30 November 2016

Failure to Launch in Utah

One of the first things I did when I learned that I'd need to do some job training in Utah in November was look at the Utah Jazz schedule to see if they were playing the Houston Rockets during my trip. They happened to have a game last night, and I got myself a ticket and boarded the train (didn't want to deal with driving/parking) for a ride into Salt Lake City. I actually missed my first train by about two minutes (curse you, traffic lights and slow pedestrians!), but I still got to the arena in time to find my seat before tip-off. I didn't have a great seat for this one, but it was cheap and I still had a good view of the court and the Jumbotron. I could have done without the people behind me. The girl behind and to the left kept putting her feet on the back of the seat next to me, and I heard the guy directly behind me whisper to her, "If that guy (meaning me) weren't here, I could put my feet up." He compromised by sticking his feet out beside my head every thirty seconds and wiggling them in my peripheral vision. It was distracting at times, but at least I wasn't hemmed in on both sides by people I didn't know. I had the aisle on one side and a couple of open seats on the other.

The Rockets started out pretty well, jumping out to a lead at the start of the game, but they failed to play defense and their offense went extremely cold, and the Jazz caught up and were up by 9 by the end of the first quarter. The Jazz spent most of the game up by double digits, and the Rockets never even threatened to get back into it, finally losing the game 101-120. James Harden is tough to watch, and sometimes I wish the Rockets would build a new roster with a different centerpiece. It looked like the other players on the team actively avoided interacting with him (like when he was at the foul line and wound up high-fiving the air because no one stepped in to reciprocate), and even I was groaning at some of his attempts to draw foul calls from the refs.

This Rudy Gobert block of Nene was probably the play of the night. The arena just blew up when it happened, and any spirit the Rockets had left disappeared. Even though I was unhappy about the final result, I had a good time and I was happy to attend my second-ever live NBA game. I don't know if I will make it to any more Jazz games while I'm here in Utah, but I can think of worse ways to spend an evening.

28 November 2016

A Postal Relic from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

I disappeared for a few days there. It was unintentional, but I just didn't get around to posting. Wednesday was my birthday, but it was also the day before I left the office for a while, so I stayed a little late and tried to get some things caught up. My dad stopped by my office and dropped off a birthday card. My family had steak for dinner and my wife and kids sang to me.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. Three of my sisters live in the same town as me, and my other sister drove out with her family, so we got five of us together with my mom and assorted spouses and children for dinner. I think we had 10 adults and fifteen kids in attendance. My little brother couldn't make it down from college to be with us, but I guess five out of six isn't bad. We dressed in matching attire that was appropriate for the holiday.

Friday I had some cleaning up and some packing to do, and I also had some Black Friday deals that I wanted to check up on. I wound up spending a little more than I planned on (one order from Blowout Cards, a couple of sketch commissions, a board game expansion, something for my kids, a COMC order, some Japanese wrestling cards), but I wound up deciding not to buy quite a few things, too. A couple of those decisions not to buy were pretty painful, but in the end there isn't anything that I can't buy later if I really really need it.

Saturday was my day to do all the packing I didn't get around to on Friday, and on Sunday I got in my car to make the several-hour drive to Utah for some work training I've got to do. On the way down, I stopped to see my grandparents for a couple of hours. At some point in the journey I had a headlight go out, so visibility got pretty sketchy for the last little bit. I got to my lodging site just ahead of a snowstorm, and by Monday morning everything was covered in several inches of nasty, slippery snow. My room is just a few minutes from the classroom, so I was able to make it to class on time (after sliding most of the way off the road to avoid a collision and missing a turn because my car just wouldn't go that direction). Several of my classmates were quite late and class started late, which made for a very long day. After class I tracked down a new bulb for my headlight and spent about thirty minutes swearing in the parking lot as I tried to contort my hand into a position that would allow the bulb to clip in. Eventually I got it all put together and headed back to my room, passing a couple of nasty wrecks along the way. I hope the weather improves from here on out, although I am grateful that the snow waited at least until I got here.

When last year's Topps Star Wars Masterwork set came out, one of the cooler inserts was the Stamp Relic cards. I never was able to track down the Leia one, but I did manage to get the Luke Skywalker card. This year I hunted down the Leia version. I actually missed out on the base # / 249 version, but a couple hours later I got this Silver # 14 / 50 card for the same price I had bid on the base. I can't complain too much about that. This year's version looks a little better than the previous set, as it features a photograph on front in addition to the stamp. All of last year's cards just had the stamp on them, if I am remembering correctly. The other difference is that last year's cards used USA stamps, while this year's cards use Royal Mail stamps.

