Have Signature Cards Become the Base Cards of Today?

1990 Upper Deck Reggie Auto

Have signature cards become the base cards of today? If we travel back in time to the first in-pack signatures cards, they would be of course in 1990 when Upper Deck included Reggie Jackson signed Baseball Heroes cards in their High Series boxes. At that time the hobby was leaving the Error Craze behind and entering the Insert Craze.

1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations F. Thomas

Signature cards were popular but they were not as popular as your basic inserts. For a time collectors left collecting a player’s rookie card as their card of choice and pursued the player’s rarest insert, even if occasionally that insert card was released two or three years after the player’s rookie card.1992’s Fleer Rookie Sensations inserts was a prime example. Many preferred Frank Thomas’ Rookie Sensations card over his Leaf rookie card from two years earlier.

Slowly though, the basic insert began to lose ground to the more popular signature and game used cards that were inserted into packs since Jackson’s was released in 1990. The signature card itself, whether as an insert or a redemption began taking over the collecting world until it seems that now, it is the card that everyone pursues. Base rookie cards seem unimportant to the modern collector who much prefers a card of a young star player that includes his signature, a game used bat or uniform piece, or both. They now sometimes pay thousands of dollars for these cards, and if not, it is usually at minimum in the hundreds.

2013 Bowmaqn Chrome Draft Aaron Judge Auto

2013 Bowmaqn Chrome Draft Aaron Judge Auto

Has the signature card replaced the base rookie, or base first card, of a player as the card that best represents him in a collector’s PC? Has the signature card become the modern day’s basic insert card of the 1990’s? It seems so. The craze for inserts in the ’90s eventually fizzled out and the rookie, or first card (with Bowman becoming a staple in the collecting world there are lots of first cards that don’t qualify as rookie cards) gained prominence once again. But not for very long it seems as today everyone is trading and talking about the latest signature card, not the rookie or first card of a player. Collectors now buy cases of product to increase their chances of hitting a nice looking rare signature card, leaving the thousands of base and insert cards aside to try to get rid of later.

Are base cards even important anymore? Does anyone try to complete base sets at all? Is doing that too boring for the modern collector? It seems PCs involve only the collector’s favorite players or favorite team. With the thousands of rare cards release every year, to the point where if you wanted to complete a master set of a certain set, you would need to find and buy literally over 10,000 cards, of which many will be numbered to under 5 or even 1/1’s, it is easy to see why most collectors gave up on set collecting and reduced their ambitions to players or teams. It is less frustrating and, in a way, more enjoyable (you actually have a better chance of completing you PC of a player or team than you would a set).

2016 Bowman Chrome Connor Green Auto

2016 Bowman Chrome Connor Green Auto

I, personally wonder why collectors aren’t more frustrated with collecting today. If they pursue signature, relic, game-used cards of prospects, which is what they need to do if they wish to even have a reasonable chance of getting the player’s card at an affordable price, they still set themselves up to have a worthless PC in the future as 99% of these prospects never make the major leagues, of if they do never have a HOF-type career which would justify their inclusion in a majority of collector’s PCs. Budget-minded collectors must spend hundreds of dollars so that they don’t spend thousands of dollars later on the few cards of prospects who actually make it and succeed spectacularly. They think they are saving money in the long run but most of the time they actually aren’t. Depending on how expansive the prospect collecting is, and for many it is quite wide so they don’t have some falling through the cracks and succeeding without them in their collections, a collector can expect to see 100s of the cards they spent $100.00-plus on become $5.00 throw-aways in bargain bins at their LCS or on eBay within a few years.

Is it all worth it? I guess so because the behavior continues. Personally, I don’t have the wallet to act in this way. I gave up long ago on modern signature/relic cards and am stuck back in the 80s and 90s completing sets I collected in my youth. For me, that is much more satisfying and a lot less expensive.

$70.00 for Bryce Harper?

2012 Topps Update Hobby Box

2012 Topps Update Hobby Box

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper - Shirt and Jacket

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper – Shirt and Jacket

It was a fun idea. Usually, I am more apt to buy sets and/or cards from pre 90s days but I decided to try something more recent this time. Buying boxes over the internet is not usually a smart thing. eBay and other sites really nail you on the shipping costs (and usually a small mark up on the product as well). Blow Out Cards occasionally has some good deals, but it is usually on boxes of product that has failed to sell when it first came out, or was over-printed. The best way to get exactly what you want and to save money is to buy locally.

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper

In my city, there is one shop that beats out all others in pricing for all sports cards and sports cards supplies. I won’t plug it but suffice it to say they are usually about 20% cheaper than their competition. When I decide to collect something, I want to collect all of the year’s base cards. The main series and the update/rookie series as well. With Topps that usually means collecting three series of cards (Series I, Series II, and the Update). I looked over the stock of my local dealer and found that 2012 was the more recent of his product that he had boxes for all three series of cards. Other years he would have one, or sometimes two, of the series but not three.

2012 Topps Update #US183

2012 Topps Update #US183

Over the next few weeks I went in and purchases three boxes from Series One, then again three boxes from Series Two, when I returned for the Update boxes, I was in for quite a surprise. Series One sold for $34.99, Series Two for $39.99. Because I bought multiple boxes the dealer gave me a discount of 5% which further reduce my costs. But with the Update boxes he wouldn’t budge. Plus he was charging 105.00 per box. Being less knowledgeable about more recent players and cards I asked why the sharp price increase? The dealer, a man who knows much more about hockey than baseball couldn’t really tell me. He reacts to the marketplace was all he could say. I did some research and it seems that the Update set includes the rookie card and parallels etc. of Bryce Harper.

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper - Horizontal

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper – Horizontal

Now, tell me if I’m wrong but are there not many more cards that have been produced of Bryce Harper before 2012. Bowman and Topps have Harper cards in there sets in 2011. Upper Deck produced a Harper card way back in 2008. Not technically rookie cards, they nevertheless dilute the water of Bryce Harper cards. You would think demand would be much less for Harper’s actual rookie cards because of it. So why would a $70.00 price increase for the 2012 Topps Update boxes be warranted? I can’t figure it out. I passed on purchasing any of these boxes and decided to buy the base set online for $50.00.

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.