Saturday, January 16, 2021

Shiny from All Sports

Still around and still collecting, have just been using my hobby time to further organize and condense, and after taking a break for the holidays have started rolling with some eBay selling/flipping to reduce clutter and target some really big cards.  If you stop by here with any frequency then you know this strategy worked out amazingly for me last year, and I'll just say for now that I'm off to a similar start in 2021!

Since it's been over a week though since there was any activity here, I feel compelled to post something.

So, here are some shiny cards that have shown up here at Shoebox Legends headquarters in the past week or two.  Cards out, cards in, my collection has very much become a revolving door, and I'm having a blast with it...

As a fan of all cards that use Atomic Refractor (or 'Ice' in the Panini vernacular) technology, I really enjoy the Topps Chrome Sapphire releases.  Most years they are fairly limited as far as print run, and out of my price range when it comes to unopened wax, but I will scoop singles up cheap on the secondary market if the opportunity presents itself.

This David Ortiz/Albert Pujols is technically a checklist card, but it was $2 on Sportlots (plus pocket change for shipping) and features two of the absolute best hitters of their era.  I think the 2016 version of this set had a print run of just 250, so this is a cool addition to my shiny card binder.  Over 1,200 Major League home runs represented on this card!

Here's another one for that shiny card baseball binder, featuring one of the darlings of the 2020 post-season.  This was an add-on to an eBay purchase late last year, for a buck with no additional shipping.  Numbered to /499 on the back.

I love shiny Prizm cards, in fact we're about to go on a small run of great Panini cards in general.  Panini's NHL license was short-lived, but one of my favorite sets that they produced while it lasted was the 2013-14 Prizm release.  If I can get a legit star on a team-color-matching Prizm parallel from this release at a good price, I'm absolutely sold.  Henrik here, in glorious red-on-red, was available on Sportlots for just a dollar.

The same seller had this Green Prizm Roberto Luongo available for a buck as well.  Both guys are right on the cusp as far as whether they'll be inducted into the Hockey HOF, but one thing that's not up for debate is now nice all that shiny green looks with that modern-day Canucks uniform!

Landing a Crosby or Ovechkin parallel from this release is pretty high on my hockey to-do list, if anyone reading this should happen to have one, I'll pay handsomely in trade...

I mentioned a post or two back that I purchased some 360-card Z-Folio binders on Amazon, and am hoping to fill one each with my collections of my lesser-collected sports.  So, one binder full of only soccer, one football, and one basketball.  I ponied up a full $9 via eBay auction for this 2015 Select Ultimate Team Blue Prizm Neymar card (#'d /299), mostly because I think the blue looks fantastic with this particular photo.  This card pops in hand much more so than it does in this scan, though it doesn't look half bad here either.

$9 is more than I'd like to spend filling a slot in the soccer binder, but 2015 Select is really prized among soccer collectors, and Neymar is one of the best players in the world, so here we are.

Got a couple new cards in for the basketball binder as well!  I mentioned when I picked up the Pink Ice version of this 2019-20 Paul Pierce recently that I'd like to complete an entire 9-pocket page featuring different versions of the card.  Well, here's the Red, White & Blue parallel, had for a mere 50 cents.

While I was it it, here's another one of those fantastic Pink Ice parallels, of Paul's one-time teammate with the Celtics.  Growing up in Connecticut, Ray Allen was a household name as a big star at UConn.  Definitely wanted to have him represented in the basketball binder.  As for why I chose this particular card, see my comment at the outset of this post about my love for Panini "Ice" cards.  

By the way, everyone says basketball is so expensive, but this card was 40 cents?!?!

If you've made it this far, I'll reward you with a couple more baseball pick-ups to close out the post.  A Jake DeGrom 2018 Topps Heritage Chrome Purple Refractor here.  This was a perfect pick-up off of Sportlots now that I've started a Z-Folio dedicated entirely to purple cards, especially since 2018 was the first of his back-to-back Cy Young seasons.  I'd like to get a 2019 version of this to go side-by-side with this one in that binder.

We started with Pujols, and we'll end with Pujols.  The Topps "white border years" provided some of the best colored refractors in baseball card history if you ask me.  Shelled out $2.50 for this card, and I'd have bought 9 of 'em and filled a whole page at that price if I could have!

That's a wrap for tonight, getting late here, and I'm off to watch the rest of this train wreck of a football game.  Thanks for stopping by to check out my shiny cards, and stay safe!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Cheap Slabs - Kiki Cuyler!

Time for the latest installment of Cheap Slabs, where I do my best to dispel the myth that graded cards have to be expensive.  The rules for this recurring series of posts are simple, the card shown has to have cost me less than $25 before shipping and taxes.

In this latest installment, we have a card that I wasn't specifically seeking out, but that I could not possibly resist when I stumbled upon it with less than an hour to go:

I never knew it was possible to land PSA-slabbed cards of HOF baseball players from the 1930s for roughly the cost of a retail blaster, but it turns out it can be done.  Even during the bat-shit crazy year that 2020 was on the sports card market front, deals could still be found with a lot of patience and a careful eye.  I picked up the above card, an absolute beauty from the 1934-1936 Diamond Stars release, for a mere $21.05, and this was not even three months ago.

What I liked about this card, aside from the fact that it will likely always be my only playing-era card of a guy in Cooperstown who was missing from my collection previously, is that it's in truly amazing shape for a card from the 1930s.  In fact, at a quick glance you may be asking yourself how on this planet the card received a grade of "1/Poor" from PSA.

Well, if you look closely, there is a pin hole right at the apex of Kiki's ballcap there.  It's sort of easy to look past since it occurs right along a fold in his cap, and in the darkest part of the card as well.  I did see this before bidding, but do not care about it in the least.  In fact, I'm thrilled that some kid stuck a thumb tack through this thing 80 years ago, because it made this gorgeous copy of the card affordable to me.  Bright, vibrant colors, and even pretty amazing corners given the age.  I'm not 100% sure, but I believe with PSA the pin hole reduces the card to a 1 regardless of all other attributes, so if you can get past a small hole in your card you can get a real gem for cheap coin.

Cuyler was a slash-hitting speedster, known for his batting average and swiped bags.  A lifetime .321 hitter, he led the league in steals four times, and won a World Series with the Pirates in 1925.  Though he never lived to witness his own HOF induction (he died at just 51 years of age, in 1950), the Veterans Committee inducted him in 1968.

I think the Diamond Stars release is a really fantastic and under-rated set.  When it comes to the 1930s most collectors seem to prefer Goudey of the limited options that are out there, but to me Diamond Stars is every bit as interesting.  I finished the Red Sox team set years ago, and while I don't pick these up often or search them out specifically, I'm hoping I run across a few more like this in my collecting lifetime.

That's about all I've got to say regarding this card.  Honestly, this was one of my better bargains of all of last year on the card front, still pretty surprised to have hauled this one in at the price point that I did.  A good reminder to myself that not finding any blasters in the retail world for the past 10 months or so really may not be as big an inconvenience as it seems...

Thanks as always for stopping by!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Purple & Pink

I've got a few shiny card projects that I plan to work on in 2021, one of which involves a small binder filled entirely and exclusively with shiny purple cards.  Towards that end, here are a few that I've plucked recently...

At the beginning of this binder, I'd like to have complete Topps Chrome Purple Refractor Red Sox team sets of the white-border 2010 through 2014 sets.  Found a seller on Sportlots that had four I needed towards the 2014 team set, available for mere pocket change.

I really miss the colored Topps parallels from the years when the cards had a full border, these just look fantastic in hand.

I was especially pleased to find this Shane Victorino, as the photograph is amazing.  I've got many different flavors of this card between base and Chrome parallels, but the Purple Refractor had eluded me until now.  Look at how the crowd glows almost angelically.

I really thought Will Middlebrooks was going to be a stud, but it was not meant to be.  He did last quite a few seasons at the MLB level, though.

Even though Topps Chrome Purple Refractors are my favorite shiny purple cards, I do want some variety in the binder, so I added these next two for a buck a piece with free shipping when I tacked them onto an existing eBay order a few weeks back.  Can't go wrong with future HOFer Justin Verlander.

Trevor Story is one of the best shortstops in the game, has been for a few seasons running now.  Some say he has the potential for Cooperstown down the line.  I'm not sure, but I do know that I love a team color matching refractor, so this probably won't end up being the only Colorado Rockies card in the purple binder.  Maybe a Nolan Arenado or two to accompany Trevor here?

Back to back Trevors!  As the post title indicates, I enjoy a good Pink Refractor as well.  I tacked this 2018 Trevor Bauer onto a Sportlots order for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, I could add one more card to my order without increasing shipping cost, and this was available for a quarter.  Secondly, Bauer had recently won the 2020 Cy Young Award, so it seemed like a good time to add a shiny card of his.  Finally, of the sets that have come out since Topps moved away from the full white border, I think the 2018 Topps Chrome release has the refractors that look the best.

