Thursday, January 31, 2013

2012 Topps Tier One Red Scheondienst White Ink Autograph

I am always on the look out for cool Hall of Fame autographs of Cardinals players, but had difficulty this past year in trying to track down several of the Cardinals signers in the Topps Tier One set.  One such autograph belonged to Hall of Fame second baseman Red Schoendienst.  The "Redhead", as he is affectionately known to Cardinals fans, signed several different cards for the Tier One set.

2012 Topps Tier One White Ink Red Schoendienst Autograph

The main difference between the autographs in the Tier One set is that one set of a players autograph appears on a vertical card, while another appears on a horizontal card.  Of course, each version of the parallel and vertical card has variations in the foiling and serial numbers.  My favorite cards in the set are the white ink cards.  Topps actually put out several dark background cards this year and had players sign the cards with white paint pens.  I had yet to add one to my collection, so the black card design with the white signature was an added bonus on top of adding an autograph of a Cardinals Hall of Famer.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

30 Year Top 50- 1989 Upper Deck

#1- The most important set of the past fifty years is the 1989 Upper Deck set.  At the time of the set's release there were three companies producing baseball cards, the biggest of which was Topps.  Most of the card manufacturers used thin cheap card stock, little or no gloss on the cards, and serious lacked quality control.   Upper Deck's entry into the baseball card marketplace greatly changed the appearance and quality of baseball cards for the better.

1988 Upper Deck Promo Wally Joyner

The work on the Upper Deck set began before 1989 and in a strange twist, the company actually issued their promotional cards for the set in 1988.  The two card promotional set featured two Angels players, Wally Joyner and Dwayne Buice.  The Joyner card is not very difficult to find and can usually be had for around $20.  The Buice is rare and will cost several hundred to add to your collection.  I picked up this Joyner promo card a few years ago for a great price and really have enjoyed having it in my collection.  

1989 Topps Bo Jackson

The innovations on the Upper Deck card were numerous, but the most important features that distinguished these cards from brands like Topps were the glossy finish on all cards, the full color pictures on both sides of the card, and the use of holograms to prevent fraud.  The cards were instantly a huge hit amongst collectors which brings me to the lone flaw of the 1989 Upper Deck set.  Originally, the Upper Deck company had set a cap for the production run of cards around 1,000,000 per card.  That number disappeared once the cards started selling quickly.  

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

The first card in the 1989 Upper Deck set is one of the most important baseball cards ever.  If you look at a checklist on a set of Topps baseball cards you will notice that they tend to load the front half of sets with star players.  Upper Deck decided to take the opposite approach and use the first part of their sets on rookies.  The trend of making the first thirty to fifty cards "Star Rookies" ran all the through the company's last baseball card set which was released in 2010 without a license from Major League Baseball.  Upper Deck gave the first spot in their first set to Seattle Mariners prospect Ken Griffey Jr.  At the time of the cards release, Griffey Jr. was playing for the San Bernadino Spirits and had yet to actually play in a Major League game.  Upper Deck ended up actually taking a picture of Griffey in his minor league uniform and then doctored the photo slightly to make it have the appearance of a Mariners jersey.  The "S" on the hat is slighty off from the 1989 Mariners cap.  

1989 Upper Deck Craig Biggio

While the Ken Griffey Jr. card is regarded as the iconic card of the 1989 Upper Deck, there are at least five other Hall of Famers in the set.  I guess I should say, in my opinion, but in this case I think they are all on solid ground.  Biggio is my favorite non-Griffey rookie card since he is wearing the cool rainbow Astros jersey.  Biggio is also the only important rookie card which is not in the Star Rookies subset at the beginning of the set.  Instead, Biggio is in with the regular Astros cards.  The other three Hall of Famers are pictured below.  

1989 Upper Deck John Smoltz

1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield 

1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield

Card collecting changed dramatically after the release of the 1989 Upper Deck set.  While Upper Deck set the bar higher for Topps, Fleer, and Donruss, they continued to push the envelope during their twenty-one years in the baseball card business.  At the time of the sets release the Upper Deck cards were considered premium cards.  Soon after the other three card companies would follow suit with their own premier card brands.  Basically, the 1989 Upper Deck set helped all baseball card collectors.  The set put a strong emphasis on innovation and quality which is still pushing card companies to this day to constantly improve their cards and strive for them to be a quality product.  


Monday, January 28, 2013

30 Year Top 50: 2001 Topps Heritage

#2- The 2001 Topps Heritage set is an absolute masterpiece on cardboard.  While, it's not my number one set on my countdown I had a long debate about putting this set up one more notch from where it sits at #2.  The concept of the Topps Heritage set is simple: start with the 1952 Topps card design and issue a set of modern cards following the design, photography, and overall set up of the set.

