February 14, 2016

An Amazing Ernie Banks Project

If you were to track what I buy at my local card shows, you would be certain that I'm a Chicago Cubs fan. Cubs cards and oddball items frequently make there way into my purchases but it's not for my affection for the Cubbies, it is that I'm building another trade package to send to my trading partner Reader Mike D. We've been going back and forth with our trades since 2010 and we even got to meet up in person in 2013 and the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. 

More than a year ago, Mike wrote to say that he was starting a project to collect all of Ernie Banks Topps base cards that would ultimately be combined into a gift to Mike's Dad who loves the Cubs as much as he does, if not more. 

I ended up contributing a few Banks base cards to the project through trades over 2015, as well as an early Banks on-card certified autograph that was a mail-in redemption from Hillshire Farm back in 1999 that would serve as a final bonus to the collection. 

I enjoyed getting updates from Mike as the project continued and the year went along and I knew that the big hole in the collection was Banks' 1954 Topps rookie card. It is that set's most sought after card, meaning Cubs fans and non-fans alike would be hunting for that one. 

As Christmas was getting closer, Mike sent an e-mail announcing that he had actually found a Banks rookie and he sent me some of the amazing details that went into the collection. In total, it took him 15 months to complete the project which in its final form totaled 30 cards, starting with the 1959 Topps base card. 

The project spans from 1954 to 1973 and through Mike's hard work piecing together trades, he spent about $700-$800 on the entire project with the Bank rookie coming in at $106. The cheapest overall was Banks' manager/coach card from 1973 Topps that Mike found for 18 cents.   

Here's an amazing photo of all the cards before the construction of the larger project began. 

Here's what Mike wrote me when he finally tracked down the allusive Banks rookie. 

"Unofficially, I lost seven auctions for the Banks RC in the final day. As I remember, three were sniped in the final minute, including one from a $41 bid with less than 20 seconds to go. 

I physically shook when I won the online auction to get the Banks RC. I did not open the envelope when it was sent; I worried it wouldn't be true in the envelope."

Thankfully, it was real and here's a closer look at it. 

Mike attached the cards in penny sleeves onto a vintage poster of Mr. Cub. I hadn't really thought it through as to how Mike was going to attach the cards and I think it is a pretty innovative solution. I'm happy they weren't just taped on as 10-year old me would have done!

And here is the impressive collection in the frame that would be presented for Christmas to Mike's Dad. It turned out amazingly well and I'm glad I was able to help in my little way!

And here is the project with Mike's Dad on Christmas Day!

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.