Monday, July 29, 2013

Back to English Class With Topps

Today's topic: authorial alliteration. Let's let Topps talk.

Have sadly seen only one card receiving royal Topps treatment there on the back:

Another Athletic might've made for a one-two Topps tandem in the second Series - Scott Sizemore - but the Topps typographer punted that ball-card back, merely making a multi-level minor-league history honoring the occasional Oakland second sacker.

A pity English class never has show-and-tell.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why Baseball Cards Are Expensive

OK, first, this baseball card is not expensive:

But hey, I can't just ramble on about baseball cards without a picture to lure you in, now can I?

All pictures in this post courtesy of Dime Boxes, by the way. Thanks Nick! Without Nick this post might be a little lacking in the entertainment department, but I'll do what I can.

And, second, I know that some baseball cards are expensive, and some aren't. "Expensive" is obviously a very subjective word for different people. But if you look at the true cost of near 9 square inches of glossy card stock vs the price of a baseball card, they can appear to be very expensive indeed. The more expensive they get, the greater the distance between the intellectual cost of the physical card and the emotional value we place on those shiny slices of card stock.

I often think of baseball cards, an item that no one needs to survive, as an object much like the Coke bottle in the classic, quirky, fairly-unkown-today movie 'The Gods Must Be Crazy'.

The whole movie is found on YouTube easily enough, but Blogger can only find that trailer for the embedded goodies there. Google owns both Blogger and YouTube, go figure.

I probably began to grow that perspective quite a bit from living and working with immigrants who regularly wired 3/4 of their paycheck back to home each week, as that money was keeping several of their family members alive. Baseball cards are simply out of the question for such people, though of course they would be more interested in the stars of futbol.

Quite a while back in time, if not in volume of posts, I promised to tell you the story of how everything humanity buys is priced, as told to me by an Old Farmer. I think my fascination with human nature and retail activity, two intertwined subjects that oh so many proto baseball card dealers do not always understand very well, began when I heard this.

It was a nice sunny Saturday one winter in eastern North Carolina. I was supervising a tree planting job for one of the typical clients in the business, an Old Farmer. He asked me a staple question in the business - "So what do you do in the summer time?"

I would get this question a lot back then, and still do sometimes today. Planting bare-root tree seedlings is a seasonal occupation that must be done during the cool weather months. But this question had more behind it back then, when I was working for someone else, who lived down at the beach. In fact the address for the business had the word "beach" right in it. So we would get this question on the suspicion that we were charging so much money for our services that we could then just lay around and be beach bums all summer long.

I explained that I did work all summer, mentioning that I liked to cut firewood, but it was a tough business because the price never went up. Too many people enjoy cutting firewood almost like a hobby, and weren't really cutting firewood as their primary income, so they had no incentive to price the firewood in a way to fully support themselves. But as long as some hobbyists set prices, one has to compete with their price for your own sales by matching their price. (Sound like any hobby you might know?)

I continued that I could do OK by selling small bundles of firewood for use in a campground, at a much higher price than I could get for large volumes of wood for heating a home. In baseball card terms, I could do better selling singles than boxes.

And then the Old Farmer explained all economic activity to me.

"Well that's easy enough to understand. You sell something a man has to have to have to survive, like heat for his home, and that man is going search high and low all over the country-side to get that item for the lowest possible price.

Now you sell him something that man doesn't need at all, like a little pile of sticks that he could pick up for free in the woods on his way out to the campground for the weekend to bang his girlfriend — and you can charge that man most any price you care to name."

It's not a perfect analogy to low-end baseball cards, sure; I did just point out that baseball card dealers all have to deal with competition. "But I could buy that card on eBay for ...." Even buying purely luxury items, we humans are shoppers by nature. I was tempted to end this post at the Old Farmer's quote mark there.

But of course I would rather babble on baseball cards a bit more. Probably where the Old Farmer is the most dead-on is for products like Topps Museum and Topps Tribute. Products that quite simply make me laugh, actually. I just read a complaint about a Tommy Milone /5 card in one of those. LOL!

The Old Farmer, he wouldn't laugh; if he knew someone buying "packs" of such cards he would probably start asking them probing questions trying to figure out what else such folks might think they "need", particularly if there might be any such item he might have access to.

And yes, I know, the purchasers of Museum and Tribute laugh at me and my silly purchasing of cards that aren't even worth the card stock they are printed on. I have read somewhere this year on this here Internet that a standard wholesale price of lots of brand new common cards, i.e. "base", is just 4¢ a card, or even a little less. Surely it costs Topps more than 4 cents to deliver a baseball picture card into my trembling hands every time.

Now the Old Farmer would probably perfectly understand baseball card collector complaints about all the scams associated with 'The Hobby', just as he understood my frustrations trying to compete with a guy with a pick-up and a chainsaw just happy to be picking up some cash money by being out in the woods (like me).

When people put such a high social/cultural/mental/psychological _value_ on an item that actually _costs_ just a tiny fraction of that amount, that is going to attract a certain type of person intent on trying to get some of that value into their bank account, with (counterfeitters) or without (thieves) spending that trivial cost to get it.

Baseball card collectors or dealers or collector/dealers or dealer-collectors frequently do the exact same thing actually, except for the very few that are smart enough to live by the #1 truism of another profession designed to exploit human desire for things they don't actually need: "don't sample the product."As in, don't rip any packs, just buy and sell cards.

I'm not saying card dealers are scammers and criminals, not at all. But dealers (who often think they are simply collectors) that get inventory as rippers or breakers, are participating in that same age-old human desire to get something for nothing. "This next pack will have the 'hit' that pays for this whole case, I just know it." You know the deal. Part of ripping a pack is always the hope to find that one expensive card in there.

I just spent a long week participating in a frustrating break of some regular Topps cards. I rationalized it as a way to build up a lot of pieces of my Parallel Project. But the process came with that potential of hitting one 1/1 card (or hey, maybe two) sprinkled through every product now. I would be a liar if I said I wouldn't have picked that card for myself if enough stars aligned with the moon for me, and just picked the parallel cards I "need."

So I'm no different than high-end baseball card customers in some ways either, though I know I will never buy such so-called baseball cards. And the Old Farmer would definitely laugh at me if he heard me complaining about the cost of being in that break.

I just wish I could get that Old Farmer into the same room with one of the most appropriate non-baseball players I've ever run across pictured on a baseball card, though I don't own the card and had to crib it from the 'net; and don't desire to own it either. A man who knew a definite something about us:

A man who told us the same thing the Old Farmer told me - there's a collector born every minute.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

You Can't Do That To A Baseball Card!

Too late. I already did. It doesn't much matter where I put the image of it, unless I bait and switch you. There's no baiting and switching in the world of baseball cards, is there?

That's not the baseball card that is the object of tonight's post. Note I said "object", not "subject." As soon as you see the victim, err, the card in question, you will know what is about to happen.

That's Marty Corodova, AL Rookie of the Year in 1995. He is about as well-known today as another famous Minnesota Twin Rookie of the Year, John Castino. I'm sure your Castino PC is just overflowing with cards, right?

It's OK. I learned who both of them were just today. Castino played in the early 80s. I have a good excuse for not remembering him at least - my team played in the awesome AL East back then. And we didn't have Baseball Tonight on every night drooling over Rookie awesomeness. Just these old timey baseball guys named Ernie Harwell on the radio, and George Kell and Al Kaline on the TV, all telling old timey baseball stories to their faithful listening audience. Rookie? Who cares about rookies on the opposing team? Why this one time coming out of spring training back in the early 50s there was this one rookie that you heard a lot about later, but back then he was just a rookie, so nobody knew who he was when....

A Cordova PC would have a lot of cards in it though, as his career went from 1995 to 2003 or so, when there were way more card companies than divisions in the Major Leagues. Too bad you didn't go all-in prospecting those guys, huhh? Rookies of the Year, their cards must be worth a lot, right?

I pulled that Cordova card from an intriguing repack you'll have fun with some other night here. I think I have one other of these Topps Finest cards hiding in the card stacks on the card desk somewhere. I think Topps gave me some sort of "first hit's free, kid" type sampler pack in 2001. I have one card from like 4 different Topps sets I never heard of again from that year.

And I have seen them around. I've always gotten a kick out of that protective layer. I especially get a kick out of this one:

That's a '61 Topps Mantle. Sort-of. It is of course a re-print, that came out as part of that same 1996 Topps Finest the Cordova torture card came from. Oh, wait, did I type that out loud? I'm jumping ahead of the scalpel here a little.

Anyhow I have to laugh at that Gem Mint Perfect 10 slabbed Mickey Mantle. Complete with protective coating! Slabbed to be safe even from nuclear winter, for all eternity! Mustn't remove coating and possibly damage valuable REPRINT card. It's Gem Mint! The Mick will live forever! You'll just never get to enjoy the actual unblemished image of that card, thanks to that Finest Protection. You have to pay extra to truly enjoy the real '61 minimalist Mick card. A lot extra. Step right this way.

I mean I can only feel pity for someone who would for some reason want that pictured card I borrowed from some website somewhere. I've always thought life is far, far too short to be that up-tight.

But getting back to our object tonight, Mr. Cordova. Topps is kind of egging me on here on the back of the card. Just plain instructing me not to respect this card. Everyone knows this type of card should simply be thrown in the fireplace with the rest of all that useless "base":

You might be missing the key subliminal instructions there. They aren't hidden in that faded-out repeat image backdrop somewhere. Nope, down there in the corner Topps tells you everything you need to know about Marty Cordova:

At least they were nice enough to put their Rookie Cup on his regular Topps card that year. I mean, it must have taken them several more years to figure out that they could exploit each League's Rookie of the Year by printing 1,309 cards of them the very next year in every set, sub-set, insert set, mail-in set, convention give-away set, soft drink set, Topps Employee Backdoor set (oh, sorry, this isn't an Upper Deck post), and what have you, sometimes twice or even thrice in those sets.

Back in 1996, they already had multiple sets, but they weren't quite prepared to feed that insatiable Player Collector jones as fiendishly as they do in the 21st Century. I mean, someone had to take up the slack in the market from all those card company carcasses littering the back roads to Cooperstown. Don't worry, just keep 26 dollars in your hand and the Topps man in his PR shoes and a big straw hat will hook you up. He's never early, he's always late. Only batting about .100 on timeliness this year in fact. Those Puig junkies are so demanding.

Anyhow, I digress. I'm sure your used to that by now. So, yeah, Marty Cordova: COMMON. Talk about your Topps Voodoo and the rest of poor Marty's promising and quite decent but sadly injury shortened career. I'm even a little scared there might even be 9 other Marty Cordova cards with alternate themes than Finest Franchise. Should I chase that rainbow? Does this mean no other team can offer the Twins' Franchise player a sneaky back door contract? I never understand those tricky sports contracts, and Topps never helps me figure them out either.

But what do I care anyway. COMMON. Strap him to the gurney. Send him to those smart-ass punks who mock pro ball players and their cards, professional athletes who will be richer both financially and life experience wise than some cynical internet flunky ever will be. I mean, who's baseball card life would you rather have lived, Dmitri Young's, or some guy sitting on 22,709 baseball cards from the 1990s trying to make not actually very funny snide comments about them? Dmitri sure knew what was up with those Gem Mint cards.

Ahh, gee, I digress again. And here I have Cordova all prepped for the operation. My finger nail specially sharpened and everything. The instructions are right there in front of me, they remind me a little bit of when Bullwinkle told me to break the channel changer knob off my parent's TV set so I could be 100% sure to catch his next show next week (True Story). OK, OK, I'll quit wandering away from the OR. I think I'm subconsciously squeamish about this.

Topps' instructions are so simple: "Peel And Remove Coating." Ahh-Ite, let 'er rip:

Whoa. Look at that! I think we just gave birth to a Chrome card!

It's as shiny as a freshly minted penny fresh from the bank. Fresher than pack fresh even. Things were so fresh in the mid-90s. Or were the late 80s fresh-time in America? Somebody ask Borat or somebody.

Oh, we will have to wait another year for Chrome cards though. At least we won't have to peel things off those ourselves, and piss off all those picky baseball card collectors that kinda wanted to buy our cards, if we hadn't been so stupid as to peel off the Topps Finest Protective Coating before they could enjoy reading that on their card forever and ever. But then, no one buys COMMONs anyway, everybody knows that.

Somewhere, I'm sure Marty Cordova's arms kind of itch right now. That protective coating things looks like hell, all covered with arm hair and dirt from his butt. That had to have hurt. You folks from North Dakota that mock all things Minnesota, quit hitting the refresh button on this page now. You'll screw up my carefully calculated page views from all those referrer spam sites in Russia.

Now, was that so hard? Isn't it great to finally see all of Marty Cordova's face looking down at a ground ball, rather than up at a majestic Home Run, without all those Topps instructions messing with the majesty?

What? My card is worth less now? Are you baseball card collectors crazy? Oh, wait, you don't have to answer that.

Oh, and P.S. — this is going to be a series. Pretty soon, I'm going shopping for an X-Acto knife. I'm not sure anyone will want to see just what is inside a Topps Embossed baseball card though. They feel suspiciously leathery on the outside. Wait a minute. MLB does go through a lot of baseball gloves every year.....

ACK! You, you can't di-sect a baseball card! Don't worry, MLBPA & MLB regulations both require advance warning before defaced baseball team logos can be shared publicly. You'll just have to watch those header pictures here carefully from now on. Some images might not be safe for overly grown-up baseball card collectors. You've been warned.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hell Bent For Leather

You know the Topps crew had fun assembling this card:

A play at the plate, Bourjos captured mid-stride. Torii thinks he's safe. Albert is kinda doubtful.

Of course, it all depends on if the Royals catcher there can hold the ball and apply the tag, but I'd say likely so. But then reading game logs on Baseball Reference leads only to a game exactly a year ago today, or yesterday. But not yet on the West Coast as I type after midnight here.

Of the four games with the Royals @ Angels, none of them feature Bourjos being thrown out at the plate. He does score on a bases-clearing single, on 7/23/12 and that must be this shot. The KC catcher dropped the ball.

But that was my fun assembling this blog post. Topps had their fun on the back of the card:

Here's what it says, a little more squint-less:

Cow-milking contest? What league are we in here? Did this card escape from Pro Debut somehow?

Horsehide? An old baseball term. I'll save you the inquisitive clicking; I already checked - until the 1980s the leather cover of a baseball was made from horsehide.

So a vintage term on a modern-era glossy baseball 'card' from the minor leagues somewhere. And I still learn things about the game of baseball courtesy of Topps Chewing Gum Co.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Be careful what you say to the Topps rep when you sign their contract...

Nice card. An action shot including the player's face - not always a given.

I also like the photographer taking our picture as we soak in the details. Would be pretty neat to see his photo of our card's photographer too.

Of course, this card being in 2013 Topps means that most game context is cropped out of it, just the one on-deck Dodger as entranced by the play at the plate as the crowd some unknown night in Cincinnati last year.

The back, though, kinda makes you wonder if Hanigan gets along with the wonderful baseball writers of Whitehall Street:

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Friendly Local Card Shop Review #1, East NC

I probably wouldn't be writing this blog if it wasn't for a card shop. The owner didn't point me towards blogging or anything like that; the owner has simply kept his shop open long enough for me to visit enough times to start collecting baseball cards again, simple as that.

I have worked in eastern North Carolina for the past 21 winters. Very busy work, with 80+ hour weeks not uncommon. But sometimes, it rains....and I can spend a little time shopping.

One fine rain day probably in 2001, I noticed this store. I bought a few packs of cards. I went back.

I ended up collecting the Topps Base Set, Heritage, Stadium Club, and Topps HD that year as a result; those last two at the recommendation of the owner based on hanging out talking cards, chosen from the blurry array of sets still on the market back then. I finished none of those sets and forgot about baseball cards the next year for some reason. Probably spent too much time too far from Jacksonville. Unless it rains, I usually can't get into your average retail store during average business hours.

I did return to cards at an extremely low level in 2003, when the Tigers attempted to not break the record for losses in a season. They succeeded in that by losing only 119 games. I was intrigued by rock bottom I guess, listened to a ton of games on the radio and bought an olde English-D hat that year, so it would be perfectly broken in when the Tigers returned to the World Series and everyone had a shiny new hat to ride on the bandwagon with. That worked to perfection in October, 2006.

However I didn't return to owning enough cards to stack them up in a stack until 2011. Probably a quick visit with Paul, the super-nice owner of Grand Slam Sports Cards, for that year's sample pack, brought me back somehow.

This year was the same. I disagreed with 2012's sample pack in mid-winter at Grand Slam (story coming soon, I promise), but for some reason bought a pack of '12 Update late last year at a Big Box. That led to a few more packs, and a visit to Grand Slam just before Series One came out. Talking it over with Paul, I asked for a Hobby Box upon release. I had a hunger for baseball knowledge I wanted to retrieve from the backs of baseball cards, not from some website. Paul had my hook-up.

So I will occasionally post some details of all the card shops I visit. Maybe when you travel, you can visit one. Maybe an idea one shop is trying, could help your local shop. Maybe you are reading this while working at a card shop. Maybe you will amble down to your Friendly Local Card Shop, I'm sure they'd like to see you. Here we go...

Shop - Grand Slam Sports Cards

Where - 211 Henderson Dr / Jacksonville, NC

Website - nope. Google Maps, etc. easy to find.

Owner - "Paul"

Card Inventory - A few small cases of vintage singles. A moderate amount of recent boxes.

Collecting Supplies - Plentiful, and quality. Ultra•Pro Platinums easily available, everything else you could need.

Space to rip your purchases - I feel this is a key element of a shop. Paul has a counter with barstools for customers to hang out at while they check out their new purchases.

Baseball Cards : Other Cards - 60:40 perhaps on the sports. Basketball is big in NC. Hockey is not. NASCAR is from North Carolina, but the cards didn't hang on here any better than Hockey.

21st Century Survival Strategy - Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. Half of the store is dedicated to gaming cards. Perhaps more than half, in that Grand Slam hosts a weekly tournament, with plenty of spacious tables and a soda machine.

Cool Customer Service - A good portion of Paul's customers are Marines stationed at nearby Camp Lejuene. Given the crazy wait times involved with redemption cards and the crazy life schedules for military personnel going on overseas deployments, Paul lets customers have their redemptions sent to his store, where he will hold them until the Service Member returns. He keeps a special rack for them behind the counter with a little box for each one, and notes of the details on card company, card expected, date mailed, etc. I thought this was a very nice touch for his customers, and even nice for his suppliers (the card companies) as well.

Memorable Quote - "You read the backs?"

Treasure Wistfully Not Obtained - The last time I was able to visit Grand Slam this year, a shoebox of cards had walked in the door a few hours earlier and I was allowed to hunt for treasures therein. I'm sure the hardest part of owning a shop is explaining to people all day long that the vast majority of the baseball cards they own are not worth anything. I saw this in action once at Grand Slam when a 20s something guy came in with a Babe Ruth baseball card. Babe Ruth! Paul led the customer through an eBay search from the terminal on the counter to show him it was worth about a dollar, having been manufactured in the 1990s. The deflation on guy-from-the-street was both audible and visible.

So anyhow such cards are frequently donated to Paul, and he donates them back to regular customers who want them. That last lot I saw shortly after arrival had a set of 1980s Topps Glossy All-Stars, a mail-in set that featured just Baseball Picture Cards. A picture of an All-Star, with his name in tiny type at the bottom. No design/graphics/etc. Clean. Tasteful. Baseball. I could have had them all....

Instead I picked up 3 1975 commons that I missed very, very, much. Then I went 'home' that night and discovered a truly Dy-No-Mite Blog. The rest is history.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What IS That? #6

Amidst a baseball card full of old — throwback uniform, Americana bunting decoration — and new — Those Sunglasses, elbow pad — we have another mystery item there in Big Papa's back pocket.

I still don't know what is in Starling Marte's back pocket either. But I think it is probably the same thing.

Since Ortiz isn't playing in a hillbilly family reunion old-timer's game here, I have to rule out a flask for a little celebratory nip upon reaching first base. While I wouldn't have ruled that out for players playing in a century with a number 2 less than the current one, I'm sure an image of that would have been temperantly kept off the little tiny baseball cards back then.

So I'll have to go with sunglasses case, though I'm not sure why. I'm still not used to seeing batters with shades on, but then I don't actually watch much baseball; just baseball cards. I guess it would be nice to have a case for your glasses if it gets real cloudy by the time you reach first base. A lot can happen while Ortiz goes from home plate to first base I guess.

Or, a case for switching out batting gloves for running gloves. I have heard that batters are particular about their batting gloves and switch them out upon reaching first base. That Ortiz might end up doing a Charlie Hustle slide somewhere on those base paths, you just never know. Best have the right gloves on.

I will never understand why anyone would want something that big in their back pocket while running the bases. But then of course no one really expects David Ortiz to leg out infield singles.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How Not To Do It

I never learned to bunt. But I'm pretty sure a Walk advances a base runner from first just as good.

'course, putting a hefty slugger on an empty first base sets up an easy double play, so maybe ole Matt was trying to out-strategerize the opposing team by advancing a runner from second with first base open when that tricky opposing team decided to walk him by throwing real, real high every pitch. Dunno.

I never learned to bunt because backyard baseball is a pure power game. When there are only two fielders behind the pitcher, the one on the left side, and the one on the right, the goal of the batter is to hit it far enough over either of their heads to run to second base before the fielder can run to the ball and throw to the pitcher or the other fielder covering second. In other words, an all-doubles game, with an occasional inside-the-park home run. If you count hitting it up onto the hill as still inside the 'park'. Bunting the ball when the other team didn't even have a catcher would get you called a sissy pretty quick.

And, hey, hello everyone! Almost home from a bidding/estimating trip. AT&T was not kind to the odd corner of the Great Lakes I was wandering, so I couldn't even use my little stash of scans I prepared for the trip with a wireless keyboard and the mobile blogger app. I did get to watch the All-Star game at long has it been since anyone bunted in an All-Star game? Probably a really long time. Bunting is probably not cool for All-Stars. Definitely a pure power game there.

Of course, in the It's Alive! ball era, or the Sabre-Tooth era, or the Enhanced Player era, or whatever you want to call the game today, "They" say bunting is stupid. And perhaps all those strike-outs are worth it too I guess. The percentages say .... just don't ask the percentages about Mr. Stair's technique up there. That might break the calculator.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lines, Lines everywhere Lines

A key component of what is considered a quality photograph are the lines in the image. Baseball cards show this off to a considerable degree, and I think have been getting steadily better in this regard.

I think my favorite example of this meta-idea in 2013 Series One appears on this card:

I have started and scrapped this post several times in the last few months. I had grandiose plans to continue my own learning of photo composition by matching composition concepts to examples on 2013 baseball cards, but that proved un-workable from a time perspective, and an un-educated perspective on the part of this writer. I'd love to find a discussion of the photographic elements of baseball cards from an expert in the field.

I first started thinking about photographic composition quite a long time ago when a hobby photographer friend of mine gave me a print of this photo:

Of course, from a composition standpoint, the most striking thing about the photo is the lines and the vanishing perspective off into the distance. This isn't usually a component of baseball card images, though I suppose it could be for a rare shot taken from behind home plate, and I think if I look at enough baseball cards I will discover something along those lines (ha) eventually. Don't get too worried about me not looking at enough baseball cards.

Ever since I have wanted to learn more photo composition concepts and techniques to improve my own photography, but there is only so much time in a day, and I have this other hobby called "baseball fan." And to be honest, photography books and most especially the manual for my robustly feature loaded digital camera just put me to sleep. Websites on the topic digest a little easier, and I have learned a few things along the way.

OK, let's refresh our look at Angel Pagan's card again, now that it has already scrolled off the top of your computer screen:

Of course, this card has an advantage over other cards in the photo-comp department in that it is a horizontal card. I don't think there has ever been a purely horizontal card set, has there? Anyone? Bueller? I'm sure there have been plenty of all vertical card sets. I don't understand why there aren't more horizontal cards, they are generally quite popular cards. Maybe secret Topps experiments on orphans in the Mexican desert who knew their beisbol, but had never seen baseball cards, didn't go well or something. Definitely something I will continue to explore in the future. What set has the most horizontal cards?

One of the first new things I learned from websites this year about photo composition is something called the "Rule of Thirds," which has something to do with it not necessarily being a good thing to perfectly center the subject of the photo to make a really good image. Baseball cards have to throw that rule out, I think. There isn't space available to give away a third of it in the interests of artsy concepts.

Coincidentally, the Pagan card there has a set of thirds built right into it, but Angel is in the middle one; good bye rule of thirds. But I think that's OK. This is because I also read some great stuff about vertical lines, and horizontal lines, that I mostly can't remember. Something about one of those two signifying strength, and the other being calming to the viewer and suggesting stability. I don't know how that works too well yet.

But this card has them all. You gots your vertical lines, your horizontal lines, and most importantly, your diagonal lines. And that's where this card gets good. Not only are there great diagonals, but they are present in two directions. It's easy to get one diagonal on a baseball card photo; lots of times the team lettering is on a diagonal for an easy score for the photo editor, courtesy of the professional designer the major league team hired to do their uniforms.

For the top-left-to-bottom-right diagonal, we have Angel's lower leg and the uniform stripe on it, his left arm, and best of all, his fingers, all harmoniously parallel. For the lower-left-to-top-right diagonal, we have his upper leg and uniform stripe, his right arm, and though not perfectly parallel with those two elements but still quite pleasing, an entire baseball bat. Seeing a whole baseball bat on a baseball card is not as common as you would think. Neither is a classic pure white bat - those are a minority in the game now. You'll see those on my baseball cards some other night.

The lines set up a great sense of motion for the card, which is best captured by That Necklace (another uniform meme I am tracking some, stay tuned) AP is wearing. The necklace is inertially hanging straight down and hasn't started moving with Pagan's body yet. Truly a SNAP-SHOT of frozen motion.

But motion clearly due to continue, imminently. Knowledge of baseball also helps enjoy this card, as most baseball fans can tell quickly that Angel just laid down a bunt, which makes for a fairly rare baseball card image. A nice slow play that is now going to turn into a very fast one, instantly. This combines well with Angel's facial demeanor. Smoooooth. Why, laying down a bunt looks to be as easy for Angel Pagan as falling off a log.

I think this card will prove to be my favorite in Series One this year, if not for the whole year. I don't think I've found one in Series Two to match it yet, nor to match my pre-release favorite. If I were to make a Top Ten Cards From 2013 Series 1 & 2 one day, I'm sure most of them would be horizontal cards.

But I do like plenty of the vertical cards, like this one:

Fowler's card features many of the same line elements as Pagan's card, and this time the Nike swoosh even adds to the flow. This is mostly because it is another bunt card, though it takes longer for that to sink in on this one. I like it, even though it is a bit of repeat. There are only so many ways to photograph a baseball player, and this is a really good one.

And of course the photo there has the unexpected circular element of the "vest," specifically the piping around the end of the arm. One of the strangest of uniforms, but one my research tells me is quite popular in Colorado. Uniqueness does have it's virtues. I had thought this was a Throwback uniform and put it on a page of all the Throwbacks in Series One, but this was wrong. I also missed several cards in that hand-selected subset and came so far from batting 1.000 on it that ... no link for you. To be a Throwback example of the vest, if would have to feature purple sleeves. I read on this sleek silver slab in front of me far too much lately that those will probably never be seen again. You be the judge.

Fowler's card is a staple of the 2013 set in that it is mostly a torso shot. If the 'Sea Turtle' moniker didn't fit the framing design so well, I would probably refer to it as the Torso Set. I am sure a majority of the images are of a player, cropped in to show him from about the knees or waist on up, only. This has some advantages in scoring quick composition points with lines via the player's body parts. Lots of low-hanging fruit for the Topps photo editor in the world of baseball players. But it is starting to wear on me some, particularly for all the Pitcher cards like that. I might spend too much with this set building all my strange subset pages, not to mention the surprising time-drag of my Parallel Project.

One pitcher card that breaks that mold is this one:

I'm having a really hard timing picking a parallel of this one to use for my project. Wal•Mart blue would make a tasteful choice, but the pastel-ness of it makes me feel blah about using it for another of my favorite cards in this Series. I somewhat wish there was one available in the blue foil parallel used in the Opening Day set, but Mr. Burnett doesn't merit a special baseball card for the children. I expect this card to look great as a 'Blue Sparkler', what I call the cards from the Series 1 wrapper redemption program or the the Series 2 LCS giveaways. Cards from that parallel design with a background of blurred infield grass look fantastic.

But all that is not why I like this card. I like the straight white border version just fine. This is due to the great combo of the high socks and the long sleeves, all tastefully co-ordinated with the ball-cap, and of course part of a classic American baseball red-white-and-blue. It makes me hungry for both hot dogs and apple pie, though it doesn't quite make me want a Chevy. The electrical gremlin in my Ford truck is doing that just fine. Oh, sorry, wrong blogosphere.

And all those great red-sheathed arms and legs sticking out of a blue torso are just the beginning of this vortex of a card. Another snapshot of frozen time, but not a static image. Now if only Burnett was more a famous lights-out closer rather than a decent middle reliever — middle relievers never get much love from baseball fans and are the most faceless of players to the public...making them need good baseball cards more than the rest of the players. But of course if Burnett were a closer, Topps would go with their closer-celebrating-a-final-out-victory-whoop-thing meme that they have about beat into the ground. We get it Topps, we get it.

The late movement of the Burnett card that your mind puts into motion summoned up for me an image you might need to buckle up for:

PLEASE NOTE THAT IS NOT A nazi SWASTIKA. That is a "reverse" or "left" swastika in that it looks like it might be about to spin left. Though it is actually darn hard to describe which way a swastika is going. Probably because your mind's eye is going around in circles, somewhat like it is when looking at the Burnett card.

The Swastika is actually an ancient symbol used throughout human history always as something positive. Spinning around this Wheel of Life, and all that. Here we go round in circles, here we go round and round. Until of course some evil folks infamously co-opted it at the start of the second third of the 20th Century. The whole history of it is here, if you have never known that.

The image parallel is not exact to the card of course. I'll bet you didn't expect to open a blog page about baseball cards and find an all too familiar image of an unlucky ancient symbol of luck, but then I didn't expect to have that image pop into my mind when I opened that pack of baseball cards. It's just what happened. You can't make this stuff up. Can you?

So we've gone from lines across a baseball card to a baseball card that makes me dizzy. Perhaps appropriate for a game played with a straight bat and a round ball. Be careful with those baseball cards. They might make it unsafe to operate heavy machinery.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Are these cards worth anything?

They look old.

They have old players on them.

They are small like those really, really old cards.

I can just hear the poor card shop clerk of the future sighing and pointing out the copyright date on the back to another non-card-collecting walk-in off the street. Presuming there still are card shops in the future.

I think there will be. There will always be enough people who want to shop in person, albeit never as many as there used to be.

These cards came from a card shop. Maybe. If an eBay vendor counts as a card shop, or the one that sent them to me happens to have an actual physical card shop somewhere, which is possible. It was real nice of them to add them to my package of 2013 parallels for no particular reason. Maybe the eBay vendor is a blogger too.

I also received a floating-head sticker:

I like stickers. But not that one. From that set (2012 Heritage), I'm only really interested in the #1 sticker it contains, the one sticker with a hat-less player by chance, Miguel Cabrera. I hope you have a double of that, and need Car-Go there to Complete Your Set!

I don't like wood paneling cards:

There's 38 more of those in my house already, before Andre showed up suspiciously close to the trade deadline, again via the eBay bonus route. The real ballplayer deadline. I will probably be trading baseball cards all year round now. I don't have a list of those 2012 minis, but I will one day. I will need some 2013 minis I am sure, whenever I find time to type in those lists.

In fact I will be on a mission to get rid of all the Wood Paneling I have. I am around wood all day at work, I've never been a fan of it on my baseball cards. So a miscellaneous lot of 2011 Heritage will get typed up with a list of minis, and I'll weigh up the shoebox of 87s to see how many pounds of cards are in it. About 3 I think.

Blah. Gypsy Queen, Floating Head stickers, and a Wood Panel card. Zero help to the Parallel Project. Unless you need them...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Then when you hit the ball, run!

Gazing around the card desk for a card to scan and I find this one. 'cuz I haven't figured out where to put it yet. Two catchers gazing up into the night sky at the same pop-up. It's a play at the plate, sort-of, technically. All that, and can I get a bag of chips with this? It might be a while before the ball comes down, I might need a snack.

I'm mostly divesting the random amounts of 2012 parallels I have. But I do really like the Surfin' Purple Teals. Where does that team play, you ask? That would be in Seattle. And here I thought it was too cold to surf in Seattle.

No point in going for a Team Set of them, as they only exist for Series One last year unfortunately. One of these days I have to figure out if 9 of them exist to make a pretty binder page. I also have Steve Delabar, possible All-Star from the Surfin' Purple Teals. Doubles, even.

And I'm mostly investing my time in organizing the Parallel Project. Using the Opening Day Blue-Foil cards, which look really good, is numerically challenging to cross-reference. Without lots of cross-referencing, I buy a parallel color I already have on that page. Twice so far.

But don't worry, my gaze takes in stacks of cards attached to probable blog stories. Base Set might have to call you back however, as I am about to head out to yet another underpopulated area of the United States to bid on some work for a week. This will involve some bits of prospecting I expect.

No, no, I won't be haunting Instructional League ball-parks with my secret stash of back-door superfractors and a fine-point sharpie, sweet-talking all those future first ballot hall-of-famers into making me rich before they get on the bus to Rancho Cucamonga.

When I travel I go spelunking for dusty gold in the form of old baseball card products that have been stuck in out-of-the-way little box stores for far too long. Which hopefully leads to unexpected card discoveries like that Miguel Olivio up there, who was rescued from a particularly dusty Toys-R-Us, a chain that never seems to take cards off their shelves not matter what. Though I would like to discover I'm wrong on that, and find the link to Geoffrey's secret clearance website with all his unsold baseball card blister packs. I mean, they gotta end up somewhere...

This time I will leave home with a stash of scanned cards ready for some babble-head action. And a wireless keyboard. Now if I just have a bit of cell service, though I might likely be just a bit outside...

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Italian God of Walks?

Can't say I've ever seen a League Leader card for Walks before. Well, at least not since I bought this card 12 years ago. And promptly forgot all about it.

Maybe this is one more reason the A's started building a team around OBP (On-Base Percentage) for the 2002 season, just after Giambi left to free agency. Of course, I only know that from the movie version of Moneyball. Haven't read the book yet, though I have been starting to lazily watch for a copy.

Speaking of Moneyball, I would think that movie would be an ideal toppic for a set of baseball cards. There is that one guy somehow involved with owning Topps who has a bit of Hollywood experience that you might have heard of that you would think could help with the right rights Topps would need. So many ways they could make cards referencing that movie.

Anyhow, was sorting some 2001 Topps doubles for a trade and found this one. I have about 3/4 of the set myself and will work on completing it later this year, so don't give your commons to the orphanage in Guadalajara just yet. Not my favorite set ever by any means. Dark color borders don't really appeal to me; in fact I think the scan looks better on my computer screen against a white backdrop than the real card does in my hand. They probably don't irritate as many people as bright color borders do, but they probably don't excite very many folks either.

And these cards are not aging well as the foil printing on the fronts (no foil on the reverse of the card, which is pictured above) blurs out increasingly over time on some cards, even in penny sleeves. Maybe they came in the packs that way, I can't remember. I probably just got pulled in for a year by the 50th Anniversary hoo-hahh. Actually, I do remember collecting in 2001 fairly well and have 4 different half-completed sets to show for it. I think I will just do a whole 2001: A Collecting Odyssey some other night.

But I like this League Leader card. I don't much care for the front of it. The National League lead jerk-face is on the other side of the card. I always liked his father so much more. How many cards feature two steroid players on one card? Oh, yeah, a whole bunch.

I have no idea if Topps has ever made a BB Leader card before or since. There is also a card for leading in Hits, and Slugging Percentage as well, another category I've never seen on a card. The two-sided approach is also unique (in my experience at least), with the National League Leader on the front and the American League guy on the back. It would have been more neat if whichever of the two led MLB would have been on the front. Of course the OCD collectors would probably complain about that though. Is it OCD for me to complain about the reverse?

Giambi is currently the active leader in walks across MLB, good for 33rd place All-Time. He is only the active leader because Jim Thome finally retired just last week. Betcha might've missed that news.

How does he compare to Youk? Pretty favorably. Youk's career has been much shorter and doesn't look like it will have much more length to it. But on the percentages about these things that get a little saber-ish, Giambi is much better at drawing the freebie, actually twice as good as league averages. Youkilis strolls down to first more than the average baseball player, but not quite as often as Giambi.

You know where to find all those numbers; way more numbers than can fit on a baseball card. Interestingly, Giambi led the league in walks in 2000 and onto this baseball card while only being intentionally walked 6 times. That jumped to 24 times in 2001.

Even more interestingly, Baseball Reference says Giambi led the American League in walks in the year 2000 with 137 walks. Topps says 134 here on my baseball card. I'd go with Baseball Reference. Though it is very unlike Topps to get a key stat wrong. But, then, it is very unlike Topps to put Walk stats on a card.

An Error Card. An Uncorrected Error Card I think. Woot woot, call the 90s!

How do you trade these things? #2

One of my recent trades arrived in a very interesting package. It wasn't a PWE, but it wasn't in a two-bucks-and-change bubble mailer either:

I was receiving just a single card; it arrived inside that mailer packaged in a top-loader.

The first thing I learned from this package was that I could find 5"x7" bubble-padded mailers if I tried a little harder. The 6"x9" size is much more common.

But of course what catches your eye the most is the price — just 92 cents. Double the price of a PWE, but less than half the price of the usual layer of protective bubbles.

Eureka! I thought. All I need is those smaller envelopes and I could cut my trade costs in half.

I got some trades packaged up in 5"x7" mailers ready to go and off to the Post Office I went....

...and each one of them would be the regular $2.07, I was told. Not one to get dismayed by an 0-1 count, I tried again, this time bringing the 92 cent proof of this possibility with me....

...and was promptly charged 67 cents. "This should have arrived Postage Due", I was told. They tell you things at the Post Office, and you listen. It's a rather one-sided place.

I asked them how I could have received a package like that without Postage Due, and why all my packages cost $2.07. They said the package pictured above had postage applied by a private postage meter, probably in an office. They also informed that only "flexible" packages are eligible for a First Class rate that low. Any envelope/package with a top-loader in it does not count as "flexible." They could not explain why the above package should have cost $1.59 total when all my other card packages cost $2.07 all the time. I had a distinct impression they don't know these things either; they just do what the screen in front of them tells them to do.

They were nice enough to take the 67 cent charge off my bill for the day. Which was nice, but this is one more adventure at the post office that will eventually get me to read that Bukowski novel about the crazy place.

I would be perfectly pleased to pay 67 cents in postage due on a baseball card trade. I say that because I know the Post Office people are too lazy to attach 67 cents in postage due to an envelope delivered right to my house. That would be like, work, or something. I'm sure they would do that in a heartbeat for something sent to my P.O. Box, but I don't trust them to cram baseball card packages into my P.O. Box.

I just wish I had access to my own postage meter to cut my bubble mailing costs in half. I see that my dribble of eBay packages starting to arrive only sometimes reveal the price of the postage: $1.12.

I think the next time I have less than a half-dozen cards to send out, I will try one of these mailers:

A small problem there is that it cost $1.24, but that was as a single at a Big Box store. I'm sure they would be cheaper in bulk at an Office Supply-type Big Box store. I predict the postage will be some totally new figure I haven't yet experienced.

And now let's look at a pretty baseball card. Talking 'bout the Post Office and scanning envelopes is boring, but I thought y'all might wanna know what I found out.

This came from the Wal•Mart edition of a blaster box of 2007 Topps Updates & Highlights, which contained a set of these. I also have Magglio Ordonez and a Tim Lincecum, though 'The Freak' might be on his way out the door; those two cards are in other rarely reprinted styles. This one explains "The front of this collectible card is based on the 1933 Tattoo Orbit design." Topps rarely misses a chance to point out that their near 9 square inch pieces of glossy card stock are "collectible."

Tattoo Orbit. You can just hear the Topps editor making picks for players to match with old-timey sets....'and Sheffield tattoos one into orbit.'

I'm not much of a fan of Sheffield, so, yah, that one's up for trade if anyone wants it. I remember listening to the last few games of the 2007 season to possibly hear the call on his 500th Home Run, but then I listen to every Tigers game I can, particularly at the end of the season when the expanded roster players are getting some time in The Show and you can start daydreaming about next year's starting line-up. Sheffield didn't hit his 500th till the next year anyway, when he played his final season with the Mets.

So there you have it, maybe discovering two little-known sets of baseball cards for clicking on just one blog post that didn't look too exciting ahead of time. Now if I could only get the nice people down at the Post Office to hand out some 2-for-1 deals.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I Don't Know, It Must Have Been The Roses

All I know I could not leave this card behind:

Pretty sure I've never seen roses on a baseball card before. I'm positive they have been on some college football cards, even though I have never seen a college football card and don't really ever want to.

I'm sure they are on some non-sports cards I have, and some I don't have.

I spent some time poking around the internet for some details on this photo, but couldn't find any. The Twins don't seem to have a solid color road alternate uniform, so this has to be from Target Field. I have seen some identical white grating in some photos of the ballpark. It figures that one of the friendliest, classiest states in the country, Minnesota, would decorate their ball-park so tastefully.

It would be great to know who hit what appears to be a Home Run here. Or maybe it is a new special subset of cards, the "Fan Interference" set. Can't say I've ever seen that on a baseball card either. Such a mystery here...what did the Umps have to say about this one? Let's just hope no roses were harmed.

That picture is of course from the short-prints distributed with 2013 Series One. The subset even had it's own name, and unifying theme - the "Out of Bounds" cards. The short-prints in Series Two have at least two different themes, and no name for the collection. The Out of Bounds image theme itself was not applied that consistently across the Series. Buster Posey's short-print image variation is the same exact action shot as Geovany Soto's regular base card, for example. But then when is Topps ever completely consistent?

I like the Series One cards, and am working on a set of them. I currently hold 5, with 2 more on the way. I bought my first one a few days ago - Andre Ethier, for only $3.50. I am hoping prices on them continue to drop. It will be a long time before I ever purchase the Bryce Harper card on this checklist, although I have his '12 Update short-print to miraculously find a trade partner for.

I got the Willingham card in a trade with the Chipp 'n' Dale blog; I'm pretty sure I approached James with an offer to trade for the Willingham. I can't recall if he posted having the Willingham available, or I just asked for any short-print he might have. I'll post a trade bait post of all the other non-'13 short prints I have up for trade eventually.

I would like to collect a complete set of the 'Sea Turtle' cards this year, across all the sets they appear in. But I know I never will, because I don't like non-baseball Baseball Cards. Press conference cards, San Francisco trolley cards, etc. If they were regular commons worth a nickel, sure, fine. Even a quarter, OK. After that there is just no way I am that collectorly of a collector to pay real money for a picture card that doesn't show someone wearing a baseball uniform.

The card I traded away to get the Willingham is probably worth more than the Willingham on both the supply & demand sides of the "what's it worth?" equation. It was from the 2012 Update set which theoretically would have a smaller print run than Series 1, though us lowly customers are never privy to the true production statistics of the overly expensive glossy picture cards we buy over and over again.

And I am sure the player I traded for will always have far higher demand for his cards than an OK outfielder who probably peaked in run production last year (which probably earned him a spot in Out of Bounds more than fielding prowess). Even though the card I traded away has great lurking clouds and is actually a nice card you can't help but like, I am very happy to have a baseball card with roses on it instead, and also have been thinking well how it will live happily ever after in all good company.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Is that a picture of a baseball player?

I'm not sure ... my eyes keep going crazy directions ... everything is all grey/brown out here in the desert ... I can't tell what I'm looking at ... wait, wait, tell me something ... oh, I think it, it's something from the United States of America, yes, for sure, I see the Stars-and-Stripes ... something from the lower 48 it appears ... too bad Alaska & Hawaii ... oh, hang on, I see something else ... it's, it's ... it's a baseball! Yes, yes indeed ... it's a picture of a baseball player ... on a piece of cardboard ... it's a Baseball Card!

A "Camo-Camo." I knew when I first heard of the Camo parallel I would want one of a Padre in their Sunday best. And I knew I would have to resort to the drudgery of simply buying one. So I finally threw in the towel and made an eBay account, cuz I kind of doubt anyone would trade one of these away. Sure, there are probably better Camo-Camos out there where the Friar pictured has more Camo on display, but I like the horizontal television-like cards with the more unique parallels. The E. Cabrera card has the Camo uniform on too, but shows so little uniform you would just get lost on Tatooine. Come to think of it, that would make an outstanding Camo-Camo too.

I just happened to run across this one first, so here it is. And here's the back. You know, you buy the baseball cards with the pretty pictures for the article of reading material on the back, right?

# 84 of 99. Hey, that's his memorial shoulder patch eBay 1 of 1, of course! I have it. The only one. You don't. I win.

The Parallel Project moves along. I finished posting the 2012 parallels I have available. That is mostly the end of what I can put on the trading block. I have a stack of the 2011 Cognac / Liquorfractor cards on reserve for a blogger, but if you have a want list of those I could check that stack. I haven't listed my 2011 diamonds because I really like the occasional "Beam me up, Scotty" bonus peeps in the background that have been diamond-ized. And I might chase a set of them when this crazy project is complete. I have to find good homes for all my extra cute little baseball cards somehow. Let's Trade!

Still to go is to putting together a want list for Series 2. The base set called me and told me it was time to get cracking on putting the binder pages together, so I could then put together the pages for the parallel cards on visual criteria, and I got that done last night. A random lot of Blue Sparkle crack is winding it's way towards me as I type. Once that arrives, I can assemble them along with the dozen.5 golds I have from Series 2 and put together the first Series 2 want list for the project.

Why I think I will start binder-izing those Series 2 parallels right now with this nifty Huston Street card. Hey, wait, where did it go? I can't seem to find it. It was just here a second go, right on the scanner. Oh-nooooooo Mr. Bill, it has escaped into the wilds of the card table of baseball cards. This could be a long Chase.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Parallel Colors of Baseball

Are obviously Red, White, & Blue:

I like seeing that on vintage baseball photos, for example on baseball cards:

An MLB logo patch card (plus lurking light-towers) ... ahhh, I have a vintage meme to chase.

Of course, great baseball cards can be all about colors too:

I've always thought it unfortunate that blue/red was never a color combo for '75 Topps. But I love this card anyway, with even more colors in the stadium seats. That background has always made for great cards, because they have great lines. As on the 2013 Jacoby Ellsbury card, somewhat of a rare image these days.

I've always been a '75 type collector. Mostly of course because that was the first set I ran smack into when I was a child. If that had happened a year later, perhaps I would be more fascinated with cards with generic player silhouettes on them instead of color framed cards.

Now I do like white border cards, and black border cards too. I dislike all of the wood border cards and plan to get all of them out of my collection eventually. Thought that might require selling off the 87s by the pound.

But mostly I like cards with color borders. I'm happy with even what you might consider garish combos that should have never been made:

I would have posted some other 1975 craziness, but Cey is the only '75 I own in this building as I type.

So I went with one of the new Archives Day-Glo parallels to illustrate my strange tastes. I have been looking forward to scanning one; my scanner makes them look light pink too. I could have worked longer on a nice photo, but hey, it's a holiday. Anyway, on this card we have a red uniform, some blue framing with a bit of yellow, and the ridiculous hunter safety orange border that has to be seen to be believed. I will be collecting these ... only the '72s, and will have a trade post on it in a week or so.

But I do like classically attractive baseball cards too, and I like it when team colors and card colors match up in ways I like. I enjoy the visual art of cards, as well as using them to keep up with baseball information. They are invaluable for listening to games on the radio.

So I really like this year's 'Sea Turtle' set, due to the tasteful use of primary colors on them. But given my love of color border cards, naturally what I like best this year are the parallels.

Everyone comments on the color-bordered parallels. Since I am writing about red, white, and blue on Red, White & Blue Day, I will stick to the red and blue parallels for today, and go back to discussing zany combos some other day. I'll try and use new Series 2 parallels as examples, so you jaded types have something new to see.

One thing I always see written about parallels is how nice a blue-team card would look on a blue-bordered parallel:

I don't really get that sentiment. How much blue do you want on a card? Andre Ethier's card in Series 1 has a bit more if you really want. I traded it away at the earliest opportunity. The Ellis card didn't turn out too bad though, compared to this one:

Ugh. We almost have a new contender for the reddest-card ever, though I don't think any card will ever knock the 1990 Ted Power card off the spot (my "None More Red" post), at least in my collection, probably only because there is no home crowd in the background. Though I prefer cards featuring any team's solid color alternate uniforms, and have posted them from Series 1, the teams with a red logo on this year's cards don't turn out that well with a red border.

Sometimes the conflicting thoughts about contrasting cards draw in teams that don't have anything to do with the color red:

I think the Sanchez card looks much, much better. The red border contrasts perfectly with all the blue portions of the Sanchez card, compared to the redundant blue all over the Avila card. The color of the Sea Turtle does vary at times though:

Cabrera's turtle is just a little bit lighter blue. The horizontal cards are clearly all from the same sheet as they always appear in packs together, and sometimes not at all. Packages with parallels such as the retail blasters, can feature 20 horizontal parallels. And then somehow that sheet gets a lighter tint on the turtle.

That can make or break a blue turtle blue border card in my opinion. And there is one exception to this, on the AL League Leader cards in Series 1:

There the much darker '13 main design element works much more nicely with the blue bordered parallel. Unfortunately, that dark blue isn't used on the league specific cards in Series 2 - the Cy Young, MVP, Rookie-of-the-Year, and new Defensive Player-of-the-Year cards. Mike Trout's award cards even get the normal red on all other Angels cards. The blue could have made those 2 cards stand out a little more. It's all about the details, Topps, the details.

In general though, I like the blue parallels the least, due to the washed-out near-pastel color used:

My scanner cut some of the top off there, not Topps. A bold primary blue with the red teams would have looked much better I think. Wal•Mart signs are a deep, deep blue after all. I will put together a set of Blue Red Sox, out of all the "red" teams. Sometimes I pick my personal subsets on the goofy names. Perhaps you can predict which team gets the purple treatment, aside from the Pirates. The red parallels are much closer to a primary red, and I think make sharper cards:

Bad scanner, bad. I like the Dodger cards with the red uni #s and the red borders. Red, White, and Blue cards, more so when they aren't in their road greys.

Now there are a number of Red, White, and Blue teams in the league that use both red and blue in their color schemes. Even the Nationals do this with their very nice alternate-blue uniforms. How well that works on cards depends on a few things. The Braves, for example, receive a red team logo with a blue sea turtle, so it is hard for me to really like their blue or their red parallels. Sometimes I pick a purple parallel for such teams as I assemble my parallel project, as Red + Blue = Purple. Subtle, huhh?

Overall though, this has been almost my favorite red border card this year:

A near-perfect classic. Bits of red and blue all through the crowd too. If only they had used that darker turtle...still a great card. You have to be optimistic to be a Cubs fan.

That one really puts the Series 2 Steve Lombardozzi card to shame - another Topps All-Star Rookie Cup card just ruined by a goofy image I don't want to post; you'll see it anyhow.

But I have found one other card that tops it in the Red, White, & Blue department. No, not the hard-to-come-by Opening Day Highlight cards that make Opening Day seem like the 4th of July that I have posted previously.

This one came from the Heritage retail parallel set, from Target. I got very lucky in that I specifically bought just one Heritage blaster at Target in hopes of getting one red border card to trade for it. I recently traded away my '13 Heritage Andrew McCutcheon short-print, and I already miss it. He gets such great cards. But I am cheered to know that there is a red border version, which I want very much. Very much like this one, which is on it's way to a new special set of special baseball cards I will display all together, and not because I happen to enjoy cloud cards:

That one's going in my Baseball Card Hall of Fame.