Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Snorting Bull Awards: Goat of the Year

Alex Rodriguez
2013 Topps Chasing History Alex Rodriguez

Is there a more unpopular player in the game today than ARod?  It's one thing to be an aging player whose performance on the field is declining, but the demise about Alex Rodriguez is about far more than just the usual late career fade experienced by many of the game's greats.  Sadly, most of the damage to the ARod brand is self-inflicted.  Steroid use.  Lying about steroid use.  Suspensions over steroid use.  Appeals of suspensions.  It's exhausting to keep up with and frankly most baseball fans have given up completely on ARod.  

Take a look around the world of ARod cards and most people are frustrated and have moved on to other players of interest.  In my opinion, the only redeeming quality about the decline of Alex Rodriguez cards is scooping up all the cool cards that were out of my price range a decade ago, but are now dirt cheap.  Want an ARod autograph?  30 bucks gets you something decent, but I guess that's not cool if you spent $100 on the card a decade ago.  Stinks even more if you bought a stack of ARod autographs a decade ago.  The drama and loss of money make ARod the easy choice for Goat of the Year. 



2013 Snorting Bull Awards: Newcomer of the Year

Byron Buxton

2013 Bowman Sterling Byron Buxton

Twins prospect Byron Buxton is the top newcomer to the baseball card hobby during the past year.   Buxton's cards have been scorching hot in popularity and in price.  A glance at Buxton's on the field performance shows an impressive line of .334/.424/.944 with 19 doubles, 18 triples, and 12 home runs.   There were also 55 stolen bases and 76 walks.  Impressive indeed.  While Buxton continues to put up big numbers in the minors I have not reached for a Buxton autograph card quite yet (I borrowed scan from a reader).  Have plenty of base cards and some sparkly insert/parallel type cards stashed away for the future.  Buxton's stellar numbers have come in the Rookie Leagues, Low A, and High A.  A good performance in the Eastern League at New Britian next year would likely make me feel much better about owning a high end card of a young player two years removed from high school.

Most base autographs of the Twins top prospect seem to settle in the neighborhood of $40.  While that's not an outrageous price to pay for a high end prospect autograph I view players like Oscar Taveras, Corey Seager, and George Springer as safer and more cost efficient bets.  Still given Buxton's patience at the plate, speed, and power I could be missing my chance to buy a Buxton autograph on the low end of the scale.  How much did Mike Trout autographs cost before 2012? 

Anyway you view the market on Byron Buxton cards I am excited to add some more of his cards to my collection in the coming year and I will even pick up an autograph or two along the way.  It will be exciting to see what the future holds for this great prospect...Maybe a trip to Rochester when they are playing the Durham Bulls? 

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Snorting Bull Awards: Best New Product

 2013 Bowman Inception


There were a few new products released by the card giants this year, but few new releases could hold a candle to the new Bowman Inception set.  This was the only new product this year issued by Topps, but they seemed to get every detail right with this brand new product.  I have now written about this product several times this year, but here it goes again:




The set features a great design and look and the majority of the players have on card autographs.  The cards which do not have an on-card autograph (see Hak Ju Lee above) look awesome even with a sticker autograph.  Also consider the competition.  Where were the other new products?  Panini?  Blah.  Leaf?  If I gave Leaf an award they would probably threaten to sue me over Twitter.  Bowman Inception is the best new product and it's not even close. 

My Top 50 On Cardboard- #8 Albert Pujols

My Top 50 on Cardboard 
#8 
Albert Pujols



2001 Bowman Heritage Albert Pujols


Before I started publishing this list I ran the list by a couple other long-time collectors just to get a little bit of input on the list before I actually started hitting the publish key on this series of posts.  One of the hardest players for me to rank, and ended in the biggest conversation about the rankings, was the great Albert Pujols.  While Albert Pujols might have been higher on this list a few years ago he has clearly fallen behind some of the other elite players in the eyes of baseball card enthusiasts.  Still Pujols could walk away from the game today and be a Hall of Famer in five years.  His cards will always carry some value and enjoyment to collectors because he's Albert Pujols.  Even as a die-hard Cardinals fan who sold off a big chunk of his Pujols collection during the 2011 season, there is still something cool about finding a nice Pujols card.  Even if they are not as high in value as they once were, it would be hard to say that they are a bargain.  Time heals wounds and I am guessing that Cardinals fans will come around to overlooking the fact that Pujols took his services to Disneyland.  While his prices may continue to drop a little more while Pujols hobbles to the final years of his career, I expect his cards will maintain decent value and might find a rallying point in a year or two when he starts to approach some of baseball's milestone numbers like 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.  


Hobby Impact-
I attended the first game Albert Pujols played in St. Louis in 2001 for my 24th birthday.  I still have the ticket stub which holds a special place in my collection.  While Pujols did not have any baseball cards out at the beginning of the 2001 season, it did not take card companies long to fill the void.  By the middle of the summer all of the card releases had a Pujols and the questions were continually asked: How many are in the print run and how hard is it going to be to find this card?  The short printed serial numbered rookie card was all the rage that summer and Pujols had tons of them. 

Back in 2001 they were all the rage and outrageously expensive all at the same time.  Those tough to find short printed, serial numbered cards have come back down to Earth slightly, but can still be tough finds.  Some times they can still be pricey too.  One of my favorites is the 2001 Fleer Premium.  


2001 Fleer Premium Albert Pujols RC 

This card would have easily run into the low 100s back in the early 2000s.  It's not the toughest Pujols rookie to find with the card being numbered to 1999, but it's a nice cleanly designed popular rookie card.  As I recall it was also an exchange off a generic looking card that did not identify a specific player, but rather just simply a rookie card and a number.  You might have ended up with Wilson Betimet.  I did.  Anyway, this card has cooled off to be just below $50.  A fair price for this card would be anywhere from $40-$50 depending on where and whom you were buying the card from.  Considering the season that Pujols had last year, there is definitely a little bit of staying power in the value and popularity of his cards.  

The same trends can be found in other Pujols cards too.  Yes, there has been a downward trend on Pujols relics and autographs the past two or three years just like his rookie cards.  Yes, these cards still hold value for collectors.  Yes, these cards are still popular and still widely pursued by collectors across the hobby.  I would dare say given the level of play that Pujols will be remembered for big picture, the card prices at the moment might be somewhat of a bargain in the future. 


