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Group Break entries are now closed, the boxes have been ordered and secondary teams have been randomized. Follow THIS LINK for final team assignments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Michael Jordan TTM: Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

I haven't really sent any through the mail (TTM) autograph requests since the early '90s, when, as a 13-year-old kid, I did on a somewhat regular basis. Most of mine were failures, mostly because I'd send cards that were a couple years old to the players c/o that teams that they were depicted playing for on the cards, not knowing that they were long gone from their former ballclub. I did get a couple of good ones, though. I sent a Topps Black Gold card to Dave Winfield when he was playing for the Twins. I received the card back, unsigned, but along with it, an autographed postcard, which I have, since then, misplaced. I think my dad agreed to hold onto it for safekeeping, but I have no idea where it is at the moment.


My biggest success, however, was this one:


That's right. The greatest basketball player of all time, through the mail, for nothing more than the cost of a couple of stamps and a couple of envelopes. At the time, I didn't realize how big of a deal it was. I just figured I got a pretty good autograph of a really good player. Looking back on it, I realize how lucky I was.

For one, the timing was good. I sent it out, I think, the year before the Bulls won their first championship, so while he may have been receiving plenty of requests, I'm sure they were nowhere near the amount that he would receive. Second, I was 11 or 12 at the time, so I'm sure a handwritten letter from a young kid went a little bit further than a type-written letter from an adult.

Still, no matter what the circumstances, while I am not that much of a basketball guy, I would say it's the cornerstone of my card collection. If I could show off one card out of the thousands that I have, this would be it, plus there's a little bit of a story behind it.

With my card-collecting budget getting ever-increasingly tight, I need to find new ways, and inexpensive ways, to keep the passion alive, and one of those ways could be TTM autographs.

I guess my questions for my readers are, does anyone else out there get autographs through the mail? If so, do you go the route I did as a kid and send request c/o their team, or do you send to home addresses, and if so, do the players mind getting mail at home? In a self-conscious way, I always thought that home addresses had some kind of weird stalker-vibe to it, but maybe they don't mind. Just curious to see what everyone else thinks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Just Curious

As I was going through my Cubs cards and player collections earlier, I was noticing, especially with my overproduction-era cards, that I have a ridiculous amount of duplicates. What I was wondering, is for those of you with team or player collections, do you keep EVERY card you get for those, or do you just keep one copy and move the rest?

Trip the the LCS On My Anniversary

The Wife and I just celebrated our five year anniversary last Friday, and like any married couple with kids, we had to wait until we got a sitter before we went out to celebrate. Luckily, since we just relocated to Fargo, I have a few family members in the area, and my aunt is more than happy co come by and look after the girls for a bit.

We went out to dinner at a Mongolian restaurant (because she let me pick) and then headed over to the mall to look for Christmas presents for ourselves. At 31, I'm beyond the need for surprises. Just let me pick something out and wrap it up, and I'll still be very appreciative Christmas morning. After going to Express and finding nothing to us my $20 off of $40 coupons on, we split up. I'm one of the few guys lucky enough to be married to a woman who is willing to not make me go shopping with her at the mall. She goes her way. I go mine. Then we just meet up at the end and hope the other person didn't spend too much money.

Anyway, my LCS, Big Nick's Sports Cards, is located in the mall, so I decided to drop by and check out some singles. They have a GU/Auto box that I usually rifle through, with some decent cards at 5 for $15. After finding my five, here's what I came home with:


2010 Topps Chrome Tyler Colvin Autograph: I actually saw this card a week ago, and it's's actually the card I came in to get. Not only is he one of Chicago's hot young stars, but this is a really cool looking signature.


2009Upper Deck NFL Draft Edition Brian Cushing RC Auto: The nice thing about moving out of Houston being a Texans fan is you can get stuff on the cheap. I basically got this card for 3 buck, but down in Houston, this would cost me $20, easy.


2011-2012 Upper Deck Jordan Staal Jersey: One of my favorite Penguins right now. Plus, I really like the jersey card design Upper Deck put out this year. The last couple have been pretty boring, but they stepped it up for their most recent release.


2009 Donruss Threads Rhett Bomar Dual Jersey 3/250: I like Bomar, because he's one of the few players from my alma mater, Sam Houston State University to make it far enough in the pros to have a decent amount of cardboard. I already have an aout of his on a NY Giants card, but no jerseys. This one was double-sweet, because the picture depicts him in Breakat orange and white. I find VERY few SHSU cards, as can be expected with any 1-AA school, so I try to get whatever I can. Plus, according to the card back, the jersey was worn in a college game. No "event-worn" here!


2011 Topps Lineage Clayton Kershaw Jersey: I'm not the biggest Kershaw guy. I don't hate him, I just don't have much interest in him. I got this card purely as trade bait, since I know there are a couple of Dodgers collectors out there that might be interested in it.

Well there you have it. Not bad for 15 bucks on an anniversary night.

