February 28, 2017

Sneak Peek at 2017 Heritage

About a week ago, I finally picked up my Topps Series one jumbo box and the associated silver packs. It was so much fun ripping those packs, but as has been the story with much of what is going on in my collecting life over the last few months, I haven't scanned/written up said fun. At any rate, since I just busted my first real look at Flagship, my internal product release calendar was way off. Subsequently, when I walked into my local Target while on my lunch break today, I had no clue that I was going to see new product staring back at me from the shelves of the card aisle. I was looking for one of the Topps blister packs that had four packs and one of the 'fielding award' cards(I hoped to find one with Brett Gardner) or another Road to WrestleMania jumbo packs. Instead I found this:

Heritage was on the shelf a day early! As an added bonus, my hanger box had this stuck to the front of it:

That will be important later. I probably wouldn't have grabbed a loose pack of Topps since they were all clearly searched. Hey, a free pack is a free pack so I picked one from the gravity feed box and hoped that it would at least have one of the 1987-themed inserts. More on this in a bit. Let's take a brief look at what came out of the Heritage hanger box.

First things first, here are a few of the more interesting of the plain old base cards. I chose to show Duffy since he is with the Rays now and there really wasn't much other competition for 'interesting' or 'exciting'. Obviously, I chose Bartolo so everyone could see him in all his airbrushed Braves glory. I added Kershaw because he's one of the best pitchers in the game right now and there wasn't much other competition for 'interesting' or 'exciting'. Sounds like there's an echo in here, but that's what the contents of this hanger box had me thinking over and over.

I will say that I like the All-Topps(AS) subset. I pulled five total from this portion of the base set. These were my three favorites of the bunch(Kershaw and Scherzer not shown).

The Russell is a High Number SP. To top all, it looks as though the 1968 Game set makes a return this year in two distinct forms. The Manny in the middle is part of a 30 card set while the Jake Thompson RC is from a 15 card, Target-exclusive set that focuses on 2017 rookies. Topps decided to borrow from a different 'Game-like' set by making the regular set with blue backs and the rookie set with red backs. Though not historically accurate, I think it's a really nice and easy way to distinguish between the two while giving a nod to the 1951 set. Man, it looks like I'm going to have 45 more 'Game' cards to track down. I haven't even finished the set from that time they put these in Archives...

Anyway, let's move on to the loose pack of Flagship. As I flipped through the stack, I was mostly underwhelmed at first glance.

These were my highlights. I was thrilled to pull the Judge RC and I was indeed fortunate enough to pull one of the 1987's(a need at that). Almost immediately it occurred to me that guy in the middle didn't look the way I remembered seeing him while recently busting my jumbo box. A quick glance at the code on the back confirmed my hope/suspicion that I had just pulled the SSP photo variation of Mr. MVP/World Series Champ, Kris Bryant. Those fall at a whopping 1:566 packs and I pulled one of the most popular guys on the series one variation checklist! Unbelievable! I think my adrenalin is still pumping. Guess those pack searchers at my local Target couldn't pick out all of the good stuff. That was one heck of a free pack! Thanks for reading.

February 18, 2017

Bellator 172: Ready to Crush This MMA Fan's Hopes

I can't wait until baseball season starts. Once it does, I think I'll have an easier time focusing on baseball card posts. I still haven't had he chance to drive out to my LCS to pick up my jumbo box and the two bonus Silver Packs I have waiting on me, my scanning capability is on again/off again, so I've had to rely on relatively shorter posts that have been focused on other current events. Tonight we keep with that theme.

MMA fans are likely aware that tonight is Bellator 172. Unlike many of their recent fight cards, this one is of interest for two reasons. First, on the undercard, former UFC top contender Josh Koscheck makes his debut for the promotion.

