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.  

September Blog Contest Part II

Congratulations to Brian!  He correctly answered my second contest question and was drawn from a random list.  Brian has won a 2012 Topps Triple Threads Chipper Jones Jersey card.  Congratulations Brian!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

2012 Topps Triple Threads

I have made it through an incredibly busy past week at work and am ready to enjoy a few weeks off with my wife and son.  I am going to catch up with some mailing, trading, and blog posting.  I will be continuing my countdown and ending my second blog contest tomorrow.  In the meantime, Triple Threads was released two weeks back and I haven't had a chance to share yet.

Speaking of countdowns, I could do a countdown of my favorite Triple Threads releases.  It's one of my favorite annual releases of Topps.  There is something for everyone in this set.  Autographs, patches, jersey pieces, low print runs, and really cool designs.  I didn't get a box of Triple Threads this year, but I am tracking down cool singles.

I've got a couple of cool jersey cards tracked down already and have an eye on an autograph or two.  So, I checked out the checklist for Cardinals and Rays to see what was available in this year's Triple Threads release.  The Cardinals set is pretty much a repeat from all the other Topps releases this year.  They have a Jon Jay, Matt Adams, Jason Motte, and Allen Craig.  There is also a Gibby autograph, but I'd prefer to keep my Hall of Famers on card and the Gibson is a sticker.

There are also some David Freese cards in the set that will end up being my Cardinals targets for Triple Threads.  Namely, I would love to add the World Series MVP and Mr. Freese card.  If I could pick up an autographed version I would be really happy.

So, my pick up this week started me off with my Rays.  I received a Desmond Jennings jersey and Evan Longoria jersey, but also got an Adrian Beltre to balance out the trade.

2012 Topps Triple Threads Evan Longoria x7 Jersey "Dirt Bag"

2012 Topps Triple Threads Desmond Jennings x4 Jersey

2012 Topps Triple Threads Adrian Beltre x6 Jersey "Toro Raro"

Longoria actually has a few different jersey patterns in the set this year.  This is my favorite.  One of them mentions Eva Longoria.  Not sure about that.  I was happy that Desmond Jennings was included in the set and actually have another Jennings jersey card on the way that is far cooler than this one.  It will be here in a few days. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

30 Year Top 50: 2004 Bowman Heritage

#46-The fact that this set borrowed it's design from the 1955 Bowman set almost single-handly placed it on my list of great card sets from the past thirty years.  The 1955 Bowman set is one of the great vintage sets of all times and has some great cards, even Don Mossi appears in the set.

1955 Bowman Don Mossi 

The 2004 Bowman Heritage sets does have a few other positives beyond the really cool design.  If you have been following my countdown you will notice that many of the sets on this list have been included because they were either innovative in some manner, or they contained a key rookie.   My most important reason for owning this set is the Felix Hernandez rookie card.   Hernandez is one of the better pitchers currently playing, but unfortunately he plays his games in Seattle and not seen by half the country.  Okay, maybe three-fourths.  

2004 Bowman Heritage Felix Hernandez RC

The 2004 Bowman Heritage Felix Hernandez rookie is a short printed rookie card and raw copies can be easily found for less then $20.  Need persuasion to buy one?  Hernandez has spent the eight years of his career playing for a team that has frequently finished near the bottom of the AL West.  Despite having a lack of talent around him, Hernandez has put up almost 100 wins and 1,500 strikeouts.  Check out his comparable player list on Baseball Reference and you will turn up the Eck, Catfish Hunter, and Don Drysdale.  Not bad for a guy who is just 26. 

The 2004 Bowman Heritage features a few other really quality rookies that would be solid additions to your card collection.  My personal favorite as a Cardinals fan is the Yadier Molina rookie.  Most people over look Molina as a player and as a target for their card collection.  I blame it mainly on his brothers and people who watched him take an at-bat the first few years he played.  

2004 Bowman Heritage Yadier Molina RC

Molina first appeared for the Cardinals in 2004 as a defense first catcher.  He certainly played like that for his first few years in the majors, but more recently he has dramatically improved his offense.  While maintaining his reputation as one of the best defensive catchers in the league, Molina has quietly hit over .300 the past two seasons.  In fact, this year he among the league leaders in batting average, has over twenty home runs, and is tied for the National League lead in WAR with Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutcheon.  Not bad for a guy who hit .216 a few years ago.  

You can also find the rookies for Carlos Quentin, Neil Walker, Wade Davis, Phil Hughes, and Kurt Suzuki.  The set also has some sweet umpire autographs if you are looking for something a little bit unique and different to hunt down.  Bruce Froemming included.  

Like the 2004 Bowman Heritage Set?  Not in my countdown is the 2005 Bowman Heritage set.  The 2005 set might ultimately have more important rookie cards then the 2004 release, but it falls short in two areas.  First, the design is borrowed from the 1956 Bowman set and is not really anything great.  Second, the two biggest rookies in the set, in my opinion, are Matt Kemp and Justin Verlander.  Both have more important rookie cards than the Bowman Heritage issue.  Don't worry, both will appear on the countdown in a few weeks.    

2005 Bowman Heritage Justin Verlander RC

2005 Bowman Heritage Matt Kemp RC

Beyond these two rookies there are plenty of other rookie cards in the set for Ryan Zimmerman, Little Weaver, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Andrew McCutchen.  However, just like the Kemp and Verlander rookies, most of the star players in this set have other more important rookie cards.  Still a great set to own, but I give the nod to the 2004 set. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

30 Year Top 50: 1999 Pacific Crown Royale

Number 47-It's hard to make a list of great card sets from the past thirty years and not include some Pacific cards on the list somewhere.  Pacific started out as an oddball brand, run by card tycoon Mike Cramer.  My first run in with Pacific happened in 1992 when they released the 100th Anniversary Team set for the Cardinals.  The packs were sold at McDonald's and were really popular that summer.  The sets can still be found in fine card shops throughout the Midwest and on Ebay.

1992 Pacific Cardinals 100th Anniversary Stan Musial 

The height of Pacific's run came in the late 90s and was followed by a quick demise, baseball wise, in 2001.  I really enjoyed the Pacific brand of cards and busted a lot of their wax boxes in 1998, 1999, and 2000.  Like many baseball card companies of the late 1990's, some of their products were repetitive and   overproduced.  However, there were some real gems too.  One of my hardest decisions in putting together a list of card products from the past thirty years was sorting out the Pacific products.

At one point, I thought about scanning the internet for old boxes of Pacific cards, finding a whole bunch of them, and spending a day busting old wax boxes to relive the experience.  However, I voted against it, my wife is thankful in advance, and just spent a little bit of time looking back through my old Pacific sets.  I choose this set of several others including 1998 Pacific Omega, any release of Paramount, Pacific Revolution, and the 1999 Private Stock release.  The base sets were nice, but not as good as the non-flagship releases and I never really dug Aurora or Crown Collection too much.  Invincible were cool too, but you only got one translucent card per pack.  

1999 Pacific Crown Royale Mark McGwire

1999 Pacific Crown Royale Manny Ramirez

So, what makes the 1999 Crown Royale set better than the rest of the other late 90s Pacific releases?  The best reason I can give is the use of die cut cards.  Thirteen years after this set was released we have all seen plenty of die-cut cards in our life, but this was an earlier attempt by a card company to use die-cuts in a base set and they look really nice.  

Pacific had always used die cuts in it's sets from the Cramer's Choice inserts to the inclusion of Christmas Ornament shaped cards in it's base set release.  The Crown Royale set took it to another level though.  The were much more serious looking than a Christmas Ornament insert and much easier to find then the Cramer's Choice Die Cuts which almost always had the longest odds of all the Pacific inserts.  

2001 Pacific Christmas Ornaments Todd Helton

1997 Pacific Cramer's Choice Albert Belle

Crown Royale also featured a few insert sets which were the hallmark of Pacific products.  Most weren't too difficult to run across and putting together a master set wasn't ridiculously difficult to accomplish.  The other big plus I give the Crown Royale product is the parallel sets.  There were a total of two.  How many parallel sets are in Topps products now?  I am not sure, but the Printing Plates are 1/1 even though there are probably four of each player per set.  Pacific issued an Opening Day parallel, which ran across all Pacific products, and a Limited which was numbered to 99 and inserted at one per box and a half.  

