Even though the concept of the autographed card on ball material didn’t originate with Upper Deck, one can say they certainly took the idea to heights that made them very popular with collectors. Today, we’ll look back at what turned out to be a pretty groundbreaking insert, the original Sweet Spot Signatures set.
Each box of 2001 Upper Deck Sweet Spot consisted of 18 packs and each box guaranteed to land a game-used jersey card, one game-used bat card, and either a game-used base card or a Sweet Spot Signature card in addition to a special cross-brand Joe DiMaggio box topper pack. This Paul O’Neill card has been one of my favorites in my personal collection for years and luckily for me, the ink on this card has managed to hold its own, which is more than you can say about some of some the cards produced in the years that followed. This card is one of 53 in the set and other subjects include Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, Stan Musial, and even cut ball cards of Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, and BABE RUTH!
Boxes of 2001 UD Sweet Spot are pretty difficult to find and when they surface, they can rarely be found for under $200 so keep in mind before you make a purchase, that your big box hit may be of Mike Lamb.
In mid-2001, Upper Deck released a product named SP Game Bat Milestone Edition. Inside each pack was a Milestone, International, Bound for the Hall, Autographed, or multi-player game bat card. While the first three sets on that list represented the most common pulls (They also had a gold parallel numbered to 35), the autographed and multi-player cards were very difficult to pull, seeded at 1 in 100 packs and 1 in 50 packs respectively. The multi-player cards I speak of feature either three (as pictured) or four players per card. This card of Paul O’Neill, David Justice, and Roger Clemens is just one of 14 Trios available. For the complete Trios checklist, click here.
In 2001, Topps Gold Label introduced its first-ever game-used relics with the MLB Award Ceremony set. Consisting of nearly 90 relics, the checklist is huge and features players such as Bonds, Ripken, Jeter, Griffey, Maddux, Clemens, Piazza, Nomo, McGwire, and Canseco.
Each card depicted a player who has won one of the following awards during their career:
World Series MVP
Rookie of the Year
League Leader in any of the three Triple Crown categories (one for each category)
Several players are found on more than one card in this set, based on the awards they’ve accomplished. Despite this, the checklist is very diverse and contains some of the only game-used cards you’ll ever see of Dante Bichette, Marty Cordova, John Wetteland, Scott Brosius, and Todd Hollandsworth.
MLB Award Ceremony relics are seeded 1 in every 24 packs.
In 2001, Upper Deck released a product in which relics such as jerseys, balls, and gloves were plentiful. It was called Gold Glove. Each box contains 20 packs of 4 cards each and contains one jersey card, one game ball, and one batting glove card on average. Inserted into every third box on average are Leather Bound fielding glove cards, some of which feature an autographed variation. The Leather Bound Autographs (as shown here) are very tough pulls seeded 1 in every 12 boxes. Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Frank Thomas, Dave Winfield, and Ken Griffey, Jr. are among the other players who signed cards for this set.
In the late 1990’s, Upper Deck produced a retro-style set called (appropriately enough) Upper Deck Retro. Unlike other retro sets like Topps Heritage, Allen and Ginter, T206/5, and others, the base design was original and not influenced by a past set. Another characteristic that made Retro stand out was its packaging. The twenty-four packs from each hobby box were not contained by your standard cardboard display but rather a collectible lunch box (link). Each lunchbox contained one of nine different players or a combination of two of the nine.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. In every box of 1999 UD Retro was a hard signed Inkredible autographed card. This set boasts an impressive checklist featuring Nolan Ryan, Ken Griffey, Jr., George Brett, Don Mattingly, Tony Gwynn, Harmon Killebrew, Robin Yount, Chipper Jones, and a very, very elusive signer, Bernie Williams. A second level parallel mirrors the entire set and features a gold coloring instead of the red you see above. The print runs on the second level parallels are based on the player’s jersey number. Here’s an example of a Nolan Ryan currently on eBay.