Composition of the 1990’s Topps sets

22 08 2016

OK, I can’t believe how long it took me to figure this stuff out, but let’s just say it takes some effort.  In fact, I decided to split this one post into two because the 2nd half was taking too long.

Anyway, the next thing to look at for the “completed” decade of the 90’s is the composition of the sets.  The set size started the decade off at 792 cards, which is where it had been since 1982.  Ignoring the rise of inserts, there were a bunch of changes in just the flagship set throughout the decade.

  • In 1981, Topps introduced the update set – Topps Traded – as 132 additional cards that showcased rookies and players in their new uniforms (sometimes airbrushed) from the current season.  This was issued in factory set form only (with the exception of a test pack-out in 1985).  It bumped up to 825 in 1993 to account for some extra Marlins and Rockies, then went back to 792 for one last year.  From there, it jumped around, bottoming out at 440 but also being really low at 462 to end the decade.  The wrong direction, in my opinion
    • 1995 – 660
    • 1996 – 440
    • 1997 – 495
    • 1998 – 503
    • 1999 – 462
  • After being a 132-card boxed factory set since 1981, Topps Traded was packed out to 165 cards in 1995, then dropped altogether from 1996 through 1998.  It came back as a 121-card factory set in the last year of the decade.

So in the decade, there were 7,499 cards in the flagship Topps brand – almost 1,500 less than the 1980’s.  There were 6,553 cards in the regular sets and 946 in the Traded sets.  If you want to include the Topps MLB Debut cards, which appeared from 1990 through 1991, there’s actually 515 more for a total of 8,014 cards.

I’m including those in the number below.

Set composition:

  • 7,023 individual player cards.  6,553 are from the regular set, 946 are from Traded sets, and 515 are from the three Topps ML Debut sets.
    • Out of these, 100 are noted as “All-Star Rookies”, 63 cards are marked “Future Stars”, 14 are “Star Track” (1995 only), and 10 are “Now Appearing” which Topps did in ’87, ’88, and ‘89.
  • 241 Draft Pick cards.  More than 10 times the previous decade – a sign of the times.
  • 111 Prospect Cards.  These tended to be 4-player cards, but could be found in different levels.
  • 74 Team USA player cards.  All in the 1991 through 1993 Traded sets.
  • 54 Coming Attractions cards – in 1993 and 1994.
  • 36 Expansion Prospect cards.
  • 30 On Deck cards in 1995 and 1995 Traded.
  • 4 Triple-A All-Stars in 1996.
  • 1 Russian Angels card in 1993.
  • 106 Manager cards – almost one-third of the previous decade.  Topps stopped doing  manager cards after 1993.
  • 16 Tribute cards of various sorts.  Nolan Ryan.  Bart Giamatti.  Hank Aaron.  Babe Ruth.  Mickey Mantle.  Jackie Robinson.  Roberto Clemente.  McGwire & Sosa.  The tribute thing was alive and well this decade in the regular set.  I generally liked it.
  • 130 All-Stars. Topps stopped doing this after 1995 Traded.  I’m counting the 1996 Star Power cards in here as All-Star cards.
  • 60 Season Highlights of some type.  This includes 15 World Series Highlights in 1998 and 1999, Interleague HL in 1998, and At the Break highlights from 1995 Traded.
  • 14 Record Breakers.  None after 1992.  Wish Topps had kept this alive.
  • 12 ROY contenders in 1995 Traded.
  • 12 League Leaders.  1995 Traded only.
  • 11 All-Topps Team.  From 1999.
  • 9 Measures of Greatness.  1994.
  • 5 Strikeout Kings.  1999.
  • 5 Turn Back the Clock.  A remnant from the previous decade – 1990 only.
  • 2 Anatomy of a Trade.  1994 Topps Traded.
  • 58 checklists.

There were no instances where the “set composition” was exactly the same from year to year.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

18 08 2016

Oz behind the curtain

So I think I went 4 days without a post, which hasn’t happened for over 2 years.  I feel like that warrants a look behind the curtain.

There are reasons for these 4 post-less days.

  • Family things
    • I have 2 kids (2 is at least 5 times harder than 1).
    • I’ve been super busy with things – my sister’s wedding last weekend and a July vacation (in Cooperstown at least) being the prime culprit.
  • Blog related reasons:
    • I caught up with completed posts and needed to start the new topic with this blog.
    • I’m working on the completed 1990’s posts I do, and the next one I intend to be in the queue is taking me a lot of time updating internal spreadsheets and the like.
  • Other extracurricular stuff:
    • I have a newly acquired habit of finding as much rarer beer as I can.

