Sunday, August 13, 2017

A 10-Case Player Break: A Review

When Yonder Alonso was traded to the Mariners, further extending Dan Vogelbach's stay in AAA, I was pretty bummed. I decided to treat myself to a Topps Chrome 10-case break of The Vogelmonster.

In total, the break would consist of 8 hobby cases and 2 jumbo cases. I did a little math, because that's what I do, and found that there would be 11,712 cards in the break overall. Take away inserts, parallels, and autos and I concluded the break should yield me in the neighborhood of 44 base rookie cards of my favorite current baseball player and probably 2 or 3 base autos.

Base rookies and autos are nice, but I was hoping for some refractors, parallels and maybe, just maybe, a low numbered autographed parallel. After all, I've gone all super collector and what not... I need to complete the rainbow somehow!

I opened my wallet and waited. The break was scheduled to be done over the course of two days and in all it wound up being over 10 hours of box breaking entertainment. I only watched about a half hour of the break, because I wanted to see what the product was like and because the host was ripping packs pretty quickly, which kept my interest. When I logged off there were about three dozen others watching the break, which made feel like I could trust this particular Ebay seller. He'd have many angry customers, who watched he break firsthand, knocking on his door otherwise.

Everyone knows baseball cards are akin to lottery tickets, which is something Kin mentioned at  A Pack to Be Named Later earlier today. You may be looking for that base common to finish your set or maybe you're chasing an Aaron Judge rookie, but once you open the pack it's either in there or it's not. Very hit or miss, and like the lottery, it's often miss. An added bonus to baseball cards is there is some sort of trade or resale value to the cards you don't want. You don't get that with lottery!

In my situation though, signing up for a single player in a large break, it's going to be all hit or miss. I was full of anticipation as I waited for my package. I suppose I could have went back and watched 10+ hours of break video, but that did not sound appealing whatsoever. About five days after the break concluded the cards arrived. Now that I think about it though, considering the seller opened and had to sort nearly 12,000 cards, this was a pretty quick shipment!

I was a little surprised my Vogelmonster cards arrived in a white soft padded bubble mailer. I was hoping all my cards had arrived safely.  Guess what was used as additional padding around the stacks of cards? Card supplies!

 This was a surprise indeed! A day before the break started the seller sent out a mass e-mail and announced that all rookie cards would be placed into a penny sleeve and all parallels, inserts and autos would go into a top loader because he knew many of the cards would be sent out for grading.  So, I was expecting some supplies, but the unopened packs of supplies were quite over the top!
 Allen and Ginter?  What in the world? The seller included a free pack of A&G in the middle of two large team bags of Vogelmonster cards. I'm not an A&G fan, so this will go into my pile of packs reserved for Pack Wars.

Here's a picture of the aforementioned team bags of cards.
 I opened the one on the left first and found 36 base rookies. Hmph. Not quite what I was expecting.
 I opened the one on the right, and 7 more were found. I guess they couldn't fit in the other team bag!
The math said, with perfect collation, that I would receive 44.16 base rookies. 43 is pretty darn close!  So far, so good!

 I only need one for my Vogelmonster player collection, but I won't complain about having a couple of extras.

 The blue wave is numbered out of 75 and the purple refractor is out of 299.  Nice!

Bring on the autos!  I was hoping for two or three base autos, but I came away with FIVE!
I hate to admit it, but I think the Vogelbach autos are "filler autos."  You know, there's a higher number of them than the hot rookie of the day everyone is chasing. Price and Demand... blah blah blah. Whatever.  Send me all your Vogelmonster autos!

Unfortunately, I didn't luck into any autographed parallels. It is what it is: a lottery ticket.

So, I didn't recoup in cardboard value what I sunk into the auction initially. Looking at the larger picture, I did have fun watching the half-hour of video and it was fun anticipating what would be in the package before it arrived. Also, opening the package was similar to finding that certain present under the Christmas tree. Overall, I think I got my money's worth.  Plus, I've been watching auctions and slowly picking up the cards I need when the price is right, which is something I really enjoy doing.

I'm happy with my purchase, and some of that happiness is due in part to the seller. Really good customer service seems to be a lost art these days and this seller came through big time. I appreciated the e-mail about the care he was going to take with the rookie cards, I was pleasantly surprised by the unopened card supplies, and floored he would throw in a free pack of cards. Plus, he shipped out very quickly. Honestly, it doesn't get much better than that! Give hobby_legends a look on Ebay if you're interested in participating in a player break. I don't think you'll be disappointed.   I just checked, and he's doing another five cases of Topps Chrome... auctions end in about two hours!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Topps, Feel Free to Steal My Idea

I've been in a writing funk as of late, so let'sget those creative juices flowing!  What type of set would you like to see produced in 2018?  Make sure to note important elements like checklist size, types of players included (prospects, retired), and price point.

Personally, I'd really like to bring back Topps Total in 2018, but I'm going to take a different route.

I was reading the blogs the other day and a post on Bob Walk the Plank gave me pause:
"I have my fingers crossed that Francisco Cervelli and Felipe Rivero get an auto soon!"
Matt's desires for more variety in the world of certified autographs got me thinking: how about an autograph set of non All-Stars?  Topps certainly has its favorites, and I can't really blame them. As long as Aaron Judge continues to move the needle he's going to have an autographed card in nearly every set. In fact, a quick Ebay search will show you he has ink in the following sets in 2017: Heritage, Finest, Tier One, Museum, Archives, Inception, Bowman Chrome, Stadium Club, Topps Chrome and of course, Topps Now. I know I'm probably missing a few. Again, it's a business and Aaron Judge autos are good for business.

On the flip side, there's a running joke about 2016 product around the blogs and within many box breaking circles concerning the omnipresent Henry Owens autograph. Owens had certified autographs in at least eighteen different Topps products, including many high end products such as Strata, Five Star, Tier One, Triple Threads, Tribute, High Tek, Gold Label and The Mint. I'm sure there was a collective eye roll when an Owens card was pulled in a group break.

Some may be thinking, "What about the Red Sox fans? Surely they were happy for the chance to acquire another Henry Owens auto!"

Honestly, I don't know about that. I'm a team collector and the volume of the Carl Edwards, Jr. autos in 2016 very much falls on side of overkill in my book. For the record, fifteen different Topps sets featured the Cubs' right-hander. Having Edwards represented in two or three different Topps sets would be fine by me.  Fifteens? No thanks. Talk about a player collector nightmare!

Boy, I wish Topps would spread the love around to other players.

In an effort to add some variety to the certified autograph stable I'm proposing a new set for 2018 and beyond.  Obviously, this is me just spit balling here, but I've been mulling this over and I think I have a model that could work.

Here are the specifics in bullet point form for easy digesting:
  • The set would contain 100 cards in all and consist only of autographed cards, with each team having a minimum of three cards in the set. Three times thirty is ninety. We'll talk about the remaining ten cards in a little bit.
  • Topps seems to love to bring in older designs, but Heritage is already doing its thing, so lets spin things into the future a bit. This set design will always be twenty-nine years ahead of Heritage, which will use the 1969 design in 2018. Our 2018 set will have the 1998 design, 2019 will look like 1999 and etc.
  • Why twenty-nine years? Expansion, of course! 1998 was the first season for the Diamondbacks and Rays and the '98 Topps set featured the first cards of the new expansion teams. 
  • The name of the set, should follow the theme of adding variety, so I'm going to suggest Topps Variance.
  • Two of each of the team's three cards would be fan favorites from the 1998 season. Again, we're thinking about players who don't have much in the way of certified autographs, so every effort will be made to stay away from the "big" names. The third card would be reserved for a current player who is a solid contributor, but who generally doesn't get much love from the card industry. 
  • The remaining ten cards to fill out the 100-card checklist? These ten cards will represent the cash cow for Topps: hot rookies (Judge and Bellinger) and budding superstars (Correa and Bryant) can comprise the last ten cards with other perennial All-Star types (Trout & Harper). 
  • Ideally, the names wouldn't repeat from year-to-year. This way team collectors can continue to seek out singles of players from their team and slowly increase their certified autograph portfolio. 
  • Price point? No, this set would not be priced for your average set-builder, not with those last ten cards being high-end talent. I was thinking it would probably have to be something along the lines of Topps Museum, which is generally twenty cards per box for a little over $200. Granted, Museum isn't an autograph only set, but only 10% of the Topps Variance checklist have serious star power. So, maybe Topps could put a MSRP of $200 on a twenty card box.
Again, I'm just tossing ideas around, but it's a product I definitely would be interested in. Please, keep in mind, I am a team collector on a very modest budget. Would I ever buy a pack or a box of Topps Variance as I've laid it out above? Nope. Would I look forward to its release each year and then hunt down all the Cubs autographs? Heck yeah!

Here's a sample checklist I would be looking at as far as the Cubs go:

I laid out three players for 2017, only because that's the current year. (And, because it's fun to go back and try to choose players.) I could have chosen Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, Ryne Sandberg or Sammy Sosa for 1997, but I'm staying with the theme here. All of those guys have certified autos.  Rod Beck was the first guy I wanted for 1998, but that's just not possible. Obviously, there are some obstacles in making a decent checklist.  Maybe I should have held off on Jon Lieber until 2021, because in 2001 Lieber made his only All-Star appearance and won twenty games. I know I stated the desire to stay away from All-Stars, but I like Lieber as a choice at some point because he doesn't have any certified autos in circulation that I know of. It's all about Variance.

Also, I know Topps has issued sets like Fan Favorites in the past and last year Topps had Archives Signature Series All-Star Baseball Cards. These sets, when produced, always re-use older designs and always have an autograph component. So, not too different than what I'm suggesting. Remember, Variance is focused on the B-side type players... a way to add some variety to the certified autograph world!

Actually, do you remember when these hit retail stores last winter?

Archives 65th Anniversary Edition is a product very similar to what I'm suggesting. The main differences being Variance would be one consistent design, contain no base cards, and have more autos to chase. Plus, it's a set which wouldn't be produced during big anniversaries, but every year instead.

What do you think?  What you buy a box of Variance? Build the set? Or just cherry pick some singles like myself?

I look forward to your responses to my set idea and reading about many more throughout the blogs!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Exchanging with Johnny's Trading Spot, Vol. 2

2017 has been a slow year of trading for yours truly, but that is mostly of my own doing. Lots going on and little to zero new cardboard coming in to provide as trade fodder. Yet, when I saw a 2017 Stadium Club VOGELMONSTER card being dangled over at Johnny's Trading Spot . . . well, I went scrounging for cards to send to John for a second time this month. (Here's the first swap from early July.)

Believe it or not, I had already acquired the gold foil and the black foil before I could add this base card to my VOGELMONSTER player collection. I didn't mind buying the parallels on Ebay, but I knew someone would eventually pull a base card I could trade for!

Here are the other Stadium Club cards we agreed to swap.
 Stadium Club is my favorite set of 2017 and my decision is based solely upon the photography. Maybe Topps Gallery or Topps Fire will change my mind later this collecting season when they are released in Wal-Mart and Target, respectively.
 Choosing Derrek Lee to make a cameo in the set was a nice surprise!
Zach McAllister played ball for a local rival high school back in the day. I have a modest collection of Z-mac and I wouldn't mind seeing it blossom into something larger at some point.

And now, on to the non Stadium Club portion of the package. John, being John, sent more than the Dan Vogelbach card, which was quite generous! 
 I'm fairly certain I have now achieved complete team set status for this particular 2000 Upper Deck release. I was missing the Kerry Wood, and this copy has been moved to his binder.

Other cards new to my collection:
 The 5-Tool insert cards are pretty neat. I think the Baez card is really well done and the photo selection is right on. The Zobrist card is another solid addition!
Quite the stocking stuffer of cards!  Thanks for the quick trade, John!

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Pack of 2017 Donruss Optic

Donruss Optic is to Donruss as Topps Chrome is to Topps' flagship product. Fair enough.
Regardless, I like shiny!  Four cards in a pack and possibly a Mickey Mantle card? That would be cool.  I read an article about the Mantle Estate agreeing to a deal with Panini America. Could this be a small step towards Panini gaining an MLB license?

Enough postulating. On to the cards!
Wow, super shiny!  You can see the orange outline of my iPhone case in the background. Those Pirates uniforms are so sweet. I love the black pants with the yellow stripe and I wish more teams would explore other options besides the bland white and gray.
I traded for Villar last off season in my fantasy league and chose him as one of my keepers. He's had a really rough season and so has my squad.  Oh, and when did the Diamond Kings get away from the artwork?
This is a nice surprise. It's some sort of refractor of Joey Votto, maybe the "Caroline Blue" parallel, numbered to 50.
In my book, Joey Votto is about as professional a hitter as you will find in today's game.

Last card in the pack:
The Rated Rookie takes me back to my childhood. Mitch Haniger isn't a bad player, although he has slumped since coming off the DL a month or so ago.

I heard Topps Chrome drops next week with a 200 card set, FIFTY of which will be rookie cards. It almost sounds like they are taking a page out of Panini's Rated Rookie subset with that large of a number. 2017 is the year of the rookie craze though... so why not?

Hope you enjoyed the pack. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Book Review: Teammate

Title: Teammate 

Author: David Ross with Don Yeager 

Genre: Autobiographical

Ease of Reading: This was a really quick read for me. The print is fairly large, it's well written, I'm a fanboy of David Ross and the World Series Champion Cubs. The 242 pages really never stood a chance.

Synapse: The formatting of the book really kept things flowing. In chapter one the book starts with the morning before Game 7 of the World Series, but also in chapter one we learn about David's baseball path before he was drafted by the Dodgers. Periodically, journal entries from Ross' iPhone are introduced to chronicle the play of the 2017 Cubs throughout the season. As the chapters increase in number, the story lines of Game 7, David's career, and the Cubs 2017 season continue to move to a common culmination. I found it fascinating how there seemed to be a lot of give and take between the three different story lines and how easy it was to follow each of them as the pages turned.
Comments: I thoroughly enjoyed reading how David Ross blossomed into a clubhouse leader and truly embraced the role even though he was "just" a back-up catcher. I could sense his passion for winning, family, and his teammates and he detailed the peaks and valleys of attempting to balance all three without pulling any punches as an author. As a high school baseball coach I was looking for some characteristics which Ross really thought were important in being a good teammate and leader. Here's how I interpreted his words:
1. Work Ethic - Work hard and with pride. It's an easy way to gain respect.
2. Trust - Being a part of a team is as much about trusting in your teammates as anything else.
3. Make an effort to get to know everyone and what makes them tick.
4. Don't be afraid to call someone on the carpet when it needs to be done. This is probably the most difficult for many people. If you do the first three points though, then this last one is maybe a little easier for others around you to swallow.

Grade: I asked my sister to give this book to me as a birthday present when I first learned about. I waited a little while to get my hands on it, at no fault of my sister, but when I finally had a copy I pretty much devoured it. I haven't ripped through a book at that torrid of a pace in quite some time. Is it forevery baseball fan?  Probably not. It helps to be a Cub fan or be to be interested in being a better teammate, and it certainly helps to be both, like myself. Heck, if you're into baseball biographies and autobiographies then this one is for you, too. I may be a little biased, but I'm going to grade it out as 'A' material. It hit all my expectations and even brought occasional tear to my eye. Well done, Mr. Ross.