Product Highlight: 1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic Baseball

Boxes can be 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.  Then again, making money shouldn’t be your #1 concern.  Cards are for fun, not investing.

If you’re looking for an affordable box from the 1990s that has an autograph checklist which hasn’t dwindled too much, 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 is mainly due to each box containing an autograph.

The 1998 SP Authentic set consists of (198) base cards.  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.  David Ortiz has a somewhat popular second year card.  As far as inserts go, there really is only one – Sheer Dominance.  These come in Silver, Gold #’ed/2000, and Titanium #’ed/100.

Autographs are the main attraction.  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 decades old, I highly doubt you would receive anything for them today.

On the bottom of the box Upper Deck lists how many of each Trade Card 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.

Product Highlight: Revolutionary Comics 1992-93 Baseball Legends

Revolutionary Comics had a short lifespan.  It was founded in 1989, and went belly up five years later.  They were known for printing unauthorized biographies of celebrities, specifically musicians.  Their line of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics was very successful.  Some musicians were totally for them, while others took up legal action.  It seemed the more legal cases thrown at them, the more comics they sold.  But in the end, it was their line of sports titles that lead to their downfall.

During it’s reign, Revolutionary Comics issued four different sports titles.  It began with Baseball Superstars Comics in 1991.  They then went on to print Baseball Legends ComicsSports Legends Comics, and Sports Superstars Comics.  Much like their Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics, these told the unauthorized biographies of popular sports figures from the past and present.  Sports fans didn’t find these as entertaining as they thought.  I don’t think they caught on because you know how the story was going to end.  Their sports titles racked up a lot of debt.  Losing a lawsuit to the Pittsburgh Penguins over the use of their logo, and having to settle another suit brought on by Joe Montana certainly didn’t help.

Some of their sports issues contained cards.  In March of 1992, Revolutionary Comics started their Baseball Legends Comics.  This particular series ran until September of 1993.  In total there are (19) issues.  The issues about Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Willie Mays all contained (3) cards each.  You would need to tear apart the cards as they came in an uncut strip.

Product Highlight: 2003 Topps Kanebo Baseball Series I & II

Kanebo sounds like the name of a character you would see on a Mortal Kombat player selection screen.  “Kanebo Wins!”, “Flawless Victory Kanebo!”, “Kanebo Finish Him!”.  In reality, its the name of a Japanese gum manufacturer.

Topps and Kanebo Foods came together in 2003 to bring collectors this crazy set.  It’s official title is 2003 Topps Kanebo Baseball, and is split between two different series.  Series I contains (55) cards.  The design is identical to that of the regular 2002 Topps Baseball flagship set.  On the back is the main difference where everything is written in Japanese.  Randomly inserted are Silver and Black parallels.

Don’t let the design fool you.  They look like 2002 cards, but all of the cards from Series I have a 2003 copyright date.  This can be extremely confusing when it comes to rookie cards.  Luckily, Topps and Kanebo only used two players in their Series I set that actually had real rookies in 2002 – So Taguchi and Kaz Ishii.  Neither of these players have much demand today, so their rookie cards from 2002 don’t hold much value.  But its still nice to know the difference between a 2002 and 2003 card.

Series II was issued a little later on is a bit easier to follow.  Not only was it issued in 2003, but it also utilizes the 2003 Topps Baseball flagship design.  The size is doubled compared to Series I, and comes in at (110) cards.  You’ll find Series II cards much more difficult to locate, and they have Copper and Silver parallels.

Hideki Matsui has very few Topps rookie cards from 2003.  Most of them come from Upper Deck, Fleer, and Donruss/Playoff.  His 2003 eTopps card is the main Topps card you see from that year.  Matsui didn’t have a rookie card in the 2003 Topps Baseball flagship brand, but he did get one in the Series II Kanebo set.

Product Highlight: 1963 Scanlens VFL

Have you ever heard of Scanlens?  No.  Then you haven’t been keeping up with your Victorian Football League (VFL) vintage card knowledge.  Scanlens was an Australian company that began to insert trading cards within their candy and chewing gum packs in the 1930s.  They produced their first VFL set in 1963.  This set consists of only (18) cards, and is the Holy Grail to VFL collectors.  Several other manufacturers of VFL cards popped up, but Scanlens vintage cards are by far the most popular.

The 1963 Scanlens VFL set contains the following players:

  • Ted Whitten #1
  • Ron Evans #2
  • Allen Aylett #3
  • Ken Fraser #4
  • Bob Skilton #5
  • John Schultz #6
  • Haydn Bunton #7
  • Brendan Edwards #8
  • Verdon Howell #9
  • Neil Roberts #10
  • Alex Epis #11
  • Graham (Polly) Farmer #12
  • Graham Arthur #13
  • Len Fitzgerald #14
  • Bill and Matt Goggin #15
  • Ron Barassi #16
  • Murray Weiderman #17
  • Bob Johnston #18

The hardest card to find from this particular set is Graham (Polly) Farmer #12.  For some reason it just doesn’t surface that often.  Many collectors believe they were heavily damaged during the printing process, and got thrown out.  Another rumor suggests that a Scanlens employee stole stacks of Graham (Polly) Farmer cards, and stored them in a drawer at a railway station.

You can’t help but notice how the design looks very similar to 1959 Topps Football.

In 1963 Scanlens issued three sets – VFL, NRL, and a soccer set.  Each set contains (18) cards.

Product Highlight: 1995 Taco John’s Iowa Barnstormers AFL Team Set

Arena football has it’s followers.  You wouldn’t know that based on the small amount of AFL cards out there.  Upper Deck gave it a shot, but unless you pull an autograph of a famous coach or owner that box probably won’t be too rewarding.

In 1995, the Iowa Barnstormers played their inaugural season with a young quarterback on their roster named Kurt Warner.  After being released from the Packers in 1994, Warner turned to the AFL since no other NFL teams seemed that interested in signing him.  He played with the Barnstormers for three seasons before heading over to Europe, and then eventually found his way to the St. Louis Rams.

Leave it to the Iowa Barnstormers and a Mexican fast food franchise called Taco John’s to produce what is likely the most valuable AFL card ever printed.  Taco John’s sponsored the team’s first set.  You could obtain these cards in two different ways.  First was to purchase an entire team set directly from the Iowa Barnstormers.  The second way would’ve taken much longer.  For each week of the AFL season, participating Taco John’s restaurants would give out two different cards from the set with a purchase.

The entire set consists of (42) cards.  Kurt Warner is the most notable one of the bunch.  Its his first football card.

Having (42) cards in the set meant it could take up to (21) Taco John’s meals before pulling a Kurt Warner.  I wouldn’t want to see what the bathroom looks like after eating (21) Taco John’s meals.  That’s a scene best saved for a Garbage Pail Kids sticker.

Product Highlight: 1991 Pennsylvania High School Big 33

Due to a decline in donations and an increasing amount of debt, the Big 33 Scholarship Foundation closed it’s doors after sixty years in 2017.  The annual football game it once sponsored is now under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.

The Big 33 Football Classic began in 1957.  Its often been referred to as the Super Bowl of High School Football.  Some of the best high school players from Pennsylvania have taken on Ohio, Maryland, and Texas.  In the early years Pennsylvania would just play itself splitting up between east and west or blue and gray.  Between 1957 and 1960 Pennsylvania played against collected talent from around the nation.  Lots of famous football stars have played in the Big 33 game – Herb Adderley, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly.

Starting in 1991, they began to make team sets.  The Pennsylvania set contains (36) black and white cards.  Key cards include Ray Zellars, Curtis Martin, and Marvin Harrison.  All of these predate their NFL rookies.  It’s 1991 Maryland counterpart doesn’t really have any major cards worth talking about.  Any Big 33 card can make an interesting addition to your collection.  Later on, some sets included autographs.

During my senior year in high school, I received a Big 33 Academic Scholarship.  That included a trip to the 2004 Big 33 game in Hershey, PA.  A couple of players from that game made it to the NFL – Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, Darrelle Revis, and Ted Ginn Jr.

Product Highlight: 1994 Action Packed NFL COASTARS

Action Packed lasted longer than most new card companies that got their start during the junk wax era.  They made football, baseball, basketball, racing, and wrestling cards.  Getting into the hockey card business was a top priority, but it never fully panned out.  Almost all of their hockey products were issued as promos.

Given the amount of sports cards that flowed into the hobby during the 80s and 90s, Action Packed needed to do something in order to separate themselves from their competitors.  Their answer was thicker card stock, rounded corners, and “puffy” pictures.  I call them “puffy” because the images are raised resembling those stickers that became popular during the 80s.  The “puffy” picture became Action Packed’s signature style for all of their products.

Action Packed sure had it’s share of unusual products to collect.  In 1994 they introduced their line of COASTARS.  These are actual coasters that you can throw on the table and place your drink on.  Six coasters come shrink-wrapped to a sheet.  You need to punch-out the coaster from the sheet in order to use it.  The checklist features players like Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, Emmitt Smith, and Jerry Rice.  One side of the coaster has the player in their home uniform.  Flip it over and you’ll find them pictured in their away uniform.  COASTARS is one of the only products Action Packed made that doesn’t include “puffy” pictures.  Probably so you wouldn’t spill your drink.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but COASTARS didn’t catch on.  Fun novelty, but no major demand.

