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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Not Done Yet

Generally, I don't give up easily.  It just isn't my style.  With that being said, I have decided that I am not giving up on Eric Tangradi as a collection just yet.  I've actually kind of become even more obsessed with him since his demotion to the NHL farm team in Winnipeg (oh, stop Jets fans.  I was just kidding).

So lets see how this has paid off for Winnipeg thus far.  Tangradi has appeared in 4 games (which includes tonight's game against the Canes.  He has a total of 41:45 of ice time but has yet to score a point, although he was on the ice when one was scored against his line.  He does have 6 shots on goal, which I suppose is encouraging.

I guess to a scout, that 7th rounder isn't looking too bad right now, huh?

I don't care though.  I'm still sticking to the plan for now.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

500 Posts Came And Went

I'd like to start by saying, Happy Hockey Day In America to all.  I'm just sitting here waiting for the puck to drop on the Penguins/Sabres game and figured I'd share a thought or two.

In the midst of all the chaos of me trying to revive my cardboard soul and now the devastation of finding out the subject of my Super Collection has been sent off to "bluer" pastures in Winnipeg for a bucket of rusty nails, it totally slipped my radar that I have eclipsed the 500 post mark.

Now that isn't necessarily a huge feat considering that I have been posting on here since July 14, 2009 at 2:24 PM Central Standard Time.  Many of you out there hit 500 posts within the first 12-18 months of existence and I think that is great.  For me though, 500 posts is bigger than that when you consider that I am not a writer nor a very extroverted person.  I don't have a method to writing and I certainly don't have 100 ideas constantly brewing in my head.  When I share something, it tends to be something I put more thought into rather than posting for posting sake.  I'm not saying I haven't been guilty of phoning it in once in a while but for the most part, I to have something substantial to want to share it.

So with that said, I'm taking a moment to reflect on some things I've learned in the 500 posts and almost four years of doing this blogging thing.

First, I would like to re-share my very first post with everyone.  Here is the link if you would like to go back and read it, otherwise, I attached the text below. 

First comment.  Why I got into this thing in the first place?  Because of other bloggers.  There were about a dozen or so guys that posted almost everyday and had something to say that was both thought provoking, amusing, funny, and very entertaining.  Of those dozen or so, only about 5 of them are still around.  That is a testament to how polarizing this hobby can be, especially when you want to share it with the world.  Life happens.  I know that more than anyone.  So the fact that there are survivors out there gives everyone hope that this truly can be a lifelong hobby.

To my second goal...I think I have actually set out and did what I wanted to accomplish.  I have shared my purchases (both good and not so much), my wax busting (epic and painful), my opinions on the hobby, my disgust with certain aspects of sports, not sure about the capital punishment thing but you get the idea.  It has been amazing to see all the people in this industry that share the same feelings on things and ideas about where the state of the hobby is and where it may go in the future.  It's comforting that I am not alone in many of my opinions.

I have done some trading...A LOT OF TRADING.  I think I have made more trades in the last four years than I did in my entire youth (and trust me when I say that was a lot).  I have even slacked on a bunch of trades too and I intend to hold up my end eventually, I swear.  But the bigger point of making a few friends...I think I accomplished that in spades.  Collectors in this blogging community are some of the most generous, kind hearted, understanding, and all around good people in this world.  I am glad to have met so many of you over this 500 post run and I wouldn't give that up for anything.  There are even a few of you out there that I would consider actual friends (and a few I've never met in person) if you can believe that.  I am grateful for the relationships I have made through this hobby and doing this blog. 

And finally, my goal of providing an informational/entertaining/thought provoking perspective is purely objective.  If you are one that came here for information and you may have learned something, great.  If you were entertained, even better.  If you ask me, I'm the one who learned the most, not only about this hobby but about who I am as a collector and how I fit into the big picture.  Writing about this hobby, my collection, and my other various thoughts has helped me to focus a little more and develop into a better collector.

I hope most of this makes sense.  I didn't have a contest prepared or a giveaway planned so this simple acknowledgement is all I have.  And who knows?  With any luck, maybe I'll still be around after 500 more.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sadness, just sadness

Randomness From Another Collector

In my last official post on here (well last before the last one), I made mention to the fact that a fellow collector had sent me some random kindness out of the goodness of his heart.  I know I haven't been very visible lately and I know I haven't responded to many people's queries but despite that fact, Paul over at Card Boarded made an effort to jump start my renewed participation in the cardboard community.

