While 2019 was far from my BEST YEAR EVERRRRRR (that distinction still belongs to 2015), looking back I’m actually pretty pleased at how it turned out. Having said that, I don’t expect the same level of awesome next year – not on the cardboard front at least. I have a good reason, though, and he’s due in May. We couldn’t stop at just one, could we?
And I am not kidding – not even a little bit – when I say that “Griffey” was on the short list of names. I’m still open to suggestions, but you’ve got to admit that one is hard to top.
Oh, and I may never blog again after May. #progeny
Okay, let’s ride:
10. 1997 eX2000 #40 Credentials #/299
Let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not the Holy Grail of 1997 eX2000 – not by a long shot. Both the Essential Credentials parallel #/99 and the Cut Above insert are more highly sought-after. Still, it’s a dynamite card from the heyday of over-the-top mixed-media card design. And those fat, late-90’s serial numbers really set the heart a-thumpin’.
9. 2007 Upper Deck Spectrum Grand Slamarama #GS-KG
If you want to know what the hell this thing is, you are not alone. Not having a BBCP article to refer to – or anything really – is a serious bummer. I don’t know the insertion ratio or any details about the set in general at all. All I know is that it’s a really cool insert from late in the UD timeline, and they are extremely difficult to track down, especially the Griffey. I’m tempted to buy a sealed pack of ’07 Spectrum just to get the insertion ratios off the back. But let me venture a guess: Uhhhh, 1:288? Sound right?
8. 1996 Topps Chrome #70 Refractor, Star Power #230 Refractor, & Wrecking Crew #WC9 Refractor
This seems to be the year everyone noticed how few ’96 Chrome refractors are out there. Usually cards like this whose rarity is just getting realized by collectors are already sitting in my collection, appreciating from when I acquired them pre-HOF-induction. These were a noticeable exception until this year, and I couldn’t have picked a worse set of early refractors to sleep on because suddenly everybody needs them. And here I was thinking I already had them.
Anyway, cool refractors, right? Wrecking Crew has the harder insertion ratio at 1:72, but the 1:12 base set has a big ol’ checklist which makes it a much tougher get, and Griffey collectors need two of them. The chrome Star Power remains one of my favorite subsets of all time, so finally landing the refractor was extra special. 1996 Topps post forthcoming…
7. 1997 Ultra #121 Platinum /200, Starring Role #2, Fielder’s Choice #6, Diamond Producers #3
Is it just me or does Ultra get cooler every year? And no, I didn’t throw a stroke – I am fully aware they are a dead brand – I mean the cards made 20+ years ago are cooler with each passing year. It seems the further removed from their release, the more I want them.
It’s also become a bit of a tradition that once a year I get a bug up my butt about bagging all the Griffeys from a certain year of Ultra, and this year it was the ’97 set that caught my eye. We have the lovely green acetate of Starring Role (1:288, S2 Hobby only), the thick simulated leather of Fielder’s Choice (1:144, S1 only), the subtle scarcity of Diamond Producers (1:288, S1 only), and the legendary Platinum Medallion parallel.
The big get here is the /200 Platinum Medallion despite the fact that the die-cut acetate Starring Role tends to outperform it in the market. The other two inserts have comparable scarcity; but don’t discount the vibrant, detailed printing of Fielder’s Choice here. For how rare it is I’m a little less than blown away by Diamond Producers (it was better pretty much every year that made it as you can see earlier in the list), but I am delighted that box is finally checked.
6. 1997 Flair Showcase Hot Gloves #4 & 2001 Fleer Legacy Hot Gloves Ball Relic #7
The 1997 card was 1:90, and being that this set contained a 1/1 parallel with stated odds, we can figure out that there should be exactly 1200 of these puppies for each player produced. That is a far cry from the ultra-scarce 2006 Hot Gloves with a stated print run of only 150. Based on what I’ve seen in the market, however, I am just not buying that number. These sell like they are more like /300 with high grades charging hefty premiums (as they should – look at all the pointiness here). I’d like to know where all these ended up. Oh, and there’s a Marquis Grissom of this card? What? I need that!
The 2001 cards were meted out via 1:180 exchange cards because Fleer didn’t have the glove relics ready yet. Turns out they never would, so they put ball relics instead. Personally, I believe a baseball relic makes more sense than a glove relic with the card being a die-cut glove and all. If you feel slighted by the substitution, you are absolutely no fun at all.
5. 1992 Score Procter & Gamble Sample
Possibly the toughest Griffey sample there is (the ’91 Donruss advertising sheet comes close). Beckett says that 5 million of these Sample sets were made but, um, NUH-UH. These are rare as hen’s teeth. Rare enough that I ranked it much higher than a very nice on-card autograph.
4. 1997 Pinnacle #193 Clout Museum Collection Artist's Proof /300
This was a strange year for Pinnacle. They only released a Series 1 for this set, so Junior who would have otherwise appeared in Series 2 never got a base card, receiving instead a base card in the curious “New Pinnacle” brand. I’ve never found an explanation for why Pinnacle scrapped the second series and rebooted their ’97 flagship set, but the result is that this subset card is the only base card he got.
That being said, what a freakin’ card. It looks straight out of The Great Gatsby. I’ve probably said before that one parallel or another was my favorite of the ‘90’s and blah blah blah, but forget all that. There is simply no touching this thing in terms of parallel appeal. It very nearly got the top spot in this list just for wow factor.
Anyhoo these cards are unnumbered but there are known to be only 300, a tiny run for any card from 1997. Museum Collection Artist’s Proofs were seeded 1:47 (or one in every two hobby boxes) with a checklist of 200 cards. All that means you had to bust jusy shy of 10,000 packs for a specific player. Yowch.
Despite 1997 Pinnacle being the set of the mighty Shades, Passport to the Majors, and the Home/Away Jersey Die-Cut inserts, this parallel of a subset is still the greatest Griffey you could get out of either Pinnacle flagship product this year. Fight me.
3. 2001 Topps Stadium Club Super Team #STP24
It is really hard to pin down precisely how scarce this baby is, but I really tried. I did that thing of when I try to math it out, but the numbers just weren’t having it. To give you an idea, though, the exchange cards for this set were seeded at an already-daunting 1:874. On top of that only 4 of the 30 cards in the checklist were winners that could be exchanged for the set that contained this card, putting the odds of finding a winning Super Team exchange cards at 1:6555. That means that even if you were lucky enough to pull one of the ultra-scarce exchange cards in the first place, there was still only a 13% chance yours would end up being a winner. Add to that the fact that the recipients of the winning cards then had to pay attention to actual baseball to see if their card won, then go through the motions of actually redeeming the thing which I’m willing to bet did not happen for most of these.
With all that in play, you’ll never make me believe there are more than 25 of these puppies floating around, but I’m open to new information. A pretty high rank for a Reds card, too.
2. 2019 Panini National Treasures Hall of Fame Materials Laundry Tag Relic #HOF-KG #/7
I’ve always wanted a laundry tag relic. I don’t know why. Maybe the marketing has gotten to me, or boredom with the same-ole bits of white cloth and squares of too-clean virgin pine cut from somewhere near the center of a bat barrel where it has never made contact with a ball, or glove, or, well, anything. Ever.
Then there are patches which are more exciting simply for the color, embroidery, and three-dimensional aspect (and the fact that they are guaranteed to not be pants). Not to mention baseballs, curved bits of bat barrels and knobs, and batting gloves which all hold higher esteem in the world of relics because the odds are good they were touched by a player, ideally the one on the card.
Then there are things like buttons and laundry tags – items that you can all but guarantee the player touched at some point. Buttons they likely touched just before and then again just after at least one game. I mean, have you ever tried buttoning a shirt without touching the buttons? It ain’t happening.
A laundry tag, though, lives on the inside, my friend. Whether it be jersey or pants – that thing got touched. Shoot, it may have touched a butt. And given the fact that baseball games tend to be played in the Summer, it may also have gotten sweaty. And let’s be totally clear here: it may have gotten butt sweat on it. Now THAT’S a freakin’ relic.
At a whopping $495 for an 8-card “box,” Panini National Treasures delves well into the realm of the Super Premium, the only place potentially buttsweat-encrusted relics can be found. That’s usually unfamiliar territory for this junkie. But one temperate October night I was feeling a bit saucy, and I decided this was the night I would finally land a laundry tag.
I continue to be impressed at how efficient the Griffey Facebook groups are because it was only 12 minutes from when I first posted that I was in search of a laundry tag to when it was found, bought, and paid for. 2019 was without a doubt the year of Griffey collecting on Facebook because several items on this list came from one group (the Vass group – hey, buddy!). God bless social media.
So a pair of firsts top the list this year – my first laundry tag relic, and this: my first one-of-one…
1. 2019 Leaf Industry Summit Autograph #IS-KGJ Green 1/1
You really have to qualify your 1/1’s these days. There are just so many, some more wanting in 1/1-ishness than others, especially when you’re talking Griffeys. You have your eBay-exclusive customs at $10 to $20 a pop whose differences boil down to varying foil patterns or colors (yes, I have a few of these), you have the officially-sanctioned but misleading 1/1’s of the infamous 2008 SPx Ken Griffey Jr. American Heroes insert (of which there are actually about 500 floating around, five of which reside in my collection), and you have the most alarmingly questionable 1/1’s of all, an example of which can be seen back at #12 of this very list.
I’ve owned numerous [insert heavy finger quotes] “one-of-ones” in my time, but nothing I would feel comfortable talking about without qualifying. That changed a few months ago on Junior’s 50th birthday when I landed my most legitimate 1/1 Griffey to date.
My top card this year is my first and only “true” 1/1. There are some caveats here, but nothing that keeps me from calling it a 1/1 with the utmost confidence. First, it’s an industry summit giveaway which means it wasn’t pulled from a conventional pack – this is probably the biggest potential asterisk here, but it doesn’t bother me in the least. Next, there are other 1/1’s of this card in different colorways (yes, there’s a purple, and it’s amazing), but color variations are a hallmark of some of the most desirable 1/1’s in existence. Plus it’s not like there are dozens of different colors – as far as I know there are only two. And finally it’s a sticker auto, but again that is something you see on most 1/1’s these days much to my dismay. If you’re going to make us chase a 1/1, card brands, it really ought to be on-card.
So as I said, you really have to qualify your 1/1’s these days, and even with those issues I am still pretty darn satisfied with this one. I know this is coming from the guy that just last year said that all 1/1’s are gimmicks, and I stand by that. But dammit if they aren’t also hella-baddass cards. Screw it – I’m on board. Long live the gimmicks!
Well, there it is – my whole card-collecting year in a nutshell. Things sure have changed a lot around here. There was a time when I kept a running count of total Griffeys which I then tried to wrangle with a duplicate ratio. Then I simplified and started selling off duplicates altogether. The number of dupes I have now couldn’t even fill a medium-sized long box.
I also used to get Griffeys in the mail almost every day, but as time wore on, better methods have led to better cards overall. Now when I find a Griffey in the mailbox it’s usually something pretty special. And my COMC shipments consist mostly of 2019 stuff now that I’m not buying packs and pulling them myself. Even with that I am not buying every single new issue - just those I really like.
I miss the days when I was averaging some crazy number of new Griffeys per day, but I kind of also don’t. Am I becoming a snob?
With another boy on the way, I’ll be pretty happy if I can add 100 new Griffeys to the collection in 2020. But who knows – I may surprise myself again. It happened in 2019.
Thank for reading!