1952 Topps Johnny Lipon

Topps would end up resizing the cards from their 1952 size to fit the mold of the 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 modern card size.  The rest of the set would follow the 1952 set to a tee.  Both sets were 407 cards which included short prints in the first eighty cards of the set and the high numbered cards at the end of the set.  The first eighty cards in both sets were also printed in both black and red blacks.  While most cards in both sets featured red backs, the variation on the backs gave collectors something extra to track down.  

2001 Topps Heritage Andres Galarraga 

In my opinion, Topps did a fabulous job of recreating the 1952 cards onto a modern piece of cardboard.     One of my favorite features on the 1952 Topps cards are the pictures.  I am not sure how to create that effect with a photograph, but 50 years later many of the cards in the 2001 Topps Heritage set could fit in with the 1952 Topps set.  Really, before this set was issued Topps did not do enough as a company to highlight it's history within the industry.  While they can be annoying with the history thing at times now, they had not worn it out when they released this set.  The Andres Galarraga card above is a low numbered short-print with the black back.  The low numbered short prints are not as short-printed as the high short prints, but they can be a little bit tricky to track down.  

2001 Topps Heritage Edgar Renteria 

The cards in the middle of the set are referred to as the "commons" of the set.  They obviously are not very difficult to find on the secondary market and can be found in large lots often if you are looking to complete the set.  While they are not as valuable or as rare as the rest of the set, I still love looking through the commons just to look at the cards.  Most of the Cardinals cards in the 2001 set are in the "commons" group which lessens does lessen the monetary value of the set, but it is one of my favorite Cardinals team sets that I own.  Will Clark and Eric Davis in a Cardinals uniform is cool, but I also like some of the horizontal cards like this Edgar Renteria.  

2001 Topps Heritage Jeff Conine

The high number cards in the set tend to be the tougher finds and were seeded at a rate of 1:2 packs, or 12 per box.  In other words, it took several boxes of Topps Heritage to assemble a complete run of high print cards.  However, the boxes for this set did not stick around very long and collectors were generally forced to trade or buy their way to complete this set.  Some of the high numbers are common players, some are mediocre, and there are several stars which are difficult to find.  What makes a great set?  This Jeff Conine card was the last short print I needed to finish this set off several years ago.  I found a copy of the card on Ebay, watched it, and at the last minute tried to buy it.  I ended up spending almost $10 on a Jeff Conine card.  The high number short-prints in this set still sell at premiums and several of the cards have dried up.  

2001 Topps Heritage Cal Ripken

In my opinion, there are three tough high numbered cards: Cal Ripken, Mike Piazza, and Manny Ramirez.  Those three cards rarely sell for less than $10, but can push $20 if you are trying to use an auction site and the bidding gets competitive.  However, I think most people that have assembled this set have run into a card or two that was surprisingly difficult to track down, or cost a little bit more than they had anticipated.  

2001 Topps Heritage Fernando Vina Autograph 

The Topps Heritage set also featured a strong set of inserts that the Topps has generally run throughout the Topps Heritage line over the past decade.  One of the most exciting parts of the Topps Heritage release every year is the autograph list.  There are usually some really good signatures in the sets and the cards certainly carry a premium over some of Topps other autograph issues.  I actually originally owned two of these autographs, but decided to downgrade a bit after cashing out for $1,100.  Currently, I own a Fernando Vina autograph from this set.  I know it does not really seem impressive, but the autographs in this set truly carry a premium.  Most Fernando Vina autographs sell for less than $5.  This Fernando Vina autograph rarely sells for less than $30-$40.  In fact, I thought about looking for a Sean Burroughs autograph after he played for the Durham Bulls a few years ago, but after fidning that the cheapest copy was $50, I decided I really did not need one.  Imagine what good players sell for, if you can even find them.

Overall, an outstanding set and worth your time to pick up a few for your collection.  This set is an excellent challenge for the persistent and the completed set is awesome to look through.  In my opinion, the best product that Topps has put out during my time collecting baseball cards.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2012 Bowman Chrome Draft James Ramsey Autograph

I picked up a new Cardinals autograph, this past week in a small trade, of Cardinals draft pick James Ramsey.  I got to see Ramsey play a few times over the past few years while he was playing at Florida State and enjoyed watching him play.  I am not sure how he will do as a professional player, but I am still trying to collect some of his cards since I saw him a few times in college.  Last summer Ramsey only played a half a season with the Palm Beach Cardinals.  During that time he only batted .229 and slugged .314.  However, he displayed great patience at the plate walking 33 times in 56 games.  Ramsey also had 13 extra base hits during his short time in A ball.

