Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Trading Post #5: All the Way to the Backstop

When it nears the end of a month, things tend to get a little crazy at work. Though I am awash in cards right now (I've picked up a 5000-count box at each of the last two monthly card shows), it's unlikely that I'll be able to make another post in October, which means that I've done a whole month of nothing but trade posts!

Wrapping up my first round of trades, I received a shipment of assorted cardboard from Marcus, the writer of the Padres-focused All the Way to the Backstop. I found plenty of Gwynns and Finleys for him, as you can see here.

Before this shipment, I was not familiar with this insert set from 2013 Topps. This example of Making Their Mark shows Wilin Rosario taking a mighty cut in Coors Field.

2013 Topps Making Their Mark #MM-10 Wilin Rosario
There's just enough purple in this design without it being distracting. It's more of an accent, even showing up in "Baby Bull's" batting gloves and in the dugout roof (perhaps the best clue for spotting a Coors Field Card).

I haven't been this much into collecting in many, many years, so I've gotten to know the 2014 Topps set pretty well. That's why this Dylan Bundy card jumped out at me, since I didn't recognize it at all. I did a little digging and it turns out this is a rare variation short-print card, few of which I've seen in person.

2014 Topps #531B Dylan Bundy SP (USA Jersey)
This inspired me to re-examine several stacks from my extras box, and I was able to locate a couple others, like this "Rally Squirrel" variant of David Freese's 2012 issue.

2012 Topps #273B David Freese SP (Holding Squirrel)
These short prints are a bit of a pain to identify in a giant stack of duplicates, but...Squirrel!

For all the overproduction cardboard out there, I seem to have relatively few insert cards from that era. They're much appreciated, especially when they're of Griffey, Jr. or his superstar twin, Frank Thomas, the two who tended to command the highest Beckett values in those heady days.

1992 Fleer All-Stars #23 Ken Griffey, Jr.
It's a bit off-centered and has an unsightly print spot, but 1992 was before card companies got crazy with gold foil and LSD designs. Just a nice, simple, black-bordered card with a bit of gold accent to catch the eye.

Marcus also threw in some extra-premium cards, one from a millennium-era SP Authentic set, and another from the ultra-expensive Topps Museum Collection.

2000 SP Authentic #52 Fernando Tatis
2012 Topps Museum Collection #23 Tony Gwynn
These two have surprisingly similar designs, considering they're from different companies and separated by a dozen years. I believe this is now my fifth card from Museum Collection (equivalent to a pack), and I doubt I've paid more than a buck or two for them all. Which is odd, because a box of merely twenty usually retails in the $200 range.

2013 Topps Museum Collection Green #95 Harmon Killebrew /199
And two of those five are serial numbered, like the one above, which I believe came from a dealer's dollar box. How this sort of stuff ends up in discount boxes is beyond me.

The baseball playoffs, and especially the World Series, tend to remind me of the history of this great sport. The copper-colored Sweet Spot Classic set is one of my favorites that features stars from long ago.

2005 Sweet Spot Classic #60 Mickey Cochrane
The back of this card gives a short history of Mickey Cochrane's World Series successes, noting that he won three rings with two different clubs, including two under legendary manager Connie Mack. Depending on what happens in Game 7 tonight, we'll either have a slew of first-time winners, or some October veterans adding to their collection of championships, just like Cochrane.

It's been a great series, as we've witnessed some very impressive defense and pitching performances. Regardless of the outcome, the conclusion of Game 7 is sure to be a bittersweet moment. Spring is a long time away.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Trading Post #4: Bob Walk the Plank

Matthew might have one of the best blog names in this whole community.

Bob Walk the Plank is now on my rapidly growing list of trading partners. I sent him some Pirates in a blind trade, and he quickly responded with a shipment of his own. His trade post is already up, and he appropriately picked out a few Bob Walk cards to display.

What an unfortunate name for a pitcher, by the way. Almost as bad as Grant Balfour.

Matthew must pay a fair bit of attention to the MLB at large, as one of three autographed cards he included was from Drew Stubbs' collegiate days. One has to keep up pretty closely to follow all these players around.

2008 Donruss Threads Diamond Kings Signatures #DK-9 Drew Stubbs /465
Stubbs is a fairly obscure player, and he didn't have a spectacular year with the Rockies, but I always appreciate cards of current or former Rockies, even if they're pictured on a different team. Pre-expansion draft cards of the early Blake Street Bombers—such as Walt Weiss on the A's or Vinny Castilla as a Bravemake pre-1993 sets a bit more interesting.

1992 Fleer #666 Vinny Castilla RC
It seems that the Rockies used to do quite a few more transactions than they have in recent years. There has been persistent buzz that Tulowitzki will be traded to the Yankees, but other than that, they've been pretty quiet on the trading front. Perhaps their long-awaited new GM will change that a bit.

But I'm glad they hung on to this guy for his whole career.

2005 Donruss Elite Series Black #ES-24 Todd Helton /100
Todd Helton was a Rockie for 17 years, in fact, matching his uniform number, which the Rockies retired in August. The concession stand in left field at Coors Field is even named after him.

You know you've made it when you have your name on a hot dog stand.

In a team bag separate from these "hits" was a complete oddball set! Sets like these rarely contain more than a couple dozen cards, so it's surprising how unusual it is to find the whole checklist in one place.

1989 Topps Cap'n Crunch #9 George Brett
1989 Topps Cap'n Crunch #20 Kirby Puckett
More than anything, the thing that bugs me about unlicensed sets are those giant blank baseball caps. But I guess they call them oddballs for a reason. One can only imagine how much Cap'n Crunch was required to obtain the entire 22-card set—and in what state the roof of your mouth would be in after all that cereal.

Thanks to Matthew and others, I have plenty of cards to sort! This will be a fun activity to do with the World Series on TV, which commences Tuesday. I wouldn't mind seeing George Brett's Royals take this year's championship. The Giants are not to be counted out, as we've seen in recent years, but the Royals haven't lost a game this whole postseason, even eclipsing the record tied by the Rockies in their 2007 run.

Thanks to the generosity of my readers, I've done nothing but trade posts on this blog all month, and there are still more where that came from!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Trading Post #3: Chavez Ravining

In a bid to narrow his focus, Alex at Chavez Ravining recently offered some of his extras for sale. I took him up on three of his "mystery packs" for a small PayPal payment. He might even still have a few left as he has been moving the parts of his collection that don't fit anymore.

I debated whether to file this under my "Trading Post" theme as I didn't actually send him cards in return, but I am leaning toward filing anything that is sourced from the blogosphere as a "trade", just because this is a great community and it's easy to hyperlink. Ctrl+K for the win!

These mystery packs consisted of a wide assortment of recent cards, with plenty of shiny stuff and die cuts to keep things interesting. He may have read a recent post of mine in which I covered what might be the craziest die-cut card to ever hit the industry, as I now have another Chrome Collections card, and it's of a Rockie, no less!

2013 Topps Chrome Chrome Connections Die Cuts #CC-CG Carlos Gonzalez
As my longtime readers know, one of my projects is a mini-collection consisting of photos taken in Coors Field. As you might imagine, finding cards like this that aren't Rockies or even NL West teams are quite scarce. Nonetheless, Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez appears here delivering a pitch with the forest in the background.

2014 Topps Gypsy Queen Dealing Aces #DA-JF Jose Fernandez
Though this card highlights some impressive feats of Fernandez's 2013 season, his 2014 campaign was sadly cut short due to Tommy John surgery. I hope to see him come back strong next year.

As an aside, the area beyond the center field wall at Coors Field has a lot going on. There's a water feature that's been there since day one, which gets turned on after Rockies home runs and wins. Over the years, they've added many evergreen trees that are native to Colorado, ivy on the batter's eye, solar panels, and boulders sourced from local quarries. The visitors' bullpen is directly attached to this area, so out-of-town pitchers can see how beautiful Colorado is. There is even the occasional family of ducks out there. It's part of what makes it one of the most beautiful ballparks in the whole sport.

As I'm generally a Topps fan, I must admit that I haven't paid much attention to recent Panini releases, nor their resurrection of the Donruss brand. But from what little I've seen, they seem to be paying proper homage to past releases.

2014 Donruss Press Proofs Silver #96 Matt Carpenter /199
The card back is a straight replica of pretty much every Donruss back you remember from the overproduction days, and they even brought back the "Press Proof" parallels from the mid-1990s. I recall pulling one of Matt Williams back then, which is still in my collection.

1995 Donruss Press Proofs #365 Matt Williams
1995 Press Proof parallels have a stated print run of 2,000 (a number that seemed impossibly scarce in 1995), though they weren't serial numbered, much like the early Topps Stadium Club First Day Issues.

I mentioned there were lots of shiny cards in these mystery packs, and this one from 2014 Heritage especially caught my attention.

2014 Topps Heritage Chrome Purple Refractors #THC-432 Jay Bruce
Labeled as a "refractor" on the back, I seem to remember earlier years of Heritage refractor parallels having serial numbers, where the print run matched the year they were reproducing. This one would have been /1965 had that trend continued.

Alex also included a nice assortment of insert cards. From the pyro-themed Fired Up insert set, here's Jason Kipnis getting ready to throw his batting helmet in either disgust or celebration.

2014 Topps Opening Day Fired Up #UP-30 Jason Kipnis
Fun fact: Kipnis was a high-school classmate of my coworker's younger brother.

Poor Yu Darvish. He alone sums up the Rangers' struggles when they're only one out (or strike) from history.

2014 Topps The Future is Now #FN-28 Yu Darvish
This card recalls the unfortunate events of April 2, 2013, where Darvish took a perfect game two outs into the 9th inning, then gave up a hit. He did almost the same thing this past May, losing a perfect game in the 7th, but maintaining a no-hitter until he had only one out to go. I'm sure I don't have to bring up the 2011 World Series to Texas Rangers fans, when they were twice within one strike of winning it all in Game 6, but couldn't seal the deal. David Freese, the deciding factor of that game, was knocked out of this year's playoffs as an Angel.

I recently expressed admiration for 2013's Chasing The Dream insert set that I have been...chasing. This doesn't look quite as good without the White Sox color scheme as seen on Addison Reed's card, but it's still an elegant design and I'm on the hunt for more.

2013 Topps Chasing the Dream #CD-22 Drew Smyly
To wrap things up, I mentioned in a previous post that I was considering building a set of 2013 Topps Emerald. I found quite a deal on eBay last week, and won an auction for over half the base set! The Mystery Packs added to that with another Emerald.

2013 Topps Update Emerald #US176 Matt Lindstrom
Alex may be narrowing his focus, but he hit the sweet spot of my collection.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Trading Post #2: A Cracked Bat

The trade packages are starting to roll in! My second one came from Julie at A Cracked Bat, who sent over some Rockies in exchange for a shipment of Tigers.

I've been having a lot of fun sending out and receiving trades. I didn't have too many trading partners when I was young other than my next door neighbor. I remember once getting a bunch of hockey cards for free at a mall card show long ago, and traded him most of the Quebec Nordiques shortly after they announced they would move and become the Colorado Avalanche.

Anyway, it's certainly a great way to send some of my extra cards to collectors who might appreciate them more, rather than them just taking up space in a giant duplicates box (hint, hint). Having trading partners and putting together trade packages really lets you look at a batch of cards from someone else's perspective, which can be quite refreshing. Not to mention the obvious benefit of free cards in return!

Julie's been quite active in the community recently, as I noticed she sent a shipment of Blue Jays to Robert at $30 a Week Habit not long ago, and sent Pirates to Matthew at Bob Walk the Plank, whose trade post went up mere minutes ago. As you'll see, the contents of my Rockies shipment mirrored those two pretty closely, and here are some of my favorites, starting with one of the best-ever examples of a team-colored set.

1995 Select #10 Dante Bichette
Just look at all that purple! I'd like to see a Cardinal or Red from this set - the marbled area on the right must look a bit like a steak. Score put out some underrated and well-designed sets under the Select brand in the early- to mid-1990s, other than their 1994 release which had that odd gold bar right down the middle.

1994 Select #174 John Smoltz
Next, a very prominently-placed Pinnacle logo caught my eye as Eric Young rounded the bases and lost his batting helmet.

1994 Pinnacle #133 Eric Young
As his son has been in the Majors for some time, I suppose we ought to start calling him Eric Young, Sr.

Keeping a sharp eye on batting helmets, something about this Charlie Hayes from 1994 Upper Deck looked strange to me.

1994 Upper Deck #167 Charlie Hayes
I don't recall Hayes having a mustache, so I thought they may have swapped in a photo of a different player, but then I noticed the numeral "8" on his batting helmet. Flipping the card over shows him wearing #13, so he must have worn someone else's helmet during that particular at-bat.

However, these weren't all from the first few years of the Rockies' existence. Julie indulged my love of Shiny with a recent example of 2013's NL batting champion.

2014 Topps Chrome #157 Michael Cuddyer
After the Rockies acquired aging Twins stars Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, one can't help but expect that Joe Mauer will be close behind.

Julie's trade package culminated with one of the best Rockies pitchers ever.

2002 Studio Private Signings #92 Jason Jennings /250
Yes, a signed and serial numbered card of Jason Jennings, who threw a complete game shutout in his debut start in 2001! That feat is even documented on the reverse of this card. Granted, "one of the best Rockies pitchers ever" isn't the highest of accolades, but it will go nicely with another autograph card already in my collection.

1999 Topps Traded Autographs #T70 Jason Jennings
Looks like Jennings changed up his signature a bit once he entered the Majors. I don't have too many certified autographs, but Jason Jennings is one of only two representatives of the Rockies in that stack, the other being Garrett Atkins, which I showed last month. An odd coincidence, and thanks again to Julie for the trade!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Trading Post #1: Hot Corner Cards

As promised not long ago, it's time for my first-ever trade post! I took advantage of the "Take My Team Sets" offer at Hot Corner Cards, and in exchange for some Tigers, received a shipment primarily containing the Cubs I requested, along with a couple team bags full of Rockies, thanks to Pat's generosity.

Though I am sort of drowning in unfiled cards at the moment, getting a box full of Stuff You Didn't Specifically Pick Out is always interesting. Inevitably, that will result in some duplicates.

1993 Fleer Ultra #352 Darren Holmes
But no matter, as even though I already had that Darren Holmes card, there is always plenty more that I haven't seen before.

2010 Bowman Gold #204 Eric Young, Jr
One interesting aspect of collecting Rockies is that there aren't really any pre-1993 Rockies cards. I've seen a couple of commemorative cards circa-1992 that honor the founding of the franchise, but the bulk of them only started appearing when there was plenty of gold foil to go around. Of course, you won't find any Rockies in legendary vintage sets like 1975 Topps (save for the plethora of retro-themed products like Heritage and Archives), but the flip side of that coin means that there is a conspicuous lack of overproduction-era cards in a stack of Rockies. I guess that's one way to keep 1990 Topps from accumulating like tribbles.

But anyway. I asked for Cubs, and Cubs I did receive.

2014 Bowman #16 Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro looks extremely late on that swing, assuming that whitish blob is actually the baseball and not a Photoshop job or even the rosin bag. Looking at Castro's eyes in this photo, the ball still seems to be far away, not right on his wrists. This doesn't look like a major-league action photo to me, but more like I probably looked the first time I faced the 48-mph pitching machine in little league.

1997 Flair Showcase Row 2 Showpiece #84 Mel Rojas
Here's a nice shiny card from the post-strike 1990s, when all the card companies were trying to out-shiny, out-cursive, and out-fracture the rest. Yes, this is from a fractured set, meaning your brain will hurt if you try to figure out how it's numbered. Beckett lists six varieties of each card number, but they don't take into account the three different possible card backs, nor the one-of-one Masterpiece parallels, so by my count, each card has 27 varieties.

And now my brain hurts.

Incidentally, 1997 Flair Showcase was the set that introduced one-of-one parallels to the hobby, forever giving "supercollectors" a giant headache.

Back to a bit of normalcy, Ernie Banks makes an appearance on this recent mini insert that pays homage to 1989 Topps with a sort-of borderless interpretation.

2014 Topps '89 Topps Die Cut Minis #TM35 Ernie Banks
I like this die-cut design - the extra curves on the corners give it a pleasing appearance but without introducing excessive fragility like other non-rectangular cards.

And last, now-Dodger Darwin Barney with a celebratory action shot on what has to be my favorite parallel set of all time.

2013 Topps Emerald #299 Darwin Barney
I've featured Topps Emerald on this blog already, but there's just something about this green that looks so amazing and eye-catching. This could be a massive and expensive undertaking, but I'm considering chasing the complete parallel set. Perhaps green really is my favorite color. I have quite a few cards from 1994 Finest, which has a similar color scheme. And just take a look at my blog's background, for that matter.

I expect there will be more posts like this to come, as I am finally embracing some real interaction with this blog community. I have a stack of cards picked out for Julie at A Cracked Bat, as well as a few shipments on the way from her and others. After all, these things are called "trading cards", and there are some wonderful people in the blogosphere that help them live up to their name.