September 25, 2015

1965 Topps Combo Card: Dynamic Duo

One more custom combo card to round out the week. Perhaps a few more next week...

September 24, 2015

1965 Topps Combo Card: Athletic Aarons

"Big League Buddies" strikes again, this time with Hank and Tommie Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves.

September 22, 2015

1965 Topps Custom Combo Cards

I love combo cards, those goofy-titled cards of more than one player. As I've moved toward downsizing my collection, combo cards have become a major focus.

I also love 1965 Topps. It's one of my favorite sets, yet it's the only Topps set from the 1960s without combo cards. Go figure.

Therefore, I've decided to remedy the situation with a few custom combo cards for 1965 Topps. Here's the first.

September 01, 2015

The $10,000 Question

Here's what I've been thinking about these last few weeks...

A reader sent me an e-mail last week looking for advice. He wanted to spend about $10,000 but only purchase four or five cards. Here were the other parameters: At least one of them should be a T206, all should be from earlier than 1970, and all should have solid PSA grades. Which should he buy? I told him he couldn't go wrong with popular hobby stalwarts like Clemente, Koufax, Aaron, and Rose. As for the tobacco card, I have no experience buying or selling T206's, and couldn't give him a recommendation. But this got me thinking: What cards would I have chosen for myself? Buying cards as investments goes against my outlook and reasons for collecting, but it would be nice to have that kind of dough to play with. Which cards would you choose?...

...I've been searching for a new set to collect. I thought 2015 Allen & Ginter would be that set, but right now the price tag is steep. I might have to wait a year for things to settle. One set I've always enjoyed is the Archives line from 2001 and 2002. I had dipped into it as part of the mega master sets I've put together for 1976, 1978, 1986, 1987, and 1988 Topps, but never for its own sake as a set. A few weeks ago I purchased a group from 2001 series one and I'm digging it. This may be my new set. That said, there are a few players who seem to be missing, or maybe I've just overlooked them? Guys like <b>Jeff Burroughs, Dave Stewart, Charlie Hough</b>, and <b>Manny Trillo</b>. Burroughs was the 1974 AL MVP, Stewart won 20 games in four straight seasons, Hough was a knuckleball workhorse, and Trillo was one of the best second basemen of his generation. Additionally, all four had retired before 2001, and each had a rookie and last card issued by Topps. Granted, none was elected to the Hall of Fame, but neither was <b>Wilbur Wood, Jim Maloney, Johnny Antonelli</b>, or <b>Bucky Dent</b>, and all four of them are in Archives. Maybe I'll do some custom Archives...

...There are two questions I think about when I'm falling asleep: 1) If we projected today's salaries on players from the past, who would've been paid what? For example, someone like Bobby Shantz. Would he have been a max-contract guy? And 2), are there any players today who will make the Hall of Fame? Besides Alex Rodriguez's steroid-fueled sideshow, I can identify 10 players who are legitimate Hall of Famers: <b>Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, CC Sabathia, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina,</b> and <b>Mike Trout</b>. But which of these players will be remembered by Hall of Fame voters in 10 to 20 years when they're up for election?

You may scoff at the insinuation that an otherworldly talent like Albert Pujols would be forgotten in 10 years, but look at the example of <b>Duke Snider</b>. The Duke of Flatbush was elected in his 11th year on the Hall of Fame ballot, which means he had been retired for 17 years before election. Or how about someone like <b>Jim Bunning</b>? Over 200 wins, author of a perfect game (as well as another no-hitter), All-Star in each league. Seems like a shoo-in for the Hall. Instead he was on the ballot for 15 years, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Twenty-five years after he retired he was elected by the Veterans Committee. A situation like that seems unthinkable today, but could it be possible for someone like Sabathia, or even <b>Roy Halladay</b>? It seems today that if a player's not elected on the first ballot, then they're not true Hall of Famers. I hope someone like <b>Graham Womack</b> will tackle this question...

...I feel like a dolt. A few weeks ago I purchased a large stack of exclusive Target Topps coupons on eBay for a couple bucks. Now my local Target has stopped carrying Topps products. Not sure what to do with these coupons...

August 14, 2015

Fuzzy for the Wrong Reasons

Notice that Panini used a piece of Scotch tape
to keep the card in the top loader. Not cool.
I'm new to this whole "redemption" game. Actually, that's not true. I've mailed away for cards in the past, it's just that the last time I did it was 1994 and I received the 1993-94 Upper Deck NBA Lottery Picks set in return. Never have I waited for an autographed card from a manufacturer. (Actually, that's not true, either. Back when I was doing TTM autographs, I sent a 1987 Topps checklist to Topps CEO Arthur Shorin to sign at Topps HQ. And he did. And I got it back and then promptly lost it in a stack of commons...) What I'm getting at here is that I had no idea what to expect from Panini after submitting a code on their website last fall for an autographed Chandler Parsons Past & Present draft pick card.

