Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Treat Yo' Self! I have Added my Dream Card to my Collection

I mentioned a while back that I would be starting a new job (well, an expanded role in my current job) at the beginning of next month. This is still true, but thanks to a change-up in the staff (someone quitting with no goddamn notice), my hours are going to take a huge jump immediately. And this is mostly fine. I have the time and I can use the money.

The promise of a few real big paydays to come put me in “treat yo’self” mode. I started making fantasy searches on eBay, looking at big-money cards that I never before seriously considered buying. After some pie-in-the-sky thoughts about getting a 2011 Update Mike Trout, I settled on its cheaper cousin, the 2012 Bryce Harper #661 rookie.

Topps was stricken with full-blown gimmickitus for this one, super-short printing one version, putting another (the one I bought) into factory sets, and including a third variation as a part of a special rookie set in factory sets. By the strictest definition, none of these can really be his rookie card – that designation falls to his 2012 Update “rookie debut” card – but I wanted one of these as a nice bookend to my 2012 set. I dropped $20 on it, which is about a third of what the Update card seems to be going for right now.

I rarely spend so much on a single card. I can’t honestly remember the most I’ve EVER paid for a single card. The most expensive card in my collection presently is the autographed 1987 Topps Barry Bonds that I picked up a few years ago for about $30.

It was issued by The Scoreboard a while back, long before authenticating holograms became a must-have. Doing a little detective work, I became almost totally certain the thing was legit and took advantage of the situation to snag an auto of one of the three or four greatest players of all-time.

But even after picking up the Harper, I didn’t feel entirely treated. I wanted something BIG. And, after a little digging, I found something big. It set me back almost $90 – FAR more than I’d ever paid for a single card before.

(takes a breath)

So here it is…

An AUTOGRAPHED 1976 SSPC Henry Aaron. My dear God…

A signed Hammerin’ Henry Brewers card has been at the top of my list for YEARS. When I started my all-time Brewers project, I realized that Bad Henry would be among the toughest of all-time roster to find signed and I had kinda resigned myself to never owning one. But then I stumbled upon this little beauty. It is, oddly enough, another card certified by the Score Board. Poking around again, I found some similar cards online and – with the certificate of authenticity included, the serial number of the back and the big clunky case (the Bonds I mentioned above came in a case just like it) I felt good enough in moving forward with the purchase. 

Because this card came from the early days of certified autograph cards and features Aaron as a Brewer (most collectors would prefer him as a Milwaukee or Atlanta Brave), the price was far more reasonable than most of the newer certified autos, more in line with those god-awful ugly Front Row auto’ed Aaron cards from the early 1990s. But for me, this card is as close to perfection as I can imagine. It is a mile better-looking than most of the recent Topps cert autos, which tend to be a bit garish with the foil and many of which feature sticker autos (which Aaron often signs outside the lines). It shows a tired man smiling politely, an aged legend on a young team preparing for an early-season tilt with the Yankees at Shea Stadium. The Schaefer Beer sign, the American flag, the overcast sky… the picture tells a story all on its own and doesn’t need any real design to make it iconic. Add a bold, blue signature and it becomes the greatest card in my collection.

On the backside, we learn that Aaron was once destined for the Brewers front office. He indeed did get a promise of a post-career job after he was traded to the Brewers, but a feud with Bud Selig during the 1976 season drove him back to Atlanta. In fact, Aaron was actually offered the job of managing the Brewers part-way through the 1975 season, which he turned down. The reasons for the beef with Selig were never made public and were eventually settled.

I haven’t put the card into Aaron’s spot in my all-time Brewers binder just yet. And probably I won’t Aaron occupies the 9th spot in the page, which feels vulnerable to damage for some reason (even though I’ve damaged maybe one or two cards while in a binder in my whole life). I’m even a bit hesitant to have it out on my desk for fear of something happening to it.

What do you think I should do, blog pals? Sleeve it up where it belongs or lock it down in heavy Lucite?

Monday, August 14, 2017

My 30 Greatest TTM Autos, 15-11

Back to the count-down!

15. Whitey Ford, oddball

Whitey was a pretty good signer for a while, usually charging $25 plus for cards while occasionally giving out a freebee. I had this weird fake-’69 laying around, so I took a flyer that paid off big. Whitey anchored a Yankee staff that won six World Series and won a Cy Young Award in 1961.

14. Warren Spahn, 1962 Topps

Warren Spahn’s career spanned 24 years. He broke in with FDR in the White House and pitched his final game at Candlestick Park. Had he not missed three seasons to serve in WWII, he would have won over 400 games and struck out over 3,000 men. A 17-time All Star, Spahn is one of just 14 pitchers with a career WAR of 90 or higher. I paid him $5 to sign his card about 20 years ago.

13. Adrian Beltre, 2010 Topps

The newest Mr. 3,000 has been considered a sure-fire Hall of Famer for a few years now. He has a nice, if choppy, sig. He has been a very good signer, but has trailed off in recent years. I feel like, by the time he comes to be elected to the Hall, many people will forget about his time in Seattle. Anyway, I’ve always loved this card. He’s an all-timer and a great guy.

12. Monte Irvin,1951 Topps

I picked this card up at a show many, many year ago. I got this and a 1949 Bowman Stan Musial (with a big scrape on the front) for $7 total. Both would be classified as poor by any grader (this Irvin has a big, black stain on the reverse), but $7 for an Irvin RC and a second-year Musial is a crazy good deal. I sold the Musial some time ago, but hung onto the Irvin and ended up mailing it to him back around 2010. I only have one signed rookie card of a hall of famer from the 1950s in my collection. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever be able to afford another.

11. Nyjer Moran, 2012 Topps

From a very pricey antique to a card most people wouldn’t pay more than a buck or two for… that’s how I roll. “Tony Plush” was the shit-starting spark plug for the greatest Brewers team of my adult life. He talked mad shit, got Cardinals fans to hate his guts, and came up with big hit after big hit for the 2011 division champ Brewers. He was also a great TTM signer, and added his squiggle to this card that honors his game-winning hit in the 2011 NLDS.

Sunday, August 13, 2017 forget about life for a while: Reflections on a Great and Awful Weekend


That was the message on a wrapper of 1992 O Pee Chee that I recently opened. And it kinda lined up with a thought that was already on my mind about this collecting thing of ours. Hobbies are distractions from real life. Perhaps the most important thing about a hobby is that it is not that important at all. In proper doses, I think it is very important to devote time to matters of little or no importance. Many hobbies, card collecting included, are multi-sensory experiences. You sit and look, you sort the cards by hand, you SMELL that old cardboard (who among us couldn’t tell 1993 Upper Deck from 1989 Donruss by smell alone?). I prefer to do my sorting with a podcast running or in front of ball game on the TV, adding an audio elements to the experience. You let these things overtake you and you can forget about what you need to forget about for a while. Someone getting high – from basement stoners to your grandpa and his old fashioneds – is probably looking for a similar escape.

This was the best of weekends and the worst of weekends. I went on an overnight to Chicago with my wife to see Billy Joel play Wrigley Field, and spent most of yesterday wondering around the city. I had a great time and brought back some great stuff from some awesome little shops we found. But, of course, I had to keep checking the news and Twitter and followed along with what was going on in Charlottesville. Nazis were marching around like the world owed them something and one of them tried to murder a bunch of people with his car just because they had the courage to stand up for actual morality and justice. And the president hardly cares, mumbling some bullshit that the white nationalist crowd took as a yet another embrace of their support. This is heavy shit, man, and it had me down. Even those images of Nazis writhing in pain after being maced didn’t cheer me up. Well, maybe a little.

But the odd thing was that when I got home, all I really wanted to do was write a post about the stuff I’d snagged in Chicago. It was like the world had gotten too real all of the sudden and I needed an escape. I needed my fix. I needed to get HIGH on BASEBALL, even if just for a little while. I’ll stop talking about things that matter now. Let’s spark it up.

BILLY JOEL! I enjoy his music enough but my wife, raised on Long Island just like the Piano Man, is a HUGE fan. It was a good show and I had a good time, but Erika had a straight-up BLAST. We sat up in bleeders at Wrigley, but had a pretty decent view. And it was a hell of stage set-up, with lights, video boards, lasers, fireworks… the whole bit.

We went out to a Wrigleyville bar after the show. The place was so swamped with Joel fans that no one was even paying attention to the Cubs game on the TV. Which was fine by me, since they won that night and my Brewers lost (their sixth in a row).

The next day, we went to the Lincoln Square neighborhood to visit a friend. It was a charming little area. We stopped at Quake Collectables, which had dozens of bins of old action figures for sale. I dug through a Starting Line Up bin for about 20 minutes before coming away with two pieces to add to my small and mostly dormant SLU collection.

First up is Randy Johnson. They had a number of the older, late-80s pieces (lots of football and basketball, too) but they were mostly in pretty rough shape. I was thrilled to find a Johnny Bench, only to pull him out and see that he was missing an arm and most of a shoulder. These newer pieces were pretty well intact, however. This was after SLU upped their game a bit on the detailing. I think this pose is actual one made specifically for The Big Unit.

Next we have Greg Maddux, posing next to the baseball that the actual Greg Maddux threw to me at old County Stadium back in 1998. This one isn’t as convincing. It barely looks like Maddux and his glove, cap logo, and pants stripe are all way too big. At 2 for $5, it was still worth it.

I also snagged this aforementioned pack of 1992 O Pee Chee at the shop, a product I had never opened before.

It was a only a buck!

I won’t go through all the cards, but here is what would probably be considered the star of the pack. Yawn.

Brent Gates played seven years and placed 6th in ROY voting in 1993.

Juan Bell was briefly a Milwaukee Brewer.

Alex Fernandez was drafted in the first round by the Brewers in 1988 but didn’t sign. He was a decent starter for a number of years and won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997.

Here is a backside. This was the first year that Topps went with the white card stock, taking away most of the appeal for the OPC set (which always used white stock) outside of the Canadian market. The backs do have a little extra sheen to them, clearly a different stock than the normal Topps issue. This was the last year before OPC issued their own unique set.
We also stopped at a very cool record shop, Laurie’s Planet of Sound. I wasn’t terribly interested in the records, but they did have a great selection of hard-to-find DVDs. I picked up a couple of sets of old Sexploitations films from the 1960s and 70s – a genre of motion pictures that I absolutely adore. This post is edgy enough for a card blog, so I won’t share any more details.

I also picked up a few non-sport packs of a 1993 National Lampoon set that I had no idea existed. The card market was crazy wide-open back then and this set followed a MAD Magazine set issued in 1992. The cards feature a number of Lampoon covers, including this famous one…

Maybe even more upsetting is this one, a Rockwell-esque scene of some kids trying to set a homeless man on fire…

The set is one of those that you really need to collect in full to understand. The stories on the back don’t always line up with the front image and are continued from card to card. Some fronts also require adjacently-numbered cards to make sense. I pulled the right half of this set first and had no idea what to make of it. Even together, it doesn’t really work…

The writing is also microscopic in some cases. Check this out...

Surprisingly, there were some cards that might fall into player collections. I found this Pete Rose cover from 1988, referencing Rose’s suspension for shoving an umpire.

And then this Reggie Jackson comic from January 1982, the same month he signed with the Angels.

Worth noting that has GOT to be the only Jackson card that shows him getting brained by a whiskey bottle and features the word “fuck.”

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. But I’ve got some fun stuff coming up later in the week, including the continuation of my TTM count-down, a HUGE new addition to my collection, and some of my BFG winnings.

Take care, everybody.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

My 30 Greatest TTM Autos: 20-16

Just got back from a weekend away in Chicago (with a card-related post to come), so I missed posting yesterday. But without further ado, here are numbers 20 through 16...

20. Andruw Jones, 2010 Topps

How can I place Jones ahead of Al Kaline? Mostly, it’s the 1996 World Series. I was pulling like crazy for the Braves to put down those damned Yankees and the 19-year-old Jones did everything he could to make that happen. He hit .400 in the series with two homers and played a magical kind of centerfield. I think Jones has a legit case for the Hall of Fame. He’s a sporadic signer who I happened to get lucky with a few years back.

19. Luis Tiant, 1977 Topps

Another guy with a fringe case for the Hall that got no love from voters, El Tiante is best known for his years in Boston. There is a great book about Game Six of the 1975 World Series (titled ‘Game Six’) that goes deep into Tiant’s struggles to get his family out of Cuba to join him in the US. He’s a great story and he looked great pitching and was part of some very interesting teams.

18. Wade Boggs, 1991 Topps

If taught me nothing else, it taught me that Wade Boggs was easily one of the greatest all-around players of all-time. He didn’t steal and had little power, but he was a devastating hitter who drew lots of walks and played a great third base. Mike Trout is currently in his sixth season. He has a career slash line of .307/.408/.566. After six full seasons, Boggs had a slash line of .354/.439/.484. Trout is the better player here, but it’s pretty close. This is also a beautiful card with a great sig. Boggs is still a very good TTM signer, asking just five bucks a card. If you collect, you need a Boggs auto in your life.

17. Cecil Cooper, 1986 OPC

I got this when Cooper was still managing the Astros. Coop is one of my all-time favorite Brewers and had a few elite years in the early 1980s. I love that ’86 design and this gets a bonus for the BIG, BOLD sig, and the friendly inscription.

16. Ted Higuera, 1990 Donruss Baseball’s Best

The 1990 Donruss design is a bit a flash-point among collectors. I happen to love it and love the blue-bordered “Best” variety even more. Higuera is, in my opinion, the greatest lefty in Brewers history. He had a remarkable peak in the late 1980s but, sadly, was given a huge contract extension by the team which was followed immediately by a string of debilitating injuries. It was this lousy pact that he was most remember for many years after his retirement. Higuera hasn’t signed TTM for many years now, which is a shame since he signature is one of the most beautiful in recent memory.