Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Red Sox Collection - Hypocrite Edition

I've ranted many times about Topps and other companies just destroying the concept of the simple base set with an overload of bland inserts, multi-colored parallels, photo variations and other nonsense.  Because of this, I felt somewhat hypocritical when the friendly neighborhood mailman dropped off this card just last week:

I guess I just couldn't help myself.  Total impulse buy while trolling through eBay very late one night.  Since the major brands all but crushed the set collector out of me long ago, these sorts of things don't bother me as much as they used to.  I'm not sure why they couldn't have simply used this photo as David's base card in the set, but what do I know.  For $2 and change I thought this shot of Ortiz celebrating the 2013 AL East Championship with the fans in front of the Green Monster (donning beer goggles I might add) was worth adding to my Sox collection.

What really threw me off when scanning it in was that it's card #475, yet 2014 Topps Series 2 has not even been released yet.  Sometimes I wonder what goes on over there at Topps corporate headquarters...

Monday, April 21, 2014

That's Why I Don't Buy Blasters - Volume VI - Hank & Nolan

Leaving for vacation tomorrow, hectic day of packing and preparation so here's a quick one.  You know the drill, pretty self-explanatory...

Instead of buying a blaster like this one, I take the $19.99 plus tax and do some collecting damage elsewhere.  The Goudey blaster image above is a bit of foreshadowing, because for this installment I am once again going back to the 1933 Goudey well...

Henry Johnson becomes the third '33 Goudey Red Sox card to fall in my quest for a complete team set.  I like this one the best of the three I've got so far, as the first two contained tightly cropped portrait shots but with Hank we get a little throwing motion.  I am really not sure why this was graded just a 1.5, nor do I care.  There's a little bit of fading in some spots within the background and the corners are rounded, but the visual appeal is still really good and there are no major creases or eyesores.

Here's a better look at the front.  This is a great vintage Red Sox card because it contains about as much red ink as you could possibly put on a baseball card.  I love the pinstripe hat, too.

As a player, Hank Johnson actually came up with the Yankees in the late '20s, and as a result got to pitch with some of the greatest players in the history of the game as teammates (names like Ruth and Gehrig).

Here's a look at the back, a couple of surface wrinkles near the bottom but totally legible and more than enough to pass my quality test!  With this card in hand I've got five more '33 Goudeys to track down to finish a Red Sox team set (a couple of them being Hall-of-Famers).

Because of the poor condition, I was able to land this card for just $14 via Buy-It-Now.  Not too shabby at all, especially given that the seller charged a reasonable $1.40 for shipping.  You know what that means?  $5 left in my "virtual blaster" budget.  I looked over my eBay watch list and it didn't take me long to figure out how to fill the gap:

What a bright-colored beauty!  This is my first '74 Kellogg's card and is one of the nicer cards I've added to my humble little Nolan Ryan collection in quite some time.  I'm sure I could have bargain hunted and maybe landed this one cheaper eventually, but I've done quite a bit of eBay business with the seller in the past so was happy to go with this example.  The card's in really great shape with no signs of cracking or other condition issues on the front...

...and just a touch of discoloration around the borders on the back.  This set me back and even Abe Lincoln with free shipping.

So there you have it, instead of dropping a $20 at Target I've got an 80+ year old Red Sox card and a '70s Nolan Ryan made by a cereal company.  I'd call that a win!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Signature Sundays - Brad Marchand

Just a quick one tonight, featuring an autograph I picked up a while back on the cheap.

It's hard to tell from the scan, but these Trilogy Ice Scripts autographs, which have been around a few years now, are very thick.  They've got rounded edges and are made of an acetate, plastic-type material, very solid cards.  Brad Marchand here, who really needs to pick up his play a bit after the first couple of playoff games, set me back just $8 and change.

The white area containing the signature is actually transparent, which is more obvious when you look at the back of the card and see the reverse of the signature from the front:

In addition to annoying the hell out of opponents, Brad has been a consistent scorer for the Bruins in his early career.  He's topped 20 goals in three of his first four seasons (the only time he came up short of that was 2012-13, when he missed nearly half the season due to injury).  This year he played in every single game the team had, and topped the 25-goal and 50-point marks.

