Friday, May 27, 2016

LINDEN CARD(s) OF THE WEEK - They Were A Gift (I'm Not Caving)

Last weekend was the final monthly card show of the season.  It also is the unofficial transition from winter quiet months at work to the hectic summertime season.  A time that in recent years has been partially responsible for me stepping away from the hobby.  Not necessarily a bad thing (as I think taking breaks....especially when things are in a funk....are good) but this year I'm not going to remove myself completely from the hobby world.

With all that is currently out there in the world of sportscards and with the struggling economy, there have been a couple of decent value finds out there.  I plan on keeping my eye open for future "good deals".  What I don't plan on doing is going on any sort of buying splurge.  Partially because I don't really feel like pumping out a bunch of cash for cards and partially because I think the market is flooded with stuff most people could care less about.

I know I do.

Which brings me to my show & tell for this post.

First of all, I'd like to preface by saying that I do not collect ITG Vault cards.  I was warm to the concept way back when it first was introduced but quickly slammed the door on them when I saw the ridiculous asking prices placed on many of these items.

Curious to see how those same people are making out with those $120+ Linden cards now (I bet they don't even command $20).  Flooding the market will do that.

The only interest I have in Vault cards are purely for documenting and my master checklist.  I could care less where these cards end up as time go by.

Well, at last weekend's show I became the owner of two ITG Vault cards.

This Decades 90's Game Used Jersey Silver (with the blue 1/1 stamp) along with the next card were gifts from a local collector.  He knows I'm a die hard Linden guy and when he was cracking open some of the Vault product put these aside for me.

It's funny....I tried to say no thank you (didn't want to trade for them) and showed no interest but when he said "They're yours" and gifted them to me......well I couldn't say no.  It was a very kind gesture and so of course I will make an exception.

But when I look at this card I see not only a very nice gift from a fellow hobbyist, I see the ridiculousness of the Vault program.

To date, I have documented THIRTY different 1/1 stamped Final Vault cards.


Add to that (with the variations in stamp colours) another dozen or so (minimum) Linden "1/1's" and the head shaking and laughing ensues.

I've asked this many times......who is this product for?

Definitely not the set builder and certainly not the player collector.  Is it for the guys who love to pull the awesome patch cards that have been leftover from ITG's run in the hobby?  Sure.  But then why is a boring jersey card like this included?

It's nothing but a product dump and cash grab.  And many of the people opening this product see dollar signs on the secondary market.  Unfortunately they need to take the goggles off because these cards have flooded the market and crashed the "value" on these cards.

I will be extremely happy when this phase of my Linden collecting is over and I hope never to hear the word "Vault" again.

In addition to the fabricated 1/1 cards, ITG decided to throw in a bunch of autograph cards just sitting on their leftover shelf.  But rather than giving them one of ten different 1/1 colour stamp variations they just stamped it with a generic Vault logo (which sowed up poorly in the scan) and away we go.

That tells me that they had way more than 10 of each of these cards left in the stockpile.  Again, flooding the market with what has now become loonie bin signatures (or loony bin....depends on how you want to take that...ha ha).

Simply put, these cards do nothing for me - zero.  But I can't turn down the generous gesture of a gift.

And so with a hearty thank you, they will be marked off the list and put away....likely never to be looked at again.

Into the vault so to speak.

Monday, May 23, 2016

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - Finally Punched This Ticket

It's been an exciting and fast-paced month for me.  The first couple weeks in May involved a lot of volunteering for a charity book sale.  Lugging in hundreds of boxes of books, sorting for days on end and setting up for one of the biggest used book sales in the city this year.  It was tremendous.  I found a number of gems for my own personal collection (I can't say I'll get to reading all of them.....there's just not enough days) and I was able to find a home for the signed Jacques Plante book (a $200cdn buy).  All totalled, the charity raised $300,000 in just 3 days - amazing.

This past week was spent in lovely British Columbia golfing up a storm.  Six rounds in four days and it was incredible.  Great weather, great courses and great company.  I played pretty well too....up until the final day when there was actual money on the line (I choked so bad).  This was our 10th year doing this trip and I'm looking forward to many more.  Such fun.

When I got back from my trip I was hit with a few bubble envelopes in my mailbox (ok....a couple PWE's too......BOOOOOOO!!!) and I was very excited to tear into them.  I knew a few special cards were coming my way.  The one I've chosen to share tonight is one I never thought I'd see - and am thrilled to cross off the list.

1996/97 Score
#173 Golden Blades Winner (Punched)

Looks like a simple base card upon first glance but take a closer look at the upper right corner.  If you turn the card 90 degrees clockwise you'll recognize the Pinnacle logo from that era is punched into the card.

This product had a number of variations and if you weren't paying attention you could miss some key adds to your player collection.

There was the base card.

There was the Artist Proof card.

There was the Golden Blades card.

Now, on the back of the Golden Blades card there's a coded box (like snow on the television).  If you took your card in to a dealer they would decode it through a special decoder.  It would tell you if you have a "Winner" or not (so there are two variations).  If you had a "Winner" you could send it in to Pinnacle and they would punch the Pinnacle logo into it for you.  They would also send you a Special Artist Proof card (which is the same as the Artist Proof card....only thicker).

