2012 Product of the Year

31 12 2012

Last year I did a post for my “set of the year” in response to a blog bat around was thrown out there by This Card is Cool.  And I feel like I really want to do product of the year, because when you buy a box of something new, it isn’t just the set that matters (though sometimes I wish that was more of Topps’ concern).

This is a good thing to write about at the end of any year, so I’m doing another one now.  Admittedly, I’m leveraging last year’s post for the wording – but which set I pick could be new…

First, I’ll note a couple of things.  Like any collector of baseball cards, I have a limited budget.  There are nearly 40 baseball products out this year if you count all the MLB-licensed things that Topps did, plus what Leaf, Panini and Upper Deck put out.  Because Panini got a license with the Players’ union, this is actually a bit higher than last year.

If you go by order of release date, here’s what came out in 2012.  An asterisk means it’s new (I’m not counting Museum Collection or Archives as new because they replaced sets with similar themes):

Baseball “standard issue” sets (it’s a bit of a stretch for me to include Goodwin in here – but it’s very similar to Ginter and I collected it, so I’m sticking to my guns):

  • Topps (Series 1) – February 1
  • Topps Opening Day – March 7
  • Topps Tribute – March 7
  • Topps Heritage – March 14
  • Topps Museum Collection – April 4
  • Topps Gypsy Queen – April 15
  • Panini Limited 2011 – May 2*
  • Bowman – May 4
  • Topps Archives – May 23
  • Topps (Series 2) – June 2
  • Topps Tier One – June 20
  • Topps Allen & Ginter – July 11
  • Bowman Platinum – July 25
  • Panini Triple Play – August 1*
  • Topps Mini – August 1*
  • Topps Finest – August 6
  • Upper Deck Goodwin Champions August 14
  • Topps Chrome – August 22
  • Topps Triple Threads – September 18
  • Topps (Update) – October 1
  • Bowman Chrome – October 17
  • Topps Heritage (High Numbers) – November 6*
  • Topps Five Star – November 14*
  • Panini Cooperstown – November 14*
  • Panini Signature – November 14*
  • Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects – November 28
  • Bowman Sterling – December 12
  • Panini Golden Age – end of December*
  • Panini Prizm – early 2012*

Topps Attax was the one set that went away here

Minor league card sets:

  • Topps Pro Debut – June 11
  • Topps Heritage Minor League – September 12
  • Leaf Metal Draft – October 15
  • Donruss Elite Extra Edition – December 21st

“Autograph-only” products:

  • Playoff Prime Cuts 2011 – April*
  • SP Signature Edition – May 1
  • Leaf Best of Baseball – July 1
  • In The Game Baseball “Hits” (series 2) – October 25
  • Leaf Valiant – October 31

“odd-ball” sets:

  • Topps Team Sets – April
  • Topps Stickers – March 20
  • Leaf Pete Rose – August 15
  • Leaf Memories – January 2014

Out of those, this year I collected base Topps (both series and Update), Topps Heritage (including purchase of the High Numbers box), Gypsy Queen, Goodwin Champions, Allen & Ginter, Archives and Mini.  Ah, yes, Mini.  My biggest regret this year.

If you consider that I also collected a bunch of earlier Topps base sets – which is actually the “mission” of this blog – this is again a fairly large amount of new cards for me in 2012.  It’s also the exact same number of sets I collected in 2011 – basically swap Archives for Lineage and Mini for Heritage Minor League.  In this post last year I said I may need to scale back, but obviously I didn’t.  Some of the reason for this was that Topps had similar products, and I like all their retro sets.  I did buy less Allen & Ginter and Update (only one hobby box instead of 2) and a little less retail product, but I bought the Heritage high number set, so I bet my money spent on new cards was probably about the same.  Who knows what I’ll do next year – that’s maybe for a later post.

