30 June 2015

Mary Bellamy Sketch Card Commission

Mary Bellamy is one of the artists that posts occasionally on the Blowout Cards forums. She has worked on many sketch card sets, self-published several comic books, and also has done work for publisher-owned comic book properties. Her most high-profile work is probably the covers she has done for the My Little Pony comic books.

A few months ago she posted a thread offering discounted sketches to help cover some unexpected car repairs she was getting done. I jumped at the chance to get a My Little Pony sketch card from her, featuring a situation from an episode of the Friendship is Magic animated series. In the episode, the character Fluttershy steals the Princess' sick bird, Philomena, in an attempt to restore it to health. After Fluttershy has tried many remedies the bird escapes and leads Fluttershy on a chase, which ends with the bird combusting and falling into a pile of ashes just as the Princess shows up. Fluttershy offers many apologies, and in the midst of the apology the bird comes back from the dead as a beautiful Phoenix. It's a pretty funny episode, and I asked Mary if she could draw Fluttershy and Philomena for me. It wasn't too long before I had this Personal Sketch Card in my mailbox:

I also selected three more cards from her sketch binder, featuring some of my favorite comic book characters. Before sending the cards off to me, Mary took some time and added extra details to the background of each card. I thought that was a nice addition.

The first sketch shows Cloak and Dagger, two relatively minor Spider-Man characters who became fan favorites and still pop up in books from time to time. For a while they even had their own series. 

In the middle is She-Hulk, Bruce Banner's cousin who received her powers after he gave her an emergency blood transfusion.

Last is Power Girl who, like most DC characters, has a complicated and ever-changing back story. She is Superman's cousin from an alternate universe, or basically another universe's Supergirl. She gets bounced back and forth between the different universes. I think that currently she is back on her original adopted home planet, Earth-2.

29 June 2015

Pack of the Day 100: Two Retail Packs of 2015 Topps Stadium Club

My wife picked up two packs of 2015 Topps Stadium Club at Target for me. I've read about this stuff quite a bit on blogs, but I hadn't seen any of it in real life.

The cards are nice and thick, and they feel like the premium cards issued in the 90s. As someone else mentioned, they even smell like premium 90s cards. The first card out of the first pack was Daniel Norris, a guy who I almost began collecting. I bought a few of his cards and then realized that I don't have enough money to add another player to my player collections list. So I will take his cards when I can get them, but I can't be scouring eBay all the time. The photography is quite nice, and the design does a pretty good job of staying out of the way of the pictures. The first pack also contained a Gold Foil parallel, this one featuring Monte Irvin.

One thing I don't remember seeing is a scan of the card backs. Maybe someone posted one, but I didn't remember seeing one so I scanned the back of the cards, too. The backs feature a little bit of demographic information, a head shot photo, a snippet of biographical info, 2014 stats for current players, and a career stat line for everyone.

My packs didn't contain any of the really cool or oddball photos that get featured in most of the set review posts. About the closest I got to something non-standard is that Jay Bruce high five on the dugout stairs photo. It was kind of a disappointing pair of packs, to be honest.

The Lorenzo Cain horizontal shot is decent, but not extremely memorable like the Bip Roberts sombrero card. I would like to get the whole 2015 Stadium Club set, but I probably won't be able to build it through pack busting. Even with perfect collation it would take 3 Hobby boxes to build a set, and that just isn't in the cards for me this year. I am hoping that set prices on eBay come down enough that I am able to score one for less than the price of a box of cards. My pack busting and single purchasing have slowed down quite a bit in recent months.

My wife and I have been trying to get ourselves into a better position financially and that has meant doing things like closing credit accounts and tightening the budget quite a bit. I still haven't been able to pick up a base set of Archives and now I have Stadium Club on my want list, with Allen & Ginter's and Topps Update still on the way this year. I may be able to get those all as complete sets, but I won't be able to bust much wax like I have in previous years.

From reading other blogs I know that many collectors face the same sort of decisions from time to time as their collections move up and down on their life priority lists. With fewer new cards coming in, I will probably be reaching more into stuff that's already in my collection for blog material. That should be okay, as there is plenty of stuff that I didn't get around to scanning or posting as it came in.

28 June 2015

Danica Patrick Press Pass Power Picks Parallels

Here are the last three cards from the batch of Danica Patrick parallels I bought late in 2014. They hail from the 2012 Press Pass Power Picks set. They come in three varieties: Gold # 36 / 50, Blue # 19 / 50, and Holofoil # 02 / 10. The cards feature Danica's # 10 GoDaddy.com car from that year.

Danica has kind of been treading water for the last couple months of the 2015 racing season. Her average starting position for 2015 to date is 22.3, exactly the same as her mark for 2014, but her average finishing position is 20.3, which is 3.4 spots better than her 2014 mark of 23.7. That is a decent number and she has improved that number each year, but she will probably need a race win to make the Chase for the Cup playoff. She is currently 19th in the point standings, and there are some pretty strong racers ahead of her. Her starting position for today's Toyota / Save Mart 350 is 21, which is right in line with where she's been starting races all season. Hopefully she will have a good car and avoid accidents on the way to a good finish.

27 June 2015

Jon Singleton 2014 Topps Triple Threads Lot

Chad Qualls just went on the DL, and that opened the door for Jon Singleton to get called back up from AAA to get some playing time with the Astros. He made it as far as the on-deck circle last night in a crushing 3-2 loss where they led for much of the game. I watched the Yankees-Astros game today and he went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts and a pop-up. He had a chance to play hero in the 7th inning with the bases loaded, but racked up one of his strikeouts instead. Hopefully he can get something going over the next few games and keep his big-league roster spot. I have to admit that my hopes aren't very high, but a couple of home runs might help to fix that.

I can't read the serial numbers of these cards on the scans, but I believe they are numbered # / 325 and # / 125 respectively. They come from 2014 Topps Triple Threads. I got them back at the start of this year and they've been sitting in my draft queue since then.

In other news, my kids got into my NASCAR die-cast collection today and broke the hood off of one of my cars. They didn't bother with the cars that I had out in the open. They went and got the stuff hidden on a table in the back of the room. I don't think I am going to be able to replace that car as it's a fairly rare piece from way back in 2011. Just a friendly reminder that kids and collections don't mix.

24 June 2015

2013 SEGA Card-Gen Extravaganza 11: Oakland Athletics

It's been 7 months since I last featured a team in the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen set. A 2014 set never materialized, and I believe that there was an official announcement recently that the card game will be no more. These are some of the more fun cards on the market, and it is sad that there won't be any more of them to look forward to. The next team in the set is the Oakland Athletics, who are arguably my second-favorite baseball team behind the Astros (my Top 4 are the Astros at the top with the Athletics, Blue Jays, and Royals grouped under them). That means there are a couple of PC guys in this bunch, although overall there isn't a lot of star power in the group. The A's get 11 cards in the set, or two under the average per team of 13.

Starting things out, as usual, is the catcher spot. The Athletics get two catchers in this set, with the first being George Kottaras, who played in 27 games for the A's in 2012. By 2013 he was with the Royals, playing in 46 games for them during that season. He played in a total of 18 games across three teams in 2014, and this year he is playing AAA ball for the White Sox organization.

John Jaso spent 2013 and 2014 with the Athletics, putting up decent numbers as he has throughout his career. He is currently with the Rays, but was injured on a slide during the season's first game and has been on the DL since. He might get back on the field after the All-Star break. It is interesting that both of the A's catchers get the same descriptor on this set, 'Good pitcher-handling catcher,' which is probably short-hand for, 'Not known for his offensive skills.'

Filling in at first is Chris Carter, who is now a key part of the Astros. After going 0 for 5 in a 2-1 extra innings loss against the Angels today he is hitting under .200 on the year, with decent home run and RBI numbers. He led the league in strikeouts in 2013 and leads the league again this year. That's good if you're a pitcher; not so great when you're a hitter.

Jemile Weeks played a few games for Oakland in 2013, spending the rest of the season on their AAA roster. He spent most of 2014 on Baltimore's AAA club, and he has spent nearly all of 2015 on Boston's AAA roster. I can recall having him as a backup source of steals on fantasy baseball teams in 2011 and 2012, but his other stats were never really good enough to make the speed worthwhile.

Coco Crisp is one of my secondary player collections. I don't really seek out his cards that much, but I notice them when I get them. He has put up some good numbers over the years, but if he's on your fantasy roster you need a backup plan because injuries are going to take some time from him. This year he has only played in 13 games because of a neck injury. At 35 years old, I wonder how many more years he has left in the game.

Josh Reddick is one of the main players I collect, and I have even chased a Super Rainbow of one of his cards. He puts up good numbers when he's on the field and seems to have a good time while he plays.

Tommy Milone had a couple of pretty good seasons with Oakland, then got traded to the Twins for Sam Fuld in 2014. He finished out that season on a pretty bad run for them, but seems to have put things back together this year, He doesn't strike out enough guys to be relevant in fantasy leagues, but he's got a 4-1 record in 8 starts for the Twins, with a 4-0 stint in AAA for the month of May.

Jarrod Parker had a pretty good rookie season in 2012, an okay 2013, and injuries and surgeries have taken away his 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Jerry Blevins is a relief pitcher who seems to stick around pretty well, which I guess is how you gauge relief pitchers. He was traded to the Nationals for 2014 and then to the Mets for 2015. Early in the 2015 season he got hit by a batted ball and broke his forearm.

