Thursday, February 28, 2013

1993 Finest: the Biggest Carrot, the Longest Pole

In my collection: 1 regular, 0 refractor :-(

Griffey looks: shiny

Is this a good Griffey card? Yes.  The first ever chrome card and the first ever refractor, colorful and tech-forward, famously rare and sought after, freakin' expensive and frustrating.

The set: In the early 90's James Esker invented chromium printing technology which gave rise to the Finest Chrome Process by which cards could be manufactured to look super tight, brah.  Topps ran with it and made this set of 199 cards.  According to, roughly 30,000 of each card were produced with refractor versions limited to about 241 of each card.  It also mentioned the possibility of short prints, but I don't even want to think about that nonsense.

The result was a very high-demand set with ridiculous prices.  The MSRP was $3.99 a pack, but they quickly started fetching upwards of $20 per pack, and there they remain.  The refractors were 1 per box, and there are also jumbos which I have never seen but totally want.

The regs look like this guy
The set was divided into regular cards and the All-Star Subset with no player repeated between sets.  I don't have any regular-issue cards to scan, but on the right is one I pulled from the Interwebz for your eyes to look at.

One interesting effect of this set is that it gives every player collector a Holy Grail, no matter how unknown the guy was.  For many players in the set, 1993 Finest Refractor is their ultimate card, almost certainly their rarest and most expensive one.  Most of them had rookies made in the overproduction era that were not expensive, so their refractors from this set are the tip of the glacier, the most you could ever expect to spend on one of their cards. 

Once you land it, you're done.  You got the hardest card.  Nice job.  It eventually became a different story for many of the stars as super limited-run inserts, triple relics, autograph cards, super-refrsctors, printing plates and 1/1's started popping up.

And no, I don't have the refractor for Griffey.  When I was a kid, I considered it ungettable.  Not like Holy Grail ungettable, because even that has higher perceived gettability than this card.  I mean, this is the card that made me stop collecting Griffeys

Yeah, you heard me.  When I was a kid I got this magazine with a huge checklist of all the Griffeys ever made up to that point.

The magazine

The checklist
 And there, bottom right, staring me in the face, a single box, unchecked evermore. 

There I was, a 14-year-old kid joyfully amassing all the Griffeys ever comitted to cardboard, then I learned that this one existed and I thought "Psh.  Never-freakin'-mind."  What was the point?  It was like the first time I ever really listened to "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Wayne's World soundtrack, via Walkman, on cassette in my parent's living room - never forget).  This thing called "depression" was altogether new to me, and I didn't like it.

Now, 20 years later, I have seen this card for $500.00.  That's only a blip on the ol' credit card, folks.  It has never been more gettable.  I honestly think I will own it one day.  Then again, we do need a new lawnmower.

Wanna see that pesky refractor?

There it is, good ol' #110.  I snagged these pictures online as well.  This guy captured the refractor effect beautifully.  Did I mention how shiny the Kid looks?  Even on the regular-issue card it must have been amazing to behold this set for the first time.

I'm intensely ambivalent towards this card.  It's so cool and scarce and awesome, but it is also a symbol of what made me leave the hobby.  You can no longer, through sheer will, effort, trading and moderate expense, collect everything from a modern set.  I say modern meaning a set still being produced wherein there is scarcity by design; not one that was made in 1952 that is scarce due to the effects of time and happenstance. 

1993 Finest gave us Griffey collectors the ultimate tease, the biggest carrot on the longest pole, the first card that perfectly satirizes the entire hobby card industry.  At once a great reward and a cruel joke.

Now, 20 years later, I'm getting older and less and less wise, and I'm learning to say, "Screw it - I'll enjoy the Griffeys I can get through reasonable, defensible effort."  Hence this blog.

In the meantime I just bought a pack of 1993 Finest on eBay.  I'm stupid.

One of my favorite blogs The Cardboard Examiner is just starting a card-by-card expose of this storied set.  This guy's got information and tends to be a great read.  And apparently he's got the whole set which makes me super jelly.  Check him out.

Also, at the risk of coming across really dorky, I quoted a song lyric written by the great Stephin Merritt somewhere in this post.  First person to spot it gets a free baseball card of coolness.  Good luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Charge it to the Game: Studio ‘95

In my collection: 2 regular, 1 gold, 0 platinum :-(
Griffey looks: confident
Is this a good Griffey card?  Yes.  Gimmicky but well done, assuming it doesn’t remind you of your crippling credit card debt.
The set: OK, I’m the first to admit that if there was an article in the encyclopedia about gimmicky baseball cards, there would be a picture of Studio ’95. 
But you know why I like their 1995 set?  It’s so darn cool, especially to a kid.  The stats raised like a credit card number, the holographic team logo, the “member since” line, the simulated magnetic strip, the signature bar.  You’ve got to admit, these little details are clever.
Then you have the parallels made of hearty but flexible plastic that you could bend and wobble and handle with childish roughness with no consequences.  You could even keep the thing in your wallet and not think twice.  They were a breath of fresh air in a hobby built around frustratingly condition-sensitive little paper cards.
And now to the Griffeys:

Griffey looks confident, brazenly jogging back to the dugout from an inning at center field.  You have to be pretty confident to pull off the flip-up lens thing.  This look can be pretty "yikes" on everyone but the Kid.
The regular card is the only one that you could damage with any ease.  These were printed on paper stock with only slightly raised lettering on the front.

The Gold parallels appeared one per pack.  They were printed on relatively thick plastic with more heavily raised lettering.  They only made gold versions of the first 50 cards in the base set.
There is also a Platinum parallel that appeared 1 per 10 packs.  These were made for only the first 25 cards in the set.  They are exactly like the Gold except that they are the same color as the base set.  I don’t have one, but here’s a pic from the Interwebz for your enlookment and checkitoutitude:
Studio ’95 had an MSRP of $1.49 per pack, but I seem to remember paying more for the novelty.  I’m glad I did.  All the Gold parallels I pulled are still mint, which is crazy because I use them to scrape dried pine sap off my windshield.

The Studio brand has always been polarizing, but they’ve also had some absolute homeruns.  Remember their very first set from 1991?  It was really weird and full of awkward moments.  Now think of Studio '93 and '94.  How nice were those?  Mm-hmm, pretty nice (don't worry, I'll eventually cover both sets).  It's easy to be ambivalent towards a brand that runs as hot and cold as Studio.

Now freeze those knees, chickadees - Studio '95 is hot hot hot!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wallach the Waxcaptain Order: a Trade Post

It was a wild weekend on the trading front.  Wanna see?

I got this in a trade with Victoriano over at Waxcaptain's Dugout.
Disregard the bunny hair.
I've gotten a couple of these in packs and haven't been really impressed with them, but this one has sold me.  Great looking card and set. 

Of course, it could be argued that I'm somewhat biased.

Waxcaptain is now looking for all the Topps cards, so if you have a surplus, I'm sure he could use them.  Thanks, man!

I'm gonna eat your phone charger and get away with it.

 [I would also like to take this opportunity to address an issue with my scans.  My wife got us a pet bunny last year who we named Dumpling.  She is about to turn 1, and she is already huge.  We love her, but she sheds profusely; and while we do a pretty good job of keeping the house fur-free, the errant hair stuck to my hand from much petting does find it's way to the glass of the scanner.  I've noticed a few Dumpling follicles in my Griffey card scans, and the one you see above that you pretty much can't miss is definitely the biggest yet.  Going forward, if you spot a bunny hair in a scan, make a wish.]

I sent Tim Wallach some Tim Wallachs, and he sent the Junior Junkie some Juniors.  No surprises, please:

1995 Leaf! - can I get a "what, what?"

According to Panini, trading doubles of stickers with your friends is fun.  This should be ammended with "but hoarding doubles of Griffey stickers forever is way more fun." 

Wallach guy is good people - send him your Wallachs.  All of them.

Tom from The Angels in Order sent me a mean pile of Griffeys that looked like this:

There were a few I've never seen and a few more I knew right away I didn't have.  Here are the ones that really stood out:

I remember Fun Pack having a few heat-reactive cards, but that one on the top right looks like a flagship Upper Deck insert.  Also, I had all the Griffey Crash the Game folding inserts except that one, so it was a nice surprise.  Plus the Ultra Stars is a gold parallel I was missing, and how cool is that sparkly sticker in the center?  Awesome. 

Aw, wait - there's more?

These are all new to me as well.  I was very excited to find that 2000 Aurora showing Griffey doing a press conference with his new team, the Reds!  Never seen that one, and I love these press conference cards.

So yeah.  Great stuff, Tom!  Thanks a bunch!

And finally, The Underdog Card Collector and I have begun trading negotiations.  He asked that I not send anything just yet, but he wanted to get something to me first.  I like that!

Anyway, he claimed it was a card I didn't have, so I was eager to see what it was.

OK, cool.  I always loved this card.  The forced smile, the turtleneck, the airbrushed M's logo, and who doesn't love a bizarre brand card?  Post, Burger King, Big Mama's Discount Auto Parts and Hairnets - these thing were popping up everywhere in the overproduction era, and they're super collectible.

Sadly I have like 9 of these; so while I love duplicates, I wasn't blown away.......until I turned it over and BLAM!

Say whaaaaaaaaaa?????

Yep, a super-baddass error card!  I most definitely do NOT have this!  I was very vocal about my excitement.  Luckily my wife was not home at the time, though the bunny probably got a little creeped out at the sight of my awkward-white-guy happy dance.

Strangely enough, this is not the first time I've seen Junior and Abbot together on the same card.  From the Griffey binders:

Crazy, right?

Well done, Mark!  You got me. 

I'd like to disregard your suggestion that I not send anything in return, but I cannot for the life of me decipher the return address on this envelope.  That's some doctory handwriting you got there!  Here's my best guess:

The Underdog Card Collector
7Ew Fluximp Plaza
FLicknanrny, Buggymuggz Z4%#L

Is this right?  I'm kidding, of course.  We like to keep things light over at the Junior Junkie.  It was reasonably legible, but I'd rather be sure, so please e-mail it to me!  I'll send you something cool.

Thanks everyone for the awesome trades!

What is Love? '95 Leaf, Don't Hurt Me

In my collection: 7 regular, 7 Great Gloves, 1 Slideshow, 1 Heading for the Hall

Griffey looks: dynamic

Is this a good Griffey card?: Yes.  This is 1995 Leaf, and you're about to get creeped out by how much I love this card. 

The set:  Is it strange to call a set of baseball cards sexy?  Well, I guess I'm just a big ol' weirdo. 

This is the sexiest sets of the 90's and one of my favorite sets ever made.  The cool inserts, the aesthetics, the's the perfect storm of baseball card greatness.  I am physically attracted to this set.  I just want to take all the cards out of their sleeves and cases and fondle them until the gold lettering wears off, like so:

The product of excessive fondling?  Naw, just a few error cards I pulled from packs.

When I discovered, this is the first box I looked up.  There are none available there, but if there were I would tear...that...thing.......up.  I mean, I would destroy that hobby box, giggling all the while.  

Here's a bunch of them from the binders.  Try not to go blind:

The gigantic refracting team name in a cool modern font vertical along the side leading up to the refracting portait in the little baseball field accented by the sweet minimalist gold foil Leaf logo also keeping with the baseball diamond theme, the exquisite font of the player name in luscious gold foil accented by a single color bar appropriate to the player's team, and some really solid photography featuring great action shots all rocket this baby into the upper atmosphere of super-awesome.  Face melted.

There are no horizontal shots in 1995 Leaf (Leaf Limited or Donruss, either for that matter).  DaVinci also didn't paint horizontal versions of the Mona Lisa.  So there.

I bought many, many packs of 1995 Leaf when I was a wee lad, and I pulled a lot of great cards which you are going to see, including one of the greatest insert pulls I have ever gotten from a pack.  Here we go:

Griffey looks dynamic, juking to his left but running right like a running back avoiding a tackle.  A sweet action shot.

Hey, who likes cool inserts?

The Great Gloves inserts were plentiful at 1 per 2 packs, and I think I got every Bagwell they made that year.  Here's another sweet cursive font for ya, and a solid design for such an easy-to-pull insert.

Aw, yeah.  That's nice.

These popped up one per 30/36 packs.  There are both A and B versions of these that you put together to form a disc.  They are made of hard plastic that doesn't damage easily, and they are translucent in the photo sections.  The fronts are refractive with one of those removable protective film layers that someone removed from this one long ago.  I only have the A version, so the B version is high on my want list.

Here's a couple with the film still on:

The Slideshow insert is a great example of the technological advancements made in the card industry in the mid-90's.  It could be argued that these are a little gimmicky, but they're really well-done and the design is just an instantly-recognizable classic.  Haters, step off.....

Here's the only Leaf '95 insert that I like better:

At a scant 1:80 packs, this die-cut masterpiece is one of the coolest inserts ever made.  Super-limited to a checklist of only 8 great players, the Heading for the Hall insert features the timeless look of the Hall of Fame plaque in lovely glossy cardboard.  This is the one that all the other HOF-related inserts aspire to be but ultimately fail.

Check out this bad boy (but don't look directly into his eyes):

This Cal Ripken is the first individually numbered card I ever heard of/saw/pulled from a pack all at once.  I bought a pack of '95 Leaf at Lakeside Mall 18 years ago and pulled this card.  The guy running the kiosk flipped out and told me, "That's one of those serial numbered cards - there's only 5000!"  I had never heard of this concept before, so I was pretty happy with myself.  Being the stupid kid I was, I ended up trading it at a card show for a box of 1995 Topps Embossed Series 2.

Also, that was the day I learned to not trust old fat guys at card shows.

Thanks to eBay, I picked up another one recently for a nominal price.  It is by far one of the great cards of my collection.

There are other great inserts in this set that I don't have the Griffey for, but it would be wrong not to mention them.  Here's more 1995 Leaf from the binders:

300 Club - 1:18 packs - another great-looking set.

Statistical Standouts - 1:70 packs, numbered /5000 - embossed and very cool.

Frank Thomas insert - 1:18 packs, a set of only 6 cards, refractive and beautifully designed

There's also the Gold Leaf Stars insert and the Cornerstones insert.  Sadly I have no examples to scan for you, so I lifted some images from the Interwebs:

Gold Leaf Stars - 1:110 packs, numbered /10,000 - this one may cost me.

Cornerstones - 1:18 packs - no Griffeys, but I spy Will the Thrill!

Gold Leaf Stars features a star-shaped cutout in the bottom left and plenty of gold leaf and shininess.  Cornerstones depicts great 1st-3rd basemen pairs.  If you've seen either of the above cards, give me a shout!

I think 1995 may be the year card designs really fell into place for me.  Stadium Club, Upper Deck, Collector's Choice, Pinnacle, Select, Studio, Emotion, Leaf Limited, Bowman's Best, SP, Donruss, even Fleer (hee hee, yeah, Fleer too) were all above-average in 1995.  The base cards were all amazing, and the inserts were the best of the 90's.  The only exceptions were Score which kinda sucked and Topps and Flair which were just OK. Besides those, the sets of 1995 are some of my favorites ever made.

And 1995 Leaf is their Daddy.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Brave New World: the Griffeys of Pinnacle '94


In my collection: 10 regular, 1 Museum Collection, 2 Team Pinnacle, 1 of every other insert, no Artist's Proof :-(
Griffey looks: like the cat that ate the canary
Is this a good Griffey card?: Yes.  One of the more bizarre images to grace a Griffey card, and a nice, simple design by Pinnacle.
The set: 1994 is the year that borders started disappearing from cards.  Pinnacle, Upper Deck, even Donruss shed their borders for logos and bit of foil lettering - no complaints here.  Moreover, this is the year paper stock became thinner and sharper and every card became high-gloss industry-wide.  It was a big year in the evolution of the modern baseball card.
Parallel sets also started popping up in more brands in 1994. Topps had made Topps Gold since 1992, but now Upper Deck introduced Electric Diamond and Donruss introduced Special Edition.  Pinnacle added two different parallels to the mix with Museum Collection limited to 6500 and Artist’s Proof limited to 1000.  These parallels would last until Pinnacle shut down in 1998. 

Here's a few base cards from the ol' binders:

Javy Lopez!  Hm?  Anyone?  This guy is underappreciated.....

More great catchers

As you can see it's a sharp-looking set with great photography.  Pinnacle included one key stat per card in lieu of a proper blurb so as not to interfere with the two-picture aesthetic (AB per HR came up a lot).  In 1994 I would have been buying pack after pack of this stuff.
Hey, look.  McGwire's card has the gold Anniversary MLB logo.  Hm.  Even Griffey doesn't have that.  And also, what is that white rectangle with the black stippling?  These are on all the Pinnacle base cards, even in later years.  Is that a counterfeit protection thing?  It looks like pieces of letters.  A magnifying glass didn't help - I'll have to attack them with an electron microsope someday.

Now to the Griffeys:

Oh......hey!  Uhhh, what's up?
Those things he’s holding are called projector slides.  They are the Powerpoint of a forgotten age.  Slideshows were notoriously easy to sabotage; hence, Griffey looks like the cat that ate the canary as he’s caught sneaking a picture of Randy Johnson in a dress into coach’s slideshow.  It would seem the Pinnacle photographer caught him red handed (and high-hatted).  Griffey, being the type to never negotiate with blackmailers, ended up on this card, evidence in hand.
If you look at his Oakleys, you can see the field in the reflection.  This seems to have been taken in the dugout.

Pinnacle started employing a printing technology called Dufex that utilizes gnome kisses and baby polar bear fur to give the surface of the card an etched-sheen quality that looks frickin’ awesome.  It could be found on the Museum Collection parallels as well as a few of the inserts.

Museum Collection

Where on the regular set there is that speckled white field, here you see the green and purple Museum Collection logo.  Besides that the back is the same as the regular.

Let's peep some inserts.

Team Pinnacle Insert (1:90)

The rarest insert you can pull.  Yesssssss!  And it’s the Griffey!  WOO-HOO!!!!!  He’s….on the back?  Hm. Okay, who’s on the front?  

Oh.  Yippee.
1994 was totally trying to hook these two up like crazy.  Check out that Topps All Stars card from the same year.
There have been some bizarre pairings of Griffey with non-Griffey players on cards like this.  Infact, those cards deserve their own post.   

As a Griffey fan, I choose to believe that it is because Griffey is so very awesome that his inclusion is meant to balance out a card’s desireability.  Like if this card featured Lenny Dykstra and, say, Ron Kittle.  How excited would you be?  You wouldn’t, because 2+3=5.  On the other hand, 2+10=12.  Yep, Dykstra is a 2, Kittle a 3.  Baseless, unreasonable Griffey math - you heard it here first.

Still, a great-looking insert with a neat titular logo and nice fonts.  Also, is it just me or does it seem like just about everybody paints better than Diamond King artist Dick Perez?

[We give Perez a hard time, but really he's a talented artist and a good sport.  Check out his stuff here.  I'd give my left nipple for one of those action shot originals.]

Tribute Insert (1:18)

This is the greatest and best player in the world…..tribute.  Not a bad design, and the name bar along the bottom matches my blog background perfectly.

And look at that clean-cut, all-American guy on the back.  It's called freedom, middle east.  Look it up. 
Run Creators Insert 1:4 Superpacks

Griffey looks spinny like he's in a washing machine.

Pinnacle released two different 25-card boxed hobby sets in 1994.  I tend to pigeon-hole sets like these as money-grabs, but both are actually pretty decent:
Power Surge

Marblized accents and a cool 3D graphic effect set off this resonably cool card.  Check out that follow-through on the front.  Daaaaaaamn.  Dude’s a natch, fo’ sho’.
Speaking of dudes being natches…….

The Naturals

This thing is positively decked out in Dufex bling.  The crazy waves in the background are one thing, but look at the detail in his uniform.  It’s just awesome.  Plus the back is very shiny and lightningy.  It's is a set I would love to go back and buy.

I guess what I’m saying, card companies of the world, is that you can have all the money-grabs you want as long as the cards are cool.
Apparently they made 100,000 of this set and serial numbered them, but the numbering must be on the box because there's nothing on the card that suggests this.

I read up on Dufex.  Turns out this printing technology makes zero sense to both my brain and my eyes, but damn does it ever turn me on. 

Well played, Pinnacle.  I miss you.

Fun with Grammar!  See if you can spot the conjunctive adverb in today’s post.  Highlight the hidden text below for the answer…..
[Answer:  Hence - from the paragraph that begins with “Those things he’s holding…”  A conjunctive adverb takes the place of a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, for, but, yet, so) in a sentence containing two independent clauses separated by a semicolon.  Philosophically speaking, I find that conjunctive adverbs tend to tie ideas more closely together where most coordinating conjunctions further emphasize the independence of said ideas.  OK, enough of that – this ain’t no grammar rodeo.]