Monday, November 21, 2011

Michelle Baena Autograph Card

It's been a year and a half since I last posted about Michelle Baena. She remains a highlight of the Benchwarmer sets, as is evidenced by this 2011 Benchwarmer Vault autograph card (card #RG8), signed in black sharpie.

What I particularly like about this sub-set is they all seem to be dressed in the Racer Girls uniform, a usual insert set for Benchwarmer, but one Baena usually isn't included in as far as I know. But it goes back to the series' initial plot line - sports-inspired model cards.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Drew Doughty Swatch Card

Drew Doughty is a force to be reckoned with, and probably will be for quite some time. He is the second-youngest ever Norris Trophy nominee (behind only Bobby Orr), and youngest Team Canada men's team medal winner (2010 Olympics) since Eric Lindros (1991 Canada Cup).

Having grown up a Los Angeles Kings fan, getting drafted by them (second overall, 2008) and playing for them is a dream come true. Kind of makes you wonder, though, why he held out on the team for 13 days during training camp to sign a contract ($56M for 8 years) that pretty much ensures the team won't be able to afford a high-priced free agent at the trade deadline to pack the team up for a Cup run in this salary-cap era.

With all due respect for Doughty, at that price, I strongly prefer my Montréal Canadiens' one-two punch of Andrei Markov ($5.75M) and P.K. Subban ($1M, probably 4 next season)...

In any event, while I await a response from Doughty (I sent him 4 cards on March 29th), I did manage to scoop this nice card up, from Panini's 2010-11 Crown Royale set (yet another collection from the mid-90s Panini has revived), the Lords Of The NHL sub-set (card # 9, numbered 55/99) featuring a swatch of the no-longer-in-use Kings' vintage purple jersey.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Upper Deck Victory 2011-12 Box Break

As every year, Upper Deck's 2011-12 Victory set is a beautiful, cheap (around a buck a pack) set that happens to be the first release of the season. And like just about every year, Sidney Crosby is the brand's poster child.

And after years of featuring perfect-to-get-autographed white backgrounds, this season's set features a colourful background fitting each team, one that looks pretty good:
Also, there are a ton of nice-looking inserts, just about in every pack. Here was my box's breakdown:

36 packs per box, 6 cards per box, total cards: 216

Regular cards:

Victory Rookies: 17 (including one checklist card of Cody Hodgson)

Game Breakers: 9, including Taylor Hall

Star Of The Game: 9

MVP (which used to be a set of its own): 16

MVP Rookies: 2, including Hodgson

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 7 (including P.K. Subban, plus one Rookie of future star Brendon Nash)

All in all, the first set to leave me fully satisfied this season...

2 Donruss 2010-11 Blaster Box Breaks

Toys R Us had a ''special'' on Panini's 2010-11 Donruss blaster boxes - basically, mini-boxes of 8 packs - so I purchased 2 to see what was up with that. 16 packs, 10 cards per - 160 cards total.

Now, I appreciate that Panini is trying to revive the early-90s brands Upper Deck doesn't own such as Donruss and Score, but I find it rather odd that they'd try to make Donruss seem like a middle-to-upper class set, because I must say that at $2 a pack these seemed like a total waste of money - and at regular price, and the suggested retailer price, of $3 per - getting 10 of these so-so designs and sub-par pictures reminiscent of Panini stickers sure feels like getting ripped off:

And I can't get my head around the fact that they want me to believe these cards are worth 30 cents each on average...

Here's the breakdown:

16 packs, 10 cards per, total cards: 160

Regular cards: 146

Rated Rookies: 5

Ice Kings: 1, Mario Lemieux

The Ultimate Draft: 1, Thomas Vanek

Boys Of Winter: 1, Niklas Backstrom

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 7 (including 1 Rated Rookie, Brock Trotter).

There is no way in hell, I'm getting any kind of money's worth for this crap...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Craig Simpson: 4 Autographed Cards

Score another one for the Edmonton Oilers!

I sent Craig Simpson these four cards and a fan letter on November 25th, 2010, care of the CBC's Audience Relations department, and got them all back, signed in black sharpie with his jersey number (18) added, on September 13th, 2011. For a broadcaster who travels following Western Canadian teams, that's a pretty good turnaround.

Simpson is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Oilers (1987-88 and 1989-90) and holds career NHL records for best shooting percentage both in the regular season (23.66%) and the playoffs (33.65%). He has 68 points in 67 career playoff games, proving he was good under pressure. He scored a career-high 43 goals in a mere 59 games in 1987-88 (he had 13 more in 19 playoff games) and had a career-high 76 points he following season with 35 goals in 66 games.

He also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, but I mostly remember him as an Oiler, skating on a line with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson.

Sports must have played a major part of his childhood, as his mother was Canadian Olympian Marion Simpson, his brother is hockey player Dave Simpson and his sister Christine covers hockey for Sportsnet. His son Dillon Simpson was drafted by the Oilers in the 2011 draft.

Craig got into a bit of controversy when participating in Battle Of The Blades, a Dancing With The Stars-like skating competition on CBC. Paired with iconic gold-medal Olympian Jamie Salé, he won the competition, however when it was revealed the two had had an affair, it broke both their couples apart.

Now, onto the cards.

This card shows Simpson wearing the Oilers' legendary away jersey and is from Score's 1992-93 Score (American) set (card #260). The card below (also #260) is from the 1992-93 Score (Canadian) set and shows him in the Oilers' home uniform. I like that Score went through the trouble of making two distinct sets that year rather than just have one be bilingual and not the other.

The next two cards also show Simpson in the Oilers' blue jersey:

The card on the left is from Pro Set's 1990-91 Pro Set collection (card #95) while the one on the right is from Score's inaugural 1990-91 Score set (card #58). While I always liked the initial Score set, I'm getting re-acquainted with the first Pro Set one and am liking it again as well. Its design was original and appealing - it's too bad it was over-abundant and is now worth nothing.

Claude Giroux Dual Jersey Card

I love finding great deals on Ebay!

This beautiful dual-patch jersey card - from a rookie photo shoot, but still nice! - of the Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux was being auctioned with a starting price of $1.99 - and no one else bid, so I got it for that price!

It's from Upper Deck's beautiful 2008-09 Ice set (Fresh Threads sub-set, card #FT-GI) and has both a black and a white swatch.

After leading his team in scoring with 76 points last season, the Flyers saw it fit to hand Giroux the team's reigns by trading captain Mike Richards and alternate captain Jeff Carter in the off-season, and Giroux has responded great so far: he currently sits 8th in the NHL for goals (with 9) and 9th for points (with 19).

2 Score 2011-12 Box Breaks

Just like last year, I decided to purchase two boxes of this year's lower-end product, the 2011-12 Score set by Panini. I've liked Score since its late-80s baseball sets and became more of a fan when they made the move to hockey in 1990-91 with all the other manufacturers.

After their initial season, however, their designs weren't as fun, their featured rookies were awful, and my interest waned. History seems to be repeating itself.

This year's set contains 550 cards: 35 ''highlights'' cards, 465 regular cards and 50 rookies. Additionally, there are 20 ''short-print'' rookie cards, which happen to be the best ones - from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Gabriel Landeskog, with Alexei Yemelin and Sean Couturier thrown in for good measure - and a flurry of sub-sets. View the complete checklist here.

At a buck per pack, 36 packs per box and 7 cards per pack, these are the most affordable hockey cards on the market, even though very few cards will ever be worth the 15 cents average you're purchasing them at; what you want are the inserts, preferably the autographs. I managed to get a redemption card for one, which will be a rookie to boot (just like last year's Jordan Eberle, only this time, a player I have no clue about, Carson McMillan). Most of the rest will be used to gather autographs, although I'll probably try to sell the Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby cards along with a few rookies on Ebay for a buck apiece, trying to get at least a third of my money back.

Score's strengths, like Upper Deck's O-Pee-Chee line, resides in the number of cards in its set, where it's not just the NHL's top-100 scorers, but also a few role players who nowadays don't appear as frequently in card sets. Collectors and autograph-seekers such as myself appreciate that a lot.

But lower-end sets sell at less and probably make the company a whole let less cash, so cost-cutting measures such as having the autograph cards be the same as the regular ones albeit with a sticker on which the player's signature is affixed are now widely accepted. Others, however, such as these two cards of Jason Pominville from box #2 with the exact same picture are downright insulting, especially when you get them in the same pack:
And while we're at it, can we talk about the cheap design? The lines on the side are reminiscent of last year's Donruss set by the same company, but with an added white border comes off like its trashy cousin.

Add that to the fact that some pictures are too light as if the camera's flash was too intense (or, more likely, Panini went overboard on Photoshop):
(actually, the scan makes these look much better than they do in real life)

others are too dark, like they were taken in a minor-league arena in the 1980s:
and others yet just have the colours looking all kinds of wrong:
If I didn't intend on just getting most of these signed, as a collector being given this sub-par product, I'd be pissed off. In this day and age of people not having jobs let alone any money, Score is showing tremendous disrespect to its clientele.

And that's saying nothing of this Nik Antropov card, with a picture snagged at the awful press conference that passed for the Winnipeg Jets' jersey unveiling:
Anyhow, here is how the first box broke down:

36 packs, 7 cards per: 252 cards

Regular cards: 134

'Glossy' parallel: 35, including two 'Highlights' cards, and a few stars including Tim Thomas, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrice Bergeron.

'Gold' parallel: 1

Hot Rookies: 19, the biggest name being Blake Geoffrion, and one of the cards being a short-print, Ryan Johansen.

