Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Custom Creations - Bound And Determined

For months I have told myself that during my three weeks off over Christmas - I would work on some custom cards that have been on my plate for far too long.

To me, creating a custom card is more than just slapping together some pictures, logos and team colors. I go through revision after revision, refining my designs (and sometimes re-working them completely).

I hate the thought of "First draft = final draft".

So I've spent the day in front of my computer working on some concepts. Since my vacation started, I have finalized a couple cards.

So I thought I'd share them.

This first one is a cut auto of Celtics star Reggie Lewis. Reggie was well on his way to super-stardom before he collapsed on the court and passed away at the terribly young age of 27.

I'm making this one for Casey over at Drop The Gloves. He mentioned that he had gotten his autograph during a chance meeting and wanted to have a better 'display' for it.

The toughest part with these cut signature cards is getting a nice clean cutout window for the autograph to sit in. I normally use a swivel exacto blade and/or precision scissors.

To this point, neither one has quite done the job for me. I'm anticipating a number of 'trial & error' sessions before I give this the slam dunk.

The next card is for a very patient person. How patient? He sent me a bunch of stuff to turn into cut cards over 3 years ago. You heard me - THREE YEARS.

Now in that time, I have created a number of cards which stand as some of my favorites.

From a set of golf cut autos

to some Montreal legends

to a Gilles Gilbert

to a really special Beatles ticket stub

and a few others. So I've been keeping busy.

But there are still a few more autos in his stash as well as one last ticket stub card (which I am going to get done before I go back to work).

Here's the first card I've created of the current ones he'll be getting...

I've always remembered Wilf Paiement as a Colorado Rockies player. But try finding photos of him in that uniform.

So I thought I'd try something different. I like the way this one is heading. I still have the back to do, but I really like the retro-type feel this card has. And the Rockies colors are great for an eye-catching card.

So that's what I've been doing today. Stay tuned....I plan on having at least one more show & tell in the next week or so.

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - A Little Christmas Cheer

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, was able to spend the day resting and relaxing and received some nice gifts under the tree this year.

My present haul is normally minimal, but more often than not it's filled with some great thinking and sincere gestures on the part of family and friends.

To top everything off, this year was stellar when it came to gifts from my niece and nephew.....stay tuned for that.

A late Christmas bubble mailer arrived today and contained a card that proves patience pays off.

2010/11 Panini Score
Recollection Collection buyback auto
#32 English Version /15

This card comes 13 months after I landed the bi-lingual version. At the time, I had just found out that there were indeed two versions of the coveted card. A plus in that there was another Linden added to the wantlist, but a minus in that yet another card would be coming with a somewhat hefty price.

That's where my patience paid off. Over the past year, I have seen three or four copies of this card come up for auction. All with price tags over $100. Now with the first or second copy of the card out of the gate, I can see it getting that price, but once the first few go - interest dies off considerably.

Recently, there have been a couple copies up for quite some time. Reason being, the asking price is just too high. I was bound and determined to get this card for no more than $65.

A few weeks ago I saw another copy of this card come up for grabs. The seller was taking offers though (which I always think is a smart idea). I threw out a $60 offer thinking I could barter up to $65. To my pleasant surprise - he took it.

A short wait and the card arrived today. And a big thanks to the seller for packaging it well. The bubble mailer had been punctured right through to the card. If there hadn't been an extra toploader on each side of the card, there would have been a good chance the card would have seen some damage.

Glad to knock this one off the list. It takes me down to just 11 cards (not including 1/1's) left to track down from the 10/11 season of Linden releases.

Slowly but surely.

Now, on to some of the great stuff I got for Christmas.

My nephew makes me laugh - lots. He's almost 10 and is becoming more creative and 'thinkative' (I just made that up) by the day.

As I was opening the gift from him he said "I know you like juice". What the heck does that mean?

Sure enough, his interpretation of "I like juice" means a big decorated container filled with single serving juice crystals - 90 packs worth...

...and a cheesy Christmas tie for good measure. Awesome gift. I love the thoughtfulness. Thanks so much Kyle!

My niece is starting to pick up on what I say when we're out a lot more.