He had sent me some "random" Penguin cards that he had lying around, just because.  JUST BECAUSE is something that is very familiar in this collecting community.  How many times have any of the readers out there received a package, just because?  I bet that answer would be over half of you.  Sometimes, the JUST BECAUSE packages are the best.  This one is not an exception.

So, I thought I would take a moment and share.  I think you can click on the images if you want to see larger versions.

Ok lets break this one down, shall we?  From top to bottom, left to right.

1.  2000-01 SP Authentic Sign Of The Times Autograph Milan Kraft - Mom said if you don't have anything nice to say, well you know the rest.  Too bad.  Kraft was drafted 23rd overall by the Pens in 1998 and never lived up to the hype.  He only played for Pittsburgh in his NHL career but that isn't saying much because it only lasted for 207 games over four seasons.  In 2003-04 he put up 40 points but no one ever heard from him again.  Must have been buried under the Civic Arena.

2.  1995-96 Pinnacle Rink Collection Ron Francis - Francis is probably one of the most underrated players of all time, and one of my favorites.  Getting him on the team was a coup in and of itself but once they did, he was a pivotal member of the Pens for many years.  I love this's foily.

3.  1997-98 Donruss Canadian Ice Les Gardiens Patrick Lalime (#/1500) - Lalime was in beast mode when he came to the Pens.  He started out his NHL career in 1996-97 going 16-0, a feat only accomplished by Ross Brooks and former member of Canadian Parliament, Ken Dryden.

4.  2005-06 Upper Deck Hockey Showcase Jocelyn Thibault - I think people forget that Thibault was on the Pens for a brief moment in time.  I kind of did before I saw this card.  But it all came rushing back when I remembered that he was brought in after the lockout, paid $3+ million for a two year contract, and then the old man broke a hip or something.  He couldn't win to save his life and was the reason Marc Andre Fleury got his chance when he did.  So I guess it wasn't all bad.

5.  2002-03 O-Pee-Chee Blue Parallel Robert Lang (#/500) - Lang played some of the best hockey in Pittsburgh and in Washington.  That is, of course, because he had his fellow countryman Jaromir Jagr in both lineups.  But you have to give it to the guy.  No matter where he went, Detroit, Chicago, Phoenix...he still could put up the numbers. 

6.  2007-08 O-Pee-Chee Season Highlights Sidney Crosby - The "highlight" in particular on this card is in reference to a game on 12/20/2007 against the Boston Bruins.  Crosby scored a goal and an assist in the first period and then in the second, he threw down with former Penguin, Andrew Ference.  And that was the tale of Crosby's first (and only I'm sure) "Gordie Howe Hat Trick".  He has a little ways to go before catching Discipline Czar Brendan Shanahan and his NHL leading 17 GHHT's. 

7.  2011-12 Score NHL Shield Die-Cut Sidney Crosby - I have a few of these but not Sid.  Until now.  This card is very cool as it has the NHL shield die-cut into the top.  It's kind of "cartoonish" on the design but I still like it.

8.  2001-02 Pacific Private Stock Game-Used Gear Alexei Kovalev Relic - I'm a sucker for GU cards.  I don't know why.  Whether you think most of them are fake or not, I don't really care.  It's more of a fantasy thing I guess.  Regardless, this is a black swatch of Penguin sweater for Mr. Kovalev.  How do I know this?  I don't.  But at this time in history, he had only played for the Rangers and the Penguins.  Last I checked, Rangers sweaters didn't have black.  But what do I know?  I always liked Alex.  I liked his style, I liked his finesse, and I liked the way he played the game.  Both times he played for Pittsburgh.

9.   2001-02 Pacific Game Worn Jersey Kip Miller (#/1135) - Very cool.  Another GU card.  This one specifically says on the back that it was worn during one of the 33 games Kipper played for the Pens during the 2000-01 season.  So there.  You can't argue with that.  Pacific wouldn't lie.  They are a fine, upstanding company with a strong history of quality products and a great trust in the collecting community and I think they will be around for a long time.  What's that, you say?  Cork?  But there isn't any cork in baseball bats...

1.  2003-04 O-Pee-Chee Blue Parallel Martin Straka (#500) - I think Straka would still be a Penguin if it weren't for the broken leg thing.  He was a solid player for the Pens.  A team leader if you will.  And he had the numbers to back them up.  I just think everyone in the league gave up on him after the injury.  I think he still plays in Europe somewhere. 

