Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas, to Me

And - You! Merry Christmas everyone, thanks for stopping by.

The Holidays are a great thing for me and one of the great things is a nice (eventual) surplus of Free Time, which for me sometimes means: Baseball Cards. The perpetual To Do list is at a somewhat low point right now so I can hang out with y'all some this afternoon.

This was a pretty good year at the Base. After almost 20 years of being 100% Self-Employed, I took a job with my #1 customer over the last decade or so. I have been kidding my friends that in the long run, I will finally be able to work only 40 hours a week. But in the short run, time requirements went way up as I am still wrapping up some previously agreed upon jobs with my customers, which will have positive benefits for us, meaning my new employer, in the future. All while prioritizing their needs. I am now a full time Seed Collector (woody plants only), and without seeds, my employer doesn't have a product. Meanwhile, seeds don't just sit around and wait for you to come get them. They fly away, or get eaten. The result was basically zero time to attend to the stacks of cards on my desk.

But a wonderful other result is a better income that I can discretionarily apply to, you guessed it: Baseball Cards. And as a result I had a wonderful Mail Day just 2 days ago, a bit surprisingly given the shipping season. Maybe with so much material moving as packages, one still arriving with the little envelopes in old time "snail mail" is actually a bit more fleet of foot these days, I guess. We'll get to the wonderful new card in just a is not the card at the top of this post.

The problem began at the very genesis of my thought to create an "all-parallel" set of 2013 Topps. That flowed from backing off from an original thought of attempting to collect a set of the "Blue Sparkle" / "Wrapper Redemption" cards. (Sadly, my own attempt at receiving some by sending in wrappers Back in The Day was sunk by mailing them too late, sigh, work.) I quickly realized that I just wasn't that into the "Blue Team" Blue Sparkle cards, like this one:

Even though I am quite amused by players in the background of the various "Sparkle" parallels, as on this card - "Beam up the Catcher, Scotty, I don't think he's gonna make it." A pity the Umps didn't really sparkle; must be Klingons or something.

But given the 2013 Topps design, a blue-on-blue-card just washes out the key "Team Color" design element. The Blue Team Blue Sparkles just don't offer much, especially compared to all the other possible color combinations.

Now I know a lot of people like team color parallels; for example-
Overall still an enjoyable concept on scores of other Baseball Card designs, but on 2013 Topps, a bit not so much. The same thing happens with the Blue Team Emerald parallels such as the card at the top of this post; on those, the effect is more pronounced in-hand and in indoor, less-than-sunlit conditions; scanning a blue team Emerald improves the situation at least a little.

So right from the start of creating the all-parallel set of 2013 Topps, I ruled out certain color combinations, such as no "Red Team" Target Red parallels, as well as the ones shown above, and a few others, some more absolutist than others I must confess.

This can make for pretty tricky binder pages to complete — my color combo rules for the set are used on a one page basis. These painted-myself-into-corner rules are a huge problem on one page in particular:

Gah! 7 Blue Team cards.

Sticking to the construction rules, the Blue Team cards have the fewest possible choices to pick from. Target Red, Topps Gold, Pink, Factory Set Orange are the four best; easy choices. Topps Black and ToysRUs Purple are less desirable (not much "pop" contrast) but still necessary sometimes as there are more than a few pages with 5 Blue Team cards. The blue "Sea Turtle" pattern is the most common, used for 12 teams.

What's going on with the Sea Turtle blog linked all around you? That one is in the shop for a re-build. But it shall return; it is essentially my own little book about the 2013 Topps set and I very much look forward to working on it, someday, when I do work only 40 hours a week.

So, 7 Blue Team cards, uggh. What to do? A ToysRUs Purple or Topps Black looks best with a team color icon that is not blue, such as the Justin Heyward card here. That takes care of one slot, 6 to go. The 4 usual go-to patterns, check. But, still 2 cards left!

