Mr Movember

Today is November 30th and the last day of Movember for 2012!

In order to commemorate this event, and to congratulate all you gents who managed to grow and maintain your mo for the whole of the month, he’s a special tribute to some of the best mo’s in Baseball!!

Luis Tiant
Randy Johnson
Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter
Don Mattingly
Reggie Jackson
Cap Anson
Bill Buckner

And not forgetting the greatest mo of them all…

Rollie Fingers

‘Gibson-Quest’ – 1975

Earlier this month I outlined my plans to collect every Bob Gibson Topps base card all the way from his rookie in 1959 and ending with his final year card in 1975.

You can read the article here if you missed it the first time.

Well, the first card in this ‘mini-collection’ arrived today and it’s a beauty…

1975 Topps Bob Gibson #150 (Front)
1975 Topps Bob Gibson #150 (Back)

Very happy with this one as I’m a big fan of the 1975 set!! Gotta love those coloured borders… They’re so… well… 70’s, I guess!!

The card is nice and sharp on the front with good colours and (more importantly) good centering! Centering is off on the back but nothing that I’m even slightly worried about!

Over all a nice clean card and a great start to the collection!

More ‘Gibby’ cards to follow soon!!!

#GibsonQuest

Dr. Waxlove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Vintage

You know sometimes I really despair!

I’d love to be a player collector! I really would!

Despite being a Cardinals fan I’ve always harboured a desire to collect Andrew McCutchen cards. I just think he’s a great player and incredibly undervalued in the card market. Pirates to win the World Series within the next five years… You mark my words 🙂

However, the problem is where do you bloody start? Unless you make some kind of zen-like peace with yourself and the universe that player collecting is an infinite and something of a thankless task then you’ll forever be tormented with the idea that you’ll never ever achieve your ultimate goal! Sure you  can set yourself boundaries of the types of cards you can get but (if you’re anything like me) then that’ll never be enough – there’s always one extra autograph to get hold of, always one extra serially numbered refractor #’d/25… and so it goes on!

The problem is is that there are far too many cards out there that putting together a complete collection of a single player IS impossible, no matter how many ways you look at it. And one of the reasons for this? Too many bloody parallels!!

Just looking at the 2013 Topps release – along with the base cards there are the following parallels –

Gold: Sequentially numbered to 2013
Black: Sequentially numbered to 62
Pink: Sequentially numbered to 50
Platinum: Numbered 1/1
Emerald: Inserted 1:6
Desert Camo Foil: Sequentially numbered to 99
Base Card Printing Plates: 1,320 printing plates from all of the base cards. Numbered 1/1
Silk Collection: 100 framed mini silk cards

That’s a LOT of parallels!! Do we really need THAT many parallels? Honestly?!?!

Then you get into all the other releases throughout the year, with all their parallels (and don’t get me going on all those refractors in Topps Chrome and Topps Finest each year) and you’re approaching well over 100 parallels of the base cards alone!

And that’s before you even start on any inserts (which also have their own parallels and sequentially numbered versions)…

— Sigh —

Who the hell would ever want to collect a single player? It’s bad for you health, I tell you!!

So where does that leave us??

Vintage… That’s where it’s at!! It looks as if the only way to go forward in terms of player collecting is to go backwards and hanker for the days when each player had just one base card a year! This can be an incredibly rewarding process!! Not only do you have a finite number of cards to collect but you also get the opportunity to acquire the cards of some of Baseball’s greatest players in the form of existing and future Hall of Famers!

I recently wrote about putting together a set of Bob Gibson Topps base cards from 1959 to 1975. 17 cards in total that I can collect in my own time and at my own pace!! Pure collecting heaven!!

There are hundreds of different ways to approach collecting Vintage cards, whether it’s putting together team sets or chasing the base cards of HOF’ers! It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it, and as long as you can appreciate a bit of wear and tear then you can pick up some real bargains of some beautiful looking cards!!

So why not give it a go, if you don’t already? It’s a nice alternative to chasing that elusive (and no doubt ridiculously expensive) 2012 Bowman Derek Jeter Red Ice Parallel #’d/25! Trust me on that!

#GoVintage

Card of the Day: 2011 Topps Update Kerry Wood

One of my faults (of which I admit there are very few :)) is that I’m ridiculously sentimental!!

Even as a fan of the St Louis Cardinals I couldn’t help but be moved when I saw the footage Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood throwing his last pitch (a strikeout) in the Majors, back on 18th May this year!

When he left the field for the final time he was afforded a huge standing ovation by the fans at Wrigley Field and was met by his young son who ran out onto the field to greet him before he reached the dugout.

Stuff to melt the hardest of hearts!!

Wood was drafted by the Cubs in 1995 and made his MLB debut in 1998. He achieved notoriety in only his fifth career start on 6th May 1998 when he threw a one-hit, no walk shutout while at the same time striking out 20 batters against the Astros, equalling a record set by Roger Clemens for Ks in a nine inning game. That same year he went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

He sat out the whole of the 1999 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and then returned in 2000 where he continued his career with the Cubs until 2008 when, after years of being blighted by a variety of injuries, it was announced that the Cubs would not re-sign him during the off-season.

Wood was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 2008 and was eventually traded to the Yankees in July 2010.

When the Yankees declined to exercise their option for Wood in 2011 he eventually went on to re-sign with the Chicago Cubs where he remained until his final appearance this year.

During his 13 year MLB career Wood visited the DL 16 times. Along with his 20 K haul in 1998 he made two All-Star appearances and is the fastest  pitcher to reach 1000 strikeouts in innings pitches (853) and appearances (134 games).

From his injury-plagued career Wood doesn’t leave just the legacy of his 20 strikeout game, but he also serves (along with his former team mate Mark Prior) as a cautionary tale to other teams as to how they should better handle their young starters early in their careers.

Separated At Birth…? (Part 2)

Earlier this month I published a post where I pointed out the alarming  similarity that I’d spotted between young Giants catcher Buster Posey and UK popster (and holder of the current No.1 spot on the singles chart) Olly Murs.

Well, as distasteful as that unlikely coupling might have been I’ve come across another pairing that’s even more disturbing…

Firstly we have Phillies pitching ace and former two-time Cy Young award winner Mr Roy Halladay, and secondly we have the resident psycho from Season 1 of 24, Ira Gaines, played by Michael Massee.

I’ve included pictures of them both below for you to make up your own mind, but before you all laugh at my lunatic ramblings I just want you to look closely at the eyes… It’s all in the eyes folks!!

— Shudder —

I hope I’ve not given you nightmares, so sweet dreams to you all!!

And before I go I’d like to wish all readers from the US, wherever you are in the world, a happy Thanksgiving for tomorrow!!

24’s Resident Series Psycho, Ira Gaines
2003 and 2010 Cy Young Winner, Roy Halladay

The Wonder of Allen & Ginter

I’ve just been reading over my last few posts and it looks as if I’ve done a far bit of Topps bashing over the last few days!

It wasn’t my intention for all of this anti-Topps rhetoric to spew out at once, it’s just what was on my mind at the time and I got on a bit of a roll.

As a Baseball card collector we’re pretty much stuck with each other, so in an effort to restore the balance I’m going to examine some of the things (in my honest and humble of opinions) that Topps does really well as a card company, starting with a look at one of THE most popular product releases of the year (and a personal favourite of yours truly) – Allen & Ginter!

First released by Topps in 2006, and based upon the cigarette cards released in the 1800’s, these hand-painted cards are a constant annual highlight for card collectors with many buying boxes by the case load to sample the delights on offer.

For some historical context click on this link for an interesting article from Cardboard Connection detailing the highly regarded and sought after 1888 N28 A&G Baseball card set.

Whenever I think about A&G the first thing that comes to mind is variety. Sure you get all the standard stuff – basecards, minis, relics, autos, etc, but what Topps’ A&G also gives you is that something extra. I’d love to know how much time and energy goes into the design of this product, because the beauty of A&G is that it’s one of the most eclectic card releases of the year.

At it’s heart, A&G is about winners – the World’s best! Not just on the Baseball diamond but from other sports or areas of popular culture where individual achievement and success deserves to be recognised and honoured on a 2.5″ x 3.5″ piece of card. However there are two other features that make this product stand head and shoulders above many other Topps Baseball releases – Non-Sports Cards and The Ginter Code!

I’ll go into The Ginter Code another time because that’s a topic that I feel deserves a post all to itself.

It was the Non-Sports cards that I wanted to draw your attention to, in particular the Non-Sports Mini insert sets!

Although I collect Baseball cards I’m not exclusively a Baseball card collector. I’ll collect absolutely anything that catches my eye – so when I first became aware of these Mini insert sets I was on them like white on rice!

Take a look at some of the following images to get an idea of what’s on offer –

2010 A&G World’s Wordsmiths
2011 A&G Uninvited Guests
2010 A&G Lords of Olympus
2010 A&G Sailors of the Seven Seas
2011 A&G Step Right Up
2010 A&G Monsters of the Mesozoic

So whether it’s maritime explorers or famous writers, legends of Greek mythology or odd dishes from around the world there’s absolutely something for everyone with these sets! And they’re pretty easy to get hold of and put together – well some of them are… Just don’t get me started on the 2012 ‘Guys in Hats’ set.

From dinosaurs to world famous haunted houses, and from well-known circus acts to famous faces from The Bible, A&G Mini inserts make collecting fun for those of us who love those little minis yet don’t always want to collect the customary ball player parallels of the base set! And each year I can’t help but marvel at the designs of some of the cards and sets that Topps produce for this release. A lot of time and thought clearly goes into A&G and it shows!! Great stuff!!

SHAMELESS SALES PITCH

I do have a few of these mini sets up for grabs on eBay at the moment for pretty reasonable prices, so if you’re interested in making a start on some of these sets then click on the link below and feel free to take a look

Andy’s eBay Listings

Please note that if you see a listing for an evening dress, it’s the wife’s, NOT mine!!

END OF SHAMELESS SALES PITCH

And Topps, if you’re listening on this one, any chance of doing a set based on the Universal Monsters?? Not sure if you have the rights for these or not but it would make a great set!! I mean, who wouldn’t want to own The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Rookie card? (Although I know technically it won’t be a Rookie card as it won’t have the logo on, but let’s not go there… Yeah? 🙂 )

In fact I’m more than happy for you to DM me as I’ve got loads of ideas for mini sets!!

Go on… You know it makes sense!!

“Whoops” Indeed!!

While glancing over my Twitter timeline yesterday I came across a tweet from Beckett Baseball editor Chris Olds which was just one word – ‘Whoops!’ – with a picture attached. Here’s the picture –

2012 Topps Five Star Quad Patch

Now that is a NICE card!!!

That’s some big mojo of a pull!! Four of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game today!! WOW!!

Clayton Kershaw – Ace pitcher for the Dodgers and a really under-appreciated talent!! Future Cy Young winner? Definitely!!

Stephen Strasburg – What can I say?? Pitcher of the future!! Already a superstar in only his third year in the Majors

Felix Hernandez – Pitcher of one of this years three perfect games! King Felix once more cemented his reputation as the star that he….

Hold on a second… Why is Stephen Strasburg wearing a Roy Halladay mask? And a Phillies uniform?

Oh… dear…

Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear!!

Now I can appreciate that things like this happen during the manufacture of sports cards… But this? In a $500 a pack product?? That’s pretty inexcusable!

I know that certain things can’t really fall under the umbrella of quality assurance, such as the Brett Lawrie autos that I posted about yesterday, but OUCH!! This one’s really gotta hurt!!

It still doesn’t stop Five Star being an awesome to look at product but this sort of error, along with the chipped edges on some of the cards coming out of the packs, is not good for either the collectors that shell out the big money for Five Star Baseball in the first place or the reputation of Topps themselves!

Harry Potter and the Inconsistent Autograph of Brett Lawrie

OK, no need to worry!!

Jo Rowling hasn’t put pen to paper again for an eighth instalment in the adventures of her famous boy wizard. In fact the titular hero doesn’t even appear in the rest of this post… However Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie does!! Several times in fact…

Take a look at these images, all of Brett Lawrie and ALL containing his autograph. I’ve listed them in the order that the products were released, although this might not necessarily be the order that they were signed in…

2011 Bowman Chrome Draft
2012 Gypsy Queen
2012 Tier One
2012 Bowman Platinum
2012 Topps Finest
2012 Topps Chrome
2012 Topps Five Star

I guess you can see where I’m going with this, eh?

I’m a big fan of autographs on Baseball cards. They’re a nice insert to have and usually compliment a product really well!

Now I can appreciate that the life of the modern player is a bit hectic and that there’s not always the time available to put their John Hancock onto several hundred Baseball cards (especially when they’re all being signed as part the same batch) but I can’t remember seeing any player who’s autograph varies as much as Brett Lawrie’s does!!

Don’t Topps have some sort of QA process in place??

There are others out there who seem to have a similar problem in maintaining the quality of their on-card autograph (that’s right Jason Heyward, I’m talking about you), but Brett Lawrie… WOW!!!

I’m a big fan of Brett Lawrie and I firmly believe that he’ll go on to have a great MLB career, particularly with the current Blue Jays line -up post-Marlins trade (shame about the addition of Melky Cabrera though), and he’s been an asset to my Fantasy team for the last two seasons!

But come on Brett m’man!! Lets sort that signature out, OK?? A little bit of consistency (and in some cases readability) would be nice!! 🙂

Save the Rookie Card!

Take a look at this picture of two Brice Harper cards from the recently released Topps Five Star Baseball…

2012 Topps Five Star Baseball – Bryce Harper Base and Auto

On the left we have the base card #’d 46/80 (that’s right – there are only 80 base cards of each player in this set) and on the right we have an autographed card of Bryce Harper #’d 060/150!!

Very nice cards, although both are a little chipped around the edges (don’t get me started!)

So what’s the big deal about these two cards that I should find the need to take up your valuable time?

Well if you look closely enough you’ll see that both cards are designated as Rookie cards!! And the problem with this is that I don’t believe that one of those cards should ever be classed as a Rookie!

The card on the right is an insert!! Surely…? It’s a certified autograph inserted at a completely different rate to the base card and with a completely different design to the base card!! The base card is the true RC… Has to be! Yet Topps sees fit to make them both Rookie cards!

Am I the only one out there that thinks there’s something slightly off with this?!?

The problem that we have here is indicative of how Topps seems to be treating Rookie cards these days… For me Rookie cards have been the driving force behind Baseball cards for years! Inserts of varying different types have arrived on the scene – from Refractors to Game-Used Memorabilia, and from Autographs to Cloth Stickers, and so on, and so on!!! But Rookie cards are still here as well… the only problem is that no-one seems to care any more!!

Sure… Who wouldn’t want to pull a 1/1 Dual Bat Barrel/Bat Knob Autographed Super-Refractor of Hammerin’ Hank? Fantastic!! Wow!!! Lets have a quick look at it… Mmmm, nice… Now into a top loader and bung it on eBay!!!

But weigh up this type of pull against the privilege of owning a 1954 Topps Hank Aaron RC? No contest surely?? We’re talking about owning a piece of history against a random flash-in-the-pan hit from a high-end box of Baseball cards.

The format of the modern Rookie card changed in 2006 when card companies (yes, there were more than one) started to designate official Baseball rookies with the MLB and MLBPA Rookie Card Logo. Under the new rules, a player becomes eligible for their first Rookie card when he first makes the 25-man roster of a MLB team and these guidelines were adopted to clarify any confusion for card collectors and Baseball fans!

Unfortunately the waters were muddied when Topps were still allowed to continue including prospects in their card products, resulting in further confusion as some collectors still see a players first appearance on a Baseball card as their Rookie card, regardless of any logo marking its ‘official’ designation.

I can’t help but feel that Rookie cards seem to be losing some of their potency and popularity. They just don’t carry the same weight as they used to do – which is a crying shame! Rookie cards need to be raised back to greatness once again! The Hobby needs to be seen to be embracing the Rookie card once more as an integral part of collecting! Collectors need to value a player’s Rookie over any potential box or case hit!

So what can we do about it?

Well Topps, if you’re listening, here’s a few ideas…

1. Sort out Bowman!! Too many releases with Bowman, Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft. Consolidate all these into one BIG release after the season ends.

2. Get rid of the Prospects. While it’s nice to see future stars appearing on cards before they hit the Majors, all Prospect cards do is add confusion and clutter to an already confusing Rookie card market. This will remove any doubt as to which card is a players true Rookie card as it will appear in the same year as they make their MLB debut, not several years earlier as a Prospect card.

3. Stop adding the RC logo to parallels and inserts. Rookies shouldn’t be mini parallels, refractors, game-used relics or autographs (as per the example above). If a Rookie card is to be autographed then it should replace the the base card in the main set.

4. Make the Rookie card appear as one card (and one card only) in each release. In most instances this should always be the base card when and where applicable.

The important thing is to keep it simple!! Make life easier for us collectors who are trying to get hold of the Rookie cards of our favourite players! Only ONE Rookie per product, please!!

Rookie cards deserve to be held in much higher regard than they are being at the moment so let’s see things start to change!!

C’mon Topps!!! It’s all down to you!! Make us proud and show some love for the good ol’ Rookie Card!

Wax Heaven is Back in Business – Welcome Home Mario!

I was filled with much joy today to hear about the return to the blogosphere (I hate that word) of Wax Heaven!

For those of you who don’t know (and shame on you) Wax Heaven was a blog created by Mario Alejandro in the latter half of 2007, and which ran for just over 2 years until Mario had to hang up his hat in December 2009 due to personal circumstances at the time.

Later he resurfaced with another blog Wax Morgue, but he has announced today that Wax Heaven has returned as “a continuation of what once was”.

This is fantastic news!!

I found Mario’s original blog around the end of 2008/early 2009 and followed it religiously through to the very last post! As a sports card blog it stood head and shoulders above any contemporaries and effectively paved the way for the rest of us who write these types of blogs today!

So if you’re ever going to read another sports card blog please make sure it’s Wax Heaven (but obviously keep reading this one as well 🙂 )!!

I’ve set up a link on the right-hand side of this page but you can also click here to get to it. You can also follow Mario on Twitter @Wax_Heaven

Enjoy!! You’ll be glad you took the time!!!