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Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Weird Card for a Weird Player

First of all condolences to Blue Heaven. Secondly, condolences to me. The Dodgers were willing to give up Andy LaRoche and a pitching prospect for Man-Ram when they already have too many outfielders, but they wouldn't bite on Tex? Stupid GM. I hate L.A.

In honor of what the hyperventilating sportswriters are calling the surprise blockbuster of the century, here's a card I stumbled upon today while looking for trade bait. I could have inflicted this upon the A Pack A Day readers, but I decided they couldn't handle this. The fine regular readers of this blog however have the intestinal fortitude to not be overly shocked and appaled by some of the strange crap I post. A warning though - this is very, very wrong on several levels. If there are small children, pregnant women or the elderly around, now is the time for them to put on their special 3D glasses. Ok, here it is:

First of all, I want to make it abundantly clear that I did not purchase this thing on purpose. It was the special bonus in one of those twenty dollar junk wax boxes that I bought several years ago. I learned my lesson, I only buy ten dollar junk wax boxes now. This is an actual pack that was sold by reputable dealers that contains one graded card with a game used piece of what was formerly memorabilia from the player on the card. I think it originally cost twenty to twenty five dollars a pack. It went over so well they ended up as bonuses in junk wax boxes. The card was graded by Beckett Grading Services and the card is guaranteed to be graded 7.5 or higher. A 7.5 grade for any card produced in the past 30 years is better known in hobby circles as 'toilet paper'. Ah, but it was also genuine GGUM... Graded Game-Used Memorabilia. Thank the Maker that 'gum' never caught on as a euphemism for a game used card in hobby circles. Can you imagine how annoying it would be if those horrible Rip Master parties had people squealing about how they got a piece of GUM in their pack every time they pulled a hit? You've seen the pack, so lets move on to the monstrosity within.

A Manny Ramirez 1995 SportsFlix UC3 lenticular 3D card graded, with a square chip of wood purportedly from one of Manny's bats also encased within the card's plastic tomb.

Just let that sink in a bit, folks.

A GRADED 1995 UC3 three dimensional plastic lenticular one-off oddball forgotten by history card, with a little square piece of bat on the label where the grade normally goes. Oh, and it's not even his base card, it's an In-Depth subset card. I'm gonna go all Joe Collector on ya and declare here and now, before God and all His creation, that this is a 1/1 card. Yep, I just went there. Ya know how I know this is a 1/1?



I mean, I've got a few graded cards lying around here and there, I can sort of see why some people would want to have their cards graded, and if I had a lot of money and very little space maybe I'd want to collect them. But seriously, a forty cent card? Who grades stuff like that? And the card itself is ugly as a bucktoothed angler fish to boot. When you add on the game used chip, the ridiculousness level goes through the roof. My mind just can't fully comprehend the insanity. It's like if the Great Elder Cthulhu showed up at my door dressed like Elvis, bringing scones and biscuits for tea.

The back is pretty surreal too. Beckett breaks down all the individual grades that make up the total. The centering gets a 9.5 sub grade. Can someone explain to me how you can possibly grade the centering on a full bleed lenticular 3D card?? I guess the only reason it didn't get a 10 is because the grader wiggled the card while grading it. It was a 10 grade, but Manny moved to the right a little bit. The surface is graded a 9. The lenticular plastic surface. There's only two grades with that kind of card as far as I'm concerned. Either it's Mint, or some kid took a nail to it and made some cool zippy noises and now it's a 1. And you gotta be DRUUUUUUUNK to grade a 1! I never graded a 10, but one time, I graded five twos... Ok enough of that. the corners and edges bring it down to an 8 because the stupid black back of the card shows all the dinks. So instead of a solid 9 that I could sell for the big bucks, I got a stupid 8. Can you imagine the poor schlub who paid twenty bucks for a pack and got a SportFlix card graded 7.5? Ha!

In addition to the grading, there is a nifty website on the back. That hasn't been updated since the Clinton Administration apparently. Among the five extremely informative pages on the site, is one that shows all the actual memorabilia they destroyed to create these abominations to humanity! I can look through the list and see the exact bat used in my card, um, case. Or not, since there are three of them. Best of all you can submit a card for grading and make your own GGUM card. Or try to at least. The guy taking your order mike look at you funny, but it's worth a shot for a chance at getting a 1996 Collector's Choice card of Andruw Jones graded with a real piece of his pants inserted into the slab! That's right, this pack was all an elaborate ruse to get unsuspecting collectors to get their crappy cards graded with BGS so they could get a chunk of something stuck in the case with it. For a nominal upcharge. Ingenious.

So that's my bizarre Manny card. Almost as weird as Manny himself, don't you think?

Griffey to the White Sox

Steve's gonna have a heart attack if Junior approves the deal.

Me, I'm all for it. The trade, not the heart attack.

Apologies to these guys, assuming they have not been abducted by aliens.

In that case, then sorry you got abducted by aliens.

Is space nice?

2008 Goudey & the old stuff they ripped off

Ripped off is such a harsh term. Let's call it an homage. Last year's Goudey was comprised of a few different '30s designs all mashed up into a sort of awesome Frankencard, this year is a little different. UD is following the 1934 Goudey design for their base cards fairly closely but don't capture the same level of detail as the '38 Heads Up cards from the '07 set. Let's begin at the beginning shall we? Here are a couple of base cards from the '08 set:

Here are a couple of the base cards. They are a standard 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches this year. The original size mini cards have been relegated to a parallel. Such a shame. One improvement this year is that retired players pepper the base card checklist instead of being all short printed. Bobby Doerr is a nice addition to a Red Sox team set. The front design mirrors the 1934 Goudey cards fairly closely. The picture of the player is a painting this year, possibly rotoscoped (or whatever the non-animation term is for painting directly from a photo) as I recognize a few of the pictures from other sets. For example the 2008 Goudey Phil Niekro has the same picture as his 2005 Origins card. The backgrounds are brightly colored and have baseball line art on them if space allows. The bottom features either Derek Jeter or Ken Griffey Jr. More on that later. Here is an original 1934 card next to a 2008 mini card for comparison.

A pretty good copy of the original design if you ask me. The main differences are the slightly smaller font for the name, the added team and position and the replacement of Lou Gehrig with Derek Jeter. The Derek Jeter has confused some people who are not familiar with the original set, so here's the scoop: In 1934, Goudey used Lou as their spokesman for this set and put his picture on most of the cards in the set with a "Lou Gehrig says..." line on the bottom. In addition to being the spokesman he supposedly made some comments about each player. Let's check out the back.

If you look at the original card, you'll see the text is all in quotes and has Lou's facsimile signature signing off on it. "I'm Lou Gehrig, and I approve this message" Also notice that these quotes are "by arrangement with Christy Walsh", who was one of the first successful ghostwriters in the sports scene. To Lou himself was most likely not responsible for that very dry, bland text on the back of the card, disappointing as that may sound. The 2008 version doesn't bother with the artifice, but does keep Jeter's mug on half the cards in the set. Why only half? Let's look at a couple more cards for the answer.

Here's a 2008 Corey Hart mini and a reprint of one of the tough hich series '34 cards I don't actually have in my collection. For the high series in 1934, Goudey let Phillies star Chuck Klein get into the action. Chuck "wrote" the copy for the National League Players while Lou retained the job for the American Leaguers. Upper Deck kept up the conceit, and Derek is on every AL card, while Ken Griffey Jr. is on the National League cards. The stripe on the bottom is blue for the AL and red for the NL. Marty and Corey also share the same baseball diamond in the background of their cards. While the mini cards have only text, the full size cards add stats. You can see the back of Scott Rolen's card here in my pack break. Ah, lovely stats.

One more thing on the mini cards... As you can see the back of Hamilton's mini card is red. Scott Rolen's base back is green. The large size cards have green backs for the base cards and black for the short prints. There are no red/green variations in the large size cards like last year as far as I can tell. HOWEVER... I've already seen red back, blue back and serial numbered minis numbered to 88, 34 and 8. So the parallel weirdness is confined to the mini cards this year. Which is the same as last year in a way, since every card was a mini card, but I digress.

There are 130 short prints in the set. Yes, 130. No one said this set was going to be easy. I've only pulled two short prints so far (I've only bought two packs, actually) so here they are:

Yay, more president cards in an election year. Just what we need. I think we can all agree on this card... Ugly as sin. It's a shame too, because Upper Deck had an excellent opportunity to rip off the 1932 US Caramel Presidents set here. Actually as I look at it, the design is a little similar, but they blew it by using a black and white background. Slap on the bright red of the '32 set and you have an interesting looking card instead of this mess. For some reason a few of the cards are in color. I'm not sure why they didn't go for the consistency of making them all color or all black & white. It makes the set look a little cheap, if you ask me.

Here's a Sports Royalty card of the Horse Faced Bronco, John Elway. The bulk of the short prints are Sport Royalty cards, which were a boxtopper in last year's product. A bunch of these are autographed too, so look closely at those cards. Subjects include players from all sports, there are even a few baseball players in there. Imagine that! Here are the various short print subsets:

Short Print Base 201-230
Goudey Presidents 231-250
1936 Goudey Black & White 251-270
Sports Royalty 271-330

More detail can be found in an earlier post... Long story short, the base card SPs are just that, base cards. Presidents are presidents and also unnecessary. Black & White cards are copying the 1936 Goudey set. Sports Royalty consists of starts from all sorts of sports.

Unlike last year when all the inserts were extremely short printed boxtoppers numbered to 15 or less, Upper Deck let us peasants in on the action this year with a mini card set. They're actually inserted into packs this time! Hooray! Here's an example:

These are the "Hit Parade of Champion" cards that are based on the 1951 Berk Ross set of the same name. You can see an original "Jet" Jethroe card on the left. The '08 Reggie is a black & white photo, but most cards in the mini set are in color like the originals.

Here's the back of these cards. About as similar as you're going to get since today's cards require an eighth of the card to be chewed up by legalese. I like the set, and I'm glad there's something to chase in packs other than jerseys and autos now.

The set's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good. If you're hopelessly intimidated by a 330 card set full of presidents and Olympians and black & white cards, my suggestion is just to shoot for the base set plus the 30 SPs. It would make life a whole lot easier for a set collector. If/when I get a box of this stuff I'll go into more detail on the relics and insert ratios and stuff. Right now I'm still trying to figure it all out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Good Omen

And lord do I need one.

After being frustrated in my search for an Allen & Ginter blaster I grudgingly picked up a pack of Topps Series 2 just to have something to open on the way home. I kid you not, this was the first card out of the pack:

Nice. I'm beginning to like this trade a lot. It's nice not having the Sword of Damocles hanging over your entire franchise for the first time in years. Now that we officially suck and don't have to worry about any pennant runs for a couple of years I can kick back, relax and just enjoy some baseball without having to listen to the sports talk goons declare the Braves' entire existence on this planet a failure because they didn't win it all this year. I can watch some young kids develop into stars and ignore the fact that they'll all hire Boras once they get arbitration eligible. That's a few years away, I can worry about it then. Tex played his part too, and threw out a few jerk comments on his way out the door. The stuff praising the Angels I don't care about, you're supposed to say that when you're traded. It was the crap about how he was so surprised the Braves didn't make him any offers during this summer after he rejected out of hand the extension offer they gave him in the offseason. Chris DiMino had a good observation this morning on 790 the Zone, he said he'd never seen a player so giddy to be going into free agency before. This is the quote that put him right next to JD Drew on my 'love to hate' list:

"I thought I'd be here the rest of my career," he said of Atlanta. "I really wanted to stay here, but business is business, and it's time for me to move on."

Well, you would have been here the rest of your career if you'd signed the fucking extension Wren offered you last winter, dumbass. If staying here was that important to you... I don't mind that you're a greedy bastard who's more interested in the green than anything else in the world, but don't insult my intelligence with this crap that you wanted to stay here in Atlanta really really bad, but mean ol' management wouldn't let you. I hope you break your contract signing hand jerking off to salary rumors this offseason, Scott Boras accidentally puts child pr0n in your 85-page dossier for prospective clubs and your Georgia-born wife refuses to sleep with you after Chris Hansen shows up at your door with an NBC film crew and a copy of Boras' pamphlet. Douche.

