Friday, September 30, 2011

1997 Denny's Holograms (Pinnacle) Alex Rodriguez

 Set size: 30 cards

Front Design: The cards use Sportflics technology on the front, featuring a full-bleed motion photo with a white band across the bottom containing the Denny's logo, player name, and team name. The 1997 Pinnacle logo appears at the top.

Back Design: The left half of the back has the player's vitals, career highlights, and prior year and career statistics over a baseball background. The right half of the card has a hologram portrait of the player.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Denny's patrons could buy a card for 59 cents each when purchasing a meal and drink. Card #30, Larry Doby, was distributed exclusively in the Cleveland area and isn't considered part of the set.

Thoughts: The set contains one card from each team, plus a commemorative Jackie Robinson card and the Larry Doby commemorative card. While the Sportflics card concept never really caught on, this design makes for one of my favorite Denny's sets, second behind the 1994 issue.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

1998 Stadium Club One of a Kind

Set size: 400 cards

Front Design: The cards parallel the 1998 Stadium Club set. A high-quality full-bleed color photo is interrupted only by the player's name in the bottom left corner, and a small Stadium Club "One of a Kind" baseball seam design in the lower right corner. The cards have a metalized foil finish.

Back Design: The backs are identical to the 1998 Stadium Club set, with another color photo filling most of the card. The player's name and card number is in the upper right corner and a baseball seam design fades most of the photo in one of the lower corners. A triangle with arced corners holds the player's vitals, statistics, and a short biography (the amount of information varies by player). On veteran players, a career highlight appears at the bottom of the card, aptly named "The Bottom Line." Cards are serial numbered in the upper-right corner.

Parallels and Similars: This set is a parallel of the 1998 Stadium Club set. There are two other serial numbered parallels in this issue; First Day Issue had a 200-card print run, and printing plates.

Distribution: Cards in this set had a 150-card print run. Cards were randomly inserted into hobby packs at 1:21 to 1:24 odds, and HTA packs at 1:13 to 1:14 odds.

Thoughts: I'm not sure why Topps felt the need to include a second parallel so closely numbered to the traditional First Day Issue set. I'm also not sure why a set called "One of a Kind" isn't a one of a kind issue (thus numbered 1/1). For a set that features some of the best photography seen from year to year, the foil treatment detracts from the card image.

Additional Images:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2002 Leaf League of Nations

Set size: 10 cards

Front Design: A color photo of a player is cropped over a background containing a globe and national flags of various countries - the player's home country flag is printed brighter than the others. His name and team logo appear at the top, and the set name is printed next to the photo in silver foil. The cards are printed with a foil background.

Back Design: The flags, globe, and set logo are repeated at the top, followed by the player's name and team in a black band. The bottom half of the card has a short highlight biography printed in English and the language of the player's nationality.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were inserted 1:60 packs of 2002 Leaf.

Thoughts: A large quantity of players in the set are from Asian countries, possibly due to the Asian craze that swept the hobby after Ichiro's success in 2001. The overall design and set concept are great, except for the foil background.

2010 Topps Series 2 Attax Code Cards

Set size: 27 cards

Front Design: The fronts are set up to play the Topps Attax game, with a player photo over a grayscale background, his team logo in the upper-right corner, and the player's name on the left-hand margin. The bottom of the card contains a ToppsTown code and three numbers related to the game.

Back Design: The backs are identical from player to player, with a mostly-blue deck design. The Topps Attax logo features prominently in the middle, but a giveaway as to which player might be on the front is the team logo in the lower half of the card.

Parallels and Similars: These cards are parallels of the regular Topps Attax set, with the addition of the ToppsTown code printed in the middle of the card. Each series of flagship Topps (including Update) has its own code set, and the only way of distinguishing between series is to check the code in the very bottom-right of the card back: Series 2 cards have Code #36210156. Any Topps card with a CPSIA code can be identified at the Topps Website, although it won't give you the exact set. Entering this code at the website tells you this is 2010 Topps Baseball Series 2 Reprint, but that is good enough to identify the series.

Distribution: Cards were inserted one per second series flagship Topps pack.

Thoughts: I'm sure these cards would be much more fun if I played the game. The 2010 issue doesn't have much pizzazz, and it doesn't feel like a game card. Instead, the Attax code set feels like an afterthought, added to packs as a filler or dummy. Unfortunately for pack openers, the card counts toward the total count.

Additional Images: card back (enlarged to show code at bottom)

Monday, September 26, 2011

1998 Stadium Club In The Wings

Set size: 15 cards

Front Design: A radiating-circle holofoil design is on the sides and bottom of a color photo. The bottom of the card contains the set name and the player's name.

