Friday, March 31, 2017

The annual "good riddance to March" celebration

If you've been reading this blog long enough you know the routine:

March arrives in a blaze of burning dumpster fires of all shapes and sizes. I dodge said fires the best I can. If I get to the end of the month alive, I buy a few cards to celebrate.

Guess what? It's the end of the month. I'm still alive. I bought cards to celebrate!

Per usual, it's just a few because who has the time? Plus there's a card show on the horizon, so I need to stock up.

My annual "good riddance" purchases usually focus on whatever whimsical cards catch my fancy. And this year was no exception.


It is my goal to obtain all of the 1980 TCMA Albuquerque Dukes cards I can. I've loved the border design since I was a wee one and many of the players on the team then were the first Dodger prospects I ever knew. But this card is particularly special because what do I mention first?

Is it the bald-headed guy you'd never expect to see on a baseball card? Is it the mustard slacks? Is it the strawberry satin jacket declaring Paul Padilla The Duke? Is it the first time I've ever seen an abbreviation for the word "trainer"?

I must take a minute to compose myself.

Ah, much more calming.

Here is the card I showed a few posts ago. You'll be happy to know it arrived safely. I'm a little bit disappointed the back does not describe what The Bird is doing here. People pulling this card in the late 1990s may have been baffled by the image of Fidrych making the mound look pretty.

I was alerted to the arrival of this card on my favorite online card-selling site by a Twitter friend and Eddie Murray collector who I believe is no longer on Twitter. He spotted it on COMC and had a mutual friend contact me about it. That's so awesome.

This is a box bottom from 1991 Topps and completes the box-bottom Dodger trifecta of Murray, Alfredo Griffin and Juan Samuel.

When purchasing cards so close to a card show I try to avoid cards that I'm sure will be at the show. This is one of those cards. However, I couldn't resist mostly because of the cartoon on the back.

Never let a current ballplayer tell you how busy he is.

Several cards in this lot are the product of recent posts I made, including this one. After mentioning it earlier, I decided to finally start looking for the 1977 OPC variation cards. OPC was never finer than in '77.

For comparison, here is Zisk's Topps '77 card:

The signature change is interesting, along with everything else.

More weirdness discovered when researching a post. I stumbled across this card while writing about Rick Dempsey's cap-wearing habit.

This "Learning Series" was a 1990 Donruss issue that was published as part of teacher lesson plan for grade-school students. There's 55 cards and I am now aware I need to obtain the Fernando Valenzuela. I guess I'll never get to leave the land of junk wax.

This card I knew about. Darryl Strawberry was one of 24 players in this 1993 Duracell series even though he managed to play in just 43 games in 1992.

Another one for the 1976 Hostess quest. This card resembles the Card That Makes My Blood Boil. But Hostess went the extra step and painted Wynn's jersey blue. I don't find it any more convincing.

No idea how I came across this one. But I had to get it because outside of 1982 Fleer I don't know if I've ever seen so much wasted space on a card photo. (Dodger fans, insert your Chris Hatcher joke here).

Not really a card. It's a 1971 Dell Stamp. I've begun to pick up the Dodgers from this set and I had to grab the Rich Allen item because there are so few collectibles with Allen as a Dodger. This is very cool!

OK, time for the grand finale (I told you I just got a few cards):

More 1975 Topps buybacks!!!

This gets me to 132 different buyback cards from this set. Happy Happy End Of March Dance!

I'll be able to get to 150 with absolutely no problem and I still think 200 buybacks from this set will be fairly easy before things start to get more challenging.

I suppose this is the kind of set that I said I didn't collect in the previous post. But I'm just doing this for fun and a bit of irony. I have no expectation of completing it.

That's what the end of March is all about. Saying goodbye and getting ready for some fun!

Good riddance and hello baseball!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blog bat around: So difficult that I don't care

Another Blog Bat Around has snuck up on me, and it's kind of in my area of expertise.

"What is," Nachos Grande asks, "the hardest set that you have ever collected (or tried to collect)." I'm going to assume that by "hard," he means "difficult" and not "made out of granite" (OK, night owl, don't be a jerk).

