Friday, January 13, 2017

Pesky Yellows

More than seven years after the set's release, I'm still chasing after the 2009-10 Upper Deck Champ's Yellow parallels.  With just 100 cards in the set you'd think I'd have knocked this one off by now, but the one-per-box insertion ratio makes these far from easy to come by.

Hell, there are still a few cards I swear I've yet to see to this day.  A while back though I managed to secure half a dozen more for about the price of a blaster.

First up is Dion Phaneuf, who has been with two other teams now since his days patrolling the blue line for Calgary.  These days he's donning a Senators sweater.

Michael Frolik won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013, and was pretty instrumental in the Cup run too.  He chipped in for 10 points in 23 games during that post-season run.  He's now with the Flames and is enjoying a successful season to date.

Brandon Dubinsky is now with the Blue Jackets, and I think just about everyone is shocked at the season they've put together.

Here's the one retired player in the lot, longtime Canuck Markus Naslund.  Markus retired from the game the same season this card was printed.

Those four are nice enough in the sense that they get me 4% closer to a complete set, but it was the last two cards that were really significant:

Patrick Kane has already cemented a spot in the hockey HOF someday.  A Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and three Stanley Cups already, and all before his 29th birthday.  He could probably hang up his skates tomorrow and still get in.  Understandably there are a ton of Kane collectors out there, so it feels good to grab this one.

Same goes for the final card I've got for tonight!  Anyone who's tried to build a decently rare or valuable hockey set within the past 10 years knows that Crosby can present a significant hurdle to overcome.  I had only seen one or two of these listed for sale before, and both in the $25-$35 range, so when a saved eBay search alerted me to a recently listed Buy-it-Now copy with a price tag under $9 I pounced immediately.

Who knows if I'll ever complete this set.  I think I say that any time I post one of these.  With these in hand though I'm at 44 cards and the halfway point is within reach, so I guess you never know.  Maybe I'll get lucky with a few more in 2017.

If you're a set collector, what's the toughest insert or parallel set you've ever taken a crack at?  If anything comes to mind please leave a comment!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Buyback Franken-set: Ball Four!

1967 Topps #393 - Jim Bouton

Because why wouldn't I want the author of the infamous Ball Four in my buyback frankenset?

In order to make it in though, it has to get past this card:


That might have been my easiest decision yet!

Franken-set Progress:  261/792 (33%)
"Rejected" Buybacks:  72
Total Buybacks in Collection:  333

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Box Break - 2016 Stadium Club Premier League

At the height of this past holiday season, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I learned that Topps had printed up a 2016 Stadium Club Premier League soccer set.  As a soccer fan, and a Premier League fan specifically, I was beyond excited to find out this set existed.  I was pleased to find that hobby boxes were very reasonably priced as well.

A few clicks of the mouse and I had a hobby box on the way, for less than $60 with free shipping.  If you read my blog much you know that opening a hobby box is a rarity for me.  In fact, looking back on it this was only the second (and final) hobby box that I picked up in 2016.  The other one was a Donruss soccer box, not sure what it says about the 2016 baseball and hockey releases that my only two hobby box pick-ups of the year were both soccer.

Here's a look at a pack, you get 8 cards per with 16 packs per box.  As far as the cards themselves, they're basically a mirror image of 2016 Stadium Club baseball design-wise:

Here's the first card to spill out of the first pack I opened.  Not a bad start either, as Aguero is one of the more exciting players in the league and a player whose cards I've sought out specifically in the past.  As you can see, the design features the same font and full-bleed photography as this year's baseball release.

The backs look about the same, too.  One year of stats, a decently sized write-up, and a team logo.

I'm not going to show every card from the box, obviously, but I'll highlight a few of my favorite base cards here as I share my thoughts on the box break.

The first thing I'll say right off the bat is that Topps did a good job overall of getting some interesting photographs mixed into the set.  Soccer isn't always the most photogenic sport, and I think some sets suffer from a lack of variety in the photos.  To be fair, you'll find plenty of relatively boring close-up shots in this set as well, but for every one of those you get a more off-the-beaten-path photo like the ones I'm showing here.

The base set contains only 100 cards, which I honestly think is just about right, especially for the Stadium Club brand's first foray (in some time anyway) into the sport.  There are only 20 teams in the Premier League, so a checklist this size makes it so that the game's biggest stars and most notable names pretty much all received cards.

The checklist is still small enough though that casual collectors and fans aren't going to open a pack where they end up with 8 nobodies and not a single name they recognize.  Best of all, with 7 base cards in the average pack you can complete an entire base set with just one hobby box as long as collation is good (I ended up with a full set from my box).  I absolutely love this, though it does make the concept of ever buying a second box somewhat pointless.

