Friday, March 4, 2022

Collecting Upper Deck is a Trip Down Memory Lane

I picked up two cards off eBay over the last few weeks, both cards from Upper Deck hockey products. I'm waiting on a fairly large COMC shipment, but there are so many cards in the queue ahead of mine that I doubt it'll actually ship by the listed ship date. But between the eBay and COMC adds it's clear to me that what I value in today's collecting world is nostalgia. I enjoy finding cards with retro designs, especially designs that I remember from my childhood collecting. 

Collecting hockey is exciting for me on three fronts. It's exciting because it's something my son is getting into right now. He's learning to ice skate, because to play hockey he has to know how to skate. We live in South Carolina, so it's no hockey hotbed here, but you wouldn't know it spending a day in our house. 

It's exciting because it's something almost completely new for me. I've collected a lot of basketball cards and am still pretty active on that front (see, I pick up baseball cards, and I'm sure I'll be active there once the season starts, whenever that might be, but going through a full season of hockey products is new. 

Lastly, I get to open packs of Upper Deck cards again, and with Upper Deck I get those retro designs, some of which were used in basketball as well.

The first card I picked up recently meets number three. This is a 1995-96 SP insert from 2015-16 SP Authentic of the captain of the Predators, Roman Josi. I started on a hunt for retro inserts after seeing UD3 and some others in 2020-21 Upper Deck Extended, and this was one I knew I had to pick up. While I didn't necessarily open any packs of 1995-96 SP basketball, I do have several Pacers (my NBA team of choice) in my collection. I look at this card and I'm 9 years old again, trading with my best friend from down the street.

Love the back too, even though I don't think it's true to the original as far as finish. But the design is close enough for me.

The next one is not a retro design, but a parallel set that's been around for a long time, but one I honestly don't know if I own any of in any sport to this point.

I don't have the base Forsberg, or any other versions from this year's MVP, but I now have a Super Script parallel numbered out of 25. I have plenty of Silver Script and even a few Gold from basketball sets in the late 90s and early 2000s, but this is my first Super Script. 

Really hoping the Predators find a way to get an extension done with Forsberg that makes sense for him and the team, but what I'm reading is that it may limit the flexibility to make moves around him. Tough spot for both sides.

I just broke a box of 2021-22 O-Pee-Chee with my son, so I'll have a recap of that coming soon, and also share some of the cards a fellow blogger sent for my 5 year old son. The blogging community is a generous group, that's for sure.

Enjoy ripping your Series 1 packs if you've got 'em! 

Friday, February 4, 2022

All-Star Autograph on NHL All-Star Weekend

Looking forward to the start of the Olympics this weekend, alongside the NHL Skills challenge tonight and the All-Star game Saturday afternoon. 

While I don't have autographs of current All-Stars in my small hockey card collection, I do have a few from one of favorite players from my childhood, John LeClair. It's been years now, but I sent an autograph request through the mail to the former Flyers left-winger.

A 5x All-Star, LeClair was a part of my favorite team from the 90s, forming a fearsome front line with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg. Back then my favorite way to enjoy the team was through playing NHL on the playstation, specifically NHL 97 and 99. I remember being excited because Lindros was on the cover. 

I'm definitely not anywhere close to fluent on hockey cards from that period, even though I know some followed suit with basketball. Cards from the Pacific brand weren't a thing in basketball though, so this design isn't a familiar one for me. This one reminds me of a Topps Gallery type design.

I've now shown off my only hockey cards that are pre-2016 that aren't Predators. Happy to have these autographs in my collection. Definitely fond memories of those Flyers teams, and firing in goal after goal with LeClair and Lindros on the playstation, often playing against my dad's Penguins.

Hope everyone enjoys the All-Star weekend!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Fire on Ice

My son and I are enjoying hockey in many forms these days. Between opening a few hockey blaster boxes, watching hockey games on ESPN+, and going to a minor league hockey game for the first time since the pandemic started, we've got hockey activity around our house just about on a daily basis. 

He's all about the Sharks, but he'll watch just about any game on TV. He doesn't know it's coming, but he's going to lose his mind over the NHL All-Star festivities this weekend, coinciding with the start of the Winter Olympics. Even though NHL players aren't in the Olympics, we'll be watching hockey I'm sure.

Meanwhile I'm soaking up hockey card content and adding cards to my Predators want list. While I've tried to hold off on making too many purchases, I did make an initial purchase after seeing a parallel version of this set on twitter.

The parallel version I saw was shinier and serial numbered, but I'm happy with this rookie year card of the top scorer on the Predators, Filip Forsberg. It wouldn't scan well, so I took photos in my light box. A rookie year Forsberg in a set like this, I couldn't pass up when I saw they were a very reasonable price. 

One thing I noticed, and I am not up to speed on Panini's history with a hockey card license, is the Dual Class wording on the Rookie Card logo.  Does this indicate multiple rookie classes in a single year's set? I googled and couldn't find information on it. Was this an attempt by Panini to introduce a rookie card logo in hockey? Info on this would be appreciated.

Same image used on the front and back of the card, but you get to see a faint background. Forsberg's been my favorite Predator to watch since I started following the team. He hit the 200 goal mark just recently, and is on a tear right now. On fire, you might say. He's in the final year of his contract and while he's sure to get a big contract, surely he'll be back in Nashville.

In modern card collecting, I am drawn to sets that are a throwback to a prior set. The 'Fire on Ice' name was used for Leaf insert sets in the mid-90s, the 1997-98 version being my favorite.

So there you have it, my first purchase for the Predators collection. Many more to come, I'm sure. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

90s Collecting Flashback: Opening a 2020-21 Skybox Metal Universe Blaster

While I know Fleer created hockey Metal Universe sets in the second half of the 90s, my exposure to the Metal brand came through basketball cards. Precious Metal Gems are one of the most sought after parallel sets out there. I don't own any myself, and maybe I never will with the card market surge over the last few years. Even lesser known players have PMGs selling for hundreds of dollars. While I may never own one, if I have a chance to open some packs that flash me back to my childhood collecting, I'm going to do it. Enter Skybox Metal Universe Hockey.

While the Skybox Metal Universe retail offering doesn't provide the chance at PMGs, it does allow for a reasonable way to find some awesome inserts like 'Intimidation Nation', 1997-98 Retro cards and 1997-98 Skybox Premium Prospects, and a slim chance at finding a Jambalaya or Platinum Portraits insert.  The brand and inserts alone are enough to warrant the price of a blaster, in this 90s kid's opinion.

I know you are all wondering what Predators came out of his blaster. Three Predator cards in the first two packs, and once again I'm hooked, one of them being a 1997-98 Retro design. These scan terribly as I expected. 

True to the original Metal Universe sets, these cards are easily dented and are definitely condition sensitive. Not the best cards for my 5-year old son to be handling if we are about condition, but this hobby is for him, too.

The photo I took of the Josi 1997-98 is not much better, but this is honestly the #1 card I was hoping for out of this box, and in pack #2 there it was. Even when it's a fairly common card, it's always satisfying to pull a card of a player you actively collect. I've still got a few Predators wants from this set, including some tough parallels, but I can cross off these three, at least.

The other 1997-98 was Auston Matthews, another solid pull. I'm probably done going after the 1997-98 since there aren't any other Predators and 50 cards seems like an ambitious insert set to chase after right out of the gate. The purple spectrum parallel of Josi will go on the want list, though.

I'm still trying to figure out how to get good photos of cards using a light box I picked up. It's a work in progress for sure.

The blue spectrum parallels scan much better than the base cards. The backgrounds really stand out in these scans. The Byram rookie seems like a pretty good pull, the 4th overall pick in 2019. I'm learning about these players as I go, but a rookie parallel is always good and the Avalanche are having a great season. I opened one of these parallels in each pack.

The Net Deposits are inserted in 1:6 retail packs. Awesome set and awesome player to pull. Really appreciate the spiraling puck design. Maybe if there's another iteration of this insert set it could include an image of the net somewhere.

There's that net I was talking about. That's a lot of deposits.

Would be a good box for a Leafs fan. A rookie insert set with a Skybox Premium design from 1997-98, and again, the 90s throwbacks are excellent. The Prospects are inserted into 1:4 blaster packs. I'm sure the Star Rubies versions of these look stellar in person. 

The toughest pull in this box at 1:25, a Toews Hardware insert. It's hard to tell from the scan, but the card is translucent. 

How sick is this? Throwback to the late 90s Intimidation Nation baseball and basketball sets, and I love it. This was the insert I was most excited to pull (with realistic odds) and it didn't disappoint. Quick is a name I recognize too which makes this one of the top pulls in the box.

What didn't I see in this blaster? I didn't find any purple parallels #'d out of 199. No Jambalaya or Platinum Portraits, as expected. No Alloyance or ALON inserts, either, but neither were necessarily expected to come out of a single blaster.

If this ends up being a yearly release it will be a must buy for me. Opening Fleer/Skybox brands again? Count me in. My interest in hockey cards after this box break is as high as it's ever been.

Next step after these couple of breaks, other than waiting for Upper Deck Series 1 to arrive, is not rush into purchases and really define what I want to try to pick up or trade for. Right now everything is new and shiny, and when that wears off I want to be excited about the direction of my collection, Predators and otherwise.  That being said, I've added a handful of Predators cards to my COMC that I'll share in a future post, so not off to the best start in that department. So far I'm sticking to inserts and parallels of featuring throwback set designs, and looking into picking up some key rookies, although the Young Guns aren't cheap.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Hockey Revisited: Opening a Blaster of 2021-22 Upper Deck MVP

Back in 2017 I wrote a series of posts when I started following hockey and picked up my first packs of hockey cards, and some bloggers were generous enough to send me a 'starter pack' of Predators cards to get my collection going. Well, towards the end of 2017 I really stepped back from cards entirely. But what I've learned about this hobby is that long-term, it has staying power for me, and it always comes back around. The cards will always be there, the people in the hobby will always be there, and in 2022 now more than ever, sports card content is everywhere. 

And so my first foray into hockey cards in five years is a blaster box of 2021-22 Upper Deck MVP. The blaster has 15 packs, a great product if your idea of fun is busting a lot of packs. The base cards have a mint color as part of the design, with the image looking like ice is shooting up form the players skating. It's a cool effect. Each card from the base set has an 'Ice Battles' parallel, and the short prints, including rookies, are blue.

My chosen team was the Predators, and I've stuck with that, although I've followed them more loosely than I would like. With young kids, it's been hard to find time to watch a full game, to be honest. Now that my oldest is five and he's showing interest in several sports, including hockey, it's become much easier to at least catch portions of a game.

These three are familiar names for me, Fiala being a former Predator.

Here's an example of one of the rookie cards from the set. Denisenko's only appeared in one Panthers game, but is getting plenty of time with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. The Zac Jones is a rookie short print Ice Battles parallel.

Zac Jones I included because he's originally from Richmond, VA, which is where I grew up. I figured that was rare for an NHL player to be from Virginia, and even less likely to be from Richmond, and sure enough, with his NHL debut in April last year, Jones is the first player from Richmond to play in the NHL. So there you go, maybe a reason to start a side player collection.

Meier recently scored 5 goals in one game, a feat I've definitely never seen before in my brief time as a hockey fan. And this happened in a game I happened to be watching on replay with my son. He's a fan of the Sharks logo and the jerseys, as you can imagine. The Sharks are probably his top hockey team right now. That could change any day, but we've enjoyed watching the Sharks, and that 5 goal performance was quite a treat. 

I've always been an insert guy, going back to collecting basketball cards in the 90s in my childhood. What I wasn't expecting out of this MVP blaster were inserts that make me want to look at the checklist and see who else I can grab. The cracked ice effect, especially coming out of cheap packs like this, are something that would have hooked me as a child, and I guess I'm not much different today.

This 20th Anniversary set reminds me of an insert that would have come out of MVP products in the late 90s/early 2000s. Can't argue with a MacKinnon card, either, a former number one overall pick. I'd like to pick up the Josi from this set. I'd expect the gold parallel of a Pred would look nice!

P.K. Subban was a favorite of mine, and I'm sure many others, from his time on the Predators. The Predators traded him to the Devils in 2019, and even though he's not at an All-Star level anymore, he's still popular enough to be included in insert sets like these. The before picture shows him wearing a red tie to the CMT Music Awards in 2018, before his time with the Devils. Glad I pulled a player I appreciate from this set.

What would an MVP product be without Silver Scripts and Gold Scripts. While big hits are pretty rare out of a box like MVP, it's nice to know that it's possible to chase the Super Scripts. My box had several Silver and Gold Script cards.  

The mascot set is a hit with younger collectors, I'm sure. It was a favorite for my son. I'll have to pick up the Shark card for him, and probably some others, and learn the mascots in the process. Well done Upper Deck on this one.

It was nice to see some familiar faces in this blaster, find some of the young stars in the game, and pull some inserts with a cracked ice effect, unexpected from an MVP blaster. 

I'm going to be putting an updated hockey card wantlist on TCDB (cardstacks), where I plan to be more active in making some trades, although I've mainly got basketball and baseball for trade. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Diamond Kings


Diamond Kings is a product that I always enjoy seeing but don't usually open much of. This year I saw a blaster on the Target app and decided I would pull the trigger on it. I looked at the insert checklists and the colors on some of these were enough to get me to purchase. I generally like the base set for the basketball Court Kings product, and I think if we had logos on these then Diamond Kings would be one of my favorite products each year. Without them it's probably middle of the pack.

