Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Blaster of Opening Day on Opening Day

I bought this when I picked up the two hanger boxes of Heritage a week or so back. I probably should've used better judgement and gotten a third box of Heritage for the same price but oh well. Since today is Opening Day, and the Reds Opening Day game got postponed until tomorrow for the first time since 1966 due to rain what better time that now to rip into this.

Keeping with my tradition this year, here's the first card from the first pack I opened. Not a bad start and I noticed the "future stars" heading is gone from the card.

Here's some cards of a few players I don't remember pulling cards for when I binged on Series 1. I really like the Alex Bregman card with the daylight and the orange uniform. It makes me long for nice spring and summer days where I can leave the snow and the cold behind.

A couple cool horizontal cards. Love the Green Monster in the background of the David Price card.

I got exactly one blue parallel, that being of Whit Merrifield. 

The Opening Day set is more based around inserts than anything else. Out of the eleven packs, four held these "Team Traditions and Celebrations" cards. I got the vaunted "The Freeze" card

I really like these team Opening Day inserts and the pictures are just amazing.

I guess these are supposed to be what players are up to in Spring Training? 

But here's my favorite thing of the Opening Day cards ... mascots!!! And I got three good ones, the Phillie Phanatic, the Rally Monkey, and our hometown mascot Mr. Redlegs.

As I mentioned though at the beginning, I think this ten dollar could've been better spent elsewhere, for example another hanger box of Heritage or a couple Gypsy Queen hanger packs. Oh well, lesson learned I suppose. Now, back to watching baseball that matters!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Chasing Down Heritage

I have a love/hate relationship with Topps Heritage. I love it because it's a fun set with classic designs and fun inserts. I hate it because it's always so blasted hard to find, especially when there's a hot rookie like Aaron Judge last year or Shohei Otani this year. Sure, I could go the easy route and go to the card shop and pay $4.79 a pack or I could just check out Target to see what they have. I chose Target (but I did stop at the card shop for an unrelated matter and bought some Donruss packs, more on those to come in a future post).

Since we were out and about by the local mega-mall, we had to stop at Target next door to it while we were there anyway. I peeked at the card section. Nothing, zilch, zero in the way of Heritage. As fate would have it, though, we actually had to stop at our local Target on the way home to pick-up an online order that was ready sooner than expected. Before picking up the order, I just had to look at the cards. They had a huge display of Heritage hanger boxes, but no loose packs or blasters. I bought two hanger boxes (as two of those pretty much equates to a blaster in terms of quantity and price) along with a blaster of Opening Day.

My first Heritage card of the year, Jean Segura of the Seattle Mariners. I'm making it a point to show off the first card of every 2018 product I open, be it baseball or otherwise, so I can do a fun little 2018 wrap-up post with them at the end of the year (that's if I remember to do so). Anyway, I like these cards ... a lot. The pictures are nice and crisp, it's a fun design just like the 1969 set, and the backs are super fun too. I'm definitely going to get more of this as I see fit.

Here's a pair of Dodgers pitchers that I know Night Owl is probably fond of. I think my first Maeda card from last year came from Heritage as well. 

Here's a trio of players I tend to enjoy collecting. The Carlos Beltran card is a nice sunset card as I don't think he had a card in Series 1, but I could be wrong. Alonso is a former Reds prospect who's finally broken out and shown the power that everyone knew he had. This past offseason, he signed with Cleveland and joined Edwin Encarnacion to form a nice power hitting duo up on the shores of Lake Erie.

Two of the biggest names in the game and the Giancarlo Stanton Yankees card that everyone is talking about. I found this to be a bit interesting as well and I'll explain why shortly.

Four Reds cards between the two boxes. Iggy's glove looks bigger than it should be.

I like this card simply because of the colorfulness of the Washington uniform. I've found that most of the uniforms featured on these cards are the regular home whites, not that that's a bad thing, so when an alternate top sneaks in, it's a welcome sight.

Each hanger box also provided one short print card. I think Kenley Jansen was a short print last year as well. I checked the microscopic code numbers on the backs of the cards as well and I didn't get any action variations, color swaps, or anything like that. 

I was absolutely thrilled when I saw these checklists because, honestly, when was the last time you saw an honest, old-school style checklist? These are just things of beauty.

