Saturday, January 19, 2019

#1 - Bryce Harper

What’s that Turtle doin’? This is a fairly dynamic card once you dive in to imaging a live baseball game. It appears Harper is on the run, just out of the batter's box, with his classy home alternate uniform billowing in the resulting breeze — this is not an admire-the-moon-shot card, this is a playing hard card, for a player well known for his style of play. Meanwhile he seems excited to see if the ball might clear the fence, or just drop in for a likely Double. His clearly seen line of vision leads the viewer up, and away, out into the outfield, wondering what is going to happen.

A nice image to kick off a set of baseball cards, and probably one of the more epic applications of Eye Black ever captured on cardboard. Overall with the red turtle-diamond matching the Nationals' red logo and the uniform and the batting helmet, an all-around class baseball card.

+ Bonus points for starting a set with a Topps Rookie Cup winner - something that had only ever happened once before, in 1994 for Mike Piazza. That worked out pretty good.

Uniform Hero? In 2013 Topps made a ... new decision, I'll leave it at that, with this set of baseball cards. Some cards would sync up with the player's uniform # - and a ruckus was born! Change! Run! No longer could the player's value over randomly replaced players be calculated by the baseball card collector, simply by checking the card # and how many big numbers it divided into evenly, with the 100 series reserved for the current biggest superstars of the game and a -50 card indicating a not too shabby player either, and so on with the cards divisible by 25, and even 10 as well, most years.

But on this card, we clearly have the old-school use of the Hero # for one of the previous season's Rookies-of-the-Year. Plus you can see his Uni #34 there quite clearly.

Where’d the egg hatch? Harper was the first overall pick by the Nationals in the 2010 draft and quickly reached The Show in 2012.

How about the migrations? Bryce has been a famous, productive Major Leaguer ever since, winning an MVP in 2015 and making the All-Star team every year, save for 2014 when he was injured early in the season. As I am writing this inaugural post, he is about to sign .... somewhere, so there will an edit to this sentence, sometime soon, I expect.

Don’t flip over real Turtles.

This is a nice, cleanly designed card back with just a single primary color, the matching 'team color' from the front, and includes a nice shading of the tint breaking up what would be a little more blah as just a single block of solid color. 

As they have since about 2006 or so, these card backs repeat design elements from the front of the card, including the Sea Turtle itself, though now with an at first seemingly extraneous triangle there down the third base line. However that small grey slice of graphic actually completes the arc across the entire card, just below the Player Name. More generally unnoticed are the faded-out lines of the team color in the bottom right corner, as on the front. 

In this set, the player's Position only appears on the back of the card, and without differentiating Left, Center, or Right for the Outfielders.

The Topps card back writer turned in a classic here on the back, too, using one of Harper's most famous quotes from his Rookie season, and some well selected stats about his age.

I guess by commenting on the card backs, this blog will be a little bit like writing a card back, but without any space constraints, just a general hope to avoid too much tl;dr posting.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit? 

CAREER CHASE: With 22 home runs, Harper is 740 away from Barry Bonds' all-time record of 762.

On every card back in the 2013 set, Topps worked in a bit of stat trivia revolving around the designated 'theme' of the set, which was a thing for these efforts in the early 10s. 2012's theme was "Gold" this that and another thing; 2013 was all about "The Chase," as in the way Topps expects us to chase their valuable baseball cards, and the way stats are chased in the game. One would think there could have been some good inserts built around famous Pennant Chases in baseball history, but that type of chase was forgotten.

As I write in January, 2019, Harper has 184 career Homers after his Age 26 season and is now 571 away from the real all-time record, in my never very humble opinion. 14 years of 40 Home Runs annually (a feat he has only accomplished once so far), until he is 40 years old, seems unlikely.

Subspecies? By 2013, the design used in the main Topps set for the year was also used in a variety of ways, such as in their other products Chrome and Opening Day, and occasionally in various other products and releases. And the now well known 'short prints' / 'photo variations' would also be inserted into packs on cards using the same design, -and- the same card #, but a different photo. In this section I will show off these cards, when I can, and where they vary from the regulation Topps set issue. I do plan to collect them, all of them, but that will be a very long-term project. Though I expect writing this blog might not hurt my chances of rounding up _all_ of the Sea Turtles, eventually, something I will explain a little more explicitly, shortly.

Harper's cards in Chrome and Opening Day repeat this image. The Chrome card has a photo variant that would require multiple 'S'es in front of the SP, existing in an edition possibly at /25 or as low as /10, across a 25 card checklist. They originally fell at about 2 such cards in 3 cases (of 12 boxes), making them difficult 'pulls.' Those cards rarely surface for sale and I can't say I expect to own any of those 25 cards for quite a long time, if ever. 

Back among the regular glossy Turtles, 2 far less scarce Short Prints exist. The first was issued in Series 1 as part of the 'Great Catch' photo variants which I have been making decent progress on over the years, with another in Series 2, of the 'Sunglasses' type.

This card also exists in the "NL Team" set Topps puts together annually for retail blister pack sales, with a National League logo stamped on the front, most years. All of those cards use the regular card image and I do not plan to collect, display, or further comment on those quite minor variations.

There is one further 2013 Bryce Harper card using this design, issued in a 5 card pack included with a complete Factory Set and sold in seemingly quite limited quantities, only at the All-Star Fan Fest:
Sadly, I think I will probably have to sell this card sometime this year, and I even plan to grade it first in hopes of increasing it's value (which is why I scanned it still inside a toploader). I am saving up for some medical expenses on the horizon and if a card in my collection goes over a certain value now, I know I would rather make progress on more important life goals than hold on to it. I do hope to replace the card with a beat-up version - if any exist in the fanatical card quality era of today - some day.

Bling That Shell I must confess that this blog will have a bit of a self-serving purpose as well - recruiting you, dear reader, into helping me complete a collecting project I have been working on since late in 2013 - an "All-Parallel" set of these cards. I still need a bit less than 100 /x numbered parallels of different types, and they circulate for sale a bit less and less with each passing year. 

I don't expect any trouble picking up needed parallels without serial #s; a large % of the set is for sale any given day on the Gold, Emerald, Wal-Mart Blue, & Target Red parallels. But ultimately I know I will have to really beat the bushes to find specific Series 2 Purples, /50 Pinks and especially the /230 Factory Set Orange parallels, and perhaps others. I think I know most of the possible ways to hunt for these cards online, but I often wonder how many of them might be locked up in a dealer's inventory, only exhibited once every few months or so, at the wonderful concept called the "Card Show," something I am never able to visit in the extremely rural areas where I work and live. Similarly, some of the cards I need are quite possibly sitting inside another wonderful construct called the "Local Card Shop." So eventually as the blog moves along, I will be pointing out where I can use a little help being on the look-out for certain cards. I would be more than happy to pay a small finder's fee in some sort of electronic dollars, or trying to help with whatever sets you might collect. There is a current list of what I need on the top left corner of the blog at all times, found at the link labelled "Parallel Project."

My most desired find is Platinum 1/1s from the Update Set, and also 1 Platinum from this list: 218 Ben Zobrist or 219 Josh Beckett or 220 Octavio Dotel or 222 Jason Heyward or 223 Yonder Alonso or 225 Will Venable or 226 Derek Lowe, all found on a difficult page to complete using the following set completion rules.

And finally, if anyone out there happens to need any 2013 S1/S2/Update parallels, I have a large amount of surplus parallels accumulated over the years. The Blue Sparkle parallels are actually /150, without a stamped #, and the Toys R Us Purple parallels can also be a little extra challenging to find.

The 'rules' of the set will be to place one parallel of each card on it's binder page of 9 cards, but using a given parallel color once per page. Since kicking off this effort I have refined my internal 'rules' some over the years, to increase the esthetics of the result. i will explain that in more detail once I finish the posts for the first 9 cards, and can show you what a completed page looks like.

For this card, I was glad to have a few options with cards pulled from my own regular retail purchases of 2013 Topps as it released and on into 2014 and even a little in 2015. Parallels of this card go for two figures, generally - more than my budget for most needed cards in the 990 card collecting effort.

So I was happy to pull both the Gold /2013 version of this, and this card
which is the 'Opening Day Purple' variety, only sold in blister packs at the now defunct Toys R Us chain. This card would be worth the time and effort to sell and ship individually, for sure, but I like the Red/Purple combo, and I like the idea of kicking off the All-Parallel set with the Opening Day logo, which I will be using occasionally in the set as it will help keep costs down quite a bit. We will see another Opening Day card after just a few more entries in the checklist.

Thank you for flipping your way through the baseball card seas with me here. If you ever detect an error in my musings in this blog, or can tell from a post that you have or know of a Sea Turtle designed card that I am unaware of, please let me know in the comments or via the contact button thingie just over to your left here. 

This blog will be published only in fits and starts, over the years to come, and it will take many years to complete. I work outdoors and away from home for much of the year, and generally camp on job-sites quite often. This is not a lifestyle very conducive to collecting baseball cards, and I certainly won't be bringing my All-Parallel collection out on the road with me.

But I know I will enjoy writing about my favorite set of baseball cards from the 2010s, and I hope you will enjoy these posts too.

P.S. A small Edit to add - a big thanks to Night Owl, from whom I obviously borrowed this Set Blog format. 

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