Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Gifts...So Far

At my age, I really don't ask for much when it comes to Christmas gifts (if at all...nobody asks). Anything will do for me now. In the last few years, however, I've had to re-think that philosophy.

A couple of years ago, I received a Magic 8-Ball for Christmas. I was gracious upon receiving it and if I can find it, will put it on the Bay...eventually.

Last year, along with gloves that didn't fit, one of the gifts I received a DVD about bartending. With me looking for work, I thought, why not. I don't really drink, but always wanted to learn.

This year, I actually received something that I could use. A notepad for my little office. I was happy with this one as I could now use the notebook instead of scrambling to find a piece of paper to write things down. My younger siblings-in-law pooled some funds together to get their married siblings Google Chromecast devices. These are the things you plug into the television and then you can link it to the computer or cell phones to watch whatever it is on the screen on the TV. It's a really great thing. I'd love to use it.

The problem? We don't have a TV that can use this. So, either I re-gift, beg one of my sibs for a TV, or trade it to one of my in-laws who could actually use it. Options, options, options.

This year, I've decided that all I want for Christmas is a 5-inch D-ring (or flat ring) binder and a box of Ultra-Pro Platinum 9-pocket pages. That's it. That's all I need. Anything else would have been a bonus.

Last week, my son and his classmates made their pilgrimage to the Dollar Tree store to buy presents. Last year, he bought me a coffee mug, which I still use. This year, I requested something different. I wanted baseball cards.

You see, all over Facebook, people were saying that the Dollar Tree stores have been selling packs of baseball cards for a penny. That's right, one cent. And many of these same people were finding short prints, sometimes SSP's in these packs. Now, let's get something straight here. The packs they sell at the Dollar Tree are just of base cards. No inserts, no relics, no autos. Just 5 base cards in a pack. AT A PENNY! Cards haven't been sold at this low of a price since the 50's.

The problem was that I wasn't sure that the deal was still going on, or that the store near me was even in on the promotion. So just on a whim, I told Taylor I wanted something from Topps. And when he came home with the gifts wrapped, I could tell that he only bought one pack for me. That's fine, I thought. The sale must be over.

Today, I opened my pack of 2013 Topps Series 1 cards. I'll get to what was in the pack in a moment. His receipt was included with the pack. Sure enough, the pack of cards cost...ONE PENNY!!!

That means for a dollar, he could have bought me one hundred packs. But when he went to the register, he didn't notice this. So, he got my present for one penny. Oh, well. At least now I know what I'm going to be doing tomorrow...

Anyway, here are the cards that were included in the pack:

  • #6 Ryan Howard, Phillies
  • #252 Dustin Ackley, Mariners
  • #76 Brandon Inge, Athletics
  • #278 Christian Garcia, Nationals
  • #299 Darwin Barney, Cubs
Score one Cubs card. Loved Darwin Barney during his time here. I was hoping that he, Castro, and Rizzo would become the next Dunston-Sandberg-Grace infield of the late '80's through early '90's. But he was traded to the Dodgers last summer. I wish him well.

Getting a Ryan Howard card a few years ago would be a great thing. Now, eh? Ackley is only 26, still has time to develop into the star that the Mariners are hoping for. Like the Inge card, but really, if you didn't know who he was, this card could have been of anybody. Christian Garcia is a Free Agent after the 2014 season.

Love the presents so far. Can't wait to see if there is more to come. Merry Christmas to you and your kin.

Now go back and celebrate with family. I know I will.


JayBee Anama

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Time Again...Fa La La La La

'Twas the day before Christmas, and I shut down my work computer, I look around the house and notice that it's been a bit of a subdued celebration. It wasn't long ago that the kids wanted toys and games under the tree. This year, "just give us gift cards...we'll figure out what to buy."

Ho, ho ho.

Oh, don't get me wrong, the tree is still standing (after a couple of collapses, it was a miracle that we found a stand that could hold the tree), but with all four of us running non-stop, decorations that we had up in the past are still in boxes. Maybe next year, we'll use them.

While it's already happening elsewhere in the world, tonight, we prepare for the birth of Jesus with Christmas Eve Mass (we've been to two Simbang Gabi's already) and then dinner at my brother's (and that's unless the lady with four kids and one just ready to arrive tells us that it's time to go...long story).

In the meantime, with the kids getting older, having to shop for them has been a bit easier. They already know what stores they want to go to, so we'll either give them the cash or the gift card and they're done. My wife and I on the other hand will just do our shopping when the time is right (probably after the holidays are over).

On behalf of my family, I hope you and yours have a very good Christmas. May you find the cards you need in your stockings and may we all add to our ever growing collections in the coming new year.


JayBee Anama

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hey, Did I Mention That the Sell Sheets for 2015 Topps Series 2 Were Live? I Didn't?

So it's been a busy month, well it's been a busy year for me. The Hobby and this humble, little blog took a bit of a backseat as other things took priority. But apparently in the madness of it all, Topps released images of the sell sheets for 2015 Topps Series 2.

Take a look at what we get to look forward to just a bit after the 2015 baseball season gets underway:

Wait, wasn't the S1 sell sheet 10 pages? This is only 7.

Series 2 also contains 350 cards, meaning that the base set now stands at 700 cards, the first time the base set has surpassed 660 since 2006. That's 40 more players (possibly) getting cardboard love (that, or it's a 40-card retrospective of Derek Jeter's the base set...don't quote me on it). Gold, Rainbow foil, Snow Camouflage, Black, Pink, Framed, Clear, Red, Blue, Platinum, and other color parallels will be thrown in for those who love that sort of thing.

I'm starting to like the look of the base cards. While it isn't a white bordered set (the first since 2007), it looks like each player's card will utilize his team's base colors. I can't wait to see these cards up close:

Of the six insert sets being included with Series 2, only one carries over from the first, that being the Highlight of the Year set (30 cards). The rest are new for 2015, and they focus on more on baseball's history (maybe that's the theme for 2015 as I don't really see anything close to a unifying idea):
  • Eclipsing History (15 cards), record breakers. The two-player card features the player that set the record, and then the guy that broke it.
  • Heart of the Order (20 cards), featuring sluggers and the players who bat in front of and behind him.
  • Stepping Up (20 cards), clutch moments...another baseball history concept
  • 'Til It's Over (15 cards). Taking the famous line from Yogi, "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" this set features "Legendary comebacks."
  • Baseball Royalty (25 cards) is a Hobby and Hobby jumbo pack exclusive (translation, you're not going to find these at your big box store). This year's edition of the legends set.
Autographs, relics, and the like for each of the above insert sets will be included.

With all of the off-season transactions, it will be interesting to see many of the players with their new teams. It kind of makes sense to do this in Series 2, not so much in Series 1. Of course, they could just save it all for the Update set.  Which, if we follow the timing of the release of the first two series' sell sheets, we will probably see previews for some time in March.


JayBee Anama

Sunday, December 14, 2014

RIP Sy Berger 1923-2014

Sy Berger, the Father of the Modern Baseball Card

Just saw the news today that Sy Berger passed away.

He started with the Topps Company long before they created baseball cards. It was he who was tasked by the Shorin brothers to develop the company's first baseball cards. Berger set out to create what we know now as the modern baseball cards. Complete with statistics, player information, and biographies, the 1952 Topps set became a landmark that every other card set, from Topps or their competition, have had to meet. Only few sets have come close.

Many of us who collect may have never met the man. But those of us who have studied the Hobby know the man. We owe him a debt of gratitude for improving on a medium that had been around for decades and made collecting sports cards relevant and a part of childhoods for generations.

My condolences go out to the Berger family, the Topps Company, and to collectors everywhere. We have lost a legend in our Hobby.


James B. Anama

Friday, December 12, 2014

Responding to an Anonymous Commenter: "The Need to Scale Back."

Okay, so I haven't posted since Thanksgiving. And there has been so much happening in MLB that is going to rock the Hobby in 2015 with the Winter Meetings over.

But when I was clearing out some emails the other day, I caught this one that really made me want to come back and respond. I normally don't respond in comments (which is a fault of mine because if I did, then great conversations would be had...but I digress), but this one made me think. After a couple of days to gather my thoughts, here goes.

An anonymous commenter sent this comment to me on the blog:

"You'll have to write another post explaining the need to 'scale back'! After having some cards when I was a kid, I didn't really start collecting card seriously until I was 44, well older than anyone playing the game. Players half my age continue to do impressively heroic things on the ballfield, it doesn't bother me than they are young.

"Another point is you won't believe how much money you will have when the kids are grown and on their own - not to mention all the extra free time!"

If you have read the blog lately, I have started to think about my place in the Hobby and when would it be time to "scale back" a bit. My reasoning, as I wrote on my Thanksgiving post was this:

"I do realize that while the game remains the same, the names have changed. Almost all of my childhood heroes are out of the game, and there are so few now who are older than me. It won't be long before everyone in the game is younger than I am, and kids my children's ages will be making their first appearances on pieces of cardboard. I have begun to wonder when would it be the right time to begin scaling back, as eventually that time will come."

Here's the thing. I always believed, and continue to support the idea, that the concept of card collecting is for kids. I've always collected things, from coins to buttons, stickers (the only thing I will ever claim I bought from Panini) to of course, Topps baseball cards. When I was learning about the game, baseball cards were my way of learning who the players are. The stats on the back were how I learned which players were good, and thanks to Topps numbering system, I learned who were the best in the game.

But that was in 1988.

The players I first watched were now beginning second careers as broadcasters, coaches, managers. Some would go on to induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Others, would live in infamy as the shadow of steroids would blanket the game's landscape, and in effect, shadow many of the stars who I grew up watching.

Over the years as the players of my youth would leave, players of my age, my generation, started taking their place. From the mid 90's through the end of the 2000's, the game was populated by Generation X stars. They were my age. I could relate to them...kinda. As I was growing as an adult, many of the players my age were too. But now, as with everything else, they were starting to move on too. Now, many of the players in the game are way younger than I am. Players coming up were born in the late 80's, early 90's...the NINETIES!!! There are athletes coming up in the coming years that are younger than the JUNK WAX ERA.

Where did the time go?

Eventually, the game will be populated by kids who are my kids' ages. There are so few players who are still in the game who are older than me or my age now, that they are now entering the final stages of their careers. Soon, these guys will begin their second careers as coaches, managers, executives, and broadcasters. And eventually, every player in the game will be younger than me.

And that's where this thought of scaling back comes in.

I have been collecting cards 1988 in some form or fashion. That would mean that I have been a baseball card collector for 26 years now. It was when I started working that I began building my collection regularly. Even through the aftermath of the strike (1994-1997), I collected to complete my regular sets. Inserts sets were so far from my mind back then.

Then I discovered eBay in 2000, and that's when it all changed.

Over the last 15 years, my collection has grown exponentially large. Not only have I collected the eponymous Topps sets, but I made it my goal to get all of the basic insert sets to go with the base sets as well. For the most part, it's been "Mission Accomplished." What sets I couldn't buy on eBay, I was able to build through shows, stores, and the Bay.

Not only did my collection of regular Topps cards begin to grow, but thanks to the Bay, I also have most of the retro sets, and as Topps kept on churning them out, I've been buying them as well. I have this completist mentality that I must have every card in a set or a series. I have complete runs base sets of Allen & Ginter's, Gypsy Queen, Pro Debut, and the Retail sets. And as long as Topps still makes them, I still want to add them to my collection as a complement to my base Topps set. I could probably stop collecting this current incarnation of Topps Archives as it is disappointing at best. Taking current players and putting them in past card designs have been done to death (Topps Heritage anyone??!). The only cards worth collecting in that set are the short printed "All-Time Fan Favorites," and even in 2014, Topps ruined it for me by mixing current players with the FF's as short prints. Somehow though, I still wouldn't mind getting it...maybe next year.

Another thing that I have to think about, for now anyway, is the expense. This is not by any means a cheap Hobby. There is a lot of money that has been spent not only on cards, but on supplies. Sheets, binders, boxes, sleeves, top-loaders...those all add up monetarily. With my children getting older, and their activities, from school or outside of it, getting more expensive, priorities have shifted as to where money goes. I'd love to continue to spend on my Hobby, but it wouldn't be right of me to just think of myself. As a dad, my kids needs are more important. And, yes, there's that thing about college...(praying for scholarships).

But the biggest reason as to why I started thinking about scaling back was because the names of the players are changing, as they continue to do, to the point that now it just feels strange to begin collecting cards of players who so much younger than I am. It used to be that I was collecting cards of players much older than me. Now, it's the other way around.

Don't get me wrong. I've been following the game a lot more closely now than I ever have before. Thanks to MLB Network, I recognize the names of the players a lot more easily. And although baseball has been tough to watch these past couple of years, on both sides of the city, things are beginning to improve. If the winter meetings are any indication, it should be a very fun 2015 for baseball.

Should I cut back on my collecting? I'm sure there are products that I regret pressing the Buy it Now button on the Bay, and maybe in 2015, I'll stick to the basics. It's not as if I buy everything (can't afford high-end), but maybe be more patient as to when to pull the trigger on the mid-end sets (like the A&G and GQ). I could be a bit more fiscally responsible and wait until prices go down, even if it means waiting a few months after the products go live.

The anonymous collector said

" won't believe how much money you will have when the kids are grown and on their own - not to mention all the extra free time!"

I'm sure that's true. Once the kids are done with school and begin their journeys away from their mother and me that there will be a bit more money available. And maybe by then I'll be ready to spend more. Who really knows.

But for now, my goals are simple for 2015:
  • Collect the eponymous Topps set for 2015, including the traded, retail, and MiLB sets.
  • Find A&G and Gypsy Queen sets at reasonable prices. If I have to wait a while before prices go down, I will. No need to rush.
  • Really make an effort to sell or trade off the cards I have that I do not need. It would clean up the clutter that has taken over the computer table downstairs.
  • Another important effort to make is to clear out all of the old Beckett magazines to issues I don't want. I really haven't bought the magazine in a while, and the only ones I will probably want to keep are the Rookie Rolodex issues, the mags that have my name on it (because Chris Olds was nice enough to put my name in the magazine a couple of times), and the Topps commemorative issues. Everything else, can go.
I don't think I can ever give up on the Hobby of baseball card collecting entirely. But I do have to think about adapting to the changes in it as well and make better decisions regarding monetary and time commitments when it comes to the Hobby.

Do I need to scale back? Perhaps. And eventually, I will. Until that time comes, though, I will do what I have always done when it comes to baseball baseball card collecting:

Enjoy it. Be a part of it. And as long as I have this humble, little blog, write about it.


JayBee Anama