Monday, February 29, 2016

An INKredible Trade Post

Matt, who I always want to call Bob because he writes the excellent Bob Walk the Plank, is known the cardsphere over as a pretty generous guy, but I wasn't expecting this:

That, my friends, is a beautiful dual auto of one of my life's heroes and a man who was the toast of Atlanta right around the time I was retiring from card collecting in the late 90's. Had I known then I would someday have a card with both their signatures on it, I may not have quit cards so easily all those years ago. This card even made my Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2015 in what was certainly my biggest card collecting year ever. Fun fact: these guys have similar nicknames, Junior's being "The Kid," and Jones' "The Curacao Kid."

Your generosity knows no bounds, sir. I'm on the lookout for something cool with Andrew McCutchen on it to send your way, but I can't imagine finding anything quite as lovely as the card you sent me. In the mean time I do have a few nice Pirates cards saved up I that I think you'll like. Thanks again, Bob! Matt!

Gavin is Making Us All Look Bad: a Trade Post

I have no idea what I could possibly send to Gavin of Baseball Card Breakdown to make up for the insane customs he throws my way. I mean, the guy's got his own card logo. It's like if you were buddies with the president of Panini and he randomly made you your own 1/1 of your favorite player. The guy's got cut signatures and TTM autos on his own custom cards, and he just gives them away like the cardboard fairy.

This is some serious next-level hobbying right here.

2015 Cardsphere Heroes Custom 1/1 Green

The hell, dude? How did you do this? Is that a foil star cutout? And is that me referenced in the blurb?! I've mentioned in the past that I've always wanted more cards of that ugly/awesome future jersey, but it was in passing. Did you catch that, Gavin? This is so above and beyond kick ass I don't even know how to respond trade-wise. What do want? A pound of flesh? Some blood? Take my blood!

And I can't thank you enough for using "cardsphere" in lieu of "cardosphere." You truly are a man after my own heart, Gavin. I see your games, and I'm blushing.

Here's a perfectly-executed homage to the '89 Upper Deck Griffey for Kris Bryant whose final home run in the minor leagues I am proud to say I saw happen live (and wallet carded). The little foil bit on the back made me smile.

Here's a pair of T.J.'s. As a T.J., I can tell you we do not like hanging out with other initially-named folks, let alone other T.J.'s. It gets confusing fast.

We also have a nice new Chuck and a lovely framed Doby from Gypsy Queen. The Finley is a Naboo card, meaning all grass in the background (the opposite of a Tatooine card). Are you interested in those, Roy of Plain Gray Swatch? I've been setting both kinds of cards aside for some time, but you haven't posted in a year, so I'm guessing you may no longer be wanting them. Any other takers?

Finally, while it's not my first baseball card ornament, it is my funniest. This baby is hanging on a push pin at my card desk year-round from now on. LaMarry Christmas to you, too, big guy. You do amazing work.

Oh, and in case you haven't, go and check out Gavin's custom Simpsons set. It'll make you want to be a better man.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cover to Cover: 1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated

Right when baseball cards were at their coolest, Fleer made a deal with Sports Illustrated that resulted in three years and six sets of above-average photography and cool magazine cover subsets; and they all started here. I am just a massive fan of Sports Illustrated cards. I’ve even considered going for the set build, a very rare feat for a player collector such as myself. It’s that good.

That thing on the right is a card.

Sadly I don’t think Sport Illustrated’s foray into cardboard got the recognition it deserved. When I think of trends in the hobby, I think of the early 90’s being all about high-quality photography, then trending towards new printing methods and visual effects as the decade wore on. This is, after all, the year of the first baseball card relic and the legendary E-X2000 Cut Above insert. By the time SI got to the market with cards rooted in their unparalleled access to magazine-caliber photography, everyone had moved on to new card materials, intricate die-cutting, and refractors, refractors, refractors. Fleer's Sports Illustrated brands seem to have been a bit overshadowed by all the envelope-pushing lunacy of late-90’s inserts. That’s too bad.

Let’s start with the base card:

1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #157

This is about as Stadium Club-esque as any Fleer product got: ultra-simple nameplate in a nice font with full-bleed focus on the photography over the design. Heck, it’s more of a Stadium Club design than some Stadium Club designs.

The subject of this particular card is the prototypical Junior home run turn, and we get a view of his entire face as he does it. You can tell from the power displayed in his posture here that that ball is hurting. It’s the home run mechanism that is the Griffey in perfect alignment.

The back is simple, too. The background is made up of a large rectangle bordered in reversed green-white shading that looks great but that is easy to miss. There’s also a lot of negative space - they probably could have gotten away with more stat box - but you’ve got to love the portrait on top. That’s the face of a man who’s watching “Mulholland Drive” for the first time.

