Sunday, December 7, 2014

Window Shopping #4

So I was asked to buy someone some cough drops. Look what happened:
It's Mickey Mantle! Hanging out in my drugstore in the 21st Century! How could I just leave him there hanging on a peg?

I am still working on a post about an Archives project I almost launched. But my next post would be a look at probably the final "repacker" I can cover, the most well-known = Fairfield. I have some repacks of theirs all stacked in a little pile to scan for you but it looks like I have run into a new package configuration they have out, so I thought I would look to see what's inside. And I pulled a card I can use in my Archives post, so that worked out. So let's get on to the baseball card product news - note the word "hit" creeping into the world of repacks. Should I buy 4 of these nice little boxes to guarantee I find a Sharpie® scrawl from some 19 year old who never even reached AAA? What if it has his Superfractor in there?

Uhhh, no. But c'mon and take a look inside with me...
I thought this was a nice card. I couldn't tell from outside the package but knew it was definitely pretty recent. The Heritage logo there in the corner explains it all; from the 2011 set. Nice smile there, Mickey. I also like the upper deck light towers all lit up in the sunshine, though the faux-headline is a little, well, not quite. I passed on another box of these with a different Mantle card from that year of Heritage, but I might go back for a fabulous Fleer insert on another "pack", and I did pick up another one of these for some other night I can blow off my collecting projects and hang out with you instead. That is my favorite project anyway.

So after we absorb the card that led to the purchase, what is the key first card?
Sweet! ¡Mi gusta los tarjetas beisbol en Éspañol! They help me learn Spanish and in particular baseball Spanish. I think these may have even been written in Spanish first - "Un gran favorito" would translate to a "A big favorite" I believe, but the "big" is dropped from the Ingles text. I also learn that "fan" in Spanish is the more detailed word "fanaticada" - Cool!

But what set is this from? Let's turn it over, cuz it did show up in the pack backwards (which I actually quite like) :
Whoa. A 1996 Pacific insert. All shiny foil backlit by a glowing volcano. And here I thought I was immune to the ooooohhhh, shiny appeal of 1990s inserts. These repacks are changing me … I guess when each card is a nickel, my standards slip. A lot. But I always liked Valuenzuela anyway.

I also pulled another insert I believe - maybe I did get the "hit" box:
I really like this card. I'm finding more old Mark Langston goodies all the time. I like cards with a section of the stands disappearing into the dark. And that leg/sock interlocking stripe combo is as perfect as it gets. This one's a keeper. Why do I think this is an insert?
I know exactly diddley about 1985 Fleer. I barely bought a few sample packs of Topps that year. But could this be one of the first runs of inserts? I would have to guess these were in packs but I've never heard of more than one set from Fleer in 1985, unless they maybe still had the stickers line going. ??? These repacks are like 3 decades of baseball card history, all in one go.

This next card I kind of remember from pulling in a pack. I went big on 1991 Topps:
I like this card but I still can't quite figure out how Scioscia got into this position in a game. A foul pop-up drifted back into the infield, fell fair at the last second, the ball had to be thrown to a base but went over the infielder's head off into the outfield, then Scioscia had to cover home for the throw back in for a runner coming home from third? Doubtful. But try and come up with some other scenario to create this action photo…quite mysterious.

This pack had two '91 Topps, and they were both great:
Ok then, Doug, four it will be. Definitely one of the more unique sorta "grip" cards I have.

By the early 90s, there was that new kid on the block, and the competition to write up some sort of new baseball cards was heating up:
Nice well cropped action shot. I have zero memory of Marquis Grissom. Absolutely zero until I bought this pack of baseball cards. I'd better check the back:
Now that's a card back. No need for useless info on where the player was born, just the straight up details on why Upper Deck would anoint him a "Best Baserunner" - solid. An enjoyable part of opening this pack but I'm not sure I really need to use up 1/18th of a binder page on this one.

I do however, have a page ready for this one, in my loopy mind at least:
None. None More Blue. That's a 1988 Score that the scanner really lit up. Maybe I should just collect these goofy things digitally. That set had a variety of frame colors the editor could pick from, as I've learned from these repacks. I think the idea of a little contrast was a bit beyond that particular editor though and he probably couldn't wait to put this one on the blue sheet that year. Few would accuse baseball card set editors of subtlety.

That card will have a companion on that so far pretty lonely binder page:
He even has a blue glove! Or at least a black glove that takes on a blue hue around this much blue. That has to be a Spring Training sheet-metal outfield wall somewhere.

I think I've seen this card on a blog before; my guess would probably be the fantastic Dime Boxes blog linked over to your right and back up towards the top. Nick is about to celebrate his blog's third birthday, be sure and stop by and fire him up for many more years of dime box finds like that one. I realized the other day this is a reason I like these repacks so much — they are my best chance to almost find cards as good as the ones Nick does.

But unfortunately, we now must return to 1988 Score. That's how the repack was packed this time:
Blarf. The yellow and red? No, I'm fine with colorful baseball cards, mostly. I just hate the term "Rookie Prospect". Players are prospects, then rookies. Though so much of "The Hobby" today is all about prospects, which I only take an interest in to mock, this careless term just shows a little lack of finesse on the part of Score. Everyone knows a major segment of baseball card collecting is people hoping to buy a card for a nickel and somehow sell it for thousands. I just hate it when the card companies cater to such non-love of the cards themselves in such a transparently crass manner. See: 2014 Topps Series 1 and 2.

I will say that I like the arrows on the 1988 there. A subtle reminder that a prospect rookie could be a bust, or could go on to the Hall of Fame, though I seriously doubt the designer had that in mind. The card hints at his workman-like future, noting in the lead-off sentence "Jody is not a spectacular player at short…" - maybe honesty is not the best policy on the back of a baseball card. Jody Reed had a very solid 11 year career, but of course in the world of baseball cards, that is a bust, and this card is now not worth the stamps it would take to send it to you, which wasn't the intent of creating it in 1988. Though of course you can have it if you would like to give it a loving home. At least this card was a subset rather than a "chase" insert type card that would still be equally worthless today.

But I just never warmed up to Score products. The little things weren't there for me I think.

I did discover a whole new manufacturer in this repack. When else could that be from but the 1990s?
That's your 1932 MVP Charles Herbert Klein, courtesy of the Ted Williams Card Company. I did not know that Ted Williams had a card company. I hope there are some blog posts out there on the whole history of that deal. I had to turn the card over to figure out just who this was; the back informs me that "Ted Williams and the card/invisible ink combination is a trademark of the Ted Williams Card Company." 

Uhh, yeah, I don't think you will have to worry about anyone stealing your idea of using invisible ink on baseball cards there, Ted. If you turn the card just right in the light, you can see that it does say "Chuck Klein" on the front. But whoever dreamed that idea up should never have been allowed into the presence of Ted Williams.

But speaking of kings of the diamond - 
Show me a baseball card collector who doesn't like pulling a Donruss Diamond Kings card and I'll show you a liar. Most likely. Though I'm sure in a hobby this full of cranky cranks, there is someone who doesn't like these cards, somewhere. Me, I'll be building another nice page of whatever random 9 of them I happen to pull first.

I just love how repacks completely randomly deliver the unique features of baseball card products of the past. I had never seen this one before last night:
Will I eventually take a look at all 26 baseball stadiums in 1992 in this weird sorta overhead, sorta panoramic view? Probably. Why? I don't know. I'm not sure Topps did either with these. The 90s - what can a collector say sometimes?

Other times, the 90s simply nailed it:
I'm not sure where I'll put this card. Probably with my favorite Umpires in action cards. What a fantastic shot. I was all prepared to rant and rave about this being on the back of the card. But the front of the card...
At first irritated me with the shade over Caminiti's eyes. But then the story of Ken Caminiti slowly came back to me. One of the darker players to ever play The Game - I recently read a nice mini bio of the results. His pictures frequently reveal an intensity not in a good way, and this card captures that too. 93 Donruss is a nice, understated design that was a bit of a return to their roots, which lets the pictures do the talking. And this one does.

White border designs really share a fair amount with full bleed cards:
I like full bleed in limited doses for the most part, but I just included that one as an example of a fantastic framing job of a great pitcher at full stretch. But I betcha never thought you would see Crocs on a baseball card :)

I'm not planning on launching any collections of 2008 Upper Deck though. Perhaps because of things like this:
Another nice enough card from 2008 Upper Deck, the final season for Maddux, during which he still led the league in a pitching stat - Walks / 9 innings! Which I just learned on Baseball Reference, but this probably isn't one of his actual sunset cards.

But that card pissed me off anyway. That little small line of text there under Maddux - "First Edition" - I'm not sure what that is. Probably something that was only in "hobby" boxes would be my guess. I'm OK with colorful parallels and some random gimcrackery from the card companies. But simply adding a line like this, to make obsessive collectors want to track down both the "First Edition" and a presumably regular edition like the Santana card just above: Nope. Straight ego strokes like that one are one of the maddening little idiosyncrasies of collecting that make non-collectors basically declare, out-loud: "STUPID" and aren't something that will ever help "The Hobby"'s appeal. The recent Donruss resuscitation from Panini included a similar stupidity with a "Press Pass" parallel #'d to 199 per card. It was the same as a base card, but with the words "Press Pass" stamped on the front. Collectors, well, they are just really, really dumb sometimes.

I pulled several of these "First Editions" in this repack, which I believe is a clue about the repacker here that I will return to shortly. One of them was quite acceptable to me despite the "First Edition" bullshit:
Bat Breaking Card! Not a Broken Bat card, that bat is busy being broken. Right now! Quite probably in the epic 2008 All-Star game - a perfect photo comment on that game. This one (like most of the cards in this post), is a keeper, fer sure.

Another now manufacturer-of-the-past that I only know through repacks (unlike Upper Deck), was TriStar:
This card intrigues me not because I have any idea who Ed Beasley was and it doesn't even give me a basic desire to ask the Internet and find out. Not even when the back of the card tells me that he is a past Cellular South Boo Ferris Award winner.

What I like about this card is the massive space given to the minor league team's logo on that eye-catching red field. This is their Prospects Plus release and I've already told you my thoughts on Prospects card too many times. Nevertheless a bunch of these with those prominent logos will look nice together, when I pull them from a repack one by one.

I'm also intrigued by that logo hidden in the scanned foil on the top left of the card, which reads "Pro Debut" - yes, just like the set that Topps does these days - with the same logo. MiLB must have created it and moved it over to Topps when they bought the exclusive baseball card license. This repack has almost every angle to the baseball card business.

But always a main attraction of a repack is 1990s craziness:
I think I've seen these odes to we-gotta-do-something-new-here-somehow on blogs before. Check this action out:
That's a 1999 SkyBox. Did every card in the set have baseball card poetry? Oh how I will be keeping an eye out for these. I think they will be pretty easy to spot:
Though it may be a little difficult to hold down desert looking at too many of these. These are technically SkyBox Thunder cards…and here I was about to accuse Pinnacle/Score of nakedly trying to cash in on the baseball card craze. This card just blows my mind…I probably should have saved it for a How Not To Do It post, but I dreamed up those for what is happening in the picture on the card, not an absolute disaster of baseball card design. The color green should be in exactly three possible places on a baseball card - the stadium grass, or an Oakland Athletics uniform, or the outfield wall.

And poems! I both can't wait and never want to see another one of these cards ever again.

This repack, like all Fairfield repacks that I have purchased, reveals their deep connection to the current baseball card distribution business:
A 2014 Baseball card in a repack? Yep. And one from the rarely seen Topps American League blister packs. Those must have really sold like turkeys this year to already be cut apart and sprinkled in to repacks. This actually makes sense, as Fairfield is a division of Excell, or vice versa, and if you ever purchase your baseball cards in the big red bullseye store you are probably familiar with the name as Excell is the company that keeps that critical baseball card aisle up-to-date for us. And thus gives them a definite outlet for all the unsold baseball cards.

Why Josh Hamilton is part of the 2014 Topps American League set is a complete mystery to me however. He hasn't appeared in an All-Star game since 2012 and has basically not been all-that at the game of baseball since he signed with the Angels. With fuzzy thinking like this, Topps…well, I sure wasn't ever going to purchase one of those cheesy blister packs even with the American League eagle finally being freed from the foil this year.

And this repack had another pack fresh 2014 card I would never own otherwise:
A 2014 Bowman. Not for me. To do all that frilly design work and then surround it with an ocean of white border? No thanks. Nice use of the team colors almost saves this one, which might actually be from the Draft Picks set or some other Bowman product I can't keep track of as the card # is BP34 for some reason that doesn't interest me enough to find out.

Thankfully, repacks rarely linger in the 21st century very long; the glossy cards soon run out and we head back to nice soothing cardboard:
Another nice example of Fleer trying to be useful on the backs of the cards. The difference in day and night batting averages used to be extremely difficult information to come by, before the Internet, though I've always been fascinated by that split as it was said to reveal which players partied the most = poor performances in the day games. 

That card is from the 88 set, a very pleasant design I will consider with the other occasional use of diagonals by card designers altogether some late night. I'll also be looking at all of their card-back efforts together some day, which will include this common take on the #s of the game:
Who has the conditioning of iron to produce all season long? 1989 Fleer knows. It's unfortunate that such an intriguing stat is on the back of one of the contestants for worst baseball card design ever, though that one does have a kind of neat picture you can click around on COMC to see on your own time. I have a stack of cards to blog about yet, including this ultimate mystery card:
A full bleed portrait, likely from a live game - quite brooding. Who created this one?
Absolutely no clue here. Though of course "Star Prospects" is always a bit of an oxymoron except of course to greed-obsessed baseball card collectors. But what else could illuminate the over supply of baseball card manufacturers than baseball cards that don't even reveal who made the card for you to collect? This card leaves me with a hunch that even The Mob took note of baseball card mania and cashed in with some cash-purchased photos, a no questions asked printing shop, and a crew of guys selling baseball cards outside of the stadium whenever they weren't busy selling bootleg t-shirts at rock concerts. And their inevitable unsold inventory? Off to the repacker just like the rest of the failed baseball card companies.

Aside from the occasional head-scratchers you might find in any repack, they are also enjoyable to look for cards you think someone else might like:
I definitely have a well-known blog in mind for that one.

And repacks can also be very good for Player Collections at times:
Another card for my Fred Lynn player collection that is coming along in slow motion. I'm no fan of '88 Donruss at all, but I like the orange birdies on baseball cards and I figure if I go for a complete collection of Fred Lynn baseball cards I'm looking at maybe 3 doubled up binder pages, tops, as he played before the insert era really got rolling. Though I'm probably way off on that pleasant thought as he played into the early 90s and such a simple collecting goal is probably doomed.

A much simpler pursuit will be my 2nd build of this set:
The oldest card in the pack … and the first card in my new set to collect, 1980 Topps. I love how the scanner really lit up this rare warm-up jacket baseball card. One more year back and someone could maybe say I pulled a Vintage card from a repack, which would probably make most of us feel old. But what if each repack guaranteed an actual Vintage common of some definition, rather than 1:4 with "Hits?" I know what would happen when I went to the check-out counter…

Ahh well, as soon as you drift down memory lane too far, Fairfield will lead you back to the present, always glossy day:
I like this card because I like cards with signatures on them, and I like a good framing effort like this one. I also like black border cards though the 2007 effort left a lot to be desired in those corners. What was up with that? Anyway, I only included this card in the post to contrast how this same card would look if the 2014 editor was in charge in 2007:
Hey, look, my first Custom!

And you thought I was into these repacks for the old cards, to take my mind off world of baseball cards today. This card certainly did:
3D Action! I like these cards.  I would not be bummed to find a repack half full of just Sportflics. I like how they identify the "Relief Pitcher" for you, can't say I can recall that on any other baseball cards. But I suspect I would only ever find one Sportflic issue in each pack (I'll find out soon…) and this card was carefully placed in the repack, along with this one:
An iconic baseball card after the mania for The Iconic Baseball Card two years prior. I have pulled this same card from another Fairfield repack, though it isn't quite my first "double" in a repack, which is really quite a crazy concept when you think about pulling random baseball cards from across 30 some years. I think Fairfield might have a little stack of these from a special running of the presses like Upper Deck used to do.

But I am glad to own that one, and if you would like the other copy just say the word. I am also happy to own this one:
So few baseball card portraits are quite this pleasing to absorb. I like the multiple positions, the hints of Florida off in the distance there too, and this nice find on the back:
Babe Ruth trivia! On a Boston Red Sock card…Topps was working carefully this year of baseball card construction.  I could care less that the machine didn't cut it right.

Hey, look, it's a Pop-Up Card:
No, wait, it's a Bunt Card:
I don't collect either such card meme from that far back, though I do set aside any Bunt Card from 2011 going forward, as they are so rare these days. There are probably dozens from the 90s and if you need this one, it's yours.

This repack has certainly led me all over the recent history of baseball cards, and the random juxtapositions led me to insights about baseball card design:
Ugh. I will just note that that wasn't my scanner blobbing up that streaky green in the image; Topps did that. I only post this second terrible green card in this pack, as it made me notice something about this card:
It just seems like the 1991 Donruss card designer thought, hey, Topps just randomly added colors to the border last year, I can do that too. Though you perhaps are wondering about those eyes on that card…in-hand you will demand they quit looking at you, now. Just, not right. You'll see when you pull this one some day.

Donruss wasn't the only card I noticed borrowing from another manufacturer the year before (the above card owes more than a little to 88 Fleer). First, Donruss went bold with red in 1990:
And Fleer was right in their foot-steps the next year:
I like the Yellow Cards. I think the baseball just left the frame here, or Dwight Smith can bunt without gravity making him fall down. Quite a nice frozen-motion live game shot there. Though Red is generally more arresting than Yellow, I don't think I will ever put together a starting 9 from 1990 Donruss. 1991 Fleer, yeah probably. I like their backs too - more yellow.

Now it wouldn't have been the 1990s without some baseball cards you just can't figure out:
What IS that?
I'm thinking Ricky doesn't want to run the bases with an extra heavy duty shinguard, but that's all I got. Not enough unique mystery to put in with my regular What IS that? series.

The more I worked my way through this repack, the more it offered up samples of the designs I like most. Only repacks will lead me to a bigger pile of scan-it-for-you cards than the what-do-I-with-this-junk-card-now pile, and this repack had two more such Keepers:
I like '86 Donruss quite a bit sometimes. The diagonals are strong and this photo works perfectly with the design. The classic Yankees icon and the design colors all work well. It's a shame that they bought so many photos either shot in late-afternoon games-of-the-week, or just simply from a photographer that couldn't get his subjects lit up all that well. I'm mostly content to "collect" older sets as they come to me at random in these repacks, but I think I might purchase a few packs of 1986 Donruss one of these days.

This repack also had a very timely card for a post and collecting decision I'm working on:
Ortiz' swing is so strong here it has done moved the main image up into the corner of the card. I like 1985 and have been starting to price some lots of commons of them. Will I pull that trigger? I'm not sure yet. I am a sucker for Mets cards with plenty of Orange on them. But logo cards, sometimes…we'll see. Right here on this blog, pretty soon I hope.

I do think Fairfield constructs these repacks carefully, because I doubt you would pull these 3 cards from a random mass collection, sequentially, like I did:
I think I've seen this Ryan card on a blog before as well as an example of some of the most piss-poor card construction ever. The back doesn't improve things much:
He drives: A pickup.

Ouch. I think for a change I really would rather read "Nolan's finest game for Mets was vs. Phillies 4-18-70."

But it was kind of cool to pull 3 Hall of Famers in a row. I don't think that was an accident. Thanks, Fairfield.

I can't thank them, or Upper Deck, for this card though:
Some parts of the game, well, we just don't need them on baseball cards.

These repacks though, they never cease to amaze:
I think I just found the second wood paneling card I will allow to live in my house for everafter. I might even poke around for a really high graded example. Brewers in purple and yellow? Do the Packers fans know about this? I've never seen their gear look quite so, Viking-like. Royal Blue? No, someone from Minnesota has done infiltrated this card. I love it. Dave Winfield appears to be impressed as well.

Looking into the official names of those Vikings colors there, I discovered that the classic Brewers logo up there on the top left is a lowercase 'm' and 'b' - not just a baseball glove. All these years…..I'm not that clever.

Ahh well, one way to know you are lost in a Fairfield repack is they regularly reach over to the stack of 1980s Topps mail-in glossies to end the pack:
Every once in a while these do impress me. Ron Gant, meh. But I have a nice little stash of these to share with you some other time. I perhaps should have broken this up into two big posts instead of one really too long post, but I was having too much fun with all these baseball cards. Now though, I gotta run … I have another repack to open!


  1. I'd pounce on any repack showing a Maris/Mantle card in a second.

  2. The Langston are from one of Fleer's boxed sets - in order to capitalize on the baseball card collecting boom, Fleer and Topps would produce 33 or 44 card box sets to be sold at retail stores, drug stores, et al.

    The sets would be filled with stars, but were also plentiful, so no long term value - just neat card to go through I guess.

  3. Wow, I would've jumped on that repack as well. I believe the Mantle/Maris card was a National Convention exclusive card, so right there you may have recouped your initial investment (and maybe more).

    I'm guessing that the Matt Williams card is from an unlicensed "Broder" set. I'm always amused when these pop up in repacks.

    1. Hey there, thanks! I stopped by and picked up the other Mantle pack. They have #s 591 & 594, just assumed they were from the High #s set and fairly common. The pack I bought with the Mantle was also fronted by a $5 card…and I pulled a couple more $5 type cards inside these. Who would have thought repacks could pay for themselves?

      A little bummed I missed the fact that I posted two Dwight Smith cards and didn't even notice…up too late on that one.

  4. I think only Sky box Thunder had poetry, but it was damn funny. Lots of apostrophes...

    First Edition is its own set, not a parallel. It was Upper Deck's version of Opening Day.