Happy New Year from @LumberjackCards

Late last months, @LumberjackCards made a New Year’s offer to send a bunch of us a few packs of junk wax* and I happily raised my hand. I didn’t know what to expect but it’s always fun to open packs with my kids. My package arrived on January 2 and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had a few more goodies hidden between the packs.

*While I’ve posted about going through junk wax in repacks before it’s worth discussing the term and how most of us who grew up in the peak junk wax days of 1987–1993 use it fondly as a way of enjoying nostalgia on the cheap rather than thinking of all our childhood hobbies as being trash.

The main goodie was a Caveman autograph. I got a few cards of his signed in Philadelphia but this 1989 Topps was not one of them. As a Giants fan, 1989 was one of the more exciting baseball years of my youth and this takes me right back.

The rest of the goodies were a handful of Giants cards. I kind of like how the Chrome scans black—especially with the Giants cards. I also understand the brand a little better when it’s applied to cards with borders. On the current full-bleed cards I never understood the point. But then I’m not a sucker for shiny the way I used to be.

I still am not a fan of Ginter but I can admit that the minis do scratch a bit of my oddball itches. On the Venn Diagram of Insert vs Parallel vs Oddball I’d put the minis right in the middle as part of all three sets. And that’s kind of cool.

The Buster Posey Triple Play card made me laugh because @LumberjackCards put it in a penny sleeve. And the Grizzlies contest was not a winner but no surprise there. Yes I know that the Grizzlies are no longer the Giants AAA affiliate but my gut still thinks of them that way.



The real fun though was the packs. When I showed them to the boys (after a few days of waiting for them to clean up all their Christmas Legos) they excitedly asked if these had gum in them. I had to explain how only Topps had gum and these had puzzle pieces instead. But they had a lot of fun tearing open their packs and seeing who they got.

My five-year-old had a Kirt Manwaring card right on the top of his stack and got very excited to have found a Giants card. The rest of his pack was not nearly as exciting though he was as intrigued by Oil Can Boyd as I was when I first saw him pitch in the 1986 World Series.

My 8-year-old’s pack was a bit better. No Giants but he got George Brett, John Olerud, and Lou Whitaker. He knows enough now to know what the Hall of Fame is and be happy finding cards of guys who are in it.

My packs meanwhile had a bunch of the MVP inserts, a Robin Ventura Rated Rookie, and an Atlee Hammaker card. 1990 Donruss is another one of those designs which has grown on me. It gets a lot of snark about being the Red Set and it is true that the Green (Rookies) and Cyan (Best of NL/AL) sets are a bit easier on the eyes. But that script font and the color spatter and even the bright color all scream 1990s design to me in a way which I really appreciate now.

I had also forgotten the way wax packs smelled. In a good way. Something about the mix of ink and paper and wax reminds me of being a kid again. A little kid. If the smell of UV coating reminds me of opening cards in the early 90s as an early teenager, the wax pack smell reminds me of being nine years old. Which made this a perfect way to kill an hour of time on a snowy day with my kids.

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge

So I decided to start off 2018 by reflecting on reintegrating into the hobby in 2017 and doing Tony’s 30-day baseball card challenge. It’s weird. In many ways I feel like I’ve been back in the hobby for much longer than a year* even though I was only just feeling the pull in March. Anyway it’s been great to get back into cards and even better to get to know the online community whether it’s the SABR guys, #CardboardMafia, or the rest of the #HobbyLove crew.

*Yes this could just be 2017 being the trash heap of a year that it’s been.

I had no idea that trading would be such a wonderful thing. I’ve loved receiving surprise maildays and I’ve had just as much fun trying to find cards to send out. Even though I always feel inadequate in these exchanges I deeply appreciate how so many traders aren’t hung up about book value and are instead just excited about both their own weird personal projects as well as keeping an eye out for everyone else’s weird projects too.

And it’s just been great to chat about cards whether on Twitter or in the comments on blogposts. Tony in particular was one of the first contacts I made on card Twitter and because I’ve enjoyed chatting with him so much I’ve been wanting to do his 30-day challenge for many months. At first I could only answer maybe half of the questions but as the year has gone by I’ve gradually gotten to the point where I can answer all but one of them.

Thanks Tony. This is a great way to inaugurate 2018. All one post instead of being spread out over 30 days. And yes, because of my collecting interests this is going to be very Giants heavy. Photos are a combination of my scans and images sourced from the web. If the condition of my copy matters then I’ve scanned. But for the more-recent cards I’ve tended to grab from the web.