The card backs aren't much to look at, but who looks at card backs these days, anyway? I'm glad I was able to add this card to my collection from the 2016 Topps Star Wars Masterwork set. One of the things I didn't quite pull the trigger on for Black Friday was a box of this product. It sure is tempting, but even at the sale price it's a pretty spendy gamble.

22 November 2016

It's Tebow Time with Leaf Live

Topps NOW is probably the most successful of the card companies' print-to-demand programs, but they aren't the only game in town. Panini's Instant program covers NASCAR, NBA, NFL, USA Basketball (and maybe soccer?), with a heavy focus on offering a selection of parallels for each card released.

Leaf Live is the other player in the game, casting a wider net than the other companies when it comes to subject matter. Their controversial first card commemorated actor Gene Wilder upon his death, and other subjects to appear on the Leaf cards include Harambe (the gorilla who was killed by authorities at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure) internet fame, the U.S. Presidential campaign debates (Topps had a whole series of NOW cards devoted to the campaign, as well as a Garbage Pail Kids parody covering the same topic), John Cusack's Cubs fandom, and a rookie-centric assortment of baseball and football cards.

The Leaf Live cards are offered for a week-long period before orders are shut off. I know they are posted on the Leaf eBay account, but I am not certain if they are offered through any other venue. I resisted buying into the program, I guess because the subject matter didn't appeal to me and I suppose I am kind of a hobby elitist, looking down on Leaf for not being a major licensed card manufacturer. But they reeled me in with this card depicting Tim Tebow's journey in the New York Mets' minor league system.

Tebow hasn't been all that great as a baseball player, but he has done all right for someone who is just starting out in the minors after a long break from baseball. Regardless of his performance on the diamond, I am a Tim Tebow fan and I was excited to get a card featuring him as a baseball player. He seems like a genuine good guy, and I respect that about him. The print run on this card was announced at 182 copies. One of those is mine. There's a spot at the top where it looks like the printer malfunctioned or the ink smudged, but I am not too worried about that. I didn't buy this card as an investment.

21 November 2016

Rainbow in the Dark 38: Wa(i)vering Enthusiasm

The Astros have continued to make moves in an effort to bolster a roster that took a step back in 2016 after a promising playoff run in 2015. A couple of those moves will have some kind of effect on my player collections. First baseman/designated hitter Jon Singleton was placed on waivers a couple of days ago, dropping him from the 40-man roster. He will probably be relegated to AAA, and this is a sign that the team might be ready to move on from him completely. There is still a chance that he could play for the Astros in the future, or that another team might show interest in him. It's hard to remember that he is still pretty young, so he might yet pull it together. He hasn't had a lot of cardboard recently, though, so most of my Singleton additions have been parallels from base Topps sets or filling in holes from older releases.

I don't know for certain, but this Pink parallel from 2015 Topps Series Two might be the last non-1/1 card I needed for the 2015 rainbow. It is numbered # 30 / 50. There could be variations still missing from my collection, but I know I've got most of them, including minis, 5x7's, online-exclusives, and all the packed-out parallels.

I saw the other day that this year Topps has released special holiday parallels with snowflakes where the corner 'fog' in the 2016 design would go. I gathered a few of Singleton's 2016 parallels, but there are so many out there. I'm glad I didn't make it my quest to get the full-blown rainbow of his 2016 base issue. I guess there is still time to go for it, but even from 2015 to 2016 it seems there was a large jump in the number of hard-to-get variations, with a great many of them exclusive to one retailer or only available as part of a complete set purchase on the Topps website. Instead of chasing them all, I have given the whole thing a miss unless something cool pops up in my (cheap) price range.

The seller on the Singleton card included a stack of 2015 Topps Football cards as packaging. I haven't really kept up with football cards lately, so it was interesting to look at the card designs and players. I probably wouldn't normally have scanned these, but when I purchased this Singleton card there wasn't much news about him on the airwaves and I thought I would need some post filler.

The design is pretty busy on these. It took me a while to figure out what was going on with those numbers on the front of some cards, as they didn't match jersey numbers. It turns out they are part of a subset called Topp 60, which I presume is some attempt at ranking the top sixty players in the league.

Here are the backs of some cards. You can see the Topp 60 write-ups on some of them. It's a cool idea. It's a subset that I would enjoy collecting if football cards were more of a thing for me. I imagine the Topp 60 is heavily weighted toward the marquee offensive positions, without many linemen or defensive players on the checklist. You have to go where the collector money is, and that usually means quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, and the occasional great tight end or J.J. Watt-caliber defender.

20 November 2016

My First Blue Danica Relics - Ford EcoBoost 400

Today marked the last race of the 2016 NASCAR season, with Jimmie Johnson claiming his 7th career championship by winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I didn't watch the race, but I checked in on it a few times during the afternoon. Danica Patrick spent most of the race pretty far back in the pack, but managed to get back up into 19th place by the end of the race, good enough for another Top 20 finish on the year and a career-best 23rd-place finish in the overall season standings.

I've been a little under the weather all weekend, so I haven't done much of anything over the last two days. I am hoping to feel well enough to go to work tomorrow and get some stuff done before we take off for the long holiday weekend. Even if I don't feel better, I might go to work anyway. Staying home with my kids around generally isn't that restful.

I was pretty excited to get this card for my Danica Patrick collection as part of an eBay lot. It's from the 2016 Panini Torque product, which I believe is the company's second NASCAR offering. This is the Red parallel of Danica's Quad Materials card, which naturally has four relic swatches. The red foil is a lot brighter in-hand than it shows in the scans. It is numbered # 13 / 49. The reason I was excited about it, though, was that it contains my first relic swatches from Patrick's new Nature's Bakery sponsorship. There are blue firesuit swatches in the upper and lower boxes. The second box down is a piece of tire. The third box is an older swatch, with a bit of green sheet metal that probably came from a GoDaddy sponsored car. The green color doesn't show well in the scan. It's a pretty nice card, probably one of my better additions to this driver collection for 2016.

19 November 2016

Another Batch of Nifty UFC Hits

I've picked up a decent number of UFC cards over the last little bit. I am pretty open when it comes to the UFC, so I will snap up just about anything I come across that seems interesting. I do have a couple of specific fighters that I collect with a little more purpose, but for the most part I will bid on cardboard that is 1) cheap and 2) cool.

This Jessica Penne autograph got a bid from me largely because she's got a cool signature, with a lot of loops at the beginning and an interesting back and forth line for the rest of it. I also don't think I had a Penne autograph in my collection yet. I am not officially chasing an autograph of every fighter who has one, but I do like adding new ones to my collection.

I think Topps has moved away from this entirely, but on older products they often listed which UFC event the mat relics came from. This Martin Kampmann 2010 Topps UFC Knockout fight mat relic came from UFC 108, where he defeated Jacob Volkmann by submission. I believe this is the Green parallel of the card, numbered # 41 / 88.

Here's another one for the interesting penmanship category. Liz Carmouche has a very minimalistic signature, as displayed on this 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines autograph card. I still think it's pretty cool, though, much better than Wil Myers' 'WM' autograph. She's riding a two-fight win streak, with a victory at the recent UFC 205. It seems like I've bid on a hundred Carmouche autographs and lost, but I finally landed this one. edit: Commenter R Laughton has informed me that Carmouche's signature is in Japanese. Running the symbols リーズ C. through the Japanese-English translation device returns the name Liz C.

Raquel Pennington also had a win at UFC 205, beating Miesha Tate by decision in the first fight of the Main Card, after which Tate announced her retirement. This is the first of a trio of autographs out of 2015 Topps UFC Champions that I picked up from the same seller.

Carla Esparza was the first UFC Women's Strawweight Champion. She lost the belt in her first defense of the title to Joanna Jędrzejczyk, who has gone on to defend the title 4 times, including at UFC 205. Esparza went on to win her next fight after losing the belt, but hasn't fought again since April 2016.

I had a couple of Cat Zingano relics in my collection, but I hadn't picked up an autograph yet. Zingano has fought once per year since 2011, with her 2016 bout coming in the much-hyped UFC 200, where she lost a decision to Julianna Pena.

Here's another fight mat relic card that goes all the way back to UFC 57, where Randy Couture lost a title fight to Chuck Liddell. This card comes from 2010 Topps UFC. Randy Couture retired (twice) long before I ever got into watching fights, so I don't know a lot about him.

