Monday, December 31, 2012
Design Notes: The player's photo appears over a monochromatic background; a plateau-shaped border at the top and bottom frame the image. His name, position, and team name are all in the bottom right corner, and a large serial number is in the bottom-right. The fronts have a matte finish. Backs carry over the colors from the front to provide biographical information, prior-year and career stats, and three highlight sentences in "Triple Take".
Parallels and Similars: Parallels have different colors for the backgrounds and design elements: sepia, emerald, gold, sapphire, platinum, and four colors of printing plates.
Distribution: Six cards appear in every pack, with two packs per box. Three of the six cards in each pack are base cards (serial numbered to 1350); the remainder are parallels plus a triple relic card.
Thoughts: Read the Triple Take on the back of Pedro Martinez's card. It basically says he's lost his power and is now getting by on tricks alone. And that is basically what Triple Threads is - a big trick. For just over $100, you get five cards that were designed in five minutes, plus a card with three plain pieces of jersey (and possibly an autograph). Granted, that might be a super-low numbered Babe Ruth bat card. Then again, maybe you have Elijah Dukes, numbered out of 99. If there ever was a product designed for high-rolling case breakers, Triple Threads is it. And there's just too much pale red on this card.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Design Notes: The base cards use the 2008 Topps flagship layout, with red borders. The team name is at the top with each letter in its own white circle. The Opening Day 2008 logo is at the bottom and on the back behind the statistics - the backs otherwise look the same as flagship Topps from 2008.
Parallels and Similars: White-bordered parallels with a date stamp in the lower-right corner and four colors of printing plates were inserted into packs.
Distribution: Six cards are in each pack, with 36 packs per box.
Thoughts: The red really stands out, which makes it easy to identify from regular 2008 Topps in a hurry. The use of team colors, different colors for different cards in the set, or multiple colors (like 1975 Topps) would add some much-needed flavor. But if they had done that, Opening Day might have ended up better than flagship Topps. But what if flagship Topps had multiple-colored or team colored borders, and Opening Day was all white-bordered? A guy can dream...
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Design Notes: Similar to 2008 Topps Co-Signers, the cards have a lack of color in the design; the background consists of gray french curves. The set name and a serial number is on the top, with the player's name and team name at the very bottom in foil. Also at the bottom is a selected statistic for the player. The total number of that statistic is in the right-side diamond (in the Griffey card above, 147 RBI). This set is "mirrored" such that everything is identical except for the large number in the middle, which exists as sequential variations up to the total number. For example, there are 147 variations of this Griffey card, with the only difference being the number in the center of the card (59 on my copy). Backs contain a paragraph highlighting the statistic and some statistics from the year or event featured on the card.
Parallels and Similars: Each base card appears in multiple versions; a handful of cards have only one version (all the rookie cards #145-189 have only one version as well), while Alex Rodriguez #1 and Frank Thomas #3 both have over 500 versions. Most collectors only want one copy with the version not making a difference. Parallels for all the versions exist in black, blue, and red, plus four printing plate colors.
Distribution: 18 packs per box, with six cards per pack.
Thoughts: With 12,569 cards in a master set, I wonder if anyone has attempted to build a complete monster set. Most collectors aren't interested in all the variations, with almost the entire checklist having over 30 variations per card. I like this set better than Co-Signers, but unless I find an awesome deal on a major collection of these to begin a master set, I have no interest in it. For my collections where I need player cards (such as my collection of award winners), this set looks very nice and fits well.
Friday, December 28, 2012
Design Notes: Copying the 1959 Topps design, the player's image appears in a circle; the remaining border is in one color. His name is at the top, with the team name and logo and his position at the bottom. Backs are horizontal with biographical stats, a highlight paragraph, a small cartoon, and complete MLB statistics.
Parallels and Similars: As mentioned, the set uses the 1959 design, and there are other issues that mimick the 1959 set. However, the copyright information on the back (and 2007 in the last line of statistics) makes this set easy to identify. Chrome, Chrome Refractor, Chrome Black Refractor, and black-ink backs are all partial parallels of this set.
