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.

19 April 2017

The Start of a P★League Bowler Collection

I got in an order of cards from Japan a couple of weeks ago, mostly in an effort to track down 2017 BBM True Heart Wrestling autographs I 'needed' for various wrestler collections. But since overseas shipping is a huge component of the cost of doing business with Japanese buying services, I added a few extra things to take advantage of the opportunity to consolidate. A couple of those extras came from various BBM P★League bowling card sets. I broke down box sets of the 2016 and 2014 bowling cards in previous posts, as well as the DVD set of the tournament that I think the 2016 card set is based on.

When I first opened up the 2016 card set, I didn't take a whole lot of notice of Sanae Mori, but when I watched the DVD I found her pretty entertaining whenever she was on camera. Just like that, a bowler collection was started. In my recent order, I picked up this autograph from the 2015 P★League set. She has a pretty distinctive signature, with a big 'M' arching over the whole thing with the 'ori' of 'Mori' in the middle. Below the 'ori' she spells out Sanae with the 'e' continuing on into a heart shape. Beneath that, she puts her professional bowling license number. I have a 2015 boxed set, but I haven't posted about it yet. As you can see by the snowflakes and the 'Very Merry Xmas' across the bottom of the card, the set has a holiday theme. Bowlers have two kinds of autographs, one in regular clothes and one dressed up in holiday costumes. I think both types also have special ink variations, but I can't remember. Anyway, this is Sanae Mori's regular clothes / regular ink version, and it's numbered # 38 / 90.

I also picked up an insert from the 2014 set. I think the main idea of this set is those word bubbles on the back of the card. In the center-top of the card back, there is a blurb about lucky objects and lucky colors. As near as I can tell, Sanae Mori's lucky object is a bear collectible or bear toy, maybe a stuffed animal or something similar? Aki Suzuki's word bubble seems to describe a lucky color, maybe red or orange. I'm not very good at this, and my phone app doesn't like translating from this photo on my screen.

I'll probably try to add a Sanae Mori card or two in my future orders through the Buyee service. They aren't extremely tough to find, but once you add buying fees and shipping to the base price they can get a little costly. Hopefully she remains with the P★League for a while longer, so she'll keep getting new releases in the (approximately) annual trading card set. I'm looking forward to the 2017 set already!

18 April 2017

How Much is This in Imperial Credits?

Over a year ago, I posted about some painted dollar bills I'd gotten from artist John Soukup. Those ones were superhero-themed. A couple (few?) months ago, I picked up another handful of them from his eBay store, with this batch focusing on Star Wars characters. It took me a while to scan them and get them to the front of the posting queue.

First up are a couple of Star Wars heroines, Leia and Rey. In the typical Soukup fashion, both are holding pickles in their hands. I haven't thought to ask him, "Why pickles?' but I imagine he has his reasons. The Leia card is what drew me in to bidding on these, but I usually check out his auctions anyway, just to see what cool stuff he's come up with. 

I also got a few other characters, including cantina patron Momaw Nadon, bounty hunter Greedo, and Darth Vader. At the time these were up for auction, there was also a Boba Fett bill listed that I lost out on when I got distracted as the bidding closed. That was disappointing, but I've become a lot better about not getting worked up when I lose an auction. There will always be another cool thing out there for me to add to my collection, and most of the painted bills on offer wound up coming to me anyway. I really ought to stop by the Art-o-mat machine here in Dayton while I'm in the area. I'm in a different hotel this year, so the gallery is pretty far out of my way. It still might be worth the trip, though, to see what they've got in the machine this time.