Saturday, August 27, 2016

BOX BREAK - 2016 Upper Deck CFL

Well, I was really looking forward to this Saturday afternoon.  Nice weather, a break from some of the recent hectic travelings and a chance to get back out on the golf course to smack the ball around and get some good cursing going (ok....I'm not THAT bad on the course).  But there was only one little problem.

I went to the wrong golf course and as a result - missed my tee time.

It was brutal.  Especially when I started receiving texts from my golf buddies heckling me to no end.

So I decided to do some office cleaning and card scanning.  Not even close to making up for the "botch of the year".

But I digress.  On to a nice story about cards.

Right before I left for my trip to Brazil, I managed to make it out for the local trade night.  I knew it would be an abbreviated go as I still needed to pack....and but stuff....and just do a bunch of overall prep work.  I like to leave things to the last minute it seems.

Anyways, while I was at the card shop I was really....REALLY wanting to open some packs.  Sadly, there was no hockey product that was speaking to me.  Even the baseball (which is my second choice) didn't have anything I was excited in.  Not even the non-sports stuff was catching my eye.

Worried that I would be leaving with no cards in tow, I decided to take a flyer on the recent CFL product just released by Upper Deck.  The price was right so I decided to give a box a go.  Shall we see how I did?

2016 Upper Deck CFL
6 cards per pack
24 packs per box

I feel as though the CFL product has a pretty strong niche collector following - especially in Canada and I thought if I could hit a couple cards, maybe some trading could be had at future trade nights.

The base cards are nothing jaw dropping.  Simple design, some decent photos (some not so much) and a good overall checklist it looks like (163 base cards with the shorter print ones after card 100).  No career stats on the back...just the past 5 years (a bit of a miss here) but a good effort once again by Upper Deck.  After all, this is their third year doing the CFL release.

A breakdown of the base shows (and I'm going to go out on a limb with a guess here) that cards 1-100 are a given (I had about 15 doubles on top of that).  So that's a real nice start.  Cards 101-140 which are the special teams cards land about 1:2 packs.  I ended up with 11 cards - no doubles.  So some work to do if I want the complete base set.  Cards 141-163 are All-Star cards and land 1:6 packs.  I ended up with 5 so I exceeded the expected 4 cards I should have received.  Nice.

BTW....the horizontal cards don't do it for me at all.  I think it exposes just how bad the logo looks on the front.  I feel as though UD could have done a better job incorporating the logo into the overall layout of the card.

Overall though, the base card offering in this product is pretty good.

Some OPC retro cards in this product (42 cards) and they have their distinct retro look.  I like these cards a lot - except for the smudging just above the photo.  These have a definite 1971 feel to them and I'm sure that set collectors will enjoy the additional chase.

They are 1:3 packs so I should have received 8 in total.

Drumroll please.....

Eight it is.

The box odds call for 2 memorabilia cards and that's just what I got.  Nothing to write home about but I feel like these would make for some good traders.  More so than the dollar jersey cards you tend to get in hockey products these days.

There are patch variations /15 in this product and a quick look on eBay shows some impressive patches.

The more I look at this product, the more I see Upper Deck taking the best of the best from other signature sets and building a real nice niche product for diehard collectors.  I'm impressed so far.

Hey.....I got a thickie.  This was a great surprise.  These manufactured patches are another notch from the OPC belt.  They come 1:128 packs so I definitely hit a tough one.  I especially like that I got a Stampeders logo as I know I'll be able to trade this one locally pretty easily.

And a quick look at the checklist seems to reveal that these are an extension of previous UD CFL releases (as they are listed TL-51 to TL-62).  Pretty cool.

Wow!  Another great box hit.  This High Gloss parallel is numbered to just 10.  While not the top QB in the league, it's still a QB....and should get good trade value as well.

I must say that I'm quite pleased with what this spur-of-the-moment pack ripping adventure has resulted in.

But if only that was all.
There are autos in this product.  Three different types.

Offence base card autos (40 cards) run 1:96 packs, Defense/Special Teams base card autos (12 cards) run 1:256 packs and then there are the All-Star autos (11 cards) numbered to /25.  There are also CFL Scripts (which is what I landed) and they are also numbered to just /25.  Yes, it's a sticker auto but still....more good tradebait.

So.....I can say pretty confidently that I hit a really good box.  Does that change my perception on the product?  Maybe.  Will I try my hand at another one?  Doubt it.  I really like that I have some good traders and should be able to recoup most (if not all) of my box dollars on this one.  Pretty rare when that happens.

