Friday, January 31, 2020

Time to Rip

For months on end, I've debated whether to permanently keep or rip my 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter box loader rip card of Cubs superstar Kris Bryant, one of the coolest parts of my collection that, for whatever reason, I haven't shown on the blog before today.

Truth be told, I came across this rip card in a hobby box of '19 A&G that I brought back with me from the 2019 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. I'd spent some time looking at the set overview on Cardboard Connection and was dying to pull either one of these or the autograph relic book cards.

Of course, the player on the rip card plays a huge role in deciding what to do with it. Mike Trout's have sold for upwards of $300 on eBay whereas guys like Clayton Kershaw have been around $120.

I, however, had no plans to sell the Bryant; I'd either keep it as a collector's item or rip it and reveal 3 mini cards inside, including the possibility of wood 1/1s and red ink autographs.

The back of the box topper explains all the possibilities that this rip card could entail. Of course, most of the breaks that I have seen have landed just 2 SSP minis in addition to the 1 guaranteed stained glass card.

However, with Bryant's as well as the Cubs' stock plummeting and his future in Chicago largely unknown, I came to the decision, after months of deliberation, that taking the gamble was my best bet.

If nothing else, I told myself, the stained glass card is something totally unique that could make it all worth it, since I truly don't have anything like it in my collection.

The checklist is very strong, featuring the 100 premier players out of the 300 spots, and while Max Scherzer wouldn't have been my first choice, he's probably the best pitcher I could've pulled.

I certainly wouldn't have wanted Cole or Verlander, and unfortunately for Clayton Kershaw, his poor postseason performances have made him less of what he used to be in the eyes of some collectors.

Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are currently in a battle for the best pitcher in baseball, but with Scherzer having more experience and Cy Young awards under his belt, I'd give him the nod for now.

While the stained glass mini was to be expected, I had no clue what the rest of the rip card would entail. Virtually every break that I've seen has delivered 2 SSP minis, and I was hoping for something a little more special out of mine.

Unfortunately, 2 SSP minis are exactly what I ended up with, but at least I got 2 big name Hall of Famers out of it. Sandy Koufax and Ryne Sandberg, despite being vastly different, are 2 pretty terrific names.

I'm not sure what these are currently going for online, but even though I didn't have the greatest luck by any means, I don't regret my decision to rip the box topper. Kris Bryant's future is widely uncertain whereas these 3 players' legacy, even with Scherzer still playing, is more set in stone.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Top 5 Cards: Derek Jeter

I don't know what's caused my irregular posting schedule over the last couple of weeks and, really, the past few months.

Part of it, I presume, stems from a lack of material. I, shockingly, haven't purchased cards in a month, and the period between frankensets that took up most of December left me without a go-to post to fall back on.

Other times, my decision not to post for a day or 2 stems, honestly, from a lack of motivation. Yesterday was the most severe case of this situation.

As I was debating what kind of post I wanted to write, news broke about the shocking and tragic death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

"Shocking" and "tragic" don't even begin to describe the emotions of sports fans and athletes worldwide, but truthfully, no words can encapsulate how I felt when the ESPN notification popped up on my phone.

I don't really collect Basketball cards (I've only purchased them a handful of times in my life), and I don't follow the sport nearly as close as I do Baseball. But I do, however, remember watching Kobe, specifically towards the end of the 2000s when his Los Angeles Lakers were the rival to the Boston Celtics.

I remember the NBA finals in 2008 and 2010; one championship went to Boston, the other to LA. Now, that rivalry seems unbelievably insignificant.

It's also important to note that 8 others died on the helicopter crash along with Bryant, including his 13-year old daughter Gianna. The false news reports that circulated afterward and TMZ's reporting the tragedy before Bryant's family could be notified are truly despicable.

Like I said, I've barely collected Basketball cards and don't follow the sport, so I don't have a proper tribute post for Kobe with photos and stories to tell. I did, however, wanted to take some time to discuss the events of yesterday before today's top 5 cards post of the almost unanimous Baseball HOF inductee from last Tuesday.

From 1 sports icon in his respective city to another, let me tell you all about my 5 favorite Derek Jeter cards.

