Sunday, June 17, 2018

World Cup!

Anyone else been enjoying the World Cup since it kicked off a couple of days ago?  I missed the Thursday night opener and the Friday slate due to work obligations, but caught two of the four games yesterday and all three today thanks to the magic of DVR.  With the Premier League done for the season it's nice to have some high-stakes international soccer to watch, even if the US didn't qualify.

Was running some errands a week or so back and saw these stocked up in my local Target.  I had no idea that Panini was doing a Prizm World Cup set for 2018, but I enjoyed their effort from the 2014 World Cup immensely and was excited to discover these.  My favorite cards from the 2014 release were the various "wave" refractors, so when I saw that you got three of them guaranteed in this rack pack I was sold.

At first I grabbed four of these, figuring they were probably $5 each and I'd spend $20 to make my own blaster of sorts.  I happened to ring one through a price checker at the end of an aisle just to make sure though, and I'm glad I did.  These are $9.99 each retail!  At that price I put three back on the rack and left with just a one-pack sample.

Soccer is sort of a second-tier sport for me.  I love the game and I watch English Premier League consistently every season, but with baseball and hockey I only have so much time for the sport so I can't keep up with the many other leagues across the globe.  I only mention this to make the point that this pack has serious hit-or-miss potential, as it's entirely possibly I might not recognize a single one of the 15 subjects to be found inside by name.

Let's see how I did...

Big smile on my face and a real winner with the very first card out of the pack.  Mo Salah was an unstoppable force for my favorite Premier League team, Liverpool, in the 2017-18 season.  His 32 goals were good for the Golden Boot (most goals in the league), and were the most scored by a single player in a Premier League season in over 20 years.  If you handed me a checklist and asked me to hand-select a single card from this set for my collection it might've been this one.

Don't recognize this guy.  Looks like he plays club ball in Argentina most recently, the same country he represents internationally.  I don't believe he got into the game in Argentina's 1-1 draw against Iceland yesterday.

Hey, another guy I actually know!  Hart was a longtime keeper for Manchester City in the Premier League, and spent the 2017-18 season on loan to West Ham United.  I don't believe he is actually representing England in 2018 here, but I suppose Panini had to settle on the checklist before all the finalized rosters were known.

Don't think I've ever seen Leon here play.  He signed a four-year contract with Bayern Munich earlier this year.  He is with Germany in Russia for the tournament, but didn't see any action in today's 1-0 loss to Mexico.

Carlos Vela did play in that game, albeit for the other side.  He was subbed for in the second half.

A Serbian national, Maksimovic must feel right at home at this World Cup, given that he played club ball for a team in Moscow on loan this past season.  Well, I should say he would've felt right at home, as I don't believe he's actually with team Serbia from what I can tell.

I certainly recognize longtime Premier League player Victor Moses.  He played the full 90 minutes in Nigeria's disappointing opening loss to Croatia yesterday.

This guy briefly played for Aston Villa in the Premier League years ago, though I'd be lying if I said I recognized him.  He was in for the duration of Morocco's opening loss to Iran, and picked up a yellow card.  Not a lot of success in the tournament so far for the guys in this pack, but it's still early.

Gerard Pique was on the field for arguably the tourney's most exciting game so far, a 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal that saw Ronaldo net a hat trick!

Here's my last base card, another face I recognize well.  Christian Eriksen has been a major part of the success that Tottenham Hotspur have been enjoying the past few seasons, and he scored 10 times for them in Premier League play this past year.  This really was a perfect pack for me, I knew about half of the players and there's no way that average holds true over the entire set based on a quick glance at the checklist.

Those cards are nice and all, but it's the inserts and parallels that I love most...

This awesomely shiny bit of cardboard greatness is apparently a "Red Mosaic" parallel.  They're not serial-numbered but seem to be at least relatively rare from what I can tell, and I got a recognizable star player to boot!  In addition to being a key member of the powerhouse Brazil national team (they have to do better than 2014, right?), Willian is also a star with Chelsea in the Premier League.  A fantastic card that will look just great in my random soccer binder.

Here's my lone insert, a "New Era" Thomas Lemar.  Lemar rode the pine for France in their opener.  A nice enough card, but I'd have preferred another base, or even more so another shiny parallel.

Speaking of which, we'll close it out with my guaranteed three "Red and Blue Wave Refractors"...

It's a Brazil hot-pack!  Silva plays for one of the top teams in France, Paris Saint-Germain.  He's also with Brazil's team over in Russia, and like Willian was on the field for the entirety of the opener.