I didn't realize until writing this post that I pulled 5 SPs, cards with a number 101 or higher. I received:

138 Lewin Diaz, 143 David Peterson, 158 Kyle Lewis, 163 Matt Chapman, 168 Max Scherzer

Highlights of the base cards for me, and I think they show the variety in this product. Start with Sisler, born in 1893 and the MVP in 1922 for the St. Louis Browns, and next to him is Bobby Dalbec, a rookie for the Red Sox born over a century later in 1995. 

Then we have an Artist Proof of Joe Jackson, born in 1889, from Pickens County, SC. The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum is across the street from Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive. Cool to pull one of his cards out of a pack, and a parallel, even better.

One of the perks, based on the outside of the box, was a bordered parallel card. I opened George Brett as you can see. 

So many of these rookies I am pulling I know nothing about, and Carlson is one of them. And sometimes that happens even with the highest rated prospects. He was rated a consensus top 20 prospect in baseball heading into the 2021 season. But luckily this blog post gives me a reason to find out more. A first round pick in 2016, Carlson is having a solid season for the Cardinals.

First Cristian Pache going into my collection. I realize he's a defense first player, but I hope his bat gets going too.

I know these guys, no doubt. First Vlad card I've pulled in awhile, and no complaints there. The Legacy Lithographs set is farther down on my insert rankings, if I had them, though.

I like the look of the Gallery of Stars a bit better, especially the colors in the Bryce Harper, although I would have preferred a different player, personally. Luckily I pulled another, of Roger Maris. No complaints on that one.

The Art of Hitting is a sharp insert set. Keeping it simple and it works. Pulling an insert of Pujols made me go and search to see how much his 2001 Topps Traded is going for. Seems like one can be had for under $100, and possibly a good bit less, and a Chrome version for about twice the price. For an all-time great, that doesn't seem too bad compared to all the other craziness going on in the hobby right now.

I’ve seen Pearson show up in multiple pack breaks recently, and though not one of the more hyped rookies, he’s a top prospect for the Blue Jays and a former first round pick. I do like the design on this one with the field and stadium in the background.

This is simply a beautiful card. Anyone have the Cal Ripken Jr. or Greg Maddux from this set they would swap? This set and the one following have to be highlights from Diamond Kings this year.

Artist's Palette is my other favorite from this blaster break. What's interesting is that Reese is the only retired player in the 15 card set. The others are all fairly young stars or rookies. This set is made up of all horizontal cards.

The more I flip through the cards from this break, the more I like this product. The inserts are sharp and the base set isn't so bad either. Seems like the issue a lot of folks have besides the lack of logos is use of the same photos for retired players from year to year, which is valid. If you look at it as a standalone product, it really is a nice design.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Card Message Boards

A recent episode of the Wax Museum Podcast, focused on basketball cards, provides a high-level history of message boards as they relate to the sports cards hobby (episode 125). I'd encourage anyone interested in cards, no matter the sport, to go and give this episode a listen. It's fun to reminisce on my early days of online card trading, but it was also interesting to hear others experiences.

My message board of choice was The Bench. Friendly group of users, mostly easy to make deals in my value range, and a board focused on baseball. I made a good many basketball card trades as well, but they were tougher to come by on The Bench. The last trade I made there was in 2012, coming up on a decade ago, which is hard to believe because that site was a daily stop for me. I check in every once in awhile, and the forum is still going strong on the baseball wants and for trade sections. I'm sure the volume of posts and trades is well down from where it was when I was active, but it's great to see people still making deals on the site.

I wasn't as active, but still made a good many trades on Sports Card Forum.

Honestly, my collection would be nowhere close to what it is today without these message boards. They were my primary method for acquiring the cards I wanted. Looking back at deals I made on these sites, not many of them look like 'bad' deals. I never had a Trout rookie to trade, for example. I probably traded some early LeBron cards that looking back I probably should have held onto, but I'm happy with where my collection is now. It's also interesting to see how my collection focus shifted over the years. In baseball, I focused on Braves from the 90s and Cal Ripken Jr, throwing in some players I've mentioned on this blog before like Cesar Izturis. And while my focus has shifted somewhat based on where I now call home, I traded for cards then that are still some of my favorite cards now. 

I also tried to complete a few insert sets. The farthest I got was 2006 Bazooka Stamps, and most of these I picked up via message board trades. I'll have to get this back up on the want list and finish it out. I'm pretty close. 

Outside of the card blogosphere, where have you made trades over the years? What are your earliest memories of making trades? Were you on sports card message boards? What was your experience like?