Wednesday, July 06, 2022

My All Time Favorite Sets To Collect

Stole this idea from Night Owl in what would be a great Bat Around.  He kept his list limited to Topps flagship sets, though in more than just baseball.  Being primarily a set collector, my list is a lot more diverse than that.  Not knocking his choices at all - I said I'd probably include 1971 as well and maybe a couple of the others - but I got to 12 or so and there weren't any yet.

I made my list and then had to figure out what order they fall.  My analytical mind took over and I came up with a scoring system that breaks down some positive and negative aspects that influence the collectability of a set.

Categories include the fundamentals - Cool base card design, distinctive player photos, original inserts, whether it contains retired players.

I gave points mostly on a 1 to 3 scale, where 1 is weak, 2 is decent and 3 is great or very true for that quality.  A couple other categories got either 1 or 0 for true or false.  Those included whether it's a retro design, or the design is used for other sports, or if there are variations or parallels that make the set harder to do.  I did use half points in some cases.  That made it so there weren't as many sets tied with the same score.

Here's the chart (without the set names) for all you stat nerds:

So with that out of the way, let's get into the countdown.  I'm starting at the bottom.

16. 2002-03 Pacific Private Stock Reserve Hockey

One of the most elegant designs ever, this set kills itself in the rankings because of the inclusion of game-used jerseys as part of the base set.  And there are the typical batch of shortprinted rookies at the end, which I generally disregard, but have been seeing here and there for cheap.  There are a couple sets of inserts, but they're also kinda rare and are secondary to the base cards as far as I'm concerned.  I'm down to a few of the jersey cards, but finishing this whole thing is still gonna take a long time.

Base 3  Inserts 1  SPs -2  Rare inserts -1    Total 1

15. 2009 UD Philadelphia football

Love the old Philly football designs from the 60's, and this modern version honors them well.  The base cards are pretty basic, but clean.  This set is all over the place with inserts - Obama, Vietnam War, etc. and the minis with government figures, cars, planes, and players.  I scored a bunch of those minis at the National a couple years ago, otherwise, I might not mess with them.  I'm skipping the other inserts.  But there are short print RCs, veterans, and action shots that complete the base set and come few and far between.

Base 1.5  Retro 1  Retired 1  Inserts 2  SPs -1.5  Rare Inserts -1    Total 3


14. 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee hockey

One of the few hockey sets that I'm completely done with, it just holds a special place for me.  The design is not super fancy, but just works, and the set is really how most sets oughta be, even though there was an Update series etc.  It really wasn't too hard to finish.  Biggest thing was the sheer volume of base cards.  The inserts were small.  There were rookies, but they weren't short printed.  Just a very collectable set.

Base 1.5  Retired 1  Inserts 1.5   Total 4

13. 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes baseball

The one "no-logos" set that still makes the list.  (Though I did take off one point for that in a special category).  The checklist is cool in that there aren't just the HOF'ers or current stars, but a lot of fan favorite type guys.  The inserts are especially great too, even with the lack of insignias.  The problem with them is the parallel inserts that basically tease you and deny you a real insert.  I've got a whole handful of those (to trade).  If Panini would have kept up with this product and maybe Golden Age and America's Pastime, they'd be more popular than with just the recycled Donruss stuff they keep putting out.

Base 2  Retro .5  Retired 1  Inserts 2.5  Parallels -1  No Logos -1   Total 4

12. 1999 E/X Century (football)

The multi-sport sets occur back-to-back here, but I'm only working on the football version of this one.  These beauties are the first in a line of acetate sets that appear until 2004 in some degree of transparency under either Skybox or Fleer.  (They're tough to search for since some sites list them as "EX", "E/X" or whatever).  I like these the best.  I guess they must be expensive to make, since there aren't too many acetate sets out there in general.  These are 90 card sets with a few 12-20 card inserts (of which I'm only doing one so far until I find more of the others in dollar and quarter boxes).  Very simple and very pretty.  At some point I may dive into the baseball versions

Base 3  Inserts 1  Multi-sport 1    Total 5

11. 2002 UD 40-Man baseball / XL football

Though I'm generally excited by more old-timey designs, this is one of the coolest modern ones I've seen.  And both sets are massive as a bonus, but only with base cards.  It's Upper Deck's version of a Total set.  Base cards numbered up to four digits (regular numbers, not serialized.)  Gotta love it.  I threw in a bonus point for the photos, but I'm not sure if they're really unique or if it's just the expanded checklist.  There isn't much in the way of inserts beyond GU hits and a parallel base set, but the baseball version has these elusive Mark McGwire Highlight cards that are proving to be formidable to find, which cancels out their points.

