Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Favorite Card(s) of 2017

Look at me go, three days in a row!

You've seen a couple of cards I really liked over the past two days but which one beat them all out as my official entry into P-Town Tom's contest for my favorite card of 2017?

There are a lot of photos in this post so I won't drag it out. My favorite card of 2017 is this seemingly innocous Jose Quintana card out Topps Update.

I know this particular design isn't widely liked but I think the photo selection and crop job Topps did is very good here. The empty green seats and orange splotches looked very familiar to me the moment I saw it. Why?

Although the photo is different, that same background shows up on his Topps Now card from earlier this year! And if you saw my post yesterday where the Topps Now card made my short list, you know that I was at this game! I was there with my two sons and the first time I had been to Camden Yards since the Nationals came to DC. 

Here is our view of Jose Quintana's very first pitch with the Cubs from the cheap seats. An anticlimactic ball, haha.

A little later we moved down and to the other side of the field. Here's Ian Happ in the batter's box and a view into the Cubs dugout. Two years ago we saw him in low Single-A ball (South Bend) shortly after he had been drafted. Crazy. Earlier this year the Cubs had their previous five first-round draft picks on their 25-man roster at the same time. Javier Baez was selected 9th overall in 2011. Albert Almora 6th in 2012, Bryant 2nd in 2013, Kyle Schwarber 4th in 2014 and Ian Happ 9th in 2015. Pierce Johnson was a late first round supplemental pick in 2012 and made his debut this year as well. But I digress.

A little bit later we shifted to the Cubs dugout side. Check out this shot of Kris Bryant on first, Anthony Rizzo in the box and Willson Contreras on deck. I forgot how much better the views are at Camden than Nats Park. Too bad the Cubs only come here every 6 years...

As noted on the Topps Now card, Quintana threw 7 scoreless innings and struck out 12 Orioles. The Cubs would go on to win 8-0.

I know what you're thinking. Matt, you had a great time at the game. Quintana had a spectacular debut. But if you like horizontals so much, how did this plain ol' vertical base card beat out the horizontal Topps Now card for your favorite?



One of the things I like about Topps Now is the immediacy of having a card from a game I've attended. But of all my "I Was There" cards, just two of them were not Topps Now cards. The other was the New Era Andrew McCutchen card and none of these had anything to chase after I got them. And that's something I've missed out on with my current collecting situation. The chase. 

It's been a long time since I sought out parallels other than the plentiful golds. So after discovering the connection between the plain ol' Topps Update card and me being at the game, achasin' I went. Including the base card above, I now have 8 different versions.

Gold #/2017

Vintage Stock #/99

Black #/66

Mother's Day Pink and Father's Day Blue, both #/50

Unnumbered Negative and Rainbow Foil

But I wasn't done yet. The Jose Quintana card was also featured in the Topps Chrome Update release. There were fewer parallels in the Update version than the Chrome Base but I managed to snag five variations. I'm pretty sure I just need the 1/1's here.

Chome Update Base Version

Chrome Update Refractor #/250

Chrome Update X-Fractor #/99

Chrome Update Gold #/50

Chrome Update Red #/25

Let's go smaller?

Topps also released mini cards again through boxes on their website. There are only a handful of these parallels so I just have a mini base and a mini orange so far. The orange is #01/25. The red, blue and gold have yet to show up in the usual places.

Bigger, you say?

There is a seller on ebay with the 5x7 versions sold individually. I believe these were only available through buying a complete set so thank goodness for resellers (sometimes). The base on the left above is # 01/49 while the gold on the right is # 01/10.

While I encouraged a few of you player collectors to go even bigger with the 10x14's Topps sells on its website, I myself showed restraint. Unfortunately, I missed out completely on the gold 1/1 but the base version numbered to 99 is still available. Maybe the next sale...

And a last minute addition, the pièce de résistance...

Base Card Magenta Printing Plate 1/1

So there you have it. My favorite card of 2017 and his 17 parallel siblings. The hunt so far hasn't been too difficult or even expensive, but there are still some "gettable" cards that I'm waiting for to show up. A Memorial Day camo parallel sold before I started my chase and another hasn't emerged since. And there is a waaaay overpriced Chrome Update printing plate out there that I'm waiting for the price to drop. Here's what else I'm still looking for.

Missing parallels:

Camo/Memorial Day /25
Clear /10
Platinum /1
Printing Plates (3 more) /1

Super Refractor /1
Printing Plates (4) /1

Blue /10
Red /5
Gold /1

This is probably my last post for the year so Happy New Year! I've got a few things in the draft folder ready to go so see you in 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

My Cubs Card(s) of the Year Runners-up

Yesterday I started my blogging comeback with a couple of non-Cubs cards as runners-up for my favorite card of the year. Today, we're on to the Cubs portion of the nominees.

I added nearly 300 Cubs cards to the collection from 2017 alone but feel like I still have at least that many more on my makeshift want list. I couldn't keep up! It is a far cry from just a couple of years ago when the Cubs "team" sets were only 3-4 cards and maybe an insert.

I don't know how to talk about the World Series celebration cards without sounding pretentious, but there were quite a few to choose from.

There were a couple of World Series Highlights cards in Series 1 Flagship but this Topps Heritage card was the first one on my radar as something special. So much so that I contemplated buying one of the larger versions Topps sells on their website to frame up and potentially get autographed around the border and pant legs. I think blue signatures would really pop on this card design. That idea faded but writing this has me thinking again. Hmmm...

The Cubs had quite a few Topps Now cards again this year but the presentation of the World Series Trophy, the raising of the Championship banner and receipt of the Championship rings back in April were my favorites of the bunch.

This Postseason Celebrations card out of Topps Update was a late comer to the competition but gets bonus points as falling into my "I Was There" niche collection. The photo used comes from the championship parade I attended with a few million of my closest fellow Cubs fans. I wonder how many other cards have a player chomping on a cigar?

And speaking of the parade, Topps Stadium Club had a slew of SP photo variations from that day.

Ten of them to be exact. Almost a perfect binder page, but Topps took it one card too far. Unfortunately, none of these ten are in my collection yet so they are relegated to runner-up status. Although I was generally aware (and that's enough to convict in the NFL) of some of these SP cards existing, I hadn't actually seen them until recently to know how they would fit in my collection apart from just being Cubs cards. For me, SPs are welcome but not necessarily sought out. Until now. This will probably be a main goal for 2018 now that we have a new defending champ and prices may die down a bit.

Back to Topps Now for a minute, there were a few more that fall into the "I Was There" category.

In Washington on my dad's birthday...

A few weeks later, a spectacular Cubs debut in Baltimore...

And my second postseason game (after the 2015 Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh). Back in Washington, amazing, and then heartbreaking as the Cubs fell in the late innings.

Lots of quality cardboard with personal meaning right there. My pick for Favorite Card of the Year might seem anticlimactic in comparison!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My Non-Cubs Card(s) of the Year Runners-up

Testing, testing, is this thing on?

Wow, times flies doesn't it? It's been one of those years of long days and quick weeks. I've had a few other things occupying my time and money this year but I've tried to keep up with everybody as best I could in terms of reading and commenting. I've followed a few newer blogs in recent weeks but if there any other new ones, send links my way!

As for my collection, I think I added more non-Cubs cards than Cubs card in 2017. That sounds crazy for a year in which the Cubs were probably overrepresented in every set but with a few budget restrictions and much of my collection packed up, I tried to let the hype (prices) die down a little bit on Cubs cards and focused on things I knew I didn't have.

For example, I really went to town on my Ivy collection/Frankenset. For those who saw/remember my post way back in August 2016 showing off Page 1 (again, time flies!), a lot of changes have been made. I can't wait to do a few posts on those additions.

In the meantime, I did pick up a few 2017 cards that caught my eye for various reasons. I'm not quite ready to post my Favorite Card of the Year, a contest sponsored by P-Town Tom of Waiting 'til Next Year, so please bear with me as I show off a couple of runners-up. Since I can't in good conscience pick a non-Cubs card as my favorite, here are a few of those, in no particular order, grouped by set.

A trio of Ivy cards from Topps Flagship leads off. Hernan Perez and Denard Span may end up in the Frankenset depending on the competition with their card number. The horizontal Jace Peterson falls under the "Por Que No Los Dos" sub-sub-collection. Addison Russell makes a cameo sliding underneath.

Topps Now is something I continued to pursue in 2017, although this year I stuck to the resellers on eBay rather than going through Topps in bulk. I added most of the Cubs cards and the above Brett Gardner for the Ivy collection (despite what it showcases). Interleague matchups are a tough find for this collection.

I added a Giancarlo Stanton from a Nationals/Marlins game I attended later in the season. With a chance at him getting 60 homeruns, I couldn't pass up free tickets to bear witness. It was a rainy evening (note the empty seats) but cleared up by game time. The "I Was There" niche collection also grew quite a bit this year, mostly because of Topps Now.

The final runners-up come from the ever popular Stadium Club set. As always, lots of great photography in this set but two in particular fit my niche collections. If I have to have a Cardinals card in my collection, it better have some beautiful Ivy such as the Randal Grichuk. Ivy generally shows up as a blur on these cards so being able to make out individual leaves is pretty cool.

As a military brat, I lived in Fort Leavenworth, KS during the late 80's Bo Jackson hype and managed to take in a few Royals games. What a beast he was. But this card was added to my Ryne Sandberg collection as that's Ryno making a cameo behind Bo and an umpire getting into position.

I hope to give these cards their own posts eventually as they certainly deserve them. Since they are all from 2017, I can easily find their source photos and go more in depth on them. My next post will be my Cubs runners-up and then finally, my pick for favorite card of 2017. Sorry to drag this out over 3 posts but I'm trying to get my writing groove back.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

2017 Topps Now Road to Opening Day Cubs Team Set

After last year's expansive (and expensive) Cubs Topps Now run, I was very hesitant to start up again in 2017. I felt last season was like catching lightning in a bottle, chronicling the World Series run and this year was going to be...meh.

Well then Topps sent me the Mike Trout coupon code card and I bit the bullet on the Spring Training/Road to Opening Day (whatever they call it) set.

As others have mentioned, the checklists weren't fully released by the deadline. I waited until the very last day to buy mine and it was still only about half announced.

Unlike some of the others teams I have seen, the Cubs had some uniform diversity. The home pinstripes that Kris Bryant wears isn't that different from their regular season unis but the chain link fence in the background screams Spring Training facility. Jon Lester's blue uniform sports the white lettering and numbering on the backs. You can also see the AZ patch on Anthony Rizzo's card.

The Addison Russell is pretty generic but the posed Javier Baez shot is very Heritage-y. Ben Zobrist is sporting a mixed uniform of road blue jersey with home pinstripe pants which is a Spring Training only thing. The blue jersey pairs with grey pants (like the Lester and Rizzo above) in the regular season.

The Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras also are shots that I would say are unique to Spring Training. Here, Schwarber sports the pinstripe pants. and again you see the AZ patch on Schwarber's arm as he leaves the dugout. A posed shot from Heyward as he stands near where Baez had his photo taken. Contreras appears to be carrying his gear somewhere.

A trio of generic shots here with Albert Almora Jr, Miguel Montero and Kyle Hendricks. More blue with pinstripes on the latter two. Hendricks is so lanky in his delivery that a horizontal version may have worked better here but all 15 cards in the set were vertical. Maybe a different shot altogether should have been used.

Wrapping up the set is a trio of pitchers all in different uniforms. We also get one of, if not the first non-photoshopped Cubs card of new closer Wade Davis.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the set. The coupon was nice but still a little overpriced. The player selection here was good, everybody made the team out of Spring Training (probably one of the hold ups of getting the checklist out for teams in general).

The photo selection was decent, a nice mix of posed, candid and action. Some sets I've seen had some really nice shots but nothing jumped out at me as amazing here. I probably would have gone with different photos for Montero (can't see his face), Hendricks (as stated above, horizontal or choose another photo altogether) and Lackey (cut off his hand). The Schwarber is probably my favorite in the group. The Contreras would be right up there if it was a little more zoomed out. I liked the two duffle bag shots that made it into the Pirates set and something closer to those would have been great.

Only 287 of these regular Cubs team sets were sold which seemed shockingly low to me. But then I saw the other team print runs. Yikes! Price point? Burnt out? Incomplete checklists? Not yet in the baseball mood? Probably all of the above.

And amazingly, an additional 699 Cubs sets that came with an autographed card were also sold. That seems incredibly backwards. People thought, hey I'm spending $50, let me spend just $70 more for an autographed card? I think some of the other teams had cheaper options but the Cubs set was $119.99. Too steep for me.

The Cubs had Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jason Heyward and Wade Davis as their signers. 

I've seen plenty of sets and singles on eBay but non of the Cubs autographed cards yet. I wonder if they haven't shipped yet? That's a long time for these resellers to be sitting on debt and not having product to flip. I ordered mine on April 4th (last day to order) and received them on May 3rd. That's a bit longer than the standard Topps Now turnaround but considering they hadn't finalized the checklist, not terrible.

I like the simple design on the back, very clean cut. You can see the rainbow from the scan which is new to this year's cards. I was a little surprised with the numbering. Last year's post season team sets were individually numbered to 15 for each team whereas they made Road the Opening Day one big set, continuously numbered. The Cubs are OD-301 to OD-315, which I guess makes them the 21st team in whatever order the used. You would think the champs could get top billing.

There are a couple of incentive based bonus cards that a few of the teams have already earned so hopefully I'll end up with one (or more!) of those. The Cubs have a small first place lead as I write this and if they can hold off til the All-Star break, that triggers one of them.