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UPDATE!

To the readers of the blog,

I just wanted to update everyone on why there hasn’t been a post in the last few weeks.  As a future Elementary Educator, trying to find a job here in Alaska is tedious and take a lot of time.  I have had to step away from the blog and take care of those priorities.  However, I will be reviewing a box that I haven’t seen on a blog or reviewed anywhere.  When I was building my large Rodriguez collection 2 years ago, I came accross an insert called 1998 Team Pinnacle.  These cards are extremely hard to come by and 1998 Pinnacle Plus wasn’t overly produced.

I was fortunate enough to find a box on the bay and purchased it this morning to break for the blog.  It is my hope to come across a rare gold parallel of the Team Pinnacle inserts.  Here is an example of the inserts that Ken Griffey Jr. collector Magigpapa called, “One of the best looking inserts I’ve seen.”  This means a lot coming from one of the biggest 90’s collectors out there!

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The odds are we won’t find one but I’ve always wanted the chance to open the last Pinnacle Baseball product produced.  Stay tuned later this week for the review and an update on my Rodriguez collection.  Have a great weekend!

-Matthew

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1998 Topps Chrome Series 1 Baseball Review

1998 Topps Chrome Ser 1
Before they guaranteed a parallel per pack and included autographed “rookie cards,” Topps Chrome was a much simpler, yet collectible set that produced some extraordinary inserts. Today, I shall review a box of 1998 Topps Chrome Series 1. As is the norm with Topps Chrome, this product mirrors the set and a good number of the inserts featured in the regular Topps set of the same year. A box can be had for under $35 and in my opinion, certainly delivers for the price. It helps when you get lucky and smash the odds a few times, like I did in this box. Check it out….

Base set: The Series 1 base set is comprised of 281 cards. Well actually, the cards are numbered up to 282, but then there’s the vacancy in the number 7 slot in honor of some Yankee player. I received 83 of the 281 base cards, with 4 duplicates. There are several subsets mixed in which feature prospects, draft picks, and highlights of the 1997 season, including the World Series. If you’re reading this Mr. Alejandro, that card on the top-right of the scan is a shoutout to you. Also, I have to point out a classic photograph on card 146, Jose Guillen. He is shown standing outside Three Rivers Stadium, next to a statue of Roberto Clemente and emulating his pose. I’m not a fan of Guillen by any means, but this card is awesome, and one I had never seen before!).

Refractors (1:12 packs): Ah, yes. What would Chrome be without the refractors?? They are seeded 2 per box on average, but I actually pulled 3 from this box. The first was of Luis Gonzalez, who was then on the Astros. The second was Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. Can’t go wrong with that! I was surprised to find a third refractor in my box, even if it was just Todd Hollandsworth. To recap, we had:
Luis Gonzalez (who’s had a nice career and a walk-off World Series hit)
Dennis Eckersley (who had a great, HOF career and gave up a famous walk-off World Series HR)
Todd Hollandsworth (’96 ROY – seriously, he was) EDIT: He was also on the Marlins’ Championship team from ’03

Baby Boomers (1:24 packs): All of the insert sets found in this product (refractor versions aside) are seeded about 1 per box, so these will be randomly listed (if you’ve been paying attention to my blog, you’d notice I usually list inserts from the most common to the most scarce). The first set, entitled Baby Boomers, features the rising young stars of the time. Some of these include Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jose Cruz, Jr. The cards feature a dark blue, almost purplish background with graphics that resemble fireworks. There is a refractor version that falls 1 in every 72 packs on average. In this box, I pulled both a REGULAR AND REFRACTOR version of Andruw Jones. Boomers, huh? Knowing the companies, if this set existed today, there’d probably be a super-shortprinted card of Chris Berman (AKA Boomer) in there somewhere (with a horrible photoshop job of course). Ok, enough of that.

Flashback (1:24 packs): Flashback was my personal favorite insert set of the bunch. It’s simple yet effective. One side features a current photo of a superstar veteran. The other side features a photo of said veteran when they first broke into the league. Check out the Ken Griffey, Jr. Remember when he was destined to be the king? While I didn’t scan the other side of the card, it should be noted that the sides look nothing alike. The “old school” side has the set’s name in yellow block letters and there’s this strange “yellow-V” theme to the card. I know, the last thing anyone would want to be reminded of is the horrible uniforms worn by the Vancouver Canucks. The “new school” side features the set name in a 3-D style of writing with a purple background (which was popular in this product). Some other players in this set include Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken, Jr. The refractor version of this set is found 1 in every 72 packs on average.

Hall Bound (1:24 packs): The final insert set is called Hall Bound. As one would expect, the 15 players in this set were deemed as HOF locks at the time of production. I could go into one of my usual detailed descriptions about the cards, but I think I’d rather have JayBee do it instead. In his blog, he made a great post about this very insert set (well, the non-chrome one) and I urge you to check it out. Folks, if you aren’t familiar with BDJ610’s Topps Blog, you’re really missing out on some great stuff so at least check out the homepage if you don’t want to read about the Hall Bound set. Anyways, back to the task at hand. I received TWO of these inserts in my box. They were of Roger Clemens and Ken Griffey, Jr. Yep, just like in my 1998 Donruss Elite box, I once again received those two from the same set! The refractor version can be found 1 in every 72 packs on average (just like all the other inserts!)

Final Thoughts: I think you could probably figure out that I was extremely pleased with this box. In a box where I’d typically hit about 6 inserts, possibly 7, I received 8. The inserts I pulled certainly weren’t short on star power either, even in my basic refractors. When packs have only 4 cards each, it’s typically not good to have a pack’s worth of duplicates in your box when the set is so large. In comparison, my Bowman Chrome and Stadium Club Chrome boxes each had no duplicates. However, this was just a very small flaw which was basically drowned out by the awesomeness of this box. If you liked what you saw here, I’d definitely suggest trying a box. They’re cheap, a blast to open, and everything looks great!

As always, thanks for reading and good luck with your own box breaks!
-John

1997 Donruss Elite Baseball Review

Ever since the recent release of 2008 Donruss Elite Football, I’ve been wanting to bust some Elite Baseball for this blog. And what better way to do that than to open a box from the very first series, released in 1997. To the best of my knowledge, Donruss Elite was the first of many sets that originally started as an insert set. Others that fall into this category include: Co-Signers, Diamond Kings, Heritage, Chirography, Leather and Lumber, Throwback Threads, and so on. 1997 Donruss Elite had beautiful base cards and legendary chase cards, making it a rather difficult box to find. I was about to track one down for about $50 recently, and pulled the following (NOTE: The box states that an insert can be found in every 5 packs on average. For the insert sets below, they give the print runs, but there are no specific odds on any of them)…

Base cards: The base set is comprised of 150 cards, the last 3 of which are checklists featuring the men who hurled no-hitters in 1996: Hideo Nomo, Dwight Gooden, and Al Leiter. The cards are silver-foiled and have a granite-like border around the player’s picture. Below the picture is a shade of color (which differs from team to team), the player’s name, team, and a row of 5 small stars across the bottom. There is a final colored star at the top of the card describing the player’s position. In this box, I pulled 138 of the 150 base cards, with only 1 duplicate, Ryne Sandberg.

Elite Gold Stars (random inserts): The lone parallel to the base set, these cards are colored totally in gold (aside from the player’s picture), with the words “Elite Stars” written at the top. The backs of the cards are colored the same way. Like most Donruss Elite cards, these look great and don’t scan very well. I found a pair of these parallels in my box. The first was James Baldwin and the second was the Dwight Gooden checklist.

Turn of the Century (numbered to 3,500): Before it turned into an eventual subset or a crappy parallel /750, Turn of the Century started as an insert set with a similar concept to Flair’s Wave of the Future. These guys were the future of the MLB. It’s always fun looking back to see which of these players actually made an impact, isn’t it? There were 20 cards in this set, all numbered to 3500. I pulled a card of Todd Greene, a young catcher for Anaheim. The card is serially numbered 2717/3500. There is a parallel to this insert as well. The first 500 serially numbered copies are die-cut. If it weren’t for looking at this set’s checklist, I would’ve totally forgot Ernie Young or Trey Beamon ever existed.

Leather and Lumber (numbered to 500): Back in the day, I always thought this was one of the coolest inserts ever. This card is a part-wood/part-leather mutant, but it’s a beauty! The wood side, which is shown above, has an extreme close-up of a baseball bat (well, its knob more specifically!). Naturally, the player is shown hitting on this side of the card. Now, if we flip it over, we’ll see a fielding pose of the player, with another extreme close-up background: a glove holding a baseball. On this side, we also see the serial numbering at the top: 374/500 in the case of my Ken Griffey, Jr. Man, this would’ve been a MONSTER pull back then! I’m guessing this was about a $100 card back then, or close to it! There are 10 total players to the set, with Chuck Knoblauch being the only non-superstar.

What WASN’T Pulled: When I first thought about this product, only one insert set came to mind: PASSING THE TORCH. For those unaware, this was a 12-card insert set in which each card featured either a veteran, young rising star, or combination of both. Every card was limited to 1,500, but if you pulled one of the first 150 serially numbered copies, yours was autographed! Look at this checklist for a second:

1. Cal Ripken, Jr.
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Cal Ripken, Jr./Alex Rodriguez
4. Kirby Puckett
5. Andruw Jones
6. Kirby Puckett/Andruw Jones
7. Cecil Fielder
8. Frank Thomas
9. Cecil Fielder/Frank Thomas
10. Ozzie Smith
11. Derek Jeter
12. Ozzie Smith/Derek Jeter

Yeah, those are some sick combos, eh? The Fielder/Thomas combo always confused me though. At the time, Thomas wasn’t a “young star.” He was already a Most Valuable Player twice! Anyways, it’s still a very strong checklist and a heck of a set! Aside from this, the TOTC die-cut was the only insert I didn’t pull any of.

Final Thoughts: Each box contains 18 packs and with the insert ratio stated earlier, you can expect 3-4 per box. It is a bit of a gamble when you consider that at least one of those will probably be the Elite Stars gold parallel that could be only a $4 card if you pull a common. With that said, this product is probably more of a hit-or-miss than most, and the lack of a nice Leather/Lumber or Torch card/autograph might hurt a bit. Still, there’s not a bad-looking card to be found here and it’s still a fun rip. It’s your call.

As always, thanks for reading and good luck with your own breaks!
-John