Thursday, March 21, 2019

Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2018 Part 3: The Top Ten

Last year I made up some nonsense about these Top Acquisitions of the Year lists each having a “magic number,” that being the number of cards at the top that all would have made a perfectly reasonable #1. This year, that magic number is 1. The card in the top spot and that card alone deserves that top spot all by its lonesome. The last time that happened the top card was the '93 Finest refractor. This year's is not as famous, but it is certainly more rare.

And yes, we are going to cram 22 relics into the next ten cards. If you're any kind of collector, you probably have a good idea what is coming up.

10. 1992 Lime Rock Griffey Family Hologram Set Autographed (autographed set of all three Griffeys)

The pre-2000 autograph elevator is in full effect here, rocketing these not-terribly-uncommon, back-of-the-card beauties into the Top 10. Despite the drawbacks here, these are on-card, super early, and from that very short time when all three Griffeys were Mariners. The last time all three Griffey signatures made this Top 30, they took the top spot. These are just a little less glamorous than that. Still pretty baddass, though.

9. 2001 Donruss #13 Chicago National Convention #/5

I’ve made blog posts before wherein a base set will have an insanely low-numbered stamped card show variation that I usually lump with the 1/1’s as ungettables. I mean, they were issued at shows which means some of the folks who ended up with one didn’t realize what they had or didn’t collect Griffey (or even baseball), and a lot of them were probably thrown in with the rest of their freebies from the show, never to be seen again. This is the only one of these I’ve ever actually owned, and I even paid a reasonably healthy sum to get it. Real-deal National stamps just don’t come up a lot. The fact that this is also a pretty cool Donruss design only increases the appeal here.

8. 2016 Panini Pantheon Rudiarius Patch Relic #R-KG Bronze #/10

Far too many relics these days are parallels of existing inserts. On the surface that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the result is that when you are lucky enough to finally pull a relic, it looks exactly like an insert you probably already pulled a few dozen of only thicker and with a little piece of the player’s alleged pants glued to it. Panini, on the other hand, dresses them up and gives them fun themes and crazy colors and designs that scream “Relics are still cool, and you just got one you lucky bastard!” This is the case EVEN IN THE FLAGSHIP SET, not just their premium stuff. Panini is my relic spirit animal.

7. 2017 Topps Museum Collection Primary Pieces Single Player Legends Quad Relics Bat/Jersey/Patch Relics #SPQ-KG Gold #/10

That said, check this mother out. I’ve got to hand it to Topps – they are trying to up their relic game. It’s still not on the creative level of Panini, but it’s better than it was.

6. 2017 Topps Transcendent MLB Moment Reproductions #MLBR-KG, #MLBR-KGR both #/87

It’s hard enough to get your hands on Transcendent cards (a box is like 5 G’s, bro), let alone some gorgeous, perfectly-executed art Griffeys. The metal frame thing that seemed gimmicky when they introduced it in 2014 absolutely SLAPS here. I’m pretty excited to have matching numbers, as well, which was not exactly by design.

5. 2017 Panini National Treasures 16-Player Materials Booklet Jersey Relic #PMB1-16 #/99 (w/ Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, George Brett, Greg Maddux, Kirby Puckett, Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Mike Piazza, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs)

So I do try to keep the lens of a Griffey collector, and I bought this card anyway knowing full-well that at heart this is just a humble jersey relic. BUT this “card” is all about those 15 other guys. They are a veritable who’s-who of ‘90’s All-Stars. The wow-factor here is off the charts, even when showing it off to people who have never collected a baseball card. Teenage me reels at this thing.

Can you pick out all the guys who AREN’T in the Hall of Fame?

4. 1996 Upper Deck National Heroes 3 x 5 Jumbo #NH1 #/5000 Autograph #/250 (w/ UDA COA)

Is it just me or do jumbos carry a certain stigma? Actually, I’ll just come out and admit that no, it’s not just me. Jumbos are definitely not as revered as standard 2.5 x 3.5 baseball cards. It probably has something to do with the fact that you don’t (typically) pull them from packs, so you are not (usually) dealing with sky-high insertion ratios. If a hand-numbered /250, on-card autograph existed way back in 1996 on a standard, pack-pullable Upper Deck card, I imagine it would cost fortune. But, being that this is a jumbo, even with a COA I think I paid right around $100 for it. And it’s not like the auction ended at 7:45am on a Monday morning. I don’t know how it happened. More on undervalued autographs later.

3. 2015 Upper Deck Employee Exclusive Autograph #UD-KG (w/ Wood Display Box)

This autograph is not rare or particularly expensive (assuming a reasonable seller). But that box – THAT BOX is freaking magical, guys. Solid wood top and bottom, beautifully etched logo, shiny gold hinges, plush velveteen lining, and it closes with a mighty CLACK. If I live long enough to create a death plan and it comes time to pick out my coffin, I’m simply going to hand this box to the coffin guy with a post-it note on the inside that says, “THIS.”

One more shot of that box:

Oh, yeah.

2. 1997 SPX Bound For Glory Autograph #/250

I apologize in advance, but I have strong feelings towards this card; so I wrote a short (well, long) dramatic scene to express them. Feel free to skip to the TL:DR at the end.

Interior: Card show, Route 29 Holiday Inn, Conference Room B, Spring 2018, late morning

A card collector enters the conference room, pays his two dollar entrance fee, and surveys the tables from the door. He has only been collecting again for a short time, having left the hobby behind in his youth and rediscovered it just a couple of years ago when his childhood hero was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has fire in his eyes and cash in his pocket, and today he intends to walk out of here with some sweet new Griffeys.

Our hero ambles through the aisles, perusing the tables one-by-one and trying not to betray his almost total lack of experience with the latest players and brands. He is a child of the ‘90’s, after all. The most recent Beckett he owns is from June of 1995, and to him Panini is merely a type of delicious sandwich. That 1989 Upper Deck rookie must sell for far more than the $75 it did back then. Would he be able to find a deal here?

He is out of his comfort zone today.

He finally comes to a promising table, loaded with inserts from long-dead brands he is relieved to recognize. The friendly-looking dealer gives him a moment to peruse his wares then offers a greeting:

Dealer: “Good morning! Anything I can help you find?”

Hero, a little overwhelmed by all the colorful inserts and crazy relics on the table: “Um, I’m just looking.”

Dealer, who gets this all the time: “Anyone in particular?”

Hero: “I collect Griffey, mostly.”

Dealer: “You’re in luck! I’m the only dealer with Griffeys today. I only have two to choose from, but they are really nice cards, and even from the same set. Take a look.”

The dealer reaches into a box behind him and lays two Griffeys on the table, both with a distinctive die-cut design and holograms. This is the kind of stuff that was just beginning to come out when our hero quit the hobby in the 90’s. HOLY BUTT one of them is autographed! It must cost a small fortune…

Dealer: “So, we’ve got two of the greatest cards from 1997 SPx: the Bound for Glory Autograph and the Grand Finale parallel.”

Our hero looks closely at each card, trying not to show his excitement of holding a real Griffey autograph in his hands. The Grand Finale is extremely shiny and cool, but there is just no comparison here. He wants that Bound for Glory autograph. He attempts to throw the dealer off his desire to buy the autograph by paying more attention to the Grand Finale which happens to be exactly what the dealer would expect any seasoned collector to do.

Dealer: “You have a keen eye. The Grand Finale parallel is incredibly rare with only 50 copies produced. As you can see the hologram is gold which is what differentiates it from the regular gold parallel. The last one sold on eBay for fifteen. I’m only asking twelve.”

The dealer is proud of his use of the word “differentiates.”

Hero: “Twelve bucks? For a base parallel?” Wow, Griffey cards HAD gone up in price. In his collecting days most base cards were three bucks, and most parallels were only a little more than that. This one was pretty nice, though.

Dealer, realizing that this is not the seasoned collector he’d thought: “No, no. Twelve HUNDRED. The hologram is gold. See?” He points. “GOLD.”

Our hero nearly drops the screw case on the table. Maybe this hobby was no longer for him. It slowly creeps into his mind that he hadn’t even asked about the autograph yet.

Hero: “Nice card. What about the autograph?” he asks, expecting some astronomical number. It must be thousands. This is a waste of time. He tries to keep his cool, though. He doesn’t want to look like a noob.

The dealer knows he is dealing with a noob. The last Bound for Glory autograph sold for less than $200 on eBay, but he figures he can get a few extra bucks out of this guy if he sells it right.

Dealer: “The Bound for Glory insert is numbered out of 250 and features an on-card autograph, hand-signed by the Kid himself. Pre-2000 autographs tend to carry a hefty premium, too, as the vast majority of autographs came out after his trade to the Reds. I’m asking three hundred.”

Hero, his eyes widening: “Dollars?”

Dealer: “Yep.”

Hero, incredulously: “Lemme get this straight: this un-autographed, unnumbered card that looks almost exactly like another parallel is $1200, and this numbered, on-card, pre-Reds autograph is $300??”

Dealer: “Yeah…”

Hero: “Are…you sure?”

Dealer, quizzically: “Yeahhh….?”

Our hero promptly takes three $100 bills from his pocket, snaps up his new Griffey and leaves. Both men feel like they got the deal of the century.

Sorry – that was really long. It’s a total fabrication, of course, but I hope you see my point. Bound for Glory is the bitch’s bastard. Get yours before everyone else wises up!

TL:DR – Bound for Glory Autograph = good. Grand Finale parallel = kinda $illy.

Okay, here comes the big one - number one with a bullet. If you read the blog or see me around the Griffey-collecting Facebook groups, this should come as no surprise:

1. 1996 Pinnacle Zenith Diamond Club #3 Real Diamond Parallel

Yes, that is a diamond. It is real…and it is spectacular.

When I first heard of this card in 1996 my response was something along the lines of, “Psh. Okay.” I mean, cool? But what do you want me to do with this information? Buy a thousand packs just to pull the Gary Sheffield? No thanks. I actually did buy a couple packs of this stuff back in the day because I still have a few of the diamond protector cards that came in them; but none of them protected any diamonds, I can tell you that.

This card was always kind of abstract to me. It’s hard to explain. You hear about certain cards in this hobby that you simply never see. You may see a photo of one in a full-page ad in a card magazine or hear whispers about it among collectors, but it’s not like they pop up at the occasional card show or on eBay with some astronomical BIN or in the “mail day” posts of the Griffey Facebook groups. It’s hard to even acknowledge their existence at this level because how can you be sure they really even got made? And 22 years ago, no less. This is the hallmark of the dreaded Gimmick.

I like to classify cards (whales, grails, you’ve heard them all), but this one kind of defies classification; so what to do? Why, create a new classification system, of course!

So, there are chase cards, quest cards, and gimmicks. Chase cards can be easy or tough. They are your mid-90’s Collector’s Choice gold signatures or your standard refractors. Quest cards are significantly tougher and can take years to acquire if you can even find one at all. These are often things like sub-100 numbered parallels, the scarciest of 90’s inserts, and most cripplingly expensive cards in general.

Gimmicks are a different animal, a type that might as well not even exist. The original Ultra Masterpiece 1-of-1’s are gimmicks (though I know where some of them are). On that note nearly every legitimate 1-of-1 ever made is a gimmick. Those boxes of commons they sell at Target that advertise that *someone* is going to pull a T206 Honus Wagner or ’52 Mantle out of them are gimmicks, too. No one is going to pull those things. You might as well buy lottery tickets.

So back to the card at hand: Pinnacle putting real, actual diamonds onto a handful of cards and building a whole brand around it is a gimmick. They do it to excite collectors and move product, not to give out diamonds.

And yet here it is. Now that I know gimmicks actually exist, I want to chase them all down; but knowing what I know, specifically of the incredible luck it took for me to end up with this one without a second mortgage, I feel blessed to have gotten to own just the one. This card made my whole collecting year.

As for this year, it's already off to a decent start, with a nice selection of 90's inserts and early relics making their way to Junkietown just in these first few weeks. At the same time it's already evident that this year is going to be relatively lean in terms of acquisition numbers. I continue to cherry-pick whatever Griffeys come along that excite me, but fewer cards are doing that for me nowadays.

But this is not me throwing in the towel - not yet. I still plan on surprising you with a few posts this year like I did at the end of 2018.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2018 Part 2: 11-20

This was the year of the relic here at the Junior Junkie. There are a whopping 30 (yes, THIRTY) examples of things glued to cards in the total list. There were five in the last part, and three more in this one, so you know something big is going to show up in the Top 10. Also there will be no cookies this year, I promise. Enjoy!

20. 2000 Upper Deck Game-Used Ball Relic #B-KG

For some reason it was a few years after the success of the jersey relic before brands started showing us their balls. There should be more of these - balls as relics, I mean. They are way more exciting to me than pants. This particular one is from what is still pretty early in the relic game, but not so early as to cost you an arm and a leg. It was a case hit and only appeared in Series 2, so while it's not exactly common, it is still surprisingly gettable. It’s also the first ball relic which would be a bigger deal if there weren’t so many produced.

19. 1998 Metal Universe All-Galactic Team #1

I cannot imagine a 1:192 insert from the 90’s not making this list. Not to mention that as a shameless sci-fi nerd I just can’t get enough spacey cards, and this is one of the best ever. Personally I find it more appealing visually than the legendary Precious Metal Gems parallels from this same set, but there might be a little resentment mixed in there, too. Plenty of holofoil here not evident in the scan.

18. 1994 Stadium Club Members Only Finest Bronze

This “card” is literally a slab of solid bronze with a card image glued to the top and four very sharp corners. It’s pretty impressive when it’s in your hand, but let's all just be thankful Ricky Jay never got a hold of one.

17. 2004 Fleer Classic Clippings Box Score Relic #20 #/750

Even if you’re a stickler for relics being relics in the absolute strictest sense, this is still a relic. It’s not equipment or uniform or chewing gum or earwax, but darn it, it is a legitimate artifact from an earlier time glued to a card. It’s not manufactured by the card company like so many pins and decorative patches you might pull from a blaster. Someone in Fleer’s employ got a hold of thousands of newspapers, cut out all the applicable box scores for the players in this checklist, and glued them onto the cards. This is literally the definition of a relic, and it’s pretty darn unique, too.-

16. 1997 Bowman's Best Best Cuts #BC6 Atomic Refractor & 2017 Bowman's Best 1997 Best Cuts #97BC-KGJ Atomic Refractor

I grouped these together because dammit, they belong together. I’m loving all the look-back designs Topps has been giving us in the last few years. This is both the original card and the significantly-less-scarce throwback card from 20 years later. That’s right, Topps. Give the 90’s kids what they want. We are the greatest generation!

15. 1998 Topps Finest Power Zone #P1

Hey, card designers - you want to make the Top 30 list? Here’s an in-depth instruction manual on how to do it. Get your pencils ready in case you need to take notes:

Step 1: Make a purple refractor
Step 2: Put Griffey on it

Oh, wait. That’s actually it. Hold on – it’s got to be more complicated than this. Did I forget a step?

Step 3: Make me aware of your purple refractor Griffey

Welp, there you go.

14. 1998 Donruss Studio Freeze Frame #1 #/4500 Die-Cut /500

This is one of those numbered inserts WITHIN a numbered insert, as in the first 500 were die-cut and the other 90% were not. The Leaf brands did this more than anybody (1996 Donruss Power Alley is a favorite). I actually really like the idea here, but so does everyone else. Hence, these "nested" inserts will cost ya.

13. 1996 Flair Hot Gloves #4

Tough little nugget. While attractive, it’s not even the best Hot Gloves design; but at 1:90 these were also the toughest pulls from this particular set. I’m still not sold on the prices these command today, though. Glad to have gotten this one out of the way. I feel like I just made acquiring this card sound like a chore, but there you go.

12. 2018 Donruss Optic Out of This World #13 Green #/5

I looooove spacey cards. I have most of them, so I’m strongly considering giving this rainbow a shot (minus the Gold Vinyl 1/1, of course) once prices cool off.

11. 1999 Upper Deck MVP Game Used Souvenirs Bat Relic #GU-KGj

'90's relics are few and far-between in general (last year one of them even took the top spot in this list) with the vast, VAST majority of Griffey relics coming from the Reds era. So when I find a Mariners relic, I pounce.

These fell 1:144 which makes it one of the most attainable '90's relic cards there is. There is also an autographed version numbered out of only 24, but you should just forget about it. Peep that bangin' design, too. The pixel effect on the right should have made it onto more cards. And Upper Deck are masters of lines-for-the-sake-of-lines in their designs, but circles-for-the-sake-of-circles? Way to mix it up. Sweet relic, bro.

Okay, Top 10 comin' up. 22 relics in 10 cards - how we gonna do it??

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2018 Part 1: 21-30

It's that time again! Well, it was probably that time a few weeks ago, but I'm pretty used to running behind schedule nowadays.

