Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Allen & Ginter Originals - Birds of America

One of the biggest reasons I love Allen & Ginter so much is because of its insert sets.  They tend to be quite out there with oddball, non-baseball subjects.  I don't think I'd be as gung-ho about the set as I am if these inserts didn't exist, and it's why I continue to try and update the ongoing (but very slow) insert series posts.

When I discovered that the brand Allen & Ginter was built off of cigarette cards that featured just that (oddball inserts), I knew I had to go after one of them.  I perused this site for a while which has the most exhaustive list that I can find on the internet and finally decided to go after N4 - Birds of America.

I've always loved birds and almost assuredly got that love from my father who is constantly in our backyard making it look nice and putting up new feeders and houses for the birds.  To this day, his favorite birthday and Christmas presents are always the ones that will improve our little alcove of bird paradise.

I got these from a seller on eBay who had a bunch listed and I got a deal when I bought them all.  They don't run super expensive... probably in the $5-10 a pop range, but for cards that were printed in 1888... 130 years ago, I'm not complaining.

Most of the cards I picked up were in pretty decent shape.  I told the seller that I'd take every card he had that didn't have paper loss on the front.  That fantail pigeon was definitely the worst of the bunch, but I also knew what I was getting with that one as he had a picture of it.

The Goldfinch has always been one of my favorite backyard birds, and this might be one of my favorites that I picked up.

Here are the card backs.  The best and worst I received next to each other.  The paper loss on the back really doesn't bother me, but I appreciate getting at least one decent card back so that I have a checklist going forward!

These two cards really show off the artistic quality and colorful nature of the set.  I was honestly surprised when I received them that these 130 year old colors are still this vibrant.

I sit at 16 of the 50 cards needed to complete this set.  It'll be a process, but I'll be on the lookout for more in the near future!

Friday, February 24, 2017

A High-Range Break for a Mid-Range Price

In the past few years, I've grown to greatly appreciate the sport of soccer.  No, it will never outweigh my love of baseball, but when you're a fan of a rebuilding team like the Atlanta Braves, you tend to become disinterested a bit more quickly during the season.

I have always (well, as long as I can remember) been a fan of the U.S. National Team.  Pretty much any American who saw that Landon Donovan goal live and witnessed the sheer pressure and build up to that moment had to turn into a USMNT fan of some form.  

My fandom continued on from that World Cup as I followed certain players into domestic leagues.  The English Premier League quickly became my favorite to watch and to follow, and I have since become a fan of Manchester City.  Yes, I admit, a bit of a bandwagon effect, but it was more latching on to a style of play that I appreciated... quick, decisive, and forward ball movement.  My favorite players to watch are attacking mids, a position at which City happens to be very deep, with the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and even Yaya Toure to an extent.

I've attempted to pursue finding some decent soccer cards in the past.  I broke this box of Panini Donruss a while back and didn't really like it.  The lack of Premier League kits bothered me.  When I originally bought that box, I didn't know that Topps had exclusive rights to the Premier League.  Upon discovering that fact, I started searching for Topps products that I might enjoy.  I recently took a winger on two.

This is 2014 Topps Premier League Gold, a set that has been in many a store's bargain bins for quite some time.  It was the second iteration of a revamped, high-end Topps soccer set featuring solely the Barclays (at the time) Premier League.  I believe these boxes originally retailed well over the $200 mark, and I ended up picking this box up for just shy of $100 from a Blowout flash sale.

The box layout is certainly high-end style as you get 10 packs with each of the packs containing a hit.  It was certainly a fun rip as I don't get to dive into high-end product very often... you know, budget and all.

I can't say the standard relic design is all that interesting.  As seen from the two above, you get a pretty basic action shot with a background of wavy lines.  I suppose it's okay.  I do appreciate the variety of color in these relics, as I only got a single white/gray one out of the bunch of five.

