22 October 2016

2005 BBM True Heart Women's Pro Wrestling

I hadn't filled any holes in my BBM True Heart set collection for a while, as some of the sets just don't show up very often. I get most of my sets from the same eBay seller in Japan, so I am limited to whatever they have in stock at any given time.

As far as I know, BBM's sets for women's wrestling were branded as Fighting Beauties for 2000, 2001, and 2002. I have the 2001 set, but not the others. In 2003 they transitioned to the True Heart name, which has come out annually since. With today's pick-up of the 2005 base set, I am still missing 2003, 2004, and 2009 for the True Heart cards. I do have 2003 on order, though, so it should be in my hands soon. I'm like 80% sure that I have the 2007 set, but I don't have scans in my folder or a post on my blog about it. I'll have to dig through my boxes and see what's going on with that. So I still need:

2000 BBM Fighting Beauties
2002 BBM Fighting Beauties
2004 BBM True Heart
2009 BBM True Heart

Based on my limited research, it looks like the women just got subsets in BBM's other offerings prior to the year 2000. I've got a handful of those cards from 1997 and 1998, and I've seen some of the others listed online.

The 2005 BBM True Heart set has 108 cards in the checklist. The first 93 cards are the standard wrestler cards. The wrestlers are grouped by promotion, with the organization's logo on the front and color-coding on the back. In the earlier years of these sets, the card fronts showed the wrestlers in street clothes with wrestling action shots on the back. More recently, the cards have retained the wrestling action shots on the card backs, but they feature posed photos on the front with the wrestlers in their ring gear.

The lower left on the card front has the BBM 15th Anniversary logo, and the logo for the promotion the wrestler is affiliated with. The lower right has the wrestler's anglicized name, the name of the set, and in tiny little text it also lists the promotions included in the checklist: All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling, JWP, LLPW, JD Star, NEO, A to Z, M's Style, GATO-ku-nyan, IWA Japan, DDT, NIGHT-MARE KAIENTAI DOJO, Shinma Office, and Free Lance wrestlers at the end of the set.

Azumi Hyuga's card also shows a cat who wasn't too interested in having its picture taken. The move to featuring wrestlers in their ring gear has eliminated some of these fun photos, like Command Bolshoi on a unicycle or wrestlers with their pets.

The card backs feature a wrestling action photo, a biographical paragraph, and some of the usual data like height, weight, blood type, birth date, debut date, and a few other things I'm not sure about. Also up at the top you can find the card number, the wrestler's name in kanji characters, and the wrestling promotion's name. Again, I tried to pick some of the more interesting pictures for these scans.

Kana is the big name in this set of scans. She is currently taking the WWE's NXT developmental division by storm, with rumors that she might soon jump up to the main WWE roster. I just thought the other photos were cool, with a phone, a horned mask, and a compact car all making guest appearances.

I thought the Rei (Ray) photo was interesting because it shows her wearing a mask differing from the style I am familiar with. The other cards were chosen for their photographs. I have some miniature blind-pack figurines that I need to show off one of these days. Ofune is one of the wrestlers in that set.

Here are a few freelance wrestlers. Jaguar Yakota, Dump Matsumoto, and Ayako Hamada are all pretty famous, and all are still actively wrestling. Sumie Sakai lives and wrestles in the US now, mostly with the Ring of Honor/Women of Honor promotion. She also tried MMA for a while, and I am not sure if she is still pursuing that. Her debut MMA bout in 2006 was in my neck of the woods at a show in Boise, Idaho.

Cards 94-99 on the checklist make up a Ladies on Film subset, which feature a few fashion-shoot styled photos and a little box on the back with some of the wrestler's characteristics in English. Cards 100-102 are the cards for wrestlers who retired in 2004. Usually the wrestlers will get a final show from their promotion, with plenty of gifts and a whole lot of streamers. The photos on these cards appear to be from those retirement shows. Finally, cards 103-108 make up a Precious Memories subset. I'm sure that I would have a better idea about what this set means if I could read the card backs. All of the wrestlers in this subset retired in 2003 or earlier, and this might be a, "Where are they now?" kind of thing.

That's my quick overview of the 2005 BBM True Heart Japanese Women's Pro Wrestling set. I am hoping to have the 2003 set pretty soon. I will have another post to go along with that one, as it marked the first time I used a buying service to purchase products from Amazon.jp and Yahoo! Auctions in Japan.

20 October 2016

Sorting Things Out

I've been putting off the organization of my collection for a long time now. The last time I made a big push at it was in November/December 2014, but that effort got sidetracked and I never really got back on track with it. It's a bad situation, and it restricts my ability to enjoy my hobby because I can never find the cards I am looking for among all the boxes and stacks.