(Contest) Pimpin' Ain't Easy - Royals and Randoms

In celebration of hitting 25 followers of the blog, Royals and Randoms is holding a contest for piles of cards. The best pat is, there will be TWELVE winners. Go check him out for a contest which gives you a GREAT chance of finding a manilla envelope in your mailbox soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Topps Diamond Die Cut Experiment

After trying to flip a Ryne Sandberg die cut and work my way into something extra, and failing miserably, I got my hands back on the ellusive Ryno die cut. However, I didn't get out of it completely unscathed, as I am now short one Josh Hamilton.

I did, however, find myself with a completely useless die cut card of Diamondbackssecond baseman Kelly Johnson. Who? Exactly. Still, I decided to make the most out of it and try an experiment. Could I, through nothing but one-on-one trades, turn this card into a Josh Hamilton?

By trading for players just slightly better, I'm hoping to transform this useless card into something I really want. So far, I'm up to Fransisco Liriano. This should be fun.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sid's Back, and Better Than Ever

I know I'm a day late, but what a game last night in Pittsburgh.

One thing (among many) that I love about the NHL is that when something is a big deal, they treat it like a big deal. Versus was originally scheduled to broadcast the Bruins/Canadiens game, but it got switched over after Crosby's return was announced. I'm not sure if it was the NHL or the network making that call, but good job to whoever did.

Anyways, the big concern with Crosby, who had missed the past 10 months with symptoms stemming from the two concussions he got last January, was whether he would be just slightly more timid on the ice. With so much riding on the line, would he be scared to take a hit, for fear of a recurrence. From the looks of things, Crosby got right in the mix of things, and even scored a goal. And one more. And got two assists. After not playing so much as a second on the ice in 10 months, Crosby scores 4 points in his very first game back.

This is what I've always loved about Crosby. The difference between the great players and the really good players is that the great ones find a way to make these moments. A good player would return, mix it up a bit, get and assist, maybe a goal, and call it a successful return. Crosby gets his four points and skates CIRCLES around his Long Island opponents. It was the same thing when Canada won the gold medal. It could have been anybody being the National Hero, but it was Crosby's overtime goal that won it. The great ones just find a way to make it happen.

Now, there's no way that this will become the norm for him. He'll have his good days, of course, but he'll have his off days too. His conditioning isn't what it used to be, and it will take some time for him to truly get to 100 percent. But seeing him come back in THAT fashion makes me feel pretty good as a Penguins fan.

In think this is going to be a good year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Well, THAT Was A Mistake

I've really been enjoying the Topps Diamond Giveaway promotion this year. I know it has its detractors, but it's been cool playing the site, with a goal other than just grabbing up some common 1973 Cubs. My main goal this year was a team set of the Chicago Cubs from the Diamond Die Cut Series.

There were only six card in all for the Cubbies, and after accumulating an insane amount of singles from throughout the Topps years, I managed to turn my collection into all six Cubs die cuts, and just for fun, I grabbed up a few others, just to see what I could get in return. Before I knew it, my Cubs set was also accompanied by Josh Hamilton, Jackie Robinson, and Andre Ethier, which I soon traded for a 1984 Ryne Sandberg, the only regular issue Topps card of his that I do not own.


My collection was set, and I was ready to place my order, when Topps announced via Facebook that it would let collectors vote on three new die cut cards. Sure enough, Ryne Sandberg was one of eight in the Legends category, and he won. After what seemed like forever, the new cards went live and I was able to trade the Jackie Robinson straight up for my all-time favorite player, Ryne Sandberg.

I finally had my collection complete. Now I just had to place my order and call it a year for Topps. I soon saw somewhere that the new die-cut cards wouldn't be available until the end of November, so I decided to hold on to what I had until then.

Soon afterward, I had an offer for my Ryno for a 1953 card of Red Sox Catcher Gus Niarhos. I know it is no 1952, but '53s are few and far between on the Diamond Giveaway site. My thinking was, make the trade now, and wait for the offers to roll in for it. After all, I can flip that card for a large sum, trade some of it back for a Ryno, and have a few cards left over.


Well, three weeks went by, and nothing. No offers of any kind, no big trade proposals, nothing. I decided to put an end to this experiment, but I was sad to see that no other Sandberg Die Cut owners were as gullible as I was, so I began to panic. Trade offers of all kind were thrown out there, but no takers.

It was time to get creative.

The first thing I needed was another die-cut at the very least. Knowing that I needed a die cut of a hobby-friendly player, I threw out offers for any die cut of a hall of famer, as well as any current player who's name is pretty hot at he moment. One of those offers was accepted for a Clayton Kershaw.

Nobody took a straight up Sandberg-for-Kershaw deal, so I knew I had to sweeten the pot. I begrudgingly added my Josh Hamilton and within a 24-hour period, the deal was accepted. I was a feeling a little down about basically losing the Hamilton just to get a card I had a month ago, but I felt better when I looked on ebay and saw a few Hamiltons going for less than $10.

Sandbergs have been selling for $50.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Inconsistent Blogger

It's been a while since I've posted. But there's been a lot going on. After living in Texas, primarily in the Houston area, since 1993, I, along with my wife and two little girls, moved all the way up to Fargo, ND. What the move came down to, essentially, was me with a low-paying job in Houston, and my wife basically unable to find a job of her own.

Just a little over a year ago, my wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was a pretty surprising blow to us. Being just 30 years old, when something is off, cancer isn't the first thing you suspect with someone at a young age. That being said, the silver lining is that thyroid cancer is an extremely beatable form of the disease, just as long as it isn't ignored. The way that more than one person worded it to us, if you have to get cancer, this is the one to get. Upon giving us the diagnosis, her endochrinologist suggested that we get a good start on treatment, which would entail a thyroidectomey, followed a few weeks later by radioactive iodine. The one thing she advised us of, was not to get pregnant. Well, guess what happened literally two days before the diagnosis.

In addition to battling thyroid cancer, my wife was now pregnant. Due to thyroid cancer being an incredibly slow-moving form of the disease, and it being unlikely to spread out any further, we were able to delay the treatment until after we had the baby. She did get her thyroidectomy last December, since once you are halfway through the pregnancy, it is safe to receive anesthesia without harming the fetus. That way, the main source of the disease, at the very least, is removed.

We did get a good bit of news during the pregnancy. With our first child (now 3), my wife had gestational diabetes. She did a great job of regulating her diet, and therefore, never needed any oral medication or insulin shots. Due to a likelyhood of this recurring, she dieted during the entire pregnancy, and as a result, her gestational diabetes test came back negative. Great news. I found this out on my way to work. That SAME day, I found out that I was being laid off from the job I had for the past 3 1/2 years.

So there I was. Wife has cancer. And is pregnant. And I am out of work. It dealt quite a blow to me, and I soon found out that finding a job, even with a college degree, is more than just sending out a few resumes and letting them call you. We had our second child, another girl, on May 8 (Mother's Day) which brought us a great deal of happiness. In fact, her middle name is Joy, in reference to the fact that she was a joy to us in a very dark time.

I finally found a job in mid-July. I was hired on as an assistant service manager at a grocery store (HEB, for those familiar with the Texas grocery chain) and finally, I felt as though I could breathe a little bit. I was able to get off of COBRA, and I was able to finally bring some money home. Unfortunately, I would soon find out that it would not be enough. Before having our second baby, my wife worked at a pre-school/day care, where she was able to takre our then-two-year-old free of charge. Upon being able to return to work, she was informed that while they are able to cut breaks for older kids, they simply were unable to give any kind of discount for the infant. And with what it costs to have an infant in day care, literally her entire paycheck would go to child care. She might as well stay home if that's the case.

Needless to say, my 10 bucks an hour didn't go far at all. We were running out of money quicker than we could get it in. We received a bunch of help financially from our families, and tapped out all resources from local churches and assistance organizations, and weren't sure how we were going to make it, but somehow we were able to.

About two months ago, my parents gave us a proposal. My dad, who himself was laid off from his job a few months previous, was offered a position on a project in Florida. My parents had just recently built a house in Fargo, ND, where my dad grew up, and they didn't want to sell it, plus if he maintained an out-of-state residence, he would receive a housing allowance, per diem, and all sorts of other benefits. They offered to allow us to live in their house, rent-free, to allow us to get back on our feet, catch up on bills, and get ahead financially, hopefully to save up money for a place of our own.

So here we are. I'm still looking for a job up here, but a lot of the stresses and worries that I had leading up to this just aren't there. We still have to get my wife's treatment taken care of, which she is planning on taking care of in late Dec/early Jan, but I am able to focus a lot more on the job search. It's SO much easier to focus on one thing, when that one thing is really the only thing for you to worry about.

Throughout all this, I've noticed that the hobby that I am so involved in has a direct correlation with what uis going on in my life. when things are good and I'm doing well, this are organized, they're in place, and I'm able to find ways to grab myself some great "show off" cards. When things aren't so great, like they have been, there is a lack of organization, a lack of focus, and I go from one set to the next without even coming close to finishing my individual collecting goals.

I wonder if it works the other way. If my card collection is directly related to my situation in life, maybe my situation in life can be affected by my card collection. What I mean is, maybe if I become super-focused on my collection and my blog, maybe, I will become super-focused in life. Maybe if I become ambitious in the hobby, maybe it will make me ambitious elsewhere.

If I am truly honest with myself, I am where I am, because I haven't exactly been super focused or ambitious. I have some ideas of what I want to do, hobby-wise. Nothing original or ground-breaking, but something epic. Something that at the end of it, people will be able to look at and see something truly amazing. because, really, we want people to look at our lives the same way. Maybe this will be a start.