Friday, June 14, 2019

2019 Topps Tier One Baseball | Checklist, Autographs, Box Break, Review

Topps takes collectors on a dice roll with the release of 2019 Topps Tier One Baseball. Each box packs a guaranteed two autographs and one relic card, making the $120 price tag on this product a high-risk bet for collectors in search of a glorious return.

2019 Topps Tier One Baseball Box / Topps

2019 Topps Tier One Autographs

The rush of two guaranteed autographs in each 2019 Topps Tier One Baseball box will draw those looking for the immediate high of seeing multiple signatures flash right before their eyes. The impressive list of on-card Tier One signers includes Deion Sanders, Hank Aaron, Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani. These have lower numbered parallel versions (Bronze #/25, Silver #/10, Gold 1/1).

The Break Out autographs set is the most plentiful series in 2019 Topps Tier One Baseball. The subset (#/299 or less) features Major League Baseball's up and coming talents. Eloy Jimenez, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Juan Soto comprise some of the young stars that 2019 Topps Tier One Baseball features in their set.

2019 Topps Tier One Autographs / Topps
Topps looks to satisfy the high-end market with the inclusion of Clear One acetate autographs. These unique inserts and their dual-autographed counterparts are limited to quantities of 10 or less.

Click here for the entire checklist of 2019 Topps Tier One baseball autographs and relics.

2019 Topps Tier One Box Break Video

The box provided for this review yielded a bonus autograph, drawing four cards in total (three autographs and a relic). The Break Out autographs comprised two-thirds of this box — Miles Mikolas and Rowdy Tellez (#/250). The third bonus signature was an Eric Thames Prime Performers autograph (#/299). The lone relic card was of Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber (#/375).



2019 Topps Tier One Final Take

Most collectors would be excited to score a third autograph from a 2019 Topps Tier One Baseball box, as $120 is a heavy proposition for a scant few cards. While the obvious attraction is the on-card autographs, collectors will take a long pause before opening their wallets on a product that is going to have to hit a home run to deliver on its price tag.




Tuesday, May 21, 2019

2019 Bowman Baseball | Checklist, Autographs, Chrome Prospects, Review, and Box Break

Wander Franco. His 2019 Bowman baseball card has quickly become the face of this year’s product, with the 18-year-old Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect dominating the collecting realms of social media. As his chrome autographs and serial numbered parallels continue to pop up in collector’s feeds, 2019 Bowman Baseball has taken flight largely on the back of this prized phenom.

2019 Bowman Baseball Base Set, Prospect, and Chrome Checklist


The 2019 Bowman Baseball base set is limited to 100 cards. The base set consists mostly of established stars and veterans with a few choice rookies mixed in. The box provided for this review yielded a complete base set. Set collectors who are looking for a challenge, card there is a Bryce Harper SP variation for card number three (Joey Wendle).

2019 Bowman Wander Franco Chrome and Base Prospects / Topps

Both the prospect and chrome sets contain 150 cards each, highlighted by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Joey Bart, and the aforementioned Franco. Demand for these chrome rookies have been high, especially for the lower numbered Green (/99), Gold (/50), Orange Border (/25), Red Border (/5), and Platinum (1/1) parallels.


2019 Bowman Parallels / Topps

Click here for the complete 2019 Bowman Baseball checklist.

2019 Bowman Inserts


Bowman honors the 30th anniversary of their 1989 landmark set with stars and prospects molded in its classic design, this time fit to standard size proportions with a glossy finish. Collectors will also find familiarity a few of the insert sets that make a return in 2019 —Bowman Scouts Top 100, Talent Pipeline, and Rookie of the Year Favorites.

2019 Bowman Inserts / Topps

Collectors will enjoy the horizontally oriented Ready for the Show inserts, which feature 20 of the top MLB-ready prospects. This set comes in a myriad of serial numbered parallels, further increasing their desirability with collectors.

2019 Bowman Inserts / Topps

2019 Bowman Autographs


The prized possession for those going deep with 2019 Bowman Baseball are the Chrome Prospect Autographs. Collectors anticipate 2019 Bowman’s release; eagerly waiting for the opportunity to secure the debut autograph of the next player they think will make a profound mark on the game. The limited edition serial numbered colored autograph parallels are sure to keep fans coming back to this product as different prospects take off throughout the season.

Other autograph cards include signed versions of the Scouts Top 100, Rookie of the Year Favorites, and Sterling insert sets. The box provided for this review contained a Ryan McKenna autographed Atomic Refractor Chrome Prospect card #/100.

