Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Set-building

I was somewhat interested in UD’s baseball Icons release. I saw a lot to like — small (100) base set, the option to totally disregard the numbered, short-printed rookie set, and design that hearkened back to 2005-era UD designs. There’s also plenty to dislike, such as the ridiculous hobby price point ($80-ish; 10 packs/6 cards per pack) and ridiculous lettermen checklists (Jeremy Piven? Seriously?).

After seeing a blaster review over at Crackin’ Wax, I get the feeling that UD is beyond mailing 2009 in. There’s absolutely nothing 2009-Upper-Deck-MLB-Icons-box redeeming about any 2009 UD release to date. Boring design — turns out the 2005-era references are pretty mild — and more of the seemingly ubiquitous printing defects guarantees Icons is DOA before it reaches wide distribution.

Furthermore, what’s up with the box configurations? Hobby ($80-90) and retail ($20) both have 10 pack/six cards per pack configurations? While I can appreciate making the retail configuration more attractive, doesn’t this pretty much eliminate the need to buy a hobby box — unless of course you absolutely NEED that Jeremy Piven letterman?

UD had a great mid-summer product in 2008’s Baseball Heroes. They didn’t bother this year. While I haven’t seen any Icons in person, this looks like a complete dud of a mid-summer product. And while I imagine they’re putting most of their eggs in the Goodwin Champions basket, I have to wonder — are they going to eliminate the hobby box incentive there too? Comparing it to last year’s Masterpices, the retail and hobby configurations were different enough. But aside from the ridiculously-seeded short prints, there wasn’t any incentive to waste money on a hobby box when a blaster would result in far more productive experience for set-builders.

I don’t mean to go off on a Goodwin tangent — but for as much as I’m looking forward to that release, the effort UD put into Icons concerns me. I get the feeling that UD has a chance to finally make a statement in 2009, and they could very well fail again. We’ll see in September, but given their track record so far this year, is anyone expecting anything different from Upper Deck?

Topps has been absolutely killing it, so to speak, with their releases this year. And with Allen & Ginter overshadowing a mediocre Icons, will the much-ballyhooed Goodwin Champions pull enough attention away from Chrome and Ticket to Stardom?


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%)





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





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.

5 cards per pack/18 packs per box

Base set completion: 75 of 84 (89%)






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.

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%)






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.

20 cards per pack/16 packs per box

Base set completion: 290 of 500 (58%)




As usual, UD’s photography is excellent. Unfortunately, that’s where the accolades end.

2009 Upper Deck is in many ways far from being an ideal set. The first problem: a 1000-card base set. That’s just way too many, and UD ends up filling out the checklist with players who are probably better suited for a Bowman Draft release.

My biggest issue with a 1000-card base set? A single hobby box, even at UD’s bloated MSRP of $70, doesn’t come close to finishing the set. This box was produced just a shade more than half of series 1. A 1000 card base set forces the collector to buy more than one box (or spend that money in trades)  if they want to finish the set. I feel that a 1000-card base set is nothing more than hubris from UD — we can make a base set this big, so we will!

The second problem: lackluster design. While 08 UD was simple (although somewhat derivative of 95 UD), 09 UD lacks that simplicity. The gold bar across the bottom of the card is distracting. And then there’s the team logos superimposed over a non-matching color. What’s up with that?

When juxtaposed with 09 Topps, there simply isn’t any comparison. Topps’ photography is on par with UD’s this year, and their design is exponentially better. After looking at these cards, you get the feeling UD simply rested on its laurels and mailed it in this year.

And then there’s the insert cards. Topps tapped into its CMG deal andthe popularity of retro sets and gave collectors Turkey Red, Legends of the Game, and Ring of Honor. And while UD wisely brought back the USA National Team subset, the rest of the inserts are essentially an epic fail. I didn’t care for Documentary or Yankee Stadium Legacy last year, and I certainly didn’t want to see them again this year. And what a waste of space the 20th anniversary subset is.


Topps is often derided for their creativity, or as others put it “gimmicks.” Whether it’s gimmicks or creativity, or a little of both, their 09 set shines, and UD’s offering pales in comparison.

A little late, but just a quick shout-out to a couple of very generous bloggers out there.

First off, from Night Owl Cards


Greg the Night Owl sent me a trio of 06 Updates that’ll get me that much closer to finishing my set. I need just a handful more, which is more than I had realized prior to checking on it. He also sent me a few random Dodgers, after I’d sent him a few random Raul Mondesi cards. Beltre, Nomo, and Kemp go in the Dodger binder, and the rest go into the giant box of Dodger fun. Thanks Greg!


These cards I won as the consolation prize from the group break over at Old School Breaks. My pre-selected teams bore no fruit, so I was the lucky winner of this box, which was the boxloader from one of the boxes he broke.


It kinda makes me chuckle to think of surly old Kevin Brown in front of glittery star. Silly as it may be, that card’s going into the Dodger binder. And speaking of Dodgers, here’s nine more from the woulda, shoulda, coulda been Dodgers file.


Yes, even Sandy Alomar Jr. was once a Dodger. Juan Marichal was also in this set, but I can’t stomach the fact that he ever wore a Dodger uniform.

This quad GU was also inclded in the box.


Given the news of the last week, it’s kind of well, I don’t know. ARod and Robbie Alomar on here, and the headlines weren’t friendly to them last week.

Thanks again Night Owl and Old School Breaks!

