Friday, July 22, 2016

A bad year for being a Dodgers team collector

This post will be devoid of cards that I own. You'll know why in a second.

If you've been following the 2016 Allen & Ginter hubbub -- today is the set's release date -- you probably know that there is some sneakiness involving card No. 120.

The official Topps A&G checklist lists two Dodgers with that same number:

But since people have started opening the product, they've discovered that the Kenta Maeda card is the actual base card set. Julio Urias -- get ready to groan Dodger fans -- is a super short-print.

There is some speculation about whether there are different versions of that short-print, but so far I've only seen the one that box-breaker Brent Williams has shown:

There is actually a nameplate under Urias' image but it's very faint. It's printed in white so it's difficult to see.

As I am writing this, the Urias card is now the most difficult card in the entire A&G set to pull.

As a Dodger fan, that is simply outstanding in the most sarcastic way possible.

This only adds to what has been a lousy year for Dodgers team collectors.

I know the Dodgers are a popular team and a popular team to collect. I also know that Topps knows this. And I'm used to strangeness surrounding certain Dodgers cards because the team's collectors are apparently silly enough to pursue those odd cards to the ends of the earth. I'm sure it happens with Yankees collectors, Red Sox collectors, Cubs collectors, etc.

But, damn, 2016 seems to be one blow after another for us Dodgers fans, and I don't mean the starting pitching staff.

It started with the new ToppsNow project.

The ToppsNow cards are issued following memorable moments virtually each day of the baseball season and are weighted toward successful teams -- as they should be if you're documenting memorable moments in a season. But some of the Dodgers cards seemed suspect to me and now 19 ToppsNow Dodger cards have accumulated.

Only the Red Sox (21) and Cubs (20) have more at this point. The Nationals (19) have the same number as the Dodgers, but here's the thing: those three other teams are all in first place. The Dodgers are not. Meanwhile, the first-place Giants have 16, the first-place Indians have 11 and the first-place Rangers have 8.

Nineteen cards is a lot of money to spend if I want to team-collect the way I have been doing for many years.

At $9.99 per card (or the somewhat discounted prices you find on ebay), I can't afford that, and ToppsNow has officially made me throw up my hands and say, "That's it. I'll never get all the Dodgers cards!" (Even with all of the 1 of 1's, I still held out a completely unreasonable hope that I'd one day have them all, but not anymore).

So, I'm still dealing with ToppsNow's litany of Dodgers because obviously the season isn't over and ToppsNow is still issuing cards.

Meanwhile, Topps issued its Archives product a while back. Unlike last year, when it super-shortprinted the final 30 cards, Archives dialed it back a bit and decided to SP just the final 10 cards. People have viewed it as a reprieve, a much easier project to tackle.

I haven't.

That's mostly because out of the 10 short-printed cards, three of them are Dodgers.

No other team has more than two SPs in Archives (the team with two, weirdly, is the Padres).

I only had ONE Dodger to chase when 2015 Archives short-printed the final 30 (still haven't shelled out money for that one).

So this is where I am in 2016 -- 3 Archives SPs to chase, 19 ToppsNow cards for probably around $7-9 each to chase, and now a super-stealth Julio Urias Allen & Ginter card to chase.

Wow, Topps, you're mean.

You're probably saying, "you should be used to this by now," and, yeah, I'm somewhat used to the Dodgers checklist being larger than other teams' checklists (this year's A&G Dodgers team set is 17 players large while the Phillies have just 3 cards). I'm also used to there being more inserts to chase and parallels to chase. That just happens when you're a Dodger fan.

But this extra stuff that I'm seeing this year, it's getting demoralizing.

I'm sure those on the other end of the spectrum -- the fans of teams who get ignored by Topps -- have their own problems. They'd love lots of cards to chase of their favorite guys. But that's their problem and this is my problem, and my problem is:


So, what do I do? I'm not going to boycott sets that I like. I can't do that. I won't do that. I'm in this hobby for fun, and "fun" to me is buying whatever cards I want.

But I am doing something about it.

I'm defining myself -- and my collection -- less and less by team. Sure, I'm still a Dodger collector, but I won't pursue it with the same vigor. I won't update checklists with the same attention, I've already stopped doing that.

I'll do more with collecting my vintage sets, oddball sets, and various insert sets that draw my interest. And I'll collect Dodgers from the past. Because now that Topps has beaten me down on the modern team front, my heart is more with 1972 Topps, 1976 Kellogg's and so many other things I can chase.

2016 may be a bad year to be a Dodger team collector. But so many other years are great for being whatever collector I want to be.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New experiences

Just because I'm old doesn't mean I don't enjoy new experiences with cards. I dabble in them all the time; I still like sampling and trying out things. How do you explain that pack of Bowman I bought last week? (Oh, didn't I tell you about that? That's an indication of how impressed I was).

