December 18, 2014

Grade This Card: 1954 Topps Whitey Ford

I'm not a professional grader, just a longtime collector. I have a pretty good idea what constitutes gem mint, and what's considered poor. It's just everything in between that throws me. I've scanned one of my cards here. Help me out by giving it a grade in the embedded poll.

1954 Topps Whitey Ford #37
I paid $40 for a lot that contained this card and the 1956 Topps Whitey Ford. I thought it was a deal, especially considering the book value of the 1956 card alone is over that. This is an attractive card, with the added detail of the black-and-white action shot that was probably the photo study for the artwork on Ford's 1953 Topps card. 

surveys & polls

December 17, 2014

Grade This Card: 1956 Topps Roberto Clemente

I'm not a professional grader, just a longtime collector. I have a pretty good idea what constitutes gem mint, and what's considered poor. It's just everything in between that throws me. I've scanned one of my cards here. Help me out by giving it a grade in the embedded poll.

1956 Topps Roberto Clemente #33
This is just an awesome card. A few years back I did the unthinkable—by my expectations—and completed the 1956 Topps set. It's the most comprehensive Topps set of the 1950s (in my opinion), since it features Mantle, Williams, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Roy Campanella and Willie Mays on the same checklist. Nineteen-fifty-seven's a great set, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't have Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, or Monte Irvin, for that matter. The last of the oversized card sets, 1956 has a stellar checklist full of big names. But what makes it a great set also makes it a burden for the budget-minded collector like me. I think I paid somewhere around $50 for this card. Did I overpay? Help me out in the embedded poll.

December 15, 2014

Help Me Grade This Card: 1953 Topps Ed Mathews

Now, I'm not a professional grader, just a longtime collector. I have a pretty good idea what constitutes gem mint, and what's considered poor. It's just everything in between that throws me.
I've scanned one of my cards here. Help me out by giving it a grade in the embedded poll.

1953 Topps Ed Mathews #37
This has always been one of my favorite cards—the subject, the artwork, the classic 1953 Topps set. It just works aesthetically for me. I think I paid $25 for this, and it was encased by a no-name grading company. They had it as a 4, I think. It was a struggle to remove it from its airtight case. I don't think I was ripped off at $25, but did I get a deal?

December 05, 2014

Updated Food for Thought: Hot Stove Edition

A few baseball-card-related thoughts as we approach winter...

If Jon Lester signs with a team other than the Athletics—which is how it seems things will shake out—does that mean we'll never see a card of Lester in an A's uniform? This probably happens a lot, but the two players who come to mind are Reggie Jackson (Orioles) and Don Baylor (Athletics), both in 1976. Another guy who could fit this bill is Yoenis Cespedes, the slugging outfielder the Red Sox obtained in exchange for Lester. The Sox have a logjam in the outfield and the feeling is that Cespedes walks after next year.

This also brings up an interesting take on the purpose of end-of-year series like Topps Update and Topps Heritage High Numbers. Topps Update is a showcase for All-Star cards, rookies, and guys who fell through the cracks in the regular set. Heritage High Numbers is chock full of rookies and other end-of-the-bench guys who didn't get cards in the regular series. Gone are the days when traded players get cards of them in their new uniforms. Were it up to me, High Numbers and Update would be a more traditional mix of rookies and traded players. This would solve the problem of guys like Lester, Cespedes, and Nelson Cruz (whose year on the Orioles probably won't be recognized in 2015 Topps Heritage)...

...An insert set that didn't seem to hold its value is the mini set in 2014 Topps Heritage. Despite being the case hit and each card being numbered to just 100, eBay prices have fallen in the last few weeks. All of this is good news for me, as I now have 47 of the 100 subjects...

...Is Topps's design for 2015 a subtle homage to 1990's design? It'll be the 25th anniversary of that set, which could mean a possible "no-name" error, right?...

...I promise this is the last Heritage item I'll bring up for now: I've decided that the ultimate card from the Heritage set is the Maury Wills Real One autograph card. For one thing, Wills is shown as a member of the Dodgers. Secondly, he wasn't included in the 1965 Topps set, so—barring custom cards—this is as close as you're going to get to a 1965 Topps Maury Wills card. 

...Are there great card blogs still out there? From what I've read recently, collectors are more interested in posting images of their "hitz" on Twitter than talking about the bigger picture in the hobby. Is that how others see it?

Finally, I almost forgot. Remember my post in November 2013 about the future of price guides? (Read Average Real Pricing: The Future of The Price Guide.) Well, if you subscribe to Beckett's online price guide, it looks like they incorporated something like average real pricing into their tiered offerings. They're calling it the Beckett Online Price Guide Plus (very original). If it's anything like my idea for average real pricing, this is a step in the right direction. Hey Beckett, you're welcome.

October 30, 2014

Ring Leaders' Leaders

                                        Terry Pendleton, 1995 Stadium Club Ring Leaders

Stadium Club CEO, Hank Freck: Gentlemen, today is the first day of the rest of our baseball card lives. Today we begin designing the Ring Leaders series that is going to set the world on fire.

