Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Annual Card Blogger Convention - June 2017


This is the fantasy itinerary for a card blogger convention to be held over a weekend in June, 2017.  I figure we get a convention room in a hotel complete with sponsors and name tags and festive t-shirts and such.  Here's what I envision:

Friday Night

Meet and Greet – Everybody meets up in the hotel conference room and introduces themselves. Everyone will wear name tags depicting their name and blog.  Faces are finally put with names and blog personalities.  Instant camaraderie ensues.

Saturday

Introductions – Attendees introduce themselves and give a quick run-down of their blog, what they collect, and what they hope to get out of the weekend.

Topps Talk and Q&A Session – The VP of marketing for Topps comes in and thanks us for our business.  He/She talks for a while about the company and their plans for the future.  Ends with a joke about Panini not having a license.  Dime Box Nick is granted a Summer internship following the Q&A.

Panini Talk and Q&A Session – The President of Panini America comes in and thanks us for our business.  He/She talks for a while about the company and their plans for the future.  Ends with a joke about Upper Deck not being allowed to use current player images.  The Prez takes a grilling for not having logos on their cards but leaves everyone satisfied as Panini brings better giveaways than Topps.

COMC Talk and Q&A Session - The President of COMC comes in and thanks us for our business.  He/She talks for a while about the company and their complete dominance of the sports card valuation industry.  Ends with a joke about Beckett.
 
Card Blogger Workshops

- Organization Workshop – Everybody share their best practices for organizing their collections. People could provide photos of their methods as well as the overall look of their collections, maybe even a flow chart or two.

- How to Ship Cards – Best practices for shipping PWE’s, cost-effective use of boxes vs. bubble mailers and when to go Priority Mail, proper tape usage.

- One-stamp Contest – To take place after the How to Ship Cards workshop.  A few weeks before the convention everyone mail a sealed PWE to one non-interested blogger using only one forever stamp.  We bust open the envelopes and see who could successfully ship the most standard-size cards in a single PWE with one stamp without the USPS returning it for additional postage.  Blogger with the most cards in their successfully-delivered PWE keeps all sent cards and whatever donated prizes we can muster.

Card Blogging Live! – A new take on the delivery of a blog post.  Bloggers give a live presentation in lieu of a written post and talk about whatever they would have otherwise talked about in the written post.  Visual cues on a large projection screen with musical accompaniment encouraged. Dramatic readings of existing blog posts welcome.

- Night Owl – Greg does a dramatic reading of a trade post where he received ’72 minis.  All are very excited to hear him give a hearty “miiiiiinnnnnnniiiiiiiiiiis!!!” live in person.

- gcrl – Jim explains his distrust of the SHIFT key and shows off some of his favorite double-play cards.

- The Junior Junkie – T.J. spouts off about how amazing Griffey is or whatever.  The Topps rep offers T.J. a position as an outside consultant, T.J. accepts and runs off to spend the money he hasn’t even made yet on Griffeys.

- Tim Wallach – Corey gives a prepared talk the transcript of which gets published in Sports Illustrated under the title “The Art and Science of the Single-Player Supercollector.”  The movie deal that eventually comes from this pays for the entire next year’s convention (and a crap load of Tim Wallach cards).

Blogger Box Social – Everybody gets loose and drinks martinis (or whatever they like), and we talk about balancing blogging with everyday life.  Trades discouraged at this event.

Blogger Bar Hopping – Boom.  Chris of Nachos Grande and Matt of Red Cardboard get into an argument about who’s the bigger Barry Larkin fan, decide to settle it by going shot-for-shot with Jaegermeister.

Sunday

Brunch – Chris and Matt do not make it to this.

Box Break – One massive box break!  We get a dozen boxes of cards and everyone picks teams like normal (there should be a big fight for the Dodgers).  Perhaps we can get Topps and Panini to donate a case or two to this.  Can you imagine?

Trade Extravaganza – Everyone trades their extra pulls from the break as well as anything else they brought with them.  A huge chunk of this event would probably be bloggers having the rare opportunity to give other bloggers trade stacks in person instead of having to mail them.  Everyone’s carry-on is way too heavy with cardboard for their flights home.


See you at CBC 2017!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1998 Fleer Tradition: Fleer Hits the Reset Button





Is this a good Griffey?  Yes.  A great inaugural set that gave the newest AL MVP card number 1 in the checklist.

