A Love of the Minis

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

I started seriously collecting baseball cards back in 1992. I was 26 yrs. of age and the catalyst was the Blue Jays winning the pennant and the World Series. Not that I was a Jays fan because I wasn’t (the Mariners and Expos were my teams) it was just that baseball, my favourite sport, was at the time, a rival to hockey for the attention of the nation (Canada).

With the added interest in baseball, cards were selling everywhere. It wasn’t as difficult to trade and collect baseball cards. Gas stations carried Upper Deck, Donruss, Fleer, Topps, and Score packs, department stores and corner stores carried boxes of product. And there seemed to be a new card shop opening in the city I lived every three to six months.

Like most people new to a hobby, I collected the new and hot products. But it didn’t take long before I realized that much of what was being sold was not worth the price. When boxes were sold at a higher price than you could get for the individulal cards inside them (unless you hit a rare insert or autograph card), especially when they were produced in the millions, it was time to move on to something different. Myself I looked backwards.

1952 Bowman Baseball Card Pack

1952 Bowman Baseball Card Pack

I wanted to collect a vintage card set. I looked at all the sets from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s and found only one set that would be inexpensive enough to collect, large enough to make it a challenge, and available enough not to wait months before finding any of the cards. That set was the 1952 Bowman set. The Bowman cards became my favourite cards because of this and two other reasons.

The first was that they were art cards rather than photographs. I like the combination of art and sport. Although some photos are skillful, most are routine and boring. But art cards, they show skill with every image.

The second reason was their smaller size. After opening thousands of packs of regular sized baseball cards, a set of smaller cards was a refreshing change. The 1952 Bowman set began my love for smaller cards.

Thirty years later I am still collecting the ’52 Bowmans, but I have in the past, and still do today, collect other mini card sets. Below are some of my personal favourites.

1993 Humpty Dumpty

1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball

1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball

The 1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball set consists of 50 player cards and an unnumbered checklist card. They were only distributed in Canada. They were sold inside bags of Humpty Dumpty potato chips, one card per bag. The cards were sealed in a cellophane wrapper. The cards measure 1-7/16″ x 1-15/16″.

The fronts were full bleed images of 50 stars and semi-stars of the major leagues including Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, George Brett, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith. A mail in offer was available to attain a red plastic binder including five polypropylene twelve-pocketed sheets that hold the cards.

It was enjoyable to collect these cards except for the weight gain. The completion of this set was difficult though as you came across many duplicates before getting the complete run. I eventually stopped eating the chips and just took the cards from the bags. Once I was up to four cards on some of the players yet not receice any of a few others I stopped. I completed the set through trades online after that.

1991 & 1992 Cracker Jack Minis

1991 & 1992 Carcker Jack Mini Baseball Cards

1991 & 1992 Carcker Jack Mini Baseball Cards

These are actually two different sets. The 1991 set was produced by Topps and look like a mini version of their 40th Anniversary regular set. The 1992 set was produced by Donruss and they look similar to Donruss’ 1992 regular set.  Out of all the mini cards I have collected over the years these are the tiniest. They measure just 1 1/4″ X 1 3/4″ each.

Although the fronts look like the Topps and Donruss sets, the backs are completely different. Each of the two years came in two series of 36 cards each. That would be 72 cards each for 1991 and 1992. They came in specially marked boxes of Cracker Jack, one card per box.

1991 Topps Series II Cracker Jack Box and Surprize

1991 Topps Series II Cracker Jack Box and Surprize

The two years’ sets contain almost every Hall of Fame player from the era including Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk, Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin, Frank Thomas, Ozzie Smith, Dennis Eckersley, Craig Biggio, and Tom Glavine.

A mail-in offer for a mini card album with six top loading plastic pages for $4.95 per album was available at the time.

Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Collector Album

Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Collector Album

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cuts

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cut #136 Carlos Beltran

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cut #136 Carlos Beltran

In 2007, Upper Deck put out the last set of cards under the Fleer name. This 400 card set had a mini parallel set that I enjoy collecting. The cards are the same as the regular set except that the border has been removed. The cards measure 2 1/8″ X 3″. In a typical box you will pull between 15-20 of these cards so although not extremely limited, you will need to buy a case or two to come close to finishing the set. I prefer to look to the secondary market for the cards where I occasionally found lots of 20 or more available for a reasonable cost. This set is also available in a gold version which is super tough to collect. You might pull one card from every few boxes if you are lucky. I busted open four boxes myself and found only one of these cards.

2012 Topps 1987 Mini Cards

2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM38 Chase Utley

2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM38 Chase Utley

This set of 150 cards is fun to collect if you were a fan of the 1987 Topps set. The cards measure 2 1/8″ X 3 1/8″ and come at approximately 8 to 10 per hobby box. I pulled nine from a box I opened recently. The 150 cards are split between three series. 2012 Topps Series One has the first 50 cards. Series Two has the second 50 cards, and the Update set has the last 50 cards. You would need a case of each series to complete the set.