This Blog Bat Around is directed at set collectors, of which I am one. But it focuses on something that I try to avoid. I intentionally do not try to complete sets that might be difficult. I don't need challenges like that in my life. I have a job. I have a family. I have a teenager and a dog and a government and parents and a neighborhood and 78 passwords that I MUST CHANGE IMMEDIATELY. I don't need difficult challenges in a hobby that's supposed to be fun.

So I intentionally avoid trying to complete a tobacco mini set from 1904 or every 2016 parallel of Kris Bryant. My completion quests are much more manageable (with the exception of '56 Topps which is just too beautiful to not at least attempt). If it's going to be "hard," then never mind. I'll find something much more agreeable.

I've done this for a number of years now. But when I first got back into the hobby, I didn't know any better.

In 2006, my first time really collecting since the early '90s, I picked up where I left off and collected the way I did when I was a kid. I started to gain more and more knowledge about how the hobby worked and then I discovered blogs and gained even more knowledge.

I also stumbled across something called a "short-print".

When I first decided to try to complete 2008 Topps Heritage, I don't think was fully aware of what a short-print was. But I found out soon enough. And as the pages in the binder began to fill up, there were certain slots that always remained empty. Those were where the intentionally short-printed cards would go.

This was my first encounter with the nature of Heritage. Back then, short-prints weren't reserved for the back of the set. They were distributed throughout. So if you put your pages in a binder, interrupting beautiful page after page like this ...

... is a page like this ...

... smack in the middle of the set! (I double-bag my pages, so you're just going to have to get used to seeing the back of a card in the empty slot).

The higher you go in the set, the more painful it gets.

This beauty is just one card short. Ouch.

But for years now -- almost a decade -- this set has sat incomplete. I've needed nine cards to finish it for ages.

It's not really because I can't find the cards or even because I can't afford them. It's simply that I can't be bothered anymore.

This is the set that caused me to decide to never try to complete another Heritage set again (until 2024, of course). The short-prints are just too time-consuming for someone with all of the activities and responsibilities I mentioned at the top of the post. I don't need a challenge like this. I like my card challenges to be 660 or 792 cards that are obtainable equally. Or, if you must short-prints stuff, do it like A&G, where it's not an investment to obtain the cards.

Probably years have gone past since I've thought about trying to complete this set. It's been so long that there are players in 2008 Heritage that are long forgotten by time.

And there are other cards that are so out-of-date, they might as well have been issued in 1959, the set that '08 Heritage is referencing.

I couldn't even tell you, without looking it up, which card numbers I need or who is on those cards.

That's how much I've put this out of my mind. The set was such a pain to complete, I just don't care.

I was a newbie in 2008, so not only did I try to complete Heritage that year, but I tried to complete the Stadium Club reboot and Upper Deck Timeline. Both of those other two sets are notorious as far as completion. I gave up on Timeline and started trading some of the cards away. I haven't done the same with Stadium Club, but I'm still seven cards short and have given it about as much thought as 2008 Heritage.

So the question is: do I want to complete 2008 Heritage?

Yeah, actually I do.

It's way down on the priority list, so far down you'll have to scroll a few times. But at least it's still there.

When/if I do complete it, I won't hold a party or be all that thrilled. The set's moved too far away from my heart for that.

That's what happens when you make a set that difficult to complete. It's not worth it. My time is valuable and card companies should know that. I will not bow to their artificially short-printed tricks if I deem them too time-consuming.

I may be a hopeless collector, but I still have the power and I know that.

Make it too "hard," and I'll stop caring.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's what's on the inside that counts

I'm sure this has happened to everyone. You leave your home. You reach your destination however many minutes later. And you realize that you have no memory of anything that happened on your travels in between.

That's how occupied I was yesterday as I headed out to run a few errands. I had planned to find most of what I was looking for in Target so I could then use the Target baseball card coupons that I kept forgetting. I had also planned to stop at the ATM to break in a new debit card.

But before I knew it, I was pulling into a parking spot at Walmart, of all places. "Oh, no, no, no, no, no," I said out loud in disgust as I realized where I was. I hadn't stopped at the ATM, I hadn't gone to Target where I had coupons. I was in the gross Walmart parking lot with absolutely no knowledge of how I got there.

