17 April 2018

Bat-Mite by Dave "Pops" Tata

I haven't shown a sketch card for a while, so here's a fun one I picked up last year.

The character is Bat-Mite, a seldom-seen character in the Batman universe. He has reality-altering powers similar to Mister Mxyzptlk, a Superman character who Bat-Mite is a manifestation of. I don't follow Batman too closely, so my description may be lacking some. The card comes from the Cryptozoic DC Comics Batman: The Legend set. The artist is Dave "Pops" Tata. I can't find a lot about Tata online, but he's got a page here for commissions. There's nothing on there newer than 2015, though, so I don't know anything about his current status. Most of his art pages seem to be a little outdated, but he does have a little bit of newer stuff on his Instagram page.

I was happy to land this sketch. It's well-done, and I didn't have any of Tata's art in my collection yet.

15 April 2018

2018 BBM Shining Venus

In addition to the box of 2017 BBM Shining Venus cards I showed yesterday, I also bought a box of the 2018 BBM Shining Venus set. Let's take a look at what's in a box.

Here is the top of the box. The format is similar to the 2017 product, with 20 packs in a box and 5 cards in a pack. The MSRP is 6,000 JPY (~$56.00) for a box and 300 JPY (~$2.80) for a pack.

The bottom of the box contains the checklist. This year's set has an 88-card base set. There are 84 cards in the familiar triad format (a Shining Venus, Playing Venus, and Venus Shot card for each athlete), with the last four cards being Legend Venus subset. The Legend Venus cards appear to be for retired athletes who are no longer going to be featured in BBM's Venus products. There are two parallels of the base set, one # / 100 and one # / 30. There is also a 9-card insert set called Venus Heart, and a number of special cards like autographs. The autographs listed that my phone can translate are regular, private, special, legend, combo, rookie, New Year, and Valentine's. There are probably others.

In my box, I pulled 76 / 88 base cards (86.4%), with 20 doubles. Again, it's going to take at least two boxes to complete a set of this product. The Shining Venus cards feature the athlete in a posed shot with their sports gear, the Playing Venus cards show the athlete in action, and the Venus Shot cards show the athlete in street clothes.

Some sports get featured more than others, but I am not sure how BBM decides which athletes to feature from year to year. There are two runners in this set, with Kana Ichikawa being one of them. There are also a couple of baseball players, a couple of basketball players, and a couple of climbers in this set.

Athletes who are making their first appearance in a Venus set get a Rookie Card logo on the front of their Shining Venus cards. I would probably buy a box of cards for a set featuring professional darts players. I've purchased BBM's offerings for bowling and curling, so it wouldn't be out of character for me. 

Speaking of curling, a curler appears in the Legend Venus subset. Each Legend only gets one card. This seems similar to the Hall of Fame subset in the True Heart wrestling sets, where notable wrestlers who retire during the previous year get one card at the end of the checklist.

I got two regular Venus Heart inserts and one parallel. The regular cards have a shiny gold finish to them, while the parallels have a holofoil shine and a serial number. My parallel of Iori Miura is numbered # 009 / 100.

I only got one autograph in this box, featuring lacrosse player Asuka Noo. Because of the serial number, I can tell this is a limited type of autograph rather than a base autograph. The base autographs have print runs of 79-120 cards each, while these limited autograph cards have print runs of 30-89 cards apiece. Google Translate tells me that this set is called Autograph Card (Private Version). This one is numbered # 31 / 60. I like how she included a lacrosse stick and her jersey number on the card.

In all, this was a fun break. The 2018 box was a little disappointing after opening the 2017 box because it had just one autograph and fewer limited cards inside. I would have liked to pull some more stuff from the box. True Heart has kind of spoiled me the last couple of years, with 6-7 autographs per box in that product.

14 April 2018

Getting Caught Up, and a Box of 2017 BBM Shining Venus

I've been trying to get caught up on things this weekend, and I spent a lot of today putting together a couple of overdue packages for other bloggers. There are still several that I am working on building, but it is nice to have a small stack of packages taped up with postage attached.

In addition to my usual annual BBM True Heart wrestling card boxes, I added some BBM Shining Venus cards to my order. Ryan G over at This Card is Cool has already broken this set down in great detail, but I'll talk about it a little here. Above you can see the top of the box. Each box has 20 packs, with 5 cards per pack. A little bit of numberology tells me that's 100 cards per box.