#5 1999 Bowman's Best
Like many chrome/shiny cards that I scan and feature on the blog, Jeter's 1999 Bowman's Best looks a lot better in-person. The set design is more of a vibrant shade of gold that compliments the Yankee pinstripes much more.

Aside from the fact that his first name is spelled using a different font than his last name, I don't have any real complaints about the set design or this specific card. It does a nice job of defining the late 1990s, arguably the most successful period of Jeter's Hall of Fame career.

#4 2001 Upper Deck Vintage Retro Rules
I'm pretty certain this card is saying that the retro era of Baseball rules rather than laying out the rules of the period in MLB history, but regardless of how one interprets the name, the actual card is pretty spectacular.

Upon closer inspection, you discover that the card is literally just 3 colors: black, white, and red. Few designs can claim that they only feature 3 colors, as many have hidden details that bring the total number up.

This card clearly doesn't need to be changed whatsoever; its simplicity is what garners a spot on the countdown.

#3 2019 Topps Stadium Club
I feel like I could choose almost any Stadium Club card from one of my PCs for their respective top 5 cards post, but Jeter's from the 2019 release stood out to me among all the others.

The sky blue background at Yankee stadium is a perfect match for the iconic home pinstripes, and the angle of the shot gives us a good look at both the foreground and the background.

Sometimes, I wonder if Topps Stadium Club has lost its unique elements and is becoming repetitive, but when I see cards like the one above, I'm reminded of just how fabulous the product is.

#2 2006 Topps Heritage
I had 106 different Derek Jeter cards to choose from when deciding the top 5 for this list, yet I don't think I could've chosen one more simple than his 2006 Topps Heritage card, styled after 1957 Topps.

In addition to the incredibly minimalistic design, the photograph, taken at Spring Training, fits with the overall basic theme. It's a classic batter's stance with the bat taking up more space than the card allows, and Jeter is, once again, wearing the Yankee pinstripes.

Simple as it may be, it's easily one of my favorites.

#1 1993 Topps
As if any other card could claim the #1 spot on this list.

Purchased in a factory sealed 1993 Topps set at the card show several years back, Jeter's rookie ranks as one of the most iconic cards in Baseball history. It's no wonder we've seen a million different reprints of it over the years.

It was almost an automatic decision for me to rank this card at #1. It may not be worth as much as other rookie cards of big-name Hall of Famers, but no other Jeter card rivals his rookie from '93 Topps.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The New Frankenset: Page #3

Apologies for the 3-day hiatus that took up most of the week; recently, though my number of posts have been down, I've tried not to miss more than 2 days in a row.

Hopefully, I can use the weekend to put some more content out there. For instance, continuing with my brand new frankenset by exploring the 3rd page, home to cards #19-27.

Skipping the rambling introduction that I often have before these posts, let's jump right into things.

#19 1989 Sportflics Robin Yount
Starting off with a 3D card of a Hall of Famer, page #3 is already a win in my books. Though Sportflics may not have the same appeal as Kellogg's, they still do a respectable job.

Plus, it's kind of hard not to be excited about 3D cards in a frankenset. I don't recall the first binder having more than 1 of these cards, and there happens to be another on the 3rd page of frankenset #2.

#20 1980 Topps Dan Ford
I have mixed feelings when it comes to the 1980 Topps Flagship set. Some cards don't make that great of use of the design which, if complemented with the right photo, can be terrific.

Others, like Dan Ford's, make me rethink my feelings towards the set as a whole. Everything from the color combinations to the photograph works tremendously well in the case of his card. Now, if only Topps could have spread the wealth equally across the entire set.

#21 2005 Bowman Heritage Brian Roberts
I was caught a little off guard toward the end of last year when Topps released a Bowman Heritage set for the first time in over a decade. I first started seeing it listed around the holidays, but my splurge on Bowman's Best around the same time prevented me from getting my hands on any of it.

I'm almost certain that the revival is a hobby exclusive, but I'd like to get my hands on a small sampling of the cards at some point. I'll likely use the card show, specifically the show's case breaker, to accomplish that the next time I visit.

#22 2014 Topps Opening Day Stars Justin Upton
I can count on a single hand the number of 3D insert sets that Topps has attempted over the last decade, so when one does come along, it definitely piques my interest.

First, we had Topps 2020, a 3D insert back in 2010 (which, unfortunately, featured no Red Sox or Cubs players). Next, an insert from 2014 Topps Opening Day, creatively named "Stars."

Boring name or not, I actually like the design better than the Sportflics from 25 years prior. The modern look and new age photography pair nicely with one another, and the blue and silver together are quite sleek.

#23 1991 Studio Bert Blyleven
As recently as a couple of years ago, Target would sell these 20-pack repack boxes by the Fairfield company that featured a plethora of recent packs as well as a few from the 90s. It's how I ended up with my Mookie Betts Chrome Update rookie card as well as my Kris Bryant rookie from 2015 Topps Series 2.

I haven't seen one of these in years, so I'm left mainly with the few that I opened back in 2016 and 2017. For whatever reason, I remember there being a pack or 2 of 1991 Studio in one of the boxes, featuring black and white photos and a magenta frame.

One of the guys I ended up with, as you can see, is Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.

#24 2009 Topps Heritage Marco Scutaro
My Dad and I collected Topps Heritage pretty heavily from 2005-2008, 2011-2014, and again from 2016 until the present day. In these on and off periods, however, we missed out on the 2009 release which paid homage to one of my favorite Topps Flagship sets: 1960.

I only have a handful or 2 of cards from the '09 product, but thankfully, Topps also replicated 1960 Topps in the 2017 Archives release. It may not feature as excessive of a checklist as when Heritage came out, but it's certainly better than nothing.

#25 1973 Topps Roy White
3D cards, Heritage replicating one of my favorite Flagship sets, and now something vintage: the 3rd page of the new frankenset truly has a wide range of cards to offer.

The oldest card of the page is from 1973 Topps and features Roy White who would go on to win 2 World Series with the New York Yankees in both 1977 and 1978. Even though I can't point out exactly what it is that I like about this card, I must say that it's one of my favorites on the page.

#26 2006 Bowman Gold Parallel C.C. Sabathia
The recently-retired C.C. Sabathia didn't hold anything back when discussing his thoughts on the MLB's recent sign-stealing scandals, especially in light of the penalties handed out to the Houston Astros.

I can't necessarily blame Sabathia for being upset, but I'm refraining from commenting further on the Red Sox's role until the investigation is complete, for we truly do not know the extent of what happened.

#27 2012 Topps Gold Standard Jim Thome
Out of all the team's Jim Thome played for, throughout his Hall of Fame career, it's interesting that Topps chose to feature him as a member of the Chicago White Sox in this insert set back in 2012. I assume it's because he hit his 1,500th RBI as a member of this team.

Gold Standard wasn't the only "gold-themed" insert set released in 2012. There were also Golden Moments and Golden Greats, 2 more large insert sets released in both Series 1 and 2.

Monday, January 20, 2020

If I Had a Say

In just under 24 hours from now, the BBWAA will reveal the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 who will be inducted into Cooperstown this July.

Some committee members began posting their ballots throughout December, and the last time those votes were tallied, it looked like we were going to see Jeter, Walker, Clemens, Bonds, and Schilling receive baseball's greatest honor.

But as you'll soon notice, I'm not in favor of a lot of those guys. It's not that I consider myself an advocate for the "small hall," but this year's potential inductees don't have the same energy and, honestly, qualifications as previous classes.

Plus, I've disagreed with the BBWAA and their various committees' decisions over the last couple of years, something that didn't previously happen.

It seems like the voters have embraced the "large hall" notion as of late, and while I'm neutral on this issue, I personally don't believe that Harold Baines and Mike Mussina are Cooperstown worthy.

Moreover, if Baines was inducted, there's no reason whatsoever for Fred McGriff not to be in Cooperstown, but that's an argument for another day.

Anyway, my HOF ballot for 2020 is rather limited, so I'll spend a reasonable portion of this post explaining why I didn't choose certain players. After that, we'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow's announcement brings.

No one should have to justify putting Yankees legend Derek Jeter on their Hall of Fame ballot, but after people genuinely did not vote for Ken Griffey Jr 4 years ago, I feel obligated to give an explanation.

He may not have captured the AL MVP award during his career, but the 14-time All-Star is a clear cut 1st ballot HOFer. Perhaps, given his career .310 average, 3,465 hits, and 5 Gold Glove awards, he can join teammate Mariano Rivera as the only 2 unanimous selections.

Jeter arguably hung on a little longer than he should've in 2013 and 2014, especially when Didi Gregorius was ready and able to take his place, but the 5-time (yes 5-time) World Series Champion will forever rank among the Yankees all-time greats.

This is where things get a little more complicated. I assume we can all agree that Jeter deserves a spot in Cooperstown; the debate, however, begins when discussing who else, if anyone, should be inducted with him.

I'm not so strict to the point where I'd only let Jeter into Cooperstown if I had a HOF ballot. If a player is deserving, I'd give him my vote, and that's exactly how I feel about Larry Walker.

His .313 average is higher than Jeter's (say what you will about playing time; it's still impressive), and he captured the 1997 NL MVP award by hitting .366 with 49 homers and 130 RBI.

Walker has 2,160 career hits, nearly 400 home runs, and over 1,300 RBI. The 5-time All-Star may not have as big of a name as some of the other players on the ballot, but he's, nonetheless, one of the most qualified.

Wouldn't it be something if we saw not 1 but 2 Colorado Rockies enshrined in Cooperstown the same year? I'm probably getting a little ahead of myself, but that doesn't negate the fact that Helton should be inducted before his time on the ballot is up.

Helton's a career .316 hitter with over 2,500 hits, already establishing himself as more qualified than Larry Walker who, form what I've seen, has received more votes than Helton. The 5-time All-Star never won an MVP award like Walker, but his 1,406 RBI make up for that.

When you assess them against one another, Helton and Walker appear equally qualified for a spot in Cooperstown, so why not induct them both? After all, it would be pretty cool to see the Rockies get this kind of representation.

And that's the end of my ballot. Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, and Todd Helton would be my 3 picks if I had a position on the BBWAA committee. Because I'm leaving out some heavy favorites, I'll take a few minutes to give my reasoning for why Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling were excluded.

1. I'm against any and all steroid users being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There's enough evidence, in my eyes, for me to pass up both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Other guys who were actually proven to have used steroids, such as Manny Ramirez, speak for themselves.

2. Putting aside his off the field controversies as best as I can, Curt Schilling's numbers still don't scream Hall of Fame to me. His 3.46 ERA is fine, nothing spectacular, and although he's a member of the 3,000 strikeout club, he's more known for his postseason heroics than regular-season numbers.

As stellar as he was for the Diamondbacks and Red Sox come October, that isn't enough to warrant the highest honor in Baseball, though I do expect Schilling's case to be the closest call of all.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

A Forgotten Treasure

For as long as I can remember, Topps Heritage has ranked as one of my favorite products, year in and year out.

With the 2020 release, paying homage to the 1971 design, set to come out in just over a month, I'm anticipating another year of nearly perfect recreated cards as well as the usual lineup of inserts (New Age Performers, Then & Now, and Baseball/News Flashbacks).

Aside from the 1-year break that I took from buying Heritage in 2015, a decision that I'm still confused as to why I made, I've purchased cards from the set every year dating back to 2011.

It was, however, my discovering of the incredibly affordable Heritage base sets at the card show that made me all the more fond of the product.

While I've been more inclined to purchase hobby boxes and build the set myself in recent years there was a time (2012-2014 and 2016-2017) where I couldn't think of anything with better value.

That's due in large part to the fact that back in 2012, when I first discovered this affordable alternative to buying the cards online, I purchased the base set, cards #1-425, for just $20.

The 2012 Topps Heritage set, for those of you who don't know, includes the card above, Mike Trout's first Heritage card. It's not considered a rookie, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any value to it.

But at the time, I didn't suspect that Mike Trout, or any player in the set, was going to become a phenom and emerge as one of the top players in the game. I never bought a Heritage base set with the idea that a certain card would soar in value. If I wanted that out of Heritage, I'd by SPs and autographs.

Instead, as you can see from the images above, I put the 425 cards into sheets and a binder for 2012 Heritage, as well as the 4 other base, sets that I've purchased at the show. Every so often, I look through them and discover cards I didn't even know I had.

As it turns out, when I was looking a few years back, one of those cards was Mike Trout.

Now, Topps has changed how they distribute a given player's cards into sets since 2012. Every player has to have a rookie card at some point, even if that means delaying it until that player is no longer a rookie like they're doing for Yordan Alvarez.

Their current methods mean that there won't be a chance for a non-rookie card like Trout's to be so valuable. The high price (~$70 not graded) stems from the fact that he wasn't featured in 2011 Heritage.

Now, they have Heritage High Number, and Topps is so rookie crazy that I doubt this will ever happen again.

Still, considering it's from a $20 base set purchased nearly 8 years ago, I'll take this card any day of the week.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Top 5 Relic Cards/Autographs: Detroit Tigers

There aren't many teams who have gone through more ups and downs throughout the 2010s than the Detroit Tigers, so I'm interested to see where this team is headed once the 2020 season rolls around.

With Miguel Cabrera and a triumvirate of talented starting pitchers (Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello) leading the team, the Tigers were World Series contenders for the first few seasons of the decade but, within a few years, found themselves with one of the worst records in Baseball.

Cabrera, the 2012 AL Triple Crown winner, grew older and, with that, came a decline in performance and an increase in injuries. They shipped Porcello to Boston in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, Max Scherzer left for Washington and morphed into one of the best pitchers in the game, and they traded Justin Verlander to the Astros at the non-waiver deadline in 2017.

Alas, after opening the decade with a substantial chance of winning the Fall Classic, the Tigers' went 47-114 in 2019, the only team to finish out the year with a win percentage below .300.

Hopefully, 2018 1st round pick Casey Mize and whomever they draft 1st overall in 2020 will lay the foundation for the future of the franchise, but it doesn't seem like the Tigers are going to get all that much better for a few years.

At the same time, teams like the Twins and White Sox, Detroit's division rivals, have made major improvements this offseason, and with Corey Kluber now a member of the Texas Rangers, the AL Central is truly anyone's game.

Well, anyone except the Tigers, and also the Kansas City Royals. Basically, it's a 3-team race.

I thought that intro would tie nicely into today's post which, as you can see, is a top 5 relic cards/autographs post in which I highlight Detroit Tigers cards.

Although the series encompasses both autos and relics, it's worth noting that the Tigers list consists only of the latter. Now, let's get started.

#5 2005 Topps Gallery Heritage Relics Ivan Rodriguez
I don't know how much this would appeal to today's collectors, but seeing this 2005 Topps Gallery relic card makes me want to see something of this sort in today's Gallery releases.

Perhaps, Topps can make relic cards a blaster exclusive and promise 1 in each box just like Panini does in a ton of their retail formats.

The design of the relic card above, like a lot of Gallery, is abstract. The color combination is nice and I like the decision to feature a bat relic, though I could certainly do without the "authentic game-used bat" banner that covers up some of the memorabilia.

#4 2001 Topps American Pie Rookie Reprint Relics Mark Fidrych
This isn't my only American Pie Rookie Reprint Relic; I have another of George Brett that pays homage to his 1975 Topps rookie, but in some ways, I prefer the use of Fidrych's iconic 1977 All-Star and rookie cup card.

Whereas the bat relic was the perfect fit for Ivan Rodriguez's Gallery relic, a plain white jersey is the best bet for Fidrych's card, and I'm not usually an advocate for PWJ's on any type of relic.

However, to adhere to the vintage theme of the American Pie set, the jersey piece needs to look like it came off Fidrych's uniform from '77, and that's exactly what Topps was able to do.

#3 2005 Fleer Tradition Cooperstown Tribute Al Kaline
I don't think I'll ever be able to get enough of these 2005 Fleer Tradition Cooperstown Tribute relics. The design is truly elegant, and the stone pattern that constitutes most of the card was a brilliant choice by Fleer.

Plus, I'm just noticing now that they've included the year of Kaline's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, 1980, in obscured letters at the bottom of the card. While I wish Fleer would've been able to feature this detail in more of a profound manner, I can't point out many other issues with the card.

Kaline, moreover, retired in 1974, meaning that this jersey is at least 56 (ish) years old. Now that's a piece of baseball history that I'm more than pleased to have in my collection.

#2 2004 Topps Cracker Jack Take Me Out to the Ballgame Ivan Rodriguez
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is making his 2nd performance on the countdown with a mini bat relic from 2004 Topps Cracker Jack.

The 2 relic cards of the 1999 AL MVP award winner are also the 2 game-used memorabilia cards on this list which is something that, given the eras in which Fidrych and Kaline played in, makes sense.

The mini relic above ranks so highly on this list because of its simplistic design that adheres to the Cracker Jack set. It doesn't try to do too much, but it's successful at what it does try to do. The relic is a reasonable size, no banners cut through it, and every single detail has a purpose.

#1 2010 Topps National Chicle Relics National Chicle Back Hank Greenberg
I don't think I've ever seen a Hank Greenberg relic in all the years before and after I picked this card up at the show several years back. A National Chicle back variation, it's actually numbered out of 299 copies on the back of the card.

Like the banner that ran across Rodriguez's Gallery relic, the Hank Greenberg card features a detail that obscures the memorabilia itself, but unlike the Pudge relic, I don't mind the wood-carved "C" on the Greenberg card.

That's because the touch actually compliments both the card, specifically its artwork, as well as the bat piece. The National Chicle set may have only lasted a year, but it left us with some phenomenal cards and the one above is certainly no exception.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

World Series Champions*

When I celebrated the Boston Red Sox's World Series victory back in October of 2018, I never, not for one second, imagined that such a shameful scandal would emerge years later, leading some fans to ask for an asterisk to be placed next to their Fall Classic win and more so that of the Houston Astros from 2017.

That's because, over the last 2 days, the MLB has been rocked with news from both organizations. The punishments that commissioner Rob Manfred levied on the Astros yesterday for their role in the sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 World Series were swift and severe.

Just a couple of hours ago, anticipating that the league's actions against manager Alex Cora would be drastic (he played a vital role in the Astros' scandal; it's unclear in regards to Boston as the investigation has yet to be completed), the Boston Red Sox fired Cora, a year and a few months after culminating a historic season with a decisive World Series victory.

I bought the Topps Now card above the following day, October 29th, without any hesitation. After all, this was a monumental day; it's not often that your favorite team wins it all.

I can't comment all too much on the Boston Red Sox scandal, as the league has yet to determine the significance of the sign stealing. It's evident, however, that between the respective World Champions in 2017 and 2018, there's one common component, and that's Alex Cora.

Yesterday afternoon, the news began pouring in that the league had issued its punishment(s) to the Houston Astros, and to say the least, they were not lenient.

1. Manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for the entire 2020 season without pay.

2. Houston lost its 2020 and 20201 first and second-round draft picks.

3. The organization was fined $5 million.

Soon after the parameters of their punishment were reported, the Astros announced that both Hinch and Luhnow were to be dismissed. The move makes sense, considering that neither was going to be paid during the 2020 season, and both of their legacies have been tarnished by this scandal.

Immediately after the firings of Hinch and Luhnow, all eyes were on the Boston Red Sox in regards to Alex Cora. The 2-time World Series Champion, even after his firing, is facing a historic punishment for his role.

Some reports insisted that the Red Sox were going to wait until their investigation was complete before making a decision on Cora's future. Then, this happened. 

At this point, there's not a whole lot I can say. Defending the Red Sox is pointless and stubborn, but I also can't make any bold statements before the MLB terminates the investigation and releases some sort of report.

That said, as much as Cora accomplished during his short tenure in Boston, the Red Sox made the right decision. Unless the findings in the Red Sox's role are substantial, Cora will likely face the brunt of the punishment, for he played a larger role in the Houston scandal than Hinch or Luhnow, and he seemed to have brought that same energy to Boston.

Only time will tell what will really happen, but it's, nonetheless, a sad day for any sport when asterisks need to be placed next to championship victories.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The New Frankenset: Page #2

The best thing about starting a brand-new, 74-page frankenset is the opportunity to showcase inserts as well as base cards from sets with smaller checklists, something that, for no reason other than what I have available in my collection, was absent from the final pages of frankenset #1.

If you saw the first page of frankenset #2, you know it was chock-full of inserts, oddballs, a mini, and, overall, was incredibly diverse in its range of various cards.

I really do wish that this wide variety could carry over into the 400s, 500s, and 600s of each frankenset checklist, but the fact is that after card #350 or so, there isn't a whole lot available aside from standard Donruss, Fleer, Topps, and Upper Deck.

Because of this decrease in variety, if you appreciate having a page of 9 totally different cards as much as I do, appreciate the first half of the frankenset as much as possible. Hopefully, I can captivate the interest of my audience just as the original pages did when I started the first series back in March of 2018.

The first 10 pages, in particular, feature an especially diverse collection of cards, thanks in large part to all the insert sets. Page #2 (cards #10-18) is no exception, so after a strong showing the first time around, let's get started and see what the 2nd page has in store.

#10 1997 Pinnacle Mint Collection Andruw Jones
I consider myself lucky to have found not 1 but 2 of these 1997 Pinnacle Mint Collection cards in the dime bins throughout my trips to the card show, the other one being Mo Vaughn. Though I originally purchased the card above thinking it was Chipper, not Andruw Jones, it ended up being a perfect fit for my frankenset.

Though some card companies have made their own coin sets, I can't recall any example other than '97 Pinnacle Mint Collection of coins being an actual part of the card itself. Unfortunately, this release was, as far as I know, the only in the brand's history.

#11 2014 Panini Donruss Hall Worthy Adrian Beltre
As I mentioned early, the further into the frankenset we get, the less diverse each page will become as a result of the smaller set checklists compared to the massive ones like, for instance, Topps Flagship.

Part of what makes the beginning of this frankenset so special is the fact that, in the case of page #2, brands like Panini and Pinnacle are granted slots in the checklist.

The Beltre card above is also a dime box pickup, but instead of starting a player collection of the future Hall of Famer, I opted to put this insert into my frankenset.

#12 2013 Panini Cooperstown Home Run Baker
From potential a Hall of Famer to someone who already has his own plaque in Cooperstown, Panini is literally covering all bases with their 2 cards featured on page #2. The 12th card in this frankenset is from Panini Cooperstown, a set that, as you can tell by the name, is reserved only for HOFers.

I must say that I prefer this design to the previous year's Cooperstown set, and I applaud Panini for featuring players who, despite having achieved Baseball's highest honor, remain unrecognized today.

#13 2004 Fleer Greats of the Game Mel Ott
Speaking of underappreciated Hall of Famers, look no further than Mel Ott, a member of the 500-home run club who rarely gets brought up when discussing Baseball legends. Thankfully, Allen & Ginter gave him the respect he deserves and featured Ott in their Ginter Greats set in 2019.

A career .304 hitter with 2,876 hits and 1,860 RBI, Ott never took home MVP honors across his 22-year career (which was more like 21 considering he only had 4 at-bats in '47 before retiring). During 9 of those seasons, he eclipsed the 100-RBI mark.

#14 2016 Topps Chasing 3,000 Ichiro
It would've been something for Topps to put out a near-3,000 card set, 1 card for each of Ichiro's hits, to commemorate his journey to the 3,000-hit mark, similar to what Upper Deck Documentary did for each MLB game a little over a decade ago.

Understandably so, however, Topps did not want to channel the 2000s where sets like Total and Moments & Milestones flooded the market. Instead, they went with quality over quantity and produced a smaller set, acknowledging his most memorable moments.

#15 2015 Topps Stadium Club Adrian Beltre
Because the original frankenset, towards the end of it anyway, would feature 2 cards from the exact same set on 1 page, I don't feel too bad about including 2 Adrian Beltre cards at slots #11 and #15 respectively. If nothing else, the sets are drastically different.

Back in 2015, Stadium Club, having just been revived the year prior, was all the rage in card collecting because of its inventiveness and Topps' world-class photography. Both of these factors are still present, but I'd be lying if I said the set still does for me what it did 4 years ago.

#16 1993 Continental Baking Hostess Cecil Fielder
As much as I love each and every card that I select to be featured in my frankenset, I wish I had held off on the Cecil Fielder card above and, instead, saved it for the Fielder player collection.

After all, there are literally hundreds of options for card #16 at my disposal that I could've chosen over Fielder since it's not every day that I have the opportunity to add to this particular player collection of mine.

#17 2014 Topps Breakout Moments Jeff Bagwell
Topps has produced so many insert sets over the 2010s with designs and/or concepts similar to the one above that, if I'm being honest, most of them just blend together.

If I wanted to, I could probably list 5 other inserts that are a little too similar to "Breakout Moments" for my taste, but at least the uniform is interesting, and the card goes with the wide variety that I've tried to establish across this page.

#18 1970 Topps Carlos May
The first card of the entire frankenset dated before the 1990s, this 1970 Topps Carlos May card provides a nice contrast to the ultra-modern theme that, for better or worse, has engulfed the first couple of pages.

It's nice to return to something simple yet stunning; a picturesque powder blue jersey paired with the classic silver borders of the 1970 Topps Flagship set. As much as I've grown to love modern cards, the fact is that you can't beat the originals.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A 2-Card Mailday

I originally intended to reserve today's post for 1 major card that was set to arrive in the mail, one that I've been anticipating for a couple of weeks now. If you've been keeping up with the blog as of late, you may have an idea as to what I'm talking about.

However, unbeknownst to me, another card, this time a redemption from 2019 Bowman's Best, arrived at my doorstep, so I figured I'd turn this into a 2-card mailday, starting with the Michael Busch prospect auto from a 2nd Bowman's Best box that I opted not to showcase on the blog.

Following the immense luck that I had with my first go-around of 2019 Best, a topic I'll touch on a bit later, it made sense to try another box of what has been one of my favorite releases over the last few years.

Unfortunately, nothing major came from hobby box #2; otherwise, I would've done a post about it, but I did receive a Michael Busch redemption that's now contributing to a post a few weeks after the break.

Like a reasonable number of the prospects featured in the Best of '19 checklist, Michael Busch is not a player I know too much about. As it turns out, he was Los Angeles' 1st round pick (31st overall) in the 2019 MLB draft, and he's currently the #8 prospect in their system, behind guys like Jeter Downs and Gavin Lux.

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to Bowman's Best autos and any type of prospect card, for that matter, is that you need to be patient.

Right now, I know very little about Busch, but he could be one of the game's fiercest hitters or elite defenders several years down the road. The same goes for any of the other prospect autos I've pulled from this product, whether it's from 2017, 2018, or '19.

Of course, some of these guys autos will end up in a $5 bin at the show years from now, but that's the risk you take with a product like this. At least there are 4 autos per master box and the possibility of pulling rookie, veteran, and retired player signatures, allowing this release to appeal to a much wider audience.

Speaking of the autograph checklist, it's time to move onto the highlight of today's post. If you haven't guessed what it is so far, let's just say it has something to do with that 1st hobby box break and a package from Beckett that came via FedEx a few hours ago.

That's right. The mega-hit, Mike Trout atomic refractor autograph from Beckett returned from Beckett earlier today, graded, and I'm beyond excited to share it with all of you.

 There it is, in all it's glory, the crown jewel of my entire Baseball card collection; the Mike Trout atomic refractor autograph from 2019 Bowman's Best. Somehow, the card looks even more stunning protected in a BGS slab.

And before I say anything else about it, yes, I'm aware it received a 9 for the autograph. I wasn't too shocked by this, however, since Trout slightly adjusted his signature upon the release of products towards the end of 2019.

If you compare this to some Trout autos from years past, you'll notice a few differences. Nonetheless, I know the card's legit, and Beckett does too, otherwise, they wouldn't grade it. Besides, the actual card received a 9.5, so I can't be overly disappointed.

Of course, I wanted the card to receive as high of a grade as possible, but the main thing I look to do when sending any card off to Beckett is to preserve it.

Whether it's as old as the 1950s or as recent as 2019, grading a card, in my opinion, is the best method of preservation. Plus, you get a detailed analysis that includes 4 sub-grades, as well.

Dust always seems to find its way into penny sleeves and top loaders, and while magnetic top loaders might be the way to go for some, I like to see my most valuable cards in a BGS slab with a grade listed above.