Mailday from Shane

Despite the previous massive mailday, somehow Shane was able to surprise me with another massive batch of Giants cards. While obviously not as much fun as the previous mailing (that one took me months to sort through and figure out what everything was) there’s a lot of good stuff in here too.

A few 1980s–1990s cards from when I was collecting. The Topps UK Minis are especially fun. I’d not seen them before this year but have gradually acquired a number of them now through maildays. Pretty sure I’ve never seen that Fleer Exciting Stars card before either.

The rest of the Score, Upper Deck, and Leaf cards remind me of my collecting heyday. I might have them in a box at my parents’. I might not. (I’ve long lost my memory of all the cards I owned.) But these are the cards—and the players—I grew up with so it’s always a blast to see them again.

One of my growing collecting interests are cards which aren’t in English. O Pee Chee is pretty standard and for most of my youth was just a Canadian-branded version of Topps. It was cool enough that it was in white card stock instead of grey. And the bilingual French/English backs (also with Leaf in the 1980s before Donruss relaunched it as a premium brand in 1990) were pretty cool. O Pee Chee Premier followed the flagship/premium break that occurred in trading cards ~1990 and is the first time I saw non-Topps O Pee Chee cards.

I only recently discovered that Pacific’s MLB license was initially only for Spanish-language cards and that even after they started making English-language cards their Crown line was Spanish-only. Despite the Bay Area being a pretty significant Spanish-speaking market, I never saw these when they came out in 1993/1994. I’ve been semi-seeking them out now (I have a handful of giants from 1993/94) so having a 1997 Bonds is very cool.

On to late-1990s cards that represent a grab bag of different things that card companies were doing as they tried to figure out the post-strike landscape. We’ve got reprints. We’ve got retro-inspried designs. We’ve got budget versions of premium brands as a response to the regular brands creating premium releases. I continue to look at checklists from this era and be confused.

And Shane sent me a ton of Topps flagship starting with 2000. This is great since I don’t have any coverage from these years and while getting sets is out of the question, having Giants is a good way to stay on top of things. 2000 is notable for being the first year at Pac Bell Park so these cards represent some of the last images of Candlestick as a baseball venue.

Also. Yes. That’s a Robb Nen autograph. I need to ask Shane about the backstory here but that’s definitely the highlight of the mailday. I never took to Nen the way I took to Rod Beck but after what he did, and gave, to the team in 2002 I think all Giants fans respect him.

2001 Topps means many of these are the first photos from Pac Bell. The Robb Nen card here is the most-distinct of the ones I received in that it shows triples alley. Also, While I’ve tended to side-eye a lot of Topps’s 1990s–2000s designs, this one is growing on me. As individualy cards the green/grey border feels wreid. But seeing them all together like this and that color provides a nice page background for the photos.

I’m not a fan of the 2002 design though. If the dark green has a certain class to it, this orange/brown is an eyesore. All the swirly ribbons don’t help either. This is a shame since I should probably get this team set as it represents the team which came as close as I ever expected to get to a World Series title.

Yes that game 6 loss still hurts a little even though we’ve won three times this decade and winning a steroid-tained title would’ve sat uncomfortably.

2003 and 2005 Topps. the highlight here is the Matt Cain Prospects card. I’ve kind of forgotten these years in a blur of horrible news coverage where what Barry Bonds did outweighed what the team did. It was increasingly hard to be a fan and the Bonds circus caused me to start drifting away.

These sets are similarly forgettable. Topps is obviously going through a phase of knowing that foil stamping and high gloss are the hallmarks of premium cards but they haven‘t figured out how to consistently combine them into designs which work well.

I can’t imagine how unbearable the Bonds Hype must’ve been for everyone else during those years. That Topps released a set where each card represents one of Barry’s home runs continues to amaze me in its hilarious awfulness. I’m definitely not seeking to complete this set but I’m glad that I’ve moved past my frustration with those years to see the humor in it.

And that 2006 Topps set is also pretty dire. If the knock on a lot of the sets from 1976–1985 is that they’re boring white-bordered sets, at least they’re simple designs which have aged relatively well. These mid-200s Topps designs though? Yeesh. Too many things going on on each card.

2007 is better. I don’t like the design but it’s got a better handle on what it’s doing. I’m baffled as to why the team card has the red and blue squares switched (the backs are all oriented the same way). And yes those two Zitos have different colored backs. This whole parallel/short print thing where Topps changes the color of something minor and treats it as something special really bothers me. If you’re going to do this kind of artificial scarcity crap at least do it with photo variations.

I really like the 2008 design. Kind of surprised about it but it reaches back into the past and does something which is reminiscent of 1964, 1972, and 1986 yet in a way which isn’t at all copying them. The only thing I don’t like is the little tab where the Topps logo is. Even the printed autographs are a nice change of pace (although as an autograph collector I generally don’t like them).

Sadly the 2009 design is a step backwards again. And that’s a 2010 Ginter mini which is fun but also represents a line of cards which isn’t my thing.

And to more-recent cards. The Minor League Heritage cards intrigue me. I don’t really like the Heritage thing but for some reason it bothers me less with minor league teams. I do enjoy having representative samples of the various Archive and Heritage releases though.

The Christian Arroyo 1968 Topps Game design is especially interesting in how different it is—larger size and thicker card stock—from the actual 1968 cards. I am also amused at the specificity of “Lead Runner and Batter Out” for the double play (yes I know this is accurate to the original).

Shane also included some more-random stuff. Fleer stickers are fun. I think this is from 1987 based on the team logo on the other side. The small one must be from a minis set. I’ve never seen anything like it before. And the 49ers cards are fun too. I’ve long since given up on the NFL but cards which remind me of the 1980s when I was a fan—I was a 49er fan before I was a Giants fan actually—will always be enjoyable.

The coin is a 1969 Citgo coin of Willie McCovey. The back has a gob of glue stuck to it but it’s a neat little object all the same. I don’t think we had Citgos on the West Coast (it’s certainly a brand I’m not familiar with) so these coins also represent a cool regional oddball as well.

Thanks Shane! I hope my package gets out of USPS purgatory* sometime this year. It’s not nearly as cool as this, or the previous mailday, but it is indeed enjoyable to send people things that’ll make them happier than they made me.

*Note. Never, ever, make a mistake on the zip code.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

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