All of these things have happened before in different forms, but in 6+ years I only had one time where I had to put down the blog (May-June of 2014), and that was work-related.

This isn’t one of those times, but unlike the past 4 years of this blog, my queue has run out!  At one point in late 2012 or so, I hit 60 scheduled posts.  A year ago I was around 30 or so.  And it’s slowly whittled down since then.  As somebody who has been doing this for 75+ months, I can tell other bloggers writing styles in this perspective.  Some do it how I do – do posts in advance.  I think most bloggers write what they feel when they feel.  Some are disciplined enough to do that once a day or more.

There are reasons that I do this.  For one, this blog is primarily supposed to be chronicling a project.  So scheduling posts makes sense, whereas most blogs are about “here’s what I’m collecting, here’s what I think”.  Mine works for me, but I like that sometimes I can hit pause and share what I think about some kind of topic.  I tend to get through 2 or 3 posts in a sitting, then not do blogging for a few days, and then do a few more.  I was actually posting a little more frequently this year (very close to one a day) – and that became quicker than I could keep up with.

So anyhow, I felt a need to describe this.  The one thing I must say – I am losing some level of interest in collecting.  I’ve gotten to the mid-2000’s and the inserts are out of hand.  Making me question the idea of getting all the regular inserts.  I am going to keep moving forward on that, but I may rethink it.  We’ll see.  Anyways, hopefully I’ll have the next 90’s completion post up tomorrow.  Getting there.

Oh, and one other thing doing this 90’s recap has made me realize.  I don’t like all the other stuff being on this blog when I’m trying to search!  For example – I had to go back through a bunch of my completed set posts and sifting through the Heritage and Goodwin completed posts to get to the 1995 or 1996 Topps completed posts is kind of annoying.  I’m not sure about this, but I’m thinking about starting up a “2nd” blog and parking those posts there.  We’ll see.

Topps Flagship sets for the 1990’s – FINITO (how I completed the decade)

13 08 2016

When I finished off the 1998 Topps set last September (man it’s almost been a year), that also completed the decade for me.  1990 through 1999 Topps – all checked off.  I finished off the 1980’s decade at the end of 2012, so it took me about 3 years.  Like the 1980’s, I think this deserves a celebration on this blog.  I’m two-thirds of the way there on my Lifetime Topps Project.  Or at least the base card part.

So, the rest of the month will be 1990’s recap here on the blog.  I am copying my standard posts from when I finish off a set – except here for the decade.  For each of the sections from one of my individual completed sets, I’ll break off into an individual post for that decade.  This post can kick it off:

Card that completed my set decade:  1998 Topps #160 – Derek Jeter

1998 Topps Jeter

The Cal Ripken rookie card finished off my 1980’s decade – another great short stop was the finisher for the 1990’s.  I got it in an eBay lot – as I mentioned, almost a year ago now.

The order that I completed the sets and how completed were

  1. 1990 – #675 – Jim Abbott (a trade with blog reader Kary)
  2. 1991 – 710 – Kent Hrbek (trade with Scott Crawford on Cards)
  3. 1992 – #485 – Chris Sabo (trade with Nolan’s Dugout)
  4. 1993 – #630 – Mark Grace (another trade with Nolan’s Dugout)
  5. 1996 – #58 – Scott Sanders (a third one from a trade with Nolan’s Dugout)
  6. 1999 – #352 – Miguel Tejada (trade with Cardboard Examiner)
  7. 1997 – #261 – Lance Johnson (trade with Cardboard Junkie)
  8. 1994 – #379 – Mark McLemore (trade with Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary)
  9. 1995 – #446 – Andres Galarraga (purchased in an eBay lot)
  10. 1998 – #160 – Derek Jeter (purchased on eBay)

Nolan’s Dugout was the MVP for me here!  Pretty cool I traded for 8 of the 10 completed cards.

How I put my set decade together:

The total number of cards, including the Topps Traded sets, was 7,499 for the decade.

  • 67.4% (5,058) from boxes
  • 14.9% (1,109) from trades
  • 5.0% (376) from other forms of original Topps packaging – 84 from a 1990 blister, 292 from a 1991 rack pack box
  • 2.0% (150) cards I already had at home in good condition
  • 0.3% (25) single card purchases – 12 from card shows, 6 from eBay, 4 from Beckett Marketplace, 3 from Sportlots
  • 10.4% (781) from purchasing the Traded boxed sets

That’s the first “celebration” of completing the 1990’s decade.

