Monday, February 22, 2021

2000 Upper Deck Ionix: the Best for Last

After a year like that, this feels like a good time to look to the future not unlike Upper Deck did at the turn of the millennium when they gave us some of the coolest futuristic-themed card sets ever made. It's Future-phile month at the Junior Junkie when we take a look at the complete 2-year lifespans of two shiny, forward-looking sub-brands with a whole lot in common: HoloGrFx and Ionix.

I keep saying this, but it bears repeating: it’s easy to confuse Ionix and Hologrfx. They have the same exact timelines (two sets each in 1999 and 2000) and share many similar themes (and even a few insert names). But one thing remains true in both years: Ionix is better.

Of the four Upper Deck future-phile sets, 2000 Ionix is my favorite. The inserts kill, the base cards are above-average, and it has some of the wildest designs in Upper Deck’s history. Somebody put a massive amount of work into these designs, and their effort shows. Every card is attractive and fun. I’d have bought boxes of this stuff had I been an active collector in 2000.

I don’t say this lightly – as a set, 2000 Ionix is a solid 10/10. The cards are all well-designed, it’s got a great spread of scarcity, and the general aesthetic remains in force on every card.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix #29

Just a well-put together base card in general. They included a film strip effect along the bottom sporting the back photo possibly to hammer home the whole idea behind the Reciprocal parallel. That at-bat shot, despite being a bit lost in the design here, may be Junior’s best card photo of the year. My favorite base card of the future-phile sets.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix #R29 Reciprocal

Hey, someone finally figured out that refractors look great on Chromium. The film strip on the Reciprocals shows the reverse photo in sepia; and it looks great, bringing out all the great colors and refraction in the rest of the card. Very nice parallel here, and at only 1:4 still pretty easy to track down.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix Shockwave #S4

Again all the inserts are refractors this year. Somebody put some real work into this design, but despite the fact that the word “5H0[KW6A3” (or a part of it) appears a whopping 17 times on this card, it still manages to look good. The gamertag font is very Snow Crash, and the shockwave effect seems to originate from around where the ball would have been in relation to the photo. The inset portrait skews dorky with those ridiculous sunglasses, but overall this one remains pretty darn fun.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix Atomic #A3

This super busy 1:8 insert approaches the nuttiness of the infamous Stadium Club Ring Leaders but holds truer to the theme of the insert. The electron microscope background has been done before but has never been more appropriate with the theme. Personally I am super into the Periodic Table symbol unique to each player. The little homerun graph is great.

BTW, I want to see the full "Periodic Chart of Players," please. Also, why "chart?" Why not "table?"

2000 Upper Deck Ionix Biorhythm #B7

The 1:11 Biorhythm insert is probably the most normal-looking card in the bunch, but it's also a real beauty and looks like a marquee poster for a movie about, like, a guy who was genetically engineered to be the perfect ballplayer. But in the midst of his meteoric rise in the majors he develops bonds with other players who had to work hard and overcome obstacles to earn their place on the field. And towards the end of their incredible season he grows ashamed of his unearned skill, and they get to the World Series but he fakes an injury so he can't play, but the team has worked so hard that they still win even without him because they have the power of hard work and perseverance on their side (kind of like in Ladybugs). Shoehorn in a romantic interest for the ladies and a wisecrackin' bat boy for comic relief and we got a real Summer smash. Plus the whole thing could be a veiled statement about PED's and the purity of the game that we could all groan at. But it stars Ken Griffey, Jr., so I would still watch the shit out of this movie.


I wouldn't be much of a blogger if I didn't have at least one gripe, and here it is: what is the theme of this insert? The back mentions playing with his Dad and a community service award, so....what? Why is it called Biorhythm? I was expecting some physical information about the Kid that made him so good at baseball. Like maybe that he's a lefty which gives him an advantage vs. certain pitchers or he has 20/20 vision so he's really good at seeing the ball or his arms are especially long allowing further extension and, therefore, ball placement. Just anything bio-related would have been cool to read about. It's a missed opportunity. Overall Biorhythm is a lot like 36% of the Star Wars film franchise - fun to look at but lacking in substance.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix Awesome
Powers #AP1

At 1:23 or about 1 per box, this reasonably-attainable card probably seems like just another wild, wacky insert to the uninitiated. But those of you who were born before, oh, say 1993 are surely in on the reference, right? Well, just in case:


We're all on the same page, right? The name even rhymes.

