Friday, November 30, 2012

A Setback

My quest to get as many of my 1963 Fleer cards autographed seemed to take a leap forward recently when I found a number of events and sent 4 cards off in the mail to be signed.  Three were to be signed at two different events this weekend, and the fourth at another in two weeks.  Alas, after a good run of success, the Post Office seems to have finally managed to foil my plans.  See for yourself:

My package seems to be stuck in limbo in Kearny, NJ.  The deadline was actually Wednesday for this signing. I'll keep an eye on the tracking and see if it gets delivered today and see if I can convince the company hosting the signing to include me.  But, at this point I am not hopeful of making it in.  Unfortunately, this was a signing with two different players I needed.

Who were they?  Bill Mazeroski and Bob Gibson.  Yes, I am pretty ticked.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mail Call - Thanksgiving Edition

I am in the midst of final housekeeping before some friends arrive from St. Louis for Thanksgiving. So, this is go to be a hit and run post.  In my quest to get as many of my 1963 Fleer's autographed I sent three out to Chris Potter Sports in September for their recent signing and they arrived back today.

I now have 8 of the cards in the set in the books and I have 4 more out to various signings in early December. I hope to have them all back prior to Christmas.  And all four of those are awesome.  Stay tuned.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving and Misgiving


A bubble mailer arrived, quite unexpectedly, in the post today.  They were from Night Owl, a reward, if you will, for submitting a winning entry in his recent Define the Design contest. This was actually my second winning entry in that continuing series. My first can be found here.

He sent a nice set of  2011 and 2012 Yankees, including a fair amount of Allen Ginter, which for some darn reason, I didn't show here.

A & G is a set I try hard to love but can't quite bring myself to.  It is a set I can just be friends with.  I make no bones about my love for Tristar Obak, a quirky little set that seems to have died after a three year runAllen & Ginter also falls into the quirky category, but it just doesn't measure up to Obak.  I think it is because the Obak is put together simply, where A&G is not.  Obak consists of a 120 card base set (with 2 different parallels) , including about 20 short prints, and a single insert set of T212 minis.  Over the three year run, the mini insert set shrunk from 68 cards in 2009 to 24 in 2011.  Tristar is thoughtful about content,  and makes the set hard enough to put together to be interesting, without making it overly complex and impossible.  And, they seemed to be self-aware enough to correct the excess of the first issue in subsequent years.

A&G tries to hit the same niche, but makes all the same "Topps" set decisions that we hate.  A lot of short prints, numerous insert sets and parallels. In short, Topps seems to think of a little of something is good, a lot of the same thing is better.  At one time, I calculated that a master set of 2011 Topps baseball (Series 1,2, and Update) would run nearly 6000 cards just in the base set and base set parallels.  At the time, I didn't bother figuring in the myriad insert sets. In short, Topps is one of those intense adrenaline junkies that no one likes because their only interest is to be more extreme than anyone else. There is beauty in simplicity, but that is a concept completely foreign to Topps.  They are the Kardashians of the collecting world.  A&G mirrors those excesses and I cannot bring myself to enjoy it.


I keep coming back, in my mind, to the recent death of Chris Stufflestreet, one of our most knowledgeable and generous card bloggers.  Without delving into theological issues, on which I know I diverge from many of you, I have had occasion to ponder what Chris' legacy is and how best I can honor the kindness he showed me.  I didn't save it at the time, but in the package of cards he sent to me earlier this year, there was a note talking about the healing power of cardboard.  It seems like a silly notion, but I think it is true in a way.  I was wallowing in self-pity at the time due to being laid off at work. Despite having his difficulties in his personal life at the time, he took time to search through his card collection to help me along on a set I had been building prior to losing my job. And he was right, receiving that pack was a pick-me-up I sorely needed.  It is a kindness I was not able to fully repay before we lost him.  But, it is a kindness I still intend to honor.
There has seemed to be a fair bit of malaise running through the baseball card collecting blog-o-sphere lately. We have lost such names as Crinkly Wrappers, Sewing Machine Guy, and Just a Bit Outside (to name but three). Even such √©minence grise as Night Owl and dayf have poured some of their angst over the state of the hobby out onto the pages of their blogs. And I must say that I share some of their weary resignation.  While I don't have nearly the history with the hobby that they do, I do get where they are coming from.

