2020 Topps Baseball’s Finest Flashbacks Hits A Home Run With Collectors

As a member of the Topps 582 Montgomery Club I was able to purchase (3) boxes of the new online-exclusive 2020 Topps Baseball’s Finest Flashbacks for $55/box.  The design pays tribute to 1993 Topps Finest which introduced collectors to the Refractor.

Not only is the design a nod to the original set, this new version also consists of (199) cards and contains (1) refractor per box.  With that being said, most people ripping find at least (2) refractors on average.  Parallels include Base Refractors, Gold Refractors #’ed/50, Black Refractors #’ed/25, Red Refractors #’ed/5, and Superfractors #’ed 1/1.  Even though the Base Refractors aren’t serial numbered, its speculated that no more than (50) copies exist for each card.

Opening a single box doesn’t guarantee an autograph.  Autographs fall about 1:6 boxes.  Base Autograph parallels include Base Refractor #’ed/20, Gold Refractors #’ed/15, Orange Refractors #’ed/10, Red Refractors #’ed/5, and Superfractors #’ed 1/1.  Base All-Stars Autographs are #’ed/20, and have parallels which include Gold Refractors #’ed/15, Orange Refractors #’ed/10, Red Refractors #’ed/5, and Superfractors #’ed 1/1.

Andre Dawson, Ivan Rodriguez, John Smoltz, Mark McGwire, and Roberto Alomar each have original Autograph Buybacks #’ed/20 or less.

Inserts come in the form of All-Stars Jumbo Box Toppers.

(18) packs come in a single box.

Pack Odds

Base Parallels:

  • Refractor (1:18)
  • Gold Refractor #’ed/50 (1:18)
  • Black Refractor #’ed/25 (1:36)
  • Red Refractor #’ed/5 (1:176)
  • Superfractor #’ed 1/1 (1:880)

Autograph Parallels:

  • Refractor #’ed/20 (1:296)
  • Gold Refractor #’ed/15 (1:381)
  • Orange Refractor #’ed/10 (1:573)
  • Red Refractor #’ed/5 (1:1,138)
  • Superfractor #’ed 1/1 (1:5,765)

The odds of finding an Autograph Buyback is (1:2,260).

Given that the odds of pulling a non-autographed Superfractor are (1:880) packs should tell you how limited this product actually is.  Normally that number is in the thousands.

This was a no-brainer buy for me.  Where else are you guaranteed (2) cards #’ed/50 or less for the price of $55/box?  The answer is nowhere.

Nostalgic design.  Colorful, low-numbered parallels.  On-card autographs.  It doesn’t surprise me that these boxes are selling for hundreds on the secondary market.  Nobody knows what the ceiling will be for these boxes.

I Told You It Was Coming

Sports Card Info is the Magic 8-Ball of the card industry.  On May 18th I wrote a piece called Is 2020 Bowman Sapphire Edition Baseball On The Way? after some Lency Delgado 2020 Bowman Chrome Atomic Orange Refractor Autographs popped-up on Instagram.  Well… it looks like my prediction has come true.

Available next week as an online-exclusive, 2020 Bowman Sapphire Edition Baseball will contain (1) prospect autograph per box.  Expect them to go fast.  I can already hear people complaining that they weren’t able to get a box, the secondary market prices are too expensive, only certain people were able to buy them, etc…  GET OVER IT!

Preview: 2020 Bowman 1st Edition Baseball

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many things will have to be put on hold.  That includes future card products.  According to Topps, Transcendent HOF Edition and Definitive Collection Baseball will be the last products to be released via the traditional route.  The release dates for everything else is TBD, including 2020 Bowman.

Topps is still able to produce online-exclusive products.  Project 2020Topps NOW Turn Back The Clock, and The Topps Living Set are in full swing.  Lots of other ones too.

Even though 2020 Bowman is delayed, Topps has something special planned for collectors.  Enter 2020 Bowman 1st Edition Baseball.

