Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 1

A drumroll please.

My favorite card of the year:

2001 Topps Archive Reserve Willie Mays Aut

This is far and away the best card I got from the Diamond Giveaway Transmogrifier.

I don't have much else to say. I sat and did the last 9 writeups in one sitting before Christmas and ran out of what little creative juices I had. My coffee cup was empty too. As you read this I will be somewhere between Columbus, OH and Saint Louis, MO making my way back home. Here is hoping you all had a safe and joyous holiday season and your new year will be a happy one.

See ya on the flip side.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 2

I've mentioned before that my collecting has become haphazard. I do try and keep myself to a limited number of sets. I probably have 8 sets I am actively working right now. That may not seem like much, but I feel unfocused with that much in the works. Further, there is no pattern to how I start new sets. I start what interests me at the moment. But that tends to lead me to starting vintage sets in a sequence like this: 1978, 1974, 1977, 1971, and 1976. See what I mean?

So, what is the logical thing to do? Start another set, of course. And not any old set. No siree. One that is completely different than anything I've done before. Let me introduce what was an early Christmas present:

1963 Fleer Sandy Koufax

I'll probably dedicate a post to this set in the future, but for now, I have to share this cool card. It was really a toss-up between this Koufax and the Maury Wills from the same set. I ended up settling on this one since it is probably the most valuable card I own. Although, it isn't even the highest value card in this set. But, I don't want to give away to much. I'll probably do a post on the set after New Years.

Tomorrow: The Grand Finale. My favorite card of the year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 3

This is the third, and last, appearance of Johnny Antonelli in my 2011 countdown.

1954 Bowman - Johnny Antonelli

I bought this for $16 at COMC. I cannot even begin to describe the condition of this card. It literally looks like it was just pulled from a pack. Sharp corners and sides and a real nice gloss on the surface. I had wondered if it might have been a reprint, but I could find no evidence that this card has been reprinted. The '54 Bowman Mantle, sure. But not this one. A quick exchange over at Net54Baseball led me to finally conclude that this is the real thing.

Coming tomorrow: Something completely different.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 4

I got this in a trade with Napkin Doon.

When most people think of Tobacco cards, I am sure they think of the cards from the early part of the 20th Century, like the iconic T206 set. But, apparently, there were cards associated with tobacco products for a large part of the century. Maybe you knew that, but I sure didn't. Not until these showed up over at Naps' place as he was showing off his haul from Cleve's auction night. He ended up sending me two versions of this card (he had three). Both occupy an honored place in my player collection binder now that I have an UltraPro sheet that they actually fit in.

Coming tomorrow: A card that seemed too good to be true.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 5

At one time, this was my favorite card. It has slipped now to number 4, though not because of any faded love, but rather the complete awesomeness of the top 3 cards.

1974 Topps #1 - Hank Aaron Home Run King

It seems to me that the off-and-slightly-rotated centering is the common condition of this card. At some point, I am going to have to get a really nice copy of this card that doesn't have those faults.

Tomorrow: My first tobacco card.

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 6

I've approached my set collecting in a haphazard manner. My intent, at the start, was to start with the main set I collected as a kid, 1978, and start working backwards. That didn't last long. As I neared the completion of 1978, I decided to skip forward to 1974. And it is from that 1974 set comes number 6 on my favorite cards of 2011.

1974 Topps #250B - Willie McCovey Washington Nat'l Lea. Variation

As a kid, my collecting wasn't very organized. I don't honestly remember how I acquired most of my cards and I tended to keep them all in a shoe box under my bed. I traded some and played a card tossing game we called Tops. But, there was no master goals. Completing a set never factored in. I was blissfully unaware of error and cards and variations. In short, I was a poor collector.

