Monday, December 31, 2018

Top 18 of 2018

2018 was my 11th year operating this blog, and I'd say it was another good one.  Despite being a very challenging year in both my personal and professional lives, I truly enjoyed the past 12 months in this hobby of ours.

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!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Signature Sundays - Duane Sutter

Today's Signature Sundays post features a card that I acquired thanks to a tip-off from my good friend and reader of the blog, Marc B!  Marc sent me a link for an eBay auction that I was completely unaware of but was right up my alley.  In the end, just $4 and change brought this card home to my collection:

Sweet!  Duane Sutter is the latest addition to my small side-project of acquiring autographed cards from the first hockey set I ever collected as a kid, 1989-90 Topps/O-Pee-Chee!  This is one of the most satisfying projects in the hobby for me, and to add another card to that collection for less cash than a fast food value meal would set me back was just plain awesome.

Duane Sutter is best known for his long stint with the Islanders throughout most of the '80s, including multiple Stanley Cup championships.  Aside from that, the Sutters are one of the more famous families in the annals of hockey history.  Duane signed this one with a nice, bold blue Sharpie, and the card looks great.  This is actually my second certified auto of Duane's, as he and a few of his brothers were featured in one of my all-time favorite autograph sets, Panini Classics Signatures.

This particular card is actually a certified buyback autograph from the 2007-08 O-Pee-Chee hockey release.  You can see the authentication sticker along the top of the card back here.

Like each of these that I've acquired so far, it comes with a nice Certificate of Authenticity from Upper Deck which matches the hologram on the reverse.  Honestly, at a $4 price point I wouldn't have been shocked had the CoA not come with the card in this case, but fortunately for me it did.

Here's the back of the CoA.  I've mentioned this before I think, but I love that Upper Deck actually took the time to personalize these ("includes a personal autograph from Duane Sutter") instead of using the same generic text on each.

So yeah, there you have it. Another '89-90 auto bites the dust.  I could not be happier with this card.  Based on the low price point and on how great a fit this is for my personal collection, I would say this was easily one of my favorite bargain purchases of 2018, period.

Thanks for the tip on this auction Marc, and to everyone else thanks for stopping by to check out my Duane Sutter auto!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Christmas Cards! Golden Treasures Part I

For Christmas this year, I actually received a decent amount of card-related gifts, which was awesome.  I'll be spreading the new additions to my collection out over a few posts, and today we'll start with a gift from my parents...

A "Golden Treasures" re-pack box!  This contains 20 total packs of baseball cards, plus a handful of "vintage" cards, which I assume would be the 1955-1979 range.  I really appreciated this gift, because I rarely treat myself to unopened packs these days, so this will be a fun way to scratch the itch.

I'm obviously not going to scan and review hundreds of cards across 20 packs in a single post, so for today let's tackle the first three packs to spill out of the box...

First up...1990 Donruss.  No shocker here, as this junk wax set was printed in such abundance that you still regularly encounter unopened product to this day.  The bright red design of the base cards didn't go over so well this year.  I'm not sure what Donruss was thinking quite honestly.

Anyway, 16 cards and a puzzle insert, let's see what we get...

Here's the puzzle piece, featuring some of Yaz's arm and his bat knob.

And here are the extremely loud base cards.  I'm not going to provide commentary on every card in this post, but will selectively throw some in throughout.

The photography wasn't anything special for the most part either.  Certainly wasn't varied.  As we proceed through this pack notice how many of the photos fall into the same three categories; guy at the plate about to swing, guy on the mound delivering a pitch, guy posing on sidelines...

For me, this one may have been the highlight of this first pack.  Yeah, that tells you what to expect over the final few cards here.  Not much.

Even the photograph cropping by the folks at Donruss this year seems questionable at best.

For some reason I got just a single card that was extremely off-center top to bottom.

At least I pulled an Expo!

Best facial expression in the pack.

Here's a slightly different photograph, with speedster Lance Johnson about to lay down a bunt.

Well, that wasn't a very exciting pack by any standards.  No Red Sox, unless you count that Yaz puzzle piece, and not a HOFer to be found.  Let's just assume we're getting the worst stuff out of the way first here, shall we?

Next up, 1989 Fleer...going from red borders to grey here.  One less card than '90 Donruss, with 15 base cards per pack, and a sticker insert rather than a puzzle.

My sticker features the Chicago White Sox.  I have to be honest and say that I never liked their logo from this era.

Alright, we're off to a much better start here.  HOFer Goose Gossage's killer handlebar mustache is the first keeper card of the box for me!

Back-to-back Padres cards.

Kirk Gibson was a huge name in the game at the time when this one was printed up.

As far as these first two packs go, I'll give the nod for design to 1989 Fleer.  The color pallet isn't quite so obnoxious, and I like that the photographs overlap and spill over the upper border.

Two packs, two Expos.

Apparently the most flattering picture of Eric Show that Fleer had access to.

One of the more interesting photographs in this pack, Bob Boone sporting the tools of ignorance.

Here's another keeper for me.  Don Baylor was no slouch, and I like a good bat rack photograph to boot.  This is also card #1 on the checklist, which is kind of cool.

Steve Jeltz wraps it up.

That pack was an improvement over the first, with a couple of cards I'll hang onto at least.  Let's do one more for today...

...1991 Upper Deck baseball.  I think I may have a '91 Upper Deck factory set in storage in my basement, but since I'm not entirely sure these will all be "new" cards to me, per se...

I've always liked the clean design of 1991 Upper Deck.

A Mike Gallego double-play card.  Not much else going on so far though...

I like this shot of Mark Grace, classic photograph and perfectly framed.

That is an awfully low-to-the-ground delivery right there.

Rock on, Lloyd Moseby.

This one's a keeper for me.  Vizquel was one of the last players from my childhood to retire, so I've always enjoyed his cards for that reason.  There's something to be said for longevity if you ask me.

Mark Grace hot pack!

My rookie subset card wasn't exactly a stud.  Also, this card was creased in half for some reason.  Only card in the pack like that.

Sweet, three packs in and we finally get our first Red Sox card proper!

Pensive Pete Smith.

In the Upper Deck pack it's not a puzzle, or a sticker (well, it is a sticker I guess), but a hologram!

Final card, a checklist.

Well, I wouldn't say that I found any "golden treasures" just yet, but ripping these sure was a fun trip down memory lane.  Plus, looking ahead I'd say I got three of the more boring packs the box has to offer out of the way first here.  I'll get another good five or six blog posts worth of enjoyment out of this before all is said and done.

It was so cool of my parents to think of my odd little hobby this holiday season.  As I mentioned, I received a couple of other hobby-related gifts as well.  Will have those posted soon, until then...
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