Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Anniversary Loot

I recently celebrated my 4th Anniversary.  We didn’t do anything huge since we’re going to Disney World later in the year, but we had a nice weekend away in the Mystic, CT area.  We did some gambling at Mohegan Sun, did a little shopping and of course had a dinner and a movie date night.  We did this two years ago and enjoyed it so much that we decided to do it again this year.  On that first trip, I picked up a cool Red Sox wool pennant.  I picked up some cool goodies on this trip as well.

MysticPizzaMystic, CT is home of the Mystic Pizza restaurant made famous in the movie Mystic Pizza.  This original location was too small inside for filming, but the outside was used for the front of the restaurant in the movie.  The interior shots were filmed in the Mystic Pizza location in Stonington.  I added to two of my collections at Mystic Pizza.  I picked up a new pin for my pin board and pressed two pennies.  I was caught off guard and didn’t have enough change to press the third penny that was available.

PinsI picked up a couple of other pins in a general store in Olde Mistick Village.  I’ve already got logo pins of both the Sox and Pats, but these were very nice and the price was right so I added them to the collection.  The pin board is now here, but I need to purchase something sturdy to hang it with.  Once that’s done, I’ll get some pictures of it up on the blog.  After this upcoming Disney trip, I may need a second board.

Light There’s also a shop in Olde Mistick Village that sells sports stuff.  A lot of the stuff there is overpriced since the store is in a touristy shopping area in a touristy town, but I did find something that I really wanted.

This Red Sox glass switch plate cover looks great in the room and will look even better once I touch up the paint a little.  I’ve got some Red Sox items in the room and the Celtics will be well represented, but I think I’ll have to search out some Patriots stuff (retro logo only, no ugly flying Elvis head logo) for the room as well.

Last, but not least was an oddball item that I had to pick up for myself.  My mother-in-law had given me the Red Sox version of this a couple of years ago for Christmas and it was a fun little gift.  When I saw the Celtics version, it had to be mine.


Here you can see Kevin McHale, Larry Legend, The Chief, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Reggie Lewis, Red Auerbach, Pierce and Dee Brown.  There’s three cards right into player collections and a bunch of other fun caricature cards.  I love this kind of oddball stuff.

Monday, May 17, 2010

eBay score

If only I had gotten the old man cave together more quickly, I could have it all set for the current Upper Deck "We're giving everything away to prepare for bankruptcy" contest. I did pick up something sweet to decorate though. I won a lot of full-sized Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett Fatheads. The winning bid? $36. The suggested retail of just one of these is $99. Shipping is a little steep, but that's understandable since these come in big poster tubes, but even with shipping the price is right at $50. That's $25 a piece. To say that I'm extremely excited about this win is an understatement.

I also had a nice win on something else that I needed for the room and that was the McFarlane Toys Hurley action figure. I never picked this up when they were released and I watched a bunch of them go by for too much money with ridiculous shipping fees. I won a nice one with free shipping for $22 which is right around what they retailed for originally. Dude! 3 and a half hours to go and then my current favorite show is off of the air. Vying to take its place would be Breaking Bad and Parenthood. The latter is much better than I ever thought it would be and I hope that enough people are watching it to keep it on the air. The writing is top notch and it makes me laugh and tugs at the heart strings in the same episode. The last show that I watched that did that to this extent was Judging Amy.

How 'bout them Celtics?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2009-10 Panini Studio Basketball

Base-1I’ve fallen behind on Panini press releases due to some being sent out in PowerPoint format and then having no free time.  So, I’ve decided to focus on a release that I did purchase some packs of and that is currently my favorite Panini non-gaming product available.

Here’s a picture of the Big Al base card.  It’s not often that you see a basketball set where all of the cards have a landscape layout.  While I do like these cards, I do feel like there’s a lot of empty space on the cards that could be better utilized.  The biggest culprit?  That giant blank area to the right of the action photo.  You’d think that the picture would look best if it fell right in the blue stripe?  Unfortunately, that space is reserved for this:

HillJersey swatches.  On its own, this is a nice looking jersey card, but the problem is that it wrecks the design of the base card.  The majority of the cards that you are going to pull out of a box of cards are the base cards so this is a problem.  It makes the base cards feel like an afterthought.

