31 July 2014

Seeking Redemption 7: Bo Jackson 2014 Museum Collection Signature Swatches

Yesterday I got a redemption from Topps in the mail. It is a pretty cool Signature Swatches relic autograph of Bo Jackson. Unfortunately, the autograph is terrible. It's like Jackson signed it with the driest marker he could find and then smeared ink and debris across the whole thing. I will probably reach out to Topps on social media and see what they can do. If past experience is any indication, they will probably ignore me.

On the plus side, I was expecting a card numbered out of # / 299, and this one is numbered # 22 / 60. I guess that will have to serve as my list of positives. Oh, and the terrible autograph is on-card rather than being a terrible autograph on a sticker.

30 July 2014

2014 Allen & Ginter Derek Jeter Rip Card

Well, I pulled this Derek Jeter Rip Card out of a box of Allen & Ginter, and now I am not sure what I will do with it. The obvious thing to do would be to rip it open and see what's inside. But I don't know if I can do that. Unripped versions of this card have gone for between $115 and $180 on eBay, and ripped versions of this card seem to be in the $15 to $30 range. There don't seem to be a lot of the embedded cards that can make up that $85-165 gap between the ripped and unripped cards. Maybe a particularly nice red mini autograph or one of the wood or metal parallels would do the trick, but what are the odds of that?

My card collection is more about the fun than the money, but I don't give a rip about Jeter and thus have no real incentive to keep the card. There is a chance that I could pull some epic card that is interesting to me, but given the sticker price on an unripped Jeter card it would take something truly special to bridge the gap. Someone in my hometown already pulled the wood Felicia Day mini parallel, so that card is out of play. I don't know what else is out there that might justify ripping this card.

What do you think? RIP IT OR KEEP IT?

29 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 98: One Serving of Beefcake

This is one of the cards from the 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter set that I really wanted, and I finally grabbed one. It's the framed mini relic card of Phil Heath, the reigning Mr. Olympia. He has won the sport's headlining bodybuilding competition the last three years in a row and will probably attempt to defend his title again this year. I still need to get Heath's autograph from the set, but one hasn't come around at the right price for me yet. Heath tends to wear a shiny metallic banana hammock during competitions, so I think this relic swatch is from a t-shirt or maybe a pair of Zubaz workout pants and not from some tainted (ha!) clothing item.

Why does bodybuilding fascinate me? I don't know. But it does. I am not as familiar with it as I am with mainstream sports, but I know most of the regular competitors and flip through the magazines from time to time to see who's big (hyuk-hyuk!) at the moment. I lack the discipline to eat right and work out enough to attain more than a basic level of fitness, but I think it would be cool to be more muscular than I am. All of the top-level guys are obviously on steroids because you don't get that big without giving your glands some prodding, but there are also natural bodybuilding leagues in which the guys get pretty big on their own. Anyway, I thought it was cool to see bodybuilding get some love in last year's Allen & Ginter set, and Heath's cards went on my list of cards to chase from 2013.

Heath did actually participate in a mainstream sport at the college level, playing basketball for the University of Denver. He didn't get a lot of playing time or put up a bunch of stats, but he was on the team and got some minutes all four years.

28 July 2014

N20 Allen & Ginter Prize & Game Chickens 8: Wyandotte Cock (Silver Laced) with a Guest Appearance by Mike the Headless Chicken

I am just about through all of the 1891 Allen & Ginter N20 Prize & Game Chickens cards that I've collected so far. Today I am showing off the Wyandotte Cock (Silver Laced). These chickens are white with black edging around their feathers, although the Silver-Laced are just one of many different color variations that the Wyandotte can be found in. I'd say the illustration is a fairly accurate representation based on the photographs I found.

Linked from http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/silver-laced-wyandottes/

The most famous Wyandotte was Mike the Headless Chicken, who lived on for 18 months after being beheaded by his owner in 1945. The ax missed Mike's major veins, as well as part of the rooster's brain stem and ear. Enough of the brain stem was left intact that Mike's basic bodily functions were able to continue. The farmer was able to feed him milk and water through an eyedropper and also small grains of corn, presumably by shoving them down his neck. He was apparently quite a moneymaker, but eventually choked to death in a motel room, kind of a fitting end for a wild-living rock star celebrity. He looked about like you would expect a headless chicken to look...

27 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 97: Danica Patrick Metal of Honor

I picked this card up after it showed up on my eBay saved searches list with a fairly reasonable opening bid. It's a 2011 Press Pass Stealth Metal of Honor card featuring Danica Patrick. It contains a little swatch of race-used sheet metal and is numbered # 35 / 50.

