I knew it would happen.
After all that talk of shopping this past weekend and avoiding stores at all cost, I knew I would get the urge to buy some cards. Personally, I blame a couple of online orders for Christmas gifts I placed for other people. That will always set off the desire for a little something for myself.
So it was that I found myself driving to the giant Walmart on the edge of town at 11 at night after a Sunday of working on my day off (it's a long story you don't want to read).
I figured all of the Black Friday shoppers were safely nestled in their beds by then. But not quite. As I walked toward the store, I noticed a typically smokey car pulled up just beyond the entrance doors with its motor running. This is always annoying to me, but I figured it was Walmart, something like that is practically part of the decor.
As I approached the doors, a guy from inside the car yelled out to me, "Hey, sir! Sir!" I glanced over instinctively. He gestured and said, "Come here for a minute."
Come here for a minute?
OK, first of all, who does that at 11 p.m. in a darkened parking lot? Secondly, who looks at a guy hollering from a beat-up car in the middle the night and actually says, "OK" and ambles over?
I kept walking into the store, and told a worker that they had someone soliciting who knows what in front of their building.
But what I should have done is tell the car dude, "I don't know what you're selling, but I'd rather be suckered by some baseball cards. Thank you very much."
And then I went and bought a box of Topps' latest Christmas-time creation, the 65th anniversary archives set.
I knew very little about this set. I knew that it was 16 cards per box. I knew that it was $25. And I knew there was a guaranteed autograph. I admit that last sentence got me. There is almost nothing I can buy for as little as $25 and get a guaranteed autograph (unless I'm specifically shopping for an autograph, of course).
So I knew there wouldn't be much exciting for my collection, but, hell, why not? An autograph. Let's do it.
That's a blurry photo of the box. You can see it's presented like some sort of high-end product. "Behold! A Shiny Wrapper!"
That's what's keeping the shiny wrapper aloft on its throne. A big, black sponge brick.
Before I get too far from the photo at the top of the post, you probably noticed the autographs advertised on the thing: Posey, Seager, Harper -- you know, the guys who no one will pull. There are 35 autograph subjects in this set. My guess is they had Harper, Posey and Seager sign 10 cards each.
(Even weirder is I don't see a Harper auto as being listed on the checklist. Hmmmm).
But let's get to reality. What did I get? The shiny pack has been opened:
#A65-JCO - Jeff Conine, Marlins
When I first heard about this product, I thought it was offering cards from the 2016 Archives set issued earlier in the year. I thought that was pretty lame, but Topps is always repackaging earlier sets at this time of year.
It turns out it's an entirely new Archives set -- because WE NEED MORE REPRINTS!
This is more in line with the original Archives set issued in 2001. I know some collectors have nostalgia for that set, but I never understood it. It's just copies of cards that already have been issued. That's kind of fun if it's a card from before 1970, but something from 1996? Why?
Also, the card stock is not 2001 Archives stock. It's 2016 Archives stock .. but flimsier.
I should've found out what the car dude was offering.
I almost forgot about the back. And how could I? It's 1975 Topps themed! This was a pleasant surprise, although the back has been dumbed down quite a bit. Single career stats and no cartoon, just a logo. But I do enjoy seeing those '75 Christmas colors.
#A65 - FVI - Fernando Vina, Brewers
Do you remember the day you pulled your 1999 Fernando Vina card? Everyone does, don't they?
#A65-JRI - Jose Rijo, Reds
This card was kind of fun, just because I collected so few 2003 Topps cards. Perhaps that's what Topps is getting at: remember those years when you refused to collect cards because you were mad at baseball/the hobby/us? Well, here's a second version of that card, just because!
#A65-AG - Andres Galarraga, Rockies
These cards feature almost no gloss, which is odd when you're pulling a card with a design from the late '90s/early '00s.
#A65 - JCR - Jose Cruz Jr., Blue Jays
OK, this is where it gets strange ...
#A65 - JCR - Jose Cruz Jr., Blue Jays
I paid $25 for this! There are 16 cards! You think you can avoid putting dupes in the same box?
Stay tuned, this is only the half of it.
#AS65-AB - Andy Benes, Padres
Reprint of a '93 Padre. Wee.
#A65-FH - Frank Howard, Dodgers
This is the happiest point of the box. Sure, it's a reprint of a card I already own. But after pulling all those '90s reprints, it was nice to see '60s Hondo.
Also, it happens to be a numbered parallel:
Isn't that Christmas-y? There are more rare red and black borders, too. Back parallels are pretty ridiculous at this point, but at least it's a Dodger!
#A65-CS - Curt Simmons, Cardinals
There's my autograph. Curt is 87 these days, but Topps is putting him to work. I noticed someone else pulled a Simmons auto.
Truth be told, this might not be the most desirable autograph for younger collectors, but Simmons is the oldest guy on the autograph list and that's kind of cool to me. Only him and Vern Law go back a ways. Anyway, this will probably end up with Cards On Cards.
#A65-CJ - Chipper Jones, Braves
Famous card. I'm sure every collector has the actual one by now.
#A65-TFE - Tony Fernandez, Blue Jays
I'm fairly certain I have several dupes of Fernandez's actual '85 Topps card.
#A65-SL - Sparky Lyle, Yankees
Pay careful attention to this card. Like "Match Game"-style attention.
#A65-BW - Billy Williams, Cubs
This card and the next two are pretty cool. Would be a lot cooler with better card stock, but suckers can't be choosers.
#A65-HA - Hank Aaron, Braves
There you go. I ain't ever getting the actual thing, so that's where Archives has done its job.
#A65-WM - Willie Mays, Giants
I traded a beat-up version of the actual '58 Mays to ARPSmith awhile ago. I consider this the result of good karma.
#A65-SL - Sparky Lyle, Yankees
Hey, look! It's Sparky again! The last card!
Way to finish off this box on a high note!
There are just 65 cards in this set. Apparently that's not enough to go around in a 16-card box, even with the usual bazillion different parallels.
I can't say I'm sorry I bought this box. I knew going in that it wasn't going to be great. But I got my promised auto and a Frank Howard card I like, and the pseudo '54 Aaron is kind of cool.
So if you like that kind of stuff, pick up a box at your local Walmart.
If you don't, you can always see what the skeevy guy hanging out in front of the building is offering.