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!

Texas PWEs

It’s been a while since I got a trade package. This isn’t surprising. It’s been a long while since I sent anything out. Which also isn’t surprising. I haven’t really purchased any new cards in over a year. Cards haven’t been available to purchase anywhere for over a year unless you’re willing to reward all those assholes who buy up all the retail or online stock and try to resell it at ridiculous markups.

So it was quite a pleasant surprise to find a couple envelopes in my mail last Friday. Amusingly, they both came from Houston.

The first came from Commish Bob and is a response to a comment I made on a recent post of his about 1962 Post cards. I’m passively acquiring Giants from the 1960s Post cards* but because my passive acquisition means jumping only on the cheapest of cards when I encounter them, I only have one Hall of Famer in the entire batch.

*Well, and Chuck Essegian and I’ve grabbed a Wally Post.

Unbeknownst to me, Bob had ended up with a duplicate McCovey and when I admired his acquisition he offered to send me his well-loved duplicate. Very very cool. This is now the oldest McCovey in my collection.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on here before but I’ve come to love these Post cards. They manage to fit everything you want on a card on one side of the cardboard. Stats, bio, photo, card numbering are all there. You don’t really need anything more. Factor in the use elements and how these were lovingly chopped out of a cereal box by some kid sixty years ago and there’s not more I could wish for.

The second envelope came from Marc Brubaker.  It had the usual mix of this and that but I’ll start off with my first Heritage High numbers. I saw neither sight nor sound of these. I don’t think they were released to Target and it doesn’t matter anyway since my Target no longer carries cards.

In some ways it’s probably just as well. These continue the weird fake trapping and bad trapping effects from Heritage and now make the photoshopped backgrounds look a lot more obvious. There’s also some weird yellow/magenta fringing on the photos—only the players not the backgrounds—which is kind of distracting.

The worst thing though is that it’s clear that whoever put the checklist together did not look at the checklist for Heritage. Tyler Beede for example already has a card in the set. It’s things like this which frustrate collectors since it suggests that Topps can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum of quality control in the product.

Marc somehow also came across some Chrome last year. As usual these scan like crap but jazz up the binder a little. I still don’t get this set though my youngest does enjoy them* As a print nerd and mechanical engineer though I do have to admit that I appreciate these more as objects than as cards.

*He was briefly excited to find that Chrome had released just in time for National Baseball Card Day last year until he found out that they cost $10 for a pack of 4. Very typical of Topps to make sure that their kid-friendly promotion coincides with product releases that kids can’t afford.

One thing that amazes me about Marc’s mailings though is the amount of stickers he comes by. I never got into the Panini sticker albums when I was a kid. I remember seeing them all over, usually with movie tie-ins,* but never felt the appeal.

*For some reason a Temple of Doom album is the first that comes to mind.

More often than not though Marc’s mailing seem to have stickers. From all ages. And since I’ve never collected them they’re always new. Which is pretty cool. I have no desire to put them in an album but they remind me of a branch of collecting which is never on my radar.

These are from 1996 and so also represent a year in which I didn’t pay much attention to baseball at all. Looking back on things I’m a bit sad to have missed the Deion Sanders era.

And finally a handful of Stanford cards. Marc managed to go five for five here too. Flair is one of those sets which I couldn’t dream of buying as a kid. While it’s sort of peak-90s now they’re always fun to encounter. The Just Minors Hutchinson is great because most of my Hutchinson cards use the exact same photo. One Piscotty is a border variant and the Platinum is a nice shiny change of pace from the usual cards in my Stanford binder.

Thanks Marc! One of these days I’ll buy cards again and end up with some Astros I can send you.

New Years Mailings

A new year and some new trade envelopes rolled in. Not as many as I was expecting to receive (some appear to be stuck in the eddies of the USPS backlog) but with my local Target completely dropping cards from its inventory it’s nice to get a card fix from somewhere.