I am not sure if this led me to be a bit more obsessive as I re-entered collecting as an adult or not. But, suffice it to say, I am much more obsessive now. As I worked on 1974, I made the decision to put together the Traded set. Then, I figured I'd see about the Washington National League variations. Pretty soon, I was going after pretty much all the errors and variations. As it stands, I am one card short of a master set for 1974. There are three versions of card 599, which is an otherwise unremarkable Rookie Pitcher common card. There is a Washington Nat'l League variation, a large print San Diego version, and a small print San Diego version. I only lack the latter to complete a master set. But, for now, I have no intent of chasing it. The few I have seen on EBay have been selling for more than a NM Hank Aaron Home Run King card would sell for. Maybe some day, when I have some spare coin rattling around, I may get one. But, not for now.

In any case, I love this card because it is a Hall of Fame player and an interesting variation card. A brief description of how this variation came about can be found here.

Tomorrow: A card that has already appeared in a supporting role twice in this countdown.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 7

Some people don't like cut autos. I don't mind them if they are done right.

2004 Fleer Greats of the Game - Joe Cronin Cut Auto

This is an example of a well done cut auto card. The picture of Cronin is a tad small, but overall I think the card is well designed. The color of the card compliments the background colors of the auto portion and the overall design is understated, forswearing the over-the-top glitz that a lot of card companies seemed to feel was necessary.

Coming on Monday: A Hall of Famer and an rare variation card all in one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 8

One of my happiest discoveries this year is that really, really vintage cards don't have to be ungodly expensive, if you are willing to compromise a bit on condition.

1956 Topps Johnny Antonelli

With that realization, I started on a quest to put together the 1956 Topps set. This will be the longest of my long term goals and it isn't even clear if it will be achievable. That Mickey Mantle card may always be out of reach, but as Robert Browning said, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

Anyhoo, along the way this year, I started up a Johnny Antonelli player collection. Not long afterward, I found out a guy who went to the same high school I did now runs a company that sets up autograph signings and memorabilia shows in Rochester, NY and Minneapolis, MN. At one of his events this year, he had Johnny Antonelli signing. I shipped off 4 cards, including this 1956, to be autographed. And, with that, it rose to number 8 on my list of 12 favorite cards of 2011.

Coming tomorrow: An autograph of a player inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 9

I'm not much for group breaks. They are generally set up for team collectors. Since I am a set collector, there isn't much incentive for me to join. If it is a set I am building, then I already have smatterings of cards from each team already and I am likely to get a lot of duplicates. If it isn't a set I am building, then there is, as you might imagine, even less reason to join the break. So, over the last year, I have joined exactly one break, a vintage break over at Crinkly Wrappers. I had a good time and got some nice vintage cards. Although this was hardly the oldest card I got in the break, it was definitely my favorite.

1975 Topps #1 - Hank Aaron Home Run King

Yesterday, I referred to this as the "after" picture in a pair of #1s. Hammering Hank set the home run record during the 1974 season. Card #1 of the 1974 set celebrates that fact that he will break Babe Ruth's record during the upcoming seson. Card #1 of the 1975 set celebrates that he actually did. If you expect to see that 1974 Aaron on this list, you may be right.

Coming Tomorrow: An auto on a vintage card.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 10

My tenth favorite card of 2011 was this 1973 Roberto Clemente.

This was the second Clemente card from his playing days that I acquired. Interestingly enough, I bought the first playing-days Clemente on the same day and, believe it or not, it was also a 1973. I found a VG Clemente in a $2 box at a show and snapped it up. As I was doing my last circuit of the show, I stopped at another dealer who had a stack of vintage cards he was sorting through. As I was picking out a few cheap 1956s from him, I spied this Clemente. I added it to my stack of cards and he cut me a good price for them all. Since it was a bundled deal, I am not sure how much I actually spent, but it was probably in the $5 to $8 range.

The card, on first glance, looks fantastic. Upon closer look, though, there is a slight wrinkle on the upper right hand corner of the front. Without that, this would be a NM card. But, it is still a sharp looking card and it will be the cornerstone of my 1973 set, whenever I get around to starting it.

