Tag Archives: parallel

Derek Jeter’s Cardboard Gold

With the recent record-breaking sales of Derek Jeter’s 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold “rookie card” for $13,479 and $16,995 in PSA Mint 9 and SGC 96 Mint condition, respectively, I thought it might be fun to dig up and explore some other significant examples of gold-themed Jeter cards.

13636a_lgFrom his traditional rookie card year of 1993, Derek can be found on gold-themed parallels of both his regular Topps and Upper Deck rookie cards. While his regular (non-gold) Topps rookie card fetches between $100 and $140 in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, his 1993 Topps Gold parallel PSA 10 sells for $300 to $400. Topps Gold parallels were produced between 1992 and 1994, and in 1993 they were seeded 1 per wax pack, 3 per rack pack, 5 per jumbo pack, 10 per factory set, and 1,000 per every 12,000-count vending case. To date, PSA has graded 12,754 examples of Derek’s regular 1993 Topps #98 rookie card versus 3,142 total of his Topps Gold parallel, awarding 1,247 PSA 10 Gem Mints to the regular and just 196 to the Gold, which is about the same number of PSA 10 Gem Mint examples of Michael Jordan’s famous 1986 Fleer rookie card on record at PSA (190).

92 UD Gold HoloJeter’s 1993 Upper Deck rookie card parallel is a little more subtle, as the only difference between the regular version and the parallel is the color of the foil used for the Upper Deck authentic hologram on back. The so-called “Gold Hologram” parallels were distributed exclusively in factory set form. For every set case of 15 92 UD Silver Holofactory sets, one set was struck with the coveted Gold Hologram on back, and PSA 10 Gem Mint examples — there are currently only 26 of them on record, versus 352 of Derek’s regular 1993 Upper Deck rookie card — continue to sell for around $1,000.

15_6876a_lgDerek has precisely 22 different cards from his traditional rookie card year of 1993, and the only other gold-themed issues are the elusive 1993 Front Row Gold Collection (with a supposed print run of 10,000 but only 21 PSA 10s so far) and the far more common 1993 Classic Best Gold. He also has a pair of gold parallels from among his 18 different cards produced during his draft year of 1992: the condition sensitive Front Row Gold parallel (with a print run of 5,000 and just 10 PSA 10s) and the Classic Four Sport Gold (print run 9,500 and 48 PSA 10s). From his nearly 40 different cards in 1994, there are three more gold parallels — again a Classic Best Gold, also the highly coveted Collector’s Choice Gold Signature, shown here, and the Topps SS Prospects Gold parallel — but the real Midas madness for Jeter cards doesn’t fully materialize until 1995 and 1996, at the peak of the late 1990s insert mania that would come to define the period and change the collectibles industry forever.

11279a_lgIn 1995, Derek can be found on seven different gold-themed insert and insert parallel cards, perhaps the most attractive and undervalued of which is the 1995 Bowman Gold Foil parallel, a stunning card to behold in person. Even more stunning, however, is the 1995 Select Certified Mirror Gold. Unlike its famously short-printed 1996 successor, however, the 1995 Mirror Gold is a common insert parallel (or parallel insert, to be more precise) seeded 1 in every 5 packs. Using insertion rates, BaseballCardPedia.com guesstimates that approximately 1,900 copies were produced. The cards boast a combination of gold foil and a prismatic chromium surface similar to Topps’ refractor technology, and they’re so stunning that it’s no wonder the Score/Pinnacle brass decided to limit the follwing year’s 1996 version of its Select Certified Mirror Gold cards to an unprecedented, industry-changing print run of just 30 exalted copies of each card produced.

Other gold-themed Jeter cards from 1995 include a handful of additional Upper Deck parallels from different products plus an Ultra Golden Prospect Gold Medallion parallel produced by Fleer, but by his Rookie of the Year season of 1996, you can find Jeter on nearly 20 different gold-themed insert and insert parallel cards, most of which are short-printed parallel versions of Jeter’s regularly issued cards that have been treated with some sort of gold foil or other gold theme in order to help distinguish them from the regular versions.

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jeter mirror goldThe most famous and valuable of all of Derek Jeter’s cards produced during his Rookie of the Year season of 1996 — or from any year, for that matter — is of course the 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold, a PSA 10 Gem Mint example of which will head to auction in September in Small Traditions’ Exclusive Derek Jeter Farewell event. For more information on this premium event, or to consign your high-end Derek Jeter and other Yankees items, please call 303.832.1975 or write info@smalltraditions.com.

If September is too long to wait to satisfy your itch for Jeter gold, however, then try searching all the 202 different Jeter cards in Small Traditions’ current Monthly Masterpieces Plus #22 Auction, where you will find a staggering number of gold-themed insert and insert parallels, including strong PSA Mint 9 examples of both the 1997 and 1998 evolved versions (or successors) of Select Certified’s treasured Mirror Gold cards, now in ’97 and ’98 called “Platinum Gold” parallels, also short-printed to infinitesimal print runs of just 30 copies made. Unlike the 1996 version, both examples up for auction this month are serial-numbered on back, and both are stamped 01 out of just 30 printed, making them coveted 1/1s or one-of-ones according to many collectors.

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13866b_lgFinally, I would be remiss not to mention another and more literal class of Jeter gold cards, those that are actually constructed of gold. While 23-24KT gold-leaf cards like the admittedly condition sensitive (Pop 3 PSA 10) 1997 Bleachers card shown below might be more over-produced gimmickry than true scarcity, gold-leaf cards like these, also produced in large quantities of 10,000 to 50,000 over the years by Upper Deck, should not overshadow the much more desirable Precious Metals cards famously produced by Donruss in 1997 and 1998. These immaculate cards are constructed of 1 gram of fine gold, and they were limited to just 100 copies made in 1997 and only 50 in 1998. A BGS 10 Pristine example of the 1997 issue sold for $1,994 in Small Traditions’ inaugural December Premium Holiday auction last year, and the much scarcer 1998 BGS 10 example shown here will hopefully find its way into Small Traditions’ Exclusive Derek Jeter Farewell Auction in September. They are, quite literally, Jeter gold, and they remain among the most coveted Jeter cards in existence.

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Setting The Record Straight: The 1994 Collector’s Choice White Letter Variation(s)

I remember several years ago when I was in graduate school, learning eBay for the first time and selling off my card collection to raise some extra money for groceries, books, and beer. I listed a group of Alex Rodriguez cards that I had thought would fetch $20, maybe $30. In the end, the group sold for more than $400 because it contained a rare variation of Alex’s 1994 Collector’s Choice Future Foundation Silver Signature rookie card. The variation had something to do with the color of the letter “A” on the back of the card, commencing Alex’s brief biographical write-up. It was supposed to be gray, but the lone letter was white instead, and as far as I remember, the rest of the card featured the standard Silver Signature design, meaning that the text on the front of the card $T2eC16dHJHYFFkRCeHm1BRq8fc(mr!~~60_57was all in gray, not white. Perhaps I am remembering incorrectly, but more than 10 years later I have yet to encounter another 1994 Collector’s Choice White Letter Variation exactly like that.

The White Letter Variation for which collectors pay such serious premiums these days is different. Like the Derek Jeter card pictured to the left, the White Letter Variation shows the same silver foil facsimile signature, but the rest of the text on front is all in white. As you can plainly see from the other examples pictured below, every player in the Future Foundations subset can be found with this variation to his Silver Signature card, which is a parallel to the standard issue that does not feature any facsimile signature whatsoever. The Silver Signature parallels were seeded one per every wax pack and three per every jumbo pack. There also exists a Gold Signature parallel that was seeded one per every wax or jumbo box or five per every factory set. The Gold Signature parallels are some of the most coveted cards from 1994, and although some websites like baseballcardpedia.com reference them, it is unknown whether the Gold Signatures can be found with a White Letter Variation. The Silver Signature White Letter Variations, however, do exist, and they are extremely rare, with ARod and Jeter examples selling for multiple thousands of dollars in top grades, and even common players who never played more than a few Major League games can fetch as much as $30 to $50 in raw condition.

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There is perhaps no other variation from the 1990s more misunderstood than the 1994 Collector’s Choice Silver Signature White Letter Variation. For several years, The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards has included the following statement in its pricing for the 1994 Collector’s Choice set: “#647 Alex Rodriguez White Letters. Some ARod Silver Signature parallels were mistakenly printed on base cards with his name and other details on front and back printed in white rather than gray.” Currently, it is the only price guide that acknowledges the variation, but because it only acknowledges the ARod variation, Professional Sports Authenticator, or PSA, the industry leader in graded sports cards, refuses to acknowledge that the variation exists for other players besides ARod, most importantly Derek Jeter.

4958a_lgAccording to PSA, in order to register a variation of an issue, PSA’s research department requires the submission of said variation to be accompanied by printed materials that directly reference the variation, and since The Standard Catalog only acknowledges the ARod, PSA has refused to hear the overwhelming collector demand that other 1994 Collector’s Choice Future Foundation Silver Signature White Letter Variation cards be distinguished from their standard Silver Signature cards. Casual readers and even many long-time hobbyists may not understand the significance of this. No big deal, right? Wrong! To designate a separate line item for the White Letter Variations in PSA’s population report would essentially create a new Derek Jeter rookie card for Set Registry collectors to pursue. Moreover, creating a separate category for the variation would also highlight its scarcity. Since so few are known to exist in any condition, in another ten or twenty years it will most likely stand as one of the single rarest Derek Jeter rookie cards to encounter in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, commanding prices as high as $10,000, or more.

4060a_lgAlthough it is not a print resource, Baseballcardpedia offers a somewhat better statement on the White Letter Variation. “A legitimate variation on the Alex Rodriguez card (#647) was verified several years after release. The standard card features the “A” from Alex on the card back text in grey/silver whereas the variation features his name in white. It’s believed that the A-Rod “White A” variation is a significantly tougher card, but exact estimates of its scarcity are not known. In subsequent years, other cards (such as Johnny Damon) were also verified to have this white letter variation – thus it’s generally believed that the entire Future Foundations subset was produced with white (and standard grey) letter variations.” This acknowledgement, however, sounds more like the variation I described in my introductory anecdote than the variations clearly pictured in this post. Although they supply no visual proof, further down in their listing for the 1994 Collector’s Choice set, Baseballcardpedia also states: “Like in the base set, “White Letter” variations also exist for the Gold and Silver Signature parallels of the Future Foundations subset.” Gold Signature White Letter variations! What?

Here is the BGS population report for the 1994 Collector’s Choice Derek Jeter variations, including an erroneous category for a standard, non-facsimile signature White Letter Variation:

Set Player # 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 9.0 9.5 10 Total
1994 Collector’s Choice Derek Jeter 644 2 6 11 28 14 6 0 67
1994 Collector’s Choice Gold Signature Derek Jeter 644 0 0 2 9 12 1 0 24
1994 Collector’s Choice Silver Signature Derek Jeter 644 1 2 8 15 19 2 0 50
1994 Collector’s Choice Silver Signature White Letter Variation Derek Jeter 644 0 0 2 3 1 1 0 7
1994 Collector’s Choice White Letter Variation Derek Jeter 644 1 4 8 34 60 13 0 124

To make things even more confusing, Beckett Grading Services, or BGS, the industry leader in modern graded sports cards, mistakenly created a separate grading category for the Derek Jeter White Letter Variation of the standard, non-Silver Signature issue in addition to a separate grading category for the Silver Signature White Letter Variation. While we certainly appreciate Beckett’s effort to distinguish the Silver Signature White Letter Variation, to set the record straight, every regular non-Silver Signature issue shows a white letter on back, so don’t be fooled into buying one of these under the impression that it is the Silver Signature White Letter Variation.

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4060c_lgVariations, parallels, printer’s proofs, errors, and misprints comprise the core of advanced collecting. Most of the 514 cards comprising the legendary T206 Tobacco set, for example, can be found with 16 different advertisement backs, the rarest of which command small fortunes Gold Dat market. The 1949 and 1954 Bowman sets and the landmark 1952 Topps set are also rife with variations. So, too, is the 1994 Collector’s Choice set. Exactly how many, however, remains a mystery. Clearly, there is the Silver Signature White Letter Variation, pictured multiple times in this post, and this variation should absolutely be recognized by all grading companies. Perhaps a better name for this variation, however, should be the Silver Signature “White Lettering” Variation,4215c_lg because who knows if The Standard Catalog and my graduate school memories aren’t both correct. Maybe there is a Silver Signature variation that looks exactly like the Silver Signature parallel except for the lone letter on back appearing in white instead of gray. An accurate name for this variation would then indeed be the Silver Signature “White white DLetter” Variation, as opposed to the “White Lettering” Variation. Do these two different variations also exist for the Gold Signature parallel, that is, a Gold Signature White Letter Variation as well as a Gold Signature White Lettering Variation? I’ve never seen either, but if they do, they’d be worth a boatload, and I sure hope to find one someday.

Happy Collecting,

Dave Thorn at Small Traditions

Chasing the Rainbow: The 1996 Select Certified Set

22221553Love of ’em or hate ’em, parallel insert cards are as unavoidable in today’s hobby as are cell phones and computers in our daily lives. Ironically, both of these realities entered the mainstream at about the same time. It was late summer of 1996 when my incoming freshman class at Lehigh University was informed, for the first time ever, that all students would be required to maintain email accounts. It was also that summer when Pinnacle Brands issued its groundbreaking 1996 Select Certified set, a 144-card hobby-only issue that contained an unprecedented six levels of parallel insert (or chase) cards, meaning that every regular card in the set could be found in an additional six different variations (or parallels).

Although Topps and Upper Deck had already been implementing parallels of their own for several years, the 1996 Select Certified set featured the shortest-printed parallels ever produced, with its Mirror Gold parallel boasting a print run of just 30 total copies. Yes, just 30. Visually speaking, they were also one of the most stunning cards the hobby had ever seen, featuring a flashy holofoil surface that shimmered like actual gold when reflected under light. They were an immediate sensation with collectors, who ripped through the $4.99 MSRP packs like hotcakes on a cold winter morning, and today they remain among the single most coveted insert cards ever produced. Major stars like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ken Griffey, Jr. can fetch more than $1,000 in top grades, and the set’s key card, the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, Derek Jeter, has sold for as much as $5,000 in raw condition. No copies have ever graded Gem Mint at BGS, and only two of the 30 copies produced have ever graded PSA 10 Gem Mint. If either of those copies ever comes to market, however, many Jeter collectors expect the sale to challenge or to even surpass the extraordinary $25,000 price tag that recent sales of the 1993 SP Foil Derek Jeter RC has generated in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition.

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The other five parallels from the 1996 Select Certified set are no less popular than the mighty Mirror Gold, just slightly more affordable. They include the scarce Mirror Blue and Mirror Red, which were also produced to extremely low print runs: just 45 and 90, respectively. Like the Mirror Gold, they feature a similarly sensational visual appeal, and they also command hefty price tags in top grades. Next is the Certified Blue and Certified Red, which were produced to print runs of just 180 and 1,800, respectively, and last is the Artist’s Proof parallel, which appears similar to the regular issue except for the inclusion of an “Artist’s Proof” stamp in the lower left corner of the front surface and was produced to a print run of just 500. Like the regular cards, every one of these parallels was issued with a thin protective film, or skin, over their sensitive reflective surfaces. Removing this so-called skin is a delicate and dangerous process, but the skins tend to dull the appearance of the cards, and once removed, the cards shimmer with an undeniable luster, each more brilliant than the last. Together, the various parallels encouraged a new concept in collecting, enticing hobby enthusiasts to “chase the rainbow,” that is, to collect a complete run consisting of one example of each parallel for a particular player.

Pinnacle Brands didn’t reinvent the wheel when it issued its Select Certified set in 1996. The Topps Company had been issuing its limited edition Tiffany sets since 1984, and a decade later it would change the hobby forever with its massively popular Refractor parallels in its 1993 Finest product. Both Topps and Upper Deck had also been producing various gold and silver foil-accented parallels to their regular issues since the early 1990s, but nothing had yet matched the masterpiece effort of the Select Certified Mirror cards of 1996. The following year would witness the hobby’s first ever one-of-one cards, taking the tiered short-print parallel to its ultimate limit with the legendary 1997 Flair Showcase Masterpieces. Today, short-printed parallels are so prevalent that almost every pack contains at least one card bearing some sort of variation from its standard issue, and as a result they no longer carry the eye-popping premiums as the hobby’s earliest parallels, which are now fetching thousands of dollars in top grades. New and old collectors alike, including vintage collectors looking to expand their horizons as well as forlorn collectors from the 1980s and 1990s looking to revitalize their passion for cardboard and to resuscitate their collections from the so-called “junk era,” need remember only three little words in order to grasp what’s currently happening in the hobby: 90s inserts rule!