1997 Fleer Sprts Illustrated #157 Extra Edition #/500

A #/500 parallel in 1997 is like a #/50 parallel today. Serial numbered cards were still new, and now almost twenty years later tracking some of these down can be a real test of one’s resolve and pocketbook. This particular parallel is not all that fancy, though, so prices remain low relative to other low-numbered parallels from this time.

1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #28 Season Highlights

Here is a subset we’ve seen before but with a great image of Junior at the top of his swing. From the angle of his gaze I’d say that thing is on its way to orbit because Griffey.

The design is simple: border lines against a white background. Again, the photography does all the talking. Personally I prefer the back:

They used a large candid photo with a slight color fade as the text box here, and it fills the card back nicely as you can see. The blurb mentions Junior’s early dominance of the Maris HR record chase. I still remember checking the newspaper every morning before school to see if he hit another one (or sometimes two). That was a fun year to be a Griffey fan.

Here is the Extra Edition parallel:

1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #28 Season Highlights Extra Edition #/500

Let’s get to the coolest part of the Sports Illustrated checklist:

1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #172 Cover

I’m vaguely aware that one of Junior’s nicknames is “The Natural,” but I’ve always felt strange calling him that. Not SI – they filled the entire width of a magazine cover with it, and they did so way back in 1990, no less. That magazine cover came out just before The Kid would win the All-Star Game MVP and this card came out just before he would be named the AL MVP. What timing. This card is Sports Illustrated’s version of a big ol’ “Told ya so.”

Here’s the fancy version:

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

I love that cover, but the other one in this set absolutely takes the cake:

1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #178 Cover (w/ Frank Thomas)

Sure, it’s one of those upsetting woulda coulda shoulda cards that reference what might have been had X happened or not happened, but anyone else out there who collected actively at the time this came out remembers that it was all about these two fellas. They were unstoppable; and while you might have liked them both (I did), you know you liked one more than the other. It was not unlike the Gilligan’s Island Ginger vs. Mary Ann quandary.

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

There were also exchange cards available for autographed mini covers, but Griffey was not one of them. He did, however, make it into one last insert:

1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated Great Shots #25 (5x7 mini poster)

Even now Sports Illustrated is a magazine made up of page-sized mini-posters. How could they NOT make an insert exactly like that? The paper stock used even feels like magazine pages. And it’s not your run-of-the-mill action shot, either. It’s a candid, behind-the-scenes portrait that we may never have seen otherwise on a card. The only problem with it is how do you get it graded?

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated:


BAM. See that? I have them all! That’s incredibly rare for a 90’s set with FOUR low-numbered parallels. I guess I just like this set that much.

Fleer took their partnership with SI a lot further, releasing three more Sports Illustrated sets the following year and two the year after that. The following sets would continue to be flipping brilliant. And then, along with Fleer as a whole, they were gone.

Friday, February 26, 2016

1999 Pacific Private Stock: Before Tobacco Cards Were Cool

The ever-innovative Pacific brand, which I miss with all my cardboard-loving being, gave us the very first modern tobacco-style minis in this 1999 set. At one per pack, a model we see from several Topps brands nowadays, these parallels maintained the modern look of the base card on the front but with a decidedly vintage back design. Parallels of these minis are the only Griffeys to be had apart from the base card despite a homerun-themed insert that is suspiciously devoid of the Kid.

1999 Pacific Private Stock #6

The base design is heavy-handed, but typical for Pacific. It’s got the overly-edited sheen of a Spanish soap opera. We get a shot of the Kid just wrapping up another perfect swing that more than likely sent some poor sap in the outfield all the way to the warning track only to watch the ball sail far over his head. You heard it here, folks: Griffey is good at baseball.

The back is the star of the show. Pacific broke cardboard again by giving us a large, single-game stat box from a night when Junior’s game was truly on fleek. Two home runs, the second a grand slam and number 50 on the season. We also get to see which Oriole pitchers lobbed those meatballs, Smith on the first dinger, and Jimmy Key on the Grand Slam (after which he was apparently taken out immediately). Tough night, guys.

1999 Pacific Private Stock #6 PS-206 Mini

These must have been confusing to young collectors who had never seen a tobacco card. Now they’re a household name thanks to Ginter and Gypsy Queen, but back then pulling a smaller version of the base card that maintains the modern design of the regular cards was probably pretty weird.

They did a great job on the back, though. Vintage fonts, borders, and hatching round out a pretty solid first attempt at recreating a tobacco back. This one uses blue ink where the next level of parallel uses red. From there I couldn’t even tell you what the back begin to look like - only that they are different somehow and serial-numbered.

