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!
Woo!


 
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 Cooperstown....um...string. 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:

2002


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.

2003


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!

2004



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.

2005



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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Killer Whales


I’ve noticed a lot of talk about white vs. gray whales in terms of card collecting, and I'm way into it. I traced it back to a post done by Zippy Zappy on the always excellent Torren’ Up Cards a while back. ZZ describes white whales as cards that are expensive and/or very limited in quantity. About gray whales ZZ says “[t]hey're not white whales because they aren't cards that would cost an arm and a leg or have limited print runs. They're in the gray area where I could easily find them, I sort of want them, and in the grand scheme of things they aren't really that expensive; but I have reservations about paying over one dollar.” Spot-on analogy, bro.

As a Griffey collector, I can tell you that there are many astronomically expensive cards out there for Mr. Junior; and among those are certain cards without which I would consider my own collection incomplete: the ’94 Upper Deck Griffey/Mantle dual auto, the ’93 Finest refractor, the Tiffany ’89 Topps Traded rookie, etc. These are my white whales – rare, desirable, and necessary for any serious collection.

Then again, there are also Griffeys that are both extremely limited AND expensive but that I feel like I can be a serious collector without owning. Cards like the ’98 E-X2001 Essential Credentials Now parallel #/10, the 2012 Topps Gold Rush Auto #/25, and 1999 Pacific Prism Holographic Blue #/80. Great cards, all, but the prices are insanely high. There is a spirit-crushing quantity of obscenely rare Griffeys like this out there, and they are EXPENSIVE Y'ALL. Like, scary expensive. I hesitate to call these white whales because that would suggest a high level of desirability. I am constantly reading about cards like these; and while I would like to have them, I am at peace with never owning them. These are not white whales - they're something else. Killer whales, maybe. Rare, beautiful, and potentially deadly (to your card budget).


I think other player collectors can relate to this. Look at the famous 1990 Topps Frank Thomas #414A NNOF Error Variation. This is a card that sells regularly for well over $600. Heck, even I've bid on one. There have been 235 specimens graded, and I've seen estimates that put the final print run anywhere between 250 and 500. 


1990-Topps-414-Frank-Thomas-No-Name-NNOF-Error-RC-BGS-8-5-NM-MT
Here it is

We may never know how many made it into circulation, but we know one thing: if you are a Frank Thomas collector, this is a white whale. A famous error variation on his rookie card? You have to have that card in your collection, man! Spend the $600 and call it a day.


On the other hand a much rarer Frank Thomas card, this 1996 Select Certified #135 Pastime Power Mirror Blue /45, is currently on eBay for $1900. Rare, sure. Beautiful, of course. But do you really want that card? Like, on the level that your collection is incomplete without it? Really, how many Big Hurt collectors are tripping over each other to land that one? My guess is maybe one or two supercollectors and that's it. At some point a card is just so arbitrarily rare and expensive that you don't even feel the need to own it. That's your killer whale.

And a high-profile player like Griffey has a ton of killer whales.

Now, when it comes to gray whales, these exist all over the spectrum for Griffeys. There are so many that it becomes a matter of taste. For example, I would rather spend $7 on a cool numbered 90’s insert than $2 on a much rarer 2003 Fleer parallel that is nothing more than a foil stamp. The real problem when it comes to Griffey gray whales is the myriad 5-30 dollar cards. The sheer quantity of those is enough to make one want to stop collecting Junior altogether.

