Saturday, November 30, 2013

Seven Deadly Sins of Collecting

With the end of the calendar year quickly coming to a close, I recently evaluated the amount of vacation time I have at work and decided I had better use it- because if not, I will lose it. So, already having Thursday-through-Sunday off for the holiday, I stayed home on Tuesday and Wednesday- giving me six days off in a row. How have I spent my time? Organizing my collection, for one thing. It has also allowed time for introspection about my collecting habits, my goals for the upcoming year, as well as taking care of other non-card related projects.

Back to the introspection...

If you have ever seen the movie Seven (starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman), then you're aware of the plot: a serial killer whose murders correspond with the "seven deadly sins."  It's been a number of years since I've seen the thriller, and had pretty much forgot about it until perusing Netflix recently. For whatever reason, seeing it on there gave me an idea for this post and for what I'm going to call the seven deadly sins of collecting. At times my collecting habits have corresponded with these same sins. I guess the cardboard gods are at work in me...



1) Greed- This is what I call the "gotta have it" mentality. This isn't just seeking after an item or three to finish off a set. No, this is referring to the idea that I must have every. single. Braves. card. known. to. man. But...reality's a b*tch and I do not have the money, nor the time, to pursue every Braves card produced. Besides, do I really need those ugly 1993 Donruss Triple Play base cards? I find nothing about them aesthetically pleasing, so I've decided I am not going to pursue them.






2) Gluttony- This is where greed grows feet, where the idea that one needs all things actually becomes reality. I've heard it referred to as "gathering, not collecting." I might have been able to exercise self-discipline regarding the '93 Triple Play cards, but I haven't elsewhere. How many purchases have I made on items that I didn't really care for- just so I can add it to my collection; because it was there; because it was a good buy? Parallels are just one example of this. So are the large lot of (insert year & brand) just so I can complete that 14-card team set, leaving me with many extras. Works great if you can trade them; I usually don't. Gluttony is often the result of another of the deadly sins, which I will touch on later.








3) Lust- Most of us think of lust as a strong sexual desire, and it certainly is, but it can also be a strong desire for anything- where it consumes you and doing almost anything in order to fulfill that desire. An insatiable thirst, you can call it. If you were collecting in 1991, you remember the premiere Upper Deck football set and the frenzy surrounding it. Upon release, there were whispers that it was 'very limited'- at least in these here parts- and overhyped rookies such as Dan McGwire, Browning Nagle, Ricky Watters (who turned out pretty good), Herman Moore, Todd Marinovich, Alvin Harper, and Randall "Thrill" Hill (not to mention some under-hyped guy named Brett Favre) drove the demand even higher. After all, this was the company which produced THE rookie card of The Kid- which, at the time, was fetching probably, what, $200? Heck, it also had the Football Heroes insert set! Anyway- '91 was the year that I got back into the hobby and I was green when it came to collecting. I also couldn't really afford the $100+/box (something like that) that it was fetching. But- I just had to have some. I mean, I would literally sit there and think of just how I was going to get in on the action. So, what did I do? Why, I hawked a very nice Yamaha 12-String guitar for about $200. Plus,I already had three guitars, so it was easy to justify. Problem solved. An eBay search just now pulled up ,as the first listing, two sealed boxes for $8.99 plus shipping. And I did whatever I had to in order to buy two boxes. That, friends, was lust.







4) Envy- Often mistaken for jealousy, envy can be defined as, "pain at the good fortune of others," (Aristotle) or as, "a propensity to view the well-being of others with distress, even though it does not detract from one's own...[and] aims, at least in terms of one's wishes, at destroying one's good fortunes." (Immanuel Kant). Okay- so I don't know of any cases where a collector has aimed to destroy another's good fortunes because they didn't  have the "good." In today's collecting community, with the proliferation of you-tube videos, social media photo's showing us your hits, 'super collector' features, etc. it's very easy to envious of the guy who pulled that 1/1 card that we will never get. Evaluating my collection by comparing it to another's is just plain stupid. Be glad at another's good fortunes, and be content with what I do have.



5) Sloth- Whether it's letting my cards pile up, instead of scanning and putting them away as I get them, or purchasing cards I already own because of a lack of organization (i.e. a lack of an updated list), I particularly hate this one. That's because I hate chaos- and I view disorganization to be chaotic. But still...I do a rather poor job on this. Thankfully, I don't open boxes anymore, save the very rare blaster, so I don't have hundreds of cards piling up. BTW... There's also another way to be slothful when it comes to a collection, and that's not having a particular focus to your collection- which can lead to gluttony. I've already touched on it above, so I won't comment any further.




6) Wrath- This one manifests itself primarily on the internet, and on the occasional podcast. You know the type- they never have anything good to say about the hobby, unless of course it's about something 20+ years ago. They find fault in every new product, but fail to recognize the good. Their discourse leads me to believe they at one time worked in the industry, but now are just bitter old men. Don't be a dick- the hobby doesn't need it.




7) Pride- C.S. Lewis is credited with coining the term, "Chronological snobbery," which refers to how people tend to value only the era in which they live. The opposite can be true, as well. That is, we can also look back on literature, film, music, cards or whatever and think that that's where it's at. There's nothing wrong with collecting only vintage (or more contemporary) cards, but it's strictly a matter of taste. Sure, for the most part, the vintage is a better investment, but it doesn't make them intrinsically better than the 2012 Heritage High Numbers Andrelton Simmons card.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Subdivisions

"Sprawling on the fringes of the city/ In geometric order/ An insulated border/ In between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown./ Growing up it all seems so one-sided/ opinions all provided/ the future pre-decided/ Detached and subdivided in the mass production zone/ Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone. Subdivisions. In the high school halls/ in the shopping malls/ conform or be cast out..."~ Subdivisions- from the Rush album, Signals



2013 Topps The Greats #TG11 - John Smoltz - Courtesy of COMC.com2012 Topps Five Star Retired Autographs #JS - John Smoltz/208 - Courtesy of COMC.com2013 Topps Museum Collection Blue #44 - John Smoltz/99 - Courtesy of COMC.com








 
2011 Topps Marquee #77 - Hank Aaron - Courtesy of COMC.com




Thanks to the wonders of the internet and, particularly, You Tube, many of us who grew up as teenagers in the 1980s have been able to recapture the days of when MTV actually played music videos. So, taking a trip down memory lane recently, I came across a video that I haven't seen in, oh, I don't know- 28 years or something like that. The song, Subdivisions, is one of the more popular ones by Canadian prog-rock (progressive rock, that is) band Rush and, as the wikipedia entry states, is a song that "is a commentary on societal pressure to adopt a certain lifestyle, whether the 'cool' youth culture or a comfortable, mundane suburban existence in a housing subdivision. Anyone who does not conform to these expectations is regarded as an outcast." So as I considered the lyrics and watched the video showing suburban houses which all looked the same, I thought of the current (licensed) baseball card industry; I also thought that the message behind the song works as a great prompt.

It's not that I don't like the designs that Topps has used for its various products in recent years- I do like most of them. But with using many of the same photos, borders which look quite similar, etc. there's nothing to really distinguish one year or set from the other. They begin to blend into one another much like the cookie-cutter houses one finds in most subdivisions.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One Score and Zero Years Ago: The 1993 Select Braves


The debut of Pinnacle Brand's Select came in December of 1992, and was marketed as a mid-price product. It certainly wasn't as nice as the Pinnacle brand, but was a higher quality product than the base Score brand. It was a single, 405-card series, with cards that featured slightly-angled photos and a border featuring two shades of green.

The Rookie/Traded set, which came out in the fall of '93, was a much more attractive set- featuring blue borders, gloss and gold foil stamping, giving it much more of a mid-premium look and feel. The 150-card update set was a hobby exclusive with press runs announced at 1950, 24-box cases.



1993 Select Braves
7 Tom Glavine
17 Terry Pendleton
39 David Justice
84 Deion Sanders
109 Steve Avery
133 Ron Gant
159 Otis Nixon
161 Mark Lemke
177 John Smoltz
189 Brian Hunter
209 Charlie Leibrandt
233 Greg Olson
267 Rafael Belliard
282 Mark Wohlers
303 Jamie Arnold (1st Round Pick)
362 Jeff Reardon
382 Sid Bream
405 Ryan Klesko

Aces
2 Tom Glavine
*4 Greg Maddux (pictured as a Cub)
17 John Smoltz

Select Stars
*9 Greg Maddux (pictures as a Cub)
10 Tom Glavine


Rookie and Traded
5T Fred McGriff
59T Greg McMichael
123T Greg Maddux

All-Rookie Team
10 Greg McMichael

Monday, November 25, 2013

Die-namic Die-Cuts

Some collectors are drawn to the multitude of colored parallels found in today's sets, while others fly to the bright, shiny chrome refractors like moths to a flame (sorry, Fuji- I couldn't help but use that, as well). There's also the autographed and relic high-end rollers, book-worms (book cards, that is), and countless serial-numbered collectors (1/1!!!). Me? If I were to focus on inserts, it would probably be die-cuts. The precision found in certain die-cut inserts is simply amazing and there seems to be countless ways the technology can be incorporated into the set designs. And given my interest in the innovative designs, I've decided to begin a new series featuring 'Die-Namic Die-Cuts' (I would have used Dynamic- but Topps has done an insert called Dynamic Die-Cuts)...



While many collectors think of die-cut cards as being something relatively new, they're not. The earliest examples of die-cut baseball cards I can find are the "Scrapps Tobacco" dies and the Rafael Tuck & Sons Artistic Series- both of which date back to 1888. 

1888 Scrapps Tobacco Walter Latham



Originally thought to have been produced by the "Scrapp Tobacco Company", the origin of the eighteen cards that comprise this set is unknown. Research has shown that there never was such a company, leading hobby enthusiasts to conclude that they were named because of their resemblance to scraps of paper once they had been 'punched-out' of their original books. The eighteen players depicted include nine players from the National League's Detroit Wolverines and nine from the the American Association's St. Louis Browns. And while the sizes vary, the busts are typically about 2" wide and 3" high. 


1888 Raphael Tuck & Sons Artistic Series Baseball (also known in the hobby as R.T.S)


 "Boston" player


Ten figures make up this die-cut set, which was lithographed in Germany and published in England by Raphael Tuck & Sons, but none are actual players. Rather, each figure represents one of ten major league teams from the era: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh of the National League; and Baltimore, Brooklyn, and St. Louis of the American Association. Like the Scrapps Tobacco die-cuts, the RTS figures vary in size, but are typically around 1-1/2" wide and 2-3/4" in height. There's an interesting history of the postcard company which produced these figures that can be read here.










Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cards From The Big Rock Candy Mountain Pt. 1

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains/all the cops have wooden legs/and the bulldogs all have rubber teeth/and the hens lay soft-boiled eggs. The farmers' trees are full of fruit/and the barns are full of hay/oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow. Where the rain don't fall/the winds don't blow, in the Big Rock Candy Mountain.~ Harry McClintock

Like many collectors, a majority of my purchases come from two sources: eBay and Check Out My Collectibles (formerly Cards). Each has its own advantages, but I find myself being drawn more and more to COMC for singles and reserving team set purchases for eBay. The reason is simple: shipping costs. Gone are the days of being able to get something shipped from an eBay purchase for less than $2. While there are sellers who offer shipping costs for under that amount, they seem to be fewer and farther between; $2.00 - $3.00 seems to be the new norm. And with two areas of our budget taking a hit this past week (a change in income and insurance costs jumping significantly), it looks like I will be having to use COMC even more.

Yesterday's mail included a shipment from the Big Rock Candy Mountain (COMC). For those of you not aware of the Harry McClintock song from the late nineteenth/early part of the twentieth century (the date is debated), it's a ditty about a hobo's paradise. Anyway, my latest purchase helps towards completing some of my 2012 and 2013 team sets.

2013 Finest #93F-JU
 I had been watching one of these on eBay, and I'm glad I was patient and waited to check out the other site because it saved me about four bucks. Another plus, Topps didn't use the overused photo that appears on the back of the card as the front photo.




The first of two Bethancourt's in my recent purchase. The Braves top position prospect turned things around during the second half of the 2013 season after a slow start...




Kris Medlen was another player who turned things around in the second half of the season, pitching especially well down the stretch. Was horrible in the one playoff game he pitched in versus the Dodgers.


B-Mac. He gone.


I always thought Heyward would be a) a player like Francoeur- the hometown hero who would eventually force the team to trade him due to poor & inconsistent play, or b) would live up to the hype and remain a Brave for life. He's due to be a free agent following the 2016 season and now is the time for Atlanta to try to lock him into a long-term deal, as his arbitration numbers will climb every year before he hits the open market.


....I know they say that you can't put too much stock into winter ball stats, but for all his improvement this past season, it still troubles me to see Bethancourt's winter stats for Licey of the Dominican League: .143/.196/.167 after 13 games (42 at-bats), 1 RBI, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts.



A few from 2012 Topps Finest:






And a great insert from the 90s:

1996 Leaf Studio Masterstrokes #8 (#0488/5000) Greg Maddux





Monday, November 18, 2013

Greater Than Toronto's City Hall



Unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware of the joke that is the mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Rob Ford. 

The fallen, defiant mayor not only saw most of his remaining powers stripped away Monday by the City Council, but he also knocked over 60-something year-old council woman Pam McConnell as he rushed towards a skirmish. I guess he was jacked up from this weekend's CFL Eastern Division Final.

Anywho, on the same day that Toronto's City Hall looked more like an Argonaut game than a place of municipal government, I received this 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes City Hall card of Dale Murphy in the mail. Yesterday, after tweeting a photo of the card, I got a reply on Twitter from my childhood idol (no-not Ford!!). 





It's pretty safe to say that Murph, the antithesis of the combative mayor, wouldn't bring disgrace upon the office of mayor. It's also safe to say that a Rob Ford City Hall mock-up card would make one heck of a 'Wacky-Packages'-type spoof. Hmm...I might have to work on that one.

Great Deals, Steals and... an Inflated Market


We all knew it was coming. After all, the Braves did not give Tim Hudson a qualifying offer- thus essentially killing any hopes of re-signing the veteran pitcher, who reportedly agreed to a 2 year, $23 million deal with the Giants yesterday. And so the team officially says goodbye to the pitcher who ranks number 5 in Wins for the team during its time in Atlanta.

With Huddy gone, that leaves Kris Medlen as the most tenured Brave. Let me repeat that: Kris Medlen, who has been with the big league team since 2009, has the most service time in the ATL. I'm certainly not complaining- Meds has been fantastic; it's just kind of difficult to grasp. 

I received this 2013 Panini Prizm autographed card of Medlen in the mail yesterday. I've been spying autos of Medlen on eBay for over a year now, and my patience has paid off- big time. The price I paid for it? $1.34 plus shipping. 

Tim Hudson may have gotten a great deal in the open market, but I think my purchase looks like a steal- which I don't think can be said for the Giants.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Swashbuckler Sunday: Prime Dual Relic Mike Glennon




I remember one of the New Years Cardboard resolutions I made back in 2010 was to pick up more Tampa Bay Buccaneers cards. To be more specific, it was to pick up more rookie cards of Buc players. I haven't fared too well in this department, but I did just pick up this beauty earlier this week for only $1.04 plus shipping. I don't know if this kid is the long term answer in Tampa, but if he is this should be a good addition to my collection.


Player's Ink: Victor Caratini



2013 Panini Prisz Draft Picks Red Auto Victor Caratini #45 (23/100)

 Caratini, the Braves 2nd Round pick (65th overall) in the 2013 draft, was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League for the 2013 season. As a third baseman /catcher, he led his Miami Dade juco team to the Florida state junior-college tournament before going pro. And while Victor played third base exclusively in Danville, the Braves did work him from behind the plate in fall instructional league- seeking to take advantage of his plus arm strength. Also playing into that decision was the fact that he exhibited limitations in the infield (lack of agility and quickness) which made such a move much easier for the organization. 

 Signature Skills: Hitting and more hitting
Advanced hitter with a line-drive swing, which could eventually develop more power. He only hit one home-run in his professional debut at Danville, but did finish with 23 doubles in only 200 at-bats. He also showed an excellent understanding of the strike zone, as he had 39 walks to go with 49 strikeouts. Switch hitter, who can drive the ball the opposite way. Caratini was a monster at the plate for the first three quarters of the summer- as it seemed he was getting a hit or two every game before finally cooling off the last couple of weeks of the season. Should he develop as a catcher, he could very well be an A.J. Pierzynski-type of hitting catcher.

Red Shiny
I picked this card up for $2.25, plus $2s/h, off of eBay. Prior to winning the auction I had been outbid on a different auto of his, which was an unnumbered version. I usually try to wait until at least a players second or third professional season before picking up an auto, but with the price being so low- as well as how well Victor hit for the first three quarters of the summer- it was a no-brainer for me.