Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adding to My A&BCs - Vintage gets Better But Harder to Find

The debut of modern bubble gum cards featuring soccer (football) began with the 1958-59 A&BC Football Stars of England. As explained elsewhere in this blog, A&BC Gum Ltd. was later purchased by Topps. The card designs are often familiar between the Topps sets especially the various sports issues.

The premier set of 92 cards were issued in 2 series of 46 players each. The second series being uch rarer and seemingly difficult to find. Some are found without the Planet Ltd. advert on top (with dotted line).

I was able to obtain 4 excellent to mint cards for my personal set. It included card # 1 Eddie Baily (below).

 England international and later beloved National Team Manager - Bobby Robson.

The cards with yellow backgrounds are very appealing to me. This is Arsenal's Derek Tapscott (below).  The background colors are dark blue, light blue, green and yellow. They follow a pattern with the card numbering. For example the first 5 cards have blue backgrounds. The next four have green backdrops.  

The forth card is one of the up and coming stars of Tottenham Hotspur's Double-winning side - Terry Medwin.

Although these are less favored to me compared to the subsequent year,  the 1959-60 A&BC set, these 1958-59 portrait style and background colors on these are memorable. Much like the 1952 Topps baseball cards, this is a debut set and will stand as a mark for modern soccer card collections.
The challenge, albeit a small set, will be to complete all 92 cards and even harder to find them in pristine condition. I feel fortunate to have added these four to my collection thus far.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Upper Deck - Epic Fail - World of Sports

Trial and success ... trial and error. So goes the ebb and flow of modern trading cards. However, even a fighter knows when their beaten - they throw in the towel. Upper Deck is staggering long the ropes on wobbly feet and ready for the canvass.

The uninspired product from 2010 - World of Sports - that combined college athletes (who are suposed to be amateurs) with a mix of oddities like lacrosse and lesser know activities with MLS soccer players. The design, if it can be viewed as such, lacks total imagination. The photography, amatuerish at best ...
leaves a lot to be desired by collectors. However, the biggest fiasco is the continued sham of marketing non-existant David Beckham autograph cards. This was an issue as far back as Beck's first appearence with Upper Deck when he refused to part take in the signatures on the MLS products.
Yet, here it is (above), the "fanthom" Beckham autograph card. The sticker autograph is a left over from previous MLS sets - the actual signature is that of Luciano Emilio (below) from 2007.
Even the chase cards are a poor selection of design and photos. Kasey Keller (below)  looks to be saying "oh, no ! Its the Upper Deck photographers".
All in all, Upper Deck's MLS products have been sub-quality and hardly changed in a decade of licensed production. An Upper Deck spokesperson has already confirmed that once again the Women's Professional Soccer will be part of the set for 2011.
While I have great admiration for the talent and efforts for the ladies' game (like Marta - below), I feel sorry for the purist who have to wade through these to find their favorite MLS players.
Can you imagine sifting through your pack of NBA cards and only finding WNBA cards as you search for your LeBron or Kobe ?  How about sorting your most wanted baseball stars but forced to discover lady softball players among the packs ?

I would much rather have a sub set of US players who star overseas - like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Maurice Edu. (this can be done with portrait shots or national team shirts to get around the licensing issue.)

With time ticking down on Upper Deck's MLS license, it may be an opening for Panini (or even a non-licensed company like In-The-Game) to swoop in and deliver a mouth watering soccer set. I know I'll be sending in my suggestions. I would love to hear from you fans .... 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cowboy Calcio, Beckham and Alexi Lalas - LEGEND

What makes a player a LEGEND ? Many make it onto a trading card, some are memorable and a few, if lucky, are immortalized. For a country that had not appeared in the World Cup in 40 years (1930 to 1990) any spark could result in being an instant hero.
The American who achieved that status was ALEXI LALAS when he scored the goal (above) against England in the 1993 US CUP at Boston. It seemed it was the first time Americans were playing without fear of the legendary soccer nations like Brazil, Germany and Italy.
Lalas was not just an average clean-cut American athlete. He honed his playing skills playing pick-up games in Michigan, then onto the Ivy League at Rutgers University. He played guitar in a rock band and even sang the national anthem at the 1st MLS CUP. He was instantly recognized for his trademark long shaggy red hair and goatie.

