Friday, February 27, 2009


It is kind of ironic that I’m writing this post right now considering that I just busted  open a few boxes where the only “hits” were autographed cards, but they were cheap boxes and fun busts.  Truth be told, I’ve never Rocketbeen all that excited by chasing autographs out of packs.  For what I spend, anything that I pull is going to be extremely common and probably not anything that I’m interested in.

I’m not 100% sure exactly why this is the case, but I think it comes from the environment that I was in when I originally started collecting.  If you paid attention, athletes were pretty available at special appearances and you didn’t have card shows where you’d have to pay $150 for a player’s autograph.  I remember my grandfather taking me to Jordan Marsh in Boston to meet Roger Clemens and get his autograph.  I was a big Rocket fan at the time and this made my day.  I had him sign a 1997 Topps All-Star Glossy from the sets that you got from sending away through the mail and the card still is a treasured part of my collection in spite of Clemens running his mouth and injecting who knows what into his body.  The kid in me who watched him dominate hitters and who read “Rocket Man” in 7th Grade will always be a fan.

DeweyThe first time that I ever paid for an autograph, it was for my all-time favorite player and it was something that I was excited about for a month.  Dwight Evans was going to be at the monthly Florian Hall baseball card show and I was going to be there.  The cost for Dewey’s autograph was a whopping $10 which was something that even a young kid could afford.

I remember arriving to the card show about halfway though the time that Dewey was schedule to be signing and there was no line at all.  I got to walk right in and shake his hand and be completely speechless in front of a player whose 24 was on the back of all of my little league jerseys.  I wish I had thought of bringing a camera with me because I would have had plenty of time to get a picture with Evans and that’s something I would h

ave loved to have.  I made up for that a little bit years later when seeing Evans again at a big Red Sox autograph show.

I spent the majority of my free time in high school first working weekend baseball card show and then later in a baseball card shop.  One of the monthly card shows that we did at Lantana’s was run by a guy who knew what he was doing.  He had contacts with the local minor league teams and had players come in to sign at his shows while they were in town.  The show obviously wasn’t as good during the off-season, but it was the best show to go to when a young prospect was there signing.


One of my favorite autographs acquired at Lantana’s was that of Aaron Sele.  Sele made a big splash when first being called up to the Major Leagues and had a solid career, but was never the front of the rotation pitcher that the Red Sox thought that he could be.  I was a big fan and he was one of many Sox players whose cards I sought out and collected.

Jason Bere was another prospect who was brought in to sign at the show.  He was another young pitcher who made a big splash when first called up to the majors.  I remember his 1993 Score Select Rookie/Traded card being the hot card in a very popular set that also included Aaron Sele, Kevin Stocker and Kirk Rueter.


Did somebody mention Kirk Rueter?  He was a guest at a Lantana’s show as well.  The rookie cards of these guys may not sell for much these days, but they were three of the top prospects out there at the time and it was cool being able to add one of them to your collection every month.

I went to the right high school for being a sports card collector.  Boston College High School had an annual sports card show while I was a student there and I loved it.  One of the big draws were the autograph guests and at the time I remember thinking that $25 was a lot to spend for an autograph and I didn’t get many at the show.  The only ones that I did get were the free ones with admission and Hockeythat’s how I got the majority of my hockey autographs such as Joe Juneau, Ray Bourque and Gordie Howe.


One of the few autographs that I did pay for was that of “The Chief” Robert Parish.  I grew up watching the Big Three dominating the parquet in The Gahden and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add a Robert Parish autograph to my collection.

The one thing that I always remember about meeting basketball players is the handshake.  My hand gets completely enveloped by these guys.  Even little guys like Dee Brown had hands which made mine look like a child’s.


Dee Brown was a favorite of mine from the moment the Celtics drafted him.  I enjoyed his style of play as it was something you didn’t see on the Celtics at that point.  He became an overnight sensation when his no-look dunk won him the Slam Dunk Championship.

I forget where I first got Dee Brown’s autograph.  It may have been the B.C. High show.  I do remember the second time though.  Brown was doing an appearance for a new NBA Jam strategy guide at a Barnes & Noble book store.  I had jury duty earlier that day, but luckily I got out in time to make it to the signing.  There was no one there when I arrived which was great because I got to chat with Dee a little bit.  I got the strategy guide signed as well as an Upper Deck McDonald’s card.PierceShowdown

My current favorite Celtics player is Paul Pierce.  While players aren’t as accessible these days, I was able to get Pierce’s autograph in person.  Pierce has a charity named The Truth Fund and I went to the kick-off event at the Hard Rock Cafe.  While I was prepared for Pierce and had him sign an NBA Showdown card as well as a Beckett cover, I wasn’t prepared for the other athletes that were there such as Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri.  Oh well.

I do have some autographed cards in my collection that I didn’t get in person.  A lot of them are rookies that panned out to be nothing that I pulled out of packs.  One of my best pulls came back when autographed cards in packs weren’t all that common.


