Ted Taylor's Collector's Corner

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    Ted Taylor has been a life-long baseball fan and collector of baseball cards and sports memorabilia. He began writing a hobby column back in the early 1970s and has been writing it someplace ever since. He was first president of The Eastern Pennsylvania Sports Collectors Club and co-promoter of the Philadelphia Baseball Card & Sports Memorabilia Shows. He served as VP of the Fleer Corporation (1991-97) and was co-founder and the first President of The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society (1996-99). Ted can be heard playing big band and swing music from 8 a.m. to noon every Tuesday on WRDV-FM (89.3), or you can email him at ted@tedtaylor.com.

Ted Taylor's latest three books . . .
  "The Ultimate Philadelphia Athletics Reference Book (1901-54)" available from www.amazon.com
  "The Duke of Milwaukee - The Life and Times of Al Simmons" available from www.EduPublisher.com or by mail from TTA Authentic LLC, PO Box 273, Abington PA 19001 ($15 ppd.).

  "The Glenside Kid” – a story about growing up in the mid-20th century - available from www.eduPublisher.com or by mail from TTA Authentic LLC, P. O. Box 273, Abington PA 19001 ($24 ppd).

August/September, 2014

“Labor Day Weekend”

This is our 39th Year of hobby columns

Ted Taylor’s Collector’s Corner

Topps Finest is a Puzzle Wrapped in an Enigma

  Up front let me say that this is an attractive set. The $100 two-mini box set (the whole thing is called a master box) offers you 30 cards-per-mini, total of 60. And since the set is complete at 100 you are going to need pretty darn good collation if you expect to build a complete one with just a second purchase.

  They advertise one rookie or “finest greats” per mini box (or two for the whole deal). One box produced a signed Enny Romero card (Rays) and the other brought a Chris Owings card (Diamondbacks). Typical of most rookie inserts these two guys may – or may – be worth something substantial one day. The boxes also contain a reasonable number of “Rookie” cards.

  It’s a colorful product and Red Sox wunderkind Xander Bogaerts adorns the boxes and the packs. Nicest card might have been the “Finest Vintage” card of Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. And if you are keeping track of such things there are at least ten different types of refractors in this set.

Bowman Platinum Baseball Trots Out the Rookies

  With Cardinal rookie star Oscar Taveras and Minnesota phenom Byron Buxton adorning the packaging you quickly grasp that this another “home of the rookie stars” production from Bowman.

  You’re told you’ll find two chrome autographs and one chrome autograph relic in every box and I did. I got a signed Bowman Black of Daniel Robertson (A’s) and it was numbered 03/10; I got a signed Miguel Sano (Twins) card and a autograph relic of Carlos Contreras (Twins) numbered 132/199.

  The set offers a slightly more upscale take on the games rookies and prospects than regular Bowman. It also is built to appeal to collectors who prefer more autographs and hits.

  Color is the key, here. The cards are printed on rainbow foil stock and the base set features both rookies and veterans. Parallels include Gold, Blue Sapphire, Ruby and one-of-one Printing Plates (didn’t get one). The design is very minimal, which allows for the player and the foil to be the focal point. The 100-card Prospect insert set has a similar design and its own mix of Refractor parallels.

  The box contains 100 cards total (20 5-card-packs) and lots of rookies to help the set builders among us is a plus. There are also die-cuts and vintage replicas (I found a Mark McGwire). Phils fans will be excited to find Maikel Franco on a die cut “Top Prospects” card. Also in the mix is their future shortstop J. P. Crawford.

Panini’s Prizm Baseball Strikes Out

  I’m always on the lookout for new baseball products and I was in Target the other day and saw a red and silver package containing “Prizm” baseball cards. The packs seemed a little expensive - $9.99 for three four card packs and one bonus three-card pack, but I gave it a shot and bought three packages. I’d have probably had more bank for my buck if I’d have taken the 29 singles and tossed them randomly in the parking lot.

  I knew, coming in. that Panini’s earlier logo-less base card was no great shakes and I should have been smart enough to guess that this “high end” sequel wouldn’t be so hot either. Should have known, but didn’t. Hope, as they say, springs eternal.

