Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Essentials: 2013 Mets Autographs

Return of the Prospects

A lot of baseball cards have been released in 2013.  Between Topps (MLB and MLBPA licenses), Panini (MLBPA license), Leaf (no licenses), and Upper Deck (MLBPA license but strict MLB oversight), more than 40 baseball products have been released this year.  So which cards stand out from the rest?  To answer that question, we’ll break down the key Mets cards from 2013 in The Essentials.

2013 was filled with new Mets autographs from the first days of the year all the way to the last.  Add in a few current stars (well, as much as the current team has stars) and loads of former favorites and you’ve got a pretty decent bunch of cards for one year.  Best of all, 2012’s prospect drought didn’t carry over to 2013.  Instead, we were treated to a bountiful prospect crop, so let’s start there.


Aside from a few 2011 draft picks in Elite Extra Edition and a couple of 2012 draft picks in Bowman Draft, the prospect autographs in 2012 were limited to, well, Chris Schwinden.  And maybe some Reese Havens, if he and/or SP Signature count.  Things started off much the same in 2013 with the first Panini-branded Elite Extra Edition.

EEE gave us the first autographs from 2012 draft picks Branden Kaupe, Logan Taylor, Matt Koch, and Matt Reynolds (Reynolds was supposed to have his first autographs in 2012 Bowman Sterling, but redemptions were issued instead and the cards were released in 2013 Bowman Chrome).  Gavin Cecchini also made an appearance with Kevin Plawecki showing up as redemptions (that have yet to be fulfilled as of the end of 2013).

Coming into 2013, two dozen Mets prospects had been featured on Bowman Chrome autographs in Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft, from Bob Keppel in 2001 to Kevin Plawecki in 2012.  2013 Bowman had just Jeurys Familia RC autographs, but Bowman Chrome picked up the slack with Luis Mateo, Matt Reynolds (now signing with just his first initial instead of the full name) and Rafael Montero.  Bowman Draft added 2013 draft picks Dominic Smith and Andrew Church.  Mateo, Reynolds, and Smith had their first autographs in other products (2013 Bowman Platinum, 2012 Panini EEE, and 2013 Panini Perennial Draft Picks, respectively), but Bowman Chrome is king of the prospect autographs.

Not that Panini is going down without a fight.  They may not have a license from MLB Properties, but they’re still making a big push to get a piece of the baseball card market.  Traditionally, Panini wouldn’t put out autographs from draft picks until January’s EEE.  This year, Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks was positioned to challenge the prospect aspects of Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects (hence the overly alliterative name).  Not only did Panini get top pick Dominic Smith, but they also landed autographs from third round pick Ivan Wilson and past picks Jayce Boyd and Cory Vaughn.  Rainy Lara and Amed Rosario were included as redemptions, but there’s no word on when those will be fulfilled (Panini’s got a lot of signing to do…).

Without licenses from either MLB Properties or the MLBPA, Leaf didn’t have much to work with except retired players and prospects.  They did an impressive job with that limitation, getting Dominic Smith and Rafael Montero to sign for them in multiple products alongside their one exclusive signer, Domingo Tapia.  All three had autographs in Leaf Metal, Leaf Memories, and Leaf Trinity, the latter of which featured thick plastic slabs, memorabilia, or inscriptions on all of its cards.  Though limited in its scope, Leaf’s offering in 2013 was quite noteworthy.  Hopefully the MLBPA is paying attention, too bad MLB Properties has hitched itself to Topps for the foreseeable future.

Not that Topps has been all that bad lately.  In addition to the players with Bowman Chrome autos, Topps also managed to get signatures from 2012 7th round pick Corey Oswalt (winner of the “Most random prospect to have an autograph card in 2013” award that doesn’t exist) and 2013 4th round pick L.J. Mazzilli, son of former Met Lee Mazzilli.  On top of that, they also produced the first Mets autographs of top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  That leaves most of the Mets’ top 20 or so prospects with autograph cards of some soft except for Jacob deGrom and Gabriel Ynoa.

Rookie Cards

When it comes to Rookie Card autographs in 2013, the big name was Jeurys Familia.  Seriously, he was in just about everything for the first 8 months of the year, at which point Zack Wheeler took over and finished off the year’s RC auto appearances.  The pair accounted for all of the Mets RC autos released by Topps in 2013.

But not all of the Mets RC autos in 2013.  Panini Pinnacle was perfectly positioned to provide the premier penmanship piece from recently departed Mets pitcher Collin McHugh.  Familia was in there too because, well, just because.

2012 Rookies

Last year’s default rookie signers Jordany Valdespin and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were back again in 2013, though JV1’s first autograph this year will probably also be his last as a Met.  Things aren’t looking too good for Nieuwenhuis, who wasn’t even called up in September.  He still had a bunch of autographs in Gypsy Queen, Tier One, and Triple Threads.

