Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Thoughts and The Hobby's Reaction to 2012 Topps

So now that we've had a couple of days to digest it all, most of us can agree that 2012 Topps Baseball isn't exactly the "game changer" we were all led to believe. Based on what I've read on the internet, I've yet to see a single positive response or comment to 2012 Topps. The near-universal reaction to 2012 Topps is: "More of the same" is not "game changing."

(In the interest of full disclosure, I was the one who asked Clay Luraschi about 2012 Topps Baseball at their National meet-n-greet, to which he responded that it would be a "game changer." So you can all blame me.)

The comments posted to Beckett's website, and elsewhere, should be a wake-up call to the Honks at One Whitehall. Giving collectors what they want and giving them what they think they want are not one-in-the-same, and it's clear that the current Topps regime fails to understand this.

Based on what's been said by the collectors, here are a few points for Topps to ponder.

* We want our Topps Baseball back. We never really liked the glossy coating and foil on each card, but we learned to accept it. If you're looking for something that truly is "game-changing," how about getting rid of the foil and gloss?

* We'd also want a base set that's larger than 330 cards. If you're going to continue with two series, then each should have 400 cards, minimum.

* We like the design of the one-of-one wood parallel more than we do the base set. Here's a suggestion: Why not swap the two? Give collectors the wood-grained, foil-free, base set they want, and turn the white-bordered, foil-stamped card into the one-of-one.

* We're sick and tired of pointless inserts. Remember when card sets had meaningful inserts like "All-Stars," "Award Winners," "League Leaders," "Super Rookies," et al. What's the purpose of any of the Topps insert sets? What does "Gold Standard" mean? How does one become a "Golden Great?" "Gold Futures?" What the fuck does that mean?

* And does every insert set have to be 50 cards deep? The six inserts that have been announced have a combined 265 cards between them. That includes the 50-card 1987 Topps and Golden Moments inserts, and the 75-card Golden Greats. Keep in mind, that Topps has yet to announce the retailer-exclusive (i.e. Target and Wal-Mart) and pack-type exclusive inserts. So we can pretty much assume that, once again, the number of non-parallel, non-Hit inserts will exceed the 330-card base set.

* What's the deal with the "Gold" fetish anyway? We get it. 2011 was your 60th Anniversary, and you went all out with the Diamonds. Topps Baseball does NOT require an annual "theme." What's next for 2013? Silver? Copper? Bronze? Lead? At this rate 2020 Topps will be the "Plastic" set.

* 1987 Topps Minis? Really Topps? Yet another rehash of a forgotten set. You're not even trying anymore, are you?

* Does the Topps Flagship actually require a hit in every box? Seriously. We aren't buying Topps Baseball for the hits -- most of which are junk, anyway -- except for that one guy who buys 500 cases of everything, then flips the "hits" onto eBay.

I know one thing, unless there are major changes, 2012 will be the first year I will not collect the Topps flagship.

The good news for Topps is that they have five-and-a-half months to deliver the "game changer" they promised. Will they actually listen this time and give us the product we want? Or will they continue to dictate to collectors what they think we want? Time will tell.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2012 Topps 1st Impressions: You call this a "Game Changer?"

Replace "Diamond" with "Gold" and WAA-LAH!!!!

2012 Topps Baseball!

No really. 2012 Topps is THE SAME FUCKING PRODUCT as 2011 Topps.

Same 330-card base set.

Same insert overload.

Same parallels.

But to be fair, there are some changes.

It's not the "Diamond Giveaway," it's now the "Golden Giveaway."

All of the "Diamond"-themed inserts are now Golden-themed -- including the Diamond parallels from 2011 Topps, which are now "Gold Diamonds."

And did I mention that Hobby boxes only have 24 packs now?

At least they had the good sense to, in an election year, spare us cards of politicians. For now.

If that's the "Game Changer," then I'd like to go back to the old game, please.

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #1, Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

#1: 2007 Sweet Spot Michael Buysner

Paid: $0.25




If you're a fan of unintentional irony (and I know you are), than this is the greatest baseball card ever made. It's an Upper Deck-issued gimmick card spoofing the former CEO of Disney and current co-owner of Topps, Michael Eisner. It's been four years since UD unleashed this 2 1/2" X 3 1/2" specimen of petty petulance and a lot has changed in The Hobby; but I've always wondered what might have been.

