27 April 2017

Hulk and Thing Sketch Cards

My sketch card collection tends to be pretty focused on a couple of characters, but I have to switch it up from time to time when something jumps out at me. That was the case with these sketches that I purchased from an eBay seller a while ago.

Based on the 'Fantastic Four' logo, I thought these might be from one of the Marvel trading card sets put out by Rittenhouse, but when they arrived I found that this was just a logo and some design printed on relatively thin personal stock. I probably could have figured that out if I'd done any research, as the cards from the Rittenhouse product were in the vertical format and had the word 'Archives' printed after the Fantastic Four title. Anyway, I don't have much information on these sketches, not even an artist's name. It looks like the artist's initials are 'LS' and the sketches are dated '08.'

This first sketch features a close-up of the Hulk's face, and he is looking might angry. I really like this sketch, and I wish I knew who the artist was.

The second sketch features the Fantastic Four's ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, again from an up-close perspective. It appears that he is about to announce that it's clobberin' time.

These sketches feature the characters that two of my sons are named after. If I knew who the artist was, I'd consider trying to commission sketches of my other two boys, although in my recollection Nightcrawler doesn't have much connection to the Fantastic Four. Thing is an original member of the team, while Hulk and Wolverine were members of The New Fantastic Four in the early 90's. Hulk and Thing also have a long-standing rivalry, as Thing is one of the few heroes who can go toe-to-toe with Hulk when he is rampaging uncontrollably.

26 April 2017

Stardom Wrestling Cards from eBay

I've posted a lot about BBM's True Heart trading cards that feature female wrestlers from a number of promotions in Japan, but there is one notable wrestling promotion that doesn't participate in the True Heart sets. That promotion is called Stardom, and they kind of do their own thing when it comes to trading cards. They put out a 2017 card set, and a 5th Anniversary card set in 2015. The 2015 cards were available on their website for a long time, but when two Stardom wrestlers, Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo, got signed by the WWE, the cards sold out within days. I was able to get 5 packs of the 2015 cards and was gifted a pack of the 2017 cards, so I'll post about them soon. In the meantime, here are a few cards I picked up from eBay.

First up is this autograph card from the 2015 5th Anniversary set featuring Haruka Kato. She has actually appeared in the True Heart card sets, probably because she has worked with several other promotions that are heavily featured in those sets. There seems to be some tension between some fans of Stardom and fans of other promotions, possibly because Stardom is seen as models who wrestle, while other promotions are more focused on wrestling, although some of them also model on the side. I don't know. I'm a fringe lurker when it comes to fandom, so I'm not as invested as some of these folks, Stardom does seem to be more focused on reaching out to the English-speaking crowd, though. They have an English website, a webstore on that site that ships to American addresses, and a video subscription service that uploads every event with English subtitles.

Stardom is also pretty active about bringing in guest wrestlers from outside of Japanese promotions. Kellie Skater is a wrestler out of Australia who has also wrestled in the United States and Canada, but did some wrestling with Stardom in Japan. She retired earlier this year. All of the base cards I picked up in this lot are from the 2017 set. You can tell because 2017 is in the set name on the front, while the 2015 cards don't list a year.

Kaitlin Diamond is a Canadian wrestler who wrestled for Stardom for about three months in 2016. It looks like she is back in Canada now, though, working for many wrestling promotions there.

I mentioned this card yesterday, as I picked up a Topps UFC autograph of Shayna Baszler recently. She's out of the UFC now, but had an MMA bout in early 2017 while she was in Japan wrestling for Stardom in early 2017. It looks like right now she is wrestling in the United States again. Most of these foreign wrestlers seem to do tours for three or four months with Stardom before returning to their home promotions. She also appeared during the Stardom USA tour a while back. I kind of wanted to go to one of those shows, but couldn't justify a trip to California at that time.

That's a quick intro to the Stardom trading cards. I'll have a couple more posts about them over the next month or so. Unfortunately, they aren't really available anymore, so if you want them you'll have to find singles on eBay or at a place like The Puro Central Shop.

