Guest Blog: The Parallels of Collecting

(Editor’s Note:) Please welcome Johnny Martyr back to the COMC Blog for another guest blog! Johnny owns the world’s largest collection of Night of the Living Dead trading cards, and has been a photojournalist for over 20 years

Collecting parallels can be fun or infuriating, depending on how many you have and how many you need to complete a set!

For the uninitiated, a parallel is an exact copy of a common or base card but it contains some sort of slight but sometimes significant, difference and is much fewer in number.  Some parallels are numbered, whereas their common card copy will not be.

Frankly, I didn’t originally see the appeal in collecting parallels.  I figured I’d just pick up the best of the set and move on.  My interest is in Night of the Living Dead trading cards.  I have the biggest, most complete Night of the Living Dead trading card collection this side of Pittsburgh and I’ve written a few articles about them.  Building this collection is what started me down the rabbit hole of parallel collecting.

Night of the Living Dead director, George A. Romero was featured in 2008 Donruss Americana II, 2009 Panini Americana and 2011 Panini Americana.    

While waiting to find the most desired/expensive, autographed relic Romero cards, I picked up a few of the cheapies just because.  But when I eventually found the nicer autographed parallels that I was searching for, I continued to come across other parallels that were cheaper.  So, I figured I’d fill out my sets as a best as possible now that the expensive cards were out of the way. 

So, you could say that I sort of stumbled into a parallel universe!  And honestly, while the differences from card to card are minor, I think they look quite handsome in a sleeve all together.  In terms of resale, despite some of these cards selling for just a few bucks, when placed with the $50 to $150 cards, the total value of the set can spiral.  How often do you see a complete set of parallels, much less, for sale?  

There are some typical features you can expect to see on parallels that distinguish them from common cards.  And you have to look carefully because the differences aren’t always obvious or show up well in photographs.

Use of foil is popular.  It can be as dramatic as printing the whole front of the card, the background of the image, or border on foil.

Or it can be as simple as stamping a special identifier on the card in foil.  In the Donruss and Panini Americana card sets, the parallels feature the celebrity’s name in foil or words like “Proof” or “Private Signings.”  Notice too, that in three Americana sets, the foil is slightly different colors, there were gold, silver and platinum foils.  Each color means a whole other parallel card with different numbers in the print run.  

Speaking of which, some parallels are also numbered.  In the Americana sets, one can find print runs as short as five or as many as 250.  Both, very small compared to the number of common cards that were available.  Oddly, the autographed relic cards in all three of these sets are numbered 99 or 100 whereas some of the parallel proof cards are numbered much lower; five, ten, or 25.  This is kind of cool because it levels the playing field of value that might be assigned to cards with more and cooler features, to cards that are simply short run.  Or maybe it’s irritating that a card that’s one of five could sell for as much as a signed card simply because of that foil stamped number on it!  In either case, you’ll be happy when you find that one of five!    

Finally, and this is the real thrill with parallels, as I’ve already touched on, you can find autograph and relic cards.

Usually autographs are on a holographic label that is neatly adhered to the card.  Not as cool as hard-signed auto but nice presentation.  These cards tend to be printed on slightly thicker than normal stock and are often numbered as well as have some comment on the back about the guarantee of authenticity of the signature.  

Relic cards contain a swatch of clothing worn by the celebrity.  I’ve read there’s been some controversy over the practice of doing this, that it destroys the value of the original garment or that the garment came from questionable sources etc.  Sometimes the card will contain an image of the celebrity actually wearing the garment, such as screen-worn items.  So that can be some consolation for anyone concerned with authenticity/value.  I’ll leave those debates up to others though.  On the surface at least, relic cards are a fun way to celebrate your favorite famous folks.  Something I like about relic cards too, is that they are very thick compared to a normal trading card.  This is to accommodate the swatch of fabric of course.  But it makes the card much sturdier.  In theory, you should never have to worry about soft corners on these.  Just be sure to keep the additional thickness in mind for storage products.  

If you’re at all interested in collecting parallels, if even only picking up the best of the set, be sure to have a look at checklists posted online to so that you’re aware of how many parallels any given card has and what they are.  That knowledge might sway you one way or the other on some critical collecting decision.  Also, I’d encourage you to inspect cards that are for sale or swap very carefully.  Front side.  Back side.  And ask the seller/trader questions even if you THINK that you recognize the card.  There have been several instances when I had been staring at a card that I needed for months without realizing it.  Things like silver and gold foil are sometimes difficult to differentiate.  

