Quick updates

March 11, 2009 at 9:17 am | Posted in Donruss-Playoff, Football, Panini, Random, Razor, Upper Deck | 4 Comments

As you’ve probably noticed, my posting has been sparse since the beginning of March.  I’ve been very busy at work and at home recently, with very little time left over to devote to collecting, let alone blogging.  This will probably continue at least until the beginning of April.  My schedule is pretty packed for the next week and a half, and then my wife and I will be on vacation in Florida from March 20 – 28.

In case you’re waiting for it, I’m still working on my follow-up post on 2009 Topps Heritage.  It should be ready soon; I just need to find some time to scan some of the cards.  One thing that I can tell you is that I was extremely lucky with my two boxes in that I got ZERO doubles!  Yes, I managed to get 382 different cards.  I got enough base cards that I don’t think I’ll need to buy any more hobby boxes or packs.  I’ll just buy the cards that I still need on eBay or Sportlots.

Of course, any time that I take a break from blogging, huge events start to happen.  Here’s my take on a few of them:

  • It’s absolutely inexcusable that Razor and Upper Deck have allowed fake “cut” signatures to find their way into their products.  I’m sure that everyone has read about this by now, but if you haven’t, the details are here.  I give Brian Gray of Razor credit for trying to rectify the situation after the fact, but I think that some irreparable damage has been done to the hobby.  I know that I’m not alone in saying that I’m much less likely to buy any cut signature card now, but my confidence is shaken in other types of cards too.  For example, I doubt that any significant verification is done on the “game used” pieces of memorabilia that are inserted into cards.  I think that it’s less likely that non-cut certified autographs are fake, but in many cases, the card companies are simply mailing stickers to athletes, who sign them and mail them back.  I do believe that the vast majority of athletes are legitimately signing the stickers (and cards) if only because they don’t want to see their reputations damaged if they’re caught mailing back fake autographs to the card companies.  But the potential does exist that there are some fake certified autographs out there.  If any evidence of that is ever discovered, get ready to watch the entire card industry implode.
  • So apparently Panini is buying Donruss-Playoff (details here).  This has the potential to be a very good thing for collectors.  First, it keeps Donruss in business.  The company was obviously having financial troubles, but Panini seems to have plenty of cash, so that problem is solved.  I think it’s logical that Panini would use the Donruss name for their U.S.-based card business, and keep many of the existing Donruss, Leaf, and Playoff brand names around.  Let’s face it, football and baseball card collectors are much more likely to buy cards with the Donruss name on them than Panini.  Hopefully they’ll keep many of the creative people from the company too.  But this is really great news for basketball card collectors.  After it was announced that Panini had obtained an exclusive license to produce NBA cards, many collectors assumed that the cards that would be produced would be a joke.  But now, the cards are likely to have the Donruss brand name on them, be designed by the Donruss creative team, and be produced at the Donruss facilities.  I don’t really see any negatives about this deal at this point.  Now, it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to Upper Deck, which is also for sale, and has apparently completely given up trying to make quality baseball card products.
  • If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m a Buffalo Bills football fan.  Even though my blog is focused on baseball and cards, my private conversations with friends and family in recent months have been dominated by talk of my disgust for how the team is being run.  They have a completely incompetent head coach (Dick Jauron) and coaching staff who are coming back again in 2009, their biggest star player (Marshawn Lynch) is unable to obey the law and stay out of trouble, and they consistently make horrible decisions about what players to let go and what players to sign.  It seemed obvious that a 10th straight non-playoff season was on the horizon…

    And then they signed Terrell Owens this past weekend.  I was completely shocked and blown away by this.  My first reaction was disbelief, and then I quickly decided that I hated the signing.  After all, T.O. is a complete jackass, a horrible teammate, and he’s been a cancer in the locker room of every team that he played for.  I mean, if Jerry Jones didn’t want him in Dallas anymore, that really says something.  The signing also demonstrated the impulsive decision-making in the Bills front office and their complete lack of long-term planning.  But amazingly, the more that I thought about it, the more that I started to like the signing.  First, it’s a one-year deal.  If it doesn’t work out, the Bills can cleanly cut ties with T.O. after the season.  Also, he’s going to have to keep his tantrums to a minimum and perform on the field at a high level if he wants any other team to want to sign him next year.  But most importantly, T.O. is unquestionably an elite receiver, and he’s going to make the Bills offense a lot better.  One of their major problems has been that opposing defenses have been able to double-cover Lee Evans, preventing him from getting open and making plays.  Now, the Bills will have two top receivers, Evans and Owens.  That’s going to cause problems for defenders, and it should allow both of them to make more big plays.  And if the passing game is much improved, then teams won’t be able to load up on the line of scrimmage to stop the run, so Lynch and Fred Jackson should be more productive too.  Finally, one of the things that I hated about 2008 was how apathetic it appeared that the coaches and many of the players were.  They just didn’t have much competitive fire.  Say what you will about T.O., but he wants to win more than anyone, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind if others around him don’t have the same commitment to winning.

