Thursday, March 1, 2018

Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2017 Part 3: The Top Ten

Three posts in a row! Don't worry - I didn't get fired or anything...

Just about every year when I make this list there is a magic number of cards that could all have been number one; but as it’s a countdown decisions had to be made and cards ranked all the way to the top. Last year the number was five – as in any one of the Top 5 would have made a perfectly reasonable #1. The year before (2015 – my phattest Griffey-collecting year to date), that number was 3. In 2013, my first year of real hard-core “adult” collecting, it was 1 (the 1993 Finest Refractor).

This year the number is three; so for those final three cards at the top of the list the order is more or less completely arbitrary. This isn’t really important information, but a fair amount of juggling happens when putting this list together, and in fairness to all the awesome Griffey cards at the top, I want you to know about it.

One of my favorite aspects of this year’s list is that there are only four autographs in the Top 10 this year, only one of which cracked the Top 5. Anyone can sprinkle their Top 10 with autographs (I’ve done it), but those non-auto cards are what really round out a collection.

Here’s the Top 10:

10. 1997 Pinnacle Inside #19 Diamond Edition and 1998 Pinnacle Inside #24 Diamond Edition

As you can see I also picked up the 1998 version of this same parallel, but WHO CARES? The 1997 version (on the left) is one of the true bastards of the uber-scarce ‘90’s parallel game. These are not parallels one thinks of when thinking about rare ‘90’s parallels, but they should be. It’s an unsung true white whale among player collectors. The seeding was tough enough, but add to that the relatively low availability of the cans (packs) compounded by the fact that a huge quantity of the product was eventually destroyed due to poor sales, and you have a real butthole of a card to find. So even if you are prepared to overpay dearly for it (like I did), you need a solid gold horseshoe up your patootie to even find one in the first place. And brother, those things make walking a real chore.

9. 1994 Signature Rookies Autographs

Signature Rookies are some of the less-desirable pre-2000 autograph issues, but pre-2000 autographs they are. The full Griffey portion of the checklist is six cards with each Griffey getting a card with one other Griffey. Then there are two autographed versions per Griffey. It’s a bit confusing, but it makes total sense – trust me. And this is the year I finally nabbed all the toughest Juniors.

8. 1997 Pinnacle X-Press Metal Works Ingots #1 Gold #/200

Behold! The most expensive doorstop I’ve ever bought. I picked up the bronze last year and was so smitten with its ability to drive in a nail that I decided to go for the set. I still need the silver so somebody hit me up! Oh, and I accidentally picked up TWO of the gold version (don’t ask), but it’s cool because now I have one for the collection and one for the toolbox.

7. 2014 Panini Classics Membership Materials Signatures Prime Game-Used Batting Glove/Bat/Patch Triple Relic Autograph #22 #/5

Check out that card description. It’s a mouthful, right? This thing has one of the longest card descriptions on the Beast and for good reason – it’s a lot. A sexy, sexy lot. I continue to have mixed feelings about sticker autos in general especially on cards like this, but you can’t deny this thing is a looker and a half. Logos shmogos.

A quick confession: I had completely forgotten I acquired this card when putting this Top 30 list together because I got it through a private sale (those seem to be the ones I always forget). Then I came across it literally while scanning cards for this very post and immediately had to find a place for it in the Top 10 and bump all the other Top 30 selections back one. In the end I decided it was better than the gold ingot but just a little less cool than this next relic:

6. 2017 Panini National Treasures #136 Jersey Button Relic #/5

I have been drooling over unique relics like buttons and laundry tags for ages, then one cold night in November while sitting in the Emergency Room with my wife, I finally nabbed one! It was definitely the most newsworthy thing to happen on that particular day. Peep that sweet BUTTON y’all!

5. 1999 Upper Deck Century Legends Epic Signatures Autograph

Pre-2000 autos nearly always get a pass to the upper portion of the list, and I have no reason to break that rule here. And that is one lovely, early, on-card, true Mariners autograph. There is also an arbitrarily super-expensive “Century” parallel that is hand-numbered to 100 (and which I have a lot of problems with that I’ll go over in a future post), but I am beyond content with this here lowly regular version.

4. 1991 Donruss Advertising Sheet

I’ve been on the hunt for one of these incredibly rare sheets for several years because I just love alternate versions that slay the original. This particular one is so scarce that most Griffey collectors, even those several steps above “casual,” aren’t even aware of them. The sheets themselves were printed on thin paper so this is nothing like card stock, but we get a fresh look at what the uggo 1991 Griffey base card may have looked like had Donruss been more proficient at choosing base card photos. I actually landed a handful of these sheets and painstakingly cut out the Griffey from one of them so I could put it in a more standard case. I often wonder how many other collectors out there would wince at all the things I cut up for the sake of a neat collection.

3. 1996 Ultra Thunder Clap #11 Gold Medallion

I was so proud of this acquisition that I ACTUALLY WROTE A BLOG POST which is a pretty big deal for me lately. In that post I did some fuzzy math and figured out that this Gold Medallion parallel is more than likely scarcer than the famously scarce and intricately die-cut Hitting Machines Gold Medallion from the same set. The Gold Medallions of 1996 Ultra are an intimidating bunch, but I’m happy to report that with the acquisition of this card I am officially their daddy.

2. 1989 Mother’s Cookies Sealed Bag

I told you there would be cookies.

This may be the weirdest item in all my collections combined let alone on this list, but it’s also one of the most easily appreciable by non-collector folk. Simply put, it’s a thirty year-old bag of cookies. The fact that it has a Griffey card in it, and a rookie no less, is the only thing keeping these cookies out of the garbage at this point. Sure, it’s a card of which I already have many copies including an uncut sheet, but how many of these sealed bags do you think are still around? The fact that there’s even one is a surprise. And it’s MINE!!! [Update – there are at least two. Insert sad emoji here.]

Gotta be honest – I almost gave that bag of cookies the top slot on this list, but eventually thought better. Ladies and gentlemen, the first patch relic:

1. 1998 SP Authentic Jersey Swatch 5x7 Jumbo Patch Relic /125

Okay, technically Leaf/Donruss released a small insert set of Frank Thomas patches in 1997, so it’s not the VERY first patch relic card, but it’s the first patch card of anyone not named Frank Thomas. It’s also incredibly scarce at only 125 copies each, certainly fewer than the iconic 1997 UD Game Jersey card, and I’m convinced that patch is cut from the very same jersey.

The crazy thing about this card is that it’s not well-known by collectors, so I was able to scoop it up for way less than I should have. I want to believe that if I were to list it today with the secret being out and all, it might fetch a few hundred dollars more than I paid for it. Of course we may never know because I ain’t selling anytime soon, but you already knew that.

So there it is – the spoils of my weirdest year yet. It’s true that I blogged almost never, but I also completed a few checklists and picked off some cool, unique Griffey items. I like to think my collection is becoming a real collector’s collection – not just a bunch of autos or 1/1’s, but one full of unique and special cards that someone hard into the Griffey game can appreciate. Or lovers of coconut cookies. I can’t afford to be picky.

Fun fact: I officially began my Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2018 list, and it’s already up to 17 cards. In February! Things are looking up.

Thanks for reading. And for not deleting me from your blog roll after 5 months of silence. That was dope of you.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2017 Part 2: #11-20

That last post was the first time in five months I’ve gotten to hit the Submit button, and it felt good. I’ll have to try and keep up with posting again. Not making any promises, of course. Have I mentioned that this kid poops like 11 times a day?

Back to it:

20. 2015 Tacoma Rainiers 20th Anniversary card

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure whether this is a 2014 or 2015 card. 20 years would technically be 2014 as the team adopted the name “Rainiers” in 1995; but I’ve also seen a lot of business/organizational anniversaries celebrated in a year ending in the same digit as the first year. The team is currently managed by Pat Listach who had an absolute buttload of awesome cards in the ‘90’s. ‘Member him?

19. Three of the Four Toughest 1998 Ultra Griffeys

I got all excited while putting together the Gold Medallions of 1996 Ultra, and I expounded on that by setting my collecting crosshairs on the other insane inserts of the savagely 90’s Ultra brand. These bad boys are 1:144, 1:144, and 1:288, respectively, and they are just frickin’ out there, man. God, I miss ‘90’s inserts. There’s still one whale left to get in this set before the rest fall into place…

18. Every Pinnacle Brand Artist’s Proofs made before 1997

Pinnacle AP’s are some of the toughest parallels of the 90’s because in addition to being scarce there are just so many different ones, especially for a prolific guy like Junior. This was the year I picked off the rest – the final five I needed to complete my Pinnacle Artist’s Proof game through 1996. Again you can thank the 1996 Beckett Tribute checklist for forcing my foot down on the gas here. Still, it’s nice to be done with them.

17. 1999 SPx Winning Materials Jersey/Bat Dual Relic #JR

A very tough, super early double-relic. And I may be mistaken here so don’t quote me, but I believe I saw somewhere that these were the first dual-relic baseball cards? Like, ever? Someone correct me if that’s not the case.

So how did I get one? And why is such a card so low on the list? You may not have noticed in the scan, but this thing is in extremely rough condition. I dare say it may be the roughest specimen of this card in existence. Not only are there numerous dings and some seriously soft corners, but someone took it upon themselves to sharpie out the white bits in the upper left corner. What kind of lunatic does that?

Anyway, thanks to that sharpie-happy nutcase I was able to nab this card for way below market value. Sure I’ve spouted a lot of “condition doesn’t matter much to me” rhetoric through the years, but the fact is that were this in better condition it would probably be much higher on this list. Then again I wouldn’t own it then because it would have sold for WAY more than it did. Some mixed feelings here, but you can’t fault the card. Great design, too.

16. 1997 Pinnacle Passport to the Majors #2 Sample

You are looking at one of the most difficult “sample” cards of the ‘90’s, and that is saying something. I’ve only ever seen one in my collecting career, and it’s the one you’re looking at here. By the way, this is also a great example of the weird, requires-an-explanation kind of stuff you’re going to see all over this year’s list. Like I said before – it was a weird year.

15. 2000 Upper Deck Ionix Warp Zone #WZ3

I spent significantly less money on Griffeys this year, so it was easy to justify picking off a few of the higher-priced, more desirable gray whales. This eye-melter from UD Ionix is a prime example of such a card, and there are a few more to come.

14. 1993 Colla Collection Diamond Marks Art Insert #3

Not everybody recognizes the scarcity here, but trust me – this thing is a tough get. It’s hard to label it an oddball as Colla was actually pretty prolific in the early 90’s, and bookmark cards like these hardly ever command top dollar; but this one consistently approaches three figures or better even in not-so-great condition (I suspect a few kids may have actually used them for their intended purpose, driving the prices up, the little savages).

13. 1999 Metal Universe Linchpins #4

Another highly-desirable, high-dollar gray whale of 90’s-ness. As a lover of the Metal Universe brand, I’ve actively chased this thing for years; but it’s always been priced just a little higher than I’ve wanted to pay. This was the year I finally made it happen. The die-cutting here is incredible. How did more of these cards not have hanging chads (you younger folks might have to Google that last thing)?

12. 1989 Fleer #548 (on top of sealed cello pack) & 1989 Bowman sealed magazine pack

I became addicted to sealed packs with visible Griffeys in them a couple of years ago, and this year I was able to add a pair of really cool ones to the collection, both of them rookies. The 1989 Fleer cello pack is great because the Griffey is right on top, but I’m more enamored with the ’89 Bowman magazine pack because not only do we get a bonus visible Mickey Mantle Bowman reprint, but the Ken Griffey, Sr. television card (with Junior’s rookie cameo) is also visible on the back. That’s BOTH Griffey rookies in the set visible in the SAME pack. What are the odds?

11. 1997 Pinnacle X-Press Melting Pot #6 #/500

There are only 500 of these floating around which is pretty darn scarce for a card from an unsuccessful set from way back in 1997. The wild/frustrating thing about this particular one is that Pinnacle made about 10,000 samples of it and sent them to EVERYONE IN THE WORLD APPARENTLY. Since I needed one I did that thing of when you tell eBay to e-mail you when an auction is listed that uses certain key words, namely “1997 Pinnacle X-Press Melting Pot Griffey,” and since everyone in the world had the sample and didn’t want it (it’s not a very attractive card), I would get e-mails that new Griffey Melting Pot cards were listed what felt like EVERY SINGLE DAY. Then I would have to click on them and check to see whether the picture had “SAMPLE” written across the front (thank God it’s on the front). I probably did this 300-400 times over the last couple of years until the day a real one was finally listed, and I put it to bed with a massive overbid just so I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. I’m not even all that crazy about this insert, but turning off that eBay saved search was one of the greatest moments of my collecting career.

Welcome to the list, Melting Pot. You kind of suck.

Alright – one post left in the Top 30. No purple Crusades or Mantle autos in the Top 10 this year, but there will be ink. And cookies! Thanks for reading.

Seriously – COOKIES.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Top 30 Griffey Acquisitions of 2017 Part 1: #21-30

Hi! Miss me? I missed you! But regardless of how far-removed from card blogging I get, I will always, ALWAYS make my Top 30 post because I am still always getting new Griffeys.

This year was weird. It was the first year I didn’t try to build any sets; instead I focused pretty exclusively on Griffeys. At the same time I’ve also reigned in my spending on cardboard for two reasons: first, I’m a super-responsible Dad now (LOLZ), and second I already have most of the Holy Grails/White Whales I want.

Don’t get me wrong - there are a handful of spendy cards I would drop reasonably shiny dimes on given the chance, but for the most part I am pretty satisfied with the state of my Griffey collection (though I do still chase the cool new cards that come out). For now I’m mostly after cards of some significance in the hobby.

All this has added up to one bizarre Top 30 list. I’m still extremely proud of my Griffey acquisitions this year, but it’s a very non-standard list as these lists tend to go. There are a couple of spots where you’ll probably think I’ve lost my damn mind (and one spot in particular where you’ll be 100% right).


30. 2000 Stadium Club Beam Team #BT9 #/500

Not terribly expensive but relatively tough to come by, this is an amazing example of an over-the-top, techy-for-the-sake-of-techy Stadium Club insert. It would have been right at home among the out-the-box inserts of the mid-to-late-90’s, but it came out fairly late for such wackiness. Check out the helix of holofoil along the left border and internal die-cutting. Just plain naughty.

29. 2017 Topps Chrome MLB Award Winners #MAW-9

Again, this one is not expensive by any stretch, but I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the best-designed cards of last year. When I first came across it online, in the split second between when I first laid eyes on it and when I saw how much one would cost me, I was fully expecting a minimum $50 price tag. It just looks like it cost a fortune, and it keeps me (somewhat begrudgingly) coming back to the new product.

28. 1994 Upper Deck All-Star 125th Anniversary Jumbo Gold

There was a time when I genuinely doubted this card’s very existence (this has been the case for several of the remaining cards from the 1996 Beckett Tribute checklist). I was flabbergasted when one popped up on my saved searches and chomping at the bit right up until that auction’s end. In the end I got it for a very reasonable price because NOBODY ELSE ON THE PLANET IS LOOKING FOR THIS OBSCURE FRIGGIN CARD.

27. The Rest of the Collector’s Choice Gold Signatures

This is also the year I completed the checklist of Collector’s Choice Gold Signatures. Yes, ALL OF THEM. Gold sigs may as well have been unicorns when I was ripping packs at 15 (I only ever saw a handful in person), so this feat in itself is a kind of childhood dream come true. That 1996 base card was a real bugger, and I had all but given up on that Up Close and Personal subset.

26. 2009 Upper Deck A Piece of History 600 HR #600-KG

Upper Deck made history in the late 90’s when they released the first cards of their legendary A Piece of History 500 Home Run Club relic insert. Then in 2009 they tried to recapture that old Upper Deck magic with a similar multi-year/multi-product insert with slightly higher minimum credentials to make the checklist. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save Upper Deck’s place in the baseball card market. The design is a bit unspectacular – far from the timeless sepia of its predecessor which seems a little bass-ackwards to me. You would think having to hit another 100 dingers to get a spot in the checklist would call for a fancier card. Ho-hum.

The most interesting thing about this insert is that this Griffey is the only card in it that got made. You are looking at the first and last A Piece of History 600 HR insert card. More were meant to be produced, obviously, but Upper Deck would never get the chance as only a year later they were out of the baseball card business completely. Given the popularity (and resulting prices) of the original 500 Club insert combined with the fact that Junior was the only player represented in this checklist, I’m surprised this card isn’t more (in)famous in Griffey-collecting circles. A weird little piece of cardboard history from the end times of Upper Deck baseball.

25. 2017 Donruss Whammy #W-2

Man, these things were hotter than Tamagotchis when they hit the streets. As soon as I laid eyes on one I (and just about everyone else with the Griffey itch, I suspect) knew right away that I just had to have one. Prices for this thing shot up well over $30 per card and have never regressed. It’s just so damn cool, and design-wise that comic book caricature angle plays perfectly even without logos. I have no doubt that this is the most universally-loved Griffey card Panini has ever produced.

24. 1996 SP Holoview Special F/X #10 Die-Cut Red

Regardless of what happens with me in other areas of card collecting, my love of 90’s inserts is forever. For a few years this die-cut beauty has eluded me with solid gray whale price-points. Then in late December, someone slapped one up on COMC for a third of what they usually go for, and I pounced. These are quite famous as the die-cutting on each card is accurate to the shape of the outfield wall of each player’s heritage stadium, meaning this card is the exact shape of the Kingdome. Pardon my French but that’s fudging amazing. Fun fact: there are no fewer than three Red Sox in the checklist and any one of their cards will show you just how weird Fenway really is.

23. 1996 Ultra HR King #6 Gold Medallion and Exchange Card

The Gold Medallions of 1996 Ultra are NOTORIOUSLY scarce, and in addition to being one of my favorite wood-grain cards of all time, this is also one of the scarcest GM’s. I was able to acquire the exchange card too which is cool. Of course rumor has it those exchange cards also had their own Gold Medallion parallels, which would put me still one card away from completing the 1996 Ultra Gold Medallions. Grrrr….

22. 2000 Pacific Aurora #133 Pinstripes Premiere Date #/52

OK LOOK – I’m usually the first guy to call out crappy parallels of which this is certainly one. A significant design difference such as fun die-cutting or crazy foil would be one thing, but this is just a stamp, and an ugly one. But this card has a few saving graces. First, it's Pacific, and if you don't love Pacific I don't want to know you. Second, the Reds version of this card is also Griffey’s FIRST EVER (like, literally) Reds card, thus making this his last Mariners card. And at an ultra-low run of only 52 cards I considered it irresistible.

21. 1998 Pinnacle Mint #7 Gold and Silver Coins

I’m a sucker for card/coin crossovers, but these examples from Pinnacle have been grey whales for a few years now. No more! A fellow Griffey collector was having a fire sale via a Griffey-collecting Facebook group, and I couldn’t pass the gold coin up. After that the silver was just a few easily-justified clicks away. It’s amazing how much easier it is to overpay for a card just to complete a set. Anyway, at long last they’re all mine! Mwah-ha-ha.

Thanks for reading! Tune in for #11-20...someday...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Secret of 1998 SP Authentic

This first year of SP Authentic must have been wild for those first few box breakers. A radically under-designed base set, an autographed card in (almost) every box, and the most prolific exchange card program ever seen up to that point. The potential for a jersey exchange card was a lot better, too, than in the previous year when they were first introduced, not to mention the potential for other unique prizes like signed gloves, balls, jerseys, and standees. It was all pretty ambitious.

But there is one aspect of 1998 SP Authentic that I don’t see mentioned on the blogsphere or on any of my usual online cardboard haunts. And it’s a pretty big deal, especially given the state of the hobby which has become more and more hit-focused, even in the few years since I picked it back up. I’m not sure if it’s a really well-kept secret or if just nobody cares – I’m leaning towards the former – but we are going to talk about it today.

But let’s start as we always do – with the base cards:

1998 SP Authentic #180

The base design, like most of the designs from the 12-year SP Authentic timeline, is ultra-simple and modern with a clean, business card quality. While the image appears dark in this scan, in person it is shadowy and dramatic, backed by a colorfully-lit evening skyline. It is among my favorite base cards across all the SP brands.

I don’t think you could possible get more succinct in summing up Junior’s ’97 season than that one-sentence blurb. And please note not just the super-complete stat box, but also how much extra space they had left over. They could have fit stats through 2002 if they wanted with zero changes in card design. Why did they do it like that? I would expect this kind of thing from a sample, but not the final version.

Which brings us to the sample:

1998 SP Authentic Sample (#123)

The sample design is no different from the official release, but the base running photo they chose is a bit generic. The biggest surprise here is the fact that the back of the sample card is way better-looking than the final version with its centered stat box, great backwards-cap photo, and smidgen of extra blurbage mentioning Junior’s Gold Glove win. Every change they made to the back for the final version was a downgrade; thus, in my humble opinion the ideal 1998 SP Authentic base card would have been the regular card front and the sample back. I'm super nit-picky.

1998 SP Authentic #198 Checklist

Here is one of my favorite checklist designs of all time – no color, no problem. This card makes me wish SP Authentic had a wacky, super-rare base parallel just so I could see this checklist with some crazy holo-effects. This is the one and only checklist card in 1998 SP Authentic which means that is the entire 198-card checklist on the back. Not a lot of sets can claim such a feat. Well done. As checklists go, this is a 10.

1998 SP Authentic Sheer Dominance #SD1 Silver

As smitten as I am with most of the aesthetic of this set, Sheer Dominance is one insert I could take or leave. The front is a lot of papery foil filled with text describing what level of the insert you were looking at (which is weird in itself) with the single bright spot being (ironically) the darkest thing on the card: that glossy, jet-black, embossed Mariners logo. They could slap that thing on every card they make as far as I’m concerned.

The back is more comparable with the rest of the set with a beautifully grayscale (as in not-quite-silver but approaching it) image of the front and succinct blurb. Again, I like the back a lot better than the front here.

1998 SP Authentic Sheer Dominance #SD1 Gold #/2000

Not much difference on the gold parallel which says “GOLD GOLD GOLD GOLD” where the Silver other one said “SILVER SILVER…” and so on. The papery foil doesn’t scan well, so you can’t really see the slight gold tint to the background here, but trust me – it’s there. It’s also serial-numbered on the back out of 2000, a reasonably scarce run for the time, backed with a gold-toned representation of the front.

There is a Titanium version numbered out of only 100 that sells for a massive premium as most #/100 inserts from the late-90’s do, but I have no desire to chase it. The real prize (and secret) of 1998 SP Authentic is still to come…

So trade cards – we can’t have a conversation about this set without discussing them. SP Authentic has a buttload of trade cards. Trade cards akimbo. Trade cards out the wazoo. There are a whopping SIX different trade cards you could exchange for various Griffey items, and here’s a list of all of them:

Trade Card for 5x7 300th HR Card
Trade Card for 5x7 Game Jersey Relic Card /125
Trade Card for Chirography Autograph Card /400
Trade Card for Autographed Fielding Glove /30
Trade Card for Autographed Seattle Mariners Jersey /30
Trade Card for Life-Size Cardboard Standee /200

No other player got more than three trade cards, and only Griffey had cards that could be traded for non-card items (I want that glove!). I only have one of these trade cards, and it’s the most common one:

1998 SP Authentic Trade Card (for 300th Home Run Commemorative 5x7 Jumbo)

This card could be exchanged for a 5x7 jumbo card commemorating Junior’s 300th home run. While we have a print run for the commemorative card these could be exchanged for, we do not have one on the trade cards themselves. There could have been hundreds that never made it out of packs before the trade-in deadline of August 1st, 1999. Suffice it to say there are at least 1300 as that is how many 300th HR Commemorative jumbos were printed. I have no way of telling whether the card I own was ever exchanged for said jumbo, but I do have the jumbo:

1998 SP Authentic 300th Home Run Commemorative 5x7 Jumbo #KG300 #/1300

Look familiar? That’s because it’s practically the same design as the Upper Deck’s 11-card Ken Griffey, Jr. Most Memorable Home Runs jumbo set from this same year, only with white where the other set is gold. A bit of a design cop-out, sure, but not a bad-looking card.

It should be noted that most places I look online show the final print run to be 1000 – that is wrong. As you can see this card is numbered out of 1300. I know 1000 is a nice, round, tempting number, but it isn’t accurate here.

Now, I have no idea whether Upper Deck returned exchanged cards to their finders, so I have no way of telling whether there are exactly 1300 trade cards and the number of jumbos was already decided, or if they were printed to meet demand. Also, if UD didn’t return exchanged trade cards to the collector (which I suspect is the case to prevent multiple exchanges), that would leave far fewer trade cards out in the wild. The exact production figure of the jumbo is known – 1300 – but the exact production figure of this particular trade card and its scarcity compared with the jumbo remains up for debate. Neither is extraordinarily scarce.

1998 SP Authentic Chirography Autograph #KG /400

Despite the blurry scans (slabbed cards don't scan well), this is still hands-down one of the most beautiful autograph issues of all time. That’s a bit unexpected so early in the autograph game, but look at it. There is no element here you could add or take away that could improve this card. The photo is perfect, the design is perfect, and that bright blue on-card masterpiece of an autograph is nerfect. I mean, perfect.

From what I’ve read, all the cards from the Chirography insert were packed out EXCEPT for the Griffey. His card was the sole redemption. One of my favorite aspects of this autograph is the relative ease of acquiring one. They had a run of 400 which is kind of a lot for what (and when) it is. The high availability has kept the prices relatively low on these. If you’re a Griffey collector, it’s a must-get.

Okay, I promised you a juicy secret, and the time has come to deliver. Let’s talk about this card for a hot minute:

1998 SP Authentic Jersey Swatch 5x7 Jumbo Patch Relic /125

While I consider myself more knowledgeable than your average Joe Card Collector when it comes to Griffeys, I am no expert. I don’t claim to have the most enviable collection or to have all the answers. Most of my Griffey card knowledge comes from other sources – I just enjoy gathering it and putting it all together in one place on this blog in part for my own reference.

But this is different. I came across this card while casually shopping Griffeys on eBay, and I spent a full minute just staring at it, trying to figure out what I was looking at. I also took to a few spots in the online Griffey-collecting community to confirm what I was thinking, and it appears my suspicions were right.

Guys, this is not just a patch – it is the FIRST Griffey patch. Like, ever. Seriously.

What you are looking at is a patch relic before it was called a “patch” relic. The disparity among types of jersey relics wouldn’t be official – that is noted on the card itself, addressed directly by the manufacturer, or described as being in any way different from a standard plain jersey swatch – until 2000 Upper Deck introduced them via the Game Jersey Patch insert (cards of which sell for a small fortune). Patches in general didn’t start showing up on cards in any meaningful way until that same year, although since first posting this I was informed Leaf released a Frank Thomas patch set in 1997. However, the patches of 1998 SP Authentic, which came out a full two years earlier than Game Jersey Patch, appear to have slipped under the radar as the first-ever non-Frank Thomas patch cards.

At a stated print run of only 125 copies, they’re also far scarcer than the famed (and extremely expensive) Upper Deck Game Jersey relics from just a year before. And peep that swatch - they even appear to have been cut from the very same teal jersey as their exponentially more famous and valuable predecessor. I have no proof of this, but the back of the card says the jersey was worn "in the 1996 baseball season." That certainly checks out.

So how did I, a self-proclaimed Griffey cardboardologist, not already know about this? Or the seller? Or any one of the Griffey guys I’ve discussed it with online? And how was I able to get this /125 FIRST EVER GRIFFEY PATCH RELIC for less than $100 when the non-patch, non-autographed, non-anything cool Sheer Dominance Titanium #/100 (only 25 fewer AND seriously lame) would almost certainly break the bank? Is it something to do with the fact that these are exchange cards and were not packed-out? Or are people concerned with the validity of this set?

To address the latter point, I have seen limited forum discussion about this card, and a few people appear to think these are altered, non-genuine cards; but I’ve spent a lot of time examining this baby and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of alteration in any form. It looks perfect. On top of that, I’ve also come across images of these same cards with different bits of patch in them. I’ve seen no fewer than five different specimens in total, one of which was just a large swatch of teal jersey with no visible patch at all.

That’s right: the patches and plain jersey swatches were both included as relics in this same set, and the difference was not even addressed by Upper Deck, nor did they address the potential difference in value among jersey pieces when cutting up that teal jersey. It was simple luck-of-the-draw for the exchangers.

Nowadays they’d have set aside the patch cuts for more high-end or scarce insert cards, possibly with sticker autos and unbelievably low serial-numbering; but they didn’t do either of those things in 1998, just like they didn’t use sticker autos – nobody had thought of it yet. The results are the beautiful on-card autos of Chirography, and this little-known insert with the first-ever honest-to-goodness patch relics.

The best part about all this is that these cards are hardly ever properly listed on eBay because they’re not terribly well-known nor is their significance in the hobby. It doesn’t say “patch” anywhere on the card – it says “Jersey Swatch,” so it is listed as a jersey relic in your standard eBay listings even though it is clearly a patch. For now they’re the deal of the century – hurry up and grab one before people read this blog post, realize what this card really is, and drive the prices up (LOL no one reads this you’re fine take your time).

There are six players in the Game Jersey jumbo checklist (three of whom are Mariners), all of them with 125 relic cards to be had except for Tony Gwynn who had 415. Yes, THAT Tony Gwynn. The one for whom Upper Deck already had a bunch of leftover jersey from when he appeared in the 1997 Game Jersey insert. Unfortunately Rey Ordonez does not appear in the insert here, but if he did it would all but confirm my suspicion that the Griffey relic here is from the same jersey as the infamous 1997 Game Jersey. Even with no real proof that this is the case, I stand by it.

So let's pretend I'm right about all this: We have the second ever patch relic from ANY sport ( the Frank Thomas set from 1997 still holds the honor of being the first), a super-low print run for the '90's, the most heavily-collected player of the last 30 years who was just recently inducted into the Hall of Fame and whose cards command top dollar, and a relic that is most likely from the same jersey as 1997 Game Jersey (an extremely famous and expensive card) only much bigger and far more scarce and a patch. If any one of these perfectly reasonable theories of mine are true, how is this not an $800 card?

I’d love some input on this. I’ve consulted with a few Griffey scholars I know, and they all seem to agree with me. Until someone is able to present evidence of an earlier non-Big-Hurt patch card, the “secret” is out.

This is the part where I list the Griffeys I still need from the set in question, but that is kind of hard with 1998 SP Authentic because of all those trade cards. I decided to include all trade cards and the cards they could be traded for, but not the non-card items. That makes my want list look like this:

Sheer Dominance #SD1 Titanium #/100
Trade Card for 5x7 Game Jersey Relic Card /125
Trade Card for Chirography Autographed Card /400
Trade Card for Autographed Fielding Glove /30
Trade Card for Autographed Seattle Mariners Jersey /30
Trade Card for Life-Size Cardboard Standee /200

I don’t hold out much hope on all those trade cards, so if I land a Sheer Dominance Titanium someday I will happy mark this set as complete and count any of the trade cards I acquire thereafter as lagniappe.