Tag Archives: marcbrubaker

Mailday from Marc!

So last weekend a bubble mailer from Marc Brubaker arrived. It’s been over a couple months since his previous mailing so I guess I was due.

We’ll start off with three Stanford cards, all of which are new to me. Yes even that Steve Chitren. Did I buy a decent amount of 1992 Bowman? Absolutely. But since I only bought packs and never bought singles, I don’t yet have all of the ones which are relevant to my interests. Since Chitren is in thee 1992 Topps set I never felt the need to explicitly acquire his 1992 Bowman card. Though I’m glad to have it since it’s a pose and picture which is very different from all his other cards.

The Hammonds Finest card is a nice example of a series of cards I never seek out. Finest interests me in terms of how they’re made and what the represent in terms of the 1990s product marketing. I can’t imaging having a binder full of them so I’m plenty happy just having an example or two. I think this is the first one of these in my Stanford albums.

And that Mark Appel Bowman Chrome is sure something. I don’t understand what the point of this is. I guess it’s to show that he’s so hot a prospect that he melted his card. And I guess Topps went with melt because these are plastic Chrome cards. I don’t know, it’s weird and unreadable and the back is even worse because instead of warping the text to look like the melted effect it’s just typeset on curvy lines. Do I want more of these? God no. Am I glad to have one as a sample of something awful. Sadly yes.

Moving on to the Giants. As usual I’ll go through these roughly chronologically. We’ll start off with three San José Giants cards from Star’s massive Minor League set in 1989. These are fun because they show the original San José Giants caps that they only had for their first couple of seasons (1989 would be their second season). The less said about the photography though the better. I’m pretty sure Dewey and Santana both have their eyes closed.

Time to flash forward a couple decades. The Honus Bonus cards are from 2017 and were intended to be part of a Fantasy Baseball product. I’m not fully certain what the rules were but it seems to have melded collecting cards with redeeming the scratch-off codes on the back to create your roster. I gather that there were supposed to be prizes and things but it seems like the whole enterprise blew up midway through 2017.

Neither of these two cards are redeemed so I don’t know if that means that the pack got opened after the game died or if neither Casilla nor Gillaspie were deemed roster-worthy. Anyway, it’s an interesting concept. The cards themselves are kind of wild with those greyscale players on colored backgrounds. I’m not a fan of the look—whether it’s selective color or selective desaturation—and combined with the brightly colored borders I have a hard time seeing these as Giants cards. Casilla looks like he should be a Dodger and Gillaspie an A.

The three Heritage cards I have but the boys should enjoy them. It’s been interesting to watch their tastes develop and they seem to prefer the Heritage designs as well. I should really ask them why but I do suspect that they like seeing the portraits in the photos.

And the Opening Day card is a new one to me. I don’t buy the product but like many of the things I don’t buy, it’s fun to have a sample. I remain convinced that the photo is opf Tony Watson and not Will Smith. Even though Smith actually signed this.

To sets I don’t buy, starting off with a handful of 2019 Bowman. It’s very Bowmanny. I’m not a fan of the borders but seeing how it’s a semi-transparent layer makes me more okay with them. It means the border colors fit with the card photo and also makes me see it as more of an overlay such as I’d expect to see on TV or in a video game.

The Duggar photo is surprisingly nice with low-contrast light that keeps the black shirt and cream pants from blowing out the exposure curve while keeping his face exposed without any shadows. Also good timing on the swing with the step and bat-loading.* Chris Shaw isn’t so lucky with his pants losing all their highlight detail and his jersey getting HDR’d to the max.

*Compare to the Flagship photo where you can see Topps is struggling to balance the light well

Marc was very nice in sending me a Joey Bart card. I had given up on getting any of these since he’s at his price peak right now as one of the big names in the set who all the speculators are trying to hold. And for the flip side of the coin, Logan Webb is solidly in the bust cycle for now due to picking up a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. Will he come back? Maybe. But for now he’s kind of the opposite of a prospect.

We’ll finish off this post with a batch of Donruss cards. My first 2019 Diamond King is Christy Mathewson. I had to check the back to confirm that this wasn’t part of last year’s cards. This is still a nice looking set and it remains one of the nicest cards just to hold and shuffle through your hands.

That shiny Buster Posey actually also features Joey Bart on the back. It’s a fun insert and I hope Bart is indeed a worthy replacement for Buster. Will that justify the hype he’s getting now? Probably not. But it’ll be good for the team.