2013 All-Stars

Both of the Mets All-Stars from 2013 had autographs released in 2013, though all of Matt Harvey’s were dated either 2012 (all of his Panini autos) or 2011 (Bowman Platinum redemptions that finally made it out two years late).  Hopefully you got your fill of Harvey autos early because prices spiked in April and haven’t cooled off all that much since then.

New Old Mets

A few new faces we’ve already forgotten also managed to get some autographs out in 2013.  Collin Cowgill and Shaun Marcum were featured in Topps Series 2, then Cowgill came back in Topps Update to commemorate the one thing of significance he did in his very brief Mets career.  Marcum also had a few autographs in Topps Tier One alongside Kirk Nieuwenhuis and (of course) Jeurys Familia.


R.A. Dickey continued to have Mets autographs into 2013, including these three on-card beauties.  The Gypsy Queen and Tribute Dickey autos were released as redemption cards and were sent out shortly after the Museum Collection card was released (Museum Collection also included several cards with Dickey sticker autos).

Fan Favorites

This year had another good haul of Mets autographs in Topps Archives.  Gregg Jefferies, Howard Johnson, Jesse Orosco, Kevin McReynolds, Keith Miller, Mookie Wilson, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez were all featured in the Fan Favorites Autographs set, though several of these were in card styles that were used in previous Fan Favorites Autographs sets.  This is Keith Miller’s first autograph card because, well, he’s Keith Miller.

Hometown Heroes

Panini’s attempt at an Archives clone didn’t come out all that well but still managed to include autographs from several Mets favorites including Darryl Strawberry, Lee Mazzilli, Lenny Dykstra, Ron Darling, Mookie Wilson, Dave Kingman, and Tom Seaver.  Pat Tabler, not shown as a Met, has his first certified autographs here.


Leaf’s Archives clone on the other hand is starting to come into its own in its second year.  In addition to the previously mentioned prospects, Leaf Memories was loaded with buyback autographs from retired favorites like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Sid Fernandez, Kevin Mitchell, Dave Magadan, Kevin Elster (his first certified autographs), and Barry Lyons.  Many others Mets were shown in other uniforms, including Rick Aguilera with his first certified autographs.  Unfortunately, many of the buybacks were issued as redemption cards, some of which couldn’t be entered into the online redemption system and had to be redeemed through Leaf customer service.  As of the end of 2013, only the Elster autos are known to have been fulfilled.

Chasing History

As usual, Topps threw a few sticker autographs from retired Mets in its main base autograph insert, Chasing History.  Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, and Howard Johnson are featured here in autographs from Series 1 (Carter and Gooden) and Update (Johnson).  Carter autographs are getting harder to find and his Chasing History Autograph insert was available at surprisingly low prices.


After having only one Mets autograph last year, 2013 Heritage was loaded with Mets.  Al Moran, Amado Samuel, Jay Hook, Mike Joyce (never actually played for the Mets), Pumpsie Green, and Tim Harkness represented the biggest Mets contingent in Heritage history (though at this point the Mets have only existed for three years).  Ken MacKenzie has his first certified autographs in 2013 Heritage as a Giant.

New Ink Colors

In 2013, Topps expanded its use of various colored markers into more products than ever before.  While the use of different colors has been common in Tier One and Museum Collection Framed Autographs from their start, Topps Chrome and Topps Triple Threads have added metallic marker variants for the first time.  Tier One itself added a new color, copper rose, to replace the white that was easily confused with silver in the past.

And that will do it for this year’s installment of The Essentials.  The remainder of 2013’s wrap-up posts will go up later this week.  Happy New Year!

The Essentials: 2013 Black Jersey Photoshop Edition

Special edition for Mets Police

Even after the black drop shadows were removed from all Mets jerseys and new alternate jerseys and hats were introduced to replace their black counterparts, the black alternate Mets jersey has proven to be hard to kill.  Used just twice in 2012 and not at all in 2013, the black jersey is back as an official alternate in 2014.  It’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will see any use in the future, but if you’re looking for a black jersey fix, Topps has you covered.  Because they’ve been slow to get the memo about black being out of style.

2013 Bowman

It wasn’t a long wait to see the first Mets cards with photoshopped black jerseys.  2013 Bowman featured black jerseys on two of the Mets Cream of the Crop mini cards.  For Travis d’Arnaud, it makes sense that Topps wouldn’t have much to work with, considering that he became part of the Mets organization just five months before 2013 Bowman was released.  But Michael Fulmer?  He does not look amused.

2013 Bowman Platinum

Man, the Blue Jays sure must love black jerseys.  Noah Syndergaard’s first Mets cards (released in 2013 Bowman along with d’Arnaud) showed him in a decent attempt at a photoshopped gray Mets jersey.  For Bowman Platinum though, Topps made the rare decision to use different photographs for Syndergaard’s base and insert cards.  The insert used the gray version and the base cards got this snazzy black number.

2013 Bowman Chrome

Colored borders can’t even make this photo of Matt Reynolds look good.  Maybe a signature could spice things up.

Nope, that only makes the photo and its black jersey look worse.  Are there really so few pictures of these guys that this is the best they could come up with?

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

Oh, hello again Noah Syndergaard black jersey photo.  You know, Topps, if you needed some photos of Syndergaard in an easy-to-photoshop gray Binghamton Mets jersey, you could have just asked.  I would even have been willing to cut you a discount on the licensing fee.  The Syndergaard card looks even worse when you consider that three of the six Mets draft picks in this product are shown in blue jerseys.

And at least in the case of Andrew Church, it turns out that Topps can turn a black jersey blue.  Because there is apparently only one Andrew Church photo to work with.

2013 Bowman Sterling

Looks like I spoke too soon.  Topps found a different photo of Church for Bowman Sterling (but not for Syndergaard, who is back in the gray version) and turned it black.  But at least all of these black jerseys are only used on prospects.  Topps has its own photo shoots in spring training to make sure that it always has a couple of photos of each player on the team they start the season with.

And then they go and slap a cut-rate black jersey photoshop job on an old photo and call it a day.  Because the black jersey will not, can not die.

Mets Game-Used History: 1998 to 2000

The awkward early years in the growth of a new fad

After the first three jersey cards debuted in 1997 Upper Deck, this new type of insert took some time to develop into the hobby mainstay it has been ever since 2001.  The intermediate period of 1998 to 2000 brought several key developments that refined and expanded the game-used memorabilia offerings in baseball products.  At the start though, the Mets weren’t part of the story.


Upper Deck was all about more in 1998.  Not only did the base Upper Deck product add a third series, but each series had a separate game-used memorabilia insert set.  Series 1 introduced game-used bat cards in addition to jersey cards.  Series 2 combined the two and introduced the first combo memorabilia cards with a piece of bat and a piece of jersey in every card.  Series 3 used the same style as the Series 2 set only without the bat chips.  No Mets were featured in any of those sets, so Gary Sheffield is shown as a stand-in with his bat and jersey cards from 1998 Upper Deck Series 1 and his bat/jersey card from 1998 Upper Deck Series 2.

The construction of these cards is worth noting.  Like the 1997 jersey cards, the 1998 jersey cards feature a swatch of cloth sandwiched between two thin pieces of cardboard.  The bat cards on the other hand use only a single piece of thin cardboard with the bat chip glued on top.  The bat/jersey combo cards use both methods, with the large jersey sections inserted between the pieces of cardboard and the bat chip glued onto the top piece, putting each piece of game-used material on a different layer.  This would be the last time that thin cardboard would be used in memorabilia cards.


The other major development in 1998 was the trade that brought Mike Piazza to Queens.  With memorabilia cards still largely limited to major stars (and, apparently, Bubba Trammell), Piazza gave the Mets their best chance to break into some of the various sets released in 1999.  In addition to the 1999 Upper Deck Game Jersey card, Piazza also had the first Mets bat cards in UD MVP and UD Ovation.  And that was about it for the Mets in 1999.

So how about some ex-Mets?  Nolan Ryan and Eddie Murray were among the retired players with memorabilia cards in 1999.  Plain white swatches aren’t very exciting these days, but there wasn’t much more than that back then.  In fact, 1999 was the only year without a pinstripe jersey card from a current, future, or former Met.

But we did get a black jersey card from future forgotten Met Bubba Trammell.  And a Mo Vaughn bat card because, sure, why not?  Not all memorabilia cards in 1999 were this boring, thankfully.  New sources of material were starting to make their way into cards.

In 1997, we got the first jersey cards.  In 1998, we got the first bat cards.  And in 1999, memorabilia cards further expanded into hats and shoes.  Also new to memorabilia cards was Fleer with the first such cards to come from a manufacturer other than Upper Deck.  By now, it was clear what direction the hobby was headed in.


There were plenty more firsts for Mets memorabilia in 2000.  The 2000 product year started with some big new Mike Piazza cards, including the first Mets patch card in 2000 Upper Deck Series 1 and a card in the first multi-level parallel memorabilia set in 2000 UD Black Diamond (single, double, and triple bat cards, single is shown above).  This year though, Piazza was not alone.

Robin Ventura joined Piazza in representing the Mets in 2000’s memorabilia inserts.  In addition to the now-usual bat and jersey cards, Ventura was featured on several autographed memorabilia cards.  In another first, Ventura also had the first Mets hat card in 2000 Skybox Dominion.

The final first from 2000 features a name that you might not remember.  Jorge Toca had an MLB career that spanned just 27 plate appearances over three seasons.  So it should come as no surprise that this piece of bat was from a minor league game.  Still, this is the first Mets minor league memorabilia card.

Outside of Mets cards, many familiar players were featured on game-used memorabilia cards in 2000, particularly in Upper Deck’s largest-ever Game Jersey set.  The memorabilia card was becoming so popular in fact that manufacturers were looking for more types of material to put into it.

And that brings us to the first memorabilia cards featuring items that aren’t linked to one specific player.  When it comes to common items used in baseball games, nothing is as prolific as the game’s namesake.  Dozens of baseballs are used in every MLB game for a total of more than 125,000 used every year.  Linking them to a specific player though can be a bit tricky.  The card above claims that the swatches are from balls that were used by Piazza and Ventura, respectively, but with an average lifespan of 6 pitches, does that even matter?  Even if the balls were used by these players, it may have been for only a few seconds.  This marked the start of memorabilia cards featuring all sorts of things used in games, from bases and on deck circles to walls and seats to dirt.  The memorabilia card’s evolution had only just begun.

The Essentials: 2013 Mets Game-Used

The year in tiny pieces of fabric

A lot of baseball cards have been released in 2013.  Between Topps (MLB and MLBPA licenses), Panini (MLBPA license), Leaf (no licenses), and Upper Deck (MLBPA license but strict MLB oversight), more than 40 baseball products have been released this year.  So which cards stand out from the rest?  To answer that question, we’ll break down the key Mets cards from 2013 in The Essentials.

Game-used memorabilia cards have been a popular mainstay in the hobby for over a decade, but the concept seems to have gotten stale in recent years.  Gone are the days when anything a player wore, touched, or even saw at a game could be found embedded in a cardboard slab.  Today, cards are mostly limited to swatches of fabric or wood with little to identify where they came from.  Luckily, you have this site to use as a reference for all your fabric identification needs.  Or at least you will whenever I finish scanning and cataloging all of this stuff.  Which is to say, likely never.  At the very least though, I can walk you through the new and notable material of 2013.

Mets Patches

Let’s start with the big stuff – patches.  Patch cards are somewhat hard to find these days, particularly ones with great big interesting patch pieces like this card:

I’m a sucker for sleeve patches, especially when so much of one is contained on one card.  Unfortunately, most of the Mets patches in circulation are tiny nondescript scraps from numbers or the team name.  Panini probably did it best this year with the patches in 2012 National Treasures.

Not only do these have nice big chunks of patch, but they also feature on-card autographs.  Since they’re dated 2012, they are also sort of rookie cards, though the jury’s still out on that one.  While not all of the 135 copies of each (99 + 25 + 10 + 1) have patch swatches, a significant number do, putting these at some of the most prolific patches of 2013.  And for Matt Harvey, some of the most valuable.

And then there’s Dickey.  Building on the pinstripe swatches first seen in last year’s Triple Threads, R.A. Dickey had Mets patches released in several products in 2013.  Above are pieces of the “NEW YORK” from the road gray jersey (left) and the “KID 8” sleeve patch worn in honor of Gary Carter (right).  Dickey would also have a few pieces of Blue Jays patch (from a camouflage jersey) in 2013 Triple Threads.

Jeurys Familia and Zack Wheeler are the final Mets with their first Mets patches in 2013.  I’m still working on getting the Wheeler though…


One step down from a patch is a strip of piping.  For pants swatches (which are what the white Niuewenhuis swatches appear to be), this is about as exciting as things get.  R.A. Dickey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Matt Harvey all had a few piping cards for the first time in 2013.  Nieuwenhuis’s are some of the largest strips I’ve seen in cards.

Multicolor Swatches

Matt Harvey’s jersey swatches in 2012 Panini National Treasures were from his 1989 throwback jersey, which means lots of multicolor swatches from the racing stripe on the sides and shoulders.  One more reason why National Treasures was such a big hit, shame about the smudged signature…


Zack Wheeler is the latest test subject for the Curse of the Pinstripes.  Will he pitch in 2014?  Only time will tell.

The Blues

With the 2012 batting practice jersey now retired and a new version, similar to the 2013 AL All-Star workout jersey, due in 2014, we’ve gotten a few more swatches from these jerseys in 2013.  David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and maybe Zack Wheeler joined Jordany Valdespin with this type of fabric.  Matt Harvey also had a few mesh variants in 2013 Topps Tier One.


The big surprise in 2013 Topps Triple Threads was the first swatch of green fabric from a St. Patrick’s Day spring training jersey.  From Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  At least it’s from someone who’s still with the organization, I guess.

2013 World Baseball Classic

Interestingly, some of the most common patches in 2013 were from the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Seven Mets were featured in the 2013 Topps Tribute WBC patch set: David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Jae Seo.

2013 All-Star Game

As usual, Topps Update featured swatches from the workout jerseys from the 2013 All-Star Game held at Citi Field.  The Mets were represented by David Wright and Matt Harvey, with Carlos Beltran and Marco Scutaro also on the NL team (Bartolo Colon will be the Mets representative from the AL team when he gets his first start with the team in 2014).  The jerseys prominently feature Mets colors with orange front panels, orange mesh back panels, and blue mesh side panels.  Swatches from all three types of fabric were included in the All-Star Stitches inserts in Topps Update and Topps Chrome update.

2012 Futures Game

Last year, only the primary fabrics from the 2012 Futures Game jerseys worn by Wilmer Flores (World) and Zack Wheeler (USA) were featured in the various memorabilia cards commemorating the event.  The secondary fabrics, gray/gray mesh for the World team and white/white mesh for the USA team, made their way into circulation in several products in 2013.  Unfortunately, being so generic makes identifying the plain white and gray swatches a bit difficult, especially for Wheeler, who had fabric from several different jerseys released in 2013.

2013 Futures Game

The 2013 Futures Game featured two Mets pitchers (Noah Syndergaard for the USA team and Rafael Montero for the World team) as the starters, which was perfect for a game at the Mets’ home stadium.  Outfielder Brandon Nimmo was elected by the fans as the final member of the USA team (before injury replacements were made).  Only Nimmo and Montero were featured in the Futures Game jersey cards in 2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, and with only the primary fabric.  The status of Syndergaard’s jersey is unknown.

Other MLB Fabric

On the more boring side of things, several Mets had their first jersey cards featuring plain swatches from white or gray MLB jerseys this year.  R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Zack Wheeler all had a variety of white and gray fabric released in 2013.

Other Stuff

Several (well, two at least) players who were new to the Mets in 2013 and are now gone had memorabilia cards released in 2013 showing them as Mets.  None of the material is from a Mets jersey; Marcum’s is probably from Brewers jerseys and Byrd’s is from a Cubs jersey.


Rounding out the year’s significant memorabilia cards are a bunch of bat cards.  R.A. Dickey had his first bat cards in Topps Triple Threads, shown in a Blue Jays uniform.  2013 15th-round draft pick Colton Plaia had a Team USA bat card in Panini USA Baseball Champions.  And that’s a nice Darryl Strawberry bat card, so let’s close out this year’s memorabilia on that.

Adventures in Group Breaking

Breakin’ 3: Bowman Sterling-y

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t follow the sports card industry), group breaking is the hottest trend in sports cards.  For a (relatively) small fee, collectors who can’t afford the high prices of modern cases can still get a shot at a big hit, provided that they buy into the right slots.  Formats vary, but there are opportunities to get a big return on a small investment (or the reverse).  I’ve been doing the cost-benefit analysis on the various opportunities I’ve seen and finally found the right mix of return and risk in the year’s final offering from Topps as broken by collector favorite Brent Williams.  But before we get to that, let’s take a look at a couple of smaller breaks I tested the waters with earlier in the year.

2012 Panini Prizm

The first break I considered this year was the 2012 Panini Prizm team break from Brent Williams.  I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk at the asking price when I would probably walk away with a Lucas Duda autograph as the big hit.  Instead, I found a cheap 4-box break to buy into.  That should have been good for two base team sets on average, which would include a Matt Harvey Rookie card (because this was a 2012 product).  In the end, I got what I was hoping for: one full team set, a second team set minus one card, an extra Ike Davis, and a few inserts.

And of course a Duda auto.  There was no getting around that one.

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

I never really know how to deal with Bowman Draft.  Prices for some of the cards that come out of it can be quite high, but the long-term value is highly volatile.  Positioned at the end of the base Bowman line, most of the Rookie Cards are duplicates from earlier releases (with new photos), which adds to the confusion.  This year, with increased production, decreased numbering on colored refractors, and more variants than ever before, I just bought up base and chrome lots, the base autographs, and a few cheap parallels and left it at that.  To make things interesting, I also bid on a few player slots in a 5-case break from RynemCaseBreaks.  I ended up with only two, Andrew Church (non-auto only) and Zack Wheeler.  With a total cost including shipping of less than $20 and a practically guaranteed 30+ card lot of base/chrome cards for each player, I wasn’t too worried about coming up empty.  Because there wasn’t much of a chance at a big return anyway.

I actually watched almost all of the 5-case break live and it was quite entertaining.  Some slots came up big while others were big losers.  The Bowman Black slot, a bargain at well under $100, was the big winner with both Kris Bryant and Austin Meadows pulled from the 5 cases.  That’s over $500 worth of cards for a slot that could have been a total loss.  On the Mets side of things, the $20 Andrew Church autograph slot came up big with base, refractor, and orange refractor (#d/25) versions pulled in the break.  The $120 Dominic Smith autograph slot on the other hand got just a base autograph (worth about $20).

My slots were not big winners.  In addition to the expected base and chrome cards, I got four parallels: two Zack Wheeler refractors, a Zack Wheeler ice parallel, and an Andrew Church black wave refractor.  Out of all of the base Mets pulled in the break, the best card was a green refractor numbered to 75.

2013 Bowman Sterling

And now, the main event.  Bowman Sterling isn’t exactly my favorite product.  Released at the end of the year, it usually features a mix of rehashed rookies and draft picks, a less popular second helping of autographs we’ve already seen in more interesting products.  Last year, a terribly bland design with refractors that barely looked like refractors did nothing to help the checklist of repeat signers.  Prices on the secondary market reflected these problems; I picked up a gold refractor autograph (#d/50) of Kirk Nieuwenhuis for $1.50 plus shipping and a black refractor autograph (#d/25) of Kevin Plawecki for about $10 more.  The Bowman Black autographs had some decent value, but the massive chipping that plagued thick Topps autographs in 2012 caused them to lose some of their appeal.  Sterling needed a revamp to justify taking a slot in the Topps lineup.

2013 Bowman Sterling is a completely different product from its 2012 incarnation.  Sure, the basics are still the same: 3 autographs per pack, 18 total autographs per box, dual sticker autographs, Bowman Black autographs numbered to 25, etc.  This time though, the autographs are in portrait orientation (typically more highly desired than landscape) and green, ruby, and orange refractor parallels fill the space between refractors and gold refractors.  Most Rookie Card autographs are, unfortunately, on stickers, but the product delivers where it counts: prospect autographs.  2013 draft picks Dominic Smith and Andrew Church return after Bowman Draft, but joining them are Noah Syndergaard with his first Mets autographs and L.J. Mazzilli (fan favorite Lee Mazzilli’s son) with his first certified autograph cards.  Add in some Zack Wheeler sticker autographs and you have a solid Mets checklist with a few must-haves for any serious Mets collector.

Shortly after the checklist was released, Brent Williams announced the possibility of a team-based group break of Bowman Sterling on launch day.  With 106 rookie/prospect autographs in 2013 Bowman Sterling and 144 total autographs in an 8-box case, the odds of getting all of a team’s base autographs are pretty good.  A quick calculation put the over/under of the value of the Mets slot at $90.  For the right price, this would be a great break to get in on.  Which meant that I probably wasn’t the only Mets fan who would be after this slot.

Two days later, Brent Williams announced that the Bowman Sterling break was on.  I was catching up on Twitter while waiting in line at the post office to mail out recent auction sales.  And I was a couple of hours behind on my tweets.  Skipping to the top, I saw that the price breakdown had just been posted.  The Mets slot was priced at $90, right on my estimated cost.  At that price, even getting just the base Mets autographs wouldn’t be a bad deal, especially with them all in one package sent the day after launch.  There was a chance of getting less, but there was also a decent chance of getting some nice bonuses.  20 minutes after the announcement, I claimed the Mets slot without hesitation.  And then I waited two long days for the break to begin.

2013 Bowman Sterling 8-Box Case Break – brentandbecca

I tried to keep my expectations in check.  All I wanted were the five base Mets autographs, one of the base Mets cards, and something extra.  Unfortunately, I missed the start of the break and came in about halfway through.  Among all of the Pirates, Philies, and Yankees autographs, I saw only a Noah Syndergaard base card and two L.J. Mazzilli base autographs.  From what I heard, I had missed a pair of Andrew Church base autographs and a Dominic Smith green refractor autograph.  That still left me three base autographs short of my goal as the break entered its final minutes.  And then the rest of them started hitting one after another.  The base Dominic Smith auto and a green refractor Zack Wheeler auto came up at the end of box number 7.  Box number 8 held the final two base autos, Syndergaard and Wheeler.  And with that, this break had exceeded my expectations.

And that’s it.  Nothing huge, but everything I wanted.  I also had a chance at both The Duel inserts featuring Mets, but I lost out on both of them to the other team featured on the card.  Now I’m just waiting for the post office to deliver the cards.

2013 Biggest Pulls

The big hits get fewer and the small hits get bigger

With another year of baseball products in the books, it’s time to look back and ask one important question.  Why the heck do I keep doing this?  Like last year, I purchased a little more than $3,000 worth of hobby boxes and retail packs and sold about half that in single cards from those boxes and packs.  There were surprises, disappointments, oddities, and a few more disappointments.  Nothing here is from a premium product, just ordinary sub-$100 boxes of mostly base products.  What follows are the best cards I pulled from packs in 2013.  For some perspective, take a look at what Brent Williams pulled from 64 cases of 2013 Topps Update.  With more than 10 times as much product as I opened all year, his results may surprise you.

1. 2013 Bowman Byron Buxton Blue Wave Refractor Autograph BCP-BB 02/50

The story behind this card is a long and sordid tale of high hopes, unfulfilled desires, crushing reality, twists of fate, and unexpected riches.  A screenplay will certainly be forthcoming; film rights are still available.  Way back in the early months of the year, 2013 Bowman was released with the promise of wrapper redemption Blue Wave Refractor packs.  Last year’s promotion proved to be quite popular, so getting the wrappers to Topps in less than a week was essential.  I had not yet decided whether to buy any boxes of this year’s Bowman, but I knew that I wanted to get in on the wrapper redemption.  A solution appeared in the form of case breaker extraordinaire Brent Williams, who was selling wrappers for a price that was too good to resist.  And so I purchased the household limit in wrappers, to be shipped directly to Topps for maximum efficiency.  One day after the product was released, the wrappers began their journey back to their maker.

The following day, I finally broke down and purchased the bare minimum amount of product necessary to assemble a complete base and chrome set.  Collation was on my side and I was left just a few cards short of my goal.  Little else came from those packs beyond an Alen Hanson refractor autograph that accounted for half of my total sales of unwanted inserts.  My change of heart also left me with enough wrappers to redeem for two packs, assuming that there was still time.  Already at my household limit, I sent in these wrappers with my brother’s house as the destination for anything that should be sent in return.  Now three days after product launch, the chance of any return was getting slimmer.  I may have already missed the window.

On the following Monday, launch plus five days, Topps announced that they had already received a mountain of wrappers and would shortly run out of packs to issue in exchange.  They urged customers to stop sending wrappers as those already in transit would surely exhaust their supply.  The outlook for my late travelers was grim, but those were not essential to my plan.  At worst, I could still look forward to receiving ten shiny foil packs in the mail.  Tracking information showed that my wrappers had indeed reached their destination, though they arrived on Tuesday, five full days after being shipped.  Even some of the wrappers shipped at the same exact time as mine arrived a day earlier.  This was not an encouraging development.

Within days, reports began appearing of people receiving a number of packs that did not match the number they should have been due.  People who sent in wrappers for ten packs instead received only two, while some who sent in for two received ten.  One person even reported receiving ten packs despite not having sent in a single wrapper.  I was getting worried as the days turned to weeks and no shipments from Topps appeared in my mailbox.

Eventually, I had to accept reality.  My packs would not be coming.  Not twelve, not ten, not even two.  My fate was to receive nothing.

Several months later, with this loss long behind me, I was visiting with my brother and handed him something or other of little importance that I had remembered to bring for him.  He went off to deposit what I had given him and came back with two foil packs for me.  Those packs that I had given up on when the ten that should have been assured failed to arrive were now in my hands.

At this point, the opportunity to maximize the return for these cards was long gone.  I already had all of the Mets that I wanted from these packs, so there was nothing inside for my collection.  These were now a mere curiosity and little more.  Still, I had to see what was inside.  The first pack held nothing of any consequence.  With expectations as low as they could be, I opened the second pack and saw the glint of a gold serial number on the bottom card.  Was it a Red Wave Refractor?  No, those are numbered to 25, this one was numbered to 50.  That means it’s an autograph.  Anybody good?  I checked the name and it said Byron Buxton.  Flipping it over confirmed what the back had told me – I was holding a Byron Buxton autograph card.

As it turned out, this particular Byron Buxton autograph card was one of the best ones to have.  Similar Buxton autos numbered to 50 in other products were selling for a respectable $150, but his Bowman Chrome autographs were selling for hundreds of dollars.  The timing was also quite fortunate as Buxton was at the top of everyone’s prospect list at the end of the 2013 minor league season.  This card had been selling for up to $550 at the time I pulled it.  My luck had certainly turned around.

In the end, this card sold for just under $400.  I had hoped for more, but the market was softening and the card had a slightly dinged corner.  This one card made back everything I had spent on 2013 Bowman including the 100 wrappers that never bore fruit.

2. 2013 Panini Prizm Draft Gosuke Katoh Prospect Signatures Red Refractor 53 020/100

It was a long way down from that one big hit.  Last year, I pulled two cards that sold for more than $200 and nothing else that sold over $50.  This year, it was just the one card at just under $400 and nothing else over $100.  This particular card was the result of a Black Friday splurge designed to help me get my hands on a few Panini Black Friday packs (which themselves held the Puig Lava Flow card shown further down).  Two boxes of 2013 Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks yielded six cards numbered to 100, two of them autographs.  Of the six, three (including one of the autographs) sold for 99 cents and two didn’t sell.  And then there’s this Gosuke Katoh autograph that sold for $91 to someone in Japan.  It was a nice surprise in a product filled with underwhelming cards.

3. 2013 Topps Heritage High Number Manny Machado Real One Autograph ROA-MM

I screwed this one up.  After last year’s Heritage High Number set was a big hit, I couldn’t pass up this year’s version.  Topps anticipated the surge in demand and increased production by nearly an order of magnitude while keeping the price steady at $100.  That should have been a recipe for crushing disappointment.  When I finally got my set (FedEx delivered it a day late after faking a delivery attempt in their tracking system, damn liars), it did not in fact hold the Zack Wheeler autograph I was hoping for.  Instead, I had to settle for Manny Machado.  The problem here was figuring out pricing.  With so many autographs released in 2013, pricing Machado’s cards is not easy.  Some low-numbered autos sell for $50, while other less limited autos sell for well over $100.  The sweet spot seemed to be in the $75-80 range, so I set a $75 Buy It Now price to avoid falling into the $50 basement or having other sellers undercut me with 1-day auctions.  And it sold in minutes while the next one to sell went for over $100.  Instead of getting my base set for free, I only got a good deal on it.  Oh well.  In my defense, the signature isn’t all that great and the corners were banged up from being at the outside of the stack in the box.  Topps should know better than to put the most valuable card in the most vulnerable spot.

4. 2013 Topps Archives Manny Machado Gold Rainbow 27 041/199 RC

At least the Machado autograph sold for more than either of the Machado parallel cards featured here.  After the blue sparkle Machado (see below) from my Topps Series 1 wrapper redemption packs sold for nearly $30, I was expecting a similar price for the Archives gold foil parallel numbered to 199 (similar to the blue sparkle print run).  $60 was a complete shock and sent it to the top of my Archives sales, ahead of a Roy Halladay printing plate and card #7 on this list.

5. 2013 Bowman Chrome Derek Jeter Gold Refractor 215 44/50

Yankees Bowman Chrome gold refractors seem to find me every year.  Last year, it was Ichiro.  This year, I hit the broken down aging Yankee jackpot with Jeter.  Comparable cards were selling for $40-60, so I set a $50 Buy It Now and hoped for the best.  Someone thought they knew better though and tried to get a bargain.  So $50 turned into $54.88.

6. 2013 Topps Series 2 Tom Seaver Proven Mettle Coin Wrought Iron PMC-TS 25/50
$50 (Estimated)

Topps Series 2 was nothing short of a colossal bust for me.  Four jumbo boxes yielded one jersey card I could sell, three I couldn’t, one autograph I chose to keep, three I couldn’t give away, three manufactured material cards that brought in about $25, and this.  With a going price of about $50 at the time I pulled it, this is the most valuable card I kept from a pack this year and the most valuable Mets card I have ever pulled from a pack.  These coins are some of the best manufactured material Topps has ever produced.  But this card is small consolation for an otherwise awful experience.

7. 2013 Topps Archives Tommy Lee Heavy Metal Autograph HMA-TL

Topps Archives throws in a few non-baseball items from time to time.  This year, it was autographs from heavy metal stars.  As luck would have it, I didn’t have to wait long to find one; this Tommy Lee auto was the first autograph I pulled from Archives this year.  While an interesting curiosity, these lose a bit of their appeal when they take the place of autographs from baseball players.  Fan Favorites Autographs don’t bring in $30 though, so bring on the oddities.

8. 2013 Topps Heritage Matt Cain Mini 350 033/100

Here’s a good example of prices that make no sense.  Ordinarily, a parallel card numbered to 100 wouldn’t be worth more than a couple of dollars for all but the hottest players.  The mini cards in 2013 Topps Heritage though were selling for $20 or more for no real reason.  I guess people just love hand-numbered mini parallels.

9. 2013 Topps Series 1 Josh Beckett Silk Collection 01/50

$31 may seem high for a Silk Collection card, but having another low-numbered Josh Beckett card up for sale at the same time probably inflated the price a bit.

10. 2013 Topps Series 1 Stan Musial Chasing History Relic CHR-SM

Stan Musial passed away shortly before 2013 Topps Series 1 was released.  While it may seem a bit morbid, this helped sales of Musial items.  At $30, this is the most I’ve gotten for a memorabilia card this year and is more than four times the selling price of any other memorabilia card I’ve pulled in the last two years except for last year’s Posey jumbo patch.

The Next 12

Occupying the $17.50-$30 range, there are plenty of familiar names from number 11 to number 22.  Puig, Machado, Trout, Harper, etc. all have a spot here.  Parallels, photo variations, and autographs dominate this slot and represent the best of the rest before we get to the manufactured material tier in the $5-$17.50 range.  For comparison, this price range is about the same as the range for the 12 cards shown at the end of last year’s list, but those were five slots higher.  Only seven of the top 22 cards counted as guaranteed hits in their products and most of those were rarer versions than would ordinarily be expected.  Five of the 22 came from some form of redemption pack and weren’t even in any purchased product.  That does it for 2013.  This has been an interesting experiment for the last two years, but I’m not seeing enough of a return to justify these games of chance so much in the future.