The set: I must admit that at first glance I never thought much about this set.  To me it was just another run-of-the-mill offering with a bland nameplate.  Now that I've spent a little time with it, I can admit that I was wr-, wr-, wr-. I was wr… wrrrr…I was mistaken (Fonzie!).

One important aspect of ’98 Tradition is that this was Fleer’s defacto flagship base set.  There was no 1998 Fleer - Tradition and Tradition Update were it.  Everything else was sub-branded under names like Flair Showcase, Metal Universe, and Sports Illustrated.  They had to make this one count for their namesake, and the result was a pretty solid set of cards.

No, I’m still not crazy about that nameplate design and never will be, but it is conducive to some sweet full-bleed photography.  Similar to some of my favorite Stadium Club designs, the name plate stays the hell out of the way and lets the photography do the talking.  The greatness of the design here is the almost complete lack of design.  It’s very Zen, really.

The card backs are a different story.  A full-bleed jersey background, large portrait, and colorful stat box make for a very busy but not unattractive back.  I really appreciate that they know the plural for RBI is RBI and not RBIs (I am fond of “ribbies,” though).  They also squeezed some fielding stats in there which is a rare feat.

Now as a Junior Junkie, I would be remiss not to mention that Griffey got a whopping six cards in the base set: a base card, two checklists and three subsets.  With the seven inserts that makes 13 possible Griffey pulls from a pack of ’98 Tradition – swoon-worthy numbers for an old junkie like me.  Those subsets and inserts are the polar opposite of the base design, very busy and often over-designed, but there are just so many of them!  Squeeee!

Let’s start with the Griffeys of the base checklist:

1998 Fleer Tradition #1

I think this picture must have been taken on an overcast day, but there’s nothing shady about this victorious hero shot.  Junior appears to be watching one sail over the right field wall in his classic Seattle grays.  I like the wall of spectators behind him.  The white hat/shirt guy in the front row is huge.

1998 Fleer Tradition #314 Golden Memories


It took me writing this post to realize that the thingy behind junior is a “G” as in “golden.”  Duh.  It’s a pretty nice design - I’m a sucker for gratuitous filigree and light embossing.  The memory they used for the blurb is a great one, too.  Nice card – maybe a little too nice for a subset.

1998 Fleer Tradition #329 Tale of the Tape
 


This is a novel idea for a base set with a clever vertical nameplate.  The vertical banner “tape” is fun and sparkly, but unlike that of the previous subset the blurb here seems clunky and thrown-together.  I still really like this card.

1998 Fleer Tradition #342 Checklist
 


There can never be enough floating bat Griffeys.  In addition to that you also get the gritty behind-the-scenes-at-batting-practice vibe as well as the signature backwards cap.  What a perfect shot for a checklist card.

1998 Fleer Tradition #342 Checklist
 

Here’s a nice candid pic of Junior on game day.  If he’s anything like me he’s picking dandelions in right field.  Luckily he’s not like me and is more likely robbing homeruns on his invisible horse in center field.

1998 Fleer Tradition #584 Unforgettable Moments
 

The background of this card is busy to a fault.  I think they were going for a collage effect, but it just doesn’t translate well to a medium of this size.  The blurb on the back talks about Ken and his Dad’s back-to-back homeruns in 1990, but the picture on the front is obviously late-90’s and the year 1998 is on there four times even though the event referenced is from 1990.  I feel like this card cheapens the very moment it is half-assedly attempting to celebrate. Boo.

Also, I’m starting to think that cards that reference Junior and Senior’s back-to-back home runs deserve their own post.  There have to be dozens now.  That’s not a complaint.

Let’s move on to the inserts:

1998 Fleer Vintage '63 #55
 

The Vintage ’63 cards were a cross-brand insert you could pull from multiple different Fleer sub-brands.  It’s also the most traditional thing about Fleer in 1998 and in my opinion also one of the best ideas they had in the late 90’s.  While most of their late-90’s/early-00’s sets are all shiny and modern, that old ’63 design is a valuable commodity that bears showing off.  Neat card.

One really cool aspect of this insert that they carried over from the original 1963 Fleer set is that they removed the little cartoon player from the yellow diamond and replaced it with the AL MVP verbiage.  They did this same thing for the AL MVP of 1962 – some dude named Mickey Mantle.  Hey, they can’t all be household names.  I would like to see this card with a little cartoon batter (and will in a later Tradition base set), but the AL MVP designation is a whole lot sweeter.

1998 Fleer Tradition In the Clutch #IC7
 
 
I like big squares of shiny emerald holofoil as much as the next guy, but the back of this card is the real star.  .857 with the bases loaded?  That must be a misprint.  Wait, no, I read a little further and I have assurances that it is not - unless, of course, that’s actually two misprints.  How great is that blurb, guys?  I especially like the part about how Junior “paced the loop” in intentional walks.  I’ve never heard it put that way – “pacing the loop.”  Is that anything like gleaming the cube?  So clutch.

1998 Fleer Tradition Power Game #10
 

Please bear with me through this next part because it’s kind of long, but I need the input of those more baseball-savvy than myself.

I thought that “The Power Game” was just a cute name for an insert until I read the blurb and learned that Griffey had six of these so-called “power games” in just over a month.  Exactly six.

I immediately questioned this claim.  It’s such a generic-sounding term with a distinct air of subjectivity.  A “power game.”  If Griffey hit three home runs in a game people might say “He had a real power game,” and it would make sense, right?  I certainly wouldn’t question it and would respond with a sturdy high-five.  The guy demonstrated power by hitting the crap out of the baseball often.  What if he had one home run and two doubles?  Sure, that may be a power game, depending on your personal standards.  If someone asked me how many power games Griffey had, I imagine the conversation would go something like this:

Person: “Pardon me, sir, but how many power games would you say Griffey had between August 17th and September 22nd of 2007?”

Me: “Woo!  Griffey!  Woooooo!  Griffey Griffey Griffey Griffey, YEAH!  (power slide, air guitar)”

On the other hand:

Person (to Fleer): “Pardon me….brand of sports cards, but how many power games would you say Griffey had between August 17th and September 22nd of 2007?”

Fleer: “Six.”

Person: “Oh.”

Fleer: “Yeah.”

I would insist that most games Griffey played in during that time were power games by some measure.  But not Fleer.  Six.  He had six.  So then I thought maybe I am an idiot for not knowing what is obviously a widely-recognized and quantified baseball term with a hard-and-fast definition that leaves no room for argument.  I was about to let it go when I saw this:


Had Fleer not included this little white box at the bottom of the card I never would have questioned the validity of whatever it is they insisted a “power game” was; but they did, so I did.  I mean, there it is in black and white: eight or more total bases in a game constitute a Power Game.

I tried to find this term elsewhere in the world - anywhere other than on this card would do.  I turned to Google, Wikipedia, even Bing - EVEN BING - no results resembling Fleer’s definition.  There’s no big light-up sign in any ballpark or on any scoreboard in America that indicates a player’s Power Game total base countdown.  No crowds wait with bated breath for a player with seven total bases to eke out that magical eighth base and get the Power Game at which point they all go nuts for a minute as that non-existent Power Game sign goes ape-shit and the player waves his cap.  None of this is real stuff.

So long story short, I think Fleer made it up.  Bowling has the Turkey; Golf has the Birdie, Eagle, and Albatross; and Hockey has the Hat Trick – I think Fleer wanted to be responsible for a unique baseball term.

Somebody please comment below and tell me you’ve heard of a “power game.”  I want to be wrong.  I don’t want to live in a world where people can just make up terms for things that have never had any one word ascribed to them and throw them at you like it’s no big deal.

“What did you do this weekend, Phil?”

“Sharon and I took the kids foozling.”

“Oh. Sounds fun. I.….totally know what that is.”

(foozling v. the act of slinging five or more carrots via elastic underpants waistband at a blindfolded monkey for sport)

Anyhoo, I love the use of green and purple here as well as the raised printing used for the lettering and player photo, but it still come across a little plain.  This may have been more appropriate for a subset.

Here are the Griffeys of 1998 Fleer Tradition that I do not yet have in the collection:

Diamond Standouts #8
Diamond Tributes #DT5
Lumber Company #6
Zone #7

This, the inaugural year of Fleer Tradition, remains popular among collectors to this day.  Not many sets from this era can claim such timelessness.  While I prefer the Tradition base designs of two years later when they started getting all vintagey, the success of this particular set speaks volumes for good photography and filling your checklist with Griffeys.

Did I take that Power Game thing too far? I think I might have taken that too far.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Design Timeline: Fleer Tradition



This post is part of an ongoing feature The Great Griffey Base Card Project.

