Category Archives: trades

@mjpmke’s Update purge

While Matt has helped me with my Update set before, he recently decided that he was done with the whole Update concept and was going to be shedding the last decade of Update cards. I get it, Update’s one of those sets that needs to be strongly defined in order to make any sense. Is it a set of highlights to summarize the season which just ended? Is it intended to correct players in the flagship set who changed teams or weren’t on the roster at all when Topps locked the checklist the previous January? Is it a celebration of players who made their debuts in the season? Is it a celebration of players who made the All Star team that season?

Currently the answer to all of those is a resounding “kind of.” Are all of those elements in Update. Yes. Does Topps do any of them well? No.

I still enjoy Update though at least from a team collector point of view since the Giants aren’t a team that Topps either short-changes or over-emphasizes on the checklists. And I like the idea of completing the 2017 set because it marks my return to the hobby and represents the first set that I purchased packs of with my son. So when Matt put out a “shoot me your wantlists” call I sent him my set needs and mentioned I’d be interested in any other Giants as well.

So a few weeks ago* a box of cards showed up in my mailbox and inside was a bunch of Update and a bunch of other goodies.

*I received so many mailings at the end of the school year that I’m running weeks behind.

I’ll start with the unexpected stuff. Buried inside the Giants cards were a bunch of cards of Stanford guys for my Stanford project. I think these kill my Update needs for 2010–2017. It’s always fun when trading partners remember who the Stanford guys are. Unlike with team collecting, keeping the Alumni names in mind is the kind of task that I don’t expect anyone to be able to do. That Matt has cards from a half-dozen different guys is pretty impressive.

There was also a lot of pre-2010 Giants stuff. On the top of that pile though were these two autographs. I gather that Matt did a fair amount of non-Brewers through-the-mail requests before focusing his collection on his All-time Brewers project. Garrelts and Dravecky are two semi-obscure guys who happen to be near and dear to my heart though since they come from the Giants teams I learned to love baseball with. Heck I mention each by name in my remembrance of Candlestick post.

Garrelts is one of just four players* who played 10+ years in the Majors and only played for the Giants. I have fond memories of him both being great in terms of signing everything I had in Philadelphia as well as being a solid starter who I saw almost pitch a no-hitter.

*Also on the list, Jim Davenport, Robby Thompson, and Matt Cain. I’m tempted to try and get signed 8×10s of each of them since I’m already half-way there (I have Davenport and Thompson). The hardest part of this project idea is that I can’t find any Garrelts 8×10s available anywhere.

Dravecky meanwhile was our ace whose cancer comeback game in 1989 is still the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever watched. I’ve been to bigger and more important games but I’ve never been in a crowd which was so into the game. Every pitch, every moment was important and none of us knew what to expect.

The rest of the Giants goodies included a bunch of 1993 Topps Gold—a set I’ve always liked—as well as an assortment of other 1990s stuff. Leaf Limited is one of those sets I’m surprised that I like. Sportflics (sorry, Sportflix now) is always great fun. I’m not sure how Matt keeps coming across Pacific cards but those are always appreciated.

2010–2016 Update cards and more Gold cards continue to fill in some holes left over from RobbyT’s huge mailing. The 2015 Gold card of Chris Heston’s no-hitter is probably my favorite of this batch. Also that 1954-designed Madison Bumgarner Topps Archives card amuses me since his signature includes #22—a number he’s never worn in the Giants organization. Twitter suggests this was a signature lifted from the 2006 National Showcase but I’m still shaking my head at Topps not just deleting the uniform number.

And a last handful of Giants cards. I did not have the Postseason Celebration card for the 2014 World Series so that’s a lot of fun. And the 1960-designed McCovey is both fun and infuriating in how it shows both the potential of Archives in re-imagining cards from the past as well as the pitfalls in not being true to the original design. In this case it really bothers me that the name text isn’t fully-justified.

This image also brings us to the bulk of the mailday—namely 2017 Update. Matt’s mailing took me to 297/300 complete for the set* which is far better than I ever expected to get.

*Depending on how you count I could actually have 295/300 or 298/300 complete instead. I’m missing cards 96 (Brett Phillips), 193 (Orlando Arcia), and 269 (Craig Kimbrel). I also have two other slots—172 (Jason Hammel) and 257 (Alex Wood)—filled with Gold or Foil parallel versions of the cards. And I do actually have card number 269—only I have the Pedro Martinez variant rather then the guy who’s actually in the checklist.

Looking through these cards and I’m starting to wonder how I want to break them down into pages. Right now of course everything’s by-the-number. But since the set is complete aside from the Brewers I can think about how I want to split things up. I’m always inclined to put the Traded and Rookies with the rest of the team but the All Star, home Run Derby, Highlights, and Debut cards are a different beast.

