Thursday, June 27, 2019

An Interview with my Dad

I've been absolutely swamped the last two months, largely due to long work hours and apartment hunting, and I've had very little time to thinking about cards or the blog. It's unfortunate, but not permanent. My girlfriend and I are moving into a new apartment this weekend (hooray!), so after we're settled in, blogging and collecting should return to normal levels. 

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share a brief interview with my dad. He's the main reason I got into collecting (back in the early 2000s), though he hasn't done much collecting himself since the 90s. Now that we're on opposite ends of the U.S., we FaceTime each other to open up packs and blaster boxes. 

Thanks for answering my questions, Dad!

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When did you start collecting cards? 
Around 1990, I received the complete set of 1990 Topps baseball in uncut sheets. To that point, I’d never thought about buying cards or even collecting, but this opened my eyes to the hobby.

What really got you into collecting? 
I remember being in a store called MacFrugals (now a Big-Lots) and seeing a box of 1992 Pro Line NFL football cards at the check stand. Packs were .25 cents and, on a whim, picked up two packs. I ended pulling an Autographed Joe Montana Portraits card. I remember checking a Beckett’s price guide and seeing it go for about $300-400. I decided to sit on it – it’s sitting in a safe somewhere now.

What cards did you collect? 
I was primarily into baseball, but I did buy NFL, NBA, NHL, and some World Cup Soccer.

Were you a set collector? 
I was never a set collector – I was more interested in getting the valuable cards – if there was such a thing in the junk card era – or at least, collect cards from my favorite teams – LA Dodgers, LA Lakers, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Rangers.

Where did you buy cards? 
There was a local card shop in the little community in Madera Ranchos, California. Odd little story – the owner once told me that he ran over the owner of the Oakland A’s back in the 70s. The shop is long gone, but I probably purchased 95% of my cards from the shop.

Favorite card(s)? 
The 92 Pro Line Joe Montana Auto. No other card specifically sticks out – though I know I have several decent rookie cards.

Biggest change you've seen in the hobby over the last 25 years?  
Topps – and how they seem to own everything and have the only rights to use baseball team names and logos. Gone, it seems, are Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, and O-Pee-Chee companies, though some survive as units of Topps. Having not really followed in the past few years, it seems the sports cards industry has really fallen off. Card shops have seemed to all but disappear. You can still find stores that sell cards, but cards are no longer the focus – it’s more about jerseys, Magic, and other collectibles.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Weird Stats

One of my favorite aspects of the young baseball season is the cherry-picking of absurd baseballer stats that, in most cases, are highly unlikely to continue.

Oh, the Seattle Mariners started the season 6-1? Of course they'll carry a .857 winning percentage all year. (They won't--and they're 12-16 since that hot start.) Cody Bellinger carries a .415 batting average and 14 homers into the second week of May, but he's not going to knock out 76 dingers or end the year with the third-highest single-season batting average of the live ball era.


These stats need time to stablize, of course, but let's take a closer look at the two players below: Dee Gordon and Zack Greinke.




Known speedster Dee Gordon has never been a bat-first type of player, and he's certainly not known for his power. Indeed, his highest single-season homerun total was just last year when he managed to push four balls over the wall (a feat he also accomplished in 2015). He's otherwise scattered seasons of zero, one, or two homers since his debut in 2011. Yet, 32 games into the 2019 season, Gordon already has two homeruns. Is this the year he can break five?


Zack Greinke, on the otherhand, has not been his sharpest this season. He's rebounded a bit after a terrible Opening Day start against the Dodgers, but his best years are definitely behind him. While Greinke's pitching prowress is well-known, it's his bat that has me watching these days. Just read this short excerpt from Devan Fink at Fangraphs:

In 13 plate appearances, Greinke has slashed .500/.545/1.300 (361 wRC+). He has hit two home runs, two doubles, and a single, all while drawing a walk without registering a single strikeout. That’s better than Barry Bonds‘ slash line after 13 plate appearances (.400/.538/.900) in 2004, when he went on to post a ridiculous 1.422 full-season OPS.
While we all know Greinke won't go on to become the next Bonds, anecdotes like these are a blast to discover. Dodger cards I need from Topps Heritage are also a blast to discover, and the Gordon and Greinke cards above come from a recent trade with Chris over at Nachos Grande

For as long as I've been in the hobby, player collecting has perhaps been the area I've been most invested. I've had a number of player PCs over recent years, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, and Adrian Beltre just to name a few. And while adding to these collections is certainly rewarding, it becomes more difficult to committ to once that player is traded, released, or if they've signed with another club. My collection of Matt Kemp cards was the reason I started blogging (I needed somewhere to show that collection off), but he's since been on four teams (Dodgers, Padres, Braves, Dodgers again, and Reds) and was released by his latest team just yesterday. A few years ago I would have been thrilled to add another Kemp card to the PC, but today I'm just happy to add cards that help me build up my Dodgers flagship sets. This pair from 2015 certainly helps. 



In fact, this paif of Dodgers ups the total 2015 cards I have to 6. With 45 Dodgers in the 2015 set, I'm sitting at a measely 13% of the set. With every other set from the decade at over 60% complete, 2015 is definitely an outlier. 


Even worse, this pair of cards from 1998 were my first two cards from that year. It's a much smaller set (17 cards), but I'm sitting at just 11.8% complete. I should focus on the 90s soon.


This package from Chris also included some wonderful 1953 reprints from a recent Topps Archives set. I've never been a big collector of Archives, but I certainly do like these reprints. If only they were the real deal. 


But what's more fun then reprints? Customs! This Clayton Kershaw custom was created by a friend of Chris's, and I'm happy to add it to my Kershaw PC--a PC I won't ever tire of. 

I've been working hard behind the scenes to better catalog my cards, though I've never really thought about counting up my customs. I probably only have a handful, and most of those have probably come from Gavin over at Baseball Card Breakdown (who also recently sent me a package of cards.) I'll post about that swap soon enough, and maybe I'll have some numbers on custom cards at that point. 

Thanks again for the trade, Chris!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Jackie Robinson Day

What can I really say about Jackie Robinson that hasn't already been said? We all know his story and how his actions changed the landscape of Major League Baseball forever and forced Americans to confront their own racial prejudices, baseball fan or not. Perhaps the most important individual in MLB history, Robinson made his debut for the Dodgers on April 15th, 1947, and MLB teams annually honor him leaguewide on this date by wearing his now universally retired number 42. Let's take a moment to remember his legacy all these years later. 

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Of course, one of my primary player collections is Jackie Robinson, despite what my newly updated Player Collections page says. While I've managed to get most of my collection back in my hands in NYC, my dad still has a few of my binders back in California, including my Jackie Robinson/Sandy Koufax binder. Until I can get a better sense of what I do and do not have, I've removed Jackie from that page. I hope to have this updated soon!




Friday, April 12, 2019

A Final Visit to my LCS


Several weeks ago, I dropped by the LCS near my work. Detailed here by Zippy Zappy at Torren' Up Cards, Chameleon Cards & Comics was a 10-minute walk from my office and around the corner from Topps' headquarters. Unfortunately, the landlord decided to hike up the rent, and they had no option but to close--their last day was March 30th. 

Of course, this was beyond disappointing, especially since I had only recently discovered this LCS and it was by far the best NYC has to offer. Their unfortunate demise, however, resulted in a ton of cheap cards, something my frugality certainly appreciated. 

There wasn't a whole lot left by the time I made it into the store, but they still had several boxes of Series 1 hanging around. I had most of the Dodgers out of the set by this point, but it's not often I get to rip hobby packs for a buck each. (I'm still chasing a pair of Dodgers to finish up the Series One set.)

I bought close to twenty packs of Flagship, though I didn't pull anything staggering. This Robin Yount '84 is one of those 150th Anniversary parallels, meaning it's numbered to 150 (I think). Not bad. 

I failed to pull any short prints or #'d parallels other than that Yount, but I did get a Yoan Moncada relic. Not very exciting. Maybe he'll finally break out this year and I can flip it to help pay off student loans. A man can dream, right?

While ripping those packs, I noticed a pack of the Topps Silver promo set hanging out behind the register. I asked the clerk about it, and he said it was mine for five bucks. Sign me up!


The silver packs feature shiny chromium "mojo" cards, and the 50-card set list features current and past stars. Each pack includes four cards, and there is a decent shot at pulling some autos and numbered cards. Of course, as a big fan of the '84 design and a bigger fan of chromium/shiny/refractory cards, I was thrilled to rip the pack. 

This pack netted me the Mike Trout at the top of this post, as well as the sweet green parallel of Kyle Schwarber you see above. It's #'d /99 and will surely make a Cubs fan happy. 

The shop happened to have three more packs, so I bought those, too. 




A great mix of all-time greats (Henderson, Ripken, Mattingly), productive veterans (Posey, Altuve, Yelich) and young studs (Soto, Baez). 


These are some of the coolest cards I've ever seen, and the chromium finish really makes the colors pop. I'm hoping to get these on a scanner soon because my phone's camera is certainly not doing these cards justice. 

Despite the brilliance of the card fronts, the backs are slightly disappointing. Every card comes with the same boilerplate description of the 1984 set (which, fine I guess) but I was hoping Topps would do more to individualize these cards.  


While I walked away from the shop with a ton of great new shiny cardboard, this Ohtani takes the cake. I've been following Ohtani's career for nearly six years now, hoping for the longest time that the two-way phenom would sign with the Dodgers last year. And though he signed with the wrong Southern California team, it's hard not to root for the guy. I've been considering starting an Ohtani PC, though his cards are quite pricy, so I've been hesitant to jump in. 

I was considering collecting the entire set but decided against it. I plan on holding on to the Ohtani, but the rest of these are fair game for anyone that wants to trade out there. 

I only dropped by Chameleon Cards & Comics a handful of times, but I'm sad to see them go. For the city that claims to have it all, it's quite the wasteland for solid card shops. I'm glad I was able to stop in one last time. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Vintage from the Interwebs


It's not that often I find myself buying vintage cardboard. There aren't many good hobby shops nearby and I haven't had the chance to make it to a card show. This means that most of my vintage comes via online purchases, not the most cost-effective way to track down vintage needs. And since I'm pretty light on vintage in my binders now, I need it to be cost-effective. 


And what better way to be cost-effective than with an eBay coupon for a whole three dollars off any purchase. I was tipped off to this coupon through Twitter, and I very quickly decided to put it to use. This 1963 Walt Alston, which is in great condition I might add, was originally $3.15 with free shipping. With that coupon, I snagged it for a meager .15 cents. You can't beat that. 


Just a few days before that purchase, I was back on eBay searching for deals when I came across this Gilliam from 1960. I put in a bid, went to bed, and woke up to find out it was mine for just a buck. After I threw in another greenback for shipping, I was able to call it mine for a shade under subway fare. Not quite as good as that Alston but not a bad deal at all. 


There are 37 Dodgers in the 1960 set and with the addition of the Gilliam, I'm now up to 7 (18.9%). That's nowhere close to completing the set, but it's surprising that I've made this much progress to date considering the large setlist. That Alston card from above marks only the second Dodger I've tracked down from 1963, so there is certainly more work to be done there, too.  

Tracking down cheap vintage may not be an easy task, but I still find it quite enjoyable--coupon or not. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Contest Winner Announced

We have a winner for the Cal Ripken Jr. Medallion card!

I randomized the list 8 times in honor or Mr. Ripken, and here are the results. 


Congrats to Adam! I've got your address already, so I'll be getting this card out to you soon. 

Thanks to all those who participated!

Monday, April 1, 2019

It's Trading Season: Cards from Infield Fly Rule

I recently completed a swap with Adam of Infield Fly Rule. I had a few Rockies in need of a new home and some fun shiny stuff, so I reached out to Adam and we quickly came to an agreement. 

I've been largely working on building my Dodgers team sets from flagship for the past few months, and Adam definitely helped put a dent in some of my want lists. 



With the exception of 2015, I''m pretty close to completing most Dodgers sets from the past decade. 2011 Update Series has been a particularly hard set to finish off, so this pair of Ethiers was well-appreciated. I'm six cards away from completing the 2011 set, with four of those needed cards hailing from Update Series. I'm hoping I can knock out this set some point this spring. 




While I can probably knock out most of the sets from the 2010s this year, the Dodgers sets from the 2000s will probably take me much longer. Take the fun black-bordered 2007 set, for example. Including Topps Traded, the Dodgers checklist contains 33 cards. With the addition of the Proctor and Drew cards above, I now have three cards from the set.  I definitely need to get a move on here. 




My lack of cards from the 2000s is quite surprising actually. I started collecting back in 2002 after finding a Shawn Green card in a box of cereal while making myself breakfast. In fact, that card inspired me to really start paying attention to the Dodgers and baseball, and I've been hooked ever since. In hindsight, it's probably the most important bowl of cereal I'll ever eat. 

Despite the fact that I started collecting back in the 2000s, I only have a handful of cards remaining in my possession and they are mostly in my Shawn Green binder. The rest have been lost to bicycle spokes, ill-fated trips to Goodwill, and various family pets over the years. Most everything else was donated or sent across the blogosphere when I stepped away from collecting a few years ago. 

Still, I never managed to track down many Dodgers from the start of the millennium, so these two from 2004 are a push in the right direction. I've always been a huge fan of the 2004 set--you gotta love those foil silhouettes--though the cards aren't ideal for folks with iPhones. Lighting was not on my side, so much of the foil work on these cards is difficult to read. 


Another needed card from the 2000s, this time from the 2006 set. Hendrickson was a tall lefty listed at a healthy 6'9". His time with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2007 was fairly forgettable, but it's hard to ignore his impressive feat of pitching in the big leagues and playing in the NBA, one of only 13 players to ever do both. It's also hard to ignore the approaching fog behind Hendrickson. Quite the photo. 

Of course, Adam included quite a few other fun pieces in this trade, and I'm extremely thankful. Thanks for the trade, Adam!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Contest Time: 2016 Topps Baseball Cal Ripken Jr. MLB Debut Medallion

I've officially been living in New York for a year-and-a-half. That calls for a contest. 

This contest is for a 2016 Topps Baseball S1 Cal Ripken Jr. MLB Debut Medallion. Contest ends 4/3/19 at 9:00pm EST. The rules will be explained below. Good luck!

To enter this contest, simply leave a comment on this post. You can enter once per day until the contest ends. 
The winner will be selected using Random.org, and will be notified via email. The winner will have one week to send me their mailing address. I will ship the card (along with some other goodies) to the winner for free. 
Good luck!

Monday, March 25, 2019

My First Trade in Five Years

I recently completed my first trade in nearly five (!) years, this time with Dion of Dion's Autograph Collection

Dion reached out to me in search of some autos, and I had several I was willing to move to help me move closer to completing some sets. And he certainly helped out with that.


Dion sent over a generous hodgepodge of Dodgers from over the years, including the cards from the 70s seen above. It's a bit hidden, but that Walt Alston card is the second card of his I've acquired in the last few weeks. 


Most of my Dodgers team sets outside of this millennium are still in their infancy, with the exception of a few sets from the late-80s and early-90s. Dion managed to triple the number of 75s in my collection, while simultaneously alerting me to a few holes in my checklists. While my checklists include all of the normal player base cards from a set, they are often missing other Dodgers cards that aren't player specific, e.g those spectacular MVP cards from the 1975 set above. Where do you all find your checklists for older sets? 


I recently shared my thoughts on 2019 Heritage and quickly realized I still didn't have a 1970 Dodgers card in my 70s binder. Dion fixed this with a well-loved rookie of Jack Jenkins and Bill Buckner. One of these guys is more well-known than the other.  


More cards I needed from 1983 and 1984 sets, including a fun Ron Cey. 


Dion also included a ton of modern cards in this package, including a pair of new cards for my new Justin Turner PC. That Donruss oddly lists Turner as a 2nd baseman, even though Turner has played primarily at third for the Dodgers since arriving to LA in 2014. Hell, Turner hasn't played predominately at second since 2011. Oh well, it's still a pretty cool card. Who doesn't love a dirty jersey?


A pair of new Kershaw's also found their way into this trade. Bask in the full emotional range of Clayton Kershaw



An errant Shawn Green card found in a box of cereal nearly 17 years ago was one of the catalysts that led to my Dodgers fandom and, later, my baseball card obsession. I hadn't added to my Shawn Green PC in quite some time, so this fun die-cut was a welcome addition. It's a bit hard to see in the photo, but it's also #'d to 99. Cool beans. 

There were quite a few more cards included in this wonderful trade--too many to photograph in the dull light of my apartment, however. I really need to get a scanner. Thanks, Dion!

This swap with Dion was my first trade in nearly five years. How I managed to go that long without exchanging cardboard through the mail defeats me, but I do know this swap marks my forceful return to the hobby.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Stuff

I found myself with time to kill while gallivanting around Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, and I happened to find my way into a card shop. Well, I suppose it's more of a comic shop, but they had some cards and I had some cash, so it seemed like a good fit. 

They had a few baseball products (Series 1 and Heritage) but mostly purveyed in non-sports cards. And while I primarily collect baseball, I didn't have much of a choice when I found loose packs of Doctor Who cards. 




I am a huge Whovian, that is, a fan of Doctor Who. Or, as my girlfriend would probably say, a huge nerd. 

For those unfamiliar, Doctor Who is a long-running show on the BBC that originally premiered in 1963. It aired until 1989 but was revived in 2006. It follows the Doctor (played at times by several different men--and one woman) and his companions as they travel across space and time. It's so incredibly cheesy and dorky, and I love it. If you have Amazon Prime Video and are itching for a new show to watch, I'd highly recommend it--just prepare for some of the worst special effects ever in the first couple of seasons. 

There have been a few different Doctor Who products over the past few years, including two signature series sets where the focus has been on the autos. The packs I found at this card shop, however, were not from the signature series sets; rather, they hail from the 2015 Topps Doctor Who set. 


The set features a variety of characters and scenes from the show, broken into sets of "Time Lords," "Companions," "Aliens," and Villians," among others. This Krafayis card happens to be an alien (and villian) from one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes: Vincent and the Doctor. I highly suggest any Van Gogh fans check this episode out. Sneak peek below.





The Doctor has had his fair share of gadgets over the years, including the adorable K9. It's a dog and a robot. Twice the pet and none of the mess. 



I didn't manage to find an auto in any of the packs I bought (I'll get my hands on a David Tennant signature one of these days), though I did get a nice hit of sorts: a blue parallel #'d to 199 of The War Doctor. 


The War Doctor was depicted by John Hurt in a few episodes in 2013. Sadly, Hurt passed away just over two years ago. 


The back of these cards are fairly basic but provide some cool information, including a quick recap of the character and an Origin Year which serves as a quick and easy guide to the character's origin. The Tardis is also a cool addition. 


While most of the cards in the set focus in on characters and moments from "New" Who (a colloquial term for the revived version of the show) there are some great cards of moments from the first iteration of the show. I've yet to go back and watch any of the original series, but the Fourth Doctor seems like a fun character.

I've considered purchasing a box of Doctor Who cards for some time now, but I haven't yet pulled the trigger. There are some great autos mixed into the product, including David Tennant, Alex Kingston, and Billie Piper, but the price point hasn't been low enough yet. I imagine I'll probably chase the base sets in the near future, however. 

The universe is big, it's vast and it's complicated. Any other Whovians out there?