18 October 2017

The NBA is Back for Another Season

The NBA season has started, and the Houston Rockets began with a nice win over the Golden State Warriors. Of course, a win in the first game of the season doesn't count for much in the long run, but it's nice to see the team working well together and adjusting to having Chris Paul and James Harden on the same roster. I imagine they'll be good enough to make a run in the postseason, and probably get into the Conference finals, but I can't see them getting into the Finals or winning it all unless some of the other super-teams fall apart or have injury problems.

This card doesn't have anything to do with the Rockets, but I don't really chase cards of current Rockets these days, and Manute Bol is the only retired guy I collect who still appears in a lot of sets outside of Hakeem Olajuwon. Bol doesn't get a zillion cards a year, but he gets a couple. I pick them up when I can. This Heroes Materials relic card comes from 2016-17 Panini Absolute Basketball, and was an eBay buy. It's got a swatch of fabric and is serially-numbered # 17 / 99.

The back of the card uses a zoomed-out version of the front image, and talks about Bol's height and his shot-blocking prowess. The days of towering shot-blocking specialists are pretty much over, but I'll still collect cards of guys like Bol, Gheorghe Muresan, and maybe Shawn Bradley as long as I can find new ones to get.

As I write this, the Houston Astros are down 2-0 to the Yankees in the 4th inning, so I'm off to watch and hope that they can pull out a comeback and at least bring the ALCS back to Houston with a 3-2 lead. With the way things have gone the last couple of days, though, I'm worried about their chances.

17 October 2017

The Fun Side of Topps Now

Well, the Astros laid an egg last night, dropping a game 8-1 to the Yankees in New York. The Yankee bats came alive, the Astros seemed to have some trouble fielding the ball cleanly, and the Houston pitchers couldn't close out innings with two outs and runners on base. To take my mind off of the loss as I wait for tonight's game 4, I decided to take a look at the fun side of Topps Now, with some of the more whimsical cards I've picked up this year.

I'm kicking things off with the Astros, who held a funeral in July for Carlos Beltran's glove, since he hadn't played the field much to that point in the season. Shortly after the funeral, though, Beltran got a start in the field, and presumably the glove rose from the dead to wander the stadium again.

This next one features an animal on cardboard, which always gets me on the wagon. In this case, the animal in question is a donkey that Joey Votto promised to Zack Cozart if Cozart made the All-Star roster. Cozart made the team, and Votto bought him the donkey. I have to admit that I voted for Cozart a few times because of Votto's promise, and apparently a lot of other people did, too.

Apparently the donkey's name is now Donald, after Cozart's son's favorite cartoon character, although if the fan voting really led to the name, I'd be willing to place a bet that most fans voted for that name with other reasons in mind. I'm also a little unsure as to why the donkey on the card looks different from the donkey in the Tweet. Maybe one of them was just a placeholder?

The final card in this post features Bartolo 'Big Sexy' Colon joining many others across the country in viewing the eclipse that happened in August. My state was in the path of totality, so it was a pretty big deal around here. We went and viewed it at my dad's farm, although we only got like 99.9% totality there. After it was over, my wife said that she really wished we had gone a little further north to see the 100% eclipse. Either way, we had a pretty good time with my dad and my sister, and I was happy to have a baseball card showing the event.

Those are a few of the fun cards that Topps printed for the Topps Now program this year. The print run on the Astro card was 357 copies, there were 691 donkey cards ordered, and the eclipse card generated 450 orders. I think those numbers are higher than an average order, so there is definitely demand out there for some fun and silly cards during the season. I hope the Astros can find a spark tonight as Lance McCullers Jr. and Sonny Gray duke it out in ALCS Game 4.

16 October 2017

Topps Now Astros Clinch AL West

I've found myself picking up quite a few Topps Now cards lately, as the Astros closed out a great regular season and began their playoff run. With the price per card being what it is, even through eBay resellers, I feel a bit bad for trying to get all of the playoff Now cards for the Astros. It seems like for each playoff win a team will get about 3 cards, and for each loss a team will get 1 card. That's a lot of cards! I know that if the Astros win the whole thing I'll be happy to have all the Now cards that chronicle the journey, but if they fall short I'll probably be kicking myself for buying in. So they'd better win it all, and in as few games as possible. They have a chance to really put the thumb down on the Yankees tonight if they can win Game 3 of the ALCS on the Yankees' field.

This Topps Now card comes from before the playoffs, commemorating the Astros' clinching of the AL West Division for the first time in a long while. They did it at home against the Mariners, behind another strong performance from newly-acquired ace Justin Verlander. The print run on this one was 341 cards. I don't know what the average print run for a Now card is these days, but this is a pretty fun one to have in the collection.

15 October 2017

Pack of the Day 178: A Blaster of 2017 Panini Select Racing

I like to sample new NASCAR products when they come out, although I am pretty sure I've missed a couple in the recent past. 2017 Panini Select was on the shelf a few Walmart visits ago, and I grabbed a blaster to see what it was all about.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets the cover treatment on this one. Each blaster promises one autograph or memorabilia card, and there is a blaster-exclusive Purple Pulsar Prizm parallel to look out for. Since this is a high-end product, you only get 15 cards in the box.

The pack design matches the box design, and with those wavy lines I find it difficult to look at.

The base cards are all mirror foil, which we know scans as a dull gray that shows off thumbprints and scanner fuzz.

There are a few names here I know, and a few I don't recognize. No one I really collect, though, which is a little disappointing. With a lot of my favorites on their way out of the sport through retirement or release, I don't know what the future holds for my NASCAR collection.

I got two of the blaster-exclusive parallels in the box, as well as that Kasey Kahne Red, White, and Blue card. The Kahne card is serially numbered # 289 / 299. The Richard Petty card is a Select Stars insert, the only insert I pulled in the box.

The promised hit card was this Select Swatches card of Elliott Sadler. It's got a little bit of fabric in it and it's your standard racing relic card. I don't have much else to say about this blaster. I like the colorful parallels, but the rest of the blaster was kind of a miss, and I didn't pull a single card of anyone I collect.

14 October 2017

Topps Now Astros Hurricane

Every so often Topps will donate the proceeds from a particular Now card to a charitable cause, which I think is a pretty cool thing to do. I often end up buying the charity cards regardless of who appears on them, but it's even better when the card shows one of my favorite teams or players.

That was the case at the end of August, when Topps put up this card for the Hurricane Harvey relief effort in Houston. I posted about this card when it was available on the site, but I never showed the back of it. Profits from the card went to the American Red Cross, and 799 copies were ordered.

The back of the card shows a sign that told fans how to donate at the stadium, as well as a hashtag to use on social media.

The Astros have gone up 2-0 on the Yankees in the ALCS behind some strong pitching, strong defensive play, and some high-risk base-running. The long ball has figured into the series a little bit, but probably not as much as expected so far, with both games being decided by a 2-1 score. I am excited to see how the series goes now that it's moving to New York for a couple of games. I've been picking up all of the Astros-related Topps Now cards from the playoffs, and that has been a little expensive for me. Still, I hope they get through the Yankees and move on to the World Series. The postseason is a lot more exciting when your team is in it.

12 October 2017

A Deadpool Sketch by Stacey Kardash

I showed off a Wonder Woman sketch card by artist Stacey Kardash almost two years ago, and I recently picked up another piece of her artwork from eBay. She also has an online store with a variety of stuff in it.

This is my latest pick-up of her artwork, an illustration of the Marvel character Deadpool. It's quite a bit bigger than your standard sketch card. I don't have it close at hand right now, but I think it's on a 5" x 7" piece of art board. It's a really cool piece of artwork, and I was happy to win the auction, although I do wish there had been more bidding on it. I like to get good deals on artwork, especially from resellers and flippers, but I don't like to feel like I'm taking advantage of an artist. I think this is my first Deadpool sketch, and it's a neat one. I like the pose and the expression on his face mask. It's interesting how expressive artists can make a plain mask look.

If you like this, you should check out Kardash's Facebook age and online store that I linked above. She does a lot of fantasy-themed artwork, but there is some superhero stuff in there as well.