Part of that same order was this Xander Bogaerts 2020 Topps Chrome Pink Refractor, for my player collection of the Boston shortstop.  Xander has moved into the number one overall spot in my baseball collection as far as sheer number of cards, and I have a feeling he'll hang onto that title for quite some time.

One more card to close out today's post, and it's a basketball card?!?!

Yep, it's a basketball card.  I am very slowly and very selectively (please don't mail me heaps of NBA cards) venturing into basketball as something new in 2021.  As with the purple cards, I'm going to try to build up a really small collection of random basketball cards that fit into a single Z-Folio binder (these hold 360 cards).  

There's really no criteria for this project except to have fun with it.  I'm guessing the end result will contain a lot of bright cards like this one, and probably some sentimental stars of my youth.  As opposed to baseball where I am in pursuit of various sets and goals, and have more rigidity to my collecting, I think it will be rewarding to have an open goal like "stuff this binder with 360 basketball cards you think are cool".

The very first card to be inserted into said binder is this gloriously shiny Pink Ice parallel of Paul Pierce's 2019-20 Prizm card.  This thing looks freaking amazing, and makes me wish badly that Panini had a license to produce MLB trading cards.  If you're a baseball player or team collector, tell me you wouldn't love to chase a card like this of your guy?

My one fear with a basketball card project in 2021 was that the market may have gotten so crazy that I wouldn't be able to afford enough interesting cards to fill out the binder.  In the early going though, I'm realizing that you can still find some great b-ball cards for cheap coin even today.  This Paul Pierce cost me all of 75 cents for example, and less than a dollar shipping.  Better yet, there are so many different colored and shiny variations of this card that I may devote an entire page of the basketball binder to house nine different parallels of it.

More on my basketball project later, but that's a wrap for today.  Thanks for stopping by to see some of my new shiny pick-ups, and stay safe out there!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Signature Sundays - 1975 Topps Double Dip

First Sunday of the year, might as well start things off with a Signature Sundays post!  For this week's edition we have a card that doesn't strictly fit into any of my main collecting priorities, but that was just way too cool to pass up for the price.  Check this one out...

Pretty sweet, huh?  I've got a small handful of Brooks Robinson autographs at this point in my collecting timeline, but this is my first Ted Kubiak, and certainly my first card featuring autographs of both players.  Maybe the only card featuring autos of these two guys, actually?

While I said (and meant!) in my year-end posts that I've cooled off on autographs to an extent, I ran across this card back in November while browsing eBay and was immediately intrigued.  With just minutes to go it was very reasonably priced, and in the end I brought it home for right around the cost of a retail blaster (was $21 and change).  I always loved the playoff and World Series subset cards in vintage Topps releases, and I agree with the majority of collectors who feel that 1975 Topps is one of the best sets of its decade (though personally I'd rank '72 higher, I think).  

Similar to the 1971-72 Topps hockey autograph that recently made my year end countdown, I love that someone went through the trouble to have both subjects sign this.  While Ted Kubiak may not be the person you picture when you think of the 1970s "Swingin' A's, this is a fantastic photograph and both autographs are so large and bold.  In fact, I'd have to say this is my new favorite Brooks Robinson auto, and may make one or two of my others expendable actually.

The back gives you a high-level summary of the four games in the 1974 ALCS, but if you're a fan of vintage baseball cards you've seen these countless times by now.

The front is what makes this a truly one-of-a-kind collectible.

So there you have it, not much more that I can say about my latest autograph pick-up.  Do you have any autographs in your collection that are not pack-issued and are authenticated by a third party, similar to this one?  If so, I'd love to hear about a personal favorite in the comments.

Thanks as always for stopping by!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I'll be back this week with more sports card content.  Until then, stay safe!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Itch to Rip - Star Wars in 3D!

Around the same time that I grabbed two packs of Super '70s Baseball direct from Topps, they had another limited online offering that really appealed to me.  This one had nothing to do with sports at all, but was a newly-conceived Star Wars 3D set!

As a lifelong fan of the Star Wars saga, and a confessed lover of "lenticular" 3D trading cards, this set was right in my collecting cross-hairs so to speak.  The price point per pack was a little lower than the Super '70s Baseball release but you get fewer cards, as you receive just 8 cards per "pack" in the Star Wars product, for $19.99 (vs 20 cards for $24.99 with the Super '70s Baseball set).  Basically, you're paying $2.50 per card here.  There are an even 100 cards on the checklist, and no short prints, inserts or hits to be had, just plain base cards which is actually kind of nice.

