Sunday, September 30, 2012

Box Break: ITG Decades 80s + Bonus LCS Bashing

Having no desire to drive an hour to a card show today, let's look back at the box of ITG Decades 1980s I bought two months ago instead.  As a bonus, I will take an economic potshot at the local card store as well.

ITG Decades 1980s is a premium product which came out about two years ago, before I started collecting cards again in earnest.  The cards all feature NHL players from the 1980s, with each box containing 9 cards: 3 base cards, 3 autographed cards and 3 relic cards.  Given my love of late 1980s/early 1990s hockey, this product is screaming for me to purchase it.  However, for two years, I dithered and mostly passed on buying a box.  The reason was my local card store.

The card store near where I used to work always had a box of ITG 1980s Decades on the shelf.  I looked at the box and twice asked about the price of the box.  About a year ago, the box was just a shade north of $100, which was more than I wanted to pay for a box I didn't know that much about.  After purchasing the above box at a local card show, I asked again about the very same box, since even though I would charitably say I did passable on the below box, I was willing to get on the horse again.  Price for the box: $140.  Price on the internet with shipping: $100.  Price at the local show: $75.  Value of the cards pulled from the box: safe to say less than $75.  Most of the autograph and relic cards are of the $5 to $8 variety and there are few big hits without Gretzky in the set to balance out the cost of the box.  So, the product is all risk, no reward at the highest prices. 

Given the price quoted, I walked out of the store without hesitation or even a desire to look at anything else in the store and headed to K-Mart where I purchased the greatest blaster of my card collecting career.

Essentially, the local card store has an unsustainable model.  As a consumer, I will pay a premium to get something in hand that day.  A small premium, but a premium nonetheless.  That is the cost of rent and being available for the 6 hours a day, not including Sundays, where I can buy cards in person.  However, a $40 premium over the internet and a $65 premium over a show will drive me out of the store.  And it isn't like this an isolated instance and other cards are fairly priced, as I was met by a box of 2010 Topps Update at the door for $70, when it is available online for $36. 

There are two knock-on effects of such pricing.

1.  It loses me as a customer on fairly priced items (if they exist), since I will assume everything in your store is highly overpriced, so I am just wasting my time by going to the shop, since I will not want to overpay for product.

2. The store becomes a museum.  Many stores, not just the one in question above, have stock.  Stock of items which never sell.  I've seen some stores with every kind of pack and box for two decades, waiting for someone to desperately come in and need to pay retail plus for this material.  It does not seem to be a conscious choice to retain all of this inventory, but becomes the horribly cluttered store that makes it nearly impossible to shop. 

Anyway, onto the cards. 

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The base cards are interesting and as a stand-alone product would make a good set.  I'm especially a big fan of the Mask cards, as goalie masks have evolved quite a bit in the last 30 years and these cards really show the evolution and the artistry of the day.  Plus, I pulled Michel Dion in a mask designed to look kind of like a penguin which is a big plus.

On to the autograph cards:

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Tony Tanti was at least a Penguin, which required some research on my part to divine.

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Craig Hartsburg isn't even that lucky.

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Steve Christoff was by far the best of the three autographs, as it is one of the Team USA cards.  However, being 1 year old, when the Miracle on Ice occurred, I have no special feeling towards these cards.  The overall appeal of the autographs is limited, as the beigish background colors do nothing to make the autographs pop.  I think a brighter color or something hockey rink related would have been a better look for these cards. 

The relics were better, though the standard of selection was low.  Like clearing a hurdle buried in the deep within the earth by walking on the surface.

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Dale Hawerchuk was a name I remembered and discovered, he too, was a Hockey Hall of Famer, which I'm fairly certain is an honor bestowed on anyone who plays 10 years.  I never thought Hawerchuk was a truly great player, but he did post some impressive totals in the 1980s for the Winnipeg Jets.

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Next up is Patrick Roy (HOFer), who is certainly one of the most famous players in the set.  I have no particular affinity toward Roy, but the card is sharp and while not as visually interesting as the standard relic set, still retains a certain eye-appeal missing from the autographs.  Also, it helps to not end up with six players no one ever talks about anymore. 

Finally, we get to biggest hit in the box.  The card is limited to six and contains a Hockey Hall of Fame defensemen from the 1980s.  Almost certainly, this should be the pinnacle of the box for me, as the actual number cards are multi-colored and take a piece of the number from a game-worn sweater and jam into a little cardboard window.

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Rod Langway...who I knew nothing about until I researched him.  I discovered, like his patch brothers is also a Hall of Famer, though his induction is the equivalent of getting a Hall of Fame number from Chick Hafey.  It's great there are only six of them and someone managed to actually sell a second of the six a few weeks ago.  But on the whole, it is by far the most disappointing Hall of Fame defenseman I could have pulled, given my affinity of offensive minded defensemen.

That being said, I really enjoyed opening the box and liked the majority of the cards contained, not that I am wedded to keeping any of them, as they are all available on my trade list.  But at the right price, this was a good break, as I knew it was almost certain to be an equity loser, but thought the experience was worth it.  Unlike how horribly beat I would have felt if I bought this same box at the local card store. 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Picture and Patch Don't Match

Even after all of the bad press surrounding relic cards, I still have a certain fondness for them, especially over autographed cards.  I like that little piece of colored cloth snugly fit into a cardboard window.  There are some exceptions, such as the destruction of historical artifacts to create a card, like destroying a surviving Babe Ruth jersey to make cards.  However, one thing about patch cards I don't understand is how hard is it to make the picture and the patch match.

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I bought this card on eBay a few weeks ago, because I am Penguins fan and am a big fan of offensive-minded defensemen.  It's the only Larry Murphy card I own and despite being a Hall of Famer, there does not seem to be a tremendous variety of relic cards available.  Looking at the card, Murphy is in Penguin Black and Gold on the picture, but the relic itself is red and blue.  Based on the teams Murphy played for in his career (Los Angeles, Washington, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Detroit), the relic itself almost certainly is from a Washington Capitals jersey, unless of course there was a season where the Penguins wore completely non-traditional Washington Capital colors, which I sincenrely doubt.

Given the limited amount of game-used equipment that exists, there could be some difficulty in obtaining a Pittsburgh jersey.  However, it is not a problem to find a picture of Larry Murphy in a matching jersey.  There are countless Murphy photos in Washington red and blue, yet somehow, it was decided to put him on the card in a Penguin uniform.  It makes no sense that Upper Deck in this instance couldn't spend the additional five minutes to make the cards right.  Even looking on eBay at other, similar cards, all of the other cards have the same jersey cut up.  Unless you buy one with an all-white patch, there is no way you would think this was a Penguins jersey to match the picture. 

It's the little things that make the cards work, like making the picture and patch match.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reordering the Checklist: Different Back, Same Front

As I sit here for the next hour patiently waiting to make a fairly important snipe on a card which I may or may not see again in my lifetime, I'm reflecting on another purchase that I talked myself into which borders on excess.

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A few weeks back, possibly even a month now, I found an E-91A "Orvill" Overall for sale.  The E91 is really one of the least desirable candy cards, since the images are more generic than most candy cards.  Looking at the card, the resemblance to Overall is minimal, but it is still an Orval Overall card.  The card was for sale with another card, an E91-A James Archer.  Occasionally purchasing an extra tobacco card is worth the risk of moving it elsewhere, but picking a mildly desirable James Archer to add our friend Orval to my collection was not worth the risk.

