Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I have a limited interest in television. It's reserved for baseball, a few other sports when I'm in the mood, and local news.

But when I do find myself staring at the TV with none of the above airing, I'll switch over to the Food Network to see if Chopped is on. I'm no foodie, but I love Chopped. It's competitive, it's challenging, and it's about food. I have a natural ability to turn nothing into something in the kitchen, so this keeps my interest every time (the show isn't perfect as we have to hear too much about the cooks' backstory and the judges' recounting of meals is just tedious).

If you watch the show, you know that the cooks must come up with a dish that satisfies the judges, and that they will be evaluated on presentation, taste and creativity. It's repeated every show.

The cooks don't have too much of a problem with taste or even creativity. But presentation is a stumbling point for some of them. I always feel sorry for one of the cooks who is a natural at making good food, but doesn't know how to present it. It seems like such a small thing when compared with "taste," but it's actually a big thing.

Presentation is a big deal in almost everything we do. In our jobs, in how we buy items at the store, even in how we express ourselves. Sometimes presentation is mocked, for instance when something is considered all show and no substance. But other times it will make or break you.

Since our hobby is very visual, presentation is a big deal. Cards must look right above all else. The 2014 and 2015 base sets from Topps are essentially the same, but I consider the later much more collectible than the former, simply because of presentation.

But have you ever thought about presentation when it comes to sending out cards in trades?

I have. And I know some of you have, too, because I've seen the packages that come to my door.

I'm not talking about what packaging you use or the tape or handwriting or anything like that. I'm talking about how the cards are presented in the package. The order of the cards.

Let's use some Dodgers for an example.

When I'm sending cards I will decide which cards go where. The top card on the stack doesn't really matter to me. It can be anything.

Sure, if you want to blow the recipient's socks off, make the card on top a wowser. But I'm a collector of limited means. I'm hoping that the person receiving the cards is just happy at the outset to see a card on top.

The cards to follow are a mishmash of wants. Current cards of the day, maybe some randomness from the '90s. I like to put at least one or two really interesting cards -- oddballs and such -- in the earlier part of the package just so the tradee doesn't lose interest.

We're in the meat of the package now. For the most part, these cards resemble the cards in the earlier part of the package. Random wants. But I try to put some less available cards in this portion. Also, if somebody is getting some sort of team set or a decent amount of cards from the same set, I'll put these here.

We're three-fourths through the package now and this is where I stash the heavy hitters. The power in a lineup may be at 3-4-5 in the order, but in trade packages, it's more like 6-7-8. You've got to give people something to look forward to -- and that's why the cards are there.

I don't put the coolest stuff at the back of the package, because those team bags are see-through, you know. Also, you never know what wise guy is going to start with the cards at the back end.

So I like to put a card or two in the back that both covers up the stars of the show and also leaves a little bit of mystery about the card bringing up the rear, too. I try not to make it a card whose back end has been all over the internet. I call those Kim Kardashian cards. (sorry). So 2015 cards are usually out.

Obviously, some collectors are a lot more versed in cards than I am, especially from the '90s. But inserts work well as the back-end card. They're not as commonly viewed as base cards.

And that's the template for a well-presented Night Owl package.

Of course, this doesn't apply to PWE packages or great big envelopes or boxes. People with oodles of snazzy cards probably don't care about this either. They have presentation for miles. This is more for your average-sized envelope and mostly filled with team or set wants.

Also, I don't do this every package. I don't need people expecting cards to fall exactly that way every time they get a package from me.

But I know that some of you order cards the same way so it's not like it's a trade secret.

Presentation. It's important. There's nothing worse than somebody saying, "sorry, we had to chop you."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nuts to soup

Here is another saying that I never understood: "everything from soup to nuts." For years I had no idea where that originated. Why were soup and nuts polar opposites? Was nuts the hardest thing you could eat and soup the softest? I was reaching, but what else could it be? What a weird saying.

So I finally looked it up. It turns out it comes from what was considered a full course meal back in the day. You eat soup at the start of the meal, you eat some sort of nutty dessert at the end of the meal. Soup to nuts and everything in between.

So there you are. That wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it would be.

But it does sum up a tidy package of cards I received from Robert and his blog $30 a Week Habit. Robert has recently moved and is now throwing 20s and 10s around in sunny warm climes while I've officially started hunkering.

I received a package that basically spanned the breadth of my collecting choices -- from the oldest item I'm focusing on to the newest.