It was slightly painful for me to part with a chunk of my Pujols collection in 2011, but I am happy to say that I have actually returned to adding Pujols cards.  In particular, I have been trying to add on-card autographs of Pujols and have recently been successful in adding a few to my collection at a greatly reduced cost from their peak values which hit sometime during the 2009 or 2010 season. 


2003 Topps Albert Pujols Autograph


While I am not sure that the Pujols card market has reached its basement yet, I am not sure how much further his cards can realistically fall.  It's true that Pujols is declining at a significant rate, but he is still possibly one of the best hitters ever and in the argument for the best offensive player of his generation.  A player like ARod still offers collectors decent value and his autographs still regularly sell for more than $30 despite everything he's done wrong.  Albert has simply gotten older, not any garbage like ARod.  I liken the decline of the Pujols market to the downturn in Griffey cards later in his career.  The prices of Griffey cards declined during the latter stages of his time in Cincinnati, Chicago, and Seattle, but he's still Ken Griffey Jr.  Albert might be getting old and declining, but I wouldn't hedge my bets on his cards falling much further.

On The Field-
I will just throw this out at the beginning: Albert Pujols in his prime is the best offensive player I have ever seen.  Not to say that a player like Miguel Cabrera could not pass him by over the next few years, or a talent like Mike Trout couldn't catch him too.  Both are spectacular players.  Pujols has just played at a high level for a really long time, it's hard to find active players who can be compared to The Machine.  A quick check of Baseball-Reference shows his comparable hitters through age 33 are: Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, and Vladimir Guerrero.  Read that list again a few times.  Really impressive and exclusive company to have a comparable stat line to that many Hall of Famers and great players who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Before I get into some of the more complicated statistics and more comparisons to his peers, if you are into the counting stats, Pujols is basically a Hall of Famer right now if he announces his retirement.  He is just short of 2500 hits and should cross that marker within a year, along with hitting his 500th home run, and 1,500 RBIs.  Add in the fact that he ranks in the top 50 in homers, doubles, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

JAWS ranks Pujols as the third best first baseman of all-time behind Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.  If Pujols can pull another healthy season or two out of his legs he should pass Foxx by in the next year or two.  Gehrig is going to be a challenge for Pujols to catch, particularly if he continues to slow down his production.  Pujols has actually passed Foxx by in OPS+ sitting at 165 compared to Foxx at 163.   

What more can be said about Pujols?  The guy is one of the best of all-time.  It was fun watching him play for my favorite team for a decade.  Here are three of my favorite Pujols moments:

3.  Most people remember the Rolen home run off Roger Clemens which was the game winner in game 7 of the 2004 National League Championship Series.  Most people don't remember that the batter before Rolen, Pujols, actually tied the game up by doubling home outfielder Roger Cedeno with the tying run.  The whole at-bat was great, but check out where the pitch was on the video.  Add in that it was a 93 mile per fastball and that Pujols, a right-handed hitter, had quick enough hands to keep the ball fair going down the third base line.  Really impressive.




2.  The most remembered Pujols postseason home run, but not his best in my opinion.  Brad Lidge.  Albert Pujols. 




1.  Best home run in the career of Pujols in my opinion is the Game 1 home run he hit off of Tigers ace Justin Verlander.  I know many might point out his three home run performance against the Rangers in the 2011 series, but that game was a complete bludgeoning and much of the work was finished after the first Pujols home run in that game.  The 2006 World Series home run came in a series where the Cardinals were heavy underdogs to the Tigers who had a clear Game 1 pitching advantage with ace Justin Verlander matched up against rookie Anthony Reyes.  The Cardinals had taken the lead the batter before Pujols on a Chris Duncan double.  With first base open, I believe the Tigers were "pitching around" Pujols when he hit this fastball off the plate to the opposite field.  It wasn't a terrible pitch by Verlander, but it seemed to set the tone for the Cardinals on their way to winning the 2006 fall classic. 



Favorite Card-
This could be a top ten list which I probably shouldn't do today.  Instead I am going to go with an under the radar Pujols card which I love and is affordable for any card collector.  One of the really cool things about Albert's time in St. Louis was his sense of history (right up until the end).  He was always respectful of the deep traditions of the Cardinals franchise and always said the right things about past players.  He seemed to be good pals with Stan Musial and was cordial towards many of the other former players who linger around the franchise.  
 
Given the interest shown by Pujols in the past history of the Cardinals I really enjoyed seeing the 2010 National Chicle card of Albert featuring him wearing a St. Louis Browns uniform.  There are plenty of Pujols cards of him wearing throwback Cardinals gear, but to my knowledge this might be his only card made where Albert is wearing a uniform that doesn't some how belong to the Angels or Cardinals.  Really cool card put out by Topps. 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Favorite Cards of 2013

This has been my first full year blogging.  Hard to believe.  I wanted to do something for the end of the year to wrap up my year and share some of my favorite cards from the past year.  I've kicked around several ideas over the past few weeks.  Most them involved sharing huge amounts of cards which would be difficult post on Blogger.  So, here's my solution:

+Throughout the day on Sunday December 29th I will be posting 100 of my favorite cards from 2013 using Instagram

+Even if you don't have an Instagram account you can still access the by clicking here 

+If you are on Instagram you can follow my account @thesnortingbull

+Hope you enjoy looking back over my on cardboard




Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Top 50 On Cardboard- #9 Mark McGwire

My Top 50 On Cardboard
#9
Mark McGwire


1985 Topps Mark McGwire

 
At some point earlier in the countdown I ran down the highlights of the Bryce Harper summer where collectors all ran around and went crazy on Bryce Harper cards.  The only thing I have seen in the 30 years I have collected which has paralleled the Harper craze was the McGwire/Sosa craze during the summer of 1998.  McGwire was more popular than Sosa going into that summer and had more sustained success around the hobby after all of the magic of that summer disappeared with some of the steroid revelations that came out about the sluggers after the fact.  Even though the 1985 Topps rookie of Mark McGwire has returned to Earth, in terms of value, the card is still one of the most iconic cards from the 1980s and should be considered a must have for any collector. 


