Category Archives: José Contreras

The Parallel/Printing Plate Glut

Featured cards listed at end of post.

65,860. That’s approximately how many entries are in the version of the Phillies Baseball Card Database I posted last night. I am fairly certain it’s the largest Excel file I’ve ever worked with (my job requires me to work with large Excel files on a regular basis), but how many truly unique Phillies items are there really?

Well, if you filter out printing plates and parallels (not a perfect way to determine this, but it works nicely for my purposes here), the number drops drastically — to approximately 36,950. That’s still a lot, mind you, but it quickly demonstrates the extremely small possibility of someone actually putting together a comprehensive Phillies collection. What’s truly mind-numbing is that number also means that parallels and printing plates make up nearly half of the current content of the database. Worse still, that percentage is likely going to grow dramatically as I continue with the project and continue adding new material. For proof of this, look no further than the parallels from 2013 Topps:

2013 Topps Camo Contreras2013 Topps Em Green Aumont2013 Topps Factory Orange Rollins2013 Topps Gold Brown2013 Topps SS Blue Kendrick2013 Topps SS Contreras2013 Topps Target Lerud2013 Topps TRU Cloyd2013 Topps WM Cloyd

The worst part is that there are still a few additional parallels missing from this collage. For the 20 Phillies cards (not counting the gimmick variations) in the 2013 Topps set, there are 340 parallels and printing plates — and each of those cards and plates has its own entry in the database.

I first attempted to assemble a comprehensive, unabridged list of Phillies cards back during my teen years in the mid-to-late ’80s. I still have an original printout somewhere in a box of mementos — I’ll have to see if I can find it and post a scan of one of the pages in a future post — and if I recall correctly, I was able to print out the entire list in roughly 30 pages, at two columns a page, in a nicely-sized, easily legible font. After playing around with the newest version of the database, I determined that I could probably port a legible printout in roughly 260 pages — but that really is a best guess.

This is the primary reason why this project has taken so long. I’m convinced that without parallels and printing plates I’d likely be done this project by now. As it is, 2015 seems like a reasonable estimate as to when I’ll finally have it at the point where I’m only updating for new releases. In the meantime, every time I see Topps announce yet another new parallel, I will be muttering curses under my breath.

Featured 2013 Topps Parallel Cards: Desert Camouflage #152, José Contreras; Emerald Green #646, Phillippe Aumont; Factory Orange #206, Jimmy Rollins; Gold #625, Domonic Brown; Silver Slate Blue Sparkle Wrapper Redemption #71, Kyle Kendrick; Silver Slate Wrapper Redemption #152, José Contreras; Target Red Border #424, Steven Lerud; Topps Toys “R” Us Purple Border #424, Tyler Cloyd; Walmart Blue Border #424, Tyler Cloyd

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2012 Topps, its Inserts and the 2012 Topps Phillies Team Set

Featured Cards: 2012 Topps #634, José Contreras; 2012 Topps 1987 Minis #TM-59, Cliff Lee; 2012 Topps #353, John Mayberry, Jr.; 2012 Topps Phillies Team Set #PHI7, John Mayberry, Jr.; 2012 Topps #345, Jonathan Papelbon; 2012 Topps Phillies Team Set #PHI17, Citizens Bank Park

Over the past few days, I’ve been posting checklists for the Series Two 2012 Topps insert sets. Sadly, Topps doesn’t seem to know when to stop with the inserts, and even though I have already posted 13 new checklists for 2012 Topps, I am still far from finished. Scarily, when including the Series One inserts, I currently count 26 insert set checklists posted for the product. I refuse to look at the rough edits for the lists I haven’t posted yet, but I think that it will be roughly 35 inserts when I have completed all the work caused by Series Two. Even more frightening: there are insert sets in which no Phillies appear. I don’t want to make the calculation, but it would not surprise me at all to find out that the total number of cards (not counting parallels) comprising the insert sets actually exceeds the number of cards in the actual Topps base set. That’s hard to do when the base set is 661 cards (not counting variations). That is just wrong.

But, I digress.

Unfortunately, due to the two-series nature of the Topps flagship brand, a couple of the checklists — in particular, the base set and the 1987 Minis — are actually edited. While making the necessary additions, I also included some updates in the Additional Information section and, in the case of the 2012 Topps base set, added a “14,000 Phillies Commentary” section. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that in WordPress you just cannot update the publication date for a post. If you do so, all the links you have to the original version of the post become invalid. So, rather than updating and correcting an obscene number of links, just to publish new versions of those checklists, here are the direct links to them:

But before I resume with the insert checklists, I have some choice words about Series Two Topps and its relationship with this year’s Topps Phillies Team Set. Starting with their first Phillies Team Set blister pack back in 2006, Topps has consistently included at least one card with a photo that differed from the photo used in the regular Topps set. There are a number of reasons for liking this, one of the most important of these is that it helps to justify that cost of buying a team set in which the majority of the cards are identical to what you get in the regular Topps set. This year, for the first time ever, this is not the case. Instead, we just get two players, John Mayberry Jr. and Kyle Kendrick, with photos that are just slightly recropped.

(The Series Two Topps version is on the left and the Topps Phillies Team Set version is on the right. The Kendrick cards are fairly similar in the way Topps cropped the photo only slightly differently between the two cards.)

I’m sorry, but this doesn’t cut it — especially since Topps has a long-established, unbroken record (until now) of including at least a few cards with photos differing from the card in the base set. I found this infuriating, and it undid all the warm, fuzzy feelings that Topps engendered with this year’s Archives offering. There are a lot of things that I grudgingly tolerate — Bowman prospect inserts that aren’t really rookie cards, the same photo getting used a half-dozen times across various brands and insert sets, the ridiculous number of parallels, Tier One, & Triple Threads… just to name a few — but I find it downright insulting when Topps decides to leave a huge steaming crap over an established product that takes so little effort to properly manage. The insult becomes even greater when you take a look at Jonathan Papelbon’s card: the Photoshop job on that is just horrible. While acceptable for the Phillies Team Set, Topps had more than sufficient time to get a photo of him in a real Phillies uniform for Series Two. As for Thome, you know that Topps has laying around their offices dozens of photos from his first stint with the Phillies  — almost all of them unused since 2005. Creating a Series Two card that differed from the Phillies Team Set card was an easily-accomplished no-brainer. However, Topps just couldn’t be bothered — after all, they had Blank Back parallels they just had to make for selling on eBay.

And, no, the Citizens Bank Park card that was unique to the Phillies Team Set does nothing to help justify the cost of buying the set. At least with Topps Chrome and Opening Day, Topps has made some minor alteration to the basic appearance to every card. But this isn’t the case with the Phillies Team Set, thus making the set almost entirely superfluous. In fact, I will unequivocally state that thanks to Series Two Topps, the Phillies Team Set is a waste of your money. If you haven’t already bought it, don’t.

Topps is now in the third year of a MLB-supported monopoly, and they haven’t done anything to justify why they should have one. Unfortunately, I know the only way real change is going to happen is if I (and a large enough percentage of collectors similar to myself) quite the habit hobby and write letters to MLB and Topps explaining why. Even then, I doubt it will do that much good — after all, despite the amount of money I spend, I’m not the type of collector they care about. It’s almost as if they want to destroy the lower end of the hobby, just because its too much effort for them to really cater to us.

I sincerely hope that Topps won’t repeat this mistake when issuing its 2013 team set blister packs. Sadly, I have no confidence that will actually happen.