But, when I see such posts, it bothers me.  Even though I have never met a single one of the card bloggers, I feel like this is a community. And a special one at that.  Over the years, I have belonged to my share of clubs out in the real world. And I have been a member of more than a few online communities.  The one constant in all those groups is, unavoidably, strife.  We live in a diverse world and even when people share a common interest, they have divergent ways of embracing it.  And inevitably this leads to conflict as the various factions work to assert their One True Way (tm).

The card blogging community, however, is strangely void of such internecine struggles.  Even though we all collect differently, we seem to get along and don't judge each other, either for our collecting style or our favorite teams.  For someone new to the hobby, that is a blessing beyond measure.


It's unique and, I suppose, it makes the loss of a member that much more acute.  I don't like to see members drop out, even though I understand and accept their reasons for doing so.  I don't like to see others struggle with the extent and scope of their participation in the hobby, even as  I do so myself.

2011 was my first real year back in the hobby and I embraced it fully. I would find that the shortage of butter wasn't something that could wait until the Saturday grocery run. Oh no, the lack of butter needed to be solved immediately with a trip to the store, where, quite conveniently, I could buy cards. I didn't just embrace the hobby, I bear hugged it.  I put together all three series of Topps flagship, Lineage, and made a concerted run at Heritage.  I dabbled in completing early sets of Heritage. I completed 3 vintage sets and started on two more. 


But, a funny thing happened.  2012 rolled around and I found out that I stopped caring.  My complete Topps flagship and Lineage base sets were sold off on EBay for a pittance.  I didn't buy a single pack of 2012 flagship, Gypsy Queen, Bowman, or A&G, and only one blaster of Topps Archive.

With it being made from real cardboard and based on vintage designs, I still carried a torch for Heritage. I made another run at the contemporary set.  But, here I am at the end of another year and I didn't finish it. Hell, I still haven't finished last year's Heritage.  And, to top it all off, I made no progress whatsoever on any of the other, previous Heritage offerings that I had intended to build. Now, as this year ends, I look at those binders with a jaundiced eye. Why should I chase 75 short prints of a set that evokes the feel of vintage sets, when I am more interested in the vintage sets themselves?  How best do I allocate my resources in order to maximize what I can accomplish?

One of the first things they teach you in B-school is not to honor your sunk costs. No matter how much money you sink into a project if, if it isn't financially justified to move forward, you don't sink another penny into it. You walk away.  I can apply this ruthlessly in my work, but I sit here and stare at my Heritage binders and cannot walk away.


The time will come when I either rekindle my love for Heritage or give it up. There is no need to rush it.  That is the beauty of a hobby.  It isn't business and you don't have to treat it as such.  So, for now, I will continue to work my vintage sets and plug away at other sets which catch my fancy, like Obak or Fleer Greats of the Game.


As we approach the holiday, it is natural to sit back and reflect on what we have to be thankful for.  Despite a problematic start, I have much to be thankful for in 2012.  And the card blogging community is on that list.  Even though, by eschewing most of the modern cards, my trade activity has dwindled almost to nothing, I still enjoy reading your blogs and sharing your excitement.  

Thank you. 

What I am listening to: Runaway Train by Soul Asylum.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wax On....Wax Off

When most people think of career leader in hit-by-pitches, their thoughts naturally gravitate to Ron Hunt. However, Hunt is not the career leader in HBP. It is Hughie Jennings, who had 287 HBPs to Hunt's 243.  Jennings also nudges out Hunt for the single season HBP record, 51 to 50.  Hughie achieved that during the 1896 season, where he also hit for a .401 BA.  He had an incredible .472 OBP that year, 85 points of which were contributed by hit by pitches.

Other fun HBP facts:
  1. Ron Hunt is only sixth on the caeer hit by pitch leader board.  He is behind Jennings (above), Craig Biggio, Tommy Tucker, Don Baylor,and Jason Kendall.
  2. I've not been able to find a number for all the walk-off HBP in MLB history.  I am guessing there is some way to query the Baseball Reference database to figure it out, but I don't subscribe to the site, so I am not sure I can figure it out.
  3. Biggio, with 285 HBP, finished his career only two behind Jennings.  The stress of getting close to the record apparently contributed to his career ending, according to this news report.
  4. The most famous hit-by-pitch occurred on February 20, 1992, when Homer Simpson had a walk-off HBP to give the Springfield Power Plant team the city championship.

