What’s up

April 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Personal, Random | 5 Comments

To all of my readers, I’m sorry for the lack of updates recently.  I’ve been back from vacation for more than a week, but so far my only new post has been a solicitation to get people to join one of my fantasy baseball leagues.  It’s true that I’ve been busy at home and at work, but the biggest reason for my lack of updates recently has been a decline in my interest in the baseball card hobby.  I wish that I could point to a specific reason for this, but really it’s a combination of things.

For one, the release calendar for 2009 is filled with baseball card products that I could care less about.  The only sets that I really care about at this point are Topps Heritage and Allen & Ginter, and I’m less enthused about even those products than I was last year.  Over the last month or so, all that I’ve really cared about is adding to my Evan Longoria collection.  I’m pretty sure that I’m done buying any boxes or packs of cards for the year, with the exception of Allen & Ginter.

Another factor is that my collection is literally a mess right now.  Because I’ve spent so much time blogging, buying new cards, and making trades, I’ve spent virtually no time organizing my cards in the last several months.  So I’m not very interested in making the mess worse right now.  I need to spend a lot of time organizing the cards that I have, and probably getting rid of many cards that I don’t really want.  I’ve started to realize the wisdom of collecting quality and not quantity.

So for the foreseeable future, I’ll only be adding Evan Longoria cards, and some cards of other Rays, to my collection.  I’ve also decided to take down the “Trade Corner” page from my blog.  I don’t want to make any more trades.  I’ve lost most of my interest in building sets, and when people send me Rays cards, it seems like 90% of the time, it’s cards that I already have.  Also, I simply don’t have the time anymore to put together packages of cards to send out to people.  There are about 20 people out there who know this very well because they’ve been waiting a long time to receive cards from me.  I do apologize to everyone who has been waiting to either receive cards from me or to receive responses to emails about card trades.  If you’ve already sent cards to me and you’re waiting to receive something back, or if you’ve already sent me email to propose a trade, I will still send the cards that I owe you.  I don’t want to screw anyone over.  But in the interest of maintaining my sanity, I don’t want to make any new card trades at this point in time.

As the new baseball season starts, I think that you’ll start to see some significant changes to the blog.  Expect to see less content about baseball cards, and more posts about the actual baseball season and fantasy baseball.  I am very excited about the new season, and I’d much rather write about the actual games than about cards right now.  When I do write about cards, it’ll be mostly about Longoria cards that I’ve added to my collection or other Rays.

I’d like to thank everyone out there who reads this blog, especially the people who have kept coming back over the last month even though there’s been very little new content.  I hope that you’ll keep reading the blog in the future, even if I don’t write about cards as much as I have in the past.  I think that it’s important for any blogger to write about the things that they’re most interested in and passionate about, and that’s what I intend to do…

Vacation!

March 20, 2009 at 1:44 am | Posted in Personal, Random | 4 Comments

Vacation time is finally here!  That’s great news for me, but bad news for my readers.  It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to post anything new until at least March 28, when I return home.  Here are my plans:

  • My wife and I are leaving Friday morning 3/20 to drive from our home in Apex, North Carolina to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Arrive in Fort Lauderdale Friday night.
  • Attend the Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles spring training game on Saturday 3/21 in Fort Lauderdale.  I’m planning to meet two of my favorite bloggers at the game: Brian from 30-year old Cardboard and the legendary Mario from Wax Heaven!
  • We might go to the Florida Panthers hockey game on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.  If we go, that will mean that I’ll have been to every arena in the NHL’s Southeast division.  I’ve been to the RBC Center in Raleigh many times.  The others are the Verizon Center in Washington, Philips Arena in Atlanta, and the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.  Of course, I’ll be rooting hard for the Blue Jackets to win in order to help Carolina’s playoff chances.
  • Saturday night, we’re driving across the state to Port Charlotte, the Rays new spring training home.  We’ll be attending the Rays vs. Yankees game on Sunday.  I’ll get to meet one of my readers and his son at the game, and they’re both fellow Rays fans.
  • We’re driving Sunday night from Port Charlotte to Orlando, and checking in at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
  • We’ll be at Disney until Friday 3/27.  We’ll be celebrating my wife’s 28th birthday on Thursday 3/26.

It’s been a hectic week trying to get things done before the trip.  I was hoping that I’d find some time to mail out some card packages to people that I’m working on trades with, but I never did find that time.  So unfortunately, I won’t be able to send anything out until I return.  I definitely appreciate the patience of everyone who is waiting on something from me (and the list is getting pretty long).

Of course, I will be back in time for the Fielder’s Choice blogger fantasy baseball league draft on Sunday 3/29.

The only bad thing about the trip is that Evan Longoria was just added to the United States roster for the World Baseball Classic, replacing the injured David Wright and Chipper Jones at third base.  That means that I won’t get to watch him play in the two games that I’m going to see.  But despite that, it’s going to be a great time and I can’t wait to get down to sunny Florida!

When I get back, I should have some good pictures and stories to share about the games.

mickey

My last trip to Disney World, July 2005

February 7, 2004

February 8, 2009 at 12:53 am | Posted in Personal | 12 Comments

This post is not related to baseball cards at all, so if you’re only interested in cards, you can move on.  Today is the five-year anniversary of a very important day for me…

February 7, 2004 began like any other Saturday.  I was 24 years old, I had a good job, a nice car, and my own apartment.  I had been living in North Carolina for almost three years.  I was looking forward to the start of the upcoming baseball season, and excited about seeing Tino Martinez and Jose Cruz, Jr. in Devil Rays uniforms.  My brother was in the army, serving in Iraq, and my thoughts were constantly with him, hoping that he’d return home safely (and he did, a few months later).  Like most single guys, I spent most of my free time thinking about girls, trying to figure out how to meet them and convince them to date me.  I hadn’t had much luck with that lately.

