Friday, May 02, 2008

Vintage Video Box Break and Review: 1995 Select

One box of 1995 Select (Purchased from Pittsburgh Sports Wholesale* for $19.95 + shipping)
24 packs per box, 10 cards per pack.

*No endorsement implied.

The Details

Base Set: 250 cards (no short-prints)

Artist Proof: 250 cards (1:24, limited to 475 copies)

Can't Miss: 12 cards (1:24, limited to 9900)
Big Sticks: 12 cards (1:48, limited to 4950)
Sure Shots: 10 cards (1:90, limited to 3168)

Autogamers: NONE

Part One:

Part Two:

The Pulls

Base Set: 237 of 250 (94.80%)

1 Artist Proof: Darren Lewis

1 Can't Miss!: C. Floyd
1 Big Sticks: C. Ripken, Jr.

The Review

Ah, 1995 Select. The memories....

In the summer of '95 I had just arrived from basic training at my first duty station. I never lived outside the greater Philadelphia area before, so it took some time for me to adjust to my new life. Fortunately for me, there were two Hobby shops within walking distance of the base’s front gate; and about every-other month there was a card show at one of the many casino hotels that lined the Mississippi Gulf Coast. My cardboard addiction would be fully sated.

It was around the time I was first allowed to leave the base when Pinnacle Brands released 1995 Select baseball. The novelty behind Select was that only 4950 24-box cases would be made, and that each individual waxbox would be serial-numbered.

For those of you that have been out of The Hobby for a while, and/or don't remember what The Hobby was like in the mid-90s, the practice of card manufacturers announcing the production figures of specific products was The Hobby’s gimmick of the moment. Topps kicked it all off when it debuted Finest in 1993 with the statement that only 4000 cases would be made. Later that year, Donruss stated that would only make 6250 12-box cases of Leaf Update. Pinnacle got into the act by serial-numbering each one of the 1950 24-box cases of 1993 Select Rookie/Traded. The following year it spread to Donruss (17,500 cases of each series), Leaf Limited and Leaf Limited Rookies (60,000 and 30,000 serial-numbered waxboxes, respectively), and ’94 Select (4950 cases of each series).

So what’s the big deal, you ask? Plenty. Armed with these nuggets of information, as well as other variables like set size and stated insertion ratio, one could figure out exactly how many copies of each individual card (insert, parallel, and base) were in circulation with a simple pocket calculator. So although they were not serial-numbered, it didn't much effort to figure out that only 241 copies of 1993 Finest Refractor were issued. And using the same method, only 475 copies of each one-per-box 1995 Select Artist Proof parallel were printed.

A card limited to 475 copies doesn’t seem to be all that “scarce” – and by the standards of 2008, it’s not. But in the fin-de-si├Ęcle Hobby, a card limited to 475 was considered scarce, and the thought being guaranteed of such a card in each box was the main reason why Select flew off the shelves when it was released.

By the summer of ’95 it had been four months since I bought any cards, so I was stoked to rip into a box of Select. The 1994 version was (and still remains) one of my favorite card sets, and the ’95 version – with the exception of the new Artist Proofs, and the elimination of a second series – was virtually unchanged. The problem was for me was that very few of those 4950 cases made their way to Biloxi, Mississippi.

You know those two Hobby stores just outside the base I was talking about? One never bothered to order this product and the other....

I rarely bought any wax from that guy -- just singles. For some reason, regardless of the product, or the cost, most of his waxboxes cost $68 -- and that's what he wanted for a box of '95 Select. And so, I took a pass on 1995 Select.

As I mentioned on APAD, this is a product that I waited 13 years to bust, and I found a box for $19.95 at Pittsburgh Sports Wholesale. Was it worth the wait?

Let me put it this way, if you were to go back in time and speak to A1C Harris, I'm sure he'd be ecstatic with a waxbox that yielded 94.8% of the base set and a $75 Cal Ripken, Jr. insert. (According to the September 1995 issue of Beckett, a Big Sticks insert of a fresh-from-breaking-Lou-Gehrig’s-record Cal Ripken, Jr. booked for $75.) While it only books for $25 now, I’m still satisfied with my purchase.

The base set is 250 cards, and although there are no RCs, (there are two second-year A-Rods) it is a very nice looking, well designed card set. For the second consecutive year, all of the base cards -- with the exception of the "Select Rookie" and "Showtime" subsets -- are oriented horizontally and have two photos. All the usual suspects are here, along with a few players you may have forgotten about. (Where have you gone Jason Jacome?)

Like I mentioned, the hot insert in '95 Select was the one-per-box Artist Proofs. But there are three other inserts to chase after. In addition to the 1:48/pack Big Sticks of Cal Ripken, Jr., I pulled a Cliff Floyd Can’t Miss! Can’t Miss! was the designated one-per-box "super hot prospect" insert that was standard issue in most “premium” level products. While the 12-card checklist had some players who did miss, (i.e. Billy Ashley) what makes Can't Miss! special was the Dufex. I've always been a mark for the Dufex, and if there’s one thing I miss about Pinnacle Brands it’s these cards.

The other insert, which I did not receive a card from, was the 1:90/pack Sure Shots. Sure Shots were another Dufex-based set, this one starring ten of the top picks of the 1994 Draft. Unfortunately, with the exception of Paul Konerko, the draft class of '94 never distinguished itself, and these cards (including the Konerko) can be had cheap.

Product Rating: 3 Gumsticks (out of five)

1995 Select is a Hobby time machine. It’s a throwback to a time in The Hobby when a $2/pack product was considered “premium” and when scarcity was measured in the hundreds and thousands. If you’ve got $20 burning a hole in your pocket, and can’t stand the thought of blowing it on two packs of Topps Co-Signers, pick up a box of 1995 Select.


Anonymous said...

Great review! (Of course I, of all people, would like it :)

Anonymous said...

Love the old box breaks. It is both fun and sad going through the cards. That guy you would have flipped over now just reminds you of what could have been. But you get a chance to get some cards on the cheap that you didn't want ot fork over big bucks for back when.