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Friday, November 1, 2013

Group Breaks: Love 'Em Or Hate 'Em, They're A Hobby Force

Card collecting essentials that didn't exist when I started collecting:  "hits", jersey cards, certified autograph cards, memorabilia cards, the internet, blogging, pack searchers, and group breaks.

Group breaks have become a mega-phenomenon in the world of card collecting.  Virtually everyone in the card collecting community is well aware of what they are and how they work.  For those of you that aren't, allow me to enlighten you.  A group break is simply a monitored box opening event sponsored or hosted by one party and participated in by many in order to receive cards pulled from favorite players or teams or just for the purpose of getting "hits".  There are many formats to a group break including team oriented, player oriented, or product oriented.  There are also many styles within those formats like random, u-pick, draft, or lottery.  I have hosted a group break before and I can speak first hand that they are a ton of work.  But in the end, they are fun, exciting, and very engaging.

My first experience with a group break came a few years ago when I decided to resurrect my Pittsburgh Pirates collection.  At the time, I had well over 3000 Pirate cards but not much between 1999-2005.  I read another bloggers plea for participants in a relatively affordable box break that included 7 products from those years.  Since one spot only cost me $7, I was in.  That break netted me 48 cards, including a low serial numbered rookie and a memorabilia card.  After that, I was hooked.  I participated in two more breaks, picking up the Pirates in both.  Then, there were two more after that occurring simultaneously.  Then another.  And another.  It was exciting.  So exciting, that I thought I could do it myself.

So I took a stab at my own group break a couple years ago.  I had quite a few boxes of early 2000s hockey that needed good homes so I hosted a hockey break.  As most seemed to be baseball oriented, I figured a hockey break would be something different and peak the interest of at least the blogging community.  The turnout was pretty good with me taking one spot and two spots left unfilled.  I allowed participants to purchase a team + a random.  That way, 15 spots would be the total number of entries (14 if you count me) and it shouldn't take that long to fill.

A bunch of "hits" were pulled including a Sergei Fedorov Patch, various multi-player swatch cards, and a Henrik Zetterberg Rookie Auto.  I busted boxes on camera, posted the results and shared the videos for the world to see.  My video making capabilities needed some work but it was fun and people seemed to enjoy them.  Logistically, I probably should have charged more for a spot considering I took a bath on packaging, shipping, and the sheer labor.  But that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Or so I hear.

Today, breaks have changed a bit from when I first got involved.  While there are still many out there that allow for the choice of teams in the blogging community or through auctions like Ebay, many breaks run by larger groups or organizations have turned to random or lottery breaks.  These types of group breaks will allow for the buy-in on a number of spots.  Once the spots are filled, numbers are randomly assigned to teams and participants.  At the end of the lottery, the teams are matched to the entries and those become the teams your entry fee is paying for.  I have participated in about a half dozen or so of these and I am torn.  When you get to pick your own teams, there is that anticipation knowing you are getting something that fits your collection.  But random is a crap-shoot.  It is exciting in the beginning but can sometimes result in disappointment either after the lottery or after the actual break.  Fortunately, the random breaks I have bought into were hosted by Collector's Revolution and included a random free-break for those not receiving any hits.  That at least gives you an opportunity to still get something even if the boxes were duds for your team.  Here is what I got in my last break...a low numbered Jersey/Patch of Stephen Weiss when he played for the Florida Panthers.

I have noticed another trend in group breaks as well.  Many breakers are now limiting their card shipments by only sending out the "hit" cards or everything but base.  Some will offer to send base cards for extra shipping but many don't make that option available.  As a set collector and general player collector, I'm not a fan of that format and generally don't participate in those.  If I am paying $8-12 for a spot or more, I want everything related to my teams I was assigned.  At least then I don't feel like I flushed my money.

To date, I have participated in 18 group breaks as a participant and have hosted one on my own.  I plan on hosting another one sometime in the next six months or so, possibly over the Olympic hockey break.  I haven't decided yet on timing or product type but it will certainly be a nice mix of product with the potential for some nice cards.

What is everyone's take on group breaks?  Do you like them?  Do you despise them?  Have you participated in the past?  What are some of the GEMS that you have received from the breaks?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scary Cards For Your Halloween Enjoyment

I'm guessing this will be the 100th of the 486 posts today featuring these 1992 Coca-Cola Monsters Of The Gridiron cards.  These were a few that I could dig up and surprise basketball ones at the end.

Happy Halloween!!

Former Steeler and then Tampa Bay Bucaneer Hardy Nickerson as "The Hyena".  Funny.

Former Dolphins (and Chargers, Redskins, Jaguars, Eagles, and Broncos) Defensive End Marco Coleman as "The Cobra".  Wasn't he in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective?

Former Steeler "The Man Who Shall Remain Nameless" as the Knight Raider.  Funny they show him in a Steeler's jersey but dressed as a Raider.  Kind of like he was playing for the other team.  Hmmm.  Irony.

HOFer Ronnie Lott as "The Rattler".  Shown here in his New York Jets colors.  I wonder if he were still a 49er here, what they would call him?  "The Finger Mangler" or "The Missing Tip"?

Former Packers Defensive End Sean Jones as "The Ghost".  This is, of course, before his dealings with the law and other legal troubles.  Scary...just scary.

Former New York Knick Patrick Ewing as "Frankenstein".  That is a perfect costume for him.  Very little creativity involved.  Not a stretch at all.

Remember when Michael Jordan dressed up like a baseball player?  That was fun.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recent Redemption Success

I post about redemptions quite often and usually it is to voice my disdain for the entire idea behind them.  But sometimes, there is a silver lining.

Recently I received a plethora of redemptions from both Upper Deck and Panini.  In fact, they all came in right about the same time, which seemed odd at first but who am I to question it.  I'm just glad they did.  My record of receiving redemption cards is still replacements, no unfulfilled requests.

First up is the card I probably waited the longest for.  I don't know why that is but I can only imagine it is because he was a hard guy to track down...

2012-13 Certified Freshman Fabrics Scott Glennie Rookie Jersey/Autograph /499

Requested 3-2-13.  Shipped 9-30-13.  212 Days (6 months, 2 days)

This was a redemption from a box of Certified that I picked up at some point along the line.  It was actually an extra "hit", if you can call it that, in the box.  It wasn't a Hot Box by any means but getting an extra auto or memorabilia card is always nice.  Why this took over 6 months to get, I will never know.

I am not really a Scott Glennie fan, at least yet.  He's been out since training camp and was just recently assigned to Texas to try and work his way back into a roster spot.  I wouldn't be surprised if we see him offered up in a trade package come deadline time.  If there are any Glennie fans or Stars fans out there that would like to lay claim to this card, have at it. 

 2012-13 Artifacts Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau /699

Requested 8-25-13.  Shipped 10-18-13.  54 days (1 month, 23 days)

This card led me to many sleepless nights because of the whole lock-out shortened season last year.  As everyone knows, many sets were cancelled due to the lock-out and the NHL rules on rookie placement in trading cards.  I received this Florida Panthers redemption last year in a box of Artifacts I purchased from my LCS and had been sitting on it for almost a year.  Why?  Because I didn't know if it was going to result in a Huberdeau card or Nick Bjugstad or Quinton Howden.  Not that those wouldn't be ok but come on?  It's Huberdeau...2013 Calder winner?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

Once I figured out what the final checklist would be, I imediately scratched the silver paint off the redemption and began my wait.  It was a short one as you can see and well worth it.  This card is awesome.

2012-13 Limited Monikers Silver Phil Kessel Autograph /49

Requested 8-25-13.  Shipped 10-17-13.  53 days (1 month, 22 days).

For the record, I'm not a Kessel fan although I do respect him as a player and what he has accomplished thus far in his career.  I'm also not a Boston fan and by nature, despise every inch of Earth that he walks on.   So why did I get this?  I bid on a bunch of auctions about 6 months ago that contained autograph cards.  They were all $.99 auctions with little time left and little viewings by users.  I figured if I could get a few of them, get combined shipping, it would be worth it.  Well, I won.

The card really isn't that blurry like it looks.  That's because the scanner didn't pick up the recessed fabric that Phil signed inside the card.  Like most of the other "shadowboxed" style cards, it is hard to get a clean scan.  I don't have another Kessel auto in my collection so I debated keeping this or throwing it up for sale.  If there are any Leafs fans or Kessel fans out there that would like to add this to their collection, let me know.

2012 Upper Deck Fleer Retro Dan Marino 1960 Fleer Autograph  No#

Requested 8-25-13.  Shipped 10-19-13.  55 days (1 month, 24 days).

Last but not least is my GEM of the lot.  I purchased a "blockbuster" deal that my LCS offered me some months ago that resulted in this card.  My LCS owner is one of those guys that will do anything to help out a loyal customer and it just so happens that I am one of those.  I have been going there for seven years or so and have built a good relationship with them.  So when I purchase a box or two, the "Have I got a deal for you" comments sometimes pop up.  Well, a box of 2012 Fleer Retro Football happened to be included in this one so I figured why not?

This is a special card to me because as a kid, I used to have a personalized autographed black and white 8x10 photo of Dan Marino when he played for Pitt.  It was given to me by a family friend that knew Dan's parents.  I received a copy and the family friends daughter also got a copy.  Both of them were personalized too.  Mine said "To Tim, Best Wishes.".  I'm almost positive he signed it "Danny", too.  But don't hold me to that because I was young and when you are young, you make things out to be whatever you want them to be.  Fast forward a bit...I have two younger brothers...that liked to break stuff...and ruin things...and get into trouble. Needless to say, that photo disappeared, never to be heard from again.

I always wanted to replace that photo and have tried and failed many times.  I have searched the countless purveyors of autographed merchandise, the auctions, and the card shows but never found that exact photo.  I don't know whether it was Marino who just didn't sign Pitt items or the fact that there weren't many out there.  The auto itself looks a little sloppy compared to what I remember him signing.  I looked at similar autos out there and realize that this seems to be his "in a hurry" auto.

Regardless, this was truly a major addition to my collection and I am excited to finally have a Marino auto back in my possession.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Old Is The New, New?

Like most collector's, I have many collecting goals.  Whether it's a player PC, team PC, or simple commons to fill a set, I want it all and I want it now.  But the reality is, there isn't enough time or money in the world to get it all now or maybe ever.  That's not to say that I don't already have a lot though.  Because, well, I do.

But one thing I don't have a lot of is old time hockey.  By old, I'm talking about pre-overproduction era hockey cards (before the 80s).  Sure I have a few singles here and there.  I even have almost 300 pre-1980s cards in my COMC inventory at my disposal if I wanted, but other than a couple cards, there's nothing substantial to any one set.  

So long story short, on top of all the other things I collect within this great hobby, I've decided to go Turbo and find a vintage set (or two or three) to go after.  There are many sets that I have always wanted to collect like the 1979-80 Topps or OPC set, the 1971-72 OPC set, the 1964-65 Topps Tallboys, or the 1951-52 Parkhurst set.  But those are just way too far outside of my price range to go after the stars and rookies in each set.  I need something that is small, not extremely over-the-top expensive, and possibly attainable within my lifetime.  I first narrowed it down to a few sets to consider:

1953-54 Parkhurst  - 100 cards - Key Cards: Tim Horton, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau RC, Terry Sawchuk, Bill Dineen/Al Arbour RC Errors, Gordie Howe, Gump Worsley RC

1957-58 Topps - 66 cards - Key Cards:  Johnny Bucyk RC, Glenn Hall RC, Terry Sawchuk, Gordie Howe, Norm Ullman RC

1962-63 Topps - 66 cards - Key Cards:  Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, The Checklist

1971-72 Topps - 132 cards - Key Cards:  Ken Dryden RC, Gordie Howe, The Checklist, Bobby Orr

1976-77 OPC - 396 cards - Key Cards:  Bryan Trottier RC, Bobby Orr, Tiger Williams RC

I think when all is said and done, I'm going to go after all five of them but for now, my winner is going to be the Parkhurst set.  It's small, has some mega HOF power in it and I think I can get most of it for well under the "pie in the sky" values.

What is everyone's opinion?  Do you see any of these being an advantage over the other?  Do you collect vintage sets?  How concerned are you with completion vs. condition?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hobby Impact: My Take On Thomas Vanek To The Islanders

So Garth Snow decided to put a bunch of Isles fans into cardiac arrest on Sunday night by trading Matt Moulson, the 1st rounder in 2014 and a 2nd rounder in 2015 to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek.  Now, there are some of you that might be saying, "So what, DFG!  You aren't a fan of either team.  You should be posting more random Steeler posts or just not posting at all."  Well I say, "NO".  I will post what I want and when I want to.  So there.  This trade puzzled me for about an hour early this morning.  It made me think about the chance that the Pens would dump a player like James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, or dare I say Crosby/Malkin.  But then I got it.  Today's NHL is a bi-polar league.  You have teams on either side of the fence whether it is from a talent standpoint or a financial standpoint (they go hand in hand usually).  You are either a "win-now" team or a team in "rebuilding mode" to "win-soon".

I was thinking about this trade in terms of actual team impact vs. hobby impact.  Moulson, while a great scorer and playmaker in the NHL playing alongside Tavares, would most definitely be a fringe hobby player (or a minor star if you go by that terminology) while Vanek is surely a fringe star player and garners much more traction in the hobby (partially because of his rookie class, partially because of his game play, partially because of where he played).  As an example, for the last 6 months, Vanek has been in the top 10 hockey player searches on Collector Revolution, so someone out there is looking for him.  You can even take a look at closed auctions on Ebay.  Matt Moulson...not so much.  From a team aspect, this could either be the best move for both teams or a disaster for the soon to be team from Brooklyn.  Here's why I think so.

Because GM Garth Snow was upset with a 4-4-3 start to the season, he wanted something to shake up the lineup.  The Isles are probably an impact player away from being a serious Cup contender.  While there isn't much by way of offensive prospects or minor leaguers in the organization that can make an immediate impact on a call up assignment, he wanted to check the market for something to spark the team.  Sabres GM Darcy Regier was more than happy to oblige by dumping Vanek in exchange for more younger talent and draft potential.  Buffalo has shown over the last few years that they are building from the ground up and that will eventually lead them to the Cup.  At least, that's the model that seems to work in today's NHL (see LA, Chicago, Pittsburgh, etc).

The problem is that both guys are UFA's at the end of the season and the chance of either of them signing is probably slim to none (just ask Vanek's agent).  Feasibly, this could be one-and-done for both players if an offer isn't tendered and neither player signed extensions as part of the trade.  An offer, if it does come, is going to hinge heavily on serious play from both guys.  I think Vanek might have a bit of an uphill battle because he will immediately have the pressure on him to perform.  The Isles obviously feel that he can not only replace Moulson's production but eclipse it and create one of the best lines in hockey along with John Tavares.  I don't think he will be a disappointment but even if he is a bust and the Islanders fall flat, they will surely retool and come back next season but without Vanek.  That would mean that not only did they give away Moulson, but two draft picks as well and have nothing to show for it.  Vanek would simply test the UFA market in the prime of his career and most likely get paid handsomely to do it.

The Stanley Cup is always the goal and in the long run, I think Moulson might have a better position playing with a team that has a solid goaltender and some defensive help in front of the net.  But that is a stretch this year since Buffalo is at 2-10-1 at this point in the season.  Regardless, Buffalo gets the better report card in this trade because they get a chance to audition Moulson on different lines, try to find the team chemistry, or deal him at the trade deadline for something that does work.  Worst case scenario for them, Moulson is either gone at the deadline for more draft picks, gone at the end of the season and they still have the two other picks they got in the trade, or he signs a multi-year deal either in the season or at the end and solidifies their top scoring line.

As I mentioned, Vanek came out of the that huge double rookie class of 2005-06 after that 2004 lockout.  He has over 1,400 cards on the market to show for it with a reference value in the range of $18K.  His value is fueled by rookie auto's and memorabilia cards from the likes of UD Ultimate, The Cup, and newer issues like Dominion and Prime.  Vanek cards tend to sell regularly, especially the nicer hits that are out here.  Matt Moulson has only been in the league since 2007-08 and has almost 350 cards.  His five rookie cards get some market traction but the bulk of his collection is centered on memorabilia and autographs.  I think Moulson might get some notice now that he is in Buffalo and Vanek can only get better playing alongside hobby darling John Tavares.

We shall see if it's in the cards for either player.  (pun intended)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Steeler 6-Pack

This is the seventh, or eight (I forget) installment of a the Sunday Steeler 6-Pack.  We got another win last week against the evil Ravens.  That put us in a great position if we actually can keep it up.  I'm hopeful but won't be surprised if we can't.  Either way, it is always nice to get a win against our division teams.

This week....the Raiders.  We haven't won in Oakland since 1995.  Let's hope we can change that.

Each Sunday of the NFL season, I will feature 6 random cards from my Pittsburgh Steelers' PC.  There is no rhyme or reason for any of them, just 6 random cards I pull out of one of my many boxes or binders of black and gold (and there are MANY) and maybe a comment or two.

Here we go...

 1948 Bowman Chuck Cherundolo #50

By far my oldest Steeler card, this 1948 Bowman is a beaut.  The best part is cost me less than a couple bucks.  I'll buy that all day.  Check out that leather helmet.  I wonder if Polamalu would still hit guys as hard if he had to play with a leather helmet?  I'm guess...yeah, probably.

 1996 Playoff Contenders Genuine Leather Jerome Bettis #36

This card is made of leather.  At least it sure feels like it is.  I guess that is the point.  The card is real thick and even has the leather smell.  I'm not real sure I understand the little quiver lines around the bus but still it's a nice card.  We could sure use the bus these days.

 2010 Epix Jason Worilds Rookie Auto #'d/499

 2010 Certified Immortals Jack Lambert #182  #'d/999

Oh so shiny.  So unbelievably shiny.

 2013 Bowman White Jarvis Jones #120

This is the white parallel.  At least I think.  I don't remember what the normal cards look like.  I know there are black parallels, blue, green, red, orange, purple, mauve, chartreuse, pink, fruit-stripe, emerald green, light blue, steel, grass green, off white, ecru, eggshell, off-black, and clear.

 2013 Topps 1959 Mini Ben Roethlisberger #99