February 5, 2016

15 Of The Best Cards From 2016 Topps Series 1

I remember people used to joke that opening day of the baseball season should be a national holiday but I propose a national Ripping Day holiday to honor the day the new Topps set hits the shelves! Gather your family around the table, rip some packs, and think about how thankful you are the next baseball season is just around the corner. Use this helpful guide of the best cards of 2016 Topps Series 1 as you rip and sort your first few packs of the year.

It is also undisputed that the release of Topps' flagship set is the peak of the baseball card collecting calendar, even at a time when huge group breaks and high-end product hits are the focus of card collecting for many breakers. Many collectors, some who don't follow the baseball card market closely and some who are on a limited card budget, return to card collecting year in and year out to scoop up  some packs of Topps Series 1 and reminisce about a time gone by.

For the sake of simplicity, I have not included any insert or short-printed variations in his list as it is simply the best 15 base cards from the Series 1.

Best Cards Of 2016 Topps Series 1

2016 Topps Mike Trout #1

After the remarkable success of Derek Jeter's #1 card from the 2015 Topps set, Topps surely needed to make a splash with the premiere card in 2016 as well. They tapped Mike Trout, the most consistent hitter in the game, for card #1 and you can see his defense is just as impressive as his offense.

The photo in question was from last September when Trout robbed Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero of a home run at Angels Stadium. Since becoming a full-time player in 2012, Trout has taken back eight home runs from batters, the most in the league.

2016 Topps Josh Donaldson #200

 What a difference a change of scenery made for Josh Donaldson last year. After being traded to by the Oakland A's to the Toronto Blue Jays, he exploded from better-than-average slugger to American League MVP as the Jays won the division. He, along with Jose Bautista (who also makes an appearance on this list) could have the Jays in contention again this season.

2016 Topps Noah Syndergaard #43

Noah Syndergaard's rookie card from 2015 Topps Update was one of the most valuable and sought after base cards of the series and with his impressive playoff pitching performances in the 2015 playoffs his second-year card will again be near the top of the collectors "must have" lists.

2016 Topps Joe Mauer #286

It was recently announced that Joe Mauer's catching days for the Minnesota Twins were over to avoid future injury and seeing Mauer with a full beard on his 2016 Topps card (he's been clean-shaven on all of his cards up until now) you get the feeling his days as the hard hitting wonder-kin might be over for good as well.

2016 Topps Bryce Harper #100

Topps made Bryce Harper their poster boy for the the 2016 Topps Series 1, putting him on the front of wax boxes and packs. They also did him the honor of giving him a remarkable base card. The hair. The eye black. The perfect framing with his three teammates behind him looking on. Harper is also helped by the set design which looks like he's kicking up a lot of white dirt as he slides into home.

I think looking back a decade from now at Series 1, Harper's card #100 will be the crown jewel, especially  if he keeps up his hitting pace which included becoming the youngest player to be unanimously voted MVP last season.

2016 Topps Jose Bautista #96

Jose Bautista's  bat flip from the 2015 American League Divisional Series was the the flip that launched a thousand gifs on the internet. Topps would have been out of its mind to not include the most famous image from 2015 baseball in their next set and, of course, they delivered a horizontally-framed beauty. Unfortunately, the Jays ultimately lost the Divisional Championship Series and so this image lives on as a "what could have been" moment for Blue Jays fans.

2016 Topps Kris Bryant #350

While Mike Trout gets the premiere #1 spot in 2016 Topps Series 1, Kris Bryant is placed as a bookend at the conclusion of the series as card #350. He's been awarded the Topps All-Star Rookie Cup as well as the moniker of a Future Star which will undoubtedly make this one of the most popular cards for the reigning National League Rookie of the Year.

2016 Topps Clayton Kershaw #150

As baseball's most consistent pitcher (he hasn't finished in less than third place in Cy Young voting over the past five seasons), Clayton Kershaw's cards are always going to find a huge audience and this great looking Series 1 card with Kershaw in mid-wind upwill be no exception.

2016 Topps Eric Hosmer #9

If there was one thing that was made abundantly clear from the Kansas City Royals' playoff run, it is that Eric Hosmer loves to play the game of baseball. You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved fan favorite in all the league and his Series 1 card shows Hosmer about to deliver his standard 100% swing that he gives every time at the plate.

2016 Topps Alec Asher RC #27

Although at first you might only be interested in Alec Asher's 2016 Topps card because of the RC designation, but look a little closer and you may notice something on his right elbow. That is a scar from Tommy John surgery when he was 14 and definitely something you don't find a trading card everyday.

2016 Topps Ryan LaMarre RC #221

As a collector myself, I've always been a sucker for a horizontally framed card. It gives the card a more cinematic feel on its longer side and Ryan LaMarre's RC from 2016 Topps is a great example of that. Each year there are also certain cards that benefit greatly from the new set design and I like how it seems LaMarre is throwing the ball out of the fog on the design.

2016 Topps John Lamb RC #59

Giving Josh Hamilton's infamous arm tattoos a run for their money are Reds pitcher John Lamb's biceps which include near complete tattoo sleeves down each arm.  Lamb, a long-time Kansas City Royals prospect, was traded to the Reds as a part of the Johnny Cueto trade last summer.

2016 Topps Buster Posey #300

For collectors who wait with bated breath each winter for any news on the upcoming Topps release, Buster Posey's base card was probably their first look at the new design. As it was the first card released there was some speculation that it might be card #1 on the checklist, however Topps placed it at #300 on the checklist, a spot designated for elite players.

2016 Topps Salvador Perez #56

Even though the Royals surprised everyone in 2014 by making it to the World Series, there were few who thought they could possibly make a return trip, let alone become the champions.

This card is attributed to Salvador Perez who was the series MVP after hitting .364 over the five games. The photo was taken from the Game 5 celebration but, unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Royals super-fan Paul Rudd was able to sneak himself into the group photo.

2016 Topps Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Carlos Gomez #170

The Houston Astros made a 16-game improvement from the previous year during the 2015 season and it was not doubt thanks to the play of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Gomez. The sky is the limit for the Astros in the 2016 as the "New Order" may get them back to the playoffs yet again.

And although I promised no inserts, I just can't finish this list without including the unquestioned best card: Latvia's greatest gift to America, Kristaps Porzingis!

February 4, 2016

Keith Olbermann's First Pack of 2016 Topps

I remember last year Keith Olbermann opened his first pack of 2015 Topps on his ESPN show and man do I miss that show. Every so often he would incorporate baseball cards into his stories one way or another. This year with no show, Topps recorded him opening his first pack this year.

January 24, 2016

Discovering Matt Batts

I've got a thing about player's names. I mean, I've written 35 posts on some of greatest names in sports history. I've always been disappointed that although "Matthew" or "Matt" is one of the most common names around there have been no players "Matthew" that have made it to the Hall of Fame. As far as greatness goes, I think my fellow "Matt"s peaked at Matt Williams [whose cards I collect because of it]. Tiger's catcher Matt Nokes certainly had the title of favorite "Matt" from about 1988-1991 and after that it's been Matt Williams ever since. 

While flipping through a box of discount vintage the last time the traveling vintage card show stopped in Atlanta, I came across this 1952 Topps card of a player I had never heard of before: Matt Batts. I love those moments when something new and exciting comes into focus in the baseball card game. I've been buying and writing about baseball cards for many years now and it's sometimes easy to feel like you've seen it all before.

#230 Matt Batts
Matt. Batts. What a great name. A new project of mine will be to track down all available Matt Batts cards which I find is a surprising amount considering I don't believe I had ever come across one in all my card show box sorting experience. 

Plus, learning a little more about his 10-year career in the majors, he looks like a player you would want to root for. In his single season with the St. Louis Browns, he was the catcher for the first black pitcher in the American League, Satchell Paige. 

January 21, 2016

Confirmed Card of the Year For 2016...and 2017

The Hassak Triplets are seen briefly in the cantina scene in The Force Awakens and although I've seen the film twice I failed to notice them at all. So pulling this card in Star Wars Card Trader is like learning you've missed possibly the most remarkable part of the film! According to Wookiepedia, you can also see them briefly during the battle scene outside Maz Kanata's castle. 

January 16, 2016

Beginning An Andy Pafko Custom Card Project

I've been seriously considering getting into designing and making actual custom cards recently. Although I've made some original cards before they live mostly in the digital world. I think I'm going to start with an Andy Pafko card (of course) and want to work a cut autograph into the design. Well, I've tracked down the autograph I'm planning on using which came straight from eBay for just a few dollars. And thankfully I won't have to destroy another card or photograph to create my card. 

Overall, one of my favorite designs is the 1960 Leaf set and I think I'm going to try to start with something black and white and clean looking. I'll certainly update you on my progress and if you have any tips or tricks, give me a comment below.  

December 14, 2015

Ripping A Pack Of 1980 Topps MLB Superstar Photo Cards

I pulled this unopened pack that had been waiting patiently for me for 35 years from a quarter box at the recent Atlanta area card show. I had never opened a pack of these 5x7 photo cards and after doing a little research on the product it is no surprise why. 

These cards were created by Topps as a test issue to check the interest level of over-sized photo cards of some of the best players in the majors. As you can see from the checklist for the set from the opposite side of the packaging there are 60 cards in the set with about 50% of the players actually qualifying as a "superstar."

I picked out this pack in particular because of the card on the back. No matter what else is in the pack getting a Nolan Ryan as one of the five cards makes it a winner.

You begin to understand that these might not have been a completed product when you take a look at the reverse side of each card. I imagine that a full statistical breakdown from each player would have been included on the back of each card once the set was completed. 

The next two cards feature Jack Clark and Darryl Porter who both have interesting facial hair...Clark with his near Wally Moon quality unibrow and Porter with his muttonchops and impressive mustache. 

Reading up on the set it seems that a handful of cards were printed far more often than other and Steve Garvey's card was one of those. The other more frequently printed cards include some of the key cards on the checklist including Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, George Brett, and Dave Parker. 

But as I mentioned at the beginning, the highlight of the pack is Nolan Ryan's card with what seems to be a slightly oversized Houston Astros cap that is sitting oddly on his head. Getting the old price guide out it also seems that Ryan's card is the most valuable in the set with a book value of about $4.00.