Pack Busting: 2012 Bowman (Jumbo Retail Pack)

You may remember last week I posted a tale of eBay woe, involving the purchase of a 2012 Bowman Jumbo pack with a ‘guaranteed’ hit that wasn’t quite what it seemed. Read the original story here and the follow-up here.

Well, the pack in question finally arrived on Wednesday of this week and I promised that I’d share it’s contents with you guys…

2012 Bowman Jumbo Retail Pack

The pack is broken down into 10 cards in the top section and 10 in the lower (see the picture above), and here’s how the cards came out…

Upper Section

Ryan Braun (Brewers)

2012 Bowman Ryan Braun base

Josh Beckett (Red Sox)

Ike Davis (Mets)

Tom Milone RC – Gold Bordered Parallel (A’s)

Emilio King – Prospect (Astros)

Dayan Diaz – Prospect (Astros)

Danny Barnes – Prospect (Blue Jays)

Josh Bowman – Prospect (A’s)

Martin Prado (Braves)

Brian Wilson (Giants)

2012 Bowman Brian Wilson base

Lower Section

Albert Pujols (Angels)

2012 Bowman Albert Pujols base

J.J Hardy (O’s)

Allen Craig (Cardinals)

Chris Carpenter (Cardinals)

Casey Haerther – Chrome Prospect (Angels)

Gerrit Cole – Chrome Prospect (Pirates)

2012 Bowman Gerrit Cole Chrome Prospect

Andrelton Simmons – Chrome Prospect (Braves)

Devon Ethier – Chrome Prospect (Dodgers)

Matt Dominguez  RC (Marlins)

Jhonny Peralta (Tigers)

So… Very happy overall with this pack!! Especially as it was free!

Some nice base with the likes of Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and the bearded Brian Wilson (love that guy!!), and some nice looking Chrome, especially the Gerrit Cole that I was after!

This years Bowman has so far been one of my favourite sets of 2012. I’ve always been a sucker for rookie cards but I couldn’t quite understand why I was really drawn to the 2012 set so much… And then it hit me!! It was the white borders!!

Now, I might be wrong about this but I believe that this is the first Bowman set since 1997 where the borders of the cards weren’t black. Black borders always lead to heightened condition sensitivity and sometimes lend the cards a dark, drab look. But the white borders on this years release, coupled with some really sharp photography, makes for a set of really attractive cards!

I’ll do a review of all the years releases sometime in late December, but I was wondering what your favourite set has been so far this year!

While you put some thought into that, I’m off to start cultivating a beard like a certain Giants closer!!

For Better Or For Worse…

Yesterday I was mulling over my next blog post and I was considering writing a short piece on the exclusive deal that Topps has with Major League Baseball and its effect on The Hobby.

For those of you who didn’t know (because you’ve probably been living under a rock, or something), back in August of 2009 MLB announced an exclusive licensing arrangement with The Topps Company in an effort to “streamline and stimulate the trading-card market”.

The exclusive deal went into effect on 1st January 2010 and is due to end (at least at the time of this writing) on 1st January 2014. According to their contract with MLB, Topps is allowed to produce up to 17 different Major League releases, with products retailing for under $1/pack (Opening Day, Attax, and Stickers) being exempt. They are also obligated to produce two Minor League products.

At the time when this news broke I wasn’t collecting, but I still closely followed The Hobby and a revelation like this was hard to miss. I remember thinking, along with pretty much everyone else, that giving a deal like this to Topps could only be a bad thing for Baseball card collectors, most likely resulting in a drop in standards and quality of the card products.

Now, over three years on from the original announcement, the dust has had plenty of time to settle and perhaps we can now re-examine where things stand for Baseball card collectors and their relationship with Topps and their products.

But… rather than me sprouting off some ill-educated drivel I thought I’d revisit the thoughts of Chris Harris over at his blog Stale Gum who wrote a piece called ‘Some thoughts on the Topps/MLB license deal’ back when the original news broke.

In his article Chris makes several solid points in favour of the deal, pointing out that Topps had been given a unique opportunity to re-invent and restructure the Baseball card market for the better.

I thought it would be fun to revisit the points that Chris made three years ago, to see where things stand today… So here goes…

1. Fewer brands — Four years ago when there were four licensees, The Hobby was drowning in a sea of 89 different baseball card releases. So MLB and the PA did what was best for The Hobby by 1) letting Fleer die; 2) kicking Donruss out; and 3) limiting the two remaining card companies to 20 — later lowered to 17 — releases each.

Four years later, and 34 brands is still too much; and to be honest, Topps and Upper Deck just aren’t up to producing that many quality products. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at some of the stinkers Topps and Upper Deck have released in recent years: UDx, Documentary, Moments & Milestones, and Stadium Club — products whose sole reason for being, it seemed, was to fill out their respective company’s 17-brand quota.

— I guess that this was pretty much a given really. Collectors had been criticizing card companies for years for the amount of product that they were producing, most of which was often dubious in terms of quality and content. The exclusive license for Topps did exactly what MLB intended in terms of streamlining The Hobby market, although whether the market was stimulated or not is possibly still open to debate

2. The end of the gimmick card — With exclusivity, the days of the gimmick card should be over. There is no need for Topps to print cards of squirrels, print cards upside down, or stealth short-prints that compromise the integrity of the base set.

2012 Topps Series 1 Skip Schumaker ‘Rally Squirrel’ SP

— Mmmm… OK then Topps… Explain this one away. The more things change the more, I guess, they stay the same. Who’d have thought that Chris’ prophetic words of three years ago would see the release of another Topps card with a squirrel on. And it was bloody short-printed. And it still fetches between $45 and $60 on eBay!!! SP cards are here to stay people and, love ’em or hate ’em, form the backbone of several Topps Baseball sets each year, particularly the retro themed sets like Heritage and Allen & Ginter, alongside the main Topps base set (although they tend to be variants in the main Topps set rather than rarer base cards). If done carefully, and in moderation, I firmly believe that SP cards have their place in The Hobby and can provide a welcome challenge for set builders

3. Reinventing Bowman — The last couple of years, Bowman Baseball has been a brand that has lost its way. Yes, the “ROOKIE CARD” rules that went into effect in 2006 have taken a bite out of Bowman, but much of the decline of Bowman has been self-inflicted. This is a golden opportunity to reinvent Bowman. Instead of three Bowman sets (Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and BDP&P), consolidate them a single, late-season, brand.

— Amen to this!! As a fan of Rookie cards I really wish Topps would scale back their releases and produce one ‘mega’ Bowman set that goes out each year after the World Series. That way you can ensure that they catch ALL the rookies for that particular year and beef up the autographed rookie selection as well. Keep the prospect cards, by all means, but just put them in one larger product that makes life so much easier for rookie and prospect collectors

4. Marketing The Hobby to older collectors — For years the mantra has been, “We must get kids into The Hobby.” And for years, The Hobby responded by making “kid-friendly” products: Triple Play, Fun Pack, Topps Kids, UD PowerUp, UDx, et al. There’s just one problem with that though. Speaking as a former child, I know from experience that most children hate being pandered to. Kids want “grown-up” stuff and grown-up trading cards are no exception.

How about this: Instead of marketing baseball cards to kids, how about selling them to adults? Back in the early-90s, you couldn’t watch a hockey game without seeing an ad for Upper Deck Hockey cards. Why not try the same now? Why not place Topps banners on outfield walls? Why not run thirty-second ads during games? How about ads in Sports Illustrated or ESPN: The Magazine?

Oh sure, Michael Eisner is saying the right thing about kids. But in order for The Hobby to grow, Topps needs to re-focus it’s efforts towards adults. Market to them. Educate them. Sell to them. It not that The Hobby should abandon kids, per se; but market to their older brothers and dads. (And yes, their sisters and moms, too).

— Difficult one for me to call here as living the UK makes us pretty much removed from everything that happens back in the US. We don’t get to go to card shows or frequent card stores (at least any of the few that seem to still be open, anyways) so if there’s someone out there – in the US or Canada – that might be best placed to comment on this then lets hear from you 🙂

5. A more down-market Hobby –Topps does not do “high-end” well. So why bother with it anymore? Now that they have exclusivity, is there any reason for Triple Threads or Sterling Baseball? I doubt most collectors would miss it anyway.

— Couldn’t agree more!! I’ve already mentioned my disdain for hi-end card releases in a previous post so I won’t labour the point here. However, given the fervour that met the most recent release of Triple Threads only last week, it appears that there is still a thriving market for hi-end releases, with collectors frantically searching for the one, big ‘hit’ that will make their collecting dreams come true!!

So there you have it… As I mentioned in my comments against Chris’ fourth point, as UK collectors we’re pretty much removed from the epicentre of the Baseball collecting world over in the US, and as a result I don’t feel that we’ve been greatly affected by the exclusive Topps/MLB license agreement.  As far as I see it, Topps has continued to produce popular quality card releases aver the last few years and we still use channels such as eBay or COMC to collect what we want, when we want it, falling foul of shipping costs and import taxes along the way.

And we still do it because we love The Hobby so much!!

I’d really love to hear from anyone over in the US or Canada to get your take on how The Hobby is thriving (or not) over in your neck of the woods!!

And thanks to Chris Harris for all of his thoughts, those many years ago…

p.s. Contrary to how it might read above, I really do love that Rally Squirrel short print!!

Pack Busting: 1988 Topps

OK… Time to bust open some more Wax!!

These two packs of 1988 Topps Baseball come courtesy of my blog partner, Mr Mark Pidgeon… So thanks for these matey!!

1988 Topps is a very basic card with a very basic design. We get a white border, full colour photo of the player, the team name splashed across the top and the player’s name running diagonally in the bottom right-hand corner… I’ve got to admit – NOT the most inspiring of designs!!

The packs broke down as follows…

Pack 1

Jim Deshaies (Astros)
Chuck Tanner – Manager (Braves)
Don Slaught (Rangers)
Leon Durham (Cubs)
Doug Sisk (Mets)
Steve Lake (Cardinals)
Harold Reynolds (Mariners)
Pedro Guerrero (Dodgers)
Don Aase (Orioles)
Eddie Williams (Indians)
Bob Melvin (Giants)
Dennis Rasmussen (Reds)
Joe Boever (Braves)
Jose Uribe (Giants)
Fred Toliver (Phillies)

Pack 2

Bill Almon (Mets)
Paul Kilgus (Rangers)
Tony Gwynn (Padres)

1988 Topps Tony Gwynn base

Joe Sambito (Red Sox)
Mike Mason (Cubs)
Dave Schmidt (Orioles)
Ted Simmons (Braves)
Mike Schmidt (Phillies)

1988 Topps Mike Schmidt base

Tommy John (Yankees)
Mark McGwire (Athletics)
Pascual Perez (Expos)
Scott Bailes (Indians)
Mark McGwire (’87 Record Breakers – Insert)
Steve Trout (Yankees)
Jim Acker (Braves)

So, although the contents of the first pack didn’t jump straight out at me, having the welcome presence of two Hall of Famers in Tony Gwynn and Mike Schmidt was a nice treat!

And lets not forget that the second pack also yielded not one but two cards from potential Hall of Famer, Mark McGwire… Although lets face it, the chances of this disgraced, ex-steroid-abusing, son of a retired dentist ever making it into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown are pretty remote at this point in time!

Since his retirement in 2001, and subsequent Hall of Fame eligibility from the 2007 ballot onwards, McGwire has received far below the number of votes required from the Baseball Writers Association of America to gain entry into the Hall.  Check out the total votes cast below –

Year          Votes          Percentage

2007          128                23.5%

2008          128                23.5%

2009          118                21.9%

2010          128                23.5%

2011           115                19.8%

2012           112                19.5%

However, my favourite card from the two packs was of this guy…

1988 Topps Tommy John base

Through his 26 year Baseball career, with no less than six different teams, Tommy John’s 288 career victories ranks as the seventh highest total among left-handed pitchers in Major League history. Although he never made it into the Hall of Fame, Tommy John does have the unusual distinction of having a revolutionary surgery named after him…

Tommy John Surgery, known in the medical world as Ulnar Collatarel Ligament (UCLreconstruction, is a surgical graft procedure in which a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body (often from the forearm, hamstring, hip, knee, or foot of the patient). The procedure is common among collegiate and professional athletes in several sports, most notably Baseball.

A number of high profile pitchers have undergone this procedure, including Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals, Brian Wilson of the Giants, and most recently, young phenom Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals.

So there you go… All that from just two packs of 24 year old packs of Baseball cards!!

’42’ – The Official Trailer

Although this is not a post about Baseball cards in any way, shape or form, I figured that this was far too important to pass up…

Check out this trailer for Brian Helgeland’s new film 42, the story of how Jackie Robinson broke down the colour barrier in Baseball in the late 40’s.

With Chadwick Boseman in the lead role and with Harrison Ford playing Dodgers GM, Branch Rickey, this looks absolutely awesome, powerful stuff!!

Card of the Day: 2012 Topps Museum Andrew McCutchen Signature Swatches #’d 07/25

A few months ago I decided to start a collection of Andrew McCutchen cards… It seemed an odd choice at the time as I’m not really a die-hard Pirates fan (although I’ve always had a soft spot for them), but I became aware of McCutchen (or ‘Cutch’) and his skills a couple of years ago through playing Yahoo’s Fantasy Baseball, and he’s relatively cheap(er) to collect than some of the other 5-tool players in the game like Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun.

Here’s a great article published in July on The Bleacher Report that sums up McCutchen’s value as one of the most underrated talents playing in the Majors today! Give it a read – it’s a great introduction to one of the best players that no-one’s every heard of.

Anyway, back to the business in hand…

I decided I wanted to start my collection of with a bang and I ended up getting this beauty off eBay for just over £28 ($45 USD) and a few extra pennies for postage –

2012 Topps Museum Andrew McCutchen Signature Swatches

I don’t normally pay this much for individual cards, in fact I’ve only ever paid over this amount for a couple of vintage rookies in the past, but this was too good a chance to pass up… And I figured it would form an awesome centrepiece to my new ‘Cutch’ collection!!

As you can see it’s an autographed, dual jersey with a 3-colour patch and serially #’d/25!! A true beauty to behold when you get your hands on it!! And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these cards before but they’re THICK!! At least 5mm!! A huge chunk of a card!

This was the first time I had owned a card with such a low print run, and it was mine for about a month before I started to fully appreciate how gigantic and never-ending an undertaking it was going to be to try and collect an individual player – especially for a completist freak like myself! 🙂

July saw the release of Allen & Ginter and my attention shifted to the mini inserts in this, and the previous, Ginter sets.

I decided to list my ‘Cutch’ card on eBay with a chancers price of £63.99 (around $100 USD at the time) figuring if anyone wanted it badly enough they have to pay top dollar… It sold within 5 days to a buyer in the Far East!

So that was that! One day I’ll probably regret selling it but I managed to double my money, so every cloud (and all that)!

2013 Topps Heritage Baseball Preview

And here comes preview no.3!!

This week Topps has published the details of next years Topps Heritage release, based upon the classic 1964 Topps design!!

While the ’64 Topps set isn’t necessarily my favourite vintage design the make-up of this set is beyond reproach!! It’s absolutely loaded with stuff for any type of collector…

The autographs look fantastic (and seeded at a higher rate), the relics have a nice retro feel and the set also includes mini parallels!!

If you didn’t quite catch that, I said MINI PARALLELS!! For the first time ever in a Heritage set!!

As always you can click here to take you to the official Topps sell sheet!!

This one I’m excited about!!

Pack Busting: 1989 Topps

This is my first post as part of the Wax Fantastic and what better way than to bust some vintage cards! Don’t eat the gum on this one!

Each pack contains 15 cards and one stick of bubblegum and in 1989 packs could also win a trip to spring training! Very cool, this set also contained some pretty good insert sets from the early days of inserts which were a relatively new addition to card collecting.

The first card I pulled was a Cub too so that’s a good start. The cards I pulled from this pack were as follows:

Les Lancaster Chicago Cubs

Vance Law Chicago Cubs (two cubbies in a row!)

Kevin Coffman Braves (but moved to the Cubs in 1989 Three cubs!)

Jay Bell Indians

Mike Marshall Dodgers

Dennis Rasmussen Padres

Glenn Braggs Brewers

Chris Bosio Brewers

Gary Thurman Royals

Dave LaPoint Pirates

Dennis Eckersley Athlethics  (former Cub so I’m counting him as a Cubbie)

John Morris Cardinals

Richard Dotson Yankees

Astros Leaders

All Star American League Card Kirby Puckett (who is from Chicago but never played for the Cubs)

I’m going to include the picture of the Kirby card just because the all star set is a fantastic addition to this set and Kirby had a hell of a year in ’89 getting his first and only batting title.

I love the card design on this set with the team logo in a cool jersey style banner in the bottom right corner and crisp clean borders on most of the base cards; the photography is spot on this year and has some great action shots.

I would have liked to pull the Pete Rose from this set as that photo is my favourite of Rose in that era.

All the none Cubs cards are up for trade if anyone is interested.