Grand Cards: December 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

YIR: 2010 In Memoriam

Play a loop of "I Will Remember You" in your head at your own discretion.

Steve Boros (1957-1962; University of Michigan Alumnus.)

Walt Dropo (1952-1954)

Billy Hoeft (1952-1959)

Ralph Houk (MGR 1974-1978)

Bill Lajoie (Scouting Dept., Asst. GM, General Manager 1974-1990)

Jose Lima (1994-1995; 2001-2002)

Van Fletcher (1955)

Hal Manders (1941-42;1946)

Bob Shaw (1957-1958)

George Susce (1958-1959)

Sparky Anderson MGR 1979-1995

Ernie Harwell Voice of the Tigers 1960-2002

Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIP Steve Boros

Another former Tiger dies in 2010.

Steve was known to many as the former manager of the A's. He was known to me as this guy.

From 1958 Topps

Also, this one.

From 1959 Topps

I'll leave it to the real reporters to do justiceto his memory. For me, I need to find those cards, both of which were picked up at the National this summer, and put them in their appropriate binder pages.

YIR: Five Best/Worst Cards of 2010--Autograph Edition

You've seen the regular cards, but I know what you're thinking. Where are those fancy cards with all the autographs and pieces of jerseys on them? Aren't those the best cards? Apples and Oranges, my friend. Here's the Citrus:

The Best (Autographs and Relics) There were some really nice cards this year. I'll start off with a personal favorite:

#5. 2010 Topps #LLR-KC Al Kaline/Miguel Cabrera Dual Relic (#/50)

I could have gone either way between this and the Hank Greenberg/Ryan Braun. In fact, part of me likes the latter better because of the whole Jew thing and because they are bat pieces, which I prefer to jerseys. But, this card is two Tigers, and two good ones at that. The Kaline jersey swatch is old and off-white. The pictures are about as big as you can hope for for a card with two people. The "Lineage," such as it were is pretty direct. The best Tiger of a generation paired with...the best Tiger of a generation. A very nice card from the flagship Topps product.

#4. Topps Triple Threads All Star Game Patches

That's the Granderson one (of course). There's also Inge, Jackson and Verlander.

People give Triple Threads a really hard time, and the product is deserving of some amount of grief for what it puts out. But you'll hear no grief from me on this. These cards are stunning. Big beautiful patches, a reasonably sized picture and a design that just sparkles and screams "All Star." I had to restrain myself from trying to pick these up (at surprisingly reasonable prices) on eBay.

#3. 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter #N43BA-MS Max Scherzer Autograph(#/15)

Easily the nicest 2010 autograph that I was able to acquire this year, these N43's really pop. They are big, have bold on-card autographs and leave plenty of space for imagery and pomp, but without going over the top. A similar Miguel Cabrera card could have made this list, but I actually feel like the relic swatch is poorly integrated into the card and makes it look worse than just the autograph.

#2. 2010 National Chicle #NCR-HG Hank Greenberg Bat

For all the grief I've given National Chicle, this is one of the reasons I thought that the set had a chance to be great. This card is beautiful. The Greenberg painting is excellent, the background gives the image a 1930s and 40s art deco modernity that perfectly fits Hank's era. The bat (Yay!) piece is understated and a classy "C" for Chicle is lightly overlaid on top of it. As relic cards go, this is about as good as they get.

#1. 2010 Topps Sterling #TBGAR-19 Al Kaline 4x Relic Autograph (#/10)

You haven't seen it yet, mostly because I've been busy compiling images and creating the checklist, but 2010 Topps Sterling is the type of set that makes me want to die. It is everything that I hate, with one exception. This card.

This card is stunning. Kaline? Check. On card autograph? Check. Reasonable die-cut words? Check. Correct era team logo? Appropriate picture for the caption? Oozing class from edge to edge? Check, check, check. For its looks, subject and contents, this is your card of the year.

Honorable Mention: The Greenberg/Braun Dual, the Cabrera N43, everything from A&G and T-206 (except maybe Clete Thomas), Curtis Granderson wearing his 1909 throwbacks, George Kell, RIP.

