Category Archives: Game-Used

Finding Futures Game Memorabilia

The future is not now

Every year since 1999, MLB rounds up a few dozen top prospects to face off in the <sponsor name> All-Star Futures Game. And every year since 2000, Topps has cut up the jerseys worn during that game and used them in cards released in its multitude of prospect-focused products. Two years ago, Topps was churning out more Futures Game material than ever before, so much so that I had to put together a guide just to sort out what was where. Four Mets prospects participated in the 2013 game (though one was in the Pirates system at the time), including both starting pitchers. With three different fabric types on each jersey, plus patches, there was a lot to collect and a lot of places to find it. Since then though, Futures Game material has almost completely disappeared from the collecting landscape.

This year, the Mets had three representatives at the Futures Game in San Diego: Dominic Smith on the USA team and Amed Rosario and Dilson Herrera (who was once again traded shortly afterward) on the World Team. With distinctive brown and yellow jerseys, the material from this game should stand out. If we ever see it. So far, only a few hundred swatches of material have made it out to the collecting public from the four Mats-worn Futures Game jerseys from 2014 and 2015 combined. What happened?

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Best Mets Cards of 2014

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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The Essentials: 2014 Mets Memorabilia

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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2013 Futures Game Material Overview

Stars of tomorrow, jerseys from last year

On Sunday, Noah Syndergaard made his second futures game appearance, closing out the USA team’s 3-2 victory after starting off last year’s Futures Game at Citi Field.  It will be a few months before his jersey from this year’s Futures Game makes its way into cards, but last year’s edition is now widely available thanks to last month’s 2014 Bowman Inception.  In fact, Inception seems to have been the destination for much of the material from the 2013 Futures Game, leaving very little to fill the time before this year’s material appears (likely in 2014 Bowman Draft in November, possibly sooner).  While every year is different, here’s a look back at where the jerseys from the Mets prospects in last year’s Futures Game ended up.

For a guide to the various material types discussed here, see this breakdown of the 2013 NL All-Star jersey.

See all Futures Game material in the archives: USA Team | World Team

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

Players: Rafael Montero, Brandon Nimmo
Material: Primary

Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects is a typical landing spot for Futures Game material, so it wasn’t surprising to see the first 2013 Futures Game swatches show up here.  Of the three Mets though, only Rafael Montero and Brandon Nimmo were featured here and only with pieces of the primary fabric panels.  Noah Syndergaard would not have any material released in 2013.  Dilson Herrera, received in the August trade of Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates, does have jersey cards here but not as a Met, making them ineligible.  These cards have several serial numbered parallel tiers, but none of them contain any different material.

2014 Bowman

Players: Rafael Montero, Brandon Nimmo, Noah Syndergaard
Material: Primary, Secondary, Side Panel

As usual, the first Bowman product of the year included a few pieces of last year’s Futures Game jerseys.  And by “a few,” I mean 25 of each.  Unlike the more numerous Bowman Draft cards, these contained material from various different parts of the jerseys, including the small side panel sections, as seen in the Montero card above.  This set also featured the first Noah Syndergaard jersey cards as well as another non-qualifying Dilson Herrera card.

2014 Topps Pro Debut

Players: Dilson Herrera, Brandon Nimmo
Material: Primary, Secondary, Patch (Herrera only)

The first minor league product of the year, Pro Debut has a long history (all the way back to 2010) of including Futures Game material.  This year, it was where Topps burned off much of the material from lesser names, meaning Herrera (now shown as a member of the Savannah Sand Gnats and therefore eligible for inclusion here) and Nimmo.  While the material here is not identified as coming from the 2013 Futures Game, its origin is obvious.  The base jersey set (now called “Debut Duds” instead of “Minor League Materials”) featured two parallels (gold, numbered to 50, and silver, numbered to 25) with a mix of primary (front panels) and secondary (back panel) material.  No side panel swatches have been seen so far.  Dilson Herrera was also featured in the jumbo patch set (numbered to 5).

