To celebrate the closing out of another successful year, let's review some of my favorite cards to debut on the blog in 2018. A "Top 18 of 2018" countdown, to be precise. I did one of these countdowns last year, and it was an enjoyable way for me to look back and appreciate some great cards all over again. As with last year's post, the description below each card is actually a hyper-link that takes you to the original post from earlier in the year. Just in case you missed something that you want to go check out now.
Alright, let's get started, time to find out who topped this year's list...
We start things off with one of baseball's all-time great sluggers, staring into the sun ready to snag a pop-up. As proof that fantastic cards come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges, this card makes the cut despite setting me back all of $5. This one kind of motivates me to go after some more of Hammerin' Hank's cardboard in the coming year.
As a bit of foreshadowing, Hank is one of a couple of athletes who you'll see featured more than once in today's post.
Another cheap pick-up here at the outset of the countdown. I really love this card, so much so that I'm wondering if I should have ranked it higher. After all, it marks the beginning of my favorite team in the history of NHL hockey. An absolutely essential card for any Whalers collector. In fact, this might be a top-5 essential card for any Whalers collector. Very pleased that I finally snagged a copy this past year.
One of the most significant sporting events of the past year for me was the World Cup, held over the summer in Russia. There were more than a handful of players who enjoyed a successful tournament, but perhaps none more than France's exciting young scorer, Kylian Mbappe. At just 19 years of age, Mbappe scored multiple times in the tournament, and became just the second teenager to score in the tournament final (with the other being Pele!). The future sure is bright for this Paris St. Germain star, in fact he was just ranked #4 on the famous "Top 100 Footballers" list released annually by The Guardian.
Prices for Kylian's cards have absolutely soared since the tournament. I'll never be a super-collector of his, but I'm pleased to have picked up this beautiful parallel from my favorite soccer set of the year anyway.
I landed a handful of very significant hockey autographs this year, and the first one to make this list is Cam Neely, Flying V sweater edition! I've picked up dozens and dozens of certified hockey autographs over the years, but had never managed to snag Cam Neely until this past winter. Though he's better known as a Bruin, I actually like this early-career Canucks card, and you don't see much silver Sharpie on autographs these days.
Any time you pick up a card from the very first O-Pee-Chee hockey set, it's a good day as a hockey card collector. This time it was Maple Leafs great Ace Bailey. Sure, it's in "poor" condition according to PSA, but I think it's quite appealing. Besides, I certainly can't afford to be picky on condition for a card approaching 90 years of age. Bailey is another guy who you'll see again before this countdown ends.
I hope to someday complete a 1922 E120 American Caramel Red Sox team set. I picked up a couple of new cards towards that endeavor in 2018, and could have easily featured either of them here, but decided to go with former AL MVP George Burns. I'm fascinated with this set, even though it was released 60 years before I took my first breath. I sincerely hope to chip further away at this one in 2019.
1980s NHL cards are really my collecting sweet spot. I began collecting late in the decade, and so these sets and players are the ones I remember most fondly from when I was a kid. I've already finished off the entire run of Topps sets from '80-81 through '89-90, but I've got a ways to go still with O-Pee-Chee. Wayne Gretzky's '82-83 O-Pee-Chee card was a critical addition given that this was the only major set released that season, which is also my "birth year" NHL season.
Back in September, I celebrated 1,200 total buybacks in my collection with this great '77 Topps Fred Lynn buyback, which is actually stamped a 1/1. One of my best Red Sox buybacks, it made the franken-set binder easily, and I expect it to be resident in there for quite some time. A fantastic card, especially for a Red Sox collector, but not my best buyback of the year...
I love super old, somewhat obscure hockey sets. As such, my very first '36-37 O-Pee-Chee card was bound to make this list. The fact that it features a Montreal Maroon pushed it right into the top 10!
Here's another set that I picked up more than one card from this past year, and could have easily chosen any of them for the countdown. As it stands, I went with Harry Niles, a solid addition to my vintage Red Sox collection, for slot 9. A nice looking card to be sure, though I don't recall ever seeing a T206 that I didn't like.
There are few hockey players who lasted as long at the professional level as Chris Chelios did. He was one of the last stragglers in the NHL from my days as a childhood fan, and so he'll always hold a special place in my collection. On top of that, 1992-93 Fleer Ultra was one of the best sets of the early '90s, so I've gone a little overboard when it comes to picking up these buybacks. Securing Chris Chelios' card from the set, which is autographed no less, was certainly one of my better pick-ups of 2018.
I'm still ever so slowly plodding away at 1959 Topps baseball. I added quite a few cards to my set these past 12 months, but none of them more significant than the great Stan Musial. This beauty is in better condition than many of the others in my bargain-basement set, certainly meets the criteria for "will never need to upgrade". Hopefully I can cross another HOFer or two off from this set in 2019.
See my comments above about '92-93 Ultra. I love, love, love these buyback autographs. I jumped at the chance to add the #3 scorer in all of NHL history, Mark Messier, to my collection in 2018. Just like with the Neely card above, this one gets bonus points for being my first ever Messier autograph. It's hard to believe that I ranked 5 other cards above this one, but I did. Let's see if you agree with my choices...
Next up, the iconic Young Guns rookie card of arguably the best pure goal-scorer of his generation (it's an easy argument to make, too). I picked this one up around the time that the Capitals won the Stanley Cup over the summer, figuring this might be a card that could easily rise out of my price range in the next few years if I didn't act now. The reason? Well, it's not because of the Stanley Cup championship, though that certainly didn't hurt.
It's more that Ovechkin just continues to snipe without any sign of slowing down. At 33 years of age, he's already within the top 15 as far as career NHL goals, and scored at about a goal-per-game pace over the Caps' first 30 or so games this year. He could easily move up one or two more spots before the season ends, and there are some who think he has a legitimate shot at Wayne Gretzky's career goal scoring record if he can stay healthy. Now that would be something, and should that day ever come I'll certainly be pleased that I snagged a copy of this rookie card when I did. It wasn't a cheap pick-up, but it's a card that I don't see getting any cheaper as the next few years roll by, that's for sure.
Alright, now we're getting down to the real "meat and potatoes" of 2018! This 1933 Sport Kings card, the second Ace Bailey to appear in today's countdown, was the culmination of a project that took years to complete. You see, this was the final of four hockey subjects who were included in the '33 Sport Kings set. I'd long ago picked up the other three, but had been on the lookout for a Bailey in a PSA 4 for quite literally years when I struck gold this past spring. It might be only four cards deep, but completing this hockey subset feels like one of my biggest wins since I returned to collecting over a decade ago.
Cracking the top 3 is a very recent one, featured only days ago. I don't have any crazy backstory or tales of extreme hobby patience to back this one, I just plain old wanted a vintage, career-era Topps Mickey Mantle base card. Finally scratching that itch at the end of this year felt amazing, and has really made me reconsider how I'm planning to use my more limited hobby funds in the coming year.
So, which two cards beat out The Mick then?
Here's the third and final '92-93 Ultra buyback autograph in today's countdown. This card holds so much nostalgia/sentimental value for me that I began searching for it as soon as I heard about these buybacks, before I even knew whether or not a Selanne even existed. I wanted this card so badly that I risked picking up and redeeming a redemption card from Upper Deck, something I rarely do, and boy did that risk pay off!
I went back and forth about ranking this the #1 card of the year, but in the end it ended up with the silver medal in today's countdown. Regardless, it's one of my top 5 favorite hockey autographs in my entire collection, and probably always will be.
And now, the winner in the "Top 18 of 2018" countdown...
Back in March, I reached a significant milestone in my buyback franken-set project; 1,000 total buybacks. To celebrate, I wanted my 1,000th buyback to be something really special. I'd say I succeeded, with arguably the single best buyback in the entire binder to date. This will forever be one of my most prized buybacks, and was a fitting way to celebrate my first 1,000 of the little buggers.
In the end, I felt it was my favorite card that debuted on the blog this past year. The countdown started with a Hank Aaron, and fittingly ended with a Hank Aaron.
To everyone who has taken the time over the last year to read my posts, trade with me, or send me cards out of the blue just because, thank you! The awesome community of collectors and bloggers is every bit as big a draw to the hobby for me as the cards themselves are. I'm looking forward to another fun year in 2019!