If you're a CFL fan....then I would think that this is a must-try product for you.

Have you ever stepped outside the box and tried a product you normally don't rip?  How'd it go?  Did it meet your expectations?

Well....I feel like I accomplished something tonight.  Better than nothing I guess.

But make no mistake, I'd much rather be losing golf balls in the pond today.  Ugh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

OUTSIDE THE BOX - Olympic Pins

To say that the past couple weeks have been a blur would be an understatement.  It's not everyday that one gets a last minute invitation to go to Rio for the Olympics. read that right - I just got back from spending 8 days in Brazil representing my workplace (and Canada) at Rio 2016.  And while it was not a working trip, it was extremely planned and executed as opposed to if I were heading there on my own.

I got the invite late in July and immediately had to see if my passport was up to date (it was not).  I also had to get a few needles to protect me for being Zikafied.  A few briefings at work, some Canada garb at the store and I was off.

My work in the equestrian world meant that we (about 50 people in total) would be taking in the show jumping events - 4 days in total.  That's a lot of jumping....but it's not like I'm going to complain.  Additionally, I was able to check out boxing, wrestling, table tennis and field hockey.  It was a full slate of events.

One of the things I wanted to try when I was there was the long-standing tradition of pin trading (the collector in me couldn't resist).  I bought a lot of about 50 or so pins here in town (mostly Calgary 88 pins) and was off to see how I'd make out.  Most days didn't really allow time to do any trading as we were shuttled in and out of the venues pretty quickly (we had other engagements lined up) but I did manage a couple solid outings.

It all started with this Rio 2016 CBC media pin that I received from my supervisor.  He was doing work on the CBC broadcast and had a couple extra pins that he knew I'd appreciate.  This one is a definite keeper.

Here's the total haul.  Thirty-three new pins I brought home as a reminder of my time in Rio.  I really had no expectations on what type of pins I was receiving...all I knew is that if I could trade - I would.  Many of these trades were with the volunteers that were strewn about the venues.  They would typically have a few pins on their lanyards so it made it quite easy to pull off a deal.

I had my pins on a scarf that made it easily identifiable that I was a "pin guy".  A lot of the locals just wanted to come up and take a look as they had never seen anything like it.  Tons of fun.

I do have some pins that are more favourites over others.  This one has the Olympic mascot (Vinicius) which is a representation of all the animals in Brazil.  Born out of an "explosion of joy" when the Games were awarded to Rio back in 2009.

I don't know if I was supposed to take trade for this's says "workforce team" and is likely an equivalent to a name pin that workers normally wear.  I had no idea at the time and the guy was more than willing to trade it.  It's thick as heck and really well made (which is why it appealed to me).

I like that I was able to land this one as it represents the many people that I made trades with.

All the elements of what we were there for....Brazil flag, Rio 2016 and horses.  A lot of the pins I traded for were not really of high quality, but I could care less.  I just wanted something different.

This one is really different.  I have no clue what this is but I would guess it is Swedish in origin.  I was going for anything and everything different and this was that.

Samsung must have put out a complete set of olympic sport pins and I was able to land a few.  Anytime I saw one I would ask to trade.  I like that I was able to pick up the badminton one as it reminds me of my nephew and I playing on Sunday mornings.

Lastly, the future site of the Olympics in 2020.  I have no doubt that these Games will creep up quickly.

So what did I gain from the pin trading experience?  There's a real joy in sharing a passion of collecting and trading with people who might not fully understand the process.  Getting them excited about giving and receiving with no other agenda or goal other than to share in the experience.  While there were some people out there looking to trade in order to flip on eBay (and yes....I know they are there - I don't even have to look) I am excited to keep these pins (and the other mementos from this amazing experience) as a reminder of one of the most incredible trips I have ever taken.

And that's worth a ton.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


I purposefully left this Linden card off my previous show & tell because I decided to share it as an individual pickup.....and to get a little something off my chest.

I'm a big fan of custom made cards.  I love the creativity and thought that goes into some of these unique offerings.  Heck, I've dabbled in them myself over the years.

But I've always thought that there was a line that shouldn't be crossed - and I fully realize that it gets crossed everyday.  For the most part I don't see it as I am out looking for it, but recently it crossed my path head on - and I bit my tongue for a while, but when I saw the comparison to the card I just picked up....well, here are my thoughts.

