Thursday, December 31, 2020

Retrospective: 1991

It's been nearly 6 months since I started my Retrospective series of posts. This is where I look back at sets in chronological/alphabetical order from the time I began collecting.

The year is 1991. I was still very new to collecting cards, but now that they were on my radar I began to search them out wherever I could. Thankfully during this time cards could be found in a variety of stores, drug stores, book stores, gas stations, etc. The collecting bug had already bit me and I was ready to dive in to the world of sports cards.


   * Huge set, good player selection
   * Low price
   * Card size returned to traditional dimensions

   * Cardbacks continued with non-traditional stats

Bowman was a brand so full of heritage, yet I was a rookie (like Chipper Jones!) so to me it was just another set. I didn't really come to appreciate this set until many, many years later. I didn't care initially for the design and I had never seen the back of a baseball card look like Bowman before. Fast forward 30 years and now this is a set I'm anxiously awaiting to build.

Classic Game Series


   * Colorful
   * Card backs' layout reminds me of Donruss

   * Too much like the previous year

I never had many of the Classic cards in my collection (and still don't) because they didn't seem to be widely distributed in my area. It's fine as even in my youth these wouldn't have appealed to me that much. From my understanding these cards were released as part of a trivia set.

Classic I

   * More of the same
   * Expanded checklist

   * More of the same

I really don't understand the difference between the "Game" set and this set. Outside the color boarders and numbering, the set is ultimately looks the same. At least the blue looks better than the purple. This is the first of 3 "update" sets that piggy back off the trivia set.

Classic II

   * More of the same
   * New players added to each team's checklist

   * Confusing set

This is the second of three "update" sets, which I never knew until I researched these sets in more depth.

Classic III

   * New card backs

   * Same front card design

While I don't find the green boarders to be too flattering, I've seen worse. This is the final "update" set bringing the card count to 500 cards.


   * Diamond Kings

   * Design (blue - series 1, green - series 2)

As a kid I loved this set. The names were easier to read versus the cursive used in the 1990 set. The design was bright and colorful and the checklist was large at 770 cards. Today I despise this set. I love the junk wax error, but not every set released during this time period can be a winner. I can swallow 1990 and the follow year would be one of my favorite designs of Donruss of the decade.


   * Well laid out card back, full of stats
   * Provisions

   * Yellow...and lots of it

I know this set catches a lot of flak from the community, but I liked it as a kid and still do to date. 1991 leer was one of the first boxes I can remember buying and when I discovered there were 4 cards on the bottom of the box, my mind was blown! While the card front has a design that is polarizing, the card backs are tastefully laid out with easy to read stats. The included headshot on the back is a nice inclusion over some of the other sets released at the time. I still have two sealed boxes that I'm waiting for the perfect time to bust.

Fleer Ultra

   * Fleer's first super premium set
   * Multiple photos on card back

   * Photography isn't "premium"

The Ultra brand was Fleer's answer to Topps' Stadium Club brand. While Ultra would go on to see some nice improvements in the following year, I still like this inaugural set. I had more access to Fleer Ultra as a kid than I did to Stadium Club so I'm a little biased. I like the silver ribbons across the top and bottom of the card and the colorful cardback with multiple photos was something you didn't see a lot of back them. Somehow I ended up with 3 or so of these boxes so I grab and rip a few packs here and there. Eventually I'll sit down and collate this set. Whether I page/binder it I haven't yet decided.


   * Premium design
   * Gold Rookies

   * Reused photo on back

Following the massive success of the 1990 set, this set seemed to fall flat on it's face. It has a premium design (for it's time) and the card backs aren't half bad, but the increased production run ultimately hurt this set. The inclusion of the Gold Rookies insert set keeps the set interesting with a surprisingly interesting checklist. I'm fond of the set and wouldn't mind picking up a box from each series one day. My biggest gripe of this set is the cropped and zoomed in head shot that is used on the back.

O-Pee-Chee Premier

   * Inaugural release of new, original OPC set

   * Small checklist

Up until this Premier set was released, the annual O-Pee-Chee sets were basically a parallel of the Topps set. Even though the checklist is small at only 127 cards, the set would go on to see a release for the next 2 years before it would fade into obscurity.


   * Large set
   * Fun subsets

   * Let me get back to you...

I love this set. The only thing that I don't enjoy about the set is trying to hand collate this beast. At 893 cards it's the largest set of the year and one of the largest card sets to date. The set featured some really fun subsets such as the characticher All-Star cards to Master Blasters, K-Men and Rifleman. A friend of mine and I split a box of series 1 back in 1991 we purchased from a small shop in Gatlinburg, TN while there on a youth retreat with our church. I think we both we searching for the Jose Canseco Dream Team card! I have a couple of boxes that I've begun to open, but I do dread the eventual collation day!

Topps Stadium Club

   * First super premium set
   * Superb photography
   * Card backs

   * UV coating hasn't aged well

I was blown away back in 1991 when I first learned of Stadium Club's existence. These cards were (are) beautiful and helped kick off a whole new segment premium of trading cards. The photography was top notch and the design was very clean. The card backs are beautiful and the inclusion of the player's Topps rookie card is a nice touch. Unfortunately these cards have not aged well, especially sealed boxes as the UV coating on the cards cause the cards to stick together, especially if the cards/boxes were stored in anything other than a cool, dry climate. I recently picked up a sealed box of both series 1 & 2 from an old warehouse and I'm looking forward to sitting down and ripping these boxes, collating the cards and putting them in pages and their own binder.


   * Inaugural set
   * Something different

   * Lack of action shots

When the Studio set was first introduced I wasn't sure how to react to the black and white posed photos. With time this set began to grow on me, if for no other reason that it was something different. I'm not a stats guy so I have never poured a lot of time into reading the back of cards. Studio helped change this however with the inclusion of things like their hobbies and pet peeves. A year or so ago I purchased several sealed junk wax boxes for super cheap from a local guy I found on Facebook. This was one of the first boxes I opened and I'm still trying to complete my set.


   * 40th anniversary
   * Iconic design

   * Gum stains

Now who doesn't love this set? This is probably one of my favorite flagship Topps sets. From the design to the checklist, I love everything about this set. Of course it doesn't hurt that it also includes a RC of the great Chipper Jones!

Upper Deck

   * Photography
   * Second photo on card back

   * Dare I say nothing?

While I was having fun with Fleer, Score and Topps, then came Upper Deck. I largely ignored the '89 and '90 sets for different reasons, however the 1991 set began a streak of UD becoming one of my favorite sets annually. From the cardstock, to the photos to the card backs (which sometimes featured a better photo than the front!) I loved every aspect of this set. The price tag was higher than most of the other sets I had been purchasing so I never had a lot of these cards, but what I did have I cherished. I always have a hard time picking my favorite 90's UD set as so many of them are fantastic.

1991 was a great year of collecting for me. It was the first full year since I had been introduced to baseball cards so I had much more of an awareness of what was being released. This would also open up the doors to basketball cards (for a time), but more importantly it got me into following baseball more and more. My grandfather's team was the Braves so by defacto they became my team. 1991 is the season where the Braves went worst to first as well so all around it was a great year. Near the conclusion of the year I was already looking forward to what would come out the next year. For many more years this would be the case as well.

2020: A Year In Review

The image above should look familiar as it dominated the news and social media for much of 2020. COVID-19 has affected everyone on the face of the planet and turned some of our lives upside down. I'm used to grabbing my hat, keys and wallet before I headed out the door, now I have to remember to grab a face mask as well.

Shortly after the virus hit things started to shut down. I remember driving home from a couple of days of meetings out of town back in March and hearing of the first NBA player to come down with the virus, effecting halting games. Then there was rumors starting up that the Men's NCAA basketball tournament being cancelled outright. Crazy. Spring training was still weeks away so I was hoping the baseball season would get underway without too many issues. WEll, we know what would follow...the season would be horribly delayed.

