2014 Card of the Year!!!

31 12 2014

2014 Stadium Club Ortiz

My choice for card of the year is from the set I dubbed as my product of the year.  I already discussed why I think Topps bringing back Stadium Club was a great thing.  This card highlights the things I think are great about the product.  A cool picture with a story behind it.

The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, and when you win one of the major sports titles, your team gets a day at the White House.  And it usually means the President gets a custom-made jersey of that team.  When the Red Sox went to visit Pennsylvania Avenue this year, David Ortiz presented the jersey to President Obama.  When he did, he whipped out his cell phone and took a selfie with the POTUS.  There was some controversy whether or not the event was spontaneous; Ortiz has a promotional contract with Samsung.  Regardless, it was a moment where a long-standing tradition (DC visit for sports champs) met with a new fad (the selfie).

Ortiz is my 4th winner of card of the year.  Here were the last few .

2013: Topps Heritage Real One Autograph – Stan Musial

2013 Heritage Real One Musial

2012: Gypsy Queen Autograph – Ken Griffey, Jr.

Griffey Jr Gypsy

2011: Topps – Jay Bruce

11T Bruce


2014 Card of the Year runner-up

29 12 2014

2014 Topps Archives Major League 5x7 Ricky Vaughn

I feel a little blasphemous picking a card that’s not even a Major League player.  OK – I said that wrong.  I feel a little blasphemous picking a card that’s not a real player.  That may be what kept me from calling this card of the year, and just giving it the runner-up spot.

The Major League movie cards inserted into 2014 Topps Archives were pretty sweet.  The autographs went through the roof in popularity – particularly that of Sheen for his role as “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn.  I’m showing the regular card here, which was a pretty common insert in Topps Archives.  But I guess I’d say the autograph is probably the biggest card.


A few other cards I considered:

  • Topps Opening Day – Royals Mascot card, in honor of their captivating run to the World Series
  • Topps – Mariano Rivera, because it’s his final card
  • Topps – Derek Jeter, which could be his final card
  • Finest – Mike Trout, because I think Finest has a really cool design this year and Trout is the game’s best player
  • Allen & Ginter Fields of Yore – Wrigley Field, because it’s sweet and I live in Chicago
  • Topps Supreme Styling Die-Cut Autograph – Madison Bumgarner, because you had to pick some kind of card of him after that historic run in the World Series

Check out my next post for the winner…

2014 Product of the Year

27 12 2014

Two years ago I did a post for my “set of the year” in response to a blog bat around by This Card is Cool.

A couple of things to think about.  There are over 50 baseball products out this year if you count all the MLB-licensed things that Topps did, plus products from Leaf, Panini and Upper Deck.  If you go by order of release date, here’s what came out in 2014.  Bold means it’s a new product in 2014.

Baseball “standard issue” sets (it’s a bit of a stretch for me to include Goodwin and Golden Age in here – but I’ve included them every year I’ve done this):

  • Topps (Series 1) – January 29
  • Topps Turkey Red – February 19
  • Topps Tribute – February 21
  • Donruss (Series 1) – February 26
  • Topps Heritage – March 14
  • Topps Opening Day – March 19
  • Topps Museum Collection – March 28
  • Topps Gypsy Queen – April 9
  • Bowman – April 30
  • Panini Prizm – May 21
  • Topps Archives – May 28
  • Topps Tier 1 – June 6
  • Topps (Series 2) – June 11
  • Bowman Inception – June 27
  • Panini Golden Age – July 2
  • Upper Deck Goodwin Champions – July 2
  • Topps Allen & Ginter – July 9
  • Bowman Platinum – July 30
  • Topps Mini – July 30
  • Donruss (Series 2) – August 5
  • Topps Finest – August 13
  • Topps Chrome – August 27
  • Topps Triple Threads – September 10
  • Panini Immaculate – September 21
  • Bowman Chrome – September 24
  • Stadium Club – October 1
  • Panini Hall of Fame 75th – October 8 (used to be Panini Cooperstown)
  • Topps (Update) – October 15
  • Topps Supreme – October 29 (no longer Asian market exclusive)
  • Topps Heritage (High Numbers) – October 31
  • Panini Classics – November 5
  • Topps High Tek – November
  • Donruss (The Rookies Update) – November 19
  • Topps Dynasty – November 21
  • Topps Five Star – December 5
  • Bowman Sterling – December 19

