Last spring I entered a few budget breaks with Colby and Nachos Grande. They were both base-heavy breaks of the pick a team, get a team variety. I obviously picked the Giants. And I got the Pirates as my random 2nd team. Twice.
So then I had a stack of Pirates cards sitting on my desk. Thankfully I know a guy. And thankfully he was more than happy to take the stack. So I packaged everything up and sent them off to Bob Walk the Plank. Matt was a prolific blogger who was one of the first Card Twitter people I started interacting with when I got back into the hobby. He gave up blogging this summer but lives on at @walktheplank82 on Twitter.
Sometime while I was away in California a small bubble mailer arrived from him. I feel a little bad about not acknowledging it when it arrived but vacation is vacation and we all understand how that goes. Plus it’s always fun to find a gift waiting when you go through your giant stack of vacation menu. Matt’s mailer was worth the wait.
I’ll start off with a Rich Aurilia gold numbered-to-25 parallel from 2002. I still don’t understand the nature of the hobby in the late 90s and early 00s. This set is completely new to me (good lord how many sets were there?) but it’s nice enough. Not my kind of thing but I’m very happy to have a sample.
The numbering is an interesting phenomenon. There’s no logical reason why stamping 04/25 on a card should make it feel more special but it totally does. I rationally know it’s all bullshit. It’s not like these were printed in a small batch so special care could be taken. Instead it’s artificial scarcity all the way down. At the same time, realizing that there are only 25 of these out there* triggers something deep down in the collector/hoarder mentality.
*To be specific, that Upper Deck only released 25 of these to the public.
I’m risking going all old man here but numbered cards like this were a relatively new invention when I stopped collecting cards. And those were numbered to 10,000. 10,000! So to see something numbered to 25 kind of blows my mind as a collector.
The 2014 Buster Posey relic card is one of those generic relics like the Joe Panik one I got last year. Not from a specific game/event/season but it’s “real”—for whatever that means. This one at least has a nice blurb on the back about Buster Posey and yeah, it’s Buster Posey and all Giants fans like Buster.* And it comes from a World Series year and that’s always cool too.
*Though I have seen a bunch of ingrates complaining about him this year as he’s battled his hip problem. And I fear that he’ll no longer be our catcher and it’s going to be weird next year when he’s playing first and Belt’s in the outfield.
I remember back in 1994 when relics like this were the coolest things around. I wanted one so badly. I don’t even remember why. Just, there was something about the idea of game-used equipment. I don’t even remember if they were called relics then but the term does a perfect job at capturing the way kids—and many adults now—treat athletes.
And I suppose it also explains part of why I came to love autograph hunting. Yes I like the degree that memory plays in the hunt, but there’s also something to the idea that the player held and signed the item.
Still, in a general sense, relics aren’t really my thing. This is mainly because they aren’t binderable but I think I’m increasingly unimpressed by the aura given off by a 1-inch clipping from an object that a player may have handled at some point. I also find myself increasingly skeptical about whether or not the material is even the real deal—which is kind of the kiss of death for these kind of things.
This Mel Ott 2016 Diamond Kings framed relic though is very much my thing. Not because of the relic but because the card itself is kind of amazing. Yes Ott is Ott and getting a card of any Giants retired number is always going to be appreciated. And yes that’s a bit of bat which I actually hope was not a real Mel Ott bat because that would be an awful thing to destroy.
The card though. Holy crap. Silver ink on uncoated reddish-brown paper. A die-cut hole in the center showing coated cambric-finish* paper with additional printing. That printed piece also die-cut to reveal the bit of wood. The fact that the piece of wood must only be as thick as a couple baseball cards so it can fit in the card.
*Similar to but not quite as textured as this year’s Diamond Kings paper.
Where the Rich Aurilia card feels artificially scarce, I’m kind of amazed that this is numbered as high as 99. Yes I know that Panini has a lot of automated processes to make relic cards, but I also worked in printing long enough to recognize how many steps making something like this takes and how easy it would be to screw it up.
And the last card in the mailer was a Gary Brown Topps Finest autograph. Poor guy got a cup of coffee in 2014 (7 games, 7 ABs, 3 hits, 1 RBI, and even had an AB in the NLDS that year) but ended up being released in early 2015, picked up by another team, released again, picked up again, and then finally released for good in early 2016. He went from being one of the Giants top prospects to out of baseball in basically two years.
This is the kind of autograph only a Giants fan could love. And yes I love it. It’s great that it’s on-card. It’s great that it’s one of those garbage pulls that would’ve pushed anyone else to Twitter to bemoan how much they got ripped off on their box of 2015 Finest. It makes me wonder how many other “junk” Giants autographs are out there now.
I also like that this is from Finest—a product I don’t collect. Aside from the price I’m not a fan of the shiny over-designed bells and whistles look. But it works with the signature.
Yeah that’s four cards which represent things I don’t collect. At a different level, that I don’t collect them is what makes them wonderful, perfect mailday cards. I’d never seek these out—well, I might seek out cheap busted prospect autographs*—but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them. They fit in perfectly in my collection and they’re extremely fun to have.
*Also cheap bench player autographs.
Thanks Matt! I’m so glad the randomizer gods blessed me with a bunch of Pirates to trade instead of leaving me with the Marlins or Rays.