To illustrate this, here is the distribution of Griffey card price points on COMC. There are 405 pages of Griffeys there with 12 cards on each page. I ordered them by price from lowest to highest:

Griffey card price points on COMC – 4,824 cards total
Pgs. 1-137: $1 or less (~1644 cards) – 34%
Pgs. 138-294: $1.01-$5 (~1872 cards) – 39%
Pgs. 295-395: $5.01-$30 (~1200 cards) – 25%
Pgs. 396-405: $30.01-$799 (~108 cards) – 2%

Let’s say you’re a Felix Hernandez collector as I (kind of) am. Here’s what his distribution looks like:

Felix card price points on COMC – 1,360 cards total
Pgs. 1-50: less than $1 (~600 cards) – 44%
Pgs. 51-87: $1.01-$5 (~432 cards) – 32%
Pgs. 88-108: $5.01-$30 (~256 cards) – 19%
Pgs. 109-114: $30.01-$450 (~72 cards) – 5%


Felix has more of what I would consider to be a normal distribution: mostly bottom-heavy pricing that would create a nice, even curve as prices go up. Griffey on the other hand has a distribution that actually increases as price goes up, and finally begins to drop after $5. When it does happen the drop is smaller than Felix’s drop, and even after that over a quarter of Griffey cards on COMC are still priced between $5 and $30 – that’s a whopping 1200 cards. Hence not only do Griffey cards average much higher in price, their overall distribution is a lot more even across all price points.

This post is not me trying to butt in on Zippy Z's excellent whale analogy, but there are a lot of whales in the Griffey Sea and a lot of Griffey supercollectors hunting them. Prices are insane, and they're not always worth paying. Those of us stupid enough to collect him have to pick and choose our white whales carefully and let those killer whales be, all while the sneaky gray whales steal our card budget a few bucks at a time.

Hm. I just made myself sad.

Dick.

The Googlers


Do you ever go to your blog stats and look around? Come on, you totally do, and being that you do, you’ve probably seen the list of “search keywords” that have led folks to visit your blog. (On Blogger: Stats – Traffic Sources – Search Keywords)

These are things people typed into Google that somehow led them to your blog. I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of weird, random things in this list, and one item that takes the randomness cake. Here’s my Top 10 Traffic Sources according to Blogger in reverse order:

10. 1989 bowman ken griffey jr – 5 hits

Somehow the Griffey rookie from one of the worst sets of cards ever made cracked the top 10. Apparently people want to know about it. I can’t imagine why. Maybe they’re trying to find out if there is an effective way to store these with the rest of their cards.

NOPE, by the way.

9. bowman tiffany baseball card - 6 hits

1989 Bowman #220 Rookie Tiffany

This one makes sense. Even I was a little thrown off by all the Tiffany versions out there. Turns out the Bowman is the rarest of the Tiffany rookies, rarer even than the coveted ’89 Topps Traded Tiffany. Hopefully this search leads folks to my 2012 post where I talk about the Tiffany Bowman rookie at length. If it doesn’t, here you go.

8. griffey cal purple – 7 hits

I think this is a shoe thing. The amount I know about Nike Griffey shoes could fit on a Topps Micro card, so these seven poor Googlers were really wasting their time.

7. the 80s 90s and 2000s with – 8 hits

This chunk of words was taken right from the middle of some poor, unsuspecting sentence; and frankly I have no clue how it led someone to me. What about this group of words says “Griffey baseball cards?”

6. ken griffey jr – 12 hits

Perfect.

5. griffeys 2014 – 12 hits

Yeah, okay.

4. the junior junkie – 13 hits

Aw, you guys…. *blush*

3. how many griffey rookies in 1989 upper deck box – 15 hits

Now this is a really good question. Here ya go:

Low # boxes: 15 cards x 36 packs = 540 cards per box/700 possible cards = ~0.77 Griffeys per box
High # boxes: 15 cards - 2 high # cards = 12 low # cards per pack x 36 packs = 432 low # cards per box/700 possible cards = ~0.62 Griffeys per box

There is a little less than one Griffey rookie per box on average. Two is not unheard of but zero is far more likely than that. You will pull one more often than not, but it is more likely from a low # box.

