Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the Presidents Day card show Feb. 18 in Massachusetts:
The release of Series One of Topps’ flagship baseball card product always reminds me that spring training is just around the corner. And with the anticipation that comes when pitchers and catchers report, the excitement surrounding the release of Series One baseball is full of optimism, too.
I normally buy a hobby box to start off Series One, but this year I went all in and bought a jumbo. The goal was to complete the 350-card base set, and that was accomplished easily. There are 10 packs in a jumbo box, with 46 cards to a pack.
There was a change in the packs for hobby boxes this year. Instead of 36 packs, with 10 cards to a pack, a hobby box now contains 24 packs, with 14 cards to a pack.
So, there are 24 fewer cards in a hobby box.
As usual, the base set highlights the key veterans and rookies, and there are team cards, too. Subsets include Future Stars, League Leaders and World Series Highlights. The advantage of buying a jumbo box means there is at least one autograph cards and two relics. Plus, there are two exclusive 2019 Topps Baseball Silver Packs, which were taped on top of my jumbo box when I received it in the mail. The cards are designed to look like the 1984 Topps set, except in foil. It looks attractive.
The design of the Series One cards have a retro feel to them and are reminiscent to the 1982 Topps set. The partial frame, rounded at the corner, starts in the upper right-hand corner and curves at the bottom, ending in the left-hand corner. The 1982 set began in the top left and rounded to the right-hand corner.
This year’s frame lines include one of the team’s primary colors. Outside of the frame is a background that looks like either large pixels or bleached out burlap, depending on your perspective. I’d lean more toward the pixels.
The major flaw — or, perhaps it’s just an issue with me — is how the player’s name is displayed at the bottom of the card. The player’s last name is in large, gray capital letters, which is fine — but it is positioned above the player’s first name. It’s very disconcerting and reminds me of a school roll call, where the student’s last name is listed first. The player’s first name is part of the frame line and is in thinner, white capital letters.
That same format is followed on the card back, with the player’s last name displayed in large block letters in the upper left-hand corner of the card. The card number is positioned at the top right. I’ve liked the fact that Topps puts “Series 1” underneath the card numbers, a practice it has followed over the past few years.
The player’s vital statistics are included underneath his name, and his position and team are included just underneath the card number. Each card back has a short biography of the player, along with year-by-year, major- and minor-league statistics. In the case of Shohei Ohtani, his stats from the Japanese league are included.
My goal in buying the jumbo box was to complete the base set, and that was done easily. For those collectors who like to chase parallels, this set offers Rainbow foil, Gold (numbered to 2019), Vintage Stock (99), Independence Day (76), a hobby/jumbo exclusive Black (67), Mother’s Day Pink (50), Father’s Day Blue (50), Memorial Day Camo (25) and 1/1 Platinum and Printing Plate cards.
Topps has tied this set into the 150th anniversary of professional baseball, so some of the base cards are stamped with a silver foil “150 Years” inside a gold foil stamp designed to look like home plate.
In the jumbo box I opened, there were five Rainbow parallels, two Gold parallels (Avisail Garcia, which included with a 150 Years stamp and Franmil Reyes), one Father’s Day Blue parallel (Jordan Zimmermann) and five cards stamped with the “150 Years” logo.
The autograph card I pulled was Legacy of Baseball card of Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt. The card has a nice horizontal design, and the signature is on a sticker. It’s always preferable to have an on-card autograph, but it was not to be in this instance.
The first relic I pulled was a Mike Trout card with a piece of a bat that is game-used. Whether is was used by Trout is not clear, but the 1984-style design and vertical layout still makes this an appealing card.
The second relic was a 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medallion card of Astros star Jose Altuve. It’s a thick, heavy card, but a jersey or bat swatch would have been nicer. This card looks like it could have been pulled from a blaster, although those are different cards altogether. The card’s weight and thickness are impressive, but it just doesn’t provide the same buzz as game-used memorabilia.
The inserts for Series One are numerous and interesting. Evolution is a 25-card set consisting of two sides that illustrate changes in the game, from equipment, stadiums, uniforms and logos. The card I pulled showcased the Mets’ Shea Stadium and its newer home, Citi Field.
