Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

"Truckin, like the do-dah man once told me you've got to play your hand. Sometimes your cards ain't worth a dime, if you don't lay 'em down. Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been." ~ The Grateful Dead's 'Truckin'

The end of another year is upon us, meaning that it's time to roll out the Looking Back/Looking Forward end of the year posts.

We will start this ride looking back at some of the best (and worst) of 2014:

Set Design
2014 Topps Heritage

A great design, modeled after the wildly popular 1965 set, and created for the set builder and low-end collector, the retro set has enjoyed a great run since its introduction in 2001. Some fear that the upcoming set- modeled after '66- will be a stinker. Maybe so; but for this year, Heritage was a winner, yet again.

Favorite Card
2014 Topps Stadium Club #141 Evan Gattis

Yes, I'm biased; my favorite card of the year is the Evan Gattis Stadium Club card, with a photo playing off the Braves slugger's nickname (El Oso Blanco). I think it would have been better used on a 2013 card, helping introduce the baseball world to Evan's narrative. Of course, Stadium Club wasn't released in '13 and it (the fun photo) just doesn't fit the mold of many of their other sets

Best Use of Photography
Do I even need to say it? Stadium Club wins this category, hands down.

Three things Topps did well with this set: 1) Superb photography 2) Resisted the temptation to rehash the same old photos 3) Used photos that are meant for cards- such as this 'fun' one of Bum, Cain, and Huddy.

Stinker of the Year

Truckin' got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin like the do-dah man. Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin on.

Tie: Topps/Bowman's incessant High-End products and Topps MLB Chipz

Expect to see a tie between these two year in and year out. Is there a place for high-end products? Absolutely. Do we need Topps to release 9 of them in a calendar year?

Some collector's might like Chipz; I think it's *bleep*. Cash in your chips and put  your money into some other product, Topps. PLEASE.

Biggest Surprise
2014 Topps Finest

Loud and colorful sets have never really been my thing, so imagine the surprise I felt at actually liking the wild design. No short prints, an easy and manageable 100-card checklist, and a nominal number of insert sets...Well done, Topps. Well done!

Most Audacious Claim
I believe the winner for this category was posted on Twitter and it was this: "Case breakers are keeping the hobby alive."

I think that whoever it was that posted this was mistaking the industry with the hobby. Had he said industry, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But as long as you have people willing to spend their hard earned cash- whether it be on 1952 Topps or 2007 Upper Deck or whatever- there will be the hobby.

Biggest Disappointment 
No Warriors!!!!

When the sell sheet for 2014 Topps Archives first hit the web, I seriously considered buying a case or two to break and sell. After all, the product was going to include an insert set dedicated to not only the iconic movie Major League, but also for the cult classic The Warriors. I've always been a fan of the set, so the inclusion of the two movie sets would be icing on the cake. I was diggin' the thought, you might say.

Well, Topps pulled the plug on the Warriors insert set (for reasons I have yet to hear), which earns it the biggest disappointment of the year. We didn't even get a mock-up card to salivate over; perhaps it's best one didn't get included on the sell sheet.

Best Insert
2014 Topps Finest "Finest Greats Autographs."

(photo taken from eBay)

The odds of pulling one of these beauties may not have been in your favor, but wow- what a checklist! Checking the secondary market and you'll see that pricing isn't all that unreasonable (at least on eBay). Go buy one, now- if you're in the market for these!

Oddball Set of the Year
Unfortunately, we don't hear about many oddball sets being released these days (at least I don't). That's why when I hear of one, it grabs my attention. I only recall of one this year- and it was a jimdandy. My love of oddballs and our family's love of dogs drove me to buy two.

In helping raise awareness for the Humane Society of North Texas, the Texas Rangers partnered with Merrick Pet Care to create Dogs Safe At Home, a 26-card set featuring members of the team and either their own dog(s), or one that was up for adoption from the Humane Society's adoption centers. The cards measure 4"x6" and information on each dog pictured is included. Proceeds from the sales of the set benefit the Human Society of North Texas. More information can be found on the Texas Ranger's website.

Rodney Dangerfield Award to Player Who Gets No Respect
Tyler Pastornicky

The dude didn't get much playing time in the bigs this year (47 at-bats)- but at least he got a Topps trading card! Or did he?

Oh- hello! My name is Reed Johnson and the last I played for Atlanta was in 2013- but thanks for giving me some cardboard love.

There were a few products from 2013 that failed to make their appearance in 2014- and unless they're released early next year (as 2014 products), I guess we can say "so long, farewell." The most noteable exclusions include: Pinnacle, Panini Hometown Heroes, Select, and Panini America's Pastime. The Pinnacle and Select offerins in 2013 were horrible, so it's no surprise they didn't see life this past year. I was a little surprised, however, that Panini didn't do something else with Hometown Heroes- it seemed to have been a hit with collectors. Perhaps the Donruss brand was its replacement.

I would be remiss to not mention the loss of Topps long-time executive Sy Berger, whose death on December 14th was the most talked-about hobby news of the year in the national media. In an industry with very few icons, Mr. Berger was truly a legend, and he will be greatly missed.

BTW- There's still time to get your name into my Hall of Fame giveaway, so head over there and throw your your name into the hat!
Truckin', Im a going home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong. Back home, sit back and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on.

Be good this New Year's Eve and enjoy this oldie, but goody, from the Dead.

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