Saturday, December 31, 2016

Still Alive

As we have come to end of 2016, there is no doubt that the past year will be remembered as the year that death reigned. We lost a number of cultural icons in the entertainment business; the U.S. political system as we know it seems to have died; Topps dropped the borders on its flagship product and many lamented the death of a once great company.

I won't address the first two 'deaths' but I will be addressing the final one because that's what we do here at Collating Cards; we collect-and talk about- Topps baseball.

The cries of a premature death actually began during the summer of 2015, when Topps first released images and details for 2016 flagship. It was a departure from the traditional bordered set and collectors did not like it. My initial response was that I wasn't happy that they dropped the borders but the design (name plate, diagonal bars with team logo) wasn't bad. The smoke effect was a little different, but I was reserving my opinion until I had the cards in hand. Once the set was released, my opinion slowly changed from 'meh' to 'it's really grown on me.' Needless to say, I felt like a voice in the wilderness for the better part of the year.

So, no, Topps has not died; the company is alive and kicking and, with the popularity of the Topps Now product, seems to be doing quite well. We're only a month away from the release of 2017 Topps Series 1 (a design which I really like) and I'm preparing myself for the onslaught of negative comments that will surely accompany its release. But we're here to talk about this past year, so let's review some of the best things to come out of 2016 products (and one stinker).

Favorite Card: (Tie) Topps #479b Marcus Stroman and Stadium Club #280 Mike Trout

 As much as I like these cards, they're ones that I do not own and (in regards to the Stroman) probably never will own, given the price it commands. Regardless, they're great shots of a young rising star holding a bobble head doll from what I'm presuming was the June 7, 2015 stadium giveaway and an established star next to a life-sized bobblehead. While I like action shots, portraits etc., the hobby needs more photos portraying the 'fun' side of the game, and these are two of the best.

Most Overrated Set of the Year: Topps Bunt

Once again, I find myself a voice in the wilderness on this one. I've seen a lot of collectors comment on this being the set of 2016, and I just don't get it. The common denominator in all of their comments is the low pack price and how it will bring the youth back into the Hobby, which leads me to believe many collectors are out of touch with today's kids. I think some- not all- of these collectors are still stuck in the late '80s, expecting to pay less than a buck for a pack of cards.

Besides the price point, the big-ass team logo in the background seems to be a popular aspect of the design. The logo appearance, to me, is a bigger distraction than the smoke on flagship. The design also includes a lack of borders; collectors complain about no borders on flagship and are convinced that it was designed to accommodate its digital brand, but they love this design. So, what's it going to be? Would you still love this product if it was flagship? As far as the inserts found in Bunt... I really see no difference between them and those found in Series 1, Series 2 and Update, which are often described as uninspired. Would I love to see lower price points across the board within the Hobby? Absolutely. Do inserts make or break my interest in a base set? No. Does a design determine if I will collect a product? In the case of flagship- no, because it's what I collect. (Although, I will say that my interest can wane because of a bad design)

In summary, I have found that many lauded the product for the same things they hated on in this year's flagship, leaving me scratching my head. I find it to be an inferior product and one that won't save the Hobby.

Set of the Year: Topps Marketside Pizza

I was tempted to name Stadium Club Baseball as my set of the year- beautiful photography, strong checklist and decent price are tough to beat. However, my pick of the year is for a product that marked the return of the food-issue. After all, any set that can compel me to drive to Wal-Mart and buy some of their nasty pizza (or even the decent breadsticks) has something going for it.

My initial reaction to the design of this set was mild at best, loathsome at worst. But like flagship, I eventually found it growing on me and decided to complete the 50-card set. Topps can be forgiven for not including any retired veterans (two or three would have been nice); the inclusion of the Phillie Phanatic and Mr. Met more than make up for that omission.

Biggest Surprise of the Year: 2016 Topps New Era 

Not only did cardboard return to the food aisle in 2016, but we also saw it return to retail outlets such as LIDS and LIDS Clubhouse stores. It was in these stores where my choice for Biggest Surprise  of the Year were available.

The announcement of this 9-card set (available in four-card packs) came unexpectedly and excitement was quickly dampened for those of us who didn't have any nearby participating stores. Never fear, as the cards began appearing on eBay as quickly as they had left the store shelves.

Insert Set of the Year: Tribute to the Kid

While not the prettiest insert set, nor the most rare, Tribute to the Kid, found in Topps Series 2, is my choice for Insert Set of the Year. After all, no player, save Mickey Mantle, has impacted the Hobby as much as the Kid. He's a Hobby Icon and this set chronicled his storied career in a 30-card set- and just in time for Junior's Hall of Fame induction this past summer. And for one summer, collectors were able to relive the joys of collecting the Kid during the 90s and early '00s.

Twenty-Sixteen gave us many reasons to be excited about this Hobby of ours. It resurrected some of those things we enjoyed during the Hobby's 'Golden-Age' and proved that not all of our cultural icons are dead. Yes, the Hobby is still very much alive and we can hope for more of the same in 2017. Happy New Years, everybody!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Last Present

A number of years ago we started a new Christmas tradition: dinner at the Jones' (not their real last name), followed by just hanging out for a few hours- conversing, playing games, watching movies or whatever else we feel like doing. Most of their relatives are elsewhere, and they think of us as family (we consider them family, as well)- so it's been nice to have another place to gather for the holidays.

Rick (the husband) texted me a couple of weeks ago, asking if I had any 1979 Topps cards or any extras of Braves players who reportedly sign TTM autos. I found a number of cards for him, as well as a double of an Albert Pujols variation, and brought them with us to Christmas dinner.

After handing him the stack of cards, Rick said that he had something for me and went in to his office to retrieve whatever it was he was going to gift me. Coming back out, he had a lucite card holder in hand, saying he thought I might like this:

Um, yeah.

Rick knows I'm done with collecting Braves cards but also understands that a vintage Eddie Mathews card is irresistible.

I might not have gotten much for Christmas this year, in way of cardboard, but what I lacked in quantity, I made up for in quality. Thanks again to my buddy Rick for this classic card!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Well Stuff My Stocking!

The amount of cardboard I received for Christmas this year was pretty minimal, which was to be expected. I had other wants/needs and only received one pack of 2016 Topps Update in my stocking and a vintage card that I will feature in my next post.

As far as the pack in my stocking... I really didn't need anymore of the base Update cards but once I discovered my wife had bought me a pack, I was hoping to get either a variation or one of the Rookie Birth-Year insert cards.

BOOM! There it is, the Julio Urias Rookie/Birth-Year card that is on my want list. I need to start having my wife buy all my packs, because there is always something good in the ones she gets for me.

Rest of the pack, meh. Nothing to get excited about. I'm still on the fence regarding the Franklin insert set; I thought I'd try to do a master set but haven't made a big push to pick up anything other than variations and the RC/BY ones.

What did ya'll get under the tree or in your stocking?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

No Secret Santa, Just an Anonymous One

I have never been one for trends. Even during those peer-pressured high school years I tended to march to the beat of my own drum. Things haven't really changed much as an adult, although I must admit that I find myself getting caught up in what's popular on Netflix at times or using popular hashtags on social media sites. Our hobby isn't devoid of such things, either. I suppose the one time I conformed to a trend within the card collector community was during the #WalletCard contest. My interest quickly faded, however, as I never go anywhere exciting. The humdrum life isn't very conducive to interesting photo ops.

Two other trends within our community come to mind: the #SuperCollector thing and the more recent Secret Santa. Having been less involved in blogging (and the blogging community in general) the past six months, I have no idea of the origins of this Secret Santa Society, but I have seen at least one blogger bring it up.

So yes, once again I find myself on the outside looking in- but that's alright. I have a Secret Santa of my own. Well, at least an anonymous one.

No, I did not receive this awesome looking card from someone in the Brotherhood. The 'Secret Santa' er, Anonymous Santa I'm referring to is the dude behind Murph. I have no idea who it is. The card itself, well, that's my own creation.

My childhood idol (Mr. Murphy) recently tweeted the following:

I liked the photo so much that I took it and ran with it- all the way to the Topps website, where I was able to make a custom card. I decided against trying to order this thing- for now, anyways (they have copyright law agreements you have to sign off on)- but I did save it to my desktop.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Long and Short of It

All these years later and I'm still trying to figure out just what makes parallel cards attractive to the collector. If you're talking about a Nestle parallel from '84- okay, I get it. But colored parallels? Sorry, but I just don't understand why I need eighteen colored parallels of the same player.

One thing I do get: photo variations. Y'all poo-poo them because they are short-printed and view them as a gimmick.

But I dig them. Can you diiiiiiiig it?

Working towards as much of a master set as I can, I have made it a habit to pick up as many of these beaut's as possible- whenever the price is right.

Some have been purchased as lots.

Others, as singles for very little.

You don't like them- and that's okay. You can send them my way.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Now is the Time for Holiday Cards

Topps seems to get a lot of flack within the collecting community for its customer service and for what is perceived as a lack of any kind of concern for its customer base. Most of this gnashing of the teeth appears to be connected to Redemption cards and since I have never had anything to redeem, I cannot speak to that. But I will say that the assertions made by many collectors that Topps doesn't care about their customers are ridiculous. You cannot not care and still stay in business. Such apathy will eventually catch up and sink your company. But perhaps I'm just wearing rose-tinted glasses and am completely off in my evaluation in how business operates.

My theory that Topps does, in fact, care seems to be supported by an envelope I received in the mail on Saturday. Inside of the envelope was a 'Holdiay Card' from Topps Now, along with an actual Topps Now card featuring Kris Bryant and Gary Sanchez on one side and Ichiro and David Ortiz on the other side. And while I don't PC any of the players, I am more than happy to add it to the shoe box that houses all of my 2016 Topps Baseball cards.

I'm assuming that every customer who ordered one of Topps' on-demand cards received one of these things, so the card will certainly never be worth much of anything. But that's not really a concern of mine. I'm just glad that the company appreciates its customers enough to send out such a gift.