26 March 2017

Pack of the Day 157: 2017 Panini Donruss Racing Hobby Box

A few days ago, I used the same eBay coupon code that defgav used to pick up a 1957 Topps Hank Aaron card. I purchased a couple things that were a little more modern, though. I bought a box of 2017 Panini Donruss Racing and a sketch card I've been watching for a while (you can add multiple items to your cart to meet the minimum purchase threshold for eBay coupons). The sketch card may or may not show up on this blog in the future, but today I am going to show what I pulled from the box of racing cards.

I meant to make a NASCAR post yesterday, because my Facebook feed told me it was Danica Patrick's birthday. I never got around to it, though. For anyone keeping track of that stuff, she turned 35. I am 35 currently, and it is weird to me that most active sports celebrities are my age or younger. I still feel like they should be older than I am.

Here is the box lid. You are pretty much promised 1 autograph and 2 memorabilia cards per box, although Panini leaves a little wiggle room, falling short of guaranteeing it. There are 24 packs, with 10 cards per pack. Even the packs with relic cards in them have 10 cards, and you can pretty much tell which packs have the relics in them, as they are super thick. Boxes seem to run in the $65-70 range. If you want to compare, Dave & Adam's has Prizm (3 hits) for $49.95 a box, Certified (2 autographs, 2 memorabilia) for $59.95, and Torque (3 autographs, 2 memorabilia) for $69.95. I imagine the price on Donruss will go down after a while. Panini is putting out some decent products, but they are flooding the market with cards. That's good new for buyers, but a completist-type collector has got to be going crazy right now.

The pack design mimics the box design. I don't have much else to say about it. Panini doesn't print pack odds on their wrappers, which I find mildly irritating. I couldn't get a good scan of the NPN (No Purchase Necessary) information, so here it is in type:

Hand print your name and complete address on a 3 x 5 card and mail it in a #10 envelope to: Panini America Inc., NPN, 2017 Donruss Racing, 5325 FAA Blvd., Suite 100, Irving, TX, 75061-3601. Canadian entrants must also correctly answer the following mathematical skill-testing question on the 3 x 5 card: 868 + 885 / 295 x 505 -576. Two entries per household, one entry per envelope, postmarked by 4/26/2017 and received by 5/3/2017. No metered mail.

That's not all of the text, but that's enough to get you going if NPN's are your thing. I've thought about giving it a try, but I've never actually sent one in.

The checklist is 189 cards deep, but it's not very straightforward. There are 4 or 5 short-printed subsets, depending on how you choose to count them. I'll get to that later. Sandwiched in the middle is the base set, made up of 100 cards. This base set is made up of cards 37-136 in the checklist. It features cards for most of the drivers on the top circuit, as well as sections for some Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series drivers. I pulled 99 / 100 base cards, 96 / 100 doubles, and 10 / 100 triples in the box. With all of those doubles and triples, it would have been nice to get that last base card.

The main checklist also features some pit crew cards and a subset called Duals, which feature drivers' cars in main and alternate paint schemes. The card backs are nice and colorful, but I wish they had a little more substance to them as far as statistics or additional photography. They need something more. I do like the card design overall.

The last sixteen cards in the base set make up the Cup Chase subset, with a card for each driver who made the playoffs for 2016. This subset also has some of the better photography in the set, with some candid shots of drivers doing something outside of the usual folded arms or looking off to the side while wearing sunglasses poses.

The first short-printed subset is Race Kings/Queens, consisting of cards 1-27 in the checklist. I pulled three of them, plus a Gold parallel of Chase Elliott, numbered # 074 / 499. The cards look pretty nice, with the driver in the foreground and the car in the background, done in the painted style typical of the 'Kings' subsets in all Donruss products. 

Cards 28-36 are the Rated Rookie subset. I only pulled one from my box, Garrett Smithley. 

The largest SP subset is called 1984 Retro, and it takes up spots 137-181 in the checklist. I pulled six of them, plus three parallels. The parallels are a Gold Ricky Stenhouse Jr. numbered # 386 / 499, a Blue Ernie Irvan numbered # 236 / 299, and a Press Proof of Bobby Allison numbered # 35 / 49. 

