Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for Sportscards from the Dollar Store

Here in the US today is Thanksgiving, and the start of a much needed four day break from work for yours truly. I could list all the things I'm thankful for, like my family, my health, my job, but this is a sports card blog!  So instead, here's an amazing trade package that arrived this past week courtesy of Douglas from Sportscards From The Dollar Store...

I'm very thankful to have Douglas as a trading partner, because he's one of the most generous bloggers I've ever run across.  Case in point, he attends what I envision to be a gigantic sports card and memorabilia expo, and as he walks the floor actually dedicates time to tracking down cards off of others' want lists.  He did this very thing recently with my want list in hand, and managed to track down the final two cards I needed to knock off the 500-card 2010-11 Score base set...

...great retro Canadiens sweater on this one.  As if that weren't nice enough, he also tracked down the last five short-printed Hot Rookies cards I was missing as well.  Let's take a look at where these five guys are at just a couple of years after this set hit the shelves...

Played one single game (not even a full 60) with the Pens, then appeared in various other leagues including in Russia but appears to be out of the game for good?

Again, played one single game with the Islanders, appears to be kicking around in the AHL so perhaps will crack another NHL roster someday.

Irwin tops the first two cards, having appeared in two NHL games!  Now playing in the ECHL.

Dylan actually has a decent amount of NHL experience, appearing in 74 games with the Islanders and even a handful with the Penguins just last season.  Currently playing in the KHL in Russia.

Again, one single NHL game a couple seasons back, still plugging away in the AHL.  Boy, Panini really picked some winners for this set.  Nonetheless, I am so grateful to finally be able to cross this set off my want list once and for all.  I don't think it was everything the 20th Anniversary tribute to the debut Score set should have been, but it's still a decent set.  I'll save a full review for my proper completed set post one of these days.

I needed this 1990 Topps All-Star Glossy Yaz insert for what seemed like forever, but picked up a copy a couple months back.  No worries though, I know a fellow Red Sox fan/collector who will appreciate this one.

This card was a great surprise.  For starters, it's my very first 2013-14 NHL hockey card of any type, and secondly this was an expo-only release that I'd have no hope of obtaining.  Ryan certainly has a future at the NHL level in my opinion, it's just tough cracking a deep Bruins roster right now, especially at the center position.  He did suit up for four games last year though, and played a couple more games with the B's just a month or so ago (recording two assists).  Certainly a prospect to keep an eye on, and a fantastic card.

I'm thankful that Douglas always keeps an eye out for new Whalers cards for me.  If it weren't for his generosity I'd be forced to overpay for shipping on eBay or wait months for prices on COMC to drop to a reasonable level.  This Brendan Shanahan is brand-spanking-new, from the 2013-14 Select release.

Here's another one I've had my eye on, a really nice '13-14 Ron Francis Artifacts card.  I do wish Upper Deck would start featuring some Whalers other than Francis, Shanahan and Gordie Howe, but I guess I should be grateful that they're at least being represented at all.  These two are a huge help towards my goal of 1,200 unique Whalers cards by year end (approaching rapidly!), and will certainly be featured on my Whalers Hockey Cards blog at some point.

Last but certainly not least, check out this fantastic 1961 Topps Jackie Jensen from the MVP subset.  This is one of the nicest cards I've received via trade in a while, and was a complete surprise.  Any package that includes a '60s Red Sox card I didn't have is automatically a winner.  Jackie is in great shape too.

Here's a look at the back, what a great piece of vintage cardboard.

Thank you very much for the amazing cards Douglas!  I'm packing up your return package now, and I hope you'll be just as pleased about what I send your way.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Signature Sundays - The Courtnalls

If you were an NHL fan in the '80s and '90s there are a few pairs of brothers that you'll instantly recognize from the time period.  Card manufacturers in the early '90s in particular really had a field day with the concept.  Many of the sets of siblings consisted of one real superstar, and a much lesser known brother who just managed to crack an NHL roster.  Wayne and Brent Gretzky, Eric and Brett Lindros, heck I even recall Joe Sakic's younger brother appearing on NHL trading cards.  Other brothers were much more evenly balanced as far as talent goes, guys like the Stastnys and...

...the Courtnalls.  Good God look at that flat top/mullet combo being sported by Geoff.  A haircut only a brother could love.  Well, both brothers were featured on the autograph checklist in 2012-13 Panini Classics Signatures, and both are now part of my collection.

Russ was a high draft pick (7th overall) for the Leafs in 1983, and it's appropriate that he's pictured with Toronto as he played more games with them than with anyone else during his 16-year NHL career.  He really bounced around quite a bit though, spending time with the Canadiens, North Stars/Stars, and Canucks.  He even played a few games with the Rangers before closing out his career with the Kings.  Just shy of 300 goals and 750 points in over 1,000 games played.

