Archive for Ken Griffey Jr.

An ode to 1998 Crown Royale Baseball, and a box break too.

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , on November 14, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Quality was the name of the game for baseball cards as we approached the end of the 1990s. Multiple companies were still in business putting out countless products each year for consumers. Sure, some were content on the basic formula of picture and design on front, and stats on the back. But some desired more. Some desired innovation. Some desired … royalty.


Pacific, a baseball card company based out of Lynwood, Wash., was a suburb of Seattle. The company started mainstream products at the beginning of the 1990s with several mediocre releases. By mid-decade the company hit it’s stride with flashy Prism — the ORIGINAL Prism brand — and then continued its craftsmanship with the Crown Royale brand, which debuted in 1995 as a football-only product and eventually crossed over to baseball in 1998.

During the decade, I was very much a collector of four sports. And when it came to football, Crown Royale and Prism were my staples. I always hoped that Pacific would cross the brands over to baseball. And in 1998 the company brought us the first Crown Royale baseball release, which featured holographic backgrounds with a gold crown die-cut design laid on top of that, and then a single-shot action photo atop all of that. To put it simple: It was gorgeous in terms of baseball cards.

But, quality doesn’t come cheap. These definitely wasn’t a $2 a pack release. Or $3. Or $4. Or $5. I recall seeing the packs upward of $6, and one Twitter follower even recalls seeing them at $9 a pack. His recollection wouldn’t surprise me. The cards were than damn good. Looking at the Beckett Almanac, it confirms the MSRP was $5.99 for the 6-card pack. Each box had 24 packs, so that would bring a box price into the $150 range.

As a teen collector I may have opened a handful of these packs, but I know it wasn’t much. By 1998 I wanted the quality, but all I really could afford was quantity that Bowman afforded me — after all, by 1998 I had started my chase for rookie card greatness.

Overtime, collecting interests changed and I went full bore into rookie cards. Anything marked with the Bowman name was mine. This was before the rookie card autos of Chrome, by the way.

Fast forward to about a week ago when I visited Peninsula Sports Cards in Belmont, Calif. This is a sibling store of my two really local shops, South Bay Sports Cards (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Stevens Creek Sports Cards (San Jose, Calif.). Belmont is a bit of a trek for me, but the shop there recently moved into a larger space and I wanted to see the shop. Also, I wanted to see if they had any old wax for me to rip. I’ve been heavy on nostalgia recently, especially since my 6-year-old son is slowly working his way into the hobby.

I spoke with one of the main guys at the shop and told him of my interests after a lengthy discussion about other items. He took my name, e-mail and phone number and said he’d have someone check the warehouse. He called me about three days later telling me they got some stuff in. Among the items was this box of 1998 Crown Royale. The price? Less than $2 a pack, or merely a third of what the packs cost some 18 years ago.

I half debated opening this product alone as I was sort of fulfilling a card collecting dream of mine. Instead I decided to include my son. What better way to bring this all full circle. Right?

This was the best decision ever.

I told my son of the crown die-cuts and explained that the basic cards in this set were all special in that way. I showed him the crown design on the cover of the box and he was intrigued. As we ripped into each pack he said “this is fun, the design is cool!”

Hell yeah! I’d won him over. This wasn’t about hits (autographs and relic cards, which drive prices through the roof these days). Hell, I suppose it really wasn’t about the cards either. It was about living a hobby dream through my son and he appreciated the product just as I did. Sure, I kind of showed him the path, but the comments came willingly and without provocation.

So, what’s in the box?

Each box contains an over-sized Cramer’s Choice Award box topper — the large version of the ultra-premium insert for Pacific brands — and then 24 packs in each box. The packs contain six cards, including two inserts of different themes and four die-cut base cards. In some cases, one base card was subbed out for an additional insert.

The chase cards include die-cut All-Star cards which were seeded 1:25 packs (usually one per box); Firestone on Baseball 2:25 (or typically two per box), and Race to Record 1:73 (serial numbered to 374 copies each and about 1 in every three boxes).

