March 13, 2019

The Quest for a White Whale Comes to an End

This quest was a long and frustrating one, but after 17+ years it is finally over. Way back in 2001, Topps released a 10 card insert set featuring some of the more well known stars of the Negro League. From the moment I saw this set staring back at me from a pack of Flagship(series 2, I think), it was one of my favorites. I finished the set relatively quickly and was excited to see that Topps Chrome would apply its shiny base and refractor technology to the set. I immediately knew I'd have to track down a refractor version of my favorite player in the set, Josh Gibson. In the weeks after Chrome was released, I happened to find 2 different copies at my local card show. I was young and the asking prices weren't in my collecting budget so I had to leave them behind. I remember seeing a few more on eBay and the end result was the same, too rich for my blood. As time went by, I had trouble finding any available copies at all. Over the years, I had a few near misses which I wrote about in this post showing my top 5 white whales. I couldn't even find a picture of a sold copy of the card for that post so I just subbed in a picture of the base version. I published that post in early November 2017. Close to six months passed and there were no signs of an available copy on either eBay or COMC. Then it happened. I was performing searches on COMC for a list of cards that I don't usually find available. I typed in '2001 Topps Josh Gibson' as I'd done a hundred times before. Only this time, among the few results was a copy of the refractor I was searching for. It was listed a bit high for my liking, but fortunately I had earned a good bit of credit by doing challenges. I added some store credit via PayPal just for good measure. I wanted to be ready for negotiation. I quickly made an offer I could live with. It seemed like it took forever for the seller to respond(it was actually only a few hours). They countered and I felt it was reasonable(and I didn't want to lose out again) so I accepted. A huge weight was lifted! However, I knew that I wasn't very likely to request shipment until the Black Friday promo. So, seven months after I purchased one of my most sought after cards, I finally had it in hand and here I am finally writing about it four+ months after that. Better late than never I suppose.

I only wish the scan actually did this card justice. It is extremely satisfying to finally acquire a card I'd searched for so long to find. Quite honestly it's a feeling I'd really like to replicate again in the near future(fingers crossed). Anyway, thanks for reading.

March 6, 2019

Food Issued Baseball Cards in 2019?

Could it be true? I love oddballs. Especially if they are food issued, baseball cards. In 2016, Topps and Walmart got my hopes up that we were about to see the re-emergence of these into the hobby when they released the Marketside pizza baseball set. Unfortunately, that set was a one-off and the only food-issue that has been released since was an MLS focused Post cereal release last year(yes I collected that). However, it looks like we will be getting another food-issued baseball set in 2019!

At the Topps Industry Conference which took place February 24-26, a set which will be released in Utz snack products was announced. I borrowed the following pic from @SportsCardNews on Twitter.

All of the details I can find so far are summarized in the slide in the picture. What do you honk about this news? Will you be trying to search these out? I know I sure will be. Thanks for reading!

March 4, 2019

Embarking on a New Collecting Journey

Hello to anyone who might still be out there! It sure has been a long time since I've posted here. I'm not really sure how it got to be so long. I feel like I blinked and seven+ months of blogging inactivity have passed by. I've written several different 'return post' drafts along the way and subsequently deleted them all. Each seemed like a good way to re-engage, but inevitably something would come up and I'd have to leave the post unfinished. By he time I was ready to begin work on it again, he subject material just didn't seem that exciting anymore. That is probably a function of my inactivity being strictly blog related, not hobby related. In fact, the past several months have seen quite a large explosion within my collection. In some ways this is good, but in many ways things are admittedly getting a bit out of control. For a little while, I thought I had done a good job setting and maintaining limits on my various collecting interests. However, the flood gates started to open about eight months ago and I am just now starting to close them a bit once again.

I'd like to say that I have no idea how hints spiraled so quickly, but in truth I know exactly how. I was working on a trade and happened to start digging through a box that hadn't seen the light of day in a few years. Immediately I was reminded of players, insert sets, and parallels I hadn't thought about in just as long. It's this idea that brings me to the focus of my first post in what feels like forever.

World Series/Playoff highlight cards have long been a fixture in baseball card sets, but they were significantly more difficult to come by in football products over the years. Imagine my surprise when 1998 Skybox Premium football dropped and there was a 15 card Super Bowl subset called One For the Ages that happened to feature my beloved Denver Broncos' victory over the Green Bay Packers in SBXXXII. I was thrilled when I was able to complete the 15 card base set via pack ripping. On the day I finished the set, I was busting a few packs at my then LCS. A handful of packs into my day I pulled the following Star Rubies parallel:

I was happy with the pull, but younger me was disappointed that it wasn't one that had Elway or Terrell Davis on it and I was still laser focused on trying to pull the last base card I needed for the subset. A few packs later I finished my subset and stopped buying packs for the day. Before I left the shop, I slid the somewhat disappointing parallel into a sleeve and top loader. When I got home it went into a box of some 'lesser' PC cards where it stayed, rarely touched in the years since. It had probably been around 5 or 6 years since I had last seen it when I stumbled upon the box it lived in while searching for cards I could include in a (relatively)recent trade. Funny thing is that when I saw it this time around it stirred up all of my memories surrounding that first SB victory for the Broncos. There began a search for other Rubies from the subset. I wasn't committed to trying to build the parallel subset, but the thought was now floating around my mind. In short order I had added a few more for cheaper than I thought I could get limited parallels from 20 years ago.

These three were acquired within a few weeks of starting to search. Slowly, I began to consider hunting for the full set. However, none of these featured TD or Elway and those would surely be cost prohibitive. I set a saved search notification and put the idea of finishing this potential project on the back burner. Then one day about a month later, a notification for another one of these popped up. It was reasonable priced with a 'best offer' option so I sent in an offer that I was comfortable with and it was quickly accepted. A few days later this greeted me at the mail box:

I was so excited! TD, Rod Smith, Mile High Salute...its all here in its sparkly glory. It was here I decided that finding the rest of these would be an official collecting goal. I just told myself that a task like this would require time and plenty of patience(funding and collecting sacrifice too). What immediately followed my decision to try to complete the subset was several weeks of no luck finding additional needs. Why not test hat patience right out of the chute, right? About two months into the hunting drought I received a new notification. I was immediately struck with joy and sadness all at the same time. There was joy at the potential of adding another of these to the collection. There was sadness because the asking price was nowhere near being in my collecting budget. I immediately began searching my collection for cards I could sell to raise funds. I sacrificed my Bray Wyatt 1/1 auto that I pulled a while back. I set it up on eBay with a really high BIN/make an offer. I was surprised that within a day I had an offer that was higher than I anticipated settling for. I gambled to see if I could get more out of it and countered. The buyer upped the original offer a bit and I accepted, all the while hoping that the sale would help me land the latest project need to hit the market. Once the funds hit my PayPal account, I offered on the Star Ruby. After a bit if back and forth, a sale price was agreed upon and I was one card closer to my collecting goal.

One HUGE card closer!

Fast forward to just before Christmas, and I hadn't seen any other copies online or at the few shows I was able to browse. All of a sudden, a 6-day auction popped up for one I needed. Every day I anxiously checked in on the auction to see if any new bids were made. While I certainly preferred the gratification of the BIN nature of the others I had added, the waiting forced by the auction reminded me that the hunt should be just as fun as reaching the goal. I can't easily verbalize how I felt, but going through a week of checking and hoping and checking again made winning that auction even more satisfying.

With this one in hand, I sit at 7/15, teetering on the edge of halfway complete. Once again it's been a long time since a new need has popped up. That's alright though. Patience is on my side. Someday I'll track down the eight remaining needs and this project that inadvertently started over 20 years ago will be compete. Until then, I'll do my best to enjoy search. If you've made it this far, thanks for coming along on the journey with me.

July 15, 2018

Big League Surprise

For several weeks, I've been hot on the trail of retail Stadium Club and each time I've searched another Target or Walmart for those elusive blasters/jumbo packs I have come up empty. This week, I added Topps Big League(BL) to my search. New product, same results...until yesterday. I still haven't found any Stadium Club, but I found these staring back at me from the card shelf at Walmart:

Not only did I find some BL, but the blasters have cards on them!!! I was so excited to see that. I'm pretty sure this is the first time the collecting community has seen cards on packaging since 2009 OPC. The 'box card' set contains 4 cards. I haven't seen a checklist, but I lucked into two pretty popular players.

I can't remember the last time I was so careful about cutting something out. Though the scans don't reflect it, I made sure to keep the dotted lines intact. As cool as 'box panel cards' are, the best part came after I opened the blasters to take the packs out.

They're not just blank backed, they're fully printed!!! To my fellow collectors who are searching this product out, I say being patient on the search for retail will definitely pay off. Now let's move on to the rest of the cards I found.

Here are a few of my faves from the 2 blasters. Manny's sweet swing, the great Pirates throwback, and Benny's concentration at the moment of contact are really cool shots. Albies is having a great rookie season, Mengden looks like he's playing in the '70's with that cool 'stache, and Sano is pretty happy that there's two down in the inning. I love the pic selection. Most of the cards I pulled just have a different feel than flagship's photography choices. The borders are a welcome departure from recent set designs and I like that team colors are incorporated into the framing. Subsets also make a triumphant return.

Though these Player's Weekend and Ballpark Landmarks look like inserts, they're part of the base set. This certainly harkens back to times gone by. He card stock isn't quite old school cardboard, but it does have a different feel than the overly thin and slick stock used for flagship. Add all of this to a 400 card checklist and I feel this is a really solid offering with a lot of positives for set collectors and team collectors alike. If there's one thing I don't necessarily like it's that gold border parallels appear at a rate of one per 10 card pack. They're done nicely, but it makes building the set a bit more difficult.

I don't have much to write about the parallels, though I was happy to pull the Rickey. Each blaster also had a pack of 'exclusive' blue bordered parallels.

I think I prefer the blue borders, they 'pop' quite a bit more than the gold ones. Lastly, unlike most modern sets, inserts aren't a primary draw for this set. That being said, I did pull 4 total inserts from the two blasters.

For me, the inserts aren't much to get excited over. I honestly think I would have preferred 4 additional base cards. Maybe if I find some more of this product, the insert designs will grow on me. Despite mediocre insert designs, this set is really strong for an initial offering. I'm hoping it does well enough that Topps decides to bring it back next year. Maybe they could put all of their 'affordable set' ideas in one basket and move a few of the great insert set concepts from Opening Day over to this set and eliminate OD altogether, leaving behind a really great entry level set that could appeal to kids and any coll chores that aren't interested in all of the crazy bells and whistles that most sets have crammed in these days. (deep sigh)...I suppose that's unlikely, but a guy can dream, right? Thanks for reading.

May 23, 2018

An Exciting Find at the Local Target

No, the title doesn't refer to Bowman Mega Boxes. Thus far, I haven't been lucky enough to find any of those. While walking around my 4th different Target this morning, I found my first empty display instead. I decided to show some restraint and pass by the other offerings in the card aisle, resigned to the thought of not having any new cardboard to enjoy today. I continued through the aisles with my two younger daughters in no particular rush to finish our grocery shopping. As we were wandering, my 5 year old asked me if we could get some Lucky Charms. I wasn't opposed to that idea, so we headed towards the cereal aisle. When we got there, I grabbed the family size box of Lucky Charms with the new unicorn marshmallows that my daughter loves so much and we were off. Towards the end of the aisle, something caught the corner of my eye and stopped me in my tracks.

That's right, trading cards on a cereal box! I am not the biggest MLS fan, but I like Honey-Comb and this particular box happened to have two guys that have featured on the US Men's National Team. I couldn't resist the pull of food issue, oddball cards!

There they in all their glory. It's not the most interesting design, but simple and clean is a good thing. Once I got home, I confirmed that the back of the cards are blank. These are a real throwback. They're going to have condition issues based on wear and tear to the box and due to how carefully they are cut out of the box. I am so happy to have found these! I searched the rest of the Post cereal boxes for other panels, but this was the only one sitting on the shelf. When I got home, I searched for some additional information about this promo(I was especially interested in finding a checklist). However, I was unable to find much beyond this article. Apparently, card panels should be found on different Post cereal boxes beginning in June. I feel like a kid again, wanting to hurry up and finish the contents of the box so I can cut the cards out and go back to the store to get some other ones! 

Today's find gives me hope that this could be the start of something beautiful. That something being the return of regularly issued oddball cardboard. I was especially hopeful back in 2016 when the Walmart/Marketside baseball set was released. Later that year, the Lids/New Era set followed and I thought for sure that oddball sets had finally made a triumphant return to our hobby. Sadly, that was followed by nary a ripple on the oddball front last year. It has to be a good sign that these new Post soccer cards have the Topps branding on them, right? Maybe later this season, we will find ourselves chasing a new Topps food issue baseball set.

No Mega Boxes? No problem! This find reminded me of my collecting roots and I doubt anything I would have pulled from a Mega Box could have done that. Anyone have any thoughts on this set? On the possible return of oddballs? Thanks for reading.

April 4, 2018

Sandlot Cardboard 25 Years in the Making

It took me a week after its official release date, but I finally brought home my copy of The Sandlot 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu Ray. Like many of you, I've had this movie on DVD for many years. So, what was so special about this release that made me spend a week tracking down a copy? It includes a set of 10 baseball cards, that's what! While I realize that there was another card set released  with a previous 'Collector's Edition', I haven't been able to track down a set of those. So, I was very much looking forward to bringing home my first cardboard featuring these characters.

Here is the packaging. Nothing special here except the sticker stating that there are baseball cards inside.

Here's the poster.

...and the front of the booklet. After a quick scan of the booklet, there are some great behind-the-scenes/making-of pics and stories. It will definitely be a good read when time permits.

Here are the goods! I'm really loving the 1962 All-Star design.

There are the primary characters.

I like that the card backs have the actor's name and a brief character description. I was thrilled that Hercules got his own card, but I am bummed that Mr. Mertle and Wendy didn't make the checklist. However, hope isn't lost. There was an additional card in the pack which has a coupon on one side and an advertisement on the other.

I'm sure that this is going to be similar to the Major League and Bull Durham inserts that have been released in the past. At the moment, there's no telling what these cards or the checklist will look like, but it's definitely something that fans of the movie can look forward to. Thanks for reading.

March 28, 2018

The New Season is Almost Upon Us!

As we sit on the eve of a new MLB season, hope springs eternal. It's the time of year when fans of every team can still have hope for a playoff run to culminate in a World Series Championship(no matter how unlikely it may be). I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I have this exact feeling about the Yankees this season. It's an exciting time to be a fan of that team from the Bronx. The addition of Giancarlo Stanton via offseason trade is one reason of course, but the team is also stocked with young, homegrown talent. In fact, my hope is that this year will be the dawning of a brand new 'Core Four'. Much like Jeter, Posada, Pettite, and Rivera were just coming into their own in the mid '90's, there are currently four youngsters that are establishing themselves as some of the best players in the league.

First, the starting pitcher:

Sevy had quite the season last year. He logged just shy of 300 innings, won 14 games, registered 230 K's, and finished among the league leaders in ERA. I was beyond fortunate to pull this blue parallel of his Chrome RC auto from a discounted retail hanger I found at Walmart a few months back. The auto is on card and one of the cleaner looking examples I've seen.

Next up, we've got the relief pitcher:

Betances came up through the Yankees system and began making an impact as a setup man, much like Mariano Rivera. Dellin had a brief opportunity as the closer, but has taken the backseat to Chapman since his return from the Cubs. Even back in the setup role, Betances has been pretty dominant. I picked this blue Chrome RC auto up a few years ago before he really had his breakout season. I really love the Yankee Stadium facade in the background. I feel like it makes for quite an iconic RC.

Lastly, we've got the backstop and the humble superstar in the making.

These guys aren't Jeter and Posada, but they sure have been fun to watch over the past two seasons. It should be really interesting to see these two continue to develop over the next few years. This is perhaps my best pull of the year thus far. I was in my local Target and there was a single hanger box of Heritage left sitting behind a few blasters of Series 1. When I opened the cello pack inside, I was a bit bummed that there wasn't a Deckle edge insert in the stack of cards. However, when I reached the middle of the stack, this card was peeking out at me. At the time I didn't know the details about these parallels(except that I really like the gold stamp). I thought they were serial numbers, but when I flipped it over, there was no numbering to be found. After a bit of research I found that they have a print run of only 25 copies.

So, therein lies my hope(s). Not only that the current group of young guys can sustain a high level of play like their predecessors, but also that this year is the beginning of their success. After all, the original Core Four made their initial playoff debut as a wild card in 1995, didn't make it to the World Series that year, and won their first championship as a group the next year. Hmmm, the Core Four Redux team was a wild card entry into last season's playoffs...perhaps history does repeat itself. I guess we will see in about 8 months. Thanks for reading.