Flashback Product of the Week: 2002-03 Upper Deck LEGO Sports

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Before OYO and C3 Toys showed up, the only sports licensed minifigures on the block came from a team-up between LEGO, Upper Deck, and the NBA.  This all took place between 2002-2003.  It was a short-lived relationship, but created some unconventional items that can easily stand out in your basketball collection.

LEGO made a handful of NBA licensed building toys.  Some contain generic NBA minifigures, while others are player specific.  A majority of the player specific minifigures can be found in the NBA Collector Sets.

There are eight different NBA Collector Sets.  Each one comes packaged with (3) minifigures, (3) stands, and (3) Upper Deck cards.  They include:

  • Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Paul Gasol #3560
  • Tony Parker, Antoine Walker, Shaquille O’Neal #3561
  • Gary Payton, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki #3562
  • Toni Kukoc, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant #3563
  • Steve Francis, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson #3564
  • Steve Nash, Jerry Stackhouse, Paul Pierce #3565
  • Jalen Rose, Kevin Garnett, Peja Stojakovic #3566
  • Allan Houston, Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber #3567

Every minifigure within the NBA Collector Set has a corresponding Upper Deck card.  You’ll find (1) gold parallel inside each pack.  Randomly inserted are autographs of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, and Kobe Bryant.  When I mean randomly, its almost to the point where they don’t even exist.  You rarely see them.  The autographs aren’t serial numbered, but the print run on them has to be extremely low.  I sent an e-mail to Upper Deck attempting to obtain an actual print run, but all I got back was “We are not releasing print run information on those, rather letting the market determine scarcity levels.

Instead of using a regular photograph, I think Upper Deck should’ve used an animated image of the player’s LEGO minifigure.  That would’ve been something different, at least for the autographs.

Flashback Product of the Week: 1991 Score Mickey Mantle Dealer/Media Mailing List Set

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Mickey Mantle hasn’t had any new cards made for about five years.  The Mantle Estate parted ways with Topps after 2012 claiming the market had been too saturated with his cards.  Personally, I believe it was all over money.  During that time, no manufacturer was allowed to print cards of the great #7.

His estate seems to be loosening up a bit.  This week we learned new Mickey Mantle cards are going to be offered through the Panini Eternal line of collectibles.  Panini can make cards of him, but none of them will contain a Yankees name/logo.  Mickey Mantle and the Yankees.  Yankees and Mickey Mantle.  They go together like peanut butter and jelly.  It looks odd.  Mickey Mantle would’ve fit well into the Topps Now program.  Unlicensed Mantle cards kinda makes the family look desperate.  Although Topps isn’t the only company to make cards of Mickey Mantle over the years, its the first manufacturer I think of when it comes to his stuff.

For a brief moment in time, it was possible to pull authentic on-card autographs of Mickey Mantle.  Today’s collectors are mostly likely use to seeing his autographed cards come in the form of cut signatures, but it didn’t start out like this.  Mr. Mantle was around long enough to see the start of pack inserted autographs before passing away in 1995.

Collectors opening packs of 1991 Score Series 2 have the opportunity to pull an autograph of Mickey Mantle.  They’re individually numbered out of 2,500.  I can’t tell you how many might be left in packs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a few were still hiding in there.

In addition to those autographs, that second series also had seven Mickey Mantle inserts.  Score sent out a special version of these inserts to dealers, members of the media, and whoever else was on their mailing list.  All seven cards came packaged in a pinstripe promo pack.  The cards inside look almost identical to the ones found in the standard second series packs.  Other than the serial number, Score’s name on the back is surrounded by a red box.  Five thousand of these sets were produced.  I don’t believe its possible to find any Mickey Mantle autographs tucked away inside these promo packs.  Sealed promo packs cost about $20 each.

Flashback Product of the Week: 1988 Salt Lake City Trappers Team Issue

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Minor League Baseball sets issued by teams today don’t carry much weight when it comes to the collecting world.  They’re drastically overproduced, and the players most likely already have cards in more in-demand products such as BowmanBowman ChromeBowman Draft, Bowman’s BestPro Debut, and Heritage MiLB.  I’m not saying there isn’t a market for them.  Today’s collectors just have more options.

During the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s is where you’ll find some of the more popular team issued sets.  Guys like Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken, Jr., and even John Elway pictured in an Oneonta Yankees uniform all received Minor League Baseball cards predating their nationally issued rookies.  Depending on rarity and condition, these can be extremely valuable.

