Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Catching Up and Jumping Aboard

May has surprisingly been a busy month for myself.  During the first week of May I headed down to San Diego with my wife and her parents for a nice, relaxing getaway.  Then after I got back the weather started to shape up, which meant getting outside more to take advantage of the weather before it goes by too quickly.  That also means that cards have taken a backseat in the car that is life. I have picked up some cards here and there so I will show some of them off.

My first time to San Diego was fantastic.  It was even made better by what else? Baseball.  It wasn't planned this way but our trip happened to coincide with a Padres home stand.  I've never been to Petco Park so I told my wife the only thing I wanted to do was attend a baseball game there.

Petco Park

I found a ticket for a day game against the Colorado Rockies.  Knowing I would not visit again soon, I picked the best seat I could without breaking the bank.  I ended up finding a seat right next to the Rockies dugout, row 7.  Technically there were only two other rows of seats in front of my so the view was incredible.

I was so close to the field that I was even on camera at least once.  This particular shot occurred during the bottom of the 9th in a break in the action after Hector Sanchez let his bat slip and it hit a lady in the stands.

I'm on TV!

There I am inside the yellow circle rocking a Padres hat and sunglasses.  Everyone is concerned, looking at the woman who was hit and I was just thinking "how long is this going to take?" I'm sure there were other times when the camera caught me given my placement.

Nolan Arenado

I had a great view of Arenado's defensive skills at third base.


All of those shots I took my from my seat.

Watching the game felt all too familiar as a Mariners fan.  The Padres had trouble getting hits and missed opportunities when they finally did get on base.  In the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and either one or two outs, San Diego couldn't close out the game.  They went on to lose it in extra innings.  That sort of disappointment is vintage Mariners.

Even though the Padres and Mariners are considered rivals for the purposes of interleague play (I know, it makes no sense), I now consider myself a Padres fan.  The ballpark was enjoyable, the city was nice, and the team has some likable players.  With the Mariners and Padres similar struggles with success and perennial underdog status, I couldn't help but embrace the Padres.  Plus, I didn't really have any NL team that I felt strongly about.

The Padres are not well represented in my collection (currently ranked #22) so next time I am at a card show I'll be on the lookout for any cards of current Padres players.

Since this is a card blog, I owe you all some pictures of cards.  Here are a few cards I have received lately.

A batch of 2017 Topps Now cards.  Did you know that Ichiro has as many Topps Now cards of him at Safeco Field as the Mariners have in general?  Yup.  The Mariners have two cards this year and Ichiro had two cards this year when he returned to Seattle.  Topps isn't all to blame as the Mariners have been lackluster this year.  

I've set an eBay reminder for 2008 Topps printing plates as I would love to be a super collector of anything and everything 2008 Topps.  Printing plates show up often on the site but I ignore any ones over $10.  I think this Willis McGahee yellow plate was right at $10.  That seems reasonable enough for a 1 of 1 card.

Blue Die Cut


Gabe Marks, the standout wide receiver from WSU made his way into a few Panini products this year, including 2017 Elite Draft.  Marks was featured in the autographs insert and with the dizzying array of parallels Panini puts out there have been plenty of cards from which to choose.  Here are a couple of the more short printed cards.

That is it for cards.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Day 3: Looking for Summer

30-Day Challenge: Day 3

Here in Seattle it's universally understood that summer doesn't unofficially begin until after the Fourth of July.  Until then, the weather makes no guarantees.  I don't know if I can wait that long for a nice, sunny day.  Seattle recently broke a 122-year-old record for the rainiest winter.

I'm ready to get out of the rain.  Fortunately I will making a trip to San Diego soon.  There I know I'm guaranteed some sun.  I'm also guaranteed a San Diego Padres game.  This will mark the sixth different major league stadium (four if you exclude defunct stadiums) I have visited.  I'm excited.

All this talk about sun fits nicely into today's categoires:
  • Music: A song that reminds you of summertime
    • Minus the Bear - Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
  • Trading Cards: A card from the first set you tried to complete
    • Magic the Gathering - Revised (3rd) Edition 

Finding a song to remind me of summer was hard.  Way back in 2005 I remember trying to come up with songs/albums that reminded me of each season and I could never come up with anything for summer.  

The song I picked doesn't remind me of any specific for summer but the feeling it gives me is a hot summer evening, windows open, a cool breeze wavering in.  Perhaps one of the reasons why this song, and really the album it's from, reminds of summer is that I first discovered the song in the summer.

