Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My New Card Room: One Year Later

A year ago this month I had the unique opportunity to turn a whole room into my own collecting dungeon/office/man cave. Now that a year has passed, here is a quick update on how that room has evolved.

The desk, of course, is the nerve center of the room. The top shelf of the hutch has all the non-overproduction-era cards divided up by team for trade purposes. The shelf above the computer holds all my cases, sleeves, screw cases, team bags, and other storage media. On the shelves to the right are my reference books, digital scale for shipping, and every note I've ever received from fellow bloggers in trades. I also have a lot of empty pack boxes I just don't have the heart to throw out (yet). To the left of the laptop is a steel phone stand with the Griffey Swingman logo cut out of it made by fellow Griffeynaut Jason.

Sadly my old HP scanner/printer finally gave out, so I had to buy a new one which works wirelessly via wifi. The green table is all-purpose, but the school desk on the left is strictly for cardboard. That corner also holds my signed Upper Deck super jumbo, uncut 1989 Upper Deck sheet 1, and a few other cool items (Megaman!).

Here's the school desk. I've got a few items on here going out to other bloggers, new Griffeys, some stuff slated for eBay, and a few smaller set boxes.

My Griffey cabinet houses the bulk of my collection, including all Griffeys worth less than ten bucks (the rest are in a vault at the bank). On top are large boxes full of blogger trades, mini collections, and my non-baseball cards.

Those big brown flat boxes hold my print collection which is a real pain in the B to store. To the left is the closet which is full of shipping supplies and hundreds of bubble mailers ready for trading.

I've had that Griffey poster since I was wee.

You may notice a few blanked-out items on the walls. If you want to know what I'm covering up, you'll just have to come visit (bring Griffeys).

These shelves see a lot of action, too. As you can see I got a small flat screen so I can watch DVD's and tapes while I do cardboard. Five of the shelves here are devoted solely to cardboard with a few more bits and pieces spread among the other shelves. The early-80's X-wing toy suspended from the ceiling I got at a card show a few months back.

Here are the card shelves. We have one with set binders and Griffey magazines, another with general cardboard items, one with a bunch of complete sets and my ongoing 1989 Donruss set building boxes, and the one on the bottom-right is a massive load of unsorted cards divided up by brand. Frankly I'd like to find something to do with all those cards. There are just so many, and I don't have the heart to throw them away. The "burn" box is full of damaged overproduction-era cards I'm saving for the fire pit game we invented a few years back.

One of my favorite things in this picture is the VCR which I keep connected to a DVDR at all times so I can digitize VHS tapes.

Here is my Griffey shelf. I don't generally collect big, clunky, non-card stuff like this, but I do enjoy it, so it's nice to have a place for it all. Kirby is there because it's just a really neat card.

Here are my CD, DVD, and VHS collections under the watchful eye of the X-wing. You can also see my MST3K prop collection on the top of the shelves over on the right there.

That's it. I know I'm too late for the contest, but I've been meaning to put this post together for a while, so there it is. I'm reigniting the blogging spark!

Coming soon: dozens of overdue trade posts. I swear...

Monday, August 29, 2016

The 20-Year Checklist: 7th Inning Stretch Update

Some of you may remember I began a difficult project last year with a very precise deadline. I challenged myself to complete the once-impossible-seeming Beckett Ken Griffey, Jr. Tribute checklist from 1996, and I gave myself until December 31st, 2016 to do it. The year is definitely winding down, so I figure it’s time for a progress report.

When I started I noted that there were 727 cards on this list (I was counting check boxes) when in actuality there are 769 total cards. So my figure of 570/727 or 78.4% should have read 570/769 which in actuality put me at 74%.

Luckily that didn’t matter much as I’ve made a ton of progress (more than someone with a newborn ought to). I’ve been keeping up with new Griffey adds on COMC, and I kept a very detailed list of eBay followed searches. The result is that I am now a whopping 96% complete the full list.

I have full-page scans at the bottom of this post if you're curious...

Look at all those checked boxes!