The Reggie is a beautiful on-card signature from 1995 Upper Deck.  I’m pretty sure that it was a redemption card because I don’t think the certificate of authenticity would have been in the pack with the card.  I did well with 1995 Upper Deck.  While I didn’t take advantage of the Series 1 offer (Clemens), I did send away for the Series 2 offer which was a jumbo autographed A-Rod card.  That card is no longer in my collection being sold just over a year ago to finance a big card show shopping spree.

I’ve also purchased an autographed card or two when the price is right.  One of those is this Curtis MartinMartin from Signature Rookies.  I was a big fan of Martin and hated seeing the Patriots let him go.  He would have solved many years of running problems for the Pats.  This card came out when star autographs were still not that common, but rookie autographs were becoming very common.  There were on oddball items such as phone cards even.  Companies such as Classic and Signature Rookies ran wild with autographs in packs.

McGinestI’ve always preferred the in-person autographs though.  They have a memory attached and are special parts of a collection.  One such memory involves another former Patriot, Willie McGinest.  I was out shopping in a mall when I stumbled across a Wizards of the Coast booth set up in the food court.  If you sat through a demo of how the game was played (which was fun except for the overpowered, rare strategy cards) then you got a promo pack of cards along with a Willie McGinest promo card that you could bring right over to Mr. McGinest himself to get it signed.  How can you beat that?  It’s so much better than ripping open up packs of cards to pull an autograph of Dick Squat Jones.  Most of the time when I do pull an autograph outTrio of packs, it ends up being something like this:

Gilbert Arenis has been injured more than he has played, Josh Howard was a rare red ink signature pulled from a rare, numbered to 99 rip card and would probably sell for a dollar and Brad Miller was the one per pack auto in the first and last pack of that type of product that I’ll ever buy (since the best part of it was the Larry Bird tin that the cards came in).

Cards such as these have absolutely no appeal to me.  It would be one thing if I could turn these “hits” around and help finance my collection, but that’s not the case.  Meanwhile, it is cards such as these that are driving up the price point of cards today.  Sure, it’s in the cheaper stuff, but it is guys like Steve Pearce and Greg Smith.  The big stars are in the more expensive stuff, but you still get a lot more of the bums than the stars.  I just don’t get it.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mike Piazza - 2002 Donruss Originals

2002Originals Ever since they first appeared on the scene in 2000, I've been a sucker for retro sets.  I like the classic designs from the 70s and earlier because I don't have many of those cards in my collection.  The designs from the 80s trigger nostalgia from when I first got into the hobby.


In 2002, Donruss decided to release a set that paid homage to 4 of their previous sets.  Each player appeared on a card in the design of the 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988 sets.  One of those four variations would be short printed (something that would later be repeated almost exactly by Upper Deck in their rookie SP sets) meaning that that this wasn't just a tough set to built, but it was a pain in the ass for player collectors as well.

I picked up a box of this stuff when it was brand new and I got the three non-SP Piazza cards out of the box.  The '84 Piazza version is the only one not currently in my collection.  It's a shame that this set didn't perform better because I would have much rather seen the odd numbered years with 1981, 1983 and 1985 especially being favorites of mine.


"Hits" usually aren't a huge deal to me, but I remember disliking the ones that I pulled from Originals thinking that the player selection was terrible and the cards poorly designed.  That's probably why the boxes didn't sell better.

Overall, I do like this set and you can find the boxes for around $35.  I doubt that I'd ever get around to completing the whole set given that I'm pretty sure that one-fourth of it is short prints, but I wouldn't mind having a set excluding the SPs.

2009 Topps Baseball HTA Box Break

I'm a big fan of the hobby store exclusive HTA jumbos that Topps releases every year.  The main attraction to these boxes for me is that you usually get a complete set out of the box.  In a day and age where most sets require the opening of multiple boxes and some sets are completely impossible to complete, it's a nice reminder of the old days when you can bust open just one box and have a complete set.


2009Topps2 The extra benefit of the HTA jumbos are all of the extra insert cards that you pull out of the boxes.  For example, each jumbo of 2009 Topps has a ToppsTown insert, Turkey Red insert, Ring of Honor insert, a Legend of the Game and a gold parallel card.  On top of that, every other pack contains a "hit" of an autograph, memorabilia, manufactured patch or silk card just to name a few.  2009 Topps has some extremely nice "hits" for a base set.  It's nice when you are buying a product to build a set and get some nice cards along the way.  Usually you have to pay a lot more a pack to have a shot at some of the cards that are out there in 2009 Topps Series 1.

Here are the insert cards that I pulled out of my box:

LG3  - Christy Mathewson



LG4  - Ty Cobb
LG5  - Walter Johnson
LG11 - Lou Gehrig
LG13 - Jackie Robinson
LG17 - Ted Williams
LG19 - Bob Gibson
LG23 - Carl Yastrzemski
LG24 - Nolan Ryan

LG25 - Cal Ripken Jr.

