Monday, May 23, 2016

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - Finally Punched This Ticket

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was the base card.

There was the Artist Proof card.

There was the Golden Blades card.

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

Still with me?

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

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

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

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

What a great way to kick off the summer.

Monday, May 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right place, right time.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

BEHIND THE MASKS - Bones Brigade

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

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

Well....it happened recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah...the good ol' days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the other end of the spectrum - Daniel Altshuller.

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

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

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

But it's one more off the list.

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

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

Still.  Can't.  Believe.

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

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

Is it?  Great?

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

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

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

It's just too busy.  My head hurts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

WALLET CARD - A Trifecta Of Buybacks

A new batch of #WalletCard pickups arrived a few days back and I still get a big smile on my face when I see the new adds.

This Oscar Gamble project of mine has really been fun.  Inexpensive too which makes it all the better. If I did have one beef it would be that I'm not really able to pick up many cards here locally.  It's hockey town in this neck of the woods.  But that's ok because I've got other ways and means as well as some great people to help me out.

This most recent batch came from both COMC as well as eBay.  I had a friend of mine (who has a US address) do my dirty work to save substantially in shipping costs.  Much thanks Kevin.

All three of these cards are buybacks from recent Topps releases.  I've kept an eagle eye out for these cards because I feel like they are much rarer than most other Gambles.  And once they're gone....they're gone.

So let's take a look at the new....old....new pickups.

2015 Topps
#152 Topps Original Buyback 1974

I see Richard Pryor more and more when I come across a lot of Oscar Gamble cards.  This one for sure.

In addition to the killer cap and elastic waistband, I can't help but notice the great backdrop for this card.  Lots of blue sky...it feels like this stadium is in the middle of nowhere.  No concrete jungle to compete with.

2014 Topps
#74 Topps 75th Buyback 1976

I call this card the "Half-fro".  I don't know if he could get all his hair into a helmet with two ear flaps.

Another great Indians logo, this time on the jersey.  And the stirrups are king in my book.

It's weird, I've been blabbing on about Linden buybacks for some time now, but these Oscar Gamble offerings feel different.  I don't mind the few that get sprinkled in with each flagship release.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

2016 Topps
#23 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback Blue 1971

Still trying to figure out how all these stamp colours work and such, but I just chase them when I see them...and the price is right.

I really like this set from '71.  No doubt it would killer to get a complete build with sharp corners and no frays.  The black border makes that a tough task.

I'm thrilled that this one is not only in decent shape, but is nicely centred.  A rarity for cards of that vintage.

Well, that adds three more to the project box with the hopes that there are more to come.

So heads up Kevin.  Ha.

Friday, April 29, 2016

SIGNATURE CHAMPIONS - Rob Blake

The later in the season we go, the less exciting the card shows become.

True or false?

For the past few years I would go with true.  Too many months of seeing the same ol' stuff and the nice weather (especially here) makes going to a stale arena to look at cards just a tad less exciting.

Still though, any chance I get to go to a show....I'm in.  And I'm glad I did last month.

For those of you who know me, I'm a sucker for a deal.  But I try not to cave as bad as I once used to.  I'm happy to splurge on some low $$$ cards if it can help my trade box or I can flip them for a little something extra.

I'm not sniper like some others though and often I'm just happy to break even.

But I did land a couple cards that I think will lend me a little profit down the road - always nice to add cards like that.  But that's for another time.  Today, I'm showing off the other card I picked up.  It's one more off the list of my newest project.

2014/15 Upper Deck Premier
Signature Champions
#SC-RB Rob Blake  /99

When it comes to cards in this set, Rob Blake would be on the lower end of the price scale...and maybe even the desirability scale.  Works for me though.

I really like the photo in this shot.  Big smile, nicely framed and it just brings back memories of that great Avalanche team.  The signature is a little on the scribbly side, but c'est la vie.

I saw it in the discount box a couple months ago (when I bought the Datsyuk and Fuhr cards) but held off hoping it would go down in price.  And guess what....it did.

Not much though, but enough to make it worth the trigger pull.  Considering that it was priced in Canadian dollars (which all the cards are at this show obviously) it compared very well to those that had sold recently online.

Scratching off the easier ones early....fine by me.

Current Collection - 5 of 24

Thursday, April 28, 2016

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - I Got A New Scanner

Let me just start by saying life is just that much more back to normal.  My computer issues are now completely in the past.  My trusty desktop system that has served me well for a great number of years has officially been retired.  A new Mac Mini and a new scanner later and I can show off some of my recent hobby pickups with way more ease (I'm not much of a cameraphone guy).

So what has come in the mail lately?  Well I've got a few new #WalletCard pickups (gotta love Oscar) and a bunch of goalie mask pickups...set killers too.  I caved and picked up a few cards via COMC (thanks Kevin for helping me with the whole thing).

Lastly, in addition to a few Linden cards here and there, I found this little big gem on eBay a few weeks back.  It's really caught my eye...and I'd never seen one before, so I have no idea if it's rare or not.

It looks to be a handout from a game in 2000 (the logo in the top left is a dead giveaway).  I really like that logo.  It's a great piece from Trev's short stay with the Habs.  Based on the other logo in the bottom right, it looks as if the Canadiens were celebrating 90 years as well.

It's a thicker paper stock but not like a trading card thickness.  Has a really nice glossy finish so it doesn't look or feel cheap.  And it's good quality photos....if you consider dreamy headshots as "quality".

What the heck did they say to Linden before they took that photo?

When I saw this pop up on eBay there was only a scan of the front so I did a little research and some question-asking.  Note to all of you....ask questions.  You tend to get answers that way.  I wanted to know if the back was blank or not.

Nope.  There's lots of stuff on the back.

The Atlanta Thrashers definitely do not have a french sounding name, but there are a few guys on the team that ring well in the language.  A close look at the roster for Montreal and I can't help but notice one name on the injured list...Trent McCleary.

This line-up card was issued just over a month after that freak injury which ended his career.  I remember being at work (news editor) and seeing the footage come in on the feeds.  Scary stuff blocking a shot with your throat.

Sorry about that.....back to the actual item on hand.

I've always struggled with these more "oddball" items in terms of what to chase and what to pass on.  I don't go after game-used jerseys or sticks or any other equipment.  But every once in a while I'll see a poster or figurine that just says "Buy me".  If the price is right....I'll usually listen to that little voice in my head.

And the price was right on this oversized card.  It looks great and I was really happy when I opened up the envelope.  I also like that I can add some non-Canucks Linden stuff to the closet.  Gotta celebrate those days too.

Now......what else can I scan?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - Program Of Excellence

There have been just a handful of cards to pass my way so far this year that have really made me stop and do a double take.  My white whale from a couple months ago would most definitely be one of them.

But last month I came across a card that honestly made me completely stop everything and go into full research mode.

After collecting a player for so many years and really gaining a knowledge of pretty much all of the cards he has out there - especially the ones I still need, rarely am I stumped when I see a new item pop up on the open market.  Most of the time it "Oh....there it is".

Not this time though.

When you look at the card you may think "What's the big deal?"  Well, let me explain.

This Linden card comes from last season's high-end juggernaut The Cup.  It's a beast should Linden have a few cards in the mix.  It's been a decent blend of "That'll never end up in my collection" and "Hey, I got that one for a good price."  I've tried to keep things fun with it and for the most part - it has been.

In the most recent release, there was a simple (if you can call it that) base card, a gold parallel /5, the obvious 1/1 black parallel, some printing plates and a juicy shield card (which I almost landed).  There was also a nice Program of Excellence triple auto card of Linden with Joe Sakic and Curtis Joseph all wearing Team Canada garb.  It was a redemption card and only 3 copies were made.  I have yet to see one actually redeemed.

So where does this individual Program of Excellence card come in?  Good question.

It doesn't.

According to the official Cup checklist, there is no Trevor Linden individual card released.  But as you can plainly see...they had one mocked up and ready to go.

This is a "proof" version of the card which I believe came from an uncut sheet.  It is slightly bigger than a normal card and is blank backed.  It does have the gold foil on the Cup logo and around the signature box along with the bottom Program of Excellence name and bottom border.  Not the most crisp Linden photo used, but I like it.  It's original.  And maybe it would've looked better in the final batch.  Or maybe that's why it got cut from the production line.

Anyways, this would have ended up being hard signed, but since it never left the shop...

When I saw this card pop up on eBay a few weeks back I knew exactly what I was seeing.  I knew the seller as well - sells a lot of "proof" cards.  A nice addition if you don't want to spend the money on the real thing, but it's pretty much not for me.  They aren't official releases and don't include jersey pieces of signatures....or backs.

But I definitely could make an exception in this instance.

I was even able to get the seller to come down on the price a bit.  Not sure they knew the whole situation with this card.

The stressful part came in the shipping.  Coming from the United States, I knew that it would take a little extra time to get here, but after a good month and a half went by I was getting worried.  A simple note to the seller explaining the situation - and the fact that I was not panicking led to a good door of communication being opened.  Patience wins out in the end though as it arrived safe and sound today.  I was thrilled to see it in the mailbox when I got home from work.

It's one of a very few "unofficially released" cards I have in my collection and in my opinion, this one is most definitely a worthy add.

In fact, I think it's quite excellent.