Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Trading Cards Over the Years

Around this time, I used to love checking the company mailbox. Everyone loves getting holiday mail, especially Christmas cards from friends and family, but I remember when I used to get some of the best ones from the trading card manufacturers.

You could always count on something cool arriving in the mail; a greeting that was a great keepsake, but also a thank you for another year of working together to spread the message about the trading card industry/hobby.

Those days seem like an eternity ago. Really they do. The PR people were more hands on, the relationship with writers and spokespersons were much more personal. Now everything is done by email, smartphone or twitter.

I couldn't find all of my Holiday cards from the manufacturers we've worked with over the last decade and then some, but here's a few I managed to scrounge up for tonight's show discussion. If I find some more in storage, I'll add them here for you to see.

Admit it, they are pretty cool. I hope to see them return.

Listen to Cardboard Connection Radio on Friday evening 11:00 PM EST at.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peja Failakovic

What is this card? What does the title of this post mean? Tune in to Cardboard Connection Radio to find out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2010 Panini Threads - Rob Gronkowski Rookie Class Auto

Last year I opened a lot of football cards. It remains my favorite sport and I want to support it and the manufacturers that make all kinds of football cards. However, 2010 happened to be a year that saw so many products, it almost became noncollectable. There wasn't a truly great rookie class and there were an overabundance of those rookie autos packed out in product.

One of the products I enjoyed last season was Panini Threads. A lot of collectors are not fans of the manufactured patch cards. I don't see any need for fake patches as a hit if they aren't autographed, but when you attach an auto to it, I think it is a much better solution than a sticker.

Threads boasted rookie patch autos #'d to 500 and while most everyone was hoping for an auto of Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy or even Ndamukong Suh, I actually wanted Rolando McClain of the Raiders.

After opening the box, I wasn't disappointed when I found a Rob Gronkowski. I remember doing the Cardboard Connection Radio show that week and discussing the product. I talked about the signed letter cards and that at that point in time, the box might not have looked that good, but I needed to give it some time acquire value. A lot of collectors were griping to me that I gave a decent review to a product that seemed to yield nothing near the cost of the box. A similar incident happened with the Limited product a little later in the season. Even one of my co-hosts thought it was a bust. I didn't.

What I saw was potential. Tom Brady is one of the most gifted quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. Yeah, he even gets some gifts from the officials too. But he likes to target the Tight End and when you put a 6'6" 260lb target in front of Captain America, he is going to throw that shield at him often and accurate.

Brady in a little more than a season and a half has helped make Rob Gronkowski a superstar. This past Sunday, the two made history when Brady connected with Gronkowski to establish a single-season record for most TD grabs by a TE. His record-breaking 14th TD of the season was a nice 49-yard completion against the Washington Redskins. Later in the game, they connected again and he notched his 15th TD.

To say he's having a stellar season would be an understatement. He still has three games to go and he's got 1088 YDS from 77 catches. He has become Brady's go-to-guy in only his second NFL campaign. Barring injury, he had a very bright future ahead of him and I'm happy to say I saw it coming.

After pulling this card out of a pack of Threads, I immediately put it aside knowing it would be one I wanted to keep. I honestly didn't know I'd be writing about it this soon though.

The card itself is one of his best looking rookie cards. A clean, blue signature on a white letter K says it all. It is #'d to 500 and is #193 from the 2010 Threads set.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Panini Gold Standard Football Video Box Break

One of the most talked about NFL products of the year has arrived and I vannnnt gooooooold Austin Powers...

Check out what I found in a box of 2011 Gold Standard Football.

2012 Press Pass Racing Video Box Break

Here's a look at what I found inside a box of 2012 Press Pass Racing cards.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - 2011 Press Pass Premium Carl Edwards Premium Signatures

It was a fight to the finish for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup and while on paper it looked like Carl Edwards was the guy to beat, Tony Stewart had other plans. It was a great season of racing. Never before have two racers finished with the same amount of points and Edwards took second place with a tremendous amount of class.

Edwards was the most consistent driver this year for sure and he also had a pretty amazing run in the Nationwide series notching 8 wins. He earned a lot of new fans, including yours truly. There wasn't a race he was in where he didn't hover near the top of the pack.

He's going to continue to be successful with the strong Roush-Fenway team behind him and a solid backing of sponsors for the #99 Ford including Aflac, Scott & Subway. Take a look at the highlights of the Homestead 400, one of the best races I've seen in a long time.

It took awhile for me to find an Edwards auto, but 2011 was a great year to enhance your Press Pass racing card collection. With a series of strong products including Premium, Showcase, FanFare, Legends and my favorite Main Event, they have produced and packed out some of their most impressive cards yet.

Press Pass Premium provided me with this foil board auto of the Ford Fusion driver and it's an interesting card to me. Usually Edwards is all smiles, well unless he is mixing it up on the track with Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski. He look almost perturbed in this photo which made me laugh. It's like he'd thinking he'd rather be just about anywhere other than in front of the camera.

I also commend Carl for the signature on the card. Not only is it completely legible, but you can tell that he was really paying attention to signing the stickers because he kept his signature completely within the confines without getting any cropped off the edges. Kudos to him and Press Pass for doing sticker autos in the correct fashion. There's a right way and a wrong way to sign a sticker, and this is an example of the right way. If its gotta be a sticker and the card can't be signed, take notes... this is how its done.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - 2001 SP Authentic Sign of the Times Doug Flutie

Tim Tebow sure is making a lot of headlines as the starting QB for the Denver Broncos. More of them are saying he can't do this and he can't do that than praising him for his efforts and the efforts of his team. After all, it is the team winning, not just the QB. I think its funny that even John Elway won't give his blessing to the kid and the team keeps winning. It was so many years ago that another popular college QB was picked on, ridiculed and sensationalized in the headlines. So much that he packed it in and headed north to the CFL to hone his skills until it was the right time to come back to the NFL. That QB was Doug Flutie.

Remember those headlines? He's too short, too small, won't develop, blah, blah, blah. Sure, with some athletes you can tell almost instantly don't have the tools, but no man can measure another's determination. The media sure thinks they can, they actually get paid to come up with ridiculous newspaper and website headlines. It's borderline pathetic that people have come to expect sarcasm instead of fact.

Doug Flutie proved everyone wrong. The guy is a 3x Grey Cup MVP, he's a Heisman Trophy winner and he snagged an NFL Comeback Player of the year award. He had a spectacular CFL career throwing for over 40 TDs in a single season not once, not twice, but THREE times! He was 2 TDs shy from doing it four times...

His time with the Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers were the best of his NFL days. He was also a member of the USFL. While drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1985, he passed up the NFL and joined the New Jersey Generals for a season. When the league folded a year later, he joined the Chicago Bears. He didn't get much playing time and was then swapped to New England. When the NFL went on strike, he crossed the line to play. Imagine that, a guy that just wants to play football. Hmmmm.

So... of course he was branded a scab and shortly thereafter he left the NFL for Canada. He became a CFL legend. His accolades are unmatched and many believe he is the greatest player in CFL history.

Sounds like a helluva career doesn't it? Well I haven't even touched upon the thing he's known the most for -- Flutie Flakes!

Ok, well he is known for that, but really... he's known for one of the most amazing hail mary passes in NCAA history. As a member of the Boston College Eagles, he helped his team defeat the all-powerful, so-called unstoppable Miami Hurricanes with a last second bomb that made him an instant superstar. For the record, he was already a star, notching the Heisman that year, and a couple of player of the year awards. He also wore #22 as a QB. I don't think I've ever seen anyone wear it again while playing that position, it caught my attention.

