Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Year on Bunt

Around this time last year I discovered the BUNT app.  I played around with it for a few weeks and finally made a post, it was kind of negative, sometime around mid-May.  The post ended up starting up a few dialogues with a few other collectors, some of whom totally trashed the app, while others thought I was a little bit off in my evaluation.  So, then a funny thing happened....

I spent the last year building up a collection on BUNT.  Now, I am not going to profess to being a super BUNT fan, nor am I a genius about building up my card collection on the site.  However, every day I went on to the app, collected my coins, and at some point during the week spent a little bit of time opening up packs of cards.  So, can I rewrite that BUNT evaluation now that I have spent a full year saving coins and opening packs?  Let's go for it.

After dropping the whole fantasy aspect of BUNT and just working on collecting cards the app became much more enjoyable.  I almost felt like I was collecting cards as a kid again.  I would save up my coins on BUNT for a week and at the end I would buy a few packs.  When I was a kid I got a few packs every week when my parents went to Dierbergs.  Slowly, but surely, I put together a Topps BUNT set and also started working on some of the colored parallels.

The cards in the base set are essentially the same as the regular Topps set, but I put that together in two box breaks.  This set took weeks and weeks to assemble.  I tried to buy packs which gave me a chance to land inserts.  Some weeks I was successful, other weeks not so much.  Some of my favorite insert sets this year were......

The Postseason set had a good run of players from each of the team's in this year's MLB playoffs, plus several extra Royals and Giants cards featuring a World Series motif.  I put together a big chunk of this set and especially had a good time trying to track down the Cardinals.   I did not end up with everything that I wanted, but it was still a good time.  I like that the packs of the Postseason cards also only featured the Postseason set.  It was a good way to take a little break from the base set for a few weeks.  

There were also all kinds of cool throw back cards too.  Why did Topps put in a 1974 Archives set?  Why is there a James Loney card in the set?  I really do not care.  It looks different and has all sorts of players who normally do not get any love in a regular issued insert set.  There is also a Seth Smith in here....Way cool.  

and now for my best Bunt card of the year.....

If this were only a really card.....It's still a fun thing to look at on my phone.  

We are all done looking at cards now, but you should still read the rest of the post.  I enjoyed the past year of collecting on BUNT and am looking forward to working on the 2015 cards later this week.  In fact I was excited when this message popped up on my phone yesterday.....

BUNT may not be the most comfortable thing for long time collectors, but it presented me a new challenge as a collector which I am still trying to learn.  I've made it a little bit more simplistic than my actual baseball card collection, but most importantly I have had fun collecting these cards.  Oh, did I mention that the BUNT App is free and the cards are basically free too?  If you have already tried BUNT and it's not your thing I completely understand, but if you have not spent anytime on it, it's worth a few minutes of your time.

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Grayson Garvin

Grayson Garvin was apart of the Rays Draft Class in 2011.  The Rays had ten of the first sixty picks in the draft.  The team took Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook, Jake Hager, Brandon Martin, Tyler Goeddel, Jeff Ames, Blake Snell, Kes Carter, James Harris, and Grayson Garvin.  None of those players have reached the Majors yet and there are many baseball experts who have taken notice.  I remember reading a string of Peter Gammons tweets last fall about the disappointment of this draft class for Rays, but there is still hope for several of these players including former Vanderbilt star Grayson Garvin.

Repeat after me: Wins do not matter.  Okay.  Garvin has a career 3-14 mark as a starter in the Minors.   I know there are some people who just cringed a little bit and are seriously contemplating something else to read, but hang with me for a moment.  The left handed pitcher has compiled that record over 41 minor league starts over three years.  While the win loss record is not great there are a couple of positives to be found in the numbers.

First, Garvin has given up less than a hit per inning.  Even better, he has only allowed six home runs and forty-two walks in three years of pitching in the minors.  So, Garvin keeps batters off base and keeps them in the yard, but has not won very many games.  While he is a really big guy, 6'6 and 225, and throws hard, he is much more Justin Masterson than flame throwing strike out pitcher.

I actually think that Garvin could have a good year pitching for the Bulls given some of the good defenders the team will have on the infield this year.   I do not usually use this space to make predictions, but I will throw this out there:  Grayson Garvin will have three wins by the middle of May.  He won three games this fall, in six starts, pitching in the Arizona Fall League.  I'd say the end of April, but I figure the Bulls might lose a game here and there at some point.  Plus there is the dreaded no decision.

Cardwise, Grayson Garvin has some really limited options.  As always, there are always team sets like last year's Montgomery Biscuits team issued set.  Beyond the team sets the options bill down to two 2011 issues.  Gavin has several 2011 Donruss Elite cards including an autographed card and all of the colored variations.  I do not own one of these, but am on the lookout for one.

The Garvin card that I do own comes from the 2011 Prime Cuts product.  Like the Donruss Elite set, it's a non-licensed product and features Garvin wearing a goofy blanked out hat....

it's also a sticker autograph (sigh).  I am a little surprised that Garvin has never appeared in a Bowman or a Topps Minor League product, but maybe they were too busy reading that wins line on his stat sheet.  I am guessing that a good season in Triple A this year could Garvin a slot in a product like Topps Pro Debut or Minor League Heritage.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


We have reached spring break at work and I spent my weekend putting away a few cards.  I was looking for something really cool and unique to throw on my blog this week for #MyCardMonday and found a neat old Pacific baseball card.

This is a Proof from the 2000 Crown Royale set.  I am not sure how these got out on the secondary market, but I bought the card about five or six years ago on EBay for next to nothing.  I am actually guessing that Pacific dumped these after they went out of business, but I cannot find anything for sure on when they were put out.  The card is actually a thin piece of translucent material and measures a quarter inch larger, all the way around, then the standard baseball card.  

This set was actually featured die-cut cards.  The Ankiel in the set looks like this.....

The bottom of the proof is interesting since it is different than the front of the baseball card.  Usually proofs are identical to the card that they are used to produce.  I had thought that maybe Pacific made a proof for the front and the backs of the cards, but I cannot find anything that shows that to be the case.  In fact if you flip the proof card over onto the back there is a reverse photo of Ankiel.  

Notice Ankiel, a left-handed pitcher, is now a right-hander on the reverse side of the card.  In some ways this card reminds me a bit of the Topps Acetate cards which have been put out as a parallel by Topps the past two years.  Another curiosity about the proof is the card number shown on the front and back of the card.  The card is label number 28 in the set, but the actual Ankiel card in the set was card 114 and was a short print.  

Given that Pacific is long gone, and they left little behind, I am not sure if I will ever figure out some of my questions about this card, but in the meantime, it's a cool inexpensive card that features one of my favorite late 90s Cardinals stars.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

High Tek Bum

I had some plan a few weeks ago to find a bunch of the cool 1990s era player autographs from the 2014 Topps High Tek product.  I was working on that plan and got a little bit sidetracked and ended up landing a totally non-1990s autographs, but I guess this card can still fit in my collection because:

1.  It's a player from North Carolina

2.  Autographs of World Series MVPs look nice in any card collection

I picked my newest card up from a Facebook trade.  Ironically, I made the deal with a Royals fan which felt kind of like reliving last fall's World Series.  I needed to send a few Alex Gordon's home in order to complete the deal, but the trade was tough assignment since I had to find some cards of Royals relief pitchers.  Apparently there are not a ton of them hanging around my collection, nor other people's collections.

In the end I walked away with this Madison Bumgarner......

I have a few Mad Bum autographs already, and I am not specifically collecting him, but you really cannot go wrong by adding a few of his cards to the collection.  He's got a few World Series rings, he's still relatively young, and should do well with maintaining his card value over time.  Given the potential resume he could end his career with, given what's already there, I actually think he's a bit underrated.

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Joey Butler

Opening Day is getting close, so I am going to start in on the players who are going to end up starting their summers in Durham playing for the Bulls.  There are some great new players on the roster, so I have been excited about going through my boxes and pulling out cards that are already in my collection and searching Ebay and COMC for the ones that I am missing from my collection.  First up is outfielder Joey Butler.

Butler has appeared in Major League games during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the Rangers and Cardinals.  Although the experience amounted to just 14 games and 21 plate appearances, both promotions were well earned through good offensive numbers in Triple A.  The 29 year old, former University of New Orleans player, has posted a .304/.397/.472 line.  Butler has a produced a 20 home run season, stolen 15 bases in a minor league season, and had a 30 double season too.

In some regards his stat lines remind me a little bit of a guy like Justin Ruggiano.  It seems like Joey Butler can do a little bit of everything, but has never put every thing together in one season, and like Ruggiano, been stuck at Triple A behind good Major League depth.

Butler is going to start the season with the Bulls, but could be up quickly if there is an injury or if a young player, like Steven Souza, were to falter.  In my opinion, Butler should be similar to some of the older minor league guys who have rolled through Durham over the years like Chris Richard or Jerry Sands.

The card selection on Joey Butler is limited.  He was a fifteenth round draft pick and never considered a big enough prospect to pick up a card appearance in Bowman, but there are still two good solid cards of the outfielder out there for fans to grab.....

My top choice of Butler cards is from the 2011 Topps Pro Debut set.  This Double A All-Stars card is an insert, but still not too hard of a find, nor expensive.  There are currently none of these on COMC, but a few have sold on EBay with most hanging out below a dollar.  If you are looking for something from a little bit better set Butler did appear in a Topps Heritage set in 2014....

The card is split with Jim Adduci, but adding cards from Topps Heritage is always a good thing for your baseball card collection.  Butler does not have any certified autographs, but there are a good amount of in person autographs listed/sold on Ebay.

Overall, I am looking forward to seeing Butler playing in Durham.  I am not sure that he will be with the team the whole year, but he should be fun to watch during the first few weeks of the season.  Especially at the plate where he could provide some pop along with a few other veteran bats the Bulls will start out with on their roster.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


I am going to go back a decade for this week's #MyCardMonday and pick out a cool card from one the first issues of Topps Tribute.  Of course, Topps recalled their 2015 issue of the product during this past week, but the product as a whole has always been a really nice part of the hobby since it first hit shelves in 2002.  Tribute actually disappeared for a while from 2005 through 2008 before reappearing in 2009.  If you like the current product, and have never seen the original sets, you need to take a little bit of time and search out a few cards.

Here's my card for this week:

The first few Tribute products had a really good mix of active veteran players, Hall of Famers, and younger players.  This is actually a second year autograph of former Dodgers catcher Paul LoDuca, he's in the 2002 Bowman Heritage set, but I really liked the looks of this card.  Plus many of the older Tribute cards are pretty inexpensive.  Players like Paul LoDuca, Magglio Ordonez, and Paul Konerko, who were all young at the time, all have autographs in the set that can be found for less than $10.  The lone exception to the inexpensive young players in the set is the Hanley Ramirez rookie.

Besides being inexpensive the older Tribute cards feature only on-card autographs and they are not faded, nor smudged.  I also don't recall them ever being recalled....

Kids and Cards

I don't do much on Twitter during the day while I am working, but one of the things I check in on every Monday is the #CardChat which is hosted by @Sooz.  She writes the blog A Cardboard Problem which is really well done and a good regular stop.  There is usually some great discussion about the hobby although some days I feel a little bit silly chiming in several hours after the event ended.  So this past week during Card Chat one of the questions addressed was what do with engaging kids in the hobby.

I have started and stopped several posts on this topic over the past two or three months, so it seemed like a good time to just go ahead and merge all of the drafts into a single post and give a couple of fellow bloggers a few shouts out on my page for making some good points during the conversation.

I have worked with kids for fifteen years as an elementary school teacher.  I have mainly taught the upper grades (3rd, 4th, and 5th), but have also dabbled briefly with middle school and have done some work with students in lower grades over the years.  I also am a parent to a rising kindergartener this coming fall.  I am a teacher with personality.  I don't sit behind a desk, although I have a nice U shaped table, and I am not afraid to talk about myself in front of my students.  You could find a students from any point in my teaching career and they could tell you that I collect and love baseball cards.

That being said, I use them frequently in my room.  They show up as a math manipulative, book marks, measuring tool, or decoration.  My classroom doors are currently wallpapered with the 2000 Topps set.   I also give them out as rewards for different things.  This year my students have a conduct goal they are working towards and we monitor using an app.  Progress towards their goal gives them the chance to earn different incentives, like eating lunch in my classroom, chewing gum, earning a snack, getting to pick a seat, and earning packs of baseball and football cards.  No hockey or basketball fans this year, but I have offered that in the past.

Which brings me to my several points I would like to make about kids and cards....

1.  Kids Love Cards

My son has been interested in my cards since he could walk.  His first card was a 2001 Topps Sean Casey which he picked up off a stack of doubles I was sorting out.  The card would pop up up every couple of days, or anytime that I sat down and worked on sorting out my own cards.   I still have the card.  It's not quite mint anymore.   This was it's condition as of 2012.  

Currently he is working on a set of MLB Showdown cards.  Anytime I work on cards now he stacks them up on the coffee table and mimics a lot of the things that I do with cards.  He also has a few other random cards hanging around the house: A 1998 Topps Super Chrome Todd Helton card which is in remarkably great condition and a pack of 2014 Opening Day cards.  This was his first venture into packs of cards.  My parents actually bought him the pack of cards on their way into town at the airport.  He opened the pack of cards, found a Chris Archer card, and threw the rest of the cards away.  

We aren't quite ready for packs I suppose, but I was really impressed that he picked out the Archer card.  He  had the chance to meet Chris Archer a month or two before the pack of cards at an event at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary.  He got a high five and an autographed Durham Bulls card.

 At work cards a popular incentives within my classroom.  I look for inexpensive blasters, old wax that people are willing to let go for a good cause, and donations from parents and community organizations.  Friday afternoon we have science at the end of the day.  The class ends a few minutes early and I let the students, for that week, who have reached a goal pick out an incentive from my shelf of goodies.  Cards are popular with my boys, but I also have a few girls who really like cards too.  

One of my girls has a mom who is a Jeter super fan, another one has gotten into baseball cards after entering my class as a card game enthusiast (Pokeman cards mainly) with baseball loving parents, and I am not sure about the last one.  She has just decided that she loves cards and is working on filing up a 300 count box.  Considering I have 12 girls in my class, I think that a quarter being interested in cards is a pretty good ratio.  My boys are interested in cards too, but it's not universal.  I have a few stay away from the cards, but it's really important to cater to the interests of the kids.  

 The Raleigh-Durham metro area is obviously a basketball first market.  When I first moved to North Carolina I tried to get my students into baseball, but all I ever heard about was the big three ACC schools.  After butting heads at first I adapted and did basketball cards and it went over well.  I have moved schools since and have more baseball loving kids in my class now, but I still have kids that love football and love basketball and always have packs, or singles, of those to give out.  

2.  See Tweet Below....

 I follow Ryan Cracknell on Twitter and you should too.  He's the editor of the Cardboard Connection and also runs the blog TraderCracks.   He made one of the truest statements about card collecting and kids during the card chat in response to the question above.....I especially like how he uses the word pandered.  

Have you ever played a game with a ten year old?  They have a great sense by that age of effort and ability.  If you sit down and play a game of Connect 4 they want your best shot.  Put the checkers in randomly to let them hang around and they will call you on it in a heartbeat.  Kids do the same thing with cards.

Earlier in the year, I ended up with a really really cheap box of 2011 Topps Heritage Minors.  At the same time I also had an acquaintance donate an old box of Topps Attax.  The first student who choose a pack of Topps Attax was just about the last kid to take a pack of Attax.  They were puzzled by cards and when I explained that the cards were games, I got the same responses that you would get from adults.  "So, it's a game and not a baseball card right?" or "These aren't real baseball cards".  

The box of Attax is still generally untouched and sitting in a cabinet in my classroom.  I have thought about just bringing them home and letting my son have them at this point, but he already has a big stack of MLB Showdown cards and those aren't really baseball cards.  Right?  

It doesn't really matter whether the cards are old or new, they know when they are "real" baseball cards: the ones that adults collect.  The Topps Heritage Minor League cards are long gone and best of all, I had a few students walk away with a couple of autographs.  They weren't particularly great autographs, but the fact is they pulled an autograph.  

Just like kids know when you are letting them win at Connect 4, or are shooting the basketball with the wrong hand at recess, they know that "kid" centered products are kind of garbage.  Kids do not understand card values, at least not much, but they absolutely hate being pandered to.  If we want kids to collect cards we need to follow the things that they enjoy collecting. 

How many "kids" oriented baseball card products have flopped over the years?  Dozens.  Here's a great idea from the same card chat.....

 3.  Let's Not Talk Price Point 

This is a fine line.  There are many adults that collect cards and there are high end products that adults with jobs and salaries can afford to purchase.   As an adult collector I enjoy seeing high end products with autographs and patches and serial numbered cards.  I don't own a card shop, but I am guessing that kids account for almost zero percent of the purchases on products like Topps Tribute or Five Star.  Not to say that kids do not like looking at high end products, but they are honestly just completely out of their price point.  I'm not going to argue that we should ditch high end products.  Cards can be for adults too. 

 Kids depend on whatever their parents are willing to spend on cards.  I have a parent who does a lot of volunteer work at my school and she recently started talking to me about the retail section of baseball cards at her local Target.  The price was a minor consideration for her.  I am not sure that she is a huge fan of spending $1.99 a pack, but it also did not stop her from buying a few packs for her son.

I really think that some of the talk about price points is completely overrated.  I took a few minutes and entered in the price of cards in 1987, when I was ten, into an inflation calculator to compare them to the price of cards now.  The results.....

It's very much true that the price of cards has grown faster than inflation, but look at the product from 1987 versus 2015.  The product certainly has a much higher cost production.  If you play around with the numbers a pack of $1.99 cards from today are equal to roughly $1.00 in 1987.  That was the original price point on the 1989 Upper Deck cards, which were more expensive, but also much nicer than the base Topps sets of the late 80s.  How close are the 2015 Topps cards to the 1989 Upper Deck cards?  How many kids opened packs of 1989 Upper Deck cards in spite of the fact that they cost twice as much as the Topps cards?  As a parent, I am a teacher married to a teacher so I am not raking it in by any stretch of the imagination, I would buy my child a pack of $1.99 cards with little reservation. 

I do not buy price point as a factor.

4.  What about Digital Content?  

I have also had several students who have gotten into Bunt.  They like the idea that they do not actually have to use real money in order to be able to land cards and the idea of trading online seems to be pretty cool too.  However, the fact that there is no way to turn the virtual cards into real cards is a real drawback.  I think I started out with three students this year who used Bunt, but I am pretty sure that the number is down to one.  The digit content is a good way to engage younger collectors, but I still think it needs a little bit of tweaking.

One of the more confusing parts of Bunt is the fantasy aspect of the app.  Kids watch baseball, but there is something about this that is amiss to kids.  As an adult and fantasy baseball player I understand the concept, but it's a bit of a turn off to a ten year to look at the screen and see your "team" is ranked low and have no idea of how to improve it.

I also think that there should be someway to get actual cards from the app.  In 2011, when Topps used the Diamond Codes, the kids in class who collected loved those cards.  The loved entering the codes.  The loved seeing cards on their computer screen.  The loved landing the Die-Cuts from the codes.  The also loved the idea of having the cards shipped to them.....

5.  Why Do Kids Collect Cards?

I remember when I started collecting cards when I was six.  I had an older brother who collected baseball cards and my father also collected cards as a kid.  Every week when we went to the grocery store I would end up with a few packs of baseball cards.  I dabbled in football cards and basketball cards as a kid.  I dabbled in hockey cards for a year as an adult.  How did I get from kid collector to adult collector?

Collecting cards is like any other hobby, as parents and hobby enthusiasts, we need to be supportive of what are kids are interested in doing.  If a kid is interested in collecting cards that's awesome. Things cannot be forced.  I have taken my son to a baseball card shop before.  He was mainly interested in seeing what was behind the counters and showing the card shop owner a few of his gymnastics skills using the rail handle of the door.  He was not really interested in looking at cards or opening a pack of cards, but that's fine.  One day it might happen.

As a kid I want through times where I wouldn't put my cards down for anything.  Other times my interest in the hobby waned....

Kids do not see cards in the same light as adults.  When my students open packs of cards they are often interested in finding cards of a certain player or team.  "Hits" don't always have to be important.  I did the same thing as a kid.  I wanted Cardinals cards.  I wanted Ozzie Smith cards.  The teams and players might be different, but I feel like the concept is still the same.  I have students who like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Tigers.  I have students who collect Derek Jeter, Josh Hamilton, and Koji Uehara.  Simple cards can be a big thing if the right player or team is on the card. 

Sometimes we do end up with cards that are worthy of celebration no matter what team or player.  Two weeks ago I had a student pull a Derek Jeter photo variation....

some are still chattering about this one.....

So for me getting kids to collect cards boils down to three things:

1. Be supportive.  As mentioned above, let the kids be who they are and let them collect what they want.  They love the back-up catcher who is riding the bus in between the Majors and Triple A?  Great.  As long as they love what they collect.

2.  Engage with kids about cards.  Kids have questions, want to hear stories, and share experiences with collecting.  You should be all ears.  This includes online, where sometimes, it can be really trying.  I trade on Facebook and Twitter and have run into problems in trading with kids, but I still try for the most part.  As adults we do not always do a great job with this.  It's fine to say no, but just polite.  We all had to start somewhere.....

3.  Evolve.  The cards I collect look far different than the cards that my father collected.  If my son chooses to collect cards I can only guess that the cards will continue to evolve.  Hopefully card companies will listen to their audience, including kids, and continue to make cards that people love to collect.  Even if they look different...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tribute Thoughts

Yesterday was a first of kind type of day around the baseball card hobby.  I first saw rumblings of a recall of Topps Tribute sometime late Thursday night and into Friday morning.  I stopped to check my email sometime around noon yesterday and saw that rumor had come true along with a statement issued by Topps:  

Personally, I am not really a stakeholder in this matter because I never buy boxes of Tribute.  That seems like a great product for someone else to open and for me to buy and trade for the single cards that I like in the set.  Still I had a couple of thoughts on the matter I would like to share.

1.  I have said it many times on this blog space:  The greatest challenge Topps faces as the sole license holder for Major League cards is its quality control.  Do they have a quality control department?  I am not sure, but I do know that they do dry runs and samples of these products before they are released.  I know that there are people responsible for proofreading and editing the information on cards.  Still, it seems that every year the company faces some sort of quality control issues.  This is early in the calendar year, but how does this get out onto shelves?

I understand that there are always going to be some errors and some problems with products.  It's inevitable and no company can be perfect, but when I saw the images of the Tribute cards being posted by collectors who rushed out to break open the product I was not really all that shocked given how the Tribute cards looked last year.....

Some of the autographs in last year's product were also shaky, but I am not sure that Topps did anything for collectors last year.  No?   I like my former Durham Bulls players, so I am still happy that I went after this Zobrist autograph, but still it's not a great autograph.  Especially coming out of a high end product.  I guess my point is that there was a lesson in quality that Topps could have learned from the production of this product last year and improved Tribute for collectors this year.  Maybe I am being hypercritical.  Maybe not everyone is into reflective thinking with an eye on self-improvement at work. 

2.  Topps did the right thing.  I know the response was not perfect and there are case breakers and Ebay auction winners who have been screwed over, but I am not sure there was a perfect answer to the problems of the Tribute product.  For example, most people are aware of the fading autographs from the 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot set.  It's pretty terrible and it's been a problem from almost the get-go for the product.  Here is one of mine:

There is still a little bit of Adam LaRoche's autograph on there, but not much.  I know collectors who have spent a lot of good money on this product and they have lost almost every dime of their investment due to poor production on the part of Upper Deck.  Does anybody remember that Upper Deck did to remedy this situation for collectors?  Nothing for the most part.  However, if you take a little bit of time to search out autographs from the Sweet Spot products that followed the disaster of 2006 you will find a lot of great looking baseball cards with nice signatures.

Where to from here?  The most important thing that Topps can do here is learn from their mistakes.  I often see collectors who sweat the future of the hobby that is currently controlled basically by a single licensed card producer for all sorts of reasons.  I am not sure I share all of their concerns, but I do know that I have been really worried about the quality of the product for some time.  The best thing that Topps can do for collectors at this point is to take their time with the rest of their 2015 baseball card products, make sure that the rest of the releases go smoothly, and come back next spring with a great looking Tribute product.  Anything less would should be taken by collectors as a sign that Topps will likely never learn their lesson about quality control.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 1980s Topps Sets

Last Friday Five countdown for the decade of the 1980s.  If you missed my take on the Fleer and Donruss products feel free to click the links.  Next week I am onto some 1990s cards.  Of the three brands that released products throughout the decade, this list was my favorite to put together.  It could be that much of my focus as a collector during this decade was on the Topps sets, or it could just be that these five sets would be best sets of the decade when matched up with the other brands.

Of course, I still think the 1989 Upper Deck set is the best set of the decade.  Here are my favorite five Topps sets from the 1980s.....

1980 Topps 

I have worked on this set for awhile and am going back and replacing some of the rough cards that own in this product.  I am not sure why I like this product, but it's one of my favorites from the decade.  Really the other four sets on this post were slam dunks and this set is better than the rest of the products in my opinion.  I am sure that a lot of people would have included the 1987 set instead of this one, but I feel like it's a bit of a knock off of the 1961 set.  Meanwhile, this is a decent design, but it has some good cards in it of some 1970s and 1980s stars like George Brett and Nolan Ryan.  It also has a really important rookie card....

I picked up my first Rickey Henderson rookie card some time during the height of Dwight Gooden-Mania.  How do I know?  The Henderson rookie card cost me my copy of Dwight Gooden's rookie card.  At the time Gooden was easily the best pitcher in baseball and I think the card had some pretty significant value.  My Rickey Henderson rookie, shown above, has some dings and creases.  However, it's still one of my favorite cards in my collection.  Besides, I have another nice copy of this card hanging around my set and it's even in a top loader.  

1982 Topps Traded 

There is really only one reason to buy the 1982 Topps Traded set and it's the Cal Ripken rookie card.  He's featured in all of the major 1982 card releases, but for whatever reason this card seems to be more valued than the other.  It's nicer looking than the other Ripken rookies if nothing else.  In my opinion, this is the second most iconic rookie card of the 1980s behind the 1989 Upper Deck Griffey rookie.  Every other really popular, well thought of rookie card from this era, either features a lesser player than Ripken or someone tainted by the steroids era.  The rest of the 1982 Topps Traded isn't much, there is a Chili Davis rookie, but if you are going to pick up a copy of the Ripken you should just buy/trade for the whole thing.  

1983 Topps 

This is one of my favorite designs of the decade.  It's the first year that I collected cards too, but I am sure that I have disconnected my personal feelings from this matter long ago.  I have run into a ton of collectors who love this set just simply based on looks.  In fact, one of my favorite card blogs, The Cardboard Connection, recently did their own version of March Madness with Topps base sets.  The 1983 Topps set advanced all the way to the Elite Eight.  

It was the only Topps base set newer than 1980 to make it that far in this fan vote event.  It's a really cool set just to pull out and flip through, but it also offers collectors some pretty important rookie cards.  We've talked about 1983 products frequently lately, so you know....Gywnn, Sandberg, and Boggs.  I like the Gywnn card, really unique, but if I am not mistaken I also know that it was one of his least favorite cards of himself.  

1984 Topps 

It's probably safe to say that this set was probably more important when it was first released and the two important rookie cards in the set, Mattingly and Strawberry, were really big stars.  However, I have it on my list because of the design.  I love the looks of this set, and again, love taking these cards out every once in awhile and just flipping through the set.  It has that little picture in the corner like the 1983 set, but the team name going down the side has always stood out to me with this set.  And while Strawberry and Mattingly did not maintain their stardom throughout their careers.....

They are still two of the more memorable 1980s baseball cards.  Definitely not on the level of the Ripken or Griffey cards, but if you collected cards in the 1980s your collection is not really complete without these two cards in your collection.  

1985 Topps

This set has lost a lot of luster and value over the years because of the steroid scandal, but 1985 for a good year to be a Cardinals fan and it was one of my favorites as a kid.  Why did the Cardinals cards all have a yellow box around their name?  I am not sure, but I really like the looks of these cards.  I put together several copies of this set sometime after the Cardinals traded for Mark McGwire.  There are three really great rookie cards to own from this Topps base set.....

The McGwire rookie is probably the best known rookie card in the set, but the Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett rookie cards are also both pretty cool cards worth owning.  If you like this set you should check out the 1985 Topps Blog run by the one and only Night Owl.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Great Gallo Graph

The longer I collect cards the more and more I have gotten away from collecting high end cards and autographs of elite prospects.  For every highly regarded prospect that makes it to the Majors there are always a handful of guys who languish in the minors and fizzle out.  To further complicate matters, about 75% of all the prospects who make the Majors, but fail to live up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them in the Minors.  

Do not get me wrong, there are plenty of super prospects who turn into super good players, but not good enough to maintain their hobby value.  For example, Steven Strasburg cards were all the rage a few summers ago.  At the end of the 2010 baseball card calendar it was impossible to find a Strasburg autograph for less than $100.  Today there are dozens of Strasburg autographs that sell for less than $100.  In fact, there are currently Buy It Now auctions for Strasburg autographs for less than $40.  That's a pretty drastic drop in five years.  

Which leads me to my latest card.....

Gallo is a great power hitting prospect in the Rangers minor league system.  He enters this year, his fourth as a professional, ranked as the 15th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.  In three minor league season Gallo has hit over 100 home runs and has been promoted all the way up to the Rangers minor league team in Double A.  I have talked two people who have seen Gallo play in person and both had nothing but great things to say about the power hitting third baseman.  

The Rangers prospect has some pretty pricey cards and I have generally steered clear of going out and trying to add his cards to my collection.  While I do believe that Gallo will hit for power in the Majors, I am not sure he is going to be a player who lives up to his card hype.  Nothing against Gallo, but few players do.

ZIPS projects Gallo to hit more than 30 home runs, but only hit .209 in the Majors with the Rangers.  Honestly, I do not think Gallo will get enough at bats this season to hit that many home runs.  Either which way, this card frequently sells for around $75-80 and it's really hard to believe that the card will maintain that value over the long run.  

So, how did I end up with a Gallo autograph?  I would never actually pay for this card, but I am willing to bet that Gallo will turn out better than a few other high end prospects with expensive autographs.  In this case, I am hoping that Gallo turns out better than Mark Appel and an Albert Almora.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015


In 1999 there was only one card that I wanted to add to my collection: A Skybox Premium Autographics Joe McEwing autograph.  The Cardinals lost second baseman Delino DeShields to the Orioles in free agency after the 1998 season the team brought up Joe McEwing to fill the void.  The first half of the year McEwing, or Super Joe, hit .305/.350/.418 with 4 home runs, 3 triples, and 19 doubles.  Card companies were a little slow to add his cards into products, but eventually a few companies floated out a few cards.

The second half of the season McEwing hit the wall and was eventually traded to the Mets the following spring for Jesse Orosco.  His career ended up lasting a total of 9 years with most of his time spent as a utility player for the Mets.  

I still looked for this card after he was traded away from the Cardinals and landed a copy a few years back for a couple of bucks.  At one point, during the summer of 1999, card shops in St. Louis were selling this card for as much as $25.  It was pretty hard to spend that kind of money for a light hitting second baseman.  The card is not necessarily the easiest to find, only one copy on Ebay in the last 90 days, but they sell for less than $3.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Manufactured Imperfection

I started collecting baseball cards in the early 1980s as a kid.  There were all sorts of cool things about collecting cards in that era.  There were only a few sets out each year and I spent most of my energy trying to put together the 792 cards for the Topps set every summer.  A few packs from the Dierbergs in Manchester and a few from the Ben Franklin and by the time school started up in September I had finished off my set.

The packs of cards had a completely different vibe back then.  Wax paper wrappers and the gum were the two biggest differences.  Of course those two items also meant lots of imperfections with the cards.  There are still plenty of unopened wax from the 1980s floating around if you have never experienced the awesomeness of opening a pack of cards with a stale piece of gum in the pack, but you were often left with stains, discolorations, and sometimes even dings and dents in the cards.

Today there is no gum in the packs and everything has foil packs.  There are still some dings and dents on cards, but the stains and discolorations are a thing of the past.  Well, for the most part.  In this year's Topps Heritage set Topps announced that they were inserting cards with bubble gum stains into the product.

It sounded like a cool idea and I was actually excited about landing a copy of one of these cards.  They were even supposed to be scented like bubble gum.  I guess you could say they were scratch and sniff.  So after opening two boxes of Heritage, a few retail backs too, I had plenty of cards for my set along with some short prints, relic cards, and variations.  No bubble gum stain cards.  But wait....

While I was sorting out my Heritage doubles to help out another collector this afternoon I found this....

and then I found this.......

Very slight difference and there was no difference in code at the bottom of the card, which is probably why I missed the variation the first time around.  I must admit that the manufactured imperfection of the bubble gum stain on the backs of the cards is pretty cool and a nice creative touch.  I was thrilled to find this card too before I shipped it off to someone else.  While I am not a huge fan of Andre Ethier I think I am going to file this one away in a box.  Cool idea by Topps.

Number 1000

My blog turned 3 earlier in the week and I am now hitting post 1000 in the same week.  It's crazy to think that I have written that many posts and even crazier to think that a couple of hundred people show up on this site on a daily basis and read my ramblings about baseball cards.  I said it earlier this week, and I will say it again now, thank you for taking time out of your day to stop by blog.

I had thought long and hard about what to do to celebrate my 1000th post.  I first noticed I was getting close sometime in December.  I considered a few different paths for this post, but I am going to make this post simple and focus on one baseball card which fits nicely into my collection.  I could have gone out and picked up something big, but instead decided to go for something more in the unique category.

Here's my card for post 1000:

First, I wish the scan were a little bit better.  I picked up the card from a collector in Puerto Rico and it is still en route.  I am actually using his scan of the card.

There have been 37 different posts about Ray Lankford on my blog before today, this makes 38.  I am guessing someone has a better Ray Lankford card then me, but I am extremely proud of my collection of cards of the 1990s Cardinals outfielder.  I have collected Lankford cards for more than 15 years, so I am basically at a point where there are very few cards left I need to add.  The list can be summarized as mainly printing plates and a few low serial numbered cards that are either nearly impossible to find, or too expensive.

Which brings me to my new Ray Lankford card.  I noticed this card floating around Ebay a few weeks back.  I had to do a little bit of research, but basically it's a legit card that was put out in 1990 after he spent the off season playing for the Indios de Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League.  Lankford actually had two cards in the set, the other will be here next week too.  This card is a League Leaders card celebrating Lankford for leading the league in triples.

The card itself was really inexpensive costing me less than $5 shipped.  It's also why it is probably crawling in between Puerto Rico and North Carolina.  I was surprised to see how many 1980s and 1990s players have cards in these sets.  If you have a player collection of someone from this era these cards and sets are definitely worth a look over.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Post 999....Friday Five: Top 5 Donruss Sets of the 1980s

A little later on Friday than I like to post these, but for your entertainment....The Friday Five.  

Sets are in numerical order by year.  I did not give a runners up, or honorable mention, on these posts.  However, I will give a nod to the 1981 Donruss set.  It's not one of my five for a few reason, but it's still a really good set if you are looking for something beyond this list.  Like the good Donruss sets the cards had some good rookies and had a good 1980s card set feel, but the set was riddled with errors and almost all of the pictures in the set and taken in Wrigley Field or Comisky.   It's overly noticeable the first time through the set, but it makes it hard to flip through the set too many times.  Still I love some of the cards in the product, most notably is the Tim Raines rookie card.

1982 Donruss

I did not actually collect cards in 1982, but found this set sometime after college and slowly put together the complete product with a few boxes.  The 1982 Donruss set was an improvement over the 1981 set in almost every facet.  I always really liked this design with the baseball and baseball bat at the bottom, not sure why.  There is something really early 1980s about it all, that's probably not a good thing, but I still love looking at these cards.  The most important card in the set is the Cal Ripken rookie card....

In my opinion the 1982 Topps Traded Ripken is his best 1982 issue, but this has always been second on my list.  It's better than the 1982 Fleer, which is a distant action shot, and the regular Topps card which features Ripken on a prospects card with two other players.  If you did not want to shell out the money for the Topps Traded Ripken rookie card this a great alternative.  

1983 Donruss 

I think I would like this set a little bit better if Donruss had varied the design a little bit more.  The 82 set had a baseball bat with a baseball, the 1983 set had a baseball bat with a baseball glove.  Not sure the design team spent too much time here, but the 1983 Donruss set still has some really good qualities.  This was, again, the first year I collected baseball cards.  Interestingly I did not get any Donruss cards when I started collecting.  In fact, I did not really get into Donruss cards until the late 80s.  I did spend a little bit of time during the summer of 2003 putting this set together out of boxes.  I figured it would be a fun project to undertake twenty years after starting my collection.  
I feel like I have said this in about 20 different posts on this blog, but the 1983 products are always all about the big three rookie cards of Boggs, Sandberg, and Gwynn.  The Sandberg, wearing the blue pinstriped Cubs uni, and the Gwynn in the brown Padres uni are my two favorites.  There is a Wade Boggs, but meh.  

1984 Donruss
I like the design of the 1984 Donruss set.  This was the last of the 1980s Donruss sets that I assembled.  I think I have only had it in my collection for about five or six years.  Honestly, I collected the Topps set almost exclusively that year as a kid and when I went back later on I focused on the Fleer set.  There are a lot of collectors who love the Mattingly rookie card in this set and often put it first on their list of Donnie Ballgame rookies.  I am not much of a Mattingly person so I am going to take their word on that.  My favorite card in the set is the Joe Carter rookie.
Wasn't this card worth something like $30 at one point?  I remember it was surprisingly expensive for Joe Carter.  So, here what is cool about this card:

1.  Ivy
2.  Pinstripes
3.  1980s Mustache
4. A Rated Rookie Logo
5. Joe Carter

(Look away Phillies know what it is....)


1985 Donruss
The 1985 Donruss set had a cool design like the 1984 Donruss set, but the rookie cards (Clemens and Puckett) are much better.  I discovered this set at some point during the summer of 1985 while chasing McGwire cards.  There was a card shop in Creve Couer, outside of St. Louis, and the owner made me a sweet deal on this set.  It does not have a McGwire rookie card in it, like the 1985 Topps set, but I really like the Puckett rookie and love the Clemens rookie.  There are some other cards in the set too, including a nice Eric Davis rookie, but these are the two most important cards in the set by a wide margin.  

1987 Donruss 
This was the first year I picked up any Donruss cards as a kid.  The design leaves a little bit to be desired, but there are all kinds of cool rookies in this set including one of Barry Bonds.  There is also a Will Clark, Barry Larkin, Greg Maddux, and Rafael Palmeiro.  While I am not a huge fan of the design, it was pretty consistent with the style Donruss used throughout the mid 80s.  Some collectors will not touch Donruss cards past 1987 because the card company went off the deep end with the design in the years following 1987 and eventually ended up being pretty blah by the time the 90s rolled around.