Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Trade Post For No Reason

A fellow collector asks "do I need a reason??" The answer, of course, is no.

Jeff from 2x3 Heroes sent me an out of the blue stack of cards. He is one of the ones that I send out of the blue stack of cards to, so this seems appropriate. 2014 seems to be the year that Topps is paying tribute to the world's seemingly unlimited supply of 1989 Topps cards, but they rare seem to know how to replicate their own past designs. The die cut minis found in this year's base set are just plain weird looking (and have different border colors?) while the cards from Topps Archives have the player name left justified. Left justified! I know it's been awhile, but this is how you do 1989 Topps with a relatively short player name.

Jeff took down some numbers from my Heritage want list. I decided to scan Didi Gregorious, who both looks and sounds (as in his name) least like a Major League Baseball player. This is the fun side of having a lot of head shots in the Heritage set.

I know that lenticular style cards don't scan the best, but I was truly happy to receive this Greg Matthews card from the 1986 Sportflics Rookies set. This might be my favorite card of the whole package, but I'm at a loss as to how I can explain why. I guess Sportflics just remind me of the days when I couldn't justify buying a pack with only a few cards in it for significantly more than a garden variety Topps pack, although I'm pretty sure this particular card came from a year end factory set. Times have changed, but maybe they haven't changed all that much. After all, I use the same logic to pass on packs of Chrome this and Platinum that in the card aisle at Target all the time. 3 or 4 cards for $3 when you know they're just going to be Pirates and Red Sox cards is just not fun.

Here's a nice Tulo rookie for Erin's collection. I wonder if he'll stop getting injured all the time the moment the Rockies finally deal him away.

Membership has its privileges. Just ask Todd Zeile.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bargain Blaster

Featuring the familiar One Exclusive Patch Card Inside!

I had a $5 off coupon burning a hole in my pocket and finally put it to good use last weekend. Along with my first dip into 2014 Allen & Ginter territory, I also snagged a 2014 Topps Series 2 blaster at a more affordable price. By this time of year, I usually stay far away from the base set because I am usually running out of Cardinals to collect. That's not the case this year. I have a feeling I will still be working on the team set proper by the time the calendar flips to 2015.

The manupatch card could've been worse, I suppose, but I have never successfully traded with an A's fan. When you couple that with the fact that Cespedes was recently traded and probably isn't all that exciting to an A's fan these days (a theoretical fan at that), I am probably not going to be able to get rid of this any time soon.

This was a big pull for me. Craig got traded just as I was starting my vacation a few weeks ago, and his past contributions to the team will be missed. Unfortunately, it seems like he's broken now, so it's quite understandable that he was dealt. Joe Kelly, on the other hand... don't get me started. I will break things.

These don't really do it for me, but they're not terribly easy to find. If anyone is sitting on any of these flashy red Cardinals, you know who to get in touch with.

I could have saved this for a future Airbrushed Friday, but this is a pretty boring card. I would have liked to have seen more of Bourjos this year than what we've gotten, but Jon Jay has been on fire lately.

I think I have 8 of these. Does Bundy even exist anymore?

Red hot blue jay.

These are really boring. Have I mentioned that?

Nomar had one of the stranger careers in recent years. He succeeded at crossing over into pop culture mainstream consciousness (I remember the SNL sketches), but wasn't able to play at a high level long enough to be a serious Hall of Fame candidate.


Gold bordered cards are pretty ugly and unmemorable this year. I bet that's going to change in 2015.

This is the second short printed variation that I've pulled from Series 2. After making some money back on my Evan Gattis bedazzled Photoshop thing, I ended up with a Futures jersey variation of broken Jose Fernandez. Any takers?

McGwire looks awkward here.

The only thing Matt Harvey is SaberStarring in this year is SaberRehab.

Pujols looks more and more like a comic book villain/tough guy with each passing day. I ended up with something like 20 of these Target parallels, but I didn't feel like scanning them all.

I entered my code online and nothing happened.

Zimmerman looks to be the latest of a series of star players that I wasn't familiar with at all when I returned to collecting to be on the last legs of his career. Is that fair? Maybe not, but I remember Topps introducing me to players like Nick Markakis, Grady Sizemore, Brian Roberts and Zimmerman way back when. Now their days of appearing on insert cards seem to mostly be behind them, though Markakis is still a solid regular and plus defender.

As always, send me an email if you're interesting in anything here aside from the Cardinals cards.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Understanding Ginter

Trying to come to terms with the latest Topps release.

For the second year in a row, I managed to completely ignore the release of the unfortunately named Topps Allen & Ginter's (hereafter referred to as Allen & Ginter, A&G or just Ginter) for several weeks until I just couldn't help myself. I bought myself a value pack on Sunday, one of those things at Target that nets you 3 regular packs and some sort of bonus. This set is... fine. For the umpteenth year in a row, however, I feel myself missing some of the minimalist feel of the early Ginter sets and have my doubts that anything Topps designed for this has anything to do with the original A&G cards they are supposedly paying tribute to.

First off, this may as well be a Gypsy Queen insert card. I don't collect Gypsy Queen. It feels unnecessary and sometimes kind of ugly. Gypsy Queen inserts, on the other hands, are usually very well designed. I like it when people send me these (when they're Cardinals, obviously.) However, I couldn't give a rip about accumulating Gypsy Queen cards. This is well designed, but I don't see why these are a part of the Allen & Ginter set. I usually either think something is wrong or that I pulled some sort of weird hit if I get a card out of an Allen & Ginter pack that doesn't have a white border.

The base design is a bit noisy, but I could probably get used to it. The team name is pretty much getting shouted at us, but we don't see this all that often in modern card designs. I'm okay with it. Again, I prefer the minimalist approach when it comes to A&G, but I can't complain too much about this. I chose a horizontal card because this just happens to look really nice. I don't remember Ginter having many (any?) horizontal base cards in the first years of these sets but I know it happened eventually.

This is a plane, I guess. I should probably care about this?

The minis look pretty nice when you consider that they probably had to get created with the space and fitting the team name in. I am guessing this is a black bordered mini as the base cards don't have any kind of border.

Here's the bonus for buying a value pack. It looks like they brought back the gold bordered mini concept from 2012, which I guess I can't complain about. I don't remember what they did last year. In fact, I think that maybe they didn't have these value packs at all last year.

I absolutely cannot stand numbers and symbols replacing letters in words, so I hate this insert set. I hate it with fire. So stupid.

On the other hand, we have cats! I like cats.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ozzie #503 Comes to the 503

Another Listia win becomes one of my lower numbered Wizard cards.

At this point, I'd probably make a better player collector than a team collector. It's much easier to rationalize a single card pickup here and there, but I've always had a hard time with buying singles because the thrill factor isn't really there for me. I like the sense of randomness. I like looking at groups of cards rather than one or two. I don't want to keep most of those cards, but it's fun to go through them and critique the photos and look at the words and numbers on the back.

Even though I hadn't bought any cards in bulk (until yesterday! spoilers!) all summer, I've been sticking by Listia (and to a lesser extent, COMC) as an outlet to pick up a few interesting things. I snagged this sepia mini, numbered 25 of 50, by using the "get it now" option. I wouldn't say that I scored a major deal exactly, but I had the credits and typically have some stiff competition for Cardinals cards on that site. This one is mine, though. You can't have it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So Long, Topps BUNT

And thanks for nothing. Literally nothing.

I gave Topps BUNT a spin this season. Topps BUNT, aside from being bizarrely capitalized like a lot of bad decisions on the internet, is the virtual trading card app from the MLB exclusive license holder. It's not like me to spill a bunch of words about something I don't like (you'll never find me reviewing places on Yelp), but I found this app particularly frustrating because it had potential to be a pretty good time waster.

Instead, I'm afraid BUNT just a waste. I'll issue a caveat here: I am never going to be a company's ideal "freemium" consumer. I have a really hard time forking over actual cash for something intangible. I consider myself a huge music fan, and I can scarcely get myself to buy anything on iTunes. I really like having something I can hold on to, even if that something (e.g. a compact disc) is going to end up in a storage box for 99.99% of its life. I do download free apps and use them on occasion. And while I'm no economics wizard, I do fully understand that something that no one is paying money for is not going to make anyone any money. I do think, however, that this could have been something Topps didn't really need to make a ton of cash on because it could have been a tool to promote their actual, tangible product -- those baseball card packs that we love to tear open.

If you set aside the issue that free-to-play apps with in-game microtransactions are always going to offer a competitive advantage to those that spend, I still found some things just completely wrong with my experience with BUNT. BUNT is, as near as I can tell, a combination between a fantasy baseball game and a virtual collect-all-the-things game. (There's probably a better name for the latter.) Both of these things appeal to me. But neither of these things really fit well with each other and ultimately rubbed me the wrong way. Is it trying to be too much?

Before I go Full Yelp Review here, I'll just lay out my grievances and sign off for the night:

  • The points for the fantasy element of the game are heavily weighted towards users with the "best" cards, typically obtained by opening a high volume of (virtual) packs probably obtained by spending actual money, since your daily allowance only gives you enough to buy the virtual equivalent of a 1989 Fleer pack each day.
  • There's a trading system in play, but good luck trying to solve that mess. It appears that you need a massive collection to get anyone to deal with you, and each trade is rated regardless of whether or not a trade was actually made. In essence, you can get rated for merely contacting someone about the possibility of a trade. This makes no sense to me. I got "rated" once for having the audacity to send a trade request to someone for a completely common card for another completely common card just to get the hang of how the system worked. I got a "2" out of "5" and now that's on my permanent record.
  • As I mentioned, there's a collecting element at play. I've been sucked into "collecting" games before, and they can be mindless fun if they're done right. My problem with this aspect of the game is twofold. One, most people are focused on inserts, which are downright expensive to obtain. And secondly, there's very little organization in the presentation. There's not really a box to put your cards in or some kind of virtual album. I am someone who collected the entire virtual Panini World Cup sticker album, for some reason.
  • Rules of the game seemingly change at the whim of the Topps BUNT employees. One aspect of the point scoring system (both the time it takes to switch and number of times you can switch a player in your active lineup) changed from week to week during the first few months of the season, and then abruptly stopped. Then, suddenly the entire scoring system was revamped after the All-Star break.
  • Continuing with the above point, players that switched teams (in real life) during the season apparently stopped scoring points when a user activated those cards. The problem is, this was buried in their Terms of Service (or some such thing that no one reads) and they were extremely mysterious about this, blaming it on glitches with the app until they finally unleashed a plan to distribute new cards of players on their new respective teams in just the past week. That should have been embarrassing enough, except they seemingly had no idea how to distribute these cards, and just unleashed them in 10 minute intervals. Users were to buy free packs (as many as they could, apparently?) of the new cards, but they only had 10 minutes assigned in grouped timeslots based on their user name at some point last Saturday.
  • I didn't get any of these free packs. Were this the first ridiculous thing that happened to me with this game, I probably could've gotten over it. Supposedly everybody got a push notification (I definitely didn't), but even if I did, do you honestly expect me to be at the beck and call of an app at some random time on a Saturday? If this was some sort of one-off freebie that didn't drastically affect the points earning potential of every user of this app, it wouldn't have mattered to me in the slightest, but quite a few high caliber players have changed teams this season. As a result of all of this, an already disadvantaged player is further hampered.
  • Have I mentioned this this app is really buggy? Oh yeah, it's full of bugs. It's the only app I've ever used where you basically have to stare at the screen for several minutes to make sure it's doing exactly what you intended for it to do. And once I tried (with much futility) to get help with a bug and got the same boiler plate email something four times even though it had absolutely nothing to do with my actual issue. (Click image to enlarge:)

In the end, I really just can't get over spending real world money for some pixels on a smart phone screen. It's kind of weird to me. Because the internet exists, people take the risk of going outside the game and actually buy some of these cards on the internet. I could pay bills with that kind of money! (h/t to Gellman who is a true believer and does a very thorough job at documenting his travails in the BUNT world in his digital card focused blog.)

I also haven't really bought any physical baseball cards in a couple of months. I should probably get on that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Two Buck Ducks

And stay tuned for an announcement of sorts.

I should probably just start asking people to title their own trade posts here more often. On the suggestion of Too Many Manninghams, who sent over these fine autographed Ducks items out of the blue, I went with the obvious title choice. Dennis picked up a couple of Demetrius Williams rookie autos for a buck a pop recently and I am thrilled to own them. One of the cards is an on card autograph, while the other contains a hideous enormous oval shaped signed sticker. Can you guess which one I like the best?

D-Will was a standout receiver for the Ducks, one of the best in the program's history. He was a product of the last days of Oregon's offense resembling something somewhat conventional, and I have to think that their playing style at the time helped prepare him for a professional future. As thrilling as the Ducks have been in the past half a dozen seasons, their style and size of athletes they typically recruit doesn't always translate to major pro success. This was a program that, even in their many (many) lean years, always managed to turn out quality NFL players. I'm not griping, however, because the NFL is not very interesting to me and I certainly can't argue with the success of the program of late. Williams, for what it's worth, got some game action with the Ravens on and off during his 4 years in Baltimore, but didn't really stick as a core player for whatever reason.

This, incidentally, is Two Buck Chuck. The budget priced Trader Joe's wine was never actually priced at $2 at any point to my recollection in the great state of Oregon, likely due to exorbitant taxes on importing wine here. Apparently there was a price hike awhile back, so now it's not $2 anywhere. I'll put the blame on, I don't know, jerks.


Housekeeping notes: the blog is going dark for a little while. I haven't really bought any baseball cards all summer, though there's a next-to-zero chance that I'm planning on stopping my card purchases. We'll do this again around the second week of August. In the interim, I may be posting compressed thoughts a little more often on the beast that is Twitter, though it's questionable whether I'll say anything about sports cards. It could happen? Who knows?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Steve D. D-Livers

This is just a reminder that Blog Post Title Writer is still an unpaid position.

Fellow blog reader and Listia member (Listian?) Steve D. just exchanged PWEs with me after he was one of the last to grab some cards from my soon-to-be-retired trade bait page. For my part, I received a few Cardinals, some of which I am sharing with you this evening.

It's easy to forget that the Walmart blue-ish parallels that we all know and love(-ish) started out as these murky black things. They wound easily and attract all sorts of fingerprints, and I remember the days of the blasters that were full of them, with an ink smell so putrid it reminded me of my days as a temp working at a printer plant where I was hand collating leaflets all day. Seriously, that was a job.

It's also easy to forget The Sporting News as a print magazine. I never quite figured out why, since I'm pretty sure I never saw the man read more than a sentence or two in his life, but my grandfather used to be a Sporting News subscriber in the '80s. Those things were chock full of stats and fine print in a way that the local paper could never hope to be. It helped bridge the gap for my stat-hungry mind between the very first box scores I read and the USA Today Baseball Weekly paper that first came around in the early '90s. I loved that stuff. Now we have the internet and I can barely find the time to check up on players that play for my own favorite team, let alone keep tabs on the rest of the league.