11 October 2017

2017 Topps On-Demand WWE SummerSlam Set

Topps has several print-to-demand programs going. In addition to Topps Now programs for various properties, Topps also does Throwback Thursday sets and a program called On-Demand. Throwback Thursday is basically what it sounds like, a fresh take on an older Topps design. On-Demand is kind of a grab bag, with ideas that may not warrant a full product release. There have been On-Demand sets for Star Wars, baseball, a boxing match, a cartoon, Garbage Pail Kids, and WWE.

The WWE set was based on a SummerSlam theme, and offered a 30-card base set, 2 autographs, and a chance at randomly-inserted parallels. I think the original solicitation listed parallels numbered up to # / 99, but only 125 copies of the set were ordered (most people on Facebook and Twitter seemed to think the autograph list was too weak) and the parallels and autographs were changed so that the max print run on them was 10 copies apiece.

The base cards all have that swirly blue and orange background, with a big SummerSlam logo and the wrestler's name at the bottom. The backs have a write-up of the wrestler's SummerSlam exploits. I think it's a pretty fun set, and it's pretty cool that there are only 125 of them out there.

Due to the low ordering, my set was packed with four parallels. I got three Red parallels, featuring Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, and Nia Jax. They are all serially-numbered # / 10. I was happy to pull the Nia Jax card for my collection of her cards. I wish the other names had been a little bigger. I also got a Black parallel of Big Cass numbered # 4 / 5. You can see the backs have a suffix on the card number that denotes the parallel type.

My two autographs were of the Red variety, again numbered out of # / 10. I mentioned in the comments of an earlier post that these are more initial-graphs than autographs, as Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper put the smallest amount of ink they could on these stickers. I think I would have preferred just about anyone else on the autograph list over these two, but those are the risks you take when you order this kind of product.

10 October 2017

Pack of the Day 177: A Blaster of 2017 Topps Chrome Baseball

I don't remember exactly when I picked this up, but I think it may have been in August. It's a blaster of 2017 Topps Chrome, and I think it might represent my only foray into the product this year. I could also be won't about that. Things kind of run together anymore. It contained 7 packs plus a pack of Sepia parallels. 

Here is a scan of the insert and parallel odds and the No Purchase Necessary information from the side of the blaster. 

I didn't scan all of the base cards in the box. With only four cards per pack, though, I only skipped 12 of the 20 base cards in the box. There's some decent stuff here among the horizontal shots. I especially like some of the stuff going on in the background, like the signs behind Springer and Donaldson and the action going on behind Naquin. 

This box was pretty good for me when it came to Astros content, with the Springer above and Hernandez and Musgrove in this scan.

I got three regular Refractors in the box to go along with a nice Blue Masahiro Tanaka Refractor. That one is seeded 1:101 packs and is numbered # / 150. Too bad that Tyler Austin wasn't a Judge Refractor, or I could be writing this from my new private island. I kind of hope the Yankees beat the Indians, as Cleveland's pitching scares me against the Astros.

George Springer makes another appearance among the inserts, with one of the two 1987 Topps Baseball inserts I pulled. Danny Duffy is the other one. I also got a Future Stars card of Willson Contreras and a Freshman Flash insert picturing Jharel Cotton. 

The pack of Sepia parallels didn't contain much of interest to me. The most interesting thing about it was probably trying to decide whether to do two scans or just stick that Odorizzi card in the scan sideways.

That's all for this blaster. I got about what you'd expect from an average blaster box of this stuff. 

09 October 2017

Topps Now Verlander Trade

I've picked up a few too many Topps Now cards over the last couple of months, partly because there have been some fun cards put out and partly because the Astros have had some success, with individual and team achievements that made the checklist. 

One of the bigger moments recently was the trade deadline acquisition of Justin Verlander from the Tigers. He hasn't lost a decision since joining Houston, and has played a key role in the team's playoff success so far, with the Astros eliminating the Red Sox in the ALDS after four games. I was at the dentist when Game 4 ended, so I didn't get to jump up and celebrate, but I was able to catch a few innings before leaving for my appointment. Pretty exciting stuff. We'll see if they can keep it up. 

06 October 2017

Power Girl by Bun Leung

I'm a member of quite a few Facebook groups for showing off or advertising comic art and sketch cards. That's where I discover a lot of the artists whose art winds up in my collection. Earlier this year, I bumped into artist Bun Leung's work and started following his Facebook page. That also let me to his online shop, where he's got a variety of comic and pop culture art for sale. He's even got a section of affordable art with full-size sketches under $10 in many cases.

I picked up a She-Hulk sketch from his store, but I don't think that one ever made it onto my scanner before I put it away. Then I saw a post from him on Facebook advertising a limited number of sketches available for commission. I was able to get on the list, and I asked for a sketch of Power Girl for my collection. It didn't take very long at all before he sent me a picture of the artwork and shipped it out. I'm very happy with this sketch. If you're looking for affordable work in an anime-inspired style, I'd recommend giving his shop a look or following his page and looking for commission spots to open up. 

04 October 2017

2017 Topps National Baseball Card Day Set

August 12th was Topps' proclaimed National Baseball Card Day, and people who visited card shops on that day could get packs from a special set Topps created for the occasion. I didn't visit my local shop on that day, as my local shop is inconvenient to visit and I have a hard time justifying the markup they charge over internet prices. I also get a weird vibe from the owner that I don't like. The best thing about visiting the local shop is petting the dog, but sometimes the dog bites me.

Anyway, I bought a set of the 2017 National Baseball Card Day cards from an eBay seller. There are 30 cards in the set, one for each team in Major League Baseball. There were also stadium giveaway sets and autographs seeded randomly in packs, but I only picked up the base set. Carlos Correa was the Astros' representative in the set.

The checklist contains an assortment of veterans and rookies. I picked a few of them to scan here. Most of these guys have completed their season for the 2017, hoping for a better run next year.

The representative from the Angels, Mike Trout, wasn't available from packs. You had to spend $10 on Topps products at the card shop to get this card. I got it as part of my eBay purchase. This is a pretty neat little set. I sometimes feel guilty for shopping online instead of supporting the local shop, but maybe if I fit in better with the owner and clientele I would feel more motivated to pay the premium for their products.

03 October 2017

A Miniature Red Singleton

I am looking forward to playoff baseball, but along with that anticipation comes the fear of the Astros' inevitable collapse. Only one fan base out of ten will be happy at the end of it all, and there are a lot of dangerous teams in the way of a Houston World Series win.

One player who won't be a part of it, win or lose, is Jon Singleton. He spent 2017 down at AA, and hasn't had an MLB at-bat since 2015. He was among the team leaders for the Corpus Christi Hooks in Runs, Home Runs, and Runs Batted In, but probably didn't do enough to earn a promotion to AAA, let alone the big-league club. He could be a replacement-level guy on a weaker roster, but there's not any room for him on the Astros after several other corner-infield/DH-type guys leapfrogged him.

I still keep plugging away at my Singleton player collection. This card comes from the 2014 Bowman Chrome Mini factory set. Each factory set came with 30 parallels of various colors, with these Red Refractors being limited to 5 copies apiece. My Singleton card is # 2 / 5.

02 October 2017

Seeking Redemption 20: WWE Undisputed Autos

I picked up a couple of redemption cards from 2017 Topps WWE Undisputed, mostly just because I like to bid on redemption cards to see if I can score a deal.

I was kind of aiming for Cesaro and Big Cass, but I never wound up getting any of their cards. I ended up with a base autograph of Sami Zayn and a Bronze autograph parallel of Heath Slater. It didn't take too long for both cards to be made, so it was just a few weeks before I got a shipping notification.

Here is the Sami Zayn base autograph. It's numbered # 066 / 199. Zayn is a pretty fun wrestler to watch. He's got a high-energy style. I've seen him live twice in the last year. His entrance music seems to get the crowd pretty hyped up, too.

I'm not that familiar with Heath Slater, but the price was right on this autograph. It is numbered # 38 / 99.

Topps' policy lately has been to include a bonus card with most redemption shipments. In this package I got a couple of relic cards from 2015 Topps WWE Heritage. This first one features Tyler Breeze, one half of the Breezango tag team.

The other bonus card in the package was a relic card of The Miz. These aren't the most exciting relics in the world, but they were bonus cards so I can't really feel bad about them. It's cool that Topps even includes bonus cards in redemption packages.