Four years ago, Topps was still publicly traded and facing a major shareholder revolt. Faced with mutiny from several members of their Board of Directors, the Shorin family agreed to sell the company to Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm that also owns parts of Univison, LA Fitness, and Yankee Candle, and The Tornante Company, a firm founded in 2005 by former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The sale was announced in March and the price was $9.75 share, or just over $385 million.

But two months later, around the time Topps stockholders were scheduled to vote on the MDP/Tornante offer, Upper Deck offered an unsolicited bid of $10.75/share or $425 million. Concerns over anti-trust (of all things) led UD to withdraw their offer and in September, 2007 Topps was sold to MDP/Tornante.




I always wondered what would have happened if Upper Deck was able to acquire Topps. So allow me for one minute to "war game" this out. Suppose Upper Deck is the only MLB/MLBPA licensee for 2008 and beyond; and under their 2006-2009 license, they're still limited to only 17 brands, plus one $0.99/pack "kiddie" brand. Let's assume that UD keeps both Topps' and UD's "flagship" brands (Topps, Finest, Heritage and Upper Deck, SP Authentic, and SPx) in-tact. The MLBPA has made no secret of their disdain for Bowman; therefore, Bowman under Upper Deck would have either been discontinued or turned into a prospect-exclusive set (without any current Major Leaguers) much like UD tried to do with Prospect Premieres ten year's ago.
  1. Topps Series 1

  2. Topps Series 2

  3. Topps Updates

  4. Upper Deck Series 1

  5. Upper Deck Series 2

  6. Topps Heritage

  7. Finest

  8. SP Authentic

  9. SPx

What other Topps brands would UD had filled out their schedule with? Allen & Ginter might have been the only other Topps brand that might have had a chance of crossing-over, but I doubt it. If UD wanted another "throwback" set, they'd probably choose their own Goudey set.

To fill out their "mid-range" lines, I'm guessing they might have chosen UD Masterpieces, Upper Deck Heroes, and Spectrum.

  1. Upper Deck Goudey

  2. UD Masterpieces

  3. Upper Deck Heroes

  4. Spectrum

The remaining four products, I think, would have come from UD's existing "high-end" lines.
  1. Exquisite

  2. Ultimate Collection

  3. Sweet Spot

  4. SP Game Used
You can then add First Edition/Opening Day as the $0.99/pack contractual obligation set, and Bowman as the unlicensed "Prospect" set.

Notice what's missing? From Topps: Allen & Ginter, Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, Topps Sterling, and Bowman Sterling; and from Upper Deck: Documentary, Timelines, and X. While I'm sure collectors would miss Allen & Ginter (which they could just as easily replace Spectrum or Goudey with), would The Hobby really shed a tear over Chrome, Sterling, Crock-U-Mentary, or Upper Deck X?

Of course, this being Upper Deck, they'd find a way to piss everyone at MLB Properties off. So much so, that by the end of 2008 MLBP would be seeking a second licensee for 2010. Since the only established trading card company left that would have the wherewithal to produce a baseball card set is the company now known as Panini (sorry Press Pass and Leaf), that's what The Hobby would probably look like today.

Upper Deck and Panini.

Sheesh.



So I guess it's a good thing that the shareholders rejected UD's offer and went with MDP/Tornante. But it didn't stop Upper Deck from firing a scud in their direction with this un-announced gimmick card that was randomly inserted into tins of 2007 Sweet Spot Baseball.

For those that can't make out the picture above, it's a caricature of Michael Eisner wearing a backward's baseball cap and a "Bazonka" (get it? Bazonka/Bazooka?) t-shirt. The bitterness isn't just confined to the front of the card. Check out the copy on the back.



It reads: "Upper Deck welcomes this season's newest rookie, Michael Buysner. After humble origins as a page for a top TV network and stints that included crashing a hamboni (sic) machine at an Anaheim hockey arena, he is now the topp (sic) dog searching for a way to bring Bazonka Joe into the 21st century. As Big Cheese of his own cardboard kingdom, he is enthusiastically searching for the baseball cards his mom threw away and no one will be surprised to see a new big budget film titled, ‘Bazonka Joe and the Temple of Lost Trading Cards' in the very near future. Upper Deck wishes Buysner well – in the candy business."

