Saturday, July 07, 2012

Box Review: 1998 UD Retro (Hobby)

The 1998 UD Retro set consists of a 129 card base set and a few different insert sets.  The set is numbered to 130 but card number 82 does not exist (apparently Upper Deck ran into issues securing the rights to Stan Musial who was supposed to occupy that slot in the set).  Although there are no relics in the product, there is a nice autograph checklist which includes several retired stars (such as Al Kaline, Bob Gibson, Ernie Banks, and Nolan Ryan).

Each box of UD Retro is actually a metal lunchbox and features a current major leaguer.  There are six different players on the lunch pails (Griffey Jr., Garciaparra, Chipper Jones, Travis Lee, Mark McGwire, and Cal Ripken).  I ended up with a Mark McGwire lunch box.

Each box contains 24 packs with 6 cards per pack.  According to the pack wrapper, inserts are seeded at the following odds:

  • (50 cards)  1990s Time Capsule:  1:2 packs
  • (25 cards)  Groovy Kind of Glove:  1:7 packs
  • Sign of the Times (autographed cards):  1:36 packs
  • (30 cards)  New Frontier:  Serially numbered out of 1000
  • (30 cards)  Big Boppers:  Serially numbered out of 500
  • (30 cards)  Quantum Leap:  Serially numbered out of 50

Based on the odds, each box should contain 12 Time Capsules and 3 or 4 Groovy Kind of Glove cards.  Seeing how there aren't a ton of inserts, the set relies on its strong base card checklist plus interesting photography (and great card stock) in order to push it over the top.

Out of the 129 base cards, I ended up with 90 different cards (plus 36 duplicates).  The base cards feature (mostly) interesting photographs - and plenty of retired stars keeps the overall checklist quite strong.

Cards numbered 101 - 130 are all part of the Futurama subset which focuses on young players.

The only rookie of real note is Troy Glaus.  The backs of the regular base cards are also quite nice.  The include full career statistics (except for some players with exceptionally long careers such as Nolan Ryan).  They also include a bit of an explanation for various baseball lingo.
Despite the box coming up quite a few cards short of producing a full base set, I did land the Barry Larkin card in the set.

As for the inserts, I landed the expected 12 Time Capsule cards (Palmeiro, Vaughn, Belle, Tino Martinez, Henderson, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Canseco, Clemens, Maddux, Bichette, and Barry Bonds).

Despite being seeded 1:2 packs, you'd need to bust three boxes with excellent collation in order to complete the 50 card set.  One unique thing about the Time Capsule card backs is that they encourage you to write on them (the next season's worth of stats) for all the active players.

My box had four of the Groovy Kind of Glove cards (Garciaparra, Grace, Rolen, and Caminiti).

Although the set is going for the retro theme, the Groovy cards still feel a bit out of place with their overuse of bright colors and 60s themes.

I didn't land any of the autographs (which was disappointing) but I did get cards from two of the three serially numbered sets.  First, a New Frontier card of Orlando Hernandez (numbered 0090/1000).

The New Frontier set features a bunch of young players - lucky for me Orlando happened to be one of the better players on the checklist!

Finally, there was a Big Bopper card of Vinny Castillo (numbered 137/500).

Unlike my luck with the New Frontier player selection, Vinny is probably one of the worst players in the Big Bopper checklist.  I guess you win some and you lose some!

I was fun to bust both of the serially numbered cards, but it was a bit disappointing to not land one of the autographs (especially since almost any autograph would be a good one to get)!

Overall, I give the 1998 UD Retro the following rating:
Set Design:  A
Collation:  C
Opening Thrill:  B
Overall:  B+

As a whole, it's a gorgeous set.  Unfortunately, there is no reason to end up with 36 duplicates while ending up so far from a complete set.  It certainly seems like Upper Deck wanted to ensure people needed to purchase at least two boxes worth of cards in order to complete the base set.  The fact that the cards come in a lunch box is a nice bonus for collectors though!  I wanted to give the set an A- but I couldn't mostly due to the duplicates (had I lucked out and pulled an autograph though the grade probably would have been a bit higher)!

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