Sunday, March 27, 2016

2008 Upper Deck New York Giants Super Bowl Champions Box Set

The National Football League's Super Bowl game is easily the most celebrated sporting event in North America, and has been for many years now. Even as a young cavalry scout in the Army back in the 1990s, my fellow rogues and I would often be allowed to report late for work the day after the Super Bowl (this depended on the "cool factor" of our commanding officer). Food retailers report that sales are stronger during Super Bowl weekend than many officially-recognized holidays. Last but not least, we must not forget to honor the advertisers who were willing to pay an average of five million dollars per 30-second commercial spot during Super Bowl 50 this past February.

Needles to say, countless cards have also been printed to celebrate the NFL's season-end championship game. Topps first issued a Super Bowl card in their 1972 football set, which featured Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach scrambling against the stingy Dolphins defense in Super Bowl VI. As far as I can tell, the first "boxed set" of Super Bowl cards was issued by ProSet in 1990 to commemorate the best players and coaches to emerge during the 25-year history of the event (dubbed by ProSet as a limited edition set, these cards are about as scarce as ants at a picnic -- held on an ant farm). 

Super Bowl boxed sets have more or less appeared yearly since ProSet's 1990 release, with numerous manufacturers and formats being used since. One such set was released in 2008 by hobby heavyweight Upper Deck. Packaged in a box similar to the size of "blaster boxes" that can be found at Target and Wal-Mart, this Super Bowl XLII set was printed after the game was played and features only players from the triumphant New York Giants club. Regarded as the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, the Giants managed to come from behind in the final minute of the game to beat the heavily-favored New England Patriots squad.

The colorful box comes factory sealed in clear plastic and measures 6 1/4 inches tall, 3 1/2 inches across and 2 3/4 inches deep. Found inside the box are 50 regular-sized cards and an oversized commemorative card, which measures 5 x 3 1/2 inches. 

Cards are printed on premium medium-weight stock and have a semi-gloss finish applied to both sides. There's no foil to be found on the cards, which many collectors consider a positive trait at this point. Of the 50 regular-sized cards in the box, 40 are dubbed by Upper Deck as regular season player cards, five are regular season highlight cards, four are post season memorable moments cards, and one is a Super Bowl MVP card (Eli Manning). The oversized commemorative card, which features happy Giants Rueben Droughns, Eli Manning and David Tyree, comes sealed in a plastic sleeve that is tucked in a cardboard pouch inside the box.

Nationally-issued football sets rarely include more than a dozen or so players from any given team, meaning most of the unheralded vets and fringe players in the league are usually snubbed on cardboard. This boxed set, with it's roster of 40 different players, ensures that most of the Giants who had a hand in capturing the Lombardi Trophy are represented. Offensive tackle David Diehl, nose tackle Barry Cofield, linebacker Reggie Torbor and fullback Madison Hedgecock are four examples of players who received little to no recognition in mainstream sets after their rookie seasons. Of course all of the Giants stars and starters are also included in the 40-card set, including Eli Manning, Jeremy Shockey and Michael Strahan.

The final ten regular-sized cards feature the three subsets mentioned above; five regular season highlight cards, four post season memorable moments cards and an Eli MVP card. Each of the three subsets features a different design on both the fronts and backs. Of all the five different card designs found inside the box, my personal favorite is the swooping, oval design of the five season highlight cards. While all the designs found here may be a bit cluttered and too graphics-heavy for a regular card issue, a pass can be given when these kinds of designs are found on oddball issues (a pass in my mind, anyway). All the cards in this boxed set are numbered on the backs, as detailed in the checklist below.

All in all, Upper Deck created a nice box o' fun that effectively recaps the Giants' Super Bowl run during the 2007 season. The action photography is world class, and I noticed that the highlight cards feature photos from the actual games where the highlights occurred. Eli collectors definitely need to add a set to the archives, as he's the subject of three different cards. Plaxico and Tyree also capture three cards, while Strahan gets two. Unlike the fateful 1990 ProSet Super Bowl cards of yesterday, which were printed during the height of the junk wax era of overproduction, these Giants cards can't be found next to every anthill.

Click here to hunt for Giants Super Bowl Sets on eBay

Today's price will cost you about the same as when it was issued, in the $8 to $12 range.