'Kos' has a big mouth and tends to say/do some controversial stuff, but he has been one of my favorite fighters since I watched him on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. That was years ago. He's always been an entertaining fighter and you never know what he might say at a pre or post fight press conference or weigh-in. Tonight, he steps in the cage as a 39 year old who is riding a 5 fight losing streak. As much as I would like to see him pick up a 'W' in his Bellator debut, I just don't see it. Moving on to the other notable attraction tonight:

'The Last Emperor' was, at one time, considered the best fighter in MMA. Since he didn't fight for the UFC, it was a bit more difficult to watch his fights on a regular basis, but once you found them, they were worth the effort. He is one of the few fighters to lay claim to being the best in the world that I actually rooted for. Historically, I have rooted against any fighter tagged with that title. All of the hype came crashing down in mid-2010 when he began a 3 fight losing streak. He has since won his last 5 fights, but the level of competition has been less than impressive. I'd really like to see him pull off a great victory tonight, but he is 40 years old and has not looked good in his last few fights so I think that is unlikely. 

There you have it. Tonight's fight card is setting me up for two huge disappointments. Come 9:00, I'll be watching Spike but I'm sure that two of my favorite fighters are going to suffer the agony of defeat. I suppose disappointment as a fan comes in threes(like so many other things). At least if they both lose, the silver lining would be that what started last month when BJ Penn was destroyed will end tonight. Is it opening day yet? Thanks for reading.

Well this post is shot! Literally a few minutes ago I heard that the main event between Fedor and Matt Mitrione was cancelled due to illness. Guess I didn't have to wait until 9pm for the disappointment to begin...

February 17, 2017

Farewell to an 'Animal'

My earliest memory of watching professional wrestling was somehow convincing my parents to rent me a VHS copy of WrestleMania III. I recall having to wait until my parents weren't watching anything on the only TV we had in the house that had a VCR connected to it. From the moment I pressed 'play' until the end of the show, I was enthralled. That's it, one show and I was hooked! Subsequently, my parents allowed me to rent WM and WM II along with several of the old Coliseum Video compilation tapes. Here we are approximately 30 years later and I'm still at least a casual fan. I don't feel the same connection to many of today's stars as I did many of the ones from my early fandom. That being said, I was saddened earlier this year when Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka passed away. I didn't write about him here because of the controversial nature of his legal issues. Instead, I quietly remembered his career as an entertainer and mourned his loss.

Today, however, I heard some news that moved me to write my first tribute post of 2017. George ' The Animal' Steele has passed away at the age of 79. I never had the opportunity to watch him during his time as one of the most feared heels in the business. Rather, my memories will always be of the 'slightly off' character that sported a green tongue, ripped open turnbuckles, and pined for Miss Elizabeth.

Here is a 1985 Topps card showcasing his more violent nature(and that green tongue).

There he is ripping into one of those turnbuckle pads! While I'll remember him in his way, this last piece of cardboard shows off an image that will likely be the first to come to mind anytime I think of this HOF talent.

It all comes back to WrestleMania III. The Intercontinental Title match was definitely one of the reasons I was hooked after watching the show. It entrenched all of the participants as favorites of mine. Sadly, there is only one of those original favorites left. Rest in peace Animal. Say hello to the Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth. Thanks for reading.

February 11, 2017

The Road to WrestleMania Took Me to Target for My Birthday

I intended to write a WWE post on Royal Rumble Sunday, but for many reasons, that just didn't work out. In the early stages of 2017, I've actually busted more wrestling product than anything else(so far). So , I happened to be in Target a few days before I finally got my hands on some retail 2017 Topps Baseball and instead of finding blasters, and hangers, and value packs(oh my) I found my first 2017 pack of this instead:

I don't usually pick up too much of the Road to WrestleMania product, but I always grab a few of these value packs to have a sampling. I got home and ripped right into it, slightly less disappointed than I would have been since I still hadn't found any new baseball on the shelf(or pegs).

I didn't realize until I took the picture of the pack(a split second before opening it) that you cold clearly see that Triple H was the first card in the pack, and there he is. These are not part of the base set, but rather a separate WM insert, of which there were several in the pack. These three just happen to be a few of my favorite performers in the business right now, so I thought I'd scan them.

Hey look, there they are again! I particularly love the Ambrose from Money in the Bank since it shows him moments after cashing in the briefcase and winning his first World Championship.

