Category Archives: Jim Bunning

2014 Heritage Woes

2014 Heritage Green AutoI must give Topps some credit for knowing how to proactively kill anticipation for a new product. 2014 Heritage hit the hobby stores on Friday of last week, but as of last night, I still haven’t seen Heritage at any of the three Target locations closest to me. I’m wondering whether I should start a countdown of the number of days it took to reach retail outlets after the set was officially released. At least I have the three Phillies Real One Autographs from this year’s set in my hands — they’re the only cards from the set that I own thus far since I decided that I am going to compile my own team set as I simultaneously assemble a complete base set. At least, that was the plan. If that wait goes on much longer, I’m going to just give up and purchase complete base and team sets off of eBay. I don’t care if the lack of retail product is technically a distributor problem — I still hold Topps responsible.

I should also give Topps 2014 Heritage Bunning Stampdemerits for sheer-headed stubbornness. While I suppose I’m not surprised, I still couldn’t help but be disappointed when I saw the first 1965 U.S. Postage Stamp inserts appear on eBay. I adamantly refuse to look through the collection and count the number of times they’ve done so, but Topps once again used a photo of Jim Bunning from an incorrect era in a one of the Heritage insert sets. I know what’s really going on — it’s the same photo of Bunning they used in last year’s Now & Then insert set, and we all know how much Topps just loves using the same damn image ad nauseam. However, it would really be nice to see Topps just once use a picture that properly aligns with the year that they are attempting to honor.

I suppose it really is too much to ask Topps to pay any attention to this sort of detail.

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Panini a Boon for Phillies Autograph Collectors

Featured Cards: 2013 Panini America’s Pastime #256, Jonathan Pettibone; 2013 Panini Cooperstown Cooperstown Signatures #HOF-JIM, Jim Bunning; 2013 Select #215, Steven Lerud; 2013 Panini America’s National Pastime Pastime Signatures #MS, Mike Schmidt

I completely understand why other c2013 Panini AP Pettiboneollectors choose to stay away from the partially-licensed Panini and Leaf sets. Aside from the fact that all of us prefer to see the team logos and insignia, the efforts required to digitally remove both them and easily identifiable stadium/field structures from the cards result in a rather limited array of photograph types. In-action cards (other than ones taken mid-swing or mid-pitch) are nearly impossible, and the frequent decision to crop out the player’s hat from the photo gives the cards a somewhat odd look in the same way that capless photos do. It’s not their fault, but these issues means that Panini and Leaf sets just don’t look like proper baseball cards. In fact, until last year, I really didn’t feel much need to add any of them to my collection. Oh, a few trickled in, but there was no concerted effort on my part to add them.

2013 Cooperstown Signature BunningThat changed in 2013. Panini, in particular, started to release sets that showed that they were serious about designing good-looking sets that stayed within the restraints imposed upon them by MLB’s refusal to license its insignia and trademarks to anyone other than Topps. True, the cards still suffer from the flaws I previously enumerated, but they certainly look a lot better than the sets that Donruss and Leaf have issued over the past few years. Just as importantly, though, Panini has positioned itself as a major force in the autographed card arena. I would go so far as to say that if you’re refusing to collect Panini cards because of the lack of an MLB license, then you are missing out on some awesome Phillies autograph cards.

In my opinion, Panini issued two of the best Phillies autograph cards of 2013: the John Kruk & Carlos Ruiz dual-autograph card from Panini America’s Pastime and the surprise Tony Pérez card in Coooperstown Baseball. However it didn’t stop 2013 Select Lerudthere. They issued the first, and almost certainly only, Steven Lerud Phillies autograph card, a large number of Larry Bowa autograph cards (remember, he had only one prior to 2013), a large number of additional John Kruk autograph cards that all used different photos — something Topps needs to work much, much harder on — and a decent array of cards that didn’t use autograph stickers. Although, to be fair to Topps, Panini did make far more liberal use of stickers, and that should be held against them.

When I looked at the final counts of 2013 autograph cards I added to my collection, I was surprised to discover that I possessed only two fewer Panini cards than Topps cards. Actually, this is technically an undercount as I am awaiting delivery on two additional Panini autograph cards that will bring the two companies even. This is in spite of the fact that Panini issued roughly half the number of sets 2013 Panini AP PS Schmidtreleased by Topps. I’m also willing to bet that the amount I spent on the Panini autographs was significantly less than the amount I spent on the Topps autographs — though I didn’t keep any real records that would let me conclusively answer that question.