That is all for now. If anyone is proficient with the PI Index at Baseball Reference that can help me, drop me a line.

What I am listening to:  How to Love Me by Kristen Ward

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Last weekend, something called Dodgerfest took place in the greater Los Angeles area.  I did not attend, but I did participate in a small way.  A 2.5" by 3.5" way.

I am pretty stoked about this card. Even though Maury Wills had been playing for the Dodgers since 1959, due to a dispute with Topps, this 1963 Fleer card is considered his rookie card.  This is my fifth autographed '63 Fleer.  And I have another three coming to me in the next few weeks as a result of the most recent Chris Potter Sports signing.  As you might guess, I have set out to try and get as many of the cards in this set autographed as I can.  So, I decided to break it down to see what the challenges would be.

1963 Fleer is a small set, the first Fleer set to feature contemporary players, rather than retired greats. As such, they were only able to feature 66 players.  I don't expect to ever get them all, but I would like to get a large chunk of them autographed..  Some of the challenges:

  1. 20 of the featured players have passed away, although some of their cards may be available with autographs on the secondary market.
  2. Roberto Clemente - Even if one became available, I couldn't afford it.
  3. Don Drysdale - same as Clemente.
  4. Sandy Koufax - he does limited signings and I believe charges a minimum of $400. Unless I hit the Lotto (unlikely since I don't play) that is way too rich for my blood.
  5. Willie Mays - I am not sure the "going rate" but I suspect he falls into the same category as Koufax - rare and too expensive
  6. Warren Spahn - they are going for over $120 on EBay. It is getting into the range that I might decide to buy one in an impulsive moment.  But, I am not feeling impulsive at this moment.
  7. Joe Adcock - deceased and a short print card.  I don't expect to ever see one come up for sale.
In the same envelope this came in, Hall of Fame Sports included flyers for their upcoming signings.  In December, they are having a signing with Tommy Davis, who is also featured in 1963 Fleer.  So, since I was catching the bug, I did some googling last night and saw a Carl Yastrzemski signing next weekend. Unfortunately, the deadline for submitting by mail was yesterday. But, I expect there will be others in the future. I did find a Brooks Robinson signing for early December that I am going to send a card in for also.  So, with what is in hand, on it's way, or identified for the future, that would get me to 10 total cards in the set I will have signed.  Pretty cool.
You can see my previously signed 1963 Fleer cards here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Some of you may not know who Nate Silver is.  Nate is most well known as a statistician that does analysis of political polls and uses the information to forecast election results.   His blog at the New York Times is called Five Thirty Eight, referencing the total number of electoral votes in the US Presidency race. Silver is also a sabermetrician.

I am not much interested in sabermetrics.  To be sure, I think they have their place, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to learn more about them. 

Now, that said, please read this Michael Gerson column in yesterday's Washington Post about Nate's political forecasting.  That is basically the same column written by any number of crusty old sportswriters about sabermetrics, just applied to political science. Amirite?

If you haven't, go and vote today.  It is one of our most important civic duties.

That is all.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Return to Normalcy

After the high of actually possessing two Mickey Mantle cards that were issued during his playing career, you might expect that I would experience something of a letdown. Not true.  As a set builder, every card is a goal unto itself.  And, as a set builder, I find the importance of a card is not measured by it's book or historical value.  On the contrary, the importance of a card to me is measured by when it is acquired.  A star card can be less important than a common if it was acquired earlier in the set building process.

Example.  When I bought a 1971 starter set last summer, it included a very nice version of card 513, Nolan Ryan, which books at $150.  However, since it was part of that initial set of cards, it is less important than the following two cards.

I got these for $3 each, which isn't too shabby considering they are high numbers. My progress on 1971 has been stalled for almost 3 months.  I didn't get a single card towards completing the set during that period. So, I was quite pleased to find these.  I am down to needing 50 cards to complete 1971, 4 of which will be upgrades to poor quality cards I already have.  I had hoped to finish 1971 by the end of the year, but with the holidays coming up, I am quite sure that won't happen.  There is another card show coming up December 15 and 16, which I may go to, but I don't expect to have much of a budget. And if my main (non-incarcerated) source for vintage commons isn't there....well.....forget about any more progress at all on 1971 until the calendar flips over.