There are only 28 cards left to get over the next 4 months and 2 days. That’s 124 days or one Griffey every 4.43 days. While I do have leads on a half dozen or so of the remaining Griffeys, and none of those I need are particularly expensive, some of them are proving rather tough to find. Here are the real bears of the final 28:

From eBay

I expect this to be the most expensive card left to get. There are estimated to be about 700 of them floating around, and in 1994 numbers that’s a damn small amount. The only one I’ve seen available is a PSA 10 on eBay for $325.00. I’m going to hold off on that and try for a loose one.

The one I have

At 1:36 packs and in a checklist of 450 cards, pulling an AP of one of the four Griffeys from ’95 Pinnacle was a rare feat. I’ve got the base card which is historically the priciest of Junior’s cards within a given parallel. The other cards are two checklists (one of which has three other popular players on it) and the totally badass Swing Men subset. We’ll just see how this one pans out.

The much easier-to-come-by silver versions

If I had to guess what the final holdout is going to be, I would guess one or all of these (the Gold versions, I mean). The most annoying thing – they’re just game cards. As baseball cards there’s nothing especially great about them (the back is contest rules for goodness sake). They’re not even super expensive – they’re just super scarce. I suspect I’m one of the only idiots looking for them.

Parallels like these are proving to be some of the toughest gets. Take the 1996 Ultra Gold Medallions, for example.

This was the year Gold Medallions really started to mean something. What’s silly about this is that I already have what is far and away the toughest one to find: the 1:2440 pack Hitting Machines insert (not on the list, but come on). The rest of these pale in their relative rarity. Really, it’s not even close; and yet it’s these significantly easier finds that I’m having the hardest time tracking down.

On the other end of the spectrum are a handful of cards that are not particularly rare at all – it’s just that nobody is bothering to sell them.

This O-Pee-Chee redemption jumbo is one of them. I already have several of the much rarer gold foil version, but the crappy regular has been eluding my collecting crosshairs all year. I suspect someone out there has it and isn’t bothering to sell it because they figure it’s not worth the effort.

Then there’s the 1994 Upper Deck Jumbo Checklist #4. Look on eBay and there are dozens of every other card in this 4-card checklist…well, checklist. But #4? There is only one, and dude wants thirteen bucks plus seven bucks shipping. He’s dreaming.

And the 1995 Stadium Club #521 Extreme Corps 1st Day Issue! GAH! Now 1st Day Issue parallels have never been particularly easy to find, but I have literally every other 1st Day Issue card from every other year including the more expensive base cards, and this parallel I’ve never cared for is the one giving me trubs.

Don’t let these cards fool you, though. While it’s true that numerically this project has been a rousing success (I’ve averaged one new Griffey from the list per 3.4 days, which is ahead of my original goal of one per 3.5 days), what those numbers don’t take into account is that the remaining checklist is the most challenging part. Which brings us to prediction time.

Refractors! Finally knocked these out just this month...

Will I be able to finish this thing off? Honestly? Probably not. The numbers may look favorable in black and white, but the truth is that with every card I land the average scarcity of the remaining cards goes up dramatically. If I had a few more months I would be more optimistic. I just don’t think I’m going to be able to find every single one in this final stretch. It won’t be for lack of trying, but I cannot control the supply.

The last of the '95 Select Artist's Proof Parallels! I was
beginning to lose hope for this one...

On the other hand, will I ever finish the list? Yes, I will. Regardless of whether I get past the finish line before my self-imposed deadline, I am confident it can be done. It may end up being a 21, 23, or even 40-year checklist; but dammit, I’m going to make it happen in my lifetime. Then I’m going to rent a time machine (cheaper than buying), go back to 1996, and show 15-year old me that it is, indeed, possible. I’ll also show him how bald he is going to get. It’ll be a bittersweet day for him, that’s for sure.