Anyway I’ll have the summer to think about it. Probably longer since unpaging a set and re-sorting it is the kind of thing I’ll backburner for a long time. But this confirms that I won’t be going after Update again this year. Yes on the Giants. Probably yes on the rest of the cards which would’ve been part of the Traded sets form the 1980s. But I’m not feeling it with rest of this set. Too much rookies and stars bloat for my taste and not enough difference in the All Stars and things to be fun.

Still I’m very happy to have this one essentially complete. It’s a wonderful way to close out my first full year back in the hobby and it’s nice that it comes via trade since exchanging cards over Twitter has turned out to be the best thing about the latest incarnation of the hobby.


To fill out the package and protect the other cards from moving, Matt tossed in a dozen or so dummy cards. These don’t warrant too much discussion but I’m amused that they’re mostly all checklists.

I’ll readily admit that I never gave much thought to the checklists when I was a kid. I didn’t like pulling them in packs and even now I feel weird specifically purchasing them whether as part of a set chase or as an extension of my team sets search.* At the same time not having them in the sets also feels wrong.

*A few of the 1960s checklists feature Giants players.

As cards that I never really looked at, seeing a dozen of them all together kind of forced me to take a closer look. I’d never noticed that the 1989 Topps checklists called back to the 1979 design before. I never realized that the 1990 Topps checklists were organized by team. I’m amused that the Donruss Diamond Kings checklist includes the Diamond king ribbon. And I’m kind of appalled at the computer-generated graphics on the Stadium Club checklists.


Mailday from RobbyT

The same day I got a plain white envelope from Pre-war Cards, I also received a 300-count box of cards from @robbyt86. Robby is a Tigers collector whose blog has gone fallow. Thankfully his How to Properly Page a Topps Set post is sitting on the top of the pile. On Twitter Robby and I hold down the print geek side of the conversation. He’s worked in printing and prepress for decades and oftentimes we’re the only one notices and appreciating technical details in how cards were actually produced.

I’m not sure I’ve ever received two items that are such polar opposites. Don’t get me wrong, Robby’s box was just as much fun as Anson’s plain white envelope, it’s just that there’s no way to compare the items inside. Where the pre-war cards encourage me to dig into history and connect things to what I know about the sport and industry now, the modern cards end up hitting me in the feelings and encouraging me to remember teams and players I watched myself.

The first dozen or so cards in the box are cards from my youth. I’ve been searching for that 1988 Fleer sticker of Candlestick for a while now. These stadium stickers are my favorite sticker insert from Fleer and that aerial view of The Stick reminds me of all the games I attended when I was a kid.

All those 1994 Donruss Giants cards are also all new to me too. 1994 is the year I bailed from the hobby and seriously detached from baseball so the cards from that year all represent an interesting thing where I sort of recognize them but in that “oh yeah I forgot about those” way. The players though are ones I remember fondly as I had seen many of them in spring training that year.

The next batch of cards is from the late 90s and early 2000s. These are all new to me. These Bowman cards? Never seen them before. Pacific online? Nope. The Pacific Invincible is pretty cool in that the photo of JT Snow is an acetate insert that shows up on both sides of the card. Also Invincible was one of Pacific’s Spanish-language brands and it’s always cool to get more of those cards.

There are also a few gold parallel cards in this batch. I’m not sure when Topps started stamping them with serial numbers but each of these is numbered out of 2001, 2002, or 2003 (depending on what year the card is). I don’t usually like colored parallels but I did like the early-90s Topps Gold and I still like these early 2000s ones too.

The 2002 and 2003 ones in particular are interesting in that rather than using gold foilstamping for the parallel, Topps printed metallic gold ink on top of the existing card borders. This results in some interesting ghosting issues on the 2002 cards in particular since the gold ink covers some white text and you can still make that text out if look at the card just right. The Topps logo is also covered so in many ways these cards are the rare modern cards that Topps has released which don’t have their logo on the fronts.

As someone who doesn’t like the brown and blue borders on the 2002 and 2003 base designs, I much prefer the way the gold borders look too. It’s close enough to the orange in the Giants logo colors that I find myself especially liking how these look on Giants cards.

More of the same but getting to 2011 now. The Topps Shoebox cards are probably the closest I’m ever going to get to those 1952 high numbers and hall of fame rookie cards. For now they‘re in my binder with the 2003 cards but I might move them into the vintage binder as placeholders at some point.

Topps Lineage is one of those sets which looks like it would be fun to roll out every 10 years or so so each generation of kids can have a new base set of all-time greats to collect and learn about.

The bulk of Robby’s box though consists of cards from 2012 and newer. In many places there’s close to a team set for each year—or at least a near team set for update or Series 2 or something like that. I don’t have many of these cards and while I haven’t fully decided what to do about those sets yet, this mailing has pushed me into at least getting the team sets.

The 2012 cards are great because they remind me of that second World Series win. (I figure Robby just wanted these out of his house.) The whole 2010–2015 run of Giants cards is one that I’m likely to pursue now since that 6-year run of players and cards will likely represent one of the high points of my Giants fandom for a long long time.