Playoff Heroes: 2

Sudden Death: 2: Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares.

The Franchise: 1, Jeff Skinner.

Net Cam: 3

First Goal: 1, Derek Stepan.

Score B: 1, Corey Perry.

Making An Entrance: 3, Carey PriceNicklas Lidstrom and Miikka Kiprusoff.

Highlight Cards: 19 regular, two glossy.

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 10, including 1 rookie (Aaron Palushaj), 1 Making An Entrance (Price), 1 Highlight (P.K. Subban) and 1 Glossy (Andrei Markov).

Plus the redemption card.


Here is a breakdown of the second box:

36 packs, 7 cards per: 252 cards

Regular cards: 169

'Glossy' parallel: 35, including five 'Highlights' cards - chief of which a Mario Lemieux Winter Classic card - and a few young stars including Shea WeberJohn TavaresBrayden Schenn, and Tyler Seguin.

'Gold' parallel: 1, Ryan Getzlaf.

'Black' parallel: 1

Hot Rookies: 18, the biggest name again being Blake Geoffrion, and two of Chris Vande Velde - with a short-print, Matt Read.

Playoff Heroes: 1, ironically of Roberto Luongo...

Sudden Death: 2: Alexandre Burrows and Jason Chimera.

The Franchise: 1, Luongo again.

Net Cam: 3, Luongo, Carey Price and Cam Ward.

First Goal: 1, Erik Condra.

Making An Entrance: 3, Patrick KaneMartin St-Louis and Jamie Benn.

Highlight Cards: 17 regular, five glossy.

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 10, including 1 rookie (Aaron Palushaj again), 1 Net Cam (Price), and 1 Glossy (P.K. Subban).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tony Gwynn Jersey And Stamp Card

I'm typically not a fan of the Americana-series cards, because I can do without getting a bunch of dinosaur cards. And the ''celebrities'' you can possibly get are either deceased, are shown in an awful picture, or are just plain nobodies.

And when you get an athlete, he is never shown wearing his major league team's colours, because the card company didn't purchase the rights to show it. Such is the case with this still-fine Tony Gwynn card from Panini's 2010 Donruss Americana Century Collection (card #45, numbered 69/250, part of the Souvenir Stamps sub-set).It contains a piece of jersey ''worn by Gwynn in an official game'', so probably as a member of the San Diego Padres - the only team he played for in his Hall Of Fame 20-year career; it also contains an official U.S. stamp commemorating the sport of baseball. But the picture shows him wearing his hometown Long Beach Polytechnic High School uniform...

As a Montréal Expos fan, I can say Gwynn was one of the few players from opposing teams I truly respected: he never hit below .309 (!!), won 8 batting titles (almost every other year!), struck out only 434 times in his career (!!!) and had an inside-the-park grand slam (!!!!).

His mother was born on August 6th, a day on which he hit his 2000th hit (1993) and - one I saw on TV - his 3000th, in 1999, against the Expos' Dan Smith. He also hit his 1500th against Montréal, off pitcher Steve Frey.

Matt Moulson Jersey Card

This beautiful, extra-thick jersey card from Panini's 2010-11 Dominion set (card #61, numbered 31/99) features a nice picture of Matt Moulson and a decent-sized dark blue swatch from the New York Islanders' home jersey. I used to be indifferent about the Isles' jerseys, but this return to their original design is a breath of fresh air after over a decade of sub-par uniforms.

As for Moulson, he's one of those feel-good hockey stories, a forgotten prospect passed over by two teams (the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted him 263rd overall in 2003 without ever signing him, and the Los Angeles Kings, who signed him to an entry-level contract but only gave him 29 games of NHL time) who became a two-time 30-goal scorer for the Isles, playing with prodigy John Tavares, a fellow Mississauga native.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ralph Intranuovo Autographed Card

After having seen the Edmonton Oilers give the Montréal Canadiens a lesson in opportunistic defensive hockey on Tuesday, it seemed fitting to feature this card next, as it depicts both those teams' farm clubs in the early 1990s.

Ralph Intranuovo was one of those 50-goal, 100-point juniors that card companies viewed as a blue chip prospect, but having been chosen in the 4th round (96th overall) at the 1992 draft shows there was a bit of doubt in his case.

But the Oilers really liked him, not only drafting him, but the season after losing him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, they traded for his rights again. All in all, he played 22 games in the NHL - 3 with the Leafs, 19 with the Oilers - and has two goals and four assists to show for it. At age 37, he is still playing professionally, in Italy, with HC Asiago.

This card (#186), from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Prospects set, sees him in the away uniform for the Cape Breton Oilers, a team for which he once scored 46 goals and 93 points in a single season (1994-95). He signed it in blue sharpie for a friend of mine, who ended up selling me his collection.