Two more sets complete

So it looks like either everyone’s New Years resolution this year was to help people out with completing sets or that my set builds all hit a point of no return where instead of slowly building things it became a challenge to actually finish them off. Anyway, after finishing 1991 Studio and 1991 Donruss I got two maildays last week which finished off 1990 Upper Deck and 1990 Fleer.

We’ll start with the first mailday from fellow member of the Twitter
Printing Clique Robby T.

Nine cards to kill off my 1990 Upper Deck needs plus three duplicates (Kevin Mitchell, Jeff Ballard, and Jack McDowell) that mean I don’t have to choose between whether I pull cards for my Giants and Stanford binders.

Yeah. Two Bo Jacksons. I wasn’t very luck with my initial batches. Anyway this is a nice batch which includes a decent number of photos that show why I like this set so much. Nice minimal design. Brightly printed photos. A good mix of action and candid head shots.

As is Robby’s usual MO, he sent me a decent stack of Giants cards from various other sets. A lot of these I have and so these are going to make their way into my kids’ collections. Many of them though I do not and so I was able to fill in a lot of holes.

I’ve come around to the conclusion that while the 1990s card designs were getting sidetracked by all kinds of design and printing gimmicks, the photography is kind of wonderful. Photo technology was good enough to get shots we’d never seen before but there was a commitment to picking interesting photos too.

Also the 2009 O Pee Chee set is one which I increasingly like. In an age of glossy foilstamped sameness, these feel like what cards are supposed to feel like. The photos aren’t bad either. I can see myself wanting more of these.

A few assorted Giants. Nothing really to note here except that I really like the Willie Mays set and am sad that I never saw any of these in 1993. These were always fun things to find in Upper Deck but I was either being priced out of the hobby in 1993 or my interests were starting to drift into other areas since I didn’t get many Upper Deck packs at all.

More modern Giants cards plus some weird stuff. The Holiday cards are kind of an amazing trainwreck which is so ridiculous that it ends up working for me. The Anderson is a glitter variation which is fun even though I’m worried the glitter will end up migrating to other cards.

A couple 2020 cards which show how Topps screwed up the horizontal design. The backs of these are all aligned together. The horizontal text though is upside down. Not a good look at all and suggests that there’s no one at Topps who is thinking about how people are going to store and look at these.

And three random cards finishes out Robby’s mailing. The Polio Vaccine card makes me laugh because I made some Penicillin customs that I’ve been mailing to guys who have everything. Also that photo of Salk makes him look like Larry David. The Pablo Sandoval World Baseball Classic card is awesome and the Hideki Okajima is a fun addition to my small Japanese baseball card collection.

A new trader to me, Todd Williamson, finished off my 1990 Fleer set. I just needed one card but now I ned none. Todd also included a few other set needs. Some Upper Decks that Robby beat him to and two 1994s  that take me to only needing 37 left.

Todd asked what else I collected and pulled some weird stuff for me.  The two Mussinas are ones I didn’t have so that’s always great. The two other cards looked super routine until I flipped them over.

The 1982 blank back is one of those quirks that’s fun to have a sample of but which I’d never go out and actually acquire. It doesn’t teach me anything about how the cards were made but it’s still cool.

The 1990 Kirby Puckett meanwhile is in fact a box bottom card. These are one of my favorite things. I used to collect used and beat up boxes from my local super markets. I still keep an eye out for cheap box bottom batches on ebay and am slowly building the various sets of these from the 1980s and 1990s.

Most of Todd’s package though was a ton of 1992 Topps Gold. This was one of my favorite things back in the day. I never got too many when I was a kid—one scratched-off Winners batch and a bunch that came with my factory set. So it’s very cool to have most of a team set and this batch of 25 pretty much doubled my collection.

Ramos and Beck are also two of the guys who replaced checklists. I’ve mentioned this before but I’m down to needing just #366 Tony Perezchica in my question to build the larger 1992 Topps set.

Very cool guys. Four complete sets this year and February isn’t even done yet. Thanks!

Who’s down with OPC

Last Friday I found a surprise mailday from Robby T in my mailbox. When I opened it up it looks like he broke up a couple near-complete sets and sent them out to various Card Twitter team collectors.

The first thing showing was a bunch of 1995 Fleer. This is not a set many people like. I kind of appreciate the garish awfulness of this peak-90s design where every division has its own template but woof. This is not pleasing to look at.

The good news here is that this batch completes my team set for 1995 Fleer so I don’t have to feel like I ever want more of it. I’d give the duplicates to my kids but I feel like someone might call CPS on me.

Underneath all the 95 Fleer though was this stack of beauties. I prefer 1991 Topps but the 1992 design is pretty nice too. Good photos with a design that frames everything nicely while staying out of the way.

These are O-Pee-Chees (OPC) though which make the stack even cooler. I only encountered a handful of Canadian cards when I was a kid so seeing all of these is a bit beyond my comprehension. There’s also something I really like about the OPC logo and the way it’s nowhere near as bold as the Topps logo. These just look better to my eye. This is the highlight of he mailing.

My favorite part of the OPCs though are how they serve as a bridge between the base Topps set and Topps Traded. Kevin Mitchell and Don Robinson are technically not Giants cards. Mitchell is marked as “Now with Mariners” and Robinson, “Now with Angels.” Meanwhile Dave Burba, Mike Jackson, and Bill Swift all look like Mariners cards but are marked as “Now with Giants.” Those three cards are part of the five I’m missing from the 1992 OPC team set now.

Finally, a bunch of modern cards. One Lincecum insert from I don’t know what product but with a photo that is so good I really don’t care. A half dozen Big League cards which I divided up with the boys since we all need different ones for our Giants sets. And eight Donruss cards which allowed me to complete my team set as well as provide the boys with their first Bumgarner cards for 2018.

They both keyed in on the logolessness and once I pointed out how nowhere on the cards does it say “Giants” either I had to explain how exclusive licensing agreements work and why only Topps is allowed to make cards with logos now. I think they understand what’s going on. I also think that, like the rest of us, they find the situation to be incredibly stupid.

Oh well, enough legal sidetracking. Thanks for the mailing Robby!

Mailday from RobbyT

The same day I got a plain white envelope from Pre-war Cards, I also received a 300-count box of cards from @robbyt86. Robby is a Tigers collector whose blog has gone fallow. Thankfully his How to Properly Page a Topps Set post is sitting on the top of the pile. On Twitter Robby and I hold down the print geek side of the conversation. He’s worked in printing and prepress for decades and oftentimes we’re the only one notices and appreciating technical details in how cards were actually produced.

I’m not sure I’ve ever received two items that are such polar opposites. Don’t get me wrong, Robby’s box was just as much fun as Anson’s plain white envelope, it’s just that there’s no way to compare the items inside. Where the pre-war cards encourage me to dig into history and connect things to what I know about the sport and industry now, the modern cards end up hitting me in the feelings and encouraging me to remember teams and players I watched myself.

The first dozen or so cards in the box are cards from my youth. I’ve been searching for that 1988 Fleer sticker of Candlestick for a while now. These stadium stickers are my favorite sticker insert from Fleer and that aerial view of The Stick reminds me of all the games I attended when I was a kid.

All those 1994 Donruss Giants cards are also all new to me too. 1994 is the year I bailed from the hobby and seriously detached from baseball so the cards from that year all represent an interesting thing where I sort of recognize them but in that “oh yeah I forgot about those” way. The players though are ones I remember fondly as I had seen many of them in spring training that year.

The next batch of cards is from the late 90s and early 2000s. These are all new to me. These Bowman cards? Never seen them before. Pacific online? Nope. The Pacific Invincible is pretty cool in that the photo of JT Snow is an acetate insert that shows up on both sides of the card. Also Invincible was one of Pacific’s Spanish-language brands and it’s always cool to get more of those cards.

There are also a few gold parallel cards in this batch. I’m not sure when Topps started stamping them with serial numbers but each of these is numbered out of 2001, 2002, or 2003 (depending on what year the card is). I don’t usually like colored parallels but I did like the early-90s Topps Gold and I still like these early 2000s ones too.

The 2002 and 2003 ones in particular are interesting in that rather than using gold foilstamping for the parallel, Topps printed metallic gold ink on top of the existing card borders. This results in some interesting ghosting issues on the 2002 cards in particular since the gold ink covers some white text and you can still make that text out if look at the card just right. The Topps logo is also covered so in many ways these cards are the rare modern cards that Topps has released which don’t have their logo on the fronts.

As someone who doesn’t like the brown and blue borders on the 2002 and 2003 base designs, I much prefer the way the gold borders look too. It’s close enough to the orange in the Giants logo colors that I find myself especially liking how these look on Giants cards.

More of the same but getting to 2011 now. The Topps Shoebox cards are probably the closest I’m ever going to get to those 1952 high numbers and hall of fame rookie cards. For now they‘re in my binder with the 2003 cards but I might move them into the vintage binder as placeholders at some point.

Topps Lineage is one of those sets which looks like it would be fun to roll out every 10 years or so so each generation of kids can have a new base set of all-time greats to collect and learn about.

The bulk of Robby’s box though consists of cards from 2012 and newer. In many places there’s close to a team set for each year—or at least a near team set for update or Series 2 or something like that. I don’t have many of these cards and while I haven’t fully decided what to do about those sets yet, this mailing has pushed me into at least getting the team sets.

The 2012 cards are great because they remind me of that second World Series win. (I figure Robby just wanted these out of his house.) The whole 2010–2015 run of Giants cards is one that I’m likely to pursue now since that 6-year run of players and cards will likely represent one of the high points of my Giants fandom for a long long time.

The handful of Bowman cards in here as well represent my first exposure to this set beyond a single exemplar card. I can never tell Bowman cards apart so it’s nice to have enough to really get a sense of the set. And there are a few proper colored parallels. I’m still not sold on these but when I see them in hand I can see how player collectors want to collect a complete rainbow.

A bunch of 2013 cards including a few which feature 2012 highlights. I knew of some of those cards but others, like the Vogelsong one, somehow slipped through my radar. I’m very happy to have them. I also find myself appreciating this set a lot more each time I see it. 2011–2014’s designs have a tendency to blend together for me but 2013 is starting to stand out in a good way.

A few more colored parallels. I have to say that the blue color in particular makes the Sea Turtle nature of this design even more turtle-like. And a few Triple Play cards that I can’t believe are real cards since they look like something my kids would’ve drawn on their iPad.

Also it’s worth noting that beginning with the 2012 cards, there are a lot of duplicates in this box. Which is great since these World Series-winning teams are teams that my kids also like* so having plenty of cards to spread around the family is very much appreciated.

*They enjoy watching the DVDs of the games.

2014 shows how the colored parallel thing is exploding more and more. I have no idea if the red sparkles are supposed to be extra special or if that’s just a Target exclusive thing. I can say that having all these different colors makes the gold parallels stand out less even though they’re the only ones which are numbered.

This photo also shows that Robby included a bunch of Donruss cards. I have very little experience with the current incarnation of Donruss. I have a few 2018 Diamond Kings, I only just received two 2015 cards from Marc, and there might be a couple others in my Stanford albums. Anyway I definitely had fewer than ten of them before this mailing.

They’re an interesting set. It definitely gives of that 1980s Donruss vibe. The way the photos have removed almost all the orange from the uniforms makes things look almost like they’ve been selectively desaturated. I don’t know if I like them or not but I appreciate that they’re trying to root themselves in a sense of brand identity in a way that Topps appears unwilling or unable to attempt.

A ton of 2015 Topps. Which is great since I love this set and this team is the first that my eldest son kind of remembers outside from watching World Series DVDs. As with the 2013 set, there are a few highlights cards in here that I was not aware of so I’m very happy to add those to my collection as well.

I especially like how the World Series highlights in the 2015 set look distinct from the base Giants cards. Different logo and coloring means they stand out in my album as the highlights they are.

And more Donruss. More orange on the uniforms this time is a better look. That 1981 throwback design is one of the rare cases where the homage feels like an improvement on the original. The base designs meanwhile still show an admirable commitment to Donrussness.

And finally some 2016 Bunt which amazingly meshes with my current Bunt cards to give me a complete team set and a 2018 Heritage card which doubles the number of Giants I have from that set (sadly they’re the two Giants with the worst WAR on the team right now).

Some 2016 and 2017 Donruss which demonstrate the problem of leaning too close to Donruss homage. Yes these two designs are distinct. I also found myself getting them completely confused.

The flip side of leaning in to having a year-after-year design consistency is that it’s very easy for each year to become indistinguishable from the previous one. If you asked me what year these cards are from I’d not only be unable to tell you, I’d end up describing them in terms of their original design references. 2014 Donruss is kind of 1987-like. 2015? A little 1985 + more 1987. 2016? Lots of 1991 but only on one color. 2017? 1990 + 1991.

Part of the problem here is that Donruss, more than any other brand in the 1980s, really encapsulated the feel of the time for me where I can point at any Donruss design from 1984–1993 (aside from perhaps 1992) and say that it reflects how part of the world looked at that point.

These new Donruss designs echo that datedness but also whitewash things so they look generically retro. This would work in any given year but the cumulative effect of multiple years of it is that all the distinctiveness is gone.

Anyway this was a great box to go through. I might have to do a second post at some point when I separate everything into piles for my kids to split up and file. But that might be in months since this was too many cards to give them all at once.