Friday, November 26, 2021

A whale of a set (1988 San Diego State Aztecs 50th Anniversary)

My previous post was kind of a downer, with me coming to terms that a card I'd been after for years isn't actually out there.

But in happier hobby happenings for me, another card high on my most wanted list that I had never actually seen anywhere in my several years of searching was finally spotted and secured earlier this month.

I won a listing for the rare 1988 San Diego State Aztecs All-Time Greats 50th Anniversary 22-card set, with this particular set being special because a few of the cards are autographed. Says the seller: "I got this set from the dinner back then which those players were there to sign the cards." Seems to check out and the signatures give no reason to doubt their authenticity. I'd love to someday search the San Diego Union-Tribune archives or something to see if I can find more details of that dinner event.

Funny enough, this Gwynn wasn't the whale I was after, though it becomes a jewel in the crown of my biggest player collection. Mr. Padre's SDSU cards are a subcollection I love adding to, and this one is kicked up heartily by the big, blue autograph. Weirdly sentimental to me, with Tony's signature of the era reminding me of my oldest auto of his, a signed 1989 Score card I traded for from my best friend Doug back in the day. By the time pack-certified autographs were a thing, Tony's signature had devolved a bit. I think the late 80s were the glory days for Tony's john hancock.

Chris Gwynn is also present with a signed solo card plus a combo card with big bro Tony. (Too bad that one didn't get dual signed!)

The backs are solid, with the player's SDSU stats and a bio. No card numbers, tho.

Here are the rest of the signed cards. Mark Grace is cool to see in an Aztec uniform. The late Dave Smith was a prominent closer in the 80s with the Astros (and a teammate of Grace on the Cubs for a couple years in the early 90s), though he's more familiar to me from his stint as the Padres pitching coach. Mark Williamson had some success pitching for the Orioles, 1987-1994.

Bud Black, Al Newman, and Bobby Meacham are familiar names who each got 2 cards for some reason. The respective backs are identical (Again, none of the cards are numbered). I suppose college baseball didn't get much coverage back then compared to today, no doubt limiting the resources available to whoever was tasked with creating the set. All the photos are in black & white, but at least there are some neat shots mixed in there.

Graig Nettles is another appreciated PC addition-- and likely my first time seeing him in an SDSU uniform. Besides the Nettles Brothers, I'm not very familiar with the rest of these guys. I got my degree from SDSU, but don't blanket-collect cards of all ballplayers who went to the same college as me. Guys who went to the same high school as me? Now that's a different story.. and the white whale in question...

Chris Jones is a tricky guy to collect because of all the other players with the same common name. Like myself, he went from Granite Hills High to Grossmont Community College to San Diego State. Our paths differ from there with him getting drafted to play professional baseball and me getting asked to help out at the computer shop my friend was working at. Pictured here with the header/checklist, this is a card that's been among the few cards I search for way more often that is probably healthy, so it's great to finally score it, and I didn't mind at all the fact that the Gwynn Bros autos and other goodies helped elevate the asking price of the set.

I don't want to repeat myself on the blog too much, but my big Chris Jones post was back in 2015. He took center stage on the blog again in 2019 with a terrific TTM return, one of my favorite hobby experiences ever, honestly.

My PC of the second Guy From Granite to crack the bigs is nearly complete. What's left to track down? The big one missing is his entry in the 1985 Astros Postcards set (and/or its 1987 re-release). It's the only card-like-thing documenting his brief major league career (besides modern customs). If any of you readers know any bigtime Astros collectors who might have the '85 Astros postcard set (I've already asked Bru), I'd be appreciative of any help locating it-- ideally scoring one for myself, but really even just seeing a picture of Chris Jones' postcard would be nice. Nolan Ryan is the only player from the set that ever pops up anywhere.

And I've seen listed somewhere online a 1989 San Diego State All-Time Greats set that also includes a Chris Jones card, but I'm fairly confident that's just a mislabel of this 1988 set. (Why would they make a 51st Anniversary set a year later? Maybe they did a small run of reprints if anything?) Maybe something will show up in a saved eBay search notification someday, but I'm going to assume the '89 version is a "ghost whale" and won't stress it.

The only other hole in the PC on my radar is the glossy version of his 1984 Tucson Toros Cramer minor league card. I have the regular version, but apparently there's a rare a glossy parallel.. likely a team set handed out at one sparsely-attended Toros game back in '84. Again, I'll keep an eye out for that, but it doesn't interest me much apart from checking it off the list.

I'll close out with a cute pic of Ruby from Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. She was on her best behavior, relatively speaking, and had a huge amount of fun being the center of attention for a packed house. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving, too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

White Whale or just a ghost? (the case of Kirby Puckett's 2003 Topps Retired auto)

I think I've identified a "ghost whale"... you know, a white whale that might not actually exist.

Regular readers know I'm nuts for the Topps Retired product line. And Kirby Puckett is one of my favorite guys to collect, so his autograph in 2003 Topps Retired has been a holy grail of mine for a while now.

But I'm beginning to suspect that the card doesn't exist, and hopefully this post (and reader response) can help settle it.

To start at the beginning, Topps Retired Signature Edition debuted in 2003 and Kirby Puckett was listed as an autograph signer in the marketing materials and even on the bottom of the hobby box (above), though key to note is "this list is subject to change" small print attached. He was among the Group B odds group (Group A being the toughest pulls, and Group G being the most common), with a stated print run of 75 base Kirby autographs and 25 serial-numbered refractor parallels. This is common info provided on card checklist sites like TCDB, Beckett, and baseballcardpedia.. So according to that, there should be a total of (100) '03 Retired Kirby autos out there.

Sadly, Mr. Puckett died on March 6, 2006 after years of failing health, though he has other on-card certified autographs through 2004 on the market, so it's certainly possible he signed '03 Retired cards.

I've been watching Retired autographs on eBay for nearly a decade at this point. I think it's safe to say I've seen all other autograph subjects from the product for sale-- some I may not have seen the refractor yet [all numbered to 25 or less], but I've at least seen the base available once or twice over the years. In fact, there's currently a seller with "complete" autograph sets from all 3 years of Retired on eBay. His listing for 2003 Retired has an asking price of $30,000 OBO, beyond the realm of possibility for me to think about, but still a helpful resource. I poured over the photos in the listing-- the lot is highlighted by a slabbed Hank Aaron refractor (all other cards in the lot are base autos)-- but Kirby is nowhere to be seen.

The base (non-auto) set of '03 Retired is 110 cards deep. Of that checklist, only two players don't have corresponding autographs included: Dave Concepcion and Johnny Sain (with Kirby possibly being the 3rd). I gotta assume these guys were slated to have autos in there, but just didn't return their signed cards to Topps in time to be packed out (and there were no redemptions in the product, as far as I'm aware). Concepcion, like Kirby, is listed on the box bottom (in Group C), making Johnny Sain the only player in the set without his name on the original autograph list. But Concepcion, unlike Kirby, isn't included by checklist sites in the autograph listing for the product. So Topps knew it wasn't getting those Sain cards back for whatever reason, but was holding out hope for Kirby and Concepcion. And eventually Topps gave up on Dave Concepcion (ostensibly leaving him off updated marketing materials that were used by the checklist sites), but the Kirby question remains.

TCDB lists 0 collectors with either '03 Retired Kirby auto marked as being in their collection (though plenty have them on their wantlists). And none for sale (or "sold out") on COMC.

I even checked the PSA population report for 2003 Retired autos, and no one has sent in a Kirby auto for grading. You'd figure at least one of the 100 cards would have been submitted.

I've done Google searches, tried digging into historical eBay listings, and still have found no sign that a 2003 Topps Retired certified autograph of Kirby Puckett exists.

So with all that layed out, what do you think? I'm interested in hearing your take on the matter, especially if there are any Kirby Puckett supercollectors reading this who may've already gone down this rabbit hole themselves.

Does anybody have this card, or could at least share documented proof that it's out there beyond a text checklist?

Please let me know. Thanks!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Back into Beckett

I got a kick out of the Night Owl Cards post from last month titled Ego trip. Not only was it the high quality blogging that Greg's known for, but also there was a cool little easter egg in there for me. See, he was talking about his latest article to be published in Beckett, one showing off highlights from his impressive Dodgers collection, and a custom card I made for him made it in there.

"Hey, I made one of those cards!"

I printed 3 of these cards that Ron Cey was nice enough to sign and return through the mail. I surprised Night Owl with one, traded one to Stealing Home Oscar, and kept the above for myself. Not my best custom or anything, but I like the celebratory image even if it's not very sharp.

The iconic June 1990 Beckett with football/baseball Bo Jackson photo was the first one I bought as a kid. I feel like that transaction pinpoints the moment I officially became a full-fledged baseball card collector. "Alright, let's get serious about this stuff!"

This copy of the magazine is actually my second, picked up later. The original got cut up. I remember I had this 2-page Bo Jackson collage taped up in the little "card room" area of my bedroom.

(Ernest P. Worrell on a Todd Worrell card, lol!) I made a few "fun cards" like this back then, though never got around to mailing anything in for publication consideration.

I don't think I ever ponied up for a subscription, but seems like I would buy the new Beckett from the local card shop every month for the next 3 years, eventually cooling on the hobby for other teenage interests around mid 1993.

Jump a couple more years, and I ended up in a bookstore or something in 1995 and decided to buy a Beckett for old time's sake and take a curious check-in on the hobby and the prices for some of my inactive collection. I got rid of most of my old Becketts over the years, but saved this Kenny Lofton since it was the most recent one I owned and therefore had the most accurate price guide. (LOL)

So anyways, very cool for me to kinda sneak into Beckett, even if just in a tiny way. Me from 1990 got his mind blown, for sure. 

Now let's hit a few incoming cards I've been meaning to post about. Not many (ungraded) Topps baseball cards from 1990 sell for more than a buck each these days, but I've got a few to show off.

I love these "Kmart greenies" as I call them. The quirky blue gloves and fat trophy are just awesome. 1990 Topps Batting Leaders.. basically inserts only available through special Kmart rack-packs of '90 Topps. They're pretty rare, as far as Topps cards from 1990 go. The red ones from 1989 are ever rarer, but I prefer the green. Found an eBay seller with these 3 big names for a good price.

Little easter egg I noticed with these is that they're numbered by rank on the active career batting leaders (going into the 1990 season). So like, Boggs' .352 batting average earned him the #1 spot on the checklist, with Gwynn's .332 placing second (though Tony would pass Wade later in the decade, which I must point out as a Padres fan). I now have 6 of the 22 total Kmart greenies. Completing the set isn't a priority at the moment, but I'd at least like to keep an eye out for the rest of the guys I collect if I can find them for a decent price.

It's a sentimental "twofer" for me, being from the year I started collecting, plus I worked at Kmart for a year in high school.

I still have/use the mug I got the time I made employee of the month! Reads "Safety & Shortage Control" and pictures a dog giving double thumbs-up. I think it also came with $50 store credit or something like that. I wasn't collecting at the time, and I don't recall cards sold at the Kmart I worked, so that store credit didn't go to cards. But this was circa 1995, so hey, maybe I bought that Kenny Lofton Beckett with it? We had a pretty decent magazine selection; could have carried Beckett then.

More Topps cards from 1990 that manage to rise above the "junk" classification of the era. The same seller I got the 3 greenies from also had this pair (1990 Topps TV Glossy All-Star Set) cheap with combined shipping, so I added them to the order.

As far as non-normal backs go, these are pretty cool. MLB Service time isn't a stat you see listed on cards very often!

Now let's do a quick Topps Retired Triad. Got three 2005 Retired refractors lined up.

Paul O'Neill is better remembered as a Yankee, but cool to see him pictured with the Reds from the first half of his career. Teacher supply store billboard in the background gives the card some extra character.

Part of the Reds team that won the World Series in 1990, keeping with the loose theme of the post. And who did Cincinnati vanquish that October to claim their title?


Tony LaRussa lead the A's on an impressive run back then. Nice photo of the skipper helping out with defensive drills.

But really though, Mrg. LaRussa didn't really have any business in a set called 2005 Topps Retired Signature Edition. He was still active at the time, not retired. The year after this card came out, he won the World Series with the Cardinals. Crazy that he's active again now, keeping the White Sox in the thick of the pennant race this year. I can't think of any other cards in the three-year run of Topps Retired where the career stats on the back advanced after the card was made. (Bob Brenly has a 2005 Retired card, though 2004 was his last year of managing, so he came close. Brian Cashman got a card in 2005 Retired despite being an active front office person. I guess Topps Non-Active Player Signature Edition wasn't quite as catchy. Oh wait, I found another Retired card with old career stats: Grady Little was in 2005 Retired and then went on to manage the Dodgers for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Oh, and one more: Jimmy Leyland has a 2005 Retired card and then managed the Tigers from 2006 through 2013.)

