In 2002, Upper Deck made major waves in the hobby by including autographs and game-used memorabilia cards of Mark McGwire throughout various products, and SP Authentic was no exception. McGwire’s autograph could be found in five different insert sets in 2002 SP Authentic (six if you count one set’s parallel). Here’s a quick rundown of those:
1. Chirography: Everyone’s probably familiar with this set. It’s been the staple set for SP Authentic autographs since day one. McGwire signed 50 cards for this set.
2. Chirography Gold. This parallel mirrors all but two cards from the Chirography set. The print run for each card was based off the player’s uniform number. In McGwire’s case, it would be 25.
3. Signed Big Mac. This 10-card set featured various photos of McGwire, though only one of these cards featured him as a member of the Athletics. Speaking of various, the print runs on these cards range anywhere between 1 and 70, with six of them being numbered to 7 or lower.
4. Big Mac Missing Link. Remember what UD did with 2008 Upper Deck and the “retro” jersey cards with the designs of 1997, 1999, and 2000 Upper Deck? (NOTE: They call the 1999 and 2000 designs 1998 and 1999 respectively, guess they didn’t want to use the real 1998 Upper Deck A Piece of the Action design). Well, in this set, McGwire signed five different cards, each of which mimicked a past Chirography design from 1998-2002 (yes, even 2002!). Each card was numbered to 25.
5. Authentic Excellence. Alright so this wasn’t technically a set, but rather a single card. But what a single card it was! This card featured several UD spokespeople and featued signatures of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ichiro, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ken Griffey, Jr., and Jason Giambi (hey, he was hot stuff back then!). This card was presented as a fold-out. Take that Triple Threads!
6. Signs of Greatness. Finally, the last set is once again a single card. You may recall hearing about it in the past. It’s the 6-player autographed card of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. Naturally, this card was a 1/1. I wonder where that card is now.
Anyways, now that I’m finally done discussing the McGwire sets, let’s see what I actually pulled from my box! This box contained 24 packs of 5 cards each and cost about $60. Was it worth it? Let’s see…
Base cards: In typical Authentic-like fashion, there is a short set which is followed by a ton of subsets. In this product, cards 1-90 make up the short set. I fell just ONE card short of completing the short set while receiving 21 duplicates. The one card I need is number 77 if anyone out there has it.
Future Watch (numbered to 1,999): Cards 91-135 make up the Future Watch subset. I pulled two of these: Kevin Gryboski (Braves) and Brian Mallette (Brewers). One for dayf and one for Thorzul, no?
Autographed Future Watch (numbered to 999): Cards 136-170 are autographed “Future Watch” cards. Most of them are numbered to 999, but there a few select shortprints which are limited to 249 (Kazuhisa Ishii for example). Overall, these autographed cards fall one per box on average. I pulled a card of the late Steve Bechler. Bechler died in 2003 of multi-organ failure which was preceded by heat stroke. It was discovered that the drug Ephedra played a significant part in his death. He was just 23.
Future Watch USA (numbered to 1,999): The final “Future Watch” set is a standalone insert set with 22 cards. They are also numbered to 1,999 and once again, I pulled two from this box. The first was Grant Johnson, who was drafted by the Cubs in 2004. The second was Carlos Quentin, who was having a breakthrough year before suffering a wrist injury the day before I pulled this card! Other players in this set include Rickie Weeks, Dustin Pedroia, Conor Jackson, Huston Street, and Chad Cordero.
Limited Gold (numbered to 50): There are two parallels in this product that mirror the entire set (subsets, autographs, and all). The first is the Limited parallel which is characterized by a blue-foil over the card’s font. These cards are numbered to 125. The second parallel is a little rarer and is entitled Limited Gold. These cards can be distinguished by a golden foil over the font and are numbered to just 50. I pulled a “Limited Gold Future Watch” of Gustavo Chacin.
Prospects Signatures (1:36 packs): If the signed “Future Watch” cards weren’t enough, there’s a 12-card prospect signature set. They fall 1 in every 36 packs on average and have a rather lackluster checklist. Aside from Bill Hall and Xavier Nady, nobody really stands out. I pulled an Alex Graman, who has a career ERA of 18.47 in five appearances (two starts) over parts of two seasons with the Yankees. He currently plays in Japan with the Saitama Seibu Lions, where he is teammates with Kaz Ishii.
Game Jersey (1:24 packs): My final “hit” was a game-used jersey card of Jason Giambi. I’m not a fan of the design of this card at all. I’m not really a fan of full-body shots of the players scrunched up into a corner of the card, among everything else that looks ridiculous on this card. There is Gold parallel to this set in which print runs are based on the player’s jersey number.
Final Thoughts: I’ve always been a fan of SP Authentic. Well, I was before they introduced (what I believe is) one of the stupidest concepts ever, Lettermen. The 2002 edition was a very solid product. The base set was nice. “Hits” were guaranteed. Aside from the Prospect Signatures set, the autographs are attractive and hard signed. The autograph checklist is very strong and includes: Mark McGwire, Ichiro, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa, Tom Glavine, and Tony Gwynn among others. And don’t forget about all those McGwire-themed sets I mentioned above! This box in particular wasn’t the strongest, but wasn’t too bad considering I didn’t pull a Chirography card. I don’t think I’ll be purchasing another box soon, but I would recommend giving it a shot.
As always, thanks for reading and good luck with your own breaks!