Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wallet Card Wednesday: Wedding Fish Edition

I went to a wedding a few weeks back, and the place where they held the reception had a large pond in the back. There happened to be a few cane poles and some old tackle laying around, so I, being a beer or two deep at this point, decided to put together a basic rig (a small hook, a penny weight, and a bobber) and see if there was anything in there. I balled up little bits of bread as bait (perch love bread) and set the pole to work. Wouldn’t you know it?

I caught a fish at a wedding. It's one of the more redneck things I've done, but it's nice to know that Poseidon blesses this union. Poseidon and Aquaman.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Junior Junkie...Junior!

I’ve hinted at it enough. It’s time to make it official – we’re having a baby. :-)
Our newest rookie arrives in March 2016

And not just any baby – a Griffey-collecting super-baby. Probably. I don’t know for sure, but I can only assume some part of my own lust for Griffey cardboard will be passed on. I mean, I’m no genetimacist, but I like to think I can brain good.

Now, if it’s a boy he will be a third because I am a junior. But who’s to say we can’t simply reboot the “Jr.” suffix in tribute to the greatest center fielder of all time? Or simply double-up the “Jr?” Is that allowed? I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. Are the Third police going to come and get me like they apparently do in the semi-dystopian near-future portrayed in the Nebula award-winning sci-fi novel Ender’s Game? Doubt it.

If it’s a girl, I’m thinking “Griffey.” Or “Georgina Kendra Griffey June.” Something like that. I haven’t discussed the details with my wife yet, but I can only assume she’s on board. It’s just the name of your first child, not anything important like what player to collect or what set to build.

Is it too early to talk little league?

So come March expect fewer posts, fewer new Griffeys, and hopefully a whole lot of inappropriate Wallet Card photos. As if this blog wasn’t infantile enough. Bam – baby joke.
Yeah, I'm nervous.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wallet Card Wednesday: Adult Summer Camp Edition

Every year my family takes a big camping trip to Flint Creek, Mississippi. It’s everybody – aunts, uncles, cousins, significant others, and the occasional guest. We’ve been doing this trip for 30 years, and we look forward to it all year long.

We bring along a small fleet of boats. This is the Greenie Weenie, a small fishing boat. The Mr. Malc is in the picture at the top of this post, and we use that one for tubing and cruising the lake. We also have a canoe and a kayak that get around quite a bit.

Together we occupy a massive part of the shoreline six cabins wide. This is the view from my cabin across an inlet to the rest of the cabins. They are air-conditioned and have basic cable, so I guess it;s not really "camping" so much as "cabining."

See the Griffey?

We found this guy making his way up to the road which was a bad idea. I snapped this picture seconds before we set him back into the lake where turtles belong.

My six-year-old goddaughter wanted to paint my toenails, so I took a mighty swig of Bushmill's and just kind of let it happen. I could have made this picture bigger, but do you really want to count the hairs on my toes?

The sunsets are great, and the stars plentiful. This was taken a half hour or so before we began the nightly campfire which is where the kids learn dirty words and jokes that aren't quite appropriate for grade school. This is where I had my first drink, caught my first fish, won my first hand of poker, and learned who all these crazy folks I'm related to really are. 

I can't wait to bring my own kid here which, as it turns out, I'll be doing for the first time next summer. I don't believe I'll be packing quite as much Bushmill's then.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Doin' the Happy Dance. Feelin' the Flow. Working it. Working it.

When it comes to cardboard I am a total sucker for three things: needless reprints of modern cards, cards embedded with coins n' shit, and Griffeys. For those reasons, here are a trio of Griffey checklists that I was recently able to complete listed in increasing difficulty.

2015 Topps Birth Year Coin/Stamp Relics: 4 cards

These things, man. I mean, I was never a philatelist, but you bet your boots I've been a numismatist since my grandma got me turned onto coins when I was 10. When I saw these babies were coming down the pipe, I was all, "Be affordable, awesome cards!" And they were. The penny was by far the toughest get of these four which was weird.

The stamp I know nothing about, but it is very pretty and patriotic, and unlike some of the cards in this checklist the colors in the stamp go well with the card.

The cards are serial numbered out of 50, something I didn't even notice the first time I made this post - thanks, Ryan! There is an autographed version of the quarter card for some players, but not all. More importantly, not Griffey. That makes this a complete set for our purposes.

Woo! Complete set!

Topps must have really turned up the Griffey dial for 2015 because these happened, too:

2015 Topps Factory Set Chrome Refractor Reprints and Gold Parallel: 6 Cards

I wasn't kidding when I said I'm a sucker for reprints of cards you wouldn't expect to see reprints of. Really, who in 2015 is waiting with bated breath for a reprint of the 2007 or 1999 Topps base cards? The answer is me! I love 'em!

These are some of the best reprints Topps has ever done, too. They're extra thick and heavy - you could tile floor with them. And the refraction is strong and the chrome shiny.

It can be tricky to spot a gold parallel for that 1999 card which was already gold-bordered, so if you're not sure which one you have, just look at the grass field in the background. Green = regular, gold = well, gold.

I've been unable to find the odds of pulling the gold parallels, but I suspect they are at least a little rarer than their counterparts. I'd be more interested in learning how they landed on these three sets. I mean, 1989 is a given, but why 1999 and 2007? I'm guessing 1999 because it was his last Mariners card and 2007 because it was his last Reds card, but why not 2010, his sunset card? And 2000, his first Reds card? Are there more on the way? If so, a gold parallel of the 1990 design could be really cool.

Thanks for keeping the Griffey game going for 2015, Topps!

Another complete set!

Finally comes a real bear of a checklist that is infamous among Griffey collectors the world over: the harrowing 100-card 2008 SPx American Hero set. I was finally able to land the last card I needed, and here it is:

Old #KG82. Finally.

With every card in the massive checklist serial numbered to 725, this thing tried my patience and exhausted all my search methods. I acquired cards in every way I know how: ebay, blind lots, trades, shows, LCS, COMC, Justcommons, and several others I'm not thinking of.

Hey, wanna see 'em all at once? Let's make it official:

2008 SPx Ken Griffey, Jr. American Hero Insert #/725: 100 cards

<sigh> Thing of beauty, folks. Of all the Griffey sets I've vowed to build, this one has definitely taken the most hands-on work and research to finally finish off. Pulling that final card from the envelope it was mailed in was truly surreal. I wasn't even excited at the time. I was more like, "Good, fine, whatever, it's done." Now that I can look at them all at once, I am pleased.
Wooo! Complete set!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Mysterious 1:720 White Whale of 1998 E-X2001

When I think of cool 90’s inserts, I think of Pacific. When I think of cool 90’s inserts other collectors have actually heard of, I think of Fleer/Skybox. At the epicenter of Fleer’s seemingly never ending parade of quality pulls with insane insertion ratios is the E-X brand.

E-X had quite a lineage as the Fleer/Skybox super-premium offering, starting life in 1995 as Emotion then evolving into Emotion XL in 1996, E-X 2000 and 2001 in ’97 and ’98 respectively, E-X Century in 1999, and simply E-X for a few years thereafter. All these sets had a few things in common: high-tech cards, small base sets, and some seriously baddass inserts.

The brand’s insert game came to a head in 1997 with the introduction of the 1:288-pack mega-rare and mega-die-cut “Cut Above” insert, one of the most popular Griffey insert cards ever made. The following year, Fleer/Skybox decided to top themselves with another insert three times as rare. Despite being unnumbered, unsigned, and having no relics or autos, it remains one of the rarest and highly sought-after Griffey insert cards of all time. This despite the fact that many collectors have never even seen one.

Well, you’re going to see one today. And on top of that, I’m going to do the Griffey collecting community a service by attempting to deduce how many specimens of this unnumbered insert exist. But let’s work up to it, shall we?

