Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wallet Card Wednesday: Four Seasons Edition

I’m no snob, nor am I a wealthy man. But I had to go to Texas for three nights, and my company was footing the bill. It just so happened that the hotel closest to where I would be working was a Four Seasons golf resort. Not my fault, but having never stayed in a “fancy” hotel, I thought I’d take a few Wallet Card photos to remember it by.

The grounds were stunning, surrounded by golf course and well-kept shrubbery. The cars in the parking lot were all Audi’s, Porsche’s, and Lexi with a few rental cars mixed in. I was greeted by every employee I came across, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t open a single door (except for my room door) the whole time I was there.

In the room was this tray of fancy snacks with a menu that somehow included double-digit prices. There was a grocery store a quarter mile from this very spot where one could purchase all these snacks for the price of just that beef jerky. I was a long way from home.

I honestly couldn't tell you what all those chaise lounges are for.

To me, hotels mean vacation. Parents greasy from sunscreen in shorts and sunglasses chasing after wet kids in inflatable rings dripping their way across the lobby. Chlorine smell, overloaded strollers, Mickey ears, that kind of thing. This was nothing like that. I did not swim, nor did anyone else, it seemed; so the swimming area was pristine. There were no kids anywhere at all - just a lot of silver-haired, over-40’s men in sport coats and a handful of ladies in cocktail dresses or power suits. I’m not sure what they thought of my “The Dude Abides” shirt which I wore in the lobby only once. The rest of the time I was usually wearing a suit, so I didn’t feel too underdressed.

When I got to the room each night, however, it became all about me-time. The suit came off, I made liberal use of the complementary bathrobe (or didn’t), and the room service lady had to restock my bubble bath every single night. I was able to hook my laptop up to the flatscreen and watch movies. I even had a meal allowance that was nowhere near what I would normally spend, but I vowed I would find a way.

I don’t remember the exact cost of this meal, but I can tell you that can of Coke was four bucks.
My last night there I took a walk across the golf course to a nearby shopping center. There was a liquor store (you can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores here?) and a small barbecue restaurant, so I loaded up on beer and food and made my way back to the hotel.

This is the kind of thing I was hoping to have in Texas. I made a huge mess tearing meat from bone over that white carpet. I giggled at how funny the sauce splotched styrofoam container looked in the shiny brass trash receptacle.

I really do miss that tub, though.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Box of 1995 Select: 20 Years Later

Got a nice throwback box for you today. I received a box exactly like this as a birthday gift when I was 14 which makes this one of the few boxes I busted as a kid that I'm getting to bust again. Now that I'm a little older and (arguably) wiser, there's a lot I can see now that I couldn't when I was a hairless, squeaky-voiced, pimply-faced, random-boner-having teen,

I love the all-horizontal design from this set. Even 20 years ago when I first busted this box I was a big fan. The cards are modern, but still colorful and candy-like. It's classy, but also a little fun. Fresh, but rebellious. There had never been a base set like this.

I still see that great, modern name/position font out in the world sometimes and associate it immediately with this set.

The photography is pretty solid, too. Every card has two large photos, usually an action shot and a portrait, but that is not necessarily the rule. Check out that Tony Fernandez above: we have both a bunt and a swing-away shot, and they're both on the card front. How many sets did that? Not many.

And yet one of my favorite aspects here is the card back.

These are Studio-quality, guys, and they're on the back. If you ever come across a stack of '95 Select in a dime box, flip through it, then turn the stack over and flip again. That's just how this set operates: multi-surface.

'95 Select also has one of my favorite checklists ever. Not that these guys are the greatest that ever played the game, but they are all the stars and minor stars from my collecting and baseball-watching heyday. Busting this box, I felt like every single pack was a great pack, filled with memorable names and images that made me all gooey with feelings.

So in addition to three photos per card, we got several subsets and design tweaks within the base set.