After about three years of searching, I am still missing two of seven George Romero 2008 Donruss Americanas, three of twelve 2009 Panini Americanas and three of ten 2011 Americanas.  I have most of the signatures and relics though so my appetite to press forward is starting to wane… until I find another one! 😉

What parallel universe are you consumed by?  Have any complete sets?  How many do you have left?  

Thanks for reading and happy collecting!

Guest Blog: My Top 7 Favorite Trading Cards

(Editors Note: Please welcome Austin Ward to the COMC Blog! Austin’s blog comes to us courtesy of our encouragement of guest blogs a few months ago. Austin has been collecting cards since his youth, and still finds as much joy in the hobby now as he did back then. He recently started Crown Card Connection as a way to engage with the trading card collecting community. He encourages anyone interested in discussing the hobby to join in on the action that Crown Card Connection has to offer!)

Collecting cards brings all sorts of thoughts and feelings to people’s minds. Joy, excitement, risk, and nostalgia are just several of the many for me. Today, I want to share seven favorites from my collection. While a number of them do hold strong value, the memories attached to them are greater still. Here we go:

7. 2018 Leaf Metal Draft Sam Darnold Autographed Printing Plate

One of ones are big in the hobby today, but haven’t been something I’ve really chased after. While browsing some cards online, I came across this Sam Darnold and sent an inquiry to the seller. We ended up getting a deal done, which allowed me to add the first NFL printing plate of my collection.

6. 2018 Select Josh Rosen Tie-Dye Autograph RC

Despite being a San Francisco 49ers fan, Josh Rosen is someone who I’ve decided to personally collect. Due to comparably low value as a rookie, I’ve been able to compile a pretty strong collection of Rosens (around 20 cards and growing). Convinced that Rosen is going to have a strong career in the league, I’m taking my own advice and stockpiling.

5. 1998 Donruss Elite Neifi Perez

Although the card itself is pretty unimpressive (and could be purchased for next to nothing), this was the first autograph I ever got. I vividly remember standing on the third base side with a stack of Colorado Rockies baseball cards during a family trip to Colorado. I was convinced that I was going to get Larry Walker or Vinny Castilla to sign my cards (which clearly didn’t happen), but was thrilled when Perez took the time to make my day.

4. 2018 Leaf Army All-American Football Trevor Lawrence Patch/Autograph

During his freshman campaign, Trevor Lawrence impressed me as a quarterback and as a person. I didn’t anticipate finding much available with him being a freshman in college, but I’m glad I looked when I did. Shortly after I got my Lawrence card, his value spiked during the NCAA Championship run.

3. 1999 MVP Football Set

This one is clearly for the sentimental value, but I can’t count how many times I’ve looked back at the binder that contains the first set I was able to put together. Each time I do, I’m reminded of the hours that went into sorting through my childhood collection and the countless trades that I made with my brother to finish out my set.

2. 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout RC

After a few years of not making many purchases, I bought a random box of cards at an auction and was shocked to find a Mike Trout rookie card inside. I was even more amazed to find out what the card was selling for, but have preferred to hold as a keepsake instead.

1. 2000 Pacific Aurora Tom Brady RC

This is the card that transformed me from a kid that enjoyed collecting to a lifelong hobbyist. The couple hard-earned dollars that I risked back in 2001 created a priceless memory for years to come.

Guest Blog: They Come in Colors – Like a Rainbow

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Bill Eckle to the COMC Blog. Bill started collecting trading cards in 1961 and renewed his interest in the 1990’s when the University of Arizona Wildcats made their run in the NCAA Tournament with their first Final Four appearance. His Arizona collection and custom cards creations was featured in the March 2002 and November 2004 of the Beckett Basketball magazines. Bill’s COMC username is beckle.)

In 1993 Topps debuted Chrome technology with their Finest brand, which included parallels of the base cards referred to as ‘refractors. When refractor parallels are turned in the light, they display a rainbow effect that ‘refracts’ the light to show many different colors. This new type of card became a favorite for many collectors; however, Topps lost their licensing rights to all but baseball, so basketball card collectors had to look elsewhere for that technologyPanini’s answer was to  introduce their “Prism” cards beginning in 2012 and because of copyright issues, Panini had to come up with a different name other than refractor; hence, the name Prizm. Many collectors still refer to Panini’s prisms as refractors, as they exhibit the same effect as Topps Chrome and Finest refractors.

