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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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2 Packs of 2016 WWE Undisputed

Well, I went into my LCS a few days ago, fully expecting to purchase a couple boxes of the new Gypsy Queen release, but unfortunately, they were all sold out. I was still in a buying mood, though, and found a Plan B, which ended up being a different two boxes of baseball (2017 Donruss & 2017 Diamond Kings), and I even had enough left over for a couple packs of 2016 WWE Undisputed.

Undisputed is about as high-end as Topps gets when it comes to its WWE products, but is still pretty affordable. A full box contains 10 packs of 5 cards at around $260, and when you factor in that each of those packs contain a hit, and 8/10 are autographs, it's an incredible value.

I figured it was a good shot to take for two packs, so I went for it. Of the five cards in each pack, one is the hit, one is a serial-numbered parallel, and three are base cards. Here's a pack-by-pack breakdown of what I got:

Pack 1
Base: Seth Rollins, Junkyard Dog, Two-Man Power Trip

Parallel: Ultimate Warrior Blue 6/25

Hit: Natalya Autograph 132/299

Pack 2
Base: The Miz, Eddie Guerrero, Sami Zayn

Parallel: Michael P.S. Hayes Silver 15/50

Hit: Braun Strowman Autograph 18/50

For two packs at $25 each, I would say I did amazingly well. The cards look great, and are on a thick cardstock. The wretler's image on the front is glossy on front of the matte background, which really makes them stand out, and it has just the right amount of foil.

The hits were both great, too. Of course, the quality of wrestler varies, but I got two good ones. Natalya is the daughter of Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and part of the Hart family. She has been wrestling for WWE for nearly a decade, and is a former Divas Champion. Strowman is a rising star with the company, and in his short time on the main roster has catapulted himself to one of the top spots on Monday night Raw. Since departing the Wyatt Family, he is in the mix with the very best on Monday night, including Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Goldberg, and the Big Show, and is likely a future champion.

That's it for these two packs. I haven't fully immersed myself into this product yet, but based on what I'm seeing here, I might just have to go all-in when 2017 Undisputed gets released in June.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blaster Box of 2017 Topps Heritage

I haven't quite picked up a hobby box of 2017 Heritage quite yet, but I plan on it. As a TTM collector, these are great for getting signed, and look great with some ink on them. Anyway, no hobby box quite yet, but I did decide to pick up a blaster box of Heritage, just to check it out.

This year's heritage takes after the 1968 Design, with the burlap border, and circle for the team name. As always, there are plenty of inserts and parallels. Here's a quick look at how I did.

After tehir 2016 World Series win, I'm expecting for this year's products to be flooded with Cubs cards, and as a Cubs fan, I'm absolutely ok with that. However, there were only three in my box:
Jason Heyward, John Lester & Jake Arrieta "Chicago Aces," and a chrome Kris Bryant.

In addition to the three current Cubs, I also got three former Cubs with Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, and Darwin Barney.

Out of the whole blaster, I only got one short print: Andrew McCutchen. It can make it really difficult to build the set this way, as 100 out of 500 are SPs.

Foil cards fell at a rate of one-per-pack. I'm not sure if that's the official odds, but that's how it worked out for me. Kris Bryant was the big one out of these for me, of course.

The last of the parallels is a mini of Carlos Beltran, numbered 87/100. Same as the regular cards, but, you know. smaller.

I got two Topps Game cards of Clayton Kershaw and Yoan Moncada. I know this is based off of the 1968 insert set, but I wonder if there are any official rules for an actual game that these cards can be used for.

I also got one card from the Bazooka Mini set of Buster Posey. I know nothing about these cards, but I would guess that they came with Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Lastly, is a News Flashbacks cards featuring the Vietnam War. I like this insert set, as it gives you an idea of what was going on when this original 1968 set was released.

That's it for this one. I hope to get more in the future. I don't like all of the classic designs, but this is a great design that I don't mind seeing recreated.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Pack of Cards from a Former MLB Player

A couple of weeks ago, I was vacationing with my family in Arizona, and my wife & I went to a couple Chicago Cubs games. At each game, Cubs great Fergie Jenkins hosts an autograph signing featuring a group of 6 or 7 retired Major Leaguers. One of those was former Chicago Cub Byron Browne.

In addition to signing autographs, he was also handing out packs of baseball cards to kids who came by, after asking them a baseball trivia question. It was something nice, that he was doing on his own, to connect with the younger baseball fans.

Well, after having him sign a baseball and take a photo, he handed me a pack for myself as a bonus. So, here's what I got from my pack of 2016 Topps Opening Day, that was given to me by a former MLB player.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bucket List Item Complete: On-the-Glass Seats at an NHL Game

My wife and I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Arizona Coyotes game Sunday night.