Here's older brother Geoff.  Unlike Russ, Geoff was not a top prospect coming into the league, in fact he was undrafted when the Boston Bruins decided to give him a shot.  I have to admit that I was not aware he came up with Boston.  The reason why?  Well, I relied quite a bit on hockey cards to fill in the gaps in hockey history from before I was a fan and before I was born.  Geoff never got a card in a major release until 1989-90, at which point he was with the Capitals.  I don't really understand why he had to appear in 350+ NHL games, and even win a Stanley Cup with Edmonton, before he was finally immortalized on cardboard.

Concussions would force Geoff from the game, but I find it interesting that despite being the undrafted one he had better career numbers than his brother and won a Cup, which is something Russ wasn't able to manage.

Which do you think was the better Courtnall?  Either way, I'm happy to have autographs from both.  This pair takes me to 52 and counting now from this set...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

That's Why I Don't Buy Blasters - Volume IV - My Very Own Bun Cook

You know the drill, I take the $20 I would have spent on a blaster like this one and see if I can find some more interesting cardboard that won't give me buyer's remorse.  For this fourth installment I definitely succeeded, picking up my first ever card from an epic hockey set:

Look at that beautiful, bright green 1933 O-Pee-Chee!  For those of you who aren't hockey card collectors or may not know, this was the very first O-Pee-Chee set.  These cards were the predecessors to every single one of the O-Pee-Chee cards we all collected as kids.  The set was released in two series, with Series A containing cards 1-48, and Series B cards 49-72.  Those of you with a sharp eye now realize that Bun Cook here is a 'bookend' card, the final card in the set.  The first and last cards in any vintage set are a tough find in good condition, as kids would sort their cards numerically so these would be on the top and bottom of the stack, protecting the rest of the cards within.

As you can see, my copy certainly caught a good deal of abuse in its place at the top of its stack!  We've got severely dinged corners, and creases abound, but let's see how you look at 80 years old!  Overall I still think the visual appeal is very good.  You get a good clean look at the photo, everything is legible, there's no paper loss or large sections of card missing.  Not too bad at all.

Even the back is completely legible with no paper loss, tape marks, etc.  I'll take a card from this set in this condition any day.  Not to mention, Frederick Joseph 'Bun' Cook is a Hall-of-Famer, inducted in 1995!  Apparently his line scored every goal the Rangers scored in the Cup finals in 1928, the first Stanley Cup championship in Rangers history.  He won a second Cup with New York just before this card was released, and went on to enjoy a long and successful coaching career at the AHL level after his playing days were done.  He's even got a tie to my little ol' state of Rhode Island, coaching the Rhode Island Reds AHL team for 6 seasons (even suiting up for a handful of games each of those years!).

This card books for $250 - $400 in my latest Beckett Hockey.  How much did my copy set me back?  How about $18.50?  I didn't even have to pay shipping.

1933-34 O-Pee-Chee Bun Cook - $18.50
Shipping - Free!
Total - $18.50

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Signature Sundays - An Explanation of Cliff Ronning's Unreal Video Game Speed (and Other Autos)

The New England Patriots have the Monday Night Football game this week, so for me that means a free Sunday of sorting cards and getting a couple of packages ready to go (although I'll at least have the Broncos/Chiefs game on in the background).  Before I get to all that let's take a look at another half dozen hockey autographs from 2012-13 Panini Classics Signatures...

First up, Gary Leeman of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Is it me, or does it look like Gary signed something other than his name here?  Not sure I see a Gary or a Leeman in that auto, but oh well.  He was a consistent scorer early in his career with the Leafs, and is most known for his 51-goal season with the team in '89-90.  Toronto dumped him to Calgary at the perfect time as his numbers began to decline, as part of the trade that brought them Doug Gilmour (must be a tough one for Flames fans to swallow).  Gary would go on to play for a couple more teams (including the Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in 1993) before retiring.

The back mentions how Leeman was actually a defenseman before his days in the NHL.

I can't say I know too much about Cliff Ronning, despite the fact that he was seemingly in every single set that I ever collected as a kid.  I must have had a hundred Cliff Ronning cards.  It's easy to see why when you look at how long his career spanned.  His first NHL action actually came in the Stanley Cup finals, which is kind of cool, all the way back in 1985-86 with the St. Louis Blues.  His most productive years came after St. Louis dealt him to the Canucks during the 1990-91 season.  What I did not realize is that after his time with Vancouver he went on to play for the Coyotes, Predators, Kings, Wild and even Islanders before the NHL lockout in 2004-05 effectively ended his career.

I would like to point out what I think is one of the coolest random facts I've ever seen on the back of a hockey card.  Apparently Cliff Ronning was such a formidable force in many of the early NHL video games produced by EA sports because he was friends with EA's founder since childhood.  I'm sure Cliff torched me for an extra goal or two in all those seasons I used to play through as the Red Wings!

If you don't know who Bruce Shoebottom is, don't worry.  He played just 35 games with the Bruins as an enforcer between 1987-88 and 1990-91.  Before this set, his only cards I'm aware of were in '90-91 Pro Set and the 2011-12 Pinnacle Tough Times insert set.  Apparently he's most famous for an incident later in his career in minor league hockey where he pushed a penalty box attendant, head-butted an off-duty police officer, then suffered a neck injury while being subdued via choke hold by another cop.  Alright then...

