Monday, April 29, 2013

2011 Leaf Valiant Hak Ju Lee Autograph

The first of many Hak Ju Lee cards to appear on my blog I am guessing.  Lee was acquired by the Rays in the Matt Garza trade and has been slowly working his way up through their minor league system.  Along the way, Hak Ju Lee has developed a reputation for his excellent glove work, but has been held back at times by his offensive production.  Last season while playing for the AA Montgomery Biscuits Lee posted a line of .261/.336/.360 with 4 homers, 37 RBIs, and 37 steals.  Not very good production from the plate.  Still the Korean born prospect is considered by most following the Rays to be the shortstop of the future.  I was curious to see how Lee would fair playing up a level at AAA this year and have quickly become convinced that now is the time to pick up a few of his cards.  So, here is my first.

2011 Leaf Valiant Hak Ju Lee Autograph

This card is from the 2011 Leaf Valiant set which means I have now posted several unlicensed cards during the past week.  It may get worse over the next few days.  Hak Ju Lee has several cards in Topps products, but they have yet to put the shortstop in any autographed lines.  There are a few relics cards floating around from Topps Pro Debut and Bowman, but Leaf has cornered the market on Lee autographs for the time being.  If you were looking for a good card to buy for the future I have a good feeling about Lee's playing career on the next level.

In following the Durham Bulls this season,  I have been thoroughly impressed by the defense displayed by Lee.  He seems to have a very good range and a strong arm.  Lee makes all the plays that you would expect and more in the field.  More impressive has been his offense.  Lee is atop the International League Leader Board with a .422 average and an On-Base Percentage of .536.  He's also walked more than he has struck out.  Currently Lee is on the 7-Day DL, but he should be back next week.  I will be curious to see how he fairs against some of the AAA teams the second time around the league.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Panini Prizm Marc Rzepczynski Autograph

Honestly, this card has everything that I despise about baseball cards: airbrushing, no logos, and a sticker autograph.  Why would I go out and by such a card?  While the three negative attributes above made me seriously think about leaving this card on Ebay untouched there is one good reason that I decided to buy this card.  The good people over at Panini do a great job of picking a variety of different players to sign in their sets.

2013 Panini Prizm Marc Rzepczynski Autograph

When has Topps ever picked a role player to sign for one of their sets?  Never.  During the past two years of collecting Cardinals and Rays autographs from Topps products the autograph lines have been dominated by the same four or five players for each team.  The Cardinals always have some combination of Lance Lynn, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and David Freese.  Throw in a Gibby and repeat ten to fifteen times a year and you've got a year's worth of Cardinals autograph.  Rays are the same way with Matt Moore, Hellickson, and Longoria.  There is not a really bad player on the list, but sometimes it's nice to branch out and see some other players signing.

In fact, after spending a little bit of time researching some of the autographs in the recent Panini recently I found several other Cardinals related players who signed for their products including Skip Schumaker and Reggie Sanders.  Sure, their not the biggest names in the collecting world, but both were solid contributors on World Series teams.  Schumaker for the 2011 team and Sanders for the 2004 team.  Neither player has much of a history of signing (I believe this is Sanders first certified auto) and they will be nice additions to my collection when the cards arrive.

In the meantime, I have started out my Panini additions by picking up this card of Rzepczynsi, or Scrabble as he is know around St. Louis.  Scrabble has never had a certified autograph before this issue despite being a good relief pitcher for two seasons in Toronto and another two in St. Louis.  He was a key contributor during the Cardinals 2011 run to the World Series picking up a win in the NLCS with an ERA of 1.93 and 4 appearances in the World Series without giving up a run.  Despite all that is wrong with this card, I guess I might revise my previous position on non-licesnced cards and pick up a few more Paninis.

2008 Razor Letterman Jake Odorizzi Autograph

I picked up a few Durham Bulls items to post for this week and am going to start off the week by posting cards of two new players to my collection.  First up is pitcher Jake Ordorizzi.  Originally from Breese, IL (not far from St. Louis) Odorizzi was drafted by the Brewers and traded to the Royals for Zach Greinke.  He pitched very well in two seasons for several different Royals minor league teams including a stellar year last season in the hitter friendly PCL pitching for Omaha (AAA).  Odorizzi started 18 games for Omaha and posted an 11-3 record with an ERA of 2.93.  This off-season he was packaged together with Wil Myers and pitching prospect Mike Montgomery.

