Thursday, August 24, 2017

1996 Ultra is Not Your Friend

It’s not the photography or card design or anything obvious that makes this set so whack-a-doodle – it’s one thing: the Gold Medallion parallel. This set is impossible to talk about at all without that bloody parallel coming up and bumming everyone out. Let’s start with the nuts and bolts.

The trick (as you may already know) is that this parallel isn’t just for the base set. Every single insert, even the one that is seeded at 1:288 packs, is subject to the Gold Medallion parallel which immediately multiplies the scarcity of your card tenfold. Every pack had a Gold Medallion card and an insert, but every tenth pack had a Gold Medallion insert.

That being said, ’96 Ultra has some pretty baddass inserts with radical designs, die-cutting, and materials. A few of the more desireable inserts have insertion ratios that range from 1:20 up to 1:75 (and yes, one that is 1:288). You have to multiply these by ten to get the ratios of Gold Medallion pulls. Here are the GM insert pulls we’ll be focusing on today (the ones with Griffeys – derp):

Prime Leather Gold Medallion 1:80
Rawhide Gold Medallion 1:80
Power Plus Gold Medallion 1:100
Respect Gold Medallion 1:180
Diamond Producers Gold Medallion 1:200
Call to the Hall Gold Medallion 1:240
Thunder Clap Gold Medallion 1:720 (retail only)
HR King Gold Medallion 1:750
Hitting Machine Gold Medallion 1:2880

Bear in mind that this is for a non-player-specific pull of each general insert in Gold Medallion. To get the ratio for a specific player, you have to multiply these ratios by the number of cards in the checklist. Then the ratios look more like this:

Prime Leather Gold Medallion 1:1440
Rawhide Gold Medallion 1:800
Power Plus Gold Medallion 1:1200
Respect Gold Medallion 1:1800
Diamond Producers Gold Medallion 1:2400
Call to the Hall Gold Medallion 1:2400
Thunder Clap Gold Medallion 1:14400 (retail only)
HR King Gold Medallion 1:9000
Hitting Machine Gold Medallion 1:28800

You could do this with any set – that is multiply the ratio by the number of cards in the checklist and get some astronomical number to impress the readers of your card blog with what an amazing collection you have. THAT IS NOT THE PURPOSE HERE. I did this to illustrate not just the scarcity of these Griffeys, but the massive quantity of difficult cards in this set as a whole. This is not bragging – it is warning.

Maybe you are a cock-eyed Griffey completionist, and you are looking to get started on your set of 1996 Ultra Gold Medallions. I’ll admit that I like your enthusiasm, but I also feel a duty to discourage you from letting this parallel into your life. Those little round bits of foil can make or break your average Griffey collector. They can bring a grown man to tears of frustration or tears of joy. Neither of those tears are well-spent, my friend.

Occasionally I read about how the Earth is overdue for an extinction-level asteroid strike, and I get a little depressed. Then I think that if the Earth were to be struck by a big enough asteroid, we may not ever know it. The shockwave from the collision would travel faster than the speed of sound, so we wouldn’t hear it first – it would find you in dead silence. It would have to come around the horizon to kill you, and if it’s travelling faster than the speed of sound odds are you wouldn’t even see it until the very last moment, certainly not enough time to know what was happening. You would disintegrate where you stand, and that would be it. You would simply blink out of existence with no realization that it was even happening – just a quick, peaceful end. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about 1996 Ultra Gold Medallions because you would be star meat.

Just trying to make you feel better is all.

1996 Ultra #126

The base card this year is lovely. I am super into the bright green cap with the all-gray uni and heavily-tinted Oakleys. Plus his pose is easy-breezy – you just can’t get Griffey down. The silver nameplate gets a little lost in the mix of lighter colors here, but I couldn’t possibly care less. This is a nice base card.

The back is weird but solid. It’s a collage of baseball poses, presumably all taken on the same day, possibly in the same inning. Ultra has always been about flash over substance, and they’re great at it; so it’s easy to excuse the total lack of blurb and the small, abbreviated stat box. The photos more than make up for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first Gold Medallion of 1996 Ultra:

1996 Ultra #126 Gold Medallion

This was far and away the biggest year Gold Medallions would ever have, so it’s no surprise they decided to do it REAL BIG in the base set. The Medallion is everything – literally – with the player superimposed on top. Junior’s pose here makes the Medallion logo itself looks like a big tire swing.

You may notice a dusty buildup on the surface of some base Gold Medallions - if you're any kind of collector, you've encountered it before. I have no plans on cleaning the card surface, but it can be done. On any other card that stuff would indeed be called "gunk," but on the Griffey it is a "patina."

