Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy Newk Year

I didn't really get any card-stuff for Christmas from the family, but here's something I consider a gift from the Cardboard Gods. For me, Topps Retired refractor autos I don't have are like gold, frankincense, and myrrh all rolled into one. So when one I had never seen available before popped up at a screamin' deal, I flew like a flash to the buy-it-now button. Bought it a few nights before Christmas and it was my first mailday after the holiday.

2003 Topps Retired Signature Edition Don Newcombe refractor autograph!

Don Newcombe has quite the story, with the baseball world overflowing with praise for him after his passing in 2019 at the ripe old age of 92. Some great years on the mound and just a heck of a person.

I had narrowly missed out on the base version of his only Retired auto a couple times over the years, but had been hoping to eventually score the refractor, and that's just what happened.

I really like this card! so you're getting a few different shots of it to help fully appreciate its splendor.

The card features Newk with the Reds rather than his "heritage team" of the Dodgers, for better or worse, and Mr. Redlegs in the corner adds some extra quirk. He's not selling the "pretend there's a ball in the glove" pose very hard, but it's a cute throwback. And I think this is the first 2003 Retired card I've noticed where the smaller headshot photo is the exact same as the main photo. I've seen a few where the photos were obviously taken by the same photographer moments apart, but I guess the person who designed this card just didn't have another good Cincinnati-era picture of Newcombe handy and had to double dip.

That $20 price tag was in fact the price I paid (plus shipping) and so while I'd normally swap out for a clean team bag, I'll probably leave the card in this one as a reminder of the great deal. I mean, even the base version of this card (which also doesn't pop up for sale often) would sell briskly priced at $20 buy-it-now, but one of the just 25 copies of the refractor parallel? You could probably throw another zero on the end, or at the very least hover around a C-note were this a 99¢ opening bid auction. But bless whoever priced this at a Jackson and called it good. And I should mention the seller wasn't some newbie flipper, but rather one of the world's largest card shops, operating out of Burbank, California. They tend to price a little higher than you'd like but the quantity deals help. But this time, I didn't even bother grabbing another card to hit the free-shipping threshold-- no way! someone else might snatch the Newk before my transaction was complete!

Thanks to Santa and the guys in Burbank for brightening my holiday by helping me add this awesome card to my collection.

Have a Happy New Year, everybody! I know my posting has been down in 2021 (wow, my lowest post total ever, even including my first half-year when I started this blog in June 2013) but I don't plan on quitting anytime soon. I still get a kick out of rambling about cards, even if my available time and energy for drafting posts is in short supply these days. I appreciate you readers who've stuck around (especially the ones who take the time to occasionally leave a comment) and wish you happy collecting in 2022!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

How Yellow was my LaValley PC? The Yellowest possible!

It's Gavin LaValley's birthday today. He was the first "Gavin" to hit the scene after I returned to the hobby, and inspired me to give a shot at the "advanced collector moves" of rainbowing and supercollecting. (Gavin Floyd was on the downslope of his career at the time, and there was also Gavin Cecchini who popped up in 2011, but as a Mets #1 draft pick, his card prices weren't conducive to going after too hard, and he already had cards when I came around, whereas I was there with LaValley from the beginning.)

With LaValley currently out of affiliated ball, topping out at AA so far, chances are he won't be getting more cards, at least not in a major release like Bowman. (I'm still hoping he ends up becoming the next Mike Trout, don't get me wrong!, but that'd be unexpected.)

So unlike supercollectors of the likes of Griffey or Garvey with endless cards and more coming out every year, since I'm dealing with a significantly less renowned player, I've essentially got a finite checklist to work with here (just keep an eye out for future Bowman buybacks, maybe). There have been a couple 1/1s that "got away" over the years but for the most part I've been successful in my supercollection targets. 

One particular type of 1/1 that I've hit 100% complete?

Yellow printing plates!

Yep, a total of 6 sets of printing plates have been packed out featuring Gavin LaValley. With a recent pickup, I've now secured every Gavin LaValley yellow plate ever released.

LaValley was included in Bowman products in 2014 and 2018-- I'm just calling them all "Bowman" for simplicity, but there's 2014 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects (paper plus Chrome), 2014 Bowman Chrome Mini, 2018 Bowman (paper plus Chrome), and an auto in 2018 Bowman Chrome. He also got cards in 2014 Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks and various minor league issues, but only the Bowmans (Bowmen?) had plates packed out.


For fun, here are all of my LaValley printing plates together in one photo. I haven't yet achieved the 4-plate rainbow that comes with the old collector joke of "Now I can print up as many copies of the card as I want! LOL",  but I'm just one color away on a couple of them. Black is the toughest plate type for me to find, apparently, with only one. Since he's pictured with Cincinnati, it's no surprise the magenta plates seem to pop the most. I suppose I'm partial to the cyans, considering blue as my favorite color.

Anywho, Happy Birthday, Gavin! I hope your age-27 season is a bright and sunny one on and off the field.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

yuletide trades

Here's a post with some cards I've received from fellow collectors recently.

Bru from Remember the Astrodome remembered his ol' pal Gav, and sent me over some cards for the first time in a couple years. 

The holiday PWE was chockful of Padre cards from the last couple years, and I haven't been buying new product or trading much during that time, so they were all extra fresh feeling.

Thank you, Bru! Working on some Astros return-fire for you.


Next up is a TCDB trade with Art (username "AAARRT"). I think this was the first trade ever done on the site that I initiated. The scattered trades I've done there prior were all proposed by the other guy, as far as I can remember. I was looking for someone to help me with the cards Topps gave Dick Allen this year, and Art had most of them available. I looked at his wants and was able to come up with a brick of 2017 Heritage needs for him. He could not have been more pleasant to deal with.

The Flashback insert is cool. There are no parallels or anything, though if there were I'd likely chase them. The "Then & Now" Heritage cards don't do a ton for me, nor does the Ginter, but glad to see Topps including him after basically no new Dick Allen cards from them since the days of All-Time Fan Favorites. You can see the same photo for Ginter was used with the Carlos Santana card. I wish they would have used the shot from the Luke Voit-shared card featuring a big smile whilst having a catch. (They did also use that photo in this year's A&G, but for a rip card [#/99], which I'm keeping an eye out for.) I will probably eventually go after the various Ginter parallels/minis, but between the design and the photo, I'm not inspired to hit the rainbowing very hard on this one. But cool that Dick ALLEN finally has his first Allen & Ginter card. (Matt Ginter, another PC guy of mine [who I happen to know turns the big 44 tomorrow] never got an A&G card, sadly.) Still also need Dick's Ginter X card for this year, but as a 301+ high number "SP", he's not included in the Chrome version of Ginter (that only covers 1-300 of the this year's standard A&G checklist). Oh, he also supposedly has coin "relics" in Heritage, though I don't think any have surfaced yet. My rainbow of his '21 Archives card has been coming along, but I'll wait for a future post for an update there.

I also got a few recent Juan Soto cards for the PC, including an example of Topps' foolish choice of reprinting their autograph cards, causing a lot of confusion for uninformed collectors.

The top card of the trade with Art was this numbered Jake Cronenworth RC. I don't have much of him in my collection yet.

And a few more cards included in the deal or thrown in as a surprise bonus. Thanks for the trade, Art, if you're reading.


And here's another TCDB trade I initiated.

I'm working on those Cards That Never Were from 2021 Topps Update. I was looking who had my needs available, which led me to another friendly guy (username "Johnsogr") whom I was able to dig up some vintage needs for. I asked for the Leaf Black Gold to round out the PWE (He had some other good ones I needed for my parallel setbuild, like Bagwell and Nolan Ryan, but I didn't want to over-ask, so stuck with "commons" I like/collect.) The guy kindly threw in the '72 Topps card that was on my limited TCDB wantlist as a surprise bonus.

I really should do more trading on TCDB now that it's slowed down so much on the blogs. A lot of my old trade partners just aren't trading much anymore, and those that are still going strong with trading have already traded with me so often in recent years that I don't have much left they want since I haven't been ripping packs or going to the monthly card show since the Beforetimes.


Finally for today is a package from Dennis from Too Many Verlanders that just showed up (like literally hasn't been delivered yet as I draft this paragraph, but Informed Delivery has informed me a tracking number from Ann Arbor to me is Out For Delivery and so I want to get it into this post as a last-minute edition before publishing). He's good about sending out a holiday blast of card mailings most years, a great tradition to be a part of. I had thoughts of doing similar this year, clearing out some of my cards "set aside for trader buddies" (some of which have been set aside for several years at this point), but the time and energy wasn't there for me this year. I'm hopeful of some January activity on that front, though.

Feast your eyes on all that Gavin-used cloth!

Plus some Cecchini Brothers and black gold. Thank you, Dennis! I've got something set aside for you I'll get headed your way soon.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays, everybody!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

mid December card revue

It's that time of year when free time and energy are in short supply. But I want to blog, so I'll try to keep it short and post some cards I've been meaning to give a moment in the spotlight.

I've had a little PC going for Tim Anderson for a few years now, but apparently I hadn't thumbed through my White Sox tradeables in even longer, because when I finally did the other day (looking for cards for a trade offer that fell flat), I found a bunch of his cards that I didn't realize I had, including these above highlights. While having a well-organized collection is nice, I'm sure, it's also fun to occasionally stumble upon cards you forgot you had.


And speaking of forgetting about certain cards, when I posted my Yu Darvish PC last month, I neglected to include my lone 1/1 of him. I used to occasionally pull the trigger on the "blank back" gimmicks that Topps Vault sells on eBay.

Nothing too exciting, but hey, I can truthfully say I own a Yu Darvish 1/1. I looked it up, and this set me back $5.97 in a big Topps Vault order that also included similar 2017 Holiday blank backs for Christian Yelich and Dinelson Lamet, along with old signed Topps contracts for Matt Ginter and Marcus Giles. While Topps Vault still sells blank back cards like this for newer sets, looks like their supply of contracts has dried up, as it's been a while since I've seen the account offer any for sale. (To read more about these contracts, check my big post from 2015.)


Check out these awesome customs I got from Gregory at the Nine Pockets blog! Love 'em! Thanks for the generosity, Greg! If you missed out on the giveaway, he sells them at a very fair price too.


Shiny parallels from Topps Pristine and All-Time Fan Favorites are super cool. It might be anachronistic, to use a fancy word, but I love refractors of old timers who played before shiny cards were a thing. (Well ok, Charlie Hough pitched so long, he actually made it into the refractor era and was included in the inaugural refractor class of '93 Finest [and also had a '94 Finest card]) But yeah, sometimes I take a look at what's available and might pull the trigger if one catches my eye for a decent price like the above did. The Bucky is a gold die-cut refractor, though calling it die-cut just because they gave it slightly bumpy edges feels like a stretch.


And one last shiny old-timer to close out the post...

Looks like a previous owner was so proud of this Bert Blyleven 2003 Topps Retired refractor auto that they displayed it in the sun for too long, and the signature is now considerably faded. But hey, it wasn't too pricey so I figured I'd take a flier on it. I hear Bert is a dependable TTM signer (with fee), so I'm planning to send this in for a new coat of ink and hope he's gracious enough to fulfill the odd request. But I'll wait until the new year when the post office settles down from the holiday surge. For now my question is: should I try to get off the remnants of the original auto? A little rubbing alcohol maybe? I should probably do a test run on a Chrome "junk auto" first to make sure it doesn't otherwise damage the card.

Nice career. The year this card came out, Bert received 29.2% of the vote for his Hall of Fame candidacy. He eventually made it to the magic number of votes in 2011.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope your December isn't stressing you out too much!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Greatest Gavins 2021 Recap

It's that time of year again that I try to do these annual posts checking in with the lesser-known active players I collect. I did the 2021 season recap for guys who went to my high school back in October, now I'm getting around to the guys who share my name.

