Friday, December 24, 2021

Updated Card Status at Walmart

The status of cards at Walmart has not been good around here. But in the past few months, I've been able to find some blasters once in a while. I've followed the same pattern every time I have: I choose a product and pick up two blasters off the shelf. If I continue to find cards there, I probably won't keep buying two blasters every time I go to the store. I just don't feel comfortable letting the opportunity pass when I'm still not sure when it will come around again, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across some Topps Update. I opened it right when school let out for Christmas break.

Of course, the main reason for buying Update is to find some top rookies. These were the best I pulled in my two boxes, with my favorite here being my first card of 2021 NL Rookie of the Year, Jonathan India.

The other reason to buy Update is to find old faces in new uniforms. But these are not players who changed teams mid-season; they are players who were traded or signed before the season began. If I were Topps, I would make a list of free agents in the offseason and plan to put them in Series 2 with whichever team they signed with. There would inevitably be some players who are traded before the season that you would miss, but free agents are easier to predict a team change. I would reserve Update for players who change teams midseason or who are traded in the offseason.

But that's not how Topps does it. Instead, I'm left with this experience as a Cubs collector in 2021. Joc Pederson gets his first Flagship Cubs card--months after he leaves the team. Nick Madrigal joins the team at the trade deadline, but is still a Southsider in Update series. See, if I were in charge, this Joc Cub would have come in Series 2 and his Update card would have him as a Brave.
I decided not to pursue a complete set of Update, but I do like that all the checklists feature no-hitters thrown in 2021. Aside from the firesale decimation of my favorite team, the plethora of no-hitters are the defining feature of the season. So I decided that I would chase after all the no-hitter highlight checklists in Update this year.

The above observations all came from the first box I opened. This scan displays all my keepers from Box #2.

Now let's look at the inserts. Most of these are keepers for me. I like the 1992 design, but I don't understand why it needed to be an insert set. They even got the cardstock wrong; Topps used an older feeling cardstock for this insert set, but 1992 was really the first time the company used a glossy stock. I like the feel of the 1992 inserts, though, so I can't complain about it too much. The 1986 Anniversary set is glossy, however, as is the Cards that Never Were, in my box a solo Nolan Ryan rookie.

Each blaster comes with a manu-relic 70th Anniversary card. I pulled Yogi Berra out of the first box. The second box yielded a Tom Glavine relic, but somehow I forgot to scan it. Oh well, I'm not going back to do it now.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't buy these blasters of Update if I could do it over again. In hindsight, I would have saved the money for something else. My reason has little to do with the product. Rather, it's that opening baseball card packs in 2021 has been a weird feeling for this Cubs fan. Pretty much every Cub card I pull is of somebody who is no longer with the team. I'm happy to have my first Jonathan India and a refractor card of fellow ROY Randy Arozarena from this purchase, but overall, there are probably other products/sets that I would rather have.

I'm posting this on Christmas Eve because these boxes were kind of my Christmas present to myself. So I'll end by wishing all who are reading a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy your holidays!

Friday, December 17, 2021

The Franchise 9: Baltimore Ravens

Though they moved from Cleveland, the Ravens didn't keep the franchise history of the Browns. For historical purposes, the Baltimore Ravens are treated the same as an expansion franchise starting in 1996. Still, despite the short history of the franchise, there have been some great players to suit up in black and purple. The Ravens have claimed two Super Bowl victories in two separate decades. So who are their best all-time players?

1. Joe Flacco, QB (2014 Panini Rookies & Stars)

With over 38,000 passing yards, Joe Flacco is the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Nobody else has even hit 10,000 (though Lamar Jackson should get there this coming week). Flacco is the leader by almost triple in passing TDs, too. He never received a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod, but no signal caller can equal what he has done for the Ravens.

