Saturday, April 30, 2016

1985 St. Louis Cardinals Postcard Set

Team-issued baseball postcards that were given away and sold during the 1960s-1980s era are all but impossible to checklist accurately. There are a few reasons for this. For starters, many teams would add or subtract players from the sets as needed during the season. This was usually done informally, with few efforts made to alert collectors of any changes. Often the basic design of these sets would not change for several years, meaning a team could carry over their remaining postcard inventory to their next set the following season. Yet another twist is when a team would run out of a player's card in the middle of the season, and order up new cards that were different than the previous ones.

A collector who ordered their set in May might receive a set that was significantly different than one ordered in September.

Consider the above writing a disclaimer; I have no way of knowing if I am indeed presenting the complete 1985 St. Louis Cardinals team-issued postcard set. But here goes nothing.

My set consists of 32 black and white postcards, featuring a manager, six coaches and 25 players.  Each measures approx. 5-1/2 by 3-1/4 inches and the backs are blank. A facsimile autograph is featured at the front bottom, just below the large, posed portrait of the subject. Regarding the design of this set, this is a perfect example of a team that used the same look for several years (and has undoubtedly caused much collector confusion for over 30 years). 

The '85 Cards were a heck of a baseball team, as evidenced by their appearance in the famous "I-70 Series" versus the Royals that October. Their postcard set does not disappoint, including all the starters and stars such as Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, Tom Herr, Andy Van Slyke, John Tudor and NL MVP Willie McGee.

Speaking of the base-swiping Coleman, he is pictured here during his rookie season and would not appear on a major card release until the late-year update sets were printed. Infielder Terry Pendleton is pictured the same year as his Topps, Donruss and Fleer rookie cards. On the flip side, light-hitting veteran infielder Ivan DeJesus is pictured during his lone year with the Cardinals, where he managed to spray a mere 16 hits in 78 plate appearances. 

My postcard set features pitcher Neil Allen, who was sold to the Yankees on July 16, but does not have outfielder Lonnie Smith, who was shipped to the Royals on May 17 (I'm not sure whether Lonnie was in the set or not prior to that date, but he was the starting left fielder). 

One can see how  frustrating it may be to research postcard sets.  I'm aware of a few collectors back in the 1970s and '80s who attempted to chronicle them, but I've never been privy to their work... It would be nice to see the fruits of their labor published online.

I'd estimate the value of the 32-card set to be in the $20 to $30 range.

Click here to find Cardinals postcards on eBay
(1) Ozzie Smith, IF
(2) Red Schoendienst, CO
(3) Dave Ricketts, CO
(4) Mike Roarke, CO
(8) Hal Lanier, CO
(8) Johnny Lewis, CO
(9) Terry Pendleton, IF
(11) Ivan DeJesus, IF
(12) Tom Lawless, IF
(13) Neil Allen, P
(15) Darrell Porter, C
(16) Nick Leyva, CO
(18) Andy Van Slyke, OF
(19) Mike Jorgensen, IF
(21) Tito Landrum, OF
(22) Jack Clark, OF
(23) Tom Nieto, C
(24) Whitey Herzog, MGR
(25) Brian Harper, OF
(26) Steve Braun, OF
(28) Tom Herr, IF
(29) Vince Coleman, OF
(30) John Tudor, P
(31) Bob Forsch, P
(32) Jeff Lahti, P
(34) Danny Cox, P
(39) Bill Campbell, P
(46) Ken Dayley, P
(47) Joaquin Andujar, P
(49) Ricky Horton, P
(50) Kurt Kepshire, P
(51) Willie McGee, OF

Thursday, April 21, 2016

1989 Upper Deck Baseball Randy Johnson Proof Card

Collectors who are interested in oddball cards may also have a natural interest in collecting proof cards. To be clear: over the years, several insert and parallel sets have used the "proof" name in their title, but this is nothing more than a title... True proof cards are printed for the purpose of in-house analysis; colors are checked, designs and photos are approved, and paper stock is tested.

