Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Topps Archive Review

I was at one of my local card shops on Friday to pick up some 15 pocket sheets for my 2009 Tristar Obak T212 minis and they had hobby boxes of Topps Archive for sale for $108. I thought about it and decided that I would rather get a small stack of 1971 high numbers for that coin and passed.

But then everyone has been posting about Topps Archive, and it seems folks were pulling good hits. So, I picked up a blaster at my local big box store just to see what it was all about.  Here is my summary of Archive. I will admit up front that I am grouping the cards differently than how Topps does.  The entry at Baseball Cardpedia is true to how Topps envisioned the set.   But, I formed my opinion of this set before I looked at the article, so this post will follow along with my thought process.

Archives is made up, at least in my mind, of five major themes:

1.  Modern players on classic designs

I liked this concept the first time, when it was called Heritage.   I wonder what ever happened to the Heritage set?  Oh, wait..........

2.  Greats of the past on card designs they never appeared on

It is an interesting idea, but it just isn't grabbing me. I am not sure why exactly.  It may be because they aren't all on the same design. It may just be that I am experiencing being "unstuck in time"  à la Billy Pilgrim.
3.  Greats of the past on card designs they did appear on, as a reissue

FWIW, this is considered an insert rather than part of the base set.

This I get. It isn't something I would go hog wild over, as I intend to eventually collect the originals (at least for pre-1978 sets.)  But, it does appeal to me and I am pretty confident that I'll have to settle for a Topps Archive '52 Mantle (and other such expensioso cards) instead of the original.  But, if they issued a whole set of these kinda cards, I would definitely collect it.

4.  Greats of the past on card designs they did appear on, but not a reissue

These are, as I understand it, the base set short prints. What you see here is a side by side of the original issue (on the left) and the 2012 Archive (on the right.)  What is the point?  I don't know.  You tell me. 

5.  Various inserts

3D cards. Overall, I like these cards and think Topps should promote them from insert to an entire set of their own. Just like I did last year when they appeared in Lineage.

Floating head stickers appeared in this year's Heritage issue.  And, while these are larger than the Heritage equivalent, they are a little too similar to be interesting. It kinda seems as if Topps bought an expensive machine for making stickers and is trying to keep the machine running,  even if they aren't printing anything exciting.

I'd almost be inclined to make a smart ass remark about stickers being for little kids and not for the more typical modern collector, a mid 40s suburban male with a slight paunch, but I think we all know at least one mid 40s suburban male that loves Stickahs!  And I wouldn't want to insult someone with a larger readership than me.  So, I'll keep that to myself.

This is all kinds of awful.  It really needs to be submitted to Photoshop Disasters.  Ignoring the fact that the Willie Mays picture was take before Pee Wee Herman Tim Lincecum was even born, the lighting on this is all wrong.  Both are being lit from their left.  But, Mays is probably being lit from  a non-natural source at ground level. The light source for Timmeh is a mid-day sun.  Just horrid.

Now, this I can get into. I like deckle edge cards. I intend, at some point, to put both the 1969 and 1974 deckle edge sets together.  So, I will probably try to pick up some of these Archive deckles too.

There was also cloth stickers in this set, but I managed to not to scan one.  This was also done in Lineage last year. Yawn.

Overall Review:

Like Lineage before it, Topps is trying to do too much with this set.  In my opinion, they threw a bunch of stuff against the wall and there is no unifying theme and little originality.  Just too much overlap with Lineage and Heritage.

If was designing the set, I would limit the base set to two themes:  reissue of great Topps cards of the past (like the Ryan and Strawberry) and mix in all-time baseball greats on classic designs (like the Cobb and Clemente). I would also only include one or two insert sets; most likely the 3-D and deckle edge cards.  I'd also make them both larger than 15 cards, as they are currently. Truthfully, I'd prefer the 3-D cards to be promoted to a full set, but I don't see Topps doing that, so a nice 48 to 50 card subset would be pretty cool.