  Now the silver pack inside the red cello envelope is misleading and that’s what really ticked me off. It said “Rookies Autographs featuring on-card signatures from baseball’s future stars”. This suggested, to me, that there’d be a number of rookies inside. But, dumb me, snookered again. There were about six of them. Autographs? Seriously?

  The lack of logos, no names on the uniforms, letters on the caps, makes this a second rate product from day one.  When Upper Deck did it a few years ago it was better – not much better, of course, but still better.

  The players look like sandlotters who went to the local sporting goods store and bought their own uniforms – like was common back in the mid-20th Century, not so much today.

  The cards glitter and suggest depth – all things done in the past by companies with both licenses. It really doesn’t help.

  Most innovative card in Prizm was something called “Hall Worthy” that is a Hall of Fame plaque (kind of) that suggests a player for enshrinement. My card was Randy Johnson. Nice card but, of course, they cut off his cap so there’d be no logo.  There’s also a USA Baseball subset that pictures former star players for the national team – I got Evan Longoria and Pedro Alvarez. Why? I have no idea.

   The only way a product like this could work is if they actually portrayed players not done endlessly (and better) by Topps.  Manager cards, cards of coaches, utility infielders, extra outfielders, middle relievers, bottom of the rotation starters. Autograph seekers would love these cards then – and would be more forgiving of the lack of a logo. Team set collectors would also love them. But what’s to love in a card of a guy wearing a sandlot uniform when you can get one of him in a full big league uniform from a pack or box of Topps cards.

  Unless Panini can get a Major League Baseball license next season to go with their player’s association license they should stay out of the baseball card business.

  Me, I feel like I blew thirty bucks. Actually, I did.

Topps’ Allen & Ginter touches all the bases

  My wife liked the box and asked me “is that a baseball card product” and I wasn’t sure how to answer her. Topps 2014 Allen & Ginter is sort of a baseball card product and then, again, it isn’t.

  It’s well crafted. The vintage box is a keeper, the cards are nicely illustrated but as far as baseball cards it really breaks no new ground. In fact, a lot of the pictures are computer-generated water-color looking copies of already existing ’14 Topps baseball cards (Ricky Nolasco springs to mind). So if it isn’t a baseball product what is it?

  Well, it’s sure interesting. I got a load of old-timers for my books that I keep those cards in. I got three somethings representing the goodies promised on the box lid. Among them was a “Rip Card” that I haven’t decided what to do with. It’s numbered 16/20 and could have any number of goodies inside. Or maybe it won’t. So, for now, it goes pristine as it came from the box. There was also a baseball relic, a swatch related to David Price of the Rays and a piece of something (dress, maybe?) from actress Felicia Day. Who? Well, lucky for me, I also got a card of Ms. Day and found out she had been on the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV show and also produced something called (are you ready?) “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog”. Seriously.

  I also got cards of such luminaries (most of whom I never heard of) as Dave Portnoy, Bill Rancic, Mike Pereira, Sam Calagione, Bill Zito, Ryan Reiss, Daniel Okrent and Gar Ryness. History was represented by Buffalo Bill and Helen keller. A card of Juda Friedlander proclaims him to be “World Champion”..of what? Karate, apparently. Okay, so the cards and fun and gives all of us hope that, one day, Topps will run out of such people and produce a card of us.

  There are cigarette card sizes parallels, cards of airplanes, two cards with huge question marks on them, I got two cards of old ball parks (Griffith Stadium and Sportsman’s Park), black base cards called “Pastime’s Pastimes” telling us the goofy things, hobbies and so on that sports heroes have done. Again, I see no need. But, maybe, in the days of the original A & G cards this was the norm.

  The most interesting was a small card of a Japanese Bobtail.  What is that? It’s a cat that looks like a rabbit. I had never heard of one of them before, for sure. Robin Hood has a card as does Rembrandt. And in the box, as a topper, I got this huge card of Yosemite Falls. I never had one before.

  Okay, so I make light of this offering, but I also must admit it was fun and finding cards of Hall of Famers like Joe DiMaggio, George Brett, Rod Carew and this years’ apparent vet di jour, Bio Jackson, was a hoot. Buy a box, you’ll enjoy it.

  Baseball Season is winding down - Always happy for your comments on collecting topics, write me at: ted@tedtaylor.com. Thanks to Ted Silary for including this in his web zine and to all of you for regularly reading this.