Monthly Archives: January 2015

Chasing My White Whale

“One who sets the entire army in motion to chase an advantage will not attain it.”

That was my mistake in 2009. Well, one of them anyway. By the end of my journey in collecting I had obtained every single parallel of my then local team favorite, Andrew Miller. His main rookie card, arguably, came from 2007 Finest in the form of a certified autograph. Miller had joined the Florida Marlins after a trade from the Detroit Tigers, who had drafted him as a first overall selection in 2006. Standing six-foot seven and being a lefty naturally earned him comparisons to Randy Johnson but an entire career of struggling for control had cemented him a permanent spot in the baseball prospects scrapyard.

My reason for even liking Andrew Miller was highly dubious to begin with. The only reason I chose to collect him was because he was the first certified autograph I pulled that held any type of “book value” in the hobby. At the time, his Finest base autograph sold regularly for $40-$50 for a good length of time. It was natural that I would want to chase all versions of this card, which Topps clearly made one too many of. To go with the base Refractor, there were also blue, green, black, and gold versions, along with an X-fractor, and finally the 1/1 Superfractor. Before all was said and done, I had every single parallel, minus printing plates (4 colors) and the Super.

Funny thing is that despite how many countless hours I spent online, at work and home, ignoring my family for months and months, I never even got a glimpse of the 2007 Finest Andrew Miller Superfractor. For all I know, it didn’t even exist. Topps Company, in some kind of act of vengeance must have never printed the card or maybe they did and they let it walk out the back door so that it would never have even the slimmest of chances of entering my collection. Maybe that was for the best because in 2011, I lost my entire collection of Andrew Miller cards, including the 7 Finest autographs which cost me a small fortune to obtain.

Well, a crazy thing happened this morning as I was creating an eBay account, of which I have already placed my first bid on a card for. I began searching out Andrew Miller, specifically cards from 2007 Finest. As you can imagine, there are almost none online. Then I started searching Google and out of nowhere I was struck by the most beautiful sight known to collectors. My “white whale” had appeared in front of my eyes. There was a front and back scan of the 1 of 1 Superfractor from some unknown online eBay wanna-be. I traced the card to a hobby shop from New York, who sold it in 2007 but sadly they are no longer in business.

I’ve lost a lot in the past five years, some things that I miss, others not so much. What kills me is the fact that this card is still out there and not with me. I now have the task of bringing back all of its parallel brothers home again, despite zero hobby interest in Miller. It won’t be easy but this time it’s not lack of funds that will stop me. However, the Superfractor is out there and it belongs in my collection and there’s no way to track its current location. What’s really scary is that the card, much like my own collection of Miller cards, could have easily been discarded or destroyed and may never come home where it belongs. So for now, all I have is this image of my white whale.

If you spot it, find me and I will do whatever it takes to make it mine.

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Categories: eBay Treasures, The Topps Company | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beckett Almanac vs. BaseballCardPedia

Back in the day, I had an unfounded vendetta against Beckett Media. If you ask me why today, I don’t even remember or care to. Despite my beef with the company and one of its employees, one of my prized possessions in 2008 was my Beckett Almanac, which helped me come up with hundreds of articles for my site. Any time I was low on ideas, I would start flipping through pages to see if something would spark a memory and before I knew it, I was 500-words into an article. Upon my return to blogging earlier this month I ran out and bought myself the latest Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards and Collectibles (19th edition, 2014).

To put it frankly, I was (and still am), five years removed from anything hobby related. I don’t know what’s new, what was new last year, or even what was new five years ago. I have so much catching up to do that it’s not even funny. I didn’t even know Albert Pujols made it to 500 home runs and Jim Thome, 600. The Beckett Almanac for me meant article ideas and a free pass to baseball card knowledge without having to tread through the murky waters of message boards as well as reading up on other card blogs’ archives when there are now 100s of them. I needed information and as quickly as possible.

On the other end of hobby spectrum, there is BaseballCardPedia, which was around when the original Wax Heaven shut down. At the time, Chris Harris of Stale Gum was making a big push for contributors and to spread the word but I was too short on time and whenever I needed information back then, 9 out of 10 times I’d just look to my trusty Beckett Almanac. In 2009, the site was still in its infancy and didn’t provide all the information I needed. That was my first and only impression it left on me then so I didn’t think it would serve a purpose in 2015, or so I thought.

Well, it’s been over two weeks and I have made two big discoveries: The first is that Beckett Almanac is a WONDERFUL tool for all things baseball cards but only if you do not have access to the Internet and/or you use Beckett Media’s pricing guide. The second is as a sports cards writer, there is no greater tool to have at your fingertips than BaseballCardPedia.

Below is my breakdown and review of both sites.

Presentation

This one belongs to Beckett Almanac. It’s going to be tough for an encyclopedia-type website to compare with print media in this department. What helps push Beckett over the top is the photograph of a card of each and every set listed, which is comprehensive and incredibly helpful. Weather or not BaseballCardPedia plans to use more images in the future remains to be seen but if its been over 5 years so my guess is that it’s not a top priority or there’s just enough staff to do everything.

Usability

This is where BaseballCardPedia takes the lead and never relinquishes it. For starters, I am not always on a desktop computer when inspiration strikes and many times information is needed ASAP no matter if I am in bed ready to sleep or in my car driving to work. It’s just not possible to carry the bulky Beckett Almanac on me at all times but you know what is easy to carry and is a must-have? My smart phone.

On occasions when I do have the Beckett Almanac on me, it still takes way too long to search for the specific card or set I am looking for. A Google Search or a direct search on BaseballCardPedia takes less than 3 seconds (I type fast). BaseballCardPedia takes the cake.

Price

This one is easy. The 2014 Beckett Almanac cost me $54 and change at Books A Million in Sarasota, FL. Add to the fact that it took me over an hour drive because I first went to two Barnes and Nobles book stores which did not carry it.

BaseballCardPedia is 100% free. Sure, you must have internet access but unless you’re some kind of freak who only pays for internet to use BaseballCardPedia, it’s hardly an expense at all. If you can’t afford Internet, you could always use the computer at work or even the library. Once again, FREE.

Examples

— — — 1993 Finest — — —

1. Beckett Almanac

Image sample – Yes (base card)

Complete checklist – Yes

Additional information – Yes (quick and to the point)

2. BaseballCardPedia

Image sample – Yes (boxed product)

Complete checklist – Yes

Additional information – 8 paragraphs worth of information

— — — 1986 Sportflics — — —

1. Beckett Almanac

Image sample – Yes (base card)

Complete checklist – Yes

Additional information – Yes (Detailed story on inaugural release)

2. BaseballCardPedia

Image sample – No

Complete checklist – Yes

Additional information – They practically wrote a book on this set

— — —

This one is too close to call. For 1993 Finest, a huge hobby breakthrough product, both publications had almost identical scores. The only difference being that BaseballCardPedia had additional information that Beckett Media did not have, probably due to spacing issues. For 1986 Sportflics, also a pretty big release for its time … Beckett Media and BaseballCardPedia were almost identical again. The only difference is that Beckett Media had a sample base card image, while BaseballCardPedia did not. As for the general information, Beckett Media had a surprisingly large write-up on the product but it didn’t compare with BaseballCardPedia. Again, this one is too close to call.

Overall

As I wrote earlier, the Beckett Almanac is a great tool for collectors who need information on card prices and sets and don’t have access to Internet and still use “book value” instead of real-time eBay prices. It’s 2015 and if you don’t have a smart phone with internet access, you are missing out. In 2009, BaseballCardPedia was not able to compete with Beckett Media but it’s 2015 and for me, it’s completely made my brand new Beckett Almanac obsolete. Not only do almost all sets include information such as odds, breakdowns, and checklists, many of them now have stories and perspectives from some of the hobby’s most respected members, such as Chris Harris and SruChris.

It’s clear that BaseballCardPedia is Chris Harris’ labor of love and five years after discovering the site it shows. As with anything non-profit, if you have some way to help the site grow, please click here.

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Categories: Beckett Media | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Nostalgia Done Correctly – Donruss Elite

One of these cards below was produced in 1992 and the other in 2014. A lot can happen in the world of trading cards in 22 years and Donruss has certainly been one of the companies that’s been put through the ringer a few times over. Now known as Panini America but producing baseball cards under the Donruss name again, the Italian-based company has brought back some staples of 80s and 90s baseball cards for those collectors chasing the nostalgia ship (until it inevitably sinks).

The Cal Ripken Jr.Elite card (the gold one) is numbered to 5,000 copies which was considered extremely rare in 1992 and features an on-card autograph of Hall of Famer and recently crowned MVP winner, Cal Ripken Jr. The card next to it comes from 2014 Donruss Baseball’s comeback and is much more rare than the ’92 version. However, aside from the serial number difference (5000 to 10) and the colors, it’s almost identical and its lack of logos and/or airbrushing doesn’t even register or disrupt the overall look and feel of the card.

There will come a day, if it hasn’t already, when collectors are going to get sick and tired of 90’s throwbacks and demand new inserts, innovations, etc. but for now, I am going to sit back and enjoy it because during Wax Heaven’s heyday, a return to 90s style is everything my writing was about. It’s too bad that I’ve returned in what appears to be the tail-end of that movement. Thankfully, I have a lot of catching up to do and it looks like it’s going to be a blast.

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Categories: Panini America | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Donruss Commits A Hobby Crime

Donruss, oh Donruss … how could you do this to us?

No, I’m not talking about the factory set debacle that ticked off some set collectors for life. I’m talking about the resurrection of our beloved Diamond Kings brand minus actual artwork. You already have one strike against you due to the massive number of collectors who avoid and/or despise non-licensed baseball cards. I myself was once completely against unlicensed cards until recently when I began to see some of the work both Leaf Trading Cards and Panini America is putting out.

I’ve been away from the hobby for five years but after watching 3-4 box breaks on 2014 Donruss Baseball, I must say that I’m impressed. You’ve got a low-priced product that gives collectors a lot in return. For starters, 193 total cards per hobby box which includes 2 autographs, 1 relic card, 16 parallels or inserts, a box topper, and short-print base cards (which Panini murdered). If you can get past the airbrush and cleverly cropped photographs, it’s one of the best non-licensed baseball products I have ever seen.

That’s still no excuse for replacing the cheesy artwork of Dick Perez in favor of photographs with 2-3 Instagram filters applied to it. Perhaps Panini America was unable to obtain Mr. Perez’ services due to his relationship with the Topps Company but there’s 100 other artists out there who could have done a respectable job out there. Much like Donruss Baseball has a long history with collectors, Diamond Kings has the same adoration and should have been given a much better return with Donruss’ 2014 comeback.

I will be making my way to Tampa this weekend since my beautiful city of Sarasota has ZERO card shops and will make it my mission to find, purchase, and bust a box of 2014 Donruss Baseball. I will also wait with an open mind to see what Panini America has in store with their sophomore release. As much of a Topps fanboy as I am, competition breeds excellence and it would be nice to see them face off against another licensed card manufacturer in the future.

Let’s just hope Panini has learned a lesson after witnessing Upper Deck’s very public downfall.

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Tek’s Plastic Surgery A Success

By 1998, I had just experienced the greatest year in collecting (’97) and burned out. I was now 18-years old and the last thing on my mind was cardboard. Still, that didn’t kill my curiosity for my old hobby of trading cards. Every once in a while I would stop by my local card shop and even attend shows (remember those?) to see what was new and exciting in the world of collecting.

During one of those trips, the card shop owner where I would spend every penny to my name for years introduced me to 1998 Topps Tek and even gave me a free pack of its inaugural release. I was thrilled, not just because it had been a year since my last pack of cards but also because the price point of $8 per pack meant there was some kind of high-end goodness inside. After all, how could it be anything less than great at that price point? You must remember that in 1998, $8 per pack was still considered pretty high. There was more expensive products but not many.

I must admit, while opening the pack of ’98 Tek I was completely letdown. First of all, there was just four cards in the pack and although it used all sorts of gimmicks (I didn’t pull a Diffractor), it had very little appeal. As for all the different patterns, I didn’t even notice them. Frankly, despite all the high-end flavor, the set seemed extremely bland. Perhaps this was one of the reasons the brand only lived on for three years before being put out to pasture in cardboard heaven.

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As I made my way home with a copy of Beckett Baseball I was shocked to learn that Topps had produced over 90 different backgrounds of each player in 1998 Tek, along with parallels of each background. All in all, an 8,100 card set. I was shocked because quite honestly there were much nicer-looking cards in 1997 and even 1998, from the little I had seen. 1998 Upper Deck SPx comes to mind. That will be another day …

Imagine my surprise when I returned to collecting and writing about our hobby this month and saw none other than Topps Tek back in action. I was excited but reserved. Surely by now it’s a much nicer product, right? Well, aside from the usual complaints about the price, all I have seen and read about 2014 Topps Tek is positive. It’s a damn shame I missed out on this issue’s release because I would have had a box to review from Topps but overall I must say this is one of the best baseball releases I have seen in a long time.

This is how you do retro right. It is filled with short-numbered parallels, lots of 90’s style flash, players from all generations (including Mr. 40-40 himself), and best of all … on-card autographs. Hell, even the Diffractors, a poor man’s Refractor if I ever saw one, got a complete makeover. Let’s just hope Tek returns in 2015 and with even bigger checklist and other improvements, without losing it’s high-end appeal.

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Categories: The Topps Company | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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