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Category Archives: Card Breaks

2009 UD Goodwin Champions

Base set completion: 74 of 150 (49%)
Short print set completion: 16 of 40 (40%)
Super short print set completion: 4 of 20 (20%)

Goodwin Champions was the only other 2009 UD release¬† — aside from the flagship — that I had been looking forward to. It’s hard to not to be enamored with the modern reincarnations of the early 20th-century tobacco inserts.

Having seen the previews, it looked as though for once, UD had chosen to actually exercise some creativity sorely lacking in their baseball releases. Interestingly enough, it’s been pointed out that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of creativity in UD’s basketball or hockey releases.

I should’ve known better. In a year in which UD has shown just miserable effort in baseball, UD once again failed to deliver the goods. A rhalladay150-card base set is nice, but a 40-card short print set and a 20-card “super” short-print set should’ve been warning enough that this would be yet another epic fail from UD.

Sure, 150 base cards is a good number, but when packs come with only five cards, it makes it that much more difficult to complete a set. It gets even more difficult when those five-card packs would often come with more than one mini-card. It gets frustrating when every other one of those five-card packs came with those absolutely pointless 20th anniversary cards.

And that hasn’t even touched on the awful collation. Two hobby boxes produced a pathetic 74 cards out of the base set. Not even half.

It’s amusing how this was being touted, pre-release, as being UD’s answer to Allen & Ginter. What a pathetic failure it instead turned out to be. If this was the answer to A & G, I’d hate to think of what the question was.

All of these issues hinder what really could’ve been a fantastic release from UD. There’s no doubt about it — these are some wonderfully beautiful cards. After striking Masterpieces from their lineup, and with Goudey being yet another epic fail, Goodwin Champions really had the potential to make a statement for UD. It did, but sadly, I doubt it’s the one UD wanted to make.

As I’ve mentioned before — I’m looking forward to the day UD ceases to produce baseball cards. Their 2009 releases may very well serve to be their epitaph. It’s sad to think that a company that was once on the edge of innovation has become so stale and lifeless.

2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom

Base set completion: 198 of 200 (99%)

Imagine this idea: buy a single hobby box, complete (or come pretty close to) the base set. Mind you, I’m not accusing Topps of somehow jreyesunderstanding the type of consumer I am — the sort that wants a little more bang for my buck. Nonetheless, Topps delivers in this regard, with an $84 hobby box packed with 12-card packs (who does that anymore?) yielding just about the entire base set.

The base cards themselves are nothing out of the ordinary. They obviously bring to mind the old Fleer Authentix sets. I also think they look a little derivative of this year’s Finest base cards as well. That said, TTS’s design, while it borrows elements from those two sets, doesn’t appear to be a carbon copy either.

cjonesBut what really sets TTS apart are its relic cards. Typically, I don’t care much for relic cards. But after pulling the ones I did, I actually contemplated keeping them rather than sending them straight to the trading block as I normally do. How often do you see boring, generic relic card designs these days? More often than not — which as an aside, makes it all the more confusing to me why anyone even bothers packsearching most non-premium product — relic cards are really just throwaway cards. But TTS shows a lot more effort on the part of Topps’ designers, I feel, than I’ve seen in recent releases. It’s no Donruss Prime Patches, but for a mid-range product? I’ll take it.

Topps has really done well this year with its products. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not they can carry that momentum into next year’s dramatically different landscape. While UD will still have its brand recognition, let’s face it — non-MLB-licensed cards is Donruss territory. And other than 08’s Threads, all of Donruss’ non-MLB-licensed card releases were mediocre, to put it gently.