Back in high school I went to a LAN (Local Area Network) party at my friend's house.  LAN parties were necessary in the days of dial-up internet.  In order to play multiplayer games with each other on our computers, we needed to be in the same room on the same network.  After we would play a few hours of Counter-Strike we would all download music and movies from each others' computers.  

Minus the Bear's Highly Refined Pirates was one such album I picked up as all the songs titles were unusual like "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!" and "Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister."  I became a big fan of the band for their next two albums Menos El Oso and Planet of Ice

I stopped tracking the band when their album Omni focused less on the technical, math rock and veered toward synthpop.  Admittedly, I only listened to one song from Omni as wasn't the direction I was expecting or wanted.  I love a good synthpop album but not when it's from one of your favorite bands who should not be making such an album.  As I write this I decided to put on Omni to see if I can fairly judge it.  Stay tuned.

Scan courtesy of The Trading Card Database

When I think about summertime, I often think about summer in New Hampshire growing up.  The summers there were hot and humid.  They were also a lot of fun.  I had no school.  I had no responsibilities.  I could play all day.  Simpler times.

When I think about New Hampshire I also think about collecting Magic the Gathering cards.  I don't recall how I became hooked on Magic; maybe because other kids at school were playing the game. At one point, you had to get special permission to play the game at school.  I also think Magic cards were banned at one time, too.  

I collected Magic cards during the time of the Revised/3rd Edition.  One of the best birthdays I had was when my parents gave me a WHOLE box to open all by myself while everyone watched.  Thank you Mom and Dad.  

I had so many cards that I decided to put together the whole set, which was the first time I tried to complete a set.  I did complete the set but the cards have been lost to the universe.  I even asked my dad if he knew where they were and he didn't know.  I have some mana cards but that doesn't count.

If they ever turn up I will be very happy.  Until then, I'll live off the memories.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Day 2: Counting the Shots

30 Day Challenge: Day 2

I went to my first Mariners game of the year on Friday. The game turned out well with Felix Hernandez putting in a great effort and the bullpen held the slim lead that the offense gave them.  A 2-1 victory is about right for any game that Felix pitches.  

The main highlight of the evening was the stadium giveaway.  The day before the Mariners installed a statue of Ken Griffey Jr.  After being inducted into the Hall of Fame this was inevitable as he is one of the most, if not the most, beloved players in Seattle history.  On game night the Mariners gave out a replica of the statue, which features Griffey with his signature swing.  

Onto day 2 of the challenge!
  • Music: A song with a number in the title
    • Coheed and Cambria - 33
  • Trading Cards: A card with more than one player on it
    • 1996-97 Collector's Choice Mini #M135

Coheed & Cambria are often compared to Rush both musically and lyrically.  The lead singer of Coheed has a high falsetto voice much like Geddy Lee of Rush.  Coheed doesn't lean too hard into prog-rock like Rush but Coheed is definitely inspired by the genre.

Both singers wrote about the fantasy genre.  Part of the appeal of Coheed was that each album was a concept album part of a larger story.  I never followed the story to completion (if it even ever happened) as I dropped off from the band before that.  Still, I can appreciate a band with a larger vision.

"33" can either be interpreted as part of the overall Coheed story or it can be interpreted as a song about Patrick Ewing.  The story I heard was that Claudio Sanchez (the lead singer) was at a Knicks game watching Patrick Ewing play from the upper level and was inspired to write a song about him.

I'm willing to believe that the song is about Ewing.  Ewing wore number 33.  Lyrics include such phrases as "Patrick short flip and outside / boundary lines" as in he's throwing a pass to the out of bounds.  Another lyric includes "well nothing looks right from up here / i'm still unclear about the things you might have said."  Since Claudio was watching the game from high above in the arena, he could not make out what Ewing was saying on the court.

No matter the true meaning, it's a fun theory.

I could not pass up the opportunity to post a Patrick Ewing card after writing about a song that may or may not be about Patrick Ewing.  I only have eight cards of his in my collection so it was a difficult choice to pick out which card I would feature.  Actually, it was an easy choice, a Collector's Choice.

The minis from Collector's Choice were always a treat to pull.  The fact that this one features all elite players who are part of the Hall of Fame makes it even better now.