Distribution: Hobby boxes contain 24 packs of 8 cards each. Most packs will contain an insert, and the High Number Series packs contain 2 flagship Updates & Highlights singles plus any inserts.
Thoughts: Topps Heritage is probably the favorite perennial issue for set builders. The 1959 design is colorful and fun, but I've always felt Heritage was missing a small bit of authenticity. In earlier issues, it was the use of photos instead of paintings - as many of the original 1950s sets used - and also the use of low-quality printing. I understand a desire to
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Design Notes: Fronts are almost exclusively gray with silver foil. The background behind the photo is a slightly-styled team logo; the player's name is in a white bottom border and the team name is in the white top border; the team city and player's position are along a side border. Backs carry over the grey design, with another player photo, biographical stats, and some statistics.
Parallels and Similars: Stick with me here. There are Silver and Hyper Plaid versions for each of the following colors: red, bronze, blue, green, and gold. Hyper Plaid also has a silver version. That's 11 parallels so far. But each of those parallel sets also has a dual-player variation for the 100 regular base cards, making a total of 22 parallel "sets" for this product. Add five more parallels for the five different printing plates inserted into the product.
Distribution: Six cards per pack (five base cards), 12 packs per box.
Thoughts: The gray-heavy cards are dull at first glance, and at second glance are way too busy. But on the other hand, the photos stand out a lot over the overcast background. Unless you're Alex Gordon wearing a faded blue undershirt. The base cards aren't really the point in this issue, and the parallels look okay. This isn't a base set I'd put together, but it doesn't give me seizures either.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Design Notes: Using the 2008 Topps design, the team name is at the top in colored circles, and the player's name is at the bottom. The backs feature career stats.
Parallels and Similars: Several other 2008 sets have the same design, though Chrome is easy to distinguish from the others. There are several refractor parallels: original white borders, blue, copper, and red borders, SuperFractors, X-Fractors, and four colors of printing plates.
Distribution: Cards were sold in hobby and retail packs.
Thoughts: Because there isn't much color in the design, the Chrome concept is kind of lost. Of course, there's plenty of color in the photos, but refractors really shine when there is solid color in the design to stand out. The regular base Chrome cards have never really appealed to me because they're just more-expensive versions of the flagship cards, and unless the light hits them just right they look darker and thus not as vibrant as the original cards.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Design Notes: A color painting of the player fills most of the card; his name is at the top. A Goudey seal and ad is at the bottom. The backs provide a lengthy write-up on the player and another advertisement for Goudey gum products.
Parallels and Similars: There are no parallels in this set, but there have been reprints and throwback issues over the years.
Distribution: Cards were sold in penny packs with gum.
Thoughts: The art is attractive and fun, and a good bit of thought went into the write-up on the back compared to prior card releases. As Goudey's first issue, this is a great collectible not only for its history and player selection, but also its appearance.
Additional Links: PSA Card Facts has a good explanation of the set, and Old Cardboard has a page for the issue.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Design Notes: A very simple design, a painted-style image of the card subject fades to a white border. The bottom of the card has the subject's name and the Allen & Ginter logo. Backs carry statistics or a short write-up about the subject. The cards use Victorian-era style fonts and design elements.
Parallels and Similars: The set is inspired by the original Allen & Ginter issue from the 19th century, though there's no doubt when this card was made due to the inclusion of the year on the front. All parallels of this set are in mini form: a regular mini, Allen & Ginter back, black-bordered, no-number, Bazooka back, framed cloth, and wood.
Distribution: Hobby boxes of 24 packs hold 8 cards per pack. Additionally, retail packs and blaster boxes were released.
Thoughts: In its third year, Allen & Ginter seemed uninspired and relied on its gimmicks to survive. Not much changed from the 2006 release. I enjoy art sets, and this set is meant to look like the original painted sets. It doesn't quite deliver on the hand-painted part, but I still put together a yearly set.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Design Notes: The team name is across the top border, each letter placed in alternating team colors. The photo is in the middle, and the player's name is in the bottom border printed in silver foil. Backs are fairly standard, with biographical information and career statistics. A short highlight is mentioned when space is available.
Parallels and Similars: 2008 Topps has five full parallels - gold foil, gold, black, platinum, and printing plates - plus one partial parallel - Silk. Several other 2008 Topps products use the same design: Chrome, Opening Day, and Update are the three major releases which copy the flagship issue. Team sets also look identical to the base set's layout.
Distribution: Cards were sold in retail and hobby packs of 11 cards each, with 36 cards per box. HTA Jumbos contained 46 cards each and came 10 packs per box. Other packaging methods were used including blaster boxes and, later, complete sets.
Thoughts: The design is quite plain and the team name at the top takes up a large portion of the card space. The alternating colors can make the team name a little difficult to read, as well. It's not a horrible design, and has a nice retro feel, but it's just a couple steps away from being good. More color use (perhaps team color borders and team font use at the top) and movement/elimination of the Topps tab at the top (just overlay the Topps logo in an unobtrusive corner of the photo).
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Design Notes: A sort of marble with vines border takes over a large portion of the card, with a cropped photo of the player jumping out of the background and over the border. The bottom has a "nameplate" with the player's team and name and a whitewater wave design. Backs have the marble background, recent stats and a short write-up. Cards 1-150 feature players, while 151-200 are historical moments.
Parallels and Similars: There are four colored parallels - silver, red, gold, and blue - in the set. APOH returned the next year with a similar design.
Distribution: Hobby boxes hold 16 packs of eight cards each. There are several insert sets each with several parallels, so a large portion of the box is not base cards. Each box has four hits (three relics and an autograph) plus four Yankee Stadium Legacy cards and an additional 12 inserts or parallels.
Thoughts: The design tries too hard to be fancy, and fails miserably. It's funny how Upper Deck can put out a great set like Masterpieces and a set as uninspiring as this in the same year. I feel like I'm looking at an overcast day in San Francisco. On the other hand, I'm a fan of history so I have a complete set of the Historical Moments subset that most baseball fans don't care about.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Design Notes: A simple foil frame surrounds a painted image of the player. The back uses a cropped version of the artwork, a highlights paragraph and a single year and career statistics. The card fronts have a texture feel.
Parallels and Similars: Ten parallels were issued with various-colored borders, but base cards have white borders. Masterpieces first began in 2007, and the designs are very similar.
Distribution: Cards were sold in packs of six, with only 12 packs per box.
Thoughts: Cards featuring artwork are always welcome in my collection. The set is very well-designed and the art looks great. Is there any doubt in your mind that this set is already part of my collection?
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Design Notes: There isn't much design to the front. The player's name and team are printed in silver foil, and his poition is in a silver foil home plate with two fading lines spreading horizontally from the center. The focus here is on full-bleed high quality photography, as Upper Deck usually provides. The backs feature another photo, career statistics, and a short writeup.
Parallels and Similars: Only one actual parallel exists: a gold version serial-numbered to 99. Upper Deck First Edition also uses the same design without the foil printing, so be careful when set-building or card hunting as they are easy to confuse.
Distribution: Cards were sold in hobby packs of 20 cards (16 packs per box), in addition to retail packs, blasters, and rack "Fat" packs.
Thoughts: While I enjoy a good card design, Upper Deck's flagship brand was a consistent photo-first product that I could count on to provide great images without much clutter on the front (at least, in the past decade or so). This might be my favorite Upper Deck design as far as their minimal-clutter sets go. Once Upper Deck could no longer produce MLB cards, I've been left with a void that Topps hasn't capitalized on. Where is Stadium Club? Topps' photography has gotten better but there are no more full-bleed high-quality card sets being produced in this style.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Design Notes: After a black border at the top identifying the set, a photo of a player from the team fills most of the card. The bottom border of the card has a team logo, game number, score, and a headline. Backs give the line score, a short game summary, and league standings on that day.
