Product Highlight: 2001 Topps Tribute

Remembering the first truly high-end product you saw I guess depends on when you began collecting.  For me, the first high-end product I can remember is 1997 Donruss Signature Series.  At a cost of around $15/pack with a guaranteed autograph inside each pack I thought it was a very big deal.  Having the opportunity to open up a few was great, even though I wasn’t too familiar with the autographs I was pulling – Eric Young, Todd Hollandsworth, and Jeffrey Hammonds.

High-end is one thing.  Super-premium is another.  In 2001, Topps introduced us to their Tribute brand.  At the time I suppose you could consider it a super-premium product.  Packs cost $40.  2001 Topps Tribute marked a first for Topps.  It was the first Topps product to feature a “hit” in every pack.  Quite the norm today, but fairly a new idea back then.

If your looking to put together the base set, it shouldn’t be that difficult.  Only (90) cards make up the entire set.  There are no parallels, short prints, or variations.  Just cleanly designed cards of retired stars.

The “hits” are what drive Tribute.  Its odd to think about Tribute not having any autographs, but the 2001 incarnation did just that.  “Hits” purely come in relic form only.  Zero autographs.  When opening a pack, you’re most likely going to pull a horizontally designed jersey, pants, or bat relic.

Franchise Figures Relics (1:34) is a (19) card set featuring multiple players and relics on the same card.  2-4 players per card all from the same team.

Game Patch-Number Relics (1:61) contain patches.  Although these aren’t serial numbered, the Game Patch-Number Relics are limited to (30) copies each.

Dubbed just Dual Relics (1:860), Casey Stengel and Frank Robinson are the only two individuals here.  Cards have two relics for each player.

By far the hardest card to pull is the Nolan Ryan Tri-Relic.  These fall 1:1,292 packs, and hold three Nolan Ryan relics.

Long expired now, Topps did include some redemption cards for original cards.  Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams each had (50) redemption cards thrown in.  You even had the chance of pulling a redemption for an original Mickey Mantle card graded by PSA.  The exact Mickey Mantle card and grade were not stated on the redemption.

Topps regularly released Tribute between 2001 and 2004.  Then it took a break for five years and returned in 2009.  I actually enjoy the earlier Tribute sets more compared to the newer stuff.  Those checklists have many older players who you just don’t see getting a lot of attention today.


Product Highlight: 1995 Collector’s Edge Ball Park Franks

I love hot dogs.  They’re one of my favorite foods.  Mustard, ketchup, cheese, hot peppers, and salsa make great toppings.  There is nothing better than sitting at a ballgame or attending a nice card show while shoving a hot dog in your face.

Collector’s Edge may have died out years ago, but they were all over the place in the 90’s.  Today their old football sets receive more attention than anything.  This is due to them issuing numerous rookie cards of both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  Basketball, baseball, and hockey would come next.

You don’t see it done as much today, but cards attached to food products at one time was a common thing.  Food premiums are an entire collecting niche.  In 1995, Collector’s Edge struck a deal with Ball Park Franks.  For (8) UPC codes, (4) UPC codes + $2.50, or (2) UPC codes + $5.00, you would receive exclusive autographed cards of Yogi Berra and Frank Robinson.  Both came with accompanying cards stating the authenticity of the signatures.  This promotion ended on May 31, 1995 or until they ran out.

If you’re in the market for a Frank Robinson or Yogi Berra autograph but don’t want to spend a lot of money, these might be for you.  They’re dirt cheap.  Lots were made.  You can easily pick them up for $10-$15 each.  The Yogi Berra tends to carry more weight.

Product Highlight: 1996 Upper Deck Folz Vending Machine Minis

The odds are strong that at one time or another you ran into a Folz vending machine.  Folz once had almost 200,000 machines spread across the United States and Canada.  For awhile, it was the world’s largest bulk vending company.  You could find them in mom-and-pop shops, grocery stores, and well known department store chains.  Their vending machines carried a variety of goodies such as candy, stickers, and even sports cards.

In my day, I don’t recall running into many vending machines that dispensed sports cards.  A card shop I visited while in Ohio had one.  I gave it a shot and pulled a Troy Aikman from 1990 Fleer.  It wasn’t until the 2014 National Sports Collectors Convention where I came across another.  They make an interesting conversation piece.

Upper Deck made a deal with Folz Vending that involved specially made cards.  You’ll find that (1) baseball, (1) basketball, and (2) football sets exist.  I’ve heard that a hockey set was made, but I have yet to find any cards from it.  Designs look very similar to the Collector’s Choice sets that were released.  Instead of the Collector’s Choice name, just the Upper Deck logo is found on the fronts.  Photos on the backs reach all the way to the edges too.  The biggest difference are the card’s overall size.  They’re smaller in comparison to a standard sports card (2 5/16″ x 3 3/8″).  Most likely so they could fit in the machines better.