1995 Select Traded subset

Like these blue-sky backed portraits for the traded guys,

1995 Select Showtime

the attractive Showtime subset for the star rookies,

1995 Select Rookies

Select Rookies for those guys not quite ready for Showtime,

1995 Select Checklists

and about the greatest collection of checklists of the 90's, and possibly ever. That last one sporting four different all-stars was so popular that Pinnacle adopted the concept for their base set checklists the very next year. Theirs was a bunch of cropped portraits as opposed to this "photoshopped" fantasy group photo.

1995 Select Can't Miss

Select was also no stranger to cool inserts, most of which were pretty tough pulls. A personal favorite of mine is this Can't Miss rookie insert. The box I busted contained that Shawn Green (a card which will soon find its way to the land of crepes, croissants, and wine-guzzling children), but that Chipper on the right is the very one I pulled from my birthday box 20 years ago.

The bet pull you can get is the one-per-box Artist's Proof parallel. There are estimated to be only 500 of each card, a small run for this time period. The good news is that if you pull one of a star, you've pretty much paid for your box. This is the one I pulled from this box. The box I busted a s a kid contained the Midre Cummings Showtime subset which I somehow ended up pulling two of. The odds of that happening must be astronomical.

Now, the reason we're here, Los Griffeys:

1995 Select #89

A very rare shot of Griffey laying down a bunt. The guy was spectacularly multi-tool, so I'm willing to bet it was a good one.

I'm against exclamation points in blurbs (just the facts, please), but the Select Stat on every card makes up for it. They gave us only each player's most recent year and a line of totals to make space for the massive black and white portrait, but I believe this is space well-used. A great base card, front and back.

1995 Select #243 Checklist

One of the greatest Griffey checklist cards ever produced, this one is an anti-Tatooine photo (which I've been calling Endor shots). The photo here is not new nor Pinnacle-exclusive. I know this because here is the back of Junior's 1993 Upper Deck base card:

I ain't mad atcha, though, Select. It's a great photo that deserved another look.

1995 Select #250 Checklist (w/ Bagwell, Thomas, & Piazza)

These caused quite a stir among my friends and me. Four of the biggest stars of our day on one card, looking like they're all just hanging out together like normal dudes, shootin' the breeze and having a laugh. Somebody should photoshop some cold brewskis in there somewhere, possibly in Bagwell's and Griffey's visible hands. Maybe Piazza could be holding an N64 controller or something. Like they're having a Smash Brothers tournament. And Bagwell's pissed because Frank picks Link EVERY TIME. Learn another character, man.

1995 Select Big Sticks #BS2

The Big Sticks insert is weird. It's got a refractive surface with a layer of strange texturing that looks like it's not sure whether it wants to be wood grain or camouflage. The focal point apart from Junior's massive home run pull is the team logo stretched vertically which just does not look right (although the Mariners logo probably looks less weird like this than most). And to bring all the weirdness together, those two aspects seem to have nothing to do with the theme of the insert, Big Sticks, which in itself is a little...I'll just say weird again. I think someone at Select knew all this, too, hence the all-too-appropriate card number prefix. The cards look cool, but as rare as they are, I'd like to have seen a little more effort here both thematically and creatively.

So about the box, it gave a whopping 94% (235/250) of the checklist. In fact, the collation was so good that I pulled only three duplicates from the entire 250-card set. Here they are:

There are worse dupes to pull.

I now need only 15 cards to complete the set. To be honest I originally bought the box in the hopes of pulling an AP one of the three Griffeys (a 1-in-84 shot per box) because I need them for my 1996 Beckett Tribute Checklist project and they're expensive when they're even available, but when I saw how close to the base set I was, I decided to just go ahead and do it. That slippery slope that turns a player collector into a set builder is in full effect.

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 1995 Select (spoiler alert: they're all AP's):

1995 Select #89 Artist's Proof
1995 Select #243 Checklist #2 of 9 Artist's Proof
1995 Select #250 Checklist #9 of 9 (w/ Bagwell, Thomas, & Piazza) Artist's Proof

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wallet Card Wednesday: Animal Farm Edition

Farms are exactly like Farmville only real and covered in dirt. I spent some time on a farm recently, and you better believe I took my Wallet Card along. So grab your pitchfork and dirty straw hat because there are a lot of Wallet Card pics in this here rodeo. It's about to get all field trip up in this piece:

I always imagine deer as jumpy and scared of humans, but these guys were highly sociable not to mention adorable.

There's a farm cat in this picture if you look. And even if you don't look.

This one is actually a dog, specifically a farm dog.

Chickens, too. The whole farm deal.

There ya go. The rumors were true: chickens poop eggs.

Nice work, ma'am.

Check out this dude's sweet bangs. He's like an emo Mr. Ed. Or Bowie as a horse.

This guy is a Zedonk which is a donkey/zebra hybrid – take a look at his stripey legs. He was the most skittish of all the animals we hung out with, so I didn’t get too close. He’s also the most exotic animal ever wallet carded as far as I know…

As you can see I've gotten pretty laissez-faire when it comes to what happens to this card.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Highpletely Subjectitrary: a Trade Post

In an effort to shorten the title of today’s post, I decided to abbreve the name of Brian’s blog, Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary, which, while known to many as a symbol of quality card blogging and excellent trade fodder, has almost as many letters as this sentence has commas.

That is not to disparage what the man sent. Heavens, no:

This was my first 2015 Gypsy Queen Griffey, and it’s a damn nice card. I really like the design – at least I think I do. It may just be that it’s so different from previous years that it’s refreshing to see a new look. Plus it’s brown. I like brown.

I tried to pull this card myself by buying a few packs when it first came out, but had no luck. Actually, I have a pretty hefty stack of base cards for this set if anyone is building it…

When I first learned what Topps Tek was I was all like, “Psh – parallel town. No, thank you, JACK.” But over the past few years I’ve slowly been won over by this evil, evil little set. I’m even pretty close to completing the checklist of patterns. Moments and Milestones on the other hand will probably never win me over, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate them any less. Sure, they confuse the balls out of me, but check out this Griffey numbered out of only 150! Woo-hoo!

These Griffey’s Golden Moments cards give me mixed feelings. First, they have solid photography, and being plastic they are difficult to damage – two nice attributes. My issue with them is that they were sold one card at a time in little plastic wrappers. While most I come across are loose like this one, some are still sealed in the wrapper. I have the complete set of five, but I have it in mixed formats. In cases like this I have the propensity to want one of each, a set still in wrappers and a loose set. Should I consider the set complete or wait until I have all the sealed versions? Or both versions? Am I being anal?

And here are a few New Orleans teams for good measure. I honestly had not idea Jrue Holiday spelled his name like that until I saw this card despite having heard his name a hundred times before (mostly on local talk radio). This seems like the kind of thing that should annoy me (misspellings for the sake of misspellings), but I kind of like it. It’s fun with phonetics. Good on you, Jrue.

Thanks, for the cards Brian! All these great new Griffeys had me jrooling.

Wallet Card Wednesday: This Was a Bad Idea Edition

I took my 1994 Upper Deck Griffey/Mantle Dual Auto out for a night on the town.

It's not my wallet card, but I was so excited when it came in that I decided I would not be going anywhere without it until it was safe in the safe deposit box. For just one night it would be my substitute wallet card. It just so happened that we were already going out to World of Beer that particular night, so against my better judgement, along it came.

I started fancy and fruity and slowly worked my way across the spectrum towards the darker stouts (going the opposite way works well too). With all these liquids sloshing about in stemmed glassware I almost double-bagged the slab here, but instead I lived dangerously and went with the single-layer bag.

Didn't get a drop of sauce on it,

Here's one of those gigantic, dangly pretzels. Well, most of one.

Last beer of the night.

This one may have gone a little far, but a spectrum of beer will do that.

The next morning the torch was passed back to my original wallet card card. I snapped this picture of the two versions together before slipping them back into the safe deposit box. I may take it out again this Summer though, as we are going to hitting a water park in a few weeks.