Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Philly fan comes through

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've ran across so many generous guys and gals through this blog.  Early last year the activity on my blog dropped off.  So much so I would be surprised if many of my fellow bloggers dropped me off their blogroll.  That said I received a package in the mail from a Philly fan.  I don't care what kind of rap Philadelphia fans get, Richard of Dawgbones, A Phillies Phan gracious sent me a bubble mailer full of goodies.

I got 4 cards to cross off my 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen want list, a pack of Transformers 3D cards and a Tim Hudson Bowman International card I didn't have.

I had no idea this package was coming to me and inside his hand written note said that a return package wasn't necessary.  Since I haven't been buying much I don't have anything to send right now, but I like to return the favor when I can.  Thank you, I really appreciate the thought and the cards!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Box Break - 2014 Topps Series 1

I stopped by Target yesterday while running some errands for work as I had gift card in my pocket that just wanted to be used.  I first hit the action figure aisle looking for the new Marvel Legends Captain America or Spider-Man lines.  Same result as my last couple of visits...nada.  On the way out I stopped by the card aisle and I was a little surprised to see 2014 Topps Baseball staring back at me.  They had a gravity feeder full of single packs, a fresh box of hanger boxes and a few blaster boxes.  Being out of the card loop I didn't know what the actual street date of 2014 Topps was, but it looks like this Target put it out a few days early.

I had already decided that set building wasn't for me in 2014...minus maybe Garbage Pail Kids, WWE and Gypsy Queen and Allen & Ginter. That said I love opening cards so I may end up buying more 2014 Topps and putting together at least series 1 for now.  That said here we go.

I gotta say I really like the base design this year.  I liked 2013's design, but I grew tired of it quickly.  The only thing I'll say about this year's design that I don't care for is the silver foil "wave" above the player's name.  Why couldn't they have just used a darker shade of gray like they did above and below the team name?  I guess I don't mind the player's name being stamped in silver foil, but I dislike the overuse of it.

Photography seems on par with previous years.  While my box didn't produce one card with a photo that made me stand up and take notice, here are a few cards with good pictures that also represent the different style of photos.


Topps has decided to bring back the "Future Stars" tag from the 80's.  This is stamped in silver foil so I'm not overly excited about the final look.  I would have prefered the retro colored logo from the 80's sets.

League Leaders haven't been changed that much.  Still have 3 players crammed onto a horizontal design.

It usually pains me to feature a Yankee player on this blog, but I can make an exception for Mariano Rivera.  This is one of the 2013 Baseball Highlights card, #321 in particular.

Mariano's final Topps card?  I doubt it, but the photo is fantastic.  Mariano marches from the bullpen to take the mound in his final game as a Yankee.

Play at the plate style action cards seem to be plentiful.  I like cards when you can see more of the action going on in the background.  Here you can see Kyle scoring at home while the catcher seems to be jumping to catch a high throw, allowing the runner at second to advance.

The opposite of play at the plate cards I guess would be the celebration at the plate.  Here David Murphy and his Rangers teammates celebrate a win.

I love when pitchers are shown batting on their baseball card.  Lord knows they have enough cards of traditional pitching images, so I like it when the card company mixes it up.  This one will be going into my Batting Pitchers collection.

Topps just didn't include the superstars and young talent.  Journeyman Bruce Chen also gets a spot on the Series 1 checklist.  Why am I showing you his card?  Bruce and I share the exact same birthday, 06/19/77.  And he is a former Brave.

You've seen a good example of action shots.  Then Topps includes this photo of Mark DeRosa.  What the heck?  Former Brave or not, this is a hideous card though I think someone out there will love it.

Out of 72 cards in the box I didn't get one freakin' Braves player.  Ryan Doumit is the closest I got.  For that reason alone I will buy another box of cards.  While Ryan has been backing up Joe Mauer in Minnesota, Ryan I believe will be placed in the outfield in Atlanta since Brian McCann's departure from the team frees up home plate catching duties for El Oso Blanco (Evan Gattis).  Ryan may also fill in at first to give Freddie Freeman a day off.

On the parallel and insert front I wasn't impressed.  Most of the inserts look very bland and boring.  A lot of the inserts have tiers such as auto and relic versions, but the basic inserts are blah.  From what I've seen online I gotta say the 1989 die-cut minis look pretty cool, but my box was void of one of those.  Let's start w/ the parallels I got.


Somewhere in the middle of my brick of cards I found these two yellow parallels.  They aren't serially numbered and I couldn't find the odds listed on the back of the hanger box.  Gold parallels are listed at 1:2, but those are supposed to be numbered.  Can anyone shed some light on these for me?  

They look pretty cool since yellow isn't used much on modern baseball cards.  These give me a 90's Classic or 91 Fleer vibe.  A little tacky, but I like them.  I can see myself tracking down the yellow parallels of Braves players along w/ Tim Hudson.

Red bordered parallels return to Target packs.  I like the red parallels for my Braves players, but a red border on an A's card?  No thank you.

Here is another parallel that I couldn't find any odds for on the box.  It's shiny red, kind of like last year's Emerald parallels or the stuff used in Bowman.  Looks better in hand than my scan shows.  I'll track down the red version of Tim Hudson, but I think that's about it.  No Braves unless I find them uber cheap or someone sends them to me.

Super Veteran cards look alright.  The top bar is gold foil along w/ the player's name and years in each corner.  I'll have to look up the checklist to see if another player excites me more than a Redbird like Wainwright.

50 Years of the Draft may have some promise depending on the checklist.  The best thing about this set is the lack of foil over use!

The Future is Now is probably my favorite set in terms of design.  Love the full bleed photo and the fact that the silver foil is used minimally.

I thought Topps was done w/ the gold themed inserts and then they pull this Upper Class insert on us.  I can't muster up anything positive to say about this design.  Ugly frame, too much gold foil and boring photos.

All in all I like what Topps has done with the 2014 set.  I know my box isn't representative of what else can be found, but they seem to be off to a good start.  Most of these inserts will be available for Braves parallels and inserts from 2014 Topps.  I may test the water with a few of these on eBay just for giggles. Have fun everyone, 2014 baseball is finally here!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thank You, Carolina Panthers

With yesterday's playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Carolina Panthers 2013 season came to an end.  While the national media may not have given my home town team much coverage or credit, the fans in the two Carolinas could care less.

Some say with the loss yesterday that the season was a failure.  I disagree and say it was a success.  Successful as in winning the while enchilada?  No, of course not.  However let's just take a moment and reflect on the season the Panthers had.

 2012 Topps Cam Newton Kickoff photo 10-8-2012101104PM.jpg

Most fans weren't sure what to expect of the team when the 2013 NFL season began.  Previous seasons showed the team starting off very slow before heating up down the stretch, usually when it was too late to make a run for the Playoffs.  Coming into Cam Newton's 3rd season, many were hoping to but the "sophomore slump" behind and move on forward.  The defense looked to be pretty solid, but there were still questions in the receiving department and of course the secondary.  How well the team would fare was all over the place when you asked fans and the local media.  I heard everything from a repeat of 2012's 7-9 record to 14-2.  It seemed some fans expected more of the same old mediocre Panthers while others set their expectations mighty high.

Game 1, September 8th vs. Seattle Seahawks

Oh boy.  The Panthers had to start off the season against a NFC powerhouse team like the Seahawks.  With Seattle's QB, Russell Wilson, spending part of his college days playing for NC State up the road there was a lot of interest in this game.  Most people picked the Panthers to lose this game.  I did.  The game ended up being close, real close...until the end of the game.  Carolina RB, DeAngelo Williams, fumbled the ball deep in Seahawks territory which would have put the Panthers ahead and most likely won them the game.  It of course was a hard fought game and a hard lose for the team, but it was supposed to be an "acceptable" win since the Panthers weren't supposed to win the game.  Final score, 7-12.

2011 Topps Chrome DeAngelo Williams Purple Refractor (128/499) photo 3-17-201395841PM_zps635cdd5c.jpg

Game 2, September 15th vs. Buffalo Bills

Early on the schedule this was one of those games the team was supposed to walk away with a win.  Even though it was road game, the Panthers were picked by just about everyone to win this game.  Going up against a rookie QB in E. Manuel our defense was supposed to be licking their chops.  What happened surprised many in that the Bills put up 24 points against our D.  Late in the game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera elects to go for a field goal on 4th and 1 versus going for it deep in the Bills end of the field.  This would end up costing the team a win and giving them their 2nd straight loss.  Final score, 24-23.

Game 3, September 22nd vs. New York Giants

No one saw this coming.  No one.  The Panthers ended up shutting out Eli Manning and the New York Giants.  Of course this was before everyone realized just how banged up and bad the Giants were.  But still, to blank a team like the Giants?  In week 3?!  Of course fans in Carolina were starting to feel a little better about the team and being 1-2 after week 3 wasn't horrible.  What stunk for the team was week 4 was their bye.  Horrible time for a bye for any team.  Especially what happened next.  Final score, 38-0.

Game 4, October 6th vs. Arizona Cardinals

I think a lot of fans also picked this game as a win early on when the schedule was first released.  This ended up being a very ugly both teams.  Cam threw for 308 yards, but had 3 INTs.  Carson Palmer, QB for the Cardinals threw 3 INTs as well, but had a TD throw late in the 4th.  The Panthers offense could only muster up 2 field goals and the offensive line gave up a safety in the 3rd quarter.  Looking back I don't feel too bad about losing to the Cardinals as they turned out to be a good team in the NFC.  Final score, 6-22.

2012 Panini Gridiron Football Steve Smith XO jersey #074/199 photo 1-5-2013100406PM.jpg

Game 5, October 13th vs. Minnesota Vikings

This was the only game this season that I missed.  My family was on vacation at Disney World.  I didn't mind missing the game after the team's lousy 1-3 start, but I tried to catch some of the radio coverage when I could as we traveled to Orlando, FL.  Who knew that this game would prove to be the turning point for the team as they would win their next 8 games?!  Final score, 35-10.

Game 6, October 20th vs. St. Louis Rams

Home game.  Crowd was getting loud and excited.  Rams CB, Jenoris Jenkins was running his mouth defending Steve Smith.  All Jenkins was doing was getting Smith and the rest of the team pumped.  The Panthers had rattled the Rams into committing several stupid penalties that costed them big chunks of yards and extended Panther drives.  One of their better players, Jake Long, even got ejected from the game after losing his cool!  The other memorable moment of the game is when the Rams QB, Sam Bradford went down with a season ending injury.  Tough loss for the team as Bradford was starting to show some promise, especially with their rookie WR, Tavon Austin.  Final score, 30-15.

Game 7, October 24th, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Panthers first game in prime time.  How well would the team fair in their first divisional game of the year?  The Buccs are one of those teams where you never know what you'll get.  The Buccs had just sat their starting QB Josh Freeman and started their newly drafted rookie QB Mike Glennon.  Another NC State alum, this game was going to be interesting.  Cam Newton would complete 23/32 passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Glennon had a impressive first NFL game tossing the ball for 275 yards and 1 TD.  Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert and tight end Greg Olsen would also score along with a rushing TD by Cam.  Final score, 31-13.

2012 Topps Magic Luke Kuechly RC photo KuechlyRC_zps1d631a23.jpg

Game 8, November 3rd vs. Atlanta Falcons

2nd straight divisional opponent.  The Panthers owed "Matty Ice" and the dirty birds from ATL.  Cam and the team took the game right at the Falcons.  While Cam didn't have his best game, the D was all over Matt Ryan.  He was sacked repeatedly and the Falcons had 4 total turnovers.  The depleted Panthers secondary stepped it up in the 4th with Drayton Florence picking off Ryan and returning it for a TD to seal the game.  Final score, 34-10.

Game 9, November 10th vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Panthers head out west to play the 49ers in Candlestick.  This was going to be the defining game for the team.  Critics had cited the Panthers hadn't beaten anyone good at this point in the season.  Most people thought it would be a defense battle between the two teams and that assumption proved to be correct.  Points were at a premium and the game atmosphere reeked of Playoffs.  Who knew this game would end up foreshadowing the actual Playoffs later in the year?  The only TD in the game came from a long run by Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams after he broke free of the stingy 49ers defense.  Final score, 10-9.

2013 Topps Steve Smith NFL Captain manupatch photo 4-22-201392650PM_zpsfb4cb15a.jpg

Game 10, November 18th vs. New England Patriots

Monday Night Football.  Nuff said.  Cam completed 19 of 28 passes for 209 yards and 3 TDs.  Greg Olsen, Tedd Ginn and Brandon LaFell all got in on the scoring action.  Steve Smith also caught a 42 yard pass from Cam.  Panthers D stepped up their game and caused the Patriots to turn the ball over twice, one being an interception off Tom Brady.  The 'cats pulled off a shocker for the 2nd week in a row, but this time in front of a national audience.  Final score, 24-20.

Game 11, November 24th vs Miami Dolphins

A lot of people called this a "trap game" during the week leading up to Sunday.  The Dolphins weren't a bad team, but they weren't on the same level as the 49ers and the Patriots that the team had just defeated.  The game turned out to be much tougher than many may have guessed.  Cam struggled in the passing game, completing just 19 of 38 passes for 174 yards.  He was also intercepted once.  The Panthers fell behind in the game, a first for the team in several weeks.  However in the 4th quarter the team mounted a come from behind scoring drive with a TD pass to Greg Olsen to put them up and ultimately win them the game.  Final score, 20-16.

Game 12, December 1st vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Panthers showed little signs of slowing down and plowed right past the Buccs for the 2nd time this season.  The team was 9-3 and looking sharp.  Final score, 27-6.

2013 Panini Prestige Cam Newton Fantasy Team photo Cam_zps8a3a06d8.jpg

Game 13, December 8th vs. New Orleans Saints

Does anyone actually like playing in the Superdome in New Orleans?  The Panthers took their 8 game winning streak on the road and into a hostile environment.  By now we knew the division would be against the Saints and Panthers and most knew it would be a competitive match up.  Sadly the Panthers just couldn't overcome Drew Brees and the Saints (and all that crowd noise!) and their winning streak would end at 8 games.  In typical Drew Brees fashion, he would throw for 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns...something that just hadn't be done against the Panthers defense much this season.  Final score, 13-31.

Game 14, December 15th vs. New York Jets

I'm guessing Rob Ryan called up his brother, Rex, and told him all about the Panthers offense as the Jets proved to be a more formidable team than I'm sure they were given credit for.  Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams would both get a TD in the game, but it was a hard fought game.  Thankfully late in the 4th quarter, Panthers safety, Captain Munnerlyn, would pick off Jets QB Geno Smith and return it for a touchdown.  Final score, 30-20.

Game 15, December 22nd vs. New Orleans Saints

This was the much anticipated re-match between the NFC South's two best teams.  This time however it was at home in Charlotte.  1st place in the division was on the line after the Saints would lose to the rams in week 15.  The Panthers would again struggle against the Saints until Cam led the team down the field late in the 4th.  5 plays, 65 in just 32 seconds, Cam would toss a touchdown pass to Dominek Hixon in the corner of the end zone to win the game.  Who even knew Dominek was in the game?!  First place in the NFC South belonged to the Panthers!  Final score, 17-13.

Game 16, December 29th vs. Atlanta Falcons

This time last year the Panthers got to play the role of spoiler for the Falcons with a win before the Falcons would play in the postseason.  You know that memory had to linger in the minds of many of the Falcon players.  Throw in that this was also tight end Tony Gonzalez's last NFL game.  I was celebrating my wedding anniversary with my wife down in Savannah, GA on the 29th.  We got done with lunch just after kickoff.  So picture this.  I'm walking around in historic downtown Savannah sporting my DeAngelo Williams Panthers jersey all the while holding my phone up to my hear trying to hear the play by play calls.  Yes, I got many a strange look from people passing by!  We got back to our hotel room in time to catch the 2nd quarter of the game.  The team made this a much tighter game than I thought it would be.  In the process I ended up biting my nails down quite a bit.  In the end the team pulled out an ugly win.  Final score, 21-20.

2012 Panini Rookie & Stars Great American Heroes auto #08/10 photo 1-5-2013100029PM.jpg

Up next would be a little score board watching to see what seed the Panthers would receive in the Playoffs.  Of course the team ended up with the #2 overall seed as the Seahawks would get the job done to lock in the #1 seed.  This meant the Panthers would have a 1st round bye and a home game.

In the first week of the Playoffs I was an Eagles fan.  I had hoped the Eagles could take out the Saints and be the Panthers opponent in the 2nd round.  That failed to happen as the Saints finally won a road game and beat the Eagles.  Then I was pulling for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to beat the 49ers.  Actually I wanted both teams to beat the snot out of each other, but hoped Green Bay could have pulled out the victory.  Beating a good team once in the regular season can sometimes be hard enough as is.  Beating that same team a second time in the Playoffs proves to be that much tougher.  Hence my reason for pulling for the Packers to beat the 49ers.  Again the team I wanted to win just didn't come through as the 49ers pulled out a road win up in the frozen tundra.

So it was all set.  A re-match between the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, at home in Charlotte NC.  The game was a tough game to watch for several different reasons.

1) Referees.  I won't single-handily blame the loss on the refs, but several of the calls (or blown calls) impacted the game in a major way.  From the personal foul called on Munnerlyn for his "headbutt" against Boldin (?) to not catching the 49ers with 12 men in the huddle right before Vernon Davis' controversial TD.  Granted several Panthers players made stupid plays that yielded a flag and by result an extended 49ers drive, the refs just didn't seem to call this game fairly from beginning to end.

2) Stupid mistakes.  As I just mentioned, the Panthers shot themselves in the foot on several occasions with bad plays.  Pass interference, unnecessary roughness. The Panthers just played bad.  I guess you can chalk it up to Playoff inexperience for a lot of the younger guys.  The 49ers got underneath the skin of the Panthers and didn't let up.

3) Turn overs.  It's hard to win in the NFL, period.  Turn the ball over and it's that much harder to pull off a win.  It seemed as if when the 49ers defense stopped the Panthers on the 1 yard line for a 2nd time, the team's energy was just sapped out.  The 49ers scored right before half time and then after a 3 and out drive to start the 2nd half, the 49ers score again.  I don't know what was going through the coaching staff's head or through the players minds, but the 2nd half was dominated by the 49ers.  By the way, would someone from the Seahawks defense next week please knock Kaepernick into next week for me?

2012 Topps Chrome Luke Kuechly auto photo 1-5-2013100348PM.jpg

It was a rough way for such an awesome season to end, yes, but for the reasons above I don't label this season as a failure.  The Panthers weren't supposed to be this good.  We weren't supposed to finish 12-4.  We weren't supposed to go on a 8 game winning streak, especially after starting the season 1-3.  Our defense was good, we knew that...but 2nd overall in the NFL? 

I'm proud of what the team accomplished this year and I look forward to what the future holds.  While some teams are aging, it seems as if the core of this Panthers team is still very young and full of potential.  Sure the team has their work cut out for them as the offensive line needs to be addressed, as does the receiving core.  Tedd Ginn stepped up big time, but the other receivers failed to do much on a week to week basis.  Steve Smith is arguably the heart and soul of the offense, if not the team, and he isn't getting any younger.  The team will have to find a solid #2 guy that can step up once Smith hangs it up.  The secondary as needs attention.  While the group of overall unknown guys preformed well at times, they also gave up too many big plays that cost the team.  Panthers GM, Dave Gettleman will I'm sure address this issues this off season.  It'll also be interesting to see what the team does in the 2014 NFL Draft this spring.

I really expect good things from the Panthers in the 2014 season.  However before we get there I just wanted to express my gratitude to the whole Panthers franchise for a superb 2013 season...even if we did fall a little short.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Tim Hudson - Straight from the Collector's Crack

Even though I've been out of the regular blogging/trading loop, some people haven't forgotten about me.  Just last week I got a plain white envelope in the mail.  I looked at the return address and immediately knew who set it...none other than my good buddy cynical buddha from Collector's Crack.

I never know what he'll be sending me.  Could be Braves, Panthers or something entirely different.  This time around was a nice hand written letter asking how I have been doing along with one lone Tim Hudson 2000 Topps Finest card.

While I have indeed scaled back my activity both on the blog and collecting, I still am focused on Tim Hudson as one of my primary collections.  When I went back to my own database I was surprised to see that I didn't already own this card of Huddy.  The gesture was already nice, not already having the card just made it that much nicer.  Thanks buddha!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Overwhelming Generosity in the form of 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter

A few days before Christmas I finally got my want list posted for 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter.  I decided that set building takes more time and money than I'm willing to spend, but there are a few sets I want to finish...and may pursue in 2014.  

I only bought one hobby box of '13 A&G so needless to say I had a lot of holes needing to be filled - in both the base set and inserts.  With me being out of the loop for the better part 2013 I wasn't sure if I'd get any response from my post.  Then a guy by the name of Howard stepped in and offered to help me out.  He didn't send me a list of cards he wanted, only asking for my mailing address.  I had no idea what he was sending, and didn't really care.  What came in the mail a few days later astonished me.

Most of you should be familiar with those VHS sized USPS Priority mailer boxes you get for free at the post office.  I received one of those boxes full of '13 A&G cards from my want list.  Four stacks total with commons, SPs and a few of the regular sized inserts.  Wow.

I immediately grabbed my binder and sitting at the kitchen table I started to go through the cards and put them into pages.  Howard single handedly almost finished the whole set for me!  To say thank you really doesn't do him now I'm going to head on over to his blog, Wanted: Baseball Cards and see if I can find something to send to him in return.

I didn't intend for my original post to come off as "send me free cards".  I'm willing to trade or possibly pay.  Howard went above and beyond and I had to give him props.  As a result my want list, especially for the base set, is much shorter.  Hopefully I can finish off the base set within the next few months.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fleer Marvel Comics uncut promo sheets

I haven't abandoned this blog.  In fact I've been using some of the "down time" trying to get things organized so I can hopefully return to more active blogging and trading again.  Perhaps even revive my "Affordable Group Breaks" again.

While doing a little cleaning I ran across a very old Ultra Pro pages box (back when Jose Canseco was a spokesman for them!) and inside was all sorts of uncut promo sheets.  I believe the majority of these came from Tuff Stuff magazine, remember them?  Today's topic however probably came polybagged with copies of WIZARD magazine.

Back when Fleer had the Marvel comics license, they pulled out all the stops and released a plethora of comic related trading card sets.  One of my favorites was Marvel Masterpieces from 1994.

Marvel Masterpieces 9 photo MUlargeback_zpse4c71bcd.jpg

Fleer hired the famous Hildebrant Brothers to paint all of the images for their new Masterpieces set.  While there were a few cards I didn't care for their interpretation of the character, most of them were pretty cool...well at least in the 90's.  I have two uncut promo sheets for this series - a 9 card sheet and a 4 card sheet - both having the same back as shown above.

Marvel Masterpieces 9 photo MUlarge_zps1e03e82f.jpg

I think their work is pretty impressive overall.  In particular I like their take on Psylocke, Odin, Green Goblin and the Human Torch.

Marvel Masterpieces 4 photo MU_zpsf47d6ff2.jpg

Venom on the smaller 4 card sheet is the best in my opinion.  Just look at all the slobber coming from his nasty long tongue!

A year later, Fleer introduced a new card technology they dubbed Metal.  Of course it was first used in their various sports sets, but they also used it coupled with their Marvel license.  While I loved baseball and football Metal sets from 1995, the Marvel set just didn't grab my attention...though I did buy a metric crap load of it back in the day.

Fleer Metal photo Metalback_zps69a07a73.jpg

One per pack inserts were normal in the 90's and this trend carried over to 1995 Marvel Metal.  The one per pack Silver Flashers were parallels with a silver etched foil background.  Boring.  The Metal Blasters and Gold Blasters weren't much better either.

Fleer Metal photo Metal_zps2a157586.jpg

I think what hurt these cards so much was the lack of real artwork.  Instead Fleer opted to use CGI art and well the results are...well I'll let you be the judge.  I think I did finish this set at one point, but I've since sold, traded or just threw it away.

I actually have a few of each of these promo sheets, so if anyone is interested in them let me know and I'll send you one.