Regular Season Player Cards
1. Eli Manning, QB
2. R.W. McQuarters, CB
3. Antonio Pierce, LB
4. David Diehl, T
5. Corey Webster, CB
6. Shaun O'Hara, C
7. Barry Cofield, NT
8. Kevin Boss, TE
9. Reggie Torbor, LB
10. Sam Madison, CB
11. Jeff Feagles, P
12. Madison Hedgecock, FB
13. David Tyree, WR
14. Grey Ruegamer, G
15. Gerris Wilkinson, LB
16. Rueben Droughns, RB
17. Domenik Hixon, WR
18. Kawika Mitchell, LB
19. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
20. Jeremy Shockey, TE
21. Justin Tuck, DE
22. Amani Toomer, WR
23. Fred Robbins, DT
24. James Butler, SS
25. Brandon Jacobs, RB
26. Osi Umenyiora, DE
27. Aaron Ross, CB
28. Derrick Ward, RB
29. Chris Snee, G
30. Michael Strahan, DE
31. Gibril Wilson, FS
32. Sinorce Moss, WR
33. Lawrence Tynes, K
34. Jay Alford, NT
35. Kareem McKenzie, T
36. Zak DeOssie, LB
37. Kevin Dockery, CB
38. Rich Seubert, G
39. Michael Johnson, S
40. Plaxico Burress, WR

Regular Season Highlight Cards
SH1. Osi Umenyiora
SH2. Michael Strahan
SH3. Derrick Ward
SH4. Plaxico Burress
SH5. Brandon Jacobs

Post Season Memorable Moments Cards
MM1. R.W. McQuarters
MM2. Lawrence Tynes
MM3. David Tyree
MM4. Plaxico Burress

Oversized Commemorative Card
NYG -1 (Rueben Droughns, Eli Manning, David Tyree)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1987 Fleer Baseball's Hottest Stars Set

Anyone who collects baseball cards from the 1980s to early '90s is familiar with the fabled "boxed set." In a nutshell, these are small baseball sets that were produced by Topps or Fleer to be sold by specific retail chains. A colorful point-of-purchase display case would typically house 24 sets, with each set being cello-wrapped in an equally colorful cardboard box. Topps boxed sets typically contained 33 cards and a stick of gum, while Fleer boxed sets typically contained 44 cards and several stickers. 

Sets of this nature were always named with a theme; "Memorable Moments", "Stars of the Decades", "All-Time Home Run Kings" and "Baseball Rookies" were some of the topics chosen for boxed sets. Thanks to the internet, it seems that no sets from this genre are difficult to find today. Though none of these boxed beauties are scarce, some are sought more by collectors than others... In particular, sets featuring rookie players that went on to have superstar careers are the ones with the most demand.

The most popular (and valuable) retail-chain boxed set today is the 1987 Fleer Baseball's Hottest Stars set. This 44-card issue was created exclusively for Revco Drug Stores, which was a large chain found mostly east of the Mississippi River. In typical fashion, this Fleer set features 44 cards, six baseball logo stickers, and comes sealed in a colorful retail box. A checklist of the players in the set appears right on the back of the box, which undoubtedly enticed Jose Canseco and Don Mattingly collectors of the day to grab a set or two.

Many of Baseball's hottest stars were indeed included in the set, including Hall of Fame standouts Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson (NL MVP in 1987), George Brett and Rickey Henderson. Pete Rose even makes an appearance as first baseman/manager of the Reds. On the other hand, the inclusion of several players is questionable; Orioles outfielder Larry Sheets and Padres pitcher Eric Show are examples that were solid but average players. Numerous others were hometown favorites at best. But good, bad and ugly aside, there's one player in particular that makes this set the crown jewel of the entire boxed set genre... 

Pirates rookie Barry Bonds.

Fleer actually cheated a bit on their title of "Baseball's Hottest Stars," and added several promising rookies to the set. As always, several of these youngsters went on to have mediocre careers at best, while others achieved all-star status. Players featured in the set during their rookie-card year included Blue Jays pitcher Mark Eichhorn, Rangers outfielder Pete Incaviglia, Phillies pitcher Bruce Ruffin, Indians outfielder Cory Snyder, Dodgers outfielder Reggie Williams and Cardinals Pitcher Todd Worrell. Also featured during his rookie card year is Angels first baseman Wally Joyner, though Fleer got a jump on him the year before in their 1986 Baseball's Best boxed set.

Without a doubt, the aforementioned Barry Bonds would go on to become the most popular and collected player in the set. During the 2000-2005 MLB seasons, years after collectors had lost interest in most other boxed sets, the '87 Baseball's Hottest Stars set was selling in the $40 to $50 range. Today, the price has cooled considerably and the set sells in the $10 to $15 range on Ebay. Even so, this wonderful oddball issue remains the most celebrated set to emerge from a long bygone era of small, colorful, retailer-exclusive baseball card releases.

Random Fact: Revco, the drug store chain that originally sold these sets, was purchased by CVS in 1997. All Revco stores had either closed or were re-branded to CVS by the summer of 1998.

Click here to hunt for 1987 Fleer Hottest Stars Sets

1. Joaquin Andujar, A's
2. Harold Baines, White Sox
3. Kevin Bass, Astros
4. Don Baylor, Red Sox
5. Barry Bonds, Pirates
6. George Brett, Royals
7. Tom Brunansky, Twins
8. Brett Butler, Indians
9. Jose Canseco, A's
10. Roger Clemens, Red Sox
11. Ron Darling, Mets
12. Eric Davis, Reds
13. Andre Dawson, Expos
14. Doug DeCinces, Angels
15. Leon Durham, Cubs
16. Mark Eichhorn, Blue Jays
17. Scott Garrelts, Giants
18. Dwight Gooden, Mets
19. Dave Henderson, Red Sox
20. Rickey Henderson, Yankees
21. Keith Hernandez, Mets
22. Ted Higuera, Brewers
23. Bob Horner, Braves
24. Pete Incaviglia, Rangers
25. Wally Joyner, Angels
26. Mark Langston, Mariners
27. Don Mattingly, Yankees
28. Dale Murphy, Braves
29. Kirk McCaskill, Angels
30. Willie McGee, Cardinals
31. Dave Righetti, Yankees
32. Pete Rose, Reds
33. Bruce Ruffin, Phillies
34. Steve Sax, Dodgers
35. Mike Schmidt, Phillies
36. Larry Sheets, Orioles
37. Eric Show, Padres
38. Dave Smith, Astros
39. Cory Snyder, Indians
40. Frank Tanana, Tigers
41. Alan Trammell, Tigers
42. Reggie Williams, Dodgers
43. Mookie Wilson, Mets
44. Todd Worrell, Cardinals

Sunday, March 20, 2016

1981 Dallas Cowboys Police Set

In 1981, the Dallas Cowboys appeared in a police card issue for the third year in a row. As a matter of fact, the 'Boys appeared in two police sets in 1981, issued over 1,200 miles apart from one another! 

Police cards were at the peak of their popularity in the early 1980s, and someone came up with the idea of releasing Dallas Cowboys sets in two different regions; one set in the Dallas area, as would be expected, and a second one in Thousand Oaks, California, where the Cowboys held their yearly training camps from 1963 through 1989 (California Lutheran College). The only obvious difference in appearance between the two sets is the sponsor logo found at the lower right of all card fronts; Cards issued in the Dallas area feature the blue and round Kiwanis Club logo, while the cards issued in the Thousand Oaks area feature a design that shows a boy and girl holding hands, with the words "Light Up A Life" appearing above.

One might make the case that both issues could be combined to make one set, as totally different players are featured within each. The set released in the Dallas area seemingly received the short end of the stick, as most of the team's star players are hosted in the Thousand Oaks issue; Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett, Randy White and Tom Landry, along with starting quarterback Danny White, are all found in the elusive California set.

Cowboys fans will still want to grab a copy of the Dallas-area set. Tight end Doug Cosbie and safety Michael Downs make an appearance a year before their Topps rookie cards were issued, and backup quarterback Glenn Carano wasn't featured on a Topps card until the 1984 USFL boxed set was released. Shoring up the set are Cowboys legends Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Butch Johnson, both of whom contributed greatly during the Staubach-era years of the team.

Though the designs found on the card fronts and backs are classic and liked by most oddball collectors, the fact that there were virtually no format changes during the five-set run has been known to cause much confusion... Cowboys Police Sets were released in 1979, 1980, 1981 (x2) and 1983, and they all basically look alike. The year of issue in not noted on the cards.

A complete set of the '81 Dallas set consists of 14 cards. Many of the specimens from this year seem to be "diamond" cut, where the side borders are not cut at a 90 degree angle and don't run parallel to the photo; it's just something to look for when purchasing a set, because this type of defect does hurt the value. While on the subject of value, I'd give the set a current price range of ten to fifteen dollars. 