    Strangely enough, the signing of T.O. has made me a lot more excited about the 2009 football season.  If nothing else, he’s going to make the team much more exciting to watch, either because of his performance on the field, or his antics off the field.  The Bills weren’t going to do anything in 2009 without T.O. and now that he’s on the team, they have somewhat of a chance.  If the Dolphins and Falcons could improve so much between 2007 and 2008, anything is possible with the 2009 Bills.

It looks like this wasn’t such a “quick” update after all.  I might only have a few more posts for the rest of the month, but I hope that you’ll stick around and keep reading Fielder’s Choice when I’m able to write more!

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1984 Donruss Video Rack Pack Break!

January 30, 2009 at 12:46 am | Posted in Donruss-Playoff, My Cards, Video | 10 Comments

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I recently purchased a rack pack of 1984 Donruss baseball cards.  I finally got around to opening it on video today.  It was quite a thrill since 1984 Donruss is arguably the best looking set of the 1980s, and it’s unquestionably the top set of the first half of the decade.  It was also apparently produced in smaller quantities than 1984 Topps and 1984 Fleer, so you don’t see much of it around today, and it’s extremely rare to find unopened packs of it.  Before I bought this rack pack, I didn’t own any 1984 Donruss cards besides my Don Mattingly rookie.

Check out my rack pack break:

The breakdown:

  • 45 cards including 2 Diamond Kings, 2 Rated Rookies, 1 Hall of Famer, and 1 checklist
  • 3 Duke Snider puzzle pieces

Opening the rack pack makes me appreciate 1984 Donruss even more.  The card design is simply outstanding, especially considering its time period.  It is much, much better than anything that Donruss produced until at least 1992 (not including 1990 Leaf).  In addition, the Diamond King design from 1984 is the best of all-time, in my opinion, and it was the first year of Rated Rookies.  Of course, the Don Mattingly rookie card is iconic, and the set also includes rookies of Darryl Strawberry, Joe Carter, and Tony Fernandez.

I’d love to be able to collect an entire set of 1984 Donruss, but it’s tough to find rack packs for as cheap as the one that I bought (it was $10).  Unopened boxes sell for over $200.  Maybe if I continue to be unimpressed with the 2009 products, I’ll go for it.  After all, 1984 was the first year that I ever opened a pack of baseball cards (1984 Topps) so it’s a special year for me, and it was 25 years ago now.

Blog Bat Around #3: Give collectors what they want

January 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Blogs, Donruss-Playoff, Topps, Upper Deck | 8 Comments

bataround

In 2008, Topps and Upper Deck produced 34 different baseball card products between them (and that’s counting Series 1 and Series 2 as one product).  In addition, there were 4 unlicensed Donruss-Playoff products, and minor sets from companies like Tristar, Just Minors, and Razor.  In all, that’s over 40 baseball card products, but I’d bet that most collectors have a list of fewer than 10 that they really cared about.  There are many things that the card companies can and should do to improve the quality of their products and make collectors care, so that they’ll want to collect and spend their money on them…

I believe that all of the products fit into one of three categories: low-end, mid-range, and high-end.  Some collectors focus only on the low-end, others focus only on the high-end, some (like me) dabble in both, and most people extend their comfort zones with some of the mid-range sets.  Here is my take on the direction that the card companies should be taking with their products in all of these categories.

I’ll start with the low end, actually the lowest of the low end: Topps Opening Day and Upper Deck First Edition.  When I first found out about these products, I wondered why anyone would ever collect them, and as time has gone by I’ve realized that I’ve never heard of anyone who actually does collect them (including kids).  I think that the card companies have good intentions with these sets.  The price is only 99 cents per pack, there are almost no “hits”, and it’s easy to build a set.  So what’s the problem?  Both products are very cheap knockoffs of the Topps and Upper Deck flagship products.  Topps just changes the color of the border on the Opening Day cards, while Upper Deck makes First Edition less glossy.  Other than that, the cards look the same.  So they’re cheaper, but who actually wants these cards when they can own the “real” Topps and Upper Deck sets for just a little bit more.

I do think that it’s important to have a low-end 99 cent product that anyone can afford, but why not make them unique so that people will actually want to collect them?  Topps could get rid of Opening Day, and revive the Bazooka brand or Topps Total (which I’ve heard a lot of collectors praise) to replace it.  Upper Deck could wave goodbye to First Edition and bring back Collector’s Choice.  With a different design and different photos than the flagship Topps and Upper Deck sets, the number of collectors who buy these super low-end products would surely increase.  I’d even pick up a blaster or two – and speaking of that, these products really should be retail only.  Nobody is going to buy a hobby box of these.

Next up are the low-end sets: Upper Deck Series 1 & 2, Topps Series 1 & 2, Topps Updates & Highlights, Bowman, Upper Deck X, Documentary, and I’ll throw in Topps Chrome even though it could be considered mid-range.  Upper Deck doesn’t need to change anything about its flagship Series 1 & 2 product.  The photography is amazing, the card quality is great, there are fun insert sets, and the autographs and relic cards are well done.  The Topps flagship product could use a little work.  The photography is very lackluster, especially compared to Upper Deck.   Some of the inserts are boring (although I love Trading Card History) and the gold foil parallels are completely worthless.  I do like the gold bordered parallels though.  But the main reason that I don’t know if I’ll bother collecting regular Topps in 2009 is that I know Topps Chrome is coming.  With Chrome, you get the same cards but on the much nicer chrome card stock, and refractors too.  I wouldn’t mind if Topps merged its flagship set with Chrome.  They could ditch all of the current parallels and replace them with chrome and refractor parallels, similar to how Topps Heritage is now.  I would absolutely love a set like that.  I’d also like to see Topps move back to producing the regular cards on cardboard.  A lot of collectors really miss the cardboard that was so distinctive of Topps sets before 1992, and I don’t think that anyone would be upset by a return to it.  Topps might be able to save some money too.

The problem with Bowman is similar to the problem with the Topps flagship.  It has to compete with Bowman Chrome.  I’d like to see Topps get rid of the regular Bowman set altogether, and just put all of their effort into Bowman Chrome.  The chrome and refractor cards that Topps produces really are much nicer than anything that Upper Deck makes.  They should take advantage of that as much as they can by really focusing on the chrome and refractor sets.  And of course, everybody wants to see Topps acquire the rights to the very best prospects for its Bowman Chrome prospect cards.  Collectors would really pay more for Bowman Chrome with more big-name prospects in the set.

I’ll wrap up the low end with Upper Deck X and Documentary.  I’ve never read anything positive about Upper Deck X from anyone.  It’s really the only product that seems to be universally hated by everyone.  It’s shocking that it’s coming back in 2009, and for Upper Deck’s sake, it better be completely overhauled if anyone is going to buy it.  They can start by getting rid of the cheap looking “X” design and replace it with something, anything, that collectors might care about.  Nobody wants to buy a product that they know was just thrown together with as little creativity and effort as possible.  Also, it’s a low-end set, so it really should be more than just 100 cards to appeal to set builders.  And that brings up another point.  Upper Deck loves making 100-card base sets.  If they’re going to do that, at least change what players are in the set for each team in each product.  I don’t want to see the same 3-4 Rays in every single set.  Documentary isn’t really a terrible concept, but it does need to be improved to make more people want to collect it.  I recently wrote a post with my thoughts on it here, so I won’t rehash it.

Now onto the mid-range.  A big part of the mid-range are retro sets.  Topps produces Topps Heritage and Allen & Ginter, while Upper Deck counters with Goudey and Timelines (which I consider retro because of the use of past designs).  I absolutely love Topps Heritage; it’s my favorite set to collect by a large margin.  And I love that Topps is now producing Heritage High Numbers at the end of the year too.  I wouldn’t change anything about Heritage, except hopefully Topps won’t feel the need to insert the Updates & Highlights cards into High Numbers packs again in 2009.  Allen & Ginter is getting a little stale, and collectors are wary after it was over-produced in 2008.  Still, it’s probably Topps’ most popular set, and one of the few that all types of collectors seem to enjoy.  Topps will need to find ways to keep it fresh.  One idea that I have is to include chrome and refractor parallels, similar to some of the eTopps Allen & Ginter cards.  I’d like to see fewer variations of the mini parallels too.  I wouldn’t mind seeing some cards of athletes from other team sports in Allen & Ginter to replace some of the old famous people.  This would be similar to the Sport Royalty cards in Goudey.

Speaking of Goudey, it’s really time for Upper Deck to retire it.  It was just announced that they’re bringing it back again in 2009, and it’s going to look a lot like 2007 Goudey.  I loved 2007 Goudey, and I like 2008 Goudey too, but enough is enough.  There simply aren’t enough old Goudey designs for Upper Deck to use.  A Fleer retro set that was done right could effectively replace Goudey in Upper Deck’s product lineup, and fill the demand for the Fleer name to make a comeback in the baseball card hobby.  Finally, Timelines is a decent enough set to keep around.  Player collectors like collecting all of the different card designs of their player, and it’s good for set builders too.  If Upper Deck used some of its highly memorable designs from 1989 and the early 1990s, then Timelines could be an even better product.

