State of the Blog Address: 2019 Edition

It's that time again, of course. There are posts to be written, and cards to be shared, and plenty to be said. But I'd be remiss if I didn't take the annual look around over here and do my annual evaluation. This'll be an in-depth look as I kept some numbers last year.

First, let's look at some statistics. 2018 was the first full year that I've attempted to track this stuff. These are - well, less than comprehensive. It ignores the bulk of cards I bought at that fancy French shop, Targét. There are some mild flaws in the numbers – incoming cards include ones I picked up in order to send out, so the actual number of collection additions was lower for example. But, overall it's a pretty good reflection of what happened.

Outgoing: 5,636
Incoming: 4,980
Net Change: -656

Oof, that's not the ratio I was hoping for there. Well, I suppose that means I found/received a lot of good stuff! So where did all that stuff come from?

Card Shops: 1,228
From Shows: ~375
From Bloggers/Other Traders: 3,377

That's four card shop visits and three shows, for anyone wondering. How about a little breakdown of the new additions? There are only a few categories which I bother to tally.

New Astros: 2,012
New Bagwells: 84
New Biggios: 79

Holy hell! That's a ton of new Astros! Adding that many new Bagwell cards is pretty impressive as well, given that I've breached 1,000 different cards.

Ok, time for just a little more fun. Which of you hold the titles of biggest benefactor and biggest beneficiary in 2018? Drumroll, please...

The most cards were sent to: Nick Vossbrink, with a total of 716!
Well, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. That's what happens when you interact with someone on Twitter all the time and find three set builds where you can make big dents.
Runners up: @StillAtIt (another Astros fan!): 423, jddavis84 (TCDB): 384, Shaggy69 (TCDB): 326, randylaw (TCDB): 321

The person who sent me the most cards was: Johnny's Trading Spot (364).
This was a good one! Despite the large and random nature, there were still 133 new Astros in here, and some other great stuff.
Runners up: @StillAtIt: 300, P-Town Tom (282), ArpSmith (244)

Here's a quick breakdown of my numbers according to TCDB. I have only a handful of cards which aren't logged there, so this can be considered accurate. Numbers are as of when I checked on January 2nd. It'll be fun to see where these wind up this time next year.

In my collection
Baseball: 19,932
Basketball: 298
Football: 163
Hockey: 6
Multi-Sport: 64
Non-Sport: 1*

For trade
Baseball: 43,241
Basketball: 747
Football: 817
Golf: 1
Hockey: 8
Multi-Sport: 290
Non-Sport: 89
Racing: 5
Soccer: 65**

*A signed Nick Offerman card from the Parts & Rec set.
**Far too many cards from the NASL

Alright, it's time to look back at last year's goals.
  1. Get rid of a lot of cards: I shot the moon and wagered 10 grand last year. That, as it turns out, was overly ambitious. I'm happy to say I managed to cross half that, though.
    Subplot: I wanted to cut out about 1000 of the 2000-ish extra football and basketball cards that were here. I failed this one as well, but I did seem to drop about 500 of them. Not a bad start.
  2. Get caught up on the trading backlog: Oof, I still have 18 trades from last year overdue, and a couple from this year already. However, I got caught up to September, and there were a lot in the final two months.
  3. Astro-graphs project passing 50%: I did this! However, I'm teetering on the edge and there will be new names in 2019. I didn't put much focus on this in the latter half of the year as the Starchives project came to fruition.
  4. Keep a regular posting schedule: The goal was more than two posts a week. I hit 168 posts, more than three a week! Easy A here.
  5. Scan my Bagwells: Whoops, I definitely didn't get this one done. That's because I spent my time making customs, trying to catch up on posts, and trying to unload cards. That's okay. I bet I can get it done this year.
  6. Finish my wantlist: I did this too! The goal was to have my Astros needs up-to-date through 2017, and that's the case. Sure, there are probably a few sets missing, but it's as comprehensive as it is going to get.
Alright, let's set some new goals.

