31 October 2015

2015 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Princess Leia Set

Topps has been releasing quite a few products in non-standard sizes. It's kind of a shameless money grab, but they've got me a couple times so it must be working. For the San Diego Comic Con they released 10 sets of oversized 5x7 trading cards, with each set containing 10 cards in a specific theme. Once the convention was over Topps made the sets available online, which is where I got the Princess Leia set. Seven of the ten sets are still available on the shop as of this writing. I entertained the idea of getting all ten sets but I am not made of money and just chose the one to purchase. More recently Topps released another group of sets for the New York Comic Con. I haven't really looked into those at all, but it looks like they include some content from the upcoming Force Awakens film.

All of the cards have this same back on them. I assume that the other sets share this card back as well, but I don't know that for sure.

The cards don't break a lot of new ground as far as Star Wars photography, although I imagine by now it would be pretty difficult to find anything that hasn't already been seen without releasing a new film. I still think they are pretty cool. The Topps site says that not all of these photos were used in the original Star Wars card sets, though, so there is that.

Even though there are only ten cards in this set, they manage to cover most of the important situations Leia finds herself in during the classic trilogy. That's a nice cameo by Jabba the Hutt there in the card on the left.

Here is another cameo by Jabba. It's amazing that they were able to make a giant puppet so expressively sleazy. There are plenty of spots in the movies when the old-style special effects really show their age, but I haven't ever minded that much. It's kind of like professional wrestling in that the story gets so much better if you buy into it and use your imagination a little.

If you want to see the power of music in cinema, just watch the scene where Luke and Han Solo get their medals without the backing score:

Awkward! Almost as awkward as kissing your sister, huh, Luke? These cards aren't the type of thing I want to buy all the time, but I've picked up a handful of Topps' oversized offerings over the last few months. It's a pretty well-executed set even though the blue starfield border is getting kind of old at this point. Topps really needs to look into doing something else every so often.

30 October 2015

2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers Set

Busting packs is a lot of fun, but when it comes to building sets and acquiring inserts/hits that you want it is a lot easier and much more cost-effective to buy sets and singles from people who've done the hard work for you. With that in mind, I went out and completed my 2015 Topps Heritage base set in one swoop by purchasing a complete set of 2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers (including the SPs!) from an eBay re-seller. It actually wasn't as easy as I make it sound, because I am a cheap guy and I had to bid on a lot of sets before I got a cheap one. It's the same reason I still haven't purchased a 2015 Topps Stadium Club set. I just haven't been able to find one at my price, which is admittedly much lower than that set should go for.

I picked out a few of my favorite card for this post. Most of them are Astros, but there are a couple of other cards here that I felt like scanning. Night Owl has alluded to the fact that Colby Rasmus isn't the most attractive dude in baseball, and I have to agree with the Owl on that point. He did, however, hit some timely home runs for the Astros in the playoffs and for that and his epic partying I can overlook the fact that he always looks a bit damp. The Astros fanblogs seem to think he's played his price tag too high for the Astros to keep him unless he agrees to stay in Houston for less money than he can get somewhere else. I picked that Gose card because his hat looks ridiculous. I understand that it's the style these days for some reason, but it looks like his mom put that hat on him for a Little League picture and she's standing off to the side remarking about how cute he looks in his baseball outfit. Mike Fiers threw a no-hitter this year after the Astros acquired him. Against the Dodgers. He benefited from a few calls during that game, but I think that probably happens during most no-hitters. I wouldn't expect him to throw another one any time soon, but it was a good moment for the team.

That Asher dude has got one heck of a last name. I don't know what else you can say about Carlos Correa. He got a little jittery at times during the playoffs and missed a couple of key plays. He also made some really big plays with his bat, glove, and arm that were absolutely bonkers. I'm a fan. We have another hat guy in Odrisamer Despaigne, who is doing his best Fernando Rodney impersonation. Bobby Parnell gets into this post as a 'Beard of the Set' candidate.

Billy Burns gets in because he is a speedy dude who helped out my fantasy teams this year. If I am recalling things right he was especially hot early in the year and cooled off a bit as time went on. Jerome Williams got in because his glove is pink, like bubble gum pink. I haven't done a lick of research on it, so I don't know if he always uses a pink glove, if it was a joke for picture day, or if it is a Breast Cancer Awareness thing. I saw a breast cancer thing the other day where a woman posted what her body looked like during breast cancer treatment, and she was pretty much burnt and peeled from shoulder to waist because the treatments are so corrosive. It definitely sticks with me a little more than another athlete with a pink accessory or a model in a pink shirt. I wonder if any of that stuff actually generates a dollar for research into cures for cancer? I have my doubts. Down on the bottom of the scan is a key piece of the Astros rotation in Lance McCullers Jr. and Jed Lowrie, a guy who spent his usual time on the DL and found himself without much playing time to come back to once he was healed up. Speculation is that he will go to some team that misses out on Ben Zobrist.

Syndergaard is on the big stage, pitching for the Mets in this year's World Series. As I write this, Game 1 is tied at 4 in the top of the 14th inning. Eric Sogard gets in because 'Nerd Power' is something I can support. Corey Hart makes this post because of his colorful tattoos and because he's squinting one eye kind of like a Pirate. Get it? Roberto Hernandez gets in because he's wearing the right uniform and because he used to be Fausto Carmona, All-Star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. The Astros released him in August.

At this point I am just grabbing Astros from the set and trying to get to the short-prints. It felt like Gregerson did pretty well this year in the closer role, but I hear a lot of clamor for the Astros to pick up a flamethrower to take that role over. Valbuena provided some power for the roster this year and Marisnick played some good defense and came through with his bat a bit in the playoffs. I think the team could do a little better in the corner infield spots than Valbuena, but we'll see which parts of the roster they decide to shore up during the offseason. Preston Tucker's head looks unusually small to me in this picture. Maybe it's just because he's further away from the camera than most guys in this set.

And now we get to the short-printed cards. It is still kind of jarring to see Ichiro in a Marlins uniform, but that's what happens when you get old and really fade. You wind up wearing weird uniforms. I imagine he'll find a way to hang around long enough next year to get to 3000 (needs 65) hits and 500 (needs 2) steals, but I can't imagine there's much more than that left for him in the MLB world. I've said it a few times, but Evan Gattis was one of my favorite Astros this season. I don't know if he'll stick around, though. He is also in the 'Beard of the Set' competition. He wins points for beard shape, but Parnell's beard seems to have more mass to it. I'm inclined to give the award to Gattis. Maybe I am stuffing the ballot box, but I can live with those accusations. Max Scherzer is a favorite of mine, and his cards are always pretty cool because he's got different-colored eyes. I've heard good things about this Kris Bryant guy. He's supposed to be pretty popular among collectors.

29 October 2015

2012 SEGA Card-Gen Extra Ichiro

I picked up this awesome card on eBay a little while ago. It comes from the 2012 SEGA Card-Gen set. This card is actually from one of the inserts/subsets of the product. From what I can gather from Zippy Zappy's postings about the arcade game these cards came from, there was a period of time when the game machine would sometimes spit out a redemption card instead of a card from the base set. The redemption card could then be traded in at the counter for an Extra or Exchange card. This Ichiro comes from that special Extra set. It's got a great photograph and I can't imagine there are a whole lot of these floating around, especially in the US.

I obtained the Munenori Kawasaki card from this set from a webstore early in 2015. I saw this Ichiro card on that website at the time, but at $50 the price was a little steep for me. A couple of weeks ago the card popped up on eBay with a Buy It Now of $15. That's still a bit more than I like to spend on a baseball card these days, but in this case I thought it was well worth the asking price. I snapped it up as soon as I saw it in my eBay feed, as I figured there would be Ichiro/Yankee collectors all over it before long. It had only been listed for a little while when I completed the purchase; probably on the site for less than an hour.

I happen to know that the eBay seller I bought it from is the same guy who runs the webstore where I originally saw the card. Sure enough, when I went to check his site again the card was marked as Sold Out. Incidentally, he is the same person who sold me the complete 2013 SEGA Card-Gen base set, which I have sporadically been posting about since May of 2014. I've sent him a fair bit of my money, but the cardboard he sends me in return is well worth it. I just love these cards. It's too bad that this idea never took off in the United States and it's unfortunate that 2013 was the last year these sets were made in Japan. The supply of SEGA Card-Gen cards has almost completely dried up on eBay and I imagine it will dwindle away almost entirely very soon.

28 October 2015

Pack of the Day 112: 2015 Topps Update Blaster Box

One of my sons saved up enough money to buy a toy he wanted, so I took him to Target to make the purchase. While we were there I grabbed a blaster box of 2015 Topps Update. I've been thinking about set building lately as the last set I built from packs and singles was 2014 Topps Stadium Club. Every 2015 set I have was purchased online from a case breaker. It is definitely cheaper in the long run to buy the sets outright, but you lose some of the sense of accomplishment that comes when you track down those last few cards that you needed. Instead you click a button and a few days later the whole thing shows up in a box. I don't think 2015 Topps Update will be the next set I build on my own, though.

I picked out a few base cards to scan. Evan Gattis was probably my favorite regular season Astro, but he sure seemed to struggle during the playoffs. His at-bats were painful to watch, and he just looked uncomfortable out there. I felt bad for him. I felt like Conger played pretty well this year, but it sucked when a speedster from the opposing team got on base because you knew Conger couldn't throw them out. It seemed like if I guy got to first on Conger you might as well let them go straight to third. I picked the Joey Gallo card because I thought his running face was kind of funny. Felix Hernandez is one of the guys I kind of collect, but I don't really specifically chase his singles down. I just hold on to his cards when I get them.

Correa and Altuve make up quite a duo in the Houston middle infield. The corners are where the Astros have problems. When I pulled that Francouer card I thought, "That guy is still around?" It seems like he's been around forever. Looking into it a little more, he was drafted in 2002, which is two years after I graduated from high school. So he has been hanging around the MLB for basically my whole adult life. I thought something was off about that Ike Davis photo, like maybe it was an airbrush job or something. The stadium looked right for an A's player, though, so I wasn't sure what the deal was. I went to Getty Images and searched out the photo. It is an actual A's photo from a game against the Angels on April 30th, but whoever adjusted the picture for this baseball card turned the green up to eleven. In the actual photo the jersey and helmet are very dark, to where they could almost pass for black in spots. On the card they are a ludicrous shade of bright green.

My other note on the base cards is that whoever does the font for the card numbers is a lunatic. Some numbers are in very little font and some numbers are printed in huge characters. I couldn't find any rhyme or reason in it. Maybe cards from certain sheets have different number sizes or something. I don't know. If I were a basic white girl, I literally couldn't even.

I think that Highlight of the Year set is a continuation of an insert from the other Topps sets this year. There are plenty of big names in the set, as big plays are how you become a big name. Tape Measure Blasts is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a set that records the estimated distance of some famous home runs.

This 1st Home Run set is a Retail-exclusive set that highlights a player's first big league home run, with the date on the front and a description of the hit on the back. I guess it's a cool idea for an insert set, and based on these pulls it looks like there are a few names on the checklist that don't often get a lot of hobby love. We'l revisit this 1st Home Run theme later on in the post.

My timing for posting about it is off a bit, but I pulled that Jackie Robinson card on the anniversary of his death. I kind of like the design for the Rookie Sensations insert of Jacob deGrom. He's having quite the start to his career. He was the Rookie of the Year last season, an All-Star this season, and he's starting Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday. Most guys don't even do all that in their careers, let alone pack it all in to the first couple seasons. The two cards on the bottom are throwback variations, which I believe are exclusive to cards purchased at specific retailers. They've got Gold borders and an old-school Topps logo to set them apart from regular base cards.

I also pulled a couple of Gold parallels, Justin Turner and Bobby Parnell. They are numbered # / 2015. That Valencia card is a Rainbow Foil parallel. They are a tougher pull (1:10 packs vs. 1:6 packs) than the Gold parallels, but they are not serially-numbered. The Michael Wacha card is a Sabermetric Stat Back variation. Those are pretty rare, with the odds telling me they are a 1:68 pack pull. Too bad it's Michael Wacha, who is pretty much the least interesting name on the Stat Back Variation checklist.

Rareties is an insert that celebrates rare achievements in baseball, like a walk-off steal of home and earning a save on 3 pitches. Pride & Perseverance is an insert about players who have overcome disabilities and hardships to have major league careers. Buddy Carlyle was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. This and the Whatever Works insert are the two from Update that I am thinking about collecting. Maybe that Rookie Sensations set too, although those are likely to be overpriced. Whatever Works talks about different superstitions and rituals that ball players have used to keep their luck up or stay consistent. The Biggio card talks about his crusty batting helmet. I believe the All-Star inserts, like that Manny Machado card, are also a Retail-exclusive set.

That Greinke card is also part of the All-Star Game Access set. Each blaster also comes with a special 1st Home Run medallion card, which is pretty much the same as the regular 1st Home Run set except that it has a big metal ingot in the middle of it. When I grabbed this Mark Teixeira card just now to look at the back of it I dropped it on my desk and the lower right corner is pretty gnarly-looking. So much for that card. It always sucks to drop a card and have it come away damaged. With the weight of that medallion even a three- or four-inch drop is enough to completely annihilate a corner. In light of that turn of events I don't really feel like writing any more about this blaster. I didn't pull anything too crazy, but it was nice to get a look at the set and see some of the inserts and base cards. I'll probably wind up buying a set online to close out my 2015 Topps set for the year.

27 October 2015

2015 Topps Star Wars Chrome Perspectives: Jedi vs. Sith: Princess Leia Sketch Card by Tanner Padlo

For some reason the sketch cards from the Topps Star Wars Chrome Perspectives: Jedi vs. Sith set don't seem to be as popular with bidders as sketch cards from other recent sets. Maybe it's because the frames restrict the size of the sketch? I don't know. Maybe it's all in my head and they are just as popular as other sketches. I just know that I've been able to grab several Leia sketches from this set without spending a ludicrous amount of money on them.

This sketch was done by artist Tanner Padlo. He seems to be most active on Instagram if you want to see some of his other stuff. I wish I had more to say about this one. It's a pretty cool sketch and Padlo does some nice work, but I am not feeling particularly inspired right now as I write this. I am trying to have a post for every day in October, but it's harder than it seems to come up with something to write for every day of the month. It was a good sketch, especially for the price I paid. Leia's pose is one of the more common ones that artists use for reference. There's nothing wrong with that as there is only so much reference material out there, but I kind of like it when an artist comes up with something of their own rather than copying a picture from a comic book or film. But at the rates the card companies are paying I can understand that artists need to pump out a certain number of cards in a limited amount of time, and the best way to do that is to replicate a photo or still from the film in your own personal style and art medium of choice. This one looks just fine as part of my Leia sketch collection. Padlo has got a couple of pieces in his Etsy shop that I really like. One is a painting of Luke and Leia together and one is a Star Wars sketch cover of Han Solo with a Toy Story twist. You should check them out.

26 October 2015

A Card or a Print? Does it Matter? 2015 Topps Red 5 x 7 Jon Singleton

Topps has been really pushing their offerings of various prints and wall art. Many of them are individually numbered or packed in vintage-style wax packs to increase their appeal to collectors. One of the more ambitious offerings was this complete set of 2015 Topps Red 5x7 cards. They are reprints of the base 2015 Topps Baseball set and the full set of 700 cards was sold as a unit for $1999.99, or about $2.86 per card. The cards are serially-numbered to just 10 copies apiece, so I would imagine you could make your money back on the set by selling off the superstars to players collectors. Then you could make a profit on selling off all the other guys in the set. And that's how I got this card for my collection. Someone went out and bought one of the sets and listed pretty much the whole thing on eBay. Mike Trout went for $100, as did Kris Bryant. Several Yankees cards went for $40-$60. I paid about $5 for Jon Singleton's card before shipping, so the seller even made nearly 100% profit from my little purchase. My card is # 04 / 10. You can kind of see the numbering down on the bottom left of the card.

This was marketed as a trading card product rather than wall art, so you get a reprint of the full card back in addition to the card front. These sets aren't sold out yet so if you've got two grand and nothing to spend it on, you could go out and get one of your own. The guy who I bought this card from still has about 150 of them up for auction, so if you're just after a specific player you might still be able to find the card on eBay without buying a full set. Most of the big stars are gone, but I know a lot of collectors PC guys who aren't on the superstar career path. An eBay search for '2015 Topps Baseball 5 x 7 Red' should bring them all up.

25 October 2015

At the Trade Deadline 34: A Surprise Package from The Prowling Cat

A surprise package recently showed up in my mailbox. Actually, it showed up on my desk, because my wife usually checks the mail before I can get to it. I still check the mailbox before I go into the house after work, though. I recognized the name on the return address as belonging to the writer of The Prowling Cat blog. He hasn't posted to his blog for a while. I imagine he is still recovering from the epic Brocation he went on that involved football games, baseball games, a card shop visit, a stadium tour, and a celebrity sighting. I am leading with a couple of Danica Patrick cards that were in the package because it seems like putting a female face on the header photo draws in extra readers. I always like to add new cards to my Danica Patrick PC, but the really extra cool part of the package follows.

Here is the note he included with the package. It is awfully nice that he thought of me when looking to send out some Houston Rockets stuff. Let's take a look at the cards. I was kind of thinking that he'd been holding on to these cards for 11 years, but then I realized that this is 2015. I reminded my wife that in spite of how we might feel, 1994 was actually 21 years ago. She told me to shut up.

First up is this NBA Super Team card with the word 'REDEEMED' printed on the back of it and a bunch of legalese saying that if the team depicted wins a Division, Conference, or NBA Championship title the Super Team card can be sent in and redeemed for various prizes. I assume that when the pack-pulled cards were sent in, Topps kept them and returned a 'REDEEMED' card to the collector with the prize package. Well, Houston won the NBA Championship in 1994, so this was a pretty good pull at the time.

And here's what The Prowling Cat sent me. It's the Conference prize, a set of 10 Master Photos featuring the members of the winning team. Those photos in the center are the size of a regular trading card, The photos overall are 5"x7". The set is still sealed, and I am trying to decide whether I ought to open it. There is a Hakeem Olajuwon card buried in the middle somewhere, so I might open the set to get at it. I found a picture of it on eBay, but that's not the same as having it in-hand. I'm still deciding, so for now they are still in the plastic.

This was a pretty neat surprise, and I am always happy to add a new Hakeem Olajuwon card to my collection. I've been disenchanted with the players on the Houston roster pretty much since Yao Ming's injury problems forced him out of the league. I've found a few temporary favorites, but they all either left town or disappointed me in some way. But as long as there are new cards out there featuring The Dream, I can relive the glory days of 1994 and 1995. Thanks for the cards! This was a great surprise!

24 October 2015

Topps Mini Baseball Scan Clear-Out, Post 4 of 4: The Relics

Now that I've showcased all the colored parallels from my boxes of 2013 and 2014 Top Mini Baseball, here are the relics from those boxes. Each box promised one relic or autograph, but out of the many (many, many) boxes of both years I opened I only ever pulled one autograph. The autographs in this stuff were hard to find. Kicking things off is this PWS (Plain White Swatch) of Albert Pujols from the 2014 set. I like the design on these cards. It's pretty simple but I think it looks good.

It was pretty nice to pull this Hyun-Jin Ryu card, as he is a guy I kind of PC. I don't know if I have ever gone out of my way to pick up his cards, but I like pulling them from packs. Hopefully he comes back healthy next year, as he missed the 2015 season and had shoulder surgery.

This is my representative from the 2013 set, a pinstriped relic of famed pitcher Kerry Wood. Unfortunately this card came out of the pack with heavy damage on the bottom edge, as you can see in the scan on the right. whole layers of the card were peeled back and torn. I assume the collation machine is responsible for the damage. It's kind of disappointing for the one hit in the box to be damaged, especially a nice relic with a stripe and a good photo on the front.

Most of these relics are jersey pieces, but I did get one bat relic in this Ian Kinsler card. The main thing that sticks out in my mind about Kinsler as I write this up is that he had some pretty negative stuff to say about the Rangers after they moved him to Detroit. I think the young kids these days call it throwing shade when you badmouth a person or organization like that.

Keeping things in Detroit, here is a PGS (Plain Grey Swatch) relic of Miguel Cabrera, This dude has put up numbers all over the place.during his career. I imagine he might find himself in the Hall of Fame one day.

That does it for this group of posts. I got a pretty good batch of relics in this bunch of boxes, especially compared to breaks I've done in the past where I got a bunch of relics of lower-tier guys. In these boxes every relic was a famous name.

23 October 2015

Topps Mini Baseball Scan Clear-Out, Post 3 of 4: The Rare Stuff

I've already shown off the Gold and Pink parallels from a few boxes of 2013 and 2014 Topps Mini Baseball. Now it's time for the rare stuff. These Black parallels are limited to 5 copies each. I got this Miguel Montero from one of the 2014 boxes. It's a pretty cool card, I suppose.

These two cards came from the 2013 set. Again, nothing too earth-shattering but they are at least guys I've heard of before. Alex Rios is currently in the playoffs with the Royals. He's had kind of a down year individually, but his numbers haven't been too bad in the playoffs. Asdrubal Cabrera is similar because he's a few years removed from his best seasons, but dissimilar in that he is not in the playoffs with his current team, the Rays.

There are 1 / 1 Platinum parallel cards in these products, but I have never pulled one. I have pulled a handful of Printing Plates, though. This one is the Cyan plate of Brian Duensing. He's kind of a bullpen arm / spot starter who has played 7 years with the Twins.

Lastly I have this Sergio Romo Yellow Printing Plate from the 2014 set. I think my favorite part of this card is the numbers on the back of the plate, coming out from behind the sticker. I read an article about how these plates are made recently, but I forget where I saw it. It was pretty interesting. Maybe not as interesting as Mr. Rogers visiting the crayon factory, but still pretty interesting.