08 January 2018

i checked out my cards: baby jays

This is what I have been staring at since Thursday afternoon. With the Nor'easter spinning off the Atlantic Coast, a bunch of veeeeery cold air north of the Great Lakes was pulled down from Canada, resulting in about sixty straight hours of lake-effect snow locally. 

So on Friday I worked for home (for real!) and watched the snow blanket the area, and once my tasks were accomplished I took sorting more of my recent COMC Black Friday order. Previous entries can be seen here, here and here.

For this installment, we'll take a look at some Baby Blues.

You won't see any of Toronto's No. 1 prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. here, but Bo Bichette, another son of a 1990s star is no slouch, leading us off in his Bowman Scout's Top 100 above.

Sticking with bloodlines, I also picked up some sky-blue refractors from this 2016 Bowman. The sky blues look great with Blue Jays on them.

Reese McGuire, surprisingly, doesn't have a dad that's an ex-All-Star. Still, he's a legit catching prospect that came to the Blue Jays last summer when the Jays traded Drew Hutchison to the Pittsburgh Pirate in a very lopsided trade.

Leaf 2013 brought back some memories of the very early 1990s, and boy does this card lend itself to a nice inking.

As does 2014 Bowman Inception:

This year wasn't my favorite as far as Inception goes, but 2016 was tremendous with the celestial theming. Unfortunately, the plain gray swatch relic comes with an unsatisfying sticker autograph.

Still, that's a pretty fantastic-looking card.

Sean Reid-Foley had a strong debut in 2014 and was solid in 2015, but he hasn't progressed past Double-A yet in 2017.  The recent slowing of his progress and rank loss in the Blue Jays top prospects list means his secondary card values have dropped as well.

The same goes for Conner Greene, who also struggled with Double-A New Hampshire this season.

I've got a purple one of these somewhere, too, and a base green "paper" parallel. Greene throws a hundred but like many others that do, has trouble placing it. He's also buds with Charlie Sheen, which, well, take that as you will.

Bringing back this design of Bowman's Best in 2016 was a great idea. See? Topps can still swing it sometimes, even if they're just rehashing old sets and an insert.

Another reminder to watch your COMC inventory closely: I ended up with two of these. And the same with this one:

Alford led me to pick up another sky-blue refractor from 2016 Bowman, and with Biggio and Alford already, I might as well see what other Jays from 2016 Bowman I can grab. 

Unlike some of the Jays pitchers, Alford had a real strong 2017, earning a call-up this summer before breaking the hamate bone in his wrist and finishing the season at Triple-A. He played in the Mexican League this winter and did extremely well.

From A...to Zeuch. TJ Zeuch was Toronto's first-rounder in 2016, and as a bit of a safe pick, he had a great debut season in 2017. 

Beyond leading the Blue Jays pitching prospects in 2017, he's also a leader in the chase for the most pitchery of pitcher faces as well.

Finally, we'll end with Max Pentecost, the Jays' top hitting catching prospect. Pentecost has been kicking around the org since 2014, battling various shoulder injuries. One of his first cards was this 2014 Bowman Sterling autograph on a sticker:

And yes, it's that hideous in person. But us prospectors have to prospect.

Of course, as bad as this Sterling auto looks, the following is the opposite. 

No sticker, no terrible photoshopping, no chrome board - well, no board at all. This "card" feels almost like a piece of glass, but is definitely a solid plastic from 2014 Leaf Trinity, and hand-numbered at just 23/25.

It's thick, around 1/8", crystal clear, and the blue is beautiful.

To give y'all a better look, here's a photo rather than a scan, coincidentally with some stats of Pentecost's that I was using to write up a post over at Jays From the Couch.

Hopefully that gives a better idea of of the Pure inserts from Leaf Trinity. If you've got a favorite player int he set, I recommend grabbing one of these.

05 January 2018

i checked out my cards: the oldest of friends


Back to it. This is the 3rd Edition of "i checked out my cards 2017" Black Friday binge, where I hit the core players in my collection: Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, and Ivan Rodriguez. Previous entries here and here. It's an Alomar-heavy crop, so if you don't like Hall of Fame second baseman, just leave. No one will miss you.

On to the cards.

The original Bowman's Best (1994) was basically a cacophonous version of Topps Finest, which was a huge hit in 1993 and the original high-end set. I don't remember their releases, but I can imagine they were hyped up back then. Bowman's Best had kind of a granite countertop thing going on beneath the chrome, which as a (very) young geologist, I appreciated.

The original Topps Finest was solid, but the design certainly hasn't aged well. There were parallels back then, of course, like this blue one (1 of 5,000!) featuring Alomar in the white-paneled Jays cap. Superb.

Topps of 1993 is an important set to me, not so much because I like it now, but because its the first cards I remember opening. The Blue Jays had just one their first World Series in 1992, and Alomar was a star. Black Gold cards were the first insert I remember aside from regular old Topps Gold, but they were the first with the hologram-style foil. Nearly 25 years later, I still love the Black Golds.

This time through my COMC Black Friday binge, there was something I was searching for in my Alomar collection.


Topps is still producing Alomar headband cards, such as the Archives offering from 2016. Not my favorite Alomar, but I'll take any one of him in the headband.

Like this 1993 Fleer:

Or this much higher-end 1995 SP:

And my current favorite, this 1994 Collector's Choice Up Close & Personal.

I'm pretty sure I pulled this card as a kid, but I was about eight years old and those corners are going to straighten themselves. I've replaces a few gems from my childhood.

This isn't one of them:

Ewww, Orioles. Bowman's Best was much more cleaned up and impressive in 1995, and while it's hard to tell from the photo, the quad-player offering is actually a refractor. Desi Relaford didn't make much of himself, but on the back is Craig Biggio - another Hall of Fame second baseman and Luis Castillo, who did have a nice career.

Okay, one more Alomar for the road.

I would have to put Diamondbacks Alomar as my No. 2 to Blue Jays Alomar, as his cards with them are pretty rare and given his long career, seems almost ridiculous. I've had my eye on this one for a few years. I must have been the only one who wanted it. That's fine.

On to Carlos Delgado! You might want to put your sunglasses on now because it's about to get really shiny around here.

I've always wanted an International Refractor, and a 1998 Bowman Chrome of one of my favorite Jays is a great place to start. Delgado is easy to collect in that way: his cards are affordable, he never played in an era of low print runs, and there's not a whole lot of competition for him. It leads me to pick up cards I wouldn't normally jump on, ones I just admired in black and white from the pages of Beckett, like this 2000 PACIFIC Prism (with an "S", that's how you know its good) Drops Silver parallel.

And man, is it heckin' cool in-hand. Prism from 2000 was a pretty set regardless, but this background pattern is especially fun. Shall we taste the rainbow?

Upper Deck (UD if you were a cool kid) Ionix was a fun one-and-done brand in 2000. The bend of this card gave it a good scan, but in-hand kind of looks like how a card would look if you somehow turned SURGE into cardboard and printed baseball players on it. Which fits into the style at the time

LOUD. Delgado spent just one season with the Marlins, but it was a very good season in which he hit 33 HR and drove in 115. As a 1B, the analytics didn't love him, and he only put up an fWAR of 3.3.

Also that year, the Detroit Tigers were very bad, but they had a very good All-Star catcher that season in Ivan Rodriguez. There's no Tigers cards to show here, just Ranger - but they are magnificent. We'll start with this absolutely perfect 1994 Topps Stadium Club where he's deck out in the Tools of Ignorance:

It doesn't get much better than that. TSC 1994 is a set I will have to complete someday. It's not as artful as some other TSC offerings, but the photography remained outstanding and the plastic-personalization name labels was so fitting for 1995.

In 2001, Pudge won his 10th Gold Glove. Upper Deck was getting more interesting with the memorabilia cards by that time, and the price was right for me, 16 years later, to grab this game-used batting glove card. 

Okay. You've made it this far, and you deserve something great. I give you: 1994 Upper Deck Ivan Rodriguez - Electric Diamond parallel!

Pretty cool, right? Pudge was so popular by 1994 that he warranted one of the best-looking cards in the set. However...




Are you ready? Good.



We're not worthy. 

31 December 2017

takeaways from the return: 2017 in cardboard

I'm seeing a lot of "year in review" and "top however many of 2017" posts rolling in. Part of me is reluctant to do anything too similar to other writers in this arena, but I feel we need to step back for a minute, take a look at our surroundings, and objectively evaluate what's coming in 2018 for sports card collecting. That's what I am hoping to do here. No real show-and-tell, and certainly no puff piece of how rewarding and fulfilling card collecting is.

While this site goes dark sometimes, I've never really walked away from the scene. And after getting back into it heavily these past couple months, it hasn't really been encouraging. I wouldn't call the current trends in collecting troubling, as it's just too hard for me to take anything, especially sport and corporate-related, too seriously. But it's not great right now. Topps has done nothing but resurrect old sets and bury faithful fans with parallels, and Panini is continually putting out flawed products with banged-up corners and bad checklists - and doing it without logos.

Right now, the strongest part of the hobby is Upper Deck Hockey, and there's not much of a challenge. This feels like the deepest rut collecting has been in since the 2000s, and there's a lot of work to do to get back to what collectors actually desire, if that ever happens again.

We have some time before that exclusive MLB license expires - and likely, is renewed - before anything is going to change. That being said, I've come up with some thoughts and takeaways from the past few months and how I see things shaking out in 2018 and deeper into the future.

5. Get ready for more yankees.

Sure, you can go ahead and chirp the official Topps account by demanding more Brewers and Padres in sets, but buddy - it's never going to happen. yankees bring in the dough, and putting a yankee on the front of a foil pack gets that kid in southern Iowa to beg his parents to buy it, not Wil Myers or Joey Votto. It's all about marketability now, and the Cubs, yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are king, and you're going to pull them out of pack whether you like it or not, because they are what sells.

4. Prospecting is dead for collectors

This one hurts. I'm always looking for prospects to get cheap and flip, to offset some of the cost of the hobby - which if you haven't noticed, is getting kind of ridiculous. Only like fantasy sports, the little guys, the casual collectors, are being forced out.

I have two Vladimir Guerrero Jr. cards. This is why.

Prospecting for the common man is dead. Have you checked the price of a box of Bowman Draft lately? I'll do it for you:

Only $.37/card! And hey, those three autographs are guaranteed to be players you'll see in the bigs before you know it.


Not to mention to get any refractors or someone who will actually see the majors, you're going to have to fill your truck bed with cases of the product and send your kid's college savings account over to pay for it.

3. Zombie sets are here to stay.

Topps Rep: What do you, the collector soaked in our golden shower, want to see in 2017?
Collector: We would love to see a set designed for set collectors, without parallels and inserts. Emphasize a beautiful base card.
Topps Rep: Good news, Gallery is coming back!

Literally no one asked for a reboot of Gallery, and when it did come, no one cared. Hopefully this one was a stark wake-up for Topps, but they're so tone deaf at this point that it doesn't matter. You're going to get rebooted sets with piles of parallels and short prints and shitty inserts. If you want a clean, beautiful base card, minimal inserts and nonsense parallels, you have to leave baseball altogether and pick up some Upper Deck hockey.

2. The hobby will always be dominated by money.

Prices are going to go up. Maybe not right away, but with less folks than ever buying cards, producers will have to compensate. Maybe it means more high-end stuff that costs nothing to release but they can still charge $200 for 10 cards. Maybe it's the continual rehash of old sets and inserts for those they lost in the 90s and 00s. Maybe it's a set for set collectors. Unfortunately, vintage isn't going to get cheaper, and eventually that market will dry up, and we'll lose even more people, which worries me a bit.