Minor league / Draft card sets:

  • Topps Pro Debut – June 4
  • Topps Heritage Minor League – September 19
  • Leaf Perfect Game Showcase – October 10
  • Leaf Metal Draft – October 17
  • Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks – November 12
  • Leaf Valiant – November 21
  • Bowman Draft – December 3
  • Leaf Trinity – December
  • Panini Elite Extra Edition – January 9, 2015

“odd-ball” sets:

  • Leaf Legends of the Diamond – January 31
  • Topps Stickers – March 13
  • Famous Fabrics Big Apple – March 28
  • Topps Team Sets – April
  • Leaf Cal Ripken Ironman Signature – October 10

Most of the sets that “went away” this year were from Panini.  The company didn’t bring back Triple Play, Hometown Heroes, Pinnacle, Select and America’s Pastime.  Topps didn’t do the Tribute World Baseball Classic set this year – since there wasn’t a World Baseball Classic.

Ever since Panini entered into the fray in late 2012, there are even more card sets than there were in 2011 and 2012.   Topps had a few more sets this year, too.  That’s not necessarily a good thing – the market for baseball cards has felt over saturated for 15+ years at this point.

I collected less sets this year.  Mostly because the summer was kind of lost time as far as baseball cards go.  Out of the sets above, I collected base Topps (both series and Update), Topps Heritage (including High Numbers), Goodwin Champions, Turkey Red and Topps Archives.  I didn’t collect Gypsy Queen or Panini Golden Age this year.  I plan to focus almost exclusively on my Topps project in 2015, so I may cut out Archives next year.

OK – so what was my favorite set of the year?  In 2011, it was Topps Heritage.  In 2012, it was – again – Topps Heritage.  In 2013, it was Topps flagship.  I thought 2013 was a pretty weak baseball card year.

This year?  I thought about Topps Heritage.  1965 was a great design, and Heritage was still fun to collect.  But I don’t like some of the things that Topps did with the product this year.  First and foremost, I was looking forward to the reproduction of the Embossed cards from 1965.  Well, Topps screwed that up by making them ultra-rare.  Additionally, they’ve subtly taken away some of the parallels between the current Heritage set and the original Topps set.  Far fewer card numbers match up with the old set (i.e. – Hank Aaron and Jason Heyward having the same card number).  The Real One autographs used to be only current players and reprints of the original set.  Now they’re throwing guys like Paul O’Neill or Jim Rice into the set.

I thought this year’s Topps set had an interesting design.  It wasn’t better or worse than last year, but I did think the photographs were better in 2013.  I also didn’t like the inserts as much this year.  So Topps didn’t win.

I’m going with a set that I didn’t actually collect.  Topps did bring back one product that I would love to collect if I had the chance.  I may think about buying a box or 2 next year.  Stadium Club was a really cool product back when it first came out in 1991 – it kind of hit home with the things I like the best about cards; having cool photos is key to the set.  This year, Topps brought Stadium Club back, and they made it a relatively affordable product (unlike the high-end attempt in 2008).

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they put my favorite player on the box.

2014 Stadium Club box

But, much more importantly, the focus was again on the photos.  Whether your seeing great action photos…

2014 Stadium Club Posey

Interesting posed shots…

2014 Stadium Club Gattis

Or NEW pictures of retired players.

2014 Stadium Club Ted Williams

I can’t stress the last point enough!  Over the past 3 years, Topps has re-used photos to a ridiculous degree.  It’s frustrating when you pull a card from one product and realize it’s the same picture you saw from a set you bought a month earlier.  To see new pictures of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth or Williams is refreshing.