Of course, there are the multi-player rookie cards. I find it curious that Topps gave Rafael Devers the rookie cup and stuffed it onto a multi-player card. Why not just give him a card all to himself with the rookie cup?

I always like the flashbacks inserts in Heritage, both the baseball and the news ones. The New Age Performers inserts never really did much for me, but this year's design is kind of fun and funky.

Remember what I mentioned earlier about the Yankees Stanton card being a curiosity? Well, here's my point. The All-Star card shown here of Stanton uses the exact same picture (minus the airbrushed uniform) and proclaims him as a Marlin, not a Yankee. While I see the point to doing this because it's an All-Star card, Topps maybe should have tried to keep him listed with one team or the other.

This picture is the stack of cards that came out of the second hanger box, and look, what's that I spy in the middle there?

Why it's a Giancarlo Stanton relic card! Again, as with the All-Star card, this card proclaims him as a member of the Marlins and we have the exact same photo as the base card. Hey, I'm not complaining. It's a hit from a retail hanger box and I never ... repeat, never ... have that kind of luck and if I do, it's usually not a name of this caliber.

So, overall, do I like 2018 Topps Heritage? Yes. As with any product, there's good and there's bad but so far, I haven't really found much to complain about. The 1969 design is a fun design, the pictures are much better and don't look as grainy as some past issues, and there are full-fledged, honest-to-God checklists! So far, this is my favorite product of the year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

You've Got Mail #82: $30 A Week Habit

One of the best things about blogging about cards is initiating trades with new trade partners. That's just what I did a while back when Robert over at $30 a Week Habit offered up an extra 1983-84 O-Pee Chee Wayne Gretzky card for anyone who wanted it.

Here's the card in question that initiated this whole deal. I must say, I'm pretty happy to have a Gretzky Oilers card in my possession now and it's a really nice card as well. Of course, as with most any trade, there was more than included than just the one card I requested.

Robert also made a severe dent in my Joe Sakic collection. So much, in fact, that Sakic card comprised most of the package itself. A "sack of Sakics" if you will. Most modern fans associate Sakic with the Avalanche but tend to forget he played with the franchise in Quebec as well. Cards featuring him as a member of the Nordiques are some of my favorites. I always used to play as Sakic and the Nordiques when I rented NHL '94 from the video store as a kid.

More Sakic cards, this time of the Avalanche variety. The Avs were a real threat back in the day with Sakic as captain, Patrick Roy in goal, and players like Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote roaming the ice. They were so good, that they only missed the playoffs three times in a 17 season stretch from 1992-93 as the Nordiques all the way up to the 2009-10 season and won the Stanley Cup twice in that stretch.

Hockey cards weren't the only thing Robert threw in as there were a few Reds cards tossed in as well, including my first card of young fireballer Luis Castillo. The "blockbusters" card commemorates the trade the Reds made to get Ken Griffey Jr. I still remember when that trade happened. Everyone thought that he would help lead the Reds to a championship but thanks to a number of injury plagued seasons and some very suspect pitching, that never materialized.

A big thanks to Robert for trading with me. I'm putting together a nice return package that should hopefully be going out in a few weeks.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Blog Bat Around: What I Collect

A week or so back, Night Owl made a post about some of the items he collects and just recently followed up on that by officially declaring a blog bat around on the subject. Typically, I don't usually participate in these "Blog Bat Around" type subjects, mainly by the time I have a chance to write about a subject, I'm about 2-3 weeks behind everyone else. However, I'm at a rare point where I'm pretty much caught up on everything (except for a few trade packs I got in the mail recently) so I figured I would jump in on the fun of this particular topic.

I've really enjoyed reading the posts others have done on this particular subject, especially those of my regular trade partners, and it's provided me more ammunition to add to my trade box. Reading want lists and such is nice but really, when it's broken down simply in a blog post, it's much easier to keep track of.

At first I decided to split my collecting interests up into three different posts, however trying to focus on my collecting interests by sport turned out to be a pretty lengthy task, so I decided to summarize my collections in the different sports and other areas I collect.

1. Baseball

Baseball is the primary sport I collect and as far as teams go, the Reds and the Indians are the primary teams I collect. I also go after defunct teams such as the Expos, Browns, Senators, Pilots, Brooklyn Dodgers, Milwaukee/Boston Braves, and the Philadelphia/Kansas City A's. As far as player collections go, there's just too many to list. On my want list page, I did put down a pretty extensive list of players that I quote "collect" but it's just merely a guideline. If I had to pick though, probably my top player collections would be of Barry Larkin, Bronson Arroyo, and Dennis Eckersley.

In terms of sets, the main set I'm trying to complete currently is 1984 Topps, which is my birth year set. I managed to score the Don Mattingly rookie card in last year's Secret Santa package and I'd say I'm probably about 50% complete on the set, but I need to update my want list on that to be sure. Another set I'd like to get started on would be 2002 Upper Deck Vintage, as that was the only set I managed to complete during my initial foray into collecting. I haven't really started on that at all yet though.

Some team sets I'm currently trying to track down are the 1969 and 1970 Seattle Pilots cards from those particular Topps sets. The Pilots to me have always been a curiosity to me, being the only "one and done" team in modern MLB history, and so I thought it'd be pretty cool to have all of the Pilots cards from the two Topps sets to feature them. Also, in the vain of curiosities, I'm trying to piece together all the Washington Nat'l League error cards from the 1974 Topps set. I've already got the Willie McCovey and a handful of others but that's been a collecting mission of mine for as long as I can remember.

Of course, there's other stuff beside just teams, team sets, and players I stay on the lookout for and that would include things such as buybacks, cards of "short term stops", cards of players on teams they never actually played for (aka "zero year cards"), oddballs of defunct retail chains such as Hills, KB Toys, and I guess now Toys R Us could be included in that), card of players in throwback uniforms, vintage team cards, and pretty much any random vintage cards as long as they're in decent shape.

2. Hockey

Over the past few years, I've become a pretty big hockey fan, so much in fact that I buy the NHL.TV all access subscription every year so I can watch the teams I follow and because trying to find a hockey game that's not on NBC is a major chore. The current NHL teams I tend to collect are the New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes. Both the Cincinnati and Dayton areas have a rich minor league hockey history so if I can track down cards from Cincinnati teams like the Cyclones or Mighty Ducks or former Dayton teams like the Bombers and Gems, then I go for those too.

As I mentioned previously, I collect defunct baseball teams and hockey certainly has it's share as well, heck there's even a whole defunct challenger league (the WHA). I'm always on the lookout for cards, mainly vintage, for teams such as the Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, Cleveland Barons, California Golden Seals, Atlanta Thrasher, and Cincinnati Stingers to name a few. In fact, just like the Seattle Pilots cards, it's one of my collecting missions to get every Stingers card from the O-Pee-Chee WHA sets that were produced in the 70s.

Just like baseball, there's too many player collections I have going on to list, some I actively seek out cards for (Jaromir Jagr, Shane Doan, Martin Brodeur) and some I've yet to officially declare that I'm collecting their cards (Braden Holtby, Ilya Kolvachuk) but if it's a star player or even a player I recognize from watching a game on TV, then I'm pretty likely to pick up their card. I also collect a lot of the players that were popular when I was a kid (Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, etc.) or are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

I also collect any vintage hockey I can get my hands on, any of the WHA O-Pee-Chee cards, and any oddball cards as well.

3. Pro Wrestling/UFC

I've been a wrestling fan since the mid 1990s and to be honest, the wrestling cards back then and even into the late 90s were pretty pitiful. Once Fleer got the rights to WWE cards in the early 2000s, things really starting getting better. Since then, I've been into wrestling cards. I usually get cards of wrestlers I enjoy watching on TV both past and present. I'll buy a few packs of Topps WWE cards here and there as well, but I mostly focus on singles.

As far as UFC cards go, my interest in that has definitely waned over the years. I'm more of a fan of the original UFC stuff from the 90s but I will still watch the TV fights here and there if I have time. Topps usually includes cards from old school fighters like Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, and Royce Gracie in some of their releases. Also, Jessamyn Duke (a distant cousin of mine) was on the Ultimate Fighter a few years ago and had a few UFC cards produced of her, so I try to get those when I come across them.