Random Fact: The most obscure Cowboy to make the set is probably center Robert Shaw. Though he was taken by the Cowboys in the first round of the 1979 draft, the Tennessee alumnus never really had the chance to play as he was stuck behind veteran Tom Rafferty. Starting just six games in three seasons, Shaw was out of the NFL after the 1981 campaign.

Click here to hunt for Cowboys Police Sets Sets on eBay

 (18) Glenn Carano, QB
(20) Ron Springs, RB
(23) James Jones, RB
(26) Michael Downs, S
(32) Dennis Thurman, CB
(45) Steve Wilson, CB
(51) Anthony Dickerson, LB
(52) Robert Shaw, C
(58) Mike Hegman, LB
(59) Guy Brown, LB
(61) Jim Cooper, T
(72) Ed Jones, DE
(84) Doug Cosbie, TE
(86) Butch Johnson, WR

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball Set

I've had my eye on the 1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball set for years, waiting for a deal too good to pass up to come my way. I'm happy to report that the deal has finally gone down, with the set arriving in the mail earlier this week. 

And let me tell you, after looking at these cards for a couple of days now, I realize just how awesome of an addition this set will be to any collection.

Collectors of minor league and "All-Time Greats" sets are probably familiar with TCMA, which produced these kinds of small sets from 1972 through 1990. The TCMA acronym stands for company founders Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein (in this classic blog post, Night Owl takes a few random stabs at the acronym; Tooling Component Manufacturing Association and Tennessee Country Music Alliance are my favorites). With no chance of releasing cards that featured current Major Leaguers, Tom and Mike had no choice but to be creative with their topics, even releasing a small set of umpires in 1976 and at least one semi-pro baseball set in 1974. 

Getting back to the '79 Japanese Pro Baseball set, this issue was yet another creative way for TCMA to put cards on the market. The set was groundbreaking in the sense that this was the first exposure that most North American collectors had to Japanese baseball; one must remember that back in 1979 the oceans were still deep and wide in those simpler, pre-internet times. Dealers began advertising the set in Sports Collectors Digest in mid to late 1979, with an asking price in the $6 range.

Complete at 90 cards, the set features players and managers from Japan's Central and Pacific Leagues. These standard-sized cards feature large color photos on the fronts, with the subject's position and name found in a light blue half-oval along the bottom. Card backs are printed in red and black, and feature 1978 season and career stat lines. All cards are numbered.

One doesn't need to know much about Japanese baseball to recognize two prominent names found in the set: Sadaharu Oh and Masanori Murakami.  Oh, who is represented before his retirement after the 1980 season, ended his 22 year playing career with 868 home runs, nine Central League MVP Awards and eighteen All-Star appearances. Murakami is known for being the first Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball, seeing action for the San Francisco Giants in 1964 and 1965 (he was immortalized in the collecting hobby thanks to his inclusion in the 1965 Topps baseball set on card number 282). 

A little research on the information superhighway will reveal tons of other Japanese stars within the set who had Hall of Fame careers. Carp third baseman Sachio Kinugasa, Lions catcher Katsuya Nomura and legendary Giants third baseman/manager Shigeo Nagashima are among the best ever to play pro ball in Japan. Hall of Fame Buffaloes pitcher Keishi Suzuki was coming off a career year in 1978 with a 25-10 record, eight shutouts and a 2.02 ERA.

Back when this set was released, only two foreign-born players were allowed to be a part of each organization (the number was upped to three in 1981). These "gaijin" players usually were, and continue to be, players with Major League/Minor League experience. While none of the foreigners in the '79 set are considered hobby superstars, card collectors may be familiar with several names that have appeared in other baseball issues.

Outfielder Leron Lee was an average Major League player from 1969 through 1976, but was an absolute offensive terror in Japan; Over the course of eleven season with the Orions, Lee smacked 283 home runs and maintained a .320 batting average. Outfielder and future Major League manager Charlie Manuel had a career year with the Buffaloes in 1979, winning the Pacific League MVP Award in the process. Outfielder Bobby Jones spent just two years in Japan, with the Chunichi Dragons, before heading to the Texas Rangers organization in 1981. When his playing days ended, Jones would go on to spend 24 seasons as a manager in the Rangers farm system; in November of 2013, he was named a coach for the Texas Rangers. Other former major leaguers with Topps baseball cards include Wayne Garrett, Tony Muser, Leroy Stanton, Bernie Williams (1970s), Vernon Law, Jim Lyttle, Don Blasingame, Dave Hilton, Adrian Garrett, Carlos May, Felix Millan and John Scott (who shares his '77 rookie card with Andre Dawson).

TCMA cards from the 1970s tended to be cut off-centered, just like Topps cards of the day. These Japanese Pro BB cards were printed on soft white cardstock, which gives great color and contrast to the graphics, but they are prone to soft corners and the backs can tone a bit over time if stored improperly. You'll definitely want to eyeball the Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima cards before purchasing, as these are the two key cards in the set. 

The current value for a NRMT set is in the $40 to $70 range. These cards weren't a particularly hot commodity when first released, and are probably appreciated more today than ever before. 

Random Facts: Brothers Leron and Leon Lee played together for the  Lotte Orions from 1978 through 1982. Leon is the father of retired Major Leaguer Derrek Lee, who was a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner.
1. Sadaharu Oh, Giants
2. Jinten Haku, Orions
3. Toshizo Sakamoto, Hawks
4. Tony Muser, Lions
5. Makoto Matsubara, Whales
6. Masayuki Nakatsuka, Whales
7. Daisuke Yamashita, Whales
8. Koji Yamamoto, Carp
9. Sachio Kinugasa, Carp
10. Bernie Williams, Braves
11. Bobby Marcano, Braves
12. Koichi Tabuchi, Lions
13. Katsuya Nomura, Lions
14. Jack Maloof, Lions
15. Masahiro Doi, Lions
16. Hiroyuki Yamazaki, Lions
17. Vernon Law, Lions
18. Dave Hilton, Swallows
19. Katsuo Osugi, Swallows
20. Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Swallows
21. John Scott, Swallows
22. Toru Sugiura, Swallows
23. Akihiko Kondo, Swallows
24. Shintaro Mizutani, Swallows
25. Tatsuro Hirooka, Swallows
26. Kojiro Ikegaya, Carp
27. Yutaka Enatsu, Carp
28. Tomehiro Kaneda, Carp
29. Yoshihiko Takahashi, Carp
30. Jitsuo Mizutani, Carp
31. Adrian Garrett, Carp
32. Jim Lyttle, Carp
33. Takeshi Koba, Carp
34. Sam Ewing, Fighters
35. Kazumi Takahashi, Fighters
36. Kazushi Saeki, Fighters
37. Masanori Murakami, Fighters
38. Toshio Kato, Fighters
39. Junichi Kashiwabara, Fighters
40. Masaru Tomita, Fighters
41. Bobby Mitchell, Fighters
42. Mikio Sendoh, Fighters
43. Chris Arnold, Buffaloes
44. Charlie Manuel, Bufflaoes
45. Keishi Suzuki, Buffaloes
46. Toru Ogawa, Buffaloes
47. Shigeru Ishiwata, Buffaloes
48. Kyosuke Sasaki, Buffaloes
49. Iwao Ikebe, Buffaloes
50. Kaoru Betto, Whales
51. Gene Martin, Whales
52. Felix Millan, Whales
53. Mitsuo Motoi, Whales
54. Tomio Tashiro, Whales
55. Shigeo Nagashima, Giants
56. Yoshikazu Takagi, Whales
57. Keiichi Nagasaki, Whales
58. Rick Krueger, Giants
59. John Sipin, Giants
60. Isao Shibata, Giants
61. Isao Harimoto, Giants
62. Shigeru Takada, Giants
63. Michiyo Arito, Giants
64. Hisao Niura, Giants
65. Teruhide Sakurai, Hawks
66. Yoshito Oda, Hawks
67. Leron Lee, Orions
68. Carlos May, Hawks
69. Frank Ortenzio, Hawks
70. Leon Lee, Orions
71. Mitsuru Fujiwara, Hawks
72. Senichi Hoshino, Dragons
73. Tatsuhiko Kimata, Dragons
74. Morimichi Takagi, Dragons
75. Yasunori Oshima, Dragons
76. Yasushi Tao, Dragons
77. Wayne Garrett, Dragons
78. Bob Jones, Dragons
79. Toshio Naka, Dragons
80. Don Blasingame, Tigers
81. Mike Reinbach, Tigers
82. Masashi Takenouchi, Tigers
83. Masayuki Kakefu, Tigers
84. Katsuhiro Nakamura, Tigers
85. Shigeru Kobayashi, Tigers
86. Lee Stanton, Tigers
87. Takenori Emoto, Tigers
88. Sohachi Aniya, Tigers
89. Wally Yonamine, Giants
90. Kazuhiro Yamauchi, Orions

Sunday, March 13, 2016

1996 Bolton-Teague Celebrity Softball Challenge Set

With his distinctive, heartfelt style of crooning, singer Michael Bolton has attracted more than his share of music fans over the years. I'm not one of them (I will admit, however, that the TV and radio commercials he's done these past couple of years are pretty funny). 

