2021 in review

A little late but still plenty of time to get my 2021 in review post out. Last year was a weird year. Nothing in stores. COMC not shipping (I finally got my shipment with over 2 years worth of cards right before Christmas). I even started to run out of things to post over on SABR. Usually I have close to fifteen posts. This year I needed a late flurry to get up to twelve.

In any case I’ll start off with a recap of the posts I especially liked over in SABR. First off, I wrote one of my favorite posts ever this year where I looked at the history of baseball cards as it fits into the larger history of photography and vernacular imagery. I’m too much a photo geek to not be annoyed by the way baseball card collectors ignore the larger context of the hobby and this was my attempt to provide some contex.

I also had some fun with more wiggle gifs as I scanned another set of Viewmaster discs. These aren’t as nice as my first such post but it’s always fun to do the wiggle gif thing. And I got to go down a bit of a rabbit hole into baseball at the 1912 Olympics thanks to a T218 card of a Track and Field Olympian.

Moving to specific projects of mine. I made a huge step in my Giants Retired numbers project with a couple purchases of autographs of Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, and Willie McCovey—all players who I never really expected to have autographs of. I’ve gone ahead and put together a page to keep track of the current status of this project. I do not expect to update it very frequently. The cards/autographs I’m missing are all super tough and even updating the depicted cards to older ones is unlikely at this point.

Another project I decided to start tracking is my San Francisco Seals type collection. I went ahead and included Oaks cards from sets that don’t feature any Seals as a way of including more variety.

With that in mind I had a couple cards in my COMC pile which I’ve added. The 1930 Johnny Miljus Zeenut is the 5th Zeenut in the collection. It would be nice to get cards from other sets but Obaks aren’t cheap nor are the 1949 PCL Bowmans. Since there are no Seals in the 1933 Goudey set I grabbed the Floyd (Pete) Scott for Oakland Oaks reasons instead.

I did complete one set last year. Lanny gave me a heads up that he had a couple lower-grade copies of the last two cards I needed so I jumped on those. Yes. Lower grade for Lanny means the centering is off on an otherwise perfect-looking card. And yes I left the two big cards for last.

I know common wisdom is to hit the bigger cards first but since I like building sets to get to know the sets better, I don’t mind waiting until a deal comes up for the big cards. After all, they’re always available. The Murray is a fantastic photo and legitimate contender for both the best card in the set and the 1970s.

This leaves me one card short on two other builds—1994 Topps (Joey Cora. Totally gonna happen this year) and 2017 Stadium Club (Aaron Judge. No likely while his prices are still elevated). And for my other builds I’m ~85 cards short on 1989 Donruss and only 65% complete on 2014 Topps.

I made decent headway in my vintage Giants team sets. Being in a holding pattern of sorts where I need just Willie Mays, HoF rookies, and short prints (typically high numbers) I’m biding my time and picking things off when they hit an acceptably low price point.

I think my favorite here is the 1953 Bowman Monte Irvin but the 1961 McCovey is pretty nice too. The 1966 Mays meanwhile represents the kind of cheap low-grade card I’m waiting for now. I don’t mind the writing at all.

Which brings me to the past year in autograph hunting. Not much done in person since I only made it to like three Minor League games. I did however grab Jeff Manto and Derrick May at a Trenton Thunder Draft League game and got Casey Candeale at a Buffalo Bisons of Trenton AAA game. These were especially fun since all three are in the 1991 sets that my kids have. My eldest has been working on signed in-person 1991 Topps for a while while my youngest just started with 1991 Score.

This was a good year for TTMs. My longest return was Max Venable in 785 days. I don’t “give up” on returns but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a surprise. It’s always special to get a straggler back.

Meanwhile my shortest return was from Mark Leiter in only 3 days. Not sure I’m ever going to get one this quickly again. Pretty sure it’s impossible to get a faster one too.

I sent out a lot of customs this year and got most of them back. It’s been a very good year for the 1956ish design. Lots of fan favorite players. Lots of great photos. A few fun inscriptions. Impossible to pick a favorite and I had a hard enough time winnowing the samples here down to twenty.

Spring training was not nearly as good to me. Seems like Covid protocols kept a lot of guys from their mail. I did get a few Giants customs back at least. Tyler Rogers is probably the best of these—I remain confused how Topps hasn’t issued a solo card of him yet. Will be interesting to see how this year goes with the lockout but I’m not optimistic that I’ll be able to send anything right now.

A few Giants returns covering cards from across the decades. I’m kind of split between liking the George Foster or Renel Brooks-Moon best. Foster’s clearly the best player here though he barely counts as a Giant. Brooks-Moon meanwhile is a fan favorite whose whole return was probably my best of the year. Also I need to mention how great the Rick Parker photo is.

I just enjoy being able to flesh out the Giants binder in general though. Seeing it grow has been a great experience and writing the letters as a fan is also just a lot of fun.

A few other favorite returns this year. I’m not actively pursuing A’s but it turns out I got a lot of the guys from my youth. I didn’t like that team—mostly Tony LaRussa’s fault—but all those guys hit me in the feels now. Also a lot of guys here who fall into the “great players for a certain generation” category. A couple fantastic photos like Wynegar and Bordick, and an unexpected inscription from Davey Johnson which was perfect for me since the 1986 World Series was the first one I watched.

A lot of last year though was spent working duplicates from the cards from my youth. I’m not paging these by set in the binder—everything is alphabetically—but it’s fun to see a page-worth of each set that I’ve been working. I’m especially enjoying the photography on the 1986s.

1988 is a design that was underwhelming when I was a kid but which I really appreciate now. Its simple nature also works really well signed and lets the signature make the card.

1989 meanwhile is just a classic look. It’s missing the interestingness of he photos in 1986 but screams Baseball Card™ in a great way.

Not a ton of pre-war cards to mention. I have a few more that I need to scan and even more I still need to post about but I got some of my oldest cards in general,  a couple sets about polar exploration, and some more Garbatys. As the hobby has exploded, the pre-war deals I used to enjoy have started to dry up. Hopefully I’ll still find a few but we’ll see.

And that about wraps it up. A productive year despite everything. The kids have managed to stay engaged—thanks in part to the Giants having a season to remember. I haven’t been able to share the hobby as much with them as in previous years but we’re working on it.  I’m hoping that we finally turn a corner in 2022. Stay safe out there.

Addendum

As soon as this posted I realized that I had neglected to include a section about all the trades and maildays I received last year. I’m not going to recap every one since here are way too many but I do need to show the highlights.

A big thanks goes out to Donna, Mike, Scott, Jeff, Gio, Julie, Greg, John, Shane, Attic, Bob, Marc, Mark, Mark, Jason, Kerry, Shlabotnik, and everyone else who sent me stuff last year. I really love the variety and in a year when access to product was way down, being able to brighten people’s lives with trades and random gifts was fantastic.

We all tend to get caught up in tying our hobby enjoyment to what we can buy. I don’t think this is healthy either mentally or financially. It’s so much better to scratch those itches as a community and get cards that we aren’t enjoying to the right people who will enjoy them much much more.

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

7 thoughts on “2021 in review”

  1. Great recap! Great to see certain areas of the hobby thrive while others slow down. Your customs are fantastic and then getting them signed is even better!

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