Archive for Topps

Thrift Treasures 112: I found a treasure chest!

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

Once upon a time, a Yahoo Sports columnist wrote that I, Ben Aguirre, must consider myself a “real, live Indiana Jones” (read here) after I unearthed the mother of all Thrift Treasures items, a game-used Earl Weaver jersey, that I later had signed and authenticated by Weaver himself.

Well, what should I consider myself today after finding a real, live “treasure chest?”

The answer: perhaps nothing more than a fool.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a Thrift Treasures posts. In fact, it’s been 11 months. Which if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’d know that’s an asinine amount of time for me, an avid thrift shopper, to write about something I’ve found.

Well, truth be told it’s been slim pickings for a while. Anyone with a cell phone — which is to say that everyone who walks into a thrift store — is an expert, or can at least quickly learn enough to know whether or not to buy an item.  Also, while I still pop into thrift stores, it’s definitely been with less frequency.

I digress, this week I decided to set aside some “Me” time and do something other than laundry, or other adult chores such as run errands and pay bills. I decided to be Indiana Jones — I decided to go hunt treasure.

I walked into a few stores and walked out empty handed. But at one Goodwill in San Jose, Calif., I found something promising: A Baseball Collector’s Treasure Chest. See, it says “treasure” right on the box.

The box, as you might be able to see in the picture, is taped shut.  And while some would say rip the box open and review the contents before purchasing, I found that to lack class — yeah, I used class while writing about a thrift store visit. Also, there was nearby evidence suggesting there may be something worthwhile inside. Beside, it was $5.99 for this big box of cards, or about the same price of three retail packs of 2018 Topps Baseball — which I know releases next week and I will be sure to steer away from as much as possible so as to not get sucked into that rabbit hole.

So, what is this nearby evidence of which I speak? It’s actually a clear, gallon-sized food storage bag also containing cards, including what i could see to be a handful of mid 1980s autographed minor league cards, as well as a personalized signed 1985 Topps Tim Belcher rookie card. The bag was priced at $3.99. The presence of these autographs created this notion in my mind that there could be anything in side the box.

And so the “Treasure Chest” left the store with me and in the car I sliced open the tape and I could immediately see three things:

First, there was a 1968 Topps card included here. That was promising.

Secondly, the cards did not appear to be recently sorted since they were packed fairly tight and in a uniform fashion. That’s also promising.

Thirdly, there’s an awful lot of colored borders here. That’s NOT so promising.

As it turned out, this treasure chest was a real turd.

I immediately grabbed the 1968 Topps card (Jim Merritt, a common) that was sitting on the side of the row and found that there was a 1979 Topps card (Ken Clay, also a common) behind it, as well as a 1990 Topps Special Nolan Ryan card as well. I then thumbed through every card in the box and found that the box contained an assortment of 1986 through 1991, what seemed like opened packs or bricks removed from complete sets, or partial team sets, void of most of the big names. The one highlight from the box was a 1988 Topps Tom Glavine rookie card.

I sat there a second and thought about what exactly this “Treasure Chest” was.  I’d never seen these for sale before, but it was not uncommon in the early 1990s to find random baseball cards for sale either on television shopping channels, or in various magazines. And based on the items that were IN this box, I’m guessing this was a “Treasure chest” offered for sale via one of those avenues, and the description likely pitched this box as containing roughly 1,000 cards, a random assortment from multiple manufactures including Topps, Donruss, Score, Fleer and Upper Deck. Additionally there was likely a guarantee that the box included a card from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a card of Nolan Ryan, who was at the peak of collectibility in 1990 and 1991.

Needless to say, the Treasure Chest was a dud. But thanks to the box I learned about pitcher Jim Merritt, the subject of the 1968 Topps card. He was an all star in 1970 with the Reds, who three years later would be fined as a member of the Texas Rangers for throwing “spitters” in a three-hit shutout against the Cleveland Indians.

And I learned about pitcher Ken Clay, the subject of my 1979 Topps card. Clay apparently was a top pitching prospect who never made it at the MLB level, and was traded by the Yankees after a handful of seasons in which he bombed, but his team still managed to win a pair of World Series rings. Wikipedia also notes that Clay’s struggles at the MLB level was the reason why Yankees owner George Steinbrenner shifted away from building through the draft and rather through free agency and trades.  Additionally, Clay also apparently had some run-ins with the law, all of which you can read on the link added above.

As for the Ziplock bag that I labeled as evidence for this purchase earlier, I’ll break that down in the next edition of Thrift Treasures coming up later. I assure you it’s better than this.

Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $5.99.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

Mint and slabbed: 1985 Clemens Topps rookie finds new home

Posted in New Addition with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

True story: When I was 11 years old I entered the sixth grade with a binder decorated in Roger Clemens pictures. I was that hardcore of a fan. And my collection at the time consisted of damn near every copy of every Roger Clemens card I could find.

Hell, during one trip to card show in the mall I purchased some 60 copies of a 1989 Classic Travel Orange Clemens card one dealer had for sale.

I digress, one of my prized possessions was a single 1985 Topps Clemens rookie card I purchased from a local card shop in 1990. I forget how much the card cost me, but surely it was in the $15 range — which was about the same price as a box of packs from the current year at the time. So there was a debate: a single card versus a whole box of cards.

That card was THE Clemens card for me. The 1984 Fleer Update XRC was a figment of my imagination really. I figured there was no way on earth that I’d ever own the card as it was valued at the time in the $350 range.

So the Clemens Topps rookie was something I never wanted to let out of my sight. So what did I do? I placed it into a Card Saver I and taped the Card Saver to the inside of my binder.

And so there it sat every day. When I got sick of listening to the teacher I opened my binder and looked at the Clemens, an escape from school work and a journey to baseball card land, where all things were positive and fun.

Fast forward to 2018. I have the Clemens Fleer Update rookie — two in fact; although it should be noted they’re worth about a third of what they went for in 1990. But I hadn’t owned a GRADED version of that beloved 1985 Topps Clemens.

The original one I owned is still in my collection. Remarkably it isn’t thrashed, but it was never mint, always near-mint at best.

And so one day recently while perusing the Clemens stuff on eBay I came upon a BGS Topps Clemens rookie, a solid Mint 9. It’s not rare, but I had to make this one mine. And so I did — for a whopping $15, the same price I paid for my original Clemens rookie.

Ben Aguirre, Jr.

Former Beckett Baseball columnist and writer.

Collector of Hall of Fame tobacco era and Rookie cards.

Collector of Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw.

You can reach me on Twitter and Instagram @cardboardicons. You can also e-mail me at cardboardicons@yahoo.com

In Memoriam: Don Baylor (June 28, 1949 – Aug. 7, 2017) 

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

1971 Topps Don Baylor rookie (with Dusty Baker and Tom Paciorek)

Breaking a lonely 2017 TSC Baseball Value Pack

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , , on July 22, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

I’ve always been a fan of Topps Stadium Club.  You can count me among the collectors who paid through the nose for singles of our favorite players from the original release in 1991. True story, I once road my bike three miles to drop $5 on a single Roger Clemens card from this set. Yes, that’s how it went when I was 11.

I digress, this year’s Stadium Club has been nearly impossible to find at retail. And I have not had time to hit my Local Card Shop to buy a hobby box.  Like most 2017 products that contain Aaron Judge, TSC has flown off the shelves.

But while shopping at WalMart with my son I managed to find a lonely Value Pack hanging on a peg hook. I had to snatch it up as it could be the one and only TSC pack I break this year.

And so, here are my results.


I did not pull any Aaron Judge cards, BUT I did pull a Andrew Benintendi rookie card, which features a cool photo of him robbing a homerun.


Other rookies in the pack included ones of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow and Renato Nunez of the Oakland Athletics.


Baseball legend Ted Williams always manages to find himself in this set, which is great because I love me some Teddy Ballgame. That said, the image used on his card this year made me stop immediately. It’s fantastic. Ted seemingly is doing push-ups in the outfield and there is a building in the background, making him seem larger than life. Great photo choice.


My lone insert in the pack is a “Scoreless Streak” Justin Verlander. Ho-hum, in my opinion. The reverse of the card mentions several dominant streaks by Verlander but doesn’t touch at all on anything from 2016. Go figure.


The remainder of the pack features a random mix of players, including Salvador Perez, Joe Panik, Trayce Thompson, Albert Almora, Adam Conley, a random appearance by Derrek Lee and a gold parallel of JJ Hardy.

It’s probably a good thing there was only one pack on the shelf. I have a tendency to mark out for TSC and likely would have bought more.  If I see some in the wild, I’ll probably consider purchasing more, but it’s not exactly something I’m going to go way out of my way for right now.

If anyone has any Clayton Kershaw cards from this set or any others, I’m openly trading for them — just don’t ask for any autos or hits in exchange.

Blaster Break: 2017 Topps Allen & Ginter

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on July 20, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

There was a time when the brand name “Allen & Ginter” set off all sorts emotions for me as a card collector. I would get caught up in the craze that seemingly came with the set.


What major non-sport stars would have signatures in the set? What weird relics would Topps include this year? Would there be a Ginter Code, or any other secrets such as the time Topps embedded unannounced 1/1 parallels within the panels of some hobby boxes?

I’d buy one or two hobby boxes, and then do damage at buy ripping blaster after blaster.

But those are emotions and actions of yesteryear. For me, the appeal of Ginter has waned. I no longer feel the need to hit the Local Card Shop on release day, or do an online break, or even hit retail stores with a fervor. Instead it’s become a product that I open every year in lesser quantities, partially because I feel the quality and bang for the buck has diminished, but also because my interests as a collector have changed.

I know some have argued that the product has jumped the shark and call for its dismissal. I’m not one of them. I’m just saying that I personally consume less Ginter each year.

That said, here I am with a blaster and “fat pack” of this year’s version in my hands and I am going to break it here, show a few, and share some opinions. It’s a bit of an old school ‘Icons act for a pseudo retro product.

I’m not going to do a product break down, link you to checklists and try to act like I am the greatest source of your information. I’ll spare you the bullshit. I bought a random blaster and a fat pack that had my favorite player (Roger Clemens) clearly visible through the front of the wrapper. These are my results; your’s will vary.

The Fat Pack:

Yes, I looked at the front of the packs to see what players were visible. No there was no Aaron Judge otherwise I would be showing that here.  Instead I saw one with my boy Clemens on top and decided to rip it. I don’t care if you consider that unethical. Really. I don’t.


From the moment I opened the pack I could see the middle was a bit different. I had two minis in this pack (which I think is typical for the Fat Packs) and I could see a wood grain border, which turned out to be a 1987 Topps Tom Brookens (silver stamp) buy back. At least this card was mint. I did pull an ’87 buy pack from a Topps Series One pack that was creased across the middle. Go figure.

Anyway, I’m glad I locked down the Clemens base card for my collection; an SP of Seung-Hwan Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a Mini SP of Willie Stargell, and a Required Reading mini that are seeded 1:30 Fat Packs.

The Blaster:

There are eight packs as usual in the blaster and when I opened the first one, there was clearly a framed hit inside. This has been one of the joys of this product over the years.  It’s also been fun to see the shiny frame of a mini hit in the middle of a desert of white base cards. 


As my luck had it, the first single pack of the year held a Framed Mini Relic of Rockies star Nolan Arenado, which to my surprise is a tough pull considering the framed mini relics are seeded 1:733 packs, almost four times HARDER than a framed mini autograph. It’s an interesting ploy by Topps to make these mini relics appealing to some collectors by making them more scarce.  But let’s face it … unless you’re a master set collector, or in dire need of a framed mini relic of Arenado, it’s not paying the bills, not even for this one blaster.


In the third pack I hit an Aaron Judge rookie card, which could be one of the most boring looking rookie cards of the game’s hottest player. But, it is what it is — read: in demand and not something at which to scoff.


In Pack Five I got a rookie card of Mitch Haniger the Mariners’ prospect who hails from my home town.


In Pack Six I got a base card of Clayton Kershaw — the only active player I actually collect — and another one of those Required Reading minis, which are seeded 1:50 regular packs.


And Pack Eight held perhaps one of the coolest Ginter cards to date, that of my friend — and that of like 8 million others — Tom Anderson, co-founder of MySpace. I literally laughed out loud when I saw the photo chose for this card. So so good. It deserves a thumbs up, honestly.


Final Thoughts:

Even though I’d heard some people say this year’s design wasn’t good, I actually disagree. It feels like the base cards are spin on Transcendent, which if was by design, is smart because it plays on the subconcious of those seeking high-end stuff. The brand itself needed something new, and I think this portrait frame design look does it.


I actually dig the fish and fishing lure set — because I like fishing and this is somewhat of a proper homage to the early Ginter sets. And while I applaud Topps for including a slew of other random inserts celebrating animals and events of the world, it all just gets lost in the shuffle for me. Like I said, my personal tastes have changed.

Oh, and I still dig the minis. The design actually looks really good in the minis.


Would I buy more? Probably. But as has been the case in recent years, it’ll be less. I’ll likely steer entirely clear of hobby boxes — if for no other reason it’s already crazy expensive.

 

In Memoriam: Jim Bunning (Oct. 23, 1931 – May 27, 2017)

Posted in In Memoriam, Misc. with tags , , , , on May 28, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

In Memoriam: Yordano Ventura 6/3/91-1/22/17

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , on January 22, 2017 by Cardboard Icons