I would not be opposed if this type of three-panel card made a small comeback.  In baseball there seems to be some fatigue over true minis as neither Gypsy Queen nor Diamond Kings had minis this year.  Although I could envision card companies seeing this type of card as too labor intensive (not to mention acquiring three separate photo rights) to reproduce a similar card noways.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day 1: Starting the 30 Day Baseball AND Music Challenge

Before I get into the topic at hand I wanted to give a quick aside and say that the beginning to the Mariners baseball season has been soul crushing on a whole new level.  High expectations going into the season and the roster looked good on paper.  As it stands right now, the team is 2-7.  If they don't start to creep back up to .500, it will be a long season.

When Tony from Off Hiatus Baseball posted on Twitter about making a 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge to mirror the 30-Day Music Challenge he had been doing, I was excited to take part.  Not only would it provide great blogging material but it would be a fun way to re-examine all my cards. I won't be limiting myself to only baseball since my collection spans all sports.  Regardless, baseball will likely take up a lot of these posts.

The music challenge piqued my interest as well.  I decided to give myself some extra work and take on both challenges at the same time.  As can be seen on Tony's blog, talking about music and cards makes for some interesting connections and discussions.  As I've been planning out my 30 days, I've found some great links.

Since I'm going the blogging route instead of posting these topics on Twitter, I'm going to spread the posts out every few days or so.

Without further ado, I present to you the topics for day 1:

  • Music: A song you like with the color in the title
    • Kishi Bashi - Bright Whites
  • Cards: A card from the current year with a photo you like
    • 2017 Topps Now - Team Dominican Republic #W-26

Unlike most bands, the leading instrument here is the violin.  Kishi Bashi manages to craft delightful pop.  His solo performances are a treat as he does a wonderful job creating looping samples of his violin and vocals to replicate the experience of a full band.  I've seen Kishi Bashi play only once but it was one of the most fun times I've had at a concert.

With baseball season just right around the corner [I drafted this the weekend of opening day], there is nothing like the bright white of a brand new baseball.  Fortunately, baseball fans were treated to some early, meaningful baseball this year.  The World Baseball Classic took over in March and provided a lot of memorable moments.  From USA Baseball winning it's first WBC title, to Adam Jones making a spectacular leaping catch at the wall, and to Jose Bautista making a dead-on throw to the plate.

As the Topps Now card indicates, the throw to the plate eliminated a game-winning run to send the game into extra innings. The Dominican Republic would go on to win the game.

The picture captures the moment perfectly.  It's photos like these that I hope to see more of from Topps Now this year. [Two weeks into the season and Topps Now has been underwhelming].

That wraps up day 1 of the challenge.  Like I said, I plan to put up a post on this topic every few days. Catch you next time!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Looking at Alternatives to Topps: 2017 Donruss

While the release of Topps Series 1 is an exciting time because it means the start of baseball card season, I was not excited about the design of this year's Topps.  There are some inconsistent design elements and the colored backs come off too strong.  After I bought a couple packs that I promptly traded away, I decided I would pass on opening any more flagship this year.  I'll buy a factory set at the end of the year to satisfy my need to collect the full set.

When I saw a preview of 2017 Donruss, I knew this would be a good alternative for me this year. The design is very similar to last years Donruss football, a design I regarded highly.  If there is any main competitor to flagship Topps, Donruss would have to be it.  

Retail boxes have started to pop up so I bought a blaster to see if this will satisfy my desire for a good base set. Only seven packs with eight cards per pack, which is about half of what would be in a Topps blaster box. Although there is one guaranteed autograph or memorabilia card so that is a step above Topps' guaranteed manufactured relics.  

Pack #1

I wish the base design had full colored borders like the football but I still like the overall design. The gray backs look fine to me as not everything needs a blast of color.  

If there is one downside to this set it's that a lot of the photos feature similar poses.  Perhaps Panini does this because it is easier to Photoshop out the logos.  From what I have seen of this year's Topps flagship, their photo choices have some variation.  

With the stark white borders and similar photos, I'm going to dispense with showing off the rest of the base cards I opened.   

Name variation

This is a name plate variation so it's worth showing off.  I had to look up the story behind the nickname "Hakuna Machado" and it's actually rather clever.  It's based off the Lion King and the Orioles even made a song featuring his nickname.  I encourage you to watch it only because it's this kind of thing that reminds me how fun baseball is off the field.  

1983 Throwback design

These cards are a throwback to the 1983 Donruss design.  I have no nostalgia for 1983 Donruss (I wasn't even born yet) so these cards don't sway me one way or another.  The design is faithful to the old 1983 design.  These inserts came two to a pack for each pack so I'm not going to bother showing them all off.  You've seen them once and you've seen them enough.

Pack #2

70 - Anthony Rizzo
84 - Francisco Lindor
127 - Starlin Castro
174 - Wilson Ramos
179 - Duke Snider

I like that Panini will included retired players in their base sets.

1983 Throwback - Paul Goldschmidt & Mookie Betts

I lied above.  Here's two more of the 1983 retros.  I scanned these two before I decided to stop scanning them all.  Now you won't see any more of these cards.

The Rated Rookie subset, which is a standard Donruss inclusion.

Pack #3

54 - Mark Trumbo
96 - Michael Fulmer
112 - Adrian Gonzalez
186 - Pete Rose
195 - Carlos Gonzalez

1983 Throwbacks - Corey Kluber & Albert Pujols

This is from The Rookies insert.  I miss the days when the Astros were bottom feeders in the AL West.  Give the Mariners their chance to win the West!

Pack #4

85 - Jose Ramirez
100 - Evan Gattis
142 - Johnny Cueto
162 - Elvis Andrus
167 - Aaron Sanchez

1983 Throwbacks - Pedro Martinez & Evan Longoria

SN# 29/210

This is a Season Stat Line parallel from the 1983 throwbacks.  All of the serial numbers from this insert are from the stat represented.  In this case, Robin Yount had 210 hits in 1982, so the card is numbered out of 210. Clever

Pack #5

46 - Paul Goldschmidt
55 - Chris Davis
88 - Tyler Naquin
151 - Randal Grichuk
159 - Cole Hammels

1983 Throwbacks - Robinson Cano & Brian Dozier

Another Donruss staple, the Diamond Kings subset.

Pack #6

73 - Jon Lester
116 - Giancarlo Stanton
130 - Marcus Semien
165 - Josh Donaldson
169 - Troy Tulowitzki

1983 Throwbacks - Ozzie Smith & Josh Donaldson

SN# 871/999

Since Panini has the license to USA Baseball, it only makes sense that they would include players from the national team.  Hiura is a junior at UC Irvine and is projected as a high first round draft pick. I couldn't find any up to date stats on his current season but at the end of February he was hitting .444/.515/1.074 with five doubles and 15 RBIs in seven games.

I don't track college baseball prospects but I think I'll keep my eye on him now that I have his card.  

Pack #7

71 - Ben Zobrist
113 - Christian Yelich
128 - Masahiro Tanaka
170 - Jose Bautista
191 - Wade Boggs

1983 Throwback - Joe Morgan & Brooks Robinson

Last but not least, the guaranteed hit of the box.  I was certain I would pull a relic as the guaranteed hits are typically not the autographs.  This is a nice piece of purple jersey, a sight for sore eyes blinded by white jersey relics.  I don't think I have any Rockies relics, either.

Looking at the back, Panini says this is "player-used" material, which is code for "the player wore it for 10 seconds at Panini's request then took the jersey off."  Oh well, I guess game-used was too much to ask.  I still like the card.

A solid effort from Panini and this year's base design is an improvement over last year.  I love the USA Baseball insert and the Season Stat Line parallel.  I don't expect this to be a set I chase this year but I'll likely pick up another box.  There were no duplicates in this box, which is always a plus.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Falling for More Retail Basketball

Old habits die hard.  Basketball was my favorite sport growing up yet I have only faint interest in the sport now.  Even so, I want to follow the sport and continue my basketball collection.  Due to the dark cloud the NBA left over the city of Seattle when the Sonics left, I can't in good conscience become an NBA fan.

I try to resist the urge but sometimes I falter.  I'll allow myself the sporadic retail packs and nothing more. 

My Fred Meyer had a lone box of 2016-17 Panini Prestige so I had buy two packs to see how the design looks.

Here is a breakdown of my two packs, with six cards per pack:

Pack #1


Only two names I recognize here: Draymond Green and Marc Gasol.  Like I said, I don't really follow the sport.  

I like the base card design for its simplicity and full-framed photo.  The rookie card of Beasley has the design elements switched so I wonder if that's consistent between all the rookie cards.  

Rookie Class - Crystal Parallel

One insert in the first pack and it is an excellent card.  Not necessary due to the player as Ingram has failed to "wow" the league this year.  I just like the way the card is designed.  It's a tough card to scan as it's a rainbow foil with crystal pattern (similar to the cracked ice cards) embossed in the card. Furthermore, Ingram's head is in the background of the card, which does not show up at all in this scan.

