Category Archives: Raul Ibanez

How Rare Is It Really?

Because it’s a nearly a four-hour drive to see my dad, I only see him a few times a year. When preparing for these visits, I frequently make it a point to bring a few of the latest acquisitions to my collection. 2012 Triple Threads LuzinskiI do this in part because although he collects model trains instead of baseball cards, he played a large role in the collection I originally built during my teen years. Just as noteworthy, he is a Phillies fan and as a collector he generally appreciates the vintage and relatively rare modern cards I choose to share with him. During such a visit at the end of 2012, I showed him my Greg Luzinski 2012 Topps Triple Threads Autograph Relics, #TTAR-161. While examining it, he couldn’t help but notice that it bore a 1/9 serial number, and he was impressed that I had something so rare in my collection. At which point, I stated, “Well, it’s not really quite as rare as Topps would like you to think.”

The fact is I don’t understand why so many people fall for the parallel shell game perpetuated by Topps and all the other major manufacturers. I’m sure that it works to the extent it does because collectors love the notion that they own something that’s incredibly rare, and incredibly small serial numbers provide concrete proof of rarity. However, when you step back, seriously consider what’s really going on, and do some simple arithmetic, many of these “rare” cards aren’t as rare as the manufacturers would like you to believe. Let’s take another look at that Luzinski card. The one I own is actually a gold parallel. If you combine the print runs of the regular insert with all the print runs, you still have only 33 cards. That strikes me as an impressively low figure — certainly nothing to scoff at in terms of rarity. However, there are two other Luzinski cards in that particular insert set. They use the same photo, apply the autograph sticker in the same spot and also bear pieces of a bat supposedly used by Luzinski in a MLB event. The only other notable differences are the text on the back of the cards and the bat shards on cards #TTAR-162 & #TTAR-163 instead respectively spell “Philly Favorite” and “The Bull.” Combine the three cards and all their respective print runs, and you get a total of 99 Luzinski 2012 Topps Triple Threads Autograph Relics.

Now, even by current 2001 UD GG LB Auto Luzinskistandards — as opposed to those from the late ’90s — that’s still fairly rare. However, it’s certainly not rare enough to justify the cost Topps charged for a pack 0f 2012 Topps Triple Threads. Hence, the need for the parallel shell game. To me, the worst part about it is that I see dealers and other collectors absolutely falling for it. Currently, one individual is asking $59.99 for a Sapphire parallel (serial numbered to 3) of #TTAR-162. Given that the last few versions of the card on eBay have sold in the $10-$20 range, regardless of its stated print run, I suspect it won’t sell for anywhere near that much. I will, however, concede that outside of his 2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove Leather Bound Autographed card it is Luzinski’s only autographed memorabilia card printed in anything even marginally resembling collector-friendly quantities. Still, given recent selling data, $60.00 is ridiculously overpriced.

The problem is that the same cannot be said for so many other cards bearing serial numbers whose sole purpose is to mask the true print run. I recently acquired the John Kruk 2013 Topps Tribute Autographs Framed Printing Plates 2013 Topps TT Auto PP KrukCyan card. This was significant for me on two counts: it’s the first “1/1” Kruk card in my collection, and it’s also the first Kruk printing plate. However, is “1/1” really a correct way to refer to the card? There are three other printing plates, the regular insert set, and seven different parallels for the card those plates were used to create. Adding them all up gives you a total of 240. Again, that’s still an nice, low number by current standards, but from that perspective this “1/1” Kruk card doesn’t feel quite as unique as it once did. Furthermore, unlike the Luzinski’s 2012 Topps Triple Threads card, there are a slew of other similar Kruk autograph cards out there. If you are a completist such as myself, you can more easily and cheaply acquire over a couple dozen different Kruk autograph cards. When viewed through such a lens, acquiring a Kruk 2013 Topps Tribute Autograph card doesn’t carry the same urgency or importance as obtaining a Luzinski Triple Threads card.

