Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Trading Post #63: Cooperstown Exit 3:16

Like Andy at Ain't Nobody Got Time for Cardboard, Brett at Cooperstown Exit 3:16 is a newcomer to the Cardsphere. He represents the Nationals in the #SuperTraders group, and though he didn't have a blog when the group was conceived, he started one up just a couple months ago. Already he's making his presence known in the community.

2015 Topps Archives #38 Carlos Gonzalez
Brett started off the package with a few cards from Topps Archives, including this 1957-themed CarGo card. Like most Archives cards, this has a distinct smooth matte surface, definitely not one of the glossy cards we've been seeing for a couple decades, but smoother and higher-quality than just standard cardboard.

This is definitely a photograph of Gonzalez, but somehow it looks ever so slightly painted, though nowhere near a Gypsy Queen card. Perhaps it's the unusual surface that gives it a different look.

2014 Topps #290 Chad Bettis (RC)
Of course, Topps base cards usually find their way into these trade packages, and though I don't often feature them, I've always liked this 2014 Rookie Card of Chad Bettis. Bettis has been a bright spot in the Rockies' short season, with a perfect 2-0 record so far. Tyler Chatwood has as many wins, but also has two losses and got off to a rough start last Saturday against the Dodgers.

By now, this design is very familiar to me. 2014 marks the year that Infield Fly Rule debuted, and I was highly active on Topps Bunt that year. "The Wave Set" (or was that 2010?) wasn't universally loved, but the sets I spend the most time with tend to be my favorites. Whether one causes the other, I can't say, but I'll be able to place this one in the correct pile with barely a glance.

1994 Score Samples #8 Andres Galarraga
1994 Score is also an easily recognizable set, partially because they're the only ones to ever use a dark blue border like this, but also because it fit easily into my budget as a ten-year-old. And there were Rockies cards in it, like this Galarraga, a card I could almost reproduce from memory. I'd probably miss the batting glove he's holding in his left hand, but I'd know this card anywhere. 

Except, of course, for the large black "SAMPLE" lettering, which appears front and back. Never saw one of those before. These pop up on occasion, though more often on Leaf/Donruss products, and occasionally Topps. But Pinnacle/Score was in the preview game too, providing cards for dealers to display. They're a relic from a time when the industry was hot, and the real thing had to be kept under lock and key.

Call it a Beta version, to use a modern tech term. I rarely see significant changes from a preview to a final release, but there are occasionally subtle differences. The card back of this sample card feels rougher than a standard 1994 Score card from the actual print run. 1994 Topps Pre-Production cards had the same basic design as the final product, but the fonts on the back and the background colors on both sides were changed.

1994 Topps #180 George Brett
We all know how awesome George Brett's card from 1994 Topps is, and that's the second time I've used this scan. But the Pre-Production example is rather different.

1994 Topps Pre-Production #397 George Brett
It's clearly the same photo, but cropped much differently. Making a card horizontal is often nice, but doing so here takes away the legendary status of this card. The action is still there, but the ambiance of Kauffman Stadium is completely lost, along with the information we need to specifically date this photo. If Topps went with this version, I doubt we'd still be talking about it today. The lack of a nice green behind the player's name also makes the final version less appealing to my eye.

1995 Select Certified #68 Dante Bichette
The cards just keep getting shinier and glossier as this post evolves. Pinnacle made some really shiny cards in the mid- to late-90s. Some even seemed to have a mirror finish. This one reflects back a slightly distorted image (unlike the perfect reflection I saw in the blue paint of an Acura NSX many years ago), but it's an eye-catching specimen. The gold border around Bichette's outline accentuates it even more.

Rather than consolidated statistics, the reverse breaks out his performance by team in the strike-shortened 1994 season. That means we get a tiny logo of the other thirteen NL teams. Yes, this was before Interleague play, and before the Diamondbacks. Bichette loved to face the Cardinals that year, racking up 20 of his 95 RBIs, and 5 of his 27 home runs. 

2006 Artifacts AL/NL Artifacts Blue #NL-TH Todd Helton Jsy /325 (MEM)
The breadth of the Rockies existence was well-represented in this trade, concluding with a serial-numbered swatch relic of Todd Helton! It's a fairly rare solid purple (matching the uniforms the Rockies are wearing as I write this), though not matching Helton's photo on this Upper Deck card. As it's a UD relic, that means I get another tiny printed signature of Richard P. McWilliam on the back. And a nice blue serial number on the front.

You can see it quite clearly on this particular photo of Helton, but this Artifacts card also lists the player's uniform number, always a nice touch. It's one of the pieces of information cluttering up the "loincloth" on 1996 Donruss, but the fact that the Rockies retired #17 in Helton's honor makes it just a bit more special.

Thank you, Brett, and welcome to the Cardsphere!

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