Hobby Impact-
I remember the day the Cardinals traded for Mark McGwire I converted myself into being a huge McGwire fan.  I usually found myself rooting against the A's as a kid.  I did not mind McGwire, but I heaped him in with Canseco and a few others whom I disliked.  Even a brief appearance by Willie McGee could not help turn me into a fan of the green and gold.  At the time the Cardinals traded for McGwire, the Cardinals were a middle of the pack team in the National League Central and they lacked star power.  There were good players on the team, but not a big name.  Collecting players like Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan, and Andy Benes was fun, but there are some serious limitations to collecting those sorts of players.  

McGwire was a different sort of player around the baseball card hobby that Cardinals collectors hadn't experienced.  Ozzie Smith had been a popular Cardinals star while the baseball card hobby modernized, but The Wizards market within the baseball card world was somewhat limited due to the fact that he was an aging and diminished star.  Sure, I still collected plenty of cool cards and sets from the mid-90s, but the Cardinals trade for McGwire marked the day that I had my own Cardinals player to track down.  

Within 48 hours of the trade I had visited all of the good baseball card shops around St. Louis county in 1997: St Louis Sports Collectibles, Southtown Sluggers, One Million Baseball Cards, All-Star, Chesterfield.  I had a large stack of Big Macs to start off my new collection.  There were plenty of other McGwire cards that I needed to add, but I worked on and still continue to work on it to this day.  

Plenty of other collectors out there also love collecting Mark McGwire.  I am sure plenty got on the wagon long before I jumped on and I am sure that new collectors are discovery the fun of collecting McGwire cards everyday.  Sort of like my closet Chipper Jones collection, the Big Mac cards I have picked up over the years probably deserve their own blog post or two.  

One of the biggest challenges in collecting Big Mac cards stems from the fact that the autograph and relic card market for McGwire is seriously limited.  He's self-described as an introvert and has never been big on showing up places for signings.  There are some nice cards out there featuring certified autographs of the slugger, but your options are generally limited to early 2000s Upper Deck cards and a spattering of others.  Relic cards have a similar story.  Early 2000s is your best bet.  

I picked up a McGwire autograph earlier this year, but my first and favorite autograph came out of the 2002 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection set.  There are actually several versions of this card, but they are all low print runs.  Every once in awhile a McGwire autograph might fall a little short of $100, but it's a rare occurrence.  Collectors interested in adding a Big Mac signature to their collection should expect to realistically pay somewhere somewhere between $125-$150 as a starting point. 


2002 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Mark McGwire Autograph


On The Field-
McGwire was primarily a power threat, but I was often surprised at how good of a hitter and fielder he actually was after spending a few years watching him in person.  I know there is a snap judgement by some baseball fans to put him into a category with players like Rob Deer and Adam Dunn, but McGwire was much more talented than those players. At his prime McGwire would fair much better than his .263 career batting average would seem to indicate.  In fact, I choose to just ignore his batting average all together and check out his on-base and slugging percentages.

McGwire's career on-base percentage is actually just a little shy of .400 at .394, but stood over 7 of his 16 seasons in the league.  His slugging percentage was just short of .600, but ended above that number in 10 of his 16 seasons.  Comparing him to other first baseman, his on-base percentage is higher than several Hall of Famers including Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray, and Harmon Killebrew.  His slugging percentage ranks all Hall of Fame first baseman not named Gehrig, Foxx, and Greenberg.  Pujols is higher too.

Overall, JAWS rates McGwire as the 16th best first baseman in Major League history.  While he's clearly not in the same class as players like Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg he is in the discussion with almost any other Hall of Fame caliber first baseman.  Ranking McGwire by OPS+ versus other Hall of Fame first baseman breaks down like this:

OPS+ Hall of Fame First Baseman
1. Lou Gehrig 179
2. Dan Brouthers 170
3.  Jimmie Foxx 163
     Mark McGwire 163
4. Hank Greenberg 158
    Johnny Mize 158
5. Frank Thomas 156 


I know Frank Thomas isn't in the Hall, but he will be soon.  Joey Votto is also tied for 5th with Thomas.  Just FYI.  Mind you that first base is a very deep position in the Hall of Fame, so ranking 16th in the JAWS rankings puts Big Mac square in the group of Hall of Famers for the position.  Looking at McGwire by some other measures like OPS+ shows that he is truly deserving of having a plaque in Cooperstown.  If you are more of a counting numbers person, McGwire ranks second all-time amongst first baseman in home runs behind only Jim Thome.

If you have not watched a McGwire home run in awhile here are three of my favorites:

3. McGwire homers off of Randy Johnson



2.  McGwire walks off Game 3 of the 1988 World Series



1.  Number 70.  I was there.  




Favorite Card- 
I have actually had this card on my blog before, but it's just a really cool card.  Pacific put out the 2001 Private Stock set as it's last baseball release ever.  I am not sure the exact story behind this card, but they were not supposed to make this card since Big Mac had an exclusive with Upper Deck.  Pretty sweet card and I am happy to have a few of these in my collection.  It's not impossible to find and pretty reasonable in price if you are patient. 


2001 Pacific Private Stock Mark McGwire Bat




Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 50 On Cardboard- #10 Chipper Jones

My Top 50 On Cardboard
#10 
Chipper Jones


1991 Topps Chipper Jones

 We are down to the last ten on the Top 50 on Cardboard Countdown which starts with Braves star Chipper Jones.  My initial run ins with Chipper the player and Chipper the guy on cardboard were less than stellar.  Of course, I ran into Chipper on cardboard sometime during the spring or summer of 1991.  Goofy kid with a goofy name.  I also remember watching the 1996 National League Championship Series in my dorm room at college and being thoroughly disappointed at seeing the Braves steamroll the Cardinals three straight games to erase a 3-1 series deficit.  Chipper was in the middle of it all, and at the time, was very much a player who was very low on my likeability radar.  He kind of stayed there for awhile, along with Javy Lopez.  After moving to North Carolina in the fall of 2005 I ran into a lot of Braves fans and started to develop a healthy respect for the Braves third baseman.  The longer I lived in the south the more and more my respect shifted into admiration.  Watching Chipper Jones play almost every day and talking to Braves fans all the time lead me to this conclusion: I am missing out on a good player.  At some point in 2007 I began picking up cool Chipper Jones cards.  While I do not have a real high end collection of the future Hall of Famer, I am really happy with amount of cool cards I have amassed of the Braves star on the side.  It will definitely deserve a post in the future.  