We are visiting from Minnesota, on our annual week-long vacation from Minnesota, and always like to go to a couple hockey games while we are here. We paid just $8 a piece for our tickets on StubHub for the game between the Coyotes and the Carolina Hurricanes. Seeing as though they are two of the worst teams in the NHL, the plan was to buy cheap tickets to get in, and then move closer to the ice in what should be a sparsely populated arena.

We were running late, because I misread the start time, and we could hear the radio commentary as we were walking around the arena to the front gate. As we were getting close to the doors, and passing the box office, someone asked us if we already had tickets. Thinking he was a scalper, I told him we already did. He told me he could get us closer, to which I informed him that while we had some seats up high, we were planning on moving closer anyway. Again, I thought he was a scalper. He then replied with, "You don't understand. We want to upgrade your seats. To the front row." I looked closer and saw that he had an Arizona Coyotes nametag on his sportscoat, and knew that this was for real, and we were getting on-the-glass seats!

We went through security, found our section, and were in our seats with 6 minutes left in the first period. The score was still 0-0, so we hadn't missed too much action, which was good. I had never sat that close to the ice before, and had always wondered if the seats were too close to really catch all of the action that happens during a hockey game.

Our seats were just a little bit off of the offensive zone faceoff circle, toward center ice, in the direction the Coyotes would shoot twice. Of course, your visibility is somewhat limited when the action is on the other side of the arena, but it is never obstructed. When it gets to your side, however, it's a completely different story. You can see the plays develop in a different way. You can see players' reactions. The players are so close, you can almost touch them. You can actually see the faces of the players, up close and personal. It's a completely different experience, and a whole new way to watch a hockey game.

The Coyotes ended up losing the game 2-1, but we both still had an amazing time. Being a hockey fan on a budget, I don't know if this is an experience we will ever have again, and we were absolutely sure to enjoy every second of this.

Here's a few photos of the evening:

(I also got a few autographs after the game, but I'll be posting those on my memorabilia blog, Not Pulled From Packs, when we get back home).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 Topps Blaster Box

Having a hobby shop so close to me, it is rare that I pick up a retail blaster, but this is one that was actually given to me. As luck would have it, I won Eamus Catuli!'s "Favorite Card of 2016" contest, which was based solely on a randomizer, and my prize was a blaster box of 2017 Topps.

Each blaster contains 10 packs of 8 cards, and as always, plenty of inserts and parallels to be found. As a bonus, you also get a commemorative Jackie Robinson Day patch card of a current MLB player.

As far as the base cards go, I got 5 Cubs, which is pretty awesome. Of these, 2 are regular base cards, 2 are World Series Highlights cards, and 1 is a League Leaders card.

As far as parallels go, I got two: a Chris Davis Chrome, and a Stephen Piscotty Gold, numbered 456/2017

In addition to the Patch card, you also get 5 Jackie Robinson Day Tribute cards. Mine were Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson, Carlos Correa, and Nolan Arenado. I also got a Father's Day card of Freddie Freeman and a Rookie card of Andrew Benintendi.

There were three 1987 Topps tribute cards featuring two players who had cards in the original set. They are different, however, as Nolan Ryan was on the Houston Astros at the time, and Bo Jackson had a Future Stars logo on his. I also really like the Carlos Correa card, with the team celebration depicted.

I got one of the Rediscover Topps promo cards. It's basically an add for some of Topps' on-line products, featuring a reprint of an older card on the front. This one is of Jackie Robinson's 1956 Topps card.

I also got one card from the MLB Network insert set, featuring current broadcaster, and former Cincinnati Reds first baseman Sean Casey.

In addition to the Jackie Robinson Day Tribute cards, another retail exclusive is the Award Winners insert set. I pulled Anthony Rizzo (Fielding Award), Mike Trout (MVP), David Ortiz (Hank Aaron Award), and Kenley Jansen (Reliever of the Year).

As I mentioned in my Jumbo box post, one of my favorite insert sets is 5 Tool. I just love the inclusion of five photos with the black background. I just think it looks cool. Anyway, I pulled two out of this box, Josh Donaldson and Buster Posey.

Lastly, my one hit was the included Jackie Robinson Day patch card of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola. Although these aren't the traditional patch cards made of embroidered fabric, they still look amazing, and the sheen of the textured "patch" makes it look like something special.

Well, that's it for this box. Thanks to Tom for sending it to me, and thanks to for picking me as the winner!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 Topps Jumbo Box Break (Incl. an Early Contender for Hit of the Year!)

It's been over a year since I picked up a box of baseball cards, but something is a bit different this time around. All it took was a World Series win by my favorite team in one of the most memorable seven games of all time for me to return to the baseball collecting world.

Now, I can't really say I ever left. What it came down to was simply that I didn't spend as much on cards in general last year as I had before, and when I was able to make a purchase, I usually went in a hockey direction. Well, as a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, the thrill of last October reinvigorated my love of the National Pastime, as well as my interest in its cardboard.

My first baseball purchase of 2017 ended up being the first release of 2017 with Topps Series 1. There are two options here, hobby-wise, a regular 36-card box, and a 10-card jumbo pack box. I went with Jumbo, which I always do with Topps, for two reasons. One, you get more hits (3, as opposed to 1), and you end up with a complete 350-card set. I know that some people like the chase of set-building, and I do too, but I think I'll save that for this year's Allen & Ginter, and (maybe) Heritage.

Anyway, each box contains 10 packs of 50 cards. There is also a guarantee of three hits, with one being an autographed card and one being a manufactured patch card.

After collating, I did end up with a full 350-card set, and when you factor in league leaders and World Series cards along with the typical base cards, there were a total of 20 Chicago Cubs cards, with plenty more to come in Series 2. My favorite one, by the way, is the World Series Game 7 card.

As always, there are lots of parallels, of varying rarity, with each pack containing one. The most common are the Rainbow Foil, which I got five of, including a Kris Bryant League Leaders card.

I also pulled three Gold parallels, including an Addison Russell World Series Highlights card. These are all numbered /2017.

Next is a Vintage Stock parallel. This one of former Cub Geovany Soto is numbered 62/99 and features not only a retro Topps logo, but an older-style non-glossy card stock, which is pretty cool.

The rarest parallel that I pulled was of another Cub, Aroldis Chapman, on a World Series Highlights card. This is the black parallel, and is numbered 52/66. It's a great card to have, as Chapman was an absolute beast throughout the postseason. His only weak point was in Game 7, when he was just too overworked. The ironic thing, is that despite giving up a three-run lead, which allowed the Indians to push Game 7 to a tenth inning, he ended up being credited with the win.

Next is a one-per-pack insert set called Salute, which looks at special events (Mother's Day, Father's Day), Throwback Jersey Nights, and also salutes former players.

Speaking of "Salute," Topps is saluting the thirtieth anniversary of one of their most iconic releases in 1987. They used the same front and back design, including the older cardstock. They did put gloss on the front of the cards, which is different from back then, and of course, there's the 30th Anniversary foil stamp.

I also pulled five First Pitch cards, which show various celebrities making the ceremonial first pitch at a game last season. The team designation is made for the home team where the pitch was made, and apparently, the Cubs are well-represented. 3-out-of-5 of mine are of pitches thrown at Wrigley Field.

Next is a buyback of sorts known as "Rediscover Topps." I guess the idea here is to include cards from older sets, designated with a foil stamp on the side. I can kind of see the point, but if I'm buying Topps baseball cards in the first place, do I really need to "rediscover" them?

I pulled one MLB Network card, which is from a 10-card insert set featuring the network's various analysts. Now, many of these are of former baseball players, and it is only fitting that mine is of a former Cub.

These Rediscover Topps Promo cards, I'm not too sure about. The front features a reprint of a classic Topps baseball card, but the back is an add for the various on-line features that Topps provided, like Topps Now and Topps Bunt.

These kind of cross brands, in that they make reference to a current MLB stars' first Bowman cards. I like them quite a lot, actually, and they remind me of the backs of the first few Stadium Club releases in the early '90s, when they would show a player's Topps rookie card next to their stats.

Easily the coolest looking insert set is 5-Tool. They actually manage to somehow fit five photos of the players on the front of one card, and in a way that's a bit cluttered, but still works. I don't have much else to say about them, other than they look awesome.

Now for the hits. The first one is the manufactured one. Boxes will have either a manufactured Spring Training Patch or an All-Star Game medallion. Mine was a Spring Training patch for Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals. The patches are different this year, though, in that they no longer are fabric. With the cards, they are using a textured synthetic material, similar to the World Series patch they put on the sides of the Cubs and Indians hats last year during the Series.

I also pulled a Brandon Phillips Major League Material jersey card. In years past, I know that they took one of the year's inserts and placed a jersey swatch in the same design, but I like how this year, the cards are its own unique thing. Unfortunately for me, though, this card is already out of date, as Phillips was traded to the Atlanta Braes just a couple of days ago.

Last, is the big one. It's tough to pull major hits out of a company's flagship product, as those releases are usually more eared toward set builders. Still, those hits are there, and I managed to hit the jackpot, when I found this card in one of my packs:

This card, of course, make reference to the 1987 design and features Gene Hackman's character of Norman Dale from the movie Hoosiers. The movie was released in 1986 (not 1987), but I still won't complain about this great of a pull. We get the picture and name of his character from the movie, but I love that he signed his own name. Unlike most people in either the sports or entertainment industries, Hackman had a great and (mostly) legible signature. The card looks fantastic, and has, so far, made it to an easy number one spot on my Top 10 Pulls of 2017.

That's it for this box. Of course, they won't all yield an amazing hit as the one I pulled, but when you consider that there is a full base set and three hits to go along with it, the jumbo boxes are definitely the way to go with this release.