My favorite aspect of this card is that it came out in 2000, a full three years after the first Austin Powers movie was released. The film did not do particularly well in theaters, and it was a considerable amount of time after it was released on VHS that it became the worldwide phenomenon and cultural touchstone that it would. I mean, do you remember how big this movie was? It's hard to believe now, all these years later, how engrained in pop culture this thing got. People quoted it unironically for literally a decade. The proof is in the pudding, my friends. Even baseball cards could not escape the gravitational pull of the International Man of Mystery.

By the way, Elizabeth Hurley, right?


Shagadelic.

What were we talking about? Oh, right, the card or whatever. Here's the back:


Another missed opportunity: how 'bout an AP reference in the blurb, guys? Come on, if you're going to go so far as to make this insert in the first place, go ahead and tack on a shameless "Yeah, baby, yeah!" or even an "Oh, behave!" for goodness sakes. The back of this ridiculous baseball card is no place to suddenly tone it down.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix Pyrotechnics #P11

At 1:72 we are now firmly in the pricy part of the checklist. Can we talk about the border here? It's a tattletale. If your Pyrotechnics card was mis-cut even the tiniest bit you are going to notice. Mine is quite mis-cut but still not the worst I've seen. Additionally the bright orange makes print lines pop. Everything about this card is directing you to its own imperfections. But also check out the warning on the bottom-right. How cute is that?

You don't see a lot of diagonal stat boxes, but I do like the look.


OMG look at this thing. It’s just full-bleed awesome with bold Scooby-Doo colors and a massive Twilight Zone-style hypno-door, all bathed in a sheen of glorious refraction.


I believe we are looking at the funkiest 1:288 insert in history.

No photos, no stats, no problem. This thing holds its own beautifully. I have zero complaints. I want a hundred of them, please.

2000 Upper Deck Ionix UD Authentics Autograph #JR
(courtesy of Kevin Conley)

While not a pre-2000 auto, these are still tough gets as he is still a Mariner here and the auto is on-card. The design here could have worked with just about any Upper Deck set, so it's not particularly Ionix-esque. Independent of that it's a great-looking card.

(courtesy of Jordan Ebener)

I'm surprised how few of these I've seen give that at only 1:144 these are half as rare as Warp Zone. The checklist isn't even that big, only 13 card vs. Warp Zone's 15. Is there some short-printing at work here?

Oh, and if that insert name is familiar, it may be because UD Authentics is a shared insert with the Hologrfx brand which had an autographed insert with the exact same name in 1999.

This also brings us to the list of Griffeys I still need from 2000 Upper Deck Ionix:

2000 Upper Deck Ionix UD Authentics Autograph #JR

Yep, just the auto. Another want list I bet I have in common with a lot of Griffey collectors.

So that was it for the two great future-phile Upper Deck brands. The ultra-modern/futuristic theme was always a hallmark of Upper Deck design since their inception and through their remaining years in baseball, but few sets would embrace it quite like HoloGrFx and Ionix. They remain challenging and gratifying builds for collectors of guys who made it into these killer inserts.

7 comments:

  1. yeah baby! i ranked ionix over hologrfx as well, and that auto card is just perfect. ideally, it would be the one that represents jr. in my hof collection, but it's just not available.

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  2. Elizabeth hurley...drooooollll. I mean Ken Griffey Jr.

    I didn't know he had so many great cards in Ionix. I have two of those awesome powers for my PC. Can't get enough of that one. Need all of the others here besides the base. My Griffey collection is no way close to yours. It's so impressive

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  3. Machine gun jibblies....how'd I miss those?

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  4. Those inserts. Ohhh beeehave.

    I never really understood Reciprocals. I have some but they always confused me. Great set though!

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  5. The Austin Powers movie didn't do well at the start? That's news to me. I remember it being popular enough that I felt compelled to go to the theater to watch it.

    I've always been annoyed that there are no Dodgers in that AP insert set.

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  6. Guess I'll be chasing this master set forever. That Griffey auto is no where to be found!

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