Jay Buhner closes out today's trio of recent pickups. A bigtime Buhner collector was liquidating some PC cards and actually had two of these refractors. I called dibs on this one because it had a more pleasing signature-- just enjoy it for a moment; beautiful, right?!-- and another buyer snagged the other, less beautiful one a little while later.

Fine career for Junior's bash brother in Seattle and cause of consternation for Frank Costanza.

That'll do it for this time. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Yu Darvish PC (by request)

How bout them 2021 Padres, huh? They were supposed to be good but then they were actually bad. I think Padres fans such as myself are pretty much numb to it by this point. Oh well, "we'll get 'em next year."

Last year around this time, I showed off my Blake Snell PC when he joined the Padres and expectations were rising. In the comments, Zippy requested a similar post for my Yu Darvish cards, another All-Star starter San Diego acquired suddenly, whom I had also already been collecting for a while. But I had some unfinished business there because I was in need of an autograph and well.. I just finally scored one!, so let's whip up this by-request post, better late than never.

Here it is. I had decided I wasn't going to cheap out with an unlicensed stickergraph but rather find a nice on-card auto. I really liked the look of this Finest refractor and ended up winning it.

And check the serial number near the bottom... Christmas Card! Yep, this card was a bullseye-hit for my collection.

Kicking off the rest of the collection with some Topps flagship, Chrome, n' stuff.


More various Topps.

Yu on old Topps designs.

Heritage insert and some Ginter.

Panini cards.

Some neat stuff to close out the post. Cool cards from his early days (he was apparently very expressive on the mound back then!), plus a relic I pulled back in 2015.

I still don't have any Padres cards of his, but it's no surprise seeing as I haven't busted any 2021 product or done much trading this year. But yeah, I'm up for any Yu Darvish cards not pictured in this post. He pitched okay for San Diego, but a definite step down from when he was the Cy runner-up with the Cubs in 2020. Hopefully he bounces back for a strong 2022 and maybe then the Padres will actually be good.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to make any requests for PCs of mine you might be interested in checking out in a future post.

Friday, November 5, 2021

A little of that and a little of this

This Jorge Soler triple relic auto I pulled back in 2016 ticked upward recently thanks to his World Series MVP performance. Neat.

Now it's my turn to show off some Buster Posey cards. Got a Bowman "basic rainbow trio" with the paper, chrome, and refractor for whatever year that is. Plus a couple 2018 refractors and a fishfractor (prism).

More of my shiny Busters. Not a full PC post, just some highlights.

Got a RC that's probably my best card of his, complemented here by a manipatch version that came out three years later.

Enjoy your retirement, sir.


Last month I made my all-time biggest hobby purchase and my all-time biggest hobby sale. Just one-offs, though, not making a habit of it. But yeah, sold a guy my available Hank Aaron auto and available Stan Musial auto. I already talked more about this in a draft or two I haven't gotten around to posting, so sorry if I mention this again in the future. Anyways, the guy gave me a chunk of change plus a couple bricks of "PC guy" cards to seal the deal. 

This Big Mac Rated Rookie might be the card I was most excited for. I've had a lot of McGwire cards over the years, but never this one. Back in the early 90s, I bought his '85 Topps card for like whatever is a lot of money to a middle school kid, and it was among my best cards. Helped me enjoy that big home run summer with him and Sosa all the more knowing I had a good card of his. I wasn't collecting at the time, but still had it in storage (and still have it now). But yeah, happy to score his '87 Donruss.

More highlights from the haul: a couple guys from my old stomping grounds.

A few more worth squeezing in. Thanks, Tyler!


Bob of the Best Bubble surprised me with a PWE. I wish all envelopes I ripped open gave me a such a friendly greeting! lol

My other favorites from the envelope.

Thanks, Bob! I hope to return the favor sometime, though I don't think I have much if anything you need and will probably have to wait till I get I'm back to making customs before I can whip up something.

Have a great weekend, everybody.