Stadium club execs: (cheer)

Hank Freck: I want no expense spared, and I want no wasted space. Whoever said "less is more" is a stupid dumbass.

Bill: Sir, didn't you say "less is more" when you started the comp-

Hank Freck: Shutup, Bill. Everyone? Bill is fired.

Bill: (cries) (escorted out by Stadium Club security, which is Hank Freck's 9-year-old son, Hank, Jr.)

Hank Freck: Listen up, everyone. I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I want this set to include as much stuff as possible. We're gonna stuff the hell out of this [extended expletive]. Nothing is off limits. Think about everything you know about rings, and hit me with it.

Stadium club execs: ...

Hank Freck: Hit me with it ... NOW!

Fred: Uh, uh ... rings flying through the sky?

Hank Freck: Awesome, good start. That is something rings definitely do. Barb - write this stuff down. Anyone else?

Gary: How about an explosion?

Hank Freck: Explosions are good. Done and done. Gary, you just exploded yourself into a raise.

Phil: What about a ... a ... a bald eagle?

Hank Freck: For crying out loud, Phil ... you're a genius. THIS IS AMERICA.

Stadium club execs: (cheer)

Phil: And maybe the bald eagle is like, eating a giant ring?

Hank Freck: Okaaay, okaaaay. I'm with you ...

Phil: And like, holding a baseball with its bird claws or something?

Hank Freck: Phil, you talk. Barb, you write.


Hank Freck: Okay, sit down, Phil. Too far. You always go too far. Anyone else?

Bart: How about stars?

Hank Freck: Sure, why not. You can't have a ring without stars. That's just science. Oh and BY THE WAY, I don't want some professional "artist" (does air quotes) designing this thing. I want a real baseball fan, like, hey - Hank Jr., you up for this?

Hank Jr.: (picking nose) Duh, Dad. (under breath) Not.

Dave: Spaghetti and meatballs!

Hank Freck: Was that a suggestion, Dave, or do you have Tourette's?

Dave: Ummm, a suggestion?

Hank Freck: Charles, can we fit spaghetti and meatballs on this thing?

Charles: (furiously punches keys on computer) (dejectedly nods head "no")

Hank Freck: Dammit. Okay, well let's turn our attention to the back. So uh, what do baseball players win rings for? I literally have no idea.

Fred: All-Star games? Do they get rings for that?

Hank Freck: Seems right. Let's go with it.

Dave: Of course there's the famous batting title ring. That I know for sure.

Hank Freck: Makes sense. What about a bunting ring? Is there a ring for like, best bunter?

Stadium club execs: (shrug shoulders)

Hank Freck: Okay well let's play it safe then, and if a Ring Leader is also a good bunter, just feature him bunting while the bald eagle eats a giant ring behind him.

Charles: Guys, what about World Series rings? Are you gonna account for those?

Hank Freck: Uhhh, pretty sure they get hats for that, Charles. (under breath) Idiot.

Stadium club execs: (laugh at Charles)

October 22, 2014

Joy of The Completed Page: 1976 Topps

A couple years ago I made a custom set of 43 "missing" 1976 Topps Traded cards. Scans of their fronts and backs can be viewed on the separate "1976 Topps Traded Missing Cards" page on our blog. Here are two of them, added into my set. They look great in pages!

October 20, 2014

Recent Stuff

Here's what I've been collecting lately...

I found this on eBay. (Great back, too.) I'm a big fan of test prints, overprints, miscuts, blank backs, wrong backs, and misprints in general. I bought six similar test-print 1951 Bowmans sometime last year and have those framed. This one is just sitting on my desk. Can't remember what I paid for it; doesn't matter. I don't think it was more than $10...

...I bought a collection of basketball cards on eBay a couple of months ago. I paid about $15 for it. I had seen the Walton rookie and the 1986-87 Fleer Wilkins in the listing photo, so I thought that was a bargain for $15. There were a few other highlights. Here are some of them:

...I've completed the master set of 2014 Topps Heritage, as well as the Action variations subset, plus the red Target and blue Walmart subsets. I'm actively collecting Heritage chrome and mini subsets. The minis are proving to be a fun subset to collect. I will probably never complete it, as the Trout card has consistently pushed the $350 mark, and even the Jeter and Puig cards are too rich for my blood. But fun nonetheless...

... I've been actively testing out "new" sets for a future round of Junk Wax Battle. I opened a box of 1987 Fleer, one of my favorite sets that was always out of reach as a kid. The collation was excellent; no doubles in a whole box! Probably not good for a game like Junk Wax Battle. I also opened two boxes of low series 1992 Upper Deck baseball. An excellent set with enough fun cards and great photography to keep it interesting. Another one of my favorite sets that I couldn't really afford as a kid. We'll see what we end up doing for future rounds of JWB.

October 19, 2014

Names of the Game

One of my favorite baseball names from the late 1980s.

