Thursday, May 21, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Sets From 1997

Another week, another year of cool sets.  This year I am going with 1997.  This was a fun year for my collection.  Lots of packs, not necessarily a ton of boxes, but lots of different types of cards.  Years after 1997 I found myself with a ton of incomplete sets, but lots of cool single cards.  I have finished off a bunch of these sets, but this year could be a set completion projection that could last years.

Here's my list......




5. Fleer- Not a really well noted set, but it makes my list for a few reasons.  Let's start with the simplest first.  There was not an "it" rookie in the 1997 card products.  There are some very good rookie cards in several of the products, but in my opinion the David Arias, now David Ortiz, is one of the iconic rookie cards from the late 1990s.  Again, not many of them, but this is a great card.  Great cards help make the sets around them better and more collectable.  Second, the set was large.  In general 1997 had some really small sets.  The Topps set was only 495 cards with no update set.  The Upper Deck set was 550.  Meanwhile this Fleer set was 761 cards.  Every year needs a big set.  Every set had a Ken Griffey Jr. card.  I want a set where I can get a full team set.  Everyone.  Some people may not like getting cards of players like Aaron Hobert and T.J. Matthews, but those players appeared for the Cardinals, I saw them play, and I own their cards.  Lastly, I love the finish of these cards.  Yes, each pack did have a tiffany card, but the majority of cards had that old fashioned feel.  They were terrific.  



4. Pinnacle Certified- I have been trying to understand for some time know why collectors love finding all of the rainbow parallels of different cards.  It seems like a difficult task, but I have been sucked in a few times over the years.  Sometimes I wonder if the collectors who pursue the rainbows out of current Bowman and Topps products know of some of the products that existed in 1997?  Let's take this set.  I loved this set in 1997.  I went out and bought a few packs and then just spent a lot of time tracking down all of the Cardinals cards.  There is a Certified Red, Mirror Red, Mirror Blue, Mirror Gold, and Mirror Black.  They look really good together, and I have to admit, they are probably a lot easier than tracking down some of these cards numbered to 10 or anything involving a printing plate.  These cards do have the goofy Peel protector covering the cards, a la Topps Finest.  I love the look and feel of the cards, I just wish Ray Lankford did not have a big Peel Off sign across him....Still a cool set.  



3. Donruss Preferred- I have two reasons for putting these cards on my countdown this week.  First, I liked the look and design of these cards.  Cool texture, and while they did have the whole color thing going on that seemed so popular around this time, this product only had three metallic colors.  They looked pretty good on the cards.  See the Bonds card above.  There were cool inserts and short prints and the cards still sell decently on the secondary market.  I dare say, they are somewhat worth something.   The Donruss Preferred set also tinkered in the packaging department.  I have long thrown away my tins, but yes, these cards came in tins.  There was also a Donruss product that came in a can.  The cards in a can were not cool, cards in a tin were cool.  Watch this classic clip from late 90s MTV show Sifl and Oly and substitute baseball cards for cereal....you get the idea....





2. Bowman- One of my favorite Bowman sets ever.  This set has some good rookies with Kerry Wood, Miguel Tejada, and Lance Berkman, but I just simply love the design and look of the cards.  I actually think of the Berkman card as being another iconic rookie card from the late 1990s.  He was a good player and this is an awesome card.  I know a lot of collectors who love this piece of cardboard.   The black borders are really cool.  There have been some other black bordered Bowman sets over the years, but this is the best of lot.   The Bowman set had a better set up back in the later 90s too.  The first 70 cards of each series were veterans with the rest of the 150 cards belonging to younger players or prospects.  This set also came with those $125 value cards.  Basically, you filled out the card, mailed in $5, and if the set was not worth $125 at the end of the 2000 calendar year you could mail in your set for a check from Topps.  Pretty bad gimmick, but I am not sure whether the set made it to that amount or not.  I am leaning towards no, but I am not sure how many people mailed in their checks.  Boxes of this are still floating around cheap and there are some nice highlights outside of the base set, mainly the autographs and the International parallel set.  I like these.....





