Fashionably Late: A Blaster Of 2022 Archives

Retail blasters are slow in coming to Shlabotsylvania… if they come here at all. It took several weeks of looking in my local Targets before finding a blaster. Under normal circumstances it’s not a given that I would have bought Archives at all… It tends to just leave me disappointed and regretting my purchase. This year, though, I’ve wanted to rip some packs and haven’t had much luck finding anything in stores, so I jumped on the blaster I found. Beggars can’t be chosers, any old port in the storm and all that.

Thing is, this year’s Archives is… OK. It’s never going to be my ideal set and I don’t know that I would buy another blaster, BUT I also haven’t sworn off buying another blaster, so that’s something of an accomplishment by Topps.

The main part of the set is made up of tributes to 1963, 1978 and (siiiiigggggghhh) 1987. I’ll touch on each of these and then get into inserts, subsets and other interesting things I pulled from my blaster.

The 1963 design is one that is colorful, appealing and pretty easy to replicate. The best “1963” I pulled of a current player was this Rhys Hoskins.

I really like the different background, but later found out that this is more about the Phillies having used an alternate background on “photo day”.

Some of the better “legends” cards I pulled from my blaster were using the 1963 design.  It says something about the state of photography – or probably the state of Getty Images – that the best-looking photos in this set are largely for the retired players.

Moving on to the 1978 design, which Topps has steadfastly refused to include in Archives until this year. It’s not like I don’t understand, there are challenges with using this design.  The main challenge is that the team name is not a font, each one was a bit of work done manually by Topps’ artists.

It’s not super complex, but also it’s not something you can throw at an intern and say “Do something like this, only for the Marlins!”

Some teams can be faked up pretty easily – I know because I’ve tried – like the Rays, where you can take the “R” from “Royals” or “Rangers” and the “ays” from “Blue Jays” and boom, you’re done.

Guardians is a little more complicated, but you can use the “G” from Giants, the “dians” from “Indians” and then work from there.

Nationals is a little trickier, and I’ve got a very minor problem with how they did this…

When I faked up the Nationals for a custom a number of years ago I made an “N” by chopping off part of an “M” (because there weren’t any capital N’s in 1978 Topps) and then got the rest of the letters from other teams:

My very minor quibble with how they did “Nationals” is that the “o” is noticeably wider than the other letters, and it stands out to me.  I would’ve (and did) squish it horizontally a little to make it flow better.


Getting back to the background on the Rhys Hoskins card, the same background can be seen on this Aaron Nola card.  It’s interesting that (to me anyway) that background looks a lot better on a 1963 card than on a 1978 card.

And now on to the drudgery part of the post, at least from my standpoint. Topps has done the 1987 design so many times now that it’s just a tired exercise. But here it is…

I don’t even know what to say about it anymore.

Oh, wait, I do know one thing I can say… As many times as Topps has rehashed this design, you’d think that they’d learn that:
– In the originals the player names for the Pirates had black text against a yellow background
– White text against a yellow background is hard to read… Why don’t they ever learn this?

One of the problems I have with Archives, and its a personal issue, is that I’m not a huge fan of including “legends” in sets that also have current players. While it’s fun to pull retired players, many of them don’t fit into my collection and are sort of wasted on me.

It’s also not great when they use colorized photos… I know that there aren’t other options in many cases, but still.  I mean, jeez, that Babe Ruth card isn’t so much colorized as it is half sepia, half not.

Something interesting I hadn’t noticed until I was writing this post:  The Feller card says “Cleveland” even though they could’ve used “Indians” off of the original design.  I looked on TCDB and there’s one other retired Cleveland player in this set, a 1987 design of Larry Doby.  The 1987 design doesn’t use team names, it uses logos and that card (which I don’t have) doesn’t use the Chief Wahoo logo that appeared on several of Doby’s Topps cards in the 1950’s, it uses the Cleveland cap logo of the day, a wishbone C cap logo that’s similar enough to the Reds’ wishbone C that I’ll bet a fair number of people will regard this as a Reds card despite Doby’s uniform reading “CLEVELAND” across the front.  At any rate, it appears that Topps is completely staying away from “Indians”.

OK, so let’s get on with some of the other cards…

This is from the Award Winners subset, based on the 1961 Topps MVP subset.

There’s also this take on the 1992 Topps Major League Debut set.  For those who aren’t aware, Topps used to do a box set that featured every player who had made their Major League debut for a given season.

Finally there is the “Scoops” design based on 1954 Topps Scoops, which was largely a non-sports set which did include some baseball cards

I pulled 3 cards from the Big Foil insert set which are pretty nice but don’t appeal to me  a lot and these will likely find their way to other people.

The last pack of the blaster came with a very pleasant surprise. I was thumbing through the pack and saw a card with the 2010 Topps design, and thought “I didn’t remember 2010 being a part of this”…

…and then I saw the on-card signature and I smiled. I don’t often pull autographs from a pack, and when I do it’s usually someone along the lines of a sticker autograph of a Reds pitching on an unlicensed Donruss card.  Since I’m not an autograph collector, I often forget to look at the “Fan Favorites” checklist, but I find them almost as appealing because they feature players and designs that aren’t in the base set.

For those unfamiliar with Key, he was a 5-time All-Star who pitched for the Jays, Yankees and Orioles and who twice finished in 2nd place in AL Cy Young voting… So yeah, not a bad pull.

2022 Diamond Kings – I Paid My Money, I Get To Blog About It

Instant buyer’s remorse.