The first mailing of the year was a PWE from Marc Brubaker containing almost a dozen cards. The oldest ones are three 1983 stickers which include a couple fun photos in the Milt May catcher action and Al Holland sporting a fantastic warm up jacket. As for the Matt Williams card, I have no idea what kind of release it’s from but it’s wonderfully odd.

The rest of the cards from Marc were newer ones including a bunch from retails issues that I refuse to purchase. Bowman Platinum remains a product I don’t understand. As does Topps Gallery. As always it’s nice to include a sample in the binder for variety’s sake though. I can’t imagine looking through pages of either of those but a couple here and there makes things interesting.

A week or so later I received a bubble mailer from Robby which contained a bunch of more-recent cards. I’ll start off with a half dozen inserts from the past couple years. These are again, the kind of thing I don’t chase but enjoy sliding in to the binder. I have mixed feelings about the design re-use but I much prefer seeing such things done in inserts rather than as complete sets.

The #1 Draft Pick Joey Bart is a particularly great use of an old design since Topps can’t do draft picks in flagship anymore. I’m be curious why Topps hasn’t done draft picks as inserts in other Topps sets though.

The rest of the mailer was a bunch of 2020 cards. A few Updates, two Diamond Kings which I didn’t have, a decent amount of Big League and Donruss which finished off my team sets. Highlights here are the orange Big League parallels and the Gold Star Flagship parallels.

I’m not a huge fan of colored parallels but the Big League oranges look great with the Giants cards. If we could dump the whole rainbow of variants and just have a single team-color parallel set then I’d probably like them.

The Gold Star parallels meanwhile are one of those things that dissuaded me from buying a factory set this year. I don’t want to pay marked up prices for a chance at a bunch of parallels I don’t desire. Getting a team set in the mail though is completely different. Since these are the kind of thing I actively avoid it means that they’re the kind of thing that I never have in my albums. I’m perfectly happy sliding them in as an example of what kind of things were going on in the hobby that year.

Thanks guys and Happy New Year!

Christmas cards

Catching up on a few more PWEs which accompanied holiday wishes. It’s getting to the point where I’m considering making hobby-oriented holiday cards to send out to people I’ve traded with over the past year.

The first card came from Mark Armour and contained a 1977 Willie Mays exhibit. This is a nice reprint of the 1947–1966 era exhibit photo and even feels like it has better tonality than a lot of the vintage exhibits do. The border is kind of goofy though and the less said about the apostrophe catastrophe in the bio text the better. Still this is the kind of thing I enjoy adding to the album and it’ll slide in right next to a bunch of Jeff’s bycatch.

Mark also included a custom card of himself. This is also something I’ve thought about doing but have never gotten around to. A lot of traders have their own custom cards that they toss in like business cards and I enjoy keeping those around.

A few days later I found an envelope from Tim in my mailbox. Nothing big, just an insert from 2020 Opening Day which doubled the number of 2020 Opening Day cards in my collection. This is one of those products that I buy for my kids and stay out of for myself.

This isn’t a critique of the product. If anything it’s a critique of how flagship has effectively pushed my kids away. Neither of my kids wanted a complete set of flagship this year for Christmas. They’ve both realized it’s not the set for them. Too expensive and not really any fun.

A pack of flagship costs like $5 now and that’s a lot of money to pay for a bunch or guys they’ve never heard of. Opening Day at least is mostly players they know. And yes Major League Baseball does a lousy job marketing guys, but Topps also creates checklists that are dominated by rookie cards instead of guys who are actually playing.

So they’ve gravitated toward Opening Day and Big League and I let them enjoy those products. As a result, I don’t get much Opening Day so if it comes in via trade I’m happy to slide it into the binder.

A PWE from Lanny brought me a single 2002 Kenny Lofton card. This might not look like much (though it’s one of Lofton’s few Giants cards) but it’s actually part of Topps’s trainwreck of a Traded set where someone at Topps decided that intentionally shortprinting the first 100 cards was a smart idea.

It was not. I have heard of way too many people who swore off all Traded/Update sets for years just because the 2002 set was so bad. The shortprinted cards meanwhile are impossible to find yet no one actually wants to spend serious money for them.