Another thing that I thought was unique was the way Topps presented relic parallels in this set.  Instead of simply color coding the card or giving it a chrome varnish as is so often the case with modern parallels, they instead decided to make the relic bigger.  I like the idea of this and almost wish that Topps would try this type of thing more often in baseball sets.  The execution sucks here... as the card simply looks like its cut wrong, but I applaud the creative attempt.

Above is your standard base card, a set that checks in at 150 cards, though you only get about 30 from a box.  In general, I'd have to say that the base cards are a bit boring.  The lack of any background and/or grass makes me a bit sad.  Save the fancy background design work for your inserts.  I will say that I do enjoy the nameplate on these cards and like that Topps let the player pop out over it (see the Charlie Austin card below for an even better example).

The card backs are even more boring and actually a bit squinty... especially for all that wasted white space.

Inserts seem to be somewhat rare as I only pulled five in total.  This is certainly where I'm okay with Topps going "backroundless" and I think they did a great job with all three of these designs.

These captain cards especially make me smile as they seem to try and bring out a player's personality... I see you down there Wayne Rooney.

Obviously, we can't be Topps without colorful parallels.  Here's two that I pulled.  These are numbered out of 50 and 60 respectively.  I absolutely adored Charlie Austin while he was on QPR before their relegation.  He had actually been doing fairly well for Southampton this season and had a run of 6 goals in 10 games before dislocating his shoulder in Europa League play.  Also... the card is purple... so I instantly love it.

While I do love my autographs, the five in this box left me slightly disappointed.  I didn't realize until I later checked the auto list that the only Man City player even on it was Frank Lampard.  I knew what I was getting into with the sticker-graphs, but what I didn't realize was how little effort soccer players put into their signature.  These are mostly just scribbles.  At least Diego Costa's has a bit of a flourish he seems to intentionally put on there.

Side thought: I wonder if there is a correlation to the amount of people asking baseball players for signatures, and how well players sign their name.  Yes, I know there are plenty of bad baseball John Hancock's out there right now as well, but I don't think I've seen a halfway decent soccer auto yet.  Perhaps it simply sample size.

Though I can't stand his team, probably my favorite card from the box is this relic. Mesut Ozil is a genius and a freak of nature.  I appreciate owning a piece of his clothing.  

This 1-of-1 printing plate is of former QPR man and now Burnley man Joey Barton.  Probably going to put this one up on the secondary market as I can't stand how he plays.  He embarrassed himself last week in his conduct against Lincoln City and I was very happy to see the Imps pull that game out.

Overall, I'd probably pick up another box of this if I found at the under $100 price point again.  While I don't think you can expect much from the hits, the inserts and parallels are pretty cool (give me more purple)!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Pack of 'Something Else'

Everybody has been making a trip down to their local card store or big retail location to pick some brand new 2017 Topps Series 1.  I thought about doing it... briefly, and that's about as far as I've got.  I won't lie, I have put some low ball bids out there on a Braves team slot in a half case break, but that's me knowing I'll eventually want a couple copies of the Dansby rookie, and a case break seems like the most efficient way to do that.

So no, you will not see any brand new cards here.  Instead, I grabbed a single pack from my LCS on Tuesday.  2012 Panini Cooperstown.

Normally, I'd say I avoid Panini like the plague.  Yes, the missing logos do play a factor, but its more than just the logos for me.  I simply haven't seen a set from Panini of which I enjoy the design.
Donruss: mostly hideous.  
Prizm: way too much going on.  
USA sets: boring.  
Elite: suffers more than any other set from a lack of logos.  
Optic: just foily Donruss... so still mostly hideous.

I'm not going to touch the high end sets, but there's also three sets I haven't mentioned.  The first is Diamond Kings.  I honestly haven't held a Diamond Kings card in my hand yet.  Every time I see one on a blog, my first reaction is surprisingly a good one "ohh, that's kinda neat."  I think a lot of it has to do with the watercolor effect that reminds me a lot of 2009 Ginter.  My LCS actually has a hobby box at a pretty good price that I keep looking at, but every review of the product I've seen has been more negative than positive, which makes me very hesitant.

