31 March 2017

2017 BBM True Heart Japanese Women's Pro Wrestling

BBM True Heart is one of my favorite releases each year. It is produced in Japan, and features wrestlers from most of the Japanese women's wrestling promotions. It usually releases early in the calendar year, in January or February. I get pretty excited for it as previews start to show up, and even more when pre-orders open on my favorite retail sites. This year I pre-ordered 3 boxes. Collation is usually not great, but three boxes traditionally has netted me a full base set. BBM opened three boxes on their Facebook page, and the boxes this year seem to drop 6 or 7 autographs for hits. My math suggests that there were between 1800-2000 boxes packed out for the 2017 BBM True Heart product.

Each box contains 20 packs, with 7 cards per pack. The box lid has had the same basic format for the last few years, with a group of images of the more popular wrestlers. The line of text in the upper right seems to talk about the set containing newcomers/rookies. The line in the middle talks about popular tag teams. The stuff at the bottom, just above 'BBM,' appears to discuss the rest of the checklist, which contains veterans, popular wrestlers, and the most complete lineup ever. The vertical lines of text along the right side seem to talk about the inclusion of autographed cards. I am translating this all with an app on my phone, so I may be missing some of it. The box flap traditionally features that cat wrestler in the white mascot uniform, but this year another cat-themed wrestler appears alongside. Her name is Kuroneko, and she recently made an appearance on the This Card is Cool blog. The MSRP on a box is 8,000 JPY, which at current rates is about $72. You can usually find them a bit cheaper at release, but you also have to account for overseas shipping if you are not based in Japan.

The bottom of the box has the checklist. This year's set has 135 cards in it, broken up into a few subsets. Last year there were base autographs, special ink inscription autographs limited to 5 copies apiece, and cheki (Polaroid-style) autographed photos. This year the special ink autographs were dropped, and the print runs on the base autographs were normalized, so almost everyone with an autograph signed 95 base autographs. There is a little more variation with the instant photos, with wrestlers signing between 3 and 9 photos. There are 115 different signers in the set, and 54 photo subjects. If you want to view the checklist, you can look at it here.

The box lid also has two of these little perforated hanger tags on the underside. They've got a little hole at the top so that a shop owner can hang them on a peg.

The pack itself mimics the design of the box, and has the usual pack stuff on the back, some legalese and a truncated breakdown of the checklist.

Top Row: Aja Kong - アジャコング, Kyoko Inoue - 井上京子, Manami Katsu - 勝 愛実
Bottom Row: Kyusei Ninja Ranmaru - 救世忍者乱丸, Maho Kurone - 黒音まほ, Command Bolshoi - コマンド・ボリショイ

The base cards have had the same basic design formula for the last few years. You get one or two shots of the wrestler in their ring gear, posed against a colorful background.

The card backs also feature a familiar formula, with a single action photo of the wrestler, a paragraph about them, and a block of information like birthdate, debut date, height, weight, and stuff of that nature.

Top Row: Reika Saiki - 才木玲佳, Meiko Satomura - 里村明衣子, Third Generation Misaki Guriko - 三代目・三崎グリ子
Bottom Row: Sawako Shimono - 下野佐和子, DASH Chisako - DASH・チサコ, Dump Matsumoto - ダンプ松本
Cards 1-129 in the set all feature individual active wrestlers. That only leaves room for a couple of small subsets at the end of the checklist. Reika Saiki has got some interesting stuff out there, like this video game-inspired arm wrestling video.

She's got some arms on her, that's for sure. She is also a member of an idol group called Deadlift Lolita. The other member of the group is the cross-dressing male wrestler Ladybeard. They have a Facebook page, a web page, and a music video. I usually find some pretty interesting stuff when researching these posts, and this certainly didn't disappoint.

I'm still trying to recover from those videos. Wow. They overshadowed some other notable wrestlers from that set of scans, though, like Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako, and Dump Matsumoto. There are always a couple of wrestlers I regret scanning for these posts, because I can't quite translate their names. I think the wrestler in the upper right is another alter-ego of Misaki Ohata, or maybe someone trained by her? I'm not sure.

