One Man's Thoughts on Sports Card Collecting

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Happiest Hobby Memory

As it is the Christmas season, a time of peace and joy, I thought I would share my happiest hobby memory.

The year was 1993.  I was 11 years old and a rabid baseball card collector.  I had started my Ken Griffey Jr. collection a year or two before, and I remember seeing a commercial for Upper Deck cards on TV talking about heroes....

....incredibly, I found the ad on youtube (isn't it an amazing age we live in?)

From the moment I saw that ad, my only thought was "I HAVE to get that Griffey card~!"

And so I started collecting 1993 Upper Deck Baseball Series 1.  I bought pack after pack, but the Griffey Triple Crown Contender was nowhere to be found.  In fact, despite the fact that they were inserted 1:15 packs (so 2-3 per box) I had only pulled one card from the set (Juan Gonzalez if memory serves).  I made regular trips to my favorite card store (R.I.P. MVP Sportscards) but that Griffey never showed up in the singles display case.  I went to several local card shows - still no dice.

Then one day my friend and I took a walk over to Ball Four Sportscards.  Being 11 I obviously didn't have a lot of money, but what I did have was going to go straight into busting some packs.  I also happened to have a few other cards on me that I had brought to show my friend - a small 6-card set I had gotten from my brother-in-law Jay that included cards of Robin Yount, George Brett, and Nolan Ryan.

I immediately spent ALL my money on 4-5 packs of Upper Deck, only to grow more and more disappointed as each pack was found to not have one of the elusive Triple Crown inserts.  The box was mostly full, so I just knew there had to be some in there.  I reluctantly decided to trade 5 of the cards I had gotten as a gift for 2 more packs.  I held on to the Nolan Ryan card because that was Jay's favorite player, and I would have felt bad trading it away since he had been nice enough to give it to me.  I opened the two packs, AND......


I was so disappointed.  I had no money, and no other cards to trade, except the Nolan Ryan.  But I just coudn't trade that one, that was Jay's favorite!...but, somehow I just couldn't walk away.  I doubt the store owner was actually interested in trading, but I think he felt bad for this little kid that wanted to get just one more pack so bad that he agreed to give me a pack for the Ryan card.  I took it and we walked out of the store.

Walking down the street I opened the pack, and immediately I saw there was a purple insert card in the middle of the base cards!  "Oh my God it's a Triple Crown card!!!" I thought.  I wanted to dive right to the middle to see what it was, but afraid of jinxing myself I stuck to my usual pattern of flipping through all the other cards first and leaving the reveal of the insert to be a surprise at the end of the pack.  I lifted the last card and saw........

Ken Griffey, Jr. - 1993 Upper Deck - Triple Crown Contenders # TC4 Mint

I've rarely had another moment of such pure joy.  I remember jumping up and down screaming, apparently making a scene to the point that my friend joked "OK, I don't know you" and started to walk away from me lest any other passersby think he was associated with this lunatic kid.

My Griffey collection has since grown to over 600 cards.  I certainly have many cards that are much more rare and/or valuable than this one.  But even 17 years later, this remains my favorite card of my entire baseball card collection.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Red Hot Rookies

I finally received my 2 Red Hot Rookies cards - Mike Stanton and Carlos Santana:

These are really sharp looking cards.  I love the red and yellow border, it's a look you don't see very often.  The fact that they are also refractors adds to the effect nicely.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Additions to the Griffey Collection

I made a couple of long sought after additions to my Griffey collection in the last couple weeks:

First, one of the Epix Season Griffeys from 1998 Pinnacle.  This is one of my all-time favorite insert sets, and I was thrilled to get a chance to pick up one of the rare Season versions.  I actually was talking about this set in one of my recent posts - my understanding is that the Epix Season cards were supposed to be inserted into a Pinnacle set that was never released because the company went bankrupt.  No one seems to know exactly how these cards made it into the market, though one website I found thinks that some of the soon-to-be axed employees made off with some boxes of cards as a form of backdoor compensation (pure hearsay, take it for what you will).  I would suspect that some of the cards were purchased as part of a bankruptcy liquidation sale, but another site said their undistributed cards were ordered destroyed.  (Again, I have no proof of this, just the word of an anonymous person on the internet).  I've got three more to go until I've got the full Epix Griffey set - Emerald Game, Purple Season, and Emerald Season.

