Wednesday, January 27, 2016

15 (Plus 1) for '15: Year in Review

I purposefully did not set any goals for myself this year. Instead I played it loose, shot from the hip, went with the flow, and innumerable other idioms for operating without a plan. Things happened naturally, and I'm happy to report that everything turned out pretty well, as it often does. Here's a list of the good stuff that happened at The Junior Junkie this year:

1. The best year ever for Griffey acquisitions

It really was. From cool 90's inserts I just learned about to white whales I've only dreamed of owning, a great many triggers were pulled this year. I don't like to say "never," but acquisitions like this will never happen again. NEVER.

2. Wallet card

This concept was introduced just weeks before my wife and I were to fly to Alaska to see theNorthern Lights. On top of that we were returning home to two weeks of Mardi Gras. What timing! Upper Deck even took notice. I continue to not be able to thank Gavin of Baseball Card Breakdown enough for starting the whole thing.

Page 1

3. The Great Griffey Frankenset

The newestfeature, and time-consuming as it is, it's been a lot of fun, too. I'm amazed at how many card numbers I've been able to find with Griffey on them. While I'll continue to have a new page go up every Friday for the foreseeable future, I'm undecided about whether I should end it at #300 or continue until we simply run out of cards. We'll see, I guess.

From the SPx Timeline

4. New Design Timelines

This is now the longest-running feature on this blog. I didn't add quite as many as last year since I've already done most of the major sets, but I got a few in. And there are still plenty left to go.


5. Hit some milestones

Total acquisitions are down, but that didn't keep us from passing the 4000 unique Griffey milestone. I expect 5K to be a close call in 2016 if it happens at all. Fingers crossed. In addition to this I also reached 500 posts which is neat but not quite as fun as another 1000 Griffeys.

The receipt

6. Had one big, crazy trade day

The poor lady at the post office was in training, too. I like to think I made her an expert. One side-effect of this trading project is that I perfected my Tradelist which is what helped me get so many cards out to so many people. I feel another one of these crazy trade days coming on soon...

7. Finally collated all my 1989 Donruss base cards

It was thankless work, but it made for some cool pictures.

This is most of it

8. Came clean about my Bill Murray Card Collection

I'll admit it - I kept this secret for so long because I didn't want any competition in getting these great cards. Once I was confident I had all of them, it was time to speak up and let everyone know these things exist. I'm not saying it was my doing, but I can confirm that the prices on older Bill Murray cards have never been higher.

9. Completed the Online Database of Ken Griffey, Jr. Baseball Card Cameos

I've been putting this thing together for well over a year and finally thought I had them all. I was wrong, of course. Two additional Griffey cameos were pointed out to me within a day or two and I've since found yet another unconfirmed cameo on a Sean Casey card. Still, I'm happy with how many we've been able to find. Plus I like saying "database." Sounds like I'm doing something technical and important.

10. Told you everything I know about the 1989 Upper Deck Rookie

This post owns all kinds of records here: longest post, most words, most research, most hours put into it, and I expect it to be one of the most-read posts on this blog over the long term. It was several weeks before I was comfortable enough to finally hit "Publish."

11. Started a social media movement

Not a very successful one, mind you. I continue to put the cards out there, end we've officially gone multi-coastal and international; but people aren't as quick to tweet about them as I was hoping. Maybe I should double my efforts. #randomactsofcardness

I took this picture thirty seconds ago. I had to edit one thing out in yellow. You may never know what that is...

12. Moved to a new card room

Man, was this a big move. It took a solid week to get everything where I wanted it to be, and I'm still fine-tuning, but it's become a great space to sit and do card things without interruption. I just got a small flat panel in there hooked up to a DVD, VCR, DVDR, and Apple TV, so I can do everything from digitize old video tapes to stream HD movies directly off my laptop. Man, I love technology. God help me when this room becomes inundated with baby stuff.


13. Completed a few sets

Mostly Griffey stuff, of course. These include all four 2015 Topps Birth Year Coin/Stamp Relics, all the 2015 Topps Factory Set Chrome Refractor Reprints (regular and gold), and most notably, the massive 100-card 2008 SPx American Hero set. In addition to these I also acquired at least one of every 90's Finest Refractor, all of the Donruss Elite Series Inserts, all the rare early Donruss Previews, and every Topps Gallery of Heroes Griffey.


14. Assembled my (and a few other peoples') Best Binder Page

This was something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I finally had a few hours to kill at home to sit and do it. I'm also excited by the response I got from the blogging community for the project. I had a lot of folks e-mail me scans of their own selections to photoshop into a binder page, and it's been a blast to see all the interesting cards other folks have been choosing for their own pages.

One tough cookie

15. Set a goal

I announced that I would try to complete the 1996 Beckett Ken Griffey, Jr. Tribute Checklist by year's end 2016. That checklist that has terrorized me for 20 years. I've gotten a lot of the big cards out of the way, too, but there's still a long way to go. I needed 157 cards from the list when I announced, and now I need 98. That makes me 87% of the way there. That last bit is going to be tough, though, because I also...

+1. Made a lil' Junkie

...and he looks like a cabbage

Our little 1/1 is still sealed, but we'll be busting that pack in March. Expect a blogging slow-down for 2016.

Thanks to all the other great bloggers, traders, readers, and Griffey guys that helped make this the best year ever in my cardboard career. You guys are all damn cool in my book.

2016 is going to be a hell of a year!

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2015: The Top Ten

I've waited months to put this list together. Frankly, I'm still wondering if I got everything in its right place. Doesn't matter - here it is. I finished 2015 having added 717 new unique Griffeys to the collection, but had I added only these ten, it would still have been my biggest year ever. Grab a towel:

10. 1998 E-X2001 Destination Cooperstown #7

I hope you like extremely scarce 90’s inserts because this list is full of them, and few are more rare than this guy. I did some math, and based on perfectly reasonable estimates where needed, I proposed a guess that there are roughly a hundred of these floating around. That's super rare by 1998 standards. Of those hundred, I have to wonder how many have their original string? 'Cause mine does!

9. 1988 Best San Bernardino Spirit #1 Regular and Platinum /1300

As Junior’s pre-rookies go, these are the ones you want. The blue regular version is not all that uncommon, but that platinum version can get hella-‘spensive, even with 1300 of them to be had. Given the history and, well, blatant exploitation via parallels of Griffey cards that would happen over the next almost thirty years, how perfect is it that even this, the first Griffey card, has its own pricey parallel?

8. 1996 Ultra Hitting Machines Regular and Gold Medallion

The card design here speaks for itself. I’m just going to throw some numbers at you. The regular insert (right) is 1:288 packs. The Gold Medallion parallel (left) is ten times rarer at 1:2880. The ten cards in the insert bring the odds of pulling the Griffey Gold Medallion to 1:28,800 packs. Today’s pack odds with their 1/1’s and #/10 patch autos have some astronomical odds, but back in 1996 these cards may as well have been made of gold. No patches, no autograph, and yet without a doubt one of the toughest-to-pull inserts of all time.

7. 1997 E-X2000 Cut Above

Sure, Hitting Machines was cool, but it wasn’t big, shiny saw blade cool. This bad boy set the bar for die-cut cards for years to come. Even now, 19 years later, collectors look back at this insert wistfully, yearning for a simpler time when decent hits were super badass inserts with crazy, envelope-pushing designs instead of the simple, soulless white or gray jersey swatches or sticker autos of some rookie you don’t recognize and probably won’t hear from again. Even with a print line I love this card more than any relic or auto I’ve pulled in the last ten years.

6. 1997 Upper Deck UD3 Superb Signatures

The difference between Mariners autographs and Reds autographs is night and day in both price and availability. What you're looking at here is simply one of the greatest Griffey autos you can get. It's super early for an autographed insert, it includes a unique combination of wood grain and translucent film, and the auto itself is in blue ball point pen. It's so plebeian, like he was signing a check to pay the gas bill. The only other cards signed in pen that I can think of are Sweet Spot with their bits of baseball embedded in the card, but those all came out in the 2000's when autograph hits popped up in nearly every box you could buy. This one here is something special and a true trophy in its day.

5. 2004 Upper Deck Etchings A Piece of History 500 Club Game-Used Bat Relic /350

There are a few relic cards in this list – there’s even one I ranked higher than this – but this Upper Deck issue commemorating Junior’s entrance into the 500HR club is my personal favorite. It’s not just a perfect, timeless design – these puppies are scarce. It is said there are 350 copies of each card; but as these are popular among both Griffey collectors and set builders alike (it really is a beautiful set), I believe the majority of those are parked in collections somewhere. I like to think that someday I’ll have the #/25 autographed version someday; but one sold just this week for $4555.00, and I can’t imagine being able to hide that little splurge from my wife for long. This one’ll do for now.

4. 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey #GJ1

What serious Griffey collection would be complete without the world-famous first-ever baseball card relic? Upper Deck hit a home run with this issue as it’s not only the first of its kind, it’s also one of the greatest relic designs ever printed. It just barely edges out the Piece of History relic at #5 because of its significance in the hobby (and for that lovely 90’s Mariners jersey green).

3. 1998 Donruss Crusade #39 Purple #/100

If you’re a 90’s collector who doesn’t read this blog regularly, you’re probably pretty surprised to see this card ranked so low on this list. Or you might be surprised to see it at all - there really aren’t very many of them floating around (there are supposed to be 100, but where are they??). Still, it’s my favorite version of my favorite player on the undisputed king of 90’s inserts. Despite the fact that the red, limited to only 25 copies, comes up for sale only once every few years and sells more like a 1/1 when it does, I’m still perfectly content with the purple version. Actually, content is the wrong word. Ecstatic – I’m bloody ecstatic about it. How it’s not at the top of this list speaks to the sick cardboard still to come.

So you may or may not remember that at the end of my Top 30 Acquisitions list last year I made a not-so-subtle remark that 2015 would be the year I finally landed a Griffey/Mantle dual auto. I even made this picture to go with it:


2. 1994 Upper Deck Griffey/Mantle Dual Autograph /1000

This is my Griffey/Mantle Dual Auto. There are 999 others like it but this one is mine.

It was beautiful from the start. Then Mickey freaking Mantle signed it. Then Ken Griffey freakin’ Jr. signed it. Now it is no less than a piece of honest-to-goodness baseball history of the highest order. In James Earl jones’ voice, it is a reminder that all once was good…and could be again. Sure there are 1000 of these guys floating around, and at any given time you can find half a dozen or so for sale on eBay, but those sellers are fools. Every one of these cards is priceless.

I even took it out drinking once.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: how is this not #1? Your query is just. While it’s true you are looking at one of the greatest baseball cards everzzz, the final card in the countdown is just…well…ridiculous. A dynamo. Larger than life. Better than all the things.

And here it is:

1. 2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary Promo Autographed 18” x 25” Jumbo /25

The Buddha tells us that joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart. Well, Buddha needs revision. I can tell you that joy comes two ways, and one of them is through giant autographed Griffeys. How do I describe my feelings towards this card? I guess I can say that for me it transcends the cardboard realm into a place where I can scarcely even call it a collectible. It’s simply one of my favorite things – a new family heirloom I’ll be able to pass along to my son. Or be buried with – we’ll see.

In addition to being one of the rarest Griffeys I’ve ever owned (only 25 copies were signed), this card is also the most difficult to obtain. Like some of the greatest things life has to offer, it cannot be bought – it must be earned. The nice folks at Upper Deck sent it in recognition of my myriad #WalletCard exploits while aurora-hunting in the Yukon and at Mardi Gras here in New Orleans. It absolutely blew me away the night I got it in the mail, and it hangs proudly in my office beside my desk where I look at it often. If there is such a thing as love for an inanimate object, then brother, I’m in it.

That's the list, fellas. In two months I'll have a newborn, a total lack of sleep, and a perpetually empty wallet. That's okay, though - I had my best year a lot. I can take a break. Next year's list has already begun, and it's got some neat stuff, too. I'll be happy to show it to you when the time comes, but it won't be anything like this monster - not by a long shot.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2015: #11-20

It used to be that a card simply having a Griffey autograph on it earned it a spot in the Top Ten, but not this year, pal. In fact, it wasn't just one Griffey auto that didn't make it into the Top Ten - it was FOUR. That's a travesty - how did it happen? Two words: 90's inserts. But we'll go into that a bit more when we get to the Top Ten. Here's #11-20:

20. 2015 Topps Coin/Stamp Birth Year Dual Relic (penny, nickel, dime, quarter) #/50

As soon as I landed the quarter and held it in my hands, I was hooked on these numismatic/philatelic combo cards. I’ve been a coin collector since I was little, and while I’ve never been a big stamp guy, the one they used for these cards is perfect. Lord help me if they bring these back for another year.

19. Donruss/Leaf/Triple Play Previews (1990 Leaf, 1991, 1992, 1993 Donruss, 1992 Triple Play)

Previews (aka samples, promos) were pretty hot by the mid-90’s, and we have the Leaf brands to thank for that. These guys were all about sending previews of their upcoming sets out into the world, and they did so in very limited quantities. Upper Deck got on the preview bandwagon a little later as did most other brands in one form or another; but those first few years of previews beginning with the one for 1990 Leaf remain scarce and continue to command dozens of dollars apiece. This was the year I landed them all.

18. 1997 SP Game Film #/500

There’s a lot to love here. We have an early, low-numbered insert, a unique relic that also happens to be one of the first manufactured relics, and a little tasteful die-cutting. We also have a baseball card tribute to a dying format as film has gone more or less the way of the dodo. While a lot of film-themed inserts were coming out at this time from several brands, especially Leaf, this one is kind of their president.

17. 2001 SP Piece of the Action Quad Game-Used Bat Relic (w/ Alex Rodriguez)

In Griffey collecting circles this card is known as the Griffey-Griffey-Arod-Arod or simply “The Quad.” Again we have several layers of cardboard cool: multiple relics branded with team logos, both players’ old and new teams are represented in both the photos and relics, and it was actually apretty sweet A-rod card before the recent unpleasantness. This particular one even has an upside-down Seattle logo on the top piece. Oops!

16. 2007 Upper Deck Premier Premier Pairings Dual Autograph #PP-AK #/25 (w/ Andruw Jones)

I won a contest last year from Matthew of the great Pirates-collecting blog Bob Walk the Plank. His face-melting Andrew McCutchen collection is the envy of PCers and supercollectors of all kinds. I was getting out of card collecting right about the time Andruw Jones was an up-and-coming rookie extraordinaire. I never thought I'd see the day that someone would send me both his and Griffey's autograph on the same card. Pulling this one out of the envelope took my breath away. Thanks a ton, Matt! What a great prize! (P.S. proper thank you trade post forthcoming)

15. 2005 Upper Deck Reflections Cut From the Same Cloth Dual Jersey Relic #CC-GG2 Red #/99 (w/ Ken, Sr.)

There are a few Jr./Sr. dual autos to be had, but very few dual relics for some reason. This is the first father-son dual relic I found. It's a little off-putting, however, that this card shows both Griffeys as Mariners but includes a Reds uniform relic for Junior and a generic white one for Senior. I mean, as they did play at the same time for a while, Upper Deck could have shown them in similar throwback uniforms then given us gray swatches (even Cincy ones would have worked) and the card would have been vastly improved. Or hell, just show them both as Reds. I really love the card, but a lot of strange choices were made. Still, multi-generational dual relic! Gotta love that.

14. 2005 Upper Deck Rewind to ’97 UD Game Jersey Relic #RE-KG /150

In 1997 Upper Deck broke baseball cards by giving us the first relics. Eight years later relics were pretty much the norm for hits, and it seems Upper Deck wanted to remind everyone who started the whole relic thing with this insert dedicated to another insert. While Topps and Fleer were all about vintage designs that reminded collectors of what they brought to the hobby decades before, Upper Deck was reminding us of what they did just a few years ago. These are unnumbered, but there are only 150 to be had which I think is the exact number there should be. Any more and they wouldn’t be quite as special. Oh, and fun fact: these are WAY more scarce that the real 1997 Game Jersey cards.

13. 2003 Ultimate Collection SPx & Sweet Spot Buyback Autos

Junior signed a lot of cards in his time, and by the mid-2000’s there were Griffey autos in nearly every Upper Deck set. The availability of his autograph means prices haven’t held quite as well as maybe they should for a potential (now confirmed!) Hall-of-Famer. These two came up on eBay within a few days of each other in late 2015, and I put in low bids for each that somehow both won the auctions. The autos are pretty, and being buybacks they’re also hand-numbered. I'd like to see more of these on even older designs.

12. 1992 Classic Auto #/3100

I read a story once of a collector who pulled this card from a pack of ’92 Classic he’d gotten at a card show for a quarter. I can’t say I was so lucky, but I can say that someone listed this card on COMC at a far lower price than they should have, and I happened to be the lucky Griffey collector who discovered it. Maybe he was desperate to move some cards or had a white whale he needed the credits for, but it couldn’t have been up for more than a few moments before it was in my pending shipment. As you can see this is back when Junior used to underline his name with the tail of the Y in Griffey, something he stopped doing just a year or two later. Also, can you imagine sitting down and signing your name 3100 times? That’s almost as bad as closing on a house.

11. 90's Finest Refractors (1994, 1995, 1996 Bronze & Silver, 1997 Bronze, 1998, 1999, 2000 regular & SP)

Back in 2013 when this list was only ten cards long, the top spot went to a card that I’d drooled over since I was a wee lad: the 1993 Finest Refractor (which I threw into the above scan for good measure). This year I took that a step (er, several steps) further by acquiring nearly every other Finest base refractor from the 90’s and 2000. Of these cards, the 1994 and 1995 were far and away the hairiest gets, comparable in rarity with the 1993 card. For the 1995 refractor, I sacrificed the card having its surface protector for above average condition and centering, a rarity for the often off-center 1995 set. I’m showing them as a group, but to be fair the ’94 and ’95 cards could have had their own slots in this countdown. I'd also like to mention that while some of the colored refractors in later Finest sets are really cool, I do miss the days when there was just one and it was rare as butt. Those were the days.

Tomorrow's the big day! We're winding down, now, but we should be winding up because it's only going to get crazier. Get ready for a frenzy of amazing 90's inserts and some killer autographs. And thanks for reading.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2015: #21-30

There's never going to be another year like 2015.

I look forward to putting together my Top Acquisitions list every year, but this one is particularly special. Many of these cards are of the highest supercollecting caliber – true cardboard superstars. Many of them I haven't even shown on the blog yet.

Don’t get used to it, of course. Barring some unforeseen windfall, I can say with 100% certainty that never again will there be another year like 2015 when it comes to acquiring Griffeys. I’ve been keeping track of this list in a Word file over the past year, and perusing it while trying to put the cards in some kind of order has become a real challenge. It’s like ranking Beatles albums: they’re all amazing, so what’s the point of ranking them? It seems arbitrary, but I did it anyway.

One fun aspect of this year’s list is that I grouped certain cards together when it seemed appropriate. Some of my best acquisitions were rainbows, complete sets, or siblings of one another that are more than the sum of their parts. I think that makes the list a lot more fun. That also means there will be more than 30 cards in the Top 30 (67, actually).

Anyway, sit back and enjoy a snapshot of what will forever be my greatest year of Griffey collecting:

30. 2015 Topps Steel Rookies #/99 & Steel 1993 Finest #/99

These were acquired directly from Topps, but look at those numbers. Not only are there only 99 of each, but I got #1 and #2! The rookie is great, of course, but I cannot tell you how excited I am to see Junior on the regular (non-All-Star) 1993 Finest design. Topps can keep sets like this coming – I love ‘em.

29. 2003 E-X Rainbow w/ backdoored Essential Credentials Future

It’s a rainbow (kinda)! That Essential Credentials Future card is actually a backdoored card from the Fleer bankruptcy. The legitimate version would have a visible serial number run well into the hundreds, so I’m not above counting this ever-so-naughty version of the real deal as the last piece of the finished rainbow. Did I mention how naughty it is?

28. 2008 SPx American Hero #KG82 (last card to complete the set)

This set took many hours of work to make happen over the last three years, but it’s finally finished. I try and keep with my tradition of showing high-quality front and back scans of every Griffey I showcase, but that may prove to be a little too much work for this blogger when it comes to this mammoth insert.

27. 1990 Donruss Rack Pack Sealed w/ Three Visible Griffeys

I found this warlock on eBay by accident, and I consider it providence that I actually got the chance to own it. It was mine for a measly tenner. That's a steal. The guy could have gotten another $20 out of me if he really wanted. I feel like I won the Powerball. Or, more appropriately, he won the Powerball and sold me his winning ticket for ten dollars. Really, what are the odds that they would all be in the same pack let alone all on top??

26. 2007 Upper Deck Premier Premier Patches 3 #PP3-KG2

My first spelly-patch card. I'd rather it said "Kid" or even just "Jr," as "Cin" is not really a word. Eh, next time.

25. 2015 Topps Factory Set Refractor Reprints (1989, 1999, 2007) Regular and Gold Complete Sets

Topps knows exactly how to get me. The moment I saw sealed Factory sets at Target (exclusive) heralding chrome refractor Griffey reprints, I knew they would someday all be mine. It took a few weeks of waiting for the prices to cool down until the deed was done. I haven’t been able to find production figures for these, but it seems the golds are at least a little bit rarer than their standard refractor counterparts. Either way, as reprints go, these are well-executed.

24. Donruss Elite Series #/10000, #/2500 (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)

Every brand has brought something new to the cardboard universe. Score gave us the first full-color backs with photos, Upper Deck gave us the first relics, and Donruss gave us The Elite Series which was the first of a lot of things. The first premium insert, the first serial-numbered insert, and the first continuous multi-year insert. This year I finally got them all, including the 1993 Elite Dominator which was actually a Home Shopping Network exclusive. There was also an Elite Series insert in 1991, but Griffey had no card in it. Harumph. Anyway, look for a Donruss Elite Design Timeline coming soon.

23. 2012 Playoff Prime Cuts Timeline Triple Jersey Relic #/10

I landed this beauty early in the year and more or less by accident. I was not actively shopping Griffeys at the time, but it popped up on fleaBay at a crazy low price (probably because no logos) and nobody outbid my minimum, so here it is. It’s an oddball as relics go in that Griffeys tend to be red and/or blue and green with white or gray fabric relics more often than not. I’d never come across a goldenrod-colored card with relics as dark as these. Plus it’s numbered to only ten, making it the lowest-numbered Griffey relic card I have.

22. 1994 Topps Superstar Sampler (Finest, Bowman, Stadium Club) (sealed set)

I got an e-mail from someone who wanted to know the value of this set. Not knowing in the slightest (I’d never heard of these cards), I asked a few questions and ventured a guess. Apparently my guess was wrong. Turns out this little pack of three cards is pretty darn tough to come across. Then when I saw these cards listed on the 1996 Beckett Griffey Tribute checklist, I figured out I had missed an opportunity. Luckily this one popped up on eBay and I Best Offered it into my mailbox. Sealed it shall remain.

21. 1996 Donruss Power Alley Regular #/5000 and Die-cut #/500

You're going to see a lot of amazing 90's inserts on this list because - let's face it - they're the best. Take this insert from 1996, for example. Not only is it mindbogglingly (real word!) cool and detailed, it's got a unique parallel. They made 5,000 for each player in the set, but the first 500 were die-cut as you can see there on the left. A run of 500 is pretty darn scarce for 1996 (cards tend to get exponentially harder to find the further back in time you go), so a matched set of this insert is a rare thing, indeed.

If you think these were some nice Griffeys, just you wait. We still have 20 more cards to go, and I can assure you they only get better.