2012 Bowman Chrome Draft James Ramsey Autograph

This card is my third Ramsey autograph that I've added to my collection over the past two or three months.  Ramsey has many autograph issues already and seems like a pretty good signer.  Many of his cards are signed with Bible inscriptions and seem to have a wide range of different inscriptions.  Of the three Ramsey cards I now own, two of the Ramsey cards include inscriptions and both of them are different.

2012 Topps Pro Debut Tim Beckham

I also was able to add a Tim Beckham jersey card in this trade.  Two weeks ago I added a sweet Beckham manu-patch card from this same set and was happy to add this jersey card to compliment my other Pro Debut Beckham.  

30 Year Top 50: 1992 Bowman

#3- When Topps reinvented the Bowman baseball card brand in 1989 they decided to include a draft pick/prospect for each team in the set.  Topps quickly evolved the Bowman brand in the direction of focusing on draft picks and prospects.  The decision to make Bowman the "Home of the Rookie Card" has had huge on the hobby over the past thirty years.  During my countdown there have been a total of seven Bowman products, including this set, and several others that I could have easily included in the mix and not heard a single word of complaint.  In other words, of the thousands of baseball card products released between 1983 and 2013, Bowman products make up more than 10% of the best products.  The past thirty years have been an incredible, and very successful, run for the Bowman line which is likely to continue into the future given the fact that there has become a greater emphasis throughout baseball to focus on producing quality minor league talent.  Twenty years ago few baseball fans and baseball card collectors could tell you the top 10 prospects in their teams minor league system, which now seems to be common knowledge.

1992 Bowman Manny Ramirez

In my last post I talked a little bit about how sets with a concentration of good rookie cards can raise the bar on some of the lesser rookie cards.  The 1992 Bowman set has three really important rookie cards; Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, and Mike Piazza.  The set also includes important second year cards of Chipper Jones and Pedro Martinez which often trade and sell like they are true rookie cards.  However, there are also several other good Major League players with rookie cards in the set.  Trevor Hoffman, Carlos Delgado, and Garrett Anderson are probably the next biggest three rookie cards in the set.  Each of the lesser three rookie cards is greatly helped by the fact that it resides in this set and not another.  For example, Trevor Hoffman's 1992 Bowman card frequently crosses $5 on Ebay and can be seen as high as $20-$30 for a nice graded copy.  Hoffman's Upper Deck Prospects rookie card is usually $1, or can also be spotted in the quarter bin at your local card shop.  

1992 Bowman Mike Piazza

The three important rookie cards in the 1992 Bowman set truly make this set a huge success, but this set also was the first "modern" Bowman set that Topps produced.  By modern, I mean that Topps included innovations such as foil stamping, improved card stock, and better finishing on the cards then the previous releasing in 1989, 1990, and 1991.  The set was very well received when it was released and was seen, in terms of quality, as being a premium set issue.  The important rookie cards and second year cards were just the icing on the cake.  

1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera

Now that I've squeezed a picture of all three important rookie cards into the post let's take our remaining time to talk a little bit about each of the cards.  Similar to the 1992 and 1993 Stadium Club Dome and Murphy sets, which also featured rookie cards of minor leaguers and draft picks, the Bowman set sometimes featured players off the field.  It's one of the unique card features from this area.  Who can forget Cliff Floyd pulling out his Michael Jordan impersonation for his rookie card?  As you look at the three cards above, clearly the Rivera and Ramirez cards fit this profile.  While the Rivera card can easily have been taken around a stadium, the Ramirez card was taken in front of the chapel on the campus of Duke University.  

The three players on the field were extremely important to the game of baseball during the past thirty years.  Piazza was easily the best offensive catcher of his generation and belongs in the conversation with Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Carlton Fisk as the greatest catcher ever.  While, he missed on the Hall of Fame this year, Piazza will be in very shortly.  Rivera is the easily the greatest closer of all-time.  He has had some great years, in terms of individual statistics and accolades, as well as being an important cog on several World Series winners.  The use of bullpens and saves have taken off over the past three decades and Rivera has certainly defined himself as the best in the business.  

Ramirez is a little bit trickier issue because of the debate surrounding steroids.  If you are anti-steroids in the Hall of Fame, than please stop reading and visit another page.  However, in my opinion Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of his generation and belongs in the Hall.  His overall career numbers are incredible and he was apart of an awesome run of teams with the Indians during the mid to late 90s where he hit seventh one year.  Of course, Manny also had a great run with the Red Sox and they would not have won two World Series without him.   Just my two cents.  One more card.  

1992 Bowman Chipper Jones

The decision to put this set in the top few of my countdown was a no brainer.  When I first started thinking about the top set during my thirty years in the hobby I wrote down sets at the top of my list.  As I went and started looking back through all of the sets I've collected, talked to other collectors in the hobby, this set always came up in the discussion.  Think of all the rookie cards produced by the Bowman line since 1989.  The 1992 Bowman set is where the "Home of the Rookie Card" really started and will always be remembered as the set that pushed the envelope on rookie cards.  


