Hobby Hotspot | June 2024

Tracking the Hobby’s Monthly Trends

Date: Jul 2, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Card Culture, Derek Jeter, Education, Greg Bates
Length: 1187 Words
Reading Time: ~6 Minutes

Welcome to the latest column from RIPPED news editor/senior writer Greg Bates. Each month, he examines The Hobby’s current and emerging trends and offers expert opinions on all things collecting.

Hand-collating Topps Baseball sets was what you did if you were a card collector as a kid in the late 1980s/early ’90s. I was no exception.

During my heaviest collecting days, I built Topps sets from 1987 to 1992 after ripping boxes upon boxes of wax packs. (Yes, and mounds of sticks of gum.) In fact, I had so many cards from ’87 that I was able to put together two complete sets. During that six-year span, I loved pulling cards of guys like Kirby Puckett, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., and Chuck Knoblauch. I couldn’t get enough of Knobby during his early years with the Minnesota Twins.

By the time I hit high school, my collecting focus shifted primarily to basketball cards. There were rising, young stars to chase after, including Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett, and, of course, the GOAT, Michael Jordan.

Although I had mostly moved on from collecting baseball cards, I was still picking up packs here and there. That included 1993 Topps Baseball, which provided a little wrinkle that year. For the first time since the 1973 release, the Flagship product was split into two series totaling 825 cards. The first 396 cards were in Series 1, with Series 2 having the remaining 429 cards.

With the 2024 version of Topps Baseball Series 2 being released on June 12, it got me thinking about ripping packs from Series 2 in ’93. With only six rookies in the first series that year, Topps went all out in Series 2 with over 60 rookie cards. A couple of the rookies I remember chasing were New York Yankees first baseman J.T. Snow (now there’s a name from the past) and a future MLB Hall of Famer in Los Angeles DodgersMike Piazza. He shared his first Topps card with three other catching prospects, including Toronto Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado.

This year’s Series 2 is loaded with top rookies that include Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jackson Holliday — paying homage to Billy Ripken’s famous “F-Face” bat knob card from 1989 Fleer — Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Chicago Cubs outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. Series 2 is a fun rip with its solid base card checklist and plenty of inserts. I really like the special Heavy Lumber (the Griffey card is sweet) and Silver Slugger Award Winner sets.

Blast from the Past

When ripping Topps Baseball packs back in 1993, I set aside the good cards and sleeved them. I placed all the other “commons” into an 800-count box. That box was stacked in the closet of my childhood room, with the contents seemingly forgotten about. By late 1995, my heavy collecting days had dwindled.

When I got back into buying packs of baseball cards around 2015, I started to slowly fill 800-count boxes again. In early 2021, my parents were cleaning out items from the storage room of their house. When they made the five-hour trip to visit, I was handed plenty of lasting memories. There were boxes and boxes of my old cards — well over 50,000 pieces of cardboard that I thought 30 years earlier would help me retire at a young age. I knew I had the boxes that contained baseball sets and loose baseball, football, and basketball cards. I just didn’t know fully what I had in those boxes.

At the tail end of my baseball card collecting days, there was a young shortstop who was working his way through the New York Yankees farm system. Even though Derek Jeter was the No. 6 overall selection in the 1992 MLB Draft, I didn’t really know his name. I wasn’t prospecting as a teenager.

Discovering Lost Treasure

When I started thumbing through boxes that my parents had brought over, I found some draft pick cards from 1992 as well as ’93 cards from Topps and other companies. That got me thinking: I never sleeved any Derek Jeter cards growing up. The hunt was on.

For anyone unaware, cards with glossy fronts and backs packed into 800-count boxes and not touched for 28 years have a tendency to brick together. Boy, did I find that out the hard way. In some cases, two cards were stuck together, and I was easily able to pull them apart without paper loss. In other instances, there were a dozen cards seemingly glued together. Separating them was a struggle while trying to keep them in good condition.

Pulling apart some 1992 Classic Draft Picks, I found a Jeter. Decked out in his Kalamazoo Central High School uniform and posing in a fielding position, the card was in pristine shape. I was stoked. I then came upon a Top Prospects card of Jeter from 1993 Upper Deck. That was in great condition, too.

When I hit my stash of 1993 Topps Series 1, I was optimistic I’d find more Jeters. In a stack, there were back-to-back 1992 Draft Pick cards of The Captain. The pair was immaculate; I couldn’t believe my discovery.

Sure, it wasn’t to the magnitude of famous multimillion-dollar card discoveries such as the Rosen Find or Black Swamp Find. But for a small-scale collector, it was big.

These are two of the Derek Jeter cards this author found in his collection in 2021.

Hobby Hotspot From the Mailbag

Thanks to everyone who emailed me to share stories and provide feedback. Let’s dive into my inbox.

“Got Jasson Dominguez of the Yanks, that I think will be a good one!”

– C. Katz

When asked to let me know who everyone is collecting from this year’s 2024 Bowman Baseball product, C. Katz was quick to message me with the name of this Yankees phenom. Just like the majority of the card-collecting community, I have high expectations for Dominguez. For one, the kid can rake. As a September call-up last season, Dominguez looked the part with the parent club. He homered in his first MLB at-bat and overall hit four bombs in 31 plate appearances. Another reason Dominguez is on the perfect path to success is he’s in the Yankees’ storied franchise. Signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Dominguez has all the weight of the world on his shoulders. Some collectors/investors have been going after Dominguez for years. His 2020 Bowman Chrome Superfractor Autograph fetched a pretty penny at auction in 2022. If you’re looking to get in on the Dominguez card craze, you should pick up his Bowman rookie. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Drop me a line at gbates@collectfanatics.com and let me know about a cool discovery you might have made from your collection or if there are other topics we should dive into. I’d love to share some collectors’ thoughts in my column next month.

RIPPED news editor/senior writer Greg Bates writes a monthly column exploring the trends of The Hobby. Prior to joining Fanatics, Bates was a freelance writer for 10 years for Sports Collectors Digest.

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