Base 3  Photos 1  Inserts .5  Multi-sport 1  Rare inserts -.5    Total 5

10. 2002 Topps 205

This is about as retro as you can get.  Topps 205 is based of course, on the T-205 tobacco issue.  It's the same set that I'm collecting the New York Giants team set from.  So it's sort of Topps Heritage does 1909.  There are minis in several series (with the differnt brands on the backs), some that copy the whole base set, and some that are just sections.  There are also base and mini variations, and a short series of minis that are an extended series with alternate images - drawings, not photos.  (I gave one positive point for the variations.  My rules...)  Plus there are the modern versions of the Triple Folders with a card on each side of a bigger action or portrait photo.  If I hadn't come across big stacks of the minis from a couple very generous blogger/traders, I wouldn't be as deep into them as I am.  They're fun, but only because I had such a head start.  

Base 2  Retro 1  Photos 2  Retired 2  Inserts 1.5  SPs -2  Rare inserts -2 
Variations 1    Total 5.5

9. 2007 Sweet Spot Classic

Not to be confused with regular Sweet Spot.  This is the set with the base set serial numbered out of 575 (which is a bitch).  It is most famous for the Stitches autographs on simulated baseball panels that have faded badly over the years.  I ignore those.  I really like the base cards and single jerseys that have photos of the stars that you don't often see.  I'm almost done with the jerseys, just lacking about a dozen or so of the big ticket ones.  I'm not convinced they are actual jerseys (or bats, or pants, etc.) worn by that particular player, but that doesn't bother me much.  I'm way behind on the base set - only have a few dozen of those.  Finding a big lot of them for cheap is almost impossible since they're serial numbered.  I continue to hope.

Base 3  Photos 3  Retired 3  Inserts 1  SPs -2  Rare Inserts -2    Total 6

8. 2004 UD Legends Timeless Teams

Another one that's all about the retired guys.  (Hope Fanaticals can somehow bring this back to new sets someday).  A cool design that showed up again in 2008 UD Timeline.  This set is pretty much UD's version of Super Teams, but more modern subjects.  Grouped by year, the key players for champion teams are shown with very unique photos.  And there are stadiums on the back.  Not much in inserts except autographs and a parallel set, but they're not really needed.

Base 2  Photos 3  Retired 2    Total 7

5. 2016  6. 2018   7. 2014 Allen & Ginter

OK, so I knew A&G was gonna show up on this list somehow.  I just had to analyze all my favorite ones and see who came out on top.  (And I decided to put them all in so I wouldn't have a total of 13 sets.)

All five A&G sets (these three and '19 & '20) all score relatively the same, except for a few details.  2018 is my least favorite base design but had better inserts than the other two, while 2014 had a short print insert for about every one (the ones that came with the binders), so those points kind of offset.  The more mini inserts I liked, the better the score.  Most that weren't the usual animal or geological feature tallied points.  So the totals of all three only differ by a ½, but distributed a bit different.  That's why they're all together here.  And A&G short prints aren't a big deal, so they only got half the penalty point.

Base 2/2/1  Retro 1  Photos 2  Retired 2  Inserts 2.5/2.5/1.5  SPs -.5   
Total 8/8/7.5

4.  2005 UD All-Star Classics

There is another set issued in the same year that's called UD Classics, which is similar, but not the same.  Both have inserts that are hard to find, but the UDC's are serial numbered.  The All-Star Classics base design is one of the most elegant from Upper Deck.  This is back when they made separate products to review current stars and legends instead of making them inserts to the flagship set.  (Well Topps does the latter, but I digress...)  The inserts are 20 card sets of MVPs and different facets of the Midsummer Classic.  

Base 2.5  Photos 2  Retired 3  Photos 3  Rare inserts -2    Total 8.5

3. 1997 Upper Deck Legends football

I always say I'm the anti-collector in that I don't care about rookies.  This list is proving that the opposite is true.  I really like sets of retired players.  This one is simple, but uses additional pictures in the best way.  They're not "echo pictures" of the same shot repeated, but different photos - two on the front and another on the back.  I don't even pay attention to the inserts (which is rare for me),  I don't even think I've seen them in real life before.  The base set is just excellence.

Base 3  Photos 3  Retired 3    Total 9

1. 2020 & 2. 2019 Allen & Ginter

Yep, they win.  It's been a landmark decision to stop collecting Topps flagship sets and switch over to Allen & Ginter.  I know a lot of you don't like the newer versions of the product, but I've enjoyed them a lot.  I'm not so fussy about not knowing who some of these non-sport people are.  It's really all about the creativity in the inserts.  Yes, they repeat Natural Wonders, sharks, planets, food, etc. but the others just keep getting better.  9 Ways to 1st Base, Superstitions, Star Signs, - these are the ideas missing from flagship.  Where Monsters Live (glow in the dark!!), Canines, and the colorful assaults of History of Flight and Reach For The Sky are what I love about Ginter.  Never mind the X version from the dark side or the recent glossy sacrilege, Ginter is just my motivation to keep collecting new cards.  There isn't much else...

Base 3/2.5  Retro 1  Photos 2  Retired 2  Inserts 3  SPs -.5    Total 10.5/10

And that's my list.  

How many of these sets have you never seen before?  

How many did you collect too?  

Any of them your least favorites?  OK, maybe don't answer that one... :)

Let me know what you think.  And do your own lists - make it a true Bat Around!

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Pasteboard Power Tour 2022: PA stops

This is the first of several posts chronicling my vacation.  My collector friend Stuart was visiting from Michigan, and we hit all the area shops, plus one we'd never been to, and ended the week with two days at the big Chantilly show.

As soon as he arrived, we were on the hunt.  Mere minutes after he got to my house, we were on our way to the closest cardboard sources.  This was Saturday, the 18th of June.

It had been a long time since I had been to either Prime Time Sports or Old Glory Antiques in Frederick.  Probably pre-pandemic.  Only found a couple singles from either place.  Nothing of real note, so I didn't scan them all.  But there was this Sparky Lyle jersey card...

Not sure it was worth all $12, but it looks nice, so I said what the heck.

Sunday was our first full day shopping, so we headed north into Pennsylvania.  The first stop was Jason's Sports Cards in the Morning Sun Marketplace along Route 30 towards York.  I'm pretty sure it used to be the MorningStar Marketplace, not sure why or when it changed.  Anyway, he had some sales going - all $4 cards were half price I believe, though all I got were dollar cards.

All these were a dollar each.  Those tags are bright red.  Not sure what the scanner was doing.

Also nabbed another '58 for my set.  (Had scanned it with some others from another store.)

We also hit one of the better antique places in the same area.  Yesteryear Antiques in Hanover is a regular stop not just for cards, but a little bit of everything. 

The biggest card guy there (of about 2) can be pricey, but I found a batch of my Topps 205 minis for a dollar each.  Even the rare Brooklyn series.  I'm not trying to collect the Brooklyn ones, but couldn't resist one for a buck.  Finally got my Foster insert from Decades' Best too.

Prestige football rookies and inserts will become a theme throughout all these posts.  These were the beginning.  Those All-Pros must have been retail only or something, because I hadn't seen them before even though I have a whole monster box of 2015 Score including parallel inserts and everything. 
The blue Fleer Team Actions were a major score - only $3 for the whole batch.  They're all minty condition and I needed the majority of them for my set.

The final stop was Black Rose Antiques, also in Hanover.  There were a few small stacks of cards among the many booths of classy items, and we found a couple to take home.