I went in with zero expectations. For one thing, I was surprised that Panini even accepted the code I inputted, if simply because the set came out in 2012 and I had missed the redemption deadline by at least a few months, if not a few years. I know how important the redemption game is to manufacturers: it's another way to differentiate from the competition. Saying that, I expected a "Sorry, you're too late" message. I guess though that if your redemptions are "always on," so to speak, your customers will take notice. And while I profess a certain level of innocence, I'm no slouch. I've read blogs and articles about waiting for redemption cards, and the trials and tribulations of receiving the wrong cards, or poorly signed cards, or whatever.

Which leads me to the card I received a few days ago. It's signed by someone whose first names starts with a "C," that much is for certain. I can even make our a "25," and Parsons is shown in his #25 Rockets uniform, so I would suppose that the signature is that of the card's subject, Chandler Parsons. But the signature looks like it went through the wash, or was signed in a sauna. It's blurred on the edges, which is too bad. I mean, I did send away for the card after the purported redemption period had ended, and it would stand to reason that most, if not all of the signed cards for this promotion had been redeemed already, so all that was left was the dregs, the sloppies, and the cards signed with a pen about to run out of ink.

So I can't really complain. Besides, it got me thinking: What if manufacturers paid MLB, or the NBA, or NFL, or whichever league, to have its players sign cards during a game? It could be during halftime, or while their team is at bat. Since every game is televised, showing players busily signing sports cards would be whimsical cutaways for broadcasters. "Well, Bob, there's Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and their Thunder teammates signing cards for Panini's 2016-17 NBA Hoops," or "It looks like Clayton Kershaw has found a way to stay loose between starts, Joe: He's down in the dugout signing cards for 2016 Topps baseball cards!... That's right, Harold. Fans, look for autographed cards of your favorite stars randomly inserted into packs of 2016 Topps Baseball..." If teams can sell out their coaches and managers for telecast interviews during a game, there's no reason players' downtime should be off-limits.

Much like my plan for turning broken bats into game-used memorabilia cards, complete with game date–stamping, I expect this idea will also be ignored. But what makes these ideas unique is that they solve the problem of poor quality: there would already be so much documentation of the materials that went into making the cards that the quality of the bat shaving itself—or in this case, signature—would be of less importance than the act of its creation. As I understand it, the actual "game-used memorabilia" that go into relic cards are rarely, if ever, actually used in a live game. Similarly, autographed cards are signed in marathon sessions done in the off-season by players sitting at a conference table with bottles of water nearby. These things, which should be overflowing with the implied "love of the game," are in fact created in sterile environments with sterile materials by men who are late for their tee times.

What I'm saying is, it all could be so much more. That Chandler Parsons autograph should be fuzzy—not because the pen was running out of ink or the Panini intern set his bottle of water down on it, but because a sweaty Parsons should've signed it in the Rockets' locker room during halftime of a nationally televised game. You want us to be excited about your products? Make your cards mean something.

August 10, 2015

The Numbers Don't Add Up

After writing last night's post I did a quick calculation and realized I have waaaaay more than my professed 10,000-card ceiling. Here's how it breaks down:

1956 Topps set (342)
1965 Topps set (598) + Embossed set (72) + other random '65-inspired cards (25)
1969 Topps near set (664) + errors/variations + Deckle set (35)
1976 Topps set (660) + Traded & Missing Cards (88) + extras (30)
1978 Topps set (726) + extras (10)
1986 Topps set (792) + Traded (132) + extras (100)
1987 Topps set (792) + Traded (132) + extras (100)
1988 Topps set (792) + Traded (132) + extras (50)
2003 Topps Heritage master set (500) + extras (10)
2014 Topps Heritage master set (554) + Minis (60)
Red Sox collection of at least 1,500 cards
Player collections of at least 200 cards
Basketball collection (1,200)
T218 (60 cards)
1967 Topps Who Am I? (40 cards)
2013 Topps Heritage Minors (200 cards)
Other random cards (1,000)
1955 Topps (50 cards)
Miscuts/misprints (50 cards)

And all that adds up to 11,747 cards. I forgot to add the single vintage rookie and star cards I have, and the new A&G cards I bought last week. Plus the random Archives and Topps cards I gotta find a home for. Sounds like I will be a busy seller and trader in the coming weeks to bring that number down.

August 09, 2015

The Magic Number

Ten thousand is a big number. And 10,000 of something is quite a lot. Unless, of course, we're talking about sports cards. Then it doesn't seem like so many.