The backs of GM cards are identical to the regular versions of every card apart from a little indentation on a few of them, so we will not be giving them separate scans today. Later sets would include a “G” behind the card number for the parallels, and even that would be enough of a difference for me to bother showing them; but these are literally the exact same. You’re missing nothing.

1996 Ultra Promotional Sample

There’s also this sweet sample version with plenty of promo pizzazz, that being the stuff printed all over the card letting you know that this is a promo and you are special for having one. To those promos that have only a tiny indicator hidden on the bottom of the back of the card that says “sample” in minuscule letters, I say BOO. I’m a sample celebrator, and this one really cups the balls.

1996 Ultra #579 Ultra Stars

Griffey appeared on one subset in the Ultra base set this year, a star-studded, mildly patriotic number with an expensive-looking foil font and nameplate. As subsets go this one is pretty decent, and have I mentioned the seriously epic Griffey smirkage?

Oh, man. Griffey knows you got jokes. You in trouble now. Again, I’m pretty sure this and every other photo apart from the one on the front of the base card was taken in the same game. It’s that same uniform combo in every picture. I’m cool with it and everything, but damn.

1996 Ultra #579 Ultra Stars Gold Medallion

The Gold Medallion is, again, everything. They only embossed a few of the stars here, but you get the idea.

1996 Ultra Checklist #3

In case you couldn’t tell by the giant text heralding the fact, this is a CHECKLIST, or a card that lists all the other cards that are also cards. Ultra’s checklists were not included in the base set – they’re actually a 1:4 insert this year. How would you like to reach that tenth pack and finally get your hands on a Gold Medallion insert and it’s a checklist? I know for a fact that happened to at least two people because I ended up with their cards:

1996 Ultra Checklist #4 Gold Medallion

The GM inserts are, as usual, ten times rarer than the regular inserts, making this a 1:40-pack checklist. This is a good time to mention that there are several variations on the Gold Medallions this year: the all-encompassing EVERYTHING Medallion found only in the base set, the all-new “low-profile” Gold Medallions, and the classic Medallions (as seen in the 1995 set). You will notice throughout this post that in addition to changing size and design, the medallions will also change color. The Medallion here is the low-profile variety, and as you can see it is silver. The Gold Medallion is SILVER. Just go with it, man.

1996 Ultra Checklist #4

So this photo was probably taken only seconds before (or after) the photo on the base card, and it’s one of my favorite Griffey checklist cards ever made. I think it’s the Oakleys and green cap – something about that combo makes him look like an alien soldier from the planet EATTLE. And with that bat equipped it’s obvious he’s a total melee character.

1996 Ultra Checklist #4 Gold Medallion

For Series 2 as the foil used for the checklists was already gold, they went ahead and gave us gold Gold Medallions. This time it’s not just a cute parallel name. Also the Medallion is of the classic variety, that being a whole, embossed medallion slightly smaller than the low-pro Medallion on the other checklist. This is the kind of GM you will see on most of the inserts here.

Sick of checklists? Good. Prepare to be sick of inserts and the prolific use of verbiage describing rarity. That’s pretty much the rest of this post.

We’ll start with the most common inserts and work our way up – way up.

1996 Ultra Prime Leather #6

Hey, it’s more photos from that same game! The two most common inserts in 1996 Ultra are both leather–themed, meaning they both focus on fielding. This is the Series 1 leather-themed insert, and personally I consider this the better of the two. It is heavily-embossed, feels leathery, and prominently features a great insert logo and organic nameplate. I’ve had this card for over 20 years, and it’s still an old favorite.

You might already have noticed that I am a big fan of nicknames of which Griffey has a few; but this is my first time coming across “The Grifter.” I’m into it, too, as it’s a cute play on his name and the fact that he steals other guys’ runs in the outfield. I will actively try to work this nickname into future posts.

1996 Ultra Prime Leather #6 Gold Medallion

The Gold Medallion version of this insert fell at 1:80 packs. Here they gave us the classic version of the medallion, and it looks great against the reddish-brown leather of the card. While this one is far from the scarcest GM in this set, the big 18-card checklist can make it a challenge to pin down the Griffey (or any specific player for that matter).

1996 Ultra Rawhide #4

Here is the leather-lovin’ insert from Series 2, and while it’s not as fun or tactile as its cousin from Series 1, the design is bright and attractive. And again, I still think the photos here are from the same game.

I really like this blurb. It basically says, “Of course he broke his damn wrist – dude thinks he can catch everything!” You sassy, Ultra. I like you.

1996 Ultra Rawhide #4 Gold Medallion

Classic Gold Medallion on leather – still digging this combo. These are 1:80, but with a measly 10-card checklist this is the easiest GM insert Griffey pull in the whole set (not counting checklists). Go get it.

