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Friday, August 14, 2015

Box Break: 2015-16 Upper Deck MVP Retail Blaster

I used to post box breaks on the blog quite often but I haven't done a review in quite some time.  Now that the first release of the 2015-16 hockey season has hit the store shelves, I felt the need to start things off on the right foot again.

Upper Deck, once again, unleashed their low-end, "for the kids", early season release of MVP.  MVP was a longtime product that disappeared from the market for a few years, only to be revived a number of years ago as an insert to the flagship product.  Last year it made it's return and this year it's back.

The base set this year is comprised of 250.  The first 100 of these are quite easily obtainable.  The rest are all Short Prints of either vets or Rookie, mixed with a return of the NHL Territories cards as a subset rather than inserts.  These are just like the Hometown Heroes sets of old.  The ever popular Silver, Gold and Super Scripts are back as well.  They have also turned the Territories cards into a memorabilia parallel and included an even rarer Autograph version.

New this year is the Colors & Contours parallels which feature a whopping nine tiers to chase.  There are Purple, Teal, and Gold version. I have seen some of these and they are very nice but really Upper Deck?  Nine tiers of these?  Is that necessary for an entry level product?  Most hobby boxes should yield about six of these, the same rate as Young Guns fall in the flagship product.

What I find intriguing is the "hits".  Normally MVP didn't really have anything other than the occasional Jersey card or the multi-player memorabilia cards of old.  The occasional Super Script would pop up now and again but that was about it.  This year, Upper Deck, while not promising anything directly, has include a "hit" per hobby box.  However, the "hits" are considered either a Super Script, Auto, Jersey, 1/1, printing plate, or rookie redemption.  Many collectors have already voiced their disdain as anything other than a jersey, auto, or 1/1 is generally considered not a hit.  But, I repeat...it's an ENTRY LEVEL product.  Not a "hit" driven release.

After hearing they were available, I made the trek to the local Target to pick up a Blaster.  This year, Blaster boxes contain 24 packs with 5 cards per pack.  Let me repeat...BLASTER = 24 packs!  Price tag should be between $19.99-$21.99 in most locales (or if you are lucky like me, things could get mis-priced and you end up with basically two for the price of one).  So to get to the particulars...

Box Breakdown:

24 Packs/Blaster Box
5 Cards/Pack
120 Cards/Blaster Box

I pulled:

113/250 Base Cards (45%, including 1-100)
1 Duplicates (Chris Kunitz)
5 Parallels - 1 Gold Script (Bryan Little); 4 Silver Scripts (Patrick Kane, Patrick Elias, Jonathan Drouin Checklist, Sam Bennett RC)
NHL Territories Jerseys - 0
Signatures - 0
Connor McDavid - 0
Anything else not a base, Script card, or hit - 0

Here are some of the "cool" cards.



 Base Cards



NHL Territories Subset Cards



Short Prints



Script Cards

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The National Wrap

The National entrance.
Now that we are a few days removed from this years National Sports Collector's Convention in Chicago, I thought I would gather my thoughts and talk about my experience this year.  I know, I know.  You have already read 300 posts about the show and you are over it.  Well, tough.

This was by no means my first trip to the rodeo, so to speak.  I have attended the last five NSCC shows that have come through Chicago (my first was at the 14th show in 1993, also in Chicago at McCormick Place).  Because I live so close to the city, it doesn't take much to make the 50-60 minutes trip out near O'Hare to attend a show.

With Lou Gehrig's uniform
But this year was different than in past years.  My focus this year was less about the fulfillment of want lists, the acquisition of mass quantities of cardboard, auto-hounding, or ultimately breaking the bank.  This year I decided to make it about the three most important things that keep my in the hobby...Friends, Family, and Fun.  I'd call it a success.

We hit the show for one day out of the five it was opened.  Our day of choice was Saturday, which is generally the busiest day of the show both with events, autograph guests, and foot traffic.  We showed up to an already packed house at 10AM, right as the doors opened.  Oh, I forgot to mention.  The "we" I keep speaking about are my wife and three boys all under the age of 12, which means FREE ADMISSION!  But that's not why I brought everyone.  I love to share and encourage the hobby with my family.  What better way to do that than to experience the biggest show of the year.

