Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2020 Part 3: The Top Ten

I’m going to let you in on a secret: Being that we are approaching the 10-year anniversary of this blog I’ve been working on a Top 30 All-Time Griffey Acquisitions list wherein I’ll list all the best Griffeys I’ve acquired during the life of this blog. I normally wouldn’t divulge such a big future project so early, but I think it’s a good way to illustrate what kind of collecting year 2020 was. How? Not a single Griffey acquired in 2020 is likely to make that All-Time list.

It’s not that it was a bad year on the Griffey front. Some seriously cool new Griffeys came out (including a slew of great SP’s from Topps), I finally landed several very difficult '90’s inserts that have been on my want list for ages, and I even had a few surprise gets I’m excited to show you. The cards are solid, but none of them is likely to crack that All-Time Top 30. And as has happened before the positions of the top few cards are more or less interchangeable. There just weren’t any big standouts.

Man, I keep making it sound like 2020 bas a bad year or something. Don't worry - there are still some great cards here that I will keep forever.

10. 1997 Pinnacle Certified Gold Team #13 #/500

Gold Team is a favorite mostly for that lovely mixture of mirrored and etched chrome. There’s a /25 mirror (refractor) version that is a true white whale for, well, most Griffey collectors I would think.

9. 1997 Metal Universe Mother Lode #4

My job as a blogger is pretty easy. I sit in my ivory tower (er, middle-class suburban ranch-style home) and pass judgment on baseball cards, praising some, spurning others, and cracking wise in general. In the course of this job I look at thousands upon thousands of cards. Those which dwell in the extremes of either deep love or deep hate I tend to examine especially closely, searching for imperfections in the former and redeeming qualities in the latter. And the more I love/hate the set, the closer I look.

So when I tell you that 1997 Metal Universe may be the coolest set of cards I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, I want you to take me seriously. It’s frickin' amazing, guys. K? I lurve it. I am sick with unnatural affection for it. I get the butterflies just writing about it.

For a very long time this has been the final card I needed to complete the Griffeys of 1997 Metal, so you can imagine how excited I was to finally land one. Mid-‘90’s Fleer Metal cards have had a pretty major moment all their own in 2020 (thanks, in part, to Michael Jordan) with the common Griffey base cards fetching as much as $50 on eBay this past Summer. They’ve since cooled down to still-unreasonable levels, but I am super pleased to see one of my favorite sets have its moment in the sun – and to finally finish it off.

8. 1998 Fleer Ultra Diamond Immortals #1

Is there a more iconic die-cut Ultra insert? Starring Role is up there, but the design here is so extreme that it’s hardly even a card anymore. Thing is NUTS.

7. 1997 Pinnacle Certified #53 Mirror Blue

I was lucky enough to land the blue for peanuts just before (like, literally weeks before) the pandemic drove thousands of bored, early-middle-aged ‘80’s babies back into cards. The #/30 Mirror Gold is the big prize, but I like the look of the blue better. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. 

6. 1997 Fleer Diamond Tribute #4

Diamond Tribute was always easy on the eyes, but the 1997 version cannot be topped. It’s another ‘90’s insert that has flown under a lot of peoples’ radar, but in 2020 that changed in a big way. Suddenly everybody wanted one. This theory might be a stretch, but I suspect it has something to do with the sudden widespread availability of light boxes for premium card photography which allowed everybody to see just how incredible this think looks in person. I know that’s when I took notice. While these used to average in the $50-$75 range, they now consistently sell well over $200 and even higher recently. Cards with significantly higher scarcity don’t perform half as well in the market - it just looks that good.

5. 2019 Leaf National Convention #TN-33 Red #/2

I just love these things, and there’s only two of them. TWO! In the WORLD. I feel like a card noob getting all excited about it, but somehow that concept is more abstract to me than that of a one-of-one. Where in the world is its other? Can we arrange a Parent Trap situation with these? Would they get along? They’d probably fight at first but then grow to become the best of friends. Nay, brothers.

4. 1996 Topps Finest #135 Intimidators Gold Refractor

Refractors of all shapes and sizes have had a big year, particularly those from the ‘90’s. This is one of the more desirable specimens from that category. It was the first gold refractor, the first tiered refractor, and the first “case hit” refractor seeded at a whopping 1:288 packs. Even with a print line this card is a treasure.

3. 1999 Fleer Tradition Date With Destiny #3 Unnumbered /100

This is the unnumbered version meaning it was more than likely backdoored when Fleer went caput in 2005. This one is a slight upgrade in that many of those backdoored versions were not die-cut or embossed, and this one is both. So it’s as close to the real deal as you can get without a serial number.

2019 Leaf Ultimate Sports Ultimate Domin8ors Eight-Swatch
Relic #UD8-04 #/25 (w/ Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky,
Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Tom Brady,
Mike Tyson, Ronaldinho)

2. 2019 Leaf Ultimate Sports Ultimate Domin8ors Eight-Swatch Relic #UD8-04 #/25 (w/ Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Tom Brady, Mike Tyson, Ronaldinho)

It’s a WOW-FACTOR card. One of those cards you can show anyone and they’d be like, “Daaaamn.” Just look at the names: crying meme guy, lisping ear-biter, that hockey man with the hot daughter, and Buccaneer’s great Tom Brady to name a few. A little something for everybody on this bad boy.

For this year’s top spot, I had to go with my gut, and my gut really likes 1989 Donruss. Behold!

1. 2019 Donruss Optic MVP Signatures Autograph #28 & Cracked Ice Black #/5 (1989 Donruss MVP Design)

No, it’s not the most expensive nor the most objectively desirable card in this list by a long shot, but it is one of my personal favorite autograph issues of the past decade.

You can chalk it up to this being MY blog and having my own permission to be as subjective as I want to be. Since my first DAY as a card collector and Griffey fan, ’89 Donruss was my set of choice. I’ve built at least a dozen base sets over the years, only retiring this time- and space-intensive sub-hobby earlier this year (I did save a few completed sets, but that gigantic rainbow-riffic box of base cards is gone).

This one

So the ’89 set had that amazing MVP subset design with the color-gradient “MVP” coming at you from a blue background (also the same color palette of Micro Machines blister packs, btw). This design is burned into my psyche. It’s one of the images that flashes before my inner eye at the mere thought of the concept of baseball cards. It’s fun and exciting and just exactly what an 80’s kid wants in their graphic design.

Obviously Junior never got an MVP card in this design (when these were printed he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to be MV-anything, and barely a P at all), so when these dropped in last year’s Optic set I went all fanboy. And it’s on-card! There are multi-thousand-dollar ultra-premium triple patch 1/1 auto’s that can’t make that claim.

These come in an array of colors (I also picked up the #/5 Black Ice version, but frankly I actually prefer the plain-Jane regular version as it is truer to the original 1989 MVP subset). Part of me wants to build the rainbow, but the other part is paying private school tuition for two little boys. Odds are I will just stay happy with my two colorways.

Speaking of little boys, here's my ACTUAL #1 acquisition of the year:

This rookie is probably going to keep blog posts few and far between for a while, but I won't go away anytime soon. It was still a great year for the blog, after all. I got back on pace and put out a ton of content, covering big, complicated sets I never thought I would get to (I had a ton of free time in which to do it, of course). Whine as I may, I'm pretty pleased with how 2020 turned out on the card front. Other fronts are up for debate.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2020 Part 2: 11-20

So baseball every kind of cards are having a big year. Have you noticed? LOL.

This is a blessing and a curse. The prices of Griffeys (and just about everyone else for that matter) are sky-high, but also the prices for Griffeys are sky-high! Woo-hoo! My COMC account always seems to have credit now as everybody buys up all my stock, but all the one- and two-dollar Griffeys of yesteryear are now listed at 10 and 20 bucks a pop. It’s bittersweet to say the least.

I suppose I'd be more bothered by it were I just getting back into collecting now as opposed to in 2011 when I actually got back into it. Looking back I should have bought ALL THE GRIFFEYS I COULD FIND back then. Hindsight is 20/20. Ugh. I hate how on-the-nose that is.

Okay, here’s more cards:

20. 1998 Topps Stars Galaxy #G5 Silver #/75

This year of Topps Stars has some real monsters, the coolest of which are these Galaxy cards. There are no easy pulls from this set – the most common being the #/100 Bronze parallel. These silvers fell at just shy of 1:1000, but there were also Gold and Gold Rainbow version that go up to 1:13k packs. Nope.

