Scratching an Itch…

After being out of the hobby for a couple years, I got the itch to open some wax.  After doing some research on the available 2012 baseball offerings, I settled on Topps Archives for a few reasons:
1. I like that the autos are hard signed on the card – a nice touch and far better than a sticker.
2. It looks like the majority of the signers took the time to do a nice job – the signatures look really great.
3. The checklist is solidly comprised of current and retired players.
4. I’m a sucker for retro themes.

Having decided, I made my way to my lcs and shortly after arriving, I carried home a box of Topps Archives.  I wasn’t expecting much in the way of “hits” (I’ve never pulled anything resembling a true hit and have very tempered expectations) but I did pull many of the cards I was hoping for including these base cards:

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Roberto Clemente

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Ichiro

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Andrew McCutchen and Adam Jones

On top of those beauties, I also landed these:

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An Ichiro Deckle Edge, Lolich and Gamble Autos and a Mantle 3D

The autos look quite nice and it seems to me that these retired players really appreciated being included in a set like this and took the time to make clear, legible signatures.  The 3D cards are cooler than I expected and I may try to build a set.  I was ready to declare the box a success.  After all, the only cards I didn’t pull that I really wanted were the Ken Griffey Jr. SP and the Clemente Deckle Edge and 3D card.  Then, I happened upon this:

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What?? This never happens to me.

I’ve already entered the redemption code, now the challenge is to be patient while I wait the 12-15 weeks Topps apparently takes to put a card in the mail.  I’m not even sure what to do with it once it’s in my hands…

I’m just extremely surprised at my incredible luck and an already great experience was that much sweeter because of it.  I’ll definitely be looking to complete this set and have the following inserts available for trade if anyone is interested in parting with a Griffey SP or a Clemente Deckle or 3D (although I’ll take any Deckles or 3D cards):
Giancarlo Stanton Cloth
Gary Carter Cloth
Jim Rice Cloth
Starlin Castro Cloth
Reggie Jackson Reprint
Juan Marichal Reprint
George Brett Reprint
Jim Palmer Reprint
Larry Doby Reprint
Whitey Ford Reprint

December 2, 2012 at 12:49 AM Leave a comment

A Fine Way to Spend New Year’s Eve: WJC 2010

Friends with extra tickets are the best.  On December 31st, 2010, I will be crossing the border into western New York to attend my first WJC tournament ever.  I grew up watching Team Canada win five straight in the 90s and Paul Romanuk’s ecstatic and lyrical call of “The Drive for Five is Alive!” is forever seared into my memory.  The start of the World Juniors is a boxing day tradition for me and it has always been my favourite hockey tournament to watch ever since I was a kid.  The purity of the tournament is untouched and untainted by professional money and every single one of these kids play their hearts out for the passion of the game and the pride of their country.  No one dogs it in this tournament and no one has to have their arm twisted to pull on their country’s sweater.

While I won’t have the pleasure of seeing Team Canada, I have the good fortune to witness two great hockey nations square off.  I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for Finnish hockey (probably because their style of play so closely resembles the North American game) and Slovakia has been strong for years.  I’m always anxious to see Canada do well, but the ever shrinking gap between Canada, Russia and the rest of the world is part of what makes this tournament so great.  It’s really anyone’s tournament and that makes it all the more exciting.  No doubt about it in my books, this is hockey at its finest and purest.

I can't think of a better way to cap off 2010...

December 14, 2010 at 1:02 AM 5 comments

And We’re Back: Trims and Fakes

Things have been fairly busy for me lately, but I’ve finally found the time to make a new post.  A few eBay gems to share:

1981-82 O-Pee-Chee #1 - Ray Bourque

This 1981-82 OPC Bourque was acquired off of eBay several years ago, but only did I recently notice the slight slant inwards of the card on the right hand side.  The edges are a little rough as you can see from the scan, but this doesn’t seem like an uncommon element in OPC cards of the 1980s.  In comparing the size of this card when stacked directly on top of more modern, evenly cut cards, it is a little smaller.  I only paid $12 for it, and it’s still one of my favourite cards in my collection.

1985-86 O-Pee-Chee #29 - Steve Yzerman

This 1985-86 OPC Yzerman exhibits the same dimensional oddities as the Bourque.  On both sides you can really see slanting and the edges are quite rough.  I’ve compared both the Bourque and Yzerman to other copies of cards from the era, and in the case of the Yzerman, another copy of the same exact card.  Many of the cards I own from the early-mid 80s exhibit slight sizing quirks.  I know OPC’s quality control was never the greatest in the 1980s, but it makes me wonder.  If anyone can help identify evidence of these being trims, I think they’d be doing a great service to the collecting community.  It seems to me to be a fairly common problem on vintage cards, and though I snagged this at a very reasonable $7, it would be a shame to figure out that the Bourque and Yzerman are trims.  Nonetheless, they remain favourites in my personal collection.