8 cards per pack/24 packs per box

By the box:

Box 1:
Short Prints: 12
National Pride: 24
Highlight Sketches: 4
Ginter Code parallels: 2
Relics: 3
Minis: 12
Allen & Ginter back minis: 5
Black-bordered minis: 3
National Heroes: 2
World’s Greatest Hoaxes: 2

Box 2:
Short Prints: 11
National Pride: 24
Highlight Sketches: 3
Ginter Code parallels: 2
Relics: 4
Minis: 11
Allen & Ginter back minis: 5
Black-bordered minis: 3
National Heroes: 2
World’s Greatest Hoaxes: 2
Non-printed number, hand-numbered minis: 1

Box 3:
Short Prints: 13
National Pride: 24
Highlight Sketches: 4
Ginter Code parallels: 2
Relics: 3
Minis: 13
Allen & Ginter back minis: 4
Black-bordered minis: 2
National Heroes: 2
World’s Greatest Hoaxes: 2
Bazooka back, hand-numbered minis: 1

Base set (1-300) completion: 233 of 300 (78%)
Short-print set (301-350) completion: 21 of 50 (42%)

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Impressions

That is some remarkably bad collation. I still can’t quite comprehend how three hobby boxes, all of which yielding 120+ base cards each, somehow failed to produce an entire base set of 300. With last year’s product, I was only two base cards short of a full set with only two hobby boxes. To make matters worse, look at the SP collation. My three boxes yielded 36 short prints. A whopping 15 of them were doubles. FIFTEEN short print doubles. So instead of being nearly 2/3 of the way complete with the SPs, I’m only halfway through. Fortunately, trading the extras will make easy work of completing the remainder.

But the trouble lies in how much extra work it’ll take to complete the set this year. Bad collation has guaranteed a much larger number of trades to complete the 09 set. With the 08 set, I was able to finish shortly after acquiring my boxes. This year, much more effort will go into it. Is this intentional on the part of Topps? Make collation purposefully bad, thus forcing consumers to buy more product? I don’t know, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised either.

As for the positives, well, it’s Allen & Ginter, so we all know why everyone fawns over this product. A nice touch this year was the elimination of the thick decoy cards that had been used as Dick Perez sketches in the past and the USA set last year. Should make for easier storage in boxes and binders. I also like the selection of mini subsets this year. The National Heroes, I feel, is a much more thoughtful subset than the National Pride subset. Likewise with the World’s Greatest Hoaxes. As a self-professed history buff, I absolutely love inserts such as these.

It was unfortunate, however, that bad collation not only ruined the set-building progress, but also failed to yield any of the Future Inventions or Extinct Animals minis.

Equally frustrating are the rising prices for hobby boxes. I assume they are, anyway. My usual source, starting with Heritage, increased his selling prices well above previous norms — Heritage was $80 a box, up from $65 a year before, and now Ginter was $92 a box, up from $85 a year before. I assume this means Topps is increasing their wholesale prices, which again, squeezes the consumer further.

My source also received his stock late, meaning I could’ve taken advantage of Blowout Cards’ lower online prices and had boxes delivered earlier. As much as I prefer to support local business, if local business can’t beat online business both in price and in and timeliness, what choice do I have but to go online?

I can’t complain about the cards themselves. It’s A & G, so we all know what we’re getting. And as always, Topps stays faithful to the original. No one does retro better than Topps, and I say this even as I eagerly await Upper Deck’s Goodwin Champions.

21 packs per box:
17 regular packs/7 cards per pack
4 jumbo packs/20 cards per pack

Base set completion: 138 of 178 (78%)
Short print set completion:10 of 22 (45%)
Base doubles: 45

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Impressions

This seemed like a reasonable enough deal — Charm City does these hobby boxes for $55. With that many cards coming in a hobby box, it seemed pretty feasible that a single box would yield the entire set. Well, it came close. A shame, since better collation would’ve easily taken care of the base set. Maybe not the SPs, but there were clearly enough doubles (45 altogether) to come a lot closer to finishing the remaining 40 I need now.

As far as all the shiny baubles, it comes with the requisite game-used cards. The Schilling card is nice enough, although I have a lot of trouble referring to a square-inch or so-sized swatch of jersey as a patch. I don’t know, but when I say “patch,” I’m thinking something a little bigger than what you normally get. It would’ve been nice had I owned these two game-used cards in, say, I don’t know, 2004. But hey, I’m sure there’re still plenty of Giambi and Schilling fans out there.

I wasn’t around in 2004 to know whether this was intended as a retro set to compete with Heritage, but it clearly pays homage to 1984 Fleer. I also can’t recall if 1984 was a particularly important one for Fleer, or why, if they did, want to commemorate the occasion 20 years later.

mattinglyWhile I’m clearly a sucker for the obvious retro-themed sets (i.e. Heritage, Masterpieces, etc.), it does seem a little odd to look to the overproduction era for inspiration. Then again, I dove in and went after both 08 Timeline and 07 SP Rookie Edition, so perhaps even the 80s/90s era has untapped potential.

I can’t imagine, however, that time will ever produce a yearning for 2039 Topps Heritage, which would bring back the ever-popular 1990 design out from the dustbin.

Overproduction era or not, mid-80s Fleer does have that nice, clean look that translates well to a modern card, as evidenced by 2004 Platinum. And just like the old days, card numbers are randomly assigned — that is, the set isn’t ordered alphabetically by teams, like any modern Upper Deck set. Different teams are scattered about the checklist as they have been in the past — at least for Upper Deck/Fleer, anyway.

plat4Speaking of hearkening back to the past, I found the “Unsung Heroes” subset particularly interesting in that it reminded me so much, visually, of all of those late-80s drugstore issues. I remember those cards well — every time we’d drop by a Sav-On Drug or Woolworths, I’d beg forever and ever for a pack. Mom and dad rarely relented, but I did manage to save at least two sets — 1988 Topps Woolworth and 1988 Topps Kmart.

I remember loving those cards so much — so glossy! They had to be “worth more” sabothan those cheap cardboard 50-cents-a-pack regular issues. Two decades later, I came to the sad realization that they weren’t worth much in dollars, but they were certainly worth the childhood nostalgia. Their lack of value, however, hasn’t stopped some folks from locking them up in PSA holders,¬† however.

Anyway, enough nostalgia. Although there were some obvious collation issues, this was not a bad box to break overall. It’s not a massively oversized set, and the short prints aren’t a hideous task to compile either. A single box could conceivably knock out an entire base set, and that’s always added value. As far as completing the set, I don’t know that there’re too many doubles of these cards floating around on the Bench, but we’ll see.

Rather than giving each box its own post, I figured I’d condense by compiling everything into one post.

First up, Upper Deck. Most of us already know what the base cards look like. A pretty easy task considering many players had double issues in this set — among the Dodgers, Ramirez, Blake, Billingsley, Martin, Kemp, Loney, Furcal, Broxton, Kuroda, and Ethier were all repeats in series II. UD could’ve easily made this set considerably easier to finish (and a lot less boring and repetitive) had they not insisted on going with a 1000 card base set.

So did the inserts get any more interesting this time around? From left to right, a 1989 UD buyback, an O-Pee-Chee preview, and a USA National Team card.

I imagine there are more than a few collectors out there with piles and piles of worthless early 90s Upper Deck cards. Sure, 1989 was UD’s “rookie year,” but a foil stamp isn’t going to make me want those old cards any more than I already do (which is not at all).

All legal issues aside with O-Pee-Chee, I almost wish the base set looked like these rather than the design they went with.

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“Hits”

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The Ordonez jersey was a box-topper “buyback.” I don’t quite understand the meaning of the term buyback in sports cards vernacular. I do imagine it’s along the same lines as an investment “buyback,” which is an effort to re-acquire outstanding shares in order to reduce the available quantity. So in that sense, vintage “buybacks” such as Heritage, Play Ball, Goudey, etc. make sense in that they’re reacquiring old cards — though not specifically to reduce available quantity, but to include as purchase incentives.

But do cards from 2006 (such as the Ordonez) and the production glut of the 90s really fit the definition? Isn’t it fair to say that UD probably already had these on hand to begin with, thus negating the need to buy back anything?

As entertaining as it is to open a pack and find an auto/gamer in it, I really would rather it didn’t, especially if it meant box prices would be that much lower. A huge consideration since this particular box produced only 300 cards of the 500-card base set.

And now, Topps. The base set continues where series I left off, with much of the same stellar photography. Predictably, lots more spring training photos had to be used in order to accomodate many of the rookies/free agent signings who were unavailable the first time around. Given that, wouldn’t it make more sense — and add value to series II — to wait to depict the big free agent signings?