Saturday, January 26, 2013

1998 Topps Tek Ken Griffey Jr.

I started working on my Topps Tek set last week and decided to make a goal for myself to finish off some sets that I had started, but not yet finished.  I posted my checklist and have been busy scouring the internet for different cards and have managed to find a good chunk of the remaining cards that I need.  The tick now is to trade, bid, or buy what I need to finish the set as quickly as possible without overpaying in terms of money and cards.  I landed my first card I needed from the set last week and just received it in the mail.

1998 Topps Tek Ken Griffey Jr.

I actually had this Ken Griffey Jr. Topps Tek card en route when I posted my checklist, so I did not take anything off my wanted list.  I am going to keep track of my costs in assembling the set however to see if I can make it cost a reasonable amount of money and cards.  That one company list the set at $120 for a copy of each of the 90 cards in the set.  However, that company is generally a lot of mularkey and I prefer to find copies that have actually sold or been traded and find the price off of that.  

The last copy to sell on Ebay went for $67.90 including shipping.  I bought this Ken Griffey Jr. card for $5 shipped, but it probably one of the better cards I have left to add to complete my set.  I am going to try to keep my expense to half of the $68, rounded with the cents, or $34 to complete the remaining 32 cards.  That means I now have $29 left.  

30 Year Top 50: 2005 Bowman Chrome

#4- The 2005 Bowman Chrome set is the best collection of rookie autographed cards produced in the last 30 years.  There were many important rookie cards issued during the 2005 baseball card calendar.  Andrew McCutchen, Justin Verlander, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Bruan, Billy Butler, and Jered Weaver just to name a few. A quick glance at some of the card sets from 2005 will show that many of the important rookie card players made it into some of the sets.  There are even a few sets that included an autograph or two from the spectacular list of rookie players.  However, this set has them all on cardboard and almost all of them have an on-card autograph in this set.

2005 Bowman Chrome Justin Verlander Autograph

Like many of the chrome re-hashes of Bowman and Topps base sets, I did not initially collect this set when it was issued in 2005.  Instead, I slowly picked up the cards over a few years.  My first card that I went after was this Justin Verlander autographed rookie card.  I did not follow the Tigers too much in 2006, Verlander's first full season, until the Tigers reached the playoffs.  I was impressed by what I saw and decided that a nice Verlander rookie card would be a good addition to the collection.  

2005 Bowman Chrome Ryan Braun Autograph

About a year later I added the Ryan Braun autograph when the Brewers called him up and I decided to just pick up the rest of the set.  The set was really well thought of when it was released in 2005, but in the years since it's release the cards have really taken off in value and popularity.  In my opinion, there are seven key rookie cards in the set: Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Jered Weaver, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jacoby Ellsbury.  

2005 Topps Chrome Matt Kemp Autograph

There are other good players in set and I've heard people argue the pros and cons of the Stephen Drew, Billy Butler, and Matt Garza cards too.  However, I think that the three aforementioned players fall short of being included in my group of seven key rookies from this set.  Spend a few minutes looking them up on Baseball Reference and there is clearly a line here between the elite players and good players.

2005 Bowman Chrome Jered Weaver Autograph

One of the best ways to rate a great set is to pick out the great cards in the set and then try to determine their effect on the rest of the set.  If a set is not dynamic or spectacular the key cards will stand alone in spite of the rest of the set.  With great sets, the key cards have heavy demand and value, but also drive the popularity, price, and demand on the rest of the cards.  

2005 Bowman Chrome XFractor Jeff Niemann Autograph

For example, one of my first cards I picked up after the Verlander was this Jeff Niemann card.  He was the third overall draft pick in the 2004 draft and was a highly thought of prospect in the lower minors.  I watched him for a year in Durham playing for the Bulls and he seemed like a solid pitcher, but nothing spectacular.  His rookie cards generally reflect Niemann's level of performance on the field.  Most sell for less than $5 and are pretty easy to find.  However, Niemann has an autograph in the 2005 Bowman Chrome set which regularly fetches over $10 and often has competitive bidding on Ebay.  The only explanation for this specific card being twice as valuable as the other Niemann rookie cards is that it is valued more because of the set, rather than the player.  