2.  2003-04 O-Pee-Chee Red Parallel Martin Straka (#100) - Marty again, only in a shorter printed version.

3.  2002-03 O-Pee Chee Blue Parallel Jan Hrdina (#/500) - Jan Hrdina to Scott Hartnell.  Ready...GO... The Penguins drafted Hrdina 128th overall in 1995.  They later traded Jan to the Phoenix Coyotes for Ramzi Abid, Dan Focht and Guillaume Lefebvre in 2003.  The Coyotes traded him again to the Devils for Mike Rupp.  Mike Rupp was signed by the Pens in 2009 but then went on the the Rangers in free agency last year.  He played in the Winter Classic against the Flyers and gave the "Jagr Salute" to the crowd after scoring which led to an altercation with Flyers thug and Pert Plus spokesperson, Scott Hartnell.  The morale of this story is, Scott Hartnell is an idiot.

4.  2008 Upper Deck 20th Anniversary Sidney Crosby - I don't remember exactly how one got these.  I think it may have been through hobby shops as a giveaway with purchase or something.  I don't recall if they were just loosely distributed or came in packs.  Probably just cellophane wrappers if I was to guess.  I have a few of these.  I believe I have multiple Crosby ones but so what.  I won't stop till I have 10 of everything.  Sal, help me out on that one. 10 of everything is perfectly normal, right?

5.  2000-01 ITG Be A Player Red Robert Dome (#/200) - Dome always fascinated me.  He helped Utah win the Turner Cup back in 1996, was then drafted 17th overall by the Pens in 1997 and basically faded away into oblivion.  He was always a solid player in the IHL and other sub-NHL leagues, and has been a pretty decent player overseas but could never really cut it in the NHL.  The card is cool though as it is a parallel that I'm sure I don't have.  It comes from one of those years I disappeared from collecting.

6.  2003-04 O-Pee-Chee Blue Parallel Ville Nieminen (#500) - The only thing I remember about Nieminen being on the Pens was that he was a major pest.  Teams hated him because he was that Matt Cooke kind of player who would constantly be all up in your face and wouldn't back down.  Well at least Matt Cooke before he found Jesus or whatever happened because he is a totally different player now.  But this is about Ville.  I don't know what this guy does now.  Maybe another player that went to the KHL, I don't know.

7.  2000-01 Topps Heritage Foil Parallel Bill Guerin (#555) - The only non-Penguin in the bunch, but always a Penguin in my heart.  I'm not real sure that I have this card or not.  I will look but even if I do, who cares.  It's a Billy G.  That's all that matters.

Thanks again, Paul.  Your cardboard cast-offs now all have a new, loving home. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quick Shots: 2012-13 Black Diamond Hockey

Somehow, someway, the cardboard gods are going to pull me back into this thing.  

I figured I would take a stab at a quick one-off review of a product and show a few cards to boot.  I don't know if this will become a regular thing because there are 100 other card reviewing sites out there that do it frequently and way better than I could.

So despite my boycott of product this year (other than the flagship UD and OPC) I somehow ended up with a few packs of 2012-13 Black Diamond in my hands yet again.  I say yet again because each year I vow to never again trespass down the shiny-electro-silver-foil-overdose path.  But here I am.

The product isn't new by any means.  It was released in the midst of my hiatus back in early December.  It features the major stars of the game as well as many NHL legends and HOFers.  There are numerous parallels to chase at different release rates as well as the familiar inserts like Championship Rings, Double Diamond Jerseys (which make nifty little puzzles again), GEMography, and the various Lustrous inserts.  There is also everyone's favorite set to chase rookies in, Upper Deck Ice, inserted into hobby boxes at a rate of one 5 card pack per box.

For 12-13 Upper Deck took the familiar Black Diamond design and tweaked it ever-so-slightly in order to prevent confusion by the collector over which year's release they are really looking at.  I'm not going to get into all the subtleties and particulars of this set vs. others because this is a Quick Shot and I don't want to waste anyone's time.  Lets just leave it at this...the silver foil explosion that we either love or loathe is still in full swing.

Here are some quick shots...(images are all over the place because of the foil, tried different settings, oh well)

These are two Single-Diamonds.  The foil is in overdrive here.  Both of these guys have additional cards later in the base collation of the set.  Gretzky has a "throwback" Rookie Gems card and Stamkos is in the Quad-Diamond grouping.

Speaking of Quad-Diamond, here's one now.  This is Eddie from what looks to be an All-Star game of some sort.  I'm guessing from his tenure with Dallas since the gear is mostly green.  

Here are a couple Rookie Gems.  Somehow these scan better.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe its the stippled backgrounds contrasting with the color.  These are of the Triple-Diamond variety.

And continuing with some Triple-Diamonds, these three come from that grouping.  

There are legends mixed with current stars in all levels of this release, just like previous years.  I'm not sure if I am into that or not but I can say that I would much rather get a card of a legend or HOFer rather than some third or fourth liner in a product like this.  At $90-$100 per box, there isn't much room for "filler".

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The State Of My State Address

As most of you are well aware, I have been absent from the collecting community for some time now.  Sure I have had a few moments here and there with posting comments on other blogs but with the exception of two posts of my own, I haven't really been here since October 2012.

From a collecting standpoint, I have been out since the Chicago Sun-Times show in Rosemont back in November.  That was sort of my swan song, so to speak, since I have taken this somewhat-self-imposed-but-not-really-hiatus.  At that show, I picked up some Series I, a few "retro" boxes, and some singles for the PC.  I even shut down the Ebay buying which, for me, is a difficult task.  Not long after that, the wheels fell off. 

Since I have received numerous queries from many of you in the hobby community, as well as others who apparently read the blog but have no interest in the subject matter (I know, weird, right?), I figured I would indulge your requests and clue you all in on the state of my state and why I have isolated myself, hopefully temporarily, from this great hobby.  I know.  It isn't anyone's business but my own.  But I have never been one to not share a good story.  So bare with me because this could get long, and ugly.

Essentially, my train derailed back in November and continued to explode, one car at a time until the whole thing was a fiery pile of twisted scrap metal and charred remains (how's that for imagery?).

ISSUE #1:  Some of you already know this but I am going through a divorce.  There, I said it.  Shockingly enough, it had nothing to do with my card  Or maybe it did?  No, I'm sure it didn't.  Maybe...Frankly, without getting into all the gory details of our failures as a married couple, it is safe to say that this was probably over a long time ago and was just prolonged for the sake of being "comfortable in our misery".  Regardless, it is what it is and I have been preoccupied with all the minutia, you know like finding a place to live, handling the children, moving all my stuff, dealing with the holidays, etc. etc. etc.

ISSUE #2:  I was fired from my job at the beginning of January.  Again, without going into the gory details of my untimely departure, lets just say there was an employment contract presented to us that, for lack of a better phrase, bound us to slavery to the corporation.  We tried to negotiate more balanced terms of employment but the owner of the company was unwilling to negotiate and eventually fired five of his income generating employees.  Pretty crazy, huh?  Its been rough going, especially since he has begun fighting everyone's unemployment, started to spread rumors contrary to reality within our small industry's "community", and has begun to threaten us with frivolous, unfounded lawsuits that he won't win but will be able to outlast us with deeper pockets.

We have all stuck together though, eventually forming our own business one weekend (literally it took like a weekend). I can't begin to tell you the difficulty, stress, and fear that goes with it.  Minimal investment capital, threats of litigation, and expenses that keep piling up can take their toll on any business start-up.  But we are not going to be broken that easily.  I, for one, can't be considering my situation with ISSUE #1.  Perseverance is the only way.

ISSUE #3:  Because of ISSUE #1, I have had to relocate my residence.  I moved the majority of my things out of the house.  I have taken most of my personal card collection with me but there is still a lot of it back there.  A lot meaning the Garage is still there.  I have been working on getting rid of it but every time I work something out, it has fallen through.  Mostly because something has occurred where I couldn't be where I needed to be to make the deal happen (again, see ISSUE #1).  There have been buyers on the hook for each of the collections separately (ie. football, basketball, etc.) but no takers on the entire thing.  I have been trying to avoid putting all of it into a storage unit but if I don't get it out of there soon, I fear there could be a bonfire held at my former home.  Good thing it's still winter and we are now buried under some actual snow accumulation.  I assume cardboard is harder to burn that way.

I do have quite a bit of my hockey stuff here with me, including my player PCs, my team PCs (for the most part), and a variety of other stuff.  What I don't have are my bulk boxes and all of my binders.  Those have been relocated to the Garage.  You don't realize how much stuff you actually have until you see it all in one place.  I have a lot.

ISSUE #4:  This issue is probably the same for many hockey collectors out there.  The NHL is finally back on the ice and playing the game we love.  Having been without the game since October and not being able to watch the games and cheer on my Pens, I've been less than thrilled with the idea of putting any effort into my collection.  They want to fight about how my money is spent, let them fight.  I just won't give them anymore of it in the form of purchasing new product.  Add to that all the issues from above and you have a general malaise that has come over me toward our hobby.  Even when I wasn't blogging everyday, I still would check the blogs, read the posts, read the articles by the industry players, watch the tweets, you know, stay up with what is going on in cardboard.  But that hasn't happened for quite some time.  The NHL finally breaking the lockout and getting back to what they do best has actually put a glimmer of hope back into me.  Believe it or not, I pulled out a box the other day and went through it just to try and inspire something.  It really didn't work but it was a good effort.

Then, as I walked in to see my kids the other day at my former home, there was something familiar on the counter.  A little yellow envelope that all of us in the collecting community have come to know and love was perched on the counter top  fresh from the days mail.  But as I mentioned, I stopped my Ebay feeding frenzy a while ago and I know I hadn't ordered anything.  My redemption cards had all been fulfilled and I hadn't traded with anyone in quite some time.  What could this be?  I looked at the return address and saw a familiar name.  It was from Card Boarded.  We all tout the generosity of the blogging community all the time and this time is no different.  Inside the little yellow envelope was a variety of Pittsburgh Penguins that he had "lying around" and figured they could use a home.  Well, I'm glad they found there way to me.  I have looked these things over about a hundred times now and even went as far as scanning them.  I'm not saying that totally brought me back from the grave but it definitely ignited a spark that had been missing.  Thank you, my friend.

ISSUE #5:  As some of you know, I am also a musician of sorts and play in a band.  Well, I actually play in two bands.  Since December, we have been playing out more and have been getting paid for it.  Paid!  I know it's weird to get paid for something you enjoy but nonetheless...Most of the gigs have been with my original band but we have had a few with the other band too.  We are still trying to get our sea legs under us in that one.  So hobby time is becoming few and far between.  We have practices on Friday nights in one band and Saturday nights in the other.  Some of those nights are our gigs which means we forgo practice of course.  Because of ISSUE #1, every other weekend is spent with my kids and that is as close to a full time job as anyone can have.  That leaves Sunday nights every other weekend for "me time" and much of that is spent preparing for the week since ISSUE #2 has me doing quite a bit of work outside the "office" so to speak.  Playing music that I love has taken away some hobby time but it is definitely not something I'm going to complain about.  One hobby for another isn't necessarily a bad trade.

ISSUE #6:  When it rains, it pours.  Since all this has been taking place at the same time, it was only fitting that twice since November, my truck has run into some kind of mechanical/maintenance trouble.  First it was the tires.  I had to replace all four of them (not an expense I expected).  Then as the breaks had been doing some weird things, I had them checked too.  Of course they needed replaced but so did rotors, calipers, and tie rods.  Then, as a gesture of good faith, I picked up a large order of water softener salt for my ex-employer while I was still there.  I believe it was 50 bags.  My truck now has some serious shock/strut squeaking and creaking.  I had it looked at...I'm not going to tell you what the cost for repair will be because I don't think the truck is even worth that much.  Add to that the fact that this sub-zero weather we have been having has reeked havoc on my battery and caused quite a few starting problems and you have a recipe for vehicle disaster.  My "new", non-income generating job requires about 80 miles a day of driving in my vehicle.  With gas prices soaring back up to almost $4/gallon, new tires, old shocks, and a weak battery, I'm probably sitting on a time bomb.

I'm sure there is more that I am leaving out but I'm also sure I've already lost many of you.  I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining because I'm not.  I just wanted to set the record straight on why I haven't been around.  Plus, it's good therapy to write sometimes.  Right now it may seem like it but I haven't given up entirely on the hobby.  I will still be here doing my thing.  I have some interesting ideas for posts going forward and I hope to get those going.  I have a feeling that once I decide to revive myself, I will be more introverted toward my collection rather than focusing on accumulating.  The funds just aren't there anymore (hopefully not permanently).  I just need to get some things straight.  Get my house in order, so to speak.

I will end with something that my 12th grade English teacher used to say.

"That which doesn't kill me, makes me stronger."  

I don't know where she got that from.  I know she didn't make it up.  It was probably some philosopher or scientist.  Frankly, I don't care who said it.  I just hope Mrs. Miller was right.