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Friday, May 6, 2011

My Obligatory Gypsy Queen Post

There was a time last year when almost every blog had a post about A&G.  Well that time of year has rolled around again only this time it's Gypsy Queen.  So since everyone else is doing it, why can't I? 



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Box Break - - 2010-11 SP Authentic Hockey

It's time for another box break.  I have held off long enough on this one and I'm not sure why.  Actually, I went through all my "draft" posts and came up with a startling revelation.  I start posts in droves and never really finish them.  This was one of those posts.  I think my problem is that my brain goes a million miles an hour and when something interesting pops up I start writing and then lose interest when the idea fades.  I'm like the guy that gets distracted by shiny things.  So enough about that.  Moving on.

Upper Deck released their SP Authentic Hockey product about mid-April and I was lucky enough to get my hands on one the first day it hit the shelves.  From what I have heard thus far, it's a good thing too.  Upper Deck has started to roll out their "authorized dealer" designation and there are some interesting restrictions that go with it.  Things like, no Canadian sales for a year, no re-seller sales for 90 days in the US, and other crazy stipulations.  I'm not sure if my LCS has been designated as a dealer or not but I will most certainly find out the next time I stroll by.

This years SPA release is very similar to previous years in that the design is very clean and simple.  The base cards feature an action shot of the player that has been cropped onto a white background.  The top half of the cards feature the player in glossy print, while the bottom half is kind of faded out, almost like a mist coming off the ice.  The right side has a stripe from top to bottom that features the players name, team name, and the SP logo at the bottom.  The player number is sort of superimposed on the bottom section right outside the stripe.  Again, it's a clean design without much flash or flair because the focus of SPA has always been in the "hits".

Each box should have at least 3 auto cards, one of which will be a Future Watch Rookie.  There are also Future Watch Patch cards #'d/100 that have been falling 1 or 2 per case.  The other autos can be found on the perrenial Sign of the Times set that features all the stars of the NHL, the Prestigious Pairings set, Immortal Inks which feature retired players and HOFers, Marks of Distinction, and Chirography.  As a departure from a non parallel base set this year, Upper Deck also added Patch variations of the regular cards.  Most boxes will also yield 1-2 HoloFX inserts and 2-3 SP Essentials, which are numbered /1999 but collated with the base set.

Oh, and before I forget, there are 24 packs per box with 5 cards per pack.  Here are some of my box highlights.

I pulled the typical 2 HoloFX cards from this box.  As you can see, I didn't do too bad with a Bobby Orr and the Drew Doughty.  You can kind of see by the scan that these are hologram laden cards with a gloss that just doesn't play nice with a scanner.  These look so much nicer in person.


These could have been worse as well.  I watched a guy open a box right after me and he only pulled three of these and they were all, to use the Beckett term, semi-stars.  I pulled 4 which technically beats the odds on the sell sheets.  The Gordie Howe is cool because you don't get many Mr. Hockey inserts with him in the Whalers jersey.  My only beef with these is the lack of color.  I'm not sure why they used black and white with that blue faded side panel.  They almost seem like there should be an autograph on the left.

And now for the meat and potatoes portion...

First, I pulled one Future Watch base card numbered /999.  It was Patrice Cormier.  Yeah...I know.  I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.  Moving on, again.

Ok, this was a little better.  First of all, it is a "case hit".  Second, it's numbered to 100.  Third, despite the way it may look in all it's plain color glory, it's a patch.  Fourth, it's a card of Casey Wellman...wait, that's not one of the positives.  Casey played 12 games for the Wild last year and only 15 games this year.  He is currently playing for the Aeros in the AHL.  Anyone remember Brad Wellman from the Giants (baseball)?  This is his kid.  Whoopeee!!  No offense to any Casey Wellman fans, if you exist.

Now we are talking.  Here it comes again.  The return of the man-crush.  Another Eric Tangradi autograph.  I couldn't have been happier to pull this after the disappointing break thus far.  I think this is my 4th or 5th Tangradi autograph which most certainly means he will be traded between now and mid season 2011-12.  The funny thing is that when you put these cards together, you can see a significant difference in his signing.  That may be an interesting topic for a post...(there goes the brain again).  These are numbered /999.  

When it rains, it pours I guess.  Here we have another in a long line of Thrasher prospects, Arturs Kulda.  Kulda is another guy that may earn his stripes as a minor leaguer permanently.  After being drafted as the 200th pick in the 2006 draft, he has spent only 6 games in a Thrashers lineup.  He is a "stay-at-home" kind of defenseman that isn't afraid to mix it up once in a while.  The only reason why I even know who he is is because he plays for the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of Atlanta.  The games are televised in the Chicago TV market.  Otherwise, I would have been clueless. 