It's here that I find myself these days, butting up against the 10,000-card ceiling, the amount my non-collector wife and I have decided should be the maximum number of cards in our apartment. For a while it was easy—10,000 cards is a lot of sports cards, after all. I had a few sets, a few small player collections of Ichiro, Kirby Puckett, Eddie Murray, Fred McGriff, Dwight Evans. But then I decided I wanted to collect a vintage set, so 1969 Topps became a focus. And as 2014 became 2015, I found I wanted to complete an Allen & Ginter set. And what about my vintage basketball card collection? Or those multiplayer combo cards I had a ton of?
Don't worry, Eddie. With hair like that,
you'll always be a keeper.

I've always been a little jealous of those guys who take selfies with their patchwork quilts of top-loaded memorabilia cards, and those who are surrounded by binders of every set ever made. I was once like them. I once had hundreds of thousands of cards, an entire closet's worth of boxes, bags, and binders. Then I met my future wife and my priorities shifted. And now, after a few moves, I find myself with less cabinet space than in previous apartments and hard choices ahead. What do I save? What do I trade away? What do I try to sell? Why 10,000?

When we agreed on the number, 10,000 meant I could keep all the sets I already had, plus the Red Sox collection I was working on and my small player collections. But like all things, this number has taken on new meanings as time progresses.

Now 10,000 means no doubles. Ten thousand means if you bring in something new, something old is shown the door. Which is fine, in theory. But now "something old" is my 2003 Topps Heritage master set. And I'm not so sure I want to part with that just yet.

I have very little wiggle room these days, and sometimes I kick myself for setting the ceiling so low. So while I find that baseball cards consume my idle thoughts these days, it's complicated. It's not just about what to add to my collection next, but what I'll have to remove.

July 21, 2015

The Butterfly Effect

I’ll give you three guesses as to what’s on the back of this Felix Hernandez card that I (and by “I” I mean my 5-year-old daughter from whom I hijacked this card to write about it on a blog) received while at Safeco Field during a Mariners game.

Go ahead.

Are you good?

Do you have three guesses?

OK cool. I don’t want to hear about your guesses because they are all wrong.

For real this is the back of the card. It’s a baby who is maybe morphing into a butterfly, or vice versa … I’m not certain of the science behind that process. Or maybe it’s a baby who has butterfly wings because it’s a hybrid butterfly-baby formed in a BASF lab. Who knows. The point is: baseball.

This card also asks the timeless question:

How can you make tomorrow love today?

which, ???????????????????????????????????????????????

Seriously though, how CAN you make tomorrow love today? Let’s ask Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez.

Me: Hi, King Felix. I was wondering, how can you make tomorrow love today?

Felix Hernandez: I don’t know for sure, papi. Maybe, like … if we channel our hopes and dreams into our current state of consciousness, we can marry anticipation with the present and experience a slice of heaven on earth. Like this … (blows on passing butterfly, which turns into a baby and lands in my lap)

Me: Uh, what am I supposed to do with this?

Felix Hernandez: I don’t know … raise it? Listen, are we done? I have to pitch a baseball game now.

Me: (raise child as my own, grow to love it, it eventually teaches me how to make tomorrow love today)

Child: Welp, looks like my work here is done. (sprouts butterfly wings and flies toward the sky)

Me: wtf

July 11, 2015

When an All-Star is not an All-Star: NL edition

If you were like me, you blindly accepted the Topps All-Star team subsets as factual representations of real life. In the Topps universe, Shane Rawley and Dwight Gooden were All Stars in 1987, since they were included in its 1988 All-Star subset. And yet, neither of them was an All Star in 1987.

Rawley was an All Star in 1986, and he did have a great 1987 season, posting a career-best 17 wins for the mediocre Phillies. But that's not the point. The point is that Topps unilaterally decided that the voters got it wrong when they put pitchers not named Rawley or Gooden on the team. Or maybe Topps didn't want to make an All-Star card of Sid Fernandez? It's all unclear, but it got me thinking.

Just how many of Topps's 1988 All Stars were actually on the 1987 teams? Let's look at the starting lineups.

1. Eric Davis                   LF       1. Rickey Henderson             CF
2. Ryne Sandberg                2B       2. Don Mattingly                1B
3. Andre Dawson                 CF       3. Wade Boggs                   3B
4. Mike Schmidt                 3B       4. George Bell                  LF
5. Jack Clark                   1B       5. Dave Winfield                RF
6. Darryl Strawberry            RF       6. Cal Ripken                   SS
7. Gary Carter                   C       7. Terry Kennedy                 C
8. Ozzie Smith                  SS       8. Willie Randolph              2B
9. Mike Scott                    P       9. Bret Saberhagen               P

For the National League, Dawson, Smith, Clark, and Steve Bedrosian got Topps All-Star cards, and over in the American League, Randolph, Bell, Winfield, Mattingly, Boggs, and Tom Henke got cards. Tony Gwynn, Juan Samuel, Tim Raines, and Tim Wallach, represented in the Topps All-Star lineup, were NL reserves, and Kirby Puckett, Matt Nokes, and Alan Trammell, all three Topps All Stars, were reserves for the American League. But Benny Santiago? Not an All Star. Roger Clemens? Not an All Star. Jimmy Key? Dwight Gooden? Nope and nope. And no Shane Rawley, either.