Here's the remaining list which I pretty much have memorized now:

1. 1993 Finest All-Star Jumbos #110
2. 1993 Upper Deck Iooss Collection #WI13 Jumbo
3. 1994 Collector’s Choice #634 Up Close & Personal Gold Signature
4. 1994 O-Pee-Chee All-Star Redemptions #8 Jumbo (regular non-foil)
5. 1994 Signature Rookies Flip Cards Signatures #AU5 /500 (w/ Craig and Ken auto)
6. 1994 Signature Rookies Flip Cards Signatures #AU4 /1000 (w/ Ken, Sr. auto)
7. 1994 Signature Rookies Flip Cards Signatures #AU6 /500 (w/ Ken, Sr and Jr. auto)
8. 1994 SP Holoview #12 Red
9. 1994 Upper Deck All-Star Jumbos Gold #1
10. 1994 Upper Deck All-Star Jumbos Gold 125th Anniversary
11. 1994 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Checklist Jumbos #4
12. 1995 Collector’s Choice You Crash the Game #CG8A 7/2 Gold
13. 1995 Collector’s Choice You Crash the Game #CG8B 8/24 Gold
14. 1995 Collector’s Choice You Crash the Game #CG8C 9/15 Gold
15. 1995 Collector's Choice SE #261 Checklist Gold Signature
16. 1995 Donruss #340 Press Proof
17. 1995 Pinnacle #304 Swingmen Artist's Proof
18. 1995 Pinnacle #447 CL Artist's Proof
19. 1995 Pinnacle #450 CL Artist's Proof (w/ Bagwell, Piazza, Thomas)
20. 1995 Score #447 Platinum
21. 1995 Score Rules #SR1 Jumbo
22. 1995 Stadium Club #521 Extreme Corps 1st Day Issue
23. 1995 Upper Deck #100 Electric Diamond Gold
24. 1995 Upper Deck Predictor #R45 RBI Leader
25. 1996 Collector's Choice #310 Gold Signature
26. 1996 Ultra Home Run Kings #6 Gold Medallion
27. 1996 Ultra Power Plus #3 Gold Medallion
28. 1996 Ultra Prime Leather #6 Gold Medallion



I'll continue logging my progress with the list via the "Official Griffey Want List" tab at the top of this page, even if it takes us into 2017 (which is pretty likely at this point). Here are the full-page scans of the want list at the time of this post.

Fifteen-year-old me is excited out of his mind.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

1994 Ultra: Ultra Lite

1994 is the last of the “simple” Ultra sets. After this came parallels and paralleled inserts with insertion ratios astronomical by early-90’s standards. Obviously things got pretty hairy for big-name player collectors, so for now let’s take a minute and enjoy the leisurely pace of a time before the Gold Medallions, Platinum Medallions, and 1-of-1 Masterpieces that characterized the remainder of the Ultra timeline.

Look at these two!

1994 Ultra #120

They’re totes BFF’s. Buhner made it into the Hall of Fame speech – not much higher praise than that. I like how Junior is looking directly at the camera as if to say, “Excuse me – we are having a buddy moment. Could you please give us a sec while we celebrate our friendship with mutual being-good-at-baseball and complicated handshakes? Thank you.” Love this card.

I also like how the design is reminiscent of the inaugural 1991 design, e.g. lots of horizontal elements and a classy font. The large, etched-foil Ultra logo (on every card, btw) that replaced the flaming baseballs of the previous two sets also looks great even though it was only used for this one set.

On the back an abbreviated stat box and total lack of blurbage make space for three giant color action photos. This is an idea that would come to define a lot of 90’s cardboard: plenty of sizzle, very little steak. Not that I mind it – there are plenty of other cards (not to mention the inserts from this very set) to turn to for actual baseball information and more complete statistics. I’m willing to forgive certain sets of cards to be a little less informative for the sake of photography and foil (which is probably one of the defining characteristics of a 90’s collector). And speaking of foil, this may be the most ever put on the back of a base card.

1994 Ultra All-Star Team #8

All the inserts are pretty similar design-wise with player photos superimposed over full-bleed fields of primary colors populated with 90’s-style clipart. I don’t mind that Junior looks a little cross-eyed here – this is a fun, colorful card. In fact all the inserts put together have the appearance of a modern-day parallel rainbow. That big foil Ultra logo made it onto the front and back of this one.

1994 Ultra Award Winners #6

Here is one of my earliest Griffey inserts and a long-time favorite for one reason alone: that excellent “A.L. Top Glove” shield with the little fleur de lis. Is that thing official? As in used by MLB? Because it’s awesome. It’s a thoughtful, well-written blurb, too. Just a great card in general.