And those five 2019 Donruss cards are my first samples from this set. The 1985esque designs on the Crawford Diamond King and Shaw rookie are nice but don’t compare to the wonderful red on black original. Something about the white bars just cals attention to the fact that the logos are missing. This might not be an issue for other teams but with the Giants, removing all the logos means getting rid of all the orange on their uniforms. So when the rest of the card also looks like the color has been removed the entire card feels like something is wrong. Crawford has enough other color so it’s not obvious but the Shaw looks super generic.

On the base design though the orange usage works really well at balancing the photos. Things still look a little off but these look pretty nice. Panini’s done a good job at framing the images in the space* and the result is a nice looking set of cards. It’s not one I’ll collect since it’s too large to be a fun little set build and too small to be a nice comprehensive set** but it’s nice to see Panini branching out from just aping the old Donruss designs.

*Although I wish they’d treated Hunter Pence’s bat a little differently.

**Looking at checklists over the past couple of years has helped me realize that I enjoy small sets with one or two players per team and large sets with at least a page-worth—and preferably an entire lineup—of players per team. And that any sets with checklists that fall between these values causes me to lose interest.

Very nice to start filling a Donruss page in the binder. I still need to get a Madison Bumgarner card since he’s not in any Topps products again this year.

Thanks Marc! It looks like you had some good rips with new product and I’m lucky to be able to enjoy in your unneeded cards.

So Marc exploded my mailbox

Marc Brubaker drops something in my mailbox so often that I may need to just commit to a monthly feature of posts about his maildays. I got another mailing early last week. Coming off a 4-day weekend and going into a snow day, the respite of sorting and cataloging cards was quite welcome.

One of the reasons Mark’s been able to send me so many packages and cards is that I’m building a few sets which are, for lack of a better word, junk. It’s cheaper  and easier to buy these as factory sets than it is to build them. But where’s the fun in that? Plus I already had hundreds of these as it is and the idea of those turning into duplicates makes me shudder.

Of course, that so many other people on Card Twitter have duplicates from these sets is what makes it so fun to build them by hand. Part of me is very grateful to be receiving help with these sets. And part of me knows that people like Marc are  just as grateful to be able to get rid of duplicates which are just wasting space in their homes.

Anyway these 1990 Fleers and Upper Decks don’t look like much but they take me to needing only 29 more Fleer cards and 37 Upper Decks. With 1991 Donruss only needing 22 cards to finish the set things are shaping up to a nice race to see which set finishes first.

I don’t have much to say about the cards themselves other than to note how despite being from the same year the gap in quality is kind of laughable. I actually like 1990 Fleer in its understated way but man Upper Deck blows it away on all fronts. I do like that Claudell Washington photo too.

Marc also included seventeen 2014 Topps cards to help with that set build. I’m over the 400 and past 60% on that build now too. The only problem is that since 75% of that build is in Series One it feels like I’m not even halfway there yet.

This set continues to grow on me too. I don’t like the file folder thing on the righthand side but other than that it’s a decent design. Some fun photos here too with the Denard Span and Russel Martin cards standing out in particular.

The real meat of this package looked to be in the big stack of Giants cards. The awful-airbrushed Rick Reuschel is an O-Pee-Chee card—something that’s always fun to encounter.* The Trevor Wilson and Kirt Manwaring Score cards are from one of their boxed sets that I apparently completely missed in the late-80s and now only have random cards from. Topps Big—even the less-exciting 1990s design— is always a treat.

*I’m especially tickled with the Reuschel because I just got an 88 Leaf Reuschel in a different mailing and had the same “is awesome” reaction. I never seek Canadian cards out but I always enjoy picking them up and hmm maybe I should listen to my emotions.

The complete set of 1992 Panini stickers is also a lot of fun. I avoided these when I was a kid. Stickers were clearly not cards to me. I sort of regret the decision now. As I’ve became more of a soccer fan I began to appreciate the Panini album culture a lot more. I’ve wanted to do one with my kids for the World Cup both because it looks fun and because it’s truly a global phenomenon that looks awesome to share in. Unfortunately I can’t justify the price for it. At all.

The other interesting thing about these stickers is that there are 9 stickers (plus a foil logo and a foil All Star) with a player for each position only there’s no starting pitcher. Also they’re not numbered based on scorekeeping order but instead go 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 ,8 ,7, 1—which makes me really curious to see how they were expected to be put into the book.