I had always wanted a Flutie autographed card in my collection since he threw that unbelievable pass back in '84. It took awhile before I pulled one out of a pack, but it did happen. This Upper Deck SP Authentic Doug Flutie card is one I will not soon forget. It was the last pack I opened from the box. I was almost at the point that I thought I got hosed on the box and it didn't include an auto (it happens). The card is #DF from the amazing 2001 Sign of the Times insert collection and features Doug in his Chargers gear. It is on-card and a very legible auto. To this day, it remains one of my top ten favorite pulls out of a pack. It's not worth a mint, but to me it's priceless.

Kinda makes you wonder if Tebow will follow in his footsteps, or get tripped up in them? Either way, both were underrated, one story has a happy ending, not that kind... get your mind out of the gutter, and the other we get to sit back and watch it all unfold.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Get Your Matt Leinart Cards Out

Ok, now put em away.

SIGnificant Cards - 2011 Andy Dalton Prestige Draft Picks Rights Rookie

With all of the quarterbacks selected in the 2011 draft by teams that sorely needed them, it was bound to be an exciting season watching them all explode or implode. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton were all fantastic NCAA QBs. Who would succeed at the NFL was up to them and they all have performed well when called upon. Newton has put up outstanding numbers, but they have not translated into victories. Gabbert has struggled and so has Ponder. Dalton performed well in the season opener when the Bengals defeated the Browns. They are looking for the sweep of the Browns today. After the opener, the Bengals dropped their next two and then Dalton led them to a 5-game winning streak. It had fans saying, "Carson who"?

The Bengals are improving at a steady pace. They dropped games to superior opponents, but they are holding their own. Don't be surprised if they find a way to continue winning and earn a wild card in the very even-keeled AFC. The are currently on a 2-game skid, let's see if they can run off another 5-game win streak and make Dalton's rookie campaign even more of a success story. It won't be easy as they face Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston among others in their last six. They hung tight with their fellow AFC North franchises and the Texans are going to struggle without the services of starting QB Matt Schaub.

Football. Ain't it great?

This Dalton rookie card comes from the early Panini America release Prestige. It's usually the first NFL product on the market and is loaded with rookies. A box usually provides a couple of autographed rookie cards in addition to the regular base-card variety. This is card #207 from the set and is sequentially numbered to 499. It is the Draft Picks Rights variation and sports a really nice looking sig on a sticker. I usually don't like closeup images on cards, but take a look at Dalton's face, he is determined and you can see that he's taking all of the experience from his TCU days into the NFL. The fifth QB selected and a second rounder, the Bengals couldn't pass him up and got a franchise player; exactly what they were looking for.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - 2005 Ken Griffey Jr. Sweet Spot Signatures

In 1989 The Upper Deck Company took the trading card world by storm. Brash to the point of nearly doubling the existing price of a pack of cards would have been enough, but they also landed one of the hottest prospects in Major League Baseball history before anyone else did. That player was Ken Griffey Jr. I had no problem finding the Griffey rookie card in those 89 packs, but let's skip ahead just a few years. Griffey would become synonymous with the Upper Deck brand. Enter the memorabilia and autographed card era. Keeping with my stubbornness, I had for a long time wanted to pull a Junior Griffey auto out of a pack.

It really wasn't because I was a fan, it was because he was a fairly difficult auto to get. I'd see him at MLB spring training in Arizona and he didn't sign very often if at all. In fact a lot of guys were like that. Bo Jackson, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson and Griffey weren't very cordial to their supporters some goaded the fans accusing them of selling their stuff on eBay. I always found it funny that a guy making 10 million gave a crap about a guy making a couple of bucks on eBay... but that's fact, I saw it with my own eyes. For every one of them though, there were 4 or 5 players that would sign as often as possible and that, some warm weather and good baseball is what made an annual trip to Arizona worthwhile.

It wasn't until 2005 that I finally pulled a Griffey auto out of a pack. It came from the 2005 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Baseball product, one of the best MLB sets ever made. It is perhaps the very best autographed baseball card insert collection to hit the hands of collectors even to this day. Unfortunately I've heard some collectors complain about their autos fading after some time, but I have never experienced this.

Junior signed it in black ballpoint with an extra inscription of "56 HRS". It's #'d to 175 and is one of the true gems in my collection. Do you have a favorite Sweet Spot auto? Which one is it?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - Matt Forte 2008 Upper Deck SPx Rookie

Living in the Chicago area for over eight years, I've seen the Chicago Bears on all levels. They've been bottom rung bums and Super Bowl contenders over the years. Their current team is one of the best they've had on their field in their entire history. They are iffy in a few positions, and the Packers are still the team to beat, but the Bears most definitely do not still suck.

Or do they? They just got the news that Jay Cutler broke his thumb and the whole damn city is panicking. It's kinda funny. Maybe they are scared that Lovie Smith is going to re-sign Todd Collins and their season will blow up on them? I dunno, but they need to have a little faith. Backup Caleb Hanie might not be the best QB in the league, but he is exactly what they need to win. They need him to make smart decisions and hold onto the ball. He has a good arm and with Bennett and Knox out there, he just needs to get the ball close and not in the hands of opponents. 

He also has Matt Forte. Forte has really come into his own. His week 4 performace against the Panthers showed he can hang with the big boys. He also is the only NFL player besides Herschel Walker  to have over 700 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving in his first four seasons.

Legendary Bears back Gale Sayers has been critical of Forte in the past and I suppose he's eating his words right about now. Then as much as I love Gale, he's always been pretty hard on the Bears. Regardless, he's on his way to a 1,000 yard season and is averaging 5 per carry. Not to shabby and it is time for the trading card hobby to show him a little love. Right now he's the 2nd best running back in franchise history and if he keeps up his current numbers, he might just go down as the very best.

Today's card comes from the 2008 Upper Deck SPx football set. It is numbered to 599 and contains a swatch of gear and the signature of the Bears star. SPx always delivers a solid design and 2008 was no exception, it was one of the finest looking NFL sets ever made. I have several Forte rookie autos, but this one is by far my favorite.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Went to the Sun Times Show and Took a Trip Down Memory Lane

Today I ventured out to the Chicago Sun Times collectibles convention with a few goals in mind. I haven't been to the show in a couple of years and figured I would check it out because some friends would be there as well as some sponsors of the Cardboard Connection Radio show.

My first stop of the day was to the Memory Lane Inc booth. I wanted to stop by and not only see J.P. and thank him for his support, but I wanted to see some of the items in their upcoming auction that we discussed on our radio show.

Here's a quick clip with J.P from the Memory Lane booth:

Seeing some of the cards like the Plank, the Mantles and the Gibson blew my mind. That tin? Not my cup of tea, but it is in incredible condition and is an extremely rare and unique collectible that MANY people were in awe of at the show.

After I left J.P., I ran into Brian Gray from Leaf and checked out their setup. It was pretty quiet at the show, but they had an awesome display of the Muhammad Ali autos and cards. To quote Darth Vader, "Impressive, most impressive".

I decided only to bring $100 cash and see if I could pick up some of the items I wanted. If you follow our radio show, you'd know I have been looking for a particular Upper Deck SP Authentic auto of future NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. I have struck out at the National for many years looking for it and have had an extremely difficult time even finding a Warner auto at the show.

My drought ended today when I found the card I was looking for. I got it for a price I was willing to pay and it will no doubt be a future SIGnificant Cards entry.