But what about...? Austin Jackson should be on this list. He should. But he has a horrible autograph. It's pathetic. Brennan Boesch too. Just chicken scratches. You kids need a lesson from Scott Sizemore. Now that's a signature!

The Worst (Autographs and Relics)

On to the worst. There's always a lot of bad in this category, which just goes to show you that signatures and relic bits do not a baseball card make. Here are your worst offenders.

#5. Topps National Chicle #NCA-BD Brent Dlugach Autograph

I'll reserve my commentary on this to simply say that Dlugach did not play for the Tigers at any point in 2010, has barely played for them ever, is not a top prospect, has a horrendous signature and is featured on a card that makes it look like he has the mouth of a chimpanzee and a deformed arm that is half a foot shorter than his other arm. This card should never have been made.

#4. The Topps Sterling 1-2 Punch.
2010 Topps Sterling #4CCR-41 Miguel Cabrera

2010 Topps Sterling #4CCR-42 Miguel Cabrera
Just after I go and gush over Topps Sterling you'll see why I find this set so eminently frustrating. Those two cards? Yeah, they're different. One is numbered 4CCR-41 and the other 4CCR-42. The only difference is in the caption and the stupid die-cuts which are random and, well, stupid. Oh, and I'm not picking on Miguel Cabrera. A huge number of Topps Sterling cards do this exact same contrived thing to make the cards seem rare and special when they're really not.

#3. Pants. (From 2010 Topps)

I have no problem with pants. I have no problem with pants on cards. But I do have problem with a card of pants. That's what this is, a huge piece of pant on a card, with a teeny tiny little picture of the player. For a case hit in 2010 Topps these are weak sauce (Oh, and I picked images of the ones with the stripes. Others are just plain gray).

#2. 2010 Topps Triple Threads #TTXXIV-7 Miguel Cabrera abomination

I'll simply go back to what I said when I first saw this card.

That's your future MVP Miguel Cabrera in a card that holds the tentative lead for "Worst Sentence Made Out of Jersey Pieces Ever" award. When I was zoomed out on this I thought that it was written in Chinese.
This is a shining example of the worst of Triple Threads, although there are countless cards that are similarly ridiculous.

#1. 2010 Topps Pro Debut #DC-JT Justin Turner Autograph

Kill it with Fire. This is the Tigers' top prospect, who's signature (FROM ANOTHER BASEBALL CARD) has been unceremoniously circumcised and jammed into another card the main design feature of which is an abundance of empty space. No.

Honorable Mention: About 50-75% of the painfully dull Topps Tribute and the is-what-it-is Triple Threads. Oh, and Topps Sterling, which will get a link once I'm done bashing my head against a wall trying to distinguish the minute differences between otherwise identical cards to make a checklist. And probably Bowman Platinum, which is apparently awful. Basically, if Topps has a high-end set, odds are that half of it or more will be horrible, and one or two things will be awesome.

YIR: Five Best/Worst Cards of 2010

If you've read my blog at all you know that there is really only one criteria by which I judge a card--How it looks. Super-low numbering, a hundred thousand little bat pieces, autographs, these can be factors occasionally, but if the aesthetic is bad then the card is no good.

So then, the best and worst cards of the year are judged pretty simply: quality of design, quality of the picture and feel of the card are all of utmost importance. Secondary characteristics, such as rarity, desirability, rookie-ness and collectiblilty also play a bit role.

Base cards, Inserts and basic parallels (e.g. refractors vs. regular chrome) are included. Ridiculous parallels and "Hits" are not. There will be an best of/worst of post just for Autographs and relics later.

The Best

#5. 2010 Topps Opening Day #M9 Paws

You're kidding, right? No, I'm not kidding. The design of this year's Topps Set was colorful and bright and invited motion and joy. Unfortunately, not all cards were well suited to this orientation. But this one was. Cards like this are why Opening Day exist--why it should exist. Amazing what you can do when you're not worried about adding "hits" to a product. You can have a little fun. Great photo of the Tigers mascot, hands raised for a T-shirt toss. The "Opening Day" logo on the card is a bonus (I'm a sucker for event-based logos), and the complete absence of foil on the card seals the deal.

#4. 2010 Topps Heritage #425 Marcus Thames

Heritage was a good product, and there were a lot of cards that were this close to making the list. But the Thames card stands out as being the only candid shot that conveys something deeper. Thames, perhaps best known for his wide smile here is caught in thought and we are given a brief glimpse into the life of a bench player.

Does anyone else miss Marcus Thames?

#3. 2010 Topps #1b Hank Greenberg (SP)

This is what 2010 Topps should have looked like for the Tigers. A deep blue wave on the side of the card, the classic Old English D as the logo. Instead we get bright orange and that newfangled script logo. No thank you. Add in beautiful vintage shot of Hammerin' Hank in Tiger Stadium, in a short-printed first card of the set and you've got a winner.

#2. 2010 Topps T-206 #166 Austin Jackson RC

In a year in which he should have been the AL Rookie of the Year, can you really have a best-of list without Austin Jackson on there somewhere? Personally, his 2010 Topps Chrome card should really be on this list, but the abysmal quality control in that set has left the card warped beyond recognition. As you go through the rest of the year, he has some very nice cards--2010 Topps comes to mind. But there is something about this card. The off-center image of a hatless Jackson. A wry smile that, in this early season set seems to say "I'm going to dominate you. Watch."

This may be a little high on the list because of the T-206 effects that wash the photo out a touch, but I think it still stands on its own.

#1. 2010 Topps Opening Day #WBJ3 Miguel Cabrera

Another Opening Day card? Seriously? Are you allergic to fun? Don't you wish that every set had fun inserts, and cards that were full of color and life? Aren't you sick of looking at re-hashed designs or crappy cards slathered in reflective chrome board or any number of uninspired inserts like Peak Performance or Topps Attax or everything that has ever been produced under the Bowman label?

Well here you go. This card is freaking awesome. It is everything an insert is supposed to be. I mean, it's Miguel Cabrera on top of a freaking Where's Waldo?! Winner.

Honorable Mention: A handful of heritage cards, Maggs throwing his helmet, Papa Grande being himself, Austin Jackson's refractors (Chrome and Redemption), Boesch the once red-hot rookie, Ty Cobb if it were 1956 and The Bird, RIP.

The Worst You know, it's not often that I have a list of potential cards that weighs more heavily towards the "best" list than it does the worst. Maybe that's because more cards were unimpressive leaning towards good than they were bad outright. Well, except for these. These were just bad.

#5. Topps T-206 #88 Jeremy Bonderman

Should this be higher on the list? I mean, it is just so horrible looking. Jeremy Bonderman looks soused, like his blood vessels are in a race to see which one can exit his face soonest. And what's going on with his eyes? T-206 was full of train wrecks like this--in fact I was this close to putting Justin Verlander and his cardboard cut-out devil horns hair on this list--but looking at the Bonderman I just couldn't resist. This is a horrible looking card.

#4. 2010 Topps National Chicle #40 Johnny Damon

I hate this card with the fire of a thousand suns. If I had my way I would make this Number 1 on my list. What? Oh. Let me rephrase. If I didn't have to justify it based on the actual aesthetics of the card and not the personal insult that I feel every time I see the wrong "D" grotesquely contorted on his stupid hat, then it would be Number 1. As it is, it's at the end of the list. Oh, and don't think that this is just about the hat, the actual picture of Damon is pretty miserable too. Nice arm, popeye.

#3. 2010 Topps Heritage #448 Carlos Guillen

I'm pretty sure that Carlos Guillen takes the worst baseball card photos of anybody ever. I hereby make a new year's resolution to explore this in a future post. He is not photogenic. I had originally rated this picture higher because, well, look at it. He's just a little bit of makeup away from being an orc in Lord of the Rings, or some other brainless sci-fi creature*. The fact that there are two cards worse than this is sad commentary indeed.

#2. 2010 Topps National Chicle #71 Miguel Cabrera

This should be the worst card of the year. I put it there and then moved it down, then back, then down. The person who green-lighted the use of this painting has no taste. None. This is one of the worst baseball cards ever produced. Don't make me keep writing or I will but it back to Number 1.

#1. 2010 Topps Updates #US-24 Miguel Cabrera and Vladimir Guerrero

Poor Miguel, owner of the top two spots. Why is the Chicle abomonation not Number 1? Because this card just plain sucks. There is literally nothing good, interesting or enjoyable about it. It shows two completely unrelated players standing around watching the grass grow. It is not a close up of the two engaged in conversation. I can't see Vlad Guerrero's huge smile in response to something Miguel has said. No. Miguel Cabrera is literally standing around with his hands down his pants. Vlad Guerrero looks miserable. They both look miserable. AT THE ALL STAR GAME!

This card is the worst card of the year, because it is one of the most depressing things I have ever seen.

Honorable Mention: Just about all of National Chicle, Verlander's T-206 Card, Hank Greenberg's face., and a convoluted dreary image of the franchise's history.

*Please note, that this is not commentary on Carlos Guillen in general, who I like very much, or even on how Carlos Guillen looks normally. Just how he looks in this particular picture.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

YIR: Topps the Monopolist

Ask Adrian Beltre how it works.

2009 was a contract year for Topps. By all accounts they knocked it out of the park. Heading into this year they were the proud owners of an exclusive MLB contract and were, effectively, the only game in town.

Ask Adrian Beltre how it works.

In baseball, we've seen players outperform their averages in a contract year, only to seriously underperform once they've got a new contract in-hand. It happens all the time. It also happens to businesses that don't face any legitimate competition. It is one of the fears with a monopoly--quality goes down (cost saving) and/or prices go up. With no one to compete with it is the collector who gets hurt.


There has certainly been a lot of complaining about Topps in 2010. People are bored with the products out there; disgusted by missing hits or poor collation; bad quality control; bad customer service (a point on which I disagree); lazy design; weak checklists; lethargy. The list really does go on in on and you can see it splashed all over blogs and message boards across the internet. Of course, that doesn't mean that all of these people are right. It doesn't make them wrong either. Rather, I think that, barring a couple major points, Topps the Monopolist in 2010 performed relatively similar to Topps in a contract year (2009).

If you were to break it down product by product you would see this:

2009 2010
Bowman Trilogy Bowman Trilogy
Topps 1,2,U&H Topps 1,2,U&H
Triple Threads Triple Threads
Heritage & Hi# Heritage
Tribute Tribute
Finest Finest
Topps Sterling Topps Sterling
Topps Attax Topps Attax
Bow. Sterling Bow. Sterling
Topps Unique National Chicle
Topps Chrome Topps Chrome
T-206 T-206
Opening Day Opening Day
Ticket to Stardom Pro Debut
Bow. Platinum

From a product perspective, very little changed from last year. The much derided Ticket to Stardom was cut, as was Topps Unique, a product met with equally little enthusiasm. To the dismay of some, Topps Heritage didn't release a "High Numbers" set in 2010. New for 2010 were three products: Topps Pro Debut, National Chicle and Bowman Platinum.

The point is this: for those upset with Topps because of the products it released this year, I've got news. This year was no different for Topps than it has been in any other recent year. In fact, there were arguably more interesting products (in Chicle and Pro Debut) than what was cut off of last year's slate. Now, whether their product mix needs to change is a matter of debate (I think it does) it certainly wasn't the result of their monopoly power. Rather, traditional monopoly economics would suggest that they would cut the number of different sets the offer even further and raise prices on what was left--effectively inducing scarcity. That's not what happened at all. In fact, that's the opposite of what happened.

Problem #1: Overproduction

Everything was fine until you came into my life.
--discarded company love letter memo to Stephen Strasburg

It's all Stephen Strasburg's fault. Seriously. We were all getting on with our lives just fine, enjoying the fruits of Topps' early season release calendar, when BAM, Stephen Strasburg is in 2010 Bowman. Mothers lock up your daughters.

What resulted was an astronomical run-up in prices on subsequent products. Bowman, which had been produced before Strasmas, was outrageously expensive due to production below demand. Pre-orders on subsequent products "Now with Stephen Strasburg!" were ridiculous. Before you could say "Tommy John" prices on all products in the heart of baseball season went crazy and Topps abandoned whatever gameplan they may have had for the year and went All-Strasburg all the time. I remember reading something that indicated that Stephen Strasburg had increased card sales more than any other figure in the last 20 years.

The problem is that there is only one way for Topps to cash-in on the craze--make more cards.

You see, card collecting is driven by the secondary market. When a Strasburg happens (2010 Bowman e.g.), dealers make a mint while Topps has effectively left money on the table by underproducing and undercharging. To "remedy" this, Topps included Strasburg in more products to induce more pre-sales so that they could produce more units and sell more product. Makes sense right? Uh huh. The problem is that baseball cards are a scarcity-based product. If Topps could produce more without it being known, they could sell much more product up front, and if prices crash on the secondary market, so be it.

Guess what happened. CRASH.

2010 had the strongest rookie class in decades. Topps knew it, and with SS as the Captain, ran the printing presses until they burned out. The result was a series of products released in the second half of the year, that may go down in history as having the least value of any cards since the mid-90s.

If you don't really care about the value arguement (I don't), there was an even worse consequence. As Topps ramped up their production, they overextended themselves. Their new printer shat the bed and Topps and Bowman Chrome suffered from a combination of massive overproduction and horrible quality. A box of Topps Chrome could be had for under $40. Are you kidding me?

This wasn't the Topps Monopoly that we all feared rearing its ugly head. Nope, it was just good old fashioned greedy capitalism, trying to maximize its profit. And hey, they probably did. The problem is that these things don't happen in vacuums, and the effect of 2010 could linger into next year and beyond.


Problem #2 Product Calendar

Am I the only one who thinks that baseball cards should be released during baseball season? Is there a reason that in the first half of the year, there each product seemed to have a month (or more) to itself, and in the second half of the year, they were churning them out every few weeks? People are tired of baseball by October/November. I'm tired of baseball and I LOVE baseball.

This year this was a definite feeling of card-based stagnation at the peak of baseball season, followed by an explosion of products towards the end. It was too much--I blame poor planning.

Problem #3 Boring Products (?)

This is as subjective of a measure at any, but if you compare the product calendars between 2009 and 2010 not much changed. What did change is that two "modern" sets were effectively replaced by a minor league set and a "retro" set (Chicle). Everything else was the same as it has been, following the same formulas.

From a design standpoint, things weren't as crisp this year either. Topps Heritage was dull compared to the previous year (not that this is Topps' fault, it's just that 1960 Topps was cooler and more lively than 1961). Topps Finest was miserable compared to a fantastic 2009 design. Regular Topps was fine, although it fell short of a spectacular 2009 (FWIW I think 2011 looks phenomenal). Everything else was the same. Bowman was Bowman. Chromes were chromes. All of the high-end stuff is exactly the same as it always has been and always will be.

And this, I think, was the biggest casualty of Topps' Monopoly. It isn't as though Topps got lazy with their designs, or even lazy with their products. To me, everything pretty much fits in with what they've been doing for the last five years. The difference is that we didn't have an Upper Deck counterbalance.

Now, don't get me started on Upper Deck's product mix and designs--I was not a fan of the majority of what they did--however, they served an important purpose. Upper Deck was fundamentally different than Topps. They made more modern looking sets, where the player is the focus and then some wacky multi-colored angular background fills it in. Topps has nothing like that. Upper Deck added an important diversity to the low- and mid-priced sets.

What's more, they were so much better at the High-end sets it was a joke. Their designs were often fresh and exciting compared to the Topps Triple Threads model. Although I will say that I think that Topps made some improvements on that front. Topps Sterling has some very nice cards with on-card autographs. Tribute was the same way. Even Triple Threads. In fact, if there was one thing that I gathered from 2010 it was...

Topps is listening

Is this for real? I think so. After years of feeling like we had no influence on the card industry, it is beginning to change. Topps has multiple twitter accounts, each of which is quite responsive to consumer comments. They set up a card forum at the 2010 National in Baltimore to get collector thoughts. Of the changes they've begun to made, one is profound--the near complete replacement of their traditional ├╝ber-shiny stickers with a combination of clear stickers and on-card autographs. This is HUGE.

What's more, they were aware of the collector backlash to quality-control and overproduction issues and in response issued a series of wrapper redemption programs to add additional value. I just got my Topps Chrome redemptions the other day and love them. They are crisp and nice and not warped--I think that Topps should start a redemption program for every product they make, especially if they want to differentiate Hobby from Retail.

Topps the Monopolist?
For me, the bottom line is that Topps, believe it or not, didn't do that bad of a job in 2010. Of the things they did do wrong, almost none of them were because they have monopoly power in the card industry. In fact, I'm not sure that they really do.

Sure, Topps has an exclusive contract to producing baseball cards. Fine. But they didn't really act like a monopoly in 2010. In fact, all of their problems seemed to stem from the fact that they acted like a normal business in a competitive market, increasing production to meet demand instead of simply raising prices.

It may be the case--and I might beg Chris Harris for his thoughts on this--that the dynamic of the market is different than the Monopoly we've made it out to be. It seems to me, that Major League Baseball has played the role of Monopsonist, and has parlayed their market power into a profit-maximizing situation for them, through the issuance of an exclusive contract. That this leaves Topps as a sole-producer is immaterial, as they don't really have market power; are answerable to their licensor (MLB), leaving them unable/unwilling to develop poor product for fear of losing their license; and are obligated by the terms of their contract to produce X products.

Was card collecting less fun and exciting in 2010 than it was in 2009? Sure. There were half as many products in the market. Was that Topps' fault? I don't think so. They seemed to do what they've been doing for some time. Of course, unless they can actually start to improve their products to make up for some of what Upper Deck brought to the table 2011 may be more of the same.

But maybe we should start complaining to MLB Licensing about that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Year In Review

The year is almost up, and I think that calls for some reflection. I've got the week off (YAY!) which means I have a little extra time to put up some year in review posts. I couldn't decide how to tackle all the things I want to say in one post, so I'm going to split them up.

So, starting this evening and extending through the weekend (yes, I know that is in the new year) I'll be posting about 2010 and looking forward to 2011. Here's a taste of what to expect:

  • Topps the Monopolist: How'd They Do?
  • The Best and Worst of 2010's Card Sets
  • 2010 Rookies
  • 2010 Michigan Alumni
  • 5 Best Cards of 2010
  • 5 Best Cards of 2010 (Autograph & Relic Edition)
  • 5 Worst Cards of 2010
  • State of the Blog

Now, I won't necessarily attack these in order, and there may be some changes, but this is what you can expect in the days ahead. Enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Where Did National Chicle Go Wrong?

Yesterday I learned that the much maligned Topps National Chicle would not be making a return in 2010. It, along with T-206, would be effectively replaced by a new old set "Gypsy Queen."

I'm hardly broken up by the news--I was quick to lay blame on a National Chicle set that was an unbelievable disappointment and I've felt that T-206 was weak (again) as well. Still, I thought enough of National Chicle conceptually to make this comment on twitter:
I thought chicle had potential with a couple tweaks

And the more I thought about it last night and this morning, the more I really felt that to be the case.

I'm going to admit right of the bat that I don't know what it would have taken to make the set a success. There is a schism in the card collecting community where one group of collectors views cards as a subset of memorabilia, especially autographed memorabilia, and collects for that reason. There is another group that collects for team sets or full sets or generally appreciates cards for being cards and not as vectors for autographs or memorabilia. The result is an uneasy tension with card sets that Topps et al. doesn't seem to know quite how to balance. I potentially good set can be a commercial failure because of a bad autograph checklist. An often boring and crappy set can be a huge success for reasons that boggle the mind.

So instead of parsing those dynamics, I'm going to talk about what makes a set good, or more specifically, what made National Chicle not so good. I think that we'll find that it is the same things that made T-206 not so good, and what I think may make Gypsy Queen not so good, even with all of the fancy autograph announcements and such.

The cards look bad.

Isn't that the whole point? Cards are, in their way, little rectangular pieces of art. If I'm an autograph collector, I'm going to want my autograph to be on something that looks nice--there are enough signatures floating around there that it doesn't make any sense to go after an autograph that is on some stupid item.

With T-206 the full-size cards just looked crummy. I don't know if it was because the images where just filtered poorly through photoshop or if the no-hat concept just failed in execution, but every time I saw a full-size T-206 card it looked somewhat blurry or out of register or generally unappealing. Faithful replicas of T-206 they were not.

For Chicle the problem was more fundamental. The set commissioned artists to draw each card--a fabulous concept that I was really on board with. The point here was to make unique cards that looked good. The problem, unfortunately, was in execution. Many of the Chicle cards looked terrible, a problem that was as much the fault of the artists themselves as it was with whatever product manager thought that it was a good idea to approve certain paintings in the set.

It didn't help that the set got off on the wrong foot by showing us the stupid "Chipper Ruth" card, and the whole "show legends in the present day" bit fell way flat. As did showing rookies in classic rookie cards Those cards looked weird, and didn't fit in with the overall set aesthetic.

Sure, maybe the checklist was weak, but I'm not sure that was the case. Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Howard signed. Stan Musial signed. Buster Posey and Neftali Feliz are in the set--before they were Rookies of the Year no less. Sure, there were some unknown rookies and future scrubs, but have you bought any card product for the last ten years? That's how it goes. The set certainly doesn't need to live and die by its autographs if it has other things going for it. I think Allen & Ginter and Topps Heritage have shown us that.

The problem that I have is that National Chicle was immediately lumped into the "Retro" set bin, even though it had a chance to be fundamentally different. These were painted cards. They had a chance to be something.

But now, one year on, the set is dead. Maybe it's for the better, but I think replacing it with a different, and seemingly very ugly IMO, vintage set is a mistake. I mean, am I going to get a Sandy Koufax or Hank Aaron autograph out of Gypsy Queen? Of course not. Neither are you. We're all going to get Brent Dlugach v.2011 autographs and we'll be disappointed because we also have a bunch of stupid looking cards in our box that nobody cares about.

Chicle could have been better if they had just worked out the kinds. Get better paintings, for one. Eliminate the nonsensical subsets (throwbacks are fine). Expand the checklist so that we can get real team sets or a nice collectible set. Stop the artist autographs--nobody cares about those, or multiple parallel backs.

Simply said, can I just have a normal set someday that doesn't repeat a tired formula? Can I have something that is new and interesting in some way?

Can you just give me Topps Gallery again? That's what Chicle should have been.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Wantlist Whittling

It's been a good couple of week for me on the wantlist front. Today I get to chop three more off of my Big Ten list (although nothing quite as dramatic as last time)

Let's go in reverse order this time.

#11: Popeye Aah-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh
2010 Topps Gold #575 Ryan Perry (#/2010)

#10: The Gambler
2008 Topps - Gold Foil #634 Kenny Rogers

That card completes my 2008 Topps Gold Foil set!

...And, the leader in the clubhouse for Tigers card of the year, perhaps?
#4: Paws
2010 Topps Opening Day #M9 Paws

That's the last card I needed from 2010 Topps Opening Day too!

I'm hoping to spend a little time (and very little money) knocking out some more off of this list on my little winter break, and until I can do a proper inventory of my cards, these ones are going to be replaced by TBAs for now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Two Cents


2010 Topps Chrome #177b Austin Jackson (Redemption)

2010 Topps Chrome #225b Ty Cobb (Redemption)

It's not often anymore that I can find a really great deal on eBay. Sometimes good prices are obscured by ridiculous shipping rates. Sometimes an apparent steal gets jacked up at the last second. But not this time.

Two cards, one cent each, from a very nice redemption-only set (ed: much less bendy than the regular Topps Chrome this year!) . Merry Christmas to me!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I feel like there has been a spate of baseball deaths this year. Maybe it just feels that way because so many have been high-profile players, but it just seems like a lot. The latest, at least the latest relevant to Tigers fans, was the passing of Walt Dropo, "The Moose from Moosup".

What ever happened to great location-based nicknames like this? Just the other day I heard "The Heater from Van Meter" over and over, now there's the "Moose from Mooseup." More of this, please.

When I heard that Dropo had died, I immediately pictured his 1953 card (yeah, the one staring back at you), because 1. Every card from that set is fantastic and 2. I thought I actually had that one. It turns out I don't (I got his picture confused with Fred Hutchinson). Dropo, by all accounts, was a tremendous athlete. He was drafted to play professional baseball, basketball and football out of UConn, he won the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year (Take that, Whitey Ford!) and was a legend in Connecticut. His New York Times Obituary is really quite impressive.

As someone who wasn't alive anywhere close to Dropo's era, it would have been easy for me to pass over this news, or not even recognize that Dropo was a former Tiger. I mean, a lot of players have played for a lot of teams and it is certainly hard to keep track of what player played for what team in some year thirty years before you were born, right?

Well, take this as my semi-annual "thank you" to baseball cards. If I didn't collect cards, I wouldn't have known who Walt Dropo was. It's that simple. His name wouldn't have stuck out to me when I was reading the news this morning, and I wouldn't have said, "Walt Dropo? He was a former Tiger from the 50s." to myself while I was drinking my coffee. This is why I collect--because no amount of baseball reference data or digital media, or video footage or new stories or books will make an individual player stand out as easily as a single baseball card. I'm proud that I know who Walt Dropo is, and I'm pleased to know that his name and legacy will live on because he has been permanently captured on cardboard.


Today is Al Kaline's birthday.

Happy Birthday to Mr. Tiger himself!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Baaack

On a cold, snowy Thursday, what's the best news you could ask for?

Tigers signed another strong bat for their lineup.

And it was Magglio Ordonez

And it was only for one year.

Given the craziness that was the Jason Werth signing, and the off-season in general, it certainly wasn't supposed to happen this way. But it did, and the Tigers have solidified their lineup for 2011, haven't damaged their prospects in the mid- or long-term and bring back a fan favorite, who allegedly turned down 2-year deals elsewhere out of loyalty to Mike Ilitch and the Tigers.

Welcome back Maggs, we're thrilled to have you.

The card above, from 2009 Allen & Ginter, is one of the cheap Tigers relics I picked up at last year's National, which speaking of good news on a winter's day, is coming back to Baltimore in 2012.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tigers Gallery & Review: 2010 Topps Chrome

Did you know that all of the 2010 sets can be found here?

I've always liked Topps Chrome and the design this year lent itself very well to chrominization. One problem: the cards are so hilariously warped that they look like archways. Bad news. Pictures first, comments after the jump.

Base Set mmm...shiny. Refractors shown.

#13 Rick Porcello

#68 Magglio Ordonez

#70 Max Scherzer

#134 Justin Verlander

#156 Miguel Cabrera

#175 Scott Sizemore

#177 Austin Jackson

#177b Austin Jackson REDEMPTION

#182 Brennan Boesch

#218 Andy Oliver

#225b Ty Cobb REDEMPTION

Autographs Great autograph checklist for the Tigers--I'm showing a regular refractor, a blue (#/199) and a gold (#/50). Also, Austin Jackson has a terrible signature.

#175 Scott Sizemore

#177 Austin Jackson

#182 Brennan Boesch

Inserts Chrome versions of Topps Heritage, National Chicle and T-206. A sampling of regular and refractor varieties is provided.

#C110 Miguel Cabrera

#C138 Magglio Ordonez

#CC16 Johnny Damon

#CC25 Justin Verlander

#TC10 Justin Verlander

#TC31 Austin Jackson

#TC41 Rick Porcello

So there you have it. Lots of good, some not so good. More comments after the jump.