1999 Pacific Crown Royale Ray Lankford Limited 

Boxes of Crown Royale can be found, but they aren't plentiful or cheap.  The single cards can be found around, but they tend to be a little pricier than normal late 90's base cards.  They look like inserts and sometimes they sell and trade like inserts too. 

Like the 1999 Pacific Crown Royale set?  Not in my Top 50 of the Past 30 years is the 1996 Topps Laser set.  Topps went through an experimental phase in the mid 90s with die-cuts and shaped cards.  Topps Embossed is another set that could fit here, but still not as cool as the Laser release.  

1996 Topps Laser Pedro Martinez 

Topps Laser was only produced in 1996 and was released in two different series.  There were a couple different patterns used for the base set cards, but they were all die cut.  The cards were a little bit wild and really hard to keep in mint condition.  Even pack fresh cards had knicks and dings.  There weren't any really great rookies in the set, but the Bright Spots insert sets ranks high on my personal list of cool looking inserts.  The Bright Spots cards all featured young and upcoming stars with a really cool looking card background.  

1996 Topps Laser Bright Spots Derek Jeter

 I am not a huge Jeter fan, but this card and the Hideo Nomo in the set are my personal favorites.  Really tough to find and tougher to find in mint condition.  On a comical side note the cards featured projected stats for the 2010.  Jeter's aren't bad, but the card for one Jimmy Haynes is hilarious.  Check out the wins and strikeouts.  Guess they missed.  

1996 Topps Laser Bright Spots Jimmy Haynes

September Blog Contest 2

Thank you to all who participated in the contest over the first part of the month.  I will be holding a contest for the second half of September too.  Below there is a trivia question about the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team from which my blog draws its namesake.  You must answer the question correctly by 8pm EST on Sunday, September 30th.  I will put the names of the correct answers into a randomization.  The winner for this contest will receive a prize related to the contest question.  Your answer can be submitted the following ways:

1. emailed to
2. pm on Facebook
3. direct message on Twitter

The Durham Bulls have had only one Hall of Famer, but will certainly add Chipper Jones to the list in five years.  Chipper Jones played for the Bulls while they were the A+ ball team for the Atlanta Braves after being selected as the number one overall pick of the 1990 amateur draft.  Last year, Chipper Jones became the all-time leader in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for players selected in the 1990 draft.  What player did Chipper Jones pass?    

Facebook Trades

I am spending a little time this morning typing up some of my trades from the past two weeks.  I am glad everyone is enjoying my countdown posts, but I need to put up some cards coming into my collection too.  This morning I am writing up two trades that I made with one awesome Facebook collector.  My cards this morning came from Brian who is in several Facebook trade groups and has lots of good stuff on his page.  A few weeks ago he traded me a Sweet Spot Miguel Cabrera autograph.         Last week, I picked up five different autographs from him:

First up is a childhood favorite Vince Coleman.  Coleman was a big cog on the mid and late 90s Cardinals teams.  He played on the for six years and stole almost 550 bases.  Coleman's first three years in the league all produced 100 steal seasons.  Vince does have a few autographs including a 2003 Fan Favorites, a Tristar Obak, and an Upper Goudy.  Of course, he also has this one which I was previously missing:

2008 TriStar SignaCuts Vince Coleman Autograph 

Next up is my first Mark Trumbo autograph.  I have picked up a few Trumbo cards since seeing him at the All-Star Game Home Run Derby this year, but no autographs.  I was really impressed with his raw power and figure this would be a good add.  Trumbo's cards have picked up some steam this year and should be a solid add considering he will probably spend the next couple of years hitting behind Mike Trout.  Plus, this is a beautiful card.  

2012 Topps Museum Collection

I also picked up an early Max Scherzer autograph in the trade.  I saw Scherzer pitch earlier this summer against the Angels and was very impressed.  I've always kind of watched him since we are from the same corner of St. Louis County and he pitched at Mizzou.  Scherzer was a high draft pick and I think he finally starting to live up to some of the hype.  Fight Justin Verlander for the league lead in strikeouts is a nice accomplishment.  Anyway, I have only sticker autographs of Scherzer, so this was a good add for my collection.  

