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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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2016-17 Ultimate Collection Box Break (MAJOR Auston Matthews Hit!!!)

It's been a while since I picked up a box of cards from my LCS, and even longer since I got some hockey cards, but I stopped in yesterday, and got a box of 2016-17 Upper Deck Ultimate. I haven't gotten too much of this in the past, but I was feeling good about it today, so I decided to give it a try.

Each box of Ultimate contains just one four-card pack. Of those four cards, there will be one base or insert, one memorabilia card, one autograph or premium relic card, and one on-card rookie autograph. The price point is a bit high for the amount of cards you get, but there are some big rewards to be had if you hit big on a top rookie or hall-of-famer.

Here's what I got:

Sonny Milano Ultimate Introductions
This card doesn't scan well at all, but it actually looks really cool in person. It seems to have a clear overlay on top of the card's surface, and has foil printing on the Ultimate logo and the Ultimate Introductions title, which don't show up on the scan. He's a player who has only played in seven NHL games in the last two seasons, but it's still a cool card to have.

Anthony Beauvillier Ultimate Rookies Jersey 212/249
You'll see something very similar with the next three cards, mainly that they have the exact same design. between the autograph and jersey cards, they are pretty much identical, apart from the jersey swatch or autograph. Anyway, this one is of New York Islanders left winger Anthony Beauvillier, and features a blue jersey swatch from the Islanders' home sweaters.

Tyler Motte Ultimate Rookies Autograph 82/299
As you can see, these are pretty much identical to the jersey cards. The only two differences, really, are the shading in the background, and of course, an autograph instead of a piece of fabric. Anyway, this one is of Tyler Motte, who split time between the NHL and AHL last season. He'll get a new chance with a new team in 2017-18, as he went to Columus along with Artemi Panarin as part of the deal that brought Brandon Saad back to Chicago.

Auston Matthews Ultimate Rookies Autograph 33/99
OK, so I kind of freaked out a little bit when I pulled this card. I opened up the box, and I could tell that it seemed a little bit on the thin side, as if there definitely wasn't going to be any kind of insane patch card. Knowing that, I was hoping for at least a decent autograph, and boy, did I find it. Matthews was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and burst into the league in a big way, scoring four goals in his NHL debut! He went on to finish the season with 40 goals and 29 assists in 82 games, on the way to winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year.

I may be a little swayed in my opinion of this product because if the big card that I pulled, but I think it's probably hit or miss. If it had been anyone else, I might have a different opinion, but then again, who knows what other great cards I would have found. If you have a little extra to spend, it's worth the chance, but this is definitely a high risk/high reward product.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Let's Make A Deal!

So, I haven't really much more than a couple trades in quite a while, so I'm hoping to drum up some activity here. Take a look at what I have in my various trade bait folders and see if anything grabs you.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Willson Contreras Quad Relic Card with Mystery Relic Pieces

A couple months ago, I really fell in love with 2017 Diamond Kings after picking up a couple boxes at my LCS. I thought the designs were great, the inserts look phenomenal, and the hits really gave me a good bang for my buck.

I also began looking on Ebay for some affordable hits that I could add to my collection. I found some great cards at some great prices, but what really sparked my curiosity was this quad-relic card of Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. It's from the Diamond Deco insert set and is numbered 30/49.

I can easily identify the wooden bat piece, and the solid white fabric as part of his uniform, but what really drew me to this was the two swatches of black and white fabric, that are a little tougher for me to identify and origin. I can't tell exactly what kind of fabric the white part of it is, but the black part has a little bit of a rubbery feel, as is whatever it is, it is used for a grip, or to hold the item in place better. Maybe a batting glove, or the waistband of his pants? Jock strap?

If anyone has any theories, feel free to let me know.

Monday, June 19, 2017

End of an Era

I'm a Pittsburgh Penguins fan first and foremost, but in traveling to Arizona the last few years, I have also become a fan of the Coyotes. I was very surprised to hear that the team decided they would be moving on from their long-time captain, Shane Doan, and did not offer him a contract for next season. He has always been loyal to the franchise, and decided to stick with the struggling team, despite many times when he could have (and probably should have) left to play for a Stanley Cup contender. He was also one of the greatest ambassadors that the game has seen, especially in the state of Arizona, as he was always making appearances for the team and promoting the game in the area. I got the chance to meet him a couple of times after games, as he always stopped to sign autographs for the fans after Coyotes games, win or lose, and always with the biggest smile on his face. He may still have another year or two left in him, so hopefully another team is willing to give him a shot at his first Stanley Cup.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 7

Day 7 - A card you bought in person and the story behind it.

For this one, it is not a Cub, but someone who I still loved as a young baseball fan:

From 2005 Upper Deck Classics, this is a Classic Materials jersey card of Kent Hrbek. I just had to have this card, because at the time, I didn't really have any hits of the former Minnesota Twins slugger. I may be a lifelong Cubs fan, but I grew up in a Minnesota Twins househoold, and in fact, one of my very first baseball memories was them winning the 1987 World Series. Hrbek was a big part of both of those teams, and I have always been a fan of his. What I really like about this card is that not only does it feature a little bit of the jersey's pinstripe, but there is also some threading from the hem, which gives it that extra something special.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My 2016-17 Artifacts Redemptions

At the beginning of the season, I picked up two boxes of 2016-17 Upper Deck Artifacts. Of those two boxes, I pulled a total of 3 redemptions. Now, these weren't the typical ones where the athlete hasn't found the time to sign, but the ones where the released the product before the new athletes played in an NHL game, and thus couldn't have a hockey card until they do.

Anyway, truth be told, I set my redemptions aside and forgot about them until a couple of weeks ago. By the time I entered them in, they had already been produced, so it wasn't long at all before they were on their way.

Anyway, here is what I got back:

First up is what I got in return for an Emerald Jersey Patch card of "Rookie V."

While there was no telling who the card would be of early on, it ended up being of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski. IT is numbered 85/99 and the cool thing about Blue Jackets sweaters is that they have some great patch pieces, like this one, which appears to be from the point of the star on the upper right corner.

Next, is what I got for my Chaicago Blackhawks Rookie:

This one is of Tyler Motte, and in numbered 496/799. As a University of North Dakota Hockey fan, I was hoping it would be Nick Schmaltz, but maybe Motte will turn out to be a great player, as well. He split time between the NHL and AHL last season, but didn't make an appearance in the playoffs.

Lastly, is one that I thought was lackluster, but turned out to be pretty great, a "Wild Card" redemption.

The wild cards are designed for teams who have more than one big-time rookie on their roster. I hit big with this one, too, getting a card of Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner, numbered 495/799. Despite a lot of hype for him coming into this season, Marner gets a wild card spot, because he is on the same team with #1 overall pick Auston Matthews. He still had a great first year, though, scoring 19 goals and 42 assists in 77 games. The wild cards are sometimes more miss than hit, but in this case, I got a good one.

That's it for this year in Artifacts. I'll see what 2017-18 brings, but as the first mid-range product of the season, I'll definitely pick up a box or two when it gets released in the fall.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 6

Day 6 - A card you spent more than $10 to get

I actually, don't remember what I spent on this card, but I know it was more than $10.

From 2012 Panini Prime Cuts, this is an autographed jersey card of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, numbered 7/10. It is a sticker autograph, which always goes a little cheaper than the on-card variety, which is nice for that reason. What's really cool about the card, though, is the jersey swatch. First of all, his name is cut out, which is a feature I always love. secondly, this is the old-timey fabric, which really looks lime more of a memorabilia piece than just a piece of fabric. Thirdly, if you look toward the bottome of the fabric, you will see a seam, which really gives it that extra touch. Like I said, I really don't remember how much I spent on this exactly, but I still think it is worth every penny I paid for it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 5

Day 5 - A certified autograph card of one of your favorite players

Now, my all-time favorite player is Ryne Sandberg. Unfortunately, I only have one certified auto of his, and I'm saving that one for a later post. Luckily, this one has to do with "one of" my favorite players, so I can post this beauty from another favorite Cub from my era, Kerry Wood.

Wood entered the Majors with a bang, tying Roger Clemens' record of 20 strikeouts in a game in only his fifth major league start. He was set to be the cubs' fireball pitcher of the future, but missed what would have been his second season in the Majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He would return and eventually regain his momentum, leading the league in strikeouts, with 266 in 2003. He would later on play for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, but returned to the cubs for the 2011 season. He retired in 2012, and played his last game on May 18 of that year. He faced just one batter that game, who he struck out.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Diamond Kings Box Break #2

After being impressed with one box of 2017 Diamond Kings, I decided to try my hand at another, and boy, am I glad I did. Not only is this still such a great-looking set of cards, but I ended up with an even better box this time around!

One thing I really didn't get into in the first box was the SP variations that I pulled. There isn't really anything new with this idea, just different pictures and they are a little tougher to find. They have 25 different cards with variations. Here's an example of some that I pulled from this box:

I pulled both versions of Kirby Puckett's card, to give you a look at the differences. Sometimes you'll get different poses, while other times it's different uniforms. Here we have pictures of early-career Puckett and late-career Puckett. On the non-rookie cards, they also changed the back to make it easier to identify which one is the regular card (square frame) and the SP variation (round frame).

Like the last box, I pulled five paper-framed parallels, with four non-numbered ones (Madison Bumgarner, Paul Waner, Khris Davis, and Yoan Moncada), and one serial-numbered card (red-paper-framed A.J. Pollock 7/99)

The inserts were the same as the previous box, but the number of each that I pulled was different. I only pulled two Aurora cards: Mike Trout and Max Scherzer

One of my favorites, Heritage Collection, gave me four cards: Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Rod Carew, and Tony Gwynn

There were two Memorable Moments cards of big home run games for the Yankees. These two focus on Reggie Jackson hitting 3 home runs in a game and Lou Gehrig hitting 4 home runs in a game.

Lastly for the inserts is Originals, which puts a new look to an old format with Diamons Kings. The four I pulled were Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Corey Kluber, and Freddie Freeman

Each box promised two hits, and like the last one, both were pretty good ones to pull. The first is a Limited Lithos autographed dual jersey card of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling numbered 34/49. I can't say I know a whole lot about this guy, but when compared to what most guys do nowadays, he has a great-looking signature, which makes this card even better.

Lastly, is my best hit out of both boxes, a dual patch card of Chicago Cubs top prospect Eloy Jimenez, numbered 13/25. Jimenez may have another year or two before he cracks the major league roster, but with a great year in A-ball last season and an impressive performance at the 2016 All-Star Futures Game, he'll be ready when the call comes. Not only is this card of a soon-to-be-great player, but the two patch pieces look amazing. The one on the left most likely comes from the logo on the front of the jersey, and the one on the right is probably from a number. You can even see a bit of a pinstripe, as well.

another great box at a fantastic price. I'm telling you, as far as fantastic-looking cards at a great value go, you really can't beat Diamond Kings.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 - A rookie card of one of your favorite players

For me, the clear winner is this one: 

I wasn't raised a Cubs fan, but I became one at the age of 9 thanks to WGN and Harry Caray. I was too young to understand a lot of the intricacies of the game, but I did know thaqt this guy was the best on the team, and he became my favorite player. As a young card collector, I picked up whatever cards of his I could, but most of them were the recent releases. This one eluded me for a long time, mostly because of the price. It probably never got above$30, even during the peak of his career, but for a kid in elementary school, it was WAY out of my price range. It was my first "white whale," and there was a great sense of satisfaction when I finally purchased the card as an adult. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 3

Day 3 - A card from the first set you tried to complete

I'm going to tweak this one a little bit. Truthfully, I don't remember what the very first set that I tried to complete was, so instead, I'll tell you about the first set of cards that I really got into for my pack buying as a young collector.

Looking back on it now, 1988 was a rough year for cards. It's right at the beginning of the "junk wax" era, the designs were mostly pretty boring, and the rookie class was very slim. The one bright spot for me as a young collector was 1988 Donruss. As an 8-year-old, I loved the design. It had a futuristic look to it, and most importantly to me at the time, the alternating corner designs fit together like a puzzle when you put them in a binder. How cool is that!

Of course, almost 30 years later, I see them for what they are in full context, but the 8-year-old version of me thought these were AMAZING!

Monday, May 1, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 2

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 2: A card with more than one player on it.

I had a few to pick from, and was looking at some vintage cards, when I remembered that I had this beauty. It's a Winning Materials dual jersey card of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Edmonds from 2009 SPX.

I chose this one, because it's an incredibly unique card in that it features two players, but four teams. Griffey is pictured as a Cincinnati Red, but listed as a member of the Chicago White Sox, and Edmonds is pictured as a St. Louis Cardinal, but listed as a Chicago Cub. Griffey was traded from the Reds to the White Sox at the trade deadline in July 2008, and Edmonds left the cardinals and signed a 1-year contract with the Cubs in May of that year. Despite this being a 2009 product, I guess there wasn't enough time for Upper Deck to get updated photos of them.