The rest of the product is solid as well.  Sure, it has too many parallel sets, but that ship sailed for every set long ago.  There are nice on-card autographs, and the inserts bring back some great ideas from older years.  The three card Triumvirate came back with a honeycomb background.

2014 Stadium Club Triumvirate Darvish

Beam Team is back, too.

2014 Stadium Club Beam Team Wright

There is a die-cut set of legends and future stars that looks really nice.

2014 Stadium Club Legends Nolan Ryan

There is also a set called field access that shows players down on the field before the game.  This card was pretty cool – it’s clearly the same photo shoot as the 1991 Topps card of Clemens.

2014 Stadium Club Field Access Clemens

The bottom line, though – is the base set.  It’s a winner!

2014 Stadium Club Ruth

2012 Goodwin Champions – Masterpieces finito!

25 12 2014

I should have done this post in December of last year.  In fact, for some reason, I thought I had done this post in January 2013!  But looking back, the last post I did for the 2012 Goodwin Masterpieces was when I finally got the reproduction of the first football card ever.

I’m a big fan of Goodwin Champions.  They do a lot of cool things, most notably rare cards painted by artists.  In 2011, that was painted portraits of all 44 presidents.  In 2013 and 2014, it’s 1/1 reproductions of famous paintings.  In 2012, the best of these sets was created (in my opinion) – reproductions of the original 1888 Goodwin Champions cards.

If I was richer than rich – I’d have loved to get all 50 of these cards.  They are numbered out of ten – so it’s possible, but just too expensive.  I wanted a certain 7 cards.  First, I wanted to get the painting reproduction of the first football card ever.  This was the last card I got out of these – completing my semi-set.  The card is of Yale football captain Henry Beecher.  I discuss more detail behind this card here.

2012 Goodwin Originals Art Yale Beecher

I also wanted the Buffalo Bill Cody card from this set. Like the Beecher card, Buffalo Bill kind of has his own place in this set.  There are multiple baseball players, multiple tennis, golf and track athletes.  But only one Wild West Showman!

2012 Goodwin Masterpieces Buffalo Bill

Aside from that, I wanted to get all of the 5 boxers from this set.  They were known as pugilists back in 1888 when the original set came out.  I put together a post that shows the linkage between most of the boxers from this set and even some from the 2011 Goodwin set – see that here.  The boxers in this set are Jack (Nonpareil) Dempsey, Jake Kilrain, Charley Mitchell, Jem Smith, and John L. Sullivan.

2012 Goodwin Masterpieces Kilrain Dempsey

2012 Goodwin Masterpieces Mitchell Smith Sullivan

Anyways, I never got all of these put together in one post – but here it is!  I love this set – it’s probably my favorite card set released in the past 5 years that I’ve been collecting.  I wish it was more affordable – I’d love to finish off the whole 50-card set.  But these things cost an average of $200 – and the 8 baseball players would probably be even more.  That’s not something I can go for.  But these 7 cards are pretty sweet!

Completed insert set – 2012 Topps A Cut Above

23 12 2014

After wrapping up my 2014 Topps purchases a few posts ago – I didn’t really want to start right back up into my Lifetime Topps project since I’m so close to the end of the year.  So I’m continuing with a few more completed set posts, and then a few “end of year” posts that I’ve always done.  Mid-January, I will start 2001 of the Topps project.

A Cut Above is an insert set in 2012 Topps series 2.  Unlike almost every other set – this one doesn’t follow the gold theme Topps used throughout the 2012 product.

Info about the set:

Set description: “Striking Die-Cut Cards”.  OK, so Topps’ sell sheet doesn’t really say much.  These are colorful, borderless cards with die-cut effects that I can best describe as “caddy corner sevens” in the top right and lower left of the card.  The background is given a kind of blurry effect that keeps the focus squarely on the player. The back has a write-up as to why that player is a “cut above” with a catchy slogan at the top.  The set has 11 retired players and 14 current players.