Decent names for a buck a shot.

Next time - a shop whose stock is primarily sorted by star and team.  Plus some really great finds on big vintage football stars.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Я люблю русские хоккейные карточки

Translated, that says "I love Russian hockey cards".  At least according to Google.

I've been aware of the existence of KHL cards (Kontinental Hockey League) for a while now, and knew that Sergei Fedorov was active there for a few years after he left the NHL.  I wanted some of those cards to add to my Fedorov collection, but I hadn't seen any on eBay for a while.  Checking recently, I found there was only a dealer in Canada with very few (and Canadian shipping), and another in Latvia, which I wouldn't think would be cheap.  Then I found a dealer in Pennsylvania - Scotso53 - that had some.  There weren't any Fedorovs that I wanted, but he did have my favorite newer Capital player - Evgeny Kuznetsov.  They were only $1.60 each on average, so I pulled the trigger.

These two are 2011-12 SeReal KHL.  I'm guessing you pronounce the company like the breakfast food.  I've watched a couple YouTube videos on learning the Russian language, (because I always thought it sounded cool in all those Tom Clancy movies) but I'm not fluent enough to be able to read any of it.  The blue(er) one notes that Kuzy is on Team Fedorov for the All-Star game.  He played for Traktor Chelyabinsk over there otherwise.

These are from the next year, 2012-13.  The first is a regular base card, and the other two are Hockey Kings (inserts) with silver foil on the banners.  I learned later that there are red and gold numbered parallels to these.  (Stay tuned for more on that later.)

Picked up this All-Star jersey numbered to 250 with a cool patch for just over five bucks.  This is the highlight of this purchase.

2013-14 next, and the base cards are similar.  The second card is part of a team logo puzzle series, and the third is an Under the Flag insert.

Here's what the backs of the first two look like.  Luckily there is a lot of English to go with the Russian text.  The base card notes his last couple All-Star appearances, and a World Championship for the national IIHF team I believe.  

Also included in this Capitals star lot from other places, were these Braden Holtbys from the minors:

Three really thin stock cards from the Hershey Bears.  They play in Chocolate Town, which is about an hour from my house.  The last is an In The Game of him with Saskatoon.  I think Braden is still playing for Dallas now.  At least it's not the football team...

And finally, a young version of our favorite Capitals tough guy, Tom Wilson.

Oh Thomas, so many hits you hadn't delivered yet...

So that's it for this eBay order.  But there is a Chapter Two in the Russian collection saga.  (Actually, there's a Chapter Zero that includes the old Red Army cards that I have - beyond those Upper Decks that came out with the Sharks in the '90s.  I'll have to post those soon too.)  But what I'll say now is - turns out the Latvia dealer offered cheap shipping and had TONS more....

Saturday, June 11, 2022

99 Problems But Getting Cards Ain't One

Sorry, not a Jay-Z fan, but I knew about the line...

All the stuff I have to put away right now

Anyway, my biggest blogging problem is just a lack of motivation or inspiration.  I got my SportLots order and a few trades recently, but none of them are that spectacular except to my want lists.  

I will be posting about the Russian hockey cards soon - just before my best collecting friend comes to visit from Michigan.  We're taking a whole week and visiting shops in my local area, including one in Bel Air, MD that we haven't been to yet.  Other places you may find us sifting cardboard may include Dundalk, Wheaton, and of course Frederick in Maryland, Hanover and Greencastle PA, and then the visit caps off with the big show in Chantilly, VA.

I'm up to 99 cards in my inventory on COMC.  This is out of 244.  You can see my stuff at

I really don't understand how they process a submission.  Not sure how it could be more efficient to split up cards by sport and set them up a few at a time, unless they identify each card (as what it is and as yours) and then sort them by sport and set etc., posting them when it's all done.  Still think it might have helped to include an itemized list, but maybe not....

Any suggestions on pricing changes are welcome.  Hope you see something you have to have!

That's all for now.  Stay tuned for some shop reviews in July and some Russian hockey....

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Bigger Can Be Better

Finally got my motivation, mind, and scanner going all at the same time, so here are some interesting cards I got recently.  The majority of these are for player collections.