  1. Finish Starchives. That's my 2018 Astros DocumentaryNOW custom set. The goal is to have this complete by the end of this month. I've still got 43 games and all my roster cards to do. The nice thing is that the games just need a photo and headline for the front, and a quick recap blurb on the back. The roster cards need a quick player blurb (stats and such are already done) and a photo. I've been saving shots as I go through game galleries, so selecting these will be pretty fast.
  2. Get caught up on the trade backlog. My goal is to have everything up-to-date no later than March.
  3. Add/Upgrade 50 Astro-graphs. This might be tough, but with a little more TTM effort and some selective purchasing, I can probably do it.
  4. Make another team set of customs. I'm not doing the whole season-long documentary this year, but I will still do a team roster, maybe scattered highlights as warranted.
  5. Scan those Bagwells! One reason for not having this done was wanting to catch up on the backlog, then organize what I already have scanned. I need to do the former first. I'd rather not re-scan a bunch of cards that are already sitting on my hard drive somewhere. So once those posts are done, I'll set about re-organizing my scans.
  6. Get 2018 sets in the want list. At some point. I'd like to get the base set needs added by the time the season starts.
  7. Get rid of a lot of cards! The 100 per week number I achieved felt great. I'd love to hit that average again, with a stretch goal of 7800 - that's 150 per week. The spreadsheet says I've already sent out almost 500 thus far. The current football + basketball count on my trade list is 1564. I'll shoot to get that under 1000.
Heck, let's add a some additional specific, small goals.
  1. Finish off the Brubakers! The big one here is a 1939 Play Ball of Wilbur. Other than that, there are a couple reprints of Bill, a TCMA card from the 70's, and a Conlon card from the 1990s. For Bruce, I only need his 1994 Miller Brewers card.
  2. Complete 24 Astros team sets. This shouldn't be all that hard. I'm already up to 4 on the year. Insert "sets" are included, whether that be a full parallel run or the lone Astro in a small insert series. So, let's throw a stretch goal of 48 on there and see how we do, shall we?
  3. Finish the Topps flagship Astros from 1975 onward. I've added a sidebar list for this. Well, technically I dated that back to 1970, but there are some tough high-numbers left. Including Traded/Update sets, I'm missing 65 cards. The obvious toughie here is the Altuve RC from 2011 Update, with the 2015 Update Correa and 2001 Traded Oswalt rookies also on the list. The less obvious one is the 1994 Orlando Miller Top Prospects cards, which he shares with Derek Jeter among others.
  4. Complete the flagship Astros team sets from the 80s. That means full base card runs from 1980-1989 for the main Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Bowman, and Upper Deck sets. I'll probably add a sidebar list for this as well. Neither one should be long. Many are already complete.
  5. Finish the 1974 set. The big one still looms large: I need the Winfield rookie, a checklist, Bob Gibson, and a four of the "Wash Nat'l" variations. Some focus at the next card show will hopefully turn up most of these. Maybe I'll even net a decently priced Winfield.
  6. Make some initial progress on 1957. I currently have 12 of these, and five of those are autographed. One is the Maz rookie, in my PC. So, I really have 6 cards from this set. I'd love to take that up to 24 by the end of the year. It'll be one of my main focuses at the big card show next month.
  7. Additional organization: I'd like to get all my scans in order, with a long-term goal of potentially scanning all of my smaller collections. Baby steps for now. TCDB added a neat Collections feature in the past year, and it looks like a great way to digitally organize stuff, particularly what's a set build v. one of my other collections. Unfortunately, moving cards from one to the other at the moment isn't the easiest experience. If that improves, though, I'd like to do some sorting on that end.  Finally, I'd like to achieve full end-to-end organization of cards I have for trade. They are all currently sorted in separate boxes and I've been slowly merging those together. I'd say they are about 40% combined at the moment. I could probably knock it out in a weekend, but that would require having everything in one spot, and that's just not possible at the moment.
So that's the year in review, and the road ahead. Of course, the most important goal here is to just have some fun. Here's to an excellent 2019.