To be sure, 2009 Topps Unique TT Auto Philliesthere are some legitimately really rare cards out there, and the parallel shell game tends to obscure them. I actually own one of the five 2009 Topps Unique Triple Threat Autograph Relics cards featuring Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Raúl Ibañez. Topps did not produce any parallels or printing plates; thus, there literally are just five of any of these cards in existence. (I’ll let you guess as to how many other autographed relic cards featuring this trio of players were produced.) To me, this card is far more unique and rare than my “1/1” Kruk autographed printing plate — or any other printing plate for that matter. Then there’s the case of the 2005 Donruss Classics Classic Singles Curt Schilling card, #CS-15. This is a slightly more interesting example because the card exists in so many different varieties: 2005 Donruss Classics CS Relic Auto Schillingplain, relic, autograph, both relic and autograph, dual relic, and parallels of each. However, after examining the print runs for each of the variations, you discover that Donruss only issued seven Schilling cards bearing an autograph sticker. Thanks to the various memorabilia combinations (or lack thereof) and parallels Donruss employed, each of those seven bears a “1/1” serial number, but only two of those seven bear both bat and jersey relics. One can actually make the argument that by creating so many specialized “1/1” cards, Donruss inadvertently drew attention away from just how rare the autographed versions of those cards themselves actually were.

It seems that true “1/1” cards — cards which neither exist in parallel form nor have the printing plates issued as well — are actually much rarer than any of us realizes. The only cards that consistently seem to honestly bear such a serial number are cut 2013 Panini AP PC Mauchautograph cards of deceased players and managers. I’m fortunate enough to own a small handful: most notably a few of the cards from 2010 Topps Sterling Certifed Cut Signatures — an insert set that will certainly contain the only fully licensed certified autograph card for many baseball figures — as well as the Gene Mauch card from 2013 Panini America’s Pastime Pastime Cuts. (It’s incredibly likely that should I ever find someone selling the Ethan Allen card from that particular insert set I will seriously consider busting my budget in order to obtain it.) I know that parallels are here to stay, but I do wish that the hobby as a whole wouldn’t exhibit such willful ignorance as to how they’re being used to both mask true print runs and cheapen the meaning of a “1/1” serial-numbered card.

Featured Cards: 2012 Topps Triple Threads Autograph Relics Gold #TTAR-161, Greg Luzinski; 2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove Leather Bound Autographed #SLB-GL, Greg Luzinski; 2013 Topps Tribute Autographs Framed Printing Plates Cyan #TA-JK, John Kruk; 2009 Topps Unique Triple Threat Autograph Relics #TTAR-HRI, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, & Raúl Ibañez; 2005 Donruss Classics Classic Singles Signature Materials Prime #CS-15; 2013 Panini America’s Pastime Pastime Cuts #25, Gene Mauch

2014 Topps Turkey Red, Revisited

2014 Turkey Red HalladayOver the weekend, I gave some more thought to what I wrote about the newest iteration of Topps’s Turkey Red brand. My opinion on the set remains the same, and I wouldn’t retract or change a single word. However, it did occur to me that if Topps was indeed attempting a modern take on the Turkey Red design — one of my suggestions for why the set looks the way it does — then they managed to completely overlook a direction suggested by their own designers approximately 15 years ago: the 1997 and 1998 Gallery sets.

When you look at those sets, it’s clear that they contain the same basic design elements employed by the original Turkey Red set. Both the ’97 and ’98 Gallery sets contain the picture frame and nameplate motifs, and both sets actually employ multiple variations of it in each year. Remove the foil and the gloss from

1997 Gallery Jefferies1997 Gallery Schilling1998 Gallery Rolen1998 Gallery Schilling

the cards, and you essentially have Turkey Red sets with frames embodying a much more modern appearance. Topps could have taken this direction, and even potentially created a “Gallery” parallel set that used foil, gloss, and the Gallery logo. While I typically avoid parallels and find most of them to be utterly banal and superfluous, I would’ve applauded Topps for updating a retro design and paying homage to a brand that they’ve let lay fallow for quite some time now (and I’m not just saying this because I came up with the idea.)

One other thought regarding the 2007 Turkey Red Utley2014 Turkey Red set: who the hell thought that new photo treatment looked attractive? I can accept that paying artists to do original artwork for baseball cards can become quite pricey and that it’s more cost effective to apply some kind of filter to an existing photo to make it appear like artwork — even though original artwork is what made the 2007 Turkey Red set arguably the best of the series. However, the new filter they used on this year’s set was just awful — even if they did manage to correct the error that caused coloration problems on the Phillie script on the jerseys and the “P” on the caps. Why the change from the one they used on all the other Turkey Red sets? If they felt such a change was essential, there were better filters available, such as the one they used on the 2007 Bowman Heritage sets.