1996 Ultra Power Plus #3

Power Plus is a carry-over insert from 1995 and would continue for several more years. The design of this insert is always colorful, incorporating either a spectrum of color or a large quantity of holofoil. The 1996 version is unique in that it features a spectrum of swirling etched foil with plenty of gold foil text. I will never hide my deep love for rainbow-themed cards.

Finally, a photo from a different game! The blurb here features a quote from the Scouting Report that positively gushes about how awesome our guy is, so yeah – I like it. Mighty are his sea-sons!

1996 Ultra Power Plus #3 Gold Medallion

These GM’s step up the rarity slightly to 1:100 packs and also have a slightly bigger 12-card checklist. Despite this, it is still easier to find GM’s of a specific player in this insert than Prime Leather.

1996 Ultra Respect #2

I don’t remember ever seeing this insert again in any Fleer set after this year, which would make it a one-and-done. There’s not a whole lot to the design here – just large embossed letters in a sparkly silver holofoil, a tiny nameplate, and a big ol’ portrait. The back is a simple but solid blurb against a white background.

Both photos on this card again appear to be from that same game. I may be way off about all that, but I hope I’m not. I like the idea of going to a single game with one camera and shooting someone so photogenic that you come away with enough material for an entire set plus inserts.

1996 Ultra Respect #2 Gold Medallion

At 1:180 packs multiplied by ten cards in the checklist, to guarantee a Griffey pull in this set would set you back a whopping 1800 packs. Here we see my personal favorite color of the low-pro medallion, a rare sparkly silver holofoil version – the same foil as on the “Respect” lettering.

At this point it’s obvious that Ultra went with the most cost-effective foil color for each insert – gold on cards that already have gold foil, silver when they already have silver, and so forth. I’d have liked to see them change the parallel to just “Medallions,” but it’s nothing to get your panties in a twist over.

1996 Ultra Diamond Producers #3

This insert tricks me every now and then into thinking it’s a few years older than it is because that insert logo is pretty similar to Ultra’s 1994 logo. Here they put all the photography on the front in grayscale, but also added a layer of holofoil sheen that give the entire surface every color in the spectrum. A simple but high-end-looking design.

Oh man, so much info in that blurb guys. Love it. And I’m getting a little weary of seeing “Junior” in “parentheses.” Just say Junior, bro. Anyway, great photo.

1996 Ultra Diamond Producers #3 Gold Medallion

Tied for fourth as the most difficult Griffey pull from 1996 Ultra, this is the first insert to break the 1:200 pack barrier. The 12-card checklist puts it at 1:2400 packs to pull a specific player. That’s a lot of Mylar.

1996 Ultra Call to the Hall #2

Pre-Panini Donruss Diamond Kings would always reference their artist-in-residence Dick Perez. Sometimes it would be just a simple signature on the illustration itself, and sometimes it would be a complete autobiographical write-up with a portrait of Dick himself. Heck, even Topps gave Mr. Perez his due eventually. There’s no mention of the artist on this one, though, which is a shame because the illustration is good – better than some Perez work I’ve seen. I’m even willing to forgive the orange background here as well as the fact that it has both the look and feel of a Topps Gallery card. Oh, and if you ever come across the Tony Gwynn from this set, do not look directly at it. Promise me!!

A fun and inviting card back that keeps with the theme and palette of the front. I can’t imagine it being any better without including a little info about the artist.

I'd better come clean here - Call to the Hall Gold Medallion is the only Griffey I don't have from 1996 Ultra. It's not even super rare or expensive - I just haven't come across one for sale since I began writing this post. I'll have it soon enough. In the meantime, consider this duck a placeholder for the actual scan once I do have it in-hand:

This space reserved for 1996 Ultra Call to the Hall #2 Gold Medallion

Exactly as scarce as the Diamond Producers insert, Call to the Hall is the last of what I consider the “gettable” Griffey Gold Medallions of 1996 Ultra (which is kind of stupid because it's also the only one I don't have). The rest, HR Kings, Thunder Clap, and Hitting Machines, are all exponentially scarcer than any of the cards we’ve seen so far. Get ready for a big step up in Medallion rarity.

1996 Ultra HR King #6

These were printed on real wood grain, so every card is a little different with minor imperfections in the printing and foil application that I find endearing. The red-bronze foil looks great with the wood, too.

The back is not super different – nice photo, great blurb (I love that first sentence), no complaints. Overall this is a very well-executed wood card.

1996 Ultra HR King #6 Gold Medallion

This is one of my favorite GM’s because of that unique foil color. At 1:750 this is the second-rarest GM insert by ratio, but as you can see I listed it third-to-last in this post. That’s because the smaller checklist gives us a specific player ratio of 1:9000, well below the 1:14400 Thunder Clap. Don’t get me wrong – that’s still a ridiculous ratio, but numerically this rare Griffey is still a lot more common than Thunder Clap for reasons I will go into later.