These last two cards feature a fighter I collect specifically, Jim Miller. He fought at both UFC 200 and UFC 205, winning his bouts at both events. He'd been on a pretty rough streak lately, losing 4 out of 5 fights at one point, but he's currently on a three-fight win streak. I don't know if that makes him a contender in the Lightweight division, as there are about a million guys in that weight class and Conor McGregor just complicated things with his big UFC 205 victory. Miller seems to be game for just about any fight, though, and hopefully he's got a few more in the tank. This autograph comes from the 2011 Topps UFC Title Shot product, and is some parallel of the Contenders Autographs set. I missed out on the base version, but I got this parallel numbered # 60 / 88. 

From what I can gather, these UFC Poker Chips were inserted into blaster boxes of 2010 Topps UFC trading cards, sort of like the various manu-patches and medallions you get in some blasters of Topps' baseball products. I thought it was a pretty unique item to get for my Jim Miller collection.

I completely missed out on last night's Fight Night: Mousasi vs. Hall event, and I missed most of the preliminary fights for tonight's Fight Night: Bader vs. Nogueira. I did get to see the last seven fights though, with the last two bouts being particularly good. Most of the Main Card was pretty entertaining, although it got a little painful at the end of the Almeida vs. Morales fight, as the ref let the fight go about ten punches too long when it was clear that Morales was out of it. It's too bad that Ryan Bader won't get a Topps NOW card out of his victory, but I also really don't want Topps to start pumping out cards for Fight Nights. It's hard enough to keep up with the cards they put out for the numbered UFC events.

18 November 2016

2016 Topps Update Series First Pitch

One of my favorite inserts out of Topps in the recent past is the ongoing First Pitch set, which features various personalities throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Major League baseball games. It's a cool idea, and there is plenty of variety when it comes to potential subjects for the set. There are a lot of games in an MLB season, and pretty much every one has someone throwing that first pitch. You get celebrities, stars from other sports, heroes and survivors, musicians, and pretty much everything else you can think of. I picked up a set of the First Pitch cards from 2016 Topps Update recently from an eBay seller for a couple of dollars.

One thing you didn't get in the 2016 Topps Update Series iteration of the set, though, was a lot of variety when it comes to the teams depicted on the cards. Night Owl recently covered this in much more depth across the entirety of the First Pitch series, but there are many teams that haven't been represented yet at all on a First Pitch card, and a few teams dominate the checklist.

As far as the ten cards in 2016 Topps Update, only five teams out of thirty are represented. The Dodgers and Red Sox got three cards each, the Cubs got two cards, and the White Sox and Mariners each got one. The two Cubs cards, featuring Warren G and Craig Sager, were my personal favorites out of the set.

17 November 2016

Mandible Claws, Milestones, and the Holiday Funk

I was trying to come up with something special to write about for this post, as it is kind of a milestone for me. If I am counting correctly, this is the 1,000th post on The Raz Card Blog. I started this blog way back in July 2013, or nearly 3-1/2 years ago. Luckily, the mailbox had something pretty interesting in it today, so I've got something unique for my 1,000th post.

Lately I've been in the throes of my holiday funk. I'm not the only one, apparently, who goes through an annual crisis. Mine usually seems to come on in early November, as my birthday and Thanksgiving approach to kick off the holiday season. It's not a melancholy feeling specifically about hobbies, as the funk extends to every part of my life. Hobbies are a big part of my life, though, so they are affected by it. I am trying to counteract the doldrums by looking at the progress I've made during the last year and making some solid goals and plans for the next year. Most of it is real-life stuff, but I am also considering my hobbies and the areas where I want to expand or contract.

A couple of days ago I saw a Tweet from Mick Foley announcing that there was only an hour left to get an autographed Mr. Socko from Pro Wrestling Tees, with the proceeds going to veteran's charities. Now, Mick Foley's Mankind/Dude Love/Cactus Jack personas were popular right during the only time in my life when I watched wrestling regularly, and he was one of my favorites. This was kind of an impulse buy, but I was pretty excited to get a Mr. Socko of my own. I don't know that I'll giving anyone the Mandible Claw with it, though. The Mr. Socko face appears to be screen-printed onto the sock, and below that is the autograph. I don't know that a sock is the best surface for an autograph, but the signature is there.

I watched a lot of wrestling from this era, but then I went off to the military and missionary work and drifted away from it. I've never made it all the way back to the WWE, but I try to keep up a little bit with the major storylines and who is big at the moment.

The sock came with a certificate of authenticity, also autographed by Mick Foley, so I guess I got two autographs for the price of one. This is a pretty cool collectible that takes me right back to a memorable time in my life. I'm glad I saw that Tweet in time to grab an 'official' Mr. Socko.

16 November 2016

Pack of the Day 147: 2015 Bowman Hanger Box

I found myself at Wal-Mart the other day, doing some shopping for something. Digging into the recesses of my memory, I think I was picking up candy to hand out to Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween. So I guess it was a couple of weeks ago, not the other day. Anyway, I discovered that this Wal-Mart had a card aisle again, after some period of time where the card aisle had been removed (or moved to a location which I never discovered).

None of the offerings really appealed to me all that much, but I figured I couldn't go too wrong with a discounted hanger box of 2015 Bowman. All of the Bowman sets kind of run together in my mind, so I don't really know how much 2015 Bowman I have in my collection. It could be a little, or it could be enough to wallpaper a small room. Those are questions that my big sorting question will hopefully answer. What do I have in my collection, and how much of it do I have?

These were the six most interesting (to me) cards out of the thirteen veteran cards in the set. I read an article today saying that the Dodgers would like to move Puig, but are afraid that he might return to superstar status and make them look bad.

There were nine regular prospect cards in the box. Addison Russell played in some meaningful games for the Cubs this postseason.

Six Chrome prospect cards came in the box. This would turn out to be a Josh Bell hot box. Mark Appel got traded from the Astros to the Phillies in the Ken Giles trade. Giles' performance left a little to be desired in 2016. Hopefully Houston can shore up their pitching for 2017.

A good number of the guys I pulled Chrome cards for showed up in the Yellow parallels, including Appel and Bell. Josh Bell was also the subject of the Bowman Scouts' Top 100 insert I got. I like these Top 100 insert sets, but I have never made a real attempt to complete one of them. They cost too much, especially the top few guys each year. I like pulling them, though. They are probably my favorite Bowman insert.

The big pull of the box was a Prospects autograph of Zack Jones. He hasn't done much to make a name for himself yet, but it's still an autograph from a discount retail buy. According to the odds, these autographs only fall 1 per 16 hanger boxes.

That was an okay break for a few bucks. I like the variety that comes out of a Bowman break, even though I don't know most of the prospects by name. It seems like I often pull something interesting out of a Bowman break, like a colorful parallel, a Top 100 insert, or some sort of autograph. They usually aren't all that valuable, but I get excited about them anyway.

15 November 2016

Another Powerful Sketch Card

I continue adding to my sketch card collection here and there. I probably have enough scans saved up to do another Sketch Card Week, but those posts appeal to only a subsection of my readers and I find that my page views don't recover for several days after a Sketch Card Week ends. I don't consider myself an extremely vain person, but the numbers matter more to me than I let on.

This is my second Power Girl sketch card done by artist Amber N. Shelton. The first one is from Cryptozoic's DC Epic Battles set, released in 2014. This one is from something called The Great Sketch Card Swap 2010, and the card was originally done for Nathan Ohlendorf, another artist. I am assuming that a bunch of artists got together and traded sketches with each other. I see other cards from this set out in the wild from time to time. I don't know how this one got from Shelton to the eBay seller who sold the card to me.

It is interesting to see the 2014 sketch and the 2010 sketch together, as you can definitely see the resemblance that makes up the artist's signature look, but you can also see change and progression between the two pieces. I like sports cards a lot, but it's hard to beat the variety and novelty of artist sketches.

14 November 2016

The Knuckleballer Flies South in the Winter

I've got just one card to post about today, but recent events have given me an opportunity to make it relevant.

This is a 2015 Bowman Baseball Orange parallel of former Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey, who recently signed with the Atlanta Braves. For some reason I have never cared for the Braves, but now R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon are members of the team for 2017, and I will have to pull for them at least a little bit. The card was an eBay purchase, and is numbered # 15 / 25.

I did not work on my card sorting project this week at all. Last weekend I made it through a 5000-count box. While I was sorting, my youngest son (he's younger than the middle son, his twin, by all of two minutes) brought his Pokemon cards down to join me in the sorting party. He was also obsessed with the tire and firesuit relic cards from my blasters of 2014 Press Pass Total Memorabilia, asking over and over if he could touch the different swatches of material. I thought it was pretty neat that he wanted to sit with me and sort cards for part of an evening.