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Preview Peaks for ’05 Baseball Cards Coming

by Paul Angilly
October 26, 2004

When I was a young card collector in the late 1970s and early ’80s, one of the most eagerly anticipated days of the year was the day the first packs of new baseball cards hit the shelves at the local drug store or department store. As soon as the first touches of spring warmth hit the air, we’d pedal our bikes down to the store nearly every day, hoping to see the new year’s cards for the first time.

Now some 25 years later, pictures of several 2005 baseball card sets have been available online since before the end of the regular season.

The first 2005 sets scheduled to be released are the Topps brand set and Fleer Ultra, both due on Nov. 17 -- about six weeks before the last currently-scheduled 2004 set is due (Bowman Sterling, on Dec. 27).

Fleer Ultra once again has a borderless design with excellent photography and simple but effective design elements -- a colorful cursive player name near the bottom, with team names and positions written in small block letters underneath. The 220-card set includes 20 rookies inserted 1:4 packs.

Ultra also has an assortment of game-used, autographed, parallel and other insert cards typical for its price range (about $2.50 to $3 per pack). A Gold Medallion or Platinum Medallion parallel is found in every pack, with a game-used insert and six other cards from assorted chase sets in every box.

Topps, back for its 55th consecutive year, also delivers everything collectors have come to expect: an affordable pack price (about $1.50), large base set (366 cards in series 1) and a nice variety of interesting and valuable inserts.

The base-set design is once again striking. The player’s last name in bold gold-foil capital letters dominates the top of the card. White borders surround two bands of color that twist together around the player photo, with the color bands matching the team’s colors. The team name is in a small box that springs out from one color band on the left side of the card, with the player’s name in a similar box on the right side. A black strip across the bottom of the photo includes a team name logo, with "2005" on the left side and the Topps logo on the right.

The base set includes 265 veterans, 30 first-year players, 30 managers, 10 future stars (two each on five cards), five season highlights, seven post-season highlights, 12 league leaders and 12 Sporting News All-Stars.

Following up on its 2004 "American Treasures" insert set of cut signatures from Presidents and other American historical figures, the 2005 Topps set will offer 50 different "World Treasures" cut signatures (autographs cut from documents and imbedded in the trading cards) of world historical figures including Napoleon, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers are celebrated on "Dem Bums" autographed and cut signature cards, along with 13 regular cards featuring the 1955 Topps design. There is also plenty of 2004 All-Star Game memorabilia: "Midsummer Covers," featuring 10 players with pieces of game-used baseballs from the contest; "All-Star Stitches," with All-Star jersey pieces from 47 different players; and "Touch ’Em All," showing 10 players with a piece of game-used base.

Due on Nov. 24 is the 2005 Donruss set, which is being touted as the 25th anniversary edition (although it’s actually the 23rd Donruss brand set, as the company started making baseball cards in 1981 but didn’t issue sets in 1999 or 2000).

The base cards are attractive, with borderless color photos on the front. A rectangular box near the bottom includes the player’s name, team name, team logo and position. The 400-card base set includes 300 regular cards, 25 Diamond Kings (continuing a subset that dates back to 1982), 45 Rated Rookies and 30 team checklist cards.

Among the inserts are a 50-card "The Rookies" set (1:24 packs), a 50-card ’04 Donruss Studio set that mirrors the regular 2004 Studio design with new players (1:24 packs); a 12-card 1985 reprint set; and five more "Fans of the Game" cards (1:24 packs), continuing a series that began earlier this year.

Look for 2005 Upper Deck series 1 on Nov. 29, with a suggested retail price of $2.99 per pack (eight cards per pack, 24 packs per box). The 300-card checklist includes 210 regular cards, 50 Star Rookies, 30 Team Leaders and 10 Pennant Race subset cards.

A special 50-card 2004 update set will be included in each unopened box, with a jersey card (numbered to 89 copies) found in one per 12 update sets. Other game-used cards will be found two per box (1:12 packs) on average, with the most common varieties being "Matinee Idols," "Origins" and "Marquee Attractions."

Marking the return of an insert series that began in 1990 (and which launched the concept of "chase cards" as we know them today), Baseball Heroes inserts featuring Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter will be found 1:6 packs. Jersey versions numbered to 75 and signature versions limited to just two copies will also be available.

The Reggie Jackson Baseball Heroes inserts found in 1990 Upper Deck packs launched what was once known as the insert card craze, which has now become an established facet of nearly every set issued. The Jackson autograph card randomly inserted in packs as part of that chase set was the first-ever certified hand-autographed card found in packs of trading cards.

The Baseball Heroes series continued to be a part of Upper Deck sets over the next several years. It was revived in a pair of 2002 sets: Authentics (featuring serial-numbered 10-card subsets of Ichiro, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.) and Prospect Premieres (including nine cards and a header each for Joe Morgan, Cal Ripken Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Mark McGwire, Mickey Mantle, Ozzie Smith, Tom Seaver, Tony Gwynn and Willie Stargell).

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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