Here is one of my favorite rookie inserts of all time: Stardate 2001. I think the premise here is that these guys were supposed to be stars by 2001. The execution is a lot of action shots superimposed over the kind of futuristic scenes you would expect to see at EPCOT - a lot of that great old 50’s-style sci-fi stuff. It’s a solid checklist, too, including Paul Konerko, Sean Casey, Livan Hernandez, and Todd Helton. And the cards themselves are made of a nice, sturdy plastic. I love this insert so much that I’m leaning towards building the set, Griffey-less as it is.

Speaking of Griffeys, let’s get to ‘em:

1998 E-X2001 #10

The acetate base cards are liberally stamped with gold and holofoil bisected by a curved bar of bold team coloring. They also threw some trippy patterns in there to keep things interesting. The card has a multi-level aspect to it, as well. Everything that is not clear is actually raised by the same thickness as the acetate. This makes for a very sturdy card that could almost certainly be used as a weapon if things get hairy at the LCS. While I can imagine 1998 me thinking these were the best thing ever and probably willing to pay $5.00 or more in a shop for the base card, here in 2015 they seem a little busy and tacky.

There are also two other colorways of this card, those being the two-tiered Essential Credentials parallel. The Future version is numbered out of 91 and the Now version is numbered to 10. Freaking TEN. I couldn’t possibly explain the reasoning behind these numbers better than Baseballcardpedia:

“Each of the 100 base cards are available in two different serial-numbered Essential Credentials parallels: Now and Future. The production of the Essential Credentials Now matches the card's sequential number, and the Essential Credentials Future is serial-numbered to 101 copies minus the sequential number. Between the two Essential Credentials sets, each card is serial-numbered to a combined 101 copies.”

There ya go. I can’t imagine landing either of these anytime soon, but they better be pretty darn cool for their rarity. Having never seen one in person I can only go from photos I’ve pulled from the Interwebs:

1998 E-X2001 Essential Credentials Future (left) and Now (right)

The less rare Future version is on eBay right now at a discounted price of $900. I suspect my Griffey-collecting hero Magicpapa has one or two in his collection. Mike? You reading this? How do these look in person?

1998 E-X2001 Chaep Seat Treats #2

This intensely die-cut nemesis of binder storage unfolds, apparently, but I won’t be unfolding this one. Nosirree. Maybe if I land an off-condition specimen for cheap I’ll go ahead and pry it open and take a few pictures, but until then this is the best image you’re getting.

Apart from what may or may not be inside the folded part, it’s really faithful to the chair design, meaning it’s literally just a little chair with a card number and logo on it. There’d better be an insane, fold-out 3D hologram of Junior sitting in the chair giving you a thumbs up inside because otherwise I’m not certain it would be worth it to bust this puppy open. I’ve nearly succumbed to the desire to do just that, and from the effort it takes I believe there is some adhesive at work here. I get the feeling opening it up could ruin the card forever. Probably not worth it.

And now, as if 2015 could be any more the year of the whale it’s been, here is one of the rarest Griffey inserts I’ve ever owned. BEHOLD:

1998 E-X2001 Destination Cooperstown #7

Made to look like a gold-lettered luggage tag complete with string and seeded at a whopping 1:720 packs, this card here is the bitch’s bastard. They come up for sale on the ‘Bay only a couple of times per year max, and when they do they go for way more than you would think an unnumbered, unsigned, unrelic’d card should go for. But if you’re a Griffey collector, you just WANT IT. SO. BAD.

And the stupid string that came with it.

1998 E-X2001 Destination Unnumbered.

It’s funny, too. From what I’ve read these used to go for a reasonable sum (somewhere in the 40-50 dollar range) just a few years ago. Be that as it may, one just went on eBay for over $300, and several more have gone for comparable amounts in recent months. I have to wonder if there are far fewer of these floating around than collectors thought, and now everyone is realizing this and trying to get theirs before the HOF induction. In fact, I’m confident that’s the case, and you’re about to see why.

