Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Cheap Fun Breaks Mystery Box Break

For the second month in a row, I decided to purchase a Mystery Box from Cheap Fun Breaks:

Despite getting close many times in the past, I’ve never actually dabbled with mystery boxes. Many collectors/breakers have tried to create them and sell them over the years, but I can’t recall any that any have had lasting success. I think the biggest issue with these products is that you rarely have an accurate idea of what types of packs you’ll be getting, so there’s always the risk of lots of junk packs and non-licensed brands. It also seems like mystery boxes rarely include hobby packs. Couple these factors with trepidation over legitimacy and trustworthiness, and it’s usually best to stay away.


I have been ordering hobby boxes from Blowout Cards since 2013, and on the rare occasion I join a group break, I usually use Cheap Fun Breaks, run by JBrooks and Houdini who are affiliated with Blowout. All experiences with Blowout have been great, so I took a stab at a Mystery Box in July, and I was very happy with the contents. I ordered again for August and decided to recap on the blog.


Each box is $200, which is in the ballpark of what you’ll fork over for a hobby box these days. The mystery boxes typically contain an assortment of hobby packs from very recent releases. You are promised at least $200 in “sealed” value, and you will have a good idea of what types of products will be included, so there’s no real surprises. For August, potential packs included: 2021 Topps Chrome, box hobby and jumbo, 2021 A&G, 2021 GQ, 2021 Museum Collection, 2021 Bowman Sapphire, 2021 S2 Jumbo, 2021 Bowman hobby and jumbo, 2021 Heritage, and a few other older releases. 


Here's what I ended up with:


Not a bad mix! There were a few certain packs that I hoped to see, and I was perfectly fine with a big chunk of Topps Chrome.


I did some math (cross multiplying is sweet) to calculate my odds of getting some hits. Topps Chrome hobby has an autograph in every 12 packs, so with seven packs, I could expect .6 hits, if you will. In TC jumbo, you’ll find five autographs in each 12 pack box, so three packs should yield me 1.25 hits.


Allen & Ginter has three hits in each hobby box of 24 packs. With four packs, I should expect .5 hits, so it would be fair to expect a 50/50 shot at a hit.


Here’s how it went:

As you can see, I was very lucky and beat the odds big time with both Topps Chrome and Ginter. Nothing here is too spectacular, and none of the rookies are big names. Regardless, it’s always fun to pull some rookie autographs as you never know where these guys careers may take them. It’s also nice to pull some hits out of a mystery box. I have full trust in the product, but it never hurts to have some reassurance that there’s no funny business with pack searching, or something of the like.


The 2021 Topps design works much better with Chrome than it did on the paper cards, in my opinion. The silver borders are clean. On card autographs are also a big plus. The Ginter hits are underwhelming, although the Chapman relic does have a pinstripe, if you look closely. Always nice to get more than just a white patch on a relic. Aside from hits, I also pulled a few other noteworthy cards:


Some refractors from some “veterans,” including a Pirate who is having *abysmal* season.

A few noteworthy rookies.



These two cards may very well be the best pulls from the box. Both players have showed flashes of excellence this year, albeit very inconsistent. Bohm has been terrible defensively and the Phillies have had a hard time justifying keeping him on the hot corner. His power has also been down, but he’s made a ton of hard contact and by no means has been an easy out. It’s always exciting to pull some rookie parallels, so I’ll be stashing these away.


To wrap it up, this was a really fun rip. I’m well aware that I got lucky and beat the odds with hits. I’ll do my best to prevent that from creating a bias. Bottom line, there are less fun ways to burn through $200 in this hobby and I fully endorse grabbing Cheap Fun Breaks Mystery Box. Thanks to JBrooks and Houdini for creating the opportunity to purchase and enjoy these boxes.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

June and July Mail Roundup

At this rate, this blog is amounting to monthly "Mail Roundup" posts, which will have to do for now. Life is getting very busy, and I'm starting to learn how much free time I was granted during my quarantine-life. Life is back to normal (for now) and it really has been tough to sit down and write.