Still with me?

Now, if you had a dealer send it in for you, he would receive a Dealer's Choice Artist Proof.  That's seven different variations....phew.

These Golden Blades "Winner" punched cards are impossible to find nowadays (well.....almost).  In fact, I've never come across one until a few weeks ago when a collector on one of the hobby boards I frequent picked up a near complete set of the punched cards.  I quickly showed my interest in the Linden and we came to an agreement on price.

All that remains on my list of seven is the non-punched version of the "Winner" card.  I don't have a decoder, but have been told what to look for on the reverse (apparently you can tell which is which with the naked eye).

It's without question one of the biggest Linden pickups I've had this year (the quantity might not be there...but the quality sure has - and not the expensive kind either).

What a great way to kick off the summer.

Monday, May 9, 2016

OUTSIDE THE BOX - You Never Know What You'll Find At A Book Sale

Books have been at the forefront of my mind of late.  This upcoming weekend will see a pair of huge charity used book sales open their doors and I've got a few titles that I'd like to add to my ever-growing list of books to read.

I've got about a bazillion titles in the basement but the collector in me just can't let a good sports bio go by.

Over the past couple weeks I've been volunteering at one of the sites, prepping for the big weekend by lugging in books from the car trunks of generous donors, sorting the thousands of books (and tossing some of the old, torn or soggy page turns into the recycling bin) and setting up the 200+ tables with titles that will keep the place hopping.

This is just half of the curling rink that has been taken over by this book blitz over the past little while.  It truly is a mountain of books.  And I'm having a blast going through them and helping out a great cause (my back may disagree with me when all is said and done).

On Sunday though the stars must have aligned just right because I came across a stunning find.

People have any number of reasons why they would box up some of their old books and donate them to a used book sale.  Just clearing out space, bored with the topic, finished reading it or are tired of seeing it staring at them from the shelf.  Regardless, we get anything and everything at these sales, from old vintage classics to the new release award winners.

I had been busy doing a lot of the grunt work for most of the day yesterday - lifting boxes, moving boxes, emptying the recycle name it.  For some reason I felt like taking a break and decided to do some sorting.  I grabbed an oddly shaped box and found an empty table.  I cracked the cardboard open and my eye caught one title in particular.

As a goalie fan and as a Jacques Plante fan I was excited to see a really nice copy of this book.  It was obviously the first one I pulled out of the box.

I leafed through the pages to check out the condition of the pages and they matched the cover - superb.  But then I saw some scribbling on the inside title page and my jaw dropped.

Yeah.  You're seeing this right.  A signed copy from the man himself, dated February 1973.

I must have let out a naughty word or two because the guys next to me wanted to know what was up.  I showed them the signature and they kind of looked at me like "What's the big deal?"  Clearly they were not hockey fans.

Jacques Plante passed away 30 years ago....before the boom of signature memorabilia and cut autos in the world of sportscards.  And while his scribe might not be uber-rare, you just don't see them pop up very often - if ever - in this capacity.

Now, I could have done one of two things.  I could have put the book into the sports section and kept my eye on it for sale day and make the easy $5 purchase, or (and this is what I ended up doing) I could have passed the title along to the organizers with some knowledge on just how rare and desirable this autographed copy can be.  They plan on putting it into a featured area with (what I hope will be) a fair price tag so that the charity and the buyer both benefit from this amazing find.

The crazy thing is that this isn't the first time I've discovered a jaw dropping signature on the inside cover of a sports book at a charity book sale.  Anyone remember my Foster Hewitt story?

Always check your used books for signatures.  There are gems to be found.

Right place, right time.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

BEHIND THE MASKS - Bones Brigade

I love goalie masks.  Have for quite some time now.  I love that there are goalie mask cards out there.  Been building sets for quite some time now.

I'm not in a rush to finish any of them...when it happens - it happens. happened recently.

It'd been a little slow in the card purchasing world for me and so I took a look at some options on COMC.  It's a great place to get lost for a while and maybe...just maybe find a few items on the cheap. Normally I'm hunting for Lindens and Gambles but lately I've expanded my searches to include Masked Men.

Starting all the way back in 2008/09, In The Game's goaltending release called Between The Pipes has showcased some great goalie masks by building an insert set called Masked Men.  For six consecutive years there have been a good 50 or so cards to chase.

There was a time when I gobbled up as many as I could find so I could quickly get back to my Linden hunt.  But that time has definitely come and gone.  These days I rarely search online and the shows are pretty much dried up of all I need of these pretty much forgotten inserts.

But when a lot of people forget about them...prices go down.  When prices go down - I like to buy.

So let's start right off the bat with a set killer.

2012/13 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 5
#MM-04 Gary Bromley

Bones!!!  All I gotta say is this mask looks killer.  I can only imagine what players must have thought as they barrelled in staring at that gem of a lid.  They definitely don't make them like that anymore.