Some minor league fun in this next batch. Unfortunately I don’t recognize any of these names. Best part of this batch though is inching closer to completing some team sets. The Damon Minor Prospects card in particular finishes my 1999 Topps Giants set—my first complete team set from 1994–2006.

Other cards of interest in this batch are the Steve Scarsone 1994 Gold card and the Shawn Estes Metal Universe card. This is a much more sedate version of Metal universe than the multiple-armed Mark Gardner card Marc sent me previously. The Estes Fleer and Jeff Kent Ultra also deserve to be complimented on their photography.

I have an added appreciation for MLB Showdown now that someone’s posted the rules. Upper Deck Documentary continues to be wildly disappointing. In these three the “Left hander wins battle of Cy Young Award winners” card showing the clearly right-handed Matt Cain is most egregious in terms of not giving a shit about matching the photo to the event.

The Stan Lee First Pitch card is fantastic. RIP Stan. I don’t usually like these inserts but this is a clear exception. Especially now.

And rounding out the Giants with a few recent-year cards. The Andrew Suarez rookie is very nice given how he broke into the rotation last season. I dig the 2017 Heritage Team Card. Colored Posey parallel is interesting since I don’t chase these but have been curious to loupe them because of the way they deal with the 1983 border being extra-complicated is to fade out the spot ink. As such you can clearly see that it’s a spot ink being printed with an FM screen. The 2018 Donruss Madison Bumgarner is just nice to have because he didn’t have any Topps cards last year.

Moving into the Stanford portion of this mailing continues to surprise me with how many different guys Marc includes. Like I understand if he sends surplus Astros cards of the handful of Cardinal who have appeared in Houston over the years* but keeping track of everyone else? I have a hard time and it’s my own PC of guys who I watched play in college.

*Osuna, Bruntlett, Castro, Lowrie, and Hinch.

Lots of good stuff here too. Buechele and Castro stickers are definitely new. The Leaf Chitren is, surprisingly, also new to me. As are the Hammond Ultra, the Helling MVP and Metal Universes, and Hinch Victory. I’ve been focusing so much on mainline Topps issues that all these other brands are off my radar. It’s nice to have the samples and see how different they are compared to the Giants cards and I’m glad Marc’s an expert in this era of cards since so many people have no idea.

The Lonborg Swell is another great addition. Nice to have an action photo to go with all the portraits from his vintage cards. I also always like getting Topps Heritage. The brand is growing on me and I can enjoy it for what it does well even while it annoys me with some of its faux-retro styling. And I kind of miss those early Bowman years with the crazy foil borders.

A huge batch of Piscottys including a bunch of Donruss/Panini.* I don’t buy modern unlicensed Donruss cards so these are always fun to see in maildays since they’re a good bet to be brand new to me. The Topps Heritage (I’m assuming) card in the style of the late-60s/early-70s Topps Supers is my favorite here although the holiday card with the frozen waterslide amuses me more than it should.

*I never know what to call them.

The three Spragues included some Scores I never encountered as a kid and I wish I hadn’t already sent TTM requests to Stanicek and Williams since these would’ve been nice to include.

Four Scott Ericksons are a nice surprise. That they’re all from his time with the Orioles is especially welcome. I have a decent amount of his Twins cards but his later ones don’t show up in my collection.

I haven’t been hitting this project particularly hard. It’s become more of a passive collection where I will snag things as I come across them but am not looking to be comprehensive.

Now we’re getting to the fun part of the package. Marc was a member of the group of us who were making cards for the entire 2018 season. His set was one card per game plus complete roster, coaches, All Stars, and awards and he just finished earlier this month.

We’ve been sending each other samples from our sets. I sent him cards from the Astros games. He sent me cards where Stanford guys get mentioned—so both Hinch cards plus a game where the highlight was Stephen Piscotty hitting aa foul ball which got stuck in the stadium roof. I appreciate not getting cards from the season sweep that the Astros performed on the Giants.

Marc also included a couple other customs he made. The Hinch is in the style of 1962 Topps football. I’m not sure what the Castro is referencing but for all I know it could be jumping off of 1951 Bowman.

