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.'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...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Berk Ross

I'm always on the lookout for something unique or different, especially when it comes to Red Sox cards.  If it happens to be vintage, then all the better.  Today's card qualifies on both fronts.

Mel Parnell here represents my very first Berk Ross baseball card.  The company was a minor player in the baseball card game and was certainly overshadowed by the big guys like Topps and Bowman.  They released two sets, in 1951 and 1952, each with a 72-card checklist.  The first year's set mixed in some notable names from other sports, the '52 set was baseball only.  Both sets were printed in panels, but while the '51 set was distributed with panel intact, the '52s were separated at the factory prior to packing (thus the perforation marks you can see along the top and bottom of this card).

Here's a better look at the front.  The colorized photo has a nice vintage feel to it.  I like this particular shot just because the Red Sox jersey is so prominent in the photo which isn't always the case with cards this old.  Parnell, who passed away in 2012, played his entire career with the Sox and is allegedly the guy who dubbed the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park "Pesky's Pole".

The back is admittedly underwhelming, but it's still a nice addition to my Sox collection, and something a little different than your standard Topps/Bowman fare.  Best of all Mel set me back less than the cost of a blaster.  There are three more Red Sox on the '52 Berk Ross checklist, but I doubt I'll ever complete a team set since one of those happens to be Ted Williams...

There's a great write-up on this Berk Ross set here if you'd like to read more about it...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Rest of the Red Sox from Mark Kaz

Today I've got the second and final portion of a fantastic trade package I received a short while ago from my buddy Mark at This Way to the Clubhouse.  The first part resulted in a slew of new Red Sox for my collection, and the other team set bag inside the bubble mailer was no different.  This 2008 Opening Day Okajima might be my favorite card from this section.  I really need to track down the rest of this team set, these cards are perfect for Boston fans thanks to the bright red borders.

I have a couple of sparkly parallels of this card, but didn't have the base version until now.  This is the 21st century card collecting world we live in...

For me, this was a package of many firsts.  This Tony Clark represents my very first Topps Total card of any sort.  I love the concept of these sets, but they came out during a period when I was not collecting at all.

No, I still haven't completed my '88 Topps team set, and needed both of these two.  Of course, I do have a 1988 Topps rack pack box on the bookshelf in my office/card room so it's entirely possible I have these in yet-to-be-opened format.

I love oddballs of all sorts, so this Kay-Bee Dewey card is right up my alley.  I have memories of Kay-Bee (usually about the size of my living room and cramped into an awkward corner of a shopping mall) being the red-headed step child of Toy'R'Us back in the day.

Probably had a dozen copies of this card as a kid, but those cards are all damaged or gone so this one was actually a need.  As '90 Donruss goes, this card doesn't look half bad.

I really dig this 1994 Upper Deck card featuring Mike Greenwell in front of the Green Monster!

Peter Hoy had five total appearances to the tune of a 7.00+ ERA in what was a brief career.

Another great shot of Jason Bay in front of the scoreboard at Fenway.  I think it's great that Jason Bay cards went both directions in this transaction with Mark.

These two Youkilis cards are from the 2010 Topps Cards Your Mom Threw Out insert set.  One is the insert back, one the original back.

The first time I scanned past this Tony Pena card I neglected to see the 1st Day Production foil stamp.  1st Day Issue cards were some of the most coveted parallels back in the day, what a great card!

My first two 1996 Stadium Club cards, what a beautiful set.  I need to pick up some more of these for sure.

21 total games in his MLB career, all played with the Red Sox in 1993.  Just the type of obscure player I love picking up cards of.

It's amazing just how many cards from the junk wax era I don't have yet.  Each great trade package like this one closes that gap just a bit.

What an expression on Reggie Jefferson's face on this '98 Ultra.  Great stuff.

Quite a few Scott Cooper's involved in this trade!

Here's another oddball, 1990 K-Mart Wade Boggs.  I've pulled more than a few of these from repacks but never Wade.

Another Topps Total, this one featuring one of my all-time favorite Red Sox players, Tim Wakefield (with Kevin Millar lurking in the background).

Not to be outdone, Mark included the base set version of the terrific Okajima card that led off this post.

This card does a good job of depicting just how freakishly skinny Lugo was.

This one is actually from the 2008 team issue set, numbered BOS6.  Will be interesting to see what kind of numbers Ellsbury puts up (especially games played) with the Yankees this year.

This one's also from the team set, a guy who's already been a part of two World Series Championship teams and going to be around in Boston for quite some time.

Topps Chrome Rookie Cup mojo!  What a great way to end a fantastic first trade.  This package took me to over 2,800 unique Red Sox cards!  It was a pleasure Mark, I've already got another stack started for you...
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