It's still better than the blog dying all together.  I think writers in the blogging community put a lot of pressure on themselves to write consistently and often. Two years ago I made the commitment to write one post a month, and I've more or less stayed true to that, and frankly it's something I'm proud of. 

The other good news is, while I'm having a hard time getting in front of the computer to write, I'm still collecting at a decent pace and I'm making it a point to carve out time for my hobbies, and I've had some fun maildays that are worth showing off here. And, since I missed a post in June, I'm back to round up two months worth of card mail.

Bryan Reynolds - 2020 Topps Chrome
(L) Sepia
(R) Negative

Some exciting news, I've decided to chase after the 2020 Topps Chrome Bryan Reynolds rainbow, and I've gotten off to a nice start. I did the same for Reynold's 2019 Topps Chrome Rookie Card (and since that post, I landed the super), and I'm still one card away from wrapping up that rainbow. 

It's been about a year since the release of 2020 Topps Chrome, and I certainly did not help myself by waiting. I haven't seen anything lower than the gold #/50 listed on eBay or COMC. Aside from two Pirates collectors who each have one of the Orange #/25, there is no trace of anything out there that I need. At this point I'll just hope that a big breaker does a 100 case break of 2020 Topps Chrome and maybe some of these will surface...

Until then, here's what I've got so far:

(L) X-Fractor
(C) Prism Refractor
(R) Refractor

(L) Blue #/299
(C) Purple #/199
(R) Pink

(L) Gold Wave #/50
(R) Green Wave #/99

The best part about building this rainbow: Bryan Reynolds cards are pretty dang affordable. Don't forget that this dude was the starting Center Fielder  for the National League All-Star team this year. 

Some more Buccos:
Nick Gonzales - 2020 Bowman Draft Refractor

I'll wager that you'll see a lot more of Nick Gonzales on this blog in the future. Since last posted about him in May, he has moved from the #32 prospect in baseball to #29.  This is my second copy of this card, and I'll likely grab a few more. He has been playing this season in High-A, and I imagine we'll see him rise through the ranks quickly next year. 

Travis Swaggerty - 2018 Bowman Draft Gold Refactor #/50

Another top prospect in the Pirates system, Travis Swaggerty. Excited to pick up my first gold refractor of his. 

Elijah Hughes - 2020 Panini Contenders Draft Picks Autograph #89
Elijah Hughes - 2020 Panini Contenders Draft Picks Autograph Variation #89 

Grabbed a two autos from Elijah Hughes, one of the best Syracuse guards in recent memory. These were a few bucks apiece. Both cards are #89 on the checklist, so one of these is a variation but I honestly don't know which is which. 

A few more hoops cards:

(L) LeBron James - 2009-10 Panini "The Franchise" Insert, Artist Proof #/199
(R) Kobe Bryant - 2009-10 Panini Artist Proof #/199

The two cards above actually came as a lot, and therefore I think I got a fair deal on them. Lots are typically not advised for sellers hoping to maximize profit, so I feel good about snagging these as a package.

(L) Kobe Bryant - 2018-19 NBA Hoops Silver #/199
(C) LeBron James 2016-17 NBA Hoops Silver #/99
(R) LeBron James 2017-18 NBA Hoops Silver #/199

In the May Mail Roundup, I talked about how I'm hoarding LeBron serial numbered cards. I'm doing the same with Kobe. There's not a specific strategy behind this. Both of these guys are legends, and some day I'd love to have a box full of short printed cards of two of the best players of all time. Maybe it will bring back great memories. Maybe it will pay for my kid's tuition. Who knows. 

That's it for this month. It was another great month of card mail. Thanks for following along.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

May Mail Roundup

Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day Weekend. I've been enjoying some quiet time off of work. I'm able to do that thanks to the brave men and women who fight to keep us safe, and I'm very grateful for that. 

