Monday, August 3, 2015

Building a New Card Room: a Macro Organization Post

Everything is changing down here at JJHQ. Frankly I don’t even know where to start.

The first change? I have to completely vacate my card room.

My old card room the way it's been for the last three years, gone forever.

There are three bedrooms in our house, one master and two, um, regular? Anyhoo, we refer to the two regular rooms as the “guest bedroom” because it has a bed and the “the office” since it has a desk. Both rooms have always pulled double-duty, the guest bedroom as a media room for my CD/DVD/VHS collection, and the office as the card/collecting room.

Well, that time is over. For reasons that will become clear in the near future my wife and I have come to an agreement, and it’s time to start de-stuffifying. Sadly, I no longer get two rooms in which to run wild with my collections and possessions – I only get one, and it must be the guest bedroom. I must condense and condense hard. There will be a garage sale, eBay auctions, lots of donations, massive trash days - the whole deal.

My old card room today

Where most of my organizational posts are micro in scale, dealing with sets and stacks all the way down to individual cards, this time we’re going macro. Everything had to come out one room and into the other: team boxes, complete sets, binders, my entire Griffey collection, and all the furniture where I store those things. Even the giant steel security cabinet I keep the good stuff in had to go. And on top of that, I had to get rid of most of this stuff.

The Griffey cabinet in its old place

For three straight days I swapped furniture, built shelving, moved things to and from the attic (no basements in NOLA), packed and unpacked boxes and bins, and made some tough decisions on what would stay and what wouldn’t. I even made the difficult decision to get rid of my entire Mystery Science Theater 3000 VHS collection (120 tapes take up a LOT of space). When it comes to getting rid of clutter, that collection has made every cut for the last 17+ years. Now, for the first time, it’s boxed and waiting to be picked up by a stranger.

After three days, I decided to take a night off from the project. Last Wednesday was my first night in my new cardspace. Everything was set up just enough that I was able to sit at my desk and do real card stuff for a little while – a little writing, answer e-mails, make some PWEs and trade packages, etc. It felt good to be back in action.

The very next night I was back at it, moving media to shelves, boxing up donations, and hanging things on the walls including my beloved framed Upper Deck super jumbo auto.

On Sunday evening, exactly one week after I began this massive move, I could finally say my new card room was complete. It turned out even better than I was hoping. Wanna see?

I was able to keep the desk (that hutch is invaluable when it comes to card stuff), but I got rid of the old printer cart I was using as a stack table in favor of an old-style school desk with a built-in cubby. The smooth surface is very card-friendly and the cubby fits longboxes perfectly.

I used to store complete sets in a closet, but now I have a brand new bookcase on which to store all my baseball card goodies. I even designated the top shelf as the “Griffey Shelf.” It filled up far faster than I was expecting.

I was able to wire together a floor lamp, two small accent lamps, and a glitter lamp to a single switch. Now all of that turns on with a single button by wireless remote. I don’t know about you, but I hate direct lighting. I’m a big lamp guy.

To facilitate all the storage we used to have in the former office, I removed a pair of sliding closet doors here and installed a second 90-inch shelf (which I have yet to paint as you can see). This approximates the storage space we had in the two small closets of the old room.

Here's my Griffey cabinet in context with the desk. You can also see the small school desk to the right of the cabinet that I now use as my stack table. See the longboxes in the cubby? They fit perfectly!

Pretty much out of wall space now.

For now the former card room is really just an eBay/garage sale staging area and furniture storage room, but it will only be that way for a few months. We have big plans on the horizon. <sigh> Big, little plans.

Adulthood lingers.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2000 Fleer Impact: Planet Bland

It seems that for a while there in the late 90’s through early aughts, all brands were trying to fill every niche of the market with something - anything - and no one did this more unapologetically than Fleer. These guys put out a brand for every price point, and this here is their low-end offering (you can tell, right?).

The base card design is very simple with a transparent, team-shaded border and some thin border lines. I nodded off twice while typing that description. Hey, why is the verb “describe” and the noun “description?” Why not “descripe?” Or possibly “describtion?”

Notable inserts from 2000 Impact include a set of team tattoos, an extremely limited checklist of batting glove relics, and an Autographics insert with a parallel. None of those include Griffeys, though. Moving on…

2000 Fleer Impact #100

The Kid is fully extended here, trying to give that ball as much height as possible and get it over the wall. I hope he didn’t pull something – not for this mediocre, blurbless card, at least.

2000 Fleer Impact Mighty Fine in '99 #33

Here’s another with Griffey in full extension. This insert card actually has some foil on it and a not-so-bad-I-guess polka dot background. A surprisingly attractive insert, but nothing to write home about.

2000 Fleer Impact Point of Impact #1

This die-cut beauty almost makes up for the blandness of the overall set. I like the addition of numbers in the backdrop to suggest a 1980's Ronald Reagan Star Wars Program-style satellite targeting system. The only drawback here is the bizarre geography of the planet below which, I hate to tell you, is not Earth.

I assumed at first (as most Americans probably would) that we were looking at the U.S, and the southern wedge shape was Texas, but the coloration is wrong, the Texas wedge is far too big (unless a Texan designed the card, of course), the land just ends south of what would be Texas so Mexico does not exist on this planet, and there appears to be another land mass jutting out just east of Galveston. Not to mention the total lack of Great Lakes or New England.

So, I thought that maybe the wedge shape could very well be India and we were actually looking at the bizarro side of the globe - the side that doesn't have cheeseburgers. But that can’t be right, either. Again, the color of the land is way off, India is way too big, and that land mass to the right of it shouldn’t exist.

It gets weirder when you look at the back of the card where it’s a mirror image of the front. This orientation makes a little more sense if we’re looking at the U.S. The coloration is mostly right and there’s a bluish watery area around where the Great Lakes would be. Of course there’s no Alaska, that mystery land mass is still there by Mexico, and the curvature of the western shore is all wrong.

We may never know what planet that is, but despite the similar die-cutting, I know what planet it's definitely not:

The cold, unforgiving hellscape that is Planet Metal

Since there are only three Griffeys here and they are all inexpensive, this is one of those rare sets for which I have every Griffey there is to get. I suppose it could be argued that I need the team tattoos for the Reds and Mariners, but they’re not really on my radar. Stick a fork in this one.

You would think the idea of a big-brand base set that resembles an oddball could be charming, but that’s not how this one played out. Fleer dropped the ball with a sub-par base set and extremely limited relic pulls. The inserts help (Fleer inserts tend to be pretty good), but most of what you got out of packs was just a bunch of bland base cards. They're not especially ugly, but they're also utterly forgettable. And I cannot deny that the lack of a Griffey hit is disappointing.

This one is kind of a lame duck as low-priced sets go and could have taken a lesson or two from Collector’s Choice: skip the relics and just make cool cards. It’s no wonder Fleer Impact was a one-and-done.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wallet Card Wednesday: Four Seasons Edition

I’m no snob, nor am I a wealthy man. But I had to go to Texas for three nights, and my company was footing the bill. It just so happened that the hotel closest to where I would be working was a Four Seasons golf resort. Not my fault, but having never stayed in a “fancy” hotel, I thought I’d take a few Wallet Card photos to remember it by.

The grounds were stunning, surrounded by golf course and well-kept shrubbery. The cars in the parking lot were all Audi’s, Porsche’s, and Lexi with a few rental cars mixed in. I was greeted by every employee I came across, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t open a single door (except for my room door) the whole time I was there.

In the room was this tray of fancy snacks with a menu that somehow included double-digit prices. There was a grocery store a quarter mile from this very spot where one could purchase all these snacks for the price of just that beef jerky. I was a long way from home.

I honestly couldn't tell you what all those chaise lounges are for.