Actually, I hadn’t had much dating luck at all since moving to North Carolina.  I hadn’t had a serious relationship since college.  I had a bunch of first dates, some second dates, and even a few third dates, but not much after that.  A couple of years earlier, I even tried match.com.  I posted a profile and actually met a few girls from it, but nothing worked out.  So I stopped using it, but left my profile up.  I had long forgotten about match.com when on January 18, I surprisingly received an email from a girl who had seen my profile from the site.  She sounded interesting, and I decided to write back to her, but I was tired and figured that I’d wait until the next day…

Well, I’ve always been good at putting things off.  I got busy and forgot about the email.  More than two weeks later, on February 2, I remembered about it, and I immediately wrote back to the girl.  I apologized for waiting so long to write and let her know that I was interested and wanted to get to know her.  I had to pay for a “membership” to match.com in order to send the email, and I asked her to give me her real email address or an IM name so that we could communicate outside of match.com and I could cancel within the trial period so that I wouldn’t be billed.  She responded with her IM name, and we chatted the next day, on February 3.  It went well enough that she gave me her phone number.

Of course, I had to play it cool, so I waited 4 days, until Saturday February 7, to call her.  We had a great conversation, and she laughed at my dumb jokes, which was a very good sign.  I had called at about 4:00 PM and we talked for about two hours before I started to get hungry for dinner.  I took a chance and asked if she wanted to meet me for dinner.  She said yes, and we made plans to meet at Chico’s Mexican restaurant, which was conveniently located between our apartments.  It turned out that we only lived about a mile apart from each other.

I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before she did and waited outside the front door.  I was a little nervous because I hadn’t seen her picture.  It would’ve been pretty awkward if she wasn’t attractive.  I’ll never forget the moment that I first saw her.  She looked beautiful, and she was smiling and walking towards me with her arms extended to give me a hug.  I froze the image like a snapshot in my head.  I had a feeling that this was a moment that I’d remember for a very long time…

We walked into the restaurant together and made some small talk.  We sat down at the bar while we waited for a table.  She mentioned that I looked different than my picture, since I was wearing a hat in the picture and I wasn’t wearing one that night.  I was worried that this was a bad sign.  But she assured me that I had nothing to worry about.  When we sat down to eat, I had a burrito with refried beans and rice.  She had tacos with just rice; she didn’t like beans.  I thought it was odd that anyone wouldn’t like beans.  We had a good conversation over dinner.  I had a fake $1 billion bill in my wallet and gave it to the waitress as a tip.  The waitress thought it was hilarious.  I told her to keep it since I had more at home.  A few years later, after we were married, my wife and I had the same waitress at a different restaurant.  The funny thing was that she was the one who remembered us because of the $1 billion bill.  She told us that she had it hanging on her bedroom wall ever since then, and she was thrilled to learn that it had been our first date and that we were now married.

After dinner, I wanted the date to continue.  I awkwardly asked if she wanted to go to a bar to have a drink even though I knew that neither of us were big drinkers.  She suggested that we see a movie instead.  We went to see Along Came Polly, a chick flick comedy with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston.  I saved my ticket stub because I thought that if a relationship developed with this girl, it would be pretty cool to have the ticket stub from our first date.  I still have it today.  Anyway, after the movie, the night ended with a hug and we went our separate ways.

I wondered how long I should wait before calling her again.  I was surprised when she called me the very next day.  At that point I knew that she was still interested in me after our first date.  We made plans for our second date, and the rest is history…

We started out seeing each other a few times per week, then almost every day, and before long we were together every single day.  We met each other’s friends and family, took some trips together, adopted a cat together (she lived with Rebecca before we moved in together), and our relationship grew.  By the summer of 2004, I asked if she’d be interested in moving in with me when I bought a house in 2005.  I reasoned that I’d be able to afford a nicer house if she could help pay for it.  We bought our house in May 2005, and I proposed a few days before we moved in.  I used the proposal idea from the first scene in the movie Meet the Parents.  I came into her classroom and had all of the kids hold up letters that spelled out “Will you marry me?”  Unlike the movie, it worked perfectly for me, and she said yes.  Little did I know that she had started wedding planning with her mom even before I proposed.  It wasn’t long before we had our wedding date – July 2, 2006.

Our anniversaries are easy to remember because of Carlton Fisk.  He wore #27 (2/7/04) with the Red Sox and #72 (7/2/06) with the White Sox.