P.S. All the cards in this post were not 2018 additions, but actually leftover from some 2017 pickups that I never showcased. Better late than never, right? Of particular note are this fantastic Ken Johnson from the '64 set, the '05 Fleer Biggio, which is a gray border parallel, the '93 Topps Ken Caminiti, which carries an Inaugural Rockies stamp, and of course that delightful Jeff Bagwell oddball atop the post. It comes from Allan Kaye's Sports Card News Magazine, from a 1992 issue.


Another Tiny Trade to Start the Year

I pulled off another quick swap with Jared (Gapporin at TCDB), giving me a quick start to 2019. There are a few Cardinals headed his way in the next outgoing mailing. In return, he sent me four cards: one to throw in a trade package I'm putting together, one for future TTM purposes, and two Astros that I needed.

Those two cards? Well, they're these two cards! Here we have a Special Edition parallel from 1994 Donruss of Craig Biggio. That completes the trio of Astros from this parallel for me! The others are Jeff Bagwell and Darryl Kile. The Gerrit Cole completes my Astros base needs for 2018 Heritage High Numbers. Sure, there were only four of them, but they're finished! Huzzah!

Thanks for another trade, Jared!


The Last Trade of 2018!

There's still about two dozen unposted folders, each representing a trade or pickup of some sort, in my scans file, and another three trades (albeit small ones) came in today, which brings me up to four on the year. I also need to write a couple larger recap posts - the State of the Blog address, of course, and another very interesting discovery (which if you follow me on Twitter you will already know about).

But, I wanted to jump ahead in the scans file and slightly backward in time to highlight the last package that arrived in 2018 - a most excellent one from Nick Vossbrink. For starters, he sent me this fabulous 1988 Topps rookie cup card of my beloved Casey Candaele. Sure, I already have one in the little Casey PC, but now I have a swell early card of him to send in the next TTM request I post his way. After all, I need to send him one of my 1992 Bowman customs with the photos from the infamous 29-day road trip (thanks RNC).

Sure, Casey wasn't a phenomenal ballplayer in retrospect, but in my childhood he was a king to me. He was among the first baseball players that I met in the flesh - at Astros FanFest prior to the 1992 season, and I still have a ball signed by him, Jeff Bagwell, and Craig Biggio. Plus, you have to love someone who used to take BP in nothing but a helmet and cleats.

What I love about the Candaele card and these two excellent Rifleman subset cards from the 1991 Score set is the fact that it shows the mark of someone who pays attention 'round these parts. Nick clearly dove into my want lists at some point and found these - I've been slowly putting together the Rifleman / K-Man / Master Blaster subset since I got back to the hobby. Thanks to this and one of the trades that came in today, I'm just missing the Erik Hanson card.

Another sure sign of someone who pays attention: these two generic team cards. That's an '89 Fleer box card and an '88 Fleer team sticker (complete with Astrodome back!). Sure, I have both of these already as well, but as Nick correctly observed, they make excellent autograph hunting fodder. I shall put them to good use.

The most fantastic Astros pickups in the package were these: a slew of twenty-four Topps Micro cards, all but one coming from the 1991 Topps set. That's a near-complete run of the 1991 team set as well, missing just Gerald Young, Juan Agosto, and Al Osuna - the last of whom I'm sure Nick hung onto as he's a Stanford guy. I'm curious how that 1992 Jimmy Jones wound up in here, though.

Nick also surprised me with a pair of photographer-centric cards. He and I are both lensmen and have gotten into some nice photographic discussions. He's been working on these Iooss inserts from 1993 Upper Deck longer than I have, but thanks to him I finally broke down and added them to my want lists. I am now one card closer in my quest thanks to this Tim Salmon.

The other card was from the V.J. Lovero inserts in 1996 Upper Deck. I've seen the famous Mike Piazza and Randy Johnson cards before, but hadn't ever delved into this little insert set until Nick brought them to my attention. One down, eighteen more to go!

