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.

September 11, 2014

Junk Wax Battle: 1988 Donruss

We like to break new ground here at The Baseball Card Blog. From the exhaustive Best Set of the 1980s Countdown, to publishing reader-submitted card designs, to an all-cardboard rendition of Casey at the Bat—not to mention showcasing the talents of Mike Kenny and Travis Peterson—we're always pushing new and unexpected ways for collectors to enjoy our hobby. 

Well, add another to the list. We're excited to announce that Junk Wax Battle: 1988 Donruss (formerly one of Ben's pipe dreams) is going to happen. It's a game, played with cards, where the goal is to be the first to hand-collate a set of 1988 Donruss. Sounds easy, right? Well, did we mention that there are eight players and a dungeonmaster-like judge?

Game play combines ripping unopened wax packs, keeping a checklist, trading with other players, and bidding in judge-run auctions (all bidding is based on cards' book values from a 1988 Beckett Baseball Card Monthly). And actual prizes will be awarded to the top two finishers.

It's guaranteed to be weird—if not exhilarating. If you're in the Boston, Mass. area, I invite you to join us. Right now, we're looking for eight players, and we'll be playing at 7PM on Thursday, October 2, 2014, at Knight Moves Board Game Cafe in Coolidge Corner (Brookline). It's free to watch and $20 to play. All players will go home with a complete set of 1988 Donruss.

Tell your friends!

August 22, 2014

Ball So Hard

Tom Brookens, 1989 Donruss 
NOTE: Don't ask me about the stain because I don't know



"BALL SO HARD ****** ******* WANNA FINE ME"


Idled during '84 pennant stretch for Tigers due to pulled hamstring...



Missed a month of '81 season with ankle and hamstring injuries...


Started triple play and went 5-for-5 in same game 8/20/80 vs. Brewers...



Tigers radio announcer Ernie Harwell nicknamed Brookens "the Pennsylvania Poker", a play on the song "Pennsylvania Polka."




He did lead American League (AL) third basemen in errors twice, in 1980 and 1985, but that was largely because he was getting to so many more grounders than other fielders;


Brookens also has the dubious honor of sharing (with 21 others) the AL record for the most errors in a game by a third baseman, four, on September 6, 1980.


Brookens' twin brother Tim was also drafted in 1975 by the Texas Rangers; he was later traded to the Tigers organization, but never made the majors. In spring training, Tim and Tom would sometimes switch identities, even suiting up in each other's uniforms;







August 14, 2014

The Wrong Kind of Star: Quirks in 2014 Topps Heritage

2014 Topps Heritage Mini - Zack Greinke
If you're collecting Topps Heritage this year, here's something you may not have realized. Just like in the sport it depicts, there are varying degrees of star popularity within the set. Here's what I mean. There are 13 different non-relic/non-autograph cards of superstar Mike Trout in the set. There are nine cards of Zack Greinke. By comparison, there are seven different cards of Alfonso Soriano. And just one card of guys like Mark Teixeira, Tim Lincecum, and Alex Rodriguez. And others, too. Paul Konerko has only one card. Matt Holliday and Shin-Soo Choo? One card each. Same for Jose Altuve, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Donaldson, and David Price.

Asking why there need to be so many different parallels and inserts for a set like Heritage is a question with no good answer. Instead, here are the different versions of non-relic/non-autograph cards:

1. Base card (500 cards)
2. Chrome (100 cards)
3. Chrome Refractor (same 100 cards as Chrome set)
4. Black Chrome Refractor (same 100 cards as Chrome set)
5. Gold Chrome Refractor (same 100 cards as Chrome set)
6. Purple Chrome Refractor (same 100 cards as Chrome set)
7. Walmart-exclusive Blue Border (25 subjects)
8. Target-exclusive Red Border (25 subjects)
9. Retail-exclusive Black Border (same 100 cards as Chrome set)
10. New Age Performers (20 subjects)
11. Base Action variation (25 subjects)
12. Base Logo variation (25 subjects)
13. Base Uniform variation (25 subjects)
14. Mini (100 subjects)
(I'm not counting the Black Back version of the base set, as every card on the base-set checklist is included.)