2008 Razor Letterman Jake Odorizzi Autograph 

Odorizzi is rated as a top 50 prospect by (#45), but he has had a fairly limited amount of cardboard produced despite being a part of two large trades.  The Razor autographs from 2008 are the only autographed products on the market for Odorizzi.  The plain Razor autographs (on-card) turned out a nicer autograph than his letterman autographs, but I acquired this card in a trade and was not going to turn down a chance at adding an Odorizzi autograph to the collection.  He acutally has a nice autograph, but I am not sure that marker pen is the best thing for autographs.

I also picked up an autograph of the Bulls fifth starter this year J.D. Martin.  Martin is over 30 and still in AAA, so he's not a hot prospect or anything.  It's still nice to add an autograph of a player from the team and really cool to find out he was a part of the 2001 Prospect Premiers set.  Martin is having a solid season so far, so maybe the Rays will give him a spot start at the end of the season.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

1996 Leaf Signature Joe Magrane Autograph

I picked up a cheap autograph this week of Cardinals/White Sox/Angels pitcher Joe Magrane.  Not many people remember Joe Magrane and there is really very little reason to when you look at at his overall career numbers from his eight year career.  Magrane was 10 games under .500 for his career and had an ERA of almost 4.  He was released by all the teams he appeared for in a Major League uniform plus the Cubs and Expos signed and released him after minor league stints or Spring Training tryouts.  When I saw the card, I was honestly surprised that Magrane even had a certified autograph card.  I'd never really looked for it though either.  I just kind of walked into this one.

The career numbers of Joe Magrane really do not do him the justice that he deserves.  While he was never as good as a pitcher like Mark Prior, he definitely fits into the category of player.  Prior and Magrane were both drafted in the first round by their respective teams, rushed to the majors within a year or two of being drafted and were immediately successful.  Prior won 18 games in his first full season and pitched the Cubs into the playoffs.  Prior spent the rest of his career on the DL and skipping around between several teams.  In his first three seasons, Magrane started a NLCS game and a World Series game for the Cardinals in 1987, won the National League ERA title in 1988, and then won 17 games in 1989 (he did not win a game after late August).  Magrane had arm trouble during the 1990 season and would miss the 1991 season.  He pitched part of the 1992 season for the Cardinals before he was released during the middle of the season. 

While I was surprised that Magrane has a certified autograph it is fitting I guess that the card is in the 1996 Leaf Signature Series set.  There are plenty of cool autographs in this set, but there are also plenty of really low end common autographs.  Magrane easily fits into the low-end common autograph category, but as a Cardinals fan I am happy to add this card to my collection.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Pair of 2013 Tribute Jersey Cards

It's been a busy week this and I am a little bit behind on my posting.  Two weeks ago I started to work on putting together a few cards from the 2013 Topps Tribute set.  I've not opened any wax from this product and probably will not, but I am trying to track down a few nice hit cards to add to the collection.  I've already added a nice Carlos Gonzalez autograph and have a few more pieces in mind to pick up.  Two pieces I've been eyeing are the two jersey cards below.

2013 Topps Tribute Carlos Beltran Jumbo Jersey

 2013 Topps Tribute Adrian Beltre Jersey 

Both cards are "jumbo" pieces of jersey.  There are regular square jersey pieces in the set too.  The relic pieces on these cards are slightly jumbo, but products like Five Star offer a much better version of "jumbo" than this product.  My main interest in these cards are the two players on the front.  Beltran is a given since he is shown in Cardinals jersey, but I have actually been trying to pick up a few of his non-Cardinals cards here and there.  He's had a great career, and while he's not a Hall of Famer, he's been a great player for a really long time.  Beltre has also had a great career, but at 34, he still has a few years left in the tank and has already over 2000 hits, almost 350 home runs, and has won multiple Gold Gloves.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1998 Skybox EX Fernando Tatis Essential Credentials Now

I have mentioned the Essential Credential parallels in several past posts and am happy to say that I was able to track down another card from this parallel set featuring a player with Cardinals connection.  Today's card comes from the second issue of the EX sets launched in 1998 as the EX-2001 set.  The cards are basically half plastic and half cardboard.  Kind of an interesting look.  Anyway, the parallel cards for these sets, Essential Credentials, can be tough cards to find.