One other cheap pickup yesterday:

I now have 27 of the 33 cards in the 1969 Deckle insert set. Luckily, none of the cards in this set are expensive. So, even though I still need Willie Mays, it won't be a hard set to complete.  Actually, the most expensive card in the set is 22B - Joe Foy, a short print variation (22A is Rusty Staub.)  Even that only books at $25 and generally sells on Ebay for less than half that.

So, with that, my collecting activity goes into hibernation and I'll probably go back to featuring interesting cards from 2011 Tristar Obak, with a couple brief interludes when I get some cards back I sent out to be autographed.

What I am listening to:  "The One that Got Away" by Dave Pahanish

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finally...with a Bonus

So, I drove up to Al's Sportscards mini-show to pick up the most expensive card I ever bought. Although, even at a C-Note it was a smoking deal. Check this out:

Now look at the same card over at COMC.  Granted, those are only asking prices and not completed sales, but I still think this card could sell for at least twice what I paid for it.  But, I had some additional good luck today. The same guy sold me the following card for $25.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out what the circles on the card are for. At first, I thought it was categories where Mantle led the league that year, but a quick visit to Baseball Reference killed that idea. It might be intended to be his career highs in each category, although the person who did this got hits wrong.

The day did end with one bad note.  The one seller who I have bought a lot of 1971 Topps from wasn't there.  When I mentioned it, I was told he was gone.  I asked "Gone as in passed away?"  The response came back "No, gone as in 5 to 10 with time off for good behavior."  Doh! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fond Remembrances....with Stickers!

As you may recall, I grew up in Rochester, New York. The main local grocery store in my suburban town was Loblaw's, which I know now is a Canadian company (and still in business the last time I was in Toronto on business.)  As you likely also know, hockey is the Canadian sport*.  Well, during the 1974-1975 hockey season, Loblaw's passed out strips of hockey stickers and coupons. Seeing as how my mother shopped at Loblaw;s, I came to acquire the stickers.  My mother, usually frugal to the point of making Mr. Lincoln cry, did spring for the sticker album.

And, so I spent that hockey season carefully pasting stickers in the album.  I never did finish it and, my mother also being quite unsentimental, it was thrown out at some point in the intervening years.  I occasionally think about it and, during a recent bout of nostalgia, looked for the stickers on EBay. Sure enough they are out there.  So,  I found an auction with a reasonable starting point and made my bid.  As you can guess, I won and now I am going to show you. In no particular order:

 Ross Brooks' NHL career only lasted three seasons. However, in that time he accumulated a 37-7-6 record and a 2.64 GAA with Boston. His career was so short because he was a 35 year old rookie.

 Living in Rochester, I was a Sabres fan, even though the local team, the Americans or Amerks, were the Boston farm club. Dontcha just love that old time goalie mask?

 Oooh! An error sticker!  He last name is actually spelled McAneeley.  I'm guessing it isn't worth any more because of it.

Another crazy mask! Cesare had a 190-257-97 record with 3.27 Goals Against Average in 16 NHL seasons.

 One of two Hockey Hall of Fame inductees I got with the lot of stickers.

Another goalie with a long career. The only reason I am showing this, though, is that wild mask.  It just makes me laugh.

This picture was taken as Mohns was entering his last NHL season. He was 41 at the time and had been in the league since 1953. Some of the people he played against probably weren't even alive when Mohns  started in the NHL.

The other Hall of Famer in the group.

 One of these things is not like the other.

Marson was the only black player in the album.  Come to find out, he wasn't the first player of African descent in the NHL.  That honor went to Willie O'Ree, also known as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey" who played in the NHL in the 1957-58 and 1960-61 seasons. Marson was, I suppose you could say, the Larry Doby of ice hockey, being the second black player in the NHL.  This was his rookie card/sticker.

I swear a lot of the players look like they had auditioned for the lead role in the movie Joe Dirt. I was the 1970's, after all.

I just can't get enough of those masks.

I guess I am going to have to try and put the set together.  The albums are as scarce as hen's teeth, so at the moment, these stickers are going into Ultra Pro sheets.

*True Story: One time I was in Toronto on business and ended up going out to a very fancy restaurant for dinner with group of associates. We are talking art on the wall fancy.  The waiters dressed head to toe in black fancy.  Nonetheless there was a large TV on one wall playing the Leafs game. That is when I finally grasped what hockey meant to Canada.

Question: Anyone interested in the duplicates?

Up Next:  I finally (hopefully) get that card I spent a buttload of money on.

What I am listening to:  Polk County by Della Mae