Sets consist of (48) cards.  The first six cards in each set are short prints and contain foil on the front.  Condition can be a big factor considering they were stored in vending machines.  Back then, cards with foil were difficult to pull out of a pack in good condition let alone being stored and distributed in a vending machine format.  All short prints carry a premium, especially the Michael Jordan.  Although its not a short print, the Derek Jeter is highly sought after as well.

Lets get one thing straight.  Its “Folz” not “Foltz”.  At first graders rejected these when they were sent in.  When Beckett decided to grade them, everyone else fell in line.  Because of a typo at first, some graded examples identify them as “Foltz”.

Product Highlight: 1993 Maxx Hot Wheels 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

When I was a kid, my go to toys to play with were action figures.  I had bins full of them.  Batman, X-Men, Star Wars, you name it.  Like most adults I look back and wish I would have kept them in their original packaging.  But where would have the fun been in that?  Keeping toys sealed wasn’t even a thought.

Outside of the action figures, Matchbox and Hot Wheels weren’t that far behind.  I had a bin full of these too.  Although I don’t live in the house I grew up in anymore, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of those toy cars are still lodged underneath a cabinet or something.  The house’s current owner is probably completely oblivious that they’re still there.  Long forgotten relics of a childhood race that perhaps got a little out of hand.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Hot Wheels.  Twenty-five years ago Maxx Race Cards helped them celebrate their 25th anniversary with a commemorative set.  Issued only in factory set form, the set features what they call “the most memorable 25 cars from 1968-1992”.  The card fronts picture a Hot Wheels vehicle with a full-blown description on the back.  Collecting tips are even provided for each vehicle.

Here is the checklist:

  • 1968 Beatnik Bandit #1
  • 1969 TwinMill #2
  • 1970 Boss Hoss #3
  • 1971 Evil Weevil #4
  • 1972 Funny Money #5
  • 1973 Sweet 16 #6
  • 1974 Sir Rodney Roadster #7
  • 1975 Emergency Squad #8
  • 1976 Corvette Stingray #9
  • 1977 ’57 Chevy #10
  • 1978 Hot Bird #11
  • 1979 Bywayman #12
  • 1980 Hiway Hauler #13
  • 1981 Old Number 5 #14
  • 1982 Firebird Funny Car #15
  • 1983 Classic Cobra #16
  • 1984 ’65 Mustang Convertible #17
  • 1985 Thunderstreak #18
  • 1986 Poppa ‘Vette #19
  • 1987 Ferrari Testarossa #20
  • 1988 Talbolt Lago #21
  • 1989 GT Racer #22
  • 1990 Purple Passion #23
  • 1991 Street Beast #24
  • 1992 Goodyear Blimp #25

I don’t recall owning any of these specific vehicles.  I do remember picking up a few Hot Wheels cars at a yard sale when I was little, and later discovered they came from their famous Redline collection.

Maxx produced lots of racing cards during the classic junk-wax era.  Most of their sets carry little value today.  Cards of Dale Earnhardt are what they’re particularly known for.

This Hot Wheels set is one of Maxx’s oddball products.  Sealed examples are readily available, and can be found for nothing.

Doesn’t this Hot Wheels car look like a Superfractor?

Product Highlight: 1991 Caesars Palace Lake Tahoe Heavy Hitters

Put on your Rolex and grab the keys to the Rolls-Royce because its time to hobnob with some celebrities.  Or at least people considered to be celebrities in the early 90’s.

Fifty celebrities came to play in the Celebrity Golf Championship that ran from July 4-7, 1991.  It was played on the Edgewood Golf Course in Lake Tahoe, Nevada and held by Caesars Palace.  It was a private event for those individuals who coughed-up the cash to play with a certain celebrity.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some high-rollers were invited to this event for free too.  The celebrities you could play with ranged from actors, singers, and sports figures.

Along with the invitation, invitees were given a specially made 8-card set to commemorate the event.  The checklist includes:

  • Michael Jordan #1
  • Maury Povich #2
  • Randy Quaid #3
  • Jim McMahon #4
  • John Elway #5
  • Mark Rypien #6
  • Kenny Rogers #7
  • Title Card #8

On the back of the Title Card you’ll find a list of the celebrities.  Why there is a checkbox next to each of their names is a total mystery to me.  Only seven have cards.

The reverse side on the celebrity cards are mostly blank except for the card number, Celebrity Golf Association logo, and a designated area for an autograph.