My point is that if you love collecting Phillies autograph cards, then you shouldn’t just dismiss the Panini sets just because they lack an MLB license. Yes, some of the sets are nowhere near as appealing as Topps issues, but in addition to some of the things I’ve already highlighted, without them I wouldn’t have the number of John Kruk, Carlos Ruiz, Larry Bowa, Cliff Lee, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton or Mike Schmidt that I currently own. Panini isn’t for everyone — and they certainly do need to engage in some better quality control — but I view their presence in the hobby as an absolute plus.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #32, Darin Ruf; 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini #29(b), Cole Hamels (photo variation); 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #189(b), Cliff Lee (photo variation); 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen #288, Jim Bunning; 2012 Topps Archives Fan Favorites Autographs #FFA-JKR, John Kruk; 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Autographs #GQA-JK, John Kruk; 2012 Topps Five Star Silver Signatures #FSSI-JK, John Kruk; 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Relics #GQR-MSC, Mike Schmidt (bat variant); 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen No-Hitters #NH-KM, Kevin Millwood

2013 Gypsy Queen Ruf FrontIn an off-handed way, I started reviewing this set when I posted about Topps’s Photoshop mishaps with the Ben Revere and Delmon Young cards. Although those were the first to Phillies from the set I owned, I actually acquired them at the beginning of my efforts to build a complete set — a separate endeavor from my collating a nearly complete master team set covering all the SPs, inserts, & basic parallels. Given how much I loved the 2011 & 2012 Gypsy Queen sets, seeing those two cards dampened by enthusiasm as I waited for my eBay purchases to filter in. Now that I have them all — or, at least, enough of them to feel comfortable in writing a full-fledged review — I can honestly state that the Revere and Young cards were an unfortunate harbinger of what I saw as a Phillies collector. But, before I continue talking about the set, I feel the need to recap a couple things Topps did with their 2011 and 2012 sets. In particular, the way they previous handled photo variations and the mini parallels.

While I understand the appeal of the minis2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini Hamels Var Front to a certain segment of the hobby and they certainly make sense in the context of the Allen & Ginter’s and Gypsy Queen products, I overwhelmingly prefer my cards standard-sized. In 2011, I was a little disappointed to discover that the photo variations were only available in the mini parallels. If it hadn’t been for those variations, I never would have bothered collecting a Phillies team set of them as well. However, in 2012, Topps decided to include photo variations in the primary set. Furthermore, these variations served as the SPs, thus making Gypsy Queen, from both the team collector and the set builder standpoints, a very attractive alternative to Allen & Ginter’s. True, the minis still had a couple exclusive variations, but the fact that most of them were available in standard-size as well made me far more forgiving to Topps for feeling compelled to assemble the mini team set as well. Despite my aversion to minis, I actually loved everything about the way Topps handled them, the SPs and the photo variations.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Lee Variant FrontFor this year’s Gypsy Queen set, unfortunately, Topps decided to take a step back and primarily relegate the photo variations to the minis and reintroduce non-variant SPs to the primary set. Worse, the SPs are scattered throughout rather than clustered together in the high numbers, as they are in the Heritage set. Even worse still, the few photo variations that they did include in the primary set are incredibly rare/expensive super short prints. Given the small number of Cliff Lee variants that have appeared on eBay thus far, I feel fortunate in acquiring one and being able to afford it. Finally, just to rub a little metaphorical wax stain to the whole endeavor, this year’s set contains the smallest number of Phillie photo variations to date. Quite frankly, I was disgusted by the whole change in approach by Topps, whom I felt had done a marvelous job with last year’s Gypsy Queen offering.

Then there was the glass-shatter moment. For those of you who don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, or don’t recall the specific episode of the show where the concept was introduced, the glass-shatter moment is when someone points out an irritating habit, heretofore unnoticed by you, exhibited by the person you love. Once it’s made obvious, 2013 Gypsy Queen Bunning Frontyou cannot help but be annoyed by this flaw every time you see it. This occurred when I read the following from the recent “Beauty and the Beast” post over at Night Owl Cards: “I still think the 2011s look very nice. But since then, GQ has overdone the border motif, increased the size of the border frame…” He’s absolutely right. While I disagree with him on most of his other criticisms of the set, once he pointed out the increased border size on the cards I couldn’t help but continually notice the meager amount of space allocated to the photo. Furthermore, as much as I loved last year’s set, at the time it came out I actually stated, “when you compare the 2012 set to other cards issued during the 19th century it certainly seems as if the border is just a little too ornate.” That problem is only worse in the 2013 set. Please keep in mind that I wanted to love the 2013 set, and it actually pains me to acknowledge all of its drawbacks.

