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.

Change of Address

Holy moly. When it rains it pours. Four mailday posts in a row now reflecting four different days of mail over a week.
Something about that fourth mailday kicks things up a notch. Maybe we’re all feeling that beginning-of-the season excitement. Games are finally occurring. Packs of Series 1 are in the store. Time to start firing up the trades and getting unneeded cards off of our desks.

Mailday number four came from Peter who distributes most of his first packs to various team collectors. In this case, since he has recently moved, this small mailday also served as a way of updating my address book so I can send him the extra 1995 Fleer Darryl Strawberry that Robby just sent me.*

*I kid. I’ve already sent Peter a 1995 Strawberry and at least that one was tempered by being part of a batch of a bunch of 1995 Strawberrys from multiple brands.

Peter’s packs yielded two Giants who are polar opposites. Crawford is the resident All Star who fans love. Strickland… Oof. Pretty sure fans were happy to see him go. He was fine but always felt like a liability Did I need these two cards? Not really. For the price of a retail hanger pack I decided my money was better spent entering a half-case break which netted three team sets—enough for me and both boys to enjoy.

But having such a small mailing means I can actually write a bit more about the 2019 design here. I’m not a big fan. Backs are great with full stats making a triumphant return. Fronts have a bit too much going on for my taste with transparency effects and half-borders and drop shadows photoshopped onto the players so that the backgrounds look more like backdrops that have been dropped in after the fact.

I appreciate that the photography appears to be zoomed out a bit compared to previous years but things are still being cropped so that players’ feet disappear. This isn’t a huge problem on these cards but in 2018 Topps had a ton of Shortstop and Second Baseman cards featuring plays at second where the interesting part of the play was being covered by the design elements. Seeing the base and the ground is hugely important to a lot of these photos and Topps doesn’t seem to be allowing for that.

Another thing that jumped out to a weirdo like me is that this is the first set in at least a decade to be printed using a traditional line screen.* The big bold grey last name is a single black screen** and I didn’t even need a loupe to see the halftone. This suggests that Topps changed its production this year and I’m now curious if other sets will follow suit.***

*I only went back to 2009 and aside from the weirdness where 2010 Update is printed traditionally and 2010 Flagship is printed with a stochastic screen I didn’t find anything printed traditionally.

**Note, the darker greys on the backs are 4-color mixes but the light grey is single black.

***I’m going to hit that grey border in the 1970 design with my loupe as soon as I get my hands on some Heritage.

Anyway, I haven’t mentioned that Marichal insert yet. Peter will be pleased that I didn’t have it. I’m not big on insert sets but they’re definitely great ways to pad mailings. I’m very happy to put Giants inserts in my binder and I’m just as happy to get non-Giants inserts out my door to someone who will appreciate them.

Thanks Peter! It’s not Spring yet but it sure feels like it’s coming.

Merry Christmas from Peter

After Jason, my second Christmas mailing was from Peter. He’d given me a heads-up that he’d come into a duplicate of a card that had my name on it so this envelope was semi-expected and one that I was looking forward to.

Yeah this is pretty exciting. Irvin’s the “affordable” Hall of Famer on these Giants teams but he’s still an extremely desirable card. This one looks great and represents Irvin’s last card with the Giants. I’m very happy to slip it into my binder and come one card closer to the unattainable goal of finishing my 1955 team set. Only 3 left! (but yeah one is Willie Mays and the other is Dusty Rhodes with that stupid “card #1” price premium).

Anyway the reason why this Irvin was attainable is because the back is mis-registered. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t bother me unless the missing portion of the card back is hugely important. But in this case the stats are kind of an afterthought and it’s really the text and cartoon that matter. Also, those are Jim Hegan’s stats peeking onto this card.

But Peter didn’t just include the one Irvin card. This fantastic Ted Kluszewski was also in the envelope. This is probably the definitive card and image of Big Klu’s career with the cut-off sleeves, powerful swing and equally powerful sneer. Some guys are characters who enrich the game’s history and this card captures everything that puts Kluszewski in that category.

Peter, like me, is working on a small project of no-longer extant teams. I’m focusing mostly on the first/last years of a team’s existence with regard to moves and expansion. Peter though is just picking up samples of any teams which no longer exist—including name variations.* While not my focus, I very much appreciate that this is a “Redlegs” card instead of a “Reds” card and that Mr. Redlegs mascot on the uniform is fantastic as well.

*Not sure if he’s doing every single iteration of the Angels name/location silliness though.

The last card in the envelope is this Barry Bonds Donruss Elite card. It’s nice but yeah, compared to the other two there’s not much to say about it besides bemoaning how poorly foil cards tend to scan. You’d think that something shiny like this would light up in the scanner but nope, the exact opposite occurs.

Thanks Peter and Merry Christmas to you too!

A pair of PWEs

What’s more fun than a random plain white envelope mailday? When you get two plain white envelopes with cards inside. The first envelope is from Colbey (@flywheels) who blogs at Cardboard Collections. Colbey runs a monthly (or so) cheap base-card-centered box break. I’ve joined a few and been pleased by the outcomes. For a couple bucks I can get a Giants team set or two as well as random second team which may or may not hit my project interests.

It’s a fun way to catch up on cards that I either have never heard of or won’t be going out of my way to get. I don’t normally blog about cards I purchase and breaks generally fall into that category. The latest break however didn’t fill completely so Colbey ended up with a bunch of extra teams and was nice enough to send me a handful of cards of Stanford guys from those teams.

The latest break was 1994 Select and 1995 Score Series 2. I had the Giants and the A’s and in addition to getting a complete set of Giants cards also got a handful of the 1995 Gold Rush cards as well. The A’s sets weren’t complete but had a bunch of guys I remember from my youth as well. I’m very pleased.

Getting the McCarty and Sprague cards are just icing on the cake. I kind of dig the Select design even though there are lots of problems in it. But the photos are interesting and I like the way it uses team colors for the duotone image.*

*No it’s not actually a duotone. That would be awesome. It’s only a 4-color pseudotone. And why yes of course I louped it.

1995 is a set I don’t like much but enjoy having. The gold parallels are surprisingly nice though. I normally don’t like that kind of thing but in this case they’re a huge improvement

Colbey also included this 1989 Cap’n Crunch card. It’s kind of hideous in a wonderful way. I wish Panini were doing things like this instead of the Diamond Kings since anything logoless makes me get all excited for food issues. It is weird to see a logoless Topps set though.

Thanks Colbey for both running the breaks and being generous with the extras! And if anyone else is interested in cheap base-card-centered breaks give @flywheels a follow or subscribe to his blog.

The other envelope was from Peter. Just a few cards in it but very much appreciated.

Two Willie Mays cards form the 1990s. One of the weird things for me about the 90s is how retired legends started to show up more and more on checklists. When I started collecting you had to go to TCMA or Pacific to get those cards and they were clearly not Real™ cards. Don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful for me as a kid to get cards of Hall of Famers which I could learn from. But they were kind of afterthoughts to the flagship sets of the time.

All that changed in the 1990s when more and more cards featuring retired players became part of flagship releases. It’s still weird for me to see them show up in sets yet at the same time I still feel that giddy thrill that comes with holding a Willie Mays card.

The reason Peter sent me this envelope though was to get me this Jay Bell card. It’s one thing to get a regular junk wax card autographed. It’s quite another to hand a guy a card featuring him milking a cow on artificial turf. He’d just received it in a mailing himself and I had commented that that was exactly the kind of thing I should bring to a Thunder game. One week later it showed up in my mailbox just in time for me to go to a game the following night. Did I get it signed? Tune in to tomorrow’s post.

Thanks Peter! A PWE is always fun to find. But one with a cow card is extra special.

First 2018s

While I have yet to get any new packs of 2018 Topps, I’ve been encouraged by the generally positive reaction I’m seeing across the web and have been feeling increasingly curious about what they actually look like in hand. I was initially hesitant about buying any new product and since my local Target hasn’t had any in stock, I haven’t even had a choice about whether or not buy.

Thankfully though I didn’t have to wait for my local Target to even get anything in stock. Peter at Baseball Every Night couldn’t resist busting a few packs to celebrate the new season and was kind enough to send me a plain white envelope of cards he didn’t want.

So these two Giants count as my first 2018 cards. I’m still not feeling the waterslide design but I appreciate that it’s less intrusive than previous years’ designs and fits the full-bleed look much better. The photography is also noticeably more interesting. Cueto’s is most-similar to previous years’ shots of slightly-too-closely-cropped action but I love the detail where it looks like we can see he probably just threw a circle change.

Posey’s is a little oddly cropped for me. Topps still likes to center players within the card rather than suggesting movement within the frame. All too often you can see in the original images that there’s plenty of space for a more dynamic framing. The photo of Posey is no exception. I want to move him a quarter inch to the right, get the full mask in the frame, and give him space to look into. Still, the shot itself is more interesting than the usual full-exertion swing we’ve had the past years.

Peter was nice enough to include doubles of these so my kids will also get a chance to start their 2018 card collection without having to spend money or, if they do, be disappointed if they don’t get any Giants in their packs.

Jed Lowrie is part of my Stanford project. I like this card a lot. Again a more interesting image with lots of small details—like the extra pair of gloves in his back pocket—to notice.

And yeah, the fronts of these are very nice and suggest that there’s a lot more variety in the photo selections this year. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these cards over the next few months.

The backs though? Sigh. I didn’t scan anything because they’re pretty boring. I miss having complete stats. My 8-year-old even complains about this. He wants to know where the players have played each year they’ve been in the majors (and ideally, each year in the minors too). It’s funny, I liked the stats when I was a kid.  He, however, likes the story about where in the country each player has played and how the different minor league levels fit into the club organization.

Also, the huge amount of space devoted to twitter and instagram handles is going to age horribly. I know it’s a little silly to complain about the future of these cards but at the same time, much of the allure of this hobby is how it’s part of a history of card collecting. There aren’t many things now that kids can share with their grandparents this way* and those social media handles won’t age nearly as well as the cartoons from the 1950s have.

*As much as I make old man jokes this is what I love about the hobby too.

The last card is a Buster Posey insert. I’m increasingly disenchanted by all the inserts. Yes, I guess I’m glad that they’re inserts instead of yet another set to buy, but the explosion in insert sets was something that helped to push me out of the hobby 25 years ago. There are just so many of them now that most of the people in the hobby who I follow now just mail them to whoever they know collects that team.

I’ve tended to pull Dodgers inserts and have sent them off to Night Owl. Peter seems to get Giants one so I’m the lucky beneficiary. It’s good. They end up in my Giants album and I enjoy them there. But they’re just not something I’m excited to pull from a pack. The inserts are almost invariably over-designed and as I’ve gotten older I find myself liking cards for the photography more than a anything else.

Mailday from Peter

A semi-surprise mailday from Peter at Baseball Every Night. This is fun. Each mailday from him has worked further back into the past, first it was current cards, then it was junk wax from my collecting years, now it’s a bunch of cards predating my collecting years.

There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news* is that I’ve been doing very well at covering my mid-70s to mid-80s Topps Giants needs. What few holes I have now are all rookie cards where the Giant is sharing the card with someone else who commands a premium. Which means that the only truly new card for me here is the 1981 Fleer Vida Blue.

*Well for this mailday. It’s good news for my collecting goals.

Filling in non-Topps team sets is an activity which I haven’t officially embarked on—there’s no wantlist nor do I have plans at this time to make one. Yet I’m passively accumulating cards in the unused pockets of the past page of each Giants team set* and am enjoying adding the other brands and oddballs to the timeline of Giants Topps history.

*28 or 29-card team sets are the worst.

The good news about this stack though is that many of my cards aren’t in the best condition—especially regarding print quality. I don’t care much about dinged corners and usage wear but having spent over a decade in the print industry, if the actual card itself is badly printed I’m increasingly disappointed.

For some reason many of my early-80s cards are noticeably out of register. It’s like the designs got a little more intricate but the print quality wasn’t reliably there yet. So where in the 50s and 60s designs we just have big blocks of color—most of which are one of the seven colors you can get without screening the ink* and registration issues aren’t as obvious unless you really peep the photos—in the 80s the details are finer, traps are smaller, and additional colors come into the mix.

*Light Blue = 100% Cyan
Pink = 100% Magenta
Yellow = 100% Yellow
Black = 100% Black
Red = 100% Magenta + 100% Yellow
Green = 100% Cyan + 100% Yellow
Purple = 100% Cyan + 100% Magenta

As a result if a color is out of register it really shows up in the designs. In my cards this often means that the trapping isn’t large enough so there’s a white edge to some of the linework elements. Not something most people would notice but it really bothers me.

Kind of wonderfully, many of the cards in Peter’s mailday are better registered than the samples I had in my binder. So switching those out makes this print snob very happy. And since I’m increasingly being tempted by the siren song of TTM, having duplicates from these years is also very cool. Thanks Peter!

Blast from the past

A-blast-from-the-past mailday from Peter at Baseball Every Night. In his box break mailing earlier this year he’d hinted that he had a bunch of old Giants cards he was going to send for my kids. So while not unexpected, I didn’t know when to expect the second mailing—or how large of a mailing to expect. These arrived when I was out chasing the eclipse and I’ve only just received the package.

It’s a very generous assortment of cards, many of which are from the sets I used to collect when I was little. I enjoy that so many of these are well-loved. Not abused, just beat up from constant handling. I have a few cards like this in my collection too. Maybe it was a playground acquisition which had to be keep in a pocket or someplace else.* Maybe it was part of a favorite stack to show anyone who’d listen.** Maybe it’s a legacy of the beginning of a collection before binders and pages and learning the “correct” way to store things.***

*I vividly remember keeping cards in my pulled-up socks and unpeeling them from my shin when I got home.

**A phase my eldest son is currently going though.

***As a parent, the best thing about binders and pages is that they encourage the kids to clean up and put their collections away instead than leaving stacks of cards lying around.

Looking at them now brings a smile to my face the same way that looking through @captnarrr’s cards did—especially since they’re all Giants. It’s fun to see these old names and a lot of these cards are cards I either got autographed or tried to get autographed. I know the boys will enjoy incorporating them into their collection since they’re still very much into copying whatever I did. And while I definitely want to encourage them to branch into their own interests it’s nice to have some common ground as well.

I also can’t help but notice how many of those cards feature the Turn Back the Clock uniforms. I loved seeing those on cards when I was a kid. I’m making a note to myself to assemble a checklist of Giants cards featuring those uniforms.

I got out of collecting in 1994. I have a bunch of cards from that year but they never made it into binders and I had even forgotten most of the designs until I pulled my collection out of storage this summer. So I’m nowhere near as familiar with these cards. I do like how so many focus on photography and keep the designs simple. And I really like the Salomon Torres card even though he’s not the best of Giants fan memories.

Peter also included ten new cards. The McCovey Stadium Club is fantastic. But then that whole set is great even though I can’t help but laugh at also getting a Marvin Denard Span card. My sons will greatly appreciate the Topps Bunt cards. Bunt isn’t a set for me but I got a blaster for them to share and they’ve enjoyed ripping packs and seeing who they got. They can never have enough Giants.

The two Topps Archives cards are also fun. I’m not a fan of the way Topps reuses old designs—it falls into an uncanny valley of looking like both a lousy copy and a lazy homage—but I have a soft spot for the 1991 design.* This is also my first Hoyt Wilhelm card ever. I’ve been remiss in getting any of his cards in my Giants team set quest.

*I’m willing to make the argument that 1991 is the best set Topps has made from a design and photography point of view. And yes I checked the backs of these to see if Topps Archives pulled a UV glow backs shout out.

I need to specifically mention the two gold Matt Duffy parallels in that group of ten. I was very surprised to see that they are sequentially numbered. Peter insists that he was even more surprised when he pulled them out of random packs. My gut is skeptical but my brain can’t come up with any other scenarios for this either.

Anyway, I need to brainstorm on how to thank Peter for this. Last time I was able to send some neat Darryl Strawberry and John Kruk cards. This time? I’ll need to be more creative.

My First Box Break; My First Relic

Continuing from yesterday. I was expecting a package from Peter at Baseball Every Night. I’d sorta-hesitantly joined his box break—I’m new in baseball card twitter and don’t want to be that guy who just takes without having contributed anything. But he convinced me to join and I’m glad I did.

Getting a batch of over a dozen Giants cards in the mail is always fun. And I’m still a bit in awe of the print quality of modern cards. Yes I agree with the complaints about the TV-style graphics and the over-cropped ACTIONACTIONACTION photographs. But at a pure technical level these even blow the original Stadium Clubs out of the water.

It’s nice to get a bunch of long-time franchise favorites. Cain’s been scuffling for a while but when I see his cards I’m still reminded of the first half of this decade. Pence is basically the team mascot now. And I don’t need to say anything about Posey. When I grew up I loved Will Clark. Posey has been the same kind of a guy since his rookie year.

A few other key names, some of whom I’m only just getting used to. It’s been a weird season so far and I’ve had a hard time keeping track of how far off the rails we’ve gotten. I can’t catch a lot of the late games on the East Coast so it’s nice to get photos to match the names.

Also, the Nunez card is a great example of both how the horizontal format works well and how it fails in this particular design template. Sometimes the action just has to be displayed horizontally and a sliding picture is one such play. At the same time, the weird fade-out Topps is doing at the bottom of the cards gets super distracting and noticeable here. Rather than being a fade it looks like the entire photo’s been deleted—only badly.

And some people who I’ve just not heard of. This is both exciting and also a reflection of how this year has been going. We’re doing so badly that it seems like we should just be churning through the complete 40-man roster looking for players who might stick.

Anyway, very nice variety in the break and the kind of team set which, as a team set collector, leaves me feeling super satisfied. It’s important to have some stars but it’s also great to have a good cross-section of the entire team. This break does that perfectly.

Peter also threw in a couple Series 1s thrown in as a bonus. I didn’t get any Giants in my first packs so it was nice to get them this way instead. Thanks Peter, this was a lot of fun and I need to put together a thank you package to send your way in return.

My First Relic

The good news is that I “won” the break. That’s also the bad news. I’m kind of sheepish about this since I’m not big on chase cards and feel like the prize is wasted on me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to have gotten a relic card. It’s just that my reasons aren’t what Topps is going for.

When I was drifting out of the hobby in the early 90s, relic cards were only beginning to appear. I was intrigued by them then but the idea of chase cards also directly contributed to my disillusionment.* At this point I can’t see myself ever actively acquiring one so getting one from a lucky pack or box break is the only way I’d ever own one.**

*I just found all my 1994 cards. I never bothered to put them in albums at all and, once the strike occurred, they just ended up in a shoebox.

**This is true with most chase cards. The only ones I can see myself acquiring are the printing plate ones which I’m interested in from a purely craft point of view.

It’s certainly an interesting object. I knew they were thicker than the average card but I never realized exactly how thick.* But aside from the cleverness in how it’s made there’s little in this that I find appealing. The patch is a small square of cream CoolBase and there’s literally nothing else of interest on the card. The photo is nice enough—especially if you’re into the cut-out player look—and I enjoy the spot UV coating. But that’s about it. There’s not even anything interesting on the back.

*What the hell do you do with these, just keep them in the toploader and find a box to store the toploader in?

And without the card itself having any interesting information, I’m left holding a small square of fabric and thinking whether I’d be excited about such a thing if it didn’t have the cardboard frame around it.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be.

I understand the point of these relics but they’re not for me. At a certain point the small square of cut fabric becomes too abstracted from any emotional meaning. It’s explicitly not from any specific game. And there’s no context to suggest that it’s even from an actual jersey—for all I can tell it’s from a bolt of fabric.* I have to take Topps’s word for it.

*The relic cards which include cuts of patches or numbering are better in this regard.

Holding this card in my hand left me feeling underwhelmed and disappointed about what the hobby has turned into. That pack searching for this kind of card is a thing makes me sad. That hobby packs cost more per-card than retail packs because of this kind of thing makes me sad.

Still, I’m happy to have gotten a relic card because I had no idea how I would react to actually owning one. I did enjoy looking it over and really examining it and thinking about how it’s constructed as a product. I also enjoyed thinking through my reactions to it and trying to figure out why . I even plan to keep it so I can remember why it’s not for me. It’s a rare thing for card to evoke that many different thoughts and emotions.