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Group Break entries are now closed, the boxes have been ordered and secondary teams have been randomized. Follow THIS LINK for final team assignments.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Willson Contreras Quad Relic Card with Mystery Relic Pieces

A couple months ago, I really fell in love with 2017 Diamond Kings after picking up a couple boxes at my LCS. I thought the designs were great, the inserts look phenomenal, and the hits really gave me a good bang for my buck.

I also began looking on Ebay for some affordable hits that I could add to my collection. I found some great cards at some great prices, but what really sparked my curiosity was this quad-relic card of Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. It's from the Diamond Deco insert set and is numbered 30/49.

I can easily identify the wooden bat piece, and the solid white fabric as part of his uniform, but what really drew me to this was the two swatches of black and white fabric, that are a little tougher for me to identify and origin. I can't tell exactly what kind of fabric the white part of it is, but the black part has a little bit of a rubbery feel, as is whatever it is, it is used for a grip, or to hold the item in place better. Maybe a batting glove, or the waistband of his pants? Jock strap?

If anyone has any theories, feel free to let me know.

Monday, June 19, 2017

End of an Era

I'm a Pittsburgh Penguins fan first and foremost, but in traveling to Arizona the last few years, I have also become a fan of the Coyotes. I was very surprised to hear that the team decided they would be moving on from their long-time captain, Shane Doan, and did not offer him a contract for next season. He has always been loyal to the franchise, and decided to stick with the struggling team, despite many times when he could have (and probably should have) left to play for a Stanley Cup contender. He was also one of the greatest ambassadors that the game has seen, especially in the state of Arizona, as he was always making appearances for the team and promoting the game in the area. I got the chance to meet him a couple of times after games, as he always stopped to sign autographs for the fans after Coyotes games, win or lose, and always with the biggest smile on his face. He may still have another year or two left in him, so hopefully another team is willing to give him a shot at his first Stanley Cup.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 7

Day 7 - A card you bought in person and the story behind it.

For this one, it is not a Cub, but someone who I still loved as a young baseball fan:

From 2005 Upper Deck Classics, this is a Classic Materials jersey card of Kent Hrbek. I just had to have this card, because at the time, I didn't really have any hits of the former Minnesota Twins slugger. I may be a lifelong Cubs fan, but I grew up in a Minnesota Twins househoold, and in fact, one of my very first baseball memories was them winning the 1987 World Series. Hrbek was a big part of both of those teams, and I have always been a fan of his. What I really like about this card is that not only does it feature a little bit of the jersey's pinstripe, but there is also some threading from the hem, which gives it that extra something special.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My 2016-17 Artifacts Redemptions

At the beginning of the season, I picked up two boxes of 2016-17 Upper Deck Artifacts. Of those two boxes, I pulled a total of 3 redemptions. Now, these weren't the typical ones where the athlete hasn't found the time to sign, but the ones where the released the product before the new athletes played in an NHL game, and thus couldn't have a hockey card until they do.

Anyway, truth be told, I set my redemptions aside and forgot about them until a couple of weeks ago. By the time I entered them in, they had already been produced, so it wasn't long at all before they were on their way.

Anyway, here is what I got back:

First up is what I got in return for an Emerald Jersey Patch card of "Rookie V."

While there was no telling who the card would be of early on, it ended up being of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski. IT is numbered 85/99 and the cool thing about Blue Jackets sweaters is that they have some great patch pieces, like this one, which appears to be from the point of the star on the upper right corner.

Next, is what I got for my Chaicago Blackhawks Rookie:

This one is of Tyler Motte, and in numbered 496/799. As a University of North Dakota Hockey fan, I was hoping it would be Nick Schmaltz, but maybe Motte will turn out to be a great player, as well. He split time between the NHL and AHL last season, but didn't make an appearance in the playoffs.

Lastly, is one that I thought was lackluster, but turned out to be pretty great, a "Wild Card" redemption.

The wild cards are designed for teams who have more than one big-time rookie on their roster. I hit big with this one, too, getting a card of Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner, numbered 495/799. Despite a lot of hype for him coming into this season, Marner gets a wild card spot, because he is on the same team with #1 overall pick Auston Matthews. He still had a great first year, though, scoring 19 goals and 42 assists in 77 games. The wild cards are sometimes more miss than hit, but in this case, I got a good one.

That's it for this year in Artifacts. I'll see what 2017-18 brings, but as the first mid-range product of the season, I'll definitely pick up a box or two when it gets released in the fall.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 6

Day 6 - A card you spent more than $10 to get

I actually, don't remember what I spent on this card, but I know it was more than $10.

From 2012 Panini Prime Cuts, this is an autographed jersey card of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, numbered 7/10. It is a sticker autograph, which always goes a little cheaper than the on-card variety, which is nice for that reason. What's really cool about the card, though, is the jersey swatch. First of all, his name is cut out, which is a feature I always love. secondly, this is the old-timey fabric, which really looks lime more of a memorabilia piece than just a piece of fabric. Thirdly, if you look toward the bottome of the fabric, you will see a seam, which really gives it that extra touch. Like I said, I really don't remember how much I spent on this exactly, but I still think it is worth every penny I paid for it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 5

Day 5 - A certified autograph card of one of your favorite players

Now, my all-time favorite player is Ryne Sandberg. Unfortunately, I only have one certified auto of his, and I'm saving that one for a later post. Luckily, this one has to do with "one of" my favorite players, so I can post this beauty from another favorite Cub from my era, Kerry Wood.

Wood entered the Majors with a bang, tying Roger Clemens' record of 20 strikeouts in a game in only his fifth major league start. He was set to be the cubs' fireball pitcher of the future, but missed what would have been his second season in the Majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He would return and eventually regain his momentum, leading the league in strikeouts, with 266 in 2003. He would later on play for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, but returned to the cubs for the 2011 season. He retired in 2012, and played his last game on May 18 of that year. He faced just one batter that game, who he struck out.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Diamond Kings Box Break #2

After being impressed with one box of 2017 Diamond Kings, I decided to try my hand at another, and boy, am I glad I did. Not only is this still such a great-looking set of cards, but I ended up with an even better box this time around!

One thing I really didn't get into in the first box was the SP variations that I pulled. There isn't really anything new with this idea, just different pictures and they are a little tougher to find. They have 25 different cards with variations. Here's an example of some that I pulled from this box:

I pulled both versions of Kirby Puckett's card, to give you a look at the differences. Sometimes you'll get different poses, while other times it's different uniforms. Here we have pictures of early-career Puckett and late-career Puckett. On the non-rookie cards, they also changed the back to make it easier to identify which one is the regular card (square frame) and the SP variation (round frame).

Like the last box, I pulled five paper-framed parallels, with four non-numbered ones (Madison Bumgarner, Paul Waner, Khris Davis, and Yoan Moncada), and one serial-numbered card (red-paper-framed A.J. Pollock 7/99)

The inserts were the same as the previous box, but the number of each that I pulled was different. I only pulled two Aurora cards: Mike Trout and Max Scherzer

One of my favorites, Heritage Collection, gave me four cards: Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Rod Carew, and Tony Gwynn

There were two Memorable Moments cards of big home run games for the Yankees. These two focus on Reggie Jackson hitting 3 home runs in a game and Lou Gehrig hitting 4 home runs in a game.

Lastly for the inserts is Originals, which puts a new look to an old format with Diamons Kings. The four I pulled were Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Corey Kluber, and Freddie Freeman

Each box promised two hits, and like the last one, both were pretty good ones to pull. The first is a Limited Lithos autographed dual jersey card of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling numbered 34/49. I can't say I know a whole lot about this guy, but when compared to what most guys do nowadays, he has a great-looking signature, which makes this card even better.

Lastly, is my best hit out of both boxes, a dual patch card of Chicago Cubs top prospect Eloy Jimenez, numbered 13/25. Jimenez may have another year or two before he cracks the major league roster, but with a great year in A-ball last season and an impressive performance at the 2016 All-Star Futures Game, he'll be ready when the call comes. Not only is this card of a soon-to-be-great player, but the two patch pieces look amazing. The one on the left most likely comes from the logo on the front of the jersey, and the one on the right is probably from a number. You can even see a bit of a pinstripe, as well.

another great box at a fantastic price. I'm telling you, as far as fantastic-looking cards at a great value go, you really can't beat Diamond Kings.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 - A rookie card of one of your favorite players

For me, the clear winner is this one: 

I wasn't raised a Cubs fan, but I became one at the age of 9 thanks to WGN and Harry Caray. I was too young to understand a lot of the intricacies of the game, but I did know thaqt this guy was the best on the team, and he became my favorite player. As a young card collector, I picked up whatever cards of his I could, but most of them were the recent releases. This one eluded me for a long time, mostly because of the price. It probably never got above$30, even during the peak of his career, but for a kid in elementary school, it was WAY out of my price range. It was my first "white whale," and there was a great sense of satisfaction when I finally purchased the card as an adult. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 3

Day 3 - A card from the first set you tried to complete

I'm going to tweak this one a little bit. Truthfully, I don't remember what the very first set that I tried to complete was, so instead, I'll tell you about the first set of cards that I really got into for my pack buying as a young collector.

Looking back on it now, 1988 was a rough year for cards. It's right at the beginning of the "junk wax" era, the designs were mostly pretty boring, and the rookie class was very slim. The one bright spot for me as a young collector was 1988 Donruss. As an 8-year-old, I loved the design. It had a futuristic look to it, and most importantly to me at the time, the alternating corner designs fit together like a puzzle when you put them in a binder. How cool is that!

