Thursday, October 28, 2010

1993 Upper Deck

During his final season, 37 year-old Robin Yount had 7 consecutive hits over 2 games versus the Blue Jays in May at the SkyDome.

On May 27, 1993 his single in the top of the 5th, was his 2120th single of his career passing Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn’s mark for 23rd place on the all-time list.

Robin’s single in the 6th tied him for 22nd place with Hall of Famer George Sisler.

About the Card

1993 Upper Deck is a very simple, clean & elegant design. White borders with a monochromatic stripe highlighting the players name in script.

Pictured is what's known as a “true gem” copy. Due to Beckett’s grading algorithm you don’t need to have every sub grade be gem in order to obtain a gem grade.

In general, true gems fetch a slightly higher price than a regular gem.

As a side note, centering is weighted more in the algorithm. Which is unusual considering it’s the one aspect of the card condition that the collector has no control over.

Monday, October 25, 2010

1992 Ultra

Frank Thomas injured his right shoulder during a 19-inning game vs. the Brewers on May 1, 1991 in County Stadium.

After that game he started to DH fairly regularly during the 1991 season because he wasn’t able to throw.

The injury didn’t effect his hitting. His line for the season was a staggering .338/.453/.553

However, since he exploded onto the scene as a DH it was hard for him to shake that perception even though he didn’t serve as the ‘Good Guys’ primary DH until 1998.

About the Card

1992 Ultra was Fleer’s response to Topps’ seminal 1991 Stadium Club set. In both design and concept Fleer copied what Topps had done with little improvement. The only difference between the sets is that 1992 Ultra had three insert sets. The All-Stars insert was inserted at a very particular ratio of 1 per 6.5 packs.

The front design is virtually the same as ’91 TSC but ’92 Ultra features a slab of grayish green granite topped with a gold trim.  This invokes another American pastime - the kitchen countertop.

The player’s last name is one font size bigger than his first name. Which comes across like a mistake more than an artistic choice.

’91 TSC used a clever marketing ploy by calling attention to the players’ first Topps rookie card on the back. Without a glorious history to reflect on, Ultra went into a different direction for the back of their card. I will examine that on a later post.

I find that 1992 Ultra is an easy card to grade gem. With all its design flubs the production was rock solid. Surfaces are clean. Centering is always dead on and the edges are always sharp.

Although it’s very uninspired and somewhat odd - it’s still a good set that helped make premium cards the norm more than the exception.

The granite slab functions as a background to a monochromatic color scheme, with graph paper on top. The player then has a shadow effect on his photo for depth. Cohesiveness is not today’s key word. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1977 Topps

The Montreal Expos inaugural home opener at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on April 15, 1977 hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in front of 57,592 hockey fans.

Steve Carlton, en route to his second Cy Young award, throws a complete game giving up 10 hits, 2 er, 1bb, & 6ks. He also had an RBI single in the win.

Three future Hall of Famers started for the Expos. At first, batting clean up Tony Perez, behind the plate batting 6th was Gary Carter and batting 7th the eventual rookie of the year, Andre Dawson manned centerfield.

They combined for 1 hit in 11 at bats against Carlton. 

About the Card

The 1977 Topps design is a tone-downed version of the flashier 1975 set. However, its concept still owes a lot to graffiti. Big block letters letting you know what’s up. The team, player name and position have their own color making it a very colorful card. Throughout the set some color combinations worked better than others.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

1991 Stadium Club

After the 1991 season Cal Ripken became just the 2nd player in Elias Sports Bureau ranking system to achieve a perfect score of 1.000 in its 11-year history.

About the Card

A landmark set.  The borderless design with crystal clear photography made this easily the set of the year. Prior to this you could categorize baseball cards photography as nothing more than documentary. 1991 Stadium Club was closer to artistic modernism. The influence this set had on the artistic direction throughout the 1990s can’t be overstated. Not only was Topps the first to take advantage of new printing technologies to use photos taken with better lens, they did it in brilliant fashion restoring Topps as the leader in the hobby.

Making this a well rounded card, the back featured the players’ Topps Rookie card and a pioneering take on baseball analytics. 

Topps believed so much in the photographs that the 600 card set had no subsets or inserts. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

1986 Sportflics

At the 1986 All-Star game, Dick Howser dubiously had Kirby Puckett batting lead off ahead of Rickey Henderson! Facing the best pitcher on the planet at the time, Dwight Gooden, Kirby singled. A Star Was Born. This was the first of Kirby’s 10 consecutive all-star appearances.

About the Card

In 1986, Sportflics became the fourth fully licensed card producer. They released a TRIPLE ACTION motion card.

The set was basically ignored. Intended as innovation - it appeared to be gimmicky. Three cards to a pack weren’t helping matters either. Neither was the fact the set only had 200 cards. What’s worse is that it seemed as though 50 of them had Pete Rose on it.

They came in tamper proof foils packs and in 1986 that just wasn’t cool.

The front design is based on the 1953 Bowman set. Whether that is intentional or not I don’t know. It’s the same printing technology as the 1984 Seven-Eleven Coin set.

The photos consisted of one headshot and two action shots.

One upside to the card stock is that it’s fairly easy to grade gem. The two issues you run into constantly is centering and edges. Whatever press they were using left tiny punch holes in the middle edges.

Monday, October 4, 2010

1980 Topps

In 1979, Paul Molitor established the Brewers’ franchise record for batting average in a single season, .322

On August 3, 1979 at County Stadium vs. the Red Sox, Molitor hit his 10th triple of the year off Steve Renko, breaking Robin Yount’s year old franchise record for most triples in a season.

Molitor finished the season with 16. The record still stands as of 2010.

Three other Hall of Famers appeared in that game - Jim Rice at DH, Carlton Fisk behind the plate and Carl Yastrzemski in left field.

About the Card

The design is an improved variation on the 1974 set. 1980 Topps is the last set considered ‘vintage’ by BeckettEdges being chipped are an issue with the condition. Centering is a factor as well.

This card more accurately should have read 2B-SS because Molitor only made 9 starts at short.

I bought this card raw on eBay for $1.99 shipped! The scan wasn't that great but the centering alone was worth taking a shot. When I got it in hand I immediately felt it had a good chance at a gem mint grade but for reasons lost to me I waited to 2 years before submitting to Beckett.

When the grade popped at "9" I was really excited - not disappointed at all. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

1992 Donruss, The Elite Series

Kirby Puckett was called up in 1984, played 12 seasons, retired & was elected to the Hall of Fame 5 years later in 2001.

During that entire time, Rickey Henderson was playing. 
Granted, Kirby's career was cut short but the fact remains; Kirby’s Hall of Fame career was encompassed during the playing days of another Hall of Famer. Not sure if that's happened before.

In the last 12 years of his career, Rickey didn't receive an all-star nomination or even an MVP vote but was still a fairly productive player. Overall, he amassed 13, 346 plate appearances.

About the Card

In 1992, it was no exaggeration labeling Rickey a 'Legend'. Donruss went ahead and did just that with this special insert card that was limited to 7,500 copies.

In today’s low serial number world 7,500 sounds like a lot but this was in the era of mass production where close to a million of each card was being produced.

Couple that with the fact that cases and boxes of 1992 Donruss are still widely available The Legend Series doesn’t circulate much.
Famed artist Dick Perez used a two-dimensional hologram and metallic foil to design the card.

It’s not clear to me why Dick put a headshot of Rickey in front of what appears to be a dartboard but nevertheless it’s an excellent card in line with his realistic portrait art on the Diamond Kings.

I bought this incredible Beckett slab in February, 2007 for $132. I felt I got a bargain then and even more so now.