Top Row: Cassandra Miyagi - カサンドラ宮城, Hanako Nakamori - 中森華子
Bottom Row: Nonoko - のの子, Fairy Nihonbashi - フェアリー日本橋
There are some horizontal cards in the set, so I had to scan a few of them for this post. Cassandra Miyagi has wrestled in the United States. She was part of the trio that won Chikara's King of Trios event in 2016, which also included Meiko Satomura and DASH Chisako.

Nonoko (bottom left) is the woman who is arm wrestling Reika Saiki in the video embedded above. Pretty much every online profile she has mentions her cup size, and the back of her card mentions it, too. She has a YouTube video that is a spoof of the PPAP (Pen Pineapple Apple Pen) song that was big a few months ago. I'm not going to link to it here, though. A lot of these wrestlers have other work outside of wrestling. Some are musicians or DJs, some probably have more conventional jobs, some are bodybuilders, and a lot of them do modeling or acting in some form or fashion.

Top Row: Chesca - チェスカ, Tequila Saya - テキーラ沙弥, Arisa Nakajima - 中島安里紗
Bottom Row: Hibiscus Mii - ハイビスカスみぃ, Ayako Hamada - 浜田文子, Vancouver Cat - バンクーバーキャット
There are a couple of comic-inspired costumes in this scan. You've got a Wonder Woman-inspired getup on Chesca in the upper left, and a Harley Quinn cosplay on Vancouver Cat in the lower right. You can see in the background picture of Vancouver Cat's card that she's got a Canadian maple leaf on the front of her regular ring gear. I can't pass up mentioning Ayako Hamada here, as she's done some wrestling in the U.S. over the years. I also have to laugh a little every time I see Hibiscus Mii, as she is sponsored by A&W.

Out of my three boxes I was able to complete one base set. That's kind of disappointing, but that's how it is. I wound up with two or three copies of most cards in the set, but there were a few on the checklist that I only pulled one copy of, and I pulled four copies of a few other cards. I got 117 / 135 or 118 / 135 cards from the set in each box, and pulled 16 doubles from each box. The variance comes from the fact that I got 6 autographs in two of the boxes and 7 autographs from the other. You get enough cards to complete two base sets and most of a third from three boxes, but your doubles have to line up right, and mine didn't. That leaves me with a base set and most of two more.

Top Row: Akane Fujita - 藤田あかね, Hiroyo Matsumoto - 松本浩代, Ray
Bottom Row: Rabbit Miu - ラビット美兎, Kyoko Kimura - 木村響子, Hikaru Shida & Syuri - 志田光&朱里
Akane Fujita is apparently a baseball fan. Ray is a favorite wrestler of mine. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor a while ago. As far as I know, she is in pretty poor health at the moment. The first three-card subset is subtitled 'Hall of Fame,' and features wrestlers who retired in 2016. It is made up of cards 130-132. Rabbit Miu was a personal favorite wrestler of mine. I read somewhere that she retired because she was getting married. That is a pretty common occurrence in these promotions.

The second subset fills the last three card numbers in the set, 133-135, and highlights tag teams. The card I chose to scan shows Hikaru Shida and Syuri.

Zippy Zappy recently (well, kind of recently) announced his intent to collect many cards featuring the Japanese baseball Chunichi Dragons. I couldn't help noticing that Akane Fujita is wearing some Dragons gear on the back of her card, including some blue ears that resemble those of the Dragons' koala mascot. Most wrestlers who retire get a final show centered around them, and the cards usually feature photos from that retirement event. I think that's a cool little touch. That about does it for the base set.

Mizuki Endo - 遠藤美月, Manami Katsu - 勝 愛実, Nodoka-Oneesan - のどかおねえさん, Mitsuru Konno? - 紺乃美鶴, Kyoko Kimura - 木村響子, Maika Ozaki - 尾崎妹加, Hamuko Hoshi - '星 ハム子
This first scan is the box I pulled seven autographs from. I didn't pull a lot of autographs from the wrestlers I actively collect in this batch of boxes, but I got a nice variety of autographs. Rather than bust a bunch of wax chasing specific cards, I just sought out the ones I was looking for on Yahoo! Auctions in Japan and used a buying service to get them. I got that package the other day, which is really pressing me to get this post done. I'm not 100% sure on some of these names. I can usually find pages or pictures of the wrestlers, but I can't always get the names right.

