Thursday, January 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is brought to you this week by 2013 Topps #240, J.J. Putz of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2013 Topps

Having read a bunch of 2013 Topps posts from the blogosphere, I feel a bit late to the party.

Like Joe Walsh, I too, like to party, sometimes until 4. And definitely know it's hard to leave when you can't find the door...

I found the 2013s in stock at Wal-Mart on Monday, and wasn't planning on buying any. I just happened to stroll down the card aisle, and as luck would have it, were sitting right there, ripe for the buying.

That first pack of the flagship release excitement won out. I grabbed a 72-card hanger box (forgive me if I am using the wrong nomenclature), finished my shopping, and headed home.

I'm not one to expect Topps to reinvent the wheel every year. I go into each release knowing there's going to be some gimmicks, whether they be super duper extra rare short prints, retro-design minis, insert set after insert set,or parallels that I'm guessing will feature nearly every color in the Crayola 64 box before too much longer.

One thing I've come to learn with Topps over the years is this:

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have a Topps release.

Me, I'm happy with getting the 330 cards of each series, and anything else is just icing on the cake. Actually, it resembles trade bait more than cake, but you get the picture...

My first impression of 2013 Topps is favorable. I like the crisp, white borders which really cause the team colors and logo to stand out. I think these will look just as good in the Chrome version later this year. I don't anticipate buying a ton of this product--enough to get a decent start on the set--so I don't think design burnout will be an issue. Topps continues to raise the bar with its photography. The majority of the horizontal photos aren't just for the sake of being horizontal, but actually capture a quality action shot.

I present to you Exhibit A, one Shin-Soo Choo, late of the Cleveland Indians:

Rather than just showing a vertical picture of Choo in the outfield, Topps captures the "will he catch it, or won't he?" factor with this shot. You can see the concentration on Choo's face as the ball makes its descent to his glove.

Topps does the job for me. I know what to expect going into each season, and outside of the hideous 2007 design, have not been disappointed in a long time with them. 2013 looks to be another strong set and I'm looking forward to it.

I did come across an unusual Topps gets these exclusive shots of players with their new teams even though pitchers and catchers don't report for another 2 weeks is a mystery. Do they stage games in some alternate universe, just for the sake of getting the most accurate and up-to-date cards in their set?


 Until next time,


Friday, January 25, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things, Pt. 1

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be showcasing some of my favorite cards. Due to some scanner issues, I am a couple of days behind, but thankfully everything is working again.

So, without any further ado...

Like many collectors, I too have heard the horror story of my dad's card collection being tossed away. Topps itself even recognized this epidemic and dedicated a sizable insert set in its 2010 set called "Cards Your Mom Threw Out." Someday, I'd like to make my own insert set called "Cards I Probably Should Have Thrown Out," which would encompass nearly anything and everything released from 1988-1991. But I digress...

I didn't doubt my dad when he said he had all kinds of Yankees cards from the early 60s, since he grew up a die-hard Yankees fan. My dad's twin brother, who also was into cards, can back up the story. He said that all their buddies all had different favorite teams. Whenever they got together and bought cards and traded with their friends, my dad would get all the Yankees, my uncle would get all the Twins, another kid would get the Red Sox, etc.

They didn't know exactly how many cards they had, but their collection did take up "a few, probably 4 or 5" shoe boxes that they kept in their room. One summer, when they were 12 or 13, my grandma was cleaning and tossed out their cards, every single last one of them. They couldn't remember exactly why she threw them out; perhaps she thought they were too old to be buying cards or something along those lines. When I asked my grandma, she said she was just "tossing out junk."

After hearing this sad story and wondering what kind of cardboard treasure my grandma had squandered, I was disappointed that I wouldn't have any of my dad's cards handed down to me, or let alone even look at. On the other hand, it was neat to hear my dad's stories about his favorite player (Mickey Mantle) and the heroes of baseball from the late 50s and early 60s, as I showed off my Dale Murphy, Mike Schmidt, and Cal Ripken cards.

I decided then and there I was going to do whatever I could in my power to make sure my mom wouldn't throw out my cards. I figured I'd have my dad as an ally, since he wasn't lucky enough to have his cards survive. In the end, my mom didn't take much convincing and luckily I had both of my parents understand how much I enjoyed cards--sorting them, trading them, looking at the front, and diligently studying the statistics and info on the back.

One night we were at my grandma's house and my dad was helping rearrange some boxes in her basement. I was sitting at her kitchen table sorting a stack of cards (shocker, I know) when my dad came up from downstairs. He stood behind me for a minute or two, and then dropped something on the table in front of me.