Local governments started shutting things down, people were being asked to stay at home. Many school systems sent kinds home to learn towards the end of the school year. I think most of us though this would only be for the interim and in 60 days or so things would get back to normal. Nope.

As a result of the lockdowns and quarantines, people found themselves at home with more time on their hands than normal. Some people got out and enjoyed the outdoors, camping, hiking and the like. My family tried the tent camping thing again after we found mice had ruined the canvas on our pop up camper. Others started home improvement projects while others were looking for a hobby or in some cases re-discovering a hobby. That's where cards come into the equation.

With sports shutting down people were looking to get their sports fix in anyway possible. ESPN helped with the likes of the Michael Jordan documentary among others, but a lot of people rediscovered the trading card hobby. For many, many years you could find sealed boxes of cards, especially from the "junk wax" error...but things were about to change. Nostalgia is very real and was (and still is) running strong. This lead to the prices of older boxes of cards on the secondary market to rise. Then retail started to dry up. Prices across the board, sealed boxes and singles, started to skyrocket. Boxes of NBA Hoops and Skybox basketball cards that I grew up collecting were now effectively out of my range and it seemed as if everything else was to follow.

Collecting cards in 2020 was changing. I think a lot of people who were already collecting took the time to get their house in order. I've seen a lot of blog posts/tweets/Facebook threads of people getting their collections organized. That may have included cataloging their collection with the likes of Google Sheets, MS Excel or using a service like the Trading Card Database. I was one that did the latter, loading up my TCDB profile with my collection/want lists for various sets I was/am working on. To date I've completed 212 trades with 6 transactions currently in the works. This has helped me tremendously enjoy this great hobby that much more. I love helping others fill holes in their sets or collections and of course I enjoy being able to fill my own holes. I may have bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to new sets I took on trying to build in 2020...I'm going to have to scale that back in the new year!

If you've not yet signed up on TCDB I highly encourage you to do so. Not only is it a great resource (checklists, etc) the trading aspect of the site is fantastic. Some people think you have to pour hours and hours into the site uploading their collections and what not, but that couldn't be more wrong. I haven't uploaded my team collections of Braves, Panthers or Hornets and I'm not sure I ever will...but it's easy to add wanted cards of players to my want list. I also super collect Rey Ordonez and the site has been instrumental to make sure I have accounted for every one of his cards and have them on my want list. It may take a little time to upload your cards you're willing to trade, but once the trade offers start coming in it's almost addicting to keep listing cards so the trades keep coming.

2020 also saw a return of my Affordable Group Breaks. Longtime readers/followers may remember these from years past. Because these breaks do generate a lot of work for me I eventually grew tired and retired from my hosting services. However as I found myself with just a little bit more time on my hands, I decided to fire up the breaks again. This time around however I tried a new format and even launched my own Facebook group

I've had a great year hosting these breaks and in the process have met a lot of new collectors, whether that be through this blog, the FB group or on Twitter. The pandemic has made it challenging at times trying to find product to break. It's hard trying to cater to everyone's collecting preferences, but looking back I feel as if I did a pretty good job. Who knew so many people would be willing to join a break that featured just a few retail blasters?! I'm still up the challenge and have already lined up several boxes once my breaks return to action in 2021.

When to comes to the seasons of my favorite teams in 2020, well it should be obvious as to which team had the best season. My Carolina Panthers had a crazy off season to say the least. New head coach and coaching staff, long time QB Cam Newton was released and veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater would take control of the team. Little did we know that our star RB Christian McCaffrey would miss most of the season with various injuries. Not a fun season to say the least. The Hornets season was canceled early due to the virus and they would not receive an invite to play inside the Bubble in Orlando. The new season has just started and 4 games in they find themselves with a .500 record, taking out the Nets and Mavs in the last few days. LeMelo Ball seems to be legit and he's mixing well with the other young studs the Hornets have. I'm still not a huge fan of the current NBA product, but I do look forward to being an active member of Buzz City this season.

As a Braves fan the shortened 2020 MLB season was fun, yet tough. It looked like the Braves were poised for greatness in 2019 before their offense disappeared in the playoffs. The expectations were high going into the season even before the pandemic delayed the start of the season. Once play began the team looked sharp, even though they lost several players due to them sitting out the season because of the virus (Felix Hernandez) or lost early in the season due to injury (Cole Hamels, Mike Soroka). That didn't seem to derail the team too much as they would go on to win their division and finally advance past the NLDS. However the Dodgers would yet again weasel their way past the Braves during the NLCS. In light of the crappy way the season ended, Freddie Freeman would go on to put together one of his best seasons every and would eventually be named NL award much deserved.

With the Brave's on field success it led to a whole slew of new Topps Now cards. In years past I tried to grab as many as I could, but would always forget to check the Topps' site daily for new cards. Even though I was missing cards from all the previous years, I created a binder during the delay of the season. This time around I was much more proactive in staying on top of new releases, using various outlets to pick up the new cards for a fraction of the asking price. I was finally able to complete the team set, even picking up some of the special cards that highlighted awards such as Freeman's MVP.


I wasn't able to build nearly as many sets this year that I would have like due to not being able to find product at retail, however I was able to get my hands on a few non-sports sets that saw a comeback. Garbage Pail Kids Chrome recreates the original 1986 Series 3 set while WWE got the Chrome treatment for the first time since 2015! Right on the heels of Chrome came the WWE Finest set. While I still give the edge to Chrome, the Finest set is still a beautiful set with a good autograph checklist. These three sets have helped end 2020 on a fun note for me. 

There have been a lot of ups and downs this year and I for one am looking forward to turning the page to a new year. I'm not sure how much better 2021 will be as this global pandemic doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon. Because of this I'm glad to have a hobby such as this to help keep my mind off of the craziness that surrounds us all. I hope and pray that the new year will bring positive change and by the time I'm writing my next year in review type post that we'll be looking at COVID in the rear mirror.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Bean's Christmas Cards

A few days before Christmas a bubble mailer arrived in the mail from Kin of Bean's Ballcard Blog with this little rectangular wrapped gift, tucked away inside a Christmas card. The aforementioned card was hung with the other Christmas cards in the living room by the wife. While she was doing that I quickly tore into the Christmas paper like a child on Christmas morning.

The first card in the stack was this 1999 Donruss Elite Aspirations parallel of Tim Biakabutuka, 71/79. Tim may have had a short NFL career due to injury, but he was one of my favorite running backs early on in the life of the Carolina Panthers. Serially numbered 90's cards are some of my favorites too so this card has found a new happy home!

The timing of this next card is a little surreal. Kevin Greene sadly passed away on 12/21/20. Even though he only spent 3 seasons in a Panthers jersey, he left many lasting memories for Carolina fans. I found it interesting that 1) Kevin was included in a 2020 product and 2) he was shown in a Panthers jersey over Steelers or Rams. This 2020 Panini Prestige Xtra Points parallel has a nice foil finish on the front and looks better in hand than my photo depicts.

The last card sent hails from the 2018 Score set and features a white piece of jersey of Luke Kuechly. This is a fitting card as Luke walked away from football at the end of the 2018 season due to injuries/concussions. Luke was an awesome defender and an absolute joy to watch play the game. I still miss all the "LUUUUUUKE" chants from the fans (you know, when we had fans in the stands) after he'd get that sack on the QB or lay a hard hit on an opposing player.

Thank you Kin for your hobby friendship and for these awesome 3 cards. I'll add these to the stack sitting to the left of me that need to be cataloged. It was a great holiday season and things like this just make it a little better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Affordable Mini/Free Break Recap


What better way to wrap up a great year of Affordable Group Breaks by busting some retail I found + offering not one, but two different old school boxes for Free? 

