Donruss Champions from @REALjtCarter

One of the things that amazes me most about the card community on Twitter is not just everyone’s generosity but how immediate that generosity is. The most-recent example of this is a package from Jason (@REALjtCarter) consisting of a bunch of packs of Donruss Champions. A week ago another Twitter contact received a similar package and I responded with an enthusiastic “Cool! I never saw these when I was little.” And that was enough for me to get an offer for my own package of cards from someone who I wasn’t even following at the time.

The reason I responded to these cards in the first place was because my general approach to Twitter is to be excited about when people share things; following the first rule of improv comedy is a very healthy way to internet. For a set released by one of the three main card companies of the 1980s to be something I’d never come across is noteworthy and exciting—especially when it’s a set of oversized cards.

It’s hard to tell in a photo but these are 3.5×5″—exactly twice the size of a standard card. I’ve always been a sucker for oversized cards and these are pretty nice in how photo-centric they are.* The checklist is a who’s-who of early 1980s baseball which, while not representing the time period I was a big time fan is a great mix of well-established stars from my youth with aging all-time greats.

*The less saids about the early-1980s offset printing the better.

Carl Hubbell is the only one Giant in the set and I was pleased to see him peering at me from the top of one pack. Somewhat amazingly for 1980s pack collation, I found no duplicates between these packs so I now have 25 of the 60 cards in this set including Wade Boggs, Cy Young, Mike Schmidt, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, and Rod Carew.

Jason didn’t just stop there though and included three team bags full of Giants cards as well. Most of these were newer cards but there were a couple dozen “old” ones as well. The most noteworthy ones for me are the three Baseball Card Magazine versions of 1960s Topps designs. I’ve seen photos of those but had never come across any real-life samples before.

This entire batch of cards is amazingly solid in terms of not having many duplicates with my childhood collection. I’m pretty sure that 90% of these are new to my collection—including all the Topps cards.

The 1993 minis are fun (I have the 1991 and 1992 sets but didn’t get the 1993 one). Topps Gold is always appreciated as a throwback to the age when parallels were just beginning  and hadn’t been beaten into the ground yet. 1993 Donruss is a set which I didn’t collect much at all so I have just a few representative packs. And that Studio 91 Garrelts card is great; it’s wonderful to see a photo of him without his glasses on. I need to get more of this set since I still like the photography in it.

A bunch of assorted Bowman, Fleer, Skybox, Leaf, Donruss and Panini cards. I still don’t understand Bowman as a brand but I’m happy to get Giants prospects and I’m glad it exists for my Stanford Project. Skybox and Leaf are both mid-90s releases which would’ve been out of my price range at the time if I were still collecting cards. But most everything here are not just cards I don’t have but come from sets which I don’t have any examples from either.

Of this batch I have to admit that the super-shiny silver Leafs catch my eye despite my typical aversion to that kind of shiny stuff.  I also have to admit that as much as I complain about being unable to distinguish the Topps designs from 2009–2014, the Bowman designs demonstrate how much worse that can be. Oh and it’s always fun to come across a Christy Mathewson card

Most of my modern collection is Topps. This is partly due to the amount of upheaval in the other brands in the 1990s and 2000s and partly due to how it seems like Topps duplicates are what everyone ends up with. So I have none of these Upper Deck cards and it’s quite possible these are all the first examples from these sets too.

Looking at these and even the designs which are overkill have me missing Upper Deck in today’s baseball card universe. As much as I’m a Topps guy, I readily admit that Upper Deck had its own style which would be a welcome change of pace today.

And finally to cards which I’m more likely to have dupes of. Though still not as many as would be expected. The 2001 Bobby Thomson card is great. It’s always nice to see 2010 cards and be reminded of that first World Series team. And that Gaylord Perry reprint rookie card is likely as close as I’ll ever get to the real thing. I’m also mostly unfamiliar with the Bazooka cards so that’s a noteworthy addition too.