Here are a few more base highlights. I'm not her biggest fan, but that is quite an awesome photo on that Charlotte Flair card!

Here is the promised Undertaker career retrospective insert. The Cena has slightly higher odds as they fall only 1:3 packs. These are both nicely designed cards that showcase two,of the biggest names in WWE history from really early in their respective careers. There was one more 'card' in the pack. It was a coupon for $0.50 off any Road to WrestleMania product purchase. This of course gave me a reason to go back to Target so I could pick out another pack. All told, my first pack of a 2017 WWE product was solid.

Fast forward to Thursday. I was out of the house early and had some time to spare before the start of my shift, so I figured I'd treat myself to a discounted, Birthday pack of WWE cards. When I arrived to the card aisle, someone had lined up the only three value packs of this product neatly on top of a 2016 Topps factory set. I took a quick glance at them and grabbed the one which I could clearly see had The Rock's WM card on top. I used my coupon and paid for the pack. Since I still had some time before I needed to be at work, I decided to rip the pack in the car.

There's my second Undertaker insert and the WM Rock that I knew was in there. The KO was also a nice find since he too is one of my current favorites.

Turns out it was a Sting hot pack! I pulled the base and bronze parallel of the card highlighting his WWE Hall of Fame induction. Then there was more Ambrose and Triple H. Next up, Charlotte channeling her father, The Nature Boy! I scanned that last one just because it had Mick Foley on it. I was digging another solid pack, then I flipped to this:

I was in shock. Bray isn't one of my favorite characters, but he has great skills on the mic and is fairly popular. I noticed right away that unlike many Topps autos these days, this was not a sticker-graph. The on-card signature paired up with the design really makes this card pop. I was feeling pretty good about that pack choice and finished flipping through the few remaining cards. Then I went back through the entire stack one more time. It was on the second time through that I turned the autograph card over.

WOW! I literally did a double take. I had just pulled my first 1/1! Now, I've got two or three printing plates of former Durham Bulls in the collection, but I didn't pull those from packs. Once I stopped staring at the serial number, I decided to check the odds on the pack.

The odds of a red auto parallel are 1:40,284.That was some crazy pack picking/ripping mojo! I fully expected that since the packs had been laid out in a row that they had already been 'searched' for hits, but fortunately this slipped through. Yay, Happy Birthday to me! Thanks for reading.

February 8, 2017

Late to the 2017 Topps Party

I know I'm probably the last to get his hands on some 2017 Topps. I've got a jumbo box waiting for me at my LCS, but haven't been able to make it there to pick it up yet. During release week, my entire family was pretty ill so I had no chance to even grab a retail pack or two. This week has been much more normal and I happened to be at my local Target today and I was chomping at the bit to pick out whatever my first exposure to the product was going to be. As I walked in, I was trying to decide whether to go with a blaster, hanger box, rack/value pack, or just a few loose packs. However, when I made my way over to the card aisle, I was met with an alternate option:

There were 9 or 10 of these hanging on a few pegs. Once I saw that This Kiermaier was showing on not only one, but two of the packs, I decided to go with this option. I figured, even if the packs don't yield anything exciting, at least I would be guaranteed to add a new, retail-exclusive card of one of my favorite players in the league right now. I'll admit to a bit of 'searching' in that I examined the two Kiermaier face cards so I could pick the one that appeared to have e least amount of damage on it. Truthfully, they were equally clean looking so I grabbed one and hung the other back on the pegs. Once I got home I cautiously and excitedly opened the blister packaging and removed the Kiermaier. I honestly don't remember tearing into each pack. It seemed to take all of 10 seconds to flip through the four packs. In reality, I know I did take some time to try to enjoy the experience, but the excitement of new cardboard(and a decent rip) overtook me. Let's check the highlights, shall we?

My first base card(technically, my first 2017 card was the Kiermaier insert) of 2017 was Jon Gray. For me this is the middle of the road. It could have been better and it could have been way worse! The Josh Bell was the best of the three RCs that I pulled. I had to include the pair of Tanaka cards as the best of the Yankee cardboard from the packs. I included the anaquin and the amurphy in the scan because they are two of the best photos from the four packs.

I've really been digging a lot of the team card photo selections over the past few years. Shots like these are so much better than the old school, posed, full team pictures or team leader pics that used to appear on these.

I happened to pull two of these ad cards in the four packs. I can understand the point of view that these are pointless/shameless product plugs and I would probably be none too thrilled if these

actually counted as cards, but seeing as how they are seeded in addition to the normal number of cards in the pack, they're a nice 'bonus'. As far as I'm concerned, that's a new Donnie Baseball for my collection!

Here are the best of the inserts. Besides these but not scanned, I received a 1987 Rediscover Topps buy-back common and a 5-tool Buster Posey. I too pulled the rather depressing Jo-Fer award card. That he won the comeback player of the year in the season he wasn't able to finish due to his untimely passing just re-raises all of the 'what could have been' thoughts. The mMyers and Jackie Robinson are decently designed. I like the concept of showcasing the Mother's Day/Father's Day/JR Day uniforms in their own inserts rather than only on the incredibly rare(expensive) SSP photo variations. I've read a lot of negative print about the 5-Tool design. I, for one, really love it! This would have been a moderately successful break if this was all, but fortunately the goods didn't end there.

Tucked right in the middle of the third pack I ripped was this monstrosity! For a standard relic this thing is thick with a capital 'T'. When I saw this sandwiched in the middle of the pack, I thought it was something more substantial than this. Don't get me wrong, I really thrilled with this hit. Heck, I pulled a Playoff hero relic with a slight hint of a pinstripe on the right side of the window from one of my first retail packs of the year! It makes me really look forward to picking up my jumbo box and seeing what's hidden in all of that mylar.

So there you have my first 2017 Topps experience. You've all read more than enough critique on this year's design so I'll simply leave mine at this: it's a decent design. Not great, but certainly not horrible. I'm not sure I'll go out of my way to try to complete any of the sets, but the design certainly won't keep me from busting a decent amount of series one, two, and update. In all honesty, I'm just happy to be at the beginning of a brand new collecting year! Thanks for reading.

February 5, 2017

Looks Like a Super Day for a Big Game

Well, I'm back after another unexpected posting drought. My wife and daughters returned from visiting my in-laws a week ago and they brought a nasty virus back with them so everyone in the family has been spending the majority of this past week in recovery mode. Today is the final game of the NFL season though and I couldn't miss out on an opportunity to celebrate the occasion. I'd like to think that I don't care who wins today, but I'd be lying if I said I'd be OK if the Patriots won. In fact, the only possible positive I could see coming out of a NE victory today is the chance that Brady will decide to retire afterwards. So, I can say with no reservations that I'm going to be an Atlanta Falcons fan for a day.

Since I don't collect either team, I guess I'll just have to show off some recently acquired Super Bowl themed, Broncos cardboard.

Up first is this pair of shiny Super a Bowl Heroes depicting two of the defensive anchors of last year's Championship team. The scan doesn't do these justice. In hand, they are reminiscent of some of the mid to late '90's issues from Playoff: shiny, semi dufex-y, goodness. Man, I miss some of the cards from those days! I snagged these from Listia for a combined total of 15,000 credits which roughly translates to a whopping $0.55.

Okay, this one is not technically cardboard, but I love it nonetheless. I 'pulled' this Topps Then insert from a digital pack in Huddle yesterday. It's part of their massive blitzkrieg of Super Bowl products. With 21 'cards' in the set the odds of pulling this one were long, especially for someone who doesn't spend money on the app. I can appreciate that this one highlights Mr. MVP's second strip sack of the game. It goes really well with the card that ended up being my favorite of 2016.

Speaking of my favorite card of 2016... I know I've showcased various versions of this card over the past year, but this will be the last. I found this listed on eBay shortly after Christmas and I knew that I must have it. It's the perfect choice for the first Miller auto to be added to my collection. 

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to you all. Here's hoping for some great commercials and a victory for Matty Ice! Thanks for reading.