The other side of that meant that Eric Davis, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Schmidt, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Mike Scott, Sid Fernandez, Mark Langston, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Terry Kennedy, and Bret Saberhagen weren't in the regular Topps All Star subset. (They were included in the Glossy All-Star mail-away set and the glossy All Stars found in rack packs, but so what? Not everybody had the cash to send away for the larger All Star set, and it wasn't a guarantee that your drugstore carried rack packs (which were also more expensive than wax packs).)

One of Topps's "things" would be to include an All-Star right-handed starting pitcher and an All-Star left-handed starting pitcher in their All Star subset. So for the NL, these should have been Mike Scott (RHP) and Sid Fernandez (LHP). And for the AL, Bret Saberhagen (RHP) and Mark Langston (LHP). So, because they should exist, here are your 1988 Topps National League All Stars.

June 23, 2015

Interview with "Kaiju Baseball" artist Chet Phillips

We here at The Baseball Card Blog appreciate fine art and its place within the hobby. From the bubbly, Topps-approved artwork of David Coulson to the punk aesthetic of Pat Riot (and everyone in between), the baseball card is the perfect pocket-sized canvas. 

Continuing our occasional interview series, today we're talking to Chet Phillips, who has just completed "Kaiju Baseball," an homage to Japanese Menko cards of the 1960s and the kaiju monster demons from the worlds of Godzilla and Ultraman.

The Baseball Card Blog: Tell us a little about your background as an artist.

Chet Phillips: With a BFA in painting and drawing, I worked as a commercial illustration with traditional tools for a decade. Clients included ad agencies, design firms, publishers and corporations. In 1992 I purchased my first Mac and switched to digital art, using the natural media software program Painter (I still use it to this day). A highlight for my commercial work came in 2000 when I was hired by Warner Brothers to illustrate 100+ pieces for the Harry Potter merchandising style guide. 

In the late 90s, I began a new chapter in my career, creating my own merchandise to sell online. It started with a handful of cigarette card–inspired sets of monkeys as WWI generals, steampunk monkeys and dogs and cats as famous authors, artist and musicians. I also have produced a number of limited-edition books, hand-bound by my wife (she's a professional bookbinder). I still do occasional commercial jobs, but spend the bulk of my time creating my own work for online sales, conventions and art galleries.

BBC Blog: Did you collect baseball cards as a kid? Or do you still collect?

CP: I did a little baseball card collecting when I was young, but gravitated more towards collecting comic book type cards. I was a big fan of Norman Saunders and collected his Batman series. I was never able to collect the entire original Mars Attacks! set, but did a trade with a schoolmate once for a dozen or so that I still treasure to this day. 

BBC Blog: What led you to kaiju, baseball, and Menko? 

CP: I've always loved the look and feel of Japanese printmaking. Over the last two to three years I've explored creating my own version of artwork with a similar feel. This series includes an alphabet book of kaiju monsters of my own design titled "Land of Kaiju," and a series that placed pop culture characters engaging in childhood activities, each with their own hiaju poem ("Childhood"). "Kaiju Baseball" was inspired by the look and feel of vintage Menko baseball cards with a parody mashup of kaiju monsters from the Godzilla and Ultraman universes.

BBC Blog: It's interesting that you chose to create a stand-alone baseball card set as part of this project. Did you have the intention to create a card set all along? Or was it borne out of the process of creating the art?

CP: This was intended to be a card set from the outset. Unlike past sets that I've created, I decided to take the idea further and produce an 18 x 24 poster of the group and also produce a cloisonné enamel pin. 

The set is divided into four teams that I devised, each with nine players. The set also includes four team cards for a total of 40 cards. Each card includes the team name, character name, team number and field position on the front in Japanese with the portrait. On the reverse I've included the same info in english along with a few basis stats. 

The card backs include a symbols for rock, paper and scissors as well as a fighting number system (for use like the children's card game War). Cards were professionally printed on sturdy 100-lb premium uncoated card stock. Each set comes in a green handcrafted Japanese-styled paper portfolio. The Japanese characters for the words "kaiju baseball" are stamped in gold foil on each label.

BBC Blog: What's your next project? 

CP: With our 6th year of exhibiting at San Diego's International Comic Con coming up next month, I'm putting the finishing touches on a book of characters and stories of my own invention that will be in the tradition of American tall tales. This, along with the new card sets, posters and pins will be available at my Small Press table (O-01, across from Oni Press.)

Check out Chet's Etsy shop if you're interested in purchasing the set or viewing more of his great stuff.