The seller initially resisted letting the card go alone, noting that "Archer was good friends with Overall and they really should be kept together".  Ignoring the fact both men are long dead, their friendship should have no influence on my card purchasing and I construed this as a cheap ploy to sell me a card I didn't want.  A week or so passed and I followed up.  Given the lack of interest in the pair, he let me make an offer on the Overall.  In retrospect, I should have not offered over half the price for both to get the card, even though the Overall was in better condition, but in the excitement of adding the Overall, I made what I would charitably call a "high" offer, which was accepted before I could even check my Blackberry.  So, payment goes out, card comes in and I say to myself, this should satisfy my need for E91 Orval Overalls.

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You see, there are two E91 Orval Overalls, an A and a B.  The picture on the front is exactly the same, but the backs are slightly different.  As you can see on the A, the Athletics are the first team listed, while on the B, the Cubs are listed first.  There are also some minor variations on the checklist.  Only a real completist or someone with real problems would insist on having both in their collection.  But what is that you say, isn't that a picture of an Orval Overall E91-B listed above and don't you only post pictures of cards you actually own on your blog?

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Yes, it is true.  I caved on the issue in less than a month.  The other day, I was checking my saved eBay searches for Orval, when I spotted an E91-A.  The card was only varied on the back, but the condition was nicer, as the raw Overall is not a VG-EX on its best day.  I looked at the card and I looked at the price and I even looked at the Make an Offer.  Sensing weakness, weakness in myself, I screwed up my courage and offered him half of what he wanted.  Half seemed fair based on some reading, writing and closed eBay auction searching.  Given the significant discount I demanded, I expected to receive a rejection and move on with my life, safe in the knowledge I did not overspend on another Overall. 

As you can surmise from the above, my bid was answered with an acceptance and for less than the E91-A, I owned an E91-B.  I am not bothered by either purchase and greatly enjoy owning both cards.  But man, I am a sucker for Orval.  Well, I still have 45 or so minutes to sweat out, so I will sit here, waiting, waiting impatiently, to snipe a card I suspect I have one shot at it, one shot to grossly overpay for the card.  So, in a week or so, if you see something really rare I didn't know existed until last week, you know I am winner.  And if I have nothing really tremendous to show, then I was saved from my own excess by someone else's incredibly gross largesse. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

LaFitte Was Not a Pirate, but a Peach

James LaFitte was not a Pirate, but he was a Brigand, a Peach, a Pelican, a Tourist, an Orphan, a Tiger, a Patriot and a Terrapin.  On his own, James LaFitte is unremarkable, a turn of the century catcher who played minor league baseball in the South.  But, as with many of the unremarkable players from the this era, he was on a baseball card, the T206 card you see below for starters.

He was also in Series 8 of the T210 Old Mill Series, which is the rarest of the 8 series consisting of these red border cards.  This series also contains one of the earliest Shoeless Joe Jackson cards, which seldom come up for sale and when they do are very highly priced.  To tie all of this together, LaFitte, as a New Orleans Pelican, was a teammate of Shoeless Joe, which was likely his greatest brush with fame.

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As to the actual image on the card, the best part of the card is the giant catcher's mitt.  Otherwise, this is a fairly nondescript card with a pastoral green representing the field and some yellow showing as the background of the sky.  Honestly, if he didn't share a name with a famous pirate, there would be precious little to say about this card.

With regard to the acquisition of this fair specimen, a gentleman had started working on a T206 set and became bored with the endeavor, switching pursuits from the classic tobacco card to 1933 Goudeys.  Looking to trade, I was stuck, as I have only purchased Goudeys once in my life and sold those as they were one of those in-person show purchases you come to regret.  Fortunately, he was willing to accept American currency and aided me by knocking three cards from my want list, with two being those rascally Southern Leaguers. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Art Deco: A Sunday Show Report

Each card set is really a product of its time.  Current sets are slick, shiny, full of computer generated images.  Tobacco cards represent a more pastoral time in American history, full of stiff portraits and action shots set against a dying sunset, often in front of a grandstand of a bygone era.  And then, there is the art deco madness that are the 1930s Diamond Stars.

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As you can see, these cards have large images, sharp lines and bold colors, almost a full contrast to the dreariness of a great depression ravaging the country.  I cannot imagine another time in American history that you could design this set.  The set itself is small, only 108 cards in total.  It also lacks the two biggest stars of the day in Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, which makes the set less desirable than the similarly timed Goudeys, but also makes completing such a set far more affordable.  So, after pawing through the 5 tobacco cards at the show (either owned or an Eddie Collins yellow silk...and silk cards rarely interest me).  I asked to see the Diamond Stars and selected the Wally Berger, the slugging center field star of the moribund Boston Braves.  Actually, this whole transaction took over 20 minutes, as another patron droned on and on about how many high-end expensive cards he owns and has sold.  I was glad to waste my time to give this poor shell of a man a few moments of self-importance that he didn't deserve.  But seriously, let me buy my cards!

After this purchase and some additional wandering, I found a few unopened 2010 Topps T206 Hobby packs.  The seven packs sat in a well-worn and faded box, which failed to stay open.  Given their limited appeal, I asked about purchasing the entire stack and was quoted half-price, so the vendor would never need to lug this mostly empty box to a show again.

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The packs didn't reveal much in the way of great cards.  I did knock seven minis off my set list, including a Musial.  I also picked up three short prints, including the Strasburg seen above.  This is the second Strasburg I pulled from one of these packs.  Back in 2010, I sold the short print Strasburg for nearly the price of the blaster I pulled it from.  Today, this card would barely sell for the price of the pack I pulled it from  I also pulled the Kemp, which I'm showing for all of the Dodger fans with blogs.  As an aside, most bloggers seem to be Dodger, Brave or Yankee fans, which seems like an adverse sample size of baseball fans.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Collection Organizing: An Exercise in Sorting

Confession time.  If a card has not survived at least one World War, I have a tendency to just box large amounts of these cards prior to any form of cataloging.  What this means is that most of the time, I have no idea what I have, what I want or even what I'm collecting in post-war cards.

This morning, full of vigor and with Premier League soccer on the television, I started the great sort.  I took down the 4,000 count boxes, cleared out the bookcase and settled myself on my floor with gigantic stacks of cards.  Cards sorted by year, by player, by sport, by things I think might be interesting.  Endless sorting, but I think I've seen every card I own made after 1945 today.  (No need to sort the tobacco cards, they are fairly well sorted on a regular basis.)

After the first two hours, I was still hopeful, thinking about what I would like to add to my collection, what might arrive in the mail today (2011 Topps Update Ty Cobb shortprint) and what I might consider parting with.

As each hour passed and the 4,000 count boxes filled only slowly, as I cataloged and cataloged and cataloged card after card, I wanted to own less.  If for no other reason than not wanting to ever spend 8+ hours cataloging cards.  The sorting was fun and I love putting things in numerical order, but as I felt I was losing possession of the living room floor and wondered at times, would I ever finish, I became disheartened, not with the cards, but the work I was putting into them.

The good news is that I am almost done (Just the Mike Scott cards need to be cataloged and that is fairly up-to-date) and I've added a new section to the blog in the upper right hand corner called The Trade List.  It gives a semi-accurate list of cards I am looking to acquire and re-home as it were. 

