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Topps – 2008 Stadium Club Baseball
Cost: Approx $230/box

It’s been awhle since we’ve had a release of Topps Stadium Club baseball and Topps decided to make the return another in their line of high end products. Each box contains 12 packs and each packs contains one autographed card. So out of each box you’re guaranteed 12 autos, 1 Yankee Stadium relic, 12 #’d rookie cards, and 12 #’d parallel cards. So it seems like you’re getting a lot of good cards for the high $230 price tag, but let’s take a closer look.

Autograph Cards – The autograph rookie cards look really good. They have long_autonice pictures and the design of the cards is good. Don’t get your hopes up, autographs are yet again on stickers. If you want my opinion (and I’m guessing that if you’re reading this then you’re semi interested in it), after this is where it all starts to go to crap. The rookie autographs are good, but the checklist is still somewhat blah. Do we really need that many rookies in the checklist? And then there are the other autograph cards…lackey

To the left you can see a John Lackey autograph card called “Beam Team” that is a stained glass type of card. Cool, right? Ehh…they look kinda neat but the players that were chosen for this line leaves A LOT to be desired. Why Felix Pie??? Did they just have too many Pie stickers laying around?

Relic/Auto-Relics – Ok, and here is where it gets weird for me. Topps chose to include their own Yankee Stadium card similar to what Upper Deck is doing with the Yankee Stadium Legacy set. Ok, that’s fine. But for Topps, they are including relics of things like the outfield wall, dugout seats, and bunting. Ok, that could be neat. But then they ichiro_wallpair these relics up with players who never played for the Yankees. What?!? Why? To the right you can see a piece of the Yankee Stadium outfield wall on an Ichiro relic card. I’ve seen Ty Cobb cards with a Yankee Stadium piece. Sadly, someone will grossly overpay for a card like that because they don’t realize that while the card may show Cobb, the piece of fabric in the card may have been installed 3 months ago.

papTopps did include triple relic autographs in the product but they don’t get pulled enough for my tastes. Plus, they look exactly like Triple Threads. The autogrpahs are stickers yet again and the relic pieces that I have seen have all been single color swatches. There may be some patch relics out there, but I haven’t seen any. I’ll likely chase a Morneau card down but I don’t see these pulling the premium price that a 1 per case card should bring.

Sketch Cards – Those of you who collect non-sports items are well aware of the sketch cards. This is new to sports products though. Topps introduced the sketch cards in Updates & Highlights and continues it here with Stadium Club. These also fall 1 per case and your luck will be hit and miss with them. For every really cool looking card like the Chase Utley below, there are some lame cards that look like the artist whipped them up in 5 minutes.

ut_sketch

So far the Topps sketch cards haven’t brought in the same premium price that non-sports sketch cards have brought. They are interesting looking, but I don’t know if baseball collectors are all that into them.

Big Hits? – That’s a tough one to answer with this set. You would think that with a product that costs $230 per box, it would be easy to pick out some cards that would be big chase cards. With this product, I’m not sure what those would be. There are various 1/1’s in the product but what product doesn’t have those? So I guess the autographed triple relic cards or sketch cards that are seeded one per case would be your big hit cards. It is sad that Triple Thread knockoffs are the case hits.

Overall Opinion – Sometimes I wonder what goes through the minds of the marketing team at Topps when they sit down to price out a product. Granted, for one box you are getting 12 autograph cards and 1 Yankee Stadium relic, but is that worth $230? Seeing some of the autographs that are featured in this product, I would lean towards no. Now if you’re guaranteeing one of those triple relic cards in each box, I could possibly see it, but it is still a stretch.

This one gets a BREAK AT YOUR OWN RISK grade. If you have money to gamble then go for it. Don’t be shocked though if you lose your ass on a box though. Singles of the players you want should be VERY affordable in a month or so and I expect to see box prices drop quickly.

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I had a couple of people ask me questions about the boxes of Threads that I did for a group break.

1. If you are wanting to see all the hit cards from the group break, you can check out the thread over at GroupCaseBreaks.com here. Videos of each box should be up sometime soon.

2. As for the “Hot Box”, I don’t remember the specific breakdown, but I believe there were 7 autos and 1 relic card out of the box. It was Box #5 in the break.

3. Yes, we did have some slightly dinged cards in our break. None were majorly damaged, but a few of them had some slighly dinged corners. I’ve read of some cards being severely chewed up.

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Donruss – 2008 Threads Baseball
Cost: Approx. $75/box

When I first read about the 2008 edition of Threads Baseball, I was very excited since it sounded as though Donruss was attempting to create a product with the perfect synergy of Hall of Fame players and top prospects. They also were set to release the first licensed relic card of Shoeless Joe Jackson since 2001 and also include autographed relic cards of Pete Rose. So initially I was pretty stoked about the product.

Then, I remembered that Donruss had lost it’s MLB license so we wouldn’t be getting prospects in their MLB uniforms. Heck, we couldn’t even get the team names on the cards. Instead we get a picture of Josh Vitters in his Boise uniform and the team “Chicago (NL)” across the top.

I happened to crack 6 boxes of this product for a group break so I have first hand knowledge of what’s in the boxes. So let’s talk about the “hits”…

Autograph cards – this year’s Threads product has a ton of autograph cards. Sadly, they are all sticker autographs and are all done in black pen. So why is that a problem? It is a problem because many of the cards feature pictures with dark colors in them and the stickers go right over those pictures and then the black signatures are often hard to read. The autograph cards of the prospects in this product is somewhat hit and miss. There are some good prospects like Madison Bumgarner, Josh Vitters, and Michael Burgess, but their signatures seem to be short printed. Other prospects (many of whom you’ve never heard of) have autograph cards out the wazoo in this stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good autograph cards in here of prospects. The best one I pulled was the Jordan Schafer autographed Diamond Kings shown here.

There are Hall of Fame players with autographs in the product but their signatures are much harder to hit. In fact, out of 6 boxes, I only pulled one HOF autograph and it was a dual jersey Diamond Kings autograph of Lou Brock.

Lastly, there are the autographed letter cards that are similar to the By The Letter cards from Upper Deck’s SPA product. Donruss chose to do these with prospects, but again…the problem is that many of these players are unknowns. I pulled 3 of them from 6 boxes and honestly, I only knew one of the players and I only know of him vaguely.

Relic cards – I was a little unimpressed with the relic cards that I came across in my 6 boxes. Donruss included an insert set called “Americana” and highlighted many roles in sports films over the years. They also included some of the Hall of Fame players in this set but chose to include relic pieces of suits instead of jerseys. That’s ok I guess, but if I pull a Nolan Ryan relic card, I want it to be from a jersey, not a suit he wore to some banquet!

There are some good patch cards in the product because I have seen them. I’ve seen some great looking patch cards of Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg as well as some great autographed patch cards of Bumgarner and Burgess. But for every good patch card that you can get, you’ll also be pulling some single color jersey swatches of Wade Boggs and bat relics from a prospect like Brent Brewer. The best relic cards out of my 6 boxes were this Cal Ripken jersey card and a Marylin Monroe dress relic.

Best Hits? – Obviously the crown jewel of this product is the Shoeless Joe Jackson bat relic cards. The first one to hit ebay sold with a BIN of $500 in less than 30 minutes. I haven’t checked to see if any others have popped up on there and what they sold for, but I’m guessing $500 will be the high water mark. The cards are #’d to 100 so there are plenty of them out there. The other big hits in the set are the Rick Porcello autographed cards. Porcello is one of the game’s brightest pitching prospects and is a Donruss exclusive so the only place to get his signatures will be from Donruss.

Overall Opinion – I cracked six boxes of Threads and while I didn’t pull any gigantic hits, I really enjoyed breaking the product. Each box I opened had more than the 4 advertised hit (autograph or relic). Most boxes had 5 hits and I hit one “hot box” that had 8! Each box also had at least 4 numbered parallel cards. Some of these included some very nice looking framed Diamond Kings cards.

