Monday, March 31, 2014

Meta Post: The Number of the Beast

I am working on one gigantic new addition to The Junior Junkie.  It’s something a lot of player collectors realize they need to do at some point; but depending on how many different cards you have of that player, it can also be grueling and time-consuming.

I made the decision one day earlier in the year to expound on what was previously a list of only those Griffey cards that had been properly showcased, meaning shown with large, high-quality scans of the front and back and written about snarkily but with much respect.  Instead, the new list would include ALL the Griffeys in my collection.

This list would be called THE BEAST.

I began cataloging my cards that very night, powering past 1989 and through the end of 1991.  Then two weeks of Mardi Gras and a week on vacation happened, and the project came to a screeching halt.  Since then, though, I have been able to make significant progress on weeknights in front of the TV.  I have now completed all the Griffeys through 1997 and partly into 1998, and I am nearly halfway through the nine 4” Griffey binders that house the bulk of my collection.  I am optimistic that if I can keep with it, I can have THE BEAST completely up-to-date in the next 2-3 weeks.

The project is not without its difficulty.  The earlier years of Griffeys presented the problem of cataloging oddballs which can be problematic.  Sometimes the cards are just little rectangular photograph with a simple name plate and nothing else.  Many have blank backs and no brand name.  Despite all that, I could knock out the early 90’s years in an hour or two thanks to the relative lack of variety within brands.

Coming up with names for all those oddballs is tough on my OCD.

Now I’m in the late 90’s, and the process is getting truly time-consuming.  Whereas the Griffeys of the early 90’s lacked variety within brands, by this time there was lots of variety within brands as well as among them.  All the inserts and parallels and complicated multi-tiered checklists make cataloging a real task.  The thing giving me the most trouble is figuring out which inserts go with which sets.  For example, in 1998 Pinnacle made lots of sets with several inserts each, so how do I know a particular insert is regular Pinnacle and not New Pinnacle or Pinnacle Certified?  It’s getting messy, but I think I’ve got it pretty well wrangled with the help of sites like COMC, baseballcardpedia, and even eBay.

Just look at all those Pinnacle sets.  A year later they were gone.

One thing I’m looking forward to now that I’m going to have all my Griffeys in a single list is that I will now be able to look up those cards I need in places like card shows and while card shopping at work (yeah, sometimes) or on my phone (great fun while waiting for the wife to try on clothes or during trips to the post office).  Until now I’ve been notorious for buying dupes of cards I already have, but now I have no excuse.

Another advantage of a complete, one-stop catalog of the collection is that I can delete the confusing, misguided, and woefully incomplete “Griffeys I Need from the Sets We’ve Seen So Far” list I had created.  It was meant to be a list of Griffeys I still needed just from the sets I had already showcased  on the blog, but it came across as though those listed were the only Griffeys I needed which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Now anyone can check one list and see if the Griffey they have to trade is one I need.  They can also link directly to the post that discusses said Griffey and maybe learn a little more about it.

I did go in and change what that above-named list now links to....

A fun side effect of assembling this list is that I have been able to spot a lot of Griffey base cards I still don’t have as well as lots of inserts and parallels that should be gettable on the cheap.  I’m filling holes on the fly like mad via COMC.  For the cards I cannot get I plan on starting a whole new list of most wanted Griffeys that will be differentiated from a separate list of Holy Grails.

This Meta Post brought to you by The Junior Junkie Blog Improvement Team: onward and upward.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do the Right Thing

I sold a professional baseball player one of his own cards.

I put ten cards up on eBay last week – mostly stuff I pulled from 2014 Topps that didn’t have Griffey on it.  I had a printing plate, one of those uniform letter patch 1/1’s, a nice Goldschmidt acetate #/10, and a few of the rarer parallels.