 Another confusing aspect is that the product itself is known as Prizm and the parallel cards with the light refracting qualities are also known as ‘prizms’.  Therefore the name, Prism prisms accurately describes the parallel cards. The Prizm prism parallel will have the name ‘PRIZM’ on the back where the base card does not. Probably in response to this confusion, Panini has since started calling these “Silvers”, which to date, have not been numbered. Technically, all Prizm cards that are not base cards are considered ‘prisms’, whether numbered or not. 

Each year Panini’s basketball Prizms have added more and different parallels than the previous year for a total of 35 in 2018, and that’s not counting  two different one of ones (Black and Choice Nebula) for each of the 300 players in the set.  Often mistakes are made by eBay sellers concerning the various colors, or they are given incorrect names. I purchased a Fast Break silver card of one of the hotter rookies from a card shop on eBay, but was disappointed to receive the base card of that player a few days later. Another mistake I’ve seen is the ruby wave listed as a red pulsar (#/25), which was available in last year’s (2017-18) Prizm basketball but not in the 2018-19 product. Since there are so many parallels to sort out, an explanation of the 35 different parallels from the 2018-19 Prizm set is helpful.

These two screenshots from ebay show some of the common mislabeling that one can find.

This explanation only applies to the 300 base card set of basketball, not the subsets or autos available which do not follow the same pattern consistently. These names also do not apply across other sports. Panini Basketball Prizms are spread across several box and pack types and these aren’t limited to hobby or retail. Certain stores such as Wal-Mart and Target carry particular variations exclusively, and Choice Prizmsavailable in Australia and the Far East also have versions specific to those regions. 

It is not unusual to see this product for sale with varying names that may or may not be according to Panini’s naming guide lines. Using COMC.com is a great place to see what the actual names are. Even if you are searching for a particular card not found on COMC, looking at other cards of similar types will give you a description of what they are and the accurate names. If you don’t find the information on cards currently available, make sure to check the ‘Include’ button on the Sold Out option on the sidebar menu. This may give more examples not found on currently available cards. 

Designs for Fast Breaks, sometimes referred to as ‘bubbles’, or more commonly ‘discos’were the names for styles of Panini’s football product. Fast Breaks are completely overlaid on the card’s front with small disks or circles, as check with COMC card descriptions will confirm. There are 7 different Fast Break variations: base or silver – unnumbered; blue – numbered to 175; red  (125); purple  (75); pink – (50); bronze  (20); and neon green – numbered to 5.    

You would think color would be an easy way to separate one kind from another, but some see orange as gold or pink as purple.  (I’m not sure how color-blind collectors navigate this minefield). This is where card serial-numbering is helpful. Orange parallels for the last two years have been numbered to 49 and golds to 10. The parallel numbering is one way to tell one type of parallel from another and again COMC is helpful as they list all cards regular numbering as well as serial numbering. For instance, there are five purples: purple wave, purple ice, which are not serial-numbered; purple fast break, and purple prizm, both numbered to 75, and purple pulsar (35)You may see the purple pulsars referred to as ‘gravity packs’, as these were only available in retail drop down boxes. And though there are two purples numbered to 75, the Fast Break is easily distinguished from the plain prizm by the circular disks on the card’s front.

Left to right: Prizm, FastBreak, Wave, Pulsar, Ice

The ‘ice’ parallelor sometimes called ‘crystals’, ‘crystal ice’, or even ‘cracked ice’, are also not hard to distinguish from other types. Cracked ice is a good description, as that is what the card fronts looks like. Panini soccer cards used this design technology and called it ‘crystal’. Previous Panini Contender products were called ‘Cracked ice’ which also had the same look. These names are often used by collectors but may not necessarily be the same name that Panini has chosen to use for a particular sport. There are 4 variations for the ice parallels: pink and red ice, found in Wal-Mart and Target products respectively and both unnumbered; purple ice – numbered to 149, and blue ice – numbered to 99. These last two are found in hobby and 1st Off the Line boxes. 

