23 May 2017

Pack of the Day 162: Two Boxes of 2000 Fleer Ultra WNBA

Late last year I went on a little WNBA kick, buying some 1999 Skybox WNBA wax and a few Ticha Penicheiro cards for a PC. Then I saw that Steel City Collectibles had a few boxes of various WNBA products on sale, so I bought a few WNBA boxes from them.

One of the exciting offerings was 2000 Fleer Ultra WNBA. I picked up two boxes of this product. This set offers the prospect of autographs and memorabilia cards, as well as low-numbered parallels. That stuff was all pretty wild seventeen years ago.

Here's a scan of a pack. Hmm, that www.FLEERCARDS.com site doesn't seem to be working. It must be down for maintenance. The base set is 150 cards strong, with 25 of them being short-printed rookies. Gold Medallion parallels fall 1 per pack, with one of the Gold Medallions in the box being a Rookie Gold Medallion. Platinum Medallion cards and Rookie Platinum Medallion cards are serially numbered and don't have odds listed. There are also  1 / 1 parallels called Masterpieces.

Based on the listed odds, I am expecting 6 Feminine Adrenaline inserts in a box, 3 WNBAttitude cards per box, and 2 Trophy case inserts per box. Autographs drop about 1 in every 3 boxes, relic cards fall about 1 in 12 boxes, and autographed shoe cards have pretty much impossible odds. 

It's been so long since I busted these boxes that I lost my notes on how the break went. I think I got a complete non-SP base set, with plenty of doubles and triples.

Flipping through a couple stacks of them, it looks like there were plenty of quadruples as well. I tried to pick some of the more interesting photos and famous players for the scans.

I pulled a few Ticha Penicheiro base cards, although I really only needed one for the PC and one for the set.

The card backs have a paragraph about the player, year-by-year and career stats, and the usual height, weight, college name, birth date, and birthplace information. The card backs also get a small photo featuring a different picture than the one on the front of the card.

I didn't pull all of the SP rookies that close out the set. I got cards 126-130, I am missing 131-137, and I have 138-150. I also pulled doubles of every card from 144-150. Apparently these things run in sequences.

I was happy to pull a Ticha Penicheiro Gold Medallion Edition for my player collection. These parallels feature a die-cut top, a shiny gold background, and the parallel's name across the top of the card. They also feature a 'G' at the end of the card number on the back. The Rookie versions are only one per box. I got Edwina Brown, who spent parts of five years in the WNBA, and Tamicha Jackson, who played in parts of seven seasons.

I was lucky enough to get a Platinum Medallion card as well. The Platinum parallels are similar to the Gold, with the die-cut top, the metallic background, and a 'P' at the end of the card number. They are also serially-numbered at the bottom of the card back. This Venus Lacy card is numbered # 05 / 50. She won a State Championship in high school, an NCAA Championship in college, and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1996, but a car accident in 1997 and (probably) her age by the time the league started up limited her time in the WNBA. She played in about half the 1999 season and a couple of games the next year. She did play internationally and in the U.S.-based ABL between college and her stint in the WNBA.

I did pull the expected three WNBAttitude cards per box, but I pulled the same three cards from both boxes. That leaves me well short of completing this insert set. It's nice that at least one of them was a Houston Comets player, Cynthia Cooper.

It's too bad that so many WNBA teams have folded, especially teams like Houston that were 1) so successful and 2) my favorite team. You can't really tell here, but the backgrounds on these are all shiny holofoil.

I got the expected number of Trophy Case inserts in my boxes, with two per box. No doubles this time, which was nice. These focus on players who made the All-WNBA teams.

Cynthia Cooper makes another appearance. These have shiny holofoil backgrounds and are die-cut on top and bottom.

I got the expected dozen Feminine Adrenaline cards in my two boxes, but four of them were doubles, so I am still a couple of cards short on the set.

There are some pretty good names here, like Sheryl Swoopes and player collection favorite Ticha Penicheiro.

