31 July 2019

A Hobby Box of 2019 Topps WWE SummerSlam

Although I think Topps is kind of overdoing it on WWE cards, I still have to try each of the products out. I was considering skipping the upcoming Money in the Bank set, but each box promises three autographs plus another hit, which is better seeding than I anticipated. My latest break was a Hobby box of 2019 Topps WWE SummerSlam. It offered 24 packs and 2 hits, with one of the hits guaranteed to be an autograph.

The base set is broken up into two parts. The first 50 cards show stars from the WWE roster. It is pretty similar in design to any of the other recent Topps WWE releases. I pulled 94/100 base cards from the box with no doubles, so I was pretty close to a full base set.

The second 50 cards in the base set feature different moments from the year in WWE. Again, this is pretty standard for recent WWE products.

I pulled 12 Bronze parallels from the box, in line with what was expected. I am always happy to add another Naomi card to my collection. On the roster cards the parallels are set apart by the little wedges in the corners, while the event-based cards have a colored background on them.

I got one numbered parallel in the box, a Blue # / 99 card from the second half of the checklist.

There are a couple of primary insert sets in the product. I think each of the major retailers also has an exclusive insert set found in their blasters. The first insert is this SummerSlam All-Stars set featuring some of the big names that have prospered at SummerSlam events. I pulled 24 / 25 of the card from this insert set from the box.

The other set is a SummerSlam's Greatest Matches and Moments set, with big events from SummerSlams past. It has a larger checklist, and I pulled 24 / 40 cards from the set.

There are four SummerSlam poster cards in the product, and I pulled all of them. You see an awful lot of Brock Lesnar on these posters.

The Ronda Rousey tribute set carries across several products, and cards 21-30 are included in SummerSlam packs. I pulled 4 / 10 of her cards in the box.

My first hit was a SummerSlam 2018 mat relic featuring Braun Strowman. This is the Silver version, numbered # 02 / 25. I am glad I avoided a manufactured logo patch card, and I think they picked a fun picture for the card.

My autograph was Bobby Lashley, the same signature I pulled from the box of 2019 Topps WWE Raw I opened back in April. At least this one is on card.

Although there isn't much new here, this is a fun product to open. I don't know if Topps should be releasing so many sets, but I also know that I will likely buy a Hobby box and a few blasters of any set they put out.

26 July 2019

Hobby Box of 2019 Panini Donruss WNBA Basketball

For a long time the WNBA license has resided with Rittenhouse Archives, where the annual trading card set was released in a factory set format, usually with some kind of autograph content inserted randomly. It was kind of surprising to see that Panini grabbed the license to make WNBA trading cards, so I ordered up a box of their first WNBA product, 2019 WNBA Donruss.

Each box has 4 packs in it, with 30 cards per pack. There are 2 autographs in each box. Seattle Storm player Breanna Stewart appears on the packaging.

There is a big list of inserts and parallels, although surprisingly there are a relatively small number of parallels. with print runs of 199, 99, 10, and 1. I would have expected to see more mid-level parallels in that gap between the /99 cards and the /10 cards.

The branding on the packs matches pretty closely with the branding on the box.

Here's a look at some of the base card fronts. The last dozen cards or so are Rated Rookies. Out of a 100-card base set I pulled 89 cards with no duplicates, so it will take a couple of boxes to complete a set.

The card backs look like a Panini Donruss product. You get one year of stats, a career stat line, some biographical information, and a paragraph about the player.

I got six Optic cards in the box, with four regular Optic cards and two Holo cards (I guess you get Holo cards in Optic now instead of Prizms). 

I also pulled a few of the less-shiny parallels, a couple of the /199 variety and one /99 card.

I like the look of most of the inserts. I think you will either like them or hate them based on how much nostalgia you have for the insert sets of the 1990's. I pulled 5 All-Stars inserts.

I got 3 Express Lane inserts in the box. I was happy to get some Houston Comets content with that Sheryl Swoopes card. I haven't picked a favorite team in the current WNBA. The Comets were my favorite team, but they folded a long time ago.

I got two Franchise Features cards in the box. I'm glad that I recognized a lot of the names in the set. I haven't followed the WNBA very closely for a while, so I was worried that I wouldn't know anyone, but I knew more players than I thought I would.

A couple more inserts are League Leaders and Retro Series. I pulled a Retro Series Press Proof parallel of Lindsay Whalen. I think most of the inserts have parallel versions.

The Rookies inserts appeared 4 times in the bow, with two base inserts, a Press Proof parallel of Katie Lou Samuelson, and a Purple parallel of Asia Durr.

The last insert set is Swishful Thinking, and I got three of them. Elena Delle Donne makes another appearance here. I think I pulled more cards featuring her than I did any other player.

My two autographs were of the base variety, with one being rookie Asia Durr and the other being Seimone Augustus, who was the #1 pick in 2006 and has won 4 championships with the Minnesota Lynx along with 3 Olympic Gold medals.

Overall this was a pretty fun box to break. It might be fun to work on building a full set of base and inserts, although I have to believe the price point on this product will come down a bit from the $80 or so per box that most vendors are asking now. If you could get boxes in the $45-50 range this would feel like a better value, and I would imagine that by Black Friday they might get there unless the print run turns out to be very small or demand is higher than I imagine it is.

22 July 2019

Three Months Later

I've been out of the blogging loop for half a year now, and really only in the loop intermittently for the six months prior to that. I still have a lot of interest in my collection and I've been adding to it on a regular basis, but I have a hard time getting myself to take pictures and write posts. For the last few months I also pretty much stopped reading other card blogs. There's been a lot going on and I can't keep up with everything.

I've documented some of my struggles with depression, anxiety, my MBA program, life and work here in my sporadic recent posts so I won't rehash them too much. Collecting cards is still fun. Collecting artwork is still fun. Tweeting about my cards is still fun. Blogging about my cards is hard because it takes a lot of effort to turn out something that feels like more than a show-off post.

So without further ado, here is some of the stuff I've been up to and some of the cards I've been gathering over the last little bit.

It was pretty fun to get this Brian DeGuire sketch card of Princess Leia. I like his work and I've picked up a couple of his sketches, but until I won this card I hadn't been able to land a Leia in his style. This card is perfect.

DC's Power Girl is the focus of my other major art collection, and I was able to land another couple of artists whose work I enjoy featuring Superman's cousin from Krypton. On the left is a PSC by John Monserrat, and on the right is a sketch card from Cryptozoic's Superman: The Legend set by Cami Fortuna.

I also snagged a couple more wrestling autographs for my collection. I am pretty sure I didn't have Nikki Cross or Lita represented in my collection yet, so I went ahead and got these two signed cards. I've gotten to where I really don't know what I have and what I don't anymore, so I almost expect to find duplicates in my collection if I ever sort it. Over the last couple of days I've been putting all of my cards into 5000-count boxes and putting all of the 5000-count boxes in one spot, which should make it easier to restart the sorting process that I've failed to complete many times. I think I'm up to 25 boxes or so, which by my estimate is roughly 110,000 cards. I don't think each box contains a full 5,000 cards, especially the boxes with a lot of top loaders in them.

I know that I have a Tomb Raider relic already, but I didn't have this particular Tomb Raider relic yet. What I really want is a Tomb Raider autograph, but those are a pricey proposition. Maybe someday I will be able to get one.

I spent the second half of June in South Africa with my dad and his uncle. My dad is on the left, I'm in the middle, and his uncle is on the right. It was a hunting trip for my dad's retirement. I've seen some talk about trophy hunting among card bloggers on Twitter recently, so I hope that posting about this won't cause me to lose friends. I haven't posted any hunting pictures here, so you can scroll down and read without worrying about seeing that.