I wish the pain would end there, but alas, that is not the case. I’ve grown to accept that in regards to retired players Topps doesn’t want to spend any more than necessary to acquire rights to photos it hasn’t used before, and that it will readily reuse a photo ad nauseum. But, is it too much to ask that they do a better job on rotating the photos they use on the autograph issues? I have four John Kruk autograph cards from 2012 & 2013, and three of them use the same photo.

2012 Topps Archives Auto Kruk Front 2013 Gypsy Queen Auto Kruk Front2012 Five Star Kruk Silver Auto Front

Come on, Topps, you issued a few dozen different Kruk cards featuring different photos during the first half of the ’90s. You certainly could recycle a few of those photos again.

Yet, while I am disappointed by many aspects of the set, there is still much to love. The number of Phillies relic and autograph cards, which includes Darin Ruf’s first fully-licensed autograph, is manageable in both number and2013 Gypsy Queen Relic Schmidt Front quantity, thus making it relatively painless to acquire them — with the notable exception of Mike Schmidt’s jersey and bat relic cards. Furthermore, Topps continued its tradition of using the primary set’s design for those cards, thus making them a rather attractive extension of the set itself, as well as using different photos for those cards (that is, different from the photo used in the primary set) — I really do wish Topps would do more of this with their other issues. In addition, while I certainly think the border takes up too much space, I like the intent of the design and find it nicely reminiscent of the 1909 Ramly (T204) issue. I don’t think the similarities in border colors are coincidental. Finally, Topps once again did a great job with the insert sets — in particlar, the Dealing Aces and No-Hitters sets — while ensuring that although the borders are different, there is no question what set they were packaged with (this would be true without the Gypsy Queen name sprawled across the front of the card).

2013 Gypsy Queen NH Millwood FrontSo, while I am not as happy with this year’s set as I was its two previous predecessors, I actually am hoping to see Gypsy Queen return next year. Although I sincerely doubt it will happen, nothing would please me more than to see Topps make an effort to produce a set similar to what I described a couple years ago: a variant of the original Gypsy Queen border in conjunction with sepia-tinged photos of players posed in early 20th century style uniforms. Yes, I understand that many of today’s teams don’t have a history that goes back that far, but many of those same teams have find away that issue with throwback uniform days. Topps could certainly figure something out as well.

1967 Philadelphia Phillies Team Picture Pack

1967 Team Issue Envelope1967 Phillies Picture Pack Bunning

Set Type: Primary
Card dimensions:
5” x 7”
Additional Information/14,000 Phillies Commentary: Photos are blank-backed, and neither Beckett, SCD’s 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, nor The Trading Card Database list this set. It is similar to the yearly Jay Publishing photo sets of 1958-1965 in that the photos are the same size and the set contains 12 photos. However, there are easily discernible differences: this set is printed on plain paper, rather than glossy; the team name as simply listed as “Phillies,” rather than listing “Philadelphia Phillies;” and the font on the front is similar to the 1958-1961 Jay Publishing issues rather than the ones used from 1962-1965. This makes the set incredibly similar to the 1958 Philadelphia Phillies Team Picture Pack.

This set literally became part of my collection just a couple hours ago. I was a little surprised when I received the set because the original eBay listing advertised it as 1966 set rather than a 1967 and mentioned only 10 photos. However, the seller most likely just didn’t thumb through the photos very carefully — the course surface of the paper causes the prints to stick together in a manner similar to that of new dollar bills. As for the confusion regarding the year, the inclusion of Ellsworth means that this set could only have been released in 1967. Interestingly, the Phillies sold Groat to the Giants on June 22 of that season, leaving open the possibility that this set was updated as the season progressed.