With a little help from my childhood Ewok action figure, you can see that inside the Topps On Demand box is just a single, silver pack containing the eight cards.

As for what I was hoping to pull...I'm not the world's biggest Star Wars nerd by any means.  I have watched the 9 movies from the original saga many times, as well as the Rogue One and Han Solo movies (and the two made-for-TV Ewok movies from the '80s), and am currently plowing my way through The Mandalorian show.  

That being said though, I've never seen the Clone Wars cartoon show, or read any of the many books or comic books.  As a result, in looking at the 100-card checklist, there are certainly quite a few names that simply don't register with me at all.  I'm just hoping at a couple bucks per card that I recognize most of the characters that I pull at least...

Very pleased with the first card, as the original Star Wars trilogy that I grew up on will always be the set of movies that I'm most fond of.  These cards use the design from the 1980 Empire Strikes Back set from Topps, and are absolutely fantastic!  Everything I'd hoped they would be as a fan of lenticular cardboard.  

One card in, and I'm already kicking myself that I purchased only two packs of this stuff.  I will 100% be trying to complete this set, though I hope the cards don't end up being too expensive on the secondary market with the passage of time.  It's been many long years since I completed any non-sport set, and I'm not sure if the non-sport market has gone as berserk as the sports market in the past year, so I guess we'll see.

The backs are relatively plain, though they are at least customized with a write-up for each character.  As a collector, you're not likely buying 3D cards for the backs, anyway.

Not quite as excited about my second card, though I do recognize the character of Jannah, who had a smaller role in the most recent Episode IX film.  Since I'm going to pursue the set, it's one I'd have needed to grab at some point anyway.

Here's one that's much more up my alley!  I always thought Admiral Ackbar was one of the more amusing bit characters from the original trilogy, enough so that I've actually picked up a couple of his Topps High Tek cards on COMC over the years.  I like this one even better than the Chewbacca that led off the pack.  "It's a trap!"

Next up, Bodhi Rook, from the Rogue One film.  Not one of the major characters from that movie, but it's a film that I enjoyed quite a bit.  Definitely more of a gritty/dark/war film feel compared to the other films in the franchise.

Alas, we have a character that I'm completely unfamiliar with.  I'm guessing Grand Admiral Thrawn is from the Clone Wars show, since he seems computer-animated.  I knew I'd pull someone who was unknown to me, but thankfully this was the only card in this pack that fits that criteria.

Definitely can't complain about pulling the protagonist from the beloved original trilogy!  Luke Skywalker in pilot's uniform with blaster pistol is tied with Admiral Ackbar for my favorite card in this pack!  This is one I'm happy to have pulled on my own as I'd expect it to be one of the more sought-after singles from the release.

Here's a photograph of Luke's card, just so you can see how the cards appear in a photograph rather than a scanning bed.  I bought my nephew a big old bag full of miscellaneous Star Wars action figures for Christmas (pretty cool uncle, am I right?), and ended up purchasing two Yodas by mistake, so we have one around the house now.  

It's really hard to do these cards justice in blog format, this is one of those posts that almost makes me consider starting a hobby-related YouTube channel.  Maybe someday...

We'll close things out with a couple of ladies from the Star Wars universe.  First we have Padme Amidala, queen of the Naboo.  I will never complain about adding a new Natalie Portman card (in 3D, no less!) to my collection, hubba hubba.

Finally, General Leia Organa.  Certain characters have multiple cards, most notably Luke, Leia and Han Solo, since they appeared in both the original trilogy and the most recent one.

That's a wrap on this first pack of Star Wars 3D.  These cards certainly aren't for everyone, but if you're a fan of the franchise and you enjoy either 3D cards or cards with a retro design, you really can't go wrong.  These were only sold direct by Topps for one week back in December, so you'll have to hit eBay if you want to grab a pack or some singles at this point.  I'm hoping that in a couple of months when folks have moved onto the latest and greatest thing, singles will be available on COMC for a buck or two.  If so, I'll be waiting to pluck them!

Had you seen or heard of this set before?  If you're a Star Wars fan, what's your opinion of this effort by Topps?  If anyone out there is collecting these I'd love an opportunity to trade for any dupes, so hit me up!

I'll be back to sports-related content tomorrow, but in the meantime thanks as always for stopping by!

Friday, January 1, 2021

State of the Collection & 2021 Goals

With a new year upon us, let's take a look at how I did with the goals I set for my collection for 2020, and maybe set a couple of new ones for the upcoming year as well while I'm at it.

1950s Baseball Cards

Last year I declared my intent to collect one baseball set from every year of the 1950s.  My simple goal was just to increase the number of cards in my collection from all ten of the chosen sets.  Let's see how I fared...

1950 Bowman - 17/252 (7%, +3 cards)
1951 Topps (Red Backs) - 5/52 (9%, no net change)
1952 Bowman - 25/252 (10%, +3 cards)
1953 Topps - 93/274 (34%, +26 cards)
1954 Bowman - 41/224 (18%, +12 cards)
1955 Topps - 55/206 (27%, +4 cards)
1956 Topps - 32/342 (9%, +2 cards)
1957 Topps - 52/407 (13%, +6 cards)
1958 Topps - 36/494 (7%, no net change)
1959 Topps - 357/572 (62%, +15 cards)

I'd give myself a B- here, and even that may be generous.  While completing all of these sets would be a lifetime collecting dream, I could have done better here.  Two of these saw no new additions all year, but I did make decent forward progress on 1953 Topps, 1954 Bowman, and 1959 Topps at least.

This project will remain on my list of goals for 2021, and far beyond!

Buybacks

Of course I continued work on my long-running Buyback Franken-set project this past year.  Time is my enemy when it comes to these posts, as it takes quite a while to process the incoming cards and get all the scans sorted.  It's a labor of love though, and these are the current numbers as we close out this year...

Franken-set Progress: 672/792 (84%) (+13 cards)
1990 Topps Buyback Set: 136/792 (17%)
(+15 cards)
"Rejected" Buybacks: 725 (+70 cards)

Total Buybacks in Collection: 1,533 (+98 cards)

I'll go with a B+ here, as I did exceed my vague goal of 1,500 total buybacks.  Like the 1950s baseball cards, this is an ongoing project that will remain on the list of goals for 2021.  I've toyed with the idea of selling some of the rejected buybacks in lots on eBay to raise some funds and make space, but I'm just not there yet.

Condense & Organize

Going with a A+ here.  I sent tens of thousands of cards out of the house this past year, exponentially more than I brought in.  As we saw in yesterday's Top 20 of 2020 post, I was really successful with selling off a lot of "lesser appreciated" cards, and using the funds to acquire some big fish.  Couldn't be happier with how I did on this front, and this effort will continue in 2021.

Other miscellaneous goals from last year included...

Resume Signature Sundays Autograph Series - Assigning myself a D grade here.  I showed a few great autographs over the course of 2020, but they're just not where my collecting passion lies these days.  You'll see some more nice signatures in the coming year for sure, but I'm removing this one from my formal goal list at this point.

Cut Spending/Increase Saving & Investing - A+ here.  Ramping up my eBay sales this year helped me not only to purge my collection to an extent and trim down its overall size, but to really bolster my savings since much of the money I spent on cards this year was profit from sales vs money from my paycheck.  For the second straight year, I was successful in my self-imposed rule that I must save or invest at least $1 for every $1 spent on cards.  In fact, I saved and invested at an even better ratio to my hobby spending than 1-to-1.  This remains my approach for 2021, especially with ongoing uncertainty related to my job...

Team/Player Collections - I'd set rough goals of getting to 6,000 Red Sox cards and 2,000 Hartford Whalers cards in 2020.  Didn't make either, as I finished with 5,658 Red Sox cards and 1,858 Whalers.  We'll go with a C+ here on the team collecting front.

For player collecting goals I fared a bit better.  I'm not a big player collector by nature, but set a crazy goal of maybe acquiring at least one new playing-era card of Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  Check, check, check and check!  A+ here, no question.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

So, there's a rundown on how I stacked up over the past twelve months.  Aside from the carryover goals of continuing to make progress on my 1950s baseball sets, my Buyback Franken-set, and my condensing effort, I do have a couple of others I'm adding to my list for 2021!

Complete Run of Topps Nolan Ryan Career-Spanning Flagship Cards

Nolan Ryan was my absolute favorite baseball player as a kid.  I've been casually collecting his cards since returning to the hobby, and in 2020 landed his iconic rookie card at last.  My goal for 2021 is to complete Nolan's run of Topps cards from his 1968 rookie, through his 1994 Topps card.  I'll be aiming to get the entire run, quite a bit of which I already have, in PSA slabs if possible.

Land Two New Playing-Era Mantle Cards

When I was a kid, owning even a single Mickey Mantle card seemed like a pipe dream.  It took me until a couple of years ago to realize that, with patience and the willingness to accept low grade or imperfect copies, it was a more realistic goal than I'd imagined.  One day I'd love to complete a run of Mantle's flagship Bowman and Topps cards from 1953 through 1969.

So far I have acquired and shown off his 1960, 1964, 1966 and 1968 releases.  I'd like to add two more in 2021, and have at least one of them be from the 1950s.

Complete One of Two Shiny Card Sets

I'm currently working on two very shiny baseball card sets, and would like to complete one of them in 2021.  With 2011 Topps Chrome Atomic Refractors, I'm at 199 out of 220, and with the 2014 Finest X-Fractors (Mike Trout shown above) I'm sitting at 62 out of 100.  2014 Finest would be the easier of the two even though I have further to go, the 2011 Atomic Refractors are BRUTAL.

Expand (Selectively) into Some New Sports

For quite a few years there I was a baseball and hockey collector only, then a while back began to collect soccer to an extent.  Well, using my Cardboard Keepers project as a framework, I'd like to pick up some choice cards of greats from other sports like basketball, football, and maybe even a little golf?

I'm still a baseball and hockey guy at heart, with soccer rapidly approaching those two, but it will be fun to land some iconic cards of GOATs from other sports if I can find the time and the funds.

So, there you have it, a look back at how I did last year, and what to expect in terms of my collection, and in turn this blog, in 2021.  I hope you'll join me in the coming months as I continue my lifelong exploration of the hobby we love.  Amazingly, it will be my 14th year running this little blog, and hopefully my best one yet!

Have you set any goals for your collection for the coming year?  If so, I'd love to read about them (or see a link) in the comments.  Whatever it is you'll be chasing, best of luck in hunting it down!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Shoebox Legends' Top 20 of 2020!

As I've done each of the previous few years here on the blog, I'd like to use my final post of this particularly horrid year to highlight the top cards to debut on this blog over the past twelve months.  The rules for this countdown are just that simple, the card has to have debuted here on Shoebox Legends between January 1, 2020, and today.

Each card caption in the post is actually a hyper-link to the original post where that card debuted on the blog, in case you missed it the first time around and are incredibly bored or looking for some extra card-related reading material.

With that out of the way, here is my Top 20 of 2020 countdown...

#20 - 1971 Topps Roberto Clemente

You know it's the sign of a good year for my collection when the last-place card in the countdown is a playing-era Clemente!

One of my big trends this past year was selling off cards and downsizing my collection, and using the proceeds to pick up fewer, more significant cards instead.  This Roberto is the first of many examples of the fruit of all of that labor in today's countdown.  I picked up half a dozen graded HOFers from this iconic set with some sales funds, but Roberto here was the best of the bunch by far, and thus just squeaks onto this list.

#19 - 1995-96 Select Gold Team Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky seems to have at least one card in the countdown at the end of each year, and 2020 was no exception.  This year he gets the #19 slot, with this obnoxiously shiny '90s insert.  I pretty much went out and picked this up as soon as I heard about these golden beauties.  I may have added some older Gretzky cards, and some more valuable Gretzky cards, to my collection this year, but this shiny gem is my favorite of the bunch.

#18 - 1964 Philadelphia Johnny Unitas

Using my Cardboard Keepers project as an excuse to pick-up some all-time greats outside my normal collecting wheelhouse has been quite successful so far.  Case in point, this really great Johnny Unitas, which just so happens to be the very first football card to make one of these year-end countdowns.  I'm hoping to (very selectively) continue to pick-up some NFL greats in the coming year, so maybe this will be the beginning of football having a place here on the countdown in future years.

This one's also great in that I picked it up at an antiques store just down the street from me that has plenty more great vintage to be picked through.  I've been avoiding going back due to COVID, but will hopefully peruse again someday soon when conditions are better...

#17 - 2016-17 Fleer Showcase '92-93 Ultra Buyback Auto Ray Bourque (#'d /25)

I have seriously cooled off on collecting autographs over the years, and have been trending more in the vintage and shiny card directions of late.  Nonetheless, there was no way I could leave this amazing on-card autograph of one of the NHL's all-time best defensemen off this list.  I'd love to pick up a few more of these Ultra buyback autos, but at just 25 copies each they are tough little buggers to track down in the wild.

#16 - 2011 Topps Chrome Atomic Refractor Freddie Freeman RC

This gorgeous Freddie Freeman rookie card kicks off a streak of shiny cardboard here on the countdown.  This was a satisfying pick-up because I'd been after an affordable copy for oh so long, yet finally hauled one in just months before Freeman won the NL MVP, decreasing the odds of finding a cheap copy even more.  I'm determined to complete the 2011 Topps Chrome set in Atomic Refractor format someday, and this card was a huge win on that particular front.

