30 December 2015

Some More BBM True Heart Japanese Women's Wrestling Autographs

井上京子 - Kyoko Inoue, 林 結愛 - Yua Hayashi, ミウラアカネ - Akane Miura, 下野佐和子 - Sawako Shimono
I've picked up a nice pile of BBM True Heart wrestling autographs over the last several months, and eventually I had so many scans that I just tossed them all into this post. Some of these come from box breaks, and some are eBay purchases. There are a decent number of these that pop up from a couple of sellers on eBay, and I pick up any below a certain price that I don't already have. I have accepted that I won't ever have a complete set of the autographs from a given series, but I try to pick up any wrestlers that aren't already represented in my collection. If I remember right, these first two scans are from a box of 2015 product that I opened.

星 ハム子 - Hamuko Hoshi / 宮城もち - Mochi Miyagi, のの子 - Nonoko
To be honest I've kind of put my Japanese wrestling cards on the back burner recently. My source for boxes dried up and I've picked many of the lower-priced single autographs from eBay. I did recently get a base set from a past year that I was missing and grabbed some other odds and ends along the way. But in the very recent past I have been focused on things like Star Wars, UFC cards, LEGO kits, sketch cards, M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, and even some baseball and NASCAR stuff, too.

ケンドー・リリコ - Ririko Kendo, 春山香代子 - Kayoko Haruyama, 大畠美咲 - Misaki Ohata, ダイナマイト・関西 - Dynamite Kansai, 弓李 - Kyuuri, 宮城もち - Mochi Miyagi
I kind of keep up with things on the various Facebook fan pages and follow a few of the individual wrestler pages, too, but I am not really an active participant. The good news is that my source in Japan just put up the 2016 product for pre-order, so I have that to look forward to at the end of January or sometime in February. It looks like the release will be structured about the same as the last few years have been, with 20 7-card packs in a box, a 126-card checklist, and autographs and Polaroid photos (like that Kyuuri in the scan above; the Polaroids are numbered out of # / 7 while most of the base autos have print runs in the 90-100 range) as hits. The number of autographs per box has been increasing as the years go by, but I can't imagine that it will go much higher than the six per box that I averaged in 2015. I plan to at least complete the base set, which means I'm looking at picking up a minimum of 2-3 boxes of 2016. We'll see where it goes from there.

寿 ゆり - Yuri Kotobuki, 帯広さやか - Sayaka Obihiro
I finally watched the new Star Wars movie this yesterday. Unfortunately we missed the first few minutes of the film as the parking lot was full and my poor wife had to park pretty far away and herd our three kids all the way to the theater. The theater only had one guy taking tickets, scanning writing down bar codes in a notebook, handing out 3D glasses, and answering questions, so the line to get in took forever. Then the two younger kids had to pee during key parts of the plot. When you are in a hurry and you have a 4 year-old in tow their default speed is measured in geologic time, and if you make any attempt to rush them they actually can freeze themselves and their immediate surroundings while time accelerates outside their sphere of influence. So I missed a bunch of the movie and I was super-irritated much of the time, which kept me from really getting absorbed in the movie. The kids seemed to have a good time, so that was good, but I am going to have to go again without them so I can see the whole movie in a less stressful environment. 

えーりん - Erin, 下田美馬 - Mima Shimoda
In spite of the less-than-ideal experience I still came away from the film excited about Star Wars. It was good to see some of the old characters in their familiar roles and it was nice to see that the new characters aren't too hokey. The dialogue and some of the action was still a bit predictable a la the prequel trilogy, but I don't think you're going to escape that in the Star Wars universe. We'll probably have to see the full trilogy of this installment before I make too many judgments.

KAORU - Kaoru Maeda, 北沢ふきん - Fukin Kitazawa, 田中盟子 - Meiko Tanaka, 木場千景 - Chikage Kiba
We also added a new member to our family. No, we didn't have another kid. One of the twins has been obsessed with spiders for a couple of months, saying things like, "I really like mom, but I love spiders infinity!" So we decided to get a tarantula to feed that interest. I like critters anyway, and I try to indulge any inclination my kids have toward science and learning. Of course the kid who sparked this endeavor has nearly no interest in the spider, while the other two kids are super-excited about it, running in and out of the room to observe and announce the tarantula's movements. They named the spider Orbit after arguing for some time about naming it after variations of their own names.

小松奈央 - Nao Komatsu, ライディーン鋼 - Raideen Hagane, GAMI
While all the previous cards in this post were from the 2015 set, this final scan features a couple of 2014 autos and a 2013 signature. I'm not too picky when it comes to these cards. I am a collector, so I want them all. I did some mixing and matching of checklists in English and Japanese, and for at least a couple of names I used Google Translate, so if there are errors I apologize. If any of the wrestlers capture your interest a little bit of copying and searching from the captions should get you started on your research. I am looking forward to collecting the 2016 set and hopefully I'll be watching more matches in the coming year, too. I've got a few older sets to post about, too, when I get around to it.

27 December 2015

2014 Press Pass Danica Patrick Cyan Parallel

I was going to save the only remaining Danica Patrick scan in my folder for when the racing season started, but then I saw this Tweet from Patrick pop up in my feed and felt like I ought to share it here.

I like sports stars who can have some fun, and I think dressing up as a unicorn qualifies as having fun. That leaves me a little conflicted about Tom Brady. I don't much like Tom Brady, but have you seen the Halloween costumes he wears? Or that video from this Thanksgiving where he dressed up in a turkey costume and jumped out of a pile of leaves to scare his kids? I have to at least give him props for that, even if I am jealous that my quarterbacks and teams don't have the championship rings that he does. On to the card!

I picked up a couple of these Cyan parallels from 2014 Press Pass from an eBay seller who posted them with a reasonable Buy It Now price. The price was reasonable enough that I dropped everything I was doing and bought them on the spot. Reasonably-priced Danica cards are getting harder to find these days because Press Pass lost the NASCAR license when they folded and no one has stepped up to make new NASCAR trading cards. That means the supply out there is all there is, and the buying pool is competing for a dwindling supply of cards. There are still deals to be had, though, and I have picked up a few cards over the last couple of months. This parallel card is numbered # 27 / 35 and comes from the In the Hot Seat subset.

The back of the card matches the base card design, with a bit of flavor text talking about how Danica has to keep racing until the race is over. It seems like every racing set has a subset or insert like this, where various racing cliches are rehashed in relation to different racers. Obviously it's a way to get another 10 cards of your sport's stars in the checklist for collectors to chase. I am hoping that Danica continues to improve in 2016 and finally makes a jump to being a consistent Top 20 or Top 15 racer. She's got some new sponsors, too, so I am looking forward to seeing what her cars look like for the new season.

Tomorrow it is back to the grindstone for me, as I have just about reached the end of my 5-day break from work. I have another week or so in my current job, and then I move around the corner of the hallway into my new position. One big perk is that I'll be moving from the land of cubicles into my own office. It's more a function of where in the building each department is seated than a real reflection of status, but I will enjoy having four walls that go all the way to the ceiling.

26 December 2015

Rainbow in the Dark 32: Revisiting 2014 Topps High Tek

It's been a little while since I acquired any new Jon Singleton cards from 2014 Topps High Tek. The cards I'm missing from the rainbow simply don't come up very often. This is one of the flashier variations, being the Blue Dots Diffractor. It looks like there is glitter embedded in the card, and it is extremely sparkly in the light. It's pretty rare, too, with this being copy # 4 / 5. Now I am just missing the various 1 / 1 variations. I think I've seen a couple of the 1 / 1 cards on eBay over the last year or so, but I didn't win any of them. I probably overpaid for this one, but the listing was set up as a Buy It Now with Best Offer and I saw that there was a competing offer, so my offer wasn't as low as it normally would have been. The seller accepted my offer pretty quickly, which I guess means my offer was too high. I'm not going to flip out over a couple of dollars. It is enough for me that I didn't pay the full asking price AND that I am the one who got the card.

We had a pretty good Christmas. Our kids mostly got LEGO kits. I watch the sales pretty hard all year, so I had piled up a fair number of Marvel, DC, and Ninjago kits in the closet. When we sat down to wrap the gifts we had a couple of kits for each of our boys, and then I remembered a LEGO stash that I'd forgotten about. That probably doubled the number of kits each boy had in his pile. One of the twins also got a drag race track for his Hot Wheels cars that announces the winning lane at the end of the race. That's been pretty good for conflict avoidance. You can't argue with the scoreboard. Toys'R'Us had a flash sale on it a couple of weeks ago, or we wouldn't have been able to sneak it into his pile.

My wife and I didn't get much as far as gifts. We got gift cards from my dad and a couple of things from my mom. I used my gift card to pay for some eBay stuff I bought. I have a hard time with holiday gifts. I get the stuff I want when it happens to pop up for sale. I never really saw the point in waiting for a certain day to get it. I guess some unopened wax would be nice to have under the tree, but that would require me to make a list and probably go out and buy it myself to make sure it's the right thing. I probably should have made a little more effort to get something for my wife, but she is a hobbyist in her own right and thus wants very specific things. And she will rarely tell me what those things are. And also I am lazy as heck and the holidays kind of sneak up on me. Mostly I'm just terrible at being a husband. We did get tickets to go see The Force Awakens on Tuesday, so that's good. I'll have to take an afternoon off from work, but as far as I know that isn't usually a bad thing.

I got to have my fun on Christmas Eve. I made up a bunch of elaborate plans to capture Santa and his reindeer and described each one to my kids. They were all dismayed by my intentions, and my eldest child was especially worried. Then I pretended that I had chased an old man out of our living room, leading the kids to believe that I had run Santa off before he could leave his presents. Luckily Santa came back after I fell asleep and remains uncaptured.

My wife made a delicious prime rib dinner with the fixings. I have been watching my calories since October and I've lost 16 pounds so far, but meals like that usually set my progress back by a few days. I am at least now down to a weight where I can comfortably pass my Army weigh-in without resorting to losing weight overnight like a wrestler trying to make weight for a meet. There are rumors that she still has pies and rolls in her plans, so I will be fighting to keep my love handles in check as we roll into the New Year.

I hope all of my readers have had a good holiday season. My mood has been up and down, but overall we're in a good place. I've spent time in other parts of the world where the things we take for granted aren't available to most folks, and it helps to have that perspective. I have shelter from the elements, (fairly) reliable transportation, steady employment, food, clean water, plumbing, garbage collection services, time and income to pursue hobbies, and a host of other benefits that have come to me mostly just because of the time and place I was born into. I've been pretty lucky overall, and I feel bad that not everyone is. There are plenty of resources to meet the basic needs of shelter, food, and water for the world, but politics and power struggles make it difficult to actually get things to people who need them. I'm not advocating Socialism or anything like that. I just think we as a human race could stand to take care of each other a little better and worry a little less about having more than the next guy.

25 December 2015

Leia Sketch Card by John Soukup

I've had this card for quite a while, having won it from an eBay seller back in October. It's a sketch card of Princess Leia by John Soukup from the 2015 Topps Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens set. You can see part of Jabba the Hutt in the background there, which leads me to wonder if this card has another piece out there somewhere. I haven't seen one, but I also haven't been looking very hard for it. I do have some pretty wide searches out there for Star Wars sketches and Soukup's work, so I would think that if one exists and comes up for sale I will at least see it.

Because I tend to sit and stew on things for months at a time, I have been thinking about how the world views Princess Leia's slave costume. It bothers me a little bit that people see the costume and say, "Oh! It's sexy Leia!" while ignoring that it is also a slave costume. It is a sexy costume, but it's not sexy because Leia felt like sexing it up that day. It's because Jabba the Hutt was a bad guy who enslaved people and dressed them up to humiliate them and show off his power. The scenes set in Jabba's palace are an important part of the Star Wars story in general and Leia's story arc in particular, and the costume deserves to be known as more than just the "Sexy Leia" costume. The costume is important in that Leia uses the chains that are a part of it to choke and kill Jabba while making her own escape. She is an active participant in the escape / rescue rather than just a damsel in distress waiting on someone else to save her. She overcomes Jabba's attempt to denigrate her and shows that she isn't defined by his attempts to control her.

Maybe I am overthinking this stuff, but as a husband and father I find myself looking at the messages that come into my home and the messages I send by my words and actions. Star Wars is going to be a part of my family's mythology, and the slave costume is part of that. I want to raise my kids to see female characters as more than eye candy. Leia is a powerful hero in the Star Wars universe, and taking a proper view of the slave costume as a symbol of Jabba's ill intentions allows the viewer to see Leia's strength and will to rise above the circumstances she finds herself in. I don't think that the slave costume needs to be whitewashed or removed from the movies. I don't deny that Carrie Fisher looks attractive in the costume. She is attractive in the other Leia costumes, too. But she also plays a character who exhibits strength, leadership, and determination. Physical attractiveness is just one of her qualities.

Sorry for the preachy post. I have conflicting feelings about the slave Leia costume and society's view of women, and I didn't just want to throw the sketch up here on my blog without some sort of commentary. I am not particularly qualified as a champion of gender politics, but I have been thinking about this stuff as I evaluate myself and the messages I send to my wife, kids, and the other people I interact with in life.

We still haven't seen The Force Awakens. It's hard to find five tickets side-by-side that aren't in the front row of the theater. It'll probably be next weekend before we get out to see it. A (former) friend of mine already spoiled the movie for me, so I figure I can wait another week to see it. The logistics of even simple things like going to the movies are much more complicated when you've got three young kids. The new Force Awakens set from Topps has added a new card to my want list, but the going price has this particular card up there in the White Whale category:

It's a sticker autograph, but that doesn't really bother me much. Time will tell if I eventually save enough money up and allocate it to getting a copy of this card, but it's the new top dog on my "If I Win the Lottery" list. It's currently trading at well over $200, so it's not one of those impulse-buy things for me. I definitely would like to add a copy to my Leia collection, though.

24 December 2015

The Die is Cast 8: A Delivery from Die-Cast Santa

Every year in December, Lionel Racing runs a 12 Days of Christmas promotion on their Facebook page. You have to enter on each day and answer the question posed in the photo above. I've entered every day for the last couple of years, and this year my entry was chosen as the Day 7 winner of a delivery from Die-Cast Santa. I didn't ask for a specific car; my only request was Danica Die-Cast! Let's see what he sent me.

Lionel switched to new boxes this year. These ones have a corner of the box and foam cut out to form a display window. This is my first one in the new style. It looks like it could be prone to damage in shipping, but I guess it's a good way to display your cars without unboxing them?

Here's the end of the box, with the sticker announcing this as the #10 GoDaddy TaxAct 2015 SS from an edition of 775 cars. But that doesn't tell the whole story of the car. Let's get it out of the box.

Here it is in the foam. I didn't have a screwdriver handy to separate the car from the foam, so I made do with what I had. It's a pretty nice color scheme. I like the angular black section on the front and green and orange are some of my favorite colors, so this is a cool car for me. The hood, roof flaps, and truck all open, and the driver's window screen can be lowered.

Inside the back window is usually where the DIN (Die-cast Identification Number) is located, but this one doesn't have a DIN. That's because it's a production sample, which as I understand it is a car from the final test run before the actual production run is made. They are identical to the retail cars outside of the missing DIN, and are considered collectible in their own right. I was pretty excited to win the contest and receive a nice Danica Patrick die-cast prize. GoDaddy is no longer sponsoring her car next year, so this is the last year for these green cars. Thanks, Lionel and Die-Cast Santa!

22 December 2015

Breaking It Down 25: More WWE Undisputed Base Cards

I've been trying to build the 2015 Topps WWE Undisputed set through TeamBreaks.com and so far I've had pretty good luck. I've had to lurk on the site when his weekly breaks are done so I can jump in and buy the base slot as soon as he posts the ones for the next week, and I've been able to get it each time. I think they've caught on to my game, though, as the price has gone up a bit since they started busting boxes. I've pulled a couple of hits from the boxes, too, but that's a different post. The Rock and Sheamus were my personal favorite cards from this batch. The Rock was always a great entertainer in the ring, and obviously he's gone on to even bigger fame in mainstream entertainment. He reminds me of basic training, as there was a guy in my platoon who had The Rock's whole routine down and he would do the whole thing in the barracks after the drill sergeants were gone for the night.

Dusty Rhodes kind of escaped me in my childhood. I may have been aware of him, but I didn't watch enough wrestling to be aware of many wrestlers outside of the really big stars who I heard about in advertising or from other kids at school. Brock Lesnar is like a real-life movie villain.

I've always liked the Big Show. In just about every fandom I have I am drawn to the outliers; the people who are much bigger or smaller than the other people (like Gheorghe Muresan, Manute Bol, and Muggsy Bogues) or who do things a different way (like R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer). In a larger-than-life sport, Big Show is even bigger than just about everyone he battles in the ring.

Trish Stratus is probably the most-recognized WWE Diva, although it's apparently been quite a while since she retired. I was thinking that JBL looks a lot nerdier in this picture than I remember him, but in looking him up I found that he kind of is a nerd, as his career outside of wrestling is financial analysis. I wonder how a financial analyst found his way into the WWE? I never liked him very much, but since he was a heel that was kind of the point.

I guess Ryback is the main guy I am aware of in this scan. I don't know much about him, though. I am mostly aware of Jimmy Uso because he and his brother, Jey, were a pretty good tag team for me when I was playing the WWE SuperCard game on my phone. It was a fun game and I enjoyed pulling all the wrestler cards and building my team, but like every other game out there it was a time sink and I eventually cut myself off from it.

I am moving into a new position at work. I spent several years in the Pay department, but moved laterally into Accounting a few months ago after I got my degree. At the time I thought there might be some upward mobility there, but things sort of closed up there. A position recently came open in Contracting with a progression that will take me about as high as I can go with my current credentials. It'll take a couple of years to climb that ladder, but after I get there a pretty big raise comes into play. I've been working for a long time at moving out of the entry-level positions in the building, and now I'm finally at a point where it's happening for me. That's pretty cool.

We got a half-day off on Wednesday to start the holiday weekend, so I put in a leave request to just make it a whole day off and make a 5-day weekend out of it. I am hoping that my kids will have a pleasant Christmas and that we can all go and see the new Star Wars movie during the break. Someone I know dropped a huge spoiler on me and I don't think I will be able to forgive them for it. I should have taken the approach that Billy did and just dropped off the map until I saw it, but I don't have that kind of dedication. I need the internet too much.

20 December 2015

Jason Kipnis Members Only

Just about any time I can find  2014 Topps Stadium Club Members Only parallel at a decent price I will grab it up. This Jason Kipnis example showed up on eBay in early December and I won it with a very low bid. He's not a superstar or anything, but he's a good enough player that this card probably should have gone for more. I guess the Jason Kipnis super-collectors' loss is my gain.

I don't have much more to post about today. December is usually a hard month for me in a lot of different areas of life, and this year has been no exception. I don't know why, but that's how it's been for about as long as I can remember. Maybe the holidays bring heightened expectations that aren't realized. Maybe the transition to the New Year makes me reflect on where I'm at compared to last year. Maybe the weather brings me down. Maybe I expect December to be bad, so I sabotage my own life in a pattern of self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't know. Eventually I will dig out of this funk and get back to my baseline.

18 December 2015

Pack(s) of the Day 115: 2014 Topps WWE Chrome

The same package that held the 2011 Topps UFC Moment of Truth pack I posted about a couple of days ago also included some WWE cards, including a couple of 2014 Topps WWE Chrome Hobby packs. I was going to stretch out these posts by posting about each pack individually, but even between the two of them I am going to have a hard time finding enough to post about. It would seem that the WWE has moved on without me, and I don't know if I'll ever catch up to it.

I at least recognize Brie Bella and Dean Ambrose. I couldn't tell you anything about them, though. Scott Stanford is someone I don't know. The Corey Graves card is an NXT insert. I think NXT is like the WWE's developmental property. Interestingly, Graves' Wikipedia entry says that he has retired from wrestling, but is still with the NXT as a color commentator. Apparently Scott Stanford is a play-by-play guy for WWE shows.

The second pack was about as exciting as the first one. I have heard Zack Ryder's name and I am somewhat familiar with CM Punk. CM Punk's card is a Refractor. Apparently Diego is the younger brother of Carlito, who is a guy I've actually seen wrestle. That about does it for those cards. I feel a little out of touch when I look at them.

The night before last my wife and I went to see the Postmodern Jukebox concert in Boise. It was pretty good. I've been a fan of their Youtube videos for a while and a fair amount of the fun translated over to the live show. I had one highlight for the night. The MC announced that they were going to do a song from the 90's about what men really feel deep in their hearts. I leaned over to my wife and said, "I bet it's the Thong Song." Then they played that song! I totally called it.

I think their current US tour is about over, but if you get a chance to go to their show or browse their Youtube catalog you should do it.

The new Star Wars movie is out. I haven't seen it yet, but I really want to. Hopefully I will be able to avoid spoilers until I work out a way to see it, but I imagine that some parts of the movie will get spoiled for me in the near future as people are overcome by the urge to discuss it in the open.

16 December 2015

At the Trade Deadline 40: Holiday Greetings from Dawg Day Cards

Like many people across the card-blogging landscape, I received a Christmas card in the mail from Angus of the Dawg Day Cards blog. He bears the unfortunate burden of being a Cleveland Browns fan, but in between all the Johnny Manziel drama he found time to send out tons of holiday cheer to other bloggers. I am actually quite the Cleveland fan myself this year, as members of the team (TE Gary Barnidge, WR Travis Benjamin, and RB Duke Johnson Jr.) have played key roles on my fantasy football roster at different times this year, a roster that just made it into the second round of the playoffs with a good chance at advancing to my office league's championship game.

Tucked inside a smaller envelope within the Christmas card were three different-sized football cards featuring my favorite NFL team, the Denver Broncos. First up is a 1986 McDonald's All-Star Team tear-off card featuring DE Rulon Jones. In the middle is a standard-sized 1996 Playoff Absolute football card of the legendary man-horse, John Elway. And on the right is a 1989 Panini American Football sticker of G Keith Bishop. I love those classic Denver Broncos uniforms. They are a thing of beauty.

These six Guardians of the Galaxy cards were shrink-wrapped together in a set, but I opened up the package so I could see them all. I enjoyed the Guardians of the Galaxy movie quite a bit, but I haven't watched the Disney XD cartoon that these cards are advertising.

Some of the coolest cards in this package were these odd-ball cards of Dale Earnhardt. Produced in 1996 by Pinnacle, they carry Sun-Drop branding. Sun-Drop is apparently a citrus soda popular in the southern United States. Who knew? The cards are numbered SD1, SD2, and SD3 and the backs feature a photo of Dale Earnhardt drinking from a Sun-Drop cup. I'm a big fan of this set.

Closing things out are a couple of trading cards put out by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a group that helps artists and others defend free speech in comics. The cards feature different legal cases that the CBLDF has participated in. I have thought about picking up a box of these from time to time because there are some okay sketch cards in the product, but I've never actually pulled the trigger on a purchase.

This was an awesome batch of cards. I am surprised that so much different stuff was able to fit inside the envelope. It touched on many of my personal collections and interests, and I had a good time looking through the cards and researching the stuff that was new to me. Thanks, Angus!

15 December 2015

Pack of the Day 114: 2011 Topps UFC Moment of Truth

My last package from TeamBreaks.com included a few unopened packs of cards as a bonus, including a Hobby pack of 2011 Topps UFC Moment of Truth. The front of the pack says each pack contains 10 cards, but that packs with a relic card might contain fewer cards. This pack felt pretty thick, so I thought it might be one with a hit inside. 2011 was a few years ago, so we'll see if I recognize any of these fighters.

Matt Hughes retired a few years ago, having held and defended the Welterweight title several times. Struve is still active, although recently he has lost more than he has won. The dude is 7 feet tall! It's surprising that anyone could even hit him in the face, which is probably why so many of his fights are described as ending with wrestling. People have to grapple / climb him to get to his face. The Gold parallels are one per pack.

The only name here among the base cards that rings a bell is Matt Mitrione, maybe because he spent some time as a pro football player? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just making things up now. I did recognize Jim Miller on Kamal Shalorus' card there in the upper left. Miller would go on to win that fight in the 3rd round. The card on the bottom right is a Showdown Shots insert featuring Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn. Frankie Edgar beat Chad Mendes this weekend and wants to fight Conor McGregor next if he can politick his way into making it happen. BJ Penn is retired and was featured a couple of posts ago. Edgar beat Penn on three separate occasions.

Sure enough, this pack contained a relic card, a Fighter Gear Relic Card of Frank Mir. He was the Heavyweight champion once in 2004 and the interim champion in 2008, and he had some pretty significant battles with famous WWE and MMA star Brock Lesnar. He is still ranked as the # 10 fighter in the UFC Heavyweight rankings, but he's lost 5 of his last 7 fights dating back to 2012. He's wearing a pretty cool shirt in the picture, but the swatch embedded in the card is just a plain white piece of fabric. The card is numbered # 48 / 88 which makes it an Onyx parallel, the most common variation.

That does it for this pack. I was kind of interested to see what these cards looked like, as one of the deals in the Dave & Adam's Black Friday sale was for boxes of this product. The only thing holding the value down on this set is that it predates the inclusion of women on the UFC roster. A visit to eBay or the breaker channels will tell you that cards featuring the female fighters do brisk business and are in high demand. Some of the more successful male fighters also draw some dollars, especially after a big fight, but it seems like the chat on the online breaker channels is full of demand for hit cards from the female divisions. But that's probably a discussion for another day.

14 December 2015

At the Trade Deadline 39: An Astros Trio from Jaybarkerfan's Junk (Including a Historic First in My Collection!)

1970 Kellogg's Jim Wynn, 1976 Topps Wilbur Howard, 2015 Bowman Prospects Blue Andrew Thurman # 245 / 500
I recently got some cards in the mail from Jaybarkerfan, owner of the Jaybarkerfan's Junk blog. He announced that he was in a giving mood for the holidays, and anyone who sent him a message would receive something in the mail. Nothing brings readers in like a card giveaway, and I fired off a message as quickly as I could. He sent me some Astros from before I was born, as well as an Astro / Braves prospect from just last year.

The Jim Wynn Kellogg's card is the historic first mentioned in the title, as it is the first Kellogg's card in my collection. I have seen plenty of them on the blogs, but until now I have never held one in person. Now I can say that I've joined the Kellogg's club! It's not quite as exclusive as the T206 club, but I've always thought those guys were a bit stuffy anyway.

That 1976 Topps Wilbur Howard card in the center features one of the greatest baseball uniforms ever, as well as a beautiful pink / orange border combo. It's like a big glass of tropical fruit juice in cardboard form. It's like opening a 2-pack of Starburst candies to find Pink and Orange which is the second-best combination, only losing out to the king Pink - Red combo. I am disqualifying the Red - Red and Pink - Pink packages for being too homogeneous, although they would still be preferable to any combination involving Yellow. Yellow - Yellow and Orange - Yellow are the packages you give to your kids because they don't know any better.

Closing things out is a relative newcomer, and the first card that was produced after my birth. It's a 2014 Bowman Prospects Blue parallel of former Astros prospect Andrew Thurman, who was sent to the Braves in the Evan Gattis deal. This past May he was injured when the Carolina Mudcats team bus rolled over. He was back on the mound in July, but his numbers suffered  for the rest of the season. I am not sure if the effects of the wreck contributed to that.

This was a fun batch of cards, and I was happy to join the Kellogg's club as well as to get some baseball-themed cardboard in the mail. My focus has been elsewhere lately, so I haven't been picking up as many baseball cards recently as I have in the past. Thanks, jaybarkerfan!

13 December 2015

Contested Shots 12: Asking 20 Questions

Any readers I have left might get burned out on UFC and WWE stuff pretty soon, but that's what I've got coming in at the moment and so that's what I'll be posting about. I've got some baseball, football, and Star Wars stuff in my scan folder, too, but there isn't really enough of it to make a huge dent.

The online breaker I've been buying spots from lately held a 20 Questions contest in his chat feed. He wrote down a fighter name on a piece of paper and then the chat room as a whole got to ask 20 yes / no questions to see if they could guess who the fighter was. I know almost nothing about the UFC, but I used my Google-fu and won one of the contests. This BJ Penn Museum Collection Triple Relic from 2015 Topps UFC Knockout was my prize. It's a pretty cool card and it features one of the best MMA fighters in UFC history. It's serially-numbered # 35 / 50. I was a total failure for the rest of the 20 Questions contests but for one shining moment I was a big winner, and no one can take that away from me.

I watched all of UFC 194 last night, including the Early Prelims, the Prelims, and the Main Card. It was a pretty good show overall, although with 12 different fights some will be better than others. The UFC Pick-Em fantasy game really helps to keep me engaged even during fights that aren't too exciting because it causes me to invest in a fighter during the bout. I didn't do all that great with my picks, but I got 6 / 12 right with 3 perfect picks and one point bonus for correctly picking a close match-up.

The two fights at the end of the night were for titles, but I'm not sure they lived up to all the hype. First up was a Middleweight fight between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold. It got Fight of the Night honors (a money bonus to the participants), but I thought the defending champion (Weidman) looked off the whole fight, like he wasn't really into it. The match went into the 4th round but it was clearly over near the end of the 3rd, with Weidman bleeding all over the place. The last fight was a super-hyped match between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, who has held the Featherweight title since the Featherweight division in UFC was created. The fight lasted 13 seconds, as Aldo ran straight into McGregor's left hand and got knocked out immediately. This match had been hyped forever, and it was over immediately. It was certainly a shocking finish, but not much fun to watch. 

Several of the other matches were really good, in my opinion. I particularly enjoyed the Urijah Faber - Frankie Saenz battle, the Ronaldo Souza - Yoel Romero bout, Max Holloway versus Jeremy Stephens, Tecia Torres unleashing what appeared to be a 300-punch combo on Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (even though I had Jones-Lybarger picked to win), Leonardo Santos knocking out Kevin Lee, as well as Court McGee - Marcio Alexandre in the Early Prelims. I like seeing knockouts, but it seems like many of my favorite matches wind up being decided by the judges. I guess often the early KO's and submissions seem kind of lucky to me. Sometimes in those cases the loser is just clearly overmatched, like in the Joe Proctor - Magomed Mustafaev matchup where Proctor was just clearly the inferior fighter and got blasted early on. Maybe I just like to see each fighter get a chance to show what they can do. Then again, there are people whose fighting styles necessitate early victories because they are energy-intensive and prone to wearing out if a fight goes too long. I guess I just prefer fights that aren't too one-sided.

I've been thinking of a few ways to define my UFC card collection and decide what exactly to collect, but I haven't really fleshed out any of those plans. One way is just the traditional method of picking a few favorite fighters and chasing their cards. I could focus on sets, but for me set collecting has always been kind of a side thing. One idea I had last night was to select a few matches from each live event I watch and try to collect a card from each of the participants. Maybe I could build one nine-pocket page from each event and choose three matches that stand out to me. A card for the winner could go on the left of a row, a note about the match and the results could go in the middle, and the loser's card could go on the right. That might be fun, but I wonder if I might lose interest sometimes because the time between the fights and accumulating the cards would be too great? It's an idea.

12 December 2015

At the Trade Deadline 38: The Prowling Cat Cleans Out His Clutter, and I'm Reaping All the Benefits, Part 3

This closes out the package I received as part of The Prowling Cat's closet-cleaning. The first item was a Hostess baseball card set, the second was a set of zoo animals, and this third item is a bit of memorabilia given away at a Seattle Mariners game in 2013. It's a Salute to Armed Forces Night coin that is shaped like a baseball diamond with the date and Mariners logo on one side and a flag theme with a list of the military services on the other.

It is modeled after the challenge coins that are a tradition in the military. They are usually created by the leadership of a specific unit and handed out either for some kind of exemplary performance or as a morale booster during leadership visits. I've accumulated a number of coins over the last fifteen years as a member of the Idaho Army National Guard. Off the top of my head I can recall the circumstances surrounding about 75% of my coins, and with a little bit of thinking I could probably remember most of the rest, too. It makes for a nice little career highlight reel.

They are called challenge coins because theoretically there is an informal process in which someone at a bar or other gathering produces their coin and by doing so challenges others in the group to also produce their coins. Anyone who does not produce their coin must buy the drinks, but if everyone can produce their coin the challenger must buy the drinks. They can also be trumped by anyone who produces a higher-ranking coin (a coin given by a Brigade command as opposed to a coin given out by a Company command, for example). I've heard a lot of discussion about this sort of thing over the years, but I've never seen anyone actually perform a challenge in this way. In most cases I think someone attempting to do so at the bar would be seen as a big douche for parading his coin around and he would quickly put it away to avoid further ridicule. Maybe that kind of stuff is a bigger deal among active duty folks.

Anyway, I thought that the Mariners coin would be a nice addition to my coin collection, so I stepped in and claimed it. I haven't yet added it to my display, though, because I am reluctant to bust it out of the packaging. For the most part I have overcome my urge to leave collectibles in their packages, but every so often I struggle with that part of the collector mentality. Thank you, Prowling Cat, for the awesome clutter-clearing package! I have begun gathering things to send in a return package, which I hope will live up to what you have sent my way.

11 December 2015

Breaking it Down 25: Some UFC Stuff from TeamBreaks.com

On the same night I got all the WWE Undisputed stuff I posted a couple of days ago, I grabbed a couple of fighter spots and a base card spot in some UFC breaks. I am not a huge UFC fan, but I follow some of the big stories and I am always looking for something new to add to my cardboard collections. The site for this breaker is TeamBreaks.com. It appears to be a one-man operation and he focuses mostly on UFC breaks, although he does a smattering of other stuff. I actually participated in one of his other breaks a long time ago, but hadn't really checked back in for a while until now. That card up top is a Francisco Rivera autograph relic card I got from a 2014 Topps UFC Bloodlines break. I got a random fighter slot, so the list was randomized and each slot got four fighter names assigned to them. If hits got pulled for any of those names, you got them. There was also a base card  /inserts slot available for any cards not considered as hits..

His site has a few draws for me. One is that he does cheap breaks. I am not sure how he makes any money, but maybe that's not his overall goal. He breaks stuff in small enough increments that you can get a random fighter spot for a couple of dollars and have a chance at something. I may not hit anything, but that's easier to justify on a $2 fighter slot than it is on a $20-80 team slot on most MBL / NFL / NBA / NHL breaks. At least I get to sit and watch cool cards get opened for half an hour or more. Second is that it seems like there aren't a lot of people busting the stuff he does. I can find a fairly large number of people busting any of the main sports, but I haven't run into a lot of UFC or wrestling breakers. They might be out there somewhere, but I haven't run into them. Third, he does quite a few giveaways and promotions, so even if you don't get a hit you might wind up with something. Fourth, he isn't super-annoying to listen to on his video feeds. My only complaint in that department is that he and / or the chat feed get a little off-color from time to time, so headphones are required when my kids are running around.

The other breaks I got into were all for 2015 Topps UFC Champions. In the bigger 6-box break I got a few fighter slots. My only hit card was this Jessamyn Duke autograph. There might have been more hits to go around, but most of the hits were doubled up across the boxes, so most of the autographs hit in the first half of the break were pulled again in the second half of the break. I've got a couple of other Duke cards, so I guess you can call it a PC now.

I also got this Black parallel of Sara McMann. Most of the parallels in Topps UFC products feature serial numbers with a lot of 8's in them, because UFC fights happen in an octagonal cage. So instead of being numbered out of # / 200, these Black parallels are numbered # / 188. This one is copy # 061 / 188. Some of the rarer parallels are # / 8.

There are also serial-numbered cards with more traditional numbering, like this Jessamyn Duke Gold numbered # 08 / 25. It's probably the best card I got in the break. The card backs are pretty light on statistics, instead usually including a brief write-up of how the fighter's 2014 went. They also include height, weight, training location, weight class, and the fighter's Twitter handle. I would be happier if they included at least win-loss records or titles held or Bowman-like graphics of wins by type or strike percentage or something.

I also had the base card slot from one box of 2015 UFC Champions. I got 170 / 200 base cards toward a complete set, with 7 doubles. That's pretty decent collation. While flipping through the stack I saw something interesting on Stephen Thompson's base card. I cropped the picture down a little on the right for a better look. It's the Blowout Cards store logo! The only online mentions I could find about Blowout sponsoring fighters come from the 2010-2012 time frame, but this picture is from a bout in July of 2015 so they must have continued the practice. The UFC has a (relatively) new sponsorship deal with Reebok now which did away with most / all of the individual fighter sponsors in favor of a large agreement with payouts based on fighter rankings and official merchandise sales. I am not sure when it took effect, though, or whether it covers t-shirts worn after a fight.

I'm not sure where this little foray into MMA cards will take me. I've been digging around on the UFC website a bit lately, learning about the fighters and weight classes and whatnot. I got a free trial to their online streaming service and watched the Fight Night card last night, which had twelve different fights. I don't know a whole lot as far as technical details, but the fights were interesting and it was usually pretty apparent to me who was in control at any given time. There were some pretty dramatic reversals, though, so you couldn't always tell who would win in the end. It just takes one or two good hits or a grappling mistake for things to get turned around. I found it pretty entertaining. The main event between Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant was pretty epic, but there weren't really any fights that didn't hold my interest except for one that ended within a few seconds due to an accidental eye poke that required medical attention.

One thing that helped keep me engaged in each fight was the UFC Fantasy Pick 'Em game, which has you pick the winner, the round in which the victory was won, and the type of victory. There are different bonus points that can be won, too, like picking an underdog that wins or for picking a title fight correctly. I didn't do too well in the game, but I got 5 / 12 fights right, with 1 bonus for an underdog and 2 perfect picks (getting the round and type of win right in addition to picking the winner).

I've found a few fighters who I might start small PCs for, so we'll see how that goes. There doesn't seem to be a huge market for UFC trading cards, but there must be a few people out there buying this stuff. The speculators come out in droves whenever a big event goes down, and there are a few fighters who seem to be popular no matter what. Combat sports are a different animal than the usual sports that people collect cards from. The major sports leagues all have a pretty consistent schedule, with each team playing a certain amount of games per year against a specific group of opponents. That means that a fan can count on seeing their favorite players / teams a certain number of times in a given year. Fighters, whether in UFC or boxing, don't have that predictability. A fighter might have 5 bouts in a year or they might go many months or more than a year between fights. It is all so political that even a really good fighter might never have a chance at a title belt depending on what the promoters want to schedule. In other sports you know that if you win enough games to win your division you are going to get a shot at a championship in the playoffs. A fighter doesn't get that guarantee, because the promoters are looking to make the most money, not necessarily to give the best fighters a shot at a belt. Winning all your fights doesn't necessarily guarantee a shot at a belt, unless the promoters feel they can sell tickets to that show.

I've been a little hesitant to get into this stuff, in large part because most of the real-life people I know who are fans of MMA are not people I get along with. I don't really want to associate myself with them. What really pulled me into it in the end was the meteoric rise of Ronda Rousey, which kind of spear-headed a public acceptance of the sport. I guess that makes me a bandwagon fan, but if you really stick to a strict definition of bandwagoning there can only be one original fan of anything, and that makes everyone a bandwagoner of one kind or another. I'll stick with it for a while and see where it goes. At the very least it adds a little more variety to my card collection.