Monday, August 3, 2020

You Asked For It: 1997 Score


By request, I give you the Griffeys of 1997 Score. This is another one of those sets that you dread writing about, but you also know that you, too, are confused by all the different variations so in the end it’s going to be worth it. And if you are one of the many who have asked me to do a write-up of this set, yes there will be a complete Griffey checklist all properly labeled and everything. I got you fam.

Score was always more or less entry-level, and they designed their base cards like they were fully aware of that fact. These things look like what I imagine communist cheese tastes like. Simplified down to a fault, straight-to-the-point, b a s e b a l l c a r d s p l e a s e l o o k a t t h e m w i t h y o u r e y e s c o m r a d e.

At first glance the set is complicated, particularly in terms of the base parallels and the bizarre disparities between those of Series 1 vs. Series 2. There are really two aspects that complicate ’97 Score: 1) the plethora of hella-mixed-up parallels and variations of said parallels and 2) the dissemination of one of the inserts.

Let’s start as we often do with the base card:

1997 Score #156

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Thick, unassuming white borders of the whitest whiteness; an unconscionable amount of negative space; and plain, lowercase, spaced-out fonts round out what may be the blandest base design of the ‘90s. I get that the brand is meant to be entry-level, but it doesn’t have to look like it. This really looks like it. I meant what I said about this being a commie base set. Chairman Mao would frickin’ love these. Enjoyment is decadent.


I say this every time I write about Score cards: those guys could feng shui a card back like no other. Just look at all this great information. Even today, in 2020, you cannot get as much from a card back in any set currently in production. You would have to spend a few minutes with each card to take it all in.

1997 Score #156 Private Stock

Premium Stock is the first of many confusing parallels in ’97 Score and features slightly thicker paper stock, a pretty stamp, and a shade of slate gray that just screams fun. These could only be found in the “Premium Stock” Hobby packs of Series 1. There’s more to this one we will go over when we get to Series 2.

1997 Score #157 Showcase Series

Showcase Series is unscannable paper foil and blech to that. My favorite bit is the watermark indicator on the back. The base design does look better in foil, but they’re still communist cheese to me.

1997 Score #156 White Border Artist's Proof
(courtesy of Shane McNew)

I do not have this card, but there is a very real possibility that I did and simply overlooked it at some point and gave/traded it away for peanuts. This is truly the parallel of the people: simple, unpretentious, and utterly boring. I put it to you: is this the kind of thing we should expect from a one-per-box parallel? Probably not, but the prols enjoy it.

1997 Score #156 Holofoil Artist's Proof

Democracy has arrived, folks. Behold the parallel of the capitalist pig. Glitz, glamour, and a boatload of actual desirability in-line with the card’s relative scarcity. It’s like Joe McCarthy showed up at the Score printing facility on Artist’s Proof day and they had to hurriedly change the paper stock to this indulgent, bourgeoisie uber-foil to avoid being blackballed.

While I have seen this called “Showcase Series Artist’s Proof” (and that is a great way of describing it), I don’t 100% buy into that. There is no indication on this version of the AP’s that this is related to the Showcase Series parallel, the most obvious of which is that the indicator on the back is missing. A few major card outfits subscribe to that description including COMC and PSA, but really these are just an alternate version of the Artist’s Proof, separate and distinct from the Showcase parallel in every way. Either they changed the card stock halfway through the printing phase, or they ran out of holofoil stock and had to settle with plain-Jane white.

And thank God for that because those white-bordered, communist-as-a-UC-Berkeley-undergrad Artist’s Proofs are the biggest one-per-box disappointments I have ever laid eyes on. And yet they remain just slightly more valuable than Moscow Charmin.

Of course I still want one.

1997 Score Mariners Team Collection #6

Score issued team collections, and just that little bit of foil was enough to make these at least presentable.

1997 Score Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6
Platinum Team /711 (courtesy of Rodney Vallejo)


There are also two parallels of this card: Platinum Team and Premier Club. There are known to be 711 and 137 copies of each parallel, respectively. I have neither, but they are essentially holofoil Artist's Proof parallels.

1997 Score Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6
Premier Club /137 (Courtesy of Rodney Vallejo)


The two can be hard to tell apart as the holofoil stock is very similar, but the indicator on the back is a dead giveaway.