#15 - 2014-15 O-Pee-Chee Platinum Traxx David Pastrnak RC

Feels like it's been forever since we saw any NHL hockey, doesn't it?  Well, things are going to start back up in a couple of weeks here, and one of the players that I'll be most excited to watch is David Pastrnak, who shared the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals in last year's abbreviated season with the great Alex Ovechkin.  Still just 24 years old, David has already established himself as one of the elite scorers in the league.  I flat out stole this card at under $40 last winter.

#14 - 2018 Panini Prizm World Cup Mosaic Lionel Messi

Arguably the world's greatest soccer player over the last 15-20 years, in the top 2-3 players by anyone's account.  This is also one of my favorite soccer sets ever, and just a gloriously shiny, retail-exclusive parallel.  These Mosiacs are really tough to find, much more so than many of the other great colored parallels from this release.  I stumbled upon it as a Buy-It-Now just minutes after it was listed, and I'm glad I did because at the bargain price that it was listed at, it would not have lasted very long.

#13 - 2015 Topps Buybacks 1968 Topps Manager's Dream Oliva/Cardenas/Clemente

Roberto Clemente makes his second and final appearance in today's countdown.  2020 was another steady year for my long-running Buyback Franken-set project, and the best buyback that was added to the set by a country mile over these past twelve months was this 1968 Manager's Dream card.  '50s and '60s combo cards are just amazing, and to get one with Clemente into my project was more than I could have hoped for when I started it.  There's no way that this card ever gets bumped from the franken-set binder as far as I'm concerned.

#12 - 2005 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Emerald Auto Carl Yastrzemski (#'d /99)

I know I said that I've cooled off quite a bit on autograph pick-ups, and I truly have, but it's more that I seek out quality over quantity I guess.  My first ever Yastrzemski autograph certainly fits the definition of quality!  What a bold, amazing signature it is, too!  Pretty amazing that it took me this many years of collecting to finally add Yaz's name to my autograph collection, but I'm happy that when it finally came it was from one of my favorite baseball autograph sets ever.

#11 - 1968 Topps Mickey Mantle

The first nine cards were great, but I have to say that the top eleven cards this year really took my collection to a whole new level.  I used a lot of my downtime during the pandemic to sell unwanted or under-appreciated cards from my collection on eBay, using the proceeds to land some big fish instead.  It worked out amazingly, as this card and basically everything that come after it could have easily fit into the top three in any of the previous years' countdowns.

One of my biggest long-term collecting objectives is to complete a run of Mantle's playing era Bowman and Topps cards.  While I cannot afford the 1951 or 1952 Bowman cards, or the insanely expensive 1952 Topps release, I'd like to get all of his other flagship Bowman and Topps cards from '53 through '69.  This is a lifelong project to be sure, but I'm pleased to say I came one card closer in 2020 with this nicely centered '68.

This was the first of five cards that I acquired in my greatest card flip ever, funded by a $5 soccer pick-up, if you can believe that!

#10 - 1985-86 O-Pee-Chee Mario Lemieux RC

It just so happens that the next two cards came in the same flip as the Mantle.  In retrospect I should have ranked this particular card higher, as Lemieux is a top-10 hockey player all-time in my opinion, and his rookie is also one of the most iconic hockey cards of the 1980s.  When I acquired this, I commented that I thought Super Mario's rookies were criminally under-priced.  I guess I was correct, as they've skyrocketed in the months since, as have many sports cards to be fair.  A definite case of "I'm sure glad that I picked this up when I did".

#9 - 1956 Topps Willie Mays

Yet another card that came in the epic $5 soccer card flip.  I'd love to complete both the 1955 and 1956 Topps sets someday, but I've been pursuing '55 with more vigor to date.  The price was right on this '56 though when I had the flip funds to spend, and I knew I wanted to add a significant Willie Mays card to my collection, so here we are.  I still get a smile on my face that's similar to the one Willie is flashing here whenever I look at this card.

#8 - 1971-72 Topps NHL Goalies Win Leaders Auto Esposito/Johnston/Cheevers/Giacomin

This year's highest-ranking autograph card is easily one of the most unique autographs in my entire collection.  I just think it's beyond cool that somebody put in the effort to have this one signed by all four subjects, and it helps that it's from one of the most iconic hockey sets ever produced and features multiple HOFers.  I may not be as into autographed cards as I used to be, but I'll always appreciate a unique collectible like this one!

#7 - 1955 Topps Hank Aaron

The sports card market was an insane place, full of ups and downs this past year.  Sure, there were negative aspects to this, like the fact that I didn't see any retail packs available even once after early March.  On a positive note though, there were ways to capitalize on the insanity.

Case in point, I sold a 1993 Finest Michael Jordan when his cards went bananas.  Not the refractor or anything, just a plain ol' base card.  Got enough money for it that it funded this second year Hammerin' Hank, one-for-one.  Yep, that's just plain crazy.  Since even a relatively beat Aaron RC is a four figure card now, this is likely the oldest Aaron I'll ever own, and I effectively traded a '90s basketball base single for it.  2020 was a crazy year, indeed.

#6 - 1955 Topps Ted Williams

This was the fourth of five cards acquired from my epic $5 soccer flip, and to date is my oldest card of The Splendid Splinter.  I probably should have had this ranked behind the Hank Aaron that we just looked at a moment ago, but I guess my Red Sox bias bumped this one up a spot.  As with the Hank Aaron, once I had this card in hand I felt like my 1955 Topps set pursuit was truly starting to get serious.

#5 - 1950 Bowman Yogi Berra

Here's the final card from my $5 soccer card flip, and honestly the one that I was most excited about out of that grouping.  I've adored this card since I was a kid, as I just love the image of the game's greatest catcher.  I'm a total sucker for 1950 Bowman as well, since the set provided the first truly vintage card I ever owned as a kid (a Maurice McDermott, given to me by my dad).  This card would have placed #1 in either of the last two years of these countdowns, but in 2020 it only ranked #5.  Yep, some truly special cards are coming up here.

Completing a '50 Bowman set feels like a pipe dream still, especially given what guys like Jackie Robinson go for, but even if I never get there I'll always treasure this beauty.  Speaking of Jackie Robinson...

#4 - 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson

The top four cards in this year's countdown are a cut above the rest in my mind.  Each of them is very special to me for a particular reason, and in this case it's because this is my first playing-era Jackie Robinson card!  A vintage Robinson is a great cornerstone to any baseball card collection, and I was pumped to clear out some cards I no longer appreciated to make space, and to finally acquire my first one with the resulting funds.  My 1955 Topps set is in hyper-drive mode after landing Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Jackie here all in the past year!

#3 - 1968 Topps Jerry Koosman/Nolan Ryan RC

2020 saw me pick up another card that I've coveted since childhood, the Nolan Ryan rookie.  This purchase is special to me for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it was funded by gift cards provided by my parents and my mother-in-law, which I'll always remember.  I'm 100% certain that I will keep, and treasure, this card for the rest of my life.

When I posted it all the way back in January, I predicted that it might finish in the top spot on this here countdown, and it certainly would have been a fitting choice.  Amazingly though, I ended up with two others before the year was out that I'd put above even this wonderful RC!

#2 - 1940 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio

The first of those would be this 1940 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio.  I never in my life thought I'd own a playing-era card of Joltin' Joe.  Once again though, the craziness that was the sports card world in 2020 allowed it to actually happen.  I sold a soccer card that I pulled myself from a pack in 2018, that had no patch or autograph on it, and wasn't even serial-numbered, and made enough off of it to buy this Joe D straight-up.  I really question whether we'll ever see some of the insanity in sports cards that we saw this past year ever again.

What on earth could top an authentic vintage card of The Yankee Clipper?

#1 - 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan RC

Arguably the most iconic basketball card ever produced, that's what.  This was the pinnacle of my mantra of selling quantity to fund quality this past year, as I spent many hours over many weeks, and many trips to the post office listing, selling and shipping over three dozen separate graded singles to fund the purchase of this one card!  My timing was perfect too, as I picked this up just weeks before Jordan cards went bat-shit crazy as far as prices on the market.  The greatest basketball card I have ever owned, or will ever own, and a very fitting choice for the top spot in this year's countdown.

So, that's a wrap for the Top 20 of 2020.  Looking back at the past twelve months like this makes it pretty clear that this was the single best year for my collection to date.  2020 was a trying year in both my professional and personal life, but it sure was a good one for sports cards.

As nice as all these acquisitions are, what I appreciate more is the great camaraderie that exists between collectors, and in our sports card blogging community in particular.  In addition, I'm more grateful that ever to have my family happy and generally healthy, even if I don't get to see them much of late.  Let's hope 2021 is a brighter year ahead on many counts.

Thanks as always for stopping by, and I hope you'll join me for yet another great upcoming year here on Shoebox Legends!

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