Stars and Stripes

One of my Christmas gifts from my awesome wife was a box of 2015 Panini Stars and Stripes.

USA_SnS_Box

I’ve been a fan of Team USA related stuff for a long time and now that Panini has the license, they’ve been doing some cool things with the brand. The box isn’t very big at 10 packs, 5 cards per pack (50 cards total), but they squeeze in at least 4 hits and a number of parallels. Yes, the players aren’t terribly famous yet, but this is like super-early prospecting, at least in my opinion. Half these guys won’t even get drafted, but there’s a good chance that there’s some early/first cards of eventual MLB players in here. So, let’s see what a box of this stuff has to offer.

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Lots of lots from Sportlots

I was trying to update my “want list”, which has quite a few random base cards on it, and I figured Sportlots would be a great place to finish off those checklists. I’ve ordered several times from there, always with good results. They deal mainly in base cards and everything starts at $0.18. In the past you had to specifically search for a card, but they had just added a feature to browse a sellers other cards after something was in your cart. This was awesome, at least for me, because I could add a card to two to maximize my shipping costs. Most sellers would let you add 8-10 cards before the shipping changed.

2009_OPC_RedSox

2009_OPC_RedSox_2

I started with a set I really liked, but was never able to finish: 2009 O-Pee-Chee. I don’t know why I like this one so much, I just do. It just seems old school. It’s still printed on cardboard, it’s got a simple, retro design, and the checklist is crazy deep. I’m pretty sure there’s a card for everyone on the 25-man roster from 2009, plus a couple others, plus a couple insert sets. I crossed off a huge portion of my list in one big order, but there’s still a few more to find.

2014_Pro_Debut

2014_Pro_Debut_3_PatLight

2014_Pro_Debut_2

Next, about half the team set from 2014 Pro Debut. I had found the other half at a card show and I felt like the set had a strong enough checklist to try and finish it. There were some pretty recognizable names in this one.  Allen Webster, Blake Swihart, Pat Light, Xander Bogaerts and Matt Barnes specifically. Sorry about the random scans, all these cards came from multiple sellers and I just scanned them as they came in.

2015_ProDebut_Owens

2015_ProDebut_McCullers

Just like the 2014 set, the 2015 Pro Debut is pretty solid. Thankfully I had 90% of the set already. Owens was the last Sox cards I needed, and McCullers was an addon for shipping. I figured it might be fun to try and get it signed here in Houston.

2009_UDSP_AP_Manny

2009 UD SP “Authentic Power”, which, sadly, we can probably all agree isn’t really “authentic”. Don’t get me wrong, Manny had the eye for the ball, and the textbook perfect swing, but I wish he had just hit the gym a little more for his power instead of relying on PEDs. Fun guy to watch, but sad what he did to get there. Regardless, still needed the card, and I still collect Manny cards in general. I still need two or three more of these inserts even though I finished the base set years ago.

2009_Ginter_Doc_Holliday

2013_GoldenAge_Doc_Holliday

Here’s a couple just for giggles. Doc Holliday. I can’t believe I never had either of these. There’s an Upper Deck SP somewhere that I did have, and I believe these are the only two other times he’s ever appeared on cardboard. Not that I expected that number to be higher. “Gunslingers of the Wild West” doesn’t really lend itself to baseball cards. I just figured these would be fun to have in my oddballs binder.

Ortiz_Pedroia_Random_Inserts

Speaking of oddballs, a couple random inserts. I’m not even really sure what sets these were from. They were add-ons when I searched sellers inventories for Sox players. I’m also not quite sure who’s signature that’s supposed to be on the Ortiz card, his autograph looks nothing like that.

2015_Holt_SCGold_and_DK

A couple Holt cards. The Diamond Kings was just an add on because I only had the one copy (in the team set) and I wanted a second for the player collection. The Stadium Club is a gold-foil version, so I grabbed it just for the sake of it being a parallel that I needed.

