Monthly Archives: June 2010

The 1988 Project – Day One

And so begins one of the new regular columns in this spot. The concept, as I mentioned earlier today, is to acquire every late 80s/early 90s traded/rookies set and post them. I’m beginning in 1988. Why 1988? Because it marks the beginning of my collecting.

Back in those days you didn’t have a whole lot of baseball to watch if you had basic cable; generally we got a handful of Orioles games a year and could watch the Braves or Cubs daily. The Braves were pretty awful, so as a neighborhood, we gravitated to the Cubs. This is where collecting comes in.

August, 1988, as I recall, and I had been pretty disdainful of my friends collecting cards up to that point. Until someone gave me a Cubs Team Leaders Topps card for free. Something clicked. At the time, in our town, Topps was pretty much it, so I started picking them up at the mini mart.

But now let’s think about this. It’s 1988. You’re 12. Your budding baseball consciousness really only revolves around one team. Who is the player you want the most out of any 1988 set, and are denied over and over again (if you’re limited to Topps)?

Mark Grace.

And that’s why he’s the first pick for the 1988 project; which is funny, considering I’m not even that big a fan of the guy these days.

But let’s do this chronologically. My first ever Mark Grace card…is this one. Literally this one. I didn’t have to rebuy it in some fit of nostalgia or feeding my inner child.

1988 Topps Traded

I was insanely jealous of my friend who had the 1988 Topps Traded set. There was nothing I liked more than rookie cards, and it was FULL of Olympic athletes that I just knew would go on to be huge stars. I needed it. And so I put together a package that he could not refuse for it. I’m sure I got completely ripped off, but I was thinking at the time of future value, which helped me justify it. Shows I was a bit of a businessman from the beginning, I guess. I have held on to that set til this day, and this Grace comes from that set. Unfortunately, getting that set with players that had insane futures meant I wasn’t as interested in Grace (and had moved on from him at that point anyway), so this card never really made an impression on me. I’m guessing that’s because it’s not a very good card. Even grading for the 1988 Topps angle (let’s face it, the photography in that set is just…yeah. Abysmal), it’s a dud. Who looked at a picture of him and said “Yeah, let’s take the one where his eyes are closed”? Geez. Nostalgic, yes. Good, no.

Moving on…

1988 Fleer Update

How friggin hot was Mark Grace in 1988? Two sets that had already published cards of him created a second one. Grace appeared in the 1988 Fleer set, sharing a card, and yet got his own Fleer Update card. I don’t know if that was standard procedure back then, but it’s interesting, at least. I’m fairly sure this was the second Grace card I bought, as I found a sealed Fleer Update set in an Eckerd and bought it without hesitation. While this card is also subpar, I have to note that I was a Fleer fanboy up until Upper Deck. The 1987 Fleer design evokes a pleasant longing for what seemed like simpler times…and as cheesball as 1988 Fleer is to a mature eye, that design was AWESOME for a 12-year-old boy in 1988. It was my favorite of the year, and is why I still have both Fleer sets from that year.

1988 Donruss the Rookies

Third card I got. I vividly remember buying this set at an antiques mall in early 1989. The proprietor was a real ass, and I’m sure this was overpriced, but I didn’t care. Rookies, rookies, rookies! They’re why this set became the first set I would purchase every year after this. And hey, that Grace card is actually pretty damn nice despite the hideous borders; as a former first baseman, I love that photo, and I loved it back then, too.

1988 Score Rookies and Traded

And finally, the white whale. In 1988, I scoffed at Score. I thought the design was godawful, the card stock cheap (still think that about the 88 set), and the overall package just cheesy. I figured it would be like sportflics. I actually get the impression that this was the case with a lot of people in 1988, hence some of the limited nature of this set. What this means is that I saw this set in a coin shop back in 1988 and never bought it, because who the hell wanted Score? Wellllll…when I became a Roberto Alomar collector, I learned about the card in this set (this was 1989), and then saw how much it was worth in Beckett. My heart sank. Here was a traded set, something cheap and inexpensive, that had shot up almost immediately. It wasn’t fair.

I absolutely refused to pay what people wanted for the set, despite wanting it badly for years. Even when I got back into collecting in 2003, I resisted, despite going back and paying more for some other sets I wanted. It was a matter of principle, really.

So a few weeks ago, having gotten savvy at finding bargains on eBay, I thought I’d apply my new skills to this set. And I did it – I found the set for 12 bucks. Pretty close to what I would’ve paid back then. Allowing for inflation, I was happy. And so we come to the Grace card. Like I said, I still think the card design is goofy as hell, but appreciating now what Score was bringing to the table, this card comes alive for me. I mean, it’s a great photograph. Heads above what the other series, even Donruss, was offering.

And a word about the entire Score set. I found it fascinating how when I looked through the set, I found that the 1988 season came alive to me in a way that it had never lived before. I realized that 1988 and prior had always had a certain “set” feel to them thanks to the more staid photography (and photography is my #1 reason for liking these cards). Suddenly these more static images became dynamic, with better lighting. It was like 1989 forward, only for 1988. I mean, just look at them. It’s almost apples and oranges. So good job, Score. Pretty awesome what you brought to the table.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a Yankee.

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This Card

Ignore the 1.00 tag. That came from somewhere else.

But there’s a story behind this card. It was winter of 2003/2004, and my now ex-wife had just had serious surgery, leaving her essentially homebound while I ran all the errands. I popped into a K-Mart to pick up a few requests for her and, on a lark, picked up one of those repack boxes, thinking it’d just be fun to see what I might get. Unable to contain myself, I sat in my car in the parking lot and ┬áripped the entire box in one go.

Now, keep in mind I was completely ignorant to the concept of inserted game-used materials and autographs, so when I pulled this from a pack I was initially intrigued, and then hooked. This is what they were doing now? Amazing. I had to get more cards. It was the beginning of a renaissance for me, one that led eventually to establishing this blog.

I recently sold this card off as I’m trying to establish a solid eBay presence, but I held onto the scan because of what it represents to me. It’s nice to take a look at it every now and then and remember.

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Oh one more thing…

I never lost touch with the sports card blogging community…I continued to follow even when I wasn’t updating, and you guys are one of the most awesome communities on the Net. Just wanted to say that.

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I’m Back

Yes, it’s been awhile, but NatsTown never really left my mind. I originally left because the price of acquiring new cards was getting to be a burden, especially with being in some bad financial straits at the time. Thankfully, my situation is improving by the month, and I’ve shifted my collecting focus a bit (I’ll never be able to afford to cover Strasburg or Harper even if I wanted to, for example, so why try?). As such, I think it’s time to relaunch NatsTown with a new focus. Yes, I’ll still be talking about Nationals and Expos cards, but I will also be focusing on some new content to reflect my changed collecting ways.

Starting with this guy.

John Olerud

Sorry, pic not mine...haven't had time to scan.

I started collecting John Olerud in his rookie season, 1990, a time when I was knee-deep into prospecting. Olerud was my mainstay, though, as something about his story was compelling: a former two-way star who had fallen victim to an aneurysm and nearly died, only to come roaring back and jump straight to the majors from college. Something about it spoke to me, and I started picking up his rookie cards in mass quantities. I traded for/bought every Olerud card I could get from 1990 to 1995, when I stopped collecting the first time.

Even when I came back this last time, I didn’t go back to the collection. I just had this sad little binder full of his 90s cards that had followed me from Bridgewater, Virginia to Blacksburg, Virginia to South Africa and Alexandria, Fairfax, and Haymarket Virginia, then on to Gaithersburg and Bethesda, Maryland. That binder has been with me for 20 years now, and I held on to it when I got rid of almost every other collection. So I recently decided to look through it again and got the bug to finish the collection to the best of my ability. Since then, I’ve been picking up his cards here and there, and will be featuring my favorites from my collection over time on this site, starting with nostalgic favorites and working my way up.

Speaking of nostalgia…

Once a holy grail.

Rookie and Traded sets were my bread and butter the first time around in my collecting life. There was something about them that also captured my imagination. My guess is it was seeing these designs that I was so inured to from the year with all new photographs and players. And the rookies. Especially the rookies. Not to mention you could buy those little sets for a reasonable price compared to the larger sets, and for a poor kid, that was a huge plus. Not to mention Topps Traded used a much higher quality card stock, and Topps card stock drove me nuts as a kid.

So I’ve been going back and completing some wishlists of late. Finally found a reasonably-priced 1988 Scored Traded set, and my collection of 1988 traded sets is basically complete, save for Donruss Baseball’s Best, which is next on my list. I’m currently sorting and collating to look at the players from that year and their cards from the different sets. I’ll be bringing that feature here, as well as going backwards and forwards in time (currently working on the 1989 sets).

Of course, I’ll also be hitting the highlights of Nationals and Expos cards, though I really have discovered that I’m more about the nostalgic factor of baseball cards. Being a child of the junk wax era, that’s a damned good thing, because it makes things cheap.

Anyway, expect to see more in this space very soon. I’m excited again!

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