Button It!

As the week winds to a close it’s time to pay one final visit (for the time being at least) to my fave product-of-the moment, 2012 Panini National Treasures!

I know I’ve written quite a lot about this set recently, and with due cause! As a set it’s taken collectors by storm, with it’s mix of the old and the new, coupled with some of the best card design I’ve seen in ages.

One of the things that impresses me about how Panini approaches Baseball products is that, due to a lack of an official MLB licence, they have to be much more creative with the way they put their cards together. This was showcased brilliantly with last years Cooperstown Collection (click here to read my review of that particular release), and it was taken up a further notch with this release.

So for this final look I’ve decide to concentrate on one of the insert sets – the button cards!

When I read the advance details for this years Topps Gypsy Queen release, one of the inserts that jumped out at me was the mini with a button embedded in the card. Here’s an example –

Pretty smart!!

I remember being intrigued by the idea and thought it was a novel and original idea from Topps… But it looks as if Panini beat them to it!

These button cards are proving to be incredibly popular and, due to the player selection and the limited number produced, are fetching some fairly heavy coin on eBay at the moment! Here’s a few that are either currently live or which have recently been sold –

And just so you know that it’s not just Hall of Famers and ballplayers of the past, here’s a few current stars –

I absolutely love these cards – the sheer novelty value is immense and they look amazing!

One of the other things I like about what Panini have done with their jersey relics is that they’ve recycled pretty much ALL of the uniform. So as well as the usual swatch pieces, we also have the buttons and even laundry tags!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is hands down one of the best Baseball releases in years. The closest comparison I can make is with last years Topps 5-Star Baseball – itself a gorgeous looking product but hindered with quality issues, especially around the chipped edges!

The secondary market is pushing already high box prices even further skyward and you can click on this link to access one of Panini’s sales reports. It makes for some interesting reading around just how well National Treasures has done since its release!

A Panini America Special Report: Wild Sales from 2012 National Treasures Baseball

I’m hoping to pick up a few singles over the next few months of some of the older ballplayers and I’ll report back with what I manage to get my hands on! In fact last night I just missed out on a base jersey card of 30’s Pirates HOF’er, Arky Vaughan which was limited to only 25 copies! It might be the case I never get hold of one of these cards at all, that’s how cool and limited this product is!

Get ’em while you still can folks!!

Remembering ‘The Gashouse Gang’ – National Treasures Style

As a St Louis Cardinals fan I’ve always bemoaned the fact that there’s so little modern Baseball card material available dedicated to the pre-World War II era, in particular there’s very little commemorating the great Cardinals team of the 1930’s, affectionately known as the ‘Gashouse Gang’!

For those of you who are unaware of this fondly remembered team of Cardinal’s past, here’s Wikipedia’s take on their moniker –

The Cardinals, by most accounts, earned this nickname from the team’s generally very shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble tactics. An opponent once stated that the Cardinals players usually went into the field in unwashed, dirty, and smelly uniforms, which alone spread horror among their rivals. According to one account, scrappy shortstop Leo Durocher coined the term. He and his teammates were speaking derisively of the American League, and the consensus was that the Redbirds – should they prevail in the National League race – would handle whoever won the AL pennant. “Why, they wouldn’t even let us in that league over there,” Durocher, who had played for the New York Yankees, observed. “They think we’re just a bunch of gashousers.” The phrase ‘gas house’ referred to plants that produced town gas for lighting and cooking from coal, which were common fixtures in US cities prior to the widespread use of natural gas. The plants were noted for their foul smell and were typically located near railroad yards in the poorest neighbourhood in the city.

Along with Durocher the team was made up of several southerners and southwesterners including the Dean brothers, Jay ‘Dizzy’ Dean and Paul ‘Daffy’ Dean, Pepper Martin, Spud Davis and Burgess Whitehead. Led by playing manager Frankie Frisch and the hard-nosed Durocher, as well as stars like Joe Medwick and Ripper Colins, the 1934 Cardinals won 95 games, the NL pennant, and the World Series in seven games over the Detroit Tigers.

The team featured five regulars who hit at least .300, a 30-game winner in Dizzy Dean (the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in a single season), and four All-Stars, including player-manager Frisch.

So, despite my earlier issue with the lack of ‘Gashouse Gang’ material floating around out there in the Hobby, I’m pleased to say that Panini’s recently release National Treasures appears to have gone some way to redressing the balance.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a little self-indulgent with this one (it doesn’t hurt every once in a while), but here’s a few that have surfaced so far –

Dizzy Dean

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Frankie Frisch

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Joe Medwick

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Leo Durocher *

* The interesting thing about the Durocher base and nickname variant is the fact that his team is listed as ‘Brooklyn’ but the swatch on his cards is red, indicating that it comes from one of his old Cardinals uniforms. Nothing major here, just something I spotted and thought was worth mentioning!

On closer examination of the jersey relics the one thing that strikes me is how worn the material is on some of the cards. We’re talking REAL Baseball history here!! Teams didn’t have as many uniforms as they have today and they weren’t cleaned as much (or hardly at all if the mystique of the ‘Gashouse Gang’ is to be believed) as they are now. Today’s mixture of synthetic fabrics have replaced the wool-cotton blend flannel of yesteryear, and the look of these old jersey cards just adds an extra dimension to the throw-back quality of the product as a whole.

If there are any other Cardinals fans out there then 2012 Panini National Treasures will also give you relics and autographs of the likes of Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith!

Today is a good day to be a Cardinals collector, although it helps to have plenty of cash tucked away in your pockets if you are!

What’s In A Name?

Now before you start saying “Oh no, Andy’s going on about Panini National Treasures again” just hear me out!

There’s a hell of a lot to like, if not love, about this particular release. None more so than copious amount of relic cards of ballplayers from the 1900’s to the 1930’s – many of whom have never been widely available in Baseball card sets prior to National Treasures.

In case you weren’t aware ALL of the base cards is this set are relics #’d/99 or less! So while it’s NOT impossible to put a complete base set together – it IS pretty much impossible to put a base set together, especially when you consider there’s a Walter Johnson relic #’d/4, a Stan Musial #’d/2 and a Richie Ashburn #’d/1!! IN THE BASE SET!!!

Click on this link to visit Cardboard Connection for a complete breakdown of the product and the checklist!

However with all the various subsets to choose from there is one in particular that has stood out for me as a lot of fun – a variant set based on player’s nicknames.

Throughout the history of the game there have numerous monikers attached to different players, the majority of them very familiar to fans of the game and to the public in general – Joltin’ Joe, Iron Man, Hammerin’ Hank and Catfish, to name but a few! Some were a little bit more obscure – Old Aches & Pains (Luke Appling), Beauty (Dave Bancroft) and The Heater from Van Meter (Bob Feller), are just a few that spring to mind!

Here’s a few examples from National Treasures –

and my particular favourite

‘Big Poison’!!! What an awesome nickname!!

Paul Waner, along with his brother Lloyd (‘Little Poison’), both played together in the same Pittsburgh outfield for 14 years during the 20’s and 30’s. They still rank as the best-hitting brothers in major league history with a combined 5,611 hits – 517 more than the three Alou brothers and 758 more than the three DiMaggio brothers. Paul amassed 3,152 hits, and his .333 lifetime average ranks among the highest ever in the game. Lloyd, a lifetime .316 hitter, collected 2,459 hits, and had it not been for health problems, he might have cleared the 3,000 hit milestone as well.

While the origin of this name has never been properly pinned down, popular Baseball folklore attributes them to the distinctive pronunciation of fans in New York City. Allegedly at a game at Ebbets Field  a Dodgers fan described ruefully how the Pirates’ “Big Person” and “Little Person” were hurting the Dodgers team that day. In “Brooklyn-ese’, the names came out sounding like Big Poison and Little Poison.

So there you go!! Do yourself a favour and check out some of these cards!

I can’t stress enough that you won’t regret it!!

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!!

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!