Aug 31, 2011

Gintacuffs III, Part IV, The Epic Finale

All twisted ideas must come to an end.

Pack 19
298 Peter Gammons
178 Ben Revere
285 Alex Rios
235 Cole Hamels +4, my favorite player
117 Jonathan Sanchez
304 Madison Bumgarner SP +2
Mini SP 340 Ryan Zimmerman +3
Hometown Heroes Jon Jay +1

Pack 19 Total: 10 points
Box Total: 161 points

Pack 20
343 Drew Stubbs SP +2
211 Francisco Rodriguez
47 Phil Hughes -1, my Yankee nemesis
154 Todd Helton
176 Brian Bogusevic
273 Brent Morel
Mini A&G Back 198 Freddie Freeman +2
Floating Fortresses FF9 USS Merrimack +2

Pack 20 Total: 5 points
Box Total: 166 points

Pack 21
16 Gordon Beckham
132 Colby Rasmus
195 Tommy Hanson
120 Adrian Gonzalez +2
277 Hank Conger
Ascent of Man AOM3 Choanoflagellates +1
Potraits of Penultimacy PP3 Dr. Watson +3
Hometown Heroes Jake Peayv +1

Pack 21 Total: 7 points
Box Total: 173 points

Pack 22
316 Manny Ramirez SP +2
55 Dustin Pedroia
68 Max Scherzer
245 Brian McCann
86 Greg Halman
206 Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Mini 11 Marc Forgione
Hometown Heroes Delmon Young +1

Pack 22 Total: 3 points
Box Total: 176 points

Pack 23
38 Angel Pagan
282 Reid Brignac
121 JD Drew
AUTO AGA-BW Brett Wallace +10
Mini A&G Back 242 Ike Davis +2
Hometown Heroes Manny Ramirez +1

Pack 23 Total:  13 points
Box Total: 189 points

Pack 24
67 Delmon Young
268 Dallas Braden
119 Nancy Lopez
303 Jamie Garcia SP +2
Uninvited Guests UG3 Waverly Hills Sanatorium +3
Baseball Highlight Sketches BHS-14 Mariano Rivera +3, -1
200 Josh Hamilton +2
Mind That Made the Future MMF28 Guglieilmo Marconi +2

Pack 24 Total: 11 points
Box Total: 200 points

Goal achieved. Point and Match.

Aug 30, 2011

Gintacuffs III, Part III: Cuffed by the Gint

Doesn't every thirdquel have a strange tagline?

Pack 13
204 Jim Thome
218 Bobby Abreu
58 Alcides Escobar
98 Jason Bay
177 Aaron Crow
Black Bordered Mini 108 Roy Oswalt +3, +1: a Phillie!
81 Yonder Alonso
Hometown Heroes Justin Upton +1,

Pack 13 Total: 5 points
Box Total: 112 points

Pack 14
308 Jhonny Peralta SP +2
179 Shane Victorino +1
Mini A&G Back Jack LaLanne +2
281 Adam Lind
49 Javier Vazquez
228 Brandon Snyder
36 Eric Sogard
Hometown Heroes Matt Kemp +1, +2

Pack 14 Totals: 8 points
Box Total: 120 points

Pack 15
192 Carl Pavano
90 Roy Halladay +1
44 Ozzie Martinez
Ascent of Man AOM10 SarcopteryGII +1
Mini 159 Shawn Michaels
Relic AGR-TW Tim Wakefield +10
Hometown Heroes Brian McCann +1

Pack 15 Total: 13 points
Box Total: 133 points

Pack 16
289 Paul Konerko
20 Jeremy Hellickson
54 Austin Jackson
175 Jose Bautista
169 Dan Haren
326 Jason Castro SP +2
Animals in Peril AP13 African Wild Dog +3
Minds That Made the Future MMF38 George Eastman +2