One of the things Marc and I have been discussing is how moving forward it’s becoming increasingly rewarding to make custom cards—both for ourselves and for other people. It’s a fun design challenge. It’s a gratifying photo editing experience. And for many of the people out on Card Twitter, making a custom of one of their favorite players is clearly a preferred way to thank them.

Marc decided to print his set professionally instead of doing so many cards at home. This was the correct decision but unfortunately he got tripped up by Acrobat’s “shrink to fit” defaults when he printed his first batch of cards. The result wasn’t a total loss since mini cards are one of those things that everyone likes and so Marc ended up with a bunch of fun mailday filler.

So I got mini cards of the five cards Marc intended to send me (full-size Hinch is included for scale) plus a couple of extras. Two of those extras are 1992 Bowman versions of some god-awful/wonderful photos from an Astros road trip in the early 1990s. Where 1991 Stadium Club and 1992 Topps had a few of these cards, 1992 Bowman featured so many photos of prospects in their peak-90s street clothes that it’s become the go-to template for any embarrassingly-dated fashion choices. The photos are hilarious. Putting them in the Bowman template makes them even funnier.

The other three are copies of my cards. Hunter Pence is the co-owner of Marc’s local coffee shop and Marc wanted to drop off a copy of my card featuring him saying good bye to the Giants faithful. I sent him a few JPGs of a couple different designs and they got caught up in the printing mishap. It’s fun to seem them as minis. It’s also fun to compare the difference in printing between Marc’s shop and Magcloud.

That’s not all though. This enigmatic team bag was quietly buried in the pile of other cards. Mark has sent stuff like this before but this is the first time something has been earmarked for the boys.

So I opened it up and found these. Marc obviously did more than just drop off some of my customs at the coffee shop. Let’s do some proper scans. Also I have a pretty good idea what’s hiding underneath all that blue painters tape now.

The boys will be very happy with this. Hunter Pence is a fan favorite for a reason and his Underpants nickname is precisely the kind of humor they love. I’m going to hold on to these for a while since my eldest has an autograph request out in the mail right now to Pat Neshek* and I don’t want to ruin the fun when that becomes his first active big league autograph.

*Yes this will be a post of its own once Neshek’s return gets here.

Pence will still be my son’s first Giants autograph and that will be special enough until he gets a Giants autograph in person.*

*His first Major Leaguer was Jay Bell last year.

And as I suspected once I saw the two signed 2015 Topps cards, I now have one of my customs signed. This is super cool. I’ve been sending out my customs to Spring Training since they’re fun to share. It’s wonderful to know that at least one player has seen them now.

I get the sense that the players truly appreciate the gesture and who knows, maybe in the next month or two I’ll have more signed customs in my autograph binder.

Thanks so much Marc! This mailer was awesome.

Mailday from Marc

So in Marc Brubaker’s year-end round up he mentioned that he’d sent me the most cards in 2018. While I’ve had larger maildays,* Marc has certainly sent me the most maildays over the past year and I and extremely grateful for them.

*My trade deficit is USA-level but I try and send out the best I can.

It looks like 2019 is starting up right where 2018 left off. A week ago I found a bright pink bubble mailer from Marc in my mailbox and inside were a bunch more goodies I needed.

The main reason I’ve gotten so many cards from Marc is that I’ve been working on a bunch of junk wax sets which everyone has tons of duplicates of. This mailer continues that with a half-dozen more junk wax needs as well as a bunch of 2014 cards for that set build.

The 1986 Bill Doran in particular is greatly appreciated. This card has been a thorn in my side due to the incorrect card number errors that kind of plague 1986 Topps. Doran shares his card number with Bobby Wine and I’ve gotten a few Wines by mistake so far. I don’t mind most errors but checklist-based ones are probably the worst since they confuse everything.

I’ve not much to say about Mark Langston except to note that he’s a local guy—high school in Sant Clara, college in San José—and that’s always fun to see.

The three 1990 Upper Decks take me to 40 left for set completion. 1991 Donruss is ridiculously close; I’m missing just 22 now. And the ~50 2014s take that build solidly past the halfway point. I’m not still fully feeling the design on this set but I’m enjoying it the more I look at it.

Marc is also one of the few traders who stays on top of my Stanford searchlist. These are always fun to add. Even though I’m pretty sure I have most of these (though I know I don’t have the Bowman Aldrete) due to 1988–1991 being my peak collecting years, duplicates are always appreciated since I plan on starting up some through the mail requests this year. Yes I’m planning on trying to get my son involved as well.

