Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Easily forgotten


Yesterday I was watching people find 2015 Topps -- mostly in the Midwest, but it's in a lot more places today -- and checking out the Toppstime video of customers opening a bunch of this year's product. It was all very exciting and as usual made me want to go to Target right now to see if any made it here. But one troubling thought mingled with the giddy ones as I was watching all of this.

For the most part when the new Topps cards hit, people will show one or two base cards to give viewers an idea of what it looks like, and then go straight to the inserts, hits and other assorted chasery. You almost never see another base card again.

Then I was looking at the inserts as they were shown and they all seemed very disposable to me. Not only were many of them similar to the inserts we've seen in past years, but inserts, in general, are only loosely connected to the base set. I don't consider them affiliated with the base set -- or at least my brain doesn't.

To illustrate, I'm showing this Sandy Koufax insert from 2011 Topps. It came from Lonestarr of Life and Baseball Cards. I recognized it immediately as a card I needed, but until it came into view, I had forgotten about it completely. I can't even tell you what it's from -- Update? Some special Megabox thing? A Walmart exclusive? A hobby shop exclusive? No idea.

Looking at the card, I couldn't even tell you what year it was from other than "recent."

Yet, as people opened more and more 2015 Topps, I saw more and more inserts and "hits". It was almost the only thing they continued to show and there was one guy on the video, who I later learned was the owner of the hobby shop that was hosting the break, who flipped out only if there was a buyback or insert.

These are disposable cards for me. Unless I like the insert set enough to collect it -- which happens maybe once every 10 years -- these cards lose their meaning as soon as the year is over.

The base set -- you know all those cards that look the same and have some continuity? -- that's what stays with me. I will remember what a base card looked like in 2015 in 2025, just like I remember what a base card looked like in 1994 or 1982 or 1976. Show me a card of Harry Spilman and I'll know what year it was made. But an insert of Tony Gwynn from 2012? Or one of those store exclusives? I'll get back to you.

There is no frame of reference for cards like those. And the more they look the same and the more often we see the same players -- Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente -- the less connection there will be.

I realize this makes the most sense to people who collect sets or team sets or have a strong sense of history. People who just collect "The Card" or "The Player" probably don't care or maybe have an easier time telling you what set it's from.

But to me, part of the beauty of collecting is knowing what the cards looked like in 1986, just like I know what songs came out in 1986, what was making news in 1986, who the big stars were in 1986. An insert of Cal Ripken from 2015 isn't going to tell me anything other than "here's another Cal Ripken insert".

That's a bit of a damper when people are going loopy for 2015 Topps right now, and I didn't intend to do that. You're probably going to see a post devoted to 2015 Topps right here in the next few days. But trust me, I will be focused on the base cards.

I do really appreciate the Koufax card I received -- from whatever it was from -- especially since I didn't even have it on my want list.

And let's look at the other cards that arrived from Lonestarr that I really like and won't cause me to launch into a diatribe over inserts.


A short-print of the Dodgers' #3 starter. This heads to the 2014 Allen & Ginter completion quest. The Dodgers have way too many short-prints in this particular set.


I'm glad I spent so much time trying to learn how to pronounce Erisbel's name and then the Dodgers go and get Jimmy Rollins.


Sending me 1975 Topps is a very good thing. Yes, I completed the set over 10 years ago. But I am always on the look out for upgrade specimens. Skip Pitlock looks very worthy, but I haven't checked to see if he will enter the most hallowed binder I own.


Chromey Paco better be an option in the bullpen this year. I'm terribly afraid he'll end up with the White Sox, which is where almost every unloved Dodger pitcher goes to die.



Another super-sharp vintage card. Purdin and I share a birthday. And that's all I can tell you about him right now.


Hey, Mr. Russell, welcome to my new outlook on 1983 Donruss.


I was very upset when the Dodgers traded Rick Rhoden. Maybe more upset than any other L.A. trade until the Vance Lovelace incident. I know, I know, if the Dodgers didn't trade Rhoden, they wouldn't have gotten Jerry Reuss, but you don't understand! The Dodgers are supposed to hoodwink everyone in trades!



The piece de resistance of the package. This is an insert from 2014 Topps Museum. Pretty nice.

This is what Upper Deck Masterpieces would look like if those cards were actual paintings.

I like this card quite a bit.

Yes, I do like inserts. Some I like very, very much

But give me a year or two and I will have no idea when this card was issued.

8 comments:

  1. Insert cards were one of the factors that drove me away from the hobby in the 90s. The base cards were no longer sought after and were pushed aside for something shiny or autographed. I'm slowly getting myself back into the hobby, and still find myself not having any interest in inserts...except for the Darryl Strawberry card I got in a pack last year. I was a huge fan of his. Growing up, his cards were the only ones I would never trade. So, that one went straight into my Strawberry binder. Now I'll have to look and see if he's made it into any other post-90s card sets.

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  2. "I'm terribly afraid he'll end up with the White Sox, which is where almost every unloved Dodger pitcher goes to die."

    Remember how you won the Bip Award for best blog? Well right now I am holding up a finger, and it says you are number 1. No, really.

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  3. I empathize completely. I'm a base set collector myself, and sometimes I feel like I am the only person out there who is still an NBA base set collector. It can get frustrating some times, but, on the other hand, occasionally you can find someone who chases the so-called "hits" only, and will just give you the base cards they don't want. So it's not a totally losing situation. Just mostly.

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    1. There should be a sub-network of set/base collectors set up for "mojo hunters" like that to send their unwanted (and usually unrespected) base cards from their high end breaks.

      Of course, the companies play along and sometimes you don't see the base design in some of the sell sheets for things. Weird thing I noticed is that the First Pitch inserts are not listed in the details of 2015 S1 descriptions, which I assume come from Topps sell sheets. Could be that they are retail only....?

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  4. Skip Pitlock is a real name? Wow.

    I'm with you on the inserts - especially in something like a Topps flagship set. If you don't care about the base cards, you're buying the wrong product. I was looking at the different inserts on other people's blogs & on Twitter, and I realized that I don't really care about any of them this year except for the First Pitch set... and I really only want one or two of them.

    I do want the base cards... hopefully when I get out to check my local stores again this weekend, I'll find some packs.

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  5. Ah, so this is where all the extra hits came from, even though I haven't blogged since the end of January. I assume it's the decades of experience as a professional journalist, but I'm always amazed at the angles you come up with to produce an endlessly entertaining stream of blog posts. Glad to be part of another epic.

    PS: For the record, the Koufax came from a 2011 Walmart hanger box. I guess they were exclusive to them (Campy & Jackie are also in the Walmart set, btw). Target had red ones with a different design. And yes, I did just have to go to COMC real quick to make sure I had the year right, even though I pulled it myself. Everything Topps flagship from 2010-2012 blends together so bad for me.

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  6. I will probably go another year without buying a pack of cards. I will pick up my Sox team set at a show or possibly buy the factory set at some point. If I pickup anything else on a trade it's just a bonus.

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  7. I think the Koufax is from a 2011 Topps Series One or Two "Hanger Box" from Wal-Mart (blue border), and I think I have one of those sitting in the pile for you. So if anyone asked for another one ...

    I like some inserts, and some I don't. They are like little mini sets of cards you can choose to collect or not.

    But the other day I saw the worst example of hits vs base I've ever seen. I'll put that in a Card Shop Review post sometime soon.

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