A recent trip to the mall had us in Jersey City buying a gift for her dad. While we were there, I noticed a shirt that caught my eye. I simply mentioned to my niece that I liked it.

She put that info in her memory bank.

This retro Canucks t-shirt was wrapped and under the tree with my name on it. Such a simple gift, but I'm really impressed that she took the time to remember - and then follow up by buying it.

Of course, it was the name on the back that trumped the logo on the front.

I love it. Thanks Shauna!

The only other hockey-related item I received was NHL 12 for the PS3. I haven't fired it up yet as my player is a little buggered. Maybe I'll look at that today.

Thanks again guys. And a heads up - the hints start now for next year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

PACK RIPPING: My Niece Has Some Good Luck

Before I get into some of my recent 'Trade Night' pickups, I thought I'd take a moment to show you a couple of pack breaks that my niece helped me out with.

Last weekend was the last card show of the year. It just so happened that it was going on in the same building as the library my niece and I were going to. So we stopped in and took a quick browse around.

After finding very little, I decided to buy a few packs of cards. Rarely do I do this as I am more of a 'I'll save my money for cards for my pc' guy, but with my niece there I thought it would be fun to bust some packs.

One of the products I went to was 2011/12 Parkhust Champions - one of my favorite sets of the year so far.

We only purchased two packs since I had some of the singles already.

The base cards are pretty nice. Good player selection, nice colors and a simple design.

But these cards weren't what I was hoping to land.

In our two packs, my niece pulled out this Doug Gilmour mini. They fall in 1:2 packs so it wasn't a huge surprise to find one.

Still, in a two-pack break, it was nice to at least play the odds.

Did I say play them? My niece beat them.

With her second pack, she pulled this...

A nice hard-signed auto of recent Hall Of Famer Mark Howe.

Now while I would have loved a plethora of other guys, this auto was a welcome sight in a simple two-pack break.

Nicely done kiddo.

Fast forward to last night. My niece and I are out again (oddly enough to the library) and I asked if she wanted to stop at Toys R' Us to see if I can pick up one last Christmas gift for her brother.

While I didn't find what I was looking for, I did come across a few of these packs.

At a buck a piece, I couldn't resist. Who knows, a little luck from my niece might pay off again.

Can you guess where this is going?

With the first few packs my niece opened, she commented on how the photos look really nice (these are some of her faves). She said I should use them for my 'Cardboard Photography' posts. And she's right.

There were some vertical cards that caught her eye too. This Jokinen being the most memorable.

Drew Doughty was not on her 'wow' list.

It's funny, after seeing that card, all I could think about was this one...

Drew is clearly getting the short end of the stick when it comes to actual hockey playing shots. Is he in that big of a funk?

Once again, there were more than just base cards in the 10 packs I purchased. Again, can you guess where this is heading?

A pair of Yzerman insert cards - a nice start.

A retro Mike Fisher. My niece liked this one. I like it too.

And yes - THREE Young Guns. With these cards coming in 1:4 packs, my niece once again beat the odds.

And a Cam Fowler.....not too shabby.

But you knew this post wasn't about to end just yet.

After the first couple of packs, I told my niece that the 'big card' in the set was the Taylor Hall Young Gun.

With just a couple packs left to open, she sifted through and blurted out "Taylor Hall".

Are you kidding me! What awesome luck.

On a side note, she'll be picking my Sport Select tickets this weekend, my playoff hockey pool picks and the magic Power Max lottery ticket numbers. But not until we hit the library. I'm not superstitious or anything. :)

Nicely done kiddo. I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

TO THE BIKE SPOKES!!! - Henrik Sedin

Last night was the final 'Trade Night' before Christmas.....and it was one of the most productive when it came to my collections.

There was some ever-present generosity (which is always much appreciated), a couple 'pack wars' victories and a few good ol' fashioned trades (yup, they still exist).

It was really just simply a fun time and it will give me numerous blog post subjects over the next week or so.

This first one is of a card that made me do the 'head tilt'... kind of like when a dog is pretending to listen to you...

Seriously. I was trying to figure out if the card was made as a joke, or if I happened to miss something.

You tell me...

2011/12 Upper Deck Series 1
#13 Henrik Sedin

Last time I checked, you guys lost the Stanley Cup Finals. You don't 'win' second place.

Is it me, or does this card just seem weird?

I can just hear Henrik chanting "We're number 2! We're number 2!".

He'd be holding something over his head....if he had won anything.

This photo just brings back bad memories. Why go there Upper Deck. Why go there.

For the simple fact of forgetting who actually were the winners....this card get's the mighty



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - Vintage Pucks Signature

One of the nice things about not working this week is that I get to check the mailbox right when the letter carrier arrives.

Today, I saw two bubble envelopes peeking out of the slot. It's like Christmas has come early.

I have a few items en route and am hopeful they arrive before the Christmas smash. If they don't show up in the next day or two, things are bound to get ugly.

I was really excited to see this first card in the mail. It's one that has been on the radar for most of the year.

2010/11 Panini Limited
#10 Vintage Pucks Signatures /10

A really tough parallel to track down (without breaking the bank). This card popped up a couple times last year when it was first released. I passed on them as I didn't want to dish out that much cash on one.

Fast forward a year later and I started to wonder if I'd see another copy at a reasonable price again. Remember, once one gets scooped up into a Linden pc, that's one less card out on the market.

I'm guessing there are about 5 copies left to find a home in a collection.

This one comes from a fellow Linden collector who happened to have an extra. He's the one who I purchased the Made To Order card for. We finally got around to finalizing a trade and the packages were delivered in time for the holidays.

Sadly, there was a bump in the road with the MTO I purchased. It took a few extra weeks to get the card re-sealed. I also think we both were a little on the lazy side getting this deal done.

After all, neither one of us is in a rush.

But seeing this card arrive really makes me happy that I'm able to cross it off the list. Some of these low numbered parallels are stubborn finds.

2011/12 In The Game
Ultimate Memorabilia 11th Edition
Base Gold /9

Speaking of... this card is a deceptive one. I've opened 9 packs of the product and have landed 3 base gold parallels. I figured they would be a little easier to find.

Not so. Numbered to just 9, this Linden is the first copy I've even seen. I was able to trade a couple of base cards for the gold and was thrilled to add this one to the collection.

Funny thing is, other than the Hot Patch card /9 (and the numerous 1/1 parallels), all that's left for me to track down from this monstrous product is the base card /63. The easiest (and what should be cheapest) card in the lot to track down.

I'm a patient guy though.

Monday, December 19, 2011

OUTSIDE THE BOX - Limited Cuts

If you've ever taken a gander at some of the web pages card companies use to promote their products, then you know that they often like to put the best of the best photos up for all to see.

Makes sense obviously.

And every once in a while, I come across a photo or card design that just makes me stop and do a double take.

It could be from any sport, any time period, any player - anything. Good is good......simple as that.

2011 Donruss Limited Cuts
Elvis Presley/Michael Jackson dual cut autograph 1/1

Well, I saw this on Panini's blog this week and sure enough...the card made my jaw drop. Now that's what I call a cut autograph card. While I'm not huge into 'entertainment' cards, this one would definitely be a welcome addition to my collection (doubtful we'll ever cross paths though).

Clearly, the first thing I'm drawn to with this card is the subject as opposed to the presentation. While the card does look nice, I think it's a difficult task to produce an aesthetically pleasing card that only has a couple of autographs in it.

Take a look at some of the other cards from the product.

Any one of these cards would likely be a pinnacle piece in a person's collection. The history embedded in these pieces of cardboard are quite outstanding.

Obviously, there are only a finite amount of certain autographs (like Cosell and Cobb), and some of the scribes are delicate and difficult to work with. But that said, I am a big believer in using the autograph to build the design of the card (not the other way around).

Take another look at the cards. The cutting off of a person's signature (like the Jackson auto) or the edges of the paper showing (like in the Rose) just leaves me slightly less impressed.

I would have preferred a card where the die-cut made for the signature to go into be customized to the limitations of the autograph.

It's interesting....When I was at the Toronto Expo last month, I had a discussion about just that topic with a person who has a few spectacular cut auto cards - and a lot of them are very aesthetically pleasing.