KamanThe bad design carries over to the autograph versions of the base cards.  The stickers go right over the action photo.  I really hope that in the future that Panini stops using the same designs over and over again for regular cards, relics cards and autograph cards.  It’s the one thing, and it’s a huge thing, keeping them from producing top notch sets.  They still feel like the second tier company doing things like this and serial numbering the heck out of everything to create extra “hits.”

Base-2I was just goofing around with the design and chopped off the empty space on the right.  Doesn’t that make the card look better?  There’s still an awful lot of empty space though.  Is it possible to reduce the empty space even more?

Base-3Now I’ve chopped things down even more.  This card no longer has the player’s name or the brand name, but that can be easily rectified in the next step.

One thing that you may notice is that this is getting closer and closer to a portrait layout.  You can have some landscape cards in a basketball set, but when you’ve got players who are this tall you’ve got to go portrait.
Base-4Look, the picture is now in the stripe created by the set brand name and the player name.  Doesn’t that look much better?  Yes, some of the action shots used in this set are wider than this, but they’re black and white.  Panini shouldn’t be using the best action shots they’ve put on cards to date in B&W backgrounds.  Use basic shots in the background and this design will work without a problem.

Base-5 The final problem with the design was that it was no longer standard card sized.  I’ve fixed that in the final step.  You’d obviously want to crop the picture of Big Al a little differently so that he fits onto the card a little better, but I think you get a good idea here even without doing that.

Yes, this final design might need a couple of tweaks, but I feel it looks much better than what I started with.  You can keep the same design for the relic cards if you want, but don’t print the B&W picture on those cards.  I’m really not a fan of that though so it wouldn’t be happening in this set.  I think an awesome set would have this for the base card and the jersey cards the way they are now.  Use the same basic idea, but tweak what needs to be tweaked in order to deliver the best looking product possible.

You know why the best looking overall set that Panini has released this year is Adrenalyn?  No relics or autographs to be designed around.  It’s as simple as that.  The etched foil cards are especially sharp looking and I’d like to see Panini use some of that going forward instead of the rainbow foil that they use far too often.

PistonsThe Team Studio cards are an interesting idea and Panini loves their two-sided cards.  Personally, I’ve never enjoyed collecting cards where the player that I like is on the back.  I’d rather have two players on the front than one on the front and one on the back.  This is just personal preference and maybe no one else cares.  On the reverse of this card you’ll find Bill Lame-beer.  Sorry, but there’s no way that he’ll ever be making an appearance in this blog.

HowardThe Masterstrokes cards are slick looking.  You’ve got the photo studio with the large player images on the base cards and you’ve got the art studio on these cards.  I would call these the best cards in the set, but there’s another insert set that does it even better.  That set brings the theme back to the photography side of the studio.

RondoThese Skylines cards are one of the best things that I’ve seen come out of any product this year.  There are team colors which I love and it’s something different.  Yes, Upper Deck did something similar in the past, but that was over a decade ago.  Yes, there’s a lot of empty space, but it showcases the image of the city.  In this case you get a nice view of the Boston waterfront.  The players really pop on these cards.

Outside of the card blogging community, I’m a collecting abnormality.  I don’t care how sick the hits are if the cards don’t look good.  I’ve passed up cards for my player collections if the design is terrible.  I don’t have to have anything.  I want to have a collection that makes me happy.

Panini has been doing a great job on delivering hits and I’ve seen some beautiful cards come out of their products.  The on-card autographs in Classics are amazing.  They just need to step up their game when it comes to their base cards.  The high end releases are starting to come out now and I’m sure that the majority of their designs are set for this year, but I’m hoping that the base card situation improves with next year’s releases.

Monday, May 10, 2010

11 and 34

BabySignIt’s funny how certain numbers can pop up again and again in your life.  I’m not talking anything as severe as Hurley’s 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42, but since sports are full of numbers it’s bound to happen.

I was born on the 11th of September and those two numbers correspond with my current favorite players on the Celtics: Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Rajon Rondo.

I’ve been collecting Big Baby since his rookie season.  I was still bumming over the departure of “Big Al” Jefferson and Davis seemed like a fun rookie to root for.  He’s exactly the type of player that I love.  He’s got a natural instinct to be around the ball, battles hard on the offensive boards and is always hustling.  The biggest hole in his game is his lack of any vertical leap to speak of, but hopefully as he slims down and continues to work that will improve a little.

RondoAutoI haven’t fully committed to collecting Rondo yet because I’m already collecting a lot of players and it’s never a good idea to dive into a collection when a player is red hot.  I do have a handful or Rondo rookies, autographs and relics though.  I complete forgot to nominate Rondo for the terrible autograph tournament.  Some of his early autos have his full name, but he quickly switched to just signing “RR.”

Rondo has improved dramatically by leaps and bounds every year in the league.  This was a guy who “Boston Sports Guy” Bill Simmons crapped all over when the Celtics acquired him, jumped on the bandwagon after the Summer League and then resumed pooping for most of his rookie season.  To be fair, Rondo couldn’t shoot coming into the league.  Once he learned how to use his superior speed to get to the basket almost at will, it caused defenders to respect his speed and opened up room for his jumper which started going in more frequently.

Where Rondo has really shined is in the playoffs.  People were afraid that he might be a liability when the Celtics won it all in 2007-08, but that wasn’t the case.  Rondo really shined last season in the playoffs, but the Celtics couldn’t overcome the loss of Kevin Garnett on the defensive end of the floor even with Big Baby stepping up offensively in Garnett’s place.  This year, Rondo has been phenomenal.  Forget the new “Big Three,” right now in Boston there’s just a “Big One.”  Rondo’s triple-double today against the Cavaliers will go down as one of the all-time great Celtics playoff performances and that’s saying a lot when you’re wearing the jersey of a team that has won 17 Championships and could have their own wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

BuchholzGinterAutoAnother player that I haven’t really chased as far as a collection goes is Clay Buchholz.  I hadn’t noticed until two starts ago that Buchholz is now wearing 11 on his jersey this season.  It’s the number that he wore all through his childhood and on school teams.

I already had a connection with Buchholz due to being at his no-hitter.  My Buchholz collection started with all of the cards that mentioned the no-hitter and then grew from there.  I now have a couple of autographs and relic cards.  I’ve been eyeing an autographed rookie, but the majority that I see are slabbed and I’m not too big on that.  The prices on those cards always seem to be through the roof.  I will make sure that I track down all of Buchholz’s cards once they start depicting him with his new jersey number. 

PierceSilkI turned 34 on my last birthday and I currently collect two players with that jersey number.  I’ve been collecting Paul Pierce ever since I returned to the hobby casually around 2001 or so.  At that time, Pierce was one of the best clutch players in the game and also one of the most underrated.  He played with some terrible teams and chose to stay in Boston when he had chances to leave.  That decision was rewarded when Danny Ainge added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to the mix along with a great supporting cast and Pierce led the Celtics to their 17th NBA Championship winning NBA Finals MVP in the process.  Pierce has been struggling this year in the playoffs due to age and nagging injuries, but once he retires his 34 will be raised to the rafters in the Garden and he’ll take his place in the Hall of Fame.

Ortiz09BlueThe other 34 is Red Sox Slugger David Ortiz.  One thing that I liked a lot about the 2004 World Series Championship team was that it was built with the addition of two of my fantasy baseball favorites: David Ortiz and Billy Mueller.  Both of these guys seemed to annually be on the verge of their breakout season only to lose large parts of the season to injury.  Both of these guys were great, low-risk/high-reward free agent signings by Theo Epstein that looked brilliant in retrospect.

It’s tough not to like Ortiz.  He’s got an infectious smile, seemed to be well-liked by his teammates and under the tutelage of hitting coach Papa Jack became one of the most fearsome hitters in all of baseball.  He cemented his place in Boston Sports History with his clutch hitting during the 2004 championship run.  He struggled at the beginning of last season before leading the league in home runs from the middle of June to the end of the season.  It looks like he’s struggling again at the start of this season, but a platoon with Mike Lowell at DH will hopefully rejuvenate him like the platoon at catcher has done to Jason Varitek.  If not, it just means that Ortiz cards might be cheaper for me to acquire for my collection.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a lottery ticket.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sponsored Blaster Box Break: TRISTAR 2010 TNA New Era

HulkThere’s been buzz about this release ever since it was first publicized.  Say what you will about the TNA product on television, but this release contains autographs from some of the biggest names in the history of wrestling.  Hulk Hogan was the driving force of the WWF for decades while Ric Flair was doing the same thing over in WCW.  Now they’re facing off in the same federation and TRISTAR is striking while the iron is hot.

