It’s In The Cards

This week saw Panini’s latest Baseball release hit the shelves!

Panini’s Golden Age Baseball is another in a long line of ‘hybrid’ products that have steadily trickled onto the market over the last few years. Containing a mixture of sports stars, entertainers and historical figures, alongside numerous other famous faces from the last 100 years of Popular Culture, Golden Age Baseball is certainly one of the more eclectic sets you’ll ever get your hands on!

Which is part of its charm!

Alongside a 150-card base set there are a vast number of inserts for you to have fun with!

And it’s one of those insert sets that I wanted to bring to your attention now, an insert set that has got to be one of my favourites of the year so far. I might even go so far to say that it might be one of my favourites of all time!

Seeded one in three packs (eight per box) are a series of beautifully designed playing cards, each depicting images from the base set!

Playing cards!!! Genuine playing cards!!! How come no-one has ever thought of this before??

To me it seems like something that naturally lends itself to Baseball cards, yet something that (as far as I’m aware) we’ve never previously been treated to in a card set!

Here’s a few of the cards for your viewing pleasure –

panini_gibson

We’ve got ballplayers from the Dead Ball Era all the way through to the 1960’s! A great selection of old school players, lovingly presented on a ‘functional’ playing card!

As well as the Baseball players we’ve also got other figures from the ‘Golden Age’ –

How cool are these???

I’ve got to tip my hat to the design team at Panini in honour of what they’ve done with this set! They look great and at 54 cards (there are two jokers as well) it’s incredibly easy to put together!!

So if you’re after something a bit different to whet your collecting taste buds then look no further than 2013 Golden Age Baseball! It looks like a massive amount of fun is to be had from each 24-pack box and, with all the history on display, you may even end up learning something new in the process 🙂

The Road To Redemption(s)

Although not officially released until Wednesday 3rd July some folks out there have already been breaking boxes/cases of Topps’ inaugural Bowman Inception Baseball, and cards have already started to trickle out onto eBay over last 24 hours!

When I previewed 2013 Bowman Inception a few months ago I couldn’t help but question the need for another prospect-based product, and I also had some concerns about the overall look and design of the cards. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was I didn’t like, but I wasn’t anticipating Bowman Inception to be top of my 2013 ‘must have’ list!

However having seen a few of the cards I may be willing to partly change that stance and may look at picking a few individual cards up!

Here’s a few examples of what the cards look like!!

inception_taveras inception_odorizzi inception_dahl inception_miller inception_soler

I’m loving that Oscar Taveras, if I have to be honest!!

However while scouring eBay for some of these cards I also noticed a number of listings that were slightly more concerning!

Let me ask you a question – What do all these players have in common?

Yasiel Puig
Ryu Hyun-Jin
Corey Seager
Manny Machado
Xander Bogaerts
Jurickson Profar
Bubba Starling
Mike Olt
Casey Kelly
Anthony Rendon
Lance McCullers
Barrett Barnes
Billy Hamilton
Nick Franklin

Anyone??

Anyone at the back???

Well, as crazy as it might sound (or perhaps not), all of these players have redemption cards inserted into Bowman Inception!! And these are the only ones that I’ve found so far! There may be  more that appear as more boxes get busted!

That’s 14 different names so far!!! 14!!!

Now I know that redemptions are a necessary evil! Especially in the case of Yasiel Puig whose recent appearance in the majors has set the Baseball world on fire and collectors clamouring for his cards! Topps had to rush them in somehow and a redemption card is the only pertinent solution!

But surely this number of redemptions is a bit of a joke?

Come on Topps!!! Collectors don’t want to see these damn things!

It’s not as if some of these players are insignificant either! There’s some big names on that list, and as a collector I’d be concerned if I’d spent a decent amount of coin on a box of Inception only to find redemptions inside! It’s not as if there’s a guarantee these redemptions will be honoured either, especially given Topps’ recent change in policy with regard to currently outstanding redemptions and the re-issue of replacements!

And I know Topps aren’t the only company that issues redemptions. Panini is also cursed with this problem as well but at least Tracy Hackler sends out updates every Friday through The Knight’s Lance blog with regard to what redemptions are being processed in a particular week! Seems a bit more organised if you ask me!

So, I guess there’s another question out of all of this.

Would you, as a collector, go out and purchase a ‘not cheap’ box of Inception Baseball knowing that there’s a pretty good chance you might be pulling a redemption of a not-insignificant player?

Personally it would be a big NO for me. As I said earlier I’d much rather pick up the individual cards that I was after and leave the box-busting (however much fun it might be) to others!

And in the meantime I’ll go on living in my self-contained little collecting dreamworld where redemption cards have flown away with the fairies and all boxes contain just good, old-fashioned Baseball cards!

— sigh —

Good times!!

“The Happy Highways Where I Went”

“That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.”

– A.E. Housman

Nostalgia is a strange beast!

An affliction usually affecting us ‘older’ folk, nostalgia is something that just creeps up on us. We never truly see it coming until it’s there, right in front of us, when all of a sudden we find ourselves transported back to past times! Reliving those ‘happier’ moments of our youth that we recollect with a wistful fondness, a smile etched onto our faces as we remember what it’s like to gaze at things with a child’s eyes once again!

It doesn’t necessarily mean that things were better ‘back in the day’, but nostalgia often fools us into thinking that they were. Our younger lives weren’t tempered with the knowledge and experience that we have as adults – the cynicism and pessimism that invade our lives today simply weren’t there as children, so we looked at the world and experienced it completely differently than the way we do now. And THIS is what nostalgia taps into!

Columnist and editor Doug Larson described nostalgia, rather aptly, as “a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days”.

Growing up in the 80’s in the UK I learned to worship ALL things American! I lived my life stuck to the TV screen, absorbing anything that the US could throw at me – The A-Team, Knight Rider, Airwolf, even Streethawk goddamnit!! Great comedies like M.A.S.H, Cheers and The Cosby Show! Later came a steady influx of US movies to keep me going through my late teens and into my student years! I completely fell in love with America and its culture!

It was only natural that a love of US Sports would grow organically from this! And while this was true to up to a point, it was only really the NBA that grabbed my attention at the time!

I remember watching highlights of the NBA Finals in the latter part of the 80’s, loving the hard, work man-like graft of the Celtics over the flashier ‘Showtime’ ball played by the Lakers!  I remember booing at the brutish behaviour of the Pistons! I also remember being pretty nonplussed by the early exploits of a pair from Chicago by the names of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. “What’s the big deal about these guys?” I recall thinking to myself… Neither of them could hold a torch to Larry Bird! “What are they ever going to achieve with their careers??”.

I was young!!! Gimme a break!!!

But this is what nostalgia is all about for me!

Baseball didn’t come along for another decade! I moved away from Basketball as I got older and started to appreciate what the MLB had to offer. Over the years I steadily immersed myself in Baseball folklore and history. Thanks to the exemplary documentary making skills of Ken Burns I started to appreciate where Baseball came from and why it means so much to the American people, why it’s so ingrained in American culture!

Unfortunately, the one thing that all this reading and documentary watching couldn’t do  was give me a sense of context! For instance, I could never truly appreciate what it was like being a Dodgers fan and seeing a creaking Kirk Gibson hit the walk-off home run off Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I could never truly appreciate being a Red Sox fan and seeing that slow roller pass between Bill Buckner’s legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run for the Mets in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series!

Sadly this ‘lack of context’ has also spilled over into my collecting!

I’ve written in the past about the “geographical twist of fate” that had me born thousands of miles away from the home of the sport and Hobby that I love so much today! As a result I don’t have any real collecting stories from my youth. It’s difficult for me to look back on Baseball card collecting with a sense of nostalgia as I wasn’t around to experience it when I was a child!

So now I have to relive these times by lapping up the writings, stories and experiences of other collectors! One such story came to my attention over the weekend by The Idaho Statesman sports columnist, Brian Murphy.

Brian’s piece looks at the evolving and changing nature of Baseball card collecting, comparing  the Hobby as it is today with the one he remembers as a young boy. For me it encapsulates the whole notion of Baseball card nostalgia and the nostalgia of collecting!

Brian doesn’t go out of his way to preach about a Hobby ‘gone bad’, but merely points out that the Hobby has changed. But it’s interesting to see through his eyes just how it has changed and what his thoughts on this are.

Please give it a read as it’s a great piece that may well resonate with a number of you who have collected Baseball cards in the past and continue to do so today.

Baseball cards’ value not all about the money

*

I feel that Baseball card collectors are often amongst the worst affected by the misty-eyed machinations of nostalgia. As we collect the cards that are produced today I always get a strong impression that there’s a constant need amongst certain collectors to hanker back to those sets of yesteryear.

You only have to look at the phenomenal success of Topps Heritage, alongside numerous other retro-themed releases, to know that there’s a market out there for those who long to return to the cards of their youth.

Maybe it’s because collectors have become worn down and cynical about the cards that are produced nowadays, or maybe it’s because there’s a genuine desire to grab hold of those wispy tendrils of memory that take us back to a time when collecting Baseball cards seemed to be (on the surface at least) a much simpler and more straightforward process!

You see folks, that’s what nostalgia will do to you!

But maybe a short trip down Houseman’s “happy highways”, every once in awhile, never actually does anyone any harm? Although it’s probably worth remembering that, as with most things that now now reside in the past, you can never truly go back and recapture what once was great.

‘The Phantom Menace’ anyone??? I rest my case!

Cards-Nation

I’ve got a couple of days off work at the moment which, in itself, is a cause for celebration! But when Mr Postman pops the latest package from Kidder Cards through my letterbox this morning, well, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving!

This time it was the spoils from a 3-box break of 2013 Topps Archives in which I’d purchased the Cardinals for $8 plus the usual $4.95 international postage that Geoff charges!

And here’s what I found inside –

Very, very happy with this little lot!!

I got myself two complete base team sets, with a few dupes! This means I can keep one for myself and send the other to my buddy James over in Alabama! I don’t think that he’s got any of these Archives yet so it’ll be a nice surprise!

Us Cards fans have got to stick together after all!!

There was also a SP of Bob Tewksbury. I love the SP cards that Topps put into Archives! 2013 has 45 stars and sem-stars from the 70’s and 80’s who were big names in their day but who have largely been forgotten by the Hobby over the years. The only collectors who probably follow these guys now will more than likely be those who followed their exploits the first time around!

And lastly, but not leastly, there’s a Yadier Molina gold parallel #’d 180/199!!

Very nice!!!!

The picture I’ve put up here doesn’t really do the card justice! Mmmmmm, shiny!!

As I said in my review of an Archives blaster I opened a few days ago, I really want to do something from a collecting standpoint with this set – beyond just putting together the base set! So I’ve come up with the following –

  • Start putting together a full set of the 45 SP cards
  • Start putting together a 200-card set of the gold parallels

Both of these are infinitely achievable, although I reckon the latter will be more of a challenge than the former, and will be a lot of fun to try and track them all down!

In order to take a stab at these sets I’ve had to restructure what I’m currently collecting, so to this end I’ve decided –

  1. The Cardinals auto collection will carry on growing organically as I always intended. This collection was designed to be a long-term project so no real rush and no major changes there
  2. The Manny Machado collection has been scaled back to just collecting all of his rookie cards! This is much more manageable and will only extend through this years releases
  3. The white-bordered Gypsy Queen parallel set is now put on hold for the foreseeable future, but I look forward to coming back to this one!!

So, two new collections to start working on!!

I’ll put a couple of wants lists at the top of the page sometime soon so I can keep track of what cards I still need! If there’s anything you can help me out with then please let me know and I’m sure we can work something out 🙂

Cheers!!

‘Scuse Me! Haven’t I Seen You Somewhere Before?

Topps is no stranger to reusing the same images on their Baseball cards. Here’s an early example from 1954, 1955 and 1956 respectively –

54mays 55mays 56mays

Now I can understand that back in the early days there weren’t so many player images doing the rounds, so this kind of duplication is understandable!

But these days there are so many different ways of capturing player images that the idea of reusing stock images on Baseball cards is surely something that is much easier to avoid.

I wrote a post at the start of this year where I’d spotted this very issue occurring with a Kevin Gausman prospect card. Click on the link below to have a look!

Spot The Difference!

Well it looks as if Topps have been at it again as a search for some Yoenis Cespedes cards has just highlighted…

2012 Allen & Ginter’s Base

2013 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection Jersey

2013 Topps Archives Base

2013 Topps Archives All-Star Insert (Retail Exclusive)

cespedes_as

See what I’m saying??

That’s four different cards from three separate products over a 10-month span! Isn’t that a bit on the excessive side?!?!?!

C’mon on Topps… Any chance you could treat us to something different?

For instance… I’m loving this variant from the just released 2013 Topps Series 2!! Now this is more like it!

And I thought I looked a cool SOB in a pair of sunglasses!!!

*

READER NOTE: I really don’t look cool in sunglasses! I felt like I needed to clear that up!

Review: 2013 Topps Archives Baseball

2013 Topps Archives Baseball came along at the end of May with big shoes to fill!! I’m talking BIG shoes!

Last year’s Archives set was one of my favourites of 2012! It was just pure fun – plain and simple! Modern players? On vintage designs? On a set that wasn’t Heritage or A&G? Count me in!!

Note: Important to point out that I’ve got nothing against Heritage and A&G, I just feel they’ve become a bit stale in recent years

A relatively small base set (200 cards) with 40 short prints, that were challenging but not impossible to find, rounded out a highly collectable set of cards! Throw in two guaranteed Fan-Favourite Autographs per box (of popular players from the 70’s and 80’s who didn’t regularly feature in Topps Baseball products) and one of the most eclectic mixes of retro themed inserts I’ve seen in ages and Topps Archives was a guaranteed winner!

Strangely enough the Archives concept didn’t catch on with a lot of collectors. I guess it was either one of those ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ releases!

But I loved it, which is why I got 10 shades of excited earlier this year when Topps released the first shots of the new 2013 Archives!!

I have to confess that I was initially disappointed with what the pre-release images showed us. The years chosen for the base designs (1972, 1982, 1985 and 1990) didn’t seem as inspiring as last years, and some of the inserts seemed a little bit bland in comparison to what we were offered in 2012!

But then comes the release date, and I end up joining in a couple of box breaks! The cards arrive and then POW!!! Immediately won over!! Damn the cards look great!!

A couple of nights ago I opened up a retail blaster containing eight packs with eight cards per pack! I made it a bit interactive by posting the break live in Twitter! Here’s what I got, starting with Pack 1 all the way through to Pack 8!

IMAG0152_1 IMAG0153_1 IMAG0154_1 IMAG0155_1_1 IMAG0157_1 IMAG0158_1 IMAG0159_1 IMAG0160_1

Now c’mon!!! If you love modern Baseball cards with a retro slant how can you not love these?? Eh??

The blaster yielded a nice scattering of base cards (plenty of Cardinals players) and either an insert or a SP in every pack! Standouts were the Tall Boy inserts (Packs 2 and 6) and the 4-in-1 Sticker insert (Pack 8)! There are better inserts to be had, such as the acetate ‘Gallery of Heroes’ with it’s stained glass effect, and this year’s base parallels are all gold and are #’d/199 each!

If I had one complaint it’s that the cardstock is a little bit too thin, a bit too flimsy! However, it’s not a real deal breaker and it doesn’t affect how much I love the set one little bit.

I’m going to be doing something collecting-related with this set! More than likely I’ll be trying for a team ‘master’ set. Maybe the Cardinals, maybe the Orioles – maybe both! I’ve never put a master set together before and I’m aware that it doesn’t come without its challenges!

Whatever I decide I’ll put a ‘Wants List’ at the top of the blog page so maybe some of you folks out there can help me out. Maybe I’ll get round to starting my ‘Trade Bait’ list as well!

So what are you all waiting for? Run out and get some Archives!! Now!!!

In summary –

Best Card – Ozzie Smith base card (not necessarily the ‘best’ but definitely my favourite)

Worst Card – Don’t really have one as I love all the base!

Best Insert – Feller/Seaver/Ryan/Verlander 4-in-1 sticker

Worst Insert – Eric Davis/Brandon Phillips Dual Fan Favourites (just a bit ‘meh’)

Overall Rating – This blaster 7/10 but 9/10 for the the product as a whole

Is It Even Worth Buying Singles Off eBay Anymore?

I’m frustrated at the minute! Really frustrated!!

Now I can hear all you shouting out “Andy, what have you got to be so frustrated about?”. Well, thanks for asking! Let me take a minute or two to explain!

Back in February I wrote at length about the USPS price increases that came into play at the end of January 2013 and their potential effect on overseas shipping. You can read all about it here –

USPS Price Increases and the Impact on International Buyers

Go on, it’s a spiffing read if I do say so myself!

Over the last few days I’ve been considering picking up the odd Ken Griffey Jr card or two! I’ve had a couple of aborted attempts at starting a Junior collection over the last decade and it’s always something I’ve been meaning to get back to. Since there’s been an increased presence of Griffey Jr in Topps products over the last couple of years I figured that I’d start looking into picking a few of his recent releases up!

So off I go to eBay!!

Now, there’s some great cards out there, some really great looking cards!

Here’s a few examples –

OK then! For starters there are plenty of cards out there! Lets face it, there’s tens of thousands! Funds permitting I’d be grabbing them up left, right and centre!

But hold on a second, I’ve just spotted a potential problem on each of these cards! Just take a look at the shipping!!! $12.75, $25.00 and $19.98 respectively!!! For a single frickin’ Baseball card!?!?!?!

Screw that!!!

Alright, so the above examples are pretty extreme. Postage will often be around the $7 to $10 mark since the USPS increases, but this is still a ridiculously high amount! I’m not blaming the sellers for these high rates – although there has to be some blame laid at the feet of those sellers who seemingly can’t be bothered to find out the correct international postage rates to attach to their listings. Nope, the real blame has to lie with USPS!

As I said, really, REALLY frustrated! I can’t be angry about it though! I realised a long time ago that it’s a waste of time losing sleep over something that you’ve got absolutely no control over whatsoever! But frustrated? – that’s a different kind of feeling altogether!

I’ve checked on the USPS website and found some postage information! As a yardstick I’m using a recent package that I received from the US which contained 15x 100pt cards in a jiffy envelope (about 3/4″ thick) and which weighed approx 3oz according to the postage label.

Small Envelope – This should offer more than adequate protection for a single card in a top loader. Below is the description of the postage option and the accompanying price. NOTE: I did choose the option for ‘rigid’ contents but it didn’t change the overall price and I’m assuming the weight to be a lot less than 3oz.

FirstClassLetter1 FirstClassLetter2

Package – For the package I’m looking at a small jiffy envelope containing up to seven or eight cards. I’ve listed a couple of price options for 2oz and 3oz packages.

FirstClassPackage1

The 2oz price

FirstClassPackage2

The 3oz price

FirstClassPackage3

When you start going up in weight after 3oz the prices increase accordingly!

So what does this tell us? Well nothing new really that I haven’t gone over before. But I guess that it might be handy for some buyers out there to have an idea of what they should be expecting to pay for postage from the US with regard to international shipping.

In an ideal world all sellers would ship singles in a top loader in a regular sized envelope! This would be perfect for international buyers as it would keep the costs down to a minimum and make the prospect of purchasing singles a little bit more appealing. I’d estimate (and bear in mind I’ve no evidence to back this up) that over 95% of the singles currently listed on eBay aren’t listed in this way for international postage.

Please understand, I’m not that arrogant that I believe I’m in a position where I can change seller’s postage and posting habits! Far from it! There are no doubt dozens of different and bona fide reasons why sellers ship their singles in the manner they do, and why they charge the postage that they charge. Although I choose to ignore those particular listings that I demonstrated above with a crazy-high postage amount! That’s just daft!!

And I’m really appreciative of anyone in the US who still considers shipping to us overseas collectors when listing their cards. I’ve pointed out before that the numbers of international sellers has dwindled greatly over the last few years so it’s important to keep these avenues of card-collecting opportunity alive!

But the fact of the matter is – buying singles on eBay is NOT cost effective any more for non-US collectors. It’s fantastic if you’re able to pick up a card that you really, really want for $1-$2 but to then have to pay an extra $7 on top of that to have it shipped??? Not really worth it!

eBay is all but dead to me as a reliable and worthwhile method of buying Baseball card singles. Every now and again I might chance upon a card that I’m after, from a seller who ships internationally and for a reasonable shipping cost – but it doesn’t happen that often! And this saddens me greatly!

If only we had a seller who listed loads of singles of a particular set or player that you collected, in a nice orderly structured format, and that enabled anyone to group all these cards together, pay for them and then ship them off in one package!

Hold on just one damn minute!!! Don’t we have that already?? That’s right! COMC and Collector Revolution are, as far as I’m concerned, the way forward for collecting singles from across the seas! I’ve only used COMC as a buyer so far but will be looking into Collector Revolution very soon!! And there’s always organised box breaks as well!! Let’s not forget those!

I’m hoping that more and more sellers start to abandon selling singles on eBay and turn to these other avenues of getting their cards out to the world. The more the merrier is what I say! eBay have been stuffing sellers for some time with their exorbitant fee structures, so as the Hobby continues to evolve maybe it’s time that the way we buy our cards evolves with it!

I’m still frustrated, but at least the option of other places to buy my Baseball card singles has managed to finally put a smile on my face!

— Sigh — Time to empty my PayPal account again I guess 🙂