HOF Spotlight: Vince Lombardi

01.16.2012

Vince Lombardi
Name: Vince Lombardi
Position: Coach
Pro Career: 1959 – 1967, 1969
Team Affiliation(s): Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins
College: Fordham
Induction Class: 1971, posthumously
HOF Profile: Click Here
 
 

Brief Bio: If there is one HOF inductee that needs no introduction, it is Vince Lombardi. The coaching mastermind that started his career too late and had it ended too early, Lombardi became and remains a symbol of competitive excellence with a surprisingly short tenure. When he took over as head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, the franchise was down on its luck and was practically forgotten. When he retired as head coach just 9 year later, the Packers had won six divisional and five NFL championships and had taken Super Bowls I and II en route to being one of the premiere teams in the league. Two years later, Lombardi nearly did the impossible again when he transformed the Washington Redskins from a hapless squad into a winning team in just one season. Lombardi never got the chance to fully realize his success with his second venture however as cancer proved a tougher opponent than any NFL team and he succumbed to the illness at just 57 years old. In all, Lombardi never had a losing season and to this day remains the namesake of the Super Bowl championship trophy.

Career Stats: 105-35-6 coaching record (.728); 9-1 postseason coaching record (.900).

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces #86

Featured Card: 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces #86. Despite a legendary career and obvious name recognition even over 40 years after his death, Vince Lombardi does not have an actual rookie card. He has been featured in numerous legends sets and even on vintage team cards as head coach. This card was chosen as an example of a modern set that does not have a cut signature or jersey/jacket swatch. Lombardi is obviously a cornerstone of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and should be a cornerstone of any HOF inductee collection, regardless of the collection’s sub-focus (autos, jerseys, RCs, etc.).

 

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Supersonic[s]

08.16.2011

In this edition of Pearl Jam meets Sports Cards, we take a look at a song off PJ’s newest studio album, Backspacer. The original song doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with basketball, but for at least one night, Eddie Vedder changed all of the lyrics to reference Seattle’s lost NBA franchise, the Supersonics.

This song could really be paired with any card of a Seattle basketball player, but I opted for this Kevin Durant rookie auto for two reasons. 1) Durant’s arrival and almost instant departure from Seattle and subsequent success in Oklahoma City are a big reason Supersonic fans lamented the loss of their team. 2) I just sold this card on eBay today.

Title: Supersonic
Album: Backspacer
Correlation: I guess I just explained this above. Eddie is a big basketball fan and although he is loyal to his original hometown Bulls, he also shows fair support for his second hometown’s now lost team.

There is once again no official music video, but I did find a pretty decent live video from the night in Seattle when Eddie changed all of the lyrics to reference the Supersonics. Enjoy.

The band might be getting older, but they still pack a lot of energy into their live shows.

Just like Kevin Durant…


Do The Evolution

06.29.2011

If you were to take a look into my office/man cave in my home, you would probably notice three things (in no particular order):

   1) I like sports cards

   2) I like music

   3) I like beer

What you may not know is that I also enjoy combining those interests whenever possible. Sometimes I drink beer while organzing cards. Sometimes I listen to music while scanning cards. Sometimes I drink beer while listening to music. And when I’m feeling particularly spry, I’ll drink beer AND listen to music AND sort cards. Holy cow! Okay, so that sort of multi-tasking isn’t exactly wife-esque, but it still counts.

No, really.

It does.

It’s in that vein that I thought I’d try something new. Actually, to be completely honest, I have to give props to mariner1 of Emerald City Diamond Gems fame for this idea. What if I took cards and music and paired them up in blog form?!? Can you imagine the possibilities? Great Scott! So that is what I will try to do over the next however-long-it-takes-me-to-run-out-of-ideas-or-get-bored-with-the-idea months. Technically I did this a few times before (Setting Forth, Here I Go Again, and Get Off My [Card]), but I like mariner1’s idea of trying to stick with Pearl Jam songs. Some of the connections may get fuzzy, but we’ll do what we can.

To kick things off, we’re going with the first card/song pair that came to mind:

Title: Do the Evolution
Album: Yield
Correlation: This one should be pretty obvious. “Do the Evolution”…Emmitt Smith early and later. Got it? If you want more correlation, consider that Emmitt Smith also wears pants, makes plans, and those ignorant Indians (Washington Redskins?) got nothing on him.