Sometime in 1997 someone at Fleer decided it was time to abandon the notion of a regular “Fleer” base set.  The following year they would launch their new flagship set which they called Tradition thus allowing their timeline of eponymous flagship sets, unbroken since 1981, to fall by the wayside.  Tradition then remained Fleer's flagship until they were bought by Upper Deck in 2005 and given the old heave-ho a year later.

Here is where I’m conflicted.  I like the idea of a brand called Tradition, but for those first two years the design was hardly tradition-al.  It was modern and glossy and befoiled - they even had a big, shiny vertical nameplate in the second year.  Then from 2000 through the brand’s ultimate demise in ’06 (under Upper Deck) the designs were all perfectly traditional.  It seems to me that ’98 and ’99 Tradition should have been the flagship designs, and this timeline should begin at 2000.  Instead we have those two years where the brand name is mismatched with the aesthetic.

All that aside, Tradition is a solid Timeline with some great vintage appeal right down to the last set.  It's also one of those few brands whose entire timeline came and went during Griffey's career. 

Here is every Fleer Tradition base card design in order:


1998:


A very popular set among collectors to this day, the design here is one of noninterference with the photography which happened to be excellent that year.  The nameplate is simple, and to be perfectly honest I’m not crazy about it, but the cards in this set are just so good that they endear us to that weird oval design.

1999:



Another full-bleed offering that relies heavily on the photography.  The nameplate, while huge and vertical, doesn't hurt the photography too much.  The strangest aspect here is the mixture of fonts - we get what looks like handwritten script beside large, blocky capital letters.  This one’s always looked like a Pacific card to me.

At this point in the timeline someone at Fleer wised up and got the Tradition brand where it needed to be design-wise.  To me, this is where the timeline really starts.

2000:



The millennium brought with it a shift in the card industry towards classic designs.  At first Fleer took vintage cues from Topps as did most other brands.  It wasn’t until later that we started to see new cardboard in classic Fleer designs.  This one clearly emulates Topps’ 1954 design with the large close-up photo against a field of solid color, the small monochromatic inset picture, and the facsimile signature.  In the original design the color field bleeds over the white border on the top edge. Part of me wished Fleer had kept that fun detail in there.

2001:


Of the three vintage horizontal Topps sets, this card is closest to the 1960 design in that we get a large portrait against an action shot with a full-color background.  Speaking of the background, take a good look: it's like a French impressionist painting.  Tres bien.

Fleer stylized the nameplate and moved it to the bottom.  They also added a team logo and were liberal with the superimposition over the border which I really like.  A little more color would have helped this particular card, but it seems Fleer only went with each team’s darker color for the nameplate throughout the set.  I would like to have seen that part in red.

2002:


This set is based on one of the coolest, most colorful vintage designs ever made: 1934 Goudey - the Lou Gehrig Says set.  I love that they kept the silhouetted infield action shot in the background.  The inclusion of an American flag is no surprise as everything made in 2002 had an American flag on it somewhere.

This design was also used for the Goudey Greats insert in 2006 Fleer Tradition (during the UD years) in the original square configuration with Ken Griffey, Jr. taking Gehrig’s spot as the guy who says stuff.  Isn’t that nice?

2003:



This is the second rehashing of the classic 1963 Fleer design.  The first was in 1998 when it appeared as a cross-branded insert.  This year we finally got a '63-style Griffey with the little baseball man in the yellow diamond (he got the AL MVP verbiage in the '98 insert instead).  While the '03 design is a lot plainer than previous ones and the picture could have been cropped a little better, this is as authentic as Tradition would get.

2004:



This set reminds me of Fleer’s 1990 flagship set with the monochromatic banner and thick white border.  I can live with a tribute to '90 Fleer, but I do have one major gripe with the design here: the player name doesn’t follow the curve of the banner.  WTF?  Seems a little thrown-together.  The font is also hella-lame.  A few small tweaks and this set would at least have gotten to likeable.

2005:


2005 was a very bad year for Fleer.  They went out of business sometime after the release of Series 1 of Tradition but before the release of Series 2.  Only a handful of promo cards from that series made it out into circulation, and the Griffey was not one of them.  It’s a shame, too, because the card backs from this base set are gorgeous.

The card shown above is the only Griffey to come out of ’05 Fleer Tradition, an insert called “Diamond Tributes.”  The actual base set resembles 1941 Play Ball, but I’m not positive that’s the inspiration.  Oh, well - enjoy the placeholder.


2006:


This is the Upper Deck's first and last Tradition design.  Despite having dropped the ball so completely in the production of the regular Fleer set this same year, Upper Deck did a really solid job on Tradition.  The design is fresh and colorful while still keeping to the vintage look.  The great hat logo on the nameplate is one of my favorite elements in this entire timeline.  Amazing that they co-opted so many Topps designs in the making of their own vintage sets but came up with something so exciting and original when creating one from scratch. 

The non-Tradition Fleer brand continued another year under Upper Deck, but I would rather have seen them take one more crack at Tradition.

_________________________________________________________________________


The Tradition timeline had a lot of bright spots, especially after Fleer realized where to take this thing.  On the other hand, it never really felt like a flagship set after 2000.  So is it one?  It seems like Tradition exists in a strange limbo, a sea of sub-brands Fleer flooded the market with after the demise of Pinnacle and Donruss.  I remain conflicted about giving it the flagship designation.  I am unconflicted, however, about saying it was traditionally a damn fine set of baseball cards.

Once more, here's the complete Fleer Tradition design timeline in order:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Griffey Guy and Me: April Card Show Booty

I hadn't seen Griffey Guy in six months before yesterday.  We just kept missing each other at shows, and then there was no show in March because of Mardi Gras.  Well, we finally reunited yesterday, and the day was lucrative on both ends.

1997 Pacific Card-supial Ken Griffey, Jr. Complete!

Despite all the shiny foil cards and relics, I consider this the find of the day: a complete Pacific Cardsupial.  I can't imagine how many times I'd passed this card right by while flipping through Griffey Guy's wares.  I've read about these and seen pictures online, but I had no idea what I was holding until I took a good, long look.  It was the back that gave it away:


And that would be the back of the main card and the front of the mini.  Here's what they look like together:


To this day the Card-supial insert remains of the most bizarre ever made, and I think the collecting community knows that.  Considering the prices I've seen for these online, I got this for a song.

Here are a lot of Griffey Guy purchases in a row:





There are a bunch more versions of that Lords of the Diamond card than I thought.  Luckily this regular chrome version is the last one I needed.



These two eluded me for too long.



That Pacific AL MVP card has a framed translucent window where the portrait is.  Pretty neat.




This card is beautiful in person.  I remember when these were listed in the Beckett for 60 bucks.  I can finally see why.



The best year of Styrotechs.


Mariners jersey relic!  Nice-looking card, too.

That's it for the Griffey Guy haul.  No patches this time, but I consider it one of my best ever.

This particular card show was a lot busier than I'm used to.  Instead of the usual 6 tables there were more like 10 and lots of patrons.  I even met another dealer who had a nice stack of Griffeys to offer.  He wasn't as generous with the discounts as Griffey Guy, but I did find a few nice cards from him:


These came from the 5 for $2 bin.  I only grabbed that '90 Donruss because it has the speckle variation I mentioned back when I showcased that set.  I even pointed the variation out to the dealer - he was polite but didn't really care.


Nice picture, and its an insert I didn't have.


I still can't believe  I was missing that Pacific base card.  Nice insert, too.

This dealer also had something no other dealer had: a 50 cents box (or 5 for $2).  I found some great stuff for other bloggers and a bunch for me, of course.  Here is what that box yielded:


I've started casually collecting T.J.'s, particularly those with a signature visible.  That, and I really like Yohan's signature.


A great sliding Clark and a '94 Finest refractor.  I figure somebody would want that one.


These may be my two favorites from that box.


Two of my lesser-known PC's.


Another great Javy and a Frank Thomas card so garish and bizarre it made me cross-eyed.


These have been showcased on numerous blogs before, and now they are mine!


Probably my favorite shot of Kirby ever, and I actively collect shots of Ozzie fielding.  They always makes for great cards.

There's one gentleman who always has the most recent packs available.  Being that I've never bought one in my life, I decided to throw down ten bucks on three packs of the new Donruss:


That Posey is a silver Press Proof parallel.  They're not bad-looking cards despite not being paintings.


A pack-fresh Griffey!  This does not happen often.

And finally, I needed a '63 Fleer for an upcoming set showcase I'm working on (expect it this week).  I really wanted the Maury Wills NL MVP card, but it was a little more than I was willing to spend.  Instead I picked up this guy:


This vintage seller showed me 2 binder pages of commons and let me choose.  I went with this one because of the great picture and the Colt .45's cap.

That's it.  Here's to all the great card show experiences I've been reading about...