31 March 2015

Mysterious Packages, Trade E-Mails, and 2014 Stadium Club Members Only x4

I have recently received a couple of mystery packages from names I don't recognize. I hope that I have not been making trade arrangements in my sleep and then deleting the e-mails related to them. If you have sent me a package in the last month or so and not gotten any kind of response from me, it is because I don't know who you are and I can't find anything in my e-mail history that matches the name on the return label.

Others have reached out to me via e-mail or blog comment about potential trades. The card collecting part of my life is rather disorganized right now, and I am having some difficulty agreeing to trades because I don't have a good idea of what I have to trade and/or where exactly any trade bait might be found among my card stacks. I've also been buying collated sets and specific singles rather than wax lately, so I haven't really been adding much to my trade bait pile. Now that all of the excuses are out of the way, I will show off a few cards.

I picked up a few more of these 2014 Stadium Club Members Only parallels over the last few months. A couple of them actually fit into my player collections. I would really like to track down a copy of R.A. Dickey's card from this set, but it has proven elusive. There are estimated to be less than 10 copies of each of the cards in this parallel set, so it could be a while before I find one.

First up is the speedy Pirates outfielder, Starling Marte. He's put up some pretty good numbers the last two seasons, and he should be on track to do more of the same this season. I don't know exactly why I like the Pirates more than some other teams, but it probably has to do with their uniform colors and these:

Those pillbox caps are cool. I must have come into contact with some earlier baseball cards during my early 90's childhood, because I remember seeing these caps on Pirates players and thinking they were so different from anything anyone else was wearing. And being different was pretty darn neat.

I grabbed this Torii Hunter card, mostly because there wasn't much bidding activity on it. The auctions for these with low starting prices have pretty well dried up and been replaced by fixed-price listings, but every once in a while one will pop up and I'll have a chance at it. I haven't been as dedicated to it as I once was, so I can think of 9 or 10 recently that I missed by $0.25 or $1.00. I try not to get too broken up about losing auctions. There are so many cards out there that I will never get all of the ones I want, so I have adopted a policy of getting what I can and letting the rest go. Sometimes it is difficult to choose what to chase and what to ignore, but I am getting there.

I am hoping that Billy Butler can get back on track this year with the A's. He had a pretty good run from 2009-2013, but his 2014 was kind of a down year. He seems like a pretty personable dude, but he's got a big contract to live up to. I was pretty happy to snag this card for my 'Country Breakfast' player collection.

Finally, I added a copy of Jose Bautista's card. 'Joey Bats' had his power bat turn on in big way for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He's done his share of mashing since then, too, but the numbers haven't been quite as gaudy. He'll be one of the key components as the Blue Jays try to end their 21-year absence from the playoffs. I don't think bats are going to be their downfall, but their pitching doesn't look strong enough to me to be a legitimate contender.

And those are four of my most recent Members Only pickups from 2014 Topps Stadium Club.

29 March 2015

2014 Press Pass National Redline Intensity Set

I've been absent from the blog and the online card world for the last week or more. There are many reasons for that, but most of it has to do with a feeling of lethargy that hits me every time I sit down to write a blog post. I guess that is a sign that it's time for a break. I've still got 20 or 30 posts sitting in the queue, a bunch of scans in my photo folder waiting to become posts in the queue, and a bunch of cards sitting in stacks waiting to be scanned so I can process the photos and place them in queued posts. It feels a lot like work. The other thing that has been keeping me from posting is OOTP 16, the baseball simulation game. I always want to just play one more month, or just until the All-Star break, or just until the trade deadline, or just until Hall of Fame voting results are announced. It's a real problem. If you are a baseball fan and have a tendency to get absorbed in virtual worlds, stay far away from OOTP 16.

This is one of those shiny card sets that scans poorly, looking muddy and highlighting only the debris on your scanner bed. It's a 5-card Press Pass Redline Intensity set that was available at the 2014 National convention. I didn't attend the National in 2014 (or in any other year), but I needed to add a couple of dollars to my order at Dave & Adam's a few months back to qualify for free shipping, and this fit the bill. The cards feature a black and white portrait of the driver in the upper 2/3 of the card, and a color photo of them in their helmets in the lower 1/3 of the card. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a pretty good run in the Auto Club 400 last week, starting 17th and finishing in 6th place. This week in the STP 500 he had a much rougher go of it, starting in 14th place but wrecking and breaking his shifter lever off and finally taking 36th place. The bad showing dropped him to 9th in the overall points standings for the season.

I like Jeff Gordon, but I don't really track his race finishes or his place in the standings. I don't pay much attention at all to Jimmie Johnson. Danica Patrick did okay at the Auto Club 400, starting in 22nd and climbing a couple of spots over the course of the race to finish in 19th. She did really well in the STP 500, starting in 16th and finishing inside the Top 10 with a 7th-place run. That finish moved her up several spots to 16th in the overall points. Tony Stewart has struggled this year. He started the Auto Club 400 in 20th and finished in 14th, and then in the STP 500 he started well in 6th but fell to 20th by the end of the race. He is currently 32nd in the overall standings. The other driver I follow is Josh Wise, who doesn't appear in this set. In the Auto Club 400 he started in 35th and finished in 36th, and in the STP 500 he started in 31st and finished in 30th place. He is 35th in overall points for the year.

21 March 2015

Pack of the Day 95: 2014 Topps High Tek

Last time I visited my local card shop I noticed that he had boxes of 2014 Topps High Tek for sale at less than the going online rate. I went ahead and grabbed one to see how I'd do. I like the design of the cards, but I am still a little miffed that you only get ten cards in a box.

These three cards are from the most common tier of variations. Players from each league get six background patterns that all have a different rarity. Cardboard Connection calls these patterns Wave for the AL and Spiral Brick for the NL. I don't have a lot of interest in these three dudes, although Cueto is a pretty darn god pitcher. It seems like he doesn't get the respect he deserves for that, although he did get into the All-Star Game last year.

These cards come from the second tier of rarity. Again deferring to the Cardboard Connection names, these backgrounds are Grid for the NL and Spirals for the AL. I hope that Fielder is able to regain some of his power-hitting prowess this year, as I picked him up on one of my fantasy teams as a late round flier.

George Springer skips right past the third level of rarity and lands in the fourth tier with a pattern called Circuit Board. Springer is an Astro, so that falls right into my collecting wheelhouse. I am putting together a Jon Singleton rainbow from Topps High Tek but I don't have much from the other Astros in the set, and that makes this Springer a welcome addition to my collection.

Now we are into the 'hits' section of the box. Each box promises a numbered parallel and an autograph. All of the numbered parallels use the basic background for the player's league (in this case Wave for the AL), but add colors or foil patterns to distinguish them from the base cards. This is the Gold Diffractor version of Sonny Gray's card, which is the most common numbered parallel. This is copy # 46 / 99.

And my autograph is Roenis Elias, who pitched his way to a 10-12 record last season and is competing right now for the last spot in the Mariners' rotation for this season. At the moment it looks like he might miss out.

Well, that box wasn't very exciting, although it hit a couple of players and teams I like in George Springer and Sonny Gray. With just ten cards in a box it can be hard to pull something exciting every time out.

20 March 2015

Some 2014 Stadium Club Additions

I picked up a few Stadium Club inserts at some point in the far past. The far past would include approximately the last 4 to 4-1/2 months. I accumulated cards and also took a sort of break from posting, and now I am very far behind on clearing out my draft folder, and even further behind on getting pictures from my scan folder into my draft folder. I was planning on marking the occasion when it passed, but I hit the 500 posts mark a week or so ago. By my count, the 500th post was the one about the lot of vintage Allen & Ginter chicken cards I purchased recently.

