Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2006 Allen & Ginter: The Triumphant Return of Ginter, I Guess

In 2006 Topps gave us one of the most popular and enduring sets of this century when they rebooted the long defunct Allen & Ginter brand (last seen when Grover Cleveland was president). The new cards are larger than their tobacco card ancestors, but they share the same simple design with a painted image and lavishly-fonted logo. While sparse, the aged-yellow card backs are a charming recreation of the originals, spelling out numerical stats in words and proudly heralding each card’s subject as one of “The World’s Champions,” a title Topps continues to honor their card subject with to this day. Yes, even Incredibeard.

Now, I like this brand, but I’m going to word this next part carefully.

People really love Allen & Ginter, and it has grown into kind of a big deal. I find this funny because I (like many of you, I’m sure) had never heard of this beyond-vintage tobacco brand before I ran into the modern set. Suddenly everybody knows about Ginter cards and many of you even collect originals now because of it. Heck, even I have one:

I bought it because in addition to being stunningly
beautiful, it's also a cool rapper name.

I’m willing to bet the market for A&G originals from the 1800’s has never been better because of Topps, but it still seems strange to me that the themes and quirks of the original sets are so far-removed from today’s collectors and yet we are meant to embrace them as part of our cardboard heritage.

Take the N43 box toppers, for example. I was already vaguely aware of tobacco cards, but I find it difficult to celebrate these things. They pre-date my grandparents by half a century – I don’t know what they are or why they are called “N43.” There was never a moment when I thought, “Wow, they’re bringing back N43’s? Ugh, FINALLY.” They’re as alien to me as a textbook on Chinese dentistry.

The same is true about the no-number cards. I can’t relate to the fact that some cards were printed with no numbers in 1887. Who can? This is not an exciting prospect. Now if they decided to recreate the “no name on front” cards from 1990 Topps, I imagine I could get excited about that because, you know, I was alive at the time.

And every card says “Brooklyn, New York” on it. When I first saw that I thought, “Pretty sure Griffey plays in Cincinnati, guys. And Brooklyn hasn’t had a team for a hot minute.” I figured out later that it was a reference to original Ginter cards printing their home office location of “Richmond, Virginia” on every card. Now how was I supposed to know that?

I should reiterate that I do like this set and love original Ginter cards - they’re beautiful, tangible little bits of history you get to hold and collect. And I should mention that as a whole the brand seems to get better every year (though I’m still partial to the ’06 design). But the whole concept is still very strange to me, and I doubt I’ll ever get over it.

That said, Ginter is bigger than ever. In addition to the myriad set-builders across all facets of card collecting, there are huge box-break contests, puzzles, secret codes hidden in sets, and all manner of mini parallels in varying colored back printing and hand-numbered ink. The 2006 set, however, was a lot simpler. At only eight cards (possibly eleven?), two of which are actually box toppers, this is the shortest Griffey checklist of any modern Ginter set.

It also includes one of the ugliest baseball cards ever created. We’ll get to that one later.

2006 Topps Allen & Ginter #5 SP

Griffey’s regular base card is an SP (set builders LOVE SP’d base cards). The image they used is a tasteful one – just our guy standing with a bat on his shoulder and a mysterious Mona Lisa smile. Nice looking card.

2006 Topps Allen & Ginter #5 SP Mini

Here is the mini version which is actually pretty tough to track down. Minis were one per pack, but this is a mini of an SP. I, like Night Owl, prefer the mini to the full-sized card all day.

There are parallels in this set that include black borders, A&G back, and cards missing their card numbers, but I have never been able to find an example of any of these for the Griffey. I suspect those parallels do not exist for the SP base cards, but I could be wrong. Any help here would be appreciated.

Sadly there are no relics for the Kid in ’06 Ginter – I say “sadly” because I like Ginter relics. They are mounted on minis which are then framed in plastic adorned with tropical imagery. Cardboard Connection calls these “the hobby equivalent of a Hawaiian shirt.” That pretty much nails it.

It’s cool, though. They made up for no Griffey relics with the worst Griffey card I’ve ever seen:

2006 Topps Allen & Ginter Dick Perez Collection #7

Now I’m not one to poo-poo Dick Perez. The man has some great work out there, and I respect the authority of his sweet uncle beard. There are even a few cards in this very insert that are damn attractive (A-Rod, Bonds, and Todd Helton are a few favorites). But THIS.

This is just a dumpster fire. Junior looks like a burn victim who was attacked by a swarm of bees. Go ahead – fuzz your eyes a little. It still doesn’t look right. I want the 1/1 original not only as a Griffey card, but as an artistic oddity.