Proof cards, and other production items like original artwork and player contracts, first became widely available to the market in 1989 when Topps teamed with the Guernsey auction house. In an unprecedented move, Topps opened their virtually secret archives and released several hundred items to a hungry hoard of sports and non-sports card collectors (the proceeds were donated to various charities). 

In the modern internet age, proofs from all the major cardmakers of the 1980s and 90s have found their way into the market, with some examples being scarcer than others. One random example comes from Upper Deck, who released their inaugural baseball set to much fanfare back in 1989. This particular proof card features rookie fireballer Randy Johnson on the front, and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor on the back. 

I no longer collect proofs per se, and actually sold most of my proof collection a few years back when I decided to focus on collecting oddball cards... But every now and then a proof will catch my eye, and if the price is right, I might just add it to my cardboard compendium. This Johnson/Molitor proof is one such instance, which I snagged off of eBay for a very reasonable sum.

I have closely examined both the front and reverse, and both sides appear to be similar to their issued versions. One difference I did notice, though, is how dark the Molitor graphics appear on the back. While a shadow already darkens most of Molitor's face and chest in his photo, the deep and heavy application of color on the proof renders his face almost featureless. The proof is also missing the hologram that should be found on the back of an issued card. 

The Johnson/Molitor pairing is a fortunate combination for the card owner, but isn't totally random. Randy Johnson's card is number 25 in the 1989 UD set, while Paul Molitor takes card number 525. Upper Deck's uncut sheets featured cards printed in numerical order, with each sheet containing 100 cards. Therefore, if Johnson did not have his own reverse, he'd likely share it with Bob Horner (#125), Bert Blyleven (#225), Don August (#325), Kevin Bass (#425) or Paul Molitor (#525).

Proof cards are a great way to supplement a player or team collection, and anyone looking to add a truly rare item to their archives needs to be diligent with their eBay search... It will surely pay off over time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

2005 X Concepts Professional Bull Riders Set

Click here to find PBR Cards on eBay

The Professional Bull Riders circuit has had it's share of fans over the years, and is the type of sporting event that just about anyone would enjoy watching in person. The popularity of the sport, however, has never translated into the lucrative memorabilia market. The major leagues for baseball, football, basketball and even mixed martial arts all supplement their bottom lines nicely with the income made from toys, posters, cards, photographs, and just about any other item that a sports logo can be slapped on to. 

The PBR does make the occasional deal with toy companies, as was the case in 2004 when they partnered with California toy maker X Concepts to produce a line of miniature bull and rider figurines (X Concepts is best known for their "TECH DECK " line of miniature skateboards). Each retail set featured one bull, rider and a trading card that had a design very similar to a set of PBR cards they would release the following year.

The PBR set that X Concepts released in 2005 was issued in sealed boxes that contained 24 packs. Each pack featured seven cards (six base cards and an insert). The base set is complete at 100 cards, with 50 of them featuring riders (with at least one bullfighter and barrel man thrown in for good measure) and 50 featuring bulls. Half of the cards portray action shots, while the other half portray closeup portrait-style shots.

In addition to the 100 base cards, there's a 23-card insert set of PBR event winners that is found one per pack. The insert set has a nice uncluttered design, with the PBR logo embossed on the front of each. A glossy coating covers the PBR logo and subject's name across the right side, as well as the bull and rider in the photo. The background of the photo is rendered in muted grey tones, with a matte finish that gives the card an impressive contrast when viewed near a light.

The second insert set is much harder to find. The box states that it's a set of six "cards featuring PBR highlights." Oddly enough, the card I found in my box featured rider Adriano Moraes, with nary a highlight mentioned whatsoever. These six cards have color photos imposed on a colorful prism background (the 1990s definition of a prism). 

My box of 24 packs contained a complete set of the 23-card event winners, as well as the Moraes highlight card from the chase set that is apparently seeded one per box. Surprisingly, the base cards were not collated nearly as well as the inserts; of the 144 base cards found in the box, I managed to get just 83 different of the possible 100. A whopping 61 of the cards were duplicates, and a bull named "Hell's Bells" showed up five times. 

