Saturday, June 30, 2007

1992 Classic World Class Athletes - Carl Lewis

Today I'm going to focus on the greatest athlete to come out of the University of Houston. That's quite a bold, definitive statement. I wouldn't say that about the best basketball player to come out of UH or the best football player. But I can be confident about this statement because I'm talking about what many consider the greatest athlete in history. Of course I'm talking about Carl Lewis.

Most people are aware of his Olympic history: 10 Olympic medals including 9 gold. Some people are aware of his World Championship history: 10 medals including 8 gold. But let's look at his time at the University of Houston.

Carl selected the University of Houston over Tennessee. As a freshman in 1980, he won the Southwest Conference indoor long jump as well as the NCAA indoor and outdoor long jump competitions. He qualified for the Olympics (although the USA did not compete due to the boycott) and was ranked number 5 in the world.

In 1981, he won the NCAA indoor and outdoor long jump championships as well as the NCAA 100 meters. Being rated number one in the world in the long jump and 100 meters on top of being the NCAA champion, he had nothing left to prove in college and decided not to pursue his final two years of eligibility. He also won the Sullivan Award as the USA Amateur Athlete of the Year.

Today's cards are from the 1992 Classic World Class Athletes set. This set featured 60 cards if athletes from a variety of sports. The set primarily focused on Olympic athletes, but it also featured NBA players, tennis players, football players, and boxers. The set also features another UH track great, Leroy Burrell.

Carl Lewis is featured on card #1 in the set as well as card #58. He was also featured on a promo card.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dave Campbell's Texas Football

Dave Campbell's Texas Football is considered by many to be the bible of Texas football. It covers the pros, college teams, plus high school teams. It was started in 1960.

The cover of the magazine focused primarily on Southwest Conference and later the Big XII. Occasionally high school players are on the cover.

The University of Houston has graced the cover five times. Twice UH was the primary focus. In 1976, Coach Bill Yeoman was featured. In 1991, it was David Klingler. Twice UH shared the focus. In 1989, Coach Jack Pardee shared the cover with Forrest Gregg. In 2004, Kevin Kolb shared the cover with players from Texas Tech, North Texas, and TCU. Once, UH was featured in the secondary picture. In 1997, Coach Kim Helton was the smaller picture with the primary focus on UT running backs.

It's odd the focus on UH coaches. We've had incredible players like Robert Newhouse, Lombardi Winner Wilson Whitley, and Heisman Winner Andre Ware, but only David Klingler has been a solo cover boy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Autograph Cards - 1999 Upper Deck Retro Inkredible Antowain Smith #AS and 2006-07 Press Pass Legends Alumni Association Autographs Drexler Hayes 3

The other insert card type that I enjoy is the autograph card. Collecting autographs is a way to feel closer to the athlete because you know he personally had contact with the signed piece.

For a personal collection, the best way to get an autograph is in person. The autograph is a physical reminder of your interaction with the athlete. When you look at the autograph, you can reminisce about the excitement of the moment. If your collection is more than for personal enjoyment, even if you document your interaction with a photograph, the authenticity of the autograph can come into question. Also it can be very difficult to obtain an autograph in person. Some athletes may not come to your town, may no longer travel, may not sign autographs are card shows, or may just not make many public appearances.

Another way to collect autographs is through dealers and online auctions. Unfortunately there are frequently fake autographs on the market and authenticity verification can be virtually impossible.

An insert card is an excellent way to collect the autograph of your favorite player. While you don't have the personal interaction with the the athlete, you do know that there was contact with the card. You also have some confidence that the autograph is authentic due to the reputaion of the card company.

The first autograph card below is the 1999 Upper Deck Retro Inkredible Antowain Smith #AS. This is one of the first autographed Cougar cards I ever bought.

The second card is the 2006-07 Press Pass Legends Alumni Association Autographs Drexler Hayes #3. What a great card to represent the fine history and tradition of UH basketball. Clyde Drexler and Elvin Hayes autographs on the same card with the fat UH logo on the card. I'd prefer the skinny UH logo since that's still my favorite. Also that was the logo when both players were at UH. But you won't hear me complain too much with such an exquisite card.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Jersey Cards - 2001 Pacific Invincible Kimble Anders and 2005 Ultimate Collection Jersey Hakeem Olajuwon

I'm going to start this post with a small rant while reviewing some of the history of trading cards. In the distant past, there was generally only one company producing one set of cards per year. It was much easier to collect entire sets, but I'm not going to say that things were better.

In the early '80s, competition began. There were several companies releasing sets. The quality of the cards improved. The player selection improved because no company wanted to lose business because they didn't have your favorite player in their set. This is a stark contrast with the past where you may not be able to get cards for all the starters on your team. You could only get the superstars. Also they didn't want to miss that star that didn't come from the early first round of the draft. There are even sets of possible draft picks where you can pick up cards of your favorite player leaving school in their college uniform. So things were good.

Then came the emergence of the insert card and the parallel set. Early insert cards were limited in number and reserved for things like All-Stars and lottery picks. Then came the parallel card where every card in the set had a variant. There are refractors, black cards, silver, gold, and platinum variants, Tiffany cards, Members Only, First Day Issues, and more. Soon there were so many variants that it become impossible to collect all the cards available. It even became impossible in many cases to collect all of the cards of your favorite player. Did you know that lists 1775 collectibles for Hakeem Olajuwon? Even if you had near unlimited financial resources, some of the variants are so rare that finding one for sale is nearly impossible.
Each company also began to release multiple products. Collectibility of each of these products ran from easily available and sometimes unwanted to very rare and desired. Prices of the cards reflected that range from very cheap to prohibitively expensive. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the glut of products and cards on the market creates challenges for the collector.

All of this has left the standard issue card practically worthless and not "collectible." Thank goodness I do not collect for profit so the only time I concern myself with value is when I'm buying something. I don't want to overpay when I can get a collectible for less money. But I find it sad that opening packs of cards has almost become a thing of the past. I used to buy pack after pack trying to collect a set. Now I'm guessing most people who buy packs are basically gambling that they find a rare and expensive insert or variant. I only buy cards for players from the University of Houston.

Now that my rant is over, in the next couple of posts I'm going to cover insert card concepts that I actually like. The first insert card type that I really like is the jersey card. These cards feature a small piece of a game worn jersey incorporated into the design of the card. While you're looking at the card, you can imagine Hakeem wearing the jersey while swatting a shot into the third row. Imagine Drexler wearing the jersey on a slam dunk. Imagine Kimble wearing the jersey as he catches a touchdown pass. Imagine Woody wearing the jersey at the All-Star game.

Sure you may prefer a full game worn jersey. But if you can even find a legitimate jersey, it would be very expensive to obtain. Then add the expense of framing the jersey for display. It's out of the financial reach of many collectors. Jersey cards provide the same fantasy as the full jersey at a fraction of the price. Plus you have the backing of the trading card company that the jersey is legitimate and not a fake.