Back Design: The vertical backs have another photo at the top. The player's name, position, team, vitals, and prior year statistics are in the center of the card, with a short biography at the bottom. The radiating circles repeat as a background behind the text.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were inserted 1:36 first series Stadium Club packs, and 1:12 HTA first series Stadium Club packs.

Thoughts: The backs look more like a minor league release than an insert. The checklist is fairly impressive for a rookie-based set. The foil design is typical late-90's Topps, but it's a solid design.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2007 SP Authentic Authentic Speed

Set size: 50 cards

Front Design: A color photo of the player is shown over a double ellipse design. The inner ellipse contains the background for the photo, while the outer ellipse has a closeup of the photo printed in a team color. The outer ellipse has a circle which holds the team logo; beneath that is the player's speed statistic (stolen bases). The set name and player name is in the lower left.

Back Design: The ellipse design repeats on the back with a short career highlights paragraph and a repeat of the player's speed statistic.

Parallels and Similars: The set has the same design as Authentic Power, issued in the same series (see yesterday's post). There are no actual parallels, relics, or autographs.

Distribution: Cards were inserted in 1:2 packs of 2007 SP Authentic. As such, each pack contained either an Authentic Speed or Authentic Power insert.

Thoughts: I might enjoy the Power version of the insert a little bit more because of the checklist - there are no players in this set that I collect.

Additional Images: card back:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2007 SP Authentic Authentic Power

 Set size: 50 cards

Front Design: The color player photo is placed over a double-ellipse design, with the inner ellipse containing the background and the outer ellipse containing a closeup of the photo printed in a team color. The team's logo is in a circle on the right and his power statistic is beneath it. The player's name and set name are in a box in the lower left.

Back Design: The backs repeat the ellipse design, which holds the set name, player name and team, power statistic, and a short highlight paragraph.

Parallels and Similars: There are no parallels, but a similar set called Authentic Speed was released in the same set.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into 1:2 packs of 2007 SP Authentic.

Thoughts: The set is fairly attractive, and was created without parallels, relics, or autographs in mind. It's not quite my collecting style, but the cards would be nice for my player collections (Pujols, Griffey Jr, Thomas, and Chipper are all in the set).

Additional Images: card back:

Friday, September 23, 2011

1998 Topps Gallery Player's Private Issue Auction

Set size: 150 cards

Front Design: The cards have a color photo surrounded by a frame designed to look like a piece of art hanging in a museum. The bottom of the frame states "Players Private Issue" and the player's name is beneath the frame.

Back Design: The backs contain the official rules for the Gallery auction, where players could bid using the auction points in the upper-right corner on one of ten pieces of framed artwork.

Parallels and Similars: The set parallels the regular Topps Gallery release and the fronts are identical to the Private Issue parallel, which is printed on thicker card stock and has regular card backs with statistics.

Distribution: Cards were inserted one per pack of 1998 Topps Gallery.

Thoughts: Even though these cards are simply a way to enter the auction, compiling a full set of 150 cards is a challenge. By including players on the front, the set becomes something more than a filler card to be thrown away, which was a smart move by Topps.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2002 Topps Heritage Classic Renditions

Set size: 10 cards

Front Design: The cards are supposed to show the player in 1953 team uniforms. A "painted" image of such is shown on the front, inside a thin black border. The bottom of the card contains the player's name and the set's name in a banner, beneath which is the team name.

Back Design: The gray cardstock backs repeat the banner design at the top, with the player's name, position, team, and card number. A short biography follows in a red box.

Parallels and Similars: An autographed version exists for three of the cards.

Distribution: Classic Renditions were inserted 1 in 12 packs of 2002 Topps Heritage.

Thoughts: I know Kerry Wood was a big name back in 2002, but the Cubs uniforms really haven't changed too much in 50 years. I like the idea of throwback uniforms, and I think it would be great if Topps took advantage of all the games that feature throwback uniforms to put together a couple insert sets showing players in older threads. The same could be done with some of the special event uniforms (such as Fourth of July). There are several teams that use alternate jerseys on Sundays which would be great for inclusion as well - perhaps a whole 30-card insert, with each card having four variations - home, away, throwback, and alternate. This would be a good idea for a set like Opening Day if done simply, or a painted set like Gypsy Queen where the different uniforms could be painted on to the players in the same image. Call the set "Alternate Threads" and have a relic parallel set for some of the players.

By the way, I think we're finished with Heritage for a while. I'm not sure how I ended up with so many Heritage cards, of several years, all at once.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2010 Topps Heritage News Flashbacks

Set size: 10 cards

Front Design: A photo relating to the subject is surrounded by a thin black border. The bottom of the card has a semicircle with the Topps Heritage logo, and two colored bars with a title and subtitle.

Back Design: The gray card stock backs repeat the title in a black bar at the top, along with the card number. A yellowish panel contains a write-up about the topic. A cartoon at the bottom contains an additional news headline from the year.

Parallels and Similars: The News Flashbacks series has existed since 2008.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of 2010 Topps Heritage.

Thoughts: I enjoy the tie-in to the biggest news articles of the year. The design isn't too inspiring - I'd rather see the set look similar to some of the old news headline cards Topps issued back in the day, similar to the Sporting News All-Stars, or even replicating the non-sport issues like the back of 1962's Civil War News.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2003 Topps Heritage Chrome Refractor (AKA Retrofractor)

 Set size: 100 cards

Front Design: Cards are identical to the 2003 Topps Heritage design, which itself is based on the 1954 Topps design. Two player photos - one close-up portrait and a full-body action image - are cropped over a monochromatic background. The player's name, position, and team are at the top, as is the team logo. A facsimile autograph is placed over the photographs at the bottom. The fronts have a refractorized chrome finish.

Back Design: The backs replicate the 2003 Heritage design. The player's name, vitals, and career highlights biography appears in the white upper portion of the horizontal card. Prior year and career statistics appear in the middle, and a cartoon fills the bottom third. The card number is in a baseball in the upper-left corner, and the word "RETROFACTOR" appears beneath the THC-prefixed card number. Cards are serial numbered in the lower right corner over the cartoon.

Parallels and Similars: This is the rarer of the two parallels inserted into 2003 Topps Heritage. Other than the refractor finish, serial numbering, and retrofactor notation, cards are identical to the Topps Heritage Chrome set, which is a partial parallel of the regular 2003 Topps Heritage set.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of 2003 Topps Heritage. Regular Chrome cards, of which there are four times as many, were inserted 1:8 packs, so we can assume these were inserted approximately 1:36 packs.

Thoughts: The 1954 Topps design isn't my favorite, but it is one of the best. Seeing it in refractor version is okay. I have one real problem with the card: the serial number on the back could have been positioned better. I won't be completing this set, since I don't really care for Heritage.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2010 Topps Heritage New Age Performers

Set size: 15 cards

Front Design: A player's cropped image is pasted over a two-toned star background; the player's name and team appear in a black box across the bottom with another star in the center. "New Age Performers" appears across the top in black and red.

Back Design: A black box is at the top with the player's name, team, position, and the card number inside a baseball circle. A highlight biography, prior year and career statistics, and a cartoon fill the rest. The cards are printed on "throwback" style gray cardboard stock.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of 2010 Topps Heritage.

Thoughts: While the flagship Topps set has seen several insert changes over the past decade, New Age Performers has been an annual inclusion in Heritage since Heritage began in 2001. Like the other yearly inserts, there is nothing special beyond design and numbering to distinguish these from the base set. Since the design doesn't hold my interest, I've never collected this insert other than the single card needed for the Cardboard Zoo. For this card in particular, the biography links the 2009 Royals to the 1961 Senators and Greinke to Senators pitcher Dick Donovan. The card mentions Greinke's Cy Young Award, though the cartoon at the bottom shows the skinny-armed giant-chested player receiving a gigantic MVP button from the Monopoly guy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

1998 Stadium Club Royal Court (All hail King Chipper)

Set size: 15 cards

Front Design: "Uniluster" technology (whatever that is) was used to create the detailed, royal scrolling shield and border pattern surrounding a color photo. A foil banner at the top identifies the player as a member of the Royal Court, and his name is in a banner at the bottom.

Back Design: A second color photo is on the left, and a banner across the top and right identifies the player and whether he is a "king" or "prince" of some trait. Between the photo and banner is the player's team, vitals, and a writeup related to his trait.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were inserted into most types of second series packs at a rate of 1:36, and HTA packs at 1:12. Ten of the cards feature "kings" and the remaining five cards in the set are rookie "princes." There is no distinction in print run between the two groups.

Thoughts: The foil shield or scroll that surrounds the front photo has a great shine to it, and the whole card feels like foil overload in typical Topps turn-of-the-century fashion. If you're a fan of cards with intricate foil designs, you'll love this set like I do. If you're a traditionalist who hates anything but Topps Heritage and other throwback sets, you probably stopped reading this post a long time ago. I'm somewhat disappointed that I didn't already have a card from this set, because it would have been great to add this to my Chipper Jones PC.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2004 Fleer Greats of the Game Battery Mates

Set size: 10 cards

Front Design: A pitcher and catcher who were battery mates (hence the set name) are shown in photos on the left and right side of the horizontal card. The player's name and position appear beneath each photo with the team logo between the two. There is a large amount of empty space above and between the photos, which is partially filled by a Fleer Greats logo and "Battery Mates" centered on the card.

Back Design: The player's names are repeated in a banner at the top of the card, and the years they were battery mates are beneath the players' names. A highlight fills most of the card; the cards are serial numbered to a year during their combined career at the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: Seven of the cards have a single-signed parallel numbered under 80, and six cards have a dual-signed parallel numbered to 10.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of Fleer Greats. Cards are serial numbered between 1934 and 1979 depending on the years the two players were teammates.  

Thoughts: I don't care much for cards with multiple players, most of the time. That is partly due to many of the pairings being based solely on the players both playing the same position, having similar statistics or comparisons, or being on the same team (see also: 2011 Topps Diamond Duos). Some multi-player cards get the pairings right, and this set is one of them (see also: ~1993 Upper Deck Teammates subsets solely for the logos, pairings, and generally interesting photos). On the other hand, the design is so basic and there is no real effort to pair the two images together with some pitcher-catcher theming. Something could have been done with all that empty space at the top. So while I applaud the concept, I disapprove of its execution.

Friday, September 16, 2011

2005 Bowman's Best Green, Red, Blue


Set size: 143 cards for each parallel

Front Design: A color photo is surrounded on the right and bottom by a semi-transparent border. On the right side, four dots run vertically from the Bowman's Best logo to the nameplate at the bottom; First Year (card numbers 31-143) players are identified as such in the colored border. At the bottom, the team logo and player name appears in an L-shaped solid team-colored box. Depending on the parallel, the border overlays are red, green, or blue. Forty-three cards in each set (#101-143) are autographed.

Back Design: The backs contain a dot-matrix pattern in the same color as the front. The player's name, position, team, vitals, and prior year highlight appear on the upper right, while prior year stats are stacked against the league and level averages. The cards are serial numbered in the lower right corner (see Distribution, below).

Parallels and Similars: These cards are all parallels of the base Bowman's Best set. There are three other parallels: Gold, Silver, and Black, plus printing plates.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of Bowman's Best. Green cards are serial numbered to 899 (399 for autographed cards), Blue cards are numbered to 499 (299 for autographed cards), and Red parallels are numbered to 199 (199 for autographed cards).

Thoughts: Bowman sets are known for their parallels, and six parallels with this set isn't surprising. These three cards are attractive, much more so than the gold-bordered parallels in the regular Bowman set. Being that Best is a premium issue, that should be expected.

Additional Images: card backs:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

1990 ProCards A and AA

Set size: 200 cards

Front Design: a neon orange background surrounds a wavy-cropped, red and white bordered photo and red box with the player's name, position, and team at the bottom. The ProCards logo appears in the upper left. (See Jason's comment below.)

Back Design: The backs are similar to most 1990 ProCards backs, with vitals and minor league statistics.

Parallels and Similars: None known. ProCards team sets feature a woodgrain plaque design, and the AAA sets have white or green borders.

Distribution: Cards were issued in packs and complete set form.

Thoughts: The bright colors make these easily found in most card stacks. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, given the number of players who didn't make the major leagues. There are several standouts in the set, though, including Frank Thomas and Jim Thome.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2005 SP Collection of Stars

Set size: 100 cards

Front Design: A cropped color photo is placed over its black and white background. The bottom of the card contains a tangent-arc design around the team logo. The team name and player's position are on the left of the logo; serial numbering is on the right. The set name in a pinched-banner design follows the bottom border.

Back Design: The tangent-arc design carries over to the back, where the player's name, position, and prior years (up to five) and career stats appear. A career highlight appears beneath the totals.

Parallels and Similars: Jersey and autograph versions exist.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of SP Collection, which combined SP Authentic and SPx. The set is serial-numbered to 299 total cards issued of every subject.

Thoughts: Completing the set is a decent challenge based on the checklist alone - in fact, at 100 cards, it is just as large as the SP Authentic or SPx base set (not including update additions). Being limited to 299 cards means it's a tougher set finish than most parallels. The design is attractive enough for an insert (at least on the front).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

1990 Best Minor League

Set size: 324 cards

Front Design: A full-bleed photograph contains the player's name, team, and position overprinted in black or white in one of the corners. The end of the set contains "bonus cards" (notated on back, but also numbered sequentially in the set) with black borders and red triangles in the photo's corners.

Back Design: The backs contain a "frame" in black and faded pink, containing the player's name, position, vitals, career summary, and prior year statistics. There is space for an autograph at the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: None known, though the front design (or lack thereof) is somewhat similar to other issues - how many ways can you do "minimal" design? These cards are easily distinguished by the copyright information at the bottom. Note: Best team sets contain a completely different design with white borders.

Distribution: Cards were issued in packs of 12 through the hobby.

Thoughts: The lack of front design makes this set favorable, but the image quality and frequent use of posed shots mean the cards aren't as attractive as they could be. Some cards have action shots. For about $5, this would be a good addition to a collection. Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas (with a regular card and a bonus card) are the only major stars in the set (Luis Gonzalez, Bernie Williams and Ryan Klesko also make an appearance).

Monday, September 12, 2011

1986 Southern League All-Stars

Set size: 25 cards

Front Design: The top of the vertical card proclaims this player a 1986 "Future Star" surrounded by six red stars (other words, such as MVP and All-Star are used on other players). A thin black border contains a color photo, the Southern League logo, and the player's name, team, and position.

Back Design: The horizontal backs contain player's vital stats, a short biographical note, 1986 season stats, and team name and logo and set-identifying information at the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: none known

Distribution: Cards were likely sold by Jennings through hobby dealers, and possibly in stadiums.

Thoughts: There's a lot of white space on these cards, but it features a design that's somewhat unique among minor league card sets. Canseco, McGwire, and Glavine are also in this set, but my SC guide lists it at only $9, which means it was probably produced in much greater quantities than normal team sets. The stats are accurate through August 18, 1986, which might have been the end of the season. It's very difficult to readily find information like this! If that is the case, the set may not have been sold in stadiums until 1987 if at all. However, the hobby network would have seen this set soon as it could be printed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

1987 Chattanooga Lookouts Best

 Set size: 26 cards

Front Design: A purple border surrounds a color photo with diagonal horizontal borders. The team's city and year of issue appears at the top, while the player's name and position are in a yellow-bordered white band at the bottom of the photo. The team logo also appears at the bottom of the card.

Back Design: The black on white/gray backs have the player's name and position and vital statistics at the top, while a professional career summary and prior minor league experience. The card number is in the upper left inside a baseball.

Parallels and Similars: Other Best minor league issues of the year will have similar designs.

Distribution: Sets would be sold through the company, dealers, and sometimes through the team store.

Thoughts: The design reminds me a LOT of 1986 Donruss. See both images for examples (the card back for the Best card is below). While others don't like the '86 Donruss design, it doesn't really turn me off. I never saw enough of it to get tired of the (admittedly plain) design, and the Canseco card was the first real, expensive card I ever owned... back when it was expensive. Is there any connection between Best and Donruss? It is very difficult finding information online on "Best minor league cards" given that everyone wants to tell you about their best minor league cards in their collection.

Additional Images: card back (different back shown):

Friday, September 9, 2011

1988 Star McGwire Green and Yellow

Set size: 12 cards for the yellow set, 11 for the green

Front Design: Both sets are identical - a color photo is framed by a small black and white lined border, with the A's logo in the lower-left corner and McGwire's name and the card's title along the bottom border. The cards have either a green or yellow border, depending on the set. "Star '88" appears in the upper-right corner.

Back Design: The backs are identical and all printed in a green ink, repeating McGwire's name, the card title, and the A's logo at the top. The majority of the card is devoted to statistics, one season's highlights, career highlights, or other information about McGwire. These two sets are identified by the 1984 copyright date (despite the Star '88 notation on the front).

Parallels and Similars: All 1988 Star sets follow the same design, and there are two more sets issued that year with Mark McGwire.

Distribution: Cards were distributed by Star through dealers as complete sets. It is very rare to find a set broken up, especially given that most sets feature only one player.

Thoughts: While none of the cards would win an award for best photo, trying to fill forty cards with different photos of the same player means some of the photos are rarely seen on cards. Well, back in the 1980s, I suppose Fleer was really good about getting photos of players in the dugout, but these days images like the two above don't show up often on cards. Given the amount of recycling Topps does with photos, you would think some more (interesting/fun) dugout and non-action shots would make it onto cards. If you'd like to see more of this set, head over to my main blog, where a post hit earlier today with more photos from the set.

Additional Images:
card backs