30 June 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 87: Something Old, Something New

A little while back I bought a copy of the '13-'14 Upper Deck Retro Maximum Metal Hakeem Olajuwon insert card, which is modeled after the '95-'96 Fleer Metal Maximum Metal insert set. Eventually I got around to picking up a copy of Olajuwon's card from the original set, and I thought I'd post them here side by side to see how close the remake matches the original. Upper Deck got everything pretty close, but they obviously didn't reuse the same art. It is more apparent in-hand, but the artwork in the background of the '95-'96 card has a much more painted or hand-drawn look, while the artwork on the '13-'14 card was clearly made digitally. There is also a clear transition line between the foil basketball and the rest of the card on the older card, while there is not a line on the newer one. The colors are slightly different all around. The 'Maximum Metal' font is a little bit different, and the diamond plate pattern on the little basketball behind the text is entirely different from card to card. The player names match almost exactly, though.

The card backs are quite different. On the newer card, the background art is a lot more faded, while it is quite prominent on the older card. The name and card number are different colors, and the numbers are in different places due to the legal text being larger on the new card. The text is also different, with the older card's characters having a little white shadow effect outlining them so as to help them stand out from the artwork. On the newer card, the text is just plain black print. The other big difference throughout the cards is that the original was an NBA-licensed card, while the newer card is not and thus features Olajuwon in his college duds. The difference isn't too glaring, though, as he played college and pro ball in the same city with the same main colors on his uniform, although the college uni has blue instead of yellow to go along with the red and white.

29 June 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 86: 2010 Wheels Main Event Head to Head Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Danica Patrick

Here is a NASCAR card I have been chasing off and on for quite a while now. It hails all the way from the 2010 Wheels Main Event set. I am not 100% sure how Wheels and Press Pass are related, but I think at some point they were different companies and there was a buyout that eventually led to Wheels products being produced under the Press Pass name.

Anyway, this card features swatches of event-worn hats from two of my favorite drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick. It is serially-numbered at # 117 / 150. There is a parallel version out there numbered out of # / 25, but the price tag on those is a bit higher than I am comfortable with. Many copies of this less-limited version went well outside my price range, too, but I was finally able to land one. The hat pieces are nice and colorful, which is a good thing as there are a few copies I've seen with plain black swatches. Anything that adds a little color to the relic pieces is a good thing, in my mind.

The back of the card features extended versions of the photos on the front of the card, showing off the drivers' full awkward poses. There is also the usual guarantee of authenticity and trademark information. This is a pretty nice card, and cuts another piece from my bucket list of NASCAR cards. I will never have all of the cards put out for each of these drivers because I do not shoot money out of my butt, so I have to focus on certain cards and card types that I want examples of and chase those.

28 June 2014

N20 Allen & Ginter Prize & Game Chickens 1: Dark Brahma Cockerel

This picture is at an awful resolution. I should have saved a larger image if I were planning on using the card as the headliner.

Yes, I bought a card featuring a chicken on eBay. I love this card. It was printed around the 1890 +/- a couple years, making it approximately 124 years old. After some research I realize that I probably paid a little too much for this example, but that seems to happen sometimes when you branch out into a new hobby and it's all foreign to you. Now I know better.

I do not remember the exact sequence of events that got me to this point, but there are a few things that contributed to it:
  • I was searching for something on the internet and came upon a weird back page of Nachos Grande's blog, which reminded me of his quest to complete the original N8 Allen & Ginter Fish from American Waters set. I thought, "Man, that is a pretty cool thing to do."
  • I was looking at dogs on the local animal shelter's web page.
  • I began to look at tobacco cards of dogs on eBay.
  • I may have bid on some of those.
  • I lost an auction for some tobacco cards featuring cattle.
  • I began to search the internet for a listing of tobacco cards with animals on them.
  • I found one. I found several. I found pictures. I found histories. I discovered that the UK and US have entirely different catalogs of cards, and it seems that most people focus on one or the other. Actually, most people probably ignore them altogether. Most of a small group of collectors focus on one side or the other.
  • 'Crafters' on Etsy also like these cards, but do unspeakable things to them, like glue fringes around them or cut them up to make collages. It's brutal. They must hate art, because they do horrible things to it in the name of cute home decor and artisanal picture frames.
  • There are a lot of cards out there. A lot more than you might think. A lot of them feature stuffy old men standing around.
  • I spent most of my childhood and adolescence raising some sort of livestock and/or living and working on farms.
  • I still order a catalog of chickens to look through every so often, and will probably order some chickens from that catalog and raise them once I graduate from school and have some time.
  • Highland Cattle are probably my favorite breed of cattle. They are very hairy and quite photogenic.
  • Brahmas are my favorite type of chicken. They are a heavy-bodied feather-footed breed and come in many different colors. This card features a Dark Brahma cockerel, but I think the Buff Brahmas are my favorite. That's what I had when I was a teenager.
  • I am still mad that I missed out on that cattle set.
  • Allen & Ginter released a set of 50 different chickens. The year that people designate for the set seems to range between 1889 and 1891, but it is usually referred to as N20 because that's the number that some dude assigned to it when he cataloged many of the old card sets. I think it was the same dude who named that set with the famous Honus Wagner card as the T206 set.
  • I am collecting the N20 Prize Chickens set now. I am going to put together a PSA-graded set, because they have a registry where you can enter the serial numbers on the slab and track the score of your set compared to other people's sets. My set will not be the #1 set because that would be very expensive and difficult, but it will eventually be complete and have a score. I am only the 2nd person who has started this particular set in the registry, so my set will be the 2nd-highest in the land until someone else coms along and beats me. My current score is 0.620 and my weighted GPA is 3.875. This card is a rated a 3 with qualifiers on the slab, and because of the qualifier (MK referencing a pencil mark on the back) it gets a -1 to the weighted GPA and counts as only a 2 for the purpose of the overall set rating. Boo! You might ask, "RAZ, how do you get a GPA of 3.875 out of a card that is rated a 2? Oh, that is my dark secret. Maybe I found a lot of cards from a forum and negotiated the purchase of said lot.

The back of the card is not this yellow. I was trying to make the card appear sharper because my scanner scans slabbed cards poorly. I imagine this is because the card sits up off the glass a little bit and the scanner is set to focus right at the level of the glass. I am going to have to look around on the forums for tips on this issue, so I can scan my graded cards with more clarity. There are a couple patches of paper missing from the back of the card, and the previously-mentioned pencil mark in the upper right corner. But I figure if a card is going to float around for 124 years waiting for me to buy it, it can have a couple of flaws. Anything that's older than my grandmother's grandmother is bound to have a couple of marks on it.

This immediately becomes the oldest card in my collection by about 80 years, and I am looking forward to completing the set over the next few years. There are copies of most cards in the set out there, and in lower grades you can get them for a few dollars. If they are already graded they will cost you a bit more, but for the price of a blaster I'd rather have something like this than another 80 cards and a manu-patch from the latest Topps Flagship set. I read on the PSA site that if you are trying to complete a set from the registry, they will grade the last few cards in the set for free. I may be able to get a few of these cards as raw, ungraded copies and send them in as part of a bulk lot, with some of them making up that free portion. I don't know. The world of card grading is new and scary to me.

27 June 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 86: Star Wars Galactic Files Princess Leia Photo Variation

I don't know a lot about this card, but it is a short-printed photo variation from the Star Wars Galactic Files set. There are two other short-printed photo variations in the set, showcasing Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. I don't have a copy of the non-SP version of this card.

The back of the card has a decent mixture of stuff on it. The timeline serves to place the card at a certain point in the Star Wars story. Then we get the best part of any card, a series of ratings. I am thinking that Leia probably got a few boosts to her ratings because of he popularity and not necessarily because she really is super-strong and fast. I don't know. I need to complete the set so I can see where everyone else rates. After the ratings comes a paragraph giving a small write-up of the situation the character is in at the moment depicted. Last is a series of boxes containing headshots and card numbers for other cards in the set relating to this one. Since Cloud City is mentioned in the card text, Lando Calrissian joins the group of other characters more often associated with Leia.

25 June 2014

Rainbow in the Dark 23: More 2014 Bowman Parallels

I got a couple more parallels for my Josh Reddick 2014 Bowman rainbow. I guess there isn't much to say about these anymore, but I am trying to keep the blog updating on a fairly regular basis. Sometime last week I made my 300th post on this blog, so I guess that's quite an accomplishment. I have a few projects I am working on for my collection, but nothing that I have time or inclination to scan cards for and write up at the moment. I think I mention this in every post regarding these Bowman rainbows, but I am about wrapped up on these until I see what comes out in Bowman Chrome and/or the remaining printing plates or White Ice parallels pop up and go past my bidding ceiling.

This first card is the Orange parallel, which is numbered # 092 / 250. Reddick just came back from a DL stint, so he should be showing up in the A's lineup from time to time. Heck, he may even hold down a starting job. I've been watching quite a few A's games recently, and in Reddick's absence I've been rooting for Coco Crisp, who has had a couple of game-winning hits in the past few days, and Derek Norris, who has an amazing mullet / beard combo going on.

This is the Purple Ice parallel, numbered to # 04 / 10. Pretty limited stuff. I think that's about all I've got time for posting today. I have a pretty tight deadline on a paper for my Business Law course and I am well behind on getting it written.

24 June 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 85: A 305-card Lot of 1973 Topps

True to my word, I have been exploring the world of vintage baseball cards, a segment of the hobby that has to this point remained on the very fringes of my consciousness. In spite of the failures and shortcomings of the product, I am still a fan of Topps' Archives set and the window it gives me into the designs that existed before I was alive / became aware of trading cards. I was born in 1981, so there is a large segment of hobby history that predates me. My childhood nostalgia starts in the 1989-1990 Topps range.

In response to seeing the 1973 design used in the 2014 Archives set and picking up a copy of Rollie Fingers' 1973 issue from a discount bin at the local card show, I picked up a lot of 305 cards from 1973 Topps on eBay and began to formulate my plan for putting the set together. When they arrived the cards were in pretty rough shape, which is to be expected considering the price I paid for the lot. My specifications for the set are pretty lenient, but 85 of the cards still got disqualified from appearing in my binder.

My criteria are:
  1. The cards have to be complete. They can have bad corners and creases, but they can't be missing chunks or have paper torn off where they have been pasted to something and removed. Writing is sometimes okay, although I might look for upgrades at some point for the written-on cards that get through.
  2. The cards can be off-center, but there must be a border all the way around, on both front and back. Centering on the back of the cards was probably the most common disqualifier in this lot.
And that's pretty much it. I am not sure how I plan to go about putting this set together. I will probably pick up lots like this one until I get to the point where duplicates are an issue. I have already noticed that high-number cards are more scarce, so I may have to relax my standards a bit depending on how things go.

There are some decent cards in this set, and some terrible airbrushing jobs, like that cap on Billy Champion's head. They didn't even bother trying to center the 'M,' just throwing it up there to the side. Up at the top of the post are some pretty good action shots, even if it is hard to get used to all of the open space on Oscar Gamble's card. I guess I'm used to only cards that are zoomed way in on torsos. Terry Crowley is about to smash or be smashed in his horizontal action shot.

And in this lower group of nine cards are a couple of gems, too. Vida Blue has had a fair amount of blog press regarding his card, even being involved in a 'best Vida Blue card' contest (I can't remember which blog or whether this card won, although I am sure it advanced past a round or two at least). Jim Breazeale gets the 'Math Teacher' award, which is small consolation for being disqualified from the binder for centering. He was pretty close on the front anyway, and the back of his card ensured that he got (mis)cut from the roster.

23 June 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 84: 2013 SEGA Card-Gen Rare Evan Longoria

After I read Zippy Zappy's comprehensive post about the SEGA Card-Gen Rare cards, I went out looking for them. He linked to a site called Mint, which is some sort of online card store, maybe equivalent to our Sportlots or JustCommons? The page is not in English, but I was able to discover the above image, informing me that R.A. Dickey does have a Rare card in the 2013 set. I have not been able to locate a copy of that card. I am not even sure where to start. I looked at Yahoo! Auctions, but there are 1) no copies of this card on there, and 2) there appears to be some sort of middle-man service that facilitates buying internationally and I can't make sense of the fees associated except to assume that there are many of them and they are not cheap. But if it is possible, I will try to make this card mine. I was able to get an example from the set for my personal collection, though.

The card I got from eBay was the 2013 Evan Longoria card on the left. His base card from 2013 is shown on the right for comparison. Zippy Zappy's post is quite comprehensive in explaining the differences between the different cards. The main changes on the front are the shiny foil cardstock, the big Card-Gen logo in the background of an alternate photo, and the player name and set name switching places.

The backs of the cards are similar, but the player gets a different write-up and a point added to one of their ratings. They also get a different descriptor at the bottom, with Longoria's Rare card declaring him to be a 'Charismatic Athlete' and his base card telling us that he is an 'All-star third baseman.' Since it is an insert / subset, the card number is different, too, with the Rare card being # J13-R23/60 and the base card being # J13-155/390. I will not be chasing the full set of these Rare cards, but I will be trying to find a copy of R.A. Dickey's card and I am happy to have the Longoria card in my collection as an example from the set.

22 June 2014

Pack of the Day 74: 2012 Press Pass FanFare Racing

Press Pass FanFare is a hit-centric product that offers one autograph or relic per pack. It is sold at retail stores like Target and Wal-Mart with one blaster-sized box containing a single pack of five cards. At the usual $19.99 price point I am able to avoid this stuff, but when Target sticks a couple of boxes of the stuff into the Clearance bin I have a hard time resisting the chance that I might pull a nice Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Danica Patrick piece. This is something that never happens, though, as I will generally pull something from a Nationwide driver that no one's ever heard of before and then kick myself for being suckered in yet again.

First out of this particular pack were two base cards and one die-cut blue foil parallel, which might be retail-exclusive. The card-fronts feature lots of shiny embossed foil and pictures of drivers in sunglasses leaning casually on things. The backs of the cards feature the cars themselves, as well as a little snippet about the driver. There are no statistics or anything like that. It's kind of like most of the high-end baseball stuff, where the base cards don't contain information because the company knows the base cards are just a delivery vehicle for the pack hit.

There are non-hit inserts in the set, though, as this Matt Kenseth Power Rankings card shows. It is made of a different kind of shiny cardboard, and features the driver and car on the front of the card and a season summary on the back.

And now, the hit. This is an autograph / relic card of Elliott Sadler, who is a long-time racer but isn't really one of the bigger names in NASCAR. It could be much, much worse, but this probably isn't a card I would pay $13.98 + tax for normally. At least I didn't buy the pack at full retail. It is numbered # 67 / 99.

Sadler is currently 2nd in the Nationwide Series, which is kind of like AAA in baseball. Sadler has spent plenty of time in the Sprint Cup Series, running in 435 races over 15 years with 3 wins and 69 top ten finishes. He has spent the last few years mostly focused on Nationwide racing, though, finishing 2nd overall in 2011 and 2012, and fourth in the series in 2013.

20 June 2014

2013 SEGA Card-Gen Extravaganza 6: Houston Astros

The sixth team in the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen set is the lowly Houston Astros. The average number of players per team in this set is 13, but the Astros only manage to get 9 cards in the set. The first card, as usual, is the catcher position. Jason Castro was the Astros' lone All-Star representative last season. This year he is playing okay, but hasn't exactly set the world alight. To this point in the season he is just outside the top 20 catchers in fantasy baseball, after finishing in the top 10 for 2013.

Brett Wallace gets the first base slot in the team set. He hasn't had a lot of success at the major league level and has spent a fair amount of time being traded between teams. He was released by the Astros early this year and is currently in the Baltimore Orioles' minor league system.

Jose Altuve is the other sort of established guy on the team, and the first one to show up in the set with more than one star on his card. This 2013 Astros set isn't big on star power. I've had the opportunity to watch a few Houston games on my computer over the last few days, and the thing that has really struck me is how little Altuve is. He looks like a hyperactive kid out there on the field. He made the All-Star team in 2012 and is currently 3rd in the AL in batting average. He is currently the second-ranked 2B in fantasy baseball for 2014 behind Brian Dozier of the Twins, mostly on strength of that .331 batting average and 26 stolen bases.

