Friday, March 23, 2018

Sticking my nose in other baseball collectors' business

I'm still trying to get adjusted to my new work schedule and it hasn't been that difficult, except when it comes to blogging. I'm doing weird things like writing three posts at once or forgetting to pull the cards I need before the whole house is asleep and then rummaging around and waking everyone up.

I need to get back on track because being "out of sorts" does not make for good blog posts.

I'll get there, but for now, I thought I'd address some "card news" that's come across the virtual ticker the last couple of weeks. None of this news affects my collecting at all, which would instantly cause some people to point their bony finger at me and exclaim "what business is it of yours????"

It's not my business, other than being a collector with an opinion. Which is kind of the lone prerequisite for having a blog, so I guess it actually is my business.

So let's get going with some outsider's viewpoints.

NEWS ITEM: Toys R Us is closing all of its stores, maybe, probably

Toys R Us announced earlier this week that it was closing all of its stores. Later, it suspended beginning its liquidation sales, but the crayon is on the wall.

It seems inevitable that Toys R Us as we know it is disappearing. But while several people have posted their online goodbyes and lamented losing part of their childhood, including buying cards at TRU, none of that means much to me.

Toys R Us has gone out of its way to avoid me for most of my life. When I was a kid, I'd see the "Toys R Us" commercials and wonder where I could find this paradise in my hometown. I think I asked an adult one time and I received a dismissive "that's in New York City." Later when I was old enough to know what stores were actually in my town, sure enough we had no Toys R Us. Around the time I graduated from high school, that's when a Toys R Us opened across from the mall. Nice timing, TRU. I suppose you don't sell "Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots" anymore, huh?

When I started blogging, I found out that Toys R Us sold cards and that those cards often offered exclusive purple parallels. Damn my luck, once again, I lived nowhere near a Toys R Us. The closest one was over an hour away. Instead, we had a Kaybee Toys (I am now informed by those with Internet Opinions that Kaybee Toys is FAR inferior to Toys R Us. I never knew people had such vigorous opinions about toy stores, but I'm so silly, because it's the internet. OF COURSE, there are people eager to insult your family over your opinion about a toy store).

I didn't like Kaybee Toys because I had to shop there when my daughter was little and the square footage of this store did not accommodate the number of toys, shelves or customers. At Christmas time, I became panicked that someone would light a match and tragedy would ensue because MY GOD THIS PLACE IS A FIRETRAP HOW COME NO ONE CAN SEE THIS? So I guess maybe the internet opinion people have a point.

Because I have a card addiction, I still needed to get to a Toys R Us to investigate those purple parallels. So one time I found myself in Syracuse and there were blister packs of cards hanging near the counter. I looked at the price and did a double take. They're charging WHAT for cards? I'd never seen such a mark-up on cards and still haven't.

So, yeah, it's no wonder Toys R Us is disappearing if that's what they're charging for cards.

But it doesn't affect me. (No more purple parallels I can never get anyway? Boo-hoo). I bought that one blister pack and that might be the only thing I've ever purchased from Toys R Us.

NEWS ITEM: Topps releases something called The Living Set

Am I the only one creeped out by this name? The Living Set? As in: It Comes To Life And Kills You? Or at least as in: Needs To Be Fed And Watered And Therefore Sucks Even More Money From You Than Spending $9.99 For A Single Card From This Set?

Am I the only one creeped out by the fact that every single card in this set that will never end is in the 1953 design? Topps, fully satisfied with killing off the '52 design is now going for '53's throat.

It was reported that more than 20,000 of the first three cards (they're featured in groups of three) have been sold after the first week.

That sounds like a lot to me. I don't know who those 20,000 people are. They either have much more money to play with than I do or are better than I am at suckering ... er, selling cards like this to other collectors.

I just know I'll be staying far away from these, probably even farther than Topps Now cards. I realize the '53-style Archives cards I've shown probably don't stack up to the hand-drawn Living Set cards, but it's still '53 and I'm still bored and it's STILL $9.99 per card!

I'm sure there are out-of-their-minds people who are going to try to get every card in this set for as long as it lasts. I kind of admire them. You've got to have goals, even if you have to sell your house and car to achieve them.

NEWS ITEM: Gypsy Queen is being stupid again

Gypsy Queen and I have not been on speaking terms for five years.

That's how long it's been since I've purchased more than one pack of GQ. 2013 was the last time. And I didn't like it very much then.

I almost always give a card set a chance every year, even if I'm not crazy about it. If Bowman's on the shelf, sure, I'll try a pack, and I don't care about Bowman at all. I'll buy Opening Day, even if it looks exactly like flagship. I'll give it a shot.

But not GQ. I know what I'll get and I know I won't like it. The first year of the GQ reboot was in 2011 (the card above) and it was the best that it ever was. 2012 GQ I think scarred me for life. 2013 was all about solitary confinement colors and that finished it off for me. No thanks, forever. Aside from Dodgers, the Georgia Peach and a select few 2011s are the only GQ cards I own.

It seems that I got out while the getting was good, because they're doing some ridiculous stuff with that set now.

Last year, or maybe two years ago, I heard that there were "missing black plate" and "missing name" variations. The gist was Topps was acting like they forgot the black ink, so the card featured a faded look for the missing plate cards, and the cards with the missing name featured -- duh -- a missing name.

But these were intentional "mistakes," nobody actually forgot anything. So we have a faulty card for no reason. This is stupid.

But not stupid enough apparently.

This year, there are cards that show Aaron Judge in his Yankee uniform, but list him as playing for the Red Sox. Another one shows Kris Bryant wearing his Cubs uniform but being listed as a Cardinal. Worst of all, there's a Dodger Corey Seager card listing him as a Giant.

Isn't that cute? Isn't that fun?


If it was cute or fun it would include some creativity. There's no creativity in this. This is the most mindless, soul-less variation possible. You could carry this out for infinite possibilities. List Judge as a second baseman. Now list him as a catcher. List him as a bat boy (OK, that's a little creative). "Forget" to put the GQ emblem on the card. Misspell Yankees. Print the team name upside down. And on and on and on.

It takes no thought, no creativity, and as far as team collectors go, the whole Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-Cardinals, Dodgers-Giants swap is downright mean.

But this is not my problem. Because these cards are so rare that only case breakers will see them. And, I guess, case breakers are amused by stuff like this, which makes them from an entirely different planet than me. Dopey me, I want my card to be an accurate representation of the player on the card.

My dog in this fight is I collect cards because they are baseball, sure, but I also collect them because they are creative. It is the creative voice for my favorite sport. Why do I collect baseball cards? Because I like the designs, I like the colors, I like the stats. I like the colorful and the facts. I like how they all come together. I like to see how they're going to be displayed each year.

This is art. Baseball cards are art. Thought and creativity and art.

Intentionally printing "Red Sox" where "Yankees" is supposed to go?

That's just bullshit.


  1. when I was a kid KayBee toys was the best for cards.
    Got most of my Garbage Pail kids there and they always had tons of old packs on clearance.
    Although one of my collecting regrets was not buying more of the Toys R Us grab bags that had piles of random TCMA cards included.

  2. I saw a scan of the Judge as a Red Scx on Twitter...thought it was somebody having some pointless fun in photoshop. I thought short printed variations with the same number were bad, but this is worse.

    I will have a RIP to Toys R Us post in the next few weeks. It actually affected me a lot more than I thought it would. I didn't get cards there until probably 2014, as ours didn't stock them, but I used to go to ours every week. It was a big part of my life for most of my life.

    1. I don't know how I got a C in Sox...those keys are nowhere near each other.

  3. I agree that the variations from this year's Gypsy Queen set are absolutely stupid. Not a soul on this planet wants to see Aaron Judge listed as a Red Sox player. That being said, I think I'll buy a value pack and maybe a couple of loose packs to see if I like it. That's it, nothing else. Gypsy Queen really has gone downhill recently.

  4. Ya know if Topps was smart and had a 1976 Hostess card design, I just might put off feeding the family.

  5. I chuckled out loud several times during this post.
    1 - no, I was creeped out by the name of the "Living Set" as well
    2 - "going for 53's throat" is a priceless line
    3 - gypsy queen is dumb. I love variations so much, but this is just taking a good idea and overthinking.

    thanks for another great post!

  6. The only Gypsy Queen cards I have are a few dozen legends I got on COMC a few years ago and an unopened 2015 blaster. I like some of the border designs but not the filter they use. I never bought baseball cards at Toys R Us but I did buy some Peanuts cards and I think Animaniacs Pogs. It was always scary to go in there before Christmas. It's sad to see so many of the old chains go out of business, though I wish KMart would (can't stand them.)

  7. I think it was the summer of 1995 and I was living in Las Vegas at the time. A Toys R Us was a 15 minute bike ride from my house. Any time I could gather some cash, I would ride my bike there and spend it all on cards.

    I must have bought a thousands packs that summer...

  8. First comment didn’t ‘stick’ so trying again.

    So much to comment on here. I’ll just say you’re not alone in thinking the Living Set thing sounded weird.

    The intentional team swap errors are really dumb. Way too gimmicky and makes Topps look cheesy. Needless to say I’m passing all this trash by this year.

  9. My take on KayBee toys is they are usually way overpriced because they are usually in malls. I don't think I've seen one as a separate building/store.

    All these multiple "mistake" cards and swapped variations are just stupid gimmicks to me. It seems now days you need to have relic cards, Sticker Autograph cards, about a dozen background, border or font color variants or all of those variants making about 30 different variants for just one card, oh and the on purpose "mistake" cards that color swap, name misspell, player photo swap, missing name variant, silly picture variant, action variant, not in a uniform variant and each of those variants have color variants as well so lets see you have a minimum of 100 different variants of just one card. Multiply that by the 700some cards in the set, doubled since series 2 and the UPdate series each add about 200 cards. So we have what 1,000 card sets with 100 variants of each individual card, plus the 4 printing plates for each of those? UGH Why the Hell am I still collecting these damn things?