I’m happy with what I collected this year.  I don’t want to buy crappy Bowman (that at one point from 1989-1991 was kind of “retro” set) and it’s 6 bastard children.  Not shiny Chrome or Finest (though I do always like Finest – just not enough to buy it).  Not Museum Collection, Triple Threads, Tier One or Tribute – which I’m pretty sure are all different series of the same thing.  Panini Cooperstown is the one thing I’ve given thought to.  Maybe I’ll buy that someday.  Or maybe I’d just buy diapers for my kid instead.  Who knows.  OK – so what was my favorite set of the year?  Could anything dethrone Heritage from last year?

In short, the answer is no.

But before I get to Heritage – let me do an “honorable mention”.  Last year that was Gypsy Queen.  This year’s Gypsy Queen was not quite as well done as the inaugural 2011 version was.  2012 GQ wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite as good of a design.

My honorable mention for “Set of the Year” would go to Archives.  It’s a great product.  Way better than Lineage, which is the product it replaced.  Could they have put the base set on better cardstock?  Of course.  But having 4 separate old Topps designs was a good idea, and then having 40 Short Prints in the “Fan Favorite” of retired players from different years – but different photos (not reprints) – was a killer idea.  If you’re going to do Short Prints, that’s a good way to do it.

The great thing about this set was that it wasn’t just about this year’s players and then throw in Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax.  Those 4 guys are all in that set, yes.  But the Fan Favorites also have guys like John Kruk, Will Clark, John Olerud, and Andy Van Slyke!!!!!  You really can’t beat that.

Know what else you can’t beat?  Doing cool comparisons like this.

They took the good part of Lineage – the inserts that pay tribute to older Topps oddball sets – and made a better base set.  One with stats on the back (I know, a novel concept)!  The Deckle Edge inserts are a great addition, and there are some other good inserts.  They did the 68 3-D cards, but this time at the same size as the originals.  There were some other cool cards like 82 In Action and the Cloth Stickers were in the same design as the 77 set.  Whenever Topps does something and stays true to the original – I like it!

And the Fan Favorite autos really steal the show.  Finding a Buddy Bell, Mike Scott or Vida Blue auto from a design from a former card they had – well, that’s excellent!

But it’s not the best product.  Well, it might be the best product, but it’s definitely not the best set.   My set of the year is Heritage.  To me, the 1962 design was awesome.  The first older card I ever owned was a Whitey Ford 1962 Topps, and I got it auto’d by the Chairman at a card show in the late 80’s (probably for less than 10 bucks).  It had corner wear, but damn, it was money.  So I knew about that wood border.

What I didn’t know much about was the 1963 set.  Well, I must say – the ’63 design was excellent.  The two picture idea is great, but it’s also well-executed.  And Heritage does a great job of paying tribute to that set.

The card stock is super thick.  The set has parallels with the ’63 set – Jacoby Ellsbury has the same card number as Yaz.  Zach Greinke the same as Warren Spahn.  Curtis Granderson is patrolling center field for the Yankees, and he’s holding down the same card number as the Mick.

Even the gimmicks pay tribute to the original set.  And they have an insert of mini stickers just like the 63 set.  The image swap variations are a cool way to play on the design.

And, dammit – I love the design (this Kemp is probably the best card in the set)!

The 75 SP’s is a bit much, and the High Numbers costing $100 bucks scares the collector in me a bit.  The inserts are standard ones you get each year (Flashbacks, New Age, Then & Now), and they’re all pretty interesting.

There are autographs of players from 1963, on reprints of their 1963 cards, like this one I pulled…

So – that’s my set of the year!  What’s yours?

2012 Card of the Year!!!

30 12 2012

The biggest news I remember hearing about 2012 was the addition of Ken Griffey Jr. to the Topps mix.  The guy who has been synonymous with Upper Deck since 1989, and he’s going to autograph Topps cards in 2012.  That was bigger than Koufax, Aaron, or Mays.  Not because his auto was worth more, but because it represented a changing of the guard in a way.  If you couldn’t move on from Topps getting an exclusive license 2 years ago – well this was a way to bolt the nail in the coffin for you.

But I truly mean that in a good way.  I’m biased, but I believe that Griffey has one of the 5 most significant baseball cards of all-time.  Actually, I think his ’89 UD is third, behind the 52 Mantle and the T-206 Wagner.  I actually don’t know who would be 4th – it might actually be a non-baseball card if I wanted to expand.

