Chasing the Impossible Dream

For anyone who knows me, it’s probably impossible to fathom. I’m a collector going on three decades, who spent his childhood, adolescence, and adult life worshipping one player. Hindsight is 20/20 but most will have to admit that they did not expect Jose Canseco’s star to burn out the way it did. Did he deserve it? Yup. Jose made a career out of being lazy on the field and an asshole off of it. If anyone deserved a public downfall from being the #1 athlete in the world to the laughing stock at the end of his career, it was Mr. 40-40, Jose Canseco.

Things changed for me in 2007, though. I had just rediscovered my love of collecting after a 9-year absence and absolutely fell madly in love with 2007 Topps Chrome. I paid $120 for a box from a card shop (again, remember those?) and found inside a Refractor rookie autograph of a 6 foot 7 southpaw named Andrew Miller. At the time, I was still checking Beckett Baseball and found the book price to be in the $100 range. I was ecstatic despite not knowing a thing about Miller. Two weeks later, Andrew Miller was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Florida Marlins, my home team.

Over the course of a very shaky year for Miller, which has turned into an entire career, Andrew went out of his way to sign autographs for my girlfriend and I multiple times. Andrew even went as far as remembering my name and even tracking us down at the Marlins Fan Fest to say hello. It was such a welcomed change from being a fan of the moody and often rude Canseco. I became an instant fan and began tracking down all of Miller’s 2007 issues, which at the time were still worth way more than they should have been. By the end of the season, I had over 100 autographs.

Still, nothing compared to my Refractor autograph from ’07 Finest. I eventually picked up the base, Green, Blue, Black, X-fractor, and Gold refractor autographs. All in all, I spent around $500 for the entire set, minus the elusive 1/1 Superfractor and all four 1/1 printing plates, which I never even got close enough to sniff. I spent the next five years checking eBay like an addict and never found the Superfractor. Eventually, Andrew flamed out of Miami and landed on the Indians and put on a few pitching clinics, which temporarily made his cards surge like they had in the past. It didn’t last long.

So here is my plea to the collector who has my Rosebud of trading cards. Andrew Miller, sadly, did not live up to his career expectations. He comes with a career 4.00+ ERA, has been on 7 teams, and will be 35 if the 2020 season ever starts. He’s deep on the downside but if you’d like to make a reasonable deal to a true fan of Mr. Miller, please contact me. I have spent the last 13 years agonizing over the Superfractor. Please, if you find it in your heart, contact me. Let’s make a deal. After thirty long years of collecting and nearly 15 years of blogging, it’s the only card I want.

I beg of you. Help me find the 2007 Topps Finest Andrew Miller Superfractor.

Will Project 2020 Save Collecting?

I’ve been waiting for this day since Topps drove the stake through the heart of the last remaining card manufacturer, Upper Deck. Finally, after 15+ years of oversaturating the market with autographs and game-used memorabilia cards, the official card company of MLB created a product that focuses on the art behind baseball cards. In a way, to me this proves that even Topps understands that their customers are chasing the nostalgia train and aren’t necessarily kids anymore.

It’s time to drop that silly narrative by #TheHobby shills of Twitter who claim that a large portion of collectors are children. Kids and teens can’t afford to collect baseball cards today and if you think a kid would choose a $20 retail box of Topps over the most recent Fortnite skin or the like, maybe it’s time to leave this blog and head over to the GOGTS Live infomercial that plays every week. Collectors, for the most part, look like me. We grew up on baseball cards and now have the income to afford anything we want.

Well, almost anything.

Make no mistake, Topps Project 2020 is not a kid-friendly product. Sure, maybe some of the artwork featured may be used to attract younger eyes but the base version of all cards each cost $20. If you only went for a set of your one favorite artist, that’s $400 for 20 cards. If you were a maniac and wanted all 20 cards from every single artist, you’re looking at spending $8,000. That’s not including shipping costs, as well as time spent chasing down all 400 versions of the 20 cards.

Of course, we can expect to see parallels because that’s just what collecting is about and has been so for 20+ years. Artist Proofs are $99 each, meaning a full set of those would run you close to $40,000. There are also Gold 1/1s which apparently are sent to collectors at random. A Trout Gold sold for over $7,000 on eBay recently. There’s no way to even guess what the full 400-card set in Gold would cost but thankfully not even Gary V’s money and connections could stretch that far.

Aside from the expensive price tag, during a worldwide pandemic which has left more than 6 million Americans unemployed, some of the art is questionable. Remember, all art is objective so what I may like, you might hate and vice versa. Well, my objective collecting butt absolutely loathes Keith Shore’s work (see above). So far it appears he’s only done McGwire and Don Mattingly but don’t forget, he will be submitting artwork for all 20 players in the checklist, unfortunately.

Another issue I have is the inclusion of Dwight Gooden. Yes, he was a Hobby superstar and an amazing pitcher but only for maybe 3.5 of his 16 seasons. He lead the league in Wins once, ERA, once, and won just two major awards (CYA, ROY). Meanwhile, Jose Canseco had a much better career and was arguably a much larger Hobby star in the late-80s into the early-90s. He also made more All-Star appearances and has as many World Series rings as ‘Doc’.

Maybe I’m being biased but in the world of collecting, Jose Canseco was an elite commodity for much longer than Dwight Gooden. Jose was blackballed from Topps products for close to a decade but made his return in 2014 so it can’t be the whole steroid thing that has kept him off the list. He’s literally in 10+ Topps products every year. My guess is that the reason Canseco didn’t make the cut is because Donruss beat Topps to the punch and his Rated Rookie is his most iconic early year card.

Regardless of my small gripes (no Jose, price, weird art), Topps Project 2020 is the best thing Topps has done in nearly a decade or longer. This project puts baseball cards in a new category, almost like a rebranding. In the opinion of a collector of 30 years, baseball cards should be considered artwork and not just an outdated and really, an unnecessary hobby from the golden days. To me, these cards are must-have items that have sparked my interest in cards for the first time in a long time.

Topps, you can keep your Allen & Ginter and 15 other products that barely change year to year. Those brands, to me, died a sad death many years ago. In fact, with the exception of products that include Refractors, I have not been interested in any Topps issues besides Stadium Club for nearly fifteen years. Even the shine of Clearly Authentic has faded. Project 2020, however, is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope they keep up this type of output moving forward and stop being the tired monopoly of the past decade.

Don’t be a Fuck Face, #ShipTheBase

I don’t expect much from Topps Company. As a lifelong collector of baseball cards, I have come to accept that it’s their Monopoly and us collectors are just forced to play along. Even Topps’ worst in baseball is still miles ahead of efforts by Leaf and Panini. In 2007, Topps Company was interested in generating good P/R and providing great customer service because they had their eyes on ruling baseball again. Now, with their MLB exclusive agreement renewed and their final competitor, Upper Deck, forced to produce cards of cats and obscure indie films, Topps can pretty much get away with anything.

On January 8th, the day my 7-day Twitter suspension came to an end, Topps announced a huge “Million Card Rip Party”. This event, which will be held on February 2nd at AT&T Stadium, will feature many top breakers going through hundreds of cases of 2020 Topps Series 1 Baseball. While officially, this event isn’t being hosted by Topps, it has their greedy fingerprints all over it. I’ve been writing for years that Topps is flooding the market by overproducing cards similar to the “Junk Wax” era and this is perhaps the most irrefutable proof I’ve seen yet.

Series 1 drops on February 4th and right off the bat, 1,000,000 cards will be opened. A MILLION on day 1. What about the allotment for breakers NOT involved in this event, the few remaining card shops in the nation, and retail outlets? Just how much 2020 Topps Series 1 has been printed and/or is still being printed as I write this? Some will argue that print runs mean nothing if collectors still purchase everything but when will the bubble burst? Is 2020 Topps the final nail in the coffin? Will collectors twenty years from now be unloading case after case of 2020 at garage sales?

Perhaps even more egregious … several of the breakers from this event will NOT be shipping out base cards. Read that one again, slowly. If you buy into one of the Topps sponsored breakers, there is a very good chance your base cards will not be shipped to you. It’s been a while since I’ve touched any Topps flagship but last I recall, the product is 97% base cards. You’re lucky to walk away with a single, serial numbered parallel and a bland game-used relic and/or manufactured patch. If you pull an autograph, trust me, you’ve beaten all odds.

Furthermore, the Topps flagship has always been a set builders product. This isn’t a hit-heavy brand like Bowman’s Best that’s almost all parallels and autographs. This also isn’t a thousand dollar per box product that’s all hits and no filler. The Topps flagship is a product that features beautiful photography and this year particularly, has a great design. If you don’t care about your base cards, fine, so be it. However, if you are a breaker who is saving money on not shipping base cards just to turn around and grade/sell them, you are a horrible person and should leave this hobby.

I’ve been defending breakers for a long time but this is the first time I will recommend that collectors go out and purchase a Hobby box for yourself. Although it’s not my bag, Topps’ flagship should be enjoyed by YOURSELF, not through anyone else. If you have no choice but to break online, do it with a company that will ship you every card that belongs to you, no ANDS, IFS, or BUTS. Don’t allow breakers or anyone else to rip you off. This hobby has been polluted by Gary V.-types looking to flip everything but TRUE collectors collect everything, including base cards.

As expected, the usual #TheHobby sycophants went to Twitter to defend the actions of breakers by stating that most will ship base and those who choose not to have lower prices per slots. Another flipper pointed out that all rookie cards, while technically considered base cards, would ship. That’s also great but you know what would be MUCH better? Shipping every single card that a collector is owed. If you’re trying to save money OR trying to keep base cards to grade and make profit from, or sell locally, you are a scumbag and that’s the bottom line.

Don’t be a Fuck Face, #ShipTheBase

Topps, You’re Doing It All Wrong

I remember it like it was yesterday. In actuality, it was twenty-four years ago when I pulled my first Refractor. Unfortunately for me, it was of Mark Grace and if I can be perfectly honest, the Refractor technology was so subtle at the time that I didn’t even know what I had until I got home and viewed the card under brighter lights. At the time, the ‘Refractor’ was only 3 years old and although they had been readily available in Topps Finest and Bowman’s Best, packs were hard to come by or just too expensive.

Those packs of 1996 Chrome were about $4 a piece, which for a 16-year old was just right. Sure, I could buy several .99 cent packs of Score or Upper Deck’s Collector’s Choice but I wanted a chance at something really special and 4 packs in, I struck Cubbie Blue oil. From that day on, I was a fan of Topps Chrome. I was never a set builder so Topps’ flagship did absolutely nothing for me but Chrome and Refractors won me over year after year and over two decades later, collectors seem to feel the same way I do.

Yesterday, on the eve of New Year’s Eve, Topps showed off a gallery of the upcoming 2020 Topps Chrome. One particular card stood out above the rest because it was a familiar friend … and I mean that 100% sarcastically. Take a look at the mock-up below of Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. In case you missed it, it’s a reproduction of an almost twenty year-old insert but now featuring a shaded-out area for autographs. Where do I begin? Did anyone, anywhere want an All-Star Rookie Team reboot?

Take it from someone who had the originals two decades ago, they are over the top and not all that special. Adding an autograph is great and all but what Topps Company should really be doing is MOVING FORWARD with the ridiculously talented young stars of baseball and creating new inserts and designs. Either take advantage of the youth market or just come out and admit that the only people buying baseball cards anymore are grumpy old men and women and pander to us exclusively until we die off.

I’m not suggesting Topps not use throwback designs but c’mon man, how in the world does All-Star Rookie Team get a new coat of paint before a throwback to the ICONIC 1997 and 1998 Bowman chrome designs? Somehow, Topps showed love to the 1996 Bowman’s Best design but not the two legendary 1st and 2nd Bowman Chrome efforts? I don’t know who makes these decisions at Topps but they need to find a new line of business, pronto. Clearly, whoever it is doesn’t collect baseball cards.

I hear Panini America is hiring ….

As for 2020 Topps Chrome, it looks absolutely magnificent. I may pick up a box or three myself based on the much improved design. There is the whole issue with over 20 parallels in the set but in modern collecting, that is to be expected. Topps Chrome’s debut had one parallel, 2020 Topps Chrome has 20+. You either love it, accept it, or find a new hobby. I see many collectors, especially player collectors, choosing to move on but that is to be expected when you flood the market with 30+ products a year.

Topps and Panini have made player collecting nearly impossible if you are a completist. Player rainbows, which just a decade ago consisted of 8-10 cards, now range from the low 20s to the high 30s. The days when a player just had one “big” rookie card are long gone but now you can expect a player to have hundreds of rookie cards. Vladimir Guerrero, for example, has over 300. If you think that’s the key to creating future, iconic baseball cards, more power to you.

PS. You’re wrong, though.

The Real Victim of “Junk Wax”

There’s a lot of bad vibes that surround the “Junk Wax” era of baseball cards, which most tend to agree ran from around 1987 through 1992. The first victims of this baseball card “bubble” were the investors. who came into our hobby looking to make long-term money on unopened product only to find that their portfolio of ’90 Topps and ’91 Donruss was worth less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

So while those “investors” found themselves stuck with cases of unwanted, overproduced product that they were forced to unload at garage sales, flea markets, and card shops willing to take it for pennies on the dollar, the bad vibes of “Junk Wax” continued to grow into the monster that it has become today. These days, while inventory seems to still be unlimited, its the cards that have suffered the biggest blow.

For example, take a look at the 1991 Topps Walt Weiss card. As a collector now going on three decades, to me, this is as perfect as any baseball card that I’ve ever seen. For starters, the design was a vast improvement over 1990 Topps and these ’91 card backs were also top notch. The most important thing, however, is the photograph. It’s not just underrated, it is absolutely spectacular.

As we enter 2020, cards like this should be appreciated for their beauty, if not for their value. Unfortunately, this “hobby” and today’s collectors live only in the moment and cards like these, which in my opinion, are small pieces of art, get discarded and labeled “junk”. Topps has been re-using the ’91 design in just about everything but for some reason hasn’t released a ’91 Topps Walt Weiss Archives autograph.

Until Topps gets its shit together and stops obsessing over fat Vlad Jr. and creepy Gary V., all you have are unsigned versions of this card, including the coveted Desert Shield and Preview versions, both which can come close to the $20 mark each. Hopefully, one day soon we see this card in Topps Archives Retired Signature Series because it has all the makings of an iconic baseball card that has flown under the radar for nearly 30 years.

For those wondering, the picture was taken in 1990 by photographer, Otto Greule Jr. and features Indians’ catcher, Joel Skinner, sliding under Weiss. The year the Topps card was released, 1991, would also be Skinner’s final year as a player. Walt Weiss’s career lasted another decade before he retired and become a manager for the Colorado Rockies. He’s currently a batting coach for the Atlanta Braves.

One final note: Walt Weiss has been featured in this style many times including 1991 Stadium Club, 1990 Score, and even 1995 Topps. Come to think of it, many of his early year baseball cards feature lots of action. For a guy who wasn’t much of an offensive threat his entire career, he sure made up for it by appearing in many different, memorable cards by all the manufacturers.

You can also find Weiss’ pack-inserted autograph in 1996 Leaf Signature Series. Trust me, if you purchased a $20 pack of ’96 Leaf SS back in the day and pulled a Weiss, you probably weren’t thrilled but I think as we’ve grown older, some of us have begun to appreciate spunky players like Walt, who by the way, was Rookie of the Year in 1987 and an All-Star with the Rockies.

Happy 2020!