For around $10 shipped I'm happy to have just about any autograph from the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship team!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Topps Botches Premier League

These past few years I've become completely obsessed with Premier League football.  Every Saturday and Sunday morning (and sometimes into the afternoon), my poor wife has to put up with soccer on the TV.  This season has been particularly enjoyable given that my favorite team is atop the table with just a few weeks to go (and got a tremendous amount of help from last-place Sunderland again today!).

I would love to build a half-way decent Premier League soccer card collection, but there just hasn't been much out there.  I'm collecting the 1960 A & BC Gum set, which features many of the clubs currently playing in the league, but those are extremely difficult to come by and I can go months or longer without seeing one I need.  The majority of recent releases have been sticker sets with corresponding albums, and I'm just not a big sticker guy.  So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard about this:

The 2013 Topps English Premier League Gold set is exactly what I've been looking for.  Full-size, standard, licensed trading cards of the Premier League's top players.  Sign me up for a box or two!  Wait, what's that?  $200 a box?  Yes, Topps decided to make this a high end product where it's all about the hits (just 10 packs per box, 5 cards per pack but you get an relic or auto in every pack).  Not only does that drive unopened product way out of my price range, it even makes the lowly base cards tough to come by since you get less than 40 in an entire box.

Luckily I was able to win a decent size chunk of base cards for just $1.04 plus a couple bucks shipping on eBay.  Included in the lot was the man who scored the biggest goal of the season for Liverpool last week:

That Liverpool/Manchester City tilt was probably the single best soccer game I've seen since getting into the sport.  It had everything a sports fan could ask for.  Anyone who thinks soccer is too boring or slow should go find a recording of that game and give it a shot.

Back to the cards...I really like these, and if Topps had made this about the base set they would have had a winner in my book.  The card stock is nice and thick, the design along the bottom really fits with the Barclay's branding, and you get a great team crest along the top.

The backs are simple, but contain a good, brief write-up, stats and essentials.

Here's one more from the lot, a player who got on the scoreboard earlier today with the first goal of the match for Tottenham Hotspur against Fulham.

I would love to say that I'm collecting this set, but I don't think I'm going to find another bargain on base cards like I did with my first lot anytime soon.  I would be interested in trading for any singles though.  Anyone out there buy any of this stuff?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vacation and Stanley Cup Playoffs - A Match Made in Heaven

This evening I start a two week vacation from work.  This card, which I won recently on eBay and which has instantly become one of my favorite hockey cards, pretty much summarizes how I feel about that:

It also seemed like the perfect day to post this one given that the Bruins kick off their quest to capture Lord Stanley's Cup tonight with Game 1 of their series against the Red Wings in Boston.  The photo on this card is proof positive that the NHL has the single best championship trophy in all of sports.

The back is a bit anti-climactic after that fantastic front, so let's get back to the good stuff:

Going to do my best to schedule some posts out ahead of time before I leave the country on Tuesday, but if the lights go off for a few days here at Shoebox Legends headquarters now you know why.

Also, whether your team's still in it, or whether they finished last in their division, why not add to the excitement of watching the playoffs unfold by entering in my buddy Casey's Stanley Cup Contest.  Act quickly, not many spots left!

Go Bruins!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Ernie Banks Collection

Ernie Banks is one of those players that I always admired growing up (even though I wasn't born until more than a decade after his final game).  A recent post by Hackenbush over at Can't Have Too Many Cards reminded me that I actually have quite a decent little Ernie Banks collection.  I've shown one or two cards from time to time over the years, but many of them have never seen the light of day on my blog, which is a shame.  To make up for that, here's an image heavy post featuring the bulk of my Ernie Banks collection.  It's not very large in size (less than 30 cards) but I'm shooting for quality over quantity with this particular player collection.

Sure, I've got a handful of newer cards like this one from 2005 Upper Deck Past Time Pennants, but the bulk of my collection focuses on vintage (shocking).  I'm not sure why Ernie is in a set called Past Time Pennants when he never won a pennant.  Anyway, my collection focuses on the cards that were released during Ernie's playing days:

I don't have Ernie's final card from the '71 Topps set, and it's a pretty pricey card given the condition issues with '71 Topps and the fact that it's a high number.  I do have this beauty from 1970 Topps though.  Nice sunny day, smiling Banks and a classic bat barrel shot.  After a decade of more tightly cropped portrait shots in the '60s it's nice to see a little more of Ernie here.  Speaking of which...

I really do like 1969 Topps quite a bit, and this one would be near the top of my list of favorite Banks cards were it not for the fact that Topps used the very same photo as the year prior:

1968 Topps is one of my least favorite sets, but given that this card set me back around the cost of a blaster it was still a no-brainer to pick it up.

1967 Topps is much better.  Not the most exciting photo but I love the design.  If I were going to pick a set from the '60s to complete I'd think long and hard about this one.

Can't really say the same for 1966 Topps, my second-least-favorite set of the decade (behind '61 Topps).  At least Ernie's got a hat on, which is more than you can say for most subjects in this set.

Here's Ernie on your 2014 Heritage design.  I never understood the photo choice on this one.  Is this really the best they could come up with?

I'm a big fan of 1964 Topps and have picked up quite a few Hall of Famers from the set.  The cards are just beautiful, this is everything a vintage baseball card should be.

Ernie's '64 Topps Stand-Up was one of my best bargains of last year.  When I saw this example in really great condition listed by one of my favorite eBay sellers for $20 Buy-it-Now I pounced on it immediately.  I don't imagine it would have lasted very long.

If you're paying attention you've noticed that I'm missing the '63 Topps card.  This is the second major hole in my run following '71 Topps.  As far as this card goes, I normally detest '62 Topps but not in this case.

Snooze...here's some evidence as to why 1961 Topps is the worst set of the decade.  Topps even managed to make a bad Ernie banks card in '61.  This is truly a card for the player, set or team collector only.

Ah, so much better!  Color!  Different photos!  Huge logo!  Hats!  Is 1960 to 1961 the worst drop-off in Topps' flagship effort from year to year?  I think it might be.

This looks like a shot of Ernie playing toss pre-game.  I have this cool Cubs' Clubbers combo card from the '59 set as well:

Nice little addition to accompany the '59 base card.  From this point down my run of Banks cards is incomplete to say the least.  I don't have his '58 Topps card, but I do have the All-Star subset (the very first All-Star subset) card:

I'm missing Banks' '57 Topps issue as well, probably the cheapest of the few cards I'd like to track down still.  I don't have his rookie card either (cha-ching!), or his '55 Bowman.  Maybe someday.  This is my absolute favorite though:

I picked this card up not long after I first returned to collecting back in 2007.  There was a time, for probably a year or more, where it was my absolute favorite card, period.  It's since been surpassed in that category more than a few times over, but it's still a great piece of cardboard that I'd rank among my top 100 baseball cards.

Finally, my oldest Banks, his second year 1955 Topps card.  Who knows if I'll ever try to complete the run.  I was pursuing this project with vigor years ago, but it's really slowed to halt in recent years.  Regardless of what happens I'm proud of the small collection of Mr. Cub's cards that I've been able to put together to date...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Signature Sundays - Trevor Linden

With the news this past week that Trevor Linden is taking over hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks, it seemed like the appropriate time to post this card that I picked up last year:

If I'm a Canucks fan I'm praying that his skills as an NHL executive far outweigh his skills with the pen.  Could you put less effort into signing a hockey card than this?

Penmanship aside, I'm happy to have this card of an NHL great who played nearly two decades in the league and appeared in close to 1,400 games.  Linden was named Canucks team captain at age 21, and has his number retired in Vancouver.

Trevor here brings me to 99 on-card autographs from this set, maybe next Sunday I'll be crossing the century mark...

Friday, April 11, 2014

That's Why I Don't Buy Blasters - Volume V - Sitting on the Dugout Steps

Yes, it's time for another reminder to myself that I am much better off avoiding retail wax and using my hobby funds on hand-selected cards that are more meaningful to my collection as a whole.  So, instead of buying something like this:

I used that $20 to buy Bowman product that's about 60 years older!  Here's the newest addition to my Red Sox collection, a 1954 Bowman Dick Gernert:

I've professed my love for '50s Bowman baseball cards many times on this blog, and though my absolute favorites are the smaller size cards released between 1949 and 1952, these over-sized '54s are quite beautiful.  I'm a big fan of the simplistic design and emphasis on the colorized photos, and this is a great example.  The posed shot on the dugout steps with the dugout railing, field and blue sky behind the subject is something a little different (although without looking I seem to recall quite a few dugout shots in '53 Bowman as well).

Here's a look at the back, which is unique for sure.  The stats are laid out in a non-standard format and there's a good bit of space reserved for a write-up.  The player's name in the bat along the top of the card is a nice touch.  I have to question the trivia on this one though, did this guy really throw a ball 127 mph (he wasn't even a pitcher but rather an infielder)?  How reliable was the technology to even record that data in 1930?  Interesting nonetheless!

This beautiful card set me back a total of $7.59, which left me with some more funds in my "virtual blaster".  Luckily for me the same seller had another Sox card from the same set ending at the same time:

Another '54 Bowman Red Sox card, and another posed shot on the dugout steps.  The more I look at these cards the more I like them.  I haven't been chasing a team set very actively, but I may have to specifically search out some more of these.  Unfortunately, as is normally the case with sets from the '50s, Ted Williams stands in my way, and this is one of his more sought after cards.  It's unlikely I'll ever land one unless I win the lottery.  For now I'm more than happy with these two.

Ted here set me back an even $9, making the total for these two cards $16.59.  Toss in $4 for shipping and these two cards that are now six decades old cost me about the same as a blaster, almost to the penny!

I've got some other really great (and much older) Red Sox cards coming as soon as I can find some free time to post them all...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

1953 Topps Project - Gus Bell

Another tough loss for the Red Sox tonight, they have not looked very good for the most part through 8 games.  I need something to distract me, and what better to do so than a new addition to my 1953 Topps baseball set:

Gus Bell may not be a household name, but he was a decent player who produced some solid numbers at the plate during his career.  Bell patrolled the outfield for the Pirates, Reds, Mets and Brewers in what would become a 15-year run at the MLB level.

1953 was actually Gus' career season.  He even garnered some MVP votes that year thanks to his .300 batting average, 30 home runs, 37 doubles and 105 RBI (as well as putting up career best numbers in slugging percentage and OPS).  In the end, Gus would crush over 200 home runs and rack up over 900 RBI before his playing days were over.  Along the way he was nominated to four All-Star teams, and was even the very first starting right fielder for the Mets!

Interesting cartoon on the back, I've watched a ton of baseball in my lifetime but don't recall hearing the dugout referred to as the "coop".

Set Progress:  66 of 274 (24%)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Leicester City and Tony Knapp

The Barclay's Premier League season is nearing its thrilling conclusion for 2013-14, and the team I root for (Liverpool) has been right in the thick of it all year long.  Tomorrow's match against West Ham United should be interesting, but in the meantime today seemed like the perfect day to post this beauty from the 1960 A & BC Gum footballers set:

That is one well-loved Tony Knapp!  I come across these cards so infrequently that I can't afford to be picky about condition at all.  Tony here suffers from just about every possible flaw, including bent corners, creasing, and the beloved "mystery stain".  Something about seeing these older soccer players that I know nothing about on the oh-so-familiar 1959 Topps design just hits a collecting sweet spot for me.

The main reason I chose this card is obvious if you're a soccer fan, as Leicester City clinched promotion to the Premier League this weekend.  Next year they'll be playing in England's top division for the first time in a decade, so congratulations to the city and its fans!

These are the only soccer cards I own, and I'm just in love with the set.  I just don't think I'll ever be able to finish it, but I'm still going to try.  Tony Knapp represents my 5th card.  Right now there is one that I need available on eBay for $8 and change plus another $4 shipping.  A little steep but I'm still tempted...
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