So regardless, when Griffey’s signing with Topps – and this card – was announced in December of last year, I thought it was huge news.  And the picture above is the auto you’d get with a Griffey redemption.  And it is a true beauty.  A shot of Junior following through on his signature swing, maybe seeing one of his 630 homers.  Junior had an earlier card than this one – it was in Topps Tribute.  And his Archives auto was a pretty cool remake of his 1989 Topps Rookie Card.  But for me, this is the card that said “Griffey is back in the baseball card game”.

I have been trying to get this card all year.  But the price was too high.  Well, I finally met myself in the middle.  I saw one come up on eBay, offered up more than I would have been previously willing to pay, but less than it had been going for earlier in the year.

I’d put that over some other cards.  Here’s some of the other cards I’d consider.

  • Second place for me has to go to this card.  I know it’s from an unlicensed set, and I know we can’t trust relics any more – but it’s a bat card from Shoeless Joe for crying out loud!

  • Bryce Harper Archives card #241.  Maybe one of the most hated cards ever – but also one of the hottest selling cards I’ve ever seen
  • Topps #261 – Kyle Blanks.  A card of a no-name player that makes you want to watch “The Natural” like no other card can do.
  • Topps #58 – Tim Hudson (the vote for best card from MadduxGlavineSmoltz).  Not a no-name player, but it isn’t usual that you see a pitcher trotting off a homer with the dugout shown waving it out.  This would be a great card if it was a slugger; the fact that it’s for Hudson adds to the cool factor.
  • Goodwin Masterpieces Cap Anson.  Another Goodwin Champions insert – I loved the Masterpieces set which featured artist hand-painted renditions of the original Goodwin Champions cards from 1888.  Though #’d out of 10 and pretty pricey, I decided to try to collect the 5 boxers from this set.  The baseball players were just too pricey (and there are 8 of them).  But if there was one card I’d love to have out of this set, it’s the best player from the 19th century and the first guy in history to reach 3,000 career hits.

2012 Goodwin Masterpieces - Cap Anson

Completed insert set – 2012 Topps Archives 3D

28 12 2012

This is the first 2012 Topps Archives insert set I’ve completed – the 3-D insert modeled after the 1968 test set.

Info about the set:

Set description:  “Before the insert card craze of the 1990’s, Topps was experimenting and testing new technologies 30 years prior.  Topps pays tribute to 4 classic inserts featuring active and retired stars.”

This insert is designed like the test-issue 1968 3-D set, featuring 25 stars of today, utilizing life-like 3D technology.”  This is another tribute to a past oddball set.  The 1968 3D cards are pretty expensive to find, but is a cool set.

Here’s my previous post comparing the current set with the old set.  The set has a white border with a yellow player name and a pink oval with the team name.  The cards have (naturally) a 3D effect, and are blank-backed and unnumbered like the 1968 cards.  The old set had 12 cards, this year’s version has 15 cards.

Set composition:  15 cards, 1:8 (2012 Topps Archives)

Hall of Famers: None – only current players.

How I put the set together:

  • 6 cards from two hobby boxes
  • 1 card from a trade
  • 1 card from a card show
  • 6 cards from Check Out My Cards
  • 1 card from Sportlots

Thoughts on the set:  This and Deckle Edge are my favorite insert sets from this product.  I like that Topps produced these cards in the same size as the 1968 versions, unlike last year with Topps Lineage when they did a 3-D set in the standard size.  I like the set size, too – 15 cards is attainable, even though these are only 3 per box.

Card that completed my set:  Al Kaline

I picked this card up from a Sportlots purchase I made on Black Friday.

Highest book value:  Mickey Mantle

Best card (my opinion):  Roberto Clemente

A good action shot, but I like this card the best because Clemente was actually in the original test set.

I also think the Cabrera, Ruth and Kemp are good photos that go with the 3-D design.

My Favorite Reds card:  Joey Votto

He’s the only Red in the set.

2012 Archives 3D 2012 Archives 3D_0001

Somehow I missed this – HOF Committee selections

27 12 2012

Earlier this month, the Pre-Integration Committee voted to elect three new members to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  • Hank O’Day, NL umpire for 30-year and an umpire for the first modern World Series.
  • Jacob Ruppert, the owner who turned the struggling New York Highlanders into what has become the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports.  The biggest part of that – his famous purchase of Babe Ruth from Boston.  I was surprised he wasn’t already in.
  • Deacon White, a catcher and third baseman from before the turn of the century for a number of different teams. The two most notable – he played for the 1876 Chicago White Stockings that won the inaugural National League pennant.  He also played on the 1887 Detroit Wolverines club that defeated the heavily favored St. Louis club from the American Association.

I actually have Ruppert and White on two cards.  And because of this I updated my overview of those sets to reflect the correct number of Hall of Famers!

2012 Goodwin Champions – White is featured on an SP card.

2012 Goodwin Deacon White

2011 Topps Heritage – Ruppert is featured in the Babe Ruth subset – see the 2nd card below.

2011 Heritage Ruth subset

Christmas Suds: Baseball & Beer #19 – Anchor Christmas Ale

25 12 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!  In honor of Christmas I decided to postpone last Saturday’s Suds post and do this one on Christmas.  It’s hard to get a Winter Ale linked up to baseball – but I’ll go with one I can sort of relate to the World Series Champs.

The last post I did for Anchor Steam was right before game 5 of the NLCS.  The Giants were down 3 games to 1.  But they had a re-energized Barry Zito in the wings, and the rest is history.


Brewery: Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA

Beer:  Anchor Steam Christmas Ale

Description:  I really liked the Anchor Steam Ale, and their Christmas Ale is no different.

Here’s what the website has to describe it:

“Each year since 1975, Anchor Brewing creates a distinctive Christmas Ale, available from early November to mid-January. A rich, dark spiced ale, our secret recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life.

Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. Our tree for 2012 is the Norfolk Island pine. Captain Cook discovered this South Seas isle and its native tree in 1774. These tropical-looking conifers, which thrive in sandy soil and coastal climes, were first planted in California in the 1850s. The Norfolk Island pine on this year’s label, hand drawn from life, resides in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Each year our Christmas Ale gets a unique label and a unique recipe. Although our recipes must remain a secret, many save a few bottles from year to year. Properly refrigerated, the beer remains intriguing and drinkable for years. Different nuances emerge as the flavor mellows slightly, much like the memories of great holiday seasons past. Celebrate the holidays with Anchor Christmas Ale, an Anchor tradition since 1975.”

There’s similar write-up on the bottle.  This is a great holiday-style drink.  Like most Christmas or winter ales, it’s got an darker color – almost like black with a hint of red in there.  It’s not super heavy, and just a little bitter.  Also like many Christmas ales, it has a bit of spice in the taste.  Maybe cinnamon or nutmeg, hard for me to tell, but I do like it!  A good beer to drink on a warm winter night.

DSC00373Medium:  I bought a 6-pack of 12 ounce bottles.  You can find this on draft at times, probably in a number of places in San Francisco.  The bottles are kind of different shape – they are shorter with a thicker “neck”.

How it’s related to baseball:  Anchor Beer is a sponsor of the San Francisco Giants.  A pretty new development started in 2012 – they opened a tap-room or biergarten behind Center Field on the promenade level of AT&T park.  There you can get a few different Anchor beers on tap (but probably not this beer since it’s only available from November to January).  the biergarten at AT&T Park is a replica of their tap-room in Portero Hill, the neighborhood where the Brewery is located.

Someday I will go to AT&T Park someday, and I’ll definitely hit up this plaza when I do!

Trade in the Night

24 12 2012

OK, corny post name.  But I did complete another trade with Night Owl.  I ended up sending him some Dodgers cards that I dug up from some of my doubles and/or Upper Deck cards. I think one or two were parallels from Update that I got.  But I was surprised that I had quite a few cards from random sets like 2005 Upper Deck something-or-other to send his way.  I sent them along with a “whatever you can send back is fine” note, and here’s what I got back – a more than generous amount from Greg.