Another 25-card subset, Greatness Returns, focuses on two players from different eras. The card I pulled featured Milwaukee Brewers stars Robin Yount and Christian Yelich.
Looking back at the 1984 Topps design, a 100-card subset will feature today’s stars in the distinctive ’84 layout. I pulled 10 of these cards, including Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts and Yadier Molina. Each of these cards carries a silver foil stamp commemorating the 35th anniversary of this design.
Speaking of retro designs, the 50-card Iconic Card subset features fronts from famous cards. I pulled two of these cards — a 1955 Sandy Koufax rookie reprint, and a 1957 Brooks Robinson rookie reprint. The cards are stunningly beautiful, and while I have a Koufax rookie in my collection, that ’57 Robinson debut card is the only hole in my birthyear set.
The 150 Years of Professional Baseball insert set consists of — you guessed it — 150 cards, broken into three groups of 50. The first 50 are called Greatest Moments, and I pulled three of those cards. The second group is called Greatest Seasons, and I also found three of these inserts. The final group, Greatest Players, did not show up in the box I opened, but they include Hall of Famers and some players likely to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Rounding out the inserts is the 10-card Topps Now subset. I pulled three of these cards, including Trout, Ohtani and Juan Soto.
As always, Topps’ flagship product is not radical in its approach to design, thus appealing to traditionalists who have been collecting for many years. The insert sets are a little larger this year, particularly the 150 Years of Professional Baseball offering.
Collectors who have completed the base set can now concentrate on the inserts. Whether you do it by trading or by buying retail blasters, it’s still a challenge. And for me, always a fun challenge.
WrestleMania 35 is coming in April. Bobblehead mania is just beginning.
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum announced Friday that it is releasing officially licensed, limited edition WWE bobbleheads.
Six of the WWE’s biggest names – past and present – will be featured and can be ordered through the museum’s online store. Cost is $40 for the bobbleheads, which are being manufactured by FOCO.
Three of the bobbleheads are available to ship now – AJ Styles, Andre the Giant and John Cena.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s bobblehead will arrive at the Hall of Fame next. The “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair, will have a bobblehead on the market in March, while WWE newcomer – and former MMA star – Ronda Rousey’s bobblehead will be available in May.
Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, said he was excited about the new products.
"WWE fans are extremely passionate, and there has been a bit of a drought when it came to officially licensed WWE bobbleheads,” Sklar said in a news release. “We were thrilled when we saw how great these bobbleheads turned out — wrestling fans are going to love them.”
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum opened Feb. 1 in Milwaukee.
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about next month's Huggins & Scott auction:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the May debut of the Upper Deck Chronology (Vol. 1) hockey set:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the Topps football set:
Can you believe it? WrestleMania will be staged for the 35th time. Vince McMahon Jr.’s version of a professional wrestling Super Bowl will be held April 7 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Topps and World Wrestling Entertainment have begun to whet the appetites of wrestling fans with its 2019 Road to WrestleMania product.
Fans who enjoy hobby boxes will find them affordable for this product, somewhere in the $50 range. Blaster boxes are $19.98, and that’s what I bought to review.
The base set is 100 cards, and the set recaps the key wrestling events and story lines of 2018 while providing a nice run-up to WrestleMania 35. Bronze parallels fall one in every other pack, and collectors can also pull Blue parallels (numbered to 99), Gold (10) and Red (1/1), along with 1/1 Printing Plates. There are also hobby-exclusive Silver parallels, numbered to 25.
The base cards include the best moments from SmackDown Live, WWE Raw and WWE 205 Live.
Blaster boxes have 10 packs, with seven cards per pack. In addition, there is another pack that contains a mat relic and four Women’s Revolution insert cards.
The mat relic card I pulled featured The Miz and a swatch of the mat from WrestleMania 34. The Women’s Revolution is a 10-card insert set that highlights the top women in the WWE, including Charlotte Flair, Nikki Bella, Paige, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.
And don’t forget Ronda Rousey. The WWE, knowing the marquee crossover value of the former mixed martial arts world champion, produced a 40-card insert set that will cover her career. Called Ronda Rousey Spotlight, the subset will be split over several Topps products during 2019. The first 10 appear in 2019 Road to WrestleMania. I pulled two Rousey insert cards from the blaster box I bought.
The other major insert in the blaster box are the WrestleMania Roster Cards, a 50-card subset that lists the likely competitors for this year’s event. Each pack had two of these cards, so I wound up with 20 of them.
The blaster box yielded 42 base cards, an average of six per pack. That would be nearly half the base set, so that’s a good start out of a blaster box.
I also found five bronze parallels too, which hits the average Topps projects.
Topps and the WWE continue to produce a nice variety of pro wrestling cards. The subject matter remains relevant and involving the women wrestlers more is an excellent move.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Dale Case, who mailed three cards to former major-leaguer Glenn Hubbard to sign in 2002. Last week, he finally got them back:
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Beau Thompson, a Chicago Cubs fan who has a goal of obtaining 1 million baseball cards of Cubs players.
Here 's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about an auction for a pair of "Moon Landing" sneakers belonging to Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the newly named Super Bowl card show in Rhode Island, a fixture in New England since 1976.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1973-74 Topps hockey set:
This book is perfect for the hot stove league.
Baseball fans love to argue. They love to compare and compile lists. In no other sport are fans so deliciously geeky.
If Harold Baines can get elected to the Hall of Fame, how come Gil Hodges hasn’t been enshrined? Can Mariano Rivera become the first unanimous selection in Cooperstown, or will it be Derek Jeter? Or, no one at all?
Who was the New York Yankees’ all-time center fielder – Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio?
That last question is part of the weighty debates addressed by Tom Stone in his new book, Now Taking the Field: Baseball’s All-Time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises (ACTA Sports; paperback; $18.95; 614 pages). Certainly, this kind of analysis has been done before, but Stone takes a more cerebral approach, relying on statistics – old and new – to provide a clearer picture of who belongs on each major-league franchise’s dream team.
Stone devotes a chapter to each of the 30 major-league franchises, using several formulas — including Wins Above Replacement, or WAR — to present a clear-eyed look at the best of the best.
As a reader, you might disagree with some of Stone’s conclusions — is Robinson Cano really the all-time second baseman for the Yankees, as Stone suggests? Really? — but more often than not, Stone is right on the money. He analyzes each position and presents several nominees. Stone also includes the opinions of other authors before giving his final decisions.
I will give Stone kudos for mentioning Horace Clarke, even if just in passing. Horace was a switch-hitter who couldn’t hit from either side of the plate, but he was a grinder -- and a symbol of the Yankees' wandering through the wilderness from 1965 to 1975.
At the end of every chapter, Stone chooses one man as that team’s “franchise player.” I found myself trying to guess who it might be before finishing the chapter. Happily, our opinions were pretty much along the same lines. He also suggests starting lineups, tailored against right-handers and lefties.
Unlike some books, Stone does not go through the teams in alphabetical order. He starts with the teams that have had the most success, like the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals. That makes it more interesting, because these are the teams that have earned the most postseason glory. It’s a savvy move.
Stone includes the top WAR seasons for each team, and his depth chart at the end of every chapter provides an easy visual for the reader.
The only quibble I have with the book is when Stone makes apologies. “With all due respect to Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner, and Willie Stargell, it seems clear that Honus Wagner remains the best the Pirates have ever had,” Stone writes in one example.
There is no need to apologize. The numbers are clear, and Stone presents them logically. There is no question who the franchise player should be in several cases: Wagner (Pirates), Willie Mays (Giants). Tony Gwynn (Padres), George Brett (Royals), and Mike Schmidt (Phillies), to name a few. Stone's choices for the Cubs and Athletics are surprising, but not unreasonable. And, his choices for the Reds and Dodgers were reached with some good thought, statistics and the player's impact on the game.
Stone gives the reader plenty to chew on. From my standpoint, I believe he has figured out who the best players are at each position, and while his choices are open to debate, they are hard to argue with.
Still, it’s the hot stove time of the season. So, argue away.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily previewing the 2019 Topps Big League baseball set, which will be released in May.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1969-70 Topps hockey set:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1966-67 Topps hockey set, which included the rookie card of Bruins great Bobby Orr:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1983 Topps baseball set. Hard to believe this set is 35 years old!
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1963-64 Topps hockey set, the first Topps hockey product to display a horizontal layout design:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1962-63 Topps hockey set:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a weekend auction sponsored by Mile High Card Company:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a 1990-91 Hoops basketball card of the Knicks' Mark Jackson. In the background are two guys who appear to be the infamous Menendez brothers.
Here is my review of Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs, second edition, written by Ron Keurajian. The review is posted at the Sport in US History site:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Dave Hill, a former minor-leaguer and CIA employee whose family is selling his massive autograph collection:
For those who believe baseball cards are an art form, this year’s Topps Gallery set would look appropriate in a frame, hanging on the wall.
They are that nice.
The 2018 Topps Gallery set is a retail-exclusive product that can be bought at Walmart. The hobby-style Collector box sells for $79.99 and contains 20 packs. There are five cards in every pack, and Topps promises two autograph cards in every box.
his is the second straight year that Topps has sold Gallery through Walmart, and there is also an online buying option for those who don’t want to venture near big box stores during the holiday season.
Lately, I’ve been buying blaster boxes in most cases to review products, but this time I splurged and purchased a Collector box. There are 200 cards in the base set, with the final 50 cards designated as short prints. I pulled 84 base cards and four short prints; the SPs have designations on the card fronts like “Apprentices,” “Artisans” and “Masters.” For example, the box I bought contained a Masters (Greg Maddux), an Artisan (Masahiro Tanaka) and two Apprentices (Dustin Fowler and Franklin Barreto).
The artists working on the portraits for this set include Mayumi Seto, John Giancaspro, Kris Penix, Kevin Graham, Carlos Cabaleiro, Dan Bergren, Evan Shoman and Gerry Garcia. Each artist is credited on the card back, so a collector will know immediately who created the portrait on the front.
The painted card fronts include portraits of star, rookies and legends.
The card fronts are mostly vertical in design. The player’s last name is at the bottom of his portrait, stamped in gold foil. The first name is presented in small script, while the last name is in big block letters. The Topps Gallery logo is positioned in the top right-hand corner of the card.
The player’s team is stamped in small capital letters under his last name. Curiously, one has to flip the card to find out the player’s position.
The player portraits are stunning, with rich detail and soothing background colors. Emotions are captured vividly, too. Al Minter’s card (No. 6) shows the pitcher’s strong concentration as he goes into the stretch. Marcell Ozuna (No. 30) shows strength through the contours in his face, contrasted smartly with a cloud-filled, blue sky background. Portraits of Bo Jackson, Ozzie Albies, Brooks Robinson and Charlie Blackmon are favorites, too.
You get the idea.
The card backs follow a vertical design, with a five-line paragraph called “Gallery Notes” giving a short summary of achievements and career highlights. Instead of a year-by-year line summary of a player’s career, Topps chooses a month-by-month breakdown from 2017, which is a nice change of pace.
Parallels have a Private Issue stamp and are numbered to 250. I pulled two of these cards. There are also parallels in wood, green (numbered to 99), blue (50), orange (25), and 1/1s in red. There are also parallels in wood, green (numbered to 99), blue (50), orange (25) and red (1/1). There are also 1/1 printing plates.
The two autograph cards I pulled were sticker signatures, which was slightly disappointing. The auto cards were of Braves pitcher Max Fried and Blue Jays shortstop Richard Urena.
The Gallery set offers several different inserts. The Hall of Fame Gallery is a 30-card set, and I pulled two cards plus a blue parallel of Brooks Robinson numbered to 99. Other parallels that might be found are in green (numbered to 250), orange (25) and red (1/1).
Heritage Set is a 40-card insert that is designed like the iconic 1952 Topps cards. I pulled four of these cards, including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor. Parallels for this subset also come in green (numbered to 250), orange (25) and red (1/1).
Masterpiece is a 30-card insert set, which features a portrait-like black-and-white shot against a feathered action shot in the background. I pulled two of these cards —Derek Jeter and Andrew McCutchen.
Each Collector box comes with a Gallery Boxloader, which could include original paintings. I pulled an Oversized Base Topper — there are 50 different subjects— of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
Topps’ slogan on its Collector Box is “The Art of Collecting.” There is an art to collecting, and Topps Gallery is an attractive set with cards that deserve to be framed.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the Winter Auction held by Goldin Auctions. This auction features memorabilia from the collections of Dick Enberg, Andre Reed and Alex English.
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.