But since the oldest stuff is always more interesting, I'll start with the newest. I'll call this "nuts to soup."

Robert sent a healthy stack of 2015 A&G minis, which I will always adore. However the ones you see here did not make my frankenset binder. Many will probably find other homes. The others will just cry in a box somewhere.

These 2015 minis do make the binder. Yay! Very happy to have the Coco Crisp as part of the frankenset club.

Robert also sent one of the super-fine owlie cards in this year's A&G. He said he didn't know whether I had it already but figured he better sent it.

This is excellent decision-making. When in doubt about sending an owl card, always send.

It turns out this is the third version of this card I have, while I have none of the other two. But that's a small matter that I shouldn't have even mentioned. The key part is sending owl cards.

Heading all the way back to 2014 and one of the many necessary cards that escaped me last year. This blue-bordered Heritage card shows the pariah of the old-school baseball world Yasiel Puig. These days people are babbling about which Dodgers players wanted Puig traded. DISSENSION! INTRIGUE! CONFLICT! DRAMA!

Let me clue you in on a little secret here:

There are players on every team in the major leagues, and have been since the dawn of professional baseball, who don't like each other.

Shocking, yes, I know.

It doesn't keep anyone from winning a World Series. Ever.

You know what keeps teams from winning a World Series? Lack of talent and production.

Not whether one player sends a smiley face text to the other and the other one sends one back.

So, any reference to this kind of crap -- team harmony, team spirit, in other words, high school garbage that should be left in high school -- is pointless drivel, generated by talk shows, social media or certain segments of traditional media so desperate for revenue that they cater to people who feed off of gossip. In other words, if fans were more intelligent, we'd never hear about this.

Anyway, let's move on.

And to get your mind off of that, let's go all the way back to 1956!!!!!

Robert sent me two cards for the 1956 collecting quest. This is the earliest card item that I am actively trying to collect. This is the soup.

Two especially fine specimens here. Both players were known for their terrific fielding skills in the outfield. Not only are these soup, but the best soup possible. Like soup with meatballs in it.

So, thanks Robert, for spanning the length of my collection.

And for helping me learn about a common American saying.

Next up, why the hell everybody says they offer everything but they somehow can't fit in the kitchen sink.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Best binder page, I guess

The Junior Junkie is asking us for our "best binder pages," a collection of nine cards in your collection that are so good that you would take them with you if you were marooned on a deserted island.

I've never understood the "stranded on a deserted island" bit. Nobody plans to be stranded. So it doesn't make sense to me when people say, "what would you bring with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?" I know being so literal and bringing up the flaw in the question would mean likely failing a corporate interview, but I've just got to point things out like that.

I'm no fun at all.

But anyway, the objective of this exercise is to showcase nine of your favorite cards. And, of course, I have much more than nine favorite cards.

I like to look at my collection as a vast accumulation of fantastic rather than a narrow display of marvelous. Crystallizing the collection to nine cards can be a frustrating and almost impossible task. For example, why would I want to boot the above card, signed by Jerry Reuss himself not long before Jerry Reuss himself commented on my blog, from that group of nine?

I don't want to boot it. But here I am, booting it. Because 9 cards, sir.

It's just not the way I look at my collection.

But because I'm curious, I decided to pull out nine of my favorites and ignore the voices of all the other cards in the room saying, "but what about me? But what about me? But what about me?"

Shut up you guys -- this is what my Best Binder Page looks like:

That is one old-school page. Because I'm an old-school collector.

On that page are eight Topps cards and one Bowman. Only one card is not vintage. And although four of these cards are signed, I considered making this page nine unsigned cards, because I could easily do that and still be thrilled viewing those cards over and over on my scheduled deserted island trip.

Unlike some Best Binder Pages I've seen, none of these cards are particularly rare. "Rarity" isn't something that's high on my priority list. But sentimentality is. Most of these cards hold a connection between me and someone or something else. And that's why I instinctively picked them.

You've seen all of these cards before on my blog, but let's review them again:

The 1974 Topps Tommy John is the first baseball card I ever saw face-to-face, yanked out of a cello pack as an 8-year-old without a clue of what I had in front of me. But it is what sparked my Dodger allegiance, so it's cemented in the top nine for two reasons.

The first card I pulled out of a pack of cards that I bought myself, and by "the first card" I mean "THE first card." This is that card. It survived everything that a 9-year-old, and his younger brothers, could throw at it in 1975. Then it was stashed in boxes, stored in an attic, moved from place to place, and now here it is, a star of the blogosphere.

