2017 Gypsy Queen Design Teardown

With the release of 2017 Gypsy Queen a week or so away, I’ve been preparing my now-traditional “recreation” of the cards. It’s a fun exercise for me as a designer. I try and deconstruct a card, it’s design elements, font choices, photography effects, etc. It’s a way to exercise that creative part of my brain. Yesterday Topps updated the “sell sheet” and released a more-or-less final checklist before the products launch, which is fueling this design breakdown. PDFs, in case you weren’t aware, are considerably easier to pick apart than low-res JPGs they normally put out for previews.

If you have no interest in what fonts Topps is using this year, feel free to tune out for while. For those of you who might be curious, let’s rip into this puppy.

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Heritage is Unacceptable

Topps Heritage is completely unacceptable this year. It’s nuts, and I’m not playing it’s stupid game. Last week, after failing to find ANY Heritage, in any form, in any store, because logical distribution in a major metropolitan areas is apparently too hard, I turned to eBay for a team set. A base team set was $3.99, which got me 18 cards base cards. Do you have any idea how many more there are to find, or would be if I was even interested any more? There are SIX freaking shortprint cards and nearly 30 inserts. I can live without the inserts, that’s not the end of the world. What is completely unacceptable though, is that the MAJORITY of the starting lineup for the Red Sox is a short print. I saw only two sellers offering “Master Sets” when the product launched. One of them wanted $45 and the other wanted $50. Not happening. Not for a team set.

Chris Sale, David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr, and David Price are all short printed. After a brief glance at the checklist I’m willing to bet that if in the last 5 years a player was on an All-Star team, or is a hot rookie of some sort, their card is probably short printed. It’s not just my team either. You’ve got your Kris Bryant, Jose Altuve, Correa, Stanton, Strasburg, Goldschmidt, Bautista, Sanchez, Syndergaard, Hamels, etc, etc, that are ALL SHORT PRINTS.

You know how much sellers are looking for for a short print? $2-5, each. I am not paying $30+ for 6 cards when I paid $4 for EIGHTEEN! That of course, also doesn’t cover the awesome $3.50-3.75 most sellers are now charging for shipping (which, I understand, is a lot of eBays fault). So, $5-8.75 per short print??? Not happening. NEVER happening.

I’m not upset that there are short prints, we’re never going to get Topps to stop doing that. What I’m most upset about is that it was a conscience choice to put, literally, the most popular players behind an artificial “scarcity” barrier, for every team, throughout the product. You want to SSP some weird colored parallels, fine. You want an hard to find SSSSP action variation of a RC, fine. Just stop making everyday and starting lineup players artificially shorted. That’s just bullshit.

Think about the Sox starting lineup. Out of the 9 most obvious players in the lineup, I can easily find Hanley Ramirez and Rick Porcello base cards. Everyone else in the 1-400 checklist is either a bench player, or a #3-5 starting pitcher. That’s some serious bullshit.

Think about YOUR team’s starting lineup. How many of them are short-printed? Let’s pick one at random. How about the Nats? Scherzer, Strausburg, Harper, Murphy and Turner are SPs. That’s 5. Want to do another? How about the Tigers? Verlander, Cabrera, Upton, Kinsler, Fulmer and Norris, that’s 6. You can see my point.

I just can’t support something like this. I was never crazy about the ’68 design, but this just soured me on the entire product. Sorry Topps, just not taking the bait this year.

Card Show 2017

Two weekends ago I snuck off to the Houston Tristar card show for a couple hours. In all honestly, it was pretty disappointing. Most vendors packed up early and went home, leaving people wondering around a half empty hall Sunday afternoon, which was of course the day I had time to go. I got there about 1:30 and allegedly the show was open until 6pm, which I swore was what they had listed on the website. When I bought the ticket to go in and handed it to the guy at the door he turned and look at the other security personnel and said “well, that’s probably about all we’ll get, I guess pack up the turnstiles.” What? If I had waited 5 more minutes I could have just walked in, and saved my $12. The security literally left the door when I came in. Ok, “maybe they’re just paying them for half the day”, I thought. I know this goes until 6.

An hour later I’m looking through some dime boxes and the guy starts putting the lids on the boxes I’m not looking through. “Are you leaving?” I ask. “Yeah, I’ve got a long drive and I’m leaving at 3”. Oh, ok. I finish up, pay like $4 for a stack of cards and he throws everything on a dolly and heads for the door. I go to another vendor, start looking through his boxes. He actually makes me an offer on the entire box ($100, didn’t take it) so he won’t have to pack it up. By 3:30 over half the vendors, and most of the ones I was going to look through, were gone.

Aggravated, I walk over to the fudge and beef jerky vendor. Why there’s a fudge and jerky vendor at a card show I’ll never know, but there they are. I ask them what time the show ends. They say 4pm. At this point it’s still 3:30 and I’m determined to at least find something worth the $24 (12 and 12, parking and entry) I paid just to come to this stupid thing. Here’s what I found in the little time I could actually find something to look through.

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Inspirational Fire

I wanted to try something a little different with a custom I was working on. For the longest time I’ve enjoyed seeing the work of a fellow by the name of Tyson Beck. You might not recognize the name right off the bat, but you’d probably recognize his work. Topps hired him to work on the “Fire” brand of inserts and cards. The overall look of the “Fire” brand of cards changes from year to year, but on the whole they usually involve both geometric abstracts as well as paint/dust/particle effects. Some would say “paint splatter”, others “grunge and dust”, I just call it fantastic and inspirational. I was using the “Fire” inserts specifically from 2016 Update Baseball as inspiration.

So, with that said, and with literally 100 different “paint” brushes in photoshop, I came up with this…

 

 

Diamond Kings Box Breakdown

I’ve said many times before that I’m not a “box buster”. To date I’ve probably opened about 10 in my entire collecting life. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s simply that a $75-100 gamble vs a $2 sure bet is a no-brainer. I’ll buy cheap cards all day long provided I know what I’m getting. Busting a box, to me, is the collecting equivalent of gambling. I just don’t have money to waste, every dollar is precious, so I like to get the most return for my money. That said, it is fun to do, especially when someone else bought the box. This Christmas my parents decided to wonder through my Amazon wish-list and settled on a hobby box of 2016 Diamond Kings as my present. A very thoughtful gift that I appreciated and enjoyed opening. The box guaranteed two hits. In my opinion, I got five. Read on…

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Happy New Year

There’s not really any reason why I haven’t updated since November except to say that work was exceptionally crazy. In December I typically photograph a lot of Christmas parties, this year was no exception, and that took up the majority of my weekends. At work I also had a big push to finish a large web project by the end of the year. On the upside, with the free time I did have, I managed to carve out a good portion of time to do things with the family, which is infinitely more enjoyable than typing into a blog editor panel. We went to see the nutcracker ballet, we saw movies (Moana good, Sing bad), we played games, we had people over and cooked and ate and enjoyed the time we had together. I was going to mention something about my birthday, but thankfully it was a non-event, just how I like it. Lots of little things to catch up on here and there.

Overwatch – Had some time to really dig deep and enjoy it. I retract any of my previous statements about it being “vanilla” or generic. It has surprising depth and I’m really liking it. It’s that next evolutionary step beyond Team Fortress 2’s “rock, paper, scissors” formula.

Moana – Was genuinely awesome. The animation was good, the story was good, The Rock was excellent. Disney’s in-house animation is now on par with Pixar, I think that’s safe to say.

Sing – Was disappointing in a number of ways. For starters, everything in between the singing, which was fine, was very nearly PG-13. That’s fine for me, but it’s considerably above the heads of most 5-10 year olds. There’s robbery, foreclosure, depression, gambling debt, scams, breakups, theft, assault, near-murder and all sorts of other fairly dark themes that kids just aren’t going to get. It’s marketed as a kids movie, and it’s not that.

Rouge One – Wow. That was an impressive dip into the Star Wars universe that satisfied all those “geeky” needs, without destroying the franchise, and sucessfully expanding it. I’m not going to get into original Lucas canon vs. new Disney canon, I just don’t care that much. All I know is that it was good, really good, and the entire movie didn’t even have a light saber in it. If I’m being perfectly honest, I kinda liked it better than Episode 7.

Raspberry Pi – I finally got on board the Pi train this Christmas. That was my present from my awesome wife and I love this thing. I loaded it up with BerryBoot (boot loader) right off the bat and created several partitions to play with. Raspbian was an obvious choice, but I also installed RetroPie and PirateBox as well. I’m also thinking about a PiRate Radio as soon as I can track down a jumper for one of the pins and a random length of copper wire. We had considerable fun playing old Nintendo games over the holidays with RetroPie and a USB knock-off of a SNES controller. I’m letting the kiddo learn the classics. The pure joy she had when she got the end of the first level in Mario was priceless.

Cards – Yes, I did get some cards throughout December. Those are sitting by the scanner for when I have a minute. I have a good sized SportLots order and a hobby box of Diamond Kings to share at some point.

BBQ – I finally nailed a perfect brisket. Do I get my Texan card now? Achievement unlocked? I’ve always been good with pork and ribs, but brisket took some serious practice. Look at that rendered deckle…

Customs – Last but not least, in my spare time, which is mostly single moments in-between emails, I’m still putting together custom cards. I’ve been able to recreate several BUNT designs that, at least in my opinion, should have been real physical cards and not just digital designs (he says, as he creates digital designs). BUNT Posters, Infinite and Heroes & Legends to name a few. I’ll show those off down the road. I’m also working on approximations of Panini Noir, 1966 Topps Hockey, FIRE, Goodwin Champions and BUNT Blueprints.

Custom Cards: 2016 Olympics

The way I approach a custom card might be slightly different than most. For starters, if I’m doing a strait recreation of an existing card, it’s to fill a gap in reality. If a person didn’t get a card in a certain year, or on a certain team, that’s a good candidate for a custom. Second, if I feel like the idea was a good one, but I thought it could be executed differently design wise. That’s the nice way of saying that I didn’t like something about the original. That’s not because I believe in any way that I’m a better designer than any of the artists already employed by Topps or Panini, but merely that they have deadlines and productions schedules to meet, whereas I could take months working on something. The third type of custom is the original custom. I love being inspired by a design and then putting my own spin on it. I’ve got a few of those in the works, but this post is actually about the second type.

Topps created a design for this years Olympics cards that was pretty good, but had, at least in my opinion, a few things that needed tweaking. So, this is my re-imagining of the 2016 Topps Olympic card set.

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Summer Stockpile

Seems weird to say “goodbye to summer” in November, but in Texas it’s finally dropped below 80°. Baseball is over for the year, we just set the clocks back, the weather is changing, the summer is most definitely over. I refrained from posting a lot over the summer mostly due to time issues, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t pick up a good amount of cardboard. That said, this isn’t the entirety of what I found, just the highlights, and it’s also representative of May-October, so there’s quite a few. Image heavy post ahead…

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More Cards From AJ

I know I wouldn’t classify myself in the same league as most of you who trade cardboard on a regular basis. In fact, most of my trades are done with a tiny handful of people. Not that I wouldn’t mind making more trades, it’s just that I’m horrible at it. I don’t buy enough stuff to readily have things for other people all the time and I feel vaguely inadequate sending flagship base to people. One of the few people I do trade with is AJ from The Lost Collector. Seeing as how he’s a Yankees fan, and seeing as how the two most heavily included teams in products tend to be Yankees and Red Sox, I actually have various Yankees cards worth trading. He probably feels the same way about the Red Sox. AJ’s trade packages are always excellent and I’m always glad to receive one. I’m filling a box full of Yankees as a return gift, but the box isn’t quite full yet, I need to cram a few more in there to get the most out of my postage dollar.

Let’s see what AJ sent…

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Change of Plans

It’s funny how the plans we all have are often times not the path we end up walking. We learned on Friday that my wife’s job will be going away shortly. The business owner is retiring and they’ll be closing the doors soon. We had hoped to visit my family in New England this year, let the kiddo experience a real white Christmas, all that good stuff, but that’s probably not happening. That’s ok, plans can change. What’s important is that we find a good fit job wise and it’s something enjoyable and fulfilling. It’s only a minor bump in the road, nothing we can’t handle together. Wish us luck!