Thursday, May 31, 2012

Making the Best of a So-So Archives Blaster

Still need to put in a bit of time on the big hockey post I have the meantime why not squeeze one more post into the month of May here. 

A week or so ago I did something I don't normally do; I purchased a blaster.  A 2012 Topps Archives blaster to be exact.  This was only the second blaster purchased this year (2012 Heritage being the first).  I'm starting to learn that buying new wax isn't for me, as I seem to get a case of buyer's remorse nearly every time.  The excitement of ripping packs is outweighed by a feeling that I spent $20 on a bunch of cards I don't really care about and don't intend to collect.  I have a tendency to look at my eBay want list afterwards and think of all the other things I would have been better off dropping $20 on.  Anyway, enough dwelling on the negative.  I decided that if I wasn't happy with my 2012 Archives blaster then why not do something about it?

One card in particular came to mind:

I was "fortunate" enough to land this Sandberg/Castro insert, and upon consulting a wrapper I found that these '58 Classic Combos inserts are actually somewhat rare, 1:32 packs in retail I believe.  I figured there might be a Cubs fan out there with an interest in it, so I listed it on eBay.  The card ended up fetching $6.73, plus my shipping charge.  Not too bad, I recovered over 30% of my blaster cost right there!

The best part is, I was able to use the funds from that sale to purchase this card (with a few pennies left over even), which just arrived in the mail today:

This is a Bill Lee Fan Favorites Auto from the 2012 Archives set.  Now that is an Archives card I can get behind!  Although he played before my time, Lee is without question one of the most interesting and quirky personalities in the long history of the Boston Red Sox.  This on-card certified auto is my first signed card of the Spaceman.  Bill's got a great looking signature, too.

While the front of the card uses a totally different photo than the '74 Topps release, the back of the card stays true to the original (except for all of the legal-speak along the bottom of course).

This card will be a key component in both my autograph and Red Sox collections for years to come.  No offense to any Cubs fans out there, but I think flipping the Cubs insert for this auto was an absolute steal.

WHA Card of the Month - May 2012

Whoops, barely got the WHA Card of the Month in for May!  Nothing like procrastinating and finishing something on the last possible day. So far this year we've looked at all the O-Pee-Chee WHA sets from the '72-73 high numbers through the '75-76 set.  Might as well keep going in chronological order...

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee WHA - #132 - World Trophy Finals

The '76-77 O-Pee-Chee WHA set is not amongst my favorites.  I find the design to be a little bland, and for whatever reason the cards just don't excite me.  This will likely be the last WHA set that I attempt to complete.  Nevertheless, I wanted to cover as broad a range of sets as possible in these posts, so when I found this card on the cheap I went for it.

This is the very last card in the '76-77 set, and it commemorates the Winnipeg Jets winning the World Trophy as WHA Champions in '75-76.  This was the first league championship for Winnipeg, though they would go on to win two more (the final two WHA Championships in '77-78 and '78-79) before the league folded.  Depicted at center is the WHA's Avco World Cup.  Yes, the WHA's trophy had a corporate sponsor.  Between the corporate sponsorship and the gaudiness of the trophy itself, this award just never even came close to holding the same significance as the Stanley Cup.  It's hard to tell from this photo but there's a floating crystal ball embedded in the trophy just below the bowl at the top.  You can get a better look at the trophy on its Wikipedia page.  At least Winnipeg had a trophy to hoist, which was more than you could say for the New England Whalers when they won the league's inaugural championship a few years earlier (how sad is that?).

As you can see from the back, the Jets handled the Houston Aeros easily in the finals, sweeping in four games.  This was a battle of two powerhouses, as both teams accumulated a league-best 106 points in the regular season.  The Jets proved to be the better team in the playoffs though, as Houston struggled through two 7-game series before losing to Winnipeg in the finals.  The Jets, however, lost only a single playoff game in 1976, going 12-1 overall.

Check back soon for a post on a hockey "white whale" that I recently tracked down...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On The Radar - 1990-91 Upper Deck & 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee

Not much time for a post today, but I did make some good use of free time earlier and finally finished busting about half of a '90-91 Upper Deck High Series hockey wax box that's literally been sitting on the shelf for a year or more.  It's taken forever, but I've gotten all of my '90-91 Upper Deck scanned and sorted, and it turns out I'm 28 cards shy of a complete set...

I know most of you probably have stacks of this stuff sitting around, and the cards I'm missing for the most part are not big stars, so if you have a second to check out my want list and can help out, please let me know.  Also, I've got a ton of doubles from this set, both low and high series, that would love to find a happy home...

The other set that I've recently organized is 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee.  I spent about two hours hand collating my own starter set from a 3,500 count monster box last summer at the local hobby shop (back felt great after that).  Since then, I've added a few more cards here and there, and now I'm just 11 shy of finishing this one off.  The problem is, those 11 cards include the Hull and Shanahan rookies as well as the Gretzky, Lemieux, Roy and Yzerman cards.  Could be a little while before I finish this one.

In any event, my want list has been cleaned up quite a bit, let me know if you'd like to make a trade.

Monday, May 28, 2012

1953 Topps Project - Tony Bartirome

The next card towards my 1953 Topps set is Tony Bartirome of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I would wager to guess that out of the 274 players included in the 1953 Topps set, Tony here may have the least amount of career MLB experience.  You can't fault Topps for including him on the checklist I guess.  After all, he had seen action in 124 games at first base for the Bucs during his rookie season in 1952, at just 20 years old.  Unfortunately for Tony, he would never see big league action again.

After the '52 season Tony was drafted into the army, and served for 2 years.  He would return to the Pirates minor league system in 1955, and would bounce around professional baseball for a few more years, but he never saw another Major League at-bat.  Bartirome did stay involved in the game of baseball for many more years, as a longtime trainer with the Pirates.  He had a few brief coaching stints as well before finally calling it a career.  Interestingly, Tony has the distinction of never having grounded into a double play.  Not too bad for 124 games played.

You have to wonder if Tony's fortune may have been different had he stayed with the Pirates organization in 1953 instead of getting drafted into the Army.  Might he have gone on a hot streak at the beginning of the '53 season, giving him the confidence that he needed as a 21 year old to go on to a lengthy MLB career?  Maybe so, maybe not (after all he hit just .220 in 1952).  Either way, this seemed like an appropriate card to post today.  I'd like to take a moment to say a public thank you to Tony Bartirome, to my own father, to my many close friends, and to the millions of other Americans who have served in our country's military over the years.  Have a safe and happy Memorial Day everyone.

Set Progress:  45 of 274 (16%)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

1993-94 Topps Premier Finest Hockey

A while back I posted the 1993-94 Topps Stadium Club Finest hockey insert set.  Here's another Finest insert set, from the very same year, this time from the Topps Premier set.  I got this from the same seller, and for the same price as the other Finest insert set.  Like the first one, there are twelve cards in total...

One of the bigger draft busts in recent history...

Roman is the one player from this set who was still in the NHL last season.  He appeared in 68 games for the Capitals...

Lindros is probably the card I would have wanted most from this set when it came out...

The Nordiques cards look especially nice thanks to the blue border...

I think Mats Sundin is the nicest looking card in the set...

Here's a look at a back.  A little busy for me.  The back of each card contains a photo of the player with the franchise that they made their NHL debut with.  In some cases, such as with Pierre Turgeon here, this results in two different teams on the same card.

Joe Murphy seemed like an odd choice to me, but I looked and at the time that this set came out Murphy had been averaging close to a point per game over the previous three seasons.

Mario Lemieux is the lone player to be featured in both of the '93-94 Finest insert sets.

Sort of weird seeing Ramage in a Flyers jersey, given that he played only the final 15 games of his career with Philadelphia.

So, which Finest insert set do you like best, '93-94 Stadium Club or '93-94 Topps Premier?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Completed Set - 1988-89 Topps Hockey

I mentioned recently that I've been making some really good headway towards my goal of completing the entire '80s Topps hockey run.  Today's post features my most recently completed set, 1988-89 Topps hockey.  I just finished this one off a few weeks ago, and I've finally gotten all the cards scanned, sorted and filed away in their appropriate place within my hockey binders.  This set isn't too challenging to complete at just 198 cards.  Sure, I could have picked up a complete set for less than $50, but I ended up hand-collating mine over the period of a couple of years which felt more rewarding in the end.

My 198 cards came from all over the place; the local hobby shop, online sites like eBay and Sportlots, and even trades with fellow bloggers.  The final card that I was missing was #23, Gord Kluzak:

This seems like an odd card to have left at the very end of my set quest.  The strange thing is that I'm now only about a dozen or so cards shy of the 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee set, and Kluzak is one of the few I'm missing there as well.  This must have been a popular card back in the day.  Anyway, let's take a look at some of the other cards that are a bit more interesting than Gord here.  Here are some selected favorites, in numerical order:

#1 - Mario Lemieux

I always liked this card growing up, and you could do a lot worse than Lemieux to start off a set.  Topps\O-Pee-Chee would lead off their flagship set with Mario the following year as well.  This card will get some consideration for The Ultimate Hockey Card Set when I get around to choosing a #1.