He sent me some Topps base cards – mostly this year’s Topps Update.

Trade Nigh Owl Dec 12

He also sent me some inserts form Allen & Ginter that are on the old wantlist.

Trade Nigh Owl Dec 12_0001

And even some random Reds cards to go in the Reds box of cards.  The Franco jumbo card is pretty sweet.  I used to love him, and didn’t understand why we let him go.  Until the Nasty Boys asserted their dominance of course!

Trade Nigh Owl Dec 12 Reds

Black Friday on Sportlots

23 12 2012

I also made some Sportlots purchases on Black Friday.  Unlike COMC, Sportlots didn’t have some crazy Black Friday deals, but I did go through a few sellers while doing the COMC purchases to see if I could find some good deals.

The first seller I got a few old Topps inserts – including quite a few ’94 Black Gold inserts. And I also got a few retro cards – 4 SP’s from 2012 Heritage and 4 of those Hometown Heroes from 2011 Ginter.

Sportlots Black Friday

Sportlots Black Friday_0001

The next seller I got a few more old Topps insert cards from my wantlist.

I also got a good deal on a few cards from “future wantlists” of mine.

From the third seller, I got one more ’91 Topps Glossy, and a bunch of more recent inserts.  I actually finished the last three cards of the set “When They Were Young” from 2010.  I really like the Tigers Diamond Duos card given the 2012 season – it’s now the two Tigers Triple Crown Winners!


And the last seller also got me some retro cards – a bunch of Archives, and some Heritage and Goodwin.  This finished up the Heritage Then and Now insert set, and also the Archives 3-D insert set.

Sportlots Black Friday 2nd sellers


Sportlots Black Friday 2nd sellers_0001

Black Friday on COMC

22 12 2012

I made a few purchases from Check Out My Cards in early November that I posted on a few weeks ago.  Well, then I saw they had a big Black Friday special, so I went back to the site for the free shipping and slashed prices.  It was a good deal – it took a long time to go through those cards and compare to any Sportlots deals I could get.  To my wife’s dismay, I spent about 3-4 hours doing that instead of putting up the Christmas Tree (don’t worry – it found its way up)!

The COMC cards came in two packages.  The first one was cards that weren’t free shipping because I’d bought them before Black Friday.  Here’s the majority of those 15 cards.

COMC December 12 lot 1

But the big haul was from the Black Friday deals.  I bought around 70 cards that I needed, many of them for a pretty good deal.  I got some cards for just about all of my collections!  Below are some of the highlights.

I picked up some Lineage and Archives inserts.  The reprints set for Archives is getting very close to finished, and that Price is the last Venezuelan insert card I needed.

COMC December 12 lot Archives Lineage

I also picked up a few Gypsy Queen inserts and an N43 from 2012 Ginter.

COMC December 12 lot Ginter Gypsy

I also got some Heritage cards.

COMC December 12 lot Heritage


And 2 Sport Kings cards from this year’s series.

COMC December 12 lot Sport Kings

The big haul was from Topps insert cards, though.  I got a bunch of Mantle and Mays reprints, and I finished off the 5-card Clemente tribute set from 1998.

COMC December 12 lot Topps reprints

And I got a completely random assortment of inserts from 96, 97 and 98, which are hard to come by.  These are the second part of my Lifetime Topps project, so I’m glad I put a dent in it through this purchase!

COMC December 12 lot Topps inserts

Completed insert set – 2012 Topps Heritage Then and Now

20 12 2012

This is the third of the “standard” insert sets in 2012 Topps Heritage that I’ve completed.  After this, I’ve still got the “New Age Performers” insert set (1 more card), the Stick-Ons and the JFK variations (1 more card as well) to finish up.  Plus a few SPs still as well.

Info about the set:

Set description:  “10 cards comparing statistical performances of a player from 1963 and a current star”.  The front shows the 2011 Major League leader in a specified category next to a player who was in the top 10 in the same category in 1963.  The reverse shows the MLB top-10 in that statistic for both years.  The players’ names are in a black box with yellow writing and a star saying “63 Then” and “Now 12”.

Set composition:  10 cards, 1:15 odds (2012 Topps Heritage)

Hall of Famers:  8 players – every retired player in this set is a Hall-of-Famer, however, Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax are featured twice.

Koufax, Aaron, Yastrzemski, Marichal, Killebrew, Spahn, Mathews, Aparicio

How I put the set together:

  • 4 cards from 2 hobby boxes
  • 4 cards from trades
  • 1 cards from Check Out My Cards
  • 1 cards from Sportlots

Thoughts on the set:  Like a few others, this is one that returns each year for Heritage.  This set gets limited by the older players Topps signed to be part of the Heritage brand.  Still, Topps got almost every single leader from 1963 into this set.  In fact, they got all but two – they put Carl Yastrzemski on the average card instead of Tommy Davis.  Davis had the highest average in the majors, but Yaz was the AL batting champion.  And Warren Spahn is on the Shutout card instead of Koufax (whom they could have used as he was on two other cards).  Willie Mays would have been a cool option in the set, but he didn’t lead in any traditional stats in 1963.

Two things I don’t like here.  First, I hate when they don’t number sets – these are “lettered”.  Second, Topps used the same photo for the current players as the base card.  I wish they’d have either a) used a second photo, or b) copied both – meaning they’d use the photo from the older player’s 1963 Topps card as well.  I do like how putting the cards next to each other in the scan below creates an optical illusion as if the cards are slanted.

Card that completed my set: #TN-MV – Juan Marichal / Justin Verlander

I got the last card from Sportlots last month.

Highest book value: TN-KK – Koufax / Kershaw, TN-KV – Koufax / Verlander, TN-AK, Aaron / Kemp

Mickey Mantle isn’t in this set (and neither is Jeter from a current player standpoint), so all of the cards book for fairly similar amounts.

Best card (my opinion): #TN-MB – Eddie Mathews / Jose Bautista

The photos on this card are both very good.  The card with Aaron and Kemp is also really nice.  Kershaw and Kemp – Dodger Cy Youngs – is also cool.

Best Reds card: None in the set.  Kind of depressing they couldn’t get a league leader in either year.

2012 Heritage Then and Now_0001

2012 Heritage Then and Now

Here’s the Statistic associated with each card and where the 1963 player ranked in the majors in that stat if they didn’t lead (and who actually did lead if they weren’t first):

  • TN-AB – SB:  M. Bourn / L. Aparicio (tied with Maury Wills)
  • TN-AK – RBI:  M. Kemp / H. Aaron
  • TN-KB – HR:  J. Bautista / H. Killebrew
  • TN-KK – ERA:  C. Kershaw / S. Koufax
  • TN-KV – K:  J. Verlander / S. Koufax
  • TN-MB – BB: J. Bautista / E. Mathews
  • TN-MS – IP:  J. Shields (Shields was 2nd behind Verlander – not sure why Topps did this) / J. Marichal
  • TN-MV – W:  J. Verlander / J. Marichal (tied with Koufax)
  • TN-SL – SHO:  C. Lee / W. Spahn (2nd behind Koufax)
  • TN-YC – Batting:  M. Cabrera / C. Yastrzemski (2nd behind Tommy Davis, though Yaz was the AL champ)

Completed set & master set – 2011 Heritage Minors

19 12 2012

I finished the 2011 Heritage a few months ago, but recently I also completed the stepson of this set – the Minor League set.  I haven’t (yet) gone for the 2012 minor league product – I’m not sure I want to collect it again, and I’m pretty sure prices went down after release since there isn’t a Harper or Strasburg to chase.  There weren’t any inserts in this set, so this covers finishing both the set and my “master set” for this product.

Info about my set:

How I put the set (non-SP / SP) together:

  • 202 (196/6) cards from my hobby box
  • 44 (0/44) SP cards from an eBay lot
  • 1 (1/0) card from a trade
  • 3 (3/0) cards from Sportlots

Card that completed my set: #144 – Max Kepler (1 of 2 cards I got from a Sportlots purchase in early November)

2011 Heritage Minors completed set Kepler

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