For the uninitiated, a group break works like this: a couple dozen or so people pool their money and buy several boxes, or perhaps a case, and divide up the cards by team. Anyone who anted up gets all the cards of their chosen team(s), or perhaps a random team; there are lots of ways to do it.
Anyway, I'll get to that in a bit, but part of this group break also included a bunch of assorted cards from your team that had nothing to do with the fancy new boxes of high-end Topps. That means that much of this shipment looked a lot like a trade package, and I'm sure that Nachos Grande was able to clear out lots of extras.
Gold was the name of the game in the mid-1990s, and even the "filler" cards didn't disappoint.
|1998 Bowman's Best #4 Dante Bichette|
They're quite thick, maybe even a little more so than Topps Finest. And I think I finally found the right scanner settings to get a somewhat accurate representation of a shiny card.
|1994 SP #165 Ellis Burks|
If I never ran across Bowman's Best in their early years, then I definitely never saw the first few Upper Deck SP sets. They just weren't in my budget as a young collector, although I could probably have stretched if I really wanted to. But at $75 for a box of eight cards, Topps High Tek would have been completely out of my price range. Even now, taking my chances in a group break really only made sense because I knew there would be lots of other goodies included.
Goodies like awesome photography on UD Collector's Choice.
|1997 Collector's Choice #321 Bruce Ruffin|
Based on that black jersey and the relatively small light fixture in the background, I'm guessing that this was taken during Spring Training. The players are a lot more accessible during the preseason, and most of the autograph collectors I know have had much of their success while visiting Arizona or Florida in the month of March.
Speaking of Spring Training, we're just a few games in, and as I write this, my TV is tuned to live baseball for the first time in many months! Nothing like a ballgame to get me in the card-blogging spirit.
I don't have any autographs from Spring Training, but I have managed to snag a few at Coors Field over the years.
|1996 Stadium Club #377 Kevin Ritz|
This card shows Ritz pitching in an away stadium, as neither Coors Field nor Mile High Stadium employed the use of Astroturf, thankfully. That stuff was just hideous. It was in quite a few parks before the recent round of new ballpark construction, even in outdoor stadiums with relatively mild climates, like St. Louis and Philadelphia. Only Toronto and Tampa Bay still have artificial surfaces, and those are both indoor stadiums.
Pretty much every time I get a random stack of cards from about 1997 to 2005, there's a card from a set I've never seen before. And I'm not talking about insert sets; that's how many base sets were out there until Fleer, Pacific, Pinnacle, and Donruss all fell on hard times.
|2002 Fleer Maximum #17 Todd Helton|
Jeff Baker's 2003 Studio card fared quite a bit better, which is fortunate, because this is just about the best Coors Field backdrop that's ever appeared on a card.
|2003 Studio #123 Jeff Baker|
There's lots in this photo to document the earlier iterations of Coors Field. That Bank One sign is no more, as that bank was acquired by Chase not long after this card was printed. The left field scoreboard is also in its original layout, where all the lights were an amber color. They've since replaced it with a full-color high definition screen. Longtime readers know how I love little details, and there's another one to point out. The bat that Baker is holding has "17" written on the knob, indicating that he swiped one of Todd Helton's bats for this photo op.
|1998 Leaf #76 Dante Bichette|
The 1948 Leaf set is considered to be the first set in the modern collecting era, at least according to Beckett. 1998 happened to be fifty years after that set was released, but calling it an "anniversary" seems like a huge stretch to me. Until the mid-'80s when the Leaf brand was basically a Canadian Donruss parallel set, and 1990 when they took it upmarket with a high-end set, the brand was pretty much nonexistent for decades following that seminal 1948 release. Far be it from me to admonish the use of gold foil on a late-1990s card, but using the word "anniversary" implies a lot more continuity than a decades-long gap between releases.
|Munnatawket Custom #62 Carlos Gonzalez|
Anyway, this has pretty much been a trade post so far, so let's get to the actual cards from the break! The slot I purchased in this break contained not only the Rockies, but also the San Francisco Giants. There were a handful of assorted Giants cards like the above, but I hit some new ones in the break itself.
|2014 Stadium Club #64 Tim Lincecum|
But the headliner of this break were the Topps High Tek cards. Topps saw fit to resurrect this brand from the late-'90s, which are printed on clear acetate instead of cardboard, and have a wide variety of possible background patterns. Unlike the earlier sets that had up to 80 possible backgrounds (making for an 8000+ card set), they scaled that back significantly in 2014, offering only twelve patterns, six for each league. You could call this a "fractured set", which are pretty much impossible to explain in a reasonably-sized paragraph.
The luck of the draw meant I ended up with two of the sixteen Topps High Tek cards in the group break. The same held true for the collectors who had the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees, Brewers, and White Sox. That's rather unfortunate collation for a group break, as all the rest of the team slots walked away with only four cards. Such are the risks with these high-end products that contain only a few cards per box.
Based on the patterns guide, it looks like these two boxes yielded the more common patterns, and that held true for my two as well.
|2014 Topps High Tek Net #HT-TT Troy Tulowitzki|
Still, these are pretty cool cards, and my second win from the break is an awesome one!
|2014 Topps High Tek Spiral Bricks Clouds Diffractor #HT-WMA Willie Mays /25|
I definitely got lucky with this one. It was my first experience both with a group break and packs of high-end baseball cards. The group break idea I am sold on, and I really have to hand it to Nachos Grande for putting these together. After all, we do have a pretty small community, and it seems like he struggles a bit filling breaks. I appreciate the effort he puts in, and I'm sure it's not the last one I'll participate in.