Saturday, December 14, 2013

Complete sets: 1998 Topps (Series I)

I've mentioned a couple times recently that I lost track of a couple of my complete sets over the years I've had my collection, possibly due to the fact that it's had to move with me a few times.  One of those was an entire set of 2000 Topps baseball, while the other was 1998 Topps Series I.  In the case of '98 Flagship, it was just Series I I couldn't find since I had an extra Series II on hand somehow.  Regardless, having already picked up the 2000 version and wanting to restore my pretty decent run of complete sets, I threw down $20 even on this guy:
My judicious spending the last few months gave me some money to play with, so I scored this '98 Topps Series I set on eBay last week.  I don't recall seeing these in retail stores around me, but I do remember other boxes being packed this way. 
I think Vintage either was or continues to be a big distributor of retail stuff, probably especially repacks.  Make fun of it all you want, but the "Card Guard" totally did its job!  It also made for a big, ugly hunk of plastic garbage to toss.
Here's how the set was packed inside, with a cardboard insert holding three shrink-wrapped groups of cards.  They obviously didn't lead with the best players on top in two out of the three piles!  By the way, because I know at least a few of you collect empty boxes, I've hung onto this one for now, so if anyone wants it, please let me know!
Here's the bottoms of each wrapped pack.  I'm mainly showing these off to point out that they're not in any sort of order, so you know what that means:  I got to sort the set!  That's something I'm still fond of doing in the rare cases I buy boxes these days, and I have fond memories of doing so lots of times over the years.

Ok, enough about that, let's talk about the set:
First up is a group of nine legends, all of which should be in the HOF eventually.  As with Aaron in the 2000 set, I'm glad Topps didn't retire card #21, but did a card tribute instead for Clemente.  He was also the subject of that year's reprint set, which I have.  Leading off with Gwynn at #1 was a nice touch too.
There were exactly nine Tigers cards that I saw, and if you're having trouble telling them apart in the scan, they are, in order:  Tony Clark, Brian Hunter, Deivi Cruz, Mel Nieves, Todd Jones, Damion Easley, Bob Hamelin, Raul Casanova, and Juan Encarnacion on a three-player prospects issue.  I'm glad Clark showed up because I'd been meaning to highlight the fact that he's been appointed the new head of the MLBPA since the unfortunate passing of former leader Michael Weiner (cancer).  Clark wasn't universally loved in Detroit because some thought he never reached his lofty potential, but I remember him fondly and think he did about the best he could on some abysmal 90s Tigers teams.  I wish him well in his new position, where I anticipate some success since he seems to have been a well-liked guy.
I did one more 9-card scan to capture some of the fun and interesting cards in the set.  Wagner and Montgomery didn't win awards in '97 but were "fireman" bullpen aces at times in their careers.  The Guerrero is one of his more noteworthy base cards thanks to a nice use of perspective.  Baerga, Gonzalez, and Alicea are notable for some nice acrobatics.  Ausmus made the cut because he's the new Tigers manager and got a nice horizontal card featuring his awesome mask.  Finally, the Bell and Lofton cards showcase players and photographers having a great time.
I wanted to include one card back for completeness' sake, so I went with Eck's card #200 since it shows stats from the career of a pitching legend.  By the way, Eck would pitch one more season in '98 with the Red Sox, then call it a career with 197 wins and 390 saves in 24 seasons en route to the Hall.
'98 Series I isn't a huge set by any means, but I was surprised it only included one card for my Michigan Baseball PCs, that of Hal Morris.  Hal signed with the Royals at the end of '97 before heading back to Cincy in '99.

Ok, if you've made it this far, you're probably like "Hey, what about those four bonus cards!"  Or maybe not, since my blurry photo of the box makes it kind of hard to read that note.  In any event, this box comes with four bonus cards!  I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by ending up with these four regular inserts:
The Kotsay is from a set I already own and is therefore available.  The Tomko and Lou-Gon hail from Topps' Minted in Cooperstown sets, kind of a precursor to the gold parallels they eventually went with.  If you weren't collecting then, I'll point out that the gimmick with them is that they were actually stamped in Cooperstown, NY.  Finally, the Clemente is reprint #6, and again, I already have all of those, so that ones up for trade, as are the Tomko and Gonzalez.

All in all, this is a set I remember fondly back when Topps didn't suck at everything, so I'm not so annoyed by having to spend a bit to reclaim it.  It takes another item off my baseball wantlist, too!  On a related note, I'll shortly have a few more additions to make that list even shorter, so stay tuned.

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