Finally, the reverse negative on the Bunning photo is just mind-blowing. I literally cannot imagine how that particular mistake got by the printer — the usual visual clues that help disguise a revered negative, such as team name not visible on the jersey or a symmetrical letter on the cap, just aren’t here. Somebody really wasn’t paying attention on this one.

[1]
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Dick Allen
Johnny Briggs
Jim Bunning (uncorrected error: photo reversed)
Johnny Callison
Clay Dalrymple
Dick Ellsworth
Tony González
Dick Groat
Larry Jackson
Cookie Rojas
Chris Short
Bill White

2013 Topps Heritage: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Heritage #16, Cliff Lee; 2013 Topps Heritage #72, Chase Utley; 1964 Topps Heritage #258, Michael Young; 1964 Topps #243, Dick Allen & John Herrnstein; 2013 Topps Heritage #243, Darin Ruf & Tyler Cloyd; 2013 Heritage Then & Now #TN-BV, Jim Bunning

2013 Topps Heritage Lee FrontI love the Heritage series, as well as most other series and inserts that replicate vintage designs. I’m sure it’s just an aspect of my particular brand of Asperger’s coming out, but the reason for this is that I really like to see players from different years and eras in cards sharing the same design. In that vein, always wished the Phillies would authorize/produce a set similar to the 1991 Crown/Coke Orioles or the 1990 Target Dodgers sets. I don’t think that will ever actually happen, so the closest experience I have to this is the 1989-1994 run of Tastykake/Medford Phillies Team Issue sets — although, the ’52 Rookies sets from a few years back and both last year’s and the upcoming Archives sets also fill this role nicely too.

For this reason, I look forward to each year’s Heritage release. And, like a demented Alzheimer’s patient, I eagerly anticipate the set, only to find myself disappointed by some aspect of the newest Heritage offering once I have my team set and various inserts and parallels in hand. Here are my key observations about this year’s set.

1. What Topps Got Right

2013 Heritage Utley FrontBefore getting into what I don’t like about the release. I want to give Topps kudos what for what they did do right. First and foremost, some of the posed shots (in particular, Cliff Lee’s, Chase Utley’s, Roy Halladay’s and Carlos Ruiz’s) look like they belong in the original 1964 set — even though they don’t actually mimic any of the pictures found in the Phillies cards that year. Topps doesn’t have to meticulously attempt to completely reproduce every aspect of the original set — they just have to show proper deference and reproduce the feel of it. Along those lines, Topps finally figured out that the registered trademark symbol, which didn’t appear on the 1964 release, doesn’t have to be obtrusively obvious and just needs to be large enough to be seen. This was a definite improvement over the way it was prominently displayed in last year’s Topps Archives 1977 Cloth Stickers inserts.

Then there’s the trivia questions on the back. I had to wait until I had a duplicate in hand before I would actually rub a nickle over the white box to get the answer (the very act of doing so feels like you are purposefully damaging the card, and I couldn’t bring myself to do that 2013 Heritage Young Backto a card that I was keeping in my collection), but Topps completely followed through with historical authenticity and made the process work. I also discovered that looking at the back under bright light and at the correct angle makes the answer temporarily legible as well. Failing that, you could also just track down the Venezuelan black back parallels — an incredibly awesome and justifiable parallel — which have the answer already revealed for you.

2. What Topps Got Wrong

Let’s start with the Darin Ruf/Tyler Cloyd Rookie Stars Phillies card. Thankfully, Topps’s long-standing effort to as best as possible maintain continuity regarding card number and team assignment across the Heritage offerings meant that we can line it up with a Rookie Stars Phillies bearing the same card number from the ’64 set:

2013 Heritage Ruf-Cloyd Front2013 Heritage Ruf-Cloyd Back1964 Topps Allen Herrnstein Front1964 Topps Allen-Herrnstein Back

This manages to somehow surpass Topps’s own long-established record of laziness. The wrong font sizes, incorrect color choice and refusal to get the title on the back of the card correct make their 2001 Archives reprint of the 1967 Dick Groat card look positively competent. Sadly, the Ruf/Cloyd card isn’t the only screw-up on Topps part. Given the lack of Phillies in this year’s various Heritage inserts, it was nice to see Bunning appear on a Then & Now insert. However,2013 Heritage Then & Now Bunning Topps clearly still hasn’t learned from the mistake it made with its 2003 All-Time Favorites card of Bunning — it replicated the error of using a photo from the wrong period. Really, Topps, is it really that hard to find a color picture of Bunning dating from the 1964-1967 timeframe?