We opened the box and found our box topper resting comfortably flat. I opened the topper and saw the name “Ken” in the large text on the reverse of the card and knew we did well. It was indeed a large, flashy card of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.


In the very first pack that my son opened he pulled a base card of my favorite player Roger Clemens; meanwhile I hit a basic Griffey.In my second pack I hit our die-cut All-Star card, that of Cal Ripken Jr. Not too shabby.


We took turns opening the remainder of the packs and we got many of the big stars of the day on the Crown base cards including Derek Jeter and Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, but failed to pull Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds or Cal Ripken. We also pulled three of the four rookie cards in the set — “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez, Masato Yoshi and Rolando Arrojo were in it, David Delucci was not.

I’ve yet to actually sort the base cards by number, but I’d say we’re about half way to a base set. One day we will complete it.

A special thanks to the chain card stores in my area for 1) being there, 2) providing fantastic customer service and 3) making old products available at decent prices.

 

 

 

Thrift Treasures 108: The cards of my childhood are worth less, but not worthless.

Posted in Misc., Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Imagine that for one year of your childhood you ripped packs open chasing the rookie card of the hottest player in the game. And then three decades later that player is inducted into the hall of fame and his rookie card can be found for less that $1.

If you are a collector of at least 35 years of age, you know this exercise well. We grew up during the great card boom. We saw packs rise from mere pennies to half a dollar, and then venture well past that. We lived the transition of packs filled with base cards to packs filled with promise and hope that it may contain some shiny treasure we came to know as the chase card.

We also know what a hot rookie card can do to a product. Insert Ken Griffey Jr.

griffeyrrGriffey is far from the first rookie to hit the market and create waves, but in my youth, there was none bigger. Yes, Mark McGwire’s rookie home run chase generated heavy interest in his 1985 Topps USA card and his various 1987 releases. And a year later the card world gravitated toward can’t-miss New York Mets prospect Gregg Jefferies and Cubs first baseman Mark Grace. Although neither became hall of fame material, both wound up with fantastic careers. Jefferies played 14 years, collected almost 1,600 hits and tallied a career batting average of almost .290.  Grace stuck around for 16 years, racked up almost 2,500 hits while maintaining a batting average above .300, and earned four Gold Glove Awards.

A year later, however, both were trumped by Ken Griffey Jr., The Kid, the phenom in the Seattle Mariners system who was the son of a Major League outfielder still bumping around the Bigs.

Griffey’s history in our hobby has been long documented. His face is emblazoned on perhaps one of the top three iconic baseball cards in history. But for those of us who could not afford to chase that 1989 Upper Deck cardboard icon, we found other ways to chase The Kid, we ripped 1989 Donruss hoping to find his Rated Rookie.

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George (Ken) Kenneth Griffey Jr. We hoped to open our wax packs — literally, they were sealed with wax — and see that full name on the yellow backs of the card. Or we hoped to see that blue, black and purple top border and then the Rated Rookie logo that graced the front of a handful of rookie cards in the 1989 Donruss set.

True, the Griffey Donruss card never even approached the popularity of the Upper Deck, but it was one of only two Griffey rookies aside from the UD card that were available in packs.  The Topps Traded and Score Rookies and Traded were available only in boxed set form.

Packs at the time for Donruss ran about 50 cents or so each; a full box of 36 packs usually retailed in shops for about $18. And the way collation worked you’d be lucky to see one Griffey in each box.  Nonetheless, for those of us working on small collecting budgets — much of my money actually came from collecting bottles and cans –Donruss was our option.  The other pack-released Griffey was in the Fleer product but the Billy Ripken “Fuck Face” obscenity card and subsequent variations drove that product’s price through the roof.

I owned a few different Rated Rookie Griffeys in my youth I pulled one or two, traded for others, and won a few in games of black jack and other silly games my friends and I would play.

In recent years I’ve found a few in bargain bins at shows for a buck or two, and I usually picked them up based on principle. Demand for the card has fallen so much — because everyone wants the Upper Deck first and the Topps Traded second — that the Donruss Griffey can routinely be found on COMC.com for under $1.