25 April 2017

Recent UFC Pickups of All Kinds

I haven't watched the last couple of UFC events, just because I've been busy when they were on. I'll definitely be tuning in to the upcoming UFC 211, though, as there are some good names on the card, like Stipe Miocic, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and Demian Maia. There are also some folks I like to watch lower on the card, like Jason Knight. I hope he wins his fight, so he gets some time on the microphone. This post is just a bunch of random UFC cards I've picked up recently, if you define recently pretty loosely.

Urijah Faber cards saw a little bit of a spike when he retired a few months ago, but you can get most of them now without spending much. I like this mat relic card from 2011 Topps UFC Finest because it lists the event the mat was used for. I think I may have looked up pictures from WEC 52 at some point to identify where in the mat this piece came from, but that was a long time ago and I'm not doing that right now.

I also got this Urijah Faber Atomic Refractor die-cut card from 2011 Topps UFC Finest, which lists some of his achievements on the back. It's too bad he never was able to get a belt in the UFC, although his understudy, Cody Garbrandt, managed the task against Faber's nemesis, Dominick Cruz. This card is numbered # 62 / 88.

I also have recently picked up a couple of 1st Autographs, including this Jessamyn Duke card from 2014 Topps UFC Champions. Part of the fun of my UFC collection is that I will pick up pretty much anything that is interesting to me, so there is plenty of variety. Autographs tend to be pretty cheap, too, outside of the really big stars.

The second autograph here is a Shayna Baszler signature from 2014 Topps UFC Bloodlines. This one is numbered # 036 / 225. Interestingly, Baszler also appears on a Japanese wrestling card I just picked up. She hasn't fought in the UFC since 2015, and has spent most of the time between then and now working for professional wrestling promotions, although she did have an MMA bout in Japan earlier this year. Her nickname is 'The Queen of Spades,' and this autograph has a Spade doodled alongside her name.

Another UFC collection of mine is low-numbered parallels. I am especially partial to these Gold parallels from 2015 UFC Champions, but I'll take any # / 25 or lower parallels I can find. This Carla Esparza card is numbered # 07 / 25. Her most recent fight was a split decision loss to Randa Markos in February.

Finally, I chased down this 2017 Topps UFC Fire autograph for my Neil Magny collection. Then I ordered a box of UFC Fire and pulled another copy. I guess it could be worse. This one is numbered # 002 / 199. Magny's most recent fight was a unanimous decision victory over Johny Hendricks in December.

24 April 2017

Jose Altuve Members Only

The Houston Astros have jumped out to an early lead in the AL West standings, and some of their best players haven't even started out well. That doesn't mean much, though, as there is a lot of baseball left to be played and it seems like there is always a team set to make a late season run that attempts to take advantage of a slump by the leaders. But I have moderately high hopes for the Astros this year.

Here is a rare Astros card that I was able to add to my collection for a song. The Members Only parallel kind of flies under the radar because it's not flashy and not serially-numbered, but these were a case hit in 2014 and the math says that there are only 5-10 copies of each one out there. I snagged this Altuve on eBay for my 2014 Topps Stadium Club Members Only collection. I am not ever going to have a complete set of these, but I am working on getting as many of these parallels from 2014 as I can.

23 April 2017

Danica Patrick National Treasures Quad Materials Gold - Food City 500

Today's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was postponed until tomorrow due to rain, but I am still going to post a NASCAR card today. This is one of those cards that pops up in your eBay feed, and you know you have to have it. It's just a sharp-looking card, and the price felt about right for what it was.

This is a Danica Patrick Quad Materials relic card from 2016 Panini National Treasures Racing. It's a Gold parallel, numbered # 01 / 10. But the reason it jumped out at me was all of the colorful relic swatches. There's some firesuit here, some sheet metal, and some tire. It's just a nice-looking piece of cardboard. I probably wound up overpaying a little for it, as prices have been driven down by the large amount of Panini product hitting the market, but I don't think I overpaid by enough to really worry about. I'll be interested to see how long it takes for Panini products to reflect Danica's change in sponsorship after things fell apart with Nature's Bakery.

Here is the back of the card, which features a description of Danica's 13th-place finish in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism last season. I don't know if the relic swatches on the front are related to that race, but I am guessing that Panini isn't bothering to match relics to card-back descriptions. It is nice to find a card-back with something more than just the usual blurb regarding authenticity, though. Even though you can find any of these stats, quotes, or descriptions online within a few seconds, I am not ready yet to give up on finding trivia and statistics on the backs of my cards. It is refreshing to me when a sports card has more than the bare minimum on the back.

It looks like qualifying for the this weekend's race was cancelled due to the weather, so drivers are starting in order of the points standings. Danica's season has been a little underwhelming so far, so she'll be starting in 29th place when the race kicks off. Hopefully she can improve on that positioning during the run.

22 April 2017

A Painted Leia by Ingrid Hardy

One of the artists I've been chasing for a long time is Ingrid Hardy. She does some amazing landscapes for various Star Wars sets, as well as spacecraft and characters that are also top-notch. I think she's done a little bit of superhero work in the licensed sketch card world, as well. Her Topps Star Wars sketch cards rightfully sell for quite a bit, as they are usually pretty awesome.

I follow Hardy on Facebook, and every so often she'll post an eBay listing or something she's listed on her Etsy shop. Often they sell before I even see the post, but a while back she posted about this Leia personal sketch card that she'd made available, and I was the first person to click through and get it. I was really excited to get an Ingrid Hardy sketch card, and also excited that it featured Leia, the subject of my biggest sketch card collection. I was surprised at how thick the paint application on the card is. Hardy art has a lot of texture to it, and it is surprisingly detailed for how thick the paint looks.

She also included this autographed base card from Star Wars Galaxy that features her work on the front. This gives you a good feel for her Star Wars landscapes. I especially like some of the ones she's done that show action on the ice planet Hoth, with AT-ATs looming on the horizon. I also like the way she paints clouds.

She included a couple of business cards with some more art and her contact information and her website link on them.

I was pretty happy to get an example of Hardy's artwork for my collection, and especially happy that it featured Leia from Star Wars.

20 April 2017

Work Trip to Dayton, Ohio: The Hobby Stuff

Now that my work trip to Ohio is about over, I figured I'd show off the hobby-related stuff I picked up while I was there. When I first flew in, I stopped to get something to eat and then I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some stuff I needed, like a razor, some soda, and some baseball cards.

I don't think I've posted the previous Gypsy Queen blasters I bought yet, but they weren't all that great. I'd heard rumors that 2017 Topps Gypsy Queen retail was hot stuff, but in my experience that hasn't been the case. But I thought maybe it was just a problem with the blasters in Idaho. I picked up an Ohio blaster as a test, and also because there wasn't a whole lot of other stuff on the shelves.

I got a decent array of base cards. Derek Jeter was my short-printed base card. I got a Charlie Blackmon Green Back parallel. There are supposedly only 50 copies of each Green Back, as opposed to the Green Front parallels that come in value packs. There are a couple of inserts, too.

After three blasters, I finally pulled a hit out of Gypsy Queen. I should have just bought 2/3 of a Hobby box with that money, but I didn't, and now I have this Aaron Judge autograph card. He's been playing pretty well lately, so this card has actually kind of taken off in the two weeks since I pulled it. I should put it up on eBay or something.

I made a stop at TCI Sports Fan, a card shop that I stopped at on my last trip to Ohio. There were a few things I looked at while I was there, but they had this box of 2016 Topps Star Wars Rogue One: Mission Briefing cards on the discount shelf and I bought it. I probably should have purchased something else.

The base cards are about the same as every other faux-vintage Star Wars set that has come out recently. They have red borders and feature scenes from the films.

The Death Star insert set shows different important locations on the space station.

I got a few of these Comic Strips inserts in the box. Although the backs of The Death Star inserts actually have text, most of the other inserts have some variation of the 'COLLECT ALL [NUMBER] CARDS!' text on the back. 

These Villains of the Galactic Empire and Heroes of the Rebel Alliance cards are pretty cool.

The two cards in the upper left are Character Stickers. They are printed on thin stock and I believe they are actually stickers, although I haven't tried peeling one. The two cards in the upper right are part of a Darth Vader continuity set, so I guess there will be more of them in other releases. Maybe those other releases are already out. I don't know. There are so many sets being released that I don't even keep up anymore. The three cards on the left of the bottom row are Character Foil cards, and the card on the bottom right is probably part of the Montages set, which probably interconnects with other cards to create a panoramic scene.

I pulled quite a few Death Star Black, Green, and Blue parallels. Those are the more common ones. I didn't pull any of the scarce Gray, Gold, or Orange parallels, which are serially-numbered # / 100, # / 50, and # 1 / 1.

My two promised hits were a manu-patch of Captain Cassian Andor and a base autograph of Corey Dee Williams as Klaatu. Klaatu is one of the folks who hangs out in Jabba's palace, and he gets killed during the sail barge escape scene.

Here are the backs of the hit cards. That box was kind of underwhelming, but buying the low-cost stuff bring high odds that your hits are going to be low-end hits. The regular cards are more of the same stuff we've been seeing, reprints of earlier designs with many of the same film stills that have been in circulation for the last forty or so years.

Later, I made a second trip to TCI Sports Fan. They were having a die-cast sale, and I wanted to pick up something for my NASCAR collection. I eventually settled on this 2011 Danica Patrick Honoring Our Heroes car. She drove this car in the Nationwide race on September 11th, 2011.

There were 1,209 of these die-cast cars produced. This one was on sale for $25, which is a better price than I can get online, especially when you take shipping into account. There were a couple of other cars I was interested in, but I decided on just purchasing the one.

Here's what it looks like out of the box. It's a pretty cool paint scheme. Each of the stars represents one victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I think the mixture of sports and patriotism is kind of weird, but I know baseball really played a big healing role after the 9/11 attacks and after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

They had also moved these boxes of 2011 WWE Champions onto the sale shelf. For $12 apiece, I thought it might be fun to bust some WWE wax. This set is pretty basic, and I think it is the predecessor to the current WWE Road to WrestleMania product line.

The base set is all about the photographs, and recounts the WWE storyline between WrestleManias. The set isn't that big, so you'll complete it in one box with a fair number of doubles and maybe some triples.

There are no parallels, and only one insert set. There are also autographs, but they only fall 1:150 packs, so you'll only see one every 6 boxes or so. I wasn't lucky enough to pull an autograph. The Foil inserts are a 1:3 packs pull, so you get eight per box. It's a 10-card set, and I completed the set out of two boxes, with 6 doubles. I don't know what the selection criteria were for the checklist, but there are some cool names in the set.

Finally, I made a trip to the Dayton Visual Arts Center to put some money in the Art-o-mat machine. The gallery was between exhibits, so there wasn't much art on the walls and I had to dodge ladders and stuff to get to the machine, but the staff didn't kick me out and even gave me change because the machine wouldn't take my bill. They didn't have Raz Card Blog favorite artist John Soukup stocked in the machine, so I had to try some new artists. The first was Andy Brzeczek, an artist out of Colorado. He doesn't seem to have much of a web presence, but I found a Facebook page and a profile on an art organization's page. Based on his Facebook feed, it looks like he does batches of Art-o-mat paintings with a similar theme, often centered around UFOs. The art block I got features a cow about to have a Close Encounter of some kind; maybe of the Fourth or Sixth Kind, depending on how things go.

Next, I pulled the lever for a piece of art from Jack Hernon. He has a web page and some profiles on various art pages, but none of them seem to have a lot of activity. I wasn't sure which way to orient the picture, so I went with the way that felt right to me. I've read that part of the fun of abstract art is seeing which way people choose to hang it.

It was a pretty successful trip from a hobby standpoint. I'd probably like to take back the Star Wars purchase and get something else or save that money, but I am pretty happy overall. There were a couple of comic book stores I meant to get to, but I never got around to it.