Very few of these sets are floating around.  The Michael Jordan holds the most value.  Apparently not many people were interested in holding on to them.  The overall consensus is that they were left behind and/or thrown out.  My running theory is that someone like Carl Spackler from Caddyshack picked them up and used them for some elaborate gopher trap.

Product Highlight: 1977 Star Wars Wonder Bread

Yep.  I’m still on a Star Wars kick.  I saw The Last Jedi over the weekend and think its a great follow-up to The Force Awakens.  Caution spoilers!!!

The Last Jedi takes classic characters in new directions.  Luke Skywalker wants nothing to do with the force or the Jedi anymore.  He feels completely responsible for Kylo Ren’s (Ben Solo) turn to the dark side.  While training the next generation of Jedi, Luke could feel his nephew’s power in the dark side rising within him.  Luke is tempted by the dark side himself and contemplates killing Kylo Ren in his sleep.  At the last second Luke chooses not to do this, but not before Kylo Ren awakes to see his uncle standing over him with a lightsaber.  Then all hell breaks loose and Kylo Ren is fully pushed to the dark side.  The school is destroyed.  I think this is a perfect example showing that no matter how powerful of a Jedi you are, the dark side can still be tempting.  And even the slightest bit of temptation can have major consequences.

I like to think that Luke is the last Jedi when it comes to the old ways of teaching.  Both he and Yoda agree that the Jedi’s 1,000+ year history is filled with one failure after another.  Something has to change.  Being 100% on the light side or dark side just isn’t working.  I believe we’re going to see this needed change with Rey.  She’s very strong with the force, but has a ton to learn yet.  We know she has the ancient Jedi texts.  Pulling info from those with Luke probably returning as a force ghost could help.  In all honesty I believe the next Jedi will be self-taught and use elements of both the light and dark side.  Let them figure out the force on their own without tons of overbearing rules.

Supreme Leader Snoke’s death at the hands of Kylo Ren was a big surprise.  I certainly didn’t see that coming.  After The Force Awakens came out, Snoke was one of the most talked about characters.  This is due to how little we know about him.  What we do know is that he was extremely powerful with the dark side of the force, and lived for a long time.  When the original trilogy was released about the same could be said about Emperor Palpatine.  Theories about Snoke continue to flood the internet even after his death.  Maybe he’ll come back somehow.  Some fans need to calm down and remember that these films are like puzzle pieces.  When all the pieces come together we’ll see the whole picture.  We’ve got two years of speculation to go.  Episode IX opens in December 2019.

The 1977 Star Wars Wonder Bread set is one of the few not to have been issued by Topps.  Although many of the same images are also used on Topps products.  A total of (16) cards make up the set.  It covers a wide range of characters, droids, and spaceships.  The card fronts feature a yellow nameplate showing the character’s name and the actor portraying them.  Going up the right side on all of the cards are the words “Star Wars”.  The backs are very plain and provide a short description of what is pictured on the front.  Card numbers interestingly are spelled out versus being printed in numerical form.

One card came packaged in specially marked bags of Wonder Bread.  These bags and any promotional material advertising this giveaway are highly sought after today.  There was also a mail-in offer for a complete set.  Condition is a major factor with these cards.  Black borders are notorious for chipping.  That goes for no matter how the cards are packaged.  Imagine what happens to a black bordered card that’s tossed in a bread bag and thrown around a grocery store.  Examples that are in pristine condition can sell into the hundreds.

Product Highlight: 1997 Awesome Athletes Bookmarks

Talk about your oddball of oddball products.  This set is really out there.  It certainly isn’t one that every collector knows about.  Not much information about them is out there either… until now.

ABDO Publishing publishes a lot of books which are specifically targeted and sold to school libraries.  In the 90’s, they began publishing a series of books titled Awesome Athletes.  These nonfiction books highlight the careers of many popular sports figures.  The first two sets consist of six books each.

Set I

  • Troy Aikman
  • Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • Michael Jordan
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Emmitt Smith

Set II

  • Brett Favre
  • Anfernee Hardaway
  • Grant Hill
  • Tara Lipinski
  • Sheryl Swoopes
  • Tiger Woods

For those at the time who purchased an entire series (Set I and II) received a free set of six bookmarks.  The bookmarks were made up of athletes from Set II.  Much like a trading card, the fronts picture the athlete while the reverse supplies biographical information.

The Tiger Woods bookmark receives the most attention as it is an early item for him.  Sellers usually have high asking prices on that one.  The others are rarely seen.  I can imagine libraries handed them out as prizes.  Most were probably lost and/or so used they ended up being thrown out.