Friday, May 29, 2020

The Great Griffey Frankenset: Page 21

Welcome to Page 21 of the Great Griffey Frankenset!

If you're not familiar with the idea of a frankenset, it is a customized set of cards properly sequenced by card number that all tie into a connecting theme. Some frankenset themes include whole teams, mini-collections, and even just generally great cards or photos. This is the first frankenset I'm aware of that is made up of just one player: Ken Griffey, Jr., the man of a million cards. I took the liberty of including things like inserts, parallels, cameos, and oddballs for the sake of variety and because it's just more fun that way. Enjoy!

Here is page 21 of the Great Griffey Frankenset:


Completeness of page: 9/9

Completeness of the Frankenset so far: 100% (189/189)

Team distribution so far: Mariners: 131/189 (69%), Reds: 54/189 (29%), White Sox: 2/189 (1%), No team indicated: 2/189 (1%)

Page 21 Notes: A rare page with more Reds than Mariners. At this point its not even my own personal preference for Seattle-era cards - it is strictly number availability. This one also contains a pair of back-to-back Gold Medallions and, of course, plenty of subsets.

Page 21:


181. 1994 Sportflics 2000 #181 Starflics

That really looks like a swung-on strike. I've always kind of liked this design (it's ok for a lenticular card), but that picture leaves me scratching my head.


182. 2005 Ultra #182 Gold Medallion

Then we have an amazing picture - possibly the greatest Griffey photo to grace an Ultra base card. I wish Junior got more hat-wave shots on cardboard. I feel like Mariano Rivera has more.


183. 2013 Panini Prizm #183 Green Pulsar Prizm

I could have picked any of the colored Pulsars from this year of Prizm, and yet there was no purple. That green, though. She pops.


184. 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated #184 Year in Review (w/ Mark McGwire)

This card is 50% awesome and 50% blech. I'll give you a pass, though, Fleer Sports Illustrated. Nobody knew yet...


185. 1996 Pinnacle Starburst #185 (.300 Series) Artist Proof

The regular card is #301.8, but as Starburst is considered an insert and not a parallel, this card # works just fine. That being said, this one IS a parallel. What is the term for an insert that parallels the base cards but that isn't quite a parallel?


186. 2007 Topps Chrome #186

I'd have preferred to show one of the many base parallels if this one, but those are all #450. The Chrome version has different numeration which was a blessing here as it's the only Griffey card #186.


187. 2002 Upper Deck Ballpark Idols #187

Another one where we didn't have a choice of cards at that number. The first hole in the Frankenset is coming fast.


188. 1996 SP #188 Checklist

1996 SP was positively loaded with two thing: wood grain and shots of Griffey laughing his ass off. I like both of those things.


189. 2004 Ultra #189 Gold Medallion

Here's that other Gold Medallion. I love how Ultra avoided slapping batting shots on every card like a lot of brands did with Griffey. We usually got something different from them, and it made for some great base cards.

Here is the back of Page 21:


Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 25, 2020

1989 Mother's Cookies and the Weirdest Thing in My Collection


If you’re a fan of oddballs, rookies, single-player-exclusive sets, or food issues, you’ve come to the right set. 1989 Mother’s Cookies is all of those at once.

Mother’s made five Griffey cards in his rookie year: a set of four cards that were sealed one card at a time in plastic sleeves and included in specially marked bags of Mother’s Cookies, and a Stadium Giveaway card that was included in the larger Mariners team set. All the cards have a similar design: a full-bleed photo with a small nameplate and rounded corners.

The most common Mother’s Cookies Griffeys you’ll come across in the wild are from that four-card set, so we’ll start there.

1989 Mother's Cookies Ken Griffey, Jr.
Rookie Set #1 (sealed)

This one is still sealed in plastic, and I have no intention of un-sealing it for the sake of a clean scan. But you're not missing anything - all four cards look pretty much like this: Junior posing in the foreground and an empty Kingdome in the background. They’re so generic PSA even titles the four cards by what Junior is doing on them. For example, this one is noted on PSA flips as “Arms Folded.” Kinda weird as that is what I thought card numbers were for.


The backs are all the same, too, except for the blurbs. This one describes the scout who “discovered” Junior, but come on. Like no one was going to notice.

The backs also have the audacity to include a space for autographs. If anyone has a legit autograph in the designated autograph space on the back of a Mother’s Cookies card, please send me pictures. Also answer me this: WHY WOULD YOU HAVE HIM SIGN THE BACK OF AN ODDBALL INSTEAD OF SOMETHING COOL LIKE A BASEBALL OR EVEN THE FRONT OF THE CARD? WHYWHYWHYWHY?

1989 Mother's Cookies Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Set #2

Card #2, aka “Ball in Hand,” mentions Junior’s Pop. Two years later when both Griffeys were Mariners Mother’s would dedicate yet another four-card set to the father-son pair, but that is another post.

1989 Mother's Cookies Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Set #3

#3 or “Bat Over Left Shoulder” is my favorite of the set. Why? It’s that perfectly-executed bat photo. Junior’s Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, Donruss “The Rookies,” and even his Topps Traded rookie all went with the same “bat over left shoulder” photo. Bowman and Score were the only major-brand holdouts, and their rookie cards of The Kid kind of sucked. Fleer and Donruss did it right, but their rookies were either super sweaty (Fleer) or uber blurry (Donruss). I don’t think anyone will argue that the best-looking Junior rookies are the Upper Deck, the Topps Traded, and – you guessed it – Mother’s Cookies Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Set #3.

1989 Mother's Cookies Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Set #4

#4 has far and away the clunkiest PSA title: “Name on Back Showing.” Ugh.

The cards were also released in a sealed pack of all four Griffeys:

1989 Mother's Cookies Ken Griffey, Jr.
Rookie Set #1-4 complete (sealed)

I imagine you had to buy a lot of cookies to get one. Somehow card #3 made its way to the back, and as much as I'd like to bust this thing open just to fix the order of the cards and put my OCD at ease, it just ain't happenin'.

As I mentioned these cards were released in specially-marked bags of Mother’s Cookies way back in 1989. Now, 31 years later, it’s hard to imagine any of these bags still floating around intact. And yet in a move of over-the-top fanboy extremism even I consider pathetic, I gave somebody money for one:

1989 Mother’s Cookies Sealed Bag (Coconut)
(Griffey card sealed inside)

Yeah, I bought a 31-year old bag of coconut cookies because of this baseball player I really like. It even made it into my Top 10 list the year I got it. I have no plans to open it, but there is definitely a Griffey inside. This is certain. It remains the weirdest (yet somehow not the grossest) Griffey item I own. Oh, and the cookies even feel more or less intact. It now lives on sealed in a ziploc high above the floor where dogs and children and insect and inebriated Junior Junkies cannot get at it.

I should mention that I love coconut. It is not impossible that someday I will have a level of munchies strong enough to convince me to open the bag and devour the contents (trust me - I’ve done way stupider stuff just in the last two weeks). If this happens I will report back here how those 31-year-old cookies taste.

It’s going to be hard to top that bag of cookies, but we’re going to try:

1989 Mother's Cookies Mariners Stadium Set #3

The least common Griffey from 1989 Mother’s Cookies is this Mariners Team Set Issue. These came in blue packs that were given out at games.

This is the 1993 version, but same diff.

That paragraph on the back might be may favorite bit of text on any pack ever. These encouraged trading among fans, a fantastic idea in the time before social distancing. Do any ball clubs still do this?

This trading thing would make you think there are not a lot of cards left in decent condition, but with those rounded corners (again, perfect for trading) there remain many high-grade specimens. Even I have one:


I'm not a big "grading" guy (that is one expensive rabbit hole), but any PSA10 Griffey rookie is something special.

Mother's went bankrupt in 2008, but now they appear to have been acquired by Kellogg’s. Mother’s website is active and you can buy more recently-produced, utterly Griffey-less bags of their famed iced oatmeal cookies via Amazon (though just looking at them is spiking my A1C). I've got to admit, I want to try them. Marketing: successful.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Great Griffey Frankenset: Page 20

Welcome to Page 20 of the Great Griffey Frankenset!

If you're not familiar with the idea of a frankenset, it is a customized set of cards properly sequenced by card number that all tie into a connecting theme. Some frankenset themes include whole teams, mini-collections, and even just generally great cards or photos. This is the first frankenset I'm aware of that is made up of just one player: Ken Griffey, Jr., the man of a million cards. I took the liberty of including things like inserts, parallels, cameos, and oddballs for the sake of variety and because it's just more fun that way. Enjoy!

Here is page 20 of the Great Griffey Frankenset:


Completeness of page: 9/9

Completeness of the Frankenset so far: 100% (180/180)

Team distribution so far: Mariners: 127/180 (71%), Reds: 49/180 (27%), White Sox: 2/180 (1%), No team indicated: 2/180 (1%)

Page 20 Notes: The Mariners came roaring back in this page, snagging all nine spots despite there being a card printed in 2004. We are seeing a lot of base and subset parallels which should be no surprise this late in the game.

Page 20:


172. 1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #172 Cover Extra Edition #/500

I'm a huge supporter of the short-lived Sport Illustrated sets put out by Fleer, and cards exactly like this are the reason. This one subset snagged two spots in the Frankenset (and on this very page).


173. 2004 Leaf Limited #173 Spotlight Bronze #/100

This card appears to have been made by a Griffey fan who hates the Reds. He's a Mariner on the front, a Mariner on the back, and a Red in the stat box. Very strange for a card from 2004. Don't try to convince me it's a Reds card, either.


174. 1995 Score Summit Edition #174 Bat Speed Nth Degree

This is among the yawn-iest of Score sets (too much damn white), but the Nth Degree parallel helps a lot. I am not ashamed of my appreciation for gratuitous sparkles.


175. 1997 Donruss Preferred National Treasures #175

The scan here doesn't do just to the rich bronze and texturing in the border, but that doesn't matter. It's one of my favorite Griffey portrait cards of all time. Why didn't Studio look this good in 1997, Donruss?


176. 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes #176 State

This quirky, colorful one-off set from Panini has all the attributes of a throwback set. For these State parallels I'd have preferred they went with the player's home state as opposed to that of his heritage team, but there are a lot of other states that would have fit that bill: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and by the time this was actually printed, Florida. Then again that may have caused some confusion among more casual Griffey fans. Washington is the safe bet.


177. 1990 Star Nova #177 /500 (pink & yellow)

I hate having to use Star for ANYTHING, but this one isn't too awful. I guess.


178. 1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #178 Cover Extra Edition #/500 (w/ Frank Thomas)

Here's that other SI cover, this one with Griffey and that guy who wishes he was Griffey. Just kidding, Big Hurt. Don't hit me. You are huge and loaded with testosterone according to those ridiculous commercials.


179. 1993 Topps #179 Pre-Production Sample

I tried to get all exotic and use the one from the full-page dealer sell sheet, but that one is numbered "000," so here is the less scarce regular sample. Ho-hum.


180. 1998 SP Authentic #180

Another excellent card slayed by the scanner. The dusk background here is one of my favorite parts of this card, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

Here is the back of Page 20:


Thanks for reading, and look for Page 21 coming soon.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Design Timeline: Upper Deck Black Diamond

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

This is pretty low-hanging fruit as Design Timelines go, but I happen to have just enough time at this moment to handle a short timeline like this, so here we are. Plus I haven't done one of these in like FOUR YEARS, so maybe I need a little practice.

I'll be honest: I don't have a real handle on why Black Diamond exists. It always came out in December/January when there is no baseball, and there doesn't appear to be any one unifying theme to the base sets. They feel a little money-grabbish. 

I like to dream up the scenarios that may have led to the creation of totally indefensible sets like this. In this one an Upper Deck executive yells about the drop in sales during the winter months, and the head of the baseball division responds by correctly describing the baseball card market as seasonal, but the executive just isn't having it, so they drop a totally unnecessary set with a thinly-veiled winter reference (black diamond is a skiing term) at a time when everyone is focused on football.

Granted they did give us some memorable parallels and a number of incredibly cool inserts, but we are not talking about those today. Today is about the base cards. These came out in December 1998, January 2000, and December 2000, respectively. That is the kind of thing you can expect from a set that drops in the turn of the year - smooshed timelines - but at least they were released far apart enough from one another to be distinct.

Here are all three Upper Deck Black Diamond Griffeys:

1999 (December 1998):


This one rocks a simple, attractive vertical nameplate and little else save for an admittedly cool brand logo. The big highlight here is the etched foil that forms the photo background, an effect that I would agree deserves its own base set. A nameplate like this ought to let the photography do the talking, but that is a lot harder to pull off when the background of every photo is overtaken by etched foil. Still, it's holding its own.

2000 (January):


At first glance this appears to be a massive design shift, but there are remnants of the photo background here that are still obscured by etched foil albeit all patterned and orderly compared with its predecessor. The nameplate is as boring as a blind guy watching a silent movie, but the rest is...well it's less boring than that, at least. There is a parallel featuring die-cutting along the left edge that causes the design to make a lot more sense, but it also makes all the non-parallel cards (which is most of them) appear incomplete.

2000 (December):


We get another vertical nameplate here with a few extra lines, you know, for the sake of lines. I dig the new font, the gold foil, and the centered brand logo.

Then - and this is my favorite part - they bathed the etched foil background in blood (for every team, not just the red ones) so the player appears to floating in front of a gaping, fiery hellmouth complete with...bits of broken fence?

This one is weird, but it's also my favorite Black Diamond design, so I'm not saying it doesn't work. I am saying that if you take away the nameplate, the logos, and the player photo, what's left could be one of the fast-cut images projected in the Willy Wonka horror tunnel. I mean that as a compliment.

And that's all she wrote.
_______________________________________________________________

I feel like there was some valid reason for these sets that one sentence from an Upper Deck insider could clear up. Maybe the trademark on the name/logo would expire unless they used it, or it was a proving ground for new designs, or (my pick) they just wanted a sales bump in the baseball-less Winter months. It's funny how much of this hobby is business and marketing-related guesswork. How about a little transparency? We have questions!

One last time, here is every Upper Deck Black Diamond design:

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Great Griffey Frankenset: Page 19

Welcome to Page 19 of the Great Griffey Frankenset!

If you're not familiar with the idea of a frankenset, it is a customized set of cards properly sequenced by card number that all tie into a connecting theme. Some frankenset themes include whole teams, mini-collections, and even just generally great cards or photos. This is the first frankenset I'm aware of that is made up of just one player: Ken Griffey, Jr., the man of a million cards. I took the liberty of including things like inserts, parallels, cameos, and oddballs for the sake of variety and because it's just more fun that way. Enjoy!

Here is page 19 of the Great Griffey Frankenset:


Completeness of page: 9/9

Completeness of the Frankenset so far: 100% (171/171)

Team distribution so far: Mariners: 118/171 (69%), Reds: 49/171 (29%), White Sox: 2/171 (1%), No team indicated: 2/171 (1%)

Page 19 Notes: As we get higher you're going to see more of these multi-player cards - they make up a third of this particular page. Also the Reds cards are coming in strong, making up some ground in the team distribution. I'm getting all excited - will we make it to card #200 with no holes? Only time will tell...

Page 19:


163. 2010 Topps The Cards Your Mom Threw Out #CMT163 (1998 Topps Interleague Preview card)

Hall of Fame Class of 2016, together on one card 20 years before their co-induction. I pulled the original from a pack back in the 90's and always knew it was something special. It was great to see it make an appearance in the CYMTO insert.


164. 1995 Sports Stars USA Gold Replica Signature #164 (w/ Frank Thomas)

How perfect is this thing? And how wide are Frank's shoes? Geez, those things are like triple-E or something. Good for you, Big Hurt. I'm....not jealous at all.


165. 2002 Donruss Originals #165 (1984 Design)

Donruss Originals is in the running for my favorite throwback set of all time. A lot of Archives sets come close, but these old Donruss designs look great with fixed colors, better printing, and decent photography. Please bring this back, Panini. It's due for a reboot.


166. 2005 Topps Update & Highlights #UH166 Sporting News All-Stars

Just a gorgeous card for an incredible milestone. Gotta love sprawling crowd backgrounds, especially ones loaded with mouths agape at what they're getting to see. Zero defects. 14/10.


167. 1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier #167

What can you say about O-Pee-Chee Premier? Not much. 167!


168. 2003 Upper Deck Vintage #168

More of Upper Deck shamelessly ripping off Topps' vintage legacy, albeit beautifully. I love this card, but it's wrong wrong wrong.


169. 2000 Victory #169 Stat Leaders Checklist (w/ Freddy Garcia)

Poor Seattle - by the time this card was being pulled from packs they'd already lost one of their stat leaders AND his sweet flipped-up Gargoyles.


170. 1996 SP #170

One of the great card designs of the '90's bearing one of the great Griffey photos of the '90's. There are a few other decent #170's of the Kid, but do any of them have TWO backwards caps on the front? Absolutely not.


171. 2001 Ultra #171 Gold Medallion

Not just a base-running shot - a CRAZY one! Junior looks like a ballerina who just told a dirty joke. This needed to happen, though. That uniform is way too clean.

Here is the back of Page 19:


Thanks for reading, and look for Page 20 when, you know, I get around to it. Maybe.