He was an Olympian footballer at the 1992 Barcelona Games. His international profile as a "never say die defender" and the goal against England made him one of the  high-profile players on the 1994 U.S. World Cup Team. After the 1994 Tournament he was signed as the first native born American in Italy's Serie A.
The "American Cowboy" as he was known, almost single-handedly saved the Padova from relegation by scoring two goals in the final three games of the season including ones against powerful AC Milan AND Inter Milan.
When Major League soccer finally formed a professional circuit in 1996, Lalas returned home to play for New England, New York, Kansas City and Los Angeles.
After 7 seasons in MLS, Lalas accepted a position in the front office at the New York club. Although no great achievements were noted here, he moved on to become the Los Angeles Galaxy's new General Manager. There, he hired former Dutch great Ruud Gullit and was part of the team that brought in David Beckham
Both those decsions had converse effects on the club, the league and the game in America. Regardless, Alexi Lalas has put his own stamp of uniqueness on the game. He has earned the apearance on a 2011 FUTERA LEGEND card.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting Nostalgic With the 90's - Shiney Magic Merlin

[above - 1996 MERLIN'S International Masters of The Game - Alan Shearer]

After selling off my entire collection of NFL football cards last week, I have become more focused on filling the gaps in my soccer card collection. As much as I enjoyed the other sports cards growing up, I always wanted more soccer material to be produced in the USA. Unfortunately, it never happened. Now, with Upper Deck spitting out their sub-standard product - and  MLS being complacent with it, it looks like nothing much has changed. Thank Buddah for the internet, and cable TV.

Now, I do look at my rebirth into collecting when the wonderful products became available in the 1990's though internet trades - namely, MERLIN'S PREMIER LEAGUE  trading cards.
[above- 1998 MERLIN'S Rainbow foil Golden Moment - Alan Shearer]

There are several reasons why these card sets appeal to me. First of all, they were very managable sizes. Most were under 200 cards. Next, they had small and well designed chase cards inserted in the packs. Both the front and the reverse were guilded in shiney color and gloss. But more importantly, they had good information.
[above - 1999 MERLIN'S Gold - Michael Owen]

Lastly, they were acoompanied by binder books - complete with plastic pages and room for all the base cards and the inserts. The binders featured fantastic photos of the stars and a checklist to track your progress.
[above - 1998 MERLIN'S Permier League Hotshots - Robbie Fowler]

While the inserts were dominated by Manchester United players, it had a good mix of stars that have stood up with time - Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler and Micheal Owen - all 100 goal scorers in the Premier League.
[above - 1996 MERLIN'S International Masters of The Game - Ryan Giggs]

There were a good number of foreign players that were beginning to star in the Premier league on a regular basis. They soon became fan favorites like - Eric Cantona (France), Ruud Gullit Holland), Giunluca Vialli (Italy), Peter Schmeichel (Denmark) and Faustino Asprilla (Colombia).

This was the start to the Premier League evolving into the "World's Best League". Although they are still relatively affordable ($5-10 range), these inserts are becoming increasingly harder to find as global collectors search for super looking super star cards.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Out with the old - In with the New

So what has been keeping me from writing ? My apologies to all the followers and the ones that check in time to time. I have been writing alright, but just not on my blog.

 I had an article published in the SGC Collectors Magazine  (above) - a hobby publication associated with professional card graders. In the past, this periodical has been mostly baseball oriented. However, if you read my article, you will know how the whole global soccer trading card craze has emerged.

I've also been working on a book. So, these posts are killing my typing hands ...

Now on to new things ...  50 CRACKS

Argentina's TIKI TIKI Magazine has again produced a wonderful set of international star players. The front of the card depicts the players with their club team with National Team flag,club logo and position. There is also a player rating on a color chart.
The reverse of the cards have the player pictured with their National Team along with career highlights and other statistics.
This reminds me of the English 1972 IPC Magazines that had large insert cards.

 These included England and Scotland players featured in their National Team jersey.
The cards were perferated so that you could punch out the player and a grass green stand to display them.
The above Bobby moore card is mislabled as "1969" when they are from 1972.