Anyway, the auctions all ended last night, and all but one card sold.  Not long after that I started receiving payment e-mails from Paypal, and lo and behold, there was the player’s name….as the buyer.  He had been bidding on his own baseball card.   It’s a very uncommon name, too, so I know this wasn’t just some dude with the same name.  I don’t blame him at all for wanting it either as it is the super neat 2013 Topps Update sparkle blue parallel numbered out of only 25.  It sold for $10.50.

It didn’t take me long at all to decide what I should do.  There’s no way I’m going to accept this man’s money for his own card.  I’m refunding him and sending him the card for nothing.  I figure it’s the right thing to do, and I’d rather have a clear conscience than ten bucks any day.

That’s it.  I just thought it was a cool story.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cardboard Collections 2014 Donruss Group Break Booty

Colbey at the great blog Cardboard Collections hosted a group break for 2014 Donruss, and being a Donruss nut I was quick to join in and nab the M's for the chance to land a few needed Griffeys.  I did alright, too:

I love that they did this insert.  People are complainy about the Donruss rehash, but this card saved the group break for me.  I'm a little upset about the fact that they didn't include the lines in the black side borders that were in the original '89 DK design; but I've never seen this shot of Griffey before, and that's more than I can say for most modern Topps Griffey cards.

I also nabbed a pair of Junior base cards.  Now don't get upset, but I don't hate the design as much as some.  It's different while still being Donruss-esque, the big borders frame up the photo nicely, and I even like the way they did the city name.  Plus I'm a big fan of Panini bringing back that great early-80's logo. 

Also the Rated Rookie logo is back.  I love that logo.  Rate away, Panini.

This is one of each of the Mariners I ended up with.  It's weird seeing Cano in a Seattle uniform (despite there not being any logos on it).  I sent these base cards to Larry at Emerald City Diamond Gems to help him keep up with the influx of new Mariners base cards.  Stay with it, Larry!

The Marlins were my random team.  This seems to happen a lot.  I have reams of Giancarlo Stanton cards I don't know what to do with.  I did get a little lucky:

The Marlins ended up with one of the few hits of the break, an attractive "Game Gear" relic insert.  Sure, his head got a little chopped - it's still a good-looking card.

Now you may be thinking: "Junkie, you're usually much more critical than this.  Why all the niceness for this unpopular rehashing of a dead brand?"  Well, I'm not sure.  Maybe it's my love for Donruss or my desire to see Panini succeed and possibly get a license.  Or maybe it's that I got to do this today:

I defy you to do the same and try to find fault with anything the rest of the day.  It can't be done.

Braves-tastic Nachos Grande Group Break Booty

I really enjoy group breaks, and those done by Chris at Nachos Grande tend to be some of the best.  Results are spread out in spurts over several posts and the cards are shipped lighting-fast.

Recently he had an "affordable group break" that featured several high-end boxes from the 90's.  I sniffled some tears back when I realized that for the first time since I started collecting again, the Mariners were already taken (!!!!), but far be it from me to miss one of these awesome breaks.  I took the Braves because there are a lot of guys I collect from that time period I figured I'd probably land cards for including Javy Lopez, Maddux, Glavine, and Chipper.  Got some pretty solid stuff, too, including one excellent Maddux hit:

We're starting strong with what is arguably my favorite card from my end of the break.  Check out this gorgeous shot of Greg freakin' Maddux stealing second.  Topps Gallery had some extremely strong photography this year.  If I get another one of these I'll send it to Dime Box Nick as he collects pitchers on offense, but this one is mine.  Oh, and this is not the excellent Maddux hit I was talking about.

That Chipper is so nice I showed it twice.  Plus we get one of Glavine at the plate and a Mad Dog insert.  What a great set.  Nice choice, Chris.

Did Chipper punch that dude in the gut trying to get home?  Larry is vicious.

This was a strange year design-wise for Flair, but the cards are nice.  This is one of the only Crime Dog's I ended up getting which surprised me.  I really dig that Javy.

