One Man's Thoughts on Sports Card Collecting

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Happiest Hobby Memory

As it is the Christmas season, a time of peace and joy, I thought I would share my happiest hobby memory.

The year was 1993.  I was 11 years old and a rabid baseball card collector.  I had started my Ken Griffey Jr. collection a year or two before, and I remember seeing a commercial for Upper Deck cards on TV talking about heroes....

....incredibly, I found the ad on youtube (isn't it an amazing age we live in?)

From the moment I saw that ad, my only thought was "I HAVE to get that Griffey card~!"

And so I started collecting 1993 Upper Deck Baseball Series 1.  I bought pack after pack, but the Griffey Triple Crown Contender was nowhere to be found.  In fact, despite the fact that they were inserted 1:15 packs (so 2-3 per box) I had only pulled one card from the set (Juan Gonzalez if memory serves).  I made regular trips to my favorite card store (R.I.P. MVP Sportscards) but that Griffey never showed up in the singles display case.  I went to several local card shows - still no dice.

Then one day my friend and I took a walk over to Ball Four Sportscards.  Being 11 I obviously didn't have a lot of money, but what I did have was going to go straight into busting some packs.  I also happened to have a few other cards on me that I had brought to show my friend - a small 6-card set I had gotten from my brother-in-law Jay that included cards of Robin Yount, George Brett, and Nolan Ryan.

I immediately spent ALL my money on 4-5 packs of Upper Deck, only to grow more and more disappointed as each pack was found to not have one of the elusive Triple Crown inserts.  The box was mostly full, so I just knew there had to be some in there.  I reluctantly decided to trade 5 of the cards I had gotten as a gift for 2 more packs.  I held on to the Nolan Ryan card because that was Jay's favorite player, and I would have felt bad trading it away since he had been nice enough to give it to me.  I opened the two packs, AND......


I was so disappointed.  I had no money, and no other cards to trade, except the Nolan Ryan.  But I just coudn't trade that one, that was Jay's favorite!...but, somehow I just couldn't walk away.  I doubt the store owner was actually interested in trading, but I think he felt bad for this little kid that wanted to get just one more pack so bad that he agreed to give me a pack for the Ryan card.  I took it and we walked out of the store.

Walking down the street I opened the pack, and immediately I saw there was a purple insert card in the middle of the base cards!  "Oh my God it's a Triple Crown card!!!" I thought.  I wanted to dive right to the middle to see what it was, but afraid of jinxing myself I stuck to my usual pattern of flipping through all the other cards first and leaving the reveal of the insert to be a surprise at the end of the pack.  I lifted the last card and saw........

Ken Griffey, Jr. - 1993 Upper Deck - Triple Crown Contenders # TC4 Mint

I've rarely had another moment of such pure joy.  I remember jumping up and down screaming, apparently making a scene to the point that my friend joked "OK, I don't know you" and started to walk away from me lest any other passersby think he was associated with this lunatic kid.

My Griffey collection has since grown to over 600 cards.  I certainly have many cards that are much more rare and/or valuable than this one.  But even 17 years later, this remains my favorite card of my entire baseball card collection.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Red Hot Rookies

I finally received my 2 Red Hot Rookies cards - Mike Stanton and Carlos Santana:

These are really sharp looking cards.  I love the red and yellow border, it's a look you don't see very often.  The fact that they are also refractors adds to the effect nicely.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Additions to the Griffey Collection

I made a couple of long sought after additions to my Griffey collection in the last couple weeks:

First, one of the Epix Season Griffeys from 1998 Pinnacle.  This is one of my all-time favorite insert sets, and I was thrilled to get a chance to pick up one of the rare Season versions.  I actually was talking about this set in one of my recent posts - my understanding is that the Epix Season cards were supposed to be inserted into a Pinnacle set that was never released because the company went bankrupt.  No one seems to know exactly how these cards made it into the market, though one website I found thinks that some of the soon-to-be axed employees made off with some boxes of cards as a form of backdoor compensation (pure hearsay, take it for what you will).  I would suspect that some of the cards were purchased as part of a bankruptcy liquidation sale, but another site said their undistributed cards were ordered destroyed.  (Again, I have no proof of this, just the word of an anonymous person on the internet).  I've got three more to go until I've got the full Epix Griffey set - Emerald Game, Purple Season, and Emerald Season.

