AMOUNT SPENT ON 2012 TOPPS BASEBALL: $0.00

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Video Box Break and Review: 2008 Upper Deck Series Two

Here's my video box break, courtesy of the one and only Dr. Wax Battle.

One Hobby Box of 2008 Upper Deck Series Two (paid $69 + tax)
16 packs per box, 20 cards per pack

The Details

Base Set: 400 cards (no SPs)

Parallels
Gold (numbered to 99)

Inserts
25 USA National Team (1:4)
20 USA Junior National Team (1:4)
12 Presidential Predictors (1:8)
Yankee Stadium Legacy Buybacks

Mirrors
Yankee Stadium Legacy (1:4)

Autogamers
45 USA Baseball Autographs* (numbered to 375 or less)
45 USA Baseball Jersey Autographs* (numbered to 199 or less)
45 USA Baseball Patch Autographs* (numbered to 99 of less)
10 1997 Game Jersey#
10 1998 Game Jersey#
10 1999 Game Jersey#
70 UD Game Jersey#
10 Throwback 1997 UD Game Jersey Patch Parallel#
10 Throwback 1998 UD Game Jersey Patch Parallel#
10 Throwback 1999 UD Game Jersey Patch Parallel#
70 UD Game Jersey Patch Parallel#
45 USA Baseball Jersey#
45 USA Baseball Patch#
Yankee Stadium Legacy Memorabilia Cards#

* = Stated odds: Two-per-box
# = Stated odds: One-per-box

The Pulls



Base Set:
299 of 400 (74.75%)
3 Doubles

Parallels
1 Gold: A. Marte

Inserts
4 USA National Team: B. Wallace, D. Espinosa, J. Smoak, T. Ross
4 USA Junior National Team: J. P. Ramirez, M. Purke, R. Torrez, T. Melville
2 Presidential Predictors: Clinton vs. McCain: Iraq, Obama vs. McCain: Healthcare

Mirrors
4 Yankee Stadium Legacy: #s 6024 (P. O'Neill), 6049 (T. Martinez), 6074 (D. Jeter), 6099 (T. Martinez)

Autogamers
1 USA Baseball Jersey Autographed: T. Hibbs (# to 392)
1 USA Baseball Autographed: K. Skipworth (# to 200)
1 USA Baseball Jersey: T. Medica

The Review

It's the most anticipated rookie card to hit The Hobby in seven years. And thanks to Topps' hubris, 2008 Upper Deck Series Two will have the only Kosuke Fukudome RC on the market for a while.

The rest of the set consists of 300 regular player cards (401-700) arranged alphabetically by team, thirty "Rookie Cards" (701-730), a batch of Season Highlights (731-750), thirty Team Checklists (751-780), and then, yet another score of Season Highlights (781-800). Once again, the Team Checklists -- at least their fronts -- are virtually indistinguishable from the regular player cards.

The main insert -- and timed just in time for the 2008 MLB Draft -- is the return of Team USA. 45 members of last year's National and Junior National teams are represented on inserts and autogamers. This is the first time the Junior National Team has been included in a Major League set, and I have to be honest with you, I'm not sure I'm all that comfortable with cards of high schoolers.

The Bottom Line

This box yielded three-quarters of a full base set with three doubles and all inserts ran as promised. I pulled three Team USA autogamers, and not knowing who the heck these kids (and they are kids) are, I did some research.

I pulled an autographed jersey card (numbered to 392 copies) of Junior National Team pitcher Tyler Hibbs. Hibbs was the Baltimore Sun's All-Metro High School Player of the Year for 2006, and was offered a scholarship by Florida State. Then this past February he was arrested for marijuana possession, and FSU revoked their offer. Hibbs be attending Tallahassee Community College in the fall.

The second autogamer was an autograph (numbered to 200) of Kyle Skipworth, a catcher from Patriot HS in Riverside, CA. Skipworth hit .543 this past year and was named California high school player of the year. Skipworth is expected to be a top-10 pick in this year's draft.

The third and final autogamer is a jersey card of another catcher: Santa Clara University's Tommy Medica. Medica is a sophomore, and as such, is not draft eligible until next year.

I also pulled eight non-gamer USA cards, three of whom (Justin Smoak, Brett Wallace, and Tim Melville) are projected to go in the top-half of the Draft.

Product Rating: 3 1/2 Gumsticks (out of five)

... and another thing.

I think it says something about the state of The Hobby in 2008 that, of the 18 inserts, parallels, mirrors, and autogamers I pulled in this box, only five feature actual Major League players.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Even More Stupidity from Topps.

You didn't think they'd stop at just one, did you?



This is Yasuhiko Yabuta, set-up man for the Kansas City Royals. And yes, Topps has decided to (stupidly) replace his legit Rookie Card with a gimmicked short-print.



Meet Alexei Ramirez, backup outfielder for the Chicago White Sox. Like Yabuta and Fukudome, he played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic -- only for Cuba. And just like Yabuta and Fukudome, there is no Alexei Ramirez rookie card in series two Topps. Only this gimmick card.



Ummm, wow. Mere words can not describe what I think of this card.

Memo to Topps:

DO YOU REALLY, REALLY, THINK CARD COLLECTORS ARE THIS GULLIBLE?

DO YOU REALLY, REALLY, THINK CARD COLLECTORS ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO COLLECT THESE CARDS?

DO YOU REALLY, REALLY, THINK THAT CONSTANTLY APPEALING TO THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR -- ESPECIALLY IN SUCH A CYNICAL MANNER -- IS GOOD FOR THE HOBBY?

DO YOU EVEN REALIZE THE LONG-TERM DAMAGE YOU ARE DOING TO THE HOBBY WITH THESE GIMMICKS?

DO YOU EVEN CARE?

I know one thing, as long as the gimmicks continue, this collector will no longer be purchasing Topps baseball products.

Gimmicking away Topps' credibility, one card at a time.

Alex Gordon.

Alay Soler.

Derek Jeter (and friends).

Jacoby Ellsbury.

Poley Walnuts.

Kazuo Uzuki.

"Jon" Smoltz.

The Rip Master.

You can now add the name of Kosuke Fukudome to the list of Topps' bullshit gimmick cards.

There is NO, repeat, NO Kosuke Fukudome rookie card in Topps series two. Instead there's this...


... a gimmicked short-print.

Un-Fucking-Believable.

More info as it develops.

I Get Letters: the real story behind the 1989 ud ken griffey jr. card

Dear Chris,

i read all your blogs religiously...thought you'd be interested in this....


http://www.slate.com/id/2191533

-- Darren Rovell

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Pick the Vintage Set

Last night, I received my college degree.


Now that that's over with, I'm now onto the next item on my life's "to do" list: Collect a complete mid-70s Topps set.

There are five such sets that I have had my eye on, but I can't decide which one to begin with. So, I leave it to you. The nominees are:

1972
1974
1975
1976
1979

Pick a winner.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

1st Impressions: Upper Deck X

Upper Deck X is a new brand that, in a way, hearkens back to what SPx used to be before UD ruined it with gimmicked "rookies."

Each eight-card pack contains six base set cards, one die-cut parallel, and one UDxponential insert.

PRODUCT BREAKDOWN:


Regular Cards and Rookies

o 100 Regular Cards

Inserts and Parallel Cards

o Regular Card Die Cut Parallel Cards (one-per-pack)

o UDxponential (Huge 200 Card set!, one-per-pack)

o Yankee Stadium Legacy (1:4)

o Yankee Stadium Legacy Buybacks


Autograph Cards (2 per box, on average)

o UDx Signatures

o Yankee Stadium Legacy Buybacks

o Signs of History Presidential Cut Signatures

Memorabilia Cards

o Yankee Stadium Legacy Memorabilia Cards

o Yankee Stadium Legacy Buybacks

MSRP: $3.99 for an eight card pack.
Street Date: September

Saturday, May 17, 2008

White Plains: Not Quite as Decadent and Depraved.

I got out of my car around one in the afternoon and no one spoke as I crossed the Bronx River Parkway towards the arena. The air was unusually warm. Inside, people hugged each other and shook hands...big grins and a whoop here and there: "By God! You old bastard! Good to see you, boy! Damn good...and I mean it!"

In the air conditioned snack bar I met a man from Long Island who said his name was something or other--"but just call me Vito"--and he was here to get it on. "I'm ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?" I ordered a Pepsi.

"Look." He tapped me on the arm to make sure I was listening. "I know this White Plains crowd, I come here every show, and let me tell you one thing I've learned -- this is no card show to be giving people the impression you're a non-collector. Not in public, anyway. Shit, they'll roll you in a minute, knock you in the head and take every goddam card you have."

"Say," he said, "you look like you might be in the card business...am I right?"

"No," I said. "I'm a writer."

"Oh yeah?" He eyed my ragged book of wantlists with new interest. "Is that what you got there -- notepads? Who you write for?"

"Stale Gum," I said.

He laughed. "Well, goddam! I read that page all the time!" He was laughing wildly. "Hell yes!"

I shook my head and said nothing; just stared at him for a moment, trying to look grim. "There's going to be trouble," I said. "I'm here to cover the story."

"Story?"

I hesitated, twirling the ice in my Pepsi. "On the floor. 2008 Bowman Baseball." I stared at him again. "Don't you read my site?"

The grin on his face had collapsed. "What the hell are you talkin' about?"

"Well...maybe I shouldn't be telling you..." I shrugged. "But hell, everybody else seems to know. Everybody's been ready for weeks. They brought 25 cases. They've warned us -- all the press and bloggers -- to wear helmets and special vests like flak jackets. We were told to expect rioting..."

"No!" he shouted; his hands flew up and hovered momentarily between us, as if to ward off the words he was hearing. Then he whacked his fist on the bar. "Topps! Those sons of bitches! God Almighty! The White Plains Show!" He kept shaking his head. "No! Jesus! That's almost too bad to believe!" Now he seemed to be sagging on the stool, and when he looked up his eyes were misty. "Why? Why here? Don't they respect anything?"

I shrugged again. "It's not just Topps. Beckett says box loads of Celebrity Cuts are coming from Donruss -- to mix with the other wax and attack collector's wallets all at once, from every direction. They'll look like all the other high-end packs. But when the trouble starts...well, that's why I brought this." I then showed him my can of "Chemical Billy."

He sat for a moment, looking hurt and confused and not quite able to digest all this terrible news. Then he cried out: "Oh...Jesus! What in the name of God is happening in this Hobby? Where can you get away from it?"

"Not here," I said, picking up my wantlists. "Thanks for the drink...and good luck."

He grabbed my arm, urging me to have another, but I said I was overdue on the floor and hustled off to get my act together for the awful spectacle.

I went to one table to pick up a box of '08 Upper Deck series two, but the moon-faced young swinger in charge said they didn't have any. "You can't buy one anywhere," he assured me. "It ain't out for another couple a weeks. Besides, our pre-sells have been booked for six weeks."

I leaned closer to him, half-whispering: "Look, I'm from stalegum.com. How would you like to write for a Hobby blog?"

He backed off quickly. "What? Come on, now. What kind of a blog?"

"Never mind," I said. "You just blew it." I swept my wantlist book off the table and went to find some cheap inserts. A man in a gimmicky T-Shirt is a valuable prop in this kind of work; I have lots and the most prominent of all is a very official, navy blue thing that says "Rated Rookie." I bought it from a website somewhere, and they told me how to use it. "Never mention your website until you're sure they've seen you in this shirt first," they said. "Then, when you see them notice it, that's the time to strike. They'll go belly up ever time. This thing is magic, I tell you. Pure magic."

Well...maybe so. I'd used it on the poor geek in the snack bar, and now I felt a little guilty about jangling the poor bugger's brains. But what the hell? Anybody who wanders around the world saying, "Hell yes, I'm from Long Island," deserves whatever happens to him. And he had, after all, come here once again to make a nineteenth-century ass of himself in the midst of some jaded, atavistic waxbox freakout. Early in our chat, Vito had told me that he hadn't missed a White Plains show since 1996. "The little lady won't come anymore," he said. "She grits her teeth and turns me loose for this one. And when I say 'loose' I do mean loose! I toss ten-dollar bills around like they were goin' out of style! Wax, singles, rookies...shit, there's dealers in this building that'll do anything for money."

Why not? Money is a good thing to have in these twisted times. The Hobby, meanwhile, continues its grim slide.



My attorney was unable to accompany me to White Plains. But I remember what he told me before I left.

"As your attorney, I advise you not to buy 2008 Bowman wax. With all the gimmicks and autographed "rookies," it's a junkwax product now. You'll be able to get a box for half-price after the baseball season ends."

My attorney is a very wise man. He's not just some dingbat I found on the Strip. I think he's probably Samoan.



I came for a cardboard riot, and left a bit disappointed. Although 2008 Bowman was live, and in ample supply (Hobbby: $60-$63; HTA: $89-$95), it wasn't selling. In fact, in my three hours at White Plains, I did not witness a single box sold nor did I see a single collector carrying around a purchased box. Maybe card collectors are starting to get hep to Bowman? Either that, or they all have my attorney on retainer.

It wasn't just the Bowman wax. The entire Westchester County Center was a morgue. The last show... The Hobbyists were packed into that place like a Tokyo subway car. Shit, there were so many dealer tables, they had 'em stacked up on the stage! This show... Nothing. No junkwax. No loose packs to review on APAD. No, nothing.

Then again, it probably wasn't a smart idea to schedule the show during the first weekend of Interleague Play. In these parts, The Subway Series is a far, far better thing than the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the Lower Oakland Roller Derby Finals all rolled into one. The White Plains show attracts a very special breed, and they were either out at Yankee Stadium, or home watching the game on TV.

I began wandering the aisle looking for something to bust. Leftover boxes of Topps Moments and Milestones for only $69. (Now with a complementary layer of dust!) A box of 2001 Bowman Chrome for $600. Some poor sap is probably dumb enough to buy that box, and he'll probably pull that Albert Pujols redemption card. Sucker. Monster box after monster box of commons and cheap inserts. I looked at those monster boxes and began to think. How would Jefferson Burdick handle the situation?

Panic. It crept up my spine like the first rising vibes of a wax frenzy. All these horrible realities began to dawn on me: Here I was all alone in White Plains, completely twisted and in need of a wax fix, with no attorney, not much cash, and no wax riot story for the blog. How would Jefferson Burdick handle the situation? Shit! I'm not even sure ol' Jeff could handle this.



I wound up purchasing a stack of 2004 Topps Heritage SPs interspersed with 2007 Fleer and Topps Heritage commons for $80. I also spent $40 on a stack of over 50 inserts from a dollar box -- ranging from 1994-2007. I was able to pull a 2001 Roy Oswalt Rookie Diamond King, so I can add that to the 2K1 D'Russ blog.

All in all, a pretty disappointing show.

Total Spent on Cards: $120
Admission and Parking: $11
Tolls: $15.70

GRAND TOTAL: $146.70

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

White Plains????

If you're going to the card show this weekend in White Plains, NY, and want to meet up, let me know ASAP.

I always appreciate feedback from my readers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yes, This Guy Is Real.

In an attempt to gimmick away what little relevance their Bowman brand still had with collectors, Topps has included autographed inserts of over 20 Major League scouts in their just-released 2008 Bowman. But some collectors have had questions about this particular scout card.



This is an autograph of the mysterious "Bowman Scout." Who is this guy? Is he even real? Or do we have another Kazuo Uzuki? Or "Rip Master?"

First off, yes, The Bowman Scout is a real person. He is an actual scout for an American League team who has worked as a consultant for Topps since the early 90s. According to a 2006 interview with Beckett, The Scout (who wishes to remain anonymous) says he attends 300-400 baseball games a year, ranging from high school to the Big Leagues.

Among The Scout's greatest "discoveries:" Mike Piazza (1992 Bowman), Jorge Posada ('94), Matt Holliday ('99), Jose Reyes and Justin Morneau (2001).

And despite his work with Topps, he says he doesn't collect baseball cards.

So now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Topps: The Pilot Episode.

(The scene, the boardroom. Jason and Randy are about to preside over their first board meeting as joint-CEOs of Topps.)

Jason: The first meeting of the Topps Board of Directors is now in session. Randy, do you want to....

Randy: ... take the roll? Sure thing little brother. Let me get out the sheet here and call everyone's....

Jason: ... names?

Randy: ... ummm, yeah. Mr. Eisner?

Michael: Here.

Randy: Mr. Berger?

Sy: Here.

Randy: Mr. Olbermann?

Keith: Present.

Randy: Mr. Ginter

Allen: Here.

Randy: And finally..., hey, ummm, Jason?

Jason: Yeah, Randy.

Randy: Who's this guy? (pointing to name on roster list)

Jason: Oh, that's the new guy. Louie!

Announcer: And now...Louie! The guy who comes in and says his catch phrase over and over again.

Louie: HEY EVERYBODY!


All: LOUIE!!!

Louie: Who's got something for me?

Sy: I do.

Louie: What is it?

Sy: A waxbox of 2008 Topps Co-Signers.

Louie: Topps Co-Signers?

Hey, I wanna dip my balls in it!

All: YAY!!!

Louie: Hey Olby, what you got there?

Keith: It's a 1977 Reggie Jackson Proof, what do you want with it?

Louie: What do I want with it?
I wanna dip my balls in it!

All: YAY!!!

Sy: Very infectious and amusing, this Louie character.

Louie: Who's got some Topps Finest?

Allen: I do!

Louie:
I would like to dip my balls in it!

All: YAY11!

Randy: How about some 1995 Topps D3 singles?

Louie:
I would like to dip my balls in it!

All: YAY!!!

Sy: Hey Louie... A Kazuo Uzuki gimmick card?

Louie: Aw hell, who gives a damn!
I wanna dip my balls in it!

All: YAY!!!

Allen: A dozen Topps Heritage short-prints?

Louie:
I wanna put 'em in top-loaders!

All: YAY-awwwwww

Louie?

Louie: You've heard it all before!

Allen: No we haven't.

Louie: You've heard it all before.

Jason and Randy: No! We haven't.

Louie: You've heard it all before!

All: Oh no we haven't!

Louie: I'm sorry, I can't say it.

All: (gradually increasing in volume) Louie! Louie! Louie! Louie! Louie! Louie! Louie! Louie!

Louie: HEY! EVERYBODY!!!!

All:
I WANNA DIP MY BALLS IN IT!

Vintage Video Box Break and Review: 1999 Skybox Metal Universe

One retail box of 1999 Skybox Metal Universe (paid $18.95 + shipping from Pittsburgh Sports Wholesale *)
20 packs per box, six cards per pack (MSRP $2.39)

The Details

Base Set: 300 cards

Parallels: NONE (all are Hobby Only)

Inserts:
15 Neophytes (1:10)
15 Boyz with the Wood (1:30)
15 Planet Metal (1:60)
15 Diamond Soul (1:96)
10 Linchpins (1:576)

Autogamers: NONE (all are Hobby Only)

The Pulls

Part One



Part Two



Base Set: 116 of 300 (38.67%)

Inserts:
2 Neophytes: P. Konerko, M. Tejada
1 Boyz with the Wood: M. Piazza
1 Planet Metal: D. Erstad


1999 Skybox Metal Universe was a set that I never got around to collecting. But when I ripped a pack of this in my recent 20-for-$40 gimmick on APAD, I was hooked. I made it my mission to bust a waxbox. Unfortunately, all I could find on Pittsburgh Sports Wholesale was this 20-pack retail box.

Like in previous years, all the base cards have etched-foil fronts and are embossed -- hence, the name. The 1999 Metals have an industrial look and feel, with what look like riveted iron plating. Unfortunately, they only added the embossing to the top-half of the card, which if stacked, causes a noticeable lean.


To wit: These are all the base cards I ripped from this box. I like to call this "The Leaning Tower of 1999 Metal."

Among the subsets, there are 25 "Building Blocks" (prospects and rookies), 25 "M.L.P.D.s" -- which I still have no idea what it stands for -- and 15 "Caught on the Fly's." What makes the subsets great -- but in an unintentionally funny kind of way -- are their backs. The COTF's are "written" in the style of the Sporting News column of the same name. But it's the Building Blocks and M.L.P.D. backs that are notable. Notable in their hilarity.

In the late-90s, Fleer oriented all their Skybox brands to appeal to an "urban" audience. (They even hired Coolio to star in their print ads.) This marketing/pandering even went as far as the language used on backs of the cards.


Before I go any further I should note that in September 2001 I had a job interview at Fleer's headquarters in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. After spending nearly two hours at the Fleer office, I did not notice anyone outside the "middle-aged-white-guy/white-gal" demographic who was employed there. Please take this into consideration before reading the back of Adrian Beltre's Building Blocks card.

"Yo, Adrian, 20 years old, filling in for Bobby Bo' at third for the L.A. Dodgers ... not bad. We know that you almost nabbed the '97 FSL Triple Crown and were Mr. MVP. We can see your glove is phat already. But at 20? I guess that's why Zeile's in Texas and Konerko's in Cincy ... your move, Kid."


See what I mean?

The numbered-to-50 Precious Metal Gems and one-of-one Gem Master parallels were exclusive to Hobby, but all five non-parallel inserts were available in retail as well, albeit at slightly longer odds. Like the subsets, all the inserts are written in "Mount Laurel Ebonics." The fifteen card, 1:10/pack Neophytes are the designated "Hot Rookie" insert that was standard in most late-90s products. The fifteen card, 1:30 Boyz with the Wood (See, it's spelled with a "Z" at the end! It's gangsta!) are an equally formulaic "Power Hitters" insert. If these cards look a lot like those "Flapper" cards in this years Topps Opening Day, they should. The BwtW and the Opening Day Flappers were made by the company.

Planet Metal (1:60) is the standard issue die-cut insert and Diamond Soul (1:96) are lenticular (i.e. Sportflix) cards. In the era before the gamer, just about every Fleer set had one insert that was a genuinely tough pull. In 1999 Skybox Metal Universe, the 1:576/pack Linchpins -- which have a laser-cut cotter pin design in the background -- fit this bill.

The Bottom Line

For such a small box, (only 120 cards) I had some pretty good pulls. I only wish I had found a Hobby box though. I received almost 40% of the base set, two Neophytes inserts, a Mike Piazza Boyz with the Wood, and a one-per-third box Planet Metal of Darin Erstad.

Product Rating: 2 1/2 Gumsticks (out of five)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Techincal Difficulties.

I promise, this is it. I'm going with the "Stale Gum of 2001" look.

Topps: The Sitcom.

When Mickey Buysner Michael Eisner bought Topps last year and announced that it would "turn Topps into a media brand in the mold of Disney," some of us didn't know what to expect.

We now have some sort of an idea. As Scott Kelnhofer reported on this week's Sports Collector's Radio, the Topps will produce a web-based sitcom starring these guys....


The Sklar Brothers from Cheap Seats.

The plot? The Sklar's inherit a trading card company and appoint themselves CEO. Hilarity ensues! (So that's who came up with Kazuo Uzuki!)

More info as it develops.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Place Your Bets, Folks. Place Your Bets.

FINAL UPDATED ODDS

Ben Henry's long slog through the early 1990s is almost over, and he's down to the Final Four Three Two. By my count, the only four three two card sets he's yet to rank are:

1990 Leaf
1990 Score
1991 Stadium Club
1992 Bowman

So what will it be? What set will Ben Henry choose as the number one card set of the early 1990s? Allow me to introduce my alter ego: Chrissy "The Greek."

1990 Score (3-2)
Coming from a guy who rated 1987 Topps as the best set of the 80s, it would be no surprise if Henry selects this set #1.

1991 Stadium Club (3-1)
The second choice on the board, 1991 Stadium Club is a set that would apply to Ben's aesthetic sensibilities.

1990 Leaf (9-1)
A true landmark set, but will that be enough to overtake '90 Score or '91 Stadium Club?


1992 Bowman (25-1)
Another benchmark product, '92 Bowman is a bit of a long shot. While many may consider this a value bet, "my sources" tell me 1992 Bowman has no chance.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Stale Gum Box Break Archive.

Over the years, I had thought I lost all my pre-blogger box breaks forever. Then I discovered something called the Internet Wayback Machine, which has been archiving other websites. So to whoever started up the Internet Wayback Machine, THANK YOU FOR SAVING EVERYTHING!

http://web.archive.org/web/20010801192515/stalegum.com/coll/coll.asp

If you have any spare time, check it out. See what this site looked like seven years ago (yes, that is supposed to look like 1987 Donruss), or see just how awful my writing skills were before I went back to college.

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)

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

Inserts
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%)

Parallels
1 Artist Proof: Darren Lewis

Inserts
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.