To me, hotels mean vacation. Parents greasy from sunscreen in shorts and sunglasses chasing after wet kids in inflatable rings dripping their way across the lobby. Chlorine smell, overloaded strollers, Mickey ears, that kind of thing. This was nothing like that. I did not swim, nor did anyone else, it seemed; so the swimming area was pristine. There were no kids anywhere at all - just a lot of silver-haired, over-40’s men in sport coats and a handful of ladies in cocktail dresses or power suits. I’m not sure what they thought of my “The Dude Abides” shirt which I wore in the lobby only once. The rest of the time I was usually wearing a suit, so I didn’t feel too underdressed.

When I got to the room each night, however, it became all about me-time. The suit came off, I made liberal use of the complementary bathrobe (or didn’t), and the room service lady had to restock my bubble bath every single night. I was able to hook my laptop up to the flatscreen and watch movies. I even had a meal allowance that was nowhere near what I would normally spend, but I vowed I would find a way.

I don’t remember the exact cost of this meal, but I can tell you that can of Coke was four bucks.
My last night there I took a walk across the golf course to a nearby shopping center. There was a liquor store (you can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores here?) and a small barbecue restaurant, so I loaded up on beer and food and made my way back to the hotel.

This is the kind of thing I was hoping to have in Texas. I made a huge mess tearing meat from bone over that white carpet. I giggled at how funny the sauce splotched styrofoam container looked in the shiny brass trash receptacle.

I really do miss that tub, though.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Box of 1995 Select: 20 Years Later

Got a nice throwback box for you today. I received a box exactly like this as a birthday gift when I was 14 which makes this one of the few boxes I busted as a kid that I'm getting to bust again. Now that I'm a little older and (arguably) wiser, there's a lot I can see now that I couldn't when I was a hairless, squeaky-voiced, pimply-faced, random-boner-having teen,

I love the all-horizontal design from this set. Even 20 years ago when I first busted this box I was a big fan. The cards are modern, but still colorful and candy-like. It's classy, but also a little fun. Fresh, but rebellious. There had never been a base set like this.

I still see that great, modern name/position font out in the world sometimes and associate it immediately with this set.

The photography is pretty solid, too. Every card has two large photos, usually an action shot and a portrait, but that is not necessarily the rule. Check out that Tony Fernandez above: we have both a bunt and a swing-away shot, and they're both on the card front. How many sets did that? Not many.

And yet one of my favorite aspects here is the card back.

These are Studio-quality, guys, and they're on the back. If you ever come across a stack of '95 Select in a dime box, flip through it, then turn the stack over and flip again. That's just how this set operates: multi-surface.

'95 Select also has one of my favorite checklists ever. Not that these guys are the greatest that ever played the game, but they are all the stars and minor stars from my collecting and baseball-watching heyday. Busting this box, I felt like every single pack was a great pack, filled with memorable names and images that made me all gooey with feelings.

So in addition to three photos per card, we got several subsets and design tweaks within the base set.

1995 Select Traded subset

Like these blue-sky backed portraits for the traded guys,

1995 Select Showtime

the attractive Showtime subset for the star rookies,

1995 Select Rookies

Select Rookies for those guys not quite ready for Showtime,

1995 Select Checklists

and about the greatest collection of checklists of the 90's, and possibly ever. That last one sporting four different all-stars was so popular that Pinnacle adopted the concept for their base set checklists the very next year. Theirs was a bunch of cropped portraits as opposed to this "photoshopped" fantasy group photo.

1995 Select Can't Miss

Select was also no stranger to cool inserts, most of which were pretty tough pulls. A personal favorite of mine is this Can't Miss rookie insert. The box I busted contained that Shawn Green (a card which will soon find its way to the land of crepes, croissants, and wine-guzzling children), but that Chipper on the right is the very one I pulled from my birthday box 20 years ago.

The bet pull you can get is the one-per-box Artist's Proof parallel. There are estimated to be only 500 of each card, a small run for this time period. The good news is that if you pull one of a star, you've pretty much paid for your box. This is the one I pulled from this box. The box I busted a s a kid contained the Midre Cummings Showtime subset which I somehow ended up pulling two of. The odds of that happening must be astronomical.

Now, the reason we're here, Los Griffeys:

1995 Select #89

A very rare shot of Griffey laying down a bunt. The guy was spectacularly multi-tool, so I'm willing to bet it was a good one.

I'm against exclamation points in blurbs (just the facts, please), but the Select Stat on every card makes up for it. They gave us only each player's most recent year and a line of totals to make space for the massive black and white portrait, but I believe this is space well-used. A great base card, front and back.

1995 Select #243 Checklist

One of the greatest Griffey checklist cards ever produced, this one is an anti-Tatooine photo (which I've been calling Endor shots). The photo here is not new nor Pinnacle-exclusive. I know this because here is the back of Junior's 1993 Upper Deck base card:

I ain't mad atcha, though, Select. It's a great photo that deserved another look.

1995 Select #250 Checklist (w/ Bagwell, Thomas, & Piazza)

These caused quite a stir among my friends and me. Four of the biggest stars of our day on one card, looking like they're all just hanging out together like normal dudes, shootin' the breeze and having a laugh. Somebody should photoshop some cold brewskis in there somewhere, possibly in Bagwell's and Griffey's visible hands. Maybe Piazza could be holding an N64 controller or something. Like they're having a Smash Brothers tournament. And Bagwell's pissed because Frank picks Link EVERY TIME. Learn another character, man.

1995 Select Big Sticks #BS2

The Big Sticks insert is weird. It's got a refractive surface with a layer of strange texturing that looks like it's not sure whether it wants to be wood grain or camouflage. The focal point apart from Junior's massive home run pull is the team logo stretched vertically which just does not look right (although the Mariners logo probably looks less weird like this than most). And to bring all the weirdness together, those two aspects seem to have nothing to do with the theme of the insert, Big Sticks, which in itself is a little...I'll just say weird again. I think someone at Select knew all this, too, hence the all-too-appropriate card number prefix. The cards look cool, but as rare as they are, I'd like to have seen a little more effort here both thematically and creatively.

So about the box, it gave a whopping 94% (235/250) of the checklist. In fact, the collation was so good that I pulled only three duplicates from the entire 250-card set. Here they are:

There are worse dupes to pull.

I now need only 15 cards to complete the set. To be honest I originally bought the box in the hopes of pulling an AP one of the three Griffeys (a 1-in-84 shot per box) because I need them for my 1996 Beckett Tribute Checklist project and they're expensive when they're even available, but when I saw how close to the base set I was, I decided to just go ahead and do it. That slippery slope that turns a player collector into a set builder is in full effect.

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 1995 Select (spoiler alert: they're all AP's):

1995 Select #89 Artist's Proof
1995 Select #243 Checklist #2 of 9 Artist's Proof
1995 Select #250 Checklist #9 of 9 (w/ Bagwell, Thomas, & Piazza) Artist's Proof

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wallet Card Wednesday: Animal Farm Edition

Farms are exactly like Farmville only real and covered in dirt. I spent some time on a farm recently, and you better believe I took my Wallet Card along. So grab your pitchfork and dirty straw hat because there are a lot of Wallet Card pics in this here rodeo. It's about to get all field trip up in this piece:

I always imagine deer as jumpy and scared of humans, but these guys were highly sociable not to mention adorable.

There's a farm cat in this picture if you look. And even if you don't look.

This one is actually a dog, specifically a farm dog.

Chickens, too. The whole farm deal.

There ya go. The rumors were true: chickens poop eggs.

Nice work, ma'am.

Check out this dude's sweet bangs. He's like an emo Mr. Ed. Or Bowie as a horse.

This guy is a Zedonk which is a donkey/zebra hybrid – take a look at his stripey legs. He was the most skittish of all the animals we hung out with, so I didn’t get too close. He’s also the most exotic animal ever wallet carded as far as I know…

As you can see I've gotten pretty laissez-faire when it comes to what happens to this card.