Then there’s the full-color border variations and color swap cards. I understand that Topps feels as though they need to make special variations exclusive to certain retailers, but could they please just find a way to make the variations look like they might have actually occurred back in 1964? The red and blue borders make sense on the flagship Topps product — they make no sense whatsoever in the Heritage line. The color swap variations — which 2013 Heritage Red Halladay Frontkind of made sense in the 2012 Heritage, with its wide array of color combinations that varied even amongst players from the same team — are marginally less atrocious. Thankfully, Ryan Howard is the only Phillie with such a variation, and I will not be tracking that one down.

Finally, there’s the issue of the Real One Autographs. I suppose I should be thankful that there’s at least one Phillie this year (in a few different years, there have been none), but as I’ve previously stated, there were a plethora of Phillies from the 1964 squad who still haven’t appeared on an officially-issued autograph card. I’m just afraid that we’ll never see such a card for many of those players. Thankfully, the Topps’s Archives offering provides more opportunities for these players, but I’m really concerned that some of them will never actually appear on one.

2012-01-30 Phillie Filler of the Day

Featured Card: 2005 Donruss Signature Series HOF Quad Autograph #HOF-72, Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, & Steve Carlton

 

As of today, I officially became the owner of this little beauty. According to Beckett, only 38 were made. I do not believe that there’s another Phillies autograph card I would want more than this one. To my knowledge, there are no other cards bearing the signature of four different Phillies HOFers.

Topps’s History of Laziness, Part 2

Featured cards: 1967 Topps #560, Jim Bunning; 2010 Topps Cards Your Mother Threw Out #CMT74, Jim Bunning & 2003 Topps All-Time Favorites #143, Jim Bunning

I didn’t intend to take over a week to get to the second half of this post, but I succumbed to my own little bout of laziness while on vacation this week. The difference between me and Topps, however, is that I’m not charging anyone for the privilege of watching my laziness in action.

It’s been 10 years since Topps’s lackluster efforts when reprinting cards for its 2001 Archives set. In the interim, the technology and software for the scanning and digital restoration of pictures has improved greatly and become much cheaper. You’d think that would mean better results from Topps when reprinting older issues. Sadly, not as much as you would expect.

 

The card on the left is the original 1967 Jim Bunning card and the one on the right is the version that Topps recreated for its 2010 Cards Your Mother Threw Out insert set. Amazingly, despite the advances in scanning and digital restoration technology in the nine years since the 2001 Archives release, Topps is still recreating the card from scratch rather than attempting a proper restoration job after scanning the original. The fonts are much closer, but still not right; the bottom legs of the “L”s are too long and the spacing on the horizontal lines in the “E” isn’t quite right. Furthermore, Topps is still recropping the photo — look at how the jersey off of Bunning’s left arm is now touching the border in the reprint. But the fonts aren’t the biggest sin in the reprint: that easily has to be the lack of a framing black line on the border itself. Wasn’t anybody in quality control comparing the final version alongside the original? Maybe they were too busy making sure that the modern Topps logo (which didn’t debut until 1982 and looks completely out of place on this card) was placed on the reprint, even though no one else was legally making Major League cards last year.

To be fair, maintaining continuity has never been a major concern for Topps, and their 2010 reprint of Bunning’s original 1967 card wasn’t the first time they screwed up a 1967-style Bunning card. Here we see his 2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites card. Unlike the Archives series, which was reprints of older cards, Topps created new cards using previously unused photos from the Topps archives placed inside card designs used over the past 50 years. Given that these cards were being created from scratch, I’ll forgive the inconsistency in the fonts. Unfortunately, this particular card contains a glaring error in the marriage of card design and picture. It’s a great shot of Bunning — one Topps had never used before. However, Topps made the decision to use the photo in its 1967 design — which predated Bunning’s uniform by three years. The overall effect is just wrong. Realistically, Topps should have used its 1971 design for this particular photo, although the 1970 design would have been (borderline) acceptable given the Phillies starting using that uniform during that season.

It makes one wonder whether anyone at Topps actually gives any thought to any of these issues when they start mining their past. Since I only catch the errors on Phillies issues, I’m left to assume that they are repeated with the same (in)consistency across the issues of all the other teams.