So juicy

The lone insert in this set is Home Run History, and it includes numerous cards of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire as they battled it out to beat Maris’ record. The final card in the insert is for Cal Ripken. Now, I realize that Junior was not as much of a contender for the record towards the end, but at the beginning he was the biggest contender and the one I thought most people were pulling for. I’d like to have seen him get at least one card in this insert, especially given that they gave one to Ripken who, while he would eventually retire with 431 home runs, was not even in that conversation. This is a rare gripe from me about a Pacific product.

It looks like this, but with silver holofoil where this one
is gold, Pretty cool card, though.

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 1999 Pacific Private Stock, all mini parallels:

#6 PS-206 Red
#6 PS-206 Preferred #/399
#6 PS-206 Exclusive #/299
#6 PS-206 Platinum #/199
#6 PS-206 Vintage #/99

Unfortunately Pacific Parallels are harder to come across than Waldo in a barber pole warehouse, so I’m in no hurry to find these.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Great Griffey Frankenset Database

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 are all the Frankenset selections so far with links to each page:

1. 1989 Upper Deck #1
2. 1997 E-X2000 Cut Above #2
3. 1994 Flair Hot Glove #3
4. 1990 Leaf Preview #4
5. 1997 Flair Showcase Diamond Cuts #5
6. 1989 Pacific Cards & Comics 1989 Rookies Superstars #6
7. 1998 E-X2001 Destination Cooperstown #7
8. 1990 Donruss Learning Series #8
9. 2000 Pacific Cramer's Choice Award #9

10. 1997 SP Game Film #GF10 #/500
11. 1995 Pacific Mariners Memories #11
12. 1994 SP Holoview FX #12
13. 1992 Donruss Elite #13
14. 2001 Pacific Gold Crown Die-Cuts #14 Blue #/100
15. 1987 Bellingham Mariners #15
16. 1997 Studio #16
17. 2000 Pacific Aurora Styrotechs #17 #/299
18. 1998 Pacific Crown Collection #18 (56 Home Runs)

19. 1993 Select Stars #19
20. 1993 Donruss Preview #20
21. 1995 Megacards Babe Ruth 1895-1995 #21
22. 1993 Pinnacle Cooperstown Card #22
23. 1990 Post #23
24. 1993 Upper Deck Fun Pack #24 Kid Stars
25. 2014 Topps Future Stars #FS-25
26. San Bernardino Spirit #26 California League All-Star
27. 1995 Donruss Diamond Kings #DK-27

28. 1991 Country Hearth #28 (w/ Ken, Sr.)
29. 2012 Playoff Prime Cuts Timeline Triple Game-Used Jersey Relic #29 #/10
30. 2003 Playoff Portraits #30
31. 2000 Upper Deck Ovation #31 
32. 2005 Upper Deck UD Portraits Game-Used Jersey Relic #32 #/99
33. 1989 Donruss #33
34. 1988 San Bernardino Spirit #34
35. 2008 Stadium Club #35 1st Day Issue #/599
36. 2003 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Sweet Spot #36 Buyback Autograph #/75

37. 1990 Baseball Card Magazine #BC37
38. 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter United States #US38
39. 1998 Upper Deck Nation Pride #NP39
40. 2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia Home Opener Souvenirs Game-Used Base Relic #OD-40 #/400
41. 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T
42. 2002 Donruss Originals #42 (1982 Design)
43. 2000 Upper Deck Ovation #43
44. 1990 Sports Card Digest #44 (1957 design)
45. 1994 Donruss Elite Series #45 #/10000

46. 1990 Topps ML Debut Tiffany #46
47. 2008 SP Authentic Marquee Matchups #MM-47 (w/ Greg Maddux)
48. 1996 Score Artist's Proof Jay Buhner #48 (cameo)
49. 1995 Bowman's Best #R49
50. 1997 Stadium Club #50 Matrix
51. 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated #51
52. 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces #52 Blue Frame #/125
53. 1997 Pinnacle Certified #53 Totally Certified Platinum Red #/3999 
54. 1995 Donruss Elite Series #54 #/10000

55. 1993 Upper Deck #55 Pacific Sock Exchange (w/ Jay Buhner & Kevin Mitchell)
56. 2002 Upper Deck Honor Roll #56
57. 2002 Upper Deck Ovation #57 Silver
58. 1997 Donruss Jay Buhner #58 Press Proof Gold /500 (cameo)
59. 2007 SPx #59
60. 1998 Upper Deck UD3 #60 (Technology FX60, Subset PC30) Die Cut #/2000
61. 2008 SPx Ken Griffey Jr American Hero #KG61 Box Score 1/1
62. 2010 Bowman 1992 Bowman Throwback #BT62
63. 1989 Baseball Cards Magazine Rookie Stars of 1989 #63