Those two cards aren’t the only ones available in this release though.  The Jeff Hardy autographs in the set should prove to be popular as will RVD’s autographs.  There’s a large autograph checklist though and the majority of the 55 autographs don’t have the amount of name recognition that the average WWE wrestler does.  I know that I’d be tempted not to rip the card in half if I were to pull a Bubba the Love Sponge autograph.  He’s not a wrestler and doesn’t belong in this set no matter how good of a friend he is to Terry Bollea.

RVDI doubt that there will ever be a market for wrestler “rookie cards",” but if there were, this would be RVD’s TNA RC.  TRISTAR did a great job with the quick turnaround of this set.  Hogan, Flair, RVD, Hardy and Mr. Anderson haven’t been in TNA all that long, but they got them into this set and did a good job of it.

Sabin The cards look very nice and the photography is great especially when you consider that a lot of these images were taken from the big TNA Monday night special and the show where Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair made their debut with TNA.  The time period between those shows and the release of this set wasn’t long at all.  You’ve got to give TRISTAR plenty of kudos for that.  They definitely struck while the iron was hot and it is paying off.  The cards have improved by leaps and bounds since the first TNA set.  I still don’t know of too many people who are a fan of the glitter, but it’s TRISTAR’s thing so I don’t mind them sticking with it.

AutoEach blaster box contains 24 cards and that includes one autograph card.  So, you are basically paying $20 or whatever the blasters sell for at retail for just the one autograph card.  These are unnumbered retail versions of the autograph cards.  That seems pretty pricey for what you get in a box.

TRISTAR continues to deliver fun autographs on their cards.  The card of Mr. Anderson reads, “Mr. Anderson… Anderson!!” which is what the wrestler yells into an old school microphone lowered from the ceiling as part of his entrance.

On the downside of things, the stickers are once again on stickers.  I can understand it for this set since there was a quick turnaround time, but there’s no way that there should be sticker autographs on future sets.  All that TRISTAR has to do is send a representative or two down to Orlando on a Thursday night with cards to be signed and they’re all set.  It’s really inexcusable.  On-card autographs would really bring these sets to the next level.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Big Winner

I would have liked to win the National Chicle or TNA New Era boxes from Beckett’s weekly Friday giveaways, but I’m happy just to win.  My daughter will be thrilled to open up a box of Hannah Montana cards.  I also entered her drawing of a baseball card of her playing t-ball with her family for Mother’s Day in the Upper Deck Mother’s Day Giveaway.  That contest makes me wonder how many adults are going to fake children’s drawing to enter.

I also got a great box of cards in the mail today from Boxbusters that included some great cards.  All I had to do in order to win was live in the state of Massachusetts.  Go me!

Still working on the review of the TNA Blaster.  It’s a little tough because I don’t even think I got one of each of the subset cards and I have no clue what most of the inserts look like other than the sell sheets and anyone can look at those.  I think it’ll turn more into a TNA-based article than trading card article because that’s what I’ve got to work with.

I’m also going to post all of the 2010 Topps inserts that I’m not going to keep.  I do the majority of my blog reading on my breaks at work and once I get home I can keep who needs what straight.  So, I’m going to post them here and fill people’s wantlists that way.  If you need inserts from 2010 Topps then stay tuned.  If you need base cards, let me know because I have a decent stack of extras sitting around.

I’m still buzzing over the three Boston victories tonight.  It was a nice night off from the LeBron slurping.  The Sox responded after getting swept by the O's and the Bruins continue to play tough, scrappy hockey to win games.  With the seeds remaining in the East, I think they could easily make it to the Finals.  I’m also one of the 6 people on the planet that believe that the Celtics can beat the Cavs just like they did two years ago.  The Celtics are built to beat teams that rely too heavily on one player.  They’ve got 4 superstars and are tough to shutdown.  Even when they play poorly and turn the ball over far too frequently, they’re still in it.  When they stepped it up in the third quarter tonight they showed that overall talent wise, they’re the best team in the East.  They just need to continue to play up to that talent level.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One cool thing about the MCG contests

I’ve only got 14 cards in my Million Card Giveaway portfolio with only 11 of those coming from codes.  I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to win any of the contests on the site.  I am benefitting in one way though.  Before the contests were announced, I started to trade away my newer cards for any Red Sox that I could get.  I ended up with a Tom Seaver and Roger Clemens from 87 Topps along with some other cards.  I have since traded away those cards for commons from the 70s.  Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking deal, but it’s an improvement to me.  It may also help me, after the second Red Sox contest, to try and pick up some nice Red Sox cards in exchange for these vintage cards.