While 2020 may have sucked overall, it did help usher me back into hosting cheap breaks. Looking back it seems the year flew by as here we are in December, just days away from Christmas. Here is a quick recap of the last boxes we busted.

I was most excited about opening these two blasters of 2020 Topps Stadium Club Chrome. I missed out on building this year's TSC set so outside of opening a few blasters as a part of one my breaks, my exposure to this great brand was limited this year. Give the awesome photography on the cards the patented Chrome treatment and well, you've got another product nigh impossible to find (in large quantities) at your local retail establishments. I had the opportunity to buy more than these two blasters and in retrospect, I probably should have!

Topps did a terrific job w/ the photography with this year's Stadium Club set, although it would have been nice if this Chrome set featured new photographs. This Frank Thomas is sick...I'm going to have to track down my own copy of the base and refractor version.

We pulled 5 Refractors from the two blasters, not too bad...decent names too.

The blaster exclusive X-Fractors look much better in hand than here in my photo. Again, some good names.

I really should have photographed these cards without sleeves on, especially the Beam Team cards.

Up next was the blaster and hanger box of 2020 Panini Rookie & Stars. Last time I opened some 2020 product we were shut out from the highly sought after QB RCs. What type of luck would we have this time around?

Pulled a few good "base" RCs if you will and a few good Rookie Rush cards. I'm not sure however if all of them feature red foil or if these are parallels.

Well, the owner of the Bengals I imagine was happy to see this Joe Burrow Ticket Masters RC pulled.

Perhaps the hottest QB rookie this season was none other than Justin Herbert. Not only did we pull his base RC, but the retail exclusive Red Foil parallel too. I believe these two were going to a big Oregon Ducks fan who I imagine considered his $2 for his slot to be well spent.

Each box also yield one chrome Optic card...Dak Prescott and Brett Favre. I particularly liked the Crusade card of Favre as that insert has a nice legacy of its own.

The blaster guaranteed one hit and it ended up being this jersey card of the Saints' Michael Thomas.

I liked this Rookie & Stars product. Like with the TSC Chrome, I should have grabbed another hanger box or blaster while I had the chance.

If this box of 1997 Pinnacle X-Press looks familiar, its because I first featured it back in June. I had one last box sitting off to the side so I thought I'd toss this one in as a freebie. 

The parallel set for this product was called Men of Summer and featured a foilboard front. Griffey, Sheffield, Klesko, Wetteland...not too shabby if I do say so myself.

The only insert we pulled was this Far & Away Frank Thomas. I believe the last box we opened yielded two of these cards so I kind of expected to see another...but no dice. Still a nice card of a great player.

The last of the free boxes was 1992 Studio. I've been sitting on this box for well over a year so it was time to let the cards "breathe". Going in I wasn't too big on this set's design, but after opening 48 packs it started to grow on me. I didn't think to share some of the set's better images before sorting the teams, but so a Google image search for th Randy Johnson card.

In 1992 inserts was still a fairly new concept. These Heritage Series inserts feature sepia photos of players sporting their team's throwback uniforms. This insert fits in well with the overall theme of Studio.

In case you want to view (or fast forward through) the video, here you go. One of the longer breaks I've done...and after sorting all the cards it'll probably be one of the last long breaks I host!

It's been a great year and I wanted to take a moment to publically thank each and every one of you that have supported me...even if it was buy getting in one of the free breaks I held throughout the year. I say this in just about every purpose of hosting these breaks is to have fun. I'm not in this hobby for the money so my goal is to help fellow collectors acquire new cards for their favorite team/player. Without your support this would not be possible.

I do have some ideas for what the next break will be. I hope to be back breaking in our regular Friday night, 10 PM time slot on 01/08/21. I'm going to try to post the next sign ups on Monday, 01/04/21 so keep your eyes on the blog/Facebook group/Twitter for the next announcement. If all goes well, I hope to start off the new year with a bang!

Until then, have a safe and very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!