31 March 2014

Seeking Redemption 3: R.A. Dickey 2013 Tier One Triple Swatch

Here is another in a long list of redemption cards I have pending with Topps. I currently have 7 outstanding redemptions, with 5 of them being various R. A. Dickey pieces. I wonder if I will ever see them? I have not yet had the pleasure of actually receiving a redeemed card from Topps, and at times the lack of information on their site brings me great discouragement.

Topps opened up a blog specifically to track their redemptions and who had signed what for them each week. To their credit, the blog was updated regularly for about three months. There hasn't been an update since the end of February.

Anyway, this Triple Swatch parallel completes the set, as I already had redemption codes uploaded for the Single and Double variants.

In other exciting news, I continue to neglect my family and schoolwork to sort and add cards to my Zistle collection tracker. A couple of folks on the site have already proposed trades to me, which is fairly exciting. One negative I ran into was a certain lack of organization in the 2012 Topps and Topps Update sections. There is a lot of inaccuracy and double-posting of sets. The 1987 minis were a huge frustration for me, as was the stupid manufactured ring relic I had from one of the 2012 boxes I opened.

30 March 2014

Workin' at the Card Shop 5: Spring Fever

My two youngest children were behaving horribly this morning, mostly because they needed a nap but refused to take one. I really wanted to go and get some cards, and I think all of us kind of wanted to get out of the house.

My (somewhat) local card shop had posted a while back on their Facebook page that they had Heritage in stock, and a couple of days ago that they had Spring Fever packs available with the purchase of any Topps brand product. I had kind of dismissed the notion of buying any Heritage through them, as their prices tend to run 20-100% higher than what the online folks can offer. But upon looking at their post announcing the arrival of Heritage, I saw that none days later they had added their price per box and it was right in line with what the online folks are charging.

So we piled the kids in the car and went off to the card shop. The twins fell asleep and got their nap in while we were out and about, which was the real bonus to this whole operation. I was able to get my box of Heritage, and also two packs of Spring Fever. My oldest son went into the card shop with me, but he was more interested in playing with the shop owner's dog than he was in looking at cardboard. I looked long and hard at the packs of Museum Collection and Tribute, but the gamble on that stuff is too much for me. There are some awesome cards that can come out of those products, but there are also a whole lot of cards that are basically throwing your $54 + tax straight out the window. I couldn't stomach that kind of risk today.

Nothing particularly exciting came out of the Spring Fever packs I got. Each one contains 5 cards and if the packs I opened are any indication, the cards in the pack run in numerical order. My packs overlapped by three cards, so I got cards 24-30 in the set, with cards 26-28 being doubles of Pujols, Reyes, and Upton. The cards are actually pretty nice-looking, with a Refratory sheen to them and lots of bright colors. They may not be worth purchasing a bunch of packs to obtain, but if you were going to buy some cards anyway they aren't too bad as a freebie.

I did okay with my box of Heritage, but there wasn't anything that blew the roof off the van when I opened it. There was an Adam Jones relic in there, but the big hit of the box was probably the Paul Goldschmidt mini, which was numbered # 008 / 100. There were a couple of Chrome parallels, a Chrome Refractor, and an action photo variation of Chris Davis. The real important cards are the base set SPs, and I pulled 9 of them. With the couple I've already got that takes me to 11 / 75 of the short-prints, or just under 15% of the way there. What a pain in the butt.

28 March 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 58: 2012 SEGA Card-Gen Part 1

There is a dude on eBay who sells SEGA Card-Gen cards from time to time, and he recently put up a huge amount of stuff from the 2012 set. These are such cool cards and I grabbed a whole stack of them. He had a lot of role players and semi-stars for $1-2 apiece, and I grabbed some of my favorites from that list. He also combines shipping, so it was a flat $3.00 in shipping and handling to get all the cards I ordered from Japan to my house in Idaho. I did splurge a bit on one card, paying several dollars to get R.A. Dickey's 2012 issue, but the bulk of my purchases came from the $0.99 auctions.

I was able to get representatives from a great many teams, including these two Athletics. I guess I might as well be an A's fan, because I sure do like their team colors on cardboard, and Oakland players make up about half of my fantasy rosters this year. I was surprised that Suzuki was on the 'cheap' list, as the pricing structure on these cards seems to really favor players of Japanese descent and catchers, as well as the usual Yankee-centric list of superstars. I am not sure if catchers are really popular in Japan or if the catcher position is unusually valuable in the video game associated with these cards. I am glad I was able to pick up his card and also the card of Coco Crisp, who is becoming a PC player for me.

I also grabbed up a large portion of the Astros team set. It turned out that a couple of these were doubles, but that's what happens when your collection is scattered all over creation. This group is notable in that none of the 5 players I picked up are with the Astros organization anymore.

You can see that these guys have some pretty pedestrian ratings, with only one exceptional number in the lot (17 for Bourgeois' Speed). Every game needs a beginner team, I suppose.

Carlos Lee has got a pretty good facial expression here. It's almost like he's aware of the camera pointed at him. I would later get another copy of this card by way of Zippy Zappy, who is the blogosphere's #1 font of knowledge about all things Card-Gen.

I am pretty sure that a chili dog and a vicious rat live in Myers' goatee thing. That beard is scary. Maybe he hides hair gel (or bacon grease) in it for use in doctoring up the ball.

Aramis Ramirez appears to be celebrating something here, but the expression on his face suggests that he just laid down a stinky fart-bomb and is on his way to cropdust the whole team.

There are quite a few players in this set who have the logo of their new team on the card but are pictured in their old team's uniform. I don't mind it too much, as it is probably better than a bunch of airbrushed/photo-shopped pictures.

I thought that this was a pretty nice bunch of pitchers, and we got a nice range of photos between the three of them, too. Only one guy is shown in the act of throwing a pitch. I can't pronounce Samardzija's name, but he's got quite the hairstyle going on. His locks aren't nearly as luscious as Troy Polamalu's, but they're pretty good for a baseball player.

The game designers think highly of these three guys, too, as they have some of the highest ratings we've seen so far in this post. Samardzija even gets a red number on his card for Speed, although Wood and Garza have better all-around numbers. Man, I wish this game was available here so I could get a feel for how all these numbers interact.

I thought it was appropriate to close out this post with a card marked CL. Card-Gen makes a distinction between Relief Pitchers and Closers, and I imagine that alters how they are slotted into rosters and interact within the video game.

Putz gets some pretty good numbers. I would imagine closers get pretty high ratings in exchange for restrictions on how much they can be used in-game.

Well, that's it for the first batch of cards from my big Card-Gen purchase. There are at least two more posts on the way. It would sure be nice to build a full set of these things, but once you get past the commons and semi-stars there is a big run-up in price and scarcity. You'd almost need a source on the inside that could cut out the middleman and get the cards for you from the machine or the cards shop. I guess for now I will just be happy with whichever cards I can get.

27 March 2014

At the Trade Deadline 19: Trade Package from Starting Nine

I didn't get all of my Power Players code cards from eBay and Sportlots. Here are a few that I got in a trade with Starting Nine. He posted the results of his 2014 Topps break and offered up some of his unwanted stuff in exchange for Mets and certain inserts. I had a few things to offer and we worked out a deal.

I'm pretty happy with the cards I got here, even if the lot includes two Braves. I am still one card away from the complete Series 1 Power Players set, with Clay Buchholz holding out on me. I have a bid on one copy of it right now, and I am hoping I come out a winner.

I always like to complete a trade, especially when it helps me to complete a set. Thank you!

26 March 2014

Breaking it Down 9: Typhoon Haiyan Charity Group Break at View from the Skybox

It took a long time to put it all together, but View from the Skybox put together a charity break to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. I started out with one team when the break was announced, and over time I picked up three more teams. The teams I selected were the Toronto Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and my randomized teams were the Cincinnati Reds and the Tampa Bay Rays.

I got quite a few cards from the 2009 Upper Deck X box. You may notice that there are cards from some other teams here and there. I believe those are teams that were not picked up prior to the break. The base cards from the unclaimed teams were randomized among the break participants. I kind of like these X cards, even if they are a bit gimmicky. Upper Deck has been doing the X gimmick for a long time, though. I remember X-shaped cards from basketball in the late 90s, like this Olajuwon:

I know I have this card in my collection, but I am not near my cards or my scanner as I write this post, so an image taken from COMC will have to suffice. Go to COMC and buy cards!

I am not sure how the different tiers of the Xponential insert work, but I imagine that as the exponent goes up, so does the rarity. I guess the Dickey card qualifies as a 'grip' card for purposes of that particular mini-collection, but I don't know if cartoons count in the mini-collection world.

The above cards are both minis, so they got scanned together. Barmes is a Gold parallel, which I believe is numbered out of # / 62. The Topps Lineage 1975-style relic is admittedly the result of a bit of gamesmanship on my part. I wanted to grab another team after the Blue Jays but I didn't really have any preferences out of the remaining teams in the pool, so I looked at the checklists for the sets in the break and chose the Pirates, a team with a good chance of getting a hit. This paid off for me in the form of this sweet relic on a brightly-colored card.

That Brandon Phillips is an Xponential card level 4, which probably means he has wizard powers or something [Here is the point in the post where I pondered the differences between sorcerers and wizards according to Dungeons & Dragons, and which category a baseball player might fall into, and whether pitchers and hitters/fielders might be included in different categories]. Harang looks a bit undead in his photo and McCutchen's face looks a bit...off. I just don't much like painted or painted-style cards. Some are done well, but the vast majority seem to be a bit weird-looking.

I was kind of surprised to get a couple of Big Hurt cards among my pulls. That was pretty cool. B.J. Upton pops up fairly often in my collection, just to remind me of how he tanked my whole 2013 Fantasy Baseball season. I need to put him in my Hall of Shame.

I've been getting a lot of Uehara cards lately, too. I am not sure what that's all about. I'm sure that distribution of cards is fairly even, and the perception that we are getting overrun with a certain player is caused by our own mind. Maybe I notice all the Uehara cards more lately because I have Edward Mujica on a couple of fantasy rosters and am thus somewhat invested in the Red Sox bullpen. Jake McGee was briefly on one of my rosters recently, too. It was kind of cool to see a card of Pat 'The Bat' Burrell in my stack of cards. It's even a bat barrel shot. And another crazy cameo comes to us by way of Wade Boggs in Tampa Bay.

That Weaver card creeps me out. Stadium Club brought me some nice photography with an interesting choice of photo for Coomer's card, an emphatic gesture from Spiers, and some downtime glove-hatting by Lima. Vladimir Guerrero and The Universe also make appearances.

I appear to have been pranked by the inclusion of this Ryan Braun relic card. I usually include my Braun cards in outgoing packages as padding or filler, so he will probably be on his way to somewhere else in the relatively near future. This card looks really familiar for some reason. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I don't remember having it in my possession or sending it out to someone previously, but I've been wrong before. I guess if you want to unsettle me, send me a 2009 Allen & Ginter's relic of Ryan Braun.

I have no idea who Jake Floethe is.

Charlie Morton I have heard of, and I got his autograph. It looks like he'll start out this year with a spot near the back of Pittsburgh's rotation. I don't have much opinion one way or the other, but it's a nice-looking card.

Also included in my box of cards from the break were some randoms and a few wax packs. These are a few of my favorite cards from the group. I always thought Musselman's name was funny as a kid. I always thought a guy like Musselman should look more like this, though:

It was a pretty fun break and I'm glad that it was able to happen and also that Chris over at View from the Skybox had the persistence to make sure some aid went out to people in need. Sometimes I feel a little guilt about the fact that I spend money buying cardboard pictures and other frivolous things when there are so many people in need of the basic components of life around the world.

25 March 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 57: A Birthday Celebration

I was going to do a different post today, but there were a whole lot of cards in the scans and I was going to have to write about a billion words to go between the pictures. Then Facebook saved my day by letting me know that today is Danica Patrick's birthday. Well heck, I've got a card or two of hers that I can write up real quick.

Today's card is from the Magnificent Materials - Signature Edition subset of 2011 Press Pass FanFare. It pairs an autograph (with authentication sticker!) and a little bit of race-used sheet metal. The black relic piece has some color to it by way of a nice little gouge with some green showing through and a little sliver of white coming in from the right side. Overall I am pretty happy with this one. The card is laid out pretty well and the neon green and black everywhere looks pretty darn good to my eyes. The relic isn't quite as impressive as the one on my other Danica auto and being numbered # 25 / 25 just barely keeps it from being a Christmas card, but I like this card a lot.

Over the last few days I sorted and sorted until my sorter was sore, and got about 3500 cards loaded into my Zistle collection. I sorted to the point that the little muscle in my arm that apparently is used to flip cards over and look at the numbers got a cramp in it and has been sore all day. So today I took a little bit of a break. Those 3500 cards comprised all of my 2014 Topps flagship, all of my 2014 Heritage, and all of my 2013 Topps Mini. There were a lot more multiples in my 2014 collection than I thought there would be. When this is all finished it will be a good thing, but getting to that point just may push me over the edge.

Happy Birthday, Danica!

24 March 2014

I Got it at Sportlots 8: What eBay Hath Wrought 56: A Bunch of Power Players

I have added a lot of Power Players code cards to my collection over the last couple of months. The set is made up of 110 different cards, with different numbering but using the same pictures as the 2014 Topps Base Set. To further complicate things, the set is split in half, with 55 of the cards being available only in Hobby packs and 55 being available only in retail. Most of these recent acquisitions are of the Retail variety, as I got almost all of the Hobby set from a case breaker shortly after Series 1 released.

The Retail cards have proven more difficult to track down. People don't bust cases of Retail product like they do Hobby, so I've had to pick them up in ones and twos from across the internet, mostly from eBay and Sportlots. As of right now I am only missing one card from the Series 1 set, Clay Buchholz. He isn't popping up too often lately, but I should be able to complete the set soon. Then I just have to wait until Series 2 hits to start chasing that set. I will probably follow a similar plan of grabbing a Hobby set from a bulk breaker and then trying to piece together the retail cards over the next couple of months.

When you enter the codes on the Power Players website, that player's card is added to your 'Locker,' a fancy name for a list of the cards you've unlocked. You can then choose to activate cards individually to be eligible for drawings during the season. So far Topps hasn't held any of those drawings, but they are supposed to choose a player or more per week, randomize the list of all of the users who have activated that player's card, and select people to win special parallels or autographs. You can activate multiple copies of a particular player's card, but there is an upper limit on the maximum number of cards you can activate. I kept things simple by activating each different player once.

There is also a small chance that you could win a prize upon entering a card's code. This has happened for me once. After putting the card number in, I got a little pop-up telling me that I had won a special Parallel card. I guess people who get 30 cards from each Series will also get a prize, either parallel cards or coin cards.

But the big hook is that people who collect all 220 Power Players codes will be entered in a drawing to win one of 5 sets of 40 autographed cards. I don't know what the autographed set looks like or whether there are any big names in it, but it would be a cool thing to win regardless. Honestly, Topps probably doesn't even know what it looks like at this point.

I also don't have a reliable way of knowing how many people will be competing for the 5 prizes. The leaderboards only show a small number of people, and so I know there are at least 20 people with the full Series 1 set. I would imagine there are quite a few more than are shown on the list. One of those five winners will also get their picture on a trading card, which the contest rules warn may not actually be placed in a card product.

I spent much of the weekend trying to sort out just how I am going to handle sorting my cards and entering them into the Zistle database. I started sorting them out by year, but I could see that I would lose steam quickly and give up on the project if I tried to sort everything out before putting it into the system. So I took all of my 2014 Topps and 2014 Heritage, collated those sets only, and put them into Zistle. Now those cards are quarantined from the rest of my collection, so anything I add to those sets can be put into Zistle at the time of purchase without me losing track. I will continue in that fashion, sorting cards in blocks and moving them into a quarantined area, so that I can sort and upload at my leisure without having to do the whole thing all at once.

One thing I have enjoyed doing is putting images up for cards I own if the Zistle entry lacks one. For the most part the front images are taken care of, but I was able to add quite a few card backs to 2014 Heritage and even a couple of front images to the Heritage SPs. It makes me feel like I'm giving something back to that community for making such a database available. I will probably wind up buying a membership to gain access to all of the features they offer. At $29 annually it seems like a pretty good deal, especially if I wind up using it a lot. I am interested to see how well the trade suggestion feature works.

23 March 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 55: A Christmas Card in March

I have a whole pile of posts in my queue, but in trying to find one that I could type up real quick and have some new content on the blog tomorrow I found that most of them were uninspiring or would take a lot longer to write up than I want to spend before I go to sleep.

Today I have been scanning a buttload of cards for a set that was missing from Zistle's database. I've determined to get my cards organized and uploaded onto Zistle so I can keep track of what I have and maybe what I want. But mostly to track what I have. I guess in deciding to upload and scan in a set that I recently acquired, I failed to realize that I would need to do nearly 100 scans, and then I would have to manipulate those 100ish scans into 350 or so individual pictures of the fronts and backs of cards. And in doing research on this set I found out that I am missing entirely a parallel to the base set that includes 137 more cards. I don't know if I will chase that parallel or not.

I also finally got around to putting a few things up on eBay that I've been meaning to sell for quite some time. I am hoping that the proceeds will offset a hobby box or so of 2014 Topps Heritage. We'll see if the bidding is in my favor.

My NCAA bracket is doing okay so far. Cards on Cards set up a contest (with valuable prizes!) and 31 people signed up for it. I am proud of the fact that I went 16 for 16 on the first day of the tournament, but that ended quickly with several straight missed picks on day two. However, my Final Four picks are still alive and I am currently tied for first in the group again after my pick Connecticut beat Villanova tonight. I get the feeling that I am going down soon, though, as my bracket will be busted by one of the teams from Michigan.

And none of that has to do with the card pictured above or the title of this post. The card is a 2012 Press Pass Showcase Elite Exhibit card of Danica Patrick. It is some sort of red foil parallel, and is numbered 12 / 25, making it a Christmas card. You know, because if you read the serial number as if it were a date you get December 25th. Don't credit me with that idea, though. Baseball Card Breakdown runs a whole series on 12 / 25 cards during the run-up to Christmas. This card even has a nice red and green theme to it, although I don't think that lime color is the green usually associated with the Christmas holiday. I thought that this was another acetate card, but when I went downstairs to find the cards I posted on eBay this evening, I stumbled across it and saw that it was just regular cardboard and foil. Oh well. It's still a pretty decent card.

22 March 2014

Rainbow in the Dark 11: 2013 Topps Derek Holland Factory Set Orange

I didn't quite get my fill of rainbows from last year's sets, so I have kind of started chasing a Derek Holland 2013 Topps rainbow. This is probably the card that started the quest off, as the Factory Set Orange parallels are hard to come by; a lot harder than their # / 230 print run would have you believe. Just as there aren't a lot of people busting Toys'R'Us packs to resell the Purple parallels, there aren't a lot of folks out there busting factory sets to get the Orange parallels. I like that powder blue uniform that Holland is wearing. The card popped up for sale, and I got it.

This one is numbered # 225 / 230. Some of the cards in this rainbow might not pop up too often, as 2014 products are releasing and people will probably focus on that more than busting old base product. Still, I've grabbed a couple of good cards from this rainbow already that I will be posting soon.

Holland is starting the 2014 season on the 60-day DL, but I hope that once he returns he'll be able to put up some solid numbers and stay in the league for a few more years. As I type this, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are playing the first game of the season in Australia, with Scott van Slyke being the early hero with a 2-run homer off of Wade Miley. Andre Ethier also has an RBI, and the Dodgers are up 3-0 behind Clayton Kershaw in the top of the 5th. I will have to wait and see the result of the game tomorrow, as it is very late and I am going to sleep for a couple of hours before my kids wake me up.

20 March 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 54: 2013 Topps Archives 1972 Basketball Design

I actually don't remember where these came from, but I think I must have got them from eBay. If they came from COMC I would have a pile of other cards to go with them. I guess they could have come from Sportlots, but I'm going to say they came from eBay.

The 1972 Basketball design insert from 2013 Topps Archives is one of the better-looking cards out there, in my opinion. Of course, the Mini Tallboys from the same product have a very similar theme, with brightly-colored solid backgrounds, and I like those very much too.

Tony Gwynn has a nice card here, showing off some brown pinstripes. As far as awesomely horrible uniforms go, this Padres gear is pretty good.

But Dave Winfield's uniform has got Tony Gwynn beat in the ugly uniform department. These Padres uniforms are right up there with the Astros' Rainbows, with both getting top seeds from different regions in the Awesomely Awful Uniform Madness bracket, which is not a real thing (that I know of) but probably should be. The gold chain, sketchy facial hair, and Flying Banana Wedge cap really help to finish off the look.

And then we have CC Sabathia, who sadly wishes that his uniform had made the Big Dance, but instead gets relegated to the dark reaches of an invitation to the NIT-equivalent of Athletic Garb Competitions.

Of course, the millions-strong fanbase of Yankees pinstripes would never let these iconic colors stoop so low as to play in a low-end tournament like that, so they will bribe the selection committee and the Yankees will get a token 5-seed, beat an overmatched first-round opponent who is just happy to be there, and make a token appearance in the Round of 32.

That is a nice color of blue in the background of Sabathia's card, though. With these three additions to my collection, the Want List for the 1972 Design cards is cut in half. I just need Johnny Bench, Jason Heyward, and Mike Trout to complete this particular insert set.

19 March 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 53: 2013 Press Pass Showcase Danica Patrick Green Parallel

Acetate cards are way too much fun. I don't know why I like them so much, but maybe it's because you can see through them! This particular card is a parallel that I already have a rarer example of. This card is from 2013 Press Pass Showcase, is some sort of green-themed parallel of the NASCAR Sunoco Rookie Contender insert set, and is numbered # 05 / 25.

I thought about trying to tenuously tie this card to St. Patrick's Day on account of the green theme, but I didn't get around to it on time. So I didn't do that. I have quite a few NASCAR-themed cards to post over the next month, but I will try to space them in between posts about baseball cards so that I don't chase both of my readers away.

18 March 2014

Breaking it Down 8: Nachos Grande Group Break

I participated in a group break hosted by the Nachos Grande blog. Based on the teaser post that prefaced the official start of signups, I tried to estimate which team and which years might contain some Randy Johnson cards, as that was a player from that era whose player collection I wanted to beef up a bit. I picked the Mariners. I guessed wrong. Most of the cards featuring Randy Johnson wound up going to the Arizona Diamondbacks. I also wound up feeling like a jerk for taking the team usually reserved for The Junior Junkie, who collects the cards of a certain Ken Griffey Jr., a move which is probably a violation of the 'bro code' of the sports card blogosphere. This mixture of disappointment and guilt led to me bingeing on Randy Johnson cards during one of my trips to the card shop during a work trip to Texas.

First up are some base cards from 1995 Fleer Flair Series 1. These are some nice-looking cards and you knew they were something special because instead of arriving at the shop in foil packs, they were packed out in little cardboard boxes. The Griffey is the obvious winner of this lot, but all of the cards are pretty appealing.

This next group of cards comes from 1999 Topps Gallery. Jay Buhner's card is so nice, I pulled it twice. Again, Griffey gets a good looking card with a nice shot of him leaping into orbit. He is so darn photogenic, like the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy of internet meme fame. That's him on the left there, in case you had difficulty finding the person in that photo who does not look like he is dying while running a race.

And here are a couple of the memes that photo inspired. There are whole blogs devoted to this guy, and he was featured in snippets on several news outlets.

Anyway, Griffey was the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy of baseball. 

One downside of my picking the Mariners as my team was that I wound up with all of these A-Roid cards. He put up an awful lot of numbers during his time in baseball, but I can't say I'm a fan of the guy.

The next box was 2001 Topps Stadium Club, which gave me a few of the usual suspects, including a couple copies of John Olerud's base card. At least he gets a decent photo, with the ball appearing just at the moment of contact with his bat.

The ball also makes an appearance on Rickey Henderson's card, although from this angle it appears that he didn't make contact this time. This is probably the best photo out of the bunch, though, and it is also the only Henderson card I got.

I got a few base cards from 200 Topps Stadium Club Chrome. They are pretty shiny and feature some decent photography.

The final box was a box of 2000 Topps Tek, which was issued while I was out of collecting, but is made up of acetate cards with a great many parallels of each card in the set, mostly focusing on the repeated pattern in the background of the card. I got a couple of A-Roid cards, which I believe are the Team Logo and Hometown parallels. I could be wrong. Topps Tek is a pretty cool-looking concept which is rumored to be coming back in some form, although it sounds like it will be focused on autographs and thus be well out of my price range.

On to the inserts! A group break from the late '90s - early '00s wouldn't be complete without inserts, would it?

My insert from the 1995 Flair product is from the Outfield Power set and features a nice shot of Griffey Jr. wielding the bat. To make the card special, he gets a nice laser starburst background to emphasize just how hard he hits the ball.

2001 Stadium Club netted me a Capture the Action! insert featuring a shot of Alex Rodriguez, you guessed it, in action! It's an okay card, I suppose.

But it is nothing compared to this Ken Griffey Jr. Gallery of Heroes acetate card from Topps Gallery. Everything about this card is awesome. I actually missed the post from the group break when this card was pulled, so I didn't even know I had this card coming to me. I consider it the hit of the break for me, although the real hit of the break is probably the next card in this post. I also missed the post when it was pulled, as I was away from home doing work stuff and must have had a couple of busy days that lined up with my best cards of the break.

This is a Play at the Plate insert from the 2001 Stadium Club box. It is another A-Roid card, which is why it rates in my book below the Griffey Gallery of Heroes card. It features Authentic Game-Used Batter's Box Dirt, which is a rather odd relic as I don't know how you would isolate it to one particular batter in a game unless you collected it from his shoes. I will give Topps credit for trying something new, something that they seem a little less willing to do now that they have the exclusive licensing rights with the MLB.

The back of the card features a holographic sticker with a number on it, so you know this card is legit.

Overall this group break was a success for me. Although I whiffed on my primary pursuit, I got quite a few nice Griffeys and even the big A-Roid hit was at least a unique relic. My main problem with 'winning' the break is the implication that other people might not have received a proportionate value for their money. But in the end I guess it all balances out (unless you're like a Padres fan or something) because I feel like I've 'lost' my share of group breaks in the past. I have to say that my favorite cards from the break are the two Griffey inserts, the Flair Outfield Power and the Gallery of Heroes. The Griffey base card from Flair is a strong runner-up.

Thanks for the break!