Masked Men 5 was the first year where ITG went to an artist rendering of the mask as opposed to just a straight photo.  Me thinks it was due to some sort of copyright issues with photos or maybe the lack of good high-res pics to blow up and put on cards.  Either way, I thought the design and drawings looked great.

I even remember at a Toronto Expo years ago watching the artist (Paul Madden) work on new cards for the (then) upcoming Enforcers product.  Incredible talent.  I really like how they, and subsequent sets, have turned out.  I once wished that he would be the one to build my dream "Backplates" set.

Ah...the good ol' days.

2010/11 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men III
#MM-07 Brian Elliott

Speaking of...I can't believe it's been 5 years since Masked Men III has come out.

I remember this set extremely well...for all the wrong reasons.  Somehow (don't ask me) all of the regular green (Emerald) mask cards had a "Emerald Version 1/1" depiction printed on the back.  Needless to say, chaos ensued.  And ITG was on high alert and damage control.  It's the reason why you see those horizontal green Masked Men III jersey cards.  An exchange program as a way of saying sorry.

When I look at this Elliott card (who has been lights out in net this playoff season) I can't help but wonder why he was chosen to be included in the product.  Did they need filler?  A more boring mask I can't think of.  Well, maybe the "I just got traded" white....but that'd be about it.

I laughed when I saw that this card was still on my list.  Crazy.

2010/11 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men III
#MM-22 Jason LaBarbera

I always hoped Jason would've had more success in the NHL.  He just couldn't break through for longer than a cup of coffee with any particular team.  I guess it could've been worse.  After all, he did carve out 62 wins in 187 games played over the span of 15 years.  Most guys would kill to play in the NHL for a fraction of that time.

Did you know he even made it into games as recently as the 14/15 season?  I didn't.

I wish ITG would have used a better photo to depict more of the mask - the whole reason for this set.  You can't really appreciate any sort of design on the bulk of his lid.  And Jason's had some good ones.

He likes his music and loves his wrestling.  Metallica, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, The Rock just to name a few of the themes depicted on his masks.  He truly embraces the personality side of what one can do with a vision and a plan.

This card...not so much.  The skull on the chin is neat.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-34 Curtis Joseph

Now, when you want to talk about all-time great designs you can put this one on the short list.  CuJo!!!

This offering comes from ITG's last goalie mask insert set...released in the 13/14 season.  Masked Men 6 would give collectors one last chance to chase the great goalie mask cards of the day.

Knowing that makes me take another look at the Joseph mask.  It reminds me of a time when I was really passionate about masks.  Saving dozens and dozens of closeup photos each week to build a huge database of masks from all eras.  I wanted (and still want) to do so much with all of that time and effort I invested.  Maybe I still will.

But this mask just has it all.  extreme detail with the ability to make an impact from a distance.  The essence of what a mask should accomplish.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-16 Daniel Altshuller

On the other end of the spectrum - Daniel Altshuller.

Quick....what team does he play for?

Yeah, I thought so.  Why is this guy in this set?  Let's keep it to the NHLers please (I guess that's a hollow ask now seeing as they don't do this kind of stuff anymore).

I just never understood the whole junior hockey thing.  Never worked for me.

But it's one more off the list.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-48 Carey Price

Redemption.  This is a nice card.  I still can't believe Carey Price played as well as he did at the last Olympics.

Still.  Can't.  Believe.

He's turned into one of the best in the game....when he's actually playing.  Let's hope for the Habs sake (and Captain Canuck's) that it's soon.  They need him.

This card pose is another instance of "Why didn't you use a different pose?"  Something from the side?  You just never really get a good sense of how great this mask is.

Is it?  Great?

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-15 Semyon Varlamov

Carly's got a mess going on here.  Cleanup in the frozen foods isle.

I have to actually concentrate for a few seconds to focus in on what the heck is going on with his mask.  I think it's like an frozen bull with a blocker and a stick on a toboggan.  Yeah....we'll go with that.

It's just too busy.  My head hurts.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-29 John Grahame

This one's better.  Race car theme.  Chicks in bikinis.

Too many Carolina Hurricanes logos though.  I get that you want to paint it up with the team colours and all, but pick a theme and go with it.

On the scale of masks in this thread, I give it a passing grade.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-40 Jim Rutherford

Lastly, we hit the vintage button.  Good ol' fibreglass.  Face shattering stuff.

The simplicity of this mask with the simple Red Wings eyelashes makes this a classic.

Remember, this was at a time when few guys had painted masks....or masks alone.  To think that guys were out there sans mask as early as 40 years ago is mind boggling.

Well, I can say that I made some good progress with my goalie mask sets.  When I take a look at my wantlist now, I can see just 8 cards are needed to finish all six of the Masked Men sets.  Slowly but surely.

Now that doesn't mean my goalie mask wantlist is just 8 cards long.  I have other mask sets (like ITG's Inspired Masks, Pacific's Ice Watchmen and even a couple Pinnacle Masks from 96/97....hey, don't rush me).

The more I think of it, maybe I've been neglecting to chase any of these cards with great haste because I don't want to finish.  I can definitely see an end to this project unless I decide to venture into other goalie mask-related cards.

For now....I'll just enjoy what I've got.