Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How To Assemble A Rainbow

One of the few things you could call an "achievement" in this hobby that I actually managed to pull off was when I constructed a rainbow. Three of them actually.

And by rainbow, I am of course referring to obtaining one of every card parallel variant in a single product. The 1/1, the /5, /10, /15, /25, /50 etc...
Keep in mind that this doesn't include the printing plates (if there are any), or any parallels/variations that get released in other subsequent products. Those fall under the category of a "master rainbow".

All three of my rainbows are regular rainbows (I've yet to finish a master rainbow) and they were constructed in three different ways. So today I figure I'd offer some advice to people looking to make their own.

1). Adjust your budget accordingly and allocate funds to this mission

2). Be observant and expect cards you need to suddenly pop up

I'm combining these two because they're the most important and also go hand in hand with each other.

There is no set amount for what a rainbow could cost you. Obviously you can guess based on the product, the player and the team, but ultimately you won't know for sure until it's all said and done one way or the other. My Luis Torrens BoChro rainbow cost me a lot over $400. My Thairo Estrada BoChro mini rainbow barely cost me $100. You never know what could happen.

As such it always helps to keep money stashed away from your hobby budget specifically so that you have some money to spend when a card you need pops up. I probably should've mentioned that this is one of the ways I keep myself in check when it comes to buying packs the other day. If you already blew a month's worth of your hobby budget on another purchase, but then a card you really needed pops up on eBay not long after, you're going to be in a really tough pickle.

This is why I don't spend too much on non-Torrens cards. So I don't have to eat instant ramen for dinner for two weeks if/when I snag the newest 1/1 to pop up on the market.

If this is too big of a sacrifice then I'm sorry to say that rainbow building may just not be for you in the first place.

3). Be patient and expect cards you need to take forever to pop up (if at all)

This one and guideline number two go hand in hand too. Rainbows can be tricky because not all of the pieces you need can be easily found. Especially not the lower numbered ones. That said, make sure to study ahead of time and look for a complete list of all of the parallels the card you want has. Sometimes even the non-low numbered parallels can be tough to track down because they were super obscure retail exclusives, online exclusives, or exclusives limited to those prepackaged factory sets. You'd be surprised how so many people have everything except these obscure parallels.
Use the time you don't find anything to just keep saving up the money in the event that something does pop up and it costs more than you think it will.

But while we're here, let me also say that rainbow building is not something that can be done quickly. It can last years (it took me a year and a half to complete my Torrens BoChro rainbow), possibly even more. That's assuming you're lucky enough to finish it at all. Please know that you are risking spending a lot of time searching for cards that will never appear in the open because they either get opened by the olds without internet access or they don't ever get opened at all. You may never be rewarded for your efforts. If you want instant gratification or at least the assurance that the goal you're striving to achieve can be reached, I'm sorry but rainbow building isn't for you either. I'd recommend set building instead.

Of course the weird nature of card collecting dictates that when a card you need does appear, a couple more will pop up immediately after you buy it. Why? Because the universe hates you and is trying to convince you to spend your money wiser that's why. Or at least that's how I felt when it happened to me.

4). Start with the lower numbered stuff first

This should be a top three rule, but it slid all the way down to number three because I wanted my key points to be made before everyone stops paying attention to this post by this point.

You theoretically could start with the easily accessible cards first, but let me just say that for optimal rainbow building you should really prioritize the lower numbered and rarer stuff first. Most of the cards/parallels printed in huge quantities can and will likely be readily available on COMC or eBay if you ever need them. I say save them for last. There's no feeling quite like finishing off a rainbow with the base card or a not-so rare refractor.

5). Daily searches and phone/email notifications are a must

The name of the game is finding the cards you need as quick as possible. As such it's imperative to have saved searches on sites like eBay or wherever and make sure you're the first to know if a card you could potentially need is put up on the site. If you've got time to spare maybe even hit up places like baseball card Twitter or the online forums. They're cesspools for sure but you need to cast a big ass net to land hits as precise as rainbows require you to. So you'll have to hold your breath and dive right in.

6). The newer, the better/the older, the harder

If I had to guess, there's probably a four year window where building a rainbow has a relatively good shot of being completed, but after that window closes those odds go down considerably.
If you're dealing with a new product (preferably the newest on the shelves), then you'll likely benefit from EVERYONE opening it like crazy trying to land the biggest hits in the product before everyone else. In the process you'll find a lot of neat rare stuff that will be nearly impossible to find as the product's release date gets farther and farther away in the rearview mirror.

Like, if your goal is try to assemble a rainbow from 2003 Topps Chrome from scratch here in 2018, I don't think you'll get very far. If it's been nearly over five years since a product came out, the odds of people still opening that set are very very small. Almost as small as the odds the cards you need to complete the rainbow aren't already in the hands of various collectors already.

Keep it recent, or else you'll likely never even see the gold (refractor), let alone the rainbow itself.

7). Cards from all over

I can't say this will always be the case, but there is a more-than-zero chance that you will find yourself getting cards from all over the country/world doing this. Combined shipping does not exist when you're rainbow building (unless you saved a bunch of common cards on COMC until last). You'll get one card from, say, California, then the next one from Nebraska and then maybe Taiwan. If you're afraid of buying cards from sellers overseas, your prospects of building that rainbow could potentially go significantly down. Keep that in mind if you decide to begin building a rainbow.

8). This is basically just extreme player collecting

It really is. This is player collecting at the nth degree. You're after specific cards of a specific player. If you're naturally a player collector you might pull all of this off one day. If you're not, again I'd like to redirect you to set collecting instead.

So there are my eight guidelines for building a rainbow. I'm sorry in advance if I came across as being super negative and like I'm actively discouraging people before they even start, but I really felt I needed to hammer home the risks people MUST take into consideration before they start a rainbow.

As someone who's built three (technically four but I refuse to acknowledge the fourth right now), rainbows, I can say for a fact that it can be a frustrating endeavor with seemingly no end in sight. I consider myself lucky that I did actually finish the rainbows. Some people never do. As such all I can really say is that I want everyone's biggest takeaway to be that rainbow building isn't for everyone. You have to be the type of collector who has narrowed their vision to a point so small that the rainbow is pretty much the only project they're working on. You have to be willing to talk to people in the hopes of either finding stuff you need or networking so that people will actually come to you with stuff they think you might need. Above all, you need patience and focus. You'll be tempted to just give up or leave the project dormant after the three week mark. I guarantee you will. Whether you give into that or just keep going will determine in the long run if you have what it takes to see it through.

Because when it goes right and you actually build it, it can be the best thing ever.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Fighting The Urge

Even though I spend every third blogpost on here talking your ears off about how I have niche collecting wants, I am still human. That means that I (like many of you) get the urge. You know the one. The one where you just want to rip open some unopened packs for the heck of it.

Most of the time it comes to me when I'm bored.

But for the most part I've been able to do a decent job of suppressing those urges. Here's how.

1). Opportunity Cost

Baseball card packs cost money. Lots of it. $2.99 + tax may not seem like much to you, but to me I look at that and go "hmm, do I want to spend $3 on 10-ish cards I know I don't want or need, or should I save that money so I can buy myself a decent lunch tomorrow?" If I'm that stingy with $3, you can probably guess how I am with anything that costs more than that.

Most of the time food wins out. In the event that I'm still tempted (say for a Bowman product), I usually go "hmm, do I want to spend $8 on 10-ish cards that I probably don't want or need, or should I save that money so I can buy myself a minor league team set at Staten Island or Coney Island?"

That usually seals the deal. Topps/Bowman/Panini/whoever-the-fuck can put out whatever they want. But minor league team issues are my forte. I just like them a lot more than any of the Bowman/Topps/Panini brand prospect cards. The exclusivity factor and the local factors make them more special to me than anything else in the collecting world. I know I'm not alone in that.

2). My two week/month/year wait

This isn't just limited to packs (this applies to a lot of non-Torrens cards I'm after too TBH), but I find this to be effective, at least for me, and I wanted to share this. I call it a two week/month wait.

Whenever we get excited about a card or product, when do we want it? Probably now. Heck, Topps and Panini (and EPOCH :P) all have services where they make cards on depend to feed off of the collecting public's hunger for instant gratification.

Well I usually sit on whatever I have my eye on for about two weeks. 95% of the time I don't want it anymore after the two weeks pass. The remaining five percent of the time that I do still want it, I wait another six weeks so a full two months passes by. If I still want it then, then I give it a lot of thought and end up buying it sometime between the third month and the 22nd month (the second year to the date).

Let's just say that for me, hype fades super quickly. If my want for a card/pack/whatever can last through two months of my inner "think of the tacos I could buy with this money!" thoughts, then it can last through anything.

Of course I run the risk of losing out on whatever I was originally after, but unless it's a Luis Torrens 1/1 I'm probably not going to give any card any serious consideration anyway. Remember that this is all about how to save myself money (that I can allocate to food or save up for my Torrens budget).

3. Not having a gambling addiction

At some point I have to imagine that people who open huge volumes of card products are either online group breakers, or people with a gambling addiction that prefers to throw money away on rectangles rather than risk going bankrupt in one night in Las Vegas.

4. Not being a set collector

This is a big one. Packs and boxes are a fun way to give people who like building sets a head start on their projects. More power to those of you who are, but it's not my thing. And I save tens of dollars every year because of it.

5). Not being a team collector

Being a team collector obligates you to collect at least one of everything that's ever been printed with your team's logo on it. Opening packs and such can possibly net you that one pesky player you haven't been able to land yet. I learned a long time ago that this also wasn't for me. This is why people can't even pin me down as a Yankees collector or even a Yankees prospect collector :P. Being a fan of Yankees prospects and being a collector of Yankees prospect cards are not mutually exclusive.

6). Singles

This is probably the best way for people to suppress their pack/box/case busting urges. Just getting what they really want so they don't have to open shit. I do this all of the time with Torrens cards now that I went 0-for-way too many packs of 2017 Topps Update trying to land even a base card of his. Now I have to fight my urge to buy shit when it comes to singles too, but that's where my niche collecting style comes in handy. If it's Torrens I splurge. If it's a card I can get signed immediately, I splurge. If it's not either of those things, then I probably won't ever think of it again until it shows up in a dime box.

7). Buying food instead

Food > baseball cards

There used to be a time where I thought the reverse was true. Now that is no longer the case and wish I could go back in time and slap myself for having such bad thoughts.

There you go. My simple seven step process for maintaining your budget under pressure/the urge to rip. In the end learning that I can live without a good 99% of what the hobby tries to sell me every year has done wonders for me and my wallet. I hope that that realization that can do the same for you.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Saturday, August 11, 2018

That Other Team In Town

Yesterday I saw a minor league baseball game. Yesterday the Staten Island Yankees played a game at home in S.I. The game I saw was not a Staten Island Yankees game (GASP!).

Yes, I went to see a Brooklyn Cyclones game instead.

The main reason for this was because I thought I could use a bit of change of scenery and return to Brooklyn for the first time since 2016. The last time I went there I ended up writing "I hate baseball" in the recap blogpost. Basically I just wanted to get myself the 2018 team set and any of the ones from previous years they had left for my collecting buds overseas who're Mets fans.

And of course there was a rain delay before the game :P. It was just a passing rainstorm but man, I just do not have any decent luck here as a regular viewer.

Anyway the opponents were the Connecticut Tigers so this was supposed to be a neutral "I have no allegiance to either team so I just want good baseball" game. I didn't even bring my normal autograph collecting gear because I just wanted to get the cards and then sit down and enjoy the game.

As you could reasonably expect that did not happen. Neither of those things happened.

The team store had the Top Prospects set in stock and I bought it. I quickly found out that both of the Tigers reps had cards. Like Sam McMillan here who signed for me before the game. McMillan was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round of the 2017 MLB Player Draft. The Tigers lured him away from a strong commitment to the University of Florida, so much so that they even pooled money from the rest of their bonus rounds to give him a bigger bonus. McMillan is all about projection at this point in time and the idea of what he could be is pretty appealing. He's a high school catcher so there's still a long ways to go in terms of development but his bat has been said to be pretty solid. Same with his defense. That said there's a lot of growth that needs to happen and that's mainly on the physical front as McMillan figures to add some more pounds to his frame as time goes on. Right now he's not on the Tigers' top prospect rankings but he could end up there in a year or two with some improvements.

Next up is Gio Arriera. Arriera was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Player Draft. Arriera is armed with a low-90's fastball that is said to have heavy sinking action and a curveball. Although he does have a tendency to get hit hard sometimes, he is more than capable of racking up a ton of k's. Such as how he k's 12 batters in seven innings earlier this season. Going forward it'll be interesting to see how his development progresses further, good luck Gio.

From the Mets side I only got two. Jose Miguel Medina was one of the two and is actually a repeater. Last year he was one of the Cyclones' best young hitters and got promoted to single-A Columbia (he even had a brief stint in high-A St. Lucie). However his results at those higher levels were mixed and he's back in Brooklyn this season. Good luck to him.

My last autograph was from Ross Adloph. Ross was drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the 2018 MLB Player Draft and projects to be a solid centerfielder. Whether he reaches the majors remains to be seen, but he seems like the quintessential Mets OFer. As in, every player comp (I hate player comp but these make too much sense) ties him to the likes of Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

And that was it for the autographs. The rain delay gave me a bit more to time to go after autographs on both teams but the Cyclones dugout was crowded. After a while I remembered why I never come to Brooklyn for autographs. Let's just say that you take one look at the people doing that shit and you're like "I do not want to be seen as one of these people". Thankful for the players that did sign though, especially the two Tigers.

As for the game itself it was at least better than the last Cyclones home game I went to. This one had a bit more action, probably too much action, in the form of a five run second that knocked Tigers starter Kacey Murphy out of the game. The bullpen didn't give the team a lot of relief either.

The rain ruined most of the seats, and being a neutral observer of a delayed and slow moving game just made get really bored really quickly. So I ended up walking around the ballpark.

My favorite part of the MCU Bank Ballpark is the Cyclones bullpen area. The stuff you see on the ground there are prizes. You see the bullpen sets up a cup where people above in the concourse can throw coins into the cups. Whoever throws one into the cups gets a prize of their choice.
Personally I love this dugout because this is where I saw Luis Torrens get ready before his appearance in the 2014 NYPL All Star Game.

Man, that was a fun night.

According to the official box score, the Cyclones won 9-2.

Actually no, they weren't the Cyclones yesterday. They were Los Brooklyn Jefes. It was Puerto Rican Heritage night so they were "The Brooklyn Bosses". Throughout the night they were doing all sorts of special promotions for New Yorkers with Puerto Rican bloodlines, lots of charity events for recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria and lots of Latin American (presumably Puerto Rican?) music playing throughout the night. Despacito only played once that entire night, so you know the entire promo team made sure to put an insane amount of work into planning that promotion. Props to them.

So did the trip out make me realize that Brooklyn is a good place to watch baseball and that I should go more often?


If anything it made me dislike traveling to Brooklyn even more. At this point the ballpark in Staten Island is the one I'm used to and the ONLY one I'm used to. Every time I go to Brooklyn I end up thinking "hmm, is it okay that I'm out this late? Should I get home before the trains stop?" I don't have that with Staten Island (even though it's literally an island that's closer to New Jersey than it is to my house), because the ferries operate twice an hour and go directly to downtown Manhattan. From there the 4/5 lines are relatively reliable because they pass through the entire affluent parts of Manhattan (the east side basically). Meanwhile, Coney Island is on the very edge of Brooklyn and getting from there to Manhattan is always a mindfuck because the subway trains are inconsistent due to the MTA only caring maintaining efficiency in the richer, more affluent parts of the boroughs. And they can't even do that right.

But I did get the team sets though. I guess that's what I really went there for anyway. Very cute that the team added rehabbing big leaguers Noah Syndergaard and Jason Vargas to the set. I'm sure all of the autograph collectors groaned knowing that those two are never going to be signed and their sets will be incomplete forever.

So in summation:
*The Puerto Rican heritage night was very well done
*Going to a neutral baseball game is boring unless you're there to see someone specific
*Neither the Tigers or Cyclones Jefes had any top prospects on their rosters and yet a game was played
*Rain delaying or postponing games is the theme for baseball in New York this year
*The programs in Brooklyn now cost $1 each, which is some real BS

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

2018 IP Auto Count: 57