Please Be Upstanding – For 2012 Panini National Treasures

You know it’s not very often that I get completely flawed by a set of sports cards!

Occasionally there’s the odd element of surprise…

“Ohhhhh… Look what they’ve done with 2011 Topps Heritage, it’s just how I originally remember” (had I been collecting cards in 1962… and actually been living in the country where they were produced)

The last time I can actually remember being taken aback by a set was when Fleer first released their Greats of the Game product back in 2000! It was just at a time when I was really starting to appreciate the history of Baseball, and all of a sudden WHAM!… A whole set dedicated to that one topic with the most awesome autograph checklist ever committed to a Baseball card product!

It wasn’t difficult to appreciate that particular release, and while others have come and gone since then it’s not until now that something has come along that’s made me sit up and take notice!

Last week I wrote all about my initial thoughts on Panini’s National Treasures Baseball. Click the link to read all about it!!

Well now the cards have officially hit the streets and the secondary market has been flooded with them…

And WHAM!! There I go again…

Personally I think that these are some of the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen! The design is transcendant!! Truly awesome looking cards!!

I know that they aren’t officially licensed by MLB… but who cares??

These are cards for collectors!

They won’t come cheap, but Panini should be applauded for the job they’ve done with them. There is pure Baseball history in these cards, and there are many players in the set who don’t normally appear in regular Baseball releases… Names such as Dave Bancroft, Lloyd Waner, Chuck Klein and Nap Lajoie might not be household names outside the world of the Baseball historian or the avid Baseball fan, but here they are immortalised on card courtesy of Panini! And for that we should be grateful!!

The set is absolutely stuffed full of relics and autographs! There are big hits and there are HUGE hits! There are modern stars sitting alongside HOF’ers, Prospects alongside Veterans! There should be something for absolutely everyone!!

Naturally, I concede that these cards won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you take one look at these cards and fall in love with them in the same way I have then go do yourself a favour and pick a few up… Somehow I don’t think you’ll regret it!

You may want to wait for a while until the heat dies down and some of the prices start dropping off. I did see a 1/1 Patch-Auto of Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario going for a Buy It Now price of $860 earlier… which is both unrealistic AND obscene in equal measure!

You can check on eBay for a good section of cards, but here are a few of my favourites that I’ve found so far and just wanted to share with you… Enjoy!!

This Ozzie Smith ‘Laundry Tag’ card #’d/3 was spotted by my fellow Cardinals fan, James Ruffin (@jamesmruffin), so thanks for that my friend!! I can’t take the credit for that one!!

For anyone who’s already got, or is considering getting, any 2013 Topps Baseball Series 1, he’s the best review I’ve read so far, courtesy of Crackin’ Wax… Enjoy!!

Crackin' Wax™

Perhaps I’m one of the last people in the card collecting planet that has even come to grips with the possibility of even thinking about writing a review of this set, but I can deal with that. You see, what good is my cracking of the wax if I can’t at least expound upon my own opinion on what I’ve just cracked, even if it is a little behind the times. Many thoughts and opinions of this set have already been instantly been sputtered out on that tweeting bird site and that other book of faces page. Damn you, sign o’ the times!

That’s fine, though. I’ve already shared some of those instantaneous thoughts in those heavily used places. However, with only a few allotted characters per thought, it’s time for me to flood the wordscape with a seemingly unending monosyllabic vocabulary relating to nothing other than what I think…

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The Great 1/1 ‘Mojo’ Conundrum

1/1 cards!

Extremely elusive pieces of cardboard heaven (or hell, depending on how you view them)

From their very first appearance in the Flair Showcase products of the late 90’s the 1/1 card has become a mainstay of the Hobby, in a variety of different forms!

I’ve never owned a 1/1 card! Can’t really say it’s top of my list either. I neither love or hate them, but do acknowledge how they knacker things up for the dedicated player collector!

I was intending to dedicate a whole piece to 1/1 cards, and in particular the sellers on eBay who litter their listing descriptions with the term ‘1/1’, despite the fact that the item they are selling is anything but…

I mean… How can you describe something as 1/1 when it’s clearly numbered to something like 50 and the only distinction that sets it apart from the other 49 cards in the ‘set’ is the fact that it bears the same number as the players jersey that’s depicted upon it?

Friends, this card is not a 1/1… It’s merely a lucky coincidence! A coincidence that someone out there will be more than happy to pay a premium for… but a coincidence all the same!

Unfortunately my original article has become a moot point, as I’ve been pipped to the post by another blogger who has written about this very same subject. So, for a much better article than I would have ever written, why don’t you click here and go pay a visit to the Night Owl over at Night Owl Cards. I even made special use of ‘Mojo’ in honour of that particular piece!

And if you’re not following him already, why not??? It’s one of the best written blogs about our great Hobby out there!!

Go see!!

In lieu of a scathing article lambasting these evil purveyors of faux-1/1 Baseball cards, I’ll just have to leave you with a couple of my favourites that I recently came across…

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2013 Topps 'Cut to the Chase' Stan Musial #'d6/10 1/1?

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2013 Turkey Red Wily Peralta Auto #'d1/20 1/1?

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2013 Topps Finest Baseball Preview

WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS END!?!?!?!

Regular readers can (and will) be forgiven for thinking that I’ve had nothing to write about over the last few days as all I’ve been posting nothing but product previews.

Regular readers will be right, of course!!

I’ve been a very busy bee this weekend as it was my wife’s birthday and it just so happens that Topps (as if doing me a gigantic favour) has landed not one, not two, not even three product teasers over the last week… No sir, they’ve only gone and added a fourth as well!

And you know what…? This is the one that’s got me the most excited!!

Click on the link to view 2013 Topps Finest Baseball in all its sell sheet glory!!

Topps Finest Baseball has lost its way big-time over the last few years! The crown-prince among premium card sets in the early 90’s, it had some of it’s sheen removed (pun NOT intended) with the introduction of Chrome in 1997. It then seemed to meander its way through the 2000s, changing from the standard pack to the mini-box format of distribution… even becoming a semi-high-end product over the last couple of years!

But not this time!

In order to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the ground-breaking first Finest Baseball set, Topps have gone back to the tried and tested formula (18 packs/box, 5 cards/pack) and have packed the product full of great cards honouring the inaugural release.

2013 Finest Baseball - Mike Trout Insert
2013 Finest Baseball – Mike Trout Insert
2013 Finest Baseball - Matt Cain Autograph
2013 Finest Baseball – Matt Cain Autograph
2013 Finest Baseball - Manny Machado Rookie Card
2013 Finest Baseball – Manny Machado Rookie Card

If you’ve been reading some of my recent posts you’ll know that 1993 Finest Baseball made it to #4 in my Favourite Baseball card sets of the 1990’s. It’s a great set and I think that Topps have made a really smart move in honouring it in this way.

These retro inserts have a great look to them, and even the base cards have a clean and simple elegance… It looks as if Topps are letting the design and the Chromium effect do all the talking here. And if those circles in the background change colour on each card to reflect the team (as with the Manny Machado RC above) then score even more points to the Topps design team!!

At around $90 a box this is looking a pretty good product to get us through the Baseball ‘dog-days’ of August!

It does concern me that the only products these days that make me sit up and take notice are those that have some kind of retro theme or element to them… but that’s just me! Get over it, Batesy!!

2013 Topps Finest definitely piques my interest more than any of the other products that I’ve previewed over the last few days and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of the cards!!

Thoughts anyone?

Ooooo, I wonder if they’ll go back to the peely surface protector??

2013 Topps Triple Threads Baseball Preview

Here we are rounding off Topps’ latest Baseball trifecta with 2013 Triple Threads Baseball, the very latest (but definitely not the last) of their high-end releases!!

As with most of Topps’ high-end output I can’t help but approach it with a high degree of indifference. The designs look nice, as always, but the price bracket is way out of my range and as a result I can’t really muster up a great deal of enthusiasm for it.

In fact I don’t recall ever owning a Triple Threads card! If you’re a player collector and you manage to get hold of one of these cards then I’ve got no doubt they make a nice addition to anyone’s collection – a great centrepiece to show off and base your other cards around.

But deep down I can’t help but see it as a product that panders once more to the ‘hit’ chasers rather than the actual collectors… which is a shame as some of the relics do look rather nice!