1. A card from the current year with a photo you like

2017 Stadium Club Tim Raines

Since this is 2017 in review I’m treating “current year” as 2017. That this was Tony’s first prompt is a reason why it took me so long to do this challenge. Flagship’s photography is not so inspiring. Stadium Club on the other hand is fantastic and only once that set came out did I find any cards which I felt good about putting here.

This Raines card was kind of a “holy crap” card in general. It looks unlike any other baseball card photo I’ve seen and when I saw it is when I realized that I wanted to start collecting this set.

I’m very glad I found it in a pack and it’s a perfect choice for this year since he finally entered the Hall of Fame.

2. A card with more than one player on it

1991 Fleer Ultra Steve Chitren

I’m cheating on this one. Rather than an intentional multi-player card I’m putting this error up since the fact that I have no idea who’s mistakenly on the front of this card still bugs me.

I was kind of mean to Chitren by bringing him this card to get signed since it’s one of his first cards and Fleer screwed it up. He did tell me that the guy on the front was “Joe Torrick” but I’ve been unable to anyone named like that on Baseball Reference. I also brought a bunch of other cards of Chitren’s to get signed so it wasn’t as awkward as it could’ve been.

3. A card from the first set you tried to complete

1991 Topps Walt Weiss

I never hand-collated sets since I always received factory sets as Christmas presents. In 1991 though I made it my mission to collect enough Bazooka comics to send in for the free (or super-cheap + shipping, I forget the exact offer) 1991 Topps Factory set. So while I didn’t complete the 1991 set itself, it’s the only one that I put some kind of accumulation work in to finish.

I’ve been willing to argue that the 1991 set is the best-looking set Topps has ever made. The photography in particular is often great—both with the action shots and the posed ones. I remember my jaw dropping the first time I saw the Walt Weiss card. It’s nearly perfect and after years of not having horizontal action cards this was not something I ever expected to see on cardboard.

4. A rookie card of one of your favorite players

Will Clark 1987 Topps
1987 Topps Will Clark.

I’ve already posted about Will Clark and this signature. The prompt here though takes us into the “what’s a rookie card” discussion. I’ve always preferred to think of the first Flagship card from after the player debuted in the Majors as the true rookie card. Yes I know there’s a 1986 Traded card. I even have two of them. But for me this is Will Clark’s true rookie card.

We didn’t need that RC badge to tell us whether or not a card was a rookie card. We just turned the card over and if there was a single line of MLB stats we knew we had something fun.

5. A certified autograph card of one of my favorite players.

Gaylord Perry 2004 Donruss
2004 Donruss Timelines Gaylord Perry

Another prompt I would’ve been unable to answer earlier last year. This came in a mailday where I was expecting random commons and got random awesomeness instead. I’m not a fan of sticker autographs but this one is done well. Rather than being just slapped onto the card, the card is designed around the sticker and everything looks really nice and considered.

And yes Gaylord Perry, like the rest of the Giants Hall of Famers, is one of my favorite players. I’ve posted about getting his signature on here and I’m enjoying getting more of his cards as I slowly build up my Giants collection.

6. A card you spent more than $10 to get

1967 Topps Willie Mays

This was in a bargain bin. Still more than $10 because, while it’s beat up, it’s Willie Mays and presents well in person.* Mays is going to be the biggest obstacle to my attempt to build Topps (and maybe 1950s Bowman) Giants team sets. He’s one of those players who everyone wants and no one wants to get rid of. Deservedly so. So when I see cards like this I jump on them.

*There’s this weird thing where scanning a card makes it look so much worse than it does with the naked eye.

7. A card you bought in person and the story behind it.

Orlando Cepeda 1960 Topps
1960 Topps Orlando Cepeda

Another one I’ve kind of blogged about before. I was at a soccer tournament in Fresno and was surprised to find there was a card show near the hotel that weekend. It was my first card show and while it was kind of a magical experience, I don’t remember too much since so much of what I saw was way out of my price range. Anyway when I saw this for sale I had to get it. Cepeda was already my favorite old player and I spent most of my meager budget on this card.

8. A card that reminds you of a family member

1988 Mothers Cookies Harry Spilman

In 1988 at Mothers Cookies Trading Card Day you got 20 cards of the 28-card set and a redemption voucher for 8 more cards. My sister and I each got sets. when we sent in our redemptions we got a different pack of 8 cards. Much to my chagrin one of the cards she got was this Harry Spilman—her favorite player. I “needed” it. She had it and wouldn’t trade with me.

I don’t remember exactly why Harry was her favorite. But I know that she held on to this card long after she stopped caring about baseball or baseball cards because she was doing her job as a sibling. It was only after I gave up on collecting in 1994 that our collections got merged.

9. One of your favorite cards from the 1950s

1950 Bowman Hank Thompson

Thompson is kind of a forgotten Giants pioneer. Monte Irvin overshadows him despite them both being the first black players for the Giants. And Willie Mays overshadows both Irvin and Thompson on those 1950s teams. But this is another card I found in a bargain bin and, while it’s beat up, I couldn’t resist it because it both features an important player who’s kind of been forgotten and it’s part of a set which predates Topps and never existed as part of my younger consciousness in card collecting.

Topps was the brand and card of record for me when I was a kid. Bowman was a legacy brand which I didn’t know much about. when Topps brought the brand back it almost diminished the old cards even more. While there are a number of great 1950s issues I like the 1950 Bowman set because of how different it looks and how it reminds me of how much the hobby changed in that decade.

It started the decade with small painted cards which very much hearken back to the pre-war days of baseball cards. And it ended the decade with color photography and a card size which has essentially become the worldwide industry standard over the past 60+ years.

10. One of your favorite cards from the 1960s

Masanori Murakami 1965 Topps
1965 Topps Masanori Murakami

I’ve pretty much covered everything about this card already.

11. One of your favorite cards from the 1970s

1973 Topps Chris Speier Boyhood Photos of the Stars

I touched on this before but it’s hard to describe how much Chris Speier intrigued me when I was a kid. Here was a player who‘d been on the Giants in 1972 and he was back on the team in 1987! I thought this was extraordinarily cool.

And these 1973 Boyhood Photos cards? Also kind of amazing. Super cool for kids. I don’t think I’d like them in a set now. But this one just added to my fascination with Speier at the time. It wasn’t enough that he’d been around so long, there was also a card with a photo of him as a kid on it.

12. One of your favorite cards from the 1980s

Kevin Mitchell 1987 Topps
1987 Topps Kevin Mitchell

I’ve posted on Mitchell before. This card is just too good. The photo is great and I don’t think they make infield dirt like this anymore.

13. One of your favorite cards from the 1990s

1991 Studio David Justice

Leaf Studio ’91 was one of the first sets which expanded my understanding of what a baseball card could be. As companies tried outdoing each other with slicker production values and better action photography, it was a surprise to find a slick set featuring black and white studio photos.

Rather than trying to emulate the Bo Jackson style studio shots like Score was doing, Leaf managed to bridge a delicate line between having informal casual shots while having everyone still looking like a baseball player. David Justice’s card was one of the ones that jumped out at me especially because of the way he’s interacting with the bat.

14. One of your favorite cards from the 2000s

Marvin Miller 2005 Topps Fan Favorites
2005 Topps Fan Favorites Marvin Miller

Another card I’ve covered already. Each year that Miller is kept out of the Hall of Fame is increasingly embarrassing.

15. One of your favorite cards from the 2010s

2011 Topps Heritage San Francisco Giants Celebrate

Did I think the Giants would ever win the World Series in my lifetime? No.

Does having a card celebrating that victory make me happy? You bet your ass.

16. A card of a player who you appreciate but don’t like

1978 Topps Jack Clark

I knew of Clark as a former Giant but he was well established as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals by the time I became a fan. Giants fans didn’t like former Giants when they came back to The Stick (yes I know the Giants traded Clark away) and the fact that he was with St. Louis was especially painful.

Especially in 1987.

I seem to recall him killing us a lot but I also just never liked any of the Cardinals at the time (I grew to like Ozzie Smith though). But I also had to appreciate Clark as both a player and as the standard bearer on those horrible late-70s, early-80s Giants teams. I’ve selected the 1978 card since it’s his first solo card and reminds me of his appearances in Mike Mandel’s work from that time period as well.

17. A card from the first set you put together hand collated

I have to leave this one blank as I’ve never completed a hand-collated set. Completing a set is one of my goals in my second stint of baseball card collecting. I have a decent start on 1986 Topps, 1990 Fleer, and 1991 Donruss so one of these days I need to find a cheap box, sit down, and start ripping packs.

18. A card of a player who managed your favorite team

Roger Craig 1962 Topps
1962 Topps Roger Craig

I sort of covered this already too.

19. A favorite card from a country other than the United States

1960s 大日本印刷 (Dai Nippon) playing cards
3♣️ featuring 王貞治 (Sadaharu Oh) on the backs

While I don’t read a lot of sports books, one that I both enjoyed and recommend is Oh’s biography A Zen Way of Baseball. Yes, I know he’s like the only non-MLB Japanese player many people can name but the book is one of the main reasons I happen to like him. It’s a very interesting look at Japanese baseball but it’s also, more interestingly for me, about how Oh had to navigate Japan as not being fully Japanese.

Back before the internet it was hard to find Japanese cards—let alone affordable ones. My mom found this one at a card show I’d dragged her to (the same show in which she snagged my Hank Aaron ball) and until this month was the only Japanese card—and Oh card—I owned.*

*I finally got some mid-1970s Calbee cards because the photography looks awesome but that’s a post for another day.

I only just found an ebay auction with more information (still not much) about this card. That auction confirmed my guess about it being from the 1960s. While that seller has a number of other playing cards the only other Sadaharu Oh playing card I’ve found an actual webpage about is Commish Bob’s card. His is a different deck of cards and he has, quite appropriately, the king of clubs. My card is the three of clubs which isn’t as appropriate for Oh but makes me smile as a Penn and Teller fan.

20. Your favorite parallel card based on the parallel

1978 Topps Zest Willie Montañez

I almost left this category blank on purpose. I don’t like parallels, especially the way they exist today with dozens of color variants and short prints and little details where you have to use a magnifying glass to check the little code at the bottom in order to determine what the difference is. I dread hitting those in packs and they’re sucking a lot of the fun out of the hobby.

That said I do have fond memories of wanting a sample of 1991 Topps Desert Shield cards and chasing the early-1990s Topps Gold cards. I also like the oddball parallels such as the 1975 minis or the various regional food-issue parallel cards from the late 1970s and early 1980s.*

*Burger King and Nestle are the two which come to my mind first.

But I’ve come around to feeling like the only parallels I really like now are ones which involve language issues—especially Spanish. I stopped collecting cards in 1994 but I’m really tempted to try and track down the Spanish-language 1994 Topps set. I also really like the 1960s Venezuelan Topps cards—especially the ones with Spanish on the backs although those are more like O-Pee-Chee foreign issues rather than true parallels.

The 1978 Topps Zest set sits right at the intersection of a lot of these. It’s a parallel in the sense that the fronts look like the regular 1978 cards. It’s also an oddball in that it’s a small mail-in set meant to encourage you to purchase Zest Soap. And the backs are bilingual English/Spanish which is super cool.

From what little I’ve been able to piece together online this was a promotion aimed just at the Spanish-speaking market. The mail-in coupon is completely in Spanish and indicates that mailing Proctor & Gamble the redemption certificate along with the wrappers from two bars of Zest bath soap would get you the set of five cards in return. It was a short promo too—August 1 to November 1 so you only had three months to take advantage of this.

I selected Montañez’s card for this challenge because Topps also added the tilde to his name. His regular 1978 Topps card doesn’t have the tilde and I appreciate how in addition to the bilingual backs Topps engaged in a bit of #PonleAcento action. While Topps has a history of using Latino double last names, this may be the first time they used a tilde on a US card release.

21. A card of a rookie you thought you were “investing” in

1989 Star Ben McDonald

Not much to say but McDonald is one of those peak Dated Rookies from the Junk Wax era and as much as I was excited to come across this card then I’m equally amused by it now.

I’ve included the Dated Rookie logo here because of Joey’s Dated Rookies project he’s running over on Dub Mentality and how all of us who grew up in the hobby during the junk wax days have an odd nostalgia for the “sure thing” rookies we were all chasing and hoping to pull out of packs. For every Frank Thomas or Ken Griffey Jr. there were a dozen guys like Ben McDonald, Phil Plantier, or Kevin Maas who bring a smile to our faces when we remember how excited we were to find their now-common cards in packs.

22. A card of a common player that always seemed to elude you

1987 Topps RJ Reynolds

So I can’t say “always” here but I got a 1987 factory set for Christmas and by the time I got everything into pages I couldn’t find this card. My guess is that I lost it by messing around with the cards in the set before I was ready to properly sort/organize but who knows, maybe there’s a 1987 Topps Factory Set sitting on ebay with 792 RJ Reynolds cards inside it.

Anyway, for the next couple months every time I went anywhere that sold rack packs of 1987 Topps I checked every single pack to see if one of the five visible cards was RJ Reynolds. And yes I eventually found and purchased one.

23. A favorite oddball card from the 1950s

1955 Red Man Tobacco Dusty Rhodes

Since I’ve barely started getting regular cards from the 1950s, the idea of getting oddballs from that decade was a bit beyond my collecting focus. Still there’s been enough #HobbyLove going around that some duplicate Red Man Tobacco cards made their way into one of my piles.*

*It hasn’t arrived yet but I’m counting it as mine for the time being. Once it gets here there will be a proper post recapping the full contents of the mailday.

Dusty Rhodes of course is one of the Giants legends based on his pinch hitting prowess in the 1954 World Series. That this card is pretty much exclusively about his World Series performance makes it a worthy entry here despite being the default entry.

As I get more into collecting vintage cards down the road I can totally see myself becoming interested in PCL-issue cards from this decade. I also love the Wilson Franks set but yeah that’s out of my price range. And I’m sure there are many other things that I’d find interesting as I get to know the territory better.

24. A favorite oddball card from the 1960s

1961 Baseball Scoops Bobby Thomson

This whole set is wonderful (seriously) but I’ll always have a soft spot for THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!

As with the 1955 Red Man Dusty Rhodes, this is sort of a default choice. I only have two oddballs from the 1960s (the other is a 1968 Topps game card) and don’t really know the territory well yet. I know I’d like to get some of the Topps Giant (not Giants) cards or the Dexter Press cards. But outside of that I don’t really know what’s out there. Still, I expect that this Bobby Thomson will always be one of my favorites.

25. A favorite oddball card from the 1970s

1971 Ticketron Giants Schedules Tito Fuentes

I don’t have a lot of 1970s oddballs. I should get around to acquiring some of the awesome 3d Kelloggs cards some time. And there are a bunch of fun TCMA issues from this decade as well as the Hostess cards. I also have a handful of the 1975 minis* including a few Giants and the Hank Aaron Record Breaker.**

*I don’t even remember how I got them but for some reason I had more 1975 minis than I had full-size 1975s.

**I almost selected that card here instead.

But I’m going with this Tito Fuentes for a number of reasons. First, Tito is cool. I like him as a former-Giant and as their Spanish-language announcer. I also love his late-1970s cards with the TITO headband enough that he’s one of the few players who I’m considering collecting outside of his affiliation with the Giants. But this piece is also fun because of the back and how it shows the Giants schedule in 1971. Lots of doubleheaders. Tons of day games. Only a handful of promotions. It’s a very different world than what I grew up with.

I also like remembering Ticketron and electronic box offices and the pre-internet days of ticket purchasing. I don’t like remembering the fees associated with this but everything else has a significant portion of “when I was your age” fondness associated with it.

26. A favorite oddball card from the 1980s

1988 KingB Candy Maldonado

There are a lot of wonderful 1980s oddballs but I will always be partial to discs. I also have a soft spot for KingB because it wasn’t a treat I was allowed to get very often so I only have one or two of these cards per year.

In hindsight the whole shredded beef jerky in a plastic chewing tobacco sized tin was a horrible rip off. It would’ve been overpriced even if it was good jerky (it wasn’t) but it came with a card and in those days any food item which came with a card was something I’d buy.

27. A favorite oddball card from 1990 or later

1996 Denny’s Pinnacle Hologram Ozzie Smith

I blogged about this on SABR. I don’t have much more to say here other than reiterating how while the Denny’s holograms were always cool, motion holograms are even cooler, and featuring Ozzie’s backflip is the absolute perfect use of the medium.

28. A favorite relic/manufactured relic card

2017 Topps Joe Panik

My first relic and one I’m glad to have had the opportunity to inspect. I’ve come to the conclusion that, as with parallels, relics just aren’t my kind of thing.

29. A favorite card from before 1950. Whether you own it or not

1911 T205 Christy Mathewson

I do not own this. I wish I did. The T205 set is flat-out beautiful and I’d love to acquire some of them. Any of them. But the Christy Mathewson is a great card of a great player who’s also a Giant and my birthday buddy. So of of all the great cards before 1950 this is the one I like most.

And yeah this is as close as I ever expect to come to making a “White Whale” list. Although one of these days I may make a list of “cards in my project checklist I never expect to get.”

30. Your favorite card in your collection

Del Baker 1917 Zee Nut
1917 Zeenut Del Baker

I’ve gotten two blogposts out of this card. One is specifically about the joy of finding it at my grandmother’s; the other is about baseball lifers. Aside from what’s in those posts I love that this is a PCL card featuring the San Francisco Seals. That it’s by far the oldest card I own (aside from the Albert Whaling 1917 Zeenut my next-oldest cards are 1950 Bowmans) makes it my favorite as well.

Final counts

For the sake of keeping score and breaking things up in various ways.

16 cards: Giants
15 cards: Topps
14 cards: San Francisco
7 cards: New York
6 cards: 1960s, 1980s
5 cards: Wood grain
4 cards: Autographs, Food, Retired Numbers, 1970s, 1990s
3 cards: 2010s, Mets
2 cards: A’s, Minor League, Oakland, Tobacco, 1910s, 1950s, 2000s

Mailday from @mjpmke!

Another mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke). Where last time was a bunch of Stanford and Giants cards, this time involved an exchange of 2017 set needs since we each had a bunch of Update dupes.

Update is a weird set. I’m kind of trying to complete it and I kind of don’t care and a lot of my ambivalence is because I can’t figure out what it is. If it were like the old Topps Traded sets I’d want all of it. I’ve always liked the idea of filling in the holes in the Flagship base set with a small update of traded players and rookies who hadn’t made it into the base set.

But it also feels like a bloated All Star set where, rather than being a small subset like what used to be in Flagship, we have a whole bunch of stars with photos from both the All Star Game and Home Run Derby so we can get two cards of all the big-name sluggers. As someone who finds the special All Star uniforms and merchandise to feel like too obvious of a cash grab by MLB, seeing that gear on cards makes the cards also feel like an obvious cash grab.

Anyway laying all the cards out like this shows how monotonous the photo selections are. Each card looks good. The set though is kind of a snore. I am pleased however that none of these cards show the extreme purple hues that many of the Update cards show.*

*For whatever reason it looks like Topps screwed up their color profiling in Update and many of the blue tones skewed purple in that classic screwed-up sRGB conversion way. I’ve considered posting about this but it’s difficult to create the images for this without making things seem even worse.

Matt also included a bunch of Stadium Club cards which I didn’t have. comparing the photos from Stadium Club with the photos from Update is night and day. There are still a few of the standard action shots but more than half of these use images that are distinct and interesting on their own AND provide a lot of visual interest and variety to the set as a whole.

I’d love to complete this set (I’m not even halfway done) but after the last pack I purchased turned out to be 100% duplicates I’ve given up on buying any more of these. There’s a weird thing going on where it seems like Topps’s collation creates packs with either no overlap or massive overlap.

I suspect that part of this is because cards are being sold by-the-box more—whether a hobby box or a blaster—and at prices where getting 30%–50% duplicates from a box is no longer acceptable. So Topps has optimized its collation so that it can accurately stuff a box with packs that don’t overlap but if you buy packs (or blasters) by themselves you risk getting all duplicates instead.

Anyway, as much as people seem to complain about the old days when you could expect tons of duplicates in a box, I like the idea that the percentage of duplicates to expect in a pack roughly matches the percentage of the set I have.

And I’m including this Joe Borchard card which Matt sent me a few weeks ago. He found it in a Target repack and tweeted about how this counted as his “hit.” I mentioned that Borchard is a Stanford guy and a bit later it showed up in my mailbox.

Thanks for both maildays Matt!

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.

Mailday from Al

Where many of my maildays have involved trading with people who I’ve gotten to know through baseball card twitter, sometimes someone will just post a call out about looking to clear out some space and get rid of some cards.* In this case, Al (@lamachine21) was** in the midst of a move, found a bunch of fun stuff that he preferred to clear out, and asked for people to send him their favorite team. So I did—expecting to some day receive a bunch of junk wax nostalgia that would make me smile and which I’d love to share with my kids.

*Peter was one such case and I’m very happy to have been able to keep corresponding with him on twitter and through maildays.

**Actually still is. 

Al certainly didn’t disappoint here. 1986–1994 covers my collecting years perfectly. The 1986 cards represent both the of my collecting consciousness and that Will Clark is one of the first cards I really coveted. Yes I eventually got it. But that doesn’t make me any less happy to see it show up unexpectedly in a stack of cards.

The 1990 cards are all wonderful since they represent so much of the pennant-winning 1989 team which will always have a special place in my heart. The way the Kevin Mitchell is—totally deservedly—the face of the team this year for a change. That Trevor Wilson card with the photo from the celebration. The Dravecky card and all the baggage it carries with respect to both the comeback from cancer game, the subsequent arm-breaking game, and the knowledge that he’d eventually have to get the amputation.

And after getting a couple of the 1954 reprints from Bru it was great fun to get some 1953 reprints (and cards that never were). I loved these as a kid. I, sadly, have no 1953 cards to compare to today so these are still a reminder of how much getting pre-1960 cards is something I should never take for granted.

The new (to me at least) stuff is also great. As a skeptic of these neue-retro cards I’m glad that people keep sending me samples so I don’t have to buy them. In this case, the Fleer and Bowman retro designs are fun to see even while they don’t quite do it for me. I find it interesting how much the Fleer is aping 1956 Topps. I wish they’d taken the Topps Big approach and made a design which translated the look to present (or in this case ~2000) rather than continuing to try to be retro.

Victory kind of weirds me out since it’s copyrighted to UpperDeck but has none of the branding. I was out of the hobby when this came out but from what I can tell there was a trend around 2000 when, after upscaling their products card companies tried to release a less-complicated lower-end product. That none of these sets seem to have lasted for more than a handful of years says more to me about the strength of the flagship lines of cards—what I tend to call the “cards of record”—and how those are the threads that allow collectors to indulge the way baseball cards connect us to baseball’s past.

Gaylord Perry 2004 Donruss

The first 24 items were enjoyable enough. This Gaylord Perry autograph though? Totally cool. Totally unexpected. I admit to not being a big fan of relics or chase cards. But if it’s a player whose number is retired by my team?* Hard to resist.

*Note, the Giants only retire your number if you’re in the Hall of Fame. 

Given the construction of this card I’m certain this is a sticker autograph. But I appreciate that the diecut on the top layer hides the sticker business. The entire card feels like a cohesive product rather than something that’s just a clear sticker slapped on top of a regular trading card. And yes, I completely understand how the sticker thing allows for all kinds of flexibility from the card companies, it just doesn’t feel right to me.

The downside of the diecut stuff is that this card is too thick to go into a standard 9-pocket sleeve. As with the relic card I’ve just got it in a top loader for now while I figure out what to do with it. I should probably ask around and see what other people do with these.

1983 Donruss Action All Stars 1983 Donruss Action All Stars

Al also threw in an unopened pack of 1983 Donruss Action All Stars because Greg Minton is visible through the wrapper. I have some of these at my parents’ house. This is a set I always liked because large cards are cool (these are 3½”×5″) even though a lot of the real estate on the card front is wasted on the TEAMTEAMTEAM greyspace.

I’ll hold off on opening this pack until I get 4-pocket pages. I don’t need a huge pack of them so I’ll have to visit a card shop to get smaller quantities. Until then keeping these in the pack will keep them under control. I’ll get to admire the Minton and the back of the George Brett until then.

So Thanks Al. I’ve got someone new to follow on twitter and figure out what kind of thank you is appropriate to send. But that’ll have to wait for a while since he’s in the midst of a move. Moves suck even if everything goes according to plan so even more power to him for being so generous in mailing out so many care packages.

Someone Else’s Childhood

One of my twitter contacts, upon seeing that I was collecting baseball cards again, realized that he could send me his childhood collection as it would both get it out of his house and ensure that it would go to a good home. So one evening I found a beat up Priority Mail box filled with sheets of baseball cards and a surprise Everett Aquasox cap.*

*I’ve actually been to a ballgame in Everett game back when the club was the Everett Giants.

It’s a weird thing to be entrusted with someone else’s childhood. In the same way that I feel odd about dismantling and re-sorting and mixing my childhood collection with all my new (to me) cards, I also feel weird about immediately re-sorting these ones. With my cards I had to take a few months to reacquaint myself with both the cards and my memory of them. Only after doing so was I able to consider how I might want to reorganize everything.

With @captnarrr’s? I don’t know. Part of me wants to really look through and get to know his collection. Another part feels like that’s getting too personal (if that makes sense). I don’t know. It’s weird. I know how much my collection meant to me as a kid and I feel like that kid-level anxiety about someone else flipping through your collection is lurking deep down inside all of us.

So I’m going to try and find the happy middle ground of looking through these a few time and getting used to them as a collection while trying not to really examine everything. I’m also not going to photograph or scan anything beyond a few representative pages.

I’ve flipped through a couple times so far and it’s eerily similar to mine in terms of what it covers. Especially in the 1986–1988 coverage. I have ~250 1986 Topps cards. So does he. I’ve been meaning to take a run at that set since it’s the first I bought packs for but hadn’t gotten into the hobby fully yet. Hopefully I won’t have too many duplicates between his stack and mine.

The 1987–1988 cards though will become a starter set for my kids (between these and the massive amount of 1987 and 1988 Topps duplicates I have as well I would be shocked if there wasn’t another complete set in here). I have complete sets for both years—1987 was my first serious year collecting—but revisiting all these cards just takes me back. Even with Topps beating the 1987 design into the ground this year.

The big difference is in how he organized things. I was a by-the-numbers kid. Card backs had card numbers and you were obviously supposed to page them in numerical order. Flipping through pages organized by player or team, while it makes sense to me, also feels oddly wrong since it’s not how I’m used to looking at these sets.

This is funny since my current project is focusing just on one team and I’m organizing each year’s team set in my binder alphabetically rather than numerically.

1981 Fleer 1981 Fleer

There’s also a decent amount of 1981 and 1982 cards in here. I have maybe a pack’s worth for each of these sets. Sot it’s fun to have more of them. Admittedly, 1981 and 1982 Fleer are both pretty lousy sets but there’s something kind of charmingly unprofessional about them which appeals to me in today’s crisp over-produced world.

Ken Griffey Jr Bar Ken Griffey Jr Bar
Ken Griffey Jr Bar back

The most interesting stuff in the box though are the oddballs and regional issues. These weren’t in pages so they’re easier to scan. The standouts are the Ken Griffey Jr bar cards. I’ve never seen these in the wild although I remember them existing in all that Juniormania in 1989. Seeing a couple different versions is very cool. Then seeing how the backs state that they’re available “Throughout the Northwest” is wonderful since it takes these back to being a purely regional thing even though I know the bars went around the country.

Tony Gwynn Base Hit Candy Bar Tony Gwynn Base Hit Candy Bar back
Wade Boggs .352 Bar Wade Boggs .352 Bar back

Unlike the Griffey bars I had never heard of the Gwynn and Boggs bars. These look to be the same product but released in 1990. Kind of a shame they’re all just plain milk chocolate but I do like how the font changes for each one. Also it’s nice that the Boggs photo is a more interesting action than just a batting stance.

Brian McRae Denny's Hologram Kal Daniels Denny's Hologram Barry Bonds Denny's Hologram
Jeff Bagwell Denny's Hologram Sammy Sosa Denny's Hologram

Denny’s holograms are always cool. I was out of the hobby by 1995 so I never saw the 1995 versions in the flesh. While I enjoy the full-hologram versions more the scans of the 1995 cards don’t do justice to the depth in the hologram. But this  is a series of sets which I’m very much likely to chase as well so the more of these that I come across the easier that chase will be.

Manager's Dream: Tony Oliva, Chico Cardenas, Roberto Clemente

I think this was the only pre-80s card in the collection. It’s a beaut despite the miscut. I found it interesting that this featured three latino players but feels as if Topps was planning something along those lines and then decided to go with something generic. Or maybe they just couldn’t come up with a decent nickname.

1986 All Star Glossy

I’ve not seen team photos in the All Star Glossies. I should probably research when that stopped being a thing because these are pretty cool. I always love looking at the All Star team photos and seeing all the different uniforms together.

Roy Thomas autographed busines card

And Roy Thomas is an interesting autograph. Not a player I’m familiar with. I like that it’s a business card with a baseball card printed on it. I’m a bit curious what Thomas Enterprises was since it seems like his main post-career gig was being a middle-school teacher. I’m also a bit curious about about the context in which this autograph was acquired but I don’t really want to get into asking all kinds of questions about this collection.

All in all a very cool mailing which I’ll have fun flipping through and sorting in the future. And in the short term I’ll have to think about how to properly thank @captnarrr for the package.