Anyway, it’s hard to believe that it’s been five years already.  The last five years have been, without a doubt, the happiest five years of my life.  I couldn’t love anyone more, or have a better life partner, than my wife Rebecca.  My highest priority is to make her smile, make her laugh, and make her as happy as possible.  I can’t wait until we become parents, and I know that she’ll be the best mom in the world.

wedding

My collecting strategy for 2009

February 6, 2009 at 12:48 am | Posted in My Cards, Personal | 20 Comments

So I think I’ve finally figured it out.  Back when I wrote my post for the first Blog Bat Around in November, I was all over the map in what I was collecting.  I didn’t know how to classify myself as a collector.  As you may know, I returned to the baseball card hobby in 2008 and started buying new card products for the first time in 14 years.  I now understand that I went way overboard with all of the cards that I collected.  Consider that in 2008 alone, I purchased hobby boxes and/or retail blasters of all of the following products, including multiples of many of them:

  • Topps Heritage
  • Topps Heritage High Numbers
  • Topps Updates & Highlights
  • Topps Chrome
  • Topps Allen & Ginter
  • Topps Finest
  • Topps Co-Signers
  • Topps Stadium Club
  • Topps Triple Threads
  • Bowman
  • Bowman Chrome
  • Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
  • Donruss Threads
  • Razor Signature Series
  • Upper Deck Series 1
  • Upper Deck Series 2
  • Upper Deck Goudey
  • Upper Deck Masterpieces
  • Upper Deck Heroes
  • Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts
  • Upper Deck Ballpark Collection

That’s 21 different products, and I also bought individual packs of many others.  In addition to that, I bought hobby boxes of many 2007 products in 2008:  Topps Allen & Ginter, Topps Heritage, Upper Deck Goudey, Upper Deck Masterpieces, Upper Deck SP Authentic, Upper Deck Sweet Spot, and Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic.  There was also an Upper Deck SP Rookie Edition hobby box that I got for free.

Some people might say that I went overboard, and others would call me insane, but I was really excited to try out a bunch of different products in order to reacquaint myself with the hobby and figure out what I really wanted to collect.  Anyway, as I opened all of these boxes, I began to do what seemed natural; I started making trades and buying singles in order to complete the sets.  So now I have a bunch of sets sitting around the bonus room of my house.  Some are completed, and others are close.

But what I’ve started to realize is that there was really only one set in 2008 that I truly loved collecting.  It’s the only one that I go back and look at almost every single day.  Sure, I enjoyed building other sets, like Allen & Ginter, Goudey, and Masterpieces, but the one that stands head and shoulders above all of the rest is Topps Heritage.

Topps Heritage is simply the perfect set for me.  This might be a bad analogy, but when I opened my first box of Heritage, it was almost like my first date with my wife (which coincidentally will be 5 years ago this Saturday).  Everything went perfectly, and I knew that she was the right girl for me.  And so it was with Topps Heritage.  There was just something about it that made it unbelievably fun for me to collect.

Maybe it was that the cards are produced on actual cardboard.  Maybe it’s the retro design.  Maybe it’s the fact that there is gum in the packs, and the cards actually smell a little bit like gum.  Maybe it’s the challenge of getting all the short prints.  Maybe it’s the wide variety of players.  Maybe it’s the amazing refractors, or all of the great inserts.  Maybe it’s the fact that I pulled my best hit ever from a box of Heritage.  I like all of it.  And yes, I like Heritage High Numbers too.

When I look at all of the card releases that are scheduled for 2009, there is really only one that I am excited about, and that’s Topps Heritage.  As you can probably tell from the countdown that I have on my sidebar, I absolutely cannot wait until 2009 Topps Heritage is released on February 23.  I will be buying a hobby box, or maybe two, as soon as possible.  I will be focused throughout the year on building my 2009 Topps Heritage set, and then Heritage High Numbers when it comes out in the fall.

Will I buy boxes of other products?  Probably.  But I don’t have immediate plans to do so.  I’ll probably eventually start collecting either the Topps or Upper Deck flagship set.  From what I’ve read about both of them on other blogs, I’m leaning toward Topps.  But I’m in no hurry.  And I’m definitely not going to rush out to Target to buy retail packs.  I’ll just wait a couple of months until the hobby boxes are selling for half of what they are now.  I’ll probably collect Allen & Ginter.  And I’m sure that I’ll be tempted by a few other products too – maybe Topps Finest or Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts.  Or maybe something new will interest me.  I’m starting to develop a mild interest in the new Topps American Heritage product.  But there’s no way that I’ll be buying 21 different products this year.  I think it will be closer to 5.

Here are some other guidelines that I’ve set for myself in 2009:

  • I’m going to try my hardest to not buy a single retail pack or blaster all year.  As tempting as they might be whenever I walk into Target or Wal Mart, they are simply a huge waste of money.  First, there’s the fact that the odds of pulling a hit, or even an insert, parallel, or short print, are greatly reduced in retail packs.  And second, in most cases I can get hobby packs for less money anyway.  For example, with 2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers, I could buy a retail blaster with 8 packs for a fixed price of $19.99, or I could buy a hobby box with 24 packs for around $50 (with no sales tax and free shipping).  That seems like a no-brainer to me.
  • I’ve also set a goal for myself to completely avoid my local hobby shop.  I know that this idea will seem sacrilegious to some people, but there’s really no good reason for me to go there.  All of their singles are overpriced, they don’t sell individual hobby packs, and they overcharge significantly for hobby boxes, compared to the price that I can pay on eBay or on online stores like Dave & Adam’s Card World or Blowout Cards.
  • I plan to buy the majority of my hobby boxes from Dave & Adam’s Card World on Thursdays in order to get free shipping and I’ll try to purchase multiple boxes at once in order to qualify for free packs or boxes with my order.  The only exception will be when they’re selling something for more than the market value on eBay, which is rare.
  • Since I won’t be buying as many boxes of new products, I’m going to buy more old stuff.  I’m thinking about trying to build older Topps Heritage sets (2001 – 2007).  I’m also intrigued by the Topps Cracker Jack retro sets from 4-5 years ago, Topps Fan Favorites, Topps Gold Label, Donruss Diamond Kings, and the Fleer Platinum set that looks like 1984 Fleer.  I’m also considering the possibility of buying a wax box of 1984 Donruss.
  • I will try to buy or trade for all of the Rays cards, especially Evan Longoria and David Price, from all of the 2009 products that I’m not actively collecting.  I’ve discovered that it’s much smarter to simply buy the cards that I want from most products than to buy an entire hobby box and get cards that I don’t care about.  I expect my David Price collection to grow even faster in 2009 than my Evan Longoria collection did in 2008.
  • Now that I only need 7 more Don Mattingly cards from his playing career (6 that I have a realistic chance of getting), I’m going to focus more on collecting Mattingly cards from the 21st century, especially autographs and relic cards.
  • Finally, I am going to continue building my collection of graded vintage cards.  I really love the history of baseball, especially now that I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary weekly on MLB Network.  I’ve started to take an interest in many different legendary Hall of Famers.  In addition to adding vintage cards to my collection, I’ll also be looking for autograph and game-used relic cards.  I’ve recently acquired some really amazing cards for really low prices that I’ll be sharing with you on my blog in the coming days.  If you try hard enough, you can find some truly valuable things for much less than you’d think.

So I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’m very comfortable with my strategy for collecting in 2009.  Nothing is set in stone, and I’m sure that I’ll make some tweaks to this plan as the year goes on, but it feels really good to have a clear purpose with my collecting habits.  Through all of my experience in 2008, I now know exactly how to maximize the enjoyment that I get from the hobby.  I’m looking forward to a great year!

My answers to Dinged Corners’ New Year questions

January 6, 2009 at 12:45 am | Posted in Baseball, Blogs, Personal | 2 Comments

I’m late to the party, but I figure that it’s better late than never.  Here are my answers to the New Year’s questions posed by Patricia and Lucy from Dinged Corners:

Round One

1-If I didn’t collect baseball cards, I’d collect _________.

The only thing I can think of would be autographed baseball memorabilia.  I have a bunch of autographed balls, game-worn Durham Bulls jerseys (Evan Longoria and Joey Gathright), and some other items that I’ve either gotten signed myself or purchased over the years.  But honestly, if it weren’t for baseball cards, I’d probably save and invest my spare cash much more wisely.

2-My baseball heroes include one you probably wouldn’t know from my blog or comments, and that person is __________.

This is a tough question because I’ve written about so many of them at least once.  I’ll go with Thurman Munson.  I’ve never written a post about him.  I think that if I grew up in the 1970s instead of the 1980s and 1990s, Munson would have been my favorite player.  He was the Yankees captain and hardest worker just like Don Mattingly was.  Sadly, he died in a plane crash a little more than a month before I was born.  If that hadn’t happened, I like to think that he would’ve played for a really long time like Carlton Fisk, and that I would have gotten to watch him play during the end of his career.

3-Every New Years I resolve to __________ my collection.

Well, I haven’t resolved to do anything with my collection before this year.  But this year, I’d like to get my collection organized.  I currently have a lot of random piles of cards all over my desk and in the bonus room in my house.  I’d also like to collect only a handful of sets in 2009 and focus my attention on them, and reduce the amount of money that I spend on cards.

4-If I could spend a day with one person from baseball history, it would be ________.

There are so many possibilities, but I’ll go with Yogi Berra.  He’d have a ton of stories about all of the great players that he played with, and I’m sure that he’d be extremely entertaining.  I’d love to spend a day listening to Yogi churning out Yogiisms, and trying out some Daveisms on him!

Round Two

1-What is your favorite kind of dog?

I like mutts.  My dog when I was growing up was a mutt, and I just like the variety that you see in them.  With a pure-bred dog, you always know what you’re going to get, but every mutt is different in their own way.

2-Who is your favorite baseball player?

Don Mattingly was my favorite player when I was a kid, and Evan Longoria is my favorite current player.

3-What is your favorite team?

The 2008 American League Champions, the Tampa Bay Rays!  I’m also a huge fan of their Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls.  Since the Rays have only been around since 1998, my favorite “historic” teams are the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

4-What is your favorite baseball movie?

Definitely Major League.  The movie featured a great cast of characters and Bob Uecker’s announcing was legendary.  Bull Durham comes in second.  Since I’m a Bulls fan, part of me wants it to be #1.  It is great, but it would’ve been better with less Susan Sarandon and more baseball action.  Oh, and I can’t forget The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.  I must’ve watched that a thousand times when I was a kid.  I had that and the original Bad News Bears on video, but I always liked the sequel better.  I think I liked seeing the kids trick their parents and go to Houston by themselves in that ugly van driven by Kelly Leak.  And to this day, I like to break out the “Let them play!” chant.  OK, I know that’s three movies, but I really like baseball movies.

5-What is your favorite baseball book?

I read a ton of baseball books when I was a kid, but not many in recent years.  However, about six months ago, I read Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business by Pete Williams.  It was written in 1995 and it provides an excellent history of the baseball card hobby and the rise of Upper Deck.  It covers how Upper Deck changed the hobby and its extremely unethical shenanigans.  I keep meaning to write a post about the book, and I’ll do it eventually.  I think that it’s a must-read for every baseball card collector.

6-What is your favorite card?

I have a ton of favorite cards, and it’s very hard to narrow it down to just one.  The card that jumps into my mind from my collection is the 1956 Topps Jackie Robinson card that I wrote about here.

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?

Taking a swing at the 2nd Blog Bat Around

December 17, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Posted in Blogs, My Cards, Personal | 9 Comments

bataround

I want to thank Gellman of Sports Cards Uncensored for organizing the sports card blog community for another Blog Bat Around.  In case anyone missed it, here was my entry in the first Blog Bat Around last month.

This time, the topic is the centerpiece of our collections.  As you might expect, since my collecting habits are all over the map, it’s not easy to narrow down what the centerpiece of my collection is.  But I like to think of it this way – if I knew that a bomb was going to destroy my house in five minutes, what items from my collection would I rush to save?  Of course, I would only worry about my collection after securing the safety of my wife and cat first…

Anyway, I can narrow it all down to three true centerpieces of my collection.  These centerpieces represent what I’ll call my past, present, and future as a collector.

I’ll start with my past.  As any reader of my blog knows, I have a very large collection of Don Mattingly cards.  The current tally is 1,061 different Mattingly cards, and that number is constantly growing.  In fact, it’s been growing since 1985 when I pulled my first Don Mattingly card (1985 Topps) from a pack.  My Mattingly cards have been the main centerpiece of my collection ever since then.  Back in the 1980s, I never could have imagined that I’d someday own over 1,000 different Mattingly cards.  I collected his Topps cards each year, his Topps All Star cards, and I tried to get some Donruss, Fleer, and Score cards too.  By the early 1990s, I had a lot of his “oddball” cards, such as Kmart cards, cereal cards, and Panini stickers.  When I stopped collecting in 1994, I had about 200 different Mattingly cards.  My financial limitations prevented me from pursuing most of the pricier insert cards that were coming out, and the super premium cards like Topps Finest and Flair.  But in the back of my mind, I always knew that someday when I was an adult and had a full-time job, I’d try to complete my Don Mattingly collection by obtaining every one of his cards that were ever made.  Little did I know at the time that this would be an impossible pursuit due to the huge number of Mattingly cards that would be produced each year after his retirement…

In the summer of 2003, I pulled out my old collection of Mattingly cards, put each card into a penny sleeve and top loader (they were in pages in a binder before this), and printed out a list of every Mattingly card that had been produced from Beckett’s web site.  I checked off every card that I owned and went to work scouring eBay to find the ones that I didn’t have.  I quickly figured out that I’d never be able to own every card that was made after Mattingly’s retirement, but I thought that it was a reasonable goal to collect everything from his playing days (through the 1996 card sets).  Now, five and a half years later, I’m up to 1,061 cards (including some post-retirement cards), and there are only 12 cards from Mattingly’s playing days that I want and don’t have (some of the items on Beckett’s checklist are discs and not cards, and I’m not collecting those).

I take a huge amount of pride in my Mattingly collection because of all of the work that I’ve put into it for so many years.  I love the feeling of acquiring a card that I don’t have and checking it off of my list, especially if it took me a really long time to find the card.  It feels great to move closer toward a goal that I set for myself when I was still a kid.  I don’t plan to ever sell my collection.  Individually, few of the cards are worth very much (I think that the 1993 Topps Finest refractor is worth the most – it books for $300 and sells for $150 – $200 on eBay), but the value of having all of the cards, with all of the time and effort that I’ve put into it, is immeasurable.

After I acquire all of the cards that I need from Mattingly’s playing days, I’ll start trying to obtain more cards from after his retirement, which includes a lot of autographs, memorabilia cards, and low-numbered cards, including 1/1s.  I’m going to try to get as many base cards as I can, but I’ll obviously never be able to get all of the autographs, memorabilia cards, and all of the variations and parallels.  I think that to keep your sanity as a player collector, you have to set reasonable limits and establish attainable goals.

I’ve written about my Don Mattingly collection many times before, but now for the first time, here are some pictures of what it looks like.

This shelf contains 7 stacks of cards:

mattingly_84_90

In the very front are the minor league cards and oddball cards that are not listed on Beckett’s checklist (the card on top is a 1982 TCMA minor league card).  In back of that is a stack of 1984-1985 cards, 1986 cards, and 1987 cards.  In the very back are the 1988, 1989, and 1990 cards.  For each year, I have the cards in a specific order: Topps (and O-Pee-Chee) on top, and then Donruss (and Leaf), Fleer, Score/Pinnacle, and Upper Deck.  Below those are the Classic cards, Panini stickers, and then the oddball cards from that year in alphabetical order.

The shelf right above it contains my cards from 1991 – 1996, organized the same way:

mattingly_91_96

You can see that the stacks are much higher because of the inserts and parallel cards that began to appear in the 1990s.  That huge stack in the middle of the back row are the 1995 cards.  The amount of Mattingly cards that came out increased each year, but then decreased in 1996 because Mattingly stopped playing after 1995 (he officially retired after the 1996 season).

Finally, here’s the shelf that contains my post-retirement Mattingly cards.  They’re all in the stack on the left:

mattingly_post_ret

My 2008 Mattingly cards aren’t in there yet, because I’m still organizing them.  The two stacks on the right are my PSA-graded vintage cards.  But those are another story…

I also have some of my Mattingly cards in pages.  These include some Star and CMC player sets from the 1980s.  They sit on a shelf on the other side of the room with my Mattingly cards that are too big for top loaders or pages.  Finally, I want to show you what’s known as the “Don Mattingly shrine” in my bedroom.  It’s amazing that my wife let me set this up in our house:

mattingly_shrine

I got that plaque as a present sometime in the late 1990s.  On my dresser, you can see my 7 Don Mattingly Starting Lineup figures (from 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, and 1996, plus a special dual figure with his future teammate Wade Boggs).  Next to them are my three Mattingly bobble heads.  Two of them were given out at Columbus Clippers games (where Don played in Triple-A) in the early 2000s and the other one was given out at a Nashville Sounds game (where Don played in Double-A).  I bought them all off of eBay about five years ago.

So, as I said earlier, my Mattingly collection represents my collecting past.  Now let’s talk about my collecting present.  In 2008, I have started to build a collection of Tampa Bay Rays cards.  I like cards of every Rays player, but Evan Longoria really stands out above all of the rest.  Not only is Longoria already arguably the Rays best player and the Rookie of the Year, but it’s easy for me to keep track of his cards since most of them came out in 2008, which was my first year back in the hobby (or at least the collecting new cards part of the hobby).  I have 64 different cards in my Evan Longoria collection right now, and I’ve shown many of them on this blog, but none of the cards are the centerpiece of my Evan Longoria collection.

So what is my Evan Longoria centerpiece?  Check this out:

longoria_jersey

Meet my autographed, game-used Evan Longoria Durham Bulls jersey.  I got this at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on August 31, 2007.  The Bulls usually have a few games a year where they auction off the jerseys that the players wore in the game to benefit a charity.  The players autograph the jerseys too.  I bought a Joey Gathright autographed game-used jersey in 2004.  He was a huge prospect at the time, and he was one of my favorite players, but he still hasn’t become a star in the major leagues, and he probably never will.  Anyway, I didn’t get another one after that until 2007.  I didn’t want a jersey from a mediocre player, and I saw B.J. Upton and Delmon Young jerseys go for up to $500 when they were auctioned off.  That was out of my price range.

Anyway, at the game on August 31, 2007 against the Charlotte Knights, they announced that the jerseys worn that day would be auctioned off.  They didn’t announce this ahead of time on their web site, like they normally do, and I suspect that’s the reason why the really big spenders weren’t there.  This wasn’t long after Evan Longoria had been promoted to Durham from Double-A.  After watching Longoria hit a towering home run (the 5th of his Triple-A career) in the 3rd inning off of Lance Broadway, I wandered over to the table where the bidding was taking place.  I entered a bid, and walked back over there when the bids were being finalized.  I ended up winning, and I got the jersey for less than I was expecting, just $240.  The guy who was taking the bids was shocked that it went for such a low amount, and he told me that a Longoria jersey had sold for $1000 a couple of weeks before that.  I was very, very happy.  I picked up my new prized possession in the Bulls offices after the game ended and saw that beautiful Longoria signature on the Bulls logo patch for the first time.  I bought a frame for it a couple of months later, and it’s currently hanging up in the bonus room at my house.

Due to Evan Longoria’s phenomenal rookie season and his newfound fame, I’d estimate that I could get about $2000 on eBay if I wanted to sell the jersey now.  I imagine that it’ll only go up in value if he continues to fulfill his vast potential throughout his career.  I don’t know if I’ll ever sell it.  As you know, I’m a huge Evan Longoria fan, and I love owning this jersey.  However, if it becomes valuable enough to pay for my kids’ college education someday, it sure would be tempting to sell it.

Finally, I want to talk about the centerpiece of my collecting future.  You’re probably surprised to see that it’s a card that’s 52 years old:

jackie_robinson_psa1

This is my favorite card from my collection of PSA-graded vintage cards.  I’ve been adding cards to that collection for a few years, and as much as I enjoy the cards, my biggest goal is to be able to share and eventually pass down some very historic and valuable cards to my kids (who at this point are still unborn and unconceived).  This is one of my three most valuable cards.  One of the others is the one that I wrote about here, and I’ll write about the third one another time.  Anyway, Jackie Robinson is one of my all-time favorite players, and I can’t think of any player that ever lived who I’d consider to be a better role model for my future kids.

I was inspired to buy this card by volunteering with my wife’s third grade class.  Toward the end of every school year, she has the kids divide into small groups and act in a short play.  One of the plays that they perform is about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 and then winning the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955.  The kids really love this play and they love learning about Jackie Robinson.  I get to help them rehearse, and I’ve even gotten to play the part of Pee Wee Reese a few times.

Someday, I’m going to teach my own kids about Jackie Robinson and the huge impact that he had on making our country a better place.  When I tell them about him, I’ll be able to show them this great looking card.  And since it’s protected in a PSA holder, I won’t even have to worry about them damaging it.  I think that the 1956 Topps set is one of the nicest looking sets of all-time, and this is one of the best cards in it.  The card represents the future of my collection because when I think about the future, all that I think about is becoming a dad, and I know that this is a card that I’ll proudly share with my kids.  I can’t imagine that I’d ever sell it, and I hope that it’ll be owned by my kids, my grandkids, and future generations of my family for many, many years.

Being sick is no fun…

December 5, 2008 at 12:45 am | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

I apologize for the lack of updates since Monday night.  I’ve come down with a horrible cold and I haven’t had the energy to do much all week.  I’m starting to feel a little better now.  I’m working on posts showing the cards that I recently received from Eric Slette, Ben from Cardboard Icons, and Pete from Dropped Third Strike.  Those should be posted soon.  I’ve also been waiting to open a hobby box of Topps Heritage High Numbers, which I received a few days ago.  I’m dying to open it because I love Topps Heritage, but I wanted to wait until I felt better so that I could do a video box break.  So watch out for that – probably this weekend.

I also wanted to mention that I removed the RSS feeds from the sidebar of the blog.  I liked having the RSS feeds there so that I could quickly see the latest posts on other blogs, but for some reason, it caused my blog to take forever to load.  So I decided to remove them so that the blog would load faster.  I’ll probably look into using Google Reader or something to keep track of posts on other blogs.

I’ll leave you with a final thought.  I stayed home sick from work today, and I rested on the couch for most of the day.  At one point, I couldn’t find anything better on TV, so I watched the Senate hearings on the proposed bailout/loan for the Big 3 automakers.  And yes, that did put me to sleep.  But before I dozed off, I started thinking about government bailouts of struggling companies.  And then the question formed in my head, why was there no bailout of Fleer in 2005 or Pinnacle in 1998?  I mean, if the government can spend money trying to save banks and car companies, why not the card companies?  Collectors obviously are not a high enough priority for our elected officials…

My at-bat in the “Blog Bat Around”

November 21, 2008 at 12:55 am | Posted in Blogs, Personal | 1 Comment

I’d like to thank Gellman from Sports Cards Uncensored for contributing yet another great idea to the sports card blogosphere.  By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Blog Bat Around.  This post is my contribution to that effort.

Gellman asks us to identify what type of collector we are.  Whether you’re a player collector, team collector, set collector, first world, or second world collector, it’s not hard for most of us to label ourselves.  So what am I?  I’m still figuring that out.  For now, I think I’m all of the above.

Most of the participants in the “Bat Around” have written about their personal history of collecting to explain how they got to where they are now.  Here’s my story.  For even more details, you can check out my very first post back in June.  Basically, my formative years in card collecting were from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s.  I remember looking through Beckett price guides when I was a kid and wanting to own every single card that was ever made, which was a lot more feasible back then than it is now.  I spent almost every cent that I earned on buying cards.  Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck – I collected it all.  I also collected vintage cards (which I define as anything that was produced before I was born in 1979), and eventually I focused my collection on the New York Yankees, especially Don Mattingly cards.  By the early 90s, the number of sets produced each year started to grow exponentially, and eventually I couldn’t keep up with it anymore.  You can read about all of the reasons why I left the hobby in this post.

The second stage of my collecting life occurred between 2001 and 2007.  After I graduated from college and began a full-time job, I had some disposable income, so I decided to continue building my collection of Don Mattingly cards.  I also began to buy some PSA-graded vintage cards that I thought would hold their value through the years, ensuring that I’d have some valuable cards to pass down to my kids one day.  During this period, I totally ignored new cards, except for a few relic and autograph cards of Mattingly that intrigued me.  I’d check out eBay every couple of months and make a couple of purchases at a time.  Then I’d think very little about my card collection until the next time I had some free time and cash, and I’d head to eBay again.

In 2008, I unwittingly began my third stage of collecting.  It started when I innocently began searching eBay for some autographed Tampa Bay Rays cards.  I bought a few and when I received them, I became very intrigued by a 2007 Goudey Graphs card of Carl Crawford.  The idea of “retro” sets was new to me, and I was curious enough that I bought two retail boxes (I didn’t know the difference between retail and hobby at that point) of 2007 Goudey baseball cards on eBay.  These were the first new cards that I had bought in 14 years.  Opening the packs of cards brought back many happy memories for me, and it wasn’t long before I started reading card blogs to get information on the current state of the hobby, watching video box breaks on YouTube, and buying more packs and boxes of cards, as well as single cards of my favorite Rays players.  I was hooked on the hobby like never before.  Less than four months after opening those Goudey boxes, I began this blog.

Throughout this year, I’ve been in the process of educating myself about the hobby.  I’ve bought a ton of cards, and I’m only now starting to really discover what I like and don’t like.  I’ve also continued to build my Mattingly collection to the point where I now have over 1000 different Mattingly cards, I’ve added to my graded vintage card collection, I’ve started a big collection of Rays autograph, relic, and base cards, and I’ve bought way too many packs and boxes of cards.  I even bought a case of 2008 Goudey, which I now consider to be a waste of money and a mistake.  I’ve completed a few sets and I’m close to completing a few others.  I’m trying to figure out what my main collecting goals are, but at this point I am all of the following:

  • A set builder.
  • An addicted hobby box breaker.
  • A Tampa Bay Rays team collector.
  • A Don Mattingly player collector.
  • An Evan Longoria player collector.
  • A collector of autograph and relic cards.
  • A collector of base, insert, and some parallel cards.
  • A collector of “first world” products like Topps Heritage and Upper Deck Goudey.
  • A collector of “second world” products like Upper Deck Ballpark Collection and Sweet Spot.
  • A collector of Topps, Upper Deck, and even Donruss products.
  • A collector of graded vintage cards.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I’m not collecting or organizing my collection, I’m blogging about cards.  That’s quite a transformation for a guy who barely gave a second thought to cards one year ago.  At least I’m focusing on just baseball cards and not other sports.  OK, so I did recently buy a hobby box of hockey cards, which you’ll be reading about in a few days.  But that’s a one-time thing.  Or at least I think it is…

My biggest goal as I continue my life as a collector is to try to identify what types of cards I really want to focus my collection on.  This “Bat Around” actually comes at a good time because it makes me think about that.  My Mattingly collection and my graded vintage card collection are here to stay.  If I knew that my house would be destroyed by a bomb in five minutes, those would be the first cards that I’d grab.  Next would be my Evan Longoria cards and my Rays autographed cards.   So those are all my top priorities.