1994 Ultra Home Run King #2

Here is yet another full-bleed clip art background, this time in black with a brightly-colored neon silhouette. Also another totally sweet insert logo.

1994 Ultra On-Base Leader #6

On-Base Leaders is far and away the toughest get here, being a relatively big checklist and seeded at 1:36 packs. That’s the same insertion ratio as the Home Run Kings insert, but this insert could only be pulled from Series 2 pre-priced packs, effectively boosting the scarcity. While all the other Griffeys of 1994 Ultra can be had for a couple of bucks a piece, don’t be surprised if the price of an On-Base Leaders Griffey reaches into the double-digits.

While there aren’t any insanely rare or iconic cards from ’94 Ultra, it remains a great relic of 90’s cardboard with a lot of solid photography and some memorable designs.

Monday, July 25, 2016

So That Happened...

There it is: the plaque we’ve waited over 20 years to see. This past weekend I, like so many other Griffey fans across the world, watched from home as Junior gave the speech he was predicted to give way back before the Internet, cell phones, and even Inter-league play. On Sunday we finally got to hear the speech we’ve been due for so many years.

It came as no surprise that Junior’s speech was very much family-first. He had something sweet and personal to say to everyone, even ol' Craig. Those of us who have seen him speak know the Kid is an emotional guy. It’s always touching to watch him do that “aw, shucks,” tilted head, right hand to his brow thing he does. It’s a level of humility few Hall-of-Fame-level athletes can express. He even managed to make my wife well up (which is a feat, believe me – it might happen once a year, tops).

Junior was generous with his praise of other players and his fans, even mentioning one fan by name – Rob (lucky, lucky Rob), who travelled 6000 miles to see the Kid’s induction. He gave big kudos to his friends Barry Larkin and Edgar Martinez (“He deserves to be in the Hall”), but one of my favorite moments was when he called on his longtime friend and Kingdome outfield buddy Jay Buhner. Something about that moment felt particularly special to me. Maybe having spent years collecting their cards and seeing them time and time again horsing around and giving us wacky poses – it just felt very real to me. We all need that Jay Buhner friend.

There was a moment when he was talking about his Dad when he said simply, “We hit back-to-back home runs.” He said it quickly, like he wanted to hurry and get it out before a sob. Then he paused a pause I don’t believe was planned, like he was trying to overcome the emotion of the moment as well as the power of that statement. The crowd was, too. A wave of cheers came after a few seconds of silence as Junior regained composure. The crowd was sending him as much support as they could while at the same time saying, “Heck, yeah, you did.” What an awesome moment.

He went on to list some of the most memorable moments of his career, and most of them were his; but a lot of them weren’t: Randy Johnson’s no-hitter was mentioned as was Larkin's first grand slam and Buhner hitting for the cycle. He was celebrating other guys’ accomplishments in his freaking Hall of Fame speech. Who does that? He even spoke fondly of his short time wearing #17 for the White Sox, proud that he got to play in meaningful games every day. Griffey fans don’t like to talk about his cup of coffee in Chicago, but he made it sound like one of the best times in his life.

Junior’s speech showcased all the reasons we love Griffey. He was humble, honest, genuine, and modest throughout. And as superhuman as he may have looked so many times when wielding a bat at the plate or climbing an outfield wall, yesterday he looked relatable and human. At one point he had trouble getting through a particular sentence and had to stop and tell himself out loud, “Slow down,” like a nervous, well, Kid. We are all this man.

I didn’t cry – not once – until he put on that damn backwards cap. That got me, guys. It really did.

And did you see his suit?

A friend of mine was at the house as we watched the speech, and at one point when they cut to Ken, Sr. barely keeping it together, not even looking up at his son for fear of breaking down completely, I mentioned to her that he has a World Series ring and Junior doesn’t. She replied, “Yeah, but Junior got in the Hall of Fame. Which is better, really?” Touché.

I wore my dark blue Mariners jersey and a backwards cap the entire day. For the rest of the afternoon we (my friend, my wife, and I) would randomly interject “Griff-ehhhh” (similar to the way Peter Griffin said “SpongeBob” in that one episode) into every conversation possible. Moments of silence, moments of celebration – every kind of moment got a “Griff-ehhhh.” We all celebrate in our own way.

