Monday, September 30, 2019

Chasing Sharks - My Favorite Allen & Ginter Mini Insert

I'm away on Cape Cod this weekend getting some badly needed R & R before a major work project kicks up for a few weeks.  If all has gone according to plan I'm aboard a small center-console boat right now, with an airplane spotter, chasing Great White sharks around the Cape!  Yes, for real.

Seemed like an opportune time to schedule a post highlighting my all-time favorite Allen & Ginter mini insert set.  From 2008 Allen & Ginter, I present The World's Deadliest Sharks!

Done in the same style as the standard Allen & Ginter minis from 2008, this 5-card set pays homage to some of the top predators in the ocean.  Of course, the infamous Great White leads off the checklist.  I've been simultaneously terrified and fascinated by these deadly fish since I was a child, and it's pretty great to have them represented in cardboard format in my collection.

Here's a look at the back, which is essentially just a checklist for the five sharks in the set.  Because of that, I won't bother with a scan of the back for all five of these here.

As with the baseball set that these were inserted in, I like that the border-less design really let's the image itself be the star of the show.

These were very tough pulls back in 2008 when the Allen & Ginter set hit shelves.  I pulled this Bull Shark card from a pack back in 2009, and have since added the others individually to complete the set (with the final piece coming back in 2017).

Just how rare are these?  Well, I can't find stated odds anywhere for pulling these, but prices on the secondary market indicate they're scarce and in demand more than a decade after release.  I don't see even one complete 5-card set available on eBay, and picking up each of them at current asking prices on COMC would set you back more than $35 in total.

So there you have it, 2008 Allen & Ginter's The World's Deadliest Sharks!  My favorite A & G mini set to date, and a cool little niche piece in my collection overall.

What's your favorite A & G mini insert set to date?  Have you completed it, and if so was it a bear?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

I'll be back later this week with more content, assuming I didn't fall off the boat!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Football Card Experiment - Game 4 - Boy I Love Losing Superbowls

In an attempt to increase the size of my very small football card collection, I'm picking up and featuring one new card for each of the Patriots' 16 regular season games this year.

Week 4 action sees New England traveling to Buffalo to take on the Bills, and I've fittingly picked up a Bills card to commemorate the occasion.  From the 1960 Fleer set, here's halfback Willie Evans...

I picked this one out because my limited interest in football cards is primarily with vintage, but I have to say in retrospect that 1960 Fleer is one of the duller designs I've encountered to date.  I get that the green element containing the player name and position is supposed to represent a small field (see the goal-posts at the back, over Willie's right ankle?).  To me though, it ends up looking just like a white card with two large color splotches and a cropped photo super-imposed over the top.  Topps had a much better design in 1960 in my opinion, but you can judge for yourself when I feature one later this season.

As for the player, Willie Evans may not be a household name among today's NFL fans, but I"m betting he's still well-known in Buffalo.  Born and raised there, he moved onto a 30+ year teaching career in the city after hanging up the spikes.  He's spend his entire life in Buffalo, before passing away at age 79 back in 2017.  I didn't know any of this when I picked this card out, but it makes me feel like this was a great pick-up for this project.

I was a little harsh in my critique of the design on the front of the card, but the back isn't so bad.  The color scheme reminds me of one of my absolute favorite sets ever, 1953 Topps.  I like the card numbering element of the football spinning through the uprights as well, pretty creative.  This is much easier on the eyes than a lot of modern card backs I've come across.

That's all for this week.  I feel like I'm saying this every week, but this sure has been a fun experiment one quarter of the way through the season here.  I'm actually really looking forward to featuring another dozen pieces of football cardboard here before the season's end.

Thanks as always for stopping by, and enjoy the NFL action today football fans!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Keepers! Brass Bonanza

Time for the next installment of Keepers, a thought experiment in which I theoretically whittle my entire collection down to just 2,000 cards; 1,000 baseball keepers, and 1,000 "other" keepers.

Today we add a whopping ten cards to the other keepers collection, with these ten being among the greatest cards in my Hartford Whalers collection...

I've been a fan of the Whalers since attending their games and their summer hockey camps as a kid.  My brothers and I tuned into every broadcast we could catch, and were faithful members of the "Junior Whalers" club for many years.  To this day, I don't think there's anything on the hockey side of collecting that gives me more joy than picking up new Whalers cards.

Well, back during the 2010-11 season Panini included a ten card autograph set called Brass Bonanza (the name of the unforgettable theme song for the team) in their ultra high-end Dominion release that paid homage to the boys in green and blue.  The design was really striking and, as you can see with the Bobby Hull card above, each card featured a bold, blue on-card autograph.

This Whalers fan and hockey card collector in me was hooked, and I knew right away that I had to make every reasonable effort to complete the set.  It was quite a challenge, with the cards serial-numbered to just /50.  On top of that, the first two cards in the set, Bobby Hull and Brendan Shanahan, were short-printed and numbered to just /24!

After many watched auctions and failed bids, I was finally able to complete my set, and boy did it feel good.

The player selection was somewhat random, with the first three guys being players who weren't in town all that long.

The rest of the checklist contains more familiar faces that the fans knew and loved for many years.

With one notable exception, that is!

Panini did a great job of selecting some of the better players on the team from across the couple of decades that they existed, and as a result there's a good variety of different uniform styles depicted among the small set.

Even tough guy and penalty minute accumulator Tiger Williams made the cut.

As for goaltenders, Sean Burke or Peter Sidorkiewicz may have been more fitting, but Panini apparently had access to Daryl Reaugh so here we are.  I'll take it!

This might be my favorite among my many Ron Francis autographs.  I honestly don't have anything negative to say about the design here at all.  These really feel like they're from a high-end release, and they're significantly thick and heavy, too.

Completing this insert set was a challenge that took many months, and the end result was quite possibly the absolute pinnacle of my ever-expanding Whalers collection.  When I conceived of this keepers idea, I knew this grouping needed to be among the first cards to make the cut for the non-baseball album.

The "other keepers" collection is up to a full 14 cards now, and can be viewed here.  I've still got a long way to go, 986 non-baseball cards remaining to be exact.  I'll be back soon with the next batch, but until then thanks as always for stopping by!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Moldy Oldies

Happy Friday everyone!  We've waved goodbye to summer, yet as the 2019 Major League Baseball season comes to a close I still find myself focusing more and more on 1950s baseball with respect to my collecting.  Along those lines, I've got a trio of over-sized trios representing three '50s sets to share with you today...

First up, 1954 Bowman.  While I don't prize the over-sized 1953-1955 Bowman sets as much as I do their 1950-1952 predecessors, they're still quite striking as far as vintage cards go.  Thanks to a small surface crease you can see going across Tom's right arm at the elbow, I was able to reel this one in without having to pay the "Yankee tax" you so often run into on vintage.

Toby Atwell of the Pittsburgh Pirates has a much larger crease right across the center of the card.  Hey, what do you expect from a set that officially hit retirement age in 2019!  All I care about as far as cards from this era is that they look appealing overall.  Aside from that I'm happy to overlook a few perceived "flaws".

Last, but certainly not least, 1948 Rookie of the Year Alvin Dark!  This one's got some issues along the lower edge, but meets the same criteria as its comrades above.  I think this one might be my favorite among today's trio of '54 Bowmans.

Without trying all that hard, and mostly through picking up sub-$1 cards like these from COMC over the years, I'm up to more than a couple dozen from this set now.  In fact, I'm just past the 1/8th complete mark.  This one's not high on the list of sets I aspire to finish one day, but that feels significant nonetheless.

Next we turn to a set that is relatively high on the list of sets I'd like to knock off someday, 1955 Topps.  I bought a lot of around 25 or so commons from this set shortly after returning to collecting back in 2007, but then all but ignored the release for many years.  In the past year or so it came back on my radar, and I've been making big strides by grabbing really cheap singles on the regular.

The three new ones I'm featuring today bring me up to 49 cards from this release now!  With just 206 cards in this small set, I'm just one more trio away from crossing the 25% complete mark.  True, there is not one single HOFer or really big star among that grouping of 49, but you have to start somewhere and the approach I've been taking with this one is to nab the low-hanging fruit first.

Frank Sullivan doubles as not only my 49th '55 Topps card, but a great addition to my Red Sox collection as well.  I think if I can keep going like this I'll pick up some of those 8-pocket sheets for these once I get a little closer to the 50% mark, which likely won't be for a year or two anyway.

Love the cartoon spitball on the back of this one!

The final set I have to feature here today is the sister set to '55 Topps, 1956.  I like this release every bit as much as the '55 set, but chose to focus on '55 first because I have a larger grouping of them, and because the checklist is significantly smaller.

That doesn't mean I don't keep my eyes peeled for bargain placeholder cards for my eventual run at '56 though, like this Dale Long which cost me all of 75 cents.

Jim King here was had from the same seller, and for the same price.  Two notches in my '56 belt for a combined $1.50 is a great deal if you ask me.

And we'll close it out for today with New York Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez.  This one's in the finest shape of today's trio of '56s, with just a crease in the lower right corner standing between it and near mint status.

These nine pick-ups are pretty representative of what I've been chasing on the whole as of late.  Who knows, with hockey season and winter right around the corner my tastes could change at any point, but at this moment there's no more satisfying way to spend my hobby funds than on '50 greatness like these singles.

Thanks as always for stopping by!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Ultra Retro

Back during the 2012-13 season, Upper Deck included a 25-card insert set in their Fleer Retro release that payed homage to 1992-93 Fleer Ultra.  Those early '90s Ultra releases have held up well in terms of design over the years, and are a favorite of many collectors of that decade to this day, myself included.

I have the entire insert set, and figured it would be fun to feature them in a post where we see where these guys are at seven years later.  Here we go...

Ryan Getzlaf has spent his entire NHL career with the Ducks, and is signed with them through the 2021-22 season.  Last year was an off-year for Ryan as far as personal stats go, but the team overall had a poor season to be fair.

I won't show the backs for all of these, but here's one so that you get the idea.  Pretty faithful to the set that inspired it, same as the fronts.

Patrice Bergeron has continued to be an absolute stud two-way, number one center in Boston.  Led the team all the way to a crushing Game 7 home loss in the Stanley Cup Finals this past summer.  Like a fine wine, he seems to be improving with age, and set career highs in both assists and points last year in his age 33 season, despite missing significant time.  Already a lock for the HOF.

Tyler Seguin was infamously shipped out of town to Dallas a few years back.  Despite playing just about point-per-game hockey with the Stars, the team has been unable to find much post-season success in Tyler's time there.

Jeff Skinner settled right in and breathed new life into the Sabres franchise after a long run in Carolina, netting 40 goals for the first time in his career last year for Buffalo.

Another guy who had a career year last year, Jonathan Toews appeared in all 82 games for Chicago and set new best marks in goals, assists and points!

Ditto for his teammate Patrick Kane.  While the Blackhawks disappointed on the whole last year, Kane blazed his way to an impressive 110-point effort, the high water mark for his career to date as well.

Gabriel Landeskog achieved career highs in goals, assists and points last year also.  This is getting to be a theme!

The only player in the set who did not appear in the NHL last season, having taken his talents to Russia following the 2015-16 season.

Now with the New York Islanders...

Still with the Oilers, playing second fiddle to Connor McDavid at center.  Set career highs in goals, assists and points last year.

Taylor Hall, draft-mate of Tyler Seguin, is now with the Devils.  After winning the Hart Trophy in 2017-18, he disappointingly missed a huge chunk of time due to injury last year.

Still with the Kings, and signed through what will be his age 34 season in 2020-21...

The Canadiens have locked up their number one netminder all the way through 2025-26, which will be Carey's age 38 season.  Yikes!

This is interesting, here's the player who went to Edmonton in the trade that brought Taylor Hall to New Jersey.  He's also probably the least-known player in this set.  He was taken #4 overall in the 2011 entry draft, so it makes some sense for Larsson to be included here.  Still, he finished last season a -28 with Edmonton, ouch...

You'd have to be living under a rock to have missed the fact that Tavares is playing north of the border with the Leafs now.  Despite being a Bruins fan, Toronto is a team I'm highly interested in watching this coming season.

Nashville's stalwart between the pipes for well over a decade now.  Vezina winner and generally recognized as one of the top netminders in the league year after year.

Now with the Sharks!

Zach Parise is still with the Wild, after spending the first few years of his NHL career with New Jersey.  A really good 2019-20 season could see him top the 400 career goal and 400 career assist plateaus.

Claude Giroux was one of my favorite players in the league for years after he first debuted.  He's been able to stay remarkably healthy, and has already racked up 762 career points entering his age 32 season here...

Malkin hasn't been nearly as healthy, missing at least a handful of games or more per year every season for the past decade now.  Nonetheless, he'll be joining the 400-goal club early in the 2019-20 season here, and has already surpassed 1,000 career points.

Now with the Vegas Golden Knights!

Not much introduction needed here, arguably the most well-known hockey player of the 21st century?  Certainly top three anyway...

Like Patrice Bergeron, Steven Stamkos started his career as a full-time NHL player at age 18.  Feels like he's been around forever already, but the coming season is still just his age 29 season.  Amazingly, despite four 90-point campaigns, including a 98-point effort last year, he has yet to top 100 points in any one season to date.  Future HOFer, assuming he doesn't nosedive statistically over these next few seasons.

Dion Phaneuf is the only other player in the set (Pavel Datsyuk) who may have skated in his final NHL game.  We're just days away from the start of the NHL season, and as far as I know he's still a free agent at the time of this post.

We'll close it out with the best pure goal-scoring sniper in the last couple of decades, and one of the best ever.  Now that he's got a championship under his belt, it will be even more enjoyable to see just how far Alex can climb in the all-time goal scoring ranks before he hangs up the skates.  It's not impossible that with the right amount of luck he could challenge Gretzky's record, which was almost unthinkable even five or ten years ago.

Well, that's a wrap for today.  I hope you enjoyed this look back at an interesting insert set inspired by the junk wax era of my youth.  NHL hockey is right around the corner, and I can't wait.

Thanks as always for stopping by!
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