There are a small number of Nickname variants, with the driver's nickname printed in place of their real names. I pulled that Rowdy insert of Kyle Busch. This is where things get a little weird. I think the Busch card is considered a parallel or insert card, but the Gentleman Ned card of Ned Jarrett is considered part of the base set. Cards 182-189 are Nickname cards for drivers that don't appear in the base set, and Panini seems to be counting them as part of the base checklist.

I also pulled four base parallels. There were two Golds, one of Landon Cassill numbered # 118 / 499 and one of Kyle Busch numbered # 040 / 499. The A.J. Allmendinger Duals subset card is a Green parallel numbered # 049 / 199. The lowest-numbered card in the box was the Artist Proof of Chris Buescher's Cup Chase card, numbered # 04 / 25.

Most of the insert sets have Cracked Ice parallels. Call to the Hall somewhat predictably highlights people who have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Fred Lorenzen card is the base version, while the Richard Childress is a Cracked Ice parallel, numbered # 810 / 999.

The Cut to the Chase set features a card for the winner of each 2016 playoff race. I happened to pull versions of Joey Logano's two Chase wins, a regular insert for his win in the Hellmann's 500 and a Cracked Ice card, numbered # 787 / 999, for his victory in the Can-Am 500. 

The Pole Position and Speed inserts have Cracked Ice parallels, but I only got base versions for these two insert sets. It feels like I saw Joey Logano and Kyle Busch a lot in this box. Pole Position cards actually have some stats on them, listing the race the driver earned the pole in, the track, the date, the time, and the speed. I don't know what that leaderboard thing on the front of the card is, but it accurately reflects the qualifying results for that race. The Speed insert mentions the high speed that Busch attained during a practice session, so maybe that's what the speed insert is all about.

I got three cards from the Competitors insert set, base inserts of Michael Waltrip and Danica Patrick, and a Cracked Ice card of Rusty Wallace. The Wallace is numbered # 823 / 999. The Phenoms insert features up-and-coming drivers. I pulled a base of Harrison Burton and a Cracked Ice of Daniel Hemric, numbered # 189 / 999. The final insert from the box is a Top Tier card of Carl Edwards. I am not sure what the Top Tier insert is all about, as the back of Edwards' card talks about his acting career. I imagine it's just another way for Panini to include NASCAR stars in the product.

I did all right with my two memorabilia cards. Both cards were Dual Rubber Relics cards, featuring Brad Keselowski and Danica Patrick. I think this might be the first Danica Patrick hit I've ever pulled on my own, but I could be mistaken about that. There are many parallels available for these, along with single-relic versions and autographed versions, all with their own parallels. Both of mine were the basic models, without serial numbering or fancy foil. 

My autograph card came from the Retro Signatures 1984 set. The driver featured is Kyle Petty, with your standard sticker autograph. He has a cool signature, but his racing career happened before I got into NASCAR and this autograph doesn't do a whole lot for me. At least I was able to get a nice Danica Patrick relic card that I didn't have yet.

I like the design of the product, but I don't like all of the short-printed base cards. By my calculations, you'd have to open 9 boxes with perfect collation to complete the full base set. I can't see myself doing that. I think I prefer to keep the short-printed stuff out of the base set, so a collector can get their set from one or two boxes of cards, and people who like chase cards can open more if they want to pursue inserts, hits, and photo/nickname/retro variations. I would buy two or three boxes of this, but not nine or ten.

24 March 2017

2017 Topps Series 1 First Pitch Set

I don't have much real life stuff to post about today. I did find out that my son decided to run his Pinewood Derby car backward on some of his runs last night, so that probably explains why his car had random slow runs during the races. I was too far away from the track to tell, so I just figured the wheels were rubbing or something. He probably could have placed higher by racing the car in the right direction each time, but he had a really good time and I'm not going to ruin it by bringing that up.

One of my favorite recurring inserts from the Topps flagship set is First Pitch. As the name implies, the cards highlight various people who have thrown out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Shortly after the 2017 product released, I grabbed a full First Pitch set for a few dollars from eBay. Something went wonky with the checklist, as it runs from 1-17, then skips a few numbers and closes out with 21-23.

