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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Card Show Review 11/23/13

I attended the Chicago Sun-Times Sports Collectors Show in Rosemont, IL over the weekend.  It is a three day show filled with dealers from all over the US and Canada, featuring autograph guests, card auction houses, authenticators, and more.  I wish I would have taken some photos but my phone battery isn't what it used to be and after about 10 minutes of walking around, I kind of forgot about doing it.

I have been going to these shows each year (twice a year in March and November) for the past 5-6 years and can generally anticipate what I am going to see there.  Most of the shows take place in the smaller convention hall at the Convention Center, leaving the larger hall for shows like the NSCC or whatever comic book convention is currently taking place.  Somehow though, they always find ways to cram a lot of things to see in that space.  But for some reason, this years fall show seemed a bit off.

The first thing I noticed as I traversed the convention floor was how well we were able to maneuver up and down the aisles.  It seemed the interior aisles had been widened to accommodate more traffic, or at least that's the way it appeared.  With enough mapped out space to fit over 300 dealers, I was amazed at how much underutilized space there was on the main floor area.  Usually the dealer tables line each aisle from end to end.  This weekend (or at least on Saturday) I counted at least 17 empty dealer spaces.  I'm not sure what to pin this one on.  Could be a number of things like cost, timing, or even the pending weather in the Eastern part of the US.  Regardless, there was much less to see as we made our rounds.

The autograph lineup was still top-notch as Mounted Memories had guests signing throughout the three day event.  You can check out their lineup here if you want to see what you missed out on.  But something I noticed on Saturday was the sheer turnout in the autograph pavilion.  While most shows of this kind draw thousands of people to the auto lines, this one seemed a bit flat.  I'm not sure if the guest list on Saturday wasn't up to snuff for the auto seekers out there in the Chicagoland area but the lines for people like Brian Urlacher, Len Dawson, and Gordie Howe were smaller than I ever expected.  Maybe it was the price tag on having items signed, I don't know.  Also, I noticed that after 3PM, announcements for guests stopped completely.  At about 3:30, the auto pavilion was a ghost town.  That was also weird for a show that ended at 5PM.  Not even the "meanderers", as I call them, were left hanging around.  I didn't partake in any auto hounding, as is customary for my show attendance.  While I'd love to get things signed by all the guests, I tend to get nervous with the price tags the show promoters put on some of these players.

My third beef with the show, and this is probably not the shows fault by any means, was the lack of new hockey product available from many of the box dealers, and for that matter, the number of box dealers that were even there was minimal.  These shows usually boast about 7-10 large volume "retail" dealers of unopened product.  These dealers sometimes include folks like Dave & Adams, Baseball Card King, Blowout, Atlanta Sportscards, Steel City Sports, etc.  D&A was there, the King was there...the rest, not so much.  There were two other dealers that had any significant amount of product available that I found.  Only one of those had any hockey product.  Even D&A was sort of a disappointment because they only had their main box table.  Their "discount" table was no where to be found this time.  Maybe everyone is ramping up for Black Friday.  Yeah, that's it.  I will blame Black Friday.

Finally, I was actually disappointed with the amount of "Discount box" tables at the show.  There were tons.  TONS!  In fact, this time it was actually rare to see anyone that didn't have countless 3500-5000 count boxes full of $.10, $.25, $.50 or $1-3 cards.  Ask and you shall receive (as I have after previous shows) is how the old line goes, but this was kind of overkill.  When you consider that many dealers simply got into these on a whim, it was a little off-putting.  You could tell by the preparation they put into them.  Most dealers with discount boxes have done them for years, have them sorted, have them priced accordingly and have them stocked with manageable inventory so the collector's can peruse without dropping handfuls of cards onto the concrete floor.  There were a large number of guys with boxes set up this way, but when you took a closer look, nothing had a label.

Perfect table I stopped because something shiny must have caught my eye.  I began looking through a rare box of hockey singles.  There were three rows in about 100 present on the table with hockey cards.  The lid was proudly displayed behind the box as if to say "look at me if you want to know the price".  I did.  There was no price.  I asked the dealer, who reluctantly looked up from his phone for a minute, how much were the hockey cards.  He says, "That depends.  Most of the goalie cards are a buck.  The rest, it just depends."  Frustrated by that answer, I begin to quickly sift as I didn't want to spend more than another minute here.  Seeing my frustration, he exclaims, "Just hold a card up that you'd like and I will give you a price."  Ok, cardboard merchant, I will.  So I begin with a small stack and hold up one, after another, after another.  Five prices in and the dealer says, "How about you make a pile and I will quote you a price when I'm done."  But I liked your first way.  I don't find enough to justify a pile so I say, "Will you take $10 for these here?"  He says, "How about $12?"  "$11 and you got a deal", I retort.  I leave the table $11 bucks poorer....but wait till you see what was in that pile in my next post.  5 Lesson's learned from this joker and others...

1. If you are selling cards at a show/online/store etc., price your merchandise.  It helps you as a seller and prevents you from having to look everything up or haggle with people.  If there is one thing collector's don't like, it's having to stand and wait for a dealer to look up a price in Beckett.  It's unprofessional.  Who is running your business?  You? Or the price guide?  It's called a guide for a reason...not a law.

2. Know what you have.  If you know nothing about the product you are selling, why bother?  Don't ask me what it is or what I think it is worth.  There were too many guys with hockey offerings at this show that had no idea what they were selling.  They didn't know who the players were (unless they were Hawks), they didn't know anything about the sets they came from, they didn't care to know either.  Just because a card has an autograph or a piece of memorabilia doesn't make it immediately a minimum $15 card.  At least make an effort.