2015_TChrome_FS_RusneyCastillo

2015_TChrome_FS_MattBarnes

2015_TChrome_CC_Bogaerts

As I mentioned last week, I had changed my tune on Topps Chome. After avoiding it last year, I find myself trying to complete the 2015 set. These are about half the inserts I needed. I need one more Chrome Commencement for Mookie Betts, a couple autos, and FOUR “Chrome Culminations” which I’ll never find because they’re apparently “case hits”. How nice.

That’s about it from last months Sportlots order. I think everything in here was less than $10, even after shipping. Sportlots is like those dime boxes at a card show… only online. Love it.

A Mystery Relic

2015_Panini_NationalCon_Castillo_Pyramid_Patch_10

I figured I’d start off with the card so that it’s clearer what I was actually talking about. I purchased this card back in November, I think. I didn’t know anything about it, what it was from, or how rare it was. It doesn’t have any numbers on it, or any details about the product.

I found it on ebay by chance. One of my saved searches is something generic like “Red Sox Patch”. The seller only listed it as “Rusney Castillo Pyramid Patch”, or something similar. It was the “Pyramid” that peaked my interest. The scan doesn’t really do it justice. In hand, in the light, this thing is crazy looking…

2015_Panini_NationalCon_Castillo_Pyramid_Patch_10_inhand

The whole thing is trippy and holographic.

Believe it or not, I won the card for about $4. Since it’s now in my collection, I figured I’d better find out what it actually was. I started digging and found a post by Panini about a month before than National Convention talking about their VIP party and that the packs they were giving away were going to have all kinds of crazy stuff in them, including something called a “Pyramid Refractor”. That was a start, but these certainly don’t look like pyramids, so I kept looking.

Next was a checklist on Cardboard Connection. It said…

checklist

“Rookie Memorabilia” and included Pyramids. Castillo was on the list. Getting closer. I was still a little worried that it wasn’t numbered.

With “rookie memorabilia” and “pyramid” added to the mix, I tracked down a gallery post on Panini’s site about their VIP party “gold packs”.

Panini America Offers Must-See Peek Inside the 2015 National VIP Party Gold Packs

I was let down, there wasn’t any photos of anything that looked like my card. I thought I had it. They talked about their gold packs, mentioned the refractors, but mostly showed off football cards that were completely different.

Then I noticed the “related posts” at the bottom, and saw this…

On the Button: Panini America Examines the Prime Memorabilia of the 2015 National

Finally! About half way through, I spotted this…

on_panini_site

There it was, or, at least one of it’s /10 brethren. I checked the photos in that gallery and most aren’t numbered, but according to Panini, and their various blog posts, what I have is a…

2015 National Convention, Panini VIP Party, Gold Pack Exclusive, Rookie Memorabilia, Rusney Castillo Pyramid Refractor Patch” of which, only 10 were made.

That was a mouthful.

I never really thought it would be from some exclusive VIP party pack. I’m pretty happy it’s /10, even though it doesn’t say it, but I’m just happy to have it in my collection, whatever the heck it’s actually called.

Minipalooza

After I showed off that 5/5 mini yesterday, I thought about some of the other minis from 2015. Then I realized I had no idea if I had finished collecting the Ginter or GQ minis this year. I’ve been terrible about keeping track. I have no lists of cards I need for the past year and a half or so. Thankfully, I did have the sense to at least put most of them in binder pages, so it was just a matter of checking.

2015_AG_RedSox_minis

Now that’s a nice looking page. I’m not really sold on the different colors for the borders for this year. Some work, but some don’t, especially that weird red-brown. I’m also not really sure why they chose that photo for Mookie Betts, it looks completely out of place. Other than that it’s a pretty solid group of minis.

According to the checklist I just need the Shane Victorino SP, which I’m not too terribly concerned about. I’m sure it’ll cross my path at some point.

Mini Masterpiece

I love minis when they’re done right. That started with 2011 Gypsy Queen, which I still believe was a high point for that product, and the start of my infatuation with minis as a whole. They’re always harder to find, but a complete pages of minis is a sight to behold. That’s why I was excited to find out that Diamond Kings had minis in the product. I loved Diamond Kings, it was one of my favorites last year, and I’m still trying to track down several variations, but there’s one I can official cross off the list…

2015_DiamondKings_BrockHolt_EpicPatchMini_5-5

Now that’s a sick mini. In case you’re wondering, it’s like half and inch thick so that the relic has room to fit inside. That also makes it nearly impossible to store in anything, but it’s a small price to pay for awesomeness. I have many Brock Holt cards, but this one is pretty high up there on my list of favorites.

Less Hate for Chrome

I was fairly vocal last year about my disdain for Topps Chrome. I didn’t buy any, I didn’t like it, I was just done with that whole product. I remember having lunch with Sam back in September and discussing Chrome in general and how this year, allegedly, retail was “loaded” and that (factually, not just allegedly) they had moved some of the harder to find colored parallels out of Hobby and into Retail boxes.

I promptly forgot the entire conversation until I was standing in the card isle days later. No blasters to be found, but there were a couple 3-pack hangers. “What the heck”, I thought, “might as well try it.” I liked what I found, then I ran back to the store and bought two more. I officially retract my previous statements about Chrome as a whole. They seem to have made it considerably more interesting again. In a few measly hanger packs, here’s what I found…

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Slightly Better Luck

I mentioned the other day how I had some really terrible luck with retail boxes. I nearly swore off retail buying entirely after that fiasco and it wasn’t until a trip right before Christmas that I decided to buy anything again. I had become enamored with those chrome sparkle parallels. I was having bad luck finding a Brock Holt gold parallel and I saw one little blaster and decided to try my luck. It’s a good thing I did.

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Collation

There’s several posts I’ve got lined up that deal with buying retail. It’s my closest option, it’s my only option if I want to buy something in person. In two of these posts I’m going to actually (hold on to something) give Topps praise for doing something right. This is not that post. This post is to illustrate when things go very very wrong.

Over the past month or two, I bought a couple blasters of 2015 Topps Baseball Update, as well as a couple boxes of the “Update Chrome” stuff. Normally I buy about one a month, during a normal Target run. On this particular day I bought two. I had just been paid, I hadn’t bought cards in a while, why not. Mostly I wanted the “Update Chrome” for the Chrome packs, which had that neat sparkle pattern thing going on this year. This is what I got…

Pack1

8 cards per pack, here’s the first pack from each box…

PACK ONE

  1. Thomas Field – SAME
  2. Rearick & Mazzoni RC – SAME
  3. Stephen Vogt – SAME
  4. Joe Blanton – SAME
  5. Shane Victorino – SAME
  6. Ryan Lavarnway – SAME
  7. Yoenis Cespedes / Paulo Orlando – DIFFERENT
  8. Insert – Different

I didn’t realize what was happening until about pack 3, but I was thinking to myself “hmm, already got that Victorino card”. Little did I know…

 

Pack2

PACK TWO

  • Rafael Betancourt – SAME
  • Jose Altuve – SAME
  • Alex Claudio – SAME
  • Todd Frazier – SAME
  • JR Graham – SAME
  • Joc Pederson – SAME
  • Francoueur / Rizzo – DIFFERENT
  • Insert – Different

Again, completely oblivious. I’m excited I got an extra Pederson RC, and more Todd Frazier and Jose Altuve are always good.

Pack3PACK THREE

  • Alex Guerrero – SAME
  • Scott Kazmir – SAME
  • Justin Nicolino – SAME
  • Joe Panik – SAME
  • Manny Banuelos – SAME
  • Randall Delgado – SAME
  • Jason Heyward – SAME
  • Insert – SAME type, DIFFERENT player

By now I’ve caught on. I normally option a pack and make a stack in front of me. At this point it was pack 3 of box 2, so I separated the two boxes worth and started looking back at what came out of box one. I wasn’t very pleased. I get the fact that these all come out of the same factory, cut from the same sheet, etc., but I always thought there was some sort of mechanism in place to help with collation of this stuff. A few duplicated cards isn’t a big deal. Heck, even if HALF the box was duplicated I doubt I would have cared. I would have chalked it up to just bad luck. Three identical packs in a row is a bit harder to take, but wait, there’s more…

Pack Four was mercifully different, there were only 2 duplicates (4 cards) in that one, it didn’t make it to the scanner. Pack 5 however, that came right back to the party…

Pack5

PACK FIVE

  • Sam Dyson – SAME
  • Teijuan Walker – SAME
  • Burgos / Hernandez – SAME
  • Ross / Iglesias – SAME type, different player
  • Cowgill / O’Sullivan – DIFFERENT
  • Gonzalez / Pollock – DIFFERENT
  • Romine / Zobrist – DIFFERENT
  • Insert – SAME type, DIFFERENT player

While both packs had a couple of different cards, the fact that the rainbow foil parallel fell in EXACTLY the same spot, in the same pack, in the same card order was a little too much. It’s just like buying a hobby box and knowing that the bottom pack on the right has the auto in it. Again, mechanical process, the machine is making the packs, I get it. I know there isn’t a human being putting packs into boxes in a specific order just to mess with me. Then again, maybe there should be. Maybe all the packs should convalesce in a big pile and non-machine workers should put them into boxes randomly. That’s probably too much to ask.

I consider it a good lesson learned. Never buy two boxes from the same shelf or shipment on the same day. I would shake my fist at Topps and tell them this is unacceptable, but I’m pretty sure they stopped caring at some point in the 1980’s.

 

 

Christmas Cards

The best kind of Christmas cards aren’t those with wreathes and holly or pictures of fat Dutch saints with beards. The best kind of cards are small, covered in pictures from this crazy game called “base ball” and from friends. These particular cards came from my Yankee’s fan counter-part in New Jersey, AJ the Lost Collector. It’s always a great sign of the generosity in this hobby that fans who would normally be polar opposites with their team loyalties can trade numerous time and with such joy. Kind of restores your faith in humanity a little.

2007_Sox_Pitchers

Pitchers who led the Sox to a World Series from a set I haven’t finished, an awesome way to start a package.

Pedro

Two cards for Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez (that has such a nice ring to it).

Nomar

Two Nomar cards I didn’t have, always a welcome sight.

MoVaughn

Three from the “big dawg” Mo Vaughn, including a “Double Trouble” appearance by Nomar. Solid cards all around. I love the insane metallic purple floating eyeballs on the Pacific Metal Universe card.

Hertiage_Ortiz

Last but not least, the Large Father, looking all retro in Topps Heritage.

Awesome package AJ. A return package is forming itself in a pile on my desk!

Mega Mookie

I’m not exactly sure what my plan was regarding this card. It’s not like it fits into a box, or a page, or even my display case. Regardless, nabbing a 1/10 5×7 “Topps online exclusive” card for next to nothing was rather appealing.

2015_Topps_Online_5x7_MookieBetts_RedBorder_1-10

It’s big, it’s huge, it’s 5×7 for goodness sake. I love it in it’s “I’m a wacky, different, sort of card” way. Apparently the regular versions were available online, but the red versions were only available in a set, and there were only 10 sets, so says the page on Topps.com (see here). They were also apparently $2k. Woah. So, some dealer got their hands on a set and split it up and sold them individually on ebay. The seller I bought this from had pretty much the rest of the set as well.

1of10

1/10 certainly isn’t shabby. The only real problem I can see is that Topps didn’t really seem to care about the production value. They used the same card stock, which is fine at 2.5×3.5, but starts to feel flimsy at 5×7. They also just “enlarged” the card design instead of recreating it at a higher resolution. You can see the obvious printing dots with the naked eye…

halftone_dots

Lastly, they didn’t even bother to foil stamp the logo or the Future Stars writing.

no_foil

I mean, if you’re willing to do that for 700 cards x millions of copies, why can’t you be bothered to do that for TEN copies of something you’re selling for big money. Oh, yeah, that’s right, it’s all about the money.

In the end, I don’t really care. It’s a conversation piece in my collection. It has the coolness to stand on it’s own, and I can’t believe I got it for less than $10. Oh, and did I mention it’s huge?

size_comparison