2014/15 Upper Deck SPA
#SOTT-TL Sign Of The Times

I really have liked the looks of the last couple Sign Of The Times auto cards offered up by SP Authentic.  The photo in the shot is a little closer up than the full body shots of previous years, lots of signature space and the design is clean and simple.  It's a sharp looking card.

I held off for a while before pulling the trigger on one of these because they either popped up for a strong price or they just didn't pop up at all.  I didn't think they were that rare (other SOTT cards weren't) so I just stayed patient and waited.

When I finally decided to snag one, I may have been a little temped due to the lack of Linden card purchasing in general....still, I paid a price I was happy with.

So when the package arrived, it was just a day or two after I saw this...

This "Signature Series" card is a custom.  Looks nice, has a strong autograph on it, I recognize the photo and is also a simple design.  A solid card all around.

My beef is that it has been plunked on eBay with an asking price that is over three times the price of the SOTT card - which is an authorized signature card from the only company that is legally able to use team logos.

A custom card is a great thing, but to slap it up on eBay, with full designation that it's a custom, does not clear the designer from all issues.  I'm gonna guess pretty strongly that the designer did not get permission fro the photographer to use that Linden photo.  And I'm also pretty sure that the NHL did not allow the designer to use the Canucks team logo.

I got a chance to talk to Canucks team photographer Jeff Vinnick a number of years ago and I really admire his work and (quite frankly) think he has one of the greatest jobs in the industry.  While I'm not sure if this head shot of Linden is his or not, it still bugs me that his photo just gets stripped off a Google search, slapped on a custom card and the thrust up on eBay at a crazy price.

A Linden auto tends to drift in the $10 range (at most) for his non-limited signature offerings.  This seller is asking $30 and feels that his ability to call it a SSP makes it not only rare, but desirable.  It pisses me off.  It's almost as if the seller knows that Linden gets good attention on eBay and is trying to capitalize on it (a quick search on eBay shows that this seller has over 1600 items up for sale....holy crap).

It's clearly not the first card custom he has sold on eBay and obviously it won't be the last.  I have no doubt that there are many custom card guys who have made a killing on the open market.  But it's a shame that these guys are doing it on the back of someone else's work.

Now I've seen a lot of the work the seller has done over the years.  He's a staple of custom creations on hobby boards and such.  He's done great work and I really like his attention to detail.  I'm sure he's done cards for many people....commissions and such, but I've never seen him flat out selling his stuff online until now.

Am I jealous that I'm not the one cashing in?  I don't know...maybe I am.  I would love to just sit in front of my computer, come up with custom cards all day and then sell them for top dollar.  But there's got to be some level of ethics....right?

Maybe I'm a hypocrite because I can definitely say that I've done my own google searches for my own custom creations, but I don't go out advertising my work and I certainly have not put them up on eBay for the highest bidder.  There's got to be a line.

In the end, I know that it is impossible to see the custom card world living in a space where everyone follows the rules and I know that it's impossible for all the photogs to get their just due for the photos they snap.  But when I saw that Linden custom signature card pop up, I just became a little more disheartened.  It just furthered the divide of what's right and wrong (in my eyes) and shoved it square in my face.

I hope I never see another Linden custom card on the secondary market ever.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WALLET CARD - More Buybacks

When I first started collecting Oscar Gamble cards, I was excited to build the master checklist of cardboard to chase.  A far less daunting task that compiling my Linden list.  At the time #WalletCard had about 130 cards in total - a list that even with the 1/1s I felt I could tackle fully and completely.

Shortly after starting this project, I discovered that Topps were inserting buyback cards into some of their products.  That created a bit of a challenge as it's not normally advertised which cards are stamped and inserted into products.  I really had no guide as to which new cards to include to my list.  The only thing I could do was add it once I physically saw a copy pop up somewhere.

Since that chase has begun, I have seen 11 different Oscar Gamble buyback cards...and I've been lucky to land most of them.  A couple more hit the mailbox recently.

2016 Topps 65th Anniversary
#390 1978 Buyback Blue

This card comes from a robust buyback offering where multiple stamp colours were used to indicate the level of scarcity.  They ranked as Black, Red, Blue, Silver and Gold (1/1).  Now I don't know if a blue stamped card means there are black and red versions of it as well but as I mentioned earlier, I'm just adding them as I see them.

It's weird, as I type this I can't help but look at the comparisons to these stamped cards and ITG's Vault stamped cards (which I really don't care about at all).  Why do I enjoy chasing one but not the other?

I think it has to do with the limited number of overall buybacks with my #WalletCard as opposed to the over saturation of Vault cards put out by ITG.  I also think that many secondary sellers of the Topps buybacks know that these cards aren't $20, $50, $100 cards whereas Vault......

2014 Topps 75th
#263 1979 Buyback

My first question is - How can Topps celebrate a 75th Anniversary in 2014 and then cheer on a 65th Anniversary two years later?  Odd.....but I'm sure there's a reason for it.

This cards crosses off the final buyback from the 75th series that I have seen - all four cards stamped with the little silver Topps75 in the corner.

Let's admire the sweet uniform for a moment.  The Padres getup is particularly strong circa late-70's.  The jersey, the cap.  I'm sure the pants have stirrups to complete the trifecta.  It almost....ALMOST detracts from the strong 'fro and pork chop sideburns that Oscar is sporting.

Solid look.

I've got one more buyback in the queue and have my eye on the 1976 Topps Original Buyback #74,  the elusive last card (for now) on my buyback checklist, which is on COMC for about 3x what I hope to pay.  Hopeful to make a deal on it soon.

Maybe one day I'll actually buy some non-stamped Oscar Gamble cards.

One day.

Monday, August 1, 2016

BEHIND THE MASKS - Cross Off Another Set

Recently I made some purchases from COMC and I tend to bundle when I do so.  I try to turn a 1-2 card pickup into a good 8-10 minimum.  Now because I was having a fellow collector pick them up on my behalf, I knew that he would likely be adding to the mix.  He had his latest order shipped off which meant I would be receiving some cards soon.  And it was exciting to see the bubble envelope in the mailbox.

In addition to some Lindens and Gambles, I picked up a few goalie mask cards....even going so far as finishing off a set.  I thought that the line between the asking price and my finishing up a set was right along where I was willing to walk.  Hey, when you're three cards away you tend to see that light at the end of the tunnel get even brighter.

2013/14 In The Game
Masked Men 6
#MM-22 Matt Murray

Masked Men 6 was the most recent goalie mask set to be produced and one that I chased pretty well locally at a few card shows until the well dried up.  Not too many guys have these sitting in their trade box anymore.

This Matt Murray was the trigger for me completing the set when I did as I thought it was sitting at a good price (considering he just won a Stanley Cup and is likely to dethrone Marc Andre Fleury as the number one guy in Pittsburgh) and so I grabbed it quick.

Looking at the remaining two cards on my list, I wondered why I didn't already have them, but then I quickly rectified that conundrum.

2013/14 In The Game
Masked Men 6
#MM-26 Steve Baker

The last of the vintage guys in this set, Steve Baker's mask is a mix of bold simplicity and team/city inspiration.  I really like the old fibreglass offerings for their more straight forward designs that can be appreciated from afar.

The Empire State Building sitting in the middle of the mask really gives it an obvious symmetry and produces that brilliant offset of red on blue.  So effective.

2013/14 In The Game
Masked Men 6
#MM-04 Viktor Fasth

As you can see, the intricate detail on this mask just gets lost in the overall presentation.  What is it that I'm looking at?

I've been looking at it now for a couple minutes and I still can't make it out.

A quick internet search shows that this is the Mr. Bane Duck mask.  Inspired by the Batman villain.

Alright then.

This card finishes off the Masked Men 6 project which leaves a bit of room on the wantlist for an upcoming Masked Men set being released by Leaf.  I only hope that they do the goalie mask thing justice and not try to create some 'scarcity' product.

2010/11 In The Game
Masked Men III
#MM-12 Cory Schneider

As I mentioned, when I browse on COMC I tend to buy in bulk.  This ex-Canuck mask card was sitting at the right price and so I figured I'd cross it off the list at the same time.

It's a great homage to past Vancouver masks (Bromley, Garrett, McLean...just from what can be seen on this one side)...I only wish the Nucks still had Cory tending the pipes.  What a mess they've made of the goalie position in recent years.

Still leaves me with a couple left on the wantlist from this set (Luongo and Giguere) but I am in no rush to pick those up for a price higher than I want to pay.  I do think I'll be knocking them off the list sooner than later...after all, it's been six years now.

The accomplishment of completing a set might not be what it once used to be but I still like to sift through the cards to see the end result.  Lots of fun.