I won't be collecting this set, other than (maybe) the deckle edge cards.  If anyone is collecting it, and has a want list to point me to, say so.  Anything I got in this blaster is available.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A New Obak Adventure

As I have admitted before, I really like the quirkiness of the Tristar Obak cards. Having decided to forgo collecting the T4 cabinet cards, I am within striking distance of finishing the 2010 set, needing only 8 short prints to complete it. So, as I wound down my post-job acceptance orgy of card buying, I picked up a box of 2009 Obak. I know I should probably complete sets before starting a new one, but I decided to go forward with 2009 with the idea that, in June, I am going to make finishing 2010 a priority.

With my daily schedule still not settled after a week of commuting, I am going to make this a quick post. No recounting of the contents of each pack. I will show a few cards from the set and my box autograph hits, and call it good.

The 2009 set is a bit different than 2010 in that it is on thinner, but nicer card stock. It is still actual cardboard, but 2010 was printed on recycled stock and the back has the feel of drag grayness that you expect from recycled stock. I have no preference for one versus the. They are just different. The Obak standard of superimposing a picture of the card subject over a random background is present in both sets, though executed differently. In the 2009 set, the background is various sunset sky images over the top of a solid green bar on the lower half. 2010 uses a full image in the background, none of which seem to have much to do with baseball (seeing a ballplayer standing in front of a ramshackle barn and windmill is part of the sets lovable oddness.

Steve Dalkowski is something of a tragic story. He was considered the fastest pitcher of his era, if not of all time, but he was as wild as a march hare and never made the majors. His post baseball life was characterized by alcohol abuse so bad that he suffers from early onset dementia related to his drinking. More info on him can be found here.

Emmitt Ashford, the first African American umpire in  Major League Baseball.

I have probably mentioned before that I saw Neftali Feliz' AAA debut a few years back. He really excited the crowd by throwing pitches in excess of 100 MPH.


Another OKC favorite.  At the time Sandberg played here, they were known as the 89ers (in homage to the land run of 1889) and played in a ramshackle stadium at the State Fairground.

And here are my two box autographs:

Daniel McCutchen grew up here in Norman and went to two different local colleges before being drafted by the Yankees in 2006. He has been a solid performer in both the Yankees and Pirates chains since then. He got cups of coffee with Pittsburgh in both 2009 and 2010, and was a solid reliever with them last year, going 5-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 73 relief appearances.  For some reason he has started this season in AAA and, despite getting a brief call up last week, didn't make any appearances for the big club before being put on the 15 day disabled list.

Vincent Van Go, who is still number 6 on the all time list of stolen bases.

I'll try to update my Obak want list this weekend to include 2009, although I plan to focus on completing 2010 first.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Player Collection Additions

So, with the new job, and the associated commute, I haven't settled into a schedule that allows me much time for blog reading and writing, so this will be a quick and dirty post. Sorta quick anyways. I scanned the cards on Monday, cropped down to individual cards and uploaded the images on Tuesday, and I am writing this on Wednesday. I think I am going to have to plan further ahead and utilize the weekend better if I want to produce more than a post or two a week.

Anyhoo, over the last couple weeks, I've added a few more cards to my Paul Blair and Johnny Antonelli player collections. As you will see, the definition of cards may be stretched a little, but they are all still flat paper items, so it is good enough for me.

This looks like a typical 1954 card, but it is actually a 1954 Sports Illustrated/Topps sample card. It is pretty much identical to a 1954 Topps card, except that it is printed on magazine stock.

A 1960 Bazooka Johnny Antonelli. There isn't anything on the back and you can see that whoever cut this card from the box didn't get it perfectly straight. But, I have never seen one of these come up for sale before, and it is in great condition otherwise, so I jumped at the chance to get it.

This is a 1985 reprint of the 1949 Play Ball set. Well, I think it is a reprint. I've never seen a '49 Play Ball Antonelli and haven't been able to track down a set checklist (although I haven't tried very hard either.) So, I have no idea if he is in the original set.

A 1980 Fleer World Series card commemorating the 1954 World Series. This 1980 set was a throwback to a similar set that Fleer did in 1968. I have the 1968 card and thought I had shown it, but I can't find it anywhere on the blog. Suffice it to say, the player graphic is the same on the two cards, but the rest of the front is different. The backs are completely different, with the 1968 Fleer issue having a paragraph of text describing the 1954 World Series, while the 1980 set has a team name and hat graphic sticker on the back.  I prefer the 68 card, but when you are player collecting you gotta get 'em all, so here it is.   I am assuming there is a back story to both sets, but I have to get showered and feed the horses before I head out the door, so I'll have to save that for another day.