This first card is a Foilboard parallel of R.A. Dickey's base card, which is pretty shiny from certain angles in person but just looks like a darker base card in the scanner. The back shows the serial number, which in this case is # 17 / 25. That red jersey is a pretty good look for the Blue Jays. These cards fell about 1:4 boxes.

Here is a Members Only parallel of Matt Adams. The Members Only cards are not numbered, but they were a case hit and estimates say there were less than 10 of each made, with most folks doing the math saying the print run probably fell between 7 and 9. Outside of the big stars, these don't really sell up to their scarcity. That's good for buyers, but not so good for sellers.

And here is an acetate Illuminator parallel of Hanley Ramirez from the Triumvirate insert set. After I pulled a Clayton Kershaw Illuminator card I got the wild idea that I would try to complete one Triumvirate Illuminator trio, because I thought the other two cards were Han-Ram and Hyun-Jin Ryu. But the Hyun-Jin Ryu card apparently falls into the 'Pitchers from Asia' trio with Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish. The other guy who gets grouped in the 'Dodgers' trio with Kershaw and Ramirez is Yasiel Puig. I don't know if you've ever tried to track down a case hit featuring Yasiel Puig before, but it's not something I would recommend. So this trio is on hold indefinitely.

19 March 2015

Star Wars Masterwork Luke Skywalker Stamp Relic

One type of card that I didn't pull from the box of Star Wars Masterwork that I opened recently was a Stamp Relic card, which basically is one of the Star Wars stamps released by the USPS in 2007 mounted in a little frame. I decided I needed to pick one up as a part of my Star Wars Masterwork 'type' set in which I do not try to get every card, but I grab the most common sets and supplement the collection with cards from some of the harder-to-find inserts. I wound up getting the Luke Skywalker Stamp Relic card, numbered # 63 / 99.

The back of the card is pretty simple, with a picture of Luke Skywalker, the Star Wars Masterwork logo, and the standard congratulatory message that comes along with any Topps relic card.

18 March 2015

Just the Commons, Ma'am 8: Jon Singleton Patch Auto and the Replacements

As part of the Just Commons order I started talking about yesterday, I grabbed a couple more cards for my Jon Singleton player collection. This was the main attraction. It's a Clubhouse Collection Autographed Patches card from the 2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Baseball set. Even with a sticker autograph it's a pretty cool card. I do wish the photo and the relic swatch were a bit bigger, but Topps had to put all kinds of other stuff all over the card.

The back of the card shows the serial number, which makes this card copy # 03 / 10. In addition to the information reminding you that the relic can't be traced to anything specific, the card features a cartoon on the back. Informative and entertaining!

I grabbed these because they were cheap and I was pretty sure I didn't have them yet.

Ditto for these. 

These too.

In January I posted about a previous order from Just Commons and some Jon Singleton cards that were destroyed by some combination of my dog and my kids. I replaced those cards with this order, and added a couple of other shiny cards to my collection, too. The new cards are the Bowman Platinum in the upper right and the Blue Refractor in the lower left. I think that die-cut in the lower right is a duplicate that I probably bought because I wasn't sure. Now I have two of them.

17 March 2015

Just the Commons, Ma'am 7: Dickey, Reddick, and Some Horizontal Stadium Club

A couple of months back I was looking to fill out some player collections and finish my 2014 Stadium Club set, so I made a purchase from Just Commons. There wasn't a lot of new stuff for my R.A. Dickey and Josh Reddick, but I did grab one card for each of them. The Dickey is a Season Statline parallel from 2014 Donruss, celebrating his 177 strikeouts in 2013 with a shiny card numbered # 089 / 177. The Josh Reddick card is a Topps 100 Prospects insert card from 2010 Bowman. I like these sets that list the top prospects in order based on some scout's preferences.

You've gotta show the backs of the cards sometimes. Dickey has been all right in Spring Training so far, but it's a sample size of six innings so far and you can't really tell what might happen with the knuckleball over the course of a season. Reddick has only appeared in one Spring Training game so far, going 3 for 3 with 2 runs and 2 runs batted in. Based on those numbers, he should have 486 hits in the regular season, with 324 runs and 324 runs batted in.

In purchasing all of the cards I was missing from my Stadium Club set, I realized that every single one of them was of the horizontal variety. I had up to seven multiples of some of the vertical cards, but I was missing a decent stack of cards and they all were horizontal. I don't know if that means the sideways cards were short-printed or what. I don't recall that happening with other sets, so I wonder what made these cards harder to pull.

That Nolan Ryan card was one I really wanted, so of course it was one I just couldn't pull from any of the many Stadium Club boxes I opened. It's not too often that you get to see livestock on a modern trading card, but I believe there was a David Price card a couple of years ago that showed him with a cow at the stadium. That Johnny Bench photo is pretty cool, too.

To balance out the pitchers in the first scan, here are four pictures of hitters, including some pretty nice shots from angles you don't see too often on cards. Also notable is the fact that you can see most of the players rather than just close-ups of their torsos. Heck, you can actually see things like the catcher, the umpire's butt, fans in the stands, other players watching from the dugout, and huge advertisements for Monster Energy Drinks and AAA Insurance.

16 March 2015

Rainbow in the Dark 27: Jon Singleton 2014 Panini The National Wrapper Redemption Rainbow

A little while ago I saw this Jon Singleton card pop up on eBay. It's from the 2014 Panini Wrapper Redemption set that Panini released at the National Convention, and it's the Lava Flow 1 / 1 parallel. I put in a bid on the card and I wound up being the only bidder, winning the auction at the starting price. It took a while for the seller to ship, but eventually the card arrived. With the 1 / 1 in-hand, I felt somewhat compelled to seek out the rest of the rainbow. I don't know if printing plates were released, but I am pretty sure I got every other parallel that they put out.

I think this is called the Cracked Ice parallel. It looks similar to Topps' Atomic Refractors. Mine is copy # 16 / 25. The backs of all of these cards look the same. I don't even know why I went to the trouble of scanning and uploading them.

This is the Thick parallel which is printed on, you guessed it, really thick cardstock. It's not serially-numbered, but the rumor out there is that there were about 50 copies printed. I guess I will believe that. Either way, I needed a copy of it to complete the rainbow.

Finally, here is the standard base card. It is numbered # 220 / 499. As far as I know, that is it for Jon Singleton's 2014 The National rainbow. It was certainly a lot easier than trying to gather all of a player's Bowman variations. Singleton seems to be doing okay in Spring Training so far; hopefully that success will extend to the regular season.

15 March 2015

Danica's Hauler Keeps on Truckin'

One fun part of NASCAR card sets is all of the extra stuff that can be featured on the cards. There are the drivers, the cars, the pit crews, and the team haulers. As I've mentioned a few times before, I bought a bunch of parallels from a couple of large Danica Patrick collections on eBay near the end of 2014. This lot included mostly pictures of the car, equipment, and crew because the bidding action was a little crazier on cards featuring Danica herself. A couple of the cards I picked up were these parallels from 2011 Press Pass, featuring the Godaddy.com Hauler. Big trucks are cool, especially when they are wrapped in colorful sponsor graphics. One is the Gold parallel numbered # 50 / 50, and the other is a holofoil parallel numbered just # 03 / 10.

Patrick had a disappointing run in the Kobalt 400 last week, starting in 21st place and finishing in 27th place. The slow performance dropped her from 16th in the standings to 20th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished strongly again with a 4th-place run. That leaves him at 2nd in points, but since he hasn't won a race yet he technically sits behind three other drivers in the playoff picture. Josh Wise started in 39th place and moved up to 34th place before the race ended, and he currently sits 35th in the standings. I still don't know how I feel about Tony Stewart anymore, but he has really struggled this year to put any kind of run together and sits just ahead of Josh Wise at 33rd in the overall standings. He hasn't finished above 30th place yet this season.

None of my favorite drivers qualified very well for the CampingWorld.com 500 this weekend. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be starting in 16th, Tony Stewart in 17th, Danica Patrick in 23rd, and Josh Wise in 34th. I imagine it won't take Junior too long to get up among the front-runners, but the other drivers might struggle. We'll see how it goes.

14 March 2015

Pack of the Day 94: Pulling Those Repack Hits

I picked up one of those 20 Packs + a Bonus Item repacks at Target the other day. It contained the usual assortment of stuff, including seven or eight packs from the last couple years of Topps Flagship and Opening Day, around five filler packs of Panini Triple Play, and then good stuff like Heritage, Bowman, Cooperstown, and Allen & Ginter. The bonus item in the box was an Albert Pujols collectible minifigure of some kind produced by Topps. My son asked me about it at dinner, and I told him, "This is a figure of Albert Pujols." He looked at me and said, "Daddy, no potty words at the table!"

There were a number of minis among the inserts in the packs. I like that die-cut Felix Hernandez the best. I really need to figure out what I'm still missing from that set and finish putting it together. I also got a couple of Royals, with a James Shields 1972 mini from another set I need to complete and a Kyle Zimmer mini Refractor from a set I will never complete.

Here are the backs of those cards because I scanned them. They are sideways because I didn't rotate the photo before I saved it. The quality of this post is rapidly deteriorating. My Google AdSense doesn't pay me enough to hire a Quality Control person.

I got this Dizzy Dean disc from the pack of Cooperstown that I got. It's pretty cool, even though it's one of those things that stinks to store. I'll probably toss it in a penny sleeve and put it with my other fifteen Cooperstown cards.

I like Billy Butler, even if he had a down year in 2014. I heard the other day that he hit a home run or something in Spring Training. But maybe I am thinking about the home run that Ryan Howard hit. I don't know. I'm glad the teams I like have just been exchanging players I like, so that even if they're in new uniforms I don't have to feel conflicted about the changes. Billy Butler to Oakland is one example. Josh Donaldson to Toronto is another.

This Butler card is from the Blue Foil parallel of Topps Opening Day. This is one of the sets I like collecting every year (since 2013), so I already had this card. I hear that the 2015 Opening Day parallel might just be foilboard without a nice blue color to it. If that rumor is true I will feel a little sad. I really like the blue cards. Yes, I just passed up the chance to make a pun about feeling blue.

Here is a Jeter insert from 2014 Topps. It's hard to believe that it's already 2015. Life is moving pretty fast. I also got a Cracked Ice or whatever they're calling these fractured Refractor-type cards on the Panini side of things. This one features Rogers Hornsby. Somewhere the Atlanta Braves are grinding their teeth about people creating sick Refractor hits of vintage dudes. Brian McCann would be worried about it too, but he is busy rolling around in the big pile of money the Yankees gave him.

Wow Astros, way to go. You passed on Jeter to get Phil Nevin, who you then traded to get 21 innings from Mike Henneman. That sick mojo hit of Rogers Hornsby is numbered # 195 / 499.

And finally, I got a mini of Ryne Sandberg out of the Allen & Ginter pack. But not just any mini. This is a flag-back mini, hand-numbered # 23 / 25. I threw out all the packs so I don't recall the exact odds on pulling one of these, but from Retail it was something in the realm of 1:You Just Used All Your Luck For The Year. I almost passed it over because the mini in the A & G packs is an annoying little card stuck between the other cards and it always wants to fall between your fingers and land on the floor. So you just kind of have to flip to where the mini is and set it aside before sorting through the pack, and it is easy to ignore it once it's set aside. But for some reason I checked the back and I was pretty excited to find the hand-numbering on there. It sells for like $6 on eBay, but I got a thrill from beating the astronomical odds on pulling one of these. From a repack box, no less, where the packs are each costing right around $1 apiece.