  10. FWIW, assuming you buy ALL THREE "Living Set" cards offered each week, they are only $5 each, not $10. And 20,000 TOTAL "Living Set" cards were purchased week one. 13,000 people bought Aaron Judge. The other two coconuts sold around 3,600 each. I took a pass, personally, but I could see buying a well-drawn Met, when one arises (though I'd then buy the three, because it makes no sense whatsoever to pay $10 for one card when I could get three for $15...not that hat makes much sense either). The set name didn't creep me out so much; I just thought the Conlon set had already been there and done that.

    Interestingly, the minute Toys R Us announced the closings, someone from HQ (I'm least locally) came and took away ALL of the sportscards. Apparently, the company still views those as a company asset that they hope to find a corporate buyer for. Toys...not so much. Its a shame, though, as I still fondly recall buying rackpacks of Topps '66 football that had been "hiding in the back" for a decade when W.T. Grants when out of business in 1976.

  11. I like it when Night Owl gets feisty.

    Was in TRU last weekend and didn't see any cards at all. Normally they are in little kiosk right by the checkout, but that side was empty.

  12. The only Kay-Bee I've ever been to ALSO has narrow aisles (and usually filled with toys that have fallen off the shelves).

  13. We never had a TRU near me growing up and when I would shop at one while traveling it always seemed too expensive...even at the time. I hardly ever remembering buying anything from them. Hence, Sears catalogs rocked!

  14. They should have a “Yankee$” version in Gypsy Queen. I totally get what you said about the Living Set. When I saw that they were using the ‘53 design instead of the iconic and more memorable ‘52 design, even the 1% chance that there was that I would get a card from it disappeared. Looks like a rip-off of Archives (which is a waste of a set imho anyways).

  15. TRU - I'll miss them to some extent, but it's not the end of the world.

    Topps Living Set - I've been wanting a card company to produce this for years, just not in an online exclusive format. The pricing is straight up ridiculous.

    Gypsy Queen - If they have framed parallels, I'm interested. Otherwise, I'll pick up the random insert in dime box digs... and maybe an on-card autograph of a player or two.

  16. Apparently, the Toys R Us in Canada aren't closing yet.
    That said, I've never had one close to me. I went in once.. In Whitby.. A few years ago.. It was... Different..

    The Gypsy Queen just goes to show that there's too many variations and parallels out as is, so Topps needs to do stupid things to create new ones.. It's bad enough the intentional errors they throw in Heritage or Archives.. I can't remember which one, because they're basically redundant in my eyes...

  17. sitting on a tack, N.O.? Yep, Living Set is creepy. I wonder how set builders will do. Many cards will obviously have a shorter print run. Will Joe Panik and Nick Castellanos be worth more because of this? Who knows, who cares? I'm just glad Topps didn't choose 1954. That would've drained my wallet.

  18. I'll always remember Toys R Us fondly for being the place where I got my first ever genuinely amazing repack box.

  19. re: the new 53s - I am pretty bummed about this one. Doing a 1953 style card "right", with an actual illustration, should have been an obvious salable product for Topps for quite some time, ever since Heritage used those horrible overly lit digital photos, and then Archives barely seemed to learn from that horrible Heritage set. (Hint, Topps: try buying some nice warm analog photos for a vintage/retro release some time).

    re: pointless variants - the end-point of the ego stroking that is the #/x hobby today won't be reached until Topps creates the "invisible parallel", which will be just a blank piece of cardboard with the words "Topps" and "Mike Trout" on it. As long as the value of /x is low enough, say 10 or less, it will still be worth a lot of money.

    1. forgot some - I would have really liked to buy a few packs of some well done new 1953s. Maybe put a set together. I like how Topps captures the revenue of selling single cards for high prices, for themselves, in the Topps Now releases. What is good for Topps should be good for me, for the pointless "low end" cards I collect.

      But this "Living Set" is actually a rejection of the concept of a set entirely; a surrender to the reality that more people want to collect 660 cards of a player than 660 cards of 620 different players in a set. Selling basically a subscription set is good revenue for Topps. But not a way I can, or want, to collect baseball cards. I would literally rather spend the basically $1,000 / year on going to the bar, if I could afford that, or a very long list of other enjoyable pastimes, than such an expensive set of baseball cards, however beautiful they may be.

  20. Toys R Us are closing in the UK as well. Some stores are gone already and the rest are in the final sale. The announcement was greeted with general apathy and a lot of comments about poor customer experience, high prices, deceptive non-deals, and how it sucked for staff to lose their jobs because of poor management decisions. The main thing that is taking them under though, is a leveraged equity scheme that put them in huge debt.

    Toys R Us didn't sell baseball cards over here.

  21. Agree with you on the Living Set. I think that's a daft idea. I'm not a fan of SPs generally but deliberate errors are just lame imo.