Of course, almost 30 years later, I see them for what they are in full context, but the 8-year-old version of me thought these were AMAZING!

Monday, May 1, 2017

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 2

30-Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 2: A card with more than one player on it.

I had a few to pick from, and was looking at some vintage cards, when I remembered that I had this beauty. It's a Winning Materials dual jersey card of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Edmonds from 2009 SPX.

I chose this one, because it's an incredibly unique card in that it features two players, but four teams. Griffey is pictured as a Cincinnati Red, but listed as a member of the Chicago White Sox, and Edmonds is pictured as a St. Louis Cardinal, but listed as a Chicago Cub. Griffey was traded from the Reds to the White Sox at the trade deadline in July 2008, and Edmonds left the cardinals and signed a 1-year contract with the Cubs in May of that year. Despite this being a 2009 product, I guess there wasn't enough time for Upper Deck to get updated photos of them.

The only other card I have that 1-ups this one is a hockey card of Marian Hossa that has him listed as a Detroit Red Wing, pictured as a Pittsburgh Penguin, and has a jersey swatch from his time with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

30 Day Baseball Card Challenge - Day 1

So, I know I'm late to the party on this one. The truth is, when Tony at Off Hiatus Baseball started this idea, I really wanted to get in, but at the time, the only 2017 baseball cards I had purchased was a jumbo box of Series 1. It would definitely give me enough cards to write about, but not enough variety. Since, then, I have purchased Heritage, Donruss, and Diamond Kings, so I decided now would be the perfect time to get involved with this really cool topic.

As you can see, Day 1 is a card from the current year with a photo you like.

Well, I'm a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, so of course, it has to be THIS one:

And since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I think that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Diamond Kings Box Break

Lastly on the trip to my LCS last week, was a box of 2017 Panini Diamond Kings. I've always liked this release, whether as the first few cards in a Donruss base set, or a stand-alone set itself. The idea of art cards have always appealed to me, so I was excited to discover what this box would bring.

I knew no specifics going in, so the results would be a complete surprise. Each box of Diamond Kings contains 12 packs of 8 cards. There will also be, apparently, 12 inserts, 4 framed parallels, and two autograph or memorabilia cards.

Here's how my box turned out.

Base Cubs: Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber, Billy Herman, Gabby Hartnett, Kiki Cuyler, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams. First of all, I really love this design.They all have the look of a painting, but unlike similar "artistic" releases of the pact, there isn't a frame or border around it. They let the image speak for itself and use a limited amount of text to give the player's name and team.

I also pulled an Artist's Proof parallel of Jose Abreu, numbered 19/25. It's just like the base card, but with a foil stamp and a serial number. I know there have been various "proof" parallels in various sets in the past, like Artist's Proof, and Press Proof, and I'm not quite sure what they mean, but either way, I'm always happy to have a low-numbered card like this.

Parallels also come in a framed variety. I pulled four of the grey paper framed parallels, Bryce Harper, Harry Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gabriel Ynoa. I also pulled a brown paper framed parallel of JaCoby Jones, numbered 37/49

Now for the inserts. I pulled three Originals cards of Jose Altuve, Wade Boggs, and Daniel Murphy. I'm not sure what the focal point of the insert set is, but the cards look amazing. They actually do remind me of the of the original Diamond Kings cards that had a large image of a player's face with a smaller, full-body action shot. Maybe that's the theme of these.

My two Memorable Moment cards were of Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente. This set is much easier to figure out, as they focus on one particular moment of the player's career. For Babe Ruth, it was when he hit his 60th home run of the 1927 season, and for Roberto Clemente, it was a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam.

My four Aurora cards are of Clayton Kershaw, Brian Dozier, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mookie Betts. I'm not sure what the subject of this set is, other than bright colors. They do look nice, though, although I'm sure it might be too much for some people.

I really love these Heritage Collections cards. They feature retired players from various eras and are entirely in black and white, except for the gold frame. My three were Mike Piazza, Juan Marichal, and Phil Hiekro.

As promised, I got two hits in my box, and all things considered, they were both pretty good.

The first one is a jersey/patch card of Cleveland Indians prospect Bradley Zimmer, numbered 45/49. The left side features a plain grey jersey swatch, and the right side has a white jersey piece with a thin blue patch down the middle. I'm not sure of exactly where this comes from, but I believe it's from the piping of the home jersey sleeve.

My last one was a pretty good one: a dual jersey autographed Rookie Signatures card of Chicago White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, numbered 7/99. Moncada left Cuba in 2015 to pursue his Major League career, and ended up on the White Sox as part of the deal that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. He is rated as one of baseball's top prospects, and is having a great year in AAA, waiting for the call to Chicago.

