Firsts, lasts, and everything in between
It’s hard to believe that it’s March already. And this piece is two months late… Between Topps and Panini releasing products right down to the wire, chasing down cards, and chasing down answers, it took me longer than expected to get this the way I wanted it. 2014 brought us the first cards, first autographs, and first memorabilia from the first Mets player to win the Rookie of the Year award in 30 years. It also brought us the last autograph card from the first person ever to wear a Mets uniform.
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Panini Turns Variety Into Notoriety
With all of the cards released across dozens of products in 2014, it can be hard to figure out what is worth collecting and what might as well be forgotten. What makes something essential? It’s a mix of collectibility, notability, and attainability. Popular brands/inserts and autograph debuts will dominate here, not big money low-numbered parallels or big stars. Just about everything mentioned here should still be fairly easy to find on the secondary market at reasonable prices.
Now in the second year of the post-black era, the Mets memorabilia offerings in 2014 were a bit more colorful than they’ve been in the past. Color has been hard to find recently, but new blue and orange jerseys and a renewed focus on pinstripes at home helped to turn things around. It was looking like a great year for memorabilia until the black came back courtesy of Panini. The plague of “event-worn” memorabilia has now spread to baseball.
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The Prospect Boom Goes Bust
With all of the cards released across dozens of products in 2014, it can be hard to figure out what is worth collecting and what might as well be forgotten. What makes something essential? It’s a mix of collectibility, notability, and attainability. Popular brands/inserts and player debuts will dominate here, not big money low-numbered parallels or big stars. Just about everything mentioned here should still be fairly easy to find on the secondary market at reasonable prices.
2014 continued the Mets prospect autograph explosion that started in late 2013, but that fizzled out late in the year. While that meant lots of autographs for many top Mets prospects who had previously been overlooked, it was bad news for the Mets’ 2014 draft class, which is still waiting for its first autograph card from Topps.
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Panini 3, Leaf 1, Topps 0
Full list of 2014 Mets draft picks
With the 2014 product year now behind us, we can tally up the score for getting the year’s draft picks to sign autographs. Panini came out on top with Milton Ramos, Eudor Garcia, and Josh Prevost (the team’s round 3-5 picks) live in Elite Extra Edition and Michael Conforto only available as a redemption (or live on dual player autograph cards). Topps completely whiffed with no Mets autographs in 2014 Bowman Draft and a Michael Conforto redemption (supposedly signed as of 30 January 2015) in Bowman Sterling as their only 2014 autograph from a 2014 Mets pick. Leaf beat out Topps for the number 2 spot with the only live 2014 autographs from Michael Conforto in 2014 Leaf Metal Draft, 2014 Leaf Valiant, and 2014 Leaf Trinity. That makes a total of 0 MLB-licensed autograph cards from 2014 Mets picks issued live in all 2014 products. The dark days of Mets prospect autographs are once more upon us.
Six out of eleven ain’t bad
After drafting just five players with any baseball cards in 2013, the Mets came up big in 2014 with 11 of 39 picks having certified autograph cards. Most of these were from 2013 Leaf Perfect Game, which has asserted itself as the premier pre-pro product and should merit a look when it returns later this year. While the Mets did sign all of their picks in the first 20 rounds, most late-round high school picks declined to sign, taking away five players with 2013 Leaf Perfect Game autographs: Luke Bonfield, Tommy Pincin, Keaton McKinney, Jordan Hand, and Jonathan Teaney. McKinney and Hand also have various memorabilia cards, leaving top pick Michael Conforto as the only signed Mets pick from 2014 with memorabilia. The loss of nearly half of the potential autographs in this draft class is unfortunate, but the remainder still rates as the best-ever draft day autograph crop.
2013 Mets Draft Class Autographs
2012 Mets Draft Class Autographs
2011 Mets Draft Class Autographs
Collectors have an increased presence the second time around
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since a bunch of bloggers and fans did what the Mets wouldn’t do – put on a fanfest to brighten up the dark days of winter. The 2014 Queens Baseball Convention was a huge success, so of course there were high hopes for a follow-up. That came on a cold and icy Saturday at City Field. Well, in the bar around back at least. Lessons were learned from last year and things ran more smoothly. But with so much going on, there was a lot to miss. Many questions remain about what will come next, but it is a near certainty that this event will continue in 2016 and beyond.
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Contains more Mike Piazza than the Hall of Fame
When we last checked in with Topps revivals of decades past, we saw the unenthusiastic return of Stadium Club. With a generic format, terrible photography, and no standout cards, it looked like Topps had pushed the modern-retro thing just a bit too far. After all, the Major League cards in Archives were a huge hit, Gold Label returned in a classy, though limited, form, and Finest had one of its best designs in more than 20 years. Stadium Club seemed to show that Topps was out of ideas, but they didn’t stop there. Topps dug back into the turn of the century well for one of its shortest-lived but fondest-remembered experiments: Tek.
Topps Tek ran from just 1998 to 2000. In a departure from cardboard, Tek is an all-acetate product. Plastic cards? It’s an interesting novelty, but it wouldn’t last. The product’s unique hook was that each player is featured on a variety of different patterned backgrounds. The 1998 version, which featured John Olerud and Mike Piazza as Mets, had 90 different patterns for each player. The 1999 version (with Piazza), cut that to 30 but had two photograph variants for each player. 2000 (again Piazza) narrowed the checklist even more with just 20 different patterns, five each with four different photographs, the last five being colored pattern short prints. Tek was tailor-made for player collectors and made base cards relevant again.
And then it was gone. The rise of autographs and memorabilia and the eventual emergence of parallels pushed quirky concepts like Tek aside. Those player sets were fun to chase but almost impossible to finish. Tek was a journey. 14 years later, the journey begins anew.
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