Ummm... wow! And I thought I was the most sarcastic sonofabitch in The Hobby.

Of course, this wasn't the only gimmick card directed at Topps that Upper Deck released in 2007 Sweet Spot. There was also one of those autographed leather-like pieces that was marked with a giant black asterisk. The "player" listed on this card was "756," an obvious reference to Barry Bonds, who at the time was exclusive to Topps.

But wait, there's more! A few weeks later, when everyone in The Hobby was trying to figure out just what the heck these cards were, Upper Deck issued this incredibly cynical press release:

"It has come to our attention that 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Baseball contains cards that should not have been included in the product release. Accordingly, the Upper Deck Company has sent notices to its customers requiring them to return any and all 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Baseball product that they have received and/or that they may receive in the coming days."

Yeah, because a parody-gimmick card that was clearly marked with the Sweet Spot logo was never actually intended for release in Sweet Spot.

Right.

Of course, Upper Deck could never have known that a few years later "Mr. Buysner" would muscle them completely out of the baseball card business by negotiating an exclusive MLB-license; which, in retrospect, gives this card a completely different meaning.



Back in 2007, Beckett reported that a copy of the Michael Buysner card sold for $310 on eBay. I found this card for 1/1240th the price in the same quarter box that I got the '75 Dave Winfield.

Kind of makes you wonder about the long-run value of all those gimmick cards Topps keeps pumping out year-after-year.


#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sticker Wars 2011

It simple. I challenged Marie of A Cardboard Problem and Chris Thomas to a race. The first to complete a full 2011 Topps Baseball Sticker album (all 309 stickers) wins....

... well, we never decided on that.

You can keep up with the proceedings by following hashtag #stickerwars2011 on The Twinkah.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes.

#2: One box of 1998 Zenith.

Paid $27.


Do you really want to know why I get angry at gimmicks? It's all because of Pinnacle Brands. Pinnacle may have been the first instance of a corporation gimmicking itself into bankruptcy.

The spectacular rise and devastating crash of Pinnacle Brands should be a case study on how not to run a trading card company; but first, let's go back a few years. In 1992, there were five MLB licensees, and of those five, what was then known as "Score/Sportflics" was clearly the trailer. Score was the last company to introduce a "premium" card set and when 1992 Pinnacle was finally released, Topps' Stadium Club and Fleer's Ultra had already upped the ante. Score's flagship set was hindered by drab design, boring color schemes, rampant overproduction, and a lack of inserts. If you were a betting man in 1992 and had to lay odds on which of the five MLB-Licensed trading card companies would be the first to go, Score would have been the Morning Line favorite.

Things began to change in late-1993 when Jerry Meyer was hired as CEO of the newly re-named "Pinnacle Brands." Within a few years, mainly by catering to what collectors actually wanted, Pinnacle had gone from being The Hobby's "sick man," to (according to a survey released by Action Packed) company with the largest percentage of market share.

By 1996 Pinnacle was exactly that; the pinnacle of The Hobby. Then a series of bad decisions followed by even more bad decisions, led to one of the most spectacular falls in Hobby history. It all started with Pinnacle's ill-conceived acquisitions of Action Packed and Donruss. In '97 Pinnacle released an Action Packed football and an Action Packed NASCAR set, but no baseball and nothing else afterward '97.

What was most puzzling was what they did with Donruss. The company's European owners had been wanting to get out of the American market; and so in 1996 they sold the candy division to Hershey and Donruss to Pinnacle. Even though Donruss had been acquired by Pinnacle, for some reason, they continued to operate it as a separate company. Although Pinnacle did move Donruss to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, it still had its own separate staff, its own office space, and its own distribution channels. It even had, if you could believe this, paid for its own licenses.

Donruss could have released all their 1997-98 baseball card sets under Pinnacle Brand's license. But they spent to money on a separate license anyway.

For the next two years, Pinnacle and Donruss's business model relied largely on 1) Overproduction and 2) Gimmicks. To be fair, they did leave their flagship brands (Score, Pinnacle and Donruss) largely sacrosanct. Yes, they did such things as the 1998 Score All-Star Edition (a re-release of 1998 Score Baseball, only with different inserts), and 1997 New Pinnacle (a completely different Pinnacle set released in lieu of a second series of 1997 Pinnacle Baseball). But Donruss, Pinnacle, and Score remained largely unchanged.

But in order to raise the revenue needed to level their post-acquisition balance sheet, Pinnacle (but not necessarily Donruss) let the presses fly with one new brand after another; a slew of 200-250 card base set all retailing for $2-$3/pack, all virtually indistinguishable from one another. 1997 New Pinnacle; 1997 Pinnacle X-Press; 1997 and '98 Pinnacle Inside; 1998 Pinnacle Performers; 1998 Pinnacle Plus: If I were to show you a base card from any one of the aforementioned sets, would any of you be able to properly identify it?

But it wasn't just the avalanche of new brands, it was the constant re-tooling of existing ones. There was no consistency from year to year. Take for example Zenith. It was introduced in 1995 as the company's first true "super-premium" product, designed to compete with Fleer's Flair, Upper Deck's SP, and Donruss's Leaf Limited in the $5/pack category. (Pinnacle also introduced that year the Chromium-stocked Select Certified as their answer to Topps Finest.) For the first two years, you basically knew what you were going to get in a box of Zenith: A high-quality base set with a couple of way-cool Dufex inserts in a Hobby box.

Then in 1997 they completely changed the product, doubling the price to $10/pack, reducing the base set to only 50 cards, and inserting two, oversize, 8" X 10" cards per pack.

Yeah, oversized cards and $10 packs in 1997. What the fuck were they thinking?

And then there were the gimmicks. I guess if you're part of the product development team and management mandates that you crank out yet another set, I guess you have to do something to make it stand out. Hence, the cards in soup cans and tins and bizarrely structured sets like Fractal Matrix; so confusing that even I, a man with a graduate degree in economics (which requires a lot of advanced mathematics to acquire) still can not figure out.

Which brings us to 1998 Zenith, a Perfect Storm of the needless meddling of an established card set combined with just about the dumbest gimmick I've ever seen. Yes, I'm talking about Dare to Tear.

I picked up a box of this junk for $27 at The National -- which is about $26.99 more than I probably should have paid -- and video broke it. In the process, I will attempt to extract the standard-sized card from the jumbo WITHOUT trying to damage either card.

Part One:



Part Two:



Part Three:





#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Sunday, August 14, 2011

TOPPS. BASEBALL. STICKERS.



Thank you Topps for allowing me to act like a 12-year old on the Internet for 5:25.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #3. Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time.

#3 TRADE: A 2009 Triple Threads "White Whale" of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez AND a 2011 Topps Sterling Albert Pujols bat card serial-numbered to 25 to Marie of A Cardboard Problem for...

... an awkward handshake and an even more awkward hug.

I like it when I make my friends happy. I don't know, I guess I get off on it. I have lots of excess cards, and rather than throw them up on eBay, I'd rather trade them or just give them away.

Going into this year's National, I brought a lot of cards to give away. I filled two 800-count boxes of commons and inserts for Chris Thomas, and he let me pick through his stash of doubles. I had some cards for Thorzul and dayf The Cardboard Junkie, but neither of them showed up -- although Thorzul at least had an excuse.

A had a few cards for Susan of A Cardboard Problem; not much, just a few Jeter's she probably already has and a couple of Mitch Moreland's for her boyfriend. (Yes, she has a boyfriend. You can stop cyber-stalking her now.) I never had the chance to give them to her though. It seemed like she was always in the middle of a conversation with someone else, and I didn't want to interrupt. I hate it when someone interrupts me when I'm talking with someone, or picking through some cards.

In fact, if there were an 11th Commandment it should read as such...

"Thou Shalt Not Bother a Collector at a Dealer Table."

But I did give Marie those cards I got from Topps a few months ago as replacements for an unfulfilled redemption.



For some background. As many of you are aware, Topps used to send me sample boxes of their latest products for me to review. I never really asked for them, but I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew someone in the Topps Nomenklatura who agreed to send me some stuff. The last package I got from Topps was sometime late last year, and it had a box of 2010 Topps Sterling. I never got an explanation from Topps as to why they cut me off; guess I was being a bit too honest in my reviews for my own good. Sorry, but my momma didn't raise no sycophant.

Anyway, the box of Sterling Topps sent me contained a redemption card for a one-of-one Mike Piazza autographed relic. Piazza didn't sign, and Topps sent me the two cards above as replacements.

And yeah, I decided after much consideration (which lasted about 0.15 seconds) to give them both to Marie of ACP. But rather than waste the money on postage, I figure I'd give them to her at The National. But where to find her?

Here, I ran into the same situation as I did with her ACP cohort Susan. I couldn't find her, and when I did, she was engaged in conversation with someone else.

I found her waiting in line to use the ladies room.

Ummm... No.




The Friday of The National, Marie, myself, Chris Thomas and Dave of Long Fly Ball to Because... all wanted to take a day off from The National and catch a game at Wrigley Field. This was a last-minute excursion that, in retrospect, we could have planned a bit better. (Hopefully for next year, we can get a couple dozen collectors together for an evening at Oriole or Nationals Park.) Marie was able to get a block of four along the third base line for herself, Wes Yee (one of the Freedom Cardboard moderators), Dave and his wife. Chris Thomas and I were able to get two single-seats, two rows apart, in left field.

Before the game, I went over to Marie, Wes and Dave's section to try and say hello, but wasn't able to find them; and by the time the game started, trying to find them was a bit pointless. So instead, I crossed-off number 17 on my "bucket list": Sit in the "Bartman Seat." Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113 BTW.

It wasn't until after the game that I found out why I wasn't able to find Marie in the Wrigley Field stands. I let her tell you the story herself...






The day after, I was finally able to give Marie her cards. It was Saturday, but Chris Thomas had to be back in Cleveland Sunday morning, so this was our last day at the show. Although I told her before that I'd let her have the Yankee White Whale and the Pujols bat card, I think she was surprised that I gave her those cards right then.

She extended her hand for me to shake it; then, after a long pause, offered me a hug.

A hug!

(Insert highly inappropriate comment about getting to third base if I had thrown in an Adam Lind autograph and a couple dozen Yankee Stadium Legacies.)

Yes, it was quite awkward. That fact that I was carrying a backpack full of baseball cards AND a six-pack of beer in another, and the fact that I'm 6' 3" and well, she's not, made it most uncomfortable. To the dozen or so spectators watching this, I'm sure we looked like a couple of seventh-graders at a junior high dance.

But I don't care. Like I said, I like making my friends happy.

#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #4. Epix Mo-Jo!!!

#4: One Orange 1998 Pinnacle Epix "Season" Mo Vaughn and one Emerald 1998 Pinnacle All-Star Epix of Mo Vaughn.

Paid: $0.25 each.




I guess it's kind of apropos that I post these cards today, the 13th anniversary of Pinnacle Brands' bankruptcy filing. There were a lot of stupid things that Pinnacle did that drove them into Chapter 11, and as a bit of foreshadowing, we'll be discussing one of the most egregious examples later in this countdown. One of the few things Pinnacle did right, however, was Epix.

Epix was a 72-card, multi-brand, multi-tiered, insert seeded into packs of 1998 Score, Pinnacle and Zenith. There were 24 players in the set and each player was supposed to have had four cards celebrating their greatest (in ascending order of scarcity) play, game, moment, or season. One of each player's card was inserted into each product with the fourth card scheduled to have been in 1998 Pinnacle Certified. Pinnacle, of course, wouldn't last that long. Each card was also available in Purple and Emerald parallels. According to Pinnacle, about 20% of the total production run was in Purple, 10% in Emerald, and the remaining 70% (the "base" cards) in Orange.

What makes the Pinnacle Epix cards so great are, of course, the look. Nothing says "late 90s" than holographic matrix foilboard and Epix had plenty with each of the four tiers having their own unique matrix pattern. Decades from now, when you're thumbing through a quarter box at The National and come across an Epix insert, even if you've never seen one before in your life, you'll know it's from the late 90s.

But wait, that's not all! Later in the season, Pinnacle released another batch of Epix cards known as "All-Star Epix." Unlike the regular Epix cards, only one card for each of the 24 players was produced, with the first 12 cards in the set seeded into packs of 1998 Score Rookie/Traded and the other 12 in Pinnacle Plus. The All-Star Epix cards were also in three different flavors: Orange (70% of the production run), Purple (20%), and Emerald (10%).

I have no idea why I found two different Mo Vaughn Epix cards in the same quarter box. They were the only Epix cards in that particular dealer's box; and I don't recall seeing any other Vaughn cards. 1998 was Vaughn's last season as a Red Sox and his last truly productive season. He went to Anaheim the following season, and his career went to complete shit. Too bad. I always liked "The Hit Dog." Yes, he won the AL MVP in '95, although that probably had more to do with the fact that his name wasn't "Albert Belle."

#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #5. What do they know about partying? Or anything else?

#5 TRADE: A bunch of Toronto Blue Jays cards "to be named later," to David of Long Fly Ball to Because.. for a six-pack of Flying Monkey Hoptical Illusion beer.



Yeah, I made a trade at The National for beer. And not just any beer, an imported micro-brew.

Now I promised David that I would put his six-pack to "good use." So I bought a box of 1995 Bazooka baseball for $8 at the show and decided to make a video box break out of it.

Part One:


Part Two:


#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #6. OH NOEZ!!!!!

#6: 1993 Finest Bip Roberts

Paid $0.10.




Like 2001 Topps Archives, 1993 Finest is a set that I'm trying to build card-by-card. I saw a stack of about a dozen '93 Finest commons in a dime box and found this card of Mr. Roberts.

Yeah, I had it already. But c'mon! Ten cents for The Bipper? Not bad.

#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #7. A point is a point.

#7: One point in the MLS Eastern Conference table for the Philadelphia Union.

There's an old axiom in football (the real football, not throwball): You play for the win at home, and the draw on the road. Based on that, the Philadelphia Union's 1:1 draw away to the Chicago Fire might be considered a good result.

For the uninitiated, I am a season ticket holder for the Philadelphia Union, a second-year expansion team in Major League Soccer. So, with "The U" in Chicago the Wednesday of National Week, I bypassed The National's "preview day," and scored two soccer tickets -- one for me and the other for Chris Thomas, whom I carpooled with.

To be honest with you, since the match was almost a week ago, I really don't remember much. I do remember that the Union played with an experimental side with four of the regular Starting XI out due to injury, suspension, or transfer. Our normal right-back Sheanon Williams (whom I predict will become the first Union player to get a US National Team call-up) talked is way into a red card in the previous match and was given a one-match ban. Left-back Jordan Harvey was dealt to Vancouver for a salary cap allocation. (In MLS you can trade money under the salary cap for players and, although such figures are never released, it is believed that Vancouver made us an offer we couldn't refuse.)

The most noticeable omission was up top as leading scorer Carlos Ruiz was transferred to a club in Mexico -- reportedly for a $500,000 transfer fee. Unlike in American sports, player-for-player trades are rare and instead player's contracts are sold.

Ruiz joined the Union before the season and in his time in Philadelphia had been a polarizing figure. It's been said of Ruiz that "All he does is score goals" -- reminiscent of a certain for wide receiver for the Eagles in the 80s. And while it's true that Ruiz contributed little to the midfield and was non-existent behind the ball, somebody scored all those goals.

But "El Pescadito," as he was known, didn't particularly like Philly all that much and wanted out; and when Veracruz of the Mexican second division came calling with a half-million dollar check, he was gone.

Now flush with cash, unfortunately the Union have yet to replace Ruiz up front. Sebastian Le Toux, who finished with 14 goals last season (good enough for 4th in MLS), is having the season from hell in 2011. It's certainly not for lack of effort, a team-leading 50 shots has only led to a single goal and that off a penalty.

Playing with a makeshift side, The Boys in Blue took to the Toyota Park pitch against the last place Chicago Fire. The Union played sloppy all night, especially in the back line, but All-Star goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon kept bailing out his team with one magnificent save after another.

It was in the 34th minute when the Union broke the stalemate when mid-season signing Veljko Paunovic found a deflected pass and put it in the back of the net. One-Nil to the good guys.

Unfortunately, in the second half, The Union couldn't hold the lead and gave up a 55th minute goal to former Mexican international Pavel Pardo -- who was playing in his first match for the Fire.

And so, the match ended in a one-one sister-kisser. Less than satisfying, but I had a good time. About a dozen or so Union supporters made the trip which considering it being a Wednesday night about 1000 miles from Philly, is a pretty decent visiting supporter turn-out.

If you've never been to a soccer game, and don't think you'll understand it; just go. And when you go, get tickets in the designated "Supporters Section." Soccer is a sport that doesn't translate well to television; it's a sport that you have to experience live. It is an acquired taste. The first time you ever had a beer, it was probably the most nauseating thing you've ever tasted. But over time, you acquired a taste for it. Soccer is much the same. If you give it a chance, you'll learn to love it.

#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Monday, August 08, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #8. 75 for 25

#8: 1975 Topps Dave Winfield

Paid $0.25.





Yeah. I can't believe I found a second-year card of a Hall of Famer in a quarter box either. And it's a pretty nice looking one, too; a bit diamond cut, but better than the Winfield I have in my '75 set.

#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #9. The case of the mysterious rookie reprints.

#9: Three 2001 Topps Archives Future Rookie Reprints.

Given to me, for free, by Chris Thomas.


2001 Topps Archives is a set that I'm trying to piece together for about 10 years now. For the uninitiated, Archives was a 450-card set the featured the rookie (Series One) and final (Series Two) cards of over 200 retired players with a smattering of All-Star and League Leader cards thrown-in for good measure. The set is, unfortunately, best remembered for the unbelievably small text used to designate each cards sequential number. I guess Topps wanted to keep the backs of each card as authentic as possible, and didn't want to renumber the entire set.

But trying to figure out what the card number required high-powered magnification. For example, the Archives card of Carl Yastrzemski's 1983 Topps card is #175 in the set. However, if you flip to the back the card number is listed as 550 -- which was Yaz's card number in the '83 Topps set. Only when you look at the bottom, in incredibly small type do you see this: "TOPPS REPRINT 175 of 450." In other words, it can be a real pain-in-the-ass to try and collect this set, and this rather confusing numbering system makes trades next to impossible.

I bought a box of each series when it first came out, but haven't seen any boxes for sale since. Dave & Adams has a box of Series Two for $103.50 -- but that probably has more to do with the fact that you get one on-card autograph of a retired player in each box. (Did I mention that each 20-pack Hobby box yielded an on-card autograph?) So, much like my 1992 Bowman and 1993 Finest sets, I'm piecing this one card-by-card.

So imagine my surprise when, thumbing through a box of cards at Chris Thomas's house, I found these three cards.



Hmmm... I didn't know Topps included active players in the '01 Archives set. I flipped the back to check the card number and found this on the back of the Johnson: "TOPPS REPRINT 13 OF 20."

13 of 20? WTF?

So obviously, these aren't from the 2001 Topps Archives set. But they all have the 2001 Topps Archives logo on them. So what the fuck are they?

It turns out these three cards are part of a 20-card set known as the "2001 Topps Archives Future Rookie Reprints;" and you got a pack of five in each Topps Limited Factory Set. The checklist features all the usual suspects such as an '87 Barry Bonds, '93 Jeter, '92 ManRam, '91 Chipper Jones, and an '82 Ripken with those other two guys cropped out. The checklist also has rookie reprints of some players that didn't exactly pan out such as a '96 Geoff Jenkins, '95 Jay Payton, and a '92 of Calvin "Pokey" Reese. They all can't be winners, but all-in-all, a pretty decent representation of the top 20 Topps rookies of players who were active in 2001.

Now I mentioned that these cards were randomly inserted into each Topps Limited factory set, as opposed to the regular factory set. For their 50th Anniversary Topps brought back the concept of the Tiffany set with Topps Limited. Distributed exclusively to HTA dealers, Topps Limited was a "high-end" version of the 790-card 2001 Topps set. Since premium cardstock and glossy coating had become industry-standard, each base card was printed on a thicker-than-normal 20-point cardstock. In addition, each card was stamped with an HTA logo and the entire set was packaged in a shrink-wrapped wooden box.

Topps originally announced that only 5000 Limited sets would be produced, but wound-up only printing 3805 sets. Assuming that all 20 cards in the Archives Future Rookie Reprint set was distributed in equal quantities, only about 950 copies of each card were produced. And since these cards were only available in an obscure factory set, good luck trying to find singles of these.

#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprints
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Top 10 National Pick-Ups: #10. It's for "Members Only."



#10: 1991 Stadium Club Charter Member kit (w/o membership card).

Paid $10.




Has it really been 20 years since Topps first introduced Stadium Club? Yes, yes it has. Sadly, I am no longer the little bastard who pilfered those $8 Series One packs ($8! For a pack of cards!) into the waistband of my Umbro shorts, then ran out the fire exit into the Cherry Hill Mall parking lot. Nor am I the kid who begged my parents to eat our ceremonial Friday night dinner at McDonald's just so I could get a Series Two pack for $1.99 with the purchase of any size order of Fries.

The Hobby had never seen a card like Stadium Club before, but what few collectors remember is that Topps' Stadium Club was exactly that, a club. If you've ever ripped into any packs of early-to-mid-90s Stadium Club, you probably remember those one-per-pack solicitations to get you to join this club. For a one-time annual fee, Topps would send you a special "Members Only" set.

Yeah, that's right. MEMBERS ONLY. It even said so on the bottom of the cards.

For a brief period in the early-90s, Topps also published a bi-monthly magazine, and they threw in a subscription with your membership. In later years, Stadium Club members also were given the privilege of purchasing special "Members Only" factory sets of that year's Stadium Club set. These factory sets were extremely limited and, as a special bonus, also included most of the inserts. In all my years of collecting, I have yet to see any of these Members Only factory sets. I've seen some singles, but not an in-tact set.

As part of the launch of 1991 Stadium Club Baseball Series One, Topps gave all the initial Stadium Club members a special collector's kit. The kit included an exclusive 50-card "Charter Member" set. About two-thirds of the cards were of baseball players, and the rest of players from the two other sports Topps had licenses to at the time (NFL & NHL). The kit also included the standard membership card, a Stadium Club key chain, and a bronze ingot of Nolan Ryan.



The Ryan ingot looks like one of those cheesy "Gold Cards" you probably saw Don West shilling on Shop at Home back in the day. But this thing is FUCKING HEAVY AS SHIT! You could probably do some damage with this thing if you needed to. And as an piece of advice, I wouldn't recommend carrying this thing through airport security.


Being that my parents (wisely) wouldn't trust me with a checkbook and an ATM card, I wasn't able to join the Stadium Club few the first few years. But I have been able to pick up the various Members Only sets over the years. So when I saw a Charter Member kit for sale for only $10, it was a no-brainer, and #10 on my list of National pick-ups.

But to be honest with you, I got this for one thing and one thing only: The key chain.

KEY CHAIN-JO!!!


#10: It's for "Members Only"
#9: The case of the mysterious rookie reprint
#8: 75 for 25
#7: A point is a point
#6: OH NOEZ!!!!!
#5: What do they know about partying? Or anything else?
#4: Epix Mo-Jo!!!
#3: Satisfyin' the ladies, one printin' plate at a time
#2: The Mother of all junk waxboxes
#1: Ironic ain't just the name of an Alanis Morrisette song

Friday, August 05, 2011

Monday, August 01, 2011

My Chicago National Itenerary.

I'm leaving for the National Sports Collectors Convention tomorrow. I don't have much planned, but here's what I KNOW so far.

TUESDAY

I'm driving to Chris Thomas' house outside of Cleveland and we'll be carpooling it to Chicago. I'm crashing at his place Tuesday night.

WEDNESDAY

The Philadelphia Union just happen to be in Chicago for a match that evening, and I already have tickets. You're more than welcome to tag along, if only for the pre-game Bearfights. Probably not going to that actual show since it opens around 4:00 and the game is at 9:00.

THURSDAY

This is the first day where I can definitely say I will be on the floor. I shouldn't be all that hard to pick out in a crowd. I'll be over by the quarter boxes.

Topps and Freedom Card Board are both having meet-and-greets, and I will be attending both. Lots of booze will be flowing, and with all those bitter collectors, this should get ugly.

FRIDAY

Not sure if I'm going to the cardshow, or to the Cubs game (they're playing Cincinnati that afternoon). I'll get back to you.

SATURDAY

Chris Thomas has to be back in Cleveland on Sunday night, so after the show, we're driving back a day early; but we will be on the floor. Besides, if Sunday is anything like previous Nationals, I won't be missing much.

Of course, I'll be updating this Stale Gum throughout the week and I'll also be On The Twinkah, if you're into that.