I've gotten in the habit over the last few years of using the final post in each calendar year to look back at some of the best cards to debut on the blog the year prior. This year I've painstakingly reviewed over 200 posts, and culled what I feel are the best 19 cards to debut on Shoebox Legends in 2019.
As I've done in years' past, each description below the scan is a hyperlink that you can click to visit the original post, in case you missed it the first time around and want to give it a read.
Alright, let's get to it, the Top 19 of 2019...
I made a lot of progress fleshing out my Cal Ripken Jr. collection this year, so it's fitting that he leads off the proceedings here. I had just turned an impressionable 13 years old when Cal broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak, so it's easy to see why he was a boyhood hero of mine. Very satisfying to score this Donruss rookie, an essential card for any serious Ripken collection if you ask me.
1989-90 Topps/O-Pee-Chee hockey were the first hockey cards I ever collected, and the first sports cards I ever collected, period. I have so many fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table ripping packs with my two brothers, and trading and sorting our cards into our 3-ring binders. I long ago completed the Topps and O-Pee-Chee sets from this year, and even have my original binder of childhood cards intact as well.
In recent years though I've begun picking up some autographed cards from these releases as a fun way to sort of collect them all over again. This past year the biggest name I checked off this list was Theo Fleury. Man, this one brings back some memories!
Yep, a card that doesn't feature a baseball or hockey player actually made the countdown this year! While those two sports remain my primary collecting focus, I have opened up to looking at acquiring certain select, iconic cards from the basketball and football realm. This totally awesome Wilt Chamberlain was the big acquisition for me on that front in 2019, funded by the sale of a graded 1971 Topps Hank Aaron. Arguably the greatest basketball card in my collection, though to be fair I have less than three dozen total.
Here's a fun one! Not many folks seem to recall these Rink Rat promo cards issued by Pro Set to members of their Rink Rat fan club. My brothers and I were card-carrying members of the club, and I recall having this card as a kid. Unfortunately my original copy was lost to time, and they're not all that easy to come across these days. It could take many months or more to find a reasonably priced copy in my experience. This one made it as high as #16 on the countdown based on pure nostalgia alone!
One of the greatest players of all-time. One of my personal favorite players of all-time. One of my personal favorite sets of all-time. Not much more needs to be said here. Also, you'll notice that vintage baseball all but dominates the countdown from here on out. Not a bad thing if you ask me!
One of the most fun projects I started up this past year would have to be my "Cardboard Keepers" virtual collections. It's been fun trying to identify my top 1,000 baseball and top 1,000 non-baseball cards across my entire collection. I inducted a set of three of my oldest Yaz cards into the baseball collection earlier this year. I could really have chosen any of the three for this countdown, but went with this '63 Topps issue. Still my oldest Yastrzemski card to date.
I used part of an Amex gift card I got through work to purchase this Mathew Barzal Young Guns Canvas rookie card early in the year. I truly think he's one of the best players in the league already at 22 years of age, and seems like a true leader who is going to continue to dominate the game for many years to come.
Barzal has continued to play impressively in the time since I acquired this one, and will soon be crossing the 200 career point plateau. I have a feeling that many years from now I'll be glad that I picked up a copy of this card when I did.
Over the summer I went through a short Helmar craze. I just think these custom cards are really beautiful works of art. I have a few that I've yet to post still, but of those that I showed off during the last calendar year this T206-inspired Casey Stengel is my overall favorite. I really adore this one. If you think the front is cool...
I made great progress collecting Hammerin' Hank in 2019, picking up a few of his vintage Topps cards. Like the Wilt Chamberlain above, this one was acquired with the funds from selling a graded 1971 Aaron. I've always enjoyed the classic pose on Hank's 1962 issue, and was able to bring this beautiful copy home for a very reasonable price thanks to its questionably low grade of "VG-3". This isn't the first, or the last, appearance on this list for Hank!
In the early part of the year I got on a good run of landing some key 1964 Topps cards. It's one of the better designs of the decade as far as I'm concerned, and I just made it my mission to secure a few HOFers from the checklist. This card was doubly cool in that it represents my first proper vintage Koufax Topps card from any release. I can't believe it took me so long, especially given that I secured this one for less than $20 shipped if you can believe that!
I didn't feature as many autographed cards on the blog here in 2019 as I have in years' past. My football card project dominated Sunday posts for the last quarter of the year or more, limiting my chances at Signature Sunday posts. In addition to that I really seemed to gravitate towards vintage baseball above all other cards.
Of the autographs that I did post in 2019 though, this Mike Modano stands above all the others. I'm a bit obsessed with these Fleer Ultra buybacks from 2016-17 Fleer Showcase as it is, and Modano is a player I had never managed to acquire a signature from at any point in my collecting history. Feels great to obtain an autograph of the most successful American-born player in NHL history!
It would make me extremely happy as a collector if I could manage to one day own the entire run of Clemente flagship Topps cards from his playing days. I'm a long way from getting there with 19 of them in total, but I did cross a single one off the list this year with this 1961 issue. This is yet another card that I managed to snag in the pretty incredible flipping of my '71 Topps Hank Aaron. I love the stoic pose from one of the game's truly good guys.
Alright, we're getting to the point here where I could make an argument for really any of the remaining cards to be my card of the year. I've wanted the iconic 1964 Topps Pete Rose featuring the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy since I was just a kid.
Early in the year, a poorly listed eBay auction (no mention of the words 'Topps' or 'PSA' in the auction at all) allowed me to snag this copy for $30 and change. Even better, I had $15 in eBay bucks to apply, which meant this card shipped to my door for less than $20. Unreal!
As a collector of 1990s hockey cards, one of my absolute favorite releases was 1995-96 Topps Finest. The Refractors in particular were (and still are) very valuable, tough pulls. The Gold Refractors were especially insane. I could collect Gretzky for the next 30 years and this still might end up being the best Gretzky-on-the-Blues card in my collection. A sneaky tough card of the greatest player ever to lace up skates.
The third and final Hank Aaron card to make the list is also my oldest Aaron to date, his 1958 Topps card. Used the same batch of gift cards that I received for a work anniversary to bring this one home to the collection. I've still got a long way to go with acquiring Hank Aaron cards, but it's nice to put a single notch in my belt from the '50s anyway. I'd love nothing more than to be able to feature another one in next years "Top 20 of 2020" countdown!
Late in 2018 I picked up my very first playing-era Topps Mickey Mantle card proper with his 1966 release. I was so pleased with the card that I vowed I would absolutely pick up one or two more Mantles in 2019, and I'm happy to say that I achieved that goal. One of my big hobby goals heading into the new year is to keep my momentum going and pick up a '50s Mantle. Fingers crossed!
If you asked me as a kid to make a list of 20 dream cards that I'd love to someday own, a 1971 Topps Nolan Ryan would have absolutely been on it. The image of Nolan about to deliver a pitch in front of that Royal Crown cola ad is pretty iconic in the world of baseball card collecting. Acquired earlier in the year, this one kind of got me on a tear of adding 1971 Topps HOFers to my collection.
Later in the year I picked up and showed off Frank Robinson's card from the set on the blog, though it didn't quite make the cut for this countdown. I've got a few more teed up for 2020 as well, and it all started with this sweet Texas Express!
The runner-up for card of the year is the other new Mickey Mantle I scored over the previous 12 months. A real beaut', and the third 1964 Topps card to make this list, joining Koufax and Pete Rose. Of the three playing-era Mantle cards that I won so far this one is my favorite, because of the stoic pose and because 1964 Topps is one of my all-time favorite sets. I'm still in awe that this card calls my collection home, quite honestly.
And now, my personal favorite card featured on the blog in 2019...
Oh yeah, it's the 1958 Topps Ted Williams so graciously gifted to me by Billy Kingsley of Cardboard History! Easily one of the greatest single cards I've ever received in a trade package, and it came completely out of the blue and by surprise. It's the greatest of many, many examples of the generosity and kindness that I experienced from across the sports card collecting community in 2019.
It's a fitting card to be selected my card of the year as well, as I want to take this moment to say thank you to all those in this community that read this blog, trade with me, write their own blogs, comment on others' blogs, or in any way make a positive contribution to this hobby of ours. Collecting would be a whole lot less fun if we each did it in a vacuum without the support and appreciation of the community at large.
Thank you to all of you for another great year in 2019! I've got a ton of great cardboard to feature and a lot of new content planned for 2020, hoping to make it the best year in the history of this blog. I hope you'll join me for the ride!