Saturday, February 17, 2024

2024 Topps Series 1


I love these cards.

            I mean…I REALLY love these cards.

            Like best Topps set since I’ve come back to collecting.

            Like maybe one of my favorite Topps designs in a very long while.

            I even gave them a nickname.

            Topps 1986: After Dark.

            If you haven’t seen them yet…this is what they look like.

            Again, I REALLY REALLY love these cards.

            But…sadly…this  is not a blog post about how much I love 2024 Topps base cards.

            This is a blog post about (at least to me) the death of the Hobby Box.

            Case in point, here’s what a 2024 Topps Series 1 box looks like next to a base box from years past.

            On Twitter, one collector referred to 2024 Series 1 Hobby boxes as glorified Blasters.

            I’m not of liberty to dispute that comment.

            In 2023, starting with Topps Update, Topps/Fanatics made the decision to reduce the amount of pack in its Hobby boxes from 24 to 20 packs. The monopolist behemoth also decided to reduce the amount of cards in it’s packs from 14 cards to 12. I fucking hate doing math but that’s a Hobby box card loss of: 96 cards. Almost 100 cards per Hobby box. That might not mean much to a lot of collectors, especially the ones who buy Hobby boxes for the bells and whistle cards.

            But to a guy like me who previously enjoyed hand collating his base sets…that’s a bit of a hit.

            Without bitching, what it means to me and other collectors who buy Hobby boxes to build sets, is that we have to buy more cards. We have to shell out more money to hand collate a set. I had been in the tradition of buying 2 Hobby boxes for each series. What that usually garnered me was: A) putting together the set. B) getting doubles of players I PC. C) getting most of my Pirates team set together. After that, I’d wait until enough collectors posted cards on SportsLots and then I’d go on there, buy my Pirates, and whatever insert (usually the 35 year anniversary insert cards) that I wanted.

            Those days are gone.

            I bought two Hobby boxes of Topps 2024 Series 1 on pre-sale. Full disclosure, I wanted to buy a Jumbo box. But I’m lazy and have mental issues buying things online, so Jumbo box presales were sold out when I went to make my purchase. Fuller disclosure, having dealt with this lack-of-card issue in 2023, I knew what I was getting myself into buying a 2024 Hobby box. But hope springs eternal…especially when you’re an idiot like me.

            I haven’t collated the cards yet, but I can say this. It isn’t good for us set collectors. It’s Aaron Judge in one box and Mike Trout in another box, instead of getting them both in one. It’s no Juan Soto or Yordan Alvarez cards in EITHER Hobby box. It’s getting three, and I have nothing against him, Brandon Nimmo cards in two Hobby boxes.

            I will admit this happened, so I can’t fully complain.

            And for you folks who love the bells and whistles, here are mine from two Hobby boxes.



            The BIG hits

            Still got that Clemente magic though.

            Be that as it may, as a set collector I guess the era of Hobby Box building is over for me.  Thinking about it, I realize I have a few options.

1.      I can buy my Hobby boxes like in then past, knowing I’d then have to buy blasters and hangers to complete the set. Which is a very old school idea. But…living in New York City, not a very feasible one.

2.      I can buy a Jumbo box and build the set that way and then go and buy the PC cards somewhere else.

3.      I can buy a Hobby or a Jumbo and rip for fun and then just buy the set when it comes out in the summer.

But those days of doing what I had been doing have come to an end.



            So, I meant to do a blog post on Stadium Club 2023 last week. I don’t buy boxes of it anymore (gotta pick and choose what you collect in total and I chose base and Heritage) but I do like to buy Stadium Club cards of the Pirates, players I PC, and any cards that particularly stand out for me. With this year’s Stadium Club I have two things to say.

1.      The Jazz Man WINS 2023 Stadium Club

2.      Eddie Murray continues to have the BEST post-playing-day cards.

Thanks for reading! Happy Collecting!



Thursday, January 25, 2024

Pitchers, Paul Skenes, Football cards and my strange fascination with Eddie Murray post-playing career cards



I don’t collect pitchers.

            Let me be more specific…I don’t collect pitchers who don’t play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. And I probably shouldn’t even do that, considering how much their current pitching coach seems to be hell bent on ruining these young kids’ careers.

            I present three examples:

            All three of these young pitchers were supposed to be a part of the Pirates future, now they talk about them like after thoughts.

            I used to collect pitchers. Back when I was a kid. The era of complete game, twenty wins, and the potential to have a Hall of Fame career spanning 300 wins. Call me old fashioned but I’m just not that excited by Clayton Kershaw reaching 200 wins at the age of 35, or Max Scherzer reaching 200 wins at the age of 37. And I understand the era we’re in, and probably staying in. It’s all about heat, velocity and spin, and everything else that makes it even more unnatural for the human arm to pitch.

            Hence Tommy John becoming a household name during the baseball season.