Some very rare options exist: the "Silver Slate" parallel that came mixed in with the "Blue Sparkle" wrapper redemption packages; those were printed in an edition of /10. Not fun to track down, but not impossible. A deeper problem is: very boring. The Sea Turtle pattern becomes a foil with no more Team Color, on a thick grey cardboard frame. I had a few of the cards from a trade and initially used them on a few pages for variety, but since the point of the project is Full Color, a monochromatic parallel eliminating color seemed kind of pointless. Still it seems best to include at least one representative of the type in the project, and this is the perfect page for that.

However, I need 7 acceptable combos on this page. Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object! I have not attempted to purchase cards for this page yet, beyond designating the Heath Bell card for Blue Sparkle and the Jon Jay card as a WalMart Blue. That's because there is one remaining solution: the Platinum:

I never thought this would happen. I was hoping to find any one of 7 1/1 Platinums of 2013 Topps Series One, and I had never seen one for sale, ever. If I had started this project in the actual year of 2013, I might have had a chance, I thought.

Instead I just always let this page languish in my way convoluted "want list" for this project. That one is also in the shop for a thorough tear-down as several dozen new parallel Sea Turtles are due to arrive soon, courtesy of the COMC Black Friday sale, so don't bother clicking on that link right now.

Well over a year ago now, the above card appeared for sale on eBay. Hooray!

Nope. It was listed with a price about a full TWELVE TIMES what I estimated the card would sell for if allowed to "let it ride" via auction, though I was prepared to, maybe, go to about 2x that guesstimate, and I was very nervous about that desire and what I would do, if I could.

Trying to make realistic offers to the seller became pointless. Every offer would be met by a counter-offer; one reason I don't wish to collect even "two digit" Baseball Cards is I just want to buy cards, not endlessly haggle over them. And then in the end, ultimately haggling with yourself — a routine part of "collecting," of course, but I would rather be content with just collecting worthless Baseball Cards, which arrive much more free of inner conflict.

Finally the seller gave up, and simply offered the card for about 3x my view of a likely auction price. How many Yonder Alonso Player Collectors are there in the world? Probably, none.

But given the odds of ever seeing another one of those particular other 6 2013 Topps Baseball Platinum 1/1 parallels, which are very, very near to zero, I pulled the trigger. I am both happy, and a bit disappointed, in that I paid for something to own at a price I could never possibly attain for the same object, ever again, which is not the norm with purchasing Baseball Cards that are actually worth money, unless you are "prospecting," a gambling activity I don't partake in. 

I will, however, thoroughly enjoy this one, a bit more so once it is freed from it's plastic grading prison, but most especially once it anchors down a beautiful page of all-colors 2013 Topps Baseball. 


Thursday, December 14, 2023

Warming up to the Rookie Debut


Sometimes when collecting Baseball Cards, my feelings about this or that type of card can begin to change. This has happened to me now with the Rookie Debut cards, a concept used by several manufacturers and in different ways across decades now, but is one most commonly thought of as part of each year's Update set.

This year I pulled that nice representative of the genre shown above, and I was pretty happy to see it. But that was because this card will be part of my collection of "Detroit Stars" cards showing players wearing that uniform, formerly used in the Negro Leagues. Detroit does this annually and this routinely shows up on Tigers cards. Riley Greene will probably be the starting Center Fielder in my eventual Detroit Stars All-Stars selection that you may see right here, some day. Like all of my Baseball Card projects, it is a very slow motion project. But that card moved it along a little bit.

That was the 4th Tigers RD card of the last few years, after they only had 2 players appear on them in the 2010s. Ten years, two players; 14 years, six players. Yes, Tigers Rookies have been that non-remarkable; so non-remarkable that they received a lot of high draft picks and thus Rookies with enough potential to merit a Rookie Debut card eventually did start to appear for, My Team.

All that was just one reason I have never been particularly interested in these cards. Recently, I came across a page of these I assembled ten years ago now:

That's from 2012 Update, a set I bought a whole lot of though I no longer remember/understand why. Probably just because I could buy it regularly at 40% off, the next year. But at the time it went into binder pages, I made a lot of side collections that definitely started my thought to just collect cards in bunches of 9 — a single binder page. You sharpies probably recognize that 1 card is missing from that year's mélange:
Now that's a fun card thanks to the image selected, though its moxie is lessened some by its use on several other Bryce Harper Rookie Card cards in 2012. It was also a bit of an "It" card at the time, iirc, because of the weird way Topps handled creating Bryce Harper Rookie Card cards, by inserting a card in packs of Series Two as a deliberate Short Print, as well as placing it in Factory Sets of the Topps Baseball set that year, in 2 versions, though neither of those are the card shown above. Confused yet? Maybe that card explains why I have pert near 3 complete sets of 2012 Topps Update, but then I am easily confused sometimes.

In short, it was hard to simply "pull" a nice Rookie Card card of an exciting Rookie that year, by simply purchasing a pack of Baseball Cards, until Update came out with that there Rookie Debut Rookie Card card. Which has now become a $25 card, so that card just made the rare journey from a binder page to a toploader, as I am no longer deeming 2012 Topps Update quite worth the shelf space in its full 330 card edition.

Now while you are daydreaming about the status of potentially having a Bryce Harper Rookie Card card that is actually worth actual money in your collection, you have already forgotten all about those other 9 cards in the 10 card Rookie Debut checklist in that set. Even though 2 or perhaps 3 of those Pitchers Pitching cards are for players still pitching in the Major Leagues, none of those cards are particularly remarkable or memorable, particularly when mixed in several hundred other action image Baseball Cards.

And as it turned out, that was the last time I ever assembled a year's complete class of Rookie Debut cards, or even specially saved any of them aside from lucky pulls of parallels of really good players' RDs. 

A few years later, I did stumble across one of these cards that is far and away the best Rookie Debut card I have ever seen -

I have long doubted I would ever see a Rookie Debut card this good ever again. A fresh young Boston Red Sock, making his Major League Debut in the very heart of the Evil Empire. Maybe even as he emerged from the dugout to take the field for the very first time in the bottom of the first inning — that is how I always imagine this one. The gravity of this in the life of young Mookie Betts is clearly captured in the photograph; this is also one of my favorite horizontal cards of the 2010s.

But that card always felt like one of those exceptions that proves the rule: Rookie Debut cards are usually boring. See above, outside of that dynamic Bryce Harper base running card.

If only I could be certain that the image on a Rookie Debut card was from a rookie's debut game, on every Rookie Debut card. That, would be cool.

This year, there has been a big development in this genre of Baseball Cards, initiated by the new owners of Topps. That would be the official Rookie Debut patch:

These weren't placed on rookie's uniforms so viewers at home could tell which player was the rookie debuting that day. They were put there to become a valuable piece of sports memorabilia: a Baseball Card.

These patches are given to Topps after each game for use in a specially constructed card including the whole patch. One card, per player, a 1/1 in Baseball Card lingo of course.

I believe the concept has an origin in one of the sports for which Panini issues cards, not sure, don't care. The whole idea of the ego stroking involved in owning a 2.5" x 3.5" piece of memorabilia that no one else can have or enjoy, only - Me, me, me, it's mine, all mine, Not Yours! — is just not how I enjoy Life. It's just an alien psychological concept, to ME.

These cards finally did appear several weeks ago now, in packs of 2023 Topps Chrome Update. The card for Anthony Volpe, the new Yankees Shortstop every Yankees fan hopes will be the next Captain, like every player they try at the position, commanded a $100,000 "bounty" offer for whoever pulled it. As I so often do, I mostly just wondered if anyone would bother assembling a set of Topps Chrome Update and place it into binder pages to enjoy forever and ever. Probably someone has, but I doubt very many collectors have done it.

Despite all these lottery ticket shenanigans that involve throwing lots of Baseball Cards straight into the trash, I was pretty intrigued by this whole concept because I thought it gave Topps a nifty opportunity to liven up this weird little sub-genre of Baseball Cards called the Rookie Debut card: they could use a picture of the rookie wearing the special debut patch, and put it on his Rookie Debut card. That, would be cool.

So I was definitely looking forward to seeing if Topps could figure out this seemingly obvious possibility when I purchased some boring old 2023 Topps Baseball Update, which didn't have six figure lottery winning cards inside. I'm just not into the 2023 Topps design enough to want Chrome versions of it.

And, there it was:
A picture of Anthony Volpe, taken at the very first MLB game he ever played in, as confirmed by that patch there on his right shoulder:

Now that, is cool. Even though I always root against the Yankees, and have no desire to "collect" this card by keeping it in some special place like a binder page, and suspect that Volpe will ultimately disappoint a majority of Baseball Card collectors by just being a decently good everyday Shortstop for several years, which is very boring, in Baseball Cards. Topps used this concept to their, and our, advantage, outside of just using it to sell extra boxes of lottery tickets, err, 2023 Topps Chrome Update.

I was soon checking every Rookie Debut card I pulled to see if this would continue. 
This card is clearly intended to complement the Volpe card, with a rarely-seen-on-cards image from the pre-game National Anthem. There was a run of these cards in Opening Day, I think it was, about a decade ago; I would not at all be surprised to see Topps recycle it and am perhaps a little more surprised that the idea is taking so long to repeat. Expect it to be used on a hard-to-pull insert for collectors to "chase." I won't be one of them.

The Casas card may or may not be from his first game in September of 2022, though I suppose I could check the Getty database to find out. Which I don't really want to do — I want Topps to confirm this for me by using a picture showing that MLB Debut patch. But for Triston Casas, that isn't possible since there were no such patches used in 2022.

So, I kept looking -

yup, there it is:

This is an especially good Rookie Debut card again because of the image selected, even though it is not the most flattering look at newly minted MLB player Edouard Julien. Topps Card Back Writer comes through here, perfectly: "Julien caught an early-morning flight from Triple-A Indianapolis to Minnesota on April 12, 2023, arriving in time to start a matinee against the White Sox."

Cool. I don't know what I am going to do with that card, because I don't collect Minnesota Twins cards nor desire to own a complete set of 2023 Topps Update. But I definitely won't forget that Red Eye card and eventually I will pull more Edouard Julien Baseball Cards and I will be carefully checking them to see how his career turns out. I have no memory of him from the Tigers playing the Twins this year, but that's why I collect Baseball Cards.

I only managed to find one more example of the MLB Debut patch appearing on a Rookie Debut card -
A player I have been looking forward to seeing on Baseball Cards; I presume his regular Rookie Card card is in Update too. His card in 2023 Big League is best forgotten.

There could be more of these perfectly matched images on this year's Rookie Debut cards, I don't know yet. I probably won't be buying any more Update though I now occasionally see recent blasters for prices below $20, so I might get the urge to open a little more of it, on the down cheap/low, later on.

Finding these examples of this cool new wrinkle in Rookie Debut cards might even make me assemble a page of these, once again. I think there are usually far more than 10 of these in an average Update set these days; I just don't pay that much attention. If it could turn out that 9 of the RD cards show off the little patch, yeah, that would be great.

And along the way to pondering all these players playing in their first Major League game, I started wondering — what if Topps has been using images from the debut game on the Rookie Debut cards, all along? I still wouldn't get that excited about the debut of some other team's pitching prospect, surely destined to eventually be a failed starter and then a middle reliever seen on Baseball Cards a whole once every 5 years. 

But, just in case, I had to get a little un-lazy and do a check-in on just what uniform Riley Greene was wearing the day of his Major League Debut, 17 months ago. And there it was:

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 18: Riley Greene #31 of the Detroit Tigers bats during his Major League debut game against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on June 18, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Rangers 14-7. The Tigers are wearing throwback uniforms honoring the Negro League Detroit Stars. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)