Monday, October 29, 2018

The 20-Year Checklist: 8000 Days Later

I’ve been wanting to write this post for over three years (or almost 22 years, depending on how you look at it).

You may have read a few years ago when I decided to complete the 1996 Beckett Ken Griffey, Jr. Tribute checklist, a list of Griffey cards that made me quit collecting altogether when I was 15 and all those triple- and quadruple-figure card values broke my spirit.

Then in 2016 a few years after having re-entered the hobby later in life as so many of us have done, I took another look at said checklist and realized that I could actually complete it, given enough time, money, and patience. I already had all the real monsters, and I had a jump on his Hall of Fame induction which I assumed would spike prices something fierce (I was right, too). I’d only dreamed of such a thing when I was a teenager. Could it really be done?

So, on June 18th of 2015 I announced my intention to complete the dream of my youth and set a deadline of December 31st, 2016, a full 20 years after the Beckett Tribute issue came out. Over the following weeks I added a healthy chunk of those cards to the collection and started ticking boxes.

The months came and went, and it was feast or famine for a while with what seemed like long periods of nothing to show with bursts of five or six new cards in between - salad days compared with what was to come.

In August of 2016 with 3 months and a measly 28 cards to go, I hit a wall. I was 96% of the way to my goal, the closest I’d been yet, and even pretty far ahead of schedule by the numbers; but I was less hopeful than ever I could get it done in time. I even took some time to write a blog post about it.

The deadline came and went – no surprise there. I don’t even know exactly where I stood with this project on the last day of 2016. Those final 28 were harder to find than all the other cards I needed at the start combined. Most of the checklist you could simply throw money at and they were yours. The difference is they were AROUND. You could actually FIND them. That was not the case for those final 28.

Luckily there were a lot of little victories throughout 2017 when I ticked 26 of the final 28 boxes. I was battling for every single card at this point – scouring card sites, auction sites, and even Facebook groups to track each card down one at a time. It was slow-moving, but it was moving. By the end of the year I had a measly 2 cards left to find, and one of those popped up rather quickly in January of this year.

The biggest hurdle was that final card, the 1994 Upper Deck All-Star Jumbo #1 Gold. I set up numerous eBay saved searches with every possible configuration of words someone might use to describe the card, I bought dozens of the sealed sets in the hopes that one of them would contain the elusive gold cards (none did, and I have a ton of them available now if anyone out there needs one), and I even took to begging on the Griffey-collecting Facebook groups and forums for someone to sell me the darn thing.

I did that thing so many collectors do (in all hobbies) where I developed a sense of entitlement – that I was DESTINED to own this card. It was, after all, the only card holding me back from accomplishing my childhood fantasy. How dare anyone try to stand in my way? Unfortunately that entitlement thing happens a lot, and usually not with me. Eventually I cooled out and just decided it would happen when it happens, and not to force it. I played it easy-breezy. And thank goodness I did because it took a long time.

Every few weeks for the past two years I have jumped on eBay and done a very generic search, something like “1994 Upper Deck Griffey Gold,” and this time – for the first time ever – there it was, just a few auctions down from the top, hidden among a larger group of gold jumbos. The auction included BOTH gold Griffeys (the other which I already had) from the set for $38.00 with a Best Offer option that I completely ignored. A few clicks and the deed was done. Years of work, hours of searching, and thousands of dollars invested all finally paid off with a final 38 bucks.

768/768 – 100%

Let’s take another look at that checklist now:

I dreamed of this day. I guess my appreciation for girls simply hadn’t caught on yet because all I wanted back then was exactly what you’re looking at here: row after row of filled-in boxes and the Griffeys to back them up - nothing else. Being finished is pretty surreal.

Now what?

Wanna see some stats?? You know I do!

The total number of days elapsed from Jan 1st, 1996 to October 22nd, 2018 is 8331. Subtract the number of days in 1996 before this checklist was published (I still don't know exactly when it came out that year), and you still have well over 8000 days, hence the post title.

When I first announced my quest I needed 198 cards out of the total 768 cards on the checklist (the numbers in the original post were off by a few dozen which I realized after a few months of getting real intimate with that list). To complete the challenge I had to acquire one new Griffey every 4 1/2 days. By the time I got the final card I had averaged one per 6.14 days.

But that’s just half the story. In August of 2016, just three months from my self-imposed time limit, I still needed 28 cards, the 28 hardest gets of all. Since then I averaged one new card every (strangely enough) 28 days, a massive drop-off and a testament to how scarce that last chunk of the checklist was. In fact I acquired JUST THE FINAL THREE in the last 461 days, or one card every 154 days. The longest stretch of time between acquisitions was for that final card: 281 days.

I did not, but damn that took a long time...

The 1996 Beckett Ken Griffey, Jr. Tribute Checklist Quest Primer

If you plan on building the 1996 Beckett yada yada checklist, I have plenty of information to share with you.

First, several cards stand out as having been particularly difficult gets, some due to high expense and some simply because there aren’t any around to be had, regardless of expense. Keep in mind that price had little to do with most these – it was all about SCARCITY. Here are the real toughies you’ll face if you go after this thing yourself:

1988 Best San Bernardino Spirit Team Set Platinum

The Beckett checklist tells us that there are 34 cards in the team set at large, and it even appears to include the full set as part of the checklist despite the fact that 33 of those are NOT Ken Griffey, Jr. If you can land just his card which is 99.999% of the set’s value anyway, you can go ahead and check that box, big guy. You have my blessing.

But if you want to get hard-core, you’re going to have to land the full sets. That’s BOTH full sets, regular AND platinum. Sorry – they didn’t put the little “(34)” on the checklist for their health.

1989 Bowman Tiffany

The toughest of the Tiffany Rookies, and there are TWO of them if you include the TV-style cameo on his Dad’s card, which this checklist does. Just be thankful the Topps Heads-up prototype wasn’t included.

1989 Topps Traded #41T Tiffany

One of the more beloved Griffey rookies, I recommend just picking up a sealed set for all the other great rookies here, not to mention a shot at a PSA or BGS 10. Gem mint graded specimens are expensive but not too uncommon since these were never packed out.

1990 Bowman #481 Tiffany

Lower production numbers compared with nearly every other Tiffany set keep this one just out of reach for most – stay alert.

1990 Donruss Super Diamond Kings #6

“Super” just means “jumbo,” but finding one is a real chore. You’re better off just looking for the full sealed set – that’s what I did. Mine is still sealed, in fact, but I assume the Griffey is in there. I mean, it freakin’ better be.

1990 Leaf Previews

This is Lord of the Previews, guys. I lucked into mine for $40 from a fellow collector ages ago. Prices have increased significantly since then. Very tough card.

1991 Donruss Previews #4

You’re going to see a lot of previews in this list. By the mid-90’s they were a dime a dozen, but early on they were still pretty special. Just be prepared to flex your bidding muscle for this (and any other preview listed here, really), and be thankful they didn’t include the 1991 Donruss advertising sheet promo. THAT thing is a real pain to find.

1991 Topps Desert Shield (#392, #790)

You’ve probably heard of these – they are famously scarce and extremely hard to find in above-average condition. If condition is not a big issue for you, though, there are deals to be had…

1992 Donruss Previews #7

These are a bit pricey (for 1992 Donruss cards, I mean) if the seller knows what they have; but just keep your eyes peeled for skinnier-than-normal lettering in the nameplate and you just might find one among a bunch of common cards. Odds are against this, but it’s possible. I’ve seen it.

1992 Triple Play Previews #1

Okay – last preview. Like the ’90 Leaf previews the bit that makes it a preview is on the BACK, so this is another one you could find among common base cards. Happy hunting.

1993 Colla Diamond Marks Art Card #3

These have held their value noticeably well over the years, probably because a lot of mid-90’s kids actually used them as bookmarks (savages). That black border combined with the fact that they are condition sensitive means undamaged ones sell for a nice premium, usually in the triple figures. For a bookmark, y’all.

1993 Finest Refractor

Yeah, it’s expensive, and it seems to be getting MORE expensive every day. But that was always part of the deal. You collect Griffey – you knew what you were getting into. Here you get the frustration of these being available for more than you may want to spend in place of the frustration of not being able to find them in the first place. Call that a win.

1993 O-Pee-Chee Premier Star Performers #9 Foil

These are the ones without the gold borders. While cheap, they hardly ever come up for sale; and when they eventually do it’s easy to resent how little they end up costing you. Just snap it up if you ever come across one, and be done with it. [Fun fact: I just checked eBay and there are TWO of these for sale. Suddenly it’s a buyer’s market, I guess. Sheesh.]

1993 Pinnacle Cooperstown #22 Dufex

One of the first Dufex cards ever, and owning one is a bona fide rite of passage among Griffey collectors. Don’t expect to get it cheap.

1993 Upper Deck Fifth Anniversary Jumbo #A1

Okay, when they say “Jumbo” here, they mean JUMBO. This is one of the biggest cards in my collection by surface area. It even came with its own special case which it absolutely needs. It’s so big they couldn’t even stretch the front image big enough so it has these white strips on either side. And it’s pretty rare, too, so there’s that.

1993 Upper Deck Iooss Collection #WI13 Jumbo

The second-to-last card I was able to track down. It was dirt cheap when I did, too. Vigilance and a little help from the eagle-eyed Magicpapa got me this card. Fun fact: when I finally found the last card and put this whole project to bed, Magicpapa is the very first person I told. I haven’t even told my wife yet.

1994 Collector’s Choice #117 Gold Signature

I got mine early on, but I’ve watched the prices steadily rise over the years. I think this one is a bit rarer than people originally thought.

1994 Collector’s Choice #634 Up Close & Personal Gold Signature

There was a long time when I thought this one simply didn’t exist. Seriously – I almost crossed it off the list as an error. I’d all but given up when it popped up on eBay (I think it was around $30 or so), and I snapped it up. There are probably enough that a fair-minded fellow Griffey collector could hook you up, though. It just won’t be me – I only have the one.

1994 Bowman’s Best #R40 Refractor

Those first few years of Topps’ iconic refractors were something special. Someone figured out that there are approximately 241 copies of the infamous 1993 Finest refractor, and based on how many I’ve seen and the prices they command, I believe there are a similar quantity for all refractors from around that time, including this one. This card cost me $100 in late 2016, and even at that price (which is crazy low compared with today’s prices) I was pretty hesitant about pulling the trigger. Looking back now I’m glad I did…

1994 Finest #232 Refractor

See: 1994 Bowman’s Best #R40 Refractor

1994 O-Pee-Chee All-Star Redemptions #8 Jumbo

Believe it or not these jumbos are, like, just frickin’ NOWHERE. I messaged SO MANY auction sellers asking if it was a jumbo they were selling and it NEVER WAS. I don’t even like the card. Frankly my blood pressure is going up just thinking about it. In the end it cost me ten bucks shipped, and I was glad to be done with it.

1994 SP Holoview #12 Red

I’m guessing there are only a handful of these because they don’t come up often and they go for a LOT when they do, even moreso now than when I got mine from a friendly fellow collector via the Griffey Facebook group. This one may require calling in a favor.

1994 Topps Superstar Samplers Cello Pack #19

These can be identified by the little stamp on the reverse-bottom of each of the three cards inside. I have the sealed cello pack, but even unsealed I suppose they might count for the purposes of this checklist, assuming you can find all three.

HOWEVER the checklist does say “cello pack,” doesn’t it? So if you want to go full-literal when interpreting this checklist, I guess you need it. Unfortunately the sealed cello pack is a true, tier-one, grade-A spirit-crusher, and you will never own it. Never ever ever.

Compromise is the name of the game with this thing. Just get the loose ones and save yourself some trouble here. <COUGH wimp COUGH>

1994 Upper Deck Griffey/Mantle Dual Auto

I’m not including the Griffey solo autograph on this list because A) you can find it pretty easily, B) they tend to go for less than $200, C) they are an amazing value at that price, and D) they are all but GUARANTEED to be genuine as is either solo auto from this insert.

The dual autograph is significantly more expensive and usually commands even more than the usually-inflated values from 1996. And some claim there are people bought the Griffey solo on the cheap and wrote in their own Mantle autos. If that’s a genuine concern of yours, simply spend many hundreds of dollars more and get one with a COA (still not a guarantee, of course). I’m content with mine being PSA DNA slabbed authentic as the COA is not on the checklist.

1994 Upper Deck All-Star Jumbos Gold (#1, # 125th Anniversary)

You are looking two of the final three cards I acquired in my quest to complete the checklist.
When I finally got my grubby mitts on the 125th Anniversary Jumbo Gold, the third-to-last card I needed, it was auction-style; and in the final few seconds I dropped a massive over-bid so I wouldn’t miss out. I ended up winning it for about 15 bucks instead of the…sigh…many, many dollars I actually bid. Phew.

Old #1 was the final card on this checklist. Even with my Griffey-collecting crosshairs on it and it alone, this card still eluded me for 281 days of actively looking for NOTHING ELSE. I even went a little crazy for a few weeks there. But I’m much better BURN EVERYTHING. Er, I mean now. Much better now.

1995 Bowman’s Best #R49 Refractors/Diffraction Foil

See: 1994 Bowman’s Best #R40 Refractor

Ron Kittle Coffee Mug

This one is not on the checklist, but if you have one we are probably secret best friends and also let's hang out. What are you doing Friday?

1995 Collector’s Choice You Crash the Game #CG8A 7/2 Gold, #CG8B 8/24 Gold, #CG8C 9/15 Gold

Back in August of 2016 when I was stalled on the final 28 cards, these were my pick for what would be the final few cards needed to complete the list. Then they started popping up one after the other, and within a few weeks I suddenly had all of them. The worst part is I bought them all before realizing I’d already had one of them ALL ALONG. Whoops.

1995 Collector's Choice SE #261 Checklist Gold Signature

Here’s another card I started to doubt ever got the gold signature treatment, but I was wrong. Look hard and keep the faith, brother.

1995 Finest #118 Refractor

See: 1994 Bowman’s Best #R40 Refractor

1995 Pinnacle Artist's Proofs (#128, #304, #447, #450)

Pinnacle made their Artist’s Proof parallels super tough this year across all their sub-brands. Whatever I paid for them (I know one was in the three figures), it was probably worth it. Not an easy parallel by any stretch, especially that Bagwell/Piazza/Thomas checklist – prepare to battle numerous other player collectors for that one. And bring money.

1995 Score Rules #SR1 Jumbo

Apparently everyone had one of these but me. The fact is no one likes selling jumbos because they’re a pain to ship, usually necessitating a proper box instead of a simple bubble mailer or PWE. I believe that’s the reason there are so many jumbos on this list to begin with. Also this is another one of those more-jumbo-than-jumbo jumbos. Here it is with a Dunston Checks In lunch box for reference. It’s bloody HUGE.

1995 Select Artist’s Proofs (#89, #243, #250)

See: 1995 Pinnacle Artist’s Proofs (the part about the Bagwell/Piazza/Thomas checklist applies here, too)

1995 Sportflix Artist's Proofs (#1, #168)

See: 1995 Pinnacle Artist’s Proofs

1995 Stadium Club #521 Extreme Corps First Day Issue

You have to be careful with this one. It's a tricky card - very tricky.

1996 Collector's Choice #310 Gold Signature

This was the toughest Gold Signature parallel in the entire checklist by far. The one I bought was the first one I’d ever come across, and it wasn’t cheap. I’ve only seen one since then, but at least they are out there.

1995 UC3 #124 In Depth Artist's Proof

See: 1995 Pinnacle Artist’s Proofs

1995 Upper Deck Electric Diamond Gold

I am a huge ’95 Upper Deck fanboy having bought numerous packs and boxes in both series and even built the base set, so I know exactly how tough those golds are and how easy it is to misidentify them as the much more common silvers. That may explain why there are not many to be found in the wild. But they are totally worth it because 1995 Upper Deck is AWESOME.

The toughest cards for me were all some variation of Upper Deck’s various jumbos. If you have any of these (and I suppose that near-impossible 1994 Topps Superstar Samplers Cello Pack) consider yourself lucky. You are practically halfway there according to my timeline - everything else is just money.

Also keep in mind that these were just the cards that sprung to mind when I started thinking about which ones gave me the most trouble. There are plenty of others that are more challenging than most that I didn’t even show here. The list is not easy.

But it could have been a lot harder. If this thing had come out just a few weeks later in the year it would have included some real monsters. Think reasonably-nice used car money. In no particular order, here are a few cards you should be thankful are NOT on this list but very nearly were:

Pinnacle Skylines Insert
A Couple of Bowman's Best Atomic Refractors
SPx Ken Griffey, Jr. Commemorative Autograph
Studio Gold and Silver Press Proofs
Circa Rave
Pacific Cramer's Choice
Several Finest Refractors
Donruss Power Alley Die-Cut - There are supposed to be 500 but they don't act like it in the market.
Ultra Hitting Machines and Thunder Clap Gold Medallion - The former is famously rare and the latter is even rarer.
Zenith Diamond Club Real Diamond Parallel - I've never met another collector who has one.
Select Certified Mirror Anything - Red and blue go for thousands, and the #/30 gold is basically ungettable.

With these in the mix I probably would not have even tried this thing. Those Select Certified parallels alone could ruin your collecting career. Thank you, Beckett, for leaving these off of the list.

Moving on, there are three spots on the checklist that could have used some revision, and you should absolutely know about them before you start throwing money around.

1) Colla Collection Diamond Marks

The same group of three cards is listed twice in succession as both “Diamond Marks” and “Colla Diamond Marks.” The two groups are one and the same. I think these simply got double-listed by accident.

2) Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards Signatures

The autographs of this set are complicated, and they sound even more complicated when you try to explain them. I won’t try and do that here; instead, here is how I would have written that part of the checklist:

1994 Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards /15000 (w/ Ken, Sr.)
1994 Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards /15000 (w/ Craig Griffey)
1994 Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards Signature Ken, Sr. and Craig Griffey (Craig Autograph only) #/1050
1994 Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards Signature Ken, Sr. and Craig Griffey (Ken, Sr. Autograph) #/1050
1994 Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards Signature Autograph #/1000 (w/ Ken, Sr.; Ken, Jr. Autograph)
1994 Signature Rookies Draft Picks Flip Cards Signature Autograph #/1000 (w/ Craig; Ken, Jr. Autograph)

Simply put, that’s two base cards and four autographs, two of which are Junior autos. None of the cards are signed by more than one Griffey, so there are no multiple autos here.

Signature Rookies also made a real mess of things by including stickers or COA’s or BOTH with the various autographs, depending on which one you get. Very confusing. Also Beckett assigned them card numbers which, while they may be sourced from the manufacturer and correct, aren’t on the actual cards. You have to go strictly by description here. The good news is that these autographs are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, especially the Craig and Senior autos.

This bit is up for debate, too, as you could, if you want, just get those cards that feature Junior and not the ones that feature only Ken, Sr. and Craig. But guess what? THEY ARE ON THE CHECKLIST. Better get them just to be safe.

3) 1995 Stadium Club #521 Extreme Corps 1st Day Issue

These don't even exist. Seriously. The one I showed a scan of up there I made in MS Paint just to mess with people. I like to think there might be someone out there trying for this list and getting stuck on the 1995 Stadium Club #521 Extreme Corps First Day Issue, then happening across this very post and seeing a "scan" of it (without reading the post, of course), and fuming that they still haven't been able to find one. If anyone ever reaches out asking me to sell that card, I'm going to post the whole e-mail here so we can all have a laugh.

OK, this has been a long post, but I have one last thing to talk about that is several months overdue.

It takes a pretty sizable push to get me to publish a post nowadays. That is not to say I don’t have a dozen complete posts waiting in the wings I simply haven’t gotten around to finishing with card scans and the cutest post titles you’ve ever heard – there are, in fact, at least a dozen such posts ready to go.

For a very long time I was putting off – well, dreading might be a better word – updating you fine folks on my progress with the 1996 Beckett Tribute checklist since I failed so miserably at meeting my deadline. Add to that my constant daddy duty (doody) and the 9pm bedtime more or less demanded by my new lifestyle, and you have one woefully inactive blogger.

Then a few months ago when I was down to just one last card to finally put my adolescent dream to bed (a lot of my dreams back then involved a bed) (also Yasmine Bleeth), I received…well, let’s call it a nudge. A friendly, heartwarming nudge that took the form of one unique card:

A few days before this arrived I’d received an e-mail from one of the great Griffey collectors of our time requesting my address because “somebody” wanted it. I obliged as I consider said collector a friend. A few weeks later this little beauty arrived in the mail.

With it was a note from its creator who told me they were commissioned to make this custom job just for me, and to avoid removing it from its case as it was very fragile. That was all the information I had.

That scan does not do this card justice. Here's a real photo.

When I first laid eyes on it, it took me a few moments before I realized what I was looking at. Obviously it was the cover of the Beckett Tribute issue to which I’ve devoted thousands of dollars, many hours, and countless fevered mouse clicks. That alone is plenty deserving of a card. And a refractor, no less. It’s even got the little bar code! Wow – someone after my own heart.

I’ve looked at that magazine a thousand times, but it still took a minute before I realized that one of my blog post titles was there, followed by the subtitle. This is not just a custom – it’s a personalized custom. Somebody put my words on this thing.

Flipping the card around and seeing the back, the feels really started to hit. That’s the entire checklist – MY checklist. Those are the very dots I put on these pages with when I was 15 (and again when I was 33). And it quotes me. It quotes me talking about my mother and my childhood.

The culprit has not officially stepped forward (I have guesses), but one thing is clear: whoever it may be was rooting for me to knock this thing out. To you, sir, or madam (Yasmine?), thank you for the much-needed nudge. This card is amazing.

So I ask again: Now what? If you ever followed this blog you know how many posts I used to regularly crank out. Obviously things have changed. In fact if you look only at my number of posts per month over the life of this blog you can probably tell exactly what month I became a dad and my blogging time went by the wayside. But I’m working to correct that now that the boy is a bit more independent.

I think this checklist will be the last major collecting project for a while. I deserve a break. I’m going to try to catch up on blogging, something I’d already started to do even before I completed the Beckett checklist.

Although I am open to new collecting challenges if anyone has any ideas…

Thanks for reading.


  1. Awesome post, great read and congratulations! Some HUGE Griffey cards in that checklist!

  2. Dude, this is so awesome. Congrats on the ridiculously impressive achievement.

    I love that you found the last one for just $38. Had the seller known, he probably could have listed it for 10X that and still made the sale!

  3. I'm so glad you're back at the keyboard. Reading this post and seeing all of those awesome Griffeys has me pumped. Congratulations on completing this amazing project. The fact that there's a Beckett card out there that captures you and your collection is the most delicious tasting icing in the world.

  4. I cannot even imagine what it must've been like to complete a checklist like that, but this post definitely gave me a little taste of it. Much congrats to you, sir, and happy to see you back and blogging again!

  5. Congrats on your accomplishment! I love reading the posts, it details your quest quite well!! Keep them coming!

  6. Congratulations on completing the Beckett project! And that custom card is pure awesomeness!

  7. I Tip My Hat To You,

    Your Pal

    Magicpapa ;)

  8. Congratulations on completing the quest of a lifetime. This was an incredible story.


    JayBee Anama

  9. congrats on the project completion. and glad you are blogging again.

  10. Look at those juniors!!! Drool