No, if I was truly finished with new experiences, you'd see nothing but pre-1980 cards here and a complete unwillingness to understand modern cards and card strategies, rather than the semi-unwillingness to understand modern cards and card strategies that you already see.

Why just in the last few days I've experienced a couple of "new-to-me" moments.

The first has to do with the card you see up top. It is a 2007 Fleer Ultra gold parallel (not to be confused with "gold medallion") of Nomar Garciaparra.

It's even numbered to /999 in that dot-matrix way that Ultra serial-numbered things.

But the "new" part is that I received it from Nachos Grande in one of those Trade Stack transactions.

There are a whole bunch of collectors who have taken advantage of the NG Trade Stack over the years. Chris is up to 74 different stacks now. But it took me 72 stacks before I bit on my first one. What can I say? I'm picky.

I grabbed the stack after only one card was up -- because I know what I like when I see it -- and, strangely, after I had just written a post that said I don't bother chasing minor parallels, such as gold-foil ones. The Nomar Ultra card is a gold-foil parallel. I am an enigma.

So that was the first new experience. I'm happy to say I've already mailed off my cards to Nachos Grande and I'm quite happy to recommend the Trade Stack to others, all 3 of you who haven't taken part yet.

On to new experience No. 2:

This card is from Matt and Bob Walk the Plank. Matt always has such fancy cards, and this is one I've seen plenty of times but never in my hand.

It is a framed parallel from this year's flagship. As you can see, Topps made 16 versions of this particular Andre Ethier framed card (I don't know if that means 16 silver framed cards only or just 16 framed Ethiers altogether. Knowing Topps, it's the first one).

The card is as thick as your average drink coaster, and after receiving it, that's what it reminds me of, something on which I might rest a cool beverage.

Don't panic, I'm not going to do that. I admit the card is pretty cool and well worth handling a few times to admire its weight and super smooth edges. But after doing that, my first thought is, "OK, I'm done with that now."

Unlike a regular card, it does not make me want to collect more of the same. I have one framed card, and that's all I need. Why would I want another one? I suppose I could set little book stands all over the house and rest a framed card in each one, but somebody I know would shoot that down right away. And if I'm not going to display them, then I don't think I need more than one.

It's cool for what it is and now I'm done.

But that's what new experiences are all about. You try them, you test them out, and then you decide whether you want to do it again or move on your merry way.

I think it's the preferable way of approaching new things, even at my advanced age.

It's a whole lot better than what my brother, who was a picky eater as a youngster, used to say at the dinner table:

"I don't like it. What is it?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Old age

Today was not a good day for baseball cards connecting me with my youth.

Today all baseball cards did was remind me of how old I'm getting.

I thought I had an idea for a decent post. I came up with it a few days ago. I went about preparing for the post today, finding the right cards, scanning them and then beginning to write.

I had written a few paragraphs, and two of the card images were already up, when something in my brain said, "better check to see if you haven't written something about this before."

There was no nagging feeling really. But I've done this blog so long that it's just a generally good practice. There are only so many ideas out there.

So I did a little blog search and, sure enough, I had written about that same topic ... FOUR MONTHS AGO!!! It wasn't even two years ago or some distant writing that I could justify having forgotten. It was in March, for bleeping bleep!

The memory is not what it used to be.

So with about 15 percent of the post written, I erased it all. I returned the cards back to their binder and started to pull cards for a different post (that's right, folks. I did not give up for the night. I'm a professional -- or something). While pulling cards, I came across a card that featured something that I thought could make a quick and interesting post.

This was the card:

At first I was drawn to the wire hanging behind Bordi. You don't see a lot of wires on baseball cards. But then, in the distance, I thought for sure I saw water. I thought I saw a lake on a baseball card! Certainly those were ships or other water-like structures in the distance!

I began to wonder why I had never heard of the Orioles' spring training site in the 1980s being near a body of water. That certainly seemed unique.

Just to be sure, I checked a few other '86 Orioles cards.

Yeah, sure, in the left corner behind Dwyer, that could be part of the lake.

And to the right of Young's arms, there's more water with some trees in the distance on the horizon. Right?

I just wanted to check some 1987 Topps Orioles to get some confirmation. Maybe this was public knowledge and I was late to the party again.

Unfortunately, the Tippy Martinez card let me know that what I thought I saw was just my imagination. An optical illusion. It's pretty clear in the background, both to the left and right of Martinez, that what I thought was a body of water is just a blue outfield wall.


First my memory, now my vision. I'm really getting to be an old son-of-a-gun, huh?

But those of you laughing, suspend your knowledge of the O's spring training site back then (I believe it was Miami Stadium?). Doesn't that now look like water to the left of Traber?

Maybe I just have lakes and summer on the mind.

Since Rich Bordi doesn't feature a lake on his baseball card, the only card I have that shows a body of water that I know of, is this card:

And my guess is there was some backdrop hijinks going on with this card:

Meanwhile, I just installed a magnifying glass app on my phone because I can't take trying to read the tiny copyright dates on the backs of baseball cards with my regular naked vision anymore.

Old age is the best.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


A good way to measure the path and development of this blog is by following the exclamation point.

Some bloggers often use exclamation points in their post titles. I thought I didn't do that very much, but it turns out I once did.

I did the research and here is how many times I've used in exclamation point in a post title over the life of NOC:

2008 (four months): 7
2009: 17
2010: 11
2011: 19
2012: 17
2013: 4
2014: 3
2015: 3
2016 (6 1/2 months): 4

What's that tell you? Well, it tells me I was a goofy goober the first three or four years of this thing, plastering exclamation points all over everything. The totals for 2011 and 2012 are a little skewed because that was during my 1975 Topps mini quest and I can't help but use exclamation points for anything related to minnnniiiiiiiiissssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But the last few years has shown a more subdued night owl. It's been a more accurate gauge of my personality. I am very subdued in person. I don't say a lot. I don't have a lot to say. And I'm certainly not shouting it and spitting exclamation points.

Although I'm more excited about cards than just about anything else, the lack of exclamation points reflects my experience in the hobby. I haven't seen and done it all, but I've seen plenty and it's going to have to be very different and very appealing to get a "!!!!!!!!!!" out of me.

Some might construe this as apathy, snobbishness, sulking, boring, the usual crap that the introvert crowd receives. I've heard it all in real life. But trust me, even if I don't throw exclamation points around, I'm excited about the cards I receive. A lot.

For example, the card at the top of the post.

It arrived from Twitch in exchange for that Robinson Cano Stadium Club autograph card I pulled. I forgot all about Twitch collecting Cano. I mostly remember Marie from A Cardboard Problem accumulating his cards back when he was a Yankee. But the card belongs to a proper Cano collector.

The showstopping card I received in return is a 2014 Topps Museum Collection item, a necessary pick-up because I own maybe two patch cards and I need something patchy patch to remember Matt Kemp's Dodger days. There's also a  patch (perhaps part of an "A" or "N") bit for Curtis Granderson but that's not where I'm focusing.

It's interesting that even though this card is just two years old, all four players are with different teams -- Kemp with the Padres, Granderson with the Mets, Bourn with the Diamondbacks and Upton with the Padres. Upton's name is even different now!


It's crazy how fast baseball changes these days.

That card was probably almost enough to cover the Cano autograph, but Twitch clearly thought I needed more stuff.

So let's see some more stuff:


I'm excited. Can you tell I'm excited?! Exclamation points!

I might be happiest about the Kershaw Breakout Moments card, a inconsequential insert from 2014 that became so difficult to obtain for me that I put it on the Nebulous 9 list.

Amazingly, this was not the end of the cards from Twitch.

Remember these pulsar things from last year's holiday retail boxes that everyone went loopy over? I got both the Dodgers (Kendrick is a dupe so if anyone is still collecting these, let me know).

Yeah, of course I have this card. But any time I receive a 1975 Topps card in the mail, I rejoice. When it's in almost immaculate shape, I nearly fall over. Auerbach knocked me off my feet.

Um .... ?

I had to look up Peggy Tanous, whose autograph graces this card. It turns out she's a Real Housewife, which explains why I don't know her and ... well ... I didn't know we were doing milf cards. That might be worth an exclamation point, but there are a whole bunch of question marks in there, too.


Twitch ...

Likes ...


Exclamation point!

The last four cards are pretty fancy. I like the Fireworks card quite a bit. That's a nice idea and something Topps should be doing as an insert, although it seems like maybe they've done it already.

Some items at the fringes of my collecting world. A Buffalo Bill, an actress who is just a little before my time (I do remember ads for Police Woman when I was a kid) and a music card. I like the music card the best, but Dickinson's history (and sweater scrap, or whatever it is) is not to be denied.

We are still not done.


Yes, I know, exclamation point.

Twitch tried to explain this one to me, I still don't think I've got it, other than it's pretty cool. It's a 1/1 sketch card of Yasiel Puig. It's from Super Box, which if I am understanding it correctly is like a repack on steroids. There are large hits to be had, but there are no guarantees, so apparently it attracts the gambling crowd -- and explains why I didn't know what it was.

These are all parallels that I need. Still completely a sucker for the colored parallels especially. It always brings out my inner exclamation point.

You '70s people might know what this is.

This is a TCMA issue, from I believe 1975. It is an All-Time Greats set that came postcard size.

See? You could send it as a postcard if you wanted.

I remember drooling over these in one of the mail-order catalogs I received when 12 or 13. I don't think I knew that they were oversized.

It does mean that I'm going to have to get serious about finding some of those four-pocket pages, because ...

... Twitch sent a whole bunch of them!!!





Very cool.

I may not use exclamation points in post titles that much anymore, but I still use them all the time when I'm writing about the cards.

Thanks, Twitch. That truly was exciting. I hope you can tell.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The streak is over

This is the card-buying season for me. I have time, I have money, I had a birthday. The rest of the year I'll be scrambling constantly, scraping to get by, with people telling me how lousy I am. So I need to appreciate this moment while it's here.

Each year, I choose to appreciate it by purchasing cards. I placed a order earlier today and you'll see the contents in a couple weeks. To bide my time, I went to the usual retail outlets for cards.

The ritual began a couple weeks ago with a blaster of brand-new 2016 Stadium Club. I went to Walmart, grabbed the first box of SC I saw and got lucky. I pulled an autograph.

That didn't last long in my possession. It's been traded for a load of goodies that you could see as early as tomorrow. But it made me realize how cool it was to pull an autograph, just from the reaction you get (and the trades that might turn up).

About five days later, I was in Walgreen's, looking for junk food for the All-Star Game feast. I decided to check the toy aisle to see if there were repack boxes still there (junk wax to go with junk food!).

I spotted one and bought it. And I tweeted out the 10 best cards from what was a pretty darn good Fairfield repack.

The best card was -- yup -- another autograph.

That is from 2011 Obak. Normally it's not a product that interests me, but, damn, if you were around in the early '90s collecting cards, Ben McDonald was not to be ignored. His base cards were going for psycho money for a brief period, as the No. 1 pick in 1989 (I think he has some error cards, too).

That's a pretty cool card out of a repack box, and extended my streak of "card packages opened that contained autograph cards" to two straight, something that has never happened in the history of me opening cards.

So, I admit, I started getting cocky. I started thinking I could pull an autograph out of every retail pack.

My next chance for an autograph pull was on my birthday, on Saturday. My daughter gifted me with three packs of 2016 Heritage. It's almost impossible to pull an autograph out of a loose Target pack of Heritage, but, like I said, I was cocky.

I fully expected an autograph to come out of one of those three packs.

It didn't.

The best card was this:

That's actually pretty good pack selection by my offspring, and a much preferred card to an autograph since I'm collecting the Stand-Up set, and I anticipated Bryant being the most difficult one to land. Six down and nine to go!

But I still didn't consider that the end to my autograph streak because I didn't buy the pack. There was still hope. (Well, there's always hope, that's why we buy packs).

The next opportunity was today. Armed with my Target gift card, I ran a couple of errands, including buying out the store of white vinegar (if you ever have had moss problems, you know what the vinegar is for). On my way back to the card aisle, I spotted a $5 bill on the floor. More free card-buying money!

I went to the card aisle and grabbed another Stadium Club blaster and a Series 2 fat pack because I need that First Pitch Lea Thompson card.

I gave the clerk my gift card, she rang up my purchases and said, "$30 total. After the $25 gift card it comes to $5." Brilliant. I handed her the $5 I just found and didn't spend a cent.

The Series 2 pack was disappointing because "disappointing" is flagship's middle name.

Two Dodgers that I needed. At least that's something. Obviously I wasn't getting an autograph out of that pack.

The Stadium Club blaster was next and I certainly was expecting a lot pulling back-to-back autographs out of Stadium Club blasters.

The first thing I noticed was how many dupes I was pulling. The final tally was 14 dupes out of 40 cards. That's 35 percent, and all I've bought is two blasters, from different stores. Glad I'm not trying to complete the set this time.

The second thing I noticed was it was a very Dodger friendly box.

Those were all needs, and the Seager a very special need, since everyone is likely hoarding Seagers by now.

When I got through opening all the cards, I noticed that none of them were autographed. Sadly, the streak was over.

The best I could do was another Edgar Martinez parallel:

You can't tell, but that is the rainbow foil parallel.

They are numbered to 25 this year.

That doesn't mean a lot to me because Stadium Club parallels have always been so uninspired. I believe the Member's Choice parallels are one per case or something astronomical and all it is is a stamp on the card. You could get collectors in the '90s to collect anything.

This probably means someone wants me to be an Edgar Martinez 2016 Stadium Club super-collector. Two blasters and I already have the rainbow foil and black-letter parallels.

Yeah, I still haven't pulled the base Martinez card, but that OK.

The autograph streak is over, but the Edgar Martinez streak has just begun!