Ok, that's all out of my system now. Now that I've purged Tex out of my Braves conciousness, I'm beginning to get excited about Kotchman after hearing a lot of Angels fans commenting on the trade. There's saying a lot of great things about the guy and seem sad that he's leaving. I was worried that the gold glove defense we've been getting from Mark would take a hit, but it looks like Casey is about as good defensively. That's crucial to this team, considering we're going to have to develop a bunch of young pitchers in the next couple of years. Young pitchers need all the help they can get and giving away runs is no way to build their confidence. Thanks to Dr. Andrews this is turning into a really young team really quickly. There's still another day till the trading deadline too, Frank might have some more fresh faces on the team by this time tomorrow.

Tommy John for Hudson


1936 Goudey Braves/Bees Team Set

Ok, so it's only two cards. Two cards that are 72 years old. And they sure do look it. The '36 Goudey set is a bit of an odd duck. It's black & white, has a baseball game on the back and has only 25 cards total in the set. Quite a big change from the 239 card '33 set. There is another Goudey set from 1936, the 178+ card "Wide Pen" premium cards that were given away as incentives in the store. Those are larger paper photos while these were sold in packs and are the same thick stock as their other card sets. The photos for the two sets look very similar to each other, and have the same style script lettering for the name on the front. The checklist is really weak for such a small set, the only superstars in the set are Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Gomez. The lack of unobtainable stars would make it an easy set to complete if the set itself weren't so scarce. I recently got a lot off of eBay with three of the cards, including both Boston Bees players.

This is the card in the lot that was not a Bee. Bill Brubaker was a third baseman for the Pirates. He had a ten year career in the majors, but played in more than 45 games in only three of those years. The year this card was released was his only season playing full time for the Pirates. He finished his career with a few games with the Braves in 1943. If you look very closely on his card (I should have scanned it at a higher resolution in retrospect) you can see that the card was originally printed as "Paul" Brubaker, but Bill was later written over the error. One more interesting tidbit about Bill: he's Dennis Rasmussen's grandpa.

Ok, now for the Braves, er, Bees. Joe Coscarart played only two years in the bigs, one in 1935 as a Brave and one in 1936 as a Bee. His brother Pete was a bit more successful and played 9 years with the Dodgers and Pirates. There is not a whole lot of info out there about Joe. Basically he was a weak hitting infielder for the Braves/Bees (who will from now on be referred to as the Brees in this post) who somehow managed to get into the 1936 Goudey trading card set. Since he's a Bree, I had to have it, and this card was the sole reason I bought the lot.

The last card in the lot and the second Bree in the set is of Brees slugger Wally Berger. Wally is a forgotten star of the 30's. He held the record for most home runs by a rookie with 38 in 1930 until Mark McGwire smashed it. A four time All Star, Berger hit 199 home runs for the Brees from 1930-37. Injuries derailed his career but not before getting to play in a couple of World Series with the Giants and Reds. I already had a card of Berger, but as you can see the one in the lot (on the right) is a slight improvement on the one I already had. It also allowed me to see for my self one of the back variations in the set.

The backs of the card have a short biography of the player, but most of the back is taken up by a baseball game. There are various balls, strikes, outs and hits that can be used to play a game by flipping over cards. There are apparently multiple backs for each player so the game would be more entertaining. It also makes a master set with all the back variations insanely difficult. I'm not even sure if there is a definitive list of back variations out there. I don't plan on chasing down any more Bergers, two are enough for me. It would have been nice if he had gotten a hit though instead of just a sacrifice fly. Sure it's only two cards, but finishing a team set from the 1930s is pretty dang satisfying.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

HA! I knew it

I knew as soon as I finished that huge ass post on trade rumors Wren would make a deal for Tex.

Tex is now an Angel, The Braves get Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek in return. Casey is only 25, under club control for 3 years, not too expensive and should be hitting his stride in the next couple of years. Marek is a Double-A pitcher so who knows. Kotchman has to develop quickly or this isn't that great a deal for the Bravos, I'm afraid. They now have a major league ready first baseman and an unknown arm in exchange for the two first rounders we would have gotten in compensation for Tex. Time will tell.

If Tex is gone, I'm sure the fire sale will continue as there are several bullpen arms teams are coveting. Who knows, there might be a surprise trade as well.

Rating the Mark Teixeira Trade Rumors Based on Whether I Have Their Cards Or Not

There are about eight thousand rumors swirling about the inevitable Tex deal and to be completely honest none of them look all that great. Here's a list of most of the names being bandied about and the deals rated based on the very scientific method of if I have any of their good cards. I'll list them by teams, with my luck the deal will be made right as I finish typing the post.


Supposedly the team most likely to make a deal, unfortunately they won't give the Braves the players they want.

Conor Jackson:

Do I have his rookie card? Yes. 2004 Topps and maybe Bowman.

Do I have a jersey or auto? Yes. A USA baseball jersey card from Upper Deck.

A good young player that hits for average and has some pop. About to hit his prime and won't be a free agent for a couple of years. This would be a good pickup for the Braves, but the Snakes don't want to trade him. I just traded a relic card to Dinged Corners, if we get him maybe I could get it back for a pile of Tex cards...

Chad Tracy:

Do I have his rookie card? Not sure. I'd have to check my 2002 Bowman Draft cards.

Do I have a jersey or auto? Yes. 2007 Allen Ginter bat card.

Zona would like to give us Tracy instead of Conor, he's older and a little more versatile but not as exciting as Conor. I have a weird bat card of Tracy where the mini card got pinched by the frame and as a result I can slip the mini card out of the frame now. He's not a great player, but he can play first or third, important since Chipper's banged up again.

Micah Owings:

Do I have his rookie card? I don't know if Ive got any of this 2005 cards, but I sure do have a bunch of his 2007 'rookie' cards.

Do I have a jersey or auto? Nope.

The scuttlebutt is Tracy, Owings and a prospect for Tex. We need pitching desperately, but Owings' bat may make him a better oprtion at first base than as our fifth starter.


Probably won't be making a deal, but the rumor is out there.

Kevin Youkilis:

Do I have his rookie card? Yes. 2003 Topps and Bowman at least, probably more.

Do I have a jersey or auto? I don't think so, I'd have to check.

This rumor keeps getting bounced around even though Youk is almost as good as Tex, and won't be nearly as expensive. The Sox are probably trying goad the Yanks into overpaying as they'd have to move Manny before doing anything. I'd dance nekkid in the streets until I was dragged away if we somehow got Youk.


Doesn't usually rent players, but Tex could make them a World Series favorite.

Casey Kotchman:

Do I have his rookie card? I think I have his Topps Total rookie.

Do I have a jersey or auto? I don't think so, but I'd have to check.

Average first baseman, a few years away from free agency. He'd fill a roster spot, but who knows if he'll develop much more. The Angels are really hesitant to trade him from what I hear.

Howie Kendrick:

Do I have his rookie card? Yes. 2004 Topps Traded, plus a crapload of logo RC's from 2006.

Do I have a jersey or auto? No, but I have an Allen & Ginter Bazooka mini numbered 16/25.

Only 24, hits for average, not power. Strikes out too much. Is versitile and can play 1st, 2nd or 3rd base. Could allow the Braves to move Chipper to first base next year or move Kelly Johnson back to the outfield.

Kendry Morales:

Do I have his rookie card? Yes. 2005 Upper Deck Origins and probably others.

Do I have a jersey or auto? No, but his autographs are plentiful and cheap.

Cuban defector who is stuck in the Angels' minor league system. Switch hitter, high average, not a lot of power yet. Still a decent prospect who could use some at bats in the majors.


They need the offense desperately, but don't count on them to make a deal for Tex.

James Loney:

Do I have his rookie card? Maybe. I think I have the 2002 UD Prospect Premiere card, but I have to check.

Do I have a jersey or auto? I don't think so.

Another very good prospect at first who still needs some development. The Dodgers might be better off grooming their prospects instead of adding another veteran.


Hell, they might trade for anyone at any time.

Melky Cabrera:

Do I have his rookie card? Yes, 2005 Cracker Jack.

Do I have a jersey or auto? Nope.

A young outfielder that has been in trade rumors to the braves for a couple of years now. We have enough young outfilders to be honest.

Ian Kennedy:

Do I have his rookie card? 2008 rookies? Yes. USA Baseball rookies from 2004? No.

Do I have a jersey or auto? No.

His name's been bandied about but I doubt it. Any arm is a good arm at this point though.

Phil Hughes:

Do I have his rookie card? I have 2007 Hughes cards coming out of my ears. I also have his 2004 Topps Traded card.

Do I have a jersey or auto? No.