As much as I like the designs found within the insert sets, I have to say I'm indifferent when it comes to the base cards. Each front has a cowhide border design, along with the PBR logo, subject's name, job description and card number. Backs contain some biographical data and more cowhide borders. The high-tech/cowhide motif doesn't quite seem to work.

You can still be an oddball card collector if you decide to pass on these cards. But if you know someone who interested in pro bull riding, or would otherwise like a card featuring a glamour shot of "Hell's Bells," a box of these may just be the unique gift you're looking to give. Factory sets were also printed, and feature all 129 cards in one whack. An unopened box should trade in the $10 range today, while a factory set will cost $20 to $30.

Click here to find PBR Cards on eBay

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Results of the Topps NOW Baseball Alert

The window for ordering yesterday's four Topps NOW cards is closed. I felt the offering of four cards in one day was an interesting scenario, seeing as how none of them featured a rookie, and I loosely guessed what the production numbers would wind up being.

For starters, I pointed out that two of the cards pictured superstar players; Bryce Harper and Jackie Robinson. I predicted that Topps would sell several hundred of each player, and indeed, 759 of Jackie Robinson's cards were sold. Bryce Harper surprised me a bit, as a whopping 1,286 of his cards were ordered (by far the largest print run for a veteran)... When you compare that to the 782 examples printed of Harper's first card just ten days before, one starts to see that this Topps NOW program is really gaining some steam.

Phillies pitcher Vincent Velasquez and Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia were the two other players featured on NOW cards yesterday, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to know that their cards would be ordered in smaller quantities. I felt that Velasquez' card would have a higher print run than Garcia's, because Velasquez is a strikeout pitcher near the beginning of his MLB career; Garcia, on the other hand, has been in the league since 2008 and has yet to achieve All-Star status. Predictably enough, Velasquez' print run was 557, while Garcia's was right at an even 300. Yesterday, I felt that Garcia had the potential to be at or near the lowest print total for all NOW cards, and my guess wasn't too far off. Garcia's print run of 300 cards is a tad bit more than the four lowest; Albert Pujols (244), Chris Davis (266), Francisco Liriano (266) and Nolan Arenado (268).

Ten of those 300 Jaime Garcia cards are mine. It will be interesting to see how low-printed cards like this fare over the next several months, and I have a feeling that set collectors will be the primary force to drive up their value. At a cost of five dollars per card, I'm really not too worried!

Click here to hunt for Topps NOW cards on eBay


Friday, April 15, 2016

2016 Topps NOW Baseball Alert!

Here at the Oddball Card Collector Blog, we're not really in the business of tracking breaking hobby news. We did notice today, however, that Topps has decided to release four new NOW cards in one day! Phillies pitcher Vincent Velasquez, Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson are each the subject of their own NOW card, available for sale on the Topps website over the next 24 hours.

As we mentioned in our previous Topps NOW post, the rookie cards are the ones being purchased in the largest quantities. As of today, the four cards with the lowest print runs feature four veteran players: Albert Pujols (244), Chris Davis (266), Francisco Liriano (266) and Nolan Arenado (268). 

Getting back to the four cards that were released today, none of them are rookies. Bryce Harper and Jackie Robinson both reside in the superstar category, and Topps will probably sell several hundred of each. The most intriguing cards today, regarding their possible small print runs, are pitchers Vincent Velasquez and Jaime Garcia. The Phillies' Velasquez will potentially be a great strikeout pitcher for years to come, and has pitched almost flawlessly in his first two starts of 2016. His Topps NOW card is not branded as a rookie because of his inclusion in the 2015 Topps Update and Heritage High Series sets. While I believe the number of NOW cards sold of Velasquez will suffer because they lack the rookie designation, I reeeaally think the Jaime Garcia cards will be overlooked.

I'm going out on a limb by predicting that today's Jaime Garcia card has the potential to have the lowest print run of all the NOW cards thus far. This limb is only about six inches above the ground, I believe, and is a pretty safe bet. I certainly don't see the print run being anything above 300. Garcia is a solid pitcher, but is not an All-Star and is already playing his eighth season in the Majors. 

I'll revisit this post tomorrow to update how my predictions fared. Stay tuned, NOW fans!

Click here to hunt for Topps NOW cards on eBay

Monday, April 11, 2016

2016 Topps NOW Baseball Cards

You may have noticed these past few years that Topps has experimented with several modern ways to release baseball cards; virtually all of these methods relate to the internet, whether it be their semi-closed eTopps program, eBay Topps Vault store, or exclusive classic player reprint sets available only on the Topps website.

The cardmaker's newest baseball offering is a unique idea called "Topps NOW." Every day of the MLB season Topps will release one or two cards, each featuring a player (or team) that had a notable performance the day before. For example, the first card in the set features Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano, who struck out ten Cardinals and notched a win on April 3... The NOW card commemorating this feat was made available for purchase on the Topps website for 24 hours, on April 4 beginning at noon. Shortly after an offering closes, Topps announces the print run on their website and mails the cards out to the buyers (266 Liriano cards were printed, by the way). As of this writing, the program is still getting started and just twelve different cards have been released. 

Anyone with a Paypal account or credit/debit card can order a NOW card from the Topps website after registering. This same one-time registration also allows you to purchase any other products offered on the Topps website. One feature of this program is that you can order just the cards you want, assuming you do it during their 24-hour window. The website gives you the option of ordering one card for $9.99, five cards for $29.95, ten cards for $49.99 or twenty cards for $79.99; shipping is included in these prices.

Cards are the standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" size, and are printed on 16-point glossy card stock. Fronts feature borderless color photos that were taken the day of the actual event, with a line of text across the bottom that tells what the highlighted event is. Card backs are simple, with a paragraph detailing the event and any relevant backstory. 

My opinions are as follows: I think the cards are nice and a welcome addition to the hobby. These can be considered a new generation of oddball cards in an era where you no longer get them from the barber shop or a local patrolman. It may be unrealistic to complete a set of these, but Topps welcomes you to buy just the cards you want (and the quantities you want).

Regarding the potential value of the NOW cards, I think it's safe to say that many of these  will hover near their issue price for a while, and some will dip well below the issue price as time goes on. Even though a mere 266 Francisco Liriano NOW cards were printed, the supply may still outweigh the demand in today's age of the "super short print" card. The ones that have the most potential for a price increase are the rookies, which feature the appropriate "RC" logo on the fronts. Even though the rookie cards are being ordered in larger quantities by speculators -- 1,350 cards of Astros prospect Tyler White were printed -- I believe the rookies still hold the potential for the greatest price increases. Future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols has the distinction thus far of having the card with the lowest print run (244); even so, his NOW card may get lost in the shuffle of all the other limited cards a Pujols collector might chase these days.

I've been keeping an eye on the daily NOW releases, waiting to pull the trigger on a card that catches my interest. Today was that day. I finally settled on the twelfth card to be issued, which features Rangers rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara. Called up at just 20 years of age, Mazara went 3 for 4 with a home run in his Major League debut; I also noticed, several hours after I ordered the cards, that he went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored this evening... I have a feeling that he may edge out Tyler White and take the crown for the most NOW cards issued. (Update: yep, 1,427 Mazara cards were printed)

I probably won't be throwing tons of money at this set. There are still hundreds upon hundreds of oddball sets waiting to be added to the archives, and I'll continue to dedicate much of my spare time to tracking as many of them down as possible. Even so, I will look forward to my daily email from Topps, informing me of the new NOW cards that show up for sale (I would recommend that all collectors put themselves on the Topps email list, which informs you of all their current oddball releases). 

Heck, maybe maybe the profits I gain from these Nomar Mazara cards will help land me that 1980 TCMA Reading Phillies set I've had my eye on for years!