Picked up this batch from Cardfinders on eBay.  He's got tons of the online exclusives and 5x7 versions of regular Topps parallels and inserts.  Check him out.  This was the second round of purchases I made from him.  Actually messed up and have the 5x7 George Foster from the previous post coming separately since it was an offer auction and wasn't accepted until I had already paid for the others.  

This is the card that kicked off the shopping spree.  I'm trying to collect the entire rainbow of this one.  The one I got this time was the sparkly foilboard retail version serial numbered to 264.  That makes eight, including the regular base card.  Only twelve more parallels to go! 

 (Black (/69)  Father's Day blue (/50)  Foilboard Hobby (/229)
Gold Jumbo pack exclusive (more yellow)  Independence Day (/76) 
Meijer purple  Memorial Day camo (/25)  Mother's Day pink (/50) 
Sapphire  Vintage stock (/99)  Wal-Mart Blue (/299) 
Wal-Mart Orange (/99))

Two Carlton Fisk cards that are more special than the scans reveal.  The left one is the most recent rehash of the '87 design, but this one is the 2021 Topps All-Star Rookie Cup rainbow foil parallel.  There are several old designs resurrected again for these, but the images are incomplete, so it's tough to tell how many players drew the wooden border design and what the others were. 
The other card is the glossy Tiffany version of 1988 Fleer, by far the oldest card I got.

Kind of a throw-in, this green version of Topps Triple Threads Ron Guidry serial'ed out of 249.  It's from 2010. (I had to go back and look, I don't know these on sight at all.(  I only pick up these kind of cards when they're really cheap.  They're so thick they usually distort the plastic page pockets.

A pair of Palmer Platinum Players - plain and parallel - pending placement into plastic page pockets.  The left one is the regular and the right one is the blue flavor.  They were actually swapped in the auction listings, which threw me until just now.

I knew nothing of this one until I saw it for sale there.  It's Dusty Baker's card #66 from 2022 Topps X Aaron Judge set.  That's the newest card in this group.  I guess Topps doesn't pay anyone to come up with catchy names for these player-inspired sets, they just call them all "X" and run with it.  Creativity costs extra.  But it's a cool card all around otherwise.

Fuji is gonna like the next few even more than most of you.  They're from two different Topps Archives sets this past year (there are four total - the other two are Active/Retired autograph sets).  The Swingin A's is one of the Movie Poster cards that also exist as actual mini posters
The other is the Archive Snapshots base card of Gene Tenace who appears in both (and my player binder).  I will probably get another of the A's card since it would also fit in my Vida Blue section.

Speaking of which, he got four cards in this batch.  His other appearance in the Movie Poster cards, His regular Archives card (with the 50th logo from 2001 and not the 70th logo from 1991).  Bottom left is the 2021 T206 mini from Wave 8 of those.  And finally the noir flavor of 2021 A&G X (there's that "X" again).

Now we get to the big boys.  The rest of what I'll show next are all 5 x 7 online versions of recent Topps cards.  This one is the rarest and also from 2016.  Serial numbered 1 / 5 in the lower right corner.  Would have been nicer as orange, but I suppose red goes with many more of the other teams.

I'll be looking for all the other colors of Matusz.  I'm basically super-collecting him.  Here's a visual reference with some regular cards on the scanner. 


Figured I'd get at least one 5x7 of each of my player guys.  Many of whom have several to choose from.  This was the best looking Livan, and it's only numbered to 99.  From 2015.

I only have a couple Hall Of Famers in my PC ranks, and these are two of them.  Sutter's "Anthology" is numbered out of 499, while the '79 flavored Palmer is out of a tenth of that.  Believe it or not, both of these series are from way back in 2016.  The Anthology series is all rookie cards numbered by their original card numbers, while the Palmer is a parallel of the 2016 Archives regular set.  Makes sense that a rookie product would be made in ten times the quantity of a retired veteran set.  (Much to my chagrin, really). 

How many of these oddballs (sorry John Mangini - he hates that term.) had you seen before (or own?)  Let me know in the comments.