1996 Ultra HR King #6 Exchange Card

According to Baseballcardpedia, Fleer was not happy with how the printing turned out and swapped out these insert cards with a redemption card late in the game. I am unsure how these exchanges worked in terms of the Gold Medallion parallel; but I have never seen a GM redemption card, so I assume whether you got the regular or the Medallion version was decided at random.

What all this means for us is that the real balls-to-the-wall collectors out there need to get their hands on the regular, the Gold Medallion, AND the exchange card. Work it!

Alright – final two.

1996 Ultra Thunder Clap #11

I’m not bragging, but I actually pulled one of these 1:72-pack Thunder Clap cards back in 1996 – it was Eddie Murray. Sure it was one of the less-desireable pulls in the checklist, but you better believe I kept that thing and still have it to this day. I’m super into purple cards, after all; and I like Eddie Murray a lot. Also this scan does not do justice to the holofoil in the lightning bolts here. They absolutely make the card. You need to see one of these in person to get the full effect.

I’d like to mention one thing that Thunder Clap taught me. To me Ultra inserts always seemed a bit garish and candy-like; not in a fun way, but in a cheap way. That may sound snooty of me, but it’s how I felt, even when I was busting packs at 15 – they were cool but cheap. Then one day I actually looked at the set in a Beckett and saw what even my little unlisted Eddie Murray Thunder Clap card was “worth,” and I was shocked (I think it was like 20 bucks which was a ton to me). Despite how they looked, these were some tough cards to find. Knowing what I know now, I have a weird appreciation for these inserts. They’re not the prettiest or most expensive-looking cards, but their audacious scarcity is endearing to me.

I forgot to take a nice scan of the back before locking this one up in the safe deposit box, but I was so excited to finally have a post for you today that I borrowed an image from COMC for this one. It won't be the first time I've resorted to this.

Anyway, you’ve got classic backwards-cap Kid looking at somebody who just said something a little too quietly and he’s like, “Hm?” With all the inserts in this set it’s no wonder we’ve started to get some repetition in the blurbs, but I forgive them. Some great factoids there.

1996 Ultra Thunder Clap #11 Gold Medallion

So as we just mentioned there are 20 cards in this checklist. The insert itself was retail-only so you couldn’t pull It from hobby packs (which explains how I landed the Eddie Murray – I was always more of a retail kid), and on top of all that they were seeded at an astronomical 1:720 packs. This puts specific player pulls at a staggering 1:14400, making this the second rarest overall Griffey GM pull by the numbers.

HOWEVER, I’m convinced that there are approximately the same quantity (or the numbers are at least very close) of the relatively unsung Thunder Clap Gold Medallion as there are the “rarest” Griffey card in 1996 Ultra.

Hitting Machines Gold Medallion, the final card in this post, is widely regarded as among the scarcest insert cards of the 90’s, but it follows that if only retail packs contained Thunder Clap inserts, then there could be the same quantity or fewer of those than the insertion ratio would have you believe. This is despite the fact that Hitting Machines appears twice as scarce by the numbers. After all, the latter was available in both Hobby and Retail packs and Thunder Clap was retail only. On top of that the much larger checklist for Thunder Clap only adds to the scarcity of the Griffey.

The trouble here is that we may never know for sure as we do not have production figures for the sets as a whole nor the ratio of retail versus hobby packs produced. What we do have, however, are production figures from 1997 Ultra from which we can extrapolate the potential production figures of 1996.

Danger: there are a lot of assumptions ahead, but just go with this for a sec.

All we need to get approximate production figures is a serial-numbered parallel or insert with a stated insertion ratio. 1997 Ultra put Gold Medallions to shame by giving us Platinum Medallions which are #/200 with a 1:100 insertion ratio and 533 cards in the checklist. That gives us 1,066,000 hobby packs produced split between series one and two. That is a nice, hard number, and it’s probably reasonably close to what they put out just a year earlier, wouldn’t you think?

Now, let’s say Fleer made a comparable number of retail packs as hobby packs (This is the biggest, most scoff-worthy assumption, I know). That would give us 2,132,000 packs total.

Given those figures, the math says there are about 74 Hitting Machine Gold Medallion Griffeys (hobby and retail) and 74 Thunder Clap Gold Medallions (retail only) in existence. That’s a weird number, sure, but it’s probably not far off from the correct one.