At this point, I’m having so much fun opening hobby boxes and building sets, that I know that I won’t be stopping those activities any time soon.  However, now that I’ve seen a full year of 2008 products come out, I know what I like the most.  In 2009, I’ll know what to buy and what to stay away from.  I won’t hesitate to buy Topps Heritage, Allen & Ginter, Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, Upper Deck flagship, Goudey (if Upper Deck continues it), and Masterpieces.  I’d have to see some great reviews and video box breaks before buying anything else.

So that brings me to a pretty good point that I can make with this post.  What constitutes a set that I want to collect?  For me, it has to have great base cards.  If I don’t like the base cards, I’ll simply look for the hits of the players that I collect on eBay and I won’t buy any packs or boxes.  The base cards must be well-designed and have a substantial checklist.  I hate 100-card base sets.  Give me something that actually takes some effort to collect.  Short prints are fine, but they should never make up more than 10-20% of a set’s checklist.  2008 Goudey is one example of a set that went way overboard with its short prints.  Parallels are fine if they’re chrome, refractors, or mini cards.  Anything else is boring.  And avoid having too many types of parallels.  In general, I’d like to see one type of parallel that is seeded one per pack or one every two packs and one that is rare (maybe one per box).  Different variations of the rare parallels are OK only if they’re refractors.  Throw in at least some autographs and relics of good players to add some extra fun to the product.

Keep in mind that I’m a “second world” collector too.  However, I rarely buy second-world packs or boxes because the value of the cards that you get is usually much less than what you pay for the pack or the box.  One exception this year was Ballpark Collection.  It contained 12 hits per box, including many desirable players, for a reasonable price.  Compare that to Topps Triple Threads, which provides only two hits for a similar price.  The key to a good “second world” set is to give collectors a good value for the price that they pay.  They should only contain genuine star players and top rookies.  Base cards are not important in second world sets, and I wouldn’t mind if they were completely eliminated from them.

So, to conclude, my biggest challenge as a collector this year has been that I haven’t been able to focus or narrow down on any one type of card or even on a few types of cards.  I’ve just been throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks.  I’m slowly starting to see what’s leaving a permanent brown spot on the wall and what’s sliding off without a trace.  Check back with me in six months or a year, and I’ll probably be a lot more focused in my collecting habits than I am now.  Until then, keep reading my blog and enjoy the adventure with me!

The real problem with the Upper Deck “sponsorships”

October 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Blogs, Personal | 9 Comments

Over the last couple of days, I watched the video box breaks on Wax Heaven and Stale Gum of boxes that they received free from Upper Deck.  I watched as Mario and Chris opened boxes of 2008 Masterpieces and 2008 Ballpark Collection.  These are two products that I recently bought with my own money.  I spent more than $200.  I cannot even begin to describe how bad it feels to watch people casually open cards that they received for free that I as a collector paid real money for.  It was awful.  In watching the videos, I realized that the worst part of these deals, for me, is they make people feel really, really stupid for actually spending money on these products.

It’s not like collectors have been actually getting their money’s worth out of these boxes anyway.  The value of the cards in a hobby box is always lower, often significantly lower, than the price that collectors must pay for the box.  That’s bad enough.  Now if we read baseball card blogs, we see other collectors proudly opening the same cards for free.

Chris can give me the finger all that he wants, and Mario can refer to me as a “hater”.  People can come to this post and leave comments calling me all kinds of names and accuse me of jealousy.  I don’t care.  If I was jealous, would I have publicly declared several times that these deals are bad for the sports card blogosphere and bad for the hobby, and that I would not accept a deal like this if it was offered to me?  I don’t think so.

It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of bloggers and blog readers think that these deals are wonderful.  I’m fully expecting that in the upcoming weeks and months, we’ll hear that Upper Deck, or perhaps even other card companies, will be sending free boxes of cards to other bloggers.  I’m not sure where it will end, and I’m not sure if I want to be a part of it anymore.

I blog because it’s fun and makes me happy.  I don’t see how buying Upper Deck products can make me happy anymore, when I’ll feel like an idiot every time I see someone else getting the same products for free.  At the very least, I’m pretty sure that it will be a long time before I buy any more boxes of Upper Deck products.  I might decide to only collect Topps and the new offerings from Donruss-Playoff and Razor.  I might even decide to focus the blog more on baseball itself rather than baseball cards.  I don’t really know what I’ll do yet.  Who knows, maybe this feeling will blow over, and in a week or two I won’t cringe when I see other bloggers opening free products.

This post isn’t meant as an attack of anyone.  Many people are very happy about Upper Deck sending free cards to Chris and Mario, and if it makes them happy, more power to them.  I just wanted to express my feelings about the subject.  I thought it might be cathartic.

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