I find it interesting that Panini chose to depict Adam Graves with the Oilers for this set.  I know he won a Cup with Edmonton, but he was there just two years before moving on to the Rangers where he played for 10 years and also won a Cup.  With the Rangers he was much more instrumental in bringing home the championship, notching 52 goals (a team record at the time for goals in a season) during that 1993-94 season.  He added another 10 goals during the playoff run that year as well.  I do love this old photo though, complete with Dominos ad on the boards.

John Vanbiesbrouck is one card I'm really happy to cross off the list for this set.  I struggled to find one at a decent price for months, before ultimately scoring on a lot that included John.  He's one of the best American-born goalies ever (maybe the best?), and is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame.  Vanbiesbrouck was also a Vezina winner and First-Team All-Star in his impressive career.  All told he racked up 374 wins and 40 shutouts.

Last but not least, CuJo!  Panini selected a great photo of the 3-time All-Star for this one.  I almost didn't notice at first that the goal is falling forward onto Joseph, due to the fact that Brent Sutter of the Blackhawks is getting roughed up pretty well along the right side of the photo.  Curtis has a nice large autograph, and adds his #31 as well.  Curtis is not noted as a short print, but I've seen only two of them (this one included) on eBay in all the months I've been watching, and he set me back more than most other autos for this set at around $20.

That does it for this week.  It seems hard to believe, but these cards bring me to a total of 50 autographs and counting now from this set!  I've still got more to come though, and I've saved some of the best for last...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Completed Set - 1985-86 Topps Hockey

One of the goals I set for myself for this year was to knock off the remainder of the 1980s Topps hockey run. So far I've completed and posted about the 1986-87 through 1989-90 sets. For this post I'll continue working my way backwards, looking at the 1985-86 Topps hockey set.  The checklist is very small at just 165 cards.  Let's take a look at some of my favorites...

The set certainly starts off with a bang in the form of this gloriously colorful Lanny McDonald card.  A worthy card #1 for sure.  Not really much to the design, plain white borders with a wavy inset at the top for a team logo.  Player name and position listed across the bottom.

Of course the checklist is chock full of sweet old school sweaters like this one.  Also making an appearance here on Brian Engblom's card is a KOHO wood stick.

An interesting pre-game warm-up shot of Hall-of-Famer Joe Mullen.

Unfortunately the photography is a bit bland overall, sort of par for the course for the time period.

Here's a look at a back.  Inclusion of WHA stats is a plus.

Of course the big card from the set is Mario Lemieux's rookie.  Certainly one of the top hockey cards of the '80s.  I was really happy to be able to add this iconic card to my collection a couple years back now.  One of the most talented players ever to lace up skates, and one of the best I ever got watch growing up having been born in the early '80s.  Guys like Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull were before my time, but I was able to witness much of Mario's career as it unfolded.  Throw in his incredible comeback from severe illness and it's hard not to be impressed.

Some serious 'staches...

Mike Zuke is the first of 10 Hartford Whalers on the checklist...

Steve Yzerman's second-year card is one of the more desired cards on the checklist.

The rookie card of one of my favorite Whalers, and the recently departed head coach of the Florida Panthers, is found in this set.

Look at the size of that video camera being held by the cameraman above Bourque's shoulder!

Here's recent Hall-of-Fame inductee Chris Chelios from his early days with the Canadiens.  This is actually Chris' first Topps card, although his rookie is found in the '84-85 O-Pee-Chee set.

This has got to be one of the most atrocious sweaters in St. Louis Blues history.

For whatever reason, I've always thought that Coffey's card was one that actually worked well from this set.

Pelle Lindbergh was one of the last cards that I had trouble tracking down for quite some time.

Man look at those career stats already!  1,000 career points after 6 years in the league.  We will never see anything like that again.

This set came during the Oilers' dynasty, after the Islanders run of four straight championships earlier in the decade...

...but the Islanders still had a good team.  They lost to the Capitals in the first round of the '86 playoffs though.

The Whalers on the other hand won the only NHL playoff series they would ever win against the Nordiques this year.

Always liked these Jets sweaters, I prefer them to the ones the new Jets are using nowadays.

Here's a good look at a uniform that the Canucks had actually retired by the time this set came out.  I wonder why.

Gretzky may have led the league in assists and points again in '85-86, but Jari Kurri here was your goal leader with an impressive 68 goals scored!

Absolutely love this card.  Tragic loss on that September day over two years ago now.

Well, not to end on a downer but that wraps it up for '85-86 Topps.  Thanks to a lack of Topps sets in '82-83 and '83-84 I've got just three left to finish off the decade now.  Maybe I'll have this knocked off by year end after all.  Here's where I'm at with my completed pre-1990 Topps hockey sets...

1974-75 Topps Hockey
1979-80 Topps Hockey
1985-86 Topps Hockey 
1986-87 Topps Hockey
1987-88 Topps Hockey
1988-89 Topps Hockey

1989-90 Topps Hockey
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