At the peak of his popularity in the 1990s, Bolton was also playing more than his share of celebrity softball. For example, one surreal game in 1993 pitted Bolton and his band mates against the Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Evander Holyfield, Tom Selleck and M.C. Hammer (Bolton and his crew won the game, in true softball-shark fashion). These games were held under "The Michael Bolton Charities" banner, an organization that was formed in 1993 to benefit at-risk children and women.

Some time ago, my daily search for the oddball and unusual uncovered an interesting set of cards that was released back in 1996 -- The Bolton-Teague Celebrity Softball Challenge set. Further research would show that the two teams tussled yearly from 1994 through 1998, and additional Bolton-Teague card sets were also released in 1997 and 1998.

The 1996 set featured here contains 34 glossy, borderless photo cards that are of the highest quality (except, perhaps, for some of the photography), and they measure the standard card size of 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. Player names are stamped in gold foil along the front card bottoms, and the cards are not numbered. The game was played on July 13, 1996. I'm unsure of when and how the cards were issued, but the back of one card notes that the game was filmed by The Disney Channel, and highlights were shown during the airing of Bolton's "Coming Home" concert.

Michael Bolton is found on three cards, including one that he shares with rival captain George Teague of the Green Bay Packers. It's actually Teague's team that is of interest to most collectors, as it was packed with sports stars of the past and present. Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount, Football Hall of Famer Reggie White and U.S. gold medalist speed skater Dan Jansen each have cards in the set. Other Green Bay Packers include Robert Brooks, Mike Prior, Gilbert Brown and Mark Chmura. Former Brewer Charlie Moore makes an appearance in the set, though he was unable to play because of a prior injury.

Other Milwaukee-area celebrities represented in the set include Bill Jartz, news anchor for WBAY-TV and current announcer at Lambeau Field; Tom Mulhern, a longtime Wisconsin State Journal sports reporter; and Murphy in the Morning of WIXX 101 Radio. Bruce Meade, arguably the greatest softballer ever to play the sport, is also represented on Teague's team.

I wasn't kidding when I referred to Bolton and his players as a team of sharks... They went on to trounce Teague and crew by a score of 38-18. Three years before this contest was played, Bolton and his teammates filmed a bizarre video titled "Michael Bolton's Winning Softball." The entire 52 minutes of singin' and swingin', in all it's douche-chilling glory, can be found right on YouTube. I personally challenge anyone reading this to make it halfway through the video.

This is easily one of the rarest sets I've mentioned since starting the blog three years ago. I'd put these cards in the same ballpark as the 1985 Chicago Renaissance Society White Sox Set, both in terms of scarcity and the fact that the cards weren't really marketed towards collectors at the time of their release. Unopened sets are all but impossible to find today. My educated guess would put the value of a complete set in the $50 range, but a keen collector can probably add one to the archives for less with a bit of patience.

Random Fact: The '96 Bolton-Teague matchup raised about $30,000 for charity.

(1) The Michael Bolton Foundation Logo Card
 (2) The Rebecca Fund Logo Card
(3) Michael Bolton, Rebecca Slye, George Teague
(4) Check Presentation Card
(5) George Teague
(6) Robert Brooks
(7) Gilbert Brown
(8) Mark Chmura
(9) Dan Jansen
(10) Bill Jartz
(11) Bruce Meade
(12) Charlie Moore
(13) Tom Mulhern
(14) Murphy in the Morning
(15) Mike Prior
(16) Jimmy Slye
(17) Quinn Teague
(18) Reggie White
(19) Robin Yount
(20) Michael Bolton
(21) Michael Bolton
(22) Mike Bolen
(23) Mugs Cain
(24) Johnny Dodd
(25) Bucky Ford
(26) Phil Higgins
(27) Jerry Mele
(28) Louis Levin
(29) Bobby Olah
(30) Donnie Slye
(31) Rebecca Slye
(32) Kim Turner
(33) Richie Vaughn
(34) Gary Whitefield

Thursday, March 10, 2016

2004 Upper Deck San Diego Padres SGA Set

Oddball card sets given out at stadiums (commonly referred to as "SGA sets") usually go unnoticed by most collectors. An exception is when an SGA set contains a hot rookie or prospect, like the 2011 DAV Cedar Rapids Kernels set which features a young Mike Trout. Unfortunately, such an exception is not the case with the 2004 Upper Deck San Diego Padres SGA set.

