30 April 2017

Just Another Cyber Monday - Toyota Owners 400

Today's NASCAR race was the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Danica Patrick started in the 21st position, and worked her way up to 18th place for the finish. It was her second Top 20 finish for the 2017 season. She stayed in 29th place in the points standings for the year, tied in points with Michael McDowell but probably losing some kind of tiebreaker.

In other news, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he will retire at the end of this season. It seems that, for me, there aren't a lot of familiar names in the races anymore, with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Jr. all out or on the way out.

Panini's Black Friday, Father's Day, and National card show sets are pretty popular and you see quite a few cards from them posted and listed, but the Cyber Monday sets kind of fly under the radar. I guess there just aren't a lot of people spending Cyber Monday shopping in Panini's online store relative to the number of people who qualify to obtain packs of the other products. I picked up this 2016 Panini Cyber Monday base card of Danica Patrick at some point in the last few months. The background on the card has a circuit board motif, to emphasize that this is a product that celebrates e-commerce. It has the same photo, front and back. Unfortunately, Danica isn't wearing her America-themed shoes, which are pretty flashy. I heard her mention in a video that she thinks they are cool, and that having some neat shoes makes them better for donating to charity auctions and the like.

28 April 2017

Pack of the Day 159: 2017 Bowman Blaster

I can't help getting excited about new releases, even releases packed with players whose names are unfamiliar to me. With 2017 Bowman releasing, I toyed with the idea of buying a group break slot or something, but couldn't quite bring myself to pull the trigger on it before the breaks I was looking at closed. Then I considered what a Hobby box would cost, and decided that wasn't really something I wanted to pursue, either. It seems like I've been on a bit of a cold streak recently with Hobby wax, and I hate that down feeling I get after busting a disappointing box of cards. But circumstances last night led to me driving past Target, and I found myself inside looking to see if Bowman had made it to the shelves yet. It had, and I debated between the rack pack, value pack, and blaster variations before selecting a blaster off the shelf.

The box promises 7 packs + 1 bonus pack, for a total of 80 cards inside. This is Bowman's 70th Anniversary, so there are a couple of retro inserts and buybacks stamped with a big foil '70' logo.

Here are the odds and the NPN information. I learned from Zippy Zappy's click-bait post that the paper autographs are retail-exclusive, so I guess that's pretty neat.

Here's the pack design, which mirrors the branding on the box. I didn't scan the back, because the insert odds are in larger print on the side of the box, and also because I am lazy.

One of the appealing / confusing things about Bowman is that there are three different sets within the one product. There is the base set, with mostly stars and rookies. Then there is the Prospects set, with minor league guys and maybe some recent call-ups. The Prospects set has a Chrome parallel, aptly called Chrome Prospects. So you get a mix of cards from those three sets in your packs, along with any parallels, inserts, or autographs you might encounter.

I got 33 cards from the base set in this blaster. I scanned some of the bigger names along with any Astros I found, as I don't know that Joe Musgrove is considered a big name.

I got 23 of the regular Prospects cards. I tried to scan names I've at least heard, but I am not good at following all of the minor league players. I can barely keep up with a handful of major league rosters. There are some cards in the Prospects set for participants in the World Baseball Classic, although I don't see any mention of ties to specific MLB teams. Maybe they are just guys who got buzz from the tournament. I don't know.

Here's the back of some of the Prospects cards. It looks like Bowman, with all of the lines and the bullet-point list of attributes or anecdotes for a scouting report on the player.

The Chrome Prospects cards are like the Prospects cards, only shinier. I got 16 of them in this blaster. One thing I find kind of weird is that there is usually also a Bowman Chrome product that comes out later in the year, so each year you get a couple of prospect-based Chrome sets, with one as a standalone product and one as a subset of the Bowman product. The Bowman brand is not for people who like simple card products.

And to round out the 'regular' cards, here are a few card backs from the Chrome Prospects I pulled.