Apparently, one card had escaped my grandma's wrath and had survived untouched in the basement for well over twenty years. It was a 1968 Topps football card of Rick Redman, linebacker/kicker from the Chargers. Interesting position combo, but apparently common back when players played on both sides of the ball.

Although it was just one card, it had two things going for it as far as I was concerned. First, and foremost, it used to belong to my dad. Secondly, I finally had an "old" card in my collection, something that was older than I was.

On the surface, the centering is way off, and the corners are anything but sharp. Warts and all, this card has more sentimental value to me that no price guide can measure. It has also inspired me to put the 1968 set together, just as my dad tried to do nearly 45 years ago.

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Does it Mean to be "The Best?"

"Hey, Ryan...what's your best card?"

I was asked this question countless times when I was a kid, back when my friends and I would head home from the hardware store after buying our packs. Immediately, we'd reach for the latest Beckett and start perusing the sets, dollar signs in our eyes.

Back then, "best" definitely meant "highest book value." To a few others, especially my best friend Brian, best meant "oldest." In Brian's defense, his dad had saved nearly every card from his childhood, and we spent hundreds of hours looking through stars and commons from the 50s and 60s.
It was hard to argue a 1962 Mickey Mantle not being better than a 1989 Mark Grace. 

To me, the "best" card I could ever hope to own would be Dale Murphy's 1977 Topps rookie. Every month, I would open the Beckett, head to the 1977 Topps listings, and scan down to card #476, just to see how much it was worth. At the time, the card consistently had a high value of $50.

That card might as well have had a $500 book value on it, since $50 was way out of my price range. My allowance and money earned from odd jobs was usually spent as soon as I earned it, and I couldn't exhibit enough self control to save enough for the Murphy. Every time I went to the card shop that was 50 miles away, I dreamed of getting my hands on that card.

Over the years, as I became more involved in the hobby,  my concept of what "best" meant changed dramatically. Book value did not necessarily make one card better than another, and I found that when I was trying to complete a set, a common card I didn't have was "better" than a star player I already had doubles or triples of.

Today, I don't get asked "what's your best card?" very much. Usually, it's when I'm asked about my hobbies and interests by someone I'm meeting for the first time. The question doesn't make me cringe like it used to, but I just explain to them that I don't really have a "best" card, just quite a few favorites.

Those favorites are what make me enjoy my collection, rather than a price guide defining one card as the best of them all. A lot of my favorite cards have a story behind them, giving them more value than any guide ever could.

I'm going to use my next few posts to showcase my favorites. Some are obvious due to the player or team featured on the card, but some have a back story that causes them to make my list.

Until next time,


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Farewell to a Couple of Legends

Today was a sad day for baseball, as two Hall of Famers passed away.

The first passing was that of longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, whose fiery personality was in direct contrast to his diminutive five-foot-six height. Never one to back down from an argument with an umpire, "The Earl of Baltimore" was sent early to the showers 91 times in his career.

Weaver's heyday with the Orioles was before my time, so most of what I remember was his final two seasons at the O's helm.

You hear a lot today of how today's skippers are a "player's manager," but Weaver managed long before those days. I don't think any Orioles were buddy-buddy with Weaver, but I don't doubt for one second that they'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit for him.

I am glad that Weaver was able to be inducted into the Hall of Fame while he was alive, and able to enjoy the honor.

Here is a picture of Weaver's Topps sunset issue, from the 1987 set.

The other Hall of Famer who passed away today, was the greatest Cardinal ever, Stan "The Man" Musial.

Musial began his minor-league career as a pitcher, but unfortunately his pitching dreams were dashed due to an arm injury. Luckily for him, Musial switched positions, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While Joe D and Teddy Ballgame dominated the American League headlines, Musial made quite a name for himself in the National League. He played in 24 All-Star games in his 22 seasons, led the NL in every hitting category once (except home runs), and of his 3,630 career hits, exactly half of them came at home, while the other half came on the road.

Pictured here is Musial's 1963 Topps sunset issue:

Until next time,


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is brought to you this week by 2012 Topps #269, Jason Vargas of the Seattle Mariners.

Trade with All the Way to the Backstop

Today brought another padded envelope to my mailbox, this time courtesy of All the Way to the Backstop.

One of the cool things about Backstop is that he is a Padre fan who moved from San Diego to Texas, yet never quit rooting for the Friars. Another cool thing is that like me, he is a Darin Erstad collector, and being that I live in Darin Erstad's hometown, am easily able to help him out with his Erstad collection. I was able to find a decent amount of Padres, including some vintage 70s cards to help fill out a couple of team sets, along with some Erstad cards.

