Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Top 5 Cards; Kris Bryant

Greetings from Chicago!

Earlier today, my Dad and I arrived in the Windy City to attend the 40th National Sports Collectors Convention which begins tomorrow. 

After having the time of our lives at the show in Cleveland last summer, we made the decision, almost instantly, to return for our 2nd NSCC show. The fact that this year's convention is situated in Chicago made this even better, for we're seeing the Cubs battle the Brewers this Friday at 1:20 pm.

Admittedly, I haven't been following the Cubs as closely over the last 2 seasons as I did from 2015-2017. Although the purpose of this trip is certainly to acquire Baseball cards, I hope it also revives my interest in the Cubs as a whole. 

After all, they have an incredibly talented roster, and they're playing extremely well in 2019, led by their franchise player, Kris Bryant.

When healthy, KB is one of Baseball's greatest all-around players. His 2018 season was plagued with injuries, and he was never truly at his best. Now, Bryant, Rizzo, and the rest of the Chicago Cubs are having an incredible season, so this game against Milwaukee is destined to be memorable.

Despite being just 27 years old, Bryant is among my sizeable player collections. Before leaving for The National, I had 72 cards cataloged of the 2016 NL MVP. I'm interested to see if and how that number will grow over the next few days.

#5 2018 Topps Kris Bryant Highlights
Though I'm not typically fond of these single-player insert sets, exclusive to Target and Walmart, I'll admit that I love the design of the Kris Bryant cards from 2018 Topps Series 1. This isn't the final time you'll this iconic photo appear on the list, but that doesn't make the card any less special.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bryant's reaction to the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series will go down as one of the most iconic photos in recent memory. I was thrilled to see his smile immortalized on cardboard along with an excellent card design, especially with the ivy on the lefthand side.

#4 2016 Topps Heritage
I'm going to ask for you guys' help regarding these Chicago Cubs caps because I am totally unfamiliar with and have never seen these hats before. Regardless, Bryant's 2016 Topps Heritage card was one of the first cards I ever pulled of his, so I remember all the details very well.

Most importantly, I remember how excited I was to finally be able to collect Kris Bryant without paying a premium. This card, along with his Series 1 base card, allowed me to collect cards of the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year more easily. 

The All-Star rookie trophy definitely succeeds in giving this card a 60s vibe, but it also makes me wish that Topps would bring these back for modern-day cards

#3 2019 Topps Gypsy Queen
Due primarily to the lack of value, I'm always skeptical when it comes to purchasing Topps Gypsy Queen, no matter how much I'm thinking of spending. Even when you take all of my problems with GQ into account, there's no denying that the base cards, especially in 2019, are gorgeous.

The 2019 design is my favorite set since at least 2013, and the beautiful cards may go down as the best of all-time when all is said and done. Kris Bryant's base card is no exception, for it features a beautiful Wrigley Field background and a near-perfect shot of #17.

The set seems perfect for the photo of Bryant while also embodying what Gypsy Queen is all about. However, it was up against some tough competition, so the highest I could rank the 2019 card is #3.

#2 2017 Topps Stadium Club
I don't know what it is about the Oakland Athletics dugout, but it seems to make frequent appearances on Topps Baseball cards. From Xander Bogaerts' 2017 Topps Bunt insert to Carlos Santana's 2019 Stadium Club card, it appears that non-A's players are featured more in this dugout than members of the Athletics.

With that being said, Bryant's 2017 Topps Stadium Club card takes this to another level. For starters, he's wearing the iconic Cubs pajama uniforms in what I assume to be a throwback game against the A's. Second, his teammate Anthony Rizzo appears on this card as well.

If any 2 players could get 1 card together in a set like Stadium Club, Bryzzo would get my vote. These sluggers have been the face of the Chicago Cubs for years now, and they played a critical role in the 2016 World Series.

#1 2017 Topps Heritage Action Image Variation
I mentioned earlier that this iconic photo of Kris Bryant would appear once more on the list. Evidently, that placement is the #1 spot, featuring an action image variation card from 2017 Topps Heritage.

Along with the notorious Cubs quad relic, I remember pulling this card of KB just after the Cubs ended their 108-year title drought. There were a ton of Cubs cards in 2017 Topps Heritage, and this fantastic SP happens to be one of them.

I know the 1968 Topps set has received mixed reviews from Baseball card collectors, but I personally love the risk that Topps took with the set. The burlap design has become one of my favorites, particularly as far as Heritage is concerned.

If you compare the 2 backgrounds, it's evident that Topps photoshopped the 2017 version to include more overjoyed Cubs fans, a thoughtful effort but an inaccurate representation of the game.

That doesn't change my opinion of the card though, because, photoshopped or not, the Heritage SP does an unmatchable job of capturing one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Now that is a card worthy of the #1 spot.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Going Downhill

As soon as I thought that Topps Flagship, as a whole, was on the rise, Topps released the design, very early I might add, for the 2020 base set design.

Granted, my feelings regarding next year's Topps design have improved since I first laid eyes on the cards last week, but I can't ignore that my first reaction to this unimpressive set was to utter the words "that's horrible."

Honestly, the cards don't look like they belong in the Topps Flagship set. The design looks cheap and unfinished, like something that you'd see in the Topps Bunt digital set. 

Some collectors have compared the design to 2016 Bowman. Although I prefer the 2020 Flagship design, the set as a whole is underwhelming. After a respectable showing in 2019, I expected something more than what Topps came up with.

After all, the 2020 design is ushering in a new decade for Topps Baseball cards, and this is, unfortunately, the first look that we'll be getting of 2020s Baseball cards.

It seems like Topps doesn't want to make things easy for its customers. First, the 2019 design has the last name, for some odd reason, on top of the first. Now, the banners with the player's name, position, and team are located on the side of the card, meaning there's going to be a lot of head tilting once 2020 comes along.

For the second year in a row, Topps doesn't seem to know whether they want borders on their cards or not. The 2020 design has some sort of half-border with a banner that looks like it's recycled from the 2018 design.

Undoubtedly, I have my issues with the 2020 design, but it's not all bad. The photography, per usual, is stellar, and I appreciate that the colors match the team's logo. We've certainly seen worse from Topps (i.e 2016), but I simply expected something better for the 2020 design.

It is worth noting that I was very critical of the 2019 Topps design at first glance last August, and I ended up altering my opinion once I saw the cards in person. 

Could the same thing happen in 2020? I'm not too sure. All I know is that I thought, following this year's design, that Flagship would soon have borders and drastically improve. Now, I'm not so certain.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Finalizing a Few Things

Unsurprisingly, I've left a lot of work for myself to do over the next few days before my Dad and I leave for the 40th NSCC show this coming Tuesday.

If last year was any indication of how many cards I'm going to bring back with me to Massachusetts, I need to tidy up the Baseball card room to the best of my ability before I leave. That way, once I return, everything will be much easier to organize and put away.

While I've cleared off a huge portion of counter space for stacking and cataloging cards, there are still stacks that need to be put into the online inventory, then into player collection boxes.

Furthermore, there are a few decisions regarding what I'll be purchasing at the show that I'd like to finalize before I board my flight for Chicago in fewer than 3 days. Even though I've been anticipating The National for months, I can't shift my attention to the show until I finish up a few things.

As I mentioned, I currently have 4 large stacks of cards, all for my player collections, sitting in my Baseball card room, ready to be put away. To be quite honest, I have no idea how these piles got out of control so quickly. 

They consist of cards from a wide range of products; there are some from the 2019 Topps Stadium Club set as while as Panini Prizm, 2001 Topps Archives (which I recently realized I never organized), and some Baseball card show/shop pickups.

I have 1/4 of the cards cataloged online, but I still need to put them all away before I leave for the show. This, undoubtedly, is going to be the most challenging thing to accomplish over the next 48 odd hours, but I have my eyes on the prize and am hoping it'll all work out.

After all, the last thing I want to do is come home on Sunday, August 4th and have stacks of Baseball cards on the table before I even begin to unpack.

This might not be the greatest timing in the world, but I also decided to start collecting a new wave of players right before I head to Chicago so that I can acquire some of their cards at the show. 

For the most part, this group consists of last year's major rookies. The new PCs include the 4 players above, Rhys Hoskins, and Gleyber Torres, just to name a few. Now that these superstars are no longer in their rookie seasons, it'll be much easier to collect cards of these talented players. 

Last year, you couldn't find an inexpensive Acuna or Ohtani rookie card if you tried, but now that they're in their sophomore seasons, I wouldn't be surprised to find 2019 cards of last year's ROY award winners in the quarter or even dime boxes.

One of my biggest motivations to start collecting cards of the 2018 rookie stars occurred while I was organizing cards from the 2019 Topps Stadium Club set. As you can see, there are 2 cards of Juan Soto; one shows him in the on-deck circle, the other with a bucket of Gatorade about to be dumped on his head.

After placing these 2 cards side-by-side, I learned that the latter of the 2 Soto's is actually an image variation, a fairly rare pull out of Stadium Club and something that I didn't even notice at first glance. 

One this happened, I became motivated to not only collect cards of Soto but many of the other talented rookies from last year. The 2018 rookie class will likely go down in MLB history, so it would be foolish of me to ignore the cards of these players that I already have and not collect cards of guys like Rhys Hoskins and Ozzie Albies.

However, my new wave of player collections isn't limited solely to rookies from the 2018 season. There are a handful of veterans, some of whom have been around for a while now, that I've decided to begin collecting along with some members of last year's rookie class.

In addition to Freddie Freeman and J.D. Martinez, I'm going to start PCs for Javier Baez and Alex Bregman before I head off to The National. The latter 2 players had sensational breakout seasons in 2018, and it looks like they're carrying that momentum into this season as well

Barring any injury, I'm also going to see Javier Baez play in person for the first time in 3 years. He's greatly improved since I visited Wrigley back in July of 2016, and I'm truly excited to see him take the field and showcase his growth.

Not all the things that need finalizing have to do with new player collections. Rather, the next and (hopefully) final thing left to do is to figure out exactly how much 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter my Dad and I are going to purchase at this show.

Admittedly, I caved and purchased a little more A&G to have a stronger sampling of the product before making any major decisions. I must say that Topps has done a phenomenal job, once again, with the set. 

Though I was skeptical of the card backs at first, they are very effective, though they are slightly repetitive. The full-bleed photos are something that we haven't really seen before, and the checklist is filled with retired players, including guys like Phil Niekro and Tony Oliva.

The minis look fabulous this year, whether we're talking about the A&G backs, black-bordered minis, or some of the inserts like New to the Zoo and Lost Languages. The set stays true to the Allen & Ginter brand, and that's something that people who cherish this set, like me, can appreciate.

The sole question left is how much A&G, as well as Topps Chrome, my Dad and I would like to purchase at the show. Hopefully, we can sort this out along with all the other things included in this post.

 I realize that it's going to be a slightly hectic few days, but I'm beyond excited for the show.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Top 5 Cards; Ryan Howard

Approximately a week and a half ago, former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard was honored with a retirement ceremony at Citizens Bank Park, in front of the fans that cheered him on for over a decade. 

From 2006-2011, there were few hitters more feared in all of Major League Baseball than Howard. A 3-time All-Star, he was a vital part of the perennial championship contending Phillies team, especially the club that won it all back in 2008.

Unfortunately, the 2006 NL MVP began to falter after a successful 2011 season. He began to suffer injuries, causing his performance to fall drastically even when he was healthy. 

Even when the 2005 NL ROY award winner was healthy, like in 2014, his .223 average with 190 strikeouts proved that he was a shadow of his former self which is quite unfortunate given that he was on track for a Hall of Fame career.

After the Phillies declined his player option for the 2017 season, he had 2 unsuccessful minor league stints with the Braves and Rockies, though he'd never see major league action ever again. He ended his career a .258 hitter with 382 home runs.

A lot of the late-2000s and early-2010s superstars suffered the same fate as Howard. Guys like Brandon Phillips, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton simply couldn't keep up the momentum, and they ended up faltering. 

As someone who still collects and has respect for Ryan Howard, I pray that his final few seasons in the major's don't end up defining him as a person. Before the injuries became overly intense, Howard was one of the best players in the game, and the Phillies would not have won the 2008 World Series without their renowned slugger.

I don't find his cards in the dime bins all that often, but I have amassed a Ryan Howard PC of 61 total cards. Without further adieu, here are my 5 favorites.

#5 2015 Panini Prizm Red, White, & Blue Mojo Parallel
Just seeing this card gets me excited for the progress that I'm bound to make with the 2019 Panini Prizm project when I attend The National next week. With well over 20 parallels included in the set, the mission is definitely ambitious and, frankly, crazy.

However, I'm in love with the funky Prizm parallels, and I expect them to be available and relatively cheap at the show.

Though Howard was well past his prime in 2015, Panini still included him in the Prizm set. I'm not very familiar with the past Prizm Baseball products, but it appears that the parallels are fairly similar.

In the 2019 release, there are red, white, and blue as well as mojo refractors. However, the combination of the 2 makes this card worthy of the top 5.

#4 2007 Topps Allen & Ginter
Furthermore, seeing this simple yet stunning base card of Ryan Howard from 2007 Topps Allen & Ginter gets me excited about this year's A&G product, another set that I'm looking to track down at The National. This year, the non-sports cards include dogs, horses, and plants. Sign me up!

This card also demonstrates how much Allen & Ginter has changed since the inaugural set in 2006. Although the premise is virtually the same each year, the difference between the first set design and the 2018/2019 base cards is like night and day.

In some ways, I long for the older Topps Allen & Ginter sets, for the simple set designs were absolutely incredible. However, I love the direction that Topps is taking the set. Nonetheless, cards like the one above will forever be timeless.

#3 2010 Topps 2020
Unless I'm missing something, Topps hasn't produced a 3D insert set since the beginning of the 2010s with the 3D cards in Lineage as well as the 2020 insert. Though there aren't any Red Sox included in the 20-card set, there are a reasonable number of players that I collect, including Howard.

The insert set design, especially the stars in the background, fits perfectly with the 3D theme. On its own, the card is on the simple side, but the 3D cardstock allows the colors to pop and creates something incredibly unique, especially since we rarely see 3D cards anymore from any Baseball card company

#2 2011 Topps Lineage Stand-Ups
While I expect the original versions of these cards to be quite expensive, it would be awesome to find a vintage Stand-Ups insert for a reasonable price at The National this year. I don't want to get my hopes up, so I'll instead focus on the replicated insert from 2011 Topps Lineage, a set that recreated a ton of past Topps oddballs.

The yellow and green background holds true to the original cards, and the photo of Howard is expertly chosen. Apart from the batting helmet, the picture looks like something from the original 1964 set.

I'm rarely a fan of facsimile signatures, but they appeared on the original cards as well, so I suppose it's not too major of a deal.

#1 2016 Topps Archives Red Parallel
2016 marked the end of Howard's 13-year MLB career, all of which was spent with the Philadelphia Phillies. By that point, he was barely hanging around, for he hit .196 in his final MLB season. 

Don't get it twisted, Howard was a far better player throughout his career than he was in 2016. As far as I know, this is the last card of his that I ever pulled. I always enjoy when the color of a parallel or refractor matches the team's uniform, and this red parallel numbered 1/50 from 2016 Topps Archives, does exactly that.

I recall pulling this card during the summer of 2016 when Archives was first released. Now, roughly 3 years later, Howard was honored, deservingly so, with a retirement ceremony in front of the fans in Philadelphia.

He may not have ended his career on a high note, but I'll always collect cards of Ryan Howard.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Frankenset Page #59

Following my 2-week absence from blogging, I've gradually been getting back into my regular posting schedule. However, I've yet to pick up where I left off with my 74-page frankenset series, so I'll be overviewing the 59th page today.

Featuring cards #523-531, this page dates back to the very beginning of the 1970s and continues through the mid-2010s. I don't want to ramble for too long about anything, in particular, so let's get started with the subsequent page. 

#523 2005 Topps Total Timo Perez
Initially, I had my hopes up after Topps announced the revival of the Topps Total set for the 2019 season, but I was extremely disappointed when I learned that it would be an online exclusive released in "waves." 

Making a product like Topps Total into an online exclusive is not only unnecessary, but it also goes against what the set used to be; an affordable release destined for set builders. Now, it's virtually impossible to complete the Topps Total set because of the new format.

For everyone's sake, I pray that Topps brings back Total once more in 2020 but changes how it's released. I'd love for it to be an inexpensive alternative to Opening Day, similar to Big League and Bunt, with a hobby box format as well.

#524 1987 Topps Bob Shirley
Although I've grown tired of the 1987 Topps set as a whole, there are occasional cards that draw my interest back into the wood-bordered product. There's something about the pairing of Yankee pinstripes with this iconic design that makes for an awesome card, no matter who the player is.

Other times, the set is so redundant and over-produced that I simply lose interest, for it's challenging to stay invested in a product when many of the cards look similar. Thankfully, Topps is finished with 792-card checklists, for the past Flagship sets have had 700 total cards.

#525 2005 Topps Total Austin Kearns
Although I've never opened a pack of Topps Total in my life, I certainly see the appeal of a set like this as well as Upper Deck 40 Man. Especially in today's card collecting world, most sets feature only the brightest stars and rookies, so guys like Reds outfielder Austin Kearns tend to be ignored.

Total should serve as an alternative to Flagship in terms of the number of players featured in the checklist and an alternative to Opening Day as it pertains to the price. One can only hope that Topps will accomplish both of these things in 2020.

#526 2014 Topps Avisail Garcia
Despite how bland some of the 2010s Topps Flagship sets can be, there's always some sensational photography in every one of these sets. A few cards tend to stand out with particular stellar photos, and as far as 2014 Topps is concerned, one of those cards is Avisail Garcia of the White Sox.

In 2017, Garcia hit .330 as was voted onto the AL All-Star team while still with the Chicago White Sox. This stellar performance still baffles me given that the 2nd best batting average in a full season of his career is .257.

#527 1992 Fleer Ultra Bobby Bonilla
Earlier this month, the Baseball world "celebrated" Bobby Bonilla Day, the day in which the New York Mets pay the 6-time All-Star approximately 1 million dollars. These payments will continue through the mid-2030s as part of an alteration of his contract.

I'm sure Bonilla can't complain about this deal, for he earns a million dollars each year without even being on the Mets' roster. To a certain extent, I understand the initial contract, for Bonilla had some stellar seasons in the early 1990s, including an MVP runner-up year in '90.

#528 1975 Topps Eddie Leon
In the case of numerous Topps Flagship sets, if you don't like 1 particular card, then you likely won't like the set as a whole. However, with a set like 1975 Topps, the color combinations differ across the 660-card set.

You may not enjoy the purple and green combo on Eddie Leon's card, featuring the red striped Chicago White Sox uniforms. However, that won't stop you from appreciating some of the other cards in this set, such as Bert Blyleven's red and light blue combination, for example.

It's somewhat rare, as far as Flagship sets are concerned, for the cards to differ so widely because of various color combinations. This typically, however, results in top-notch sets like '72, '75, and 2015.

#529 1970 Topps Bob Aspromonte
I've always loved the silver-bordered 1970 Topps set, but I fear I have too few cards from this product to collect and eventually complete it. In a perfect world, however, 1970 Topps would be the next set that I'd collect.

This year, Topps replicated this set extremely well, as they always do, in Topps Heritage. However, the odds of pulling special variations and hits decreased, resulting in a lackluster product from a value standpoint. 

I still pulled some great cards from the packs that I opened, but it failed to match the precedent that the 2017 and 2018 Topps Heritage releases had established.

#530 1989 Upper Deck Jack McDowell
One of the cards that I'd like to pick up at this year's National is Ken Griffey Jr's iconic rookie card from 1989 Upper Deck, easily one of the most iconic cards in Baseball history. I happen to have his Donruss rookie as well as a few oddballs from his freshman year. 

Obviously, the Upper Deck version is far more sought after. I've seen a few of them in person, but acquiring this card has never really been a priority of mine until now. Griffey Jr is one of my top tier player collections, and I'd love to add a graded version of this iconic card to my collection.

#531 1983 Topps A's Team Leaders
The fact that a .267 batting average and a 4.21 ERA led the 1982 Oakland Athletics team highlights how lackluster that particular squad was. Though they'd go onto have success later in the decade. the 1982 Oakland Athletics finished the year 68-94 which earned them 5th place in the 7-team AL West.

They were far from the worst clubs in baseball that year, for both the Twins and the Reds had 100+ losses. Ultimately, the 92-70 St. Louis Cardinals would go on and win the Fall Classic.

Monday, July 22, 2019

My First Look at 2019 A&G

As Topps has increased the number of products that they release each year, I realize that I have a slight problem when it comes to these new releases. I often get super attached to these sets when they come out and buy a lot of cards, only to move onto the next set a month or so later.

No matter the product, it seems like a given set captivates my interest for a short time before I turn my attention to another new and exciting set. This cycle was apparent throughout 2017 and 2018, and it's something I'm trying to avoid in 2019.

At this point, I've acknowledged my favorite Baseball card releases as well as the ones that I'd like to avoid. Now, all that's left to do is follow through and purchase packs from sets that I love rather than the brand new set that I'm not going to be collecting a month from now.

In no particular order, my 5 favorite Baseball card sets include Topps Heritage, Bowman's Best, Topps Chrome, Panini Chronicles, and Topps Allen & Ginter which was just released on July 17th.

Each and every one of those products has an extensive range of base cards, inserts, and parallels as well as the possibility to deliver incredible value. Those 2 traits are, in my opinion, essential to any stellar release. 

Last year, I was fortunate enough to open 2 of these fabulous products (A&G and Chrome) at The National, something I'd like to do again in 2019. Even though I'm not as fond of the Allen & Ginter set design this time around, the oddball inserts, in particular, make this set a standout year after year.

Although I'm leaving for Chicago next Tuesday, I wanted to see this year's A&G cards in person so that I can decide whether I want to buy more of this set at The National or not. 

I wasn't a huge fan of the base set when I saw the cards online, so we'll see if anything changes following this hobby pack break.

#8 Reggie Jackson
While the color splashes in the background have become synonymous with the Allen & Ginter set, I'll admit that I like this year's design way more than I originally thought I would. If nothing else, the traditional background works for Reggie Jackson's card.

It's going to take some getting used to, but I was pleasantly surprised with how fond I am of this year's design. 2017 and 2018 were both terrific as far as the base set was concerned, so I'll have to open a little more 2019 A&G to formulate an opinion.

Plus, I'm ecstatic that Topps chose to feature Mr. October as a member of the California Angels instead of the teams that we always see him on (Oakland and New York).

#208 Dawel Lugo mini
From the breaks that I've seen of 2019 Allen & Ginter, the minis are often the 2nd card in the pack, something I don't believe we've seen before. Not that it's a big deal or anything, but we've grown used to finding them in the middle along with an insert or hit.

Per usual, you get 1 mini per pack of Allen & Ginter, and mine happens to be Dawel Lugo of the Detroit Tigers. At this point, my only major complaint about the set design is that it doesn't say the player's position on the front or even the back of the card.

I keep up with Baseball, but only to a certain extent. If Topps doesn't tell me what Dawel Lugo's position is, who knows when I'll actually find out?

#105 Todd Helton
I know that some collectors don't enjoy seeing recently-retired players appear in sets like A&G and Stadium Club, but I don't have a problem with Todd Helton making the checklist. In fact, I'm elated to see Mr. Rockie get some love from Topps.

I'm using Helton's card to point out the card backs, something that's stayed consistent with the Allen & Ginter set throughout the brand's 10+ year history. This time around, they're shaded with a faint yellow to give them more of a vintage feel than we've seen in the past few years.

Come to think of it, the 2019 A&G design is the most authentic reproduction of the original Allen & Ginter cards than we've seen in some time, so I must applaud Topps in that respect.

#186 Wade Boggs
Whether I end up building this set or not, the fact that 3 of the first 4 cards that I pull are players I collect is awesome. Even though he's featured in sets like A&G and Archives almost every year, I never get tired of pulling Wade Boggs cards, even when he's shown as a member of the Yankees.

The closer I look at this year's design, the fonder I'm becoming of the set as a whole. Granted, the base set isn't perfect, and I still prefer the cards from 2018, but Topps did a nice job with A&G, as they always do, in 2019.

#367 Masahiro Tanaka
Don't be fooled, this year's A&G checklist is still 350 cards. For some unknown reason, Topps didn't print any cards from 301-351. Instead, the SPs start at #351 and end at #400. I cannot fathom a reason for doing this, so I'll assume it was completely unintentional.

In addition to being downright weird, this card numbering affects collectors like Night Owl who are trying to build A&G mini frankensets. Although I haven't tracked down minis in a while, I'm also building one of these, and Topps' poor numbering is going to limit my ability to expand the frankenset this year.

#BSS-4 Baseball Star Signs Mookie Betts
I couldn't ask for much more than 3 base cards of players I collect, an SP, and a Mookie Betts insert through the first 6 cards of my initial pack of 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter. The craziness of this product even finds its way into the Baseball inserts, because what other product has Baseball players' astrological signs?

Like myself, Mookie Betts is a Libra and the back of the card talks about how Libra's love trying new things. Clearly, this attitude worked for Betts in 2018, by far the best season of his young career.

Apparently, these are also available as box toppers, and I'm dying to see what those would look like.

#284 Roy Halladay
This was a very bittersweet card to pull, especially in light of Halladay's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday along with his wife Brandy's emotional speech. 

Rightfully so, Doc doesn't have a logo on his HOF cap. It wouldn't be right to choose between the 2 teams, Blue Jays and Phillies, that he played for and that he had a tremendous impact on. I'm just glad that he earned his well-deserved spot in Cooperstown.


#204 Cionel Perez
The last card of the pack may not be as stellar as the ones that came before it, but all 8 cards helped establish Allen & Ginter as an incredible product once again in 2019. It would be foolish of me to deny myself the opportunity to purchase more A&G when I arrive at The National.

It's far from a perfect set, but there's so much to like about Allen & Ginter no matter what you collect. Whether you want dogs, planes, or just regular Baseball cards, A&G has something for everyone.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Goals For The 2019 National

Although I'm back to my normal routine for the next week and a half, it's time to get serious about the 2019 National Sports Collectors Convention which is just 10 days away.

Admittedly, The 2019 National definitely snuck up on me. It seems that all of a sudden, the show is right around the corner when I've been anticipating this event for months, ever since the end of last year's show in Cleveland.

As you can tell from my recap posts, I had the time of my life at the 2018 National. I got some in-person autographs, pulled incredible cards from packs, finished the 1975 Topps set short of 1 card, and experienced an event that was unlike anything that I'd seen before in my life.

This year, the show is in Chicago, and I'll have one less day at The National this time around since I'm seeing the Cubs battle the Brewers on Friday, August 2nd. 

At most, I'll have an hour and a half at the show before I head to Wrigley Field, so my Dad and I are going to have to make the most of our 2 full days (Thursday and Saturday) at the show.

Last year, I set 7 goals to accomplish at The National, and I ended up achieving all but one of them (I didn't purchase any 1959 Fleer Ted Williams cards). 

Although I'm not typically a fan of creating goals for Baseball card shows given how unpredictable they can be, I feel that it's necessary for an event at the caliber of The National.

Since I'm going to have 1 less day at the show this time around, I decided to list 6 goals that I'll try to achieve throughout my time at the 2019 National and share them on the blog today.

#1 Focus on player collections but not too extensively
This goal, give or take, was one of the 7 that I sought to accomplish at last year's NSCC show, and that's exactly what I did. Throughout my 3 days at the show in Cleveland, I made a few purchases for my player collections, but I made sure to leave room for want list cards and packs as well.

I specifically remember 1 trip to the dime bins as well as the time when I filled an entire 800-count box, primarily with cards for my various PCs. Other times, I'd buy bargain vintage cards of players that I collect, something that's widely unavailable at the shows I typically attend.

Overall, I'm looking for cards and memorabilia at The National that I can't find easily at home. I'd love to fill another 800-count box of cards featuring players that I collect, but that'll likely be one of my only PC-oriented purchases.

#2 Work on my 2019 Panini Prizm project
After purchasing 2 hobby boxes plus a few retail packs of 2019 Panini Prizm, I concluded that the only way I could continue with this project was to stick to individual purchases of these cards. Thus, one of my missions for The National is to make progress with this slightly crazy project.

The only issue is that I have a spreadsheet that lists what cards I have and don't have, but I can't print out the entire sheet and bring it with me. Therefore, I'm going to have to figure something out when it comes to an inventory of what I have from the set because the last thing I want to do is return home with a bunch of Prizms that I already have.

#3 Buy some 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter and 2019 Topps Chrome
A&G and Chrome, 2 of my top 5 favorite sets (along with Bowman's Best, Panini Chronicles, and Topps Heritage) are both released towards the end of July this year. While Allen & Ginter came out earlier in the week, Topps Chrome will be released on the first day of the NSCC show.

Last year, my Dad and I bought A&G and Chrome at The National, and we had a blast opening the packs both at the show as well as at our hotel. We landed some monster hits out of Chrome, including retail, while Ginter delivered its usual oddities which we cherish. 

Whether it's a blaster box or a hobby purchase, I thoroughly expect to get my hands on packs and individual cards from both of these sets when I get to The National, especially because of Topps' wrapper redemption.

If you purchase a hobby box of any Topps product, you can go to their booth at The National and redeem it for a bonus pack of NSCC-exclusive Bowman Chrome cards. Last year, we pulled gold refractors (numbered /50) of guys like Cody Bellinger, Ken Griffey Jr, and even Ronald Acuna Jr. 

If I get my hands on a hobby box at the show later this month, there's no doubt in my mind that I'll immediately go over to Topps' booth and get my hands on one of these bonus packs once again.

#4 Complete the 1979 Topps set
Currently, I'm missing just 48 cards from the 726-card 1979 Topps set, meaning I'm roughly 93% done with this product. Even though it's challenging to find vendors who sell individual cards from the '79 set, there has to be at least one of them at The National.

This goal could prove to be a challenge, but I'd love to complete the 1979 Topps set while I'm in Chicago. That way, I can begin collecting the '73 set as soon as I get back. I usually have 3 vintage Topps sets that I'm collecting at any given time. 

Completing '79 would not only be a great accomplishment, but it would allow me to continue piecing together various vintage Topps sets, specifically from the 1970s.

#5 Focus on finding cards from the want list
Adding onto the goal of completing 1979 Topps, I'd like to take a ton of cards off my want list throughout my ~2 days at the 2019 NSCC show. I'm always working on multiple vintage sets, insert sets, and modern products, so I'm willing to work on anything as long as it's available and fairly priced.

Last year, I found a ton of bargain cards from 1961 Topps just as I was beginning to lose hope of piecing together that set. Similarly, I picked up a ton of base cards and inserts from 2018 Topps Allen & Ginter. 

Because of the sheer variety of available cards at The National, I don't believe this goal will give me much trouble.

#6 Make a splurge purchase
Back in May when I attended the Memorial Day Mansfield show, I splurged on 2 Red Sox rookie autographs, including the card above of Rafael Devers, numbered 5/25. Recently, he's been swinging one of the hottest bats in baseball, so it appears (knock on wood) that this purchase paid off.

As a result, my 6th and final goal for the 2019 National is to splurge on 1 or 2 cards. Typically, I value quantity over quality, but I know there are going to be some incredible cards at the show later this month.

Maybe this will be my first ever card from 1952 or 1953 Topps. Maybe it'll be a key need from the 1961 Topps set, like Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris. It could even be a big-name autograph that I've been chasing for years.

One of the main purposes of going to The National is to acquire stuff that I can't typically find at the shows and shops where I live. Thus, if there's 1 particular card that impresses me and I think would be perfect for my collection, I may just splurge on it.

Last year, this show totally exceeded my expectations and thoroughly impressed me. All I hope is that the same will be said for The 2019 National because I truly cannot wait to go.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

I'm Back (With Baseball Cards)

Hello viewers, it sure has been a while. I got back from my vacation yesterday and even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time away, it was odd to be absent from the blog for 2 weeks. 

Before this vacation, the longest I'd gone between blog posts is 2 full days which happened twice in November of 2017 when I had just begun blogging. As a result, it was strange to take such a prolonged break away from blogging and commenting.

Even now, I find myself struggling to find the proper wording for what I'm trying to say. It's been 2 weeks since I've written a post, so I'm going to be a little rusty at first.

Anyways, I'm back home for around 10 days before I head to Chicago for The National, but I fully expect to get back into my typical posting schedule immediately. 

While I was away, some new releases, most notably Allen & Ginter, hit the market. I'll likely be holding off on buying any more cards until the end of the month, but I won't rule out a 1 or 2-pack overview of the recently released A&G set.

Throughout the month or so leading up to the 2018 National, I refrained from purchasing Baseball cards, for the most part, as I wanted to save funds for the show. I've done a reasonable job with that so far this July, but I made one exception while browsing through an antique store in Asheville, NC.

There weren't any sports card shops near where I was staying in North Carolina, so my best bet for Baseball cards turned out to be one of the antique stores situated in the city. It didn't take much time for me to find one of these stores, and the same goes for the Baseball card bin located by checkout.

While the majority of the 2/$1 cards were Hockey or junk wax, I was able to find some true gems scattered throughout the box. This was my very first time shopping for Baseball cards at an antique store, so I really didn't know what to expect.

With that being said, I'm certain that I didn't expect to find 4 vintage cards of Hall of Famers who I collect, including Jim Palmer's 1973 Topps card which I hadn't seen before this trip. I initially expected to find some over-priced 90s cards, not vintage legends for only 2 quarters apiece.

The HOF cards didn't stop there, however, as I stumbled upon a couple of league leaders cards from 1969 and 1970 Topps respectively. Per my rules, the cards above will go to Willie McCovey and Harmon Killebrew so long as those 2 PCs don't already have that particular card.

At this point, this mere trip to an Asheville antique store had become a massive success. Even some Baseball card shows don't have this caliber of vintage cards for 50 cents each. While the condition of the cards is far from perfect, I don't consider that overly important given the caliber of the cards.

For 50 cents, I'm not going to let the condition (especially the upper left corner) of Joe Morgan's 1976 Topps card bother me considering that I need it to complete the '76 set. After all, I can always purchase an upgraded version if I feel it's necessary, but that's far from my #1 priority.

Out of all the cards that I purchased from this store for 50 cents apiece, the Morgan card will go down as my favorite solely because of how symbolic it is of the 1970s. Along with Johnny Bench and Dennis Eckersley, Morgan's '76 card ranks among the best from this classic Topps set, in my opinion.

While I was impressed with the sheer number of vintage cards scattered throughout the box, my purchase consisted of more than just cards from the 1970s. There were a ton of 90s cards throughout the box, and I was able to narrow them down to a select few for my player collections.

One of my newest player collections, the Tony Gwynn PC is hovering around the 15-20 card mark as I speak, and I was able to further boost that total thanks to 2 cards from the antique store. 1 of them is a colorful card from (I believe) the 1994 Topps Finest set while the other is an oddball Collect-A-Book.

Despite the negative feelings that often surround Baseball cards from the 90s, I found some awesome oddballs for my player collections. In addition to the Tony Gwynn cards, there were 2 cards from Upper Deck HoloGrFX, a criminally underrated product, featuring players that I collect.

As much as I love the Glavine card, the Griffey Jr, especially with the Seattle Mariners uniform, symbolizes the 90s just as the Joe Morgan card is a fabulous representation of 1970s Baseball.

That didn't spell the end of my Griffey Jr oddballs, however, as I found 2 more awesome cards for my 3rd largest PC (behind Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux). The Tetley oddball on the left was a last-minute pickup to bring my total number of cards to 16 and is from the 1990 season.

Conversely, the card on the right is from 1995 Pinnacle and shows The Kid blowing an enormous bubble of gum while making crazy facial expressions, because why shouldn't a photo like this end up on a Baseball card?

Suffice to say, my first ever Baseball card purchase at an antique shop was a successful endeavor. I got to add some epic cards to a few of my player collections, and that's something that I strive to accomplish almost every time I purchase cards.

So yeah, it's great to be back, especially when I've got new Baseball cards.