Exit, Pursued By A Bear

I’ve put this off for a long time…

Sadly this will be my final post for The Wax Fantastic! You probably saw this coming for some time but I just wanted to go and make it all official!

When I first started this blog off just over two years ago it was with the lofty aim of uniting UK-based sports card collectors. Along the way I’d like to think we’ve got some way to achieving that somewhat ambitious and over-sized goal.

I say ‘we’ as it’s certainly not something that I’ve been solely responsible for. Over time I’ve met dozens of of like-minded collectors, both here and overseas, and I’d like to think that we’ve made some huge strides in bringing together our somewhat fragmented collecting community here in the UK.

I’ve also been blessed to have made several new friends through this blog – contact via the wonders of Social Media, or even in person, has meant that I’ve been able to reach out and share in the anecdotal lives of numerous other card collectors. Building relationships in this way has simply highlighted what a great community we’re all part of. The levels of trust, honesty and integrity that I’ve come across on my travels have had an incredible impact on me over the last couple of years, and I’m proud to have been accepted into this community; accepted as one of you!

However I’ve now decided to move on from baseball cards.

Over the last 12 months my interest has slowly waned in the modern baseball card and what it stands for. I no longer see any innovation in what Topps is producing. The same products seem to get released year after year with nothing more than a fresh lick of paint and a couple of extra bells and whistles. If we do get ‘new’ products more often than not they’re of the over-priced, high-end variety… Out of reach for those of us with the more modest of card budgets.

It’s easy to blame this stagnation on the exclusive licence agreement that Topps has with MLB, and many will. It’s incredibly simple and straightforward to bash Topps over the perceived state of the hobby, but to what end? Back in 2010 Topps stated that their aim was to bring kids back to the hobby – I’ve never seen nor heard of any evidence of where this has happened. The most ‘innovative’ of the products that Topps has given us recently is Topps Bunt. Thousands love the idea of digitized card collections and flocked to it in droves. Personally I thought it was all a pile of shit, but that’s just me 🙂

I like a lot of what Panini has done with baseball cards but feel they are shackled by a lack of licence with MLB. Without that in place I don’t feel that collectors will ever truly embrace Panini as a baseball card manufacturer. That might be why their business model has taken them down the route of an exclusive licence with the NBA and the NFL.

However please don’t misunderstand. I still think that Topps produce some beautiful looking cards. It isn’t all about the ‘evils’ of Topps and the current state of the hobby. Other factors such as increased overseas shipping costs from the US and a general lack of disposable funds have both played their part in this decision to leave the hobby right now.

One day I may well come back, but if I do I feel that I’ll only be looking at cards and products that were released prior to 1980. Old cards still grab my attention and who knows when I might dip my toe once more into the waters of vintage card collecting?

So for now I’m gone. Stick a fork in me, turn me over… I’m done!

All that remains is to thank you all for your support. Your comments, critiques, honesty and good humour will be something that I’ll treasure for a long time.

The Wax Fantastic will still live on as a blog! It still gets around 30-40 views a day and there’s still a lot of interest in some of my old posts around the pitfalls global shipping and dealing with eBay. I just won’t be posting anymore.

The Twitter account – @TheWaxFantastic – will also still be active but I’ll probably end up deleting that in due course. 598 followers as well! Who’d have thought it?!

I won’t be leaving the world of blogging completely though. I’ve had too much of a good time putting voice to my inane ramblings over the months, and I have too many interests that occupy my thoughts on a daily basis, that I still wanted to share some stuff with anyone out there that’s prepared to listen. And with that in mind my new blog was born…

Andy’s Big Blog O’Stuff 

I’ll be covering pretty much anything from popular culture – films, books, TV, games, sports, and so on, and so on! Hell, we might even squeeze in some baseball cards from time to time – stranger things have happened 🙂

So if you feel like dropping by to shoot the breeze, chew the fat and crack the wise then click on the above link and hit the follow button (top right at the moment, until it no doubt moves). I’ve not posted anything just yet, and the design format may well change, but you’ll get a notification through each time I put up something new.

