I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Topps Gallery was one of my absolute favorite brands when it existed (excluding 2005). Year after year, Gallery provided a sharp-looking set and even sharper inserts, with awesome artistic tones. You may recall some of my previous Gallery breaks but if you need a reminder, here’s a look at the versions of 1998 and 2000. For now though, have a look at where it all began, 1996 Topps Gallery!
Box Details: 24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack, $35
From: Dave and Adam’s Card World
Base set: The base set is comprised of 180 cards. Each base card contains one of four different designs, depending on where they fall in the set. The first 108 cards are pure full-bleed photos with a holofoil nameplate, as evidenced by the Kevin Appier card. Cards 109-126 (The Modernists) feature a colorful block background and consist mainly of players who were in their third or fourth MLB year in ’96. Cards 127-144 are titled as The Futurists and as you would expect, consist solely of rookies. Lastly, cards 145-180 are entitled The Masters and feature the very best in the game, such as Greg Maddux. The semi-border and nameplate resemble that of a framed masterpiece and heavily influenced the design of the following year’s set. In this box, I pulled 115 out of 180 base cards (64%) with 63 dupes and 2 triples! There was a major collation flaw in this box that I will discuss later.
Players Private Issue (1:8 packs, /999): The first-ever Topps Gallery parallel was known as the Players Private Issue. This parallel mirrored the entire 180-card set and can be identified by a gold holofoil stamp on the front of each card. The print run on these cards is 999, but a couple things should be noted. First, the first 100 cards were sent to the players themselves, hence the name of the parallel. Second, it was announced after the 1996 season that Topps destroyed a whopping 400 sets, leaving 499 left in circulation. I pulled PPI cards of Geronimo Berroa (492), John Wetteland (450), Paul Wilson (638), and Jeff Suppan (306). These cards are numbered “xxx” rather than the standard “xxx/xxx” that we’ve all been accustomed to for years.
Expressionists (20 cards, 1:24 packs): The only insert in this product inserted at a rate not worse than one per box is known as Expressionists. These cards are smothered in several different types of foil and have somewhat of a raised texture to them. The photographs on these are superb. This card features a shot of Gary Sheffield popping up a can of corn. The checklist is certainly a diverse one. Mike Piazza, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, Ray Lankford, Carlos Baerga, Dennis Martinez, and Edgar Martinez are in this set as well.
Photo Gallery (15 cards, 1:30 packs): Photo Gallery is a full-bleed insert that featured some of the game’s biggest stars and some of the greatest moments of the 1995 season, such as Eddie Murray’s 3000th hit or in my case, David Justice hitting the game-winning home run in Game 6 of the World Series. Special foil effects were also added to each photo. Check out this Randy Johnson, for example.
Mickey Mantle Masterpiece (1:48 packs): Like most other Topps products in 1996, Gallery also had a tribute insert to the late Mickey Mantle. Unlike some other inserts, this Masterpiece insert was done extremely well and actually served a purpose. The back of the card depicts a smiling Mickey, along with complete career stats. As annoying as some of his inserts in recent years have been (screw you HRH), this one’s a keeper.
Over half (56.5%) of the base cards I needed for the base set had a dupe or triple. In fact, the dupes accounted for more than one-third of the box’s contents! The issue that I mentioned earlier was the fact that in every pack, the second and third card were exactly the same. Yes, this happened in all 24 packs! You probably know that I like to try to collate sets when I bust a box so I don’t have to tell you how much this annoyed me. The rest of the box delivered well in my favor, though. I pulled one more PPI card than normal and also found a Mantle Masterpiece as an added bonus.
The condition of these cards was by far the best part of the box. I was very happy with how clean these super glossy cards came out. There were few blemishes to be found.
All the PPI cards were pure commons (though I love the Wetteland) and one of my inserts was of Gary Sheffield. Not good. If it weren’t for the Mantle, this box probably would’ve been a total bust, but at least the cards look sharp.
Compared to some of the other years of Gallery, 1996 has fewer actual inserts and more PPI parallels, which is something I’m not exactly fond of. The reason for this is probably that I don’t think much of a parallel which is nothing more than a stamp (one of the reasons you see no Pacific breaks here). They just don’t stand out, are pretty easy to miss, and give the illusion that 20+ packs out of a 24-pack box contain nothing but plain base cards. Boring.
Anyway, back to the inserts. If you haven’t already, go ahead and check out the earlier Gallery breaks I linked to at the beginning of the post. Based on the odds, it would be hard to pull more content out a box than I did here, but I still wasn’t as impressed as I was when I broke those other boxes. I suppose it’s just a quality over quantity issue. All three boxes can be had for roughly the same price but when it comes down to pulling parallels of likely commons with just two additional inserts vs. pulling several inserts of stars plus potential big hits such as printing plates or even autographs, I think I’d stick with the later years of Gallery, preferably before they switched to the all-painted sets.
Overall Grade: C
Just a few days ago, while browsing for some new box break material for this blog, I came across a box of some old Stadium Club for just $13 plus shipping. This box came from 1996, the year that SC went “extreme.” What? It says so right on the box! (link)
Box Details: 24 packs per box, 10 cards per pack, $13 plus S/H
Base set: The base set in Series 1 is comprised of 225 cards. The first 180 of these are the short set, which are followed by 45 Team SC shortprint cards. On the backs of these “TSC” cards, players were given a special productivity rating based how many at bats they needed to create a run. The formula used for this was as follows: At Bats/(RBI+Runs+HR). The top five at each position (including DH) could be found in this set. These cards were seeded one per pack and were exclusive to Series 1. In this box I pulled 125 basic short set cards and 24 different TSC cards, for 66.2%. Between duplicates, triples, and even some quads, the extras count reached 80. 80!!!!
Before I move on, there’s one more look at some of the base cards. These are a few of my favorite horizontal photographs from the set, as well as TSC short prints of the 1994 MVP’s who were born on the same exact day in 1968. Revel in the awesomeness that is Stadium Club!
Extreme Players: Now, I’ll explain the whole “extreme” concept I mentioned at the beginning. 180 total players (90 from each series) had an “extreme player” logo stamped on the front of their card. As you can tell from the scan, these logos were stamped in either bronze (1:12 packs), silver (1:24 packs), or gold foil (1:48 packs).
How it Worked: Each of the “extreme players” were rated against one another based on a point system based on their final 1996 statistics. Players earned points based on these categories: home runs, RBI, stolen bases, batting average, wins, saves, and ERA. After season’s end, the top point-getter at each position, including both starting and relief pitcher, would be announced and if you held an “extreme player” card of any of the ten winners, you could redeem your card for a special prize. The prizes varied depending on which foil version of the winning card you owned.
Bronze Prize: A 10-card bronze diffraction foil set of the winners
Silver Prize: A 10-card Topps Finest Refractor-style set of the winners
Gold Prize: A Topps Finest Gold-style Refractor of just the winner(s) redeemed
This box yielded Bronze cards of Mark Grace and Heathcliff Slocumb, a Silver Joe Girardi, and a Gold Todd Worrell. It just so happens that Todd Worrell was one of the ten winners so if I pulled this card back then, I could’ve redeemed it for the special Gold Prize of Mr. Worrell. Oh well, I’ll just toss this in the Night Owl pile.
Mantle inserts (1:24 packs): Inserted at a one per box rate are a series of inserts paying tribute to the late Mickey Mantle. I know that many people are sick of seeing Mantle inserts, but I’m OK with these. These cards are fairly simplistic and the borderless photos look very good. Here a few other shots from this set. There are nine of these inserts found in packs of Series 1, one fewer than those found in Series 2.
Prime Cuts (1:36 Hobby, 1:72 Retail): Found in every third retail box on average, the Prime Cuts inserts feature laser cut technology (similar to that year’s Topps Laser set) and gold foil over the player’s name and the word “CUTS.” The back of my Albert Belle card reveals the years in which Albert reached his then-career highs in stolen bases, RBI, home runs, and five other categories.
Midsummer Matchups (1:48 Hobby, 1:24 Retail): It seems a bit strange that an insert would have more favorable retails odds than hobby, doesn’t it? That is just the case with the Midsummer Matchups inserts, found in every retail box but only every other hobby box on average. These dual-sided inserts feature the starters of the 1995 All-Star Game. The players are grouped together by the position they started in the game. These cards have a metallic finish to them and contain multiple ASG and league logos. Hideo Nomo occupies the front of this card while Randy Johnson can be found on the other.
Megaheroes (1:48 Hobby, 1:24 Retail): The final insert of this box contains the same exact pack odds that the Midsummer Matchups do, and it’s called Megaheroes. With a rainbow foil finish and illustrative background, these cards look like something out of the Metal Universe line. My pull was of Ken Griffey, Jr. Several backgrounds in this set are unique to the player depicted on the card. For example, Roger Clemens has a rocket background and Andres Galarraga has a “big cat” background. Then, there’s this Deion Sanders card, which pays tribute to another pro team he played for.
Final Thoughts/Grade: I thought I’d try something a little different. Rather than just talking about the product/box in general, I thought I’d assign an overall letter grade to each box I open from this point forward. This would apply only to the particular box I busted and wouldn’t necessarily reflect my opinion of the product as a whole. I will be judging these four aspects of each box:
Collation: How many base cards (including SP’s) from my box came with at least one duplicate? FIFTY-FOUR PERCENT! Enough said. Grade: F. This is a major peeve of mine as I like to actually build sets from boxes I bust.
Condition: Were there any quality issues, such as dinged corners and miscuts on the cards? Thankfully, there were very few issues with the cards’ condition. I believe there were only a couple cards with any real damage and they were just a couple of common duplicates. Grade: A-
Pulls: The inserts delievered as promised and then some! There were no guarantees on the Prime Cuts or Extreme Gold cards, but I pulled one of each. The inserts themselves were pretty fun. Grade: A
Value: I think this goes without saying. While boxes of this product will run for about $20 and up BEFORE shipping, I picked this retail box up for just under $20 AFTER shipping. For less than the price of your standard blaster box, I got over 200 cards, a nice chunk of the Series 1 set, nearly half of the Series 1 shortprints, and seven other inserts on top of those. Grade: A
Final Grade: B+. If it weren’t for the lousy collation, this box surely would’ve gotten an “A” for all the positives I just mentioned. I’m not the biggest set collector out there, but when I have a ton of cards from the same set laying around, I just have to go for it. And when trying to build a set, nothing drives me crazier than seeing the same damn cards in every other pack! Peeving dupes aside, this was still a very good box that shows how good Stadium Club can be when done right.
P.S. Make sure you vote on the You Make the Call! post below and tell me what product you’d like to see busted here!