Monday, October 7, 2013

Chrome showdown

I was fortunate enough to win Play at the Plate's fourth anniversary contest spectacular last week. The prize was one of these 2013 Topps Chrome value packs.

I hadn't been in a card aisle since Chrome hit store shelves and I had no idea these value packs existed. This is why collectors like me need charity contests like this. I'm not one of those guys who has completed the Chrome set already. I need a handout.

I was especially excited that the pack came from Brian. That's because out of all the card bloggers I've known over the years, I don't think anyone has had the kind of pack buying luck that he has. At Play at the Plate there is never blaster remorse. Just blaster bonanzas. Brian also actually pulls cards of his favorite team. And we all know that's impossible.

So I decided to do a little experiment. I went to Walmart the other day, loaded up on cold supplies -- yes, I have one of those -- and bought my own Chrome value pack.

How would my Chrome value pack stack up against Brian's Chrome value pack? Is Brian's expert pack selection fact or fiction? Do they really offer better retail packs in Texas than other places as I've theorized before?

To determine this, I implemented the usual random and biased points system.

Here it is:

+1 - any Chrome card. Because Chrome is trying harder than the average card
+5 - any refractor
+10 - any colored refractor. Even the guaranteed orange ones
+10 - any insert. I'm not collecting the set, so it's not annoying, it's trade bait
+10 - any Dodger. Because it's the only reason I'm buying modern cards these days
- 5 - any Giant or Yankee. At 4 cards per pack, that's a punch in the face
- 3 - any Diamondback. Because they want to be significant, but they're not

End-of-the-pack tack-on points:

+10 - anything I deem interesting
- 5 - anything I deem disappointing

I'll start with Brian's Chrome value pack first:


#156 - Mike Kickham, Giants, -5

Not a good start for the Texas-purchased pack.

#85 - Bruce Rondon, Tigers, +1

There are players I've heard of before in this set, right?

#35 - Jose Altuve, Astros, +1

The bottom corner is dinged. Not good, especially for four cards in a pack.

#98 - Johnny Cueto, Reds, +1

The man who gave Pirates fans an overinflated sense of self. But we'll never know if he was bothered or not.

Pack total: -2
Something disappointing (dinged Altuve): - 5

Grand total:  -7


#71 - Ryan Wheeler, Rockies, +1

Bottom left corner is slightly bent.

#CC-JU - Justin Upton, Braves, diecut refractor, +15

I'm not sure what this is supposed to be -- a tiny castle? The corners aren't even sharp enough that I can use it to tear up other Braves cards in the event Game 4 tonight gets ugly.

#176 - Wilin Rosario, Rockies, +1

Another bottom left corner bent.

#149 - Yonder Alonso, Padres, +1

I like how the scanner makes it look like Alonso is batting in radioactive pea soup.

Pack total: +18
Something disappointing (two dinged Rockies): -10
Something interesting (die-cut Upton): +10

Grand total: +18 (thanks to offsetting fouls)
Grand, grand total: +16


#111 - Jon Lester, Red Sox, +1

Nice card, diminished by the "all I can see is the Nike logo."

#121 - Allen Craig, Cardinals, +1

Dearly want to see their elimination.

#123 - Todd Frazier, +1

The only guy who impressed me in the Reds' wild card game.

#151 - Justin Wilson, +1

I am writing this prior to the Pirates' game today. I am either happy right now or resigned to another Cardinals loathe-fest in October.

Pack total: +4
Something interesting (still sucker for rookie cup): +10

Grand total: +14
Grand, grand, grand total: +30


#107 - Carlos Martinez, Cardinals, +10

The man the TBS crew thought was left in too long in Game 3 against the Pirates

#39 - Mike Zunino, Mariners, +10

Well, I've heard of him. That's progress for a Mariner.

#66 - Avisail Garcia, Tigers, +10

He's not even in the postseason. Zzzzzz.

Pack total: +30
Something disappointing (3 rookie cards, I don't care): -10

Grand total: +20
Grand, grand, grand, grand total: +50

50 points seems pretty good. But honestly, that was not very exciting. I think even my horrid pack-buying skills can top it. Let's see.


#161 - Zack Greinke, Dodgers, +10

Awesome. It's also, I believe, the first card of Greinke in an actual Dodgers uniform. But I could be wrong.

#83 - Shin-Soo Choo, Reds, +1

The best thing in the world is listening to our hack local sports broadcaster annihilate his name. Entertainment for days.

#72C-YD - Yu Darvish, Rangers, +15

Ummmm, I think I got Brian's pack.

#214 - Eric Hosmer, Royals, +1

The card back actually uses the word "tepid" to describe his 2012 season. If someone put "tepid" on the back of my baseball card, I'd be quite annoyed.

Pack total: +27
Something interesting (A Dodger and a '72 chromey insert): +20

Grand total: +47

My Walmart is kicking butt


#115 - Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, +1

With JoeyBats guest appearance.

#57 - Jurickson Profar, Rangers, +1

I swear I did not mix up these packs.

#23 - Julio Teheran, Braves, +1

Thank you, Julio for a fantastic Sunday.

#207 - Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks, -3

Gee, I hope the Dodgers are playing their playoff games to Montero's specifications.

Pack total: 0

Grand, grand total: +47

Bunch of nothing.


#111 - Jon Lester, Red Sox, +1

A dupe, already? These are the first Chrome packs I've opened!

CC-DPE - Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, diecut refractor, +15

A Red Sox-centric pack.

#204 - Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, +1


#73 - Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals, +1

So much for the all-Red Sox pack. It's just like a Cardinal to let everyone down.

Pack total: +18
Something interesting (3 Red Sox and a diecut insert): +20
Something disappointing (dupe): -5

Grand total: +33
Grand, grand, grand total: +80

Unless all of the orange refractors are damaged Giants and Yankees, I think my pack has won.


#115 - Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, +10

Probably going in Roy-Z's stack.

#57 - Jurickson Profar, Rangers, +10

Probably going in PATP's stack.

#202 - James Shields, Royals ... er, Rays ... er, Royals, +10

I saw this card online before pulling it, so I was ready for the "whaaaaaaaa?" This is basically a half-finished card. Splendid work, Topps.

Pack total: +30
Something interesting (Shields is a RoyalRay): +10

Grand total: +40
Grand, grand, grand, grand total: +120

As you can see, at 120 points to 50 points, the "Play At the Plate pulls all the good cards" theory is a myth. Apparently, night owl pulls all the good cards, especially if you're a Rangers or Red Sox fan.

I guess that's good to know. It'll cut down on my whining a little bit.

As for chrome, I'm not as crazy for it as I once was. The cards are still wonderfully shiny and as delightfully flat as they've been in years. But I've been buying less and less of it each year.

But feel free to send me a Chrome value pack again so I can do another Chrome showdown. I don't like feeling that I pull the best cards from packs. Too much pressure.

Thanks for the contest, Brian.


  1. I'd love those Cardinals you pulled especially that Carlos Martinez orange. How dare you say that you want the Cardinals to lose. Shame on you.

  2. Very unlike Topps to totally kick a card like that Shields. You'd think the first thing they'd fix would be the new team logo.

  3. +1 for Julio, after the gift he gave you Sunday night?! Pfsssh- whatever. That should have been a +20

  4. I think you just accomplished another difficult feat, not pulling one of the teams you don't like. I don't see a single Yankee in this break.

  5. You had two rookie cups in the first set. Must have been distracted by the ding in Wilin Rosario's card to notice. Since my budget only allows me to buy cards that I might get autographed and Chrome cards are a pain for that, I never buy them. But I do enjoy looking at pictures of them.

  6. Why can't I ever pull packs like that three Red Sox pack. I would love to trade for that Pedroia die-cut if you are willing to move it. I am sure I can come up with some Dodgers for you.

    1. I'm willing to trade it. Send me an email.

  7. I'm surprised you didn't get a Puig auto in the pack I sent you since I usually pull Dodgers stuff. However, I've had zero success with Chrome this year and may have a rant post about it this week if I can get a card or two scanned.

    Sorry about the Dinged Corners (see what I did there?). You definitely bought the pack I meant to buy.

  8. No A's? Thank goodness I don't have you or PATP pulling packs for me. ;-)

  9. Am I crazy or do those die cuts look like stylized 'm's?

    I would be quite happy if the Fraiser and Rosario rookie cup cards found their way to me, I have some stuff for you that should be worth your while.