There are many other tiny cards out there including all the pre 1954 Bowman cards and the original Cracker Jack cards from 1914. Most of the pre WWII cards were irregularly shaped including many in tiny format. Unfortunately, nice looking cards from that era can be quite expensive. If you really want a monster challenge and money is no object, the T206 cards from 1909-11 are tiny and very fun to collect. With over 500 cards in the set, including the Honus Wagner card you better be prepared to spend millions to complete that set. Personally, I will, with the occasional exception, stick with the cards mentioned above as those are the ones I can afford.

The Craziness That Is Kijiji

 

Kijiji Logo

Kijiji Logo

So I’m looking on Kijiji a couple weeks ago for baseball cards in the city I live. It’s good to check out Kijiji as sometimes you can get lucky and find cards at bargain basement prices and not worry about the cost of shipping. For example, I purchased five super boxes of cards plus five complete sets, all from 1985 to 1993 for $50.00 a couple months ago. It was over 20k cards and helped complete sets i was missing individual cards from. I also picked up five rookie and traded sets from Score from 1985 to 1989 for $20.00 last week.

But that’s not the main reason for this post. You ever notice that with the occasional bargain you find, you have to put up with guys who think their collections are worth more than their house and rarer than a Shoeless Joe Jackson autograph? And their cards are inevitably from the 1986- 1992 time period, the most overproduced era of baseball cards.

Here is an example of what I speak:

86 LEAF-DUNROSS BASEBALL “MINT-MINT!!!unopened/ 18 cents a card!

Baseball season is just around the corner …This is a LOT of 12 ( SUPER MINT CONDITION ) manufacturer sealed packs of the 86 Dunruss baseball cards ( there are NONE out there in better condition !!!!!).. The price works out to 17.5 cents a card ( based on the fact of how many cards are in each of the factory sealed packs ! JUST TRIED COUNTING them with a magnifying glass & it seems to come to 57 cards each pack )…PROFIT TO BE MADE !!! to the right, smart person into this …see the pictures … Check my other 5 pages of ads here on Kijiji too!! Might be something else you’ve been looking for..thanks

Yes that is right $120.00 for a complete set of 1986 Donruss for God’s sake.

I emailed the guy because I was interested in the set. I informed him that he had a complete set of ’86 Donruss that came from a factory set box. Donruss sealed the cards in cellophane inside a factory sealed box. Each of the 12 sealed groups contained 55 cards to come to a total of 660 cards. The factory set also included the Diamond King puzzle cards of Hank Aaron which he did not have. With both the sealed box and the Aaron puzzle inside the factory set, the package sells in the $25 to $40 dollar range. Since his has only the cards I offered him $20.00.

eBay Listing for 1986 Donruss Factory Sets

eBay Listing for 1986 Donruss Factory Sets

He replied, “I would rather give the whole set away for free with my car as a bonus than sell these cards for that price.” So I returned by saying, “Well you can keep the car but what time should I go by your place to pick up the free cards?” That’s when he lost it. Whenever you point out a person’s obvious lack of knowledge for selling something higher than what it’s worth, or on the other hand not so much his lack of knowledge but his obvious plan to try and rip off some schmuck who doesn’t know much about what he is buying, the person always gets angry at you.

I finally replied, “Dude your ad has been posted and reposed for the last 6 months on Kijiji. No one wants your cards except me. They are baseball cards, not hockey, you live in Canada not New York, and the cards are very common to find and are nothing special. When you decide to get your head out of your ass, send me an email and I will still buy them off you for $20.00.”

He gave me a final reply that included more expletives than regular words and we haven’t conversed since.

Although you can find lots of bargains on Kijiji, you better watch out and research the stuff you want to buy before you purchase it, otherwise you might pay $120.00 for a set of ’86 Donruss cards.

Before I leave you, here is an even more blatant example of a person trying to rip-off an ignorant public. I took a screen shot of five offerings he posted:

Kijiji Baseball Card Ads

Kijiji Baseball Card Ads

Not only did he get the year of the cards incorrect (they are from 1991 not 1990), he misleads people that Johnson was a Mariner before an Expo, when the exact opposite is true. Anyone who collects baseball cards knows these 1991 Donruss and Upper Deck cards are practically worthless. They were overproduced and if they would ever get sold, it would be for pennies not multiple dollars.

The Collectors Choice Magazine by Upper Deck, Was It Ever Made?

1991 Upper Deck The Collector's Choice Magazine Offer Card

1991 Upper Deck The Collector’s Choice Magazine Offer Card

I came across some advert cards (see above) in a box of random 91 UD baseball, and 90-91 UD hockey, that I bought off a guy recently. On these cards it advertises that you could get Upper Deck’s first premiere issue of something called The Collectors Choice Magazine. All you had to do was send in this card after you filled out your address etc. on the reverse of the card.

With the popularity of Upper Deck cards at the time (1991) I would assume many people sent in these cards to get the free magazine. Yet looking all over the internet I can’t find one listing or sales offer for this magazine. Did Upper Deck actually print this magazine and distribute it to those who filled out and sent in the card?

Making Smart Choices, You Decide?

The 90’s was the decade that ushered in the Authentic Company Made Autograph. No need go to card shows across the nation to get a famous retired Hall of Famer to sign a card for you. Just buy hundreds of boxes of baseball cards and find a licenced signature card. Upper Deck was the first to impliment this gimmick to convince buyers to purchase just one more box of their product (or 10, or 50). But soon after Fleer and Score joined in. But Since Upper Deck started it, I decided to use their cards as an example of what is so stupid about the pricing on these signature cards. Well, in my opinion, stupid. I’ll Let you decide for yourself.

The first ever signature card came in 1990 Upper Deck High Number boxes and it was the autograph of Reggie Jackson. Below are three cards of the slugging Hall of Famer that are priced approximately the same. Which of the three would you want the most?

Reggie Jackson Cards

Reggie Jackson Cards

The second example I will use is 1991 Upper Deck High Series that had Hank Aaron as its signature card. Which of the three cards would you prefer to have?

Hank Aaron Cards

Hank Aaron Cards

And the third example is from 1992 Upper Deck Low Series that used Ted Williams as its signature card. Which of the three would you prefer?

Ted Williams Cards

Ted Williams Cards

What I’m guessing is that most of you would choose one of the other two cards rather than the signature cards. Myself I would choose the PSA 6 Jackson, The Ungraded Aaron rookie, and the ungraded Williams rookie, which I would then send off to be graded (if it holds at NM it’s a $15,000.00 to $20,000.00 card).

Personally, I’m not a fan of autographs on cards. A signature on a card usually makes it ridiculously expensive. If I would get a player’s signature I much prefer it on a baseball or a photograph.

What do you think. Would you think the people who would choose the signature cards crazy, or no?

Michael Jordan and Baseball

As everyone my age, and even those younger, probably know Jordan dabbled in baseball back in the 90s after establishing a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. If you were alive and collecting you don’t need to be reminded of the phenomenon of athletes dabbling in more than one sport. Jordan did it. Brian Jordan and Deon Sanders did it. Probably the most famous for this type of behaviour was Bo Jackson. But I digress. If you look below you probably need no one to tell you what this card is and where it came from…

1991 Upper Deck SP1 Michael Jordan

1991 Upper Deck SP1 Michael Jordan

Along with, although not in the same caliber, Griffey Jr.’s ’89 Upper Deck card, and Frank Thomas’ ’90 Leaf card, this Jordan card was one of the most famous cards of the late ’80s, early ’90s. When this card began being pulled out of packs it created a feeding frenzy. Everyone wanted this card.

Now, 25 years later, with Jordan resting comfortably in the NBA’s Hall of Fame, this card is all but forgotten. I was perusing Kijiji the other day and came upon a listing for three of these cards. They were offered along with Jordan’s 1995 Upper Deck #200 card, a 1994 Ultra Pro card of Mike Piazza, and a factory set of 1989 Upper Deck including a real nice mint or better ungraded Griffey Jr. rookie card. I bought the cards all together for $50.00.

When I was buying the cards, I looked through them to make sure they were all there and one of the ’91 UD Jordan cards was in a toploader and had a price of $18.00. Can you imagine? It made me write this post. The other cards were also priced and by that evidence I assumed he had bought these cards all at the same time from the same dealer way back in 1991 when the baseball craze was in full tilt. The seller confirmed it. He had bought them from a dealer at a card show back in late ’91, if his memory served him correctly.

But it was the $18.00 Jordan card that I had my focus. Back in ’91 the $18.00 was a bit of a steal. Some shop owners were selling the card in the $40.00 range in my area of the world. But even at $18.00 I would have avoided buying this card at the time. In fact I had many opportunities to buy this card but I never did until quite recently. The Jordan card represented to be, a perfect example of the stupidity of the era. A card that was easily pulled from the 1991 boxes, was chased after crazily. Dealers were breaking cases of ’91 Upper Deck to get copies to sell. And people were buying them hand over fist. It took about a year, but people realized how much ’91 Upper Deck product was out there, and how easily the Jordan card was being found (every dealer in my area had at least a few copies of the card). The price fell and fell. When I came back to the hobby last year I picked up seven copies of this card for 99 cents plus 3.00 shipping off ebay. I was completing my ’91 Upper deck set.

If you were wondering what prices were on the other cards, the Piazza card had 8.00 on it and the 1989 Upper Deck factory set had $75.00 on it.

a Jordan rookie baseball card, once worth at least $18.00 is now just a common. That my friends is the culture of the junk card era.