So many Griffey guys...

I really wanted to be in Cooperstown for the big event, but in addition to shelling out a pile of cash and travelling on multiple planes with a four-month-old, it would have required skipping my annual family camping trip which I haven’t done since it began 25 years ago (around the same time The Kid won his first Gold Glove). I settled for streaming it on my phone and airplaying it to the TV which worked beautifully. Thanks, MLB, for making it available online.

Oh, and a big shout-out to Mike Piazza. He gave a long and beautifully-assembled speech whose eloquence I admit I was not expecting. Not bad for a 62nd-rounder.

But this is what I watched for.

Congratulations, Kid.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Thin Red Line: 2010 Bowman and Bowman Chrome

In terms of Bowman sets from this year, Griffey only appeared in two: Bowman flagship and Chrome. The other Bowman sets, Platinum, Sterling, and Picks & Prospects, included no Griffeys at all; and between the regular and Chrome sets he only made it onto one insert – the rest is base cards and their parallels. So while I usually cover one set per post, today we’re going to squeeze out a two-plunker with 2010 Bowman and 2010 Bowman Chrome.

2010 Bowman #40

While many suspected this would be Junior’s last season, nobody knew for sure. That being said, the Kid’s final Bowman card is light years better than his Topps flagship base card. The Topps photo is kind of far-away, taken at a funny angle, and doesn’t really capture the character of the Kid; but this Bowman card is bright, fun, and joyful. It wasn’t his first season back in Seattle, but he just looks so happy to be wearing that uniform again. It’s a sunset card I can live with.

He would retire suddenly a few months after this photo was taken, but for now he's right at home.

Design-wise I like how simple this year’s sets were. Bowman kept with the now-retired color-coded borders (I believe it was red for veterans, blue for rookies, and green for prospects) that began back in the 90’s. It’s arguably the simplest design we've seen from them this century, and it works. Strong blurb, too. The word "selective" was an interesting choice.

Here's a bunch of parallels:

2010 Bowman #40 Gold

2010 Bowman #40 Blue #/520

2010 Bowman #40 Orange #/250

Bowman loves colored parallels as you probably know. While I am technically missing the red 1/1 and the printing plates, I don’t count 1/1’s among the gettable cards for this set. For our purposes, my 2010 Bowman flagship Griffey set is complete.

2010 Bowman 1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT62

This is the only Bowman insert Junior made an appearance in this year, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Everyone loves the cringeworthy ‘90’s fashion show that was the 1992 Bowman rookie roundup. Personally I’d have waited for 2012 when the set was 20 years old, but for some reason they did it at 18 years. Regardless it looks great, and they absolutely nailed the back. Love that portrait. A very cool tribute to one of the best Bowman sets ever made.

I know what you’re thinking: how would those base cards look if they were shinier with a permanent bend?

2010 Bowman Chrome #155

Design-wise Bowman Chrome is exactly like regular Bowman with a different photo, specifically another awkwardly-angled swing away photo much like the Topps base card. It appears to be an homage to Junior's sweet swing. It’s not a bad card, but it’s not a great one, either.

All the 2010 Bowman Chrome cards had a permanent bend or “bowing” which you’ve probably seen if you’ve ever stacked 2010 Bowman Chrome cards together with other cards in a long box. There’s nothing you can really do about it, either. Just consider it part of the charm of this set.

Here's the refractor which I imagine looks pretty cool in those colored parallels:

2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Refractor

One thing I’d really like to have seen is a Chrome version of the 1992 Throwback insert. With all the white in the original design they would have been super shiny, not to mention the refractors. Oh, well - missed opportunity.

Here are the Griffeys I need from 2010 Bowman and Bowman Chrome:

2010 Bowman #40 Red 1/1
2010 Bowman #40 Printing Plate (four 1/1’s)
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Blue #/150
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Gold #/50
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Orange #/25
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Red #/5
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Superfractor 1/1
2010 Bowman Chrome #155 Printing Plate (four 1/1’s)

I included the 1/1’s but I have no plans to ever own them. Maybe a colored refractor or two will find its way here someday.