Also, I had forgotten my Target coupons.

So, resigned to my fate, I opened the door and walked toward Walmart, past the broken down shopping carts randomly scattered through parking spaces, past the various garbage fluttering in the wind. And I muttered about how the card aisle was better stocked at Target.

But here I was inside. So I grabbed the few household items I needed and then shuffled over to the card aisle, which is actually about one-fifth of an aisle when you narrow it down to what I'm interested in: sports cards. Those damn Funkos are taking up more and more space every time I go there, which makes sense because what a space-filler.

I stared at the cards available and then suddenly realized there might be something in the discount bin on the bottom shelf. I dropped my head in that direction and saw this:

A single box of 2016 Allen & Ginter that apparently had been stomped on by an angry kid looking for a Funko.

I contemplated the box for a minute: discounted blasters of A&G are quite the find. They don't come around much. I would not call $5 off "extreme value," but still I was sold. The problem was the crushed box. What would I encounter inside?

I decided to take the chance. The minis would probably be unscathed, right? That's why I'm buying this anyway.

So I got it home, opened the box and pulled out the packs. The first two or three packs looked abnormally squashed and wrinkled on the bottom, but everything else appeared OK. And when I opened the packs, all of the cards were in fine shape.

So, let's see what's inside. Even though I'm not attempting to complete this set, old habits die hard (I've completed 2008-14 Ginter). You're going to see just the cards that I needed from each pack. Plus the mini. There's six cards per pack.

Here we go:

Pack 1

That's a pretty good start. Four cards I needed and a "black-bordered" mini (I'd like real borders again, Topps). I ended up dropping both Cardinals cards off the desk, onto the floor and dinged a corner on each, which is very painful with A&G. So much for worrying about the stomped box. I should've worried about myself.

Pack 2

That's a fine mini. Every time I pull a Trout I have to fight off the urge to see what it's selling for, because the prices for this guy's cards are weirdly inflated. Also, I dropped the Luke Jackson card in another card-dinging episode.

Pack 3

There is always a point in the set-collecting season when it's advisable to no longer buy blasters, especially for products like A&G and Ginter. The doubles become outrageous. I've far surpassed that point with 2016 A&G, but this blaster wasn't like that. Plenty I need and nice minis, too.

Pack 4

This is kind of a Teixeira hot box, which is awful and is giving me flashbacks to 2009 when I used to pull cards of this guy all the time. I am very pleased he will not be in card sets anymore ...

Oh wait, I forgot a card ...

How about that?

My relic luck with 2016 A&G has been great: Kershaw, Carew and now Rizzo. Six years ago I was pulling A&G hits of people like John Danks and Jeff Clement. I guess I must have gained some experience on which blasters to buy.

Pack 5

Easily the least successful pack. Nothing more to say here.

Pack 6

Allen & Ginter sure does love its New York teams. But I ain't complaining about a black-bordered Gary Carter mini.

Pack 7

True story: I have never seen a single episode of The Sopranos. I am almost the only person in this country who is not interested in mobster movies/shows.

Pack 8

Yay! A new card of Rickey!

I would say that was a very successful discounted blaster and well worth the risk.

As always, the moment after I open A&G, I must determine which minis make it into the frankenset binder.

Here are the ones that made it:

Trout fills an empty slot. Arrieta knocks out a 2014 Hiroki Kuroda (Yankee, bleh). But Carter does the best job because he replaces one of the two Jason Kubel minis that are situated right next to each other (#223 and #224!). Well done, Kid.

The other minis are available, as are any other minis that don't make the frankenset binder.

Now that I've had time to review the situation, I'm quite happy that I ended up in Walmart. I'm sure I wouldn't have found a discounted A&G blaster in Target, and I would have used my coupon on Heritage or Opening Day and likely found zip worth mentioning.

That's not to say I am recommending you proceed to your destinations on auto-pilot.

But sometimes you need to follow where the day takes you. And if that takes you to a seedy parking lot and a blaster that looks like it was used for hacky sack, then go with it.

It's what's on the inside that counts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The day 1990 -- the whole damn year -- came to my door

I have never consciously attempted to complete a run of Topps flagship sets. As a set-collector, it just kind of happened.