2010/11 ITG Heroes & Prospects Baseball II
Paper-Cuts Cut Autograph
#HP-HW Honus Wagner 1/1

Plain and simple....this is how a cut autograph should look in my opinion. The autograph is clean, the window it goes in was made for this card (and even vice versa...look at the edging on the autograph paper itself).

Now again, I realize it's tough sometimes when you are limited to the autograph you have in hand (that Cosell one especially), but I feel that there are always options.

From my limited experience at working with cut autos, I've quickly adapted the goal of having the signature that sits within the card look as visually pleasing as possible. That means having most - if not all - of the autograph visible, having no 'paper edges' showing and if they do, then trying to mask it as best as possible.

This Gilles Gilbert I made is a perfect example. Take a look at the upper left corner where the autograph sits. There is a visible paper edge. Now if this signature were written on blue paper, the edge would be way more predominant. What I did (and it would work on the blue as well) is to take a scrap piece of the autograph paper and place it behind the autograph in the window. Yes, you can still see the edge, but the paper used fills the window.

Another technique I've used is to create a window that works with the handwriting of the signature.

This Richard auto was my first attempt at it. It took quite a few tries, but I finally got a shape that I was happy with. And I think the autograph just pops out of the card even more as a result.

But this Jack Nicklaus card is probably the best example of customizing the die-cut. From the time I built the Richard auto to the Nicklaus, I purchased an exacto knife with a swivel head. A must in my opinion if you are doing custom windows like this.

The autograph works with the card design - just like I had intended.

Overall, these cut autos from icons past are a spectacular innovation to the hobby. If you ever get a chance to get one - do it.

But if you ever get a chance to see one - stop and take a moment to look at it, hold it and appreciate what it takes to build one of these spectacular cards.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Well, this is it! Today is my last day of work for 2011.

Since the start of June, it has been one massive push, hitting deadline after deadline along the way. With just a couple last puzzle pieces to put in place today, I can walk away knowing that the book will be shut on 2011. I'm looking forward to the new year in the sense that it will be a fresh, empty book that we will start with (and will quickly be added to).

Anyways, sorry for the lack of posts of late. I thought this week would be a little kinder to me, but not so. In addition to work (and some Christmas shopping), I had a fun time dealing with a broken furnace. Although the temperature wasn't -30 degrees Celsius, even at -10, it got mighty cold in the home. Not fun.

Alright......on to some card talk.

I was over at my mom's place this past week for dinner and for the first time ever, she brought up the topic of hockey cards.

"So, did you hear about the new cards coming out with fighters in blood?"

I knew right there that this product will be unlike any released in the past. Ever.

For those living under a rock (or who haven't watched the news in Canada), In The Game, who have produced products like Between The Pipes, Heroes & Prospects, Decades and my favorite Ultimate Memorabilia, are about to release its newest creation - Enforcers.

NOTE: I'm going to be doing a lot of linking so you can see the product and hear the reactions first hand as opposed to getting the 'Coles Notes' version from me (I'll just be supplying my opinion).

I was first made aware of the 'Enforcers' product back at the Toronto Expo a little over a month ago (before the media storm). My first impression was "Cool. I like the concept." Much like a goalie-only product or capturing a moment in time, this release hits a niche market interested in the fighting, enforcer, goon, battler, scrapper aspect of hockey.

Knowing that Trevor Linden would not be making an appearance in this release (the guy just did not fair well when dropping the gloves), I didn't take a super close look at what the set had to offer.

That said, the press sheet and card mock-ups really impressed me. I liked the looks and designs of the cards and knew that it would be yet another popular release.

But I don't think even In The Game thought it would become this popular...

CTV news story

CBC news story

Puck Daddy blog

Slam Hockey story

In a nutshell, the 'Enforcers' product has created a media firestorm.

I don't believe it's really even about the fact that the product celebrates the role the enforcer plays on a team. I don't believe it's about the 'glorification' of fighting in hockey. I don't believe it's about the player selection for the checklist.

To me, it all has come down to the design of some of the cards.

It seems that some (Georges Laraque being one) are not happy with the 'blood splatter' background on the cards. To me, that 'some' is a very small percentage of people who the product is geared towards.

When I look at the cards, I don't see the 'blood splatter' first. I see the player photo, the autograph or jersey insert and then the overall card design. Sure, I realize that there is that 'blood splatter' look on the card, but it doesn't shoot out at me like it does to some others.

What's really disappointed me is that a lot of news stories have been getting the reaction from the general public and it's no surprise that a lot of them have a problem with it. But this product isn't geared towards them at all. I have no doubt that a lot of the people questioned have never set foot in a card shop or have opened a pack.

The reaction presented on the news is a stark contrast to the reaction on the hobby boards that I participate in. On there, the reaction was a much more positive one. People were excited for the product's release. People were thrilled to see a dedicated enforcer set to collect.

Instantly, I thought of two things - niche market and product knowledge.

Hence, it came as no surprise when my mom took the opposite side of the argument to me when discussing the cards. I think it changed slightly when I gave her my take.

My mom also talked about how the product is showing some bad timing when it comes to its release. Over the summer there have been some high-profile deaths to some of the NHL's recent enforcers. In addition, there have been some stories on research done on Derek Boogaard's brain.

National Post story

CBC story

I see the timing as more coincidental. I have no doubt in my mind that the concept and initial production steps happened way before the events this past summer. Hockey card products just don't 'spring up' out of nowhere in a couple months.

For those who do not approve of this set's timing, would there ever be a 'right time' to release a product like this. Probably not.

The one aspect of this story that I feel most uneasy about is when I hear the Belak family's response. Wade Belak (an NHL enforcer who killed himself over the summer) is included in the product. Again, this decision would have been made before his death. Hearing the reaction from Wade's mom leaves me on the fence when it comes to how In The Game should react.

You can hear some of the interview with Belak's mom on the CBC page linked above. There is a Georges Laraque interview that plays some of audio.

Clearly the product's release is something that the Belak family is not happy with. I can't help but think though "Would her reaction be the same if Wade was alive today?" 'Would her reaction be the same if there wasn't the numerous media stories on this 'Enforcers' product and fighting in general in the NHL?"

Part of me sees the Wade Belak inclusion to the 'Enforcers' product as a tribute. I know for a fact that there are numerous collectors who are thrilled to see him as a part of the checklist. Part of me also sees that it might be best to pull the card from the product out of respect to the Belak family.

Georges Laraque also wants his card pulled from the product (or at least re-designed, removing the blood).

With the product slated for release in less than a month, I don't see that happening. Dr. Brian Price, President of In The Game recently said that it won't regarding the Laraque request.

Beckett Media story

I am glad to see that there is some representation of In The Game's side of the story when it comes to this release. I don't feel like there has been enough of it though in the mainstream media. I think it is important to get both sides of a story before coming to a conclusion or creating an opinion.

Just yesterday, Dr. Price was involved in a chatroom talk on the hobby boards I go to often. While I was not able to participate or even listen to, I have heard that a transcript of the event will be made available in the near future. I look forward to reading it. I think it will give me a very strong insight when it comes to the position In The Game has on the whole situation.

Ultimately, the product is one that I support. I have enjoyed the past releases from In The Game and see this series as a tribute to the 'tough guys'. I have no doubt that the 'Enforcers' set will be hugely successful (in part to the numerous news stories presented).

My prediction.....by March, this topic will pass right on by. Much like all the other previous hockey card releases.

Sorry for the long post....and I didn't even introduce the angle of "the influence of the card's blood design on kids". Ooops...I guess I just did.

So, where do you stand on the 'Enforcers' product?

What are your thoughts to the press given to the cards?

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Some of you might be asking "Beards? As a concept?"

That's right.

When it seemed all the avenues of concepts have been exhausted, Upper Deck comes out with a sneaky little parallel set that can be either intriguing, frustrating or flat out boring.

I choose the first one.

2011/12 O-Pee-Chee
#1 Scott Hartnell
Playoff Beard version

O-Pee-Chee released a 50-card parallel set that celebrates the decades-old tradition of playoff beards. Each card depicts the player proudly wearing their sign of playoff success (you never really see guys wearing full beards in game one or two of the first round....unless they're cheating).

The card looks exactly the same as the regular version say for a couple tweaks.

2011/12 O-Pee-Chee
#1 Scott Hartnell
Regular version

First (and most obvious) is the photo. But if you look closely, you'll see that some of the text is a different color. The regular version has gold lettering for the player name and the 'O-Pee-Chee' slashing through the card at the bottom of the photo. The 'Beard' version has this text in silver.

The backs of the cards are exactly the same. There's no serial numbering, no text indication - nothing.

Without a doubt, there are people out there building the set that have no clue about the variation. To many, it might not even matter.

I, on the other hand, would not be able to put a 'Beard' variation in the spot where a regular card should go.

It just doesn't work that way in my world.

So, how rare are the 'Beard' variations? They are 1:25 packs. Not super rare, but still a good hunt is required to build the full 50-card set at a reasonable price.

I kind of like this idea. These photos aren't just from 'any' game. They are from the most important games of the season. And there are a number of players who seem to transform into another character once that beard has fully formed.

So, once I discovered this unique concept, I thought to myself if there were other instances of 'facial hair' being a theme for a set.

Believe it or not, it has happened before.

1996/97 Leaf Limited
#16 Joe Sakic /1500

How many of you remember these beauties?

This set was actually inspired by the playoff beard tradition, but was a bit more of a miss as a lot of the photos just don't reflect that sentiment.

This 20-card insert set did have some big names though. Yzerman, Lemieux, Gretzky and Roy just to name a few. And since they are numbered to 1500 (which at the time was a pretty rare card), they hold half decent value (Gretzky just recently went for about $30 on ebay).

All the card fronts show head shots of players 'sporting' stubble. I think some of these pics are of guys who are just too lazy to shave.

To make things even cheesier, the player name and 'Stubble' text have a fuzzy felt-like texture. It reminds me of books that I read when I was one.

'Stubble'? I think not. This is just a poor inclusion to the set. I don't think I've ever seen Alex grow any sort of beard, goatee, sideburns or moustache. Ever.

Now did someone say - MOUSTACHE?

Thinking about this concept, there was a clear lane to this obvious avenue that I'm sure will soon be gobbled up by a card company.

At least you can say you saw it here first.

I give you - "The Movember Set"

Again, for those living under a rock, November is the month where us guys refrain from shaving the ol' stache in support of men's health (specifically prostate cancer).

And a bunch of the NHLers have jumped on this ship big time.

You probably saw the Jonas Hiller Movember mask I showcased at the start of the month. But he wasn't the only goalie to get in on the excitement. Tim Thomas had a great looking Movember mask designed as well.

Both the Hiller mask and the Thomas will be raffled (or auctioned....I can't remember which) off with all the proceeds going to support the cause.

So why not do the same with hockey cards?

I think each team should designate one player to represent their team on a 'Movember' card. Only available in that team's city. Math concludes that this would mean a 30-card set.

I think the initial purchase of the card be set at like $20 bucks with only a limited number of them available (say 1000).

If every card sold in every city and all the money from the cards went to fight prostate cancer, that would be $600,000.

Some people might only want cards from their favorite team or city, some might want to build the set. There are player collectors as well.

And of course, the money would go to a very worthwhile cause.

And think of the fun photos you could come up with.

Cal Clutterbuck might just lead the charge. His 'Clutterstache' as he calls it is so popular, it has its own Twitter account. Hilarious.

Even better.......his stache was interviewed by NHL.com. Outstanding!

There are guys that just should never be seen in public with a moustache. I think this group of players play for the Habs.

In addition to this nasty caterpillar on Cole's lip, do some hunting for Carey Price's contribution. Yikes!

This tandem just made me laugh. Goofy face on Moulson and goofy staches on both. Love it!

But my favourite might just be Jagr's attempt. It actually suits him. This coming from a guy who had the worst mullet in league history.

Hey, now maybe that should be a card set. No...no, no ,no. Ignore that thought.

Of course, no blog post on facial hair would be complete without a card from this guy.

Got Heeeem!

Enough said.