But there’s a problem. These boxes weren’t sealed, so a lot of sellers will open packs from multiple fresh boxes until they pull a Griffey from each, then combine the remaining packs to create multiple new “fresh” boxes to sell. It’s not impossible to pull a Griffey from one of these compromised boxes, but the odds are significantly lower. It’s cheaper to just spend 20 bucks on an aftermarket Griffey rookie and call it a day. Or buy a complete set - it'll run you about the same price (probably a little less even) and the odds are 1:1. Them's good odds, too.

2. thejuniorjunkie.blogspot.com – 28 hits

Who Googles full web addresses? My Mom, that’s who. Just plug it into the address bar, people. Oh, and thanks for visiting.

Ladies and gentlemen, the most heavily-searched term that led someone to The Junior Junkie:

1. is junior s first – 68 hits

So I’ve looked at this string of words and…um, one letter, for some months now and it remains a complete bloody mystery to me. Obviously it’s an interrogative being that it starts with “is.” This leads us to think there must be a yes or no answer to said query.

So, is Junior “s” first? No. Junior is J first, followed by U, N, I, O, and finally R in that order. I cannot think of a context in which the answer to this question would be “yes.”

I’ll admit that my curiosity got the best of me recently and I went ahead and Googled this string of letters exactly. My goal was not just an explanation of its meaning, but also how it could possibly be connected to the blog. After scrolling through 40 pages of results, I found no mention of The Junior Junkie or baseball cards of any kind. I did find one reference to Ken Griffey, Jr. on page 30, his baseball-reference.com page. That was it.

What could it possibly mean? And how does it outpace every other search by such a huge margin? And how many pages did someone have to click through to get to my blog...68 TIMES? So many questions.

I realized while making this post that this is going to make my blog show up even higher in the search results for these very terms. So, to all those “is junior s first?” people, the answer is yes. Junior is indeed s first. Don’t ask me how I know – just go with it. Now that that's out of the away, have you heard the good news about Griffey?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Back-to-back


25 years ago today the Griffeys put all the world's great father-son memories to shame.

It was pretty cool that Junior followed in his Dad's footsteps by playing in the Major Leagues. It was remarkable that for a time they were both playing at the same time. It was astounding that they ended up active on the same team and positively bonkers that they were back-to-back in the lineup. What happened next was nothing short of a dream come true for these two.


What are the odds of something like that ever happening again? It's rare enough that a son follow his father into the majors let alone that they play at the same time. But on the same team? And back-to-back in the lineup? And double dingers? I can't imagine this ever happening again. I find it hard to believe it happened in the first place.


Congratulations, guys, on one of the greatest moments in baseball sports history

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This is a Fantasy Post


[Disclaimer: this post is a work of fiction. It is a fantasy post from sometime in early 2016. It is highly unlikely that anything in it will actually occur. Especially the part about “Griffsgiving.” Be warned.]

A lot has been happening here at The Junior Junkie, my friends. So much, in fact, that I can barely fit it all in one post.

First off, I’m happy to report that a representative from Beckett e-mailed me last week, and it turns out that my monthly article is a go. I’ll be reviewing great sets of the 90’s with a focus on Griffey cards. I’ve decided to start with one of the 90’s-est sets I know, 1994 Upper Deck, so look out for that in the next issue.

On top of that you may have noticed Beckett has also taken to heart my suggestion that Griffey cards are way undervalued in their listings because this most recent issue has a plethora of little black up arrows beside his cards. It’s about time, too. I always thought it embarrassing to see cards of McGwire and Bonds valued at more than double the same cards of Junior. It also makes no sense with all the rabid Griffey collectors out there. And with all the 90’s collectors re-entering the hobby, his card values have nowhere to go but up. I mean, have you ever met a Barry Bonds player collector who wasn’t being ironic?

In other news, we got our lump sum from last month’s lotto win; so I was finally able to buy out COMC of all the Griffeys I didn’t have yet. It was still only $3.00 shipping somehow. Up next: eBay. I’ll be sitting at my computer tonight with a bottle of scotch, placing a lot of nutty bids on dream Griffeys I’ve never been able to afford.