This one might be my favorite photo in the entire set, a lot going on here!

2016 will always be remembered for Leicester City's unbelievable rise to the top of the Premier League table.  There's no way they're going to finish in that spot this year, but they are at least playing well enough to remain safely out of the relegation zone to this point.

Liverpool is my favorite team when it comes to Premier League, so I was excited to land a new Philippe Coutinho card for my collection.  He's been out with an injury for weeks now, which is rough for Liverpool fans given how talented he is on the pitch.

Another great action shot here.

Some of the nicer cards on the checklist feature players in celebration after scoring.

Anyone who watches a lot of English soccer knows that driving rain is far from uncommon, and a few of the photographs did a great job portraying that.

A couple more Liverpool stars here, Roberto Firmino doing his best Karate Kid impression...

...and striker Daniel Sturridge dealing with a Tottenham defender.

A nice rookie card of Dele Alli, who scored twice last week to end Chelsea's amazing Premier League win streak.

Last couple base cards I'll show now, a pair of youngsters who may be a huge part of Manchester United's future, Marcus Rashford celebrating in the rain...

...and Anthony Martial with a similar, though more dry, version of the goal celebration.  That should give you a pretty good idea of what the base set looks like.  To me, getting the entire set was the most exciting part of the box.  Others may find the inserts and hits more exciting though, so let's take a look at what else I pulled...

Yes, just like with the Stadium Club baseball release, there are Gold parallels.  I pulled four of these in my box, with the best being perennial scoring threat Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

Next up, Premier League logo parallels.  You can see the foil logo in the upper right corner.  That little stamp is the only different between this and a regular base card.  I have a feeling a lot of folks may overlook these when rifling through their boxes.  This Michael Keane is the only one I received in my hobby box.

What would Stadium Club be without 1st Day Issue parallels?  These have been a staple of Stadium Club releases since the '90s.  I believe you get one per box, at least I only pulled one.  Unfortunately for me I didn't exactly land the most exciting player, but I was really in this for the base set more than anything else.

That covers the parallels, how about some inserts?

As seems to nearly always be the case with Topps products, I was underwhelmed with the inserts overall.  These Team Marks cards, as the name implies, focus on the team logos.  I pulled four in my box, and they are kind of bland if you ask me.

Next up, Contact Sheet, which is lifted straight from the baseball release.  I pulled four of these as well.  Not terrible, but not all that inspiring either.

Here's the one insert I actually enjoyed; Golazo.  These are ridiculously bright and vibrant.  I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I think they work well.  My favorite inserts from the set by a long shot.  I only received two of these in my box as opposed to four each of the other insert types.

I did get a third Golazo card though, a red parallel numbered to 50.  You can see the Stadium Club logo is outlined in red, where it's grey on the card above this one, and the serial numbering is in the lower left corner.  Olivier Giroud is a great player, and another guy I have specifically sought out cardboard of in the past as well, so I was happy to end up with this card as my numbered insert (seems like you get one serial numbered insert per hobby box anyway).

Speaking of Olivier Giroud, he scored one of the most amazing goals I've seen a couple of weeks ago against Crystal Palace, check it out:

Finally, the two promised autographs...

The first was a standard autograph.  Yes, it's the same player I pulled my one-per-box 1st Day Issue parallel of.  I also received Julian Speroni's base card (obviously) and a Gold parallel, giving me four distinct copies of this card.  Shame it wasn't a more notable player.

My second autograph was probably my best card of the box however:

Not bad!  The Members Only parallels are limited to just 10 copies.  I don't know the stated odds on pulling one, but they're certainly a fairly tough draw.  I remember Cleverley, now with Everton, from his time with Manchester United.  He was a member of the 2013 Manchester United team that won the Premier League, and has appeared in over 30 games for England's national team.  A nice surprise to end the box indeed.

So there you have it, 2016 Topps Stadium Club Premier League.  I for one think Topps did a great job with this product.  The precious few officially licensed Premier League sets from Topps in prior years were almost all super high-end sets, and thus very expensive boxes to break, so it is refreshing to see the league represented in a high quality set with great photography at a mid to low range price point.

To walk away with an entire base set, a nice sampling of inserts, a few doubles to trade, two cards #'d to 50 or less, and two autos for less than $60 feels like good value to me.  Apart from all that though, it was awesome to finally be able to acquire my first cardboard of so many of the players that I've watched week in and week out for the past few years now.  Thank you Topps!

Have any of you picked up a box of this?  I think there are even retail packs as well?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Buyback Franken-set: Last of the Big Lot

Today I finally reach the end of the 113-card buyback lot that was one of two large lots I picked up in 2016.  Let's take a look at the final ten cards...

1959 Topps #57 - Al Cicotte

Coming out of the gate strong with a nice '59.  I immediately thought of Eddie Cicotte of the infamous Black Sox team when I saw this one, and it turns out Al was a grand-nephew of Eddie's.  About the only other interesting thing I could find of note quickly on Al was that his nickname was "Bozo".  Al's got some competition for franken-set induction:

A nice '73 Derrel Thomas featuring an "interesting" pants/uniform combo... not enough to win out against a '59 buyback.

1974 Topps #432 - Chris Arnold

Chris Arnold specialized as a utility player and pinch-hitter for most of his relatively brief MLB career.  He only hit four career home runs, but one was against Phil Niekro and another against Steve Carlton.  He's in the franken-set for now as the first #432 buyback I've come across.

1978 Topps #308 - Jim Rooker

Jim Rooker was a solid pitcher for the Pirates for a good deal of the '70s, and was on the '79 championship team as well (though his career was in decline and he was used as a spot starter by that point).  In order to make the franken-set he has to upstage this card:

Pirate-on-Pirate matchup, interesting.  Even though this team card is beat up, I don't think I can really choose Jim Rooker over the entire team of Pirates that includes the great Roberto Clemente.

You're out, Jim.

1979 Topps #436 - Hector Cruz

Hector Cruz played 9 MLB seasons before heading overseas to finish out his career in Japan.  If Wikipedia can be believed, which I'm not sure it can in this case, he went on to become a mail carrier for the USPS in Chicago after his baseball career wound down.  A pretty boring card quite frankly, but since it's the first #436 buyback in my possession it makes the set.

1974 Topps #237 - Ken Brett

Whenever I see Ken Brett's name I think of his unlikely World Series appearances as a 19-year-old for the Impossible Dream Red Sox team in 1967.  Brett was not expected to be on the Red Sox roster for that legendary World Series, but made the cut last minute in order to replace an injured Sparky Lyle.  No current competition for slot 237, George's bro is in!

1979 Topps #279 - Jerry Grote

Jerry Grote was known primarily as a defensive specialist behind the plate.  He managed to turn that into a solid 16-year career at the Major League level, but he's got a real challenge in front of him in terms of making the franken-set:

There is just no way in hell that this Red Sox fan is choosing the Grote over this buyback Bill Lee rookie card.

1974 Topps #365 - Steve Busby

This was a fairly nice buyback to end up with in the lot, as 1974 was the best season of Steve Busby's career.  He was selected as an All-Star for the first time that season, won 22 games, and pitched his second of two career no-hitters!  Unfortunately he would be plagued by a torn rotator cuff the following season, and despite surgery and an eventual return to the mound he never regained the level of success that he enjoyed during his first few years with the Royals.  As far as the franken-set goes, this one is in!

1978 Topps #166 - Carlos Lopez

Carlos Lopez was born and raised in Mexico, and eventually enjoyed a three season stint of Major League Baseball.  I don't really know much about him, but this is a nice look at the get-up the Mariners were sporting in the late '70s.

This card already sits in the franken-set binder in slot 166, however.  Not exactly a thrilling match-up...

I decided to go with the Lockwood card, however I'm second guessing myself since neither card really sticks out to me but I do enjoy the Seattle uniforms from this era.  Maybe I'll reverse this call someday...

1975 Topps #292 - Ron Schueler

The penultimate card is a nice, new '75, which makes the franken-set uncontested.  After he retired from the game, Ron Schueler became a pitching coach for a few different organizations during the '80s, then eventually went on to serve as the GM for the White Sox throughout the '90s, stepping down after the 2000 season.

1960 Topps #217 - Charley Grimm

The very last buyback from the lot is easily one of my favorites.  The 1960 Topps manager subset is just awesome, never thought I'd be fortunate enough to land one in buyback form.  Charley Grimm was basically a baseball lifer, having played in the Majors himself between 1916 and 1936, then serving in a variety of positions for a few different clubs throughout his post-playing days.  He was the last manager for the old Boston Braves of the NL.

This well-loved '64 Topps Jim King buyback stands in Grimm's way as far as franken-set induction goes.

Not really a tough choice, though I really do like this card as well.

That's all for today.  This lot takes me to just about 1/3 of a completed franken-set on the nose.  I was fortunate enough to recently land my biggest buyback lot yet, consisting of hundreds of buybacks for a price that basically broke down to about 30 cents each.  That, along with a bunch of smaller lots and singles I've grabbed over time, should give me plenty of ammo to keep this project going strong through 2017 here!

Franken-set Progress:  261/792 (33%)
"Rejected" Buybacks:  71
Total Buybacks in Collection:  332
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