Click here for all the details and let me know your thoughts on this, along with some of the high-end releases that are produced all year round, not just by Topps I hasten to add. Are they for you? Or will you just end up passing?

2013 Bowman Chrome Baseball Preview

“Chrome is in the air, everywhere I look around.

Chrome is in the air, every sight and every sound.”

Yes, Dear Reader, here we are again with yet another product preview.

Topps has once more been spoiling us this week with early looks at some of the hotly anticipated summer releases, and with a third to come any day now it’s time we turn our attention to the second of these offerings in the form of the glorious Bowman Chrome.

2013 Bowman Chrome Promo Sheet
2013 Bowman Chrome Promo Sheet

As per usual you can click here for more details and a few more images!

Topps’ Chrome products always seem to deliver the goods year after year (with maybe the exception of the 2010 Topps Chrome release) but it will take a lot to top last years simple, white-bordered design!

However it’s difficult to not make a straightforward comparison with the 2012 cards. I keep saying time and time again that 2012 Bowman was one of my favourite sets and I don’t like the idea of anything surpassing that in terms of card design… But personally I think that I’m going to end up disappointed.

What do you think?

The 2013 Prospects might not be as strong as in recent years, but with key rookie cards of Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Jurickson Profar, amongst others, this looks like being a nice set after all!!

2013 Topps Chrome Baseball Preview

It always amazes me how far in advance Topps designs its cards and releases their promotional material. If anything it gives an interesting insight into how quickly things move in the crazy-ass world of sports card manufacturing.

I don’t know if anything to do with the product will actually change between now and when it releases in a few months time, but you can’t argue with  all the hard work that gets put in preparing, designing and promoting these releases.

There could be an argument to say that sometimes we find out a little bit too much about a product in the months before its release, that there’s no mystique involved anymore, but I guess dealers/traders want to know what they’re ordering and collectors want to know what they’re buying, so we’re stuck with it!

Anyway, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Topps’ first all-Chrome product of the year, the appropriately named 2013 Topps Chrome ([chuckles, and shakes head] where do they get these names from… :))

Click here for all the usual details around what you’ll find stuffed into this release.

I get the impression sometimes that Topps Chrome is something of a forgotten release. There are some great rookie autos in each release but these never seem to reach the giddy heights of the Chrome Prospect autos that you can find littered across the Bowman brands.

I do remember thinking that this years Topps base cards would look good in Chrome, and from what I’ve seen here I don’t have any reason to think I’ll be disappointed. That said, once again there’s the usual over-abundance of refractor parallels but this appears to have become de rigueur for most Topps products these days – although those sepia refractors #’d/75 to look pretty sexy.

I’m sure that Topps Chrome does have it’s legion of fans out there, but whether this years release promises to bring any more into the fold remains to be seen. But hopefully, with a strong collection of autographed rookie cards, this may well be a solid release later this summer!

The Great March Giveaway – An Update

On the 1st February I announced the details of another giveaway, this time for some Prospect autographs from 2012 Bowman retail…

Up for grabs will be –

  • Kyle Kubitza (Atlanta Braves)
  • Dwight Smith (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Sonny Gray (Oakland A’s)
2012 Bowman Retail Prospect Autographs
2012 Bowman Retail Prospect Autographs

Initially I considered offering all three of these cards to the one winner but I’ve had a change of heart.

On Friday 1st March at 8.00pm GMT (3.00pm EST) I’ll be randomly drawing three separate winners instead. The first one drawn will get a choice of which card they want; the second drawn gets to choose from the remaining two cards and the third winner drawn automatically gets the unclaimed card!

This way we can have three winners which increases the odds for all involved!!

NOW THE IMPORTANT BIT… 

To be in with a chance of winning you need to be following THIS blog. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

Please note that this ISN’T a Twitter giveaway – I’ll do another one of those soon. This is specific giveaway for my blog followers! So if you want a chance of getting hold of one of these you’ll need to do one the following…

Firstly, if you have an account with WordPress then you will be able to click on the ‘Follow’ button at the top of the page. I think that this is only available as a visible option to WordPress users but could well be wrong. Any new posts then turn up in your WordPress Reader as and when they’re published

WP_follow

Secondly, you can click on the button on the right-hand side of this page which means WordPress will send an email to alert you whenever a new blog post has been published. Don’t worry, the email you provide is only stored against this blog and isn’t used for spam or stuff like that!!

Follow_Blog

Remember, following ‘The Wax Fantastic’ (@TheWaxFantastic) on Twitter won’t be enough as it’s not a Twitter giveaway.

There are currently 23 followers as I write this so that’s currently a less than 1 in 8 chance of walking away with one of these cards!!!

So why not follow the blog yourself and give it a go? You know you want to… 🙂

The Mysterious Case of the Maury Wills Rookie Card

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of vintage Baseball cards!!

I’ve a number of favourite sets including 1957 Topps, 1962 Topps, 1954 Topps, 1963 Topps… The list goes on!

You’ll notice that those few examples have a bit of a ‘Topps’ theme running through them, but one particular set that I didn’t include is 1963 Fleer.

I always get the impression that 1963 Fleer Baseball is something of a ‘forgotten’ set from that era, yet for it’s ridiculously short checklist there are a number of great players in the set, including eight Hall of Famers like Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.

Cardboard Connection has the best summary I’ve found so far regarding the history and make up of the 1963 Fleer set, so rather than attempting to put the whole story into my own words I’ll hand things over to the late Chris Stufflestreet, who does an infinitely better job than I ever could –

“Fleer finally threw down the gauntlet in 1963. After trying for four years to get into the gum card market without directly competing with Topps, they released a set of current baseball players. That spring, they released a series of 66 cards, with each of the 20 teams then in existence represented. In a move designed to circumvent Topps’ claim of exclusivity with gum and confectionary products, Fleer packs included a cookie that was so low in sugar content it was compared to a dog biscuit.

Predictably, Topps took Fleer to court. They won the case and Fleer stopped their set before a second series could be issued. Fleer was out of the baseball card business, but they still released products related to baseball over the years, such as team stickers, patches, and cards featuring retired legends. Most importantly, they kept challenging Topps’ monopoly until 1980, when they were finally allowed to compete with them.

The fronts featured a large player photo. Below that is a yellow-colored diamond with a drawn player inside it. The player’s name, team and position appear beside that. In a way, it’s not too far off from the design Topps used for its own ’63 set (with a second picture in place of the diamond), but the backs could not be more different. In a vertical format, they featured an extensive write-up with stats at the bottom. The card number appears right in the middle, inside a graphic baseball and two bats.”

I first became aware of this set in the early 2000s when the design of the 1963 Fleer set was used as an insert set in Fleer Tradition. A couple of years later Fleer went the whole hog and based a complete base set on the same design.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the 1963 Fleer Baseball set is that it includes the only Rookie Card of Dodgers’ shortstop, Maury Wills!

1963 Fleer Maury Will RC
1963 Fleer Maury Will RC

Despite making his Major League debut in 1959 Wills didn’t appear on a baseball card until this Fleer set four years later, and for me the story behind the reason for this belongs up there with a load of 1952 Topps being dumped in the Hudson River in terms of its anecdotal significance, becoming something of a Baseball ‘Urban Legend’ in its own right!

Basically, as the story goes, Topps felt that Wills was so far off the Major Leagues when he was a Prospect that they didn’t think it worthwhile to sign him to a $5 Baseball card contract.

Despite being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 at the age of 18, Wills spent the majority of the 1950’s having one unexceptional season after another playing Single-A ball, along with a single, woeful season at Double-A in 1955. He was drafted by the Reds in 1957, only to return to the Dodgers the following year after another unimpressive year, this time in the Cincinnati minor league system.

In 1959 Wills had his first shot at trying out for a Major League roster (the Detroit Tigers) and it was there that Topps employee Turk Karam was signing new players to Topps contracts.

Wills didn’t get his contract and Sy Berger, the Topps executive in charge of player relations, questioned Karam as to why he did not sign Wills. Karam explained that the members of the Tigers organisation that he spoke to were clear in their belief that Wills was not a Major Leaguer, despite the fact that all the Tigers seemed to do for Wills in his “try-out” was have him run some sprints.

“Imagine hearing from a bubble gum man that you are not going to realize your dream of being a big leaguer!”, Berger later said when considering what the impact would be on young players who weren’t offered that $5 contract!!