Hobby Impact- 
Chipper Jones has always been a popular figure around the hobby starting with his 1991 Topps rookie. His large hobby profile has meant that collectors have had thousands of different Chipper Jones cards hit the secondary market ranging from the usual spattering of base cards all the way up to short printed autographs and relic cards which can often sell for hundreds of dollars.  While I have grown to enjoy Chipper Jones and collect his cards, I am not into the really high end stuff.  So, when I start looking around for Chipper Jones I stay on my budget, but look for things that are really cool.  One of my favorite Braves sets is the 2000 UD Hologrfx World Series Base.  Hard to find at times, but really affordable.  I am not big into the "base relic" since they are common property to everyone on the field, but these are cool.  Here's my Chipper: 

 2000 Upper Deck Hologrfx Chipper Jones World Series Base
 
This card is rare enough to make it a challenge to find, but might run a collector between $10 and $20 depending on where and when they stumbled across the card.  There are tons of other cool Chipper Jones cards just like this World Series base card which is one of the benefits of collecting a player with such a large market.  It's unrealistic to think that anyone person can pull off collecting the ten and thousands of Chipper Jones cards out there.  I am sure that people try, but it's just unrealistic.  While certain cards from certain sets are always going to draw a premium, there are lots of cool Chipper cards that float through the cracks because of the sheer volume involved in collecting his cards.  This principle applies for other high end players too. 

While I am not going to scan them all, I also recommend looking into the following Chipper cards:

-1999 Skybox Metal Oh Atlanta

-1998, 1999, and 2003 Skybox EX Essential Credential Cards

-1992 Fleer Excel Durham Bulls

-2005 Prime Patches Relics and 2009 Topps Unique Relics

-Flair Hot Gloves Cards

The real prize in collecting a higher end, Hall of Fame player like Chipper Jones is landing a really cool autograph.  Chipper has signed a ton over the years, but his autographs still hold a ton of value for collectors.  There some of the toughest autographs to trade for in my opinion, so buying is the better option here.  Ever Chipper autograph I have ever traded for, or tried to trade for, has come with a story about how, where, and how much it cost the person.  You never catch a break in price, so just buy the one you want and create your own story. 

I have a couple of Chipper Jones autographs floating around in my collection, but here is my favorite and the story behind it.


2000 SPX Signatures Chipper Jones Autograph


I landed my first Chipper Jones autograph over Thanksgiving holiday in 2000.  I finished up my last day of teaching before break and felt exhausted.  I left work and drove down Olive Blvd. in Creve Couer, Missouri for one of my favorite card shops of the day: All-Star Sports Cards.  While it's closed now, the owner was an awesome guy, Howard, and was always awesome to me every time I came into the shop.  He offered me a good deal on a box of SPX, which had been a really hot set that summer, and I decided to jump on that rather than holding out a week for the new 2001 products.  I took the box home and opened the packs.  Pulled nothing at first, which seemed to be pretty typical of my luck with high end products, but the last pack I pulled my Chipper.  It's still in my collection today, but I have added a nicer copy of this autograph to go with it.  At the time I pulled the card it was definitely one of my better pulls and better autographs in my collection.  While I certainly own more valuable cards than this one today, it still ranks as one of my favorite autographs in my collection. 


On The Field- 
Chipper Jones didn't quite get to 3,000 hits and he didn't quite get to 500 home runs, but he's a no doubt slam dunk Hall of Famer in most people's book.  Mike Piazza isn't in the Hall yet, so it might take Chipper a few years longer than it should, but he will get there.  Chipper was the big offensive cog on the 90s and 2000s Braves teams which won a lot of regular season games, but seemed to always come up just short in the post-season.  Baseball has a really long season and the playoffs are always a crap shoot.  Just because you're the best team on paper rarely means that you're the last team standing.

JAWS ranks Chipper Jones as the fifth best third baseman of all-time which places him in the middle of the Hall of Fame players at the position.  Schmidt, Matthews, Boggs, and Brett all rank higher.   However, Chipper Jones ranks higher than Ron Santo, Brooks Robinson, Paul Molitor, and Adrian Beltre (don't hate-he belongs here).  His OPS+ moves him up to third amongst Hall of Fame third baseman, but also puts him behind Miguel Cabrera who won't be remembered or ranked as a third baseman eventually. 

Chipper does not have one category or area where he shines.  There are not any top ten rankings in any categories, but he ranks in the top 100 to top 50 in almost every offensive category that can measured.  His highest ranking on the all-time leader boards looks to be walks where he ranks 16th all-time.  Chipper was just a really good all around player and will be a deserving member of the Hall of Fame whenever they get around to putting him in. 




Favorite Card-
Often considered Chipper's "other" rookie card, the 1992 Bowman card is kind of a cult classic for 90s baseball card collectors.  I have never heard where or what they were doing in this picture, but you've got some good early 90s fashion in a flower bed of cacti.  This is the same set that has a picture of Manny Ramirez just "hanging out" at Duke University, so I am sure this card has an equally awesome story.  I just have not heard it yet. 



Top 50 Players On Cardboard- #11 Roger Clemens

My Top 50 On Cardboard
#11
Roger Clemens


1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens

I am feeling a little snarky about today's post.  There are way too many statements being thrown around about the Baseball Hall of Fame and issues of morality.  The latest to wade into the pool of morality is the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons who claims that he cannot vote for players like Rogers Clemens because he has a duty to judge the character and morals of a player who is being considered for the Hall.  While I personally do not think it was a wise decision for Clemens to waste years of his life and millions of dollars throwing a grown-up temper tantrum over allegations leveled by his former trainer it still does not take away from the fact that Clemens was one of the best starting pitchers ever to appear in a Major League Baseball game.  Of course, Clemens is making my list for the fact that he was also a great player for fans to collect starting with his 1984 Fleer Update rookie card.  This card still holds some pretty good value despite falling a ways over the years, but is an unquestioned iconic card of the 1980s in my opinion.  There are other nice Clemens cards, even rookies, but a 1984 Fleer Update is a must for any Clemens fan, or 1980s baseball card collector. 