Then tomorrow it’s off to my LCS to stock up on storage media to accommodate all the new cards. I might also grab a case or two of some super premium product. Perhaps that new Upper Deck SP Authentic 2016 baseball everyone’s been raving about. And a few boxes of Upper Deck’s new flagship product, too. And a case of Stadium Club. Why not? Money is no object now.

I’m also pretty excited about next week’s meet & greet with Junior at Upper Deck headquarters to celebrate his HOF induction. Apparently each attendee is allowed to bring a stack of cards to be autographed, so I’ve been making my selections carefully. It was hinted to me that there is a position opening up as a card designer in their new baseball division, so I’ll be interviewing while I’m there. Apparently they’re looking for a collector’s perspective, and I’ve been told I’m a shoe-in.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, a few fellow bloggers and myself have been given VIP passes by Major League Baseball to the induction ceremony in Cooperstown. I’m excited to meet a lot of the folks I’ve been reading and/or trading with for the past few years. I’m even more excited that the veterans committee voted to induct Will Clark, Chuck Finley, Dan Wilson, Ron Kittle, Bryan Clutterbuck, and Sherard Clinkscales in this year’s class. Who would have thought?

Congratulations, HOF Class of 2016!

Of course if you weren’t one of the few given said passes, don’t despair – we’re done making the final arrangements for the First Annual Baseball Card Blogger Convention here in New Orleans. I assume everyone has received their plane tickets and hotel arrangements (Kevin, your flight from Paris was hella-expensive, so you’d better show up!). Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini will all be there giving away a ton of free product, and all of our special guest speakers have confirmed - even the Mickey Mantle hologram.

Also, I got an update from the publisher of the Wallet Card coffee table book. Apparently it comes out this summer. Thanks again, everybody, for your contributions. Your respective royalty checks should be arriving this week, so go spend it all on baseball cards. You’ve earned it.

And it’s only a few more months before Griffsgiving, the newest national holiday dedicated to Ken Griffey, Jr. I’ll be decorating my Griffey Tree with plenty of Starting Lineup figures and Pacific card ornaments. How about you?

Finally, don’t forget that The Junior Junkie Movie is coming to theaters next July. And I just found out that I’m receiving the Nobel Prize for brokering peace in the Middle East (with Griffey cards). And all the events that transpired in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory happened but with me instead of Charlie Bucket and Griffey cards instead of candy. More on all that later.

What a year it’s been.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Design Timeline: SP Authentic

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

After the popularity of the Game Jersey insert from their 1997 flagship product, Upper Deck, ever the innovator, saw it fit to dedicate an entire brand to relics and, for the first time, a massive checklist of autographs. Generally considered to be a continuation of the original SP brand introduced in 1993, SP Authentic was among the very first brands built around the hit.

Nowadays many people bust box after box of the latest product looking only for autos and relics, barely paying any attention at all to the base cards and sometimes giving or even throwing them away. I’ll never understand this, but such behavior among collectors can be attributed to sets like this one that include one or two big pulls per box. That means the base cards that start this timeline were some of the first ever cast aside by box-breakers who just wanted the hits. You see that a lot these days.

Despite that, Upper Deck gave us a timeline of perennially clean and modern-looking base cards the aesthetic of which stays the same, more or less, throughout the timeline. That’s rare for a set that lasted for 12 years. That constant aesthetic, in combination with the name change and brand-wide shift towards hits, is one of the reasons I do not consider this a continuation of the original SP timeline. I think I’m in the minority on this issue, but feel free to view the original SP Design Timeline here and judge for yourself. Is this really the same brand?

Here’s the entirety of the SP Authentic Timeline in Griffey cards:

1998

1998 SP Authentic #180

If you’re looking for physical evidence that this brand does not belong in the same timeline as regular SP, look no further than this card. It’s about as simple as designs get. In fact, on my first viewing this card seemed stark and maybe a little boring, but having spent a little time with it, it’s now one of my favorites in the timeline.

One of the most obvious design elements at work here is the super-thick white border which contains the modern, heavily-spaced lettering of the nameplate. That lettering is business-card-caliber enough to make Patrick Bateman from American Psycho jealous. The image of a suspensefully-lit Junior taking his stance before an evening city skyline is dramatic and powerful, and the surrounding border makes it look as though the image was painted in thick ink on a white canvas. The darkness of the image is offset nicely by the gold foil logo.

1999

1999 SP Authentic #76

This year Upper Deck flipped the script while also keeping things classy (double euphemism!). Here we get a full-bleed photo with an antiqued sepia background. The nameplate contains both modern and classic fonts, and it stays tucked away at the bottom-left, far away from the focal center of the card. This design is definitely one of the oddballs of the timeline, too, as going forward no other designs here will be truly full-bleed or without some kind of border.

2000

2000 SP Authentic #84

This is the design that I feel truly sets the tone for the rest of the timeline: clean, lots of white and/or negative space plus a touch of team color, and a balanced layout. That large circle in the bottom center looks like an obvious place for a team logo, but they put the SP Authentic logo there instead. In fact, there are no team logos on any SP Authentic base card until 2004. I’m a big fan of symmetry which means I hate the placement of the position there on the left border, but other than that this is a pretty good-looking card.

2001

2001 SP Authentic #85

Another symmetrical design with a massive amount of white, my favorite element at work here is the top-mounted team name in a fun, classic baseball font. They kept a little bit of the photo background on the card, but they also grayed it out so as not to detract from the clean look. You may have to squint a little to read the player name and column of positions (with the card subject’s position highlighted in team color), but classy things are often small. Look at Peter Dinklage.

2002

2002 SP Authentic #85

One of the most dynamic designs in the timeline, I believe this card contains both the biggest and the smallest player names you’ll find on an SP card. Again, only part of the photo background is kept, the shape of which is conducive to the high frequency of action shots in the set. A single bar of team color encapsulates the brand logo in gold foil.

This design is an oddball here. If you look at it in the context of the rest of the timeline (which you can at the end of this post), that color background and huge player name make it stick out like a sore thumb.

2003

2003 SP Authentic #86

Back to symmetry this year, the design here features a complete border, rare in this timeline. The gray split fade turns white towards the center where we find a bizarre combination background I’ve never come across in any other design. It’s that same partial-photo background we’ve been getting from SP Authentic, this time framed in multiple stacked elements. They don’t look bad, but I also can’t quite make sense of them. They resemble a team-colored strip of film with a foil-bordered apparatus focusing on a single cell. As mysterious as the background is, the card is attractive and the border offsets the limited color in the card nicely. And that nameplate is pretty much perfect.

Upper Deck also threw in their SP Authentic logo in one corner and an SP 10th Anniversary badge in the opposite corner, both in gold foil. It would seem this is proof that Upper Deck considers SP Authentic as a continuation of the original SP timeline which began in 1993. This still doesn’t sit right with me, guys.

2004

2004 SP Authentic #50

Here is the first team logo on an SP Authentic card, seated beside a stately nameplate in a large, bold font. The background here is probably my favorite in the timeline, a great field and crowd shot that fades into white at the bottom. The ball field element on the bottom-right seems to have been placed there to fill a bit of negative space. The coloring and lines in the top left corner harken back to a similar element on the original SP 1993 set and do the same job of balancing out the design. I imagine this design would feel incomplete without them. Plus the ball field theme goes hand-in-hand with this year's Upper Deck flagship design which references each player’s home field right in the nameplate. Definitely one of my favorites.

