Saturday, June 18, 2016

2016 Topps NOW Baseball - The First 158

Topps has kept the NOW cards a comin' since our last update on May 29, releasing another 52 cards in the past 20 days. In our second update on May 4, we did a little math and estimated that the NOW set might feature around 300 cards by season's end... At the current rate of issue, we'll have to bump that estimate up to 350 or so by season's end. 

Back on May 29 we highlighted the fifteen cards with the highest print runs, as well as the fifteen with the lowest. Beginning with an updated list of the fifteen highest print runs, we see a few new cards on the list that are highlighted in red:

#57          Bartolo Colon          8,826
#68          Max Scherzer          3,746
#69      Noah Syndergaard      3,670
#102         Julio Urias RC         2,992
#154         Ichiro Suzuki         2,798
#123      Corey Seager RC      1,900
#30          Jake Arrietta          1,808
#29            Kris Bryant            1,644
#12       Nomar Mazara RC       1,427
#59          Bryce Harper          1,366
#11         Tyler White RC         1,350
#9         Trevor Story RC         1,298
#20          Bryce Harper          1,286
#129     Cubs (Dual-Sided)     1,278
#122        Trea Turner RC        1,276

King Bartolo is in no danger of losing his crown when it comes to the highest print run. Ichiro's status as the all-time hit leader among Japanese and American pro baseball gave him a respectable run of 2,798 cards, but still not in the same time zone as Colon. Two new rookies, Corey Seager and Trea Turner, entered the list while three dropped off of it (Mazara, Story and Maeda). The fourth card to crack the above list is the first dual-front NOW card to be printed, which features four star players from the Chicago Cubs (in recognition of their fast pace to win 40 games this season).

While just two new cards have snuck on to the fifteen lowest print runs list since the last update, one of them has managed to take the top position. Twelve-year veteran and Blue Jays all-star Edwin Encarnacion's card released on June 11 has a print run of just 207, edging out former chart-topper Evan Gattis' run of 212. Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker grabs the fourth spot on the list with a print run of 216 cards. All of these are definitely worth keeping an eye on:

#141   Edwin Encarnacion   207
#79          Evan Gattis          212
#67        Chris Iannetta        215
#144     Matt Shoemaker     216
#52     Piscotty/Holliday     217
#24      Melvin Upton Jr.      226
#78      Kendrys Morales      227
#51         Corey Kluber         229
#53     Colorado Rockies     231
#8          Albert Pujols          244
#22           Chris Sale           244
#26         John Lackey         244
#58           Aaron Hill           246
#49        Justin Smoak        252
#66     Marwin Ganzalez     253

Mariner Dae-ho Lee maintains the lowest print run for a rookie with 363, but another rookie with a slightly higher run, Trayce Thompson, is one to watch. With a run of 431, the 25 year-old Dodgers' slugger has the potential to be a longball hitter for years to come (he also has a second card in the set with a run of 566). As we mentioned on the last update, Rangers rookie star Nomar Mazara is featured on three cards thus far in the NOW set, with his second card (#47) having a print run of just 468. Definitely keep an eye on the Mazara and Thompson issues.

These are attractive cards, and Topps has managed to build a nice fanbase of NOW collectors. If I had to choose one thing I didn't like about the set thus far, it would be the overuse of Gatorade/water celebration shots; I'd hate to see 20 or more of them by season's end!

As always, collect whatever makes you happy. Most collectors can't afford to purchase these cards on a daily basis, but you can guarantee that more bundle-style and pick-'em deals will be listed on eBay in the weeks to come. 

Find Topps NOW cards on eBay

Monday, June 13, 2016

1997 Chicago White Sox SGA Set

Stadium giveaway sets were quietly alive and well in 1997, as is evidenced by this 30-card White Sox issue. Subjects feature active players, coaches, trainers and Sox legend Nellie Fox, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame that year. 

Cards measure the standard 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inches and are printed on medium-weight white cardboard stock. All cards except for Fox feature color photos on the fronts, and other than white outside borders, have just the player names printed in silver ink across the left side. Backs are printed in black and show MLB statistics, along with a "SOX" logo at the lower left and a Nellie Fox tribute logo at the lower right. Uniform numbers are also listed on the backs, and the cards are not otherwise numbered.

The '97 White Sox fielded a respectable team under skipper Terry Bevington, managing to basically break even with 80 wins versus 81 losses. Pitching seemed to be a problem, with Chicago's top three workhorse pitchers (Navarro, Baldwin and Drabek) each having an ERA above 5.00. Baldwin and Drabek tied for the team lead in wins, with just 12 each. Reliever Roberto Hernandez notched a respectable 27 saves and five wins, with an ERA of 2.44.

Hall of Fame first baseman Frank Thomas is the star of the set, and smacked 35 homers and 125 RBIs that season. Newly-acquired slugger Albert Belle hit 30 home runs with 116 RBIs (and 105 strikeouts), and fan-favorite Harold Baines hit a respectable .305 in 93 games before shipping off to Baltimore. Other notable names include shortstop and future manager Ozzie Guillen, third baseman Robin Ventura and veteran catcher Tony Pena, who was finishing an 18-year career in the Majors. The closest thing to a "prospect" card in the set features 33 year-old pitcher Carlos Castillo, who went on to log just 210.2 innings in four MLB seasons.

This type of SGA set often includes subjects not found in regularly issued card sets. In this case, manager Terry Bevington gets his own card and both trainers share one. All seven coaches also share a card, and their names are only revealed through the answering of several trivia questions found on the back.

Once again, we can chalk up this set within the category of obscure SGAs, with no presence whatsoever on the collecting radar. I'm not sure how many sets were printed, but they don't show up on eBay in large numbers. I'd estimate the value of a set to be in the $5 to $8 range due to the lack of demand and no prospects who went on to have notable careers. Anyone looking to add a set to their collection should be able to find one at a decent price with a little patience.

(2) Nellie Fox
(3) Harold Baines
(5) Ray Durham
(7) Norberto Martin
(8) Albert Belle
(10) Darren Lewis
(12) Jorge Fabregas
(13) Ozzie Guillen
(14) Dave Martinez
(15) Doug Drabek
(18) Terry Bevington
(20) Ron Karkovice
(23) Robin Ventura
(24) Mike Cameron
(26) Chuck McElroy 
(27) Chris Snopek
(28) Lyle Mouton
(29) Tony Pena
(35) Frank Thomas
(37) James Baldwin
(38) Jaime Navarro
(39) Roberto Hernandez
(40) Wilson Alvarez
(41) Bill Simas
(43) Carlos Castillo
(44) Danny Darwin
(47) Matt Karchner
(49) Tony Castillo
(NNO) Trainers (Herm Schneider, Mark Anderson)
(NNO) Coaches (Mark Salas, Bill Buckner, Art Kusnyer, Ron Jackson, Doug Rader, Joe Nossek, Mike Pazik)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

1999 Connecticut Huskies Men's Soccer Set

The 1999 Connecticut Huskies Men's Soccer set is a perfect example of why soccer cards will never be fully documented. Who the heck even knew these existed?

Consisting of fifteen player cards, these measure the standard 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches and are printed on white card stock with semi-gloss fronts. Large, color photos grace the fronts and are borderless except for the top, where a light grey box contains the "UConn" designation, player's uniform number, and "1999 Connecticut Men's Soccer." The player's names are found along the front bottoms, along with a small Huskies logo and First Union bank sponsor logo. Card backs feature college stats and summaries of high school and college performances. Cards are not numbered except for the player uniform numbers on the front.

Much of the fun of collecting the kinds of sets involves learning about the players, and quick internet searches reveal all kinds of information. Matt Chavlovich, the starting goalkeeper for UConn in 1999, went on to play one year in the USL with the Connecticut Wolves and is currently the Vice President of Licensing for MLS. Chris Gbandi played professionally for FC Dallas, Haugesund and Miami FC from 2002-2010, and is currently head coach of the Northeastern Huskies men's team. Back Max Zieky played one year for the Connecticut Wolves and has been been with Dell Computer since 2002, where he is currently in charge of Business Intelligence and Sales Analytics. Back Sam Forko, originally from Liberia, was on the roster for nine games with the MetroStars in 2002. 

A collector could probably spend the remainder of their life stumbling upon this kind of obscure issue. I love soccer oddball sets, though I couldn't care less about the sport itself (soccer oddballs are just... cool). It's difficult to place a value on a set that doesn't sell very often, but I'd certainly jump on this if I could get it for ten dollars or less. To the right fan or collector, the set might sell for considerably more.

Click here to find Huskies Soccer Cards on eBay

 (1) Matt Chavlovich, Goalkeeper
(2) Sam Forko, Back
(4) Chris Gbandi, Back
(7) Meurys Cajas, Midfielder
(8) Darin Lewis, Midfielder/Forward
(9) Ryan Brown, Back
(10) Luis Arauz, Forward
(11) Brent Rahim, Midfielder
(12) Roberto Vargas, Back
 (14) Alex Cortes, Midfielder
(17) Edwin Rivera, Midfielder/Forward
(18) Bryheem Hancock, Goalkeeper
(20) Ryan Tishon, Back
(22) Mansour Ndiaye, Midfielder
(23) Max Zieky, Back