Thursday, December 29, 2011

2007 UD Black Game Day-Box Score Autographs

Set size: 42 cards

Front Design: The horizontal cards have a box score from a significant game in the player's career - for example, the Travis Buck card's box score above highlights his first career home run and reaching base 5 of 6 plate appearances. The left side of the card has (from top to bottom) the UD Black logo, a small photo with a serial number, the game date, and a team logo. The right side of the card has a dark box with a silver-pen autograph.

Back Design: The back has the same basic layout as the front, with design elements changed. The middle has a highlight writeup from the game and an authenticity statement, the left contains the card number, team logo, game date, and licensing logos, and the "autograph" area contains the location of the game celebrated on the card.

Parallels and Similars: Two parallels, numbered to 10 and 1/1, were also issued. There are other Game Day sets (ticket autos and lineup card autos) in the release.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of UD Black - a two-pack-per-box product where every card in the set is autographed, and each pack contains only one card. The Game Day Box Score set is serial-numbered to 50.

Thoughts: Any UD Black card is a good card - all cards are autographed and numbered to 99 or less. Players like Travis Buck can come cheap, though this is a landmark release and commands a premium because of its initial pack price. I like the idea of a set that highlights a specific event, as this set does. It's more than just an autograph!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Forgotten 2011: 2011 Topps Marquee Monumental Markings

Set size: 75 cards

Front Design: A player photo, usually a portrait, is overlaid with foil across the bottom. The lower portion of the card has an on-card autograph of the player represented, followed by his name. The cards are serial numbered in the lower-right portion of the photo.

Back Design: The backs have a grey frame. A box at the top has the player's name, team, and position, which is followed by a short biography. An authenticity guarantee follows. At the bottom of the grey frame is the card number, and beneath the frame is a tan/gold fancy victorian design.

Parallels and Similars: A gold parallel version exists.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into boxes/packs of Topps Marquee. The Monumental Markings set appears about one per box. The serial numbering for any specific player depends on that player's popularity (and thus cost for obtaining signatures) - superstars like Sandy Koufax signed only 10 cards, and many of the "common" players signed up to 600 copies.

Thoughts: This set was forgotten soon after its release due to another high-end issue arriving within a couple weeks. It's my favorite high-end set of the year. I could never afford Triple Threads or Tribute, and this set provides cards that are just as attractive at a better price point. Plus, all the autographs here should be on-card, which is important for today's collectors.

Monday, December 26, 2011

2007 Justifiable Just Black Edition

Set size: 50 cards

Front Design: The card features a black background with nearly-vertical grey stripes. The player's name, position, and organization are printed on the left and right of the photo, which is outlined in white.

Back Design: A cropped version of the photo from the front is printed in a rhombus; the player's name is above the photo and his position below. Biographical and minor league stats are beneath the photo. A serial numbered hologram sticker is placed over the lower-right edge of the photo.

Parallels and Similars: This set is one of several parallels - a few color versions, a few glossy color versions, and autographed versions of each.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of 2007 Justifiable.

Thoughts: Unlike many parallels, where just a border or foil color changes, this parallel changes the entire background to black. However, Just Minors products were meant for autographs, and most cards from these releases are forgotten. I don't care for the white border around the player, though without it his legs might disappear into the background.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2008 USA Baseball National Team

Set size: 60 cards

Front Design: A blue tinted flag is the background at the bottom, with gold foil printed over the top containing the USA Baseball and Upper Deck logos, and the player's name, jersey number, and position. The blue tint at the top identifies this as a National Team member (instead of a Junior National Team member). The rest of the card is a color photo.

Back Design: The top portion of the card repeats the waving flag with a cropped headshot and some biographical stats. His USA Baseball statistics and a short biography is printed in black over a grey background with a white USA Baseball watermark.

Parallels and Similars: Many autograph and memorabilia sets use the same numbering as the base set, but there are no parallels in the set.

Distribution: Cards were sold in boxed set form and included the 60 card base set, seven autographed cards, and two memorabilia cards.

Thoughts: The design is solid and USA Baseball sets are very popular. Tyson Ross is a pitcher for the A's now, though he's still too fresh to know how well he'll turn out.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2005 Just Autographs

Set size: 70 cards

Front Design: A color photo is placed on the left side of the horizontal-format card, beneath which is the player's name and team. The right side of the card has the Just Minors logo and the team's logo in grey.

Back Design: A cropped version of the front photo is in a gold frame in the upper left, and the color team logo and player's name is beneath. Biographical and prior-year statistics are on the right.

Parallels and Similars: Several, including printing plates, autographs, colored parallels, and glossy parallels with colored parallels. Most, if not all of those parallels are distinguished by serial numbering.

Distribution: Cards were sold in pack form - four cards per pack including one autograph, and twelve packs per box.

Thoughts: As with other Just Minors products, the focus is on the autographs, so the card design here leaves plenty of room to put the autograph sticker with not much effort put into the design. In fact, it follows some of the same basic principles as another recent set featured here: 2004 Justifiable. It's not surprising that Just Minors has moved away from trading cards to releasing autographed and game-used full memorabilia items. To see an autographed version of this card, see this post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2008 Allen & Ginters Mini Pioneers of Aviation

Set size: 5 cards

Front Design: A painting of an aviation invention appears above it's name in a color cloud. The bottom of the card has the 2008 Allen & Ginter logo.

Back Design: The top has the Pioneers in Aviation title graphic followed by the card number in a shield. The remainder of the card back is a list of crazy flying machines and their inventors.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: This unadvertised insert set was randomly inserted into packs of 2008 Allen & Ginter at a rate of about 1 in 6 boxes.

Thoughts: This would be another fun mini set to collect if it wasn't so rare. While the 2008 design leaves a lot of empty space on the card front, the subjects in this set are much more fun than, say, countries. It's more unique. If only these cards had video of them trying to fly - that would be the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2008 Allen & Ginter Mini Team Orange

Set size: 10 cards

Front Design: The fronts look the same as the 2008 Allen & Giner set, with a painting of a fictional member of Team Orange, followed by old-timey text of the "player's" name and the Allen & Ginter 2008 logo.

Back Design: "The World Champion"s and "Team Orange" are across the top, followed by the player's name. A paragraph describing the player's abilities follows.

Parallels and Similars: As mentioned, this set is based on the 2008 Allen & Ginter set. It can be distinguished easily by the "Team Orange" text across the top of the back, and the prefix "TO" before the card number.

Distribution: The cards were one of the "rare" inserts in 2008 Allen & Ginter, inserted one card for every six boxes.

Thoughts: Many people don't like the gimmicks and non-sport subjects in Allen & Ginter, and for them there are other throwback sets or just the base set (though that includes plenty of non-baseball subjects). I like fun sets like these, showing a bit of creativity from the Topps design team. Many of the fictional characters portrayed in Topps sets (this set, and Gypsy Queen's Gypsy Queen insert set are good examples) are based on actual Topps employees. See this post for details. I would love to have a full set of Team Orange cards, but given their rarity (and thus premium), it seems to be a bit too much to take on.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1982-89 Louisville Slugger

Set size: 14 cards

Front Design: The player's name is in a blue circle at the top, followed by a green-bordered photo with his position in a box in the top green border. The Louisville Slugger ID is beneath the photo in the green border. All cards have a hole in the upper-left corner.

Back Design: The boxy back contains both a short paragraph and bulleted points highlighting his career, followed by some biographical information.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were attached to products as marketing tools and perhaps as a small premium for purchasing the glove or bat.

Thoughts: Every once in a while, I find myself reading through one of the big books. Be it Beckett or SCD, I find pleasure in skimming the pages of all these obscure sets listed between the big companies. Somewhere between Leaf and Pacific lies Louisville Slugger. And listed for Lousville Slugger is this card, which was attached to gloves sold in the 1980s. Looking at a listing like the one for Louisville Slugger, I often wish I had taken advantage of some special offer, or saved the tag from my glove, or just bought that food item in the grocery store. Finding something as simple as a glove tag at most card shows is a lost cause. But occasionally I see something like this Steve Garvey, sitting in a dime box, looking for a home that can appreciate the torn corner for what it means - this card survived retail shipping, a shelf, and a baseball player with only minor damage. Finding cards that I didn't think I'd ever see is much more thrilling than seeing a random Topps insert marked down at 95% off, or even getting a great deal on a player collection autograph or relic. Those cards are easy enough to find - they're all over eBay, COMC, Sportlots, card shows, card stores, and the trading community. But how many of you have Louisville Slugger glove cards for trade?