In my extremely short time in the blogosphere, I still am amazed at the generosity shown by everyone I've traded with, and this trade was no exception. The package today had well over 100 cards, mixed with Twins, Yankees, and Braves, as well as a few random 1982 commons. Definitely more than I was expecting.

I only chose three out of the 100+ cards to show, but there were many "scanworthy" cards in the bunch.

First up, is a card of the "Crime Dog," Fred McGriff. One of the most respected players in baseball history, I don't think I've heard a player or fan say a bad thing about the guy.While mainly known for his power at the plate, McGriff was also a pretty solid fielding first baseman, as shown in this card below.

Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills video helped Fred here

 The McGriff card also gave me an excuse to post this pic:

Whatever happened to those "back-to-back AAU National Champions?"

Next up is Minnesota Twins legend Kent Hrbek. Hrbek was always one of my favorite players growing up, and after spending the last 15 years or so in ND, which is definitely Twins Territory, I've gained even more appreciation for him.  

"Herbie" is still a Twin Cities icon, and makes frequent appearances at Target Field. He even finds time to make commercials, such as the one below:

Last, but certainly not least, is The Captain, Derek Jeter. Those of you with strong Yankee opposition may want to quit reading here, or just scroll to the bottom of the page. I'll never pass up a chance to show off a new Jeter addition to the collection. You have been warned....

All in all, another successful trade in the books. Thanks again and look forward to trading with you again soon!

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

80s Braves Video Flashback

Found these two videos while searching for Braves highlights...enjoy the cameos by Dale Murphy, Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, and Willie Stargell as the Atlanta 1st base coach!

Reds at Braves, 9-18-1985 (as the late, great Skip Caray would say, lots of fans disguised as empty seats):

Astros at Braves, 3-26-1986:


Until next time,


2011 Topps Diamond Giveaway Set

Lost in the hullabaloo and madness of what was the 2011 Topps Diamond Giveaway, I had forgotten that I won a 2011 Topps factory set through the Diamond Dig code cards.

It was of no consequence, since I had busted so much 2011 Topps that I had a couple of extra sets anyway, and a Topps factory set would just be gravy.

However, the rumor mill starting churning, and my curiosity was piqued. Apparently this factory set had a special foil stamping on it to differentiate it from the regular set, Once it arrived, I debated about cracking it open to see what the difference was.

For whatever reason, I opted not to open it at that time, and saved it for a later time. One day not so long ago, I said what the heck and unwrapped it. Sure enough, the cards were different from the retail/hobby packs, and look a little something like this...

2011 Topps Diamond Giveaway Jonny Venters

Other than the Braves, Twins, and Yankees, as well as a few other singles, I have decided I am going to put the remainder of the set up for trade. I am guessing that the majority of you out there have already found these cards by hook or by crook, but if you are looking for certain players or teams, drop me a line and I'll be happy to work out a trade.

Until next time,


The Power of Love

Anyone feel the same about their cards as Oscar Azocar feels about his bat?

Until next time,


Monday, January 14, 2013

Looking Back: 2012 Topps

After having spent the better part of the last two days sick in bed, I will admit cards haven't crossed my mind all that much. I thought I had a great idea for a blog post, but then again, it may have just been a Nyquil-infused dream...

Feeling somewhat better this afternoon, I took out my 2012 Topps set, and actually looked at each individual card. It came to me that I've spent most of my time worrying about the little number in the upper corner on the back of the card, or which pocket on what page in the binder the card is going into, rather than just taking the card for what it is.

Those of you who built the set no doubt are aware of the great action shots Topps used for the 2012 edition. I don't know if I could choose just one card as my favorite, but these three cards stood out for me:

The Captain
I should disclose that Derek Jeter is my favorite MLB player, but I wouldn't have chosen this card if it weren't for the photo. Jeter has taken some heat during his career as being an average shortstop at best, but one of the most indelible images to me is that of Jeter deep in the hole at short, ranging to his right, gloving the ball, and throwing across the diamond to get the runner.

As good as Gold

From my Little League through American Legion playing days, I was a catcher. Although Dale Murphy was my favorite player growing up, I always had a soft spot for guys like Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez, Jody Davis, Bruce Benedict, and Benito Santiago. In fact, Santiago was the reason I wore #9, and I begged my coaches to get me a uniform with 09 on the back just like Benny. But I digress...

For my money, Yadier Molina is the best catcher in the majors. Strong throwing arm, excellent blocking of balls in the dirt, great game-calling skills, and perhaps the quickest pop time in MLB. Five Gold Gloves helps cement his ability as well.

I think what catches my attention most on this card is the gold-colored Rawlings tags on Yadi's chest protector and mitt. Not only do you see Molina getting ready to ditch the mask in order to make the play, you also see the Rawlings  mark of excellence, proof of being the gold standard when it comes to catching.

The last card I chose features Nationals P Tom Gorzelanny in collision at home plate with the Atlanta's Brian McCann. I have seen a few cards feature home plate collisions in the past, but I don't recall any of them featuring a pitcher.

Seeing the ball in front of McCann made me think the Gorzelanny was safe, but I had to do some extra research to see exactly what happened. Thanks to and the Four-Letter Network's recap of the game, it turns out Gorzelanny was indeed safe, but twisted his right ankle in the collision, scoring from 1st on a triple. That's great hustle!

I am very much looking forward to the 2013 releases and hoping that there are some great moments captured on cardboard.

Until next time,


Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekend Musings

Looks like blizzard conditions and up to 8 inches of snow are forecast in my area this weekend, so I should be able to get caught up on adding my recent trade acquisitions and card shop purchases to my collection.

Speaking of the card shop, I did make another visit today and finished going through some more baseball boxes. No major finds, perhaps the best being a 1982 Donruss Diamond King of Dale Murphy that somehow I didn't already have. I picked up 25 more Braves, 18 Yankees, and 28 Twins. I'll see how good of a memory I have once I sort them...hopefully I will be adding to the collection and not adding to my trade pile.

Thanks to everyone for your comments, e-mails, and for following my blog. I appreciate the interaction and am glad I decided to finally start blogging. With all due respect to the trade forums, I've found the blogging community much more friendly, welcoming, and overall easier to deal with.

One last thing for tonight--I am in need of a new header design. I do not have Photoshop on my new laptop and am one of the least artistically talented people you will meet. So if any of you have the artistic talent I lack, and some free time, I have some cards I can offer in exchange for a new design. I'd like to have it incorporate the BBC logo, like some of the examples found here. If you'd like to create the new design, send emails to buildingabettercollection AT gmail dot com.

Until next time,


Trade with Cards From the Quarry

Trade #2 of the year arrived in the mail today. This trade was with Cards from the Quarry, which is a blog I recently started following because of the awesome 2012 Quarry Unlimited set. Having dabbled in creating custom cards once upon a time, I can appreciate the time and effort that has gone into putting these together. Modeled after the 1986 Topps set, 2012 Quarry Unlimited features a card of every player who played a game in the 2012 season.

I had a 2010 Topps Chrome 1/1 printing plate of Esmil Rogers that I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do with. Part of me wanted to sell it online to help fund some collection purchases while the other part of me wanted to get this card in the hands of a Rockies collector.

After looking through a impressive Rockies collection and want list, I had some of the 1993 Topps Inaugural Marlins and Rockies parallels from the want list. Back in the days of the Topps Million Card Giveaway, I tried to get a complete team set of the 1993 Rockies cards, and when Topps sent this to me upon redemption, many of the cards had the Inaugural Marlins and Rockies stamps. I prefer the base version and figured I'd hold onto these for a rainy day.

Coming my way in the trade was an assorted lot of Yankees, Twins, and Braves, plus a triple jersey card from 2009 OPC, featuring Kelly Johnson of the Braves, along with Howie Kendrick and Jayson Nix. All told, I received 22 Braves, 27 Yankees, and 18 Twins.

I'm too lazy to scan every card I received, so I just scanned a few from each team plus the jersey card.

There were 10 Mickey Mantle home run cards, and I think I may try to put this set together. I'm not sure that I need another set to work on right now, but the Mantle HR set would be a neat way to look back at his storied career.

Once again I am very happy with how this trade worked out, and am looking forward to our next trade. Thanks again!

Until next time,


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trip to the LCS

Today I managed to have about 45 minutes of free time and made a trip to my local card shop. I feel fortunate to have a card shop in my town, since there are so many collectors whose main means of obtaining cards is online.

It was good timing on my part as the owner had just acquired a massive collection a few days ago, and there were many boxes to go through. Knowing my affinity for pre-1980s cards and understanding that I was short on time, the shop owner directed me to some of the boxes he had sorted.

I only made it through two 800-count boxes full of 1975 Topps, another 800-count box of assorted 70s commons, and some 2012 boxes before I had to leave.

Unfortunately, there were no Robin Yount or George Brett rookies to be found, but on the bright side I did add 40 new Yankees cards to add to my team collection.

I also lucked out and found some Braves cards too. I didn't have my 70s want list with me, so I passed on the vintage Braves and stuck to the recent issues.

The 1975 Topps Herb Washington card has intrigued me since I saw it for the first time many years ago. I could never bring myself to buy the card online, and not too many pop up in trade offers. Today I was able to pick up 3 of them.