I tried to take a picture of the giraffe drinking water, but I was too slow. This still turned out to be a good picture.
I was conflicted about the idea of hunting animals in Africa when my dad invited me along. I like animals a lot and trophy hunting seems kind of wasteful and cruel. I've never done much hunting before, with my previous hunting experience limited to discharging a shotgun in the general direction of a duck when I was a teenager.

I have killed animals, though, because we had a farm and we killed rabbits and chickens for meat and I had to kill a handful of sick animals during times when my dad wasn't around to do it.

This ostrich hung around the gate all the time. She finally got into the compound and visited my room.
I had to study the industry before I agreed to go hunting. While there are bad apples out there, the majority of the hunting outfitters in Africa are quite ethical, and my reading and my experiences while in South Africa convinced me that in the current political and social climate, managed hunting essential to the conservation of African wildlife.

A good outfitter will have all of the permits for all of the animals hunted, they will carefully manage the animal populations on the land they hunt, and they will make sure that you are hunting for older animals who are past the end of their breeding life. The trophy fees on these animals keep the outfitter in business, which acts as an incentive to keep the land set aside for game animals rather than converting it to agriculture, industry, or residential use.

In Africa the animals are only as valuable as their meat, which is not all that valuable when you consider that it is easier to raise domesticated creatures on that land. The trophy fees that hunters pay ensure that the habitat remains set aside for both game animals and the other non-huntable species that occupy that land. I hunted on hundreds of thousands of acres that were set aside specifically because of the hunting industry.

The meat from animals hunted for trophies gets used. Some is used to feed the hunters in camp, some is sold at markets, and some is donated locally. During our trip we spent one day hunting Impala on a tribal concession specifically for meat that the tribe had requested from our outfitter. Although hunters do take the trophies home, they don't waste the meat.

The economics of it also help to grow the populations of less-numerous species. On one piece of land that we hunted we spent a lot of time talking to the land owners about their business operation. One particular antelope species, the Sable, had been driven almost to extinction by hunting and habitat loss. In response, the trophy fees for Sable went through the roof. A lot of outfitters and game ranchers sought out Sable for their land specifically because the trophy fees were so high, and the Sable population has rebounded. The land owners we talked to had been able to place 3 Sable bulls on their property, and when those three bulls are hunted the trophy fees will allow them to place a breeding herd on their property, which can then increase in size over time. Without managed hunting I think the Sable would have just been hunted out, but the value of trophy fees convinced the land owners and managers to ensure that the population was protected. And the large trophy fees for the Sable also ensure that the land will be set aside for the Impala, Wildebeest, Giraffes, Zebras, and other species that also occupy the land.

A Giraffe and a herd of Zebra
I am not saying that everyone should hunt, because not everyone is inclined to that lifestyle. I just think that people think of hunting in Africa as being like Bison hunting in the American plains, with hunters out there blasting the species into oblivion. In countries without managed and controlled hunting it still is that way to a degree, but in countries like South Africa hunting is an important and essential component in conservation.

I don't think ecotourism can make up the difference, because I don't think that a photographer will be willing to pay the same prices that a hunter will, especially for some of the really common game that is the bread and butter of hunting in Africa (Impala, Warthog, Springbok, Kudu, Blue and Black Wildebeest, and similar). There were many times that my Professional Hunter pulled me off of an animal that we had stalked because it was too young and still had breeding years left in its life. I went out of my way to hunt only non-threatened species and to focus on shooting animals that had aged out of the breeding pool, and I think most hunters and outfitters do the same. That way our trophy fees go toward killing animals that are at or near the end of their lives anyway, but keep the land viable for the herds that are breeding and growing. To me, the evidence undeniably suggests that countries with legal and managed hunting show increases in game populations and land devoted to wildlife, while countries with hunting bans see their game populations decimated and pushed out in favor of other human interests.

I love Basset Hounds, and I was glad to meet Astro on one of the hunting properties.
There are some species I wouldn't hunt even if I had the money, like Rhino and Elephant, but I also know that those hunts are highly regulated and that a hunter who wants a Rhino will pay at least $200,000 to do so and an Elephant hunter will pay $50,000 or more. If those animals are hunted ethically at the end of their natural lives, that is a lot of money that can go toward preserving the land for the rest of the herds to live on.

I don't think that I am some kind of conservationist hero because I tried to hunt ethically and I believe that managed hunting is an important part of conservation, but I do think that the public vilifies hunters without getting the full story. There are plenty of bloodthirsty douchebags who hunt and give other hunters a bad name, just like you find in every group of people. I don't think all or even most hunters are that way, though, and I think most hunters truly care about the animals they kill and the land they hunt on. I probably am not going to change anyone's mind here, but I think there are often more sides to every story.

To get back to the cards, this Josh Reddick Superfractor popped up on eBay and I grabbed it up. I built a bit of a rainbow for this Bowman card a few years ago, and it was kind of cool to have the big card out of the bunch pop up long after I'd given up on seeing it.

Here are some more cards I pulled out of boxes of wrestling cards, which I've been opening a lot of lately. I go through phases, I suppose, and for the last little while I've been pretty big on wrestling stuff.

The really big pull from the wrestling cards was this Dana Brooke Kiss Card Autograph, which is a tough pull and a fun collectible. I would still like to get my hands on one of those Goldust Kiss Cards that Topps put out a while back.

And the biggest pull recently, and quite possibly the best pull of my life, goes to this Carrie Fisher autograph that I pulled from a box of Star Wars Galactic Files. It's the White parallel, numbered just # 3 / 5. I would be hard-pressed to think of a better card than this for my own personal collection, and to pull it out of a pack myself makes it even better.

13 April 2019

Some Box Breaks and Other Things

A while back I wanted to bust some packs, so I ordered some boxes of my favorite products of the last year or so from Blowout Cards. It feels a little weird that I don't have any baseball product in this order, but I've sort of moved into only buying singles and sets for that sport. I collect a relatively small number of baseball players, so the likelihood of pulling something that fits into my collection is slim. I tend to enjoy all kinds of stuff from racing, wrestling, and UFC, so the randomness of box busting is a little more collection-friendly for me.

There's the lineup of boxes. For wrestling I got a blaster of 2017 Topps WWE Women's Division, a hobby box of 2018 Topps WWE Women's Division, and a hobby box of 2019 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania. For racing I got a box of 2018 Panini Victory Lane and a box of 2018 Panini Certified. I also got a box of 2018 Topps UFC Chrome. The pictures below are not really in order, so anyone who can't handle chaos should probably take off, eh.

Here are a couple of card from the Victory Lane box, an insert parallel of Alex Bowman and a Engineered to Perfection triple relic of Denny Hamlin. I guess this is as good a place as any to repeat that I have a mild interest in Hamlin cards because I worked for his sponsor, FedEx, for a couple of years.

The blaster of 2017 Topps WWE Women's Division turned out to be a pretty good one, with a Blue parallel of Lana and an autograph of Nikki Bella.

These breaks were pretty heavy on the Alex Bowman cards. These cards all came from 2018 Panini Certified. I got that Red Certified Signatures Alex Bowman autograph with two relic swatches, a Gold All-Certified Team insert of Kyle Larson, and two different versions of Bowman's Skills insert.

Here are some Red and Gold parallels and hits from the Certified box. I bought the Certified stuff hoping to get a Hailie Deegan autograph, but that didn't happen for me.

Here are the last couple cards from the Certified box, a couple of basic relic inserts featuring Jamie McMurray and Chase Elliott.

Here are the hits from the 2018 Topps WWE Women's Division box. I got a Silver parallel of Rusev kicking Elias in the face, which kind of makes up for the fact that there aren't any Women's Division wrestlers on the card. That Carmella autograph is a testament to the fact that female athletes don't always have great penmanship. I am always happy to get another Naomi card, even if this is just a manufactured relic.

I got a # / 25 parallel, a Kofi Kingston autograph, and a Titus O'Neil manufactured relic out of the 2019 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania set. You may recognize Kofi Kingston as the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

The UFC Chrome box was a fun break, as usual for this particular product. These insert Refractors are of the # / 50 variety.

These are some of the more colorful Refractors in the box, an Orange # / 25 of Lyoto Machida and a Green # / 99 of Chuck Liddell. 

The box was a hot box, meaning that every pack contained one of those Refractors with the crazy patterned background shown on the Rose Namajunas and Holly Holm cards. X-Fractors and Blue Wave Refractors both come one per box, but X-Fractors are unnumbered while the Blue Waves are # / 75.

Each box of UFC Chrome has two autographs (unless you get a hot box with an OctoFractor), and I did pretty well here. The Claudia Gadelha signature is a base autograph, while the Amanda Nunes is an Orange # / 25.

Back to racing with some more Victory Lane stuff, including a Justin Haley autograph, a nice Chase Elliott auto-relic, and a dual relic of Justin Allgaier.

I pulled two # 1 / 1 cards in this break, and they both came from the Victory Lane box. One is a Yellow printing plate featuring none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr. The other is a Prime Patches card of Jamie McMurray, featuring the series sponsor patch from his firesuit.

Here's a bunch of other stuff I've picked up over the last couple of months. These two autographs were fun finds for me. The Josh Reddick comes from 2012 Topps Mini. It was hard to find autographs in these Mini products, so it was cool to see one in the wild. The R.A. Dickey card is a wrapper redemption autograph from 2013. I don't recall seeing many of these out there, either.

I was glad to add another Jake Butt card to my collection. I believe this one comes from 2017 Panini Unparalleled. The Charlotte Flair signature is a Silver parallel from 2019 Topps Road to WrestleMania. I like the design of that set's autographs, so I was happy to get one of the Queen.

Here are a couple of redemptions that came in from Topps. One is a UFC Museum Collection autograph of Maryna Moroz, which I believe is the first Moroz signature in my collection. The other is a Vanessa Borne card from the 2018 Topps WWE Women's Division set. Again, I think that might be my first autograph from her.

These cards were COMC purchases. Up first is an Octane Autographs card of Bubba Wallace from 2018 Panini Victory Lane. The other is a Green autograph of Naomi from 2018 Topps WWE Undisputed. The parallel coloring bleeds into the photographs on this set, leading to some weird situations, but in this case the green matches well with Naomi's gear.

This year's Topps Heritage set included box toppers featuring Topps staffers. I had to chase this one down on eBay because it pictures Sooz, one member of the A Cardboard Problem blog team and an active member of card Twitter.

I was one of the people who ordered one of the tablecloth relic cards from Manny Machado's press conference. The backlash against this card was so furious that I had to get one for my collection. I love things that other people hate, and the laugh I get from seeing this card in my collection is well worth the price.

The Alex Bregman card is a replacement for a damaged Bregman relic I got in the mail after buying a 2018 Topps Holiday box that was missing a hit. Attached to the card was a sort of passive-aggressive note reminding me that the damaged card was not folded in half when it was shipped. That was kind of the point. I was disappointed in the packaging. Poor packaging tends to lead to shipping damage. The other card is a replacement for a damaged Sandy Alcantara card I pulled from a rack pack of 2018 Topps Fire.

I was chasing a Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat card from 2018 Topps WWE Legends set, and I was pretty happy to get this Bronze autographed relic. I also picked up a Diamond Dallas Page autograph.

I also got this cool Alundra Blayze Hall of Fame Ring relic autograph card. This is the Gold version of the card, so it is limited to 10 copies. In the same group of auctions I picked up this Paige VanZant signature from Leaf.

That about does it for this bunch. Although my production of blog posts has slowed to a crawl, I am still actively collecting. I am trying to get back into the swing of my hobbies, but there are a lot of things competing for my attention right now and I spend most of my time feeling worn out.