Normally I wouldn't squeeze a card from the last 10 years into this group, but I'm making an exception because Clayton Kershaw possibly could become the greatest pitcher I have ever witnessed. And that's a statement from someone who's watched Seaver, Carlton, Clemens, Maddux, Randy Johnson, everyone from the '70s until now. I consider this the best-looking Kershaw autographed card that I own.

One of the more sought-after cards in the 1959 Topps set, this card is here for many reasons. Topps thought Campanella's journey was so important that it made a special card and put it in the base set (the BASE set, Topps). Plus, if I'm stranded on a deserted island, I'm going to need all the inspiration I can get.

Favorite player of all-time. Favorite set of all-time. Favorite card of all-time. Narrowing a collection down to nine cards may not be easy, but narrowing it down to one is. You want to ask me my single best/favorite card in my collection? Duh. You're gazing at its righteousness.

There are some that may consider this card as an improvement on the one above. There are others that would say that it is now ruined. Never mind, I just know that mini-sized '75 Topps cards are a delight and there's nothing more delightful than a mini version of my favorite player signed by Mr. Penguin himself. I own a dozen signed Cey cards. This is the bestest.

The Jr. Junkie is making me use tools for this post. The signed 1961 Topps Sandy Koufax came out of its vault and screw-down case to crash the best binder page. Not only is it a Koufax-signed copy of the card but it's the first autographed card I ever purchased. Good to know I did at least one thing right as a teenager.

So, perhaps you're staring up at Night Owl and wondering, "what were the '70s like when you were a kid, old man?" After I smacked you for wising off to your elders, I would pull out this card. Everything on this card reminds me of when I was a kid. Playing ball in a fenced-in field. A row of Chevys and Dodges in the parking lot. Hell, even the telephone wires and trees give me the nostalgies.

The Best Binder Page discriminates against cards larger than 2 1/2-by-3 1/2, but fortunately not against cards that are smaller. This '52 Bowman card of Frank Smith is the only one that I own that was signed by Smith that fits in the page. As I mentioned before, Smith and I formed a connection and then I was given his signed cards after he died. They're about as meaningful a collection of cards that I own.

And that's my Best Binder Page. It's full of sentimentality and mushy gushiness. Sorry, that's the way I was built.

However, I could easily assemble a different Best Binder Page with maybe only three or four of the cards that you saw here remaining in the page. Duke Snider signed cards for me. Carl Erskine, too. And I have so many cool-looking cards from the '70s and '80s. There is so much more "best" than nine little cards.

And that's because my collection is the best.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

C.A.: 1980-87 TCMA Baseball Immortals Frank Robinson

(Greetings on "World Hello Day." This is the day on which you're supposed to say "hello" to 10 random people in an effort to foster world peace -- what can I say, this day was invented in the '70s. But here is my official "hello" greeting to you. There's more than 10 people reading this, but I'm sure sending hellos through the interwebs wasn't what the original inventors had in mind. Let's get on with Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 234th in a series):

Have you ever spotted a card online that you had to have? The shipping is too high, the price for the card is probably too high, and the condition could be a little bit better.

But none of that matters. We are way past "I got a deal" here. "I need that card!"

There aren't enough of those card stories on the web. I kind of like those stories more than the "I got a deal" stories. Yeah, yeah, you got some cents off. We're all broke, I get it. But where's the passion for the CARD, man? The passion that says, "I don't care WHAT it costs"?

Where's the "yeah, I overpaid, yeah it was stupid, but isn't it GLORIOUS?!?!?!?"

This is what happened here.

Sure, this card isn't anything expensive, which makes the whole purchase thing easier, but it certainly falls in the Must. Have. category. For starters, it's Frank Robinson in a Dodgers uniform.

It's not easy to find a card of Robinson in a Dodgers uniform. For years I have settled for the 1972 Topps traded card.

This is a wonderful card. One of the 100 best Dodgers cards ever made, according to my count. But it's only one. I have like five cards of Jim Thome as a Dodger and he played in 86 fewer games as a Dodger than Robinson did.

I was so desperate for another card of Robinson as a Dodger that I welcomed this card into my Dodger binders:

So, yes, I absolutely had to have the TCMA Baseball Immortals card.

It's a set I love already, thanks to 1975 Topps vibe featured on every card. The set, which features every Baseball Hall of Famer up to the point of set publication, was originally issued in 1980.