The other major set I haven't mentioned is Contenders, and that's because I actually very much like the design of this set.  My main problem is that I really don't enjoy the set contents.  I'm not very big into prospecting and don't really enjoy the college uniforms, so I simply don't buy any.  It's unfortunate, since I really do think Panini nailed this design.

The last set.  This one.  Cooperstown.  This was my first pack of it (from any year).  I suppose I enjoy it for what it is.

  • Black and white or gray-scaled photos (I love this, and from what I can tell, it's throughout the entire set... the way it should be)
  • Very cool fonting.  The year up top on the two banners, the large red "Cooperstown," even the player name.  I like all the text.
  • Best card backs Panini has or probably will ever make. 
  • The framing makes for a small, and in many cases, oddly cropped photo.
  • No logos still make me cry in many photos.
  • This design seems to scream "add a team nameplate at the top or bottom"... but they can't do that because they're Panini.

Overall, I think the set is pretty good for what is available to Panini.  It's certainly no Donruss, and I'd probably be pretty happy to eventually pick up some more of these.

It also greatly helps your opinion when you happen to pull a numbered autograph in the first pack you open.  It's on card too!!!  A Panini miracle!  I'll admit... I had to look up who Pat Gillick was, and when I actually did, I didn't really feel bad about not knowing who Mr. Gillick was.

He the was the GM for the Blue Jays, O's, M's, and the hated '08 Phillies.  He's got 3 rings to his name over the years and was inducted into the HoF in 2011.  I appreciate the auto, but this one's up for trade if anyone happens to want it.

The rest of you... enjoy your 2017 Series 1.  :D

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #80

Set: 2011 Allen & Ginter Baseball Highlight Sketches
            Total Cards: 25
            Stated Odds: 1:15

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 1:6
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 6.25

Favorite (Owned) Card:

Let's start with the good.  The goal of the design is fabulous; old-time font on cardboard made to look like parchment on a set that "looks back" at the past year.  I love it.  I chose the card above as my "favorite," not because I like the card all that much, but because it executes the design goal the best of any card in the set.

I see the above card, and I know what its referring to: the Twins leaving the Metrodome for Target Field. 

Notes and Comments:
Here's where everything else about the set starts falling apart.  If you'll note from that first Twins card, there is no nameplate on the card whatsoever.  Nothing to indicate what this card is about or whom it features except on the back.  I'm actually surprisingly okay with this as long as I can tell what the card is referencing.

Problem: very few of these cards succeed at this goal.

Take my friends Heyward, Pujols and Wright here.  Yes, they're probably instantly recognizable players, but all we have is a close-up with zero context.  These are supposed games in which these players respectively: hit a HR on his first swing, hit HR #400, and became the youngest Met to reach 1,000 hits.

Possibly my biggest frustration with this set is this card of Armando Galarraga.

Possibly one of the most memorable moments in baseball from the past decade (let alone 2010), and this is the photo that we get???  There is zero indication of that famous play with Jim Joyce.  There are so many great photos out there that could have been used...

I get that Topps has restricted photo access, but these all took me roughly 45 seconds to find... I'm sure Getty Images has something like one of the above.

Oh well.

One last thing I should mention.  This...

...it irks me greatly.  I don't enjoy twisting my head to read text.

I'm very critical with my baseball inserts.  Despite being an above average design, the flawed execution makes it the worst of the run of four Ginter sets from 2009-2012 that featured this type of insert.  So much opportunity wasted.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 34
Click link above for complete up-to-date ratings

% of Set Completed: 100%

Missing Cards: NONE!!!

Extra Cards: BHS-3, BHS-4, BHS-5, BHS-7, BHS-8, BHS-10, BHS-13, BHS-14, BHS-15, BHS-16, BHS-17, BHS-18, BHS-19, BHS-20, BHS-21, BHS-22, BHS-24, BHS-25