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Tag Archives: Baseball Cards

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.

udscans1

“Hits”

udscans2

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”

toppsscans

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.

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5 cards per pack/18 packs per box

Base set completion: 75 of 84 (89%)

ovation

Inserts

ovation2
Hits

ovation3

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.

ethier

manny1

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?

spahn

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”

playball

hudson

dimaggio

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.

I mean, what is the logical, rational response to this latest monstrosity (courtesy of 2009 Upper Deck Artifacts):

email

An event as impactful as this, and the best UD can scrounge up is hastily thrown together Comic Sans MS typeface nonsense? There was no other illustration or photo available to UD that could’ve been used for this card?

You want to give credit to UD for finally letting go of the X, but then this is what comes out when that crutch is removed?

It appears UD (at least, according to the Sports Card File)  losing its MLB license isn’t quite a 100% proposition. But can any collector honestly say s/he would miss this if it never came back? And it’s not the topic — just look at how well Topps can work U.S. History — it’s all the execution. UD has taken something that is interesting and fails epically by ignoring what made it big — innovation.

There’s nothing innovative about using MS Paint-level artwork for your product. There’s nothing innovative about taking an arguably mediocre design idea and recycling at least three times the following year. There’s nothing innovative about geting rid of your most successful products.

I buy UD product out of habit — I HAVE to buy packs — since there’s obviously nothing that stands out about it otherwise. Such a disappointment considering as recently as last year, UD was still doing things right. Oh well.

Hey, at least this card was in the mix today.

mcdonald

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?

spx1

spx2

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.

wieand

samford

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

martin

ramirez

50 cards per pack/10 packs per box

Base set completion: 330 of 330 (100%)
Total base duplicates: 105

Insert Sets:
Turkey Red: 10 of 50 (20%)
Legends of the Game: 10 of 25 (40%)
Ring of Honor: 10 of 50 (20%)

“Hits”

09scans1
09scans2

09scans3

09scans4

09scans6

Impressions

Not that I bought this box for the “hits,” but let’s see if Topps delivered on what they advertised.

One auto: Sean Rodriguez
Two relics: Ted Williams and Josh Anderson
10 each Turkey Red, Legends of the Game, Ring of  Honor, Gold parallels and Topps Town: Check
One WBC redemption: Present

So it looks like the Sketch Card redemption and the Silk Card were bonuses in my HTA box. Topps delivered in this box what they promised they would.

Disappointments? Well, the fact that the letter patch counts as a relic, since it’s only technically a relic, but whatever. I’m also disappointed that of all the possible players I could’ve ended up with from the Career Best series, I end up with two essentially career minor leaguers. Honestly, whatever — I’m not chasing these stupid hits.

I won’t comment much on the design — that’s already been covered extensively both here and other places — other than I absolutely agree this is what Topps needed to do after last year’s lackluster looking set. And although I’m already predisposed to Topps, I will say objectively that 09 Topps is better than 09 Upper Deck. For starters — Topps is a 660 card base set and Upper Deck’s is 1000. That alone means a jumbo box will produce an entire series set, and a hobby box will come very close. I haven’t yet sorted the results of my 09 UD break, but I’m expecting to be only 2/3 of the way through the set.

As has been noted in many places now, the photography on this year’s cards is exponentially better than it has been in years past. I saw several action shots, and a lot less of the “pull a player out of spring camp and throw him in front of the camera” type pictures. There also appears to be a lot less of the Photoshop wizardry. There is this card, though.

maddux

I’m not entirely sure it is (or isn’t) a real, untouched photo. What strikes me as odd is Topps used what looked like a current Dodger photo of Maddux in Stadium Club, so why couldn’t they, months later, use another one for 09 Topps?

Photoshop questions aside, I’ll reiterate it — this is Topps’ best design in a few years, and it’s leaps and bounds better than UD’s 09 offering. I haven’t seen all of the 09 UD inserts yet, but I have no quibbles about Topps’ choice of inserts this year.

It appears my local hobby source won’t be getting their load of 2009 product until at least Tuesday, so it looks like I’ll be stuck with retail packs until then.

As a history buff, and a teacher of sorts, the idea of Topps American Heritage is absolutely one I am on board with. Just thinking of the myriad ways I could use these cards as a learning tool is awesome.

I bought two retail packs, and here’s what caught my eye.