A perfect storm of awfulness which I would avoid completely except that I wanted the complete 2002 team set for World Series reasons. This Lofton completes the set and I no longer have to think about 2002 Topps Traded ever again.

I also got an envelope from Jason with a couple Giants first basemen. A couple retired numbers even. No it’s not just two 1991 Will Clark cards, these were the packaging surrounding the card Jason intended to send me.

The two Will Clarks were sandwiching this beauty which is not only a great example of the National Chicle Diamond Stars artwork with its solid blocks of color and industrial backgrounds* but represents the first Giants retired number from before the modern era of baseball cards to enter my collection.

*It still doesn’t compare to the South African United Tobacco cards though. Also I remain confused by the scoreboard listing visitors underneath Giants.

One of my long-term collecting goals has been to try and get a card of each Giants retired number from their playing years. I have all the obvious ones who played during the years when Topps was the card of record. Irvin, Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, Marichal, Perry, Clark, and Bonds* all have multiple Topps cards as Giants to the point where I have multiple cards of all even players like Irvin who I never expected to own any cards of.

*Interesting to me to realize that all besides Bonds of those debuted in MLB with the Giants. And yes I’m going to be distinguishing between MLB and “major leagues” from now forward.

McGraw, Mathewson, Terry, Ott, and Hubbell though were always going to be tougher. Fewer cards in general, and the affordable ones are often super ugly in terms of design* or just through being well loved. The Diamond Stars cards of Terry, Ott, and Hubbell are some of the more-desirable options out there and I’m astounded at Jason’s generosity at sending me my first one form this set.

*/me waves at M. P & Company.

Thanks a lot guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed this holiday season and I hope next year brings better tidings all around.

Nachos Grande’s Ginter Bracket

A couple weeks ago I received a notification that Chris (Nachos Grande) was sending me a package. I was very confused. He’s been running a lot of cheap fun breaks but I’ve not signed up for any in a long time.* And I couldn’t think of why else he would be sending me cards.

*This is a reflection of my collection becoming large enough that it no longer makes sense for me to buy into a break for the off chance I get one card I don’t have.

When the package arrived it all made sense. Way back in July he ran an Allen & Ginter mini set bracket on his blog. I took part because the insert minis are really the only thing I actually like about Ginter. I was a bit disappointed that the winner was a baseball set but it was a fun way to learn about all the different mini sets Topps has created. I very much like the social studies and science based sets and how they remind me of how interesting card collecting used to be.

Chris had multiple contests set up to reward people who were voting and participating and I ended up on a list of prize winners. Since I wasn’t participating for the prizes (and given everything else that’s gone on in the world since July) I promptly forgot about expecting a mailing. It took him a while but my prizes arrived a week and a half ago.

The list of offerings was all kinds of stuff. Sets, relic cards, autographs, etc. When I submitted my list of what I preferred I think I prioritized the autographs. Despite being somewhat lower on the pick list  it looks like other people wanted other items since I ended up with two of he autographed cards.

The Trevor May framed mini is pretty cool. I’ve never handled a Ginter framed mini card before. It’s an interesting object with the card floating loose in the middle of a cardboard frame and two plastic sheets on each side to create a nice little display. Much to my surprise the resulting object isn’t that thick and in fact fits just fine in a 9-pocket page.

I’ve been a bit curious about these since I wasn’t sure how they were manufactured nor how they handled. They’re definitely neat little cards and I very much like them over relics. I’m less impressed at the plastic feeling since it seems at odds with Ginter’s overall brand but there’s no other way to do this kind of thing.

Griffin Jax meanwhile is still in the Minors. He bounced between AA and AAA in 2019 and scored a non-roster invite to Spring Training last season. No call-up to the Majors but he remains on the bubble.

He’s more interesting though for what he’s going through to play baseball. As an Air Force Academy graduate, he’s been jerked around a bit by the military in terms of being allowed to pursue a baseball career instead of being active duty. It’s very interesting to note that he can’t be paid by the Twins and is still fulfilling his reservist duties while playing baseball.

