30 September 2016

A Star Wars Sketch Card and Decorating the Walls of My Office

I'm going to keep the sketch card theme rolling with a Star Wars sketch by artist John Soukup, whose work has been featured a lot on this blog. 

This card illustrates the briefing room scene in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope prior to the Battle of Yavin, which led to the destruction of the first Death Star. The sketch comes from the 2013 Topps Star Wars Galactic Files: Series 2 set.

I recognized the scene right away when I saw the card, but here is a screencap from the film. This is the part where they talk about a weak point they've found in the Death Star's defenses, a thermal exhaust port that is vulnerable to a torpedo attack that could lead to a chain reaction that would destroy the base.

I am a pretty big fan of Soukup's work, and I recently also acquired a full-size painting of his for my new office at work. It's a pretty big painting, and I've had plenty of compliments on it from my coworkers. This cell phone picture sucks some of the color out of the painting, which is unfortunate. I have it hanging in front of my desk so I can look at it when I need to zone out for a second. That flame in the middle of the painting glows in the dark.

I also finally hung up some prints we bought from artist Mike Maydak at the Emerald City Comic Con in 2012. They depict the three characters my kids are named after. I don't know what I'll do if we ever have another kid. I guess I'll have to track him down and see if he's got a print of whatever character's name we come up with. He's got some cool stuff. It would be really neat to snag one of his original paintings, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

29 September 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy Hulk Sketch by Brian DeGuire

I've been thinking about doing another Sketch Card Week, but it's hard to post only sketch cards for a whole week. Sometimes there are other things I want to post, but I feel obligated to keep posting sketch cards because it's a themed week. You can't tie me down like that.

I haven't exactly been silent on the blog in September, but I've had a couple gaps in posting. Our fiscal year ends on 30 September, so in my current job this is a pretty busy time for us. I've had just one full day off since some time in late August, and like 28 hours of comp time in the last week. I am done with all of my heavy work for now, and the last couple days of the month should be pretty light. In another couple of weeks things will pick back up again as we follow up on all the stuff we did this month, but for now it's a bit of a break.

The Astros were in the thick of the Wild Card race, just needing to close out strong against the Angels and Mariners to have a pretty good shot at a Wild Card spot. So of course they fell flat on their faces. They didn't lose every game, but they've lost enough to fall out of the race. As of tonight (Wednesday) there is like a one in a zillion scenario in which they still make it, but I am assuming that by tomorrow night that will be over with and they will be officially eliminated.

And now. the sketch card of the day.

This one depicts Marvel character Hulk by artist Brian DeGuire. I've been watching DeGuire's art cards ever since I saw the stained glass designs he did for his Star Wars Masterwork sketches, but this was the first piece of his art that I landed for my collection. It comes from the Upper Deck Guardians of the Galaxy set that was released in 2014. I think this one is a pretty cool sketch, and I really like DeGuire's depiction of the Hulk.

We named all three of our sons after Marvel comic book characters, and Bruce Banner, Hulk's alter ego was the name we chose for one of our twins. The twins are 5 years old now, and Bruce's temper sometimes rivals that of his big green namesake. I guess we should have named him after the Jolly Green Giant.

28 September 2016

A Big eBay Score Leaves Me Feeling Guilty

I've been gathering up Members Only parallels from 2014 Topps Stadium Club pretty much since the product released. I've mentioned more than once that I can usually only grab semi-stars and commons from this set, as the print run on these was rumored to be less than 10 copies of each card. Well, a while back the Bryce Harper card from the set popped up on eBay with a $0.01 starting price and free shipping (from Canada).

If I recall correctly, I put in a bid that was around the price of a blaster box, fully expecting to be outbid at some point before the auction ended. After 7 total bids, the auction closed with me winning for a whopping $0.72 (with free shipping). That was pretty exciting, but I wondered if the seller would even send the card. I also felt a little guilty about winning such a scarce card of a legitimate superstar.

To ease my guilty feelings, I checked out the seller's other auctions to see if there was anything I could pick up to at least cover the shipping cost. They had quite a few Buy It Now listings that I added to my cart, including this Expos sticker from Panini.

I just grabbed an assortment of random stuff that interested me. The seller didn't have much that I really 'need,' so I went after names I recognize and shiny/die-cut stuff. Apparently I hit the Bowman Platinum pretty hard, with that Segura up there and the die-cut Vogelbach and Goldschmidt inserts. I also snagged a Topps Chrome insert of Johnny Cueto, a Phillie Phanatic from Opening Day, and a base card of R.A. Dickey.

These extra cards probably covered at least the cost of shipping plus eBay fees with a couple of dollars left over, so I can sleep a little easier. I was honestly kind of surprised that the seller shipped the Bryce Harper card. I guess I've spent too much time on the Blowout forums lately, where there are new threads every day about deals gone wrong. I probably couldn't have found much fault with the seller if they had merely cancelled the sale, but I am glad to add the Harper as the centerpiece of my 2014 Topps Stadium Club Members Only collection.

23 September 2016

Contested Shots 15: A Preferred Prize from Panini

Every few weeks, the official Panini blog, The Knight's Lance, holds a 'Where Is It?' contest. They provide a link to several photo galleries where they have hidden a handful of logos in among the pictures. The challenge is to find all of the hidden logos and leave a comment with the answers by the deadline, usually two or three days out. Lately it seems like there have been between 5 and 15 prizes given away with around 125 participants, so the odds are pretty good.

In March I won an Odell Beckham Jr. relic card from National Treasures Football. In the most recent contest I won a box of 2015-16 Panini Preferred Basketball. It arrived today, and I had a hard time keeping myself from pretending to be sick so I could leave work early.

This is one of those high-end trading card products that I normally couldn't just go out and buy. Both Dave & Adam's Card World and Blowout Cards have these on sale for $205.95 as of this writing. Each box contains 2 packs with 2 cards. The wording on the side of the box says, "Find 2 on-card autographs numbered to 99 or less and 2 memorabilia booklets in every box, on average!"

Here are the two packs. They are relatively shiny and rather thick, since they each contain a booklet card and another card.

Here is one of the booklets I got. It's a Playbook Rookie Jumbo Relics card of Jahlil Okafor. He's one of the recent big-name draft picks going to the black hole that is the Philadelphia 76ers. It's a pretty cool booklet, numbered # 071 / 199. It is the base version, with very rare Prime and Super Prime versions available for some players.

My second booklet is also a Playbook Rookie Jumbo Relics base version featuring Jazz forward Trey Lyles. He's not necessarily a big name, and I don't think the Jazz have really had a superstar player since Karl Malone and John Stockton left the team. This one is numbered # 132 / 199.

My first on-card autograph is Milwaukee Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn. This isn't the greatest pull in the world, but it's on-card and numbered # 59 /99. So far the eBay value on this box of cards is around $25, with the majority of that being tied up in the Jahlil Okafor booklet. Luckily for me, this was a contest prize, so I am playing with house money. 

My final card in the box is a pretty darn good one, a Silhouettes Prime Autograph of Grant Hill. It's numbered # 17 / 25 and has an on-card autograph and a multi-colored relic swatch with a bit of patchwork in the upper right corner of the window as well as a little bit of patch peeking out behind Hill's right shoulder. Grant Hill was one of my PC players when I was young and heavily into basketball cards, so I am tempted to keep this card in my collection.

Based on my hasty calculations, this card single-handedly brought this box from 'big loser' to 'average,' based on an acquisition cost of $206. The first three cards in the box are worth about $25 total, or just over 12% of the box cost. Based on the average of all four eBay sales for this card, I brought the box total up to $173 in cards, or 84% of the box cost. Depending on sales, you could wind up winning or losing on the $206 price, with losing a few dollars being the most likely outcome. I know collecting isn't all about numbers (I know I'm not getting rich off of this hobby), but I like to gauge how well a box lives up to its price tag. I am glad that the big hit in the box happens to be a PC guy for me.

I think it's pretty nifty that Panini runs these contests. I enjoy the scavenger hunts quite a bit, and thirty minutes to an hour of my time searching through card galleries has been a decent use of my time so far. It's not like I wouldn't be looking at cards online anyway. Thank you to Panini and Tracy Hackler for running these contests!

20 September 2016

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go, I wanna be sedated!

There was a period of time when my family got really into the television show 24. I was out of the house by then, but I remember watching all or part of a couple seasons. I've never been much good at watching a show and keeping up with the seasons and episodes. I thought the show was pretty cool, though, even if it did really stretch the boundaries of belief most of the time. I also missed quite a few episodes, so I was never 100% sure what was going on.

One thing I was sure of was that Chloe O'Brian, as played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, was my favorite character. I saw this relic card from the 24: Season 4 trading card set put out by Artbox in 2006 on a sales thread in the Blowout Cards forum and I picked it up as part of a lot with the Christopher McDonald Star Trek autograph I showed a while back. These things are pretty scarce nowadays, so I was happy to add one to my card collection. One interesting note I discovered while researching this card is that different cards spell the character's last name differently. Sometimes she is O'Brian, and sometimes she is O'Brien. The IMDB page for the show lists her name as O'Brian.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this card was serially-numbered, being copy # 010 / 500. That print run of 500 copies makes it the most numerous relic in the product, according to Jeff Allender's House of Checklists. I'd still like to pick up one of her autographs from one of the 24 trading card sets, but the price tag on the few that are available has put me off of that idea for now.

19 September 2016

Pack of the Day 142: Hobby Box of 2016 Topps Star Wars Evolution

My recent order from Blowout Cards included some Star Wars cards in the form of a Hobby box of 2016 Topps Star Wars Evolution. I bought a couple uneventful packs of this product while I was in Ohio in July/August. I was hoping for something a little better than uneventful with this box.

Each box promises two hits, which can include manu-patches, autographs, and sketch cards. There are also a couple of rare inserts and some rare parallels.

Here are the pack odds and the No Purchase Necessary (NPN) information, for those who are into that kind of things. In addition to the two hits and base cards, you can expect a dozen Blue parallels, two Purple parallels, one Stained Glass Pairings insert, a bevy of other inserts, and an outside shot at something more rare, like a 1:75 Lenticular Morph card or a 1:375 Short-Printed Base Card.

Starting with the base cards, I got a full set of 100 cards along with 47 doubles. There were no triples in the box. These cards are all mirror foil, so they are basically fingerprint and dust magnets. The cards follow the evolution of each character, with bigger names getting more cards. A relatively minor character might get just two cards, but major characters like Leia up there gets six cards in the checklist.

I got twelve Blue parallels in the box, which is right in line with the 1:3 packs odds on them. The parallel cards look a little more obvious in-hand than in the scans. This gives you a little better look at some different characters from the set.

I also got the two expected Purple parallels in my box of cards. I think I did all right as far as characters go, with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jabba the Hutt. 

I got 12 of these Evolution of Ships & Vehicles inserts in the box. There are some pretty cool ones in here, with parallels drawn between films and characters.

I got six of the Evolution of Star Wars Comics inserts. They are pretty cool, featuring covers from different Star Wars comics over the years.

I got three Evolution of the Lightsaber inserts. They are all right, but I think I'd rather have pulled some of the other cards in the checklist. Kylo Ren's lightsaber was a pretty big deal during the run-up to The Force Awakens.

My Stained Glass Pairings card is probably my favorite of the checklist, with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia appearing together on the acetate card. I like this insert set. It's really cool.

My first hit was this manufactured Flag Patch card of First Order Stormtroopers. It's not the greatest hit ever, but it's at least a Blue parallel with 1:151 seeding. It's numbered # 13 / 50. 

My final hit of the box is of the break-saving variety. The box price on this product started out pretty high, but box prices have fallen precipitously in the months since release and I got a pretty good deal on the box, but I still like to feel like I came out 'ahead' on a break.

This hit is a Magenta Printing Plate Autograph of Barbara Goodson as Mother Talzin. Looking at her IMDB, Goodson has done voice work in just about everything, but one of her most recognizable roles might be as the voice of Power Rangers villain Rita Repulsa from 1993-1998. Pretty cool stuff. As cool as this card is, I'll probably wind up selling this one to recoup a portion of the money I spent on this shipment.

Overall this is a pretty nice product. It probably wasn't worth the asking price at the original going rate, but at the $50/box or so price it's a decent break. There's still a good chance that you don't get enough cardboard to pay for the box, but there are some pretty good hits in the product as well, and the SP base cards and Morph inserts sell pretty well.

18 September 2016

2016 Panini The National Danica Patrick - Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400

Panini usually puts out a couple of card sets tied to The National Sports Collectors Convention (The National for short). This year's set included NASCAR cards, including cards for Danica Patrick. As usual, there are about 65,000 parallels, but so far all I've got is the base card. 

It's got a pretty basic design. I don't really have much to say about it. The front features your usual posed shot with arms crossed, and the back has the door number, another nameplate, and a short description of a race Danica placed 16th in. It is nice to be getting a few cards featuring her Nature's Bakery sponsorship, although I have to admit I miss the old GoDaddy green sometimes. Nature's Bakery does seem like a better sponsor for her now, though.

Today's race was the Nickelodeon-sponsored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. in Joliet, Illinois. Danica drove a special car featuring April O'Neil, one of the Turtles' allies. I lifted the picture from the linked article.

Danica started the TMNT 400 in 25th place, bringing her average start at the track to 26.40. She wasn't able to move up much in the field, finishing in 24th place, slightly worse than her career average 22.80 finish at the track.

17 September 2016

Seeking Redemption 19: A Framed Mini with No Frame

Way back in early November of 2013 I won a box of 2013 Topps Archives Baseball cards at my local card shop's anniversary party. In that box I pulled a redemption card for a 2013 Topps Archives Framed 1973 Mini Auto of Frank Robinson. Yesterday it was finally delivered to my house, after nearly three years of waiting.

In the envelope was that letter, letting me know that Topps would not be putting frames on the Frank Robinson Framed Mini Auto, so I shouldn't be expecting that. They also let me know that they were including a bonus card because I had waited so long on this redemption.

Here's what the card looks like. It's pretty cool, I guess, although Robinson kind of ran out of room there at the end of his signature. The card is hand-numbered # 24 / 25. It's a weird size, too. It's smaller than a regular mini card, but bigger than a tobacco-size mini. I think this card would look a lot nicer in a frame. I feel like I should devote more words to this card since I waited so long for it, but I don't really have much else to say. I do like the 1973 Topps card design. At one point I started a 1973 Topps set build, but didn't get much further than buying one card lot before I moved on to other things.

Here is the bonus card that Topps included in the envelope. It's a relic card of Carlos Gonzalez from 2014 Topps Mini Baseball. It's an okay card, and the relic swatch at least has a pinstripe in it to keep it from being another plain white piece of cloth.

So that's the end of that redemption journey. I've currently only got one redemption outstanding now, a Kawhi Leonard autograph from Panini that I've had in the system for nearly three years now. The card was actually made a couple of months ago, but I guess they only sent some of them out. I wasn't one of the lucky few who received their copy of the card.

14 September 2016

Pack of the Day 141: Another Pack of 2016 Topps WWE Undisputed

I think I mentioned the other day that I was postponing a Sketch Card Week because I had some cool stuff coming in this week that I wanted to show off. This pack of 2016 Topps WWE Undisputed is part of that stuff, but it honestly isn't that exciting. The one good thing about it is that it's only got 5 cards in it. I am short on time and I'm a little short on patience today, so I should be able to blow through this pretty quickly and move on to bigger and better things tomorrow. I was browsing Blowout Cards and noticed that a couple of things I am interested in were on sale, so I put an order together. Packs of WWE Undisputed were not on sale, but I added one to my cart just to see what I might pull. There are 5 cards per pack, with one guaranteed hit.

The pack contained 2 base cards and an NXT Prospects insert. I guess maybe the WWE has passed me by, as none of these folks really strike a chord with me. I admittedly haven't watched a lot of WWE since I was in high school. There is a lot of other stuff competing for my attention. 

The parallel in the pack is this Blue NXT card of Finn Balor. It's a pretty nice-looking card, although for the life of me I would call the color in-hand Purple a lot sooner than I would call it Blue. But the pack odds don't list a Purple parallel, so it must be Blue. These are a 1:48 pack find, and this one is numbered # 14 / 25. 

Last time I posted about this product, I mentioned that the relic cards look stupid because they have a big blank spot on the front so they can slap an autograph sticker on them without tweaking the design at all for relic autos. I stand by that assessment. This card looks cheap and dumb. The relic swatch is actually a neon yellow color, but like some highlighters it doesn't come through in copies or scans. I am fed up with a great many things tonight, so I am not bothering to take a picture of it so you can see the relic swatch. I don't have anything against Sin Cara. He's just a wrestler I don't have a lot of familiarity with, and the design on these cards is uninspired. It is numbered # 071 / 175. I can't even find pack odds for these. I guess the assumption is that if you don't pull something else as a hit, you get one of these. Or I just can't read that tiny print effectively.

Well, there's the pack. It wasn't a terrible pack because of that Finn Balor parallel, but it certainly wasn't as good as the first pack I opened. I just don't like these relic cards. We've seen similar designs in the various baseball products, so this isn't new. I just don't like it. I hope that tomorrow will be a better day.