Thursday, January 3, 2013

30 Year Top 50: 2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia

#14-This is the highest entry on my countdown list for the former Playoff company which produced the Playoff, Skybox, and Donruss lines between 2001 and 2005.  The Playoff Absolute Memorabilia set was a groundbreaker in many ways.  The set actually ran the full of Playoff's existence in the baseball market from 2001 through 2005.  One of the biggest "innovations" pushed by Playoff was the use of sticker autographs.

2001 Playoff Absolute Sammy Sosa

The Playoff Absolute set was released in June of 2001 and was widely acclaimed and extremely popular.  The boxes were high end, but one of the first innovations offered by Playoff through this release was the inclusion of a box topper which was an Official Major League Baseball signed on the sweet spot.  Really cool idea, except Playoff stamped the baseballs with a "Playoff" stamp.  If you could sit with me in the card shop while I open my box of these back in 2001 I pulled a Gaylord Perry. I kept it for a few years and then decided having a baseball stamped "Playoff" wasn't cool.  Playoff would continue to use box toppers in this product and others and they were very popular collectables and the box topper concept was copied by Topps and Upper Deck.  

2001 Playoff Absolute Tools of the Trade Cal Ripken Jr. Jersey

The base cards in the Playoff Absolute set were pretty straight forward and definitely leaned towards a more modern foil looking design.  There were inserts which came with and without relics which Playoff kept consistent throughout the entire span of Playoff Absolute sets.  Tools of the Trade was the most popular relic set which debuted in the 2001 set.  The relics cards generally ran two to three a box in the 2001 set, but they are difficult to find on the secondary market.  When the cards from the 2001 set do appear they can run a little bit higher than the average relic card of the player appearing on the card.  

2001 Playoff Absolute Home Opener Souvenirs Juan Gonzalez Dual Base Card

Base cards are generally a little lame since they are communal property in baseball and really don't belong to a specific player.  Further, card companies might chunk up a base from a game that a player played in, but might not have reached base.  Playoff did their bases in the 2001 Playoff Absolute set a little bit differently.  First, they reached an agreement with Major League Baseball to purchase the bases used int he open series of games for each time.  They dated the cards and a quick check of Baseball Reference will show you that Juan Gonzalez hit two home runs and went 2-4 with two K's in a win against the White Sox.  Of the few base cards I own this base actually has a really good probability that it was actually touched by the player pictured.  

2001 Playoff Absolute Rookie Premiere Materials Albert Pujols Base

The 2001 Playoff Absolute set also had some pretty sweet rookie cards.  They were all short-printed and all relic cards with the first twenty-five cards of each player coming with an autograph.  The Albert Pujols above is the best card in the set, but there are other quality rookies included in the set too.  For example, I originally pulled a Roy Oswalt rookie card which did have an autograph.  Some may be disappointed that the card isn't scanned and pictured above, but it was a sticker autograph.  Similar to the ball with the stamp, I held onto the Oswalt sticker autograph for a few years and grew tired of it.  I sold the card and used the money to buy the Pujols card pictured.  

The boxes of 2001 Playoff Absolute have all but dried up and many of the relics, inserts, and autographs are very difficult to find.  The degree of difficulty in assembling this set at this point would be extremely difficult, but single cards do pop up every once in awhile.  They are definitely worth tracking down and would be a great addition to your collection.  

Like the 2001 Playoff Absolute Set?  Be sure to check out the four versions of the set which were released between 2002 and 2005.  The other four sets have many of the same pluses and minuses as the original, but the set did evolve a little over the years and there were some good improvements and innovations made on the cards.  

2005 Playoff Absolute Mark Prior Tools of the Trade Mark Prior Autograph

Let's start with the negative first, since there is only one:  Sticker autographs.  I really try to avoid them and really find them unattractive.  Cards with sticker autographs, such as my Mark Prior above, might be limited in quantity or might even feature a player way cooler than Mark Prior.  However, try trading a player's autograph on a sticker and then try trading, or selling, a player's card with an on-card autograph.  On-card autographs are always more competitive on Ebay or easier to trade.  Spend a few extra bucks and avoid these cards.  

One of the best innovations made by Playoff mentioned in the 2001 write-up above was the use of box toppers in their products.  While the stamped baseball wasn't my favorite I did enjoy other Playoff box toppers like the oversized autographs in the Studio boxes and the framed pictures in the 2002 Playoff Absolute set.  

2002 Playoff Absolute Signing Bonus Mark Buehrle Autograph

While the autographs are on stickers and the jersey pieces aren't real, I always thought these were really cool looking pieces.  When have you seen anything like it?  While I really enjoy collecting the Topps cards today, Playoff was really creative and was always looking for new ways to wow collectors.  The box toppers were really cool, but they did die off after the 2003 set which featured a piece of etched glass.  They always kind of reminded me of paperweights.  I pulled a Randy Johnson which I sold.  

2005 Playoff Absolute Mark Grace Fielding Glove Autograph

Playoff also carried their creativity and innovation into their cards.  Buying a box of these cards meant laying down some serious dollars, but the best part about buying this high-end product was the fact that you always had a good chance to walk away with a really unique card.  For example, I love this Mark Grace fielding glove card.  The piece of relic is a bit odd looking and is probably a piece from the stuffing, but it's unique.  Again, when have you seen anything like this?  Not from Topps.  

2005 Playoff Tools of the Trade Kevin Brown Jumbo Jersey

Playoff was also one of the first companies that offered collectors jumbo relics.  These pieces has stitches, dirt, buttons, patches, and more.  I always thought it was awesome to offer collectors buying premium products better pieces of jersey than just the usual little square swatch.  

In summation, I really miss the Playoff company.  I understand that there are collectors who don't dig modern, or relics, or autographs, or sticker autographs, or innovation, or creativity in the production of baseball cards.  However, I never minded Playoff because there was always a market for the cards and products that I did not enjoy.  I didn't like the stamped baseball box topper in the 2001 Absolute box, so I sold it.  Same with the Oswalt sticker autograph and the same with the paper weight box topper.  Go on Ebay and see if you can find any of those items.  I would guess not and if they are there you will pay a premium.  Topps could learn a lesson or two by looking at a fe of these products.   

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