2007 Bowman Heritage IguchiComing back to my primary complaint about the 2014 Turkey Red set, this boils back down to an overall lack of attention to detail at Topps. I know that once you take into account all its other sports and non-sports brands, Topps creates and distributes an ridiculous number of sets per year. That type of production schedule must be difficult to maintain, as evidenced by the fact that the release date on this year’s Heritage offering was pushed back to March 14 from March 5. Because Topps is a privately-held company and therefore isn’t required to publish annual earnings statements, there’s no way for me to know Topps’s profit margins for 2013. However, are their earnings so slim that they can’t hire one person — an expert on both the details of baseball card design throughout the product’s history and baseball history in general — 2009 Turkey Red Ibanezwhose job it is to ensure that such inattention to detail doesn’t occur? Or is this a case of a company that actually doesn’t care all that much about what its customers think, so long as they somehow maintain their current profit margins?

In the end, I just wish that Topps showed that they care as much about the minutiae of the final product as collectors such as myself do. The key here is that we want to unabashedly love these sets — that’s why we purchase them and write about them in the manner we do. Out criticism stems not from a desire to berate the product but from the understanding that it could be made significantly more enjoyable without much in the way of effort. Deep down, however, I know that Topps will show no inclination to address these flaws so long as I, and collectors such as myself, continue to purchase such product  despite our complaints. However, I will continue to voice such objections in the hopes that one day Topps may actually start listening to them.

Featured cards: 2014 Topps Turkey Red #83, Roy Halladay; 1997 Gallery #23, Gregg Jefferies; 1997 Gallery #54, Curt Schilling; 1998 Topps Gallery #74, Scott Rolen; 1998 Topps Gallery #127, Curt Schilling; 2007 Topps Turkey Red #56, Chase Utley; 2007 Bowman Heritage #162, Tadahito Iguchi; 2009 Topps Turkey Red #TR129, Raúl Ibañez

The Printing Plate Perplexity

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Chrome Printing Plates Black #26, Carlos Ruiz; 2010 Bowman Printing Plates Cyan #24, Raúl Ibañez

2013 Topps Chrome Plate B Ruiz2010 Bowman Print Plate C Ibanez

I’ve never understood this particular problem: printing plates are supposed to be mirror images in order to properly apply the ink to the printed surface — the Carlos Ruiz plate is a perfect example. Given that this is that case, why is it that so many of the ones issued by Topps over the years are not actually mirror images? Based on my understanding of how these things work, you can’t actually create properly oriented cards from plates as the Raúl Ibañez one on the right. Instead you’d get a reverse image, such as the infamous 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy error. I’d love to hear the explanation.

Update, Jan. 16: The original entry was off-the-cuff and posted in a hurry. If I first hunted around on the web, I would’ve gotten an answer to my question: there are two different types of printing and the type of plate you see dictates the type of printing used. Plates that are not mirror image are used in “offset printing,” which does not apply ink directly to the printed surface. Instead, the plates apply it to rubber sheet which is then used to apply it to the printed surface. I’m not sure what advantages an intermediate step provides, but I’m sure a little more hunting around will get my answer.

2009 Topps Heritage Past & Present Real Ones Dual Autographs

2009 Heritage Wine-Ibanez Auto Front2009 Heritage Wine-Ibanez Auto Back

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions:
2½” x 3½”
Additional Information Seeded in packs of 2009 Topps Heritage. Cards are hand serial-numbered to 25 on the front, and the cards are autographed directly by the players.
14,000 Phillies Commentary: I would love to see more cards/sets like this — albeit with slightly higher print runs. The Wine-Ibañez card is the newest addition (card #17,753) to the 14,000 Phillies Collection, and I feel like I got really lucky on the price I acquired it for. In fact, I spent less on it than I did for the Ibañez solo-signed 2010 Topps Heritage Real One Autograph when I purchased it a few years ago. However, I don’t think I will ever get as fortunate on the cost should I ever discover that there’s another Phillips-Howard card available on the market.

