A Diamond In The 80’s Rough

I have non-collecting friends ask me all the time if their old 80’s cards are worth any money.  Just like me, they were collecting heavy during the card boom and have a ton of ’89 Score Jose Canseco’s.  But unlike me, they got out and never came back from their Dark Period.  The last thing they remember about cards was that Gregg Jefferies was going to help them retire at 35.  Of course, for those of us that came back to the hobby (or never left), we long ago accepted that the 80’s are largely a nostalgic era as opposed to an investor era. Our ’82 Ripken’s, ’87 Topps Bo’s and ’86 Donruss Canseco’s are cemented in our collections as reminders of the infancy of our collecting lives and bring back wonderful memories of trading and ripping and asking mom for $1 at Wal Mart.  But beyond that, we aren’t getting rich off of them.  There’s just too many of them and they are far too accessible to have much monetary value at this point.  But if you’re like me, they are priceless.You can buy almost any complete set from the 80’s for less than $100.  You can buy 75% of them for less than $50.  There are even some you can buy for less than $10.  The real money is in pre-1985 unopened boxes.  Those are the last bastions of hope for Gem Mint 10 rookies of Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs.  And those hopes fade as time passes and boxes and packs age.  I had a box of 1981 Donruss from a few years ago and the cards were in poor condition from just sitting in a Rubbermaid box.  The gum in the packs from those days ravages certain cards and the wax packs don’t protect corners from dings.  So when I’m asked by friends if the cards their mom found in the guest room closet are worth anything, I generally answer them all the same way.  “I love 80’s cards and to me they are priceless.  But if you’re looking to sell them, you aren’t going to get very much.  Hang on to them if you can.”

However, lost in the tangled nexus of 80’s overproduction, poor designs and slowly fading condition, there remains a set that stands out from the crowd.  The 1984 Fleer Update Set remains a valuable set and one that is difficult to find for less than $250.  The set itself is only 132 cards but is about 8 times the value of the full ’84 Fleer set of 660 cards.  Update sets have long been used by companies to provide the collector access to traded players in their new uniforms and rookies that weren’t included at the time of release of the base set.  Most update sets, especially those of the 80’s, are very reasonably priced and accessible.  The same can’t be said for the ’84 Fleer Update set.  The set has a very good crop of rookies (first year cards) and traded players that remain solid collectible players some 33 years later.  More on the checklist in a moment.The design of the ’84 Update Set mirrors that of the base ’84 set.  The card features a white border on all sides and a thick blue line above and below the player image.  The Fleer name is in the top blue line while the player name is at the bottom.  The team logo is featured after the player name.  Finally, the player’s position is in the white border below the player name.  It’s a simple but clean design that still looks pretty good today.  The backs of the cards are classic Fleer with blue and white columns and stats covering the players entire career.  In some cases where the career isn’t too long, there is a “Did You Know” section at the bottom of the card, which was fairly standard for the cards of this timeframe.  The only difference in the base and Update Set is the “U” before the card number on the back.As with other sports cards, high graded versions can elevate the value quite a bit.  It’s difficult to find Gem Mint 10 grades in the set as centering was usually off.  The white border cards make the centering an easy catch when looking at the cards with a naked eye.  The packaging also makes the cards susceptible to damage.  As the Update Set was small and only available in a full set, they were packaged in a small cardboard box, much like other Update sets throughout history.  The cardboard was not unlike the stock of the card though and did not provide a lot of protection.  So if you can get your hands on a set in very good condition, you have yourself a very nice collectible.  Of course, you can also buy cards already graded but expect to pay a premium. As for the players available in the set, there is a good mix of rookies and veterans that were on the move.  The value in the set comes from a small group of rookies that went on to have great, if not Hall of Fame careers.  There were also a few big name Hall of Famers at the end of their careers that were included.  Below are a few of those players and the current price their ungraded cards can be had for.#27 Roger Clemens XRC – Had Clemens not had his career close under the veil of steroid abuse, the value of his card could be much higher.  But even with those issues, ungraded versions have recently sold anywhere from $75-$130 on eBay.  High grades can sell for north of $750.#43 Dwight Gooden XRC – Another “what could’ve been” player is Doc Gooden.  This was his first Fleer card and ungraded versions can be found for an average of $25.  The graded versions have sold for as high as $200.#93 Kirby Puckett XRC – Kirby is a much sought after player in the mid 80’s and his rookies remain popular among collectors.  This card is his highest valued rookie and can be found ungraded for around $75 with higher graded versions selling between $350-$400.#102 – Pete Rose – Pete was released by the Phillies in the ’83-’84 offseason and signed with the Montreal Expos.  His inclusion in the Update Set featured him in the sweet Expos uni that we all love from the 80’s.  This card can be found for around $5.00 in ungraded form and around $15 for a grade 9.

#103 Bret Saberhagen XRC – Saberhagen had a very productive 16 year career and this rookie card remains his best.  Ungraded, they can be found around $7.50 while graded versions can be had for about $15.00.

#106 Tom Seaver – A Hall of Famer with 311 wins and 3,640 K’s is included in this Update Set at a very reasonable price.  You can buy an ungraded version for around $4.00.  But you can pick up a Graded 10 version for around $20.  Not bad at all!

This is one of those sets that is known for its significant value for the mid 80’s but there may be some younger collectors who have never heard about it.  I encourage you to check it out.  It’s a buildable set over time with the vast majority of singles being available for $1-$2 per card.  If you take your time and try to find some deals on the big 3 rookies, you could likely build the set for less than what it costs boxed up.  That’s more fun than buying the complete set anyway, right?  This is going to be my next little project and it may take a good while but I can pick up three or four $2 cards a week and put most of the set together in a matter of months.  The key again will be finding the big cards at a good value.  I don’t have to have graded cards to feel satisfied although it could be an option at some point down the road.  What say you about this nice mid 80’s set?


Classic Cardboard

I remember the first time I saw a baseball card.  Well at least I think it’s the first time I saw a card.  It’s possible that I stumbled across one at 5 or 6 but I don’t actually remember it.  With this card, I remember where I was, what grade I was in and the actual card I saw.  I even remember how I was able to get it from the owner and into my possession.  I suppose it stands as the first baseball card I ever owned, though it was a year or so before I officially started collecting.  It remains in my collection today and is one of a handful of older star cards that I was able to pick up when I was first starting to collect.  I use the term “older” to describe cards from 70’s to early 80’s.  I’m sure it means another era to some but I consider anything 5+ years before I started collecting, older.

I don’t really own a ton of cards that are pre-1980.  I have somewhat angled my current collecting preferences to mid 80’s.  I have a pretty fair amount of 1985 or newer cards and those are some of my favorite sets to this day.  But other than a box here or there, I don’t have a ton of really early 80’s and I have even fewer 70’s cards.  The ones I do have all usually carry a story with how they wound up in my collection.  Many of them were picked up in my early collecting days because they really weren’t that old at the time.  I don’t remember exactly what was traded in many instances but I do recall certain events that surround obtaining the cards.  Here are some of the cards I have that fit what I’m describing.  Some of the details have become fuzzy over time but the cards live on to tell their story.1980 Topps Ozzie Smith – This is that very first card that I remember.  I was 10 years old at the time at Mitchell County Middle School.  The reason I remember my age is because of where I was when I saw the card.  I remember being in one of the “mobile units” of the 5th grade wing that was for our music class.  We went to this class to play all of the old weird noise makers from that age.  They weren’t instruments per se, although I think we may have been introduced to the recorder that year.  Anyhow, my friends and I played marbles in the 5th grade.  We had the perfect sandy playground area for this activity.  There were some players that could clean my clock but there were some that I could hang with too.  I remember one of my friends showing off some cards in the music room and one of them was this Ozzie Smith.  Being 1987, I knew Ozzie as The Wizard in St Louis from watching the Braves and Cubs almost daily.  I wanted this card, even though I didn’t collect.  There was something cool about that baseball card.  Well, we played marbles at recess and I won that card from my friend.  It would be the first card of several that I won (or lost) playing stupid kids games.  But I won this one and I was thrilled.  I didn’t have toploader’s or binders or anything like that so I believe I just took it home and put it on my bookshelf.  It’s in a toploader now.1981 Fleer Willie Stargell – This was a sweet trade in 7th grade but did not cost me a card in exchange.  This was a food item, much like the Dave Winfield Twins/Indians trade from 94.  In 7th grade, we had this small brick standalone building that was fenced and locked 6 1/2 of the 7 hours we were at school each day.  But that small 30 minute window it was open was magical.  It was a small snack stand that had drink machines, snack machines and a small ice cream/popsicle stand.  Everything could be had for .35 cents or less.  I remember it being a BIG deal to be able to drink a soft drink at school during the day.  I always went with a grape soda for some reason.  One of the major items available was the “superstar” popsicle.  We’ve all seen some version of this and it’s most widely known as a “bomb pop” I believe.  It was first come-first serve and was the the first item that ran out every day.  I happened to procure one on this hot South Georgia afternoon and there was another student who missed out.  I might as well have been holding a $100 bill in my hand instead of the popsicle.  After some strong 12 year old negotiations, I was able to pry away this 1981 Fleer Willie Stargell.  So I essentially traded a popsicle for a Pops.  Ok, that was a lame play on words.1978 Topps André Dawson – I’ve mentioned my early infatuation with the Cubs and how much I was able to see them play on TV.  One of the players I really loved on that team was André Dawson.  The Hawk was a power hitting outfielder that could crush a baseball.  It’s amazing when I look at his stat totals now that he didn’t reach 500 home runs.  He had double digit home runs in 18 of his 21 seasons and the 3 that he didn’t were partial seasons that combine to only equal 145 games.  He hit 10 homes in those 3 seasons so he still hit double digits in less than a full seasons worth of games.  He even hit 49 one season.  Just totally surprised to see his total at 438.  In the early days of collecting, I tried to target Dawson in trades because of his stud status.  I remember having most of the 1991 Score Superstar set and one of the neighborhood kid collectors like myself wanted some of them.  I don’t even remember the cards he wanted but when I saw this 1978 André Dawson in his collection, I figured we could make something happen.  Remember in 1991, this Dawson wasn’t all that old.  It was like owning a card now from 2003, sort of.  The eras don’t match up but that gives you an idea of card age at the time.  We pulled off the deal and I still have this card.  I’ll bet you a bomb pop that he doesn’t have those ’91 Superstars anymore.1979 Topps Johnny Bench – I’ve mentioned my Uncle Speedy here before.  He had two kids that were my age, Corey and Jared.  We did pretty much everything together.  We played on the same little league teams, we played pick up games with buddies, we played marathon seasons of Tecmo And RBI and we collected baseball cards.  They had access to more vintage cards than I did because Uncle Speedy had some in his collection.  One specific thing I remember about baseball cards and Uncle Speedy was playing RBI 1 against him and he would tell us about the players that he really watched closely or even played with at one point or another.  I remember him talking about the California Angels with Tony Armas, Doug DeCincs and Bob Boone, who I knew absolutely nothing about at the time.  We would cross reference the backs of baseball cards to corroborate his stories about their stats and he was always dead on.  He was a real wealth of knowledge as it related to 70’s and 80’s MLB.  Well, one of the older cards that Corey and Jared had in their collection was this 1979 Johnny Bench All Star card.  We pulled of a trade on one of our many late night sorting sessions and even though it’s an all-star card instead of his regular card, I still love it.1981 Topps Nolan Ryan – I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here.  I don’t remember exactly how I got this card.  But for some reason, I keep going back to a memory of the flea market with my granddaddy.  We would go eat at Western Sizzlin in East Albany some Saturday’s or Sunday’s after church.  That would be followed by a trip over to the flea market across from Cooper Tire, now known as Kitty’s Flea Market.  It may have been called that then but I have no clue.  It’s a relative ghost town now with just a few booths of knockoff items that are more cheap new items than cool nostalgic ones.  But back in the day, Kitty’s was rocking and my granddaddy was a wheeler and dealer.  I watched him work deals on CB Radios, fishing poles and truck parts like a modern day Pawn Star.  Every now and then, we would run up on a booth that had some toys or Atari games and I would spend some time there.  For some reason, I keep placing this Nolan at that flea market.  I know I picked up some cards at the flea market from time to time and most of them were very early in my collecting days and I had no idea who the players were.  They were just sports cards so I liked them.  Maybe I got this card there and maybe I didn’t but it certainly makes me think of those days so I’m going to tie the two together unless a clearer memory comes to the forefront.

I still find it amazing that certain small objects can trigger such great memories.  Sports cards and video games are the most nostalgic for me in that respect.  I can tie so much of my youth to those inanimate objects.  I was just a regular kid who liked sports and these cards will always be a reminder of those days.  There aren’t many other interests from our youth that can be held with such high regard.  Nintendos have eventually broken and there’s been no one to fix them.  Our toys have gone by the wayside.  We can’t go in the front yard and play football anymore because either me or one of my friends will break a hip.  I don’t even have a VHS to play old movies on.  I have to go out and buy the DVD if I want to watch an old classic on TV, but it’s not the same.  Sports cards are the one thing I can still tangibly hold in my hand that places me back at those awesome moments in my life.  And without memories, what are we really?  We are who we are today because of the experiences of our youth, for better or worse.  Mine just happened to be great and I hang on to these cards to constantly remind me of the good ole days.

The Favorites

There was a recent “copy and paste” post going around on FaceBook which is something I don’t usually participate in.   However, this particular post was “List Favorite MLB Players By Position During “Your” Lifetime.”  I completed this one and posted it up with some thought but not real in depth consideration.  I have gone back and reconsidered the list and thought I should modify it somewhat.  Once I revisited the idea, I realized that I had gotten most of them right the first time but there were couple of glaring omissions in my initial attempt.  And as is a Dub Mentality staple, I also thought that I should include a card that was memorable for me of the player.  It wouldn’t be as much fun without some cards.  These are not their best card issues but they are ones that immediately pop in my mind when I think of the player and when I collected.

I’d like for you to review my list and let me know what you think but I also want to hear what you have to say in the comments of this post.  Obviously there is no right or wrong answer as we can’t control who others’ favorite players are.  Remember, this is your “favorite” players, not necessarily the greatest at the position of all time.  That is another discussion entirely.   So in order for you to fully complete the process, let me lay out some basic parameters for the task.  While it’s not easy and you will second guess every position at times, it’s a really fun thought process.

• Positions include C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, DH, RHSP (Right Handed Starting Pitcher), LHSP and RP.

• There is some room for “cheating the system” with the DH and RP spot if players moved to those positions later in their careers. Be as liberal with your list as you would like but don’t list Ken Griffey Jr. as your favorite SS ever.

• The title includes “your lifetime” so you can choose players that retired if you were 2 years old if you want to but I stuck with players that I collected heavily and/or saw play.

• Trust me; this is harder than you think. Just wait until the last paragraph that outlines some of the players that had to be left out.

Catcher – Tony Pena

This may seem like an odd selection to some but there is a reason that I always think of Tony Pena when I think about catchers.  First, he was pretty dang good.  He was a 4x All-Star and 4x Gold Glove Winner.  He also was the master of the fake intentional walk!  But that’s just part of the reason he is on this list.  When I first started watching baseball, I was drawn to jersey color.   I was a young kid and was entertained by some of the louder colors like the Astros and Pirates.  My Braves were powder blue and I loved it.  But I remember watching the Pirates on a family vacation to Atlanta.  They had Bill Madlock, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker at the time.  Their catcher was Tony Pena and the way he sat behind home plate with his one leg straightened out caught my eye.  I thought he was awesome!  I followed his career as I grew up and always liked him.   Of course, the card that catches my eye every time is the ’85 Donruss pictured above.

1B – Frank Thomas

This one was pretty easy for me but I almost swung him to DH to add another 1B to the list.  Turns out, I had to do that when I got to the OF position because it is loaded.  The Big Hurt was from Columbus, GA, which is about an hour and a half from where I grew up.  He then went on to play at Auburn, which is clearly a rival for Georgia but is my favorite team in the SEC West (except for the Cam years).   He was at Auburn the same time as Bo Jackson in 1986 and was recruited to play football as a tight end.  He went undrafted in baseball out of high school and called it the worst moment of his life.  He wanted to play so badly that he once said, “I could have been drafted for a dozen baseballs and a couple of fungos.”  He played only one season of football at Auburn, catching 3 passes for 45 yards.  He suffered an ankle injury preparing for the ’87 season and turned his focus to baseball.   Coach Pat Dye pushed him to pursue the baseball career after the baseball coach told him he would be a 1st round pick but he kept him on football scholarship.  He won the triple crown twice at Auburn and the rest is history.   Frank is and always will be a top 5 favorite player regardless of position.  The Braves had the 5th pick in that ’86 Draft and chose Kent Mercker.   What could have been…. The card I chose for Big Frank was the ’93 Ultra All Star.   I love this subset!

2B – Ryne Sandberg

I have written about watching the cubbies growing up on the blog so this one had to go to Ryno.   It was actually kind of close with Craig Biggio but my youthful days of watching the Cubs after school won out.  I collected Cubs along with the Braves when I stared in ’89 because of my familiarity with them.   They were loveable losers like us too at the time.  Ryno’s stats speak for themselves and he might be the greatest 2B to ever play the game but that isn’t what this list is about.  He was a career .285 hitter with 282 home runs, which is good for 4th all time among 2B.  Biggio is #3 on that list by the way. He was also a 10x All-Star, 9x Gold Glove and 7x Silver Slugger winner.   Is there much more to say?  I watched him play every day on my TV and he was a star.   That pretty much seals it.  And my favorite card of him is the ’89 Topps for nostalgic reasons.

SS – Ozzie Smith

While this started as a tough one, it was turned out to be an easy selection.  SS is a position that I paid a lot of attention to growing up and there were some great ones.  Barry Larkin and Cal Ripken Jr. immediately come to mind.   But the player that I always loved and still do was The Wizard.  While Bleacher Report ranked him 2nd behind Omar Vizquel, I think he is the greatest SS of all time.  The smile was so memorable too.  He looked like he enjoyed the game and made me want to play!  He won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves and holds the record for career assists.  Then there’s the backflip too!!   Check out this video if you want to experience The Wizard at his best.  If you’re clicking videos, here’s Here’s a great one with Will Clark.   The Ozzie pictured above is the best looking card I have of him.  The powder blue pants, the red border, the spring training top.  I love this card.

3B – Chipper Jones

Did you honestly think there would be another choice here?  Sure, there are several great third sackers that could have made this list and there are quite a few that I really like.   But Chipper is a Brave and he is one of the all time greatest.  He was an 8x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger, NL MVP, Batting Champion and World Series Champion.   And he played his entire career in Atlanta, which is very rare in this day and age.   Admittedly, there were times when he wasn’t my favorite player on the team but I never wanted him anywhere else.  He was a gamer and one heckuva team player.  So while 3B is loaded with talent, Chipper gets the nod for me.  And the card chosen was his 1991 Macon Braves Classic card.   I thought this card was going to be worth $1MM one day.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

OF – Ron Gant

Of course Ron Gant is on my list. Don’t act surprised.  I have waxed poetically about #5 before on the blog and you can read that here.  My favorite Gant card is this ’89 Donruss.  Love the colors!

OF – Ken Griffey Jr.

The Kid.  This was a unanimous decision in a sea of uncertainty when I started looking through the outfielders.  But there was no way I could leave him off of this list.  He had the most beautiful swing of anybody that ever held a baseball bat.  He had a smile like Ozzie that would just make you understand how fun the game could be.  We don’t even have to bust through the stats but he was an All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and Home Run Leader more seasons than some players actually play in a career.   I was able to see him play in person once in Atlanta when he was with the Reds.  We watched the game from our outfield seats but with the game out of reach, the stands started emptying so Mrs. Dub and I made it to some prime real estate behind the plate to see his final at bat.  He laced a double into the left center field gap and I was a stones throw away from that sweet swing.  I will see that ball flying into the night sky for the rest of my life.  It was truly one of those baseball moments that make me love the game.  For my childhood memories, you can’t beat the Ken Griffey Jr. Dream Team Card.

OF – Jose Canseco

With Gant and Griffey locked in, my challenge was to find one OF to fill the final spot.   My list was about 20 players long too.   This one may not be a unanimous decision but I couldn’t go in any other direction when all was said and done.  Canseco was the first cards in my binder for many years at the beginning of my collection.  Plus, I’ve told the story about dressing up as him in the 7th grade to do a public speaking autobiography.  He was the king of baseball in the late 80’s and could mash a ball like nobody’s business.  We found out why that was the case as his career started going off the rails.  He also had the humiliating baseball off of the head for a home run incident.  But nobody was more fun to watch at the plate during his heyday.   Because of what he meant to me when I started this hobby, he made the cut for the final OF spot.  The 1987 Topps was the first card of Jose I owned and remains a favorite of mine.

DH – Bo Jackson

This is where I had to pull another outfielder in.  I could not have a list of favorite players that didn’t include Bo.   He had a shorter career than most but it was as explosive as any.  He was as big as an ox, fast as a deer, could play the outfield with the best of them, mash the ball with the power hitters and steal bases like a leadoff hitter.  And none of that even touches his other abilities like flattening Brian Bosworth on the gridiron.   Bo was truly robbed of a more fruitful career when he suffered his hip injury but sports fans all over the world were also robbed of seeing his otherworldly talent on display.  A great 30 for 30 is “You Don’t Know Bo” and I would definitely recommend giving it a watch.  Bo is a dude’s dude, a man’s man.  The aforementioned coach at Auburn, Pat Dye, was asked who the greatest athlete he ever coached was.  His answer, “Bo Jackson was the best athlete I ever coached. Frank Thomas was the second best athlete.  And I might have had it reversed.”  Both of them made my list.  My absolute favorite Bo is the ’87 Topps.  It could be my favorite card of all time but that’s a bold statement off the cuff like that.

RHSP – Nolan Ryan

This is one I got wrong on my first attempt.   To be honest, I missed Ryan during my list process and I have no idea why.  My first choice was Doc Gooden and he remains my second choice but Nolan Ryan moves to #1 without much debate.  The Ryan Express threw so hard, he broke his catcher’s finger on a routine basis.  He was throwing harder in his mid 40’s than a lot pitchers when they were 23.   The thing I always heard about his fast ball was that it was heavy.  It was thrown so hard, it just felt heavy when it was hit or caught.   I shared my TTM success from earlier this year on him and I couldn’t have been more excited about the return.  Even though I like Robin Ventura as well, my favorite Nolan Ryan moment was this.  The card of choice here is the 1989 Upper Deck Football Toss.

LFSP – Tom Glavine

Tom Glavine is an Atlanta great.  He should have been a Brave for life but that didn’t happen.  Glavine was a key component on the Braves teams that made so many memories for me as a kid.  He was an artist on the mound and could hit pretty good too.  The one blemish he has for me is that whole “Player’s Union Rep during the ’94 Strike” thing but I can get passed that as I understand what his role was at this point.   It doesn’t diminish what he did on the field for my team.   I also got a chance to meet Glavine at a Braves game a few years ago and he signed for me, which was really cool.  He finished his career with 305 wins, 10 All-Star appearances, 4 Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series MVP.  He also led the NL in wins 5 times.  He would have been more decorated today had he not been sandwiched in the rotation by Greg Maddux and John Smoltz for all those years.  My favorite Tom Glavine card is actually a John Smoltz card, sort of.

RP – John Smoltz

Speaking of a John Smoltz card, this was another unanimous decision, even though I was accused of cheating on FaceBook when I listed Smoltz as a Relief Pitcher.  While he was a stellar starting pitcher with 213 wins, Marmaduke was also lights out in the closer role for many years for the Braves, notching 155 saves.  He remains the only pitcher in history to have 200 wins and 150 saves in a career.  He is also the only pitcher I can think of that made the move from SP to Closer and back to SP effectively.  Dennis Eckersley was moved from SP to RP but his days as an SP were over.  Number 29 will always be my favorite Braves pitcher of all time.  He was what our organization was all about in the 90’s.  My favorite Smoltz card is the ’89 Upper Deck.   I would not have wanted to be in the batters box for that photo.

That is really about the best I can do without driving myself insane. The names I had to leave off of this list are a who’s who of baseball royalty from the 80’s and 90’s. I had to pass over Benny Santiago, Pudge, Bagwell, McGriff, Mattingly, Biggio, Cal, Larkin, Boggs, Hawk, Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Puckett, Clemens, Maddux, Doc, Big Unit and Eckersley! Some of these players could be on the list but I am sticking with this final draft. What about you? Let me know in the comments who your favorites were!


The Dark Period

There is a song that takes me back to the prime of my life every time I hear it.  When I hear this song, I remember being 18 and riding the strip at Panama City Beach with my friends.  I have it on my iTunes playlist but I go through phases where all I want to hear is Deftones or Thrice or Starset and it gets lost in the 200+ songs that live there.  It rolled around this morning and I put it on repeat a couple of times because it’s just soothing to my soul when I hear it.  I’m sure you have certain songs that travel right through your ears and into the limbic system of your brain to put you in a different frame of mind.  Or is it just me?  Anyway, this particular song is “1979” by Smashing Pumpkins.  The Pumpkins were my favorite band in high school before the Deftones came along.  They are still in my all time top 3 and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” is one of the greatest albums ever!Smashing Pumpkins – 1979

The odd part of the memory of this particular part of my life is that it doesn’t include sports cards.  As Eric Norton so eloquently calls it when asking collectors on the Beckett Radio Podcast for their backstory in the hobby, it was my “dark period”.  Everyone in my age range has one.  Mine was from 1994 until around 2002.  I do remember picking up some football cards in 1998 because I have a bunch of Manning, Moss and Ricky Williams rookies but that was a short time frame.  And believe it or not, the cards I bought in ’98 were because of a girl.  That’s odd because the “girl” is usually the primary reason for the dark period to begin with.  But I actually dated a girl one time that liked ripping football cards.  The hobby side of me enjoyed those times but the relationship side is happy that we moved on.My dark period began in 1994 with the baseball strike.  It was really a perfect storm that led to me walking away from the hobby for a while.  For a 17 year old baseball fan, my mind had not evolved to the point of understanding salary caps, arbitration and antitrust legislation.  For me, it was greed, plain and simple.  I wanted baseball in my life and it wasn’t there.  I remember thinking that I would have played Major League Baseball for free and these owners and players were fighting over millions.  To complicate matters, one of the players at the forefront of this was a player on my home team, Tom Glavine, the President of the Player’s Union.  Unfortunately, he was the face I remember most often when thinking about the back and forth of the strike.  At the time, I partially blamed him, which may have been unfair.  There was blame to be passed around no doubt, but I put too much of it on him.The 1994 season was shaping up to be historic.  That’s easy to say some 23 years later but there were some major things happening.  The Montreal Expos were 74-40 at the time the strike happened and were 6 games ahead of the Braves.  That would have either been a great end to the season for the Expos or the Braves would have made an awesome comeback and won the East.  Either would have been considered wins in my book because the Expos were fun to watch.  The ’94 Strike has been credited with being a part of the eventual downfall of the Expos.  They sold off players after ’94 and attendance dropped.  They would never recover and could not get funding to build a new stadium.  MLB would eventually purchase the Expos in 2002 and then move them to Washington for the 2005 season.Tony Gwynn was hitting .394 with only 8 weeks left in the season.  Matt Williams was on a mathematical pace to break Roger Maris’ home run record.  The strike also cost Don Mattingly a chance at the postseason as the Yankees were 70-43 and 6 1/2 games up on the Orioles.  Up until that point, he had been kept out of the postseason.  He finally made it in 1995 but the team was not considered as good as in 1994.  He would retire at the end of ’95 and the Yanks would beat the Braves for the ’96 World Series title.  That was painful for me as a Braves fan but imagine how Donnie Baseball felt.By far one of the strangest results of the ’94 strike was a trade involving Dave Winfield and filet mignon.  While playing for the Twins in 1994, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians just after the strike began for a player to be named later.  Because the ’94 season ended early, Winfield didn’t play any games in Cleveland that year and the player to be named was never named.  To settle the trade, the Indians and Twins executives went out for dinner and Cleveland picked up the tab.  That’s probably the cheapest any team has ever bought a 3,000 hit, Hall of Famer.  I wonder how many calls were made after this story surfaced that requested Wade Boggs for a few lobster dinners!So the strike had me backing away from the hobby but there were other reasons that kept me away.  The Summer of ’94 is also when I started dating my future wife.  When we started dating, I didn’t care about baseball cards, Clerks or Tecmo Super Bowl for a while.  A hot chick can have that effect on a man.  My day was consumed with thoughts of my new girlfriend.  We went to different schools in our town and I would call her from a pay phone in our lunchroom cafeteria and she would stand by a pay phone outside her lunchroom waiting for the call.  Let that sink in for a moment young people…..a pay phone!  If I missed her, my afternoon was shot.  After school, I would drive by to see if she had left yet and then would ride around town hoping to bump into her.  No cell phone in those days and we couldn’t talk until we both got home.This relationship continued until 1997 and my cards stayed locked away in the closet during that whole time.  When we broke up, I was 20 and was galavanting all over the place hanging with friends and just being a dumb kid.  I was playing basketball, working, going to Huddle House at 2am and taking spur of the moment road trips with my buddies.  We did look at cards from time to time but it definitely didn’t classify as a hobby.  As I mentioned above, I did dip my toes back in the water in ’98 and dropped some coin on football products but I still didn’t go back to baseball yet.  I loved the Topps and Score boxes that could be found at Wal-Mart at the time and I would buy them every time I took a trip.  I still like that Topps set and it had some really cool inserts like Hidden Gems that are still pretty nice looking today.  The rookie class was awesome; Manning, Leaf, Hines Ward, Randy Moss, Fred Taylor, Ahman Green and Charles Woodson.  Even though I started picking these back up, I still wasn’t diving back into the hobby again.Part of my hesitation was still from the strike, some of it was from life just catching up with me during my young adult years and the rest was just the sheer mass production that was happening in the mid 90’s.  As a 20 year old, I was really starting to consider value in the cards and I wasn’t really finding it anymore.  The late 90’s were filled with products that I just couldn’t keep up with.  There were things like Zenith, Collectors Choice, Fleer Metal, Fleer Traditions, Pacific, Aurora and 20 different Pinnacle offshoots.  Supply had certainly met and passed demand and I didn’t want any part of the glutton of cards.  I still loved sports but couldn’t justify spending my fun money on sports cards that were worth .50 cents.  There were certainly some valuable cards to be found but I wasn’t in a stage of life to be searching.After spinning my wheels through young adulthood, my path led me back to my original girlfriend from 1994 and we would go on to get married in 2001.  When we got married, we moved away from our hometown (about 40 minutes) and we made Sunday the day we would go back and see our parents.  On Sunday’s, we would watch NASCAR at my parents house and we all had our favorite drivers.  I’ve been a Tony Stewart guy since 1999, my dad was Dale Earnhardt (and Jr.) all the way, my mom liked the LaBonte brothers and my wife liked Dale Jarrett and Sterling Marlin.  Those Sunday experiences soon got me into NASCAR collectibles like die cast cars and racing cards when I could find them.  We had a spare bedroom in our duplex at the time that was full of NASCAR memorabilia.  That led to me pulling out my old cards from the late 80’s and early 90’s.Once I started looking through my old cards, the feelings of nostalgia came rushing over me and that was when it truly sunk in that I wasn’t a kid anymore.  I was married, had a 9 to 5 and only went back “home” once a week.  It also made me understand the “growing up conundrum”.  All kids want to grow up and be adults while most adults want to go back to when they were kids.  When you become an adult, you spend your time worrying about bills, health, kids and work so you forget what it was like to only worry about beating a video game or pulling a Ken Griffey Jr. in your pack of ’89 Donruss.  Nobody told me that when I became an adult, my days would be consumed with worry and responsibility.  If I had known that, I would’ve stayed 14.These worries and responsibilities are all relative to your age and situation.  They always seem heavy and you look for times in your life when the worry wasn’t such a big deal.  When it rains, I’m not going to tell my 10 year old daughter not to fret because she can’t play outside because I know that was devastating for me at that age.  But I do know that she will have bigger concerns one day.  I just don’t want her to have them yet.  I know that worry and stress evolves over time and I’ve learned that you have to combat them by any means necessary.  For me, that has become sports cards once again.  I guess it’s the circle of life to some degree.  When I was a kid, you could give me a few packs of ’90 Fleer and I was as happy as a clam.  Understanding that the cards were a source of happiness when I was young, I decided to fight off adulthood by buying cards again.  And it’s worked into my 40th year of life.In fact, I’m going stronger than ever now and I’m still buying 1990 Fleer!  I buy other stuff too but I’ll never stray from my roots.  I would rather have an ’88 Topps Jose Canseco than a 2017 Mike Trout.  That may not make sense to some people but that’s the way I operate.  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy a 2017 Trout.  It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t love to have an Aaron Judge autograph.  But the true happiness of collecting for me comes from living in the moments from when I was a kid.  Unless Doc Brown comes along with a Delorean and Huey Lewis and the News, this is as close as I’ll get to those years.  So I’ll keep ripping “Junk Wax”, as it’s labeled.  I’ll keep collecting Fleer stickers and ’89 Bowman wrappers and ’90 Upper Deck holograms.  Who knows, I might pull a Donruss Elite along the way or that Juan Gonzalez reverse negative we all remember.  But whatever I pull, it will be memorable and will remind me of the days before my “dark period.”