I don't know the first thing about Koo Ja-cheol, but it looks like he's been with the Korea Republic national team for over a decade, and was even captain for a stretch.  These Red and Blue Wave cards look just fantastic in hand.  I'll hopefully be scooping up some more of them on COMC in the coming weeks and months.

Last card in the pack, Mathew Leckie of Australia.  Mathew registered a shot and a yellow card in the first half of Australia's 2-1 loss to France.

Well, that wraps it up.  That was a very enjoyable rip, and to me was worth every bit of the $9.99 price tag.  I think I got incredibly lucky though, and with a different grouping of cards I could've easily come out of this with buyer's remorse.  If these were $4.99 or even $5.99  I'd probably be gobbling them up, but at ten bucks I think I'll stick to plucking singles off COMC.

So, have you watched any of the action thus far, or do you plan to?  If you're a fan of the game, have you picked any of these cards up, and would you if you saw them in your local big box store?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Collection Cornerstones - Ovechkin!

Alex Ovechkin appears from my vantage point to be one of the more polarizing modern athletes in all of sports.  Despite being one of the premier goal-scoring snipers in the National Hockey League for more than a decade now, it seems that he's got two detractors for every one fan.

Well, you can count me as one who's been impressed watching Ovechkin ply his trade over the first 13 years of his NHL career.  As the Capitals were plowing their way through the playoffs this year, and it became apparent that they were going to mow down the storybook Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final with relative ease, I decided it was time to make a play for the one card of "The Great 8" that I've always desired.  I have a feeling now that he got the championship monkey off his back, if he continues to score at the rate that he most likely will for the next few seasons his better cards may be unattainable for me years down the line, so I pounced.


Pretty psyched with this solid new addition to my hockey collection.  The 2005-06 Upper Deck flagship set is home to two of the more significant hockey cards of the last couple of decades.  The first, Sidney Crosby's Young Guns RC, remains a pipe dream for me, but it's nice to have finally landed a copy of the other here.

I don't particularly care that the card is graded, but since it's impossible to find these for less than triple digits these days and I was buying online sight unseen I did want to ensure that my copy wasn't going to show up with any surprise "dings" or anything of that nature.

Here's a better look at it.  I don't collect the guy by any means, and honestly with this in hand I don't feel the need to ever acquire another Ovi card again.  Some athletes are just such standouts at their particular sport that I feel compelled to add one awesome card of theirs to my collection even though they don't play for a team I root for or "fit" my collection in any significant way.  This is certainly one such card.

Since PSA-slabbed card backs scan so poorly on my scanner I grabbed this image from the internet.  Little brighter and more contrasted than my scan, but you get the point.

Back to the point about Ovechkin being polarizing, if you know something I don't certainly leave a comment.  As best I can tell his lack of fans compared to his contemporaries like Crosby might be a result of a combination of a variety of factors including the fact that he's from Russia, has been a bit of a show-boater at times (though I question whether he's really any worse than most NHL players these days in that respect), doesn't play good defense, and has never led the Caps to a Cup.

All I know is, the guy can straight up put the puck in the net.  There haven't been many players in the history of the league not named Gretzky, Bossy or Hull who have been able to score as frequently and as consistently as Alex has over the first 13 seasons of his career.  He's already sitting on 607 goals, good for 19th all-time, and at just 32 years old.  Barring a major injury he'll move up another handful of spots on that list next year, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could reach top 5 all-time or even higher!

As far as the defense goes, he'll never win a Selke, but I do have to give the man at least some credit for improvement there.  After all, this past playoff season, where play is so tight and every goal is so huge, Ovechkin recorded 27 points in 24 games and finished a +8.  And he wasn't such a defensive liability that he prevented Washington from winning The Cup.  To the contrary, he was a big part of the reason they finally won, as his Conn Smythe Trophy attests to.

If you're a hockey fan, what's your opinion of Ovechkin?  I'd love to hear from you whether you agree with me or not, after all these types of debates are one of the many things that make sports so great...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Obligatory Topps Red Sox Team Set

In the lone pack of 2018 Topps that I've opened to date I received exactly zero Red Sox.  Especially painful given that it was a 36-card hanger pack.  I figured the annual Red Sox team set that Topps churns out would be a much safer bet to match my particular collecting interests, so one made its way into my basket in a rare retail purchase last time I was at Target.

I'm not going to provide commentary on all of these.  I wish I had time to get into a breakdown of which cards feature different photos than their flagship counterparts, but I don't.  Not this week, and probably not next week either.

Mookie returned to the lineup tonight against the Orioles after a couple weeks on the DL...

Unless I missed something, I haven't heard any news at all about Hanley Ramirez since Boston released him.  I actually thought he was having a decent season and it seemed he was let go as much for contractual reasons as anything, so I figured someone would've scooped him up by now.