Gavin Lux is still looking for his breakout year, but he's an important part of the current Dodgers team. His season was up and down (all the way down to the minors for a while), but he bounced back from a forgettable 2020 to hold his own. Defensively versatile, he played everywhere but 1st base and catcher in 2021. With Corey Seager leaving via free agency, he might be given more opportunities for steady playing time in 2022 as he looks to establish himself in his age 24 season. [This post is written under the assumption baseball will be back with a full season next year, though I personally wouldn't put too much faith in that.]

(I haven't gotten any new Lux cards this year, so figured I'd revisit this auto/patch/Christmas Card I've had for years. Unlicensed Leaf stuff like this doesn't really go up in value much, but still kinda cool when you can pick up a card like this for a good price. The rest of the cards in this post are recent pickups.) 

Meanwhile in the AL, Gavin Sheets became just the 4th player named "Gavin" to play Major League Baseball when he debuted June 29, 2021. All told, he got into 54 games and impressed with a 123 OPS+. Topps gave him 4 or 5 cards as a "call-up" in Topps Now, but withheld his "RC" designation until next year, so expect to see his rookie cards flood Topps products in 2022 (though technically he exceeded rookie status already). He turns 26 in April, so there probably won't be a ton of investor hype with his cards. But yeah, hopefully he keeps performing well.

Gavin Cecchini followed Gavin Floyd as the 2nd "MLB Gavin" years back, and while it looked like the former first-rounder's injury-plagued career had come to a close last year after struggling in Indy ball, 2021 saw him resurface in the Angels organization. He ended up batting .288 in triple-A, so who knows, there might be some life in his career yet. I'd love to see him get another gasp at the top level.

Before we take a trip down to the farm, one more mention is due. With the Negro Leagues now considered Major Leagues for most intents and purposes, there's technically a new Major League Gavin.

Just one career appearance for this player known only as Gavin: an inning pitched for the Brooklyn Eagles in 1935 where he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits and a walk. He may possibly have played in other games that've had their stats lost to the winds of time (along with the rest of his name), but at least he got his foot in the door for a baseball-reference page. Can't really add him to my card collection-- a very simple custom with no picture would be the best I could do; hardly seems worth it-- but figured I should at least give the man a head-nod here on the blog. Even assuming it's just his last name, still a true pioneer for Gavins everywhere!

Minor League Gavins

Man, we've hit a dozen active Gavins trying to crack the bigs. 

Gavin Collins (2014-2021)

The 2021 Columbus Clippers (AAA, CLE) included not only a guy named Gavin, but also a guy who went to my high school (Trenton Brooks)-- a team tailor-made for my fandom! Collins struggled to hit but was solid behind the dish, focusing only on catching after splitting time at the hot corner in years past.

Gavin Collyer (2019-2021)

20-year old Collyer pitched well for the Wood Ducks. (I'm going to keep most of these short.)

Gavin Conticello (2021)

Conticello, a 3rd baseman, is was a 2021 8th round pick by the Diamondbacks out of high school.

Gavin Hollowell (2017-2021)

Hollowell pitched well in the depths of the Rockies system.

Gavin Jones (2019-2021)

Jones is an infielder in the A's org.

Gavin LaValley (2014-2021)

Ah, a guy I've got a lot of cards of! LaValley was released by the Reds after the 2020 minor league season was cancelled. He found himself with the independent Kane County Cougars in 2021 and had a solid season, batting .270 with 12 home runs in 79 games. I'm rooting for ya, Gavin!

Gavin Sonnier (2017-2021)

Baseball-reference is counting college stats in their active years here, which is kind of confusing. Anyways, Sonnier is an undrafted player who pitched for an indy team after college.

Gavin Stone (2018-2021)

Stone is a starter in the Dodgers chain who pitched well in 2021.

Gavin Stupienski (2014-2021)

Oh wow! After not being in affiliated ball since 2017, Stupienski resurfaced in the Royals organization in 2021. Good for him! Got a nice TTM return from him with an assist from his cousin, former cardblogger "Bubba" (Matt) years back. After looking good in high-A ball, Gavin made it up to AA for a game.

Gavin Tonkel (2021)

The Phillies' 9th round pick of the 2021 draft, Tonkel is an outfielder out of high school.

Gavin Weyman (2017-2021)

An undrafted pitcher who has played for Indy teams in recent years.

Grant Gavin (2014-2021)

Honestly I was thinking about not doing this post this year, as I've got plenty of other stuff in my mental "to blog about" list and with so many active Gavins out there now compared to only a few years ago, this annual exercise might have run its course. But then I saw the recent news that Grant Gavin had been selected by the Padres in the minor league Rule 5 draft and I got pretty excited that San Diego has their first Gavin (even if a last-name Gavin isn't quite the same, but hey, close enough). Grant pitched well this past season, with his K/9 rate of 11.1 ranking fifth-best in the Triple-A East league (minimum 70 innings). Hope to see him take the mound at Petco Park before long.

So there you go. Best wishes to all Gavins everywhere!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

COMC setwork

Time for more from my recent COMC package.

Joy of a completed set: Ripken closes the book on 1984 Donruss for me. (I just put together a simple base set; no variations.) I'll need to remember to take a moment to better enjoy the set one of these days, maybe even get a post out of revisiting it, but in the interest of time, for now I'm tipping my cap to the Iron Man and filing him away. Chagrined I wasn't able to coax any trades for it atop my Double Dozen wantlist, I went with the cheapest specimen available, hence being less than mint. Well hey, my 84D Mattingly has a little crease, so it's not like I'm sending in my set to PSA, I just appreciate knowing I've got the complete set. I've previously completed Donruss sets for 1985 and 1990, eventually hoping to finish a run from 1981 through '93 or so. But '84 and '85 are my favorites (and 90D due to sentimentality), so I'm glad I've got those in my collection now.

A while back, Padrographs Rod gave me a near-complete set of 1991 Brockum RockCards. I finally picked up the one missing base card, plus 3 variations to extra-complete the set. I won't go as far as to call it a "master set" because there's also stuff like hologram inserts and promo cards which I won't be hunting down (I do have the Axl Rose promo, though; he's not actually in the base set). But yeah, the rock set is a nice complement to my 1991 MusiCards set and the whole "music" section of my card collection I've been beefing up over the past three years or so.

I can't say I'm a huge Yes fan, though that album with "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was the first compact disc I ever bought (well, I also bought Pyromania at the same time). Listened to that album a ton, but besides that I only know like a couple other Yes songs.

I'm not too educated on the metal band Exodus, and apparently neither is Brockum, as they mixed up a couple members in their back photos. I still don't really know which guy is which, but I just know how to tell the variations apart because cards #127, 141, and 198 each have "black shirt in back photo" and "white shirt in back photo" variations.

I may never finish my ambitious project of a black refractor parallel set of 2004 Chrome, but I still like plucking cards here and there when I can find them for a decent price. This quartet of commons includes a couple guys I remember rooting for when they were with San Diego.

And check out this pair of legendary hurlers. Full disclosure, the Clemens was a recent eBay pickup, not COMC, but I've been meaning to feature it on the blog and makes sense to toss it in here. I've hit 60% complete with my goal now, with 194 cards remaining (including some toughies like Yadi [RC], Ichiro, and Pujols). It's one of those "welp, if I live long enough, perhaps I'll be able to complete this before I die" projects. But hey, I love the look of these cards and working on the set gives me a reason to keep looking at them.

To a lesser extent, I really like looking at 2015 Bowman Chrome refractors, and sometimes I'll check who's available down in the "sort by lowest price first" inventory and try to add some color to my order. Sorry for the blurry photo.. the green one is Will Middlebrooks.

Yawn, dumb ol' 1989 Bowman, right?  

Wrong! 1989 Bowman Tiffany!

You'll have to take my word for it that these babies are glossy. Love adding tiffany cards of guys I collect. Again, sorting by cheapest and seeing what catches my eye.

Looking at these after standard 1989 Bowman backs has gotta feel like you've had successful cataract surgery. I wish this could have been the default paper stock for Topps back then, though I'm sure the speckled, dark crap they used was cheaper, especially considering the huge print runs of the time. This tiffany factory set was limited to 6000 copies.