But my favorite portion of the package? That title belongs to some super-special cards indeed.

You see, Nick threw in some of his phenomenal customs as well. First up was a nonet of these great Vossbrink specials. These were some early customs of his, an alternate universe revision of the 1956 Topps design, but with a vertical bar (and vertical format!) containing the logo/player name/position. There were two more I couldn't fit in the scan.My favorites of these are the horizontals - a superb wide batting shot of Austin Jackson, two great post-swing shots on the Posey and Longoria cards, and a beautiful play at the plate featuring Joe Panik.

Oh, and these are puzzle backs! I'm assuming this is a Vossbrink original shot from a trip to AT&T Park.

Those weren't the only customs in the bunch, either! Nick also sent a trio from his GiantsNOW project. I have to hand it to Nick, he's a large reason that I'm carrying my set through completion (I finished the cards for games 120-124 today), and a giant (pardon the pun) inspiration for me throughout the process. This set of cards features his two highlights (well, lowlights) for the Astros pair of two-game sweeps in their four 2018 games against San Francisco. The final one is, of course, from the infamous shot of MadBum stiff-arming Alex Hanson's attempt to douse him in the postgame celebration. It's an excellent card, made even better by the laughing Hunter Pence, Hanson's "oh shit" expression, and the fact that it's a video screengrab but the image quality holds up nicely.

These are the backs. If you've seen my season customs (which I've dubbed Starchives), they'll no doubt look familiar. Nick was kind enough to provide me with his template, which became the basis for my back designs. Well, I essentially ripped them off, but with a few tweaks.

The final batch of customs was this totally tubular group of Giants players wearing downright ridiculous sweatshirts that Brandon Crawford bought for everyone during the season. Nick had shared these photos on Twitter and I believe I made mention that they were just screaming for customs. He went all-out and designed his own spectacular backgrounds in the mode of the '91-'92 Skybox basketball cards. He described his process on Twitter as "[I] just gradiented the fuck out of funny shapes and used a lot of diagonal lines." It definitely works!

And these even have backs as well, with pull-quotes from Crawford about the selection of sweatshirts. I love these.

Thanks for the nifty package, Nick, and all of the inspiration. I've given myself a January deadline to finish off my customs - 46 more games (playoffs make it 170 total) and a bunch of roster cards to go.


The First Trade of 2019!

There's plenty to post around these parts - it's time for another State of the Blog entry, a couple fun finds, some Twitter sale highlights I didn't get to, and still some trades from September through December. In fact, there are 19 overdue trade posts still to be written, so I hope you'll understand if I just start plowing through these in short order.

For now, though, let's take a look at the first trade to arrive in the new year! It's a short but sweet one from Vern, who goes by gormanvj over a TCDB. I sent him a pair of Frank Thomas parallels that I pulled last year.

In return, I picked up a couple Astros from a few years ago. First up was a mini of Matty Derp-minguez from 2014 Gypsy Queen. I love it when I can pick up more of the multitude of Astros minis out there. The other card was a Career Stat Line parallel of José Altuve's Diamond King card from early in the 2016 Donruss set. It's numbered 224/305, the significance being his .305 career average at the time. He's pulled that up to a .316 since then, even with a somewhat "middling" year in 2018 in which he hit, well, .316 and played on a broken kneecap. 2018 also featured his first trip to the DL, limiting him to 137 games and just 169 hits on the season, the first time in five years that he hadn't reached the 200 hit plateau, and probably ending his chances of matching Ichiro Suzuki's 10 straight 200-hit seasons.

Nothing like a sweet little trade to kick off the year. Thanks Vern!


Brubaker's Dozen Finds of Ebay: #1 A White Whale

*cues up Europe*


Let's cap off the Brubaker's Dozen with my most epic eBay pickup of the year, a true White Whale which I didn't really think I'd land for quite some time.

To be fair, I'd been hunting this one for at least two years, ever since I found out about its existence.

Are you ready? I'm ready. Drum roll, please.