There’s also a 5x7 jumbo version of the base card that looks like this:

1997 Score 5x7 Jumbo #2 (or is it?)

I mean it’s literally just a bigger version of the base card in every way. I don’t even have it – I just showed you the base card again, but how could you have known had I not told you?

This is a good place to mention that I’m missing several 1997 Score Griffeys. You know why? Frankly, I just don’t really like them. I’ve had numerous opportunities to grab frosted Reserve Collection and shiny AP’s of the other cards, and I pretty much always pass them by. There are better ‘90’s cards out there. I made this post prematurely because it is the most requested set in this blog’s history; and while I do have a reasonable chunk of the ’97 Score Griffey checklist, I had to lean on my Griffeyphile brethren in the Facebook group for many of these card images. So big ups to those guys.

If you know this movie, you're automatically cool.

There were no subset Griffeys in Series 1 which is a surprise all on its own for a set from 1997, but we did get a pair in Series 2:

1997 Score #499 Goin' Yard

This is my favorite base card in the set. If you’re going to insist on white borders, you need to dress up the parts within said borders. It’s not exactly pretty, but it’s something. Also subsets with apostrophes in the title get bonus points.


The back gives a simple home run tally which is literally exactly what the regular base card also does. With all those measurements floating around in the background you might expect a list of his longest drives or average distance by year or something – anything – more interesting than just a simple tally. At 99 cents a pack I suppose we can’t be too picky here.

Hey, wanna see something weird?

1997 Score Bob Abreu/Ken Griffey, Jr. Wrong Back
Error

Whoops! Wrong back AND upside-down AND a parallel. That "Flip" is written on the penny sleeve, btw. Errors like this are like cockroaches: if there’s one, there’s probably LOTS; so I assume there’s not a crazy amount of value here. Still, come on. It’s 1997 for goodness sake. 99 cents a pack 99 cents a pack….

1997 Score #499 Goin' Yard Hobby Reserve

This is one of the biggest points of confusion with the parallels of ’97 Score. Simply put, Hobby Reserve is the Series 2 version of Premium Stock, but neither parallel exists in both series. They appear similar because of the shape of the foil stamps, but they are distinct in a few areas the most obvious being that Premium Stock cards are gray-bordered and noticeably thicker. The most important thing to remember when building a PC checklist here is that there are no Premium Stock parallels in Series 2 – only Hobby Reserve. Go ahead and scratch them off your want list.

And don’t feel bad. Even COMC is confused by this set:


Whoops. I guess I should go in and report those as errors, but where’s the harm?

As if this wasn't enough, there is also a variation of ol' Hobby Reserve #499 that is missing the "HR" prefix in the card numbering. The fact that stuff like that is happening only galvanizes my theor of what went down with the Artist's Proofs of Series 1.

1997 Score #499 Goin' Yard Showcase Series

Foilboard or whatever. I don’t know.

1997 Score #499 Goin' Yard Artist's Proof
(courtesy of Gary Lai)

This is another point of confusion. Where in Series 1 there are two different versions of the Artist’s proofs, in Series two there is only this befoiled capitalist version. I think it’s assumed that the two versions of the AP’s in Series 1 carried over to Series 2, but it did not. The fact that the holofoil AP’s of Series 1 are so frequently mislabeled “Showcase Series Artist’s Proof” and Showcase carried over to Series 2 probably only exacerbates this mistake. I continue to believe someone just loaded the wrong paper stock for the first half of the Series 1 AP run. It’s the simplest explanation.

1997 Score #499 Goin' Yard Reserve Collection
(courtesy of Gary Lai)

Another point of confusion: this parallel is separate and distinct from Hobby Reserve, but they both have the word “reserve” in them. The difference is obvious, though: no foil stamp and that frosted effect in the starburst.

And what an effect. Obviously the Artist’s Proof cards are cool with their eye-frying holofoil, but there is something to be said about this frosty starburst. I’ve never seen it before or since, and it looks good. These always get reactions when they pop up in the Griffey groups – that’s desirability, folks. Uniqueness trumps foil, IMHO.

These were seeded only in Series 2 hobby packs at a not-too-intimidating 1:11, but you had to find the packs first. Due to their place in the market Score was always more of a retail brand, so I suspect there were far more retail packs available than hobby. That would make Reserve Collection likely the scarcest parallel of ’97 Score. I don’t have any specific production figures to show, but the market appears to confirm this.