2014 Bowman Inception

Players: Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Dilson Herrera (patches only), Brandon Nimmo (patches only)
Material: Primary, Secondary, Patches

After a wait of nearly a year, Bowman Inception finally delivered Noah Syndergaard’s 2013 Futures Game material in quantity.  Syndergaard and Montero were both featured in the base memorabilia set with many parallels and variants containing material of various types, with many (but not all) of the low-numbered variants containing patches.  This is also the product that got most of the remaining large patches, including the apple ASG logo and letter patches (the 2013 Futures Game logo patches from Montero, Nimmo, and Syndergaard remain available for future products).

2014 Bowman Platinum

Players: Noah Syndergaard, Dilson Herrera, Brandon Nimmo (blue parallel only)
Material: Primary, Secondary, Side Panel

Bowman Platinum was absolutely loaded with memorabilia in 2014, much of it from the 2013 Futures Game. The bulk of it is from Noah Syndergaard and Dilson Herrera, including the elusive side panel swatches. Brandon Nimmo shows up in the retail-only blue parallel with primary and secondary swatches, leaving just his side panel swatches left to appear.

2014 Topps Heritage Minor League

Players: Brandon Nimmo
Material: Primary, Secondary, Side Panel

And in the final prospect product of the year with material from the 2013 Futures Game, we get that last missing piece – Brandon Nimmo side panel swatches. And his primary and secondary swatches as well. That wraps things up for 2013, on to 2014…

Best Mets Cards of 2013

Pitching dominates this year’s awards

It’s 2014, which means I’m running a bit behind on my 2013 wrap-up articles. The last few posts have covered most of the interesting cards from the last year, so now it’s time to narrow things down to just the best of the best so you don’t have to dig through 5,000 words for just the few things you’re interested in. Only 1,800 words…

Best Manufactured Material

2013 Topps Series 2 Tom Seaver Proven Mettle Coin

Not much has improved in this category since last year, so this award goes to a Seaver coin again. At least there was more player diversity this year and it wasn’t just all Seaver all the time.

Worst Manufactured Material

2013 Topps Pro Debut Travis d’Arnaud Hat Logo Patch

So many things are going on here, all of them wrong. Wrong team, wrong logo, wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t know what Topps was going for with this one, but it sure wasn’t anything that made sense.

Best Parallel Insert Set

2013 Topps Archives Orange Parallel

Last year, I went with the Archives gold parallel here. This year, Topps changed the formula and the gold parallel just didn’t look that good. The orange parallel on the other hand was something unique among the multitudes of parallels released in 2013. Available only one per pack in 25 cent Archives packs at participating hobby shops, these cards fluoresce in UV light. Unfortunately, I didn’t pull a single Met out of more than 100 packs and had to go to eBay for these…

Best Base Insert

2013 Bowman Inception Jose Reyes Sapphire Reprint

With parallels, autographs, game-used, and manufactured material accounting for most of the inserts out there, it can be hard to find contenders for this category. I found three: the Jose Reyes sapphire rookie reprint from Bowman Inception, the Tom Seaver Cut to the Chase die-cut chrome insert from Topps Series 2, and the Matt Harvey Prodigies die-cut refractor from Topps Finest. I’ll give Reyes the edge here, though it should be noted that a David Wright version could be found in Bowman Sterling (the Reyes looks better).

Best Rookie Card

2013 Panini Prizm Scott Rice

Five Mets had Rookie Cards in 2013: Jeurys Familia, Collin McHugh, Zack Wheeler, Scott Rice, and Juan Lagares. All of them had at least a Rookie Card (and all of the standard parallels) in base Topps except for Scott Rice. After 14 years in professional baseball, Rice made his MLB debut with the Mets in 2013 and received Rookie Cards in just 2013 Panini Prizm.

Best Sticker Autograph

2013 Topps Opening Day Mr. Met Mascot Autograph

An autograph from the best sports mascot ever? Nothing else even comes close.

Best On-Card Autograph

2011 Bowman Platinum Matt Harvey

How does a card from 2011 Bowman Platinum qualify for the 2013 awards? Well, when it takes two full years for the cards to just be signed, you can’t really call these 2011 autograph cards. Harvey autographs were some of the hottest cards released this year and none were dated 2013. It’s been a strange year.

If you insist on having autographs from the actual 2013 product year in this category, here are a few worth noting.  Shown here are the first Mets autographs from Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, the last Mets autograph from R.A. Dickey, and an autograph on a thick slab of clear plastic.

Worst Autograph

2013 Topps Series 2 Collin Cowgill Chasing History Autograph

Sticker autograph, photoshopped black jersey, player who was traded shortly after the card was released. And then Topps made a second attempt in Topps Update that at least fixed the jersey issue. This card has no reason to exist.

Best Uniform Memorabilia Card

2013 Topps Tier One Matt Harvey
2013 Topps Triple Threads Jeurys Familia
2013 Topps Five Star David Wright Jumbo Jersey (blue jersey variant)

Technically, this should probably go to the 2013 Topps Triple Threads Harvey/Wright/Wheeler triple jersey card, but that was out of my price range. Instead, have a bunch of blue jerseys. Except for the Wright, which I haven’t been able to get yet…

Best Patch Card

2012 Panini National Treasures Matt Harvey

Depending on the variant, this one could qualify for best jersey or patch. Either way, this is one of those cards that was a must-have regardless of the price before Harvey’s card prices went through the roof. Because now you sure can’t afford it.

Best Bat Card

2013 Topps Triple Threads R.A. Dickey

Bat cards just aren’t very common anymore. This year, the only Mets bat card worthy of this award isn’t a Mets bat card at all. R.A. Dickey’s first bat cards came after all of his cards had been changed over to the Blue Jays, but I’ll let that slide.

Worst Memorabilia Card

2013 Topps Triple Threads Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Poor Kirk Nieuwenhuis. After being all over 2012’s autograph and memorabilia cards, he found himself with very little MLB playing time in 2013 and far too many cards. He got September off after the AAA season ended and then had loads of memorabilia cards in Triple Threads. After already having triple jersey autograph cards in last year’s Triple Threads. As if the unnecessary Future Phenoms card weren’t enough, Nieuwenhuis had three single jersey autograph cards. The green jersey cards I can see, but everything else is just filler. I suppose it isn’t really fair to single out Kirk when so much of Triple Threads was unnecessary filler, but the award has to go to someone.

Best Hobby Shop Promotion

Panini Black Friday

Every year, card companies try to find ways to get people to visit their local hobby shops. 2013 was filled with various promotions, from the Topps Series 1 Spring Fever redemption packs to Panini’s Boxing Day packs. Topps Archives had the most with vintage card redemptions, 25 cent packs, and ’80s card redemption packs with Topps Series 2 base, blue sparkle, and silver slate parallels. The best of the bunch, as usual, was Panini’s Black Friday promotion that combines discounts on Panini products with bonus packs containing cards featuring some of the hottest players in four sports with parallels, autographs, and unique memorabilia. Matt Harvey was the lone Met featured in this promotion.

Best New Product

2013 Bowman Inception

Coming into 2013, I thought the last thing the hobby needed was another Bowman product. With five Bowman products on the market already, what more was there to cover? Bowman Inception brought premium thick autograph cards and no filler. All on-card autographs, no chipping problems, no base cards, and no chrome. In other words, something different. Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia are the only two Mets in the base autograph sets, about average for the 62 total cards between the rookie and prospect autographs. As an added bonus, Jose Reyes was also among the sapphire reprints in this product.

Most Improved Product

2013 Bowman Sterling

Elsewhere in the Bowman franchise, Sterling was in sorry shape in 2012. With some of the most boring and uninspired autograph cards on the market and little else going for it, Bowman Sterling was a product without a purpose. For 2013, Sterling kept much of the same structure as the previous year’s product with a few key changes. Autograph orientation switched from landscape to portrait, a minor change that greatly improved the design. Other design changes improved how the base cards scanned to the point that the signatures no longer blended into the background. The biggest change though was with the refractor parallels. 2012 Bowman Sterling had six refractor parallels and none between base refractors (numbered to 199) and gold refractors (numbered to 50). The 2013 edition reduced the numbering on base refractors (now numbered to 150) and added three tiers above gold: green (numbered to 125), ruby (numbered to 99), and orange (numbered to 75). Canary diamond print runs were also increased from 1 to 3 and 1/1 superfractors were added. On top of that, the autograph checklist was increased from 88 to 106 with the Mets representation including the first certified autographs from L.J. Mazzilli and the first Mets autographs from Noah Syndergaard. More players and more parallels with a better design made 2013 Bowman Sterling a welcome improvement over last year’s afterthought.

Most Disappointing Product

2013 Panini Hometown Heroes

I’m tempted here to go with 2013 Topps Finest, but at this point I have no expectations for a product with lots of history and no real direction. Panini Hometown Heroes on the other hand was a new product that promised a new take on the formula that brought us Topps Archives and Leaf Memories. What it delivered was a bland design filled with autographs that have been done better by Topps over the last two years. While it did bring a few new or hard-to-find autographs, the design deficiencies made it hard to get excited about any of them.

Autograph Product of the Year

2013 Topps Archives

No surprises here. With 15 former Mets in the Fan Favorites Autographs set, including 8 shown as Mets (and the first autographs from Keith Miller), nothing else comes close. What’s even more impressive is that Topps featured an entirely new group of autographs in the second year of the new incarnation of Archives, for a total of 32 former Mets (15 shown as Mets) over two years of Fan Favorites Autographs. That’s still well under ten percent of the former Mets with certified autograph cards, so there’s plenty of room for next year’s Archives to keep the streak going.

Honorable Mention

2013 Leaf Memories

Leaf is no slouch in the autograph department and Leaf Memories combines 1990-style autographs from their three prospects, Rafael Montero, Domingo Tapia, and Dominic Smith, with buyback autographs from players from the 1980s and early 1990s. Among the buyback autographs are the first from Kevin Elster and Rick Aguilera, plus countless favorites from some of the best Mets teams in recent memory. Well, relatively recent at least. The large number of redemption cards though keeps Leaf Memories from threatening to dethrone Archives.

Game-Used Product of the Year

2013 Topps Museum Collection

Now in its third year (though only its second under the Museum Collection brand), some of the shine is beginning to wear off Topps Museum Collection. It has all of the memorabilia variety we’ve come to expect: jumbo jersey and bat relics, autographed memorabilia cards, quad relics, four-player relics, etc. This year, the highlights were jumbo bat cards from Darryl Strawberry, autographed double and triple memorabilia cards from R.A. Dickey, and jumbo Matt Harvey jersey cards. Jumbo jerseys from Johan Santana and Ike Davis weren’t quite as exciting and the usual assortment from David Wright seemed like a repeat of last year. Still, this year’s cards sold better than last year’s counterparts, which may be why I wasn’t quite as interested in them this year.

Honorable Mention

2012 Panini National Treasures

As usual, nothing could match the quality and player/material diversity of Museum Collection. Panini made a good showing though with 2012 Panini National Treasures. With autographed jersey and patch cards from Dwight Gooden, David Wright, Matt Harvey, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, plus various booklets featuring Tom Seaver, Gary Carter, and David Wright and plenty of other former Mets like Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Keith Hernandez, and Jose Reyes featured in the other memorabilia sets, it should be obvious why National Treasures was a big hit.

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.