Monday, February 24, 2020

1997 Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman's Best Super Post!

I never really felt like Bowman was for me. Nothing against the set in general, but it always seemed to be marketed more toward the prospector than the Griffey-worshipper. That marketing was never more straightforward than in 1997 when Topps offered collectors the option of a $125 full-set buyback to all but guarantee they were getting their money’s worth out of this year’s crop of blue cards (blue cards were the rookies/prospects).

I was 16 when this set came out, and even then I remember being put off by the direct monetization of the hobby here. I was okay with collectors doing it on the secondary market, but there was just something about the manufacturer being so open about the money-grubbing of some collectors that cheapened the whole experience for me. Is anyone going to be so concerned with whether all those 50 and 75-cent cards are going to add up to enough to make buying packs worthwhile? I don’t care – just give me pictures of the baseball men.

Like if Hooters’ advertising was just about the hot chicks and the food/beer/plethora of big-screen TV’s were all simply an afterthought. Yeah, we all know why people go to Hooters, but it’s a restaurant first and frankly their wings are gross. Plus one time I ordered a half-dozen raw oysters there and DON’T DO THAT.

Anyway a year later I wouldn’t be buying packs at all. I’m not directly blaming 1997 Bowman for that, but it didn’t help.

Bowman made three sets in ’97, and we are going to cover them all here because there are not enough Griffeys in there to justify three separate posts. And I'm maybe a little lazy on the posting front in the first place, so....anyway, here we go.

1997 Bowman #16

This card front has a lot going for it. A bunt shot, a good look at Junior’s signature Nike cleats, and a blurry day-game background crowd to creep on. Add to all that one solid focus tongue, and you have a serious banger on your hands. Possibly the greatest Griffey photo on a Bowman base card. I'm smitten with the fact that they superimposed the top of the photo over the card border. Good-looking card.

Design-wise Bowman was coming off the busy ’95 and ’96 designs (the latter of which resembles a Navajo blanket). The ’97 set brought a newfound simplicity that would be Bowman’s hallmark more or less from then on. The red/blue disparity that was only hinted at in earlier designs is front-and-center this year.

These also came in International Foil versions with big ol’ flags in lieu of the stadium crowd. Unfortunately I don’t have that card yet (this post is by request, so I went ahead with it anyway). Anyhoo, spoiler alert: Griffey’s is America, baby. Errrrrybody know what that look like.

More or less like this

That’s it for Junior in the 1997 Bowman flagship set – a base card and its parallel and nothing else. Frankly I have no excuse for not having the flag card yet – it’s not expensive. But I do have a few things that are better…

1997 Bowman Chrome #12

They replaced the black borders with this pinstripe stuff that I can only assume looks amazing as a refractor. Maybe they didn’t think the black would do the refraction justice, but I bet there are some executive samples somewhere of a black-bordered 1997 Bowman Chrome card.

These also came America-flavored with refractor versions of each, but again, they’ve never been super high on the ol’ want list. And refractors have been going crazy price-wise so…meh.

1997 Bowman's Best #1

This, the 4th year of Bowman’s Best, is the worst. While I do like the font they used in the nameplate here (I call it “the Alvin’s Island font”), I get the sense they were shooting to wow us with chrome effects more than they were trying to make good baseball cards. In 1997 that was not unreasonable as chrome was still relatively new. They could afford to be gaudy in the inaugural ’94 set because WOW! CHROME! The simpler designs of ’95 and ’96 were the high-water mark of the brand as a whole, even to this day in this collector’s opinion (though the 2001 Griffey was a damn good base card).

But the ’97 design is just kind of a mess. The peek of foot-level photo background was a strange move. We had gotten a taste of photo background the year before, but it was large, centered, field-shaped, framed in gold chrome, and at body-level. Why did they choose to show us the dirt and grass this year?

I try not to be too complainy in these write-ups, especially since I hardly ever do them anymore (my b), so I’ll just focus on the good, specifically the Alvin’s Island font, and say that it makes me want to go out and buy seashells and airbrushed T-shirts.

