Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Top 19 of 2019!

2019 was my 12th full year of operating this blog, and once again I was fortunate enough to acquire many great cards and enjoy many great experiences within our community over the past 12 months.

I've gotten in the habit over the last few years of using the final post in each calendar year to look back at some of the best cards to debut on the blog the year prior.  This year I've painstakingly reviewed over 200 posts, and culled what I feel are the best 19 cards to debut on Shoebox Legends in 2019.

As I've done in years' past, each description below the scan is a hyperlink that you can click to visit the original post, in case you missed it the first time around and want to give it a read.

Alright, let's get to it, the Top 19 of 2019...

I made a lot of progress fleshing out my Cal Ripken Jr. collection this year, so it's fitting that he leads off the proceedings here.  I had just turned an impressionable 13 years old when Cal broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak, so it's easy to see why he was a boyhood hero of mine.  Very satisfying to score this Donruss rookie, an essential card for any serious Ripken collection if you ask me.

1989-90 Topps/O-Pee-Chee hockey were the first hockey cards I ever collected, and the first sports cards I ever collected, period.  I have so many fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table ripping packs with my two brothers, and trading and sorting our cards into our 3-ring binders.  I long ago completed the Topps and O-Pee-Chee sets from this year, and even have my original binder of childhood cards intact as well.

In recent years though I've begun picking up some autographed cards from these releases as a fun way to sort of collect them all over again.  This past year the biggest name I checked off this list was Theo Fleury.  Man, this one brings back some memories!

Yep, a card that doesn't feature a baseball or hockey player actually made the countdown this year!  While those two sports remain my primary collecting focus, I have opened up to looking at acquiring certain select, iconic cards from the basketball and football realm.  This totally awesome Wilt Chamberlain was the big acquisition for me on that front in 2019, funded by the sale of a graded 1971 Topps Hank Aaron.  Arguably the greatest basketball card in my collection, though to be fair I have less than three dozen total.

Here's a fun one!  Not many folks seem to recall these Rink Rat promo cards issued by Pro Set to members of their Rink Rat fan club.  My brothers and I were card-carrying members of the club, and I recall having this card as a kid.  Unfortunately my original copy was lost to time, and they're not all that easy to come across these days.  It could take many months or more to find a reasonably priced copy in my experience.  This one made it as high as #16 on the countdown based on pure nostalgia alone!

One of the greatest players of all-time.  One of my personal favorite players of all-time.  One of my personal favorite sets of all-time.  Not much more needs to be said here.  Also, you'll notice that vintage baseball all but dominates the countdown from here on out.  Not a bad thing if you ask me!

One of the most fun projects I started up this past year would have to be my "Cardboard Keepers" virtual collections.  It's been fun trying to identify my top 1,000 baseball and top 1,000 non-baseball cards across my entire collection.  I inducted a set of three of my oldest Yaz cards into the baseball collection earlier this year.  I could really have chosen any of the three for this countdown, but went with this '63 Topps issue.  Still my oldest Yastrzemski card to date.

I used part of an Amex gift card I got through work to purchase this Mathew Barzal Young Guns Canvas rookie card early in the year.  I truly think he's one of the best players in the league already at 22 years of age, and seems like a true leader who is going to continue to dominate the game for many years to come.

Barzal has continued to play impressively in the time since I acquired this one, and will soon be crossing the 200 career point plateau.  I have a feeling that many years from now I'll be glad that I picked up a copy of this card when I did.

Over the summer I went through a short Helmar craze.  I just think these custom cards are really beautiful works of art.  I have a few that I've yet to post still, but of those that I showed off during the last calendar year this T206-inspired Casey Stengel is my overall favorite.  I really adore this one.  If you think the front is cool...

...how about that back?  "Rough on Rats", just hilarious!  A lot of love went into making this custom card, and if you ask me it's easily deserving of a spot in this countdown.

I made great progress collecting Hammerin' Hank in 2019, picking up a few of his vintage Topps cards.  Like the Wilt Chamberlain above, this one was acquired with the funds from selling a graded 1971 Aaron.  I've always enjoyed the classic pose on Hank's 1962 issue, and was able to bring this beautiful copy home for a very reasonable price thanks to its questionably low grade of "VG-3".  This isn't the first, or the last, appearance on this list for Hank!

In the early part of the year I got on a good run of landing some key 1964 Topps cards.  It's one of the better designs of the decade as far as I'm concerned, and I just made it my mission to secure a few HOFers from the checklist.  This card was doubly cool in that it represents my first proper vintage Koufax Topps card from any release.  I can't believe it took me so long, especially given that I secured this one for less than $20 shipped if you can believe that!

I didn't feature as many autographed cards on the blog here in 2019 as I have in years' past.  My football card project dominated Sunday posts for the last quarter of the year or more, limiting my chances at Signature Sunday posts.  In addition to that I really seemed to gravitate towards vintage baseball above all other cards.

Of the autographs that I did post in 2019 though, this Mike Modano stands above all the others.  I'm a bit obsessed with these Fleer Ultra buybacks from 2016-17 Fleer Showcase as it is, and Modano is a player I had never managed to acquire a signature from at any point in my collecting history.  Feels great to obtain an autograph of the most successful American-born player in NHL history!

It would make me extremely happy as a collector if I could manage to one day own the entire run of Clemente flagship Topps cards from his playing days.  I'm a long way from getting there with 19 of them in total, but I did cross a single one off the list this year with this 1961 issue.  This is yet another card that I managed to snag in the pretty incredible flipping of my '71 Topps Hank Aaron.  I love the stoic pose from one of the game's truly good guys.

Alright, we're getting to the point here where I could make an argument for really any of the remaining cards to be my card of the year.  I've wanted the iconic 1964 Topps Pete Rose featuring the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy since I was just a kid.

Early in the year, a poorly listed eBay auction (no mention of the words 'Topps' or 'PSA' in the auction at all) allowed me to snag this copy for $30 and change.  Even better, I had $15 in eBay bucks to apply, which meant this card shipped to my door for less than $20.  Unreal!

As a collector of 1990s hockey cards, one of my absolute favorite releases was 1995-96 Topps Finest.  The Refractors in particular were (and still are) very valuable, tough pulls.  The Gold Refractors were especially insane.  I could collect Gretzky for the next 30 years and this still might end up being the best Gretzky-on-the-Blues card in my collection.  A sneaky tough card of the greatest player ever to lace up skates.

The third and final Hank Aaron card to make the list is also my oldest Aaron to date, his 1958 Topps card.  Used the same batch of gift cards that I received for a work anniversary to bring this one home to the collection.  I've still got a long way to go with acquiring Hank Aaron cards, but it's nice to put a single notch in my belt from the '50s anyway.  I'd love nothing more than to be able to feature another one in next years "Top 20 of 2020" countdown!

Late in 2018 I picked up my very first playing-era Topps Mickey Mantle card proper with his 1966 release.  I was so pleased with the card that I vowed I would absolutely pick up one or two more Mantles in 2019, and I'm happy to say that I achieved that goal.  One of my big hobby goals heading into the new year is to keep my momentum going and pick up a '50s Mantle.  Fingers crossed!

If you asked me as a kid to make a list of 20 dream cards that I'd love to someday own, a 1971 Topps Nolan Ryan would have absolutely been on it.  The image of Nolan about to deliver a pitch in front of that Royal Crown cola ad is pretty iconic in the world of baseball card collecting.  Acquired earlier in the year, this one kind of got me on a tear of adding 1971 Topps HOFers to my collection.

Later in the year I picked up and showed off Frank Robinson's card from the set on the blog, though it didn't quite make the cut for this countdown.  I've got a few more teed up for 2020 as well, and it all started with this sweet Texas Express!

The runner-up for card of the year is the other new Mickey Mantle I scored over the previous 12 months.  A real beaut', and the third 1964 Topps card to make this list, joining Koufax and Pete Rose.  Of the three playing-era Mantle cards that I won so far this one is my favorite, because of the stoic pose and because 1964 Topps is one of my all-time favorite sets.  I'm still in awe that this card calls my collection home, quite honestly.

And now, my personal favorite card featured on the blog in 2019...

...drum-roll please...


Oh yeah, it's the 1958 Topps Ted Williams so graciously gifted to me by Billy Kingsley of Cardboard History!  Easily one of the greatest single cards I've ever received in a trade package, and it came completely out of the blue and by surprise.  It's the greatest of many, many examples of the generosity and kindness that I experienced from across the sports card collecting community in 2019.

It's a fitting card to be selected my card of the year as well, as I want to take this moment to say thank you to all those in this community that read this blog, trade with me, write their own blogs, comment on others' blogs, or in any way make a positive contribution to this hobby of ours.  Collecting would be a whole lot less fun if we each did it in a vacuum without the support and appreciation of the community at large.

Thank you to all of you for another great year in 2019!  I've got a ton of great cardboard to feature and a lot of new content planned for 2020, hoping to make it the best year in the history of this blog.  I hope you'll join me for the ride!

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 "Deleted Scenes"

Movie collectors are well aware of the special edition versions of films that are released containing deleted scenes and other bonus features.  Well, think of this post as the cardboard equivalent of that, as what you're about to see are a whole smattering of scans from my drafts folder that never saw the light of day on the blog over the past year.

Rather than carry the mess over into 2020, I jammed them all into a single post here so that I can start the year with a relatively clean slate.  Let's take a look at the misfits...

I've mentioned my love of the Star Wars Tek cards numerous times here on the blog.  One of my favorite obscure characters from the Star Wars universe is Admiral Ackbar, probably from watching Return of the Jedi around a hundred times as a kid, so I was helpless in the face of this Gold parallel (#'d /50) from the 2016 release.  Was bummed the way they unceremoniously killed this guy off in The Last Jedi, but cool card nonetheless.

I don't post much about it, since soccer posts seem to draw little interest, but I've been enjoying Premier League Soccer again this year.  It's been an especially fun ride given that my favorite club, Liverpool, has been dominating, and appears ready to claim its first league championship since I started watching the sport devotedly around 8 or 9 years ago.

I picked up this Premier League Topps NOW card off of eBay a long while back because it was cheap, and because I thought it was interesting to have a Topps NOW card of my favorite soccer club.  That's about the extent of the story behind this one, which is why it never seemed to merit its own dedicated post.

A '64 Walt Alston, in beautiful shape, plucked from a 50 cent bin.  I made some huge additions to my 1964 Topps collection this past year, so it's fitting to squeeze in one more late here.

I was a kid collector from the early through mid-'90s, so I have a soft spot for all the crazy, gaudy releases that were sprung upon collectors during this time.  For example, I immediately plopped this Topps DIII Bagwell insert into my pile when I ran across it in a quarter box.  Just awesome; I'd love to find the rest of these at some point.

I honestly don't recall where this one came from, but I still hang onto cards of the great Eric Lindros.  In fact, I've yet to feature my single greatest Lindros card on the blog, something I'll have to try to remedy in 2020.

There are few sets, especially in my recent years of slimming down my collection size, where I'll hang onto any card regardless of the player depicted.  The Traxx parallels from the inaugural O-Pee-Chee Platinum release are one such example.

Trying to recall where this one came from.  If memory serves, I think I picked up a single pack of Topps Rogue One a while back and this insert was the only card I liked enough to hang onto.

Let's switch over to hockey now, with an absolutely fantastic photograph courtesy of 1992-93 Score.  This is perfection.  Quite possibly my favorite card in the entire set, and one of the best shots of Lord Stanley's Cup in my collection.

One of my favorite sets to collect as a kid was 1991-92 Score.  These packs were just so fun to open because you were virtually guaranteed to get good star power every time.  That's because in addition to all the superstars in the base set...

...this release had the endless subsets that Score was known for at the time.  Like The Franchise...

...trophy winners...

...more obscure subsets like Crunch Crew...

...and of course statistical leaders.  All of these provided opportunities to land additional cards of star players.  I'll grant you that some of what Score included looks a little dated decades later, but this set was a ton of fun!  Enough so that I still enjoy opening an odd pack or two (and believe me, they're everywhere still) to this day.

I mentioned before that at one point I opened a box of this 1995-96 Leaf set.  Was at least ten years ago, or even longer, not long after returning to collecting as an adult.  Most of the contents got shipped off to Billy Kingsley in the past year or so, but I held on to a copy of each Whalers card, as well as Super Mario...

...and The Great One.  Two of the best all-time, and certainly two of the best from the era I grew up in, so I'm always happy to acquire new cards of either of these guys.

I also kept this Studio Gold insert from the box, just because I've always thought these credit card-themed inserts were a fun concept.

Next up, a trio of keepers from the 1991-92 Pro Set junk wax special.  This was a fun set too, though I have to give the edge to Score I think.  Still, it's hard to beat the image on this Terry Sawchuk.  Brilliance, especially for 1991!

A couple of things to note about this Gretzky.  First, he's facing off against the Hartford Whalers here.  Secondly, I sent a copy of this card off to be autographed by Wayne as a kid, and actually received it back.  Now, I don't know if Wayne signed it himself, if an assistant did it, or even if my parents sent me a fake one in an elaborate farce.  All I know is I still have the card to this day, and it's a fun story.

Last of the '91-92 Pro Set cards, just because Fedorov was an absolute favorite of mine for many years.  He's a fun guy to passively collect too, since his prime years came when there were just so many cards being released.  Aside from Wayne Gretzky, he's the only hockey player that I currently have 100+ cards of in my collection on The Trading Card Database (though a few others will be joining those ranks any day now).

Ouch, this one would have been a lot cooler to post a couple of months back.  Sort of rough the way it ended for Don.  I can't say I was all that shocked, though.  Regardless of what you think about the man, this is easily the best suit pictured on any card in my collection I think.

Let's close it out with some baseball.  This one was plucked from a 50 cent bin for the sole reason that I had no 1977 Topps Cloth Stickers prior to this.

I love 1973 Topps.  Even did an entire Buyback Franken-set post in tribute to the set recently.  If I didn't have so many other hobby projects ongoing I'd take a crack at it.  Maybe someday.  I won't need this NL Playoffs card when I do!

From the same 50 cent box as the Bill Madlock, I snagged two Rod Carew Kellogg's cards.  His 1979 release...

...and the 1980 version as well.  This one is actually the final card in the 60-card checklist.

 Lastly, a pair of inserts from a set that is an absolute home run for Red Sox fans; Fleer's 2001 Red Sox 100th Anniversary.  I really, really should make an effort to prioritize knocking this one off in the coming year, as it does a great job portraying the long history of my favorite franchise.

For now, these two Yawkey's Heroes inserts at least get me a couple of cards closer.

I hope you enjoyed this random smattering of cardboard.  Check back tomorrow for a much more organized countdown of the best cards of the year!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Football Card Project - Game 16 - The Finale!

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

Today's post marks the final regular season game for New England, and thus the finale of this particular football card project.  The Dolphins are in town for a 1pm kick-off, and for the second time this year I'll be catching the game in person as I managed to score some tickets for my wife and I.  This will be my first and only trip to Gillette Stadium this season, as the earlier game we caught in person was on the road against the Redskins in Landover, MD.  Looking forward to having some drinks and good food while I take in a game on this relatively mild New England winter day!

Let's take a look at the football card for the project this week...

I thought this 1971 AFC Passing Leaders card from 1972 Topps was a nice way to wind down this project, since it so prominently features quarterback Bob Griese of the Dolphins.  Miami went 10-3-1 in 1971 en route to an AFC Championship, but ultimately lost to Dallas in the Super Bowl.

Here's a look at the top 10 passers in the AFC in '71.  I have to be honest and say the only names I recognize are Griese, Jim Plunkett of the Pats, Terry Bradshaw and Johnny Unitas.

This concludes my 2019 Football Card Project.  As a quick recap, here are the 16 new football cards I ended up with as a result of this initiative...

I had a lot of fun learning more about the game and at least adding a few football cards to my collection, which now stands at just 41 total cards (one of which features guitarist Tom Morello, another of which features an airplane, but they're both technically from football card sets).

I like having some football represented in my collection, but I also like that it's a very elite club and I plan to keep it that way.  I don't see myself doing this series again next year, though it did turn me onto a couple of vintage sets that I enjoy and will keep an eye out for singles from going forward.

To everyone who tuned in to these posts over the course of the NFL season, thank you!  With my Sundays now freed up as far as this blog goes, I'll be returning to Signature Sundays autograph posts for 2020.  I've got some whoppers to show off in the coming year too, so check back on Sundays if you're a fan of autographed cardboard!
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