Let’s say that I’m wrong about there being comparable quantities of retail and hobby packs produced, and there were twice as many retail packs as hobby. In this case the math says there are 111 of each Hitting Machine GM and 148 of each Thunder Clap GM. Again, this is all guesswork, but my guesses tend to be pretty well educated or I wouldn’t publish them on the Internet, bastion of accuracy that it is.

All I’m getting at is that while the Thunder Clap GM is generally regarded as the second-rarest Griffey in this set, it is probably about as scarce as or potentially scarcer than the Hitting Machines GM.

1996 Ultra Hitting Machines #4

I kind of feel like I took all the jam out of this card’s donut with my whining about how Thunder Clap is probably just as rare, but there’s no denying that 1996 Hitting Machines is one truly awesome insert. Look at that die-cutting, the design, the color. It’s not just a randomly rare card that is rare for the sake of rare – it’s a real beauty with massive curb appeal. At 1:288, these were the toughest non-parallel pulls in Ultra history up to this point, and unlike Thunder Clap they look the part.

And that's kind of the best blurb ever (I'd like to have seen a question mark at the end there, but whatever). My only issue with these is probably the same issue a lot of unlucky collectors have: it’s incredibly easy to damage. All those points – 28 to be exact – and long bits of paper card that jut out several millimeters, just waiting for sticky kid fingers to carelessly jam them into sleeves and damage them forever. This card sold a lot of screw cases.

Alright – they don’t get much rarer than this:

1996 Ultra Hitting Machines #4 Gold Medallion

I'm still thrilled to have found one of these. It was a while before the HOF induction (when prices started skyrocketing on many white whale Griffeys), so I’m certainly glad I snagged it when I did – I definitely couldn’t afford one now, even one with a crease in one of the gear spokes like on the one you’re looking at. There is currently a PSA 8 specimen with a $2,000 opening bid, and a PSA 10 is listed for $4,500.

Now I’m the first to admit that condition matters a lot, but I find this card is not quite as subject to heavy price degradation due to condition issues. Sure, near-perfect specimens should and do command massive premiums, but lesser specimens still appear to hold their value. If you want to take this as me saying, “My card is damaged, but here’s why that doesn’t matter,” fine – I’ll own that. But the fact remains that once you reach this level of scarcity, condition tends to matter less. A hole in your collection is a hole in your collection, and whether you have a PSA 10 or a PSA 5, they each fill that hole the same. The thriftier Griffey collectors out there know what I’m talking about.

So how many of these things exist? We will never know for sure, but I do so love extrapolating a mathematically sound guess from available data. As I mentioned before, if we assume that 1997 Ultra production figures are comparable to 1996 figures and that there are about the same quantity of retail packs produced as hobby ones, there are as few as 74 copies of each player. If there are twice as many retail packs produced as hobby packs, there may be as many as 111. Regardless, there are not freaking many, and the prices these fetch reflect that.

Now I’m sorry to do this again but IT’S IMPORTANT: I want to touch again on this card’s scarcity and demand relative to Thunder Clap. The reasons Thunder Clap is not as expensive are obvious upon looking at the cards side-by-side: right off the bat there is less curb appeal and a total lack of die-cutting on the Thunder Clap side. On top of that there is also no insertion-ratio wow factor and an almost total lack of legend surrounding it.

When I say “legend,” I’m talking about word-of-mouth within the collecting community. A perfect example of said legend is this post from 2011, the link to which I’ve seen make the rounds on various online collector forums whenever this insert comes up in conversation. At the time that post was made (September, 2011) there were a lot of owners of this card who had seen the numbers and knew what they had, and plenty more who did not. I feel like this article may have changed that. A lot of Griffey collectors old and new have happened upon this article, myself included, and decided then and there that this is a card they had to own.

By the way, the author of that blog post is Patrick Greenough, and his site, Radicards, contains a blog that is pretty solid. And we're accidental friends now on Facebook.

I’ll sum it up this way: MAGICPAPA doesn’t have the 1996 Ultra Thunder Clap Gold Medallion Griffey. For those of you who don’t know Magicpapa, allow me to illustrate how crazy that fact is with a Venn diagram of my own design:

I like to think that if Thunder Clap got the recognition it deserved, he might have bothered picking one up a few years back when cards of “The Grifter” were a lot cheaper and he was picking off legendary cards one-by-one. Or maybe they’re so rare that he couldn’t find one (I doubt this – he would have found one). It remains the only Griffey I am aware of that I have and he doesn’t. This has never happened.

Put it on my tombstone: Thunder Clap is more than likely as scarce as Hitting Machines or at the very least their respective production runs are very close, closer than most collectors think. If you want to shoot for the moon and show off to your Griffey-collecting friends, spend a fortune on a Hitting Machines Gold Medallion and link them to that Radicards post; but if it’s simple rarity you’re after, the Thunder Clap Gold Medallion is where the value is.