There are six red-colored cards with the unnumbered ‘ruby’ wave being one of the most common. Waves come in red and purple and are fairly easy to identify as they appear to have wavy lines on the card’s front. Also in red are the previously mentioned red ice, also unnumbered, followed by the red Prism, numbered to 299, red Fast Break (125), red Choice (88), and red shimmers – numbered to a tough 7. The shimmers appear to be the same technology that was referred to as ‘rain’ in prior years with Panini Prestige. The other shimmers, also numbered to 7, are a light and a dark blue.  

Left to right: Wave, FastBreak, Shimmer, Choice, Ice, and Prizm

The Choice cards were released in Australia and the Far East, but boxes can be found from dealers in the U.S. All Choice cards have large circular designs reminiscent of your first days using a drawing compass where you make a circle and using that radius make half-circles within the circle to create a flower pattern. This design was previously in Panini Select products and known as ‘Scope’. 

Choice also has Tiger Stripe (black and orange) Blue, Yellow & Green striped cards, both non-numbered, red Choice prizm (88), Choice green (8) and Choice Nebula (1/1). 

In a class by itself is the popular mojo (25) that is returning for 2018-19. Also numbered to 25 are both the red and green pulsars with the pink pulsar being numbered to 42. There are three pinks; pink ice – non-numbered, fast break pink, numbered to 50, and pink pulsar (42). Pulsars have oblong disks in a tight regular pattern on the card’s front, distinguishing them from the Fast Break design where the circles are more random.

Returning again this year are the green, hyper, and red-white-blue prizms – all (non-numbered), as well as the blue prizm – numbered to 199. Also back from last year are the ‘White Sparkle’ prizms –unnumbered and available in redemption packs, but commonly thought to be a print run of 20. A newcomer in the 2018-19 Prizm is the black and gold striped prizm numbered to five. 

Putting a complete set of prizms together of a favorite player is truly a daunting taskSeveral single digit-numbered cards, as well as the two ‘one of ones’, make it almost an impossible endeavor, but that is what makes it a collector’s challenge. 

Guest Blog: Three Tips for the Returning Collector

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Mike Sommers to the COMC Blog. He is a husband, father, baseball chaplain, sports card collector, fantasy sports writer at Rotogrinders.com and owner of WaxPackHero.com.  He has collected since 1986, and as a lifelong Cubs fan, he learned the meaning patience and disappointment.  But let’s be honest, mostly disappointment.  The World Series victory in 2016 made him cry, and he’s ok with that!  You can connect with him on his blog, on Twitter @themikesommer, and at various other social media platforms under the name WaxPackHero. )

Over the last few years there seems to be somewhat of a resurgence in the hobby. Sales by card manufacturers are up, attendance at the National Sports Collectors Convention is on the rise, and the volume of cards changing hands via a variety of online platforms has never been higher.

One driver of this trend seems to be individuals who collected as a kid and are now returning to the hobby after a lengthy cardboard hiatus. Many of these collectors are returning to a world which is very different than they left. It can be a bit overwhelming, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. That was my exact situation in late 2015.

When I stopped collecting, cards were available everywhere, $1 packs from a variety of manufacturers were the norm, and Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan autographs in Upper Deck were the only pack issued autos we dreamed of hitting.

I stumbled across a Dave and Adam’s banner ad in November 2015, and I ordered a couple boxes of cards. It didn’t take long before I had the itch to buy more, but I also realized I had a lot to learn. The idea of hits, dozens and dozens of sets, and boxes that ranged from $50-$500 had my brain spinning.

I found my local card shop (LCS) where I started my education. Eventually, I clicked my way onto the Blowout Cards Forums. That’s where my eyes were opened to a whole new spectrum of collecting possibilities including hundreds of pages of posts dedicated to the ins and outs of using COMC.

Over the next couple years, I eased my way back into the hobby. A box or two here and there allowed me to build some sets. Reselling cards I cherry picked out of the dollar boxes at my LCS and flipping cards on COMC provided the opportunity to pick up some “free” cards for my newly budding collection.

Eventually, in late 2017 I decided I wanted to provide a resource where collectors could go to read about the hobby and share some of the lessons I learned along the way. If it made the transition back into the hobby easier for others, then great! And so, WaxPackHero.com was born! Over the last year and a half, I’ve been documenting my journey, reviewing products and resources, and hopefully I’ve been providing a bit of entertainment along the way.