Pack 16 Total: 7 points
Box Total: 140 points

Pack 17
238 Rudy Ruettiger
14 Adrian Beltre
248 Ervin Santana
131 Chris Iannetta
258 Howie Kendrick
142 Michael Young
Step Right Up SRU4 The Flea Circus +3
Hometown Heroes Chase Utley +1, +1

Pack 17 Total: 5 points
Box Total: 145 points

Pack 18
165 Jo Frost
147 George Bush
123 Rajai Davis
217 Shawn Marcum
295 Chris Carpenter
317 Brian Matusz SP +2
Step Right Up SRU9 Knife Throwing +3
Hometown Heroes Clay Buchholz +1

Pack 18 Total: 6 points
Box Total: 151 points

Aug 29, 2011

GintaCuffs III, Part II-The Revenge

Pack 7
158 Billy Butler
319 Jon Niese SP +2
63 Neil Walker
163 Ian Kennedy
Mini A&G Back Josh Hamilton +2, +2
3 Lou Holtz -1
242 Cheryl Burke
Minds That Made the Future: Johannes Gutenberg +2

Pack 7 Total: 7 points
Box Total: 60 points 

Pack 8
157 Corey Hart
233 Ben Zobrist
Portraits of Penultimacy PP6 Tonto +3
Ascent of Man AOM26 Homo Sapiens Sapiens +1
127 James Loney
19 Daniel Bard
34 Pedro Ciriaco
Hometown Heroes Roy Halladay-first Phillie in the 8th pack! +1, +1

Pack 8 Total: 6 points
Box Total: 66 points

Pack 9
12 Hope Solo +1
66 Starlin Castro +2
199 Jake Peavy
257 Andrew Bailey
146 John Danks
336 Kevin Kouzmanoff +3 (Code Card) +2(SP)
Mini Black Border 111 Pablo Sandoval +3
Hometown Heroes Scott Rolen +1

Pack 9 Total: 12 points
Box Total: 78 points

Pack 10
144 Jorge Posada -1
262 Manny Pacquiao
Mini SP 328 Chris Johnson +3
340 Ryan Zimmerman SP +2
Baseball Highlight Sketches BHS-22 Ubaldo Jimenez +3
271 Chris Young
122 Ryan Dempster
Hometown Heroes Adam Dunn +1

Pack 10 Total: 8 points
Box Total: 86 points

Pack 11
274 Stan Lee
53 Chipper Jones
300 Ryan Braun
264 Adam Jones +2
39 Stephen Drew
Code Card 44 Ozzie Martinez +3
Worlds Mysterious Figures WMF4 Fulcanelli +3
Hometown Heroes David Wright +1, +2

Pack 11 Total: 11 points
Box Total: 97 points

Pack 12
24 Kristi Yamaguchi
269 Derrek Lee
229 Juan Pierre
250 Ichiro
Baseball Highlight Sketches CHS-5 Albert Pujols +3
311 Ian Stewart SP +2
Uninvited Guests Mini Bachelor's Grove Cemetery +3
Floating Fortresses FF18 HMS Devastation +2

Pack 12 Total: 10 points
Box Total at the Halfway Point: 107 points 

The good: A NNO mini, one relic (of a Yankee)
The bad: One Phillie in 12 packs, not enough minds that make the future, where would we be without minds?
The strange: Kristi Yamaguchi sitting, did you know she's now a children's book author?

I don't think I've broken 200 points before in two years, it might actually be possible...though I doubt it, knowing my luck.

Aug 28, 2011

Gintacuffs III: The Box Reveal, Part I

The journey for the 3rd year begins...I have no access to a scanner for the next few weeks, so hastily thrown together photos will serve as the images.   Ummm...when does the kraken come?

Box Topper
CB9: Yellowstone National Park +8

Pack 1
215 Andrew McCutchen
22 Michael Bourn
265 Buster Posey
Mini A&G Back 79 Aimee Mullins +1, +2
1 Carlos Gonzalez
59 Jeremy Jeffress
40 John McEnroe-he took away the goodwill of the pack -1
Hometown Heroes Brandon Phillips +1

Pack 1 Total: 3 points
Box Total: 11 points

Pack 2
69 Naftali Feliz
251 Ian Desmond
Mini 40 John McEnroe (the McEnroe to end all McEnroes?) -1
95 Dan Uggla
21 Logan Morrison
196 Jered Weaver
45 Annika Sorenstam
Hometown Heroes Ian Kinsler +1

Pack 2 Total: 0 points
Box Total: 11 points

Pack 3
91 Joel Pineiro
116 Josh Beckett
166 Geovany Soto
Code Card 68 Max Scherzer +3
NNO Mini Jay Bruce: +15, +3
Ascent of Man: Prokaryotes +1
41 Carlos Santana
Hometown Heroes CC Sabathia +1, -1

Pack 3 Total: 22 points
Box Total: 33 points

Pack 4
124 Chad Billingsley
338 Lance Berkman SP +2, +2
Animals in Peril Mini AP6 Vaquita +3
183 Mike Napoli
156 Marlon Byrd
201 Andrew Romine
263 Mark Trumbo
Floating Fortresses FF7 Mahmudiye +2

Pack 4 Total: 9 points
Box Total: 42 points

Pack 5
173 Mariano Rivera -1
87 Colby Lewis
137 Carlos Beltran
159 Shawn Michaels
Mini 243 Mike Nickeas: I've actually never seen him play, weird
305 Justin Morneau SP +2
Baseball Highlight Sketches San Francisco Giants +3
Hometown Heroes Zack Greinke +1

Pack 5 Total: 5 points
Box Total: 47 points

Pack 6
252 Omar Infante
219 Johan Santana
Mini 62 Alfonso Soriano
234 Chrissie Wellington
Relic AGR-PH Phil Hughes +10/2
11 Marc Forgione
Hometown Heroes Ike Davis +1

Pack 6 Total: 6 points
Box Total: 53 points


Aug 24, 2011

2012 Topps Preview: A Sideways Viewpoint

There's quite the pot-stirring going on with the images and previews of next year's Topps base set.  For my part, I'm still waiting for Update to drop from the release calendar stork to see if there are more cards from players standing around during all-star weekend.

I think that there are two points of view on the initial information available.  One, is that collectors want innovation....what that innovation is, only the collectors who want it really know.  Surprisingly, I think the Topps base set has excelled in the past three years in terms of innovation.

2009:  Introduction of legend SPs as variations of base cards.  I think this was a great idea, and the fact that they were not extremely easy pulls, though plentiful, made them collectible.

2010: Introduction of the online card giveaway.  Though it had its many glitches, the Million Card Giveaway got people excited about opening a pack of cards.  Has a run of the mill insert like this sold for $3 a pop in recent history?  2010 Topps Series 1 boxes are all but unaffordable now because the primary supply dried up long ago.

2011:  Introduction of the diamond parallel.  The numbered gold parallel has run its course and to coincide with the diamond anniversary, these parallels had a great look, easy to obtain, and actually didn't feel like a wasted card in the pack for a set collector (speaking as a set collector)

There were also ideas that didn't work or should have been abandoned after one year like the "pie in the face" cards, "uniform change" shortprint variations, ToppsTown cards (just have codes inserted or something, don't count them as real cards), and Target and Walmart base card variations (after 2009 Topps series 1, the configuration change rendered them as afterthoughts).

2012 Topps is not a gamechanger because 2011 Topps was a success from what I can gather.  Businesses will go to the well until it dries up.  This is why we're seeing rehashes of the diamond parallel and a similar giveaway (with a possible bidding twist) and similarly themed insert sets and set size and pack out configurations.  The base brand Topps set has gone through many epochs, so to speak, of sets that it put out.

