Pin Highlight: Olive Garden 2017 Little League World Series Pin

Who doesn’t love the Olive Garden?  That list is fairly short.  Their pasta, soup, salad, and bread sticks are all delicious.  Its been almost two months since the Little League World Series came to an end, and there are still some pins that have yet to popup online.  One such pin comes from the Olive Garden.

During the 2016 Little League World Series the Olive Garden in Williamsport had pins.  A few of them have showed up for sale, but not recently.  This year’s pin has been seen even less.  You would think these would be all over the place given that the Olive Garden is a popular restaurant.  Especially when the world comes to Williamsport and people need to eat.  I think the price has a lot to do with it.  The Olive Garden charged $10 for one of these pins, or it was free with the purchase of a dessert.  Considering their pins are very small in size, that’s a lot of money.  Little was done to advertise them too.  It was basically word of mouth.  You know no advertising was done when you see a local fence company (Kriger Fence) have more pins show up on the secondary market compared to the Olive Garden.  Trust me, more people passed through the Olive Garden during the Little League World Series than Kriger Fence.

Most businesses in Williamsport don’t sell their Little League pins over the internet.  Almost all of them need to be acquired in person or on eBay.  Limited availability like this can drive up the demand for certain pins.  Which pins won’t end up surfacing that much is a total shot in the dark.  Fifty years from now we could learn that a pin was made for the ’17 LLWS and only be hearing about it for the first time.

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Pin Highlight: Little League Store ESPN Pin

Exactly one month from today the 2017 Little League World Series begins.  People from all over the world will flock to Williamsport, PA.  Collectible pins sold at the official Little League Store and other businesses throughout Williamsport have begun to slowly popup.  Pins from Dolly’s Diner and the Thomas T. Taber Museum are already available.  As the Little League World Series approaches, many more will follow.  The Little League Store doesn’t sell all of their pins online.  A lot of neat ones can only be purchased in person.  I just added a new glow-in-the-dark superhero-themed Dugout pin to my collection.

ESPN issues pins for the Little League World Series every year.  They have for a long time.  Who and how they are distributed is a total mystery.  They show up on eBay, but I’ve never seen anyone from ESPN hand them out.  Other collectors have wondered the same thing.  While supplies last, the Little League Store now sells an ESPN pin.  This is brand new for 2017.  Enough people complained over the years about not getting an ESPN pin, so they decided to make one for sale.  I bet these will sell fast.  There is no year printed on them.  Because of that, Little League might have plans to use this pin design for a while.  Either way, its an official Little League ESPN pin.

Mayweather/McGregor Highlight Leaf’s 2017 NSCC Cards

Leaf usually has one of the largest booths in the corporate area.  They also have multiple promotions going on for the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention.  Even if you don’t participate in any of their wrapper redemption programs, their booth is still worth stopping at.  Leaf likes to show off a lot of new cards which will be featured in upcoming products.

Just by opening a hobby box of Leaf cards (2011-present) at their booth will get you entered to win one of five Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor dual autographs.  Each day of the show one will be given away.  You must be present to win.

Collectors opening boxes of 2017 Leaf Pop Century will receive a Pop Century NSCC proof card #’ed/1.  A case will get you six proof cards and a Century Signature #’ed/1.

Opening a box of 2016-17 In The Game-Used will yield a specially made Jack Eichel relic card.  These will have parallels.  Nolan Patrick/Nico Hischier dual autograph cards and a full set of Eichel relics will be waiting for those who open a case.

VIPs will find a non-autographed version of the dual Mayweather/McGregor card in their bag.  A card of Vin Scully will also be thrown in.

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.

Product Highlight: 1999 Racing Champions MLBPA Superstar Yo-Yos Series 1

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Between seventh and eighth grade there were two big fads sweeping through my school.  The first were those Tech Deck fingerboards.  I never fully understood people’s fascination with those tiny skateboards.  Kids were constantly attempting to make cool jumps by only using one hand.  I bought one off of a classmate for a few dollars, but it wasn’t too long after that I lost interest.  The second fad was the yo-yo craze.  That one kept my attention much longer.  I had three different yo-yos.  It all started with a black-and-white Duncan.

Today it is all about fidget spinners.  Who knows what will be the “must have” thing tomorrow.  But we’re all going to wish we had thought of it first.  Companies like to cash in on these fads.  We’re already seeing officially licensed sports-themed fidget spinners hit the market.  I know the Williamsport Crosscutters are giving one out to kids this season.  It wouldn’t surprise me if lots of other teams do the same.

Racing Champions produced many diecast NASCAR collectibles throughout the 90’s.  To capitalize on the yo-yo popularity, they released more than one set of yo-yos.  It makes perfect sense that they would make a line of NASCAR yo-yos.  Seeing them release more than one set of baseball yo-yos was the real shocker.  With a name like Racing Champions you just don’t think about them issuing anything related to baseball.

It was the summer of 1999 when Racing Champions released Series 1 of their baseball yo-yos.  Although they weren’t licensed by MLB, they did get the ok from the MLBPA.  Each yo-yo in the set features a player on the front while picturing their name, jersey number, and town on the back.  The set consists of the following players:

  • Mark McGwire
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Derek Jeter
  • Mike Piazza
  • Tony Gwynn
  • Ivan Rodriguez
  • Greg Maddux
  • Kevin Brown

Another set of Racing Champions MLBPA yo-yos exist.  The checklist is exactly the same.  What differs are the foil pictures and overall color of the yo-yo.  They almost remind me of a parallel.  All were mass produced, and can be purchased for barely nothing.  Its possible that prototype yo-yos exist or existed at one time before they were put into production.  Most likely they were destroyed or taken home by someone that worked there.

Racing Champions is still around, but in name only.  A company called Round 2 now uses the name.  They still produce diecast cars, but nothing relating to NASCAR.

Product Highlight: Darryl Strawberry 1989 Saranac Glove

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Saranac.  Wasn’t that the name of a character that Johnny Carson use to play?  Oh wait!  That was Carnac the Magnificent.

Cards containing pieces of glove are seen throughout the hobby today.  Its ironic because at one time it was the other way around.  Collectors would buy gloves to get cards versus buying cards with gloves in them.  Relic cards really turned this industry upside down.

Saranac Gloves is a glove manufacturer which is still around today.  They make gloves for all types of uses including sports.  In the late 1980’s, Saranac struck up a deal with New York Mets superstar Darryl Strawberry to support 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 wear.  Instead of using a standard photograph, Saranac hired artist Dan Gardiner to paint a picture.  Upon seeing 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 wasn’t happy, Saranac already had the cards printed and ready to go.  I guess it was too late to make any changes, and the whole thing was scrapped.  All printed cards at the time were ordered to be thrown out.

Whenever an unreleased card is suppose to be trashed, someone almost always doesn’t follow through.  Its hardwired into a collectors brain to automatically notice that this would create a rare card.  A few found their way out.

Pricing can be all over the place.  Most aren’t in the best condition, which leads me to believe these could’ve been dug out of the trash.  Rumor has it that at one time this card sold for up to $500.  I’ve only seen one, and it was fairly beat up.

I wonder what happened to the original painting?  Do you think Darryl Strawberry would sign one of these cards if he were attending a show?

Product Highlight: 1991 GV Inc. “A Happy Baseball Birthday” Cassette Tapes

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The question “Why would they make that?” can be asked about countless products.  Its important to try new things.  Sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t.  The ones that don’t are a real blast to look at.  You really wonder what was going through management’s head at the time these ideas came to be.

When it comes to products that seriously bombed, the 1991 GV Inc. “A Happy Baseball Birthday” series of cassette tapes are at the top of the list.  One cassette tape came inside each blister package.  Recorded on each tape is a personal birthday message from a specific baseball player.  In addition to the message, each player would share their favorite baseball/birthday related memory too.  Recordings were made by Kevin Maas, Wade Boggs, John Franco, Mark Grace, John Smoltz, Tony Gwynn, Nolan Ryan, Ruben Sierra, Dave Winfield, and Lenny Dykstra.  There could be more.

On the backside of the package you’ll find a jumbo card featuring a facsimile autograph.  Despite the copyright date being from 1991, I believe these hit the stores in 1992.  Many cassette tapes came packaged with a 1992 Topps base card.  They were distributed by MDV Marketing, Inc. out of Atlantic Highlands, NJ.

If you owned the Kevin Maas tape, and could find a cassette player to put it in, this is what you would hear:

Can you imagine what it would sound like if you played them all at once?  I wonder what you hear if you play them backwards?  I’m sure there is some nut job out there who got one of these as a kid and actually believes whoever is on the tape is talking directly to them.  Lets hope they never show up to an autograph signing.  I bet if you play Lenny Dykstra’s all the way to the end, he’ll give you some stock tips.

I know there isn’t much to talk about from a design perspective.  But why would they put the laces through the word “BASEBALL”?  At first glance it looks crossed out.

Every now and then these will popup.  They aren’t worth very much.  I definitely place them at the top of the oddball pile.  One thing is for certain.  Kevin Maas really likes German chocolate cake.