By the time 2013 rolled around, Jed Lowrie was a member of the Oakland Athletics. He had a pretty good 2013 season, but he is struggling so far this year. He is currently just barely inside the top 25 for fantasy baseball shortstops. He at least gets a decent photo in this card, getting ready to throw while sliding around on one knee.

One good thing about the Astros' team set in this product is the variety of uniforms shown off among the 9 featured players. In J.D. Martinez' card we get a little bit of rainbow action. I thought Martinez was out of the big leagues, but he has found a little bit of playing time this season with the Detroit Tigers, and according to an article I found he just had a pretty good series against the Royals, which could lead to more chances to hang around and play.

Here is the fourth different uniform look in the team set, with Justin Maxwell sporting some pinstripes. He was traded to the Royals halfway through 2013, and hasn't really done a while lot. He's spent a few years as a part-time player for the Nationals, Astros, and Royals.

Carlos Pena makes up whatever constitutes 'star power' in this team lineup, with a whopping four stars on his card. He is shown wearing his Rays uniform from 2012. His best years were well behind him at this point and he was released by Houston partway through 2013. Kansas City picked him up and he played in 4 games for them. For 2014 he has spent time with the minor league systems of the Angels and Rangers.

Harrell is one of two pitchers in the Astros team set. In 2013 he gave up the most walks in the AL and also led the AL in losses with 17. Pretty good stuff. In 2014 he was traded to the Diamondbacks at the end of April. He's made 3 starts for them, good for a 9.49 ERA and a 2.27 WHIP.

Bud Norris was traded by the Astros to the Orioles partway through 2013. He had an okay season, I guess. This year he has again pitched okay. In Astros-related news, he recently badmouthed the team and/or Jon Singleton for the long-term deal the rookie signed, and called the Astros the outcasts of baseball. I guess he's not a big fan of his former team.

The Card-Gen folks didn't even bother with the Astros' bullpen, and after seeing the starting lineup they trotted out you can hardly blame them. The team only gets 16 stars for 9 players, or an average of 1.78 stars per player. That's pretty rough territory. I doubt it will be matched by any other team in this set. Most of the excitement in the organization was lurking in the minor leagues during 2013, and only a portion of that talent has been called up for 2014. They've put some good games together but are still a long way from contending.

18 June 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 83: 2014 Rittenhouse Marvel Universe Vision/Scarlet Witch Sketch Card

22 May 2016: It took me almost two years, but I figured out the artist for this card. It is Brazilian artist Rene Micheletti.

I acquired another comic book sketch card from eBay, this one from the 2014 Rittenhouse Marvel Universe set. You would think that with a fairly clear signature block on the front it would be easy to identify the artist, but thus far I have not been able to come up with a name.

Anyway, the card depicts the moment in Avengers vs. X-Men when Vision banishes his former wife, Scarlet Witch, from the Avengers Mansion, referencing a previous incident in which she used her powers to take over his body and attack his teammates. It's a pretty heavy moment, and I think the artist did a good job of conveying all of that in the sketch. All of the background details are a plus, as I think they serve to anchor the characters in a moment in time. A lot of sketches leave out the background and focus on only the characters.

The back of the card is pretty basic, as most sketch cards are. The companies just send out a bunch of blanks to the artists, who then add the art and send them back. Some artists put their names or website on the back. I think that is a rather helpful thing for a collector, and also serves as publicity for the artist.

17 June 2014

Rainbow in the Dark 22: More R.A. Dickey 2014 Bowman Parallels

I have slowed way down on my pursuit of the R.A. Dickey, Josh Reddick, and Derek Holland rainbows from 2014 Bowman. A couple of printing plates have popped up, including the Magenta Dickey, but once the bidding approached $30 I bowed out of the chase for it. I was able to grab a few other colors from the Dickey rainbow, though, including the Blue and Orange shown here.

The Blue is numbered # 331 / 500 and the Orange is numbered # 042 / 250.

I also was able to snag a copy of the Gold parallel, numbered # 16 / 50. Dickey started the year off pretty bad, but has improved lately. The knuckleball is a cruel mistress. 

And finally, here is the Purple parallel, numbered # 01 / 10. I haven't been able to watch one of his games on MLB.TV yet, but I am hoping I will get a chance sometime soon. He's got a minor injury going on right now, but claims he won't be missing any starts because of it.