07 December 2016

Click Here to View Cart 18: Chasing an Elusive Joshi Dual Autograph

This card and I have a (relatively) long history. Not anything like Night Owl and 1975 Topps or anything, but at least several months' worth. I am bad with timelines anyway, but a while back one of the premier sources of Japanese wrestling cards in the United States, Puroresu Central Shop, listed an Ayako Hamada / Kana dual autograph from the 2013 BBM True Heart Wrestling set. The price was a little higher than what I will normally pay for a card, but I really wanted that card.

Ayako Hamada is a pretty famous second-generation wrestler. She is the daughter of Gran Hamada, and she has wrestled in various Japanese, Mexican, and U.S. promotions. Kana is another famous wrestler. She has wrestled in many Japanese and U.S. promotions, and is currently the WWE NXT Women's Champion under the name Asuka.

So these were both some pretty big names, and I wanted the card. The owner of Puroresu Central Shop announced a few months ago that he was going to close up and reevaluate some things, and that this might be the last time much of the inventory was available. I fiddled back and forth for a while (probably a week or two), and finally decided to go and buy the card in early August. Oh snap! It was gone. I tweeted my dismay at the development, and he tweeted back, reminding me that he'd given ample warning that this would happen. That was true. He had been tweeting about the inventory reduction for a while.

At some point the store was re-opened and some of the inventory came back, including the elusive dual autograph. They also ran a special code word sale in November, and this time I pounced on it. The card is numbered # 76 / 84, and it is one of the best cards in my Joshi collection.

In the same order I also added a Neko Nitta Hall of Fame autograph from 2016 BBM True Heart to my cart. You can see that she added a retirement inscription to the card. I don't know a lot about her, to be honest, but she was pretty easily recognizable as the cat-themed wrestler. She held the Triangle Ribbon Championship (an Ice Ribbon promotion belt that is won in a 3-person match) six times and the International Ribbon Tag Team Champion twice during her relatively short career (2011-2015). This one is numbered # 025 / 100.

Puro Central Shop has been pretty good to me, and the guy who owns it and the Joshi review site Joshi City recently tweeted out some hype for my blog.

When I saw that, I realized that it had been a while since I posted any Joshi content (my last Joshi post also dealt with an epic purchase from Puro Central Shop), so I dug into my scan folder for these cards. Thanks for reading!

05 December 2016

Group Breaks for Old(er) Ladies

I've been participating off and on in group breaks since just after I got back into card collecting a few years ago. It's a business model that seems perfectly suited to randomly-packed pieces of sports memorabilia. I've seen group breaks for sports cards, hit breaks for celebrity-autographed photos, sketch card drafts, and all sorts of similar breaks dealing with collectibles.

Well, the other day my mother-in-law posted a link on Facebook that blew my mind. It was a live video of a woman at a table holding a tray of oysters. Each compartment in the tray had one oyster in it, and each oyster had a colored clip next to it. The lady was talking into the camera, and whoever was on the other end of the chat was deciding whether to choose one oyster or to purchase the whole tray of five oysters at a discount. The person decided to purchase the whole tray, so the oyster breaker popped open the shells and squeezed out five different pearls. As each pearl came out she announced the color, then used digital calipers to measure it. Once the oysters were all opened, she held them up to the camera for a close-up shot, then packed them into baggies with the customer's name on them. Then she refilled the tray from her supply of oysters and repeated the process for the next customer on her list.

Going by the names and profile pictures I saw, the customer base was mostly women who are older than me. It was basically group breaking for old(er) ladies! It makes perfect sense when you think about it, but I'd just never thought about it. Pearls are a collectible with some perceived value. You don't know what kind of pearl the oyster holds until you open it. Why not sell people the chance to open an oyster, with the likelihood of an average pearl but the chance of a really nice one? Crazy. I wonder what other kinds of group breaks there are out there in the world?

This is my token card for the post. It's an Evan Gattis Studio Signature Blue parallel from 2016 Donruss Optic. This card has got a sticker autograph and is numbered # 30 / 50. Evan Gattis doesn't have a particularly complex autograph. It's really just initials. He is probably my favorite Astros player at the moment, but I've had a hard time committing to starting a player collection for him. I've gathered a few of his cards here and there when the price was right, but haven't made a strong push on that front. Even though Jon Singleton as an Astro seems like a lost cause, I've got so much invested in that player collection that inertia draws me into gathering more of Singleton's cardboard. I can't be adding another player to my plate, even if it is arguably a player I like more than my main Astros PC. What a web we collectors weave for ourselves.

04 December 2016

Danica Patrick Clear Vision

I'm starting to run out of posts in my queue, but I've got plenty of Danica Patrick cards scanned and ready to go thanks to a lot of 2016 Panini Torque inserts I picked up. The main card I was after in the lot was the quad relic I posted a while back, but there was some other good stuff in there.

This was probably the most basic card in the lot. It's a Clear Vision insert, with the white parts of the card being an acetate window behind the silhouetted driver and race car. There are, of course, about 35 parallels of these inserts, but this is just the base version. It's not a groundbreaking concept, but it's a pretty neat card.

The back of the card is pretty bland, which is typical for an acetate card. Danica finished 2016 in 24th place in the driver's standings, the same spot she held at the end of 2015. It would be nice to see a little bit more improvement from year to year, but it's hard to break into that Top 20 area with all of the great drivers in the series.

I kept up my busy day yesterday, attending the Jazz-Nuggets game in the evening after my trip to the Hill Aerospace Museum. The game stayed pretty close through the first half, but Gordon Hayward blew up in the 3rd quarter and Utah went up by about 20 points. Denver chipped away during the 4th quarter, but they didn't have enough time to make up that much ground. They got within 5 points late in the quarter, but the Jazz held on to win 105-98. It was a pretty entertaining game. Rudy Gobert didn't score a lot of points in the game, but he is a beast. Several of his points came on huge alley-oop dunks. Hayward had a pretty good dunk in the game, too.

The Jazz play the Suns and Warriors at home next week. I don't know if I will make it to another game while I'm here, though. Tickets for the Suns game are pretty cheap, but the Warriors tickets have a pretty good markup built in. It would be cool to see Stephen Curry and the other Warriors in person, but I don't know if the asking price is worth it to me. I guess we'll see how the travel budget looks in a few days.

03 December 2016

An Unidentified Artist and a Flying Banana

I picked up this sketch card a while ago, figuring that it would be pretty easy to track down the name of the artist. So far I haven't had much luck in that department. The character depicted is Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel as Captain Marvel, and the card comes from the 2014 Upper Deck Guardians of the Galaxy set.

I thought it was a pretty good depiction of the character, and I think I got a decent discount on it due to the lack of an artist name on the card. There is a signature on the back, but I haven't been able to tie it down to a known name from the sketch artist list for this product. I could probably put more effort into it, but I haven't got around to it yet. One cool thing about Carol Danvers is that she's a member of the United States Air Force, and that is my awkward way of tying this in to my visit to the Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, this morning.

It's not quite as large as the big Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, but it's still worth a visit. The bigger aircraft are outside, like your large bombers (B-29, B-1, B-52), cargo planes (C-130, C-7, C-123, C-47), and assorted other stuff, like this H-21 Workhorse helicopter, which carries the nickname "Flying Banana" due to its shape.

This is a picture from the balcony housing the museum's art collection. This building holds the older generations of airplanes. Highlights for me were the P-51, B-17, P-38, and the TH-13T. This museum was much better lit than the one in Dayton, which I thought was better for viewing the different parts of the aircraft. Many of the aircraft also had panels opened up so that you could see some of the internal features, like machine gun mounts, cockpits, and the various electronic modules sitting in their brackets. I don't recall seeing as much of that at the other museum.

I didn't take a photo in the other building, but it housed the newer stuff. The big highlight for me in that room was the SR-71 Blackbird. I wanted to look at the F-15 and the A-10, but there was an Air Force unit there having some kind of ceremony, and I didn't want to be that guy milling around while officers make speeches about someone's retirement or promotion.

Overall it was a good place to spend a couple of hours. I've seen most of the aircraft before in one form or another, but it's hard to get tired of looking at military equipment. The exhibits did a good job of tying each aircraft to Utah's history, as well as some interesting stuff about military involvement in Alaska, like the building of the Alaska-Canadian Highway and the recovery of the museum's P-38 many years after it crash-landed in Alaska.

02 December 2016

2016 Topps Star Wars 3D Widevision: Attack of the Clones

Topps recently released another Star Wars 3D Widevision set, Attack of the Clones. There were immediately complaints about the lack of sketch cards and the relatively weak autograph checklist. I knew that I would be getting a set anyway, so none of that really deterred me. The sets have been placed on sale during Topps' recent holiday promotions, but I paid full price for mine, pre-ordering it to take advantage of a free shipping offer that I saw on the Topps Facebook page.

The set is packed out in a box with an embossed lid. Each box contains the 44-card base set, an autograph, and a second hit which can be a patch, medallion, or another autograph. The hits all have different parallel variations.

I'm not sure if I saw the print run listed anywhere else, but my box was numbered # 1874 / 2500. I guess that means there are 2500 sets out there in the world.

The base cards feature lenticular printing, which gives the images a 3D effect. The cards follow the story of the film, with an explanation of the scene on the back. I like that Topps used a different image on the back of the cards, rather than recycling the photo from the front.

I tried to select photos for these scans to show main characters and lightsabers, as well as to show different character portraits on the card backs. I wasn't a huge fan of the prequel trilogy, but there were some good battle scenes in the films. I can forgive a lot when it comes to Star Wars, and there was a lot that needed forgiving in these films, especially when it came to dialogue.

Yoda is always cool, and it was exciting to see him putting in some lightsaber work. He was surprisingly agile during a sword fight.

My first hit is a patch card of Mace Windu. This is the Gold parallel, which is seeded 1:22 sets and serially-numbered # 03 / 10. I guess it's pretty cool, although patches and medallions aren't really my thing.

My guaranteed autograph is Bonnie Piesse as Beru Whitesun. It's not Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, or Ian McDiarmid, but it's up there as one of the other signatures on the checklist I might want to add to my collection. In the Revenge of the Sith set, the hits were packed in the center of the box, but in this set they were in the bottom of the box, and I think that contributed to some corner damage on this autograph card in particular. The rounded corners and plastic construction of the base cards make them a bit more durable than your standard cardboard, and they do better on the ends of the stack. The damage isn't extreme, but you can tell the card was squished a little at the corners.

That's it for this set. I was relatively happy with my box. I don't think I'd pay full price for another one, but at the discounted holiday sale rate you might be able to convince me. I don't know how many they have left in stock, but there are 500 more sets of this one than there were for Revenge of the Sith.

01 December 2016

Give Me Some of Your Tots!

Tim Shinn is an artist I follow on eBay. I picked up a couple of comic cover sketches from him a while ago that never got posted here on my blog. He's usually got a decent inventory on his eBay page, although he doesn't have anything up right now (because that's how the universe works when I want to post a link to something). Anyway, he does some pretty cool stuff and sometimes it's for sale on his eBay page.

I had to put in a bid on this Napoleon Dynamite sketch card when I saw it. I live in Napoleon's home state of Idaho. I don't know how it is in other places, but in the Gem State this movie is a big part of the cultural landscape. Many lines from the film are a regular part of everyday conversations, and I probably don't go more than a day without hearing someone use a line from the movie. Napoleon was born from Idaho/Utah culture, and in turn it has become an essential part of that same culture.

Napoleon and his friend, Pedro, recently reappeared in the mainstream, doing a Cheesy Tots commercial for Burger King. My wife must have seen this video, as she sent me a message today announcing a craving for some Cheesy Tots. I may have to try them out. It seems like they would be good, but fast food restaurants have a way of taking something that sounds really good and making it taste not as good as it sounds.

30 November 2016

Failure to Launch in Utah

One of the first things I did when I learned that I'd need to do some job training in Utah in November was look at the Utah Jazz schedule to see if they were playing the Houston Rockets during my trip. They happened to have a game last night, and I got myself a ticket and boarded the train (didn't want to deal with driving/parking) for a ride into Salt Lake City. I actually missed my first train by about two minutes (curse you, traffic lights and slow pedestrians!), but I still got to the arena in time to find my seat before tip-off. I didn't have a great seat for this one, but it was cheap and I still had a good view of the court and the Jumbotron. I could have done without the people behind me. The girl behind and to the left kept putting her feet on the back of the seat next to me, and I heard the guy directly behind me whisper to her, "If that guy (meaning me) weren't here, I could put my feet up." He compromised by sticking his feet out beside my head every thirty seconds and wiggling them in my peripheral vision. It was distracting at times, but at least I wasn't hemmed in on both sides by people I didn't know. I had the aisle on one side and a couple of open seats on the other.

The Rockets started out pretty well, jumping out to a lead at the start of the game, but they failed to play defense and their offense went extremely cold, and the Jazz caught up and were up by 9 by the end of the first quarter. The Jazz spent most of the game up by double digits, and the Rockets never even threatened to get back into it, finally losing the game 101-120. James Harden is tough to watch, and sometimes I wish the Rockets would build a new roster with a different centerpiece. It looked like the other players on the team actively avoided interacting with him (like when he was at the foul line and wound up high-fiving the air because no one stepped in to reciprocate), and even I was groaning at some of his attempts to draw foul calls from the refs.

This Rudy Gobert block of Nene was probably the play of the night. The arena just blew up when it happened, and any spirit the Rockets had left disappeared. Even though I was unhappy about the final result, I had a good time and I was happy to attend my second-ever live NBA game. I don't know if I will make it to any more Jazz games while I'm here in Utah, but I can think of worse ways to spend an evening.