Alright - that dead horse has been beaten enough.

I’m happy to report that at great expense and patience, I have acquired all but one of the Griffeys from 1996 Ultra, and the last one I need isn't all that rare. Here is a complete list of all 28 Griffeys from this set:

1996 Ultra #126
1996 Ultra #126 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra #126 Sample
1996 Ultra #579 Ultra Stars
1996 Ultra #579 Ultra Stars Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Series 1 Checklist #4 of 10
1996 Ultra Series 1 Checklist #4 of 10 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Series 2 Checklist #3 of 10
1996 Ultra Series 2 Checklist #3 of 10 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Call to the Hall #2
1996 Ultra Call to the Hall #2 Gold Medallion (I still need dis)
1996 Ultra Diamond Producers #3
1996 Ultra Diamond Producers #3 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Hitting Machine #4
1996 Ultra Hitting Machine #4 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra HR King #6
1996 Ultra HR King #6 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Power Plus #3
1996 Ultra Power Plus #3 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Promotional Sample
1996 Ultra Prime Leather #6
1996 Ultra Prime Leather #6 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Rawhide #4
1996 Ultra Rawhide #4 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Respect #2
1996 Ultra Respect #2 Gold Medallion
1996 Ultra Thunder Clap #11
1996 Ultra Thunder Clap #11 Gold Medallion

I recommend you do not try this at home. There are worthier parallels and inserts out there to be had. Stadium Club Matrix, for example, is a beautiful and reasonably scarce parallel that is very satisfying to collect. And the Heading for the Hall insert from 1995 Leaf is gorgeously-executed and features some great early die-cutting and serial-numbering. Get out while you can; there is only woe for you here. There are simply not enough Gold Medallions to go around - it’s simple numbers.

Don’t be the odd man out, forever unsatisfied, obsessing over the gaps in your collection, forever checking and re-checking your eBay saved searches as you waste away into a groveling, desperate hermit, begging other collectors on various card forums for a simple glimpse of the Griffey cards you will never own. Those little foil circles are not worth it. I implore you, collect something else. 1996 Ultra is for NOBODY.


Bruh I just wrote a 5000-word treatise on 1996 Fleer Ultra I am a f***ing loser omg damn

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Best Griffey Acquisitions of 2016: The Runners-Up

[Note: I cut this list short because I want to post these great cards but never had the time to finish it as I originally planned. Still, here's most of what was to be the runners-up post for best Griffey Acquisitions of 2016. Enjoy!]

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions list is my favorite post to make all year. It’s a challenge putting it together as I have to go through a year’s worth of eBay and COMC histories as well as trades and purchases with bloggers and through social media groups, not to mention cards acquired at card shows. But it’s so fun reliving my Griffey-collecting year that all the work I put into this post hardly feels like work at all.

These are scans of Griffeys that, while they aren’t Top 30 material this year, deserve a mention. It’s my biggest runner-up post ever, too, so forgive the page load time. And with the extremely limited blog posting I’ve given you for the past few months, this will be the first time I’ve shown most of these. Enjoy!

We're starting off with an autohgraphed card. That’s right – an autographed card did not crack the Top 30 this year. I never would have expected this to happen. Griffey card snob level: expert.

1991 Score All-Star Jumbo Autograph w/ COA (The Score Board, Inc.)

In all fairness if the Top 30 list was any longer, this would be card #31. These cards were sold by the company Score Board Inc. and sold via home shopping channels with COA’s. They could have chosen a better card for mass-signing; but hey, it’s on-card and the price was right.

1992-98 Highland Mint Topps Mint-Cards Bronze #KG92

Here’s another after-market warlock. This is Griffey’s 1992 Topps base card in the form of a heavy brass ingot with a custom screw-down case and COA. The COA is a little weird to me. I mean, if it was autographed that would be one thing, but it’s a heavy brass reproduction of a baseball card. It would be like going to New York and buying a souvenir with a certificate that says “This is an authentic reproduction of the Statue of Liberty.” Reproductions by definition are not authentic, so why waste paper on a COA? Anyway, it’s kind of awesome, so here it is.

1992 McDonalds Limited Edition Collector Pins (set of 3)

I already had the complete set of three McDonald’s pin cards, but here are all three again with the pins still on them! They’re a bitch to store, but you can’t say I don’t have that McDonald’s pin checklist on lockdown.

1992 MTV 3rd Annual Rock n' Jock Softball Challenge #3 /20000

I used to watch these Rock n’ Jock things on MTV with my older sisters. This card is so perfectly 1992 I can’t even stand it. On the short-list of my favorite oddballs.