Click here to hunt for Topps NOW cards on eBay

Sunday, April 10, 2016

1988 Smokey Bear San Diego Chargers Set

Click here to find Smokey Card Sets on eBay

The San Diego Chargers were the subject of a "Smokey Bear" fire prevention set that was released in 1988. This was the second Chargers Smokey set issued over a a string of four consecutive years, from 1987 through 1990. All of these sets feature cards that are over three times larger than the standard size of 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.

The '88 Smokey Chargers cards measure 5 by 8 inches. They are printed on thin cardstock (a stacked complete set measures less than 1/2 inch thick), and a set is complete at 52 cards. Incredibly, 17 of the 52 cards are shortptrints; cards would be withdrawn from distribution as players were injured or left the team. The entire fronts of the cards are filled by candid, game day photos, with the only borders being a rectangular pinstripe that frames each card edge. The only other graphics found on card fronts are all in the lower right corner; the subject's name and position, along with a small Smokey Bear head and Chargers football helmet. Backs each feature a prominent drawing that promotes fire safety, as well as a few biographical points for the person who is the subject of the card. The sponsors are listed across the back bottom, and include the Chargers, Forest Service, U.S.D.A., California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Prevention, and the Bureau of Land Management, U.S.D.I. Cards are not numbered except for player uniform numbers.

There is much to like about these cards, especially when one considers the landscape of the football collecting hobby back in 1988. Topps was still the only game in town in '88, though things would change quickly just one year later with the welcome arrivals of ProSet and Score... But until these two new football card makers would go on to forever raise the standard of action photography on every card front, collectors were stuck with the usual mediocrity of Topps and their endless parade of helmetless, sitting or standing player photos (look up any Eric Dickerson or Tony Dorsett "regular" Topps card released during the 1980s and you'll see what I mean). 

The Forest Service used this design for several sports-related sets over the course of roughly three years, from 1988 through 1990. This somewhat timeless design ranks among one of my personal all-time favorites, and was used for football, baseball, and even a small set of rodeo cards in 1990. A few months ago we featured the 1988 Smokey St. Louis Cardinals set, which shares a similar motif.

The fact that there are 52 different Chargers players and staffers found in this set makes it a must-have for fans who are looking to collect obscure names that were underrepresented in the nationally-released football sets. Two such names are Head Coach Al Saunders and Chairman of the Board Alex G. Spanos, since Topps did not include staff cards in their football sets. Quarterbacks Mark Hermann and Mark Vlasic are both pictured before their rookie cards were printed in national sets. Tight end Rod Bernstine is also pictured a year before his ProSet rookie card was released, and fan-favorite receiver Wes Chandler is pictured a year after his last Topps card was issued.

There is one known variation card found in the set, featuring Chairman of the Board Alex G. Spanos. The first printing of his card incorrectly states on the back that he purchased the team in 1987; the corrected version of the card gives the year as 1984. The incorrect version is the scarcer of the two and is one of the more valuable cards in the set.

The shortprints are obtainable, meaning a set must have them to be considered complete. Generally speaking, the '88 Smokey Chargers cards don't show up in any significant quantities on eBay; I would not consider these cards scarce, but similar to many other oddball sets from this era, the cards were dissipated to collectors and non-collectors alike many moons ago and tend to stay tucked away. When a set comes available, I'd expect the value to be in the $35 to $50 range.

Click here to find Smokey Card Sets on eBay

(2) Ralf Mojsiejenko, P
(9) Mark Hermann, QB (Shortprint)
 (10) Vince Abbott, K
(13) Mark Vlasic, QB
(14) Dan Fouts, QB
(20) Barry Redden, RB
(22) Gill Byrd, CB/S
(23) Danny Walters, CB (Shortprint)
(25) Vencie Glenn, FS
(26) Lionel James, WR
(27) Daniel Hunter, CB (Shortprint)
(34) Elvis Patterson, CB
(36) Mike Davis, SS (Shortprint)
(40) Gary Anderson, RB
(42) Curtis Adams, RB
(43) Tim Spencer, FB
(44) Martin Bayless, SS
(50) Gary Plummer, ILB
  (52) Jeffrey Jackson, ILB
(54) Billy Ray Smith, OLB
(55) Steve Busick, ILB (Shortprint)
(56) Chip Banks, OLB (Shortprint)
(57) Thomas Benson, ILB (Shortprint)
(58) David Brandon, OLB
(60) Dennis McKnight, G
(61) Ken Dallafior, G
(62) Don Macek, C
(68) Gary Kowalski, T
(69) Les Miller, DE
(70) James Fitzpatrick, G/T
(71) Mike Charles, NT
(72) Karl Wilson, DE
(74) Jim Lachey, T (Shortprint)
(75) Joe Phillips, DE
(76) Broderick Thompson, G/T
(77) Sam Claphan, G/T (Shortprint)
(78) Chuck Ehin, NT (Shortprint)
(79) Curtis Rouse, G/T (Shortprint)
(80) Kellen Winslow, TE
(81) Timmie Ware, WR (Shortprint)
(82) Rod Bernstine, TE
(85) Eric Sievers, TE
(86) Jamie Holland, WR
(88) Pete Holohan, TE (Shortprint)
(89) Wes Chandler, WR (Shortprint)
(92) Dee Hardison, DE (Shortprint)
(94) Randy Kirk, LB
(96) Keith Baldwin, DE (Shortprint)
(98) Terry Unrein, NT (Shortprint)
(99) Lee Williams, DE
(NNO) Al Saunders, Head Coach
(NNO) Alex G. Spanos, CB/President (ERR, 1987)
(NNO) Alex G. Spanos, CB/President (COR, 1984)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

1995 Slapshot Images Ltd. Memorial Cup Souvenir Set

A company by the name of Slapshot Images Limited, which wasn't around for very long, produced a 110-card boxed set in 1995 to commemorate junior hockey's yearly Memorial Cup. The format of the Memorial Cup tournament has existed in a few different forms since it's inaugural year of 1919, and the current four-team format has been in place since 1983; the QMJHL, OHL and WHL are each represented by their championship-winning team, and a pre-determined host team/city from one of the three leagues adds the fourth. 

The four teams that participated in the 1995 "Chrysler" Memorial Cup were the Detroit Junior Red Wings (OHL), Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Hull Olympiques (QMJHL) and Kamloops Blazers (WHL). The Blazers happened to be the host team for that year's tourney, but would have played regardless as the champions of the WHL; the Brandon Wheat Kings were invited to play due to their runner-up status in the WHL. At tournament's end, Kamloops would win the Cup (the hosting city has won the contest nine times since the current format began in 1983). 

The cards that Slapshot Images produced for this event were packaged in boxes that were sealed with clear plastic and individually numbered on the fronts, with an total print run of 5,000 sets. Of the 110 cards found in the set, 100 feature players and coaches, four are team checklists, three are league championship cards and three are league season-summary cards. An extra card, which features a 1995 calendar and contact info for Slapshot Images in Kitchener, Ontario is also found in the box but is not part of the set.

Both the fronts and backs of the cards feature a color photo of the player or coach, along with a simulated wood grain background. Team names are prominently displayed along the front left borders, and a small Memorial Cup logo is found at each bottom right. Cards are numbered on the backs.

As would be expected, the set is loaded with future NHL talent. Hockey fans will be familiar with names such as Shane Doan, Chris Dingman, Bryan Berard, Peter Worrell, Colin White, Darcy Tucker and future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Kamloops coach Don Hay and Detroit coach Paul Maurice are also notable names found in the set.

As much as I'd love to love this set, I'll go ahead and say I like it. Serial numbered oddball sets are always a nice addition to the collection, and this set fills an underappreciated niche that is mid-90s junior hockey. On the downside, the wooden background isn't as attractive as it could be, and the photo quality on the card fronts leave much to be desired; it appears as if many of the photos are grainy "stills" captured from a video monitor (we're talking about an analog, washed-out 1990s monitor as opposed to the ultra-high resolution 4K screens you might buy today). Regardless, I'm glad to own the set and believe one would be a great addition to any hockey collection. I'd estimate a current value of $12 to $25 for a sealed set, with the large range due to the fact that these sets don't show up for sale every day.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The 2016 Las Vegas Vacation

I usually write my blog entries in a reference-based style, though I try to make the posts somewhat lighthearted and entertaining. As I notice my blog hits increase, thanks to the help of fellow card bloggers like Jason Presley, Night Owl and Fuji, I might be inclined to add the occasional posts that are semi-related to oddball cards, or maybe sports in general.

Consider this post one of those.

My wife and I love driving from our home in Southern Oregon to Las Vegas every year, usually around March or April. Lake Tahoe, Death Valley and Las Vegas are all beautiful this time of year, and hotel/car rental prices are actually quite reasonable when one sneaks around before the summer tourism rush begins.

For the second year in a row we decided to stay at the Main Street Station Hotel and Casino, which is located one block away from the "old strip" on Fremont Street. Our room was on the ninth floor, and features an excellent view of Fremont. Here's the view from the room, including some reading material I brought for the slow times (wow, don't those new '89 Score baseball cards look kinda... ummm... boring):

Of course, there's plenty to do in Vegas. One great place that's always good for treasure hunting is a huge-ass store called the Antique Mall of America. It's the size of a major department store and is filled with booths from hundreds of different vendors. I always promise myself not to buy random things that will clutter the house; a promise that was in full effect on this trip. I did wind up buying four small oddball sets from the antique mall that were needed for the collection: A 1995 Slapshot Images Memorial Cup hockey set (numbered 1,716 out of 5,000 sets), a 1992 MAXX/Gargoyles Winston Cup All-Pro set (numbered 582 out of ??? sets), and 1993 Stadium Club boxed sets of the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. The fifth item in the photo below is a stack of 2003 Ricky Craven promo cards. All five items cost a total of $24.87.

While perusing a Vegas Target store later that day, I came across this Fairfield football box which contained 20 packs for 20 bucks. Teasing me right in the front window was a 2014 Topps Valor jumbo pack, which grabbed my interest right away as I'm an Odell Beckham collector. Five packs of 2014 Score were also in the box, giving me a decent chance at some Odell rookie mojo. 

Here are the packs that my twenty bucks purchased:

The biggest hit of the box surprisingly came from one of the two 2013 Upper Deck Notre Dame packs, which yielded an autograph of alumnus John Scully (the odds of pulling an auto from that series is 1 in 24 packs). The Charlie Whitehurst jersey card is the extra "hit" card as advertised on the front of the box, and came in a firm penny sleeve. Sadly, there were no Odell cards anywhere to be found.

Click here to find 2014 Football Boxes on eBay

Two events we purchased tickets for during our stay were the Penn & Teller magic show, and the New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs spring training game held at Cashman Field in Las Vegas on March 31 (the two teams also played a second game the next day). Penn & Teller were amazing as expected, and I'd call it a must-see if you're in the area. The Mets vs. Cubs game was my first trip to Cashman, and I'll admit it's the nicest Minor League park I've seen to date. 

I was anxious to try out my new SLR camera, a Nikon D3300 with the Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm lens. Based on the photos I took that evening, my opinion is that anyone can take professional-quality photographs with the right equipment. I took the photo of Curtis Granderson in the batter's box (found at the top of this post), as well as the four photos below of Jason Heyward, David Wright, Kris Bryant and Mets pitching prospect Paul Sewald. It's interesting to see that both teams wore their blue jerseys that evening:

I should mention that I picked up three Las Vegas 51s team sets from the Cashman gift shop. For $3 each, I was able to add the 2009, 2011 and 2012 sets to my collection. Lots of familiar names are found here to include J.P. Arencibia, Brett Lawrie, Travis d'Arnaud, Anthony Gose, Adeiny Hechavaria and Yan Gomes.

Click here to find Las Vegas Baseball Sets on eBay

Vegas can be fun, even without drinking or gambling (though I did turn $10 into $16 at the blackjack table). But I'm glad to be home, and my next post will return to the usual chronicling of oddball sets. Thanks for allowing me to share my vacation memories, and let's keep dredging up the oddball stuff!