Thursday, August 27, 2009

Final Thoughts on 2009 Allen & Ginter

After opening 2 hobby boxes, 8-10 blasters, 7-8 loose retail packs and 6 hobby "hot" packs worth of 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter (for the sake of my mental health I have decided not to add up the total cost of this), I feel that I am finally ready to render my judgment on what has become arguably the hobby's most popular product of the year. I loved opening every single one of these packs, but I got burnt out when I saw my 10th Chris Volstad shortprint and will likely finish up my set through eBay or trades with other collectors. Like any product, A & G is not without its shortcomings, and there are a few things I would like to see Topps change for 2010. So I compiled a list of what I love and hate about this year's A & G which can be found below, and I would love to hear what you think of this year's Ginter offering (maybe we can start a petition!) But first, a look at my drool-worthy pulls...

Hits: Evan Longoria Autograph, John Higby Yo-Yo String SP, Ichiro Suzuki Bat, Tim Lincecum Jersey, Mike Metzger Auto/239, Carlos Quentin Jersey, David Wright Batting Glove, Jim Thome Bat, Vladimir Guerrero Bat, Manny Ramirez Jersey, David Wright Jersey, C.C. Sabathia Jersey, Rich Harden Jersey, Josh Johnson Auto, Miguel Cabrera Jersey, Justin Upton Jersey, B.J. Upton Jersey, Travis Hafner Jersey, Jimmie Rollins Jersey, Magglio Ordonez Jersey, Yunel Escobar Jersey, Adam Dunn Bazooka Back (#8/25), Blake Dewitt No-Number Back (sent to Nightowl), and the extremely rare Here-To-There-O-Matic mini (roughly one per case).

If you would like to trade for any of these cards, except those in red, just let me know and I am sure we can work something out (first crack at the Wright Batting Glove & Jersey cards to the gals at Dinged Corners).


1) Base Set Design: Adding the borders to the cards was a great idea and really classed up the set. I also love the cards with non-pastel backgrounds...aren't the Joe Mauer and Clayton Kershaw cards some of the best looking base cards you've seen in a long time?
2) Non-Baseball Cards: While the public seems to be split on this debate, I really enjoy pulling a Richard Gatling or an Electron from a pack. It brings some variety to the set and makes it more accessible to non-baseball collectors.

3) Creatures of Legend, Myth & Terror: How cool is it to pull a card of a Kraken or a Unicorn from a pack of baseball cards? This was my favorite insert set of the year and here's hoping Topps can come up with something like this for 2010 (Natural Wonders of the World?)

4) Black Bordered Cards: The intricate design is much more appealing than the past straight black border and they are attainable enough that it is not out of the realm of possibility to complete the entire set (if you have a big wallet and lots of free time).


1) Poor Collation: Despite the fact that I have opened nearly 140 packs (plus another hobby box belonging to my brother) of Allen & Ginter this year, I still have not completed a standard 1-350 base set of the cards; that seems wrong to me. How is it that I can manage to pull 10 of a particular shortprint, but still be missing numerous cards falling between 1-300? By the way if you are interested the cards I still need are: #34, 54, 68, 93, 125, 168, 248, 305, 338 and 343. I would be forever indebted to you for your help in helping me bring in my white whale.

2) Small Autograph Checklist: While there are some great players featured in A & G (Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Evan Longoria) and cool non-players (Michael Phelps, John Higby, Hannah Teter) the checklist as a whole leaves something to be desired, and I think the set would really benefit from adding more baseball players. How quickly would this product sell-out if there was a guaranteed auto in every box?

3) Sketch Cards: Not to go all Stephen A. Smith on you, but quite frankly these aren't very good looking cards. I would much rather pull another base card than one of these monstrosities (same goes for the National Pride cards).

4) Griffey-less Ginter: In what may be his last go-round with the Seattle Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. was inexplicably left off the base card checklist. It's not like this is a small set either, if there's room for Bobby Crosby and Melvin Mora, then there is certainly a spot in the set for the only active member of the 600 HR Club. Not coincedentially my second favorite player, Ben Zobrist, was also not included in the set. Topps clearly was not creating A & G with me in mind, how thoughtless.

