Sunday, May 25, 2014

Baseball Cards from a Friend: Dr. Dan's Collection

I assume this has happened to some of you, but I was drinking in a bar with some friends when baseball cards came up.  One of my friends, Dr. Dan, mentioned that he had an old baseball card collection that I could have it if I wanted it.  Far be it from me to turn down cards of any kind, but he told me there were definitely some Griffeys in there.  Where do I sign?!?

His collection was comprised of four binders.  The first was a mostly-complete set of 1990 Topps, the second a very complete set of 1991 Upper Deck.  I hardly ever get to see complete sets in binders as mine are in longboxes.  It was very satisfying to look through - I see why everybody uses binders for these.

The other two binders were an amalgam of rookies, parallels, and generally awesome cards that we'll talk about in a minute.  Let's talk about the binders themselves for a moment:

As you can see he wallpapered every binder with UD hologram stickers.  I told him he must have busted a lot of packs of 1990 Upper Deck because they had the big square stickers while 1989...."had circles," he completed my sentence.  At that moment I realized that this guy I'd known for so long had been a real collector at some point, and our potential for rambling, drunken conversations exclusive to everybody but us just exploded.

There are so many cards I want to show off that I just scanned a bunch of the whole binder pages.  Here's the first page from one of the binders:

Is that what I think it is?  Yes!  Not one but two Robin Ventura Score rookies!  There's some definite potential here...

As you will see, there were a ton of Nolan Ryan cards, including a few complete mini-sets such as that '92 Donruss Coca-Cola set.

A great '89 Topps Ripken cut-out and an Upper Deck Big Hurt rookie I didn't have yet.  Just look at the names on that '83 highlights card.

More of The Express and another '89 Topps cut-out.

These were the first of many from the universally-loved UD Baseball Heroes set.

Pay dirt!  Plus a sweet vintage Dave Parker All-Star for good measure.

I have one of those Pete Rose Topps 4-card tributes, but here's the rest along with fresh-faced, untainted Dave Justice and one of the most popular Bo Jackson cards of all time.

'95 Pinnacle!  This is one of the later sets to be found in the binders.  It was clear that I continued collecting for a couple years after Dr. Dan quit.  He probably saved a lot more money than me in the 90's.

Denny's holograms and a creepy Dick Perez illustration of Jeff Bagwell.  Yikes.

All the best cards from the excellent Dream Team subset.

'94 UD rookies, including A-Rod.  These really are some of the best-looking rookie cards ever made.

Here's something I've wanted for a long time - all the '95 UD Final Tributes.  Perusing these binders put me over the top: I will start building this set and soon.

Museum Collection parallels akimbo!

This is a pretty typical page from the binders.  I scanned it because it has a Griffey in it, but I eventually quit doing this.  Total Griffey count forthcoming...

More great '95 stuff.  I loved those Pinnacle Red Hot inserts.

I always liked this subset, but now it looks like I'm going to be building it.  I assume this is the majority.

'95 Leaf, one of the greatest sets of all time (IMHO).

Will Clark, mo' Griffey, and a Mo Vaughn pre-rookie.

The regular and error versions of the great Rickey Henderson/Lou Brok stolen base card.

One of my most prolific PC's, Mr. Will Clark with the once-beloved Bobby Bonilla.

A few more cards I pulled out of pages to show separately.   I've never seen that "Two for the Title" Donruss card, and that is a Press Proof Biggio from '95 Donruss.  These are pretty rare.

I've always wanted these!!!

I was just messing with you earlier.  Here's a good look at the back of that Koufax from the first page:

Somebody wrote NYY across the top, but at least they got the set year right.  As you can see, the condition here is pretty gnarly, but it doesn't detract from the overall look of the card.  Of course I put it in its proper place:

A nice, thick screw case.

My plan now is to go through them all, separate out all the Griffeys and keepers, and divide up all the goodies for different bloggers who collect them.  There will be a few commons that come out of these binders, but not many.  This was a solid collection.

The Koufax and the Biggio Press Proof were the most valuable cards to come out of the collection, valued at roughly $20 and $10, respectively.  There were a total of 26 Griffeys not including those in the set binders.  There were also a ton of Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, and all the biggest stars of the early 90's.  I'll hold on to some of these and see that the rest go to the right people (if you saw something you need, let me know).  I'll also probably keep that set of '91 Upper Deck in the binder.  I really dig the effect.

Thanks again for the cards, Dr. Dan!  I owe you something cool.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

1997 New Pinnacle: Why? Because. That's Why.

Is this a good Griffey card?  Yes.  The first and last Griffey base card of New Pinnacle and an attractive card #1.

The set: Something drastic happened at the Pinnacle offices in early 1997, and the specifics remain a mystery to this day.  I can only guess at the circumstances, but I would love to have been a fly on the wall the day the idea for this set was conceived.

I’ve mentioned before (a few times) that in 1997 Pinnacle cancelled the release of their flagship set’s Series 2 and instead created this “New Pinnacle” job.  What on Earth could have caused such an upheaval?  Soft sales?  The ugly factor?  Was there some aspect of the design that caused a legal or copyright problem?  Was it too similar to something else that could result in Pinnacle getting sued or ordered to cease and desist?

Barring that last thing it would seem to me that it’s less trouble to press on with the ugly design and start fresh next year, but they didn’t.  Why?  Unappealing as the base design was, it’s not like it was offensive; and the parallels and inserts were top-notch.  Again, why, Pinnacle?  Someone out there knows what happened, and they’re not talking.

Anyhoo, Pinnacle dropped the bottom-mounted border and reliance on gold foil of the previous two years (and one current one), opting instead for a simple but bold nameplate and a true full-bleed layout.  There is holofoil on every base card now embedded in the little banner behind the player surname which is in team color with an attractive foil border.  The team name appears tastefully at the top beside the Pinnacle logo.

In all New Pinnacle is not a bad-looking set, but it’s also not enough of an improvement to merit cancelling a series.

Two more facts about this brand before we delve into the Griffeys: First, New Pinnacle is a one-and-done brand, so this post comprises its entire design timeline.  Second, one aspect of New Pinnacle that has stuck around to this day is the inclusion of 1/1 printing plates in packs.  I don’t have any to show you, but we’ve all seen printing plates at this point, right?  They probably look like that.

1997 Pinnacle New Pinnacle #1

This is a rare shot of Junior on the base paths probably jumping back to first after a check throw from the pitcher.  The real appeal of this card is that it is framed perfectly around the picture with the horizontal strip of grass just the right size to accommodate the nameplate.  It’s also an excellent candid close-up.

Pinnacle did a pretty good job on the back, too, opting to include a large picture of Junior in mid-swing.  They cut down on stats, showing just the previous season, career bests, and career totals.  If you’re not going to show full career stats, these are the big three I want to see on a card back.  No need to re-invent the wheel just to fit a picture.  Zero complaints.

1997 Pinnacle New Pinnacle Spellbound #1KG-6KG

One of the big treats of the New Pinnacle brand in my opinion was the Spellbound insert.  It was enough of a hit that Pinnacle brought it back for their final flagship set in 1998.

This insert featured multiple cards for each player which spelled out each guy’s name.  Frank Thomas got FRANK, Cal Ripken got RIPKEN, and so on.  Griffey and Ivan Rodriguez are special because they each got nicknames in lieu of first or last names (I-Rod got PUDGE).

The letters are ringed in gold foil with a great spiraling effect in the background.  The photos appear inside each letter which is large and centered (this was not the case for the ‘98 design).  The card backs are free of frills: just a large picture with the insert name and the letter of the card indicated in yellow.

It took me months of looking to finally assemble this insert set at a reasonable price.  The most difficult card to find by far was the “J” which finally popped up on COMC just a few weeks ago for around three bucks.  I happened to be searching Griffeys at the exact right moment - it was the first “Recently Added” Griffey listed at the time I landed it.

Here are the Griffeys I am missing from 1997 New Pinnacle as of this post.

#1 Museum Collection
#1 Artist’s Proof Green
#1 Press Plates (any of the 8 total – 4 front and 4 back)
Keeping the Pace #4
Interleague Encounter #3 (w/ Tony Gwynn)

I’m not aware of any other brand that has ever taken a Mulligan on their flagship set.  It seems like an extreme move to this day.  They do it in the movies all the time such as with The Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, Batman, and most recently Godzilla.  They call it a reboot, but we all know it’s a do-over.  At least in those cases we can attribute the failure of the original to something specific like a bad choice in director, Spiderman 3, Batman & Robin, and Matthew Broderick.

So, what is the Matthew Broderick of 1997 Pinnacle?  The world may never know.

The post is over, but please enjoy these bonus high-res scans of the Spellbound set if you find it hard letting go:

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Eclectic Mix from Johnny's Trading Soot

I won a contest for sending Braves to John of Johnny's Trading Spot.  John sent my way a very unique mix of cardboard I wouldn't have thought to ask for. 

A nice chunk of what he sent was made of of Saints cards which are worth their weight in gold among drunken barfolk down here in the Big Easy:

I love Hoby Brenner - he was an excellent and underrated tight end for the 'aints back in the '90's.  And Bobby "The Cajun Cannon" Hebert can be heard on talk radio here in NOLA just about every day.  His accent remains thick and endearing.

These guys were playing right about the time I started paying attention to football.

I love vintage football cards almost as much as I love vintage baseball.  I wish I knew who half the guys are, but the hairstyles cannot be beaten.

As you may know from reading his blog, Johnny has quite an eye for unique and wacky cards.  Here are a bunch of fun ones he included:

This is among my favorite Reds cards of all time period.  What a great photo.

I'm also a huge fan of the Archives sets with that big gold stamp.  I miss that stamp.  I also miss that Mariners Trident logo.

I've never heard of that fellow on the top right, but one thing's for sure: my next gerbil is going to be named Pankovits.  I'm going to train him to make that face.

That Phelps-stache dominated every card that man was ever on.  He rocks it pretty hard, too.  The guy must have near-perfect facial topography to nail that look so perfectly.  I'm envious.

Best Rod Beck card ever.

I may end up putting that Sammy Stewart card in my wallet for when I need a confidence booster during the day.  It says, "Hey, man: you're doing great!  Keep it up!"  You just know he clicked his tongue when he made that pose.  There's no doubt in my mind.

Johnny also didn't disappoint on the Griffey front, including this sweet Victory contest card from right before the big move to Cincy.

Thanks a bunch, John!  I'll continue to hoard unique Braves for ya.