2. Jamal Lewis, RB (2006 Fleer)

As I researched this team, I found the Ravens seem to run into legal trouble at the running back position. Their top two ball carriers both had major off-field issues. But that doesn't play into consideration here; Lewis's on-field performance earns a spot for him on this list. He is the Ravens' leading rusher in yards and touchdowns. In 2003, he joined an elite club of NFL runners who gained over 2,000 yards in a season. It earned him an All-Pro nomination and helped him be named to the NFL's All-2000s team.

3. Jonathan Ogden, T (1996 Playoff Prime)

The Ravens took Jonathan Ogden with the fourth pick in the 1996 Draft, making him the franchise's first draft pick. He rewarded their confidence by making the Pro Bowl in 11 of his 12 seasons and playing every game of his career with the team. For 12 years, he was a rock on the offensive line and earned a spot in Canton.

4. Marshal Yanda, G (2017 Score)

While he has very little representation on cardboard, Marshal Yanda was one of the top offensive linemen in the game through the 2010s. Earning All-Pro recognition in two seasons and eight Pro Bowl bids, Yanda was named to the All-Decade team. He played every game of his career with Baltimore and rose to fifth in team history in Approximate Value, according to Pro Football Reference. He retired in 2019 and will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the future.

5. Haloti Ngata, DT (2011 Score)

Before he was a pro football player, Haloti Ngata was a hometown hero football player here in Utah. He originally committed to my BYU Cougars before eventually signing with Oregon. With the Ravens, he became a disruptive force to be feared on the interior defensive line. He ranks 7th on the team in career AV. He made five Pro Bowls and received two All-Pro bids for the Ravens.

6. Terrell Suggs, LB (2014 Bowman)

For a franchise that is known for hanging its hat on defense, Terrell Suggs is the team's all-time sack leader. And it's not close; his 132.5 sacks nearly double up the 70 put up by the closest guy behind him. Suggs started his career by winning the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003. He continued on the right track, becoming an All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler. In 2011, he force seven fumbles en route to taking home Defensive Player of the Year hardware. He is the Ravens' best edge rusher ever.

7. Ray Lewis, LB (2010 Topps)

In 1996, Baltimore took Jonathan Ogden 4th overall in the draft. Twenty-two picks later, they made another first-round pick. This time they took Ray Lewis. He only went on to become the best player in franchise history. Those are two solid first two picks to build around. Let's just list Lewis's career achievements: 2,056 tackles (leading the league in the category in three separate seasons), 12 Pro Bowls, seven 1st-Team All-Pros, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, a spot on the 2000s All-Decade team, a Super Bowl MVP, and a bust in Canton. Oh, and he was a Raven for his entire career. The club may never see better.

8. Ed Reed, S (2008 Score)

Ed Reed was a human highlight reel. He led the league in interceptions three times in his career. He picked off 61 passes as a Raven. He returned seven of them for TDs. Even more impressive, two of those returns were over 100 yards. He was a danger to throw around and even more dangerous with the ball in his hands. Like Suggs and Lewis, Reed won a Defensive Player of the Year award. That makes four DPOY awards going to Baltimore between 2000-2011, including Lewis and Reed going back-to-back in 2003 and 2004.

9. Justin Tucker, K (2019 Donruss)

Justin Tucker is the only kicker to make this list for any franchise. He deserves it. No other kicker has cracked his team's top 25 in AV. He has four All-Pro nominations to his name. He's automatic and beloved in Baltimore. Oh, and there's this:

Yes, that's an NFL record and yes, it was a game-winner as time expired. This guy was the NFL's All-2010s kicker for a reason.

The Ravens build their teams around defense, special teams, and line play. Only two of their skill players ended up on this list. But this is as solid a roster as you will find. It's only a matter of time before Lamar Jackson unseats Joe Flacco, however. He just needs a few more seasons in purple to match Flacco's accomplishments for the team. Who else is close? Would you make any changes?

Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Franchise 9: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have been living through a nightmare 2021 season. Their 2020 draft class is historically bad; both of their first-round draft picks are off the team before finishing even two seasons. This team has suffered through multiple nightmare seasons and busted draft classes in recent years. Historically, though, this is a franchise that has enjoyed a lot of success. So much so that this was one of the tougher teams to put together due to the number of great players who had to be left off.

1. Ken Stabler, QB (2006 UD Legends)

No quarterback has played more games for the Raiders than Ken Stabler. No quarterback has won more games with the Raiders. Current QB Derek Carr may have passed Stabler in yardage, but he still needs to win 16 more games to tie that record. He was a Super Bowl champ, a league MVP, and a Hall of Famer under center for Oakland.

2. Marcus Allen, RB (1990 Pro Set Super Bowl MVPs)

As a Raider, Marcus Allen rushed for 8,545 yards and 79 TDs. Since he left the team in 1992, the closest Raider rusher to Allen was Napolean Kaufman, who currently sits at fourth on the franchise all-time list, but barely eclipsed 50% of Allen's total yardage. Add in 4,258 receiving yards and 18 more TDs through the air, and Allen ranks second in team history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns. He led the NFL in rushing in 1985, earning one of his two All-Pro nominations.

3. Fred Biletnikoff, WR (2017 Panini Playoff)

Fred Biletnikoff sounds as much like the name of a ballet dancer as it does a Hall of Fame football player, but football player it is for Biletnikoff. Even though Tim Brown has eclipsed Biletnikoff in every receiving category in Raiders history, Biletnikoff gets the nod here. When he retired in 1978, he had more than doubled the number of catches, yards, and touchdowns of the guy he passed, Art Powell. He was the first Super Bowl MVP in Raiders history. But the reason I put him above Tim Brown is the fact that he was twice named 1st-team All-Pro, whereas Brown never was. Brown has the numbers because of a different era, but Biletnikoff was considered one of the best two or three receivers of his day. Brown was a Hall of Famer and an All-Decade performer, but never received the same league-wide accolades as Biletnikoff.

4. Jim Otto, C (1994 Ted Williams Roger Stabauch's)

Jim Otto was absolutely dominant from the get-go. He was a 1st-team All-Pro in his rookie year, 1960. Then he repeated that feat in nine of the next ten years. Pro Football Reference ranks him #1 in franchise history in approximate value. Though his career started before the Super Bowl Era, if we remove those years, he still ranks just below Marcus Allen on the team list and has four consecutive All-Pro nominations to boast of. He started all 214 games available to play in his NFL career, all for Oakland. He belongs here.

5. Art Shell, T (1982 Topps)

My first introduction to Art Shell was when he was named the Raiders' head coach in 1990. I didn't even know that he had been a Hall of Fame caliber player for the team when I first pulled his Pro Set coach card from a pack. In his playing days, though, he was a beast on the offensive line. He was Pro Bowler eight times, an All-Pro twice, and an All-Decade player before being inducted to the Hall of Fame.

6. Gene Upshaw, G (1989 Swell Football Greats)

As good as Shell was, Gene Upshaw was better. He was a five-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler. In the seven years that Otto, Shell, and Upshaw played together, the Raiders finished the season in top-10 in offense every year. In five of those years, they were top-five, and they fielded the league's top offense three times. Upshaw joined Shell on the All-Decade Team and in the Hall of Fame.

7. Howie Long, DE (1990 Pro Set)

Howie Long finished his career second on the Raiders' list in sacks. In his time with the team, Long racked up eight trips to the Pro Bowl, two All-Pro nominations, a spot on the All-Decade Team, and a bust in Canton. He currently ranks seventh in career AV for the team. He also gets bonus points here for playing every snap of his career with the Raiders.

8. Ted Hendricks, LB (1990 Score)

The man known as "The Mad Stork" started his career in Baltimore and played a season in Green Bay, but most of his time was spent in Oakland. It could be argued that his being named to the 1970s All-Decade Team could be due to his time before joining the Raiders. But from 1980-1983--as a Raider--Hendricks made four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. And that was all he needed to earn a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team.  He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1990. Here's a fun fact: he recorded four safeties in his career--good for the all-time NFL lead (tied with Doug English, Jared Allen, and Justin Houston).

