Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"Set" Complete - 2017 Topps Chrome Purple Rookies

A long time coming. When I returned to blogging in July of last year, I set out several collecting goals -one of which was to put together a complete set of 2017 Topps Chrome Purple Parallels. These particular parallels are numbered #/299.

I actively pursued the set throughout the summer last year. I targeted rookies first as they're usually the toughest to find and most expensive. By October, I was feeling a little fatigue from chasing down the cards and decided to pivot and chase only the rookies.

Also last year, I wrote about chasing and eventually completing the 220 card 2013 Topps Chrome Blue Parallel set, with all cards #/199. Completing that set is, by far, my biggest collecting accomplishment to date. 2013 Topps Chrome is my favorite set ever. 2013 was the first year I got deep into collecting and the set has become sort of keepsake for me and a symbol of my love for this hobby.

As fun as it was... here's the rub: The 2013 project took me six years (granted, I had 219 out 220 cards in hand for over a year while I waited for the last card to surface).

Now, while I don't pursue these projects as an "investment," (HOBBY JAIL WORD!!) I'd be lying to if I said there isn't a degree of "prospecting" involved with this. By no means I am building these sets with the intention letting them appreciate and then selling. However - if one of these guys is the next Mike Trout, that would be awesome, and might help pay for my kids' tuition some day. Who knows. The point I'm making is, I'm more eager to collect the rookies than the vets, as those could really hold some value some day. For example, the 2013 set has rookie cards of Gerrit Cole, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. It also has Topps Rookie All-Star Gold Cup cards for Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. All short printed to 199. The Trout one is particularly valuable. 

I remembered collecting the 2013 set, and how I shelled out at least a dollar or two for every card. It was usually more than a few dollars, even the vets and no-name rookies. Alfredo Marte, Mike Kickham, Donald Lutz, Paco Rodrguez - any of these ring a bell? I probably paid $10 total for those four cards for the 2013 set. Multiply that across a 220 card set... that's a lot of money. Hence my decision to target just the rookies for the 2017 set.  Out of the 200 cards, only 44 are rookies. Much more doable!

I think setbuilders would agree that there's always that one elusive card. That was certainly the case for me - I have been sitting on 43 out of 44 cards for a year, almost to the day. I was able to gobble up a bunch of these quickly through COMC. But for damn reason, #59, Kyle Freeland, was no where to be found. Maybe there's a Kyle Freeland super-collector group that I don't know about. Nothing against him - he's put together an average-at-worst MLB career thus far - but not seeing his card surface for 365 straight days drove me bananas. 

Thanks to an eBay saved search, my heart skipped a beat when I finally laid eyes on the unicorn last week:

I was a little nervous because it was a .99 cent auction. But I set an alarm, dropped in with 30 seconds left in the auction, and dropped a max bid that was absurdly over market value. The card itself is probably worth a dollar or two, so the seller was probably pumped to get $6 for it. Paying 3-6x value isn't a habit of mine, but this card has quite literally become priceless to me.

Before checking out the cards, let's discuss the motivation behind the set:

Why Topps Chrome? It just happens to be my favorite release every year. I like that it's flagship but with a smaller checklist and a shiny finish.

Why 2017? *I'm going to sound like the dreaded card investor again for a minute* I really believe in this rookie class. Furthermore, I believe the timing is perfect. It seems that there is always a big lull in value somewhere between one to three years after a product release. The product launches, people pay crazy prices to jump all over the hot new rookies and the next Babe Ruth (whomever it might be that year), and then the price starts to slowly and steadily decline. Then, five or so years after the release, the players that actually pan out are getting into their late 20's, the prime years for a baseball player, and values jump again as they become perennial all-stars. 

Why Purple? This may surprise you a bit - but aside from orange (gross) and canary yellow, I don't think there's a worse color parallel for a baseball card. Give me red, blue, black, gold, pink, hell, even green - but purple usually looks silly unless it's a Rockies card. 

The draw for me is the short print to 299. The notion of knowing exactly how many copies of a card are in existence is such a fun concept to me. The purple #/299's are the highest short print that was offered in 2017, so I rolled with it. I looked into the blue #/150's, but they're a little too rich for my blood. What I'd really love is for standard refractors to be numbered #/500, or even #/1,000 and I'd go for those, but I don't make the rules.

Here's a look at the 44 card "complete set." Straight from my phone camera because I'm too lazy to scan them all:

And now let's talk about some highlights. When looking through each of the cards, I separated them into two different tiers:

Tier 1: Potential Hall of Famers:

#169 Aaron Judge
#79 Cody Bellinger
#9 Alex Bregman

Relax - I said potential Hall of Famers. I know it's early, but the tools are there.

Tier 2: Potential perennial All-Stars:

#47 Trey Mancini
#8 Dansby Swanson
#75 Yoan Moncada
#100 Benintendi

There's definitely room for debate here. Trey Mancini had a huge year last year, and flew largely under the radar because he plays in Baltimore. He was gearing up for another big year this year before being diagnosed with colon cancer in March. He recently finished chemotherapy and is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the 2021 season. God bless! If there's a lesson to be learned here - his cancer was discovered due to low iron levels found during a routine physicals. Get a damn physical!

Dansby Swanson, I think, has highest ceiling out of anyone in the group due to his offensive presence and gold-glove caliber defense. Moncada's ceiling is right there with him, but his strikeout problem is, well, a problem. After setting an MLB record for strikeouts in 2018, he progressed beautifully in 2019 and hit .315, before taking another step back in 2020. Next year will be very telling for him.

Speaking of regression, how about Benintendi's 2020? Sheesh. He was awful for 14 games and then ended up injured. He'll need to have a big year in 2021 to remain relevant, but the raw talent is there.

#158 Josh Bell
#189 Tyler Glasnow

Of course you can't stop by The Bucs Stop Here without some Bucs stopping here. Both of these cards probably belong in Tier 2. Glasnow is, in my opinion, the single most exciting young pitcher in the MLB. He's 6'8, built like a catapult, throws 100+ and has a curveball that falls off a cliff. Sadly, because he plays in Tampa, he's terribly under-appreciated. There is a handful of of former Pirates that I still collect. He and his teammate Austin Meadows are part of that handful.

Josh Bell is also in the regression category, having a pretty weak 2020 after an getting an All-Star nod in 2019. I could go on about his poor mechanics, lack of defensive ability and so on, but I'll spare you today. I'll hope he returns to form in 2021 and all will be right in the world.

There you have it. 44 cards, each with their own story. It was fun to build a set with my own rules - now I see why so many bloggers love Frankensets. I don't have any immediate plans for another parallel set, but I'll wager I get another one rolling soon. 

I had a blast building this set, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. 

Monday, September 28, 2020


The MLB regular season has concluded and the first ever 16-team playoff is about to get underway. At the start of the MLB restart, I posted the contest asking fellow bloggers to predict all 12 playoff teams. Then, within a week, the MLB announced the expanded playoff format with 16 teams and we had to do it all over again.

That was a rocky start, however we had 16 different contestants enter which was a terrific turnout. There was also a lot of fear that the MLB season wouldn't make it to completion, so the fact that we're at this point and ready for postseason baseball is a big win for all.

So, without further ado, let's see the results! 

(The picture below has all the picks, click to enlarge).

Congrats to Fuji at The Chronicles of Fuji for correctly picking a whopping 14 out of 16 playoff teams correctly!  Fuji - this is pretty damn impressive. Congratulations on the win, this will be headed your way:

I hope you end up with a Jasson Dominguez autograph! Please email me your address.

Some key takeaways from the contest:
  • The team that was incorrectly chosen most frequently was the Angels, who were selected by 15 of the 16 participants.
  • The team that made the playoffs but was chosen the least frequently was Toronto, who was selected by only 2 of 16 participants. 
  • The AL East was correctly predicted by 14 of 15 participants
  • Two contests chose the Pirates to make the playoffs which I appreciate but also makes me curious what year you think we're living in..?
Thanks to everyone for your participation. I had a ton of fun hosting this and I think I'd like do something similar to this again next season. Now let's sit back and enjoy the playoffs!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Busting a 2020 Topps Chrome Blaster

Yesterday I had to take my car in for service, and afterwords I was planning to grab some groceries. While I was waiting at the auto shop, I chugged down my morning coffee, while drinking a whole bottle of water. The coffee ran right through me and I was hit with the need for a restroom before grocery shopping. I was passing a Target, so I decided to pop in to use the facilities... and take a quick stroll down the card aisle. 

I live in a metropolitan area, and there are probably five or so Targets within 20 miles of me. All of them are almost always dry on retail products, although I've had some luck at this particular store before. Upon arriving in the card aisle, I was met with one of my collecting fears: It appears that the card aisle is being phased out. The amount of self space that was reserved for sports cards was smaller than usual. Pokemon cards and Magic the Gathering cards encroached on the left side. Toys crept in on the right side. 

I've read some rumors on hobby-Twitter that claim retail stores are going to stop stocking cards, primarily because the product is becoming more hassle than it's worth. Flippers clearing shelves, grown men acting like children, phony returns, etc. I'm not sure if there's any truth to these claims, but I will say, it does appear that my two go-to Targets are phasing out cards. The display spaces have shrunk in the past few weeks and have been replaced with non-sports cards and tchotchke toys. 

Depsite all of that bad news, I was very fortunate to find a Topps Chrome blaster yesterday. I swear - when you go to the store to specifically look for cards, you don't find them. If you pop in for a different reason and swing through the card aisle, you'll strike gold. I hope this isn't the last time I'll be able to buy baseball cards at a retail store like Target, but I fear it may be my going-away present. Time will tell.

On to the cards...

Here's a look at the base cards. I was pretty indifferent about the 2020 flagship design but I think it translates really well to chrome. Chrome does a good job of blurring the background and putting a singular focus on the player, and they look great in hand.

Dustin May definitely has some great hair. It kind of reminds me of Pennywise the clown... and that freaks me the hell out. His young career if off to a great start this year.

I pulled three refractors, one of which is a prism refractor. Happy to see two rookies here, which will be stashed away. Civale will have plenty of opportunity to prove himself as a solid starter - you have to think that the Clevinger trade shows some confidence in him to step up. 

A cool Bo Bichette rookie.

My guy! This is the only Pirate I pulled but I couldn't have asked for better. This card was on my wantlist, and I plan to target some of the parallels of this card for the PC. 

When I felt my finger fall into the gap of a die-cut, I was surprised. I didn't know that Chrome had any die-cuts in it this year. This is a pretty goofy and unneeded card in my opinion. 1950's wool jerseys don't exactly blend well with the modern "X" die cut design.

A nice pair of 1985 inserts. 

We finish up with the sepia refractors. You'll find a pack containing four of these cards in a blaster, making them retail-exclusive. I'm not crazy about sepia parallels. They're... fine, however I like the look of this year's sepia parallels over past years. In older releases, sepia cards were short printed, I believe to 75. 

There you have it! All around a very successful and fun break. Aside from ripping a few packs of Series 2 and a few packs of Bowman, it's been a slow year for ripping packs so this felt really good. 

Thanks for stopping by.