Despite this disappointment Wills returned to the Dodgers and began working with the new Triple-A manager, Bobby Bragan. Bragan helped Wills develop his switch-hitting game at which point he saw a dramatic improvement in his batting. He began getting on base more and started stealing more bases. In June of 1959 the Dodgers then incumbent shortstop Don Zimmer broke his toe, and because Zimmer’s backup Bob Lillis was having a poor season this opened the door for the 26 year old rookie to get his first Major League start.

By the end of the 1959 season Maury Wills was the Dodgers regular shortstop and even started in the World Series.

Topps wanted to sign Wills now but by this point he had already committed to an exclusive contract with Fleer.

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Maury Wills was a seven time All-Star during his 14 year career, winning two Gold Gloves, a NL MVP award and three World Series along the way.

He’s credited with helping to ‘revive’ the art of base stealing as a key aspect in Baseball strategy, inspiring speedsters such as Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman!

Despite the recognition he has received for the way in which he used his speed to change games, he has never been elected into the Hall of Fame.

He didn’t appear on a Topps Baseball card until 1967.

Pushing All The Right Buttons

Oh Gods of Baseball Card Collecting, why do you tempt me so???

What have I done to deserve such torment??

Ok… I come out and say that I’m taking a step back from collecting for a while. Surely that’s not unreasonable?? I would have come back into the fold at some point in the future.

But you can’t just let it be, could you? Oh no – you have to go and throw Panini’s National Treasures Baseball in my face!

I’ve only just spotted these pieces of cardboard perfection today and (as I believe the kids all say these days) OMG!!

I’ve made it clear on a couple of occasions that I’ve never been the biggest fan of non-licensed cards but Panini really blew me away last year with their Cooperstown Baseball set. I collected my thoughts on it in this semi-review last December. As a result of that set I’ve slowly been coming round to non-Topps Baseball cards as a viable collecting alternative!

I’d love to see what Panini would do with an official MLB license, I really would! This isn’t meant to be any anti-Topps rhetoric, I just think that, given the opportunity, they’d knock it out of the park… And given the over all look of 2012 Timeless Treasures Baseball I’ve got no reason to doubt it!

Check out some of these images from the official Panini America blog, The Knight’s Lance –

2012 Panini National Treasures - Lou Gehrig Button
2012 Panini National Treasures – Lou Gehrig Button
2012 Panini National Treasures - Buster Posey Button/Autograph
2012 Panini National Treasures – Buster Posey Button/Autograph
2012 Panini National Treasures - Bryce Harper Button
2012 Panini National Treasures – Bryce Harper Button
2012 Panini National Treasures - Miguel Cabrera Button/Autograph
2012 Panini National Treasures – Miguel Cabrera Button/Autograph
2012 Panini National Treasures - Pee Wee Reese Button
2012 Panini National Treasures – Pee Wee Reese Button
2012 Panini National Treasures - Mariano Rivera Button/Autograph
2012 Panini National Treasures – Mariano Rivera Button/Autograph
2012 Panini National Treasures - Satchel Paige Button
2012 Panini National Treasures – Satchel Paige Button

You can click here and here for more details about this product that hits the shelves next week (don’t quote me on that but that’s when Tracy Hackler believes it’s happening so that’s good enough for me).

UPDATED – I’ve now added the sell sheet for you to cast your eyes over.

At around $340 a box, which contains a single pack of 8 cards, this won’t be a product for everyone. And given what I’ve written about over the last couple of days concerning the ‘big hit’ mentality it’s a wonder I’m bringing these to the attention of anyone at all…

But the cards look so damn pretty!!! The mono-chrome image design set off against the clean white backgrounds really sets these cards apart from other high-end releases! Panini have really gone to town on these cards and the results are simply stunning!

And they’ve got buttons on cards!!! How cool is that?!?!?!?!?!

It might be the case that you’ll be able to pick up some singles from the set, along with some of the inserts and relics, at cheaper prices after a short while. Who knows, maybe the non-licensed aspect to it will scare some collectors away?

I certainly hope so… More of the good stuff for the rest of us if that’s the case!

I’ll be keeping a close eye on eBay over the coming weeks to see what sort of prices these are going for.

Hold on a sec, I’m not supposed to be collecting at the minute!!

Oh, screw it… that didn’t last long!