I only pulled one parallel from this blaster, and it's so subtle that you can hardly even tell without seeing the serial number on the back. I was watching a Bowman break yesterday, and the guy had to flip through every stack of base cards from the back to find the Silver parallels. Without much of a border, the light silvering effect on the corners of the card is barely discernible. The odds say that a Silver Prospects parallel is a 1:47 pull, and this one is numbered # 364 / 499.

Topps has rolled back the number of parallels available in many of their Bowman and Chrome offerings, and I kind of miss all the crazy colors from earlier years. That's how I remember it, at least. Maybe I'm just looking at the past with Refractor-colored glasses. 

I got five inserts in the box, with four of them being of the vertically-oriented variety. The Clayton Kershaw in the upper left is a 1951 Bowman Reproduction insert, a 1:16 pull. The Riley Pint card comes from my favorite recurring Bowman insert set, the Bowman Scouts Top 100, which is basically a ranked list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. I like ranked lists, and a list-based insert set is pretty awesome. With these being seeded at 1:8 packs, you can expect to find one per blaster. The Yoenis Cespedes card is a 1992 Bowman insert, seeded at 1:11 packs. The final insert in this scan is a Carson Fulmer ROY Favorites insert, which is seeded at 1:8 packs, or about one per blaster.

The final insert is this Talent Pipeline card, which falls 1:11 packs and features a player at each level of A-ball for a given team. It's a pretty decent idea for a prospect-based insert, if you ask me. I don't have much investment in the Diamondbacks, but this is a neat insert idea.

I did get one of the buyback cards, with the Bowman 70 foil stamp. These are seeded 1:12 packs, so you can expect one every 1.5 blasters. My buyback is a 2000 Bowman card of Junior Brignac, who never made it past AA ball.

I pulled a hit in this blaster, one of those paper autographs mentioned above. This is a Green parallel of Tanner Scott, who is working his way through the Orioles' minor league system. The odds say these Green autographs are pretty rare, falling 1:614 packs. This one is numbered # 89 / 99. It would be a pretty exciting hit, but it came out of the pack damaged. On the top edge it looks like it got pinched in something mechanical, leaving it with a substantial crease. Oh well, at least I didn't have to look too hard for the cloud around my silver lining.

27 April 2017

Hulk and Thing Sketch Cards

My sketch card collection tends to be pretty focused on a couple of characters, but I have to switch it up from time to time when something jumps out at me. That was the case with these sketches that I purchased from an eBay seller a while ago.

Based on the 'Fantastic Four' logo, I thought these might be from one of the Marvel trading card sets put out by Rittenhouse, but when they arrived I found that this was just a logo and some design printed on relatively thin personal stock. I probably could have figured that out if I'd done any research, as the cards from the Rittenhouse product were in the vertical format and had the word 'Archives' printed after the Fantastic Four title. Anyway, I don't have much information on these sketches, not even an artist's name. It looks like the artist's initials are 'LS' and the sketches are dated '08.'

This first sketch features a close-up of the Hulk's face, and he is looking might angry. I really like this sketch, and I wish I knew who the artist was.

The second sketch features the Fantastic Four's ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, again from an up-close perspective. It appears that he is about to announce that it's clobberin' time.

These sketches feature the characters that two of my sons are named after. If I knew who the artist was, I'd consider trying to commission sketches of my other two boys, although in my recollection Nightcrawler doesn't have much connection to the Fantastic Four. Thing is an original member of the team, while Hulk and Wolverine were members of The New Fantastic Four in the early 90's. Hulk and Thing also have a long-standing rivalry, as Thing is one of the few heroes who can go toe-to-toe with Hulk when he is rampaging uncontrollably.

26 April 2017

Stardom Wrestling Cards from eBay

I've posted a lot about BBM's True Heart trading cards that feature female wrestlers from a number of promotions in Japan, but there is one notable wrestling promotion that doesn't participate in the True Heart sets. That promotion is called Stardom, and they kind of do their own thing when it comes to trading cards. They put out a 2017 card set, and a 5th Anniversary card set in 2015. The 2015 cards were available on their website for a long time, but when two Stardom wrestlers, Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo, got signed by the WWE, the cards sold out within days. I was able to get 5 packs of the 2015 cards and was gifted a pack of the 2017 cards, so I'll post about them soon. In the meantime, here are a few cards I picked up from eBay.

First up is this autograph card from the 2015 5th Anniversary set featuring Haruka Kato. She has actually appeared in the True Heart card sets, probably because she has worked with several other promotions that are heavily featured in those sets. There seems to be some tension between some fans of Stardom and fans of other promotions, possibly because Stardom is seen as models who wrestle, while other promotions are more focused on wrestling, although some of them also model on the side. I don't know. I'm a fringe lurker when it comes to fandom, so I'm not as invested as some of these folks, Stardom does seem to be more focused on reaching out to the English-speaking crowd, though. They have an English website, a webstore on that site that ships to American addresses, and a video subscription service that uploads every event with English subtitles.

Stardom is also pretty active about bringing in guest wrestlers from outside of Japanese promotions. Kellie Skater is a wrestler out of Australia who has also wrestled in the United States and Canada, but did some wrestling with Stardom in Japan. She retired earlier this year. All of the base cards I picked up in this lot are from the 2017 set. You can tell because 2017 is in the set name on the front, while the 2015 cards don't list a year.

Kaitlin Diamond is a Canadian wrestler who wrestled for Stardom for about three months in 2016. It looks like she is back in Canada now, though, working for many wrestling promotions there.

I mentioned this card yesterday, as I picked up a Topps UFC autograph of Shayna Baszler recently. She's out of the UFC now, but had an MMA bout in early 2017 while she was in Japan wrestling for Stardom in early 2017. It looks like right now she is wrestling in the United States again. Most of these foreign wrestlers seem to do tours for three or four months with Stardom before returning to their home promotions. She also appeared during the Stardom USA tour a while back. I kind of wanted to go to one of those shows, but couldn't justify a trip to California at that time.

That's a quick intro to the Stardom trading cards. I'll have a couple more posts about them over the next month or so. Unfortunately, they aren't really available anymore, so if you want them you'll have to find singles on eBay or at a place like The Puro Central Shop.

25 April 2017

Recent UFC Pickups of All Kinds

I haven't watched the last couple of UFC events, just because I've been busy when they were on. I'll definitely be tuning in to the upcoming UFC 211, though, as there are some good names on the card, like Stipe Miocic, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and Demian Maia. There are also some folks I like to watch lower on the card, like Jason Knight. I hope he wins his fight, so he gets some time on the microphone. This post is just a bunch of random UFC cards I've picked up recently, if you define recently pretty loosely.

Urijah Faber cards saw a little bit of a spike when he retired a few months ago, but you can get most of them now without spending much. I like this mat relic card from 2011 Topps UFC Finest because it lists the event the mat was used for. I think I may have looked up pictures from WEC 52 at some point to identify where in the mat this piece came from, but that was a long time ago and I'm not doing that right now.

I also got this Urijah Faber Atomic Refractor die-cut card from 2011 Topps UFC Finest, which lists some of his achievements on the back. It's too bad he never was able to get a belt in the UFC, although his understudy, Cody Garbrandt, managed the task against Faber's nemesis, Dominick Cruz. This card is numbered # 62 / 88.

I also have recently picked up a couple of 1st Autographs, including this Jessamyn Duke card from 2014 Topps UFC Champions. Part of the fun of my UFC collection is that I will pick up pretty much anything that is interesting to me, so there is plenty of variety. Autographs tend to be pretty cheap, too, outside of the really big stars.

The second autograph here is a Shayna Baszler signature from 2014 Topps UFC Bloodlines. This one is numbered # 036 / 225. Interestingly, Baszler also appears on a Japanese wrestling card I just picked up. She hasn't fought in the UFC since 2015, and has spent most of the time between then and now working for professional wrestling promotions, although she did have an MMA bout in Japan earlier this year. Her nickname is 'The Queen of Spades,' and this autograph has a Spade doodled alongside her name.

Another UFC collection of mine is low-numbered parallels. I am especially partial to these Gold parallels from 2015 UFC Champions, but I'll take any # / 25 or lower parallels I can find. This Carla Esparza card is numbered # 07 / 25. Her most recent fight was a split decision loss to Randa Markos in February.

Finally, I chased down this 2017 Topps UFC Fire autograph for my Neil Magny collection. Then I ordered a box of UFC Fire and pulled another copy. I guess it could be worse. This one is numbered # 002 / 199. Magny's most recent fight was a unanimous decision victory over Johny Hendricks in December.

24 April 2017

Jose Altuve Members Only

The Houston Astros have jumped out to an early lead in the AL West standings, and some of their best players haven't even started out well. That doesn't mean much, though, as there is a lot of baseball left to be played and it seems like there is always a team set to make a late season run that attempts to take advantage of a slump by the leaders. But I have moderately high hopes for the Astros this year.

Here is a rare Astros card that I was able to add to my collection for a song. The Members Only parallel kind of flies under the radar because it's not flashy and not serially-numbered, but these were a case hit in 2014 and the math says that there are only 5-10 copies of each one out there. I snagged this Altuve on eBay for my 2014 Topps Stadium Club Members Only collection. I am not ever going to have a complete set of these, but I am working on getting as many of these parallels from 2014 as I can.

23 April 2017

Danica Patrick National Treasures Quad Materials Gold - Food City 500

Today's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was postponed until tomorrow due to rain, but I am still going to post a NASCAR card today. This is one of those cards that pops up in your eBay feed, and you know you have to have it. It's just a sharp-looking card, and the price felt about right for what it was.

This is a Danica Patrick Quad Materials relic card from 2016 Panini National Treasures Racing. It's a Gold parallel, numbered # 01 / 10. But the reason it jumped out at me was all of the colorful relic swatches. There's some firesuit here, some sheet metal, and some tire. It's just a nice-looking piece of cardboard. I probably wound up overpaying a little for it, as prices have been driven down by the large amount of Panini product hitting the market, but I don't think I overpaid by enough to really worry about. I'll be interested to see how long it takes for Panini products to reflect Danica's change in sponsorship after things fell apart with Nature's Bakery.

Here is the back of the card, which features a description of Danica's 13th-place finish in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism last season. I don't know if the relic swatches on the front are related to that race, but I am guessing that Panini isn't bothering to match relics to card-back descriptions. It is nice to find a card-back with something more than just the usual blurb regarding authenticity, though. Even though you can find any of these stats, quotes, or descriptions online within a few seconds, I am not ready yet to give up on finding trivia and statistics on the backs of my cards. It is refreshing to me when a sports card has more than the bare minimum on the back.

It looks like qualifying for the this weekend's race was cancelled due to the weather, so drivers are starting in order of the points standings. Danica's season has been a little underwhelming so far, so she'll be starting in 29th place when the race kicks off. Hopefully she can improve on that positioning during the run.

22 April 2017

A Painted Leia by Ingrid Hardy

One of the artists I've been chasing for a long time is Ingrid Hardy. She does some amazing landscapes for various Star Wars sets, as well as spacecraft and characters that are also top-notch. I think she's done a little bit of superhero work in the licensed sketch card world, as well. Her Topps Star Wars sketch cards rightfully sell for quite a bit, as they are usually pretty awesome.

I follow Hardy on Facebook, and every so often she'll post an eBay listing or something she's listed on her Etsy shop. Often they sell before I even see the post, but a while back she posted about this Leia personal sketch card that she'd made available, and I was the first person to click through and get it. I was really excited to get an Ingrid Hardy sketch card, and also excited that it featured Leia, the subject of my biggest sketch card collection. I was surprised at how thick the paint application on the card is. Hardy art has a lot of texture to it, and it is surprisingly detailed for how thick the paint looks.

She also included this autographed base card from Star Wars Galaxy that features her work on the front. This gives you a good feel for her Star Wars landscapes. I especially like some of the ones she's done that show action on the ice planet Hoth, with AT-ATs looming on the horizon. I also like the way she paints clouds.

She included a couple of business cards with some more art and her contact information and her website link on them.

I was pretty happy to get an example of Hardy's artwork for my collection, and especially happy that it featured Leia from Star Wars.