These okay-ish base cards also came as a standard refractor and the still-pretty-new Atomic Refractor. They are both reasonably cooler than the regular base card, but no so much so that I’m chomping at the bit to get at them.

1997 Bowman's Best International #BBI2

One of the signature aspects of Bowman is the rookies, and there are a lot of rookies from outside the U.S.; so the flag thing was kind of a no-brainer. It’s pretty cool, too, seeing all those colorful flags in shiny chrome. Colors pop in chromium, so pretty much all the flags look great. Griffey is from America, dammit, so please enjoy some stars and bars in lieu of grass and dirt in this here foot-level inset.

1997 Bowman's Best Cuts #BC6

The Best Cuts insert is more what I would have liked the base card to be, but with some internal die-cutting as pioneered by the previous year’s totally awesome Topps Laser. As is usually the case with unique printing methods, the scan doesn’t really do the card justice. Also the die-cutting here is tiny, detailed, and sharp. You can make it out a lot better in the back.

I don’t have the regular refractor, but I do have the atomic; and let’s be honest - that’s kind of all you need.

1997 Bowman's Best Cuts #BC6 Atomic Refractor

Alvin’s Island font is BACK! Saltwater taffy, anyone?

If you ask me, this is the real prize of 1997 Bowman’s Best – the coolest card, the coolest parallel, and the most difficult pull at 1:96 hobby packs. The numerous other refractors and atomics and be-flagged ’97 Bowman Griffeys are each somehow just a little less cool than this one card; and my already having it is a big part of why I haven’t been knocking out the rest of this year’s Bowman Griffey checklist.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have rested until they were all mine, but let’s be honest, fellas: once you’ve had single malt, there’s no going back to blends. You don’t go back to the carpet store. You go off the grid. You don’t have a social security number for Roy. That’s how the game is played.

Topps seems to agree with me:

2017 Bowman's Best 1997 Best Cuts #97BC-KGJ
Atomic Refractor

The ’97 Bowman’s Best Cuts insert was brought back for its 20th anniversary in 2017. Topps has been cranking out the throwback designs, and I am totally all about it. They did not include the internal die-cutting here which is especially strange as that was kind of the whole shtick of Best Cuts in the first place. Perhaps the technology has been lost or is just too expensive to implement for such an attainable insert, but it shows how popular the ‘97 Best Cuts were that they rehashed the design even without the namesake cuts. Still weird, though.

2017 Bowman's Best 1997 Best Cuts #97BC-KGJ

These also came in this regular refractor as well as a Gold Atomic and 1/1 Superfractor but I’m not made of money and also NO CUTS. Meh.

Back to 1997:

Mirror Image #MI5 (w/ three other guys, including
Jose Cruz, Jr. & Andruw Jones)

I am utterly indifferent about this particular insert for myriad reasons, the biggest of which is the fact that that one dude is on there and get on outta here with all that mess thank you very much. Andruw Jones and Jose Cruz, Jr. are okay by me, but come on. I mean really.

Add to that the fact that there are so many versions of this damn thing, half of which are utterly indefensible. You’ve got the regular, the Refractor, and the Atomic Refractor. Fine. This is all fine.

Then you have this “Inverted” gobbledy-gook and the two refractors that go along with those. That’s SIX versions of a card I’m not crazy about to begin with. The design isn’t even too bad – frankly it’s a fun way to make a multi-player card that incorporates the layout of the regular base design. It’s just…ugh…that one guy. And the paragraph of legalese on both sides. Man, don’t make me buy all these things.

‘90’s refractors are all exploding in value these days, but these are still pretty affordable. And I STILL don’t want them. Jason Vass is right. Barry Bonds cards belong in the trash.

1997 Bowman's Best Previews #BBP-2

I saved a preview card for last because I did not want to end with a card that includes he-who-shall-not-be-named. These were seeded into packs of 1997 Bowman flagship and appear to be more common than the regular cards they were previewing. This is rather a bigger deal than it ought to be as the previews also came in refractors, both atomic and regular, so you could potentially have all of Junior’s base cards in all their rarest forms without actually having them. In fact odds are in favor of this being the case.

Here are all the Griffeys I need from all three 1997 Bowman brands as of this writing (it's a lot):

1997 Bowman #16 International
1997 Bowman Chrome #12 International
1997 Bowman Chrome #12 Refractor
1997 Bowman Chrome #12 International Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best BBP2 Preview
1997 Bowman’s Best BBP2 Preview Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best BBP2 Preview Atomic Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best #1 Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best #1 Atomic Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best #1 Jumbo
1997 Bowman’s Best #1 Jumbo Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best #1 Jumbo Atomic Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best #BBI2 International Best Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best #BBI2 International Best Atomic Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best Best Cuts #BC6 Refractor
1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image #MI5 Refractor (w/ Barry Bonds, Jose Cruz, Jr., Andruw Jones)
1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image #MI5 Atomic Refractor (w/ Barry Bonds, Jose Cruz, Jr., Andruw Jones)
1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image #MI5 Inverted (w/ Barry Bonds, Jose Cruz, Jr., Andruw Jones)
1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image #MI5 Inverted Refractor (w/ Barry Bonds, Jose Cruz, Jr., Andruw Jones)
1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image #MI5 Inverted Atomic Refractor (w/ Barry Bonds, Jose Cruz, Jr., Andruw Jones)

I feel like a negative Nelly after writing that last bit, so I’ll end with all the good stuff about the Griffeys of 1997 Bowman.

The flagship base card is nice, the flags look amazing in chromium, and of course those lovely atomic refractors. Also it's nice to see new inserts being produced based on old classics like Best Cuts. Okay, that's it.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Griffeys of 2014 Upper Deck & Goodwin Champions Plus My Desert Island Card

Somewhere far, far away from my wheelhouse lives 2014 Upper Deck whose hockey cards are second to none. You may be thinking what does a southern boy 500 miles from the nearest team know about hockey? And you’d be right – I do not know much. But I know cards, and being that I collect T.J. Oshie and St. Louis Blues cards, people do send hockey stuff to me periodically. There’s a little jab at my heart every time I flip through brand new SP and Upper Deck flagship cards with lovely, modern designs and wonder what kind of stuff they would be giving us if baseball was still, well, in the cards for them.

And yet I am pleased to report that they do still make Griffey cards. Good ones. GREAT ones, even. And somehow one of the best ever.

But let’s start slow:

2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #89

Not only does Griffey often get a spot in the Goodwin Champions checklist, but the photos used are always on-point. Of course they are often outside of the sphere of his chosen profession (baseball, if you weren’t aware), but they hint at other potential professions he might have excelled in. In the case of this card I am getting a Miami Beach real estate investor vibe. Look at this cat. I want to have lunch with him on the veranda. Maybe split a bottle of white wine. Mixed grill, a little salad, something with avocado – nothing too filling. I call this look “fresh and friendly.”

Still seems a little big, though.

2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions
#89 Mini

That’s better. Somehow they managed to fit a little bit more of the picture onto this card (probably the proportions), but otherwise they’re identical. Great print job on these.

2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions
#89 Mini Green Lady Luck Back

Now is a good time to mention that Goodwin Champions is as close to a true set of tobacco cards as anything else out there. While many tobacco cards were built around baseball, most were all over the place with things like pole vaulters, boxers, animals, and flowers. Yeah, flowers.

1890 Goodwin & Co Flowers N164

This is a genuine Goodwin tobacco card from 1890 – the real deal. I bought it for two reasons: 1) it deserves a spot in this post and 2) it is just a beautiful little relic. Check out the colorful, detailed printing and total lack of an athlete of any kind. Upper Deck took their direction for Goodwin Champions directly from sets like this one – athletes from every sport, famous Native American chiefs, historical figures, monsters, birds, fish – it’s just a big ol’ natural and cultural bouillabaisse.

Hence the “Lady Luck” tobacco logo back seen on the green minis. The original Goodwin owned several tobacco brands including Gypsy Queen, but Upper Deck couldn’t use that for obvious reasons.

2014 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Goudey #3

Goudey is an early 20th century bubble gum brand that has been emulated numerous times by the likes of Upper Deck, Topps, and Fleer in the few decades. Upper Deck even released it as its own standalone brand from 2007-2009. It lives on as an insert in Goodwin Champions to this day.

2019 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Goudey

The design has changed a lot since the ‘30’s, so it’s really only a tribute to the original Goudey set in name, but you can’t argue with my squinty lil’ angel, J-Love. She could Party my, um,…of Five anytime.

The 2014 Griffeys got kind of a roaring twenties design vibe, and it’s a nice enough image of a young, logoless Griffey. The back gives us a decent summation of the Kid’s career, but for the most part it’s not terribly exciting, I feel like this card is more a box to be checked than a truly desirable card.

Overall Goodwin Champions is a lot of fun, and it would eventually become the first set to give us a card for Junior’s son Trey in 2017. When Junior does make an appearance in the base set it’s always a photo we otherwise never would have gotten to see: him playing golf, totally pulling off pastels. or closing on a three-bedroom fixer-upper in Key Biscayne. Damn his life looks fun.

2014 Upper Deck The National #NSCC20

MLB license or no, Upper Deck always seems to have a sizeable presence at The National. Their 2014 giveaway set featured this card of Junior looking buck as hell (he must work out). Seriously look at the size of him – use that itty-bitty bat as a reference. Junior got huge, amiright? And I’m getting a Jamie Foxx vibe, too. This ain’t your daddy’s Griffey.

The VIP’s, on the other hand - they got your daddy’s Griffey:

2014 Upper Deck The National VIP #4

Ahhhh there’s our guy. It’s the same design as the regular National card but with a tinge of simulated gold and a VIP banner. This happened to be the year of Upper Deck’s 25th anniversary, and it all started with good ol’ card #1 back in ’89. It should be no surprise that we got several cards referencing one of the most famous baseball cards of all time. The photo here is obviously from the same session as the original 89UD#1 photo but with a lot more country background to take in.

Speaking of the company’s 25th anniversary, Upper Deck also released a special 150-card set to mark the occasion:

2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary #24 (greyscale)

The set featured players from across the spectrum of sport, and being that the 25th anniversary is traditionally marked by silver, we got an ’89 Upper Deck tribute design in silvery greyscale as well as a silver-bordered parallel:

2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary #24 (greyscale)
Silver #/250

They opted to give Junior his heritage Mariners uniform number of 24 in lieu of #1 (James Harden got that honor for some reason), but we did get complete lifetime stats as well as the same alternate version of the famous fresh-faced rookie photo from 1989 UD #1.

2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary Industry Summit
Promo #UD25-KG

But my personal favorite image is the color version they used on their 2014 Industry Summit promo. Look at this young guy! There are ZERO FLAWS in this photo – the Easton bat most of us totally used in little league, the visible early #24, the gorgeous balance of colors, the flawless print quality. This is my favorite Industry Summit card in history, and I have an autographed 1/1 Industry Summit card.

One wonders if the print quality would hold up if the image was blown up oh, say, 800%?

2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary Industry Summit Promo 18" x 25"
Super Jumbo Autograph w/ COA /25 (UDRAK) !

It totally does!

If I really (I mean really) had to pick a desert island Griffey, it would be hard not to pick this one. I mean the Griffey/Mantle dual-auto is amazing, but this one can be used for shelter, kindling, a makeshift table, and I can only assume the frame I put it in would come along to the island, providing even more kindling, rudimentary tools, and glass that protects against UV rays. Not to mention part of that frame would make a decent enough shovel. The wire and mounts could make traps and fishing tackle. I mean there’s probably a dozen or so other uses I can’t even think of right now, but you get my point.


But the main difference among those of us not currently stranded on a desert island with only a baseball card is scarcity. There are 1000 of the Griffey/Mantle dual auto, but only 25 of the Industry Summit super jumbo. Also the dual auto could be pulled from a pack or pretty easily bought on the secondary market if you’ve got the money. The super jumbo had to be earned.

In 2015 I had the pleasure of receiving this “card” during Upper Deck’s “Random Acts of Kindness” program for prolifically posting my 1989 Upper Deck Griffey rookie as my #walletcard on Twitter and on the blogs. I got lots of shots of the card on a legit Mardi Gras float on Fat Tuesday here in New Orleans, a couple in front of the Aurora Borealis in the Yukon Territory of Canada, and even one with Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell. There's a ton more you can check out here.

I’ve been slacking on that front recently, though. Oh, and my #walletcard looks like this now:

1989 Upper Deck #1 #walletcard 1/1 :-)

What kind of PSA grade should I expect? Seriously - I want guesses.

No top loader could hold that mega-card, so I opted to have it archivally framed, and there it remains to this day. You can read about that process here.

THAT is one big auto

I acquired this monster Griffey the same year as I got a hold of the 1994 Upper Deck Griffey/Mantle Dual auto, one of the most legendary baseball cards of all time. And yet when I put together my Top Griffey Acquisitions of the year list for 2015, it was the 2014 super jumbo that landed at #1. I’ve also been mulling over a Top Griffey Acquisitions of the Decade list, and to this day there is still no other card that could take that top spot. We will check again when the decade actually ends on December 31st, 2020.

And in case you were wondering – yes, Magicpapa has it. But if you want one, someone is selling theirs on eBay right now for $5000. Better hurry.

Hey, other UDRAK beneficiaries - don't do this...

Here are all the Griffeys I still need from 2014 Upper Deck:

#89 Mini Green Blank Back
#89 Mini Canvas /99
#89 Mini Red Foil Magician Back #/14
#89 Mini Gold Rainbow Presidential Back 1/1
#89 Mini Printing Plate 1/1
Autographs #A-KG (1:1280)
Goudey #3 Autograph (1:4800)
Sport Royalty Autograph #SRA-KG (1:2855)
2014 Upper Deck 25th Anniversary #24 (greyscale) Autograph /25

I suppose I could sell the super jumbo and use the funds to buy the rest of the 2014 Upper Deck Griffeys, but also are ya nuts? If someone were to hold this one giant Griffey card hostage, I would trade every post-2000 Griffey card I have to get it back. Pre-2000….well, I’d have to think about it.

Quick note: One of my non-card-collecting buddies reads this blog (just because I write it – isn’t that sweet?), and remarked that I only write posts about sets for which I have some super-crazy-rare Griffey card or cards. My response to this was “Well, of course I do.” If I’m going to put together a post about the Griffeys from a certain set, the idea is to provide as much information about that set and those Griffeys as possible. There are numerous sets of cards that I would love to write about but can’t because I simply don’t have enough of the cards. I’m not saying I need to have EVERY GRIFFEY to make the post (it’s pretty rare that I have them all), but I should have enough that I can cover most of the set or at least hit all the high points.

Anyway, it was my buddy’s point that I am just using the blog as a platform to brag about my cards. And yeah, I guess his point is valid. This very post is a prime example of that. I am super proud of my totally rockin' Griffey cards; but I tend to write posts about sets I am currently excited about, and I tend to get excited about sets when I finally track down their most challenging cards. This is by design, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

As it has always been, if you want me to cover a certain set/sets, just let me know. I’ll do just about any set by request whether I have all the Griffeys or not. My recent 1998 Pinnacle Epix post was by request, and I am far from complete on that thing. Recently someone asked me to do one about some late-90’s Bowman, and now that one is currently sitting in draft mode awaiting scans. I do what I’m told.

Also I’d like to mention that I know several guys whose Griffey collections are way better than mine, and any one of them could almost certainly out-blog me. I would totally read their card blogs, too. But seriously don’t, guys. Don’t. Daddy needs his hobby.