Also in my search for non-junk junk, I picked up a few 1988 Topps tiffanies.

Small black text on a dark orange background still isn't the easiest to read, but it's an improvement over that year's flagship. (Worst Topps flagship backs ever?) Ok, Hendu is from the Traded set, so the difference in quality isn't as dramatic.

A curious search for Winfield's restaurant didn't turn up much, but apparently it was called the U.S.A. Border Cafe, located at Broadway and 100th Street, serving Southwestern fare from 6 PM to midnight daily.

That'll do it for today. I think that covers everything in this COMC shipment besides a pair of (non-vintage) Mantles that completed a project for a future post. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Breaking my group break fast with 2021 Archives

I think my last group break was 2018 when I got in on a couple 2018 Bowman player-specific breaks for Gavin LaValley on eBay. I ended up with a brick of his base paper and base Chrome from the product, but nary a parallel out of several cases ripped on my behalf. Not even a single base refractor in 12+ cases. It was a major bummer for me and basically swore off group breaks after that.

But I caved to take the Padres in a recent break Nachos Grande did for a pair of 2021 Archives hobby boxes. I was feeling like a bad Padres fan for not having many 2021 cards of the team, plus I credit Archives as the product line that helped get me back into collecting, so it's a sentimental set for me even if I no longer buy a hobby box or two like did in years past.. and I've gotten in on breaks with Chris before and he's a good dude.

I lucked into a Slam Diego poster box-topper and the standard card version of it. Very cool. The poster slides nicely into the front cover of a new Padres-centric binder I'm starting.

Jake Cronenworth was in the running for ROY in 2020 and made the All-Star team in 2021, yet this Padres fan didn't have any of his cards until just recently. So embarrassing! I like the Bazooka card a lot, and the "draft pick" inserts are seeded one per box (though only one of Chris' boxes actually had one, so I got doubly lucky here).

Happy to finally add cards of Darvish and Snell in San Diego threads. I didn't end up with any cards in the 1991 design (besides the Bazooka thing), 1957 Topps, nor the weird "futuristic" design in there this year. Oh yeah, none of the 2011 design either, unfortunately.. one of my modern favorites.

A few more highlights to close out on. Love the Gwynn and Winfield cards. Neat Tatis insert. And my first card of Ha-Seong Kim, another new Padre with a lot of potential, though his first season in the majors was bumpy.

Glad to see Topps didn't skimp on the backs this year. Full career stats! Archives usually has a lot for us OCD collectors to nitpick about, and they'll never quite be perfect, but they seem to have done a solid job this year as far as being faithful to the old designs for the most part.

So I forgot to watch the break live, but checked out the recording later that evening while playing a game of Bases Loaded 2. Maybe it's a sign I should stay away from group breaks, because the computer team kicked my ass. The game was called by the mercy rule in the 6th with my Boston Blue Guys getting their butts handed to them by Philly. I don't lose to the computer very often, especially not in a blow out like that. Perhaps the break video distracted me, as shakey defense did me in. This was around the time in the break that another Cubs auto was pulled and I had seen enough.

But no, I did just fine in the break. Some nice inserts and several PC additions. No regrets. Chris did a great job running the break as always. I wouldn't rule out getting in on another break in the future, but don't plan to make it a frequent thing.


Speaking of 2021 Archives, I perked up when saw (via Dimebox Nick) that Dick Allen was included in the checklist this year-- his first time in the modern Archives (he was in '01 and '02 Archives, back when it was a "reprint" line). I think I'm going to work on a rainbow of his card, though probably won't pony up for anything too low-numbered (expensive).

So far I've just got the red (/75) and red foil (/50). The pair looks great, borders matching the red White Sox unis of the time. I still need plenty more including the base, so if you've got any to trade, let me know. 

Hoping for good news regarding Dick Allen's HOF candacy with an announcement due later today. Really hope his legacy gets honored with induction. But if not, well I guess the consolation for me is his card prices won't see the "HOF bump" and I'll be able to keep adding to the PC without an influx of HOF-centric collectors also after his cards!