The bottom of the box has a checklist on it. There are 87 cards in the base set, 9 cards in an insert set, and some parallels and autographs.

Each subject in the set gets three cards. One is a Shining Venus card, the other is a Playing Venus card, and the last is a Venus Shot card. From what I can tell, the Shining Venus card is usually a posed picture of the athlete with her sporting implements, the Playing Venus card features an action photo, and the Venus Shot is a picture of the athlete in street clothes.

In the box I purchased, I got 78 / 87 base cards (89.7%) and 17 doubles. It was disappointing that I didn't get a full base set, but I kind of expect that from BBM products. If it's a pack-based product instead of a boxed set, you shouldn't expect a complete set from one box.

The subjects of the set are all women, and the checklist of sports is pretty extensive. There are traditional sports represented, like rugby and running, as well as niche sports that include unicycling and fin swimming. 

The set has foil signature parallels. I pulled one Gold Foil Signature parallel of Misaki Ogawa, numbered # 57 / 80. I think there is a more limited Rainbow Foil Signature parallel available. The insert set is called Sparkle Venus. That checklist is nine cards deep. I pulled two of them. They feature the athletes in street clothes and the cards have a shiny gold finish to them. There are silver holofoil parallels of this insert set, too, and those are serially-numbered.

I also got two autographs in the box. Both feature sticker signatures. The card on top has the signature of fin swimmer Satsuki Fujimaki. I believe it is the basic autograph. My copy is numbered # 017 / 117. The other signature in my box is a special Happy New Year! autograph. I think there are also Valentine's Day autographs. 2017 was the year of the Rooster, so there are a couple of roosters in the design of the card. These are more limited, and my autograph of basketball player Naoko Chikahira is numbered # 14 / 30.

This was a pretty fun product to sample. I don't know if I will pick up more boxes in search of a full base set, but I might. It is nice to get such a large variety of sports in one set. You don't really see that in the United States outside of Olympic years.

To continue the theme of catching up, I've had a few notable things happen in my real life. The first is joining the ranks of the tattooed. I'd been thinking about getting a tattoo honoring my military service for over a decade now, but the time never felt right. I actually went in to get it done about five years ago, but the tattoo artist wouldn't listen to what I was asking for and I walked away, waiting another five years for the right artist to come along. I got a flag and a unit combat patch done on my right shoulder, to mirror the flag and combat patch on that sleeve of my uniform. The names and dates are the years I deployed to Iraq, and the anarchy symbol with the 'M' inside is a brotherhood tattoo that several members of a unit I spent 13 years in got after our first deployment in 2004-05. I may add a background to tie it all together later, but I'm not in a hurry.

On the other arm I got an action scene featuring the four comic book characters that my kids are named after. This one isn't finished yet, as I still have at least one more session to get all the colors filled in.

The other big news recently is that we got another dog. My wife saw this Basset Hound puppy on Facebook, and she had to have her. Last weekend she drove several hours each way to pick the dog up, and so Poppy joined our family. She is three months old, and she is a lot of trouble. We're still working on her potty training, and she bites everything. Our yellow Lab likes her quite a bit, and they play together in spite of the massive size difference between them. My Basset Hound is old and grouchy, and he does not like the energetic little biting machine. He spends most of his time perched on top of furniture where she can't reach him.

12 April 2018

Why Buy Just a Swatch?

An auction recently popped up for an interesting item that I had to throw down a bid on. The item in question is a pair of Munenori Kawasaki's game-used pants. I didn't expect to win the auction, but I wound up as the winning bidder. 

They arrived in the mail today, and it looks like they are packaged in the bag they came in. They come from Kawasaki's stint with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

Cross-checking the official MLB hologram tells me that these pants are part of a throwback uniform the Cubs wore in a game against the Reds on July 6th, 2016. Kawasaki didn't appear in that game, as he only made 14 appearances on the year, with his only July appearance coming on the 9th of the month. So these pants are less game-used and more dugout-used. Probably still more relevant than many of the 'event-worn' relics out there.