Here are a few of those lessons for the returning collector.

1) It’s All About ‘dat Base, ‘bout ‘dat Base, no Relics…….

The best and worst thing about the hobby is there are so many products to choose from. If you try to collect everything, there is a good chance you’ll become overwhelmed, and it would require a bigger portion of your paycheck than most people would be comfortable with. Well, at least a bigger portion than most collector’s significant others would be comfortable with. At the same time, all that variety creates an environment where there are as many different ways to collect as there are collectors. The key is to Narrow Your Focus.

For me that focus is on base and inserts. I realized I love set building and having a large variety of cards from my favorite players. I decided my focus would be on base cards and I’d forgo the allure of the auto and relic hits. Base are cheap at my LCS, and COMC is a great platform for filling in those set needs.

Others may decide autos are their thing, or maybe you only want to go after graded cards. Vintage? Junk Wax era? One particular team? Great! Regardless of what it is, find something you enjoy and narrow your focus.

2) #FlipLife

When I got back cards, I did not have an unlimited budget, but there was a lot that I wanted to buy. Maybe it’s how I’m wired, but it didn’t take me long to realize I could probably offset a good portion of my card purchases if I was willing to put in a little work. I started flipping cards on COMC, completing the COMC challenges for store credit, and eventually I started buying and selling collections across a variety of platforms. Personally, I was able to turn “trash into treasure” by taking the unwanted base off the hands of the hit chasers, and helping find new homes for it amongst other set builders like me. This hobby can pay for itself if you’re willing to put in a little work along the way.

3) It Takes a Village……

Or at least a shop full of collectors, or a forum full of posters. Collecting is better if we can share those experiences with others who have the same interest. Many of my current friends are people I’ve met through my local LCS or through on-line interactions via Facebook, Twitter, various podcasts, and blogs. I wouldn’t enjoy the hobby nearly as much if I wasn’t doing it with them. Take a second, reach out, and put some time into building some relationships with other collectors. I promise it will be worth it.

If you’re rejoining the hobby, welcome back! If you’re a seasoned vet, then go out of your way to help educate a new collector. At the end of the day, the more educated we all are, the stronger the hobby will be. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, I’d love to help!

Guest Blog: Collecting What you Love – A Few Quick Tips

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Tanner Jones to the COMC Blog. Tanner Jones is author of Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict and has been in love with cardboard since he was a child.  For the past 30 years, he has gone from being a casual collector to…scratch that…he has never been casual about collecting baseball cards.  He is an addict!  You can visit his website at www.TanManBaseballFan.com)

Let me ask you a question.  Have you ever purchased a baseball card you have fallen in love with?  If you are like me, you have – many times.  Now, let me ask you another.  Have you purchased a card that you didn’t love?  If you are like me, the same answer is true:  many times.  Perhaps it was a card that you thought you wanted, but turned out that it was just due to the hoopla around it created by others.  In other words, you bought it because other people loved it.

Perhaps you have indulged in one too many boxes, case breaks or razzes, only to find your collection is littered with cards you simply don’t care about.

What to do about it

It appears as though our hobby is far above average when it comes to being made “liquid” in the sense that we have many options to sell the cards that no longer appeal to us.  Websites like COMC make it easy!  All you have to do is sit down with your collection, and determine what you want to keep.  The rest can be put in the for sale/trade pile.  From there, you can use the proceeds of your sales to put into cards that will put a smile on your face.

Only buy what you love

Isn’t our hobby great?  There are so many collecting niches to choose from!  We may find the refractor shine more mesmerizing than anything else we lay our eyes on.  Holograms that jump off the card can captivate us as we tilt them back and forth.  Patch cards allow us to feel like we have a piece of the game as we rub our fingers over them.  Vintage cards are like mementos that have survived numerous wars and depict players that the childhood version of our grandfathers marveled at.

Before diving in head first, sit down and really think about what you love about this hobby.  Do you want to collect a certain type of card?  A player?  Team?  Even if you narrow it down to a certain player or team, more specificity is still likely warranted.  With the sheer amount of cards being produced each year, it can be easy to get in over your head – and quickly. Instead, perhaps consider only focusing on a certain date range for a team or perhaps only the career years for your favorite player(s).