Eight cards per pack/14 packs per box

Base set (1-100) completion: 54 of 100 (54%)
2007 SP RC set (101-142) completion: 21 of 42 (50%)
Short print set (143-234) 14 of 92 (15%)
1996 SP RC set (243-284) 21 of 50 (42%)
Total set completion (this box) 108 of 284 (38%)
Total duplicates: 2 (2007 SP RC design)

Overall set completion (2 hobby boxes) 154 of 284 (54%)





Well, out of 108 possible cards, only 46 contributed to the set’s completion, leaving me at just a hair more than halfway through. And I’m nowhere near picking up all the short prints. Wow. That’s some bad collation. Oh well, no surprise here. Although this is going to give me some serious pause about even bothering with another box of Timeline. I think I’m better off trying to work trades to finish off the rest of these two sets.

Seriously, this is pathetic that two hobby boxes doesn’t even come close to finishing the base set. If this is Upper Deck’s model — and it certainly appears like it’s going to be in 2009, with a 1000-card flagship base set — they’re going to have an even harder time selling those hobby boxes.

It’s hard to really understand what in the world UD is thinking — producing bloated, massive base sets, inundating them with SPs, and canning their few worthwile sets. I have to think that if UD keeps this up, Topps is going to have fewer and fewer challenges, what with Fleer out of the picture, and Donruss relegated to non-licensed sets.

14 packs per box/eight cards per pack

Base set completion (1-100): 54 of 100 (54%)
2007 RC set completion (101-142): 19 of 42 (45%)
Short print set completion (143-234, 1993 & 1995 SP design): 14 of 92 (15%)
1996 SP RC set completion (234-284): 21 of 50 (42%)
Total set completion: 108 of 284 (38%)
Total duplicates 2 (2007 RC design)





This is the third of my Christmas purchases from DACW. You have to love below-retail prices combined with free shipping.

It strikes me that this year’s UD  Timeline would’ve been infinitely more attractive to collect if they managed the checklist the way they did for last year’s SP Rookie Edition. And that’s not to suggest that 07 SP Rookie Edition’s checklist is that much more well-managed — this set could’ve easily been trimmed by about, let’s say, 92 short-printed cards or so.

This is a sweet design — the veterans have just the single right-hand-side gold/black  border with their surnames in bold letters. Rookies have an additional border featuring a shadow-like action photo as well as the Rookie Card logo. And then there’s the three subsets based on the 1993, 1995, 1996 SP designs.

Sets like this remind me why I love sets such as Heritage, and why I thought I’d love Timeline. I’m not necessarily in favor of recycling ideas necessarily, but I like homages to the past. I say this since I missed so many of these classic designs. It’s nice to be able to appreciate them now.

I do think UD could’ve easily included all three subsets and avoided the stupid short prints by keeping the checklist shorter and not repeatedly using the same players. I’m obviously still an Andy LaRoche fan, but the need for three different “parallels” of his card in this set is negligible at best. Perhaps not coincidentally, the same could be said of this year’s Timelines.

Fortunately, boxes of this set are pretty cheap to acquire, so finishing the 284-card set may not be such a monumental task. Still, it could’ve been considerably easier had not UD stuck with the “must include parallels and short-prints” mantra.

Five cards per pack, 15 packs per box

Base set completion: 50 of 100 (50%)
Base duplicates: 1
Inserts: 18





As you can see from the scans, it looks like I ended up with a Yankee-heavy box. Too bad for me!

This was the first of three boxes I ordered from Dave & Adam’s, taking advantage of their Christmas sale prices and free shipping. That this box even arrived here today when it did is a feat in itself. I had originally ordered these on Monday the 15th, assuming that between the time it took UPS to deliver, and the final work week of the year, I’d have something to occupy myself the first couple of days of vacation. I should’ve figured on late ship dates though — DACW didn’t ship until 12/16, which meant the maximum time UPS would take extended my delivery time until 12/24, meaning I’d have no time to break the box until after Christmas!

Fast forward to today, when UPS finally showed them out for delivery. I waited for the usual time the driver comes by, and nothing. Checked my tracking numbers — wait a minute, delivered? Our usually reliable driver for some reason sent my boxes next door.

Long story short, it took a while, but they’re finally here.

I feel this set is what 08 Donruss Threads should’ve been. The 100-card checklist is nothing but HOFers and retired stars. It seems to me that the last set to do really well with a checklist of non-active players was 07 Legendary Cuts. Everything else since then has really faltered in terms of checklist variety.

But as for these cards, as I mentioned in a pack break earlier, they feature a simple, bordered design with enough old-timey looking artistic accents to give them the proper feel for a retired players set.

As for the box, I’m disappointed (though not surprised) that I only managed half of a base set with one hobby box. Even if the 18 inserts had been base cards, I’d still be only a little more than two-thirds of the way to a full set. Still, with a five-card/15 pack configuration, that’s not a surprise. What I am happy about is the price point on the box compared to its actual retail price. I bought a single pack for $6. I saved $20 off the price of 15 hobby packs.

I do wish we could go back to 04-06 in the baseball card production era. Lots of 100-150 card base sets; hobby boxes with 20 or more packs per box, and a greater variety of interesting sets to collect — as opposed to the Upper Deck Timeline/Documentary/X debacle of 2008. Those three years were great, and it’s no surprise that I continue to bust boxes from that time period.

As an added bonus from DACW, with a $50 purchase, I received two free hobby packs of 07 UD Masterpieces. In one of the packs was this card:


Once again, as a Dodger fan, it sure is odd ending up with all these Giants and Yankees!

Coming tomorrow: 2007 Bowman Heritage hobby box, and a package from Cards on Cards