10. 2015 Leaf 25th Anniversary Clear Autograph #/25
If you’re wondering if this card broke into the top 10 simply because it is printed on a lovely slab of thick, clear plastic, you’re absolutely right. Panini has embraced the clear autograph, and I’ve wanted one since I first saw an example on Panini’s blog last year. In addition to being on-card and hand-numbered, the clear plastic slab creates a floating autograph effect that is just killer. This Leaf 25th Anniversary set also includes some sweet-looking, autographed metal cards as well as buybacks. Gimmicky? Maybe. Maybe I like gimmicky.
9. 2005 Ultimate Signatures 500 HRs Dual Autograph #/250 (w/ Willie McCovey)
I feel a little guilty for not ranking this one higher - it’s quite a pairing, and I’m a big McCovey fan. Then again if McCovey wasn’t on this card it probably wouldn’t have broken the top 15. One of the coolest aspects of this one is that these are not sticker autos – both players actually handled this card. It belongs in a case with Junior’s 2006 Upper Deck base card which features The Kid posing with Willie who is sitting in a club car sporting a sweet green track suit. If I had a time machine I would travel back to that very moment with an ice chest full of beer and some lawn chairs and just shoot the shit with those two.
8. 1993 Pinnacle Cooperstown Dufex #22 /1000
Here is one of those cards you don’t even know exist until you start chasing a certain ‘90’s player in earnest. Then you find out that owning one is a rite of passage among your player-collecting brethren and you feel out of the loop, so you panic and overpay to get one. Actually I’m proud to report that I exhibited actual patience (for once) in acquiring this one, biding my time until someone started an auction far below its value as opposed to the $300 Buy It Now’s I’d been seeing. I ended up paying far less than I thought I‘d have to. Is that a tinge of fatherly wisdom I feel? Time will tell.
Only 1000 sets were made in Dufex, and most of those were given out at a big card show in Dallas in ‘93. Lord knows how the rest made it into circulation. And while a run of 1000 sounds like a lot, for 1993 that is hella-tiny. Combine that with the fact that it’s a real looker for its time, and you get what may be the most desirable Dufex Griffey there is.
7. 1996 Pinnacle Skylines #1
Skylines is a deceptively scarce insert with insertion ratios that appear reasonable until you factor in how difficult it was to find the packs they came in. Collectors are polarized about the design, too – there are a lot of haters out there, but I’m willing to bet some of that is attributable to the card’s scarcity and not the card itself. Personally I think these are really cool, and this one remains one of my favorite acetate cards ever made.
I acquired one back in April via an eBay auction and was very excited to do so, but in a bizarre twist I ended up finding another one in a dime box just a few days before writing this. A LITERAL DIME BOX. To put that in perspective, one of these sold on eBay a few months ago for over $200. I think that makes this my best dime box find ever.
6. 1991 Topps #790 Desert Shield & #392 All-Star Desert Shield
The highest-ranked non-auto/relic cards on this list and the only Topps cards in the upper half of the Top 30 list, the Desert Shield parallels are incredibly tough finds especially in decent condition. There’s a lot of attempted price-gouging with these, too, particularly with graded specimens (again, condition is a major factor with these). Personally I like my Griffeys unslabbed where I can help it, so these were perfect for me. A fun bit of cardboard with its own piece of historical context stamped right into the front.
Now that we’re nearing the end, I’ll admit that no one card stood head-and-shoulders above all the rest this year. You could shuffle these final five cards around in any order you want – they’re all potential #1’s on this list.
5. 1996 SPx Ken Griffey Jr. Commemorative Autograph #KGA1
I hate to admit it, but I know you other ‘90’s guys can relate: they totally got me with the holograms and sweet die-cutting here. I mean, I was 15, so how could I not be utterly smitten with this set? And it’s not like they still make cards this cool nowadays, so you could argue the design here stands the test of time. Oh, and the autograph is on-card! I don’t remember sticker autos even existing back then, but nowadays they are pretty much the standard. Back in 1996, it simply wasn’t done yet.
We have a pre-2000 Griffey autograph which is a big deal in itself, but this card and I have a personal, historical connection as well. I was still actively collecting when this card came out so I was very much aware of its existence. I even actively chased it back in ‘96, using all my (um, Mom’s) baseball card money on packs that only contained a single card, barely acknowledging the astronomical 1:2000-pack odds. I pined for it. On top of that a kid who lived down the street actually owned one. His parents bought for him, the lucky bastard. Still, I knew my day would come, and it finally did.
So yeah, this card would have made a perfectly valid #1. The act of ranking these cards at this level is pretty arbitrary to be honest, but tradition is tradition. Let’s move on…
4. 1998 SP Authentic Chirography Autograph /400 (slabbed BGS 8.5/Auto 10)
Of all the pre-2000 Griffey autographs out there, you are looking at what is arguably the best-looking one. It’s just SO. DAMN. COOL. I mean look at it - it’s kind of perfect. The design, the photo, the on-cardiness - It’s got a timeless quality that is the only reason I put it above the ’96 SPx auto.
Mine has a surface blemish that apparently brought the BGS surface grade down to a 7.5 which in turn gave us an overall grade of 8.5 among otherwise excellent subgrades. But who cares?! This is one of my favorite baseball cards. Period.
3. 1998 Upper Deck A Piece of the Action Game Jersey Relic #KG /300
In 1997 Upper Deck gave us the first-ever baseball card jersey relic. Their follow-up to that ground-breaking move is this insert from the following year. A Piece of the Action Game Jersey relics appeared in 1998 Upper Deck Series 1, 2, and Rookie Edition, the latter of which was the only place where you could find the Griffey.
As you can see the jersey is huge and the design one-of-a-kind for relic cards. Personally I think it resembles a Fleer insert more than anything. The card is not numbered, but there are known to be 300 of them.
This Griffey has reached legendary status among Griffey collectors for a few reasons: its relative scarcity, the size of the relic, its earliness in the relic game, and the fact that it is a true Mariners relic from when he actually played there. Most Griffey relic issues (by “most” I mean “almost all”) are Reds cards that were produced when relics were…well, I don’t want to say “run-of-the-mill,” but it’s hard not to. I can’t even tell you how many Reds relics I own, but I can probably count my pre-2000 Griffey relic cards on one hand. Actually I know I can – I have three, and one of those is a swatch from a damn Santa hat. This insert along with 1997 Game Jersey and a handful of others are the only relic options we Griffey collectors have from before he went to the Reds.
Even more legendary is the autographed version of this baby which is hand-numbered out of 24. Unfortunately I don’t have that one yet because I need money to live. There is also a Buhner from Series 2 has both a jersey relic and a bat chip. Drool…
2. 1998 Donruss Crusade #39 Green #/250
It's a testament to how crazy 2015 was that this, the relatively common (probably not the right word here) Green version of the legendary Crusade insert is #2 on this list just a year after the much rarer purple version of this card was #4. You are looking at the very last Griffey acquisition I made in 2016, and it only took a few glasses of bourbon at a family Christmas party to make me say "aw, screw it" and finally pull the trigger. So all I'm missing now is the #/25 Red version which just happens to be one of the true holy grails of Griffeydom. There is currently one on eBay for $10,000, and the amount of bourbon it would take me to pull that big ol' trigger would kill a horse. Green and Purple are plenty - a man's got to be able to sleep at night.
Thus we have reached the end of this year’s Top Griffey Acquisitions list. While this year’s #1 is not quite the doozy-and-a-half as it’s been in previous years, I think it’s one of the coolest cards I’ve ever seen let alone had the chance to own. Does it deserve to be #1? You be the judge:
1. 1992 Upper Deck Bloodlines Griffey Family Triple Autograph #/1992 (w/ Ken, Sr. & Craig)
For the third year in a row an autographed Upper Deck card gets the top spot. This card is not famous or popular by Griffey collecting standards. It’s not even particularly expensive (Craig and Ken, Sr. autos just don’t command that much money). Still, I think this is one of the coolest autograph issues ever made for any player.
It started with the 1992 Upper Deck Bloodlines card which demands a discussion all on its own. Somebody once asked me to make a list of the Top 10 Griffey cards of all time which I started to do before realizing a few minutes in that this would be a can of worms I didn’t want to open. There are just too many ways to go about it. Do you go by value? Autos and relics? What about ultra-rare parallels? Is it right to include 1/1’s?
Every Top 10 Griffey list I’ve ever seen includes numerous cards that sell for well into the hundreds and sometimes thousands which is great if that’s how you are ranking Griffeys. My list was a little different, made up of Griffeys I considered to be important and/or iconic. And guess which card that currently sells for $0.43 on COMC made my list? The plain, unsigned 1992 Upper Deck #85 Bloodlines base card featuring all three Griffeys in Mariner blue. It’s not expensive or rare by any measure, but if I ever revisit a Top 10 Griffeys project, this card will be on it.
So like I said, it started with a 43-cent card I consider to be among the greatest Griffey cards of all time. A company called Scoreboard got a hold of 1,992 of them, had them signed on-card by all three Griffey men, inserted them into specially-made, ultra-thick, bottom-loading cases, and sold them through QVC (yes, the shopping channel where you can buy overpriced gemstones and massive quantities of knives at 2am).
I’m also happy to report that of those 1,992, I got one of the better ones. I’ve seen versions of this where they must have been signing with the same pen for a while and the signatures are splotchy and missing ink here and there. The autos on this one are bright and thick with ink, and shade of blue that is very similar to that on their uniforms. I am just smitten with this card and proud to name it my #1 Griffey acquisition of the year.
Now’s a good a time as any to announce that I foresee a collecting slowdown for 2017. I still refuse to stop blogging, but as baby becomes more mobile and expensive, there’s bound to be less and less room for active Griffey acquisition. I still plan to complete the 1996 Beckett Tribute checklist as well as acquire all the coolest new Griffeys for 2017, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to keep pace with the last few years.
Then again I said all this last year and still had one of my biggest Griffey-collecting years ever, so don’t be surprised if I land a Red Crusade or something insane like that. Frankly I don’t really know what I’m going to do day-to-day anymore except perhaps not blog enough.
See y'all again in 2018! (just kidding...I hope)