As far as the design goes, I used to despise these cards, but they've grown on me a bit over the years.  I still think the push pin is kind of cheesy, but it's not the worst Topps hockey design.  In fact, it's not even the worst Topps hockey design of the decade (more on that later).

The card backs are pretty uneventful.  I guess they sort of fit with the fronts, not horrible but not exactly exciting either.

#3 - Joel Quenneville
Sal was nice enough to get the O-Pee-Chee version of this card autographed for me a couple of years ago.  It's still one of my favorite Hartford Whalers autos.

#6 - Mark Howe

The most recent Howe to be elected to the Hall-of-Fame...

#16 - Joe Nieuwendyk

Another recent Hall-of-Fame inductee.  This is Joe's rookie card.

#22 - Peter Stastny

#29 - Pat Verbeek

A great early card of the "little ball of hate", from before he joined my beloved Whalers.

#31 - Chris Nilan

This one's for Captain Canuck.

#34 - Ron Hextall

#36 - Kevin Dineen

#49 - Chris Chelios

#51 - Darren Pang

This is one of the better-known cards from this set.  In fact, Topps selected it for their 2001-02 Archives hockey set.

#52 - Ron Francis

This has always been one of my favorite Ron Francis cards.  When I think of Francis, I picture Ron in green Whalers sweater, with the captain's 'C' on his shoulder, and half shield on his helmet, exactly as he appears in this photo.

#58 - Cam Neely

#65 - Dale Hawerchuk

#66 - Brett Hull

Brett Hull's rookie is probably the most recognizable and most valuable card in the set.  Hull was one of the best pure scorers to ever lace up a pair of skates, but his rookie card isn't one of the nicer looking Hall-of-Fame rookies if you ask me.  The heavily airbrushed, grainy photo just leaves a little to be desired.  Still a classic card though, and even though it's not the most aesthetically pleasing piece of cardboard it still holds some weight as one of the top rookies of the late '80s.

#70 - Dale Hunter

#73 - Ray Bourque

#85 - Dave Tippett

It's amazing to me just how many former Hartford Whalers have gone on to coach NHL franchises.

#93 - Mark Messier

#97 - Bryan Trottier

#110 - Hakan Loob

One of the best all-time hockey names, Hakan Loob of the Flames.

#114 - Ray Ferraro

#116 - Patrick Roy

I always wondered why a better photo of Roy wasn't used on this one.  Sort of an odd card if you ask me.

#120 - Wayne Gretzky

I think this Gretzky card may be my personal favorite from the '88-89 set.  I've talked about this before, but I like that it symbolizes one of the most significant trades in hockey history.  In fact, I chose this as one of my Top 60 Hockey Cards a while ago.  It's been almost a couple of years now since I composed that list, might be time for a refresh...

#122 - Brendan Shanahan

Shanahan is the second most sought after rookie from this set, after the Hull.  Brendan's card looks a lot better than Brett's though.  I picked my copy up at the hobby shop last summer for around $6.

#123 - Pat LaFontaine

#124 - Luc Robitaille

#125 - Ed Olczyk

Olczyk's card features he and his Leafs teammates listening to a pre-game National Anthem.  This was a different photo, something you didn't see too often, at least at the time.

#127 - Mike Liut

#135 - Dirk Graham

Dirk has the distinction of "best mustache in the set".

#136 - Ulf Samuelsson

#141 - Larry Murphy

#147 - Jari Kurri

#161 - Adam Oates

#163 - Dave Andreychuk

#164 - Dave Babych

#169 - Bernie Nicholls

#175 - Dino Ciccarelli

Love that North Stars sweater...

#179 - Paul Coffey

I always forget that in addition to his 3 Cups with the Oilers, Coffey won another with Pittsburgh in 1991.

#190 - John Anderson

#192 - Rod Langway

#194 - Pierre Turgeon

The 1989-90 Topps/O-Pee-Chee set was the first I collected as a kid.  I had precious few cards from any sets older than that.  Of the handful of '88-89 Topps cards I owned, the Turgeon rookie was my most prized.  I thought this card would be worth a ton of money one day.  For now I think I'll keep my day job.

#196 - Steve Yzerman

Closing things out we've got Stevie Y.  This was a pretty fun set to put together.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you can snag a complete set for a pretty reasonable price if you look around a bit.  The Hull, Shanahan, Turgeon and Nieuwendyk rookies, combined with the great Gretzky card make this a somewhat essential set for any good hockey collection.

I had already completed the 1987-88 Topps and 1989-90 Topps sets, so with this one complete I've now got the final 3 sets of the decade knocked off.  I'm getting there, slowly but surely...
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