The benefit of this, though, is the weak secondary market and places like Sport Lots and Check Out My Cards. A few weeks after release and it's pretty easy now to grab your favorite players from high-end sets (if they're even in it, GOTTA GET THAT AARON BOONE IN!).

1. 2017 Topps was the worst flagship set, ever - and 2018 looks worse.

I've seen this card a lot in the past couple months, and I think I know why. One - it's a pretty good looking card, aside from the...whatever design of the text; and two - it might be the only memorable card to come out of Topps' 2017 flagship.

And, yeah. It's going to get worse before it gets better. We've all seen the yankees on the sell sheet for 2018 product, and assuming Topps will put one of the other 29 teams in there means it'll probably sell well, because there's nothing else out there, and we'll complain and buy and complain and buy and support the snake swallowing its tail and it'll probably be worse in 2019 as well. But whatever.

30 December 2017

i checked out my cards: keep doin' that hockey

Welcome back to the second in a line of what will likely be around 10 posts representing my 2017 COMC Black Friday binge. Today, we keep doin' that hockey, with some new additions to my Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs collections. There's also an Islander/Sabre snuck in.

Speaking of the Sabres, the first card there up at the top is of Marco Scandella, who Minnesota lost to the Sabres in the Tyler Ennis trade. It was a good deal for both sides, but personally I preferred Scandella.

This looks awful, but it isn't. 2016-2017 MVP had this awful foily throwback SUBSET reminiscent of Skybox's Skylines in 2000. I love that MVP offers subsets and this one is a beaut, Clark. 

The best thing about collecting hockey cards is that I still get Upper Deck in all of it's wonderfulness. Above is just the base card for Nino Niederreiter (my first Nino!) from 2015-2016. And its a great base card.

Moving into the veterans and parallels, this red parallel from 2016-2017 O-Pee-Chee Platinum (/199) is one of my nicer Mikkos at this point. My collection is certainly lacking.

I always wanted a Cramer's Choice card, and a couple months back I acquired a Rick Ankiel from 2000 Pacific Invincible. Knowing that Crown Royale brought them back to the hockey world recently, I looked for the cheapest one I could find of a decent and active player. Matt Moulson, now banished to the AHL, was that player. This one is a nicely thick die-cut with red and silver foil treatment and a snow white band for the ink. In-hand, this is a gem numbered to just /199.

With O-Pee-Chee (cough Upper Deck couch) free to do as they wish in hockey, there's plenty of die-cuts still, and they don't suck. From 2015-2016 O-Pee-Chee is this James van Riemsdyk, who I've really come to like this season (not like I didn't before) just in time for him to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. 

And here he is again from 2016-2017 Upper Deck, this time on the Canvas variations. This is one of the more benign photos used for Canvas.

Hey, that's better. And it's Nazem! Kadri was one of my collections I tried to really boost this Black Friday, and I added on goodies.

Like Mikko Koivu, I grabbed his red prim from 2016-2017 O-Pee-Chee Platinum.

As well as his Colors & Contours from 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 Upper Deck MVP. The top is a Level 1 Purple (sure, why not) and the following is a Gold - Level 2. So it looks like I have some rainbows to work on.

Kadri fell to Series 2 in 2014-2015 Upper Deck, but he did so with this beauty, in one of the most Nazem Kadri cards I've seen. Hockey is dominated by action shots, and Upper Deck plays around with their photos all the time, resulting in gems like this.

They also play the high-end game as well, creating bafflingly low-glass small-time hits in expensive box breaks such as this one. The green jersey parallel from 2015-2016 Trilogy (of what, exactly) is a pretty nice one in-hand, but the cheap digital numbering adds a handle of Barton's Vodka to the mix for such a classy set.

So that's our hockey. Still to come from the COMC binge will be:

  • Hall of Famers and Legends
  • Baby Jays
  • Champion Jays
  • New Collections
  • Dirt
  • Hits
  • Doc, and:
  • What the hell was I thinking Buying this Card