatting on cue. The posterior never made contact.

If Topps showed a player sitting in the dugout or somewhere else, it usually cropped the photo, so you only saw the player's head and mid-section (I'm thinking of the '75 Bert Blyleven and the '76 Ralph Garr). You knew the player was sitting, but Topps wasn't going to show it to you blatantly out in the open. Baseball players MOVED, dammit. They lived to move. They wanted to play! Why would a card company show a baseball player sitting? Why would a card company show a ballplayer sitting on his butt?

Fleer changed that.

It was suddenly cool to see a baseball player sit. Head, mid-section, legs and all. That's a baseball player sitting, no doubt about it. The posterior has made contact.

That's a baseball player sitting with a shoe. Is it his own shoe? We don't know. But that's definitely a baseball player sitting.

That's a baseball player sitting with a bunch of other baseball players who are also sitting.

That's a baseball player sitting with a bunch of other baseball players who are also sitting in the bullpen.

And that's a baseball player standing with a bunch of other baseball players sitting in the background.

I had never seen so many baseball players sitting before Fleer came along. Sure, I knew that baseball players could sit, but Topps was so intent on showing that these were men of action.

But it made sense. Baseball is a waiting game. Players spend a lot of time -- much more time than actually playing -- waiting. One guy is at-bat and the other 23 guys are sitting.

They're sitting waiting to bat.

They're sitting with their friends.

They're sitting blowing bubbles.

They're sitting in the locker room.

They're sitting ready to go.

They're sitting to show us the fancy ductwork.

Fleer REALLY liked that ductwork.

I don't want to discount Topps completely though. They did have the Bert Campaneris card in 1975 and the Angels in the dugout in 1978. And by 1981 -- the same year that Fleer started -- Topps did feature a few players actively sitting.

That is one of the most notable ones.

It also featured Woodie Fryman, who was one of the Kings of Sitting at the time.

Here is what I mean:

Woodie loved to sit.

The only player that could match him was also a well-known pitcher.

Gaylord loved to sit, too.

He really loved to sit.

Here, the other King of Sitting is even getting George Brett to sit.

In short, it was now cool to show baseball players lounging. Danny Heep might be lounging a little too much there. Close the door, Danny.

And now that people knew that all baseball players did was lounge around all the time, it was just another reason not to get off the couch.

Fleer, you're just as guilty as TV, fast food and video games. You've contributed to our vegetating lifestyle.

But all hope is not lost.

For one, Fleer doesn't exist anymore.

And two, you've got a mind of your own, don't you?

Don't just sit there!