Those are just a few ideas – don’t be afraid to really put pen to paper and jot down all of your ideas, while window shopping for cards on COMC.  With each card that passes by your eyes, ask yourself if it is something you truly want.  If it is, then the odds are it is likely a good candidate to add into your collection.  Don’t forget to set a budget, either!

Remember:  Collecting only cards you love that are within your budget is key to having a fulfilling and meaningful collection.

Guest Blog: Let’s Go Back to the 80’s for a Minute

(Editors Note: This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Please welcome longtime COMC Member FairDeal to the COMC Blog!)

2020 will mark my 40th year for collecting sports cards. Collecting has been more than a hobby for me. It’s been a way to stay connected with my favourite teams and athletes, not to mention buddies who also collect. It’s also been about building something I can be proud of over several decades as well as act as a cathartic release during tough times.

My collection is comprised of baseball and hockey cards (1980 to present) with rookie cards, pre-rookie cards, refractors, active-era Carlton Fisk as a player I collect, and few favourite built master sets acting as the foundation of my prized haul. For this Blog entry, I want to share with you the story of the two first cards, which caught my eye and remain, to this day, on the centre shelf in my Sports Collectibles Man-cave.

1979-80 o-pee-chee Brett Callighen:

The 1979-80 season was the inaugural NHL campaign for the Edmonton Oilers. A young 18-year-old prodigy named Wayne Gretzky captured the hearts and imagination of all Edmontonians (if not all Canadians as a whole) with unparalleled vision of the entire ice surface and play-making ability. The future was bright for this young up-start squad – the sky was literally the limit. Numerous Smythe Division Titles, Campbell Conference Crowns, and 5 Stanley Cups to follow – not to mention hall of fame nods for almost a quarter of the active roster. Despite the pre-social media fervor and ground-swell excitement surrounding Wayne, my favourite Oiler was his line mate and left-winger Brett Callighen.

Callighen was a journeyman winger who had been a part of the World Hockey Association (WHA) originally with the New England Whalers then later with the Edmonton Oilers. Smooth skating and creative passing skills made Brett Callighen a force to be dealt with. Through that first NHL season, Brett was paired with Wayne on most nights and he would end up with 58 points despite missing 21 games to injury.

When the week’s worth of chores were successfully completed, it was allowance time and hockey cards were certainly a priority for me. The ‘79-80 O-Pee-Chee set had an amazing blue edge border with white swoosh down the right side with team logo anchored in the corner. Each pack contained 14 cards and a stick of gum that often would ruin a card if it became attached.

Each card served to mesmerize and I was always waiting with anticipation for the next opportunity to visit the corner store to get more of them. Obtaining Callighen’s card was almost an obsession from day one! Unfortunately cracking my first few packs did not yield my favourite player. Now I won’t say that I traded a Gretzky for a Callighen; that would be like Jack and the Beanstalk in trading a field’s worth of cows without the beans growing into too much. However, I do recall having to part with a number of good cards, in a lop-sided trade, to get the elusive card number 315 of this set. I remember beaming in having this card proudly showcased on my dresser during that first season; it was an amazing childhood experience that I still smile at when I look at it.

Callighen would play through two more injury-plagued seasons with the Oilers before being released prior to the 1982-83 season. When the announcement came in the local newspaper that Callighen had filed for retirement from the NHL and signed with HC Lugano in the Swiss Elite League, I was as crushed as a 12-year-old boy could be. Brett gave up pro hockey for good after the 1985-86 season and would make periodic appearances with the Oilers Alumni during events over the next 3 decades including the final epic send off for the Edmonton Northlands Coliseum.

1980 Topps J.R. Richard

Some of my favourite childhood recollections come in the form of watching Montreal Expos games with my Dad. The two of us, on a weekend, seated on the couch with junk food in hand, with games on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) were a staple and nothing could change that.

On August 13, 1979, Dad and I prepared for another tilt on the tube; this time the opponent was the Houston Astros. We had our ace Steve Rogers going that day so victory was a certainty…or so I thought…

The opposing pitcher that day was J.R. Richard. Before Randy Johnson, there was another tall lanky fire-baller who dominated hitters with triple digit MPH touching fastballs, J.R. Richard. As the game progressed, hitter after hitter for the Expos were sat in rapid fashion by J.R via a strikeout and weak ground outs. Among the strikeout victims were future hall of famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. The ball just exploded out of J.R. Richard’s hand as he delivered each pitch. With his super long and lanky frame the ball seemed to be halfway to home plate already at the point of release. The Astros came out on top via a complete game victory from their starter that day. (See the box score below):

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU197908130.shtml

The next season, I started to purchase Topps baseball cards (to go along with the O-Pee-Chee hockey cards) and I knew immediately that the J.R. Richard card was a must have. Fortunately, I was able to find his card in a purchased pack and I was over the moon! The photography captures a dominant pitcher who was likely on his way to sitting down another hitter with the shameful fruitless walk back to the dugout after a strikeout.

Sadly, 1980 would turn out to be J.R.’s final season in Major League Baseball and after retirement, personal problems led to homelessness and a series of life challenges for Mr. Richard. Happily, J.R.’s life made somewhat of a turnaround in the 2000’s, as he was involved in a documentary on his story as well as a series of appearances with the Astros organization. The images of him delivering that fastball was unreal and the 1980 Topps Card was something I absolutely treasured then and still treasure now.

Takeaways:

These two cards are cherished possessions, and illustrate that despite having almost no market value but, incredibly special to me, from a sentimental lens. There are literally thousands of cards in my collection that I would part with before getting rid of these two. Whenever I open a box or pack and struggle with the condition of an upper-end candidate for grading or lament a short-print, wishing it was a 1/1 instead of out of an /100, I look at these two cards and am reminded not only of great memories of yester-year but humbly brought back to why I started to collect and continue to collect to this day. They keep me grounded for sure. It also helped me build a foundation for why I collect:

· Collecting keeps me young with connections to heroes of the past.
· Collecting keeps me connected with players and teams of today whom I follow.
· Collecting may seem antiquated, but the stories and hunt of each card can make it special for you!
· Collect if you love it because life is short and doing something you love is worth it. I will continue to do it until there are literally no cards left to buy or trade.

Guest Blog: Top 10 New Collections to Start on a Budget.

(Editors Note: This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Please welcome COMC Member Tycrew to the COMC Blog! Tycrew is a University of Illinois alumni and is currently in graduate school working towards a career in dentistry. His areas of focus in the hobby are football and baseball, but as a lifelong collector, his collection is not just limited to those sports).

The perfect collection is what we all are striving for in this hobby. It is an ever elusive goal along with the oft insatiable drive to find the perfect combination of cards that allows you to take a step back and stare in awe. Most average collectors are not going to ever be able to afford to add the Graded 10 Mike Trout rookie autograph flight to our personal collections. Us mere mortals must abide by budgets and finical restriction. That said, financial restriction does not need to limit us. I put together a list of potential collections that can all be complied while being fiscally responsible. The goal is to to always be adding loads of intrinsic personal value while sending only a little cash. It doesn’t have to have a huge price tag to be the prefect collection.

Bonus) Jersey Cards NBA Starting Five

I’ll be honest, I don’t collect basketball cards and that is why this idea is a bonus. I open packs of them on occasions and then try to trade them away as soon as I get them because they just do not fit in my collection. If I did collect basketball, I would do this: I would find a jersey card for every player on the starting five on my favorite basketball team. It’s a small collection that is highly displayable. Even if you are a Warriors fan, and every player is an all-star, the jersey cards are affordable. You can always expand to the whole bench too with out running out of dough

10) Your fantasy teams

This idea could be a fun one especially if you can get the others in your fantasy league to buy into the concept too. The core set up would involve you drafting your team like normal but, once the season begins, you cannot start the player unless you have their card. There are all sorts of different rules you could add to make this work for you and your friends. To add a degree of difficulty you could make a requirement that all the cards have to be numbered or an insert. It would make the league more fun and add an exciting twist to free agency. Setting up a keep league where you can only keep the player if you have their autograph could also be an intriguing option.

9) The Regional Gems Collection

You would be surprised how many players from your area have a rookie card. Most likely they only ever got a rookie card, but that’s all it takes. This collection usually will stem around your high school. Go back and make a list of the schools from your area. Obviously start the list with your school. Then add the crosstown rivals and then make sure throw the rest of the conference in for fun. Use your favorite web search to find the guys who made it to the big,s and who you need to look out for going forward. Occasionally, you will be searching through a box at a show or opening a pack and find someone from your area to add to the collection too. People in the community will be impressed when you show them, and you will always be able to add to the collection as more guys work their way up the ranks.

8) Home Run Derby Bat Card

Some relic cards can almost seem disappointing when people are only on the hunt for autographs or high price cards. Not in this scenario. The whole goal of the collection is to get a bat card from every player in the most current year (or your personal favorite year’s) home run derby. Even though some of the top players are in the derby, most solo bat cards are reasonably priced, and there are only eight guys with the most recent rules.

7) Starting QB for every NFL Team

To be clear this is not going to be the cheapest collection when you start it. Among all of the ideas on the list this one will have the highest start up cost. This will be a long term investment though. Once you get the starters in the collection, you will only need to replace a few a season which makes it very affordable long term. This might have the best display options of any of the ideas on the list two. A big matted frame with the teams listed with window spaces for the card would look sharp in just about any man cave in the nations.

6) Old Players, New cards

Keep a look out for famous players on new cards. These usually come in the form of inserts or numbers, but can also be autos and relics too. There are many old timers that have tons of new cards that you can pick in in the quarter box at shows or on COMC. Pick a player, pick a team, pick an era – they all will work. Most of these cards are very affordable and look great. The hard part about this collection is it is limitless!

5) Player collection

If you don’t have a favorite bench player or back up or guy who didn’t ever make it quite as big then you need to find one. A player from your childhood who you really liked works too. The only two rules here is it cannot be the hot rookie, or a superstar, and you cannot arbitrarily pick someone for this collection. If you do just casually pick someone you will quickly begin to get buyer’s remorse. I found my player when I was young. Mark Prior was my favorite Cubs pitcher growing up. Not sure why, but he was. Even though he won’t make the Hall of Fame or get his number retired, I still really think of him as one of my favorite players. His autograph is reasonably priced, and I can’t get enough. Find yourself a Mark Prior.

4) In person autographs

I do not need to tell you too much about this kind of collection. This is simply a reminder that not every card has to be DNA carbon dated, graded and personally certified with a COA to be a real autograph. Most teams have opportunities to meet the players with autographs. Taking base cards to those opportunities can really add personal value to a collection without spending money.

3) MLB Team Top 30 Prospect Autographs

This has been my most recent focus as of late. I went and found a website that ranked the 30 best prospects for the Cubs and made a list. I’ve been collecting autographs, but could have chosen base rookie cards just as easily. Spring training has become a blast watching these guys play with the big boys, and having the hope that one day they may become the big names on the roster. It is an evolving list, but without too much turnover, so it gives you the opportunity to keep up without having to build something completely new. Most guys are very inexpensive except the few top guys. You will have a prospect get good and have to dish out some cash but they are most likely to became a valuable card. This collection has the added benefit of giving you a chance at finding gem that turns in to the next MVP and pays for the whole collection.

2) Your college football player

Think about how many players you see in the dollar box at the last show you went to or COMC of college football players who went undrafted. There’s a lot of them and no one seems to what them. Well I want them, or at least some of them. I went to a big ten school with a bad football team. That doesn’t stop me from loving my alma matter and watching every Saturday. To me a lot of the best players on the team give it their best to make the league, but most fall short. That doesn’t stop the printing plates, however. Like with the baseball products, I like to keep a look out for the autographs. This collection is always evolving, and can keep you engaged with the college players you watched and cheered for three to four years. The best part is, unless you are a fan a power house program, most of these players are very affordable. Who cares if they don’t go pro, they were and always will be your guys.

1) The base card set

That’s right. The best collection on a budget is still and always will be a complete base card set. It is accessible and overwhelming satisfying. You can make it easy on your self and buy a box or two of the new stuff and almost ensure you get all the cards (and guarantee yourself a good insert or two), do it the old fashion way one pack at a time, or finish off your set via COMC. If vintage is more your style, you will probably end up spending a bit more, but you do not need to be sucked into grading or only having cards in perfect condition. You can snag lower quality copies via COMC, or go to local show or store and add to your collection. There is probably no better feeling than completing the set yourself. In contrast to many of the other collections, this collection has a defined start and finish which can be a great drive and also a great way to prevent you from over spending. The complete set is the king of affordable collections and I don’t see that changing any time soon!