Continuing with Stanford cards, I needed most of these ones. The Mike Mussina Sports Illustrated for Kids is great. Same with all the Jeffrey Hammonds cards. And the McCarty Sportflics is fantastic. The Stephen Piscottys are also fun and the Opening Day foil will add a bit of variety to the album.

Moving into Giants cards. 1990 Topps Big is not my favorite of the Big designs but this Robby Thompson is still a fun card to have. the Jeff Brantley Score Young Superstar is an insert set I never came across as a kid. I know these came in rack packs but I can’t recall seeing them when I was a kid. 1991 Donruss Rookies looks so weird in red.

All the Minor League cards though are just fun. I never collected these in earnest but I love seeing the Giants ones and remembering names I haven’t thought of in decades. I like Studio 1993 a lot and the Kirt Manwaring Award Winner card is also great. It’s not one of his fantastic photo cards but it’s nice to be reminded of when he was all promise.

Now into Giants cards from the new-to-me age. The Mark Carreon “dreaming of being Bo” is hilarious. The Shawon Dunston Fleer Ultra is interesting. I’m not too keen on this set yet but I can see why people like it. 1999 Fleer is growing on me as well. And the Willie McCovey disc is great.

A bunch of these are also team-set needs and it’s always satisfying to cross those off the search list.

Finally, a few cards that don’t fit in any categories. The Sid Fernandez is for whenever I start putting together a “players from Hawai‘i” project. The William Hoy is just a great card of a player with a great story. The colorization annoys me but it’s nice to see Topps is remembering him.

The Bill Brubaker is the star here. There’s a long backstory to this. Part of it is covered in a SABR post where some of the community sort of crushed Marc’s enthusiasm about finding a card of someone who shared his last name but recognizing that the photo was incorrect. The rest is in Marc doing the research to determine that Bill is actually his cousin, finding some Charles Conlon photos of him, and making a custom to correct the error card. Anyway Marc is sure to blog about this on his own* so I’m going to stop there.

*Update as of January 23. Marc has now blogged about it.

Marc’s a member of the codependent support group doing custom cards last season. I sent him the Astros cards from my set as well as a few other customs and we’ve talked about how moving forward making more customs and things like that is likely to take precedence over active collecting. I very much enjoy have one of his customs in my binder.

Thanks Marc and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from Marc

The last mailer I received last week was yet another box of cards from Marc. Where Artie had gotten ahold of my Giants searchlist, Marc had found my setbuilding list and realized he could do significant damage to my junk wax set builds—specifically 1990 Upper Deck and 1991 Donruss.

Junk wax sets builds are really the best thing for trading. Most of us have tons of duplicates and there’s no real reason to keep them around. The hardest thing is finding someone who’s building a set since so many people already have them completed or can just buy a factory set for, at most, the same price as a wax box.* As someone who’s never built a set before though it’s great to have a list out there that people are happy to be able to contribute to and get some unneeded cards off their hands.

*Why build? For me a lot of it is finishing builds I’d started as a child. Plus the experience of getting to know a set over time rather than sitting down and sorting the entire thing all at once is very different.

With the 1990 Upper Decks Marc had almost 200 that I needed. I’m now at 751/800 on that build.

Marc also found almost 100 1991 Donruss cards that I needed. In addition to finishing off my Giants team set I’m now at 747/770 complete there.

Now it’s a race to see which I finish first between 1978 Topps, 1986 Topps, 1990 Fleer, 1990 Upper Deck, and 1991 Donruss. They’re all super close. 1978 has the advantage and disadvantage of being the only one which I’d want to purchase singles of to finish though. Yes this is more expensive but none of the other sets have any cards that are worth enough for buying singles to be worth it.* They’re too complete for buying packs to be worth it either. So there’s a very real likelihood that I’ll have those uncompleted for a long time.

*When I get down to the last couple cards though I’ll probably give up and just buy them.

Still, there’s something fun about having all the set builds hit 90% complete and that page to shrink to an extremely reasonable size.

Marc seemed to recognize that this would happen so he also included just enough 2014 Topps to take me over the 50% mark and get me to move it to my set build page. It’s still heavily Series 1 but a build is a build and it’s nice to get some of the bigger-name players out of the way.

The Pujols card in particular is especially nice and shows how nice this set looks with colored uniforms.

Of course, Marc being Marc couldn’t leave it at that. He included a bunch of assorted Giants. The Conlon McGraw is wonderful. That Select Cory Snyder photo is something else. The Metal Universe Bonds is downright sedate compared to other Metal Universe designs I’ve seen and I like having the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. And 1998 Stadium Club is kind of a clusterfuck of post-press indiscipline with three different colors of foil stamping plus embossing.

The 2018 cards are quite welcome and represent the sets I refuse to purchase. I like that Marc sends me Fire one at a time. I’m not I could handle a huge batch of them. Same thing goes with Gypsy Queen actually; one or two in a mailing is fine but a whole batch of them would give me the Photoshop disaster eyetwitches.

Chrome meanwhile is a set I still don’t like but am becoming increasingly intrigued by ever since Robby T pointed out that they’re printed wrong-reading. I’d already been looking at them sort of closely because of the opaque white ink usage but seeing that there was even more going on has me looking at them even more closely.

The best I can guess is that the cards are printed in reverse on clear plastic, then the opaque white gets printed on top of that, and finally the printed side of the plastic gets fused to the foil stock. So that cool glossy finish is the clear stock and because things are printed in reverse you don’t have to worry about now the colored ink lays down on top of the opaque white.

Marc also included these poker chips—sorry Topps Chipz—for the ever-increasing “stuff I can’t binder” collection. Buster Posey is from 2013. Madison Bumgarner is from 2015.

I honestly don’t know what to think about these. They’re actually kind of nice to handle as they have the heft and finish of proper clay chips* instead of feeling like tiddly winks. As a result I don’t really feel like putting them in 2×2s even though that’s probably the best place for them.

*Reminding me of when I was in college and getting real clay chips was actually hard back in those early days before poker was literally everywhere.

Yes there’s more. Marc continues hitting all my collecting interests with a bunch of Stanford guys including a Mark Appel die cut and a Mike Mussina Sportflics. I think my favorite is the Jack McDowell 1993 Studio with the foil-stamped signature but I did LOL at the Piscotty with the sharpied annotation as to what was “special” about it.

The Piscotty is a “missing nameplate” parallel. It’s not to be confused with the “missing black plate” parallel. When the (black ink only) name plate is missing there’s still black ink in the photo. When the black ink in the photo is missing, the name plate is still there. Yes I had to bust out the loupe to see WTF Topps was doing and it looks like the entire product is printed in two passes. The first pass uses a traditional line screen and prints the photo and all the graphics except for the GQ logo and name plate. The second pass uses a stochastic screen and prints just the GQ logo and name plate.* This second pass is what allows Topps to churn out all kinds of variants in the GQ logo and name plate.

*I went down a looking at screens rabbit hole on SABR a year ago if anyone wants to learn more about print screens.

Anyway it‘s really weird to see the mix of screens on the same printed piece and I’m not sure why Topps chose to do it this way. Or it could very well be the printer’s choice and Topps, like most people, isn’t too invested in what screening technology is used. It definitely adds to the weirdness of Ginter though. We’ve already got an old-time look coupled with modern action photography and image processing. And we’ve got an artificially aged paper looking stock which results in a different white point in the photo compared to the borders. So let’s just toss a couple different methods of printing into the mix too.

Rounding out the batch are a handful of Scott Erickson cards, a handful of action photos, and a couple Conlon St. Louis Browns.  I’ve been neglecting the Erickson PC so it’s nice to add a few more-recent ones. I think I only had Twins cards before. I continues to be amazed at the variety of the multi-exposure action cards and am surprised to see the gimmick had legs well into 1996. The 1991 Score Lenticular disc is awesome. And I have to decide of the Conlons go with the other Conlons or if I should break out a St. Louis Browns section of my binder.

Very cool stuff Marc and Merry Christmas!

Wait what? I just got one of these

The day I got my envelope from Marc he posted a “heads up to the following zip codes” 0utgoing-mailday post which included my zip. I assumed that he’d written it a few days earlier and just posted it without expecting that my mail had already arrived. Turns out I should’ve expected a second envelope.

This one had an enigmatic note wrapped around the cards. What could it be indeed? The last time I got such a note it turned out to be Bob Veale.

Holy crap another 1964 surprise which knocks off a hole in my Stanford searchlist. This time it’s a high-number rookie of Bill Wakefield which was on the “more expensive than I wanted to spend at this time” list. Wakefield’s an interesting case in that I think he’s the only guy in that project who graduated from Stanford but never played for the baseball team.

