Saturday, September 29, 2012

Topps Series 2: Eight to Go!

Last Friday, I posted about my experience with a scuzzball dealer at the Concord Mall sports memorabilia show. In case you missed it, the guy was trying to nickel and dime me on individual 2012 Topps Series 2 and Heritage cards.  He placed his left hand on his Beckett and swore he was only doing what any decent seller would.

Anyhow, in response to that story, Adam at ARPSmith's Sports Card Obsession generously offered up some Series 2 and Heritage cards off my "Wanted!" list.

And, today they arrived!

Thanks to Adam's contribution, I'm happy to report that my Series 2 base card checklist is down to single digits.  Eight to be exact.

Here are the six crucial cards he sent my way:

Additionally, he chipped in towards a couple of the Series 2 insert sets I'm working on:

Topps "Cut Above"

Topps "Gold Futures"

And, last but not least, eight wonderful '12 Heritage cards:

I'm getting close on this set, as well.  Still 23 to go, but I've made some great progress over the last month or so. I have to say, working on the 2012 Heritage set has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I've had in this hobby in a long time.  I'm gonna be a little sad when I'm done with the 425-card base set.  No worries, though, because putting the SP checklist to sleep won't be accomplished any time soon.

Adam, thanks a million for these cards!


Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Night Mall Show: Vintage Football, The Finale

After dragging the topic out for a week, it's time to put a bow on last Friday's hobby show at Concard Mall.

I've saved my favorite acquisition for last.  I must confess, though, that I was waffling back and forth between this card and a Dick Butkus card from the very same year.  Ultimately, the deciding factor was the price, as the card that I went with was five bucks cheaper.

But, that's not totally fair, since I've always wanted a card of this guy.  And when I saw the mug he was wearing on this card, it was an absolute checkmate in the end.

1971 Topps, #1

As Mrs. K exclaimed when I showed this to her, "Whoa, it's like Halloween came early!"  And I can't disagree, really.  If Frankenstein was a HOF quarterback who played for the Baltimore Colts, this would be his football card.

I love this card on multiple levels.  I mean, it's Johnny Unitas which, of itself, is outstanding enough.  The guy is a legend of the game.  And then you've got the face and the teeth -- added bonuses.

The design of 1971 Topps is amazing, might I add.  The colors, the fonts, the top-heavy little football cartoon character on the bottom left.  All elements are perfect.

The card itself is in pretty decent condition.  The edges are in very good shape and there is only light wear on the corners.  What you can't really see is a light crease near the top left corner of the card.  Additionally the back of the card is slightly miscut vertically.  But, those are very minor flaws, especially compared to what I paid for it.

This is easily my favorite non-Bills football card.  And it will probably stay that way until I get my first Deacon Jones card.

Thanks for humoring me during this prolonged football journey.  I'll get back to the business of baseball in the coming days.  I can't promise I won't wander back to football at some point, though.  I can't help it, plus it's kinda my blog :-)

Hope everyone has a terrific weekend!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Big Two-Oh

2012 Topps Archives, #148

On Thursday afternoon, R.A. Dickey became the sixth different pitcher in N.Y. Mets history to win 20 games in a season.

It was pretty fitting that Dickey (20-6) notched his 20th victory on the final home game of the 2012 Mets schedule.  Because outside of Dickey, there hasn't really been a reason to watch the Mets post-All Star break (if at all this season).

Things didn't look promising early on for the knuckler, as the Pirates touched him up for three runs over the first four innings at Citi Field.  But, as he usually does, Dickey gutted it out and actually got some help from a normally listless Mets offense.  David Wright delivered the biggest blow when he broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth with a three-run homer.

Dickey's final line: 7 2/3 innings, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 13 K, 128 pitches.

He joins Tom Seaver (4 times), Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, Frank Viola and David Cone in the Mets' 20-win club.  Seaver's 25 wins in 1969 is the Mets record for single-season victories.

I may be biased, but this guy is the hands-down NL Cy Young award winner.  The Mets, as a team, have 72 wins; Dickey has 20 of them.  That's 28% of his team's win total.

He's got the wins, he's got the stats, and now all he needs is the hardware.

Don't get me wrong, Cueto and Gio Gonzalez and Kimbrel are all great pitchers.  But, this is Dickey's year.  He was the best pitcher at the break (should've started the AS Game), and with one start remaining, he's on pace to be the best pitcher at season's end.

Here's hoping the voters agree.


Friday Night Mall Show: Vintage Football, Pt. 4

Mrs. K, a devout Washington Redskins fan, turned me onto the color analyst duo of HOFers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff on the Redskins Radio Broadcast Network.  To my ears, they are the real-life version of the two balcony hecklers from the Muppet Show.

And I mean that in a very complimentary way.

They're both cranky and quick-witted (in an old man sort of way), and both are dyed in the wool Washington homers.  Sam is definitely more the firebrand of the two, as Sonny just kind of lets Sam go off on his rants at the officials or the opponent or, most likely, the Redskins themselves.  Sure, they love their Redskins but they call 'em as they see 'em.

Sadly, Huff (78) will be doing a limited schedule this year, as he will only be heard during home game broadcasts.  Thus, even greater urgency to tune in and experience an NFL game through the eyes of these two legends.

But before they were providing the yuks in the radio booth, Jurgensen and Huff were immortals between the lines. Huff played 13 years, including the final five years of his career in D.C.  The former Mountaineer totaled 30 INTs over his career and was selected to five Pro Bowls.

Jurgensen was enshrined in Canton in 1983, one year after his good friend Huff.  Sonny played 11 of his 18 NFL seasons in the District where he tossed 179 of his 255 scores.  He is second to Joe Theismann on Washington's career passing yardage list and is behind only HOFer Sammy Baugh in TD passes.

1969 Topps, #227

With my equal admiration for Jurgensen's quarterbacking and broadcasting skills, I knew I had to have this card when I came across it at last Friday's mall show.  Gotta love the pink background and the old school Redskins logo.  This card is the complete package!  Add into the equation that this '69 Topps card was in near-mint condition, and it was an easy decision to purchase.  [Ed. Note: This card is in such nice shape that I had to give it a quick flip to make sure it wasn't a reprint.]

So, I'm down to one more card, and then I'll get back to baseball cards.  I promise!  Tomorrow, I'll unveil the card that sent me away with the biggest smile of the evening...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Friday Night Mall Show: Vintage Football, Pt. 3

A little yin and yang is the theme of today's Vintage Football post.

This first card is of a player who made an indelible impact on the NFL landscape during the 1980's (and somewhat into the '90s), and is widely considered among the top five most impactful defensive players in league history.

1983 Topps, #133

Although I'm a card carrying fan of the Buffalo Bills, I grew up in a New York Giants household.  For whatever reason, I didn't adopt the Giants as my team as I did with the Mets and NY Rangers, for instance.  While the Giants were boring and won games (and Super Bowls), the Bills were flashy and exciting and...well...lost Super Bowls.  Including to the Giants when I was 10.  Lucky for me, I wasn't really hypnotized by football at that time, and wasn't even rooting for the Bills yet.  [Ed. Note:  The Buffalo lightning bolt hit me midway through the middle of the 1991 season, in case you were wondering.  And I've been Bills-crazy since then.]

Regardless of all that, I still take interest in the Giants and root for them to do well each year, for the sake of my father, uncles and grandfathers.  Speaking of my old man, one of his treasured possessions back in the day was the NFL Films video about LT's prolific career, appropriately titled LT.  Needless to say, that particular VHS got a mighty good workout during football season.  It's a great video, by the way, so if you're a Giants fan you oughta scour eBay for a copy.

Also, my best buddy growing up was a complete and total Giants and LT fanatic.  He even chose the name Lawrence for his Catholic confirmation name.  [Ed. Note: Mom wouldn't allow me to use 'Cornelius' in honor of Cornelius Bennett, even though it was a name from the Bible.  In retrospect, I guess she did the right thing. But, it sounded good when I was 12.]

For those reasons, and that fact that he was a complete and total maniac on (and off) the field, I regard Taylor as a cardboard immortal.  Thus, any time I have a chance to get one of his cards, I jump at it.  I have a few nice vintage LT cards, including the '84 and '86.  But, this one is his second-year card, which is pretty neat.  One of these days I'll add his rookie to the collection.

While Lawrence Taylor spent his Sunday afternoon's making life miserable and painful for quarterbacks, this next player spent his career making bullies chase after him in vain.

1978 Topps, #100

Fran Tarkenton made guys like Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones cuss and complain.  If you were gonna hit and/or sack the former Georgia Bulldog, you were gonna have to work you butt off to do it.  Sideline to sideline, backwards and forwards, Tarkenton scrambled and escaped his way to one of the most impressive careers ever crafted by a pro quarterback.  He's top ten all-time in passing yards (47,003) and touchdowns (342), and also racked up 3,674 rushing yards with 32 additional scores.  A cool fact from Wikipedia: Fran set an NFL quarterbacking record by scoring a rushing TD in 15 different seasons.

In addition to these awesome exploits, I must admit I have a soft spot for ol' Fran since he was the losing QB on three occasions with the Vikings of the '70s.  As a Bills fan, you can't help by empathize with that.

This isn't Tarkenton's best card by a long shot, but it happens to be the first one that I ever pulled the trigger on and purchased.  I look forward to obtaining more of his 1970s issues in the future.

Tomorrow, a former QB great who now makes up one half of the best NFL color analyst team on the radio...


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Friday Night Mall Show: Vintage Football, Pt. 2

I grew up in central NJ, but I can't tell you how many Miami Dolphins fans I went to high school with.  It was kind of disgusting.  And because I was the lone oddball Buffalo Bills fan, they'd all gang up on me.  Of course, I would always have the last laugh, since the Bills (good) almost always triumphed over the Dolphins (evil) in the games that mattered most.  At least they did during the 1990's.

Therefore, I grew to despise all the Dolphins players past and present.  I still kind of do, but I've mellowed out a lot on that stance over the years.  I've got bigger fish to fry these days (pun intended).  I spend a lot more of my time hating the Jets and Patriots.  On top of that, the Dolphins and Bills have spent the greater part of this century stinking up the joint.

I also don't have to worry about the punks in high school giving me a hard time.

One Dolphin from the team's golden era of the 1970's that I have a lot of respect for is Larry Csonka.  Hall of Famer, MVP of Super Bowl VIII, and one of the toughest S.O.B.'s to ever put on shoulder pads.  One thing I learned from watching all those beloved NFL Films productions over the years was that Csonka was always breaking his nose, among other things.  Also, he was always caked in the muddy remains of the Orange Bowl's turf.  And sometimes, his football pants were splattered with blood -- his own or that of some unfortunate defensive back.

With that imagery in mind, I absolutely had to add this card to my football collection when I came across it last weekend at the card show:

1974 Topps, #131

Does this not look like a man who gave 110% every Sunday from September to January?  This photograph captures every ounce of mystique that surrounds Csonka's football career.  It's borderline mythological!  I can almost hear the voice of John Facenda:  The bruised and battered warrior pauses a moment in the unrelenting Florida sun to collect his thoughts before he takes up the battle once again.

Or something like that.

The back of the card, by the way, features a cute little cartoon that informs us that Csonka was born on Christmas Day.

In Part 3, I'll share a card featuring a sack master of the highest order, and one of a player who spent most of his career running for his life.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday Night Mall Show: Vintage Football, Pt. 1

So this is Part 1 of a five-part series in which I'll be sharing the great vintage football cards I scored at last Friday's sports card and memorabilia show at one of my local malls.

One of the last sellers I visited had a nice big box of 60s-70s-80s Topps football cards, all in pretty nice condition.  Jackpot!  I had a twenty spot in my wallet at the time, and I spent a pretty good amount of time hovering over said box trying to get the greatest amount of cool cards within that threshold.  I wound up with seven cards total.  I had a tough time making the final cuts.  Lots of hemming and hawing.  But, in the end, I think I made the right picks.  Plus, you know, there's always next time!

In this first of five parts, I decided to showcase a pair of Buffalo Bills running backs from days of old.  After all, my guys notched a solid victory in Cleveland on Sunday, so I'm in a Bills kind of mood.

I'll begin with arguably the greatest Bills player of all time:

1976 Topps, #300

I know, I know.  Before you get all crazy and start screaming, just know that I think O.J. was guilty as sin.  But, there are plenty of other places to vent about O.J. and the injustices involved in that circus of a trial.  I'd rather focus on O.J.'s place in football history.  Back when Simpson was only known for his heroics on the field, not the bad intent in his heart.  And on the field, there weren't many better than O.J.  He ran for 1,800+ yards and scored 16 TDs in the '75 season -- just a couple seasons removed from his 2,000-yard campaign.  And that's back when NFL teams played a 14-game schedule, folks.

As for the card itself, mid-70s Topps football is totally fabulous, and the '76 design is one of the best.

We now fast forward five years for a rookie card of another Bills tailback, this one without the notoriety of a certain Orenthal James:

1981 Topps, #360

Cribbs burst onto the scene in 1980, leading the Bills with 1,185 yards and 11 scores.  He was not only the AFC R.O.Y., but also a Pro Bowler.  He made the Pro Bowl twice more over the next three years, but was out of the NFL shortly thereafter.  He only scored 16 touchdowns over the final seven years of his career.  Safe to say, the man with the helmet-dented forehead pictured in the above card was at the pinnacle of his career when that photo was snapped.

The 1981 Topps design is the epitome of Plain Jane, is it not?  Not a whole lot to fall in love with.  The addition of the All-Pro banner adds a little spice, but the flavor is still akin to sucking on a marble.

In my next installment of Vintage Football, a former Super Bowl hero who starred for a team that I absolutely despise...


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Friday Night Mall Show: The Nickel Box

At Friday's sports card and memorabilia show at Concord Mall in Wilmington, Del., I saw something that I had never seen at a hobby show.  A nickel box.

We've all seen dime boxes and quarter boxes and dollar vintage boxes and so on and so on.  But, this was a nickel box.  And that has to be a rarity because it's the first one I've come across in about 20 years of attending shows.  That doesn't mean they haven't been out there; for all I know there are nickel boxes all over North Dakota.  But, they don't occur very often in the NJ/PA/DE region.

I spied this one after I had already told Mrs. K that I was finally done with my purchases for the evening.  We were strolling along, heading for the restaurant, when I saw a 5,000-count box at a nearby table with a big .05 beaming towards me.  And, well, there was a dollar bill in my bi-fold that had instantaneously burst into flame.

Poor Mrs. K.  She doesn't even try to fight my mania.  Never has, which is why she is a keeper.  But, out of fairness, I hit the accelerator a bit as I went through this box.  Therefore, I wasn't as thorough as I would have been normally.  But, that doesn't mean I didn't get my dollar's worth.  Plucking 20 cards was fast and easy.

Oh, the contents of the box?  All 2012 football releases.  Most of them, anyhow.  I think.  I don't really follow the football releases as I once did.  But, all the usual suspects were on hand.

I was on the hunt for Buffalo Bills cards only, and I found enough to satisfy me.  And, since it's NFL gameday, I figured I would share my additions.

First, a pair of '12 Topps inserts of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly:

On the left, "Quarterback Immortals" and on the right a reprint of Kelly's 1987 rookie card.  Looking at the reprint makes me wonder if Topps has any plans for ever making an Archives-style set for football.  Or perhaps even bring back Heritage (why did they even discontinue it??).  I hope so on both counts.

Another insert from this year's Topps set is "Paramount Pairs":

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson.  This pair combined for seven TDs a season ago.  And they've hooked up for scores in each of the first two weeks this year.  I hope many more are on the way...

The other Topps product that I came across in this box was Platinum:

As usual, this is a very nice looking presentation.  Not sure how many other Bills players are present in this set, but these are the only two I came across.

There was a decent amount of Score in the box, but I came across but one Buffalo Bill:

"The Senator" George Wilson.  The guy is a walking sound bite.  Pretty good safety, too.  It appears that this is some sort of parallel or subset card, no?  It's more like an artistic rendering than an actual photo, kind of in the style of Topps Heritage.  I'm not sure what the deal is with it, and I really have no ambition to look it up.

Here's a pair of cards from the Donruss Elite set:

Stevie and Freddie.  A little bummed I couldn't find the Fitz card from this set.

But, I did find Fitzpatrick (and three teammates) in a run of Panini Rookies & Stars:

 Same deal, and same players, with 2012 Prestige:

I was borderline shocked that tight end Scott Chandler found his way into both sets.  Good for him!

Next to the nickel box full of 2012 football, there was another nickel box featuring some older cards.  And by "older" I mean from the last decade or so.  I wasn't about to flip through that whole thing, so I quickly went through half of one row and came up with these two:

Nothing earth-shattering here.  Rookies of former safety Coy Wire and receiver Roscoe Parish.  But for .05 a pop, I didn't have much of an excuse to put them back.

To round out an even 20 cards, I grabbed a Sam Bradford Platinum for the nephew and a 2011 Leaf Certified of London Fletcher for Mrs. K.  That was very generous of me, no?

In my book, 20 cards for a buck is as good as it gets.  I don't expect to find a nickel box for another 20 years, but I'm glad I had access to one at least once.

I have yet to share the vintage football gems I snagged at this show, but I'll save that for the coming days.

In the meantime, enjoy your football Sunday, folks.

And... Let's Go Buffalo!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Night Mall Show: The Whiny Slob

TGIF, freinds!  Hope everyone had a great week; now bring on the weekend!

I put a fitting cap on the week by trekking up to Concord Mall in northern New Castle County, Del. for a sports card and memorabilia show.  Concord has one of these shows maybe three or four times a year, and it's usually a decent spread.  Mrs. K came along because, well, it's the mall.  Plus I bribed her with the promise of a nice dinner afterwards.  She's an easy sell, that's why she married me.

Well, there wasn't a great assortment of dealers this time around.  Mostly guys hawking impossibly expensive vintage cards or autographed football helmets.  I guess because it was the first day/evening of the show that most of the bigger vendors weren't camped out yet.

My first stop was the 'camp' of a guy whose boxes and cases were a complete mess.  He's a regular at many of the shows in the Delaware/Philly/South Jersey area, and I normally avoid him because, in addition to being an OCD nightmare, his stuff is way overpriced.  But, I'm still trying to finish my Series 2 and Heritage sets, and he had a big box of singles.  So, I stopped.

The first red flag was the response he gave to my inquiry, "How much for your singles?"  He gave some vague answer of taking 50% off the book.

Ugh.  Dude, we're talking about singles -- mostly commons -- of Series 2 Topps.  C'mon now.

Whatever, I figured he couldn't be that stingy.  So I started to flip through the box, plucking out cards as I referenced my checklist.  But, I began to wonder about that stinginess when a young man picked up a plastic Baltimore Ravens cup that was on display and asked, "How much, sir?"

The answer?  "Five dollars.  It's plastic, dish washer safe.  Top rack."

Oh boy.

I figured I ought to cut my stay short, and handed over a stack of approximately 20 cards.  Most of them commons.  Only three Series 2 cards (they were not in numerical order and I wasn't about to spend more than 10 minutes going through his cardboard pigpen), which were each "star" cards.  Pujols, Ichiro and Jeter.   And about 15 Heritage cards, 90% of which were non-stars.

I told myself, "Self, if he says five bucks or below, he's got a deal.  Anything above that and he's lost."

Then, again to myself, "Shoot, if the dish-washer safe Ravens cup was five bucks..."

He shuffled through the cards, finally pronouncing with smug satisfaction, "Seven bucks."

I made a face, and suddenly he got defensive.  Some gibberish about the Jeter card alone "booking" for $1.50. And how it would be criminal to go below a quarter per Heritage card.  After referencing the Beckett values two or three more times, I had heard enough.  I told him that I wasn't really interested in the book values.

Big mistake.  I then got a sermon on how the "rent in the mall" keeps going up, and that he can't afford to just give the cards away.  Basically, he was looking for sympathy because, well, someone was holding a gun to his head forcing him to be a baseball card dealer.  This is the same guy, mind you, who was probably laughing all the way to the bank in the early '90s ripping kids off by selling 1988 Chris Sabo cards for 10 bucks.  He concluded his speech by guaranteeing that those folks selling cards for a dime a pop were the same sellers who would simply disappear after a year or two.

Sigh.  As the kids say, SMH.

If I wasn't such a putz, I would've just put all the cards down and walked away.  But, I really wanted the Heritage cards and wasn't sure I would find any more dime tables at the show since pickins were so slim.  Thus, I gave in and bought 20 cards for a quarter per.  I left the super-valuable trio of Series 2 cards for someone more grateful and deserving.

I'm a man of principle as long as confrontation isn't involved, what can I say?

Five minutes afterwards, I was at a table of another long-time vendor who keeps a nice, neat table.  He had dime boxes of all the 2012 Topps products (in tidy, numerical order, might I add).  I felt like going back to the slob's location and dragging him by the nose 50 feet to this table.  But, I was just happy to find some Heritage satisfaction.  

Final tabulation of Topps Series 2 cards purchased between Mr. Slob and Mr. Clean: a whopping two. Two!!  Which leaves me still 14 shy of the complete set.  The biggest problem is the fact that I'm mostly missing Phillies players.  Since I'm in Philly territory, all those cards are pulled and put into separate Phillies boxes which I refuse to search through.  Furthermore, they're priced as if they're all short prints.  I'm not paying a dollar for a Carlos Ruiz base card, sorry cuz.

Final tabulation of 2012 Heritage between Pigpen and Adrian Monk: a robust 37.  That's more like it!  Just 31 more cards and I can cross the base set off my Wanted list.

Some of my 2012 Heritage pickups

Now, I don't want you to think Mr. Slob ruined the evening for me.  On the contrary, it was a GREAT show!  After I filled my Heritage quota, I came across an amazing box of vintage Topps football at another seller's table.  I can't wait to share some of those purchases with you in my next post.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I will just say that I picked up a card of a former great Colts quarterback whose name isn't Peyton.  Who could it be? Jim Harbaugh?  Jack Trudeau?  Jeff George?

Oh!  Also, I came across the first-ever nickel box (at least in my experiences).  You know, it's kind of like a dime box, except you only have to give them a nickel per card.  And it was all the 2012 football brands.  I could have spent a half hour or more easily at that table, but I was getting the stink eye from Mrs. K, who had already been told three times in a 15 minutes span that I was "almost done."  Thus, in fairness, I spent just five minutes hunting.  Plenty of time to get my dollar's worth!  I'll share my purchases from said box next time around.

Enjoy your weekend, and I'll be back with you soon!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Random Generosity, The Conclusion

Last post, I flaunted the trove I recently received from Marcus at All the Way to the Backstop.  And now, as promised, the wholesome goodness that were the contents of the package Robert at $30 a Week Habit floated me.  "Random generosity" as he termed it in the note that was included.

To my delight, Robert provided me with a Topps Heritage fix.  I'm working on the 2011 and 2012 base sets, so these are right up my alley.  I've really become addicted to the Heritage product over the past few months.  More than that, it's now my favorite of all the Topps sets.  I only wish I had jumped on the bandwagon from the beginning.

Anyhow, first a sampling of the 2011 cards I received:

And now the 2012's:

Thanks to Robert's contribution, I'm down to 68 cards needed to finish off the non-short print portion of the the 2012 set.  Lots more than that still needed polish off the '11 edition, but I'm getting closer.  I'm not going to stress of the SPs for either year's set.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to still actively hunt, beg and pray for them, but I fully understand that I will most likely never get 'em all.  It puts my OCD into overdrive to admit this, but I'll survive.

Robert, thanks a bunch for satisfying my Heritage sweet tooth!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Double Shot of Random Generosity

As card collector's we're pretty simple people, are we not?  Getting a padded yellow mailer in your mailbox along with your assorted credit card bills and Walgreen's flyers is definitely a cause for jubilation.  And that's when you're expecting to receive something from a fellow blogger.  The happiness quotient doubles when you're greeted with a surprise package.

Or two.

Such was my fortune on Monday evening when I arrived home to find a pair of envelopes from a couple of my blogging brethren.  No trades had been worked out, thus I was the recipient of some cardboard goodwill.  Marcus from All the Way to the Backstop and Robert from $30 a Week Habit were both nice enough to have me in mind when the spirit of generosity paid them a visit.  It is always humbling to have someone take time out of their schedule for you on a random basis, so I'm absolutely grateful to both gentlemen.

Okay, onto the goodies!  I flipped a coin and Marcus won, so I'll first share the loot I received from him.

Two full team bags of cards yielded a nice assortment of cardboard...

Some cards of my beloved Mets, including the first 2012 Chrome card I have in my collection.  One of the many 'celebration' themed cards from 2012 Topps, the Duda card is one of my favorites of the year.  A walk-off moment frozen in time.  Lord knows the Mets don't have much to celebrate these days, so it's nice to have something like this to remind us fans of some of the better times.

Speaking of '12 Chrome, we have an A-Rod sighting!  Plus a pair of nice 2008 Upper Deck "Season Highlights" cards of Alex.  The horizontal card (which is awesome, by the way) celebrates home run No. 500 of Rodriguez's career, which occurred on August 4, 2007.

My player collections will be receiving a nice dose of 1992 Fleer Ultra, one of my favorite releases from the early '90s.  The Clark card is a real winner.  You've got The Thrill swinging away at the Friendly Confines.  It doesn't get any better than that from a photogenic standpoint.

Marcus included a few Panini Triple Play cards.  I keep telling myself that I don't like these things, yet every time I receive a sampling of them from somebody I can't help but like 'em.  The Zimmerman is an especially cool-looking card.  And, of course Johan is always welcome in my collection any form he chooses.

I'll wrap up the highlights with this most excellent CyberStats parallel card from 1995 Topps.  I am 100%, completely down with CyberStats.  And the fact that it's Pedro really floats my boat.  I can't say '95 Topps is one of my favorite efforts from the Topps folks, but the extra spice that the cards get from the CyberStats treatment makes me a fan.

Once again, a big thank you to Marcus for keeping me on his radar.  You're the tops, Marcus!

In my next post, I'll show off the goods I received from Robert, another top-notch blogger.  Stay tuned...


Monday, September 17, 2012

If it's Free, It's for Me

2002 Topps "East Meets West" (#EW-TS)

So I finally took the Listia plunge and this is the first card that I obtained.  You get 600 credits just for signing up, and I think I "spent" in the neighborhood of 130 credits for this one.  Tsuyoshi Shinjo cards are pretty rare to come across at card shows -- at least in my experiences here in Delaware -- and I don't feel like overpaying for any on eBay.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this one.  A nice addition to my Shinjo collection.

I still think Listia is a little clumsy to browse around, but maybe that's because I'm not used to it yet.  I prefer the look and navigability of eBay.  Then again, eBay never gave me anything for free.  So, I suppose I'll continue to scour Listia for some more treasure like this in the future.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Doing My Part

2010 Topps Triple Threads relic, 31/36

My nephew has never been to St. Louis.  No one in my family or my brother-in-law's family is from St. Louis. Well, kind of.

Yesterday was my nephew Kyle's 8th birthday party, so Mrs. K and I trucked up to central New Jersey to partake in the festivities.  And the gifts Kyle received largely reflected his platform of adopting every St. Louis professional sports team as his own.  A Rams piggy bank, St. Louis Blues jersey, and even tickets to a Rams game!

Now, I can't talk, since I was a Buffalo Bills fan and a Boston Celtics fan long before I ever set foot in those cities.  I guess in that respect he takes after his ol' uncle.

But, in my nephew's case, why St. Louis?  Simple: their dog, Spencer, was adopted from a family that lives in a suburb of St. Louis.  So, naturally, St. Louis Rams it is.  [Ed. Note: Hey, it was the logic of a 6-year-old boy. Plus, my reason for being a Bills fan isn't much better.]

Anyways, the kid is crazy about the Rams first and foremost, and loves Sam Bradford.  At least he isn't an Eagles or Jets fan.  I can pretty much live with anything else.

And since his inner sports fanatic emerged a year or so ago, I figured it was high time to get the lad spiritually invested in sports cards.  Last birthday, we got him a blaster of 2011 Topps football.  I figured it was appropriate, since my first big year of collecting occurred when I was seven, also.

Sure enough, days after his birthday, my sister emailed me asking where to get a binder and pages for his cards.  Turns out he was looking at them and organizing them obsessively.  Naturally, I pointed her towards Target or Wal-mart, where he would also have a chance to con mom into buying some more packs!  Next time I was at their house, I was so proud as he showed me his binder of football cards.  Nine-pocket pages with all the cards organized by team.  I was impressed!

But, that was last year.  This year, I figured it was time to up the ante.  And over the summer, I found the above Bradford relic card on eBay and knew it was something I had to buy for Kyle.  I did the "Buy It Now" option and probably overpaid a tad, but everything you can buy for a kid at Toys R Us is obscenely marked up as it is, so that's how I rationalized it.

Thus, this relic card and a Bradford McFarlane figure were our gifts to Kyle yesterday.  I think he approved.  I put the card in a brand new magnetic hard case, where it will hopefully remain.  But, if he's anything like I was at that age, he's going to try to crack the case open and jam the card into his binder on the Rams page.

So, I feel good that I've done my small part to pass the hobby on to the younger generation.  My brother-in-law is a big sports fan, but wasn't much of a card collector when he was young.  To my knowledge, he doesn't have any of his boyhood cards anymore.  Thank goodness for godfathers (that's me).

We haven't done baseball cards yet, but in time that'll come.  For now, he's pretty much a football kid.  Though, he did go to his first major league game this past summer -- Cardinals vs. Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.  Sadly, his Cards lost despite an early homer from Carlos Beltran.

So for every Christmas and birthday for now and until he's an awkward teenager who forget about sports cards in favor of loud music and chicks, Kyle will be getting some kind of cool cardboard from his crazy Uncle Mark.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Get Your Group Break On!

Happy weekend, fellow collectors!

Lots of activity planned for this weekend, namely lawn work, my nephew's 8th birthday party, and lots of time spent in front of the TV watching college and pro football.  Man, I love September!

Before I kick things into high gear, just a moment to give a shout out to my buddy Tim over at Home of the Toddfather.  He's put together the particulars for his first-ever group break, and now he's looking for a few more participants to seal the deal.  Looks like he's already up to 15 (which is great!), but another couple would put him over the top.

He's featuring some great products in the break, including:

2012 Topps Chrome

2012 Topps Pro Debut

2012 Topps Update

[Ed. Note:  Hat tip to eBay for all the images, by the way.]

So, if you've got a few minutes and a few bucks to spare (only $9 per team, or $12 for two), check out Tim's group break HERE and sign up!  Lots of good teams remaining.

Talk to you soon, gang.  Enjoy the weekend!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Clubhouse Favorites, Vol. 6: Alex Rodriguez, 2001 Topps (#612)

Photoshop should never, ever be used on baseball cards.

Nothing boils my blood more than a Topps card from the past decade that has been irrevocably mangled by Photoshop.  Granted, sometimes the nerds in the graphics department do a decent enough job.  So much so that you have to give it a second or third look.  But 99.9% of the time it's a terrible effort.

And what kind of drooling idiots does Topps take us for?  They take action photos from the previous season and Photoshop the new uniforms, helmets and caps onto these guys.  Like, do they think we're going to forget that Pujols was a Cardinal and Reyes was a Met in 2011?

Not so long ago I finished loading my 2001 Topps set into binder pages and gazed in wonderment at the beautiful photography that Series 2 featured.  It's loaded with big-name free agents posing in the threads of the their new clubs.

Photos taken during Spring Training.  In other words, no Photoshop.

And you know what?  These cards look great.

Alex Rodriguez isn't sliding into home or running the bases or striding into a fastball, but that doesn't mean the above card isn't a sharp number.  Nor does it lessen the impact of the card in this set.  If nothing else, the fact that this is a contrived pose draws attention to the fact that the player has switched teams.

To me, this is an iconic card.  A-Rod's first Topps card as a Texas Ranger.  Back when  he was must-see TV. The most potent offensive player in the sport by a long shot.  Back before he became something of a punchline. Fodder for Facebook memes and the back page of the NY Post.

It's not totally fair to say new technology has made Topps lazy.  After all, they were airbrushing caps and jerseys in the vintage era, also.  And doing a pretty choppy job of it, at that.

But, Topps has become lazy.  They have the resources to get photos taken during the spring, allowing them to get the major FA's into Series 2 wearing their new colors.  Instead, it's just easier to click the mouse a few times and *poof* Roy Halladay is a Phillie, not a Blue Jay.

Maybe they think we collectors will reject non-action photography on their cards.  I think that's nonsense.  I can't imagine there are that many folks out there who prefer cheesy Photoshop jobs over, say, a classy card like Alex Rodriguez, 2001 Topps.

What I Learned from the Back of this Card:  Alex wore number 3 early in his career in honor of Dale Murphy.  Growing up in Miami, A-Rod watched plenty of Atlanta Braves baseball on TBS and adopted Murphy as his boyhood idol.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fun with Heritage, aka Because I Can

I still have a ways to go with my 2012 Topps Heritage set (roughly 75% done, not counting SPs), but I'm at the point where I have enough to start loading those bad boys into some binder pages.  I love this part of the process.  In a former life, I was the happiest assembly line working in Detroit.

Anyhow, this task has put me in a '12 Heritage kind of mood.  And I thought it would be fun to randomly pluck an original 1963 Topps card and see which player shared that number in the 2012 set.  My apologies if anybody did this previously.  Or if such an activity seems lame.  [Ed. Note: I more apologize for the former; I don't care if you think this is lame.  I already have a baseball card blog, for crying out loud!]

Now, I don't have a ton of '63 Topps.  And those that I do have are courtesy of dear old dad.  In case you missed my Willie Mays post from a couple days ago, I've been the official caretaker of my dad's boyhood collection going on 24 years (give or take).

Cut to the chase, Mark.

Okay here we go!  Out of respect, we begin with the Old School:

1963 Topps, #124

A young Kansas City shortstop.  Howser (future manager of the K.C. Royals) completed his second big league season in 1962, batting .238 in 83 games for the Athletics.  However, we're informed via the write-up on the back that the "flashy" shortstop was hurt during the '62 campaign, thus the 42-point drop in average from his rookie campaign.  The clever cartoon touts Dick's 1961 ROY award.

And now we go New School:

2012 Topps Heritage, #124

A young Kansas City shortstop!  To quote Mel Allen, "How about that!?"  Is this a coincidence, or is Topps paying more attention than we give them credit for?  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and tip my cap to them. That's pretty cool!  Escobar, a former mega-prospect for the Brewers, hit .254 as the Royals' everyday shortstop in 2011.  The blurb on the back reminds us that Alcides was a key piece of the Zack Greinke trade, and that the Venezuela native led Kansas City with 26 steals in '11.  The cartoon caption states Escobar recorded 459 defensive assists -- most of any AL player regardless of position.

This was a pretty fun exercise.  So fun, in fact, that I'll be doing a few more of these in the future.  I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but that's tomorrow's worry.

Thanks for humoring me, and Happy Collecting!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Trade with the Guru

I just want to see if he's paying attention.

Oh, the whole "guru" thing is a throwback to one of Night Owl's posts from late August where he lamented being the answer man or the perceived "guru" of the sports card blogosphere.  Not that he proclaims himself as such. But, if you're anything like me, you hold this guy and his opinions and, thus, his blog in pretty high regard.  I know I've learned a lot about the hobby and gained a greater appreciation for it just by reading his copious postings over the years.

So, perhaps "sage" is more apropos?

Well, whatever you want to call him, Night Owl is someone I greatly respect.  So it was with much excitement that was able to swap cards with him recently.

He's one of the bazillion Dodgers bloggers in the universe, so naturally I sensed an ex-Dodger theme to the cards I received.  Which works out just fine for me, since I collect a lot of players who once called Chavez Ravine home.

I got some Piazzas, a couple Jeff Kents, a few Strawberrys, and even a trio Robin Venturas.  All great and valuable additions to my collection.  [Ed. Note:  Umm, all these guys are ex-Mets, too.  How 'bout that?]

But, probably my favorite cards from the ex-Dodger delegation (and, yes, another ex-Met) took the form of these two Pedro cards:

Two very cool rookies of Petey, one 1993 Fleer Ultra and the other a 1994 Score.  If it's Pedro and it's a rookie card, I'm likely to be a big fan.

But, while I really appreciate and enjoy the cards for my player collections, it was the following grouping that really got me excited about the package I received from the Great Sage:

Yessir!  Can I tell you how much I love Topps Fan Favorites?  And all of these are from the 2005 set, which I have listed on my "Wanted!" page.  Topps absolutely hit a home run with the premise of this product, in my opinion.  I hope someday they decide to resurrect this idea for a full-scale set, rather than just relegating it to a short-print sideshow for the Archives release.

Anyhow, many thanks for a most excellent exchange, N.O.!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Clubhouse Favorites, Vol. 5: Willie Mays, 1961 Topps (#150)

I was either seven or eight years old when I officially became the keeper of my dad's childhood baseball card collection.  Or at least what remained of it.  Years of flipping them (literally) or losing them in a game of marbles or putting them in bike spokes whittled down the volume of cards in his stockpile.  At least that's what he tells me.

And, naturally, Grandpa or Grammy K had something to do with the loss of cards, too.  Many were either given away or shown the garbage bin after my dad went to college.  The last discussion we had about the card collection, which was quite some time ago, Grandpa K absolutely refuted my father's claim that at least one shoe box of cards was gifted to a family friend.  Just for fun, maybe I'll stoke up the conversation at the next family function.  Hey, it's all love!

As for Willie Mays, he's a name -- along with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron -- that any boy who grows up loving baseball intuitively knows and understands.  At least in my life and upbringing, those guys are/were the Mt. Rushmore of baseball players.

So, to have a card of Willie Mays present in my dad's collection was akin to finding gold in your backyard.  And, to boot, it's in pretty fantastic condition...unlike some of the others he was able to retain.  (Remember those marbles games and flipping contests?  They take their toll, y'know!)

Thankfully, eight-year-old Me did a unbelievably solid job of keeping all dad's cards in the status quo condition.  I mean, I look back at my 1987 and '88 Topps cards and some of them look like they have been used to scrub the bathtub.  So, the fact that I didn't harm the vintage cards any worse is pretty impressive.

I always tell myself that if I ever submit a card to Beckett or PSA for grading, this is gonna be the one.  But, I can't see that happening any time soon.

What I've Learned from the Back of this Card:  Mays sacrificed nearly two seasons of his early major league career for his country.  He played just 34 games in 1952 and missed the entire '53 campaign due to military service during the Korean War.  He returned for the '54 season and produced a monster season, batting .345 with 41 homers and 110 RBIs.  He was named MVP of the National League and, yes, the Giants won the World Series.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

His Insanity, My Gain

As many of you are familiar, Robert over at $30 a Week Habit is working on a mega-set project he lovingly refers to as "Serial Numbered Insanity".  In case you're unfamiliar, give it a look HERE.  A very original, very cool idea.

I made a small contribution recently and, in exchange, Robert was nice enough to shoot me a few cards to help out with my Topps Series 2 inserts list.

Gold Standard, #GS-36 & GS-41
Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the Topps inserts that leave a lot of dead space.  But this set managed to capture my favor thanks to the gold coin thingie, plus there is at least a big inscription to fill the void underneath said coin.  Also, you can't beat the premise of this insert set: all the players who have reached those hallowed career milestones.  I was able to finish the Series 1 version, and I'm slowly but surely making my way through the follow-up rendition.

Cal, Verlander and Storen
Naturally, we all love die cuts, don't we?  Series 2 brought us "Topps Cut Above", which was almost universally approved by the collecting fraternity.  I'd really like to finish this set.  Great player selection, cool-looking card, nice photography.  Nothing to hate.  But, perhaps my favorite of the 2012 flagship inserts (not including the '87 minis because, you know, those are on their own pedestal) is the "Gold Futures" offering.  Loaded with young stars and sporting a sharp design, this set kicks serious backside.

By the way, speaking of "Gold Futures," it dawned on me upon looking at this Drew Storen card that this design isn't too dissimilar from another recent Topps product:

2012 Topps Football, #197

What do you think?  The team logo on the football card is encased in a football-shaped enclosure, but otherwise the idea is the same.  I know a lot of people really dig the look of `12 football and are happy that Topps didn't just mimic the baseball design.  Same here.  But, it looks like the design team at Topps didn't veer too far into the weeds for their football decor.  Just some food for thought.

Anyhow, thanks a bunch for the inserts, Robert!  And continued luck with your Insanity...


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cards From My Toddfather

I am very fortunate to have met some very cool people thanks to this blogging community.  One of them is Tim from Home of the Toddfather.  He's a big-time collector of Mr. Todd Helton (thus the blog name), as well as any Rockies stars past and present.  I see now that he's also working on the Topps Chrome purple refractor set, so check him out if you have any to trade.  I've had the pleasure of trading with Tim twice before, and the cards he flipped me were incredible.

So, I was naturally excited when he emailed me earlier this week to notify me of a package that was on its way from Tennessee to Delaware.  As expected, Tim delivered in a big way.

From the stack of cards he sent me, here are some of the highlights:

1998 Starting Lineup Classic Doubles
I figured I would start out with my favorite card.  How cool is this?!  Notice also the bottom right of the card. Does that little swoosh design look at all familiar?  Perhaps a little bit like a certain 2012 Topps design?  Hmm...

1995 Collector's Choice SE, #90
A most excellent picture of Mike Piazza.  Look at the grimace on his face.  You know the ball he just crushed is headed a long ways away.  I was a fan of Collector's Choice from this era, especially the Special Edition parallels with the silver signatures.  And since Piazza is an All-Star, his card gets the borderless treatment. Nice!

2003 Upper Deck MVP, #87
I always like cards that have pictures from press conferences.  When looking through my player collections, it's nice to come across a card like this or a head shot.  It breaks up the monotony of all the action photos.  Variety, y'know?

Manny, Will and Joey
Three of my favorite players of all time in the above panel.  One quick thought about Albert Belle.  I'm glad Topps has decided to resurrect Belle's legacy by featuring him in some of their 2012 base sets and insert sets.  People tend to forget about him.  I get it, he was a real you-know-what.  But that isn't something new for pro athletes, is it?  What gives?

And then you've got this one:

2004 Donruss Studio Fans of the Game, #220FG-5
So, this is stock trader Adam Mesh.  And apparently he was on the reality show "Average Joe."  I never watched that show, so I don't know this guy from Adam.  But, he must be doing well for himself since Donruss chose him for the Mets fan subject of ther "Fans of the Game" insert set.  Either that or Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Kevin James, Chris Rock and The Situation each had prior commitments.

A very cool assortment of cards, as usual.  Thanks once again, Tim!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

All is Right with the World

1989 Topps, #45

The title of this post is a line the narrator -- the adult Ralphie -- proclaims at the end of my favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.  It also happens to be the proclamation my good buddy and fellow Bills fan Mike H. bellows after every Buffalo victory.

It also happens to apply to the sporting mood of today -- at least for me.  On the baseball front, R.A. Dickey nabbed his league-leading 18th victory of the season with 6 2/3 innings of two-run baseball in St.
Louis.  And, then there's...


Thanks to our dear POTUS, the beginning of the NFL season was bumped up a day to Wednesday to accommodate the Democratic convention's apex moment (or so they tell me).  Well, that's okay with me.  The season can't begin soon enough!

And to help ring in this most wondrous time of the year, I felt it appropriate to post my all-time favorite football card.  And it happens to be of my all-time favorite football player, Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas.

I believe I was 12 years old when I conned my dad into driving me to the closest sports card shop (which was not so close, might I add) so that I could buy this card.  I don't really remember what I paid for it, but it was absolutely worth it.

Since then, I've come across two other copies of this card, including a somewhat off-centered version from -- of all places -- one of those Target repacks.

Anyhow, I can't say I'm a lover of 1989 Topps football.  It's an incredibly bland design.  But, the photo they chose of Thurman is a classic.  It's replete with a sun-induced scowl that perfectly sums up the somewhat cranky temperament that both Thomas and the team took on during the late-80s and early-90s (aka the Bickering Bills).  This, and the Super Rookie moniker, more than make up for the milquetoast appearance of the card otherwise.

What's that you say?  You want a Super Bowl prediction?  I guess that's a pretty fair request at the dawning of another NFL season.  Plus, every Tom, Dick and Harry with an internet connection has given theirs.  So, what's one more?

Well, I'm not enough of a homer -- nor am I on drugs -- so I can't tell you the Bills will be visiting the Big Game in February.  Heck, at this point, ending the league's longest playoff drought would be a success for this team.  I think it's certainly a possibility, but we'll see.

So, here's my Super Bowl pick:  Packers over the Broncos.

[Ed. Note:  I'll spare you any faux-analysis of the above prediction. There's enough of that out there as it is.]

Happy Football season, folks!  Without a doubt, all is right with the world...


Monday, September 3, 2012

Clubhouse Favorites, Vol. 4: Gabe Kapler, 2010 Topps Update (#US-231)

Something clicked for me in 2010.

This was the year I decided to make the Topps factory baseball set a staple of my Christmas wish list.  It was also the year the Topps Update series became a collecting necessity, as I bought a hand-collated set off eBay shortly after Christmas had come and gone.

I'm not sure what caused me to flip the switch to full-on Topps mode.  Maybe I was subconsciously hypnotized by the new era of MLB exclusivity that Topps had just entered.  Or maybe it was just something as simple as really liking the design of the base cards.

Because I really, really, really like the looks of 2010 Topps.  Especially the Update series.  It features some of the best photography that Topps has ever put forth.  Just my opinion, of course.

Therefore, it was tough for me to select just one card from this 330-card set to highlight.  But I knew my selection had to be one of the many interesting horizontal landscapes.  Gabe Kapler's card struck me as unique and whimsical enough to merit the nod.

In a lot of ways, the 2010 Topps set reminds me of 1991 Topps in regards to the clever photography.  And it's the photography in that '91 set that has stood the test of time, still finding fancy with even the most critical collector. At least that's the impression I've gotten.

What I've Learned from the Back of this Card:  Tampa Bay was Kapler's sixth (and, as it turned out, final) professional stop.  I remember him being quite a heralded prospect for the Tigers back in the late-90s.  In 1999 -- his first full year -- he slugged 18 homers.  It wound up being the power apex of his career.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

In Case You Didn't Know, Bloggers Rock!

2010 Topps Peak Performance relic, PPR-JR

Man, sports card bloggers are awesome people.  But you probably already knew that.

I received an envelope back on Thursday with a familiar return mailing address on it.  It was from none other than Corey S., the mind behind the mission at Tim Wallach blog.  Check out his project if you haven't already.  And if you have any Tim Wallach cards laying around, he's the man to send them to.

In any event, Corey was nice enough to send me -- out of the blue -- some tremendous Mets cards, including the Jose Reyes relic above.

And these:

Rey, Sir Thomas, and Johan

This one, too:

2010 Topps Legendary Lineage, #LL18

There were a few others, as well.  All very cool, and all great additions to my player collections.  (I think the Legendary Lineage insert will go towards my Wright collection, rather than the Carter.)

A big THANK YOU to Corey!