Coming up Tomorrow: The "after" picture of a pair of Number 1s.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 11

As I mentioned yesterday, this is the only 2011 card in my year-end countdown. It is also the only autographed card I pulled from a retail pack this year.

2011 Topps Lineage 1952 Reprint Chuck Diering Auto

I bought a lot of retail this year. Indeed, with the exception of Heritage Minor League, I bought all of my 2011 cards retail. As such, I didn't get many hits. Not that I live for the hits, but they are nice to get every once in a while. Oh, I did manage to pull some relic cards this year, most of which I traded or sold on Ebay. As I have stated elsewhere, relics don't much interest me. But, I do like the autographs.

Indeed, as I evaluate my goals for next year, my intent is to limit the number of sets I do collect to Heritage only and stick with buying hobby instead of retail so I have a better chance of pulling some cool autographs.

Coming Tomorrow: A card from 1973 that should have ranked higher.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Card Countdown - Number 12

Since I am done with work for the year, I have some time to kill. But with my pending layoff at the end of January, I have suspended much of my acquisition activities. So, in order to get back acquainted with what I have accomplished this year, I decided to do a countdown of my 12 favorite cards of 2011, my first year back into collecting. Here is number 12.

1999 Fleer/Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game Paul Blair Auto.

Strictly speaking, this card shouldn't be on the list, as it is a card I got back in 2010. But, this is where it all started. This is the first card I bought after I made the decision to try my hand at collecting. I started out with a modest goal of collecting Paul Blair cards since my ball glove growing up was a Paul Blair model Wilson.

At the time, I figured there wouldn't be that many cards. Since he had a 17 year career, so there was at least 17. But, surely not much more than that. Boy, was I ever wrong. My Paul Blair PC is up to 73 unique cards and there is at least 40 other cards that I know about, but don't have. I only have 6 OPC cards, so there are others there that I need to get. Those aren't that rare, I just haven't made a priority of them yet. The real challenge will be the ultra-short print serial numbered cards from 2004 UD Timeless Team set, cards from several early 1990 minor league sets, and the Topps Venezuelan cards.

Up Next: The only 2011 card to make my top 12 of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mail Call - Diamond Edition

I started today a little hungover from the joy of getting a trade package from Night Owl. This may or may not have been the scene in my front yard this morning:

But, luckily my connection (known by his nom de guerre "The Postman") delivered me some sweet, sweet cardboard. I got my final delivery of Diamond Giveaway cards. I basically got everything from 1980 or earlier. I won't show them all, but here are my favorites:

1980 and 1976 Bill Campbell. It is hard to believe, but in 1976 Campbell won 17 a reliever. And saved another 20. That was back when relief pitchers were badass. Guys like Soup here averaged around 2 innings per appearance. Indeed, over the course of 78 appearances in 1976, Bill threw 2 innings or more 42 times, 3 innings or more 23 times, 4 innings or more 9 times, and 5 innings or more 6 times. Now that is a relief pitcher. Nothing like these primadonnas today that call themselves closers. Buncha weenies compared to the fireman back in the day.

Anyways, back to the cards.

After six years of sucking at youth soccer, I tried playing little league baseball.
The first year, I played first base and pitched a little. I was tall and skinny, wore wire-rimmed glasses that darkened outside, and threw side-armed. In short, I looked exactly like a 13 year old Kent Tekulve. Except, of course, that I sucked.

Not much to say except this card is pristine. Looks like it just came out of the pack. Unlike the other two 73s in my shipment that look a little more bedraggled.

This is the very first 1952 Topps in my collection.

