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.

A pile from Night Owl

Way back in November, Greg/Night Owl made a plea for people to take a bunch of extra Dodgers cards off his hands. While his request was intended for other Dodgers collectors, I figured it was a sign that I should take the plunge into collecting Shawn Green so I commented hat if he felt like dumping a bunch of Shawn Green on me I’d be happy to take them.

The madness of the holiday season means that sending mailings out like this gets backburnered until the week after Christmas. Sure enough, I found a bubble mailer in my mailbox on New Year’s Eve and inside was the stack of Shawn Green cards and an almost-threatening note.

I appreciate that Greg kept things in check. Where the other Stanford guys who didn’t play baseball for Stanford tend to not have many of cards at all, Green has a ton.* As I said way back when I first added him to the binder, I don’t want to supercollect him. But I won’t turn down a big stack and as a legitimate star/semi-star he does show up in a lot of sets which I’ve not included in the binder.

*Checking Trading Card Database. Bill Wakefield has 14, Bobby Brown has 34, Kenny Williams has 62, and Shawn Green has 4,445.

Anyway, to the pile. Since Greg is a Dodgers fan it only covers 2000–2005 when Green was getting Dodgers cards. He did however do a nice job in giving me a few cards from each year.

Starting off in 2000. I’m glad there’s one card depicting Green as a Blue Jay here. I have Giants cards from most of these sets but I’m pretty sure none of them are represented in my Stanford Album. I’ve tended to focus on either the base flagship sets or oddballs in that album. This is partly for simplicity’s sake and partly because I can’t be bothered to learn about the thousands of sets released in the 1990s and 2000s

This group of six kind makes that point since not only are none of them are from base flagship sets, they’re all from releases that only lasted a couple years. In many ways I love how much the hobby was trying things out. In other ways it’s a clear sign that everything was out of control.

To the 2001. Same story as with the 2000s except that I need to point out that my Stadium Club coverage of these years in all albums is thin to none. Greg included Stadium Club cards for 2000–2003 and they were my first representatives of those sets in any of my collections. I should probably rectify that for other Stanford guys as well as the Giants. Anyway this 2001 Stadium Club card is an especially nice image of Pac Bell Park in its first year.

The two Topps HD cards intrigue me. I don’t quite understand what makes this set HD since nothing besides the card thickness really jumps out to me as being different. I also don’t really understand what was going on with Topps Fusion. Both of those sets appear to be single-year experiments though so it’s nice to have a couple samples.

2002 has probably the most interesting mix of cards. Traditional photography like Stadium Club. Crazy chromed out stuff in Finest. Retro “painting” on the Topps 206. Acetate/clear stock on the E-X.

The Bats Incredible card is the one that catches my eye though. It kind of looks like an insert and it kind of looks a base card from a set that was designed to have a relic or signature in the top right corner on the hits. Definitely another one-year-wonder of a release but I can’t help but wonder how and why it was released.

This image covers both 2003 and 2004. Not a ton to say about these except that I love the 2003 Playoff Portraits card. As leery as I am about most of the fake paintings that end up on cards, the way this set is actually textured really enhances the painting feel. I’m pretty sure this was around for only one year which is a shame since it would’ve been nice to collect a couple seasons of these.

The Bowman Heritage in the 1955 design meanwhile shows the kind of thing that I dislike about so many of the Heritage cards. 1955 Bowman, despite the color TVs dominating the design, has a really distinct photographic look. An extreme crop from a generic action image like this doesn’t quite measure up and demonstrates a certain lack of understanding about what makes sets memorable.

Finishing up with the 2005s. Where the Playoff Portraits is great, the Diamond Kings is mess. It’s worth pointing out here that this is the only year with anything approaching the standard base cards. These are the only base Donruss and Fleer in the pile and the Opening Day is basically identical* to the Flagship card.

*And arguably an improvement with the blue foil on the Dodgers card.

Having the Opening Day card inspired me to add Green’s Topps Flagship run to my Stanford wantlist page.* I’ll probably take a gander at Sportlots or Cardbarrel at some point. No real rush though especially with so many Green cards in the Binder now.

*As well as Bobby Brown’s Bowman run.

Thanks Greg! I’m glad I could help with your duplicates problem.

