2017 Topps Finest Baseball Box Break & Review

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Its difficult to imagine a time when refractors weren’t part of the hobby.  Virtually every product today has a certain amount of parallels to collect.  Topps changed everything in 1993 with their first Finest Baseball set.  Products from that era for the most part don’t carry much value today.  Boxes of ’93 Finest Baseball are one of the rare exceptions.  People are willing to spend $500-$600 for a single box.  That’s quite a lot considering there are no autographs, relics, and only one level of refractor you can pull.

Topps switched 2017 Finest Baseball back to the normal distribution method compared to the online only version of last year.  The complete set consists of (125) cards with numbers (101-125) being short prints.  Parallels include:

  • Refractor
  • Purple Refractor #’ed/250
  • Blue Refractor #’ed/150
  • Green Refractor #’ed/99
  • Gold Refractor #’ed/50
  • Orange Refractor #’ed/25
  • Red Refractor #’ed/5
  • Superfractor #’ed/1

Autograph parallels include:

  • Blue Refractor #’ed/150
  • Green Refractor #’ed/99
  • Gold Refractor #’ed/50
  • Blue Wave Refractor #’ed/25
  • Red Wave Refractor #’ed/25
  • Orange Refractor #’ed/25
  • Red Refractor #’ed/5
  • Superfractor #’ed/1

Inserts are plentiful, but not overly done.  We’ve got ’94-’95 Finest Basketball Recreates, Finest Breakthroughs, David Ortiz Finest Careers Die-Cuts, Finest Finishes Autographs, Finest Firsts, and Finest Originals Buyback Autographs.  Parallels and autographs can all be found, except for the buybacks.  The buybacks don’t have parallels, just autographs.

I think my favorite looking cards are the ’94-’95 Finest Basketball Recreates and Finest Breakthroughs inserts.  Especially when it comes to the parallels.  It was a neat idea for Topps to use that classic ’94-’95 Topps Finest Basketball design for baseball cards.

After seeing what I pulled from my box, you’ll agree it was extremely good.  I’m still in a state of shock.  This was one of the greatest boxes I’ve ever opened.  Boxes of 2017 Topps Finest Baseball are currently selling for $140.  A majority of baseball products are running high right now because of Aaron Judge’s popularity.

Here is what I pulled:

Autos

  • Aaron Judge Blue Wave Refractor RC Auto #’ed/25
  • Rob Segedin RC Auto

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Short Print

  • Corey Kluber #120

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Parallels

  • Yu Darvish Purple Refractor #’ed/250
  • Jorge Alfaro Green Refractor RC #’ed/99
  • Chris Sale Refractor #38
  • Corey Seager Refractor #25
  • Stephen Strasburg Refractor #49
  • Dansby Swanson Refractor RC #32

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Inserts

  • Bryce Harper Breakthroughs
  • Anthony Rizzo Breakthroughs
  • Willson Contreras Breakthroughs
  • Aledmys Diaz Breakthroughs
  • Ichiro ’94-’95 Finest Basketball Recreates
  • Bryce Harper ’94-’95 Finest Basketball Recreates
  • Dansby Swanson Finest Firsts RC

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Notable Rookies

  • Alex Bregman RC #89
  • Dansby Swanson RC #32
  • Andrew Benintendi RC #66
  • Aaron Judge RC #2

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2017 Topps Archives Baseball Box Break & Review

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Retro designs are used throughout many different products today.  Archives has and always will be at the top of that list.  For 2017 Archives, Topps has channeled designs from 1960, 1982, and 1992.  Fun facts about those years include Domino’s Pizza being founded in 1960, the Commodore 64 launching in 1982, and President George H.W. Bush barfed into the lap of Japan’s Prime Minister in 1992.  We won’t find cards commemorating those events in here, but it sure would be fun if we did.

The base set consists of (300) cards.  (100) cards are devoted to the 1960, 1982, and 1992 designs.  Parallels include Peach #’ed/199, Light Blue #’ed/75, Soft Red #’ed/25, and Black #’ed/1.  In addition to those, the 1960, 1982, and 1992 subsets each have something extra to keep an eye out for.  Cards in the 1960 design can have grey backs versus the standard white.  1982 cards can be found without the facsimile signatures – “No Signature”.  The 1992 cards are the easiest to spot because they contain gold foil with the word “Winner” printed on the front.  Photo variations play a big part too.  Luckily Topps made them easy to spot by checking the code on the back.  Base cards end in #2782, whereas photo variations end in #2799.

Derek Jeter has a huge presence within Archives this time around.  They come in the form of reprinted Retrospective cards.  All have their respectful foil parallels and very low numbered autographs.  Three of these cards are short print “hits” – 1993, 2007, and 2015 designs.

The best part of Archives are the autographs.  It is jam packed with on-card autograph goodness.  You’ll find autographs of Hall of Famers and current stars.  Archives is known for having a unique selection of niche players each year.  These players may not be worthy of the Hall of Fame, but they’re retired after having long careers in baseball.  For many, this could very well be the only time they get an autographed card.  One of these years I’d like to see former Phillies pitcher Larry Andersen included in this set.  He’d fit the mold perfectly.

99.9999% of the cards found in 2017 Archives are baseball related.  A few lucky collectors will find autographs of actor Gene Hackman.  These come in the form of buybacks from the original 1978 Topps Superman set.  As cool as these look, you should be careful when buying one on the secondary market.  Buybacks usually come with some type of foil stamp indicating that it was reissued by Topps.  These do not.  That could make it easier for someone to counterfeit.  Topps only got Gene Hackman to sign certain Lex Luther cards from that set.  Depending on the card, Topps only had him use blue or silver pen.  Pulling one directly from the pack is the best way to know if its authentic.  This is probably why his 2017 Topps Series 1 Hoosier autograph is selling for more.

With a cost of around $125 right now for a hobby box, retail blasters might be more up some collector’s alley.  Blasters also contain exclusive coins.

On a side note, I totally agree with Sport Card Collectors.  If guys like Zack Hample and Skip Bayless can get cards, it would be awesome to see some cards made for sports card bloggers.

Here is what I pulled:

Autos

  • Dave Magadan
  • John Smiley

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Parallels

  • Danny Duffy “No Signature” #180
  • Rick Porcello Light Blue #’ed/75
  • Mookie Betts Peach #’ed/199
  • Ian Desmond Peach #’ed/199

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Inserts

  • Yoan Moncada 1959 Bazooka #18
  • Sandy Koufax 1959 Bazooka #17
  • Carlos Correa 1959 Bazooka #1
  • Francisco Lindor 1959 Bazooka #9
  • Derek Jeter Retrospective #2
  • Derek Jeter Retrospective #22
  • Orlando Arcia 2017 Rookie Star #2
  • Yoan Moncada 2017 Rookie Star #1
  • Miguel Cabrera Retro Original #18
  • Jake Arrieta Retro Original #7

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Product Highlight: Greatest Sports Legends – Video Baseball Cards

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Over the years, multiple attempts at merging video with trading cards have been made.  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 Game Boy.  In good old 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.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some collectors are still waiting on their redemption.

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 even won an Emmy Award for their 1983 film about Jackie Robinson.  Throughout the 80’s, 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.  Whether or not all 207 athletes got this treatment is unclear.  I know it carried over into football too.

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 video cassette recorders for home-use, and they ceased production in July 2016.

I use to own tons of VHS tapes, but got rid of them years ago.  Only a few remain in my possession, mainly for nostalgic purposes.  I couldn’t let go of my Star Wars and Batman (1989) VHS copies.

2017 Bowman Baseball Box Break & Review

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Seven decades ago in a galaxy far far away, the first Bowman baseball set was released.  It was a small set only consisting of (48) black-and-white cards.  The checklist is packed with rookies of Yogi Berra, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, and Ralph Kiner.  Other notable Hall of Famers include Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter.  Despite being the first “Bowman” branded product, this same company under the name Gum, Inc. issued the Play Ball sets between 1939 and 1941.  Topps rose to power and purchased Bowman in 1956.  Over thirty years later in 1989 Topps revived the Bowman name and labled it the “Comeback Edition!”.  Its been a hobby staple ever since, and the #1 product to go to for a player’s prospect/rookie cards.

2017 Bowman has one of the nicest designs I’ve seen when it comes to this prospect-driven brand.  The core part of the set has completely gotten rid of the borders.  It gives the cards a very freeing and unrestricted appeal.  They almost remind me of something you’d see in Bowman’s Best.  Combine that with the on-card autographs, and you have some fantastic looking cards.

Given that this is the 70th Anniversary of Bowman, Topps included some cool nods to past sets.  First up are the 1948 Bowman Chrome inserts.  These pay tribute to 1948 Bowman.  Black-and-white photography on chrome stock looks amazing.  Its a perfect mix of old school and modern day.  Parallels include Green (retail) #’ed/99, Gold #’ed/50, Orange #’ed/25, Red #’ed/5, and Superfractor #’ed/1.  You can also find autographed versions that have Superfractor parallels as well.

The homage to 1951 Bowman is my favorite.  That painted look on chrome stock is top notch.  Parallels include Green (retail) #’ed/99, Gold #’ed/50, Orange #’ed/25, Red #’ed/5, and Superfractor #’ed/1.  Topps got artist Bob Hepner to hand-draw one-of-one sketches based on these.  Its not very often you see sketch cards in Bowman.  Sketch cards drawn to look like a vintage set with a mix of current and older stars was a great idea I’d like to see done again.  Check them all out!

1992 Bowman makes an appearance.  We all remember that set.  That’s the one which pictures many players in casual everyday clothes.  Parallels include Green (retail) #’ed/99, Gold #’ed/50, Orange #’ed/25, Red #’ed/5, and Superfractor #’ed/1.  Autographs can be found too.

Buybacks are plentiful.  Most come with the Bowman 70th Anniversary foil logo ranging in a bunch of different colors.  John Smoltz, Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, Chipper Jones, Randy Johnson, Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and Roberto Alomar all have buyback autographs.

With the 70th Anniversary celebration, 2017 Bowman offers a great mix of new prospects and veterans.  This might be my favorite version of it.

Here is what I pulled:

Auto

  • C.J. Hinojosa Bowman Chrome Purple Refractor Auto #’ed/250

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Parallels

  • Cole Hamels Bowman Orange #’ed/25
  • Willy Adames Bowman Purple #’ed/250
  • Mitch Keller Bowman Chrome Purple Refractor #’ed/250

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Inserts

  • Brady Anderson 1993 Bowman Bronze Foil Buyback
  • Jeff Bagwell 1993 Bowman Bronze Foil Buyback
  • Yadier Alvarez/Willie Calhoun/Cody Bellinger Talent Pipeline
  • Justin Dunn/Amed Rosario/Brandon Nimmo Talent Pipeline
  • Aaron Judge 2017 Rookie of the Year Favorites #9
  • Alex Reyes 2017 Rookie of the Year Favorites #14
  • Tyler Glasnow 2017 Rookie of the Year Favorites #7
  • Brent Honeywell Bowman Scouts’ Top 100 #44
  • Sean Newcomb Bowman Scouts’ Top 100 #56
  • Cody Sedlock Bowman Scouts’ Top 100 #70
  • J.P. Crawford 1948 Bowman Chrome
  • Brendan Rodgers 1951 Bowman Chrome #20
  • Rafael Devers 1992 Bowman Chrome
  • Yoenis Cespedes 1992 Bowman Chrome

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Other Notable Cards

  • Aaron Judge RC #32
  • Dansby Swanson RC #57
  • Yoan Moncada RC #25
  • Andrew Benintendi RC #23
  • Mickey Moniak #135
  • Blake Rutherford #121
  • Blake Rutherford Bowman Chrome #121

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Flashback Product of the Week: 1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic Baseball

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Its no secret that box prices can get expensive.  Sometimes an older product might take care of that pack busting itch for a much lower cost.  Just because that new box guarantees ten “hits” doesn’t mean you’ll come close to pulling something anywhere near what you paid.  One “hit” from an older set could easily be better than ten from that newer product.

If you’re looking for an affordable box from the 90’s that has an autograph checklist which hasn’t dwindled, I’d suggest 1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic Baseball.  Upper Deck introduced the high-end SP brand in 1993, but in 1998 they changed the name to SP Authentic.  This was mainly due to each box containing an autograph.

The 1998 SP Authentic set consists of (198) base cards.  I really like the way these look.  They’ve got a foil-photo in the middle which is then surrounded by an all white border.  Magglio Ordonez is the most notable rookie of them all.  David Ortiz has a somewhat popular second year card too.  As far as inserts go, there really is only one – Sheer Dominance.  These come in Silver, Gold #’ed/2000, and Titanium #’ed/100.

What you’d be opening a box for would mainly be the autograph.  Glancing over the checklist you’ll notice its fairly solid.  Of course there are some duds, but what product doesn’t have those?  Key autographs include Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Mussina, Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Roger Clemens, Scott Rolen, Tony Gwynn, Todd Helton, and Vladimir Guerrero.  Every Chirography autograph is signed on-card.

Upper Deck included various Trade Cards for oversized 5″ x 7″ jersey cards as well as full size autographed memorabilia.  If this were 1998, you could redeem them.  Given that they’re nineteen years old, I highly doubt you could receive anything for them today.

On the bottom of the box, Upper Deck lists how many of each Trade Cards was made, and the approximate retail value of that item.

  • Ken Griffey Jr. Signed Mariners Jersey #’ed/30 – $399
  • Ken Griffey Jr. Signed Glove #’ed/30 – $449.95
  • Ken Griffey Jr. Life Size Standee #’ed/200 – $29.95
  • Ken Griffey Jr. Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • 5″ x 7″ Ken Griffey Jr. 300th Home Run Commemorative Card #’ed/1,000 – $10
  • Robin Ventura Signed Baseball #’ed/50 – $89.95
  • Raul Mondesi Signed Baseball #’ed/100 – $89.95
  • Albert Belle Signed Baseball #’ed/100 – $89.95
  • Brian Jordan Signed Baseball #’ed/50 – $89.95
  • Roberto Alomar Signed Baseball #’ed/100 – $89.95
  • Tony Gwynn Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/415 – $50
  • Greg Maddux Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • Alex Rodriguez Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • Gary Sheffield Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • Jay Buhner Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50

Browsing over this price list is fun.  I certainly wouldn’t use it as an official guide though.  There is no way to know if everything on that list was even redeemed.  Quantities could be lower.

If you’re patient, boxes can be found for $50.

2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Box Break & Review

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Easter weekend was spent in Bethany Beach.  I took a box of 2017 Gypsy Queen to break along on the trip.  While walking around, I did come across a card shop though.  As expected, the prices are very high given that its a tourist destination.  The shop I was in asks $5+ for single base cards from modern day products.  My money was better spent at D.B.’s Fries.

From the artistic design to the Portrait Art Patch OriginalsGypsy Queen has always been an entertaining product to break.  You’ll notice that box prices for 2017 are lower compared to previous years.  That drop in price comes with a cost.  Instead of (4) “hits” box breakers will only find (2).  Other aspects like the mini and framed paper parallels did not return either.  With that being said, 2017 Gypsy Queen still packs a punch and comes with a slew of great cards to hunt down.

This new configuration introduced us to the oversize Chrome-like box toppers called GlassWorks.  You get one of these per box, and they look really cool.  Gypsy Queen is not the typical product where you see many foil-based cards.  Certain collectors will find parallels of these box toppers which include Purple #’ed/150, Red #’ed/25, and Black #’ed/1.  On-card autograph versions also exist #’ed/25.

Rich and deep easily describes the base set which comes in at (320) cards.  The last (20) are of retired and/or Hall of Famers and are short prints.  Base parallels include:

  • Missing Blackplate
  • Missing Nameplate
  • Purple #’ed/250
  • Green #’ed/99 (retail)
  • Black & White #’ed/50
  • Green Back #’ed/50
  • Red #’ed/10
  • Black #’ed/1

Photo variations include:

  • Capless
  • Throwback Uniform
  • Card Back Content (Gum Ad)

Although it might be difficult to see for some people, Topps did use different codes on the card backs to distinguish between the photo variations.

  • Base – ends in #1904
  • Short Prints – ends in #1931
  • Capless – ends in #1937
  • Throwback Uniform – ends in #2100
  • Card Back Content (Gum Ad) – ends in #1886/1986

It was a surprise to see that the photo variations also have parallels.  This usually isn’t the case.  I was just thinking about this the other week.  You rarely see parallels of photo variations.

The high-end “hits” from Gypsy Queen have always been a joy to look at.  The Portrait Art Patch Originals continue to impress me each year.  You can see a complete gallery of these one-of-one masterpieces here.  Brian Kong and Monty Sheldon both collaborated on these for 2017.  One of these years I’d like to see these come in booklet form.  Having a hand-drawn piece on one side and a jumbo patch on the other would look awesome.

Here is what I pulled:

Autos

  • Adam Conley
  • Pat Venditte

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Auto/Relic

  • J.D. Martinez Auto/Patch Book #’ed/20

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Parallels

  • Troy Tulowitzki Black Border #’ed/1
  • Jake Lamb Purple Border #’ed/250
  • David Robertson Missing Blackplate
  • Dansby Swanson RC Missing Blackplate
  • Max Scherzer Missing Nameplate

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Short Print

  • Jackie Robinson #308

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Photo Variation

  • Carlos Correa Capless #74

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Inserts

  • Robinson Cano GlassWorks Box Topper
  • Dansby Swanson Fortune Teller
  • Gary Sanchez Fortune Teller
  • Jose Altuve Fortune Teller
  • Max Scherzer Fortune Teller
  • Robinson Cano Portrait Hand-Drawn Art Reproduction #1
  • Adam Jones Portrait Hand-Drawn Art Reproduction #2
  • Mark McGwire Portrait Hand-Drawn Art Reproduction #1

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Card of the Day: Marcus Stroman 2011 Topps Chrome USA Baseball Refractor

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