Thursday, July 21, 2011

1974 Topps & The New All Time Home Run King

Although the record books has the incomparable Barry Bonds atop the career Home Run list the majority of baseball fans ignore that bit of accounting. In the hearts and minds of the casual fan Hank Aaron is still the Home Run King. What's cool about this card is that it was printed and released PRIOR to Hank actually breaking the record. Topps wasn't going out on much of a limb. It was inevitable that Hank would break it but it's cool they acknowledged it as the first card and made it his base card too.

It's a great design. How come the whole set wasn't this graphic?

As far as the condition of this particular card it could be argued that you're looking at a minor miracle. Thankfully, it's now housed in a Beckett slab.  Currently, there are 25 copies listed on ranging from $9.00 - $40.00 with only 3 showing 50/50 centering. But even those are only good to excellent condition. Graders at PSA and Beckett both weigh centering the most because of how it effects the overall eye appeal of a card. However, centering is the one aspect that is completely out of the collector's hand. PSA's solution was to incorporate 'qualifiers' such as OC but Beckett didn't want to deviate from the notion that somewhere in this great big world there exists a perfect copy of any ole card. In this case, they were proven correct. It's hard to imagine how this card came to be. I would guess it was sitting in an unopened pack until recent history. Considering this was the way cards were handled (pic below) back in 1974 it's still a minor miracle that it ended up in this condition.
In a bit of good timing a BVG 9 example of this card just went to auction at eBay from Superior Investments. I'll watch it to see where it ends up. My prediction is $375.85.  The Gem Mint is owned by Pristine Paper and they are asking for $10,000.00 which I think is too high. But at least we can see a nice gauge of things. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

1968 Topps. Reach for the Stargell

1968 is one of the most volatile years in America history. The 1968 Topps design reflects absolutely no notion of change. It's tweed! The psychedelic counterculture in full bloom did not penetrate anyone at Topps. If you were to judge what was taking place in the country based on this design you would guess no better than everyone is comfortable at home eating TV dinners, right? The only thing subversive about this card is that Stargell plays for the "Pirates". I still don't get what this team nickname has to do with baseball. Anyhow, this copy is a stunning gem mint. How it stayed in this condition for over 40 years is an answer you would only get tripping on Lysergic acid diethylamide.

Even baseball itself got caught up in the winds of change. After the 1968 season baseball had to lower the mound by 4.5 inches to give the hitter's a chance. Apparently, most teams had raised their mounds past the regular height of 15 inches which in effect killed all the offense. After the mound was lowered and enforced to be a standard 10.5 inches modern day baseball was born.

Stargell had the dismal yet relative OPS of .757 in 1968. The following year he posts the Hall Of Famish OPS of .938! Baseball had literally leveled the playing field.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

1986 Donruss. A guide to framing your Picasso's.

Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. were the starting left side of the American League All-Star team from 1986-1996.

About the Cards
As grading cards has gained wider acceptance and are no longer just a niche in the hobby for collectors with deep pockets the market has shown that most submit to BGS for modern cards and most submit to PSA for vintage. Will you see modern cards graded by PSA and vintage by BGS? Yes but the premium for the same grade can be vastly different.

Although the standards by which the card is being judged is virtually the same
BGS holds a distinct advantage by showing you a detailed report with sub grades.

BGS also holds the advantage in aesthetic and protection. The BGS slab includes an inner sleeve housed inside what amounts to a brick. It’s 100% tamper evident. One time I actually opened a PSA slab with no detection. Most likely that particular encapsulation was faulty but there is zero chance anyone can open a BGS slab without knowing.  The BGS slab is thicker and heavier. You feel you're Indiana Jones holding onto a precious artifact. A PSA holder feels like a fixture that needs to be attached to some Ikea desk.

A BGS Gem Mint label is written in GOLD. Its screams ‘this card is important’! The PSA label looks like it was done up on a Brother P-touch with a red marker by someone rushing to leave work. Not to mention it has the completely distracting George Orwellian bar code as well. 

With all this commotion why would anyone grade with PSA? Two words: Set Registry.

The PSA Set Registry is the single most important thing to happen to the hobby since Topps’ monopoly was broken up in 1981.

Not only was the idea an obvious and needed one in the hobby it was executed with perfection. You can’t say enough great things about the PSA Set Registry. It brought competition to the hobby and more importantly it brought major value to cards that are normally of none.

In the past 30 years, the hobby has seen a lot of awful sets and baseball has seen a lot of awful players but the PSA Set Registry has given players collectors a reason to seek out horrendous sets and set builders a reason to try and find that Gem Mint Alvaro Espinoza and players of the like.

In a perfect world, you would combine the BGS slab with the PSA Set Registry but the world is not perfect.

Friday, July 8, 2011

1991 Topps. Some come to laugh their past away.

June 24, 1991 39-year old Dave Winfield came to the plate in the eighth inning a triple shy of becoming the oldest player in MLB history to hit for a cycle. 

Prior to the at bat, Winfield had lit up Royals starter Hector Wagner for an RBI single, double and a two-run homer which literally finished Hector's career. 

Winfield never hit a cycle in his career.  "I told the guys on the bench after I got the single, the double and the homer, I said, 'I'm going to get that triple tonight,' [1]

the Royals had played three extra inning games in the past four days their bullpen was completely exhausted. In an attempt to save the bullpen the Royals turned to starter Tom Gordon who two days prior threw 123 pitches across seven innings.

Dave singles off of Gordon for his fourth hit in the seventh.

For Dave's fifth at bat Tom Gordon exits and Royals utility infielder Bill Pecota who was playing first base was now on the mound for the first time in his life facing a red hot Dave Winfield.

Dave connects on Pecota's 1 - 1 pitch for the triple.

All told he went 5 - 5 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBI.  An epic game as Dave became the oldest player in MLB history to hit for a cycle. 

About The Card

This is a great shot and composition of Winfield. This photo captures his imposing presence in the batter's box well. 1991 Topps looks cool if you don't stare at it for too long. I'm always a fan of using the official team logos but Topps insistence on using a pennant as a backdrop ruins it. I don't like the slogan either. Why couldn't they have used the more accurate "40 Years of Baseball Cards"? 1991 Topps also had the dubious distinction of competing against themselves and compared to the landmark Stadium Club line this set is markedly lame.

1. Elliott, Helene, (June 25, 1991) The Los Angeles Times.

wacky side note is that 30 minutes down the road the Grateful Dead played Sandstone Ampitheatre and stunk up the joint worst than Hector Wagner.