19. 1997 Fleer Goudey Greats #2 Foil

At 1:800 (or 1:22 BOXES) of Series 1 only, these puppies are some of the scarcest insert parallels of the ‘90’s. While I don’t know how many are out there (I have guesses), I can only confirm that there are not freakin' many. Then again they’re not super well-known or sought after – probably because they’re pretty plain, TBH – so if you find one you can grab for a reasonable sum, I suggest you go for it.

18. 1992 Lime Rock Hologram #2 Autograph #/500 w/ COA

I'm not certain whether this one is one of the "official" pre-2000 Griffey autograph cards (I think this one may be up for debate), but even if it isn't, it's still a Griffey autograph, innit?

17. 2019 Leaf In The Game Used Sports Legendary Numbers Dual Relics #LN-22 Platinum Blue #/7 (w/ Willie Mays)

I mean, it has a piece of Willie Mays’ jersey on it is obviously the main thing here. The tattered look of vintage relics, am I right? Pretty thing.

16. 2005 Upper Deck MLB Artifacts Auto Facts Autograph #JR #/699

Not all autographs are created equal, and I just really liked the look of this one. Also most of the signatures I’ve seen on these are in blue ink, but this one is black. I don’t know why that made such an impression on me, but it did. The fact that it’s on-card sealed the deal.

15. 2017 Leaf Q Autograph Aqua #/15

I don’t think collectors take today’s Leaf too seriously, but I really like their stuff (they've been on several of these lists even appearing at #1 just last year, and they make up a whopping 13% of this year's Top 30). Take this Q brand. While many of their recent offerings are rehashed versions of classic Leaf products, Q is all original, and they look really good. This particular one was priced way too low for my liking, and for that I will not stand.

14. 1997 Pinnacle New Pinnacle Keeping the Pace #4

I decided to finish off all the Pinnacle flagship Griffeys in 2020, and while I did try to justify not including those from the one-off “new Pinnacle” set, in the end I had to get them as they are Pinnacle flagship Griffeys any way you slice them. Of the three big hit Griffeys I needed to complete that set, the least scarce and the most expensive was this, the bold & beautiful Keeping the Pace insert.

13. 1998 Pinnacle Epix #E1 Game Emerald & all three Header Cards

Any Emerald from this set is a prize, but I was more excited about the stupid header cards which are a major pain to track down. I’m only one Emerald short of the complete run of officially-released Epix Griffeys (there are a handful of the unreleased Emerald Moments out there that were backdoored, but that’s none of my business….).

12. 1989 Donruss Sealed Rack Pack w/ 2 visible Griffey Rookies

I have a confession: I bought this specifically because I did not believe it could exist. The moment it came in the mail I started looking it over for signs of tampering. Slits, broken seals, signs of resealing - anything. Of course I found nothing out of the ordinary extraordinary which should come as no surprise as it made it onto the list. My new favorite sealed pack Griffey.

11. 2010 Topps Chrome #28 Gold Refractor #/50

One seriously tough parallel of Junior’s sunset Chrome card, and I would like to mention that this scan does not do it justice. The insertion ratios of 1:232 hobby/1:775 retail aren’t insurmountable, but factor in the 220-card base set and these puppies become near-impossible pulls. I acquired this one directly from a man whose claim to fame is collecting the complete rainbow of this card in both the regular and Chrome versions, including printing plates and the 1/1 SuperFractor. The man is a beast.

Okay, Top Ten coming up next. Don't get your hopes up too much - this is still 2020 we're talking about. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2020 Part 1: 21-30

Welcome to the Top 30 list for 2020!

I like to try and classify what kind of Griffey-getting year it was in these little intro parts of the Top 30 posts. I suppose this was the year of filling those ‘90’s holes. There were a bunch of key ‘90’s inserts and parallels I’ve put off grabbing for years such as the remaining Metal Universe inserts and several late-'90's refractors, both segments of the market that positively blew up in 2020.

In addition to that I also tackled some pretty complicated ‘90’s sets such as Epix, 1997 Score, and ALL the Pinnacle flagship sets; so in the course of putting those together I completed a bunch more checklists.

So if you’re a fan of totally awesome ‘90’s cardboard, you’ll be happy to know that ‘90’s cards make up a whopping 2/3 of the list this year (plus a solid chunk of the Runners-Up).

And we're off...

30. All the 2020 Topps Short Prints

Great photo selection this year, and Topps did literally exactly what I have asked on this very blog and gave Junior multiple SP's (or "Legend Variations") in both their flagship and Update sets. Two of these are even those infamous "S"SP's. Yes. Love 'em. Keep on doing this forever.

29. 2008 Topps Target Back To School #TB4

There is what I've always thought of as a “dead zone” in the Griffey card timeline that starts around his move to the Reds and runs through his retirement up to the super cool modern premiums we have today. The desirability as well as the values of his cards from this dead zone just aren't as high. If you look at all the Top 30 lists as a whole they are usually comprised of a lot of mid-to-late 90’s cards, maybe a few from the first couple years of the 2000’s, and then not very much until the late 20-teens. There are exceptions, of course, but on average the values tend to be lower in this period for comparable cards from before or after it. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that our guy looks better in Mariners colors – that and the surplus of autos and relics available from this period. I only mention it now because this card is one of those exceptions, a must-get from the Griffey card dead zone that took me way too long to finally track down.

28. 2001 Upper Deck MVP Authentic Griffey Game-Used Cap Relic #AG-C Regular & Gold #/30

There's nothing inherently better about the gold version other than the background accent color and the serial-numbering. Maybe if the bit of cap had some logo or a little bit of salt stain or something gross like that it would make sense to me. Whatever - here's both anyway.

27. 1996 Pinnacle Aficionado #75 Artist's Proof

Okay, I REALLY like Aficionado, guys. I think this is one of those rare brands I managed to get a whole box of for Christmas when I was a kiddo. The tasteful sepia, the understated nameplate in gold foil, the GIANT STIPPLED HOLOFOIL HEAD - there is just nothing I don't love about the design here. These AP's fell one per TWO boxes, so they're no easy get. There are tougher parallels that didn't make the Top 30 this year; but my deep, abiding love for Aficionado catapulted this one onto the list.

26. 1998 Donruss Preferred Great X-pectations #/3000 Die-Cut #/500

God bless you late-90’s Donruss, lords of the die-cut partial-parallel. Only the first 500 of these were die-cut (as was the case with a lot of numbered Donruss inserts), and this one in particular just seemed like an amazing deal. And no print line!

2019 Topps Triple Threads Triple Jersey Relic
“Softball Ringer” #TTR-KG #/36

25. 2019 Topps Triple Threads Triple Jersey Relic “Softball Ringer” #TTR-KG #/36

Topps really busted out the Simpsons references in 2019 with a Throwback Thursday set in the classic Topps Simpsons design as well as these pretty nice triple relic jobs. Can’t blame them, tho. That episode slaps. We’re talkin’ sooooooft-baaaalllll….

24. 1996 Liberty Sports Satellite Baseball #6

I’ve always been an absolute nut over Griffey oddballs, and the man has plenty of them to go around. I mean there are mountains of the things with some more scarce than others; but few approach the scarcity of the infamous 1996 Liberty Satellite Sports set. Rumor has it (and by that I mean I have read it from multiple independent sources but have no hard confirmation of this fact) only 50 cards of each player were printed and given away in sealed sets to employees of Liberty Satellite Sports. Such a print run from a conventional brand would result in some serious values. And just to add to the fun, they’re also extremely condition sensitive. Yay!

23. 1999 Upper Deck UD Ionix Warp Zone #WZ1

Pound-for-pound (er, card-for-card?) Warp Zone is one of my favorite inserts of all time. The 2000 version was #15 on the 2017 list. It was only around for two years, but in that time it produced two above-average Griffey cards. That’s batting a thousand, baby. 

22. 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Cardzillion/Folz Minis Vending Machine #1

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding these things (though not for long - hint, hint). Long story short, they were sold in vending machines, possibly regionally, and they are a little smaller than normal cards. Despite having been officially-released Upper Deck cards, they still dwell somewhere in the sphere of the oddball. They’re also a massive pain in the tuchus to find, particularly in good condition. Good luck.

21. 1997 Pinnacle Home/Away Jersey Die-Cut #3 Home

These were 1:33 magazine packs similar to the infamous Skylines insert. While there is no official word from Pinnacle regarding differing print runs of the Home and Away versions, there seem to be many more of the grey Away jersey version out there. They were always just a little more than I wanted to spend, but this one became a must-get in my quest to complete the Pinnacle flagship Griffeys. I resent the expense given the affordability of the Away version, but I got what appears to be a deal by today’s standards. And it really is a great-looking card as well as a cool concept for die-cutting.

Okay, fun start. Nothing mind-blowing just yet, but I promise we have plenty more also not mind-blowing cards ahead. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2020: The Runners-Up

Regardless of how nutty a year can get, you can always count on your old pal, The Junior Junkie, to show off some of the coolest Griffeys I acquired over the course of the year. And it has become more or less a tradition, too, that I mention to you that once again it was NOT as good a year as 2015 was. Frankly the odds of my ever again approaching that level of Griffey-getting are less and less likely as the cost of Griffeys climbs through the proverbial roof. Still, it was a decent enough year.

Of course they couldn’t ALL be Top-30 material which is where this post comes in. Here in no particular order and with limited commentary are the Runners-Up - cards not quite good enough to crack the upper tier, but still fun to look at. 


Panini's streak of killer relic design remains unbroken. And it's one of those "Christmas Cards." Don't I know somebody who collects those?

Get used to that AP logo - you're gonna see it a few times today.

The most common and least expensive of the infamous Stand & Deliver cards from 1997 Score.

Speaking of 1997 Score, they sure took parallels to another level. These you were all but guaranteed to never mistake for a common.

I think even non-Griffey collectors can appreciate a nice JR/SR dual relic.

There's those AP logos again.

This is an 8x10" GIANT, and probably the biggest die-cut I own.

Stadium Club continues to be my favorite set of the year. Hands-down, bar-none, nothing even comes close. I am super proud of Topps for keeping the photo quality so high. Good luck finding packs in stores, though.

Some of these approach “The Man” level chromatics. There are plenty to go around of each of these, so prices are relatively low for what you get. And the red jersey on the CTA only adds to the vibrant colors there. Some very gratifying gets whose prices are not yet totally unreasonable.

I was shocked to find I was missing so many from this set. I still think the regular Starburst versions look better.

Ebay Bucks impulse buy.

I did not have to turn in my report card to get this one, but that's the schtick. I hope my LCS participates because this could be really fun with the kiddos down the line.

I resent these things.

Pacific inserts 4 life. The composition notebook foil is bizarre.

These were a big hit in the collecting groups and some of the nicer manu-relics in recent years...

The big R is for "right handed pitchers bewaRe."

This is one of the prettiest relic designs I've seen from Topps flagship in some time.

I absolutely love these things and have like 20 of them.

I think Panini heard me praise Topps' relic design back there. LOL wow.

Now with vitamin C.

I've always been a big fan of the design of the rip cards, so I didn't mind that these have both already been ripped - I just wanted the cards.

Off-center or not - when it comes to '90's refractors you gotta take what you can get these days.

Preview from 1995 which, as far as I know, didn't end up getting made.

I already had the one on the left, but the one on the right is new to me. And #/100. How about that brand name? "Just Stuff." I mean, I guess.

Great photo and a lovely Mariner-blue relic. Couldn't pass it up.

I don't even really like this one.

This one I LOVE.

These were case hits. And absolute stunners.

Actually a pretty tough '90's insert that very nearly cracked the Top 30.

Big ol' chunk o' pants.

I already have one of these that reads “CIN,” but this is way better.

1:240 or 1:13 BOXES. And a lovely mirror surface that is condition-sensitive as all get out.

One last AP splotch. A real looker, too.

I loved the 1985 throwbacks this year and ended up with a bunch of different ones. These are just a few of the ones I have, and there are plenty more I don't.

The coolest bit here is the serial-number #001/100.

You better believe I 100% bought into the hype. These will probably get their own post soon...

We got a lot of customs based on the Keith Shore design being that it's the one everybody and their grandma bought five of to resell on what became a very bloated market. I thought this one was cute.

And we got a new cameo this year, too. Those don't come up too often (though I do have two new discoveries on their way to my mailbox as I type this - I'll have them up in the Cameo list soon!).

OK, that's more than enough for now. I'm all but certain I left a few out, but there's plenty more coming in the my perennially-nowhere-near-as-spectacular-as-2015 Top 30 posts starting tomorrow with #21-30. Thank for reading.