Always appreciate a new Xander Bogaerts card!  I just looked it up and apparently I currently have the largest Bogaerts collection on the Trading Card Database (just 68 cards added so far with many more in hand that I need to inventory).

Well, here's something a little different.  I've got quite a few Wally the Green Monster cards at this point, but this is my first "Tessie".  In fact, I don't recall having heard of Tessie before.  Whatever, if it helps get young kids into the game I'm all for it.  Besides, mascot cards are something out of the ordinary if nothing else.

Despite the team's success so far in 2018, the bottom third of the lineup is a train wreck at this point.  Lately it seems like Boston's lucky to have anyone batting over the Mendoza Line in those spots.  Makes you wonder about the Hanley Ramirez departure a bit...

Well, that's a wrap.  Just what I expected.  After getting skunked in that 2018 Topps hanger pack, 17 Red Sox for an even $5 seems like an acceptable deal.  These didn't knock my socks off or anything, but at the same time I bet I'll be grabbing next year's set...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Shoebox Legends' Sunday Smorgasbord

I actually had a decent amount of free time this weekend, but I spent it in the sun on the ocean eating lobster and drinking beer rather than sorting sports cards.  So, in place of anything more structured or well thought out, here's a handful of scans that have been sitting around in my draft folder waiting to see the light of day...

Still loving these '92-93 Ultra buybacks from the 2016-17 Fleer Showcase set.  They're tough little buggers being numbered to just /25 copies each, but I scoop them up any time I can find one I don't have yet for just a buck or two.  I was beyond excited to land this Patrick Poulin, both because it represents a fairly rare new Whalers card (of which there are fewer and fewer these days), and because it contains the infamous gold foil "Rookie" ribbon that I loved as a kid.

Every time I show one of these I'm obliged to mention just how much better the card backs were than 90% of what's being produced even today.

Here's one more, again I obviously targeted this one to increase my serial-numbered Whalers count by one.

This pair brings my total to 9 of these, plus I have 3 of the autographed versions I've shown off, bumping me up to a dozen.  I've got a couple more in queue for future posts, including a pick-up from this past week that hasn't even hit my mailbox yet!

Here's a nice graded '64 Marichal.  Not much of a backstory behind this one, I'm always on the lookout for '50s and '60s stars to strengthen my vintage collection.  Marichal is one of those guys whose cards can be had for surprisingly cheap, as was this case with this well-centered beauty from one of my favorite sets of the decade.

Think I grabbed this one a while back on COMC, just to feed my addiction to these Bubbles Refractors from 2014 Bowman Chrome.  Just 99 copies of each card out there, but they're right up there with the 2011 Topps Chrome Atomic Refractors and the 2014 Finest X-Fractors in terms of my favorite shiny baseball cards to debut since my second swing through the hobby (beginning in 2007).

Ripped another pack of Topps Kids recently from the wax box I picked up a while back.  My favorite two cards in the pack were Roger...

...and this Ozzie Smith.  Of the handful of different designs in this release, the ones that feature the photograph of the players head paired with a cartoon body and backdrop are my favorite.  Sort of a nod to the 1938 Goudey set, I guess.

Can't show Topps Kids cards without showing a back!

Why did I buy mid-grade copies of 1954 Topps Mel Parnell...

...and Johnny Sain cards?  I'm not really sure to be completely honest with you, but I guess I'll keep these around for now in case I ever decide to chase the set later in life.

Next up, a pair of legends from COMC.  First, this one-per-box Yellow parallel from 2009-10 Champ's hockey.  If you've been following my blog for some time then odds are you've seen these before.  Chasing this 100-card parallel set seems like a fool's errand, but it's one I've been chipping away at nonetheless for close to ten years now.  Howe is obviously one of the biggest names on the checklist, being one of the biggest names in the history of the sport period, so crossing this one off the list feels good.  53 out of 100 now in hand!

Here's a recent addition that showed up in my last shipment.  I've mentioned before that I'd love to collect the entire 100-card 2014 Finest set in X-Fractor form and display them all in a binder.  When I had an opportunity to snag future HOFer Albert Pujols for less than a dollar I pounced.  This is my 10th X-Fractor, so still a long way to go in this pursuit.

Lastly, how about a couple of oddballs from the 1988 Classic Red/Blue set?  I grabbed an entire set of these for cheap coin at my local shop years ago.  Cracked them open and a bunch got sent out in trade, but I kept a few select cards for myself including Bo Jackson...

...and the late great Tony Gwynn!

Well, that's a wrap.  Pretty good sampling of just how all-over-the-map I am with my collecting.  Hopefully you saw at least one card you found interesting, thanks for stopping by!
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