A little detective work – 1998 Topps Kevin Polcovich

12 08 2016

I have done this a couple other times, and it’s always fun.  I love when I can figure out the exact play that is depicted in an action shot.  The card that I thought was the best action shot in 1998 Topps – well, it’s one of those cards!

1998 Topps Kevin Polcovich

Kevin Polcovich is far from a memorable name, however this is a really cool card.  It’s a great action shot – better than the 1998 Stadium Club card that is clearly taken half of a second later.  But the other cool thing is – it was doable to figure out the specific play this card depicts.  To figure out when the photo was taken.

It was fairly easy to narrow down for a number of reasons.  First, the player sliding into second – Larry Walker – is clearly identifiable.  Second, Polcovich didn’t have a long career.  He played for the Pirates in 1997 and 1998.  Since this is a 1998 series 1 set – I know it’s from 1997.  That’s a Rockies road uni and a Pittsburgh home uniform – so it was clearly in Pittsburgh.  So just find a game at 3 Rivers where Polcovich either turned a double play or forced out Walker on second.

Polcovich played in 4 such games in 1997, in a series from July 31st to August 3rd in Pittsburgh.  Walker, who was the MVP that year, naturally played in all 4 of those games.  This picture came from the game on August 2nd – it’s the only possibly play that fits with this picture.  Walker was a stone cold killer in that series – he went 3 for 4 with a walk in this particular game.

The play in question occurred in the top of the 4th.  Walker led off with a single, then Andres Galarraga grounded into a force out from Tony Womack to Polcovich.  They didn’t get Galarraga at first.

The Pirates actually won this game, 6-5, despite Walker’s epic performance.  Walker was often viewed as a “Coors Field” MVP, but this series sure argues against that.  In Three Rivers (4 games), he went 10-16 with 2 walks, 4 homers and 3 doubles.  Pretty good, no?


11 08 2016

A little while ago I bought into another one of Topps internet ideas.  On some level, I feel like a sucker, but I do think these things are pretty cool.

Last year, Topps started generating various 5 x 7 sets with a throwback theme.  These are usually numbered between 50 and 199, with a couple of rarer (1/1) variations available.  I bought the set of the 1990 Reds and one that has Ken Griffey Jr’s full run of Topps cards.  I think they typically run $19.99 for the cheaper stuff.

This year, they came out with Topps Now, which is a real-time effort at producing season highlight cards.  Each day, they pick a few highlights from the day before and memorialize them on a card.  You have 24 hours to buy the card, and however many orders come in are the number printed.  It’s $9.99 per card, including shipping, or $29.99 for 5 cards (you can’t mix and match cards of a given day).  I bought the first Reds card available and then bought a card if Ichiro passing Pete Rose for the most hist as a professional.  And I’m gonna buy an Ichiro 3K one as well.

Next up, they came out with Throwback Thursday.  I didn’t get the first week, but I bought a set the 2nd week.  It’s a neat idea – once a week, they pick out an old set, then they do 6 cards of players and throw them on that set design.  I got the 1955 Bowman “TV” set.  It’s pretty neat, and in all honesty, doing a set like this once a week is better than doing 6 cards a day (which is their max) for Topps Now.

2016 Topps Throwback Thursday

Here’s the set.  I actually bought 3, 1 to keep and 2 for speculative purposes because it’s only a bit more to get the 2 more sets.

Completed set – 1998 Topps

9 08 2016

I caught up with almost all of my completed insert set posts.  I didn’t plan on getting into a hole of 40-50 sets, but I did and now I’m through almost all of it.  Now onto the really fun stuff – I’ve finished off 2 base Topps sets, which is awesome.

Fort this one, I haven’t finished off the “Master Set” yet – though I’m only a few insert cards away from that.  So it’s just the “complete set” post for now.  This is 1998 Topps.

Info about my set:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How I put the set together:

  • 265 cards from the series 1 hobby box
  • 188 cards from the series 2 hobby box
  • 48 cards from trades
  • 2 cards from eBay

Card that completed my set:  #160 – Derek Jeter (from an eBay lot)

1998 Topps Jeter

I got this and Vinny Castilla’s card back as part of eBay lot in September of last year – so almost a year ago!