The only other card I have that 1-ups this one is a hockey card of Marian Hossa that has him listed as a Detroit Red Wing, pictured as a Pittsburgh Penguin, and has a jersey swatch from his time with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

30 Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 1

So, I know I'm late to the party on this one. The truth is, when Tony at Off Hiatus Baseball started this idea, I really wanted to get in, but at the time, the only 2017 baseball cards I had purchased was a jumbo box of Series 1. It would definitely give me enough cards to write about, but not enough variety. Since, then, I have purchased Heritage, Donruss, and Diamond Kings, so I decided now would be the perfect time to get involved with this really cool topic.

As you can see, Day 1 is a card from the current year with a photo you like.

Well, I'm a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, so of course, it has to be THIS one:

And since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I think that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Diamond Kings Box Break

Lastly on the trip to my LCS last week, was a box of 2017 Panini Diamond Kings. I've always liked this release, whether as the first few cards in a Donruss base set, or a stand-alone set itself. The idea of art cards have always appealed to me, so I was excited to discover what this box would bring.

I knew no specifics going in, so the results would be a complete surprise. Each box of Diamond Kings contains 12 packs of 8 cards. There will also be, apparently, 12 inserts, 4 framed parallels, and two autograph or memorabilia cards.

Here's how my box turned out.

Base Cubs: Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber, Billy Herman, Gabby Hartnett, Kiki Cuyler, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams. First of all, I really love this design.They all have the look of a painting, but unlike similar "artistic" releases of the pact, there isn't a frame or border around it. They let the image speak for itself and use a limited amount of text to give the player's name and team.

I also pulled an Artist's Proof parallel of Jose Abreu, numbered 19/25. It's just like the base card, but with a foil stamp and a serial number. I know there have been various "proof" parallels in various sets in the past, like Artist's Proof, and Press Proof, and I'm not quite sure what they mean, but either way, I'm always happy to have a low-numbered card like this.

Parallels also come in a framed variety. I pulled four of the grey paper framed parallels, Bryce Harper, Harry Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gabriel Ynoa. I also pulled a brown paper framed parallel of JaCoby Jones, numbered 37/49

Now for the inserts. I pulled three Originals cards of Jose Altuve, Wade Boggs, and Daniel Murphy. I'm not sure what the focal point of the insert set is, but the cards look amazing. They actually do remind me of the of the original Diamond Kings cards that had a large image of a player's face with a smaller, full-body action shot. Maybe that's the theme of these.

My two Memorable Moment cards were of Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente. This set is much easier to figure out, as they focus on one particular moment of the player's career. For Babe Ruth, it was when he hit his 60th home run of the 1927 season, and for Roberto Clemente, it was a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam.

My four Aurora cards are of Clayton Kershaw, Brian Dozier, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mookie Betts. I'm not sure what the subject of this set is, other than bright colors. They do look nice, though, although I'm sure it might be too much for some people.

I really love these Heritage Collections cards. They feature retired players from various eras and are entirely in black and white, except for the gold frame. My three were Mike Piazza, Juan Marichal, and Phil Hiekro.

As promised, I got two hits in my box, and all things considered, they were both pretty good.

The first one is a jersey/patch card of Cleveland Indians prospect Bradley Zimmer, numbered 45/49. The left side features a plain grey jersey swatch, and the right side has a white jersey piece with a thin blue patch down the middle. I'm not sure of exactly where this comes from, but I believe it's from the piping of the home jersey sleeve.

My last one was a pretty good one: a dual jersey autographed Rookie Signatures card of Chicago White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, numbered 7/99. Moncada left Cuba in 2015 to pursue his Major League career, and ended up on the White Sox as part of the deal that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. He is rated as one of baseball's top prospects, and is having a great year in AAA, waiting for the call to Chicago.

I must say, this set is absolutely beautiful. Apart from the parallels, inserts, and hits, the base cards look amazing, Not only that, but there really is a great mix of rookies, veterans,and retired players, and there is a significant amount of those retired players who don't get a whole lot of cardboard attention from other products. I will definitely be going for this set, and I'll probably put a want list together after I buy another box or two.