Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 Year Top 50: 1996 SPX

#45- This was the only card set I could put on this list from 1996.  Not one of my favorite years, but this was my favorite set from that year.  This set was really popular when it was released and was starkly simple compared to some of the later releases of SPX Upper Deck would issue during the late 90s.  The set was a 60 card set with two commemorative cards, a Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr., and two autographed cards, a Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr., one parallel set, and an insert set of 10 cards.

2006 SPX Jeff Bagwell

The cards were all holographic.  Base cards, Inserts, and Autographs.  One of the real challenges of collecting this set was the fact that the cards on came one per pack, with a $3.50 per pack price, 24 packs a box meant it took a few boxes to put this set together.  The insert set, Bound for Glory, was seeded at one per box, but the Piazza and Griffey commemorative cards were seated at one out of three boxes for Griffey and one out of four boxes for Piazza.  Never quite sure if I bought the odds on the Piazza and Griffey cards.  I've opened a few boxes of this products over the years and I always seem to end up with one.  Hmmm.

1996 SPX Bound For Glory Cal Ripken Jr.

1996 SPX Ken Griffey Jr. Commemorative Card

Which brings us at last to the reason most people went after the cards in this set: the autographs.  The 1996 SPX set was released at a time when autographs had long, long odds, and the card companies didn't put a bunch of scrubby players on the autograph checklist to purposely lower the odds.  This set had only two autographs, but they will both be in the Hall of Fame shortly, and the odds for both autographs was set at 1:2000.  So, I went through a few boxes in 1996, put together my set, and did not  get a single Griffey or Piazza autograph.  Which lead me to having to track one down.

Now, I am not often a fan of Beckett pricing.  They tend to be arbitrary and lean heavily towards the large hobby shops and not the collectors.  Notice we have few shops now a days.  So, one such victim of the ever-shrinking list of card shops was not far from my house in West Saint Louis County.  They had both a Piazza and Griffey autograph.  For years, the two cards set in their cabinet with a really high price tag on both.  Beckett.  

Finally, the card shop high ended itself out of existence and I had a choice to make between which card to add.  Now, Griffey has signed in every Upper Deck baseball release between 1996 and 2011.  There are thousands and thousands of Griffey autographs.  Piazza, not so much.  Plus, this was Piazza's first certified autograph and I consider it the real prize of all the Mike Piazza autographs.  Not really much of a debate.

1996 SPX Mike Piazza Tribute Autograph

Like the 1996 SPX Set?  Not in my Top 50 is the 1998 SPX Finite Set.  This was Upper Deck's 1998 version of the SPX line, but it had some cheese metal plaques on the card.  Also, all the cards were serial numbered, hence the term Finite.  Don't worry if you like the cards, the word finite was used liberally with 1990's card releases.  Basically, the set was broken down into different subsets.  Each subset had a different stated print run.  The lowest, or most finite, was the Heroes of the Game and the Cornerstone subsets, which ran at the rather Finite print run of only 2000.  The commons and various other print runs ran between the Finite amounts of 9,000 and 5,000.  Finite to the max.   There were also parallels which were less Finite.  Below is a Spectrum Parallel of a Ray Lankford Common with a Finite Print Run of 2,500.  You can find them for $1.00 or less on Ebay, COMC, or your local card shop.

1998 SPX Finite Ray Lankford

At the time of its release some of the rookie cards were actually pretty tough to find along with some of the parallels.  I've only once been threatened at a card show (I was also once threatened by an elderly women at a Wendy's in West Virginia for wearing a Duke shirt) over a card and it was from this set.  The card show was at the Cape Girardeau Mall in 1999 and the dealer, who owned the local card shop, had a cool Manny Ramirez parallel from this set with the super Finite print run of 3,500.  He asked for $30.  I asked for $15.  All 5'2 of him told me he'd beat my ass and call mall security.  I laughed.  I tripped over a crate behind his table.  I also bought the card off of Ebay last year for $0.50.  

1998 SPX Finite Manny Ramirez

The set was actually rather challenging to assemble in terms of time, but the cards are all out there if the your desire a display of Upper Deck's late 90s Finite printing.  

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