Chris also tossed in a dozen or so Giants cards to “make up” for being so late with the package. Definitely not something he had to do especially since this was a free package anyway but I’m certainly not complaining.

A lot of these I have already so they’ll go on the duplicate pile that I’m using to create piles for my kids. My youngest for example will love the Metal Mark Gardner and the more 2013 Heritage World Series cards I can give them the happier they’ll be.

There are however a handful of new ones that I’m very happy to add to the album. The 1998 Upper Deck Darryl Hamilton doubles the number of Giants cards I have form that set. As does the Pacific Bill Mueller. The Jesse Foppert is new to me as well and reminds me of a name I’ve not even thought of in decades. He was such a prospect back in the day. The Upper Deck Goudey Noah Lowry is an interesting retro design. I don’t know if I hate it or love it but I like that it didn’t try to make the photo a fake painting. And the Pinnacle Buster Posey is a fun addition from Panini’s first year back in the hobby.

Very cool stuff Chris and thanks for both the  cards and running the bracket/contest.

Vintage Star PWEs

One of the things that’s starting to happen over on Card Twitter is that guys will celebrate a player’s birthday* by showing off a page or two worth of his cards of not his complete Topps run. This is always cool to see but also frequently serves to remind me how my focus on Giants has left me with a collection that has basically none of the memorable players from the 60s and 70s.

*or as has been happening a depressing amount of the time recently, his passing.

Last week I made a comment about this regarding Dick Allen and Matthew Castelhano (@Mattypabst) immediately suggested that this needed to be rectified. Matthew is another collector who spends a lot of his time with pre-war cards of all sorts and we’ve compared notes and been bad influences on each other in terms of pointing out cool sets that are worth lusting after. He’s also a member of the group of us which are passively collecting cards of every player who broke a team’s colorline.

A couple days ago the envelope showed up and inside was this 1976 Topps Dick Allen card. Allen is in the last years of his career here and has returned to the Phillies after three years of being an All Star in Chicago. I’d still like to get a card of him from the 1960s but it’s great to have one card of  a player who’s on the shortlist of players who are the larges absences from the Hall of Fame.

Matthew packed the Allen with three other cards including a couple more which also represent firsts in my binder. I have Yastrzemskis from 1978 and 1983 but none from his true peak years. This 1968 Topps Game card doesn’t get more peak as it comes after his MVP season. Winning the Triple Crown and MVP in 1967 put Yaz on the same level as Mantle and Aaron in this game, only trailing Clemente, Killebrew, Frank Robinson, and Mays.

Boog Powell is another star who I have no cards of. This 1970 comes from his MVP season and features a very 1970 photo taken a Yankee stadium with the random players in the background. It’s always nice to see the frieze though. I was also unaware that Boog’s full name is actually John Wesley Powell. That’s quite a dude to be named after.

Matthew apologized for the condition of the Yaz and Boog cards but they’re as good, if not better than the kind of cards I buy.

The last card in the envelope was a 2019 Heritage Candy Lid of Buster Posey. I love getting cards like this in the mail since while I would never buy them. I do very much enjoy putting them in the binder.

The same day Matthew’s envelope came I also received one from Tim Jenkins. The big item inside was a postcard of Steve Whitaker. I think Tim’s printing these himself and a lot of us have been getting them. I got a Whitake postcard because he played 16 games for the Giants in 1970 (he also  got a 1970 Topps card)

Also in the envelope were a pair of cards including my first vintage Bob Gibson—another player I had mentioned online about not having any vintage of. This isn’t a 1960s card from when he was dominating everyone but it’s a very nice looking card with the blue border contrasting nicely with the red jacket while both the jersey design and jacket design are visible. There’s an added bonus here in that an under-construction Candlestick is visible in the background.

The 1974 checklist meanwhile is in really good shape. I have this already but I’m pretty sure mine is marked and beat up since I refuse to spend more money for an unmarked checklist.