Fanatopps

So that didn’t take long. This was always the most obvious logical move where rather than trying to start a trading card company from scratch Fanatics would buy Topps and acquire both a trading card manufacturer and the legacy of the brand that is synonymous with sports cards in this country. When the news officially broke officially yesterday there was a collective sigh of relief across the hobby as people realized that there was no longer a looming deadline followed by a big question mark about WTF was going to happen next.

It’s good news for the hobby. The collectors who appreciate the legacy being continued get to maintain that connection to the history of baseball. And the speculators who Fanatics looks to be courting get a certain guarantee of stability that things will continue on reliably.

My kids are happy. As should I be. Yet when I read about the announcement my initial gut reaction was one of disappointment.

That reaction caught me by surprise. I have a record of calling Topps the “card of record” and the idea of keeping losing that legacy—even though current Topps seems completely uninterested in embracing it—is what I hated most about the original Fanatics news. Sitting on it a bit, I realized that as much as I’m pessimistic about the direction Fanatics was going to go as long as it was run by a Sneakerhead, I had actually been looking forward to the upheaval.

I love the idea of Topps Flagship as a record of the nature of the game each season. Everything else though? I wouldn’t miss at all, especially the way Topps has been filing the unique edges off of every release and turning them into a mishmash of uninspired pack filler that gets tossed in the trash after the “hits” are pulled. So many of the current releases appear to just be churned out formulaically. No professional pride, just a desire to get stuff out because it’ll sell out no matter how bad or boring it is.

Not that I expect Fanatics to be any better here. Business after all is about making money efficiently not creating good products. But Fanatics has a different business model and distribution network. Creating products that support its existing infrastructure could’ve resulted in stuff that looked very different than what we’re used to. Which is really all I’m still hoping for in the next couple of years.

Fanatics is now making cards sooner than we all expected them too. They’re probably not going to rock the boat too much productwise to start whatwith lead times being close to a year. Distributionwise though I’m on alert and fully expecting some changes in that department—hopefully resulting in cards being more available again. And of course starting next year there should be some changes creeping in the product side.

Or at least I hope that there are changes. As reassuring as it sounds to say that nothing will change, we’re desperately in need of some change and fresh ideas.

December Returns

Wasn’t expecting really any returns last month but I got a few including the two requests I sent out in December.

The first December request came back in only 12 days. And it was a fun one. I had the boys look at these cards and neither of them picked up that Greg Harris was pitching with two different hands. While he didn’t end up switch pitching until his last season on the majors in 1995, his 1991 Score card is the only one that actually depicts him throwing lefty.

The pair of these make a great combo since they almost look mirror image. It’s also just a lot of fun to add a guy who’s “in” the Hall of Fame as the first modern switch pitcher. Now I get to speculate about whether or not he signed these with each hand. No way to tell for sure but the difference in signatures makes me hopeful.

Kelly Gruber came back only a couple days later as a 14-day return. He’s usually more like a couple hundred days so this was a nice surprise. He was one of those players from my youth who I remember particularly strongly. Looking at his stats now and I can see that his peak years (which were very good) matched up perfectly with my peak childhood years.

A 101 day return from Nate Schierholtz came in right before Christmas Eve and finished out my month. He was a key part of the 2010 World Series team as part of a right field platoon all season and a consistent late-inning defensive replacement in the playoffs. Which means that I really appreciate the inscription on his 2012 card.

I’m planning on refilling the hopper this January so hopefully things won’t be slow much longer.

Christmas cards from Mark Armour

Late last week I found an envelope from Mark Armour in my mailbox with a small holiday mailing inside.

The main item was this 1968 Dexter Press photo card of Jack Hiatt. I have a decent number of the 1967 Dexter Presses but I’ve had such a hard time coming across any 1968 Giants* that this is actually my first one. They are very nice indeed. Good crisp photos and a clean simple back design. I need to start looking for them more actively.

*It’s an interesting thing that I have three Astros however.

I also need to point out that this is signed by Hiatt. From what I’ve seen of his TTM returns, he still signs everything with ballpoint. Which means that this signature could be any age. I do really enjoy signed postcard-sized photos though. Small enough to still work like baseball cards but large enough to give the autograph some room to not stomp all over the image.