*cues up epic Neil Peart solo*

Without further ado, please say hello to what is now the oldest card in my collection:

It's a T206! And it's not just any T206, either, but one Foley White of the Houston Buffaloes.

Yes, you read that right - the Houston Buffaloes. In fact, Foley White is the only Houston Buffalo in the T206 set, amongst the run of minor league players sandwiched in its three-year run. And oh, goodness, is it gorgeous! Just look at that beautiful background. Let's have a look at the back, shall we?

Oooh, it's a lovely Piedmont back! These are some of the finest, in my opinion. The Piedmont layout is super-stylish. Now let's take a closer look.



Holy crap, how in the hell did this get graded a 10/Poor? Sure, there are a couple small creases on  the sides around the middle of the card, and yes there's a small bit of paper loss along the right side on the front. If you peer astutely at the back, you'll notice that just below the P in Piedmont and just southwest of the Q in Quality there are some very small pieces of extra paper stuck on the card. But this grading is really just baffling to me.

At any rate, I picked this up for an absolute song, as far as these things go. Cards in the PSA 5-to-7 range typically go for well over a hundred dollars, and up in the $300-$400 range for the very top end examples I've seen. But I snagged this lowly 10, which is certainly in fantastic shape for such a card, for just $35. Patience paid off, as I watched auction after auction and listing after listing go by. I'd probably bid on half a dozen of these, figuring I'd eventually pick up a low-grade copy for under $50. I didn't imagine that my low-grade copy would turn out anywhere near this nice, either.

I'd been watching this ever since I got a wild hare and decided to check and see if there were any actual Houston Buffaloes cards out there. For a very long time, I thought this was indeed the only Buffalo card. While some of the minor league teams featured in the T206 set get multiple entries, Foley is the lone Houston representative. It wasn't until I learned about the T210 Old Mill cards from the same era that I discovered there are another ten or so Buffs out there, but that set appears to be much rarer than the T206 cards, at least from what I can tell.

There is a small bit of intrigue surrounding this card, as Foley White never officially played for Houston. However, the sleuths in this Net54 thread have come to the conclusion that White was with Houston during Spring Training, when these images would have been selected, then opened the 1909 season with Waco.

Statistics for these old minor leagues are far from comprehensive, so its difficult to say how good of a player White actually was. My favorite thing about him might be the names of the teams he played for: the Millionaires, Orphans, Miners, Boll Weevils, Sand Crabs, Sea Gulls, Navigators, Brownies, Railroaders, Blues, and Drummers all make appearances.

So yes, this is my most fun, most exciting eBay pickup of the year, for certain.

Here's to more fun finds in 2019.


Brubaker's Dozen Finds of Ebay #2: Not One, But Two Brubakers!

It's come up before around these parts, but there have been two Brubakers to play in the major leagues. The more recent one was pitcher Bruce Brubaker, who had a 13-year career in pro ball, including two cups of coffee with the Dodgers and Brewers. Bruce has two Topps cards and a few oddball releases - JBF sent me his '65 back in the day, and I picked up his '67 at a show. I also managed to get copies of these signed, although apparently I never posted them here, or if I did I can't find the post.

The other, and by and large more successful of the two, was Wilbur Lee "Bill" Brubaker, a third baseman who spent a few seasons in Pittsburgh in the late 30s, along with some other brief stints. I got accidentally Secret Santa'd last year from my frequent trading partner Tom of The Angels, In Order, and the meat of the package was none other than my first card of Bill, his 1936 Goudey. That was an absolutely stellar pickup, and it led me to look into what other cards Bill had out there.

That led me into discovering that there was another 1936 Goudey of Brubaker, from the Wide Pen Premiums set. At some point I threw out a saved search for 'brubaker goudey' and figured I'd keep an eye out for the Wide Pen version, and sure enough in September, one popped up for cheap, so I pounced on it. It felt really good to net my second Bill Brubaker card - or so I thought. My hopes were quickly dashed by Jeff Katz and Tom Shieber when this turned out to be a previously unrecorded error in the 1936 Goudey sets. The photo is actually of Dave Barbee, which Tom was able to determine after Jeff noticed the black arm band. The card from the regular set is a much tighter crop, just a headshot really, and unless you knew what the men looked like you wouldn't have any other clues. It's still a really fun pickup though, and it still counts as a Brubaker in my book.