With a quiet Sunday at home, I was able to get catalogue all of the cards I acquired in May - let's take a look:

Christian Pache - 2021 Bowman 1991 Chrome Throwback - Gold #/50

Readers of the blog know I have a soft spot for gold refractors. I'm also a huge fan of the 1991 bowman throwbacks, which I personally think look great in chrome. I picked this up through a Twitter sale. Christian Pache has the tools to be a star, but he's got a a long way to go to get there.

(L) Nick Gonzales - 2020 Bowman's Best Autograph
(R) Quinn Priester - 2019 Bowman's Best Autograph

In another Twitter purchase, I grabbed two Pirates prospect autographs in one deal. I haven't been collecting many autographs these days, so it was nice to pick up two top prospects at a reasonable price. This is my first auto from Gonzales - more to come on him...

Bryan Reynolds - 2016 Bowman Draft
Mitch Keller - 2019 Topps - Gold #/2019

I have several copies of Bryan Reynold's first Bowman card from 2016, and I'll take even more copies when I see them on TCDB. I might be weird, but I love having multiple copies of my favorite cards.

(L) Wil Crowe - 2017 Bowman Draft
(C) Travis Swaggerty - 2018 Bowman Draft
(R) Quinn Priester - 2019 Bowman Draft 

On the subject of first Bowman cards, I grabbed a several from the same TCDB trade in which I acquired the Reynolds and Keller cards. Wil Crowe is enjoying his first season in the majors as we speak. Several injuries in the rotation at the big league level expedited Crowe's timeline, and he's been so-so. The arm talent is there, but he's struggled with efficiency. 

(L) Nick Gonzales - 2020 Bowman Draft
(R) Nick Gonzales - 2020 Bowman Draft Chrome Refractor

Nick Gonzales, the #7 overall pick in the 2020 draft, is the Pirates top prospect. He currently sits as the #32 prospect in the MLB. It will be a another year or two before we see him, but his elite hands and bat speed have generated plenty of excitement among scouts and Pirates fans alike. 

I acquired the paper base card on the left from a TCDB trade, and the chrome refractor was another Twitter sale. The refractor scanned in a really cool way with that shimmer look - but it's just a standard base refractor.

Luka Doncic - 2017-18 NBA Hoops RC

Believe it or not, I actually pulled off a TCDB trade for this Luka rookie. I was sent a trade by a gentleman in Texas for a few Astros cards. I noticed he had this for trade (a rare sight) and we negotiated for a bit. I ended up sending him a great haul, including two Altuve rookies. It was a win-win, and by far by highest value TCDB trade. I'm really, really stoked to add this to my collection.

2019-20 NBA Hoops - Darius Bazley RC

My last TCDB trade piece is this Darius Bazley rookie. Bazley and I have a very rocky past, but we're on better terms now. He was committed to Syracuse back in 2018, and would have been one of our most highly-touted recruits since Carmelo Anthony. I believe he was #9 recruit in the country. 

Several months after his commitment, he decided to skip college and play a year in the G-League. He was one of the first players to do so, and blazed a trail for many young amateurs who are doing the same in his wake. It's been a few years and I'm finally starting to allow some forgiveness. Bazley has found a nice little role with OKC, and I'm happy for him. Maybe soon I can forgive him for good. 

2020-21 NBA Hoops - LeBron James Premium Stock #/199

2019-20 NBA Hoops - LeBron James Premium Stock #/199

LeBron James - 2009-10 Panini Studio Masterstrokes - Proof #/199

I've developed somewhat of a LeBron James PC of late - I've been trying to grab as many short printed cards of his as I can. After watching the boom of Jordan cards earlier this year, I started to wonder if the same thing will happen with LeBron in 20 years. If it does, it would be really cool to have a bunch of short printed, serial numbered cards in a dusty old box somewhere. 

Not to mention, I'm a closet LeBron fan. I say "closet" because I sort of just... admire him from afar. I was definitely annoyed by his move to Miami in 2012, but that was a long time ago, and we all would have done the same thing in his shoes. The number of LeBron haters that exist present day really surprises me. Then again, I think Jordan had his fair share of haters in the 90's too. LeBron, to me, is the ideal role model. The dude is seriously squeaky clean. He's not a criminal and he's not a cheater. He's a great teammate, a great family man, and he's done a ton for his community. He's also a winner.