2001 Bowman Heritage #352 - Ichiro Suzuki

This 2001 Bowman Heritage Ichiro is another story.  I acquired this card off eBay several years ago, but only recently compared it to the Pujols from the same set.  I should have noticed this earlier, but the Ichiro shows several signs of being a fake:

1. The front is much glossier than the Pujols
2. The faded out Bowman Heritage logo on the front
3. Dimensions are slightly smaller overall
4. An examination of the edges shows a clear layering of the white photo stock over the brown cardboard stock
5. The darker stock on the back
6. “Bowman HERITACE”

2001 Bowman HERITACE #352 - Ichiro Suzuki Fake RC

This card, to me is the saddest thing in the world.  Ichiro is one of my favourite players, and I only discovered that it was a fake after examining it against the Pujols several years after the fact.  I’m fairly certain that the Pujols is legitimate, but the Ichiro is most definitely a fraud.  It is extremely disconcerting that our hobby is filled with sharks that will stoop to this level to make a few bucks.  This discovery also makes me very weary of buying on eBay now and I can’t help but feel that the online marketplace has been tainted by the opportunity for scam artists to sell cards that would be, upon physical inspection, quite easy to spot as fakes.  All it takes is one unscrupulous seller to ruin the experience for everyone.  That being said, in retrospect, I’m glad it was the Ichiro and not the Pujols that turned out to be fake.  On the positive side, the Ichiro makes an interesting piece of conversation…

If anyone has anything to weigh in on or can provide insight into fakes and trims (esp. the OPCs above), I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say!  Pipe up!  Until next time, happy and safe collecting and may all your finds be honest and legitimate.

November 16, 2010 at 4:11 PM 3 comments

Great Mail Day!

This morning brought a couple of great surprises in the mail.  First off, this is one card out of a lot of 1982-83 OPC Hockey I got off eBay:

1982-83 OPC Hockey #7 - Ray Bourque

I now have 158 new 1982-83 OPC cards to add to the few wax packs I ripped several years ago.  A set seems like a new, challenging possibility.   Sadly, the box these cards were sent in got pretty smushed by the postal service and some of the cards got creased down the middle, including the lovely #1 Gretzky card.  I have the lot of them shoved tightly into a box in the hopes that they’ll flatten out some.  Shane, if you’re reading this and have duplicates for trade, I’m your man!

Second, I received the cards that Captain Canuck over at Waxaholic sent as his half of our trade.  A few of the goodies:

2008-09 Upper Deck Hockey Series 2 #297 - Joe Sakic

This is an awesome photo of Burnaby Joe.  Already one of my favourite base cards of his.

1995-96 Ultra Premier Pivots #8 - Joe Sakic

I love anything that shows Joe Sakic in a Nordiques jersey.

PRO SET + JUMBO PACK = ALL KINDS OF WIN

Wow.  Just wow.  This reminds me of when I first started buying Pro Set packs at the convenience store.  The inaugural 1990-91 set was definitely over-produced and held absolutely zero value even back in the early-mid nineties, but that’s besides the point.  This is an AWESOME bonus for two reasons.  One: Pro Set.  Two: Jumbo Pack.  I’ll probably post this pack rip at a later date.  Thanks, Captain!

What a great mail day.

November 2, 2010 at 12:36 PM 2 comments

2010-11 Score Hockey Set Review

2010-11 Score Hockey hit the shelves at my local store this weekend and since I was intrigued by the prospect of pulling a 1990-91 buyback auto, I purchased a box for the bargain basement price of $29.95.  Score is obviously a low-end product, but I have to say I’m rather impressed thus far.  I might actually try to build this set (list to go up soon).

Base Cards

2010-11 Score Hockey is great for set builders as it has a 550 card base set (if you count the 50 short printed rookies which fall at a rate of 1:2 packs).  The base cards are actually printed on some very nice stock which is relatively thick, non-glossy and surprisingly, very sturdy.  The stock actually reminds me a little bit of 1990 Leaf baseball, which was at the time, a premium product, so if you consider that this set is a value brand, we’re already off to a good start.

The base set design is, in my books, also a winner, and is obviously very reminiscent of Score’s inaugural 1990-91 release.  I like these better though, because they don’t have the weird little cut off stripe along the sides, which gives the cards a cleaner look.  Overall, very minimalist and solidly designed.  The borders don’t get in the way of the photos, which is always a plus.