            Especially in Pittsburgh where even our catchers are getting Tommy John.

            See you in 2025 Endy.

            And with hitters working on bat speed, launch angles, etc. I get that pitching has to change so that the game remains competitive.

            That said, major league batting averages hovered at .248 last season…a slight improvement over .243 in 2022.

            But you might be able to explain that away with some of the changes made to the game.

            So, no, I don’t collect pitchers.

            I still can’t help myself though…especially when a guy like this comes along.

            College champion. Drafted number one overall, highest ever signing for a prospect. Most likely (if he can keep himself away from Oscar Marin) will be pitching in Pittsburgh come June.

            It’s hard not to get excited over Paul Skenes…even though I did call him “Walking Tommy John” surgery when he was drafted in July.

            I’m sorry.

            It’s hard not to with pitchers these days.

            But maybe Paul Skenes will have a major career in the Big Leagues.

            And us fans can celebrate his 200th win…at the age of 38.


            I also don’t prospect…okay, unless it’s the Pirates.

           Is it just me…or does Eddie Murray have some of the coolest post-playing cards out there?

            I don’t know if I’m attracted to the orange/black combo or what, but every single time I’m on a site buying cards of guys for my PC, I keep ending up buying Eddie Murray cards.  I mean I liked Eddie Murray when I was a kid. I keep cards of his with my Hall of Famer cards. But I wouldn’t say I was a rabid collector. If they keep making cards like his 2023 Archives I will be.

            Or maybe there's just no such thing as a bad Eddie Murray card.


Ah, Football cards. What is there for me to say about football cards. I’ll be honest. I dedicate maybe 10%-15% of the Hobby to Football cards. They’re too expensive in my view. You never get enough base cards of regular players. I don’t know what it is about Panini and football cards, but I don’t need cards of retired players in a base card set: 

Looking at you Score and Donruss.

And the card designs are rather…meh.

They seem to look the same year in and year out.

I don’t see the point in buying football cards other than for the players I like and Steelers team sets.

Even that is lackluster.

You have a card for the back-up QB and the dude you picked up from the Vikings.

And you leave out Cam Heyward?

I’m actually looking forward to the Topps/Fanatics behemoth getting the Football license back in the next year or so. Not because I like monopolies. I don’t. If I had it my way Topps would be competing with other licensed companies for ALL sports.

There I go being old again, I guess.

But I honestly believe that Tops/Fanatics will put out a better Football product. At least with base cards they will. They can’t do any worse than what Panini is doing at this point.

Happy Collecting!


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Heritage High Number and Collecting 2024....I'm back baby!


I don’t know what happened this past fall.

                Acute anxiety and the general doldrums are two of the culprits.

                But I just wasn’t feeling it with cards. I wasn’t feeling it as a collector. I felt scattered and all over the place. From October 2023 to this past Saturday, I think I bought a box of 2023 Update (vastly over-rated) and a few Archives singles from Pirates and other players that I collect.

                …and that was it.

                I’ve spent the time trying to figure out what made me turn away, especially considering I was feeling a lot of anxiety in other aspects of my life. I got back into cards in 2019 to help me COPE with my anxiety. Were they no longer working? Had my anxiety gotten that bad again? Or was I being a cheapskate, as I often am. Was there simply no card product out there that I was remotely interested in? Oh, God, was I just one of those dudes who jumped back into the Hobby for a little bit, predating the Covid dudes by just a few months?

                It was a little bit of everything.

                Except the Covid dude part.

                I’m not looking to make a profit with cards.

                I’m looking for enjoyment.

                Why wasn’t I enjoying?

                I didn’t have the answers. But as the year waned, and I started thinking about 2024, the new baseball season, etc.; I started to feel that itch. That Itch to buy cards. That itch to rip packs.

                So, I made my first card purchase of the season.

                Yeah…I know…wow.

                But it was wow enough to me that I spent a Sunday morning ripping packs and collating the High Number set, drinking coffee and listening to Ryan Adams albums. It felt good being back in the room where I store my cards. I’d been in there so infrequently the past so many weeks. Felt good to mess with the collection again. Felt good to think about the kind of collector I really want to be.

                And I’ve narrowed that down to five things

1.       Topps Base and Heritage set building

2.       Pittsburgh Pirates cards and all that entails: team sets, PCs etc.

3.       Pittsburgh Steeler cards and all that entails.

4.       PCs for other players that I collect.

That’s not too far from what I’ve been doing, but I want it to be a focus; especially building Pirates and Steeler player PCs, and team sets for as far back as my honest dollar will go. And I’m going to try and keep this blog regular. At least a couple of times I month.

Anyway…here are the highlights from the two Heritage High Number boxes:

Got a big Oneil Cruz, which I hope symbolizes the big comeback year he’s going to have.

(Realize now I should've put the regular Cruz card next to it...perhaps an image update)

I loath the Atlanta Braves. Have since I was 17 years old. I don’t collect any Braves players from my childhood and teen years, and I don’t collect any of them playing now. Not even Acuna.

But I collect one Brave.

I genuinely love these inserts and might try to get them all.

Got my proverbial “hits”

Apparently, there are card images in reverse, of which Mr. Volpe showed up again.

Ugh…and I did one thing with this year’s Heritage (I’m talking the Low Numbers here) that I haven’t done with the others sets I’m still working on…I put them in binders.

And then Topps did this.

Yep…that’s a few hundred cards I now have to shift.

Overall, I like this year’s Heritage.  I do wish that Topps would stop with the SP cards, considering we’ve reached 1974 when sets were brought out as one and not in series that became scarce because no one bought enough of them at the time. I also wish that Topps would stop treating Heritage High Number as Series 2 and Update. I think most Heritage collectors are doing it for nostalgia purposes, so we’re well-versed in not seeing players in their new uniforms until the following season’s cards. It’s okay to just focus on players you haven’t made cards of yet.

But those are minor complaints.

And I’m glad this malaise or whatever it was with collecting, has kind of burned off of me.

I’m glad I’m not a Covid collector dude.


Friday, November 17, 2023

On the Road to Pittsburgh


I’m still in a bit of a lull with sports-carding as of late.

                Maybe there’s still a bad taste in my mouth because of 2023 Update.

                Maybe it’s because most of the new product out there kind of bores me.

                I don’t know…just kind of meh.

                But I did recently take a trip home to Pittsburgh, and being able to go to card stores that cater to the teams that I grew up watching, well, it has a tendency to spark me a little bit. I wasn’t in long, so I didn’t get to explore the card stores around the area, but I did take a nice Saturday morning trip to the weekend flea market in the North Versailles suburb of Pittsburgh. I’ve mentioned Rossi’s a lot of here because I’ve been going there off and on for years. And it’s a good place to get some baseball cards from vendors.

                Or, well, it was.

                I don’t know if the landscape has changed or what, but there aren’t that many card dealers at Rossi’s anymore. They seem to lose a dealer each time I go there. But one of my favorites is still there, and he has a heavy focus on Pirates cards.

                Picked myself up some of these to add to the Willie Stargell PC.

            Yes, there’s some Panini unlicensed product in there… but I’m actually a big fan of the Stargell image on the 2023 Donruss cards, including the Diamon King one that they did. Also, they were all in the Pirates 10-cent box, so I wasn’t going to pass them up.

                Also grabbed these.

                I’ve been really (and I’m getting more and more into) just building Pirates team sets. While the idea of building entire Topps sets from the 1970s seems idealistic to me, the reality is that I don’t have the money and/or resources to do so. But I can build Pirates teams. Last time I was at Rossi’s, this particular vendor helped me get a leg up on the 1974, 1976 and 1978 Pirates team sets. The 73 Pirates he had were a little bit worn or very loved, but for 25-cents a piece I didn’t have a problem. I don’t want junk cards, but I’m also not a stickler for condition in cards that are over 50 years old.

                And I grabbed these.

                I’m a big fan of 1986 Fleer and these guys were all sitting in the 10-cent box, so I figured I get to building that team set.

                Speaking of…

                Yeah, it’s the wrong Barry you’d want in a 1987 Fleer. But this Barry was the final card I needed for the 1987 Fleer Pirates team set. It’s a 10-cent card at best, but after making SportLots purchase after SportLots purchase, after SportsLots purchase (going on a good 18 months) and forgetting to include the Barry Jones card…well, I was sure glad to see it sitting in that Pirates box.

                Found this in the dime box too.

                I’ve never been a big Mazeroski collector. I don’t know why. His legend obviously looms large in Pittsburgh. And his cards from his playing days are certainly affordable. And, as I said, I needed me a little collecting spark. So, this guy might be on ComC come Black Friday, getting himself a little early Christmas present of some Mazeroski cards.

                It wasn’t all sport cards on the trip to Pittsburgh.

                I found this guy sitting in an antique shop.

                For those of you who don’t know, there are four statues that surround PNC Park: Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and Willie Stargell. In 2005 the Pirates did a giveaway of replica versions of those statues. Because I was living in Buffalo at the time, my brother was kind enough to get my a Stargell and Clemente statue. The statues look nice…but they aren’t that sturdy. Mine didn’t survive a 2007 move from Buffalo back to NYC, and I’ve been wanting to right that wrong ever since. So, I was glad to see the Stargell.

                I think he looks nice there on the writing desk.

    Next is the Clemente.

    The Pittsburgh trip gave me a nice dose of cardboard therapy, and shook me out of my doldrums. Since I got back I’ve been making lists of some Pirates players whom I really want to build a PC of in the coming months. This weekend I’m looking forward to doing a little bit of online card shopping, to see whom I can find.

Thanks for reading! Happy Collecting!



2024 Topps Series 1