This week I have begun the work of digging my way out of the cardboard pile. I tend to put projects off until I have the perfect plan laid out, but that usually means the projects never get off the ground. In reality I find that I get a lot more done if I just get started and roll with whichever step my motivation carries me to. I grabbed a 5000-count box at random from my desk and started in on it, sorting by sport/topic, then by year, then by set, then by numerical/alphabetical order. I haven't been paying too much attention to ordering within a given sport's years, though, sometimes putting Opening Day in front of flagship Topps and sometimes putting it behind. I'll probably get that sort of stuff ironed out over time, as I sort 5000-count boxes and then combine them.

The biggest question I've come across so far is how to deal with player collections. The box I started with happens to have a large number of my Nolan Ryan and Jamie Moyer cards. Do I separate them out into their own block, or do I put them in among the rest of the collection? When does a player collection officially become something that gets set aside? What if a single card is pulling double duty as a player collection card and part of a complete set?

Sketch cards present similar questions. Do I keep all of my artwork together? Do I keep sketches with the sets they came from? What about PSC's that aren't printed on licensed card stock? In this case I will probably keep all of my art cards together, sorted by character or artist.

I have set the Nolan Ryan and Jamie Moyer cards from the first monster box aside for the moment. There is plenty of other stuff to get through, and I can't let those questions keep me from the bulk sorting.

This 2015 Topps Museum Collection Momentous Material Relic Card of Jon Singleton is one of those player collection cards whose sorting status remains in question. The internet tells me that this must be the Gold parallel, numbered # 08 / 10. Pretty fancy stuff. Jon Singleton stayed in AAA all year in 2016, where he led the Fresno Grizzlies in home runs, but probably didn't produce enough to earn a promotion. Rumor has it that he might get traded or might continue to provide depth in the Astros' minor league system, with an outside shot at getting called back up to the MLB roster some day.

19 October 2016

A Rare Romanian Giant

Some of the toughest cards to get a hold of today are inserts from the late 90's, especially when it comes to basketball releases. Maybe the baseball ones are similarly difficult, but that's not a sandbox I play in. In the late 90's I was all basketball, all the time. But I was also a teenager, and relegated to the cheap sets like your basic Fleer, Topps, Collector's Choice, and the occasional pack of Upper Deck. Things like SPx, Flair, Finest, and Chrome were out of my league. Many of the cards I coveted during that time have increased to the point where I still can't afford them, a fact that has largely stalled out my main player collection, Hakeem Olajuwon. The other 90's guys I collect weren't ever popular enough to warrant inclusion in many insert or premium set checklists, but I occasionally dig up a neat card featuring them. That is the case with today's bit of cardboard.

When it comes to basketball I've always enjoyed the extremes, focusing much of my collecting energy on the tallest and shortest players in the league. I don't know if the lumbering giant has any place in the hyper-athletic NBA of today, but in the 90's you had Shawn Bradley, Manute Bol, and Gheorghe Muresan all playing basketball at 7'6" or taller. Yao Ming kept the torch alive into the 2000's.

Ming had the best overall game of the group, with the others showing weaknesses and never reaching the superstar status he did. Muresan is my personal favorite of the bunch, probably because of his unibrow. He also probably had the best overall game between him, Bol, and Bradley. What he didn't have was longevity, as injuries shortened his career. Bol played for 10 seasons, Bradley played for 12, and Muresan only played in 6 (and the last two of those barely counted as playing). Both Bradley and Bol had better blocked shot averages, but Muresan had slightly better numbers in other categories. His peak year was probably '95-'96, with averages of 14.5 PTS, 9.6 REB, and 2.3 BLK in 29.5 minutes per game. Bradley's peak year was probably one year later, in '96-'97, with averages of 13.2 PTS, 8.4 REB, and 3.4 BLK in 31.3 minutes per game. It's hard to pinpoint a top season for Bol. He led the league in blocks per game a couple of times, but never averaged more than 4 PTS or 6 REB per game. Anyway, I was a fan of all those guys. I don't know if the NBA has a place for guys like them anymore. Serge Ibaka puts up similar statlines today, but he's a 6'10" power forward.

Getting to the actual card in the post, this is a '96-'97 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection parallel. Flair Showcase was a multi-tiered nightmare of a set, with a bunch of variations that I can't explain very well. I would link to the Cardboard Connection page on it, but apparently the owner of that website ran into some legal issues and much of the site has been taken down. What I do recall is that this was the first serially-numbered basketball parallel, which makes it kind of a big deal. These parallels are sparkly and shiny and this one is numbered # 098 / 150. Each player actually has three different cards in the set, with parallels of each one. In the upper left of the card back, you can see the designation Row 0. There were also Row 1 and Row 2 variations with identical checklists but different photos. Within each Row there were further breaks in the checklist, with different card numbers having variable rarity. All of the Legacy Collection parallels were numbered # / 150, though, so you were equally likely to pull any of them. It's just the base cards that have differing rarities. I tracked down this one for my Gheorghe Muresan player collection. I am pretty happy that I found it. If you want to try tracking down one of your own, you can hope for it to pop up on eBay, or you can buy a box of '96-'97 Flair Showcase for around $800. Legacy Collection cards average one per box, so you could hit a $1000 card like Kobe Bryant or a $12 card like Gheorghe Muresan.

18 October 2016

2016 Topps UFC NOW - UFC 203

So far I have ordered all of the UFC cards in the UFC NOW set. I enjoy the cards, and so far Topps hasn't overdone it too much, although they did come pretty close to jumping the shark with the recent Ronda Rousey card, celebrating her announced return to the UFC in the upcoming UFC 207 event. The only reason I give them a pass on that is because Rousey is arguably still the sport's biggest star, and people have been waiting forever for them to set an actual date for her to come back. The problem with it is that fights get cancelled all the time due to injury, failed drug tests, and weight problems, so printing a card before the fight leaves you open to having a trading card commemorating an event that never occurs. I don't like it, but I will accept that Topps wanted to do something to bring some visibility to their UFC NOW program.

There were three NOW cards produced for UFC 203. This first one features the Main Event (of the evening!) between Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem. Miocic was able to retain his belt with a first-round knockout after surviving some offense and grappling from Overeem. UFC 203 was full of weird things happening after the fights were over. In this case, Overeem claimed that he had felt Miocic tap out during a choke attempt, so they ran the tape right there and it was obvious that Miocic hadn't tapped out. That made for an awkward finish to the interview as he was pressed to say exactly when he'd felt the tap, but couldn't point to a spot in the film where it had happened.

There was a bit of a post-fight battle after Fabricio Werdum defeated Travis Browne by decision. Browne's corner was talking some trash, so Werdum kicked one of the dudes in the chest, leading to some pushing and shouting that looked like it belonged on a baseball field. There was a weird moment during the fight, too, when Browne tried to call a timeout and the ref kind of allowed it. It was just a weird fight all around.

Finally, there was the much-anticipated debut of WWE star CM Punk in the UFC Octagon. He came out and just got manhandled by Mickey Gall before tapping out shortly after the fight began. It was obvious that he wasn't ready for this. After the fight he gave a little speech about following your dreams. Mickey Gall came off as a total douche-nozzle. Maybe he's a good fighter, but he's also an ass. I will gladly root against him if he gets the fight he asked for against Sage Northcutt.

This event's cards were the lowest print runs in the set so far. Miocic's card had 71 copies printed; Gall's card got 70 copies, and Werdum is the new set low with 62 printed copies. The previous low had been Cain Velasquez from UFC 200 with 87 copies. I wondered if maybe this drop in print runs signaled the end of the UFC NOW cards, but the print runs took a jump back up for UFC 204, so maybe this was just a blip on the radar for a card that wasn't all that exciting for casual UFC card collectors.

17 October 2016

Late to the Party - 2016 Topps Stadium Club Set

A couple of months ago I finally grabbed a set of 2016 Topps Stadium Club. I think that makes me officially pretty late to the Stadium Club party this year. I picked out a few cards that I liked to scan and post here on my blog. Most of them have probably been seen on the blogosphere before, but I needed a couple more baseball posts to boost my ratio and this seemed like an easy way to do it. I've got thirteen posts in my draft folder right now, and the mix is pretty short on your traditional big four sports:

Baseball - 4
Basketball - 1
Wrestling - 1
Comics - 2
Racing - 1
MMA - 3
Star Wars - 1

I was actually pretty surprised to see so many baseball posts. I don't have a lot of baseball stuff coming in these days. It can be hard to find new cards when your main PC guys are not stars, and in some cases didn't even get back onto the big-league roster this season.

I wish the Astros had built on their success from last year, but the Rangers ran away with the Division and every time Houston got within spitting distance of a Wild Card spot, they would drop a couple of series' to bad teams and lose just enough to keep themselves out of the race. They need something more if they want to be a true powerhouse, but somehow I think they'll keep falling just a little bit short. Maybe I'm just pessimistic right now because they are out of the tournament and other teams are in. Either way, that's a pretty good shot of Altuve and Rasmus.

I like that photo of Dennis Eckersley, too. I don't even know what the A's are going to do now. It seems like they've pretty well blown up the roster, but now what?