1993 Alrak Ken Griffey Jr. Bellevue Youth Baseball Benefit #NoN

Just a well-executed oddball from the heyday of oddball brands like Alrak. They’ve produced a lot of "what am I looking at?" Griffeys in their time, and this is one of the best.

1993-95 Cardtoons Big Bang Bucks #BB-8

Cardtoons is back! I found this by accident which is the same way I discovered all the other goofball Cardtoons cards I’ve picked up over the years. It’s the same illustration as on the “Ken Spiffy, Jr.” card from the same brand, but on a wacky currency design. Cards like these have made several Top Griffey Acquisitions lists in the past, so I couldn’t not give this thing a mention.

1993 Mothers Cookies Mariners Team Set

Mother’s Cookies made a lot of Griffey cards, but for some reason this one from 1993 is the toughest to find. I had to buy the entire team set to get one which was fine with me as it also included PC’s Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner.

1993 Topps Finest #110 4x6 Jumbo

It was the Golden Age of jumbos for the sake of jumbos…

1993 Upper Deck Fifth Anniversary #A1 10x12 Jumbo

I mean, really. The Golden Age. Just the case this thing came in is weighty and darn impressive. Photographed with giant baby for scale.

1994 Mothers Cookies #4

Another gem from the cookie-era.

1994 Studio Gold Series Stars #4 #/5000

I’ve had the silver one for ages and it’s so nice that I always wondered how it wasn’t serial-numbered. I only just learned about these even coming in gold and finally with some well-deserved serial numbers.

1994 Topps Spanish x3

How many of these did Topps even make? They are super tough to find.

1995 Score Platinum Team Sets Seattle Mariners

Here’s another set I bought in its entirety in order to get not just the two Griffeys therein but also some beautiful cards for Randy Johnson, both Martinez(es? ez? ‘s?), Jay Buhner, and Dan Wilson. The cost of the whole set was actually less than the cost of the two Griffeys alone. Fun fact, and many of you more seasoned collectors may already know this: if you want a specific card from a scarce set, be sure to price the full set, too. Oftentimes it is around the same price or even cheaper than the single card you’re after. I’ve seen this time and time again with Griffey cards. It still boggles my mind.

1995 Upper Deck #100 Electric Diamond Gold

I busted a TON of this product back in the ‘90’s and again in 2013 and only ever pulled two Electric Diamond Golds: Jim Abbott and Jeff Conine. Not bad pulls, but I’ve known for a while the Griffey was going to be a challenge. One finally fell in my lap very late this year which was great timing as I needed it for the 1996 Beckett Tribute checklist. There’s nothing special about the card apart from the color of the foil, so I should resent it; but I love ’95 Upper Deck enough that the worst this card gets from me is mild indifference.

1996 Leaf Limited Pennant Craze #4

Mid-90’s Leaf is some of my favorite cardboard, especially when it’s not cardboard but FELT! So felty!

1996 Leaf Statistical Standouts #/2500

Another mid-90’s leaf, Statistical Standouts was a perennially tough pull. They’ve even held their value pretty well over the years. So they remain relatively tough to this day. It’s a great insert timeline, though.

1996 Select Certified League Preview #1 (w/ Hideo Nomo)

This is a very pretty card from the days when Hideo Nomo was the hottest name in the hobby. That sidearm thing had everybody fah-reaking out and paying $12.00 or more for common base cards. I remember it well. This was probably a $100 card back then.

1996 Studio Press Proof Gold /500

Just a rare parallel from a time when rare parallels seemed somehow even rarer.

1997 Donruss Fabric of the Game Superstar Material #5 #/500

Fabric of the Game was a tiered insert with two Griffeys in it of which this is the slightly rarer one. While this card is made of wood, other cards in the set were made with more unusual materials such as leather which I would have liked to see.

1997 Finest #342

This year’s Finest base set was multi-tiered in terms of rarity, and of all the Griffeys in all the tiers, this is the rarest one. There is also a refractor, an embossed, and an embossed refractor which you should just give up on right now because you’re never going to own it. Except you, magicpapa – you totally own it.

1997 Fleer #206 Tiffany

This almost made the Top 30 list because the Tiffany parallel from this year was such a tough pull at roughly one per box. This doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that the base set was huge, so landing a specific player was much harder. I had never even seen one of these until I got this Griffey in the mail - they just don’t come up for sale often. If you see one for your PC guy, stay on it until it’s yours.

1997 Pinnacle Team Pinnacle #10 (w/ Bagwell, Young, Caminiti, Jones, Piazza, Bonds, Burks, Sheffield, Smoltz, Thomas, Knoblauch, Thome, A-rod, I-rod, Belle, Gonzalez, Pettitt)

It’s a 90’s collector’s dream! So much love and so much ire on one card, and with Dufex printing no less!

1997 Pinnacle X-Press Melting Pot Samples #6

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’ve got to love a card of which there are more samples in the world than the card being sampled. I still haven’t pinned down the real deal, but I’m also in no hurry. I already have the sample, you see.

1998 Leaf Rookies & Stars Cross Training #2 #/1000

Here is the rarest non-parallel Griffey you can get from 1998 Leaf Rookies & Stars, a set burgeoning with cool, serial-numbered Griffeys.

1998 Pinnacle Epix Play Emerald #E1

These are complicated so I will save the in-depth description for a proper post. Suffice it to say that of the twelve total Griffeys there are to be had in this insert, this is the ninth rarest; and Emerald cards in general are the rarest color. I’m not confident I’ll ever find it in me to spend what is needed to complete this thing, but they are pretty.

1998 Pinnacle Team Pinnacle Collector Club Box Set #KEGR

This is Griffey’s card from the Pinnacle version of Topps Stadium Club, but as Pinnacle went bankrupt soon after the club was created it wasn’t around for long at all. The membership came with a t-shirt, so if anyone knows where there might be an XL of that laying around, I’ll pay handsomely. Like, Pinnacle t-shirt handsome.

1998 SP Authentic 300 HR Commemorative Trade Card

I also got the #/1300 jumbo commemorative card you traded this card for, but there’s something about the trade card that is so much cooler. I like to imagine this was pulled from a pack many years after the deadline passed, and everyone involved had a good laugh.

1998 Stadium Club Triumvirate #T16B

Everybody loves Triumvirate cards! Most collectors remember them from the ‘90’s, and those that don’t were reminded when Topps brought the insert back in the newest generations of Stadium Club. The insert, later renamed “3x3” (boo this), included two Griffeys per set for two years (1998 and 1999), each available in three parallels. That makes for a total of twelve Griffeys, some of which get awfully expensive, even now.

1998 Stadium Club Royal Court

It’s not all that rare – I just really like the design here. Purple cards FTW!

1998 Topps Gallery Gallery of Heroes Jumbo #GH 1

At a bar here in NOLA called “St. Joe’s,” there is a little piece of men’s room graffiti that I giggle at every time I go for some blueberry mojitos. It reads, “If you don’t like Morrissey, I don’t f***ing trust you.” Now, I like Morrissey. I don’t LOVE Morrissey, at least not enough to write such a powerful statement about him on a wall. But I recognize that to this person, if you like any music at all, you should be able to appreciate Morrissey as good music.

That is exactly how I feel about the stained glass effect of the amazing Gallery of Heroes inserts. Anyone who likes baseball cards at all should have some kind of appreciation for these. If you don’t like Gallery of Heroes, you can just get right on outta here. You are a bum. And you don’t like baseball cards.

Anyway, this is the jumbo version, and it’s just as beautiful as the regular-sized card.

1998 Upper Deck Unparalleled

Check out that wacky 90’s die-cutting!

1999 Skybox Metal Universe Diamond Soul #8

The lenticular fad went away back in 1995, but it wasn’t until this insert four years later that I actually liked a lenticular card. This is a gem of ‘90’s insert craziness.

I need a break from scanning, but before I go, here is a list of all the Pacific inserts I picked up in 2016:

Pacific inserts:
1996 Pacific Crown Collection October Moments #OM06
1996 Pacific Prisms Fence Busters #FB-6
1996 Pacific Prisms Red Hot Stars #RH-7
1997 Pacific Fireworks #FW-11
1998 Pacific Crown Royale #125
1998 Pacific Crown Royale Cramer’s Choice Premium Jumbo
1998 Pacific Invincible Interleague Players AL #11A
1998 Pacific Invincible Team Checklists #26
1998 Pacific Paramount Cooperstown Bound #9
1998 Pacific Revolution Rookies and Hardball Heroes #28
1998 Pacific Invincible Interleague Players AL #11A
1999 Pacific Crown Collection Tape Measure #16
1999 Pacific Crown Royale Century 21 #9
1999 Pacific Paramount Personal Bests #32
2000 Pacific Aurora Dugout View Net-Fusions
2000 Pacific Aurora Scouting Reports #17
2000 Pacific Invincible Holographic Purple #41
2000 Pacific Paramount Cooperstown Bound #9
2000 Pacific Paramount Double Vision #33
2000 Pacific Paramount Maximum Impact #17
2000 Pacific Revolution Foul Pole Net-Fusions #7
2000 Pacific Revolution Triple Header #12
2000 Pacific Revolution Season Opener #12
2000 Pacific Vanguard Cosmic Force #5
2001 Pacific AL Decade's Best #13


Thanks for reading!