I also like that he spent only a single season in the majors but managed to get three seasons of cards out of it. While I like his 1965 and 1966 cards better, it’s nice to have one from his actual season in which he appeared in 62 games.

Marc also included a 2017 Fire card of Stephen Piscotty which will slide into my Stanford album a few pages in front of the Wakefield. I skipped this set too so this is my first time seeing it in the flesh. I prefer the 2018 design. Aside from not liking the way the crazy background interacts with the player here, the way Topps just slapped the team logo over this design feels incredibly wrong.

Team logos are almost all decades-old design so incorporating them into an over-the-top modern design like this requires more work than just dumping the logo in the corner.


Filling out the rest of the envelope were three 2016 Topps cards. Every time I see this design I can’t help but think about how much nicer it would be with the smoke stuff. Just a nice full-bleed photo. Dump the team name. Keep the rest of the TV-style graphics as they are.

Each time I see this Posey though I’m increasingly inclined to view it as a photo of him with four arms.

And finally a 2018 Stadium Club card that’s well-timed on the heels of my going through Adam’s box and seeing all those 1990s card tropes. Photos of players with a cameras—preferably a gigantic lens—were pretty common in those days. They’re obviously still an appealing shot—especially to photographers like Marc and me. I’m more surprised though that we aren’t seeing photos of players with cellphones taking selfies with fans and whatnot.

Thanks for the surprise PWEs and for finishing off one of the Stanford Alumni runs! Only five left from the 60s/70s now. As for the overall list, I’ve had to add a few thanks to Topps Update (and expect another three or so once Bowman Draft comes out) so I’ve still got a dozen cards left overall to look for.

Fire PWE from Bru

A couple weeks ago I found yet another small envelope from Marc in my mailbox. This one caught me by surprise since I’d just received a decent package from him. When I opened it up I found a bit of Fire. Topps Fire.

That’s a McCutchen base card and a Cueto foil card. I don’t know the proper terminology since this set isn’t the kind of thing I pursue. Marc sent me my first Fire card ever in his previous PWE and these will go next to it in the binder.

Looking at these cards makes me realize how many of the things I dislike in card designs are things I really like as oddballs. As a 200-card set, stuff like this just makes me shake my head. As a 30-card set? I could see myself getting into it. The same goes with Panini’s unlicensed cards which have all the logos airbrushed out. Something about the small checklist makes me much more accepting of quirkiness.

Part of this is because the small checklist encourages a smarter selection of players. You need stars who aren’t diminished by an over-the-top design or who can salvage something logoless and bland. Finding 200 of those guys? Tough. Finding one per team? Much easier.

Anyway, both these cards look way nicer in person and a lot of that has to do with the fact that all three Fire cards I have are of star players. I just wish that Cutch and Stretch had different backgrounds since this design is really asking to be different on each card.

Like this Piscotty background is a nice change of pace. Seeing pages of this over and over again would make my eyes bleed. But seeing one page of craziness? Totally fine. And having just one card amidst a page of otherwise sedate designs really livens things up.

I’ve got to admit, I much prefer Fire to Gypsy Queen. Where I understand what Fire’s doing, I remain absolutely confused by GQ. From the HDR action photos to the pseudo-vintage look which hearkens back to the days of studio photographs, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around what this product is trying to do. Once you toss all the “errors” and variants into the mix? No. Fucking. Clue.

Still it’s nice to have a few in my albums since I’ll never ever buy them. Gives a nice variety to the page and that’s always fun. Plus I would never have noticed how weird it is to have such a different white point in the photo compared to the background of the card if I hadn’t had to scan this for this post. It makes my brain hurt since it makes it clear how the antique background effect is just a printed border.

Continuing with the Stanford theme. Marc included a Bowman Chrome of Mark Appel. This card also doesn’t scan well. Chrome goes black and the border becomes a weird grey halftone. On the plus side, scanning Chrome reveals a lot about how it was printed since the change in reflectivity shows where there’s an opaque white and where there isn’t.

As much as I don’t like the way Chrome looks with photography, I’m fascinated by the printing. Opaque white has such promise for all kinds of cool printing effects* and I’m a bit disappointed that it’s used as essentially a flood for covering up metallic stock. At the same time, it’s not used much in printing at all so to see it live and in the flesh is still exciting.