Set composition: 25 cards, 1:6 hobby odds (series 2)

Hall of Famers: 10 – Cal Ripken, Nolan Ryan, Stan Musial, Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle

How I put the set together:

5 cards from my HTA Jumbo box

1 card from an HTA Jumbo pack

15 cards from trades

4 cards from online dealers

Thoughts on the set:  It’s nicely done and one of my favorite inserts from 2012 Topps.  Going away from all the gold is a very good thing in my opinion.  25 cards is reasonably collectible, though it’s a bit high.  I would have preferred Topps stuck with only active players for a number of reasons – one of which is that most of the retired players have very familiar photos.

Card that completed my set: #ACA-24 – Mickey Mantle

I got this card in a Beckett Marketplace purchase back in May.

Highest book value: #ACA-9 – Cal Ripken

Best card (my opinion): #ACA-19 – Robinson Cano

I’m not really big into Yankees, but this picture fits well with the die-cut design, and the stadium background is very cool.  I also really like the Schmidt and Mantle cards.

My Favorite Reds card: #ACA-20 – Johnny Bench

This is the only Reds card.  Unfortunately its a photo of Bench that has been used a few times in the past.

2012 Topps A Cut Above set

2012 Topps A Cut Above set_0001

2012 Topps A Cut Above set_0002

Completed insert set – 1994 Topps Black Gold

22 12 2014

Topps came out with their second year of Topps Black Gold in 1994, and it never seemed as popular as the first year.  By 1994 there were much shinier things out there – Upper Deck had Michael Jordan baseball cards for crying out loud! I finished this set back in November 2013.  And it’s been sitting in my queue as a “I need to do this” draft post since then.  It seems less than that, but time can get away from you.  Well, I’m using these completed set posts to get me back into the Lifetime Topps project – so this is certainly a good one for that!

Info about the set:

Set description:  Staying in line with the Gold theme that Topps adopted in the early 90’s in the flagship product for all 4 sports, the Black Gold cards had gold foilboard at the top (the team) and bottom (the player).  The background is completely blacked out of the player photo on the front.  The Topps Black Gold logo is shown next to the photo on series 1 but is mysteriously missing on the series 2 cards.  The back of the card has another photo of the player with a his statistics and positional ranking for those stats against a wood background.  The set has 22 players from each league.

Set composition:  44 cards

Inserted: All packs of 1994 Topps.  1:72 hobby odds.  22 cards per each series (AL in series 1, NL in series 2).

There were also redemption cards inserted at a more difficult rate that could be exchanged for 11, 22 or all 44 cards in the set.

Hall of Famers: 9

Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio

How I put the set together:

  • 2 from my series 1 & 2 wax boxes
  • 3 cards from trades
  • 39 cards from Sportlots

Thoughts on the set:  I like the 1993 set better.  I always thought Topps was pretty inferior to Upper Deck for card technology and for inserts in the early and mid-90’s (because they were).  And while these are decent cards, they aren’t as nice as the first year.  That may be why they didn’t stick around into 1995.

Card that completed my set:  #41 – Mike Piazza

One of 3 cards I picked up on Sportlots back in November.

Highest book value:  #18 – Cal Ripken, #27 – Barry Bonds

Best card (my opinion):  #43 – Robby Thompson

How often will you ever see a non-parallel insert card of Robby Thompson?  And it’s a pretty good photo?  Count me in.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.  I knew there was a reason I didn’t like this set.

1994 Topps Black Gold set

1994 Topps Black Gold set_0001

1994 Topps Black Gold set_0002

1994 Topps Black Gold set_0003

1994 Topps Black Gold set_0004

Completed set & Master set – One last look at 2012 Gypsy Queen

20 12 2014

I finished the 2012 Gypsy Queen master set (meaning the inserts and all of the , so this is the wrap-up post on that.  I finished the base set quite a while ago – but the inserts took quite a while.  The Gypsy Kings insert set was my final frontier here.