Very cool guys and thanks for helping me get a more representative binder.

Awesomeness from Shane

Shane Katz has been working on a “Tools of Ignorance” album for a while now which has turned into a great type-collection* of catcher cards from all kinds of baseball card sets. It’s been fun to watch it grow and the choice of catcher cards makes a ton of sense since those are often some of the more interesting photos in a set.

*A type collection is one where the goal is to get one card from every set. My childhood goal of one card per Topps set was a type collection.

A couple weeks ago I figured it would be fun to send a bunch of my customs over for his album. Give it even more variety and I like sending my work to my friends. Turns out that Shane had the exact same idea and had put a bubble mailer in the mail the day mine arrived.

His bubble mailer was cooler than mine. By a lot. Three 1949 Remar Bread cards sort of stole the show. Yes I’m technically only doing a type collection of Seals cards but there are a bunch of cool Oakland-only releases like the Remar Baking and Signal Oil cards plus there’s even an Oaks card in 1933 Goudey. And besides my family is actually from Oakland.

So yeah 1949 cards are cool. The Pacific Coast League before 1958 and the Giants moving West is cooler. Oakland Oaks cards are even cooler. And having a baking card of Cookie is the coolest. Not quite metacard material but close enough to be fun.

Cookie Lavagetto is of course the big name in this batch. He grew up in Oakland, went to Oakland Tech and played for the Oaks in 1933 before playing 10 major league seasons with a gap four years for military service in the middle. He was an All Star for the four seasons prior to his stint in the military so he clearly lost a lot of his prime to WW2. He then returned to the Oaks for his last three professional seasons before managing the Senators/Twins over five seasons.

Earl Toolson meanwhile was finishing up a decade in the minors. Not much to say about his career or card except to note that it’s interesting that the number or earned runs must not have been recorded by his previous team.*

*Baseball Reference says 81 which gives him an ERA of 5.21.

Ray Hamrick played parts of two seasons with the Phillies in 1943 and 1944 but appears to have lost his chance at a spot in the Majors by serving in the military until 1946. He bounced all over the minors until 1953 and never clawed his way back up. I do have to note his absolutely fantastic nickname of “The Guv’nor” though.

Other noteworthy cards in the package included three cool oddballs: an always-appreciated Kellogg’s 3D card, a 1981 Topps sticker of Ed Whitson, and a 1992 Muscular Dystrophy Association card of Orlando Cepeda. I’m always amazed at how well Kellogg’s cards scan and the Whitson, while small, is a nice photo which shows off 1980s Candlestick. The Cepeda though is a new-to-me oddball which, while it shows him in an airbrushed Cardinals uniform is a full-career card and so claims all six teams he played for on the back.

Shane also included this TCMA Charlie Wagner card. Wagner is the last guy I’m missing from my old-timers project. I’e held off on getting this card since the reflex blue photo isn’t the most appealing nor are the typewritten backs. A the same time, it’s very nice to slide a Wagner card into that page and have one card for everyone who signed the sheet.

Another wild oddball was this 5-panel 1987 General Mills “booklet” which features the usual airbrushed MSA photos that showed up on so many of the unlicensed MSA cards of the era. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this. It’s a cool piece and a good mix of the big names in the National League in 1987. Definitely all names I recognize and remember. At the same time it won’t binder unfolded. I’m currently thinking about bindering it so only three or four panels show.

Moving through the package. Four 1979 KNBR Giants cards that I actually might’ve sent Shane years ago when he was building his 1980s oddballs binder and I got the years confused (these look basically identical to the 1980 set). Duplicates are fine here. I’ve sent some TTM and these are sufficiently odd that they’re good trade bait for other Giants fans too.

Finally into more regular-issue cards. First off, five from when I collected. I think I have the Litton as part of the MLB Debut set but I’m not sure. It’s definitely not in my Giants binder. I really wish that Topps was still making MLB Debut sets. With so many guys on the 40-man taxi squad only getting a couple games and never really appearing on a true Major League card, it’s really annoying to me that Topps has chosen not to give them cards because they want to print thousands of RC-badged cards of whoever the hot rookie ends up being.

The Bazooka 4-in-1 is another fun oddball. I think these came in Bazooka boxes but I don’t remember. I have a bunch but not this one so that was a nice discovery.

And a half-dozen modern cards to round out the package. I actually needed the Leaf Salomon Torres. The Orange/Gold Big League parallels are also cards I didn’t have since I only grab the base team sets of that product. I don’t usually like colored parallels but when they end up being team colors I tolerate them a lot more.

And that Red Schoendienst Then and Now is pretty cool even though it also confuses the heck out out of me. Yes I know that these typically depict two statistics leaders together (in this case NL Hits Leaders) but the designs always make it feel like they consist of two players who have nothing to do with each other. It is however cool to have a Giants Schoendienst insert since he wasn’t a Giant long and is associated so strongly with the Cardinals.

Very very cool, Shane. Thanks for kicking me down the Oakland Oaks type collection road as well.

PWE from Shep

I don’t buy Update but that doesn’t mean I don’t want some of the cards. I’ll grab a spot in a break so as to get enough team sets for myself and the boys but that always leaves me needing the two Stanford guys who invariably are in the set with other teams. In what’s becoming a bit of a tradition, Big Shep sends me a PWE with those last two cards. Last week I got the most recent one.

Nothing too exciting here though I didn’t expect either of these guys to end up in Update. Blandino was out for the season even before Covid hit and Castro featured in only 19 games for the Angles this year. Sadly Topps’s no rookies approach meant that the card I was looking forward to never got made. I guess I’ll have to wait for 2021 Series 1 to get my first Flagship Kris Bubic card.

Anyway these two mean I’m down to needing just two Topps Flagship-related cards for my Stanford project.* One is the 1962 Doug Camilli rookie that costs a ridiculous amount of money. The other is a 2013 Tampa Bay Rays Team Set card of Sam Fuld that I cannot find anywhere.

*Well until I decide to add Shawn Green to the search list.

For some reason I didn’t mention 2020 Series 2 to Shep and grabbed the Stephen Piscotty, Cal Quantrill, and Jed Lowrie elsewhere. But these are the half-dozen Update and Series 1 cards I’ve gotten so far. I owe him a big thank you for the continued generosity with helping me get my Stanford checklist checked off so quickly.

Mailday from Bru

A surprise bubble mailer from Marc Brubaker arrived last week. I’d sent him a bunch of the Astros from Jeff’s mailday and those have now been transformed into Giants and Stanford cards I didn’t have. Not a lot has been going right hobby-wise this year with cards becoming impossible to find in the store* but thankfully card twitter is doing its thing and circulating cards until they find their forever homes.

*In a somewhat ominous sign my kids are no longer saving their allowances for baseball cards.

Marc has obviously had better luck than I have in finding cards in the wild though he also clearly isn’t as picky about what packs he buys. The four releases here are all things I don’t purchase but which add a bit of variety to the binders.

The top row of Archives is actually kind of fun. The Piscotty in the 1974 design looks pretty nice and they chose a very 1955 Bowman photo for the Hoerner.* The 1955 TV design is one I really didn’t like but it’s grown on me a lot.

*The backs of these 1955 inserts though are professionally embarrasing. I’m annoyed at how relics/autos have useless backs which just state what’s on the front of the card but at least those still serve as a certificate of authenticity of sorts. And I can excuse online-only releases as a “jam them out as fast as possible” cash grab. But doing these half-assed backs in a retail product is inexcusably offensive to me as a designer. As is the fact that multiple people laso signed off on it. Peak milking a cash cow and zero professional pride.

This year’s Panini/Donruss/Optic design isn’t half bad either. They’re still operating on the “let’s evoke late-80s/early90s Donruss” wavelength that makes their products look mostly indistinguishable year in and year out but they’re gradually doing a better job with team colors. Would be nice to see them really lean into the team color thing and use two colors for each team sometime.

And this is also my first 2020 Bowman in hand. I should get more of these just in case we have games at Trenton next year since it’s a nice simple design that’ll look good signed.

Marc also included a bunch of Allen&Ginter including one of the only cards I was actively going to look for. I don’t like Ginter as a baseball card set. I do like the non-baseball subjects and this year Brianna Scurry was one I really liked.

Most of the time Ginter’s fake-paint, fake-stipple photoprocessing looks pretty bad. This year though the photos look surprisingly good. Is a shame that the design is doing this weird double shadow thing where the drop shadow on the photo is coming from a different light source than the drop shadow on the brand name. This isn’t as obvious in the gold minis though so that’s pretty cool.

Beyond the new cards, Marc included a bunch of random coolness, none cooler than these three 1968 Dexter Press cards. These are nicely-printed glossy postcard-sized cards. Colors really pop and there’s lots of nice detail.

I especially like the Jim Wynn with the spring training outfield fence in the background but the John Bateman and Ken Aspromonte show off the Astrodome logo patch better. No idea why Aspromonte is wearing his batting glove on the upper hand though.

1991 Donruss is one of those sets where there are two different versions of each card,* one released in packs and one in the factory set. The two Bud Black cards here show both how the borders can be different and how unless you know there’s a difference you can totally miss the fact that there are different borders.

*Three actually but I don’t care at all about “INC” vs “INC.” in the small text on the backs.

Marc apparently came into a factory set of these, decided he just wanted the Astros, and figured that sending out team sets to various team collectors would be fun. For me he also included a few of the Stanford guys in the set as well. The Stanford guys look nice paired in the Stanford binder but it took me a while to figure out how I wanted to display the two different variants in my Giants binder.

I eventually settled on having alternating pages of set/pack cards so I can flip back and forth and see the differences. There are a few empty spots for cards that don’t have multiple versions (eg the Gary Carter Highlight) but I’m happy with the result.

A few more random cards including a pair of Mother’s Cookies cards I didn’t have. The Joe Niekro is from 1986 and is part of the all-time Astros All Stars set. Mother’s Cookies also did a set like this for the Giants in 1984* as part of the All Star game at Candlestick that season so it’s only fitting that the Astros got one when the game was at the Astrodome. The Nolan Ryan goes nicely with a card I pulled out of a bag of Iced Animal Crackers** three decades ago.

*Albeit with more of an Allen&Ginter style design. 

**I’m assuming.

Two 1993 Fleers I didn’t have. Steve Reed isn’t exactly a Giants card but he’s wearing the uniform so I have no problem sliding him into the binder. A couple Just Minors cards from Marc’s recent break which I now feel a little bad about not entering except that I really don’t actively seek minor league cards. They’re fun to add to the binder but I’ve never sought them out. This design though is an interesting one with the bar across the middle of the card and the photos sized and cropped so as to place the player’s face in the section above the bar. I don’t like it but much to my surprise I don’t hate it either

A 2012 Jed Lowrie which is some fun color but also fills a hole I didn’t realize I was missing since I didn’t have his 2012 flagship in the binder yet. A fun diecut of Mark Appel. And finally a pair of 2018 Stickers which feel so underwhelming now that Topps has switched to card-sized stickers.

Last batch of cards in the envelope were these Twilight Zone and Star Wars cards. The Twilight Zone ones are from this year but there’s unfortunately no Mighty Casey card that would allow me to sneak a post onto SABR. They’re still pretty cool though. The Twilight Zone is my favorite TV show of all time and seeing these imagined episode posters is pretty neat.

The Star Wars cards are from 1996 which is definitely a long time ago in a galaxy far far away now for that franchise. This is before the Special Edition rereleases let alone the prequels when the only expanded content out there were things like Shadows of the Empire. These cards were part of that multimedia blitz which were intended to prime the pump for the Special Editions. I don’t remember them at all though I do know that people were hyped for the movies to come out again.

Very cool stuff Marc. Thanks!