Then the set issued an update in 1984 with every player inducted into the Hall since 1980. The Robinson card is part of the 1984 update, so I guess technically it is a 1984 TCMA Baseball Immortals card.

There were also updates to the set in 1986 and 1987. And it is my distant mission to collect them all one day. It shouldn't be too difficult.

You can see that although Robinson is featured as a Dodger on the front, he is listed as a Baltimore Oriole. Because Robinson went into the Hall of Fame as an Oriole.

I'm sure Orioles or Reds, or even Indians fans, are upset that Robinson appeared in this set as a Dodger, since he's much more well-known for his performances with those other teams.

But there's no way I would have overpaid for this card if Robinson was shown as an Oriole or Red.

Robinson is a Dodger. It's a beautiful must-have.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Off the grid

There have been times when I've wondered what it would be like for Night Owl Cards to go dormant for more than a week.

It's not a "wouldn't it be nice" wondering, but more of a "what would I do" wondering. What would it be like to go back to 2007 and find myself with free time and not hop on the blog? That would be so weird. I might have to make eye contact.

In the history of Night Owl Cards, my longest breaks have been four or five days, I think. It's possible I took a week in there somewhere, but that's the maximum. The reasons for that are:

a) I don't have money to take exotic extended vacations
2) I don't travel much for my job
3) I neeeeed to do this

Believe me, I'm plenty busy. My job is brutal with free time. It won't allow it. I am a parent and a husband and a home owner, all very demanding occupations. Yet, somehow, I find time to do this. And, yes, I don't know how I do that. It's got to be sheer will.

A number of bloggers have quit blogging or gone on extended hiatuses. Recently, three very avid and well-read bloggers have either stepped away for good or for an extended period. I admit, I wonder what it's like to turn off the switch and walk away. Are there withdrawals? I bet there would be for me.

One of the side effects of letting the blog sit around for longer than a month or two is you run the risk of people forgetting about you. Regular blogging has a lot of purposes -- improving your writing, keeping the demons away, and keeping yourself in everyone's mind. Other bloggers are just as busy as I am. They're going to forget about you if you're not pumping out copy.

But Dimebox Nick has found a way around this. A month or two ago he announced a break from his blog to focus on job and school. But just so people don't forget about him, he's still trading cards. I've seen several bloggers post cards from Hiatus Nick, and I just got a few myself a week or so ago.

Nick jammed 19 cards into one PWE with one forever stamp. That's expert packing. Probably something you learn when not blogging.

Let's see some cards that came out of that envelope:

How about this? An O-Pee-Chee Steve Garvey from 1979. This card doesn't get enough credit for how unusual it is, especially for that time period. The baseball dates factoid on the back is almost impossible to read because OPC had to jam English and French into the box for both the question and the answer.

This is the foil version of the card of a reliever who will never wear a Dodgers uniform again -- OK, I take that back. If he is a grandfather someday and his grandkids play baseball and their team is called the "Dodgers" and he coaches the team and the coaches on that team also wear uniforms then, yes, he will wear a Dodgers uniform again. I didn't want to jump the gun there.

(P.S.: Jim Johnson went to a high school that is about 2 miles from where I grew up. I should be a little nicer to a Union-Endicott graduate. But, damn, that ERA).

Here are a whole bunch of Update Dodgers, which will either go in my Dodgers binders or toward my unspoken intention to collect the Update set (oops, it's out!). Update is the only place I know where two Yasmani Grandal cards in the same set is justified. And by "justified" I mean "totally unnecessary."

Well, this is turning into a Grandal-heavy package. This is a card from the Heritage High Numbers set. The back goes on about Don Drysdale, yet there is no photo of Drysdale anywhere. I cannot abide.

Here is another crazy 1975 Topps buyback! I've been waiting awhile to add buyback number 38 to the '75 collection.

I have a feeling this will be a larger priority of mine next year. I need a collecting pursuit that gets me giggly.

Last card item.

This is a trading card of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. It also happens to be a night card (or probably dusk, actually).

I didn't know something like airport cards existed, but as you can see in the bottom right corner, it is part of the North American Airports Collectors Series.

Convinced yet that Nick lives in Trading Card Nirvana? There are freakin' airport cards there!

On the back, you can see that there is a website called airporttradingcards.com. When you go to the site the first sentence is: "aviation geeks rejoice."

Well, we all collect what we must. Probably something else people do when they stop blogging.

Thanks for the cards, Nick. Smart move keeping your name out there. Hurry back.

Oh, and as for the post title? I hope I didn't freak you out too much.