Beckett – More Than A Price Guide

No matter how old I get or how many miles I put between 12 years old and now, there are certain images that I still have from those days.  I remember the McGwire ’90 Fleer I got at Halloween that year.  I remember the back of ’89 Score because that’s the way I went through packs to maintain suspense.  I remember the ’89 Mel Hall Donruss card that I used in the make believe baseball games on my blue shag carpet.  I don’t know why we remember certain things that seem so insignificant but I understand why memory loss is such a traumatic event as you get older.  I don’t want to lose these images or memories.  So to combat the issue, I keep doing what I do and I never turn my nose up at a cheap box of cards from the most overproduced era in history.I’m here today to talk about some of those images that I still have from that time in my life.  When I go through Camilla on my way to my parents house, I instinctively glance over at the new Wal-Mart that was built right beside the old Wal-Mart that is now a Marvin’s Building Supply.  I’ll never forget that old Wal-Mart and wish it was like it was when I was a kid.  I remember the first time I saw the card display in that store.  It was a cube display with cards on every side.  There were ’89 Topps, ’89 Donruss, ’89 Score, ’90 Pro Set, ’90 Hoops and ’90 Skybox.  Talk about a card cornacopia!  Along with the cards were other items like Ultra Pro 9 pocket sleeves, a couple of binder choices and the magazine source for all of my baseball card knowledge in those days, Beckett Baseball Card Monthly.If you mention the name “Beckett” to anyone in the general range of 40 years old, chances are that they will know exactly what you are talking about.  It was better than Sports Illustrated for me!  I’m not going to give a full blown history of Dr. James Beckett but we’ll start with the founding of Beckett Publications in 1984.  Sports cards really took off in the early to mid 80’s and Dr. Beckett, a statistics professor, decided to launch a magazine that would cover pricing and other aspects of the industry.  The magazine was as popular as any when I was 12-13 years old and was the end all for all trade discussions and fairness gauges.  There was no eBay, no Twitter, no FaceBook or even the internet itself in those days.  Availability and pricing was limited to your friends and Beckett.  So when I went to Wal-Mart, sometimes the cards weren’t even as important as buying the new magazine.  You couldn’t even start a discussion with the potential trade recipient if you hadn’t memorized the updated values.The first thing I did when I got my new magazine was scour the current sets for the much sought after ⬆️ (up arrow).  If cards were on the rise, they were coming out of the binder and going into safe keeping.  If, heaven forbid, I found the down arrow, they usually went back into the binder as I shed a lone tear for the player.  I recall one period where EVERY SINGLE 1990 Leaf card had the up arrow beside it.  One of my best friends had the entire set in a binder and I was so jealous!  After looking at the price changes, I went over to the Hot List to see what was going on.  It ranged from Elite Cards to hot Rookies but almost always had a Ken Griffey Jr. there.  My next stop was the section that had the upcoming card shows.  I’d find Georgia and see if I was lucky enough to have one coming to South Georgia.  More often than not, Atlanta was the hot spot.  After reading the articles, the last thing I would do is take it to my dad and show him the vintage prices and make sure he hadn’t stumbled on any of his old cards.  That answer never changed.  They were likely destroyed by his playing with them or thrown out by Granny years later.  I always had to check though.Now Beckett is so much more than “just a price guide.”  They have grading services, which is my go to for the few cards I’ll get graded.  They also have a website with an online marketplace where you can search for needs and fill in the gaps if you don’t want to go the eBay option.  They are on social media too and are active in that arena.  The most useful aspect of Beckett at this time for me is the Beckett Radio Podcast (@BeckettRadio) hosted by #TheFatpacks (@EricNorton316 and @PaulWirth23).  They have turned me on to so many new products (even some outside of sports) and are a wonderful resource for upcoming events, products and hobby happenings.  They are also very active on Twitter with fantasy leagues and giveaways so you have to follow them if you like sports cards!  You also need to subscribe to the podcast, Beckett Radio.  You won’t be disappointed.

So as you can see, the magazine that brought me such a big part of the hobby in my youth is still a vital part of the hobby today.  By now, you may be asking, “what does that have to do with images from your youth.”  Well, I’m about to get to that.  Last week on the podcast, the guys opened up the mailbag and I had a question that was discussed on air.  The question was, “What’s your personal favorite Beckett Magazine Cover of all time?”  It even made me think back to the tons of covers I’ve seen over the years and I started doing some ranking.  I thought I would share my thoughts here but was not able to really nail down a complete list.  I wasn’t able to pick just one, or five or even ten so I decided to list my twelve favorites.  They are in reasonable order from 12-1 but the ranking has changed several times and I may not be married to this as my final ranking for good.  I don’t think #1 will change but each time I look at these I feel guilty for having any of them ranked lower than #2.  So take the ranking with a grain of salt except for #1.

#12 – November/December 1990 – David Robinson #5 – I did not have a ton of friends who collected basketball cards but we all watched and played.  I was pretty heavy in collecting the cards though too.  My cousin Coop was big in it too.  We had our teams and players and would trade quite often.  For those that didn’t collect basketball, let me tell you that the ’89 Hoops David Robinson was sort of like the ’89 Ken Griffey Jr. Rookies.  I had to have these cards and still love them today.  There were actually two versions in the set.  One card featured him holding his Spurs jersey and the other was him shooting a free throw.  David Robinson was one of my favorite players back then and he came in and handled business quietly.  I simply loved this cover with The Admiral standing in front of The Alamo.  I also liked 90 Fleer basketball cards as well and the card featured was a favorite.#11 – March 1992 – Cal Ripken Jr. #84 – Who doesn’t love Cal?  You show me someone who doesn’t love Cal and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t love baseball.  He was still a couple of years away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak but was right in the thick of a Hall of Fame career in 1992.  This was also the year he appeared in the Donruss Elite insert set and this remains one of my all time favorite chase sets.  It was the first after all.  This was a great shot of Cal and I’ll always remember this cover.#10 – March 1991 – Ken Griffey Jr. #72 – Our first Jr. makes an appearance at #10 but there will be a more iconic cover in the top 3.  This one I loved because of the image.  It was Jr. in his classic follow through that was the envy of every young baseball player that hit left handed.  I had never seen a smoother swing and don’t know that it’s been beat since.  Jr. was a graceful player that was always admired for the fun loving nature he showed in his cards.  The Jr. on this cover and the one later are what I remember and loved so much about him back then.  The game got heavy a little later in his career and people tried to slander his good name but I’ll always hold him near and dear to my heart as a collector who started in 1989 when he broke through.#9 – December 1990 – Nolan Ryan #69 – This may be the lowest Nolan Ryan has ever been on any list ever concocted and that’s why I still struggle with my rankings. But the covers ahead of this one can’t be justified at any lower ranking.  This was truly tough.  “The Ryan Express” was a hero of mine in my young pitching days and I even had his “arm workout” book from my sophomore season in high school.  I remember curling jugs of water and throwing to a taped square on the wall outside my house as the guide was instructing me.  I don’t know if I ever got better because of it but I felt like I did and that was all that mattered.  Nolan was as intimidating a pitcher as there ever was and I only imagined the fear I would have looking at this pose from the batters box.  A great cover that probably is ranked too low.#8 – October 1990 – Jose Canseco #67 – This one was a classic and I could see it from several rows over as I approached the card cube at my Wal-Mart that day.  This was the same year I had performed my Canseco “autobiography” I spoke of in a previous post.  Canseco was THE MAN in ’89-’90 and he had the first page in my card binder.  I couldn’t get enough Canseco in my life and the cover here depicted the aforementioned 1990 Leaf that was totally on fire!  He’s sporting the A’s yellow jersey and has a look of confusion and bloodshot eyes but this is definitely top 10 material for my list!#7 – December 1989 – Bo Jackson #1 – This was the first Beckett Football installment and had the hottest player in sports on the cover.  He was at the top of his game and was only a couple of months away from taking the video game hero title away from Mario.  I remember this being one of the first magazines I got but I didn’t save them back them like I should have.  In fact, I would roll them up or fold them to get them to fit in my bookbag every day so it probably wouldn’t be in great shape even if I had.  I got started with baseball cards but football has always run a VERY close 2nd and has been #1 at some points.  My first big football set was ’90 Pro Set but I do remember picking up some ’89 Pro Set as well.  I still have the Bo Super Rookie and it’s one of my favorites.  You may wonder why Bo comes in at #7.  Don’t worry, there’s another one coming.#6 – May/June 1990 – Barry Sanders #4 – Bo was an absolute beast in baseball and football.  But no running back ran with the shiftiness and wizardry of Barry Sanders.  He was as close to Bo on Super Tecmo as you could get and was underrated because of the Raider RB.  I loved collecting Barry and I had a crazy ton of the ’90 Score pictured on the front.  My two favorite cards from the base set were two players that you’ve probably never heard of, or you’ve forgotten.  One was Percy Snow, a linebacker from Michigan State that was drafted by the Chiefs.  The other was Fred Washington that played at TCU and was drafted by the Bears.  I loved those cards and never got to see Washington’s career take off because of a fatal car accident his rookie year.  We were also robbed at the end of Barry’s career as he hung up the cleats very early and still had a lot left in the tank.  I loved that “Beckett Football Card Magazine” was in blue and silver like the uni’s and it really set off the image.#5 – April 1991 – Dominique Wilkins #9 – First, just look at the beautiful inset ’90 Hoops card.  Nique throwing down a windmill jam with the awesome silver border.  I don’t know that I have owned more cards in a set than ’90 Hoops, except maybe ’90 Pro Set.  I loved these Hoops cards and still do.  I have the equivalent of a full box of unopened Hoops packs at my house that I throw in giveaways from time to time.  The rookie class was awesome with Kemp, Hardaway, Payton and Glen Rice.  This was the heyday of great basketball and weekly Sunday matchups on NBC.  And of course, my main man was Dominique Wilkins.  Not only a star in the NBA and one of the most exciting players ever but he was playing at Stegeman Colliseum in Athens, GA even before that.  This is a top 5 no doubter!#4 – April 1992 – Frank Thomas #85 – This is one of the covers that I automatically picture in my head when someone says “Beckett”.  There was a card too from 1992 from this same setting in the Topps set but The Big Hurt has a big smile and looks friendly.  He looks like he is ready to pound a fastball in this photo!  Frank was a loveable player and grew up just about an hour and a half from where I’m from so was as close to a hometown superstar as we had at the time.  He played for Auburn, which was a slight knock but he remains a big figure in Georgia today.  I never owned the ’90 Topps error card as it is pretty rare but I loaded up on the corrected version along with ’89 Score update Rookies.  And this is a great time to mention again that I just recently added a great Frank Thomas autographed jersey thanks to the kindness of Robert Ballis (@RBallis)!!!#3 – September 1991 – Michael Jordan #14 – There are very few images in sports as iconic as MJ kissing the trophy.  And Beckett captured it perfectly with issue #14 of the Basketball edition.  Jordan may be the only player to grace both the Basketball and Baseball covers.  I’d have to do a little research but I can’t think of another.  Bo got Baseball and Football and Deion may have at one point as well.  MJ shocked the world when he announced he was retiring from basketball to play baseball and the hobby world went nuts too.  He also has a Basketball cover in the #45 Bulls jersey when he returned to the league that was very memorable but not quite Top 12 material.  This one was easy and belongs in the Top 3 for me.  I appreciate MJ more and more as the years pass and the NBA becomes more watered down and free agency driven.  In my day, The Dream Team represented America, not just one city.#2 – July 1990 – Ken Griffey Jr. #64 – Here is the iconic Jr. for me.  I don’t remember the specific hot list from this guide but I can assure you that half of them were Jr. cards. There was truly no hotter name in 1990 than Ken Griffey Jr.  He even made Canseco take a back seat.  And this smile was what you saw from Jr. on a routine basis except when they made him into a villain in 1994’s “Little Big League.”  1989 Upper Deck is obviously his marquee card and you may know by now that I still haven’t pulled one from a pack.  But I had a cache of ’89 Donruss rookies that I would horde like they were ’52 Mantle’s.  This was such a great time to be a baseball fan and collector.  This magazine brings back such fond memories and I can’t help but smile when I see it.#1 – June 1990 – Bo Jackson #63 – You had to know this was coming, right?  It is quite a coincidence that the top magazine on this list is issue #63 and it’s followed by #64 that is second on this list.  This was collecting to me.  If my life as a collector was an old VHS movie, this would be the box cover.  Bo in the pads with the bat over his shoulders may be the most iconic image on a sports card ever but is certainly the top photo in my lifetime.  It’s even better because it’s black and white.  Score football put out a similar card with Bo in the batting stance but it didn’t have the pop that this one did.  Maybe it’s because of the purple border.  Or maybe it’s because ’89 Score also had Aikman, Barry and Deion rookies.  Either way, this image takes first prize and is why this magazine cover lands at #1.

What are some of your favorite Beckett covers?  There are plenty more out there like Jordan with the Sox, Rickey Henderson and Larry Bird that I didn’t get to.  And there’s an entire catalog of Hockey that I know nothing about.  Technology has come along and hurt a lot of physical publications and made them move to the internet.  But even still, nothing beats holding a Beckett Price Guide in your hands and looking up your card prices!  Comment below or on Twitter and tell us your favorite Beckett Magazine memory.  And if you’re a podcast fan, I urge you to check out Beckett Radio this week!  


The Bucket List

One of my favorite people to chat with about the hobby is Ryan (@basecardhero).  We have DM chat sessions sometimes that are probably like a couple of teen girls on the telephone reading Tiger Beat circa 1992.  That’s probably extreme but yeah, we have some entertaining banter.  We talk about hobby happenings, things we like and don’t like and what we are currently working on as it relates to sets or players.  I enjoy those conversations because we are a lot alike from a collecting standpoint.  Trust me, there is a lot to talk about when we chat.  The pic below is one he sent me of the cards he is sorting now.  My little collector brain almost exploded.  Our last conversation sparked an idea for this blog post. We were talking about the pains of hearing about “Zeke and Dak” and how the hype has made them less collectible in our eyes.  The conversation turned to hot prospects and Rookies of our youth and how we would’ve never tired of hearing about Ken Griffey Jr.  That led us to his 1989 Upper Deck Rookie Card.  More about that in a minute.I’ve been collecting a long time.  I started at around 11 and with a few hiccups along the way for growing up and experiencing new things; I am going on 30 years of lusting after cardboard.  I’ve picked up a lot of pieces along the way that have made me proud of my collection and I’ve talked about those in pretty good detail over the last couple of weeks in my “What’s In The Fireproof” series.  I also touched a little on things that are missing from my collection that I hope to add.  Robert Ballis (@RBallis) made a tremendously kind donation to that list with the addition of the Frank Thomas Autographed White Sox jersey a couple of weeks ago.  I am still searching for a way to somewhat even the score with Mr. Ballis.But the items I listed that I want for my collection are “wants” and are a matter of making purchases or trades.  Sometimes those items can be added with unmatched kindness like that shown by Robert.   There are other things that I list on my “Collecting Bucket List” that aren’t just pieces that are added.  The bucket list is filled with items that I am going to have to work for as a collector to add.  They are items that aren’t going to pop up on eBay and I click “buy”.  You can actually do that for almost anything but I’m working on a budget here.  I use a bucket list to outline “accomplishments” and not necessarily treasure items that are in my collection.  Although when the accomplishments are completed, they no doubt yield treasures.  Does that make any sense?Bottom line is I have a “wants” list and a “bucket list” and the bucket list is what I want to talk about today.  I WANT a UGA bloodline bulldog for the family and one day, maybe I’ll own one.  And that will be a glorious day much like the day I received the Thomas Jersey.  But on my BUCKET LIST, is traveling to Santa Monica and singing along to Everclear on the pier as the sun goes down.  When that gets accomplished, I know I can look back on my life and know that I met some goals.  Do you see the difference?  They are both great, but both very different.  So, enough half-ass explaining what I am trying to say and on to the actual bucket list.

  • I want to pull a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. from an actual unopened pack.  I know what you’re thinking; that’s not that big of a deal.  Let me tell you where I am coming from on this.  I have bought pack lots and boxes off of eBay for as long as eBay’s been around and it’s never happened.  The thing about ’89 Upper Deck is that even though they advertised “tamper proof” packs and more “advanced collating”, there a still a boatload of collectors that can tell you right where the Jr. is in most boxes.  And many more can open a couple of packs and figure it out.  I am not one of those people but I’m sure the boxes I have bought before have been picked over to a large extent and the Jr. has been removed.  It’s also an extremely large set, even by 80’s standards, with a checklist of 800 cards.  I didn’t get to buy many packs in ’89 because they were “so expensive” and they really weren’t available at my Wal-Mart.  I have 2 Jr’s in my collection but those were both obtained through buying the sets at reasonable prices.  I want that thrill of pulling one in a pack and it continues to elude me.
  • Let me increase the intensity just a hair with this one.  I want to own the complete 1984 USFL Topps Premier Edition.  Of course, these are available on eBay but again, the budget issue.  I can’t spend that kind of money on a box of sports cards as long as I have kids in the house.  I don’t know if I could sleep at night.  That doesn’t mean I don’t look at it quite often on the various auction sites where it’s found.  I keep thinking that one day I’ll stumble on to one at one of the many vintage or antique shops I visit in my travels.  In the meantime, I pick up singles when I can find them.  If not put together over time, then one day I’ll have enough disposable income to spend on the set.  When I get to that point, I will be satisfied with my economic standing in life.  Again, that’s an accomplishment.  The ’84 USFL Set provides the first football cards for a plethora of NFL legends.  Among them are Reggie White, Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker.  There are also very serviceable NFL’ers like JoJo Townsell, Ricky Sanders, Anthony Carter, Doug Williams and Mike Rozier.  The list is much more extensive but I have to move on.
  • While we are on 1984, we might as well discuss the NFL version of ’84 Topps.  This is a set I want to put together through singles and packs when I can find them.  This set is even more prestigious than the USFL version and remains one of the most sought after football sets since 1981.  This set includes the rookies of John Elway, Dan Marino, Howie Long and Eric Dickerson.  Along with those star rookies, the “veterans” in the set include Walter Payton, Franco Harris, Ozzie Newsome, Jack Lambert and Joe Montana.  The set is loaded and the price for a box reflects it.  The packs will run you $40 and the dad gum empty box costs almost $100!  This one is going to take some time one card at a time but anything is possible.
  • Continuing the theme with sets I want to build, I want to put together a pre-1980 set of any sport.  I have looked at a few that I like but I’ve just never started the process.  I know that it’s going to take some time and I usually occupy myself with 80’s sets but I want to tackle this one eventually.  I like the 1975 baseball set and (@waxtopia) just brought that one back to the forefront for me.  But otherwise, I also like ’73 and ’79 baseball.  I would love to put together the 1972-73 Basketball set but that is a long shot.  As for football, 1973 is probably my favorite design but if I’m going to do it, I might as well try for ’76 when Sweetness was a rookie.  This one is a solid goal for me but I don’t know when I’ll get around to starting it.
  • Finally, the king of all bucket list items; 1986 Fleer Basketball.  Most collectors know that basketball left the card market after the ’81-’82 Topps set and would make a triumphant return in 1986 with Fleer.  If only I had known in 1986 just how important this set would be.  It was essentially a majority rookie set because it was the first basketball card for half the league.  Everyone knows about Michael Jordan’s rookie card in the set and I have that on my wants list.  But also included in the “RC” category are James Worthy, Chris Mullin, Isaiah Thomas, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley.  Let that sink in for a minute.  A large portion of the leagues very best players throughout the 80’s and 90’s have rookie cards in the 1986 Fleer set.  Singles are tough to get and are expensive, even for semi-stars.  The other issue with Fleer is counterfeits.  There are tons of Jordan’s but there are others that can trip you up on your way to a complete set when buy one or two at a time.  I will admit that this probably has a slim chance of success but it’s on the bucket list for a reason.  It is the ultimate goal for me as a card collector.

Another “item” I want to add that is a cross-over to my bucket list is a Jackie Robinson baseball card.  I don’t really care what condition or what year but I will add an authentic, non-reprint Jackie one day.  You know exactly where it’s going to go when I get it too!  What are some of your goals as a collector?  What are some of the sets or pack pulls that have eluded you over time?  Technology and access to cards has made the bucket list much smaller than it used to be but there are still lofty goals that each of us have circled that we want to meet.  For me, the ultimate culmination of this crazy life would be me sitting at the end of the Santa Monica pier with Mrs. Dub, singing “We could live beside the ocean” all while thumbing through my set of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards.  If things go the way I have them planned in my mind, that dream will one day become reality.


Meet The Collector – Waxtopia

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the “Meet the Collector” series as much as I have so far.   I also hope that you have found a new collector to follow on Twitter if you didn’t already.  It’s time to meet another seeker of the cardboard and to do so; we have to travel all the way out to the Hawkeye state.   I have never been to Iowa but I was a fan of Tim Dwight when he played for the Falcons.   Another American Hero that calls Iowa home is John Sorenson, better known as @waxtopia.   The Twitter handle is genius! He also has “sorely neglected” (self-described) blog at www.waxtopia.com.John started collecting in 1986, when he was around 11 years old.  He and his family moved to the same town in Iowa where a couple of his cousins lived, and one of them had already started collecting baseball cards.  I was the oldest in my family and was the first to start collecting and am still the only one as far as I can tell but I digress.  He was just starting to follow sports around this time and collecting sparked his interest.  He didn’t realize at the time, like many of us, that it would be so addicting and he would still be collecting as an adult.  Baseball has always been his primary focus but he has a passion for all sports and collects football, baseball and hockey cards.   In the mid 80’s there wasn’t much he didn’t collect; including WWF, Alf and Garbage Pail Kids, which he had to hide from his mom.The Sorenson’s camp at the State Fair in Iowa every year and there used to be an awesome flea market that ran the whole length of the grandstands.  There was a booth within that flea market that sold nothing but sports cards and the cousins would go down there almost every day and buy a grab bag for around $2.  Very few places were more fun to me than a flea market with cards growing up!  They can still churn out some cheap finds today if you can find the right spots.  At any rate, the grab bags would be full of 86 commons but there was also some random vintage included.  The first thing they would do was check the card backs to see who got the oldest card.  He specifically remembers pulling a ’68 Matty Alou and thought it was the greatest thing ever.  That was the moment that hooked him and he didn’t look back for the next 7 years or so.As you might imagine, growing up in Iowa presented some challenges with finding a MLB home team to hitch a bandwagon to.   John latched on to the Kansas City Royals and George Brett because they were a great story in 1985, when he started paying attention to sports.  Brett still is and will always be his favorite baseball player.  He also became a fan of the Red Sox after watching the lose in the ’86 World Series, which probably sounds backwards.  However, he notes that there is something about watching teams suffer that makes him want to root for them.  It’s called the “Underdog Syndrome” and I think we all have it to some degree unless the underdog is one of our fierce rivals.  He also enjoyed watching Wade Boggs and Jim Rice hit.  He still PC’s Boggs but to a lesser degree.As for basketball, which is pretty big in the Midwest, John has always been a Larry Bird fan which included the Celtics by extension.  He still roots for the Celtics and adds Bird to his collection whenever he can.  He didn’t really have a favorite NFL team growing up as he paid more attention to the Iowa Hawkeyes, a team which he still has, what he considers, an unhealthy obsession for.  He collects any and all former Hawkeyes and also Kurt Warner due to his Iowa connection.  There is also an AHL team in Des Moines for the Minnesota Wild so he is also a Wild fan.  His fandom is admittedly quite random.John names the 1975 Topps set as his favorite, without hesitation.  He was born in ’75 and George Brett has a nice rookie card in that set so it was really just natural selection.  He remembers puddles of drool on the pages of his Beckett Magazine when he would see the pictures of the set in the price guide.  John describes the set perfectly, “The design epitomizes the 70’s in all its tacky glory.”  There are other sets that he loves like ’83 Topps, ’84 Donruss and ’91 Stadium Club but ’75 Topps will always have a special place in his heart that can’t be touched.

When asked what he likes about the hobby in its current state, John likes that there are more ways to connect with other collectors than ever before.  As he explains, “Before Twitter, there were a few scattered blogs and message boards.  Now, the Twitter “card feed” is just a daily part of my life that I can’t fathom being without.   The #CollectFam is strong!” Well said John and I couldn’t agree more.   As for his biggest dislike, “Exclusives.  They’re ruining everything.  Money that could be spent innovating on great products is going to pay licensing fees which serve solely to limit the consumer’s product choices and creates undesirable checklist situations like licensed NBA cards with no Michael Jordan autos.  And it’s only going to get worse.”  Did I mention that he was an American Hero?

As for his favorite card, the choice is pretty obvious and you should know what it is before even looking at this picture. There is still a card out there that he is chasing though; the 1980-81 Topps Larry Bird/Magic Johnson/Julius Erving card.  This is one that he thinks he should have already but 3 kids = card budget probs.  I can only imagine because I have 2 kids and my biggest purchases these days are $10 junk wax boxes.Finally, the sage veteran of the collecting world has some advice for the young or new collector out there.   John says, “My advice would be to collect the way that makes sense to you.  If that only means collecting digital bunt cards, great.  Anything that gets kids interested in sports is a good thing, in my opinion.”  Again, this is very sound advice if you are getting ready to jump into the hobby.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen somebody jump in with both feet and buy all of the high end products because of the “hits” when the same players can be had in cheaper products like Panini Classics or High Tek or Field Pass.   That’s not to say that the high end product can’t be fun.  But if you want to burn yourself out really quick, make your first couple of purchases Museum and National Treasures.

Thanks to John for opening up with us today and helping this “Meet the Collector” series keep the momentum going.   Check John out on Twitter or his neglected blog and let him know if you have that Bird/Magic for him.  He also may be in need of any George Brett’s you have laying around.  Until next time, thanks for checking out the blog!



Cardboard Time Machine

Have you ever stopped to think about how memories work?  Of course, as I get older, the memories get fuzzier and harder to recount.  But there are some that remain vivid and when I stop and focus on them, I can almost place myself in the exact moment in time.  I think about this a lot because I have a 10 year old daughter that is starting to really enjoy a lot of new things.  She reminds me so much of me as a kid.  She loves watching those teen Nickelodeon shows, making slime, playing video games on her iPad and even collecting sports cards.  I was wondering just the other day how much from this age she would actually remember and it immediately took me back to my youth and what I remember.  She may not be able to retain it all but I certainly hope she remembers the role I played in trying to create them with her.

When we went to Disney in April, she rode Space Mountain for the first time and as we stood in the line, I could totally remember the feeling of wonderment I had going through that futuristic environment to ride an indoor roller coaster at 10.  When these moments arise, I always make sure she understands what’s going on around her. I point things out, I ask her what she thinks and I get her to recount the event to her mom or sister so she’ll take it all in and let it soak in.  In today’s fast paced world, it is hard to stop and focus on something that is really meaningful; we have phones in our face, Twitter spilling news everywhere and fidget spinners taking the world by storm.   We are constantly chasing the next exciting thing.  That’s sort of how modern day collecting has become.

Collecting sports cards doesn’t have to be that way.  I can sit down with a stack of cards and show my daughter various memorable players and share memories of my youth with her.  The cards are more to me than a value in Beckett or a dollar sign on eBay.  Do they have those meanings as well sometimes?  Sure, but it’s not why I do it now.   It’s why I did it in 1989 but I’ve evolved over the years into more of a collector than a cardboard entrepreneur.   Cards don’t just take me back to a specific player or baseball moment.  These old collectibles take me back to the year they are from and I remember the world around me at the time and what I had going on in my life.  Let me see if I can explain a little better with a few cards.

1987This time period was just before I started collecting but I have since gone back and bought tons and tons of ’87 cards for my collection.  Topps that year remains one of the most iconic designs in sports cards and I had more woodgrain in my collection than Ford did in the station wagon.  But when I look through these cards, it doesn’t take me back to actual sports cards memories.  At age 10, I was totally engulfed in baseball.  I was cutting my teeth in little league baseball at Centennial Stadium and watching it as much as possible.   I remember Jason Lee having the hardest fastball and always being thankful that my Uncle Speedy drafted him to be on our team.  I remember always wanting to hit a homerun into the O’San parking lot but never being able to.  I remember playing wiffle ball with the neighbors and watching my uncle Greg play with the big boys.

I also watched a lot of baseball on TV.  In 1987, I was blessed with two TV stations that played baseball every day.  We didn’t have MLB Season Pass “back in my day”; we had 2 channels.  One station was TBS, the home of the Atlanta Braves, America’s Team and my local guys.  We would watch Dale Murphy, Ken Oberkfell, Bob Horner and Gerald Perry every night even though they weren’t very good.  Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson were soothing to the ears and made me long for the baseball field.  The other station was WGN out of Chicago.  The great thing about Cubs baseball in 1987 was that most every game was played in the afternoon because Wrigley field didn’t have lights until late summer 1988.  I would get home from school around 3:30 and a Cubs game would be on and I would get to here Harry Carey and Steve Stone call the game.   The Cubs weren’t very good in ’87 either.  The Braves finished 20.5 games out of first and the Cubbies were 18.5 games out.  But at the age of 10, watching baseball was more important than watching the standings.   And the Cubs had Ryno, Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston who were all fun to watch!