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Now fast forward to Thursday.  I took my kids to school and decided to do a little thrift shopping. During one of my stops I walked in and saw a mound of red boxes emblazoned with the words “Baseball Cards.” These boxes were very typical for the late 1980s early 1990s. I recall seeing these and green versions at various retail outlets such as K-Mart and Toys R Us. And I believe I had seen them in various catalogues and advertisements as well.

When I find these boxes in thrift stores they are usually filled with bulk lots of 1990 Donruss or Topps, or other sets that were part of the mass produced card era. If there was one key rookie card in any of those boxes they still wouldn’t be “worth” the purchase if the store wanted more than $5.

I opened the first box on the shelf and immediately I saw a lot of five 1990 Topps Sammy Sosa cards. A decade and a half ago this would’ve been a small fortune. Those cards were selling for $8-$15 each at one point. I combed through that box hoping to find a similar size stash of Frank Thomas rookies but there were none. I closed the box and kept moving.  I went through another dozen boxes or so until I came to one that housed 1989 Donruss cards.

By now it was clear that the owner was a set builder. They had built entire sets and then placed all of the other cards in numerical order in all other boxes.  If you were looking for a certain star card it’d be easy to find a half dozen or so of them in these boxes. I was hoping to find a good size lot of Griffey or Thomas rookies. And then it happened.

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I grabbed a handful of 1989 Donruss and skimmed through the Bonus Card
MVPs and the Diamond Kings before I hit the Rated Rookies. There were five Sandy Alomar rookies (card #28), four Steve Searcy (card #29), seven Cameron Drew (card #30), five Gary Sheffield (cards #31), four Erik Hanson (card #32) and … SIX of card #33, George (Ken) Kenneth Griffey Jr.  A smile came across my face and my instinct was to buy immediately for I had uncovered a jackpot.  Then I remembered the price on the bottom of the box. This Goodwill wanted $10.24 for the box.

I hesitated for a minute or two.

Did I need these Griffeys? No.

Was it a deal to buy six Griffey Donruss rookies for $10.24? Nope.

I closed the box and put it down on the shelf.

I took two steps away and stopped.  I turned back and grabbed the box.

What was I thinking? My rationale for NOT buying the box was the exact reason this hobby is so screwed up. Because we tend to worry about what cards are “worth” and don’t spend enough time enjoying the journey. Besides, the cost for this treasure I had unearthed wasn’t unreasonable.

So I placed the box under my arm and headed for the register. I paid for the item and sat in my car and pulled out the stack of Griffeys.  The sight of those six in my hands is one that made me happy. The cards were in good shape and these six Griffeys until this moment had been abandoned; their fate uncertain, which is a sad but true state of our hobby.

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Griffey is perhaps the finest player the game has seen since the days of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. All of those feelings the younger collectors get these days with Mike Trout, those are the same that came when you thought of Ken Griffey Jr. in his youth.

Truth be told, I lost money or could barely break even on this deal.  Six Griffeys could net me $5-$6 on the open market if the right buyer came along.  And even though there were three Rated Rookie cards of fellow Hall of Fame member Randy Johnson and five of Gary Sheffield, a member of the 500 Home Run Club, it would take a special buyer to hand me a crisp $10 bill for the entire lot.

But as you know this hobby isn’t just about money. It’s about the memories and feelings that come with tracking down a White Whale for your collection. It’s about the stories you have that are tied to specific cards. It’s about reliving our childhood in an instant with a glance of a player’s face on a piece of cardboard.

The sight of those Griffey’s in my hands made me happy. It made me smile. It made me remember sitting on the brick planter box in front of Brian’s Books in the Food Farm Shopping Center in Santa Clara, California, talking about nonsense with friends while thumbing through our cards.

It made me remember the aroma of the pizza being cooked and ultimately sold by the slice at the pizza parlor across the hall. It made me think of the aquarium and fish store that was next door and flooded one time, causing Brian’s Books to close for a day or two. It made me remember that in addition to baseball cards, I also enjoyed purchasing pieces of Laffy Taffy, water balloons and cap guns at the drug store just a few doors to the north.