So, how many specimens of this card actually exist? And how can we figure it out without production numbers? Sadly we can’t, but we can get pretty darn close. All you need to figure out production numbers is a numbered insert, its stated odds, and the number of cards in that insert’s checklist. The brand is hobby-only, so that simplifies things. Let’s go to the box:

Uh-oh. We don’t have stated odds for the Essential Credentials insert, the only numbered cards in this set. This means we may never have a hard figure for how many Destination Cooperstown Griffeys there really are; but I promised I’d get us close. First let’s figure out how much one would have to spend to build a complete set of the Destination Cooperstown insert based on the stated odds.

1998 E-X2001 is $4 for a pack of 2 cards with a total of 15 cards in the checklist. Let’s math: 720 packs per pull x $4.00 per pack = $2,880 minimum (no repeats) to guarantee one card from the set. $2,880 x 15 cards = $43,200 minimum to pull an entire set. 720 x 15 = 10,800 minimum packs needed to pull one of each Destination Cooperstown card, thereby guaranteeing a Griffey pull.

Now let’s pretend there are 500 of this card floating around. Plugging that into the equation would mean 5,400,000 packs were produced or 225,000 boxes. Is that a reasonable sum for a super-premium brand? Nope – in fact, it’s astronomically high. Were the insert numbered we’d know for sure how many boxes were made. So, let’s look at an insert from a comparable super premium set that is numbered.

2000 E-X is the same brand by the same manufacturer produced just two years after the set in question. 2000 E-X E-Xceptional Blue #/250 is seeded at 1:288 packs. So, 250 of each card x 288 packs per pull x 15 cards in the checklist means roughly 1,080,000 packs were produced or 45,000 boxes. That’s far less than the 225,000 boxes it would take for there to be 500 specimens of the Destination Cooperstown insert, so 500 is probably not an accurate figure. Assuming (ASSUMING) the production numbers of the 1998 and 2000 sets are comparable, we can figure out roughly how many Destination Cooperstown Griffeys might exist.

1:720 packs = 1:30 Boxes. 45,000 boxes/30 boxes per pull = 1500 total Destination Cooperstown cards. 1500/15 cards in the checklist = 100 of each card.

There it is: a nice, round number.

Going by these numbers, we can deduce that there may be about a hundred 1998 E-X2001 Destination Cooperstown Griffeys. This feels right because from what I know about card printing, cards are produced in sheets of either 100 or 132, and I’ve seen a lot more 100-card sheets in my time. One sheet of these cards per player makes sense.

I can already hear the critics saying, “Junkie, you can’t take production figures from one set and apply them to a completely different set willy-nilly.” And you’re right. But I can take a very similar set made around the same time by the same manufacturer and ballpark the production number. How far off can we be here? Heck, even if we’re off by 10,000 boxes in either direction, that puts the quantity of Griffeys at 77 on the low end and 123 on the high end (rounded down and up, respectively). My point is we are damn close on this, and the $300 price point I’ve been seeing is low compared to many popular inserts and parallels from this era. Compare that with the current $900 price point for the #/91 Essential Credentials Future parallel base card and $300 becomes a heck of a deal. 

Now it’s possible you could pull the Griffey sooner than that 10,800th pack of 1998 E-X2001. You could also pull one in your first pack or your 20,000th. The point is that statistically speaking, this is a lottery card. You don’t chase it by buying packs, and very few people will own one in their lifetime. I’m just financially irresponsible enough to have made it work. 

So I have all the Griffeys I want from this brand, and all that's left are a pair of killer whale parallels. Still, for tradition’s sake, here are the Griffeys I still need from 1998 E-X2001: 

#10 Essential Credentials Future #/91
#10 Essential Credentials Now #/10

I guess I wouldn’t mind the pink and purple “Future” one. It’s shiny.

Hey, how about a few gratuitous shots of that white whale and it's amazing string?

$300 for this. What a strange little hobby we have.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Design Timeline: Topps Total

This post is part of an ongoing feature The Great Griffey Base Card Project.

Here is one of the most popular and talked-about sets of the 21st century. Topps Total is a thing of beauty, simple and pure. Don’t be fooled by the uncomplicated design and printing of these cards – this is a very high-concept set. It’s everybody. EVERYBODY. Veterans, rookies, minors, draft picks, and every no-name and semi-star in between got cards in Topps Total. That combined with a super simple design, limited inserts and parallels, and an almost complete lack of hits, you can think of it as the anti-super-premium set.

With a super-low price point and a perennially massive checklist that was so all-encompassing that it included even those guys who never made it into an MLB game, Topps Total was an especially big hit among team collectors. Topps knew this too as every card is numbered twice, once for the set and once for each team (Griffey’s team numbering has a “CIN” prefix). Finishing your team’s respective checklist was a tremendous challenge. Heck, people are still doing it today, thirteen years after the set’s introduction. It’s a kind of rite of passage for team guys. As a player collector I’m even a little jealous of them.

Design-wise the cards don’t change much from set to set as you will see. It’s only four years long, but the aesthetic stays the same throughout the timeline.

Here is the every Topps Total design in order as told through Griffey base cards:


No chrome, no foil, no shiny bits – no flair at all in the entire 990-card checklist. Just a simple, reasonably glossy card with a bit of team color in a simple, bottom-mounted nameplate. Get used to this, my friends, because the song remains the same throughout the timeline. Except for the gloss. We never see that again.


Again, not much to it, but this year's offering features a matte surface instead of gloss. We get a full border this year, but apart from that it could be easy to confuse this card with its predecessor. I like the gray line that seems to separate fields of team color behind the photo. The font in the nameplate here is about as simple as it gets. Still, there’s the top-mounted team logo. Hi, logo!


This year Topps reduced the base set by 110 cards, but they added printing plates and a small number of autographs as hits. They also moved the brand logo to the top of the card where it will remain for the remainder of the timeline. They changed things up again by giving us a gray partial border on the top and bottom only and threw in the player position and a fun close-up of the team logo in the corner opposite the go-to top-mounted full team logo. The most fun design in the timeline.


While this is the least “total” of all the Topps Total sets at only 770 cards, it is my favorite design in the timeline. We are back to the full border, but the team colors are done in split-fades anchored in opposite corners. One corner bows out to accommodate the team logo, and the nameplate and font are simple but attractive. A lot of thought went into this design. In addition to the silver parallels we’ve seen in the past, this year we got a Domination parallel which was basically this card in a chrome-like foil.

And that was it for Topps Total. Any further reduction in the size of the base set and you wouldn’t be able to call it Topps Total anymore. Topps Cheap, maybe, but not Topps Total. There is lot of hubbub in the collecting community about bringing it back, but whether that will come to fruition or not remains to be seen.


I’ll admit that when I first returned to the collecting fold a few years back I thought this was just a simple, low-end set. I now understand what Topps was doing with Topps Total, and I realize it was not made for collectors like me. It’s a set made for team collectors and completionist set-builders.

Still, I see what they were going for: a way to give collectors cards they didn’t even know they wanted. The guys that played for their favorite teams whether they made a starting roster or not, whether they played in only two games or none at all, down to the least known relief pitcher still trying to make a name for himself down on the farm. Some of these guys’ only baseball cards were Topps Total cards, and without it they may not have had any cards at all. I like to imagine there are more than a few former players who have a copy of their own Topps Total cards that they show to their kids and say, “This is daddy’s baseball card.” I think that’s pretty cool.

Here is one more look at the entire Topps Total Design Timeline:

Wallet Card Wednesday: Look at Me! Edition

I’m on a weekly pub trivia team, The Problem Children. There are two or three trivia contests happening at various bars on any given night in this town. We’ve competed in most of them and even won a few. It’s a good excuse to get out on a weeknight and enjoy a few pints with friends. Plus, free stuff sometimes.

This is a photo taken from the Geeks Who Drink website of the night we won at Bruno’s. It’s kind of blurry, but I’m in there along with the Griffey. The guy next to me is Nol, longtime friend, patriarch of the team, and master of all topics trivial. Except baseball. That’s where I come in. Also he confuses Air Supply and REO Speedwagon which is simply unacceptable.

I dedicate this post to Night Owl who recently had the marbles to post a photo of himself, something few bloggers have done.