Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Goals For 2018

Happy New Year! I know I'm a day late with this, but I hope that you all have a joyful and successful 2018. A lot of you have listed your blogging/collecting goals for the year ahead and I'm going to list a few of mine - with a twist.

Did somebody say goals?

In the past I've had all these grand plans in my head for the new year, only to watch as they quickly unravel. It's not that I break my resolutions so much as I can't even get an action plan off the ground. Last year I learned my lesson and made no such goals for 2017. 

But this year, I've made a list of things I want to achieve - and I'm trying hard to be optimistic and resilient. There are some sports card goals and some blogging goals on my list, but the two most important ones are personal and I simply cannot put them off any longer.

1. Lose 50 pounds. Or 30 pounds. Whatever...just get in shape.

I had not weighed myself in at least two years. Before I went back to work five years ago I was charting my weight and exercising regularly. I made a conscious effort to eat healthy most of the time. But ever since I got my collections job I've been stressed, and that stress has spread to other aspects of my life. After a while I just stopped caring and let myself go. 

Yesterday I weighed myself, and I was shocked at the number. I knew I'd put on some weight but I didn't realize it was so much. (I won't reveal the exact number - but it's more than the combined weight of the two women I've been crushing on.) I do feel winded and achy at times, and it's something I always wished I could address but lacked the motivation to do so. This time next year, I want to be under 200 lb. But in order to do that, I have to put together the elliptical machine that's been sitting in my upstairs room for a year and a half.

2. Get a full-time job. Or a better paying part-time job. Or at the very least, a job that's closer to home.

I've been at my current place of employment for nearly five years. My coworkers and bosses are mostly pleasant, the pay is decent, and the work is not as difficult as I expected. But I'm a part-time employee with zero benefits, and I'm approaching my 40th year on this planet. I can't waste any more of my prime working years. I can't keep working so far away from home. I've got to find a full-time job with decent pay and benefits.

Last February I came soooo close that it discouraged me from trying again. But, as with my health, I've given up far too easily. I'm not going to let that happen in 2018. I'm going to focus a lot more time and effort on these things. 

Here's how my sports card collection plays into all of this...

For the past few years, collecting sports cards has been my escape from the harsh realities of adulthood. When things weren't going well in my personal life, I bought cards. My collection was one of the few things I could control - How much can I spend? What set should I build? How should I store it? - and it was one of the few things that brought me joy.

As many of you know, I set a sports card collecting budget of $0 for 2018. That's my third goal.

3. Do not spend any money on sports cards all year.

The main reason I'm doing this is to turn my priorities inside-out, to invest the time and money that would normally go toward collecting on other aspects of my life - saving for the girls' college fund, home improvement projects, buying new clothes, health, fitness, etc. etc.

That said, I will allow myself the option of spending some money on card supplies and/or grading some of the vintage cards I bought on COMC this past year.

Which reminds me of my next goal...

4. Reach the top 100 on COMC Challenges All-Time Leaderboard

Thank God for COMC, am I right? Having a way of earning store credit through challenges is the only way my third goal is even possible. There are about 50 cards sitting in my inventory that I'd like to bring home, and another 30-40 on my watch list I'd like to purchase. Perhaps I'll hold them until Black Friday so that I can take advantage of free shipping (assuming they don't take that perk away from us.)

I've had a bit of challenge fatigue over the past few weeks, but I feel refreshed and ready to climb this mountain once again. Cracking the all-time top 100 is kind of a silly goal - especially since I don't know exactly how many points I'll need. Right now I'm ranked in the 120's, so unless the 100th highest total is over 600,000 points I think I can get there.

5. Make 20 trades (and keep better records of my trades)

There is another way to add new cards to my collection without spending money (on the cards, at least.) I haven't kept a log of all my trades but I know that my 50/50 exchange led to at least a dozen. Perhaps I'll run that again this year, or maybe I'll do something slightly different like a 'trade deadline' week where I just scan all my traders for that particular sport and see if I get any nibbles.

It might bust my budget if I do them all at once - especially if I'm sending to Canada - but if a majority of them are PWE trades, the bill shouldn't be too bad.

