Monday, December 31, 2018

Reviewing My 2018 Card Collecting Goals

I've been getting ready to write a recap post about 2018 in Baseball and cards for a couple of days now, but every time I begin formatting a post in my head, I'm unable to conceptualize a coherent idea. Therefore, I've been delaying this post until I'm certain it's exactly what I want it to be.

This time last year, I had barely been blogging for 4 months. I was still trying to figure out what exactly I was going to do with the blog. The quality of my posts wasn't great, I was kind of all over the place, and I was still getting in the groove of things.

Flash-forward to the end of 2018. Okay, I'm still all over the place, but I'm pleased to say that I've remained dedicated the blog and through that, I've been happy with what I post. I guess I wasn't too certain about the type of collector I was even as recent as last year. Now, I'm still collecting a ton of things at once, but I'm having a blast doing it, and that's what card collecting is really all about.

The reason I'm talking about all of this now is that I wouldn't have made this much progress if I didn't set goals for myself. I knew I wanted to put out posts almost every day a week, I wanted to focus on player collections, and most of all, I wanted to have fun with the blog. It feels great to have achieved all of those goals in 2018.

Similarly, I set 7 card collecting goals for myself back at the end of 2017. In order to achieve my ultimate goal of having fun while collecting cards, I needed a basic outline for what I wanted to accomplish. Today, I'll be reviewing the goals I set for myself roughly 1 year ago today.

#1 Complete the 1972 Topps set
Accomplished? Yes
We start off with the goal I'm proudest to have accomplished, and that's completing the 1972 Topps set back in July. It was a process that took my Dad and me 46 years, but it was 100% worth it. Towards the end, there were high-numbers, team cards, and rookie cards that made the odds of finishing the set seem grim. 

Through it all, however, I was able to complete the set before leaving for The National which proved to helpful since I was able to complete 1975 Topps while I was there, a goal that wasn't even on my list in 2018.

#2 Complete 1969 and 1970 Topps Seattle Pilots team sets
Accomplished? Yes
With the completion of the 1969 and 1970, Topps Seattle Pilots team sets very early in the year, I'm now 2-2 for goals completed thus far. Since I first started collecting vintage, Seattle Pilots cards have always been on my radar, and it's taken quite a few years to finish off these 2 team sets. 

With the Topps base team sets done, 2019 could be the year in which I track down some oddball Pilots cards to further boost my collection.

#3 Continue to focus on player collections
Accomplished? Yes
The development of the player collection tiers was the major breakthrough that I made for my always-expanding player collections in 2018, quite possibly the focal point of my collection. While it can be difficult to measure how well I was able to concentrate on PCs, the tiers provide proof of how much I choose to focus on the players I collect when I'm at the show or anywhere else purchasing cards.

With 38 player collections currently at 100 cards or more, it's safe to say that I accomplished my goal of focusing on player collections in 2018.

#4 Control impulse purchases
Accomplished? Eh
Like the player collections goal, the idea of controlling impulse purchases isn't very objective and thus, there could be different opinions on if I truly kept myself from buying too many card products or not in 2018.

I will say this, however. There were many times in which I went into Target or my LCS and walked out because there wasn't a product that appealed to me and that I was willing to spend money on. Other times, this did not happen, and I ended up over-buying certain sets. 

I do believe that I made progress with this goal, but I would not refrain from putting it back on the list of goals in 2019 as well.

#5 Continue to trade and eliminate cards from my want list
Accomplished? Yes
My want list certainly has expanded over the last 12 months, but thanks to generous viewers and bloggers, I have been able to consistently acquire cards that go towards completing some of these sets. 

One of the many cards I traded for in 2018 was this dual patch of former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. I completed the trade with Bob Walk the Plank who retired from blogging in 2018. He joins the list of many retired bloggers whose writing I adored and have inspired me to start my own little card blog and join this community.

#6 Complete my player collection project
Accomplished? Yes
It took a bit longer than I would've liked, but I was able to finish the process of moving all player collections from binders into boxes while also adding newly-acquired player collection additions to their new homes as well. It took a year, thousands of penny sleeves, and a lot of categorizing, but the process was completed in 2018.

It's very simple. Sheets were not working for me as they were collecting copious amounts of dust and becoming old, damaging the surfaces of the cards. I see the boxes as a solution for many many years because of how little space they take up and how cheap penny sleeves are. After all, they are called penny sleeves.

#7 Buy a Topps NOW card
Accomplished? Yes
In addition to purchasing individual cards of Rafael Devers for his grand slam against the Yankees and Brandon Phillips for his historic home run in Atlanta, I purchased an entire Topps NOW box set, commemorating the 2018 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox. 

Even with the faith I had in this team back when I made this list of goals, the Yankees appeared incredibly formidable, and I wasn't expecting Boston to pull off what they did this year. I still think the individual cards are over-priced, but the idea is excellent and the cards are very well-made.

While I'm on the topic of the 2018 Red Sox and the progress I've made with the blog, I'm ecstatic to say that I've finally found the perfect background for the blog. It's taken me well over a year, and I've gone through multiple themes, but come on, once I got these Topps NOW cards in-hand, it was an easy choice for the background of the blog.

Thank you to everyone for a great 2018 for the blog. I'm proud to be one of many sports card blogs out there, and I can't wait to see what 2019 brings for us collectors.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Dime Box Search to End 2018

Well, 2018 hasn't officially ended quite yet, but a shortage of supplies prompted a quick trip to my LCS earlier today where I found myself in a familiar spot; searching through the owner's dime boxes.

In the past, the dime bins at this card shop have rivaled even the best of the boxes that I see at the show. Low numbered cards, high-end base, and major players that I collect are all typically found within these boxes. 

This time around, the owner had replenished the boxes, big time, along with an entirely new box being added to the group.

There are a lot of posts that I'd like to do over the next few days, meaning some will carry over into 2019. The last 2 decades of ranking Topps sets, a recap of my 2018 collecting goals, and a general end of year post featuring my thoughts on 2018 cards and best pulls are all posts that are on the radar for the next few days.

Even with all those posts left to do, I prefer posting highlights from the dime boxes as soon as I possibly can. With the cards still fresh in my mind, I express my thoughts on the cards in a much clearer way.

Oddballs aren't necessarily a strength of these dime boxes, but that didn't stop me from tracking down a few of them, consisting mostly of big-name player collections. I'm a huge fan of the A-Rod Donruss Originals card as well as the Mantle from 2007 Topps Chrome.

On the other hand, the Ken Griffey Jr. Member's Choice and whatever parallel this is of Joey Votto from 2018 Donruss Optic are nice additions to 2 of my fastest growing player collections.

Topps has been running the Bowman Holiday promotion for a little over a month now if I remember correctly. Like last year, I still don't see the appeal of these "holiday" cards that have nothing more than a new logo thrown in the upper right corner. 

Still, it's hard to complain about the set with big names like Trout and Kershaw winding up in the dime boxes. 

Topps has made a point to include no shortage of retired players in many of their sets today, but they haven't necessarily featured names like Vida Blue or Ken Griffey Sr. It seems like the same group of Hall of Famers can be found in year after year of Stadium Club and various high-end sets, but it's a lot more exciting to find cards of sometimes forgotten stars from back in the day.

Tony Gwynn is one of the recently-formed player collections that I created a couple weeks ago along with Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Robin Yount. Gwynn isn't a guy I see too often at the card show or shop, which is part of what makes finding this Panini Donruss variation card so rewarding, even if it is unlicensed. 

It's been a few months since I've gone through the dime boxes at this shop, so I didn't really have an idea of what to expect out of the bins. While I've seen high-end in these boxes before, I can't say I've seen a selection this strong with 2018 Topps Museum being thoroughly represented. 

I hadn't seen this set design before today, but I'm more interested in the players I found, specifically the Hank Aaron card from his days in Atlanta.

With my Anthony Rizzo player collection hovering around the 90-card mark, any card I'll take almost any card I can find to bring that player collection closer and closer to 100 cards. If nothing else, the collection grew by a card today, thanks to a bronze parallel from the same 2018 Topps Museum product.

It may be from a couple years ago (2014), but I got a similar feeling when I found the Will Clark card to when I spotted the Griffey Sr. and Vida Blue. I was pleased to add to player collections of guys I believe to be underrepresented by card companies, mainly Topps, today. 

It's pretty easy to find a card of a guy like Greg Maddux card in the dime bins if I looked hard enough. Will Clark, now that's a bit more of a challenge.

The duo of cards shown above from 2018 Topps Triple Threads was my very first look at this product entirely just like I saw my first cards from 2018 Topps Museum as well. Even with just 2 cards of drastically different players, I was able to get a sense of what this years' set is like. 

I'm especially fond of the matte finish to the cards, something that could help the surface stay in better shape than having a glossy finish on the front of the cards.

But the biggest surprise of the entire search of the dime boxes was finding 2 original 1965 Topps cards, both in reasonable shape. Granted, I'm not familiar with Mike De La Hoz nor Russ Nixon, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to add 2 cards to my collection from one of my favorite sets of all-time.

The Nixon will be added to my Red Sox binders while the Braves card will have a spot in my older vintage card binders. I've always loved the mini pennants of the 1965 set, and the classic Red Sox logo is another plus. 

And if there's any hope of me completing the 1965 Topps set someday many, many years from now, I'll need every card I can get.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ranking Topps Sets by Decade; 1990s

We've now reached the decade that I've dreaded analyzing each set from, mainly because of how unfamiliar I am with the lackluster Topps sets from the 1990s.

I have a solid knowledge of some of the better sets from the 90s, specifically from 1990-1993. However, the last number of sets from the decade often blend together, leaving me unable to distinguish, for example, 1996 Topps from 1998.

It doesn't help that this was right in the middle of the junk wax era, a time in which Topps' popularity hit an all-time low. The end of the 1990s saw very few memorable sets produced. 

Even today, I'd struggle to put together a stack of 25 or so cards from 1990s sets starting in 1995. That's how few Topps cards from the 90s have a place in my collection. They were never collected by my Dad or myself, and I have not once felt the need to rectify that.

After this post, I'll be able to move on to the 21st century with some lightly more promising decades, the 2000s and the 2010s. If you think some of today's sets are bad, try taking a trip back 20 years to the sets of the 1990s.

#10 1994 Topps
A mere few weeks ago, I ranked 1995 Topps, not 1994, as the worst Topps set not just from the 1990s, but all-time. While I haven't had a drastic change of heart, I have learned to appreciate 1995 Topps slightly more than '94, resulting in 1994 Topps winding up dead last on this list. 

Simply put, the set is all over the place. We have a barrage of bright colors, an unusual font for 90s cards, and a jagged edge near the bottom that looks more out of place than nearly anything I've seen on a Baseball card in my life.

#9 1995 Topps
I said I had a slight change of heart regarding 1995 Topps, not enough to catapult the set up many spaces on this list, however. It also wasn't enough for me to be able to find a different card from the set in my collection so Orland Merced will have to represent the set twice. 

I have a major problem with the borders around the images and how visually offputting they are. It almost looks like a big stack of 90s cards got stuck together and when you peeled one off the other, a bit of the card ripped off. Cards like 1995 Topps will do something like this naturally if not attended to, don't make it a feature of the entire set.

#8 1996 Topps
There's frankly nothing interesting about the 1996 Topps set whatsoever. In fact, there's one major annoying aspect, that being the use of the same exact image in 2 places on the card; once in the actual photo and another time in an unusual blue square at the bottom of the card by the player name. I can only imagine how bad some of these cards are in this set due to an unflattering photo being used not just one time, but 2 times on the card.

#7 1998 Topps
I had quite some trouble finding cards from both 1997 and 1998 Topps because of how uncommon these 2 sets are in my collection. I had to settle for 1998 Topps Chrome instead of Flagship, but that won't affect my views on the set. Overall, it's a pretty average product which can be viewed as both a good and bad thing given the other Flagship sets of the 90s. 

Unlike 1998 Topps Chrome, the base set has gold borders instead of silver which don't really work with the little bit of color going on at the bottom of the card.

#6 1999 Topps
While they were designing the 1999 Flagship set, I think Topps finally discovered what made the previous years of their sets so unappealing. Therefore, they created a set so minimal and basic that there's basically nothing besides a picture and a gold border. 

While such a boring product like this wouldn't be so well-received today, I think collectors were glad to have something decent from Topps after many years of disappointing sets. It reminds me a lot of 2018 Topps and how it was preceded by 2 pretty awul sets in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

#5 1997 Topps
I don't know if Topps was taking more of an old-school or a modern approach to their 1997 Flagship design, but the overall result was decent, at least as far as 90s sets go. There are a couple of different colors besides green across the set, and like 1999 Topps, it's a very basic product with nothing too crazy going on. It adds a refreshing splash of color which 1999 Topps does not do, so it was the '97 set that sneaked into the top 5 over '99.

#4 1992 Topps
The top 4 sets on this list are in a league of their own when compared to the bottom 6 sets. The first 4 years of this decade saw the top 4 sets produced. One of those set was 1992 Topps, an underrated product that got the attention it deserved when featured in 2017 Topps Archives. 

In addition to a respectable and modern base set design, 1992 Topps has one of my favorite card backs of all-time with a big Topps logo right in the middle of the back of the card.

#3 1993 Topps
Home of the iconic Derek Jeter rookie card, 1993 Topps takes the best parts of the 1992 set and completely modernizing it. With a new material used for the cardstock, 1993 Topps is a basic outline for many of the subsequent Topps products. 

The set featured high-quality photography, new cardstock, and just a splash of color, something Topps would rely on for decades to come. For better or worse, 1993 Topps was the beginning of a new era for Baseball cards.

#2 1990 Topps
The motto "less is more" certainly could never be applied to the 1990 Topps set with one of the most colorful and vibrant products in Baseball history kicking off the 1990s decade. The borders, team name, and box around the player's name combine to add almost too much color to each and every card. 

I think Topps was trying for one last nod to what made the 70s so great; colorful and fun cards. It might not have the same appeal as 70s sets, but years after it was produced, I've come to appreciate the 1990 Topps set.

#1 1991 Topps
While the top 4 sets on this list are definitely in a league of their own, 1991 Topps, without a doubt, reigns as Topps' finest effort across the entire decade. The product featured some of the most unique selection of photos I've seen in any Baseball card set, and the set design is a perfect balance, allowing the star of the cards, the players, to stand out.

The card backs are great, the team names are done beautifully on the right-hand side of the card, and the set is overall quite appealing. Even with some dismal releases throughout this decade, 1991 Topps remains the bright spot that Topps needed.

Friday, December 28, 2018

My World Series Set Has Arrived

After nearly 2 months of waiting, my Red Sox World Series set from Topps NOW finally arrived in the mail today, providing me with a belated holiday gift that I've been anticipating since the Sox took home the World Series title 2 months ago to this day.

The day after the Fall Classic was won, I claimed one of the exclusive 20-card sets from Topps that includes a bonus autograph of 1 player out of a list of about 10. In addition to the base form of the autographs, there are parallels as well, though I'm not sure what colors or numberings they have.

Considering it took Topps 2 months to deliver the set, I expected top-quality cards with the same cardstock that we've become accustomed to in the Topps NOW brand. That includes the smooth and spotless front with the Topps holo logo on the back in addition to the higher-quality cardstock used for the online-exclusive set. 

When I opened up the set, I'm pleased to say that the quality of cards lived up to my standards. What I found in the box was an impressive stack of cards made to look just like regular Topps NOW cards. Only this time, it's a full set commemorating the 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox.

The 1st card of the set is at the top of the post, featuring the now iconic image of Chris Sale and Christian Vazquez celebrating the World Series win with David Price being the next one to the mound. This card serves to commence the rest of the set which includes individual cards for the major contributors to the historic team.

It makes sense for Mookie Betts to be the first player included in the set after the team card at spot #1. Even before the playoffs began, it seemed fairly certain that Mookie would take home the AL MVP award. Immediately, I took notice that every picture included in the set was taken at one of the World Series games, a detail I certainly appreciate.

Another Rafael Devers rookie card is now mine thanks to the exclusive World Series set. He may have dealt with injuries and not been as consistent in 2018 as he would've liked, but Devers remained a key member of the championship-winning team from start to finish. At the age of 21, he's already a World Series champion.

Though I've purchased a couple Topps NOW cards in 2018, I have yet to comment on the set design since the product is less about design and more about the event or moment it's commemorating. The set is fairly basic with nothing too special going on. I would like a bit more of an interesting set for 2019 Topps NOW, but the issue is far from pressing.

One of the things that excited me the most about this set when I ordered it was knowing that each card would have a little blurb of information about each player and his role on the World Series team. I was eager to see what Topps has to say about key performers in the series such as David Price and Steve Pearce.

However, I quickly learned that this was not the case but, in fact, every card had the same exact text on the card back, a quick recap of the World Series in just 3 sentences. I won't lie, I was very disappointed by Topps' decision not to go more in-depth with the product. 

While it's not a big enough reason for me to dislike the set, you'd think there would be unique writing on each card because of the price of this set and other Topps NOW products.

With that being said, I can't be too upset about Topps decision, for there's nothing I can do now anyway. As soon as I noticed the repetition on the card backs, I glanced at this Chris Sale card taken right when the Red Sox sealed their Fall Classic victory. 

Suddenly, I have zero room to complain about card backs.

The trade deadline acquisition of Ian Kinsler back in late July didn't really make much sense given the plethora of utility infielders like Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez. It seemed a given that Kinsler would go elsewhere in the offseason, and that's exactly what he did when he signed with the San Diego Padres for 2 years and $8 million dollars.

30-year old Rick Porcello will be entering the final season of his contract in 2019, and Boston will have to decide whether or not to bring him back. It's uncertain what he'll be asking for, but despite his inconsistencies, he's been a solid starter in the rotation and even a Cy Young award winner with the Red Sox. It would be wise to resign Porcello after the 2019 season.

Brock Holt, unbelievably, hit the 1st ever postseason cycle in MLB history in the ALDS against the Yankees, certifying him as a postseason hero for the Red Sox on route to their World Series title. Even with Dustin Pedroia expected to be healthy and Eduardo Nunez returning in 2019, I expect "Brockstar" to retain his role as the super utility player that he is.

After the Red Sox took home the World Series title, it became clear that maintaining their championship-winning roster for years to come would be difficult with players like Chris Sale and Mookie Betts hitting free agency in the coming years. 

Another key talent who the Sox will have to lock up sooner rather than later is their Gold Glove centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. who has 2 years of arbitration before becoming an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season.

After setting career highs in doubles, home runs, and RBI in the 2018 season, Xander Bogaerts proved that he can be an All-Star caliber shortstop for years to come. I've always thought of him as an underrated defensive player, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him win a Gold Glove or 2 at some point in his career.

The catching situation for the Red Sox is my only major concern going into the 2019 season. A trade for Blake Swihart seems inevitable and frankly should've happened years ago when his stock was higher and they could've gotten more for him. Both Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez struggled in 2018, but I have slightly more hope in the latter if he can stay healthy and solid defensively.

Don't be too shocked to see Craig Kimbrel return to the Boston Red Sox if the 2 sides are willing to compromise on the contract length and of course, the money that the 7-time All-Star will receive. Kimbrel had a legendary 2017 season with the Red Sox and has proven to be formidable. Even if he has his share of struggles, he's easily one of the best relievers in all of Baseball and someone who Boston needs to return.

He may have already signed with the Dodgers, but Joe Kelly will forever be a Red Sox fan favorite, especially after his fight with Yankees infielder Tyler Austin. I fondly remember being at that memorable game when Austin and Kelly began a benches-clearing brawl between the 2 clubs. In addition to his presence in the clubhouse, Kelly's departure leaves a major void in the bullpen.

With 1 player and a couple other cards yet to come in the set, I'd like to point out how well Topps did in terms of choosing the right players to be included in the set. Each player included in the set contributed heavily, in the World Series especially, to the success and World Series title that the Red Sox obtained this year. Seriously, hats off to Topps for the job that they did.

Eovaldi was quickly resigned to a 4-year deal worth just north of $65 million dollars, and I could not be more stoked about it. The trade that Dombrowski made for him at the deadline was one of the smartest trade deadlines trades in Baseball over the last decade along with Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in 2016. 

The final 3 cards of the set are celebrating cards taken a short time after the World Series came to an end. The cards include a nice variety of images, from Mookie Betts celebrating with champagne showering over him to rookie manager Alex Cora holding up the Commissioner's trophy after the Red Sox were officially crowned the champions of Baseball for 2018.

Wow, that sure is a lot, but I'm not quite done yet. I previously mentioned that 1 autograph from a member of the World Series team would be included with this purchase. Without any further adieu, here's who I pulled.

I have to say, Ian Kinsler would've been my last choice out of everyone on the checklist simply because he wasn't as much of a key contributor to the teams' success as opposed to everyone else. With that being said, I'm a big fan of the way the card is presented, incased with the Topps NOW sticker at the top. Similar to the card backs, it's not something that's going to ruin the whole set for me.

Plus, the card is a blue parallel numbered 3/49, a nice surprise because of how little I know about the set and all the parallels within it. Kinsler may not have been my first choice, but the low numbering and the way the card is packaged makes up for it in some way or another.

Now that I have this set in-hand, it's about time to look ahead to the 2019 season and what that will bring. It's incredibly difficult to win a World Series, but repeating hasn't even happened since the Yankees 3-peated from 1998-2000. 

With the entire 2018 calendar year almost done, it's about time to see what 2019 will bring, for Baseball and beyond.