Thursday, January 17, 2019

Frankenset Page #37

With a long weekend coming up, I fully intend to devote some of the time towards creating a well-organized Red Sox team collection. The problem is, I don't really know where to start.

Yesterday's Red Sox-only package from the Team Collector's drew attention to the fact that while I have organized my Red Sox player collections almost meticulously, I haven't been able to do the same for the rest of my Sox cards. 

These are the cards of the players I don't collect, and my inexperience with team collecting has left hundreds of pages of cards in a binder without the proper means of organization. The problem is, I don't exactly know how to organize them.

Currently, I have the idea to keep the cards organized by decade and later by year as I continue to acquire more cards, but I'm not sure if that's the best way to do things. With all sorts of Red Sox player collections, it would be impossible to build team sets of my choice given I collect a couple dozen different Sox players.

Because of that, I think organizing these cards by decade and eventually, by year, would be my best bet. However, any tips from other team collectors would be greatly appreciated.

Now that I've talked about my Red Sox team collection, let's move on to the 37th page of my frankenset. Page #37 starts in 1967 Topps with card #325 and continuing through 1991 Fleer and card #333. All in all, 5 different decades are represented across this page.

#325 1967 Topps Chico Cardenas
Chico Cardenas' card is one of the first that comes to mind when I think about the 1967 Topps set. It's not a product I'm super familiar with, so cards like Cardenas, Yastrzemski, and Banks have become easily recognizable for me. Everything about this card, from the colors to the holding of the Baseball, serves to represent 60s cards very well.

#326 1998 Bowman Alex Ramirez
It's cards like this one, featuring what appears to be a Spring Training shot, that gets me excited for what's to happen in Baseball over the next few months. With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report, we're slowly but surely starting to see Baseball start up again. Plus, there are only just over 2 months until Opening Day.

#327 1958 Topps Gary Bell
The 2nd vintage set to appear on page #37, 1959 Topps is a classic set that we've had the pleasure to see reproduced twice, once in 2008 Topps Heritage and just last year in Archives. 

The set seemed to fix any major problems from the 1958 set while creating a unique design with lots of well-executed features, specifically, the amount of color Topps included while still having enough space for the picture.

#328 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen
Seeing this card today reminded me of the fact that Denard Span played for the Washington Nationals. A journeyman throughout his career, Span has played for the Twins, Giants, Rays, Mariners, and I'm sure there are other teams I'm forgetting in addition to the Nationals. While I wish the photo was a bit clearer, I like the inclusion of the rarely-shown dark blue Washington jerseys.

#329 1984 Topps Pat Tabler
Speaking of rarely-utilized uniforms, I don't see these navy blue Cleveland Indians uniforms from the 80s on cards all too often. Typically, the 70s promote the all-red jerseys while the 80s focus on the all-white uniforms, leaving very few cards with what I believe to be some excellent jerseys, the dark blue home uniforms. 

#330 2014 Topps Daniel Webb
I might as well continue to talk about uniforms since this Daniel Webb card from 2014 Topps is giving me a good reason to. That's because the iconic White Sox uniforms from the 80s are shown on this card as a throwback, and they're easily some of the best jerseys I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, who could look at these awesome, colorful uniforms and not get excited?

From what I see, the White Sox use them as throwbacks somewhat often, an excellent decision, in my opinion.

#331 1985 Donruss Jeff Reardon
The black-bordered 1985 Donruss set could possibly be the greatest Donruss product ever released, and it would be even better if the company could up their game when it comes to card backs. Even with that being said, black borders, no matter how thick or slim, look superb on cards, and it's time for Topps to realize that again and use black more in Baseball card base sets.

#332 1998 Bowman John Halama
Is it me or is the Astros logo on this card unusually small? I don't think I've ever seen such a small logo ever on a Baseball card before. And the thing is, the other 1998 Bowman card on this page features a normal-sized Cleveland Indians logo, leading me to wonder what happened to John Halama's card here.

#333 1991 Fleer Darnell Coles
I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the fact that this picture was taken at Fenway Park, the Green Monster really serving to enhance the rest of the card. Seeing the Citgo sign in the background brings back a lot of memories of going to Red Sox games. I'm definitely longing for Baseball to come once again even more after looking at this card.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Perks of Joining the Team Collectors

For years now, I've struggled to find a balance between Red Sox team collecting and my Red Sox player collections. I've accumulated impressive PC totals of multiple Red Sox players that I collect, but I haven't done much when it comes to everything else that's out there for Sox cards.

When I purchase Red Sox cards at the show, they usually consist of the usual player collections like Wade Boggs, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia. While I'm constantly building up my Boston Red Sox player collections in addition to all the others, I still have tons of miscellaneous Red Sox cards that can't go unnoticed.

Even though I've struggled to find a way to properly organize them (other team collectors, please give me some advice), I've always considered myself a Red Sox team collector. All I've needed is some easy way to acquire new Red Sox cards in addition to my various player collections, and I'm pleased to say that I've found the perfect way to do it.

Recently, I joined The Team Collectors, a group of collectors dedicated to boosting the team collections of fans of every MLB team. When I saw they had an opening for a Tier II Red Sox collector, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. If you have any questions, I highly 

I knew that this was the perfect way to start adding to my Red Sox team collection. What I didn't know was the sheer variety of cards that I'd get in return for sending out a few team bags of cards from other teams.

I've always seen the appeal of both vintage and modern cards, leading me to ask for both types of cards with my first Team Collectors order. 

Since I'm a Tier II collector, I receive all my Red Sox cards from the Tier I Red Sox collector, who made certain to include some nice new vintage Sox cards, including a '67 Lee Stange from the Impossible Dream team.

From the Impossible Dream to 2018, all sorts of different years, players, brands, and products were represented throughout this 100+ card order. It included a nice variety of cards from 2018, including my first card of prospect Michael Chavis as well as a few cards from members of the 2018 World Series team.

David Ortiz and Andrew Benintendi were a couple of names that evaded me when I opened my blaster box of 2018 Topps Fire. With the help of the Team Collectors, I'm able to make additions to 2 of my Red Sox PCs with some awesome and colorful cards from the Target-exclusive set.

I personally love almost all shiny cards and refractors, so I made a small request for some chrome stock cards and refractors if there were any available. Needless to say, I was not disappointed whatsoever. I instantly took notice of the variety of different sets, even as far as chrome cards go. Speaking of which, that Juan Marichal card has to be one of my favorite cards of the entire package without a shadow of a doubt.

Numbered cards were also common in this generous package of Red Sox treasures. A Dustin Pedroia from 2015 Panini Donruss (#/400) and a Will Middlebrooks orange refractor from 2013 Topps Finest (#/99) are 2 of the standouts as far as numbered cards go. 

In fact, the Middlebrooks card is exactly why I'm so fond of colored refractors, particularly in Topps Chrome and Finest.

The inclusion of several different oddball cards was a bonus on top of everything that I asked for, and I'm not complaining in any way. 

It's hard to pick a favorite out of these 4 crazy cards. The High Voltage Nomar, Die-Cut Mo Vaughn, and an oddly-shaped Action Packed Jose Malave are all standouts. But the best of the group would have to be the Drake's Big Hitters card of Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.

J.J. Nissen may not have had the MLB license when producing these 1989 Collector's Edition set, but that doesn't stop these 2 oddballs of Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks from being some of my favorite cards of the whole package. After all, it's not every day that I get a new card of either Greenwell or Burks.

If they're well-done, minis can be one of the most fun things to collect in the hobby nowadays. I was able to land 2 minis from the generous package of cards to help boost my Red Sox collection. 

Acquiring so many Red Sox cards all at once has inspired me to become a more dedicated team collector. I should come up with some organization method similar to what I do for my player collections as long as I'm making these trades on Team Collectors.

I didn't include any autographs when I sent my package out to be distributed to other collectors, so I was pleasantly surprised to find autos included in my Red Sox-only package. Will Middlebrooks recently retired just a few days ago after a career that included 17 homers for the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox. 

I haven't acquired a ton of Red Sox autographs during the time that I've been collecting, so to my knowledge, this is my first auto from a member of their 2013 World Series team.

I made sure to save the best, numbered card for last, a Kevin Youkilis gold refractor from 2010 Bowman Chrome. Numbered 34/50, this card will join the other 40+ cards in my Kevin Youkilis collection, including some other numbered parallels. 

A card numbered to 50 isn't the lowest numbering for a Red Sox card in my collection. That title would go to one of my Xander Bogaerts cards which is out of 25 copies.

I'm very limited in my collection when it comes to cards from 1952-1956, having only a handful of cards from Topps' first 5 Flagship sets. It's pretty awesome to be sent a new, original card from the 1956 Topps set as one of the many new Red Sox cards in my collection. 

Bolling's card will join a small stack of Red Sox cards from 1954-1956 in my collection. As I've previously mentioned, I have yet to acquire my first 1952 or 1953 Topps card, something I hope to accomplish this year.

But hands-down, the best card from what was an incredibly surprising and generous package of Sox cards was this 2014 Topps High Tek auto of Mike Napoli, signed on-card by yet another member of the 2013 World Series team. 

Not only was this my first ever autograph from the high-end Topps High Tek set, but, along with the Middlebrooks auto, I now have 2 autographs from members of the 2013 World Series team in addition to well over 100 other unique Red Sox cards that I get to add to my collection. 

Not only am I completely thrilled, but it feels awesome to join something like the Team Collectors where, finally, I can give my Red Sox team collection the attention that it deserves.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

So Predictable

It seems as if Topps is going through the same cycle, year after year, with their Series 1, 2, and Update sets for the last couple of years now. 

Since 2017, we've seen a previous Topps set honored with 3 100-card insert sets across 3 sets. Additionally, Topps has also attempted a couple of unsuccessful promotions, starting with Rediscover Topps, then the Home Run Challenge cards.

Similarly, 2017 featured an homage to the wood-bordered 1987 Topps set as it was included as an insert set in Series 1, Series 2, Topps Update, and Topps Chrome as well. 2018 featured a similar story, only this time, it was 1983 Topps instead.

This was probably the best Rediscover Topps card that I pulled out of all the 2017 products. A 1989 Topps card of Roger Clemens with a bronze buyback stamp. Considering that most of the promotional Rediscover Topps cards were from the late 80s, pulling a card from 1989 isn't all that uncommon. Despite steroid rumors, Clemens appears on this card on the Red Sox, and if nothing else, it's one of the better buybacks you can get from this era.

While the Clemens buyback is the best Rediscover Topps card that I pulled, my favorite promo cards would have to be these 2 Montreal Expos buyback cards from 1971 Topps. It's hard to go wrong with one of my favorite Topps sets ever made and one of my favorite teams in Baseball history.

Apparently, different there are certain color stamps that cause some cards to be rarer than others. Although it's hard to see, the gold stamp on the Dan McGinn cards signifies that it's less common than the silver-stamped Bob Bailey.

Also found in Allen & Ginter and Topps Heritage, the buybacks weren't that well-received, and I must say that I wasn't a huge fan of them due to their confusing nature. I don't understand why this 1985 Topps common has a blue stamp, meaning it's the 2nd rarest type of buyback. 

Rather than giving away 2 million cards consisting mainly of late 80s cards, it would've been nice to see cards from the early 80s and earlier, even if it meant fewer cards would be given away.

With a drastic rise in power hitting in 2017, the 2018 promotion across multiple Topps set was the Home Run Challenge contest. Another promotion that failed to blow collectors away, cards were inserted in packs with codes on the back and a player on the front. 

When you entered the contest, you had to choose the game in which you think the player on the front of the card would hit a home run. If you guess correctly, you would win an exclusive parallel card of that player.

I pulled this Aaron Judge Home Run Challenge card out of Allen & Ginter at The National last summer, but he was injured for multiple weeks after. By the time he was healthy and back in the lineup, I had completely forgotten to enter the code for a chance to win for the Judge and Votto cards.

Still, with the unpredictability of hitters in Baseball, I doubt my picks for either of these guys would've been successful.

Bryce Harper has had a lot of success on Opening Day throughout his career, so I felt it was a no-brainer to enter this card for the first day of the season. However, when the Nationals game was canceled due to rain, my pick did not carry over. I had zero control over the game being canceled due to rain, and yet my pick didn't count. 

It was just 1 day into the 2018 MLB season, yet I already knew I wasn't going to be entering a code from another Home Run Challenge card. 

Like I mentioned earlier, both 2017 and 2018 Topps paid tribute to previous Topps sets, both from the 1980s, starting with the 1987 set which was included as an insert throughout the 2017 products. It seemed like a good idea at first with 100 different players, both past and present, being represented in Series 1.

With that being said, the idea was definitely overdone in Series 2 and once Topps Update came along, I don't think anyone wanted to see another card in the 1987 Topps design again. Even with Topps Chrome providing a shiny alternative to the regular 1987 cards, Topps definitely went overboard with this insert set, and I was hoping they'd rectify that with 1983 in 2018.

Despite the fact that Topps went totally overboard with the 1987 cards in 2017, they made virtually no adjustments when commemorating the 1983 set last year. In fact, they downgraded the cardstock, one of my favorite parts of the massive 1987 Topps insert set, to a cardstock nearly identical to the Topps base cards.

Just like 2017, 1983 Topps was included in Series 1, Series 2, Update, and Topps Chrome as an insert set that ended up being over 300 total cards total with the 4 sets being counted. I understand that Topps wants to utilize this opportunity to commemorate past products, but is it really necessary to do it at this level. I mean, they already have Archives and Heritage.

As for 2019, 1984 Topps is the set that Topps has decided to run with, and it's quite likely that it'll get the same treatment as 1987 and 1983 Topps. 

While I'm not thrilled to be burned out on yet another set, I'm intrigued to see what Topps will choose to do to commemorate the 150 years of Professional Baseball. Whatever they do, I hope the promotion is more successful than what they've attempted for the last couple of years.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Going Up in Flames

In many ways, 2017 in Baseball cards felt as if the overproduction era had returned with Topps accounting for 85% or more of the sets that were produced.

Even with an excess number of products being released, the quality of the sets that were put out, thankfully, was much greater than that of the previous overproduction era back in the 90s. However, that didn't stop the fact that there were way too many sets and not enough cards for sale at retail stores like Target and Walmart.

Here's a screenshot of the number of Baseball cards on COMC as listed by year of the 2010s. It's painfully obvious that 2017 resulted in way more cards than every other year of the decade. Both 2017 and 2010 appear to be outliers as the average number of cards seems to be around 60,000 per year. 

It only makes sense that 2018 will have an increase in cards thanks to late releases like Bowman Draft and Bowman's Best, but regardless, it looks as if last year will have far fewer sets produced than 2017. 

The point I'm trying to make is that 2017 was a crazy year for Baseball cards with multiple new sets being released. One of the new products that Topps introduced was Topps Fire, a Target-exclusive set.

Up until today, I had never opened a single pack of Topps Fire in my life, mainly because I struggled to see the appeal of such an overly-modern product. I didn't hesitate to pick up cards of players I collect when searching through the dime bins, but I never thought I'd spend money on packs of this product.

That changed when I was overcome with the urge to buy cards this weekend and ended up taking a trip to Target for a blaster box of 2018 Topps Fire.

Like many first year products, 2017 Topps Fire had its fair share of problems. There were 3 completely different designs within the 200-card set, causing the product to lack cohesiveness. 

This time around, Topps Fire consists of 2 different designs that have a nice balance of differences and similarities. The 2 different designs allow the set to seem more unified than Topps' first attempt at the modern and colorful product.

Like any time when I purchase cards, I always took notice of how many cards I pull of players I collect, and this blaster of Topps Fire did not let me down. In addition to 2 different Red Sox cards, retired players like Reggie Jackson and my 451st Nolan Ryan card were pulled out of the blaster box.

Falling at 1:4 packs, the Flame parallels are elevated versions of traditional rainbow foil cards, and the vibrant background appears even brighter with the help of the Flame parallel design. I ended up with 2 different Flame parallels in my blaster, including a player I collect in Noah Syndergaard.

In addition to 7 base packs, there's 1 4-card pack of Gold Minted parallels in every blaster box. Seeing these cards makes me wonder why Topps doesn't utilize gold cards more as they did an excellent job with these blaster box-exclusive parallels. 

I didn't have the best luck when it came to players, but I was at least able to land one card of a player I collect in Joe Mauer.

Sanchez's struggles in 2018 didn't take away from how fabulous these Gold Minted insert sets look. Specifically, Power Producers, a rather boring name, features the biggest bats in all of Baseball. I don't think I'd be able to find anyone who'd be willing to trade J.D. Martinez for Gary Sanchez, but you can bet I'll be keeping my eyes open for Topps Fire inserts from this point forward.

If nothing else, the insert set name "Speed Demons" has to be one of the most interesting names for a set of cards that I've ever heard in my life. While the lightning in the background isn't anything new from a set like Topps Fire, the Gold Minted parallels have continued to impress me, not to mention that the grey Diamondbacks uniforms and the gold background work pretty well together.

But the Gold Minted parallels did not stop there. In the last pack of the blaster box, I landed another Gold Minted insert parallel, this one of Bryce Harper, from the Hot Starts insert set. In addition to gold, traces of black can be found in the background as well, pairing up to form an excellent color combination.

I don't know the value of these insert parallels due to my lack of familiarity with the Topps Fire set. I'll likely keep the Harper for my player collection and find a good home for the Gary Sanchez and A.J. Pollock insert parallel.