It was based on the price of the pack, but that’s what I felt immediately after I pulled the trigger on a hanger pack of 2022 Panini Diamond Kings.  I was recently in Target and they had hangers and blasters of 2022 Diamond Kings. The sign on the hook for the hangers said $14.95;  Silly me, I figured the hangers were just put in the wrong place because the last time I bought DKs (in 2020) they were $9.95 for a 20 card hanger.

Wrong-o, the pack was $14.95.

Despite the painful-for-me 75 cents per card price – I am nothing if not consistently cheap – I went ahead and bought the hanger anyway.  This is what pack deprivation does to a guy.

The first card was of Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes:

I like the base cards, the design works well with the whole digital simulation of a painted card theme.  I’m also much more forgiving of the unlicensed cards when they’re presented in an artsy way… for the most part, anyway.

I’ll also point out that Panini is not immune to the 21st century visual design issues of not taking contrast between colors into account.  Putting the reddish city name in front of a green grass background does not make for legible text.

The backs are standard Panini stuff in terms of content and overall layout, but these are pretty nice looking.  For my own intentions with a set like this, the card back could have a large card number, the player name and the set name and I’d be good.  I’ll count my blessings that these card numbers are easy for my middle-aged eyes to read.

As usual there are legends like Babe Ruth.  I know a complaint about Diamond King in past seasons is that the same photos will carry over from one set to another.  I did a quick search on Diamond Kings and Babe Ruth and didn’t see this photo in previous years, but like I said, that was a quick search.

This Ryne Sandberg is pretty nice.

This Johnny Bench card is a candidate for “favorite card of the pack”.

I also got a Trey Mancini for my Orioles collection.  There’s something a little jarring about having sponsors in the background when there aren’t logos anywhere else, but that’s nit-picking.

According to the checklist, rookies come in four designs which seem to be harder pulls as we go along. I got several of the “Rookies I” design, which is OK if a little busy.

I got two cards from the retina-searing “Rookies II”.  This looks like a scientist peered into an electron microscope and discovered the world’s most infinitesimal pitcher.

I pulled just one of the houndstooth-for-no-apparent-reason “Rookies III”… which I might like better if the photo weren’t black and white.  I don’t see the need of a B&W image of a 21st century player, that’s Honus Bonus stuff.

There’s also a “Rookies IV” design, but I didn’t pull any of these… Spot-checking on eBay doesn’t turn up many, and there are no images on TCDB.

As for inserts, I got this “Elegance” insert of Shohei Ohtani, which isn’t bad.

There’s also this Maestros card.  I like the Jazzy motif, which looks better in person because of the gold foil

Every pack came with a “framed” parallel, which don’t interest me… but to be fair parallels in general don’t interest me.

I also got an “Artists Proof” parallel but I didn’t bother scanning it because it’s just a base card with a foil stamp.

On the whole I like this year’s cards, I got some cards to send to trading buddies and a few to add to my own collection… but THERE IS NO WAY I AM BUYING ANY MORE OF THIS THROUGH RETAIL CHANNELS.  I’ll go back to obtaining singles here and there through various means.

Pack Animal: 2021 Topps Archives

Last week I bought a blaster of 2021 Topps Archives mainly because it was there on the shelf in front of me and it had been nearly 3 months since I’d spent even as much as $20 on cards.  Archives isn’t a huge favorite of mine but I missed ripping open packs, so into the cart went the blaster.

This year’s Archives is rather an odd beast, as Topps decided that they would celebrate 70 years of baseball cards by having Archives feature eight different designs, one of which was most definitely not out of the archives…  But I’ll get to that in a bit.

I will say that when you open one of these packs it’s kind of like thumbing through a repack because you’ll have no more than 2 cards within a pack that look the same.  It’s different, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

Here’s the wrapper for the packs within the blaster.  Archives wrappers are often based on some bit of vintage Topps wrappers or packaging, but this one escapes me.  It seems kind of generic to me, so I suppose it could be some cobbled-together vaguely vintage design.

I have a few comments to make about the eight different designs used, plus the inserts, so I’ll just go through things chronologically, starting with…


For whatever reason Topps seems to focus on headshots with this design, which is not unheard of in the original set, but 1957 Topps shines when the text is in front of grass or something other than the player’s jersey.

One thing I wonder about is how they determined which color text to use with which photo. I wonder a bit whether they determined up front which colors would go with which player, without taking the photo used into account. These two cards would look better if the colors were different… but it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.


This design is pretty well done, I don’t have a lot to say about it other than the first card I pulled was this one, which was welcomed by this Mets fan.

I particularly liked this card because the background is pretty old-timey.  I don’t know what ballpark this is, I’m guessing it’s a spring training park.

1973 is an odd choice to include in 2021 Archives because in a few months it’ll also be showing up in packs of 2022 Heritage… But Topps did a good job on this.  One thing I noticed is that they didn’t shy away from multiple positions like the originals did.  Had this Mauer card been in 1973 Topps, it would’ve listed him as “CATCHER”, end of story.

I’m also pleased that they properly have right-handed pitchers with the red RHP icon and left-handed pitchers with the blue LHP icon.

I’m also going to take credit for Topps listening to me… and don’t tell me that a post about 2022 Heritage that I wrote in August would’ve been far too late to affect what happened in Archives a couple of months later, because I’m not going to listen to you.