Of course I would buy Allen & Ginter next year even if they didn't change anything, but I think there is still room for improvement. What is your opinion of 2009 A & G? What do you love/hate?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pack Attack: 2009 Topps Chrome Retail Jumbo

Topps Chrome has been a mainstay of the hobby since its inception in 1996 and the set looks great again this year. One of the big additions to Topps Chrome as been autographed rookies, and even though I didn't pull one, I was very happy with my pack. Here's what I got:

Albert Pujols: The game's best player on a shiny card...who could ask for more? Will this be the season Pujols captures the Triple Crown?
Gordon Beckham (RC): This was the one card I was looking for in the set and needless to say I was thrilled to pull it out of my first pack. Beckham is having a breakout rookie season and his cards are all highly coveted. This card alone made the pack worthwhile.
Rocco Baldelli (X-Fractor): It looks more like a cube-fractor than an x-fractor and I hate the Boston Red Sox, but otherwise a great card!
Stephen Drew: My favorite of the three Drew brothers, but that's not saying much. He's a key member of the Diamondbacks young team.
Scott Lewis (RC): Don't the Indians have about a thousand young left-handers? Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, etc. Let's hope Lewis turns out better than the rest.
Yovanni Gallardo: Gallardo has been a workhorse for my fantasy team all season, a solid pull.
Po Yu Lin (WBC): Kind of disappointed with these World Baseball Classic inserts. Who are these people? I would prefer another base card, but that's just me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pack Attack: Blast(s) From the Past

The only thing I love more than a couple of packs of Allen & Ginter (a sacrilegious statement, I know) is busting random 80's and 90's wax. After roughly 100 packs or so of A & G (I really wish I was exaggerating, you should see my room) it was time for something fresh, even if the packs were past their expiration date (unless they had been kept in a freezer). It's always great to buy old packs and pull cards of players that are now retired and/or players that rekindle some special memories from years past. Jose Guillen as a Pirate? Mike Mussina in an Orioles uniform? You won't find either of those in 2009 products, unless of course Topps is pulling out some more of its "beloved" gimmicks. Anywho, back to the crux of the matter. I bought a lot of 4 packs of eBay that included: 1983 Fleer, 1996 Sportflix, 1998 Bowman's Best and 1998 Topps Stars. I don't think I have ever opened any of these particular packs yet, so let's dig in and see what awaits!

1998 Bowman's Best (I'm not sure whether or not I want to pull an Atomic Refractor, aren't they a leading cause of lung cancer?):
Geoff Jenkins (RC)
Donnie Sadler (RC)
Mike Mussina
John Olerud
Brady Anderson
Mark Grudzielanek

1996 Sportsflix (I really thought these cards were the future of the industry, but alas, Sportsflix has gone the way of Sarah Palin's political career.):
Alex Ochoa (RC)
Ken Griffey Jr. (Checklist)
Jim Thome
Frank Thomas
Reggie Sanders

1998 Topps Stars (every card is #9799! Remember when cards numbered to 10,000 were hard to find? By howdy this pack makes me feel old.):
Mike Lansing (#7021/9799)
Curt Schilling (#5548/9799)
John Valentin (#404/9799)
Butch Husky GOLD (#1290/2299)
Jose Guillen SILVER (#1491/4399)
Javy Lopez (#2670/9799)

1983 Fleer Valu-Pak (look for Sandberg, Gwynn, Boggs Rookies, grainy pictures and poor centering.):
Dennis Martinez, Buck Martinez, Gary Carter/Bo Diaz "Base Stealer' Threat", Don Robinson, Larry McWilliams, Gary Lavelle, Dave Hostetler, Willie Stargell/Pete Rose "Fountain of Youth", Charlie Lea, Wallace Johnson, Gene Richards, Wayne Gross, Ben Oglivie/Reggie Jackson "Home Run Threats", Tom Niedenfuer, Dave Parker, Bobby Castillo, Gorman Thomas, Ben Hayes, Eddie Milner, Chris Speier, Bud Black, Hubie Brooks, Dickie Noles, Jody Davis, Steve Yeager, Jerry Turner, Pete Rose, Terry Harper

P.S. Sorry for the pictures. I don't have a scanner as of yet. Any ideas on where to pick one up on the cheap?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Card of the Week: 2008 Topps Heritage Ben Zobrist Chrome Refractor #49/559

I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a good story, and Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist is just that. A relatively unknown player coming into the season, Zobrist shocked the baseball world by making the All-Star team in his first season as a full-time player. The one-time utility player took over at second base when Akinori Iwamura went down with an injury and hasn't looked back since. The sweet swinging switch hitter is currently sitting on a line of .289-19 HR-60 RBI-14 SB-.405 OBP and is a major reason why my fantasy baseball team is still in contention after the loss of Jose Reyes (may he and the Mets rest in peace). Still only 28, Zobrist should have many productive seasons ahead of him and will likely be one of my biggest collecting targets moving forward. He's fun to watch, can play anywhere on the field and seems like a genuinely nice guy. What's not to like?