Again, I think this is more Yankee speculation than anything. If this lasts much longer we might hear Joba's name pop up.


I've only heard names of prospects talked about, but the Rays are supposedly in the hunt. They already have Carlos Pena, but why not strike while the iron is hot and tryo to finally win a division after so many years of dreadfulness?

VERDICT - As far as my collection goes, I'm rooting for Conor Jackson. I could plug his cards into my Braves box pretty easily and not have to worry about him being gone in a few months. Kendrick, Tracy or Hughes would also be good for my collection. As far as players go, Jackson, Loney or any starting pitcher would be the best option for the future of the club. Youkilis is a Fantasy League trade only, but oh, how I'd love that.

Now it's time to wait...

Nifty Tobacco Card Stuff

I found this via For Love of the Cards. We all know what a T206 or an Allen & Ginter or a Turkey Red tobacco card looks like. The recent rash of retro sets have made sure of that even if you've never seen an original tobacco card in your life. Now how about the packs they came in? Ever seen one of those? A new website by Jon Canfield has a ton of photos of original cigarette packs that held the cards that we covet today. Think 1887 Gypsy Queen cards are rare? The boxes are far, far more rare. Some of the boxes look a whole lot better than the cards that were inside them. This kind of thing isn't for everyone, but it's a neat way to kill an hour looking at some obscure card history.

Evening the Playing Field

Here are the Allen & Ginter Codes I've gotten off the web. All are eyeballed off of sketchy scans so don't take it as gospel. I'll update/correct as new information becomes available. (latest update: 7/29) Let's make sure some case breaking dealer doesn't get his face on a card next year.

Updated to include card numbers, complete codes are in bold.

WGV1 Kerri Strug -

WGV2 Mark Spitz -


WVG3 Jonas Salk -

WGV4 Man Walks on the Moon -

WGV5 John Lester -
WGV6 The Fall of the Berlin Wall -


WGV7 David and Goliath -

WGV8 Gary Carter and the '86 Mets

WGV9 The Battle of Gettysburg -

WGV10 Deep Blue -

WGV11 The Allied Forces -

WGV12 Don Larsen -

WGV13 Truman Defeats Dewey -

WGV14 The American Revolution -

WGV15 2004 ALCS -

WGV16 The Battle of Thermopylae

WGV17 Brown v. The Board of Education -

WGV18 Team Orange -

(OPE? Purity of Essence?)

WGV19 Bill Mazeroski -


(POE! There it is again! Topps is corrupting our precious bodily fluids!)

WGV20 Cinderella - (wtf?)

Also here's the checklist of the rather bizarre Team Orange mini cards that land two per case courtesy of JayBee.

Team Orange

TO1-Cornelius Franks
TO2-"Mittens" McCluskey
TO3-Capt W. P. Mantooth
TO4-"Wheelbarrow" Walker
TO5-Archibald Clinker
TO6-Minty Beans
TO7-Francisco Fiasco
TO8-Thurgood Cartwright IV
TO9-Enzo DiStubbs
TO10-Sir "Wagonwheels" Stevens

If you manage to crack the sucker, e-mail Topps at CODE at TOPPS dot COM. Good luck...

Corrections, updates, cease & desist orders and general tomfoolery can be posted in the comments.

Minty Beans. Good grief...

The Lost Box of Total Awesomeness - Ultrariffic

Dang, it's been a while since I brought the awesome. I haven't even gotten to the really super duper fantastic awesome yet. I'm sure not going to get there today, instead I have some Fleer Ultra in store for you. Ultra's kind of awesome, right? Well, not the weak 1991 set with the silver borders. The only awesome there was the logo stickers. 1992 Ultra was hella awesome though. You know it's true. After getting spanked by 1991 Stadium club, Fleer shot back with their own full-bleed bordered cards with some marble accents and just a touch of foil stamping. I am not ashamed to admit that when I first saw '92 Ultra I completely flipped over it and completelty forgot about Stadium Club. '92 started an extremely consistent 16 year run of solid photography and minimalist design on full-bleed fronts. Too bad Upper Deck bumped off the brand in order to crap out something called Upper Deck X. At any rate, there were a few Ultra cards in my box and I'll share a few of the more awesomer ones here.