Set composition:  503 cards (433 individual ML player cards*, 16 Prospects, 10 Expansion Team, 12 Draft Picks, 4 Checklists, 1 Tribute, 10 Season Highlights, 7 World Series Highlights, 10 Interleague Play)

*The 433 individual player cards include 10 All-Star Rookies

Representation of ’97 MLB season:

8 of the Expansion Team cards are dual-player, and the Prospect cards all have 3 players on them.  9 players were in the set twice after being shown with their new team in series 2.  Doing the math, that’s 490 players represented in the set (433+48+18-9).

Of the 48 guys in the Prospect cards, 8 played in MLB in 1997 – meaning 40 didn’t.  The 2 guys on the single-player Expansion Team cards – Brian Anderson and Tony Saunders – played MLB in 1997 – but the other 16 didn’t.  3 more guys had regular cards but didn’t play in 1997 (all were expansion players).  That leaves 431 players who played in the majors.

The 431 players represent 38.4% out of the 1,123 players who played in MLB in 1997.

Earliest active player from this set:  #21 – Roberto Clemente, #200 – Dennis Eckersley (active players)

Just like 1997 Topps, there are two answers to this.  And just like 1997 Topps, Eck is the earliest active player.  He made his debut on April 12, 1975, pitching the last 1.2 innings of a 1-run Cleveland loss to Milwaukee.  Eckersley beats out Denny Martinez, who debuted in 1976.

1998 Topps Eckersley

Clemente is the earliest (and only) retired player – making his debut on April 17, 1955.

1998 Topps TRIB Clemente

Last active player from this set:  #254 – Adrian Beltre, #257 – David Ortiz, #504 – Alex Rodriguez, #360 – Bartolo Colon (all still active)

1998 Topps last active player

That’s quite a list.  Bartolo was the only one of these guys with a card in 1997, so he’s joined by these 3 in 1998 (for now).  A-Rod got his first Topps card in 1998 after not signing a contract with the company.  Beltre and Ortiz are in the prospect set.  It will be interesting to see who keeps going.  Ortiz has said he’s going to retire, but the other 3 plan to play next year if possible.

Player with the most cards in the set:  5 players with 3 cards:

Matt Williams is in the World Series subset and has 2 regular cards.  Gary Sheffield has cards in the World Series and Interleague subsets, Juan Gonzalez has a card in both interleague subsets, and Nomar Garciaparra and Tino Martinez were in the Season Highlight and Interleague subsets (in addition to their regular card).

The other 4 guys have an Interleague and is basically only 1 subset, with 10 season highlights cards.

Matt Williams – #12, #439, #280 (World Series)

1998 Topps most cards - Matt Williams

Gary Sheffield – #166, #279 (World Series), #483 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Sheffield

Tino Martinez – #284, #269 (Season Highlight), #483 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Tino Martinez

Nomar Garciaparra – #335, #268 (Season Highlight), #481 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Nomar

Juan Gonzalez – #30, #273(Interleague Highlight), #482 (Interleague Preview)

1998 Topps most cards - Nomar

First Card and the Hundreds: #1 – Tony Gwynn, #100 – Mike Piazza, #200 – Dennis Eckersley, #300 – Roger Clemens, #400 – Delino DeShields, #500 – Dustin Carr / Luis Cruz EXP

1998 Topps first card and 00s

Highest book value:  #257 – David Ortiz / Richie Sexson / Daryle Ward

1998 Topps PROS Ortiz Sexson Ward

The first Topps card for Ortiz slightly outpaces the A-Rod first Topps card below.  According to Beckett.

Most notable card: #504 – Alex Rodriguez

1998 Topps A Rod

After refusing to sign a deal with Topps for the first 4-5 years of his career, A-Rod was a late addition and Topps snuck him in as the last card in the set.

Best card (my opinion):  #146 – Jose Guillen

1998 Topps Jose Guillen

Really cool card with Clemente’s statue in the background.  It goes particularly well because Clemente was the “retired player du jour” honored in the set.  Guillen is from the Dominican Republic, whereas Clemente was from Puerto Rico.  But the Caribbean connection is cool

Second best card (also my opinion):  #287 – Brian Jordan

1998 Topps Brian Jordan

I had a tough time picking these top few cards.  I was between the Guillen card above, this card and the A-Rod card, which I feel is pretty high on the iconic scale.  I just love this card – Jordan hadn’t played football in a long time at this point, but it’s indicative of the creativity in some of the shots for this set.  For “best card” – I had to put the Guillen above because of the Clemente factor.  But I think this is a better/cooler pose in and of itself.