That Adam Eaton card proved a little prophetic, as in August he hit a grand slam while blowing a bubble with his gum. That Randal Grichuk photo is pretty epic, and Marquis Grissom is a rare Expos sighting. Finally, we get a picture of creepy Randy Johnson staring over his glove at the backside of squinty Randy Johnson.

Something must be wrong with me if I am posting two Atlanta Braves in the same post, let alone the same scan. I thought the Smoltz photo was pretty good, and I like fielding shots where you can see the faces of fans in the crowd. Just think, that's what you look like when you're watching a sporting event.

That Jorge Soler photo is decent, although wouldn't it be that much better if the photo was zoomed out just a bit more so you could see his whole hand? Same with Smoltz' cap?

I also enjoyed seeing that photo of Robin Yount advertising for Honda. I love my motorcycles, but I never got into dirtbikes. Probably some kind of repressed trauma thing from the time I burnt my legs on the exhaust of my dad's dirtbike. Or the time our new dog attacked me and I fell back into that same motorcycle, knocking it over. I've still got a dimple scar on my forearm from that bite. Apparently the dog's previous owner had been mistreated by their son, who was about my age at the time. Hmm, that wasn't really a place I planned on going with this post.

There are plenty of nice horizontal shots in this set. Here are a few of them. I start things off with a couple of nice batting shots, with Brandon Phillips and Nolan Arenado. The Phillips card qualifies as a Tatooine shot, I believe. Adam Jones gets a nice photo as he prepares to attack a teammate with a victory pie (or is it cake?), a practice the Orioles banned during the off-season for safety reasons.

I thought that Lou Brock play at the plate photo was pretty cool, especially the little details like the bat in the dirt and his helmet about to fly off. Dat butt, tho, on the catcher. Andre Ethier gets a nice circus fielding shot. Again, I wish this photo had been cropped a little differently so that we could see the faces of those four fans in the background. This post closes out with a Cards on Cards picture of Evan Longoria in front of himself on a giant-sized trading card. Meta!

I do like the Stadium Club sets that Topps has put out the last few years. They've got some nice photography. I think the 2014 set looked the most like the Stadium Club sets of the early 90's, but the 2015 and 2016 designs do an all right job of making the photo the focus of the card.

16 October 2016

More Panini The National VIP Danica Patrick - Hollywood Casino 400

I continue to be stymied in my attempts to gather Danica Patrick cards from 2016 Panini Prizm, but I've had a little luck in getting my hands on cards from Panini's sets from The National Sport Collectors Convention. Today's two cards come from the VIP set, which was printed on Prizm stock and packed out in gold-colored packaging.

This first one is a purple-colored Prizm of some kind. I wasn't able to find an official checklist for this set, so I don't know the official name for this parallel. It's shiny, though, and serially numbered # 12 / 50. There's not much else to say about it. It's a different color and shinier than the base card from the set.

My scanner doesn't like slabbed cards, and I was too lazy to take a picture with my phone, but this blurry card here is a basic Prizm parallel of the same card. It's not serially-numbered. I am not sure why someone had this card graded. It's got a 9.5 Gem Mint score overall, with all of the subgrades (Centering, Corners, Edges, Surface) also earning 9.5 scores. I got it for less than the cost of getting it graded.

Today's NASCAR race was the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Danica has historically had kind of a tough go at this track, with an average start of 26.40 and an average finish of 24.00 over 8 races heading into today. She started this one in 19th and finished a spot higher in 18th, bumping her career numbers at the track up a bit to an average start of 25.60 and an average finish of 23.33. I'd say another Top 20 finish is pretty good, although she's still got a ways to go before being a consistent Top 15 driver.

15 October 2016

A Mary Lynn Rajskub Autograph Pick-Up

A while back I pulled a printing plate autograph from a box of Topps Star Wars Evolution cards, and decided it was probably worth more to someone else than it was to me. I got a couple of lowball offers on it that I declined, and then a couple of days with no action at all where I wondered if maybe I had misjudged the market on the card. Finally an offer came in that was right about where I'd estimated the card should sell for, so I accepted it without countering and found myself with a decent little chunk of Paypal.

Around that same time, this Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O'Brian autograph card from the Comic Images 24: Season 3 set showed up on eBay for about $10 less than the lowest of the listings I'd been watching for several months. I went ahead and grabbed it. I don't know that the silver ink on a silver background thing works well, but out of the handful of autographs Rajskub has among the 24 releases, this is the easiest one to find.

Unlike the relic card I picked up a while ago, this one isn't serially-numbered. It does, however, mention that this is one out of 600 copies produced. I already addressed this, but there is variation among the different releases as to the spelling of O'Brian in the character's name, with some saying O'Brian and some (like this one) saying O'Brien. The IMDB page for the show uses O'Brian, so that's the one I go with.