Monday, December 29, 2014

The State of My Hobby, One Year In: Taking Stock

It's nearly 2015. About one year ago, I paid to ship all my baseball cards I had collected as a kid from my mom's house in Wisconsin to my house in Georgia. From the time that I left law school, I had intended on restarting my childhood obsession of card collecting. Now that I'm married and have a house (rather than being single and in a condo), I decided it was a good time to start again.

Once I got those cards, I started sorting through them. That process took a while because about midway through the sort, I decided to sort the cards by teams. That was to assist me in trading.

Immediately, though, I had a problem. I wanted to buy cards, but I didn't know what to buy. It figured out quickly that I had a lot to learn. Concepts like blasters, hobby boxes versus retail boxes, licensed products versus unlicensed products, hits, inserts, and parallels were all ones that confused me entirely.

I started reading. I read blogs. I did Google searches. I looked at Amazon, eBay, Cardboard Connection, Sports Collectors Daily, and Trading Card Database. Once I had enough knowledge to feel like I wouldn't embarrass myself completely, I started blogging. 

In the process, I learned a lot. More to the point, I learned that my initial "completist" thoughts -- that somehow I would work to complete all the major sets -- either were crazy, would put me into bankruptcy, or both. It was disconcerting to jump into this hobby without some sort of "definition" or, dare I say it, "rules," for what I would collect. 

Reading blogs, though, made me realize that rules in collecting are nonexistent. Now, as a lawyer, I have to follow rules very closely to make sure that I am doing everything for my clients in a way that comports with what the law requires me to do. That kind of thinking was instilled in me early in my life, but law school and practicing law reinforced it. 

As a result, I created my own rules. I decided to collect my favorite team -- the Milwaukee Brewers -- and, in addition, to create player collections of the players I cheered for as a kid, or the players I heard stories about as a kid, or, moving forward, the players I think of when I think of the Brewers (that's guys like Sheets, Burnitz, Cirillo, Vaughn, Fielder, etc.). 

To do that, I needed to figure out what I have and what I don't have. Perhaps the most difficult part of that is figuring out what I don't have. I needed to put together checklists of what cards I don't have.

The problem with that is that being complete is a long, torturous process for me. I have to establish my own internal rules of what I will track, what I will collect, and for what I will create a checklist. Because I like consistency, it's easier for me to create a complete checklist by including everything. It's easier in terms of what I include on the checklist, but it's damn near impossible to feel like my work on putting the checklist together is "done."

Once the checklist is reasonably complete for a particular year, then I use the checklist like a checklist -- seeing what I have and what I need and creating my want lists (like this one that I'm done with through 1992).  

It's great to go through that process for me since I am a completist, but it is an incredibly time consuming process to complete all those checklists. For example, the past two days I've spent going through the 2014 sets at Cardboard Connection (which I have found to be organized in a way that I understand more easily than other websites for very recent sets) to put together as complete a list as I can for 2014. 

Going through all the Topps sets alone (including Bowman in that), I identified 2912 different Brewers cards from 2014. That includes all the printing plates, 1 of 1s, high-end sets like Dynasty and Triple Threads, and low-end sets like Topps Opening Day. That is a LOT of cards.

It makes being a completist impossible, too. No matter if I were willing to pony up hundreds and thousands of dollars to buy as many of the 1 of 1 cards as come onto the market (I'm not), the problem is that most of those 1 of 1s never actually come onto the market. I mean, how sure can we be that all of the 1 of 1s are even inserted into the products? And so, I start drawing lines: what are the cards I'm willing to buy? What cards will I chase? What cards should even be listed as ones I want to add to my collection?

It's not that I meant for this to become any sort of rant. I've ranted before here, after all, about some sets having skewed checklists toward the "big market" teams. It does not do any good to get all upset about it, though. 

All that said, it's all good in many respects. I don't have to collect Topps Supreme if I don't want to. Those cards on the checklist just remain as "N" under the column "In team collection?" on my Brewers card spreadsheets. 

The concern, though, is that Topps and its continually rumored financial issues will cause Topps to go away, be bought by Panini, or otherwise cease to exist in its present form. If/when that happens, then what? 

Are "cardboard" collectors dinosaurs, soon to be extinct or forced into extinction? Will we be like those people who collect 78 RPM records, longing for a "good old days" that never really existed and of which we probably never were a part? 

Further, is Topps tone-deaf to what collectors want? So many of us bloggers seem to say that we do not want the high-end hits, that we don't chase that stuff unless we're chasing a player collection rainbow of some sort, or that we just don't like new cards. 

So why are the high-end cards and all the parallels proliferating like nuclear weapons in the 1960s?

Or, am I the one out of step with where the hobby is going by not chasing the proverbial "SICK HITZZZ" that seem to populate Twitter like so many locusts?

What do you think? 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Where you been, boy?

So, I didn't mean for 10 days to pass between blog posts here and over two weeks to pass on my 1982 Topps Blog. My last ten days have been pretty filled up with activities, travel, and general organizational stuff, along with the Christmas holidays.

Then, today is my birthday (happy birthday to me!).

What all that means is this: I'll be back blogging early next week, probably. 

I am still months behind on getting packages sent out to people that should have received them long ago. I wish I could say for sure that I know that I will get stuff out in the mail in the next week. I hope to do that. But I can't guarantee it. I'm sorry to all of you to whom I owe cards.

In the meantime, I've been getting caught up organizing my early 1990s cards. There are so many different cards available from that timeframe that it is daunting even to create a checklist. But, I'm plowing through right now.

Also, what has been grabbing the main part of my attention is work stuff. I'm hopeful that I will be able to put all of that behind me in the next few months.

All that said, really, I should have posted before this. 

But, I'm still here and I'm still going to be posting here and collecting and all that. It's just a busy time.

Thanks again to all of you for reading, for sending me cards, and for making my first year back collecting baseball cards an enjoyable one!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Very Ranger Christmas

Over the past two months, I have been the fortunate recipient of cards from Rob/Spiff at Texas Rangers Cards. Being that I'm really bad at reading comprehension and, occasionally, at clicking through links, it took me literally until TODAY to discover Rob's very comprehensive want list site at Spiff's World.

So, despite admonishing me "No Return Needed", I'm going to try to put something together.

The second package from Rob was yet another large stack of Brewers cards. These have been great to get because it means less typing on my Want List Pages (now complete from 1970 through 1990!). Here are the highlights from the Ranger Christmas speetacular:

A 1990 Bowman Jim Gantner. I am using this card to remind ya'll that were loading up on cards in the early 1990s that a few of us sat that time in the hobby out. Instead of collecting baseball cards, I was learning marching band drill at Vanderbilt.

Ted Williams set card of Cecil Cooper from 1993. I'm not sure if I like this card yet. Coop rightfully does not get as much recognition as either of his Hall of Fame teammates Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Yet, I think I'd prefer this card if it had just one photo on the front.

Big Rob Deer. He was always a very intense man as a player.
The Ignitor.

These four Sheets cards were cool to get. I like the Bazooka cards, but I have yet to understand why card companies think selling to kids means an apparent dumbing down of cards. Most kids are dying to grow up fast, and emphasizing their being kids will make them ignore you. It might work to get a 5-year-old into cards to have cartoony graphics and fonts, but the 10-year-olds will stay away from the Kids stuff.
Yes, there were a lot of 1990 Bowman in this package. That's a good thing, because I think that Robin Yount might have been my only card from that set before this Spiffying up.
I have read a fair number of people complaining about the Upper Deck Baseball Heroes parallels and sets generally. I guess I haven't gotten into those enough to hate them. I'm sure I will.

Greg Vaughn was everything he was advertised to be. It's too bad that the Brewers traded him away just as he started hitting fifty home runs. It couldn't have been that he was using PEDs, right? I mean, read the Mitchell Report (written by the law firm at which I have worked for the past 9 years, DLA Piper) -- it has plenty of former Brewers in it (aside from the obvious current perpetrator of course). But DLA Piper...that's a story for another time.

I'm certain that Spiff would like to see big Prince back on the All-Star team this coming year. From my perspective, I'd like Fielder to rebound from the injuries. I hate seeing guys miss parts of their prime for any reason.

The only player for whom I have any minor league cards in my collection is Cal Eldred. Now I have two Cal Eldred minor league cards.

I have had a Chrome version of this card for several months, so it threw me off to find out that I needed the Heritage base card. My memory works in such a way that I tend to remember photos and sites pretty well, so often times I purchase cards based off what I recall having or not having. It works about 85% of the time at avoiding duplicates.

Apparently, it fails 15% of the time with endless parallels.

A Rickie Weeks Ultra Gold Brought to you by Old Spice or Fleer or something like that. At some point, I'm going to start remembering all these parallels.

Black borders are good. 1971 -- good. 1985 Donruss -- good.
Finally, despite being on a Bazooka card, I cannot tell you whether he is Forever Blowing Bubbles like fans of West Ham United.

Rob/Spiff, thank you very much for the two great packages. I'm glad that I finally came across where your want lists are too, so that hopefully I'll be able to send you some packages after the new year. May you and your family have a Very Ranger Christmas!

Then again, after all the injuries the Rangers had last year, let me amend that: May you and your family have a very SAFE and Happy Holiday season and a joyous New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Cracked Christmas

I like the holiday season. Most of the time, at least. Yes, I get as tired as anyone of the endless shopping advertisements that start appearing sometime in September, and sometimes Christmas Cards are a bit annoying...or hilarious...even if the title of this post has nothing to do with this Cracked:

For the most part, though, I like this time of year. That is in part because of Christmas, in part because of college football's bowl season, in part because work slows down to a crawl, and in part because my birthday is two days after Christmas.

This year, good cheer from around the blogosphere started rolling in the form of cards and Christmas cards. The title of this post, of course, refers to the blog A Cracked Bat.  Julie sent out a number of Christmas cards -- I've seen a couple around the blogs already -- and I was the lucky recipient of one of those cards.

In her card, she expressed thanks to me for being so welcoming and getting her started on the path of trading cards through the mail. I'm happy that I had that effect, because her real "thanks" was incredible:

This card was a manupatch/relic from Topps Series 2 created specifically for that set, and it honors my favorite 1980s catcher, Gary Carter.  This patch pushes the Carter Collection up to 188 cards, magazines, autographs, and/or oddball items

Julie, I hope that you have a fantastic holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Thank you again for being a great trading partner, and here's to many more trades!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Being Zippy Zapped!

It's a busy time of year for everyone, but that does not excuse my inactivity here. I've been working on various projects related to my card collection and in real life and, as a result, my blogging here at the Hiatus has suffered. I hope to be a bit more prolific in terms of blogging here (I have some ideas, now, for posts that are not just recounting packages received) but, too, I need to catch up once again on sending out packages to fellow bloggers.

Last week, a package -- literally, an envelope wrapped in packing paper -- arrived in my mailbox from the New York City metropolitan area. It was entirely unexpected. But when I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised:

Being Zippy Zapped is always a pleasant surprise. But what does he mean about that I "might need this toploader"?

I mean, inside the package appeared what looked like your average pack-searched version of an Allen & Ginter Value Pack. Taped together, beat up...the usual for the pack searchers.

Why would Zippy Zappy send out something like that?  Alright. I'll bite. Let's open it up.

Wow. Pack searchers gone wild. Pre-RIPPED packs of cards? I'm sure this will turn out well, though -- I trust in the Zippy Zapping.

As I opened up the package further, I found six packs of cards, rather than the three plus one bonus promised on the package. Well, actually, there were three A&G packs inside...and a bonus...and a Chrome? And a Bowman Platinum? What kind of wizardry is this?

Since I could see a purple Peralta peeking prominently from one clear pack, let's peruse that pile posthaste.

Here's the purple Peralta from Platinum. And then:

I guess Zippy Zappy was concerned about a mailman walking out the door at Target with my package and not paying for it.

Now I can see why he was concerned. Card #56 in my Warren Spahn collection is this 2001 Topps Noteworthy insert. Happy Warren means Happy Tony.

And then, the final card in the bonus pack -- a 1994 Ted Williams Card Co. Joe Adcock! Just my fourth item in my Joe Adcock Player Collection. Sometimes, being very good but not a superstar means that people don't bring your cards to shows to sell!

If he had stopped there, this package would have been excellent. But that's just pack 1 of 6. What else is in there? Let's check out the Chrome pack.

There are Chrome cards in the Chrome package. Yes! At least there is some truth in advertising.

Scooter Gennett is penciled in as the starting second baseman for next year's Brewers. Brewers fans have been chattering amongst ourselves about whether the team needs a platoon partner for Scooter in light of his struggles against left-handed pitchers. The team appears to be sold on letting him play every day to see if he can work things out. I hope he can.

The next card out is also a Chrome card, but it is serial numbered!

I'm not going to try to figure out which one of the 57 Bowman Parallels this one is.  I know it is a Mini of Johnny Hellweg, whom the Brewers obtained from the Angels with Jean Segura in the Zack Greinke trade in 2012, and it is serial numbered as number 117 of 250. Hellweg underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of April, so the hope is that he will be ready for spring training this coming season.

Holy crap! I don't have the foggiest idea again what parallel this is, but it is a Ryan Braun serial numbered 3 of 99. It doesn't matter what it's called -- it's still awesome to me! It is item number 227 in my Ryan Braun collection, also. That's a pretty incredible number of cards/items to have amassed for a guy whom I had exactly 5 cards for -- all from 4 hobby boxes of 2010 Topps Series 1 that I bought, opened, and then let sit in a closet at some point in 2010 or 2011.

A serial numbered Eddie Mathews? Yes please! This is from 2014, and it is the 33rd Mathews card in my clutches.

I think I had this card before, but when you're ripping packs, you sometimes get a couple of cards you may have already. No matter -- I can use it for my team collection or, if all else fails, to make sure that my desk legs are even.

Let's dig into the three packs of "Allen & Ginter" now. Here's pack 1.

Two 2014 Topps Update cards, two 1973 Topps cards -- including the incredibly miscut Billy Champion, a 2010 Topps checklist of Braun and Fielder, two Corey Hart cards, and a Prince Fielder "Hot Commodities" insert from 2008 that, if the logo on the helmet were airbrushed away, would look perfectly proper in an unlicensed set.

I'm pretty sure I needed the Harts and the Fielder insert, and the other cards will work nicely in other collections or, perhaps, will inspire me to create another subset of Brewers collecting.

Maybe, for instance, that Skip Lockwood card should start a "Taken at County Stadium" subcollection. I always loved Milwaukee County Stadium. It was an incredibly flawed venue -- lots of poles obstructing views, lots of uncomfortable wood chairs and wood bleachers in the outfield from which you'd get splinters from time to time, small bathrooms, etc. But, it had character. My favorite place inside of County Stadium was the Hank Aaron exhibit. Other than a uniform and a bat, the other item of interest included in the display were some flip-flops that Hank wore as shower shoes. Seriously.

More ballparks these days need displays of players' shower shoes.

Okay. On to Pack 2.

Another eclectic mix of cards, and nary an Allen & Ginter among them. Everything from Rickie Weeks's impersonation of Medusa's hair to a 1990 Edgar Diaz being the utility baseball card to a couple of Tickets to Stardom (one wonders what Bill Hall's "Ticket" to stardom was, since his 35 HR season in 2006 was just 17 HR more than his next highest HR output in a season) to a Finest Nelson of the University of Alabama.

And, as Shaun Marcum shows us, Zippy Zappy was more concerned about the postman stealing these cards from Wal-Mart and not from Target.  As he should be.

Okay, let's see the final Allen & Ginter pack:


Now that was a hot pack. Four cards from the 2014 Bowman Chrome -- my first four cards of 2014 Bowman Chrome, in fact. I like the fact that Topps did not repeat the Bowman checklist and photos for Chrome. I also like the little diagrams on the back.

As cool as those are, however, they don't quite reach the level of the Orange parallel Corey Hart -- numbered 183 of 250 -- or of the Press Proof Ryan Braun numbered 15 of 199. As much as I hate gimmicks and all the parallels, a few parallels are not bad. I kind of like the Donruss one, even if it is unlicensed.

And Ron Theobald. That has to be Spring Training.

Now, remember what Zippy Zappy said about needing that toploader? I do. I haven't seen why, as of yet, that I might need it. I guess I need to open this last pack.

It starts with....theft protection?

What the deuce?

What's this? Oh, I DO need the Toploader. Do I ever!

That is one awesome patch auto serial numbered 10 of 50 of Corey Hart.  And it is THICK. Yup, that is going into the toploader!

Zippy Zappy, thank you very much for the great cards and the first packs I have ripped this year where I liked and wanted literally every single card in the pack!