1998 Skybox EX-2001 Fernando Tatis Essential Credentials Now

I have actually seen a few copies of this Fernando Tatis which has one of the higher print runs in the set, checking in at 98 copies.  The copies of the Tatis card however have always seemed to drift towards, and north of, $20 which is a little bit steep for this card.  A few weeks ago this copy popped up on Ebay and I was able to talk the seller down to a little bit more than $10.  Tatis is not a Cardinal on the card, but spent the second half of the 1998 season with the Cardinals after he was traded with Darren Oliver for Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2002 Bowman's Best Rich Thompson Autograph

I was thinking about doing a Rocky and Bullwinkle title for this post and put down something like: 2002 Bowman's Best Rich Thompson autograph or The Most Obscure Active Minor League Record Holder in the International League.  That title would not fit very well onto people's screen's and I would imagine that people trying to read and mobile devices would be SOL on the title of this post.  I kept to form and put down the card in the post which is my typical form.  I will do another Rocky and Bullwinkle title later this week.

2002 Bowman's Best Rich Thompson Autograph

I am continuing my work on my 2013 Durham Bulls collection snagging an autograph of outfielder Rich Thompson.  I usually work on the starting line-up and rotation before I drift into finding cards of the role players on the team, but I encountered an interesting snippet on the Bulls Twitter feed a few nights ago that made me go out and look for a Rich Thompson autograph.  It seems that while Mr. Thompson is busy hanging out in the Durham Bulls dugout this season, he is holding the obscure distinction of being the active minor league stolen base leader.

Over the course of his fourteen year career, with two cups of coffee in the big leagues, Rich Thompson has stolen a total of 469 bases.  He's played in 13 games this season for the Bulls and already has 5.  Pretty impressive.  I am not exactly sure who the all-time minor league stolen base leader is, but I am pretty sure that they cannot be too far away.  Which got me to thinking....Is this not like one of the subplots to the movie Bull Durham?  Old guy in the minors trying to break a record?  Not sure that plot line was ever resolved in the move, so here's a funny clip...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Complete Set: 1998 Topps Tek

I started my work on this set about three months ago needing 25 cards to complete the set.  I quickly started picking up single cards and lots and ended up getting down to needing one card within three weeks of starting off on my work to complete the 1998 Topps Tek set.  I was ecstatic to be down to just one card.  One measly Jason Kendall card.  I trolled Ebay, COMC, and trade pages in search of the card.  After one week of looking for the card I was not even sure that the card existed.  I had serious doubts.  If you Google Search Jason Kendall Topps Tek an image of a 1998 Topps Tek card does not appear anywhere.  Further, after several weeks there was not a scent of the card anywhere.  Finally, last week I found a copy of the card on Ebay with a Buy It Now of $1.00.  Well worth the dollar and my set is finally complete.

1998 Topps Tek Jason Kendall

I did a write up on this set awhile ago and got into the specifics of trying to assemble the actual complete set.  To summarize, the set has 90 different players and each player has 90 different pattern variations meaning that assembling the master complete set of the 1998 Topps Tek set would require finding a total of 8100 cards.  The fact that it took me three months to find a Jason Kendall card, let alone 89 more, tells me that I am going to stop right here with one card of each player.  90 cards in all was hard enough to do without needing to track down a full 89 more sets.  I actually started collecting this set to put together as many variations of the Ray Lankford card.  Currently I am about half way there on that goal and will continue to work on adding new patterns.  

Favorite Card from the Set:

1998 Topps Tek Randy Johnson

I like this card for several reasons.  First, Topps did not airbrush this card.  Randy Johnson started the 1998 season pitching for the Mariners, but was traded to the Astros at the trading deadline.  The classic Topps move would have been to airbrush him into late year releases wearing an Astros uniform.  However, it appears that they actual went out and got a photo of the Big Unit in a Houston uni.  To that end, Randy Johnson was only on the Astros for half a season and the list of Johnson cards appearing in an Astros uniform are relatively small.  Not like Mike Piazza on the Marlins, but still not a long list.  

Second, living in a National League city I never had a chance to watch Randy Johnson pitch in person before 1998.  I watched him in All-Star games and a few Mariners games on TV, but never in person.  The first game I saw him pitch was a game against the Cardinals at the end of the 1998 season.  I was really impressed.  Needless to say, I picked up a few Randy Johnson cards that fall including the one above making it the first Topps Tek card in my collection.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2011 Bowman Chrome Brandon Guyer Autograph

I have started to work on putting together some cards from the players on the 2013 Durham Bulls.  They are my local baseball interest and I usually spend a good deal of time hanging out at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park every summer.  I've been to one Bulls game this year and they looked very sharp in taking down the Gwinnett Braves.  In fact, the Bulls record of 10-5 has them out in front of the Southern Division of the International League after the first weeks of the season.  Better yet is the fact that there are lots of good players to collect on this year's version of the Bulls.

