Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Barry Larkin Collection 645: 2001 Fleer Legacy - #76

Barry Larkin
Year:  2001
Brand:  Fleer Legacy
Card number:  76

The Fleer Legacy brand is yet another "look alike" set the Fleer produced at the turn of the century.  For the life of me, I can't keep all of Fleer's various sets from that era straight.  Despite their similar appearances though, I have to admit that the few boxes of turn of the century Fleer stuff that I've opened have been a lot of fun.

There isn't a lot to say about the card design but it should be noted that the front design almost looks like a Pacific design (which is meant to be a compliment of sorts I guess).  The back of the card, however, has a horrendous design with text going in two directions plus a mutated, chopped up Reds logo appearing in pieces in the background of the card (plus that white box with a logo and sideways card number).  It's like Photoshop threw up baseball card elements and Fleer just hit "print."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018 Allen & Ginter: Retail vs. Hobby Breakdown (I Have the Math!)

During last summer, I purchased a total of four hobby boxes and five retail blasters of 2018 Topps Allen & Ginter.  As a mathematically minded person, I'm interested to see which purchase ended up being the better deal.  Luckily, I kept the statistics of what I pulled from each box and blaster - so let's take a look, shall we?

Heading into this little experiment, I assumed that hobby boxes would be the way to go in terms of total value.  I ended up buying four hobby boxes in total, here are the results:

Let's look at the base set first.

As you can hopefully make out from the screenshots of my Excel file, three of the four hobby boxes has 189 total cards while the fourth had only 188 cards in it.  In all cases, I didn't count the box loader as a card. 

From a set collector's standpoint, I need to mention that box 2 was a "hot box" which meant that none of the base cards were the normal cards.  Instead, they were all a shiny foil card - certainly nice but not what I want for my own set.  Based on the numbers, it seems like maybe the hot box cards are all seeded roughly equal instead of the final 50 cards being short printed as in the regular base set.  I didn't do particularly well with any of the super rare minis - only a single no number mini showed up and nothing rarer than that!

Moving on to the full-sized inserts:

The four boxes had remarkable consistency here.  Safe to say that you know exactly what you'll get in terms of the full-sized inserts in 2018 Allen & Ginter.  Moving along to the mini inserts.

Now here we see quite a bit of differences between boxes!  Only the Indigenous Heroes were represented with at least one card in each hobby box.  The rest were a true crap shoot!  Note that the Exotic Sports are retail only and so they don't show up here.

Finally, the hits! 

This is where I figured hobby would get the edge.  I ended up with a pair of autographs, a pair of framed relics, and rip card out of my four boxes (plus seven of the more boring "regular" relics).  That was a pretty nice haul if you ask me!

Now, let's take a look at the five retail blasters!

Again, we start with the base set.

This time, you can see that the blasters had a little bit more variation in terms of the total number of base cards inside (though all had exactly four short print base cards).  The reasons for the two blasters with only 26 base cards will be seen soon enough. 

For the full sized inserts, the blasters were also quite consistent though not as perfectly consistent as the hobby boxes.
The World's Greatest Beaches and the Baseball Equipment of the Ages flipped a bit between blasters in terms of which I ended up with two of versus only one of.  Otherwise, pretty standard stuff (plus that one Home Run Challenge card).

For the minis, things got even more varied:

I was super sad to have a blaster without one of the retail only Exotic Sports cards.  But, on the bright side I did find 2.6 minis per blaster on average as opposed to 4.75 mini inserts on average in each hobby box.

Finally, let's take a look at the hits in the retail blasters.

Surprisingly, I found a hit in three out of the five blasters (including a framed autograph).  Truth be told, I think I beat the odds but still, that's pretty cool.

So which is actually a better deal?

If you are going after the mini insert sets, I'd say retail is the way to go.  I averaged 2.6 minis per retail blaster as opposed to 4.75 minis per hobby box.  When you consider you can basically get 5 retail blasters for the same cost as a single hobby box, it's clear that retail is the way to go for mini cards (not to mention the retail only Exotic Sports minis).

If you are going after the hits, hobby definitely has the more valuable hits (rip cards, booklets, etc.) but I ended up doing fairly well with hits in retail.  In fact, if you consider 5 blasters as basically the same cost as a hobby box, I did end up with three hits (including an autograph) in my 5 blasters.  That said, I do think I beat the odds somewhat there so I'd give the edge to hobby.

In the end, I do think that hobby is still the way to go BUT I also think you take a risk with Topps putting out the "hot boxes."  It actually hurt my set collecting goals to have a full box full of "useless" foil parallels.  Sure, it was neat to open but unless you want to be crazy and put together the foil set, those end up being dead cards to a collector (and I didn't even pull the Larkin foil card)!  On the other hand, I did pull a rip card which basically paid for an entire hobby box (which tilts the value equation firmly in the direction of hobby).  Of course, as always, your luck may vary!