Info about my set:

How I put the set together:

169 cards from my first hobby box

88 cards from my second hobby box

4 cards from the first 2 boxes were replaced by Topps after being damaged

4 cards from a retail jumbo pack

35 cards from a trade with the Dutch Card Guy

Card that completed my set: #227 – Ralph Kiner (1 of about 20 cards I got in a trade from the Dutch Card Guy in early June).  See the picture below.

General Set Info:

Set composition: 300 cards (246 current players, 54 retired players)

Earliest active player from this set: #229 – Ty Cobb.

When I’ve done this for sets from my Lifetime Topps project, I usually do “last active player”.  For these sets I’m doing first active player.  This is easily Ty Cobb – who along with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are the only players in the set who finished their career before World War II.  Cobb debuted in 1905.

Player with the most cards in the set: There are 300 different cards and 300 different players with 1 card each :).

First Card and the Hundreds: #1 – Jesus Montero, #100 – Derek Jeter, #200 – Felix Hernandez, #300 – Babe Ruth

A former Yankee.  A current Yankee.  The all-time greatest Yankee.  And a future Yankee.  Oh, and 2 Mariners.

Highest book value: #253 – Cal Ripken Jr.

Most notable card: #250 – Ken Griffey Jr.

Hard to pick against this card – getting Griffey back into the mix after he retired was a big deal.

Best card (my opinion): #250 – Ken Griffey Jr. (see above)

For the same reasons as above – the 2nd best player ever born on November 21st in Donora, Pennsylvania.

Second best card (also my opinion): #249 – Stan Musial

Born on November 21st – in Donora, Pennsylvania.

Best subset card: N/A

Favorite action photo: #217 – Eric Thames

This was actually a really hard one to pick.  Hanley Ramirez has a really good shot, as does Matt Kemp.  There were many cards with a great level of detail considering these photos are touched up to make them look like paintings.  But this Thames card was my favorite.  The level of detail (his eyes are following the foul ball), where the bat is, the color of the uniform make this a winner for me.

Favorite non-action photo: #227 – Ralph Kiner, #241 – Larry Doby

I couldn’t decide between these guys.  I really appreciate that Topps got a couple of great Hall of Famers into this set who don’t always get cards like a Ruth, Koufax or Mantle.  And these are great photos.

My Favorite Reds card: #21 – Matt Latos

Another card with a lot of detail.

Other Notable Cards: I think I’ve covered quite a few.  Like 2011 Gypsy Queen, this is a really nice set, but I also wouldn’t call any cards particularly “notable” for a 2012 set – so there’s either too many or too few to scan.  I don’t like the design as much as the previous Gypsy set, but after going through the set again, the photos are very nice – more so than I had realized.

My Master” Set Info:

387 cards – 300 “base”, 87 “insert”

  • Insert sets: Moon Shots, Sliding Stars, Glove Stories, Hallmark Heroes, Future Stars, Gypsy Kings

How I put the additional sets together: Boxes, packs, card shows, trades and online – various sources, just like I did with the full base set.  I covered each insert set in earlier posts.  Gypsy Kings was the last insert set I finished up.

General Insert Set Info:

Most notable insert card: Glove Stories #GS-WM – Willie Mays

2012 Gypsy Glove Stories Mays

I don’t know if I’d call anything particularly notable in any Gypsy Queen insert set – but this card shows one of the most recognizable moments in baseball history.  Mays with his over-the-shoulder catch from the 1954 World Series.

Best Autograph or Relic card: Autographs #GQA-KG – Ken Griffey Jr.

Best Insert card of any type: Autographs #GQA-KG – Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey Jr Gypsy

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.  This was the card that signified that more than anything.

Best Reds insert card of any type: Indian Head Penny #JBE – Johnny Bench

2012 Gypsy Bench penny

Cards with coins inserted wasn’t new for 2012 Gypsy Queen, but pairing it up with a penny from back when the original Gypsy Queen came out was a great spin on this.  Too bad it’s completely not affordable.