Based on about 5 minutes of research, it looks like the Stealth brand ran from 2004 to 2011, and carried a patriotic military theme in the design and name of the subsets and inserts. That theme came back in 2014 in the form of the American Thunder product. That can lead to some pretty cool cards and some that are a little bit silly. Last year I opened a box of the 2011 set and found that while Press Pass featured real Air Force ribbons on the front of the Joey Logano memorabilia card I pulled, the ribbons were out of order when compared with how they would actually be worn. It's kind of like watching an action or war movie and getting hung up on the specifics of uniforms and weapon functions that they get wrong.

The Medal of Honor is such a huge deal in the military, with many of them awarded posthumously, that I feel a little weird about calling an insert card set featuring NASCAR drivers something very similar. Especially since it appears that the back of the card might feature a civilian awarding a medal to a soldier, something that again would be pretty rare unless it were the President of the United States awarding a Medal of Honor to a service-member.

In the end I think you have to realize that civilians are trying to honor the military, and the little details they miss out on or get wrong are not an attempt to dishonor veterans. This is a pretty cool card with a limited print run that features a nice memorabilia swatch presented in a creative way, photos of both car and driver, and a few little patriotic touches that are pretty cool.

26 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 96: Dickey Tier One Autograph

I snagged this nice-looking, low-numbered silver ink signature of R.A. Dickey from eBay for a pretty low price compared to what I figured it would go for. I like to put in low-ball bids on stuff like this from my favorite players, as every month or two something slips through the cracks and falls to me. Looking at the Sold listings on eBay, I got this one at the low end of the range for his 2014 Tier One autographs. Dickey's 2013 wasn't that great, especially coming off of the year he had in 2012, and so far his 2014 has been about the same, so prices on his cards seem a little soft. That's good for me, as it means I can get decent deals like this. This card is numbered # 05 / 10, and I think it looks pretty good with the black background, color accents, and silver signature. Dickey made sure to fill the whole signature panel with his name, so it isn't one of those tiny little signatures placed awkwardly in the corner of the box.

The back of the card acknowledges Dickey's struggles in 2013, but also makes note of a few of his highlights from the year. I think the team logo may have made more sense if placed up in the corner next to the player name and position or something, but who looks at the back of these hit cards anyway, right? I'm surprised that Topps took the time to even put a snippet back here. I'm happy they did, though.

The card arrived in a nice one-touch magnetic holder, which made me feel a little bit bad for the seller. I would imagine that if they have spent any time at all collecting cards they probably shouldn't have expected this card to go for over $20, but those magnetic cases cost a couple of bucks and once you account for shipping, a nice magnetic case, eBay and Paypal fees, and whatever they paid for the card there wasn't a whole lot left over from my bidding price. I like to think that it all evens out eventually. I know I've overpaid for my share of stuff on eBay at times, and I've lost money on things I've sold plenty, too, so the bargains that slip through are just the universe's way of maintaining balance.

25 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 95: A Warning Against Drowsy Bidding

There are usually a couple of pop culture or non-baseball sports figures in each year's Allen & Ginter set whose autographs and relics wind up on my must-have list. My 2014 list is made up of WWF wrestler The Iron Sheik and internet web series star/geek icon Felicia Day.

I won this Felicia Day relic card from 2014 Allen & Ginter after bidding on it accidentally while going through my saved searches on eBay before bed. I was convinced that I had bid on an autograph and not a relic card, so imagine my surprise when I got notification that I had won this card! Thankfully bidding on this card was my only eBay activity on the evening, so there aren't any Hangover-style surprises showing up on my doorstep courtesy of a wild night on the eBay app.

On the bad side, I slightly overpaid for this card. I also was hoping to snag one of the multi-colored relics that are out there and instead got this plain gray one.

On the good side, at least I didn't wind up paying autograph prices for a relic card. This card's starting bid was probably high enough that most people passed on it anyway, and I didn't get bid up at all. I also knocked a card off of my want list, even though it was an error. Since this experience I have been careful to avoid the eBay app once I get past a certain threshold of drowsiness.

24 July 2014

N20 Allen & Ginter Prize & Game Chickens 7: White-Faced Black Spanish Hen

I've gone a few days without a livestock-themed post, so here is an old Allen & Ginter card from the N20 Prize & Game Chickens set. I don't know a lot about these chickens. The White-faced Black Spanish breed originated in Spain (surprise!) and the white face of the chicken apparently comes from selectively breeding chickens for larger earlobes, until the earlobes took over the whole face. I guess we do some odd things in the name of beauty.

There are 7 copies of this card in the PSA registry, ranging from 1.5 to 6.0. There are 4 cards graded higher than my copy and 2 cards graded lower, so my card falls on the lower end of the graded population. I am not too worried, though, as the 4.0 cards I have are all quite presentable and retain the artwork and color.

23 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 94: R.A. Dickey Prizm Blue Jackie Robinson Parallel

I wasn't necessarily seeking this card out, but it sort of fell to me as a cheap low-numbered auction bid. I still have a hard time with the fact that Panini doesn't have a license to use the MLB logos and team names on their cards, so players wind up looking like they're playing in prison uniforms or something. I guess that restriction doesn't apply to the logos that appear on player gear, as you can see logos on R.A. Dickey's glove, especially in the zoomed-in photo on the back of the card.

The lack of logos cause me to like this card a lot less than similar cards for leagues which Panini carries licenses for, like the Hakeem Olajuwon Crusade cards from a couple of posts ago. Even then, it is kind of weird for me to have Panini as the only source of NBA-licensed cards.

When I was buying cards in the late 90's, the big players were companies like Upper Deck, Topps, Fleer, and their sub-brands. To come back in 2013 and find the landscape changed so much was a pretty big shock to the system. I wanted to buy basketball cards, but all I could find were cards made by some sticker company. I am a little more used to it, but I do wish there was a little more competition in the market. Panini has like 47 brands of basketball card out there each year and even though they are different, I think it would feel different if half of those brands were being produced by someone else.

The same thing goes for Topps and baseball. If one or more other companies got a license to make cards with logos, even if the market still had 47 brands it would feel like there was more choice out there, and perception probably has more to do with selling a product to customers than reality.

This blue parallel is intended to honor Jackie Robinson by utilizing his jersey number and limiting the print run of the cards to just 42 copies. I guess it works okay as a tribute, but I would think an insert set of four or five cards detailing the barriers that he broke and the hardships he endured would do more to honor him and act as less of a gimmick. But I went out and bought this card, didn't I? So I guess the gimmick was somewhat effective in separating me from my dollars, which is what Panini probably really cares about.

22 July 2014

At the Trade Deadline 24: Trade Package from The Lost Collector

A while ago The Lost Collector left a comment on my blog to inquire about trading for a Bowman die-cut I had pulled. I sent it to him along with a couple of other things I hoped he would like. Then he e-mailed me and asked me for my address. You would think it wouldn't take much to send a quick reply to someone with an address, but it sat on my to-do list for a long time. In fact, it took me so long that he must have sourced my address from somewhere else, because a package arrived in my mailbox without me ever getting back to him. Sorry about that. I am horrible about my e-mail, especially when I am in the throes of trying not to fail one of my classes. I don't even know what I will do with my life if I am fortunate enough to complete all of my courses and get my degree. Where will the perpetual sense of impending doom that drives my life come from? I'll probably have to take up a risky hobby or borrow some money from a gangster or something.

Anyway, there was a lot of good stuff in this trade package. I'll kick it right off with a hobby heavy hitter in the form of Ken Griffey Jr. There are a couple of good inserts from this year's Topps set, a Spring Fever card which I believe is from 2013, and a Topps Gallery card from several years ago. The Spring Fever card is probably my favorite out of the four, but that 50 Years of the Draft card is pretty good, too.

Also included were nine loose Houston Rockets basketball cards from various sets in the 90's. These are all guys who I was very familiar with during Phase I of my card collecting life, as for me it was nearly all Rockets all the time. I need to go through my Rockets team box at some point and see what all I still have.

Up next are a couple of star pitchers in the form of Felix Hernandez and Nolan Ryan. The Nolan Ryan card appears to be an oddball issue involving Coca-Cola, which is pretty cool. My Nolan Ryan collection is not that expansive, so these cards are definitely new additions to my card boxes.

The Lost Collector also added to my Manute Bol collection, my Jose Bautista PC, and sent a Sport-Flix card featuring an old-school Denver Broncos uniform on it. I still like the Broncos, but those old uniforms were light years better than the current ones. Also, SPORT-FLIX!

Finally, there was this bagged group of Rockets cards from '93-'94 Upper Deck. I don't know much about how Upper Deck packaged their cards back then, so I am not sure if this is a standard team set or if it was a special distribution or oddball issue of some kind.

That was quite a group of cards, probably more than I deserved for ignoring e-mails and sending just a couple of cards the other way. Thanks for the trade!

21 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 93: Olajuwon Crusade

Over the last couple of months I picked up some of Hakeem Olajuwon's more common Crusade parallels from the 2013-14 Panini Crusade Basketball set. I am not sure what they are all officially called, but this Blue/Yellow one is numbered # 007 / 249.

It feels like the Rockets kind of got hosed in free agency this year, making a bunch of moves in order to free up money for Chris Bosh only to have Bosh go back to Miami. Jeremy Lin is gone now, having been traded to the Lakers. Chandler Parsons, my favorite current Rocket, signed with the Dallas Mavericks for a buttload of money and the Rockets (wisely) chose not to match the offer. But the Rockets didn't really bring anyone in who could make them much better this year than they were last year. There is still time for them to make a move, but most of the big names that were available have already gone to a team. I guess that is the problem with gathering assets and making plans that rely on the decisions of other people. Sometimes those people don't want to sign with your team. Then what do you do?

At least I can live in the glory days of the past, basking in the '94 and '95 NBA Championships that came about largely because of Olajuwon's elite play. It's hard to believe that 1994 was 20 years ago.

This Red/Yellow parallel is more common than the previous card, but I like it more. The color scheme matches the Rockets uniform so well, almost like this background was designed with Houston in mind. This card is numbered # 120 / 349.

20 July 2014

Breaking it Down 11: 2014 Allen & Ginter Toronto Blue Jays

A little while ago I bought into a 1/2-case break of 2014 Allen & Ginter, picking up the Blue Jays team slot. There were some pretty good cards in the break, including a red ink # / 10 autograph of Snoop Lion aka Snoop Dogg. That, of course, went to the non-baseball team slot. I got all of these base cards. I do like that cap that Roy Halladay is sporting on his card.

Here are some more base cards. I think the Jays' only SP this year is Brett Lawrie, which seems a bit odd. I don't know how popular he is, but when I think of the Blue Jays' top-billed players he isn't at the top of the list. I don't know how Topps decides who to put in the SP section of the checklist.

I got four minis in the break. I think the Encarnacion and the Lawrie are A&G-back parallels, while I got a regular mini and a black parallel of Jose Bautista. My problem with the black-bordered minis in this year's set is that they don't get cut evenly, so one edge always has more black lines than the opposite edge. It looks out of balance and I don't like it.

I was lucky enough to get one of the hits in the break, a bat relic card of Edwin Encarnacion. It's a pretty nice card. I like the design and all of the border work on it. I also had the Blue Jays team slot in the Crackin' Wax charity full-case break. You can see a recap of the cards I got from that break in the base cards section above, so I probably won't be doing a separate post when they arrive. Edit: I may not have given Topher from Crackin' Wax enough credit there. I got his cards in the mail yesterday and there probably will be enough for a post. I also forgot about his skunk protection plan, in which he credits you some cash if you don't get a hit in his break. Since it was a charity break and I felt bad for complaining here, I donated my skunk protection money back to his Big Brothers Big Sisters link on the Crackin' Wax website.

And with that, I am probably about done with Allen & Ginter for this year, outside of participating in Gint-a-Cuffs and collecting a few of the mini insert sets. I didn't want to try to build the full set by buying packs, so I just ordered the base set + SPs and all of the regular-sized inserts (The Pastime's Pastimes, Air Supremacy, Natural Wonder, The World's Capitals, Festivals & Fairs, Fields of Yore) from eBay as a lot from a case breaker. I am not sure how I will source the minis I want, though.

19 July 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 92: Dunn at Last

I think I mentioned this a few times before, but I have been working on the Power Players Code partial parallel set for 2014 Topps. It's a 220-card set, with 110 cards from each series. The cards have codes on the backs which can be registered at the Power Players website and activated for a chance to win various prizes.

Out of the 110 cards in each series, there are 55 cards found only in Hobby packs and 55 cards found only in retail packs. The Hobby cards were relatively easy to get as the case breakers would offer them on eBay as a set within a few days of the product release. No one breaks Retail in bulk, though, so that portion of each series had to be put together piecemeal. Adam Dunn and Alex Wood were the last couple of holdouts for me in completing the set. I finally got the Alex Wood card when a handful of them were put up on eBay at around the same time. The Dunn card proved scarce, but I got it as part of a lot, as that was the only copy to show up on eBay for about a week. It wasn't available on Sportlots or JustCommons, either. Believe me, I was checking.

Anyone who completes the full set will be entered in a drawing to win one of five sets of autographed Power Player cards. I don't know how many cards are in the set or who the signers are, which I suppose is a little concerning. But hopefully it is an awesome prize. The leaderboard on the Power Players website leads me to believe that 20-30 people have completed the set or are within a few cards of completing it. I figure a 5 in 30 chance at a set of autographed cards is a pretty good shot. I have won 3 Gold parallel cards through entering my codes on the website, but I haven't ordered them in yet. There are a few up on eBay now. It looks like they have a Refractor-style gold finish, sort of like the Gold parallels in the 2014 Topps Archives set. They are also numbered out of 75, which is actually better than I was expecting out of that prize.

Now that I have the set completed, I just have to sit and wait until October 1st to see if I won any big prizes. I hate waiting.

18 July 2014

2013 SEGA Card-Gen Extravaganza 8: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Well, here is the next team in the queue for the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen set, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That team name is ridiculous and makes me tired. I guess that's why most trading card sets just list them as the Angels without a city name. This is one night out of the week when I have a chance to get to bed early, so I am probably going to blow through this post pretty fast.

The same seller I bought my set from has another one up on eBay right now. It didn't sell at the price I paid for it the last time he listed it, so he actually has it listed a bit lower, at around $0.51/card.

The Angels get 14 cards in their team set, one over the average of 13 cards per team overall. They start off, as usual, with the catcher position. Chris Iannetta gets the nod here. For 2014 it looks like he is in a pretty even timeshare for playing time with Hank Conger.

At first base, we have Albert Pujols and his 8-star rating. I haven't heard much about him this year, and was actually surprised to see him ranked in the Yahoo! fantasy baseball rankings as the 6th-ranked first baseman and 15th-ranked batter in the league. I thought he would be ranked lower than that, but even being ranked in the second tier of first basemen and just outside the first round of the fantasy draft is a pretty big drop from his peak years as a perennial first or second pick overall.

It would appear that I am completely out of touch with the Angels this year. As with Pujols, I thought Kendrick would be ranked much lower than he is. I avoided him in drafts this season because he has burned me many times before, but this season so far he is the 8th-ranked second baseman in the game. I guess this just isn't my year for fantasy baseball.

Alberto Callaspo is with the Athletics this year, but he is out on the DL with a hamstring injury right now. He hasn't been all that great anyhow, but he's had some serviceable years in his career.

Aybar is one Angel that has made it onto one of my fantasy rosters this year. He is the 5th-ranked shortstop in the game this season (effectively tied for 4th with 'Sexy' Alexei Ramirez, as there is a big gap between number 3 Hanley Ramirez and number 6 Jimmy Rollins with Erick Aybar and Alexei Ramirez right in the middle with very similar statlines).

Here is the guy who is being hailed as the current face of baseball, Mike Trout. He is also the current #1 player in fantasy baseball. Trout seems like a pretty personable guy. As with all of the Angels, though, I don't keep very good track of him.

Josh Hamilton had a nice strong run with Texas from 2008-2012, with 5 straight All-Star Game appearances and an MVP award in 2010. He didn't leave the Rangers on the best of terms, and he had a pretty lousy year in 2013 compared to the numbers he'd been putting up previously. This year he is playing better, but still probably not $17 million better, especially with a long DL stint due to an injured thumb ligament.

Mark Trumbo had three pretty good years with the Angels as a power-hitting kind of guy and then got traded to the Diamondbacks, where he broke his foot. He hit a buttload of home runs during his rehab stint, so he might have a strong close to 2014.

And now we get to the pitching part of the team set. Jered Weaver is certainly letting someone know something in this picture, or maybe he's merely getting a good look at a booger he'd just picked. He's been a very good pitcher for quite a while, although maybe this year he hasn't been quite as good as in the past.

I am going to paint Wilson with the same brush as I did Weaver. Like the back of his card says, he is a 'Quality Starter.' He is also on the DL with a sprained ankle.

I don't know why I like Tommy Hanson, but I do. He played for the Braves for a few years, regressing each season, continued that trend with the Angels in 2013, and signed with the Rangers in 2014. That didn't work out, so now he is with the Chicago White Sox minor league system. 

Scott Downs was a pretty good reliever for quite a while, acting as the replacement closer for a couple of teams during his career. Halfway through 2013 he was traded to the Braves. This season he has spent time with the White Sox and the Royals, not pitching very effectively for either team. He's 38 years old, so I would imagine he's about done with his career at this point.

Burnett was a pretty good reliever for the Nationals, and signed with the Angels in 2013. He played a little bit in 2013 and injured his arm, taking him out for the season. He pitched 2/3 of an inning in 2014 and aggravated the injury again, ending another season.

Ernesto Frieri was acquired in a trade with the Padres and became the closer, a role he held down pretty well through 2012 and 2013. His high strikeout rate made him a good closer to own in fantasy baseball, even if his ratios were a little high at times. In 2014 he has been a mess, and the Angels traded him to the Pirates, where he has continued to be a mess.

And that does it for the Angels.