The other 2 big additions also came from 1998 Pinnacle (I've got to figure out a better way to take these pictures.  Stupid camera flash...):

Pinnacle Spellbound letters "R" and "F" #1.  I've always loved the "dufex" style cards, they look really awesome in person.  But the REAL reason I'm excited about getting these 2 cards is because.....

...I now have the full G-R-I-F-F-E-Y set~!  (Crummy picture, I know).  That's one off the wish list!

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 Worst Base Set Designs

As a kid I used to love buying a few packs of each new set to determine which one(s) I would collect that year.  These were the days before the internet and previews of everything months in advance, so for me those first packs were usually a surprise unveiling of the new set design.  Sometimes I saw that top card of the pack and it was love at first sight, and other times....not so much.  These sets were, in my humble opinion, the most "ugh"-producing designs of my collecting lifetime:

10.  1998 Upper Deck

This was more a case of Upper Deck being a victim of their own success.  Prior to this set I had almost always loved the Upper Deck base card designs.  (You'll see some of those sets show up when I do my "Best Base Set Designs" post - coming soon!)  This set was the first time that my reaction to opening up a pack of Upper Deck was "meh."  Something about the dark border and silver foil really didn't work - it made the names really hard to read.  I also didn't care for the oversized team name, also in that same dark coloring.

9.  1999 Upper Deck

Unfortunately Upper Deck didn't do much better the following year.  These cards just looked funky, with borders on the sides but not the top and bottom.  The way the border got fatter as you moved down the card and the angled lines in the silver foil only made it worse.

8.  1995 Score

Yeesh.  That combo of tan and green borders was a poor decision, compounded by the odd polka dots bleeding into the green portion.  I think this was the first year of that new Score logo, presumably it was supposed to be "edgy" or something.  And speaking of edges, the "torn paper" edges around the picture and name box didn't do any favors for this set's visual appeal.

7. 1995 Topps

Topps went the same route as Score in 1995 with the rough edges around the picture, and it didn't work any better for them.  And I have NO idea what was up with that weird "font" used for the player names.

6.  1991 Donruss

I'm usually pretty forgiving of the "pre-glossy coating and foil stamping" era card designs, since they had less to work with, but this set was just awful.  It's like somebody at Donruss asked "How many different types of lines and colors can we cram into the border for no apparent reason?"

5. 2005 Topps

This is one of 2 entries on this list that come from the era that I was not actively collecting.  When I saw this design I was glad I wasn't.  As a general rule, whenever you have the player or team name at a size that is grossly out of proportion to the rest of the card you're getting into "ugly" territory.  I would have thought Topps had learned their lesson from 20 years earlier (see below), but I guess not...

4.  2002 Upper Deck

This is the other entry from my non collecting days, and all I could think when I saw this was "what the HELL were you thinking Upper Deck?"  That bottom area is just atrocious.

3.  1994 Stadium Club

You wouldn't think that a set that had so little in the way of actual design would be found on a list like this, but here we are.  Which is worse - the person who said "I have an idea: we'll make the first name lower case and look like it was typed on a small scrap of paper, and the last name will be all caps and look like it came out of a 1970s Dymo label maker!", or the person who heard that idea and said "Brilliant! Go with it!"???

2.  1986 Topps

Yikes.  Just yikes.  What DIDN'T suck about this card design?  The enormous bubble letters used for the team name.  The gaudy colors.  The player name that looks like it was printed on there using a 1960s typewriter.  Brutal.  You look at these cards and wonder what set could POSSIBLY have done worse than 1986 Topps??.......

1.  1991 Fleer

This.  These are still the ugliest cards I have ever seen.  And that's not just the current me saying that - I still remember my 9 year old self busting open a pack of 1991 Fleer, seeing that horrendous yellow border, and thinking "These are the most butt-ugly baseball cards ever made."  When you manage to offend the aesthetic sensibilities of a 9 year old kid, you KNOW something went horribly wrong.  Now I'm sure some of you would look at this set and say "Surely, some of these other sets look worse.  I mean, come on, 1986 Topps!!".  To that, I would have 2 replies:

One - what really offends me is the complete and total lack of effort and imagination put into this design.  At least 1986 Topps TRIED to make something that looked different and interesting.  They failed - horribly - but at least they tried.  This design is boring to the point of tears, and smothered in one of the worst colors ever seen in the history of the hobby.

And two - don't call me Shirley.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Hey, it's-a me!"

I redeemed a few more Topps Million Card Giveaways today.  One of them provided an interesting moment - the 1977 Topps Astros Team Card:

My first thought was how it is quite a sight to see that many of those Astros uniforms all grouped together in one picture.  But then I noticed the guy in the bottom row, third from the left....

I had no idea Super Mario was a ballplayer before embarking on an exciting career in the field of plumbing!

I decided I had to figure out who this guy was, but despite looking all over the rosters of the 1976 and 1977 Astro teams I could not find a picture to definitively ID our hero in orange, yellow-orange, and puke-orange.  My best guess is that it may be reliever Gene Pentz:

I dunno....the mustache doesn't look dark enough.....

Assuming it was Pentz, I looked up his numbers - going by the stats he appears to have been a solid relief pitcher.  In 104 games appearances he want 8-9 with a 3.63 ERA in 191 Innings, and also had 116 strikeouts and 7 saves.  It appears his career was cut short due to injury in just his third full season in the majors.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another First

Hot on the heels of my first decent autograph pull (Mike Stanton), I attended Pack Wars at my local card store last night and pulled my first ever 1 of 1!:

So...who is Casey Haerther???

A read of the back of the card combined with a quick internet search reveals that he was drafted out of UCLA by the Angels in the 5th round (171st overall) in 2009.  He had actually been drafted in a prior year, but decided to return to school instead.  In 2010 he first spent 50 games with the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League, and in 206 ABs he hit .350 with a .386 OBP, 0 HRs, and 35 RBIs.  He then was promoted to Class A Cedar Rapids, where in 113 games (433 ABs) he hit .307 with a .352 OBP, 8 HRs, 74 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases.

It'll be pretty cool to have a young guy to follow outside the Brewers organization.  Hopefully he hits it big in the majors~!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finally - A Decent Auto!!

Historically the small group (maybe 2 dozen) of autographed cards that I've been lucky enough to pull from packs fell into two groups: "meh" (e.g. Hunter Pence) and "who?" (Felipe Paulino)

But then a recent trip to the card store to purchase a few packs revealed this beauty:

Finally - a decent autograph pull~!

Monday, November 15, 2010

2011 Topps Baseball Preview Cards

Gotta say, I like the look of next year's Topps base set.  I'm particularly impressed by the gold parallels (I assume that's what the Ichiro card is) with the all gold background and only the player in color.  With this being the 60th Anniversary of Topps I'm actually debating taking on the insane mission of collecting an entire set of the Gold parallels...Read more at

2011ToppsGallery Sneak Peak Card Gallery: 2011 Topps Baseball

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Eyes!!!

The Topps Million Card Giveaway cards I pulled out of my Topps Update series box didn't cause any excitement, though one of them did stand out for an entirely different reason:


I'm not sure if this is a problem with the way they scanned the card, or if uniforms that burned out the retinas of your opponents were just an accepted part of the game back in 1980..

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Epix Return

The 2010 Panini Epix Football set marked the return of one of my all-time favorite insert sets - the Epix series:

This picture really doesn't do justice to how cool these look in person.  Admittedly, I tend to be a sucker for "ooh, shiny!"-type inserts, but these really are awesome.  The only downside came when I learned how big the set is - there are 100 cards, and each one has 7 versions (various combinations of three names - Game, Moment, and Season - and colors - Orange, Purple, and Emerald).  When I first saw these had returned I was excited by the prospect of collecting a whole set, but 700 is a bit much.  Perhaps I'll just try to get one of each of the 100 players instead...

This actually isn't the first time I've been caught off guard by the number of Epix variations.  I fell in love with these cards when they first appeared in Pinnacle baseball sets back in 1998, and I always wanted to get a full set of the Ken Griffey Jr. Epix cards.  I figured it shouldn't be hard, I mean there's only 9 of them - Game, Play, and All-Star Moment, each in Orange, Purple and Emerald versions.

(random voice in the back) - "What about the Epix Season cards??"

Me - "Epix Season?  There was no Epix Seas-"

Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Thus far I've only ever seen one of Griffey's Epix Season cards listed on eBay - the Emerald version - and it was selling for $100, so I had to pass for now.  My understanding is that the Epix Season cards were supposed to be inserted into a set that never got released because Pinnacle went bankrupt, but some of them found their way onto the market later when the company's assets were sold off.  If anyone knows more about the details of where these came from, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2010 Topps Baseball Update Series Box Break

Just when I thought I had wrapped up the 2010 baseball card season....

Having been away from the hobby for a while, I assumed sets still had just a Series 1 & 2, so imagine my surprise when I learned that I had a THIRD full set to collect if I wanted to complete the Topps 2010 set!

I debated wether to buy the regular box or the jumbo pack box - in the end $55 made a lot more sense than $90, though the 2 additional hits and extra cards in the jumbo box would have been nice....

My box contained:
Set completion: 254 of 330 (77%).  No duplicates, for the base set or insert sets (not counting the Topps Attax cards), so good job on collation Topps!

(As an aside, I'm sure I'm not the first person to comment on this over the years, but the way cards are collated these days drives me nuts.  Sure it's nice to get no duplicates when I buy a box, but when I then buy a pack from another box and get the same 7 "random" cards in the exact same order as another pack, to the point where ALL 5 of the packs I purchased in addition to the box were ALL DUPLICATES, it is frustrating....)

The highlights:

Obviously his buzz cooled off considerably after the injury, but it's still nice to pull card #661:
My rookie refractor:

The box promised one autograph or relic, and I was pretty pleased with the one I got.  Sure they're manufactured bat barrels, but still - it's Rajah~!
There was one other nice pull - one of the short print parallels:

I'm not sure what the rarity is on these things, but either they are very rare or my luck has been terrible.  I went through 2 whole boxes of Series 1 and a box of Series 2 without pulling a single one.  I finally got one (Tris Speaker from Series 2) in a random pack I bought, and now this is my second one.  I haven't pulled any of the "pie in the face" short prints either!...

On the whole this was a pretty good box.  I'm a big fan of the Cards Your Mom Threw Out and Vintage Legends inserts, so I was happy to learn those were extended into the Update Series.  I also got a chuckle from one of the More Tales of The Game cards, seeing as I was in attendance at the infamous All Star Game Tie.  :)  Hopefully I can at least finish off the 2010 base sets before moving on to whatever Topps has planned for their 60th anniversary set!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Welcome Sports Card Collectors!

Hi all - this will be the first time I've ever done the blog thing before!  After an almost decade long hiatus I've recently revived my all-time favorite hobby - card collecting.  After stumbling across some of the other sportscard blogs here I was inspired to start one of my own.  I expect I'll be writing about my recent card purchases, my history in the hobby, sports in general, or whatever else strikes my fancy on a given day.  Hopefully at least some of you will find it worth reading.  ;)