In that post, which was about “2022 Heritage: Fears, Wishes, Guesses And Speculation”, I said that if Topps didn’t bring back managers when doing the 1973 design, that they might replace the “Manager” icon (and its yellow background) with a “Designated Hitter” icon… and that’s exactly what they did.  Unfortunatey my blaster didn’t have a “1973” card of Shohei Ohtani, Nelson Cruz or Yermin Mercedes, as those are all listed as “Designated Hitters”.  But you can take my word that they copied it from me… really, they did.


1983 Topps feels like it’s been in every other Archives set, but I know it’s not quite as bad as that.  Still, it’s one of the best designs of the 1980s so I’m only going to complain so much…

But complain I will. Topps has officially irritated me because they’ve made the same mistake every time that they re-do the 1983 Topps design and they have never learned a damned thing in the process.

Here’s a 2021 Archives Honus Wagner done in the 1983 design, and an actual 1983 Topps card of Dave Parker.

The Archives card looks better in this scan than it does in real life, but that pure yellow text against a white background is completely illegible (Of course, flagship 2021 Topps has shown us that Topps does not give a shit about practical things like legibility).

It’s not even the same yellow as was used on the original cards… They used a yellowish-orange, not pure yellow.  On top of that, the original cards used different shades of yellowish-orange for the border and for the lettering.  To illustrate I did a high-resolution scan and copy & pasted the name next to the border…

The lettering is a bit darker because – hey, guys! Guess what! There needs to be CONTRAST between the letters and the white background! Howzaboutthat?

OK, I’m done now.


Well done, I can’t think of much to say about it… other than why is it “40 Years” rather than “70 Years”? Surely they could’ve faked up something.

For some reason, there are half as many 1991’s in this set than most of the other designs.  (Insert shrug here)

2001 was the 50th anniversary set and while I liked it just fine in 2001, now it’s a little more “Meh” than it used to be… But they seem to have done a good job of replicating it.  Again, I would’ve changed “50 years” to “70 years”, but it’s Archives and not worth a huge effort to Topps.


2011 Topps is very well done, but I suspect that’s because they don’t have to replicate it, they’ve already got the design on their computers… They’re just making more.  It’s interesting how they use gold foil now instead of silver foil on the originals, but that’s neither here nor there.

“2091 Topps” (21 cards)

“2091 Topps” looks a bit silly in retrospect given that it’s unclear if we’ll even see 2031 Topps, but on top of that it’s A) Not a great design and B) doesn’t really fit with the whole “Archives” thing.  Yes, I get that they want to pay tribute to 70 years of Topps baseball cards by projecting 70 years into the future, but that’s something they should’ve done in another set, not in something called “Archives”.

Topps continues to drive business to your friendly neighborhood optometrist, as the player names are hard to read.

OK, let’s get to the inserts…

The 1989 Topps “Big” cards are pretty nice-looking… In fact, they’re nice enough that I wish that (unpopular opinion alert) I wish they were on regular cardstock and in the original size.

I spent four years of college proofreading articles for the school’s newspaper, so that means you have to bear with me going on a rant about the text about this insert which is featured on the blaster box.

The outside of the blaster promises the following:

Now this caused me a fair amount of confusion when I first read this.  See I parsed that phrase as follows:

“1989 Topps”, meaning it was this design:

“BIG FOIL CARDS”, meaning that they were larger than standard size and also printed on foilboard.

I opened the blaster expecting to find a separate pack of oversized foil versions of 1989 Topps, and did not find it.  I started to research this online, thinking I got shortchanged somehow, and then remembered the whole thing in the set previews about the ridiculously named “Big Minis”.

So, for those of you who don’t already know where this is going, the inserts (which came in three different wax packs) is a standard-sized foilboard version of 1989 Topps “BIG”… This set:

These cards, produced in 1989, were of the same size as Topps cards from 1952 to 1956 and were called “Topps Big Baseball”… but these new insert cards are standard-sized… but their smaller than the originals… which means that they were “Big Minis”, a description that makes me SMH.

Moving on to the Movie Posters inserts…  These aren’t bad, but do they really belong in an Archives set?  Talk amongst yourselves.


I really like these 1991 Bazooka inserts, although I can’t really say why.  I’ll point out that THIS design got updated to “70 Years”.

I got one of the inserts based on the 1963 “Peel-off” inserts… They’re kinda goofy, so at least I got someone who would’ve been on my wantlist.

One last comment…  I think Topps worked a little hard on shoehorning this cartoon into this set.  What does the cartoon have to do with the caption?

On the whole 2021 Archives is pretty well done, but in my particular case I think I’m good with just the one blaster and filling out my wantlists by chasing individual cards.

Pack Animal: Parkside National Women’s Soccer League Premier Edition

A couple of weeks ago I was in a big box retailer and largely out of habit I took a peak in the card aisle. I knew there wouldn’t be any baseball, but I’m not averse to buying hockey or soccer if the product looks interesting.

What I found there were hangers of 2021 National Women’s Soccer League cards by a company called Parkside. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but I later found out that they’ve produced a few sets of some note, including the Negro League Baseball Museum, Big3 Basketball and the Major Lacrosse League.

Now I am vaguely aware of some goings-on in women’s soccer, but I’m far from a fan. On the other hand, over the past year or so I’ve tried to be better about diverting my spending from global monoliths towards businesses and organizations that can use my support. Much as I recently bought minor league baseball apparel instead of Major League stuff, I also felt like a hanger for a sports league which is something of an underdog was worthy of my $10.

Plus, I just wanted something to open and, of course, write about here.

So let’s crack open this 25 card hanger…

First card – Allysha Chapman of the Houston Dash

A little much going on with the card’s design at the bottom, and that makes it hard to read her first name, but I like the photo. The design looks like it’s supposed to be something, but I’m not getting it just yet.