Pack #2

Only four base cards in my second pack, with two rookies.  I like that kind of collation.  I was also right about the design being switched for rookies and veterans.  I recognize Jrue Holiday and Arron Afflalo from their days of playing with UCLA in the then PAC-10.  

Your look at the back of the base cards.  Standard Panini fare with the repeating image and single year stats.  I like how Panini at least color shaded the back image.

C'mon Panini, you couldn't feature Ewing during his time as Supersonic?  I kid, Ewing was on his last legs when he played in Seattle.  Although if I were to ever create an all-time Sonics binder, he would absolutely be in there.

I think this is the Acetate insert.  The card between the top and bottom banners is actually clear, with the exception of the Knicks logo and Porzingis.  The crowd in the background is also translucent.  It's a neat looking card and it might actually be my first acetate card.  

For retail packs, I'm impressed that there was a pack for two insert cards.  I expected only one.  The base design is okay but the inserts were the attraction for me.  I might consider buying another pack or two hoping for another interesting insert.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Blog Bat Around: Elusive Sets

Nachos Grande asked about the hardest button set to button collect in a Blog Bat Around.  Three sets come to mind that have been difficult track down.

1997 Nintendo Power Mario Kart 64

#1 - 1997 Nintendo Power Mario Kart 64

If you asked me this question when I recently got back into collecting my answer would have been the 1997 Nintendo Power Mario Kart 64 set.  I found a couple of these cards in my collection but I could not find any more information on the set.  There was no checklist online.  Google searches turned up some unhelpful images of the cards.  I even found a Reddit post that was a couple years old and asked the poster if he still had the cards; he didn't.

eBay was of no help either as the only cards for sale were an unopened pack going for something like $100.  No thank you!  Eventually, a few months later perhaps, a full set showed up on auction and I turned out victorious.

#2 - 1996-97 Collector's Choice Update Cards #401-430

1996-97 Collector's Choice - Exchange Card / #428

This next set I've had great success tracking down through Beckett Marketplace and Sportlots for an inexpensive per card price.  In addition to the base set of 1996-97 Collector's Choice basketball is a 30 card trade update set.  Included with Series 2 was a trade update card that you could exchange for the 30 card set at a later date.

I had an easy time finding the exchange card but the rest of the 30 card set has taken some time.  I wouldn't think these cards would that hard to find since Collector's Choice was widely available at their release.  Yet here I am still missing 6 cards.  These cards are low priority so I don't search for them on a regular basis.

#3 - 1996-97 Collector's Choice Stickums Series 1 Base

Stickums Series 1 - Sticker #29
Stickums Series 2 - Base #29

The last set has been *impossible* to find.  I have not seen these for sale.  I have not even seen scans available for any of these cards so I couldn't show one if I wanted.  This set is again from 1996-97 Collector's Choice: Stickums Base Series 1.  The Stickums set is made up of the stickers of players, plus the silhouette base card to attach your stickers.

I have all the stickers from series 1 but even a single base card has eluded me.  I think Billy Kingsley mentioned that the base Stick Ums from series 1 were a trade in or only available from certain packs. Either way, they were not widely available at release.

I once bought a bunch from different sellers on Sportlots but of course the sellers were all wrong. Unfortunately, they did not have the right cards.  The base cards do not have any names on them so it can be tricky to know if your base is from series 1 or 2.

As the cards pictured above demonstrate, if you are paying attention, the stickers from series 1 clearly do not match the base from series 2.  The team names match up across the different series but that's about it.  I can understand the mix up but it is not excusable when you are selling online.

I'm not giving up hope on finding this set.  I'm not expecting to complete it anytime soon, either.


Billy's comment below spurred me to examine the series 1 and 2 sticker cards.  I've found a very important difference that maybe has unlocked the key to this mystery.

Series 1 Sticker Back

On the back of the series 1 cards, it reads "you can keep the card intact or simply adhere the player photo and player name stickers to notebooks, inside your locker, or any other place you want!"\

Series 2 Sticker Back

On the back of the series 2 stickers, it reads "you can keep the card intact or follow the directions below to make a match with the Super Action Scene Card."

It's interesting that the series 1 card makes NO mention of the Stickums base, whereas the series 2 card explicitly mentions the base cards. That strongly suggests to me that Upper Deck didn't make series 1 base cards.

Honestly, this is enough to convince my collecting obsessive mind that my series 1 Stickums set is complete.  Until I see otherwise, I'm going to assume the base cards do not exist.