There is a little story here. I had originally drew a die cut Jackie Robinson a couple months back. I am not overly fond of these type of cards, so I figured I might use it to get something I wanted. But, almost immediately, I got offered two die cut cards (Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson) for the Jackie. I accepted that trade, then set about using those two die cuts as trade bait. I tried for weeks to trade them first for a 2001 Topps Archive Johnny Antonelli auto, and then for a 1952 Antonelli. My efforts failed completely. Then I realized one of my trading partners still needed a diamond die cut of a Adrian Beltre. So, I offered up the Seaver for the Beltre. Within 5 minutes the trade was accepted.

So, I am still left with the Gibson. The card is nice enough, but still really doesn't fit with my collecting priorities. If anyone is interested in it, take a look at my want lists and make me an offer.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mail Call - Night Owl Edition

So, I am a about a week and a half into not buying cards because of my uncertain unemployment situation. I am still having withdrawal symptoms. Luckily, I found a fix in my mailbox today. I had helped Night Owl out with some Lineage 75 minis, so when he had some interesting cards available, he gave me first crack at them. Here they are:

One of my favorite of the 2011 Yankees. Still hoping they sign him for 2012. Since rumor has it that Toronto is the odds-on favorite to win the rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish, maybe they will.

I really, really hate all the damn parallels and inserts that Topps puts into their flagship product. I'd calculate out how many cards are needed to build a 2011 master set, but I am too lazy. Just on the base set you have 990 times 6 (base, Walmart blue border, Target red border, gold border, diamond parallel, cognac parallel). When you are up to 5940 cards before you even get to the inserts...well...suffice it to say it is too damn many. But, I do like the fact that they put these legacy players in the set. I've gotten several over the course of the year and I like them real well. One day, maybe I'll do a post on them, but for now let me say that this Maris is definitely the cream of the crop. Even if it does look like his one leg was amputated at the knee.

Being the guy he is, though, Night Owl didn't leave it at that. He included three cards I needed to complete 2011 Update. I am down to only needing 7 cards now.

He also included 3 of the Lineage base cards from my want list. I only need one card (I'm looking at you Adam Wainwright!) to complete that set.

So, big thanks to Night Owl.

For those that may wonder, my employment situation is uncertain, but not dire. I have already gotten one call regarding a job inside my current employer. I also have solid leads on two external jobs that are right in my wheelhouse. So, I am actually pretty excited about a change in environment. Of course, who could feel bad when iTunes random play brings this up while you are composing a post:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BOBOC - Pack 6

Instead of overdosing on 1988 Donruss, I decided on breaking up the pain a bit. So, the next pack from the Big Ole Box of Crap will be................1989 Donruss.

I don't have the same visceral dislike for 1989 Donruss that I do for 1988. It isn't a real pleaser, but it does get closer to what I like. The horizontal black stripes on the dark gray side border seems a bit superfluous and the shifting color bars on the top and bottom are similarly distracting. Either eliminate those stripes or go with a sold color at the top and bottom and this would be a card design I could grow to like.

The back is fairly well designed, I think. I prefer to see all career statistics, while this set shows only the details of the last 5 years, it does have some positive aspects. I like the inclusion of Contract Status and How Acquired information. And while the color is more reminiscent of a Dreamsicle rather than a baseball card, I do appreciate that it significantly improves the readability for this forty-mumble-mumble year old. I love my 1974 Topps but, dang, the backs are hard for me to read.

I still won't collect it since it came from the overproduction era. That isn't because the set won't ever be worth anything. I don't do any collecting with an eye on future value. However, the set's general worthlessness means that I can go and get a complete set on EBay for less than the price of a fast food value meal. There is no challenge to collecting it. The chase is where the fun is.

44 - Peter Harnisch - Baltimore
529 - Jerry Browne - Texas

I saw that Jerry's nickname was The Governor. Looking at the back of the cards for clues, I saw that he was born and lived in the US Virgin Islands. I immediately wondered if he came from a political family. Alas, the etymology of the nickname is more mundane. He was given the nick because he shared a name (if not a spelling) with a former governor of California. I should have known that.

