Monday, October 26, 2015

2003 E-X: Backdoor Beauty

E-X, once the admiral of acetate, was starting to show its age in 2003. The cards were still cool, but the printing methods, materials, and die-cutting that made this brand a collector darling in the late 90's were no longer that impressive. The market-wide shift towards throwback designs certainly didn't help, either.

Still, it is surprising how little this brand differs from its earliest predecessor brands. Don't let the slight name change fool you. Years after the glory days of the late 90's, here we find the brand still printed on heavy acetate, still filled with unique die-cut inserts, and still rocking the super scarce, two-tiered Essential Credentials parallel which has somehow barely changed at all.

I usually like that kind of consistency; but given that Fleer was on the brink of bankruptcy at this point, I can't help thinking maybe it was time to try something different. Like putting Griffey in more inserts for goodness sake.

I'll go ahead and mention here that Griffey is in ZERO inserts in 2003 E-X. Goose egg. Nada. That brings the total number of cards needed to complete Griffey checklist to three: his short-printed base card and the two Essential Credentials parallels.

And here they are:

2003 E-X #76

As the design timeline goes, this one is not very exciting. The most prevalent elements here are the two large squares of squareness which do little more than show the team color and provide a place for stats on the card back. They filled the large amount of negative space with floating elements that include a massive jersey number, team logo, and a nameplate in an attractive modern font. The message here seems to be, "Look! This card is clear!" That gimmick just wasn't cutting it anymore by '03.

As for the back, they did what they could with the space afforded. The season stat box is clunky and small, but I'm a big fan of the "Career Season Bests" section, the saving grace of this card back.

Let's peep some parallels:

2003 E-X #76 Essential Credentials Now #/76

The Essential Credentials Now parallel is a blue-tinted version of the base card with numbering and "Essential Credentials Now" printed on the card back. It is numbered out of 76, the card's sequential number in the set. And it's blue!

2003 E-X #76 Essential Credentials Future (Fleer bankruptcy, unnumbered)

The Essential Credentials Future parallel is a gold-tinted version of the base card with numbering and "Essential Credentials Future" printed on the card back. There were only 27 of this card made (103 minus 76, the card's sequential number in the set). And it's gold!

Here is where we address the rather suggestive title of this post. You see, this particular card was originally acquired from the Fleer bankruptcy sale which makes it the closest thing to a "backdoored" card I've ever owned.

"Backdoored" is a term I only recently came across on the Griffey Collectors' Thread of the Freedom Cardboard forums. This is the place where all the super-high-end Griffey collectors the world over convene and discuss everything Griffey. There are guys on there who own huge quantities of Griffey one-of-ones, autographs in the many hundreds, and inserts and parallels so rare you've never even heard of them. As a card collector, I find that place extremely humbling to say the least. And when you're collecting at these guys' level, backdoored cards come up...a LOT.

A backdoored card means exactly what it sounds like: a card that was brought into circulation via unconventional channels and/or subversive means, usually by employees of the card company. You'll find most backdoored cards come from periods when one company or another is going out of business, filing for bankruptcy, or discontinuing a brand; but that is not always the rule. I've seen examples from just about every brand in Christendom, even Topps. There's a naughty, forbidden quality to them that makes them more desireable (and expensive). That's why when this one popped up, I just had to bite.

'Cuz I'm a naughty boy.

Now 2003 E-X was indeed followed by 2004 E-X, so this is not a half-finished card or anything like that. There are numbered versions of this card out there - I've seen them. This one is special because it was produced but never numbered or packed out, and it was almost certainly never meant to make it out into the world.

The question remains: is this Griffey checklist complete? In the strictest sense, no. Hence:

Griffeys I still need from 2003 E-X:

#76 Essential Credentials Future #/27

But do I have a #76 Essential Credentials Future Griffey? Yes, I do. Check it out:

There it is. Heck, it looks even better without the little foil numbers. Backdoor guests really are best.


  1. I'm going to bite:

    "There were only 27 of this card made (103 minus 76, the card's sequential number in the set)."

    Explain how this math exists? Where does 103 come from? And are you saying that of the 103, 76 were deemed now, which made 27 deemed future. Why such odd numbers? Where does the 76 come from?

    1. The quantity of "Now" parallels produced is always equal to the card number. Hence, there are fewer cards available for those in the beginning of the set and more towrds the end. There is only 1 EC Now parallel for card #1, 2 of card #2, and so on. Griffey is card #76 in this year's set, so there are 76 EC Now cards of Griffey available.

      The trade-off is the "Future" parallel which is numbered to the sum of 103 (the total # of cards in the base set +1) minus the card #. Hence, the later the card appears in the base set, the fewer EC Future parallels there are to be had. There are 102 EC Future parallels of card #1 and only one of card #102.

      The closer to the middle of the base set a card appears (cards 50, 51, 52, for example), the more comparable the rarity between the two parallels. But if you're chasing parallels of cards that appear very early or late in the set numerically, you are going to have trouble finding at least one of those parallels.

      The Essential Credentials parallel is the only one I know that does this, and it was done the same way every year.

    2. So just curious is the 2003 ex essential credentials gold that is not numbered worth more than the one actually numbered out of 27?

    3. Oh, I doubt it. The real-deal numbered one is probably worth more.

  2. Man I’ve got to find these cards lol

  3. Btw this is Justin LeBeau. Been reading a lot of ur old blogs and learning all I can about cards I’ve never seen lol.