Baseball Cards Etc issued a team set in 1988 for the Salt Lake City Trappers.  Now they’re known as the Ogden Raptors.  At the time, actor Bill Murray owned five percent of the team.  It makes perfect sense that he received his own card.  His brother Brian is also featured on another card in the same set as well.  These two cards are literally the only reason why this set is continued to be talked about today.  None of the other players went on to have historic careers.

If you watched any of the World Series last year, you’d know what a huge baseball fan Bill Murray is.  He was rocking that t-shirt that said “I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GOAT.”  The 1988 Salt Lake City Trappers team set is the first time Bill Murray was featured on cardboard.  It wouldn’t be his last though.  Over the years, other teams he’s been involved with have included him in their sets.  Here is a rundown of all the Bill Murray baseball cards you could add to your collection.

  • Bill Murray/Brian Murray 1988 Salt Lake City Trappers Team Issue #2
  • Bill Murray 1988 Salt Lake City Trappers Team Issue #29
  • Bill Murray 1989 Salt Lake City Trappers Team Issue #29
  • Bill Murray 1996 Butte Copper Kings Best #2
  • Bill Murray 1998 Charleston RiverDogs Grandstand #19
  • Bill Murray 2004 Brockton Rox #28
  • Bill Murray 2008 St. Paul Saints Team Issue #15
  • Bill Murray/Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Mayor 2012 Charleston RiverDogs Grandstand #36

Mr. Murray does have a handful of other cards from various entertainment products.  Leaf even made a cut signature of him in 2012 numbered to only (1).  Most collectors treat the card of him pictured alone from 1988 as his “rookie” card.  Three copies recently sold for $75 each.

I know one of these years we’re going to see Bill Murray show up in Allen & Ginter or Goodwin Champions.

Flashback Product of the Week: 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Baseball

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Yep.  I’m off the reservation with this one.  By now you can clearly see this is not a box of baseball cards.  When Nintendo introduced the NES to the United States in 1985, Baseball was one of the first games you could play on it.  Despite not having an MLB license, Nintendo brought in actual Major League Baseball players to show off the game during the test market launch.  Many accredit Baseball as one of the main reasons why the NES was so successful, given the sport’s overall appeal.

Compared to baseball video games today, Baseball for the NES is basic.  Although there was no license, the initials of the teams are suppose to represent real teams from the Japanese Central League or American Major League.  Retro gaming is popular today.  NES collectors are willing to spend well into the hundreds of dollars for sealed games such as this.  Out of the box and used copies can easily be found for under $10.

While attending the National a few years ago, I remember seeing an autographed photo of Mike Tyson.  It wasn’t just any photograph though.  This was a screenshot from the NES game Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!!  That really caught my attention.

I would like to see more screenshots from classic sports video games worked into the sports memorabilia market.  Finding them in packs of cards would be even better.  Autographed cards featuring pixelated versions of your favorite players from the games you use to play would probably be a hit with collectors.  Heck, they don’t even need to be autographed.

Let us take this a step further.  What if you made a great play in a sports-based video game today, and could instantly order a trading card containing a shot of that play?  That would be sick.  Especially if they could get the athletes to sign them.  Perhaps even letting room on the card for the gamer to sign too.

We’ve seen cards and action figures come packaged with games, but I believe things could get even cooler.

Flashback Product of the Week: 1986 McDonald’s

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McDonald’s is an American institution.  Although I don’t eat fast food very often, I do find it tasty.  Just don’t watch all those news reports about where the ingredients come from and how the food is made.  All that matters is that it tastes good.

Growing up I had tons of birthday parties at McDonald’s.  Piles of their Happy Meal toys followed.  Back to the Future: The Animated SeriesBatman Returns, and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! are all kids shows that I remember receiving Happy Meal toys from.  If I remember correctly, the Delorean toy had actual sparks that shot out the back.  The back wheel could easily come off too and posed a choking hazard.  Ah to be a kid again during a time when safety wasn’t the top priority.

The 1980’s was filled with a lot of popular football sets.  You have rookie cards of Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, Warren Moon, Jerry Rice, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, and Barry Sanders.  One of the most comprehensive football sets to come out of the 80’s wasn’t made by a major card manufacturer though.  It was issued by McDonald’s.