534 - Luis Aquino - Kansas City
540 - Gene Nelson - Oakland
551 - Luis Aguayo - NY Yankees
557 - Alejandro Pena - LA Dodgers
562 - Luis De los Santos - Kansas City
563 - Fred Lynn - Detroit

Lynn was the best player in this pack of cards.

568 - Glenn Hubbard - Oakland
569 - Craig Worthington - Baltimore
574 - Tracy Jones - Montreal
575 - Juan Nieves - Milwaukee

579 - Chad Kreuter - Texas

580-Tony Armas - California

Diamond Kings 4 - Chris Sabo - Cincinnati

The back of this card describes Sabo as "a throwback to the gritty old-time ballplayer of two and three generations ago." That may very well be true, but I have to suspect those glasses would have set him up for some serious razzing from his fellow players. Although, given that he was nicknamed "Spuds" because of a resemblance to the commercial icon, Spuds Mackenzie, I don't suppose playing in the modern era prevented him from receiving a fair piece of abuse.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saved by the Mail, Part 2

The second trade pack that came in the mail yesterday was from Paul over at Carl Crawford Cards. I sent him some Rays cards, and one measly card of his 1973 want list (hopefully anyways, since I don't recall now seeing it when I packed up his cards for shipment) and I got a metric ton of 2002 Heritage in return. This really cut my want list down to size for 2002 Heritage.

I struggled to decide what cards to show and finally settled on those cards from players who, at a minimum, took a turn with the Yankees in 2011.

Okay, Millwood is a bit of a stretch,. He was signed by the Yankees during spring training, turned in 9 uninspiring innings at AAA, and was released. Not long after that he caught on with the BoSox, was similarly uninspiring at Pawtucket, and released again. He then signed with the Rockies and turned in 9 workmanlike starts with the big club at the close of the season.

Freddy was picked off the scrap heap and turned out to be a key part of the Yankees starting rotation with a 12-8 record and 3.62 ERA performance. I was pleased to see that the Yankees have signed him again for the 2012 campaign.

Though his 2011 line doesn't reflect it, Bartolo really stepped up when Phil Hughes hit the disabled list. He faded near the end of the year, but there was a stretch mid-season when he was a legitimate No. 3 starter for the Bombers. I really enjoyed watching him play. He has the endearing habit of playing catch with himself when sitting on the bench or when there was a delay in the game while he was in the mound. Just tosses the ball up over his head and lets it fall into his glove. Kinda like a Little Leaguer. I am hoping that the Yankees bring him back for 2012 as a long man, but there isn't much buzz, so I get the feeling they won't.

The Big Man. What is there to say about CC? I really think the ALDS with the Tigers might have turned out differently if the first game wasn't postponed after one and a half innings. Other than the first inning home run by Delmon Young, CC looked great. He had dealt four strikeouts and two weak ground outs in his two innings. When he took the mound again a few days later in Game 3, he just looked flat and was generally ineffective. But, that is the way it goes I guess.

Eric was solid as a backup infielder. He hasn't decided whether to retire yet and there was some interest on the Yankees part to bring him back. I can't blame them. Their other backup infielder, Eduardo Nunez, is a questionable defensive player. I wonder, though, how the Yankees winning the right to negotiate with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima affects the 2012 roster. Who does it make more superfluous? Chavez or Nunez? Rumor has it that Nuney has been on the trade block, but nothing has happened yet. I guess time will tell.

Jones was a solid backup outfielder / platoon DH in 2011. The Yankees have shown interest in bringing him back. I would support it. He still has a little spark left in the bat and has a excellent glove.

The Captain!

In addition to the base cards, Paul sent over a near complete Classic Renditions insert set. I've included two of this set because the subjects both signed contracts with new teams this week after having played over a decade for one team: Buehrle with the White Sox and Pujols with the Cards.

Thanks, Paul. I hope your cards got to you by now and I remembered to include that 1973 card.