The back offers a peek at Dick’s accomplishments (omitting his years of work with Donruss), but ends with what feels like an advertisement for Topps Perez prints. That's too bad. This insert should have been one of the greatest of the decade.

2006 Topps Allen & Ginter N43 Box Loader #N43-10

If you though ’89 Bowman cards were a pain in the butt to store, get a load of these big, square jobbers. They are based on the 1888 N43 set because, let’s face it, everybody knows and loves the N43 set. It depicts the rare mini version of Junior’s base card among plants, an old-timey baseball photo, and some flags that I can only assume read “Detroit” and “Phila.” The back is a numberless checklist of other guys who got the big, square card treatment.

Someone figured out that these fit right to the edge of a top loader in width, so two top loaders taped together sandwich-style does the trick. That’s the only way I’ve ever seen these cards, so I’m used to seeing them darkened by two layers of top loader plastic. The first time I ever removed this one from its case was to make the scan you’re looking at now.

There are probably a handful of ultra-vintage collectors who got the reference when these came out, but to me they are an unwieldy nuisance.

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter:

#5 Mini A&G Back SP ?
#5 Mini Black SP ?
#5 Mini No Number SP ?
#364 mini exclusives checklist (in rip cards only)
Dick Perez Collection #7 Original 1/1
Rip Card #RIP28 #/99
Postcards #AGP-KG

That postcard isn’t too expensive, and from what I’ve seen of the other postcards I definitely want one of my own. Here’s an image of the Griffey postcard:

“Cincinnati is the place where I thought I would be happy.” Oof – it’s worded like a homesick kid’s letter from camp. I’ve got to have one.

I hope I didn’t offend any of you Ginternauts out there – I know there are a lot of you. Again, I like the cards – it’s the concept I find strange. If it’s any consolation, I’m one of the weirdos who likes ’95 Fleer.

Thanks for reading!


  1. 2015 topps archives recreated the no name on front 1990 topps and they're righteous, tough pulls that they are.

  2. Dick Perez is like the Van Gogh of baseball card artists. Things started off well and then went so bizarre. Some of his pictures look like the scrawlings of a mad man. That Griffey is shocking.

  3. The various mini versions should all exist. There should also be a Bazooka back with a print run of 25, plus printing plates and such.

    A&G Back : https://img.comc.com/i/Baseball/2006/Topps-Allen--Ginters-Mini-Allen--Ginter-Back/5/Ken-Griffey-Jr.jpg?id=8510ec00-0d26-4adb-b1b6-112f489d8d00&size=original&side=back
    Black Mini: http://www.ebay.com/itm/2006-TOPPS-ALLEN-GINTER-MINI-BLACK-KEN-GRIFFEY-BASEBALL-CARD-5-/121900175186?hash=item1c61d10f52:g:WakAAOSwzgRWx97n

  4. I share many of your beliefs as well. I feel like A&G gets uglier by the year. I like the early years and even bought a blaster when I got back into collecting, but I rarely touch the stuff now.

    They are good for TTMs though.

  5. "This is just a dumpster fire"

    Gonna be laughing about that one all day. Thanks for the chuckle ;)

  6. I never fooled around too much with Ginter. The non-baseball cards never did too much for me.

  7. I love Ginter (both old and new Ginter)! You can buy 4-pocket pages to store the N43s, that I what do for the years in which I've collected the full N43 set.

  8. http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/08/22/article-0-14A5FD74000005DC-559_634x965.jpg

    I believe that is also a Perez. And possibly a Griffey too.

  9. The Dick Perezes are definitely some of the ugliest cards ever produced. Those aside, I was a huge, huge A&G fan for the brand's first couple years. I remember being so hypnotized by them when they first came out in '06. They're still okay now, but I'm not as much of a fanboy anymore. (I didn't buy a single pack of 'em last year.)

  10. Always Riding is an AMAZING raper's name. Or even better, a raper's sextape's name

  11. I only collected Ginter in 2011 and 2012, but I do like some of the old school things they do. I was a kid from the 90's, so I do like the idea of no name on the front. But going back to the 1880's for things is even better. When I first bought 2011 Ginter, I had to look up what an N43 was, and now I know, so that's cool. Now it's been 10 years, so the idea has lost a little luster, but I liked the whole idea of cabinet cards and having some non-baseball players, too. I do think the popularity is primarily due to the sheer weirdness more than anything else, though.

    I did figure out that the 3 pocket pages work for the N43s I have. You can fit 2 side by side in 1 sleeve. They don't seem to move around too much.

  12. There's actually 12 cards - there's a bazooka back numbered out of 25. Here's a few of the others that madding didn't post above:

    Bazooka back #5 /25

    Mini from Rip card #364 (about 10 or so I found on worthpoint)

    Rip card

    no number: