Sunday, February 26, 2012

WHA Card of the Month - February 2012

In last month's installment of the WHA Card of the Month, we looked at a card from the first series of WHA cards released by O-Pee-Chee, which were actually just a high series addition to the flagship 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee set. This month's WHA card is from O-Pee-Chee's first release that was dedicated solely to the new league:

1974-75 O-Pee-Chee WHA - #64 - Jacques Plante

After the high series cards in '72-73, the World Hockey Association didn't get any love from O-Pee-Chee in 1973-74. I'm not entirely sure why this is to be honest with you. Maybe the '72-73 high series cards didn't do so well? Anyway, after a one year break, O-Pee-Chee came back with a small set dedicated to the WHA in 1974-75. At just 66 cards in total, this one shouldn't be too difficult to complete. I've only got four cards from the set so far, and this Jacques Plante, which arrived in the mail a couple of weeks back courtesy of eBay, is probably my favorite so far. I think Edmonton should bring these bright orange jerseys back a couple of times each season!

The design for the set is nothing spectacular. The bulk of the space on the front is reserved for a large photo, positioned at right, that in all cases features the subject standing in front of a plain colored wall (usually blue). There are no action or in-game shots on any of the 66 cards. To the left is a colored banner with team name and a small hockey player beneath. The color of the banner differs based on the team, but the drawing of the hockey player is the same on all cards. At bottom left, below the banner, you can find the player's name and position. I think the design is a step backwards from the '72-73 WHA cards, but that's just my opinion.

The back of the cards, however, are a nice improvement over the '72-73s if you ask me. Along the top you've got an easily readable card number, along with essential player info and a cartoon, which is the biggest thing the first O-Pee-Chee WHA cards were lacking. In fact, I'm pretty sure this was the only O-Pee-Chee WHA release to include cartoons on the card backs. That being said, the cartoons in this set are pretty weak. They are just generic illustrations that teach you basic facts about the game, rather than being tailored to the actual subject of each card. Along the bottom of the card you get just a single year of stats, but that leaves plenty of room in the middle for a decent write-up on the player (in both English and French of course).

These cards are not as desired as the '72-73s or the '75-76 set that would come out the following year, but nonetheless it's an interesting little set. Jacques here is one of the four best cards in terms of book value, with the other three being Bobby Hull, the checklist card, and card #1 featuring the Howe trio. Plante's card is interesting because the 31 games he would play with Edmonton in 1974-75 would be the final games of his lengthy professional career.

It may not be at the top of my list at the moment, but someday I'd like to track down the remaining 62 cards I need to complete this one. If you've got any available for trade let me know!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Card Autos - Rico Petrocelli!

My collection of on-card autographs has grown quite a bit over the last few months, and in keeping with the baseball theme here is another recent addition:

This is a Rico Petrocelli auto from the 2005 Upper Deck Past Time Pennants set. These autos are available in gold, silver and bronze variations, with this one being the bronze variety. I assume "bronze" translates to "easiest to find" or "least value" but I don't care. I've wanted an autograph of Rico for some time now.

Petrocelli spent his entire Major League career (which was shortened by injuries) with Boston and was one of the more popular Red Sox players of the '60s and '70s. They might not have captured a World Series title during his tenure, but Rico certainly can't be blamed for that lack of success. In Game 6 of the 1967 World Series he hit two home runs against St. Louis Cardinals, though the Sox would fall short in Game 7. A few years later, in the '75 Series against Cincinnati, he hit .308 with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.

Rico played a single game with Boston in 1963, but didn't see regular time with the club until 1965. He would play 11 seasons with the team, through the 1975 campaign, before injuries forced him from the game for good half-way through '76. His best years came in the middle of his career, as he was elected an All-Star in 1967 and again in 1969. In 1969 he belted 40 HR from the shortstop position, a record at the time. He followed that up with another outstanding year in 1970, tallying 29 HR and topping 100 RBI for the only time in his career.

Aside from being an essential Red Sox autograph, the best part about this card was the price. I snagged this for $5 with free shipping, not too shabby for a local legend's autograph. Besides, this fits nicely with the Rick Burleson auto (silver version) I picked up from this same set this past summer:

Given how cheap these can be had for, I am going to have to take a look and see what other Red Sox are on the checklist!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baseball is Here! Sort of...

It's been all hockey here at Shoebox Legends lately. I just checked and since the beginning of this year, 18 of my 21 posts have centered on hockey cards. After the past couple of months you might get the impression that hockey is all I collect.

The truth is that while the blog has focused for the most part on hockey lately, I've still been quietly accumulating some baseball cards. With Spring Training officially underway, it's time to start leveling things a bit and featuring some of them. I've retired (for now) the goalie card header that's topped the blog for a few months, in its place are some vintage Red Sox cards. So, to get things started here's my second favorite addition to my baseball card collection from this winter:

Like many collectors who focus on vintage baseball, I think one of the areas where the older sets really shine is the combo card. There's just something right about the way they were done in the '50's and '60's. They often make for some of the best looking cards in a set, and this card is no exception. Topps started off its 1967 set with a nod to the 1966 World Series Champion Baltimore Orioles team. Card #1, simply labeled "Champs", features a trio of baseball greats:

I love the photo of manager Hank Bauer flanked by two Hall-of-Fame Robinsons. On one side, Frank, who hit 568 career home runs and was a 14-time All-Star. On the other, Brooks, 16-time Gold Glove winner and 18-time All-Star. Hank, while arguably not a "household name", is no slouch himself. Bauer was a member of 7 World Series Champion Yankees teams before he was dealt in 1959 (in a move that brought Roger Maris to New York). He'd win his eighth title as manager of the '66 Orioles. Oh yeah, and he's a WWII vet who was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

The back highlights the amazing seasons that both Robinsons enjoyed in 1966. Brooks hit 23 home runs himself in '66, not too shabby! It was a common number for him, as he had also belted 23 a few years earlier in 1962, and would tally 23 again in 1969.

I've had my eye on this card for quite some time, in fact I probably searched for over a year before I finally found one in a condition and at a price that I was satisfied with. I've got another combo card coming soon that tops this one though!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

One Card Challenge - Thanks Sal!

I'm sure most of you have read about the concept of the "one card challenge" that's been floating around. I've read plenty of posts in recent weeks where one collector has helped another with that final card they needed for a set. In my most recent trade with Sal of Puck Junk, he helped me with a one card challenge:

Brian here was the last card I needed to complete my 2009-10 Upper Deck Champ's hockey set. Well, the 100 card set of full-sized cards anyway, which is all I care about. Champ's is going in the books as my first completed set of 2012. I'm hoping to complete at least 10 hockey sets this year, so this is a start.

Here's the card that was the impetus for the trade:

Not bad, huh? This '74-75 Topps Orr is off-center, but other than that in really great condition. Certainly good enough to look right at home in my '74-75 Topps binder. This has to be among the coolest cards I've ever gotten in a trade package.

Love the write-up on the back too, "destined to become perhaps the greatest player in hockey history". Damn straight. I am getting painfully close to killing this set off, and Orr was far and away the toughest card I had left to go. Just nine cards left now...

I'm fairly sure that this is my first 1982-83 Topps Sticker. Topps may not have released a flagship hockey set in '82-83, but they did put out this shiny sticker of Bourque in a Wales Conference All-Star sweater.

These three might not look like much, but they were all on the want list, and they put me within nine cards of completing my 1988-89 Topps hockey set. My biggest collecting goal, completing the pre-1990 Topps hockey sets, has really been picking up steam lately.

Also included were seven cards I needed from the 2010-11 Score set. I was excited about this when it first came out, bought a bunch because it was cheap and fun to open, and then kind of soured on it as time went by. I guess I've come so far that I feel obligated to finish it. I'm about 43 cards shy of the 550 card set after this package.

The Blackhawks cards in this set do look good I guess, as the border colors really mesh with the 'Hawks' jerseys. The Cup logo is a nice little touch on the cards of the reigning champs at the time.

Jack Skille does not get the Stanley Cup logo on his card, given that he played in only six games with the 'Hawks in 2009-10, and none in the playoffs.

The Highlight cards are the best looking in the set, because they have the red and blue side stripes on the border like the original set had. I really wish they had done this with all the cards in this set...

Pretty good pair of Blackhawks right there.

Finally, Sal included some Panini hockey photos. I had never seen these before, but they're roughly 5x7 (I didn't measure) and are simple, border-less, glossy color photos of NHL players. I can tell they're from the mid-90's and I could probably find out exactly when based on the 75th Anniversary patch the Bruins players are wearing, but I just don't have time. Can anyone identify these?

Ron Francis with the Lady Byng Trophy. Since he's not in a jersey I can pretend he's still with the Whalers. Francis won this three times in his career...

As you can see, the backs are very basic and the photos aren't numbered or anything...

Also included were Jason Allison...

...Sergei Samsonov...

...Samsonov with the Calder Trophy (ok, I guess these are from 1998 then?)...

...Ray Bourque...

...Ray Bourque's questionable haircut...

...and a very young Joe Thornton, the only Horizontal photo in the bunch.

Thanks for the great package Sal!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quite Likely My Favorite Hockey Card of 2011-12

In case you couldn't tell based on recent posts, I've been focusing on vintage hockey these past few months. I can't even remember the last time I purchased a pack of anything, so I've seen almost nothing in terms of 2011-12 product. I have to say that I really haven't missed the new stuff much, but there have been a handful of cards that have caught my attention. There is one in particular that as a Bruins fan I just had to have, and for .99 cents it has now been added to the collection:

This is Patrice Bergeron's 2011-12 Upper Deck Canvas insert. These are seeded, I'm not sure at what odds, into the 2011-12 UD flagship set. As the name implies they have sort of a canvas texture on the front. There are 120 of them in total, and in this biased Bruins fan's opinion Patrice Bergeron has the best looking card in the set.

I think any hockey fan, whether you like the Bruins or not, can appreciate just how great this photo of the under-rated Bruins leader sipping from Lord Stanley's Cup is. This was clearly taken in the locker room immediately following Boston's game 7 victory in Vancouver last summer. This card exudes emotion and you can really get an idea of just how much joy and satisfaction the players get from coming out on top after weeks of grueling NHL playoffs.

The backs of these feature a photo that differs from the front, and while not an exact match they remind me very much of the backs from the inaugural '90-91 Upper Deck set. I won't be building the Upper Deck flagship set this year, but I could certainly see myself picking up a few more of these canvas inserts on the cheap...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2011 Top 20 Under $25 - #1 - Not Really a Card...

Alright, this has dragged on entirely too long, time to put this countdown to bed! The item at #1 is definitely one of my more unique purchases from 2011, but it's not really a card...

What is it? A 1981-82 Topps Original Match Print Photo of Denis Potvin
When and where did I get it? eBay, October
How much did it cost me? $18.49 (plus $3.50 for shipping)

Every so often I visit the Topps Vault eBay store, where the company auctions off some pretty interesting items. I've seen everything from 1/1 cards, to slides, to negatives, to original artwork from '80s non-sport sets. In fact, they have some 1984-85 Topps hockey proof cards listed at the moment, including a Gretzky (which is already at over $100 with more than a day to go). Well, this past fall I just happened to check the site and noticed some items that really caught my eye. Listed for auction were maybe a dozen or so "original match print" photos that were used to create the 1981-82 Topps hockey set.

I could go on about 1981-82 Topps hockey, but I'll save that for another post. Let's just say that as a kid my oldest hockey cards were from this set, and as a result I've always placed it up there amongst my favorite hockey sets of all time. There are a few cards in particular that really stand out, including Bill Barber's base card and the Denis Potvin Super Action card. It was my first Super Action card, and I thought I had struck cardboard gold when I pulled it from a pack. I stored it in a top-loader even though I knew next to nothing about Denis. To be able to score the photo that was used by Topps to create the card I adored all those years ago was pretty cool. I was happy to pay about the price of a blaster shipped.

Here's the photo next to the card that it was used to create:

As you can see, the match print photo was scaled (and cropped) down a bit to make the card. The raw photograph is a much better quality than it is on the card, although it appears slightly darker, at least compared to my '81-82 Topps Potvin. What a great shot though. Nowadays half the photos in Upper Deck's flagship set are as interesting as this one, but at the time this was a refreshing change of pace from the tightly-cropped "single player casually skating around" shot that dominated most hockey sets of the era. Adding to the appeal of the card is the fact that it came out right smack in the middle of the Islanders' dynasty. The back of the card has a serial-numbered hologram that matches it to the certificate of authenticity, as well as some handwriting from a Topps employee:

The auction also included the envelope that was used to store the photo. It's really just one of those business envelopes with the clear plastic window that allows the address to show through, but cut in half. It has been labeled by the same person who wrote on the back of the photo. I just picture this having sat in a filing cabinet in the basement somewhere at Topps headquarters all these years.

Finally, as with every Topps Vault auction, you get an official Vault envelope...

...containing the COA...

So there you have it. $20 for a unique piece of behind the scenes Topps history...

I have to say I'm relieved to see this countdown come to an end. It was fun to give some of these items that got overlooked during the year a chance to see the light of day, but if I do anything like this again I'll make it far less restrictive than a formal countdown.

In any event, I hope you enjoyed it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Card Autos - A Couple of Great Bruins

Here's something quick to tide you over until this evening's Super Bowl festivities. A few months back I showed off a Mike Liut auto from the Parkhurst Champions hockey set. I liked the card so much I decided to pick up a couple Boston Bruins autos as well...

First we have two-time First Team All-Star Ken Hodge. Ken is a well-known figure in the Boston area as he was a member of both early '70s Bruins Stanley Cup championship teams. This is my only Hodge auto, and what a cool signature. That is one wild H. I wasn't really searching this card out specifically, but I was able to win this one for $6.50. This was an impulse buy because it was from the same seller that I purchased the next card from so I was able to combine shipping costs.

Here's the card that I was searching for as soon as I saw it on the checklist, Milt Schmidt. My Schmidt collection is really picking up steam as of late, and this is my second on card auto of the Hall of Fame great. I think I like the 2006 Parkhurst auto better, but I really wanted to track down this one as well, and was extremely happy to snag it for just $8.50. It really is insane how cheap Milt's stuff goes for.

So there you have it, two pretty great Boston Bruins autos for $17.30 shipped. This was a good reminder of how much more efficient I can be with my card money if I stay away from packs...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Ultimate Hockey Card Set - Card #231

One of the under-rated bonuses that comes along with writing a sports card blog is the reader comments. I read every single comment that gets posted here, and try to respond to them all as well (although I'm far from perfect at that). I figure that if you take the time to read what I've written, and to provide your own thoughts and feedback, the least I could do is pay attention to what you have to say. In doing so I've gotten to meet some great fellow collectors and have learned a ton about the hobby.

Today's induction into The Ultimate Hockey Card Set is in my collection as a direct result of one of these very comments. Over the summer I did a series of posts where I made my own "hobby box" using In the final post I featured this card of the Stanley Cup from the 1970-71 O-Pee-Chee hockey set:

A couple of days later a comment was posted by 1967ers, who is responsible for the great blog Diamond Cuts and Wax Stains, and is also a seemingly bottomless pool of great hockey knowledge. There were a couple of sentences at the end of his comment that caught my attention:

"I think you did pretty well on the '70-71 Stanley Cup card. It's not as tough as the '69-70, but often seems to pass $7 on the bay."

I found this interesting. My 60's hockey collection is still pretty sparse, and I wasn't aware of the trophy cards in the 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee set. I set up a saved eBay search and a few months later ended up winning one in a condition and at a price that I was satisfied with.

1969-70 O-Pee-Chee - #231 - The Stanley Cup

Nice looking card, huh? Not quite as colorful as the one from the '70-71 set, but I like the simplicity of the design and the way it looks as if the Cup is glowing. Here's a better look at it with the PSA slab cropped out:

As far as I know the main reason that this card is more desirable is the fact that it is the final card in the 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee set. As most collectors have experienced, the first and last cards tend to demand a premium when it comes to vintage, as they are the most likely to be damaged in storage.

I chose this for The Ultimate Hockey Card Set for a few reasons. First and foremost, hockey has the best trophies of any sport by far. Secondly, I couldn't find much competition for spot #231 in the set. The only other card I considered is the Terry Sawchuk tribute card from the '70-71 set, but I don't own it (been outbid on this one quite a few times actually). Finally, this is the first card I've chosen from the 1960s.

The back isn't too exciting, as the trophy cards in the set form a larger picture when placed together. This piece of the puzzle features the mid-section of possibly the best defenseman of all time, #4 Bobby Orr:

Thank you to everyone who takes time out of their day to read my ramblings, and thanks especially to 1967ers for bringing this fantastic card to my attention!

The Ultimate Hockey Card Set, which now stands at 13 cards and counting, can be viewed here.
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