Parallels and Similars: Gold parallels were issued with the original release, but not for the post-season cards.
Distribution: Cards were sold in packs of 15, with boxes holding 24 packs. Post-season cards were randomly inserted into packs of 2009 Upper Deck Series One at a rate of 1:4.
Thoughts: The set was a good attempt at truly documenting the 2008 season on cardboard. To put together the nearly-5000 card set in its entirety would be insanity - has anybody tried? I know some people are collecting "team" sets, and the cards are nicely numbered for the team in addition to the entire set. The big problem most people have with the set is that the photos don't always come from the game shown on the card - and sometimes the photo is of a player who wasn't even in the game. I would have liked to see a full box score on the back instead of just a line score, but at that point I'm just being picky. There are two cards for every game - one for each team. I applaud Upper Deck's efforts but I wish they had put a little more effort into the execution.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Set Size: 524? cards, 1-7/16" x 2-5/8"
Design Notes: The fronts have colorized images of players in white borders; their last name and team name are printed in the bottom borders. There are several (about three dozen?) back types and color combinations, all advertising cigarette brands. A factory printing designation appears at the bottom of all of the cards.
Parallels and Similars: Several other tobacco issues with similar designs were issued during this time period, but have different borders and other distinctions. T-206 cards have been reprinted and counterfeited many times; be especially careful with high-value/rare cards. Due to the multiple color and tobacco brand backs, there are over 6000 different cards overall.
Distribution: Cards were inserted into packs of ATC-brand cigarettes, with one (sometimes two) cards per pack, sold from 1909 through 1911.
Thoughts: T-206 is the most famous card set in existence, with the most famous card as a part of its checklist. Now over 100 years old, it poses multiple collecting possibilities and challenges - do you collect the approximately 524 cards found in the set? Do you put together one back's complete set? Do you collect one of each type of back? Do you focus on certain players, teams, or poses? No matter what, it will be a challenge. The set has vibrant artwork, since the cards are actually lithographs with several colors used in the printing process. When I finally added a T-206 card to my collection, I was very happy, to say the least. And looking back at the set now, I'd love to put it together - but I'll never have the money or time to do that. Instead, someday I'll pick up a reprint set...
Additional Links: Old Cardboard's page gives details and links to Inside T206 (PDF), which provides a great deal of research on the subject. Additionally, numerous books have been written on the set, including The Card, chronicling the most famous baseball card in existence.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Design Notes: There wasn't much to Upper Deck's flagship and First Edition designs in the mid 2000s, and I like that. The UD logo is in an upper corner, and the player's name, position, and team are at the bottom with minimal obstruction over the photo. The position is in a home plate over a small horizontal chromatic band. The back contains another color player photo, statistics, and a biography.
Parallels and Similars: First Edition cards have no parallels per se, but the set uses the same design as Upper Deck's flagship release. First Edition cards have a slightly lower card quality; flagship cards use foil for the player's name and team. In addition, Upper Deck notated which set the card came from above the copyright information on the back.
Distribution: Cards were sold in 99-cent packs, with nine cards plus one Starquest insert card per pack. The set was issued in two series, and also sold as a complete box set.
Thoughts: Using the same photos and glossy card stock like flagship Upper Deck, this set doesn't distinguish itself much as a unique product. The checklist is smaller and packs are less expensive, which made this set good for younger collectors to chase, just like Topps Opening Day has been doing. If I didn't collect the flagship Upper Deck set, I might be interested in this one, since it would be less expensive to build a complete set from packs or boxes.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Design Notes: The base cards use artwork-style images over a line drawing background; Jeter or Griffey appear at the bottom of each card. The fronts basically use a Goudey card design. Nothing on the back actually quotes Griffey or Jeter, though. The backs are grey card stock with one color printing including a biography and statistics.
Parallels and Similars: Minis with backs printed in one of five colors were randomly inserted into packs.
Distribution: Hobby boxes contain 18 packs of eight cards each, while retail blasters hold eight, eight-card packs.
Thoughts: I really want to like this set, but the art just isn't authentic-looking enough. I know a lot of others like the set, but it's just not 100% right. This is another set that's nearly impossible to complete, with only seven SPs per box and over one-third of the set being SPs. The multi-sport autograph subjects were very popular in the product, though.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Design Notes: These foil-board cards have Upper Deck's typical modern design with lots of angles, which form a sort of downward-facing arrow pointing to the player's name and position at the bottom. Backs carry the design elements from the front and have a headshot and team logo at the top, along with recent and career total statistics and a short highlight paragraph.
Parallels and Similars: Parallels come in blue, gold, green, orange, and red, plus printing plates. All the parallels are serial-numbered to different quantities.
Distribution: Hobby packs contain five cards each, with 20 packs per box. Retail packs and blasters also exist.
Thoughts: Upper Deck released a whole bunch of forgettable products in 2008. While Spectrum is an attractive set, it doesn't stand out. A really nice multicolor holofoil background would have been much better on this set. Oh well - I suppose having the rainbow of parallels would work instead. Griffey doesn't look exactly flattering in this shot, either. Better cropping would have been nice. Spectrum was good enough to come back in 2009, at least.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Design Notes: The 100-card original set has a unique design seen above, with the player's name in silver foil at the bottom and a two-color border (top grey, bottom team color) around the photo. Backs contain career total statistics along with a short highlight paragraph and another large photo. The 285 card short-print set uses multiple old Upper Deck designs - 1992 Upper Deck Minor League, 1994 All-Time Heroes, 1995 SP Top Prospects, 2004 Timeless Teams, and 1993, 1994, and 1995 SP.
Parallels and Similars: There are partial parallels in this set. The first 100 cards have a gold parallel, the 1994 All-Time Heroes set has a 20th Anniversary parallel, and the 2004 Timeless Teams set has both silver and gold parallels. While this set borrows designs from previous releases, all cards are easily distinguished by text on the back identifying this as "2008 UD TIMELINE BASEBALL."
Distribution: Cards were sold in hobby and retail packs; hobby boxes had 18 packs of 8 cards each, and six of the eight cards were from the 285 card short printed set. Only the 2004 Timeless Teams and 1993, 1994, and 1995 SP designs were actually short-printed. Retail packs had six cards, with about 2 short prints on average.
Thoughts: The base design is solid, and the concept behind Timeline is nice, but the execution really hurts. Hobby boxes really are the way to go, with a better assortment of cards using the retro designs that make up the "SPs" in the set. Putting a set together would be challenging but with a couple $40-or-less hobby boxes one could really tackle a majority of the set in a hurry. Upper Deck chose some of the right products to honor in the SPs but the only base set I've put together with throwback designs (excluding pre-WW2 designs) is Topps All-Time Fan Favorites.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Design Notes: An X-shaped design in the background takes over most of the front of the card, with a large player photo over the top. A bit of the photo background shows through part of the X. The player's name, team, and position are in a box at the bottom next to a large Upper Deck X logo.
Parallels and Similars: Die-Cuts (one per pack) and Gold Die-Cuts (one in eight retail packs) were issued.
Distribution: Boxes contain 20 packs, with eight cards per pack for $1.99 each (hobby? really?). One of the eight cards is a parallel, and another is an insert, so only six cards per pack were base cards. This means each box yielded 1.2 complete sets if collation was perfect.
Thoughts: What happens when you take the SP out of SPX? You get X. I find the design gaudy and unattractive, but packs are cheap and each box contains at least two autographs (Jeter and Griffey are the only two big names here), plus a chance at a lengthy memorabilia checklist. I'm not sure what the intention was with this set, but the Xponential inserts are the true stars of this product. The pack looks awesome - black and holofoil - and the inserts are great - more holofoil, but these base cards are boring. And I'm not the only one to open a pack and find a die-cut card only mostly die-cut.
Additional Link and Image: Xponential insert, from A Pack A Day.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Design Notes: The front of the card is one of the four printing plates used for the product - black, magenta, cyan, or yellow. The backs are the same as the regular 2011 Topps Lineage cards, except for a foil-stamped serial number in the upper-right corner.
Parallels and Similars: This set is a full parallel of the base Lineage set, and comes in four colors. There are other parallels for Lineage - four refractor parallels and a 1975-style mini set.
Distribution: Each of the four plate colors are stamped 1/1 and were randomly inserted into hobby packs.
Thoughts: Printing plates are nice to pull from packs, though they aren't true 1/1 cards in my mind. But as far as this card goes, there's not much special about the plate - the back is normal and the front isn't reversed - it looks like a blue tinted parallel.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Design Notes: The cards are printed on plastic. There are two plastic outer layers, plus an inner gel layer (actually, vegetable oil) with sparkle pieces. The card can be squeezed to make the sparkle pieces move around like waves - though the oil doesn't flow quickly like water. The front has a color photo, and the back has a shadow of the photo containing a player biography.
Parallels and Similars: None known.
Distribution: Cards were inserted into packs of Showcase at a rate of 1:20.
Thoughts: This is a really great concept. The waves aren't perfect, but this card is very unique as I believe it is the only card to contain liquid. It isn't perfect, but I enjoy the attempt at taking an insert theme to the next level!
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Set Size:20 cards
Design Notes: Let's go 3D! Each card looks like a cheap folding wood-slat bleacher seat. The seat folds down to reveal a picture of the player.
Parallels and Similars: None.
Distribution: Cards were inserted one in 24 packs (one per box, on average).
Thoughts: Fleer produced some of the most interesting inserts in history, and this ranks right up there with some of the best. The set is pretty fragile and it's difficult to display well, but I applaud the effort made to make something unique.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Design Notes: The front has a color photo and foil highlights over a wood background with a felt border; the back carries over the diamond design from the front with a highlight biography.
Parallels and Similars: None known; this set name was used over a few years, though.
Distribution: This was the most difficult inset to pull from Series 1 packs of 1998 Ultra, at one per 288 packs.
Thoughts: Using three interesting card materials (wood, prismatic foil, and felt), the card stands out from most of the rest of the 1998 Ultra inserts. Add to that the difficulty in pulling a single card, and you have one of the most surprisingly valuable sets from the 1990s. Top-tier players in the set are easily valued around $50! I like the set for the "gimmicky" use of different materials. It doesn't look that bad, either.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Design Notes: Most of the space on the front and back are taken up by player photos with etched foil backgrounds. A pull-out inside panel has a writeup, statistics, and biographical information. The cards are condition-sensitive and if you look closely at my card you'll notice chipped edges.
Parallels and Similars: None.
Distribution: Cards were inserted one per 30 packs.
Thoughts: This is a pretty novel concept and goes well with all the gimmick cards I've been showing lately. While I'm not a fan of foil backgrounds I can make an exception for a set with a pull-out stats section. Then again, if the set didn't have foil it would have looked that much better.
Additional Links: Capewood's Collections has images of a different card from this set, along with images of the inside card.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Design Notes: This is the gold-plated parallel to the solid bronze Metal Works insert set. Like the silver version, the card is really bright and shiny, with pretty good detail to the player photo (though it may not exactly be realistic). The cards are serial-numbered on the back, at the top.
Parallels and Similars: As mentioned, the "regular" insert set is solid bronze, and a silver-plated version also exists.
Distribution: Redemption cards for the gold-plated parallels were inserted into packs at a rate of 1:950 and home plate master deck boxes at a rate of 1:108. These are the most-limited of all card sets inserted into Pinnacle X-Press.
Thoughts: The gold plating is awesome. It looks and feels like you robbed Fort Knox of a gold bar that happens to be the same size and design as a baseball card. If they weren't so tough to find and thus expensive, this would be the ultimate set to complete. The bronze coins are easier to view as far as detail, but the gold cards are really beautiful. Besides, not many people can say they have baseball cards made of gold. And no, those ones inserted in WalMart repacks don't count. But those solid-gold cards issued by Topps this year does. I'd love to get my hands on one of those!