Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Middle Ground

Perhaps the most fun part of this blog (all three posts of it) has been the chance to look over picking over the last few months and see what warrants scanning.  You see, it doesn't take me long to come up with something to write about for Battlin' Bucs.  My entire 9,000+ card collection is scanned and cataloged in an excel file, not to mention that most of it is committed to memory.  Scroll through a few years, copy a few links, add some fancy words, and boom!  Instant blog post.

But this is a bit more challenging.  First off, most of the cards featured here are either purchased on a whim or wonderful arrivals in my mailbox.  Either way there isn't much time to dwell on them, and none of them are the high end, super prospect-y, gold foil raninbow superfractor stuff that the forum crowds want to see.  So they went in boxes or binders, unscanned, occasionally unorganized, waiting for their time to shine (not literally, in most cases).

Most of what I'll be posting here will be mundane at best.  But every once in a while...there's something that warrants some excitement.

Growing up in the 90's, Larry Walker was one of my favorite players.  I won't call him my favorite, but if the little league coach asked who I wanted to play like, there was no question about it.  I wanted to be like the Canadian.  He wasn't the sexy pick for "favorite player."  He didn't have the emanating cool factor of Ken Griffey, Jr.  He didn't have the media profile of Cal Ripken.  He didn't have the power numbers of McGwire or Sosa.  But the dude could just flat out hit. 

Walker was an autograph I had always wanted, but he had only a few certified autos on the market until recently and his prices were well beyond what I wanted to spend on an "odds and ends" pickup.  And that, dear readers, is why I love card shows.

I few weeks ago I drove to a mall show north of Dayton.  It seemed a bit crazy to drive almost an hour for a mall show, but I've found slim pickings in Ohio and tacked on a few other chores to justify the drive.  I found a nice dollar box that yielded some Pittsburgh goodies.  Most of the stuff in the higher end box looked pretty overpriced...except for this.
For a whopping $2, I had found my Larry Walker autograph.  Sure, it's not the greatest design.  It's a sticker auto.  There aren't any logos.  It's not even a company known for making baseball cards.  And absolutely none of that matters.  The card is among my favorites outside of my Pittsburgh collections.  Any time you can add an autograph of one of your childhood favorites, it makes for a great day.

Mail Call

Nothing makes a mailday more exciting than the mystery of a TTM envelope.  I don't send to many current players, instead sticking to high-percentage retired players.  The results have been both adding some great looking signed vintage, but also learning about some less well-known players of yesteryear.

Danny Darwin spent over 20 seasons in the majors, including half a season in Pittsburgh.  This Boston card is a bit of an oddball piece, since Darwin spent the vast majority of his career pitching for the Texas teams.  Whenever possible, I like getting autos in unique uniforms or teams that a player didn't spend much time with
This Cameron card definitely falls into that category.  His exciting defense and speed/power combo made Cameron one of my favorite players to watch during the 00's.  His time in Florida was less than memorable, but I love this photo with the Wrigley ivy in the background.

 I honestly knew little about these guys before picking up their cards.  From time to time I'll pick up low end vintage lots, keeping the Pirates and cards of good ttm signers and sending the rest on to good homes.  The Astros have had some of the most interesting uniforms throughout their relatively short history, and have gone through an impressive rotation of unis over their history.

 I have a few Larry Bowa cards signed from his tenure as Phillies manager, but found this rookie card in a quarter box.  I've never been a big fan of getting the multi player cards signed, but I'm happy with the way the card turned out.

Jones and Wynn are two superstars who have perhaps lost a big of recognition over time.  For the price of a couple stamps, I can't pass up the opportunity to add their autos to my collection.  I had a tough time tracking a card for Too Tall.  I thought he might be in some recent football sets, but never came across his card in a dime box.  I finally found this nice vintage copy in a 3/$1 box, and it was out in the mail the next day.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Loose Change

As the Rolling Stones sang, time is on my side.  As the years progress, I find more and more autographed cards finding their way into discount boxes at card shows.  Just Minors, Royal Rookies, Best, and maybe the occasional Leaf Signature card.  Granted these are never anything earth shattering in terms of players or sets.  But it's an autograph.  For fifty cents. 

While digging through a 5/$1 box at a recent show, I was surprised what sat before me.  In an otherwise unsuspecting box of unnumbered inserts from the last couple years was a nice, shiny card with some writing on it.  And not the kind of writing that you find in the discount vintage boxes.

More like this kind....

Brendan Harris isn't exactly a player who set the world on fire.  And I suppose it's perfectly reasonable that his autograph isn't worth much more than $.20.  I hit this table near the end of the show, so I'm more than a few people came across the card and kept on going.  In fact, there were actually two copies of the card. 

But Brendan Harris was a major leaguer who had a nice career as a utility infielder for almost a decade.  Not a scrub auto by any means. 

But that's the fun of digging through boxes: you never know what you might find.  And while I doubt many collectors would get excited over this card (maybe some Cubs collectors or Brendan's mother), it will slot in nicely among my autographed odds and ends. 

Did I mention it was twenty cents?!?!

I'm a Sucker for Nostalgia

I'm a 90's kid.  Well, technically I'm an 80's baby - but the 90's will always be the decade of fond childhood remembrances.  And that holds true for my collecting interests as well. 

From a collecting standpoint, that's great.  While some of the higher end 90's inserts and benchmark cards have blown up in price recently, those lower tiers - inserts, rookies, and just flat out great looking cards - have largely been replaced in the collective collecting conscience.  And that, my friends, makes for a dimebox digger's dream.

Though my collecting had slowed, 1998 and 1999 marked a significant increase in my sports fandom as I gained a better understanding for the games and the players.  I can probably at least in part thank video games for that, as my neighborhood friends and I spent hours playing NFL Quarterback Club and MLB '98 on our Nintendo 64's. 

There was perhaps no bigger deal in my sports world during those years than the rookie classes of '98 and '99.  Perhaps it's just the naivete of youth, but those rookie classes of Manning, Moss, and Leaf in '98 and Rickey Williams, Edgerrin James, and a host of quarterbacks seemed like the biggest thing at the time.  While obviously the careers of those players have gone in a multitude of directions, so have their cards.

I was thrilled to find this Rickey Williams Bowman Chrome RC in a quarter box at a recent show.  Even a single pack of Bowman Chrome was well above my (mom's) price point in '99, let alone the hottest card in the set.  The card was an immediate flashback, and the leather textured borders of the set have always made it one of my favorite designs.

But the real steal of the show (ok, maybe not in terms of "value") was this '98 Flair Showcase Leaf RC in a dime box chock full of 90's high end base cards.  At the time, 9 year old me was convinced Leaf was a better quarterback than Peyton Manning by leaps and bounds.  He just looked like a quarterback, dammit.  Obviously I was dead wrong.  But part of me still believes there's an alternate universe where Ryan Leaf is coming off his third Super Bowl victory this off season, and Peyton is spending his days babysitting Eli's kids (though I have warmed significantly to the elder Manning brother over the years.

I guess everybody has those favorites - the cards you once coveted and can now piick up for almost nothing.  But for $.35, these two cards brought me more enjoyment and excitement than any $50 patch/auto could possibly hope to.

Because One Blog Just Isn't Enough

This blog is starting as a side project, but I have the feeling it my take on a life of it's own.  I'm first and foremost a Pittsburgh Pirates collector (which you can read about at, along with Penguins and Steelers cards.  But in addition to my love of all things black and gold, I have been collecting TTM autographs for almost a decade, in addition to whatever odds and ends catch my eye. Over time, I'm sure they'll all find their way to this blog.