Anyhoo, it's time for my annual Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions list. This is always my favorite post to make, and I make it a point to never miss it. These Top 30 lists are important for me because they are a timeline of my collecting career. I find myself referring back to previous lists all the time to see when I got a hold of certain cards, more so lately as prices seem to be climbing higher almost by the month. I'm sure glad I rediscovered the hobby when I did.

We'll start this year's list with an unrankable card:

Honorable Mention: 2018 Junior Junkie 20-Year Checklist Custom

I put this here because I have no idea where it would have gone otherwise. If this list was based purely on the emotion the card inspired in yours truly, this would probably be at the top. I already gave a pretty thorough description of what this little custom job is all about, so I'll just say another "Thank you" to the mystery benefactor. Some of the greatest cards I own were gifts, and this is among the greatest of those. You did good!

30. 2007 Upper Deck Scott Hatteberg #289 Predictor

Just when you think you have all the cameos there are to get, another one comes along out of left field (well, first base) with a sweet backwards cap no less. This is the Predictor edition which is just slightly cooler than the regular base card (though I am clueless as to how Predictor worked in 2007 - I should look it up). Scott features prominently in the book Moneyball which I had read only a few weeks before someone brought this puppy to my attention, so I was just that little extra bit excited.

29. 1996 Bowman’s Best Cuts #1 Atomic Refractor (slabbed PSA 8)

The words “Atomic Refractor” give collectors goosebumps (which is why it is also the name of my card-themed thrash-metal band), and for good reason. They are not only scarce and valuable, they look goooood. This was the first year you could pull an Atomic Refractor, making this one of the first Atomic Refractor Griffeys (they also exist for his base card and Mirror Image insert – maybe in 2019?).

28. 1998 Pacific Crown Royale Home Run Fever #7 #/387

Just when I think I’ve seen all the Pacific inserts, another one pops up and forces me to up my COMC credits. A unique and low-numbered '90's insert.

27. 1994 Upper Deck All-Star #1 Gold Jumbo (96 Beckett Tribute Checklist)

As you may or may not know, this was the final card I needed to complete the 1996 Beckett Ken Griffey, Jr. Tribute checklist. On a card-by-card basis, this isn’t really that big a deal which is why it sits way down the list at #27. However, if I had to make a list of my most important Griffey acquisitions in terms of my collecting career as a whole, this thing would be Top-5.

26. 2001 E-X Wall of Fame Wall Relic (Milwaukee County Stadium) #9

I was under the impression that Pacific owned all the walls what with all their net-fusions inserts and such, but it turns out Fleer repped the wall as well. And as much as Junior intercepted major-league hits at the wall, odds are he made contact with this one in Milwaukee. Whether he ever made contact with this specific little sliver of vinyl remains up for debate (he totally did - I can feel the Griffey energy emanating from this thing).

25. 2001 Donruss Classics Benchmarks Three Rivers Stadium Bench Relic (1994 ASG) #BM-6

Just a cool relic, and the only one I’ve ever had that is more or less guaranteed to have touched some major league ass.

24. 2002 Upper Deck Authentics #162 Reverse Negative

A Griffey-centric tribute to the famous reverse-negative Dale Murphy error card of Upper Deck's inaugural set. Fun idea, and perfectly executed. How often do you get to see our boy batting righty? Weird.

23. 2017 Panini Flawless #14 #/20 (diamond-embedded base card)

This is the second-nicest card I own with a diamond on it. They’re everywhere now thanks to Panini Flawless, but back in the 90’s when this was first done it was more of a gimmick than a gettable card. More on that later…

22. 2017 Panini National Treasures Legends Materials Booklets Duals Stats Jersey/Bat Dual Relic #LBMD-KG2 #/99

It’s a little book! I don’t know why that excited me so much, but here we are. Great-looking card.

21. 1997 Pinnacle Xpress Metal Works Ingots #1 Silver #/400

[Forgive the COMC image - mine is in a vault at the bank and I didn't want to postpone this post any longer.] The bronze was my first of these followed by the gold just a few months later. Since then I chased the silver for ages and even accidentally bought ANOTHER gold thinking it was the silver at one point. There are twice as many silvers as there are gold, but apparently the market doesn’t know that.

Thanks for reading, and look out for Part 2 of this list tomorrow!