6. Write 100 blog posts

This should be no problem. Even if I take more time to address my health issues, and even if I somehow manage to find a full-time job, I can still churn out two blog posts a week. I've got plenty of ideas for posts, and plenty of cards to scan and discuss. But I do want to make my posts shorter, and I definitely want to make more time for reading and commenting on your blogs.

There are other things I want to do, but I'll stop short of calling them 'goals'. I need to figure out what to do with my other blog - which is private at the moment until I decide. I'd like to spice things up here, perhaps with a new banner pic or layout. (I had the idea of buying a bunch of 1991 Topps Micro minis and arranging them to spell out "The Collector" but I can't spend any money on cards- and I don't have a working camera at the moment.)

I also want to do a better job of cataloging my collection. I'll never achieve Billy Kingsley levels of record keeping, but I should try and make a list of my team/player collection needs, so that I'm not receiving the same cards in trade three and four times over. 

Finally, I want to get back to reading books. I'm almost done with the David Ortiz biography (which is due back at the library tomorrow) and I got two books as gifts this Christmas - including John Green's latest Turtles All The Way Down. I lost my enthusiasm for Young Adult fiction over the past couple of years, but that may be because John hadn't written anything in a while. 

I think that about does it for my list of goals. Check back with me in 364 days and see if I achieved any of them. I wish you all the best of luck with achieving your goals this year! 


Friday, December 29, 2017

May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

In my last post I implied that Jennifer Lawrence has never appeared on a trading card. That's not correct, as Brett Alan pointed out.

These boxes have been sitting in the clearance section of Dave & Adam's for at least a year. I'm a big fan of the series in print and on film, and so I made a mental note to pick up a box of these one day. When I placed an order earlier this month for some sports cards and supplies I decided it was time to toss these in to my cart. (Side note: I've no idea why there's no Mockingjay set. Lack of demand maybe?)

No inserts, no autographs, no frills. No wonder these were only $8.95 a box. 

There's a lot lacking with these sets but one thing I can't complain about is collation - The Hunger Games is a 72-card set and I got exactly two sets in the box.

The first 18 cards are character profiles and have text on the back. Here's J-Law, as Katniss:

 The good guys:

Stanley Tucci absolutely killed it as Caesar. He took a minor character that was hardly noteworthy in print and gave him pizazz and flair and excitement! You can't help but like him, even though he's neutral at best and a pawn of President Snow at worst.

The bad guys:

Donald Sutherland (no relation) was perfectly cast as President Snow. Thresh allied himself with the Careers, but his most memorable moment distinguished himself.

Cards #19-62 are action scenes:

Four of my favorites here: Classic Caesar. Cinna and his Girl On Fire. Foxface cleans up nice. Sneaky little Rue.

Here's a look at the back. Same photos re-used, no text:

Not only that, the horizontal fronts work better for these photos - and the mockingjay logo eats up too much space.

The last ten cards are a 9-piece puzzle and a checklist. I wont bother to scan those, since I've got to get to the Catching Fire set - which doesn't even have those things.

There are only 40 cards in Catching Fire. Here are the first six:

Want to see the rest of the set? Here it is:

 I think I found my favorite Catching Fire card.

That's it. That's the whole set- barely more than half the size of the first set. I get that they didn't want to give away any spoilers, but damn. 

So there you have it - my favorite actress on a trading card (or ten). I would have preferred to grab a set of these somewhere and save a few bucks, but this was pretty much my only option. (Unless someone would like to make a Jennifer Lawrence card.)

Are you a fan of the Hunger Games series? Do you collect movie/TV trading cards? 


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Women On Cards (and My Favorite Card of 2017)

P-town Tom is once again running a contest for baseball card bloggers to write about their Favorite Card of 2017. I really did not expect to have an entry this year. For one thing, I have so many topics to blog about that I didn't want to delay them any further for fear that I'd forget what I want to say.

That's a lame excuse though. The truth is, I didn't purchase many new releases this year. Most of my spending cash went to singles on COMC, discount retail boxes of 2015 and 2016 products, and my 5-box break of 2017 Topps Heritage baseball. That's certainly my favorite set of 2017 but no single card stands out - other than the Carlos Correa 19/68 autograph that I sold on COMC later in the year.

