Year-end round-up

End of the year and a lull in the collecting season—well at least baseball card season—means it’s as good a time as any to look back at my projects and see how things have come in the past year. Where I did the 30-day challenge a year ago as a way of gauging how my re-entry to the hobby had come, I’ve now had a proper year of really working on projects and to see how well the hobby can hold my interest.

Giants

My initial project of Topps team sets from 1953–1993 is at a point of stability where there are no longer any truly-cheap cards left. For the 1960s and 1970s I’m only missing various Hall of Famers (especially Mays), big rookies, and high numbers. So those, when they do come, will take a while and instead I’ve moved into the 1950s and started looking for various Bowman releases.

Thanks to Adam and Artie I’ve also added a wonderful chunk of 1994–present Giants cards to the point where finishing off the Topps run there doesn’t require many more cards. Well, it needs close to 80 cards but for a two-dozen-year period that’s not that many. I’ve also started adding other team sets to this searchlist as well. Not all of the brands and things, just ones where I’m either close or which I happen to particularly like.

In the coming year I plan on focusing on the 1950s cards as those are much more enjoyable to acquire. I’ll certainly welcome newer cards in trade packages and things like that but it’s in the old stuff–especially pre-San Francisco stuff that I’m finding myself having a lot of fun.

Stanford

I’ve really turned the corner on this project. Aside from only needing eleven cards from the original project scope now—a massive update from my previous update—there is also only one player* with a Modern Major League card that I don’t have in my binder and one other player* who played in the Majors but only has minor league cards.

*Bob Kammeyer whose The Wiz Yankees card is his only MLB card.

*Steve/Mike Davis who has a couple ~1980 Syracuse Chiefs cards.

Of the eleven cards I need, there’s one “white whale” in Doug Camilli’s 1962 high-number rookie which is shared with Bob Uecker and another few semi-spendy cards. Camilli’s 1966 high number is one. As are Jim Lonborg’s 1965 rookie card as well as his 1968 and 1970 cards.

But that’s about it. The rest of my searchlist are cards that exist but which I can’t seem to find. Some of these are understandable because they come from team sets like Sam Fuld’s 2014 Rays card and John Mayberry’s 2010 Phillies card where the card in the team set does not exist in the Flagship set. Others are special editions like David McCarty’s 2004 World Champions card.

Rick Helling’s 2002 Traded card makes no sense as to why it’s so much harder to find than the various parallels. Nor does it make sense to me why Brian Sackinsky’s 1995 Topps is nowhere to be found or why Paul Zuvella’s 1986 Traded card costs a dollar.

Anyway, I’ve added cards to the searchlist which fill in holes that Topps didn’t cover. Even there I only have 16 cards missing and of those, 10 are regionally-issued oddballs that I don’t expect to come across very frequently. All of which means that aside from new releases, I’m only really looking for fewer than 30 cards now.

Sets

I’ve made a surprising amount of progress here to the point where all my set goals are in a race to completion. 1991 Donruss is missing 23 cards. 1978 Topps is missing 35. So is 1990 Fleer. 1990 Upper Deck is missing 43 cards. And 1986 Topps is missing 89.

In some ways 1978 has the best chance to complete itself since I’ll actually spend money to buy cards here. In other ways I could find a package in my mailbox tomorrow which finishes any, or all, of the junk wax sets. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens here.

Other projects

My other projects don’t really have a finish line or evolution implied in them. Which is good. I don’t want too many checklists to look after. I’m slowly picking up cards which document expansions and moves but those are more about finding things that are interesting to me. Same with the action cards and the photography cards.

I’m still grabbing Spanish-language cards if I come across them for a good price. I don’t need them all, I just love seeing the variety and am perfectly fine if they intersect with my other projects.

Same with the oddballs. I try and keep those focused to Stanford or Giants cards but sometimes something is just too cool. No checklist again—well aside from kind of sort of wanting to complete the Dennys Holograms—just following my gut and going with stuff that’s sufficiently odd.

Will I start a new project this year? I don’t know. I do know it’s nice to feel focused and have very specific things to look for and I’d like to see how this goes for a while.

Black Friday in DC

A post-Thanksgiving trip to DC when we visited the Library of Congress and the Capitol. Was a bit cold so we didn’t walk around too much. But I popped up and took a few photos just for the hell of it.

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Snowday Surprise

We usually don’t get snow until after Thanksgiving, if not after Christmas around here so were were pleasantly surprised by a couple inches in mid-November. No driving for us to get stuck in, instead after finishing homework everyone went out and had fun until the light was all gone.

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Merry Christmas from Otto

A couple days ago I found a plain white envelope from Otto Lehmann in my mailbox. He’d mentioned something about this on Twitter but I had completely forgotten about it whatwith all the other holiday preparations going on.

Inside was this wonderful 1958 Jim Lemon card. There are a couple pinholes and  some tape marks but it still looks pretty nice. The orange color is one that’s not on any of my Giants cards—a shame given the Giants colors—and it’s nice to have a sample from this set that’s not using solid process colors.* I also really dig that logo and how old it feels. Some of the 1950s logos feel timeless, this one though feels like something produced in the 1940s for government usage.

*Most of my 1958 Giants cards are yellow, cyan or red (100% magenta + 100% yellow)

This fits in with my moves/expansion project as the pre-Twins original Senators are one of those teams that was ancient history to me when I was a kid. This is my second card from that team (I have a wonderful 1960 Cookie Lavagetto) and it’s great to get a view of that cap with the boring block W instead of the cool script W that they used in the late 60s and which the current Nationals have kept as their primary cap logo.

Very cool and thanks Otto!

Beckett and the 80s

Note: I wrote this before Night Owl’s post but for some reason it got stuck in the queue at SABR so I pulled it from there and am just leaving it on my blog, back-dated to about when I wrote it, since I may want to reference it in the future.

The most-recent Beckett magazine was an homage to the 1980s and hit a lot of us right in the emotional feels. For anyone of my generation who was a collector, these were our cards and sets and Beckett was the singular authority on both what to collect and what things were worth.

As a result I saw blogs and podcasts and tweets from people reminiscing about their favorite sets and cards from the 1980s. The set discussions have been fun—especially in terms of seeing how many people my age loved 1988 Score.* The card discussions though have been getting me down. They started off kind of fun but quickly became a by-rote listing of the top rookie cards of the decade.

*In lieu of a paean to 1988 Score I have a few paragraphs in the 1988 section of my Reminiscence Bump post.

Yeah. Where a discussion about the top cards of the 1970s would feature great photos and the biggest stars in the game at the heights of their powers, the 1980s is all about that investment in the rookie card. That this is what my generation waxes nostalgic about kind of depresses me.

When I saw Beckett’s list of the top 80 cards of the 80s, I immediately started counting. 80% of them are rookie or pre-rookie cards where the primary point of interest is the investment potential that the card represented at the time. There are six error cards—most of which were also important because of the investment value. Which leaves only five cards that are on the list because of the photo or what the card represents.*

*Note that there is a rookie error card (Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds/Johnny Ray) and a pre-rookie interesting photo (Bo Jackson Classic) which fall into two categories.

This is very on-brand for Beckett since value and investment was what it pushed in the 1980s* but it also represents a lot of what made it so easy for me to quit the hobby when the strike hit in 1994.

*Yes this is also very on-brand for the 1980s too.

My generation bought the rookie investment thing hook line and sinker. We grew up wanting the same cards and as a result all had very similar collections. Most of us never really developed our own collections or projects and the main distinctions between what we owned reflected our budgets and what cards were accessible.

When I went through my childhood collection I was reminded of how much I ran with the flock and how many cards I wanted just because I was supposed to. I was also reminded of the cards I really enjoyed—Giants and oddballs mostly—and had to shake my head at how if I’d been more self aware at the time I would’ve focused more on those.

I was following Beckett instead of my heart and so once the strike hit it was easy to never look back.

I look at the list of top 80s cards and am reminded of an age when the hobby stopped being about the cards. It’s a good list, it just reflects a set of values I no longer adhere to.

What do I want to celebrate from 1980s baseball cards? Action photography coming into its own. Food issues. Retail boxed sets. The last hurrah of awful airbrushing. Goofy Fleer photos with snakes and surfboards and Budweiser hats. Donruss’s designs. Box bottoms. Stickers. Stadium giveaways. Nine different World Series winners (none of them the Yankees). Oversized cards. Undersized cards. Lenticular cards.

The 1980s was a wonderful time for all kinds of cards. I’m looking forward to a list that reflects the fun stuff instead of the expensive stuff.

GiantsNOW

They’re here! They’re here! I’ve not only finished my GiantsNOW cards set, I’ve gotten everything printed. I’m not going to go card-by-card through the set of 162 cards but I will start with selections from the various card types. These are converted from the PDFs rather than scans because good lord who has time to scan all these.

Roster Cards

Coach cards

Stats

Highlights

All Star, awards, and leaders

In Memoriam

While I finished the designs all in October, I had to wait until November and all post-season awards had been distributed before ordering them. If I’d pulled the trigger early Brandon Crawford would’ve won a Gold Glove and I’d’ve felt silly not including it. Instead I found myself having to include a memorial to Willie McCovey. Not the way I wanted to end the season but it had to be done.

Doing a set of cards for the season was a lot of work but really forced me to change how I followed the team. I’ve never been more in tune with the day-to-day roster status of all 50+ guys who spent time on the 40-man roster. Given the increased bullpen use and reliance on taxi squads, I learned a lot about how difficult the life of a replacement-level player can be and found myself increasingly sympathizing with them as I tried to find a good photo of yet another middle reliever.

I also had to develop a routine of not only checking the game results but recording the line score each day as well as composing a short summary of each game. This is a level of “what happened” that I haven’t been in tune with since I was 10 years old and baseball was the only thing that mattered.

The need to source a photo added an additional challenge. Zimbio became my friend. Local newspapers were also okay. And for the roster photos the SF Giants photo blog was wonderful. Yes I just copied these photos. But copying a photo and printing it out for my own personal use is something I’m okay with. I’m not selling these and none of the photo agencies have anything set up for the “I just want to make a print for my own personal use” market.*

*Yes I’ve looked. I’m trying to find a Scott Garrelts 8×10 photo for my personal use and the only option I’ve been able to find is paying Getty $500 for the rights to publish it.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, my set came out to exactly 162 cards. Breaking those down a bit more, I had 99 highlights (one for every win or series plus other highlights where appropriate as well as two All Star cards), 54 roster cards (48 players who appeared in a game plus 6 coaches), seven team leader cards, one Willie Mac Award winner, and one Wille McCovey memorial (RIP Stretch).

Cards are numbered beginning with the highlights in chronological order, followed by the nine post-season awards/leaders/memorial cards, then players in order of first appearance (so the first page is the opening day lineup), and finally coaches at the end.

I redesiged the backs a bit from my initial post. I’m very pleased with them now (also card back design is surprisingly hard). Fronts were a very good choice as they were very very easy to generate, I never had to touch them after the initial small tweaks (I had to bump a drop shadow over by a half point), and they kept me from ever falling behind.

The hardest thing to figure out was how to print them. I eventually settled on Magcloud—which meant that I had to submit things 9up on a letter-sized sheet. So I bled off cutting marks and made sure that everything was backed-up correctly. This was a bit more work but also allowed me to have some fun with puzzle backs.

I got everything back before Thanksgiving but it took a long time to trim.* The stock is a bit thin but not horrid—at worst Sports Illustrated for Kids quality, at best 1989 Donruss quality. They’re done now and I couldn’t be happier.

*Trimming isn’t hard it’s just time-consuming. But once you get into a rhythm it’s not too bad and the pile of trimmed cards even ends up in the correct order.

Paging everything up looks great. As exciting as the uncut sheets were to hold there’s something about handling these as cards and seeing them in pages which is completely transformative. I made these. This is my memory of the season. I’m glad my kids will each have their own set of these too.

Will I do this again next year? I’m not sure. If I do it definitely won’t be to the degree I did this year. I’ll probably do a complete roster since that will include a lot of guys who don’t get regular cards that season. Select highlights could also be fun. But 99 cards was a lot and ended up featuring a lot of the same players over and over while also featuring the same kind of highlights over and over.

I don’t need ten Brandon Crawford cards to know he was a key player this year. Nor do I need a card of every Game-Winning RBI or Quality Start. Yes I realize that this could also just be a reflection of the dearth of highlights from the Giants this season.

Anyway as the season went on I found myself increasingly selecting silly photos from events that did not go the Giants way. I’d been doing a silly card here or there all season but the way the season went off the rails in September meant that highlighting the derp was the only way to still enjoy making the cards. Yes it was fun. But it’s not a lasting fun and I’d rather be more selective about highlights moving forward.

I’m already playing with doing a tobacco-style card this time—specifically inspired by the T210 Old Mills with their black and white photos and red borders. I don’t feel like doing a lot of work to accomplish the painted look but black and white conversions are right in my wheelhouse and changing the border color to orange is a quality look.*

*Yes I am aware that orange T210s also exist.

The smaller format means I could use smaller photos as well as fewer binder pages and spend less money ordering prints. Plus I’m increasingly taken by the way that tobacco cards look all paged up in 20-pockets. So maybe a roster plus 20 highlights? That would result in a 4-page set and cost a fourth as much to produce.

Or maybe I’ll go with something business-card sized and use the late-50s, early-60s Bazooka look with its nice simple block colors and fonts as my inspiration. Business cards are a fun aspect ratio and there are plenty of print-on-demand places that specialize in business cards. Heck BCW even makes 10-pocket sheets that will fit things perfectly.

Thanks Matt for suggesting this project and thanks to Marc and Ross for also pushing me to go through with it (we’ve been a bit of a codependent group encouraging each other to stick it out)

October Backlog

Continuing from September. Lots more photos this month.

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