By happy accident, I've completed Topps sets from 1974 through 1989. I'm two cards away from completing 1972 and that will spur me on to tackle 1973. With 1971 Topps and 1991 Topps already finished, landing the '73 set would mean I would have an even 20 years worth of Topps sets completed, from 1971-1991.

Except for one tiny issue.

I've never tried nor wanted to complete the 1990 Topps set.

I don't out-and-out hate the set, even though when I bought 1990 Topps for the first time that year, I wanted to throw them out as soon as I saw them. The 200 or so cards from that set I own sit in a binder, which means that someday, someway I may actually try to complete that set.

Well "someday, someway" happened last week.

A few weeks earlier I had been reading the blogs when I came across a post by Brad's Blog. He mentioned that his wife wanted the thrill of pulling a 1990 Frank Thomas no-name card, so she bought four boxes of 1990 Topps from a dealer. That might be the coolest thing I've ever heard of a wife doing (outside of buying me a Ron Cey-Fleetwood Mac lamp).

Inspired, and realizing how stupid I would sound saying "I have every Topps set completed from 1971 to 1991, except 1990," I took Brad up on his offer. He was willing to send out a bunch of extra 1990 Topps that had accumulated in the unsuccessful search for Thomas no-name to anyone who asked.

I know this sounds like insanity -- actually asking for 1990 Topps -- but it's not like I was paying for those garish cards.

Last week, a box arrived on my porch. Man, was it heavy. I opened it up and it was 12-plus pounds of cards!

That's right. Twelve-plus pounds of cards from one year and one year only, 1990.

I didn't ask for the 1990 Donruss or 1990 Upper Deck. Nor did I ask for the 1990 Fleer, Score or Bowman (they're there too although you can't see them). But Brad sent me the whole damn card year.

Fortunately, the non-Topps '90 cards made up just a small part of the box.

The whole rest of the box looked like this:

Wild colors that don't go together for as far as the eye can see. A bottomless pit of 1990 Topps.

I don't know how many cards of this stuff that Brad sent, but it was a lot more than 792 cards, I know that.

So, I knew I had quite the sorting task on my hands to see whether I had complete the 1990 set thanks to this 12-pound box.

Sorts like this take up a lot of time and space. Fortunately, the other people in the house went on an out-of-state trip over the weekend, leaving the dining room table free for a multiple-day, card-sorting task.

After sorting through Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I had almost the entire 1990 set.

It's just begging for a binder.

But the set still wasn't complete. I had determined that 12-freakin' pounds of cards doesn't finish a set, and I was 21 cards short.

Brad took care of one of those cards with a separate item in the box:

Sammy Sosa will be breathing the fresh, clean air very soon, mint 10 or not.

For the remaining 20 cards, I took my pen-scrawled want list to the binder with the 1990 Topps I already owned and hoped it contained all of those cards.

I was able to cross off several key cards, Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas (not the no-name one), Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray, Walt Weiss. I crossed off 11 cards total.

But that left nine cards remaining:

Rob Dibble
Mike Felder
Rock Raines
Mike Gallego
Bret Saberhagen
Kevin Seitzer
Jerry Browne
Pat Clements
Tony Gwynn

Now, don't go running toward your silo full of 1990 Topps to find these cards for me. I already mentioned the nine I needed on Twitter and several collectors pulled a muscle trying to rid themselves of some 1990 Topps.

I'm getting all nine cards from one collector and then I can say I've at least completed 1974 through 1991.

I thought after sorting through all of those cards that I might grow sick of them. You know how 1990 is with sickly green paired up with orange and purple joining red. But, instead, my admiration grew for the Lichtenstein set with cards that look more like a comic book than any other Topps flagship set.

Some of the cards actually look quite nice. Here are just a few:

So that giant box of cards will accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. It will lead me to completing the 1990 Topps set and erase that glaring gap in my series of completed sets.

Of course, I do have a number of extras left over. I don't suppose anyone wants any 1990 Topps, but on the off-chance someone is crazy enough I have a few hundred extra.

I also have quite a few 1990 Donruss, Fleer and Score that's just waiting for someone to say the word. I don't ever plan to complete those sets.