Monday, March 30, 2015

My Own Personal Wishing Well

"Throw me a penny and I'll make you a dream, you find that life's not always what it seems... Dream for a while of the things that make you smile. 'Cause you know, don't you know, oh you know that I'm your wishing well."- Black Sabbath's Wishing Well.

Visit almost any public fountain, pond, or well and you're sure to find coins at the bottom, offerings given with the hopes of a dream coming true. While the practice at one time carried a religious ritual with it, today's practice is more fun than anything- but nevertheless still has some superstitious overtones. I'd rather not toss my money away on prayers to false deities, but I do have my own personal wishing well in which I put my pocket change. Best of all, there's no letdown in unanswered hopes.

I typically throw said pocket change into an old container (disguised as a container of screen cleaning wipes), where it stays for a few months until the next card show. I can usually collect $20-$30 in between shows, which pretty much helps fund the quarterly event. I recently decided that I wasn't going to go to the next show, so that leaves me with some money to spend right here, right now. Taking a cue from Ronnie James Dio, let's take a look at some of things that make me smile and sent me on a COMC shopping spree, shall we?


I don't get nearly as excited about collecting prospects as I once did, but I still look forward to seeing who's included in the Braves Topps Debut team set as well as in Heritage's Minor League release.

Neither of those sets can hold a candle to those Upper Deck produced in the early to mid-nineties. Perhaps my preference for those sets is rooted more in the prospects than anything.

After all, we had wonderful, terrific names like...Wonderful Terrific Monds III. (whose father, the II, played one year in the NFL.)

There's also his doppelgänger, Jermaine Dye

Speaking of wonderful and terrific names- there was Hiawatha Terrell Wade (although the card doesn't show his first name). Not only did Terrell have a wonderful name, but a terrific story, as well. As the back of the Road to the Show card states, Wade was signed after a tryout camp and became one of the top pitching prospects in the minors only a few years later.

Upper Deck also had some larger than life photos- like this one of Damon Hollins, who looks like he's about to do some crushing on the diamond. This has to be one of the best minor league card photos ever produced. Ballpark lights in the bottom right corner; the classic Durham Bulls uniform; the angle from which this photo was taken. Classic.

Those 90s Sets

Stadium Club. Upper Deck. Collector's Choice. Trades. Crashes. Crushing. Smiles, smiles, and more smiles.

The 90s was the decade I returned to the hobby after a hiatus of about seven or eight years. It's also the time when my passion for Braves baseball went to a whole other level. Without the internet it could be challenging to put together team sets, but I somehow found a way. That was usually through advertisements in the SCD. One dealer (Gary Walters) always seemed to have what I needed. I still prefer the advantages of the internet age and the ease of finding what you want/need.

80s and 90s NFL

I can't pinpoint when my love for the NFL took a sharp turn south, but my interest has severely waned over the past ten years or so. My interest in football cards has seen an even more dramatic shift over that same course of time. Of course, that would be anything from 1993 to the present. Cards from 1980-1992 (actually, 1978-1992)...well, that's another story.

While I have never been a fan of the 49ers or Joe Montana, I am a fan of 1991 and 1992 Upper Deck football. The '92 set, in my opinion, was one of the best looking sets of all-time and something about the regular-issue Montanta card caused me to add it to my cart. Of course I had to then add the 'gold' insert card to go with Joe's regular card. I will say this: much like George Brett (whom I didn't like during his playing days), I have really grown to appreciate Joe Montana years after his playing career ended.

As far as the Warren Moon card,  I was a twenty-two year old bachelor when these things came out. Thus, I ate my fair share of Domino's Pizza. I also had plenty of these QB Challenge cards back then, too. For some reason, I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Houston Oilers and Warren Moon was always a favorite of mine. Domino's- not so much.

80s and Early 90s NBA

I wouldn't say my current interest in the NBA is dead, but it is on life support and the only thing keeping it alive is the Portland Trail Blazers. But that's nothing new. It's been like that since, oh, I don't know, like the beginning of 1995.

The first few NBA sets produced by Upper Deck were as good as it gets. The inaugural set, in particular, would be on my 'Mount Rushmore' of basketball sets (when it comes to designs). The top of my all-time favorite basketball player would be the Glyde-  Clyde Drexler

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Bunch of Whooey

I hate being late to the party. Especially when it's a conversation taking place on Twitter and you have to wade through a number of threads, trying to figure out the exact context of the conversation.

My most recent tardiness came in the form of a discussion that took place a couple of days ago about the glorious year of 1992 in baseball cards. I still have no idea of the genesis of the outrage, but I think I know whooo-ooooo started it. And if he didn't, well then, he's still guilty of a lot of hooey.

Owl's comment above was his reply to my stating that 1992 Pinnacle sucked. I might have been late to the conversation, but I was going to voice my opinion, darn it. You see, 1992 was a glorious year, not only for my Braves, but for baseball cards as well. The base, but beautiful (in its own way) Bowman; the sweet Leaf set, with its gray borders, great photos and gracious backs; the colossal Stadium Club, providing us more photos than Kim Kardashian's Instagram account.

After defending my two favorite sets from '92 (Ultra and Upper Deck), came this dagger.

As crazy uncle Si says, "it's on like Donkey Kong."

So, Greg, this one's for you, my friend.

1992 Ultra Braves

Clear, crisp photos, plenty of color and NO PARALLELS! While the card backs could have been better, the fronts of the '92 Ultra set were perfect. Gorgeous. Glorious.

1992 Upper Deck Braves

The multi-exposure Neon Deion 2-Sport card alone put this in the running for set of the year. Throw in dazzling subsets like Diamond Debuts, Diamond Skills, Bloodlines, Tops Prospects and the Star Rookies.... a few insert sets- which, still in their infancy, were pretty exciting to pull... and you have one heck of a set.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Two from Nineteen Eighty-Two

"The boy lies in the grass with one blade stuck between his teeth. A vague sensation quickens in his young and restless heart. And a bright and nameless vision has him longing to depart...The boys lies in the grass, unmoving, staring at the sky. His mother starts to call to him, as a hawk goes soaring by. The boy pulls down his baseball cap and covers up his eyes." The Analog Kid (Neil Peart/Rush)

"He picks up scraps of information, he's adapt at adaptation. Because for strangers and arrangers constant change is here to stay..." Digital Man (Neil Peart/Rush)

From the time I started collecting (1977) until 1981, almost all of the money I earned from allowance or money received for birthdays went towards cards. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, KISS, Charley's Angels, and whatever else was at the nearest Circle K (and there was plenty of other stuff!) was open game. But that began to change in 1982.

So what caused this shift in spending? Music. Or, more specifically, my discovery of the Columbia House mail-order music club. Surely you remember it? 12 tapes or records for a PENNY! That discovery just so happened to coincide with- in my mind- the greatest year for record releases. 

The music from 1982 is literally the soundtrack of my teenage years. As a fan of the rock/ hard rock/metal genre from that era, there isn't an influential band that didn't release a classic album that year: Iron Maiden (The Number of the Beast), Van Halen (Diver Down), Judas Priest (Screaming for Vengeance), Scorpions (Blackout), Rush (Signals), and even the remaining members of Led Zeppelin released the appropriately titled Coda. There were also a number of huge songs that I will always associate with those days, as well: I Ran, Take My Breath Away, I Want Candy. The Boss had an album (Nebraska), the Clash (Combat Rock), John Cougar (American Fool), and of course, Thriller also came out that year. And that's just a drop in the bucket.

It's funny. Today we have digital cards and digital music. I really don't care for digital cards, but what music I do purchase is in the digital format. (although I consume a lot of it via Spotify and Pandora). Columbia House is no longer in business, but hobby mail-order dinosaurs such as Larry Fritsch Cards and Kit Young Cards somehow hang on. 

Both of today's cards were purchased through the 'Columbia House' of card sites, COMC. You know, you get sucked into their huge catalog and then pay out the nose for those commons. Heh.

Anyway, the 1982 Cracker Jacks set was produced by Topps for the first 'Old Timer's Baseball Classic," which was held at Washington's JFK stadium and was the creation of former Braves VP Dick Cecil. Cracker Jack was a sponsor of the classic from 1982 through 1985 and offered this one-time set through the mail for proof of purchases of their snack. Uncut sheets of the cards measured 7.5" x 10.5", while individual cards (trimmed) measure 2.5" x 3.5". The first eight cards (plus a ninth card, an advertising card) feature American League legends, while the second set of eight/plus ninth card feature stars of the National League.

I'm still looking for card #9 of the Hammer, Hank Aaron- so if anyone has one to trade, please let me know! And if you have a few minutes, be sure to read the link above. Marty Appel gives a history of the Classic and it's a must read!

From Analog Kid

To Digital Man

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Grand Illusion

"Welcome to the Grand Illusion, come on in and see what's happening. Pay the price, get your tickets for the show...But don't be fooled by the radio, the tv or the magazines, they show you photographs of how your life should be. But they're just someone else's fantasy...just remember that it's a grand illusion and deep inside we're all the same."~ Styx's The Grand Illusion

One of the frustrating parts of being a player collector of an athlete whose final game was over twenty years ago is how to approach post-career cards. In my case, that would be with cards of Dale Murphy.

My collection still has some holes in it of items from Dale's playing days: some are tough finds, others I have in my Braves team set binders (and want to get second copies for the Murphy binder) and I'm undecided on what to do with sets such as O-Pee-Chee and the Tiffany sets.

As it is with many of Dale's contemporaries, the number of cards produced of #3 after his retirement exceed the number from his playing days. Many of those cards are from sets I do not care for. Sets like Tribute, for example, I find totally unnecessary. Countless parallels- yawn. So what's a completest to do?

When it comes down to it, I'm fine with not having every card of Dale Murphy out there. The notion of being a 'Super Collector' is hogwash. Am I any less a fan because I don't have every card of his? If I collected everything available would my life be somehow more complete? No, it wouldn't. Don't buy it into the lies, my fellow collectors.

I'm sure I sound like that vinyl record you have that skips every time you put it on the turntable, but I refuse to join the crowd who want nothing to do with unlicensed cards. Just because something is unlicensed doesn't mean it's an inferior product. 

One of my most recent Murphy purchases:


I love the look of 2012 National Treasures; such a classy look. Yeah, it's your typical white jersey swatch, but the relic cards I do pick up are more about the photo and design, not the swatch itself.

Sure, the Fleer Mini pictured below has the team logo in the bottom right corner- but for me the photo is always the focal point on a card, with the design a close second. Especially when talking about a player collection. I do not see an 'A' on the helmet or much of anything, other than a very small bit of the script, on the jersey.

The next Panini card isn't a recent addition- but it has been sitting in my photo folder for some time, so I figured it was time to break it out.

Who is this Dale Murphy guy- and what team does he play for? Sorry, I can't tell you; the front of this Topps card doesn't indicate his employer.

I have featured the City Hall card from Home Town Heroes in a previous post and don't understand why collectors complain about it....

when they don't have a problem buying these. We have an appetite for them, you might say. 

This Playoff Prime Cuts card is actually on my wantlist. I can understand why someone might be turned off by a sticker auto.

After all, we all know on-card autos are much more appealing. Well, the signature on this Scherzer card (found on eBay) does kind of suck- but at least it has, er...logos?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Want to Believe

Scrolling through Yahoo's homepage last night made me feel as if I'm stuck in the 90s. It seems like every other headline was about the return of a wildly popular Fox TV show that first aired twenty-two years ago. Fans never thought they'd see its return, so it gives me hope...

I want to believe that digital cards will disappear and this is the closest thing that we will see to digital trading cards.

I want to believe that we will see another Diamond Kings set featuring an 'A' on a hat. (or choose your team's logo.)

I want to believe that the trend in retro sets continues, including one in the not so distant future that is produced by Upper Deck.

I want to believe that there are some records that will never be broken (and if they are, they're legit) and that we never have to say goodbye to our heroes.

I want to believe in prospects again.

I want to believe in the return of some of our favorite sets from the period some call the Last Great Decade.

O you of little faith.