Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Old School Hits: Hank Aaron

2001 Topps was a big deal because Topps was celebrating its 50th Anniversary producing baseball cards. By this time I was no longer actively collecting. My passion for cards slowly dissipated by my junior year of high school, replaced by other teenage interests. Though I had stopped collecting, I did pick up a pack or two of Topps each year to see the new design and what content made up the new releases.

Early in 2001 I randomly bought a Beckett price guide at a book store because the cover and cover story caught my eye. The cover image featured a layout of vintage Topps cards and the story featured the history of Topps and their Anniversary celebration. The article was well done (a lot more content than is provided in today's version). The feature chronicled the card company from their first efforts with the red back and blue backs and landmark 1952 issue to later issues and the man behind the card sets, Sy Berger. After reading through the magazine I turned it over and noticed the advertisement for 2001 Topps series one and saw some images of the cards. I saw enough to spike my curiosity and I temporally felt the urge to rip some packs.

So that May, home from college for summer vacation and with some spending money in my pocket I bought ten hobby packs of series one from a small sports memorabilia store that was in the mall. My first impressions of the set were positive. I liked the design of the base cards. The dark green gave the cards a very sharp look. They featured a little too much gold foil, but that didn't really bother me. New to this release were the gold parallel cards, serially numbered to 2001. Yes, the same ones that have been in every flagship release since. Topps also included a three card insert set titled, King of Kings, featuring jersey swatches of Hank Aaron (homerun king), Nolan Ryan (strike out king) and Ricky Henderson (stolen base king). A fourth card featuring all three legends was also issued and limited to 50 copies. I remember my Hank Aaron card came in the second to last pack and at first I was so surprised I wasn't sure what I had. Relic cards were still a rare occurrence in 2001. I knew of their existence, since I was still collecting in 1997 when Upper Deck introduced the first relic cards in their flagship baseball release, but the UD cards were rare and out a my reach as a teenage collector.

So this pull came as an incredible surprise to me. I got home and flipped over my Beckett price guide to the Topps advertisement and saw an example of my card. Lucky pull indeed. Also a surprise was how to store my new treasure and I unwisely placed this card in a screw down case. Fast forward through college and graduate school and my first job, I finally brought my old collection out of storage and went through my cards. Unfortunately, when I tried to free Mr. Aaron from his plastic prison, moisture had done its work and the plastic pulled off some of the card front on the lower right corner.
Even though I was disappointed with the damage, I have never entertained the idea of selling this card, so any loss of value didn't bother me. This card is a permanent part of my collection and the best card I have ever pulled from a pack. I don't have many relic cards in my collection, but even if I did, this card will always be my favorite and reminds me of the days when relic cards were still hard to find and not guaranteed in a box.

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