Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year's Review

Today is the last day of 2023 and I suppose it is time for reflection on the year and to make some promises to myself for 2024. Logically, there is nothing magical about January 1 with regards to self-assessment and new resolutions.  But, I live a fairly busy life and having a lot of down time at the end of December does give the opportunity to look back...and then forward.  I won't bother you with the personal, though it was generally a better year for me after two lousy years in '21 and '22.  I will stick to the hobby stuff that you are here for:

Overall, 2023 was a good year hobby wise if a bit scattered. I managed to complete two sets during the year:

  • 1955 - I started building this set in earnest in 2013, so this was 10 years in the making.  As I reported earlier, the last card I needed was a common, Gale Wade. The second to last card was Jackie Robinson. 

  • 1969 - I wasn't planning to finish this set in 2023, but I discovered that my bank has rewards program for debit card use and I was able to convert over a years worth of points into a nice pre-paid VISA card.  The last card was Al Downing.

So, the other highlights of 2023 were:

  • Fleer Autograph project - I started the year with 15 signed cards from 1960 and 62 from 1961. I will close out the year with 16 and 70.
  • Started both 1966 and 1967 Topps baseball - I haven't mentioned it here, but I bought a large stack of 1966 and 1967 baseball commons in low to mid-grade for about $0.02 a card. I am planning on working on 1966, but after I sorted through the stack and separated out the cards in G condition or better, I found that I had about 20% of the 1966 set and 35% of 1967. know I said I would probably never build 1967 as the design doesn't interest me, but 35% is pretty far along. So, I may need to hold my nose and build the set. Hopefully, the high numbers are affordable in G to VG condition.
  • Added a few cards to my Paul Blair and Johnny Antonelli collections.  The only one I was actually excited about was a 1960 Topps Venezuelan card of Antonelli that I got dirt cheap.

What does 2024 portend? I have 5 sets I would like to complete:

  • 1958 Baseball - with only 25 cards to go, I am going to prioritize getting this one done.  Having started in 2012 when I bought the Mantle, 12 years is long enough.

  • 1972-73 Basketball - I started this set in 2018 and have 33 cards to completion.

  • 1973 Football - I started this set in January of 2020 and have 24 to go towards completion.

  • 1974 Topps Baseball - Wait, what?  I've said that I've completed the entire Topps run between 1968 and 1979, so what gives?  What gives is that I need one card (599 - San Diego Small Print) to finish the master set.  I rarely see that card for less than $30-$40, which seems excessive for what is essentially a common.  But, I am close enough to completing the master set that I just need to hold my nose and get one.

  • 2009 Tristar Obak - I started the three Obak sets in 2011.  I finished 2010 and 2011 long ago and only need 7 short prints short of finishing 2009.  They don't come available all that often and when they do, the prices are generally unreasonable.  So, I probably should just be happy to make progress.

Beyond that, I will just let the hobby tide carry me and look back in a year to see what else happened.  Though, I would like to post more of my signed 1961 Fleer cards.  The last I posted was 39 and I have 70, so 31 to go.  I won't get through all of them, but one a month seems doable.

Happy New Year to you.  May your 2024 be your best year yet.

What I am listening to:  Auld Lang Syne by The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin

Sunday, December 24, 2023

To The Stars

I hope you are all well this holiday season. Other than been fighting a case of bronchitis for almost a month now, I am great and grateful. Last Christmas wasn't particularly happy for me, but I have much to be thankful for this year and I hope 2023 was good to you also.

I don't believe I have mentioned this before, but I love Star Trek. I have watched all the live acted series all the way through, some more than once.  While the current Strange New Worlds is wonderful, my favorite series is Deep Space Nine.  I like it for several reasons. First because there are multi-season story arcs.  Not just end of season cliff hangers that are resolved in the next season.  But real, substantive storylines that carry through the entire run off the show. Second, it is grittier than most other Trek series. While most Star Trek ships and stations are antiseptically clean, the DS9 space station isn't. It has a nice patina of wear and is generally gives the impression of being held together with spit and bailing wire. But, that grit has a second, deeper level.  Most Trek is built on a firm ethical foundation to the extent that it can often come across as preachy. DS9 didn't shy away from moral ambiguity.  I appreciate that as a more realistic portrayal of human complexity.  So, while I have watched the entirety of most Trek series once, I have seen DS9 all the way through 3 times and am about to start my fourth trip.

Anyways, with that as prologue, I just got back from a trip to Ohio with my wife to visit our families for the holidays. While there we visited a Star Trek store in Sandusky. While there, I bought a Morn action figure (my favorite DS9 character) and a reasonably priced hobby box of DS9: Memories From the Future.

This card represents my favorite DS9 episode ("The Visitor") and, honestly, my favorite episode of any TV series ever.  It is a compelling story even for non-science fiction fans and features an outstanding performance by actor Tony Todd as the adult Jake Sisko.  Watch this scene to see what I mean.

Anyways, the box contained 36 nine card packs through which I needed to complete a 100 card base set. The base set highlights 99 different episodes with one checklist card. The front includes a picture from the episode and a phrase to summarize a key aspect.    The back includes a summary of the episode and a quote from it next to a washed out cropped part of the front picture. How did I do?  Not great. I only got 94 of the 100 cards.  With 324 cards inside the box, I should have been able to finish at least one, if not two, complete base set. Pretty lousy collation, right?