Yes, the cards of my youth are worth less than what I paid for them. But they are not worthless. In fact, they are priceless.

Total cost of these Treasures: $10.24.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

Topps BUNT blaster stocked with Trout; creates fun break for kids

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

My kids know the drill.  When we need something, anything, for the house we’re making a Target run. And the first thing we do there is make a b-line for the baseball card aisle.

IMG_1490Tuesday was no different as my son and I went to gather some items for he and his sister’s school lunches. And when we got to the card aisle, my 5-year-old son pointed to a blaster of Topps BUNT and said,”Look, Daddy!”  He remembered the packaging from a few packs of the product that we bought last week at our local card shop.  In all honesty I wasn’t planning to buy the blaster, but I’m not going to say no if my son is showing an interest in my hobby.

So he picked the blaster as we carried one with our shopping.  When we got home, he and I started opening packs, and then my nephew of the same age came over so I let him wrestle his way into a few packs. No, seriously, look at that effort! (I got his parent’s permission to turn it into a meme.)

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It was fun watching the boys work their way into these wrappers. I’ve opened thousands of baseball cards packs in my near three decades in this hobby. I miss the old wax packs as they really weren’t a problem at all. I even remember the Sportflics brand that had wrappers similar to those used on Pop Tarts — the noise those wrappers made was weird. Upper Deck’s foil wrappers were always a treat because in their early days, the product was considered premium. The worst by far was Score — it was like someone took a plastic shopping bag and just heat-sealed a stack of 15 cards inside. I digress.

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The kids seemed to get a kick out of opening the packs. My son has a little experience with this but it still learning. But he figured it’d be best to put his knowledge to use and he tried to teach his cousin: Pinch at the top with your left hand, used your right thumb and index finger to pinch the flap and pull.

Now once the wrapper was started, the process got a little more tricky. The kids seem to think it’s cool to open the wrapper like 20 percent of the way and yank the cards out of the packs.  A few corners did not survive, but I looked to change that behavior real quick. And but the time we got through the 11 packs (remember, it’s 10 packs plus ONE bonus pack for $9.99) the boys had it down pretty good.

We went card by card; naming the player and the team. We also kept tabs of “special” (insert) cards and the code cards, which I explained were for the app on my phone. And when they hit a big name, I explained who they were/are and what that have accomplished.

My nephew managed to pull a Ken Griffey jr., a Roberto Clemente and Kyle Schwarber insert in his packs — as well as a Babe Ruth that somehow got stuck to another card and I didn;t see until I sorted the cards later. And my son reeled in a pair of keeper-size Mike Trouts, the base and a sweet “Unique Unis” insert as well.  He also nabbed a Corey Seager rookie, which was cool to see.

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I’ll be honest: I love this brand. I bought a blaster for myself about two weeks ago and knew that it was a perfect set to share the collecting experience with my kids. It’s cheap, has a loaded checklist of current and legendary players, and offers a super long shot at ink, which is appealing in that when/if you hit one it’ll be akin to finding a Elite Series insert in those early 1990s packs. I see many more packs and/or blasters of this and more in their futures.

 

Thrift Treasures 106: Hello, Holograms

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

The randomness that are thrift stores are what I enjoy so much.  And among the random sometimes I find some odd items, such as this, a 800-card count box filled with standard 1980s cardboard and a small stack of late 1990s SPX cards. 

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One look at the box and you might find yourself closing it and moving on quickly.  But with the stack of SPX cards was really appealing given the $2.99 price tag on the box.  

We’ll get to the hologram hotness in a bit. But I’ll show the other stuff. There was a sizeable brick of 1983 Topps and among the highlights were two decent looking second-year Cal Ripken Jr. cards.
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There also was some 1993 Bowman, which yielded some rookies for my
collection and a second-year Mariano Rivera.
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Talk about random. Here’s a pair of Bill Belichick cards.
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And now the holograms. I LOVED the hologram-based SPX designs of the lates 1990s. They were distributed one card per pack and they were pricey upon release, somewhere in yhe $4-$6 per pack range if memory serves me right. well, this stack of SPX was just commons. It was star cards and parallels of the same. Fantastic!
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Total cost of the Treasures $2.99

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

Congrats to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza on their HOF selections — 89 UD, 92 Fleer BGS 9

Posted in Hall of Fame Rookie Cards, Hall of Famers with tags , , , , on January 6, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

   
 

Thrift Treasures 99: An auto, a variation and the Heartbreak Kid

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

I don’t get out to flea markets as often as I’d like, but we managed to get out this weekend.

We took the kids and some other family members to the monthly flea market at the local community college and while the kids were racking up good deals, for a while the only thing I had scored was this 1997 Playmates Figure of Shawn Michaels, the Heartbreak Kid.  

I felt like I was searching high and low for sports stuff and it just wasn’t there … At least something worth buying.

At one space I located a binder of 400 NFL cards in a binder that didn’t really intrigue me much. And then a short while later I thought I hit the jackpot as a dealer had a dozen 5,000 count boxes on his table.  Unfortunately the dealer said the prices of the cards vary from a quarter to a dollar but most of the cards were commons and massive quantities of unlicensed reprints. PASS.

But I did find a legit card table. I talked to the two guys at the table for a while and wound up with a few deals:

2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers Raisel Iglesias auto. $3.  
2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers Black and White variation John Jaso.  $5. He added the base card for free.

  
A pair of stamped Topps Originals and a 2015 Stadium Club gold foil Javier Baez. 3 for $1  

 A 2015 Topps Chrome Pink Refractor Nick Swisher, 2015 Topps Tek Ken Griffey Jr., 2015 Topps First Pitch Jon Hamm. 3 for $1 
Total cost of these Treasures: $10.10

You can read more Thrift Treasures posts here.

Thrift Treasures 90: The Kid, The Big Hurt, and more

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , on July 25, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

It’s kind of funny, for a long time the baggies of cards at my local thrift stores held nothing but base cards. But recently I have been finding baggies with autos and/or memorabilia, even even rookie cards of guys whose legacy’s have been cemented in stone.

  
Earlier this week I found two baggies, shown above, which intrigued me because one had a few Ken Griffey Jr. Cards showing and the other had the rear of 1990 Topps #414 easily visible.

What I found inside was actually much better than I expected.

First, there were three autographs. THREE!  One certified NBA auto, one certified basketball draft pick autograph and what appears to be an in-person signature of former Detroit Tigers third baseman Travis Fryman.

  
Oddly enough there was a good amount of basketbal items in the bag. Here’s a pair of Jason Kidd rookies, and a rookie-year Ultra series 2 card.

  
Here’s the left overs from a Hoops Draft Lottery Redemption Set.

  
And leftovers from a gutted Collector’s Choice Draft Lottery set.

  
Pretty cool to see some of the basketball redemption cards in the Baggie. Here’s a stick of football and baseball stars, including a few 1990 rookies of two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez and National League Rookie of the Year David Justice. 

  As a kid growing up in the Bay Area, Mark McGwire was always in demand. The 1989 Upper Deck card has alway been a favorite of mine.

  
Barry Bonds was also a HUGE draw in the Bay Area after he came to San Francisco. Here are some cards from his time before he became a Giant.

  
Remember how I mentioned the 1990 Topps card #414? Yeah, that’s Hall of Famer Frank Thomas’ rookie card.

  
Now, when I saw the Ken Griffey Jr. Cards peaking at me from inside the mag I could see the 1990 Bowman and 1990 Topps cards. What I didn’t see was this 1988 Donruss Rated Rookie rookie card.

  

I know baseball cards aren’t what they were in the 1990s, but I always feel it is my duty to save rookie cards like these, which might otherwise end up in a trash can.

  

Total cost of these treasures: $4.98

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here