Category Archives: Giants

@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.

packfiller

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.

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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.

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.

Diamond Kings from Dub

One of the most important lessons of the modern card-collecting landscape is to learn that you cannot collect everything and, by extension, which specific sets are your thing and which ones are not. Panini’s current crop of unlicensed logoless sets? Very much not my thing. Diamond Kings’ with their photos that have been altered to look like paintings and crazy colored backgrounds? Also not my thing. And that’s not even getting into the way that these checklists are like 100 cards.

Still, I’ve been seeing lots of people opening packs and boxes and posting their hits and despite not feeling any compulsion to buy this product, I’ve noticed some extremely interesting things going on with the way it’s been produced. The paper looks to have a texture and the finish is not the usual gloss UV coating. While I don’t need a pack, I recognized that I’d probably end up acquiring a common or two so as to investigate how they were made.

Enter Joey/@DubMentality who, in addition to being one of the most generous guys on card twitter with regard to sending cards to people, has a personal blog dedicated to the junk wax glory days and also pops up on other sites writing about newer sets. I especially like his series on Beckett where he interviews card shop proprietors. Anyway I’d responded to his review of Diamond Kings with a few comments/questions about the production and he popped a plain white envelope full of Giants in the mail for me so I could answer them myself.

Said PWE arrived yesterday so in addition to now feeling like part of the club to have received a mailday from Joey, I’m happy to add some Giants cards I never intended to buy to the binders and geek out on some printing and production.

First impressions? Interesting. I’m still not a fan of the general design with the photoshopped painting effect that couldn’t even fix McCutchen’s jersey to have orange highlights and not be obviously the Pirates, but these work a lot better in person than they do in photos. The whole effect—paper finish, Photoshop filter, color palette—shows a lot more consideration than the autopilot design process that many of Topps’s sets seem to display. That said, it’s pretty clear that the smoke/unpainted portion of the cards is exactly the same card-to-card so there’s still a lot of templating going on in ways that undermine the intended effect.

Printproductionwise though these are super interesting. The cardboard itself is indeed textured. Looking at all the photos everyone else was posting I thought it was like a linen uncoated stock.* In person I can see it’s actually coated stock which feels closer to the cambric texture on casino-quality playing cards.** The coating allows for much more vibrant colors*** and Panini has wisely decided to varnish the cards rather than UV coat them so as to not bury the texture beneath a layer of plastic.

*The framed “hit” cards appear to use an uncoated laid stock for the frame and the pair of textures works surprisingly well for me. Also getting images of paper textures online is surprisingly hard to find. However Wikipedia’s Laid article isn’t bad. The Linenizing one on the otherhand…

**Typically the Bee brand. Cambric is a more fabric-looking texture as opposed to the more-familar air-cushion texture on Bicycle cards.

***I was half-expecting something less contrasty like 1996 or 1997 Fleer.

The result is cards that don’t have that distinctive UV coated smell that bursts out of most packs and which, because of the paper texture, actually sort of look like paintings. I was surprised to see that I didn’t mind the logolessness with these. Something about the painting effect means that small details don’t have to be there.

Where the base cards don’t grab me, the Orlando Cepeda Gallery of Stars card is wonderful and captures some of the old-school Diamond Kings appeal. Yes it’s not actually a painting but something about this—whether it’s the pose or the cropping—feels more like what this style is supposed to look like.

While not something I’d want a huge set of, as an insert or insert set it’s massively successful. It’s not supposed to look like a regular baseball card, it’s supposed to look like a Diamond King. And it does. The cambric texture isn’t necessary but it’s a fantastic level of detail which seals the deal.

On feEling and handling

When I was scanning these cards for the post, because of the texture and the way it made me think of playing cards, instead of immediately returning these to the penny sleeves that Joey sent them in I gathered up the four cards into a stack and quickly thumbed them from one hand to the other in the way I’d look at my hand in Hearts or Bridge. They feel great. No sticking like a lot of the UV coated sets. No constant awareness of the surface of the card the way a lot of junk wax (but even Heritage) feels. These just glide from hand-to-hand in a way that makes me want to continue to handle them.

It’s massively appealing in a tactile way that I’ve never encountered before with baseball cards. There’s a certain joy in ripping open a pack and shuffling through your brand new stack; the way the cards feel against each other is such a key component of that sensation. A fresh pack of Diamond Kings must feel amazing.

So now I kind of want a set of cards which is designed to be held and sorted and resorted rather than hermetically sealed aside from the brief moment between opening the packs and paging the pile.

Oddballs from Tony

Over Easter weekend Tony (@OffHiatusBBC) put out a call for searchlists. I flagged mine and late last week a package arrived. Given Tony’s focus on oddballs there were a lot of great things inside—including a bunch of cards I’ve never even heard of.

Nice to get another 1987 Opening Day card. That’s such a weird set but with every passing year where sets lose more and more of a sense of identity it’s wonderful to see a set with such a concise description—in this case literally the entire MLB opening day starting lineup.

Topps Big is always welcome. I love the late-80s take on the 1956 design and these cards still look great. It’s also nice to finish my Giants team set of 1991 Stadium Club. Stadium Club was one of those sets which I loved at the time even though I couldn’t afford it. Full-bleed cards and a more photographic look were super cool to me at the time. They’re kind of quaint now but serve as a nice reminder of where we’ve come from.

I’d never heard of Holsum Bread let alone the discs. These are cool and totally up my alley as an unlicensed regional food issue in a funky shape. The only problem is that they‘re slightly too big to fit in a 9-pocket sheet. I’d also not heard of the Jimmie Dean cards but at least I’ve heard of the brand. Anyway the five Holsum and Jimmie Dean cards are the highlight of this package.

The last card in this photo is a 2013 Tim Lincecum variant. Not sure how Tony knew I didn’t have this but I didn’t and I’m very happy to have it now.

Tony also included the 11 Will Clark cards in the Playball USA set. I have no idea what these are. They’re not food issues and the backs feel like unlicensed Broders At first I thought these were part of a game but I no longer that’s the case. Anyway the 11-card player set thing reminds me of those Star sets which were all over in the late 80s and early 90s.

And the two silver cards are 1992 Upper Deck MVP holograms of Will Clark and Dave Righetti. While some holograms scan nicely these do not. They look good in person though and I’m a sucker for any of those all-hologram cards that Upper Deck released in the early 90s.

Most of the package though was 1990 Upper Deck. I really like this set as a huge improvement over 1989 both photo-wise and design-wise. I will be pursuing it at some point but it’s always good to have an extra team set for the binder too.

Yes there are two Padres cards in here. This happens fairly frequently actually. The Padres and Giants logos and colors were close enough in the 80s/90s that things could be confusing at a first glance. I’ve had the same thing happen with random Pirates cards sneaking into maildays as well.

Thanks Tony! As I detailed in my previous post about your 2018 mailday I will be setting aside Brewers for you when I get them. Which is rarely. But I’ll find a way to get a return package to you eventually.

GiantsNOW

A couple weeks ago Matt Prigge had the excellent idea to roll his own ToppsNOW/Upper Deck Documentary set for this season. Such a wonderful idea. The promise of those sets is in their potential for creating a summary of the season—the kind of thing fans of each team will want to look back on once the season completes.* The reality of these sets? Unfortunately not so much. Topps hypes the same teams and players it hypes in its regular releases and ignores large portions of the country. And Upper Deck reused photos ad nauseum so cards became indistinguishable from each other.

*Note, as a Giants fan, I’m fully aware of how you might not want to look back on a season.

Realizing how we don’t need to be reliant on Topps to create our cards for us is fantastic. Things like the Rookies App are great for people who can’t make their own customs. And for those of us who have a bit of design/production prowess, all we have to do is take that plunge into creating a bunch of 2.5″×3.5″ documents.

Battlin’ Bucs has already jumped on board this idea and I figured it was worth taking a stab as well. A full-on Documentary-style 162-card set is a bit ambitious but I can totally do highlights. Since I didn’t feel like creating my own design from scratch I decided to rip off 1993 Upper Deck.

I’ve always loved this design because of how much it showed could be accomplished with just text. The masking of the words at the top is achieved by just deleting a character. The drop shadows are just the same text shifted a point down and to the right. It’s a sharp look which emphasizes the photo.