And now for your viewing pleasure (or confusion), I present the music video for “Do the Evolution”:

Now, if only I were allowed to drink while at work…


A Look Back: 1935 National Chicle

05.24.2011

Well over a year ago, I got the bright idea to take a retrospective look at some of the legendary sets in the history of football cards, particularly those that have been revisited over the years by modern card manufacturers. That first “Look Back” article explored the world of 1894 Mayo, the first all-football card set ever produced. Today, we’ll take a look at another first for the industry: 1935 National Chicle.

In 1935, the National Chicle Gum Company produced the first ever nationally distributed football card set. The entire set consisted of just 36 cards, but it appears that National Chicle intended the set to extend to 240 cards, as noted at the bottom of the card backs (see below). As the first all-football set since the 1894 Mayo set (Goudey’s 1933 Sport Kings set was multi-sport and only contained 3 football cards), nearly the entire set is made up of rookie cards, including 6 Hall of Fame RCs. The lone non-rookie is #9 Knute Rockne, who was one of those three football Sport Kings. The legendary Notre Dame coach is also the only non-NFL player to be included by National Chicle, which leads many to believe the company intended to reach into the college ranks to fill out its 240-card checklist. Each card in the set measures 2 3/8″ x 2 7/8″ and features full-color, painted imagery. The card backs, in stark contrast, contain only plain text and actually give football playing tips, rather than focusing on player statistics like modern cards. Another note of interest for the 1935 National Chicle set is that it contains 2 of, if not the 2 most coveted and valuable football cards in existence: Rockne and HOF Bronko Nagurski’s rookie card.


Two legendary cards and a rather unique card back

Interestingly enough, even with the sudden retro-happy trends of the card industry, there are only two real National Chicle throwback sets of which to speak. The first was produced in 2009 by Upper Deck and was actually an insert set within another retro-themed product, 2009 Philadelphia. The set was heralded as an authentic tribute to the original NC set. The card size and the painted look (including the generic football-themed backgrounds) were a very good representation of the legendary set. However, the checklist was anything but similar. The 100-card set consisted of 19 historical figures, 10 cars, 10 airplanes, 10 trains, and 51 football players. Other vintage card sets did include such an odd assortment of subjects, but National Chicle did not. The 2009 Philadelphia insert set also included 50 autographed parallels — all of football players.

Upper Deck’s 2009 rendition had a similar style but drastically different checklist

Topps also tried its hand at a National Chicle tribute in 2009, making it the focus of a seperate product. The base cards featured all original painted artwork…but unfortunately the similarities to the original National Chicle set seem to end there. The Topps cards were standard modern sized and the product had a very modern feel overall. Topps decided to include typical inserts such as sticker label autographs, game-used relics, various insert sets, and a slew of base card parallels. Somewhere between the dual autographs and the printing plates, the original magic of the 1935 National Chicle set seems to be completely lost. Topps did pay proper homage in one way, although I assume unintentionally so. Similar to the 1935 set, 2009 Topps National Chicle was originally intended to be a larger set than it ended up being. The base cards are numbered from 1 to 200, but the set only consists of 197 cards (including 49 RCs), with numbers 59, 99, and 191 never being printed. Obviously 98.5% of the intended checklist is a far cry from the 15% completion of the original set, but it is an interesting link between the two.


Topps’ 2009 rendition took a legendary theme and plugged it into a modern template

There has been one additional National Chicle tribute in recent memory, but from a different sport. While most companies borrow baseball designs to produce “fresh” football products, Topps actually did the opposite in 2010 when it essentially took the 2009 football product and just swapped out footballs for baseballs. The baseball card community greeted the faux throwback with mixed reactions.

For more information on the legendary and original 1935 National Chicle set, please visit these sites:
Nearmint’s Vintage Football Card Blog
Nearmint’s Vintage Football Card Gallery (excellent site for info and images of all 36 original cards)
Beckett Media


Product Review: 2011 Upper Deck

05.13.2011

My, how the mighty have fallen! Upper Deck, considered by many to be the premiere football card producer just a few years ago, has changed dramatically in two short years. In 2009, UD was producing solid set after solid set. Then, after some assumed financial and legal problems, UD lost its NBA, MLB, and NFL licenses all in a few months, and even lost its exclusivity with the NHL. The once proud company followed suit by grabbing an exclusive NCAA license, but never mustered the energy or organization to really produce anything substantial in 2010, skipping its flagship football product all together. UD appears to be making a stronger effort in 2011 and its flagship is its first attempt to turn the tides in the current year.

2011 Upper Deck box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 6-card packs for a total of 120 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $86, which translates into a moderate $0.72/card ratio. That isn’t terribly expensive, but it is actually quite a bit higher than previous UD flagship releases. The price per box is higher, the card content is significantly reduced, yet the box seems a bit larger than usual. What’s in there? Let’s find out:

2011 Upper Deck pack
Does this pack have an Auto Letterman?

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 89 (24 duplicates)
   Star Rookies: 15 (included in base total above — 0 dupes)
Parallels
   Star Rookies 15 Stripe: 1
Inserts
   20th Anniversary: 10
   Historical Programs: 4
   Conference Clashes: 6
   Dream Tandems: 4
   Class of…: 4
Hits
   Rookie Signature Letterman: 2

2011 Upper Deck2011 Upper Deck
Click image for full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In prior years, Upper Deck would come up with a base design for its baseball product, and then just copy it for its other sport releases throughout the calendar. We once again see that…in a different way. 2011 UD Football uses the same design as the now infamous (for all the wrong reasons) 2010 Baseball set. How does that work? There was no 2010 Football set and UD wasn’t brave enough to attempt a 2011 Baseball set. The design is actually pretty solid. Silver foil stamping for names and logos never scans well, but I actually don’t mind it in person. The design is a typical UD layout: clean, uncluttered, and overall crisp. The card back also has a fairly standard short bio and statistics area (all collegiate stats for obvious reasons). I usually love UD base sets, and this one follows the general template, so why am I not impressed? First, the best thing about UD sets of the past was the photography. Going with legends in their collegiate uniforms meant going to the photo archives, many from before UD was even in existence. I understand that is going to cause problems. But why are some of them SO bad? The Mike Singletary card above looks like they just scanned an old newspaper article. And speaking of photos, there are three copies of the same photograph on each legends card. Poor form, UD. The Star Rookies cards make great use of the second photo box by swapping in a team logo. That should have been done for all of the base cards since licensing is not an issue for this release. But then UD added a bunch of obstructive border boxes to the front and took away the nice graphic elements of the card back. Odd.

2nd Down, Inserts: I’m trying to stay positive with reviews (and The Hobby in general) this year, so let’s start with the good. The 20th Anniversary inserts are FANTASTIC. Maybe UD still had the original raw design templates, because the “retro” design is spot on, right down to the old UD logo and the marble texture of the borders. The card backs are also spot on with the original 1991 release, and even feature a different photo from the front. Proof that UD can still find two photographs of the same player in any given year! But after that, the inserts go downhill in a hurry. The Historical Programs set was a great concept, but poorly executed. You could have legendary coaches or “then and now” images to show consistency at the top. Instead, UD chose to feature just one player per school in the midst of a hodge-podge of over-the-top design elements. Yuck. Also, is a program with 400 total wins and nearly a .500 average really a historical program? The team selection seemed based more on recent success than anything. Conference Clashes is a throw away set. Again, not a bad concept, but also not well done. It’s so difficult to pick just one player from each school in a storied rivalry. Plus, some schools like Alabama are featured on several cards. There are even two different Alabama/Georgia cards. I didn’t realize that was even one of the most fierce rivalries in college football. The Class Of… set is also a waste. Not a great concept and overly complicated design. Just not working for me. The Dream Tandems set wasn’t bad. It had a fairly clean design, but almost came across as lazy. It doesn’t help that I don’t like cards that feature multiple players from multiple teams. The Saturday in Action is a nice set and reminds me of the Fleer In Action cards of yesteryear. Only problem? All modern sets have action photography, so these shots weren’t all that special. The parallels also confused me. The Stripes idea is another throwback to the early 90s…but in a reference to Wild Card…not UD. Way to pick an original concept. Lastly, the big cards in the product: the Rookie Signature Letterman. These are very well done and are actually quite popular. The resale value of these seem to do very well and they are some of the more popular early cards of top-tier rookies. I’m still not pumped about manu-patches, but at least the design is decent and the player photo isn’t relegated to a teeny-tiny corner.

3rd Down, Collation: I feel like in the past, this was always one of UD’s strengths over the other guys. This time, at least in my box, that wasn’t the case. I pulled a staggering 24 duplicates from my box. It doesn’t help that there are only 50 veteran base cards and all of the rookies are obviously short printed (at least compared to the vets). What also didn’t help matters? The fact that within a 50-card veterans base set, a bunch of players were featured twice. You can’t possibly tell me Upper Deck couldn’t come up with AT LEAST 50 legendary college players for its set. The last time I saw something that off was 2008 Masterpieces, which featured several players multiple times and even skipped various card numbers. At least that set had an amazing design concept to help it along. I would have loved to see way more 20th Anniversary cards and way fewer duplicates, but that’s my opinion. Also, the side of the box promised 3 Rookie Autographs in every box. I pulled exactly 2. One fewer than advertised. Granted, I also pulled twice as many Letterman Autos as advertised (I pulled 2 while only promised 1), but I still feel jipped. That’s not a good way to get back in my good graces, Mr. Deck.