1988Believe it or not, the first thing I think of when I see 1988 baseball cards is pro wrestling.  That aforementioned TV station, TBS, had a show on Saturday nights called WCW Saturday Night!   I can’t get into today’s wrestling because it is so overproduced and the storylines are all so outlandish.  The storylines were probably the same in 1988 but I was 11 so I thought they were legit.  Also, WCW “rasslin” was way different than today’s WWE wrestling.   These guys got nasty in the ring and they would bleed and poke eyeballs and kick below the belt.  It was more about what happened inside the ring as opposed to the lead up and fall out after what happened in the ring.  And there is also no better ringside announcer for me than Tony Schiavone!

The wrestlers were so much better back then as well.  We had names like Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Arn and Ollie Anderson, Barry Windham, The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express.  There were hateable managers like Jim Cornett and Paul E. Dangerously.  There were vixens like Miss Elizabeth, Madusa, Missy Hyatt and Georgous George.  A new face had joined WCW with Sting and he is an all-time favorite, along with The Nature Boy.   So yeah, it may be odd but 1988 Score takes me back to Jim Cornette and his tennis racket and wanting Hawk and Animal to demolish the Midnight Express.  I didn’t realize until a recent Beckett podcast that Cornette is doing his own podcast now.  He was such a heel but is such a legend at the same time!

1989I have a lot of baseball card memories from 1989 but I also have other memories that are tied to when I started collecting.  One person I always think of when I am looking through my original ’89 Donruss and Bowman is my late friend, Josh Haire.  Josh and I became friends in Middle School and were best friends until late in high school when we had a falling out that I regrettably was never able to reconcile before he passed away far too soon.  But back in 1989, we were two peas in a pod.  We would spend the night at each other’s house on the weekend and watch movies, trade baseball cards and fish at his pond.  He had a ton of Bowman and I had a ton of Donruss so we would trade with each other to try and help build the sets.

There are some very vivid memories I have of my time with Josh and I will always hold on to them.  It was at his house on a scary Friday night that we played “Bloody Mary” for the first time.  His step dad was the “Voice of the Eagles”; our high school football team that won state in ’89 so we were at all the games and got to sit in the radio booth for many of them.   I learned how to play records at the radio station he DJ’d at on Saturdays.  I watched “The Lost Boys” behind my parents back at Josh’s in the attic bedroom he had.   I wasn’t supposed to watch horror movies at 12 but we watched that one!  He had a couple of Doberman’s that were as gentle as could be but still made me very nervous when I was alone with them.  Josh was a great friend during childhood and I will always remember the good times we spent together.  I also look back on the days we were immature and not so good friends to each other with regret and remorse.  But when I look at cards from ’89, it’s only good memories.

1990I was introduced to the second best video game ever in 1990, RBI Baseball 3.  It is close to Tecmo Super Bowl but nothing can ever top that sports classic.  I got my start in 1986 with RBI 1 at my Uncle Speedy’s house.  Unc was a great ball player and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals but his quest to make it to the majors was derailed by Vietnam.  He even knew a couple of the players on RBI 1.  Our area baseball all-star teams were loaded in the mid 60’s from my understanding as my dad and Uncle Speedy both played on teams with Ray Knight and Harry Spielman.   And to hear the legend, my Uncle Speedy was the best player out of all of them.  He was a SS and I do remember seeing him play softball in his 30’s and he was as smooth as Ozzie Smith.   Who knows, the Cards may have never traded for Ozzie if Unc had stayed on the baseball path.  History as we know it could have been altered!

By 1990, we had moved on from kid games and RBI 3 was what you would routinely find us playing.  It had all of the major league teams at the time and even included the division champs from ’83-’89.  I liked playing with the ’87 Tigers and taking out the Twins but that was more for personal reasons.   My favorite two teams on the game were the ’89 A’s and the ’90 Reds.  I loved Eric Davis and Barry Larkin.  But I also loved Chris Sabo or “Beebo” as we called him for some strange reason.  We would even keep season long stats in a notebook and I drove one of my friends crazy because I would steal bases with Beebo.  He would famously remark one day, “I’ll outrun Beebo backwards!”   I remember that because we would record ourselves on cassette tape while playing the games and then go back and listen to the radio gold.  To this day, I strongly feel that Chris Sabo is one of the most underrated baseball players in major league history.

1991I was on my way to being a trading ace by 1991 and was moving all of my non-favorites for Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura and Ken Griffey Jr.  I was only 2 years away from pulling off the awesome (at the time) move of those Igor ’92 Bowman rookies for the Griffey Jr. forgery discussed Here.  But any reminder from 1991 takes me back to the Buffalo Bills.  I know what you’re thinking – Why does a South Ga 14 year old care about the Buffalo Bills?  Three words – Tecmo Super Bowl.  When this game came out, I latched on to the Bills and have really been a closet fan ever since.   I suffered through 4 Super Bowl loses as much as anybody could outside of the state of New York.   I loved Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelley, Andre Reed, Nate Odomes, Cornelius Bennett, Bruce Smith, Don Beebe, Daryl Talley and Steve Tasker.

I went to a post-church youth Super Bowl party every year being the guy that was pulling hard for the Bills.  Every one of those parties ended in disappointment.  The one I especially remember was the loss to the Cowboys because there were a ton of Cowboys fans at this shindig.  Buff was never able to get over the hump but I was consumed with Bills football in 1991.   Remember, the Falcons were not very good at the time.  I pulled for them as my home team but aside from Deion, Tuggle and Rison, there wasn’t much happening by means of stardom.  My heart was broken earlier this year when the Falcons lost in the SB but it really took me back to how I felt each time the Bills lost in the early 90’s.   I know that’s probably crazy to some of you but I can tell you that I will be cheering for Buffalo when they make it back to a Super Bowl, unless they are playing my Falcons.

You see, there are other reasons for me to continue to collect that outweigh trying to get rich.   Besides, I tried that with Gregg Jefferies, Eric Anthony and Kevin Maas and it didn’t pan out.  So when you see me post a review of 1988 Score, don’t think that I’ve lost my mind or that I’m trapped in the junk wax era.  Sometimes, I just want to take a trip down memory lane.  For me, the best (and most fun) way to do that is to go through old sports cards.  The images conjure up the old days for me.  They take me out of the here and now and sit me down in my old bedroom with the Jordan poster and the nerf hoop and the Nintendo.   My stress melts away, if only for a short time.  They are a time machine and I will cherish the junk wax as much as National Treasures for the rest of my days for these very reasons.  I hope that Bailey has something that she can use as a memory inducer when she’s 40 and I’m long gone.  Maybe it will be the cards.  She asks me regularly who is going to get my cards when I’m old and the answer is always, “You, Bailey.”


Meet The Collector – Kin Kinsley

This next installment of “Meet the Collector” is a special one for me.  He may not realize it but he’s the reason I’m on Twitter now with my blog and card collecting.  I have been on Twitter for 5 years or so with a personal account and just messed around with sports news and a couple of friends and never knew this hobby world existed on the site.  Then one day, my “Gems of the Junk Wax Era” was seen and he commented on it and I started following him.  The next thing I know, I was on his blog roll and he was helping me spread the word by sharing my posts.  It wasn’t long before I created a whole new Twitter feed strictly dedicated to blogging and my card collecting.  I still have my personal Twitter but most of my followers there aren’t exactly clamoring for my next Sports Card post.  I have about 250 followers in 5 years on my personal account and am nearing 1,000 on @dubmentality in less than 4 months.  And I wouldn’t be doing this if it hadn’t been for Kin Kinsley with @beansbcardblog!

The first thing that made me realize I was following the right person was the avatar of Bo Jackson with the shoulder pads and baseball bat.  I knew that this was my kind of guy.  I now kind of feel like we are actual friends and I’ve begun to learn more about him and his collection.  I knew some of his answers when they came back to me but there is still a lot about Kin that I learned from the short questionnaire.  I’m sure you have seen him on Twitter and if you have a blog, you may even be on his blog roll like me.  He is so good at spreading the word about the hobby and bloggers that you may not know that he has his own personal blog at ifeellikeacollectoragain.blogspot.com.  He does and you need to go check it out.  And package up some Gypsy Queen and send them his way.  I have a stack going now.Kin started collecting in 1987.  For Christmas, his uncle gave him a hand collated 1986 Topps set.  That must have been a sweet gift that Christmas.  That kick started his collecting and he was playing baseball and loving sports thereafter.  In an unfortunate turn of events, the set was lost in a house fire at his father’s house 3 years ago.  Nothing can replace items lost in a house fire but Kin did start hand collating another set and has compiled it through some boxes and help from fellow bloggers.  This community is pretty awesome and it’s because of people like Kin Kinsley.  While he is active on ePack (user ID kin.kinsley) trading hockey cards, he has otherwise turned away from modern card collecting.  He said he is “over the card lottery, buying boxes hoping for the latest shiny hit.”  He plans to get rid of his modern cards but will hang on to WVU related, Chicago Blackhawks and other random items.He has changed his collecting focus a few times in the last couple of years but he says he has settled in at this point.  He casually collects T206 cards and vintage Indy 500 related cards.  These include ex 1911 Auto Drivers (aka T36), 1954 Stark & Wetzel Indy Winners, 1960 Parkhurst Hawes Wax Indy and 1960’s Marhoefer sets.  The only vintage set he has ever owned is the 1960 Parkhurst /Indy 500 Winners set, making it one of his favorite sets.  He had planned for it to be a long term project that he would piece together.  But about a year ago, on eBay, he stumbled upon a set that had 10 minutes to go that was at an amazing price and he won it.  While he has seen another set listed at $600 a few times, he said he wound up buying this one A LOT cheaper.  He still looks for singles to upgrade the set and put additional sets together.  One Indy card he is still looking for is a 1962 Marhoefer A.J. Foyt.Other than the Parkhurst set, he has the 1987 Topps and Donruss sets listed as favorites because those were the first sets he put together.  Those are both classic sets and Topps is one of the most iconic of all time.  He is also partial to WVU items because he grew up in Morgantown and graduated from THE West Virginia University.  He doesn’t necessarily look for them in their pro uni’s but still likes to add them if they are wearing the blue and old gold of the Mountaineers.  He’s all about the Mountaineers!  He has also been a Blackhawks fan since he was a teen.  There is even a rumored senior photo floating around with Kin donning the Starter Blackhawks sweater.  I think this should be revealed to the world and let us take a long look at that gem.  Since moving to Fort Worth three years ago, he has also become a Stars fan.  He admits though that he has lost interest in pro baseball, football and basketball.  He’s down to following college football, hockey and IndyCar racing and he’s noticed interest waning in the first two lately.I asked Kin about what his favorite pieces were in his collection.  The 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken was one he pulled himself and a 1980 Rickey Henderson rookie was the first “big” card his parents bought him.  Those two have a lot of sentimental value in the collection.  Some others that he mentions are an Andrew Shawn Canvas Young Gun (pulled from a pack); a second one that he had signed, authenticated and graded; his Dale Murphy autographs and a 1955 Bowman Frank Gatskis.  There are four vintage cards that he would still love to add to his collection; a 1950 Topps Felt Back Pete Zinaich (both the yellow and the brown versions), a 1952 Bowman Large Joe Stydahar and the 1962 Foyt mentioned above.

I paid close attention to Kin’s answer to my question about what he liked most and disliked most about the hobby.  I respect Kin’s opinion on the hobby because he is a true collector in my eyes.  He doesn’t follow the trends or jump on the hot sets.  He collects for him!  What he likes most is the information and items available now because of the digital age.  While some of the things he collects (specifically the T36 cards) are still difficult to find, it’s a lot easier than it would have been in 1987.  As for his dislike, I’m right with him on this.  He is not a fan of the greedy collector.  He’s including Pack searchers, shady collectors and people who only care about the newest, shiniest, and highest priced hit.  While it rubs him the wrong way, he tries to ignore them as best as he can.

This leads perfectly to his advice for the young or new collector.  “Just have fun and collect what you want.  Don’t worry about what it’s worth.  Look at buying cards like buying anything else.  Once the money is spent, it’s gone.  Having an expectation of “getting money back” is setting you up for disappointment.”  I wish someone had given me that advice a few years ago.  I chased that rabbit down the hole at one time and it was crushing 98% of the time and fun 2% of the time.  There is a reason those “hits” are hard to pull.  I will echo Kin on this wholeheartedly.  Collect for you.  Collect ’88 Donruss if that is what you like.  Buy a box of ’91 Fleer like I did a few weeks ago.  Just have fun with it!

Thank you Kin!  Thank you for participating in this series.  Thank you for sharing my blog and promoting the hobby the way you do.  Thank you for being an old school collector of cardboard.  Thank you for introducing me to Marhoefer Cards.  Thank you for tanking next week in the Queue the Drake league.  But most importantly, thank you for pulling me into this world of Hobby Twittering!  I have enjoyed the last 4 months of sharing my passion for the hobby on this platform.  I have met a ton of great people.  I have opportunities I have never had before to reach like minded people.  And I really wouldn’t have found those opportunities if Bo Jackson with a baseball bat and shoulder pads hadn’t shared my blog one night!


1981 Donruss – Why Gum, Why??

I’m turning the clock way back on this retro review.  I’m going all the way back to when I was 4 years old and the year the first DeLorean rolled off the production line.   Yes, we are taking a trip back to 1981 and we are going to look at a box of Donruss Baseball.  While 1981 was not all good with Bob Marley passing away and the first recognized cases of AIDS were diagnosed, there were much happier events going on as well.  Donkey Kong was released and was a smash hit!  I remember having chicken pox on Christmas Day when I was a kid but I had a handheld Donkey Kong game that helped keep my spirits up!  MTV also aired its first music video as the station was launched.  Videos on MTV are now ancient as it has become a lewd reality channel but believe me young kids, it used to play music videos 24 hours a day!Major League Baseball also went on strike in 1981 from June 12th to August 9th.  The All-Star game was actually played on the 9th and the regular season resumed on the 10th.  The strike of ’81 was caused by issues involving free agency and the owner’s expectation of compensation for losing a player.  The players called the strike but were provoked by the owners from all accounts I find.  An interesting tidbit from the strike was that reporters simulated the delayed All-Star game with a Strat-O-Matic and ran the scoreboard inside the stadium to mark the games progress.   The Strat-O-Matic used is now a fixture in the Hall of Fame.   The strike ended with the creation of a form of “Restricted Free Agency” and compensation to the owners that included picks from a pool of unprotected players from other teams when they lost a star to free agency.While I was only 4 at the time, I do like to share a personal story from the timeframe I’m covering in the review.  For that, I am going to go to an event in the general area, actually from 1980.  It was a fairly traumatic event for me and my parents and part of the reason they waited 6 years before having another kid.  I was 3 at the time and playing around an old race car that my dad and granddaddy had, called The Silver Bullet.  It was indeed a silver bullet as it was in a cylindrical shape and you sat in the “bullet” to drive it.  It was quite an odd site but I remember it to this day.   I couldn’t even find a photo to show except for the above and it only resembles it.   It’s not exact but it will give you an idea.   The car was not pulled on a trailer to the track but had a trailer tow bar assembly that hooked to the front two wheels and then connected to the truck.  When not in use, the tow bar laid back over the hood of the car.  It was pretty much like the image below but a little bigger.Being the adventurous toddler I was, I attempted to scale that tow bar as it was standing up in the air.   It did not end well. The tow bar toppled over and I fell to the ground.  The back of my head hit the ground and the tow bar landed on the top of my head.  It essentially smashed my skull and busted my head open.  I remember bits and pieces of the incident.  I remember my granddaddy or dad yelling, “Get the truck!”   I remember parts of the ride to the hospital and getting a shot after regaining consciousness post surgery.   It was truly a “near fatal” accident as the hitch hit my head only a couple of inches above my eye sockets, which would’ve been crushed.  I had tons of stitches, nightmares for a couple of years and bad headaches throughout my youth because of it.   I also wasn’t able to really play football because of headaches when I took a big hit.  But I didn’t learn my lesson because I busted the stitches right back open while leaving the hospital.  My grandmother asked me what happened and I said, “I hit my head like this” while actually banging my head again.   I have never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box!On to 1981 Donruss and more happy times.   I had not begun collecting at this point but I make it a habit to go back and buy cards from my childhood because the cards themselves take me back to those days and I find myself being a kid again.  I would not have thought about the head incident if I hadn’t been thinking about 1981 but all of the memories aren’t bad ones like that.   That one is more of a badge of honor these days because everybody has a good “the day I almost died” story.   Well, 1981 was the year Donruss was born.  It would later die a little, as did most collectors inside, in 1990 but that is a story for another day.  In 1981, Donruss was a raw newcomer to the hobby.   Fleer won a major court victory over Topps in 1980, which resulted in Topps losing its exclusivity in the sport.  Thanks to that huge win, Fleer and Donruss joined the party the following year.In ’81, Donruss included a slab of gum in packs just like Topps.  Let me tell you – the gum was relentless on the cards.  I trashed every gum faced card in the box because the gum had become one with the card.  Thank God that only lasted one year as Donruss switched over to puzzle pieces in ’82 that formed a large version of a Diamond King card.  Diamond King was introduced in 1982 as well.  The ’81 set was put together very quickly because of the short time between the court case and the beginning of the baseball season so they didn’t get to iron out any kinks until 1982.  When looking at the cards, it is no doubt a first year product.   Leaf, Upper Deck and Stadium Club did so much better when they came on the scene but they had more time to plan and photography was so much better by then.  The set is loaded with errors after a quick check on the Trading Card Database.  I don’t know if I’m ready to tackle a set yet while I’m still working through ’91 Topps.As for the design, the card was pretty standard with a white outer border, a large color border and then an interior thin black border.  The color border was either a color from the uniform or an alternate color for the team.  The Donruss Logo and ’81 was in the top left corner of the card while the team name was in the bottom right in block banner type letters.  The players name and position was bottom center with the players name being bold.  The names were below the color border.   The backs of the cards were quite busy.  Printed at the top of the card was “FIRST EDITION COLLECTOR SERIES” with the Donruss logo and a pair of crossed bats and balls underneath.  A wavy banner flowed out of the crossed bats.   Below that was the player’s vital statistics.   Then, the majority of the back of the card was made up of Career Highlights, in text, identified by year.  Finally, the player stats (1980 and Lifetime) was all the way at the bottom of the card.  The back was white with the banner being a pinkish color and the card stock was very thin.

Most of the photos used in the set were posed or staged photos.  There are a few action shots but even those appear to be from a practice or lightly attended spring training game.  There are some neat shots but the posed photos scream early 80’s!   Although the rookie class in ’81 Donruss was slim, the full checklist was strong.   The set included Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose and many other stars.  The slim rookie class only included Tim Raines, Mookie Wilson and Danny Ainge (Yes, that Danny Ainge) as chase cards.  Raines was recently inducted to the Hall of Fame so I was definitely looking to add a couple of his cards in this rip.

With our description in the books, let’s take a look at the hits from the box.  The set is devoid of any inserts other than a card with Rod Carew and George Brett called “Best Hitters”, George Brett and Mike Schmidt MVP’s and Steve Stone and Steve Carlton Cy Young’s.  Let’s see the magic!

The Rookies – I actually pulled all 3 rookies to have in this set but I saved the Raines for last in this post.  You’re going to love it!

The “Inserts” – I pulled 3 of the 5 award winner cards and I pulled dupes of them.

The Catchers – This group is headlined by Johnny Bench and Gary Carter but I couldn’t leave my man Bruce Benedict out.  I still have an old photo of a tiny Dub at Fulton County Stadium with Bruuuuuce in the background.
The Infielders – This is a LEGIT group of infielders, except maybe Horner, who I had to include just like Benedict.  Just take a moment and look at these stud names!
The Outfielders – Again, a solid group led by Rickey and The Hawk.  I always liked Dave Parker too and he looks scary on this card.  Of course, Lonnie Smith makes an appearance.
The Pitchers – Take your time and look at these names.  These are some solid pitchers.  Koosman was on the Nolan Ryan rookie card.  Rollie is rocking the sweet stache.  And The Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky looks like a raving madman!

My Best Pulls – I told you the gum was relentless….just look at this.  I almost shed a tear.  Nolan Ryan, The Raines rookie and a Johnny Bench – Destroyed!!  I managed to pull a second Bench but these were the ONLY Ryan and Raines cards I pulled.  I would have LOVED to have had these in decent condition.  This almost ruined the entire box break for me.  I’m not joking….
It’s really hard for me to be fair with this score after seeing the Ryan and Raines cards in shambles.  Granted, the other pulls were very cool and 1981 was 36 years ago!  I have never opened a box this old and I pulled some great players on some of their earlier cards.  The condition of the cards overall was pretty rough.  The stock is very thin and tough to keep in good condition over this length of time.  The corners were dinged throughout the box.  But still, this is a vintage box of cards with some quality stars.  If the Raines and Ryan had been ok, I would’ve given this a better score but the risk of that happening when you buy a box makes it worthy of a ding in the point total. I have to go with a 3 on the Dub-O-Meter.  The price of the box is reasonable for such an old set but ’81 Donruss was truly a test run for the company.  You can find them around $50 and if you can avoid the gum issues, it’s well worth the rip.  It’s just risky. And because of that, I won’t stop you from checking it out but I’m not telling you to go buy it now either.  


Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?