2005 Bowman Chrome Jacoby Ellsbury Autograph

This set can rarely be found for sale as a whole, but collectors can assemble the set card by card.  All of the cards are still available on the secondary market and haven't really dried up.  Most of the good rookie cards in the set sell north of $100 with paralleled serial numbered versions going much higher depending upon how limited the print run.  I worry about the health of Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury, so I could see a slight slide with their cards in the future.  However, players like Justin Verlander and Ryan Bruan are not going to get any cheaper and I think as the continue to compile good career numbers these cards will be harder to find and even more expensive.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

30 Year Top 50: 2001 Bowman Heritage

#5- First of the Top 5 sets, in my opinion, tonight starts with the 2001 Bowman Heritage set.  The Bowman Heritage line started in 2001 and ran until 2007 when it was discontinued.  If there is one set I miss putting together every year it's this one.  The set had a similar concept to Topps Heritage and I know that many collectors felt like two Heritage sets was too many, but they had entirely different aims.  The Topps Heritage set used a previous Topps card design and focused on established players.  The Bowman Heritage set used a previous Bowman card design and focused on prospects and draft picks.

2001 Bowman Heritage Derek Jeter

This set is winner all around and it starts out with the design.  The 2001 Bowman Heritage set borrowed its design from the 1948 Bowman set.  The black and white photography with the white border is a great look and these cards do a great job of imitating the original classic Bowman set.  Topps, which produced this set, did change the size of the cards to the standard card size from the undersized original set.  

2001 Bowman Heritage Albert Pujols

The 2001 Bowman Heritage set had a total of 440 cards with the high numbered cards being short printed, just like the 1948 Bowman set.  The high numbered cards included a few important rookies including my favorite of Cardinals great Albert Pujols.  I've always thought this Pujols rookie was classy looking and I've managed to stash away a couple of nice copies of the years.  As a Cardinals fan, I unloaded parts of my Pujols collection after he signed with the Angels, but held on to my Bowman Heritage cards.  If you do not own a Pujols rookie and are thinking of adding one, this would be my first choice hands down.  

2001 Bowman Heritage Ichiro Suzuki

Of course, if it's a 2001 baseball card set, it would not be complete without an Ichiro rookie too.  This, again, is my favorite rookie of Ichiro.  I believe he might have a few more to choose from than Pujols, but I love the black and white look.  Add in the fact that this card is also apart of the high printed short prints and you've got a great card worth owning.  

2001 Bowman Heritage Chase Utley 

2001 Topps Heritage Miguel Cabrera

Beyond the typical Pujols and Ichiro rookie cards which were common in the 2001 baseball card sets, the Bowman Heritage set also put out the first cards of Chase Utley and an early card of Miguel Cabrera.  The Cabrera card is not a true rookie card, but it's a popular find among his card collectors.  The Utley card features him wearing a Futures Game jersey, Topps did not airbrush this product, and is one of a few rookie cards he had in 2001.  

2001 Topps Heritage Barry Bonds Autograph

Beyond the base set the 2001 Bowman Heritage set has a great run of insert cards.  They include a set of 1948 reprints featuring some of the era greats.  You can also find the reprints with stadium seat relics.  Sorry, no scan of Ferris Fain.  My favorite insert in this set is the run of autographs.  First, since the cards are black and white they offer a great background to sign over.  There are many collectors who assembled the base set just simply to use the cards for autographs.  The actual certified autographs from the set are low in number.  Topps only placed three modern and four 1948 era players in the autograph line.  The cards all ran at over 1:1000 odds except the ARod autograph which ran slightly below 1000. The fourth vintage autograph, a Ralph Kiner, is not officially listed on the checklist.  However, I assure you that it exists, is very difficult to find, and quite pricey.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Two Giants Autographed Rookies

I've slowed down a little bit on trading during the past few months in terms of quantity, but I am still finding many great quality pieces for my collection.  Earlier in this weekend, I set a goal to post a few  sets here and there and try to finish them off in a reasonable amount of time.  In fact, I should have a few updates on my Topps Tek post coming in the next few days along with another post on a set I am going to complete.  However, this past week I had time to complete a few trades with a few different traders.

My first trade for this week was for a pair of Giants cards.  I have been slowly working on assembling the Donruss Elite College Patches sets from the past several years and have had several posted in this space over the past few months.  The common cards really aren't very difficult to find, but some of the better players from the set can be challenging to find, or can be fairly pricey.  For the past year I have had my eyes open for a copy of the Buster Posey autographed patch, but have been unable to track one down until now.

2008 Donruss Elite College Patches Buster Posey Autograph 

The Posey autographed patch is one of the real highlight cards from the run of Donruss Elite College Patch cards.  I am not sure if this card is technically listed as his rookie, or not, but it often trades and sells like one.  Sure, there are other 2008 Buster Posey cards, but this card frequently approaches $100, or exceeds, $100 on the secondary market.  This card has also generally "dried up".  Meaning that it is difficult to find copies in the secondary market.  I was ecstatic to find this copy.  

2006 Topps 52 Matt Cain Autograph 

I was also able to pick up a copy of a Matt Cain Topps 52 autograph in the same trade as the Posey.  The Cain autograph is an on-card autograph, which is a plus, an hails from a really underrated set.  While there were huge quantities, four per box, of autographs signed for this set there are some really good early autographs in the set.  Some of my favorites include Matt Kemp, Ben Zobrist, and Justin Verlander. 

30 Year Top 50: 1993 SP

#6- This set makes my top ten as the home to an important rookie card of the past 30 years and also as a key innovative set.  The rookie card is the second Derek Jeter rookie to make my countdown, along with the Stadium Club Murphy, and is a hotly pursued card on the secondary market.  The 1993 SP set also made a key contribution to the style element of modern baseball cards.  Search Ebay, or any secondary card market site for die cut baseball cards from 1992 or earlier and you will get nothing.  Search die cut cards from 1993 and later and you will see how many card companies, sets, and cards have used this design feature.

1993 SP Derek Jeter

I'll start with the simple part.  The 1993 SP set is home to one of the most important Derek Jeter cards.  Personally, I am big fan of the Stadium Club Murphy card, but this one always seems to get a little bit more attention from collectors.  Raw copies of this card actually are cheaper and easier to find than the Stadium Club Murphy card, but it seems like there are a ton of graded copies of this card that are floating around that always sell for hundreds of dollars.  The 1993 SP Derek Jeter card is also one of those safe bets in baseball cards.  Jeter is always going to be a popular player, and unlike some other modern players like Ken Griffey Jr., there doesn't seem to be a downward trend on the value of his cards as he gets late in his career.  

1993 SP Platinum Power Mark McGwire

The 1993 SP set also featured one insert set, Platinum Power, which was a twenty card set.  Collectors would usually see about two or three of these cards per box and were pretty popular at the time of the sets release.  They are still fairly popular, but they don't enjoy the level of popularity that some of the other dried up mid 90s chase cards enjoy, such as the 1993 Topps Finest refractors.  All of the cards in the set generally sell for less than $5 and are easy to find on the secondary market.  

1993 SP Platinum Power Ken Griffey Jr. 

The most important aspect of the Platinum Power set was that it was the first die cut card produced by a major card company.  The concept of die cut cards is pretty commonplace now and there are new die cut cards available every year.  However, this insert set in the 1993 SP set kicked off the whole fad.  If you are a modern collector take a few minutes at some point during the next week, flip through a few boxes of your cards and see how many cards you have in your collection that are die cut.  Or if you are a vintage collector, take a trip over to Ebay and type in 2012 die cut and see how many different Topps products last year used die cutting.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Set In Progress: 1998 Topps Tek

In the next few days the card calendar for 2013 will officially kick off and I will start my 30th year in the card collecting hobby.  I have had a bit of vacation time recently around the holidays and spent some quality time hanging out with my cards.  After thirty years of collecting I am really happy with my collection, but there is always room for improvement.  This year I have decided that I am going to focus on tying up some loose ends with different card sets that I have collected during my time in the hobby, but have been unable to complete for various reasons.

Thinking about launching a massive search for numerous sets and numerous amounts of cards might be overwhelming, so I am going to work on putting together two or three at a time.  I will start simple and go with two.  My first set up is going to be the 1998 Topps Tek set.  I wrote a post back in September about the set and my pursuit of all the Ray Lankford cards in the set and a brief background explaining the concept behind the set.

Note, I am not assembling the complete set of 8,100 cards by taking on this set.  I am merely going to continue to look for my Ray Lankford variations while actually find one copy of all 90 cards in the set. Currently, I sit at 58 of the 90 cards in set.  I am not sure how long it will take, but if I am not choosy about the pattern I think I could find the remaining cards in two months.  

The cards that I need:

2 Kerry Wood, 3 Barry Bonds, 6 Frank Thomas, 7 Bernie Williams, 8 Dante Bichette, 16 Brady Anderson, 17 Vladimir Guerrero, 18 Dave Justice, 19 Chipper Jones, 21 Roger Clemens, 22 Mark Kotsay, 23 Tony Gwynn, 25 Tino Martinez, 26 Andruw Jones, 27 Sandy Alomar, 29 Gary Sheffield, 32 Curt Schilling, 33 Robin Ventura, 34 Larry Walker, 37 Paul O'Neill, 41 Pedro Martinez, 42 Derek Bell, 45 Kenny Lofton, 51 Cal Ripken, 52 Jason Kendall, 60 Juan Gonzalez, 62 Jose Cruz, 64 Edgar Martinez, 70 Chuck Knoblauch, 72 Tim Salmon, 73 Orlando Hernandez, 76 Derrek Lee, 79 Jeff King, 80 Mike Mussina, 82 Quinton McCracken, 84 Richard Hidalgo, 86 Mike Piazza

Friday, January 18, 2013

30 Year Top 50: 2001 Topps and Topps Traded & Rookies

#7- This was a hard set for me to rank on my countdown and I am actually going to spend a little bit of time talking about the both the 2001 Topps base set  and the Traded set together on this post.  The base set of the 2001 Topps set is 790 cards.  Last week, I posted the 1983 Topps set as the 15th best set of the past 50 years.  At the end of the post I stated that the set was the best Topps base set of the past 30 years.  Meaning if you line up the 792 cards in the 1983 Topps set, it will beat any other Topps base set over that 30 year period.  The Topps and Topps Traded & Rookie sets from 2001 aren't ranked 6 spots higher because of the base set.  Rather, they are ranked higher because of everything else that you get in the set beyond the base set.  The base set is still pretty nice.

2001 Topps Jason Isringhausen 

The same card design ran throughout the first, second, and traded sets of the 2001 Topps set.  The first two series of the set were a total of 790 and were all stamped with the 50th Anniversary stamp in the top left hand corner of the card.  The lone notable rookie card of the base set belonged to Ichiro Suzuki.  Since 2001 was Ichiro's first season in the Majors, Topps printed his full name on the card instead of the typical first name only Ichiro.  

2001 Topps Ichiro Suzuki 

Topps also issued a Traded & Rookies set that featured a stronger set of rookie cards than the base set.  First, Topps issued a second Ichiro rookie in the Traded set along with rookie cards for Jose Reyes, Justin Morneau, and Cardinals infielder Albert Pujols.

2001 Topps Traded & Rookies Albert Pujols 

In general, the rookie cards of Albert Pujols are the biggest drivers of the 2001 baseball card sets for Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, and Donruss.  Pujols had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all-time and his initial batch of cards often ranged from $50 or $60 for a simple base card from the Topps or Upper Deck card to near four digits for a copy of his autographed Topps Finest card.  Topps missed Pujols in the first two series of their base set, but managed to squeeze the future Hall of Famer into the Traded set.  In my opinion, this card greatly improved this set.  The vast majority of 2001 releases without a Pujols rookie are generally junk sets and can easily be found for $20 or less on the secondary market.  Sets with a Pujols rookie are often highly sought after, even after his career has started on a downward angle.  However, the Pujols card was not the only card to drive the 2001 Topps base sets and Traded & Rookie sets to a high perch on my countdown.  

2001 Topps Golden Anniversary Golden Greats Hank Aaron

As previosuly mentioned, the 2001 Topps set was the 50th Anniversary of Topps baseball cards.  The company went all out on every aspect of the set and really put together a fantastic product when the set is measured as a whole.  While it seems that Topps usually has a popular insert set each year, the 2001 set thrived on offering several excellent chase sets for collectors.  The vast majority of the inserts played on the tradition and history of Topps and featured both modern players and cards of the all-time greats.  For example, one of my favorite inserts from the set were the Golden Anniversary cards pictured above.  Topps used a wide variety of players with this insert set and broke the insert set down into several small subsets.  Topps also purchased cards from all 49 previous Topps sets and inserted them randomly into packs of cards along with autographs and game used cards.  

2001 Topps Combos Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez 

Some of my other favorite inserts from the 2001 Topps set also include the Rookie Reprints, which ran throughout the first two series and Traded set, and the Topps Combos cards.  The Combos set, which is pictured above, borrowed a more modern tradition from the Topps Gallery issues of inserting art cards into the set as an insert.  The Topps Gallery cards were the Heritage insert set and featured mainly modern players drawn onto a classic Topps card design.  The concept transferred over to the 2001 Topps set and many collectors credit with the creation of sets like Gypsy Queen and Allen & Ginter.  

2001 Topps King of Kings Bob Gibson Jersey

The tip of the insert highlights in the 2001 Topps sets were the relic sets and autographs.  The autographs were clearly the biggest highlight, but the relic cards were great too and well done for a relic set.  While the pieces of jersey are fairly modest and ordinary, Topps did a great job of limiting the selection of players and the quantity of cards.  The relic cards were insert at a rate of close to 500:1 and were only available in hobby packs.  The relic set also only featured eight cards, all of Hall of Famers, with four cards in each series of Topps cards.  

2001 Topps Golden Anniversary Great Johnny Bench Autograph

The odds for the autographs in the Topps set were steep and many of the cards have dried up and are no longer available on the secondary market.  The few top of the line autographs that do leak out to the secondary market sell at premium prices.  Some of the best autographs in the set include Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Chipper Jones, Stan Musial, Nolan Ryan, and Mike Schmidt.  The autographs were fabulously designed and the signatures are all clean and well signed.  Fortunately, if you must add one of these cards to your collection, Topps also inserted several younger players whose autographs have remained at low prices.  

2008 Razor Letterman Justin Smoak Autograph

I have spent the first couple days of the new year trying to fill in a few holes in my collection.  One of my areas of focus has been on college baseball players.  Over the last six years I have had a chance to watch numerous college games at Duke, NC State, UNC, and the ACC Baseball Tournament in Durham.  Watching college baseball games has given me the chance to watch many professional baseball players before they reach the majors, or even the minors.  

2008 Razor Letterman Justin Smoak Autograph 

One of my favorite players that I watched, during the 2008 Super Regional, was South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak.  South Carolina played UNC, in Chapel Hill, during the Super Regional and would end up losing allowing the Tar Heels to advance to the College World Series.  Entering the series he was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award for the National College Player of the Year.  However, I was really impressed with Smoak's play and have picked up some of his cards over the last five years since he was drafted, eighth overall in the 2008 amateur draft, by the Texas Rangers.  Smoak has since been traded to the Seattle Mariners where he has not produced much.  Last season, Smoak has an OBP under .300 and a slugging percentage under .400.  

Despite the fact that Smoak has not produced since being drafted into the Majors, I have still enjoyed collecting some of his cards.  This is my first Smoak autograph, but he really has very few to choose from and none in a Major League uniform.  After weighing my options, I decided to go ahead and add a Smoak autograph despite not being a certified issue.  Happy addition to my collection.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

30 Year Top 50: 2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights

#8- I am generally not a huge fan of the Chrome lines that Topps rehashes out every year, but I have to tip my cap to them with the 2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights set.  The set features a brilliant list of rookie cards which have allowed this set to quietly become one of the best sets released during the past decade.

2005 Topps Update & Highlights Ryan Braun

When Topps issues a Chrome version of a set I generally yawn.  The Chrome lines of Topps cards started in 1996 with the release of the 1996 Topps Chrome set.  The Topps Chrome cards looked exactly like the regular 1996 Topps cards except they had the Chrome effect.  To show collectors who do not dabble in the world of modern cards the difference, the card above is the Topps Update & Highlights version of Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.  This card was later placed in the Topps Chrome Update & Highlights set too which is pictured below.  

2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights Ryan Braun

I am not sure why, but collecting the same cards over again, but with different finishes never excited me.  There is generally a monetary difference between the base set and Chrome sets, but it is usually caused by a few select rookie cards.  I always managed to add the Chrome rookie cards that I wanted for my collection without opening a bunch of packs or sinking money into a box.  Instead, I could always find the cards as singles on the secondary market.  The game changer for the Topps Chrome sets started in the mid 2000's when Topps started placing autographs and a wide variety of parallels into the sets.  The changes caused collectors to flock towards the Chrome products, and in particular, the 2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights set.

2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights Jered Weaver 

As I mentioned before, the Topps Chrome Update & Highlights set started off with a set of great rookie cards.  The rookie cards included Ryan Braun, Jered Weaver, Ryan Zimmerman, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, and several others.  The Chrome single cards rookie easily surpassed the Topps Update & Highlights base set singles.  Within the Chrome Update set the different parallels then added even further value to the rookie cards.  

2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights Black Matt Kemp

There were several different variations on the rookie cards.  The most basic parallel card in the Topps Chrome Update set is the refractor card which has been a constant throughout the Chrome sets.  There were also Chrome Black and Red parallels which were limited in production to 250, for the black, and 65, for the red.  These parallels are highly coveted by collectors and they often sell for a premium.  For example, a basic Matt Kemp Topps Chrome Update card can be found for around $10 on Ebay or CheckOutMyCards.  The black parallel of the Kemp card usually reaches prices north of $100.  

2005 Topps Chrome Update Andrew McCutchen Autograph

The 2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights set also featured autographed rookie cards.  There are roughly 17 autographed rookies in the set and the two best cards belong to Reds outfielder Jay Bruce and Pirates star Andrew McCutchen.  While both are sticker autographs, they are in high demand and often fetch for a nice price on the secondary market.  A raw copy of the Bruce might fetch around $30 while the McCutchen card hovers just south of $100.  

Overall, this is my second favorite 2005 release.  There is one more 2005 set that ranks above this one in my opinion, but the single rookie cards in this set are a can't miss for any baseball card collector.  The fact is, that this set started strongly when it was released, but has continued to gain steam and popularity as the players have reached the majors and have played there for multiple seasons.  While some might look at the value of the cards in this set as excessive and high, the value in the case of the 2005 Topps Chrome Update & Highlights set is well worth with it.