Don't get me wrong; the '04 Padres were actually a solid team, finishing the season with 87 wins versus 75 losses. Skipper Bruce Bochy worked his usual managerial magic, maximizing the performance of a roster that was filled with solid but unheralded players. Though the club played hard and provided fans with entertaining baseball, at season's end their 87 wins would only place them third in the NL West... four games behind the Giants, and six games behind the Dodgers.

In addition to quality on-field baseball, Padres fans were also treated to further festivities with the opening of the new PETCO Park in 2004. A whopping 39 special promotions were undertaken at PETCO that season - representing almost half of the home games played. T-shirts, ball caps, rally towels, picture frames, and even actual player-worn jerseys (after the final home game of the season) were given to appreciative fans. One of the more popular promotions was held on September 26, when specially-designed sets of Upper Deck Padres cards were given to kids.

Featuring 33 cards, sets were distributed sealed in clear plastic bags. Both the card design and player photos within this SGA were different than the regular baseball set issued by Upper Deck that season. Twenty-six players are found in the set, along with six coaches and a team mascot card. Fronts showcase large color photos with a vertical blue border along the left side. The Upper Deck Company logo is found at the top left, while the Padres logo and subject's name are located across the bottom. Backs have a career stats line for active players, and short bios are found on all cards. All cards are numbered.

Padre favorites of the day include pitcher Jake Peavy, who led the league with a 2.27 ERA that season, first baseman Phil Nevin, who led the club with 26 home runs and 105 RBI, and future Hall of Fame reliever Trevor Hoffman, who notched 41 of his 601 career saves in 2004.

Several veterans near the ends of their careers played for the Friars that year. Pitchers Rod Beck and Sterling Hitchcock retired after season's end. Pitcher David Wells was completing his 17th MLB season, while first baseman Dave Hansen was finishing his thirteenth and outfielder Ryan Klesko his twelfth. Young up-and-comers included pitcher Akinori Otsuka and shortsop Khalil Greene, both of whom could never duplicate the success of their 2004 rookie seasons. Greene finished second in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting that season, while Otsuka finished third (Pirates outfielder Jason Bay, who the Padres traded away the year before to get veteran outfielder Brian Giles, won the award).

SGA sets of this nature tend to disappear over time, as many are thrown away or tossed into the proverbial junk drawer. I wouldn't call this a scarce set, but I will say that they can't be found in any large quantities these days. I'd estimate the value of an unopened set to be in the $5 to $8 range, mostly because of the lack of superstar players and demand in general. Consider this set a must-have for hardcore Padres collectors.

Random Fact: The "Swinging Friar" has been the team mascot since the late 1950s, while the Padres were still a minor league club. The San Diego Chicken makes occasional appearances at local events, but has never been the official mascot of a team.

Click here to hunt for Padres Stadium Sets on eBay

1.Rod Beck, P
2. Adam Eaton, P
3. Trevor Hoffman, P
4. Brian Lawrence, P
5. Scott Linebrink, P
6. Blaine Neal, P
7. Akinori Otsuka, P
8. Jake Peavy, P
9. Ricky Stone, P
10. David Wells, P
11. Jay Witasick, P
12. Ramon Hernandez, C
13. Miguel Ojeda, C
14. Rich Aurilia, SS
15. Sean Burroughs, 3B
16. Brian Buchanan, OF
17. Khalil Greene, SS
18. Dave Hansen, 1B
19. Mark Loretta, 2B
20. Phil Nevin 1B
21. Brian Giles, OF
22. Ryan Klesko, OF
23. Terrence Long, OF
24. Xavier Nady, OF
25. Jay Payton, OF
26. Sterling Hitchcock, P
27. Bruce Bochy, MGR
28. Rob Picciolo, CO
29. Swinging Friar, Mascot
30. Davey Lopes, CO
31. Dave Magadan, CO
32. Tony Muser, CO
33. Darren Balsley, CO