Other Topps mid-range products include Moments & Milestones, Co-Signers, Finest, and Stadium Club.  Moments & Milestones was horrible, but it’s not coming back for 2009, and hopefully it’ll never resurface ever again.  Co-Signers needs to either be totally revamped or canceled.  For a mid-range product that is named after its “hits” (the Co-Signer dual autographs), the hits really need to be better so that collectors will feel that they’re getting some value from a box.  I hope that the boxer autographs are history and that we’ll only see baseball player autographs in the future.  The dual autograph cards should have player combinations that make sense – either teammates or players that have something obvious in common.  One autograph per box of a good player (or good players on a dual autograph card) is better than 3 autographs of players that nobody cares about.  It wouldn’t kill Topps to throw in a couple of relic cards per box either.  And they need to get rid of the horribly ugly parallels and just use chrome and refractor parallels like they do in most Topps products.  If they do these things and produce nicely designed base cards, Co-Signers wouldn’t be that bad.

Topps Finest is a very popular brand with collectors, but it suffered in 2008 because of worthless autographs.  The rookie class of 2009 should be much better, which will help, but it would be nice to see more veteran autographs too.  I wouldn’t change much besides that.  Finest always has great looking base cards and beautiful refractors.  Topps also might be able to generate more interest in Finest by producing some retail packs with fewer hits, like what they did with Stadium Club in 2008.  And that brings me to Stadium Club.  Everyone loved the photography of the 2008 cards, and the retail packs were very popular, but collectors hated the over-priced hobby product that featured many worthless “hits”.  For 2009, Topps should cut down on the number of hits per box, produce higher quality hits, and lower the price of hobby boxes.  The concept of Stadium Club is great; they just need to make the hobby packs as appealing to collectors as the retail.  And they need to stop short printing the cards that have numbers divisible by 3!

Upper Deck mid-range products include Spectrum, Piece of History, Heroes, Masterpieces, SP Authentic, SPx, and SP Legendary Cuts.  Spectrum and Piece of History are both products that I totally ignored in 2008.  Every set should have a clear purpose in a company’s lineup, and I just don’t understand the purpose of sets like these.  I’d prefer to see Upper Deck produce fewer sets and really try to make each one the best that it can be with a clear purpose.  Unfortunately, both Spectrum and Piece of History are coming back in 2009.  I sincerely hope that they serve more of a purpose than the 2008 versions did.  I’ll probably stay away from both.  I wasn’t overly impressed by Heroes either.  It was OK, but it was just a rehash of a past card design.  The multi-colored parallels in Heroes need to be changed.  It’s unfortunate that Upper Deck doesn’t have any parallel that’s half as attractive as refractors, but they really could make them better.  They should make fewer types of parallels, give them straightforward names, and keep them consistent across products.  For example everybody knows what a Topps Xfractor is, and if Upper Deck could establish some standard types of parallels, that should help to increase collector demand for them.

Everyone has heard by now that Masterpieces has been canceled for 2009.  Apparently the cost of producing the cards outweighed the money that Upper Deck was making from the product.  But Masterpieces is hugely popular with collectors, as can be seen from all of the disappointment that was expressed when people heard about its cancellation.  Upper Deck should try to find some way to keep the brand alive.  Most people who collected it were set builders, so cutting down on the number of hits (again) might help.  Collectors could live with fewer types of parallels too.  What we really like are the paintings and the canvas-like texture of the cards.  If Upper Deck can reduce the cost of making Masterpieces, and keep the brand alive, they should consider it.  I’d also like to see Topps produce a similar set to meet the demand of collectors who will be missing Masterpieces in 2009.  The could revive their Topps Gallery brand, and even get Dick Perez involved in creating the artwork.

Out of the SP (“Super Premium”) sets, I only collected Legendary Cuts in 2008.  The card design was outstanding, and I’d love to see Upper Deck put as much effort into the design of its other sets.  That said, Legendary Cuts would definitely be improved if MLB eased its rules about the percentage of cards that can feature retired players.  SP Authentic seems to be just another set with an unimaginative design and hits that are less valuable than what you pay for a hobby box.  SP Authentic is a great football brand, and maybe Upper Deck can refocus SP Authentic as its top product for rookies in baseball.  For example, they could reduce the number of veterans in the set, and make several different rookie subsets, with multiple types of autographed rookie cards.  At least that would be something to give SP Authentic a purpose.  SPx also suffered from hits that didn’t provide much value in 2008.  Like Topps Finest, a stronger early season rookie lineup should help in 2009.  But SPx could also be improved if Upper Deck focused more on the base cards.  Everyone loves the innovative early SPx designs from the mid to late 1990s, and designs like those could be popular again today.

One more component of the mid-range category are the prospect-based sets like Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects and Bowman Sterling.  Both are high quality products, but they suffered in 2008 because several big-name draft picks signed exclusive contracts with the new Razor card company.  Topps should be more aggressive in signing draft picks to exclusive deals of its own in 2009 to keep ahead of the competition.  It might be a good idea to allow Upper Deck to produce a prospect-based set too.

Now let’s talk about high-end products.  A major problem with recent high-end products has been that collectors are getting less value for what they pay for a box or pack of the product.  This is due in large part to the rule that limits the percentage of cards featuring retired players.  This rule did not affect the unlicensed Playoff Prime Cuts IV that was released in 2008, and that product did very well.  Topps and Upper Deck should lobby MLB and the MLBPA hard to overturn this rule so that they can be more competitive in the high-end market.

Topps has two products that I consider high-end: Triple Threads and Topps Sterling.  I’m not a fan of either of them.  Let’s start with the foil sticker autographs.  I don’t like the foil stickers in any Topps products, but they’re even worse in the high-end products.  Topps needs to move to clear stickers as quickly as possible.  I’m also not a fan of the huge number of variations for each card based on obscure statistics for the player.  If there are 200 cards of a player, just number the cards to 200 instead of creating 20 meaningless variations that are numbered to 10.  In addition, Topps should stop producing base cards for their high end sets.  Do you know anyone who collects Triple Threads or Sterling base cards?  I didn’t think so.  They can replace the base cards with more hits per box to give collectors more value.  Topps has a well deserved reputation for producing the worst high-end products in the industry, and they need to take massive steps to change that.

Upper Deck produced four high-end products in 2008.  Ballpark Collection and Sweet Spot were on lower side of high-end, while Ultimate and Premier were on the high side.  That means that Ultimate and Premier limited the number of cards per pack, increased the quality of the hits, and featured an expensive price tag.  I don’t collect either product, but I think that they do an adequate job of giving high-end collectors what they want.  Ballpark Collection is less expensive, and in my opinion, gives a lot of bang for your buck.  I hope that it stays in Upper Deck’s 2009 lineup.  Finally, Sweet Spot (and Sweet Spot Classic) was a great product in 2007 that was really watered down in 2008.  Sweet Spot collectors don’t need base cards, and Upper Deck would be well served to return the product to its 2007 configuration.  The latest word is that Sweet Spot will be back in 2009 after Upper Deck was considering dropping it.  And one more thing – please use real MLB balls for the Sweet Spot autographs to prevent fading.  Upper Deck has also produced other high-end sets like Black and Exquisite in previous years.  Unless the economy improves dramatically soon, they should leave these brands on the shelf in 2009.

One thing that I believe would improve the quality of Topps and Upper Deck products is competition.  I strongly believe that MLB should grant a license to Donruss-Playoff as the third baseball card company in 2010.  At the same time, they could limit each company to 12 sets per year, so there would be 36 sets produced between the three companies.  This should ensure that the sets that are produced will be of a high quality and serve a real purpose.  Donruss-Playoff produced three sets that were well-received by collectors in 2008: Threads, Elite Extra Edition, and Prime Cuts.  Playoff Contenders will be released soon.  The re-entry of Donruss-Playoff into the licensed baseball card market would trigger Topps and Upper Deck to step up their game to compete, and with all three major card companies having licenses, the minor unlicensed companies like Razor and Tristar would have a much smaller impact on the hobby – and that’s a good thing.

So here are the main things that I would like to see in 2009 and 2010 from the card companies:

  • Donruss-Playoff granted a license by MLB and the MLBPA.
  • Number of card sets from each company reduced with each remaining set serving a specific purpose (unlike Spectrum and Piece of History).
  • Replacement of Opening Day and First Edition with meaningful “set building” sets that collectors will want to buy.
  • Merger of Topps with Topps Chrome, and Bowman with Bowman Chrome.
  • Use of chrome and refractor parallels in all Topps products, including Co-Signers and Allen & Ginter.
  • Include more than 100 base cards in low-end and mid-range sets and vary the players from each team who appear in each set.
  • Replacement of Goudey with a Fleer retro product.
  • Fewer and easier to understand parallels in Upper Deck products.  Something that is consistent across brands (like Topps refractors) would be great.
  • The return of Upper Deck Masterpieces and Topps Gallery (featuring Dick Perez).
  • A change in the rule that limits the amount of retired players in a product.  This would improve SP Legendary Cuts, and possibly bring back a set like Topps Retired or Fan Favorites.
  • Refocus SP Authentic around great rookie autograph cards, like the football card product.
  • Overhaul of Topps high-end sets.
  • Return Sweet Spot to its 2007 configuration.
  • Forget about base cards in high-end products.
  • Increase the quality and decrease the quantity of the hits in all mid-range and high-end products.
  • Allow all licensed companies to produce one prospect set per year.  They should be aggressive in signing new draft picks to deals to eliminate Razor’s influence on the hobby.

So those are the changes that I’d like to see in the baseball card hobby.  You might be able to tell that I think about this a lot.  Hopefully the card companies will listen to me and other collectors, and they’ll give us more of what we want in 2009 and beyond!

Three new Mattingly cards!

January 3, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Donruss-Playoff, My Cards, Upper Deck | 3 Comments

The closer I get to my goal of owning every Don Mattingly card that was made during his playing career, the more difficult it becomes to find the cards that I still need.  The last time I was able to acquire one was back in November, leaving me with 12 more on my want list.  I was lucky to find 3 of the 12 recently on eBay, knocking out a full one-fourth of my needs!  Here are the 1067th, 1068th, and 1069th Don Mattingly cards in my collection:

mattingly_donruss_press_proof

This card is a “Press Proof” parallel from 1995 Donruss.  In 1995, Donruss featured player milestones on their checklists.  Mattingly is featured on two checklists.  Card #220 honors his 2000 career hits and card #440 honors his 1000 career RBI.  This card is a parallel of #440.  The regular Donruss cards had silver foil in 1995, while the Press Proofs had gold foil.  The Press Proofs were pretty tough to come by, as only one was inserted in every 20 packs of Series 1 and 24 packs of Series 2.  This card is from Series 2.  According to Beckett, there are only 2,000 copies of each Press Proof card.  This means that the demand outweighs the supply for the star players like Don Mattingly.  I’ve had the Press Proof of Mattingly’s base card from 1995 Donruss for a while, but I still need the Press Proof of the other checklist (#220).

mattingly_special_edition_gold

This card is a Gold parallel from the 1995 Upper Deck Special Edition insert set.  The Special Edition cards were a 270-card insert set.  One was inserted into every pack of 1995 Upper Deck.  The Gold parallels were only inserted into one in every 35 hobby packs, so they were very tough to pull.  Since there were 270 of them, you’d only find the Mattingly in one out of every 9,450 packs!  It’s a very nice looking card, and I had been trying to get it for a long time.  I’m pretty sure that was only the second one that appeared on eBay in all of 2008.  I narrowly missed out on the first auction, but I won the second one, and I’m very happy to add it to my collection!

mattingly_gold_sig

Finally, this is a Gold Signature parallel from the “You Make the Play” insert set from 1996 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice.  There were 90 “You Make the Play” cards (2 cards of 45 different players), and one was inserted into every pack of Collector’s Choice.  They were shaped like playing cards with rounded corners.  You could supposedly play a game with the cards.  I guess this was Upper Deck’s answer to 1995 Donruss Top of the Order and the non-sports card games of the mid-1990s.  Anyway, the Gold Signature cards featured a facsimile gold autograph, similar to the Silver and Gold Signature parallels of the Collector’s Choice base cards.  They were inserted into one in every 35 packs, so they were pretty difficult to get.  There are two Mattingly cards; the other one is a “Flyout” and this one is a “Double”.  I actually won eBay auctions for the Gold Signature versions of both cards this summer, but the seller who sold me the “Double” card screwed up and sent me the “Flyout” card instead, so I had two copies of the “Flyout” card.  He refunded my money and told me that he would send me the “Double” card, but then he accidentally sent it to the wrong person.  After a few months of trying to get the person who received the card to send it to me, we gave up.  I wasn’t able to find it on eBay again until I saw this one.

So now I’m left with only 9 cards from Don Mattingly’s playing career that I still need.  You can always see the ones that I need here.  With some luck, I’ll move even closer to completing my near lifelong quest in 2009!

My brother’s Christmas present

December 20, 2008 at 1:50 am | Posted in Donruss-Playoff, Football, Personal | 4 Comments

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on this blog yet, but I have a brother who’s two years younger than me.  We don’t have a perfect relationship; like most brothers we’ve had our ups and downs over the years.  Through it all, the one thing we’ve always had in common is our love of sports.  And when we were kids, we both collected cards.  We had some great times opening packs together, building sets, and trading.

I’ll never forget how much fun we had in 1988 when I taught my brother everything I knew about baseball cards and we both tried to build the 1988 Topps set.  It was my third attempt at building a set and his first.  We’d spend all of our money on packs every time we were in the grocery store, drug store, gas station, Kmart, or our local hobby store at the time, a place called G&J Enterprises.  When we’d open the packs, we’d pull out all of the cards that we needed for our sets and then trade the doubles to each other.  I still remember that unfortunate afternoon when he got a bloody nose and he bled all over my Tom Trebelhorn manager card.  By the end of the summer, we were both still about 10 cards short of the full set.  I still have my cards in a box up in my attic.  To this day, I’m still missing those 10 cards.

Anyway, we both collected between 1988 – 1994.  It was one of our favorite activities to do together.  He continued collecting after I stopped, but he focused mostly on football cards.  He was a huge fan of the Atlanta Falcons.  I think he was the only kid in all of New York State who liked the Falcons.  We grew up about an hour from Buffalo, and there were two types of football fans where we lived – people who loved the Bills (like me) and people who hated the Bills.  My brother became one of the haters.  I think that the Falcons caught his interest because of Deion Sanders in the early 1990s.

He kept collecting football cards until the early part of this decade, when the huge number of sets and the escalating prices finally drove him out of the hobby.  We’ve been talking over the last few months about my renewed interest in baseball cards, and he’s been asking a lot about what the hobby is like today.  I haven’t told him about my blog yet, but I probably will eventually.  In the back of my mind, I think it would be funny if he randomly found it while looking for information about cards online.

So since he doesn’t read my blog, I think it’s OK for me to show off the Christmas present that I bought for him.  Check it out:

matt_ryan

Since he’s a Falcons fan, he’s been extremely happy about how Matt Ryan has played this year.  I think that Ryan’s cards are hotter than anyone’s in the football card hobby right now.  Of course this means that his autographed cards are very pricey, but it’s for my only brother and I’m hoping that giving him this card will lead him to jump back into the hobby.

The card is from 2008 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia, and it’s numbered 068/299.  I think it’s a great looking card, it’s from a good brand, and Ryan’s got a very nice signature.  The card’s surface is pretty shiny too, but you can’t really see it in the scan.  It’s got two event-used jersey pieces and one piece of an event-used football from the NFL Rookie Premiere on May 17.  Sure, game-used would be better, but I think that the Rookie Premiere event-used relics are pretty standard in football cards.  After all, they don’t have any NFL game-used memorabilia when the cards are produced.

So what do the football card collectors out there think of this card?

2008 Donruss Threads Baseball Hobby Box Break

November 11, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Donruss-Playoff, My Cards, Video | 7 Comments

These videos have actually been up on YouTube for a couple of days now, but I’m just now getting around to posting them on the blog.  I recently had the pleasure of opening a hobby box of 2008 Donruss Threads, and it was one of the most fun box breaks that I’ve ever done.  Here are the videos.  The second one is more exciting than the first due to there being only one hit in the first 12 packs and four hits in the next 12 packs.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Here’s the breakdown of what I got:

  • 108 base cards (including 10 doubles) – this gives me 98 out of the 100 cards.  I’m only missing #33 (George Bush) and #90 (Angel Villalona).
  • 1 parallel card (090/100) – Kirk Gibson
  • 2 Diamond Kings – Jim Palmer, Bobby Doerr
  • 1 Diamond King parallel (165/250) – Phil Niekro
  • 2 Century Stars inserts – Dale Murphy, Paul Molitor
  • 1 Century Legends inserts – Carl Yastrzemski
  • 1 College Greats inserts – Dave Winfield
  • 2 Baseball Americana inserts – Eddie Murray (445/500), Karen Allen (456/500)
  • Reggie Jackson bat relic card (368/500)
  • Michael Hollimon autographed Diamond King (138/500)
  • Carlos Gonzalez autographed card (496/975)
  • Tyler Henson autographed card (900/999)
  • Alan Trammell autographed card (52/75)

This is one of my favorite sets of the year, and it’s a bargain for under $80.  The base cards look great.  I like the design with the baseball stitchings in the corners, and Donruss did a good job editing the photos to take out the MLB team logos.  On many of the cards, it’s hard to notice the editing.  The mix of legendary players and prospects makes it a fun set.  The prospect lineup is better than the prospect cards in this year’s Bowman and Bowman Chrome.  However, a larger base set than 100 cards would have been nice.  Buying one box gives you almost an entire base set, so it’s tough to do much “set building” and there’s less incentive to buy a second box.

The inserts and “hits” are what really sets Threads apart from most of this year’s sets.  There are Diamond Kings, which I’ve sorely missed since I returned to the hobby.  It’s too bad that Dick Perez is now under contract with Topps though.  The Century Stars and Century Legends inserts are very nice and will be great additions to collectors’ player collections.  And I love the College Greats inserts.  It is very cool to see a legend like Dave Winfield in his college uniform!  Finally, Baseball Americana is a nice crossover type of insert (from Donruss Americana).  They feature an interesting mix of baseball legends and stars that have ties to baseball.

As for hits, I was pleased to get a low-numbered autograph from a player who I believe will be in the Hall of Fame eventually, Alan Trammell, and a game-used relic from one of the greatest of all-time, Reggie Jackson.  Carlos Gonzalez is a very highly regarded prospect, and I’m glad to add an autograph from him to my collection.  Hollimon and Henson are only marginal prospects.  Time will tell if their cards will gain any value.  In my opinion, the overall quantity and quality of hits in this product is superior to what you can get in boxes of similarly priced cards from Topps and Upper Deck.

So, I am very impressed with this effort from Donruss.  I might even buy a box of Elite Extra Edition when it comes out later this year.  Donruss probably isn’t making any friends within MLB by continuing to produce baseball cards even without a license, but I really hope that they eventually will get their license back.  Not only is Donruss capable of making high quality sets, but I believe that adding a third company would push Topps and Upper Deck to improve their product lines.  It would be a great situation for collectors.

Here’s a look at some of my favorite cards from the box:

donruss_threads_winfield

donruss_threads_molitor

donruss_threads_yaz1

donruss_threads_palmer

donruss_threads_allen

donruss_threads_gonzalez_auto

donruss_threads_trammell_auto

donruss_threads_jackson_bat

Donruss to release another baseball set

August 10, 2008 at 1:34 am | Posted in Donruss-Playoff | 2 Comments

It’s unlikely that Donruss-Playoff will be able to produce another set like last year’s Elite Extra Edition now that so many of this year’s top draft picks have signed exclusive deals with Razor.  By the way, Razor just signed another first round pick, Brett Wallace.  You can see the list of all of their signees here.

But Donruss-Playoff is not completely out of the baseball card market this year.  I haven’t seen it reported on any other blogs, but they issued a press release last week announcing 2008 Donruss Threads Baseball.  It will be headlined by a highly regarded 2007 draft pick, Rick Porcello, who signed an exclusive deal with Donruss-Playoff, along with Pete Rose.  Other names on the checklist include Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Nolan Ryan.  It’s scheduled to be released in mid-October.

ARLINGTON, TX (July 30, 2008). – Boasting an unprecedented lineup of retired greats and top-shelf prospects, Donruss Threads makes its trading card debut in October with a release loaded with autographs and memorabilia cards.

Threads will also bring collectors two significant and headlining names not available anywhere else this year: Pete Rose and Rick Porcello.

Rose, whose 4,256 career hits rank No. 1 all-time, and Porcello, the first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2007, will have autograph and memorabilia cards in the product. In recent years, Donruss has purchased two Rose game-worn jerseys including a 1973 Cincinnati Reds road jersey worn during the 17-time All-Star’s only MVP season.

“Having Pete Rose and Rick Porcello in the set is significant,” says Donruss Brand Manager Ben Ecklar. “The all-time hits leader and arguably the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues… Threads will have both.”

Porcello had been the only first-round draft pick from the 2007 MLB First Year Player Draft not to have signed certified autographs until Donruss signed him to a deal that was announced in early July. Donruss has obtained a jersey and cap Porcello wore in the 2006 Cape Cod Classic as well as a fielding glove and cleats he wore during minor league play with the Lakeland Flying Tigers. The 19-year-old is in his first full professional season since graduating from high school last year, and has spent the season pitching at Class A Lakeland where he was the starter and winner in the 2008 Florida State League All-Star Game.

Rose’s presence in trading card products since 1989 can best be described as sparse, with a market hungry for autograph and memorabilia cards. In addition to the ’73 Reds jersey, Donruss also has secured a 1981 Philadelphia Phillies home jersey Rose wore on June 10, 1981 when he collected his 3,630th career hit which at the time tied him with Stan Musial on the all-time hits list.

Both jerseys are autographed by the Hit King, meaning some collectors could receive a game-used swatch with part of a signature.

Threads Baseball – scheduled for a mid-October release – will contain some of the same components that have made Donruss Threads Football so successful including Rookie Class custom nameplate letters autographed and serial numbered. Threads Baseball also will feature some first-time inserts such as Baseball Americana which highlights such American baseball icons as Rose, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Abbott & Costello (Who’s On First?), and actors such as Gary Cooper (“Pride of the Yankees”), John Cusack (“Eight Men Out”) and Burt Lancaster (“Field of Dreams”). Some of those will include memorabilia, an autograph or dual memorabilia/autograph cards.

“With Threads Baseball, we’re striving to touch on all relevant aspects of the game – rookies, veterans, Hall of Famers and personalities,” Ecklar says. “And we believe Threads will deliver a great deal of each.”

Mays and Porcello will be featured on Threads Baseball packaging.

Good for Donruss-Playoff.  I’m still hoping that they’ll eventually get a full MLB license again.

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