Christmas cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*/me waves at M. P & Company.

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

Assorted small maildays

A couple small maildays arrived in my mailbox last week. Yes it’s fun getting a big box of cards but the small maildays almost always represent something special which fills a specific hole in a search list.

For example, these two cards from Big Shep which represent both my first non-Giants 2020 cards and keep my Stanford project at its “basically done” state. Always nice to add a rookie card to the binder and I hope Hoerner keeps on developing the way he has been.

A couple comments on the 2020 design. First, I generally like even though it feels more Bowman or National Baseball Card Day than what I expect from Flagship. The photos have been more interesting than previous years and putting the design on the side creates more interesting croppings than the previous three years of transparency effects on the bottom.

It looks best with colored uniforms like in these two cards. The Edman in particular looks especially nice since those blue Cardinals away uniforms are fantastic. With the regular grey and white uniforms this design has a tendency to go monochrome in a bad way It would’ve been interesting to see, instead of the white transparency effect,  a solid team color in that section of the card instead.

And I wish the name and position text was rotated 180° so that they weren’t upside down on the horizontal cards. I was worried that Topps was going to have this happen as soon as I saw the mock-ups last year. This is one of those cases where it feels like no one at Topps collects cards and thinks about how people are going to store them.

Also, for some reason Nico Hoerner’s card back lists his 2019 cumulative Minor League stats but doesn’t include his Major League stats. I don’t get it.

Finally, Hoerner’s card is appallingly printed. There’s some weird purple/magenta toning going on which results in his uniform going all splotchy. I know that’s a tough color to print but this is more than just running one ink too heavy. One thing modern cards usually have over older cards is that they’re manufactured much much better. In this case though something went wrong on the press.

Speaking of things going wrong on press. Lanny came back a me with yet another off-condition Willie Mays card. Instead of surface damage, paper loss, or disintegrating corners, this time we’ve got a trimming fiasco. Not just a mistrim, this is also slightly diamond cut.

Aside from the trimming though this is possibly the best-conditioned 1969 Topps card I have. Color is great. Surface is great. Corners are great. Printing is on-register and sharp. Of all the flaws a card can have, centering is the one I care least about so this is an awesome addition to my Giants binder which takes me to needing only one more 1969 card for the team set.

Who do I still need? The high-number Bobby Bonds rookie. It’s not ridiculous but it’s not cheap either.

Anyway, thanks guys, all three of these are great additions to the collection!

A dash of color

I’ve been loving acquiring cards of the New York Giants. As a child, I never thought I’d ever own any of these so I’m trying to hold on to that thrill every time a card I never thought I’d own enters my collection.

Yet as positive an experience as this has been, I can’t help but complain a little. For example, 1954 Topps is a wonderfully colored set with large painted headshots of the player placed in front of a brightly colored background with a facsimile autograph and small black and white action photo layered over everything. It’s a design I really like—even with the weird single bleed that results in the backs being different orientations.* Unfortunately the Giants cards are all yellow and white.

*Seriously check the print sheet.

Yellow and white are still nice enough but they do not capture the full glory of the set. As a result I’ve been a bit tongue-in-cheek vocal about how I wish my binder had a couple more colors represented. Lanny (who else) heard my comments and last week dropped a plain white envelope into my mailbox consisting of a few wonderfully colorful 1954 Topps cards.

These all had an encounter with some water way back when but aside from being a bit wavy they’re not that bad. If anything being completely water damaged is preferable to partial water damage since these just feel like they need to be flattened under a heavy book. Anyway I’ve not only seen much worse, I own much worse.

Look at those colors though. The cards may be wavy but the printing presents really really well. The Lepcio in particular is beautiful with the red Band the light blue background just working together perfectly.

I like seeing these old cards for printing reasons too. I love being able to loupe old cards and see how the colors were actually created. Louping these, the blue is a 40% Cyan-only screen. Orange is 40% Magenta, 100% Yellow. Red is 100% Magenta, 100% Yellow. With the 100% Yellow cards (and the green being a significant amount of yellow) that means that the yellow plate was mostly solid.

When I posted these on Twitter someone pointed out that Lepcio and Robinson are both really good TTM guys. I don’t normally like facsimile autographs mixed with real autographs but 1950s cards feel like a different category here. Should I send them out and try or should I just put them in the binder and try and get a green card for the complete rainbow?