The Cubs get a whopping seven cards in the twenty-card checklist, including Jon Lovitz. I loved his role as the rival wedding singer in Adam Sandler's movie, The Wedding Singer. I love that movie, and I really pretty much love any of the rom-coms (The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, Never Been Kissed) from that era with Drew Barrymore in them.

There are teams other than the Cubs featured in the set, though, and here are some of them. Deshauna Barber is Miss USA 2016, and she is also an officer in the United States Army Reserve. I thought that was pretty cool. Interestingly relevant to this post, her Wikipedia page shows a picture of her throwing out a first pitch in a Yankees jersey. I think she hails from the D.C. area, though, so that's probably why Topps chose to highlight this first pitch.

Keegan-Michael Key is an actor. I know him mostly from his comedy sketches as part of the duo Key & Peele, but his IMDB page shows a great many more credits under his name. I'm not much of a TV or movie watcher, so I miss out on a lot of peoples' non-YouTube stuff.

Lou Ferrigno is The Incredible Hulk. When I was a kid, us older kids would sometimes babysit the younger kids. When we wanted our younger siblings to do something, we'd threaten to turn on the TV and let the green monster out. That all grew out of watching the old TV show with Ferrigno as the Hulk. Ferrigno also had a pretty successful career as a bodybuilder.

I honestly had no idea who Bethanie Mattek-Sands was before writing this post, but I learned that she is a very successful tennis player, especially in tennis doubles, where she currently has a #1 ranking. It looks like the event that led to her throwing out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game was winning a Gold medal in Mixed Doubles at the 2016 Summer Olympics. She currently resides in Arizona, so that makes sense.

The First Pitch insert is always one of the more exciting ones for me when a new Topps set is released. While not every card on the checklist excites me, there are usually a couple people I am happy to see, and sometimes I learn something new about someone I hadn't heard of before.

23 March 2017

Just a Little Bit of Baseball

My eldest son just started in Cub Scouts this year, and one of the big annual events is the Pinewood Derby, where dads compete to build the best race car out of a block of wood and then all pretend like the Cub Scouts did most of the work. I thought that our Derby was next month, but last night I learned that it was today. So I had my son pick a pattern and draw the outline on the side of the wood block. I then cut out a rough approximation of that shape and did some sanding and reading, and at about midnight I spray painted a base coat on the car. He had a dentist appointment today, and after that he finished up the painting. After I got home from work, I had about an hour to get the weight up to the maximum (5 oz.) and put the wheels on. I drilled holes in the front of the car, then realized that I was drilling the wrong side. I determined that those holes were for weight reduction, as a successful car is usually heavier in the back. Then I drilled more holes in the back, and stacked pennies in them until the car weighed enough. I barely had enough time to pound the axles into the car body before it was time to leave. I just hoped that the car would be able to make all of the runs down the track with all of the parts intact.

There were about a dozen cars in the competition, with a four-lane track. The boys all rotated through a few times, with each kid participating in 12 races (I think, it could have been 10). My son's car never placed first in a race, but he got a lot of 2nd-place finishes, along with a few 3rd-place runs. When they announced the Top 4 cars that would compete in the finals, I was surprised to hear his name called. After each boy in the Top 4 raced once in each lane, he came in 4th overall. I thought it was a pretty good finish for a car that was built in less than 24 hours. I didn't have time to sand and polish the axles, align the wheels, balance the weights, or otherwise optimize the car. He also had a good time and expressed a lot of excitement about being a Scout, which is pretty good.

This Jon Singleton card is an Orange Refractor from 2014 Bowman Chrome Mini. This product was released as a factory set, with a certain number of randomly-inserted Refractors in each box. The Orange Refractors are pretty limited, with this being # 09 / 10 in the print run.

Singleton was sent down from Spring Training to minor league camp a couple of days ago. I doubt he'll be called back up during the year, barring some kind of catastrophe or him going on an epic tear at AAA. I think the Astros' plan at 1B is to have Yulieski Gurriel learn the position. I guess we'll see how it goes.

22 March 2017

Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2017

I mentioned yesterday that we went to the Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2017 over the weekend. We had a pretty good time, and here's my rundown of the experience. The first day, we had one scheduled event, a photo op with "Weird Al" Yankovic. Because there are five people in our family, and the photo op rules stated you could only have four people in a photo, our plan was to have my wife and the kids in the picture with Weird Al on Friday and me and the kids in the picture with Stan Lee on Saturday. The line for passes was very long, but some con worker came down the line and said people who ordered Gold or VIP passes could skip the line. We had Gold passes, so we walked past thousands of people and it took about 3 minutes to get our wristbands and get in the door. Good stuff. I'm glad we paid the extra for Gold passes, as you only get so much time before the kids get out of control.

One of the first booths we saw upon getting inside the convention hall was Agnes Garbowska. She's worked on quite a few things, but I know her for her work on the My Little Pony franchise. I'd seen her name on the list of attendees, but I figured she'd be overrun with Bronies and that I wouldn't be able to get a sketch from her. I was wrong on one point, as her line was short that early in the day, and she did this Fluttershy / Philomena sketch for me. She was also overrun with Bronies, though, as the guy in front of us definitely met the stereotype. As we walked by her booth throughout the weekend, we saw more of them gathered near her booth. This is my second Fluttershy / Philomena sketch by a My Little Pony cover artist, as Mary Bellamy did one for me a while back.

We also snagged a couple of her business cards, which have some artwork and all the details about her various social media accounts. I would have liked to get more sketch commissions while I was at the convention, but it just didn't happen. It was disappointing to just get the one sketch, but at least it was from my favorite artist on the guest list. She was really nice, too, talking to the fans and interacting with us while she worked on the sketch.

We looked around a little more, but then it was time to go and check out Celebrity Row and the lines for photo ops. That area was too small, as the lines to and from photo ops doubled as the access halls for celebrity autographs. It wound up being just a solid mass of people pushing forward in an attempt to get to their photo ops on time. Our kids hated it, especially the leftmost one in the photo. He has a hard time with noise and crowds, and we were surrounded by those things.

Just as I got the wife and kids into the line for the photo, a voice came over the P.A. system saying that Stan Lee had cancelled his appearance. That meant we wouldn't be getting our photo op with him. I tried to purchase an additional Weird Al pass online with my phone, but they were sold out online. Then I went to beg my case with the people at the service desk so that I could purchase a spot in the photo with my family, but they were cash-only and my wife had the cash. I went back through the crowd to get the money at an ATM, and just as I got back through the crowd to pay, my wife texted that they were probably too close for me to get there in time. I went back out through the crowd so I could meet them at the exit, and she texted that she had gotten out of line so that we could go together. Again, I pushed through the crowd and we went to buy an additional ticket. The people at the counter said that our kids looked like they were pretty big for being three years old (kids under three weren't charged), and that we could get by on the pass we already had. So we rushed to the line again, and got in just as they closed it off. We were the last Weird Al photo in that group. I should have stood closer to him in the picture, but I have personal space issues. I'm glad that we were able to get the family photo and meet Weird Al. His music was a big part of our childhoods, and my kids know him from appearances in kids' shows and music videos we've shown them.

Once we got through the photo op, the kids were about to go into full meltdown mode, so we walked to the mall next door for lunch. There is a creek that runs through the mall, so the kids were excited about that. They played in a big fountain and spent some time looking at fish in a pond. Once we got back to the convention we went to Kid-Con, which had some face-painting and craft stuff set up, as well as an obstacle course and a Harry Potter quidditch game. The quidditch game was geared for older kids, but the Wizard Training obstacle course was about right for our children. They went through that and got certificates and capes with the Subaru logo on them. Once we got through with Kid-Con, we decided that we should go back to the house as the kids just weren't going to last much longer and all the walking had worn us out, too.

We took the trains to and from the convention, as parking costs about as much as train passes anyway, and taking the train is convenient and acts as an adventure. The train station we went to is in the middle of the street, so you only go partway across and turn to go up onto the platform. Once we got up there I did a headcount and one of the twins was missing. We started looking around for him and told the police officer standing there that we were missing a kid. While we were doing that a train rushed past, which is pretty much the worst thing to see when you've lost a kid at the train station. Luckily, we spotted him after the train passed, crying and running around on the far side of the street. We are usually very good about keeping track of everyone in parking lots and public areas, but in that split second we turned into the train station and he continued across the rest of the crosswalk. I'm glad he stayed off of the train tracks.