Available as an online-exclusive on the Topps website, 2020 Bowman 1st Edition Baseball will be sold in 10-card packs.  At a cost of $14.99 per pack, these cards will feature the 2020 Bowman design, and contain the 1st Edition logo on them.  Topps plans to sell them on their website between April 22-24.  Card shops who are part of the Topps’ MVP program should also be receiving some of these packs as well.

(150) prospects make-up the set.  This is the same group of prospects who are expected to be seen in the main 2020 Bowman.  Parallels include Sky Blue (1:2) packs, Blue #’ed/150, Yellow #’ed/75, Gold #’ed/50, Orange #’ed/25, Red #’ed/5, and Platinum #’ed 1/1.

1st Edition stamped autograph cards will also be randomly included.

These packs are going to be flaming hot!!!  You’ll only be allowed to purchase a certain amount.  Early May is when the packs are expected to ship.

Checklist

Bowman Made It’s Big Comeback In 1989

The “COMEBACK EDITION!”.  That’s what it is labeled.  After Topps acquired Bowman during the mid-1950s, the Bowman brand of cards disappeared faster than a government discovered UFO.  From 1956 to 1988, you won’t find any Bowman labeled cards.  In 1989, Topps decided to bring Bowman back.  Que AC/DC’s Back In Black.

Over 30 years is a long time to go without a Bowman set.  When it returned, the set resembled 1953 Bowman Color.  Right down to the slightly larger card size.

This Bowman set looks nothing like the prospect/rookie filled products we see today.  It consists of (484) cards.  Only (46) of them are rookies.  The most notable rookie would be of Ken Griffey, Jr.  Gary Sheffield, Tino Martinez, and John Smoltz have rookies in here too.

Topps released this product around the All-Star break.  This allowed them to include rookies which had been called-up, and picture veterans in their new uniforms if they had been traded.  One of the hottest cards to pull at the time wasn’t even a rookie.  Collectors wanted the card of Nolan Ryan in his new Texas Rangers uniform.  Nolan Ryan left the Astros over a contract dispute, and found his way to Texas.  All of the other sets had him with Houston.

Outside of the base set, you’ll find one insert.  This 11-card set features reprints of famous vintage Bowman cards.  On the back of each insert are rules for a contest in which you could win an original version of the card pictured on the front.  The grand prize was a complete set of 1953 Bowman Color.

Complete boxes/sets of 1989 Bowman are readily available and quite affordable.  The high-end Tiffany versions are a different story.  These are limited to 6,000 sets (not a lot for the time), and can cost almost $1,000.

1st Topps Baseball Cards – 1948 Topps Magic Photos

The 1948 Topps Magic Photos set is drastically overlooked in my opinion.  If you’re looking for the first baseball cards Topps produced, this is the place.

Throughout the (252) cards, you’ll find a wide range of people, places, and things.  Not just baseball players.  Each tiny card (7/8″ x 1-7/16″) came out of the gum pack with a blank front.  On the back of every card is a trivia question that gives you a hint as to who or what will appear on the front.  In order to make the picture “magically” appear you needed to lightly wet the card’s front, apply a special chemical that came in the pack, and then expose it to sunlight.  Slowly a sepia-colored photo would emerge.

Based on the procedure needed to make the picture appear, its no surprise that most of these cards aren’t in the best condition.  You’re just asking for trouble when applying water, chemicals, and sunlight to a card.  But these were sold with gum as a toy, and monetary value wasn’t a concern to the person.  It was just plain fun.

Fully-developed cards tend to command a higher demand.

I wouldn’t recommend putting water, chemicals, and sunlight on today’s cards.  Then again, who knows what or who might show up if you do.

Be Kind, Rewind These Cards

Multiple attempts at merging video with trading cards has been made over the years.  Most were met with poor reviews from collectors.  Upper Deck gave it a shot with their line of Evolution cards in 2011.  They did their best to make them look like a card, but in all honesty I think they resembled a small portable gaming system like the Nintendo GameBoy.  In classic Panini fashion, they too tried their hand at it with their line of HRX video cards.  Despite some coming with autographs, Panini’s HRX cards were met with even a poorer response.  The video on many didn’t function very well or at all.

Perhaps Steve Rotfeld Productions did it best in 1990.  Greatest Sports Legends is a series of (207) documentaries covering some of the best athletes from the 20th century.  They first began airing in 1972, and won an Emmy Award for their 1983 film about Jackie Robinson.  Throughout the 1980s, these documentaries were heavily distributed on VHS tapes.  The ones with a 1990 copyright date are my favorite.  You have to admit the words “video baseball card” couldn’t have been taken more literally.  Its very primitive.  The front and back of the VHS sleeves are designed to look like a card.

Unlike some VHS tapes, these don’t carry much collecting weight.  Its unlikely that many of us still own a device that could play one of these.  Funai Electronics was the last company to make VCRs for home-use, and they ceased production in July 2016.

Darryl Strawberry Strongly Dislikes This Baseball Card

Saranac Glove is a glove manufacturer which is still around today.  They make gloves for all types of uses including sports.  In the late 1980s, Saranac struck a deal with New York Mets superstar Darryl Strawberry to promote their line of batting gloves.  Marketing thought it would be a good idea to package a baseball card with the gloves they wanted Strawberry to endorse.  Instead of using a standard photograph, Saranac Glove hired artist Dan Gardiner to paint a picture of Strawberry.  Upon viewing the final piece of work, Darryl Strawberry wasn’t satisfied with the way he thought his nose looked.  Apparently they didn’t check with him as the painting was being worked on.  By the time they found out he didn’t approve, Saranac Glove already had the cards printed.  The promotion was eventually scrapped.  All printed cards at the time were ordered to be thrown out.

Whenever an unreleased card is instructed to be trashed, someone almost always doesn’t follow through.  Its a guarantee that a small batch will find their way out.  And that’s exactly what happened here.

The official count as to how many are still floating around will never be known.  I can tell you its not many.  Most aren’t in the best condition.  This leads me to believe these could’ve been dug out of the trash.  I’m sure the artist, and certain Saranac Glove employees kept some for themselves.

Preview: 2020 Futera Unique World Football (Live Images)

Futera is a card manufacturer that more collectors in the United States should become familiar with.  Last year they teamed-up with Onyx Authenticated to bring collectors 2019 Onyx/Futera Unique Baseball Prospects & Legends.  A collaboration such as this is almost unheard of in today’s hobby.  For many U.S.-based collectors this was their first introduction to the type of cards Futera creates.  I tried a pack and pulled a Julio Pablo Martinez 24ct Gold-Plated Metal Framed Phenoms Auto #’ed/9.  Unless he turns into the next Mike Trout, this card will remain in my personal collection just because of how well it was made.

I can’t talk about Futera without bringing up their Code for Collectors and Memorabilia Color Grading Services.  Code for Collectors allows you to see all of the details that went into making your specific card – photo of the card, date signed, materials used in making the card, etc…  Color Grading Services will tell you how many cards from certain sets have 1-color, 2-color, 3-color, etc… relics in them.  U.S. collectors would love to have services such as these.  They certainly help with identifying altered cards.

European football (soccer) is what Futera is really known for today.  2020 Futera Unique World Football is their next product set to release.  (4) packs come in a box, with a hit in every pack.  Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Virgil Van Dijk, Antoine Griezmann, Sadio Mane, Pele, and Diego Maradona are just some of the key players you’ll find.

Sales Sheet

Checklist

Until now the only images we’ve seen have been the mock-ups made for the sales sheet.  Sports Card Info was recently given a glimpse inside this product, and received actual photos of the cards to share.  No mock-ups here.  These are the real deal.  Enjoy!

Mystery Solved: Why Are The Crash Test Dummies In These Sets?

Are we alone in the universe?  Is Bigfoot real?  Who really shot JFK?  These are all questions that have plagued humanity for a very long time.  But one question rises above them all.  Why are the Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry) included in two minor league baseball team sets?  I needed to find out.

According to Ad Council, “The single most effective protection against death and serious injury in a car crash is the safety belt.  Since Vince & Larry, the Crash Test Dummies, were introduced to the American public in 1985, safety belt usage has increased from 14% to 79%, saving an estimated 85,000 lives, and $3.2 billion in costs to society.  The campaign tagline, “You Could Learn A Lot From a Dummy,” as well as the crash test dummies themselves, was retired in 1999, when the U.S. Department of Transportation revised the campaign.”

Between 1985 and 1999 the Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry) were everywhere.  Their slapstick comedy promoting safety belt usage will go down as one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history.  Their popularity spawned comic books, video games, and a line of action figures.

The Oklahoma City RedHawks (now the Oklahoma City Dodgers) played their inaugural season in 1998.  Like a lot of minor league teams, they had team sets made which could be purchased at their souvenir shop.  At the time Multi-Ad was one of the key companies to print these up.  Between their 1998 and 1999 sets not many names ring any bells besides Todd Van Poppel (1998).  The most interesting cards are of the Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry).  But what the heck are they doing in here?

The Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry) are featured on five cards in the 1998 set – #26-#30.  Each card looks exactly alike except for the card number.  You’ll find two cards of them in the 1999 set – #29 and #30.  Once again they look alike besides the card number.

On the back of each card it reads “Vince and Larry are no rookies-these guys have been pitching safety belt use in a major league way for nearly 11 years.  As crash test dummies, they’ve had their share of hard hits.  When it comes to a save situation, safety belts and air bags are the perfect stoppers.  Take it from these two MVPs…if you want to be safe at home, wear your safety belt.”

My search lead me to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.  Their Communications Manager came back with the following response:

“The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) has a long history of working closely with the OKC Dodgers (and formerly the RedHawks) as it relates to traffic safety marketing.  Each year, the OHSO enters into a marketing contract with the team (and others around the state) to promote traffic safety at their games and events.

I’m sure the inclusion of Vince and Larry was a part of a previous contract.”

There you have it.  Mystery solved.  I wish the explanation would have been some elaborate story.  But it was just a simple marketing deal between the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

Now we can all rest comfortably.

1998

1999

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Set – 1954 Red Heart

I don’t believe there could be a more appropriate set to talk about on Valentine’s Day than 1954 Red Heart.

If you were a card collector and had a dog back in the 1950s, Red Heart Dog Food is what your pooch would have eaten.  From a collecting standpoint, there couldn’t be a better example of a regionally issued set.

Coming in at only (33) cards the set is relatively small.  It is split-up between (11) red, (11) green, and (11) blue background cards.  Red backgrounds are said to be the most difficult to find.

Mailing two Red Heart Dog Food labels along with 10 cents to the John Morrell & Company would’ve gotten you (1) 11-card series.  The color you received depended on where you lived.  Certain colors seem to be more/less popular in different regions of the country.  This type of distribution method made it difficult to complete a set.

The checklist is packed with Hall of Famers – Richie Ashburn, Ralph Kiner, Duke Snider, and Enos Slaughter to name a few.  Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial are two of the most popular subjects.  Stan Musial doesn’t appear in either the 1954 Topps or 1954 Bowman sets.  His card from 1954 Red Heart isn’t easy to find (red background), and has a high demand due to his lack of main-issued 1954 cards.  Mickey Mantle is also absent from 1954 Topps, but does appear in 1954 Bowman.

Collectors could take advantage of this mail-in offer all the way through the early 1970s.  That’s a long time for a promotional program to go on.  You can’t say collectors didn’t have enough time to get their hands on them.