The card itself is a real beauty. I have been a fan of Topps Heritage since its inception in 2001 and the set continues to please set-collectors and old-school fans alike. This particular Zobrist comes from the Topps Heritage Update set and is based on the classic design of 1959 Topps. I love the retro design of these cards, but I also like that Topps incorporates elements of current cards. Most people would think that adding modern technology to a timeless treasure like '59 Topps would screw it up, but au contraire mon frere! This chrome-refractory piece of Zobrist goodness would attract crows from miles away, but otherwise doesn't deviate away from the look and feel of a 50-year-old set. It's the best of today combined with a piece of baseball card history...and it just so happens to be my new favorite Ben Zobrist.

Comments? Concerns? Questions? What do you think of Topps Heritage Chrome and Chrome Refractors? Love 'em of hate 'em? Is Zobrist the greatest thing since chocolate oranges?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pack Attack: 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter Hobby Hot Packs (3)

Normally I'm not one to join the "hot pack" craze, you know those packs on eBay that are guaranteed to contain a hit--jersey, auto, etc. I frankly have no idea how these sellers can be certain there is something inside, maybe they just have the magic hand, or maybe it's something much more devious. Anyway, I finally fell prey to these hot packs when a lot of three 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter Hobby Packs showed up on the Bay. A & G is hands down my favorite product of the year, and since relics, autos and silk cards are the same size in the frames, I felt I had a decent shot at landing a big hit. Most times when a seller offers a pack with either an auto or relic, you can fairly safely assume that it will be a relic, but not with A & G. At the very least I reasoned, I would pull three jersey cards, some minis and a couple of cards to help complete my set. Did this prove to be a worthwhile gamble? I thought so, if only for the excitement inherent in each pack, but I will let you decide if these 3 hits were worth $30. The results below will just list the "hit" in each pack. Enjoy!

Pack 1: David Wright GU Batting Gloves--Wow! What a way to start! I pulled this out of the pack and was excited right away because it was David Wright, but a closer inspection showed just how special this card was. I noticed that the swatch looked a little different than a regular jersey, it had kind of a cross-hatch pattern and when I flipped the card over I found out it was a piece of Wright's batting gloves. I had no idea that there were batting glove relics in this set, and I am assuming that it is shortprinted because there are only a few on eBay in comparison to the normal Wright jersey cards. This turned out to be the best of the hits, and I certainly won't complain about it. My first game-used batting gloves, of a great player, in my favorite set--not bad at all.

Pack 2: BJ Upton GU Jersey Relic--A bit of a let down after the Wright hit, but this allowed me to complete the set of game used Upton jerseys from 2009, as I had earlier pulled a Justin Upton relic from a pack. BJ "Bartells & James" Upton has recovered nicely after a slow start and is helping to keep the Rays in the thick of the Wild Card hunt.

Pack 3: Jimmy Rollins GU Jersey Relic--A gray swatch of J-Roll's jersey. Not much else to say about it, other than I'm sorry if you drafted the 2007 MVP in the first round of your fantasy baseball season and redemption are right around the corner!

I sure enjoyed these hot packs and might gamble on them again if I wrangle up some extra frogskins. What do you think of this pack attack?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Card of the Week: 2000 SPX Ken Griffey Jr. Winning Materials Jersey/Ball

Got this beauty off eBay the other day for $15 and I couldn't be more thrilled. As a lifelong Mariner's fan Griffey is the alpha and omega of my all-time favorite players and there was no way I could pass up this sweet card featuring the Kid during his first go round with the M's. This particular card comes from 2000 SPX and features a blue swatch of Griffey's jersey and a well scuffed game-used baseball (with real dirt!) This is my first relic of Junior that was a cut from a Mariners' uniform, and it comes from a time when game-used cards weren't dime-a-dozen (oh how I miss those days). Don't even bother to ask about trading for this one, as it's going into my permanent Griffey collection/shrine (alongside two Griffey Jr. candy bars from 1989). Feel free to admire though! Stay tuned for the next edition of Card of the Week, coming soon!