Taylor Phillips & Ryan Howard
Bobby Wine & Raúl Ibañez

Those “Unlicensed,” Gray-Area Issues

Featured Cards: 2010 Upper Deck #375, Raúl Ibañez; 1986 Burger King All-Pro Series #7, Glenn Wilson; 2008 Donruss Legends Autographs #63, Pete Rose; 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Autographs #158, Tyler Cloyd

2012 Panini Cooperstown hit the hobby shops this week, and like the overwhelming majority of such “unlicensed” issues, I’ve taken a look and will not be acquiring any of it. I put the word “unlicensed” in quotes because Panini possesses licenses from the MLBPA and the Hall of Fame — the only license they’re missing is the MLB license. Therefore, they just can’t depict logos or team names. For this particular Phillies collector, those lacking elements mean that these cards occupy a gray area: by and large, I don’t feel they are important to maintaining a comprehensive team collection. However, I feel that I must at least give a good look at these releases because occasionally they will include Phillies Philadelphia cards that I think would be cool, and sometimes even essential, to my collection.

I don’t want to get into the history of such “gray-area” issues (as opposed to illegitimate or collector issues, such as the Broder cards from the ’80s), but suffice it to say that I frequently embraced them in the past. It was especially easy to do so in regards to plenty of the MSA issues from the ’80s. Aside from quality, the only difference between them and the MLB-approved cards was the lack of logos — somehow, they got away with using team names, but clearly that can no longer occur. Because they featured photography that was similar to the sets issued by the major manufacturers, they didn’t look all that out of place when placed alongside them in binders.

But all that changed with the sets Donruss started issuing in 2008. The gray-area sets they issued that year featured minor league players alongside retired players. However, there were no current players to be found. Worse still, they did a poor job of handling the logos and found themselves sued by MLB. To be fair, they clearly did not airbrush properly, if at all; for example, the ’80s-era Phillies “P” is almost completely visible on Pete Rose’s helmet in the Sports Legends set. I don’t understand why they couldn’t be bothered to make such a minor airbrush, and it’s easy to see why MLB pounced. Even more amazing, Upper Deck inexplicably ignored the incident when throwing together its 2010 baseball set, issued under license from the MLBPA and found itself sued by MLB for the very same reasons.

Until recently, however, the 2010 Upper Deck set was something of an anomaly amongst the recent gray-area offerings. For the most part, they continued to feature either retired players or minor leaguers, so it was easy to disregard them, even though “Philadelphia” appeared as a team designation. Yet, that did not mean I didn’t eventually acquire some of the individual cards. Most notably, Tyler Cloyd, still pitching in Reading at the time, appeared in 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition, and Donruss issued autographed versions of the card. Once Cloyd made his major league debut, I treated the card the same way I treat the Bowman Prospect insert cards and quickly purchased one of the autographed cards. However, I never once considered doing something similar for Vance Worley’s 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition autograph because he was pictured in his collegiate uniform — the card looked nothing like a Phillies card despite the fact it stated “Philadelphia.” At least with Cloyd’s card, he was wearing a red air-brushed cap which allowed me to at least pretend he might be wearing Phillies’ colors.

Although the Panini Cooperstown set, being in black in white, doesn’t raise any of these issues, a few of Panini’s other, more recent offerings do. Search on eBay and you will find plenty of new Panini cards featuring Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee (among others) wearing Phillies red, sans logos and team name. I haven’t purchased any yet, but more than a few of them would look nice in my collection. However, my collection doesn’t seem incomplete without them, and so long as I feel that way, I will likely only acquire items such as the 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Cloyd on a case-by-case basis.

2009 Topps Unique Solo Shot Autographs

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions: 2½” x 3½”
Additional Information: Inserted in packs of 2009 Topps Unique.

SSA-RI Raúl Ibañez

2011 Bowman Platinum Dual Autograph Relics

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions: 2½” x 3½”
Manufacturer: Topps
Parallels: Red Refractors, serial numbered to 10; Superfractors, serial numbered “1/1.”
Additional Information: Inserted in packs of 2011 Bowman Platinum. Base cards serial numbered to 89. All cards, both base and parallels, bear the serial number on the front of the card.

DAR-IV Raúl Ibañez & Shane Victorino

2012 Topps Museum Collection Jumbo Lumber Relics

(scans are of a Platinum parallel)

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions: 2½” x 3½”
Parallels: Gold, serial numbered to 20; Masterpiece, serial numbered “1/1”; Platinum, serial numbered to 5
Additional Information: Seeded in packs of 2012 Topps Museum Collection. Base cards are serial numbered to 30. All base and parallel version bear the serial number on the front of the card. Although “Momentous Materials” does not appear on the card, the numbering system used on the back of the card suggests at point during the production process Topps considered including the words as part of the name of the series.

MMJLR-RI Raúl Ibañez

2010 Bowman 1992 Throwbacks

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions: 2½” x 3½”
Additional Information: Inserted in packs of 2010 Bowman. As the name of the set suggests, the design closely replicates the 1992 Bowman cards.

Jimmy Rollins
Raúl Ibañez
Ryan Howard
Chase Utley
Roy Halladay
Jayson Werth
Cole Hamels

2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Set of the Year

Almost just in time for the first set of 2012, I finally reach the pinnacle of my 2011 Phillies Card Year in Review series. I know that all the cool kids like to start their annual reviews sometime at the end of October when 1/6 of the year still remains, but waiting as long served two purposes. One, I had the opportunity to look over literally everything that arrived in 2011. I absolutely love, for example, when critics name their best books of the year when there are two months of books left unreleased. Yes, I know all about advance review copies, but that’s ignoring my point. How can you be certain if something is the best of the year if there are two frakking months left it in it? The other purpose is that drawing this series out gave me something to write about as I killed the weeks between the last of the 2011 sets and today’s release of 2012 Topps.

Seeing as I already have my order in for a team set of the first series, I better get started on my choice for the set of the year. So without further preamble, the winner is:

2011 Topps Gypsy Queen

I don’t believe I’ve hid my love for this set. I talked approvingly about it back at the start of this blog, and my while positive first impression came with a few reservations, the set really grew on me — so much so that I included a large number of cards from the set in the other categories in my review of the 2011 cards. Although I stand by my belief that Topps should have issued a set closer to the look and feel of the original Gypsy Queen cards, the treatment they applied to the photos on the cards gave the set a truly unique feel compared to all their other sets to date. I saw more than a few baseball card blogs complain about Topps issuing yet another retro set, but here’s the thing: unlike Topps’s Heritage offerings and all the various insert where they’ve reused designs from their past, the overwhelming majority of collectors cannot afford even one of the original Gypsy Queen cards. For most of us, this is going to be as close as get to them.

My love for the set, however, extended far beyond the look and feel of the cards and their photos. One of the other things that made this set really unique was that all the inserts — whether they were plain, simple inserts or contained memorabilia and/or autographs — maintained the basic card design of the base set. Even if all the card didn’t have “Gypsy Queen” in the same arched word-art at the top of each card, you would have recognized immediately, without a moment of doubt or hesitation, whether or not an insert came from the Gypsy Queen set. To me, this made it both fun and compelling to chase down as many of the various inserts as possible. It was a rare set in which you could mix the inserts alongside the base cards in a binder and they wouldn’t have looked out of place.

In fact, you could theoretically do the same thing with the mini framed inserts, if you were of a mind to somehow excise them from the frame in which Topps encased them.

Admittedly, putting together a true master set of 2011 Gypsy Queen Phillies will be impossible — there were just too many autograph and/or memorabilia cards with ridiculously small print runs. However, I really feel like Topps at least attempted to strike a balance because there were actually a significant number of those cards that I could afford. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, Topps also created much easier to find auto and/or memorabilia cards for all the players whom they created an auto/memorabilia card printed on an extremely limited basis. In particular, I’m referring to the autographed memorabilia cards with print runs of just 25 they created for Utley, Victorino, Howard and Halladay. For each player, you could much more cheaply acquire some sort of Gypsy Queen autograph or memorabilia card. You really can’t say that for any of the other sets made issued in 2011.

With that, I’m finished with this series. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my reasons for choosing Topps Gypsy Queen as my set of the year, but I’m comfortable with the decision. Topps has already announced plans for a second Gypsy Queen set this year, and I sincerely hope that all the elements that made the 2011 set so wonderful return in the upcoming issue.

Cards Featured
Base Cards: #342, Placido Polanco; #47, Jimmy Rollins; #27, Roy Oswalt; #139, Raul Ibañez; #2, Roy Halladay
Mini Parallels: #346, Shane Victorino; #2[b], Roy Hallady (SP variation)
Certified Autograph: #GQA-SV, Shane Victorino; Framed Mini Relic (image was cropped): #FMRC-CU, Chase Utley