3.   Pay attention to your customers.  I know of the 500 people you see in a day at a show, only 20-30 might make a purchase.  But every one of those other 470 people is a potential customer.  When you are chowing down on a gyro with cucumber sauce running down your face or buried in your iPhone or laptop computer and can't look up for fear that you will miss a Facebook alert, you have no business being there.  People want engagement, they want interaction (except the 400lb greasy, sweaty guys at the $.25 vintage baseball table), they want to know that you are interested in whether or not they make a purchase.  I walked away from two tables that I planned on spending at least $10 at but couldn't get either dealer's attention to ask a question.

4.  Have fun.  Too many frowns.  Too many scowls.  Too many folded arms with pouty looks on their faces.  That prevailed all day long.  It seemed the only people having fun at this show were my kids, the people at the PSA booth, and that guy that yells at people for touching his cards.  Card collecting is supposed to be fun.  You aren't going to make a ton of money in this business and you definitely won't if people think you are angry and bitter about it.  You got into this business because you love the hobby and love sports.  Try to show a little bit of that passion you once had.

5.  Act professional.  Immaturity, rudeness, and a generally condescending attitude don't help anyone.  You are running a business, we are patronizing your business.  If you had a storefront and we came in, I highly doubt you would ignore us, scoff at our inquiries, or act as though we are inconveniencing you buy spending money on your products.  I deal with business people all day with attitudes and grudges against humanity.  I certainly don't want to spend my free time involved with my hobby dealing with the same types of people.

As a side note, I'm all for using "hype-men" or models to promote a product.  I understand why it's done and generally, I think most people get it.  But having half-clothed models standing next to your table, not giving things out, not trying to offer something or get you to sign up for something, not even promoting anything noticeable, but just standing there making googly eyes at everyone doesn't make much sense to me.  No I don't want to take a picture with you.  No I don't want a hug from you.  Just move out of the way so I can look through that box over there.  Because when my kids ask me "what happened to that girls' pants", I'm no longer amused. (I know it's probably hypocritical but this is my rant)

But it wasn't all bad.  In fact, despite my criticisms (of which there are always many) I had a great time with the kids, got to see a couple friends in the hobby, traded some cards, and picked up a few needs along the way.  I always enjoy these events because it gives me an opportunity to meet with other collector's and exchange cards, stories, and sometimes ideas.  I will be posting some of the stuff I got at the show a little later.  There were some interesting things I was able to find.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Random Thoughts

Things are finally back to normal in my world of madness.  Sort of.  With the power back, it was nice to be able to finally watch something on TV Wednesday night.  Of course, I took to NBC Sports and their coverage of Rivalry Wednesday.  It was the Pens vs. the Capitals in Washington.  The Pens rolled to a 4-0 shutout of the Caps, increasing their win streak to 2 games and looking like they were going to get back on track.  It was fun to watch too as I finally saw some life in Evgeni Malkin.  He didn't score but he was out there grinding and making plays, unlike some of his earlier games this year.  He will get back on track (hopefully soon).  It was also nice to see James Neal back in the lineup.  He came back last week but this was the first game I saw with him suited up.  He tallied on the 4th goal of the game.  Even the announcers didn't get on my nerves, which is rare.
  • I couldn't figure out the viewing hits on my Stormaggedon posts earlier in the week.  I was posting them from my phone onto the Blogger system.  But normally I do a check to see how they appear.  This time I wasn't because it was too difficult with multiple browsers on my phone.  I now realize that they weren't posting until 12 hours or more after I sent them to publish.  I don't know if this is a glitch in the system or what but it is kind of annoying. What if I had something important to say?  Should the fact that I'm mobile penalize my thought process?  My readers want my thoughts now!!  
  • There is a big card show this weekend in Rosemont, IL.  It's the 46th annual (which I don't get because it happens twice a year) Chicago Sun-Times Sports Collectibles Convention.  It's a Mounted Memories sponsored show so the autographed guest list is something comparable to a National-type show.  Feel free to click the link if you want to take a look.  It's sort of impressive but if you were to get the cheapest things signed by every person autographing, it would cost you $4,033.  I still haven't decided if I am going to make my way out there yet.  I always say that, and I always end up going.  But it wouldn't be me if I didn't at least put on the illusion for a couple minutes.  I'm taking the kids, too (assuming I go).  Maybe I'll post pictures on my Twitter account (which you should follow...that's what Twitterer'ses are supposed to say, right?)
  • I have been working on, getting ready to, try and, (you like all those non-excuse excuses?) ramp up my internet sales a bit.  I realize I have way too much stuff and really need to get rid of some.  Trim the fat, so to speak.  I know there are a lot of collector's out there that would want to trade and I am glad to do so.  I take requests.  If I have ever posted something that you like, let me know and I will see if it still exists.  Even if you don't remember anything but still want to trade, tell me what you collect and I'll find something.  But I know I can't give everything I have away in exchange for a bunch of Pittsburgh team common cards and cards I already have 15 of.  That's fine if I'm dumping the same things in return but there are only so many Stan Belinda and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala cards one person can find room for.  If anyone is interested in anything I have up now, check out my storefront thingy over on Collector's Revolution.  I have been having much better success on there than eBay and with less fees.  I just sold another card today in fact.  
  • Do trade fodder posts, as in "Here are X# of cards I have with pictures. Who wants to trade?", actually work?  If so, share your experiences in this in the comments below.  I want to know who does these and does them successfully.  I am thinking of throwing up some good trade fodder but don't really know what will get people to bite or not.  I know I'm not the best trader in the world because I have been known to take an eon to send but I'm trying to improve.  When you do them, how do you decide on trading?  Do you trade by the dreaded book value?  Do you trade by number of cards?  Do you swap auto for auto, GU for GU?  I think the blogging community could tap into the proverbial "trade night" that some B&M stores still do.  Thoughts?
  • Speaking of B&M (brick and morter) stores, I am going to be doing some research on B&M hobby shop marketing.  I may reach out to some of you in the hobby world for opinions and such.  Anyone who would like to offer their 2 cents on the traditional hobby shop in today's digital market, feel free to comment or email me.  I will be doing a post about it in a couple weeks with more information.  I know many of you still have LCS's that you frequent and some of you even have some that you drive great distances to visit.  This is all good stuff I may be interested in picking your brains on.
  • Are there any hockey "personalities" that really get on your nerves?  I believe there are.  By personalities, I am referring to players, coaches, announcers, executives, officials, anyone that has some type of higher than team janitor or production crew assistant profile.  I thought about this the other day while watching NBCs coverage of the game on Wednesday.  My list started to get very large and cumbersome after a while of thinking.  I am going to share with everyone my list of Top 10 Hockey Personalities That Annoy Me in a future post.  As hockey fans and pseudo-writer/blogger/members of the "press", I feel it is our duty.  
  • There have been a lot of interesting hockey products released so far for the 2013-14 season.  I know most of the hype has been around the Double Rookie Class.  Even some manufacturers have built that into their marketing materials and advertising.  Great.  But what good is a double crop of rookies when 2/3 of them may be AWOL in a few months?  I get the excitement and intrigue, but from a collector's standpoint, unless you are a "prospector" by nature, you may be in for a Double Disappointment.  I plan on doing a review of products so far this year and exploring more into the Double Rookie Class of this years product in some future posts.
  • I just spent time time explaining future posts I plan on writing in a post.  That was weird.
  • I like to use bullet points now.  They're neat.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stormaggedon: Day 4

Wednesday 6AM:  As she heads off to work, I get last minute instructions on getting the boy to school.  All I want to do is lay there and sleep for another 30 more minutes but I know I'm just going to roll around.  Being in a strange bed always makes me sleep restless.  I know I have to get up probably in at most an hour and get dressed, get breakfast, and get him to school.  I offered to take him because based on my parents house location, it would be a waste of time and gas for her to backtrack.  Plus, she had to stop at the store on the way to work and pick up stuff for a baby shower.

Wednesday 6:50AM:  I roll out of bed, sleep already gone from my eyes.  I head to the bathroom to take care of all the particulars.  As I come out, I see he's already awake.  I tell him to get dressed so we can get things moving for the day.  He asks "Have you seen where my mom went?".  I tell him she went to work like she does every morning.  He says "Oh!  Yeah I knew that."  We continue to round up all our things and make the beds until we are ready to go.  We head upstairs to see what we can find by way of breakfast.  My fear is that the only cereals will be an assortment of fiber enriched twigs and berries type cereals that most kids would scoff at.  But to my surprise, I find Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or whatever the store brand is called).  Jackpot.  What kid doesn't like CT Crunch?

Wednesday 7:35:  We head out the door with bags in hand.  I load up the truck and make sure he is securely belted in.  I don't think he has ever been in my truck so I didn't want him to freak out being so high off the ground.  After climbing in he says, "You're truck is way bigger than my mom's car.  I like being this high."  Excellent.  We head to his school, wait in the parking lot for a few minutes for them to open the doors, and then he heads in.  Mission accomplished.  Now, do I dare check the house?

Wednesday 8:05:  I get to our street.  Trucks are gone.  Poles are up.  It's daylight so I can't really tell if anyone has lights on in their houses.  All I can really see is that there are two new streetlights past the house that weren't there before but neither are on.  I pull in front of the house into my customary parking space.  As I get out and open my passenger door to unload the bags, the neighbor pulls up and yells "Do we have power yet?"  I tell her that I didn't know yet.  The crews were out last night but we stayed somewhere else.  She says "You had a generator, didn't you?"  I tell her yes.  As she pulls away I hear her yell "We lost everything in our (g.d.) fridge".  Sorry to hear that.

I make my way up the stairs of the porch.  I open the screen door and immediately hear the cat meowing on the other side.  She doesn't enjoy being left alone overnight I don't think.  She is always extra friendly the next day.  I open the door, walk in, shutting the door behind me.  I turn to the right to hang up my keys.  I turn to the left and peer over at the TV.  While the screen is a reflective black, there's something at the bottom right that I have missed for a few days.  A little red light.  WE HAVE POWER!!

After 75,000 outages, almost 3 full days of waiting, a few sleepless nights, and worries over losing food and flooding basements, we can finally get back to normal.

Stormaggedon: Day 3

Tuesday 1AM:  I wake to the sounds of popping and gurgling outside my window.  What the heck is that?  THE GENERATOR!!  Oh, no. Please don't tell me it's dying.  Please!!

I get up out of bed and head to the back door to get my shoes.  I'm half undressed because I'm still partially sleeping.  Once I realize this, I go back in and throw on a sweatshirt.  I head outside.  It's dark.  Very dark.  I forgot my flashlight.  I head back in, grab the industrial Mag lite off the counter and return to a "choked" up generator.  There is white smoke coming out of the engine.  What could be wrong?  Gas?  Oil?  I check all the gauges.  Everything indicates it is ok but the noises, the sputtering, the smoke, what's causing this?  I examine all the knobs and switches.  And then I see it.  Somehow, the choke got switched to the closed position.  I flip it back and the unit fires back up to a dull purr.  Whewww!  That was close.  I return inside, everyone still asleep, crawl back in bed and sigh deeply into my pillow.

Tuesday 6AM:  "I'm leaving for work.  The generator is almost out of gas," she says.  What!  How can that be?  Sunday we ran it all night and there was still over a 1/4 tank left when I woke up.  The space heater!! (in my best Jerry hating Newman voice)  That think sucked over half the power itself and drained the gas quicker.  That's not cool.  Not cool at all.  Especially considering that gas prices shot back up about $.20/gallon right before the storms.  I already filled three of our gas tanks and it cost over $50.  How much more am I going to have to spend?  Are we still going to lose all the groceries in the fridge?  How much longer is this outage going to last?  I check my phone.  Estimated time for restoration of power...THURSDAY!!!  It's getting worse!!

Tuesday 7:30AM:  I decide to go to work early.  My idea is that as long as we don't open the fridge and it doesn't rain, everything will be good.  I'm shutting the generator off and plugging back in the stuff in case by some miracle the power comes back on.  I text her and let her know the plan.  We can turn it back on when she gets home.  Oh, look.  A text from my dad.  "You guys should come stay here tonight.  It's going to be cold."  How much colder can it get?  I look at my phone.  Tonight's low, 28 with windchill feeling like 22.  Ugh.  I text her to get her vibe on the idea.  We agree that unless the power comes back on, that is probably our best bet, preventing us from burning through another tank of gas and freezing to death to boot.  I go back in the house and pack a bag.

Tuesday Noonish:  I check the Estimated times again...still Thursday.  We are listing in one of four areas that took the most damage to equipment.  The estimated times are "worst case scenario" times if they run into problems repairing the broken lines.  But up until I left for work this morning, I hadn't seen one single utility truck on our street except the tree cutter guys clearing the line paths along the road.  The broken poles are still broken, the downed lines are still down.  The overall power outage map has shrunk considerably.  Of the 75,000 people without power, 98% of them have been restored.  Over 50% of those left are in my town and the neighboring town to the north.

Tuesday 3:30PM:  I text her to see when she is leaving work.  They have another case to deal with and it has to be finished before she leaves.  After that, she will head home, turn the generator back on for awhile to cool the fridge back down, empty the sump, and charge the phone.  She has to pack a couple bags of clothes for our overnight sleepover.

Tuesday 4:30ishPM:  I text my ex to see if she is bringing my boys to my office or if I am picking them up.  They are on their way.  The power still isn't on at home so I am just going to bring them to my dad's for awhile too.  But what about food?  I'm not going to assume we are being fed too.  I text to see what the plans plans.  I ask if she wants to meet for food or if we are all fending for ourselves.  She says we can meet.  How about pizza?  Fantastic.  Let's do it.

Tuesday 5:45PM:  I get a table for five at the local pizza place.  They will meet us in a few.  In the meantime, the boys and I settle in for a nice dinner.  They have coloring pages for them to do and after ordering, they go to work on some fall themed pictures.  After about 15 minutes, the others arrive and we make small talk before our food arrives.  This was the first time we have sat down to eat a meal together since Sunday morning.  We discuss the events of the last couple days and voice our concerns going forward if nothing gets fixed.  She mentions that there are 6 utility trucks on our street as we are sitting there, working on the light poles.  They must have heard me.  Maybe we will have power before dinner is done.  Maybe we can cancel the sleepover.

Tuesday 7:30PM:  As we head to my parents house, I decide to detour down our street to assess the situation.  There are the trucks.  There are the workers.  There are the new light poles.  There are all the dark windows of the houses too.  Still no power.  Oh well.  One last check of their website.  Estimated time to restoration of power, Wednesday by day's end.  Wednesday now, huh?  So we moved up?  That's good.  It's still another day to wait but at least it's progress.  Who knows?  Maybe they will get it on sometime tonight.

We finally arrive at my parents.  We are welcomed inside to a warm and invited home.  It's nice to have a place to go and sleep in a warm bed.  Here's hoping tonight is the only night we need to do this.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stormaggedon: Day 2

Monday 6AM:  It was a long night.  I think we woke up every hour or so, listening for the generator, listening for the sump pump, and worrying about what the day would bring.  Plus, it was quite cold outside of the covers.  We still have to go to work because running a generator costs money.  As she leaves for work, assuring me that there was plenty of gas in the generator, I try to get comfortable and catch an hour or so more of sleep before I get ready for work.

Monday 7:30ish:  I finally roll reluctantly from bed, lumbering toward the back door to check the generator.  As I go outside, I immediately notice how chilly it is and hope as the sun rises higher it starts to warm up.  I look at the gauge on the generator and see that it is almost empty.  I reach for the gas can, putting in about a gallon or so.  I return the cap and go back inside to get ready for work.  I check my phone app for the utility company and see that we are scheduled to get power back by mid-morning.  FANTASTIC!!

Monday 8:30ish:  I head out the door, late as usual, and begin my journey to my office (which is about 15 miles away).  I decided that since the power was going to be switched back on, I would plug the fridge and the sump pump into their respective outlets so that when the power was turned on, they would begin their normal functioning of preventing my basement from flooding and providing me with cold beverages and nourishing food.  I wrapped the extension cord up, put it back in the basement, and placed the generator back into the shed where it lives.  Off I go.

Monday 11ish:  It's a typical Monday at the office, getting caught up on stuff from the previous week and beginning new projects.  I keep thinking about the fridge at home so I go on the utility company's page to check again.  Our new estimated time of restoring power is...WEDNESDAY!!!???  What happened to mid-morning?  My fridge isn't going to hold out all day, is it?  The sump is going to flood the basement!  I gotta get out of here.  I head out of the office for lunch and decide to go back home to hook everything back up.  When I get there, I check everything.  Fridge still cold, freezer still frozen, sump...empty?  Ok.  Great.  I head to the shed to retrieve the generator.  30 minutes later, I'm back on my way to the office again.  That wasn't so bad, I guess.

Monday 4ish:  The day is almost over.  I know she will be heading home soon if not already so any issues should be addressed shortly.  Things could be way worse and I think we are going to be able to pull this one out.  Just as long as it doesn't get too cold outside.  I check the weather on my phone.  Tonights low, 33 degrees.  33!!  I don't know about anyone else but that's about 40 degrees colder than I like it.  The in house temperature is holding at 57 but that is certainly not going to last as the sun goes down.

Monday 7:30:  I'm frantically trying to find ways I can hotwire my furnace to the generator.  Oh, it can be done.  But not by me, the most mechanically deficient person on earth.  I call my dad who explains the general process of removing covers, stripping wires, destroying extension cords.  I had enough of that noise.  It's not going to happen.  Let's break out the space heater.  But wait...doesn't that thing frequently trip the breaker normally?  Where's the owner's manual.  Our generator can safely support about 2400-2500 amps.  The fridge and sump each use about 800.  So that leaves another 800-900 left.  We have our cell phones plugged in too though.  But those can't be that many, can they?  Something is going to have to go.

It's not raining and the sump seems to be holding it's own without filling up.  Lets pull that for now and plug in the heater.  We will put it in the kids room and just put another blanket on our bed.  Yeah, that's it.  That's the ticket.  After switching the heater from room to room for a few hours, it took it's position in the kids bedroom for the rest of the night.

Monday 8:30:

Me:  I'm hungry.  Are you hungry?
Her:  Yes.
Me: Well we have gas.  We can cook something.
Her:  How about a frozen pizza?
Me:  Ok.
Her (after five minutes):  But the oven isn't getting hot.
Me:  Do you have an electric igniter?
Her:  I don't know.  How do I know...oh wait, yes.  Yes I do.
Me:  How did you come up with that?
Her:  It's written on the stove by the clock (nice).
Me:  Ok, we should be able to light the pilot.  Open the oven door.  Is there a hole or something where you can access the pilot.
Her:  I don't know.
Me:  Let me look.

I go to the stove.  Peer inside.  The bottom inside of the over covers the entire thing.  I feel around and see that the bottom can be removed.  But it's bolted in.  Two in the front, two in the back.  I can see the broiler through a few holes though.  Maybe I can light it from there.  I open the drawer, grab the Mag lite again and peer inside.  I can see the long metal gas receptacles (you know the ones with all the little holes in them).  What if I turn on the gas and hold a match?  Will that work or blow my face off?  I grab the phone, Google "How to light an electronic ignition oven when the power is out".   20 minutes later, after reading arguments on forums between people that believe it is safe and the others that warn of melting skin and loss of limbs, I consult the expert again.  My dad answers and I say "Last question", further explaining the situation.  He says "Sure...pull the bottom plate off the oven and you can light it in there."  I explain it's bolted on.  He says "Ok, do you have a broiler."  Yes.  "Good.  Pull that out.  Can you see the pilot?"  I reply, "I don't know.  Is that the mechanical looking thing in the back" (you see, I'm not mechanically inclined)?  "Yes," he says "You have to hold a match to that, it will catch, warm up the coil and then the oven will ignite."  "So you mean I have to stick my arm all the way in there with a lit match, turn on the gas, wait for it to catch, and hope I don't die?"  "Unless you want to pull out the over, take the back off and light it that way, basically yes", he says.

I hang up.  Grab a bag of Doritos off the counter and retreat to the couch where I belong.  

Monday 10:15:  Time to fill the gas tank on the generator.  It's going to be another long night.

Stay tuned for part 3

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stormaggedon: Day 1

As most people are aware by now, massive storm cells moved through the Midwest over the weekend, destroying thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses, and even taking the lives of almost a dozen people.  One of the hardest hit places was southern Illinois and Indiana where an EF-4 tornado ripped through some small towns including Washington...there is nothing left.

Even up in my own comfortable corner of Indiana just across the border from Chicago, IL, we got to see the effects of the hard rains, strong winds, and threats of tornadoes.  Sunday started off as a great day to just lay on the couch and watch football.  It turned into a day I won't soon forget.

I'm not trying to discount any of the damage and loss of life, injuries, and the like that occurred as a result of these storms.  Our prayers and thoughts go out to everyone who was hammered by these storms.  But I wanted to share an account of what my day was like in my own, dis-joined rambling kind of way.

Saturday night:  We decide to sleep in the next morning because, well, we didn't have anything to do on Sunday.

Sunday AM:  When we finally decided to roll out of bed, after taking care of the particulars, I do what I do every Sunday morning...checked my fantasy teams and made any necessary last minute adjustments.

Sunday AM later:  We decided to go grab a late breakfast at a local family restaurant (where you get omelette's as big as your forearm).  The sky to the southwest is beginning to look ominous.

Sunday Noonish:  Our food arrives, the Bears game kicks off on the TV in the restaurant.  The sky outside is now darkening at rapid speed as the clouds roll in from SW to NE.

Sunday Noon-thirty:  We are slowly finishing breakfast when we notice that Soldier Field was being evacuated for safety reasons.  Apparently the strong winds and lightning were too much to keep playing.

Sunday Noon-forty:  The phone rings from a concern mother who urges their child and fearless boyfriend to retreat to the basement of their home posthaste.  Their power has been out for almost 30 minutes and they are sure that ours will be as well.  However, our current location is fully lit and quite comfortable in fact.  The concerns are quickly poo-poo'd as another destination was scheduled for the morning...snacks from the grocery store must be obtained.  The sky...oh, boy the sky.

Sunday 1pm:  As we peruse the aisles of the local grocer, we suddenly hear what sounds like rocks, pelting aluminum siding.  The winds outside howl as the rain mixed with some chunks of ice beat down on the building.  We decide it's time to go and proceed to the self-checkout.  As we clear the foyer area to the parking lot, we are surprised by the fact that the rain had stopped and the ground looked barely wet.  At this point, the sky looked like a cross between dirty cobwebs and pea soup.  We head for home (which is only about 1 mile away).

Sunday 1-twentyish:  As we approach the halfway point to our domicile, the atmosphere instantly turns into what I can only describe as a monsoon meets a hurricane.  The water was flying horizontally in all directions at the same time and the amount of sticks, leaves, and other loose debris mixed in made visibility less than zero.  As we approach the municipal building (housing both the police and fire depts) traffic is stopped.  No one wants to move because, well, no one can see.  Then...nothing.  Rain stops, wind dies down, visibility clears...but only for a moment.  Just long enough for us to continue the 2000 feet to our street.  Maybe this is worse than we thought??

Sunday 1-thirtyish:  As we turn down our street, we are greeted with a continued onslaught of wind and rain.  But more concerning, 20 feet in front of our house, a police car sits perpendicular to the road with it's lights flashing, indicating only one thing...Roadblock.  We watch as he turns cars from the other direction away, making them, ironically enough, turn around using our driveway.  As we approach, the officer puts up his hand indicating that we stop and turn around.  I wind my window down and we both, in unison, shout "That's our house.  Right there," as we point to the almost 100 year old 2-story.  "Fine," the officer says, "I will let you in."  He proceeds to move his vehicle and we are allowed to pull into our driveway.  Why the roadblock, you ask?  There was a downed power line, or so we thought within 15 feet of our house.  As we stood and watched from the living room window, the neighbor nonchalantly walked down by the police car, reached down and picked up the potentially live wire, proceeded to spool it over his arm, and carried it back to his house, placing it beside the porch.  Apparently, that wasn't a live one but rather a phone or cable line.  Who does that, though?

Sunday 2-fifteenish:  A crowd begins to gather on the neighboring houses porch, peering north up the street.  We proceed to investigate on our own as there is nothing on TV now.  There is nothing anywhere for that matter since the power is now out.  As we get to a good position we can see emergency vehicles and barricades about forty feet or so up the street from our driveway.  Further up the street you can see what looks like branches in the middle of the road.  A tree had fallen across the road, smashing a car parked on the other side and tearing down the power lines on both sides of the street in the process.  About a half dozen light poles were taken out as well and two transformers on the tops of each pole apparently burst into flames, but were quickly distinguished by the gusts of water pounding into them.  Yeah, I'm thinking this is worse than we thought.

Sunday 4-ish:  After going back and forth with what we should do next, we finally decide to go to the shed to retrieve the small gas-powered generator so that we can at least get the sump pump working and maybe power the fridge so we don't lose the food.  We bring the surprisingly, light-weight machine close to the house, ground it with a metal stake that was already there, and proceed to fill it with gas.  I check the oil, top it off, and we are in business.  Or so I though.  Choke-off, gas-on, ignition-on.  But the rip-cord starter is doing nothing but breaking my shoulder.  One pull, two pulls, ten pulls.  Nothing.  Twenty pulls, thirty pulls, wait, let me try...nothing.  I retire to the house.  We need another plan.  30 minutes later, no plan, I proceed to try again.  Maybe that's all it needed, being rustled around out of it's tomb and drug across the yard.  One pull, two pulls, ten pulls, fifteen frustratingly small but hard pulls.  Nothing.  Defeated, I return to the house and the safety of my couch.

Sunday 5-thirty-ish:  Our phones are about dead now.  We have no mobile chargers to use and our only option is to head out somewhere.  Not in this town though.  Where are we going to go?  The next closest town with any sort of commercially based civilization is about 16 miles away.  Well, that should give us plenty of time to charge two cell phones.  Lets do it.  Oh, wait.  There is the neighbor.  He is way more mechanically inclined than I.  Let's see if he knows whats wrong with the generator.  "It won't start, eh?"  "Did you fill it with gas?"  Of course we did.  "Is the oil ok?"  Yes, sir.  "Did you kick it?"  No but I will if you think it will help.  "Give me a minute.  I will be right back."  A minute arrived and he returned with an aerosol can of, yep, you guessed it, starter fluid.  Why didn't I think of that?  One spray from the magic solution and BLAMO!!!  It's purring like a kitten (a 3400 watt kitten).

Sunday 6-thirty-ish:  After getting everything plugged in, making sure the frozen food was still frozen, the fridge food was still icy cold, and emptying the sump three or four times (rain water run off from the yard and around the foundation of the house drains into our sump), we make our way to the car.  Remember, we had to charge our phones.  Off we go toward retail central.

Sunday 8-ish:  We finally return home to a dark house, a dark street, and a dark neighborhood.  The sound of generators all around was humming like a pack of wild animals.  With a charged phone, I check the utility company website for outage information.  Our town alone had almost 6000 customers without power.  The total customers with outages was over 50,000 by 8:30.  The ETA for returning power...not listed.  This could be a long night.

Stay tuned for part 2

Friday, November 15, 2013

They Don't Make 'Em Like This Where I'm From

I've never seen ice like this in my life.  

I think this might just be paradise...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Epic Card Has Arrived.

I have noticed lately that both Upper Deck and Panini have been sending redemption cards of "higher" value with signature verifications.  I have no problem with that other than the fact that no one is ever home at my house to sign for them.  Regardless, the Post Office gladly holds my little yellow envelopes for me until I can get my happy butt over there to pick them up.

Well an epic card awaited me yesterday.  I bought a box of Panini Classics Signatures back in March at the Chicago Sun-Times Sports Show in Rosemont, IL.  In it was a redemption for a triple auto.  Honestly, I never expected to receive this card and assumed it would be one that would need replaced.  Then the email came last week.  My card had shipped.

And here it is in all it's glory...

One Card!!  

Three HOFers!!!  

Three Autographs!!!  

19 Total Stanley Cup Championships!!!  


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sabres To Name Pat LaFontaine as Director of Hockey Operations???

Bob McKenzie reported on his Twitter feed that he expects the Sabres to announce that Pat LaFontaine is the new director of hockey operations for the club.  The Sabres have announced a press conference for today at 10:30 and it is being streamed live on their website.

This seems to be a trend in the NHL these days.  Hey, our team is struggling.  Let's take a former NHL great (preferably a vet of our franchise) and put him in a position of authority.  That will certainly turn the team's fortunes around.

What does everyone think of this move?  Other moves like this?


Sabres fired Darcy Regier as Buffalo's GM!!  And....They fired their coach, Ron Rolston!

Ted Nolan is the new "interim" head coach.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another Year, Another League Impacting Injury

For many of you, this is old news.  But I'm trying to keep my tradition going of being late to the party.

There were two Tampa Bay teams in action last night.  One in the NHL, one in the NFL.  Which one would you want to watch??  Those of you that chose the NHL (made the right choice) got to see probably the most devastating injury of this young 2013-14 season.

With about 7 minutes left to play in the second period, Steven Stamkos was skating up the ice toward his own net, chasing a dump in pass by Boston, when his skate got tied up with Dougie Hamilton.  As Stamkos went down, he collided with the right post of the goal, knocking it from its' moorings.  As you can see in the videos, he hits the post with his left leg and then his right leg came awkwardly across his body and bent backward as it too hit the post.  He was immediately in pain and Anders Lindback instantly signaled for trainers to get out on the ice.  As Stamkos got up to skate away, he fell back to the ice in pain.  He had to be taken from the ice on a stretcher.  Word from the Lightning is that he has a broken tibia, he is out indefinitely, and will undergo surgery today.

For a team in the Eastern Conference that has to contend with other big dogs to get a playoff spot, this isn't good news.  With five teams basically locked on top of the East, any edge will benefit the rest and this injury just could push a "bubble" team into a playoff spot (I know it's early, I'm just saying).  Going into last nights game, Stamkos was tied with Sidney Crosby for as the NHL leading scorer at 23 points and tied with Alex Steen in goals with 14.  He hasn't missed a single regular season game in his entire career up to this point and is now in jeopardy of missing much of the rest of the season, if not all of it.  Those are points the Lightning can't afford to be without for any amount of time.  The sheer fact that Steven was a part of 44% of all Tampa goals this year shows that his impact will be potentially devastating for the Lightning.

This also has world hockey implications as Stamkos was basically a lock for making Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  The final team roster does not have to be announced until Dec. 31st however, adding an injured player to the roster and then having to have them removed is not as easy for international play.  Broken legs generally take four to six months to heal completely.  Surgically repaired legs can heal quicker but every person is different when it comes to down time and the pain threshold.  Regardless, I doubt Stamkos would be ready before the first game of Team Canada which is only about three months away.  Stamkos isn't replaceable either as the only other player with his type of ability is Sidney Crosby, who is already most certainly going to be on the team.  Plus, with Rick Nash yet to return from concussion, the Team Canada lineup is starting to look thin.

Overall though, NHL fans are going to lose out on seeing one of the best players in the world for awhile.  Regardless of whether you are a lightning fan or not, Stamkos has always been a class act and an amazing player to watch.

New PC Cards, Rare Ones Too

So I hinted last week in my three-card PC post that I had some bigger pull-type cards on their way for my PC.  Well they arrived.

As most people know, I have an Eric Tangradi personal collection that I started back in 2010 when he was a prospect in the Penguins organization.  Now that he is with Winnipeg, I still actively chase the missing links that I don't have. 

The problem for me has always been that I am aware of at least a half-dozen other Tangradi collectors.  This poses a problem when searching for cards on the auction sites.  I can't tell you how many times I have gotten into a bidding war with someone and ended up overpaying for a card just because the demand was there (or lost at the last second or just got bid right out of the auction). 

One of those collector's periodically puts up many of his/her rarer cards, assuming to test the market.  Up to this point, I have only ever seen them listed for BIN numbers reaching in the ridiculously high stratosphere of values.  I have always watched them, but they have never ended with a sale.  A few weeks ago, some of these cards hit the Bay again, only this time, they were traditional auctions with starting prices of $.99.

It was on.

After all was said and done, I ended up winning 4 of the 6 auctions I bid on.  The other two just got too rich for my blood.  At any rate, I figured I would share.

2010-11 Certified Freshman Signatures Mirror Gold #/25

So with a tiered system in any card set, the ones numbered under 50 are next to impossible to find.  I have only seen this gold one pop up a couple times.  I was happy to bid and finally win this one.  I have the basic Silver #/899, the Red #/250, and the Blue #/100.  I just need the Emerald #/5 and the Black #/1.  I have actually found the Emerald recently and am working on procuring it.  We shall see. 

2010-11 Ultimate Debut Threads Signed Jersey #/50

This is another in a long line of "tiered" cards.  These were found as just jerseys, jersey autos, patches, patch autos, and I think there is a black version or something like that.  I know I have the regular Jersey #/200 and the Patch #/35 but I had never seen the jersey auto.  Never.  Maybe I just didn't pay good enough attention.  I did pay for the card though.  And now it's mine.

2010-11 Upper Deck Magenta Printing Plate #1/1

I believe this would be my tenth printing plate.  These never popped up at all a few years ago but then last year around summer time, I found quite a few.  The difference though was that they were all The Cup plates which feature the other releases by Upper Deck (ie. SP, SPx, Black Diamond, Arifacts, etc).  I didn't realize that the basic flagship set had it's own plates outside the realm of The Cup.  The card itself is made of metal (as most plates are) and you can see it on the back (although I didn't scan it).  The corners are rounded too.  There is a sticker identifying it as the actual plate, signed by our friend Richard P. McWilliam.

2010-11 Zenith Autograph

Finally I was able to get my hands on a Zenith auto.  These have popped up on a number of occasions but every time they have a BIN that is well out of my price range.  Not anymore.  This one set me back a whopping $3.  It is numbered out of #/99.  Unfortunately it's a sticker auto although the design of the card had the white space for signing. 

One of these days I will get around to updating my Tangradi page and checklist.  One of these days seems to be my mantra lately.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is It Time To Pack It In, In South Florida??

After another dismal start to the season, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon fired head coach Kevin Dineen and his assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay.  This marks the latest in a long line of bad luck, bad playing, and just bad news for the hapless hockey team from South Florida.  But I'm positive that coaching changes aren't the only things that need fixed.

The Panthers are 1-6-4 in 11 games so far and haven't won in the last seven.  They are also among the bottom feeders in the league in both scoring and being scored on.  The fact of the matter is, Tallon had about enough and could do no more thinking on the subject.  It was time for him to act and a change was necessary.  Peter Horachek was named the new interim coach as Dale begins the long process of trying to find a replacement for Dineen.  Brian Skrudland and John Madden were brought in as assistants.

I'm not convinced that their issues can all be blamed on the coaching staff though.  Florida's players haven't helped the cause of the team and key guys just aren't performing as they should.  Tallon even said, "It's easier to fire a coach than to fire 23 players." This is a very true statement and Tallon is no-nonsense when it comes to effort.  If he sees you aren't giving it night in and night out, he will send you packing and find someone that will.  He has a history of it and he will do it no matter where he goes. 

So what does everyone think on this?  Are the players to blame?  Management?  The city?  Is Florida big enough to support two teams?  Is it time to for the Quebec City Panthers?  Leave a comment.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Emery vs. Holtby; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Goalie Fights

Last Friday night, the Flyers got shellacked by the Capitals 7-0 in an embarrassing loss that was overshadowed by the giant line brawl in the third period.  For those that missed it, the countless video replays, the god-awful Philadelphia announcing, or the endless tirades from hockey pundits over the weekend about it, let me enlighten you.

It starts with Wayne Simmons gooning it up out there after a Capitals goal.  Then...bedlam.

Ok, so we all see it.  In an apparent effort to "energize" his team that was getting destroyed defensively by the Capitals, Ray Emery takes it upon himself to skate the length of the ice to fight his counterpart, Braden Holtby.  As the announcers mention and as you can see on the video, Holtby wanted nothing to do with a fight.  His team was up 7-0, he played a great game, and was probably looking forward to coasting the rest of the game and relaxing in a hot tub after work.  Well, as you can see by the video, Emery wouldn't take no for an answer and proceeded to pummel Holtby into submission.

So now that all the water cooler talk, NHL news spinning, and focus in general is gone from this event, it's the DFG's turn to speak.  I like to wait till after the fact because if you can't be the breaking news, you might as well re-stir the pot.

What happened to Emery as a result of this play?  He got 2 min for instigating, 2 min for leaving the crease, 5 min for fighting, 10 min misconduct, and a game-misconduct.  Other than that???  Nothing.  The NHL decided taht the league's rules did not allow for any other punishment beyond what was dished out on the ice.  No one has really come forward to explain this fact that I am aware of but apparently the "conduct detrimental to the league" thing they frequently suspend guys for only applies to off-the-ice incidents.

So this begs the question, since Emery didn't violate a rule per-se, did he violate the spirit of the game?  Did he violate the "code" of conduct that players have, for decades, lived by on the ice when it comes to dropping the gloves?  When a guy is unwilling to fight an opponent, the general rule has always been to back off and skate away.  But in this case, that didn't happen and Holtby got destroyed.  I was almost positive that the Shanahammer would drop on Emery come Monday morning but that didn't happen either.  There has been dialogue from commissioner Bettman about changing, or making, a rule that would prevent this kind of behavior on the ice but until the owners meeting next month in Toronto, that change is left to be seen.

I'm curious to hear what everyone else thinks on the subject?  Please leave a comment regarding the fight, the "code", or anything else you'd like to comment about.

New Cards For The Tangradi PC

I have still been picking up Tangradi cards for my PC even though he is long gone from the Pens.  So far this year he has 1 point on 15 shots on goal.  Nothing to write home about but he has thus far only appeared in 11 games.

Just wanted to take a minute and share a few that have recently fallen in my hands.

2013-14 Artifacts Autofacts

So Artifacts has been out for a while and as most people know, the Autofacts cards are not a one per box kind of thing.  They say they fall about one per every three boxes but for some reason, there are a ton already on the secondary market.  When these first hit the shelves, I was bidding feverishly on the Tangradi's that I would see pop up because I knew that other than OPC, he wouldn't get a lot of exposure in this year's products.  So I bid.  And lost.  Bid again.  And lost.  Continuing over, and over again.  Finally, I found a multitude of $.99 auctions with this card and bid on all of them because at this point, odds were that I'd get at least one of them, right?  Well my plan backfired.  Instead of winning one of them, I won FIVE!!

2013-14 O-Pee-Chee Black Rainbow

The same scenario as the Autofacts card above went for this one too.  I didn't want to pay more than a few dollars for this and once some of these auctions got over five, I bowed out.  But finally I won one (not five) and all is well with the world.  

2010-11 Donruss Rated Rookie Autograph

For as prevalent as 2010-11 Donruss was, and still is, this card has eluded me repeatedly.  In fact, I have been monitoring Ebay auctions since I decided to start collecting ET and this card has only come up FIVE times that I can remember.  Each time, the owner wanted an extraordinary dollar value on a BIN price.  I watched these auctions close with no bids and no sales over and over again.  But finally, someone posted a regular auction starting at $.99.  That's how you do it.

That was it for now, just three cards.  I have recently snatched up some BIG ones for the collection from another Tangradi collector that occasionally pops up online.  They are low numbered ones with a 1 of 1 thrown in for good measure.  Once I get those in hand and scanned, I will be sure to share those


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Steeler 6-pack

This is the ninth installment of a the Sunday Steeler 6-Pack.  This week is an uphill battle against the New England Cheatriots.  We haven't won in Foxboro in ages.  In fact, since Brady became the starter, we are  0-2.  But if there is a year to change that, it's this year.  The Pats defense is succeptable and their offense has struggled (at least as far as a Tom Brady offense can struggle).  We shall see.

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...

No comments today.  Just cards...

 2009 Philadelphia Football James Harrison

 1995 Fleer Flair Rod Woodson

 2006 Upper Deck All Upper Deck Team Troy Polamalu

 2010 Topps Chrome Xfractor Maurkice Pouncey RC

 1980 Topps Rocky Bleier

1956 Topps Frank Varrichione

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.