My first T218

About a week ago there was a bit of a tweet-around where people were posting random vintage cards, the older the better. I submitted one each from the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s since I’m now able to do so. I’m not sure what blows my mind more. That I have more than one card from the nineteenth century or that I have dozens that are older than 100 years old.

Anyway, a bunch of people posted cards from the 1910–1912 T218 Champions set and I did my usual thing where I admired the card and mentioned how I’ve not gotten around to acquiring one yet. There are many cards in this category and I don’t say things like that to try and get free cards. But sometimes people are in a generous mood and this time it was my co-chair Jason who offered to send me a beater.

I haven’t gotten any T218s yet because I’m incapable of spending money on a card just to get an example. I need something more, like a connection to the athlete or a particularly nice pice of artwork. In the case of the T218s, aside from obvious cases like Jack Johnson,* the cards I’ve been eyeing have been either Edward Weston** or Abe Attell.*** I’ve not encountered any of those at a price I want to pay and as a result I  haven’t gotten any.

*While I already have a Johnson card, getting one from his active fighting days would indeed be cool. 

**Aside from being a fun photography joke, the Weston card is simultaneously the best-looking in the set and also features a truly distinct athlete.

***Attell was a fixer for the Black Sox.

The thing is though that I’m also incapable of getting rid of any cards once I have them and can usually find something of interest no matter how random the card is. With this in mind Jason went ahead and mailed me a T218 that was so beat up that he didn’t have to waste any materials protecting it.

Yup. It’s mighty beat up. No real paper loss though so it’s basically the perfect grade for me.  There’s also a bit of misregistration but nothing that interferes with the artwork. Some of the cards in this set are solid-colored backgrounds* but this one has some nicely detailed and colored background art which results in a card  that still shines despite al the creases.

*Sadly, the Attell is one such card.

Frank Irons is also a great card to have if I’m going to have a random card. Yes he won the Long Jump Gold Medal in 1908 but he’s also one of the only baseball players in the T218 set. In the 1912 Olympics there was a baseball exhibition against a Swedish club. The US team was made up of track and field athletes and three of them have T218 cards.

Since the Wikipedia entry about the 1912 baseball is pretty barebones,  I went poking around the internet and found a PDF of the official report of the 1912 Stockholm games. Sure enough baseball was listed in the Table of Contents. Since the PDF page numbering is messed up due to bilingual pages sharing the same page number I had to dig a bit to get to the right page. Baseball starts on page 823 but I’ve gone ahead and screenshotted them as well.

I kind of love the commentary showing baseball from the Swedish point of view. Borrowing pitchers. Marveling at the ability to throw (and hit) curveballs. And bragging about being able to play ball in Sweden until 10pm in the summer. Frank Irons is listed on the box score as a left fielder who went 1 for 2 and made one putout.

The report also has a half-dozen photos of the game. The team photo of the Swedish side is great and the other photos showing Swedish action in the game are a lot of fun too.

Sadly nothing is mentioned about the other game played at the Olympics but these five pages were a great find nonetheless. Like I said up above, I can usually find something of interest no matter how random the card is. Thanks for the sample Jason and thanks for sending me into some unexpected corners of the internet.

Are trading cards cool again?

I wrote a little about the Fanatics takeover when it happened but for the most part I’ve shied away from speculating about what will happen. Too many unknowns and the transition is too far way. I did do one interview about the collectors’ viewpoint and how people are attached to the brand, but as someone for whom the investing/speculation side of things is uninteresting at best and aggressively boring at worst,* there’s been little that I felt like adding to the conversation.

*One of the things I love about SABR Baseball Cards is our editorial focus on cards as objects we use and how they inform our understanding and appreciation of baseball. Questions of value are only of interest as they relate to budgeting purchases and don’t drive any of the posts on the blog.

Last week though, Josh Luber posted a long read about how Trading Cards are Cool Again* which made me rethink a lot of my positioning. Luber joined Fanatics in September as “Co-Founder and Chief Vision Officer” of the trading card division so his post can only be seen as a statement of intent about what his vision for the future of cards is.

*Heads up, it’s super long.

That vision is incredibly dire and has effectively removed any of the cautious optimism I had about the takeover. My optimism was couched in the fact that Fanatics as a brand has been about making merchandise available to fans of all teams at all times. This is something I would love to apply to cards as well. As a parent I’d love my kids to be able to access cards whenever they’ve saved enough allowance to make a purchase. And as a collector I’d like to be able to buy cards when I want them and not have to make a snap decision in the days after a new product ships.

Luber’s post though doesn’t touch on any of Fanatics’ core competencies and instead focuses on the world that Luber knows. Specifically sneakerheads and the current speculative world that trading cards occupies. There’s a ton of information* about the shape of the secondary market, how it’s behaved over the past couple of years, and what kind of events have influenced it. I actually enjoy the graphs and the way they highlight inflection points with stimulus payouts and other external events.

*Many people have legit quibbles with the data and how it includes known shill bidding and other market manipulation but in a general sense, Luber’s point doesn’t require bulletproof data.

I appreciate the way he’s able to articulate the values of the sneakerheads and explain what kinds of products they find valuable. What makes something hot and desirable and what can kill that buzz. How the hype is a feedback loop that can multiply the excitement around a product so it becomes even more valuable on the secondhand market.

The problem though is that this is clearly all that Luber cares about. He claims to love cards but he actually loves slabs and the way they can be flipped. He wants to create a “sustainable” market where cards are rare enough to drive flip opportunities and create excitement through ever-increasing values* but there’s never an acknowledgment about how the product itself can have value. He’s able to compare sneakers to trading cards because he doesn’t care that a shoe can be good or bad based on how it protects your foot and holds up over time. Or that a trading card can be desirable because of what it is not what it’s worth.

*Yes, “sustainable.” We all know that value is never always up and to the right and peddling that lie is a total scam. 

Which is why I’m now massively pessimistic about the Fanatics takeover. For the Chief Vision Officer of the endeavor to come out the gate with a vision that never sees cards as products is a huge red flag. He wants to manipulate the market but doesn’t care at all about the actual quality of the product. There’s no admission that a lot of people collect cards because they want to own cards. There’s no recognition that at the end of the hot potato value cycle, someone has to desire the product because of what it actually is.

Give me a vision of cards that talks about how they touch the history of the game. How they connect generations of fans. How they get kids excited for the new season. How they allow middle-aged men to enjoy the therapeutic  elements of a quick rip and sort. How they’ll enhance our enjoyment of the games and bring us closer to the players.

There’s so much that a baseball card can be as a product. Limiting them to a moneymaking asset is such a disappointment.

A Few 19th Century Cards

So it looks like my Kodak Rookie Card whet my appetite for other Arbuckle’s Coffee cards. They’re not sets I ever intend to build but it turns out that there are a number of cards that are of interest to me. I recently picked up a couple more of them which take my collection a bit further into the 19th century.

Some of the interesting cards are the State cards. There are two sets of US States, this California card is from the Arbuckle’s 1889 State and Territory Maps. There’s another more picture-based state card as well* but it was running quite a bit more than I felt like spending.

*1892 Pictorial History of US States and Territories.

In addition to being fun to more the collection into the 1890s, it’s a nice card with a bunch of neat things going on.  I don’t want to draw a lot of attention to the map but  it’s interesting to me that there’s nothing about transportation on it. Yes we’re pre-cars and highways but there are no train lines depicted. Instead it looks like everything is on a waterway and man oh man is that a lot of water draining through the Central Valley. It’s also worth pointing out that Tulare Lake is depicted albeit in green instead of blue since its demise was imminent by 1889.

The pictures are also great. I love the image of Fort Point looking North across the bridgeless Golden Gate. The wine industry image is fun as well and of course we have to have a collection of all the wonderful fruits—cherries, berries, pears, peaches, plums, and, I think, apricots—that California has to offer. Both the wine barrels and hills and water of the Golden Gate also show how well lithographic stippling enhances the images compared to a modern halftone screen.

Since Hawai‘i hadn’t been annexed by the United States yet it doesn’t show up in any of the States sets. It does however show up in the 1893 History of Sports and Pastimes of all Nations set that my Kodak/US card comes from as well as the 1891 Views From a Trip around the World set.

I don’t like the 1893 card because for some reason half of it is dedicated to crocodile hunting. Not sure what country Arbuckle’s was thinking of since no crocodiles live in Hawai‘i but yeah. The 1891 card though is actually a  Honolulu and includes it as part of a tour of 50 world cities.* Honolulu is a great choice at this time since the ‘Iolani Palace is a noteworthy building due to it being one of the first buildings in the world to be electrified.

*The only US cities are New York and Boston which makes it wonderfully international although almost half the cities are either in Europe or the Mediterranean.

So yeah I dig the artwork here. A nice image of the palace as well as the Avenue of Royal Palms at the Queen’s Medical Center. All kinds of fantastic foliage. A great sunset photo of downtown Fort Street. The two pictures of “natives” intrigue me since Hawai‘i had spent most of the 19th century trying to  become western (King David Kalakaua who died right when this card was being printed is always depicted in western dress). I know that such images would not be as interesting to Arbuckle’s customers though and in this age where cards like this were really all that you got to see of places abroad I can see why they’d choose more exotic images.

The backs of these two cards are very similar with half the card dedicated to advertising coffee and explaining why Arbuckle’s is superior (I do wonder where they got their beans from though).

The back of the California card includes the checklist where you can see that there are only 40 US States in addition to 8 territories, plus Alaska and DC. The fact that North and South Dakota seem to be states while Montana is not leaves a 6-day window (November 2–8, 1889) for the checklist to be correct. Also it’s worth pointing out that North and South Dakota only came into being as territories on February 22, 1889.

Instead of a checklist on the Hawai‘i card we’ve got a ton of text describing the front. The first paragraph about the political climate is kind of wild in how it ascribes the agreement for independence being accomplished by tricksters and focuses on how the monarchs have succumbed to western diseases. More interesting are the comments about “republican desire” which I assume to be a reference to the Bayonet Constitution and can’t help but read as predicting the coup in 1893. A bit disingenuous to call a republic the “islanders’ hope” though when it was all being engineered by the plantation owners.

The second paragraph is a nice description of the geography of Honolulu (no mention of electricity though) but man does it end with a bunch of racist colonial crap about the islanders being quick to learn, just as quick to forget, and lacking in cultured ancestry.

In addition to the Arbuckles I also picked up this 1887 Allen & Ginter Flags of All Nations card of Hawai‘i. I’ve wanted this card for a while and it’s great to have one which, while creased, has no paper loss and presents very well. As an 1887 release it’s officially the oldest card in my collection.

The birds are clearly meant to be specific to Hawai‘i but I don’t know what they are.

Mailday from Marc

Earlier this week I found the fattest PWE I’ve ever received in my mailbox. USPS’s maximum thickness where an envelope becomes a package is a quarter inch and I’m pretty sure Marc Brubaker hit that thickness right on the head. A lot of the thickness was the stiffening cardboard but it also had 23 cards inside which I think is the most I’ve ever gotten in a PWE.

It was the usual eclectic mix I expect from Marc but we’ll start off with the Giants cards. I’m very happy to get another copy of this Pablo Sandoval because it means I now have enough to give each son one of them. I don’t think they need identical stacks but a 3D card of on of their favorite players is extra cool and definitely the kind of thing that would cause some sibling friction.

The Pacific Paramount Stan Javier is a typical foiled-out Pacific design (sadly not in Spanish) with the typical 1990s problem where the foil covers the bottom half of the photo. It is however very much of its time and I appreciate that. The Joey Bart is another one that’ll go on the kids’ pile and, hopefully in a couple years they’ll be very excited to have his cards.

There was also a handful of 2021 Heritage cards. Most of these will also go in the duplicate pile for the boys although I’m not sure any of them will be excited by the Justin Smoak.* The Joey Bart card on the other hand means hat one can get the Opening Day and the other he Heritage.

*Who shouldn’t even be in the set since he was literally released by the Giants before the 2020 season ended. Topps does this kind of thing way too often though where players who have no business being in the set end up on the checklist.

The Willie Mays Award card though is one I didn’t have. I hadn’t included it as part of the Giants team set because it’s not. But it is Willie Mays and so I have no problems sliding it into the album.

On to the weirder stuff. The Scott Erickson Ultra Pro card is wild. I don’t think anyone is doing the corporate jersey thing anymore* and this one is such a generic jersey that I wonder why they even bothered. It’s not a great card but it’s weird and that’s always welcome in the binder.

*I do kind of miss the 1990s thing of creating baseball jerseys (check the Summertime video for examples) for all sports though.

The Buechele meanwhile comes from Marc’s apparently-infinite supply of stickers. There aren’t many cards of him with the Pirates though so that part’s pretty fun too.

More weirdness. I passively collect Barcelona cards. Very very passively. Love adding them to the album. Can’t be bothered to even search for them and the idea of buying them doesn’t even cross my mind. I’m not exactly sure why this is but it means that I very much appreciate each and every one that gets sent to me.

And finally, Marc, as a member of the custom card crew, included a bunch of his customs that I’ve been seeing him working on over the past year.* Is great to see these in the flesh and I’m kind of jealous because Marc has a good copyshop that he prints these at while I’ve been getting mine online at Magcloud. I have no complaints about Magcloud—it’s exactly what I expect and the quality is great—but man the paper Marc uses is so much nicer and thicker.

*The Bernie card is a fun joke which I didn’t get at first since I’m not that familiar with 1982 Fleer.

I’m especially liking the Dan-Dee inspired Dusty Baker. I’m always a fan of classic-feeling customs and the tweaks to the Dan-Dee are exactly the kind of thing I enjoy. But there’s a lot of good stuff going on in the Castro—I really want to see Marc try making the logo into a burned-in brand feel—and the Mays design is one which Mark is turning into a generic custom design for various fun photos and seeing its versatility has been awesome.

The last two cards are actually my designs. I was screwing around with creating a Ginterizer a couple years ago and sent a bunch of files to Marc ages ago since a bunch of them were of his Vintage Base Ball team. Marc went ahead and got them printed and they’re fantastic in hand. He actually ent me a couple different paper options (where not all 23 cards are depicted in this post) but the one I like best is the uncoated stock since it just feels right.

Super cool to see these in person and thanks for the PWE Marc!

Mishmash

A couple weeks ago I found a bubble mailer from Cards From the Attic in my mailbox. This is one of those mailings which took so long to arrive after he’d mentioned he was sending me something cool that I feared it had been blackholed by the USPS. But arrive it did and it did indeed have something cool inside.

I’m not sure if a Kevin Mitchell Archives Signature Series stamped and signed buyback counts as a hit or a miss for this product but it’s definitely one that Giants fans my age appreciate. Kevin was The Guy when I was a kid and I still kind of think of him that way.

These Bowman inserts were also one of the cooler things Topps made back then. They’re actually sweepstakes cards the likes of which were in most Topps products but which typically have a generic front and were trashed by most every kid.* Switching the front to a nice painting**—especially one that evokes 1952 Bowman—makes them a bonus card. Not an insert but totally worth saving. I kept all the ones from my youth.

*My youngest actually saves and binders them.

**By artist Craig Pursley.

I’m not an Archives Signature Series guy but I appreciate it when they use weird cards for their buybacks instead of boring base cards. A stamped and signed 1989 Topps card is not especially exciting. A weird oddball, boxed set, or something else that most of us don’t have dozens of makes the buyback a lot more interesting. Especially since Topps tends to repeat cards year-to-year and so all the serial numbering feels kind of stupid.

This one definitely counts as weird since even though these were disposable inserts they weren’t things that really circulated. It’s great to see Mitchell’s nice signature compared to the one I got in Philadelphia. I just need to decide now whether or not I want to bust it out of the one touch. The Archives Signature product includes the stickered holder but I’d enjoy this more in a binder with the res of my autographed cards.

True to form though, Cards from the Attic used a ton of other cards to stuff the envelope. These Giants cards aren’t technically bumper cards (those are coming later) but they also weren’t the main point of the package. They are very cool though. The boys will like the old cards (both are upgrades) and the 1980s boxed set cards are fantastic.

I do have a few of the boxed set cards but many others, such as the Limited Editions, come from sets I’ve never seen before. I have this feeling that there will always be another 1980s Fleer boxed set for me to discover.

A couple more Giants cards from the 1990s and 2000s. Osvaldo Fernandez turned out to be a need for a team set I’m semi-collecting.* I’ve not seen any of the American Pie cards before, that’s a weird sort of set though it’s printed nicely. Three more 2008 Documentary cards which demonstrate both the promise and disappointment of the set in how he fronts have nothing to do with the game they document.

*I’m passively building the run of Upper Deck team sets but haven’t gotten all my search lists online yet.

Favorite card here is the Brian Ragira which is nominally a Giants card but depicts him in his Stanford Uniform. It’s always nice to slide a new card into that album.

Wrapping up the baseball cards with the more-recent ones. The Heritage Flashbacks are always interesting to me because of the nature of what they commemorate. For Topps to print a Voting Rights Act card the year after Shelby vs. Holder is possibly one of the more political things Topps has done. At the same time it’s tempting to read the card as commemorating something that is now dead.

Other cards of interest in this pile are all the Diamond Kings since that’s a product I never purchase. They also fit the theme of the Kevin Michell autograph on an art card. I especially like the black and white Will Clark card and design.

Which brings us to the bumper cards—always sort of a highlight of a Cards from the Attic package. First off are a half-dozen 1980s Donruss sticker wax repacks. Not much to say about these except to note that they ended up being more fun unripped than ripped.

A bunch of non-sport pop culture cards. No real piles except for the Sgt Pepper cards. The Tron, Knight Rider, and Magnum PI cards are a lot of fun though in that they do a decent job at representing those shows. The Queen and Kiss cards are also pretty cool. All the repacks added to a pile of Sgt Pepper cards which is kind of a wild set about which I have no real cultural attachment. There is however a decent amount of star power in that set.

Three of these baseball-themed Baseball Freaks cards. I’m leaving these in non-sport but if I’d encountered these in my Garbage Pail Kid days I probably love them. Unfortunately I never saw these as a kid.

And finally it wouldn’t be a Cards from the Attic package without some golf. Nothing much to add to these either except to note that the Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus special card is actually really nice and a great use of a black and white photo.

Very cool stuff. Thanks Attic!

A package from Jason

Yesterday I found a package from Jason in my mailbox. He’d given me a heads-up last week to expect some things but he only explicitly mentioned one of them. I’ll get to that last since it’s going to be a post of its own but aside from it and a couple piles of cards for my kids, this is the rest of what was inside.

A pair of vintage Giants—or Giantsish—cards. I have both of these already but I’m pretty sure my Antonelli is nowhere near as nice shape as this one. Marichal is also still in a Giants jersey so I’ve slipped this into my binder as well. In both of these cases my duplicates will go on the “for the kids” pile and their binders will get to add some more cards that are older that their dad.

A couple oddball minor league cards of guys who would end up on the Giants. These are from a set celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Carolina League. I’m pretty sure Jason got this set for the Dwight Gooden card and has been sending everything else out to various team collectors. I definitely appreciate the opportunity to add McCovey and Bonds to the Giants album.

A couple 1970s Hostess cards. I don’t really chase these outside of my various team/alumni goals but I will never turn random samples down either. One thing I am doing is trying to fill a page of candlestick photos for each set. Neither of these helps me there but the Mayberry is a nice shot of the Oakland Coliseum (Horton appears to be a the Tigers Spring Training facility Joker Marchant Stadium).

And a couple more random cards. The “3D” Action Packed cards are one of my favorite things from when I was a kid. I don’t have much more to say about them though aside from mentioning that I checked out the patent.

The Golden Age Bobby Thomson is a fun one. For whatever reason I don’t have any cards from this set and for all the retro-styled sets this has some of the better artwork I’ve seen. Unfortunately, none of the non-sport cards on the checklist really appeal to me.

On the topic of artwork, Jason also included a Blake Jamieson 1951 Topps card. I’ve avoided getting into all the art card stuff over the past couple years. Project 2020 and Project 70 are not my thing—too expensive and I hate the distribution method—even though I’ve enjoyed watching them from an intellectual/academic point of view. It’s been fun to see artists take a crack at cards and see what works and what resonates with collectors.

Blake’s been one of the more successful artists in the venture. He has a distinct look and point of view and respects the source material (in a good way) by recognizing how keeping these as cards is what allows his art to be accessible. He’s also been more than generous with his time in terms of interacting with fans/collectors and sharing his process.

I don’t find myself drawn to his work on a personal level—this isn’t a value judgement or anything just that my own tastes lie elsewhere—but his take on the 1951 set is one that I did enjoy and between that and the way that he’s one of the best faces of the whole endeavor I’m happy to have one of those cards standing in for the whole art card thing in my binder.

And the reason Jason sent me the package is because he wanted me to take an in-depth look at this T205 card. That will post over on sabrbaseballcards.blog so the only thing I have to add here is that this card shaves off 5 years from my previous oldest baseball card. Kind of wild to realize that his is 110 years old. One thing I love about the T205s is the way they have actual back information instead of just advertisements.

Very cool Jason. Thanks!

Spring in September

Way back in May, Kerry over at Cards on Cards announced a spring cleaning giveaway. I mentioned that if he wanted to clear out some Giants cards I’d be happy to distribute them amongst the three Giants fans in this household.* I was expecting like a bubble mailer with maybe a hundred cards. I was not expecting the 400-count box that arrived in late September.

*They both have Giants binders that would’ve made me super jealous when I was a kid.

Alongside the box were a couple baggies of nicer cards—mostly numbered parallels or special card stock variants. These are fun but the most exciting one was this signed Logan Webb card. Webb was one of those guys who had autographs in every set last year and looked to be one of those “junk” hits that everyone complains about since they only appeal to hard core team collectors.

If Webb continues pitching like he did this season though he won’t be a junk hit much longer. I am very happy to get his card this year since he’s been such a key member of the pitching staff.

The rest of the cards I’ve sprinkled in with the cards in the box and will go through things by year. Starting off with the “old” stuff, while I have a lot of this, the kids do not. For my part, I’m surprisingly light on early 80s Donruss so the Dave Bristol and Rennie Stennets are nice additions.  I also have not seen these Classic cards before so it’s great to add samples of those sets to the binder too. Also the Jim Gott is a glossy variant of 1987 Fleer but there’s no way to see that in the photo.

Continuing into the early 1990s with more cards from my youth. The Will Clark Provisions is great and as someone who has mostly Winner versions of 1992 Gold I always enjoy adding a pack-pulled version. The Bobby Bonds All Star Hero is a great card which I didn’t have. 1993 Flair is a similar hole in my binder since I couldn’t afford a single pack of hat when I was a kid.

A bunch of those 1994 cards are new ones for me too. I was clearly stepping away from the hobby that year even before the strike and while I definitely have some of the cards in the piles, cards like the 94 Bowman Phillips, 94 Donruss Martinez, 94 Fleer Burba, and 94 Score Portugal are all ones I was still missing. I’m not actively building those sets but I should probably consider putting need lists together for them just because it’ll give people an excuse to clear out some cards.

We’ll start off the next batch with a fantastic Kirt Manwaring card. I didn’t have any 1994 Oh Pee Chee Premier before. Now I think I might have the best card in the set. The 1996 Bazooka are also new to me. I just discovered that these cards came with gum in the packs. No idea why such a discovery made me happy but it did.

The 1996 Score Stan Javier, 1996 Pinnacle Shawon Dunston, and a bunch of the 1997 Bowmans also fill empty spots in the binder. We’re well into territory I’ve only filled via random packages I’ve gotten in the mail now.

As we move out of the 1990s the number of cards that are new to me starts to grow. I need many of the Bowmans. Same with the Fleers. But stuff like all the weird Upper Deck sets here—especially that great Benito Santiago card—represent sets that I’ve never even see before. And if I have seen them, such as with the Choice Bill Mueller Preview, they’re a variant I’ve never seen.

Also that George Foster looked at first like a card I had already but it turns out that the card I sent out TTM is essentially a reprint of a reprint. Why Topps felt like it had to reprint this two years in a row is beyond me. And it’s always great to add a card of Kenny Lofton as a Giant.

Some of the special cards that Kerry included are starting to slip in now. They’re still in the penny sleeves like the Barry bonds Bazooka “stamp” here. Lots of 2006 and 2007 Topps which will slip into the boys’ collections. The Upper Decks are still things I tend to need although I remain mystified at the First Choice se which is essentially a non-foil-stamped version of the main set.

The 2005 Leaf design deserves special recognition for how simple and nice it is. I don’ think I’ve seen it before and it’s a breath of fresh air amidst all the overdesigned cards of this era.

More special cards here like the 2009 vintage stock and black parallels as well as the Chrome Matt Cain Heritage. We’re starting to move into years where I have most of the base team sets again but since these are the World Series years it’s always fun to remember some guys and see photos like the celebration on the Pat Burrell card.

As before, I needed a decent number of the Upper Deck cards here and should probably add those sets to my searchlist since many are getting close.

Into the 2010s and parallel madness is starting to take over. As someone who never chases these it’s always fun to accumulate more and discover how many different ones are out there. I can see why people like building rainbows even though the amount of work required to do so isn’t worth it.

Mini cards are always fun. I really like the Pablo Sandoval Archives card in the 1954 design. Something about the sunglasses really works.

A very similar batch to the previous photo. I like the Aramis Garcia 1st Bowman and the Ryder Jones Oklahoma parallel (no idea what it’s actually called). Those shiny Prizm cards really jazz up a binder page as do the multiple foil parallels here.

A number of cards I needed here as we work into my reengagement with the hobby. 2016 is right there on the outside of things so it’s not too surprising that I missed a lot of what was going on. Granted, that cards like that Buster Posey which is actually a Bergers Best insert with gold foil instead of silver foil are some of what I missed means that I didn’t miss much.

The Optic parallels are especially nice but my favorite card here is the Hunter Pence Stadium Club.

Into the late 2010s and my full reintegration into the hobby means that of these cards it’s mainly just the parallels and inserts that are new to me. So stuff like the Hunter Pence Five Tool insert of the Sepia Steven Duggar slide right into the binder.

The Optics and Bowman Chromes fit too since both of those are cards I don’t come across very often either.

Nice to add some Holiday cards here. I never see them in stores and they’re exactly the right kind of stupid. I’ve never seen the Buster Posey Franchise Feats card before either. I like the Ginter Cepeda and have not received much 2020 Chrome as well.

And the last batch. Stadium Club Chrome is unnecessary but at least it included guys like Samardzija who weren’t in Stadium Club. The Yastrzemski Future Heroes Chrome card is also a nice addition as is the Willie Mays Legends of Baseball. Which brings us to Diamond Kings, a set which I can’t distinguish year-to-year but always enjoy encountering since the cards so jus so damn pleasurable to handle.

Very very cool stuff Kerry. Makes my binders a lot more interesting and I’ve got a serious task ahead of me in dividing the rest up for the kids. Thanks!

Chocolate Bars

A quick post about a pair of cards that I’ve picked up this year. While I’m doing pretty well in terms of getting Giants team sets (minus Willie Mays and some high numbers), I’ve not gotten into all the different insert sets from the same time period. Some, like the deckle edges, I’ve liked a lot. Others don’t move me, especially at the prices they’re currently listed at. Though I am always keeping an eye out for any that are particularly cheap.

One such set is the 1965 Embossed set. I grabbed this Orlando Cepeda for only a buck at a card show a couple months ago. It’s not as beat up in person as it looks on the scan but it’s been plenty loved none the less.

I’ve not grabbed any of these because I’ve been unmoved by the design. Besides the embossed profiles being pretty nondescript, there’s something about this that just makes me want a chocolate bar. However, at a buck it’s a nice addition to the binder.

One fun thing to point out from the scan though is that the trap around the player name is super visible. Most of this card is a metallic gold with red ink overprinting  everything for the design. The player name though is the only part which is unprinted and that bright red halo is the only section of the card where the red ink is not printed on top of the gold. In-person, it doesn’t stand out this much but the way metallic ink scans so dark makes the trap a whole lot more visible.

Last week though I grabbed another 1965 Topps Embossed card and my feelings about it are very different. This is from Topps’s Presidents and Famous Americans set which I can only assume came after the baseball set since it shows a lot of improvements.

First off, it’s a bit larger in size, more of a tall-boy card than the slightly-undersized baseball card. The embossed portrait is much better detailed with recognizable facial features. And the way Topps scaled back on the gold, using it just for the embossing and borders, makes it all pop so much more. Topps took more care with the type as well and the bio really balances out the composition

There’s also more color in this set. Hoover’s card is white because he was still alive when the set released. Presidents who were assassinated got black cards. Other presidents are red or blue depending on political party (I think) while the rest of the famous Americans got green. The result is a set that manages to be colorful while keeping the novelty of the embossing.

End of an era?

Yesterday afternoon I came back from a swim and found that my phone had exploded as a result of the Topps/Fanatics/MLB/MLBPA news. In short, it currently looks like starting in 2023 Topps won’t be able to use MLB players on baseball cards and in 2026 Topps will lose the right to use MLB teams as well. Given how Topps has been the card of record for 70 years now, this is a big deal and I’m not at all surprised at the amount of outcry that occurred online.

For my part, I’m simultaneously upset and happy about the deal. The biggest problem is that this is moving things into even more of a monopoly where MLB will control even more than they already do and Fanatics will have a stranglehold on basically all sports merchandising in the US. Both monopolies will continue to optimize toward efficient profitmaking in search of the cheapest product that makes the most amount of money right now. I have zero reason to expect anything good from either MLB or Fanatics. But I also had zero reason to expect anything good from the already-existing Topps monopoly.

There is however an emotional connection to the Topps brand and how it stands in as Baseball Cards™. That 70-year history is the history of the game itself. The players. The stats. The uniforms. The stadiums. When my kids are asking about old baseball players, the photos they end up referencing are invariable baseball cards. Losing that connection, even if there’s a Fanatics Flagship, will be sad.

I’m not sure MLB even realizes what it’s tossing. There are a lot of people for whom collecting baseball cards is collecting Topps cards. They won’t change brands and they even may step away this season because they’re done with MLB. I’m a bit surprised by this point of view—as someone who collects 1940s and 1950s cards, I’m used to the idea of other brands, like Bowman, also serving as the card of record—but it’s come up a lot, especially among a lot of older collectors.

As a child of the 1980s when I had three (soon to be five and quickly after, over a dozen) flagship sets to choose from, while I still saw Topps as the primary I didn’t grow up to have the same level of brand loyalty. Give me a flagship set of a couple dozen players per team and I’ll be happy no matter who makes it.

Which brings me to the side that I’m happy about. The last year of card collecting has been abysmal. Everything sold out in stores. Everything sold out online. Prices in the secondary market through the roof. The Fanatics deal is a commitment to cards existing in the forseeable future and I can’t see things getting worse than “completely unavailable.”

Heck, Fanatics’s distribution is the kind of thing I’d love to see happen for cards. Available online from multiple web shops. Available in team shops. No more having to deal with sketchy distributers and resellers. It’s long past time for trying a different distribution model and actually getting cards to people who want to collect them.

I’ve also found Topps’s production to be lazy and uninspired for a couple years now. Pictures get reused set to set. Inserts and gimmicks that are a complete waste of time. Checklists that always the same couple hundred stars and rookies. An utterly predictable emphasis endlessly boring on New York and LA markets to the detriment of all others.

I don’t expect Fanatics to do anything radical but at the very least they’re a company that emphasizes selling to all teams and, as with the distribution side of things, I really don’t see things getting much worse.

The thing though is that 2023 is really a long way off. Topps has an IPO planned and this news is the kind of thing that’ll crater its stock price no matter how rosy its earning statement is. I totally expect Fanatics to make a play at buying Topps and keeping that connection to the past. I also totally expect Fanatics to shake up the existing product lines. There’s a lot of deadwood right now and printing cardboard isn’t very efficient anyway.

I’ve been expecting more on-demand releases as it is. The Fanatics news pretty much confirms that we’ll be getting exactly that plus NFTs (not dead yet unfortunately). I remain hopeful though that some cardboard will remain and be accessible to everyone. Fanatics’s notorious lack of product quality though will remain a cause for concern for a while.

PWE from Night Owl

Late last week I received a small mailing from Greg at Night Owl Cards who took the opportunity to rid himself of some pesky Giants.

The first two cards were from 2021 Stadium Club. The Chrome version of the Joey Bart is nice but also completely unnecessary. Stadium Club is all about the base cards and photography and I don’t see the point of all the parallels. Still, as someone who’s not seeing much of any Stadium Club this year it’s nice to add some to the binder.

The Will Clark reprint is similarly “why bother” but will work as a SABR post because of how interesting it is to me as a print nerd. It’s a reprint but it’s also a recreation of the original in that it’s being completely rescreened and there’s a lot more detail visible in the shadows.

The other two cards in the envelope where older. One, a chrome 2020 Bowman Buster Posey is only the second 2020 Bowman, and the first Chrome, in my collection. As always, it’s nice to add an example to the binder. I kind of like this Bowman design though the crazy Chrome border background is a bit much.

The second card is a 2011 Brandon Belt Minor League card. No idea how Greg acquired this one but these are things I neither seek nor come across randomly. Which means that it’s a very nice thing to add to the binder since there’s no way I had it already.

Thanks Greg!