The pants show a decent amount of dirt and grime for being worn once without a game appearance. That's fine with me. I wish I could find a picture of him from that game, but so far my search has been fruitless. This is a pretty cool item for my collection, especially since I got it for about what a handful of Kawasaki relic cards would sell for.

One of my favorite independent wrestlers, Jazzy 'Alpha Female' Gabert, also has had a couple of MMA fights. She had a neck injury a few months ago, and to help cover her expenses while recovering from surgery, she put some items from her first MMA fight up for sale. I wasn't able to get her ring gear, but I did buy the gear she wore for the weigh-in.

I do have pictures from that event. Here she is flexing on the scale, with all the sponsor logos behind her.

And here is the traditional staredown with her opponent, Manuela Kuhse, before the fight in Iron Fighters Organization (IFO) 3 on October 15, 2016. Gabert would win this fight by TKO in the 2nd round.

She sent along an autographed copy of a photo from that day. I thought that was pretty nice.

And here is the actual gear. She autographed each piece, although it's kind of hard to see in the photos. I don't know how much game- and event-worn clothing I plan on adding to my collection in the future, but these are a couple of cool pieces for my collection. It was fun to get Munenori Kawasaki's pants, and I was glad to be able to help out the Alpha Female while getting some memorabilia in return. Her recovery seems to be going well, and she's started booking some events. It doesn't sound like a contract with the WWE is in her current plans, but she has some other stuff lined up.

08 April 2018

Danica Patrick Red Flag Prizm Tire Relic

Just a quick one-card post tonight, as I had to work the weekend and I want to go to bed soon. At least I have Monday off, so I will probably sleep in a little and hopefully receive a package I've been expecting from Venezuela.

This is a card I picked up a long time ago. It's a race-used tire relic from 2016 Panini Prizm Racing. This is the Red Flag Prizm parallel, and my copy is # 24 / 25. I don't think the front looks quite as busy in-hand, but all of the shininess really stands out in the scan. The base versions of these cards suffer from Prizm-itis, which is a term I just made up for the dingy-looking expanses of dull silver that some Prizm sets seem to have.

07 April 2018

The Real Main Event of UFC 223

There was a lot of crazy news in the UFC this week, mostly centering around Conor McGregor going crazy after a press event, attacking a bus with a group of friends, which resulted in a couple of fighters being injured to the point where they had to pull out of UFC 223. Conor McGregor also got arrested in connection with the incident. Max Holloway also had to pull out of the main event due to complications with his weight cut, eventually leading to Al Iaquinta stepping in to face Khabib Nurmagomedov instead. Maybe that will be a good fight, but the one I'm looking forward to is Rose Namajunas defending her title against the fighter she took the belt from, Joanna Jędrzejczyk. 

Here are a couple of cards I've added recently, a 2016 Topps High Impact autograph of Namajunas, and a Tier One relic card of Jędrzejczyk from 2017 Topps UFC Knockout. I got both of these on eBay during the last few months. The High Impact autograph is unnumbered, while the relic card is numbered # 040 / 125.

Here are the backs of the cards. I guess when it comes to the main event, I can hope for Al Iaquinta to win so I can make huge money off the five Iaquinta autograph cards I pulled during my big Cyber Week breaks last year.

03 April 2018

What's the Big Idea?

Wow, I really mailed it in here on the blog during March. It was my lowest blog post output since April of 2016, when I was away from home and the internet for most of the month. I didn't have any good excuses last month, except that I just haven't been feeling it. I've felt a little out-of-touch in general over the last couple of months, and that feeling has extended into my blogging, too. I hope that I can break out of that funk soon, but it might be time to head back to the doctor and see if maybe my medication isn't doing the job anymore. I would describe what I'm feeling as a pretty consistent low-grade anxiety attack. Enough about that, though. Let's get to the meat of the post, The Big Idea.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a Wally Moon player collection for a while. He is pretty famous among collectors for his bushy unibrow, a feature that also appears on my face. I was thinking about his cards, and then I went on the PSA website and noticed that the Wally Moon Basic Set only has 12 items on it, his Topps cards from 1954-1965. That led me to eBay, where I lost control of my impulses and wound up with a complete run in a matter of days. A series of offers and coupons didn't help my self-control any, and I wound up making a little progress on the Wally Moon Master Set, to boot. I've already shared these pictures on Twitter, but I'll share them here as well.

This was probably the prize of the bunch. It's Wally's rookie card from 1954 Topps. I didn't get an amazing deal on it, but I got a pretty good deal and it's a nice-looking piece of cardboard.

I especially like the backs on these vintage cards, although Moon's cards tend to recycle the same group of factoids over and over. 

The 1955 card features the same headshot as the 1954 Topps card, but a different image off to the side.

Moon's 1956 card has another repeat of the headshot, but this time the the other image is an exciting play at the plate. I picked up the Gray Back variation to fill this spot in the Basic Set. 

Finally, 1957 gives us a different picture to look at, with Wally wielding a bat and staring into the camera.

The back of the 1957 is a little less colorful than previous designs, but I guess they can't all have cartoons. This is the first card to have more than a couple rows of statistics.

His 1958 card is a little bland with that green background, but I also really like the way this card looks. I can't explain why, though.

Cartoons also return for his 1958 card, but at the expense of the multiple years of statistics that appeared on his 1957 card.

There isn't really an ugly card in this run, and Moon's 1959 issue is another nice-looking piece of cardboard. It is also the first one in the run to show him as a Dodger. I am not really a fan of the Cardinals or the Dodgers, but I am a fan of Wally Moon.

This card back mixes a small cartoon with a full stat box. I am a fan of this layout, especially in the pre-internet days when cards were the primary source of information about a players stats. I lived through the later part of that era, and I remember selecting favorite players largely by comparing the numbers on the back of cards.

We break into the 1960's with this garish pink and yellow number. This is the design used for Moon's 2017 Topps Archives autograph card, although Topps used blue and red instead of pink and yellow for that one. They also used different pictures, but ones that are remarkably similar to the ones on this card.

This is where my impatience kind of bit me. This one is graded an 8, but it has the (PD) qualifier due to printing marks all over the front of the card. That knocks it down two whole grades in PSA's calculations. I really don't mind the marks all that much, but I may upgrade this someday. I like the person in the background of this photo, partially obscured by Wally's arm. It would be nice if today's Heritage cards had some people or cars or something interesting in the background.

Here's another card with full stats on the back, along with a cartoon, but no biographical paragraph.

Again, I got bitten by my impulsive nature here, and bought a card with a cracked case. It's a nice-looking card, but that crack in the case is unsightly. There are a few variations of this card, but this is the one I got. There are also Venezuelan variants of this card, which are hard to come by.

The back of the case for this 1962 card is also cracked. One of the tougher cards from the Wally Moon Master Set is going to be the Venezuelan version of the 1962 NL Batting Leaders card, which also features a guy named Bob Clemente on the front. Condition isn't going to be a deal-breaker on that one. I'll just be happy to get a copy of it, graded or not.

Jumping into 1963, here's another really good-looking card. My parents were only a year old in 1963, so I don't have the familiarity with designs of this vintage that some collectors do. One enjoyable thing about grabbing these cards is that I get to look at some designs that I'm not well-versed in.

The card backs from here on through to 1965 feature big blocks of stats.

While his earlier cards featured a hint of a smile here and there, his last few cards show a ballplayer who is all business.

I am running out of things to say about the card backs. This one has a scratch-off trivia question, but the answer can be seen by holding the card up to the light at an angle.

This 1965 card marks the end of Wally's Topps run, as he would retire after the 1965 season, and wouldn't get a card in the 1966 set.

This is the card back that is most familiar to me out of the bunch, as I bought and sorted a ton of 2014 Topps Heritage in an attempt to collect the set by busting packs. That didn't work out for me, but I did see a lot of card backs that looked a lot like this one. 

I found a few other items for my Wally Moon collection, and I'll add some of them here at the end of this post. This is a Topps Stamp from 1962. I think these also are available in panels, with different pairings of players. I started with this single, though, because it was relatively cheap.

I also picked up the White Back variation of Moon's 1956 card, again because it was pretty cheap. 

Finally, here is a 1961 Post Cereal card. This is the perforated version, but there are also hand-cut versions out there. I think I need both types if I want to build the Master Set. I do want to build the Master Set, but I've cleared out most of the low-hanging fruit. I can't afford to build the rest of it at this blistering pace.