2017 Topps flagship didn't interest me at all; I don't even think I bought a single pack of S1, S2, or Update. Stadium Club was fantastic as usual, and the set supplied plenty of great candidates for card of the year - Billy Hamilton, Tim Raines, and Jameson Taillon were three of my faves. But I don't own any of them; Stadium Club packs never hit the shelves at my local Target.

Though I did purchase hundreds of single cards on COMC there were no 2017 issues in my collection that immediately came to mind. Well, that's not entirely true...

There was one card I had waited on for most of the year. A basic insert, nothing rare or autographed or anything. When it wasn't part of the checklist for 2017 Topps Series 1 I assumed it would be in Series 2. I waited...and waited...and waited. It wasn't in Series 2.

What the hell, Topps? How can you make an MLB Network insert set without Heidi Watney?

Finally, the card we've all been waiting for - in Update. Well I wasn't about to purchase packs of watered-down rookies and all-stars just for the possibility of pulling this gem. I had to get one on COMC.

Once Update hit shelves I started searching for Heidi. Two or three times a week I'd check to see if any singles had hit the site. Every other MLBN personality was available - except Heidi. I assumed there were lots of other collectors out there, coveting this card as much as I was. Why would anyone sell such a gorgeous card? Luckily, someone did.

When COMC's Black Friday sales began I didn't have a whole lot of cards to focus on. There was this Brett Favre card from 2017 Panini Pantheon that might have bested Ms. Watney as my Favorite Card of the Year - if only it hadn't sold before I had the funds for it. That Favre card sold for over $20. My Heidi card only cost a buck - and she looks a lot better in a dress.

Here are some other women on cards that I purchased throughout the year:

Kristen Bell is one of my favorite actresses, on and off screen. When Veronica Mars was in its first season on WB/CW Kristen promoted the show on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. I thought she was cute and kinda quirky and the show sounded interesting - but when she revealed her love of hockey I was sold. 

*I'm not sure if Kristen is a stage name or a middle name or what, but she does look more like an 'Annie' to me

I didn't expect to like Veronica Mars as much as I did - and I didn't expect Kristen to become the big movie/TV star that she is today. I also didn't expect to find any decent trading cards of hers, since the autographed cards are way out of my price range and the PopCards base is kinda plain. The cards above cost $0.89 each.

Since Kristen Bell is the only actress I like who has appeared on a trading card (someone make a Jennifer Lawrence card please) the rest of of this post features women in sports. And since there aren't too many women other than Heidi Watney who appear in baseball card sets, these are women from sports I don't really follow.

I never got into wrestling, but how can you not love Stacy Keibler? The Divine Divas cards were $0.43 each, while the Absolute Divas card on the bottom right was $0.82. I've seen other wrestling divas on COMC and the blogosphere but none of them appealed to me like Stacy.

There were some MMA cards that caught my eye - mostly ring girls and whatnot - but nothing I wanted to spend any cash on. Then I saw this card:

Again, I know nothing about fight sports but I know Ronda Rousey was huge a couple years ago. Like, literally. Before she lost to Holly Holm you could have made that case that she was the most dominant athlete in any sport. Now I'm not even sure she's fighting anymore. $2.75 is a bit more than I wanted to pay, but this is such a badass card I had to bring it home. 

There are still more than a few females missing from my collection. I might become a fan of a Winter Olympian in the next few weeks like I did in 2014 when skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace legit made me cry. I might decide to spend some COMC cash on Danica Patrick or Alex Morgan, or maybe the US women will win ice hockey gold and Upper Deck will finally show them some love. (No disrespect to Team Canada, but Americans are starting to figure out this ice thing. Hope you enjoyed it.)

Anyway, that's my entry for Favorite Card of the Year - and my first official post of "The COMC 500" If you haven't entered P-town Tom's contest yet, head on over to his blog and read all about it. The contest is open until January 8th. Good luck to those who enter!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Cards

How was everyone's Christmas? I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with your families. I can see from my blog roll that a lot of you got some great sports card gifts - though it helps to have an adjacent birthday ;-)

I wasn't expecting any sports cards this year - and I didn't need any since my COMC and Dave & Adam's purchases will keep me occupied well into April. My mom gave me a fat pack of 2017-18 Upper Deck MVP hockey when I saw her last week. I opened it right away and thus did not scan the cards. (The "three stars" were a Dallas Stars rookie, a checklist Sidney Crosby, and a Patrick Kane base card.)

My father in law used to pick out a repack box for me every Christmas, and at first I'd silently grumble because it would have been so easy to just pop in to Target and pick anything with a current year on it... but it was neat to get packs of baseball cards from years I hadn't been collecting. And it's the thought that counts, right? Which is why I was so happy that my daughter bought me a pack of cards for Christmas.

My wife gave the girls $10 each to buy little gifts for each of us at their school's holiday shoppe. My 5 year old bought me a fancy blue pen that says 'Dad' on it. And my 8 year old bought me this:

Sorry for the super blurry scan; the bottom reads "12 trading cards from your favorite team"

The "Ny Mets" aren't exactly my "favorite squadron" but my daughter doesn't really know teams yet. And the selection of decent gifts at those holiday shops are so sub-par that my wife cautioned them about wasting money on things neither one of us would use.

Good news: The David Wright was from an NL All-Star team set so it wasn't a dupe.
Bad news: As the top card in a very loosely packed pack, it has multiple corner dings.

I've never heard of Jason Anderson but that's a nice shot of the center field seats at Wrigley. The Beltran is a dupe - or so I thought. It's the Mets team set version, as are the Putz and K-Rod below.

Here's the rest of the pack. Timo Perez was a fan favorite - at least the Mets fan I knew. Darryl Hamilton did some work for the MLB network before passing away in 2015.

I will definitely put these cards to good use, but I hope she didn't spend more than $1 on them.

Around 1pm we headed to my in-laws so my girls could be buried by another avalanche of Xmas gifts. My sister-in-law's husband Ant had to work overnight last night so they had to leave early. We talked a little football, he's an "Iggles" fan and I'm a Packers fan so we shared a little misery over our starting QBs being injured. And then he tossed me a wrapped package that felt like about six to ten packs of cards. 

"I bet I'm going to like this." I said.

I was wrong. This was what was underneath the wrapping paper:

Wow. Just..wow. Where on Earth did they find such a godawful repack? No Upper Deck? No Pro Set? I actually would have preferred Pro Set. Notre Dame cards? I wouldn't even know who any of these guys are.

I mean, it's not like I'd pull a Joe Montana...

Oh..there he is. And it's a lucky pull, too. The cards numbers in these packs were completely sequential otherwise. Montana is card #1. The other fifteen cards I got: #94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, and 169. By that pattern I should have received #93 John Krimm.

As for the rest of the packs...

Eeek! So much green! '91 Fleer Football is only marginally better than '91 Fleer Baseball.

Here are the "highlights", including an off-center Elway dupe. 

Okay, so Barry and Bo aren't bad. The Jacke is the only Packer in the pack, and it's a dupe. "Vinnie" is spelled correctly on the back.

The 1990 packs had two HOFers each:

Advantage: Score. I had hundreds of cards from both these sets back in the day; there were Fleer team sets in hanger packs at all my local Walgreens, Stop & Shop, and Toys R' Us stores. 1990 Fleer was so much sharper looking than 1991 Fleer.

Last but quite possibly least, 1991 Fleer Ultra:

An insert! I didn't think it was possible. Of course I got the wrong Falcons rookie, and the Query is a dupe (What can I say? I have a ton of 90's Packers cards) but it's par for the course.

I shouldn't complain. It's the thought that counts, right? I just hope that my in-laws didn't spend more than $1 on these.

Next time I promise I'll have some much better looking cards to scan and discuss. Thanks for reading!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Catching Up Before Christmas

I haven't been feeling great lately, and Christmas prep has forced me to fall behind on blogging. Over a week ago I received a very generous trade package from Matt, author of the blog Red Cardboard. A while back, Matt had offered to unload a lot of surplus inventory in exchange for some Reds oddballs. I really didn't have much to offer but Matt didn't mind. (His trade post did say "make a lopsided trade with me" or something to that effect.)

I requested some Red Sox and some 2016 Topps set fillers, but until the box arrived I had not realized just how one-sided this trade would be:

If this had been a "fair" trade, I would have been happy to receive this Big Papi manu-relic and a couple throw-ins. But there were more than a couple extra Sox in the box:

This Cy Young card takes me back - Hygrade and Woolworth All-Time Greats cards were inserted into the 9-pocket pages of the very first baseball card album I ever had, which I purchased(or was it a gift?) at a corner store next to my grandmother's house.