Hobby Impact-
Clemens cardboard was popular throughout hsi entire career.  It helps that he played for some great fan bases in New York and Boston, but even during his time in Toronto and Houston, many collectors took note of his incredible on the field performance and bought and traded for his cardboard.  I liked Clemens as a Red Sox and Blue Jay and have a pretty healthy collection of his cards from the 80s, early 90s, and mid 90s.  I became a little bit in different to the Rocket during his Yankees days, but returned to finding cool Clemens cards after watching him pitch a few times for the Astros.  I had a healthy respect for the talents and abilities of Roger Clemens.

Naturally, I sought the usual array of cards from Clemens ranging from nice base cards, parallels and inserts, up to relics and autographs.  I have always loved my Clemens autograph from the 2001 SP Authentic set despite the fact that it features him as a Yankee and not as an Astro, Red Sox, or Jay. 

2001 SP Authentic Roger Clemens Buyback Autograph



I also own a copy of his 1995 Upper Deck autograph, which is a Red Sox card, but the 2001 SP Authentic set was a really cool set for autographs and I tried to pick up as many of the autographs from this set as possible.  By cool I mean there are some nice buybacks, an Edmonds, and a Pujols autograph.  Some of the buyback autographs can be a little bit testy on condition, but this Clemens is a great looking card.  He's always had a really nice signature and this card is no different.  The 150 print runs is pretty laughable these days, but a "high" print run doesn't take away from the fact that this is a cool card.  

Another quickie on Clemens cards.  I rarely talk or dabble with talk of fraudulent cards on my blog mainly because I deal with above board people with above board cards.  However, my one instance of fraud during my card collecting career involved a 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens card.  I know that a certain Dallas based card magazine will sometimes stir the pot on the whole fraud issue (they are a certification service after all), but the Clemens cards seem to be a legit problem.  Unless you can find a copy that is already certified or you are buying from a dealer who is going to stand behind the card I would stick to the 1985 Topps, Fleer, and Donruss rookies.  They are all nice cards and worth a spot in your collection. 


1985 Topps Roger Clemens


On The Field-
I have said this several other places on this blog during the past year, but you could make a case for Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, or Roger Clemens all being the best starting pitcher during the past twenty years.  I am not going to get into anything overly heated over the matter and have heard great arguments for all three pitchers.  I'd probably rank Clemens above Johnson and Maddux slightly.  It could be personal bias, but I think the numbers are there to support the claim.

First, Clemens was always one of the ultimate competitors of the game.  He could have his bad moments just like any other player in the game and then bounce back to do something spectacular that you did not see coming.  As a Cardinals fan, I remember one of the best moments watching Cardinals baseball was seeing Scott Rolen take him yard for a game winning home run during the seventh game of the 2004 National League Championship Series.



I actually bought a copy of this series off of ITunes and watch it once a year or so on my computer.  Clemens gave the Astros a great chance to win that series and a great chance to win that game.  He got beat competing against of the best three offensive players in the National League that season in the way of Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Albert Pujols.  It had to be a low point in the career of Clemens, but he was doing what he did best against a good team.  He won plenty of these battles at other points during his career.

For example, just the year before against the same Cardinals team Clemens acheived the remarkable plateaus of 300 wins and 4000 strikeouts in the same game.  One of the coolest things I have ever seen in my career as a baseball fan.


So, here's a little bit more in the way of hard numbers on the career of Roger Clemens.  JAWS ranks him as the third best pitcher of all-time behind Walter Johnson and Cy Young, but in the top ten with Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux.  His ERA+ of 143 actually also ranks him ahead of Maddux and Johnson, but he's behind Pedro Martinez and Clayton Kershaw in that stat.  Clemens actually looks really impressive when looking at the counting number stats and his rankings on those lists.  Old School fans will be happy, new schoolers are still welcome to read the next paragraph.  

Clemens ended his career just with 4,600 stirkeouts which puts him third behind Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan on the all-time list.  His 354 wins rank him 9th all-time, one win behing Maddux, but both are far ahead of most on the all-time wins leader board amongst post-World War II players.  Throw in the fact that Clemens won seven Cy Youngs and a pair of Pitching Triple Crowns and you've got a Hall of Fame resume.  

Favorite Card-
Always been my favorite Clemens card. Not much of an explanation needed other than, really cool. 

1991 Topps Roger Clemens

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Snorting Bull Awards: Best Base Set

2013 Topps Heritage Set



2013 Topps Heritage Bryce Harper

Picking this set as the best base set of 2013 was kind of a no-brainer for me.  I am not super huge into vintage cards, but one of my greatest areas of success with older cards is the 1964 Topps set, which the 2013 Topps Heritage set used as it's design model.  I do not remember why I started in on collecting cards from the 1964 Topps set, but two of the earliest vintage cards I added to my collection were the 1964 Curt Flood and Ken Boyer cards.  At some point I added a Bob Gibson and the ball just kept rolling.  There are more positives to the base set of Topps Heritage then just warm fuzzy feelings from the past.

First, this is one of the most well thought out sets that Topps puts out every year.  It's hard to believe that the Heritage brand has now been around for more than a decade, but it comes out every spring like clockwork.  While I can be critical of some of the product Topps releases, I probably do not do a good enough job underscoring the fact that they get plenty of things right.  Heritage is always a great product which is well designed and not haphazardly photoshopped together and thrown in packs at the last minute.  It's a clean, well-organized, well-thought out product.  

Second, for a set chaser this is a really fun set to assemble year in and year out.  This year since I am reorganizing my collection I went light on the wax which meant I assembled the majority of my sets this years through trading and buying lots of cards, then filling in the holes in between the lots by purchasing and trading for singles.  The short prints in sets such as Heritage made that challenge even more daunting this year.  


2013 Topps Heritage Hanley Ramirez SP

Every collector has to be up for a good challenge though at some point and I certainly enjoy the challenge of running down lots of Heritage short prints.  It's almost become a rite of spring in my little cavern of cards on the second floor of my house.  Anyway, I am more than happy to have another year's worth of Heritage cards under my roof and in my collection.  It was a great looking set and clearly the best base set out on the market this year. 

My Top 50 On Cardboard-#12 (part 2) Tony Gwynn

My Top 50 On Cardboard
#12 (part 2)
Tony Gwynn


Before we begin with today's blog post a special shout out to the Snorting Bull's favorite sister-in-law residing in North Carolina: Christina Seguin.  I appreciate your retrieval of my Ipad last night, your patience on our long trip through rain, snow, and the mean snowy streets of Frankenmuth on Sunday, and your awesome Christmas gift which included an evening of childcare.  Thank you. 


  1983 Topps Tony Gwynn

This is part two of my number 12 entry into my baseball card Top 50.  By doing two number 12s it gave me an oppurtunity to squeeze more cool players into my countdown, but more importantly gave me a chance to show how two players who were great at their respective crafts have been treated as completely opposites by Hall of Fame voters.  While in part one I discussed Mike Piazza's credentials as the best offensive catcher of his generation, this part is about Tony Gwynn who was the best hitter of his generation.  While Gwynn never crossed twenty home runs in a season, he won eight National League batting titles and never played a full season in the Majors where he did not end the season with an average over .300.  Of course, Gwynn is also well thought of around the baseball card world too.  Not only is Tony Gwynn a cool player to collect, but he is one of the great ambassadors for the game of baseball.  He's currently coaching college baseball at San Diego State and is one the easier and more approachable Hall of Famers around.  I had a chance to meet him a few years back at a Durham Bulls game.  Really, really friendly and a great signer. 

Hobby Impact-
Gwynn first appeared on the hobby seen in the 1983 card releases.  My personal favorite is his 1983 Topps cards, but I know that Gwynn has been vocal about his dislike for this card in the past.  The Donruss and Fleer cards are both nice, but the early 80s Padres uni on his Topps card is just awesome in my opinion.  Gwynn rallied the Padres to the National League pennant in 1984 and won his first batting title in the process.  Both achievements seemed to be a nice launching point for popularity within the baseball card industry. 

Over the years Gwynn has always had a good following from fans in the hobby.  Recognized as the best hitter in baseball, Gwynn's cards always seem to have good value and collect-ability with fans.  While I am not a baseball card collector who flocked to Gwynn cards I certainly appreciated nice ones when they came my way.  If I landed a nice Gwynn card I kept it and put it in the collection.  Rare for me to trade or sell a nice Gwynn card.   

In many ways I feel like I treat Piazza, who was the subject of the first part of #12 on my Top 50 countdown, and Gwynn cards in a similar manner in my collection and they are also treated similarly by collectors in the secondary market.  Both enjoy great reputations from their time in the game and offer collectors a great value and variety of cards.  While Gwynn is Mr. Padre, Piazza is well respected and liked within two large fan bases on opposite coasts.  Plus there's that weird Marlins thing too.  One of the biggest differences between the two players is their signing habits. 

While Piazza has always been decidedly stubborn about signing for cards and collectors, Gwynn has signed a ton of cards.  However, there still remains a great market for Tony Gwynn autographed cards.  Premium Gwynn autographs will usually be found around $50 while more common Gwynn autographs can be found in the neighborhood of $20 to $25. 


1999 Upper Deck Legends Tony Gwynn Autograph

His Upper Deck Legends autograph is probably my favorite in my collection.  However, Gwynn has a great autograph and you cannot really go wrong with most Tony Gwynn autographs.  Pick one you like and go for it.  If you want a cool story to go with your Gwynn autograph, wait around and see if you can get Mr. Padre in person or see if you can get him through the mail.  Tony Gwynn is one of the best in-person signers I have ever met.  Really nice and friendly towards fans, takes his time signing items, and chats up fans while doing it. 

On The Field-
As mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, Gwynn is considered the best pure hitter of his generation.  While he didn't hit a ton of home runs there is also a tremendous amount of skill in winning eight batting titles over your career.  The best effort, in my opinion, came in 1994 when Gwynn ended the strike shortened season with a .394 batting average.  One of the closest attempts at the seemingly unreachable .400 batting average plateau.  Gwynn also put together a remarkable 1998 season in helping to lead the Padres to the team's second World Series appearance with a .372/.409/.547 line with a career high 17 home runs and 119 RBIs.  While the Padres were swept out of the World Series that season by the great New York Yankees, Gwynn posted a .500 batting average for the series. 

JAWS rates Gwynn as the 14th best right fielder in MLB history which ranks behind a big chunk of other right fielders in the Hall, but still guys like Dave Winfield and Enos Slaughter.  He's also ahead of Ichiro and Gary Sheffield, who are in my opinion, worthy of serious consideration when they become eligible.  For some of the players on my list, I have done a comparison of OPS+ numbers to help their case, but in the case of Tony Gwynn he falls further down the list of right fielders when ranked by that statistic.  In fact, Gwynn drops to 38th which is behind most of the other Hall of Fame right fielders and also guys like Vlad Geurrero, Darryl Strawberry, and Jack Clark.

There have been a few conversations I have party to over the past two or three years where I have heard a few people mention that they don't really like Gwynn in the Hall of Fame because he just got 3,000 singles over 20 years.  Not true.  There aren't many players like Tony Gwynn around anymore and seriously debating him out of the Hall of Fame is a lot like some of the people who swear that Miguel Cabrera isn't worthy of placing in the top 5 on an MVP ballot.

There are plenty of people in the Hall of Fame for one singular skill.  Ozzie Smith could field.  Harmon Killebrew hit home runs.  Cal Ripken played a lot of games in a row.  Tony Gwynn could hit a baseball for a single.  Even though all of these guys and more have a single claim to fame, there is so much more to their game then just diving for ground balls, or showing up for every game for twenty years.  Gwynn could hit and few others could do it better than him.



Early in his career Gwynn could steal bases and has over 300 for his career, including a 50 steal season.  Gwynn was a superior defender during the first half of his career.  Gwynn won five Gold Gloves, ranked in the Top 10 in Defensive WAR twice, and frequently appeared in the National League leaders in putouts and assists for outfielders.  Not the best quality video, but here's a little taste of Gwynn's defensive talents on display...


Gwynn was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007 as one of the best players of his generation.  Ironically, Gwynn's career intersected with the steroid era, but there was little doubt about Gwynn's place in the history of the game when his eligibility rolled around.  There were never any allegations of Gwynn using steroids nor any evidence to suggest that he ever used.  Why don't guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza get the same nod from sports writers?  I am not sure, but it's a little bit aggravating to see take place year after year.  

Favorite Card-
I have a definite favorite in the case of Tony Gwynn.  The 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey card. 
1997 Upper Deck Tony Gwynn Game Jersey
This was one of the first big dives into relic cards by any card company and while the Griffey appearance in the set is a no-brainer and the Rey Ordonez appearances is a head-scratcher, I love that Gwynn got a slot in this set.  Again, Gwynn is one of the great guys in the game and really did a lot to drive interest and enthusiasm in the game.  There are plenty of cool Gwynn cards out on the market, but the land breaking sets often pass by solid nice guys like Gwynn for splashier names who might look silly down the road.  See Rey Ordonez.  These cards are still not too difficult to find and can usually be had for less than $20 if you are patient.  Highly recommended card to find for your collection. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top 50 Players On Cardboard- #12 (Part1) Mike Piazza

Top 50 On Cardboard 
#12
Mike Piazza


1992 Bowman Mike Piazza

Here's another player who should be in the Hall of Fame, but he's not there yet. I would go so far as to say that Piazza might be the poster child for steroid era players who were never faced with steroid allegations, but continue to be punished by the Baseball Writers during Hall of Fame voting. He's the best catcher of his generation and perhaps the greatest offensive catcher of all-time.  Best of a generation players get into the Hall of Fame generally as you will see in the second part of this post.  Despite being the best offensive catcher of his generation and possibly ever, Piazza just crossed 50% in last years Hall of Fame voting and likely will end up being short again this year after the voting is announced in January.  While his impact on the game is currently being ignored by Baseball Writers, baseball card collectors have kept the former backstop in high regards even after his retirement from the game.  His 1992 Bowman card is one of the most popular rookie cards on the market and he is widely collected and respected around the hobby. 


Hobby Impact-
I have never personally collected, or sought out, Mike Piazza cards for my collection.  However, when I landed a really good one I would rarely part with it.  Over the years I have always found Piazza collectors to be really fun and interesting.  There is a crowd of Dodgers fans who still have a sweet spot for the power hitting catcher even though he spent the last decade of his career playing elsewhere, Mets fans who correctly saw him as the team's best player early in the 2000s, and collectors who chase the obscure Marlins cards from Piazza's one week on the team. 

The Marlins and Dodgers collectors have always been the most intriguing aspect of Piazza's collecting market.  Dodgers fans were not really happy with trade that sent their All-Star catcher to the Marlins in exchange for outfielder Gary Sheffield.  Nothing against Sheffield, he was a really good player, but it's hard to justify trading a premium player at a premium position like catcher.  Surprisingly, Dodgers fans did not seem to undergo the usual post-trade/post free agent signing card dump that so many collectors partake in every off season.  At this point it's almost normal for me to run into a Dodgers collector and have them pop out a few really impressive Piazza cards.  

The Marlins cards thing is another cool aspect of Piazza cards.  I own a few cards of Piazza in teal, but I am going to leave it up to an expert in this area to explain the fascination.  Here's the New York Times take on the biggest Piazza/Marlins collector. 

Piazza has also been a pretty stingy signer over the years.  The low number of Piazza autographs has helped him retain a strong interest and value with his signature.  There are actually quite a few of Piazza's autographs that are signed on-card.  My recommendations:  For Mets collectors find a 2000 Upper Deck Legends and Dodgers collectors should look for a 1996 SPX Mike Piazza Commemorative. 


2000 Upper Deck Legends Mike Piazza Autograph


On The Field-
Again, Piazza was the best offensive catcher of his generation.  Piazza hit for power and average.  During the prime of his career Piazza was capable of 30 to 40 home run seasons, an average above .320, and 100 RBIs.  Of course Piazza was a big guy who hit home runs who played during the steroid era, with no connection to any allegations of steroid use, so he does not have a plaque in Cooperstown.  He should.  

Jaws rates Piazza as the fifth best catcher of all-time behind Johnny Bench,. Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, and Carlton Fisk.  Three of the five, Pudge Rodriguez is not eligible yet, are in the Hall of Fame.  Piazza trails the four in WAR, but is ahead of them in OPS+ by a sizable margin and also ranks as the all-time leader in homers by a catcher.  

The power was really the best thing about Piazza.  It's now keeping him out of Cooperstown in some ways, but really impressive.  



Favorite Card-
This is an easy question for me.  I have always really liked the 1998 Pacific Omega card which showed Piazza in all three jerseys he played in during the summer of 1998.  Pretty cool.  


1998 Pacific Omega Mike Piazza




2013 Snorting Bull Awards: Best Parallel Set

2013 Topps Emerald Green Parallels 


2013 Topps Emerald Green Matt Holliday 


I know a lot of collectors who dig the parallels.  I have seen checklists about diamonds and sepia and camouflage and everything under the sun.  Yet, rarely do I feel the urge to put together any of these sets.  If you collect parallel sets and are willing to part with something decent I will put together a huge stack of these cards and send them your way.  I think part of the frustration with them is that, like the variations, there are too many of them today.  Name a color and there is a parallel.  Some of them might be serial numbered, others not.  Some are only in Hobby Packs, while others are only available at Wally World (Wal-Mart) and others at Target.  99% of the time I do not care.  

I take notice when something changes my mind.  I saw a bunch of changes to the parallels this year in Topps, and while I am not knocking camo or pink cards, I love these green cards.  They have a cool look and I just really think they are catchy.  I managed to assemble a complete set of green Cardinals cards this summer and happily have them marked off in my box of inserts and parallels from this year's base set.  In fact, the Emerald Green Cardinals parallel set gets looked at at least once a week.  Love them.  

Now, hopefully Topps will keep these cards next year and will not do anything to mess with them or change them.  Bonus Emerald Green card, Jon Jay.  They should have done something cool with the picture of Tony LaRussa on the wall behind Jay.  


2013 Topps Emerald Green Jon Jay 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Top 50 Players On Cardboard-#13 Miguel Cabrera

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
#13
Miguel Cabrera 


2000 Topps Traded Miguel Cabrera


Miguel Cabrera is one of the best players on the planet.  There have been plenty of silly arguments surrounding the Tigers star over the past two years in regards to his American League MVP Awards.  It's easy to get drawn into the debate, but regards of whether or not you believe Cabrera was deserving of the award, there is little to doubt that he still ranks amongst the games best.  If you are not really into the Triple Crown fine.  Cabrera has been consistently awesome throughout his career and the baseball card hobby has caught up in recent years.  His rookie cards in the 2000 Topps products are both valuable and popular with collectors. 

Hobby Impact- 
I really liked Cabrera as a Marlin.  I remember watching the 2003 World Series with keen interest and was really impressed by the young Marlins outfielder.  I picked up a few of his cards, but had some reluctant because he was a Marlin.  They tend to not hold onto their players, but they also seem to devalue many of the players who don the Fish.  Cabrera played well as a Marlin, and I figured a bounce upon his trade to the Tigers, but I missed how how much Cabrera's cards would benefit from his time in Detroit.  The peak of Cabrera's career has also helped, but his cards have been on fire for the past two years.

While his rookie cards have taken off his autographs have also been very popular.  There is a slight mark down for Cabrera's cards on the Marlins, but not much of one.  Cabrera has some great on card autographs and premium pieces on the Marlins.  Of course, there have been plenty of autographs and cool cards made since Cabrera's trade to the Tigers in 2007.  My favorite came from last year's Five Star product.  I made sure I picked one of these cards up for my collection.


2012 Topps Five Star Miguel Cabrera Jersey/Autograph


Topps also made a really cool line of relic cards to commemorate his Triple Crown win.  While there have been some irrational people running around downplaying this accomplishment (don't hate) I suspect it will likely be one of the hallmarks seasons of the post-steroid era of baseball.  I would guess that this set will be a good one to have a card or two from in the future.  This set has avoided the usual post release let down on pricing that can be common with newly released sets.  These cards sold for $20 to $30 this spring when they first hit the secondary market and they are still there right now.  Good pick up if you are looking for one Cabrera card to buy or trade for.  


2013 Topps Miguel Cabrera Triple Crown Relics


On The Field-
Cabrera has had a phenomenal last two years on the field.  Take away the two MVPs and give them to Trout and it still doesn't change the fact that Cabrera is probably one of the five best offensive players in the game today.  In many ways he reminds me a lot of Albert Pujols with his ability to hit for both power and average.  Pujols was a better base runner and fielder, but Cabrera has passed El Hombre by as an offensive threat.  Last season Cabrera posted a OPS+ of 187 and an OPS of 1.078 (both higher than Trout).  

Overall, at the age of 30, JAWS rates Cabrera as the 18th best third baseman.  I'd say that Cabrera is not quite a Hall of Famer at the moment, but it's getting pretty close.  He's surrounded by third baseman like Ken Boyer and Dick Allen who were really good players, but not quite Hall of Famers.  Another two or three seasons and he will be knocking on the door behind players like Paul Molitor and Adrian Beltre.  There is probably good reason though to suspect that Cabrera will be back at first base soon, so lets take a quick look at how he stacks up there....

Surprisingly Cabrera's 54 career WAR place him at the edge of the top 25 first baseman of all-time right by Hall of Famers George Sisler and Tony Perez.  However, his OPS+ of 154 places him inside the top 20 with Frank Thomas and Joey Votto close by, but ahead of Hall of Famers like Willie McCovey and Harmon Killebrew.  Clearly Cabrera is close to being a Hall of Fame player.  



Favorite Card-
My favorite Triple Threads card in my collection and almost a 1 of 1 card of Miggy.  I've posted this card before, but it's pretty awesome.  

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Patch Card 

A Trip to Big D's Sports Cards

It's been a slow week around my blog this week mainly because it's been a busy week around my house getting ready for the holidays with decorations and presents.  It's also been the final week of school for this quarter which is always busy.  Throw in a wife under the weather and a 70 degree day yesterday and I have spent a huge chunk of my weekend chasing a three year old around a few parks around town.



The little guy and I made a deal yesterday morning that I could visit my favorite new card shop in exchange for a trip to his favorite park which features a giant green concrete dragon.  Seemed like a fair trade, so I made my second trip into Big D's Sports Cards.  The owner Jimmy was awesome again and helped me pick out some more awesome cards for the collection.

During my first trip I spent my time focusing on Rays/Durham Bulls cards, but branched out a little bit this visit and added some Cardinals pieces too.  So, without further delay here'a look at my new cards:

2013 Topps Triple Threads Matt Holliday Jersey


Jimmy actually picked this up at a show he attended last week.  I have another version of this card numbered out of 36, but this one is numbered to just 27 and also features his jersey number 7 on the card.  I am not super huge into the whole "Ebay 1 of 1" thing with cards being numbered 1, last print, or to a jersey number, but when I find them and there's not a ridiculous premium attached they are cool.  I paid for a Triple Threads Matt Holliday card which is a great price to pay for this awesome card.


2002 Topps Tribute Bob Gibson Jersey 

A Bob Gibson jersey from a good set is pretty self-explanitory.  I actually saw this the last time in the store and gave it some thought.  Yesterday I pulled the trigger.  Cool card from a cool set.


2011 Topps Tier One Albert Pujols

My interest in Albert has died down, but I will always look and listen when I see something cool.  This is a pretty nice piece.

2012 Topps Tribute Jaime Garcia Autograph 

Hoping Jaime can bounce back this year if he fits somewhere in the middle of Wainwright, Wacha, Kelly, Miller, Lynn, and Martinez.  Cool card from a cool set.  Next up, two Longos.....


2013 Topps Tribute Evan Longoria Dual Bat 



2010 Topps Peak Performance Evan Longoria 


and finally, I always go out on the limb for a card.  Last time it was a great looking Tulo quad from the Topps Museum set.  Not starting a Rockies collection or anything, but could not pass up adding a nice piece from Triple Threads featuring Carlos Gonzalez.  Sweet card.


2011 Topps Triple Threads Carlos Gonzalez Jersey 


It was a good Saturday at Big D's, a little rushed with the little people, but I am really happy with the cards I picked up.  A return trip is definitely in the works before I go back to school in January.  Speaking of return trips, Big D is hosting a Trade Night later on in January.  I am in and hope if you live in the Raleigh-Durham area you will take a little time out of your calendar to stop in and trade a few cards.  Link above, picture with details below.