19th

It saddens me how often I have to remind others of how important the right to vote is, and for some groups, how relatively new these freedoms are.

brown

Forget voting — how important is the simple freedom of being in a desegregated classroom?

plymouth

getty

As a Los Angeles native, there’s an obvious appreciation for J.P. Getty. Strangely enough, however, in all my years in LA, I never once managed to visit the Getty Center. This in spite of commuting past it twice a day at one point.

kennedy

Never been a big fan of the Kennedy brothers, but this is a great picture. I also loved his portrayal in the movie “13 days,” about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

king

rockwell

This reminds me — not only did my scanner refuse to scan this card properly, I really need to frame the “Three Umpires” Rockwell print my wife gave me for Christmas.

thoreau1

Oh yeah, I bought some baseball cards too!

manny

In an unintended ode to Upper Deck Documentary, this card commemorates Manny’s efforts against the Cubs in the NLDS. And the picture on the front? It’s from a day game, odd considering all three NLDS games were in the evening. Judging from the brick background, it looks like this was taken at AT & T Park in San Francisco.

mclouth

No Legends of the Game inserts this time, but I’ll gladly take another Turkey Red. I never once even remotely thought about this set when it was a full set, but as an insert set, they’re incredibly appealing to me. Weird.

And I even managed to buy football cards for the first time in really, a decade. I haven’t bought football cards (aside from the ones I occasionally buy for my nephew) since I collected them in the early 90s. But the idea of revisiting another classic tobacco card set from Topps drew me in.

I didn’t recognize anyone from the pack — my football knowledge is really limited to superstars and whoever’s currently playing for the St. Louis Rams. I did get this nice Matt Forte mini, however.

forte

And it’ll likely be the only card I end up keeping. This an awesome looking set, and I hope Topps continues on its tradition of reviving old tobacco card sets.

The first 2009 card break! I’ve only been back in the hobby for a year or so, but it’s so refreshing to begin again this yearly routine — wait patiently for the new cards to come, open the packs, start sorting, admire the cards, and then off into brand new 5000-count boxes. Now if only Manny would quit the charade and sign already (p.s. we all knew you wouldn’t go to D.C.)

My local Target finally put out its double-wide gravity feeder of 2009 Topps. Strangely, not unlike others out there, it appears retail outlets received their allocations of 09 Topps prior to hobby outlets. I know my hobby source hasn’t received theirs yet — which is irritating as I want more than just retail packs!

I bought five packs, and ended up with 49 base cards, five ToppsTown cards, one gold parallel, one Turkey Red insert, one Legends of the Game insert, and one Legends of the Game parallel, for a total of 58 cards. No, I wasn’t shorted — apparently the Students Work Hard cards and Topps Attax code cards count towards your total of 12.

scans

Initially, I was irritated to learn that one of my 12 cards per pack would be these more or less useless ToppsTown inserts. However, in increasing the cards per pack to 12 from last year’s 10, Topps makes room for the insert as well as another card. This means a hobby box will yield 396 non-ToppsTown cards, which makes completing Series 1 conceivable with just one hobby box. Twenty-six of those 396 remaining cards are slated to be inserts, with the following ratios:

6 Legends of the Game inserts
9 Turkey Red inserts
6 Ring of Honor inserts
4 Numbered parallels
1 World Baseball Classic redemption

That’s 370 potential base cards per hobby box. That should, provided there’s good collation, yield an entire set. Looks like Topps was listening to collectors like myself after all.

While the collation looks like it won’t drive me mad, the parallels once again probably will. After glancing at the sell sheets, I knew that the Legends of the Game subset would be one I’d chase. But as you can see, that subset of course, has parallels. It does appear however, that the parallels are limited to the retail version — this makes sense, as these packs came from Target. Nonetheless, the these stupid parallels even exist is room enough for frustration.

I’ve been very impressed with the inserts from Topps, and this year is no exception. I figured it’d be hard to top last years Trading Card History and 50th Anniversary All-Rookie Team. The aforementioned Legends of the Game as well as Turkey Red look promising too. And with more cards per box, insert collecting doesn’t take away from base set collecting.

The first two Dodgers of the year are Chad Billingsley and Joe Torre.

chad

torre

Last year, Andy LaRoche was the first Dodger to appear, and incidentally, Chad Billingsley was the last. Bills gets to lead off in 2009. And of course, Torre’s Dodger “RC” of course didn’t come out until Series 2 last year.

Overall, I’m pretty thrilled with the design. The last three years of Topps have had their issues. 2006 was just not easy on the eyes — hated the font and the colors. 2007 looked great, but the black borders made them susceptible to dinged corners. 2008 returned to the white borders, but the quasi-retro design was lacking. 2009’s design is easily my favorite since 2005.