2012–2014 continues the good Giants memories both with the 2012 and 2014 teams as well as the celebration card in 2013. Not much to say about these except to note that I enjoyed the Spot the Difference card and it took me a bit too long to find that the bat knob was missing on one side.

And 2016–2018 takes us into the full-bleed years. Putting them all together this way confirms how much better the 2018 design and photography are.  The Holiday cards are still bizarre to me even though I think I prefer the snowflakes to the needless smoke design in Flagship.

Anyway all told and including the duplicates that Jason included in this package I only ended up with 15 dupes at the end of sorting.* This is pretty damn amazing out of a batch of ~140 cards and I need to start saving Reds cards to send a thank you package back.

*This is a slight undercount since some cards like the Austin Slater 2017 Update card can fit in multiple albums so duplicates are appreciated.

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Thanksgiving

A visit to Virginia for family Thanksgiving.

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More 2018s from Tony

Tony is one of the first guys I became friends with on baseball card twitter. He runs two card blogs, his main blog is Off Hiatus and covers his Milwaukee and Brewers collecting focus. His second though, Collecting the 80s, covers 1980s oddballs and it’s in oddball land that we’ve had a lot of fun.

One of the best parts of collecting cards in the 80s and early 90s was how so many different food products, magazines, etc had cards in them. Many of these releases were extremely regional and it’s been really interesting to compare notes with other collectors around the country to discover what cards and sets they grew up with and how different those were compared to what I grew up with.*

*I’ve posted previously about Mother’s Cookies both on SABR and my own blog.

I’ve been meaning to put a trade package together for Tony but it’s been really hard. Most of my duplicates are from the peak junk wax days of the late 80s and early 90s. And the fact that Tony’s collecting focus happens to be the Brewers means I haven’t been able to come across any new cards to send him either. It’s rough out there if you support a “small market” team. Topps is increasingly focusing its new products on big-name teams and players and while I understand the business reasons for this it also feels extremely shortsighted since there are plenty of baseball fans out there who hate the big market teams and are getting increasingly tired of the dominance of Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers cards.

Tony proudly identifies as a member of that group and has been pretty vocal with Topps about how disappointed he is with their new products and wouldn’t be buying any of them. so of course he won a free box of 2018 Series 1 cards. And of course I found myself laughing at him about it. He got a decent box with a good number of Brewers cards in it. But even after getting a huge head start on the set he decided to stick to his guns and get rid of all the cards he didn’t want.

He was gracious enough to send me his Giants* so now I have seven of the Giants cards in Series 1. Since Peter sent me a couple of Poseys and Cuetos already I now have enough duplicates now to give my sons their first 2018 cards without causing any sibling strife.

*I need to figure out what black magic he used to send a bubble mailer for a buck.

I remain impressed by the photography in this set. It’s noticeably more varied and seems less preoccupied in getting extreme exertion faces and more about catching details like what grip the pitcher is using.

Also, hello Christian Arroyo. We hardly knew you and now you’re already gone. I have such mixed feelings about those orange jerseys. I love them as jerseys by themselves. They really pop on the card. But I hate them as part of the official uniform (though they’re worlds better than the black jerseys).

My favorite card of the batch is the Brandon Belt. First, this year’s design works way better in horizontal formats than previous years’ designs did. It doesn’t feel like the graphic is eating up half the card and the ground fog effect is much much more subtle. I still wish they’d stop using that filter though. What I’m most interested in though is the photograph and how it’s clearly shot from the stands rather than the photographers’ well next to the field.

Looking at the other photos from that game shows that this is the only one shot at that angle. I’m really curious what the photographer was doing to get this shot. Or perhaps there’s something really weird down the first base line at Petco that I’m not familiar with.

Tony also included a Stephen Piscotty card for my Stanford binder. Between this card and the Jed Lowrie from Peter, my Stanford checklist for Series 1 is already all checked off. It’ll be interesting to see who shows up in Series 2. And I do expect to see another Piscotty card in Update showing him with the A’s.

Thanks Tony! One of these days I’ll get enough Brewers cards to send you a thank you package in return.

Philadelphia Zoo

I think this will make it our eighth trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. It was cold so many of the animals were hiding but we did get to see the cats looking all elegant in their winter coats. Also there were baby Red Pandas which were moving way too fast to photograph.

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First 2018s

While I have yet to get any new packs of 2018 Topps, I’ve been encouraged by the generally positive reaction I’m seeing across the web and have been feeling increasingly curious about what they actually look like in hand. I was initially hesitant about buying any new product and since my local Target hasn’t had any in stock, I haven’t even had a choice about whether or not buy.

Thankfully though I didn’t have to wait for my local Target to even get anything in stock. Peter at Baseball Every Night couldn’t resist busting a few packs to celebrate the new season and was kind enough to send me a plain white envelope of cards he didn’t want.

So these two Giants count as my first 2018 cards. I’m still not feeling the waterslide design but I appreciate that it’s less intrusive than previous years’ designs and fits the full-bleed look much better. The photography is also noticeably more interesting. Cueto’s is most-similar to previous years’ shots of slightly-too-closely-cropped action but I love the detail where it looks like we can see he probably just threw a circle change.

Posey’s is a little oddly cropped for me. Topps still likes to center players within the card rather than suggesting movement within the frame. All too often you can see in the original images that there’s plenty of space for a more dynamic framing. The photo of Posey is no exception. I want to move him a quarter inch to the right, get the full mask in the frame, and give him space to look into. Still, the shot itself is more interesting than the usual full-exertion swing we’ve had the past years.

Peter was nice enough to include doubles of these so my kids will also get a chance to start their 2018 card collection without having to spend money or, if they do, be disappointed if they don’t get any Giants in their packs.

Jed Lowrie is part of my Stanford project. I like this card a lot. Again a more interesting image with lots of small details—like the extra pair of gloves in his back pocket—to notice.

And yeah, the fronts of these are very nice and suggest that there’s a lot more variety in the photo selections this year. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these cards over the next few months.

The backs though? Sigh. I didn’t scan anything because they’re pretty boring. I miss having complete stats. My 8-year-old even complains about this. He wants to know where the players have played each year they’ve been in the majors (and ideally, each year in the minors too). It’s funny, I liked the stats when I was a kid.  He, however, likes the story about where in the country each player has played and how the different minor league levels fit into the club organization.

Also, the huge amount of space devoted to twitter and instagram handles is going to age horribly. I know it’s a little silly to complain about the future of these cards but at the same time, much of the allure of this hobby is how it’s part of a history of card collecting. There aren’t many things now that kids can share with their grandparents this way* and those social media handles won’t age nearly as well as the cartoons from the 1950s have.

*As much as I make old man jokes this is what I love about the hobby too.

The last card is a Buster Posey insert. I’m increasingly disenchanted by all the inserts. Yes, I guess I’m glad that they’re inserts instead of yet another set to buy, but the explosion in insert sets was something that helped to push me out of the hobby 25 years ago. There are just so many of them now that most of the people in the hobby who I follow now just mail them to whoever they know collects that team.

I’ve tended to pull Dodgers inserts and have sent them off to Night Owl. Peter seems to get Giants one so I’m the lucky beneficiary. It’s good. They end up in my Giants album and I enjoy them there. But they’re just not something I’m excited to pull from a pack. The inserts are almost invariably over-designed and as I’ve gotten older I find myself liking cards for the photography more than a anything else.

👴

A collection of my 👴 tweets which I’ve been generating on Twitter as I come to grips about how much the baseball card hobby has changed since I was a kid.

Natural History Museum

New Jersey schools always have a four-day Veterans Day weekend so this year I took the boys to New York to visit the Natural History Museum and then wander through Central Park. This was also the kindergartner’s first real trip into New York and on the subway so it was fun to see him get the experience. The third grader meanwhile is learning how to navigate subway stations and find signs. This is a steep learning curve considering how we always enter New York via Penn Station.

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