Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Trading Post #35: The Angels, In Order

Earlier this month, I commented on a post at The Angels, In Order, requesting a Larry Walker card he offered for trade from a stack of Pinnacle Mint Condition.

1998 Pinnacle Mint Brass Coin #24 Larry Walker
Like many sets from the late 1990s, I'd neither heard of nor seen this one before, but I was interested enough to add it to my collection. I've been on a little bit of a Pinnacle kick lately, as I recently wrote about the anti-counterfeit rectangle printed on the back of all their cards. This one has it too, reading "PBI '98" when viewed under the Pinnacle Authenticator Lens.

Besides the obviously unusual gold coin embedded in this card, super slugger Larry Walker looks to be laying down a bunt in this photo. It's an odd one, to say the least. There are logos all over that coin, including both the Rockies team logo and cap logo on the front, plus two Pinnacle logos, the MLB logo, and the MLBPA logo on the back. It also has "Limited Edition" lettering on the back, though there is no serial number.

The coins were available in a variety of colors (how original), and I believe this is the base Brass version. There were also Nickel, Gold Plated and even solid silver coins available in packs, and Pinnacle ran a redemption program for a /1 solid gold coin. That would be worth a cool $1200 at today's prices, plus maybe a dime or so for the underlying cardboard.

I bought a sort-of similar Garret Anderson card at a recent card show with The Angels, In Order in mind, which I'll have to get sent out next month once things settle down a bit. I have a lot planned for June and early July, starting off with a trip to Austria next week! I may even have a #WalletCard entry once I get back.

This card came in a simple PWE, along with a few other Rockies cards from the mid 1990s, my favorite of which was this one:

1996 Pinnacle Foil #391 Quinton McCracken
Yep, another Pinnacle card. I actually do miss this brand a little bit. Though it doesn't have a fancy embedded minted object, this foil parallel is still nice and shiny. This year had a vertical back, which mentions that McCracken played football for Duke before he started his pro baseball career.

Still in a road uniform, utility player McCracken made another appearance in this PWE on a Collector's Choice card.

1997 Collector's Choice #101 Quinton McCracken
With only two seasons of stats by then, the reverse has a lengthy writeup on his performance in 1996. It mentions his role in one of the most memorable games in Rockies history, June 30th, 1996. I remember watching that Sunday afternoon game a week or so before I went to Boy Scout camp, and it was an unbelievably wild one, even by pre-humidor Coors Field standards.

After six lead changes and four hours of play (without even reaching extra innings), McCracken delivered the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Dodgers 16-15. It's a favorite among longtime fans, and is one of a dozen or so games that is occasionally replayed in a condensed format on Root Sports, the Rockies' cable channel.

Thanks to The Angels, In Order for this coin card, and that trip down memory lane!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Trading Post #34: Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary

This is already the fourth trading post I've done for cards received from Brian at Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary. He is a great trader and consistently does a fantastic job of finding great cards for me.

2014 Topps Chrome Black Refractors #190 Carlos Gonzalez /100
When I tell people what I collect, I usually say something along the lines of shiny, serial numbered, or Rockies. Brian hit the trifecta with a low-numbered colored parallel from 2014 Topps Chrome. The refractor finish really pops on a black-bordered card, which is thick enough and well-coated enough to probably not chip, unlike the 1992 Pinnacles and 1971 Toppses of the world. The only thing that could make it better is if CarGo were wearing the Rockies black alternate jerseys, like Jeff Baker on my previous post.

In addition to that gorgeous rarity above, Brian sent a little bit of everything, starting with a brand that wouldn't be out of place in one of Nick's horror movies.

2014 Topps Gypsy Queen #9 Nolan Arenado
There's something unnatural about the way they process photos for this brand. It's probably some kind of HDR treatment, perhaps a bit of rotoscoping. But they make the shadows look extremely shadowy, and it just gives the card kind of a creepy feel.

I feel like these tobacco-era reproductions have gotten a bit long in the tooth, although this year's Gypsy Queen is a strong effort.

2001 Topps Heritage #147 Masato Yoshii
But when Topps Heritage first hit the shelves, it was a brilliant idea. Of course, Topps has since applied the usual gimmicks to the product, but when they repurposed the iconic 1952 design to launch the brand, I think we all knew it had staying power.

I usually find facsimile signatures completely distracting and interfering, but in the '52 set, there's a perfect little spot for them. And the first-ever Japanese player to suit up for the Rockies gives us one of the most interesting facsimile signatures of them all.

Brian was sure to include some mid-1990s cards decked out in gold foil. Of course, pretty much every card from that era had gold foil, but Topps Gold arguably kickstarted that trend.

1993 Topps Gold #606 Jayhawk Owens
Then, as now, the gold-on-gold lettering is pretty hard to read, but we can at least see that Topps elected to just use Jayhawk Owens' first initial, rather than his unusual name. I've heard a few explanations for this, ranging from Owens' own embarassment about his name, to Topps simply not believing that he went by Jayhawk.

1997 Pinnacle Inside #147 Neifi Perez
By the time Coors Field had a season or two under its belt, gold foil had taken the hobby by storm. Neifi Perez wasn't my favorite Rockie of the time, as he had a tendency to choke in the clutch, but he was a solid middle infielder.

One fun fact about Pinnacle cards that I learned quite recently is that they have an anti-counterfeit measure. We all know about the Upper Deck hologram, but Pinnacle did something similar starting in 1991. Flip almost any Pinnacle card over (or even Score, if you move a few years forward in your collection), and you'll see a small, gray rectangle with very narrow black lines.

1997 Pinnacle Inside #147 Neifi Perez (Reverse)
Assuming you are armed with an official Pinnacle Authenticator Lens, a card-sized piece of plastic that is ridged on one side, (sort of like a Fresnel lens), you'll be able to ensure that your haul from the dime box is the real deal. Picture a transparent version of a Sportflix or Opening Day Stars card, and you've got the idea. Align the ridges horizontally over the gray rectangle, and you'll see alternating rainbow colors. Do so vertically and you'll get some lettering like "Pinnacle", "Score", or on the card above, "PBI 97", for Pinnacle Brands, Inc.

I'm sure this could easily be defeated with the high-definition imaging tools we have today, but it was a clever and hopeful idea to implement as the baseball card bubble inflated.

Die cut cards may have been a bit less clever. There's really not much you can do with them besides cut a fairly boring curve or two, or just go completely nuts and give it more facets than a cut diamond. There's not a lot of middle ground.

2000 Crown Royale #45 Rolando Arrojo
My girlfriend thumbed through this stack when the envelope came. She seemed to enjoy a few of them (though wasn't so wild about '95 Fleer). When she got to this one, she said, in her best little-kid voice, "Who's the princess?!"

Seriously, Pacific.

Although, if anyone cared enough to send off a card like this for grading, finding a Gem Mint 10 with that many opportunities for flaws seems next to impossible.

2004 Ultra Gold Medallion #179 Rene Reyes
My collection of Fleer Ultra cards is heavily weighted toward the pre-strike era. After 1994, it drops off precipitously. That's why I had no idea that the gold medallion parallels from 2004 were die-cut. Yes, the upper left corner is curved, which reminds me of 1989 Topps and its related die-cut mini insert set from 2014. It's nice, but if all you're going to do is just round off one corner, why cut it at all?

Die cuts are usually interesting to look at, but they're pretty delicate, and are pretty tough to put in a 9-pocket page without dinging at least one of their many edges. Maybe I'll change my tune a bit if I complete one of those hexagonal triumvirates combos from 2014 Stadium Club.

1993 SP #153 Bret Saberhagen
Apparently I have a Bret Saberhagen player collection now.

This (literally) Super Premium set from 1993 gives you that aforementioned Upper Deck hologram in gold, as well as the usual legendary Upper Deck photography, and a bit of color-coding, to boot.

I'm guessing he wasn't pitching that day.

1995 Fleer Lumber Company #7 Fred McGriff
We'll wrap things up here with what might be the tamest card to be found in all of 1995 Fleer. I'd have been totally on board if they made this the base set, then saved the LSD-inspired craziness for an insert set.

What's extra special about this card is that it was from my Eight Men Out list! This particular card of the Crime Dog happens to be the last one I needed to complete this 10-card insert set, and it's the third time Brian spent the time and money to pick up a specific card on my behalf. The Eight Men out list has already been a huge success, and I have bloggers like Brian, as well as my family, to thank.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

'Twas the Season

You might think it's a little late for me to post my winnings from a contest that Jeff at 2x3 Heroes ran at the end of 2014.

And you'd be right. I sat on this one for quite a while.

Back in December, I put my name in Jeff's virtual hat and won the final of 15 available slots in his 'Tis the Season giveaway. I'll get to the bulk of my winnings later on, but Jeff was kind enough to throw in a small helping of Rockies cards to sweeten the deal.

2009 Topps Wal-Mart Black Border #166 Jeff Baker
Starting things off is a black-bordered parallel from 2009 Topps. This looks fantastic with the black jerseys that the Rockies wear on occasion, and even the foil looks pretty good when the rest of the card is blacked out. My scanner significantly lightened up the shadows; this looks darker in person.

2000 Ultimate Victory #90 Ben Petrick
Continuing the theme of colored borders, Rockies catcher Ben Petrick appears here on an Ultimate Victory base card. These are a little fancier than just the plain Victory set, as these have a nice blue and silver foil, as well as a slight raised surface on the player's outline.

2009 SP Authentic #85 Brad Hawpe
Though this penultimate SP Authentic set fell flat with collectors, the 2009 set has grown on me more and more. I actually have quite a few of these, as they tended to turn up frequently in eBay bulk lots a few years ago. Its simplicity is quite the contrast to the previous two cards, and I actually find it pretty distinctive.

2008 Upper Deck Documentary #2499 Matt Holliday
Jeff was sure to throw in a Coors Field card, from the unbelievably gigantic 2008 UD Documentary set. Two cards for every game played (one for each team) means there were close to five thousand cards in this set. The Rockies July 6th card, #2499 featuring Matt Holiday, falls right smack in the middle. I have to wonder if any devoted collectors actually completed the whole thing and filled a five-row storage box.

1994 Ultra #188 Armando Reynoso
This Reynoso card is from a set that is far easier to complete, 1994 Ultra. Reynoso was one of my favorite pitchers in the early days of the Rockies, and had an amazingly effective pickoff move. I even remember him hitting a home run, still a rarity for pitchers not named Madison Bumgarner.

My girlfriend said that she'd like to start seeing more than just Rockies cards on this blog. My collection spans all teams, but my trade packages tend to be limited to just the Rockies. I know I have two upcoming posts that feature non-Rockies, including a former Eight Men Out card. so keep your eyes peeled for those.

2014 Donruss #227 Carlos Gomez DK
I'm not sure whether Jeff intended to include this card or if he just glanced at the "Carlos G" name and tossed it in.

When I first saw it, I thought to myself, "I don't remember Carlos Gonzalez ever having a beard like that," so Jeff may have made the same false identification as I did. Upon closer examination, this card is actually of Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez.

Like most of the recent Donruss cards, it's a faithful homage to the original designs both front and back. It's probably losing points with collectors for being "too retro", a second strike against the Panini brand that is already devoid of MLB logos and team names.

Which is probably why I thought a Brewer was a Rockie.

More on that later.

2014 Topps Football #225 Demaryius Thomas
That's unusual, you might be saying. Again, you'd be right.

Most of what I won in this giveaway consisted of football cards. They filled most of a small Priority Mail box, aside from a team bag of Rockies cards.

As a Colorado native, I do consider myself a Broncos fan, although with all the continued and worsening PR disasters, pro football keeps dropping down my list of preferred sports. The Patriots' antics with deflated game balls would be quite the scandal under normal circumstances, but it pales in comparison to all the domestic violence that keeps coming to light.

Regardless, though I traded most of them to my usual dealer at last month's card show, I did pick out a handful of cards to save, most of which were Broncos.

2014 Topps Fantasy Strategies #FFS-ED Eric Decker
Or at least former Broncos.

Eric Decker led off his career well in Denver but is now playing for the New York Jets, as pictured. I love all this green. I might have to keep an eye out for more Jets cards if they look this good.

2014 Rookies and Stars Longevity Team Logo Holofoil #40 Chris Ivory /32
So is this guy, although I've never heard of him. But I'll be happy to keep any card numbered as low as /32. As I primarily collect baseball, it's highly unusual to see an official team name and logo on a Panini card. But if I collected more sports, I might be a little more used to this. By next year, all the major sports (and many minor ones) will have exclusive deals with just one card company, as the NFL Player's Association license goes to Panini.

As a card collector, this is disheartening. Though the hobby got pretty out of control when there were a half-dozen producers, at least there was competition. It's ironic that professional sports leagues, who so strongly encourage sportsmanship and competition, have engaged in anti-competitive behavior for well over a century.

2014 Upper Deck Football #38 Bo Jackson
I guess that wouldn't really matter to a guy like Bo Jackson. As probably the best multi-sport player of modern times, he's sure to continue to get both official Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck cards any time they feel like including retired legends in their upcoming sets. Even then, UD is still shut out of his NFL and MLB careers, so they had to dive back into his college days for this one.

But it's a heck of a tough way to get a licensed card with multiple card companies.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Trading Post #33: Off Hiatus Baseball Cards

I was following the Rockies pretty closely in 2007, the year of their World Series appearance, but I do not recall Steve Finley starting that season as a Rockie.

2007 Topps Hit Parade #HP24 Steve Finley
That's why this card that came via trade from Tony at Off Hiatus Baseball Cards was so surprising. At the time of Finley's retirement following his release from the Rockies, he was among the active hits leaders, which led Topps to produce this shiny insert card. Not counting printing plates and such, this is one of only two cards of Finley as a Rockie. Interestingly, that short stint in the Mile High City means that Finley put himself on a very short list: players that have played for every team in a division.

Kelly Johnson has played for all the AL East teams, but I'm not aware of any others. Let me know in the comments if any other players have achieved this journeyman feat.

I told Tony that I liked shiny cards and those with serial numbers, and he filled this trade package to that order.
2013 Topps Gold #604 Rafael Betancourt /2013

2014 Topps Mini Gold #282 Rex Brothers /63
Two of the Gold cards he included were of the perennially weak Rockies bullpen. They have a decent closer from time to time, like Huston Street or Brian Fuentes, but the Rockies relief staff has always left a bit to be desired.

Regardless, I received both full-sized and mini gold cards. The mini cards are much more scarce, numbered to only 63 for the Gold parallels. Even the mini base cards only have a few thousand copies, though they aren't serial numbered.

There was plenty of shiny goodness to go along with the gold parallels, including this retro card of Troy Tulowitzki.

2014 Bowman '89 Bowman Is Back Silver Diamond Refractors #89BIB-TT Troy Tulowitzki
It's really sparkly, but perhaps its most redeeming quality is that it's the size of a standard baseball card! Anyone who collected 1989 Bowman, which this card is based on, remembers that the original 1989 cards were just a tiny bit oversized, rendering most of the storage products fairly useless. It's still kind of a lame design, featuring only the Bowman logo and facsimile signature, but at least I don't need to break out an 8-pocket page to store it.

Here's a set that does the facsimile signature a bit better: 1993 Studio.

1993 Studio #212 Vinny Castilla
Rather than just a plain black, this Leaf brand used a nice, shiny rainbow foil. And Castilla's might have the thickest brush stroke in the whole set. To poke a little fun at the longtime Rockie favorite, it almost looks like he drew a little heart above the "I" in his name, as anyone who went through fourth grade is sure to recognize.

2014 Topps Museum Collection Green #11 Wilin Rosario /199
Speaking of thick, anyone that's run across a card from Topps Museum Collection knows that they're sturdy and solid cards. And they darn well better be, given what Topps charges for a box.

Rosario appears here on a /199 Green parallel in full catcher's gear. Since the Rockies' acquisition of Nick Hundley from Baltimore, Rosario has been spending a bit of time at first base, so cards like this of Baby Bull going forward might be few and far between.

And if you thought that one was thick, you'll just have to trust me that this relic card is even thicker.

2002 Leaf Certified Mirror Blue #36 Jason Jennings (MEM) /75
It's starting to astonish me how many relics and autographs I seem to be getting of Jason Jennings. When you think about the coincidental timing of Jennings' Rookie of the Year award and the appearance of relics in our hobby, it isn't quite as surprising.

A solid purple swatch is even rarer than one with a pinstripe, and this happens to have a serial number on the back, which matches the overall blue theme of this card.

That's as thick as cards got in this trade package, but thanks to Tony for a trade package chock-full of cards right up my alley!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Trading Post #32: Wish They Still Came With Bubble Gum

You might not recognize the blog featured in this trade post, as Jeff's Wish They Still Came With Bubble Gum is a newcomer to the blog community. Jeff reached out on one of my Fantasy Baseball posts last month and offered an Arenado card for trade.

2015 Topps Rainbow Foil #62 Nolan Arenado
It's a little bit of a weird feeling. I've only been doing this for a little over a year, and already I have some seniority, a small following, and an opportunity to give a little exposure to new bloggers. And for Jeff to send me a shiny card of my favorite Rockie is a great way to start off a trading relationship! It's a parallel from the 2015 Topps set, and it indeed has a subtle rainbow finish underneath that shininess.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen #144 Justin Morneau
Most of my trades are blind. Each trader usually has a pretty good idea of what the other person will like. I didn't specify what I'd send in return, but in addition to that Arenado card, the other one that Jeff said he'd send was this 2015 Gypsy Queen of last year's NL batting champion.

I'm not the biggest fan of Gypsy Queen, although this year's design is the best in a while. It's the most distinctive one I can remember in the whole run of the brand, and I really like the onion dome design in the upper left.

2014 Topps #253 Todd Helton HL
Jeff threw in plenty of unexpected goodies on top of those two cards he promised. He sent two Helton cards from 2014 Topps, but the one above is actually a checklist that commemorates Todd's retirement at the end of 2013. It's not officially part of the Rockies team set, so it just has a basic red and blue color scheme, unlike the usual purple. It's dissonant, especially since the back of the card does have the purple theme you'd expect.

1994 Stadium Club Golden Rainbow #323 Joe Girardi
I've always been a fan of Topps Gold, the one-per-pack gold foil parallels that Topps produced from 1992-1994. They had the bright idea to extend that practice to Stadium Club in '94. It was just another thing that made (and continues to make) Stadium Club awesome. The base cards have a dark red foil, a color I've only otherwise seen on various Pacific sets in the late-'90s.

2003 Upper Deck #496 Juan Uribe
The whole time I had this post planned, I thought that card above was from Stadium Club. I checked the back to see what year it was from, found 2003, then wondered why it didn't have the Stadium Club logo they were using at that time. Only then did I spot the Upper Deck diamond in the upper left.

2003 Upper Deck #357 Michael Cuddyer
I had a couple nice sentences written about how Stadium Club has remained such an eye-catching brand over the years, but it really just goes to show you how poorly I know the Upper Deck sets of the early 2000s. I know I'm not alone in this, and Night Owl wrote recently about how tough it is to differentiate full-bleed designs.

Regardless, now-Dodger Juan Uribe got a great picture in 2003 Upper Deck. If you look closely, you can even see the letters-high pitch zipping by as Uribe pulls back his bunt. And Michael Cuddyer has already come and gone as a Rockie, but as I'm more of a set collector than a team collector, I am happy to receive cards pre- or post-Rockies tenure.

Looking really closely at this set, those four dots in the colored banner are a slight precursor to the three row of dots at the bottom of 2015 Topps. I don't think they add much to UD's design, nor am I a huge fan of the tiny "Major League Baseball" lettering. It's...accurate, I suppose, but pretty redundant.

1997 Collector's Choice Teams #CR13 Walt Weiss
The lion's share of this trade package was a stack of Rockies cards from 1997 Collector's Choice, some from the base set, others from the separately-packaged Rockies Team Set.

As Nick wrote last week, the brand could always be counted on for great photography. Weiss is fully midair while turning this double play at Dodger Stadium, and we even get a cameo of Raul Mondesi, the NL Rookie of the Year in 1994. Mondesi, you'll recall, was one of five consecutive Dodgers that won that accolade from 1992-1996.

Weiss had one of the best cards in 1991 Topps, a set filled with memorable photographs, many of which were sourced from Sports Illustrated, as I learned in another recent Night Owl post.

1991 Topps #455 Walt Weiss
Plenty of similarities there, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Thanks, Jeff, and welcome to the blogosphere!

And to Mom, Happy Mother's Day!