Archive for Topps
I love vintage cards, and loving old cards often means you have to decide how bad of a condition you are willing to accept in order to add one of the prized pieces to your collection. Because let’s face it, good condition vintage usually means spending good money.
When dealing with mid to lower grade cards — those that usually fit into most collectors budgets — there are lots of factors to consider. What types of “damage” to a card are you willing to tolerate: Creases? Writing? Bent corners? Torn corners? Layered corners? Minor paper loss? Glue or gum Stains? And so forth.
Each collector has different things they’ll tolerate. For a long time my one and one standing rule was: I must be able to see the players face. I broke this rule once when I obtained my first 1948 Bowman Stan Musial rookie. The card had surface damage on Musial’s face, making it pretty hard to display without giving it the stink eye. I eventually moved that Musial and upgraded to a much more presentable copy.
This game of upgrading or changing a card for a different version of the same card is one that some collectors partake in quite a bit. I do it infrequently, but I’m always looking to better the collection, whether it be by adding a missing piece, or growing aesthetically. I’m an opportunist, if you will.
Such was the case recently when I logged into eBay and found a gorgeous looking 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card. The card was professionally graded by Beckett Vintage Grading and was actually graded lower than the BVG 4 I had sitting in my display case. I was very much content with the Koufax already in my collection, a card I acquired a decade ago when I shifted gears in terms of my hobby focus. The one draw back for me on the 4 was always the centering. It wasn’t horrible, but it was off. This is a classic problem with the 1955 sets. The cards are horizontal and the bottom border typically seems to be shorter than the top.
I like sharp corners. I like smooth surfaces. But above all, I really enjoy a centered baseball card. And so when the lesser-grade Koufax popped up on eBay with a Buy It Now that seemed more than reasonable, I decided I had to snag it and at least compare the cards in person. It made really ponder which of the two Koufax rookies would stay and which would hit the market. I don’t need both.
And so I pondered: Do I keep the centered copy with slightly lesser desirable corners, or the one with better corners and worse centering? Obviously the one with better corners and higher grade would probably sell for more on the open market.
I posed the question to Twitter followers without specifying which card. A total of 84 people made a selection in the poll and the results weren’t completely skewed, but the majority did say they prefer centered vintage with softer corners over off-center cards with better corners.
The poll results definitely leaned in the direction I feel, and after comparing the two cards in person — even in their respective BVG cases — I do feel that the lesser grade with better centering is best for me at this point. I mean, when I walk past my wall-mounted display case, a centered Koufax pops out at me more than one that is slightly off-center.
What are your thoughts on condition when it comes to vintage cards? What defects are you willing to tolerate? What damages take precedent when you go about purchasing a vintage card for your collection?
Ask any player collector what they’re dream card is and it’s likely going to be a signed rookie card of some sorts. Or maybe a 1/1 featuring a sweet patch or button, coupled with an autograph.
Some people may not understand my fascination with this card. I was a big fan of the photography used in the 1991 set and from the outset, I had my eye on the Clemens card because it features him standing at the base of the iconic Green Monster. I’ve owned probably 30 or 40 copies of the standard card, but always wanted the Desert Shield version. For the uninitiated, the Desert Shield version features a gold stamp in the corner. These were cards that were sent (in pack/box form) to the US troops stationed abroad during the Gulf War. The fact that some of these actually made it back to the States is impressive in their own right.
(Side note: Surely some of the boxes never actually made it abroad as sealed wax can be found if your pockets are deep enough. Nonetheless, the mystique surrounding the product remains.)
When I first learned of the cards, I hoped that one day I could own one card — any card at that — from that special set. My hopes, obviously, were to own the Clemens card but I figured it would cost me a fortune. Remember, this was a quarter of a century ago.
Over time we as a hobby have found new ways to get the cards of which we’d always dreamed. The internet has made the impossible possible as we were no longer limited to just the cards we had in local shops and shows. Even so, I failed to obtain a Desert Shield version of the 1991 card until recently, when I not only located THE card, but one that had been handled and signed by the legend Roger Clemens himself. The autograph is authenticated by JSA, as noted with a sticker affixed to the back with a matching serial number on the COA.
The term “priceless” gets used quit a bit by collectors, but this one truly is in my mind.
Additions to my personal collection have slowed down in recent months, so when I make an acquisition that fits into that “PC” category, I shall share it.
Like many of you I have an addiction, a true sickness for cardboard. I say this somewhat in jest, but there is some truth to it. I spend more money on cards than I should; I even find myself buying stuff just for the sake of buying. Don’t laugh, you might be in the same boat but just not willing to admit it.
But rather than walk away from the hobby that has been a part of my life since I was 7 years old, the way I “right the ship” so to say is to find one card to add to my collection; one that i can point to and say, “THAT is why I collect.”
And today that card is the 2001 SP Legendary Cuts Game-Used bat card of the one and only “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.
When it comes to memorabilia cards I have many of the greats.
I have Mantle. I have Mays. I have Aaron.
I have Ruth. I have Gehrig. I have DiMaggio.
I have Mathewson. I have Cobb. I have Wagner.
And the list goes on …
But there has always been one player whose memorabilia card that has taunted me from a distance. And now I can look at Joe Jackson eye to eye and clutch his card between my thumb and index finger like it were a big ol’ bass and say, “Gotcha!”
For a long time Jackson, the controversial baseball player whose legendary playing career is forever tied to the gambling scandal of the “Black Sox,” really only had one licensed memorabilia card, this 2001 Upper Deck release. More than a half-decade after the card’s release, Donruss (then owned by the company known as Donruss Playoff) lost its MLB license and with that came the release of various logo-less products. This “free reign” seemingly allowed them to produce cards of Jackson, base and insert cards, as well as memorabilia cards. Panini America, who now owns the Donruss name, continues to produce Jackson cards in all forms under various brand names.There now are several options for collectors when it comes to Jackson memorabilia cards.
Meanwhile, Topps, the only company with the MLB license, has not produced any cards, likely because Jackson has been blackballed — not unlike Pete Rose — from licensed products. His name is often met with a head tilt and a grimace as Jackson’s actions in the gambling scandal are still somewhat debatable, although time has shown that he may have been the good guy in all of it.
Nonetheless, Jackson is still a baseball icon. Over his 13-year career he notched a .356 batting average and tallied 1,772 hits. And while I don’t own any of his older cards, at least I can say that I now own a piece of Jackson’s bat and it’s not just on any card. It’s THE Jackson memorabilia card, which is one of the most recognizable in our hobby.
This weekend we celebrated my son’s sixth birthday with a trip to a place he chose — the toy show. He’d never been to a toy show — and for that matter neither had I — but he wanted to go so we took the family and a bunch of his cousins and gave them money to pretty much buy whatever they wanted.
While this was a toy show, I held out hope that I might find a few card/sports-related items for myself. And that I did, while spending a grand total of $10.
What did I find? Here ya go.
One seller had a cigar box with vintage cards in warped top loaders. His prices weren’t bad … just not at the level that I wanted. And almost every card in the box that appealed to me — major stars from the 1960s — were ones I already owned. But he had one item I did want. This 1972 Topps Baseball wrapper. The wrapper is not in perfect shape, and from what i can tell it was folded down flat and then sealed again with wax. It now fits in a top loader. And while the “value” of said wrapper may be diminished by the fact that it is not in its original state, I have three words that best describe my feelings on that: I Don’t Care. I just think it’s a cool-ass item to have in my collection. Would I buy another at $4? Probably not. But I’d be open to owning other wrappers.
Another seller at the show is actually a tandem whom I see quite often at one of the local flea markets. And his items are usually priced really well. He had a slew of toys and a few cases of sports cards, some high-end. Then he also has these boxes of cards that he sells for $1 each and others that are $2 or three for $5.
There were quite a few cards I wanted to buy but I decided to harness my impulse and opt for just a few.
I purchased ONE card from the $1 box, this 2016 Topps Gold Jose Bautista. That bat flip is still amazing. And the price for this card was HALF of the price of a pack of cards. That’s a win.
And from the $2 each/ three for $5 boxes I selected these three:
2015 Topps Allen &Ginter Mini No Number on Back /50 Nolan Arenado, 2016 Donruss Signature Series Elias Diaz and 2016 Stadium Club Kole Calhoun autograph.
Two of the three will be headed to COMC with my next submission, but the Calhoun is a card that I really like. Good (not great) player, fantastic image and a clean, loopy signature. For $1.66 that’s a nice addition to my collection.
When 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter came out a few months ago one of the first cards I pulled was that of Heidi Watney, the Fresno, Calif. native who currently hosts “Quick Pitch” on MLB Network. It’s no secret that the television network is my favorite. So one of my goals was to get this card signed.
Moments after I pulled it I posted a picture of the card on Twitter and tagged Heidi, asking her if she’d sign the card. Much to my surprise she answered the question — and it was in the affirmative.
Before I penned my letter to Heidi I managed to acquire another copy of the card so I felt it right to send one for her to keep and one that I hoped she would return inked. And along with the cards I sent to the Network address a letter asking her about cards focusing on the Network personalities.
You see, the Network had a soft launch in late 2008 and then went full boar in January 2009. I was right there from the beginning. My daughter was born in January 2009 and in the days before her birth and in the weeks after I spent many a night and early morning with my eyes clued to the TV network. Heck, I wrote this piece titled “Dear MLB Nework, I Love You” on Jan. 1, 2009, after I discovered that an item that I picked up at a flea market months earlier was the object being showcased in an original commercial shown during the full airing of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Check out the post if for no other reason to see some cool baseball nostalgia.
In the years after the Network’s launch I contact a few different people at the Network about a baseball card set that may or may not exist featuring some of the personalities of the early days of the network. I still have not pined down if the set exists.
Nonetheless, when I wrote my letter to HeidI I let her know that I was a fan of the Network and wanted to know if she had any information about the rumored set. On Friday I received my return envelope with the above shown signed card and this hand-written letter on MLB Network stationary giving me a scoop:
So, while the mystery still remains about the rumored existing set, apparently there IS one on the way. (It should be noted I haven’t confirmed this with Topps.)
Thanks to Heidi for the autograph and for the hand-written note.
We did it. My son and I completed our first baseball card set.
There is something special in this hobby about a parent collector who is able to pass down the hobby to their child or children, and at times I wondered if my children would ever be into the same hobby that i have enjoyed for almost 30 years.
I mean my kids (ages 7 and 5) have always been around my stuff, and at times they’d ask about why I collect cards, but when I’d offer to buy them sports cards they often pass, or ask for some cartoon cards, comic cards or something else. It’s cool; I get it. I’ve always been of the mindset that if my kids didn’t enjoy my hobby then I would not force it upon them. But I’ve always been willing to support whatever hobby they decided to take up.
And then just a week ago my son asked me about baseball cards. He wanted to know more. He wanted me to buy some. He wanted me to buy some for him.
insert tear drop.
Without hesitation I bought a blaster of 2016 Topps Bunt. He enjoyed it (and so did his cousin). I told him about Hank Aaron — one of the first cards he pulled — and how at one point Aaron had the most home runs in baseball. And when I said the name he remembered a conversation we had a few months ago about a signed 16×20 photo of Hammerin’ Hank that I have hanging on the wall. “That’s him!” he said pointing to the photo and then looking at the card.
So yeah, proud Dad moment for me. Anyhow, a day after we ripped into those packs, we went to a different card shop to pick up some supplies and he asked me about buying a few more packs of Topps BUNT.
For my readers who don’t know much about BUNT, it’s a price-friendly product that features a great 200-card checklist that mixes old and new players. In my opinion it has been Topps’ greatest effort to bring in the new collectors as the set is based on the popular Topps BUNT digital trading card app.
Anyhow, I looked at my son and he was genuinely excited. At that moment I decided just to buy an entire 36-pack box as it was only about $30. I figured it’d be something we could open together and maybe put the set together.
It took us a few days to open all of the packs, even with the assistance of his cousin. We could have rushed through it, but I wanted to take time and look at each card and read the player name and the team, in a way I was hoping that I was laying the ground work for future endeavors and the foundation of baseball knowledge. So when he started to get tired of opening or reading, we stopped for the day and later picked it up.
After a few days we finished going through the box. We separated all of the base cards from the inserts and then separated the code cards — which can be used to unlock packs of digital cards in the phone app.
The next step was to see if we had a complete set. I grabbed a stack of 9-pocket Ultra Pro binder pages and used a black marker to number each of the pockets. I figured this would be a simple way for my son (and his cousin who helped us at times) to see where the cards go. In a round about way this was another school lesson for them as they are in kindergarten and still learning some of their numbers.
And so we spent maybe a total of three hours over two days taking turns reading the card number and then finding its location in the binder. And by the end we had a complete 200-card set with 22 cards left over.
I’m sure some of you — if you’re still reading — are wondering what the entire set is worth. Honestly, not much in terms of actual money. I mean while there are some big names in here and some decent rookie cards, the set could probably be bought in its entirety on eBay for about $20. And yes, it’s easier to just buy an entire set, but what’s the real fun in that?
While not worth much money, this product just got my kid into the hobby, gave him a task to complete — which didn’t involve pixelated pick axes (yes, I’m speaking of Minecraft) — taught him some organizational skills; involved reading words, names, logos and numbers; involved hand-eye coordination as we placed the cards into binder pages, AND was definitely quality father-son time.
Never again will I call a low-priced baseball card set worthless as it can be priceless for others.