Sunday, August 18, 2019

COMC Blaster - Vintage, Vintage, Vintage!

Happy Sunday everyone!  Time for my latest "COMC Blaster" post; let's see how I did with $20 in credit on my absolute favorite sports card site on the internet.  The theme of today's post is vintage...

...and we lead off with a couple of needs from my 1965 Topps Red Sox team set.  It's really inexcusable that I haven't knocked some of these older team sets out already, or at the very least made more progress than I have.  Especially since I can get "will never need to upgrade" shape examples like Felix Mantilla here for 50 cents.

Or even high-number cards like Lenny Green for 73 cents.  This one's got a little ding in the upper right corner, but the card still presents very well and that doesn't bother me in the least.  $1.23 out the door, two cards closer to knocking this little project off.

I've mentioned that '50s and older baseball cards have really been a big hobby interest for me of late.  I will happily accept any card from the decade that I don't already own, but have been focusing on a couple of sets in particular.  One of which is 1959 Topps, and toward that goal I was able to snag a couple of commons for 60 cents each.  Alex Kellner of the Cardinals...

...and Julio Becquer of the Senators.  I'm well past the halfway point with this set now, and have the cards all laid out in a binder already.  It's so satisfying to slide new cards like these into their slots, especially at this price point.  That's not all the '59 Topps I have for today, however.

I ponied up $1.61 for this Carl Erskine, good for third most expensive card in today's post.  Sure, I may have paid the "Dodger Tax" here, but it's not like I broke the bank.  I love the ominous LA Memorial Coliseum background on this card.

Let's do another trio of new '59s here, with Don Dillard's Rookie Stars card setting me back 59 cents (appropriately, for a 1959 card)...

...Russ Kemmerer ringing in at 70 cents (but in immaculate condition!)...

...and Giants' hurler Curt Barclay rounding out the group at 67 cents.  That's half a dozen new cards for this set in total, bringing me up to 311 cards and counting now from this release.

We're only at an even $6.00 and counting as far as today's post goes, so let's keep plugging on here...

The other set that I've been working more diligently at than perhaps any other of late is 1955 Topps.  I love the over-sized cards, already had a decent start on it from a small lot I picked up when I re-entered the hobby in 2007, and the checklist is pretty small at just 206 cards.

I set sort of an unofficial goal of trying to get 1/3 of the way there (68-69 cards) by the end of this calendar year, and today I get three cards closer.  Wayne Terwilliger here was a total steal at just $1.13.

Fred Marsh of the Orioles was slightly more expensive at $1.60.  This one is in unbelievable shape for being well over 60 years old now.

I'm pretty shocked at the cartoon on the back of Marsh's card.  We're certainly living in a different era now.  Imagine the outrage if an image like this showed up on a modern day trading card?

Finishing off the '55s for today is catcher Charlie White of the Braves.  $1.64 for this one but again, I'll never need to upgrade or replace it.  I'd snag up more commons at these prices and in these conditions all day long, but it's getting harder and harder to find deals like this the further along I get in my quest.  With these three in hand though I'm up to 46 now, getting close to the 25% marker anyway!

The pair of '65 Topps cards that led off the post weren't the only progress made in '60s Sox team sets in this "blaster".  I also strengthened my 1960 Topps team set by two cards, with catcher Haywood Sullivan at 75 cents...

...and first baseman Vic Wertz at a very reasonable 60 cents.  I've now got 21 different Boston Red Sox cards from this release, but still have well over a dozen to go to knock off the team set.  One of those is the Yastrzemski rookie as well so yeah, it's gonna be a while...

If you're keeping tally, we're at $11.72 so far.  Let's dive back into the '50s to keep working towards the $20 total...

I love the 1956 Topps set every bit as much as the 1955 release.  I'm simply targeting '55 first because it's a smaller set and I'm further along with it.  That doesn't mean I won't grab cheap '56 cards when I run across them though!