I also mentioned on our show that it might be a good time to pick up Kyle Busch autographed cards. I had been looking for a Kyle Busch auto from my favorite Press Pass product -- Showcase. I haven't pulled an auto of Busch and have been scouting listings to find the one I want and I have continuously been sniped at the last minute on many. Again, I got what I wanted at the price I wanted to pay.

Today was a good day.

If you think I spent the entire $100 on just those two cards, you'd be wrong. I also picked up some more items.

I needed some supplies, so I grabbed some extra thick and regular top loaders and sleeves. Always good prices at the show, that's a no-brainer.

I picked up a box of 91-92 Kayo for $10 and can't wait to open it. Sure it's not worth much these days, but its 36 packs of pure greatness. Hopefully I will find a hologram or auto. Worst case, I can use them for through the mail or in-person autos.

I also wanted to find another box for me to open with my kids. This time I chose a winner for a whopping $3! It's 1988 Topps Big Baseball Series 2. They can shred through those packs and I don't have to worry about condition or value, just pure fun-factor!

Just as I was getting ready to call it a day, I saw one of the most original ideas for displaying items that I have seen since the ball cube. Z-Access has a new entry for collectors to display items from cards, to balls to action figures in a snazzy 3D frame. They had a few different displays set up at the show including a couple of custom ones and I stopped in my tracks to check it out. I had a brief conversation with them and am hopeful that they will appear on an upcoming edition of Cardboard Connection radio. For now, trust me when I say it is pretty cool and you can check them out for yourself at

My haul, all for just under $100. I think I did pretty good.
There wasn't a whole lot of wax at the show. What was there could be had for a song and dance. Even the most recent Tier One baseball boxes were marked down about $20 and could be yours for around $60. The last thing I grabbed was as I was walking out the door. I passed Dave & Adams booth and saw they had retail boxes of 2009 Upper Deck SP Signature Football for $9. I grabbed one and headed out.

 I look forward to discussing the show a bit more on the Wednesday, November 23 edition of Cardboard Connection Radio.

Monday, November 14, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - 2003-04 Pat Riley Upper Deck Legends Basketball

I'm pretty sure that when the average person is asked about NBA coaches that Pat Riley's name pops into their heads. He might not be the first choice for older NBA fans. Red Auerbach, Don Nelson or Phil Jackson are among some of the other well known coaches that could be considered the very best. However there was a special flair with Riley that made him a household name, as much, if not more than some of his players. Riley has five NBA championships under his belt, and has won the NBA coach of the year honors three times with three different teams.

His years with the Lakers and the Knicks provided many a headline, and his work with the Miami Heat brought that franchise its most recent NBA title.

Riley though is much more than just a coach. He was also a player, and a 1st round draft pick to boot. Selected 7th overall out of Tennessee, he enjoyed playing for nearly a decade with San Diego, Los Angeles and Phoenix. He got his first taste of championships winning one in 1972 with the Lakers.

While his stats on the court might not have been Hall of Fame worthy, his autograph most certainly is worth adding to any collection. Riley has done it all. He's a television commentator, author, coach, motivational speaker, and the guy is well known for his fashion etiquette. You probably couldn't tell by the 70s era photo on the card. He looks more like a gym teacher or race-car driver. Saying he is just a coach is kind of like saying Filet Mignon is just another slab of beef.

Many despise him, many love him, but you can't deny the man and his accomplishments. Finding this card in a pack was a great collecting moment for me, especially as a fan of Riley and many of the great players that he has coached. Yeah, I rooted for those Patrick Ewing led Knicks teams and it killed me every single time they choked...

Anyway, I pulled this sweet sig of Pat Riley out of a box of 2003-04 Upper Deck Legends Basketball, a product that is loaded with great, easy to acquire autos of some of the all-time hardwood icons. It is card #LS-PR and there isn't a sticker in sight.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SIGnificant Cards -- 2011 Cam Newton Press Pass Legends All-American Auto

He was drafted #1 overall in 2011 and many had written him off as a flash in the pan before the season began. In fact, this class in general had been criticized and ridiculed to some degree and at this point in the season, many of the former NCAA stars are heartily enjoying the last laugh.

Cam Newton set passing records in his first game, he clearly has the tools to play at the professional level, though his win/loss record might not show it. He is but one of many QBs that have been given the nod to lead their teams this season. Along with Blaine Gabbert, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder, Newton is turning heads and is definitely a front-runner for rookie of the year honors.

NFL autographs are never at a shortage. There are hundreds of them in collectors hands just before and directly after the draft. To me, it used to be a big deal to get the cards of players in their NFL uniforms and also it had to NFL licensed. Now, I don't think about it so much. I know who the player was drafted by, I don't need the NFL shield to verify that it is a viable trading card. In fact, I've leaned toward more NCAA and college products because you get a solid autograph, most times on-card. Getting an autograph of an athlete before they are committed to sign their name on stickers a bazillion times is also clutch, because many times it becomes a chore to them. Let's face it, if you had to sign you name thousands and thousands of times, you'd get tired of it and there is a good chance they'd get sloppy, some even shorten their signature.

This autograph of Cam Newton comes from the 2011 Press Pass Legends product. I wasn't a big fan of the overall product this year. It wasn't because of the player content, or the lack of NCAA logos. The reason I wasn't a fan this season was because the photos were mainly of the guys from the neck up and there were no action shots.

Legends was released early in the year, before the season began and they already inked Cam Newton and others to sign for the product. Cam's autos were actually redemption cards in the product, but unlike some other companies, Press Pass had the signatures returned to them right after the product went live and they were fulfilled within a few days.

There are many reasons why this particular card holds a special place in my collection. Obviously one of them is because Newton is an outstanding athlete and my collecting goals are to acquire at least one autograph of the first-round draft picks of the NFL. It also is one of my favorites because while I don't like redemption cards, this one was turned around in less than a week and was easily the fastest redemption I've ever dealt with in this industry.

Card #AA-CN comes from the All-American insert set from the 2011 Press Pass Legends product. It's #'d to 250 and is an on-card auto! It also refers to Cam, as Cameron... a bit of a difference from the majority of his 2011 trading cards.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - Kris Humphries 2004-05 Bowman Signature Edition Rookie

Just when I thought the friggin' Kardashian family couldn't possibly get any more TV time or tabloid covers, they shock the world with the divorce announcement of Kim and her husband for 72 days -- Kris Humphries.

When this card came out in 2004, Kris was drafted by the Utah Jazz #14 overall. He got a lot of praise coming out of Minnesota, and at the same time many thought he was a selfish player that didn't have his team's best interest at heart. Either way, whatever stock he had coming into the NBA dropped quickly. He has become somewhat of a journey man playing for four teams over a span of seven years. He was most recently a member of the New Jersey Nets and became a free agent after the 2010-11 season. Now with the lockout, he's without a team, and with his divorce he's without a wife.

Now without being too harsh, did anyone think this marriage was actually going to work? I have never seen a single minute of any of their television adventures (luckily), but didn't this girl get famous by releasing a XXX video of herself? Do I really need to say anymore?

This card was worth about $10 when it came out and it is worth about the same today. No amount of press can change that. The only way this card is going to become more valuable is if the NBA lockout ends and his skills all of a sudden improve. However, one could find many other uses for this card that's slabbed in a Topps sealed holder. Doorstop? Table leveler? Anyone? Anyone?

SIGnificant Cards - Mike Tyson Sportkings Autograph

One of my first jobs was as a valet attendant at the Trump Regency Hotel. It used to be the famous Playboy Club, and was always a blast to hang out at and kill some time with friends. Atlantic City has always had its ups and downs and the Playboy Club just couldn't cut it with Steve Wynn and Donald Trump creating the ultimate beach resorts. Eventually Trump bought the struggling hotel and it functioned without a casino. I moved from the outside in, becoming a bell desk, oh who am I kidding, I can't even remember what my job title was...

Anyway, I worked with some very interesting people and met a lot of celebrities and athletes during my time there. One of the great things about the Regency was that it was host to almost all of the boxers that fought at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Many of the celebrities that would attend the fights would also stay there.

I met a ton of people and it was a great experience. When Mike Tyson came in for fights, his entire entourage stayed at the Regency. So for many months, I got to see the champ multiple times a day. Most times he would have a set of headphones on and would ignore nearly everyone in his path. Some days, more than likely you would get a glimpse of the Mike Tyson that people came to know from his turbulent career and on a good day, you'd get to see him be more like the man he has matured into today.

It was at the Trump Regency that I met my long time friend and co-host Russ Cohen. We attended many fights together including some that we'll never forget such as James Toney versus Mike McCallum I, Ray Mercer destroying Tommy Morrison, and nearly any and all Evander Holyfield, George Foreman and Mike Tyson fights that took place in the city.

As a lifelong boxing fan, I was a huge fan of Mike Tyson and watched him pick apart and annihilate his opponents on his way to the Heavyweight titles. He looked untouchable and put fear in people long before the bell rang. Just watch this clip of him decimating Michael Spinks.

That was just one of the insane events that involved Tyson in Atlantic City. Here's another brutal beating, this one suffered by Alex Stewart...

That was his comeback fight after losing to Buster Douglas. He was angry and fought like it. But this fight was the blueprint on how to beat him. He didn't utilize any of the skills he learned, it was all ferocity. Skilled fighters that weren't necessarily stronger, but ones that were better conditioned took him apart later on down the road. I don't know what his punch count numbers were after this fight but if he landed 20% of his punches I'd be shocked.

I'm glad Mike has his stuff together these days and he was hilarious in both of the Hangover movies. There's no doubt that this Sportkings card is one of the gems in my collection. It comes from Series C and card # A-MT1 is the Silver Version complete with the guarantee of Dr. Brian Price that it is authentic.

I write this as I just learned of the passing of another boxing icon -- "Smokin" Joe Fraizer. Joe also has a Sportkings auto and I wish I had that one in my collection, he will be missed by many. RIP Joe.

Just after I finished writing this, I saw this on TMZ. Seemed fitting to link to it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - Rittenhouse Archives John Noble Stargate SG-1

I've had a few favorite television shows over the years. From Hong Kong Phooey when I was like 5 and more recently the FX Cop Drama the Shield, it takes a lot to get me to sit down and actually watch something week in and week out. Since complete seasons and series have come out on DVD, I find myself borrowing them from my local library to avoid commercials and cliffhangers. Time is of essence!

One of the shows I missed when it made it's television debut is the Fox Sci-Fi thriller Fringe. On a whim, I saw season one was on sale at Best Buy for $9 and I bought it. I had heard some good things about the show and since I was a little child, I loved the idea of a parallel universe, time-travel and the science behind it. It sounded like my kind of show, and after watching a couple of episodes I was hooked.

With a great cast including Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham, Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop, Mark Valley who was awesome as Brad Chase on Boston Legal and the quirky John Noble as Walter Bishop (you might know him from Lord of the Rings, I never sat through them), I really got caught up on the show and couldn't wait for more.

When they finally progressed the story to the point of having characters from one earth inhabit the other earth, it became my favorite show that's currently airing. Yeah I am a total geek and I know it! So I figured I'd check out what actors on the show had autographed cards. It was just about the time that Wizard World's Comic Con was hitting the Chicago area and I wondered if I might have some luck trying to find some of the cast members autos there.

Of all the many dealers and vendors present at the show (no major trading card manufacturers) I did find one non-sport card dealer who had binders and binders of memorabilia and autographed cards for sale. I flipped through several binders and found a few amazing signatures (many of which will end up as a SIGnificant Cards column).

Among the group I purchased that day included this Rittenhouse Archives Stargate SG-1 signature card of John Noble a.k.a Walter Bishop from his time in the long-running series as Meurik. It was a steal at just $5.

With the over-saturated market for sports autographs, this is one of the aspects of the hobby I love most. Many actors/entertainment personalities have autographed cards in sets that don't reflect their current work. Either they get too busy to sign, are uninterested in signing or the show or movie they appear in doesn't get a card set made. But I could rattle off a list of actors/actresses in my collection that have signed cards for different projects than the ones they are most known and famous for. This is but one of them.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

SIGnificant Cards -- 2009 Press Pass Premium Tony Stewart Premium Signatures

It's been awhile since I posted, I took a vacation, and quite frankly didn't want to return to writing on a daily basis right away. I've been busy with life, trying to get some priorities in order, in addition to adding a second night of programming for the Cardboard Connection Radio show, so I took some time to regroup. I'm excited about today's entry though, because it's about a card I had wanted to add to my collection for several years and finally did. Best of all, it came from a pack, and to me, that always makes it better than buying it from the secondary market.

With a victory in Texas this afternoon, Tony Stewart edged closer to overall points leader Carl Edwards, now only trailing by 3 points with 2 races left to determine the Sprint Cup Champion. It was Stewart's fourth win in eight races and he is either going to be the 2011 champ or go down fighting until the last lap.

I've been a fan of "Smoke" since his Indy days and he is one of a handful of signatures I have sought out of Press Pass Racing Products. In 2009 I finally scored the Stewart auto. It came from a pack of 2009 Press Pass Premium and while it is a sticker, it is a nice, clean auto on a great looking card.

Ironically, I am also a huge fan of Kyle Busch and his autograph was pretty much the only major racer from NASCAR who has eluded me since I've been opening racing product back as far as 2001. However, his actions this weekend (intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday) have made me rethink being a fan. You see, my 6-year old son loves him. It began with the car. Of course he loves the M&M car, but then Kyle started to win big and dominate. He nearly shed his bad boy, punk attitude until he tried to kill Hornaday. Try explaining that to a little kid!

Much like my feelings towards other sports, I like to watch and root for individuals other than teams. So I'd be happy to see either Stewart or Edwards win because throughout the year they have been the most consistent. I'll be posting more NASCAR autos with the SIGnificant Cards column, look for them soon!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - Bob Feller 2003 Fleer Rookies & Greats The Naturals

A Bob Feller auto might be easy to find
but it is a must have.
Bob Feller. Where do I start? If you regularly listen to my show Cardboard Connection Radio you know we have a few good stories about Bob. But the one thing that all collectors know is that there are a boatload of Bob Feller autographs out there. I pulled 14 Feller autos out of packs over my years of collecting.

On one show not to long ago, we gave out a prize to the person that showed us the most ridiculous thing Feller ever signed. We did this in jest because there wasn't anything Bob wouldn't sign and collectors loved him for it. It's not often a man that has Feller's career stats still liked to sign his autograph. Well we got a lot of entries but by far the winner was a kid. Yes, you read that right, Bob once signed a kid. You can't make that up and you certainly can't pull that out of a pack!

Among the Feller autos I found in packs, the one pictured here is my favorite.It comes from 2003 Fleer Rookies & Greats. I really like the vintage image and the grayscale and black combination on the card. I think it hearkens back to the days Feller played the game and it didn't need color to be classy. It's also a nice clean and legible signature. Why they opted to do a cut-out auto instead of on card befuddles me a little, but compared to some of the ridiculous autographs you see out there today, Bob had a really great signature.

Now while Feller autos might be pretty easy to come by, there is no denying his greatness on the field. He's an 8-time all-star, hall of famer and many have said he was the best pitcher of his era. With 266 career wins, many write him off because he isn't a member of the 300 club. He is a must have for any real baseball fan that respects the greats of the game.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1941-1954 and there is not a doubt in anyone's mind that he'd have eclipsed 300 with those additional years in the majors. I have more respect for the fact that he was the first active MLB player to sign up for the military after  Japan attacked Pearl Harbor than I have for him as a player, and he was one hell of a player.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - 1975 Topps Hank Aaron

Possibly the best $10 I ever spent
at the National.

In my last SIGnificant Cards piece, I wrote about searching for J.R. Richard cards at the National. I also mentioned that I've attended many of the National Sports Collectors Conventions. When I take my time and try to fill set lists, seek singles, etc. sometimes you find something you weren't expecting to find. This is the tale of the 1975 Hank Aaron card I wasn't looking for, but found.

I am working on finishing up a couple of my all-time favorite sets -- 1974, 1975 & 1977 Topps. About 5 years ago I found a great dealer that had a bunch of the 75s from my want list and I was having a field day filling in the gaps. Flipping through the cards, one caught my attention, it was card #1 in the set, the Hank Aaron '74 Highlights card. The card all by itself is an all-time classic. It celebrates "Hammerin' Hank" setting the all-time home run mark by slamming his 715th and eclipsing Babe Ruth.

Any true baseball fans knows how great Hank was. They also know the incredible hardships he faced as a black man overtaking one of baseball's elite figures -- Babe Ruth. From heckling to death threats, Hank put up with an awful lot to live his dream and he did it with an extraordinary amount of class.

Al Downing was the victim, I mean pitcher that gave up the homer and Hank would add another 40 before retiring with 755. An interesting fact about that night in '74... Hank Aaron wore the #44 and so did Al Downing. Cool right? Ok now watch Hank break that record and make the home run title his beeyotch.

In my eyes, Hank is still the champ. While on paper Barry Bonds might be the current record holder, Hank was never accused of using performance enhancing drugs, nor was he brought into court to defend himself, he did it with heart, intensity and determination.

Ok, back to the card. It wasn't that I needed that card for my set, I had it already, what caught my eye was that in addition to the facsimile signature, it was signed again in blue ink. I have a handful of Hank Aaron autographs in my collection. I met him a few times as a kid and I know his signature. I pulled it out of the box and asked the guy what he wanted for it. He said $10. I said, I'll tell you what -- I have a free authentication from Global and if it comes back authentic, you've got a deal. As you can see by the image, it was indeed the real deal.

SIGnificant Cards - 2005 Topps Retired Signature Edition J.R. Richard

I have been to the National Sports Collectors Convention several times. I've only missed one since 2001. I honestly am not sure that I'd continue to go to the yearly event if I wasn't involved in the industry. That's not to say that the show is not good, it is great, but I have other avenues to purchase cards and supplies.

I used to get pumped up to get the exclusive cards produced only for the show and the great list of autograph guests, but many of the cards from the National are not even recognized by the trading card bible and are not known beyond the circle of people that attend the National. This year, I was more excited about the TNA Wrestling package than almost any of the athletes that have been staples at the show for many years. Not only was it more affordable, but the package offered more bang for the buck than any previous one at the NSCC, but alas that is another story.

When I do go to the National, I always look for certain things. One is a Kurt Warner autographed card from a leading manufacturer. To date in all my years, I have only found one and it wasn't from a dealer on the floor. He wanted way too much, so I passed. I did find one of the cool cards that Kurt sells on his website and picked one of those up. Again, another story.

One of the other players I collect is former Houston Astros fire-baller J.R. Richard. Richard was a true phenom. First of all he threw nearly 100 mph and in his first game he struck out 15. That was just the beginning of a stellar, though short career. In 1976, he won 20 games (1/4 of the Astros 80 from that season) and his salary was only $40,000! Today, he'd be making $15M. Richard won 18 games in three consecutive years from 1977-79. He led the NL in strikeouts twice and what was even more impressive was that in the 79 season where he won 18 games, he has 19 complete games! Does anyone do that anymore?

Clearly, he was overworked and in 1980 his body told him so when he suffered a stroke while on the mound. Here's a great article from the Sports Illustrated Vault about the tragedy.

He tried many attempts at a comeback, even getting released by the Astros to have a surgery. They re-signed him, only to cut him again. It was a horror story for the pitcher. He was complaining about arm issues and pain and it turned out to be a blod clot. It went undetected and it cost him his career.

With baseball out of the picture he made some poor investments and went through an expensive divorce. When it was all said and done, he was broke and found living under a highway bridge. Here's a great piece from ESPN about J.R that can let you inside his story from his perspective.

Richard's plight eventually garnered some mainstream attention and with the help of friends and his church, was able to get his life back on track. It is to date one of the most heartbreaking MLB stories.

I have all of J.R.'s basic Topps cards. I was ecstatic to pull this uncirculated autographed card of the Astros' legend. It comes from the 2005 Topps Retired Stars Signature Series and is card #TA-JR. There are so many what if's with J.R. it isn't funny. Would he have won 300, would he be the all-time strikeouts leader, would he have been better than Nolan Ryan, we will never truly know, but we can celebrate what he did accomplish and his true comeback, the one called life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

SIGnificant Cards- 2009 Panini NFL Draft Matthew Stafford

The Detroit Lions are 4-0. Right along side of the Green Bay Packers, they are the best in the NFL. Interestingly enough, I chose the Lions to win their division. I know I just jinxed that, but I did.

For the past three years, they have been building on both sides of the ball. Drafting Matthew Stafford #1 overall in 2009 was a huge move. Each time the payoff looked solid, Stafford got hurt, mainly due to a pretty weak offensive line. For two years they've waited and it seems that after the first quarter of the season, they are finally reaping the rewards of a few strong drafts.

Stafford has a lot of targets to hit, mainly Calvin Johnson who already has 8 TDs, 4 shy of his entire 2010 total. Javid Best already has 5 TDs, he's a result of the Lions second 1st round pick of 2010 (Ndamukong Suh was their first at #2 overall), and he also has Brandon Pettigrew (22 catches) who was drafted behind Stafford at #20 in 2009.

They are a talented young group and that's not to say they aren't going to make mistakes, but that was their undoing last season, well that and the injury to Stafford.This year, they have cut down a little (not a lot) on the stupid penalties and they are taking advantage of turnovers.

Here's a look at the hit from Julius Peppers that put Stafford out:

I was a fan of Stafford while he was at the University of Georgia, it was hard not to be. He was hyped like crazy and he was THAT good. So I was pretty pumped when my Cardboard Connection Co-Host Russ Cohen called me up and told me he was sending me a present. It was a pretty awesome one that he won via a social media contest from Panini. The card pictured here is 1 of only 7 in the world.It was made for the 2009 Draft, contains a full NFL logo patch and a beautiful, hard-signed auto from Matt Stafford. What I really like about the card in addition to its rarity is that it is also stamped with a seal authenticating the autograph, something I think would be great on ALL autograph cards.

By now you are probably thinking, man this guy is a Lions fan. The answer to that is yes and no. I root for a few football teams. I grew up on the Jets, like the Raiders and sometimes root for the Da Bears. Like baseball, I like specific players. There is no loyalty from many players to stay on a team, so I think I should enjoy my fan free agency and be comfortable liking whoever and whatever I like. Besides Stafford, I collect Aaron Rodgers, Matt Forte, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, LaDainian Tomlinson, 70s Cowboys & Raiders and a few Jets.

Now all I need to do is hope Stafford survives the season and the Lions don't choke. I'm not expecting a Super Bowl win or even an appearance, but ya never know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - Don Cheadle Upper Deck Iron Man 2 Auto

On one side you have Iron Man, on the other War Machine. Friends or enemies? They've been both over the years, but in the motion picture Iron Man 2, you get the first look at James Rhodes in his armor. Upper Deck, not known for producing great non-sports products has delivered a couple of really strong ones recently with Iron Man 2, Captain America and Thor.

If I had to rate them, I'd give them 4.5 out of 5 on the designs, but 1 star for content because they just didn't nail some autographs of the bigger stars from the films. Captain America was missing Chris Evans and Tommy Lee Jones, Thor was missing Natalie Portman, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins and Iron Man 2 was missing Scarlett Johansson, Sam L. Jackson, & Robert Downey, Jr.

When I got my initial box of Iron Man 2 cards, I didn't know what to expect because original solicitations included the big names on the checklist, then as it drew closer only Rourke & Cheadle were touted. They were joined by director Jon Favreau and the smoking hot Leslie Bibb.

I was actually pretty bummed because when you get a non-sports set you expect the best. Sometimes because of the cost an actor could desire for autographs or a lack of interest in even signing cards, it can get very pricey, but there is no excuse not to put at least 1 cut sig (if not more) of the big stars in the mix of a product of this magnitude if they don't want to sign, go freaking buy one.

That said, after seeing the list, I actually wanted a Bibb or Cheadle more than all of the others. Bibb because of this:
and Cheadle because of this...
I was happy when I got the Don Cheadle. I mean it is Rhodey for crying out loud. I've been a lifelong Iron Man fan and Rhodey has been along for the ride for a long time. Contrary to what the movies portrayed, the character of James Rhodes has a much deeper relationship with Tony Stark, taking over the reigns of the specialized suit when Tony lost his fortune and alcohol took precedence over saving the world. It wasn't until after Stark regained control of his company and did battle with Justin Hammer that War Machine was born.

War Machine was Iron Man on the juice. He looked cooler, was gun metal grey and had a big ass missile launcher and a flamethrower to boot. It was unreal to see both of them in action on the big screen and Favreau did a fantastic job taking them from the pages of comic books onto the big screen.

From the West Coast Avengers to the adult-oriented War Machine MAX series, I've been to hell and back with James Rupert "Rhodey" Rhodes. I can only hope he has a cameo in the Avengers and is signed on for Iron Man 3.

Card A4 is an absolutely awesome looking card. UD killed it with the designs on this set. It is a sticker auto, but its a clear one and doesn't take away from the design at all. I am not a fan of the sticker, but I see how it is necessary in rare cases. This one in particular doesn't bother me that much, but I hope in the future UD can do away with them in non sport products and also bolster up the products with the best possible autograph content they can get.

Oh and while Iron Man might have the jump on War Machine by many years, they both have a kick-ass theme song. You already know Iron Man's... Here's War Machine's courtesy of AC-DC.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - 2005 Justin Verlander Topps Chrome Auto

1/3 of the way to 300 at age 28 = success.
The trading card industry is funny. Some guys get super hot before they even play a game at the major league level, some are at an all-time high and then they get caught by TMZ cheating on their wife or by the police for a DUI. It can all end in a minute. Sometimes though, there are the ones that you just know are going to be iconic and you have to make a choice -- keep or sell.

I generally don't like selling cards. I think the market is soft and I don't like putting a dollar value on a piece of cardboard. Cards for me have some meaning, that's why I began writing SIGnificant Cards in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I love money and you can pay me lots for my opinion, creativity, skills, and knowledge. But when it comes to cards there are just some you know you've gotta keep and some you can just get rid of.

In 2005 Justin Verlander was the talk of the town. The Tigers drafted him #1 and at 22 he was closing in on tossing the ball at 100 MPH. He won Rookie of the Year Honors in 2006, I thought that was the first real sign that I was a smart guy for keeping his card. In 2007 he pitched the first of two career no-hitters and went 18-6, another good sign. So 2008 rolls around and I am thinking is now a good time to part with his card. I thought maybe I could trade it for something else, but I didn't, I held on. My gut instinct pushed me to keep it awhile longer.

Verlander finished with a dismal 11-17 record in 2008. Was my instinct wrong? I had to suck it up and hope for a return to form in 2009. I am very glad I did. He won 19 in 2009, 18 in 2010 and a whopping 24 in 2011 proving he is a cut above many others. With 107 career wins at only age 28 he is well on his way to the 300 club if he remains healthy. Today's game is so different and the longevity for pitchers is nowhere near what it used to be, but Verlander seems to be in a league of his own.

Just before Verlander pitched his second no hitter, my Cardboard Connection co-host Rob said to me, "Man you missed the boat on that one." I told him that boat didn't even leave the dock yet, he's got a lot more to accomplish, he's a keeper. I am glad my big ole' gut told me so.

Card #242 from the 2005 Topps Chrome set is hard signed and limited to a run of about 500, but Verlander sports a weak signature, it's sort of sloppy and not recognizable, but at least it is legit.

Monday, October 3, 2011

SIGnifcant Cards - Don Sutton, Tommy John, Burt Hooten 2004 UD Legends

A Dodgers Legendary Triple Threat
Not long ago I wrote about my passion for the 1977-1981 NY Yankees. The impression left on me was one that hasn't been matched by any baseball team since. They had talent, swagger and a knack for making headlines on and off the field. Their primary opponents during those years were the Kansas City Royals and the LA Dodgers. The Royals were always tough in the ALCS and when they played the Yanks, you knew it would be good hard-nosed baseball.

The Yankees faced the Royals in playoffs in 1976, 77, 78, and 80. The Royals defeated the Yankees in 1980 to move on and lose to the Phillies in the World Series. In 1977, 78 and 81 the Yankees advanced to face the Dodgers.

Back then I despised the Dodgers. I didn't care about their history in Brooklyn, I didn't care that they were dominating the NL, all I knew was that they were in the way of the Yankees winning the World Series and they had to go DOWN!

Of course, as I grew up, I learned to realize and appreciate that they were also a fantastic team and somewhat of a dynasty as well. They had some great talent in their lineup too like Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Reggie Smith, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, Rick Monday & Manny Mota... Mota...Mota.

It was the pitching staff that made the Dodgers the total package, well when they faced the Yankees, they were almost... the total package. Three of the aces on the Dodgers staff are featured on this card from the 2004 Upper Deck Legends Baseball product. Combined, these guys put up 97 wins in 1977-78, that's strong, especially in an NL where you were facing Rose, Schmidt, Carter, Bench, Burroughs, Stargell, Foster and Dave Parker.

I also really enjoy the design of this card. There are three clear, nicely-sized photos of each player, clean autos that are on parchment stock and it has good descriptive authentication information on the back of the card.While I might not have ever rooted for the Dodgers, their stellar play certainly left an impression on this collector, so did the Upper Deck baseball card, something we might never see again, but that is another story for another day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The World Needs More Sith

Sith Happens!
Continuing to work on my Star Wars custom figures happens a lot less frequently than I'd like. I have to fit it in between family duty, work, my radio show, writing and other junk I find myself doing. Usually I like making characters that Hasbro just haven't gotten around to making yet, but sometimes I just see some part of figures and want to create my own characters.

Here are two original characters I put together using parts from a variety of figures. The Sith soldier is a Darth Maul top torso and waist, Darth Sidious legs and arms and a GI Joe Storm Shadow head. The Sith Lord is a custom head I got from a fellow customizer, the lower torso and upper legs & arms of a Star Trek Spock, the lower legs and lower arms are from two Prince of Persia figures, the feet are from a Han Solo figure and the top torso is from a Celebration Luke Skywalker. The staff is from a Aliens vs. Predator play set and the blade is from one of Star Wars Imperial Knights comic pack. Add in a little paint and BAM!

I thought they both turned out pretty nice.

SIGnificant Cards - Manon Rheaume 1993 Classic Hockey Art

Rheaume was the hottest hockey
commodity in 1992.
Back in the day. Heh. I hate that term. What day? Possibly the dumbest term for simply saying, "in the past" -- EVER! In 1992 hockey history was made when Manon Rheaume signed a contract with the NHLs Tampa Bay Lightning. What was so special about it? Well for starters, Manon wasn't some fresh-faced, pimply kid from Quebec. Oh wait, yes SHE was. Rheaume is the only woman to ever make it to the NHL level and while she never played in a game during the regular season, she did put on the gloves for a couple of preseason match-ups. She didn't just bend the gender myths, she owned them.

Her other accolades include Olympic silver and she was the goalie on not one, but two IIHF World Women's Championship teams. She was the hottest hockey commodity in that year and the excitement sprung from her Canadian lore, also made its way to the United States.

In 1992, and it wasn't that long ago, the whole equal playing field in sports was nowhere near what it is today and it STILL has a long way to go. Today you see it more frequently, there are more women making as big or bigger impacts on their respective sports. Look to athletes such as Danica Patrick, Maryeve Dufault, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Angela & Amber Cope in NASCAR, the tough women that play real football in the Lingerie Football League, and the amazing women in the WNBA are just a few that quickly come to mind.

I was living in Las Vegas in 1992 and there were some great trading card shows in Vegas at the time. She was the talk of many of those shows. In 1994 she signed with the Las Vegas Thunder of the IHL and Rheaume fever hit Vegas. It wasn't long before she was doing autograph signings at shows and she drew some big crowds.

I was fortunate to meet her and have her sign one of her most recognizable trading cards. The 1993 Classic Hockey Art card is #112 from the set and with a clean and personalized sig in blue, it remains one of my all-time favorite cards.

What's your favorite card? I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

These Are Not The Droids You're Looking For

These are not the droids you are looking for.
I am a Star Wars fan. It was a huge part of my childhood and it has stuck with me as an adult. Sure, I see all the flaws and all the awesomeness that the saga has. I think that the original trilogy is so much better than the prequel trilogy it isn't even funny. However, while the prequels are weak storytelling, big budget, green screen atrocities, they are amazingly beautiful films. I make no excuses, I would've rather had three more movies with an aging Luke Skywalker then to see some wussy kid become Darth Vader.

That said, one of my hobbies is customizing Star Wars action figures. Yup, I refuse to grow up. I started customizing figures when I was about 10. I wanted to pose Stormtroopers in different poses and they were stiff, molded plastic. So I used the stove to soften them up. One time, one of the legs caught on fire and melted into my Mom's linoleum floor. She didn't find out for a year, but when she did, she whipped my ass.

The other day I was reading a Star Wars novel from the Fate of the Jedi series. The book is called Conviction by Aaron Allston. The backstory is about a force derived being that is so powerful that Sith and Jedi band together to stop the threat. It's not as good as the previous 9-book arc New Jedi Order.

Anyhow, within the story, R2-D2 and C-3PO have to go undercover and they are repainted. 3-PO is painted orange and R2 has all of his blue painted black. I figured that would look cool and that Hasbro would never make the figures, so I made them myself.

In The Navy

I'm a lifelong KISS fan. To me there is no better live concert on earth. They've set the stage and influenced many artists over the years. Musically, the current band is the best they've ever been. I recently had a great opportunity to work on a project for their upcoming KISS Kruise.

After seeing an interview where Paul Stanley casually mentioned that KISS Army members are now going to get a chance to join the KISS Navy, it seemed like a great idea. Kruisers got a look at the official KISS logo that I got to work on with direction from Paul and they recently posted the official KISS Navy t-shirt.

Click here to see the shirt.

I can't wait to get mine!

SIGnificant Cards - Michael Jordan 2003-04 UD SP Signature Edition Authentic Signatures

You know that funny but kind of annoying Tootsie Roll pop commercial with the owl trying to count how many licks to get to the center of the pop?

Well, when I first started collecting Upper Deck basketball cards I wondered how many packs I would have to open until I pulled a Michael Jordan autograph. I began opening UD basketball products in 2001. I opened at least one box of every UD NBA product from 2001 through 2004. That's a lot of packs. Products ranged from MVP to SP Game-Used. I really thought they were some of the very best products made during that time frame. I really thought that Sweet Shot was and still is one of the best looking autographed collections ever. My favorite was UD Glass. Those plexi-glass cards are some of the most visually appealing cards ever made. That kind of creativity made me want to work in Carlsbad. However, the cost of living did not.

During those three years I found some great cards, autos of Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, John Stockton, Pat Riley, Reggie Miller to name a few. I found a lot of junkie ones too. Ndudi Ebi stands out as one that I have plenty of and well... check out this article to get an update on where he is playing (at least he IS playing -- hear that Stern?).

So let's look at some numbers. In 2001 alone there were nearly 20 NBA products by UD alone, with one offs, there were more than 20. In 2002 there were 21. You get the picture right? I opened a crap-load of packs and the Jordan consistently evaded me.

Until 2004.

SP Signature was released that year in a tin. The tin contained a great photo of Air Jordan airborne and ready to jam full well knowing he was the greatest of all-time. It included a facsimile of Michael's signature. And that... was the closest I got.

JUST KIDDING! It was the 04-05 tin that contain the imprinted auto.

I opened that 03-04 tin with a feeling in my gut. If you've ever opened a high-end product. You know what I mean. It's a tingly feeling like opening a present on Christmas when you are 5. It's a thrill like pulling a slot machine and winning a jackpot or scratching a lottery ticket and instant winning. It's not as good as sex, and it isn't like the high you get from drugs. It's a unique feeling of finding something great within a pack among common cards and I know collectors all can identify.

I honestly cannot even tell you what else was in the tin because when I peeled back those cards and saw the color of the card and kept inching it back, revealing the last name... N...A...D... I knew what I had. Finally! I had gotten the exact card I wanted to find. Card AS-MJ from the Authentic Signatures insert set contained a early photo of Michael with the Bulls and a really clean autograph on card, no stickers! The card was signed by Michael in front of UD reps and it was from a terrific set.

So while I can't tell you exactly how many packs it took to get to the center of a Michael Jordan autograph, I can tell you it was worth it, every single pack, the time, all of it. Oh, and if that Owl tries to bite my card, I will kick him in the nuts.

Friday, September 30, 2011

SIGnificant Cards - Inkworks Family Guy Erik Estrada

As a child of the 70s I was exposed to some of the best and worst television had to offer. I was there for the beginning of many explosive starts to what have become mainstream pop culture phenomenons. Big budget movies, video games, etc, etc. were all in their infancy stages when I was a kid, yes I am old. Not that old, but old enough. TV in the 70s was the very best IMO. Sitcoms ruled like All in the Family, MASH, Good Times, Different Strokes. Family shows like the Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, Courtship of Eddie's Father were also pretty strong. But I liked action the best. I was glued to the TV set on Saturday mornings for the Shazam/Isis power hour and I wouldn't dare miss an episode of CHiPs.

I used to draw superheroes and cars and I loved a good chase. CHiPs had some of the best on TV. They were always the same too. Someone would have a hit and run accident or they'd commit a robbery with a hot getaway car but Jon and Ponch always got the bad guy in the end. After an hour, all was good with the world. I also thought actress Randi Oakes (Bonnie) was pretty hot.

The one thing that stuck with me though over the years was that while Erik Estrada never really kept a big profile in America, he was huge in Mexican soap operas and the guy doesn't even speak Spanish! His lines were fed to him. That's simply classic. Also, he was never afraid to poke fun at himself making many appearances over they years as a "Ponch-like" character in sticoms, and cartoons.

When I really gained some respect for him was when he was a member of the cast on season two of the Surreal Life. Surreal Life was one of my all-time favorite shows (you can watch many of them on Hulu). This poor guy was a saint and he had to live with Tammy Faye Baker, Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice. It was truly must see TV.

Anyhow, I was already a fan, but for all of the reasons above, I remained a fan. Then Erik played the Friendly Officer (again a Ponch-like character) on Family Guy and he cemented his greatness.

In 2005 Inkworks put out Family Guy Premium Trading Cards and the only autograph I cared about was Erik's. Unbelievably, I pulled it from the only box I ever opened of the product. It's an awesome card and an excellent conversation piece. The set was also very good and I am happy that Leaf is bringing us more Family Guy cards, the autograph potential from the iconic prime-time cartoon is endless.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

TriStar TNA Knockouts Autographs

I've been a wrestling fan on and off since I was a little kid. Heck, one of the first dates I ever had with my wife was at Wrestlemania X8. We watched the Rock vs. Hogan live at the Skydome. It was unreal.

I never really watched for the wrestling though. I liked the funny skits and angles they'd run on shows, especially when new wrestlers made their debut and they were ridiculous like Skinner, or the Shockmaster. It was truly like a male soap opera. Skits like Paul Orndorff, Roddy Piper and Bob Orton beating up a guy and making him cry on the streets of NY were classics. What made it great was that Gene Okerlund pretended to be serious, while you could clearly see he was about to burst out laughing.

I didn't really care about wrestling though unless Ric Flair or the Ultimate Warrior were wrestling. With Flair you could truly appreciate the story he told in the ring. He was so good, he made anyone he got in the ring with look like a million bucks. Yeah he took the same bumps over and over, but it didn't matter who was on the other side of him, they looked like and eventually became a star. Heck even at nearly 60 he is better than some of the younger guys.

The Warrior was a different animal. It wasn't about the finesse, it was about the sheer energy and the beating he would lay down. You knew when that pounding music hit, someone was going to be a quick and decisive beat down. He was my favorite to watch, and I truly admire that he left the sports entertainment world on his terms while others became slaves to drugs and other vices and unfortunately are no longer with us.

As I got older and the WWF introduced Divas such as Sunny and Sable, and as a red-blooded male, I started paying a bit more attention to them as opposed to the dudes running about the ring in their Speedos.

But then something else happened. Really good female wrestlers started making their way onto the show. Wrestlers like Lisa Marie Varon (a.k.a Tara/Victoria), Lisa Moretti (a.k.a. Tina Ferrari/Ivory), Amy Dumas (Lita) & Chyna. They changed the game and created a whole new reason to watch the show. Chyna was so good that she crossed over and effectively competed in the men's division.

After WCW was purchased it seemed to be more about getting nice-looking divas to be eye candy for the show, that was until TNA (now Impact) Wrestling came along. TNA put together a very competitive women's division and they just kept adding talent. I have to be honest when I say that I watch the show for the knockouts. It's much easier on the eyes to watch them wrestle. Another reason I like Impact is because I tend to favor the underdog. I despise monopolies and think without competition things grow stale.

When I heard that TriStar was going to begin making TNA Wrestling trading cards I was hooked. They did a great job out right out of the box. I purchase and collect all of their TNA products. As TNA kept adding top notch talent to their roster, TriStar has been stellar at getting them into a product as soon as possible. From Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Jeff Hardy, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Mickie James, RVD, and Mr. Anderson, Tristar made sure that they all were in sets shortly after they were signed by the company. It has made each set they release more impressive and collectible than the previous one.

One of my goals is to complete the basic autograph checklist from each of their sets. One of the more unique sets they've released came out in 2009 and it is titled Knockouts. The set is all about the women of TNA and there are two versions to collect. The basic version contains a 90-card set and several autographs. A second variation is available in hobby only format that includes some additional more revealing images, extra autographed cards as well as autographed and lipstick print baseballs and lipstick imprint cards.

Below are the autos I have collected as I attempt to put the complete set together. All of them are pulled from packs or acquired via a trade. The Angelina Love is a 1/1 and the SoCal Val is #'d to 75. The remaining cards are all the basic autographed versions. I do have a few duplicates if anyone is up for trading. The ones I need are KA-3 Christy Hemme, KA-4 Dixie Carter, KA-5 Jacqueline, KA-7 Madison Rayne, KA-8 Raisha Saeed, KA-9 Roxxi, KA-10 Sharmell, KA-14 Traci Brooks & KA-25 ODB.

SIGnificant Cards - 2005 Upper Deck Albert Pujols Fabric Reflections Auto Patch

It took 5 years, but I finally got a
Pujols auto. Persistence is the key.
In 2001 the baseball card market was pretty sad. There wasn't a dominant rookie card that captured the attention of collectors in awhile. As the landscape of the rookie card changed from a simple base card to an autograph or even and autographed memorabilia card, the hobby was in desperate need of a new hobby hero. Two players made their stake to become that hero, Ichiro and Albert Pujols.

Collectors truly got the best of both worlds as both players are surely headed to Cooperstown. As a fan of both players, I loved the fact that I had to actually chase down two potentially huge rookie cards. I have no team loyalty anymore, I root for players. Don't get me wrong, I still like some teams, but free agency and trades always left me sour when my favorite players would have to pack up and move.

Like everyone else, I wanted to get my hands on the best rookie cards of both players that I could. I didn't even come close. The best I did was getting their base cards in Upper Deck baseball, both of which are still noteworthy and nice looking cards.

Sure I could've purchased either one on eBay and ended the chase just like that, but what fun would that be? I wanted to pull one out of a pack. As you can see by the headline, this card is from the 2005 UD Reflections set. So I am pretty patient as it took me 4 more years to pull a Pujols auto. This beauty is numbered to 50 and also contains a small patch.

It's now 2011 and I still haven't unpacked an Ichiro auto. I find it interesting that neither Pujols or Ichiro autographs are available in current Topps products. I want to personally thank MLB for assuring that collectors have the very best baseball cards to be had. MLBPA obviously saw a gap that needed to be filled by giving Panini a license, maybe they will be the company that cares enough to bring the best players in baseball to sign for their products.

Recently Leaf's Brian Gray signed the Mariners hitting sensation to an autograph deal. I finally have another shot at getting an Ichiro autograph out of a pack. Call me stubborn, but that's the best way to get a card, buying it secondary is kinda like cheating.