The other 2 big additions also came from 1998 Pinnacle (I've got to figure out a better way to take these pictures.  Stupid camera flash...):

Pinnacle Spellbound letters "R" and "F" #1.  I've always loved the "dufex" style cards, they look really awesome in person.  But the REAL reason I'm excited about getting these 2 cards is because.....

...I now have the full G-R-I-F-F-E-Y set~!  (Crummy picture, I know).  That's one off the wish list!

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 Worst Base Set Designs

As a kid I used to love buying a few packs of each new set to determine which one(s) I would collect that year.  These were the days before the internet and previews of everything months in advance, so for me those first packs were usually a surprise unveiling of the new set design.  Sometimes I saw that top card of the pack and it was love at first sight, and other times....not so much.  These sets were, in my humble opinion, the most "ugh"-producing designs of my collecting lifetime:

10.  1998 Upper Deck

This was more a case of Upper Deck being a victim of their own success.  Prior to this set I had almost always loved the Upper Deck base card designs.  (You'll see some of those sets show up when I do my "Best Base Set Designs" post - coming soon!)  This set was the first time that my reaction to opening up a pack of Upper Deck was "meh."  Something about the dark border and silver foil really didn't work - it made the names really hard to read.  I also didn't care for the oversized team name, also in that same dark coloring.

9.  1999 Upper Deck

Unfortunately Upper Deck didn't do much better the following year.  These cards just looked funky, with borders on the sides but not the top and bottom.  The way the border got fatter as you moved down the card and the angled lines in the silver foil only made it worse.

8.  1995 Score

Yeesh.  That combo of tan and green borders was a poor decision, compounded by the odd polka dots bleeding into the green portion.  I think this was the first year of that new Score logo, presumably it was supposed to be "edgy" or something.  And speaking of edges, the "torn paper" edges around the picture and name box didn't do any favors for this set's visual appeal.

7. 1995 Topps

Topps went the same route as Score in 1995 with the rough edges around the picture, and it didn't work any better for them.  And I have NO idea what was up with that weird "font" used for the player names.

6.  1991 Donruss

I'm usually pretty forgiving of the "pre-glossy coating and foil stamping" era card designs, since they had less to work with, but this set was just awful.  It's like somebody at Donruss asked "How many different types of lines and colors can we cram into the border for no apparent reason?"

5. 2005 Topps

This is one of 2 entries on this list that come from the era that I was not actively collecting.  When I saw this design I was glad I wasn't.  As a general rule, whenever you have the player or team name at a size that is grossly out of proportion to the rest of the card you're getting into "ugly" territory.  I would have thought Topps had learned their lesson from 20 years earlier (see below), but I guess not...

4.  2002 Upper Deck

This is the other entry from my non collecting days, and all I could think when I saw this was "what the HELL were you thinking Upper Deck?"  That bottom area is just atrocious.

3.  1994 Stadium Club

You wouldn't think that a set that had so little in the way of actual design would be found on a list like this, but here we are.  Which is worse - the person who said "I have an idea: we'll make the first name lower case and look like it was typed on a small scrap of paper, and the last name will be all caps and look like it came out of a 1970s Dymo label maker!", or the person who heard that idea and said "Brilliant! Go with it!"???

2.  1986 Topps

Yikes.  Just yikes.  What DIDN'T suck about this card design?  The enormous bubble letters used for the team name.  The gaudy colors.  The player name that looks like it was printed on there using a 1960s typewriter.  Brutal.  You look at these cards and wonder what set could POSSIBLY have done worse than 1986 Topps??.......

1.  1991 Fleer

This.  These are still the ugliest cards I have ever seen.  And that's not just the current me saying that - I still remember my 9 year old self busting open a pack of 1991 Fleer, seeing that horrendous yellow border, and thinking "These are the most butt-ugly baseball cards ever made."  When you manage to offend the aesthetic sensibilities of a 9 year old kid, you KNOW something went horribly wrong.  Now I'm sure some of you would look at this set and say "Surely, some of these other sets look worse.  I mean, come on, 1986 Topps!!".  To that, I would have 2 replies:

One - what really offends me is the complete and total lack of effort and imagination put into this design.  At least 1986 Topps TRIED to make something that looked different and interesting.  They failed - horribly - but at least they tried.  This design is boring to the point of tears, and smothered in one of the worst colors ever seen in the history of the hobby.

And two - don't call me Shirley.