Tuesday, December 25, 2012

30 Year Top 50: 2002 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres

#17-The Prospect Premieres issues in the early 2000s were Upper Deck's answer to the popular Bowman releases by Topps.  In my opinion, the best of the releases was clearly the 2002 set.  While the 2001 set featured both veteran and rookie cards, the 2002 set focused squarely on rookie cards.  Initially, there were several acclaimed rookie cards in the set.

2002 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Khalil Greene Autograph

One of the best cards in this set upon it's initial release was the Khalil Greene autograph.  Greene was a highly sought after player out of Clemson and was seen as one of the top college players in the draft that summer.  He was drafted by the Padres and initially did not disappoint.  He moved quickly through the Padres system and was a key contributer to the by the summer of 2004.  However, later years significantly dropped the prices and collectibility of this card.  Most copies of this card can now be found under $5.  

2002 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Jeff Francis Autograph

Other players from this set would make the majors and be key contributors to their teams success, but their cards would not hold up their value over time.  Some of these players include Jeff Francis, Nick Swisher, Mark Teahan, and Joe Blanton.  Several other players could also be argued to fit into this category including Curtis Granderson whose card values have roller coastered.  

2002  Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Prince Fielder Autograph

The real gems of the 2002 Prospect Premieres set are the Prince Fielder and Joe Mauer rookie cards.  My favorite, the Prince Fielder autograph, is pictured above.  While many people don't truly judge the Mauer, nor the Fielder as true rookies, they only need to try purchasing, or trading for, these two cards compared to the two players official rookie cards.  Both have also had their ups and downs, as far as value goes, but in my opinion, the Fielder card is one of the iconic cards of the past decade.  The Mauer card, a jersey card, is not quite as valuable, nor as iconic.  

The Prospect Premieres sets were important sets because they challenged the decade long stranglehold that the Topps based Bowman products had placed on the rookie card market.  While some of the cards fizzled, and other succeeded, many collectors still love these cards and will collect them even if the player did not live up to the hype.  

Like the 2002 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres set?  Not in my Top 50 countdown is the 2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres set.  Like the 2002 set, the 2001 set was full of all sorts of promising rookie cards.  The best of the bunch belonged to Mark Prior.  It was one of the best cards of 2001.  While, I do own a Mark Prior, I am not going to post it here for two reasons.  First, Prior was an arrogant Cub who spoke of "beating the Cardinals back to third or fourth place", but never managed to win much of anything despite all of the chatter.  Second, Prior isn't really a great baseball story.  

2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Greg "Toe" Nash Autograph

Meet my favorite player from the 2001 baseball card sets, Rays prospect Greg "Toe" Nash.  An old story from Peter Gammons chronicles the legend of the Toe.  Nash, like Prior, also flopped, but he was a long shot and fun to collect at the time of this sets release.  Both the Prior and the Nash card can be found for less than $10, but the Nash card is a lot cooler card to own.  


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