“Hits”

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Nothing really too exciting here, although the Pedroia silk should command a nice trade/sell premium. The insert sets are continuations from series I, with Legends of the Game (10 in this box), Ring of Honor (10), and Turkey Red (10) returning. New for series II are Career Best Legends (two in this box) and WBC stars (five). Returning from 2008 are the Red Hot Rookie redemptions (two).

This jumbo box produced the entire base set (331-660) and 96 base doubles. Although the insert ratios are better for the jumbos, ending up with nearly 100 doubles and the increased MSRP for jumbos in 2009 ($95) will force me to reconsider if this is the path I’ll take for 2010.

5 cards per pack/18 packs per box

Base set completion: 75 of 84 (89%)

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Inserts

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Hits

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Impressions

Can’t complain when a hobby box is 1. available at deep discount, and 2. produces nearly the entire base set.

I look so fondly on 2004-2006. It just seems that small, fun sets such as this one were bountiful. And now, just a few years later, it seems that so many sets are the antithesis of sets such as 06 Ovation.

I am beyond stoked to see an 84-card base set, and that a single hobby box landed most of it. I’m also stoked to see a fairly clean, crisp design. Such things seem like such a distant memory in UD’s past.

I love the embossed feel of the Ovation sets, and I would be interested in finding more.

Even the inserts aren’t obnoxious, and don’t take over the entire box. This is clearly a set with set-builders in mind — of course, that also entails disregarding the ridiculously short-printed RC subset (85-120). So in that sense, the box isn’t without it’s flaws. Assuming perfect collation, someone would have to buy an additional 40 boxes given the advertised 1:18 insertion ratio. Given those odds, I’m not even bothering.

Another 2009 UD release, another lackluster design.

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If the only difference between this year’s cards and last year’s is Derek Jeter’s and Ken Griffey Jr.’s disconnected visage, was it really necessary to bring this back again?

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Someone thought it a good decision to drop Masterpieces, but do 09 Goudey instead, replete with the usual amount of stupid short prints?

I really want to enjoy Upper Deck releases. Considering how strong their product was as recently as 2006, it’s a shame to see how far it’s gone down the drain since then. Forethought just seems to be absent from so many of their recent releases.

As an aside, doesn’t it almost feel pathological to keep buying cards even when you know what awaits inside those wrappers is lame? Here I am, waiting for Series II to come out, and yet I’m still buying A Piece of History and Goudey as though I weren’t already aware of how terrible these sets are.

24 packs per box/five cards per box

Base set completion: 60 of 73 (81%)
Base duplicates: 9

Insert/parallel sets:
1941 Reprints: 10 of 15 (67%)
Mini: 14 of 74 (19%)
Red Backs: 22 of 74 (30%)
Ted Williams Tribute: 1 of 15 (6%)
Summer of 1941: 1 of 15 (6%)
The Yankee Clipper 1941 Streak: 3 of 56 (5%)

“Hits”

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Impressions

This was a nice surprise to find among the closeouts at Charm City Cards. And seeing how nice this set looks compared to its 2004 iteration makes it all the better I found a box.

As I’ve opined on here before, sets really ought to be more like this one in size, rather than the gargantuan checklists that exist today. While a single hobby box didn’t produce an entire base set, it did produce enough that completing the set isn’t some insurmountable task.

This modern rendition of the 1941 Play Ball set reiterates the biggest reason why I love retro sets — simplicity. The design is clean, and uncluttered, and the only modern addition is the “Play Ball” logo in the upper right. Like Topps Heritage, it takes the old design and leaves it be. The 1941 reprints are an added bonus too.

Speaking of bonuses, if only Topps would do its Heritage buybacks the same way this set did. No stamp or any other distraction from the original card’s design ruins this card. And what a treat to see how the 68-year-old cardboard shows it age, but still looks in good shape considering how long it’s existed.

My only quips with this set are the insane insertion rates for SPs and the ubiquitous parallels. Really, UD thought 1:24 for two different SP subsets was a good idea for a set builders’ set? And while I’m no fan of parallels, the set is at least small enough that compiling a set of red backs and/or minis isn’t an Allen & Ginter-esque task.

