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

29 December 2017

drinkin' and rippin': 2015 panini contenders blaster

We braved the hoards of Xmas present returnees on Thrusday afternoon to stop at the localish Target while out on some errands. Baseball products were in low supply, and aside from $49.99 (no heckin' way) boxes of Panini Extra Elite or something with only 11 cards, I grabbed the $14.99 blaster of Panini Contenders from 2015, a mostly college-based set with two guaranteed autographs. The price was right, at least.

The Beer

We picked up this Pappy's Porter (and the glass it is in) from The Alchemist in Stowe, Vermont this September. Alchemist does everything well, especially IPAs, so I was pretty excited to try something different from them, and it did not disappoint. Perfect thickness and with a sweet taste at the beginning, smoothing out into a deeply roasty and approachable bitterness at the end.

Now, on to the cards.

The first card out would normally be something I would fire onto ebay almost immediately, but this time I was less angered by pulling a yankee as 2017's Rookie of the Year was decked out in Fresno State threads instead.

The base cards, I must say, are excellent. I just don't know why they call the set "Contenders" when "SEASON TICKET" is written all over. In order for Panini to eventually get that license back, they need to clean it up a bit.

The backs are nice as well, and capital-region guy Jeff Hoffman, ex-Blue Jay, models the purple colors of his college squad, Coastal Carolina.

Unlike Topps, Panini does well with the Team USA stuff. Here we see the Dodgers' Corey Seager. I don't collect anything 16U as it seems pretty gross to me having cards of kids. 

There's also some Hall of Famers sprinkled into the set in their old college threads. Here we have Frank Thomas with the Auburn Tigers and Craig Biggio with the Seton Hall Pirates. These were the highlight of the set.

Old School Colors drop in every pack, and I thought the Aaron Nola was the best-looking one of the modern players. Also, I juts love Aaron Nola and LSU baseball. Like the base cards, they also come in Hall of Famer format:

Two Craig Biggios in seven packs? Yeah, I'm fine with that. Especially with the Astros-esque patter on the old Seton Hall jerseys. We also get to see Tony Gwynn with San Diego State, a team he coached after retirement and before he lost his battle with cancer.

Scott Kingery, like his fellow 2B Craig Biggio, showed up twice. Modeling the Class Reunion and School Colors subsets, Kingery rocked the blue and red of Arizona State before being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies.

I was fortunate enough to watch Kingery multiple times this summer with Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and let me tell you - he's going to be goof. 

Our first and only Blue Jay is Jon Harris from Missouri State. Harris has had a rough go of things after his first two pro seasons in 2017, but I think he'll bounce back in 2017 and be someone the Blue Jays might play by 2019 or so. That 2019 team should be exciting. 

Only one Collegiate Collections card dropped, and I don't know who these guys are.

I do however, know these guys - one of which is a former Blue Jay and current Oakland Athletic, Franklin Barreto. I feel like there was an early-2000's insert that looked a lot like these.

I mentioned earlier that there were two autographs in each box. Here they are:

Austin Rei, an A-ball catcher for the Boston Red Sox, and:

Supernintendakota Chalmers, of the Oakland Athletics in the blue-foil parallel (unnumbered.) Chalmers is a high-strikeout, little-control P who spent 2017 with the A-Ball Vermont Lake Monsters, as we come full circle on this post, back to Vermont.

The hits are not good, but the product is a really nice one and worth the $15. Panini continues to flood their products with color, but their price point isn't really competitive with Topps in regards to quality and player selection just yet - especially at the retail level.

28 December 2017

i checked out my cards: fringe/average

I made it a point in 2017 to once again go hard at the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals over at COMC.com. I hadn't made a late November order & shipment there since 2014, so I had already built up a decent inventory, but I tossed a few more bills with America's Worst President on them into my budget and took a shot at establishing some new collections.

Here are some guys I like to call my fringe/average collection, guys I like to collect but don't always seek out. You may get some comments on your blog from me about them, though.

Josh Donaldson

Let this be a lesson to you COMC shoppers: manage your damn inventory. I wound up with three of these very thick but also beautiful Josh Donaldson cards in this order, but that's okay. There's other Blue Jays collectors out there that might benefit from adding these. Let me know if you need one.

You might be wondering why I don't target Josh Donaldson, the best position player on the Toronto Blue Jays since 2011 Jose Bautista. Well, Dosh is a free agent after 2017, and he's never tested the open market. He's mentioned he's open to staying in Toronto long-term, but management doesn't like to pay anyone besides old, fat, slow first baseman. So I'm thinking his 2019 cards will feature him in at least two different uniforms that might not be Blue Jays ones.

But man, he makes the high-end cards of late look great. Inception, Museum Collection, and here on an Atomic Refractor from 2016 Bowman's Best.

Yu Darvish

I was heartbroken when the Texas Rangers won the bid for Yu Darvish a few years back. Less so when they worked the guy over in the 2016 playoffs. But still, he's one of my favorite pitchers and I'll often tune in to watch him pitch on the west coast after Blue Jays games.

Here's another 2017 Bowman Inception, which is one of the best looking art sets ever made.

If you haven't figured it out, yet: I like refractors a lot. That includes these 1989 reboots as well as the Bowman's Best Bluey (/250) above.

And this one, from 2014 Topps Finest. Of all the zombie Topps sets, I love Finest the most and I won't be apologetic about it. Especially with reboot gems like these:

I had a lot of problems with these when they were first re-released, mostly due to the ridiculously prominent TOPPS FINEST STERLING logo taking up half the card. You know what...I still do.


Intimidators was one of the better iterations of Finest. The purple here makes the card just explode in-hand, and it scanned pretty well, too.

So, that's only two guys. It's a bit difficult to break up an order of about 200 cards, so many had to be cut, but these ones stuck out and deserved their own post. Here's what's still to come:

  • The Oldest of Friends
  • Baby Jays
  • dirt
  • The Mojo
  • Keep Doin' that Hockey
  • Hall of Famers
  • Doc

22 December 2017

december nue jays

The month started off with some more unlicensed action, as I jumped into 2017 Leaf products to make a play at some Blue Jays 2017 draftees, Nate Pearson and Logan Warmoth. The Pear Son and the War Moth.

These Baby Jays aren't yet in their Blue Jays uniforms yet, despite playing plenty of games as professionals in the organization.

Logan Warmoth is a shortstop and played his college ball as a Tarheel, which with some clever photo editing makes for and easy transitions to a royal blue Jays uniform. Leaf Draft's State Pride inserts are nice and all, but they're a bit lacking in-hand. Plenty of prismatics and space for an auto, but also, just...meh.

Warmoth, though, is my current favorite from the 2017 draft. I have high hopes for him.

I did manage to secure a Pearson in uniform, though, out of 2017 Bowman Draft.

That's a really great debut card, even if there's some Photoshopping going on. Pearson pops 100 on the reg but he'll need some secondary pitches if he wants to pitch in the rotation, which they all do - that's where the money is.

In his first pro season with Rookie (A-) affiliate Vancouver Canadians he did just that, making seven starts and tossing 19+ innings, posting a 0.95 ERA and striking out 24 batters and walking just five.

Speaking of minor leaguers, they've been getting some attention in our little circle of later, with Night Owl securing a complete team set for the 1979 Albuquerque Dukes...and man, it doesn't get much better than that.

The year 2016 was a great year for Bowman as I gradually see more and more of it (as will you in a future post). Here's a Green Conner Greene, numbered to /99. The angle of this shot with the green infield background really works, and I think I landed this one for $5-, so the seller might regret that in about a year and a half.

Greene, like Pearson, has the ability to hit 100 MPH, and he's friends with Charlie Sheen. So there's that.

My best score of the month, however, was a pile of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. cards. Leaf Draft comes into the fold yet again, here, as does something we've seen a few times already on this page.

The base autographs from Leaf Draft this year are quite nice. If Leaf had a license, they would be doing great things and getting much, much more attention. Much of that attention would be focused on their excellence in acetate cards, where Bowman/Topps are doing some mediocre-to-decent work right now as well in the Tek sets.

These also came with the Draft auto above, and I was more interested in these. Somehow I've managed to not get the very base Tek auto until right now. The green parallel, with autograph, is still pretty hot, but this whole package came in, I believe, around $11.

As did this:

Eleven dollarydos is more than I like to ever spend on a single, but I thought that if I really wanted to make a dent in this rainbow, that that was a good price. There's still an orange out there, but it looks awful. The gold isn't magnificent itself, so I think the BURST variation auto is the only one I'll make a significant move at from here on.

Stay tuned to PGS over the next week or so as I finally have my first "vacation" since this time last year, and I have plenty in the pipeline of cardboard goodness. Stay hard.

20 December 2017

drinkin' and rippin': 2015-2016 upper deck champs hockey

On Black Friday, or Cyber Monday - I'm not sure which - I did my usual prowl of Dave & Adam's Card World website for some deals. You've already seen my blister-inducing rip of 36 rack packs of 2015 Panini Prizm, but after that slumming I decided to class it up a bit with an all-time favorite - 2015-2016 UD Champs Hockey.

Things went well, but first, the brew:

Being a Thin Man Brewery offering with Hudson Valley banger Captain Lawrence Brewing, I knew it would be good, and it was. As I heard on the IFS Podcast once, you can't go into a New England IPA half-assed. You need to whole ass-it, and these two powerhouse breweries did just that. 4.25/5, but unfortunately long enough ago that I cannot replay the details. It's good, okay?

On to the packs.

There's some small details in there, but Champs is a hit-driven box (two memorabilia, one autograph guaranteed per box) with some unique inserts splashed in. Despite a beautiful base set, it's not one for collectors despite a 350-card set with 50 short prints rounding out this offering.

The base cards are beauties, with the faux-vintage look, medium cardboard stock, and frosted window photos. One nice bit of the set was the amount of rarer jerseys found in the photographs, including this black New York Islanders alternate:

There's only so much you can do with hockey card photographs (Upper Deck S1 - don't read this) but UD make sit work real well in Champs.

The backs match (and there's some variants I won't get into) with the rough cardboard stock. They're not terribly easy to read, and for the Maple Leafs haters out there, this is the only one that will be featured in this post:

Poor Reimer is currently getting worked over pretty often with the Florida Panthers.

There's a fair amount of horizontal cards, too, like this Victor Rask:

And lots of rookies mixed in, like this Brady Skjei, who recently rose to some somewhat stardom in this recent Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper. Note: that's not Brady in the skit, and Chance manages to embarrass the rest of SNL's currently garbage cast. 

The simple, framed design lends itself to the older-style jerseys.

There's also some bronze or gold or somethingorother parallels which I could absolutely do without, but at least there's a player collection in there:

To my baseball faithful that may have skipped UD Champs' baseball equivalent known as Goodwin Champions (which, well...wasn't very good), the Hockey offering is mostly the same aside from a Canadian-heavy offering of inserts. In 15-16 Champs, Famous Foods, Fish and Northern Wonders are inserted, but unlike baseball, are offered in standard stock, and not minis (thankyouthankyouthankyou.)

The foods are fine, but the Northern Wonders are spectacular, though the only one I managed was Banff National Park. Banff might have been the best to come away with if pulling only one, and it's an extremely important place geologically and within the paleontology world. 

I pulled all of my hits in the first five packs, which really hurt the momentum of the box break, but let me appreciated the inserts and base cards more. My low-grade hit was this Matt Puempel jersey swatch. 

Puempel has struggled outside of the AHL, playing just 79 NHL games since his debut in 2014-2015.

Now on to my favorite aspect of Champ's, the fish. I managed four, including the bluegill, brook stickleback, common carp and one of my favorite fish - the Muskie, or muskellunge, depending on your local vernacular. 

They're an introduced hybrid, but are by far the king of predators in any water body they live in the Northeast states. 

For some more traditional hits, we have an autograph of known face-punching enthusiast Scott Hartnell. Again, the semi-gloss cardboard stock with frosted photos is perfect for inking, and the blue of Hartnell's auto here really stands out in a real beauty. 

There was one more major hit in the box, and it nearly paid for the entire box itself. Here he is, with a bright orange but inaccessible jersey swatch, McJesus himself:

Does he ever stop making that face?
Auston Matthews is better.