So it’s goodbye from The Wax Fantastic for now! If anyone arrives here looking for details on UK-based card collectors then please head on over the the Yahoo Group that’s looked after my good friend, Glenn Codere. Here’s the link – UK Sports Cards

I’ll still be stopping round there occasionally, just tell Glenn I sent you 🙂

My new Twitter account is @50ShadesOfBates

Give me a follow and I’ll follow you back!!

Take care all and thanks for the ride. It’s been a blast!

Best

Andy

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Review: 2014 Topps Heritage Baseball

Ever since returning to the Hobby a few years ago I’ve been constantly on the search for a set to collect. My fickle and ever-changing moods have made this a far more difficult task that it’s needed to be, but a couple of years ago I set my sights on a specific set-building goal.

1965 Topps Baseball is my favourite vintage set from the 60’s. I can’t really put my finger on why this is, it just think that it’s one of the intangible things that is, simply because it is! I think that there are better looking vintage sets out there – 1957 Topps being top of my list (somewhat controversially, maybe) – but from the 60’s the ’65 set has always stood out.

So when I knew that we were only a couple of years away from Heritage’s take on the ’65 set I decided that was the one I was going to aim for. It looked as if I was finally ready to take on the Heritage challenge, with its 425 card base set and several dozen SPs!! Bring it on!!

Now, I may have told you before that I have a very limited budget for cards. This is one of the things that’s always frustrated me about being a baseball card fan, this inability to buy a constant stream of up to date product! So with a huge amount of patience I started putting away my pennies from various eBay sales and started stockpiling my Heritage fund. About a month before the official release date I pre-ordered two boxes off eBay and then settled down to wait for the release itself… and wait… and wait… and wait!

When the product was delayed it didn’t go down too well with Patricia Bates’ favourite son, but eventually the boxes did arrive on my doorstep… Heritage Day was finally here!!

This was a bit of a first for me as I don’t recall ever opening more than one box of the same product in the same sitting (negligible budget, as I said), so I was going to make a big deal out of it – milk it for all it was worth. You know? Make the moment last… Stretch it out as looooonnngg as I could… Savour every… single… moment…

15 minutes after starting, I’d finished! Sigh…

Here’s a breakdown of what I got from the two boxes –

Box toppers : 2 Advertising Panels (not opened yet)
Base (1-425) : 233/425
High number SPs (426-500) : 16/75. No dupes
Action Image Variation SPs : 3 – Bryce Harper, Derek Jeter, Matt Kemp
Logo Variation SPs : 0
Chrome Parallel (#’d/999) : 4 – Giancarlo Stanton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Yadi Molina, Patrick Corbin
Chrome Refractor Parallels (#’d/565) : 1 – Alfonso Soriano
Black Chrome Refractor Parallels (#’d/65) : 1 – Michael Wacha

Black Back : 1 – John Danks
New Age Performers Inserts : 6/20. 0 dupes
Then and Now Inserts : 4/10. 0 dupes
Baseball Flashbacks Inserts : 4/10. 0 dupes
News Flashbacks Inserts : 4/10. 0 dupes
1st Draft Inserts : 2/4. 2 dupes (both the Johnny Bench’s)
Hits : Clubhouse Collections – Bryce Harper, Wilin Rosario

In terms of the hits I’d say I punched well above my weight with some nice Action variations; a black refractor that any Cards fan would be happy to own; a very rare black back parallel and an awesome Club House collection jersey card of Mr Bryce Harper! Was I happy with those inserts?? That’s a clown question bro!!

Here’s a better look at some of the goodies –

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As I said, VERY happy with the inserts!! But I was never in this for the inserts to be honest… Nope, for me this was all about the set building! Get as many base as I could and then pick up the rest through trades and such-like. It’s helped a lot that there’s been a pretty high level of interest for this set over here amongst my fellow UK-based collectors, so it looked as if things should be pretty straightforward!

Shouldn’t they?

Well take a look at this next picture!

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The stack on the right are the unique base cards while the stack on the left are the duplicate base cards! 147 base dupes to 233 unique base! Can you maybe see where I’m heading with this?

I’ll come straight out and say that I love the product, nothing changes there. Great fun to open and a great range of inserts! Lovely looking cards and a decent quality card stock! But those dupes?? Man… those dupes!!

I never laboured under any illusion that two boxes would have netted me a full 425 card base set, but 233 unique base?? Come on!! That’s only just over half!! (54.8% if you wanted to be specific). I managed to pull the same cards at a ratio of almost 2 dupes to every 3 unique base! 2:3!!! Is that right? Is it acceptable from just two ‘random’ boxes?? My friend from north of the border, Glenn Codere, opened two boxes of Heritage just before me and ended up with 79.3% of the 425-card base set! Now that’s more like it and what I’d have liked to have seen myself.

However I guess the boxes weren’t that random after all. I went back over my packs and noticed that some of them were almost identical, except for the inserts. Same seller and I assume (although I haven’t verified) the same case! So what happened?!?! How did I manage to get cursed with such lousy collation?

I immediately went to my go-to-guy on Twitter, case-breaker extraordinaire Mr Brent Williams, who verified that this can be quite a common occurrence, with roughly every three boxes often being the same in terms of content. Another Twitter user advised that Topps don’t randomize their packing sequence, so that when dupes come they come in droves! So maybe it was just my bad luck that I ended up with two boxes that had similar content? If it happens, it happens, but I can’t help thinking that I somehow got the raw deal here.

The thing is boxes of baseball cards aren’t cheap these days. I’d saved for a good while, letting other desirable cards that I would happily have picked up just pass me by… Steadily building up the excitement for the release of this years Heritage! Only to be faced with a high number of dupes that I wouldn’t have expected to get from such a small sample of packs!

The aftermath of breaking down these two boxes has pretty much soured my whole experience with this product. I’m incredibly wary about buying another box, just to chance my hand at filling the gaps. In some ways the enthusiasm I’ve had for 2014 Heritage over the last couple of years has all but evaporated and has left me with a really bitter taste in my mouth. Yeah, I guess I was just unlucky and yeah, maybe I should quit bitching about it and appreciate the cool inserts that I pulled. But as I said earlier, it was never about the inserts in the first place. It was always about the base, about the set itself, and in that area Heritage has come up severely lacking!

Please Topps, do something about the way those boxes get packed to avoid something like this happening to other collectors. To get this level of duplication from just two boxes is woefully unacceptable and simply shouldn’t happen. It creates bad feeling and adversely affects those individuals who invest their hard-earned time and money into you and the Hobby!

I know that it’s too late now but I really wish I’d held off the this year’s Gypsy Queen, although potentially the same thing could have happened there too I guess! The worst thing is it looks as if I won’t be going back to Heritage again anytime soon, and to me that’s a lot sadder then any stack of dupes ever will be!

Mike Karamanian and the Great Clint Frazier Blog Challenge

OK then, just for tonight I’ve emerged from my self-imposed retirement to help one of my collecting buddies from over in Canada, one Mr Mike Karamanian!

You see Mike’s been busy making a new friend in the form of top Indians OF prospect, Clint Frazier, and he’s set himself the task that if he gets 2000 hits this month on his blog then young Mr Frazier has agreed to do a Q&A with him!

Now despite it being February (nice one Mike) I’m pretty sure that this is an achievable target, but it will be a lot easier with the help of you good folks out there in card-collecting land. So go and do Mike (and yourselves) a favour and head on over to his blog by clicking on the link below –

Cardzcollector

And while you’re there why not check out some of his other posts showcasing some of the awesome rookie and prospect autos he’s been picking up over the last few years!

You know you want to!

Thanks for your time and I hope to see you again soon. Oh, and Happy New Year by the way 🙂

Where Have You Been All My Life?

Some of the more eagle-eyed readers of this blog might have notice a distinct lack of presence on my part over the last couple of months. Apart from a re-blog back at the start of October I’ve not put fingertips to keyboard since mid-September!!

Now, I can appreciate the sort of impact this could have. Hearts have been broken for less!! Stock markets have crashed… Nations have even gone to war, damn it!!

But fear not!! I’m still here, I’ve not gone too far!

The truth is I became a bit disillusioned with the whole Baseball card collecting malarkey! I just wasn’t being as inspired or getting as excited about the Hobby as I had been over the previous 12 months.

Topps’ upcoming 2014 output was starting to look insipid and uninspired! A lack of funds at my end meant that I wasn’t able to get hold of any new boxes or singles, which in turn meant that my own PC wasn’t progressing as quickly as I’d have liked! I was even feeling a bit burnt out trying to maintain the frenetic posting pace that I’d imposed on myself, trying to bring you something new and worth reading on a regular basis!

The thing is, I’m not a writer!

Now while some of you may laugh at this and happily point out that that particular bombshell hasn’t come as that much of a surprise given my prior output, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not a trained writer. I have no previous experience doing this sort of thing. Nothing to tell me what’s great syntax and what isn’t. No idea of how best to structure paragraph upon paragraph of inane ramblings and half thought-through musings about cardboard! Most likely the above criteria applies to 90-something percent of the blogging community!

So when I hit a ‘wall’ in terms of coming up with something new and exciting to continue writing about I ended up stopped in my tracks! Could I/Should I just continue writing just for the sake of keeping The Wax Fantastic going on a daily basis? Or maybe it was time to regroup and take a timeout!! (Or maybe I’m overthinking it all)

So I decided to step away and take a bit of a break! Recharge the batteries, and all that!!

And now I’m back – kind of!

I remember reading something somewhere (I forget where or when) that likened the Hobby to ‘cardboard crack’! And they weren’t far wrong. However off-kilter I feel about it at times I always keep coming back for more! I just can’t help it!! So what if Topps’ 2014 brands are looking all ‘been there, done that’?!?! There’s still a load of other cards around right now that are just as deserved of our time and attention! And then there’s also vintage as well!!!

So while I feel in a good place to go back to blogging again I’m purposely going to cut back on how often I post. I always knew that the rate I was going at was going to be unsustainable for me – as a father and husband, with a full-time job and a host of other responsibilities!

But I can’t turn my back on it completely, I enjoy it too much!!

So for The Wax Fantastic, normal service (or at least what passes for normal round these parts) will be resuming – albeit in a slightly diminished capacity!

Feels good to be back, and thanks for sticking around!!

Andy

The More Things Change…

And here we go!! The proud unveiling of ‘The Wax Fantastic’ Mk II.

[Pause for thunderous applause]

The crazy thing is I had about 5 or 6 different designs in mind before ending up with this one (which looks suspiciously like the last one – just a bit sharper and cleaner)… More modern looking I’d say, and not like something from 2008 – remember those days, eh?!? Crazy times!!

Hope you like it – I do!

Busy weekend just gone so back to normal as of tomorrow!

See ya!!

Oh, quick Pop Quiz – Who can name the years of the Topps releases in the header image?

All Change!

Dear All!

I’m in the process of changing the theme of the blog and am currently toying with a few different designs for your reading and viewing pleasure!

With this in mind you can expect things to look a little bit different, with a few options in no doubt being moved around, at some point over the next 24-48 hours.

I’m hoping to give the whole blog a bit of a ‘freshen up’ but business should continue as normal…

If there are any problems with the new look, or you simply don’t like it, then let me know. Feedback in all shapes and sizes is always welcome!!

*

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!!