Card stock is pretty thin, BTW… but on the whole it’s no worse than something like NBA Hoops. I also sat down to write this post and realized I somehow forgot to scan the back of the base card. Visually it’s nothing to write home about, but it does seem to have some sort of QR code on the back… which I haven’t scanned.

Second card – Simone Charley of the Portland Thorns

Another nice action shot.

After skipping a few cards, we come to Sarah Woldmoe of the Chicago Red Stars

This is interesting, almost Studio-esque. Woldmoe is in her first year with Chicago, so this image might have been used because they didn’t have any action shots of her with the Red Stars.

Angelina of the OL Reign

I know single-named Brazilian soccer players are a “thing”… Pelé, Ronaldo, Kaká, even FRED fer cryin’ out loud!  …But I didn’t know women did it. Angelina is in her first year with OL Reign, and OL Reign is a new branding of the former Seattle Reign. According to some quick research, the French club Olympique Lyonnaise became majority owner and change the team name, color and logos to be like that of the “parent” club.

Oooh, Carli Lloyd! First player in this pack I’d heard of before.

Nice card, and I like the Gotham FC club logo. Apparently that’s new this year – the club was previously Sky Blue FC – so I wonder if all of the players for Gotham FC and OL Reign are shown this way because it’s a different type of ‘update’.

Here are a couple of more action shots I liked well enough to scan… First Shea Groom, Dash…

…and also Vanessa DiBernardo, Red Stars

Now we get into the inserts…

First off we have a foilboard parallel of [carefully checks spelling] Gunnhildur Jonsdottir along with the base version (which I happened to get from the same pack)… Not that you can tell much difference in the scan, I suppose.

Jonsdottir played with the Utah Royals last year, but that club ceased operations and all of the players were transferred to a new Kansas City club… but then Jonsdottir was traded to the Orlando Pride… This is the kind of fun stuff you get with an emerging league.

I guess this is a black-and white parallel version.  Debinha goes by just one name, so of course she’s Brazilian.  She also plays for the North Carolina Courage.

I’m not much for parallels, even less for black and white parallels, so this card gets a “Meh” from me

Now this is an insert after my own heart… It’s from an insert set called “Vintage” and they even give the card a well-loved look.  This particular card features Ashley Hatch of the Washington Spirit.

The backs have a faux cardboard texture to them, but the printing is very dark (as you can see).  Some of the aging effects don’t make sense if you think about them too hard… Why is there paper loss *under* the colored stripes?  Why is there a vertical crease like it’s the cover of an old book?  On the whole I decided to stop thinking and just go with it.

Speaking of “very dark”, the next insert is called “Hyped” and is shiny, but the end result is pretty disturbing. The featured player is Ifeoma Onumonu of Gotham FC.

Wrapping things up with Promising Prospects insert of Emina Ekic of Racing Louisville FC. Not a bad looking insert.  It scanned a bit dark, but the background has a red Tron-like grid.

Not bad, on the whole.  If I followed the league at all I would definitely buy more of these.

Do any of you follow the NWSL?  Has anybody else given these cards a try?  What did you think about them?

The Last From My Stash Of Japanese Packs

Back in 2012 I went to The National and I bought a number of packs of Japanese baseball cards.  Since packs of BBM baseball cards are not the kind of things one runs into at Target (or even hobby shops), I decided to spread the wealth around and only open packs on “special occasions” when the time felt right… much like bottles of fine wine.

I didn’t expect to stretch things out over 8 years, but it’s not unusual for me to have so many things going on hobby-wise that I would forget about that box of packs sitting on the table.

I did mention the whole “special occasion” thing, right?  Because today *is* a special occasion… it’s the 9th anniversary of this blog!

As they used to sing on Sesame Street….




Come to learn your numbers, stay for the slapstick involving nine coconut custard pies!

So this last pack is from 2004 BBM Baseball 2nd Version. BBM puts out two “flagshippy” sets a year, but instead of series they have “versions” with different designs. Here’s a card from 2004 BBM first version, a pack I opened four years ago:

…But that’s 1st Version and this is 2nd Version.  The only thing similar about them is the wrapper… and here’s the 2004 BBM 2nd Version wrapper, front and back:


First card is a nice-looking one… Ryosuke Sawai

Sawai played a total of 90 games in NPB and it looks like his NPB career was already over when this card came out.  Sorry, Ryosuke.

Here’s the back of Sawai’s card.

OK, next card… Hiroyuki Kobayashi.  Wikipedia says that he pitched in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

I’m pretty sure that Hiroyuki Kobayashi is not related to the Kobayashi Maru.

…That, I say, that’s a Star Trek joke, son!

Check this next card out… Masa Yamamoto pitched 29 seasons – not a typo, TWENTY-NINE – seasons in NPB and with the Chunichi Dragons.  He was 49 years old during his last season and holds NPB records for the oldest pitcher to start a game, win a game and strike out a batter.

I’m pretty sure that Masa Yamamoto is not related to Space Cruiser Yamamoto.

…That, I say, that’s an Anime joke, son!

It’s also a Star Blazers reference, if you’re of the proper age group and nationality.

Moving on… Tsuyoshi Johbe pitched 6 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants.  I can’t find much more about him than that.

Side note:  It wasn’t until the day after I opened this pack and was scanning the cards that I realized that the green-bordered cards are for Central League teams, and the yellow-bordered ones went with Pacific League teams.

Koichi Ogata played 22 seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  Just twenty-two?  What a slacker.  He was an All-Star and won five consecutive Golden Gloves.