I have to wonder if the cards were updated as the years went on. Steve Garvey appears as a Dodger and a Padre; Greg Nettles is a Yankee and a Padre. Perhaps other players had their biographies updated once or twice over the years. Incidentally, this set of 14 cards is the only issue ever released under the Louisville Slugger name.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2004 Justifiable

Set size: 90 cards

Front Design: A diamond-shaped player photo with a white border sits over a light-black (wouldn't that be grey?) team logo. The bottom of the card has the Just logo, followed by the player's name, position, and team in a wide black-bordered diamond.

Back Design: The front photo and diamond crop is repeated on the back with a gold border; the player's name is in the upper left and card number in the upper right. Just beneath the photo is his biographical information and the only notation as to the set, followed by prior minor league statistics.

Parallels and Similars: There are three colored parallels, four printing plates, and four autograph parallels to this base set.

Distribution: Each set-box of Justifiable included one complete set, while foil packs were also distributed.

Thoughts: The Just Minors products focus on autographs of minor league players, so there isn't too much effort put into base set design, as you can tell. There's plenty of room on the front for the autograph sticker, and space on the back for serial numbering. Like most Donruss issues of 2004-2005, the set is an afterthought to the autograph checklist.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2002 USA Baseball National Team

Set size: 30 cards

Front Design: The USA Baseball logo in gold foil is beneath a color photo in gold foil, with 2002 National Team beneath. The player's name is to the left, in a fading blue box placed over the photo; his position is in a separate blue box which fades into an American flag.

Back Design: The backs have a cropped headshot from the front photo and a short highlight biography over a background of the USA Baseball logo. The logo is repeated in full color beneath the biography.

Parallels and Similars: There are no parallels, though other USA sets have similar designs.

Distribution: Cards were sold complete in factory set form with an autograph and relic card for $19.99. Upper Deck claims to have released no more than 10,000 factory sets.

Thoughts: A full set, autograph, and relic for $20? These days, full USA Baseball sets retail for nearly $100, though those come with five autographs, two autographed relics, and three triple relics. I'll just pick up the $10 retail version with just the base cards. I enjoy USA Baseball sets, though I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the oddball nature of the sets - amateur players on "professional" baseball cards. Perhaps it's an interest in patriotic cards, though I don't collect non-sport patriotic cards. Maybe I just enjoy collecting Team USA because I saw them play in the 1996 Olympics. This is a nice set anyway, with a patriotic feel and gold foil highlights that add a touch of class without being over the top.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1991 Classic/Best Gold Bonus

Set size: 20 cards

Front Design: The white-bordered cards have a dashed line leading from the Classic/Best logo in the upper left corner to the player's name, in gold foil at the bottom. In the bottom border is the team name and player's position.

Back Design: The backs have a thin black frame and the player's major league affiliate logo as a background. The top row has the card number (BC prefix), the player's name in a red oval, and position. Following are the player's biographical stats, prior professional statistics, and information on how the player was acquired. The bottom of the vertical cards have the Classic/Best logo, MLB logo, and minor league team logo.

Parallels and Similars: This set is in the same design as the regular 1991 Classic/Best set.

Distribution: Cards were inserted one per jumbo pack of the Classic/Best minor league full set.

Thoughts: In 1991, only a few sets had gold foil: Stadium Club was the first major issue full set, and the Desert Storm parallel of Topps' flagship issue had a gold foil stamp. 1991 Leaf had an insert with gold foil, and a few of the 1991 Bowman cards had a small gold foil stamp. So this set ranks up there with some of the more "innovative" issues of the year. There are some players in the set that became successful at the major league level, including Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, and Arthur Rhodes. Mike Schmidt, hardly a minor leaguer, is card number 1 in the set.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

204 UD Diamond All-Star Promo

Set size: 60 cards

Front Design: A player action shot is placed inside a quadruple-matte frame of red and white, with his name at the bottom of the photo and "pick the starting lineup and win!" near the bottom. His position is in a blue flag at the left, and a code for entering the contest is beneath the photo in an oval box.

Back Design: The back has all the details for entering the contest, which involved picking the All-Star team starting lineup. The winner would win tickets to a 2004 World Series game.

Parallels and Similars: There is an e-card version which I believe would have allowed the lucky holder to instantly win a prize.

Distribution: While called "promo" cards, these didn't promote Upper Deck's Diamond Collection All-Star set, as they were inserted into packs of that product. There was also a Diamond Collection "Pro Sigs" issue released in 2004.

Thoughts: For a flimsy game card tossed into packs of Diamond All-Star, the design isn't too bad. Featuring different players on the front make these somewhat collectible in their own right. If only these cards had that red border around the photo done as a die-cut paper frame (similar to Gypsy Queen). Then they would be really cool!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2007 Bowman Sterling Prospect Refractors

Set size: 118 cards

Front Design: A player portrait is placed inside a shield-shaped border with the word PROSPECT across the top. The player's team is in a banner beneath the photo, followed by the Bowman Sterling logo. The player's name is in a banner at the bottom. The cards have a foil background with a refractor finish. Of the 118 cards in the set, 68 are autographed, and 18 of those have memorabilia inserts.

Back Design: The backs are monochromatic. A top banner has the card number (or, letters, in this case). Beneath the card number is a shield with a player headshot. To the left is the player's name and team, acquisition history, and a highlight paragraph. That is followed by his prior year and career statistics. The bottom holds copyright information and a serial number stamp.

Parallels and Similars: The entire Bowman Sterling line is essentially parallels. The prospects set has three refractor versions and printing plates.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into (very expensive) packs of 2007 Bowman Sterling. All the cards in the set are serial-numbered to 199, regardless of being a regular card (above), autographed, or autographed relic.

Thoughts: Bowman Sterling really hasn't changed in years, just like the other Bowman lines. However, it is the top of the line set as far as the newest prospects are concerned. The excessive use of sterling-colored foil is a turn-off for my tastes - with some color in the design it could be enjoyable. I get it - Sterling. Silver. But there's nothing that really pops on this card.

Monday, December 12, 2011

1993 O-Pee-Chee World Champions

 Set size: 18 cards

Front Design: The white bordered cards have a color photo with a thin black frame. The O-Pee-Chee logo is at the top, while the player's name is in a gold-colored bar near the bottom. The Blue Jays 1992 World Champions logo is also at the bottom beside the player's name.

Back Design: The colorful backs have a second color photo in the upper right, with the card number, player's name and position, and the Blue Jays logo to the left. His 1992 postseason stats are in a burnt-orange box in the center of the card, and a postseason highlight in English and French is at the bottom of the card.

Parallels and Similars: The cards have the same general design as the 1993 O-Pee-Chee issue, except for the gold bar at the bottom (regular cards have silver bars).

Distribution: These cards were inserts in 1993 O-Pee-Chee packs.

Thoughts: Sets celebrating World Series champions were inserted into several issues around this time - Fleer inserted them into factory sets, for instance. These days, Topps issues commemorative World Series Champion sets in time for Christmas, but there are no insert sets documenting the postseason that I can recall. The O-Pee-Chee design of this year is attractively simple, and the multi-color backs are pleasant to look at.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

1998 Pinnacle Performers Swing for the Fences

Set size: 51 cards (50 cards + 1 exchange card)

Front Design: The front of the card contains a background with several lightly-shaded numbers, over which his cut-out photo appears. His name runs up the left side, the Pinnacle Performers logo is at the top, and the Swing for the Fences logo is at the bottom.

Back Design: The back has a card number in the upper-left and the game rules.

Parallels and Similars: No similar cards, though a similar contest was run the prior year in Pinnacle products. There are home run point cards that go along with this contest.

Distribution: These player cards were inserted 1:2 packs of Pinnacle Performers.

Thoughts: There were no winners in this contest, as Pinnacle went bankrupt before redemptions could occur. The exchange card would have provided the recipient with an autographed Juan Gonzalez baseball. None of the upgraded cards were released. As for the contest, there were similar programs done in the 1990s (including the Crash The Game contests run through Upper Deck's Collector's Choice line). It would be fun to see Topps do a contest like this instead of simple wrapper redemption programs.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2003 Upper Deck Post: the last of its kind

Set size: 30 cards

Front Design: The player photo is cropped inside a rounded-corner rectangle over a single color low-res fading background. Horizontal rows of foil dots are above and below the rectangle, and the player's last name is in foil along the right side of the card. His team's logo is in a home plate in the lower-left of the card, and his position is in a red box in the lower-left. The player's full name runs up the left side of the card.

Back Design: The back puts the player's name at the top and his jersey number in large print in the upper right, beneath the player's name. To the right is a square close-up photo. The majority of the card holds a box with 2002 and career statistics and biographical information. The Post logo is in the lower right, above the other legal information, Upper Deck logos, and licensing logos.

Parallels and Similars: None known.

Distribution: The set was available via a mail-in offer that required collectors to assemble a full set of six CD-ROMs inserted into cereal boxes in 2003.

Thoughts: This set looks like most Upper Deck issues of the early 2000s, with geometric shapes, foil enhancements, and strange fonts - a very digital feel. In fact, you wouldn't know this was a Post issue if the little logo wasn't included on the back. There is one player per team, appealing to all team collectors, and the mail-in offer requirements mean this set is in shorter supply than most other Post issues.  I believe this is the last Post card set to be issued, and this being card #31 makes it the last Post baseball card issued to date.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2003 Donruss Signature Team Trademarks

Set size: 40 cards

Front Design: The team logo appears in a shuttered background on this horizontal card. A white translucent border across the tops holds the Team Trademarks "logo" with the team logo again; a player photo is off to the side, and the player's name and position are in a fading white bar across the bottom. The Donruss Signature Series logo is also at the bottom of the card. The card design is done in team colors.

Back Design: The team logo is repeated as the background, and the Team Trademarks logo is repeated from the front beneath a box with serial numbering. The card number is in the upper-right, followed by a fading-in white banner with the player's name and position. A biography follows on the right side of the card.

Parallels and Similars: There are two regular parallels and six autographed parallels of this set.

Distribution: This "base" insert is serial numbered to 500, and inserted randomly into packs of 2003 Donruss Signature Series.

Thoughts: Although there are cases of bigger wastes of card space, this issue is a perfect example of a design made specifically for autographs. The large empty space between Glavine, his name, and the Mets logo at the top of the card was created as a place to put a signature. While I appreciate an autograph card where the autograph is well-placed, I could do without the non-autograph version. That said, several Japanese autograph and relic issues come in versions without relics or autographs, and will provide a way for me to collect those sets without spending large sums of money.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

1998 Ultra Top 30

Set size: 30 cards

Front Design: "Top 30" in large print surrounded by steel-looking "+" symbols is the background behind a player photo. The player's name and position is in the lower right corner in team colors, and the Ultra logo is in the upper left corner.

Back Design: A second player photo is on the left, on top of the "+" background. The Top 30 "logo" is repeated at the top right, followed by the player's name in a team color, a short biography in black text, the card number in the same team color, and a team logo.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were inserted one per pack of 1998 Ultra Series 2 retail.

Thoughts: It's a simple design that works. I like the shiny fronts with the attractive set logo in the background. The card just stands out among others. The front isn't cluttered with crazy geometric lines, and it's obvious what the insert set means - the best 30 baseball players of 1998 (as far as Fleer was concerned). At one per pack, it's an inexpensive set to collect.

Monday, December 5, 2011

2000 Black Diamond Reciprocal Cut

Set size: 120 cards

Front Design: The color image on the front of the card is on the back of the regular release version, while the image on the back of this card was on the front of the regular set. The Reciprocal Cut parallel also has a die-cut edge and copper rainbow foil background. The player's name and team are in white and black rounded rectangles near the bottom.