My hobby has been something that has taken up a large portion of my time, energy, and attention since I started collecting.  This is why I try to involve everyone in the collecting process.  My two boys are well aware of my cardboard obsession and it rubs off on them.  I encourage them to participate, not just accumulate.  What does that mean?  Actually look at the pictures, the design, the colors.  Read the stats on the back.  Read the player story-lines.  Staying engaged with the cardboard in your collection makes a big difference in what you collect, how you collect, and why you collect.  I keep this at the forefront with my kids so they stay engaged and it is exciting for them.

Protecting the wife from danger.
My step-son has just recently been introduced to the world of cards and he is a natural.  His first "real" cards came last Christmas and he hit the ground running, organizing them by teams without being prompted.  It almost brought a tear to my eye...almost.  My wife.  Well that's a whole different ball game.  She is, dare I say, almost as obsessed as I am.  I got her hooked by including her while breaking open boxes.  She LOVES to open packs.  She, unlike myself, even enjoys numerically sorting cards.  She loves to be involved, because I love to be involved.  We can have intelligent (if you call it that) conversations together about cards, players, teams, and the sports themselves.  She's said on a number of occasions that she never thought she would actually like sports.  Cards have helped bridge that gateway.  If you are reading this, you're welcome, Babe.

Getting dunked on by MJ.
With the family portion out of the way, let's move to friends.  As many of you know, I have been blogging since 2009 (not as much recently but still).  I have made many friends in the hobby over the years as a result.  Twitter has only helped to magnify that, as have the many other trading forums and seller's gateways out there in the interwebs.  The National is probably one of the best places to meet up with many of these people, put faces to names, talk shop, and generally just enjoy the company of other similar minded collectors.  I have a few people that I almost always see at local shows in Chicago and we trade cards (yes, I said trade).  I will say that unfortunately this year, circumstances beyond my control made seeing a few of my collecting buddies impossible.  But nonetheless, Sal (from Puck Junk...you know the "other" guy from the podcast...ha ha) and I got together, swapped some cards, swapped some stories, and got caught up.  I also met a couple faces from Twitter and got to talk to a few VIPs from the card manufacturers.  The National is by far the best socially interactive environment for collectors.

Which brings me to the FUN portion of the post.  What would this hobby be without fun?  It wouldn't be a hobby, that much is for sure.  Sometimes I think collectors forget the fun part.  It becomes more about the "hits", more about making money, more about turning a profit.  It turns the hobby into a job, which is fine if that is actually your job.  But for the rest of us, hobby burnout is easily achieved when the perspective inches away from fun.

Getting ready for the Kids Break.
The National this year was the most fun I have had with the hobby in quite a long time and I think has energized me to get back on track with my collecting goals.  Why?  Well the first two reasons I have already discussed are a big ones, family and friends.  Beyond that though, where else can a guy (or gal) completely geek out over cardboard and just be one of the crowd?  There was something for everyone at this years' show and we took every opportunity we could in the short time we were there.

Rocky. Nuff said.
Instead of spending all day hunting and gathering, we spent most of our time having fun.  We participated in the Upper Deck wrapper redemption program which got us four packs that resulted in four autographs!  The kids got to experience their first "group break" as they participated in Panini's Free Kids Break featuring Paramount Basketball.  There was even some team trading going on before hand.  We got Topps to float me 300,000 Bunt Coins and experienced their "death by plush" red carpet.  We took pictures with dinosaurs.  We jumped into a Shadowbox card with Michael Jordan.  We saw so much memorabilia and cool artifacts from sports' storied past (some iconic in nature, some bizarre).  We saw auctions items drool worthy.  We got to hear an epic "Pack Wars".

From a collection standpoint, we picked up multiple early 2000s hockey wax boxes for the price of one of today's releases.  We got to sift through dozens of boxes of $.10, $.15, $.25, and $1.00 boxes (although the kids probably were sick of that quickly).  My team sets and player collections increased.  I knocked a bunch off my want lists.  The kids picked up a box to break together and the amount of free cards given to the kids was crazy, too thanks to Panini, Topps, and host of other dealers.

I'm glad I got to experience the National this year and I'm looking forward to 2017.  But mostly, I'm glad my family got to experience it with me.  Those memories will surely outlast any cardboard we added to our collections. 



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Podcasts

Just in case you may have missed it, Sal over at Puck Junk and I have been doing a weekly podcast where we discuss hockey and hockey cards.  A lot of content has been devoted to the playoffs and such but each episode we try to review either a newer set, and oldie but a goodie, or BOTH.

I put a link to them at the top of the blog on the left hand side if anyone is interested in listening.  At this point, we are up to 5.

Give them a listen.  Most are around a half hour.  Leave a constructive comment or two. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Stat Wars

A long time ago in my living room far, far away I sat and watched a hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers.  It was a regular season game on the Deuce (which should tell you how long ago it was) and I was only semi-interested in what was transpiring on the ice since the Pens were losing.  I don't remember exactly what else I was doing other than blankly staring at a space on the wall, when I heard the announcer quip some statistic that caught my attention.

This was long before TiVO and well before the ability to pause and rewind live television, but I distinctly remember him saying that the Rangers were 6-0 while leading after two periods on the road after a previous home loss.  Let me say this one again...the Rangers were 6-0...while leading after two periods...on the road...after having previously lost a home game.  The first thing out of my mouth, directed toward the television screen, with no one else in the room to hear my disdain, was "Why the [expletive deleted] would anyone in the [expletive deleted] world care to know something as [expletive deleted] ridiculous as that statistic?"

And thus began my love/hate relationship with today's statistical nonsensitude.  I am not naive to think that the study of statistics, as we know it, has evolved to this point for no reason.  There is a reason, a good one.  But there is a difference between actual readable performance statistics and what I like to call "situationally ironic stats".  Let me explain.

I understand the necessity for teams in all sports to be able to analyze their players and team performance on much more than a 1s and 0s platform (a la Billy Beane).  In hockey for example, the stat for goals, assists, and plus-minus (which many non-hockey people don't really understand) aren't complete at telling the whole story of what happens during a game.  The analysis of possession statistics can help coaches to develop a more intricate game plan, helping to create additional chances and opportunities on the ice that their predecessors decades ago may not have had at their disposal.  Things like Corsi stats which includes puck possession statistics or Fenwick numbers which are similar but don't include shot blocking are all very interesting for the stat monger fans that will argue with you ad nausea about things and literally make you move your seat at the bar.

But for the casual fan and even a long time hockey fan like me, these are fluff numbers that are for the coaches, the scouts, and even the players themselves to understand.  Not me.  That is why I shy away from and more often than not, turn off my brain and go to my happy place when these numbers start dancing across the TV screens, the Twitter feeds, or the occasional print media.  In other words, I understand it, but I don't particularly care to pay attention.

The absolute worst though, are the anecdotes like the one previously mentioned that I call situationally ironic stats.  These are meant to keep your attention.  They are meant for the shock factor, to keep you watching just to see if they come true.  In today's world of social media, these are the perfect tidbits of information to get you to click through.  The computer nerds (and I use that term affectionately) from high school that wanted to be involved with sports but just couldn't get past the awkwardness of it all finally have their IN.  These guys can sit in front of a computer with situational game play analysis software that has evolved substantially over the years with algorithms designed to spit out any number of results depending on what variables are entered.  These guys just need internet access and a teleprompter and all the useless numbers get thrown at us with each passing moment.

If you have never watched a televised NHL game on NBC or NBCSports networks, then you may not be familiar with the overabundance of canon fodder that comes from Mike Emerick's mouth.  He recites these types of circumstantial half-truths at least six times a game, maybe more.  The playoff broadcasts are even worse.

Another great example that occurred during Game 2 of the SCF. Sportsnet Stats tweeted...

"No team in Stanley Cup Final history has lost back-to-back home games when leading each contest after 2 periods."

So logically speaking, despite leading after 2 periods, either both games were wins or at least one of these games was a loss.  Therefore a lead really means nothing because you still have a 50/50 shot at pulling out a victory.  Thanks.  That is helpful.

I was further reminded of how long ago this phenomenon started last evening when my sons decided to watch the classic baseball movie, Little Big League.  For those that have never seen it, it's from 1994, a more innocent time in baseball.  It focuses on young Billy, all of 12 years old, and his adventures as the owner/manager of the Minnesota Twins.  The previous owner, his grandfather, passed away and left the team to him in his will.  After firing the hated team manager and appointing himself to the helm, he eventually leads the team down the road to a playoff opportunity, winning everyones hearts along the way. (see, innocent).  Their radio announcer, Wally Holland, at one point in the movie gives the pinnacle of all inane stats...

"He's eight for 13 this year...against left-handers...in night games...played above the Mason Dixon Line."  

Indeed.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Trades. Now's The Time For Trades.

I'm bored and in a collecting funk.  So LET'S TRADE.

I'm looking to get some trades going around here.  I know I have traded with some of you before and there was a time where I was probably not a very good trade partner.  In fact there are probably some of you out there that I still owe cards to.  But I'm now sitting on so much product that I have no where to put things anymore.  What better way of moving it than through trades.

By now everyone knows what I collect.  No?  Really?  Well if you don't here is a list...

Teams:  
      Pittsburgh Penguins (early 90s stuff is not needed unless it's oddball)
      Pittsburgh Steelers
      Pittsburgh Pirates (if it's from 1987-1991 I probably already have too many)

Players:  
      Hockey:   Jaromir Jagr,  Mario Lemieux,  Bill Guerin,  Eric Tangradi
      Football:  Rod Woodson,  Jerome Bettis

Other Projects:
      Ball State University Alumni (players that played for BSU or are featured in BSU gear)
      Pittsburgh Penguin Autographed cards (check my other blog for what I already have)

I am looking to get rid of a ton of hockey product.  Most of my collection is divided into either players or teams.  Inserts from the last 5 years are divided by brand.  I have singles from the mid 1980s through today.  If you need commons to complete sets, let me know or just send me your lists.  Also, I have about 600 cards listed on Collector's Revolution.  If you go on my inventory and see anything you would like to trade for instead of buy, let me know and I can see what I can do.

I do have some football but nothing recent and really nothing huge.  Most of my football is divided into teams but I do have some player albums with singles.  If you have someone in mind, a set you are trying to finish from the last 10 years or so or a team you collect, let me know.

As far as baseball goes, I do have a sprinkling of some stuff from the last 10 years or so but again, nothing super huge like refractor/auto/jersey stuff.  Baseball is mostly in boxes by sets but back in the late 2000s I sorted a couple monster boxes by player.  The majority are guys from the 1980s and 1990s but there may be a few recent guys separated out.  If you have needs from any of the Topps or Bowman sets from the last 6 years, send me a list and I will look.

Basketball...I don't collect basketball cards but over the years I have accumulated some because of many collections I have purchased.  Because of that I have two 5000 count boxes of basketball cards, mostly from the early to mid 2000s with some mix of early 1990s.  I know nothing about them nor do I care to.  If you have a team you like or a player, let me know and I can reluctantly go through them.

Ready?

Set?

Go!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Blog Isn't Dead. It's Just Sleepy

That's right, kids.  The blog isn't dead.  It's just a very sleepy, sleepy place.  Why?  Well I have found quite a few other means of communicating with many people out there in the card universe.

First, there is Twitter.  I am fairly active on Twitter, reading all the 140 character goodness that is published daily, hourly, even minutely (put it in Websters) by all my collector friends, dealers, writers, and sports personalities that I follow.  You can usually find me on there at some point for a few moments each day commenting, favoriting, and reTweeting.

Then, there is the new venture, the Puck Junk Podcast.  Sal Barry and I have been putting on a podcast on a weekly basis covering everything NHL and hockey card related.  Why?  Well, above all else, it's fun.  Sal and I have had many conversations over the years about things that turn into memorable moments so we finally started to document some of those conversations.  What better way that with audio?  Secondly, there isn't much out there that is hockey centered and focuses on the musings of two hockey fans with no real broadcasting experience and lots of opinions.  Lots.  I mean lots.  Podcast #4 is available now  on Soundcloud if you haven't already given it a listen.  It's still a work in progress but if you have 30 minutes, I could think of worse ways to spend it.

But, I guess the moral of this story is, the blog will be back to partially semi-regular, if not actually semi-regular posts soon.  I just need to stop procrastinating my posts for so long.  I just went through my post log and I found 26 "DRAFT" versions of posts that never got published.  All of them with content.  I don't know if it's a general unhappiness with what I write or just laziness.  I'll probably go with laziness.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Podcast. Yes, you heard me. PODCAST!

Since i pretty much hang out on Twitter almost exclusively, there have been very few blog posts. I should remedy that and I'm truly working on it. So what better way to fix my general laziness to blogging than to start another project.

Yes, kids. Your friendly DFG had entered the world of the Podcast. But don't fear.  I'm not entering it alone.  My partner in cardboard crime is along for the ride (more like he's driving the train). Sal from Puck Junk and I have started a, hopefully, weekly podcast devoted to our love of the hobby, hockey cards, and anything else we care to blather on about.

Our first episode has been posted for your listening pleasure. Feel free to leave comments, hopefully constructive. Save your flames for the bbq grill. Oh and I know my voice sounds like I took the Ice Bucket Challenge without removing the bucket. I'm working on that. First episode rust, we'll call it.

http://puckjunk.com/2015/05/12/puck-junk-podcast-1-may-12-2015/