So that was it.  A bit underwhelming for my taste.  It's pretty bad when looking back, you enjoy the base cards more than the rest of the box.  Especially for a mid-range box that is supposed to be known for the "hits".  For me personally, if not for the Tangradi, the box was a dud.  This years set was boosted from 100 cards to 150.  That puts me about 39 cards short.  I've got them posted on my Set Needs page.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Random Thoughts

I had a few things to say that have been on my mind and I wanted to share.  Since most of them have nothing to do with one another, I figured a Random Thoughts post was warranted.  So, without further adieu, I give you the results of the emptying of my head in no particular order.

1.  I know this probably isn't going to be the popular opinion, especially since this is a sports blog but, is it just me or does this whole bin Laden thing reek of shenanigans?  I know I can't be the only one that is looking in the direction of a desperate political ploy to inject a positive note into a re-election campaign that has the potential of falling flat on it's face before breaking out of the gates.  Don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to all the men and women involved in the operation to take that S.O.B. out.  But, doesn't anyone think it's fishy that all of a sudden after not really hearing word one about operations to track him down (although there was admittedly an ongoing operation) for at least a half dozen years, we have him?  Then we turn around and dump the body before an autopsy or possibly a public dismemberment ceremony could take place?  I realize that within the Muslim religion, bodies must be buried quickly but, come on.  This was the most wanted, most hated, most vilified man since Adolf Hitler.  The least we could have done was paraded his rotting corpse through the streets of New York. 

Plus, now as the days are beginning to pass, we are starting to get conflicting reports, shallow story lines, and shaky information, coupled with supposed photos of the beat up and bloodied face of bin Laden that swept across the internet, only to find out they were fakes.  John Brennan, the top counter-terrorism adviser to the President, has spoken out already saying that while they feel that American's are entitled to information, they are still leery about releasing anything at this time.  If you ask me, there needs to be some kind of DNA test done.  In today's day and age of Photoshop, you can make anything seem real.  I'm sure there is video.  Get that stuff out there to debunk the doubters like me.  The problem is, I think that evidence may not exist.  Even in the speech Obama gave, he made no mention of any evidence even existing.  When we got Saddam, there was video, pictures, the whole 9 yards.  Until I see something substantial, I'm holding back.  Again, I am excited...just not all the way excited.

2.  Enough political mumbo-jumbo...This is straight out of the "I'm crazy and have too much money" camp.  Did anyone else catch this one the other day.  SCP Auctions put up a 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie in their last auction.  If you haven't already seen it, take a guess.


That is now the record for all sales of "modern" hockey cards (modern being the operative word).  Obviously we have seen other crazy people/groups/organizations, etc. put up record cash to obtain some rare cardboard.  For instance, the T206 Honus Wagner went for over $2 Million a few years ago.  Even a 1911 Georges Vezina went for about $100,000.   But this one was different.  PSA graded this one a Gem Mint 10.  Are you freaking kidding me?  A 10!!!???  I'm sorry but even I, the untrained, mechanically inept individual that I am can plainly see that this card isn't a 10.  But since it is probably in the best condition of any of the Great One's rookies to be submitted for grading, it wins the prize. Don't believe me?  Check this out for yourself.  Pay close attention to the right edge of the card.  This is just another in a long line of issues that the hobby community has with grading cards.

3.  I've started to notice a trend in this hobby.  It almost seems like when the economy is in a downward spiral, card collecting has the reciprocal affect.  Let me explain.  Disposable income is less available when the economy takes a dump.  Everyone knows that.  But for every "The Hobby Is Dead" claim and every "Collecting Is Too Expensive" remark, I hear two dozen positive comments about the growth and stability of the hobby.  The larger shows I have been to over the past year have all been pretty well attended considering the cost of admission, parking, etc.  The dealers I talk to have few to no complaints about the state of their businesses.  The two shop owners I still know have been doing as good, if not better, than they did 10 years ago.  I see more and more people willing to stand in lines a mile long and pay big ticket prices for autographs and memorabilia.  Online sales on sites like Ebay and COMC have gone above and beyond what anyone could have imagined.  And best of all, the card collecting community that populates the blogosphere is by far and away the most active, thought provoking, vigilant (and vigilante), and generous group of people on the planet.  Feel free to disagree with my observations because this may just be me only observing the isolated island that I live in.  But know this, I'm proud to be part of a hobby that just won't die no matter how hard anyone tries to kill it.

4.  Since I didn't want to give him his own post, I thought I would mention my newest autograph that I added to my collection.  Although I highly consider him my arch-nemesis and would rather light myself on fire than to hear one of his self-aggrandizing diatribes spewed forth nightly on ESPN, "the worldwide leader in sports [except hockey]", I saw this and had to have it.  Don't ask me why.  Just gaze into the mullet.  It may hypnotize you into believing you are a good coach and it's the players fault you were fired.

So basically I just wasted the better portion of 20 minutes of your time (10 if you read fast) just to show off a card of Barry Melrose.  Ain't I a stink'a?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Box Break - - 2010-11 Black Diamond Hobby Box

So what to do on a boring, run of the mill Sunday afternoon?  Mow the lawn?  Plant some shrubbery?  Clean the garage?  I know!!  Bust some cardboard crack.  I decided to bite the bullet and pick up a hobby box of 2010-11 Black Diamond a bit ago.  I don't usually find myself picking up hobby boxes of BD each year because I can usually find blasters at most of the local retailers.  When one of them does their shelf clearing blowouts, you can usually get a blaster box for under $15 (sometimes less).  Since I usually build the set, the blasters tend to be enough to get me on my way.

But on the day I picked this up at the LCS, I was feeling froggy.  With a couple exceptions, I wish I would have gone with my initial instincts and gotten something else.  But I digress. 

I have already done my best to review this year's BD with a video box break over here.  I will spare you the pleasantries of a design review.  As for a hobby box, as you can see by the box top, there are 6 Triple Diamonds (3 of which should be Rookie Gems), 2 Quad Diamonds (1 of which should be a Rookie Gem) and a bonus pack featuring cards from the Upper Deck Ice set that will contain 1 Ice Premieres Rookie.  There are also 2 memorabilia cards on average and at least 1 parallel card that may or may not be numbered.

I'm not going to scan the base Triple Diamonds because there is really no point to it.  Instead, here are some of the other highlights of the box:

Alex Tanguay Gold Parallel #'d/10 - Not a bad card at all (at least that's what I keep telling myself).  Since this isn't the "all encompassing" set like an Upper Deck flagship or O-Pee-Chee, there aren't many "scrub" players to choose from (unless you are a Flames fan, then you might argue).  With the low print run, I think I did okay for this one.  Plus, the gold foil is definitely cooler to look at than the basic silver. 

Blake Wheeler Quad Game Used Jersey - Wheeler, seen here sporting a throwback B's jersey, was traded to the Thrashers back in February for a few players including Rich Peverly.  Since the Thrashers season ended early, Blake took a spot on the US National team playing in the World Championships in Slovakia.  He actually scored a goal in Saturday's 5-1 win over Austria.  Just gaze in awe of the four plain black swatches.  If this was an ITG card, that Black Diamond logo laden cross would be gone and this would be one giant swatch...of plain black jersey.

Dale Hawerchuk Quad Game Used Jersey (3-color) - Now we are getting a little better.  I seem to pull some type of "Ducky" memorabilia card out of a product every year.  Last year it was an Artifacts Autofacts card, The year before it was a Remnants Quad from OPC Premier (don't ask why I did it).  At least this one mixes it up with some color. 

Roberto Luongo Quad Diamond - Nothing to see here, really.  I just wanted to show one of the quad diamond cards.  They look the same as the base but with 4 diamonds on the left side (go figure).

Alex Plante Triple Diamond Rookie Gems - Not what I had in mind when I want to pull a decent rookie prospect but it may bet better.  Plante looks like he might have a decent career in the minor's if he can stay healthy.  That's a big "if" though.

 Nick Palmieri Triple Diamond Rookie Gems - Okay, this one isn't horrible.  At least Nick has been given an opportunity, logging about half a season worth of games this year.  He is an able bodied winger and will most likely remain in the "bigs" with the Devils.

Matt Taormina Triple Diamond Rookie Gems - Really?  Two New Jersey Devil Rookies?  Really?  17 games...5 points.  I guess it could be worse.  Matt scored 50 goals last year for Lowell.  Maybe it will translate into the NHL, given the right opportunity.

Eric Tangradi Quad Diamond Rookie Gems - Now we are talking!  I tried to change the contrast on this scan a bit to make it look better.  I think it worked...sort of.  Regardless, I think I have made it abundantly clear that my current Penguin prospect "man-crush" is focused on Mr. Tangradi here.  Basically that means that sometime in the near future, he will most certainly be used as trade bait to solidify some ailing position on the top three lines.  It happened this year with Alex Goligoski.  It happened last year with Luca Caputi.  It happened a few years ago with Ryan Stone.  Glen Murray in 1997 to the Kings, anyone?  How about 1996 and Markus Naslund?  Anyone that I begin to feel attached to gets the boot. 

And for the Upper Deck Ice cards...I pulled Patrick Kane, Drew Doughty, Evgeni Malkin (yay!), and Tomas Plekanec for the base cards.  They are consecutively numbered, which pretty much matches the other "bonus pack" I opened from SPx.  The Ice Premieres card was T.J. Brodie #'d/1999.  I blacked out the serial number on the scan because it wasn't my card.  I pulled this from an auction because I can't find the one that I pulled.  It's in a box somewhere I'm sure.

So that's it.  Not that I didn't have enough Black Diamond already but this box was a bit underwhelming to say the least.  The Tangradi was a nice edition to the PC and the Hawerchuk is a decent looking piece.  The Tanguay could have been cool if it wasn't Tanguay.  Definitely not enough here to pay for the box, that's for sure.  Why I continue to punish myself with this set year after year, I'll never know.