Jim Wilson here is certainly a little rough condition-wise compared to what I typically look for, but this card cost just 50 cents.  50 cents for a 1956 Topps card that's not creased to hell and has no pen marks on it?  Yes, please!

Frank Sullivan, in much nicer shape and doubling as a new card for my Red Sox collection, was still had for just 75 cents.  I love the detailed ballpark background on this one, after the very plain one on the Jim Wilson card prior.

Art Fowler here's a tad bit worn, but came from the same seller as the Jim Wilson and was also just 50 cents.  Condition aside, you can't go wrong picking up three new '56 cards for a grand total of $1.75.  Just another example of why COMC is so great.

Topps wasn't the only company producing over-sized baseball cards in the '50s, as Bowman did so with their '53, '54 and '55 releases.  Next up I've got a pair from 1954, Murray Dickson of the Fightin' Phils for 85 cents...

...and Frank Shea of the Senators for one penny more than that.  True, each of these has a surface wrinkle or two, but that's what made them so affordable.  As you can see in the scans, they don't really do anything to detract from the overall visual beauty of the cards either.  Bowman produced some really great cards in the '50s, and I'm happy to have these two in my collection.

I also grabbed Frank Shea's 1955 Bowman release.  With color TV being a somewhat new novelty at the time, I totally appreciate the historical significance and tie to that cultural element in the 1955 Bowman set.  With that being said, it's actually my least favorite of the six baseball sets that Bowman released in the decade.  Couldn't pass up this one at just 75 cents.

That's all the vintage baseball I could easily get my hands on from my COMC "to be processed" box, but we're only at $15.93 in credit and counting.  Solution?  One awesome vintage hockey card to finish off the post.  Behold!

I never get tired of these stunning "tall-boy" 1964-65 Topps hockey cards.  I just don't seem to run across many opportunities to buy them at good prices, and because of that it's been some time since I picked one up.  When I stumbled upon this mint Bill Hay during this year's Spring Cleaning promotion, priced at just $4 even, I snagged it immediately.

Well, that's a wrap for today.  As these posts always seem to, this one just affirmed that hand-selecting singles is my preferred way to collect.  I appreciate the excitement of opening packs, but in the end it's doubtful that a retail blaster would have provided me with even a single card that I enjoyed as much as these.

Thanks as always for stopping by, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Big Stack of Sox from Dimebox Nick!

The title says it all!  I was recently the recipient of yet another very generous batch of cards from my longtime hobby buddy Nick from Dime Boxes.  Let's dive right in!

The sad reality these days is that modern card manufacturers don't really receive any money from me.  Quite literally about 99% of my hobby spending is on the secondary market, typically eBay or COMC.  I prefer it this way because I like targeting just the cards I want, and aside from Stadium Club there aren't a whole lot of sets I care to collect outright anyway.

One downside of this approach though is that I don't typically get my hands on the latest and greatest Red Sox cards to hit the market.  Nick has done so much to fill that void in recent years though, and I greatly appreciate it!  For example, this Mookie Betts card represents my very first in-hand look at 2019 Topps Big League.

Nick included a handful of BoSox from this set in his latest package, and I have to say that I like what Topps did here having finally held a few of these for myself.

Fitting that this one came from Nick, as Gorkys Hernandez, signed by Boston in December, has yet to appear for the Red Sox this season.  This could very well end up being a "zero year" card.

There are a crazy number of Mookie Betts cards on the checklist, I think like half a dozen or more if you count the shared League Leader cards.

Big League wasn't the only new set that Nick introduced me to with this delivery, as I scored my first pair of 2019 Gypsy Queen cards.  I went a little nuts with the inaugural Gypsy Queen set back in 2011, but never really finished it off and will probably end up selling what I do have in my ongoing card purge at some point here.  I do still continue to chase the Red Sox from each year's release though.

I have to say that I like what Topps did this year, quite a bit more colorful than some of the previous releases in this line.

The package wasn't all 2019 cardboard, as Nick included quite a smattering of other stuff like this '04 Upper Deck.  Before we get to most of that though, there were a few more 2019 examples to be found...

As a baseball card collector, there are few things more satisfying than completing your Topps flagship team set each year.  Nick gave me a solid boost on my 2019 effort with a quartet of Sox I was missing.

All four happened to be pitchers, two of them being somewhat obscure bullpen arms.

I also got this JD Martinez All-Star insert, modeled after 1984 Topps.  This will make you feel old; JD wasn't even born yet in 1984!

One last Big League card here, a Player's Weekend Nicknames insert of Mitch "2-Bags" Moreland.  I have to be honest and say that I like the base cards better than this particular insert set.

Those who have been fortunate enough to trade with Nick know that he truly excels when it comes to obscure/oddball type issues.  For example, this time around I received this Sports Illustrated for Kids Mookie Betts card!

Like me, Nick appreciates a nice shiny piece of cardboard.  Given that, I'm very grateful that he was willing to part with this awesome 2008 Topps Chrome X-Fractor of longtime captain Jason Varitek.

Here's another cool one, a Wal-Mart exclusive insert from a mid-2000s Topps set.  As a Red Sox collector, you end up with a ton of Ortiz cards, but I enjoy this one more than many others.

Here's a Fan Favorite George Scott done in the style of 1967 Topps, featuring the great All-Star Rookie trophy logo.  I don't think you can do a faux-'60s card much better than this!

I wasn't sure at first what to call this parallel from 2015 Panini Prizm.  Turns out I was over thinking it, as it's known simply as a Blue Baseball parallel.  Pretty logical.

Topps Fire Benintendi RC!  I can totally see how these cards would be considered ugly by some collectors, but personally I love the over-the-top loud, colorful design.  Reminds me of the '90s, in a good way.

Speaking of the '90s, remember Pacific Online?  I'm up to a handful of these now in working towards a team set.  It's hard to think of a release that was more a sign of its time than this one.

From the 2000 Topps Stars release, here's a very classy-looking Yaz.  I like the sepia tones, but if I could offer just one critique it would have been nice to use two different photographs.

I've been working diligently at back-filling my '50s and '60s Red Sox team sets, and Nick hit me with a trio of cards towards that end here.  First up, a very well-loved 1962 Topps Jim Pagliaroni.  This is one I'd probably look to upgrade someday, but I'm so far off on knocking out the team sets that day will be a ways into the future.

I spot an American flag in the background on this '66 Chuck Schilling.  I'm very happy to receive this card, as I owned a copy in Topps Heritage buyback box-topper format, but not an un-stamped original like this beauty until now!

Finally, my personal favorite card in today's post, a '63 Hal Kolstad.  He may not have been an All-Star, and in fact his MLB career lasted just two seasons, but this is a great card to receive...

...because it's a rare high-number!  At #574, the highest numbered Red Sox card in the set as a matter of fact.  This was a truly awesome surprise, and quite literally had me grinning ear to ear when I came across it in the stack.

That's a wrap for now, but in case all this great cardboard weren't enough, this actually represents only about half of the "new-to-me" Red Sox in Nick's package.  I'll be back with the other half soon!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Helmar? What the Hell is Helmar?!?!

Ever heard of Helmar?  If you haven't, and you're a collector that enjoys older baseball cards, say 1950s and prior, then you should absolutely read on!

Helmar is a company from the Michigan area that, among other products like beer and potato chips, has produced high quality baseball art cards for well over a decade now.  I don't know a whole lot about them just yet to be honest, but I do know that I'm intrigued by their very apparent appreciation of baseball history.  That appreciation is certainly reflected in their "labor-of-love" approach to creating high quality baseball art, and cards.

These days they produce a few different custom sets at any given time.  The approach is pretty unique, with each individual card painstakingly produced and released in a somewhat limited quantity.  Every Tuesday night they run a series of eBay auctions for singles, and they have publicly vowed to produce and sell no more than 6 of each card per year.  After a period of years sets are retired as well as new sets are moved into their product line, so for most of their cards there are no more than a couple/few dozen copies of each floating around out there.  They're very hard to find, if you don't believe me open up another tab in your browser and go check eBay.  See how many you can locate outside the few dozen that are auctioned direct by Helmar each Tuesday.

That's a story for another post and another day though.  The way things started for Helmar on the baseball card front was with a small set, done in the style of the early tobacco releases, that was released back in 2005.  These cards, referred to simply as the "Famous Athletes" series, would actually come in packs of three (see image above), inserted into bags of potato chips and caramel corn.

I can vouch for this myself, given that the pack I have for you today still has some snack food remnants stuck to the back!

There is a certain amount of collector demand for the various Helmar cards, and you'd be amazed what some of the hand-crafted singles I mentioned go for each week.  These 2005 minis aren't quite as sought after or valuable, but they're still rare compared to most modern baseball cards.  I was lucky enough to work out a deal with an eBay seller for four unopened pack at a price point that worked out to about $6 per pack shipped.  With three cards inside, I paid about $2 per individual card.  Series 2, which was produced in much smaller quantities in response to collector demand after Series 1 and sold direct, is much rarer and single cards routinely sell in the $15-$20 range and up.

Enough setting the stage here, let's rip the first pack and check these cards out!

Again, the design for this first release is pretty simplistic, but the paintings are really the star of the show anyway.  How seriously did Helmar take this first venture into the world of baseball cards?  Seriously enough that each one of the 74 cards in this Series 1 release (and all of their releases since) features original, hand-painted art!

In my research I read that they have three or four artists on staff, all local in Michigan except for one highly touted artist overseas.  I am seriously impressed with the job that these folks did in creating these cards.  As someone who loves really old-time baseball, I think they did an absolutely perfect job creating bright, vibrant artwork that looks right on point for the era these athletes appeared in.  Sort of a T206 meets early 1950s Bowman in my humble opinion.

This is just my second card of Buck Weaver overall, member of the infamous "Black Sox" of 1919 (as evidenced by the "Expelled in Scandal" reference along the top of the card.  I'll take this over pulling my 50th card of Christian Yelich or Chris Sale from a modern Topps pack!

For this first series, the card backs are all identical, just a simple logo along the top and then a scratch-off section where you could win various prizes.  These are printed on high-quality cardstock, as thick as your average game-used relic card.  Slightly larger than a mini card from Allen & Ginter or Gypsy Queen as far as dimensions go.

Since this set is called Famous Athletes, it of course contains some non-baseball subjects, though the majority of the checklist is comprised of ballplayers.  My second card out of the pack is boxer Jimmy Adamick, whom I confess I've never heard of.  Apparently he was a local boxing legend, known as The Midland Mauler!

While I prefer the baseball subjects, I think it's cool that they sprinkled in some other athletes, particularly since they seemed to seek out lesser known subjects from their region of the country.  Is it weird that when I pull a card out of a modern baseball pack and don't recognize the subject I get annoyed, but when I pull a card of a really old subject I don't recognize I get excited by the "research opportunity"?

Final card in the pack, and we're back to baseball.  A fine example of the beautiful artwork that went into this set.  According to Helmar's website, it took a full two years to paint all of the original artwork used in this first series; the largest hand-painted series of baseball cards in many years at the time of release.  They occasionally list original artwork in their eBay store as well, though it's way too expensive for me to dabble in.

Well, with just a three card pack that wraps it up for this evening.  I'm off to see what I can find out about Goto here; any leads?

I know that unlicensed cards like this aren't everyone's cup of tea, but what's your opinion on that kind of stuff (and on Helmar specifically if you have one)?  Personally I'm fascinated by these, and even more so by some of Helmar's other, more recent sets.  I find them to be exponentially more interesting than 95% of what's come out since I rejoined the hobby back in 2007, and I wish Topps would put half as much effort into some of their sets as this small company clearly does.

I welcome any opinions in the comments, and regardless of how you feel thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet!
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