It’s Gaijin time!  It took me a minute to remember him (and it didn’t help that his first name is misspelled as “Jarrod” on this card) but Jerrod Riggan pitched 36 games for my New York Mets in 2001, and he also pitched for the Indians.  I’ll blame part of my faulty memory on the fact that I apparently don’t have any of his small number of Mets cards.  I should make an attempt to get Mets cards of some of these guys who weren’t widely represented… but that’s getting off-topic.

Riggan pitched 2 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, came back stateside and put in another couple of years in the Mets organization before retiring.

Another former Met!  Pete Walker played in 144 games over 8 seasons in the Majors and is currently the pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He apparently didn’t adapt to Japan well, or perhaps he was fighting off an injury, because he ended up with a 6.80 ERA over 10 games for the Baystars.

Last card… Atsushi Fujimoto, who played 13 seasons for the Tigers and Swallows and played for Japan in the 2004 Olympics

And that’s the pack! For those of you who enjoy the Japanese cards, that’s going to be it for a while. I would like to get more in the future, but right now I’m putting most acquisitions on hold while I spend some much-needed time organizing my collection.

For those who don’t enjoy the Japanese cards… good news! I don’t have any more to show you!

It’s just as well that I get this 9th anniversary post out of the way… after all you know what happened to 9.

7 8 9!


Pack Animal: 2019-20 Topps UEFA Champions Match Attax

Before I get started:  For those who are disinterested in soccer cards, I promise that this post is in addition to, not instead of, the two posts I’d already had planned for this week.

Last Friday I was in Target for non-card purposes, but I was kind of feeling like opening a pack or two… despite my semi-resolution to stop buying cards until my next scheduled card show in early January.

I saw some Panini Prizm basketball on the shelf, which Twitter would have me believe is a must-get so I can pull a Zion Williamson, a basketball player I know nothing about other than his cards are very flippable and have spurred a big old lottery mentality.

I left the Prizm for someone who would be more appreciative, and instead grabbed two packs I spotted of…

(takes a deep breath)

2019-20 Topps UEFA Champions League Match Attax.

Now I know little about the Champions League, other than it’s a competition between the best soccer teams in Europe.  Match Attax I’m more familiar with;  it’s a collectible card game that Topps sells internationally featuring different teams and leagues.

For me, the appeal is that the packs are relatively cheap ($1.49 for 6 cards), the cards were often colorful and could provide me with trade bait or possibly something to send to COMC (although I know from experience that soccer doesn’t sell all that well on COMC). I grabbed two packs and headed for the store’s self-checkout.

So there’s a lot going on with this base card of Jose Fonte (who’s a Portuguese player with the French club Lille OSC).  Lots of design elements and logos and numbers and stuff everywhere.  What doesn’t get picked up in the scans is that the cards have an interesting texture on the front… parts of the card are glossier than others, plus there’s a raised pattern that’s made up of coating rather than ink.

Ederson Santana de Moraes, commonly known simply as Ederson, is a Brazilian goalie with Manchester City.  He’s got an odd yell-y fist-raising pose which is at least different from the typical running with or without the ball photo we have on these cards.

Kenny Tete is a Dutch player on the French club Olympique Lyonnais.

Here’s a shiny shiny “Man Of The Match” card of Portuguese guy Xeka, who also plays for Lille OSC.  I got more than my share of Lille OSC cards in my two packs.

I thought maybe this was a yellow parallel, but it’s a “Pro Performer” insert of the one guy in the two packs I’d heard of before: Jorginho.  He’s a Brazilian who plays for the English Premier League team Chelsea.

The one pack included some sort of team card… Here’s the front…

..and the back, which features the team captain, French goalie Hugo Lloris and also the team manager (marked by the amusing collar-and-tie icon) Mauricio Pochettino… who actually had been sacked (to use the British term) back in November.

All of this seems informational, but I suppose it could factor into game play somehow.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little diversion from the usual subject matter of my blog.  As a small tease I’ll mention I’ve got a series of posts coming up involving vintage soccer – or, to be more accurate, Footballer cards.  Stay tuned!

Pack Animal: 2003 BBM Rookie Edition (Japanese Baseball)

So this pack has a backstory that briefly played out on Twitter.

I was feeling the need for some Cardboard Therapy but I had made something of a promise to myself to keep the retail pack-buying to a minimum until 2020 Heritage comes out.  I went to Walgreen’s for a repack and came up empty.  I went to Five Below because I’d heard they have good repacks, but the only cards my local Five Below has was a dozen-or-so Topps Yankees Retail Team Sets… from 2016.  The worst Topps set of the decade, combined with the Yankees… Yet somehow I resisted.

On the way home, I realized I have a small stash of Japanese wax packs which were perfect for this sort of situation, so I pulled out a pack of 2003 BBM Rookie Edition.

This is a 152-card set which was from early 2003 and primarily features the players taken in the previous year’s draft.  According to NPB Card Guy, the set is made up of 90 draft picks and 60 players shown in their rookie season (which explains the two different designs you’ll see in the pack)

Wei-Chu Lin

This is the draft pick card, and it’s a pretty decent design.  Wei-Chu Lin played 10 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, although from the number of games played he either wasn’t a starting player or had horrible luck with injuries.

Here’s the back… I’m guessing the photo is of the entire Tigers’ draft class?

Tomohiro Nioka

Nioka was a rookie in 1999, so this is clearly the “established players as a rookie” subset… if you can call 60 out of 152 cards a “subset”.  Nioka played 15 seasons with the Giants and Fighters.