9. Willie Brown, CB (2012 Panini Certified)

From 1967-1973, Willie Brown made seven consecutive Pro Bowls. In that span, he was named 1st-Team All-Pro four times. In 12 seasons with the Raiders, Brown picked off 39 passes, which places him atop the franchise record book. He also ranks fifth in team history in AV.

This was certainly one of the more difficult Franchise 9 teams to select. Every player on this list has a bust in Canton, but there are Hall of Famers who didn't make the cut. I'd hear arguments for Tim Brown, Steve Wisniewski, and Cliff Branch on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side, Rod Martin and Lester Hayes are high on the franchise AV list. Less heralded Terry McDaniel and Greg Townsend were strongly considered because they had strong resumes. As always, I'd love to know how your list would look. Let's hear it in the comments!

Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Colbey's Affordable Breaks

Last month, I took a spot in one of Nacho Grande's breaks and had my stack finally shipped to me after I don't know how long. Then I turned around and did the same thing with one of Colbey's Affordable Breaks. I had bought into a few of his breaks and accumulated a stack, but I couldn't even tell you how far back my stack had been growing. I finally requested it and received the contents earlier this week.

I know it was probably a pain for both of these gentlemen to keep piling cards up for me and I appreciate their patience with my slow requesting. But one of the advantages to accumulating a stack over many months is the fact that when I received the cards, I had completely forgotten which breaks I was a part of, let alone what cards had been pulled for me. It made for a fun package opening.

Of course, if there is a break and the Packers are to be had, they will be my #1 pick. I got these three cards from a 2003 UD Patch Collection break. The Favre patch on the bottom was one of the highlights of the entire package from Colbey and is, interestingly, part of the base set. I guess that fits for a set called "Patch Collection." It's a really cool card.

I brought in the entire Packers team set for 1996 Topps Gilt Edge, and then some. I have to say, I don't really understand this set, but these are all new cards to me. Plus, how can you go wrong with multiple Favres and Reggie Whites?

I nearly brought home the entire team set of 1993 Bowman, too. I'm only missing the George Teague rookie. I love the foil cards (which are base cards, not parallels), the Mark Brunell rookie, and, of course, BYU Heisman winner Ty Detmer. I showed the back of Bill Maas (Kevin's brother) because it gives cool information, like a coach's assessment and a future forecast for every player.

I didn't choose the Packers exclusively, though. Here I picked up the Bengals, hoping to come away with former BYU lineman Scott Brumfield. Brumfield played for my high school's rival and was the head coach of their team when I was playing in high school.

These two breaks are examples that I have no recollection of buying. They're both 2020 sets, so I was probably just trying to add something from last year to my collection because I couldn't find any to buy. I was successful in adding to my collection. Aaron Donald, Tom Brady, and Derrick Henry are all keepers for me. But if you like the R&S Brady or Henry base, I did get two each of those.

I don't remember this 2006 Topps Rookie Progression break, but I'm guessing I picked up the Colts on the off-chance that I could come away with a nice Peyton Manning hit. I did get the base card, which is a nice pull from this high-end feeling set. I did get a couple of other good hits: both the Reggie Wayne jersey and Bob Sanders parallel are serial-numbered (Wayne /99, Sanders /299).

And the break that led me to ask for my cards to be shipped. This is 2021 Absolute. I picked up the Jets hoping for Zach Wilson, then added Washington and Houston because they were still available. I did get one Wilson, the Introductions insert. For me, those two blasters were Davis Mills hot boxes. I ended up with two base of the rookie out of Stanford and one of the hits. It's hard to see in the scan, but Chase Young in the middle is a Green parallel.