Gotta love Topps Tek, unless of course you're trying to complete the set in which case you probably hate Topps Tek.  I love portraits of Maddux - the guy looks like an accountant, but he's a highly-respected athlete.  It's crazy.

I didn't get many SC Chrome cards as there aren't many per box, but a Hall of Famer isn't bad.  I think he'd switched to contacts by this point.

This was my hit from that box, a refractor of second-base guy Quilvio Veras, fresh from the Padres.  He was first in the league in Range Factor in the 1999 season.  I don't know what that means.

Diamond Pearls is an really cool insert that is difficult to find in good condition.  I have the Griffey and it has the same damage these have.  Must have been something to do with the pearlescent coating.  Still, they're great-looking cards.

A sweet clear insert from the Topps Tek box.  Nice shot of Chipper.

This is my most valuable hit I got, a very rare Heritage Proof insert from the Gallery box.  I love the backs of these:

Finally, Chris included a few of these guys mixed in with my booty:

That is the signed and hand-numbered Chris Reed card from his buddy's homemade set.  Only ten of these - I feel special!  The Spiderman is also pretty damn cool, but the auto from Mr. Nachos Grande himself takes the cake here.  Someday card bloggers will be just as famous as the players we love, and this card with be worth dozens of dollars.

Thanks for the group break, Chris, as well as the cool custom cards.  Your auto is going in my keeper box...

Spelling is Hard: a Griffey Donation From Mr. Chunter

Chunter of the great Braves blog Chipp 'n Dale offered me this lovely Studio '98 8 x 10 jumbo of the Kid.  And get this - it's signed!  I'm not certain who signed it, but that doesn't take away from the beauty of this card or the fact that it has now arrived at its forever home.

A strange coincidence is that I happened to have another signed Studio jumbo I got for Christmas in the late '90s.  Here it is:

Now let's take a closer look at those sweet sigs:

So yeah, it's pretty obvious it's not a genuine signature.  :-(

Then again, maybe someone caught Junior a little swerved, perhaps leaving an upscale Seattle bar at 2am, and he didn't have a stable surface to write on.  I can imagine a situation like that where he would overproduce his f's and.....leave out the "e" in "Griffey."

Thanks again for the card, Chunter!  I really do love it.  Also I have a million Braves cards in case you need any...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jump-Starting the Junior Junkie Jalopy + a gcrl PWE

A few weeks ago my wife decided we are going on a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean.  She picked the week after Mardi Gras, and thank goodness for that.  MG is exhausting what with all the planning, preparation, grocery store visits, crazy hours, and facilitating of house guests.  Anyway, this means that after the two-week Mardi Gras hiatus I missed yet another week of blogging.

I also missed some trade e-mails, a couple of fantasy baseball invites, and a high school reunion.  At this rate March of 2014 is set to be my driest month on record in the way of posting and trading and really being a responsible member of society in general.

Now I'm in the process of trying to post regularly again.  I've recently completed two large-scale additions to The Great Griffey Base Card Project with the Design Timelines for Topps Chrome and Fleer Flagship, and I have a few trade and group break posts on the way.  I've also landed some amazing new 2014 Griffey cards I can't wait to show off.

I'm happy to report that despite my inactivity, the cards keep coming.  It’s pretty cool that I can more or less drop off the face of the Earth for an extended period, and my blogger friends still send me cards.  When we returned from the cruise I had a PWE from Jim at gcrl waiting for me.

This 1969 Topps Staub is an airbrushed vintage beauty.  As a Griffey guy, there’s not much vintage that passes through these hands.  What little does gets handled like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I don't know what Chuck looks like these days, but there is no way those locks could ever succumb to male pattern baldness.

And here is a trio of fine mid-90's Griffeyness.  I'm a total sucker for cards with rainbows.

Thanks for thinking of me, Jim!  I'm sure I have something in the pipeline for you...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Design Timeline: Fleer Flagship

This post is part of an ongoing feature The Great Griffey Base Card Project.

