Monday, February 09, 2004

Test Post: 2003 Fleer Tradition Update

The Details:

One box of 2003 Fleer Tradition Update Baseball (paid $55)
32 packs per box, 10 cards per pack (MSRP $1.49/pack)
Box also includes one 25 card "rookie box" as a chiptopper.

Base Set: 398 cards

Broken down by short-print scheme:
285 card short set
14 "Pack" Rookies (1:4)
99 "Box" rookies (25 per rookie box)

Glossy (885 cards, 1:6, numbered to 100)

Long GONE! (20 cards, 1:64, production varies)
Diamond Debuts (25 cards, 1:10)
Milestones (20 cards, 1:8)
Turn Back the Clock (10 cards, 1:160)

Throwback Threads (5 cards, 1:64)
Throwback Threads Patch (5 cards, numbered to 100)
Throwback Threads Dual (2 cards, numbered to 100)
Milestones Memoribilia (16 cards, 1:20)
Milestones Memoribilia Gold (16 cards, numbered to 100)

The Pulls:

Base Set:318 of 398 (79.90%)
6 doubles

Broken down by short-print scheme:
One Full Short Set
8 "Pack" Rookies: C-M Wang, J. Willingham, M. Kata, D.Young and four others
25 "Box" Rookies: B. Hart, R. Hammock, L. Ford, C. Gaudin, D. Haren, B. Webb, P. LaForest, J. Bonderman, D. DeJesus, M. Ryan and 15 others

9 Glossy
Reg. Set: Mon Team Leaders, J. Lieber, G. Jenkins, E. Marrero, K. Garcia, M. Olivo
Update Set: C. Bootcheck, A. Brown, M. Nicolas

1 Long GONE! A. Pujols /452
3 Diamond Debuts: R. Calloway, J. Contreras, D. Matranga
4 Milestones: R. Palmerio, R. Johnson, C. Jones, J. Thome

2 Milestones Memoribilia: C. Jones, P. Martinez

The Review:

Fleer Tradition Update is an "update" set in name only. It's more of a "Series Two" than a true "Update." Yes, there are loads of rookies, 113 to be exact. And there are the standard dozens of players who changed teams. But for God sake, Alex Rodriguez is in the base set (and I'm not talking about one of the many subset cards, he's in the regular set). Granted, he wasn't in the first series, and nor were Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling and Alfonso Soriano. But doesn't the inclusion of players like A-Rod, Barry Bones and Schill defeat the purpose of an "Update" set?

Anyway, let me be the first to officially declare the whole "retro" craze, while fresh a couple of years ago, as officially "played out." This is the second time in five years that Fleer has recycled the design of the 1963 Fleer set for Tradition. Yeah, I know, I know, the '63 Fleer reprints were a parallel in '98 Fleer Trad. But still, there's only so many times you can go to the well, before coming up dry.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Fleer's latest packaging gimmick. You see, there are 113 "rookies" in the set, but instead of putting them all in the packs, they separated them into two different packaging formats. Fourteen were inserted into the packs at the rate of 1:4, while the remaining 99 were randomly inserted into a special "rookie box" chiptopper. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, by getting 25 of the 99 "box" rookies in one shot (and with many dealers selling the "rookie box" as a standalone item), you shouldn't have to invest much in wax to build your set. In fact, one box should yield the full short set and half of the "pack" rookies. I do wish Fleer would make their mind up. Either put them all in the packs, or make the whole thing a factory set.

In addition to the 113 rookies, the rest of the base set contains 200 regular cards (including the aforementioned A-Rod, Bonds and Schilling), 59 All-Stars, 16 Interleague Plays and 10 Tales of the Tape. Each card also comes in a glossy parallel version that's numbered to 100 copies. Glossy versions of the 485 first series cards are also included for your collecting pleasure.

The rest of the insert program includes Long GONE! (their spelling), Diamond Debuts and Milestones which look exactly like the insert set of the same name from the first series. About the only way you can tell the difference between the series of Milestones are the fact that there were 25 in the first series and only 20 in the Update, and are sequentially numbered as such. The last of the conventional inserts are the ten card Turn Back the Clocks. In just about every recent Fleer product there has been at least one non game-used insert that a little tougher to pull than others. A non-game-used card that actually carries value? A novel concept in these days of $70 one-per-pack game-used products like Leaf Limited. In FTU the TBTC's are it, coming only once every five boxes.

Just like in last year's set, each box promises at least two gamers. Now, if you're into that kind of thing, that's great. But I think Fleer needs to do a little market research. The typical collector who purchases products like Tradition are, well, "traditional" collectors (read: set builders). While it's nice to pull two gamers from a box, most that collect sets like this aren't in it for the game used cards. Besides, by making these cards easier to pull, the potential value of such cards becomes diluted. The two game-used sets are the Milestones Memorabilia, which are a quasi-parallel of the regular Milestones, and Throwback Threads. The Milestones come in both regular and Gold flavors, and the Throwback Threads come in Patch and double swatch versions, are which are numbered to 100.

The Bottom Line:

Like I said, this is an Update that's not really an "update" set. If I could make a suggestion to Fleer, instead releasing a 500 card set in January, and following it up with a pseudo-update set in November, put out a 700 card set in March (or two 350-400 card series), followed by a 150-200 card true update set in November. Kind of like the 1994 Fleer set. Also, another suggestion: GET RID OF THE SHORT PRINTS! In a product like this SPs really don't serve much of a purpose anyway.

Like a mentioned before, the box yielded the full 285 card short set, 8 of the 14 "pack" rookies and a quarter of the "box" rookies. I received all of the inserts as promised and three additional Glossy parallels.

Collation Rating: 4 1/2 Gumsticks out of five
Product Rating: 3 Gumsticks

Do I recommend this product: If you are building this set, one box should yield a full short set and a good number of the SPs. Because of the unique distribution of the SPs, you should have no problem chasing after them.

Oh, and another thing: About a month after I bought this box, I went to a card shop and purchased another one of the 25-card Rookie boxes. The 25 cards I pulled from this Rookie box were the EXACT same 25 cards I received in this box. Something to be wary of.

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