Some cards are easier to find than others. For instance, base-set SPs are seeded around one per three packs, while Mini cards show up one per case. And only some players are in some of the insert sets. For example, there are three cards in the Chrome sets that do not appear in the Mini set—Alfonso Soriano, Xander Bogaerts/Jonathan Schoop, and Nick Castellanos/Billy Hamilton. They are replaced in the Mini set by Jason Grilli, Austin Jackson, and Derek Holland.

So what gives with all this? Why are some players included in nearly every insert and parallel set, and others not represented anywhere? Well, Teixeira's been hurt. A-Rod's a pariah, banished for the season. And Lincecum has been mired in middle relief, a star in name only. But for the others—like the new-to-the-national-spotlight guys like Altuve and Donaldson—there are no good reasons for their exclusion. It's just a quirk of this year's set, one that will probably be corrected in 2015's edition.

July 27, 2014

Let's Talk About 2014 Topps Heritage High Numbers

We're a few months away, but I've started thinking about the 2014 Topps Heritage High Numbers set. Will it be an online-only factory set, or released in packs? Who will be included? Who will be overlooked? If we use the 2013 installment as a template, it's probable that each team will be represented, with somewhere between one and five cards apiece.

 Much like the "traded" sets from back in the day, the high-numbers set is mostly a showcase of young players and XRCs—although with so many draft, prospects, and minor league sets these days, there are virtually zero players who could have an XRC—with fewer traded veterans in their new uniforms. It's also a way for Topps to produce cards of players not included in the regular series. But with a checklist of only 100 cards, Topps has to be choosy about who's represented.

That said, here's a quick list of 25 players who may be part of Heritage High Numbers for 2014:

1. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
2. George Springer, Houston Astros
3. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
4. Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
5. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
6. Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox
7. Jake Peavy, San Francisco Giants
8. Chase Headley, New York Yankees
9. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
10. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
11. C.J. Cron, LA Angels
12. Yangveris Solarte, San Diego Padres
13. Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
14. Tommy La Stella, Atlanta Braves
15. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
16. Jake Petricka, Chicago White Sox
17. Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers
18. Huston Street, LA Angels
19. Brandon McCarthy, New York Yankees
20. Jeff Samardzjia, Oakland Athletics
21. Ike Davis, Pittsburgh Pirates
22. Jose Lobaton, Washington Nationals
23. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
24. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

25. Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals

July 12, 2014

The World Needs a Retro Donruss Studio Set

Topps can conjure nostalgia for a wave of collectors just by opening a random file cabinet in its overstuffed HQ and producing a legacy design series like Archives or Heritage. And yet, the 13-year-old in me still thinks that nothing beats 1991's "sophisticated," "artistic," and high-cheese-quotient Studio. So tell us, Donruss: What's stopping you from jumping into the retro deep end with both feet?

Here's what I'm looking for:

1. Tasteful black and white photography of men with mullets. I understand that standard baseball hair fashion these days consists of goatees, mountain-man beards, and Mohawk variations, so you might want to stock a few mullet wigs with your photography equipment.

2. Hats optional. And actually, without a MLB license, I'd even accept a 225-card series of players in street clothes, or warmup shirts. Or even Ebbets Field Flannels jerseys of forgotten PCL teams.

3. Autographed buy-backs of Ramon Martinez, Steve Lake, Roger McDowell, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell, and Kevin Belcher. Really, it would need a 25-to-30-player autographed buy-back checklist featuring the most memorable photos from the original set.

4. Trivial personal interest filler on the backs. Who watches Orange Is The New Black? Or what about The Bachelorette? Or Adventure Time? Also, I'd like to know if more players today would list "Jesus Christ" as their personal hero than did in 1991 (11 players back then, including Alvin Davis, who listed his heroes as "Jesus Christ and Harold Reynolds").

5. No inserts. I realize that this last one is a tall order for a card company in the business of making money. So how about just a few parallels? Definitely needs a one-per-pack stamped, original buyback from the 1991 series. Then a six-per-box "Outtakes" parallel, which would be a photo variation. Finally, a much-harder-to-find "Negatives" parallel, which would show up once every few boxes, maybe like one or two per case.

Even without that pesky MLB license, this could be a nice, low-frills retro set that harks back to a simpler time when men wore a workingman's haircut, enjoyed shows like A Different World, Cheers, and Unsolved Mysteries, and collected porcelain figures of animals (well, maybe that was just you, Glenn Davis).