I was happy that I pulled both Teddy Ballgame and Yaz since I'll hold on to those.  I don't think that I'll be putting this insert set together so the rest of the cards will be up for trade.

RH9  - Dwight Gooden

RH13 - Derek Jeter

RH15 - Don Zimmer
RH17 - Gary Sheffield
RH19 - Pedro Martinez
RH21 - Johnny Podres
RH23 - Mariano Rivera
RH27 - Kevin Mitchell

RH29 - Francisco Rodriguez

Too many current or former Yankees and not enough Red Sox.  Seeing cards from the '86 Mets hurts.  I don't think that I'll be putting this set together either so these cards will be up for trade as well.

TTT13 - Albert Pujols
TTT14 - CC Sabathia
TTT15 - Alfonso Soriano
TTT16 - Ichiro
TTT18 - Miguel Cabrera
Gold TTT19 - Carlos Quentin
Gold TTT20 - Lance Berkman
Gold TTT21 - Chipper Jones
Gold TTT22 - Tim Lincecum
Gold TTT23 - Josh Hamilton

This is a set that I will probably end up putting together.  The ToppsTown cards are one per pack no matter what pack you buy so it should cost too much to finish the set.  I don't have a webcam so I'm not interested in that functionality of the Topps Town website, but I have played some of the games and done some trading on the site when I can't sleep.

TR7  - Andre Ethier

TR8  - Ryan Ludwick
TR14 - Chase Utley
TR18 - Jose Lopez
TR23 - Garrett Atkins
TR25 - Alex Rodriguez
TR31 - Justin Upton
TR42 - Geovany Soto
TR43 - Torii Hunter
TR45 - Miguel Cabrera

2009Topps1I think that I'll put this set together as well.  It is kind of large, but the Turkey Red cards are pretty easy to come by and shouldn't cost too much.  It's a shame that there isn't going to be a Turkey Red set this year since these cards look better than any of the previous sets.

As far as my "hits" go, they were hit and miss.  The Josh Bard black (24/58), Cameron Maybin bat, Steve Pearce auto and Greg Smith auto are probably worth less than a handful of the cards in the base set.  My manufactured letter patch was the E of Ty Cobb's "GA Peach" which sold on eBay for $10.  I'm just glad that I didn't get the double printed "A."  ;)  The best pull of the box was the Mike Mussina silk card numbered 30/50.  That card also sold for $10 on eBay.  I used some of that money to purchase a David Ortiz bat card from 2009 Topps since eBay seems to be flooded with them.  You can't get them that cheaply in any card store here in Boston.

I'm a big fan of this year's Topps set.  The design is much better than it had been the previous two years and the variations weren't cards that made you want to set all of your Topps cards on fire.  The photography is great and on many cards it is complimented by the great card design.  You can tell that Topps spent some time on getting these cards to look good.  They didn't just come up with a design and then slap in any old picture.


I give 2009 Topps a B+ and my jumbo box a B- since I was 6 cards short of the set and my best "hit" was a Yankee.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mike Piazza - 2005 Topps Finest

2005FinestThere was a point and time where I wasn't buying a lot of cards by the pack or box.  I was tired of overpaying for packs that promised "hits" and getting nothing.  I added to my collection almost exclusively through eBay.  I'd purchase lots and singles of the players that I collected.  I had no chance of getting a big "hit," but I also had zero possibility of getting a stack of crap that I wanted to toss right into the trash.

One of the things that caught my eye was 2005 Topps Finest.  I liked the design and the different colored variations were sharp.  I picked up 4 different refractors in separate auctions.  The one on the top left is the regular refractor and is numbered to 399.  The blue is the next rarest and is numbered to 299.  Green comes next and is numbered to 199 while the black is the rarest of this bunch at 99.

While I do have a rainbow of Piazza refractors, I never added the base card to my collection which seems a little strange.  That's the risk you run when picking up cards in large lots.  None of the lots that I obtained had the 2005 Finest base card in it.  The next time that I had off to a card show that has a bargain box with Piazzas in it, I'll have to make sure that I grab this card.


I don't bust nearly enough boxes to make this an interesting blog about box breaks.  I probably won't be purchasing enough new product to focus on that either.  What I do have are a few very cool player collections and from this point on I'm going to focus on sharing those with everyone.

What can you expect to see?  Lots of Mike Piazza and Paul Pierce.  Almost everything Reggie Lewis.  Not nearly enough Dwight Evans.  A ton of dunk champ Dee Brown.  There will be Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots galore.

I'll also post box breaks when I do purchase something and will share my thoughts on the hobby.  Once I get some more content up here and if I continue to post regularly, I'll start sending out links to other blogs and maybe get some readers here.