The bad news is that I will need to keep up to date and catalog as I go to avoid going through such a long and painful exercise again. 

BTW, next October I will just cut and paste this entry into this blog on a Saturday and you, dear reader, will be none the wiser  Assuming I remove these last two sentences, of course.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Capless Al Bridwell: One and Done

The best eBay auctions go as follows.

1. Find card
2. Add to watch list
3. Stalk more than appropriate over five to seven period.
4. Bid last day
5. Win card for opening bid.
6. Immediately pay for card.
7. Repeat while awaiting delivery.

This usually works for some cards (Hockey relics of retired players, Mike Scott cards) and not for others (tobacco cards).  Usually what happens is I bid, then bid again, then curse at the price and the other bidder and reach back for a third (or fourth) bid, before I walk away with either a new card or a twinge of disappointment that one more bid would have been enough.   

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Last Sunday, I threw out an opening bid for the Al Bridwell (No Cap) listed above and won the card with the minimum, which is quite satisfying for myself, but not so for the poor seller.  Looking at the card prior to purchase, I assumed it was a standard low-grade card, fit for my set.  However, once in my possession and scanned as above, you can see the right-hand side of the card is trimmed.  The upper right hand corner is significantly further to the right than the lower right hand corner.  So, at some point in time, someone trimmed this poor, low-grade card.

As a rule, trimming a card is a significant problem, as the card no longer measures to specification.  In fact, if you send a trimmed card for grading, the best you can realistically hope for is a grade of Authentic.  There are a fairly large number of collectors who scrupulously avoid these cards.  In higher grades, I find trimming to be desirable, as it makes what would otherwise be a very expensive card, quite affordable.  In this instance, I was slightly disappointed, but realistically, I would have purchased the card with or without the trimming. 

As to Al Bridwell himself, I did know something about him prior to purchasing the card.  Bridwell was a shortstop for  number of National League teams between 1905 and 1913.  His play, while rarely stellar, was good enough to get him two cards in the T206 set.  His most famous moment was hitting the single leading to the "Merkle Boner".  Of course, for me, Al Bridwell will always be known as the guy I confuse with Doc Crandall, leading to the purchase of more Doc Crandall cards than I needed. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Piggy Paige's Cup of Coffee

With yesterday's Hub Perdue packed and ready for shipping, the question is why did I buy a card, a Southern Leaguer at that, which I already owned.  Well, intrepid reader, the answer was to get a George Paige of Charleston card. 

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If you search eBay for T206 cards, you can usually find most of the set available for purchase at any point in time.  However, some of the short print cards and Southern Leaguers require a combination of patience and persistence to obtain these cards, especially in more affordable (read lower) grades.

When my set was in its infancy, I would often buy small lots, allowing me to add a few cards at a time.  However, as I near the 90% completion mark, I am forced to either buy cards one at a time, or re-home a portion of the lot, preferably as soon as possible.  With commons, it's a bit harder to move the card, but I gambled that I would be able to move the Hub Perdue fairly quickly for cash or trade.

So, needing the Paige for my set, I rolled the dice, fended off another bidder and took the pair of cards down last Friday night.  I did so, because I cannot find any record of my bidding on another T206 Paige in the past.  I know I held one at the National, but thought the price was prohibitive, even as I added seven Southern Leaguers that fine day in Baltimore.

As to Paige himself, I knew nothing of him before buying his card, other than he played for Charleston in the Sally League.  I know a good amount about many of the players in the T206 set, but some of the minor league players stump me, because they had short or non-existent careers in the majors. 

Piggy or Mabel Paige, whose nicknames are distinctly above average for the era, was a pitcher.  In 1911, he pitched in two games for the Cleveland Naps (at the time named after Napoleon Lajoie), comprising his entire big league career, despite tryouts with the Giants and Dodgers at other points in time.   The only otherwise noteworthy point of Paige's career is that he liked to jump teams.  Quite a few times, he would walk out on his contract, only to return either to the team or another team in the circuit a short time later.

And to think, a century later, people still care about Piggy Paige and his cup of coffee, because he had the good fortune to be depicted on a baseball card. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

T206 Southern Leaguers: 1914 Miracle Brave* Hub Perdue

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When it rains, it pours.  Yesterday, there was nothing in the post for me.  Today, there were four packages containing seven T206s I needed for my set.  I bought most of the cards on different days, but the way the mail works, they all arrive at once.  Let's start with a Southern Leaguer, which I might not own by the time I finish writing this post.

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Unlike modern sets, where they strive to keep the players from one league or set of leagues in a single issue, the T206 set contains players from a wide multitude of leagues.   One commonly known subset are the Southern League cards.  As you can see from the back at the top, there are four leagues included in this set: Texas, South Atlantic, Virginia and Southern League.  The Southern League subset contains 48 cards and aside from a few short prints and the Big 4 (Wagner, Plank, Doyle NY Natl and Magie), are some of the hardest cards to find. 

For the most part, the players included in the set are not particularly famous and most never even played in the Major Leagues.  However, to complete the set, you need to hunt down Carlton Molesworth, Cad Coles and Tony Thebo and a whole host of other players.  A few of the players in the subset either found success later on, like Hub Perdue or before their stint in these leagues like the Curveless Wonder Al Orth or Ted Breitenstein.

As for The Gallatin Squash Hub Perdue, I spent a good deal of time tracking down his card.  One of my favorite teams from the era is the 1914 Miracle Braves, roaring back from last place on July 4th to win the National League pennant and World Series in 4 games, taking advantage of the weakness of the rest of the league due to the rival Federal League raiding most teams in the off-season.

As to Hub, his role in the Miracle Braves is one of loss.  Mired in last place, the Braves traded Hub Perdue to the St. Louis Cardinals, where Hub turned his season around, going from awful to mediocre.  The next season with the Cardinals was his last, his major league career ending with the Federal League and the resultant loss of 8 teams' worth of Major League jobs.  On the whole, his career did not amount to much, but Hub Perdue did end up with a fairly sweet pink background card in one of the most famous card sets of all time.

PS: I still own the card, but have a provisional deal for another Southern Leaguer, pending a scan.  Hopefully by tomorrow, the card will be in the mail!


Two Hall of Famers, Two Relics, Two Dollars (Plus Shipping)


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Carry on!



I can't leave all this fine space unspilled upon.  While searching for more Mike Scott Leading Indicators cards, I found these two cards, sitting on eBay with a lowly $0.99 opening bid and reasonable shipping.  With only a few hours left, I tossed out bids for the opening price and no more.  But a few hours later, I received word that these fine cards were mine for the low, low price of $0.99 each.

Reflecting on this, it seems strange that I paid more for Mike Scott Leading Indicator relics than these relics of Hall of Fame players.  I suspect in part, my willingness to buy as many as I can find for under my set price has led to an increase in their overall price.  And I suspect in part, over-saturation of the relic market has led to the price decreases.  As relics became more commonplace, prices adjust downward, downward to the point that a piece of cloth from a Hall of Famer's jersey becomes worth only a dollar.  If these are in fact, the right values, it leads me to wonder how box prices can remain so high, given that the content once opened becomes so quickly devalued. 

Having missed the better part of 15 years of card collecting, I imagine there was a time getting a relic was great, followed by a time where getting a relic was less than great, followed by a time people thought that not all relics were authentic because some people are less than scrupulous. 

Fortunately for me, I am in the first stage, while the market is in the second to third stage, allowing me to post ridiculous headlines, like "TWO HALL OF FAMERS, TWO RELICS, TWO DOLLARS (plus shipping), because I still enjoy adding relics to my collection.  Plus, there is a pinstripe on the Gwynn card and we all know how cool pinstripes are.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Premier

With Gameweek 4 of the Premier League in the books, I was pleased to find my Southampton jersey arrived in the mail today.  I won the jersey on eBay about a month ago and waited.  After a week, I learned the wrong jersey was sent to me, but the seller made good and sent me the right jersey.  The wrong jersey was an AFC Bournemouth jersey two sizes two small, but probably bodes well for their chances in joining the Championship next season.

I own about 12 soccer jerseys, with the majority of them representing teams in the Championship (second division).  As a Blackpool fan, my team of choice resides there after a heartbreaking loss in the playoff for the premiership.  This accounts for five of my jerseys.  But it doesn't end there, as I also own a Blackburn jersey (Relegated 2012) and a Cardiff City jersey (awaiting promotion).  I figure given Southampton's poor start and my ability to by jerseys for relegated teams, they should be well on their way to the Championship at year's end, no matter how good they have looked at times.

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Looking for another Sir Stanley Matthews Blackpool tobacco card for my collection, I found the above card from Sport Kings.  I was shocked to see Matthews in a modern American card set, but knew I needed to own this card.  For a very small price later, likely because he is almost certainly the least well-known Sportsking, this card was on its way.

Part of me is offended, because Matthews is wearing the red and white of Stoke City instead of the Tangerine of Blackpool.  What Matthews is most famous for is the 1953 FA Cup, which is a competition between teams at all levels of British football contested in a knockout format.  In the finals, Matthews provided the critical crosses (assists) for three goals in the last 35 minutes, including 2 in the last five minutes, leading to the biggest win in Blackpool history.  Given that, I would have thought he would have been depicted in tangerine, but instead is wearing the colors of Stoke.

I suspect since Blackpool is the only team I follow with any fervor at this juncture of my life is why this bothers me, even though I was quite overjoyed to see Sir Stanley Matthews given the respect he deserves in an American card set.   


Sunday, September 16, 2012

1973 Topps: So Close Yet So Far

One day, way back in 2010, I convinced myself that I needed to complete a vintage Topps set.  Realistically, I wanted something I could put into a binder and look through and thought a vintage Topps set would be a great way to go.  So, after a day or two of research, I decided to start a 1973 Topps set. 

I started by purchasing lots on eBay.  10, 20, 50, 100 or more cards at once, thinking this the best way to finish the set, usually at a dime or less a card.  And early on, it certainly was.  I quickly filled portions of pages in the binder, but began to amass duplicates, a very highly number of duplicates.  I even managed to completely fill some of the pages in the binder, which was a great feeling of accomplishment.  But with each passing lot, it became more duplicates, less filling in the binder. 

I also took my list to shows and added a decent number of cards at shows, though often the price was much higher.  Eventually, I found a places on eBay where I could select the cards and I made great progress there.  Even better progress than I remembered, since I thought I needed even more cards than I do.  I spent some time trying to find the right, low-grade Schmidt rookie, but never found one I wanted to pull the trigger on. 

And then one day, I stopped, so close, yet so far from completing the set.  There are still holes and I suspect that finishing the 1973 set will happen in 2013.  In putting together my need list, I realize that I tried to complete the set backwards, obtaining all of the easy cards and leaving the hard ones behind.  I only need three of the first 100 cards, Ruth, Clemente and Aaron, not a recipe for success.  I've put my whole list below, so I can track my progress toward completion. 

1 Ruth/Aaron/Mays
50 Roberto Clemente
100 Hank Aaron
130 Pete Rose
190 Bob Gibson
193 Carlton Fisk
210 World Series Summary
245 Carl Yastrzemski
255 Reggie Jackson
257 Yogi Berra
266 Mike Lum
275 Tony Perez
305 Willie Mays
320 Lou Brock
329 Ed Kranepool
330 Rod Carew
338 Checklist 257-396
343 Bobby Murcer - Boyhood Heroes
380 Johnny Bench
399 George Foster
400 Gaylord Perry
440 Glen Beckert
472 Lou Gehrig All Time Leader
473 Hank Aaron All Time Leader
474 Babe Ruth All Time Leader
497 Cardinals Team Card
498 Graig Nettles
517 Pirates Team Card
526 Ollie Brown
529 Milt May
536 Phillies Team Card
544 Von Joshua
545 Orlando Cepeda
552 J.C. Martin
556 Yankees Team Card
562 Wayne Garrett
563 Larry Haney
565 Jim Hickman
566 Lew Krausse
567 Bob Fenwick
569 Walter Alston
570 Bill Singer
571 Rusty Torres
573 Bob Didier
575 Dock Ellis
576 Expos Team Card
580 Joe Pepitone
583 Bob Greif
588 Checklist 529-660
593 Royals Manager
594 Vic Harris
595 Don Gullett
596 Red Sox Team Card
597 Mickey Rivers
600 Dave McNally
601 Pena/Robles/Stelmaszk
604 Jefferson/O'Toole/Stramp
609 Blanks/Garcia/Lopes
610 Freeman/Hough/Webb
611 Coggins/Wohlford/Zisk
612 Lawson/Reynolds/Strom
613 Boone/Ivie/Jutze
614 Bumbry/Evans/Spikes
615 Schmidt/Cey
616 Angolini/Blatric/Garman
617 Rich Chiles
618 Andy Etchebarren
619 Billy Wilson
620 Tommy Harper
630 Denny McLain
631 Tom Matchick
634 Alan Closter
636 Rick Clark
642 Jose Laboy
644 Jack Heidemann
650 Felipe Alou
652 Ted Kubiak
654 Twins Team Card
656 John Ellis
657 Bob Johnson
660 Fred Scherman

Needed as of 9/16/2012 - 91 Cards

Hockey Patches and Hobby Boxes...Well, Hobby Box

So, I went to one of the many local card shows yesterday.  Card shows have three great advantages: low overhead, motivated sellers desiring to make back their show costs and in person cards.  My usual plan is a quick lap around the show looking for pre-war cards, so I can find the 12 at the show and decide which ones I might want, then see if there is anything that piques my interest.

Yesterday was strikeout on the vintage front, aside from the mislabeled Philadelphia Athletics picture you see below from the antique store.  I did find a vendor selling $2 autograph and relic cards.  I gravitated toward the hockey cards and found about 1,000 hockey cards for sale.  The vast majority of the cards were autographed cards.  Autographs on their own are not my first choice and I flipped through these cards half-heartedly.  Eventually, I found a small section of relic cards. 

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Amongst the relics, I found the above cards which I purchased, which you probably already knew given the fresh scans.  The Ozolinsh was a no-brainer for me, given that almost all of my favorite players are offensive-minded defensemen.  Ozolinsh was an especially offensive-minded defenseman and one of the better players in the EA NHL games in the 1990s.  Add in the two colors and that was $2 well spent.  I also picked up the Forsberg, since I hate buying cards alone and saw this was one was limited to 250 cards and the patch wasn't white.  Also, the only other card in the stack which was of interest was a Curtis Joseph card, and to be honest, I wasn't 100% sure which team he was playing for in the card.  (Given further research, it was the Phoenix Coyotes.) 

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As for the hobby box, I talked myself into a hobby box of 2012 Topps WWE, given my success at the card store and my inability to complete the base set.  Since returning to collecting cards, this would be the second recent hobby box I've purchased (the other box was an ITG Decades 80s box I bought last month at a show). 

In terms of enjoyment, I was glad I purchased the box.  I managed to finish one base set and really enjoyed opening that many packs.  The collation on the box itself was good, but overall on the product seems to be problematic.  The cards come out in a fairly standard pattern.  Not Upper Deck in the early 1990s consistent, but I opened one pack, found 5 base cards I hadn't previously obtained and this happened two other times, which finished the set for me.  Interestingly, I also pulled the same two blue border cards I found in my blaster, which leads me to believe the collation is very mechanical across all sets, base and insert.  Actually, within the entire box was a complete set, which is good collation, but I would prefer the chance to get some cards I need in each pack with a more random sort of the cards available.  

As for the inserts, I didn't light it up, but had no expectation of doing so.  The Miz relic is fairly good, as it has two colors and some texture.  The Wrestlemania mat relic is a great idea in theory, but makes no sense as to why you just placed wrestlers from the card on the card as well.  Does a picture of Cody Rhodes or John Cena change the nature of the card?  Not really, though it does marginally change the sale price.

Given that it was probably a slightly below to below average box to the product, I enjoyed the break.  I clearly wouldn't make my money back if I tried to sell everything, but I did get cards I actually wanted to keep.  The base design is sharp and enjoyable and most of the insert sets are interesting or compelling.  Even the collation on the box was good.  I suspect opening a whole box will slake my thrist for shiny wrappers for quite some time and leaves me with the dilemma of what to do about 2012 Topps WWE Heritage.  Actually, I will probably buy the set and the one, must-own insert, because I think it will cost me the same as an entire box.  Nonetheless, I secretly suspect there is more box busting in the future.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Antique Store Pickup: 1910 World Champion Athletics


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After going out to lunch with the missus, we went to a few of the antique stores in Somerville.  Most of the sports-related pieces are often greatly overpriced, but fun to look at and generally, I leave empty handed.  Today, was the exception to the rule.

I bought a picture of the 1913 World Champion Philadelphia Athletics.  It was framed and for the store fairly inexpensive or maybe even very inexpensive.  The frame is older, not pre-war old, because of the cardboard back, but definitely 80's old at the earliest, given the dangerous metal and actual glass in the frame. 

The picture itself is a little darkened in the middle and if you look carefully, seems to be a picture of a photo.  The picture doesn't extend to the edge of the paper and the creases in the picture are only visible on the picture and not part of the paper.  The paper is definitely photo-paper and the size is just under 8"X10".  To be honest, the piece makes no sense to me, as I cannot figure out who would want to take a picture of a photo of the 1913 Athletics, print it, then sell it in an antique store.  What are the odds that I come through the door and think, "Hey, that would be cool looking around the house."

Nonetheless, I very much like the piece given its off-beat nature, the inclusion of six Hall of Famers (Connie Mack, Eddie Collins, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Home Run Baker and Herb Pennock) and was glad to pick this up today...until I think about the need to display it. Perhaps this is headed to my desk at work, since there is limited display room in my apartment for such treasures.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Great Scott!

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The pun will only be marginally funny the first time, but by the time we get to 20 or so tries, the pun will be fantastic, I swear. 

Aside from Mike Scott being my favorite modern player growing up, what is great about collecting his cards is the lack of competition for a player with a fairly deep set of cards.  Rare is there a Mike Scott card I want which requires more than one bid over minimum to take down an auction on eBay and whenever I get very serious about expanding my collection, I often have little problem winning what I want.  And what I want is 2005 Topps Pristine Leading Indicators. 

The one you see above is my fourth.  The fifth is already en route and a sixth is likely to be joining this one shortly.  As someone who generally prefers patches to autographs, these cards are really the only Mike Scott relic cards you can buy from his career.  There is also the 2005 Topps Celebrity Threads jersey cards, but one of those is sufficient for my needs.  Every time I am confronted with the opportunity to purchase some of these cards, I instinctively do, like Pavlov's dog responding to the bell.  When I made my first COMC purchase in 2010 of essentially Mike Scott cards, I purchased three of them.  I am strongly preferential to the orange cards and will usually go the extra dollar or two needed to bring one home, but can't say no to a white swatch either.  More importantly, while researching this, I learned there is a refractor version limited to 25.  None of the ones I've purchased to date are numbered to 25 and knowing the existence of this card has given me another card to chase after.

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It also allows me to pick up some real oddball pieces as well.  I know very little about the above pins.
 They are small, about 1 inch by 1.5 inches.
  • They are small, about 1 inch by 1.5 inches. 
  • They are metal with bronze-colored backs. 
  • They are pins.
  • They have All Star on the front.
  • They are supposed to be from 1986.
  • The Mike Scott looks like a Fleer card.    
There is scant information available about these pins on the internet.  I was able to find the original auction and nothing else.  They are not like any other cards I've seen and not part of any set I could easily identify.  I had to buy the three pin lot, which left me with two extra pins (Jesse Barfield and Mike Schmidt) that don't exactly fit my collection.  In the unlikely event that you know something about these pins, I would be interested to know more, especially for cataloging purposes in my Mike Scott list.

Otherwise, I am quite pleased with the latest additions to my Mike Scott collection, as the fulfill my favorite card to obtain and my need for more eclectic issues. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Most #1derful Pull: A Local Card Store Story

After much searching, I think I may have found a local card store I like.  I left work on time today and headed over to Attack of the Baseball Cards in Union.  Braving the horrors of driving Route 22 in rush hour, I arrived at the store ready to buy cards and given most of the card stores in the area, be disappointed.  I ended up buying cards, but was not disappointed.

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Looking through the cases, I found the above card, a T206 Kaiser Wilhelm Hands At Chest.  Even though I already had a Wilhelm Hands at Chest (actually, I have all of the Dodgers in the set), the card was in the price range where I buy the T206 regardless of previous ownership.  As to the Kaiser himself, Wilhelm might be the worst player to ever have two cards in a set.  Aside from 1908, where Wilhelm had a sparkling 1.87 ERA, Wilhelm was generally a below average pitcher in his career, including going 3-23 in 1905, leading to two years in the minor leagues.  Given his pitching skill, it might have made sense to call him Kaiser even without the matching last name, as his stats belied the withered arm of his namesake. 

This card alone would have been worth the trip to the card store by itself.  However, from there the trip gets even better.  Seeing a hobby box of 2012 Topps WWE cards in a pristine, undisturbed state, I decide to purchase four packs to try and fill in some of the holes in my base set.  In this respect, the cards were a bust, as I started the day needing 13 base cards and ended the day needing 13 base cards.  Fortunately, there are more than just base cards in packs, like the "Wonderful" card below.