Ryan Cook was an All-Star reliever in 2012 and pitched pretty well in 2013 and 2014 before control issues led to him starting 2015 in AAA. He got called back up for a few appearances in 2015 where he put up ugly numbers and got himself sent back down after 4 appearances. He might not be back up with Oakland anytime soon.

Balfour went back and forth with Ryan Cook for the closer role in 2012, was an All-Star closer for the A's in 2013, signed with the Rays in 2014, lost the closer role early in the 2014 season, and early in 2015 he was released by the Rays and then signed to play for their AAA team. For what it's worth he has been pitching pretty well in AAA, but that has to be hard for a guy who was an MLB reliever most of the time from 2003-2014.

And that does it for the Oakland Athletics in 2013 SEGA Card-Gen. They are the 11th team featured in the set, which means I've just got 19 more to go.

23 June 2015

Rainbow in the Dark 29: 2015 Topps Archives Jon Singleton Triad

This Saturday we went out to my hometown and picked some raspberries. They were pretty good, and between the five of us we only picked up two ticks. My wife and my son each had one tick on them, and luckily neither tick had latched on before they were located and disposed of.

After that we attended the town's annual Cherry Festival, with all of the carnival rides and fair food and whatnot. All four of my sisters were reportedly there with their families, but we only managed to bump into two of them. It would have been three, but we only found out the location of one sister after we had dragged our very grouchy and tired boys all the way back to the car, and there was no way we were taking those three chuckleheads back out into the madness. There is a multi-family campout in a couple of weekends and we will see them there. 

I hadn't planned on collecting a rainbow or anything from Topps Archives, but this Jon Singleton Black # 1 / 1 popped up and fell to me at a reasonable price, probably because I took a chance on an eBay seller without much feedback history. There have been some issues with getting them to accept the Paypal payment I sent, and I got a little suspicious when they promised to overnight the card. It looks like they used their FedEx account at work to send the card, which is probably why they weren't worried about the cost of expedited shipping. I hope they can sort through the payment acceptance on their end. I sent them a link to eBay's FAQ on fixing the problem, but they still haven't sorted it out. It's sitting out there waiting to be claimed. I won't be retracting my payment or anything until they get their money.

The other colored parallels in the set are Gold and Silver, respectively numbered # / 50 and # / 199. I picked those up in relatively drama-free transactions to complete the simple three-card Jon Singleton 2015 Topps Archives rainbow. I guess if the printing plates show up I will try to get at least one of them. For the Gold parallel I picked up copy # 40 / 50.

For the Silver parallel, I picked up copy # 123 / 199. I still wish the parallels were printed on shiny reflective card stock, but you can't always get what you want (for the record I really hate that song, and I'm not all that fond of The Rolling Stones). As far as 2015 Archives goes, I'll probably try to pick up a base set at some point and then be done with the product.

21 June 2015

Manute Bol Timeless Treasures Relic

I picked up this card way back at the end of January. It is a Perennial Materials relic card from 2012-13 Panini Timeless Treasures Basketball. Manute Bol seems to carry quite a bit of popularity and his cards tend to go for a fair amount, especially autographs and relics. He passed away in 2010, so the autographs that are out there are all that will be produced. I was able to get an autograph last year, and this is my second relic card featuring the shot-blocking specialist.

I guess this one is a little better than my first Bol relic card, as it is serially-numbered # 081 / 149. I don't collect a lot of basketball cards these days, but outside of the great Hakeem Ollajuwon I tend to focus my collection on the tallest (Manute Bol, Gheorghe Muresan, maybe Shawn Bradley) and shortest (Muggsy Bogues, Spud Webb) players in the game. I haven't really latched on to a current player yet for my collection, and I don't know when that will happen. I kind of started to follow Chandler Parsons when he was a Rocket, but then he switched over to the Mavericks and I dropped that. There are a few candidates out there, but nothing I have pursued with any vigor.

The seller threw in this Shawn Kemp card for free, which is pretty cool. Kemp was a pretty exciting player who got fat near the end of his career and fathered a billion kids across the country during his playing days. I guess that makes this post as good as any for Father's Day. My one connection to 'Reign Man' is that when I was in high school I was able to acquire a pair of Reebok Kamikaze II shoes, which I thought were pretty darn cool. Recently Reebok released a throwback in similar colors to the ones I had back then (Blue/White) and I was able to snag a pair of those.

20 June 2015

Workin' at the Card Shop 7: Two Autographs from One Pack

I had some time to kill between work and an appointment I had, so I made a visit to the local card shop to have a look around. I planned on picking up a little bit of 2015 Topps Series 2 and hopefully a couple packs of 2015 Topps Archives. He had Archives in stock, but none of the boxes were open yet. I felt bad about asking him to open a box so I could buy two packs from it, so I wound up with a Jumbo Pack of Series 2 and a couple packs of 2014-15 Panini Donruss Basketball instead. The Jumbo pack of Topps contained 50 cards. I won't show all of them, but I'll show some of the ones that caught my eye:

The first thing I noticed was the weird coloring on Billy Butler's uniform. "Self," I said, "That is probably an airbrush job on his Royals uniform. I took it a step further and went and found the image that was altered to create this baseball card:

The other guys I chose for the scan were either Astros or showing off some Ugly Pitching Face (UPF). And that's it, really. I have a hard time with some of the little colored circles containing the player's position abbreviation. The light blue ones and the bright yellow ones are a bit distracting.

These were the best horizontal cards in the pack. I was glad to get an Astros team card. I included Wei-Yin Chen because he got hosed by the Orioles recently and I read an article about it, so his name was stuck in my head when I sifted through these cards.

To give the non-pitchers a fair shake, I have included Kolten Wong and his Ugly Fielding Face (UFF) in this scan. Max Scherzer gets in for some UPF and because he's kind of a PC guy. Marwin Gonzalez gets in because he's an Astro and Adeiny Hechavarria makes the cut because I picked him up on a fantasy baseball team recently to play shortstop, because that position is a minefield in fantasy this year and whoever I drafted for that position was putting up terrible numbers.

I chose Moustakas because of the great fielding shot, another Astro card in Jed Lowrie, Carlos Gonzalez because he's on one of my fantasy baseball rosters, and I don't know why I included Jose Fernandez but then this popped up on my Facebook feed and gave me a reason:

I love it when a (failure to) plan comes together!

I pulled an autograph in the pack of a guy who was drafted in 2004, has played since then in the minor leagues, and pitched 6.0 total innings across 7 games in 2014 for the Giants as his only Major League service to date. The only real notable thing I saw on his Baseball Reference page was that he managed to hit three batters during those 6 innings. That Career High number in the corner of his card is celebrating his 11.6 minor league strikeouts per nine innings ratio in 2014. I got a Gold parallel of Danny Santana, another guy who is on at least one of my fantasy baseball rosters. My First Pitch insert features Jon Hamm, an actor whose work I don't really follow at all. I had to look him up. Madison Bumgarner rounds out the scan, with an appearance in a decent-looking insert set called Stepping Up

That Edgar Martinez card looks like it fell right out of 2012 Topps Baseball, and I don't think of that as a compliment. Wei-Yen Chen makes another appearance in this post, this time on a Black parallel numbered # 46 / 64 (a palindrome!). Mike Piazza shows up in some sort of bat-themed set about which Night Owl has remarked, "I think Topps did an excellent job of making bats look like loaves of bread in a deli." And finally, Willie Mays appears in a set that presumably discusses famous comebacks in baseball history.

But wait! That's not all! I also got one of those Call Your Shot! code cards in my pack. I went to the site, entered my code, and this screen loaded:

The autograph selection is random, meaning that if you 'win' a 'prize,' you click through to your cart, pay Topps $4.95 for shipping and handling, and probably eventually get an autograph in the mail. From what I've heard, the players on the screen are just a partial list. The Full player list available here link goes to a broken page labeled as the B-level list. I have seen copies of the A-level and C-level lists and they are each several pages long, covering a huge number of players. So it's pretty random. Going through some Blowout forum threads on people who have already received their cards from the Series 1 codes, it looks like Topps is just sending out whatever happens to be nearby. I have seen some 2013 Topps Five Star of Jason Heyward, some Bowman Sterling of Didi Gregorius and Oscar Taveras, a Jim Rice Five Star card, a Marcus Stroman from last year's base Topps set, and some other stuff along those lines. I guess whatever I get probably can't be any worse than an Erik Cordier sticker autograph.

The two packs of Donruss basketball didn't contain anything too amazing. Mostly they just reminded me how out of touch I am with the current NBA. I manage to keep track of the Houston Rockets and most of the major stars and fan favorites, but 95% of the other guys are unrecognizable to me.

Here are three guys that I recognized from the packs. Beverley is said to be a pretty good player, but during the few opportunities I had to watch him it seemed like maybe he was showboating a little too much and needed to take better care of the ball. I've never liked Pau Gasol very much. He seems too much like a soccer player or something. Maybe he's just an emotional and expressive dude, but I find him irritating. Klay Thompson and all of the Golden State Warriors are jerks, and they will remain as such until the Houston Rockets can manage to beat them in a playoff series.

Here are some of the inserts that came out of the packs. It seems like I can't buy any basketball cards without pulling a Zach Randolph card of some kind.

Oh, and here are two more inserts featuring players I don't like all that much. I guess I should have asked the shop owner to open a box of Archives for me to pick a couple packs from.