Back Design: A pair of overlapping rounded rectangles hold the player's picture and a short highlight biography, along with player vitals and his team logo. The background behind the boxes has a grey version front photo.

Parallels and Similars: This set is a parallel of the base 2000 Upper Deck Black Diamond issue; there is also a gold foil parallel numbered  to 100.

Distribution: Cards 1-90 (regular cards) were inserted 1:7 packs; cards 91-120 (Diamond Debut) were inserted 1:12 packs.

Thoughts: I like this parallel for the die cut and the switching of the photos. Fans of late-90s foil will enjoy the heavy use on the card front. The low-res foil matrix rectangle on the front adds a bit of Diamond Vision video board feel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2000 Aurora Dugout View Net-Fusions

Set size: 20 cards

Front Design: A player photo over a baseball facility background fills most of the card, but the key gimmick here is the real net used in the card to make it look as though you're sitting/standing behind a guard rail. The set's name is along the left side, and the player's name, team and position are in the lower right. The net across the bottom is real and is embedded in a die-cut portion of the card.

Back Design: The net (and it's "railing") are visible on the back, which is aligned veritcally. Another photo background is behind the player's name, team, and position again, followed by a short highlight biography. The cards are numbered in the usual Pacific manner inside a white circle listing the set name.

Parallels and Similars: No other sets look like this, though there are other net-fusion sets issued by Pacific.

Distribution: Cards were inserted one in every 37 packs of Aurora.

Thoughts: I love many of the Pacific gimmick cards around this time, including the net fusion sets. They're tough enough pulls that building a set is a real challenge.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

1996 Team Out! Game - Piazza and Matt Williams on the same team?

Set size: 101 cards including 10 actions and 91 MLB players, sized 2-1/4" x 3-1/2" (just a little narrower than standard cards)

Front Design: Cards are designed like other game or playing cards, with rounded edges. Action cards have red or blue edges, while player cards have black edges. Real MLB player personalities are used in the action cards (see Mike Piazza and Matt Williams somehow both playing in the field at the same time, in different jerseys). Color photos are used for the actual players, with the position at the top and bottom of the card, and the player's name and team at the bottom of the photo.

Back Design: The unnumbered cards have a baseball sweet spot background, with the Team Out! logo in the middle and copyright information along the bottom. Backs are all identical, as with other game and playing card sets.

Parallels and Similars: None known.

Distribution: Sold as a boxed set, containing 37 of 91 player cards and 23 of 10 action cards. This means action cards were printed in much greater quantities than the player cards (if my math is correct, approximately six times greater).

Thoughts: I like the goofy cartoon above. Matt Williams finds it incredibly hilarious that Clyde is out. Piazza looks creepy, but with the mullet, he looked like creepy trailer trash most of the time anyway. I wonder if they're playing at some Team Out! All Star Game, as there's no other way Williams and Piazza would be on the field together in different NL uniforms at the same time. The card game must have never caught on, as I don't think there was a second edition issued. I would like to have a set of action cards for my art collection, though. Don't buy your singles from eBay unless you're desperate. While the full set books for $40, the highest singles are listed at $3, and honestly, most can be had for a quarter at a card show if you come across one (eBay prices are, as usual, much higher than book).

Friday, December 2, 2011

1996 Select Claim to Fame

Set size: 20 cards

Front Design: A color player portrait is bordered by marble pillars or columns and background, with Claim to Fame "etched" into the marble arch above the photo. The player's name and team are printed in foil beneath the photo. The cards are die-cut around the pillar and arch.

Back Design: The marble background is repeated, with a gold "plaque" describing the player's Hall of Fame-worthy highlight. Cards are numbered at the top, and among the trademark and copyright logos at the bottom is a rectangle proclaiming the card is one of 2100 sets produced.

Parallels and Similars: No parallels, though other sets have similar-looking designs. This set is easily identified by the name at the top and the 1996 Select logo between the photo and player name.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs.

Thoughts: I love this set, with its super-glossy feel and die-cut edges. The card tends to fall out of stacks, but properly sleeved it can be enjoyed. Pinnacle Brands inserts of this era are usually attractive and somewhat limited.