The photography is crisp and generally consists of close-up player shots without much context from the action going on outside of the frame.  These are generally the type of shots I like, since players can often get lost on their own card if there’s too much going on.

2010-11 Score Hockey #241 - Drew Doughty (Yes, that's a crease on the bottom right side - I'll be hitting up Panini for a replacement and will update on how the process goes)

Rookies

This set includes 50 short printed rookies, all of whom, I believe, debuted late last season.  The headliners are of course, Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens.  At 1:2 packs, rookies aren’t hard to find, and I was able to pull both a Kadri and a Subban.  I would have preferred the rookies printed with the regular design – the flame burst background is cheesy, but these aren’t the worst looking cards I’ve seen.  It is interesting to note that the Subban card uses a different photo than the one in the previews, which I guess was a pre-production mock-up.

2010-11 Score Hockey #501 - Nazem Kadri

Inserts

I think the biggest bone I have to pick with this set is the number of inserts.  Panini has loaded this set with a bunch of inserts, many of which make better subsets.  I tend not to care too much about inserts, and one or two per set makes sense, but when you’re on the north side of five insert sets, that’s just too much and frankly, I’d rather have another base card for my set than a crappy insert.  That said, the Net Cam inserts feature some stunning photography.  The Playoff Heroes, Sudden Death and the Die Cut Snow Globes I could’ve done without.  I didn’t break any of the horribly ugly The Franchise or Canada Greats though.   Another nit-picky detail is that the inserts don’t have any sort of prefix or __ of __ designation to their numbering so it’s easy to confuse them for base set subset cards.  Rookie Redemption cards of t his year’s freshmen fall at a rate of one-per-box, and I managed to pull an signature redemption card of Rangers forward Derek Stepan.  No luck with Hall, Seguin or Eberle, maybe next time.

2010-11 Score Hockey Snow Globes #10 - Antti Niemi

2010-11 Score Hockey Net Cam #19 - Henrik Lundqvist

2010-11 Score Hockey Playoff Heroes #8 - Joe Thornton (*snicker)

2010-11 Score Hockey Sudden Death #11 - Alexander Ovechkin

Parallels

The dreaded P-word.  I generally hate parallels, and score has too many of ’em.  Glossy, French Back and Anniversary.

Summary

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up pulling one of those sweet on-card buyback autographs, but I do believe that 2010-11 Score Hockey is a solid product at a great price.  The Pluses:

+ Solid and clean base set design
+ Sturdy and thick card stock
+ Crisp close-up photograhpy
+ Fantastic price point
+ Great for set builders
+ Lots of rookies (if you’re into that)
+ OG Buyback Autos with a solid checklist!

The Minuses:

– Too many useless inserts
– No differentiated numbering on insert sets
– No guarantee of big hits (if you’re into that)
– Too many parallels
– Lazy photo selection (many of the players are depicted in old uniforms but listed under the updated team)

Overall rating: 8/10

Box Breakdown:

203 Base Set (Including rookies) = 37% (0 duplicates!)
36 Glossy Parallel
1 Rookie Signature Redemption
3 Net Cam
6 Playoff Heroes
2 Sudden Death
1 Snow Globes
_____________
252 Total Cards

October 31, 2010 at 2:04 PM 6 comments

Memorabilia Card Trade-off!

I’ve been trying to stay away from memorabilia cards in general (read my thoughts on them in the previous post) and as a move to get this bug out of my system, I’ve decided to hold a trade off of the jersey/patch cards I don’t have any desire to keep.  I never accumulated many and there’s nothing particularly spectacular, but see the menu bar at the top for the small number of items available if you are interested and leave a comment on the page if there’s something you’d like to obtain.

I’m not looking for big hits in return, just interesting cards of the players I collect – vintage stuff would be awesome!  Or 2008-09 OPC Retro Parallels!

October 23, 2010 at 3:58 PM 1 comment

Speculation, RCs and “Hits”

From RCs to Memorabilia
When I first began collecting baseball cards with my cousin in the late 80s and early 90s (the height of the Beckett era), I always wondered what the big deal with rookies were.  They always cost me a lot more to obtain and were often priced out of my reach (1989 Ken Griffey Jr. and 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas come to mind).  After all, it was just another card of a player that could be found in sets of subsequent years, the only differentiating factor (if you can call it that) is that RC years were the first year a player’s likeness graced MLB/NHL/NBA/NFL licensed cardboard.  This factor, in my mind, doesn’t justify an exponential increase in the “value” of the card, and might also explain why I don’t own the rookies of some of my favourite players like Gretzky, Ray Bourque or Roberto Clemente.

Of course, as with most kids collecting back in those days, I got swept up by the rookie card craze, and soon began disregarding pretty much all other aspects of card collecting like set building or player collecting.  I loved opening packs, but became disappointed when I didn’t break a big money rookie, even if I pulled cards of stars like Mike Schmidt or even Wayne Gretzky.  And I suppose that’s where the hobby began going downhill – with the money.  Soon, the RC craze gave way to the insert-mania of the 90s, arguably the darkest period of speculation seen by the hobby.  The super premium sets like  Finest and SP began the $10/pack price point and by the 2000s, we were eyeing triple digit pack prices justified by the “hit.”  Autographed and  memorabilia (in some cases both) RCs of even highly irrelevant players began commanding ludicrous prices on the secondary market.

I am, admittedly, guilty of getting swept up in the “hit” craze too.  I had all but forgotten why I got into the hobby in the first place, which was finding cards of my favourite players in packs.  For me, it was never about set building, but rather about player collecting.  However, I had given up on player collecting and just began hoarding cards of the most promising minor leaguers and memorabilia cards.  This took out much of the joy in the hobby for me, and I soon left, feeling disgusted by $100 packs and the glut of greedy 40 and 50 year-olds at the hobby stores buying up boxes and cases of products like Triple Threads.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel that there is a place in the hobby for everyone regardless of age (and even for memorabilia cards when done right – more on that later), but greed is bad, and it has driven away the lifeblood of the hobby – kids.  Priced out of the market and faced with an underwhelming choice of low quality product, kids have decided to spend their time playing video games and playing TCGs like Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh (which, oddly enough, is also exorbitantly expensive, yet somehow has maintained a kid heavy player base).  I for one actually do miss the presence of excited kids at the hobby shop (make what jokes you will), and as a school teacher, I am considering trying to get students into collecting by offering up packs of product like Score or Victory as incentives in my classroom.

On Memorabilia Cards
As mentioned before, I myself did get caught up in the memorabilia craze, and do have a small number of these cards in my collection.  While I do enjoy and find it neat to own cards of Willie Mays and Roger Maris with pieces of their jerseys on them, I can’t help but feel that what we’ve gained in memorabilia cards, we’ve lost or desecrated sacred pieces of the game’s history.  Jersey cards are the hobby equivalent of putting a jersey into a wood chipper, and I feel that the swatches of cloth on my cards might have served a better purpose if they were kept intact as whole jerseys.  After all, the Willie Mays jersey hanging in someone’s house or even in a museum or gallery probably has more value, both monetary and aesthetically than a square inch of it pasted to a baseball card.

I do however, feel that there is a place for memorabilia cards in the hobby.  Some of the memorabilia cards that I enjoy most are the more esoteric ones which feature pieces of the game that are less personal than jerseys and more interesting than a sliver of bat.  2001-02 Topps Heritage Hockey had this:

2001-02 Topps Heritage #OSA-GH Stadium Seat Relic

And 2005 Topps had this:

2005 Topps Touch 'Em All #TEA-AP Base Relic

I like memorabilia cards like these which showcase more obscure items and paraphernalia from the game.  I think these are relic cards done right, without having destroyed a piece of the game better preserved whole.

A Final Thought on Autographs
The late 90s saw the beginning of the autograph boom, and I remember being wowed by Pinnacle’s Be a Player sets with their one auto per pack ratio.  At the time, I didn’t have the money to buy packs that costly, but I ran into some packs at a shop several years back and decided to give a few packs a go at something like $5 per.  My favourite card (and the best one) that came out of those packs was this:

1998-99 Pinnacle Be a Player Die Cut Auto #150 - Kelly Buchberger

Buchberger is one of my favourite lunch pailers/grinders of all time.  He was a hard nosed and gritty player, and as much as I like him, it’s not exactly what I was looking to pull in an autographed card.  This card illustrates how the demand for autographs at a one per pack ratio (never mind one per box) diluted the autograph pool so immensely that players you’ve never heard of became the majority of autograph sets.  It’s no fun to pay $10-20 per pack only to open an autograph of Jarrod Skalde.

This is why I’m applauding the way Panini is handling the autographs in their retro Score product for 2010-11 hockey.  They’ve seeded the buybacks at one per case odds with a tightly edited checklist of players that you’d actually want an autograph from – Patrick Roy, Brett Hull, Denis Savard, Bryan Trottier, and on the lower end of the spectrum, you still have solid players like Trevor Linden and Keith Primeau.  Finally, you can’t argue with the $0.99 price point.  That is how much a pack of cards should cost.

October 23, 2010 at 3:12 PM Leave a comment

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