Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sox, Soccer & Stickers (from Shlabotnik)

It's funny how the blogosphere works.  Sometimes a new blog pops up, and it seems like I'm in touch with the author and arranging a trade almost instantly.  Other times, I enjoy a blog for years before ever making contact with its owner.  The latter was the case with Joe Shlabotnik of the fantastic blog The Shlabotnik Report.

I've been enjoying Joe's work (and his amazing custom card sets) for what seems like forever now, but only recently did we get around to swapping some cards.  If the PWE that Joe sent along is any indication, he's certainly trying to make up for lost time!

I've yet to pick up so much as a single pack of this year's Archives set.  I guess I've been more interested in the flagship set and Stadium Club.  Kind folks like Joe have me well on my way to a Red Sox team set regardless, though.

The retired stars are always my favorite cards in the Archives sets, and this envelope delivered a nice tandem with Fisk and Eckersley.

I'll gladly accept any Red Sox card from any year that I don't already have, doesn't have to be a brand new set like 2015 Archives.  Here's a nice one that's a couple of decades old now.  I failed to notice until scanning it in that this is the Silver Signatures parallel.

Here's a set from around the turn of the century that I had no idea existed, Pacific Online.  In case you're wondering (which you're probably not), yes I did go to that URL and  yes, it is dead.  I'm sure Pacific sold or failed to renew the domain when they went under.  As someone who works in IT, this one's a little more interesting than your average Nomar card.

I was very happy to see this card in the envelope.  I've been working on the 2001 Fleer Red Sox 100th set for a while now, and this "Beantown's Best" Fisk was one I'd yet to track down.

How about a nice, mint, well-centered 1981 Fleer Jim Rice!  I'm only missing less than a handful of Red Sox from this set, and Rice was one of them.  Not that these are super rare or anything, but a solid card that felt great finally adding to my collection.  Still need Fred Lynn and Eckersley if anyone's got extras...

Rounding out the Red Sox portion of the package is possibly my favorite of the bunch, this Target Red parallel of shortstop Jose Iglesias.  I really, really liked this guy when he was with Boston.  The knock on him was that he was fantastic defensively but couldn't really hit.  The thing is, he was swatting .330 when Boston dealt him away in 2013.  This was over 60 games into his season, way too large a sample size to be a fluke.

After missing all of last year due to injury, Jose is swinging the bat well again this year for Detroit.  He's never going to provide a ton of power, but his .313 average is good for 13th in all of MLB.  Seems he's here to stay, which I'm happy about.  Definitely one of those players I'll always root for whenever he's not playing against Boston.

I introduced Joe to a soccer set that was new to him, and he did the same for me!  I had never seen these early '90s Pro Set cards, but I'm a fan.  There are so few sets it seems that feature English football clubs, so I treasure any and all that I can accumulate.  I'm not sure if Joe knew this, or is just a really good guesser/lucky, but Liverpool is my favorite EPL team too!

I only started really following EPL the last five years or so, so I confess that I don't know much about Peter Beardsley.  Looks like I've got some research to do courtesy of this PWE...

Finally, let's switch over to hockey with a pair of 1982-83 Topps stickers.  Topps didn't produce a standard hockey set in '82-83 or '83-84, so stickers are as close as you can get.  I think most hockey fans will recognize HOFer Mark Howe in this photo.  The other sticker that Joe sent is a little more obscure though.

Know who this guy is?

That would be Garry Howatt.  Not a household name by any means.  He played the bulk of his career in the '70s with the Islanders, before capping it off with a single season with Hartford and some games with the Devils in the early '80s.

Joe, this was a terrific PWE, you really hit the nail on the head with all of these cards.  Hopefully there will be white envelopes going back and forth between Shoebox Legends and The Shlabotnik Report headquarters for years to come!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

1995 Upper Deck Rules - A Case Study

1995 Upper Deck is one of my favorite baseball sets of the '90s.  Recently I opened up a retail pack that was so packed with star power and great photography that I just had to share it here.  12 glorious, full-bleed photos, let's see who's inside...

My one-per-pack Electric Diamond parallel is ESPN analyst John Kruk.  As this set goes, not the most interesting photograph, but a recognizable name nonetheless.

Even the portrait cards are very well done.

A nice Crime Dog/Lemke high-five captured on McGriff's card.  I wish Topps would use more out-of-the-ordinary photographs like this in their flagship set instead of saving them for photo variation SPs and sets like Stadium Club.

This might be my favorite card from this pack, as it caused me to stop and say "Wait, Darryl Strawberry played for the Giants?!?!".  Turns out that he did, for just 29 total games, in 1994.  This would have been right at the height of my childhood baseball fandom, yet somehow I never knew (or totally forgot).

Five recognizable names right out of the gate, finishing off with HOFer Greg Maddux.  I like this classic, well-framed shot of Greg's delivery.

Well, I never promised that they'd all be great cards.

No, you're not seeing double.  That's just mid-'90s collation for you, same exact card back-to-back (stuck together slightly in fact!).  Of course it had to be the least interesting card in the pack that I received two of...

A nice horizontal Expos card.  We're right back to some more recognizable names now; I remember when Cliff Floyd was kind of a big deal in my circle of childhood collecting friends.

Here's another nice portrait shot, of Red Sox fan favorite Ellis Burks from his time with the Rockies.

File this one under "so bad it's good".  That jersey doesn't look right at all, I'm thinking this is an (incomplete) airbrush job?  Also, what the hell is that on Jose's right hand?

Jeff Montgomery is the second high-five card in just this pack!

Even though I think the Star Rookie subset is one of the few missteps in an otherwise beautiful set, Jeter is probably the best one that you could land.

There you have it, a very solid pack of 1995 Upper Deck baseball!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pedro Martinez, HOFer

Pedro Martinez is the best pitcher I've ever had the pleasure to watch in person.  Now that he's officially enshrined in Cooperstown, it seemed like the perfect time to show off a small batch of new Pedro cards I recently received from reader Jeff S.

How's that for a new Pedro?  This is only my second game-used card of Martinez, and my first dual-relic card.  In addition to both a swatch of game-used jersey and a piece of game-used bat, this one is serial numbered to /100 copies.  One of the better Pedro Martinez cards in my entire Red Sox collection for sure!

Jeff didn't stop there though, as I found nine other Martinez cards among the giant stack of cards I received.  This one's from 2002 Upper Deck Authentics, and borrows the design from the original '89 Upper Deck set.

Just my second card period from 2001 Bowman.

Out of this lot, I think my favorite photograph would have to be this 2005 Upper Deck card.  Not your every day, run-of-the-mill shot, which I appreciate.

I'm liking the layout and color scheme of this 2001 Upper Deck Vintage All-Star Tributes insert.  A solid card and the colors go great with the Red Sox uniforms.  Even though this wasn't the intention, it's kind of cool that they're also the same colors as the flag of Pedro's native Dominican Republic.

Here's one from 2000 Fleer Tradition honoring Martinez for winning the 1999 AL Cy Young Award (his second time winning, he'd capture his third in 2000).  Pedro was a no-brainer for the award in '99 as he captured the triple crown of pitching for the AL, with the most wins, most strikeouts and top ERA in the league.

Congratulations to Pedro for a fantastic career, and for his enshrinement into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, and thank you Jeff for these killer cards!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Signature Sundays - Jarome Iginla

With the way the Red Sox have been playing since the All-Star break it's really tough not to start looking ahead to football and hockey season.  Let's do just that, and take a look at one of the more interesting Bruins autographs I've added to my hockey collection, Jarome Iginla:

Iginla is simply one of the most effective goal scorers ever to play in the NHL.  He's enjoyed an impressive twelve 30-goal seasons in his career, including 11 consecutive at one point.  That number could easily be at fifteen as well, as he's had two 29-goal seasons and one with 28.  Remarkably consistent, even well into his late 30s, Jarome should be netting goal number 600 this coming season!  He's already inside the top 20 in all-time goals scored, and could conceivably get up near 15th place before he hangs up the skates.

I somehow never knew this, but in writing up this post I learned that Jarome's actual birth name is "Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla".  Not kidding at all.  Would be great if he had an autographed card out there where he wrote the whole thing out.

Iginla's time with the Bruins was brief, at just a single season, so I was psyched when I found that this card existed.  He was productive as always in his stint with the B's, scoring 30 goals and adding 31 assists in the regular season, plus lighting the lamp 5 times in 12 playoff games.  I loved watching him paired up with Milan Lucic, and my favorite player at the time, David Krejci.

The Bruins got themselves in a bad salary cap situation (don't even get me started), which resulted in some rough personnel decisions prior to this past season.  One of them was letting Iginla go in free agency, they just didn't have the money available to sign him.  The other was practically giving away defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders.

This off-season has been even worse in my mind.  Lucic was dealt away, which I actually don't mind too much, but to me what happened at the draft is unforgivable.  It's obvious new GM Don Sweeney had something in mind that just didn't pan out, but to pick three consecutive times in the first round is just dumb. 

More than anything else, I cannot believe how badly the Flames robbed them in the Dougie Hamilton deal.  I truly think he is going to be a solid top-four defenseman with good offensive elements to his game for a long time to come.  I'm still stunned at how little Calgary gave up to get him.  Look out for the Flames this year.

I'm definitely skeptical about the look of the 2015-16 Boston Bruins.  At least if the hockey season becomes as disappointing as this baseball one has been I'll always have this autograph to remind me of better times...

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Stadium Club Roller Coaster

Right before I left for vacation a month or so ago, I splurged and picked up a hobby box of Topps Stadium Club.  I was fortunate enough to pull this Kris Bryant Black Foil parallel in my box:

These parallels fall at just two-per-box, and with Bryant as hot as he is in the hobby I knew it was a decent card to land.  I'm really only interested in building the base set, as well as collecting any Red Sox parallels or inserts.  Initially I thought I'd hang onto this one, but I also realized that it was probably worth more in the first days of the product's release than it would be even a month or two later.

Ultimately, I threw it up on eBay the day before I left, 24-hour auction starting at 99 cents with no reserve.  The card drew a lot of interest, and more than 20 bids.  In the end it sold for over $50!  Throw in the Matt Holliday Foilboard parallel, which I sold as well, and I ended up with around $60 in my Paypal account thanks to this box.

I'm very pleased with that return, because here we are not even a month later and the Black Foil Bryant card is now selling for under $20 on eBay.  I'll share the spoils of what I used those funds on in a later post, but for now let's just say I was riding high on the Stadium Club roller coaster.

Then I plunged...

In a moment of weakness, I picked up a blaster when I got back from vacation.  You get 40 total cards in these things.  Mine yielded 2 gold parallels and 38 base cards.  At this point, I still needed 190 out of the 300 base cards in the set after the dust had settled from my hobby box.  Well, how many of the 38 base cards in the blaster do you think I needed?  How about zero?  Yup, skunked.  Awesome collation Topps!

I made the best of it and have already sent some of the dupes out to other bloggers, and I have a couple more trades in the works as well, so ultimately I was able to deal some of the dupes away for cards I do need for my set.  Not a total loss, but pretty darn deflating at the time of ripping the packs open.

A couple of weeks later I was visiting my local card shop, the same one I'd picked up my hobby box from.  Figuring the boxes of Stadium Club he had on the shelf probably all came from the same case, I thought I'd take a crack at a couple loose packs with a slightly reduced chance at doubles.  I grabbed two packs for $10.

The first pack yielded what is perhaps my personal favorite card in the set, this completely awesome Dennis Eckersley.  Without actually doing a formal search, and just going off the top of my head, this may be my favorite card of 2015 at this point.  Love it.

The other pack yielded a pretty nice hit, which certainly helped to reverse the sting of that blaster full of doubles:

The signature may leave a little to be desired, but this is a nice, on-card autograph of a potential future star.  It's actually a Black Foil Autograph, serial numbered to /50 on the back.  At the time of this post these look to be going in the $30-$40 range on eBay.

Part of me is tempted to throw this one up for sale to keep the train rolling.  Unlike the Bryant that I led off the post with though, which was just an un-numbered parallel with inflated value because the set was brand new, I'm intrigued by this card.  If Soler ends up being a solid player it would be cool to have a relatively rare autographed rookie card.  If not, oh well. 

Either way, I'm riding high on the Stadium Club roller coaster again!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Drive Towards 5,000 - A Contribution from Tony

Next up in the queue for a thank you post is Tony from the fantastic blog Off Hiatus Baseball Cards.  We've exchange cards at least a couple of different times now, and his latest delivery was a huge help towards my goal of 5,000 unique Boston Red Sox cards by year's end.

My favorite cards in the package were a trio of needs from the 2008 Topps Opening Day set.  I'm sure this is one of those sets that drives many collectors nuts, with its bright red borders.  For a Red Sox collector like myself they're perfect.

I never picked up so much as a single pack of this stuff back in 2008, but I've been chipping away at a Red Sox team set for some time now.

This trio gets me within two cards of completing it!  This is actually one of the few Red Sox team sets that I've gotten into a binder already, and it felt great sliding these into their previously empty slots.

Also included in this package was a heavy dose of Clemens.  A good chunk of my junk wax era Red Sox came from a giant discount lot that I believe had most, if not all, of the Clemens picked out of it already.  As a result, he seems to be one of the last cards I need for so many of the team sets from the late '80s or early '90s.

A couple of solid additions there with the extremely noisy 1991 Fleer, and much more muted 1989 Donruss.

A nice pair of Japanese pitchers courtesy of 2008 Topps Heritage...

...and apparently this is the highest-quality photograph of reliever Hideki Okajima that Topps could get their hands on at the time?

Back to the Rocket...

...with a 5-spot from the 1986 Donruss Highlights set.

Just 56 cards in this small set, and Roger made it onto 5 of them.

I'm a fan of obscure cards, and this 1997 Collector's Choice Stick-Ums insert of Mo Vaughn qualifies:

Rounding out this latest delivery is a nice chunk of last year's Heritage team set that I inexplicably have yet to complete.

Tony, thanks for this latest batch of cardboard!  These Red Sox cards have been given a good home, and I really appreciate your generosity.  I will try to get a PWE of Brewers in the mail sometime in the next couple of weeks...
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