Is there anything that Upper Deck produced this year that doesn’t elicit complaining? The flagship set was nice as usual — though not without its issues. As for everything else? Well, Spectrum, as its always been, was a dud. Now SPx comes crashing through the door, and it’s essentially Upper Deck X, part III. Really, guys, this was $13 worth of cardboard?

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I get just eight cards, with two of them featuring Dr. J and some college basketball team that wouldn’t exist if not for the efforts of those brave, thoughtful, altruistic, and most of all, ubiased ACC-loving folks at ESPN.

That’s a total of SIX baseball cards. Not that I mind non-sport cards in baseball products. After all, I love 2008’s political inserts, and I’m a huge Allen & Ginter fan.

I get it, UD. You guys are cutting costs, and just like any company that’s cutting costs, quality control is bound to take a hit. You’d think however, if a company is on the verge of really terrible things, that they’d try and ramp it up a notch.

Instead, we see UD recycling the X yet again. It’s my fault, of course, for continuing to buy this garbage. Puts me in the same boat as dedicated Chevy drivers, I suppose. I’m not really the one to do “boycotts” as other bloggers have, but this is just ridiculous.

UD put out some nice products last year (Masterpieces, Baseball Heroes). I know it’s only April, but good grief, I’m finding it harder and harder to have any faith that they’ll somehow pull this off.¬† If Topps ends up with an exclusive license to produce MLB cards, UD’s 2009 efforts aren’t going to make anyone disagree.

After breaking three hobby boxes of 09 Heritage, this is what I ended up with:

Base set: 337 of 425 (79%)
Short print set: 24 of 75 (32%)

Insert sets:
New Age Performers: 4 of 15 (27%)
News Flashbacks: 4 of 10 (40%)
Baseball Flashbacks: 6 of 10 (60%)
Then and Now: 5 of 10 (50%)

Base duplicates: 200
Non-base duplicates: 1

Duplicates (box 1): 0
Duplicates (box 2): 49
Duplicates (box 3): 152

The increasing number of duplicates by box three is no surprise, although you still wish that three boxes would produce a base set at least. Alas, this is Heritage, and collectors will get no such thing. Thankfully, I again purchased these boxes at MSRP ($65) rather than the bloated prices they’re going for at DACW, Blowout, and Charm City.

It’ll take some effort and postage, but 200 doubles should be enough (I hope!) to round out the base set, and hopefully make headway towards the SP set.

As we all know, Heritage isn’t about the “hits,” but I will say these two are far better than the Kevin Millwood GU that came out of the first box.

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And I can never complain about extra cards for the Dodger binder. Especially when they’re SHINY cards!

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Look, I know things aren’t all that rosy for you these days. I understand the economy’s in the tank, and people just don’t have the sort of discretionary income they used to.

And then there’s that whole “we lost our NBA license” thing on top of the “we lost our Yu-Gi-Oh license” thing.

I also understand you tried to undercut and sneak your way into other related business transactions. But hey, that’s the business world. And as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, seems like nobody in the business world really operates ethically, or for that matter, politely any more.

I get it. Things at Upper Deck just aren’t what they used to be. But good grief, great googly moogly, and for the love of all things good and beautiful, there is just no excuse for this monstrosity.

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I normally use a much smaller size when inserting scans. But a smaller scan would’ve made this card somewhat forgivable. I don’t know how much UD is paying their photo editors these days, or if they even still employ any, but this is the absolute worst photo I’ve ever seen used on a trading card. I can’t imagine how Linda Hamilton or her representatives would’ve reacted had they known this is what they had signed for.

I mean, this is the mother of the Resistance, Sarah Connor herself! She looks like some freakish Madonna lookalike!

The only that kept this pack from being a complete waste was this card.

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But even Free Andy can’t save yet another mediocre offering from the UD design crew. 2009 is clearly the Year of the X, as SPx, Spectrum, and of course, the much-beloved X all share the harsh, jarring X-centered motif.

Just like I’ve wondered with bailout babies GM, Chrysler, CitiBank, and now Upper Deck, you almost wonder if the market would be better off without companies like them putting out such mediocre goods.