This card is part of the 9 card Greatest Alien Races insert set that was in 1 of 4 packs. I managed to get exactly 9 of these out of the 36 packs and, get this, I got the entire insert set with no duplication. 

This card is from the 9 card Greatest Legends insert set that features various main characters. It had 1:6 odds per pack. I got exactly 6 with, again, no duplication, I chose O'Brien because I am an engineer. Well, I was for the first 5 years of my professional career.  I have been in various management roles ever since.  But, if you ask my wife, I still act like an engineer.  To be clear, she doesn't intend that to be complementary.

This card is from the 9 card Greatest Space Battles insert set and had 1:12 odds. I got exactly 3 with no duplication. I realize that front is pretty dark, but I chose it because it features the character Enabran Tain, who was the head of the Cardassian Obsidian order and father to Garak. He was played by the wonderful actor Paul Dooley who has had a long and successful Hollywood career, including voicing Sarge in the Cars movies and several turns in Christopher Guest mockumentaries and is still (minimally) active at the age of 95.

This is the box guaranteed autograph hit (1:36 packs) and features actor Aron Eisenberg who played the character Nog who had one of the more compelling character arcs in the series. Eisenberg was born with health issues and died 4 years ago at only 50 years of age. There are a total of 20 different autographed cards and I would like to build that set, but a quick look at  EBay shows that there aren't that many listed and the prices are ridiculous.  So, I may just pick up a few here and there. I would like the Odo (RenĂ© Auberjonois) and Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher) cards because both were such wonderful actors. In fact, I think Fletcher's Winn is one of the all-time great TV villains in any genre.

So, that is it. I intend to finish this up set and all the inserts (except the autographs) and probably will also see about starting other DS9 sets since there are a few others.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and I'll see you on the other side.

What I Am Listening To: Them Shoes by Patrick Sweany

Sunday, December 10, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 39

I created the skeleton of this post on September 24th and it has been staring at me ever since. I want to get this knocked off before the holidays start to ramp up.  As it is, I have not added any more signed Fleer cards to my collection since Jimmie Foxx. Not surprising, of course, as I knew I was looking at reduced activity after splashing out for the Foxx.  I've picked up a few things here and there, but nothing noteworthy.

So, here is the 39th card in my signed 1961 Fleer project:

Johnny Vander Meer was a fireballer known for wildness rather than racking up strikeouts.  In fact, over the course of a 13-year major league career, he averaged 4.8 walks against 5.5 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.  His win-loss record was similarly balanced at 119-121.  Vander Meer's main claim to notoriety is he is the only person in the history of major league baseball to throw back-to-back no-hitters, a feat he accomplished in June of 1938.   The first no-hitter, pitched on the 11th, was against the anemic hitting Boston Bees.  In his next outing, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, saw him strike out 7 while issuing no less than 8 free passes to first base.

A few other interesting facts:

  1. His major league career was effectively over after 1950, with him pitching only 3 ineffective innings for Cleveland in 1951.  He did however continue pitching in the minor leagues through 1955.
  2. From 1953 through 1962, he managed in the Cincinnati minor league system.  During his stint as a manager, he led such notable players as Pete Rose, Jim Wynn, and Lee May.
  3. After leaving baseball behind, he worked for the Schlitz Brewing Company for 15 years.
  4. He was buried with a baseball in his left hand. 

What I am listening to:  Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple

Sunday, December 3, 2023

New Focus - Basketball and Hockey

While there are plenty of sets who's designs I like enough to collect, I'm going to limit this to sets that I like enough to collect and actually have some.

1969-1970 Topps Basketball

How complete:                     9 of 99 cards (9.1%)
Most valuable card:            #25 - Lew Alcindor RC with a Beckett high book of $2000
Stars I already have:           Walt Frazier, Wes Unseld
What I like about it:            Funky design with a easy to read back
What I don't like about it:  Odd size requiring 6 pocket pages. That Kareem RC is the type of thing I am trying to                                                 avoid by diversifying away from baseball.  13 cards have BV greater than $100

1971-72 Topps Basketball

How complete:                     2 of 233 cards (0.8%)
Most valuable card:            #100 - Lew Alcindor with a Beckett high book of $250
Stars I already have:           Connie Hawkins
What I like about it:            Fun Design capturing the zeitgeist of the time
What I don't like about it:  Not a huge fan of all the yellow on the back, but at least it is readable

1972-73 Topps Basketball

How complete:                     226 of 264 cards (85.6%)
Most valuable card:            #195 - Julius Erving RC with a Beckett high book of $1200 (it was $300 when I started)
Stars I already have:           Julius Erving, Phil Jackson, Pete Maravich, Jerry West
What I like about it:            Simple design but still projects that early 1970s vibe
What I don't like about it:  Nothing sticks out.

1971-72 Topps Hockey

How complete:                     1 of 132 cards (0.7%)
Most valuable card:            #45 - Ken Dryden with a Beckett high book of $125
Stars I already have:           Bobby Orr
What I like about it:            Another fun Topps design in or around 1972
What I don't like about it:  Egads!  That back is ugly

What I am listening to:  Song for the Dead by Queens of the Stone Age