Anyhow - about the cards -  I grabbed three LeBron cards, all numbered to 199. Anything that's a shorter print is likely out of my price range. All were bought on eBay. I'm not being too picky about the product or the year, I'd love to get a variety. I don't have a specific number of cards or a target I'm shooting for - I'll just keep grabbing these until I get bored with it. It's been a fun chase so far. 

Thanks for stopping by, Happy MDW!

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Knicks are in the Playoffs

It's been eight years since I've been able to say those words. It feels great. I was hoping to get this post up prior to the series start, but I'm a little late and the Hawks already have a 1-0 lead. Last night's loss was brutal, it really felt like the Knicks were in control starting in the middle of the third quarter. A would-be turnover eluded R.J. Barrett, and it turned into a momentum-swinging three pointer by Bogdan Bogdanovic with 55 seconds remaining. 

Despite the loss, it was still thrilling to watch the Knicks in the postseason. No one, myself included, expected the Knicks to finish over .500 or contend for a playoff spot. The Knicks truly are playing with house money, and I keep reminding myself of that. I'm also very optimistic about Game Two at MSG on Wednesday night. The home court advantage is very real, and I don't see them losing two straight at home. 

The blog crowd seems to be 75% baseball fans, so I try to keep my basketball posting to a minimum. This is a special occasion. My Knicks PC is pretty small, mostly because we haven't many players worth collecting. It seems like the leadership in place has a plan to win, and the team is becoming more collectible.

My scanner is jacked up, so we'll have to settle for cell phone photos today:

R.J. Barrett - 2019-20 NBA Hoops RC

Julius Randle is undoubtedly the star and the leader of the team, but I believe that the team goes as R.J. goes. Randle has been attracting a ton of attention from opposing defenses and it frees up a lot of space for other scorers. There are plenty of solid role players, but R.J. has star potential. 

The remainder of my R.J. rookie cards - I have at least one copy from most major releases, aside from Prizm.

I also have a few R.J. cards from 2019-20 Prizm Draft. The middle card is a Purple Refractor, and the card on the right is a Green and Yellow Prizm, #/249.

Immanuel Quickley - 2020-21 NBA Hoops RC

The jury is still out on the the Knicks first first-round pick in the 2020 draft - Obi Toppin - but it certainly looks like they hit on their second first-round pick, Immanuel Quickley. I watched every game this dude played in at Kentucky, and I was hyped when the Knicks grabbed him. He put together a stellar rookie year and finished fifth amongst rookies in scoring. 

There's no rhyme or reason from here on out - I'm just going to show off some cards at random. Alonzo Trier is out of the league, but he made a nice little splash with the Knicks in 2018-19, and Panini printed the sh*t out of his rookie cards. The Randle and Mitch-Rob cards are blue velocity parallels from 2019-20 Donruss Optic. They are sweet looking with the matching team colors. 

Some random rookies - the Shumpert is #/599. The Gallo card is cool - he got a nice start to his career with the Knicks, but he's made more of a name for himself elsewhere.

I pulled the Kadeem Allen autograph out of a retail pack last year, which was cool. I didn't love him as a player - he was one of those guys that probably belonged in the G-League, but stuck around the big league roster to help with the tank. 

I traded for the Toppin rookie on TCDB, and I've had the David Lee auto in my PC for a long time. He was a favorite of mine back in the late 2000's when he was a lone bright spot for the Knicks. One year, he averaged 20 ppg and earned himself an All-Star nod. I was happy for him when had sustained success with the Warriors and went on to win a ring in 2015. 

A selection of my childhood heroes - all of those are pack-pulled by me in the 90's. Gotta love the Allan Houston insert. 

I don't have much 'Melo - but here are a few. 

Finishing up with some more randoms. Looks like I got the wrong Antetokounmpo, but still fun to see that name on a card. 