Late in the day on Saturday, I wanted to get Weird Al's autograph and say hello. The line was pretty short when we walked by, so we were able to pick our items and head into the booth. He looked pretty tired and frazzled after being run ragged for two days by the convention folks, but he was friendly enough. He signed a copy of his latest record for us, and we also got him to sign one for my wife's brother, who let us stay at his house over the weekend. We also left the kids home on Saturday, so we picked up some Dr. Who prints for my wife's mom, who watched all the kids on Saturday. I haven't listened to the record yet (no record player), but it does include a free download, so I'll have to get that going soon.

While the Agnes Garbowska sketch was the only original art I picked up, I did get some other things. These Leia prints from C Wilson Art are too big for my scanner, so I borrowed images from the artist's website. These are pretty cool. I might have to find frames for them and put them up in my office. He had a lot of neat stuff. The original for the older Leia was hanging in his booth. I was afraid to ask if it was for sale. I might still ask him, though. That would be a cool piece to hang on the wall. My wife made several purchases from his booth (and life) partner, artist Holly Randall of Flying Frog Illustration. I thought her work was pretty cool, but I was more drawn to his side of the booth.

Matt Loveridge had a booth set up nearby, and I was drawn in by his art style and specifically these playing card illustrations he had hanging up. Very cool stuff, and he is also a pretty nice guy. I purchased a deck of the cards, which feature superheroes on the Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces, as well as Deadpool on all of the eights and Joker and Harley Quinn on Joker cards. He also has the jester frog on a Joker to act as his business card. I may have to see if he will do a commission or two through the mail.

We saw an artist going by the name Xinophin working on a Leia sketch in between C Wilson Art/Flying Frog and Matt Loveridge, and my wife noticed she was doing quick sketches for $5. My wife is pretty reluctant to spend money on art, but she wanted to get a Nightcrawler sketch done at the convention in honor of the baby we lost a couple of weeks ago. I think it turned out nicely.

The other main event of Saturday was to get Verne Troyer's autograph. Part of the draw for buying the Gold passes was that you got autograph vouchers that could be exchanged for autographs from a list of several celebrities. You could also exchange an autograph voucher for $10 off on a photo op, which we used on my wife's pass to save a little on the Weird Al photo op. Troyer was the only celebrity on the exchange list that I was really interested in meeting, so I picked up my official photo and got in line for the signature. It took a while for him to come out and he looked pretty worn out by all of the running around, but when it was our turn to go up to the table he was super friendly, talked with us for a few seconds, and gave us fist bumps after he signed the picture. I definitely left the autograph line as a bigger Verne Troyer fan than I was previously.

And that about does it for my Salt Lake Comic Con FanX report for 2017. Supposedly the FanX in the spring is smaller and focuses more on pop culture in general, while the larger Comic Con in the fall is larger and more comic-focused. I would like to attend either convention again, but I would like it if the convention staff would put out artist alley information more in advance of the event so that I could line up commissions online beforehand. That usually works better for me with my social anxiety issues. This convention likes to roll out the guest list in waves, like it's all a big secret. Some people get off on the anticipation and excitement of all that, but I want all of the information as early as possible so I have time to plan. I had a pretty good time at this convention. There were plenty of cool cosplays to gawk at, lots of neat artists and merchandise to browse, and I got to meet a couple of famous people. We also got to ride the train, go out for ice cream, and see my wife's family. The kids especially enjoyed playing with their cousins.

21 March 2017

Leia and R2-D2 by Michael 'Locoduck' Duron

I haven't posted for a bit, so I'm going to knock out a lunchtime post today. We spent the weekend going down to Utah to see my wife's family and to attend Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2017. Once we got to the in-law's house, I realized that in the rush to get everyone out of the house, I'd left my backpack and laptop at home. While I could have written posts from drafts on my phone, that is a huge pain in the butt. I also was pretty wiped out each night, either from traveling or from walking around the convention hall. Eventually I will get all of my convention loot scanned and photographed for a post.

Yesterday was the day that Out of the Park 18 released for people who pre-ordered a copy. I wound up downloading it after work and playing well into the night, which I am paying for today. It is mostly the same game as last year, but there are some new features and obviously there are new rosters. I played two complete seasons as the Houston Astros, and won the World Series both years. I don't think I will be able to keep that run going, though, as some of my guys are getting old and expensive, and I pretty much cleared out my farm system to bring in the pieces that won me those titles. The budget is a huge deal when you're running a baseball franchise.

Today's card is another Princess Leia sketch. There was an eBay seller who was obviously clearing out a rather large collection of sketches featuring Leia as Jabba's slave. Usually I try to get sketches featuring Leia in one of her other Star Wars costumes, but this guy had a lot of popular artists at prices you don't usually see for them. I had to get a few of them to fill some artist gaps in my collection. This sketch card is from an artist that's been on my list for a long time, Michael 'Locoduck' Duron. I actually added one of Duron's licensed Star Wars sketches a while back, probably around the time I got this one.

I believe his day job is doing caricatures at a Disney park, and you can kind of see that influence in his artwork. A lot of his sketches feature chibi characters, but he also does more conventional stuff. There is a guy who does (did?) a charity event each year, gathering sketches and selling them on eBay to raise money for The March of Dimes. This sketch was done on some of that card stock, with a bonus doodle of R2-D2 on the back to go with Leia and R2-D2 on the front.

15 March 2017

A Passel of Joshi Wrestling Autographs

I still haven't done my review of the three boxes of 2017 BBM True Heart Japanese Women's Wrestling cards I opened, but that is a post that requires a lot of research and typing. I picked up a handful of joshi autographs from other years to fill out various personal collections recently.

First up is a couple of Dash Chisako ( DASH・チサコ ) cards from the 2016 BBM True Heart set. I didn't really intend to win two of these, but somehow I managed to bid on two copies of this card. I won't complain too hard, as I've been trying to get one of her autographs for a while now.

Up next is a cheki photo of Rabbit Miu ( ラビット美兎 ), who retired at the end of last year. I think I read that she decided to retire because she is getting married, which is a pretty common thing in these wrestling promotions. I think I had most of her base autographs from the 2012-2017 sets, but I wanted to get one of these autographed photos to close out the collection. She was one of the shortest wrestlers in the game at around 4'6" tall. These photos are pretty rare, and this one from 2012 is numbered # 7 / 7.

I also grabbed a couple of Ayako Hamada ( 浜田 文子 ) autographs. She has gained some fame wrestling for U.S. promotions, as well as her work in Japan and Mexico. This one from 2006 BBM True Heart is numbered # 03 / 93. The earlier BBM True Heart sets featured casual photos on the fronts and wrestling action photos on the backs, but a couple of years ago they moved away from the casual photos aside from the occasional subset.

I also got a 2016 autograph, with a couple of ink colors and some inscriptions. This one is numbered # 041 / 100. Her signature remained remarkably consistent from 2006 through 2016. I wonder if I could say the same about mine?

I picked up a few other autographs, with most of this quartet coming from the 2015 BBM True Heart set. The card in the upper left is Hiroyo Matsumoto ( 浜田 文子 ). I don't know a lot about her, but I thought it was funny that she signed as 'Lady Destroyer.' Today I learned that she got that nickname because she broke a wall during her debut match.

Next up is a 2016 base autograph of Makoto ( 真琴 ). I pulled her rare parallel autograph and a cheki photo of her from the set, but I still hadn't picked up Makoto's base autograph. It's nice to complete the set.

On the bottom left is a 2015 autograph of Meiko Satomura ( 里村 明衣子 ), probably one of the more respected joshi wrestlers. Along with Dash Chisako and Cassandra Miyagi, she won the 2016 Chikara King of Trios tournament over a team made up of Command Bolshoi, Hanako Nakamori, and Manami Katsu. I would love to attend a King of Trios tournament, but Pennsylvania is pretty far from me. This year's King of Trios event is even further away, being held in England.

The lower right autograph is Lin Byron ( リン・バイロン ), the unmasked alternate identity of the wrestler known as Ray. Ray / Lin Byron is still fighting a brain tumor, and the JWP promotion holds benefit events for her pretty regularly.

Here are the card backs. Most of the print runs are around 90 cards apiece, with some wrestlers signing more and some signing fewer. In the 2017 set the print runs have been standardized, with nearly every wrestler signing 95 cards. There are a couple of wrestlers with 89 or 90 autographs, and Ray only signed 55 cards.