Best subset card:  #479 – Ken Griffey Jr. / Mike Piazza INTP

1998 Topps AS - front

The two guys who just went into the HOF together.  I was just there – and one thing that was cool was that Griffey and Piazza had incredible chemistry together.  Was really fun – I’m naturally a huge Griffey fan but I came away a Piazza fan after going to Cooperstown last month.

Favorite action photo:  #79 – Kevin Polcovich

1998 Topps Kevin Polcovich

There aren’t a ton of really great action shots in this set, but I got it down to two cards I was considering for this.  Todd Helton’s card was the one that didn’t make the cut.  Helton’s card features him following through on a swing on a day game.  The shadow effects are really cool in the batters box.  But this card of Polcovich – whose career was certainly forgettable compared to Helton’s – shows him levitating over a cloud of dust, after trying to turn a DP!

Favorite non-action photo:  #287 – Brian Jordan

1998 Topps Brian Jordan

As mentioned above – I think if you consider the pose alone, this card is a bit cooler than the Clemente card.

My Favorite Reds card:  #240 – Pete Rose Jr.

1998 Topps Pete Rose Jr

The only way a Pete Rose could get into a Topps set since 1989.  I also really like the Barry Larkin card.

Other Notable Cards:  Here’s some of the other cards I considered for some of the “accolades” up above.

1998 Topps other notable cards

2015 Goodwin Champions box break #3

8 08 2016

2016 Goodwin box

This is my third box of 2016 Goodwin Champions, though I should have stayed at 2 if I’d have paid attention to how small the base set was.  These were all doubles.  

That said, let me show off 3 of the coolest base cards.  As I’ve mentioned (complained), they just don’t have any big names outside of cards #1-5.  But these cards are at least cool photos – all of them are horizontal.  The first one is David Boudia, who is a diver.  Boudia won gold in the 10 meter platform diving 4 years ago.  He’s going back to Rio after winning the U.S. trials in the event.  The picture is from the 2013 FINA World Championships – that’s Barcelona in the background.  

2016 Goodwin Boudia diver

Next up is Aly Raisman, who won 2 gold medals in 2012 – she took the top spot in the Floor competition, and was captain of the Women’s team champions.  She will also be back in Rio.

2016 Goodwin Aly Raisman

Finally, the next is Sasha Digiulian, a rock climber who has won a number of titles in the PanAm games.  There are a few rock climbers and it is a cool sport to highlight.

2016 Goodwin Sasha DiGulian climber

Here are the SP cards I got – 5 of them just as the previous 2 boxes.  These are all new ones, so at least I got 15 cards toward the 50 SP’s in my boxes.

2016 Goodwin box 3 SPs

Here are the minis.  I got the same as the other boxes – so no rare mini.  5 regulars, 2 canvas.

2016 Goodwin box 3 minis

2016 Goodwin box 3 mini canvas

Here are the Goudey inserts.  I got another female trail blazer in Danica Patrick in these cards.

2016 Goodwin Goudey box 3

I again got a card of a “Supernatural” as one of my hits.  For the third and last time – this shouldn’t be considered a hit.  It’s an insert card, and kind of neat – but not a hit.  It’s Faunus, the horned god of the forest, plain and fields from Roman mythos.  This one had odds of over 1,000.

2016 Goodwin Supernaturals Faunus

The one autograph I got in this box was kind of cool – it’s these Museum Collection cards that have WWII veterans signing them.  Cool to read on the back that Mates fought the Japanese in Guam as a Marine.

2016 Goodwin Museum Signatures Don Mates

It’s always great to pay tribute to our history, and particularly to our troops.  And while this is pretty cool, it also kind of feels like when the NFL honors veterans but gets paid to do so.  My grandfather was a WWII vet – so I try to think of it this way – I’d love it if he got a card!

Last up is the memorabilia card – Justin Gatlin.  I mentioned in my previous post that I think UD could have gone with an Olympic theme.  They did have a bunch more Olympians than I thought – but still not even as good as some prior years when big names like Michael Phelps were included.

Below are the “stats” for the box.

20 packs per box * 5 cards per pack – 4 cards from packs with relics = 96 cards

76 of the 100 card base set (77% set completion)

  • 5 SP cards

81 of the 150 card full set (54% set completion)

  • 5 Minis
  • 2 Mini Canvas
  • 5 Goudey
  • 1 Supernaturals
  • 1 Memorabilia (J. Gatlin)
  • 1 Museum Collection Signatures

Including all three boxes:

  • 100 / 100 of the base cards (100%)
  • 115 / 150 of the full set (76%)


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