Marika Kobashi - 小橋マリカ, Akane Fujita - 藤田あかね, Reika Saiki - 才木玲佳, Yuki Miyazaki - 宮崎有妃, Hyper Misao - □ハイパーミサヲ, Arisa Nakajima - 中島安里紗
There are some names I recognize here. It is pretty cool that I got Reika Saiki's autograph. I am not sure why Marika Kobashi signed in gold ink, but her print run is 95 cards, just like nearly every other wrestler in the set. I guess that's the pen she had nearby. I like cards with props in them, like Akane Fujita's glove and ball.

Ryo Mizunami - 水波 綾, Hibiscus Mii - ハイビスカスみぃ, Maruko Nagasaki - 長崎まる子, Maho Kurone - 黒音まほ, Chikayo Nagashima - 永島千佳世, Mika Iwata - 白姫美叶
I think I am running out of stuff to say. There weren't a lot of autographs in this last box that jumped out at me. I do like that Hibiscus Mii autograph, though, because of the A&W branding on her gear. If every wrestler had sponsorship logos on their gear, it might get a little old, but she's the only one I know of and that makes it kind of cool.

Those were my three boxes of 2017 BBM True Heart. I've got most of the autographs I really wanted, but I will probably still bust a few more boxes of this stuff so I can chase more base sets and maybe some of the rare autographed photos. I always like chasing this product and adding more True Heart cards from any year to my collection.

30 March 2017

Supergirl Sketch Card by Lin Workman

I've got a lot of plates spinning right now, so I am hard-pressed to find time for reading/writing blogs. It's just one of those periods we all go through. With that in mind, here is a pretty quick one-card post of a recent pick-up for my sketch card collection.

This is a Supergirl sketch card by Lin Workman, from the Cryptozoic DC Comics: The Women of Legend trading card set. I already have a Power Girl sketch done by him for this set, depicting her in her short-lived New 52 uniform. I grabbed this one on eBay. I am not particularly a Supergirl fan, but I recognized Workman's art style and signature and the price was right, so I jumped on it. I like the sketch cards I've seen from him, and I was happy to add this one to my collection for the price of a few packs of cards.

29 March 2017

Topps UFC Now - UFC 209

I'll be honest; I don't really remember much about UFC 209. The card didn't feature a whole lot of fighters that are on my list of favorites, and I can't remember much about the fights. I know I watched most of the event, but the details are a little vague for me.

Collectors of Topps Now UFC cards must have had similar feelings about it, as the two cards produced after UFC 209 had the lowest print runs in the line by a wide margin. The previous low print runs all came from UFC 203, with cards for Fabricio Werdum (62 copies), Mickey Gall (71 copies), and Stipe Miocic (72 copies).

The Now releases for UFC 209 almost halved the previous lows, with this David Teymur card only getting 33 copies ordered and printed. I think I missed watching this fight for some reason, so I don't even know anything about what happened. If this Topps Now thing ever really takes off for UFC collectors, though, this is the shortest-printed one in the set.

The main fight on the card was the rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson for the Welterweight belt. They fought to a Majority Draw in UFC 205, in a weird finish that allowed Woodley to keep the belt. The commentators seemed to like this fight, but it really felt like both guys were playing not to lose rather than going for the win. Woodley barely eked out a Majority Decision win to keep his belt. This Topps Now card barely outsold the Teymur one, selling all of 35 copies.

The relatively weak card might have something to do with the low sales, but Topps might need to promote the UFC Now cards a little harder if the line is going to continue. Maybe they are hoping it will die off. I don't know. Luckily, the lineups for UFC 210-212 are a little more star-studded, so there could be an uptick in sales if Topps does decide to keep releasing UFC Now cards.

28 March 2017

Picking Up Some Laundry

I haven't felt much like blogging the last few days. I've still been cranking out posts here and there, but without a lot of enthusiasm. Maybe it's the changing of seasons or something. I've got several longer posts piled up that I'd like to get to, box breaks and the like, but the amount of effort required for those gets me down when I think about it.

There are a lot of people projecting big things for the Astros this year, which has me worried. I think they need better pitching. Texas is pretty good. Seattle is also pretty good, even though no one really talks about them. I am right in the middle of fantasy baseball draft season. The teams I've drafted so far have me thinking it's going to be a long year.