I must say, this set is absolutely beautiful. Apart from the parallels, inserts, and hits, the base cards look amazing, Not only that, but there really is a great mix of rookies, veterans,and retired players, and there is a significant amount of those retired players who don't get a whole lot of cardboard attention from other products. I will definitely be going for this set, and I'll probably put a want list together after I buy another box or two.

Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Donruss Box Break

In addition to the two packs of WWE Undisputed that I picked up at my LCS last week, I also grabbed a box of 2017 Donruss. I really went there in the mood to buy some baseball cards, especially considering that I need to build up my recent stock in order to send out some TTM requests. Donruss definitely gave me that.

Each box of Donruss contains 24 packs of 8 cards, and LOADS of inserts. Each pack will have at least 2 inserts or parallels, which can be a lot for set-builders who would rather just have the base cards. In addition to those, each box is guaranteed to contain three autograph or memorabilia cards, which isn't bad for the price point.

Anyway: here's how I did:

Base Cubs: I got a total of nine Cubbies from the base set, including my childhood favorite, Ryne Sandberg. The cards are meant to emulate the 1990 design, with a few alterations, like the logo, the color, and the use of stripes instead of paint splotches. Still, it's a design I have always liked, and one that I don't mind seeing modified for a current release.

Of course, like any respectable Donruss release, cards 1-30 are set aside for each team to have their Diamond King card, which has one featured player from the team in some sort of artistic interpretation. I got six, but unfortunately not the Cub, Anthony Rizzo

After the Diamond Kings, the next 15 cards in the set are Rated Rookies, which is a tradition carried over from many years of Donruss baseball cards. I did ok with these three, but I LOVE how the Rated Rookie logo has remained the same.

Like I said earlier, there are PLENTY of parallels, and I got quite a few:

Pink Back: Edwin Encarnacion, Zack Greinke

Black & White: Kris Bryant

Nickname: Josh Donaldson "Bringer of Rain," Jose Altuve "Gigante"

Jose Altuve Press Proof 37/99, Odubel Herrera 185/199, Kyle Seager Career Stat Line 363/437, Dustin Pedroia Season Stat Line 40/201

Donruss has also brought back "The Rookies" as an insert set. I got four total, including a blue-back parallel of Tyler Glasnow.

There were also four cards from The Prospects insert set, including a gray-bordered parallel of Victor Robles, numbered 6/199 and a base insert of Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez.

Donruss also went back to their 1983 design with the Retro Variations. I'm assuming that every base card has one of these, but I'm not sure. I pulled 37 of these in total, including 2 Cubs (Kris Bryant & Kyle Hendricks) and a pink-back parallel of Eddie Murray.

There were also a few serial-numbered foil cards, including this American Pride card. These feature players from the Collegiate National team and I pulled a T.J Friedl numbered 190/349.

There's also this Jose Altuve All Stars card, numbered 955/999. There isn't much of anything on the card to let you know it has anything to do with All-Stars, but apparently that's what it is.

There was also this Dominator card of Rick Porcello, numbered 30/249.

The last of the inserts was this Elite Series card of Kris Bryant, numbered 67/349. I really like how much Donruss has brought back from its history, and Elite was a big part of it. It was the first big insert set (I think) and cards from the early '90s still hold their value, so it's nice to see them keep these around.

Now, each box is guaranteed three autograph or memorabilia cards, but I was pretty lucky in that I got four. The first is a Diamond Collection bat card of Mike Napoli. Even though the Cleveland Indians came so close to breaking my heart last October, I really like Napoli as a player, dating back to his first of three (so far) stints with the Texas Rangers, and love that the memorabilia piece for this slugger is a bat.

There was also this card from the same memorabilia set of Jacoby Ellsbury. It features a fantastic jersey swatch with a Yankees pinstripe. It's always interesting when a player switches teams to a rival. Ellsbury goes from the Red Sox to the Yankees as a free agent a couple of years ago, and I'm sure the Red Sox faithful were not very happy at all to see him in pinstripes.

There were two relics and two autographs, including this autographed card of St. Louis cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver from the Signature Series insert set. It is a red parallel, and is numbered 92/99. As far as I know, he isn't related to the other pitching Weavers, Jeff & Jered.

Lastly, the big hit of the box for me was this Signature Series Gold card of Alex Bregman, numbered 30/49. Bregman was the 2nd overall pick of the 2015 amateur draft, and has already made it up to the Major League roster. The big draw for Bregman was his discipline at the plate, which has led him to being named USA Today's 2016 Minor League Player of the Year.

That's it for this box. Despite the lack of MLB licensing, which has taken away all logos and team names with these cards, I really like what Panini did with this Donruss set. Of course, I got a great hit with the Bregman card, but even still, it's an affordable box of cards, with the potential for some great cards to be pulled. It's definitely a risk worth taking.