4th Down, Overall Value: This is a pretty tough call. The cards are generally well designed and the Rookie Signature Letterman are pulling great resale values on eBay. Upper Deck has also become a trusted brand over the past 20 years and was (at least at one point) viewed as superior to anything else, even the historical powered Topps. But how much will someone be willing to pay for a Troy Aikman base card in a UCLA uni? And how about a John Cappelletti card with way too much design fluff? Die hard college football fans will love a product like this, especially since SAGE and Press Pass can no longer show actual college unis or logos, but I feel like the general football card collecting community still won’t care all that much. If UD had dropped the inserts and focused on producing a large legends-focused set with a great design and checklist (a la 1997 Upper Deck Legends), this could have been a golden product. But a limited and repetitive checklist and lackluster inserts just aren’t cutting it. Even the top tier rookies won’t be nearly as valuable once the first NFL-branded cards are released in a few weeks. Overall, this product is mediocre at best.

RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL FROM THE 3-YARD LINE, ON THE CENTER HASH Upper Deck had a lot going for it. The only official NCAA licensed company. 20+ years of collecting history and branding. Some of the best early rookie autograph cards. The ability to include some of the greatest players in college football history. After a long and strenuous march down the field (the past two years), Upper Deck had the ball centered on the three-yard line and was poised to get a chip-shot for 3 points on the board…and shanked it wide left. Adam Vinatieri, Upper Deck is not. The inserts lost my focus. The duplicates and repetitive base checklist got me frustrated. The missing autograph card flipped my lid. I wanted to like this product. Hell, I wanted to LOVE this product. I’ve been such a big fan of UD products for so many years, this one just couldn’t fall short. But it did. And I’m back to waiting for the first NFL releases just like every other football collector.

NEXT UP: 2011 Leaf U.S. Army All-American Bowl


UD Gets Another Amateur Exclusive

03.30.2011

This just came through the wire:

Upper Deck named official partner of USA Football
Steve Alic, Director of Communications Tue, 03/29/2011 – 9:48am

USA Football and Upper Deck announced today that the Carlsbad, Calif.-based trading card and collectibles company is an official sponsor of USA Football, its national team program and its work in youth football. The agreement marks USA Football’s first partnership with a trading card manufacturer.

USA Football is the sport’s national governing body in the United States, assembling America’s national teams for international competition. Fifty-nine (59) countries spanning five continents possess a national federation of sport dedicated solely to football.

Upper Deck’s multi-year exclusive partnership with USA Football is its most significant foray into America’s youth football community, composed of approximately 3.0 million players age 6-14. USA Football also is the official youth development partner of the NFL and each of its 32 teams.

Starting this fall, Upper Deck will produce special edition U.S. Under-19 National Team football cards to be inserted into Upper Deck’s 2011 SP Authentic Football trading card packs slated to release in September.

On Feb. 2 in Austin, Texas, America’s Under-19 National Team in football earned a 21-14 victory against a World Team composed of top teenage football players spanning eight countries. The game was telecast nationally by NFL Network. Team USA was assembled of top high school seniors who will play college football this season for prominent Division I programs including Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas, Virginia Tech and others.

Special edition Under-19 National Team trading cards will include player images from February’s Team USA vs. The World game. Team USA players’ signatures and pieces of their game-worn jerseys also will be inserted into card packs.

USA Football teaches the game’s fundamentals and inherent values through more than 80 annual football training events and innovative online skill development resources. Indianapolis-based USA Football is an independent non-profit.

“It will be Upper Deck’s privilege and honor to join forces with USA Football,” said JASON MASHERAH, Upper Deck’s vice president of Marketing. “Any effort to promote the great game of football is a step in the right direction and the opportunity to capture members of the U.S. Under-19 National Team on trading cards is one we’re very excited about.”

“We are proud to call Upper Deck a USA Football family member,” said USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK. “Our national team program and Player Academies will benefit from Upper Deck’s industry-leading work and their commitment to youth football for the millions of kids who love to stay fit by playing America’s favorite sport and gain from the game’s team-first values.”

About Upper Deck
Upper Deck is the leading sports and entertainment trading card and collectibles company. For more information on Upper Deck and its products please visit http://www.upperdeck.com.

About USA Football
USA Football, the sport’s national governing body, hosts more than 80 football training events annually offering education for coaches and game officials, skill development for players and resources for youth football league commissioners. The independent non-profit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NFL Players Association. USA Football manages U.S. national teams within the sport for international competition and awards $1 million annually in equipment grants to youth and high school football programs based on merit and need. Endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football is chaired by former NFL team executive Carl Peterson.

Sorta interesting that UD can pay all these exclusive licensing agreements for amateur cards but they couldn’t pay their NFL or MLB tabs…


Product Review: 2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot

10.28.2010

Less than a year ago, there was little dispute that Upper Deck was the king of football cards. Then, shocking to some, UD lost its NFL license after also losing its NBA and MLB licenses. Many thought UD was dead. Then they got an exclusive contract with CLC to produce NCAA products. After several product delays and much speculation, 2010 NCAA Sweet Spot is the first post-NFL football set from Upper Deck.

2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 6 8-card packs for a total of 48 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $74 (I did not buy when it first came out), which translates into a $1.54/card ratio. That is certainly not in the high-end realm, but it certainly isn’t your entry level product either. This price point is also a bit lower than previous Sweet Spot sets if memory serves me correctly.

2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot pack
These cards were sealed like a dolphins butt – watertight

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 42 (0 duplicates)
Inserts
   Sweet Swatch Jerseys: 1
   Sweet Swatch Jumbo Jerseys: 3
   Mini Helmet Autographs: 2

2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot
Click image for full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In the past, Upper Deck has made some of the absolute best designed cards around, so expectations were high for this set. I can’t say that the base design wowed me by any means, but it certainly isn’t terrible. The cards have a clean and classy feel to them and the pseudo transparent team color at the bottom of the card is a nice touch. However, much like many recent Upper Deck sets, the use of gold foil stamping for names, logos, etc. is a bit overdone. In person they don’t look terrible, but they sure don’t scan well, which can be a problem if you’re trying to buy/sell/trade online. The card backs incorporate the same theme nicely, but they are a little drab in my opinion.

2nd Down, Inserts: The only real inserts were the “hits”. The Sweet Swatch cards aren’t bad, although the use of a white background in the jersey swatch area of the card wasn’t the greatest choice, especially for the cards that have white swatches. I’m not wild about the Sweet Spot logo placement on the jumbo swatches and think overall the basic swatch design is actually nicer. The mini helmet autographs are very similar to the same autographs in prior Sweet Spot releases. Overall it’s a solid design and the concept of including the mini helmet piece is certainly interesting. They do make the card ultra thick though, so if you don’t have 180pt. toploaders laying around, that can be a problem. Considering the hits are the only real focus of this set though, they do deliver fairly well.

3rd Down, Collation: With so few cards per pack and per box, it’s almost impossible to not get the collation correct. You get exactly what is advertised in the stated odds, one jersey or autograph card in every pack. Nothing more, nothing less. My problem is that there are so many base cards in each pack. Normally I am a huge fan of base cards, but in a product like this, let’s be honest. No one cares about the base cards (unless you happen to pull your favorite player or college team). I suppose if the six hits are what drives the box price, you’re really not losing out by having too many base cards, but if you don’t like extra cards taking up space in your storage boxes, it can be a tad annoying.

4th Down, Overall Value: This is the biggest problem with this box in my opinion. Granted, I must admit that I rarely like mid-to-high end sets because every box and pack feels like a lottery ticket. When you buy a box of a lower end product, you’re not going to get the fantastic autograph cards, but you’re also not getting a crappy autograph for the price of a great one. With a product like Sweet Spot, you really run the risk of pulling nothing but scrubs in a box that still carries a hefty pricetag. From this box and from other box breaks I’ve seen online, you’re probably better off just buying the singles you want and skipping the gamble of buying a box. I was very happy that I managed to sell four of six packs from this box in my group break, but I felt bad after busting the box because I feel like my customers didn’t get a fair value for their money. Hopefully they don’t feel that way.

RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL RESULTS IN TURNOVER ON DOWNS The cards in and of themselves really aren’t bad. I won’t lie about that. My problem with this product is the lottery aspect that I mentioned above. If every pack or at least every box guaranteed a Hall of Fame or current super star autograph, that would be one thing, but that guarantee has not, and cannot, be made. In my opinion, there is just too much left to chance with this product. In essence, buying a box of 2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot is like putting an inexperienced rookie kicker in to try a game winning field goal from the far hash. There is a chance he could nail it a be the hero, but there is just as much a chance that he could shank it off the upright.

NEXT UP: 2010 Topps Chrome