4. Football

I'm not a big football collector but if I find older cards, I might snag a few up here and there, especially of Hall of Famers. I do like the cards that Panini puts out in some of their sets of retired stars and Hall of Famers, so if I stumble across those in a dime or nickel box, I'm apt to potentially get those as well. I'm also on the lookout for USFL and XFL cards, since I'm big into that sort of thing, but that about the only thing I'll grab in the way of that sort of stuff.

The only cards I really actively seek out in terms of football are Cincinnati Bengals cards, and even there I'm pretty selective. I won't buy just any Bengals card, it has to be of someone like Andy Dalton or A.J. Green or older stars from the 80s and 90s like Boomer Esiason, Anthony Munoz, Jeff Blake, Corey Dillon, Cris Collinsworth, Ickey Woods, Ken Anderson (not the wrestler), etc.

5. Basketball

I'll admit it, I don't really watch basketball at all, not even when the NCAA Tournament is happening. I've tried. I played some youth basketball at the local YMCA in grade school, and couldn't get into it. I even tried to watch a little bit when the Cavs were in the the Finals the past few years and it's just not for me. However, that hasn't really stopped me in terms of collecting. I'm always on the lookout for Cincinnati Royals cards and ABA cards, plus cards of Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas.

6. 1988 Topps Fright Flicks

I don't remember exactly when or where I heard about these cards but when I did, I knew I had to try to build the whole set. I found a dealer a few years ago at the HorrorHound convention who was selling packs of the stuff for five bucks each. I bought one pack just to try it out and, as a fan of classic horror and sci-fi, I was hooked. I've only got about 16 of these in my collection currently.

7. Racing cards

I got back into racing cards last year thanks to Panini's Donruss set. I really enjoyed busting open packs of it and trying something new. I just recently went back and thumbed through some of the cards I got from those packs and I forgot how neat they were and I'm planning on getting a handful of packs again this year.

8. Pokemon cards

Even though it's not officially listed on my want list, I have a five year old son who is in to everything Pokemon. I managed to get him into collecting Pokemon cards and he's already got a half a binder full of cards. While I don't understand the whole concept behind the show, nor do I understand how to play the official game, it's still a fun father/son activity that we share every so often.

So there it is, my collecting habits in a nutshell ... well, almost a nutshell as this got a bit more wordy than I thought it would. I hope this provided everyone some more insight into what I collect and, in some cases, why I collect certain things. An also, as I said in the beginning, a big shout out to Night Owl for introducing the topic and declaring an official "Blog Bat Around".

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

RIP Cincinnati Gardens 1949-2018

Just a quick post tonight ...

I've mentioned in this space before about my love of the Cincinnati Gardens, the dilapidated old arena in the Bond Hill section of Cincinnati. When the building eventually outlived its usefulness, it was purchased by the Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati to be demolished. That sale pretty much signaled the death of the old arena. 

Earlier this winter, the contract was signed with a local demolition company to begin the process of razing the old building, over a year after the Cincinnati Rollergirls, the arena's last official tenant, left. The demolition process started with some of the outbuildings and annexes, the arena's signage was removed and donated to the American Sign Museum, and the bas relief sculptures on the front of the building were removed and preserved as well.

All that was left was time. And now, time is up as the wrecking ball has found the old arena. 

I would attempt to write a eulogy for the arena but my words wouldn't be able to do justice to the place. However, local writer and photographer Ronny Salerno, author of the fabulous Queen City Discovery blog, was granted access to the arena one last time for a photo shoot. Earlier today, he wrote and posted a perfect eulogy to the Gardens with some amazing pictures he shot along the way.

If you are so inclined, I encourage you to go check out the article, if nothing else, for the pictures of the arena he took while he was there.

Rest in peace Cincinnati Gardens. You will be missed.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Late Season Hockey Breaks


It's hard to believe that hockey season is almost over and baseball opening day is coming up fast. Unfortunately for me, that means that hockey cards will soon be in short supply again both at card shows and on retail shelves. I've been stockpiling a few hockey things recently. I've also got this leftover tin of 2017-18 Series 1 and a blaster box of O-Pee-Chee that I've been sitting on since Christmas. I might as well go ahead and bust into both. I won't be going pack by pack but I'll show some highlights from both the tin and the OPC blaster.

As I busted the Series 1 tin, I took photos of each pack. This pack held probably my best pull ever from retail hockey ... the Nico Hischier young guns card. I was on the lookout for it and kept seeing it for 25-30 dollars online. I told myself I wouldn't drop that much money on a single card and lo and behold, I didn't have to. Also, with this particular pack, I got my first Vegas Golden Knights card.

Mats Zuccarello is a red foil parallel version of the Shining Stars insert series, and I'll be honest, not something I was expecting. This was probably the second best pack of the tin as there were also cards for P.K. Subban, Henrik Zetterberg, Andrei Vasilevsky (who could be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy this year) a really cool Kari Lehtonen card, and a nice horizontal of Pavel Zacha. That reminds me, I really hope the Devils can make the playoffs this year.

I mentioned the Shining Stars red parallel the last pack and in this pack, I pulled a standard Shining Stars card, this time of Jakub Voracek. I also got another card I was hoping for, that being the Marc-Andre Fleury Golden Knights card. He's had a tremendous year and is a really big reason the Knights are doing as well as they are doing.

Each tin also comes with a box topper. I was lucky enough for mine to be of Vladimir Tarasenko from the Winter Classic held in St. Louis. I haven't officially added Tarasenko to my list of players I collect but I think I'll do that at some point.

Moving on to the O-Pee-Chee blaster now. I really like the O-Pee-Chee cards but the one issue I have with them is that they come out so early in season, that by this point in the year, they're outdated. However, I did manage to find a few neat cards out of the batch, such as these. Nash is now with the Bruins, Panarin is still in Columbus as of last check, and the hockey card gods must really want me to collect Tarasenko.

Two cards for my Ben Bishop and Cory Schnieder collections. Braden Holtby is another player I've considered adding to my official player collection list.

Speaking of players on my official player collection list, it was nice to see these two get cards in the O-Pee-Chee set. The Doan card I guess could be considered a "sunset card" as I don't think he got a card in the regular issue Upper Deck set this year. Jagr did get a card in the main set this year as a member of the Flames. That's one I need to add to my most wanted list.

I got six of these retro style cards in the blaster, which equates to one every other pack since there were 12 packs in the box.

I also got these two mini's out of the box, which I wasn't expecting. Laine is a black border parallel of some sort, perhaps foil?

These are definitely foil parallels. The deal with the Henrik Lundqvist card is that you can put together a complete 52-card deck of playing cards with those style inserts. Now, I didn't know that there were foil versions of these so that's super cool. That's a card that I'll definitely slide into a penny sleeve in the hockey box to protect.

So that's some highlights from some late season breaks of early in the season products. Of these, I think I liked the O-Pee-Chee blaster better than I did the Upper Deck tin, mainly because I like the design better and this year's Upper Deck design isn't the best, but nothing can really beat the Nico Hischier pull though.

Friday, March 9, 2018

You've Got Mail #81: Johnny's Trading Spot

Racing and NASCAR never really have been big in my household. I remember growing up and watching some races with my dad here and there on Sundays and know the notable drivers and legends but I couldn't tell you who won the most races in 1985 nor do I know who won Daytona in any given year. However, I will still turn on a race every now and then, just out of curiosity more than anything. 

If I can find some fun cards to add to my racing collection, I will and when Johnny at Johnny's Trading Spot mentioned he picked these up from a show but had no use for them, I left a comment and snagged them up. Right away, I noticed a pattern with a lot of these cards that Johnny sent over, the majority of them are promo cards. Sometimes it noticeable, sometimes it isn't, like with these cards. Just by looking at these, you wouldn't know they are promo cards but they are, at least the Upper Deck card is, the other one I'm not too sure about.

Just to prove that these are, in fact, promo cards, I scanned in the back of them. The only one in this batch that isn't a promo is the Larry McReynolds card from the MAXX 1993 set. MAXX 93, that sort of sounds like the name of a soft rock station.

There was always something I liked about Kyle Petty and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the way his car was painted? I'm not sure but I never could put my finger on it. Anyway, these Kyle Petty cards (and the Bobby Labonte card on the top) are labeled "prototype" on the back, I guess the word "promo" was too good for Action Packed. I'm guessing these are preview cards for the set that year. I'm not sure what the Mark Martin Press Pass VIP card would be issued for either but I definitely dig how it looks.

I appreciate Johnny sending these my way, they are definitely some great and neat additions to my racing card collection.