Wednesday, January 31, 2018

3 New Kimbrel's From Once a Cub

After discovering that I had begun a super-collection of Craig Kimbrel, Matt from Once a Cub graciously sent over 3 cards that I needed for the Kimbrel Collection that brought my total up to 90 different cards. As you can see at the top of the post, they featured 2 cards of Kimbel on the Braves and 1 of him on the Red Sox,

Just in case it's a little hard to tell, the 2017 card of Kimbrel is from the Topps Factory Set. A small difference occurs on the front of the card where you can see the Topps logo in white writing instead of silver foil that we typically see on Topps cards. Other than that, the front looks pretty similar to the Topps base card, but another noticeable difference occurs on the back.

The bright-colored backs (which Topps chose not to bring back in 2018 for whatever reason) include a number different from number 309 that are included on Kimbrel's Topps base card. Instead, the number in its place is BOS-10, meaning this is the 10th card in the Boston Red Sox Factory Team Set. I believe these sets are sold all together at stores close to where the team plays, so a store near me would most likely have the Red Sox factory set this year.

Like the Red Sox Factory Set card that is shown above, Kimbrel's 2014 Topps Atlanta Braves Factory Team Set card features the same noticeable differences from the base card, like the Topps logo being white instead of silver foil.

As well as the back including the number ATL-1 symbolizing that this is the 1st card in the Braves 2014 Factory Set. These card backs are just way less interesting than the colorful 2017 backs. The 2017 Topps base set had mixed opinions, but it seemed most collectors liked the colorful backs and felt they made the set way more interesting, so the fact that Topps removed them for 2018 makes zero sense.

This card may look nearly identical to the one above, but the obvious difference is the NL logo on the lefthand side of the card. This shows that this card is not a Topps base card or a Braves Factory Set card, but rather part of the 2014 Topps NL All-Star set. This set is also produced yearly in addition to the team sets, and are typically available at most Target and Wal-Mart stores. 

The back shows the number NL-15 in the top showing that it is from the aforementioned All-Star Team set, but other than that, it includes the same information as the other card which is understandable, you wouldn't want to change up what people have become used to.

Thanks so much for the cards Matt! I'm incredibly pleased to see the total rise up to 90 thanks to these 3 new cards. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Haul For the Kimbrel Collection Part 2

As promised in yesterday's post, I am showcasing the cards of Craig Kimbrel on the Padres and Red Sox that I acquired in a COMC purchase recently. This will complete the 2 posts showing the highlights of my recent purchase that I made to heavily boost the Kimbrel collection and bring the total up from around 30 cards to nearly 90 different cards of the 6-time All-Star. 

The cards in this purchase included my very first cards of Craig Kimbrel on the Padres. He only spent 1 season in San Diego, and even though I didn't buy many new products in 2015, I'm still surprised that this is the first time I'm adding cards of Kimbrel on the Padres to my collection.

I also tried to add new cards of him on the Red Sox, because they're the team he's on currently and because the Red Sox are obviously my favorite team. Kimbrel is in a contract year and is coming off possibly one of his best seasons ever. He'll be 30 in May, and considering that relief pitchers aren't great their whole careers, Kimbrel would be smart signing a 3-4 year contract, and the Red Sox would be smart to offer him that.

Since he was traded to the Red Sox after his 2016 base card was made, Kimbrel wasn't included on the Sox in 2016 Flagship, so he was given a card in Topps Update. They used the same awesome image in 2016 Topps Holiday to make 2 different cards that look very similar. The Holiday set worked so much better in 2016 than in any other year, because the snowflakes looked like the actually had a purpose being there instead of the smoke.

The same image was also used in 2016 Topps Chrome Update, a card I acquired along with his Chrome Update card from 2015, which was another Padres card of Kimbrel to add to the total thus far. 

The Heritage version of Topps Update is Topps Heritage High Number, a set that provided 2 cards to the Kimbrel Collection. They are both from 2015 High Number, the one on the left being a base short-print, and the one on the right is the hobby-exclusive purple refractor.

As this recap draws to a close, I'm ending it by showing off my favorite card of Craig Kimbrel I've ever seen, and definitely one of my favorites in my collection. He was included on the Braves in 2015 Topps, so while on the Padres he was able to be included in 2015 Topps Chrome. The card I got was the prism refractor that quickly became a favorite of mine because of the image quality. I truly have never seen a card like this before as it provides such a different perspective of Kimbrel's unique pitching techniques. Seeing this beautiful card gives me the motivation to chase after all the parallels of this card online so I wouldn't just have 1 card with this image on it, but rather 10 of them. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Haul For the Kimbrel Collection Part 1

I recently placed an order on COMC to add a large number of cards to the Kimbrel Collection, and I was very pleased when I saw the package from COMC had arrived just over a week ago with over 50 new cards to bring my grand total of Kimbrel cards up to 87 different cards. 

When speculating how I should go about adding to the collection, I decided to go for quantity over quality since I really wanted to add bulk to the collection. I came to the conclusion that 1 order of a lot of cards would be beneficial in the long run, and make it easier for me to purchase more expensive cards for the super-collection later on.

The way I decided which cards to buy was actually quite simple. I basically searched Craig Kimbrel on COMC and filtered the cards to show the least expensive cards first. These results included a lot of simple base cards from 2012-2013, including a 2012 Bowman base card as well as the gold parallel. I think the gold parallels in Bowman look pretty good, but I don't understand why they include them. They could at least number them like the basic Topps gold parallel to make them a bit more interesting.

Speaking of Bowman, the 2013 cards were going for an excellent price. So I picked up the base card and gold parallel like I did for 2012 along with a Home State Flag variation and a Bowman Chrome base card. The Bowman Chrome card is from the Bowman Chrome set, not a chrome parallel despite using the same image as the base card. I'm glad that Bowman doesn't do this anymore, it's just way too confusing. 

Keeping with the theme of acquiring different cards from the same set, I found the 2013 Bowman Chrome base card as well as the refractor that looks like a weird sunset parallel thanks to the scanner (which makes it look way cooler than I could've imagined).

I believe this is my very first X-fractor card from the Topps Chrome set. The chrome design on the card shines as you move the card around, creating a pretty cool and unique card if you ask me. I like how it's different and how it's not like a normal Topps Chrome Refractor. I'm pretty sure these are exclusive to Wal-Mart Topps Chrome mega boxes, and as I've said probably a dozen times before, the Wal-Mart closest to me doesn't even sell baseball cards, so I doubt I'll be acquiring many of these when 2018 Topps Chrome comes out. 

Kimbrel was included in 2 sets from 2013 that paid tribute to 1972 Topps as he was included in the base mini insert set and the Topps Chrome insert set, both of which are now part of the collection. In a way, I do understand using the same images, but come on Topps you must've been able to use 2 different images of Kimbrel in 2013, the time where he was more popular than nearly any other moment in his career.

The amount of different cards Topps makes has been astonishing over the past few years, but it really hit me just how much was out there when I saw these 2 different cards for basically the same price on COMC. They're both red parallels from 2014 Topps. One is a Red Hot Foil parallel and the other is a Target Exclusive red parallel. I guess Target really wanted their own exclusive cards, because why else would you need 2 different red parallels in 1 set?

There were even some numbered cards available for the same price as the other base cards, which wasn't too surprising considering the value of stuff has majorly gone down over the years. This is the gold parallel of his 2013 Topps base card numbered 476/2013 on the back of the card. Now, if Bowman did this for their gold parallels than that would be a huge plus for the set.

Today I decided to show just Braves cards, but don't worry. The Padres and Red Sox cards acquired in the same purchase will be featured in a post later this week. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Some of My Favorite Oddball Sets

Expanding on the topic that I posted about yesterday, I am going to go over some of my favorite oddball baseball card sets ever made. This includes sets, mainly from the 60's and 70's that are much smaller than the big base sets that Topps was putting out at the time. The oddball sets have always peaked my interest because of how different they are from the typical sets. They typically include more interesting designs, a fantastic player selection, and feature some of the most impressive cards I've ever seen. 

The first oddball set I'll be showing was actually made by Topps, which is something I recently learned and was quite impressed to find out that they were the ones who created the 1970 Topps Booklets set. Each booklet is basically a comic book that includes around 8 pages of information about the player's life before and while playing baseball. I thought it was really interesting to see that Topps had basically created comic books in the form of cards and that they did such an excellent job creating them. The 24-card checklist includes legends like Reggie Jackson and Ernie Banks, but also lesser-known players from the 70's like Bill Freehan, Vada Pinson, and Rusty Staub.

The next set is one that I have seen quite a few fellow bloggers speak highly of, and with these colorful and simply fun designs on every card, it's easy to see why. Fleer Laughlin created cartoons that paid tribute to past World Series' by creating these World Series cards that were produced in 1970 and 1971 respectively. This 1917 World Series card from the 1971 set isn't the most exciting design out there, but most of these cards include a very colorful and cool design that truly symbolizes past Fall Classics (the Black Sox World Series card has to be my favorite).

For many years I simply thought of these black and white mini cards as stamp cards, but upon looking at them on COMC, I discovered that they were called 1969 Deckle Edge, another oddball set created by Topps. The deckle edge cards are definitely the most simple out of all of the oddball sets shown thus far. They include a simple black and white picture with a blue ink fake signature on it and, of course, the deckle edge itself. I know that a deckle has something to do with printmaking, therefore it makes sense why Topps would name this set deckle edge. However, no matter what the name is, this is still one of my favorites, if not my all-time favorite oddball insert set ever made.

I still consider the Kellogg's 3D superstar cards oddballs despite the set being produced for over 10 years and being collected by more collectors than almost any other oddball set. The 3D cards were widely collected by people all over the country during the 70's and 80's when they could be found randomly inserted into cereal boxes. Many of these colorful and elaborate sets have stood out to me, but the 1976 set that includes the Manny Sanguillen card shown above takes the prize as my all-time favorite set. Many of the other sets included a blue border which ended up being a bit repetitive, but the 1976 set featured a very 70's looking blue and red design around the image, which makes this set my favorite 3D card set ever made, hands down. 

But even though Kellogg's were quite distinctive, and Deckle Edges were unique, nothing could truly top the Hostess cards that delivered some of the greatest cards of the golden age of baseball card collecting that is the 1970's.  These cards came in panels on the Hostess product boxes that included 3 cards, just like the ones shown here. Each year delivered a new design that was similar to past designs yet unique at the same time. The players included were some of the greatest and most unique players of the 70's, and the brand was able to merge 2 great things to create something so different and so successful, that it reigns, even today, as the greatest oddball set ever made. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Set Appreciation Post: Perez-Steele Postcards

I'm not quite sure if I'm going to create a new series for the blog called "Set Appreciation" where I post about oddball sets of baseball products that I've acquired cards from over the years. What I do know is that I certainly enjoy these Perez-Steele postcards that I have acquired at previous card shows. The name Perez-Steele may seem familiar because it's also the same name you see on the back of the Donruss Diamond Kings cards from the 80's. The resemblance of these postcards to a Diamond Kings card is pretty obvious when you look at it, which was one of the things that got me interested in this set in the first place.

Like I said, these are postcards that I assume were actually used by some people when these were released. There's a place to put a stamp and leave a message to whoever you'd send it to. Each postcard is also serial numbered out of 10,000. And considering the first year of this product came out in the 80's, this has to be one of the first products to ever serial number their cards. 

The Ray Dandridge card above is from the 1987 set which is one of my favorites of the sets I've seen online.

But make no mistake, the 1989 set looks fantastic as well. I specifically remember the vendor selling these had a wide selection, and it was the end of the show so I wanted to pick a few really nice ones out. I decided on 3 Negro League players to add to the collection of Negro League cards and memorabilia that my dad and I have. The artist Dick Perez went for less of a Diamond Kings style on these postcards and decided to do a closeup of the player with a beautifully-done ballpark picture below showing action-shots that add a great touch to the postcard.

The backs are pretty similar to the other ones, but these are green instead of blue. They have the same details as the other ones and both postcards shown even have the same serial number, meaning they were most likely acquired in the same pack or however they were sold.

The final one that was acquired at the show that day was of Hack Wilson and was from the same set as the Dandridge postcard. My dad chose this one because it was the only Cub postcard available and he wanted to add to the Cubs collection by getting something unique that we hadn't seen before. The postcard was very well-done and the artist did a great job capturing Hack in a Cubs jersey. It's not my favorite design, but nevertheless, the postcards all look pretty amazing and really gave me a new appreciation for this brand and all other oddball products.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Top 5 Cards: Eric Hosmer

In what has been a very uneventful offseason, multiple major free agents have remained unsigned as we are getting closer to the date in which pitchers and catchers will report to spring training. One of the biggest free agents still out there is 1st baseman Eric Hosmer. 

Hosmer is 28 years old and is soon to be entering his prime, which means it's expected that the 4-time Gold Glove award winner will receive a contract for about 5-6 seasons. And considering that the Royals are currently rebuilding, it's hard to know if Kansas City will bring their star player back.

I have acquired 30 cards of Hosmer since I started collecting him along with other members of the 2015 Royals team like Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas. Here are my overall top 5.

#5 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter
One thing I've always enjoyed about Allen & Ginter is the color splotches in the background, even if they aren't super noticeable on every card. By pairing up colors like pink with their cards, Allen & Ginter is able to create more unique cards than any other card product, and the 2015 Allen & Ginter Eric Hosmer card is no exception. The small amount of pink in the back goes a long way, and the photo choice for the card is excellent. I'm always a stickler for players holding bats in baseball cards as it provides a different kind of image than the usual outfield shot or batter swinging at a pitch. These unique features are what made me like this card so much and therefore put it at #5.

#4 2012 Gypsy Queen
Keeping with the old-style cards, Hosmer's 2012 Gypsy Queen card includes the powder blue Royals uniform that I've grown to love and appreciate whenever it is put on a baseball card. This photo of Hosmer, judging by the smile on his face, appears to be taken directly after a home run at Kauffman Stadium that either Hosmer or one of his teammates hit. The card backgrounds of Gypsy Queen which are usually well executed are done beautifully once again on this card, capturing every detail of the visible part of the outfield, creating a card that looks complete and absolutely fantastic.

#3 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Future Stars
The fact that there is a 2012 Gypsy Queen card of Hosmer better than the one shown before speaks volume about how well-done the Gypsy Queen set can be. The Gypsy Queen Future Stars insert had the slight edge over the base card, because of how good all the blue on the card looked. There's a blue border, blue sleeves on Hosmer's arms, a blue hat, and blue writing on Hosmer's road jersey. The various shades of blue all come together to symbolize the Royals, and more so than that, they symbolize what Hosmer is like. He was (and might still be when he signs) a Kansas City Royal, and if he leaves or stays we always have this primarily-blue card to remind us of his early days in Kansas City.

#2 2015 Topps Stadium Club Gold Parallel
It can be difficult not to like Stadium Club and how they deliver the best images and cards year after year. Stadium Club cards show photos from all over the ballpark, from the bullpen to the batter's box and even right outside the dugout where we see Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas celebrating in the photo on the card that made it to #2. They seem to be at the Angels' stadium, so I do agree that the card would've looked better if it was taken at Kauffman, however the positive elements of the card far outway the negative. Topps has done an excellent job with Stadium Club since reviving the brand in 2014, and this card is just one example of the success they have had.

#1 2016 Panini Donruss 1982 Design
An unlicensed card takes the #1 spot as this stunning insert that features Eric Hosmer sliding into home plate closes out the list. Granted there is an obvious blank helmet in the dead center of the card, but I have to give Panini credit for including other details that help me look past it. The card features an unconventional image, so I'm instantly giving Panini credit for that. But they also included other details that peaked my interest, like recreating the 1982 Donruss set pretty well and including the sleek logo on the top right. I have to say that this card wasn't my favorite when I first saw it, but after I looked at it for a while, I grew to appreciate it way more, and certainly enough to merit the #1 spot on my list.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The 2018 Hall of Fame Class Has Been Announced!

After many months of speculation on who would or would not get the call from Cooperstown, it was revealed that 4 players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2018. Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman have received the greatest honor in baseball when it was announced earlier today, and they will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year. 

Chipper Jones was absolutely a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Famer. He established himself as one of the greatest 3rd basemen of all-time and became one of the best hitters of the 90's and 2000's in a time when steroid users dominated the game. The 1999 NL MVP received around 97% of the votes, a total of votes that is only reached by the best of the best. Cleary, Jones has fallen into that category, which helped the case for the 8-time All-Star to join the hall.

I was instantly shocked that Vladimir Guerrero didn't make the Hall of Fame in 2017. He's one of my favorite players of all-time and definitely up there with Dawson, Carter, and Raines in terms of greatest Expos of all-time (he needs to go into the hall as an Expo too). Guerrero electrified the game and became a fan-favorite no matter where he played. He had nearly 450 home runs and nearly 1500 career RBI which are insane numbers for someone who played 16 seasons. I'm pleased to say that one of my favorite players in baseball history has a place in Cooperstown, even if it should've been done last year.

The most underrated member of the 600 home run club would have to be slugger Jim Thome, whose total of 612 home runs ranks 8th all-time. Thome is undoubtedly one of the greatest power hitters of all-time, after all, he humbly put up 6 separate 40 home run seasons throughout his career. He was never outspoken, and he always seemed like a good teammate who let his talent speak for itself, and he has lots of talent and special ability. His career.276 batting average is very good for a hitter of his caliber, and his doubles total of over 450 is impressive. Thome proved himself over his 22-year career and wasn't given as much recognition as he deserved. That is, until today.

After falling just 3 votes short of making the Hall of Fame last year, Trevor Hoffman proved that relief pitchers can and should be elected into Cooperstown by making the hall this year. Easily the 2nd best reliever of all-time, Hoffman established himself during his 18-year career, 16 of which he spent with the Padres. He finished with 601 career saves, 2nd only to Mariano Rivera, and even finished 2nd in the 1998 NL Cy Young voting which is incredible for a closer. The 7-time all-star was the first to reach 500 and 600 saves and proved why he is one of the best relief pitchers to ever play the game. I know it may have been tough for some writers to vote him because he's a relief pitcher, but to me, Hoffman is an easy choice.

I truly believe the BBWAA couldn't have picked a better ballot. They easily chose 4 incredibly qualified candidates to make the Hall of Fame, and there isn't a single name that I think shouldn't have made it. We may see Edgar Martinez make it in his final year of eligibility like we saw with Tim Raines, and a few years from now we may see Omar Vizquel. But for now, these are the 4 choices and they absolutely deserve. 

Steroid users/accusations are still far from making it though. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Thoughts on the 2018 Topps Series 1 Checklist

2018 Topps Series 1 is being released in a little over a week, and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say we don't want to see Mike Trout on the cover of any Topps product anytime soon. With all that being said, I fully plan on visiting Target once it's released to pick up a blaster box. I'll probably go the Friday or Saturday after it's released just to make sure they have it in stock.

Until then, I have some time to go through the checklist and share my thoughts on the set as well as what I'm expecting once it's released. And of course, the Kimbrel cards on the checklist will be listed too.

Firstly, I'll talk about the base set. I don't totally mind the set and I have a feeling I'll get to like it more and more as the year goes on. The "ribbon" that Topps was going for (okay I'm sorry but that does not look like a ribbon, at least not online) actually looks pretty nice. The photo quality improves year after year and the set looks really modern, but not overly-modern like 2017 Topps. I don't like the pixels floating away from the player and team name. I just feel that detail is absolutely unnecessary. But other than that I don't have a huge issue with the set (I still wish they'd bring back borders but oh well).

Now, onto the insert sets.

Yippie! Topps Salute is back, and you thought you could escape the massive and slightly boring insert set. I have to say I like 2017 Salute way more, and not just because the gold and white looked good before the set was stuffed down our throats. But we could actually see what the special uniform was from, unlike this set where they cut off the word "Rookie" (apologies for the blurriness it's the only one I could find to use). 

The 1983 inserts are to 2018 what 1987 inserts were in 2017 because Topps has decided to do another insert set commemorating a classic set design, and they chose 1983 Topps which I think is an excellent choice, way better than 1987. While 1987 is overrated, 1983 Topps is a very under-appreciated set that has the potential to look fantastic if done well like it was when included in 2015 Topps Archives. I just hope Topps doesn't go crazy with it like they did with the 1987 inserts last year.

There are also some other inserts that I haven't paid much attention too cause I haven't seen them online yet. However, these Superstar Sensations inserts do look pretty cool. I wonder if they use the purple color for all or not.

I have to say I'm really not a fan of these gigantic 100-card insert sets that Topps has been producing over the last few years. Not only does collecting them become difficult for almost every collector, but there's just no need to make them this big. Insert sets are supposed to be around 25 cards and somewhat easy and more enjoyable to collect, not 100-card sets that people will most likely never be able to complete.

There are also some retail exclusive insert sets, a Derek Jeter Target-exclusive insert set...

And a Kris Bryant Walmart-exclusive insert set. The player choices are pretty interesting even if they are polar opposites. Kris Bryant is one of my favorite players in baseball currently, so I really would like to collect some of those cards. But of course, the Wal-Mart closest to my house doesn't even sell baseball cards so I guess I'm stuck with Jeter.

Finally, here are the Kimbrel cards in the 2018 Topps Series 1 set.

  1. Base Card: there are no numbers yet because Topps has to do their card #1 reveal so I'll have to wait for that
    1. All the parallels Topps decides to drag out this year
  2. #MLBA-3 His award card for winning 2017 AL Reliever of the Year
  3. #83-71 1983 insert (unbelievably no Salute card)
  4. #ASTM-CKI All-Star Medallion Card (must be a blaster box exclusive)
  5. #ITN-CKI In the Name Relic
  6. #MLM-CI Major League Materials (I have no clue what this is)
I'm stopping here because I have no interest in hunting down autographs or any of that stuff. This post actaully made me super excited for 2018 Topps to be released next week. If they can improve on a few things from 2017, I'm sure it will be an improvement over the last 2 years of Topps flagship.