How about you?  How do you prefer to buy your cards?  In big hobby boxes or smaller retail blasters? 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Barry Larkin Collection 644: 2001 Fleer Authority - #26

Barry Larkin
Year:  2001
Brand:  Fleer Authority
Card number:  26

The 2001 Fleer Authority set is most interesting to me because it features not one, but two different Larkin relic cards.  There is a jersey card (of which Fleer said they made 1000 cards) and a retail only base card (of which Fleer said they made only 250).  In addition to the two relics, there is the regular base card that I have for this post as well as a Prominence parallel (numbered out of only 125).

I don't own any of the other three Larkin cards from this set (at least not yet) but I can take a look at the regular old base card which I do own.  The front is very much a Fleer design from the turn of the century (that's not necessarily good or bad, it's just how so many different Fleer sets ended up looking).  I would like to get rid of the big foil stamp on the front, if nothing else.  The card back, however, is quite terrible.  A pitiful amount of statistics, an incredibly dinky team logo, and way too large font for the player vitals makes for an ugly, disjointed card back.  Heck, even the card number is kind of tough to read.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Another Look at Blogging Numbers (Following Night Owl's Lead)

Consider this "Night Owl Weekend" on my blog.  Yesterday, I showed off a recent trade I completed with the venerable nocturnal bird and now for today's post I'm following up on a post that Greg wrote about a week or so ago on his blog (read it here).

I think if you ask anyone who has read baseball blogs for a decent amount of time, Greg's Night Owl Cards will consistently be a Top 3 "best of" blog for any reader.  Greg clearly spends a lot of time and energy on his blog, and it shows with well-crafted, interesting posts on a near daily basis.  Greg (I believe) works for a newspaper by trade, so it's clear he has the writing (and editing) chops to make a great blog happen.  However, he also is full of good and interesting ideas which make for good and interesting blog posts - perhaps none so interested (to me at least) as his recent entry on blogging itself.

In a nutshell, Greg wanted to somehow answer the question of whether or not baseball card blogging is dying.  It's easy to see lots of reasons why it might be dying (old blogs that no longer exist, Twitter, boring baseball card sets, etc.) but Greg went out of his way to look for proof of blogging's death.

So what did he find?  Well, he found that on his blog blogging maybe has never been better.  Or, perhaps more accurately in my mind, his blogging has never been better.  He basically went through and counted up all the comments on his blog for each year of its existence (seriously go read all his data) and found that in 2018 he had his highest ever interaction numbers on his blog.

That post got me thinking quite a bit.  For one, as a mathematician, I love numbers.  Two, while I definitely don't hold my blog in the same category as Greg's, I too have been at this blogging thing for many, many years (I began Nachos Grande back in 2008)!  

Now, I don't have the time (or energy) right now to go back through and count up all the comments over all the years on my blog.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have nowhere near the interaction numbers that Night Owl gets.  That said, I was curious so I did go back and count up the comments for last year on my blog.

My total?  

666 comments, or about 1.42 comments per post.  As I said, that's nowhere near Greg's 2018 average of 11.75 comments per post but it's still a higher number than I was expecting.

So, the next question is what to make of my data.  

As someone who likes to study trends and data, I came up with the following possibilities for my numbers:
  1. I have many, many posts that don't really require (or even encourage) comments from others.  Most notably, my ongoing Barry Larkin Collection series.  I've posted nearly 650 Larkin cards over the lifetime of this blog but I'd wager less than 10% of those ever get even a single comment on them.  I am aware that those aren't overly popular posts - but I'm also aware that there is a small group of people out there who like them!  That said, those posts are as much for me as they are for my readers - I like being able to see my entire collection (or at least a good chunk of it since I still have many, many more Larkin cards to scan and write about)!
  2. I post too often.  I try to post at least once per day (in 2018 I had a total of 468 posts and that was with missing a big chunk of days when my son was born)!  I do think having a consistent stream of posts contributes to some of the more interesting pieces getting pushed aside in the queue too quickly.
  3. I don't often make an effort to ask the audience questions nor do I generally take a hard-line, controversial stance to generate views/comments.  Some of my most commented on posts in 2018 were posts where I did ask the audience a question (such as my Is Blogging on Life Support post or my post asking about Surprise Mailings versus Agreed Upon Trades).
  4. I don't open a ton of new product.  Some of my "biggest" posts of 2018 (whether you judge that by comments or post views) are posts about the latest and greatest products (such as my post where I pulled a red ink auto out of a blaster of Topps Heritage).
In the end, I think each and every blogger needs to be comfortable with what they are doing for themselves.  By that, I mean that you can't compare your numbers to somebody else's numbers and then get upset about why your numbers aren't the same.  You also need to be true to who you are.  In my case, I'm a black-and-white numbers guy who is trying his best to write blog posts.  I can't be expected to reach the same writing heights that professional writers (or budding literary-minded college students) may reach.  On the other hand, if you want something analyzed and figured out mathematically, I'm your guy!

Finally, I thought it'd be a good idea to share how I rate my own success in terms of my blog.  Quite honestly, I had never considered the "daily comment average" idea prior to Night Owl's post.  For me, I judge success on blog trading.  Sending (and receiving) cards (and LEGO) in the mail is the lifeblood of my blog.  Without that, I'd quickly run out of things to say or things to keep my interest.  As a set completionist at heart, blogging has been instrumental in actually helping me finish sets that otherwise I'd never complete.  I get a happy heart when I slide that final card into its appropriate spot in the binder page - it's why posts like this one where I acquired my second-to-last original 1889 Allen & Ginter fish card are special to me (even if it didn't garner a ton of comments from my audience at large).

In summary:  

Be happy and do your own thing.  Support the bloggers you love.  But above all, only do what makes you happy.  The moment you turn blogging into a competition or into a job, it will cease to be fun.  Once the fun is gone, the blog will almost assuredly die within a short time period.  Instead, focus on what you enjoy and go with it.  It might mean fewer readers (or fewer comments) but if you makes you happy it's still worth it.  That's why you won't see me give up on my Barry Larkin Collection posts any time soon!  Heck, if you stick with blogging long enough you'll reach crazy numbers too - like in my case Nachos Grande has 1.3 million visitors and counting.  That's insane to me - a literal million plus visits to a blog written by a math nerd.  I appreciate each and every one of you, whether you comment, trade, or simply lurk here!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Trade Bait Blowout: Volume 02: The Returns Are Coming In - Night Owl Cards

If all goes well, you'll be seeing quite a few posts such as this one over the span of the next month or so.  That's because today I get to look at the second trade package to arrive as part of my Trade Bait Blowout that I held over my winter break.

Today's trade is courtesy of Greg over at the always wonderful Night Owl Cards.  Greg (not surprisingly) requested a bunch of my Dodger hits plus a Club 3000 card of Steve Carlton from turn of the century Fleer.

In return, Greg helped me inch closer to completing a few different sets including 2018 Allen & Ginter.  Believe it or not, despite buying four boxes (plus a number of blasters), I never did manage to even complete the full 350 card base set of A&G last year.  

I am at least one card closer to realizing that goal with the acquisition of this Jen-Ho Tseng rookie card.  It's always nice to get the first and last card of a set because I like to store my sets in 9-pocket pages in binders.  Having that "start" and "stop" card for a given set really does help to sort of frame the entire thing for me.  Now, I simply need to track down the remaining seven short prints that I'm still missing from the set (301, 306, 311, 316, 317, 320, 335).

Greg wasn't done there helping with my A&G wants - he also threw in a bunch of the Baseball Equipment inserts that I needed along with one more Fantasy Goldmine card that I was missing.  

Somehow, I'm still missing way too many of the full-sized inserts to even consider myself close to completing the sets...but it does feel good to at least inch a bit closer.  For those that are wondering, here's what I am still missing:
Baseball Equipment of the Ages:  BEA- 4, 9, 16, 26, 28, 30
Fantasy Goldmine:  FG- 1, 8, 14, 17, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30, 32, 36, 38, 43, 44
World Talent:  WT- 8, 15, 19, 20, 21, 29, 31, 33, 34, 40, 42, 43, 47
One of my blogging resolutions for 2019 is to whittle my entire want list down from the 134 sets on it currently to a number closer to 100 by the end of the year.  I have no idea if that's actually going to be doable (I have a feeling it will require me to give up collecting a number of sets) but honestly, trying to make over 100 sets is foolish so maybe it'll be for the better!  Of course, the best way for me to get to my goal is for me to get needed cards in the mail. *hint hint*

Moving on to the remaining cards from 2018 A&G - the minis!  Greg sent along a veritable hodgepodge of minis, all of which I needed for various sets that I'm working on.

Unfortunately for me, I'm also not even all that close to completing most of the mini sets from last year's A&G set.  However, this trade with Greg did give me some hope that I still have a chance to complete some of the mini sets yet.

I plan to give all the mini sets the love that they deserve in the future on the blog - perhaps each one will get its chance to shine when I am able to track down the final card that I need for each respective set.  

In addition to all the A&G goodies, Greg also went back in time to 2017 and sent me a few of the Wal-Mart only Topps Gallery cards.

For some reason, I really liked the Gallery set when it was released, despite the obvious stupid gimmick of it only being available at one retail store.  Like pretty much every other set featured in this post today, I'm still a ways away from finishing this one off as well (I still need 4, 5, 27, 33, 34, 50, 64, 66, 107, 115, 116, 118, 133, 135).  That said, the want list is only 14 cards now so there's a real chance I can finish this set before the end of the year.

Finally, one last set that Greg helped me out with - 2018 Panini Donruss.

I know that most people seemed to dislike this year's edition of Donruss (which I understand) but I have to admit that ripping a box of this stuff was simply fun.  It seemed like each pack had a neat insert or serially numbered card - plus there was a chance of pulling some pretty good names in both the relic and the autograph list.  

I want to give Greg one more "thank you" for all the great cards he sent my way.  And, as always, if anyone else would like to trade be sure to check out my want list and make me an offer!

PS:  I am still waiting on packages from six other people who claimed card(s) as part of my Trade Bait Blowout.  Once I receive my end of the deal, I'll mail out your cards (Greg's cards went out yesterday for example).  I also still have quite a bit of trade bait leftover - and I'm still willing to deal it since I haven't sorted it all back out yet (go here to see what I still have available).