I was also lucky enough to get a Fresh Ink autograph card from my break. Yolanda Griffith is a pretty good pull here, as she had a Hall of Fame career. She played in 11 seasons, earning 8 ALl-Star appearances, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, an MVP Award, a WNBA Championship, a WNBA Finals MVP Award, 5 All-WNBA First- or Second-Team spots, and spots on the WNBA All-Decade Team, the WNBA's Top 15 Players of All Time, and the WNBA Top 20@20. She also has a couple of Gold medals and was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Overall I was pretty happy with this break. I was really hoping for a shoe relic card, but the odds on those are pretty long. I did wind up with a pretty nice autograph and a Platinum Medallion parallel, so I like to think I still bucked the odds a little bit. I'd like to complete the set some day, but I haven't been pushing too hard on that.

22 May 2017

2014 Topps Finest 51-60

Way back in August of 2014 I started posting about the 2014 Topps Finest baseball set, working through the checklist in groups of ten. I got four posts done between August and October 2014, then skipped over a year and posted about cards 41-50 in early 2016. I still have the scans in my folder, but I just never make the time to get them cropped and loaded into the blog. At this point, a base set from 2014 is maybe not the most exciting thing in the world. It feels weird to leave it incomplete, though, so I've got another couple of posts queued up. Today, I talk about cards 51-60. Today's post is pretty heavy on the AL East and recently-retired greats.

Taijuan Walker spent a couple of years being touted as a breakout candidate in Seattle, but never really got going there. He showed flashes, but they traded him to Arizona this year in a deal that included Jean Segura going the other way. He was doing pretty well for them, with an ERA about a run lower than he'd produced the last two years in Seattle, but recently landed on the DL with a blister.

Christian Bethancourt's story has become kind of interesting recently. He hadn't found much success with his bat over a couple of seasons with the Braves and Padres, so he is currently working on converting himself into a bullpen pitcher. He has struggled so far in the role, but I guess that's to be expected.

Here is a guy with plenty of controversy lately, as he continues to flip his bat and jaw with other teams. After a down 2016, Jose Bautista started off pretty slowly for 2017. He's turned things up a bit lately, though, so maybe he hasn't fallen all the way off the cliff in his age-36 season.

Although he retired at the end of 2014, Jeter still appears in the news so much that it's like he never left. The Yankees just recently retired his number, blocking any future Yankees from wearing any single-digit numbers on their jerseys. He'll probably waltz into the Hall of Fame when he's eligible, so he should remain prominent in the news cycle for a while still.

David Ortiz is another recently-retired player in the Hall of Fame discussion. If he does struggle to get in, it will probably be due to PED issues and the amount of time he spent playing at DH rather than in the field. I think he's popular enough that he gets in at some point.

Manny Machado is a guy I targeted in most of my fantasy baseball drafts this year. I didn't land him in any leagues, though. He's struggled (by first-round fantasy draft standards) this year so far, but he's still no slouch. His 162-game pace according to Baseball Reference is still 87 runs, 40 home runs, 95 RBI, and 8 stolen bases.

Felix Hernandez has been the ace for the Mariners for about as long as I can remember, but last year he started to regress a bit in his age-30 season. This year he made five starts, with his last start on April 25th ending after two innings with a shoulder injury and a DL stint. He might be back in June. I wonder if he'll return to his 'King Felix' form?

Adam Jones has been his usual consistent self this season, doing a little bit of everything. I used to pick him up in fantasy baseball nearly every year, but I didn't get him on any of my four teams this season. He has a reputation as being underrated, and it's come full circle so that now he's so underrated that he's overrated.

I picked up Schoop in a couple of my leagues, hoping for some power out of my 2B slot. He delivered in April, with 5 home runs and a good average. That has all disappeared in May, as he hasn't hit a home run this month and has only generated 2 RBI. Hopefully he can get back on track going into June.

Joe Mauer has been okay this year, although you definitely want some more production out of your 1B spot. When it comes to 1B-eligible players in fantasy, he barely cracks the top 50. His glory days are well behind him.

And that's another 10 cards knocked off the checklist of 2014 Topps Finest. It's still a cool-looking set, with all those crazy colors, but I'll be happy when I post the last ten cards and close out this series. At my current pace, I should be able to finish it in 2021. I'm going to dig deep and try to get it done by the end of this year, though.

21 May 2017

A Fantastic She-Hulk Sketch by Anthony Hochrein

My favorite comic book team of all time is the Fantastic Four from Marvel, with their usual cast consisting of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Thing. Marvel hasn't published a Fantastic Four comic book in a while due to legal disputes about Fantastic Four films, but I maintain hope that they will be back someday. Over the long publishing history of the Fantastic Four, the roster has seen occasional shakeups. During the mid-1980's, Thing left the Fantastic Four for a while, and She-Hulk replaced him as the team's muscle for a while. She-Hulk is one of my favorite individual characters in the Marvel Universe, so the combination of my favorite team with a favorite character is awesome for me. A statue of She-Hulk as a member of the Fantastic Four is the largest statue in my relatively small figure collection. I've also got a couple of action figures and other assorted stuff featuring her as a member of the team.

When artist Anthony Hochrein listed this She-Hulk sketch for sale, featuring her in her blue Fantastic Four uniform, I had to snap it up. I've purchased Hochrein's work before in the form of a Power Girl sketch, but it's been a little while. With my focus on my Power Girl and Princess Leia sketch collections, I don't get a lot of opportunities to add to other sketch collections. I'm always happy when I can get something for one of my other favorite characters. This one is a pretty cool sketch card, and She-Hulk looks appropriately powerful here.

Hochrein has a Facebook page and an Etsy store. He also has an eBay page, but doesn't currently have anything listed for sale. He's pretty active on Facebook, though, so if you are interested in his work it isn't to hard to get in touch.

20 May 2017

2016 Panini Father's Day Thick Stock Danica Patrick - Monster Energy All-Star Race

I don't have a lot to say today. I've been busy with stuff, so the blog has taken a back seat the last couple of days. This week's NASCAR event was the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Danica Patrick didn't qualify under the normal rules for the race, and this time she also didn't win the fan vote, so she was a spectator for the event. I didn't watch the race, but I read that Kyle Busch won it and that most people thought it was a pretty boring event, without much in the way of excitement or drama. All I know is that my picks in my fantasy league for the race earned me a last-place finish. At least this one didn't count for the fantasy season.

This card comes from the 2016 Panini Father's Day card set. It's the Thick Stock parallel, which is pretty much what it sounds like. The card is printed on stock that is much thicker than the base cards. These are limited to 50 copies apiece, with my copy being # 43 / 50. A different copy of this card was my first COMC flip. It popped up for sale at $1.25, and I quickly purchased it. I already had this one, though, so I kept the other one in my COMC account and it eventually sold for $6.40.

18 May 2017

2017 Topps WWE Now WrestleMania

In spite of my complaints about the cost of the WrestleMania card sets that Topps put out in their Now program, I ordered one for my collection. I guess the official name of this set is Topps Now Countdown to WWE WrestleMania. There were 11 cards in the set, previewing the various matches that were planned for WrestleMania 33. 

I've scanned six of my favorite cards from the set, including a few matches that were rehashed at the live show I attended in Cincinnati in April. I watched most of WrestleMania this year, although I missed a little of the beginning of the show. I found it entertaining. Obviously the big names are going to come out for WrestleMania, so there are plenty of my favorite wrestlers on these cards, like John Cena, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Bayley, and Nia Jax. The print run on these sets was 74 copies.

After WrestleMania, Topps put out a few more cards featuring highlights from the show. I didn't get all of them, but I did grab a couple. Undertaker appeared to retire after his match against Roman Reigns, leaving his gear in the center of the ring before walking out to end the show. I had to get the card for that moment, as Undertaker has been a part of the WWE landscape ever since I can remember. This card did the biggest numbers of the WrestleMania offerings, with 172 cards printed.

The other moments I chose to buy the cards for were John Cena proposing to Nikki Bella, and Bayley winning the Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match to retain the Women's Belt. I guess the proposal was a pretty sappy thing, but this is a big soap opera against a backdrop of competitive violence. The John Cena / Nikki Bella card had 91 copies ordered, while Bayley's card had 97 copies made. In retrospect, I should have ordered the card featuring the Hardy Boyz, but I didn't.

I had a fun time dipping my toe back into the WWE, and I'm glad I picked up these cards. They're a pretty fun way to remember an event that I enjoyed watching.

17 May 2017

Pack of the Day 161: 2017 Topps Star Wars Sugar Free Online Exclusive

Here's another of Topps' online-exclusive products that sucked me in. This is a boxed set featuring trading cards inspired by the wrappers of the 1978 Topps Sugar-Free Gum product. Here is a web page I found that describes the 1978 set in great detail, with pictures of the packaging and the wrappers. I think the initial plan for Topps was to include the 49-card set and 2 autographs in the 2017 Topps Star Wars Sugar-Free Gum product, but later they decided to add some value by making parallel variations of the base set and adding them to the boxes..

The front of the box only mentions the card set and the autographs. I am guessing that the art was done by the time the decision was made to add parallels to the set, as the odds and text on the back mention parallels, but nothing on the rest of the box mentions it. The Cardboard Connection profile on the set mentions that you get 3-5 parallels per box.

Here are the pack odds and NPN information. I might actually send in an envelope for the NPN on this one. I usually don't bother with most products, but it can't hurt to try it out. The MSRP on these sets through the Topps website is $99.99 + shipping, but on holidays Topps will run sales on their site. I used one of those sales to get my box, so I got mine for a little less. The parallels come in four varieties: Blue, Green, Gold, and Red. Odds are only listed here for some of them, as the assumption is that you will find the others in every box anyway.

I chose 8 of the horizontal base cards to scan. In the original product, these photos were printed on the inside of the gum wrapper. Apparently the legend is that George Lucas pushed for the creation of this product so that diabetics could have a Star Wars candy collectible.

The horizontally-oriented cards tend to feature more characters and action poses. Most of the main characters make an appearance or three, but some of the minor Star Wars characters also appear in the set.

Each card back features has one of these four designs on it. These designs were the outside art on the actual gum packs from the original product. The legalese in the yellow block at the top was different and there was a blank area for the perforations above that, but these are pretty true to the gum wrappers.

I got three parallels in my box of cards. They are all of the more common varieties. This Green C-3PO is the rarest of the bunch, numbered # 21 / 40.

This Blue Darth Vader is pretty neat. It is numbered # 15 / 75. Nothing changes from the base cards to the parallels outside of the colored border on the front and the serial numbering on the back.

My last parallel was this Blue action photo of Han Solo. It is numbered # 72 / 75.

I got one base autograph and one parallel autograph. The autographs are on stickers. The base autograph has the signature of Rusty Goffe, who played a Jawa. I believe all of the autograph cards have the same background design, with the signature block at the bottom, the red and blue areas behind the portrait, and the starfield behind that. This autograph is numbered # 022 / 199.

My second autograph is a Blue parallel of Kenneth Colley as Admiral Piett. It is a pretty limited card, being numbered only # 09 / 25.

I did okay on this box break. I can't say that my autograph and parallel pulls blew me away, but I got some pretty good characters on the parallels and I got one pretty limited autograph. I didn't have a Goffe or a Colley autograph in my collection yet, so I am adding some variety to my collection. Multiplying the pack odds out by the number of parallels suggests that there were 2100-2200 boxes produced, and all of the big name signers from the original trilogy are on the checklist (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew), so you could do worse as far as odds of pulling a really nice autograph. I might take a shot on another box if they go on sale again. At $100 this feels pretty steep, but at $75 or less it seems like an okay value for 2 Star Wars autographs, 3-5 parallels, and a 49-card base set.