2005

2005 SP Authentic #58

Look, no background photo whatsoever. Whether it was sepia-toned, grayed-out, split-faded, or even just a little tiny, sliver of its former self, some kind of photo background has been included on every card so far. Well not today – this one’s all design, and there’s not all that much to it, either. A large, curved side-border that connects to a low-impact nameplate below, a team logo stamped in a box in the corner, and a nice SP logo stamped into a field of clean white in the top corner. Simple, simple.

Apart from some shaded hatching along the curved border and nameplate, the most interesting element is the horizontal red field behind the player which, hate to break it to you, is identical for every player. There are blue and red versions, but the design is the exact same on every card. Part of me hoped it was a sliver (or squinched segment) of the real photo background, but it’s not. And even if it was, it still just looks like a mess.

2006

2006 SP Authentic #121 SP #/899

The grayed-out photo background and curved lines that make up the side border and nameplate have become standard for this brand by now, so they’re no real surprise. The lines flow nicely, anchored around a team logo in the bottom-right corner. The biggest difference between this design and previous ones is the National League logo in the large team-colored side border. It’s a nice change from the plain white used in the same place in the previous design. The nameplate’s a little vanilla, but otherwise this is a pretty good-looking card.

Griffey’s base card was short-printed this year and numbered out of only 899. This is something that can tick off a set collector. Just remember that the numbered base cards make sense this year more than ever as it is 2006, and the term “SP” among collectors is now universally recognized as standing for “short print,” and not “super premium.” Every card above #100 is short-printed and numbered.

2007

2007 SP Authentic #11

When I was in the Boy Scouts I learned an expression: K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, stupid. This design does just that. Upper Deck returned to symmetry in a big way with this uber-balanced design. They chose to include no photo background at all for this one, opting instead to superimpose the player over a large, abstract background…um, thing. Bits of wood grain keep things baseball-y. An extremely simple centered nameplate and total lack of team logos also contribute to the simplicity here. This one’s not unattractive, but it is certainly on the outskirts of Boringtown.

2008

2008 SP Authentic #1

To contrast the previous year’s design, here’s a fun, free-form layout that is uncommon for SP Authentic. The vertical nameplate is written going down the left edge along with the team and position. It’s a strange orientation for text, but the font is cool and modern. The horizontal field behind the player is almost identical to the one used in 2005, but this is strictly lines and angles of team color and shade. The position of the nameplate is still weird to me, but overall I really like the look of this card. The design is balanced without being rigid.

Also this was almost a White Sox card. Timing is everything.

2009

2009 SP Authentic #24

Here we are greeted by the largest brand logo in the timeline. There’s nothing at all surprising about the rest of the design – lots of white, two-sided wrap-around border, and the player superimposed over grayed-out background – standard SP Authentic fare. This card does have a few details, however, that make it great. First, the foil nameplate follows the curve of the border which you don’t see often. Also, Junior’s got one foot outside the bottom border and the other behind it. It’s like he’s stepping outside of the card. Personally, I like the gratuitous tongue pic and the fact that this is the first card in the timeline to feature Mariners team coloring. Lots to like here.

Some of you knew already by the date of this set that this is the final year of SP Authentic, and one of the last Upper Deck baseball sets ever made. They would release one more flagship set in 2010 but no more SP sets (even though they already had release dates for the 2010 brand). It’s sad, but I’m glad to see they got one last Mariners card in before the end.

_______________________________________________________________________


While the quality stayed high, I don’t find the SP Authentic timeline to be very full of surprises. Many designs look similar and certain elements were repeated a lot year over year. Then again, this set was not made for the base cards. The relics and autos of this brand remain highly sought-after and unopened boxes of the stuff command high aftermarket prices to this day.

But let us not, in our search for little bits of pants and scribbled ink, forget the lowly base card. These are the soul of the hobby, and the whole reason I started the Great Griffey Base Card Project in the first place. I liken box breakers’ discarding of them to poachers slaughtering majestic elephants to sell off their ivory on the black market. It’s just plain wack, and a terrible waste of sweet cardboard.

Here is one more look at the entire SP Authentic Design Timeline: