A common refrain, which I very much believed, as I entered the year was that experiences were the new things. In short, doing stuff was better than having stuff. Collecting (verb) beat collection (noun). This was very much the case for me in 2019 when some of my biggest Hobby highlights involved doing:

  • SABR Baseball Cards meetup in Cooperstown (May 2019)
  • Negro League Baseball Museum “Hall of Game” induction ceremony (June 2019)
  • SABR Black Sox Scandal Centennial weekend (September 2019)
  • Junk Wax parties with my local card buds
  • Writing about cards here and for the SABR Baseball Cards blog

What then would be the implications of a year in which so much doing had to stop? In short, relationships and connection would be the new currency of the Hobby in 2020.

Project 2020

Like many traditional collectors my first reaction to Topps Project 2020 was to look but not touch. I really liked a few of the early designs, and I really disliked others. Then I saw the Tyson Beck Gooden and just had to add it to my Dr. K collection.

Having one of the cards and recognizing how hot some of these cards were on the secondary market (e.g., this same Gooden card sold for over $3000 over Memorial Day weekend), I began to pay closer attention to the Project. Two other artists I gravitated to were Blake Jamieson and efdot. Thanks to Blake there was something to do literally every night. Like clockwork the webcam would roll at 10:23 PM ET nightly as Blake worked on his art, chatted with other artists, or (seemingly) just hung out with you.

Here was a guy who was selling his paintings to famous athletes, working for Topps, had a Beckett cover, and was somehow still devoting 8-10 hours of his week to ordinary collectors like me. Another dimension to his livestreams was the comments section where genuine friendships were formed and all newcomers were welcomed with open arms (or at least smiley emojis). It was just plain fun to hang out with Blake and his crew, and I still do it to this day. I even got to be a guest once, which was flattering AF!

While I have several of his cards, and they are very, very good, I can definitely say my main motivation for buying Blake’s cards is to ensure I’ll always have tangible, concrete, and lifelong reminders of the fun and friendships that came in this otherwise downer of a year. When I turn around from my desk and eye the Blake Jamieson Dr K on my shelf I don’t just see a card. I see the comment stream as Blake had us vote on different aspects of the card, I remember dropping everything to catch Blake’s interview with Doc, and I imagine myself in some small way being part of the story of the card.

Feeling like part of the card was equally true with efdot, thanks to his Patreon site where he actively solicited ideas and feedback from members. I won’t pretend I was the only collector to offer these ideas, but what a thrill it was to see Eric’s cards come out with suggestions I’d made in the feed: the follow-through on Gibson, the Hall of Fame push for Mattingly, and the Dodgers script across the Koufax uniform. This would have been my absolute dream as a kid, to have a hand in designing baseball cards for Topps. Participating in the process and getting to know Eric a bit along the way is something I cherish even more than the cards themselves.

Before moving on, I want to also give a shout-out to Tony Bianchini, who works with both Blake and efdot, and Matt Castello, who not only works with Blake on card stuff but also hosts one of my favorite podcasts, Pretty Big News. To conjure up an old “Swingers” reference, these guys are the guys behind the guys and just two top-notch dudes any way you slice it.

Heavy J Studios

Like so many other collectors this year, the combination of no baseball season, nowhere to go, and the baseball card-art nexus of Project 2020 turned me into an amateur card artist myself. (Thank you to Jeremy Ross of CBS Chicago for producing this short video on my work.)

Making my own glitter cards has not only kept me sane but also raised nearly $9000 for some great causes so far. It’s also helped me get to know dozens of other indie card artists (many who sell their cards here), a few “pros,” a lot of collectors I hadn’t met before, and some of the good folks like Dan Wallach and Sean Gibson whose organizations benefit from Heavy J Studios Collectors Club donations. Oh, and Platinum Elite status at JoAnn’s is no small matter either!

SABR Award Ceremony

Something new with SABR this year is that our Baseball Cards Research Committee would be honoring our first ever recipient of the Jefferson Burdick Award for Lifetime Contributions to the Hobby. I had the honor of emceeing the event, which included an absolute Hall of Fame of “O.G.” collectors, including of course award recipient Mike Aronstein of TCMA fame.

A few weeks later Mike was kind enough to send me a homemade postcard of himself hoisting the trophy, which included a glammed up Heavy J Studios version of the trading card my committee co-chair Nick created.

Junk Wax parties

Not as often as last year but my Chicago Junk Wax crew still managed some (socially distant) get togethers. Rules were simple though broken often.

  • Each bud brings a box of Junk Wax to share.
  • Host takes care of pizza/drinks.
  • Eat, drink, and open packs all night.

The rule most commonly broken involved one member of our crew consistently bringing over boxes that were very definitely NOT Junk Wax: 1981 Topps, 1983 Topps, 1985 Donruss, etc. while the rest of us brought things like 1989 Donruss. Not that I’m complaining…

These nights are a reminder of how fun it is to open packs, particularly when so much of what I normally buy are singles off eBay or Topps.com. They also bring trading back in a big way. More deals go down on these nights than the whole rest of the year.

The funny thing about opening packs of 1989 Donruss is that no matter how worthless the cards are, it’s still AWESOME to pull a Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey, Jr. I’d go so far as to say it’s the identical feeling as back in 1989.

Hank Aaron cards

Oh, and by the way I did pick up some cool cards this year also, maybe even too many! My major Hank Aaron acquisition (a word I don’t use often) was the 1969 Topps Super test issue card. This was one of a handful of Hammer cards I imagined I’d never own, so I was very happy to be wrong. Unlike the much more common Supers of 1970 and 1971, these cards are smaller, not larger, than standard cards, which meant it would fit my Hank Aaron display case.

I was also able to complete my set of 1974 OPC Hank Aaron cards, which feature several cards not (exactly) present in the Topps set.

Tobacco cards

My budding tobacco card collections fall into three categories: T205 Brooklyn, T206 Brooklyn, and Tim Jordan. I entered the year with 10 of the 13 Brooklyn players in the T205 set and was lucky enough to add two more. That leaves me where I will likely stay: a complete set minus the very tough Kaiser Wilhelm card.

I entered the year with no T206 cards and now have 8. With the possible exception of two-time Deadball Era HR champ Tim Jordan, all are commons. Still, none are common to look at. Two particularly nice ones are my McElveen and McIntyre, fourth and sixth in the picture below. There are still a few commons I’ll add if the prices are right, but the price of the Dahlen Brooklyn variation, the Zach Wheat, and the horizontal cards make me content to leave this set unfinished. Plus, as you’ll soon see, my display is running out of room.

Tim Jordan (first, second, and fifth in photo above) was not a player I had cards of or had even heard of a year ago. Now I’m a Tim Jordan super-collector! Life comes at you fast sometimes! Here is my Jordan collection (top row) along with my other tobacco cards, and you no doubt recognize the display case as a Cigar Box Cards creation.

Other cool old cards

While I was stockpiling Tim Jordan I took advantage of the “Last Dance” bump to sell off a Michael Jordan, which created the budget for me to add some stuff I’d normally just window shop: a 1946-47 Cuban Mel Ott card, a huge stack of 1933 Goudey cards, and a 1936 National Chicle Bill Terry premium to match his terrific card from the Diamond Stars set.

I also added a 1955 Topps Brooklyn team set (minus the two players you’d expect), completed my 1961 Fleer set, nearly completed my 1960 Fleer set, and added a wonderful autographed postcard of the great Buck Leonard.

Roy Campanella Grand Finale

This post is getting pretty stuff-heavy given the way I began it, so let me close with something that puts it all together. It may well be the highlight of my entire “collecting career,” surpassing the time I pulled a “C Nettles” when I was 11 and promptly fainted.

No, I swear I’m not saying “SEND ME MORE STUFF!” but I can say without any hesitation that this is exactly what the Hobby is about. Connecting is the new collecting.