Decisions decisions decisions.

Anyway thanks Lanny let’s see what the rainbow looks like now.


You know the drill. Go on vacation and come back to a pile of bills, Pennysavers, and 20% off Bed Bath & Beyond coupons. Oh and a stack of magazines to go on the backlog of things to catch up on reading.

This time though was different. Hiding in the stack were three plain white envelopes. Guess which backlog I tackled first.

The first two envelopes were from Peter and Colbey—a pair who featured in an earlier post about a couple of PWEs. They’re both the type of collectors who enjoy ripping packs but like to spread around the cards they find which don’t immediately fit their collections. This is a bit of work but is probably much preferable to letting unwanted inventory build up in closets and bookshelves.

Anyway, Peter took part in National Baseball Card Day and pulled an Evan Longoria in one of his packs. This is great since neither of my kids managed to pull one—Trout, Alonso, and Kershaw yes, Longoria no—and now I’m halfway there to getting them super happy about their hauls.

Colbey on the other hand ripped a bunch of Diamond Kings and sent me all his Giants. Or, well his only Giant. I like this set and the way it feels. I’m not certain I’ll ever be able to tell different years apart.

It’s cool to have one though since it’s a product I don’t think I’ve ever noticed for sale. Yes it feels wonderful to hold and riffle through a stack.But at the end of the day there just weren’t enough Giants in the checklist to get my attention. I’m very glad people like Colbey exist so I can share in the experience.

As fun as those two envelopes were they were kind of blown out of the water by Lanny, whose local shop is apparently specializing in beat-to-hell Willie Mays cards at “you’d be a fool to pass this up” prices.

In Lanny’s words, these are “not that great.” I so, so beg to differ. They’re mighty beat up but again, in that well-loved way of being the card that some kid always wanted on top of his stack so he could show it to whoever’s attention he could commandeer.

And there’s nothing horrid missing. The biggest problem is that the chewed corners on the 1958 look like they might continue to lose material every time I look at the card. The cyan background though is much better than red which dominates the rest of the Giants cards and I love seeing just the hint of the SF logo which I can tell is the incorrect one but it’s not as obvious as it is on most of the 1958 cards.

The 1963 is arguably rougher in that the entire surface is sort of worn. But enough shows through and the blue/green photo background and the red/yellow graphics are still vibrant enough to pop.

The best part of the 1963 card though is the back. Yes the 1958 cartoon is a lot of fun but the 1963 back shows his full Minor League experience. All my other Mays cards only show his Major League experience because they’re from the late 1960s and Topps was having trouble getting all of that on as it was.

Seeing the Minor League stats is cool. Having that Trenton line though is extra cool and gives my kids yet another tangible reason for them to rationalize rooting for Trenton while staying Giants fans. Their eyes lit up when seeing the front of the card. Then I turned it over and they got even more excited.

Super cool and yeah, while summer’s over I very much appreciate the way it ended this year.

Holy Shit

So yesterday a surprise envelope arrived from Lanny. Seeing how he’d just sent me three 1954s including a Monte Irvin this was not just unexpected but verged on being confusing. Inside was a team bag with its contents obscured and just a note showing that said “Read First!”

So I did and why don’t I just let it speak for itself.

So I know this is beat up. Like, REALLY beat up. But I remember you saying you'd never be able to get one, and it's 100% authentic! I stopped at my LCS for boxes, almost forgot to drive by. As I was checking out, this was on his desk, he had just bought a collection. I told him the story, he cut me a great deal, the rest is history, enjoy!

This shot my eyebrows up. One, because the list of cards that I’ve mentioned that I’ll never get is pretty short and consists of cards that are massively out of my price range. And second, because Lanny is notoriously picky about the condition of his cards and so I was curious about what condition “like REALLY beat up” meant to someone like him.*

*For me it would mean massive paper loss someplace or torn in half. In other words typical Zeenut condition.

Since the card was still hidden between some advertising inserts* I had a bit of unwrapping left before I started swearing.

*Amusingly enough these were “Spring Fever Baseball” inserts from 1986 Topps Mini Leaders.

Swearing in a good way. As in giant smile holy fucking shit are you kidding me kind of swearing. Is it beat up? Absolutely. But aside from the two top corners it’s in really great shape. None of the picture itself is damaged. No creases. No scuffs. I’m not sure this even got flipped. It was definitely loved and taped into an album but compared to most of my 1961 cards it’s in much better shape.

As with some of my favorite things, wear like this indicates card usage rather than card abuse to me. Which is great. It’s beat up in a way that suggests how it was taken care of. And it’s taken care of in a way that I can only conclude that it was was valued by a previous owner in the way that little kids love things to death. Yes I can totally see my kids taping their favorite cards into an album.

Am I assuming it was a favorite card? A little. But it’s Willie Fucking Mays—Willie Fucking Mays the year after he won the MVP and the World Series and made The Catch and wait that’s all on the back of the card.

Yeah there’s writing here. To my eyes it looks like “194 193” which I don’t understand but guess it might have something to do with the card number. Thankfully it doesn’t obscure any of the text. And thankfully the owner didn’t push any harder since it’s pushing through to the front as it is.

It’s wonderful to have all this back information though and be reminded of a time before Mays was the best player in the game. It’s not just that the New York Giants Mays cards are super cool because they predate the move West, their early-career nature shows Mays’s emergence and it’s wonderful to see him so young.

I never expected to get any of May’s 1950s cards—especially his New York ones. 1955 is a great one to have. Great photo. Nice color. Captures the stats and highlights of one of his best seasons. And it competes my team set of 1955 Topps Giants cards. Yes there are only 10 in the set* but it’s still a completed team set. Until yesterday my oldest set was 1973. Now it’s 1955.

*Bowman has 17 for comparison.

Thanks so much Lanny! Sorry about all the swearing.

Trade wrap-ups

Despite moving the maildays never let up and I received a few trade packages while my computer was offline and internet unplugged. Now that I’m back on the web I can get a proper response post up.

The first mailday was a plain white envelope from Tim. Nice timing. He pulled a Giants Heritage short print* that I needed. I randomly came across a numbered parallel in Big League. So we did a basic one for one swap and both have cards we much prefer now. Easy cheesy.

*Lord do I hate the fact that Crawford and Posey are by-design shortprints in Heritage.

The blue sky on the Crawford card is a bit closer to the 1970 photography look than a lot of the other cards this year. Not as much the pose. Definitely not the clean background without any random dudes just hanging out. But it’s nice when a Heritage card also has photography that evokes the era of the card as well.

Thanks Tim! If I continue to come across A’s I’ll let you know.

The second mailday was a plain white envelope of the exact opposite kind of cards from Lanny. Lanny’s a White Sox guy whose collecting interests are in a different league from mine. Where I’m looking for beat-up Giants cards and have given up all hope of getting Willie Mays or the high-numbered short prints, Lanny’s building complete sets from the 1950s and 1960s, has most of the big-value cards already, and is doing it in super-nice quality. His tweets where he shows the extra-crispy vintage he just acquired are awe-inspiring.

Anyway, one of the sets he’s building is 1954 and he came across a lot of cards which included some off-condition duplicates. He offered to send them to me and I happily accepted. No idea what I’ll send back since I don’t collect anything in the condition he likes but I’ll figure something out.

The envelope had three cards in it. The first is this Johny Antonelli with its hilariously painted New York logo where Topps didn’t even bother to change the Braves colors on the cap. The black and white cap logo is also awful. I very much like the 1954 design even though the back inconsistency drives me nuts. I just wish the Giants cards included background colors besides white and yellow. 1954 is a beautifully colored set but I have no examples of that in my binder.

The second card is Ruben Gomez. While he’s not a star, I’d heard of him as a kid because he featured in the Baseball Hall of Shame for running away from a player charging the mound. A shame since he also won the first Major League game played on the West Coast.

And the last card is this beauty of Monte Irvin. Even though it’s beat up, off center, and printed out of register it’s still a good looking card. Not just because it’s a Hall of Famer and makes a great addition to his 1955 card, I just really like the photos.

This takes me to nine 1954 Giants in the binder now. That’s nine more 1954 Giants cards than I ever expected to own. Very cool. Thanks Lanny!