1986-1991: 792 card base sets, rack pack inserts, grey card stock, varying designs in which the team name was prominent most years.

1992: a true transition year, white card stock, still 792 card base set, introduction of Topps Gold parallels.

1993-1995: Topps Gold parallels and golden foil were king and defined the product.  1995 Topps had its own twist with Cyberstats parallels.  Few insert sets if at all.  1995 Topps League Leaders was the first non-gold themed insert set.  The beginning of the 2 series offerings.  Set size varied with the smallest being 660 cards and the largest being 825 cards.

1996-2000: Smaller base sets than 792 (as small as 492), many insert sets with the main attraction being star player card reprints through their career with corresponding Finest or Chrome versions ('96=Mantle, '97=Mays, '98=Clemente, '99=Ryan, '00=Aaron)

2001-2005: This is the era that introduced autos and relics as a chase element in the Topps base set. 2001 was the real game changer here, introducing the numbered gold parallel and celebrating the anniversary with reprints and insertions of vintage cards.   All two series offerings with distinct border and design elements, 2005 began the "mirror insert" trade with the Barry Bonds home run cards.  It would expand.

2006-2008: 660 card sets, continued expansion of "mirror inserts" with Mantle, Bonds, Dimaggio, Generation Now.  interesting or wacky gimmicks (Alex Gordon in 2006, Jeter, no sig cards, and Poley Walnuts in 2007, Kazuo Usuki, Sarah Palin Beauty Queen, upside down rookies in 2008), transition to reprints (2006 and 2007 inserts in Walmart rack packs, 2008 Topps Trading Card History insert set)

2009-present: continued practice of 660 card sets distributed in two series, many legends in insert sets, blasters have manufactured patches, three versions of the base set, expansion of parallels and reprint type insert sets, legend shortprint variations are prevalent, the online component grows (toppstown, 3D images, giveaways).

I think that if history holds, Topps will change the focus of the set once the popularity of the elements fades.  Over the last 15 years, reprints and re-imagining of current players on past designs (and past players on current designs) have really taken center stage as what's driving the insert set elements.  Interactivity also seems to be building.  What's the next online element that can be offered to further the collection and collation of the Topps base set?

All in all, it's not an entirely bad thing that 2012 Topps has a similar structure than the previous 2-3 offerings.  As semi-serious, constantly informed collectors, bloggers and such can be easily jaded by elements offered in a base set.  For me, the base set must offer two major aspects: (1) collectability: is the set easily achievable through the purchase of one hobby box and some auxiliary pack purchases and trades? and (2) enjoyment: will I see the contents and like them? Elements that go into enjoyment are front design, information on the card back, reasonable insertion of insert sets (2-3 per pack is too much), the potential for a surprise,etc.

In terms of Topps sets over the years and where 2012 Topps fits in, it looks like there could be some transitional elements that could portend a positive direction for future Topps offerings.  It's difficult to have a game-changer every year.  I would submit that the only ones in the last 25 years were 1992 Topps, 1996 Topps, 2001 Topps, and 2009 Topps.  They each significantly altered how the sets were collected and what to look for in a Topps base set. 

Hopefully, the next gamechanger is soon because the time cycle is almost at hand.   Plus, I would like to rip at least three packs before saying all the concepts are not worth it.  Let's just say the mind will be open.

Aug 20, 2011

Pack Break: 2011 Heritage Blister Pack or is this enough wood for a ski lodge?

Here's another blister pack that allows the card accumulation to continue.  No, seriously, there needs to be some type of group which begins with "cards" and ends with "anonymous".  You know that last scene from the Transformers cartoon pilot episode in which Megatron is sinking into the lava?  I am like that right now except I'm not really burning from the lava, and my lava would be considered pieces of cardboard, foil, chrome of various luminescence properties.  My hand is straining, reaching for some salvation from the piling around me.  I've come up with one solution so far.....800 count boxes as far as the eye can see.

23 Carlos Lee
373 Carlos Gonzalez
74 Hanley Ramirez
257 Scott Kazmir
271 Jeremy Jeffress
458 Ian Kennedy SP-did you know he was 15-4 this year?

334 Tampa Bay Rays-a team card with over half the team being gone from 2010 to 2011.  Spot the incumbent and win a prize.

10 Andrew McCutchen
11 Joe Nathan

109 Ted Lilly
141 Babe's Twilight Years-The Babe has been left to don the uniform of the cellar dwelling Boston Braves of 1935.  He was promised a chance to manage, and it never materialized.  He had one moment of glory with the Braves, a 3 HR game in the Pirates' Forbes Field.  The 1935 Braves were a bad team.  They only had one above average hitter (the former rookie year HR record holder, Wally Berger).  In only 28 games played, Ruth was 2nd on the team in HR.    The pitchers were not good...last in ERA and strikeouts.  One immerorable season was represented by Ben Cantwell, 4-25 with 4.61 ERA with 44 BB vs. 34 K, and he probably was the 2nd best pitcher on the team.  Not a team that a legend is generally associated with.  An interesting depiction on cardboard nonetheless.

188 Freddy Sanchez
331 Mike Leake
New Age Performers Jim Thome-it's an insert.....that's not chrome....of a 600 HR club member

65 Robinson Cano
79 Jordan Zimmermann
396 Carlos Gonzalez AS
288 Mike Stanton-a giant image for a giant rookie trophy

177 JA Happ
180 Jim Thome
49 Jordan Brown
355 Brian Matusz
89 Jake Peavy
105 Max Scherzer
146 Placido Polanco
344 Fernando Salas-I just wanted to show how weird the concept is to have two rookie card designations.

71 Jonathan Sanchez

And the reason to buy Heritage in this form, the black-bordered parallels, with the recounting of the sale of a legend.
C37 Corey Hart
C4 Miguel Cabrera
C28 Babe Joins Yanks

Aug 11, 2011

1952 Topps and 2011 Topps Lineage: Why the Disconnect?

This is the only 1952 Topps card I own.  I was a closet Cleveland supporter in the 1980s and 1990s (mostly because of the Major League movies) and so I was able to find a card of the 1953 AL MVP for $5.00 at a card show when I was 12.  I think that was one of the first major goals I accomplished as a collector.

All collectors and aficionados have seen this design.  It's a 1952 Topps design.  This is the original, slightly bigger than 2.5"x3.5" card that defined what a modern trading card should have.    It was the first modern (post-1947) trading card to have a team logo on the front of the card.  It tied with 1952 Bowman for presenting the often-used facsimile autograph.  It also was the most comprehensive set to date, being the first to surpass 400 cards in number.  There was also one other first, showing a line of past year and lifetime stats on the rear of the card. 

That's why the choices for 2011 Topps Lineage are curious.  The tagline of the set is to celebrate (to paraphrase) 60 years of the Topps lineage of products.  The base card of the set does not reflect that at all.  It is curious that there are no stats on the back because that was what helped to up the ante in the mid-1950s trading card battles.  The lineage should easily be reflected in design elements of the base card.  Include the team logo, facsimile autograph, a pennant of some kind ( like 1965, 1974, 1977, 1980).  Include subset cards that harken back to the ideas that made the Topps base sets of the past memorable.  Instead of doing it Heritage-style with exact copies; use all-star designations, rookie cups (already used and appreciated), record breakers, past MVP cards, team cards, team USA cards, draft pick cards, and multi-player prospect cards in a "lineage type" manner.

For example, there have been a lot of changes in MLB since 1952 with team names and team locations.  Cards highlighting the changes in an homage to past team set designs could be cool-looking.  Imagine a Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics team card or a Browns/Orioles team card. 

Another idea could have been a highlighting of the all-time lineups of teams during the Topps era, or better yet all-star team by decades of the Topps "star designation" cards (1 and divisible by 100) throughout the years.

Another idea could have been a repeat of the past #1 draft picks subset from 1985 Topps, except this time expand the concept beyond #1 picks to value picks or best picks or surprising picks.

The highlighting of past gimmicks is interesting, and seeing a 1975 Topps design never fails to illicit a positive response from me.  Besides reprints (in 2011 Topps) and rehashes, insert sets could be of the subsets mentioned above or even of altogether new ideas that harken  to the looking back theme.  They've covered a lot of this material in 2010 and 2011 Topps sets; however, there is more to glean.  Have a Stadium Club quality insert or 1993 Finest designed insert or Topps Gallery redeemable prints inserted one every couple cases.  The autos' concept I wouldn't change; I just like it.

The possibilities are endless, and they do have to be limited to fit in a hobby box without an inundation of concepts.  So why not just pick the ones that look the best and give homage to the Topps brand?  For a set called Topps Lineage, it just would have been nice to have a facsimile autograph on the front and two lines of stats on the back. 

Aug 8, 2011

These Were the Breaks of Winter: Community Gum and Fleer

There are only two truisms that are relevant for all walks of life:

1. Don't walk in the same rhythm as the music you're listening to.
2. A scanner and a blogger have an estranged, conflicted relationship.

Everything else is just details.

This was a group break from long ago from the gentleman at Community Gum when they decided to venture into what many collectors have dubbed "The Dead Zone".  For many, this was the period after high school, before nostalgia, and after too much money being spent on late night billiards and road trips through unexplored towns.  My "Dead Zone" was intermittent from 1999-2007 with some much needed breaths in 2001.  Luckily, one of the sets I had pursued was in the group break, 2001 Fleer Platinum RC.   So I joined the plunge into the foray of Fleer and feasted upon the decidedly unformidably filling filet of Phillies (the Phillies were a bad team then; the most exciting player was Bobby Abreu for awhile. What does that say?  He never ever smiled.)

And here he is, the most exciting player until Jim Thome came along.  These guys definitely disagree about the Thome thing.  This Abreu card was from a set named after Ted Williams's nickname.
This is an interesting card. It's a photocopy of the boxscore from Mike Schmidt's first game in 1972.  Some surprising names from this "classic clipping"
Unfortunately, Eric Junge's ticket was not "Authentix" enough and expired by 2003.  He was a part of the very unfruitful Curt Schilling tree of trades, coming over to the organization for Omar Daal in 2001.
Jim Thome led the league in home runs in 2003.  I'm not sure why the card had a price of 50 cents.  A clipping of recent vintage, it is.
Kevin Millwood was the embodiment of the hopes for the 2003 team to break out of the shackles of the Vet.  Instead, he was a decent pitcher with an ace's expectations.  His release from the majors happened on August 6, 2011.  Every Avant base card had a "congratulations" message on the back like all the relic cards.
Pat Burrell was the most enigmatic of those early 2000s Phillies, great one year (2002), awful the next (2003).  He bent over more inside pitches over the plate that I can remember, but he was always ready to hit a home run off Armando Benitez.  This was the base card of Classic Clippings.
Jimmy Rollins at this time was a young speedster who struck out a lot.  I remember he trained with Tony Gwynn in a couple offseasons and cut his strikeouts to a more acceptable level.    here;s the Fleer Platinum RC.  Remind you of anything?  Heritage...Fleer-style.
Here's a Fleer Mystique card of Scott Rolen.    Cards with coverings on them confused me for a long time.  My first exposure to that was 1996 Topps Mystery Finest insert.  I just thought it was a blank front card for years.
This is Chase Utley in a very nice 2003 Showcase card.  The mark of the Flair/Showcase line was always the dual image front.

It was a fun group break to watch the contents be revealed.  Until next time, having different playlists for walking and running around is my advice.