Of course I tweaked it a bit. Since this is a Giants-only set I put the team name on the top of the card instead. And I swapped out the gradient to be the Giants’ colors. And the script font is Mistral instead of what Upper Deck used since I don’t keep to many script fonts handy. Does Mistral date this horribly? Kind of. But I’ve also come to like it for what it is as well.

I liked the first card so much that I decided to do a few more highlights. Once the template is set up it’s easy to just keep making them. The hardest part is finding the photos from various news sites on the web.

One of the wonderful things about baseball cards is that because they’re so small, sourcing photos from the web is actually possible. 900×600 pixels is plenty big enough here. It’s just a shame that so many websites have switched to video-only content and no longer have photos now.

The only problem with letting the web be my photo editor is that I risk having a highlights set of all home run photos. This is so far an accurate reflection of the season so far but I really hope things get more diverse moving forward.

With the fronts coming along it was time to think about the backs. These are much harder since typesetting statistics is a pain and besides, the point of these cards was to emphasize highlights from the season.

A short paragraph writeup of the game is enough. Having the line score is fun. And since Wikipedia’s logos are all SVG you can tweak them in Illustrator for whatever you need them to be. I’m not as taken with these as with the card fronts but they serve my purpose.

I’m not sure how many highlights there are going to be this season. As a fan more highlights would be preferable but that will also drag this project from being something fun to being a complete slog. At this rate though a 99-card set would be my goal. Now that I have the template set up, this shouldn’t be too hard to bang out.

The other portion of this project is the idea of a living roster set. Not every player will make it onto a highlight card but it’s nice to have a record of everyone who appeared in the uniform over the season.

I didn’t have the ganas to create a new design for this. Besides, the interesting thing about sourcing photos from the web is how so many of them are horizontal shots. This template works really well with horizontal images and I’m enjoying seeing the possibilities that come from just dropping photos in.

I’ve also been trying to get photos of players as close to their first game of the season as possible. I may update later if an especially great photo comes out but part of what I’m liking about the idea of a living roster set is that it grows as more players put on the uniform.

Not all photos are horizontal however so I had to tweak things again for the vertical design. I didn’t like how cramped “San Francisco” was at the top so I switched it out for something shorter. Yes it’s in Spanish. Yes we call the team this locally. Yes it’s my design anyway.

The nature of the vertical design is more awkward for the action photography but lends itself to other interesting compositions. Like I’ll probably change Austin Jackson’s photo at some point but I like it for now.

At this point though, since the Giants have already used their entire 25-man active roster I’ve been able to get in-game photos of all but two of the guys. This means that the project now only entails upgrading images and noticing when someone like Bumgarner comes off the disabled list or when there’s a minor league transaction such as today’s activation of Tyler Beede and deactivation of Roberto Gómez. So I can take things easy for a bit until September gets here and hopefully by then a lot of those guys will already have made appearances.

The backs of the roster cards are even more of a challenge though. For my purposes they need to both summarize the season and also mark when he first appeared with the team this year. I thought a little bit about going with full stats but decided to just go with one line for the season.* I’ll probably add an additional line of text for anyone who gets traded to show when they joined or left the team.

*Current stats on these backs are placeholder text so I can see how much fits and everything. I’m not touching stats until the season ends.

Cards will be numbered in the order players appeared with the team as well. This is partially for my sanity as I can just add a card to the end of my document whenever someone makes their debut but also intends to give me a summary of how the season progresses. This will also allow the first page of this set to be the Opening Day lineup* which is a little detail I’m especially happy with.

*I’m putting Bochy as card number 10. And no these existing back images do not have the final numbers at all.

How do I intend to print these? No idea. My best guess is to put a bunch on a large sheet of digital printing, glue fronts and backs together, and trim everything myself. Not sure how many sheets this will take. The other logical solution is to get cheapo 4″×6″ prints and glue those together before trimming. This will be more work but at less than 20¢ a print it means I could do this whole project for $30.

Of course all this assumes I’ll even finish this project this year (watch this space in November). But it’s been fun so far and I’m hoping the peer pressure of other guys in Card Twitter doing their projects and showing their progress keeps me on task.