Thanks for stopping by. Here's to hoping that the Knicks can bounce back on Wednesday night and make a series out of it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Box Break and Review: 2021 Bowman Hobby Box

It is tradition for me to buy one box of Topps Chrome and one box of Bowman Chrome each year.  We'll see if that tradition holds up again this fall, because this year I decided to jump early and grab a box of Bowman. At this moment, you can buy one of these for $275 on eBay. $275 would have sounded insane 5+ years ago, but the hobby boom of the past year has driven prices up across the board. 

For those of us that have been in the hobby for a while, this might sound insane... but relative to what other hobby boxes are, $275 is not unreasonable. I realize that many collectors won't pay that - or anywhere close to that - for a hobby box, and I understand completely. This was a bit of a treat for me, however I've been opening a few hobby boxes each year since I started collecting in 2013 and I'm not ready to give that up just yet. I'm also pretty certain that I won't find any retail... so considering all of those factors, I felt comfortable coughing up the money. I have no regrets - I believe there is a lot of value to be found in this product and I had a blast opening it.

24 packs per box, 10 cards per pack gives you a total of 240 cards total, so I'm going to stick to the highlights. 

Starting out with rookies. This year's Bowman boasts what I feel is a very strong rookie class. For whatever reason, these rookies have very little value compared to Topps flagship, but's still a fun way to add a bunch of rookies to your collection.

Above we see a quick selection of some 1st Bowman's of top prospects in their "paper" versions. Austin Martin is the premiere name in this bunch. He's the #2 prospect in the Blue Jays system, and currently in the top 20 in the MLB.

This box had a great selection of chrome prospect cards, including many 1st Bowman cards. Lots of good names here. It's great to get a chrome version of Martin. Blaze Jordan is the #10 prospect in the Red Sox system, and seems to be another popular name. Mick Abel projects to be a strong starting pitcher some day. 

Each box promises one autograph. I landed a refractor #/499 of Jeremy De La Rosa, a 19 year old outfield prospect in the Nationals system. Skimming some write-ups about him, De La Rosa is described as "toolsy" which is apparently a modern-day way of saying he's talented in many areas.

This box had some color, and I landed two parallels in the chrome department and two paper. The Perdomo blue is #/199. The Yusneil Diaz atmoic refractor is by far the prettiest... atomic refractors are just awesome. Both of the paper stock parallels are fuchsia parallels, #/299. I'm excited about the Mountcastle rookie. The pink parallel wouldn't be my top choice, but it's always great to have a short print of a top rookie.

I love these 1991 Bowman inserts. 

Here's a look at two other inserts on the checklist: Rookie of the Year favorites and Futurist. Both of these look great. I really love the Futurist design, although I find that specific shot of Bobby Witt to be rather unflattering. Classic situation of "That's the best you can do, Topps?"

To round it out, we must see the Pirates! This is a Pirates blog, after all. The fact that Nick Gonzales is being featured on multiple inserts is good news, and I was excited to pull the Futurist insert with him on it. His photo is cooler than Bobby Witt's, at least. I was also lucky to pull two Ke'Bryan Hayes rookies. These mark the first "official" RC-stamped rookies Hayes' that I own.

I haven't mentioned this yet but I really wanted to make mention: I didn't receive a single duplicate card in the entire box. I've seen some complaints about dupes before. I'm not sure if those were Topps products or not, but I was pleased to see no dupes in this box.


Overall Design: I'm very indifferent on the base card design. It's a little busy, but they have borders and that's always a huge plus for me. The inserts, however, get a big thumbs up. I think the 1991 Bowman and Futurist inserts are absolute slam dunks. The Top 100 and Rookie of the Year Favorites look clean as well.

The Hits: One autograph per box might be a little light, but there's value to be found in other areas. The 1st Bowman cards, specifically the chrome ones, are becoming a hot commodity. To give some perspective, the Austin Martin chrome is going for about $30, and the "paper" stock is going for $10. I have a copy of Ke'Bryan Hayes 2015 1st Bowman, and it's value peaked around $70. This was in April, when he hit a homer in the Pirates opener after a strong (yet abbreviated) 2020 campaign. Fernando Tatis' 1st Bowman Chrome is going for just shy of $200 right now.  I didn't buy the box strictly to invest in cards, but I want to make the point that YES, the price is high for this box - but there is value.

Positives: No dupes, beautiful inserts, nice mix of parallels, strong rookie checklist.

Negatives: Light on hits, smaller base checklist (100 cards). 

Rating:  9/10. I think I got lucky with a pretty good box, and that probably helps the cause, but I really enjoyed tearing through these 24 packs. 

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Pirates Don't Suck (Yet)

Baseball season is underway. Somehow - by the grace of god - the Pirates aren't doing nearly as poorly as expected. With this afternoon's win over the Twins, the Pirates have raised their record to 10-11. Pre-season projections had the team winning 60 games - so some quick math tells me that 10 wins in 21 games projects to 77 wins in 162 game season.

We will actually win 77 games? No shot. The rebuild is full swing, and we'll be sellers at the trade deadline. After we ship out some of our consistent role players for prospects (I'm looking at you Adam Frazier), I imagine August and September will be rough.

Regardless, this has been a fun start to the season, and I am elated to have baseball back on my television. To celebrate, let's check out some of my recent Pirates pickups:

Bryan Reynolds - 2020 Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome Gold Refractor #/50

After a miserable 2020 campaign where he hit below the Mendoza line and looked like a shell of the player we saw in his rookie year, Bryan Reynolds is back to his old self. With this add, I'm now up to 38 unique Reynolds cards.  Not only was this a nice addition to my Reynolds PC, it's also another great add to my Pirates Gold Room. I know many collectors are experiencing "chrome fatigue" and aren't thrilled bout Ginter chrome. I didn't buy any boxes of it but I think this gold parallel is a beauty. 

Tyler Glasnow - 2017 Topps Chrome Rookie Debut Gold Refractor #/50

Speaking of gold parallels,  I was able to add this Tyler Glasnow card to my old PC for a reasonable price. As he continues to dominate, I'm not sure how many more of his cards I'll be able to snag. 

Nick Gonzales - 2020 Bowman Draft Paper

Nick Gonzales was the Pirates first round pick in last year's draft at #7 overall. He's a big time prospect, so collectors of all types are clinging to his cards. I was able to acquire this through a TCDB trade. This is my first Gonzales card and I hope it's the first of many. 

Phillip Evans - 2018 Topps Stadium Club Autograph

(L) Phillip Evans - 2018 Topps RC
(R) Phillips Evans - 2018 Topps Rainbow Foil RC

The Pirates have a handful of new faces in the everyday lineup, one of whom is Phillip Evans. Evans made a quick debut with the Mets in 2017 and 2018 but it only amounted to about 50 plate appearances. He spent all of 2019 in the minors before making his way back to the show with the Pirates last year. Across four seasons, he's still only played in 63 games, making him a widely unknown name. I was able to trade for all three of the cards above on TCDB. 

David Bednar - 2020 Topps Foilboard Rookie #/264

While this certainly isn't the flashiest of my recent pickups, it might be my favorite. Bednar, a Pittsburgh native, was part of the trade return for Joe Musgrove. Bednar isn't a big name but he's pitched very well for the Pirates and has earned himself a look in high leverage situations. He's a Pittsburgh native and has quickly become a fan favorite. The foilboard parallels were added exclusively to Wal-Mart complete sets, and they're one of the prettier parallel finishes that I've seen. 

Joe Musgrove - 2018 Bowman Chrome RC Refractor #/500

When Joe Musgrove was dealt to San Diego over the winter, I let go of several of my Musgrove cards, including most of my autographs. I had too many, and his cards were fetching a decent price right after the trade.... Fast forward to last week when he threw the Padres first ever no hitter. I had immediate seller's remorse. Nostalgia washed over me, and I hopped on eBay to see if I could find a cheap rookie. For $6, this is what I came up with. It's nice to have a shiny Big Joe rookie back in my collection. 

Thanks for stopping by.