While making a purchase at McDonald’s during a specific 4-week period in 1986, you should have been given a football card with a coupon attached.  These were regionally issued.  That means McDonald’s restaurants near Philadelphia only gave out Eagles cards.  Ones near Atlanta gave out cards featuring Falcons players.  It goes on and on from there.  You would need to make multiple trips to McDonald’s in order to obtain every player from that team.  If the McDonald’s you were visiting wasn’t near an NFL team, they provided you with an All-Stars card.  The All-Stars cards are exactly what they sound like.  Instead of having cards from one team, it was a set made up of players from across the NFL.

To make it even harder, McDonald’s decided to use different colored foil for the scratch-off portion of the card each week – week #1 blue, week #2 black (gray), week #3 gold (orange), and week #4 green.  You would’ve needed to eat a hell of a lot of fast food just to get all the cards from your region.  It gives me a heart attack just thinking about it.  Given that this was 1986 and there was no internet, it would have been a monumental task to complete the whole set.

Flashback Product of the Week: 2007 Upper Deck Holiday Inn

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With less than two weeks until Christmas, families are getting ready to travel.  Hotel stays are a must for many in between holiday destinations.  When I travel, I usually stay at a Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, or Holiday Inn.  They seem to work the best.

It should be no surprise that hotels would want to hookup with a card manufacturer in order to promote their business.  The most recent example of this would be when the Sheraton in Atlantic City and Upper Deck got together last summer.  Room keys resembled Upper Deck cards for those people that stayed at the Sheraton while the National Sports Collectors Convention was going on.  Its not the first time cards have been turned into room keys, but not something done very often.  Items like that make unique souvenirs.

The 2007 Upper Deck Holiday Inn set is nothing earth-shattering, but an interesting promotion nonetheless.  For those members of the Holiday Inn Priority Club that stayed at a participating Holiday Inn hotel between May 31, 2007 and July 30, 2007 received a specially marked pack of Upper Deck baseball cards.  You got a pack for each night you stayed.  Inside each pack there are (4) cards – (3) base and (1) Cal Ripken, Jr. insert.  There are (5) Ripken inserts, and the entire base set consists of (60) cards.  You won’t find any rookies, relics, or autographs.  Adding at least one of those elements would have drastically increased people’s interest in this set.  All of these cards can be found for next to nothing today.

Holiday Inn isn’t a stranger when it comes to baseball.  In 1977 they slapped their name on (70) collectible player discs.  Given their age, they have a little more demand.  Merchandise from Mickey Mantle’s Holiday Inn in Joplin, MO is quite popular.  It doesn’t exist anymore.  Right now a Lowe’s occupies that piece of real estate.  You’ll regularly find memorabilia from it up for sale.  Postcards, pennants, menus, and matchbooks carry decent value.  Someone recently paid $250 for a sealed bar of soap.

Flashback Product of the Week: 2001 Skippy Derek Jeter

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Not familiar with CyberAction?  I’m betting most collectors don’t remember this company given it’s short lifespan.  You may also know them as Digibles.  They changed their name a few times.  CyberAction was truly ahead of it’s time releasing what is believed to be the first digital trading cards.  This is long before any of the digital trading card apps that Topps has come out with.  They originally started with entertainment properties like Marvel, Star Trek, and Xena: Warrior Princess, but eventually found their way to Major League Baseball.

Compared to the digital cards of today, CyberAction’s products look quite primitive.  You have to remember that this was a time before smartphones.  CyberAction sold CD-Rom discs that had digital cards on them.  Once you inserted the disc into your computer, installed the software, you were ready to go.  The cards on the disc could virtually be flipped and interacted with.  All kinds of videos, stats, bios, and trivia were included.  If you had the internet, even more digital cards could be found on their website.

Digital collectibles are becoming much more popular in today’s hobby.  I don’t think they will ever replace something you can physically hold though.  When CyberAction was around (1997-2001), I think it was just too early for digital cards.  Its only something that has been getting attention over the last few years.

The only physical cards that CyberAction made were ones used for promotional purposes.  If you were making a peanut butter sandwich in 2001, the odds are pretty good you came across these discs.  CyberAction and Skippy teamed-up to bring collectors this 4-disc set featuring Derek Jeter.  You can easily find all four discs.  Sometimes they’ll even be attached to the lid.  It wasn’t long after when CyberAction folded.  But look on the bright side, Skippy is still around.