1997 Score #548 Checklist

Dry as the Sahara, this one. Not my favorite checklist, but it certain goes with the theme of the set. Sterility. The theme was sterility.

1997 Score #548 Checklist Hobby Reserve

Yep.

1997 Score #548 Checklist Showcase Series

Uh-huh.

1997 Score #548 Checklist Artist's Proof

Not bad.

1997 Score #HR548 Checklist Reserve Collection
(courtesy of Rodney Vallejo)

Still a pretty nice parallel.

If you were one of the several who requested this post because of how confusing ’97 Score can be, your parallel questions should be answered by now. If not, comment below. I’ll fix it. On to the inserts:

1997 Score The Franchise #1

I usually show inserts by scarcity, but I’m showing this one first because it’s the only one that is thematically appropriate for ’97 Score. Every other insert looks like it came from another brand, specifically Pinnacle. They pretty much all look like Pinnacle inserts, and they even have the same card numeration as seen in a few late-90’s Pinnacle sets.

The Franchise is the most popular insert from ’97 Score, and it’s easy to see why. The sepia portrait against the thick, white border is spot-on. All the printing in the border is raised slightly and includes lines of baseball stitching not unlike the great 1995 Leaf Statistical Standouts insert. The use of foil is basically perfect. And on top of all that its 1:72 retail scarcity is just enough to lend some desirability.

Also I have never before or since seen “Score” written like that.

1997 Score The Franchise #1 Glow

At 1:240 retail (1:79 hobby), these are the toughest pulls by the numbers. On top of that they are hard to identify without the knowledge you should be looking out for them. The glow parallel has a slight green tint in the surface details even in good light (and not in my scans).

1997 Score The Franchise #1 Sample

Score also produced a bunch of samples for this one, but no glowers. They are at least somewhat rarer than the regular cards.

1997 Score highlight Zone #2

At 1:9 hobby packs this is the easiest insert pull from ’97 Score, assuming you had access to hobby boxes. It’s obviously another Pinnacle design that got carried over to Score to fill a space in the insert distribution. I hope you like that not-quite-Dufex starburst pattern because it will be back...three times.

One fun characteristic I never noticed until researching these on BBCP is that the word “Highlight” is misspelled “Hightlight” on the front of every card. Geez guys. 99 cents a pack 99 cents a pack….

Generally speaking the inserts of ’97 Score were tough to come by which is one of the more common attributes of any entry-level brand. The next two inserts were seeded at 1:23 meaning only Highlight Zone was guaranteed to fall at more than one per box, and only hobby boxes at that. Odds were generally a little better on the hobby side, as they should be.

1997 Score Pitcher Perfect #14

The Pinnacle-iest insert I have ever seen from a non-Pinnacle brand. It is more or less the same concept as Pinnacle’s totally unique Christie Brinkley collection insert from the previous year. I guess Randy fancies himself a photographer (as does Griffey), so they gave him an insert. The image of Alex Rodriguez reading the comic book was hugely popular.

1997 Score Pitcher Perfect Alex Rodriguez

This is one of those inserts that insists you build it just for how cool and unique it is. This would have made a totally appropriate Studio insert. Well done.

1997 Score Heart of the Order #9 (Mariners #3)

Again this insert looks like it came from another brand. This particular one looks more like a Topps insert to me, but honestly just about any other set would seem more appropriate for this design than ’97 Score.


As you can see from the card numbering there is a subset within this insert broken up by team. The idea was that you put the three guys from the same team together and they form one continuous heartbeat and sweeping stadium image. The other guys in the Mariners part of the checklist are Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez. I have the other two in my COMC shipping queue, but I threw this image together so we can at least get a sense of what they look like all juxtaposed:

1997 Score Heart of the Order Complete Mariners Triptych

OK, that’s actually pretty neat.

1997 Score Titanic Taters #3

Front to back, this is pretty much the same design as Highlight Zone and not all that dissimilar from the upcoming Stellar Seasons. It’s not particularly bad looking. That pixelated starburst effect slaps in person. The front photo is a decent enough portrait shot, and the back is basically perfect. Score did a lot with sweeping stadium backgrounds in this year’s inserts, which I love.


That is a beautiful card back. I’ve never been a big fan of the word “Tater,” but surely they could have picked a better tater to blurb about. One more reason to resent Roger Clemens, I guess.

1997 Score Blast Master #6

One of the few here that makes sense to me as a Score insert, this thing launches a barrage of sparkly gold atomic-refractor-level holofoil directly into your pupils. They were a Series 1 box hit, so they’re at least a little scarce, but you better believe that wacky cracked foil adds a premium independent of scarcity. The market proves this.

1997 Score Stellar Season #6

These bad boys are the unsung secret banger of 1997 Score. At 1:35 Series 1 jumbo packs only, you had to flip through A LOT of regular, boring base cards to find them assuming you were one of the four people buying up jumbo packs of ’97 Score back in the day. Add to that a hefty 18-card checklist, and you have your work cut out pulling the Griffey.

Prices are deceptively low on these even now (the Blast Master goes for way more, but it shouldn’t), but they are reasonably cool, above-average in scarcity, and as mid-‘90’s-Pinnacle an insert as I have ever seen in my life. You can still get these for relatively cheap, and I suggest you do before people catch on.

1997 Score All-Star Fan Fest #11
(courtesy of Daniel Vieira)

These are some of the more challenging ASFF releases. Most can be had for a couple bucks, but these things run just shy of gray whale status. They were distributed only in specially-marked ASFF boxes at a rate of just slightly more than one per box (1:29 packs). That’s pretty stingy, Score.

Can’t fault the design, though. It kept with the theme of many Pinnacle ASFF releases with a little patriotism to boot. Whose left arm do you think that is on the back? It’s a big white dude – of that we can be sure. Answer at the bottom of this post…

1997 Score Stand & Deliver #5

At 1:71 retail and 1:41 hobby, these were never a guaranteed pull by any stretch. And while the back had no indication of it, these were actually contest cards. Let’s go, as we often do, to Baseballcardpedia:

 “This 24-card set is broken into six separate four-card groupings and randomly inserted into all Series Two packs as part of a contest. Groups contain players from the following teams: Braves (Cards #1-#4), Mariners (#5-#8), Yankees (#9-#12), Dodgers (#13-#16), Indians (#17-#20) and Wild Card (#21-#24). The four players featured within the Wild Card group are from "lesser" teams whom Pinnacle Brands thought had no shot at winning the 1997 World Series.

Collectors who held all four cards of the eventual 1997 World Series Champion (or the four Wild Cards if one of the five selected teams did not win) could mail them to Pinnacle and receive one of 250 framed Gold parallels of the set (see below). Since the Florida Marlins won the World Series that year, the four Wild Cards wound up being the winning cards.”

It’s a good thing someone had the foresight to include Wild Cards here or the parallels may never have seen the light of day. I mean come on, the Marlins? Please.

So if you got all four wild cards you could exchange them for one of 250 framed sets of upgraded Stand & Deliver cards all with etched gold backgrounds and silver lettering (the reverse of the regular cards). They look like this:

1997 Score Stand & Deliver #5 Gold Silver Letters /225
(courtesy of Daniel Vieira)

250 of you are probably waiting for me to fluff this part up with a lot of airy talk about scarcity and the noble chase and the gravitas of ‘90’s inserts and their effect on all future cards because some people really love these things, specifically those people who already have them. Then again a lot of other people, myself included, think they are a little plain and overvalued.

Sorry.

Let me be totally clear: do I want them? Yes. Would I wildly overpay to get one? Yes. Do I like the cards? No, not really. They’re kind of boring and rely way too heavily on the insert name as a design component. I can’t find a redeeming quality on the front, back, or on any of the four edges. Overall it's just not a very good insert.

But what Stand & Deliver is (again I’m talking about the gold parallel) is SERIOUS COLLECTOR SHIT. This is the kind of insert that makes a true upper-tier player collection. Many collectors don’t even know about these things, and even if they saw one they wouldn’t know what they were looking at because they look like just another run-of-the-mill shiny insert. It is their remarkable scarcity – and only that – that makes them special. If you didn’t already know about that scarcity, you wouldn’t blink an eye.

SERIOUS COLLECTOR SHIT.

No one questions the early Finest refractors or the gold signatures or even the fancy holofoil spectralite atomic cracked ice platinum gold die-cuts because LOOK AT THEM. I get that. These I don’t get.

1997 Score Stand & Deliver #5 Gold Red Letters /25
(courtesy of Rodney Vallejo)

I look at them and see mystique (and dollar signs) because I am among the initiated in terms of how scarce they are. There are only 250 of the golds, and only 25 of those have red lettering in the insert title. This all seems so random and trifling, but it’s everything with these. EVERYTHING.

As I mentioned these were meted out to the winners in framed sets, meaning every one of these you see loose or graded was removed from said framed set. It is said that the first 25 in the set are the ones that got red letters, so it follows that those command higher prices (the reds do look better, and you can't fault the starburst etching). As a ‘90’s collector, I really want one because there is some uniqueness and weight to the gold versions in general. As a card lover and design snob, I’m underwhelmed.

You know what other card from the late ‘90’s was limited to 25 and defined by its redness? This one:

1998 Donruss Crusade Red #/25

Come on. Stand & Deliver doesn’t touch this.

Sorry to bust balls. I’m ambivalent with the frustration of knowing I’ll never own one but also the satisfaction of knowing I’ll never pay for one. I’m going to hold on to my pack-pulled silver and use all that extra money to buy beef jerky and Pizza Rolls and crap like that because I like those things more than Stand & Deliver. This insert deserves to be tied to that Marlins win.

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 1997 Score. It’s a lot by my standards:

#156 Artist’s Proof White Border
#499 Goin' Yard Hobby Reserve (missing HR prefix on card number)
#499 Goin' Yard Reserve Collection
#499 Goin' Yard Artist’s Proof
#548 Checklist Reserve Collection
#548 Checklist Showcase Series
#548 Checklist Artist’s Proof
5x7 Jumbo #2
Stand & Deliver #5 Gold Silver Letters /225
Stand & Deliver #5 Gold Red Letters /25
Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6 Platinum Team /711
Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6 Premier Club /137

And here is a correct and complete list of all the Griffeys from 1997 Score:

#156
#156 Premium Stock
#156 Showcase Series
#156 White Border Artist’s Proof
#156 Holofoil Artist’s Proof
#499 Goin' Yard
#499 Goin' Yard Hobby Reserve (with HR prefix in card number)
#499 Goin' Yard Hobby Reserve (missing HR prefix on card number)
#499 Goin' Yard Showcase Series
#499 Goin' Yard Reserve Collection
#499 Goin' Yard Artist’s Proof
#548 Checklist
#548 Checklist Hobby Reserve
#548 Checklist Showcase Series
#548 Checklist Reserve Collection
#548 Checklist Artist’s Proof
5x7 Jumbo #2
All-Star FanFest #11
Blast Master #6
Franchise #1
Franchise #1 Glow
Franchise #1 Sample
Heart of the Order #9
Highlight Zone #2
Pitcher Perfect #14
Stand & Deliver #5
Stand & Deliver #5 Gold Silver Letters /225
Stand & Deliver #5 Gold Red Letters /25
Stellar Season #6
Titanic Taters #3
Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6
Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6 Platinum Team /711
Team Collection Seattle Mariners #6 Premier Club /137

Think I made a mistake? I want to hear about it.

Sometimes making these posts gives me a newfound appreciation for sets I didn’t care for before, but that was not the case here. The holofoil AP, Reserve Collection, and a few of the inserts are pretty cool cards, but for the most part I am not a ’97 Score guy. The five hours sleep per night this infant is letting me have may be clouding my judgement a little here, but I doubt it.

The big white guy arm belongs to Russ Davis, BTW.

8 comments:

  1. I had no idea 1997 Score was this...extensive. It's basically 2020 Panini. The holofoils indeed look great. I really need to go back and look at my 1997 Score Tino's. While his issues won't be nearly as extensive, I'm sure I missed a few looking at all this.

    One gripe about the card backs. TB between HR and RBI always threw me off!

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  2. I'm not a Griffey guy, or a Score guy, but enjoyed your commentary on communism quite a bit. A top-notch post, indeed!

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  3. So many variations. So confusing. Almost grabbed the Score "glow" Franchise card of Griffey a few weeks ago, but missed out. One of those situations where the card was cheap, but had a best offer option... so I submitted an offer and someone else just straight up bought it. Lol. Guess it wasn't meant to be.

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  4. 548 Checklist Hobby Reserve in both HR and non-HR prefix?

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  5. Earlier this year I pulled a Heart of the Order Griffey out of a pack but it had holographic squares on the foil instead of the normal foil. I put it up on ebay, you can use the pictures for your blog if you care at all, lol.

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  6. How many reserve Collection Griffey set card and checklist cards are there. I have only really seen two of one player on eBay. Are they maybe out of 25? or less?

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