Two other items in the envelope are a Dick Perez postcard of Stephen Clark and a Mickey Mantle tract that Mark presumably came across. The Perez postcard is great. Mark’s been mailing me random Giants—used as actual postcards—but this is the first non-Giant I’ve received. Clark, as the founder of the Hall of Fame though is definitely worth having on a card.

The Mickey Mantle tract is the one that Bobby Richardson returns with his TTM requests. It’s all about Mantle’s deathbed conversion and either reads as an inspirational text or Pascal’s wager depending on how cynical you want to be.

Thanks Mark and Happy Holidays to you too!

Christmas cards from Mark Hoyle

Last week I received an envelope of cards from Mark Hoyle. He’s been apparently building a small stack of sorts since many of the cards were ones I remember him pinging me about months ago. I don’t keep track of a lot of this kind of thing since I hate asking people where a free mailing is. Best case scenario is that they flaked and I seem like an ass for asking about where my free cards are. Worst case scenario is that they went AWOL in the mail. In both cases I’d kind of prefer not to know.*

*In any case if you mail me something and I don’t acknowledge it either on here or Twitter then it’s safe to assume that it went missing.

Anyway, Mark’s envelope was the usual mixed bag of cards so lets’s get started.

First item was this Orlando Cepeda postcard. Mark has one for his Red Sox collection though it’s probably also relevant for his 1967 collection. For me, Cepeda of course is a personal favorite and this is a fun commemoration of his career while also being primarily a Giants card.

The card itself is a vanity piece for National Card Investors and links to an almost 2-hour video of his Cepeda collection. At 3 seconds per image this rounds out to about 2000 different Cepeda items in the video. No I did not watch it.

Mark also included this 1966 Ken Henderson. It’s actually an upgrade to the one in my collection and the duplicate goes on the pile of extras that my kids get to pick through every once in a while. Always nice to give them a 1960s card even though the fact that their oldest cards are the same as my oldest cards when I was their age kind of strikes me as a bit unfair. They’re able to open packs that are over 30 years old while my oldest card in my collection was 30 years old.

A pair of minis makes this two mini mailings in a row. Turns out that I actually need the Butler and it finishes my Giants team set for the 1989 Minis. Looking at the multiple years of Mini Leaders and I kind of like how Topps blended the white edge thing with the 1987 and 1989 base designs.

The 1991 Score lenticular card represents a subset I haven’t considered adding to my team collection. It technically fits but I never considered these to be Giants cards before. It’s probably worth looking through my sack of them to see if I have any others now.

A pair of Star Minor League cards in that design Star used for all its cards in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This set often shows nice stadium details though and this is the Everett stadium I visited a couple years later.

Steve Callahan is another card I didn’t have in the collection already.  I’m not at all building this team set but it’s fun to add them to the binder and every once in a while come across a player like Rod Beck who I not only remember but who I remember very fondly. Callahan is not such a player. I may have seen him a San José in 1991 (same with Aleys) but both of them topped out at High A level.

Last card in the envelope was this 1993 Flair Mike Jackson. Flair is the product that probably best represents why it was so easy for me to leave the hobby in 1994. It was the first product that was clearly not for me. It was way too expensive and a clear indication that the hobby was headed in a direction I would be unable to follow.

It’s definitely gotten much worse than Flair as the decades since 1993 have shown that there’s no apparent cap on how premium a release can be. At least now it’s so obvious that “getting it all” isn’t possible that the super premium stuff is even easier to ignore.  In 1993 though this was a bitter pill that felt like I was being pushed out of the hobby.

I don’t hate Flair now though. It definitely feels overhyped compared to what came after but it’s still got a nice thick card stock and extra-glossy finish. I’ve read in a few places that it was printed in Hexachrome but I can’t make out 6 inks under a loupe. A shame since doing a post about six color process would be a lot of fun.

Thanks Mark! Happy Holidays!

My first NWSL card

The increasing presence of soccer (and women’s basketball) cards has kind of ramped up the gravity which is pulling my Stanford project into mission creep. I’m increasingly interested in old, vintage cards of Stanford athletes,* but I was doing fine staying away from modern cards until everyone started opening packs of NWSL cards last summer.

*Not in a comprehensive must-get-every-card way, just as a way of picking up some examples of classic Topps/Bowman/Fleer Football and basketball cards.

It turns out that I kind of love looking through checklists from sets like this to find Stanford players. It also turns out that guys who buy the packs for a cheap fun rip also find themselves with a pile of cards which they don’t want to keep all of. One such guy was Shlabotnik Report who sent me a quick note to let him know who the Stanford alumnae* were in the set.

*#8 Tegan McGrady, #124 Kelly O’Hara,  #141 Tierna Davidson, #143 Jordan DiBiasi, #158 Lo’eau LaBonta, #160 Averie Collins, #191 Ali Riley, #192 Jane Campbell, and Cityscape insert #13 Sophia Smith.

He went through his cards and found that he had the Averie Collins. A couple days later I found it packed with a bunch of other cards in a PWE in my mailbox.  Very cool.

Collins was part of the team that won Stanford’s second NCAA championship in 2017. She also did the very Stanford thing of graduating with a year of eligibility left and then playing a last season as a grad student at another college (which resulted in her missing a second NCAA championship as Sanford won again in 2019).

These Parkside cards have the feel of  some of the Minor League team sets and I’m trying to figure out why that is. Could be the printing quality but it could also be something about the design.

Moving to the other cards in the envelope. Sticking with soccer, this foil Coutinho Attax card was included to add to me Barcelona page. It’s only a page for now but people do seem to like sending me Barça cards since while I don’t seek them out I’m happy to keep them.

Coutinho is a good player who hasn’t the greatest fit for the team; one of many such signings the team has made over the past 5 years or so as I’ve kind of drifted away.* It’s tough to watch a team of players who haven’t been assembled with any clear philosophy besides “hope Messi does something.” I’m hopeful this year, as bad as it’s gone so far, represents a fresh start of sorts.

*The difficulty ins even finding match highlights has not helped either.

Took me longer than it should’ve to recognize hat these two 1979s were actually O Pee Chees. You’d think between the logo, white card stock, French backs, and horrible trimming that I’d’ve figured it out sooner but nope. Like the Barça cards these are things that I love adding to the binder but which I never seek out.

Three Topps mini leaders. With their glossy finish, white card stock,  and colored backs, these were some of my favorite cards when I was a kid. Something about the small size made them feel special too. Little cards made to a higher standard featuring the better players.

And finally a handful of 2004 Total (not a cereal tie-in). I love the Total concept of having a lower-quality produced set featuring all the players. Not sure if it works for set collectors but it’s great for team collectors. I’m not quite ready to create a searchlist for these but I probably should.

And that’s it. Lots of fun stuff and definitely my favorite kind of Christmas cards.

Box cards!

One of my favorite new Twitter follows this year is John Grochalski (@JohnGrochalski) who’s been blogging about his reintegration to the hobby over at Junk Wax Jay. John picked a hell of a time to rejoin given how difficult it is to find/afford product now but his journey and experiences have reminded me a lot of my own experiences only a handful of years ago.

It’s great to see how cards serve as a way both remembering his youth and marking the time for baseball. I also like watching him discover the hobby as it exists today while also indulging in the cards from his youth which are so much more affordable than they used to be. Specifically, He’s been ripping lots of boxes of junk wax and as fun as it is to reminisce as he opens packs, he’s noticed my enthusiasm for asking about the box cards.

Box cards are one of my favorite things from my youth. I was friendly with the checkers at my local grocer* and was able to get empty boxes from them since they had a box of cards at every checkstand. My LCS was also pretty generous here—while they could’ve saved/sold the box cards, by the time I asked about them the cards were pretty beat up. I never accumulated a full set’s worth—my memory is that box collation was pretty bad ands that it wasn’t uncommon for every sand to have the exact same bottom—but dutifully cut them all out and put the best samples in my card binder.

*Back in those simpler days before Safeway took over everything.

I liked all oddballs of course but the box cards were special. For a kid who had to save to buy a pack at a time, the idea of getting and opening an entire box was a luxury I couldn’t really conceive of. I saw box cards as the reward for being lucky enough to acquire a box and so being able to scrounge an empty box felt like getting away with something.

Anyway, John when he noticed my enthusiasm, offered to send me his box bottoms.  Which is awesome. While I have a lot of the cards now* the nature of box bottoms is that upgrades are frequently possible. Plus, anything I cut out as a kid I kind of want** to have as a panel as well.

*They’re frequently cheap on ebay and I’ve found a couple super-cheap lots which have given me most of he box bottoms I want.

**Want but not need. My search lists do not distinguish between cut cards or uncut panels. 

He ended up sending me six panels in totalling to one per year from 1986 to 1991. Box bottoms only really started in 1985 when Donruss did them. Yes Hostess, Post, Whaties, etc. had box cards in the 1970s, 1960s, and earlier but it’s different getting box cards on a box of baseball cards than of a box of cereal or Twinkies. So starting with 1986 is a nice entry into the heyday of box cards.

Topps always changed some aspect of the cards for its box bottoms. In 1986 this meant switching the border from black to red. I don’t particularly care for this change though it does work nicely with the Pete Rose card since Topps also changed the Reds (and the position indicator) from red to white. It’s a bit garish on the blue-named cards and is unreadable on the single orange-named card in the checklist (Dwight Gooden).

It’s also interesting to note here that Topps didn’t flip one row of cards to be upside down so that the red borders would bleed into each other. Part of this is because the black “cut here” borders mean that bleeds aren’t necessary but it also demonstrates that Topps sort of intended these cards to be seen as a panel too.

Oh unlike subsequent years where Topps treated the box bottoms as a highlight set, except for the card number the 1986 backs are identical to the regular set backs right down to the Talkin’ Baseball trivia.

Fleer meanwhile laid its cards out with gutters instead of suggesting common cuts. This is nice for trimming but is a pain in the butt for getting the panels to fit into 2-pocket pages. It’s also a weird choice since it breaks the way the design tiles from one card to another.

As with the Topps cards I like that these feature different photos. Sometimes, such as with the Dale Murphy (or the 1985 Donruss Gooden), I find myself wondering why they went with a better photo on the box bottom than on the main card.

I’ve not much more to say about the Fleer cards since they only differ from the base set designwise due to the paper stock being non-white. However it does weird me out a little how the cards aren’t numbered sequentially.

A couple more Topps panels which are distinguished from regular cards through the blue borders in 1989 and the green borders in 1990. I especially like how the 1990 design is tiled correctly so it looks like the actual print sheet.

These cards all function as lifetime-achievement highlights: 300th Save, 1400th RBI, 300th Strikeout, 1000th career game, etc. The result is that you end up with a good mix of veterans and a decent chance at a lot of Hall of Famers; 7 out of 8 players in this case are enshrined in Cooperstown.

The 1991 Fleer set is one of my favorites despite being blank-backed because it commemorates all the no hitters that occurred in 1990. Having nine no hitters in a season was a big deal. Yes that number has been reduced to seven now but as far as I’m concerned any complete game in which one team doesn’t get a hit should count as a no hitter.*

*This brings 2021’s total no hitters to eleven.

While Score put No Hit Club cards in its base set in 1991 and 1992, Fleer had them  on the box bottoms. This is perfectly fine. No need for a card back since the fronts have all the information you really need. I love that this is the Andy Hawkins panel too since the idea of losing a no hitter was kind of amazing to me as a kid.

John also tossed in a dozen Giants cards. He’s been ripping a lot of modern cards and as a result is finding himself swamped in cards he doesn’t really need. This is admittedly both the joy and the curse of ripping packs. I don’t miss the inefficiency but I do miss being able to accumulate cards that will make other people happy.

It’s especially nice to get a bunch of inserts and 2021 Archives here. The inserts are always fun to see and represent cards I’d never buy as singles. Well except the Posey All Star card. I hate that those were so tough to pull in update this year* since I would like to include them in my 2021 binder section. The 70 Years of Topps Lincecums and the 1965 Bart though. I’d never spend money on them but really enjoy having them.

*Zero in my break though of course my son opened one pack and pulled a Kevin Gausman for his collection.

Archives meanwhile is not a set I like even though I appreciate what it’s doing. My kids love it and as long as it sticks to the fun side of things I can’t hate on it. This year though it’s great to get that first Kris Bryant card. Topps has made it tough by not including anyone of note in Update or Heritage High Numbers so I’ll take whatever late-year Bryants I can get.

Very cool stuff John. Thanks!