The handful of Bowman cards in here as well represent my first exposure to this set beyond a single exemplar card. I can never tell Bowman cards apart so it’s nice to have enough to really get a sense of the set. And there are a few proper colored parallels. I’m still not sold on these but when I see them in hand I can see how player collectors want to collect a complete rainbow.

A bunch of 2013 cards including a few which feature 2012 highlights. I knew of some of those cards but others, like the Vogelsong one, somehow slipped through my radar. I’m very happy to have them. I also find myself appreciating this set a lot more each time I see it. 2011–2014’s designs have a tendency to blend together for me but 2013 is starting to stand out in a good way.

A few more colored parallels. I have to say that the blue color in particular makes the Sea Turtle nature of this design even more turtle-like. And a few Triple Play cards that I can’t believe are real cards since they look like something my kids would’ve drawn on their iPad.

Also it’s worth noting that beginning with the 2012 cards, there are a lot of duplicates in this box. Which is great since these World Series-winning teams are teams that my kids also like* so having plenty of cards to spread around the family is very much appreciated.

*They enjoy watching the DVDs of the games.

2014 shows how the colored parallel thing is exploding more and more. I have no idea if the red sparkles are supposed to be extra special or if that’s just a Target exclusive thing. I can say that having all these different colors makes the gold parallels stand out less even though they’re the only ones which are numbered.

This photo also shows that Robby included a bunch of Donruss cards. I have very little experience with the current incarnation of Donruss. I have a few 2018 Diamond Kings, I only just received two 2015 cards from Marc, and there might be a couple others in my Stanford albums. Anyway I definitely had fewer than ten of them before this mailing.

They’re an interesting set. It definitely gives of that 1980s Donruss vibe. The way the photos have removed almost all the orange from the uniforms makes things look almost like they’ve been selectively desaturated. I don’t know if I like them or not but I appreciate that they’re trying to root themselves in a sense of brand identity in a way that Topps appears unwilling or unable to attempt.

A ton of 2015 Topps. Which is great since I love this set and this team is the first that my eldest son kind of remembers outside from watching World Series DVDs. As with the 2013 set, there are a few highlights cards in here that I was not aware of so I’m very happy to add those to my collection as well.

I especially like how the World Series highlights in the 2015 set look distinct from the base Giants cards. Different logo and coloring means they stand out in my album as the highlights they are.

And more Donruss. More orange on the uniforms this time is a better look. That 1981 throwback design is one of the rare cases where the homage feels like an improvement on the original. The base designs meanwhile still show an admirable commitment to Donrussness.

And finally some 2016 Bunt which amazingly meshes with my current Bunt cards to give me a complete team set and a 2018 Heritage card which doubles the number of Giants I have from that set (sadly they’re the two Giants with the worst WAR on the team right now).

Some 2016 and 2017 Donruss which demonstrate the problem of leaning too close to Donruss homage. Yes these two designs are distinct. I also found myself getting them completely confused.

The flip side of leaning in to having a year-after-year design consistency is that it’s very easy for each year to become indistinguishable from the previous one. If you asked me what year these cards are from I’d not only be unable to tell you, I’d end up describing them in terms of their original design references. 2014 Donruss is kind of 1987-like. 2015? A little 1985 + more 1987. 2016? Lots of 1991 but only on one color. 2017? 1990 + 1991.

Part of the problem here is that Donruss, more than any other brand in the 1980s, really encapsulated the feel of the time for me where I can point at any Donruss design from 1984–1993 (aside from perhaps 1992) and say that it reflects how part of the world looked at that point.

These new Donruss designs echo that datedness but also whitewash things so they look generically retro. This would work in any given year but the cumulative effect of multiple years of it is that all the distinctiveness is gone.

Anyway this was a great box to go through. I might have to do a second post at some point when I separate everything into piles for my kids to split up and file. But that might be in months since this was too many cards to give them all at once.

Pre-war cards from @prewarcards

One of my favorite Baseball Card Twitter people is Anson Whaley (@prewarcards). He specializes in pre-war* sports cards so his blog and twitter feed contains almost no overlap with mine; aside from my two Zeenuts, I have no pre-war cards. Yet I feel their call sirening away at me. At some level I suspect every collector of baseball cards does. It’s not just an age thing where old cards are always interesting, there’s something to getting in touch with the roots of the hobby which is deeply appealing.

*Generally defined as anything predating US involvement in World War 2.

I think every card collector is an amateur history geek. Cards connect you to over a century of collecting and the evolution of the hobby is something that you just eventually learn about. My sons, who have only just caught the collecting bug, already know about T206 and Honus Wagner. It’s just something that comes up when you get into the hobby.

Anyway, while I’m spending my time as a cheapskate collector who prefers getting cards via trade or for under a quarter on Sportlots, I’m also educating myself on pre-war issues and getting a sense of what kind of things I might one, day consider spending some money on. And I’m also educating myself on how I could do that responsibly as well as learning about what kinds of things to look for to make sure I don’t get fooled by any fakery.*

*Being a cheapskate collector does mean that my unwillingness to spend even medium money on any cards protects me from getting ripped off.

Anson’s website is one of my go-to locations for this kind of information. Plus he’s very friendly and helpful on twitter as well with regard to posting things, answering questions about them, and even discussing the best ways of storing them.

In the beginning of this month he tweeted out some photos of his set of 1928–29 John Player and Sons Footballers. It’s a beautiful set of cards. As a soccer fan there’s something about the early days of the game where everything is recognizable yet so so different. Despite the game having evolved tremendously from those days, the imagery from those decades is immensely powerful. Any team which can trace its history to those years makes damn sure sustain that visual connection to the past.

There’s also something extra special about seeing the early British uniforms since they’re the model that the rest of the world followed.* So in addition to the weight of history there’s a sense of seeing the source of the game in these old cigarette cards.

*Most famously perhaps with the connection Juventus has to Notts County.

I sent a very enthusiastic reply to Anson’s tweet observing how great the cards were and after we had had a conversation about pre-war soccer cards in general and how to find other examples.* No I’m not planning on getting into soccer cards. But you’re damn right I was curious.

*As a Barcelona fan, I was especially curious about whether there were old cards from Spain or Catalunya. Short answer, there most certainly are but they’re often chocolate cards not cigarette cards. 

Anyway during this conversation Anson asked me if I was interested in a few of his duplicates. I guess he could tell that I liked them for what they are and not as any sort of investment. I was very surprised. There’s a wonderful part of Card Twitter where people just offer to send you a plain white envelope with a few cards.* I never respond to people tweeting their cards with the idea that someone will send me things** so I’m always shocked and somewhat embarrassed*** when it happens to me.

*This is what happened with the 1954 Bowman earlier as well.

**There’s a much-less-wonderful portion of Card Twitter which presumes that anything you tweet is something you’re willing to trade or sell.

***I just respond to things which I like since Twitter is most-enjoyable when you respond positively to other people instead of succumbing to the temptation to tear everything down. I’m not in it for freebies—those are just icing on the cake—and I certainly try not to come across as a prize hound.

A couple weeks ago the plain white envelope arrived. And it was beautiful. Colors were bright and crisp. I love the brushy artwork for the backgrounds and the way the ball is always halfway out of the frame. That one of the cards is a Notts County player in that black and white kit is fantastic. Do I know anything about Paddy Mills? Nothing more than what the back of the card and his Wikipedia page tell me. But the story about those shirts and how they had become Juventus’s kit in the beginning of the century is more than enough to make this card interesting to me.

Given how two of the cards feature black and white kits, I’m glad that the Jimmy Oakes comes from a period of Port Vale’s history when they did not wear black and white. As a card this is probably my favorite of the batch since the colors and the pose with the ball coming directly out of the frame are especially striking.

John Priestley’s card is fun too. I love that all three of these feature dynamic poses which capture a certain sense of the movement of soccer’s gameplay which still feels appropriate to the modern game. I’m also enjoying that all three cards feature teams that are now in League Two since the reminder of how a team’s fortunes can change over the decades coupled with the reassurance that the teams are still in existence and playing soccer is everything that’s great about the game.

But Anson did not stop there with those three Players Cigarettes card as he included some duplicate 1938 Churchman’s Cigarettes Association Footballers cards in the envelope as well. These aren’t as graphically exciting as the colorful Players cards but they do feature early action photography. This is pretty cool and the cards are printed at a fine-enough line screen that you can see that the photos are better than newsprint quality.

As a baseball card guy I’m not used to cards featuring players running or jumping. Maybe a follow-through. Maybe. But action photos on cards were pretty rare except when used as background images, special in-action cards, or World Series highlights.

The standout card here is Sir Stanley Matthews, inaugural member of the National Football Hall of Fame and the first active player to be knighted. There’s no obvious reason why should I recognize his name as being important except that he’s just one of those guys who you end up hearing about as you follow the game. Reading about him now when writing this post and it’s clear he was one of the all-time greats of the game who retired right when the modern era really got going.

Harry Goslin is an interesting card which captures certain poignancy in focusing on pre-war cards. In 1943 he was killed in action in Italy so these pre-war issues end up representing what could’ve been had there been no war. Reading the Wikipedia article gives me the impression that many of his Bolton teammates were in the same regiment as him too and while Goslin is the only one to die in the war, it’s kind of a scary thought for me as a fan that you could have your whole team wiped out in one bad battle.

George Mutch meanwhile is notable for 1938 reasons by being the game-winning goal scorer in the first FA Cup to be televised. Yes a bit of obscure trivia. But also a fun factoid to attach to this card.

That’s not all though. That plain white envelope also included a Sanella soccer “card” from the 1932 Sanella Margarine multi-sport set. It’s not exactly a card since it’s printed on thin paper but that doesn’t make it any less cool. As a type geek I appreciate seeing the blackletter fonts since I find the whole Antiqua-Fraktur debate about fonts and national identity to be incredibly fascinating. The idea that I could have printed ephemera from less than a century ago which is printed in my native language yet uses standard letterforms I can’t easily recognize is an amazing thought.

Along with letterform change that occurs in World War 2, this card also has other interesting pre/post war implications. It features Hanne Sobek whose English-language Wikipedia page is a stub but whose German page is fascinating. He ended up in East Germany after the war. In 1950 when the team he was coaching was barred from competing in West Germany, it defected to West Berlin and founded a new club.

Thanks for a wonderful, generous, beautiful mailing!

Mailday from Bru!

So it seems like the end of the school year is peak mailday season. The same week I got packages from Mark, Otto, and Tim, I found a package from Marc (@marcbrubaker) in my mailbox. This package was very similar in composition to his previous package in that it was mostly Giants odds and ends but also a dozen Stanford guys.

We’ll go in the opposite order this time and start with the Stanford guys. Well. Stanford guys and Jay Bell who’s not a Stanford guy but now that I have an autographed card of him milking a cow I guess I’ve been marked as a Jay Bell collector. That Classic 4-Sport of Andrew Lorraine is a card and set I’ve never seen before. I don’t go out of my way to get cards in Stanford uniforms but it’s certainly fun to have a couple of them in my album.

And it’s not surprising that I get a lot of Stanford Astros. Al Osuna, being from peak junk wax years has a ton of cards that I’m sure just multiply in Marc’s boxes. I’m especially digging the 93 Ultra card even though for a moment I thought it was a 92 Ultra card that I already had.*

*92 and 93 Ultra as well as 93 Donruss correspond to the “we just got computers so check out these computer-generated bevelled edges” school of early-90s card design. This is not to be confused with the “we just got computers so check out these computer-generated rock textures,” the “we just got computers so check out these computer-generated gradients” or the “we just got computers so check out these computer-generated drop shadows” schools. Those years when any ray-tracing was amazing just because a computer could do it are important to remember at how we were so easily overawed by the esthetics of technology.

1990s Giants. Some junk wax but a lot of post-strike stuff as well as a few samples from sets I liked but never acquired a lot of. I’m looking at 1993 Studio here since I really like the design with the cap logo background and the foil signature. Looking at those also makes me wistful for those old Giants caps with the flat-stitched cap logos.

Believe it or not this is my first 1997 Topps Giants card. I’ve been super negligent on filling in post-strike holes so almost everything here 1994-on is new to me. That 1995 Score design is wonderfully 1990s and totally brings me back to high school.

And most of these names are all names I remember from my youth. Yes even Rikkert Faneyte. Kirt Manwaring never had a bad baseball card. Royce Clayton and Jose Uribe are sentimental favorites. Greg Litton was briefly relevant again for being the most-recent Giants position player to pitch before Pablo Sandoval did it this season.

A batch of early-2000s cards (plus some 1999s that didn’t fit in the previous photo). That these are mostly Jeff Kent makes me sense a Texas connection. The Pacific Omega is a brand new set to me. As is that 1980s-feeling Fleer Platinum (which I kind of dig) and that weird Upper Deck Play Ball card (which just weirds me out).

A big batch of 2015 and 2016 cards. The 2015 set is seriously growing on me. It gave me big time HDR vibes when I first saw them but compared to the sets which have followed it, I’m loving it more and more each day. That’s also a nice sample of players with Scutaro being a Giants legend based on the 2012 playoffs and Petit and Vogelsong being heroes of the 2014 playoff run.

Those Panini/Donruss cards are my first examples of that set. Non-licensing is weird and while I like the references to classic Donruss these feel like a super-glossy oddball release rather than a real set. Opening Day is nice to have since I never buy it. Same with Archives though I do love that 1991 design. I wish Heritage avoided the colored jerseys* since this would otherwise look pretty sharp. I also just noticed that—and am really confused at how—Topps didn’t print a keyline around the photo on the Fence Busters card.

*Something Topps finally figured out this year.

Moving on to a few cards of special interest. Metal Universe is a set I’ve seen pictures of but was thoroughly confused by. I’m kind of happy to have one in person to confirm that the photos were mostly accurate. Mostly because they fail to demonstrate how rainbowy and shiny this card is in person. But other than that they do capture the general WTFness of this set.

I have no idea WTF is going on with this card. It’s so bad that it’s good and I can see how people want more of them even while the rational part of my brain recoils at the thought.

The MLB Showdown collectible card game card really interests me as a concept. In many ways this is what should’ve become the Living Set as a set of cards that’s released like Pokémon and intended to either be played or collected as part of a never-ending set of new releases.

In reality it appears that this game was released each year as a new set. The card backs are different from year to year and as a result, the idea of being able to put a multi-year deck together isn’t something this product does. In other words, it’s more like a set of baseball cards than a set of game cards. Una lástima.

I’m including the 2014 Allen & Ginter card here because, while I don’t care too much for Ginter in general, I do find myself liking this particular set. I’ve finally figured out that it’s because of the gold spot ink that Topps used for the detailing. In most of the Ginter sets, Topps does the text and linework with process inks—this works mostly well with stochastic screening, very much less well with traditional—so it’s nice to see them do it right with a spot ink. Using the gold ink is just a nice extra touch.

My first 2016 Stadium Clubs. Yeah this is a nice set. The cards just feel so much nicer than anything else aside from perhaps the Panini Diamond Kings. The photography is nice too although based on these samples, 2017 looks to be extraordinarily good even among Stadium Club releases.

The main thing I like here is that Topps adjusted the design to be somewhat centered (actually just a half-inch left-hand margin) on vertical cards and aligned left on horizontal cards. While I’m not one of those guys who hates mixed-orientation sets, I do like it when the difference in the layouts feels considered rather than an awkward attempt to make the vertical design work in a different layout.

Also I do like it when cards are willing to show the player in positions where we can’t see his face. The Duffy card doesn’t work as well as the Crawford card here but the variety is a nice change of pace from the standard baseball card look.

And last but not least, a few 2018 Bowmans including two of the newest Giants. Neither McCutchen or Longoria made it into the flagship set as Giants. Longoria has shown up in a few sets since but this is Cutch‘s first official Giants card from Topps. He’s definitely found his footing in San Francisco and I can see how he was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh.

Thanks Bru! This was a fun way to end the school year and start my summer.

Tim Jenkins Mailday

In a similar vein to Mark Hoyle, Tim Jenkins is another collector from the generation before me who helpfully offered to send me some 1978 duplicates for my set build. Tim’s a prolific blogger over at SABR, is extremely helpful in terms of just being aware of sets and weird card-related items, and his personal collection is intimidatingly impressive.

Tim’s mailday was indeed 1978-focused. Lou Piniella needs a better-fitting cap. I like that Fregosi card even if the two-tone pinstripes on the 1970s Pirates uniforms weird me out. In any case they’re not as bad as those White Sox uniforms with the floppy collars, circus lettering on the jerseys, and futuristic lettering on the caps.

I also just noticed that Larry Hisle is missing the stitches on his ball. As a Rick Reuschel fan it always amuses me to come across a card of his brother. And the Elias Sosa card is a nice shot of Candlestick.

Tim’s mailday resulted in my first two complete pages too. It’s always fun to turn the corner on a set project and reach the point where any new acquisitions have a decent chance of completing a page.

The fist page got completed by Chris Knapp and is pretty pedestrian. A nice spring training shot of Dave May. A nice Candlestick shot of Jerry Turner. Larry Milbourne’s photo features the 1977 Mariners first-year road jerseys which got changed in 1978. Rick Dempsey is probably the best card here and I like how it looks like he’s about to swing the bat at his position.

The second page—completed by Buzz Capra—is mainly notable for the Rod Carew card. The position-indicator baseball is so generic that it’s the reason why for a long time, I found the 1978 set to be boring. The cards with the All Star shield show how awesome the rest of the design is and as I’ve looked at the set more and more I’ve found myself just appreciating other aspects of the design as well—in particular, the photography is frequently nice and the custom lettering is very well done.

Tim also sent a bunch of 1986 Topps cards. This was a set from which I accumulated a number of cards when I was a kid and have also decided to try and build. It’s one of Topps’s most-distinct designs and very much reminds me of my first year in the hobby in 1987 when packs of 1986 were still readily available.*

*One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the current incarnation of the hobby is how products are all designed to sell out in a few weeks rather than be ever-present on shelves.

Robin Yount and Keith Hernandez are big names here. I also appreciate the Hernandez Record Breaker with his helmet levitating off his head. The most interesting card to me though is the Valenzuela Turn Back the Clock card since it features a 1981 Topps card that never existed. His flagship card was a multi-player rookie card and his Traded card featured a different pose.

Tim threw in some additional unexpected bonus items as well. There was a handful of well-loved vintage Topps. 1963 is a set I really like in its peak-60s nature. 1967 is classic. The 1968 Topps game is always fun. And 1972 In Actions are a fun reminder of how far we’ve come with sports and baseball card photography.

A bunch of more-recent oddballs and things. I always had a soft spot for those oversized 1989 Bowmans even though the Bowman logo is goofy and the red border a bit much. But I like the big photo and having just the signature without ay player name.* I’m just trying to remember if the printing always looked like it had been left out in the sun a tad too long.

*As someone who generally dislikes signatures on the fronts of cards this is one of the few sets which I like in spite of myself.

The 1981 Drake’s Jack Clark is one I do not have. Being a West Coast kid I never encountered Drake’s Cakes. Heck, when Wreck-it Ralph made a Devil Dogs joke I just thought that was something they’d made up. The Ted Williams sets are likewise something I never encountered as a kid. I love the McCovey Post food-issue card (bring back food issues!) and the Panini Cooperstown cards are a lot of fun. Yes, Cepeda is technically a Cardinal on the checklist but he’ll always be a Giant to me.

Saving the best for last. The two black and white cards are something about which Tim knows nothing. This does not happen.* It’s kind of cool that such a thing can still happen nowadays since everything appears to be documented online now. That one of those cards is Dan Ortmeier suggests that these have to be from 2005–2008** but other than that I’ve been able to turn up nothing online.

*We’re just talking about cards here folks.

**I’m making the assumption that no one would make an Ortmeier card unless he was currently playing for the team.

Which brings us to the Alan Gallagher. At first glance this looks like another well-loved vintage card. That “200” though means that this is no mere baseball card but is instead a part of Tim’s childhood game of Free Agent Draft. I loved reading about the creativity in rolling his own board game like this and I’m quite flattered to be entrusted with part of Tim’s childhood. It’s one thing to give away cards you pulled from packs way back then. It’s quite another to dispose of something you made.

Getting into Bowman

When I started to collect cards in the late 1980s, Topps was clearly the card of record. Having a set every year back to 1952 was extremely impressive to me and the idea that I could own a piece of the game’s history by getting cards from each year was my first real baseball card project.

I was vaguely aware of Bowman but didn’t think anything of it until Topps relaunched the brand in 1989. Bowman in those years was a smaller set than Topps but didn’t really offer much different aside from the interesting statistics on the back which showed how the player did against each team.* It’s only been in the past year that I’ve really learned about how Topps and Bowman were rivals in the 1950s and that players might appear in only one of the sets each year.

*Something that’s impossible to do now with interleague play. And I do like the way that Topps’s different brands in the junk wax era had distinctly different statistics on the backs. Flagship had the traditional stat line. Bowman had its per-team breakdown. Stadium Club had that neat strike zone performance which presaged a lot of SABRmetric stuff.

As I’ve been filling out my 1960s Giants sets I’ve been moving back into the 1950s and Bowman is looming on the horizon. It’s pretty fun. I get to learn about new sets and whenever I get a new Bowman card there’s a decent chance it’s my first from that set.

I picked up my first 1950s Bowmans when I started my Stanford Project. Lloyd Merriman was a Bowman-only guy and his 1950, 1951, 1952, and 1955 cards were my first exemplars from each of those sets. I remember being struck by the crispness of the art in the 1950–1952 cards—that keyline around the player really makes things pop—as well as the way the backs are completely biographical. I also didn’t quite realize how small they were. They’re not exactly mini/tobacco sized but they definitely feel different than modern cards.

Because Merriman was in the Marines in 1952 and 1953 he didn’t have any cards those years. Which is a shame since those years are gloriously photography-centered designs. Without seeing those years it’s hard to see how Bowman got to the 1955 design from the 1952 one. Knowing that Bowman went all-photography in 1953, then all color in 1954, makes the jump to “let’s pretend it’s on TV” make more sense.*

*Joke about how Topps has been playing with HDTV graphics ever since 2016 goes here.

Anyway I was talking on Twitter a couple weeks ago about how I planned to get into Bowman and had yet to acquire any 1953 or 1954 cards when Otto Lehmann popped into my mentions offering to send me an off-condition 1954 Bowman.

A few days later this card arrived in my mailbox. It’s pretty cool and the crease is way more visible in the scan than it is in person. I very much like the big photo thing. I also enjoy that this is a first-year Orioles card—making it the oldest example in my moves and expansion project.

At first the absence of a keyline around the photo kind of weirded me out. I’m coming around on it though as it makes the whole thing look more more like a photo to me.

I’ve also been eyeing some of the pre-1950s Bowmans. The 1948s are interesting because of them being Bowman’s first issue. But the 1949s have been calling my name since the pseudo-color is something I really wanted to check out in person.

A month or so ago I came across a nicely-priced lot of 1949 Giants cards. So I pounced.* They’re every bit as nice as I hoped they’d be and I love the printing and the way the black and white photographs were colorized. I was a little surprised to find that the background was not just a solid ink but also included some black screening though that also makes some sense to me photographically. I was also surprised and pleased to see that the yellow ink in the skin tones was actually screened as well—making those real duotones.

*For a few months these were my oldest Giants cards but Mark Hoyle’s Play Ball card is the new champion.

The rest of the details like how the orange color has been stripped in to give things a pop of color are similarly fun. This is a set I very much like as a print and design geek.