Moar-tiz, including my first Topps Fire baseball card. I have to admit, the gold shiny looks better in hand than I expected.

The first row are all Berger's Best inserts, including the blogosphere favorite 1956 Topps.

The Heroes of Autumn card depicts Pedro's 2004 World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, but I will never not think of the Grady Little game when I see an image of Pedro pointing to the sky. 

I should have scanned the Brock Holt horizontally because it's an awesome image, but I was lazy. Finally got me a McAvoy (which is exciting only to my in-laws) and I asked Matt for the Schwarber because the rookie birth year Topps set thing really appeals to me.

This is already a pretty solid trade package, but Matt also sent me 145 cards from 2016 Topps. Mostly series 1, since I needed too many of them to even bother making a list. A few singles turned into doubles courtesy of Gavin's big box of CDs and cards, and a few more arrived in my Secret Santa gift. That said, Matt still knocked 138 cards off my need list: 110 from series 1 and 28 from series 2. 

I'm sure you've all seen this set a thousand times so I'll just scan up some of my favorites:

Finally got my hands on this iconic card. "Joey Bats" used to be one of my favorite players, but his attitude over the past couple years has turned me off (says the big fan of Big Papi)

Speaking of great players who are jerks:

I'm (mostly) referring to Papelbon here, I loved the guy when he was on Boston but there's no denying he's a tool. Harper can be a little arrogant, but I included him here as a reminder of why "Pap" is no longer in the league. 

Not even the smoke effect can detract from these fantastic World Series photos.

And while we're on the subject of World Series winners...

That's not New Order. This is New Order:

I hope that Matt doesn't regret this trade...haha.

Hope you all have a great weekend and a Merry Christmas. If Christmas isn't your thing, Krusty's got you covered:


Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Smashing Secret Santa Gift

Red Sox Nation has been well-represented in the sports card Secret Santa exchange hosted by Matthew Scott at his blog Bob Walk The Plank. As luck would have it, I was assigned a fellow Red Sox fan to buy a gift for and a different Sox fan to buy for me 

Matt, author of the blog Diamond Jesters, sent me some Sox cards, some set fillers, and some presents to open. (side note: I think this is the fourth or fifth Matt I've met on the baseball card blogs. Matts are more abundant than Red Sox fans!) He also included a card:

..with a very thoughtful message inside. Is everyone doing that? I didn't include a greeting card in mine; just a handwritten note akin to "Here's your Secret Santa Gift. Enjoy!" Anyhow.. Matt sent some junk wax-era Red Sox:


and some 2016 Topps cards I needed:

These are the "presents" he sent so I'd have something to open:


I'm psyched that GPKs are back on the shelves, they were a staple of my childhood. This Battle of the Bands set was new to me, and something I knew I'd enjoy. Since I'm much more familiar with 2016 Topps, I opened that first:

Another John Lackey. Figures. Which means that I only got two (more) cards I needed: Kela and Cabrera. The Tyler Chatwood in the top left corner is a shiny rainbow foil parallel thing. But for some reason the code at the bottom of the card back is the same as the base card code. Topps is so frustrating.

Now the moment you've all been waiting for...the Garbage Pail Kids. Here's pack one:

Green 'puke' parallels are one per pack. There are also 'phlegm' parallels and 'fool's gold' parallels, which are much tougher pulls. My daughter immediately recognized TV Tom, as it resembles a classic GPK character.

The Barfin' Billie card got me thinking...is there a Smashing Pumpkins card?

Yes, there is a Smashing Pumpkins card. And it was in the second pack. And it's everything I would expect it to be: angry bald Billy bashing the other Pumpkins (poor James Iha!)

This Billy Corgan card is one of my favorite next-gen GPKs - and the best pack-pulled GPK I could hope for, since this Jennifer Lawrence card was part of an online-only set of Oscar Nominees:

I kind of miss the original Garbage Pail Kids characters, but I have to admit it's fun to see entertainers I like (and don't like) get the GPK treatment.

Here's the rest of the pack-including Taylor Swift, Daft Punk, and Sonic Youth. Awesome!

Matt, thank you so much for this Secret Santa gift!