1.  Flair Showcase- I got onto the Flair bandwagon later than most, but I loved them once I got there. The Showcase set was arranged in rows with Row 2 cards being the easiest to find, Row 1 cards being short printed at 8 per box, and Row 0 cards at 1 per box.  It was basically like having three 180 card sets.  I picked up the base set and also picked up a lot of the Cardinals cards from the short printed rows.  These were high end cards that were printed on really nice cardboard stock and have aged very well.  I think these are nicer than some of the high end stuff that comes out today.  Flair Showcase also started the craze for the 1/1 cards with the creation of the Masterpieces cards.  I cannot remember how much the Griffey's sold for, but at the time it was a completely ridiculous amount of money.  While the argument we could have a long drawn out argument over whether or not having 1/1 cards is really a good thing, or really matters too much anymore, it is important to acknowledge the fact that it was an important innovation that occurred with this product. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cross One Off The List....

I started a list off to the side of my blog -----> awhile ago that included ten cards I was looking to add to my collection.  I believe that one is actually a bobblehead.  Anyway, I added one of the cards fairly quickly, but have not been too swift with finding much else on the list.  Some of the cards are out there and I am probably being a little bit picky on what I am willing to trade/buy for.  Others are just going to be tough.  That Beckham and Rugginao seem to not exist, but I know they do.

Well, it's finally time to cross off a card.  My newest card off my Void List (I don't like that name anymore-it's going to change) is this great looking 2014 Bowman Alex Reyes autograph.



Reyes cards have been gaining a bit of momentum through the first half of the season as the tall right handed pitcher is now considered the best prospect in the Cardinals system by many.  In 7 starts this season Reyes has a 1.78 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 35 innings playing for the Cardinals Palm Beach High A team in  the Florida State League.  I am sure that Reyes will stay in A ball a bit long this season, but at some point I think he will graduate to Double A.  Still another two or three years away from St. Louis I would guess (being conservative), but always nice to add these cards to the collection.

Here's a look at Reyes pitching last year against the Burlington Royals if you have never seen this player in action.....


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

AAAALLLLLLOOOOOOUUUUUUU!!!!!

There have been a lot of Bowman posts on this space during the past few weeks.  I like minor league guys, Bowman is filled with minor league guys, seems like a natural fit.  Right?  However, I am actually more excited about a set of veteran player cards in this year's Bowman set than the rookie/young guys.  I have got all summer to pick up the young guys, well probably longer than that, there is not really a time deadline on completing a set.....

So, I mentioned a few posts back about my love of the Flashback insert set.  I landed a copy of the non-autographed Moises Alou card in my jumbo box and have been working on adding some of the other cards over the past week.  Let me catch you up with the latest additions.  First, I picked up another copy of a base card:




A few more will be showing up later in the week, or early next week.  However, the really big pick up in the past week has been this card........


I am going to add a few more of these Flashback autographs, but completing the entire set is going to be a definite challenge.  The hardest card is likely going to be the Frank Thomas card which is both hard to find and expensive in price.  Still, it's a small set and I would love to give it a run.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rodon! Rodon! Rodon!

I had a pretty good Carlos Rodon collection going before he was even drafted thanks to his appearance on the USA Baseball team which netted the former NC State hurler several cards in various Panini products.  There are many in Rodon fans in central North Carolina after he starred in college at NC State and spent his summers playing for USA Baseball in Cary, North Carolina which is about twenty minutes from both Raleigh and Durham.  

The real excitement for Rodon cards started after the MLB Draft last June was the product that would have his first licensed autograph.  Leaf chimed in with a few draft related products, which features Rodon autographs, but he is in an NC State uniform with the logos blanked out.  Many local collectors had him pegged for last fall's Bowman Draft product, but when he did not appear on the checklist the 2015 Bowman set.....

I was excited to land a few of his cards from the Bowman set I picked up from a jumbo box....


The real prize, however would have been pulling a Rodon autograph.  I kind of figured that the odds were slim that I would actually land one out of the box I opened, so I set aside some money and trade resources to track down a copy of his first certified autograph last week.  This gem showed up in my mailbox this afternoon......



Needless to say I am ecstatic about owning this card.  When I got to the end of the year this is still going to be one of my favorite cards.  I have been waiting a few years to see a Rodon card in a Major League uniform with an autograph on the front of the card.  The day has finally come and I am so happy to file this card away into my collection.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#MyCardMonday

So, did you watch any baseball this weekend?  I spent some time suffering through the Cardinals and Tigers series and checked in a little bit on my Durham Bulls, who had some problems with the Scranton Railriders.  Not the best, but there was one bright spot early Sunday afternoon by former Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller.

If you have not seen Shelby pitch this year he has improved greatly from his time in St. Louis.  Lots of fastballs and first pitch strikes.  I think he's been one of the biggest surprises in the game so far this year.  Sunday's game finally got him some well deserved attention when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning and came within an out of the no-no.

He actually had something of a no hitter back in the day with the Cardinals when he gave up a lead off hit against the Rockies and then recorded 27 straight hitters for the complete game shutout.



Predictably the early success for Miller has agitated a few of the "Best Fans In Baseball" (As a Cardinals fan I hate that moniker) and allowed some internet trolling to take place especially with local St. Louis columnist Joe Strauss who works in St. Louis, but hates everything about the city....




At least most Cardinals fans could count the two hits collected by the Marlins, or at least read the box score.......

Anyway, I am happy to see Shelby find some success in Atlanta.  He got a raw deal at times in St. Louis at times, especially during some of the playoff runs when he was delegated to the bullpen and forgotten about as a long reliever.  Especially during the 2013 playoffs when he won 15 regular season games, but only appeared in one playoff game for one inning.  The Cardinals season ended in the World Series, but Miller never started a game.  

So, to celebrate a great outing and great start to the new season this week' #MyCardMonday goes to, not only one of the National League's best pitchers, but also one of it's best signers....Shelby Miller.  


Collecting The Durham Bulls: Grant Balfour

I like Grant Balfour.  I first encountered him as a player during the 2008 season when he had a brief stint to start the season with the Durham Bulls.  What's to like about watching Grant Balfour pitch?  He throws hard, he's a max effort guy, and he's extremely fiery.   Fans of Aussie pitcher in Tampa and Oakland dubbed the pitcher Balfour Rage which has caused a few run ins over the years.....

 
Grant Balfour has had his struggles with the Rays since returning to the organization before the 2014 season which ultimately lead to the closer being sent down to the Durham Bulls towards the end of April.  I can't say I am surprised that Balfour ended up in Durham, but I hope he's back somewhere in the Majors before the end of the season.  However, while he's in Durham I am going to take a look back at his baseball cards........




The first Balfour cards appeared in 2001 products.  He actually signed with the Minnesota Twins in 1997, but it took him awhile to get his first piece of cardboard.  He did have a few Minor League issues before 2001 along with an Australian baseball card or two.  I have actually seen more copies of his Australian cards then team issues from his days in For Myers, New Britain, and Edmonton.  His rookie cards in 2001 are not in every product, but some can be tricky finds due to the fact that they are short prints, or the fact that sets from that year have rookies of Pujols and Ichiro and have been locked away.


Once Balfour became a regular with the Rays his cards became frequent parts of most major base sets.  He's been in every Topps base set along with several Panini and Upper Deck products during that time.  My favorite Balfour base card is easily his 2011 Topps Update card.  I think the picture fits Balfour to a tee.


Balfour also has several certified autographs floating around too.  Several of his signatures are really cheap including his 2015 Topps Autographs and his 2012 Panini autographs.  Both are available with some frequency on Ebay and COMC and often cost less than $5.  Let's put it this way, if it costs more than $5, just skip it and wait and it will show up cheap soon.  His best autograph, I do not own it, is his 2013 Tier One autograph.  It's still not an expensive pick up and usually sells for somewhere between $5-$10.  Nice looking card too...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Four Rays From Twitter

I had the chance to pick up a couple of great looking Rays cards last weekend from a collector on Twitter.  I started out looking at a card and ended up taking home several.  Here's a look at the cards.....


This is the card that started the whole transaction.  I already own a copy of this card, but Mike Montgomery is kind of a favorite, I did see him throw that no-hitter last year, so I had to inquire.  The price was right so I pulled the trigger.  However, while I was there I spotted another Rays card of catching prospect Nick Ciuffo.


The Rays took Ciuffo in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft, but I have not done a lot with his cards.  I believe he has some autographs in one of the Bowman products, but this looked really nice, so this seemed like a good card to pick up.  So, there are two cards.  I figured after landing two Rays cards I should go back and got one more that I had tried to trade for/buy a month or two ago, but could not close the deal......



This is obviously a really cool card.  I have seen the metal framed autographs that Topps put out last year, they are similar to the gold framed Gold Label inserts they put in Topps Series 2 last year, but I did not own one of these signatures.  Cobb is a former Durham Bull and I love the look of the silver signature on the black background.  Throw in the fact that there are only 15 copies and this card is a great add to my collection.  The collector who sold me these cards also threw in a really nice card to make this an even better mail day.....


This is from last year's Topps Chrome set and is the Cracked Ice parallel of Alex Cobb.  Again, I have seen one of these, but I do not actually own one.  Cool looking parallel card if you ask me and serial numbered out of just ten copies on the back of the card.