Product Highlight: 1993 Topps/McDonald’s All Time Greatest Team Trading Card Glasses

McDonald’s has been making collectible drinking glasses for decades.  I never really got into them, except for when they made a set for the movie Batman Forever in 1995.  Topps and McDonald’s teamed-up in 1993 to bring collectors a set of ten glasses.  Printed on each glass is a Topps baseball card.  If you purchased any Extra Value Meal with a Coke Classic you had the opportunity to buy one of these 16-ounce All Time Greatest Team Trading Card Glasses.  Each glass features the player’s facsimile signature too.

Here’s the checklist:

  • #1 Nolan Ryan 1969 Topps #533
  • #2 Johnny Bench 1970 Topps #660
  • #3 Lou Gehrig 1961 Topps #405
  • #4 Joe Morgan 1973 Topps #230
  • #5 Cal Ripken Jr. 1985 Topps #704
  • #6 Brooks Robinson 1961 Topps #10
  • #7 Roberto Clemente 1961 Topps #388
  • #8 Willie Mays 1957 Topps #10
  • #9 Babe Ruth 1962 Topps #139
  • #10 Carl Yastrzemski 1970 Topps #10

The first nine glasses were sold nationally.  In order to get the tenth glass, you needed to live in the Boston area.  That makes Carl Yastrzemski the rarest of them all.

Product Highlight: 1972 STP

A set doesn’t need to be large in order for it to be popular.  That certainly is the case when it comes to the 1972 STP set.

The 1972 STP set only consists of (11) cards:

  • Bobby Allison
  • Buddy Baker
  • Dick Brooks
  • Charlie Glotzbach
  • James Hylton
  • Elmo Langley
  • Fred Lorenzen
  • Fred Lorenzen w/ car
  • Dave Marcis
  • Benny Parsons
  • Richard Petty

When it comes to NASCAR collecting, these cards are considered the Holy Grail.  This is the first entirely NASCAR set issued.  The STP motor oil company distributed these cards for free at their publicity tent during the 1972 Daytona 500.  It’s design is quite basic, and reminds me a lot of Topps Stadium Club.  The card fronts feature full-bleed photos.  On the back of the cards you’ll find the driver’s name with a full write-up written in blue.  It really doesn’t get much simpler.

The two Fred Lorenzen cards are by far the most difficult to find.  Especially the one picturing him with his car.  Some believe his cards were pulled due to him not competing in the 1972 Daytona 500, and retiring shortly after that.  Bobby Allison’s card isn’t far behind.

Fred Lorenzen w/ car

Fred Lorenzen

Bobby Allison

Richard Petty

Product Highlight: 1998 Topps SportzCubz

Cube crazy!  That’s exactly how you could describe some card companies in 1998.  Pacific and Pinnacle both released products based on cube-shaped cards.

Along with the packs, inside boxes of 1998 Pacific Aurora baseball, football, and hockey you’ll find one card in the shape of a three-dimensional cube.  Between all three sets, the most notable cube would be that of Peyton Manning since its a rookie.  Some people actually remove the card from the cube so it can lay flat.  I would never do that because you can cause serious damage to the card during the removal process.  Its best left wrapped around the cube, otherwise you’ll just have a squashed box.

Pinnacle’s Sport Block is a real conversation piece.  Each team specific Sport Block contains nine different images.  They remind me of a baseball-themed Rubik’s Cube.  You can rearrange the block just like pieces of a puzzle.  Not every team received the Sport Block treatment.  Only the Angels, Diamondbacks, Braves, Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Yankees, Mariners, and Devil Rays got one.

In that same year, Topps looks to have wanted to throw their two cents into the cube fad.  Very little is known about 1998 Topps SportzCubz.  The main reason for this is because it never made it past the test phase.  About five prototype cards are rumored to have been made for each player.  Then the idea was canned.  What the end product would have looked like is a mystery.  Judging by the prototype, it looks as if it would have been wrapped around something.  I guess we’ll never know.

Neither the 1998 Pacific Aurora Cubes or Pinnacle Sport Block carry much value.  The 1998 Topps SportzCubz are a completely different story.  Player collectors don’t mind spending into the hundreds for a single prototype.  The following players are in this set: Derek Jeter, Greg Maddux, Tony Gwynn, David Justice, Vladimir Guerrero, Bernie Williams, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Clark, Albert Belle, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, Mo Vaughn, Livan Hernandez, Raul Mondesi, Chuck Knoblauch, Andy Pettitte, Dante Bichette, Hideki Irabu, Roberto Alomar, Paul O’Neill, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Piazza, and Mark Grace.