Fleer deserves our respect as collectors.  It is the only non-Topps brand to have operated independently both before and after the 1981 MLB rights expansion.  They put out a ton of cool inserts and interesting sub-brands that covered the entire spectrum of design.  It really is one of the greats.

That being said, I’ve dreaded making this Timeline.  As you may know I try to quantify each brand with a few paragraphs in the beginning such as the one you are reading now, but this one is a broken mess.  During the upheaval of the industry in the late 90’s Fleer went into nutso mode with no fewer than 25 different sub-brands popping up during a 5-year period, and then in 1998 they stopped making a flagship base set.  At this point it could be argued that Fleer Tradition became the flagship set during those years (this is Baseballcardpedia’s stance), but the existence of the overlap in ’02 and additional sets in ’06 and '07 would make the OCD purist in me chew all his fingernails off, not to mention the fact that the design of Fleer Tradition takes on a life of its own in the early 2000’s.  For the function of the Great Griffey Base Card Project and the sanctity of all Design Timelines covered therein, Tradition is its very own brand.

So was this a Footprints situation wherein when times were hardest, Tradition “carried” the flagship designation?  That is a question for another Timeline.  For now, sit back and, er, enjoy the slow demise of a once-great cardboard institution.

Here is every Fleer flagship base card that ever featured Mr. Griffey:

I grew up with '89 Fleer, so I never took a serious look at just how radical a design it was for its time until now.  Unique and modern, it's a full-bleed field of pinstriped gray in lieu of a standard border.  The inset is a picture with a team-colored half border.  The picture superimposes over the gray field in the top portion which was certainly unique for the 80's.  This set was printed on white cardboard, but you would never know it from the front with all that stuff on there.


Nice team-appropriate banner against a bright white border, made even whiter by the use of white card stock.  Paper like this as opposed to brown, pulpy cardboard used to mean higher-quality (a la Tiffany and Upper Deck), but sadly the vast overproduction of this set gives it an air of cheapness.


I really like the design here.  All the elements are centered and balanced, it’s got the perfect application of Times New Roman, classiest of all fonts, and those accent lines tie the whole thing together nicely.

There’s really only one problem: this set here is frickin’ yellow as shit.  The whole thing, too, not just some cards or some teams - every damn card.  Yankees, Reds, Expos, you name it.  And it's not like a nice antique yellow maybe with a tinge of gold or something – no, this is more yellow like a school bus fire.  Yellow like Big Bird crashing a taxicab through a lemon grove.  Yellow like being water boarded with mustard.  Yellow like a Simpsons orgy.  Yellow like that Beatles submarine in an ocean of pee.  It’s a shame that someone at Fleer thought this particular shade of yellow was baseball-y when it’s really the cardboard equivalent of someone gouging your eyes out with a banana.


A lot of brands go through a vertical nameplate phase, and Fleer is no different. The first of two, this nameplate is a monster, running almost the full height of the card.  The field in the background is a split-fade from teal and white.  I've seen this same split fade color scheme on numerous custom Chevy Suburbans of the 90's.  The font color in the nameplate is the only color that differs among teams.  Sadly, Junior got one of the worst-colored fonts for that background - the "Ken" and the first part of the "Griffey" fade into the card.  People defend this set to the death, but the truth is it makes fun of colorblind kids.


Simple almost to the point of being boring (again, almost), here is the other vertical nameplate in this timeline.  The design lets the photography do the talking, and while other brands did do it better there are indeed some solid shots in this set.  I like the silver border a la early Leaf, but there isn't much design to talk about here.  Night Owl says that nameplate reminds him of a Hershey's Kiss wrapper.  It's kind of all I see now.


This is actually a beautiful card, and the design seems to be enjoying a resurgence of popularity among collectors.  What in ‘94 must have seemed like a snoozer what with all the fancy new designs and more advanced use of gloss, foil, and effects now has a dignified simplicity that works beautifully with the photography.  Dig that big ol' floating logo and tasteful use of gold foil.  This is a favorite.