Going forward, I will no doubt be on the look out for more Bowman cards—and more pre-1960 cards in general— as my collecting branches into vintage sets about which I know very little. I’ve been enjoying it so far.

Mailday from Mark Hoyle

One of the things that a lot of guys my age on card twitter have been doing is pursuing their birth-year sets. There’s a bunch of things going on here. My generation of collectors having a midlife crisis of sorts and rediscovering cards is a large part of it. But that sets of the late-70s are the right mix of achievable yet challenging—not junk wax but not quite “vintage” either—also makes this sort of project very appealing. If you’re patient you can find bulk lots of hundreds of cards for ~$10. There aren’t any high numbers or short prints to deal with. There aren’t even that many expensive rookies.

And many of the previous generation of collectors often have a ton of duplicates still lying around. Mark Hoyle is one such collector. Mark’s a Red Sox/Boston guy who seems to have everything. Seriously. Every morning on Twitter he’s posting a photo of something I’ve never seen from before my parents were born. It’s a lot of fun to see and he’s been a great guy to chat with and learn about all kinds of products.

When Mark found my set needlist he realized he could fill a bunch of holes and late last week a bubble mailer arrived with a bunch of 1978 Topps cards inside.

Since most of my 1978 build has come via cheap commons lots* my set build has been pretty thin on star power. Mark included a very nice assortment of big-name cards in the set. The Nolan Ryan is probably the best of the bunch (I have very few card numbers ending in 0 let alone 00) but it’s always nice to see a stack of Hall of Famers.

*Though Matt Prigge did include a bunch in one of his mailings too.

I think this might also be my first vintage Thurman Munson and Jim Palmer cards too. Also, George Hendrick’s photo is at Candlestick. Just seeing that old press box in the background makes me smile.

I love the Bobby Bonds card here. The tight cropping is often a bad idea on baseball cards but it really works here. I also always like seeing Duane Kuiper in that caveman Indians uniform.

The Dave Kingman in its airbrushed glory always weirds me out. It’s not as bad as the Greg Minton but it sure is something. This is also my first checklist of the set—which kind of weirds me out since you’d think those would always end up in commons lots. Nice to see Rick Dempsey and Al Oliver. And the Roger Metzger photo was also taken at Candlestick.

All told a super batch of 1978s which took my set build past 60% and close to the ⅔ mark. Pretty soon I’m going to have to start searching for stars and rookies. But Mark did not stop there and included a couple extras.

In some ways these are best kind of extras in that they represent my first samples of sets. It’s one thing (and great fun) to build a set and approach a finish line of sorts which each new card. There’s a different kind of thrill when you encounter a set for the first time. You get to see what kind of cardboard it’s printed on, how it was printed, etc.

The two 1963 Fleers represent my first exposure to this set. I’ve been meaning to get some of these at some point so this surprise is very much appreciated. This is a good-looking set with photography that’s distinct from the usual Topps look and in many ways presages the speedlight-dominated look that Topps sort of abused in the mid-80s.

Anyway, seeing medium format fill flash work that results in a slightly-underexposed background is a look which pops pretty well and is perfectly served by the clean geometric design. The way Fleer moves the team/position line around so it fits in the space is less impressive however. And I like seeing photos of the Giants taken in the Polo Grounds. Even though it was the Mets’ stadium in the early 60s, it will always be the Giants’ ancestral home.

Mark also included a 1939 Billy Jurges Play Ball card. Play Ball is one of those sets/manufacturers which is completely off my radar. I grew up a Topps guy. I’m beginning to get to know Bowman now since for much of the 1950s it was the card of record along with Topps. I have only a cursory awareness of pre-war (really pre-1948) cards.

I’m aware of Play Ball as representing sort of the first modern baseball card. Real photography. Real information on the back. Roughly the same size and form factor of current-day cards. That it debuts in 1939 and doesn’t survive the war makes it an easy issue to forget.

All of which means that I’m very excited to see and have one of these now. It’s my oldest Giants card by a decade and one of only ~40 New York Giants cards in my collection.

Thanks Mark!

For the kids

The bubble mailer was not just for me though. Inside was a team bag of ~50 cards with a small note instructing me to give them to my sons. I went through and sorted everything by team so I could break up the giveaway into a couple sessions. It was a fun mix of cards with a few old ones (one 1973 Blue Moon Odom and a handful of early-90s junk wax) and a bunch of more-recent issues.

The first session involved just the Giants and A’s cards and the boys, despite getting 9 cards each (I put them all on the table and had them take turns picking) managed to use those to trigger a complete binder overhaul. The second session was the balance of ~30 cards (they cleaned the house before having their draft) and they were both very happy with their haul.

It’s fun to watch what they like. The youngest likes the shiny chrome stuff. The eldest likes vintage. They both like facsimile autographs. Neither of them is taken with the stickers. I was just impressed that they took turns and didn’t fight at all.