Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another Gold R.A. Dickey Topps Tribute Parallel

I grabbed another Gold parallel of R.A. Dickey from Topps Tribute, this time from the 2014 incarnation of the set. This one features him in his Blue Jays gear, while the previous one showed him in his Mets uniform. It's shiny and brightly-colored and this example is numbered # 11 / 25.

The blue and gold combination makes me think of the Boy Scouts. I spent a lot of my youth doing Boy Scouts stuff, either as a member or going on the camp outs with the older kids when my dad was a Scout leader. I wasn't always the most enthusiastic about Scouting, but I think I had a lot of experiences in the program that really helped me later in life. I turned in my paperwork just in time to complete the process of becoming an Eagle Scout before I turned 18, and when I joined the military the policy was that Eagle Scouts got an automatic promotion from E1 (the lowest of the low) to E2 (still the lowest of the low, but slightly better paid). I don't think that policy is still in place, but I do think that the Boy Scouts is a good organization for helping boys gain confidence and learn life skills.

The seller also included a stack of base cards from the Triple Threads set, which was a decent bonus. These are all pretty big names, with Ken Griffey Jr. probably coming in as my favorite of the bunch.

I usually scan the backs of the cards for completeness, as I like to upload pictures into Zistle for any random cards that come my way. There are a lot of folks who scan the fronts of cards into Zistle, but there are a lot fewer card backs uploaded.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What's in the Box 3: A Mix-Up and a Fix-Up with Collector Crate

Collector Crate is a relatively new subscription service that sends out a mystery box of trading cards and related items on a monthly basis. They offer three levels of subscription which increase in price but also increase the value of the packs they send in the box. Currently they are offering baseball, football, and basketball boxes, and if there is enough demand they will probably roll out a hockey subscription at some point.

October was their first subscription month, and I ordered a box of the lowest (Bronze) level to see what it was all about. My conclusion was that at that price point it would be hard to compete logistically with the 20 packs + a hit repack boxes you find at Target. The higher levels offer better stuff like packs with guaranteed hits, so if you've got the cash that might be the way to go. I couldn't really justify the expense as a monthly thing, so I sent a message to Collector Crate using the 'Contact Us' form on the website asking them to discontinue my subscription.

A few days ago I was going over our finances and noticed that there was a charge on the card from Collector Crate for the monthly subscription amount. Because I had other transactions going through on that card I realized that I might have an issue on my hands. So I sent out messages and e-mails to express my displeasure at being charged when I had sent a message to cancel my subscription. After a while I got a reply from Collector Crate through Facebook offering to refund the money, and because November's shipping had already occurred, to keep the box that was shipped to me free of charge. A little later they came back and said that the box had been flagged and had not yet left the warehouse, so if I told them a couple of my favorite teams they would put together a box for me and still make the shipment. I replied that I wasn't looking to get something for free or put them out, and that refunding my payment would be good enough for me. They insisted, so I told them I liked the Astros, Blue Jays, and Athletics and said I would give them a mention on my blog. Here is what was inside the box that arrived in the mail:

This was the baseball-related swag that was in the box along with the packs. I got decals for the A's and Astros, and a little baseball with the Blue Jays logo on it. I got a little bag of sunflower seeds. When I was a combat arms soldier I chewed a lot of sunflower seeds and grew to really like some of the different flavors that have popped up, like Dill Pickle and Nacho Cheese. If I eat too many of the regular salted ones my mouth gets a little burnt. Now that I work in an admin role I don't chew seeds much. The pack of TeenyMates contained a Padre and a Pirate along with puzzle pieces for the Astros and Braves. The pack of 100 card sleeves will go to good use, as you can always use more card supplies.

There were 10 packs in the main part of the box, and I will follow the example of other bloggers by showing the 'best' card from each pack. There is no guarantee that my definition of best will match up with anyone else's definition. I'm showing them in the order I opened them in.

And we kick things off with what would turn out to be the hit of the break, with a Max Scherzer Blue Refractor from 2010 Topps Chrome. It is numbered # 113 / 199, and the fact that it was the hit of the break tells you pretty much all you need to know about how the pack-breaking went. The Chipper Jones was the Special Engraved Foil Card advertised on the front of the 1993 Bowman pack. 2009 Uper Deck Series 2 proved so boring that a team checklist made the cut as the top card of the pack, featuring Huston Street, who I picked mostly because of all the angst and press he has generated in the fantasy baseball world during his career. A Jim Thome Authentic Achievements insert card gets the nod from the 2008 Upper Deck Authentic SP pack. It's a decent-looking card, even if the foiled lettering is difficult to read.

Up next are 1996 Leaf Preferred, 2014 Topps Update, 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces, and 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen. The two Topps products are both Hobby packs, so that means better odds on inserts and stuff than you'd get in Retail packs.

It was a tough choice between the metal card (Fred McGriff) in the Preferred pack or the Piazza checklist. In the end the mullet and mustache combo won out. I've discussed why Mark Reynolds is a PC guy for me before, but I don't follow him closely enough to know if he's still on a roster. The one image of Vladimir Guerrero that sticks in my mind is the gif of him hitting a ball after it's bounced in the dirt. This isn't it, but this is another good one that takes a swing at 50 Cent's horrible first pitch during the 2014 season. I've heard the yips can sneak up on anyone:

I don't have a lot of love for the Spahn card, but there wasn't a lot to choose from in the Gypsy Queen pack. The insert won by default.

The 2014 Stadium Club and the 2013 Topps Mini packs were included in the 10 Bronze-level packs that went into the box. The 2013 Topps Chipz and the 5-pack of 2013 Topps Series 1 were loose in the box as extras.

There wasn't much of note in those packs, so I turned this scan into a Wilin Rosario supermix. That Gypsy Queen Rosario didn't come from the Topps Series 1 5-pack. I just thought it would be more interesting this way. One of the Chipz appears to be a Glow-in-the-Dark parallel, but it was a Yankee and I left it out. The Stadium Club pack had a Rainbow Foil card of Jose Reyes, which was cool, but I skipped it because it is a horizontal card and between the mini and the Chipz this scan was convoluted enough already.

The final thing in the box was the relic/auto pack, a little yellow envelope with some cards inside. At the Bronze level you are guaranteed two cards that may be relics or autos. The exclusive this month was the Derek Jeter sketch print card, featuring art drawn especially for Collector Crate to use in their boxes. The hits in the packs were a Lance Berkman relic from 2003 Leaf Certified and a Shawn Green autograph from 1997 Donruss Signature Series. They are pretty nice cards, although the Berkman relic card is pretty beat up along the edges. The Donruss Rated Rookie Mark McGwire card was a bonus addition to the hit pack.

I scanned the backs to show that the Berkman relic was numbered # 186 / 250.

As far as the packs go, this break was a whole lot weaker than the one I did last month, when I pulled a couple of autographs and a numbered Mike Trout card. Collector Crate doesn't have any control over that, though, and I think the packs were probably of a slightly higher quality here. All of the Topps products included in the 10 packs for the Bronze level were Hobby packs, and there are some decent cards that can come out of most of them. I am sort of disappointed that Collector Crate caught hte box before it shipped, because I can't know for sure which components are from a normal Bronze-level packout and which ones were added later because of the issue I had with the payment.Going by what I've seen from other breaks this month, I am guessing that the car sleeves, the two loose packs (2013 Topps Chipz, 2013 Topps Series 1 5-pack), and maybe the Mark McGwire were added to the box, and it could be that the 10 Bronze-level packs were upgraded at least partially toward the Silver level.

I am not sure if I will start a subscription back up at any point in the future, but Collector Crate went out of their way to fix the problem I had and make sure I was happy. They didn't have to send me a box, but they did and I appreciate that. If you are looking to contact them about something in regard to your account, I would suggest using Facebook or direct e-mail, as the 'Contact Us' feature on their website does not appear to be a solid way to actually contact them.

I have noticed that after the first month's shipments started being opened and reviewed, Collector Crate went out and read the reviews and tried to respond by taking customer suggestions into consideration. They added the feature to allow you to choose some teams that will be emphasized in your swag and hit pack, and it looks like they have tweaked the pack distribution in response to complaints about things like the 5-card Topps packs and a high Retail : Hobby ratio in the pack mix. I still think it will be hard for their Bronze-level subscription to compete value-wise with other products available to collectors at retail outlets, but their higher-level boxes seem to deliver a pretty good value that isn't replicated by any products you can get from Target or Shopko. They're off to a pretty good start, and I hope they are able to keep a good foothold and grow their business. I was pretty irritated about the mix-up with my subscription cancellation, but Collector Crate went above my expectation to make sure the issue was resolved.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

2006 Upper Deck Munenori Kawasaki World Baseball Classic Relic

I've been looking for a Munenori Kawasaki relic or autograph off and on for quite a while, but it seemed like things never lined up exactly right. He is apparently quite the fan favorite with his antics and interview prowess, so his card prices far outstrip his on-field production.

After several months of being outbid and watching exorbitantly-priced Buy It Now listings end without buyers, I was able to land this 2006 Upper Deck World Baseball Classic relic card for a decent price. It's a pretty nice-looking card. I like seeing something outside of the usual MLB uniforms, and I think the WBC logo looks good on cards. It would still be nice to add an autograph someday, but it may be a little while before I get around to it. 

The back features all the typical relic-card stuff congratulating the buyer on obtaining a guaranteed relic card. It also features one sentence about Kawasaki's performance during the World Baseball Classic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pack of the Day 81: A Box of 2014 Topps Stadium Club

After a couple of group breaks that didn't fall my way, I thought I might cut out the middle man and open a box of cards myself. I love the Topps Stadium Club base cards with their fine photography and I've been chasing cheap examples of the Members Only parallel set, but the initial box prices on the product seemed pretty high given the 'value' that people were getting out of their box breaks. Prices dropped pretty rapidly, though, and after my Best Offer on an eBay listing was accepted I had a box in-hand to try it out for myself.

Each box consists of three mini-boxes, and each mini-box contains six packs. The odds are all based on the mini-boxes, though, so they kind of count as the official packs when it comes to the odds. The individual packs inside the mini-boxes are just there to make you feel like you're opening more stuff, rather than busting open a mini-box and having a stack of 30 cards sitting out there in the open.

I got 74 base cards in the box. These are a few of my favorite shots from the selection that I pulled. That Griffey is nice, although having the ball in-frame would add a lot to the photo. There was plenty of Astros goodness in the box, with Singleton, Springer, and Altuve all showing up. Other PC players I got were Bo Jackson and R.A. Dickey. That Eddie Murray photo has got a lot going on in it, with that rubberized jacket, the mustache-sideburns combo, and the mesh in the background. And Hunter Pence made the cut with an autograph-signing photo. That Evan Gattis card is probably one of the most-featured cards in the set, as you don't often see a baseball card featuring a player wearing a bear. I don't think there were any doubles in this box, which is a plus for collation. I do think that collation is an issue in the set. The card sequence in packs is pretty repetitive, so if you have one double pop up you are likely to have a lot of doubles.

Each mini-box contains one of these Rainbow Foil parallels, for a total of three per Hobby box. I got a decent selection, with a couple of decent young players from some of my favorite teams and a star of yesteryear sporting a mullet, pinstripes, and a beard that mimics the one wielded by one Chuck Norris. You kind of have to be a bad-ass if you want to be taken seriously while wearing pinstriped pajamas.

The Gold Giancarlo Stanton card is a parallel that falls one per Hobby box, or one in three mini-boxes. Not visible in this scan is the gouge in the gloss that runs pretty much all the way down the center-front of the card. Kind of irritating to have your box-hit parallel come out of the pack with that much damage.

The Elvis Andrus is a Foilboard parallel that only shows up once in every eleven mini-boxes, or about one in every three to four Hobby boxes. I guess that makes up a little bit for having the Gold Stanton card come out of the pack in such bad shape.

The Andrus is a Christmas card, numbered # 12 / 25. That makes it a bit better than other cards with similar print runs. That neckbeard is pretty epic, too. The Stanton is not numbered, but I scanned the back because the two cards were already next to each other.

I think you are supposed to get three of the base Field Access inserts per Hobby box. Odds aren't listed for them. The stated odds for the Rainbow Foil parallel are 1:23 mini-boxes or about 1.5 of them per case, so that Joe Mauer is a pretty rare pull. The basic inserts I got were Jose Fernandez, Willie Mays, and Derek Jeter. 

The backs of the Field Access cards list the various career highlights of each player, which is fairly standard insert-back material. I mostly scanned the backs so I could show that the Joe Mauer card is numbered # 98 / 99. Moving the number stamp down a bit might have helped to make it more visible, but then it could have interfered with the player name on guys like Fernandez, whose name is long enough that it stretches out toward the middle part of the card.

These four insert sets all are seeded at one per Hobby box. Each of them also has at least one parallel that can be quite rare. I didn't pull any of those rare parallels. The Beam Team set takes a design straight from the Beam Team inserts of the early 90's. I don't really I'm sure it looks a little different, but it's very close. Evan Longoria is an okay pull, I suppose, although he isn't my favorite guy on the checklist.

The Triumvirate cards are die-cut and fit together in groups of three to make a little picture puzzle. The most recent incarnation of this set was found in Topps Archives, which is one of my favorite products. I think I am still missing a couple of cards from the 2013 Archives Triumvirate set. In fact, looking at my want list, I am missing 8 cards from that set, including Justin Verlander. Maybe I can just put this card in the binder and pretend:

They look about the same, right?

The Legends set is pretty self-explanatory, featuring various greats of the game on a die-cut card. The card I really want from this set is Nolan Ryan, as it shows him in a rainbow Astros uniform. George Brett isn't a bad pull. I guess it's hard to pull a bad card from an insert set called Legends.

The Future Stars set is another self-explanatory insert, featuring some of the newer 'name' players on the card scene. I was hoping to get the George Springer Astros card, but it was not to be. I don't really have any feelings about Wil Myers, except that he is probably at the bottom of the checklist as far as cards I would like to pull from this set, right next to Jose Fernandez and Xander Bogaerts. It's printed on thicker cardstock and has a holofoil effect to it.

And finally, we get to the autographs, which are one of the things loudly advertised all over the packaging. Unfortunately, the autograph checklist in this product is very poor. It also seems to have real collation issues, with multiple duplicate autographs being pulled from adjacent boxes. The issues that collectors have with the autographs in Stadium Club are probably the main reason box prices fell so quickly and so far. I honestly didn't recall hearing the names of Chase Anderson and Mario Hollands until I pulled these cards and looked them up. I think I'd heard of Rafael Montero before, but these guys have about 200 innings played between the three of them. They're not exactly setting the world on fire.

Based on the autographs I pulled I was ready to write this box off as a bad break. I actually sat at my desk for a while and felt bad that I had been lured in by the falling price point. But then I compared the price point per mini-box to buying a blaster box of Chrome or something similar. Each one costs about the same and nets you about the same amount of stuff, although the chances of pulling an autograph out of a Chrome blaster are somewhat less than guaranteed, and you probably have slightly better odds of pulling a serially-numbered parallel or two from it.

So I pulled around 25 base cards, 1 autograph, and four inserts from each mini-box. The base cards are good-looking, the inserts are kind of cool, and I got a couple of decent serially-numbered parallels. The Andrus card is one that only drops a handful of times per case, and the Mauer card might only drop once or twice per case, so between the two of them this would probably be one of the better boxes in a case unless you were to pull a higher-value autograph or something that only came once in a few cases like the really rare Beam Team parallels or something. I wouldn't say I hit it out of the park, but I went from feeling bad about the break to feeling like it was a decent buy at that price. Folks who bought boxes or cases at full price got hosed, though.

If you can get a mini-box for the price of a retail blaster box or less, I'd say go for it. And you probably have better odds of a decent break if you can spring for a full Hobby box and ensure that you don't get only the dud mini-box out of the three. It seems like one or two of the mini-boxes will be pretty loaded, and the other one will just contain the bare minimum according to the odds.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2013 Topps Chasing the Dream Josh Reddick Relic

I was going to post a break of a box of 2014 Stadium Club today, but I just realized that I forgot to add all of the scans to my draft of the post. So that will be delayed until I get back to my main computer with all the pictures on it. Instead of that post, which I anticipate will receive a fair amount of traffic, I am posting this relic card of Josh Reddick that I picked up a while ago. It's from 2013 Topps and features a fairly colorful design. I think my favorite part of this card is the big team logo in the background.

The card had a pretty big corner ding when it arrived, which can be seen pretty clearly in the lower left of this scan. I find that irritating. I must not have inspected the card very well when it arrived, because I left good feedback for the seller without any remarks about the condition of the card. At least it was cheap. The blurb on the back of the card is basically the same as the blurb on the back of Reddick's 2013 base card, which I have seen about 35,000 times in my pursuit of the 2013 Topps Josh Reddick Super Rainbow.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sonny Gray Members Only

I don't have time for one of the longer posts I have in the queue, but I figure I can show off one card I grabbed. This is the Members Only parallel of Sonny Gray from 2014 Topps Stadium Club. The forum folks say that based on the stated odds on Stadium Club's packaging it is likely that only between 7 and 9 copies of each of these cards were packed out. They are essentially a case hit, but slip under the radar because they don't have serial numbers or flashy foiling, just a little Members Only logo in the corner of the card. Many of the lesser stars and rookies can be had for just a couple of dollars for the patient eBay bidder, although if a couple of people are chasing the same card you can see them go for quite a bit. I've had some success at putting in bids at a dollar or two and letting the auctions play out. Sometimes I get outbid and lose the card when it sells for $2.57 instead of the $2.22 I bid, but I am not trying to complete the set or anything. I just like getting super-rare cards for dirt cheap.

Gray had a pretty good 2014, winning a couple of Pitcher of the Month awards along with one Player of the Week award and appearing pretty high on the leader board in most pitching categories.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Addition to the Josh Reddick Super Rainbow

I recently added a new card to my Josh Reddick 2013 Super Rainbow, which is made up of cards from Topps Series 1, Chrome, Opening Day, and Topps Mini. I have just about everything except for the 1 / 1 cards, so new additions are few and far between. In this case, I was able to nab the Magenta Printing Plate from Topps Chrome. I now have half of the Chrome Printing Plates, as well as the Superfractor. I have not been able to locate 1 / 1's from the other 2013 products yet. I imagine that is because the Chrome production run gets opened at a higher percentage than the other products, as the 'value' potential for that product is a bit higher with the different Refractor variants pulling in decent money on the secondary market.

I decided this would be a good opportunity to show off the Super Rainbow in it's entirety, as I now have 38 variations of this card. I have four cards from Topps Mini, three from Opening Day, fifteen from Series 1, and sixteen from Topps Chrome. By my count there are 11 cards out there that I am missing, made up of 10 printing plates and the Platinum parallel from Topps Mini.