2005 Upper Deck USA Baseball Max Scherzer Autograph/Jersey

Last two autographs I will put together.  I picked up a Starlin Castro autograph from this year's Topps Heritage set.  I love the 1963 Topps set and have picked up a lot of the cards from this year's set.  There are a lot of cool autographs in there too.  Last card for this morning is a Paul O'Neill from the 2012 Topps Tier One set.  I enjoyed watching O'Neill as a Red way back in the day and still liked him on the Yankees.   O'Neill was a really good productive player.  He made a few All-Star games in his career and will never make the Hall of Fame, but he won a lot of rings.  

2012 Topps Heritage Starlin Castro Autograph

2012 Topps Tier One Paul O'Neill Autograph 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

1st September Contest Winner

I had a total of 28 correct responses for my September Blog Contest Trivia Question.  Who is the only Durham Bulls player in the Hall of Fame?  The answer was Joe Morgan.  Congratulations to Ryan Marcus King Dee.  You have won a Joe Morgan Durham Bulls 100th Anniversary Bobblehead.

Again, congratulations Ryan!  There will be another contest announced tomorrow.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

30 Year Top 50: 1992 Topps Stadium Club Dome

48th on my list is the 1992 Topps Stadium Club Dome set.  This was an interesting set from the day that it hit the stores back in the spring of 1992.  Why?  The design of the cards is actually the same as the 1991 Topps Stadium Club set and Topps had originally designated the set as a 1991 release.  Now, if you go back, even just a few years, this used to be a very common practice.  The calendar year would change and card companies would post date the card release back a few weeks.  

Why didn't it work in the case of the Stadium Club Dome?  Well, Topps had released their 1992 Stadium Club product in January of that year and this 1991 release followed it by about eight weeks.  Card collectors will argue over all sorts of things, but the Stadium Club Dome set does not really have an argument for being a 1991 release other than the fact that it shares a design with the 1991 Stadium Club base set.  

Now, there were more interesting things about the set other than it's release date.  This set also had cool packaging, cool rookies, and one of the biggest flops in all of baseball draft history.  So, let's start with the easy stuff first.  The product was sold as a set and came in a cool box that was in the shape of the Toronto SkyDome.  It may be a large concrete dump right now, but in 1991 it was new, modern, and incredible.  

1992 Stadium Club Dome Toronto SkyDome Set Box

The other cool part of this release was the rookie cards.  The set was comprised solely of the 1991 American and National League All-Stars, the USA Baseball team, and a whole bundle of draft picks.  At the time of the sets release there were three important rookie cards in the set.  The two that stayed relevant the longest were the Manny Ramirez and Shawn Green rookies.  Manny Ramirez's most important rookie card is the 1992 Bowman and Green is a toss up between anything released in 1992.  There is also an early Jason Giambi card in the set which matches his 1991 Topps Traded set card.  

1992 Topps Stadium Club Dome Manny Ramirez 

1992 Topps Stadium Club Dome Shawn Green 

The hottest rookie card at the time of this sets release actually belonged to a Yankees draft pick from my adopted home state of North Carolina.  Brien Taylor was the first selection in the 1991 draft.  He was immediately labeled a can't miss prospect and people snatched up his cards.  Out of high school, Taylor threw in the high 90s and Scott Boras said that he was the best high school pitcher he had ever seen.  He actually started out strong in the minors, but was injured in a fight during the off-season while he was out with his brother at a bar.  During the fight Taylor damaged his shoulder and was never the same player.  He eventually became the second first over all draft pick not to reach the majors.  

1992 Topps Stadium Club Dome Brien Taylor 

His cards are worth pocket change now, but I still really enjoy look at this card from time to time.  It still amazes me how much money and time people pour into finding cards of minor leaguers when there are just as many who have gone the way of Brien Taylor and not Mike Trout. 

Like the 1992 Stadium Club Dome set?  Not appearing in my countdown is the 1990 Fleer set.  Just like the 1992 Topps Stadium Club Dome set, this release has some very solid rookies.  In fact, one could argue that the rookies in the 1990 Fleer Set are better than the 1992 Stadium Club Dome set.  The rookies included: Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, and Juan Gonzalez.  Not too shabby.  Also, another huge flop.  During the 1990 season, the Yankees used Kevin Maas to replace the often injured Don Mattingly in the lineup.  Maas went on to hit 21 home runs in what amount to about a half of season.  Collectors went crazy for Maas cards, but luckily he had a card in almost every 1990 set.  Plus, the next season he only hit 23 home runs playing full time.  Maas continued to decline and spent his last few years bouncing around from team to team.  

1990 Fleer George Canale/Kevin Maas 

Monday, September 10, 2012

2004 SP Authentic Joe Mauer USA Signatures Auto

This card brings back some great memories for me.  I was looking at some cards last week on Facebook and ran into a great trader from Wyoming and I had to pull the trigger.  I remember the day I got on Mauer in 2004.  I went to 1,000,000 Baseball Cards on Manchester Road in west St. Louis county to pick up a box of UD Etchings.  I bought wax pretty blindly back then and most of had some pretty heavy shades on this particular day to slap day some money for this box, but I did actually buy a box of Etchings.  

Now, I have started a countdown on my blog of the fifty coolest baseball card sets of the past thirty years.  At the bottom of each entry I dedicate a little space to talk about a set that didn't make my countdown, but has some sort of cool nuance.  I thought one post could have a worst sets rant and UD Etchings would be a candidate.  What's wrong with Etchings?  Ugly, high print runs, sticker autographs.  However, I pulled a Joe Mauer autograph. 

2004 SP Authentic USA Signatures Joe Mauer Autograph 

Loved the autograph and the player, but hated the card.  I traded my Etchings Mauer along with some cash for a different Mauer autograph.  Then for several years I hunted down Mauer autographs.  Picked up a few here and there and had a nice collection going.  I am not sure the day I didn't collect Joe Mauer cards, but somewhere along the way they got traded for Cardinals cards, autographs, or something else good.  Not sure.

Anyway, this card caught my eye for several reasons.  First, the 2004 Upper Deck USA baseball line is really strong.  The cards aren't the strongest in terms of book value, but there are some great names across all of the products.  This Mauer card is one of the signatures in that set along with Nomar Garciaparra, McGwire, Ryan Zimmerman, and Tulowitzki.  The other players in the set range from solid to scrubby.  Second, the 2004 SP Authentic autographs were the last that from that product that featured on card autographs.  Find an 2005 and it's a stickers.  Besides, the 2004 had some great autographs.  Great sets of cards if you are looking to add an on card autograph of a great player.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 Topps Museum Matt Kemp Quad Relic

We have one last card for the weekend, but I will be sharing a few more cards from the last week's trades and will also continue my countdown of the best sets from the past 30 years.  

I had the opportunity to add this Matt Kemp card in a trade I made on Twitter last week.  I have been trying to add Kemp cards throughout the season and really liked the appearance of this card from the 2012 Topps Museum set.  The card has three pieces of bat and one cool piece of jersey with a blue patch.  This is by far the best Museum relic card that I have picked up this year, but would still love to add a Miguel Cabrera quad relic pieces if I can find a good one.  

30 Year Top 50: 1997 Bowman

The 49th entry on my list is the 1997 Bowman set.  This set was released at the height of Bowman mania in the late 90s.  You remember the guarantee cards that Bowman used to put in packs offering to buy your set back if it wasn't at least worth $120?  I'm sure the people at Topps and the Bowman brand manager sent lots of care packages over to the people at Beckett.  Seriously, there are several Bowman sets on my list, but some of these sets haven't held up very well over time.

The 1997 set has kind of had a lot of twists and turns over the years in regards to collectability and value.  Upon its initial release the hot and trendy cards in this set belonged to Kerry Wood, Travis Lee, and Miguel Tejada.  All three players made it to the big leagues and contributed something to their teams.  Wood and Tejada obviosuly more than Lee, but there are some other good rookies in this set too.

There is also Eric Chavez, Lance Berkman, Jayson Werth,  and Aramis Ramirez.  The two best cards in my opinion however belong to the only two potential Hall of Fame players with rookies in this set.  Remarkably both cards have flown under the radar for years on card value and repsect with in the industry.  Let's take a look at the two cards.

1997 Bowman Roy Halladay RC

Halladay has the easier case to make in terms of Hall of Fame credentials, so I will get his card out of the way first.  If you are looking to add this card to your collection it will probably cost you around $5 if you are willing to look.  Beckett lists them at $12 and they sell between $4 and $7 on Ebay without shipping.  I acutally prefer the 97 regular Bowman cards over the Chrome.  I am aware that the Chrome card lists and sells for more, but I love the black border of the base set and think over time you will see that feature make these cards a little more desirable for grading.  Dark backgrounds show imperfections easier and make them more condition sensitive.  

Basically, the guy spent ten seasons pitching north of the border and flew under a lot of radars during that time.  He's played for the Phillies for the past three seasons winning fifty games and throwing a no-hitter in a playoff game.  He's not pitched the Phillies to the World Series, as he was brought in to do, but he has a playoff ERA slightly north of two with two loses to Tim Lincecum and Chris Carpenter.  

Halladay will cross 200 wins this season, or next, and is also above 2000 strikeouts.  Checking his Baseball Reference page  shows that he is already exceeded the Hall of Fame metrics using the Black Ink and Hall of Fame Monitor while he is slightly off with the other two metrics.  However, Halladay is signed for two more seasons and should further improve his overall totals.  A nod should also be given to the fact that he pitched on many third and fourth place Jays teams and still was very successful, and was also successful pitching in that tiny little park in Philadelphia.  On to the next one.

1997 Bowman Adrian Beltre RC

When this card set was released everyone was all over Scott Rolen as the third baseman of the coming generation.  Rolen played great for about seven or eight years.  Rolen hit a huge home run in the 2004 NCLS off of Roger Clemens, possibly should have won the NL MVP that season, and racked up a whole bunch of Gold Gloves.  Then he got run over by Hee Seop Choi, cried a bunch, and got traded around a few times.  About that time, up came David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman and people jumped on that bandwagon too.  Longoria a few years later.

Now, during that entire 15 year span of baseball Adrian Beltre has been a very good third baseman.  Beltre has put up over 300 home runs, 2200 hits, 1200 RBIs, been named to five All-Star teams, won four gold gloves, and finished second in MVP voting twice.  Did I mention he only turned 33 this year?    Take a few minutes to check out Beltre's Baseball Reference page.  Scroll down to the bottom and find the column that shows comparable players and these names appear: Ron Santo, Cal Ripken, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline, Brooks Robinson, and Orlando Cepada.  It's money in the bank that Beltre plays five more years, at least, and the argument for putting him in the Hall of Fame is going to get louder and louder.  Back to the card.

Beltre actually has a whole bunch of rookie cards, including a very tough autographed rookie, that appeared in the Bowman set.  This is a very affordable rookie of a great player and an easy add for any collector.  Honestly, how can you go wrong spending three or four dollars to add a potential Hall of Famer's rookie card to your collection?  

Like the 1997 Bowman set?  Not appearing in my countdown is the 2003 Bowman Draft set.  This set has a similar black card design and some very solid rookies including: Jonathan Papelbon, Robinson Cano, and Ryan Howard.  At this point none of these guys are Hall of Famers, but it's another good addition to your collection.

2003 Bowman Draft Jonathan Papelbon RC 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

30 Year Top 50: 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

I am fast approaching my 30th year of collecting baseball cards in just a few months and have decided to share some more of my cards with the people who take a little bit of time out of their day to read about my collection.  The past week, I have spent time go back through my cards and have picked out the 50 best sets that I have collected over the duration of my time in the hobby.  As I was sorting through my cards and compiling my list I tried to evaluate the sets on several criteria.  Qualities such as design, innovations, key players and important cards weighed heavily in my decisions.  I also tried to pick out a variety of different years, companies, and brands.  Some sets are high end, some are low end.  One of the hardest parts of this process was judging some of the late 80s and early 90s sets which were produced in ridiculous quantities, but still featured important cards of important players.  Of course, discussion of the picks is always encouraged and most importantly I hope you enjoy looking back at some cool card sets.

#50 on my list definitley fits into the hard to judge late 80s/early 90s overproduced category.  If you paid more than $10 for this set you would probably be overpaying.  However, there are some major pluses for this set which allowed it to creep into the tail end of my countdown.  Namely, it features the only pure rookie card of one future Hall of Famer and one of two pure rookie cards of another Hall of Famer.

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition Jim Thome RC

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition Pedro Martinez RC

This set was released at the end of the 1991 season and is available only in set form and features 100 cards.  Of course, the two most important cards pictured above, are the only true rookie card of Pedro Martinez and one of two true rookie cards of Jim Thome.

The Pedro Martinez rookie features him in a Dodgers uniform before he was traded to the Expos for Delino Deshields.  Pedro Martinez, of course, went on to be on the most dominating and important pitchers of the 90's and 00's.  There are many people who also count his 1992 Upper Deck and Bowman releases as rookie cards too.  The Bowman sells more like a rookie card then the 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition, but the Bowman card is apart of a very important set (It's on the countdown). 

The Thome rookie is also a very important card that appears in this set.  He is also featured in the 1991 Bowman set along with the rookie cards of Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodrgiuez.  Personally, I finally bought the set for $9 a few summers back after I learned that Jeromy Burnitz had a rookie in the set.  I've heard people try to argue that Thome isn't a Hall of Famer, but he's got over 600 home runs and he's been successful since drug testing started.  He didn't have the postseason success that Pedro Martinez had, with the 2004 World Series, but he was an important player on some great Cleveland Indians teams in the late 90s. 

Overall, the set is pretty typical of the early Upper Deck releases.  The cards have the white border with a small green grass like design on the side.  The 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition release is extremely cheap and very easy to find, but it's hard to ignore a set that has two rookie cards of players as important as Martinez and Thome of been over the past 30 years.  While many people are annoyed that there are early 90s overproduced cards in their collections I have made my peace with these cards and am very accepting of owning them despite the fact that they do not really have any trade or monetary value.   

Like the 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition Set?  Not appearing on my countdown is the 1993 Upper Deck set.  Just like the 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition Set, the 1993 release was completely overproduced and had lots of ho hum cards.  It also has a Derek Jeter rookie card that accounts for almost all of the sets value.  Seriously, I once went to a card shop that was giving away boxes of 93 Upper Deck with large purchases.  One guy in the store opened the whole box, got two Jeter rookies, asked for the trash card, and literally threw away the rest of the cards.  A little extreme, but ask around and you will hear other similar stories.

1993 Upper Deck Derek Jeter RC

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Patch Card

I hope everyone is enjoying their Saturday.  It's been a great day here in central North Carolina.  I got some great work in on the lawn this afternoon and am enjoying the debut of Mizzou in the SEC this evening.  I am making two blog posts tonight.  This is the first and usual blog post I make a few times a week and my other post will be something special I am going to do for the next couple of months leading into 2013.

I spent a little time this week working on adding to my Miguel Cabrera collection.  I've picked up several good Cabrera pieces over the summer and thought this card was a great addition.

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Patch Card

The Triple Threads cards usually have print runs out of 36, 18, 9, 3, or 1.  The lower the print run the better the jersey and patch pieces attached to the card.  While this is not an autographed version of a Triple Threads card, it is a print run of just 3 and is completely made of patches.  The 5X and A on the top row, along with the ST and A on the bottom row, all appear to be apart of the same blue and orange patch.  Meanwhile, the LL and R on the right side of the card are another patch piece with white, blue, and orange.  This is by far my best relic card I have picked up of Cabrera and a definite upgrade over the other version of this card already in my collection which has a print run of 36.  I also have the autographed version out of 18.

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Six Piece Jersey

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Jersey/Auto

Friday, September 7, 2012

2006 Topps 52 Matt Kemp Autograph

I've been reflecting on some of the cards that are already in my collection this week and have taken a bit of a break from the cards coming into my collection from trades.  So, this weekend it's time to catch up a little bit.  First up for the weekend is this great Matt Kemp autograph from the 2006 Topps 52 set.  This card is a dupe for my collection, but is one of the real underrated Kemp cards out there on the market.

The card is technically a second year year card for Kemp, but it's an on card autograph and is often in high demand.  I actually traded one of these cards earlier this year at the beginning of the baseball season and the card literally doubled in value the next week.  Maybe not doubled, but not far from it.  I have traded a few other nice Kemp cards from my collection throughout the summer, but I have also managed to add a few really nice pieces too often at a very low cost.  

The dynamics of how people value Matt Kemp cards has intrigued me this entire season.  Last year I owned zero Matt Kemp cards.  About half way through the year I added one copy of this card to my collection for around $10 and added a second for just under $20 towards the end of the season.  I was also able to buy and trade for several nice relic cards for little or nothing.  All the trades and purchases were made with dealers or at card shops in the Midwest, which probably added a little to the discount, but given the level of performance when Kemp has stayed healthy it's hard to understand.  

A quick glance at Kemp cards on Ebay offers a similar view.  On the lower end of the spectrum of Kemp autographs selling on the site is his 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars autograph.  It's a fine card, but it's got a high run and is on a sticker.  Copies of the card have ranged from $12 to $25 in the past two weeks.  Did the value of the card double or half during that time?  On the higher end his raw Bowman rookie autograph has had a $60 pendulum over the past two months and the featured card in this post has had a $90 swing.  

So, what are Kemp cards really worth?  Given that Kemp was hitting over .400 at the beginning of May with an OPS over 1.300 and is entering the prime of his career at 27 I would bet it's towards the high end of the spectrum.  Kemp has had an injury plagued season, but the excitement his cards generated earlier in the season when he was healthy should be a sign to collectors to find the bargains available on Kemp cards and hold on for the long haul. 

Yearly, my favorite box is ____________.

The new Topps cards coming out is the best baseball card day of the year.  If holidays revolved around baseball cards, the drop date would be a national holiday.  My first memory of being excited for a new card release was in 1986.  More than anything else, I wanted a Vince Coleman rookie card.  I remember getting my first packs of that year at the Manchester Dierbergs.  It hurt a little bit that I didn't pull the card right away, but I wanted that was the card more than anything.  I eventually ended up with one, but it took me awhile that summer to finally land one.

1986 Topps Vince Coleman RC

The 1999 Topps set also comes to mind as being a memorable box.  The Series I boxes released right after Thanksgiving that year and I was away from home in St. Louis.  I still managed to locate a card shop nearby where I could buy my brand new Topps box.  In fact, for many years growing up and during the early part of my adult life the product was always released right after Thanksgiving, but before the holidays.  Topps has moved the release date back into January and February which irks me a little somedays, but I am still not sue there is anything like it.  The highlight from that set was the variation on the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run cards.  

1999 Topps Mark McGwire #220 62 Variation

Both variations were a huge deal for Topps that year and paved the way for a series a variation cards that still find their way into the boxes of Topps every year.  The 2003 Bonds cards also offered a variation on the Home Run Record, but I am not sure they hold the value that the McGwire and Sosa cards hold.  More recently I think the variations have become silly at times.  The 2007 Derek Jeter and the 2010 Ryan Dempster/Abe Lincoln stand forefront.   

Even today, there are still memorable cards each and every year even if the variations have gotten a little silly and out of control.  For example, this year I really enjoyed finding the complete set of 1987 minis.  They were a throwback to a set that I remember collecting as a kid and really enjoyed assembling the set, not only across the first series, but also the second series and into the update set which will release in a few weeks.  I especially enjoyed this Ryan Howard card:

2012 Topps Ryan Howard 1987 Mini

Pretty cool of Topps to put a card in with a player wearing an 80s throwback uniform.  It would have been a cool touch to see on some of the other cards in the set, but I realize you cannot get everything you always want.  

Going into this fall the days on the calendar are getting shorter and I still wish that Topps would change the release date back to fit in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but in the meantime I will offer one other suggestion for Topps heading into the 2013 set:

Can we please get rid of the airbrushed cards?

They have appeared in Topps sets for the better part of the decade and they almost always blight up the set.  For example, the 2002 Jason Giambi card features him wearing a Yankees uniform since he had just signed with the club that offseason.  However, the card just looks ridiculous with the airbrush. 

2002 Topps Jason Giambi 

As traditional as Topps tries to be this card throws tradition to the wind.  Everyone knows what the Yankees uniforms look like and, not matter your feelings for the team one way or the other, they never change.  This is not a Yankees uniform.  Why not put him in the Update set?