*If I were designing things I’d be going nuts with opaque white ink on medium-dark papers where the ink would create highlights and the black could create shadows.

Two other cards in the PWE. The first is a 2016 Update card of Brandon Belt as an All Star. One of the disappointing things for me upon reengaging with the hobby is how boring All Star cards have gotten. I mean it’s always fun to get an All Star card of a player on your team, but I grew up in the days of the dedicated subsets which had their own distinct All Star designs.

Coming across an All Star card was something special and those designs still trigger a ton of nostalgia when I see them. If I were baseball card king this is one of the things I’d bring back. Just slapping the All Star logo on the card front without even changing the team name is some laziness.

And last, the super-cool Deion Sanders action card. This goes with the rest of my Action collection even though it’s very much riffing on the concept rather than actually being action. I always liked this card too. Was cool when I saw it in 1992. It’s still cool now.

Looking at it now and I can’t help but notice how smart Upper Deck was to basically remove all the 1992 design from this and let the photo stand on its own. No baseballs. No drop shadow. No names. Just a photo and we all knew exactly who it was. Part of me smiles at seeing him carrying a football since as a cornerback that wasn’t his main job. And the rest of me remembers that ridiculous high-stepping pick-six celebration.

Thanks Marc for the very cool mailday.

Stragglers

Late last week I discovered a small envelope in my mailbox with a few stragglers that didn’t make it into Marc’s original package. I gather that this is one of those instances when you mail something out and immediately discover that you forgot to put a few items in.*

*I do this a lot too but usually I just forget to include a note.

First off, this 1999 Topps Traded Ed Sprague finishes off my run of his “cards of record.”* Even more exciting about it is that takes my searchlist for all Stanford guys to being down to ten from the Topps/Bowman Flagship (and related) sets. Or well ten until Update releases later this year and adds a few more to the searchlist.

*Something I’ve tended to call Topps Flagship though in the late 90s–00s I’ve had to supplement with other brands since the checklists were often small and didn’t include more fringe players. For example, in Sprague’s case, Topps has no cards of him with the A’s.

It’s nice to have this project basically finish building mode and become something that just needs to be sustained. Where before I’ve mentioned turning the corner, and evolving the scope of what I’m searching for, the original scope will always exist as a goal to be completed.

The ten cards I’m missing fall into two categories.

Things I haven’t purchased because of price reasons:

  • Doug Camilli 1962 Topps
  • Doug Camilli 1966 Topps
  • Jim Lonborg 1965 Topps
  • Jim Lonborg 1968 Topps
  • Jim Lonborg 1970 Topps
  • Bill Wakefield 1964 Topps

Things that just haven’t turned up whenever I go searching:

  • Rick Helling 2002 Topps Traded
  • John Mayberry Jr. 2010 Topps Phillies Team Set
  • Mike Mussina 2009 Topps
  • Brian Sackinsky 1995 Topps

The price ones may never ever get completed. Most aren’t too bad but the 1962 Camilli rookie will always be beyond what I want to spend. The ones that haven’t turned up through searching are a more interesting bunch. The Mayberry Jr. Phillies card will likely be hard to track down. The other three though are a pretty random reflection of how certain things can just be not available.

The 1997 Finest Ed Sprague is one of the few cards I have from this set. I don’t really get the Finest ethos. It’s nice thick stock and super shiny; it just doesn’t move me. I’m tempted to peel the protective film layer off except I don’t trust it to not ruin the card after decades of being affixed.

The most interesting thing about this for me is how the back of the card notes that this is a “common.” I know, I know, Topps used to do this all the time with how it numbered sets and gave star players the “hero numbers” ending in 0 or 00. But there’s something about writing “common” on the card itself that really bothers me in that it feels incredibly artificial.

And my first sample of Topps Fire. Like Finest, this is another set I’ve had an immediate “not for me” response to even though I’m happy to get samples here and there so I can inspect them.

Fire actually looks much much better in person that it does in images. There’s more depth in the colors and printing than what comes across on screen and the card itself feels more consistent in its design than the trainwreck feel I get looking at images online.

Am I going to go go out and try to get more of these? No. The idea of looking through a binder of these kind of gives me hives. But Fire and Finest both work in small doses to add a little variety to the binder and I very much appreciate that.

Thanks Marc! These were worth waiting for.