The cards have a good design and it shouldn’t be real hard to put a set together if you’re into that sort of thing. Boxes aren’t that expensive given that you’re going to likely pull 5 “hit” cards out of the box and 4 #’d cards. That’s an average of 9 prime cards per box and how many products can offer you that for under $80 per box?

I give this a BREAK AWAY grade. Someone has to hit those Jackson relics, right?? :

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After reading through the review I posted last night, there were a few items that I felt like I needed to add in there.

1. If you’re chasing any of the BTL sets, good luck trying to figure out what they are and even more good luck trying to pry that from Upper Deck. After last year’s product was released, it was a full month or more before anyone could get any info from their customer service on the combinations.

2. The Full Name Redemption cards that were in last year’s set are gone. If you’re not sure what those are, it was a redemption card that got you a specific player’s full last name set. These special sets were usually numbered to 5 or less and very rare.

3. In my Big Hits section, I failed to mention Stephen Strasberg from the USA U-18 cards. Strasberg will be one of the highest picks is next year’s draft. If you get a chance at some of his stuff for a decent price, I would definitely consider grabbing it now. He’s all kinds of good.

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Upper Deck – 2008 SP Authentic Baseball
Cost: Approx. $95/box

Another baseball season brings us another edition of Upper Deck’s SP Authentic Baseball. This year Upper Deck decided to ship their product during the playoffs instead of after the playoffs to build off a successful baseball season and take advantage of all the post season hype. UD touts 3 autographs per box (1 By the Letter, 1 Rookie auto, and 1 other).

Personally, I’m not a big set builder so you’re not going to see my talk about base cards in my reviews. Let’s talk about the good stuff.

By the LetterThe By the Letter cards return yet again this year in SP. If you’re not familiar with the BTL cards, they are manufactured patch cards that are signed by the players. When these letters were originally intorduced in 2006 they just spelled the player’s last name. Starting last year, UD decided to add in new letter combinations to spell things like “Rookie” or the team name and city. It appears that they continued with that this year as you can see from the Chad Billingsley card to the right. It appears that this year you can chance down your favorite player’s first name as well. The checklist for the BTL cards features many new subjects but sadly also features players who have been done before.

Rookie Autographs – This year UD included rookie autograph cards. When I first heard this, I thought it was a good idea. Who wouldn’t like serial numbered rookie autograph cards? Then, I got a look at them. Yikes! Talk about stupid card design….look at that travesty to the left!! There isn’t a hotter rookie out there than Evan Longoria, but would you actually want that card? The stupid window cuts off parts of the signature. And Longoria isn’t the only player who has his signature cut. If you scan all the cards out there now, this is very common.

In addition to the regular rookie autograph card, there are Rookie autograph jersey and patch cards. Unfortunately, these cards feature the same window for the autographs and you run the same risk of the signature being cut off. Most of the jersey cards are your plain single color swatches with the occasional pinstripe. The patches I’ve seen so far have been pretty good (the Bruce card to the right notwithstanding) and feature multiple colors. My only gripe is that the windows are small and don’t give them a chance to show off some of the patch pieces.

Best Hits? – If you’re breaking this product, there are a lot of “hit” cards that you will pull that won’t bring much on the secondary market. For the rookies, your biggest hits are going to be Evan Longoria, Jay Bruce, Kosuke Fukudome, and Joey Votto. On the BTL side, players like Billy Wagner, Jim Thome, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Alfonso Soriano, and Ching-Ming Wang are ridiculously short printed.

Overall Opinion – To me, I would avoid breaking this product by the box or case. I just don’t see the value there from the cards that are pulled. The BTL cards have lost their luster and people don’t chase them like they used to. Even some of the BTL cards from the 2006 and 2007 series can be had for very cheap. It’s time to retire this idea. The rookie autograph checklist is lame. Other than the ones I mentioned above, many of the others have next to no hobby value at all. Where’s Clayton Kershaw? I don’t see him on Upper Deck’s checklist at all. The addition of the USA Under-18 team autographs are nice but I don’t know how valuable they will end up being.

I give this a DON’T BREAK / JUST BUY SINGLES grade.

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