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Old School Hits: 2001 Topps Gallery Heritage Game Jersey

In 2001, for the very first time, Topps Gallery featured an all-painted set. Every card, from the base set and autographed and game-used sets, was painted. Among these sets is the Heritage Game Jersey set, which you may recognize as being patterned after the 1965 Topps set. In total, there are five players on this set’s checklist: Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and Vladimir Guerrero (who was available only via redemption). In addition, Cepeda and McCovey had autographed variations limited to just 25 copies (Cepeda was a redemption). Heritage Game Jersey cards were inserted at a rate of 1 in 133 packs. That’s only 1 per every 5.5 boxes of Heritage!

1996 Topps Gallery Baseball Review

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

96galleryBase 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.

96galleryppiPlayers 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.

96galleryinsertsExpressionists (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.

Final Thoughts/Grades:

Collation: D

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.

Condition: A-

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.

Pulls: C

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.

Value: C+

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

2002 Topps Gallery Baseball Review

Last week, while holding my first-ever complimentary group break for the readers of this blog, I had opened up boxes of three different 2002 products, all of which guaranteed “hits” that were enjoyed by many. Shortly thereafter, I busted an additional box for myself, unbeknownst to all of you, until now. This box also came from the year 2002 and was recently busted by Ben of Cardboard Icons. Of course, I am talking about Topps Gallery. The box claims that this product is a “Setbuilder’s Masterpiece.” Was it right? Let’s see…

Box Details: 24 packs per box, 6 cards per pack,¬† ~$30 “street value”

Base set: With the exception of 2004 (when there was no set), Gallery was a Topps mainstay from 1996-2005. During its first five years of existence, the product’s base sets relied on actual photographs combined with some sort of unique border design. In 2001, those photographs were ditched in favor of an all-painted base set featuring the work of various artists. It would remain this way for the rest of Gallery’s hobby run.

The base set for 2002 Topps Gallery is comprised of 200 cards and breaks down like this:

Cards 1-150: Veterans
Cards 151-170: Prospects
Cards 171-190: First Year Players (True RC’s! Each of these features a red stripe across the card’s bottom)
Cards 191-200: Retired/HOF Players

02gallery
Despite the fact that twenty-five percent of the set is comprised of prospects, rookies, and retired players, cards 151-200 are not shortprinted. This box yielded 138 of 200 basic cards (69%) with just three duplicates. Seeing how I usually fall victim to horrible collation, this was a pleasant surprise.

Veteran Variations 1 (1:24 packs): Ten veteran subjects in this set have two separate card variations (in addition to their regular base card), one of which is rare and one of which is extremely rare. The rare cards are known simply as Level 1 variations. The checklist, along with each SP-defining characteristic is as follows:

1. Jason Giambi (Solid Blue Background)
2. Alex Rodriguez (Gray Jersey)
3. Mike Piazza (Black Jersey)
4. Todd Helton (Solid Blue Background)
5. Albert Pujols (Red Hat)
6. Derek Jeter (Solid Blue Background)
7. Sammy Sosa (Black Bat)
8. Ivan Rodriguez (Blue Jersey)
9. Pedro Martinez (Red Shirt)
10. Ichiro (Empty Dugout)

Needless to say, these cards can be a real pain to spot unless you pull a card with a background variation. Click the link next to Mr. Jeter’s name for an example. I pulled a Jason Giambi in my box. However, at this time, I seem to have misremembered (oh wait, wrong Yankee) the whereabouts of this and the other inserts from this box so I scanned a regular Giambi above. Just picture that card with the background from the Jeter card.

Veteran Variations 2: While I did NOT pull any of these, here’s the second list of shortprinted variations which are much, much harder to find. These variations were seeded 1 in every 4065 packs (!) on average. If memory serves me correctly, the print run on these was only 25 or so.

Heritage (1:12 packs): Prior to 2002, the Heritage inserts were painted cards based off the designs from the Topps sets of 1953, 1954, and 1965. In 2002, Topps took a different direction with this set. Rather than revert to one old Topps design, they did so with twenty of them! Each player in this set is featured on a painted version of their first Topps card. The first Heritage card I pulled was a Greg Maddux (1987 Topps Traded).

heritagemaddux
The second Heritage card was a Carl Yastzemski (1960 Topps). I had to resort to using Beckett stock images for both the Maddux and Yaz.

yazheritage
The design of these inserts range from 1954-2001 (and that’s not even for Ichiro!). In addition, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, and Bret Boone autographed 25 copies each.

Autogamers: Autographed cards and game-used cards fall at a combined rate of 1:44 packs. Unfortunately, I did not receive either in this box. Nine cards from the Heritage set come with a game-used variation. Greg Maddux is one of those nine players and he’s depicted as an Atlanta Brave (as opposed to a Cub) on his game-used card. The photos of the other eight players were unedited.

The other game-used set in ’02 Gallery is a 15-card set known as Gallery Originals, an all bat card set featuring players such as Albert Pujols, Tony Gwynn, Mike Piazza, and everyone’s favorite ballplayers: “A-Fraud” and Canseco. These cards feature a piece of bat exposed by a window made to look like part of an artist’s paint board, with an orgy of colors surrounding that.

Finally, there are autographs to be found in this product as well. There are nine autographs in total, seeded 1 in every 240 packs on average. These autographs are all hard signed and look terrific! Some of the players in this set include Bret Boone (example), Lance Berkman, Magglio Ordonez, J.D. Drew, and Jorge Posada (this one has been on my wantlist for a while).

Final Thoughts: I really miss Topps Gallery, at least in this format. The following year, the set was structured in a similar fashion in relation to set size and variations, but one-per-pack holofoil Artist’s Proof parallels were included. If that wasn’t bad enough, the number of cards per pack was reduced from six to five. Let’s get this straight. You have a beautiful 200-card painted base set and you drop the number of cards per pack PLUS one of those cards will now be (instead of a base card) a stupid parallel?? Are you kidding? I happen to like some shiny cards and/or parallels but NOT WHEN THEY ACCOUNT FOR TWENTY PERCENT OF THE DAMN PACK! And they did this to Gallery of all products? I won’t even discuss 2005’s abomination in which they tried to pass of Gallery as an artsy variation of Finest. No joke. The box was divided into three mini-boxes with a guaranteed hit in each! For whatever reason, I opened one such mini box a few years ago and pulled a relic of Angel Berroa. This was what replaced my base cards and drove up the price of one of my all-time favorite products? What the hell was that?

Anyway, getting back to the task at hand. The 2002 edition of Gallery was the last one I personally enjoyed, for the reasons mentioned above. Despite some very corny variations and a couple of awkward-looking base cards, this product is still a winner. An extra base card or two per pack (non-parallels of course!) would’ve been nice, but I’m not complaining. For just about $30, you’ll end up with a good chunk of the base set, a couple of inserts, and possibly an autogamer. I’ll probably end up purchasing another box to try and hand collate this set. Maybe I’ll pull that Jorge!

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

1998 Topps Gallery Baseball Review

gallery981I think it’s about time for another box review so here’s a recap of what I pulled from a box of 1998 Topps Gallery recently. Each box contains 24 packs of 6 cards each and can be had for about $40 or so. Here are the goods:

Base set: The base set is comprised of 150 cards, split into five subsets/variations: Portraits (18), Permanent Collection (50), Expressionists (23), Exhibitions (27) and Impressions (14). An example of each can be found in the scan. There are some really great photos in this set! Overall I pulled 132 base cards (88%) with 7 duplicates. If anyone has any of these laying around, let me know and I’ll hit you with my wantlist!

Players Private Issue (1:17 packs): Serially numbered to 250, the PPI parallel mirrors the entire set and are found approximately one per box. I pulled two from this box: Dean Palmer and Alan Benes. The Benes came from the pack with some damage to the bottom left side of the card.

NOTE: Every pack of ’98 Gallery came with a PPI Auction card. They looked like the real PPI parallels except they weren’t printed on cardboard nor did they have the canvas feel to them. Each auction card had a point total on the back (25-100). Using these points (I assume you needed zillions of them), one could bid on some original sports art.

Awards Gallery (1:24 packs): All three insert sets in this product are inserted at a rate of 1 in every 24 packs. This first set, Awards Gallery, highlights ten players who won some sort of major award or led the league in some major statistical category in 1997. I pulled a Scott Rolen, who was the NL ROY in ’97. If anyone cares, Griffey, Clemens, and Larry Walker are also dressed in tuxedos in this set.

Photo Gallery¬† (1:24 packs): Photo Gallery is a ten-card set that features some of the game’s best. You can probably figure out the checklist yourselves. Like the Awards Gallery card, this card has a foil finish to it. But it’s Bonds. So blah.

Gallery of Heroes (1:24 packs): If any one of you look at that Mike Piazza card and wonder where the sticker autograph is, I order you to never read this blog again. Gallery of Heroes, a die-cut stained glass insert, debuted in 1997 Topps Gallery. In 1998, the checklist expanded from the original ten to fifteen players and jumbo variations were included as a box topper. I pulled a regular version of Mike Piazza and a jumbo of Frank Thomas.

What WASN’T Pulled: The PPI cards aren’t the only parallels in this product. There is a Gallery Proof parallel which is limited to just 125. These cards are seeded 1 in every 34 packs on average. There are also printing plates to be found (1 in 537 packs). A black, yellow, cyan, and magenta plate could be found for the front and back of each card in the set. When was the last time they made plates for card backs?

Final Thoughts: This box was a blast to open. The inserts looked great and the base photos kept me entertained, whether it was Carlos Delgado screaming at his bat or Frank Thomas doing his Diana Ross impersonation. The boxes aren’t very expensive and should give you a near complete set. I’d definitely recommend this stuff.

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

2000 Topps Gallery Baseball Review

Topps Gallery has always been known for being an art-themed product, but before it went to being a strictly-painted set, Gallery had a very attractive base set with unique and vibrant photographs, to go along with some of the most unique (and coolest!) inserts the hobby has ever seen. Containing 24 packs of 6 cards each, a box of 2000 Topps Gallery can be had for very cheap, and it sure gives some bang for the buck! I recently picked up a box for $25 and was very pleased with the results. And here they are…

Base cards: In a similar fashion to 1999 Finest, this set is comprised of 100 base cards, with a subsequent 50-card subset. The cards in the subset are found 1 per pack and feature a veteran or rookie/young star. The veterans (cards 101-120) are noted as Masters of the Game while the rookies/young stars (cards 121-150) are noted as Students of the Game. In this box, I completed the base set 1-100 with 14 duplicates. From the subset, I received 24 different cards, with no duplicates (YES!!). By the way, check out that base card of Miguel “33 is the new 31” Tejada. Hilarious.

Player’s Private Issue: Seeded 1 in every 20 packs, this is the more-easily attainable parallel of the base set. What’s the less attainable parallel you may ask? How about 1/1 printing plates, seeded 1:1199 packs (yes, there were plates back then!). Anyway, the Private Player’s Issue features a silver font on the card’s front (as opposed to the normal gold) and are limited to just 250. I pulled a Tony Clark, serially numbered 159/250.

Gallery Exhibits: This is a very attractive insert set that I hadn’t even seen until I busted this box. Found 1 in 18 packs, this Chipper Jones card has got this kind of “Greek Gods exhibit” theme to it that really makes it stand out. This is a prime example of the cool, unique inserts found throughout the Gallery series.

Gallery of Heroes: These cards are GORGEOUS, and I challenge anyone to disagree. These cards feature the design of a stained-glass window you’d see at church. I pulled the Sammy Sosa in this set. These are found 1 in 24 packs. I’ll let the scan speak for itself.

Proof Positive: Each card in this set features a combination of a veteran player and a rising star at the same position. The concept is pretty much the same as the Mirror Image insert sets once found in Bowman’s Best. I beat the odds on this one, as these cards are only found in every other box on average. My card featured Mike Piazza and Eric Munson.

Heritage: Does this name sound familiar? Much like Topps Co-Signers, Fleer Sweet Sigs (and probably more that I’m not thinking of), Topps Heritage was an insert set before it became a set. In this particular set, the design was taken from that of 1954 Topps. They were seeded 1 in 12 packs and also feature a “proof” parallel which can be found 1 in 27 packs. I did not receive a proof parallel, but did receive regular Heritage inserts of Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa. These Topps Gallery Heritage inserts are classic, IMO.

This box was definitely a blast to open. While it was a little strange seeing the same guys in my inserts (Piazza and Sosa), the combination of a cheap price and some superb inserts make this product a winner. You’ll also be able to put together a base set (minus SP’s) from a box, in all likelihood, and that’s a bonus I’d take any day. If you get the itch to bust some wax, I would definitely recommend 2000 Topps Gallery for the reasons mentioned above. The best part is, it’ll only cost you the same as a pack of UD Trilogy!

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