My first Venezuelan card, a 1972. This is actually a sticker and is a bit smaller than a normal card.But, it is my first Venezuelan (which is totally different than a Brazilian.)

A 1975 Hostess Paul Blair. This card is in super condition. It is really rare to find the Twinkie stain still intact.

This is a 1974 Topps Stamp, obviously miscut. But it is the first I have seen come up for sale, so it was well worth the dollar it cost me. It is about the same size as a regular postage stamp.

Finally, a 2001 Fleer Greats of the Game Auto card. I think I showed another autographed 2001 GOTG Blair a couple weeks back. However, that one was the blue border base card and the auto was added later. This was the actual set issued auto card. I can't believe it has taken me this long to get this card. They are always coming up on EBay, but for some reason I've never pulled the trigger.

Coming up sometime in the future: another foray into Obak.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Working Sets to Completion

As I may have mentioned before, my approach to building sets is to get as many cards as I can from local card shops (there are 3, although one has limited vintage inventory), then work local card shows, then go to sale sites like COMC and Sportlots.  These sale sites each have advantages and disadvantages

The advantages of COMC that you can see the specific card you are buying and, because COMC physically holds all the cards and acts as an agent for many sellers you can get cards from many different sellers in the same order.  The downside of COMC is that shipping charges add up quickly.

I tend to like Sporlots better, but that site doesn't hold the cards. It mainly acts as a front end ordering interface into multiple sellers.  So, shipping costs can be a lot less if you only order from one seller. To that end, I tend to order as many cards as I can from one seller to make my order worth their while. On the downside, you can't actually see the cards you are ordering.

Recently,  I launched an order for about $30 at a Sportlots seller and managed to knock of cards from the want lists of 6 different sets all at once.  I got a handful of cards each for 2001, 2002, and 2011 Heritage to keep chipping away at those sets.

I ordered four cards from the insert sets of 2004 Fleer Greats of the Game set. I am slowly approaching completion for 2004 GOTG.

This is the sixth (of 10 total) of the Battery Mates card I have.

I also got three cards from the Forever. The Forever subset is made up of 29 cards of players from the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, and Cardinals. Currently, I only have 13, so still a ways to go.

There is also a 35 card subset known as Glory of Their Time and I need 13 cards to finish that . I didn't get any of those in this order.  So, for the 2004 Greats set, I am down to 33 cards to finish.  I had thought about chasing after the serialized blue parallels for the 145 card main set, but I only have 9 and I haven't seen any large lots come up on EBay, and have never seen one in a dollar box so I am going to drop that goal for now.  If an opportunity comes up to get a pile of them all at once, I may revive the goal. But, right now, I'd rather just close the book on this set. So, 33 cards it is.

I also got 4 cards from 1976 Topps, including this league leaders card. I am now down to needing 11 cards to complete that set.

Finally, I got 4 cards from 1971 Topps.  The seller had a lot more 1971s I needed, but this was mainly an experiment. I will admit to being a bit picky about condition on the 1970s sets I've been working.  Since I can't see the cards on Sportlots, there is always a concern that how the seller grades is different than how I would. So,  I ordered two cards each in EX/NM and NRMT condition from this specific seller to get a gauge how he grades.   These first to were listed as NRMT.

 The following two cards were listed as EX/NM.

I couldn't really tell the difference. This is important since the cost difference between these two grades for 1971 semi-high and high numbers can be significant.  My assessment is that this seller is a conservative grader, so I could feel comfortable ordering in the EX/NM range from him and getting cards that I will like. Further, given how nice these cards are, I may just very well order cards from him that he lists as EX and EX+.  That ought to save me a lot of coin and help me complete this set a lot sooner.

So that was my Sportlots order. I've got a few new additions to my player collections that I will post soon.  But, tomorrow is the first day on my new job and the first time I have to commute into an office in close to 5 years.  I have no idea how much time, or energy, I will have available for blogging for a while.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trade with Potch Wheeler

I've traded a couple of times with Potch Wheeler last year and was able to conclude another trade with him this year. It was intended to be a swap of Heritage needs but, for his part, he included more than that.