In case you haven't heard of Herb Washington, he was a world-class sprinter signed by the A's strictly for his speed. The front of his card lists his position as pinch runner, and the statistics on the back show nothing but games played, runs scored, stolen bases, and stolen base attempts. In 105 games between the 1974 and 1975 seasons, Washington scored 33 runs, stole 31 bases, and amassed a grand total of 0 at bats. The 1975 card is the only baseball card to list "pinch runner" as a player's exclusive position.

Not much needs to be said about the 1975 Oscar Gamble. His afro is one of the most identifiable hairstyles in sports, and this card captures the essence of the 70s all in one shot.

Being a catcher throughout my baseball playing days, I couldn't pass up a chance at picking up a card featuring Johnny Bench. I would have liked to find the regular issue in the dime box, but a leaders card will do just fine.


I picked up 63 cards in all for a whopping $5.00, and bought 5 packs of 2012-13 OPC hockey for $10, bringing my total damage to $15.

I am planning on going back sometime next week, so if you are looking for any 75 commons, send me a list and I'll see what I can find.

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Trade with Hot Corner Cards

Yesterday I received my first trade package of 2013, thanks to Patrick over at Hot Corner Cards. Patrick's blog showed up on quite a few of the other blogs I follow, so I gave him a read and have added him to my list as well.

Patrick is a Tiger collector, so if you've got some Tigers you'd like to move, check out his trade lists and work out a deal. I highly recommend him as a trader.

Patrick had some assorted 2012 Topps parallels up for trade, and I noticed he had a few Braves and Twins cards I needed for my team collections. I haven't been too active in picking up the gold and sparkle Topps issues from past years, so I am making a conscious effort to add them. No more "base cards or bust" thinking these days.

Alexi Casilla was somewhat of an enigma during his days as a Minnesota Twin. There were times he showed promise as a player who could hold down an everyday spot in the lineup, and then there were days when his play made you wonder if he'd ever set foot on a baseball field before. Apparently he didn't figure into the Twins' 2013 plans and he has moved on to Baltimore.

Juan Francisco gave the Braves a little help off of the bench and a few starts at third base in place of Chipper Jones. While he didn't make Braves fans forget the future HOFer, Francisco did show flashes of the potential that made him a coveted Reds prospect.

There's not much else to be said about Jason Heyward. Even if you don't follow the Braves on a daily basis, you know that this guy is a flat out stud and has many great seasons ahead of him. I'm not a fan of the Braves red jerseys, but this picture still is a good one, capturing Heyward in what looks like the final stretch towards home.

Paul Maholm was a pleasant surprise upon joining the Braves in 2012. I wasn't too big on the acquisition at first, but he did throw some quality innings for Atlanta, and should contend for a spot in what will be a deep rotation in 2013.

Reed Johnson has been one of the best bench players in baseball over the past few seasons. I've always admired guys who are able to perform well while not getting regular playing time. Johnson came over from the Cubs along with Maholm and ended up leading the NL in pinch hitting.

Going Patrick's way were some Tigers cards, mostly some 1988 Score along with some other random Tigers from mid-2000s Topps. Both parties got cards they needed, and another successful trade is in the books. 

Thanks, Patrick, and I look forward to trading with you again!

Until next time,


Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Custom Creations--Atlanta Braves

Here are more of my attempts at custom cards. I don't have the patience and Photoshop skills that some of the more prominent custom creators have, but it was still fun to try.

Andruw Jones will always be one of my favorite players, even if his career took a sharp decline. I came across this picture and thought it would look good as an OPC custom:

 A picture that captured the youthful enthusiasm of Jeff Francoeur, before he became the whipping boy for many Braves fans:

Another Francoeur card, more than likely capturing a strikeout than a home run:

Love this pic of Brian McCann...I think it would look good on most any card design.

I would have been remiss if I didn't try to make a prospects card also:

Until next time,


Custom Cards--2007-08 Boston Celtics style

Going through my hard drive tonight and I came across these custom cards I made of the 2007-08 NBA champion Boston Celtics, in the 1986-87 Fleer design.

The Celtics have always been my team since I began following the NBA. Needless to say the 2007-08 championship squad will go down as one of my favorite Celtics squads, and I thought I'd commemorate the season with some custom cards.

Until next time,


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Throwback Thursday

I remember these White Sox uniforms as being one of the first throwbacks to make their appearance on cardboard.

While I've never been a White Sox fan, I've always liked"Black Jack" McDowell, and I imagine he would have fit in well back when these uniforms were originally worn.

Other White Sox in the throwbacks from this set include Sammy Sosa and Robin Ventura.

Until next time,