As a kid, I remember when the two prime gift receiving times of the year (my birthday and Christmas) shifted from getting big packages to getting small envelopes. Big packages meant toys and other cool stuff, while the small envelopes meant gift certificates.
I would go to the record store in my town about once a week and peruse the used punk CD section, looking for something new (and something cheap), and I remember on more than one occasion when my parents figured that, rather than guessing what loud, obnoxious music I would like, they just told me to pick out what I liked.
I used to think that getting a gift certificate wasn't a very thoughtful gift.
Then, I realized that if the person knew you well enough to know where you'd want to go spend money, well, that's the thought that really counted. In-N-Out gift card? Awesome! Lou's Records gift certificate? You get me!
However, there is no Lou's Records in central Texas (it's in Encinitas, CA, though Waterloo Records in Austin is a pretty rad place). In-N-Out is a 45 minute drive to Round Rock (though the one about 15 minutes away looks like it's close to opening, which makes me excited and hungry just typing).
So what would be a good gift certificate to get for a guy like me right now?
Well, my buddy Joe over at From An Unlikely Source answered that question, and my answer was "I didn't even know that JustCommons.com sold gift cards!"
Just Commons is a great go-to for cheap cards (nothing too fancy, but always a great place to go for that player collection that you're working on or finishing up that team set) and the best part is that shipping is free if the order is over $10.
How much was Joe's gift certificate for? $10. Don't think it gets more thoughtful than that.
So, here's the breakdown of what I spent my free money on, card by card.
Getting only one Tony Gwynn card might've been the only regret from this purchase, but at least the one I got I really liked. At this point in Tony's career (1995), he'd been in the big leagues for thirteen years. Without looking at birthdays, I think I can say that Tony was on the younger side compared to the other players in the "Young at Heart" subset, which included Fernando Valenzuela, Dave Winfield, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammel, Paul Molitor, and Lance Parrish. Tony still had six years left in his career when this card was made, so he must've really been young at heart.
As mentioned, the overwhelming majority of the cards I get at JC are for player collections, and this order was no exception. These three are from the 1992 Leaf Preview set, which aren't super easy to come across. According to baseballcardpedia.com, the set was inserted into the 1992 Donruss factory sets and packs. The black gold parallels are pretty sweet looking, as I'm a sucker for any set with a black border.
I also picked up an additional Benes for my collection. While I'd love to have the Padres bring back the brown to their uniforms, I really love the blue and orange from the 90s, and this card shows it off pretty well.
My third and final McGriff of the order is the also-not-easy-to-find 1993 Stadium Club Jack Murphy Stadium card. Even though it's from 1993, it still has the design from '92. In case you weren't aware, this set came in a box designed to look like the site of the '92 All Star Game - Jack Murphy Stadium, home of my Padres. Tried to find a good image, here's one that I found on eBay.
Three of the same card? Why would I ever do such a thing? Well, it turns out that the different colored foil used on the name plate means that these are actually three different variations of this Steve Finley card from 1998 Topps Stars. I've only got a few cards from this set, but these seem like pretty premium cards. They have a cool texture on them and an interesting, very 90s design (in the best way). While I feel kinda dumb using about a fourth of my budget on almost identical Finley cards, I figured that it'd be tough to come across these via eBay or trades.
Oh, and I didn't just get three, I got four. This is the back of the base card. All of the above parallels are serial numbered, but this set was so fancy that even the base cards were serial numbered. While 9,799 copies might've seemed pretty exclusive in the 90s, it is definitely not that way now. Good to see that Fins gets the five star treatment for his defense, that guy was amazing in the outfield.
More of the same-card-but-a-little-bit-different? Alright, here's three Kevin Kouzmanoff cards. I already had the fancy gold version of his 2007 Bowman card, so I figured I could get a jumpstart on the rainbow with a few pickups here. Not sure how many more versions there are, or how many I feel I really need, but of all the guys in my Player Collection, he's got the fewest cards. Gotta work on that.
Of course, my big focus this season has been gobbling up as many Andrew Cashner cards as I could get my grubbies on, so of course I picked up a few cheap ones here. While I already have all of the cards from this year's Bowman set that I'll probably need, Cash was also included in the Bowman Chrome set. Here's his base card, along with the base card from the Topps Chrome set. The Topps mini card was a good one to cross off the list in my head.
While checking to see if the card number was the same on his Bowman and Bowman Chrome cards was the same (it's not), I noticed that the back of his Bowman Chrome card reminded me of the chart that Stadium Club used in 1992 to show hot zones for hitters. Looking at the chart, it might be easy to assume that Cashner really struggled against left handed batters, but he still held them to a .249 average overall, so don't be fooled. Right handed batters fared much worse, hitting at a .218 clip.
Speaking of dominant starters, WHAT THE HECK IS A CLAYTON KERSHAW CARD DOING ON THIS BLOG?!?!?! I THOUGHT YOU HATED THOSE GUYS!!!!!!
Woah, calm down guys, it's alright. It was a necessary evil, since I'm trying to complete the 2014 Bowman Hometown parallel set. Well, okay, not the whole set, but the ones with the Texas flag in the background. There are not one, but TWO Dodgers on the checklist, so I had to bite the bullet and spent sixty whole cents on this guy. This card came on the same day he gave up a bunch of runs to the Cardinals in the playoffs, so I'm glad getting this card didn't jinx me. Not that I have anything at all against Kershaw, just the team that he plays for.
There were three others that I was able to cross off the list, though the names were less impressive. I'm not positive, but I think there are only two cards with the Texas flag in the background that show players on Texas teams, and Jarred Cozart is one of them. Getting a card of a Giant didn't have the same jinxing effect on that team, since they beat Washington yesterday, though they were helped by former Friar Jake Peavy, who was apparently able to cancel out jinxes.
I rounded out my order with a few non-Padres. It's hard to tell, but that Oriole card is of Jeremy Guthrie, who I've kinda-sorta started to collect. This one fit perfectly onto my order, because I only had 12 cents left, and if I went over, I'd have to spend my own money, but if I went under, I wouldn't qualify for the free shipping. While it looks good, it is no longer in my collection, as my son got ahold of it after I scanned it, and it's pretty beat up. It was nice having it for a few minutes, though.
I've decided that the Cashner Cub card will be a rarity in my Player Collection binder, since I think I want to focus mostly on Padres cards. Will I still be a fan of Cashner if/when he leaves the Padres? Yes. Will I want to chase after all of his cards with the same gusto I do now? Probably not. Cool ones like this? I guess I can make a spot for. Seeing a young, clean shaven Cashner is a pretty stark contrast to how he looks now.
After reviewing the contents of the mailer, realized that it's hard to say what the "perfect" order would've been. With so many areas of my collection to focus on, however, I think I did a pretty good job addressing a good variety of areas. Just Commons is a pretty awesome site.
I WILL say that if you're looking for Archi Cianfrocco cards there, the pickings are kinda slim, though not as slim as their Joey Cora selection, which is at zero.