Monday, September 5, 2016

The Trading Post #75: The Lost Collector

Even though the #SuperTraders group seems to be winding down a bit, I'm still seeing a few trades pop up in my mailbox. This Labor Day weekend gave me a chance to finally sort the 5,000-count box that these 75 trades (and more) have been going into for the past couple years. Feels great to have that organized and ready to put into binders. I'm sure more are on the way, as I'm pretty sure Night Owl just sent me something, based on USPS tracking data. By the way, if you haven't registered your address with My USPS, which sends you an email whenever you have a package on its way to your address, it's a great little service. UPS and FedEx have something similar.

Anyway, the latest arrival was from The Lost Collector, the Yankees representative in our little group.

2016 Topps Chrome Refractors #9 Nolan Arenado
This marks the third time he's sent me cards, and he wasted no time in getting to the good stuff. The rookies have been the Story this year (pun intended) in Denver, with Trevor Story, Jeff Hoffman, David Dahl, and others making an impact already. Stephen Cardullo, who at one time was the longest of long shots to make the Majors has already hit two home runs, and Raimel Tapia, another young Rockies prospect, got his first big-league hit on Friday night. Meanwhile, Nolan Arenado has been quietly doing his thing, brilliantly playing third base and going stroke-for-stroke in the NL home run race with Kris Bryant, a fellow player covering the hot corner.

This is my first look at 2016 Chrome, and right away one of the first things I noticed is the "refractor" label on the back. 2016 is an on-year for that helpful labeling, and even though it still has that great rainbow appearance under the right light, I'm not forced to check it to know what I have.

There's also a bit of extra design in the lower left area, which is just plain white in the base set. There are a bunch of little bars and hexagonal grids and dots, plus "2016 Topps" running vertically, almost like the security strip in a banknote. It's a bit like the Blue parallels in Opening Day. The curl is a little bit uneven, but it's a great-looking card! It could pass for a Finest card if it didn't reuse the design from Topps Base.

2012 Topps Update #US259A Carlos Gonzalez
If it's from an All-Star game, it's probably from Topps Update. Carlos Gonzalez does look like a Royal here, but rest assured, he's still a Rockie. The Kansas City Royals hosted the All-Star Game in 2012, and Gonzalez made his first of two appearances in the Home Run Derby that year. He didn't progress past the first round, hitting only four out of Kaufman Stadium. He did quite a bit better this year, hitting a beer-destroying 12, but still didn't make it past the first round.

2012 Topps Opening Day Fantasy Squad #FS-20 Carlos Gonzalez
Still, anyone good enough to appear in the Home Run Derby is definitely someone to target in a fantasy baseball draft. This insert set from 2012 Opening Day (of course) has CarGo as one of 30 cards, and even offers a rare bit of foil. The surfboard design in the lower left matches the base design of that year, just a bit smaller. The surfboard on his Update card is about as big as they come, as the "National League" text under his name forced it to grow.

2015 Topps Update Chrome #US291 Eddie Butler
Knowing what we know about Rockies pitching, putting a "Future Stars" label on a Rockies pitcher card is a risky proposition. Topps did it anyway, but Eddie Butler lost his roster spot over the summer and has been toiling away for Triple-A Albuquerque since then. He might get called back up now that rosters have expanded for September, but he has a long way to go before he lives up to that label.

This is Butler's Chrome parallel from 2015 Update, which means it has that extra-sparkly background that was all the rage last fall. Fuji sent me one too, and I'm glad my trading buddies are looking out for me. It's almost a cross between glitter and pointillism, without the risk of glitter getting all over everything.

2016 Topps Bunt Platinum #140 DJ LeMahieu /99
DJ LeMahieu is the NL batting average leader, just ahead of Daniel Murphy. Jose Altuve is a few points ahead, but the Astros switched leagues a few seasons ago, possibly clearing the way for a Rockie to win yet another batting title. His average isn't quite as good as what this serial number would suggest, but it's clear that the Rockies came out ahead in their 2011 trade with the Cubs.

I didn't pull one this rare from my Bunt pack at Target, nor any Rockie for that matter. The Lost Collector gave me five base cards plus this parallel, and DJ's defensive skills are apparent, as he's intently watching the ball arrive into his glove, and hoping it doesn't collide with that pesky Bunt logo.

1997 Collector's Choice #102 John Vander Wal
Pinch hitter extraordinaire John Vander Wal did so well at the plate in 1996 that Upper Deck did most of the write-up on the back of this 1997 Collector's Choice card about his record-setting performance. He still holds the Major League record for most pinch-hit, um, hits in a season, with 28 in 1996. Four of those were home runs, including a walkoff shot on May 18th as noted on the card (off of Dennis Eckersley), and a go-ahead homer on June 30th, one of the greatest games in Rockies history. He only started about 20 games that year, so this photo of him on the basepaths (probably about to round third) is likely from one of his many pinch-hit appearances.

1997 Leaf #385 Larry Walker GM
Larry Walker made his claim to fame on a more regular basis, and he darn near won the Triple Crown the year this card was printed. It's shinier than it looks in the scan. Copper foil was all the rage in 1997, as was Walker himself. He led the league in home runs, was only a few behind teammate Andres Galarraga in RBIs, and was edged out on batting average by the great Tony Gwynn. Still, his performance in '97 (the same year as this photo, judging by that Jackie Robinson patch) earned him the NL MVP award, so far the only time a Rockie has won it.

1998 SkyBox Dugout Axcess #120 Todd Helton
Todd Helton was just breaking into the big leagues at that point, and he had a long way to go before becoming a legendary figure in Denver sports history. He was still a green rookie in 1998, earning a spot in this "Little Dawgs" subset of Skybox Dugout Axcess. All those deliberate misspellings are strange, but it's explained on the back of this card. According to Barry Larkin, who has a tiny cameo on the back, Larkin "simply refers to the players he doesn't recognize [in Spring Training] as 'Little Dawgs."'

Makes sense. But spelling "Axcess" with an X just to use two crossed bats in the logo is stretching it. I've never seen this card before. And I doubt I could have even imagined it.

1997 Donruss Signature Autographs #79 Neifi Perez /3900
Our final traded card of today, a Donruss autograph card of Neifi Perez, came in the same penny sleeve as that LeMahieu card, which I missed the first time. I always like when the special cards are separated somehow in the package, whether with a handwritten note, a penny sleeve, or put in the stack backwards and/or upside-down (one of my favorite strategies), and this Perez card was clearly set apart. The red background is very striking, and a color not often seen so boldly on a Rockies card.

Beckett claims this is card #79, but I can't find a card number anywhere. There's also supposedly a serial-numbered print run of 3,900, and while the print run may be accurate, there is definitely no serial number here.

Believe it or not, I actually had a card from this set already. Andy Ashby signed one of these, and it's been in my collection for a dozen years at least. I'm pretty sure I got it from one of my first visits to Christian, my primary local card dealer.

1997 Donruss Signature Autographs #8 Andy Ashby /3900
But sure enough, there's no card number on Ashby's card either, nor a serial number. I guess there's a master reference checklist somewhere, and it sort of makes sense when you think about it. This is not a sticker autograph, it's on-card. So it earns a point in that department. But as autograph issues often fall through in production, it's hard for a card company to put together a numbered checklist when it's so far beyond their control. That's why Topps does that alphabet soup on their relic and autograph card numbers.

If I had to take something like DSS-NP over no card number at all, I'd pick the alphabet soup every time. I bet most of us would.

So maybe we stop griping about letter-only card numbers now, yes?

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