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I've never pulled an autograph from a pack of cards before, nor have I pulled a card where the odds were 1:111.  On average, there are about two Hall of Famer autographs per case or one every five boxes.  Given the checklist of stars, pulling an Orndorff alone would be the second best pull I could ask for, just below Tully Blanchard and just above Harley Race.  However, look at that signature.  Orndorff actually signs his name "Mr. #1derful".  I've never seen a cooler or more impressive signature in my life.  It works.  If I sign something like that, I'm a jerk and probably a word even worse than that.  However, if you are the master of the piledriver and worked Hulk Hogan, that is above awesome.  Pulling that in the first pack was great.  In the second pack, I pulled one of the other two box hits as well.

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The gold cards come one per box and while Rosa Mendes is not the most famous of WWE superstars, I still did beat the odds on the four packs I bought.  The gold bordering looks a lot better in person and really shines.  Even without considering the great pulls, I really enjoyed the store, as it was clean, well-organized and the owner failed to either patronize me or blame me for his ills.  In fact, the owner was actually helpful, which might be a first in a card store.  In all, it was a #1derful experience. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Local Card Show: Second Sunday of the Month

I'm a card show junkie.  I love the concept of multiple dealers set up in a small area, allowing me to browse their wares and when the mood strikes, purchase from their respective tables.  This also explains why I like going to antique stores and flea markets as well.  If only I were a home and truck owner, oh the vintage furniture I would own. 

Regardless, every second Sunday of the month, there is a small card show in a rec center about 20 minutes away.  When I first got back into card collecting about two years, this was the first show I frequented, before I learned, yes, I will travel 2+ hours to a card show.  With about 30 or so tables, there used to be a decent selection of cards and dealers.

Wallie Schange

Over the last two years, both have disappeared from the show.  One time, I went and there were six dealers at the show, which after paying my admission, led me to purchasing nothing that sad day.  In the past, I managed to find some very interesting cards to add to my collection, like the Wallie Schange (Wally Schang) strip card with the off-center printing or the B18 Covalskie felt blanket that sits in a binder.

On Sunday, it was a struggle.  I arrived and there were about 10 dealers at the show.  There is one guy, who often has a great amount of oddball cards near the front, so I waited to go his table last.  There was no current, unopened product to be had at the show, which was a little disappointing, given my desire to break something open.  One dealer had commons from the most recent releases and a small shelf of cards from the 70s, which didn't call to me.  Another, had cases full of new rookie cards and another having a large selection of football cards.

As I made my way around the room, I found one dealer who had a T205 for sale.  The T205 set known as the gold border set, for the gold borders on the tobacco cards.  Gold borders which almost always fleck off, making it hard to find them in excellent or better condition.  I had seen the card before and refused to make an offer on the card, since it felt like buying for the sake of buying and I expect there to be a price if I ask.  I believe the first time I saw the card, I was offered it for $150, which is only three to five times to real value, unless a card with somewhat damaged borders and less than perfect corners can be considered EX-MT. I saw the card again, marked $600 on the front, because the Mint price of a 100 year old card comes into play, never.  Even with a generous discount, it was enough to keep me walking along to the next dealers. 

Another dealer had just finished breaking a few boxes of 2012 Goodwin Champions, which he must have brought with him to the show.   One of the cards for sale, was a Paul Coffey two color (white and orange) patch card.  Having bought one for $1 on eBay plus shipping with only one color, I was somewhat interested in adding another to my collection.  I inquired about the card, likely being the only person who cares enough about Paul Coffey to come to a rec center on a Sunday morning, expecting a price of somewhere between $5 and $10.  The dealer, serious as can be, gives me the card and quotes me a price of $25.  I didn't even waste time doing anything other than returning the card.  I understand a show premium and will pay it for something that I want, but I would never pay a 5X show premium, which seemed to be the rule of the day. 

Disappointed, I take a second tour of the show, as my regular oddball dealer, didn't have anything of interest, other than some very low grade 1963 Topps Flags of the World cards that I just couldn't pull the trigger on.  I went back to the table in the far corner, where I spy a box full of boxes.  Boxes of cards from the early 1990s.  I looked and I looked and thought about a box of 1992 Topps Baseball, but decided that wasn't quite for me.  I did however, see a box 1991 Stadium Club Hockey.  The price was fair and I was able to leave the show with something I was quite interested in. 

I've yet to break the box, but look forward to the rainy day project.  I do hope the cards are not stuck together and perhaps the collation gods at Topps will be kind and I will be able to put together a complete set from the box. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

$10 Box Break - 1993 Studio

What I enjoy about one of my local card stores is the shelf of $10 boxes.  Unlike the other local card stores which greet you with $70 boxes of 2010 Topps Update Hobby.  No, seriously, click on the link to see the price.  Seriously, I went with cash in hand to that store yesterday, saw that when I opened the door and was unable to find one thing at a marginally reasonable price worth purchasing.

At the other local card store yesterday, I went over to the shelf of $10 boxes and found new boxes for sale.  Usually, there is a selection of junk era wax that I am often familiar with.  Late 80' or early 90's Topps, same for Donruss and Fleer, some occasional Stadium Club or Leaf.  Yesterday, I did find some new boxes, including a box of 1993 Studio, along with another box I've put away for a rainy day.  The Studio called to me, look quite sharp with strong images on all over the box.  Plus, it is from an era where I actually remember most of the players, unlike with today's sets where at times I am familiar with no more than half the pack. 

Without further ado, let's discuss what was actually in the box. 

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Collation - With a set size of 220 cards and 432 cards in a box, I expect to complete one set.  And I did.  It was quite a great feeling, cards on the floor, being sorted.  When I reached Joe Oliver, he was sorted in the wrong pile, nearly leading me to believe I had 219 cards for a set.  Of course, with Joe Oliver found, the rest of the sorting commenced and the set was completed.  This is one of the very complete sets I currently have.  There are some complete Sportsflic sets from a trip to the highly disappointing Tuesday show in Parsippany and the 1982 Donruss factory set I bought in the 1980s, which in my youth, I took out the puzzle and completed one, very bored night. 

In terms of duplicates, the distribution was fairly good.  The Barry Larkin pictured above was the most prevalent card in the box, with four (4) of them inside the box.  I also managed to pick up duplicates of most Hall of Famers and soon to be Hall of Famers.  I even noted that George Brett was always stuck to Mike Piazza when found in the box or that Griffey, Bonds and Ripken came out of the same pack twice.  1990s collation at its finest.

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Style and Selection - The player selection was pretty fantastic, with the set containing a large number of stars and few, if any missing players from the era.  I was a little disappointed by the lack of Kevin Appier and David Cone, but basically any other player of note in the 1990s was in the set. 

The cards also look great.  The cards with the darker backgrounds really pop, with very strong photography.  Given that it is Studio, the pictures are all posed headshots, but they are well done and not once during the box did I miss the action shots of today. 

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Inserts - We cannot discuss sports cards without inserts today.  Back during my original collecting days, all we had to look forward to were errors and corrected errors.  But since we now live in the lottery era of sports cards, we need to discuss the inserts.  There were six inserts in the box, one Frank Thomas Collection (boring as it is just a picture of Frank and a discussion of his love of his family), two Superstars on Canvas, including the Bonds shown above and Joe Carter (debasing the term 'Superstar') and three Heritage cards. 

The Heritage card of Roger Clemens was the best card in the box.  The classic flannel uniform, the strong sepia-toned photography, the nod to the era of Smokey Joe Wood, all things I thought were great about this card.  The other Heritage cards in the box were nice, but without the classic uniforms, it felt a little disappointing after seeing the Clemens. 

Downside - The downside of these cards was the gloss turning into a glue.  It's possible the cards were once stored in a high temperature area, leading to many of the cards sticking together when pulled from the pack.  The damage when pulled apart was limited to the back, with a fair number of cards suffering from white speckling and a few cards, like one of my Greg Maddux cards having a white line across the black reverse.

Overall, I really enjoyed opening this box, as I was able to complete an entire set, enjoyed seeing the players of my youth again and really enjoyed the design of the cards.  Though I learned the valuable lesson of not paying a high price for older, glossy cards as peeling apart cards led to damaging the backs of many cards, acceptable in a $10 box, not a $100 box. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Candy Cards and Foil Board

Coming home from work, I checked the mailbox and found packages...packages for me.  Below are the highlights of today's mailbox filling. 

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I managed to get another Orval Overall card.  After posting some of my recent Orval Overall purchases on Net54 message board, I received an offer to pick up the above E90-1 Orval Overall, which is another American Caramel card from 1910.  From what I have read, the Overall in this set is quite difficult to get in any condition and was quite excited to add this card.  The card itself is beautiful and crease-free with a strong image, though it has one minor flaw.  If you look closely at the lower right hand corner of the card, you can see that some card magician decided to make some small alteration to the card in an attempt to "improve" the corners.  Doing so took what would have been a very valuable card and made it a very affordable card.

A great number of people are offended by trimmed or altered cards, refusing to purchase them.  I, on the other hand, look forward to a nicely butchered card.  Some of the best looking cards in my collection had a run-in with the old paper cutter, cutting the overall price by about 90% in some cases.  So, an unfortunate trim in a past life led to a very fortunate addition to my collection, which I am quite pleased with.  

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The other great mailday show up with the autographed J.R. Richard card below.  Combining foil board and a signature on a sticker, I don't think you could intentionally make two cards less similar than the two I posted today.  I likely overpaid for the card, as unlike other bidders, I was unaware that J.R. Richard was still alive. 

My earliest memories of J.R. come from a 1981 MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia.  It was about six years old when I bought this as a child and remember reading the book from cover to cover.  As you might know, there were codes for all times a player missed time and J.R. Richard had a rare one, indicating he had a stroke.  As an Astro who wore the orange sunrise shirts while throwing strikeouts like candy, he is a player I would have been a fan of, but for the whole stroke thing.  Following up on wikipedia, I did learn that he had some hard times, but turned his life around, which is a lot better than the whole dead thing. 

Two Terrible Mail Days

Perhaps the greatest part of purchasing cards is getting fun packages in the mail.  Every day, I come home from work, excited about what might be there waiting for me.  The last two days have been quite the opposite, filling my postal box with disappointment and grief, though with a little good fortune.

Yesterday, the misfortune was a combination of faults and flaws.  Arriving home, I find two packages in my mail box and by mail box, I mean that little locked box in an apartment building that is kept indoors and safe from any harm.  So, I take out the packages and find a little white envelope and a package from Britain.  The little white envelope contained a Donruss pop-up card of Mike Scott.  Any time I can purchase a Mike Scott card I don't have for $0.01 and $0.50 shipping, it should be a great acquisition.  Of course, when you own seven of them and don't realize it, the package disappoints, stings a little even, as you realize for $0.51 all you have done is up your feedback and someone else's feedback on eBay.

The package from Britain was exciting.  About three weeks ago, I won a Southampton soccer jersey on eBay.  The buyer shipped a package to me and a few days later, let me know there was an error and he was fairly certain he sent me the wrong jersey, but the right jersey was going out that day and I could keep the package.  The seller was more than generous and I would have been quite alright waiting for the package to arrive and confirming there was a problem prior to rectifying, but the seller went out of his way to fix.  So, of course, the wrong package arrives and I was optimistic that it might be something interesting or usable.  Sadly, it was little more than a AFC Bournemouth jersey in medium.  Since it has been about half a life time since I could wear a medium in public, I have a spare AFC Bournemouth jersey I can never use.

Flash forward to today.  I get home very late and find a package inside my mailbox.  By inside, I mean somehow the mailman defied the laws of physics by not appearing the bend the package, but managing to get the package, with stiff cardboard to fit the diagonal of the mailbox, despite actually being slightly larger than the mailbox.  Perplexed, I tried pulling the package, but was met with the stiff resistance of cold (actually room temperature), unforgiving steel.  With some persistence, I was able to remove the package from the mailbox, but not without bending the package slightly and shearing the edge off one side of the package.

Getting upstairs, I take a few pictures of the package, in case I need to complain to the post office that our physics-bending letter carrier is aiding and abetting in the destruction of the U.S. Mail. 

The package itself was the results of my first Sportlots purchase.  I found a few dealers on Labor Day who had an extensive collection of rarer and offbeat Mike Scott cards I didn't own and placed a fairly sizable order.  I was super excited about the order and quite scared, as I knew some of the larger cards were in this particular order.

In a fortunate turn of events, seller SoCalSpt did a tremendous job packing the entire order and nary a card was harmed, despite the best efforts of my mailman.  In addition to a fair number of Canadian cards, I was able to get a Donruss Super Diamond King which is around a 5" by 7" card filled with George Perez artwork.  I also picked up the below cards as well

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The 1991 Topps card is actually a Topps Micro, despite my scanner insisting it is a normal sized card.  The disc was one of the giant Sportflics discs and is even cooler in hand. 

What I thought was most interesting was the 1990 Donruss Learning Series card.  The front of the card features the Learning Series logo, as well as a different picture than found on the standard Donruss card.  However, the back is exactly the same, save the card number.  Thanks to Baseball Card Pedia, I was able to learn these were supplied as learning aids to schools, though I cannot exactly figure out what is learned from these cards, other than you need to buy more cards.  But that's what happens when you mix private business and public education. 

Fortunately, thanks to some great care by a seller, mailday, perilously close to being ruined was saved and filled my day with the joy of new cards for my collection. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012 Topps WWE Blaster: A Rare, Timely Break

It's admission time, boys and girls.  You see, I am a wrestling fan.  A very big wrestling fan.  One of those fans who grew up in the 1980s, watching not only the WWF with classic stars like the Iron Sheik and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, but also the NWA with the Four Horsemen and Dusty Rhodes and WCCW with the Freebirds and the Von Erichs. 

Like all hobbies, my love of wrestling waxes and wanes, but currently, I am a die-hard wrestling fan.  I'm the fan who goes to independent wrestling shows from New York to Pennsylvania.  I am the fan who when Daniel Bryan was released from the WWE, went to the EVOLVE show in Rahway, NJ to see him one last time on the independent circuit.  I am the fan who orders every Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show from California, because without question, they are the best promotion in America today with all of the top independent wrestling stars you have never heard.  And most importantly, I am the wrestling fan who went to Wal-Mart after not finding WWE cards at Target both on the way to and on the way home from work and purchased the last blaster in the store. 

Base Cards

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The base cards are critical to the success of any set.  With WWE sets, the base cards rarely disappoint.  Wrestling lends itself to action shots and Topps really knows how to get these shots to pop.  Looking at the Chris Jericho base card, you can almost see him pulling his opponent's legs off as the image almost appears to start coming off the card.  The remainder of the set is also great, with the action shots really taking center stage in the set.  The backs are written by Mick Foley and quite interesting, even on the occasional card where I have never heard of the person.  Scott Stanford, I'm looking your way.  The one disappointment is that I did not pull cards of either of my two favorite wrestlers in the main set, Daniel Bryan and Antonio Cesaro. 

Inserts

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The best decision Topps made was to include one Relic insert in each blaster box.  In a hobby box, you are only guaranteed two hits, one relic and either a second relic or potential autograph.  Not being an autograph fan and not wanting to pay my LCS $60 or so for a hobby box, the blaster was easily the right choice for me. 


As you can see, I ended up with one of the better relics in the set with Sheamus.   While not a big Sheamus fan, it is far better to get a Sheamus relic, who is popular and a champion, than say a Hunico or Hornswoggle relic, which is a real kick in the pants.  I would have far preferred a Daniel Bryan or CM Punk relic, I cannot complain.

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The remaining insert sets are also well done.  The Howard Finkel Hall of Fame card makes up for only getting two Hall of Fame inserts in the box.  I also ended up with two Blue border inserts and did quite well there as well, getting the Kelly Kelly seen above and a Sheamus.

In all, this was one of the best boxes of new product that I have opened.  It would be better if the relic card was packaged in something other than a clear wrapper and I would have preferred more old-time wrestlers in the set.  However, if these are the biggest complaints you have about a product, you have done quite well.  Well enough to me looking forward to buying another blaster in order to complete the base set. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Smokey The Bear

Mike Scott and Smokey the Bear
I think fire prevention is a cause almost all of us can get behind, given the destructive force and our love of our own material goods.  But how does one convey the importance of fire prevention to large groups of people.  With a talking, anthropomorphic bear wearing a forest ranger hat.  That is how we pass along fire prevention.

But how do you get Smokey the Bear, everyone's favorite talking, anthropomorphic bear into the homes of people, especially children, who have yet to be conditioned to be afraid of fire's awe-inspiring power and force?  Well, in the 1980s, it seems one of the preferred vehicles for our friend was baseball cards.  Not just any baseball cards, but baseball cards featuring some of the second-best players of the day.

Until the other day, I too, was blissfully unaware that in the 1980s, there were series of baseball cards featuring Smokey the Bear.  Smokey the Bear and established baseball players.  When running some eBay searches for Mike Scott cards I might not already own, I found this gem, with an unhappy Mike Scott and a poor man in a bear suit.  (Note to readers, Smokey the Bear is fake, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  If I have ruined this for you, I would apologize, but really you should know better by now.)  Not wasting an opportunity for a chance at greatness, I submitted a best offer, which was accepted, allowing the card to be sent on its way. 

After a few days of waiting, the card arrived.  At first, I could not figure out what would come in these two, paperback book-sized pieces of cardboard.  But once I opened one side, I saw that the Mike Scott and Smokey the Bear card was in fact giant-sized and safely kept in the cardboard in a cloth and plastic protector, likely designed for photographs.  I was overjoyed by the cards arrival and was able to resist the temptation to remove the card from its protection to see the reverse, knowing that by doing so, I keep the card safe for generations to come and gaze upon the magnificence of Smokey the Bear and Mike Scott.

For set and team collectors, I've put a checklist of the entire 26 card set below, as each team had one designated representative who was forced to pose awkwardly with a man in a bear suit. 

American League

Baltimore Orioles - Larry Sheets
Boston Red Sox - Oil Can Boyd
California Angels - John Candelaria
Chicago White Sox - Harold Baines
Cleveland Indians - Joe Carter
Detroit Tigers - Jack Morris
Kansas City Royals - Buddy Biancalana
Milwaukee Brewers - Jim Gantner
Minnesota Twins - Kirby Puckett
New York Yankees - Mike Pagliarulo
Oakland Athletics - Jose Canseco
Seattle Mariners - Mike Moore
Texas Rangers - Charlie Hough
Toronto Blue Jays - Tom Henke

National League

Atlanta Braves - Dale Murphy
Chicago Cubs - Jody Davis
Cincinnati Reds - Bill Gullickson
Houston Astros - Mike Scott
Los Angeles Dodgers - Steve Sax 
Montreal Expos - Mike Fitzgerald
New York Mets - Roger McDowell
Philadelphia Phillies - Steve Bedrosian
Pittsburgh Pirates - Johnny Ray
San Diego Padres - Steve Garvey
San Francisco Giants - Mike Krukow
St. Louis Cardinals - Ozzie Smith

Sunday, September 2, 2012

2012 Goodwin Champions

Until this year, I was only vaguely acquainted with Goodwin Champions.  I reckon in past years, I would see the cards at my local retail store and not be impressed by the base card or insert odds. Or I wouldn't look at the checklist or would still feel vaguely turned off by Allen & Ginter, which for some reason, never resonates with me, like it does for most collectors.

Francis Goodwin
This year, I was at the East Coast National in White Plains and caved.  I didn't cave for an entire box, but just one pack, to see what all of the fuss was about.  Admitted, I enjoy opening packs, but seldom, if ever, convince myself I need a box of product to open, since rare is the set that calls to me or speaks to my card collecting desires which comes in pack format.

So, with a pack of Goodwin Champions in hand, my desire to buy unopened cards sated, I was able to begin the long walk back to the train station.  Of course, with cards to open, I was unable to wait much beyond the entrance foyer to crack open the pack.  Opening them, I found five cards, black bordered, with all sorts of strange images inside.  Famous people wearing all sorts of odd clothing with almost nothing to do with sports.  And a player selection that seemed odd, like Prince Amukamara and Jack Morris. 

Finishing looking at the cards in the pack, I was unimpressed, but decided to look at the checklist when I made it home. Well, the checklist does have some fantastically interesting players on the list, like Pud Galvin and Jim O'Rourke.  It also has two of my favorite hockey players of all time, Paul Coffey and Ron Francis.  Scanning further, I saw they had relic cards as well and knew I needed to obtain them for my collection.

Coffey Goodwin
Nothing says sports card relic like a Hall of Fame Defenseman in a polo shirt.  It reaches a certain height of absurdity which I find irresistible.  It did take three auctions and one request on the Blowout Cards forums to get the Paul Coffey relic at a reasonable price.  By reasonable, I mean $0.99 plus shipping.  There was one relic, which was multi-colored including Edmonton orange, which I would have went the extra dollar or two for, but the owner didn't want to sell, given his exceptionally low rate of return on the box.  The Ron Francis logo in resplendent Pittsburgh black was purchased for the same price in the first auction I found.

This did lead to a second pack of cards purchased at my LCS one day, when nothing else behind the counter struck me.  Other than my first, only and last Jelly Roll Morton card, nothing in the pack even stood out to me. All of this led to a series of wacky, yet fruitful decisions which led to a quite nice score in another arena, but that is for another day.

Admitted, the cards obtained to date and the astonishingly low prices for guaranteed box hits likely killed any interest I had in purchasing a substantial amount of this product.  I suspect that is how it will end up being for most new products as they come out, but that is probably a subject best left for another day.  

Until then, I will continue to look for another set to collect, as I am more likely to purchase an original Goodwin Champions than the modern versions, except for perhaps a Paul Coffey printing plate, because deep down inside, we all know you can never get enough rare versions of HOF defensemen in polo shirts.