And then someone at Fleer decided to throw simplicity out the window...


Let’s get this out of the way now: ’95 Fleer is almost universally despised.  I say “almost” because there are at least three collectors I know of who like ’95 Fleer, and I am one of them.  The base set is made up of six designs, one for each division in baseball.  Each of the six designs has elements that tie it to at least one of the other five - that Predator heat-vision effect is one of them.  When people talk about hating ’95 Fleer, I think they’re talking about two or three of the designs.  I say that because this Griffey card is awesome.  Bold?  Yes.  Busy?  Certainly.  But is it an ugly card?  Shut up.


The matte of the card stock this year was the central design element.  In a world where glossy card stock was now the norm, Fleer flipped the script and put out these raw paper base cards with a small amount of gold foil text and nothing else.  The cards feel thin and soft, and the matte printing makes the photography appear washed-out; but I still think this is a pretty good-looking card.  I have a distinct memory of the smell of these babies – fresh paper like an Airport magazine store.


Really, it’s the same thing as last year but with big, stylized lettering that is awkwardly-placed.  The cards point out each player's All-Star designation, but that doesn't save anything.  The Tiffany versions from this year are hella-rare, but they do look better.

Thus the original Fleer timeline comes to an end with a fizzle.  I don’t want to believe this matte thing was the make-it-or-break-it idea that sunk the Fleer flagship brand, but I can’t imagine how it wasn’t.  My belief is that this was a brand scrambling for an identity that had already been usurped by Fleer Tradition.

I know I’m talking like this is the end of the timeline.  Well, it isn’t.  Somebody buried Fleer in the Pet Sematary, and it came back evil.


There are a few elements (apart from the whole throwback movement) that are common among post-9/11 card designs in general: clean, classic layouts; liberal use of banners and stars; and a whole lot of red, white, and blue.  This design is the quintessential one of those.  It’s square and centered and miserably inoffensive.  I like the banner (as I often do), but the team logo looks weird and off-register.  I like the idea of bringing the crown logo back, but it also doesn't look right.  A misfire, but a patriotic misfire – hard to criticize that.

And with that, Fleer forever abandoned the idea of a flagship brand, opting instead to focus on Tradition and its plethora of other sets.  And yet...


Upper Deck had different ideas.  They acquired the Fleer brand and released the remaining two Fleer sets in the timeline with little fanfare and no apparent effort.

This is not an unattractive card, but it reminds me of those early-2000’s Donruss designs, all safe and boring.  There’s no edge, no character, and in this set’s case a whole lot of white border.  I do, however, like the light shadow around the team logo box to create a simulated 3-D effect, and they finally got the crown logo right.  Overall the design is modern and clean.  Really, really clean.  I'll go ahead and call it sterile.


This is a little better.  The corner-mounted team logo, the team name in script above a field of pinstripes (aka “lines”) add a little style to what is still a very boring set.  It’s a shame, too, because Upper Deck made some pretty cool cards in ’06 and ’07.  If those sets were food, 2007 Fleer would be government cheese.

It is with this set that the zombie that is Fleer flagship finally met its end via rule #4: the double-tap.


Like the third Lord of the Rings movie, this timeline should have ended several times but just kept on truckin'.  I bet there were a lot of collectors back in '06 who hoped Upper Deck would bring the Fleer name back to its former respectability, but we all know what happens when a brand gets resurrected by another brand.  Even now in 2014 history seems to be repeating itself.

Fleer gave us some excellent cards over the years, so I'm very conflicted about how they got out of the flagship game.  Tradition has a solid timeline, too, but why the shift in focus?  They were one of the few with a real history to back their cards up.  The '89, 94, and '95 cards are bright spots, but overall this is a pretty disappointing timeline.

Here is every Fleer flagship base card design in order from 1989 to the brand's shuttering in 2007: