Sunday, June 5, 2022

Coming Up for Air

 So, it has been 5 months since we last talked. My last day on my job was Thursday, so I am officially unemployed.  I only half-heartedly looked for a new job over the last few months. I've decided I want to shift from in-house roles to doing contract consulting and I have already aligned myself with one consulting firm and am starting the process to sign up with a second.  Additionally, I have an introductory interview this week for in-house roles with a third consulting/business intelligence firm.  So, while I am a bit unbalanced about not having a job, I am moving forward and, hopefully, something will pop up soon.

My hobby activity has been curtailed significantly over the last year, once I knew I would be moving on.  While it hasn't stopped, it has become more focused and I've gotten a few things accomplished that I might not have otherwise.

For example, I finally finished my 1968 Topps set in December.

The last card was, unsurprisingly the Nolan Ryan rookie card.  I had made no progress on this set for over 2 years because of how expensive that card was. I could never find a card that was both within my budget and condition requirements.  However, I finally found one in an auction that met both criteria.  I ended up paying a bit over $330 for it. While it was the third most I have ever paid for a card, it was a steal at this price.  The main issue was fading on the left side of the card due to exposure to sunlight.  But, it has great eye appeal, so I am tickled to death to have it.

In January, I finished my 1960 Topps set.  The last card was the Chicago Cubs team card.

Since then,  I went the OKC show in February, the Dallas show in March, then nothing until this weekends OKC show.  In those shows, I've worked on the Topps sets from 1958, 1969, and 1973 Football. I chose 1958 since I bought the Mantle card years ago before prices went nuts, 1965 because I am down to 6 cards to complete, and 1969 as it is the most affordable of the remaining 1960s sets.  

Anway, I had a good haul at this weekend's show:

My wife collects mid-century modern barware and asked me to stop at a local flea market to check out something and I found that big box of junk wax for $10.  What can I say?  I would bet the main value of the box is as kindling, but I am pretty sure I can get more than a sawbucks worth of fun out of it.

What I am listening to:  One More Night by Micahel Kiwanuka

Saturday, January 8, 2022

2021 In Review

 It was a year. When I last left you, I was still waiting on the acquisition of my employer by a larger company to close. The transaction finally closed in early December and because, when given the option of moving to Houston or moving on, I chose the latter, a 180 day clock started ticking.  When that clock runs to zero sometime around June 3, I am officially unemployed. I haven't started looking for a new gig yet, but will be starting shortly.

As it stands, I have had plenty of time to prepare, so the change doesn't represent an existential issue. I'm blessed to have that flexibility and to be able to keep somewhat active in the hobby.  

So, enough about that. Shall we talk hobby?  My hobby activity was a bit odd.  I scaled back my level of activity as I prepared but, at the same time, also completed my three most expensive purchases.  So, let's review the year. First, though, I do want to acknowledge a recent kindness.

1. Cards from Night Owl

To get cards from Night Owl is always an opportunity to experience joy and guilt in equal measures. Joy because he seems to have access to really great cards that I don't see very often, if at all. Guilt because he does so much for the hobby already at his blog that receiving cards from him always seems to overweight one side of the ledger. I get that our little corner of this hobby isn't about making sure the debits and credits balance, but my collecting is so inwardly focused that I do occasionally need reminders of the obligation to be a good member of the community.

My early collecting included a mix of modern and vintage.  While I left the annual Topps releases behind quickly, there were several modern series of sets I really liked.  The Fleer Greats of the Game sets issued between 2000 and 2004 are the prime example.  I was mostly done with 2002, except I only had half of the Dueling Duos insert set. I had mostly forgotten about it when a package arrived from Greg that included three of my needs for that subset. I have acknowledge that one of the three was the card above that featured Duke Snider, a legendary Dodger.  Getting such a card from a Dodger collector is a great treat.  And it provided the necessary incentive to get this over with. I managed to piece together the remaining subset needs from COMC and Burbank.

I am almost exclusively a vintage collector, but I do occasionally pick up modern cards that catch my eye. If I came across this card in a discount box at a show, it would buy it.  No questions asked.That I received it as a gift makes it all that much more special.   

I still remember where I was when I learned that Thurman Munson had died in a plane crash.  I grew up in western New York and my family's annual vacation was to rent a cottage in the Thousand Islands near Alexandria Bay. Why mention this at all?  Well, Alex Bay is a short drive from where Night Owl lives. 


An interesting card from this year's Stadium Club offering: a Superstar Duos card with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on opposite sides. The background graphics, particularly on the Judge side, remind me of the colorful backgrounds on the 2009 through 2011 Tristar Obak sets I love so well.

2. 1960-1963 Signed Fleer

I'm not going to show any cards here, as I still intend to have a series based on them at some point soon. But, for something I started on a lark nearly 10 years ago, I am amazed at how much progress I've made. See for yourself:

3. Set building

Set building has always been a slow process for me. I see folks on Twitter who finish multiple vintage sets per year.  It is hard for me to fathom that.  Once I got past the late 1970s sets, it usually takes me a minimum of two years to complete a set and sometimes more.  

I finally finished my 1968 Topps set in 2021. As near as I can tell, I started this set in 2017, but made absolutely no progress after 2019. I sat at two cards to go for two years waiting for the cost of the Nolan Ryan rookie card to come down. It never did and I finally resolved to just bite the bullet and get it over with.  I broke down and got the Lou Brock card earlier in the year, only leaving #177 to go. I managed to pick this up in an auction for $325 delivered:

This was the third most I have ever spent on a card, but was well below what all but the poorest of  Ryans usually go for.

If you look at the comps on this card, the price I paid was a steal. It went so low because of color fading on the left hand side of the card.  But, it is in great condition otherwise, and it has great eye appeal despite the fading.  So, I am very happy to have it and to have this set finally in the books.

I also have finished 1960 Topps. Sort of, anyways. The final card I needed for that set is still in transit to me and should be here Tuesday.  It isn't this card though:

I got this earlier in the year in a Robert Edwards auction.  This set me back over $400 and is the most I have ever spent on a card.  Evern more than the 1956 Mantle I got at the National several years ago. Barring a postal catastrophe, I'm glad to have finished 1960.

I have not, however, finished 1965.

I started working on 1965 four years ago, in the late winter of 2018, and I am still needing 21 cards to finish. While I picked up the Mantle in 2020, I still need a fair number of the high value cards, like Aaron, Mays, Banks, Uecker, plus the Carlton and Niekro rookie cards. 

Wait. Back up a second. Uecker? It's a high number, but a common nonetheless. Yeah, I don't get it either.  Beckett assigns it a book value of $25, but even rough copies of the card sell for more than that.  It is just odd.

Anyways, I am skeptical of my ability to finish this in 2022.  I looked back. In September of 2020, nearly a year and a half ago, I needed 38 cards to finish, I've added a total of 17 cards in 16 months.  I may just have to bite the bullet and start resetting my cost expectations on this set, because it really shouldn't be this hard.

4. Player Collections 

I have two player collections, Johnny Antonelli and Paul Blair.  This year, I undertook an effort to try and catalog the cards that are available for each. I mainly used TCDB, but found it incomplete andsupplemented it with what I already have.  If you look at TCDB, you will see me as having the largest collection for both players.  But, in summary, I still have a way to go.

This is the latest addition to my Antonelli collection, a James Elder postcard.  At the moment, I have catalogued 98 unique Johnny Antonelli cards and postcards and, also at the moment, I have 66 of them.  67% is pretty good, but not good enough if I am going to be serious here.  Unfortunately, the 32 I don't have are all pretty obscure. How obscure? Well, the only one of the 32 I have actually seen is a 1960 Topps Venezuelan card.  When a Venezuelan is the least obscure of the remaining needs, you know the rest are rarer than hen's teeth. 

My entry back into the hobby was trying to collect Paul Blair cards, since I had a Paul Blair model glove as a kid. Little did I know what I was getting myself in for. I have catalogued 209 different Paul Blair cards and photocards.  There are two sub-categories that I am ambivalent about:  Topps buyback cards (which are basically vintage cards that are stamped with foil, like this one) and cut auto cards mainly produced by Tristar.  Alas,. if I am going to continue to advance my Blair colleciton, I am going to have to overcome that ambivalence.  As of today, I have 154 of those 209 items, for a respectable 74%.  

So, that was a summary of where I am to date. I'm going to try and blog more in 2022.  There are a couple of series I started and let die that I'd like to pick up again. In my next post, I'll lay out how I see my hobby '22 shaping up.

What I am listening to: Texas Sun by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges

On this continent and in the psyche of its people the plains have always been a staggering presence, a place of myth and cliche, a place for transformation, bafflement, or heartbreak. From the east they are a release from the clawing of swamp and tangle and human density. From the west they are a drop and a straightening after the kinks and strains of mountains. Entered from any direction they are a new air, a joy to behold, a combination of large-scale intimidations and primordial inner acoustics. 

- "Magpie Rising" Merrill Gilfillan

Thursday, September 2, 2021

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Parts 39 to 56

I've talked about getting back into the hobby waters in some small way. I still have a job search ahead of me, and it still isn't clear exactly when.   The powers-that-be have finally bowed to the reality most everyone else has accepted and moved the planning date for the merger out from mid-September to late October to mid-November.  That would put my layoff date somewhere around May 1, plus or minus a couple weeks,  I would have liked to make it to June 1, since I started with this company on May 21, 2012 and I would have hit 10 full years of service. It would have netted me some additional severance, but also just because 10 is a nice round number.  A minor star kinda number.  If it happens, it happens.  If it doesn't, that is fine also.  Moving on means not looking back.

My preparations for that coming job search are progressing nicely and I still expect to have a comfortable cushion of savings for that time.  So, while I have been dabbling a bit, my hobby spending has been way down.  So, I recently took the plunge and bid on a lot of 47 signed 1961 Fleer cards in a recent auction.  And, guess what? 

I won.  And here it is.

I have to be honest, this box contains my largest single hobby purchase in the 11 years I've been back in the hobby.  By a long shot.  My previous largest purchase was around $300 and this came to $1,100 after shipping.  Ouch, right?  Yeah, ouch.

It probably won't end up being bad in the long run.  Before bidding I looked up comps on all the cards and it totaled up to a bit shy of $2,000, with the cards I actually needed totaling about $900.  So, depending on how you look at it, I either over or under paid.  

Of the 47 cards in the lot, I needed 18; the 18 you see spread out above. The stack in the back are the 29 cards that I already had.  Those will be shipped off to another auction house later this month.   My hope is to recoup a decent portion of my outlay.

I am hoping to restart the series of looking at the subjects of these cards.  Though as I look back, the last one I did in the series was part 33.  That means sometime in the last 6 months I added 5 others.  I guess I am going to have to go back and figure out which ones.  

Anyway, this gets me up to having 56 signed cards from the 1961 Fleer set.  The set has 154 cards, but by my calculations only 96 subjects were alive at the time the set was issued, so I am sitting at 58% complete. Alas, it gets harder from here since I have pretty much gathered all the affordable autographs and just have the heavy weights to go.

What I am listening to: Easy by The Commodores

Monday, August 16, 2021

A Toe in the Water

As I said in my previous post, I've decided to not leave the hobby behind as I get ready for my upcoming job search. That's the theory anyway.

My observation is that collecting baseball cards is a hobby driven by emotion.  Seriously, can you see a Vulcan engaging in this hobby? Of course not.   But, I have found that emotions run both ways.  Even knowing that I have over 9 months to go and that being out of work doesn't represent an existential financial threat, it has been exceedingly difficult to even open the purse strings.  As an example, I was planning on heading down to the 600 table Dallas card show a few weekends ago to look for some vintage commons and trade bait to use in my autographed Fleer project.  But, my wife's card needed a $1,500 repair and that gave me the reason I was probably unconsciously looking for to not go to the show.

But, here is a recent arrival:

A magazine type supplement to the 1978 Yankees yearbook that I picked up off of eBay for a whopping $16.  While I have the 1978 picture album, I don't have the actual yearbook yet.  It does appear that they can be had for around $20. So, that may be my next big splurge. Anyways, that is the front cover above and this is the back cover below.


1977 was a exciting year for Yankees fans.  A World Series victory on the back of Reggie Jackson's
3 home run Game 6.  Sparky Lyle's Cy Young win, the first for a relief pitcher. And the emergence of Ron Guidry, who's 16-7, 2.82 rookie season was a foreshadowing of his stellar 1978 season


There is a month by month review of the season.

And there is the payoff.  An sheet of 27 trading cards of the key players from that season.  Out of curiosity, I looked to see how many different players appeared for the Yankees in 1977, The answer was 36, so the 26 players shown in these cards represents nearly 3/4 of the total.  For laughs, I looked to see how many players appeared for the Yankees this season, which is only 2/3 over.  The answer is 56, 28 of which were pitchers.

I find myself struggling to follow baseball the last few years, while I concurrently stay up to date on the NBA even in the offseason. I think there may be a clue as to why in the previous paragraph.  The modern baseball team seems to have become a revolving door of players and if you aren't making following the team a major part of your day then you are reduced to rooting for a uniform and not a core group of players that comprise the team year after year.

Anyway, that is my theory. It is also possible I am just a bad fan.  

What I am listening to: Down on the Street by The Stooges

Friday, August 13, 2021

Field of Dreams

 I am 55 years old and I am, in equal parts, nostalgic and cynical.  I watched the Field of Dreams game last night hoping that it would resonate with the former, only to find that it mostly hit the latter.

Don't get me wrong, as hokey as it is, I love the movie. I view it as a spiritual journey allegory,  The main character goes through a series of intellectual crises that lead to him making leaps of faith, with the end result of him reconciling with his father (or, perhaps his Father.)  I am trained as an engineer and, constitutionally, am inclined to analyze any decision as rationally as possible.  So, the character represents something I wish I could be and, to the extent we are dealing with idealization, I want the experience to be through the gauzy focus of nostalgia.  The movie achieves that.  

The game did not.  At least not for me.

The root of my objections are twofold. First, MLB leaned too hard into sentimentality and it came off as contrived and antiseptic. Second, the field itself was over engineered. They basically dropped a brand new A ball stadium into a corn field.  So, what specifically annoyed me?

  1. It wasn't even the real field!

  2. I would have preferred there was no outfield barrier, just corn marking the confines of the playing field, although...

  3. I did the think the rough wood fencing was a reasonable compromise...until I realized that it wasn't even wood but a fabric covering a chain link fence

  4. Advertisements on screens behind home plate

  5. The White Sox at least made an attempt to have their uniforms reference the movie. The Yankees just wore their normal road uniform.

  6. The opening with Kevin Costner walking across the field with soundtrack music seemed to be specifically set up to elicit an emotional response.
Overall, it was just too corporate. I mean, I get it.  Baseball is a business, but they didn't need to make it that obvious.  

Anyways, that is my take.  If you enjoyed the game, I won't judge.  It just wasn't for me.

What I am listening to: One Million Miles by Heart

Friday, August 6, 2021

There It Is, There It Goes

 There it is:

A lot of 61 signed 1963 Fleer cards is being auctioned off right now at Heritage Auctions and it includes a signed Roberto Clemente.  For anyone reading this who isn't familiar with what I collect, I have been working on a signed 1963 Fleer set for over 9 years and have autographed versions of 65 out of 66 cards.  What is the one missing?  Roberto Clemente.

So, to answer the question that is likely on your mind; no, I will not be bidding on this,  The current high bid is nearly $3,500 (with the buyers premium) and the auction has three weeks until it closes.  My guess is that this will go for between $6,000 and $7,000.  That is so far beyond my means that I wouldn't bid even if I wasn't facing a job search in the future.  However, the person who helped me get the 64th and 65th cards for my set also needed Clemente. So, I sent him the link to the auction in case he hadn't seen it. He had and has already bid. So, because he helped me out when he didn't have to, I am hoping he wins.

Speaking of the job search, I don't have any firm date on when I will be leaving this job.  It is supposed to be 6 months after the acquisition closes, but no one knows when that will be. It could be as soon as mid-September, but is more likely to be in the fourth quarter.  So, with a steady paycheck into the April/May timeframe and the ability to get through an extended job search, I've decided I can loosen up and dip a toe or two into the hobby waters.  So far, that decisions hasn't turned into much action.  Though I have one recent acquisition to post about in the next few days.

What I am listening to: Highway to Hell by Tom Morello, Eddie Vedder, and Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, April 15, 2021

When the Urge Strikes

Yes, I am on a hobby hiatus.  Sort of.  Mostly anyways.

My job situation has cleared up and changes are in my future.  It is too difficult to explain concisely, and that isn't why you are here anyways.  So, suffice it to say, I've decided my tenure in the job will be coming to an end sometime before the end of the year.  I'm at the point in my life that I don't feel compelled to hang on to a job at all costs.  I have enough solid experience that I can find another job and have the ability to weather an extended search. And, surprisingly, making that decision has introduced a significant feeling of peace into my life.

I am still mostly on a hiatus, but I have been selling off stuff that doesn't really fit in my collection with the intent to use the proceeds to go a show or two and try to work on some of the sets I am close to finishing.

So, last weekend with about $350 in my pocket, I wandered up to the OKC show with the more specific goal of knocking off some of the star cards I needed for my 1960 and 1965 sets. How did I do?  Well, see for yourself...

I bought about a dozen 1972-1973 Topps basketball commons for that set, but this 1955 Willie Mays was my only other purchase.  There was exactly one vintage seller at the show and he only had two of the '60 and '65 star cards I needed and they were at a price I wasn't willing to pay,. But, this Mays was. It took pretty much all the money in my pocket, but it was mine.  And less than an hour after arriving at the show, I was on my way back home.  

To be perfectly honest, I am somewhat ambivalent about finishing the 1955 set. I am only 14 cards from completion, but that Clemente rookie is still out there and I just don't see it ever getting into my price range. And, to be fair, the Jackie Robinson card in the set is selling well above my comfort level also. I will undoubtedly still pick up needs here and there, but I may just have to find a reprint or a modern shiny to fill the Clemente spot in the binder.

What I am Listening to: The Color of a Cloudy Day by Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires