Smooth as silk

February 27, 2010 at 1:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

A common refrain among collectors is that there hasn’t been enough innovation from the card companies in recent years.  While the 1990s saw the introduction of refractors, relic cards, and certified autographs to the collecting world, we’ve seen very little that’s really unique in the past decade.  It seems that every new card product features a certain number of autographs and relic cards per box, and serial-numbered parallels featuring different colors or mini versions of the base cards.

So I think it’s praise-worthy when a card company comes up with an idea that really is innovative, and they don’t over-do it to the point that collectors quickly become bored of the idea.  One such recent idea is the Topps silk card.

Honestly, my first impression of silk cards was that they were kinda lame.  It’s hard to imagine the Topps product development meeting where somebody stood up and proposed making miniature versions of cards out of silk and encasing them in a hard plastic frame.  But someone at Topps did indeed think of that idea, and Topps began producing silk cards for the first time in 2006 Turkey Red.  Since then, they’ve expanded the concept into Allen & Ginter, T-206, and the Topps flagship set.

As silly as the idea of silk cards sounds at first, I have come to greatly appreciate them.  And I think that there are two factors that contribute to their greatness: their uniqueness and their rarity.

You can’t deny that silk cards are unique.  There’s really nothing else like them in the hobby.  Over the years, the card companies have tried so many methods of making a card look different (foil, chrome, refractors, die cuts – just to name a few), that it’s cool to see a card that feels different.  So many collectors are looking for something interesting and different to add to their collections, and silk cards definitely fill that niche.  In an era when so many products are dominated by the same old single-color “relic” cards, most of which aren’t worth more than a few bucks, it’s refreshing to get a different type of “hit” in your packs.  Do some searching on eBay, and you’ll find that silk cards of average players almost always sell for higher prices than plain relic cards of stars.

And then there’s the rarity.  In most products that include silk cards, they are serial numbered to 50 without any parallels.  I’m pretty sure that there has never been a silk card that’s had more than 99 copies.  And it definitely helps that Topps has limited the amount of products that include silk cards.  While you can get relic cards in just about every new card product, Topps has never produced more than three sets with silk cards in a year.  And of course, Topps is the only company that has produced silk cards so far.  All of these factors make silk cards truly rare, and very desirable.

I decided to write about my fondness for silk cards when I recently acquired an Evan Longoria silk card (technically called a “cloth” card by Topps) from the 2009 T-206 product.  It’s serial numbered 06/50 and the silk is the same size as a tobacco card:

It’s the second Evan Longoria silk card in my collection.  I bought this one, from 2009 Topps Series 1 and numbered 10/50, almost a year ago:

And I recently had the experience of pulling a silk card from a pack for the first time.  It’s of a great player, Ichiro, and from 2010 Topps:

I’m planning to put this card up for sale on eBay soon.  If anyone out there is interested in this card, I’d be willing to sell it for $20 before I put it on eBay.  That would save me from the eBay and Paypal fees and you from trying to outbid a bunch of people.

My first box of 2010 Topps Heritage

February 25, 2010 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Ever since I started collecting cards again in 2008, Topps Heritage has been my favorite product to collect.  Sure, you have worse odds of getting a good autograph or relic card than with literally any other baseball card product in existence, but I strongly believe that it is the most fun product with which to build a set.  As time has gone by, I’ve become much more of a player collector than a set builder, but Heritage is the one set that I will continue to build every year.  I absolutely love it.

As much as I loved 2008 and 2009 Heritage, the 2010 edition has the potential to be even more meaningful to me.  That’s because it’s a tribute to the 1961 Topps baseball set.  My dad was 9 years old in 1961, and it was the peak of his card collecting days.  He had more 1961 cards in his collection than any other year.  It was also the most memorable baseball season of his youth due to Mantle and Maris’ race to break the single-season home run record, and I believe that he attended his first game at Yankee Stadium that year.  I only saw my dad’s cards during one weekend of my childhood before they were placed into a safe deposit box where they remain to this day.  But I still remember seeing all of the star cards that he had – Mantle, Maris, Mays, Banks, Killebrew, Gibson, Koufax – just about every star from that era.  I used to wish that I could own cards like those, and now that I’m an adult, I do own some.  But when I think about the 1961 Topps set, I’ll always think of my dad as a kid amassing a great collection from that year.

In early February, I pre-ordered two hobby boxes of 2010 Heritage from Blowout for the price of $55 per box.  I made sure to pre-order them, remembering how the price of Heritage hobby boxes skyrocketed last year after the product was released.  And sure enough, the price today on Blowout is up to $68.99 per box.  So the lesson is to always pre-order your Topps Heritage boxes early.  I’m glad that I did.

On Tuesday, February 23, I received the email stating that Blowout had shipped my boxes, and since I fortunately live within one day’s shipping time from Sterling, VA, they showed up on my porch on Wednesday.  I opened the first box Wednesday night, and I’ll probably open the second one on Thursday night.

Since the product just came out, I figured I’d share some scans with you…

First up is my box topper.  According to the wrapper, it could be a “Topps Stamp Collection Team Page” or a “1961 Advertising Panel”.  Knowing how boring the advertising panels are, I was glad to get the stamp thing.  I got the Tigers team, and here it is:

This too is pretty boring, especially since the stamps aren’t actual stamps; they’re just pictures of stamps on the card.  I’ll probably throw it on eBay and see if anyone is willing to pay a few bucks for it.  The back lists facts about Comerica Park, the years that the Tigers have won the A.L. pennant and the World Series (not many for a team that’s been around for more than 100 years) and their all-time season batting and pitching record holders.

I also received an original 1961 buy-back card.  As usual, it’s a card of a guy that I’ve never heard of, Bob Purkey:

Judging by the stats on the back of the card, Purkey was a pretty mediocre pitcher.  But he had “a curveball which drives hitters crazy”, he held “the N.L. record for most putouts by a pitcher in an overtime game”, and he was a “sportsman during his time off, too.  Fishing is his favorite hobby”.  And of course, his name rhymes with turkey, which is kinda cool.

So obviously, I got a ton of base cards, and I’m sure that just about everyone already knows what they look like.  But here’s Carlos Pena anyway:

On a side note, I absolutely love Carlos Pena.  Every Rays fan on earth (which is a small number, I know) loves Carlos Pena.  And really, every baseball fan should love him too.  The guy is the most ridiculously positive person on the planet.  For example, here’s a quote from him that was published by the St. Pete Times yesterday, regarding the fact that he’s in the last year of his contract with the Rays:

“This is the best place on Earth to play baseball. I think I’ll always keep that idea regardless of where I’m playing for the rest of my life. This is really the best place on Earth to play baseball. I also realize that it’s not going to last forever whether I stay here or I go somewhere else, there’s going to come a day when I retire. And God knows I wish it could be here. But I realize that sometimes you don’t have that say. It just makes you appreciate every single moment here more. I’m cherishing every single second I get around these guys, that I get to wear this uniform because I wear it proudly. This organization has done so much for me that I’m just extremely grateful. I’ll always be thankful for the Rays regardless of what happens.”

I’ll always be thankful for Carlos Pena being a Ray.  And I’ll be even more thankful if he’s willing to sign a reasonable contract extension with the Rays despite the insane amount of money that the “big market” teams will likely throw at him after the season.

Anyway, let’s get back on-topic.  Here’s what the back of the base cards (1-425) looks like:

It looks good, just like the actual 1961 card backs.  But take a look at the short print card backs (426-500):

It’s a totally different type of card stock.  When you get a short print in your pack, you can tell immediately because it is a completely different color from the other cards.  This is basically the same thing that Topps did with the short prints in 2009 Heritage, but I’d say that the 2010 short prints are even more different than the base cards.  And that sucks.  It also sucks that they’re all numbered in a group, 426-500.  It sucks because it makes the short prints more like just another type of insert instead of part of the base set.  It would be very easy for a collector to decide to just collect cards 1-425 without the short prints and call it a day.  There would be no missing cards from their pages, and besides the short prints look different than the other cards anyway.  And the short prints are really what makes Heritage such a fun set to collect, in my opinion.  I liked it much better in 2008 Heritage when there were some short prints mixed in with cards 1-425, and some non-short prints with card numbers above 425.  And the card backs all looked the same.

OK, moving on.  Here’s another base card that I want to highlight:

Why would I want to highlight a seemingly boring Jason Marquis card, you wonder?  Well, Jason Marquis didn’t play for the Nationals last year.  He played for the Rockies.  He signed with the Nationals as a free agent in December.  So this is a total Photoshop job.  And there are many Photoshopped cards in Heritage, with players pictured in the uniforms of their new teams.  The Photoshop jobs are so good on many of them, like this one, that you can’t even tell it’s a Photoshop job.  And I think that’s very cool.  It’s one of the best technological innovations in the card industry in recent years.  If only Photoshop had existed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, we would have been spared some horrendous airbrushed cards!

Next up is a “rookie” card of Buster Posey:

I have to agree with the many people out there who have observed that the MLB RC logo looks very much out of place on the rookie cards with the “2010 Rookie” star logo that mirrors the original “1961 Rookie” star logo already there.  Buster Posey is going to be a great player.  I wish that I could take Doc Brown’s time machine back to June 2008 and hold a gun to Andrew Friedman’s head to make him draft Posey instead of Tim Beckham with the #1 overall pick.  Picking Beckham over Posey was one of only two mistakes that Friedman has ever made since he took over baseball operations for the Rays in the fall of 2005.  The other one involved not protecting a certain former drug addict with lots of tattoos during the December 2006 Rule V Draft.

I really like the huge “All Star Rookie” cup, like the one on this Andrew McCutchen card:

McCutchen is another guy that the Rays almost drafted and should have drafted, in 2005.  There’s an interesting story about why they didn’t, but I won’t bore you with it here.  Another thing that I really like about this card is how hilariously out of place McCutchen’s hairdo looks on a 1961 vintage card.

The checklists all look pretty good, with all of them featuring photos from the 2009 World Series like this one:

Also included in the base set are several cards featuring multiple players standing next to each other.  The photos on these that I have seen are all from the 2009 All Star Game.  Here are the “Beasts of the East”:

I also got a few “League Leaders” cards like this one featuring the 2009 N.L. home run leaders:

And once again, there’s a World Series highlight subset.  Here’s one of the Yankees celebrating the championship that they bought:

And my favorite subset, by far, is “Baseball Thrills”, which all feature memorable historic baseball accomplishments.  I love this one of Walter Johnson:

From the back of the card:
“Not only did Johnson know no equal in his time (or perhaps ever) for sheer effectiveness, he is also in the books for his unmatched feat of zero-slinging durability. In September of 1908, he shut out the New York Highlanders three times in four days, allowing only (in order) four, three and two hits.”

That truly is an amazing accomplishment that will surely never be matched again.  And I love that he did it against the Highlanders.  If you’re not up on your baseball history, that’s the original nickname of the Yankees.

Among the short print cards are the All Star cards, and I absolutely love the 1961 All Star design:

And there appears to be a new short print subset that commemorates MVPs of the past few years.  This one is of 2005 NLCS MVP Roy Oswalt:

I hope there’s a card of 2008 ALCS MVP Matt Garza in the set.

Anyway, I got a total of 8 short prints in my box.

Now let’s take a look at the inserts.  The New Age Performers, Then & Now, Baseball Flashbacks, and News Flashbacks are all back once again.  I pulled 2 of each.

The New Age Performers design is pretty cool:

Then & Now looks pretty much the same as it does every year, and there are some odd choices for pairings such as Luis Aparicio and Jacoby Ellsbury:

Frank Robinson is one of the Baseball Flashbacks:

And this News Flashback card commemorates the establishment of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961:

So that happened less than two months after President Kennedy was inaugurated.  See, some Presidents actually fulfill their campaign promises during their first year in office, instead of continuing to just talk about them and making excuses for why they cannot be accomplished.

And finally, there’s a new type of insert this year, apparently named “Ruth Chase ’61″.  I pulled 6 of them in my box.  Here’s one:

All of the cards feature Babe Ruth and the back of each card highlights a home run that he hit during the 1927 season.  I think that an insert set based on the 1961 home run record chase is a good idea, but why doesn’t it feature Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, the guys who actually hit their home runs in 1961?  Ruth’s record season was in 1927, not 1961.  This insert set would have been much more appropriate with Maris and Mantle, instead of Ruth.

In addition to the inserts, I pulled 5 chrome cards #/1961.  None of them are especially noteworthy and I didn’t scan any of them.  But I received Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Josh Johnson, Brian McCann, and Neftali Feliz.  I also got one refractor #/561.  It’s Denard Span:

The card looks much better in person than what it looks like in this scan.  I think the Heritage refractors look great, as they always do.  They look much nicer than the non-refractor chrome cards.  I didn’t pull any black refractors, which are #/61.

As for my “hit”, well, it was nothing special at all, which is pretty much what you expect with Heritage.  Last year, I wound up with a dull jersey card of Kevin Millwood.  And this year I didn’t fare any better:

Topps must accumulate game-worn jerseys of the most boring players in MLB throughout the year and dump them all into Heritage.  Oh well, nobody buys Heritage expecting to get good hits.

The last two cards that I’m going to show you were surprises to me…

First, I got a card of A-Rod that appeared to be a normal card until I looked at the back:

This is a type of parallel with some sort of dice game on the back.  The back of the packs tell me that these are only inserted into 1 in every 72 packs, which is basically 1 per every 3 boxes, so I guess they’re relatively rare.  Sounds like something for me to throw on eBay…

And the coolest card that I pulled was this one:

Unlike the box topper, this card includes actual stamps in it.  It’s serial numbered 12/50, and the back of the card says:

“The stamps contained in this frame are inspired by those produced by the Topps Company in 1961 featuring all the biggest stars of the day.

This new Topps Stamp Collection features 208 different stars of today in multiple combinations.

Collect them all!”

Well, I won’t collect them all, and I may put this one up on eBay too, depending on how much these things start selling for.  Unfortunately, I think that the demand for stamps of Shin-Soo Choo and Francisco Rodriguez will probably be pretty low, so I might just hold on to this.  The pack back tells me that these cards are inserted into 1:193 packs, so I guess I was pretty fortunate to get one.

So that’s it.  I hope you enjoyed a look at some of the interesting cards from my first box of 2010 Topps Heritage.  My goal of keeping my posts short that I set when I started blogging again has just gone totally out the window!  I’ll post something to let y’all know if I get anything noteworthy in my second box…

Great hits happen when you least expect them

February 24, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

So a couple of weeks ago, I was working on organization my collection, and I found a pile of cards that I had forgotten that I owned.  It was a pile of football cards from 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces.  I bought a retail blaster of Masterpieces football sometime in the fall of 2008.  Since I’m trying to get rid of cards that I don’t have a use for, I had to decide if I wanted to keep these cards.  Due to my fondness for Masterpieces, and the fact that I had built complete sets of 2007 and 2008 Masterpieces baseball and 2008-09 Masterpieces hockey, I quickly decided to not only keep the Masterpieces football cards, but to try to finish the set so that I could have sets of every Masterpieces product ever produced.

I could’ve just purchased all of the singles that I needed from Sportlots or some other online card marketplace, but that wouldn’t have been much fun.  Besides, since I had only bought one blaster, I wasn’t anywhere close to a complete set yet.  So I went online to check out how much hobby boxes of Masterpieces football were selling for.  I saw that I could get one for only $43.95 at Blowout Cards, but then I’d have to pay for shipping unless I spent $100 or more.  It was a similar scenario with Dave & Adam’s and every other major online store.  I was close to dropping the idea when I did an eBay search a few nights later, and found that Dave & Adam’s was offering hobby boxes for $45 with free shipping on eBay.  So I bought a box.

A few days later, my hobby box arrived.  Now, you have to understand that my only reason for buying this hobby box was because I wanted to acquire the base cards that I needed to complete my set.  I was definitely not expecting any good hits, even though I knew that I’d get two jersey cards and one autograph.  Anyone who’s read my blog in the past knows that my luck is absolutely horrible when it comes to getting decent hits from boxes that I open.  I was sure that my autograph would be from an average player, or possibly even some rookie who didn’t pan out and wasn’t even in the league anymore.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun opening the packs.  As I’ve said before, Masterpieces is a truly great product, and I was very impressed with the artwork on the cards and the great assortment of current stars, legendary players, and historic moments that were featured on the cards.  I got 57 different base cards, plus 2 doubles in the box.  I haven’t combined these cards with the ones from my blaster yet, but I’m pretty sure that this puts me very close to completing the 90-card base set.  I also got three short prints, including one “Time Warp” card of Mel Blount covering Randy Moss.  I must say that the idea of these cards, matching a current star with a retired legend in an action painting, is absolutely brilliant.  And I got two short printed rookies, Jake Long and Felix Jones.  I got four black framed parallels (with no serial numbers), two red framed parallels (#/199), and one blue framed parallel (#/150).  And I got two jersey cards of pretty decent players, Anquan Boldin and Dallas Clark.  It’s nice to get hits of guys like that, but neither is anything to get overly excited about.

I would’ve been perfectly happy if my autograph was someone of Boldin or Clark’s stature.  When I was about 3/4 of the way through the box, I opened a pack that had a thick card in the middle, and I knew it was my autograph.  I slowly lowered the card on top of it to reveal who it was.  I saw a Colts helmet.  Hmm … maybe Dallas Clark or Joseph Addai.  Reggie Wayne would be pretty cool.  Or Dwight Freeney.  I lowered the card a little more, and saw #18.  #18???  Wait a minute, isn’t that … oh my god, holy sh*t … no f’ing way!  I sat there for literally at least five minutes with my jaw dropped.  I have never had a reaction like anything close to that from a card that I pulled from a pack.  Never.  Yes, ladies and gentleman, I pulled an autograph of PEYTON MANNING:

And it is totally awesome, as you can see.  It’s got four perfectly sharp corners, it’s on-card, and the signature looks great.  It’s Masterpieces, and it’s basically a framed mini-painting of Peyton Manning that’s been autographed by him.  A Masterpieces autograph is better than just any autograph, and it’s leaps and bounds better than some ugly Topps foil sticker autograph that’s slapped onto a poorly designed card.  Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I scanned the card and put it into a magnetic holder where it’s been ever since.

I checked eBay and found that these cards are selling in the $100 range.  So I could sell it and get back more than twice what I paid for the box.  But this card isn’t going anywhere.  Even though I’m not a Colts fan, I’ve always admired and respected Peyton Manning.  He’s the best quarterback of his generation, and yes that includes Tom Brady.  There is nobody else in football, or maybe in any sport, that almost single-handedly makes his team great as much as Peyton Manning.  This will be a card that stays in my collection for a very, very long time.

Like the title of this post says, great hits happen when you least expect them.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve bought a box of cards hoping to get a great hit, and got crap.  And then when I buy a box on a whim, just because I found a pile of cards from an old blaster and thought it would be fun to try to complete the set, I get an amazing card like this.  That’s part of what makes this hobby great.  The only other card that I’ve pulled that comes close to this is this one.  But it wasn’t nearly as fun to pull because it was a redemption.

Obviously I am thrilled and I wanted to share my experience with you on the blog.  Even though I found out a few days ago that my experience was not unique in the sports card blogosphere.  It turns out that Ryan’s Memorabilia Blog pulled the exact same card a short while before I did…

Masterpieces rocks

February 19, 2010 at 12:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Upper Deck Masterpieces rocks.  It’s as simple as that.  And I don’t think that anyone is going to disagree with me.  Masterpieces is universally praised by collectors on a regular basis more than any other sports card product in recent memory.  Whether it’s either of the two Masterpieces baseball sets (2007 – 2008), 2008 Masterpieces football, or 2008-09 Legends Masterpieces hockey, everybody loves Masterpieces.

It’s easy to see why.  First, you have a set in which every card is an actual work of art.  Upper Deck hired the best sports artists out there, and they created cards that range from good to great to amazing to unbelievable artistry.  The cards consist of the biggest stars, top rookies, legends of the game, and some of the most memorable moments of all time.  Each card has a canvas-like texture that enhances its artistic feel.  Set builders love building the set, which isn’t too much work with around 90 cards plus short prints.  Player collectors love chasing the beautiful framed parallels, which are truly unique.  And high end collectors love the on-card autographs.

It really is a shame that Upper Deck decided to cancel the brand in late 2008 when it was at the height of its popularity.  Apparently, Masterpieces wasn’t profitable, but it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t some way that Upper Deck could have tweaked it to increase their profit margin.  Many collectors would have appreciated a continuation of Masterpieces as an insert set, similar to what Topps has done with Turkey Red.  Maybe it’ll be back someday.  If Upper Deck remains in business after the current MLB lawsuit, it would seem that Masterpieces would be an ideal product to succeed without the use of logos.  And there are few things that Upper Deck could do to win back good will from collectors than to bring back Masterpieces.

With all of the praise that I’m heaping upon Masterpieces, I suppose it’ll come as no surprise that my Evan Longoria Masterpieces cards are some of my favorite cards in my collection.

Here’s what I have so far:

Up top is the base card, which was pretty easy for me to acquire, even though I managed to not pull any Longoria cards in the two hobby boxes of 2008 Masterpieces that I busted in the fall of 2008.

On the second row are the black, red, and dark blue framed parallels.  The black is pretty easy to find on eBay, but the red doesn’t show up as often.  Neither of them are serial numbered.  The dark blue is #/125, and it’s much tougher to find.  I was able to acquire this one sometime in the first half of 2009.

On the third row are the brown, green, and silver framed parallels.  The brown is #/100, and is also hard to find, although I picked this one up shortly after the dark blue one.  All of the lower serial numbered parallels are EXTREMELY difficult to find.  They almost never show up on eBay, and when they do, they sell for very high prices.  I went more than six months without being able to find one.  I finally found the green parallel (#/75) on CheckOutMyCards a few weeks ago, for a very reasonable price of around $20.  I bought it in a heartbeat.  Shortly thereafter, a silver parallel (#/25) showed up on eBay, and the bidding soared over $100.  Perhaps because of that ridiculous price, somebody else put a silver up on eBay a few days later, and I was able to get it for about $50.

There’s a light blue framed parallel #/50 out there, but I can’t remember ever seeing it on eBay.  That’s probably the only other Masterpieces parallel that I’ll be able to reasonably afford.  There’s also a gold #/10, another shade of blue #/5, and a red 1/1.  Needless to say, if anyone out there owns any of these, I would be extremely interested in buying them from you for a fair price.

And finally, here is my “Stroke of Genius” autograph card:

This is definitely one of my favorite Longoria autographs.  It’s on-card, and it’s more than just a card; it’s like a miniature framed piece of art that is autographed.

Yes, Masterpieces most definitely rocks.  And if you still don’t believe me, just wait til you see my next post…

The ULTIMATE prize!

February 18, 2010 at 12:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

One of the reasons that I wanted to start blogging again was to show off some of the amazing new Evan Longoria cards that I’ve added to my collection recently.  None of them is more amazing than this one, which I’ve been waiting to show off for more than a week after winning it on eBay.  It finally arrived yesterday, and it is simply awesome.

As you can see, it is an “Ultimate Patch” card from 2009 Upper Deck Ultimate, #27/35, and in my opinion it is the best looking Longoria patch from Ultimate that has shown up on eBay so far.  Many of the patches on eBay feature letters from the back of the jersey, and this is one of the few that are from the Rays logo on the front.  Perhaps the only thing that would be cooler would be a patch that included the yellow starburst from the “R” in Rays.  And yes, I would shell out a ton of money if that card exists and if it shows up on eBay.  I did have to pay quite a bit of money for this card, but I believe it is well worth it.  I own 366 different Longoria cards, but only one other patch card – a small patch from 2009 Spectrum.  I absolutely love the jumbo patches that are included in 2009 Ultimate, and knew that I had to add one to my collection as soon as I saw them.  I think this one was a great choice.

Most of the time, when I get a new Evan Longoria card, I quickly add it to the list of Longoria cards that I own, then put it in either a penny sleeve and top loader or a magnetic holder, and put it in my box of Longoria cards.  That’s not the case with this one.  I’ve been keeping it on my coffee table and looking at it every chance that I get.  Have I mentioned how much I love this card?

Despite Ultimate being unlicensed by MLB, the card design is excellent.  These cards look a million times better than the jumbo patch cards from Topps Unique, which feature a player picture that’s smaller than the size of a dime.  It shows once again that Upper Deck is the undisputed king of high end cards.

As you’ve probably heard by now, there has been controversy about some of the patches that were included in Ultimate.  There is some doubt about the legitimacy of some of the patches from retired players, and that is very unfortunate.  But I don’t think that there’s much to worry about when it comes to current players, especially guys like Evan Longoria, who has only played two seasons in the Major Leagues.  It’s not like Longoria jerseys have been sitting in storage units for decades.  They’ve all been recently used, and unless Upper Deck is acquiring them from really shady sources, there’s no question about their authenticity.

Another problem that Gellman from SCU has been talking about is fake patches – when scammers remove an unimpressive patch from a card, and put in something fake that looks even better.  Because of this, I checked out all of the cards being sold by the seller that I got this from, and everything looked pretty legit.  The fact that there other patches from the same part of the jersey being sold on eBay also allays any concerns that I might have had.  I do agree with Gellman that it’s smart to buy patches soon after a product comes out, before the scammers have had a chance to saturate the market with fakes.

Anyway, another aspect of Ultimate that I want to address is that part of the reason why Upper Deck was able to provide so much value in the product was because of the fact that it is unlicensed by MLB.  Due to the incredibly high cost of the license, the card companies have not been able to spend as much on acquiring jerseys and autographs from top players in recent years, and as a result, the quality of the top cards and the value of the cards pulled in most boxes has suffered.  With Ultimate, we are beginning to see how great an unlicensed product can be.

And that brings me to the point that EVERY collector, no matter what they may think of Upper Deck itself, should be rooting for Upper Deck to win the lawsuit against MLB Properties in April.  If Upper Deck wins, then not only will they be able to continue producing great unlicensed products (without airbrushing) but it opens the door for other companies to make deals with the MLBPA to do the same thing.  And when more companies are out there producing better and better products, and they’re able to put more value into the products without the burden of the oppressive MLB license, then all collectors win.

Let’s go Upper Deck!

A comeback?

February 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

So if a tree falls down in the forest, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  And if an old card blogger writes a post, and nobody is around to read it … I think you get my drift.  I didn’t think this day would come, but here I am, almost a year after I stopped blogging regularly and nine months after my last post, blogging again.

But I have a feeling that at least some people will be reading this.  Amazingly, after all this time without any new posts, there has still been a steady stream of traffic to this blog, and the blog recently received its 100,000th visitor.  I was blown away by that.  It’s interesting to see that many card blogs still have a link to Fielder’s Choice, and it’s great to see an occasional mention of my blog in other people’s posts, and sometimes a link to one of my old posts.  I should also say that I was deeply moved by all of the kind words that so many people left in the comments on my last post.

During my time away from blogging, I’ve still been reading several card blogs, and leaving comments on some.  I have to admit that I lost some interest in reading blogs when Wax Heaven went on hiatus, but I am happy to see that Mario is back now on a limited basis.  I’ve also enjoyed keeping in touch with some of the friends that I met through the blog on facebook.  I got to meet Rob from Voice of the Collector at the National last year, increasing the number of card bloggers that I’ve met in person to five.  I even wrote a guest post at Wax Heaven about my experience at the National, which you can read here if you missed it.

My collecting habits have definitely changed.  It is very rare that I buy any boxes or packs of new cards, although I still do that occasionally.  Over the last year, I’ve been focused almost exclusively on adding new Evan Longoria cards to my collection.  In fact, the page about my Evan Longoria collection is the only thing that I’ve kept updated on the blog since I stopped writing.  As you can see, I’m now up to 357 different cards including 61 autographs, and I am very proud of that!  I believe it’s likely that I have one of the top Longoria collections in the world.  It’s been a very fun endeavor as he continues to grow into super-stardom.

On a personal level, I’ve had a very good year.  I attended many Durham Bulls games in 2009, seeing future Rays stars like David Price, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Reid Brignac, Matt Joyce, and Desmond Jennings in action.  My wife and I took a trip to Toronto last summer, and we got to see the Rays play the Jays on July 25.  Toronto is one of my favorite cities, but the game started horribly with the Jays breaking out a 8-0 lead.  It was depressing, but I was about to witness the greatest comeback in Tampa Bay franchise history.  Yes, my Rays fought back and won the game 10-9 in 12 innings!  It was the best Rays game of the year, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance.  And, oh yeah, before the game, Evan Longoria signed my ticket:

The Rays had a good season overall, finishing 84-78, for their second best record ever.  But they finished in third place, behind the two big money behemoths in the A.L. East.  It paled in comparison to the 2008 season, but I am very hopeful that the Rays will overcome the obstacles in their way, and surprise the world with another trip to the postseason in 2010!  I can’t wait for spring training to begin next week…

In 2009, I made a big change in my lifestyle to benefit my health and my planet’s health by cutting meat out of my diet.  It was a gradual change, and I’m still not yet at the point where I can call myself a vegetarian, because I’m still eating fish about once or twice per month, but I’m getting there, and I feel healthier than I’ve ever been.  I lost more than 20 pounds too.  It was also a successful year in my career, and I feel very fortunate to be employed by what I consider to be one of the best companies in the world to work for.  I survived the Great Recession totally unscathed, and I’m very optimistic about the economic recovery that’s been going on in the U.S. and the world.  But most importantly, it was a very good year in my family life.  My wife is finishing up her work towards her Masters degree, and we received huge news at the end of 2009…

We’re going to be parents for the first time, with a due date of June 8, 2010!

A few weeks ago, we found out that we’re having a girl, and here’s her first picture:

I am absolutely thrilled to become a dad!  My wife and I have begun preparing for our daughter’s arrival.  We’re setting up a baby room, and to help clear space, I’ve been trying to organize my card collection as much as possible, and getting rid of cards that I don’t want.  I’ll be listing many cards on eBay in March, when I figure that more people will be thinking about baseball and baseball cards.  And there’s a 10-year old collector out there who will be getting a lot of my extra cards soon.

My wife is going to take at least a year off from work after our daughter is born, so we won’t have as much expendable income as we’ve had in the past.  One result of that will be that I’ll need to cut back on how much I spend on cards.  After she’s born, I’m thinking that it’ll be a while before I purchase any new Longoria autographs or low serial-numbered cards, but I can still have some fun by setting a budget and adding some low-cost new cards to my collection.

I definitely don’t anticipate that my daughter will be interested in sports cards.  I know it’s not completely impossible, as there are some women who actively collect, but I’ll be happy if she takes even a minor interest in baseball, let alone cards.  I know that my wife will be getting her involved in figure skating, swimming, and gymnastics.  If and when I eventually have a son, my hope is that he will one day take an interest in his father’s hobbies.

So why am I writing this post?  Well, one reason is to bring my blog readers (if you’re still out there) up to date on what I’ve been up to and to share the great news about my upcoming baby.  But another reason is that I’ve decided to start blogging again on a limited basis.

I need to be very careful to make sure that I stick to the plan to limit my blogging, especially because my responsibilities at home are starting to increase dramatically.  But I still love baseball, and I have fun collecting baseball cards, and I’d like to start sharing that with others again through this blog.  I’ll probably be showing off some of my Longoria cards, sharing some thoughts on the upcoming season, and giving my opinions about new 2010 products and the state of the hobby.  But it will only be once in a while, when I have the time to write, and it’s likely that the posts will be much shorter than what I’ve written in the past.  And I won’t be making card trades or doing video box breaks because those were some of the things that consumed way too much of my time.

So I’ll probably have another post or two up sometime in the next week, and I hope that I can reconnect with some of my former readers and fellow bloggers, and keep you up to date on what’s going on in my life and in my collection.  Fielder’s Choice definitely won’t be the same as it was in the past, but it’ll still be something, and I hope that it’ll be a fun experience for me and my readers.

The end of the road

May 27, 2009 at 12:27 am | Posted in Blogs | 34 Comments

A few people have been asking me about the future of the blog, so it is about time that I officially addressed it.  After a lot of thought and consideration, I’ve decided that my days of blogging are now over.  It was a fun ride while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end at some point.

In a way, I’m surprised that I was able to keep up with it as long as I did.  I first started reading sports card blogs in early 2008.  I was very entertained by what I read and I thought that it would be fun to start my own blog, but I knew that it would be a challenge to find the free time to do it.  Of course I eventually decided to start my own blog anyway.  It was a fun experience.  I love to write and share my opinions with people, so the blog was a natural outlet for me.  Along the way, I was able to share my experiences as I jumped back in to the baseball card hobby and share my thoughts about the Rays amazing run to the 2008 World Series.  And I was able to interact with many like-minded collectors all over the country and the world, including several people who I now consider to be friends.

But it was always difficult to find the time to blog.  I have a relatively busy job and a wife at home.  It was common for me to stay up for several hours after my wife went to sleep to either write blog posts or try to keep up with my collection.  I wasn’t getting enough sleep and it would take a toll on me.  And as my blog grew, the responsibilities that came along with it grew too.  There was an increase in the number of comments on my posts and in the emails that I received.  I tried to keep up with them all, but ultimately I failed.  And then there were the trade requests.  Looking back on it, I should’ve never started trading cards through the blog.  I reached a point where I was getting multiple trade offers through email and several packages in the mail every day.  Sometimes cards would arrive out of the blue from people who already had my address.  I struggled and failed to keep up with it all.

By early 2009, it got to the point where keeping up with the blog and all of the responsibilities that went with it seemed like a second job.  I’d spend all day working at my real job, and then come home and work all night blogging about cards.  It wasn’t fun anymore.  I’d set unrealistic goals for myself, like writing at least one blog post per day and trying to get to 100,000 hits in the first year – and those goals would only increase the pressure and decrease my level of fun.

At the same time, I became somewhat disenchanted with the card industry itself.  The shenanigans that are going on internally within the card companies and at Beckett are well documented all over the internet.  On a personal level, I’d buy multiple hobby boxes of cards per month, some of them simply so that I could video tape my breaks and write about them, and I’d almost always be disappointed with the cards that I received.  And then the 2009 baseball card products started coming out, and I felt that every single one of them was totally unoriginal and uninteresting.  I completely stopped buying new boxes and packs of cards, and now the only cards that I buy are singles (mostly of Evan Longoria) on eBay.

That’s not to say that every aspect of card collecting is negative.  There are many positives too, and I’ve adapted my collecting habits to focus on the things that I enjoy the most.  I loved collecting baseball cards when I was a kid, and I loved it when I resumed the hobby as an adult.  I think that I’ll always stay somewhat involved in the hobby, even if it’s only to buy new Evan Longoria cards.  But I’m never going to let card collecting dominate my life the way that it did while I was actively maintaining this blog.  For me, reading about cards and spending about an hour a day looking at card listings on eBay and organizing my collection, is reasonable.  Spending five or six hours a day on it is too much when there are other priorities in my life that are much more important.

Anyway, I first started to realize that I needed to cut back sometime in February.  I somehow wrote 47 blog posts in January and 39 in February, and that was a pace that I knew that I could not maintain.  By early March, I started to feel burned out, and I cut back.  On the blog, I mentioned that I was busy planning a vacation, and that was true, but as you can see that was not the only reason for my decrease in posts.  After I returned from my vacation at the end of March, I only wrote a few more blog posts.  I began to think a lot about what the future of the blog would be.  Originally, I thought that I’d continue blogging but just post a few times a week.  But the more time I spent without blogging, the more I realized how much better I liked my life without the burden of my “second job”.

And so I recently decided to stop blogging altogether.  Sure, there are topics that have come up that I’d really like to write about.  But I have a feeling that if I started posting again, I’d get sucked back in and it wouldn’t be long before it was dominating my life again.  It’s possible that I might start blogging again at some point in the future, but it won’t be any time soon.  The blog itself will stay up, and anyone who has enjoyed my writing can continue to visit it and read my old posts.  And who knows, maybe someday you’ll come back and find that I’ve started writing again.

I’ll finish this up with a heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who has read my blog posts, left a comment, sent me an email, traded cards with me, linked to the blog, or interacted with me in any other way since I started writing.  It is because of you that my experience was enjoyable.  You can continue to stay in touch with me through email or facebook.  And of course, I’ll continue to read many card blogs, and you’ll still see comments from me on some of them.  And now, in the immortal words of Porky Pig … “that’s all folks”!

I love it when this happens!

April 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Football | 11 Comments

I am so happy right now.  My favorite NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, just used their #1 pick to draft the best player from my college alma mater, Penn State, Aaron Maybin!  Maybin was a red-shirt sophomore for PSU last year, and emerged as one of the most dominating players in college football after being given a chance to start for the first time.  Maybin’s season was, in my opinion, the top season by a Penn State defensive end since my freshman year of 1997.  That includes Courtney Brown, the #1 overall pick in the 2000 draft, Michael Haynes, and Tamba Hali, who were also first round picks.

This comes two years after the Bills drafted Paul Posluszny, one of the all-time greatest Penn State linebackers.  Coupled with the addition of T.O., I am starting to get very excited about the upcoming football season!  Hey, with the Rays getting comfortable in last place in the A.L. East, I need something to look forward to…

You can bet that I’ll be scouring eBay for Aaron Maybin autographs to add to my collection soon.

maybin

I’m sorry for the lack of posts recently.  I’ll explain my absence and the future of this blog soon.

Overjoyed!

April 10, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 7 Comments

Today, I went to one of my favorite places in the entire universe, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, for the first time in 2009.  The Bulls were supposed to play the Norfolk Tides, but unfortunately the game was rained out.  But I’m not upset about the rain out, mostly because of an unexpected surprise.  It turned out that the William Harridge Trophy that was awarded to the Rays for their 2008 American League Championship was present at the ballpark!  Of course I posed with it, and here I am with the official symbol of the Rays championship:

harridge_trophy

Seeing the trophy in person was definitely one of the happiest moments of my life, and this immediately becomes one of my favorite photos.  It was awesome for the Rays to share the trophy with their growing legion of fans in North Carolina.  William Harridge, by the way, was the president of the American League from 1931 to 1958.

Due to the rain out, I’ll be attending tomorrow night’s game between the Bulls and the Tides.  David Price, who was supposed to pitch tonight, will be pitching in that game.  It’s the second time that I’ll get to see Price pitch in person this year.  I also saw him pitch in the spring training game that I attended in Port Charlotte.  And yes, the post about my spring training experience is coming very soon.  Anyway, the Tides are the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, so I’ll also get to see Matt Wieters in action.  It’s tough to beat seeing the top two prospects in baseball playing in the same game.  And as an added bonus, I’ll get to meet another card blogger in person.  Pete from Dropped Third Strike will also be at the game, along with his girlfriend Kim.

Farewell, Jason Hammel!

April 6, 2009 at 12:52 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 4 Comments

Since their amazing run to the 2008 World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays have parted ways with Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Rocco Baldelli, Jonny Gomes, Edwin Jackson, and Trever Miller.  Today, they said goodbye to another member of the 2008 team, Jason Hammel, who was traded to the Colorado Rockies for a promising 21-year old minor league pitcher, Aneury Rodriguez.  Hammel lost the battle for the 5th spot in the starting rotation to Jeff Niemann, who does have a much higher upside.  Niemann was the #4 overall pick in the 2004 draft, he’s finally healthy after overcoming several injuries, and he’s proven all that he can in the minor leagues.  However, he’s just keeping the #5 starter role warm for David Price.

Anyway, it’s sad to see Jason Hammel go.  He’s responsible for one of my best all-time baseball memories.  First, here’s some background.  Hammel was the Rays’ 10th round pick in the 2002 draft, and he quickly emerged as one of their top pitching prospects.  By 2005, he was dominating in Double-A for the Montgomery Biscuits, and other than the injury-plagued Niemann, he was the Rays’ top pitching prospect.  He completely overshadowed James Shields in the Montgomery rotation that year.  He was promoted to Triple-A Durham at the end of 2005, and I remember excitedly making a trip to Durham Bulls Athletic Park to watch him pitch for the first time.

However, it was during the 2006 season that Hammel created the memory that will stay with me for many, many years.  It was July 16, 2006, exactly two weeks after my wedding.  My wife and I had recently gotten back from our honeymoon in St. Lucia, and we were busy sending out thank-you notes for wedding gifts and trying to return to normalcy after our whirlwind wedding and honeymoon experiences.  I suggested that we go to the Bulls game that day, and we invited two friends of ours to come with us.  The Bulls were playing the Columbus Clippers, who at the time were the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.  I remember that it was a beautiful day for a baseball game.  It was about 85 degrees with the sun shining, and we had great seats on the first base side.  And Jason Hammel was on the mound.

Hammel was pitching brilliantly, and the Bulls took a 4-0 lead over the Clippers.  Around the 4th inning, I commented that he hadn’t given up any hits yet, and I explained what a no-hitter was to my wife.  I told her how rare it was and that I’d never seen one in person.  The innings continued to go by, and Hammel continued to not allow any hits.  I was beginning to think that this could be a truly special day.  By the 8th inning, Hammel’s pitch count was getting high, and I could tell that he was laboring a bit more, but he continued to not give up any hits.  After getting one out in the 9th, Bulls manager John Tamargo needed to take Hammel out of the game.  After all, he was a highly regarded prospect, and this was the minor leagues.  The Rays organization doesn’t like to take chances with potential injuries.  Although many fans grumbled, Hammel got a loud standing ovation as he walked back to the dugout.  Juan Salas entered the game in relief.  Due to a combination of walks and errors, Salas did give up a run in the 9th, but he didn’t give up any hits.  The Bulls won the game 4-1, and the no-hitter was complete!  I was absolutely thrilled to have seen a no-hitter in person!

Hammel got his first shot in the major leagues at the end of 2006, and he split 2007 between Durham and Tampa Bay, becoming a fixture in the Rays starting rotation by the end of that season.  In 2008, he was in the big leagues for good, starting out as the #5 starter, and then becoming the long man in the bullpen after Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza returned from the D.L.  He proved to be an effective long reliever, but my favorite Hammel memory from 2008 came on September 10, in the heat of the pennant race at a game in Boston.  The game went into the 14th inning before Carlos Pena hit a home run in the top of the 14th to give the Rays the lead.  They exhausted the bullpen, using seven different pitchers, before giving the ball to Hammel in the bottom of the 14th to save the game.  Hammel was accustomed to being a long reliever, but he was effective and picked up his first career save in an extremely crucial game.

I wish Jason Hammel nothing but success with the Rockies.  I hope that he finds a way to pitch well in the thin air of Colorado.  Here are some of my photos from that glorious day back in 2006…

Jason Hammel on the mound

Jason Hammel on the mound

B.J. Upton at bat for the Bulls

B.J. Upton at bat for the Bulls

The final scoreboard - 0 hits for Columbus!

The final scoreboard - 0 hits for Columbus!

Jason Hammel is interviewed by the Durham media

Jason Hammel is interviewed by the Durham media

The starting lineups for the game

The starting lineups for the game

I took the picture of the starting lineups as I was leaving the stadium.  I figured that it would be interesting to look at the lineups years later to see who was in the game.  The Bulls lineup was headlined by B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, and Elijah Dukes, and it also included future Ray, Ben Zobrist.  But take a look at who was hitting third for Columbus – Carlos Pena!  Pena had fallen on hard luck after a few decent seasons in Detroit.  He had been with Columbus all year, and he’d be released by the Yankees later that summer.  He then signed with Boston, and he played for both Triple-A Pawtucket and the Red Sox at the end of the season before they released him too.  The Rays picked up up from the scrap heap before the 2007 season, and he just barely made the team after an injury to Greg Norton.  He went on to hit 77 home runs and drive in 223 runs for the Rays in 2007 and 2008, making it hard to believe that back in 2006, he was stuck in Triple-A on a team that was no-hit by his future teammate Jason Hammel!

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