Jan 31, 2012

One Hobby Aspect I Miss: Hot Packs (not the ones for my lower back)

As an aside, I would just like to say that I would probably deface the rally squirrel card as a Phillies fan if I were to acquire it in a pack, but I would have to settle for scanning it and defacing the scan since it's selling for so much right now...

The mid-'90s was a crazy time for collecting.  It was an utter explosion of inserts and foily designs and the beginnings of the chrome-volution.  Before there were "hits" and variation gimmicks inserted into packs, there had to be other carrots to get collectors to bite.  In 1994 and 1995, saw the rise of the hot pack.

There's a similar concept today en vogue with the inclusion of hot boxes of certain products. Have you noticed, though, that these have typically been unlicensed products such as Donruss/Panini Elite Extra Edition and Tristar Obak? I don't believe Topps subscribes to the deliberately inserted hot box theory, though there definitely is some variation out there in terms of box to box content.

The hot pack harkens back to the days when it was easier to find individual packs and easier to locate hobby shops (or as I called them baseball card stores). You bought a pack and hoped to find the insert of the moment or the rookie of the year. How many 1993 Mike Piazzas did I pull without caring that it wasn't his "official" rookie? How many Ken Griffey and Cal Ripken, Juniors were pulled at the height of their popularity at that time? Is that a 1:36 pack insert?

In my memory, there were two types of hot packs: 1) the entire insert set hot pack and 2) the random assortment of inserts hot pack. The first type was best represented by 1994-1995 Leaf Hockey. The second type was best represented by 1995 Fleer Baseball.

1994-95 Leaf hockey put in their hot packs insert sets like "Crease Control", a fairly common set. The thing that struck me is that somehow is that there was a hobby shop near me that sold nothing but hot packs of Leaf that year. I don't know how they knew! But it never failed; they even advertised them as such (I remember them being $9.99 each).

The 1995 Fleer I have fond memories of because I actually pulled one in a random pack one time. It was 12 cards of insert goodness. The best part was that 6 of the inserts were from the rarest of the hobby insert, Team Leaders, normally inserted one in 24 packs. For a long time, the Griffey/Johnson was my highest "booking" card. It was a thrill because it was completely out of the ordinary and made sure that it would be a memorable experience. (I'm still looking to complete this insert set, by the way...then my mastery of 1995 Fleer will be complete, but that's a different story).

 I would love to see a mini hot pack or a relic hot box or something similar at some point.  How does a pack of nothing but refractors sound? Is this what Topps has been doing with these crazy short prints? Trying to create a memorable pack-opening experience or are there other motives? At least it will give a boost to that collector's bottom line this week....

Jan 25, 2012

2012 Topps: Preview of the "Continuity Program Insert"

Note: Just set up a Twitter account for those who do that type of thing...follow me at @drauer...it basically will be links to what I write here.

You know what that sound is? It's the sound of the 2012 baseball card season crashing down upon your ears. Remember the rushing around of December and the doldrums of January? Well, those are now over to be replaced by the deluge of 2012 cards, highlighting the achievements of the 2011 season. Then, we can also chase a new crop of rookies that doesn't include Bryce Harper...until his major league debut, when we can get cards with his rookie card logo on them...and then we can get non-prospect Bryce Harper rookies all over again.

I am excited, I am giddy, hey, look is that a wrapper tornado? I am not one to get all righteous about gimmickry and strange ideas, for the introduction of Topps series 1 is a rite of spring...it is the fledgling series, the gateway into the immersion of card piles, the step-up to the challenge matrix...(though I will say that the Pujols and Reyes cards are about the same level of annoying as those "Abe Lincoln variations" from 2010 Topps or any variation from Heritage lately, what will distinguish them besides the photo and will the wrong one end up in a quarter bin some day?)

One of the interesting pieces to the "flagship" Topps brand has been the insert that goes on forever or the continuity insert through all 3 series, which tend to be in a style different than the rest of the inserts. 2009 and 2010 had Turkey Red and 2011 had Kimball Champion Minis. This year there are 1987 Topps minis, which are a whole other different size mini than the mini we're used to. In other words, I'm not sure about these fitting into the 15 pocket pages, but we'll see. Shown below is what they would look like if they cribbed all the features of the original.

Notice the simplicity of the front: wood border, cloud inner border,player superimposed over ghosted background,  player name in capital letters, Topps logo.  Easy enough to duplicate, right?  The Phillies will not be sporting these uniforms in this year's version though.
On the back, there's the team logo, the previous year's stat line, a lifetime stat line, and a huge amount of space to state Major League Leaders in a whirling dervish of a font.

There will be 150 cards like this scattered throughout the flagship series.  I have mixed feelings, depending on the size, checklist, and overall feel of the cards once I get them in hand.  Let's hope it's not on foilboard.

Mini rant: 50 hobby wrappers or 14 jumbo wrappers for the Gold Rush program?! I'm going to need to purchase wrappers now if I want a 5 card pack.  I ordered a jumbo box this year (which has 10), who buys 4 individual jumbo packs?  So if you do, I will trade for the wrappers. Gah (end mini rant)

 One week to go, then the rites of spring begin....Topps series 1 is the harbinger....ready the heraldry.

Jan 22, 2012

2012: Finally Coming Back for More

Did you miss me from my year-long mini-hiatus? It sure felt like I was away, but I wasn't....I was just buried under the avalanche of cards I never organize or scan.   Also, the cereal mountain in my living room didn't help. Here are the resolutions for the 2012, both collecting and blogging-style.

Collection Goals
I'm going to go against the grain and say that I don't want to focus anymore.  I want to eclecticize....if that's a word.  What does this mean?  Well, there's really two aspects to my current collection: the team collection aspect (represented by the many, many Phillies cards) and the set collection aspect (represented by all those sets that I've been collecting since I first began this semi-obsession).  I do want to continue those. 

Phillies goals: Finish 1970-1986, 2011, 1961, and 1962 teams sets
Set Goals: Finish 2011 A&G, 2011 Gypsy Queen, one or more of the Bowmans, and pick up any others
New Set Goals: 2012 Topps and A&G will be the focus
Eclecticization:  Start going after the interesting products that are in the price range, but don't give many cards or any at all such as the stuff like Pete Rose Legacy, Onyx signed ball stuff, maybe a cut signature product. Find singles that pop in the hand and will be an awe-inspiring centerpiece for a display collection.  Begin the process of collecting Phillies stars from the '50s.

This could serve until I find what satisfies the overwhelming urge to browse through cards and purchase them at the latest enticing special.

Blogging Goals: This one is simple...do more.  Three times a week should be a minimum just to get this blog on the roll again...I need to stop starting posts and not finishing them...maybe if I finished the posts before I start them, then I'd understand where I was going with them.   Then, there's other stuff....answer all e-mails within a week...this is tough for me since I'm a compulsive non-answerer, but I will do better.  I will also send out trade packages much sooner than I have been...they tend to sit on my bookshelf all ready to go for months...I must get over this fear of the post office.  Lastly, and most importantly, I will never use cards as an excuse to not go snorkeling...this one is resolute.

Anybody have anything else they'd like to see me finish that I've started over the almost 3 years I've been doing this?  I will continue periodically with the Junior High Countdown for sure, also the 20 game loser list, I may be HOFed out at this point.   I'm willing to take suggestions for expanding content or bringing back content I may have forgotten I used to write.   Happy 2012....a month late...isn't that just typical of me?

Jan 21, 2012

Winter Pack Breaks: 3 packs of 2011-12 Upper Deck.....Hockey?

Has there ever been a time when you need to rip apart some foil wrappers and all there is sets you don't want to see anymore.   Enter Upper Deck hockey.....hockey card enthusiasts swear by it because of the Young Gun cards and there were quite a few Flyers in the checklist.  I am a huge hockey fan, and would collect hockey cards, if I weren't so wrapped up in the baseball world...it's hard enough to keep up as it is.  This set looked a lot like 2008 Upper Deck, which was a pretty classic design, so I folded like a paper airplane.   Here are the 3 packs I ended up with.....the search for Young Guns is on.

Pack 1
2-Patrice Cormier-Jets
51-Matt Cooke-Penguins
151-RJ Umberger-Blue Jackets
13-Henrik Sedin-Canucks-The 2010 MVP in a moment of celebration.

199-Checklist with Canucks
28-Martin St. Louis-Lightning: The 2004 MVP and reigning Lady Byng award winner still surprisingly going strong.   I had no idea he'd been averaging over a point per game these past five seasons.

178-Mark Giordano-Flames
53-Shane Doan-Coyotes-The last remaining original Winnipeg Jet recently scored his 300th goal with the franchise.

Pack 2
110-Guillaume Latendresse-Wild
177-Anton Babchuk-Flames:  He looks angry.  The card design really expresses emotions of the player's face well.

89-Travis Zajac-Devils
141-Kari Lehtonen-Stars
31-Steve Downie-Lightning:  See what I mean?  He looks pretty stoked...doing the classic fist pump after scoring, though not as classic as leaping into the boards...

76-Ryan Callahan-Rangers
200-Checklist with Bruins
174-Miikka Kiprusoff-Flames:  Check out the outside venue...this wasn't the Winter Classic...any idea what else this could be?

Pack 3
93-Patric Hornqvist-Predators
15-Roberto Luongo-Canucks
29-Dwayne Roloson-Lightning
186-Jason Pominville-Sabres: Flyer sighting in the background!  Still an awesome card though the result is not what I had in mind

32-Jaroslav Halak-Blues-Goalie cards are the best....this guy led one of the 8 over 1 upsets in the playoffs recently as the Canadiens goalie.

136-Niklas Kronwall-Red Wings
94-Ryan Suter-Predators
C120-Young Guns Checklist Canvas Parallel: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Sean Coutourier/Brett Connolly:  Young Gun! Three on one card even....These canvas parallels are like the recent Masterpiece sets in texture.  The parallel of a Young Gun as a canvas falls 1:48 packs.  For those not in the know,  Nugent-Hopkins was the first pick in the draft.  Also, Coutourier is playing well for the Flyers.  This card is a winner.

Doesn't it seem like there's more action on hockey cards when done right?  I'm still not converted, but it sure was a fun winter diversion.