64. 2001 Topps Gold Label #64 Class 1
65. 2010 Finest #65 Blue Refractor #/299
66. 1994 Leaf Limited #66
67. 1993 Cardtoons #67 (Ken Spiffy, Jr.)
68. 2002 Topps Gallery #68
69. 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars #69 Blue #/170
70. 1995 Collector's Choice #70 Gold Signature
71. 1996 Bowman's Best #71
72. 1999 Ultra #72G Gold Medallion

73. 2005 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia #73
74. 2003 Topps Pristine #74
75. 2014 Topps Archives #75 Silver #/99
76. 2003 E-X #76 Essential Credentials Future (unnumbered Fleer bankruptcy)
77. 1995 Emotion #77
78. 1996 Circa #78
79. 1997 Topps Gallery #79
80. 2008 Topps Heritage Chrome #C80 #/1959
81. 1995 Flair #81

82. 2015 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #82 Mini Canvas /99
83. 2005 Studio #83
84. 2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove #84
85. 1992 Upper Deck #85 (w/ Ken, Sr. and Craig Griffey)
86. 2001 SP Game Bat Edition #86
87. 2002 Upper Deck Piece Of History #87
88. 1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Gold Signature #88
89. 2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #89
90. 1996 Topps Chrome #90 Star Power

91. 2000 SP Authentic #91 Superstars #/2500
92. 2013 Topps Archives #92 (1982 Topps Design) Day-Glow Orange
93. 2009 Upper Deck #93 SP (Mariners Press Conference)
94. 2008 SPx Ken Griffey Jr American Hero #KG94
95. 2005 Topps Opening Day #95
96. 1993.Studio #96
97. 2012 Topps 1987 Minis #TM-97
98. 2010 Topps The Cards Your Mom Threw Out #CMT98 (1991 Topps base card)
99. 2005 Upper Deck Pros & Prospects #99

100. 1995 Upper Deck #100
101. 1994 Studio #101
102. 2005 Leaf Limited #102 #/699
103. 1994 Flair #103
104. 2013 Select #104 Prizm
105. 1994 SP #105 Die-Cut
106. 1990 Star Platinum #106 /1000
107. 1996 Metal Universe #107
108. 2001 Fleer Showcase #108 AvantCard

109. 2001 Pacific #109
110. 1993 Finest #110 Refractor
111. 1993 Upper Deck Fun Pack #111 Wall Stars Glow Stars
112. 1991 Studio #112
113. 1996 E-XL #113
114. 1993 Upper Deck Fun Pack #114
115. 1992 Red Foley Stickers #115
116. 2005 Bazooka #116
117. 1994 Collector's Choice #117 Gold Signature

118. 1995 Finest #118 Refractor
119. 2008 Topps Update & Highlights #UH119 Highlights Gold #/2008
120. 1994 Ultra #120
121. 1997 Ultra #121
122. 1996 Pinnacle #122 Starburst
123. 1992 Ultra #123
124. 1995 Pinnacle UC3 #124 In Depth Artist’s Proof
125. 1995 Collector's Choice SE #125 Silver Signature
126. 1996 Ultra #126
127. 2003 Upper Deck Finite #127 #/1599
128. 1995 Pinnacle #128 Museum Collection
129. 2002 Fleer Showcase #129 Avant Card
130. 2006 Upper Deck #130 Special F/X Purple #/150
131. 1989 Classic #131
132. 2000 Pacific Private Stock #132
133. 2003 SP Back to '93 #133 #/1993
134. 1996 Pinnacle #134 The Naturals
135. 2000 Topps Opening Day #135
136. 1999 Upper Deck Encore #136 Homer Odyssey
137. 1999 Skybox Premium #137
138. 2001 Topps Fusion #138 (Topps Gallery Awards Gallery #28)
139. 2006 Ultra #139 Gold Medallion
140. 2013 Topps Update Tony Gwynn #US140 SP (cameo)
141. 2018 Donruss Optic #141 Holo Aqua #/299
142. 1999 Upper Deck UD Choice #142
143. 1994 Sportflics 2000 #143
144. 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated #144 Baseball's Best Overall Player

145. 1997 Metal Universe #145
146. 1996 Topps Gallery #146 The Masters
147. 1998 Topps Opening Day #147
148. 2010 Topps Heritage Chrome #C148 #/1961
149. 1998 Pacific Invincible #149
150. 2007 Topps Turkey Red #150 Refractor #/999
151. 1999 Fleer Mystique #151 #/2500
152. 2008 Topps Chrome #152 Refractor
153. 1992 Upper Deck Comic Ball 3 #153 (w/ Ken, Sr.)

Thanks for reading!