Here is a pretty neat card I picked up recently. It's a Jon Singleton Treasure Signature Materials card from 2014 Panini National Treasures Baseball. This is the Laundry Tag parallel, with a little bit of the laundry tag from a jersey in the relic window. The signature is on a bit of acetate sandwiched into the card. There are only so many relic swatches you can get from a laundry tag, so this one is numbered # 6 / 8. Singleton doesn't get a lot of cardboard these days, so it's nice when I can find something new from his days as a prospect on the upswing for my player collection.

From the back you get to see the signature in reverse, which I guess is pretty cool. All of the real estate it takes up displaces the other back-of-card elements, though, creating a cluttered appearance. I guess that doesn't matter too much, as card backs seem to be a lost cause these days anyhow, especially on high-end hit-based sets.

26 March 2017

Pack of the Day 157: 2017 Panini Donruss Racing Hobby Box

A few days ago, I used the same eBay coupon code that defgav used to pick up a 1957 Topps Hank Aaron card. I purchased a couple things that were a little more modern, though. I bought a box of 2017 Panini Donruss Racing and a sketch card I've been watching for a while (you can add multiple items to your cart to meet the minimum purchase threshold for eBay coupons). The sketch card may or may not show up on this blog in the future, but today I am going to show what I pulled from the box of racing cards.

I meant to make a NASCAR post yesterday, because my Facebook feed told me it was Danica Patrick's birthday. I never got around to it, though. For anyone keeping track of that stuff, she turned 35. I am 35 currently, and it is weird to me that most active sports celebrities are my age or younger. I still feel like they should be older than I am.

Here is the box lid. You are pretty much promised 1 autograph and 2 memorabilia cards per box, although Panini leaves a little wiggle room, falling short of guaranteeing it. There are 24 packs, with 10 cards per pack. Even the packs with relic cards in them have 10 cards, and you can pretty much tell which packs have the relics in them, as they are super thick. Boxes seem to run in the $65-70 range. If you want to compare, Dave & Adam's has Prizm (3 hits) for $49.95 a box, Certified (2 autographs, 2 memorabilia) for $59.95, and Torque (3 autographs, 2 memorabilia) for $69.95. I imagine the price on Donruss will go down after a while. Panini is putting out some decent products, but they are flooding the market with cards. That's good new for buyers, but a completist-type collector has got to be going crazy right now.

The pack design mimics the box design. I don't have much else to say about it. Panini doesn't print pack odds on their wrappers, which I find mildly irritating. I couldn't get a good scan of the NPN (No Purchase Necessary) information, so here it is in type:

Hand print your name and complete address on a 3 x 5 card and mail it in a #10 envelope to: Panini America Inc., NPN, 2017 Donruss Racing, 5325 FAA Blvd., Suite 100, Irving, TX, 75061-3601. Canadian entrants must also correctly answer the following mathematical skill-testing question on the 3 x 5 card: 868 + 885 / 295 x 505 -576. Two entries per household, one entry per envelope, postmarked by 4/26/2017 and received by 5/3/2017. No metered mail.

That's not all of the text, but that's enough to get you going if NPN's are your thing. I've thought about giving it a try, but I've never actually sent one in.

The checklist is 189 cards deep, but it's not very straightforward. There are 4 or 5 short-printed subsets, depending on how you choose to count them. I'll get to that later. Sandwiched in the middle is the base set, made up of 100 cards. This base set is made up of cards 37-136 in the checklist. It features cards for most of the drivers on the top circuit, as well as sections for some Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series drivers. I pulled 100 / 100 base cards, 96 / 100 doubles, and 9 / 100 triples in the box. I thought I was shorted a card in the base set, but I later discovered that I had a copy of it in my doubles stack and my triples stack, so I actually had two copies of the 'missing' card.

The main checklist also features some pit crew cards and a subset called Duals, which feature drivers' cars in main and alternate paint schemes. The card backs are nice and colorful, but I wish they had a little more substance to them as far as statistics or additional photography. They need something more. I do like the card design overall.

The last sixteen cards in the base set make up the Cup Chase subset, with a card for each driver who made the playoffs for 2016. This subset also has some of the better photography in the set, with some candid shots of drivers doing something outside of the usual folded arms or looking off to the side while wearing sunglasses poses.

The first short-printed subset is Race Kings/Queens, consisting of cards 1-27 in the checklist. I pulled three of them, plus a Gold parallel of Chase Elliott, numbered # 074 / 499. The cards look pretty nice, with the driver in the foreground and the car in the background, done in the painted style typical of the 'Kings' subsets in all Donruss products. 

Cards 28-36 are the Rated Rookie subset. I only pulled one from my box, Garrett Smithley. 

The largest SP subset is called 1984 Retro, and it takes up spots 137-181 in the checklist. I pulled six of them, plus three parallels. The parallels are a Gold Ricky Stenhouse Jr. numbered # 386 / 499, a Blue Ernie Irvan numbered # 236 / 299, and a Press Proof of Bobby Allison numbered # 35 / 49. 

There are a small number of Nickname variants, with the driver's nickname printed in place of their real names. I pulled that Rowdy insert of Kyle Busch. This is where things get a little weird. I think the Busch card is considered a parallel or insert card, but the Gentleman Ned card of Ned Jarrett is considered part of the base set. Cards 182-189 are Nickname cards for drivers that don't appear in the base set, and Panini seems to be counting them as part of the base checklist.

I also pulled four base parallels. There were two Golds, one of Landon Cassill numbered # 118 / 499 and one of Kyle Busch numbered # 040 / 499. The A.J. Allmendinger Duals subset card is a Green parallel numbered # 049 / 199. The lowest-numbered card in the box was the Artist Proof of Chris Buescher's Cup Chase card, numbered # 04 / 25.

Most of the insert sets have Cracked Ice parallels. Call to the Hall somewhat predictably highlights people who have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Fred Lorenzen card is the base version, while the Richard Childress is a Cracked Ice parallel, numbered # 810 / 999.

The Cut to the Chase set features a card for the winner of each 2016 playoff race. I happened to pull versions of Joey Logano's two Chase wins, a regular insert for his win in the Hellmann's 500 and a Cracked Ice card, numbered # 787 / 999, for his victory in the Can-Am 500. 

The Pole Position and Speed inserts have Cracked Ice parallels, but I only got base versions for these two insert sets. It feels like I saw Joey Logano and Kyle Busch a lot in this box. Pole Position cards actually have some stats on them, listing the race the driver earned the pole in, the track, the date, the time, and the speed. I don't know what that leaderboard thing on the front of the card is, but it accurately reflects the qualifying results for that race. The Speed insert mentions the high speed that Busch attained during a practice session, so maybe that's what the speed insert is all about.

I got three cards from the Competitors insert set, base inserts of Michael Waltrip and Danica Patrick, and a Cracked Ice card of Rusty Wallace. The Wallace is numbered # 823 / 999. The Phenoms insert features up-and-coming drivers. I pulled a base of Harrison Burton and a Cracked Ice of Daniel Hemric, numbered # 189 / 999. The final insert from the box is a Top Tier card of Carl Edwards. I am not sure what the Top Tier insert is all about, as the back of Edwards' card talks about his acting career. I imagine it's just another way for Panini to include NASCAR stars in the product.

I did all right with my two memorabilia cards. Both cards were Dual Rubber Relics cards, featuring Brad Keselowski and Danica Patrick. I think this might be the first Danica Patrick hit I've ever pulled on my own, but I could be mistaken about that. There are many parallels available for these, along with single-relic versions and autographed versions, all with their own parallels. Both of mine were the basic models, without serial numbering or fancy foil. 

My autograph card came from the Retro Signatures 1984 set. The driver featured is Kyle Petty, with your standard sticker autograph. He has a cool signature, but his racing career happened before I got into NASCAR and this autograph doesn't do a whole lot for me. At least I was able to get a nice Danica Patrick relic card that I didn't have yet.

I like the design of the product, but I don't like all of the short-printed base cards. By my calculations, you'd have to open 9 boxes with perfect collation to complete the full base set. I can't see myself doing that. I think I prefer to keep the short-printed stuff out of the base set, so a collector can get their set from one or two boxes of cards, and people who like chase cards can open more if they want to pursue inserts, hits, and photo/nickname/retro variations. I would buy two or three boxes of this, but not nine or ten.