Poor Freddy. The Yankees resigned him in the off season after his excellent performance last year. He seemed to have a good spring training too. Then something happened. He stunk. Badly. In all four of his starts.   And in the last two he didn't even make it out of the second inning. With the second coming of Andy Pettite, he got moved to garbage time duty out of the bullpen. He has performed well in his limited appearances out of the bullpen. I wouldn't be surprised to see him make some spot starts down the road. None of the Yankee starting pitchers are on fire right now. Even CC Sabathia has looked decidedly mortal in recent starts.

Funnily enough, the day this package arrived from Potch, my wife and I went to see the Oklahoma City Redhawks take on the Tucson Padres. In that game, which OKC won 6-5, Jimmy Paredes was the starting second baseman for the Redhawks and went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs.

That wasn't all the Heritage he sent. There were other base cards and a couple of the floating head stickers.  But, I need to move on to the surprise part of the trade.

This is where the trade got lopsided. He was able to send me the last two 1976 Topps Traded cards I needed to finish that subset. Both Yankees, too!

And the Yankees team card, which I have never found, in all my searches, in anything other than well-loved condition. So, getting this nice specimen was a pleasant surprise.

And a nice HOFer, too. I definitely came out ahead on this trade and will need to keep my eye out for cards to reward Potch for his extreme generosity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Card Show Haul - Heritage

It has been over two week since my first card show in approximately 6 months. It is time to put a bow on it and move on. While I have decided that I am a vintage collector and have eschewed collecting modern sets, I do have a weakness for Topps Heritage. It is, and likely will be, the only contemporary set I build going forward. So, I bought a hobby box of 2012 Heritage at the show. Overall, the box was a bit of a disappointment. Oh, it certainly helped me make progress on the set. But, I was hoping for a killer box hit. I didn't get it. This was my box hit:

I was underwhelmed. I've gotten similar hits out of retail blasters. But, in light of the immense fun I had with this show, I am not going to grumble any. So that is a wrap on the card show. I splurged a little these last couple weeks, what with finally getting my severance from my old job, while concurrently accepting a new job. So, I've got a few things to share. But, I think I'll be settling back down into a steady state mode where I stay within a budget each month.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Card Show Haul - 1963 Fleer

Late last year, in an impetuous moment sometime before being notified that I was being laid off, I bought a starter set of 1963 Fleer off EBay. I liked the design and the price was right given that the lot included Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, and Maury Wills. Now I am in the midst of a long, slow slog to finish the set. It isn't a particularly large set. Indeed at 67 cards, it is on the small side. The issue is the cost. Even common cards have a $15 to $20 book value. And the big ticket cards are pretty expensive.

Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and the aforementioned Sandy Koufax all check in with a $200 BV. The Joe Adcock short print books at $150. Brooks Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, and Wills come in at $100BV. Pitchers Warren Spahn and Gibson are $80 BV. And, finally, the checklist (also short printed) has an astronomical BV of $500. Side note: Those of you who read Night Owl regularly (who doesn't) might not be aware that the icon he uses for the Single Card Challenge on his front page is a slightly modified version of the 1963 Fleer Checklist.

 As I said, I am committed to completing this set. I'd like to do so with the cards in EX or better condition, although I am quite sure that there is no way on earth I am going to drop the coin necessary to actually get a high quality checklist. I am not sure if I am even going to try to get a low quality checklist It also may mean some of the high value cards listed above may end up being my one and only card purchase in a month. I only picked up a few 1963s at the show, mainly because either the condition was too low or the prices too high. But I did get some and I did splurge on one of the nicer cards.

Total non sequitur, but one of my fondest childhood memories was listening to Phil Rizzuto and Bill White call Yankees games on the radio. I can, in my mind, still hear them. That is a memory that never fails to make me smile.

This was my one big ticket card purchase of the show at $50. That is the most, by far, I have ever spent on a single card.  As a set collector, I do possess the requisite level of OCD, so I foresee that record being broken again before this set is done. 

Up next: The final post - a disappointing hobby box of 2012 Heritage.