I already added a Wil Myers autograph a few weeks back, but took a little bit of a step back this week to pick up a card I missed out on a few summers back.

2011 Bowman Chrome Brandon Guyer Autograph

Brandon Guyer is currently serving as the starting left fielder for the Durham Bulls after spending parts of the past year and a half in Tampa.  Guyer first came to the Rays organization in 2011 in the Matt Garza trade.  He played the first part of the season in Durham and posted a .312 average with 14 homers and 61 RBIs.  Guyer was promoted to Tampa and spent the end of 2011 with the big team.  He started off the 2012 season with Tampa, but was injured and spent much of the year on the DL.

I guess the Tampa outfield is too crowded for Guyer, so he is back in Durham and is off to a fabulous start with a 3 homers and 9 RBIs in the first two weeks of the season.  I am guessing that he'll end back up in Tampa sooner than later, so I decided to stretch out and find a few cards of Guyer's from his days on the Baby Bears.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2011 Topps Finest Carl Crawford Finest Moments Jersey/Autograph

It's way too early in the season to give out awards, or speculate about things that are going to happen at the end of the long and grueling baseball season.  However, an early candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year honor has to be Dodger's outfielder Carl Crawford.  I was a pretty big Crawford fan back in Rays days and picked up quite a few of his cards.  He also played for the Durham Bulls in the early 2000s.  Crawford was a nice player during his time Tampa offering a little bit of pop, a little bit of speed, and he even flashed some leather every once in awhile too.  However, I was shocked when the Boston Red Sox signed him to a 7 year/142 million dollar contract.  Nice player, but not sure he is $20 million a year great.  Anyway, Carl Crawford did not live up to the hype in Boston and was dumped on the Dodgers doorstep last season.  Along the way, the price of Carl Crawford cards fell off a cliff.  I am not complaining.

2011 Topps Finest Carl Crawford Finest Moments Jersey/Autograph

Ninety-Nine percent of the Carl Crawford cards that I own are Rays cards.  Some are actually Devil Rays cards, but that's okay too.  I was really trying to avoid any Crawford cards as a Red Sox, but for less than $5 this card is a great value.  Especially given that Crawford has started off the year well for the Dodgers.  Currently he has a line of .392/.446/.569.  I fully expect him to cool off and probably hit a few more gloves over the course of the year, but a hot start and a clean slate in Los Angeles might be just the thing to get Carl Crawford back to his numbers pre-Boston.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2013 Topps Tribute Carlos Gonzalez Autograph

I am really impressed by the cards in Topps Tribute this year and decided to pick up a few for the collection.  The Tribute line started back in the early 2000s and featured high-end cards with great on-card autographs.  The formula was simple, but this product was always one of my favorites to pick and choose a few nice cards from every year when it hit the shelves.  My favorite Topps Tribute card is this Sparky Anderson autograph from the 2003 version:

2003 Topps Tribute Sparky Anderson Jersey/Autograph

Of course, Topps decided to tinker with something that was a pretty good formula and started putting sticker autographs, redemption cards, and last year's weird encased cards.  Luckily, Topps went back to the roots of the Tribute brand and made this year's cards much like the original releases of this product.  Seeing a few of the cards on Ebay, Facebook and Twitter pages, and a few blogs prompted me to haul a nice autograph in for my collection.  However, after checking out the Cardinals autographs included in the product I decided to reach out for something a little bit different.  Sure, I will go back and pick up a Lance Lynn and a Matt Adams autograph, but for the moment it can wait.  This week I went with a CarGo card.  

As you can see the design of the 2013 Tribute product is very similar to the 2003 version minus the jersey relic.  However, this is a great card and I am happy to add it to my collection.  Oddly, as many cards as I own, I do not own a Carlos Gonzalez autograph.  I had a Donruss autographed rookie, but traded a long time ago and have not touched his cards the past few years.  Really impressive player and a great autograph to add to my collection.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Complete Set: 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen

At some point at the beginning of the year I made a promise to focus on and show more completed sets on this space.  I started off great with my pursuit of a few cards for my 1998 Topps Tek set, but quickly got stuck on a Jason Kendall card.  Funny how one card got me side-tracked, but I recently landed the card which quickly reminded me of my goal.  No ADD or anything to see here.  In the meantime, I have actually finished a few sets, but have not posted the results on here yet.  Today is my first, in what should be, a long line of posts this year showing off a completed set.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Adam Jones

This is actually the third completed set I have finished from the 2013 baseball card releases behind the Topps base set and Topps Heritage.  Gypsy Queen is a 330 card set with 250 base cards and 50 short prints.  There are variations among the base set cards, but I did not get into finding all of the variations and super short print variations.  Not this year.  I actually did not open a hobby box of Gypsy Queen, but started out with a pair of Blasters I bought myself for Easter and then traded for one large lot of cards and bought a few smaller lots.  In the end, it is a nice looking set and a welcome addition to my big closet of cards.  Here are a few highlights from the set:

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Lou Gehrig Mini 

The mini cards have been a big hit for Topps over the years and the Gypsy Queen set is full of minis.  I did not actually complete all of the minis yet, so I do not truly have a master set, but I am not gaga over miniature cards.  I always like picking up a few of these for every set, but the only mini set I ever finish every year is the Topps base set minis.  There are a few other insert sets in Gypsy Queen that I like besides the minis.  

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Sandy Koufax No-Hitters 

My favorite overall insert set in Gypsy Queen is the No-Hitters insert.  The cards have a nice design and they highlight different no-hitters thrown over the years by pitchers from yesteryear and current Major Leaguers.  The backs of the cards feature the details surrounding the no-hitters.  I was a little bit disappointed that the Jose Jimenez no-hitter against the Diamondbacks in 1999 was not featured, but Sandy Koufax is cool too.  I would also recommend the Glove Works, Collisions at the Plate, and Sliding Stars inserts sets too.  Really well done.  

So what's my favorite card from the entire Gypsy Queen set: 

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Collisions At The Plate Yadier Molina 

This Yadier Molina card is really sweet and I was excited that Topps gave him an insert card.  Look around, they are seriously lacking.  Anyway, at first glance I thought this card might be from last season when Molina has quite the collision at the plate with the Pirates Josh Harrison.  However, that collision took place in Pittsburgh.  The card shows Molina wearing red catchers gear, which he wears at home, and the Pittsburgh player has a road uniform and is wearing the jersey number 19 and not Harrison's 5. After doing some research into the collisions of Yadier Molina I found this picture:  

The card fits the picture to a tee and actually took place during Molina's rookie season of 2005.  The Pirates player is current Cardinal (my least favorite one) Ty Wigginton who was tagged out on the play.  I am happy that Topps gave Molina an insert card, finally, and showed a cool play.  Glad a stumbled across this card and helped me finish up the Collisions at the Plate insert set.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

2012 Topps One of One Letter Patch Evan Longoria "G"

This is going to be one of those posts where I am going to go ahead and let the card do most of the talking.  It does not happen often, but I love this card and it has been in my collection only a few hours. Today's card hails from the second series of the 2012 Topps set and features a patch from the jersey of Rays third baseman, and former Durham Bull, Evan Longoria.  I love unique patches and this definitely qualifies as such.

2012 Topps One of One Letter Patch Evan Longoria 

Three New Gypsy Queens

The calendar of baseball card releases has been a little bit of this year.  The initial release of the year was the first series of Topps was followed a few weeks later by the release of Topps Heritage, but the second wave of releases this year (Gypsy Queen, Tribute, and Museum Collection) have all been bunched together much closer making it a little bit harder for to judge what cards they need to pursue for their collections.  To further complicate the close releases is the fact that many of the signers in the sets are the same.  Well, at the ones in Gypsy Queen and Tribute.  For example, the Cardinals autographs in both sets include Matt Adams, Lance Lynn, and David Freese.  Hmmm...

In the meantime, I am going to hold back a little bit on picking up hit cards from some of these sets until I get a chance to look at all three products and figure out where to best use my best trade and monetary resources.  However, I am still working on picking up a few smaller hits from Gypsy Queen and Tribute until I see Museum Collection in two weeks.    In the meantime, I spent less than $10 to pickup three relic cards from Gypsy Queen.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Alex Avila Jersey Card

First up is a jersey card of Tigers catcher Alex Avila.  This is the regular relic card from Gypsy Queen. The card has a unique creme colored jersey which I thought was interesting for a piece of Tigers jersey.   While the Tigers do not keep a creme colored jersey in their rotation of regular jerseys, they did break out a set of creme colored throwbacks to play the Pirates a few years ago.  The Tigers have a Negro League throwback day almost every year and in 2009 paid tribute to the 1920s era Detroit Stars.

I also managed to add two Gypsy Queen jersey cards of Cardinals outfielders Jon Jay and Matt Holliday.  Both cards are the framed relic cards from the set and feature grey road swatches.  I really like the black frames around the cards.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Matt Holliday Jersey Card

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Jon Jay Jersey Card

Thursday, April 11, 2013

2011 Leaf Valiant Yasiel Puig Autograph

I had several cards I could throw up on my blog today, but I am feeling like doing a new prospect card today.  I missed Opening Day for the Durham Bulls, but managed to make it to my first game of the year yesterday afternoon.  Sure I miss living in a Major League city, but the minors are really fun to follow and see some of the really good players before they get up to the big league.  I will do a post in the next week or two on a few of the players on the Bulls, but I will at least share my view of the game with you before I get into my card for the day.  

While I am pretty convinced that the Durham Bulls might flatten most other minor league teams this year (seriously-not being a homer) the most intriguing prospect in the minors belongs to the Chattanooga  Lookouts in the form of outfielder Yasiel Puig.  Puig is a Cuban and defected from the Cuban National Baseball team sometime in 2012 ending up as a resident of Mexico.  He became a free agent and signed a seven year contract with the Dodgers.  Puig played in the lower minors last year and hit for average (.354) and (.634 slugging) with 5 homers in 23 games.  Leaf managed to put him into their Valiant release last year and he was even included in the autographs.  

2011 Leaf Valiant Yasiel Puig Autograph

I managed to snag a green version of the autograph, in a trade, which is the most common.  This spring Yasiel Puig did everything he could to make the Dodgers and basically hit the cover off the ball during Spring Training.  The Dodgers sent him to AA to start the season, but he is hitting over .500 with power.  It's the first week of the season, but it will be interesting to see what becomes of Mr. Puig as the summer continues.  I had a chance to see a glimpse of him during a televised Dodgers Spring Training game and it was hard to get a read on how good he was with my own two eyes.  However, it would not shock me if the Dodgers are in contention that Puig will be the teams de-facto trade line addition to help push the team into the playoffs.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Matt Carpenter Autograph

I've busted a few packs of Gypsy queen and posted a few pics to my Twitter page, but this is going to be a set that I put together through lots and trades.  The Gypsy Queen product looks really nice this year, but I always pick a couple products every year to either skip the base set, or I assemble the base set without sinking a ton of money into wax.  Gypsy Queen is always a pretty easy set to assemble without busting much wax and if you follow some of the better case breakers on Facebook and Twitter the word on Gypsy Queen is that it is extremely uneven in its distribution.  Meaning I could buy a box and get a huge percentage of the set along with some really cool hits, or I could end up with tons of dupes and a Tommy Hanson jersey card.

Nit picking a set off of lots, trades, and Ebay purchases does have some serious advantages.  First, it's easy to assemble the base set for at least half of the cost of the hobby box.  Second, you get to control the hits that you get to put in with your set.  Being mainly focused on the Cardinals with some interest in a few other teams, I decided to make my first target for the Gypsy Queen set the autograph of utility player Matt Carpenter.  The lesser known of the Carpenters on the Cardinals played a valuable role on last year's team as a rookie and has never had a certified autograph.  So, here's the card:

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Matt Carpenter Autograph 

So, here's the problem with picking out single cards to target in a set.  Most Topps sets now have a soft release date.  Sure, Topps maintained that Gypsy Queen just released last Wednesday, but I also bought myself two blasters and put them in my Easter basket the Sunday before the product released.  The release dates that Topps gives to retail and hobby stores have become more of a suggestion than an actual hard date.  So, early last week before the official release there were only a few Matt Carpenter autographs floating around Ebay and COMC.  Several ended north of $25 which is ridiculous given that Matt Carpenter is a 27 year old second year player with no starting job on the Cardinals.

When the product officially released last Wednesday the secondary market sites slowly started seeing an uptick in the number of Carpenter autographs.    Luckily, the uptick in product available allowed the prices to slowly come down below $10 and I was available to pick up a copy of this card from super case breakers Brent and Becca.  The important thing to remember as a collector, when a product first is released, to pick out the cards that you want from the product and stick to a price point.  If you think the card should cost $20 and it is selling for twice that amount, chances are that in the long wrong you will be right and you will be able to get the card you want for the price you want.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2012 Panini USA Baseball Carlos Rodon Dual Jersey

I am still working on picking up a few more of the 2012 Panini USA Baseball cards, especially players that I have been able to watch locally during the ACC baseball season.  This week I was able to pick up my second card of NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon.  I gave a run down on Rodon's accolades on my last post about the great left handed pitcher from Holly Springs, North Carolina.  My newest card I picked up is a dual jersey card.

2012 Panini USA Baseball Carlos Rodon Dual Jersey

I've been able to pick up a few other Panini cards the past few weeks, but have never landed the plain jersey version of one of these cards.  My newest Rodon addition features two different pieces of jersey and is limited to 75.  This card has been difficult to find on the secondary market and Rodon cards are drifting north fast.  A few months ago most Rodon autographs were selling for around $20.  Today, most of the autographs of Rodon on the secondary market are over $50 and the jersey cards are approaching $30.  Definitely excited to see what his cards jump to once he is drafted.

2010 Donruss Elite Franchise Futures Jordan Swagerty Autograph

I picked up my second version of a cool error card last week and helped out a trading partner a bit in the process.  The 2010 Donruss Elite Jordan Swagerty cards are apart of the companies draft set which features college and high school baseball players selected during the June amateur draft.  Jordan Swagerty was selected in the amateur draft by the Cardinals out of Arizona State and was included in the set.  His autograph card looked like this:

2010 Donruss Elite Franchise Futures Jordan Swagerty Autograph

The problem with this famous error card is that the autograph on the card actually belongs to basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.  There are many rumors about how this error happened, but I just think this is simply a really cool card.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

2000 UD Ionix Vladimir Guerrero Autograph

It's amazing how quickly collectors forget about really good players.  Vladimir Guerrero did not play last year, not because he did not want to, but he's more or less retired due to lack of interest.  The end of Vlad's career was a steep drop off from going from a 4.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2007, to a 3.0 WAR in 2008, and finally falling to a woeful 0.8 WAR in 2009.  He would bounce back and post a 2.0 WAR for the Rangers in 2010, but his career would ultimately come to an end the following season as an Oriole.  There are a lot of people people who remember the fragile Guerrero trying to play right field for the Rangers in the 2010 World Series, or remember him as an Oriole and not the All-Star right fielder for the Angels and Expos.  In fact, last week I surprised to find an autograph of Vladimir Guerrero for under $10.

2000 UD Ionix Vladimir Guerrero Autograph 

Not that long ago an autograph of Vlad would have cost a collector a pretty penny, but today they are easy to find for less than $10.  I was honestly really surprised.  I guess I do not check the market on his autographs that often, but I counted at least a dozen autographed Vladimir Guerrero cards that sold on Ebay for less than $10.  Not just the cheap Royal Rookies autographs, but certified autographs from Donruss Signature Series, SP Signature Edition, Playoff Absolute, SPX, and others.  There was even an Upper Deck Century Legends that closed for less than $10.

When did this happen?  I am not sure, but I do encourage collectors to take advantage of the low low prices on Vladimir Guerrero autographs.  Take a spin around the Impaler's Baseball Reference page and you will see that he was not only the 2003 AL MVP, but also is a Hall of Famer as measured by three out of the four indexes used, and his career and age comparisons are littered with Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Willie Stargell, Jim Rice, and Albert Pujols.  It's hard to find a Hall of Fame autograph for less than $10, but this is your chance.

1998 Donruss Crusade Alan Benes

Long ago in the 1990's card companies started making parallel cards.  Most sets by the late 90s had at least one such insert set.  Notice I said one parallel set and not the five or six that often appear in the sets of today.  Last week's Topps release of Gypsy Queen contained at least that many if not more.  Sure, the numbers on the backs of the cards today actually appear to be smaller and many of the parallel sets frequently run a one out of one and several other versions up to 100.  At the end of the day, there are plenty of collectors chasing the modern parallel sets, but when you look at the price of some of the parallels on Ebay and COMC some are disappointed at the return on their cards that are limited.  I attribute the low prices on parallels to the fact that multiple parallel sets actually mean that the number of parallels available on the secondary market is higher than in the past.

One of my favorite parallel, or chase sets of all-time is the Donruss Crusade set.  Specifically the 1998 version.  Last week I had the chance to add a nice Alan Benes card from this set which helped me close out my Cardinals set I was putting together over the past few months.

1998 Donruss Crusade Alan Benes

I paid less than $5 to buy this card and have it shipped to me on Ebay, but always enjoy closing out a set I am trying to put together.  While I was assembling the set it was clear that some of the high end players featured in this set, which again is printed to /250 or /100 for the purple version, carry far more value than the parallel cards of today.  A parallel print run card of a star player with that print run would be easy to find for less than $5.  However, the star players and high grade cards in set frequently sell for more than $50.  For example, three cards from this set that I looked into were a Cal Ripken, Bernie Williams, and Randy Johnson.  All three cards ended north of $50.  Imagine if you could sell you cards with a print run of 100 or 250 for that much.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013 Topps Heritage Chris Archer Autograph

The baseball season officially starts for the minor leaguers tonight, which means that my favorite Durham Bulls returned to the field tonight.  Unfortunately, the Bulls are opening the season on the road in Norfolk playing the Tides (Baltimore AAA) and the game was also rained out.  My only enjoyment from Durham today came way of a wonderful meal at one of my favorite restaurants.   To celebrate the beginning of the AAA season I picked up a sweet autograph of the Durham Bulls ace, and North Carolina native, Chris Archer.

2013 Topps Heritage Chris Archer Autograph

This autograph come from this years Topps Heritage set and is the second autograph I've picked up from the future Rays pitcher during the past two weeks.  I love the design of the Heritage cards this year and have picked up almost the complete Master Set along with a few nice inserts, autographs, and relic cards.  This Archer card is pretty sweet except he signed the card in blue pen across a spot where the blue undershirt on his jersey is showing.  Still a really awesome card.  The Bulls are playing a few games in Durham next week and I am looking forward to being able to watch Archer pitch a few more times in Durham before the Rays call him up.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Topps Turkey Red Steve Cishek Autograph

The World Baseball Classic needs to be revamped or done away with.  Something.  I honestly went into the spring looking forward to having a little bit of extra baseball on television this spring, but could not muster much past the Brazil vs Japan opener.  The highlight of the game was Barry Larkin managing the Brazilian national team.  I watched parts of other games, but most importantly it reminded me that I needed to find a Steve Cishek autograph.  I know that I do not publish my want list in this space, but I assure you that the cards that appear in this space that I trade for or purchase or generally not random and that I actually have a method behind my madness.  So, why a Steve Cishek autograph?  Let's go to the video....

I wandered into a whole bunch of Marlins games last year living in the neighborhood of a few National League East teams and really enjoyed watching Cishek pitching last year.  He's not an automatic shutdown relief pitcher, but I like the sidearm delivery and the frisbee like pitches he throws.  It's a little bit like Pat Neshek or Kent Tekulve minus the cool glasses.  

2013 Topps Turkey Red Steve Cishek Autograph

The best part about snagging an autograph from the Marlins closer is that this card cost less than $5 delivered on Ebay.  Sure it's a sticker autograph, but considering Turkey Red was a pack per box product, you cannot complain about finding any cheap autograph out of a high end set on the secondary market.  I am looking forward to watching Cishek pitch again this summer for the Marlins and maybe some good things out of this card in the future.  

2003 Fleer EX Essential Credentials Future Larry Walker

It's opening day, so I am trying to spend most of my day watching baseball.  With that goal in mind today's post will be a little bit shorter than normal.  I picked up a new Larry Walker card a few weeks back and haven't had a chance to post yet on this space.  It would fall into the category of Ebay purchases made for less than $5 which is surprising given that the card comes from a really good chase set and features a pretty good player.

2003 Fleer EX Essential Credentials Future Larry Walker

I have featured a few other Essential Credential cards over the past year in this space and highly recommend collectors taking a look at the EX sets to see if their favorite player or favorite teams have players in these sets.  The Essential Credential cards are actually a dual parallel set, there is a Futures and a Now parallel, with one usually being a high number and one being a lower number.  With this Walker, who played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, I would assume that this card is the higher print run of the two Essential Credential cards in this set.