October 15, 2014

Let's Talk About 2015 Topps Archives

With the unveiling of the underwhelming design of 2015 Topps flagship—with its 25-year-anniversary homage to the 1990 Topps design, intended or not—and the prospect of collecting Heritage '66 next summer already uninteresting, Archives may be the set for me in 2015. 

So today I daydreamed about which old designs Topps will pull out of their storage closet for its 2015 Archives set. Here are my guesses.

1988 Topps Baseball
I happen to like the design of 1988 Topps. It's like a combination of the best elements of the 1966 and 1967 designs, with an easy-to-read orange back. Nine-year-old me bought a metric ton of 1988 Topps.

1983 Topps Baseball
Another hallmark 1980s design for a brand that so far has managed to miss it, despite using 1980's design twice.

1994 Topps Baseball
Honestly, not a great design, but the 1990s are sorely lacking from this set so far.

1978 Topps Baseball
What's the Archives brand without a token 1970s design? 1978 is one of the few they haven't cribbed yet.

1981, 1991, or 1970 Topps Baseball
I'm hoping the short-printed cards are in a separate uniform design, unlike in 2014's set, which used the same four designs from the base set. 1981 Topps would be a great choice, or 1970, or 1991.

The designs used for the insert sets have been a hodgepodge taken from all four major sports. I don't see 2015 Topps Archives being any different. Here are a few of the insert designs I'd like to see.

1956 Topps Football1958 AB&C Footballers (UK)
1967 Topps Who Am I? (with disguises)
1968 Topps Baseball Game
1969 Topps Football
1979 Topps Baseball Comics1981-82 Topps Basketball Super Action!
1983 Topps/Drake's Baseball Sluggers 1986 Topps Baseball Tattoos
1990 Topps Baseball All-Stars
1990 Topps The Simpsons

The problem with all of this is that eventually Topps will run out of old designs to use for Archives. I've written about this before, but it really feels like every year Topps has to out-do itself in terms of designs to use in its Archives offering. At this pace, the well will soon dry. We can only hope that the Topps brand managers will have enough sense to stop while they're ahead.

October 06, 2014

Junk Wax Battle Postgame Report

Judge Matt Sienkiewicz explains the rules.
Last Thursday evening we kicked off what is sure to be a national phenomenon: Five players. Seven-hundred-and-twenty unopened packs. One ugly set. Yes, the inaugural Junk Wax Battle: 1988 Donruss was a success.

We played at Knight Moves Board Game Cafe in Coolidge Corner, in Brookline, Mass. Starting just after 7pm, we had to call the game due to time constraints  after two and a half hours of frantic wheeling, dealing, and ripping of packs. And no, I did not find a Robbie Alomar Rated Rookie OR a Roger Clemens...

We've proved some of our assumptions correct while others fell by the wayside:

1. Our game was awesome. We knew going in that our rules would provide plenty of frantic moments, from the mass bedlam of five people ripping packs at one table, to heated auctions for needed cards that no one could find in packs. Our prizes were pretty good—a signed Casey at the Bat poster, a 2002 Japanese Topps card of Raul Ibanez, an unopened pack of 1987 Fleer, among others—and the players were competitive. All of it made for a compelling game.
Collating their way to glory.
2. Collation was a nightmare, only not how we expected. Some packs yielded complete fifteen-card runs, like cards checklisted on numbers 240–254 all in one pack, while other packs were more random. And a few other packs, from within the same box, were exact doubles of earlier packs. All told, none of our players completed the 660-card set. The closest full set was still missing around 120 cards. (I thought that at least one person would complete the set, but there were whole swaths of the checklist that nobody found—like cards in the 400s and mid-600s.)

3. Players felt too hurried, and there was too much for them to do. One suggestion was for players to compete in pairs, with one person ripping packs and collating, and the other managing auctions and marking the checklist. This is something we'll tinker with in future games. Another idea was to slow down the game.

Checklisting took a lot of time.
4. The judge was a great idea, and for larger games with more players, two judges could work as well. The Judge's Challenges added life to the game and made it easier for players to amass cards.

5. 1988 Donruss was an inspired choice for our inaugural game. With a 660-card checklist, and terrible collation, it was challenging to put together a set in two and a half hours. In fact, we proved it was practically impossible. Many players said that the checklist was too large for a game like this, but I contend that your amount of time to play dictates the size of the checklist you should use. Two and half hours might be too short for a 660-card set. But at three hours? The beauty of our rules is that the game works regardless of checklist size. We're thinking of using 1988–1990 Topps Big Baseball for our next game, to see how a 264-card checklist might work within the same time constraints.

6. From baseball card shops looking for ways to bring new customers in and kill off their dead junk wax stock, to an exciting group activity at a sports card convention, to a child's birthday party—we think this game has a lot of potential. It may even work as a self-contained game you could buy in a toy store. All of these are possibilities.

E-mail me if you want to participate in our next Junk Wax Battle, and I'll give you the details.