Saturday, August 31, 2013

2009 Upper Deck X: X-treme to the Max, Dude!

2009 Upper Deck X #79

In my collection: 1 die-cut #79, 2 regular #79, 1 each Xponential #X-KG through #X6-KG inclusive

Griffey looks: uncomfortable

Is this a good Griffey card? Yes. A not horrible-looking gimmick set with a cool, multi-level insert.

The set: The second of two years of this brand, Upper Deck X is essentially just another gimmick set; and frankly I'm surprised it lasted more than one year.  You get a lot of this brand in repack boxes I can only assume because it didn't sell a lot of packs, and distributors got stuck with cases of the stuff.  Not that it's a terrible set, but there's not much substance to it.  I will, however, admit here and only this one time that I do kind of dig the logo.

There's something fishy about that "X" background.  The top right of the X is really thin compared to the other three, less than half the thickness of it's brother bits.  This seems to be purposeful because if it was the same width as the rest there would be no separation on top.  The X would lose its X-ness, and the name would have to be changed to Upper Deck Various Angles.  I feel like this throws off the balance of the whole base card design.  Also, when did I become such a graphic design critic?

I may bitch about the design (which isn't really all that bad), but my biggest boggle is with the whole concept.  Society had already been inundated with "x" crap for a decade when this set came out.  Remember?  You couldn't turn on the TV without being eye-raped by youth-focused "X-treme" product commercials full of bending guitar riffs and adults being disrespected by teens with no shame or sense of discipline.  I blame snowboard culture.  And Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games.  But that was all so long ago - seems to me UD should have struck while the X-iron was hot.  Why did they wait so long?

Here's the Griffey:

Junior looks a little uncomfortable in this at-bat.  It's not like he's an old man or anything, but he seemed to have a bit more ease about him at the plate just a few years before.  And let's not pretend there isn't a bit of a success gut starting there in the mid-section, probably a result of being laid-up by injury.  Despite all that it's clear that he still has a lot of focus and is fully capable of knocking one over the wall.  Be afraid, mound jockeys.

2009 Upper Deck X #79 Die-cut

The parallel of Upper Deck X is a die-cut version of the base card.  And you just won't believe what shape they chose.  An X!  Don't get too excited.

Hey, check out this crazy six-level beast of an insert:

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential X-KG through X6-KG

the Xponential insert is awesome with lots of color and holofoil all over the place.  the designs are cool and the cards looks like pieces of candy.  Plus they all have raised printing in one form or another, and the variety of players and designs adds to the fun of the pull.  It's also pretty cool that all the levelas appear equally easy to pull.  There's no 1:712 nonsense insertion ratio to worry about when trying to land a certain card - they're all reasonably gettable.  I'm a big fan of this insert.

I included some nice, big scans of every Xponential card at the end of this post.

Here are the Griffeys I am missing from 2009 Upper Deck X:

Psych!  I have 'em all.  Mark this one complete.  There are some memorabilia and signature cards in the set, but none are Griffeys.  Makes my job easier.

Here is a nice scan of every Xponential card:

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential #X-KG

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential #X2-KG

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential #X3-KG

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential #X4-KG

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential #X5-KG

2009 Upper Deck X Xponential #X6-KG

Since you stayed until the end, here is a bonus:

Which Major Leaguer's name is the most fun to say?

Answer: Asdrubal Cabrera.  That's right - Asdrubal Cabrera.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Design Timeline: Fleer Metal Universe

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

Metal Universe was introduced when Fleer was owned by Marvel; therefore, it’s only natural that the product of this partnership be a set that depicted our favorite players as heroes and villains in a fantasy comic book “universe.”  Where illustration may otherwise have looked cartoonish, Fleer instead used etched foil in the card art.  This gave a more sophisticated air to what was essentially a product for kids of all ages.

On that note the set was unbelievably fun and awesome, or at least it was for the first couple of years.  As with most sets, the concept fell apart and eventually the product lost its identity.  At least the inserts stayed consistently awesome.

Let’s talk about the name for a moment: Metal Universe.  This name has two sides with separate meanings.  Metal in the context of this brand means shiny and textured; Universe means comic book fantasy themes.  There are years when the brand leans more towards one meaning of this brand name than the other (which is fine) and even one year when half the brand’s namesake gets completely ignored (not fine).

Here is every Fleer Metal Universe base card design in order:


The first year of Metal was also one of their best years design-wise, and it featured etching unlike anything that had been done before.  Fleer used a ludicrous amount of stippling and hatching to create exciting shapes, textures, creatures and planets as well as cool fire and water effects.  Even with all that foil work, the cards remained colorful.  There is some repetition of themes among the base cards but not an obnoxious amount.  The nameplate below is shiny and simple enough, and the brand logo is ornate and cool.  Amazingly, that logo would remain relatively unchanged throughout the run of the brand.  Homerun.


Where the ’96 set was a homerun, this one is a grand slam.  While its forerunner was comprised of a dozen or so different fantasy themes, the ’97 set had very few repeats in that area (I stopped counting themes at thirty).  Every card feels completely different.  This set also boasts the brightest colors as the foil etching has evolved from simple stippling and hatching to more complex patterns and the inclusion of non-etched areas that can reflect more light.  The nameplate didn’t change all that much outside of a little shadow added to the lettering for impact which I really like.  

It seems to me like Fleer/Marvel chose a design team that really cared about the product they were making, and then they gave that team carte blanche to create as awesome a set as they wanted.  Just thumbing through the base cards it seems like the design process must have taken weeks and required a ton of imagination.  Anyone who is even mildly into creative visual design would probably have a blast working on this project.  Fantastic.


I really hope you enjoyed those last two designs because it’s all downhill from here on out.  This is the only Metal release not to feature foil etching apart from on the small portrait on the bottom.  Instead they took this flat, dark, impossible-to-scan foil and added illustration to the background that was completely without the boldness of the previous years.  You might also note the complete lack of color.  Well, you’re right - even viewed in real life and not in scan form, the colors are washed out in darkness.  At least it maintains the slightest bit of the brand's original aesthetic, unlike….


This set is all Metal and no Universe.  They added a huge name plate with big iron rivets then filled the rest of the background with rough-looking cross-hatched foil that doesn’t reflect quite as much light, thereby offsetting the shininess of the name plate.  So what do you do once you’ve filled up a third of the card with nameplate?  You throw the name on there again, of course.  I like the font, actually, and the cards don’t look that bad overall; but I can’t overlook the fact that somebody humped the bunk here.

Don’t get me wrong - I get (and even kind of like) the aesthetic they were going for, but it’s not the aesthetic of Metal Universe.  What they’ve done here is create an entirely new brand identity.  If you take a banana split and slowly change it bit by bit into a cheese sandwich, at some point in that process you’ve got to stop calling it a banana split, bro.  Take the Metal Universe logo off and call it Fleer Steel or something. 


It seems Fleer took my advice and removed the word “Universe” from the brand name this year, opting instead to focus on the brand’s use of etched foil as opposed to fantastic backgrounds (one year too late).  They even did one better and took the Fleer name off the product as well, instead designating Metal as a Skybox product.  Design-wise the effect of the etching here is cool but maybe a little too understated .  

For example, you can see pretty easily in the scan that there is a very slight spiral to the stippling in the background that follows the action of Junior’s swing.  This effect is mimicked to some degree on every base card with most cards having a simple bursting effect.  However, the effect is not as apparent when looking at the real card dead-on - It comes out a lot better in scans.  The result is a set of base cards that feel like a parallel for another set.

With that the Metal brand came to an end.


I think these cards must have cost a fortune to design and print; but then the budget shrank as revenues from baseball cards fell off, and they had to cut back.  Still, I bet it was fun as hell sitting in a room with a bunch of comic book illustrators, finding interesting player poses and deciding what to do to make each card come to life.  If I could pick any set from the 90’s to have worked on, it would be ’97 Metal Universe.  That set is a masterpiece. 

The Metal Universe creative process was so far beyond that of “find picture, slap on nameplate, stamp on logo, wrap stack in Mylar, repeat.”  There was real originality there for a few years.  If I'm wrong about decreased revenues causing the decline in quality here, then it sucks that we lost a great brand to somebody’s preference of “Ooh, shiny.”  I would like to have seen this brand skew the opposite way - no metal, just real player photography superimposed and interacting with crazy fantasy worlds that might have been illustrated or even computer-generated.  They could have called it Fleer Marvel.  It could have been awesome.

Here's every Metal Universe (and plain ol' Metal) base card design:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Selling on COMC - You Done it?

I just packed a box with 268 cards to send to COMC.  I've never sold anything on there before and I thought it might be a good way to get some Griffeys for free.  I estimate the value of all the cards to be around $400, but it may be more.

COMC told me that they will be making $67.00 on my submitted cards.  That's 25 cents per card which I think is fair.  Still, I'm kind of nervous about all these great cards I am sending out, but I also see that they handle a lot of volume.  They should be OK, right?

I figured some of you have used the service before.  How is the process?  I apparently have to wait a month before I can slap prices on things.  Is that timeline accurate?  Any tips?  Thanks!

Here's a Griffey I got from COMC just because I feel like I need to put some kind of picture:

I am a COMC rookie

2013 Pinnacle Baseball?!? Is This Really a Thing?

Guys!  Pinnacle is back!

After 15 years, Panini is giving this brand the no-logo treatment.  Am I the last to know?


I already know my LCS wont have it as he doesn't tend to carry Panini stuff.  Are these going to be at Wally World/Target?  I'll buy a couple packs. There's Griffeys to be had, after all! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two Group Breaks, Five Griffeys, No Regrets

These are a group break held by Jon of Community Gum.  It featured boxes from the 90's and early 2000's which is right in my wheelhouse.  I took the Mariners and also got the Cardinals.  Here are the stars:

Lots of bronze ones

Fancy silver one

A fistful of awesome Mariners plus an early A-Rod and a sweet Cora parallel.

Finally some post season cards for the old Mariners.

And two completely awesome Intimidators.

That was a great break, Jon!  Thanks for including me.

Judson over at My Cardboard Habit busted a bunch of A&G, and again I took the Mariners.  I ended up with the Marlins, too, but Judson was nice enough to swap me the Yankees.  I was hoping for a Mattingly and maybe a Jeter.  Here's what I got:

Got both my guys plus Yogi, Whitey, and the Babe.  I ended up with this, too:

My first A&G relic ever.  I love how they encase the little card in the big card!  Adorable....

BAM!  Got the Griffey! 

And of course Felix, Raul, Mike and the rest.

And don't forget mini-Jesus!

Thanks, Judson!  Let's do another sometime....

COMC and I Are Developing an Unhealthy Attachment With One Another

 The title says it all.  Here we go again:

Finally a Staub auto and a relic to boot.  I still hope to find an auto where he signs as "Le Grande Orange," but this will do. 

I was leafing through a Beckett the other day and Stub's was the only auto card with a little black down arrow next to the card value. What up with that?  Did he skin a baby alive or something?  How can that stupid little arrow (the only one on the page, mind you) be justified?  I smell a conspiracy.

I decided a few weeks ago to start building up my Vida collection.  He's an unsung Louisiana hero, and he has some really great cards as Night Owl well knows.  These were a bargain.

This was Vida's competition in Night Owl's Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Fame.  Had to snag one.

Both of Chuck's '91 Topps Desert Shield cards and quite possibly the reason we won the war.

Let's get serious:

There were many more Juniors in the package, but most of them I'm saving for future posts.  In the mean time, check out these shiny bits.

One sweet-looking parallel.


This card has eight relics on it.  Eight.  I still don't know how I'm going to store it, but it's pretty damn cool, right?  Plus it was only ten bucks.

There were two cards that weren't included with my order as they had to be shipped from COMC's warehouse in Canada (?), but this is the first time that has happened so I forgive them.  Am I the only one that's happened to?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Stack From Stackhouse

I send Corey from his famous Tim Wallach blog any Wallachs I happen across in my collecting.  Poor Corey has already sent me all his Griffeys it seems, so he has begun sending mid-90's Mariners players and other guys from my short list of PC's.  Check 'em out:

This is the "silver signature" of that year - a team name instead of a signature.

A couple of early Dan Wilson Stadium Club cards

A flock of Finleys, sans 'stache.

A bushel of Buhners, most of which I didn't have

A cluster of Clarks

And a sunset of Senior.  Nice picture, too.

Thanks, Corey!  And you don't have to stress about sending back stuff every single time I send you a PWE.  Let's keep this hobby as stress-free as possible....