Archive | March, 2010

UPDATE: 800 copies discovered May, 2016! Quick Look: 1990 Upper Deck Mike Witt #702A

26 Mar

Quite possibly the ultimate Junk Era Gem or Hidden Treasure card, the legendary 1990 Upper Deck Mike Witt #702A with black box on back is one of the scarcest variations produced in the modern era,* and until more info shows up to say otherwise, it’s one of the scarcest error cards of all.

*UPDATE: as of May, 2016, this statement is no longer true. An 800 count box of the Witt #702 was discovered at a flea market in California. See other Witt blog entry for further details!

Very little is known about this card. As of 20 years after it’s release, no concrete source of it’s distribution exists. Did it come from packs? Many say yes, but with vague memories or telephone-game-like recollections of the origin of their example. Was it found in 800-card factory sets? A popular claim for many years but a claim that may have sprung about by unscrupulous dealers looking to move a glut of backstocked sets. Did they slip into the Hi # factory sets? I know that I have heard from a number of sources over the years that this was the only place that they were found, but again, there have been no recent, reliable breaks that have uncovered a copy.

For those unfamiliar with the card, here is what we know, provided by the big books, i.e. Beckett and Sports Collector’s Digest annual price guides:

-Was pulled from production early and replaced by the “Rookie Threats” card depicting the three 1990 rookie players on the Montreal Expos.

-A black, rectangular box was placed over the back of the card.

-A checklist card #800 has reportedly been discovered with a similar black box on one of it’s sides (Beckett).

I find this card very intriguing because I do not understand why it was pulled from production. While the Montreal Expos had three young talents at the time, none of them were enjoying a ‘stop-the-presses’ type season – also consider that each had already been represented in the set. Several other stars and rookies would’ve made a more logical replacement: Frank Thomas, Travis Fryman, Scott Erickson, Dale Murphy (in a Phillies uniform) are all absent from the set. Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stewart’s dual July 29th no-hitters, a first-ever for major league baseball, would’ve made for a more important “special” card than the Expos guys.

What about that checklist #800?

Beckett notes that checklist cards have appeared with the black box on them. Has anyone ever seen a copy? I know I have not but I’ve also didn’t work for a major hobby publication at the time of the sets release. Since 1998, I have kept my eyes open on internet trading and auction sites and have yet to see a single copy. Visiting card shows since the 1991 National in Anaheim has not turned one up either.

Is the black box covering something up?

After card seasons that saw the Bill Ripken, Jim Nettles and Fred Marion variations, it’s hard not to wonder what the box may be covering up. Granted, I have been given no reason to believe there is, but since no one has come forward with any inside information on the card, specifically as to why it was pulled, since there is no apparent reason, at this point, it’s not impossible that something is being covered up.

If the black box exists as a way for production workers to instantly recognize the card and remove it before pack-out, then wouldn’t that mean at least one Witt #702 exists without it?

It would seem illogical for Upper Deck to produce sheets with black boxes already on them. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that some sheets must have been printed without the black boxes prior to their application? If so, who has them? Anyone who’s read Card Sharks by Pete Williams knows that UD’s CEOs were very aware of the collectabilty of their error cards – often printing up many for themselves once the secondary market established itself for certain issues (i.e. Ben McDonald and Dale Murphy errors). Does Richard McWilliam have a brick of the Witt cards sitting in a vault somewhere? It seems as though some of these guys would’ve started listing them by now but we really only get about one or two every four or five years on ebay. Still, I find it hard to believe that UD would destroy the withdrawn cards and unfortunately, it may take until they sell of their assets for the Witt cards to finally start showing up in the market.

If anyone has any information regarding the card, I’d love to hear it. This is one of the few fascinating cards from a time that most people look back on rather poorly. Surely there has to be someone out there who has the answers.

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Quick Look: 1987 Topps Turn Back the Clock Yellow Date Variations

17 Mar

One of the rarer and more interesting variations that can be found in 1987 Topps, are the Turn Back the Clock subset cards showing a yellow, rather than white, date in the bottom right corner. Only a handful of these have shown up over the years and are only cataloged (or even mentioned) in the 1990-1991 Dick Gilkeson Error & Variation guides. Although all 5 subjects are listed as having this variation, I can only account for Reggie Jackson (5 times over), Roberto Clemente (1 copy), and Rickey Henderson (1 copy), meaning that I have yet to a Carl Yazstrzemski or Maury Wills at this point.

I find these especially interesting since they harken back to the 1957 and 1969 Topps yellow/white variations. Considering how many 1987 Topps cards were produced, these yellow date varieties a true needle-in-a-haystack find.

Recent Error Discoveries in the 1991 Topps 40th Anniversary Set

15 Mar

Thanks to the sharp eye of cincykid75 at the collector’s universe sports cards forum, there has been a lot of activity in the 1991 Topps Errors thread. Cincykid75 discovered a variation in Bert Blyleven’s card #615, a pretty major variation, actually. One version has MAJ. LEA. TOTALS in a larger font on back and another versions saw it shrunk down to match the font size of the statistics and other type on back.

This awesome find had me digging through my surplus of 1991 Topps commons and errors boxes. In the error box, I followed the logic behind the Blyleven card and looked at the bottom left corner of the back of nearly 5000 cards and was stopped dead when I noticed that Frank Tanana’s card #236 (already affected by an error) has a similar variation in the “269 with diamond” variety.

This leads me to believe that there are many more varieties on the backs of 1991 Topps cards. Though back-errors are usually less popular than front-errors, I think that the reputation the 1991 Topps set holds for variation collectors, makes it a very interesting challenge to uncover the others out there.

I sorted through almost 10,000 1991 Topps commons (or non-variation affected cards) and found a few surprises:

Mark Davidson’s card #678 can be found with the year digits in his stats “clipped” off at the left or with them fully printed. I’ve only found 2 copies of the fixed version to my 8 clipped ones.

Mickey Morandini’s card #342 can be found with a green Phillies team logo on front or with it’s correct burgundy logo. A very strange-looking variation when viewed in person.

And Rex Hudler’s card #228 seems to have originally been printed with a black line on front at lower right of the photo. It looks as though Topps made a few different attempts to airbrush and remove the offending bar, as varying degrees of it’s correction have surfaced.

I’m sure there are plenty more discoveries on their way soon. I’ll post the new stuff once it gets uncovered!

1986 Topps Mini Leaders Tiffany set? Parallel, Test Issue or Variation?

15 Mar

A little while ago, I stumbled across an unusual batch of 1986 Topps Mini Leaders. Unlike the common type, these had an almost brownish tint to the card fronts, so naturally they jumped out at me.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered a few differences:

-A much thicker coat of gloss. Almost a laminate, quite like the familiar Tiffany issues from Topps’ 1980’s and early 90’s sets. The regular cards themselves have more gloss to them than say, a 1986 Topps base card, but these have a noticeably thicker coating of it.

-The card-stock they are printed on is the same type used for O-Pee-Chee sets produced during this time. This cardstock is also used for the hugely popular 1985 Topps Mini Test cards and is also referred to by collectors as ” Vanilla Bean , ” due to it’s grainy and beige colored stock. The regular issued ’86 Mini Leaders are printed on a vibrant, white card-stock, the same type used for Topps’ Traded boxed sets.

-A very notable brownish tint exists on this mystery variety.This likely due to the combination of the grainy vanilla-bean stock coupled with the thicker gloss.

The difference between the two types is striking when compared in person. Below, are scans of side-by-side examples of this variety, however, I have to emphasize how difficult it is to capture the differences (especially considering that viewing them at their sides gives the best perspective of their card stock differences) in a scan. Ive tried numerous methods, but some of the subtleties are lost no matter what.

Keep in mind that these are not simple color/inking variations in the printing quality. That was my first thought when I found the initial batch, but after a good look over, its obvious that this is a separate issue. Since, I’ve only found a portion of the set, I cannot confirm if the entire set exists in this strange variety.

I’m interested in finding out more about these. If they are more common than they appear to be based on my own investigations. When looking through current 1986 Topps Mini ebay listings, I do not see any available, and although it’s hard to tell for sure, they do stick out enough to get a good idea. If the seller has provided a scan of the back, you tell right away by looking at the white area on the reverse. I’ve tried auctioning them on ebay, noting their ambiguous origin and providing clear scans but they didn’t receive much interest, which I contribute to the lack of information on them. Hopefully, I can get the attention of the Price Guide editors one of these days and at least get a blurb in the annual regarding them, and eventually maybe even acknowledgement by PSA for the registry collectors.