Knowing that I now owned two Brubakers (the oldest cards in my collection, too!) that weren't really Brubakers just wouldn't do, so I put up another search: 'play ball Brubaker.' Bill's other playing-era cards are found in the 1939 and 1940 Play Ball sets.

My hard work finally paid off when I landed this sweet card in a late November auction. This is the 1940 Play Ball issue - the 1939 lacks a nameplate but utilizes the same photo, which is indeed Bill Brubaker. Ah, that's much better.

Here's a scan of the back to boot. I've since learned that there's a printing variation of these, where the collecting spiel underneath Play Ball advertises a forthcoming set of Superman cards, and since added that to my White Whale list. My dad has had a copy of this one for a bit, although I'm not certain which back it has. At any rate, this was a really fun addition to the collection this year, and it felt really nice to bring Wilbur into the fold.

There are some reprint versions of the Goudey and Play Ball cards, and a TCMA issue from the '70s (also in the White Whale listings), and that's it for Bill. Who knows, maybe I'll pick up more of him in 2019?

I haven't done the proper due diligence on potential familial connections yet, other than to know that we're probably not close. The next time I visit my folks, I'm going to borrow a copy of the Webster's Dictionary-sized genealogy tome that my great-uncle Marwin put together. I figure with that and an ancestry.com trial, I can probably determine just how far apart Wilbur, Bruce and I actually are. Oh, and I suppose that should include Dennis Rasmussen, too - he's Wilbur's grandson.

One last post to come, and it's a doozy of a find - so be sure to check back tomorrow!

Trader's Backlog: Just the Hits

It's time to officially put July to bed before the year's end (note: this will bring me caught up on trade posts through August). Back in late July, I was perusing Twitter while watching an Astros game, examining my blend of news, card traders, other baseball junk, etc. Somewhere in there, a card guy I follow retweeted another fellow collector, and I got intrigued, and eventually we worked out a trade.

These came in from Tim, aka @BigShep79, who runs a blog called Big Shep's Cards. After perusing his wants and trade bait, he came up with several Astros prospect signatures that I needed, and I sent him a nice stack of vintage from the '72-'73-'74 sets.

First up in the stack is a lovely signature of Andrew Aplin. He had some nice seasons in the minors, particularly in 2015 when he hit .296 between AA Corpus and AAA Fresno. But 2016 was a down year for him in AAA, and the club traded him to Seattle in early 2017.

Here's a pair of relievers the club traded away. Andrew Thurman was part of the package that landed Evan Gattis prior to the 2015 season. Hader was part of the Carlos Gomez / Mike Fiers trade with Milwaukee. He had an excellent season in 2018, and made quite a stir during the All-Star Game, in two ways. I'm going to hope that he has changed, but I don't want to get into the weeds here. It's a nice addition, and fills out a spot in the Award Winners autographs thanks to his winning of the NL Reliever of the Year.

Aw, Big Jon Homerton. I miss this guy. I wish things had worked out better for him.

It wasn't all former prospects in the package. There was a nice pair of guys still with the club, who actually made it to the show with the club, and both contributed to the World Series run last year. Frankie Tuesday got into 32 games in 2017, mostly out of the bullpen. Derek Fisher was the more critical component, acting as the Astros' speedster off the bench and flyinging around the bases to score two of the most critical runs in the World Series. These pickups both filled holes in the Astro-graphs project.

Lastly, there was one non-autograph in the package. This one is a nice early relic card of Carlos Correa, from the 2012 Elite Extra Edition set. It's a one-card insert celebrating him as the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, and is numbered to 999. It's my first Correa relic thus far.

Thanks for the great swap, Tim!