 Now on to the baseball. Like the Packers, I will typically look for Cubs in the breaks. I've found that the baseball breaks always sell out pretty quickly, though, and I'm usually too late for the Cubs. But these 2003 Upper Deck Standing O and 2003 Fleer Hot Prospects cards sure make me happy that I was able to get them.


I was also able to snag the Cubs in a couple of 2020 products: Diamond Kings and Stadium Club. Ernie Banks is a Red Stadium Club parallel and just an overall great card.


I got the Mets in 2020 Topps Big League. Somehow, I ended up with all of these cards already, minus the first Alonso Rookie of the Year award card. All of the others in this scan are available for trade to anyone who is interested.

Also for trade is any card you see here. I was trying to get some cards for my All-Star project, which is why I bought the Rangers spot in the 1997 Pinnacle Xpress break. I got every card you see here in triplicate except for the John Wetteland parallel, so all of these are available for trade as well.

I have just one final card to show. When I got my stack of Nachos Grande breaks, I found that I had gotten extremely lucky and pulled two Javier Baez boxtoppers. Well, my luck has continued. In my Affordable Breaks from Colbey, I pulled yet another oversized boxtopper, this time a 2020 Stadium Club Widevision.

I have to say, I'm pretty satisfied with these breaks. Thanks for running them, Colbey! Affordable breaks are always a good thing, especially those that are older sets that I still don't have much of.


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

That Old Sinking Feeling, Brought on by . . . Card Shows?

The pandemic had a negative impact on my collecting. I know people in the hobby have talked about this ad nauseam, but something happened while everyone was shut in at home last year. At first it was exciting. More people were joining the fold! But soon it wasn't as fun as inventory began to sell out and prices began to skyrocket. For a low-budget collector like myself, that budget squeezed tighter and tighter. Eventually, my card budget started shrinking because I wasn't finding cards to buy, anyway. Stores shelves were barren. I went from May 2020 to around August 2021 without seeing a single pack or blaster of baseball or football cards in my regular retail stores.

It was becoming clear that the hobby wasn't gaining a ton of new collectors, either. Sure, there were some whose time at home rekindled an old passion (obsession? addiction?) and they found that card collecting was a great way to fill the time. Some new blogs were even born! But for many folks, it was just a side hustle. The booming market opened a big opportunity to buy and sell for profit. Now, I'm not against selling cards and business transactions. I've sold on eBay. I've set up tables to sell at card shows. I like to feel like when I buy, I'm getting some monetary value as well as sentimental value in the transaction. But prices kept soaring and every card person that I interacted with outside of the blogs was obsessed with all the high-end stuff that I would most likely never touch.

Regardless, I still love the hobby and my collection. There are a lot of people with a lot of cool, highly valuable cards that I appreciate. But I'm not sure I would trade my collection for those. If I did, I might sell off those valuable cards for the money to buy a lot of the smaller dollar cards that I want. After all, I've spent years refining my interests and curating my collection.

I've created projects for myself that I find fulfilling. Like my refractor, Frankenset for example. I don't know anybody else who has done a multi-sport refractor Frankenset. But I love refractors and it makes sense to me. I think everybody reading this understands where I coming from here.

So when things started opening up again and a card show was announced, I jumped on it. And it was fun. It was crowded and stuffy, but there were some great tables and I got to talk to some people I hadn't seen for a while. I already posted about that show; it happened back in March of this year. Then I found out that shows were planned for every 3 months. I was ecstatic. I'd never seen card shows happen so regularly!


The next show rolled around in June.  I bought a table of my own for this one and tried to sell. I thought I had a niche--I had dime boxes. There are never any dime boxes at card shows I attend. The only one I've ever seen is mine. I figured with all of the cards marked in triple and quadruple digits, some dime box gems might help people out.


But the atmosphere had changed completely for this one. Pokemon tables outnumbered the sports tables. At one point, I had a buddy watch my table and I made the rounds as a customer. As I wandered, I picked up that Pokemon was where the money was, which explained the proliferation of tables. I don't know how many conversations I overheard about $1000 eBay sales. Forget dime boxes; I couldn't find cards for less than $1. All of the cards you have seen so far have come from the June show. Most came from my one friend who sold them to me for a quarter apiece. Meanwhile, I had exactly one person stop at my table and leaf through the boxes. I made zero sales.

It turned out to be a less than satisfactory experience, but not completely fruitless. Unless you count my -$50 net profit on my table. I was able to find some good cards for my collection.

This $2 numbered auto of an All-Decade performer was probably my favorite find of the show. But in all, the experience disappointed me so much that I put off writing about the June card show until December.


Then, the September show rolled around. This one I attended as a consumer only. And it was more of the same. No cheap cards in boxes to dig through. Everything was in one-touch cases. Everybody was scrolling through eBay to price their $500 cards and bragging to each other about how much they sold a card for the other day. I found only one table that had something for me.

You'll notice the pictures above are of cards in pages. See, that's what I bought. Pages. One seller had a binder with 54 good Ultra Pro pages in it. It was marked for $20. Moreover, every page contained nine cards. I flipped through the binder and found nothing spectacular, but a lot that could bring me some enjoyment in sorting and quite a few collection fits. These nifty early Fleer team stickers. Some had puzzles on the back, others had these Laughlin World Series reprints on the back. They're fun, but any of the above stickers are available for trade.


I asked if he would take $15 if I left the binder, as I was more interested in the pages. It turns out, he would. We struck a deal, and I walked away with 54 pages at 28 cents a pop. Or, if you rather, 486 cards at 3 cents apiece. Either way, I got a steal.

So I walked away happy with my purchase, but once again unhappy with the overall feel of the show. I really can't complain about these cool 1978 Dover Reprints, though. Perforation marks on the edges and all, these are just neat little cards.

The rest of the post will get picture-heavy as I show what else was hiding in those Ultra Pro pages. Then I'll return to my card show thoughts.

I needed these Cubs, including the two Mark Grace rookies and the two Gracie oddballs.

Speaking of oddballs, they were the best thing about this purchase. I'd never heard of this 1989 Pacific Crossed Bats set before, but it was fun to find half of the set in the pages.

There were a lot of oddballs. These are for my collection, but I did pick up some more of the Baseball's Best (bottom photo) that I have for trade. If you're looking for Mattingly, Boggs, or Greenwell, let's trade!

The early to mid '80s were well-represented with some fun cards.

Boxed sets and stickers are fun.

The first half of the '90s was fun, too. It wasn't quite as well-represented, though.

Some fun rookies. I'm only planning on keeping Sutcliffe from this group, though. Maybe Larkin. The others are available.

As we round the corner into this century, there are sets that I had never seen or had very little in my collection. These were good grabs.


These are a sample of the newest cards in the binder, aside from 2017 Topps and Bowman that mostly went into the trader box.

So while I will continually be disappointed by the absence of cool dime or even quarter boxes that I see you find at your local shows, I was able to find one table that brought be a ton of fun for a great value. But in large part, I had a sense of, "these aren't my people and this isn't my scene," at the September show.

Now fast forward to December. This past weekend, the Utah County Card Show came around once again. Let me show off everything I bought there:

There you have it. I made two rounds around the room. I glanced at a few tables and flipped through a couple of shoeboxes. Literally no card was less than a buck or two. No base to be found anywhere. I found a few that I may have considered, but then recalled my recent COMC purchase and thought why settle for cards that are here when I can hand-pick cards for similar prices? I thought about the mess in my card room and decided that I didn't need to buy anything right now; I'll be better off getting myself organized first. So I left. And after listening once again to late-teen, early 20-somethings congratulate themselves on their insanely priced sales and flips while seeing three tables devoted to $55 blaster boxes (That's where they all went!) discouraged me to the point that I plan on skipping the next show. It just wasn't fun. I'll choose the cards I really want from online sources to complete my projects. And I'll hang out on the blogs with people who think a little more like me. Like collectors.