2019 Bowman Chrome Prospects Atomic Refractor Ryan McKenna Autograph / Topps

2019 Bowman Box Break Video and Final Take




Collectors will keep coming back 2019 Bowman Baseball to this set to find players they either overlooked, or want to ride to the top as the baseball season goes deep into the summer. Whether it is Wander Franco, Joey Bart, or a less heralded prospect that emerges as the king from this set, 2019 Bowman Baseball reminds us that infinite hope that new prospects provide drives the engines of baseball fans throughout a long season.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Cholly Naranjo Interview

Starting as a 17-year-old in 1952 with the Washington Senators organization, Gonzalo “Cholly” Naranjo has ties to a unique baseball world from his ten-year career in both the United States and Cuba. The Cuban-born former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher recently appeared on the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss the Trump administration canceling the deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation, his first meeting with Roberto Clemente, and a host of other wonderful tales from his baseball journey between Cuba and the United States.

Cholly Naranjo / 1956 Hollywood Stars

President Trump's decision to end MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation's relationship

In April 2019, President Donald Trump ended a four-month-old agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation that allowed Major League teams to sign Cuban players for a 25% fee over their signing bonus to the Federation, as well as paying their Cuban income taxes. In his 85 years, Naranjo has lived through a variety of regimes in Cuba, as he was one of the few ex-Major League players who stayed in Cuba after the laws changed for professional baseball players in 1961. Naranjo returned to the United States full time in 1995 and feels this decision is a repeat version of an old tale.



“You don’t pick where you’re born,” Naranjo said. “You come out wherever you come out, and you’ve gotta go through the rules in the place where you live. You come to the United States, you’ve gotta go by the rules. We come [here] to play baseball, and we don’t pick where we’re born. What can you do?

“Now all of that is kind of juggling between baseball and the places where you live. All we wanted to do is play baseball and make a living. It happened before with us. We had that in 1961. The guys who couldn’t accomplish making the big leagues came back to their home. It’s a new copy of what baseball in Cuba is going through with the ballplayers. You’ve gotta face it because you cannot do anything with the laws of the country.”

Cholly Naranjo's favorite Almendares teammate

Naranjo built his chops playing for Almendares of the famed Cuban Winter League from 1952-1961, serving as a mainstay of their pitching staff for a decade. When asked to choose his favorite teammate, he went out of his way to recognize Willy Miranda. Regarded by many as the premier defensive shortstop of the 1950s, Naranjo told how even Miranda could poke fun at his own light hitting abilities.

“I was right beside Willy Miranda for 10 years and Willy was an outstanding guy,” Naranjo said. “He knew more about baseball than you could ever believe. … He came up one time to hit against Vinegar Bend Mizell with three men on. Dick Rand was the catcher. He turned to Dick and said, ‘Do you want to see a home run with the bases loaded?’ [Rand] said, ‘Are you going to hit it?’ He said, ‘No, the guy that’s coming after me [will hit it].’ That’s what kind of guy he was.

“He was incredible. Paul Richards said a lot about that. He could get rid of the ball faster than anybody he’d ever seen. He could make that play in the hole out on the left field grass and throw you out.”

Naranjo's toughest foes in the Cuban Winter League

On the mound, Naranjo battled established veterans during his Cuban League tenure, even drawing Branch Rickey’s attention for how he improved his curveball in the winter league. Surprisingly, when Naranjo recalled the batters who gave him fits, he pointed to two rookies whom he just could not get out.

“Jose Tartabull and Sandy Valdespino, they could read me like they owned me,” he said. “Everybody was a tough hitter for me. Those two guys, they were rookies. The rest, were day in, day out.”

Cholly's most cherished Roberto Clemente memory

Naranjo eventually reached the majors in 1956 with the Pittsburgh Pirates after narrowly missing the Washington Senators Opening Day roster in 1954. His time in Pittsburgh opened the door for a relationship with Roberto Clemente, a topic Naranjo frequently encounters. He revealed how they built their kinship before they were teammates during a chance February 1954 meeting in Puerto Rico.

“The story about Roberto [was] in 1954,” he said. “We won the pennant in Havana. The year before, I was in Chattanooga and I went to Havana. Manuel Maldonado (Denis), the Puerto Rican pitcher who beat me in Mexico in the Amateur World Series in 1949, he went to Chattanooga when I went to Havana. He was going out with the same girl I was going out with. I came back home after the season ... we won the pennant and we flew out to Puerto Rico because the Caribbean Series was in San Juan.

“He [Maldonado] came up to the hotel and he was going to the University of San Juan. He came to see me as a friend. He said, ‘Come on, I’m going to take you to the university, and I’m going to introduce you to a guy who is going to be a hell of a ballplayer.’ You know who it was, Roberto Clemente. He was sitting in the track and field stands by himself. Branch Rickey just signed him and gave him a $15,000 bonus. Rickey was the general manager of the Dodgers. He sent him to Montreal. He told the Montreal manager not to play him. When he went to Havana, the fans in Havana knew a lot of baseball. They were calling the manager a “racista” because he didn’t play Roberto. They didn’t know that Rickey told him not to play because he didn’t want the scouts to see Roberto [so] they could get him in the draft. He already knew that he had the job with the Pirates and got Roberto for $5,000 in the winter meetings of the draft.”




During our 40-minute talk, Naranjo shared just a sliver of his baseball treasures that spanned his 85 years of playing and observing the game. He was especially proud that both his mind and body were clear enough to lead an active lifestyle.

“I’ve got my health at my age,” he said. “I got this far, and I’m better than when I was playing ball. Can you believe that? Sometimes I think, well, give me the ball; I’m going to get somebody out.

“It makes me feel well that I can be a normal person and do all the things necessary to live in the United States and travel. … To me, it’s like a prize that I have proven that it can happen to anybody. ... I’ve lived over there and over here, and I’m clean in both of them. I have lived long enough to show everybody what is what. I feel proud of that inside. … I say Cholly, how old are you? Well, I’ve got more miles than Pan American Airlines!"

Saturday, April 27, 2019

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball | Checklist, Autographs, Box Break, and Review

Collectors in search of new fortunes will find their desires fulfilled inside in a box of 2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball. Armed with an upgraded design and quality artwork, Topps has made the necessary adjustments for 2019 Gypsy Queen to compete for attention among their vast release schedule.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Base Set, Parallels, and Checklist

This year’s base design features a framed border that puts the players in clearer focus and a colored nameplate for easier viewing. The 320-card set contains 300 base cards and 20 short prints. While the base set is a bit thin on the hot rookies, the 20 short prints highlight retired players including Hall of Famers Tommy Lasorda, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hank Aaron.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Base Set / Topps

 The base set has a variety of colored parallels, as well as missing nameplate and GQ logo swap versions. The Jackie Robinson Day and Player’s Weekend variations will also keep collectors eyes glued to the card fronts, as these rare nuances are tough to spot at first glance.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Parallels / Topps

Click here for the entire checklist.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Inserts

One advantage that 2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball has over other Topps releases is the simplicity of their insert sets. There are two basic insert sets— Tarot of the Diamond, and Fortune Teller minis. With only two inserts sets to track down, the ease of completing a master set will be an attractive feature for many collectors.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Inserts / Topps

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Autographs and Relics

Topps lures in collectors with the promise of two on-card autographs in each box. It is an effective hook, as the blue autographs pop against the Gypsy Queen background, making these signed cards in demand throughout the season. The traditional Gypsy Queen autograph set features a mix of both active and retired players, with the box provided for this review yielding signatures from Brad Keller and Torii Hunter.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Torii Hunter Autograph / Topps
Other autograph inserts of note are the Mini Rookie Autographs, Fortune Teller Mini Autographs, as well as the relic containing Autographed Garments, Autographed Patch Book, Bases Around the League Autographs, and Pull Up Sock Autographed Relics.

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Brad Keller Autograph / Topps

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Box Break Video and Final Take

Topps’ subtle design changes from the 2018 Gypsy Queen set push the Gypsy Queen product line forward in a market where collectors are looking for both consistency and eye appeal with their purchases. The upgraded 2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball delivers on both fronts, making this set one to purchase if you are looking for a fresh take on one of Topps’ time tested products.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Will Gary Vaynerchuk push the sports card market to new heights?

Gary Vaynerchuk, the entrepreneur and social media giant, has set his eyes on the sports card industry with a laser-like focus that could quickly elevate the hobby back into national prominence. While some may think "Gary Vee" is trying to ride the wave of the most hyped prospects; however, he is no stranger to collecting. Vaynerchuk built his chops in the late 1980s and early 1990s, making thousands of dollars as a teenager selling baseball cards at local shows.

Gary Vaynerchuk / Twitter

One just has to look at stacks of Todd Van Poppel and Gregg Jefferies rookies from the sports card boom as a reminder that collecting was designed to be a hobby instead of a venture into an alternate stock market. Despite the historical warnings, collectors are diving into prospects hoping to find the next Mike Trout while sidestepping the likes of Greg “Toe” Nash. With new money flying into the sports card market, will the top cards reach new highs in the coming year?




Modern-era baseball cards will always lag well behind their pre-WWII counterparts, but recent history shows that modern-era cards are starting to attract more lucrative bids. Just six months after a Shohei Ohtani rookie card sold for a modern-era record of $184,000, a Mike Trout rookie card has attracted a $92,000 bid on eBay and could climb higher. According to SBD, on-field greatness only goes so far in upping a card's value, but if Trout continues to stake his claim to the title of best (non-steroid) player since Willie Mays, they set the odds at 1/2 that a Trout card becomes the most valuable modern-era card within the next decade.

2011 Mike Trout Gold Canary Diamond / PSA

With Gary Vee’s massive following turning their attention towards the new generation of sports cards (Vaynerchuk has 1.88 million Twitter followers as compared to Topps’ 125,000), we could get a win-win on both sides of the hobby. Excited hustlers and entrepreneurs could easily drive up the higher ends of the card market while simultaneously drawing an increasing amount of casual fans back into the joys of collecting.