27 1992 Fleer Ultra Cards

The 1992 set really set a standard that all subsequent Ultra sets had to live up to. Every card had an action photo on the front that was only augmented by the Ultra logo on one of the top corners and the player and team names in a small colored bar atop a marblized background on the bottom. These cards were head and shoulders above the '92 Leaf, Stadium Club and Upper Deck sets. ('92 pinnacle were fantastic in their own right, but in a different way) Check out this picture of Nolan Ryan and tell me that's not one of the sweetest cards of the year.

Not every photo could be as cool as Nolan's. This card of Ray Sanchez has him fielding a grounder, possibly off a fungo. It's a unique pose at least. Note the 'rookie' banner hanging off the Ultra logo like it's a field day medal or something. They only used this for two years which is a shame. I thought it could be as big as the Rated Rookie logo or Topps' Rookie Cup. Who wouldn't want a gold foil rookie banner on their first card?

Here's Deion Sanders doing what he did best in baseball. Slapping a bunt and running like hell. I wish he would have stuck around Atlanta longer. The Falcons that is, Deion could have been a good baseball player if he stuck to it full time, but the man was a Hall of Fame cornerback.

The backs were definitly not as elegant as the front, but they had their charms. The marble motif continues, as dons the colores stripes with the name and stats. There's a weird futuristic grig thing in the background behind a portrait and another action photo of the player. Three photos on one card! Holy crap! True to form, Albert Belle is about to wipe the smile off Chief Wahoo's face on this card.

Usually Fleer used the best photo on the front. This left some interesting choices for the back. On this not-quite-a-rookie card of Jeff Bagwell, they apparently couldn't get a portrait of Jeff, so they got the banjo kid from Deliverance to fill in.

Of course a lack of decent photographs sometime meant cardboard gold. Here Delino DeShields is horrified by the tiny version of himself about to hop up on his shoulder.

6 1993 Fleer Ultra Cards

There are only 6 '93 Ultra cards in the box, but that's ok because they were nearly carbon copies of the '92 set. The main difference on the front were a flamind baseball behind the Ultra logo, a different color marble and the player and team names are also marbleized. A bad trend of pringing the names in gold foil was introduced however, this innovation wouldn't die easily. Here's Marlins expansion draft flop Nigel Wilson.

The main difference on the back is the futuristic grid is now replaced with a pretty blah looking drawing of a baseball field. No one looks at the backs of cards anyway.

25 1994 Fleer Ultra Cards

This set has aged pretty well, but I hated it when it first came out. The packs were expensive, and Fleer replaced the marble with a ton of gold foil. I really hated the foil stripe at the bottom. They always got dinged and I thought they were pretty ugly. Compared to some other foil disasters of the '90s, in retrospect they are positively understated. The huge diamond Ultra logo on the other hand still looks awful. It doesn't hurt this photo of the Big Unit though.

Ultra's photography seemed to use closer and closer shots of the players each year. The '92 edition showed mostly full shots of the players. 1993 included a few photos where they were cropped at the knees. Here the shot gets tighter still as Kirk gets cut off just below the hips.

This here is what I really hated about the '94 set. I thought the horizontal cards looked really awkward next to the rest of the set, especially with the stripe now on the side. The ROOKIE designation curved over the logo just added more foil to a set that had too much of it already in my opinion.

Other than adding even more foil, the backs weren't too terrible. A colorful border surrounding one big actions shot, which was flanked by one or two smaller action poses. This photo of Bulldog is just as good as the picture on the front. The same stats box is back, just as well as it conveyed the maximum amount of information while keeping a low profile and letting the photos take over.

This back of Benito Santigo is neat as it shows him batting running and fielding. I'm a suctker for cards with catchers in full gear. The one thing I absolutely hated most about this set was the card numbers. It's bad enough trying to read a player name stamped in foil. A foil card number is just torture. This set is murder to sort.

Ok, so this installment wasn't crazy awesome, but you'll like what's up next. Donruss, anyone?

Card Of the Week 7/28/08

Pretty much everyone who hasn't just completely given up on Topps altogether has either ripped some Allen & Ginter, is waiting for their box of Allen & Ginter to ship or has wistfully followed some Allen & Ginter breaks online since they have been forced to squander their money on foolish things like gas and food. And most of those people ripping or watching have had this question pop up in their mind at one point while looking through the cards.

"Who the heck is this old geezer on the Crack the Code advertisement cards?"

And he hasn't just been on the Crack the Code Cards either. He's also on the side of the box,

And the inside flap of the box,

And the security seal that keeps the box safe from evildoers,

And on the blaster boxes,

And on the wrappers,
N43 wrappers too,
Don't forget the cards themselves,

And last but not least, here he is blowing bubbles.

Kurt Bevacqua he ain't. But who is this guy to make him so ubiquitous in this set. This is a Topps product, you'd think they'd plaster Mickey Mantle's face everywhere. Well, you have to go back to the original 1887 Allen and Ginter sets to find out. This guy (I thought it was Annie Oakley the first time I saw it on the back of a Topps mini card) is none other than...


Oh great, that explains everything. Now who the hell is Old Planter? Well, first off he's a card in the Allen & Ginter N33 "World's Smokers" set from 1888. The subjects of this set use the common 'people around the world wearing their crazy costumes' motif that is very common in 19th century sets, but A&G kicked it up a notch by having them all smoking cigarettes and pipes filled with (presumably) Allen & Ginter tobacco. It's a very well done set that doesn't go completely overboard with the stereotypes and many of the other sets from that period do. There are many smokers wearing costumes from around the world as well as a historical subject or two. It can be educational too, did you know an Odalesque was the slave of a concubine? I didn't until I saw the card from that set and looked it up, and I had even seen all those paintings of nekkid ladies in the Wikipedia article already in art history class. The most popular card from the set though (and my favorite) is the Old Planter. Why Old Planter? He was the de facto mascot for their tobacco products. Who knows, it might even be a humourous take on founder John Allen himself. It sure ain't Lewis Ginter, that's for sure. Allen & Ginter was the first company to plaster his mug all over their products before Topps decided to do so. As you can see, they used his likeness...

On their cigarette packs,

On their tins of loose tobacco,
On the coupons inserted into each pack of cigarettes,

That could be exchanged for premium albums of their cards,

Yep, he's on them too...

On the Cabinet sized advertising cards,

And of course, on the back of the cards themselves.

See, there he is!
So Topps is actually being very true to the original A&G cards by putting Old Planter - sans cigarette so as not to offend modern sensibilities - all over everything. This particular Old Planter card is my favorite (heck, he's even up in my title pic) old style Allen & Ginter card not for his notoriety, but for the back of the card. Check it out:

Somebody completely ruined the PSA grade of this card by stamping "THIS BELONG TO JOE K. DUCK" on the back. Most collectors would bemoan their PSA 4 or 5 dropping to a 1 due to some guy with an ink pad and a stamp marking his territory, but this stamp is the reason this card is special to me. When I first became fascinated by these cards I scoured the web for info and found a lot of it from eBay auctions. One seller that I learned a lot from was As Time Goes By. They sell a lot of old non-sports cards (including some primo Mars Attacks cards up for sale right now) and this time last year they were selling off a large collection of 19th century cards they had acquired. Looking through the listing descriptions taught me enough information about these strange old cards that I was able to find more information on them using their ACC numbers, manufacturers, approximate release dates and set names. There were also hundreds of great scans of these cards that I had never seen before. I would save a lot of these scans for future reference including the coupons, packs and album pictures up above. There's not a heck of a lot of resources on trading cards out there, especially the obscure ones and auction site scans are often the only information available on some of this old stuff. Quite a few of the scans from As Time Goes By had the Joe K. Duck stamps on the back. This dude had a lot of cards that he inked up.

I felt an affinity to that old time collector who needed to make sure everyone knew that these cards were his, by gum, by marking them with his name using a misspelled stamp that dropped an S. Unfortunately I had miserable luck winning any Allen & Ginter cards for a while and all of Joe's collection went into other hands. A couple months into my Allen & Ginter type set project (which is now down to finding three maddeningly difficult cards) this card popped up on As Time Goes By and I immediately put in my max bid of $20 for the card. I surprisingly ended up winning it for significantly less than that. With a bit of luck, I not only got the flagship card of Allen & Ginter's sets but a little piece of Joe's collection. I have no clue who Mr. Duck is, but I'm glad to be able to show off one of his cards as this week's Card of the Week. Godspeed Joe K. Collector, wherever you are.