The back is pretty standard BBM fare.

Hisahiko Irino

Baseball-reference has a page for Irino but no stats… I’m guessing that means he never played for the Yomiuri Giants.

Katsuhiko Maekawa

Maekawa played 10 seasons in NPB and pitched for the AAA Memphis Redbirds in 2009.

Masataka Minatogawa

The only information on Minatogawa on BBREF is that he played in Italy in 2005.

Masato Kobayashi

Pitched 10 seasons for the Chunichi Dragons, mainly in middle relief.

Daisuke Kayajima

Another player with no stats on BBREF.

Keita Asama

pitched two games in 2003 for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

When I first went through this pack I was a little disappointed that I’d never heard of any of these players… and now that I’ve researched the players it looks like even if I’d followed NPB since 2003 I’d be disappointed by this pack. At least now that I know what “Rookie Edition” is, I wouldn’t bother buying more packs, should I be in a position to buy more Japanese wax packs.

Pack Animal: 2005 BBM Touch The Game (Japanese Baseball)

I recently stumbled across a pack of Japanese baseball cards which I’d acquired a number of years ago, but which had been misplaced and temporarily forgotten… Since there’s nothing good in the stores and I felt like opening a pack, I decided to tear this bad boy open.

This is a pack of 2005 BBM Touch The Game, which the wrapper declares is a “Premium” set.

Here’s the wrapper (it’s a hanger pack, if you couldn’t tell)

First card is of Shugo Fujii, about whom I know nothing. Wikipedia says he pitched 14 seasons for four teams and was an All-Star twice.

I should point out that the entire border is silver foil; the textured foil turns up as silver in this scan, but the smooth foil shows up as black. In the middle of the photo, also in silver foil, it says this:

bbm baseball cards premium
2005 Touch The Game

followed by this printed in black ink (also right over the player photo):

one of the great players has ever owned.
he will be remembered by supporters for long years to come.

I cannot emphasize enough that I was very careful to type this exactly as it appears on each card.

As for the image at the middle of the card, the player image is glossy and the background is matte, kind of like recent Pro Debut sets.

Next card… Gaijin Alert! It’s John Bale, who I kinda sorta remember pitching for the Orioles. In December, 2000 the O’s traded a minor league catcher – one who had been drafted in the first round in 1997 – to Toronto for John Bale. Any guesses as to who that catching prospect was? The answer comes after the images of this card.

Here’s the back… a bit more traditional

Answer:  Jayson Werth, who would go through a couple of organizations before blossoming as an outfielder.

Masahide Kobayashi may be familiar to MLB fans; he pitched in relief for the Indians in 2008 and 2009. Before that he was a top closer in Japan and was on the Silver medal-winning Japanese Olympic baseball team.

Those Chiba Lotte Marines uniforms are really… something. I was about to say that they’d never fly in MLB, but then I remembered the uniforms the Diamondbacks are wearing, and I back away from any such statements.

“Impressive Scene” insert featuring another American, Marc Kroon… Kroon appeared on a few MLB cards in the 1990’s. In Japan, he was a closer and became the first pitcher to hit 100 mph in a game.

Last card, and this is one of those rare instances where a checklist is the best card in the pack.

If you can’t read the text at the top of the card, it says “They also enjoyed interleague game”.  BBM clearly needed a better translator.

I had to do some detective work to figure out who the mascots are. The one on the right has a Chiba Lotte Marines hat, and when I googled on Chiba Lotte Marines mascots, I found that the two in the middle are also Marines mascots (I think the three of them are meant to be sea gulls). The one on the left looked familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it/him/her. Since the card references interleague games and the Marines are in the Pacific League, I guessed that the mystery mascot is from the Central League, and a little more research came up with Doala the Koala, a mascot for the Chunichi Dragons.

The checklist is on heavier cardboard than the rest of the pack, as if they’re trying to fool pack feelers. Do they have pack feelers in Japan?

I’d never seen a Japanese checklist before, and I’m guessing most of you haven’t either, so I’ll show you the checklist side.

One other thing came in the pack;  this was on top of the back, printed on thick-ish paper. It looks like it could be a contest entry, but I have no clue (not being able to read any of it).

Thoughts on the pack as a whole: I guess I can’t complain about a Japanese pack where I’m familiar with three of the four players included, but I’m not a fan of sets where the cards are more about the design than the photos. If I had an opportunity to get more packs like this I would probably say “No thanks, I’m OK”. But they’re still Japanese cards, so they’ll go into my Japanese binder (but would likely be the first to get bumped if space becomes a issue).

2018 Topps Gallery: Man Faints In Walmart After Finding Blaster

Either Topps upped the print runs this year or people where I live like Aaron Judge a whole lot more than Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna. Either way, I was surprised to find blasters and packs of 2018 Topps Gallery in the first Walmart I went to. Last year I made multiple visits to four different Wally Worlds, but thanks to the mania surrounding Aaron Judge, all I found was one empty display.

I didn’t even hold a 2017 Gallery card in my hand until Dime Boxes Nick sent me four of them this past Summer.

Since I was having a rough week, I decided to buy a blaster. As soon as I grabbed one off the shelf, I noticed how light the box was. I looked at the details and found that the box consists of seven 4 card packs, plus an additional pack of 4 parallels which I don’t want and probably can’t sell on COMC because there’ll be 68 copies of each out there by the time mine get sent in and processed.

That’s 32 cards for $20.  My inner Grumpy Old Man says “When I was a kid, I could buy a rack pack of 42 cards for 49 cents!!!  BAH!!!

OK, so we’ve established that it’s pricey by my standards.  What about the cards?

The very first card I saw was this Adam Jones (with art by Kevin Graham)…

My second card was of Orioles rookie Austin Hays.  Yep, my first two cards were from the 115-loss Orioles.  Good thing I’m an Orioles fan.

Here’s the back, not that anyone really cares about the back.

Starling Marte by artist Dan Bergren.  The Topps Gallery logo in the top left, the player’s name and team are in gold foil.  The white border has a whorl texture to it which I suppose is supposed to evoke brush strokes but, to me, looks more like fingerprints.

Thoughts regarding this Jacob deGrom card:

This was also painted by Kevin Graham, who either…
a) Had a very long lead time and created this artwork a year ago
b) Was working off of pre-2018 reference images
c) Kept the long hair for artistic reasons.

This card of Ildemaro Vargaos, by artist John Giancaspro, made me say “Who?”
…That’s “Who?” about Vargas, not about Giancaspro, although I’d not heard of either.

ROOKIE CARD!  That’s all Topps wants you to think about.  Vargas has been in affiliated ball since 2010, didn’t make his debut until 2017, is 27 years old and still rookie eligible.  I don’t mean to pick on Vargas, but in a 200-card checklist, I’d like to pull someone better than a 27-year-old Diamondbacks rookie.

Babe Ruth cards in modern sets is like hearing “Hotel California” on the radio… I’d had my fill years ago.  If we’re going to get cards of players from the 1920’s or 1930’s, then give me Paul Waner.  Frankie Frisch.  Dazzy Vance.

Artwork by Kris Penix, BTW.

Evan Longoria looks like he’s doing his impression of Saturday Night Live’s Alex Moffat’s “Eric Trump” character.  (Art by Kevin Graham)

Yes, I still watch SNL… although not in real time and we fast-forward through any sketches which don’t hold our attention.

I like this card of David Ortiz (Kris Penix again), but it’s likely going out as trade bait.

Just to make sure that all of the artists are covered before I get to the hits (such as they were) from this blaster…

Alex Verdugo by Carlos Cabaleiro

Rhys Hoskins by Gerry Garcia

OK, so let’s start with the one short-printed base card I got: Dustin Fowler (art by Kevin Graham).

I guess 1 short print out of 32 cards isn’t a bad ratio, but 1 short print out of a blaster seems a lot worse.

As I mentioned, I got four “Artist Proofs” parallels. here’s one of them: Jackson Stephens (art by Dan Bergren)

The Artist Proofs cards have an extra gold foil stamping on the bottom right of the image.


I didn’t get all of the insert sets, but I did get two.  First up is the “Heritage” insert set done in the style of 1952 Topps (art by Gerry Garcia)

The back is also done 1952-style, but it’s all glossy cardboard.

The other is from the “Masterpiece” insert set and features Roberto Clemente. The art is by Evan Shoman, who didn’t appear anywhere else in the blaster.

I dunno, I’m underwhelmed by this.  The art is fine, but I’m going to be that annoying guy who says that if I’m getting a painting it damn well better be color.

And finally…

…Sound the trumpets…

…Here’s the “HIT” of the blaster…

A sticker autograph of the Cubs’ Ian Happ!  Yaaaaaaay!

Like the Ortiz, this is going out to a trading buddy.

So… on the whole… I don’t regret this purchase, but I will flat out say that, even with the auto, it wasn’t really worth $20.  The artwork is nice, and there were a number of cards I liked which I didn’t show here, but it’s not so awesome that I want to collect the entire set (or even the entire set minus SP’s).  The base cards are a nice target for my team and player collections, plus maybe a few extras. I won’t be buying any more packs of Gallery.

Has anyone else bought Topps Gallery?  What did you think?

UPDATE: I Found Update… 2018 Topps Update, That Is

I wasn’t even looking for 2018 Topps Update… and in my ready-for-the-weekend state I almost didn’t notice Update sitting there on the shelves.  My brain only registered them as “packs of Topps” until I went to move one box of wax packs to see what was behind it and I finally realized that the wax packs were ones I hadn’t seen before. That’s when it finally dawned on me that these were Update packs, on the shelves ahead of Monday’s official release date.

Topps would’ve loved to watch me last night, because I found the different pack configurations in ascending price order and kept upselling myself.  “Wait a minute, these are packs of Update!  I have to get some of these and – Wait, they also have fat packs, I may as well get — hey, hangers!  I’ll buy one… no two… since they don’t have any blas— Wow, they have blasters!”

So I bought a blaster… and in the blasters are special Jackie Robinson Day commemorative patch cards.  I’m generally not one for cards like this, but I have to admit, this is a nice-looking card… it looks nicer in person than in this scan.

My scanner kinda sucks, but sometimes in its washing-out of scanned images I see things I didn’t see on the original card.  The “Jackie Robinson Day” text behind Freeman is waaaay more visible in the scan than on the card.  I didn’t even see it until I was doing some tweaking of the scan in my photo editing software.

So, it’s Topps Update, and the general purpose of this – if you ask a collector, anyway – is to update Series 1 and Series 2… And it does provide us with updates.

Jonathan Schoop was traded on July 31st and, sadly, went from one of the Orioles better players to being a benchwarmer on the Brewers (although that wasn’t the Brewers intent up front).  Schoop’s appeared in just 3 postseason games this year and has yet to get on base in 11 plate appearances.  Nobody would’ve guessed this up front, but this trade would’ve been an O’s win if it were just Schoop for Jonathan Villar… but the O’s also got two minor leaguers.


Update also has, of course, rookie cards…. and rookie cards… and rookie cards… and “rookie cards”.

Ryan Yarbrough quietly won 16 games for the Rays this year. The fact that he started just 6 games is part of the stealthiness of his accomplishment.  In many games he entered in the early innings thanks to the Rays’ unusual handling of the pitching staff and starting rotation.

I had to double-check that this Miles Mikolas card is, in fact, a rookie card (and, somewhat surprisingly, it is).

Mikolas used up his rookie eligibility in 2012 when he appeared in 25 games with the Padres.  He also pitched in 2013 and 2014 before going to Japan where he refined his game.  After three years with the Yomiuri Giants he came back stateside and won 18 games to lead the National League.  In terms of baseball cards, however, he only appeared in minor league team sets before his Japanese rookie cards in 2014.

There are also “Rookie Combo” cards.

I was wondering how they would handle these given the 2018 flagship design;  the result is kind of interesting with the overlapping borderless photos and the duelling “waterslides” on the left and the right.  Unfortunately, the waterslides also make the text looking like “IREVOR OAKS” and “ERIC STOUI”.

If you like stats on your rookie cards, you’re plumb outta luck when it comes to Rookie Combos.

Ronald Acuña’s rookie card was in Series 2, so Update has a “Rookie Debut” for Acuña.

I had a few other base cards I wanted to feature before getting to the inserts…

Has this weird Craig Kimbrel posturing/posing been featured on a card before?  If not, then it’s about freakin’ time.  Every time he does this, I think “What the heck is that supposed to be???”

I liked this Cameron Maybin photo… almost Stadium Club-esque.

A cameo only a Mets or Cardinals fan would appreciate:  It’s JOSE OQUENDO!!!!    …oh, and, um, Tyler O’Neill.

There are a fair number of shout-y cards in this set.  I don’t like shout-y cards.  I get my fill of shout-y people on Twitter (Shameless Tweety plug:  @shlabotnikreport)

This was the first All-Star card I pulled and between the waterslide and the “gleam” effect and the darkness of this card (again, my scanner washes things out a bit), I really had to squint and magnify to work out that that logo is, in fact, the 2018 All-Star Game logo.

This card made me think of Julie from A Cracked Bat… A Detroit Tiger wearing the “tools of ignorance”… Julie herself could not have picked a more Julie-friendly photo if she tried.

For my fellow Mets fans, I want to include two Mets (although one is in disguise).

I was surprised, and pleased, to find Devin Mesoraco in one of my packs.

The trade of Mesoraco for Matt Harvey went from “exchanging problems” to actually kinda working for both teams.

Because he’s in the set as a Diamondback, I’d completely missed Jack Reinheimer’s name when I did my “wantlist” scan of the Update checklist.

This is actually an odd choice, now that I think about it.  Reinheimer appeared in only 2 games last year and had yet to appear in the Majors this year before being claimed on waivers by the Mets on July 31st.  After that he appeared in 21 games, but that was with the Mets, not the D-Backs.  I like Reinheimer – I’m instinctually drawn to a guy who has played for two teams and has never worn a number lower than 72 – but I’ll freely admit that nobody is going to get rich off of Jack Reinheimer rookie cards.

OK, enough with the base cards… Let’s get on to the insert cards which are new to Update.

Here’s a Jose Altuve from the “An International Affair” insert.

FYI, the dark text in the lower right is all silver foil.

Other than highlighting foreign-born players (and, of course, providing an excuse for an insert set), I’m not clear on what this insert set is about.  The back of the card mentions that Altuve’s from Venezuela, he played in the WBC for Venezuela and he does kind things for children in Venezuela.  So… Venezuela?

I pulled two “Don’t Blink” inserts.  Bo Jackson’s looks pretty cool.  The other card didn’t look anywhere near as cool.  Natually this insert set features players who are fast.

“Don’t Blink” makes me think of a very cool episode “10th Doctor” episode of Doctor Who… as well as the far inferior follow-ups featuring the Weeping Angels.  Should’ve left well enough alone, Steven Moffat.

I also, in my head, hear Gwen Stefani singing “Don’t blink… I know what you’re saying… So please stop explaining… Don’t tell ’cause it hurts…” (And yes, I know it’s “Don’t Speak” and I realize it’s a No Doubt song).

Storybook Endings highlights the final season of HOFers like Ted Williams.

“1960” and “Ted Williams” is in silver foil.

The blaster box gives the impression that “Postseason Prominence” is a Target exclusive.  The text at the bottom is gold foil, BTW.

One final insert and one final Target exclusive:  BRYCE HARPER!  Who doesn’t love Bryce Harper?  Yeah, me neither.  You can all put your hands down.

I do like the pseudo-presidential look about the card… almost “West Wing” like.  Now if the set included Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg, I might be interested in these inserts.

I still haven’t opened the last two packs of the blaster, I’m saving those for later… So I don’t know for sure that this blaster was largely hit-free, but it’s not looking good so far.

On the whole, it’s Topps Update.  I appreciate the updated players.  I enjoy replacing the hand-written placeholders in my Current Rosters binders with actual cards of Kirby Yates and the awesomely-named Isiah Kiner-Falefa (with the equally awesome position listing of 3B/2B/C).  The All-Star and Home Run Derby cards are largely checklist clutter, and I can take or leave most of the inserts. All in all, I don’t regret my purchase and will likely buy some packs here and there, and backfill with commons later on.