Monday, June 17, 2013

2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition breakdown

OK, I'll admit I've had a breakdown over a particular super high-end set. 2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition. Goddamn, I'm putty in its hands! I was never really into autographed cards, but a few months ago I won a Bill Madlock from this set on Listia and just loved it. I've been stricken with the crazy idea of collecting ALL the certified autos from this set (or at least attempting this feat). The press from Topps says there are 74 different autos (not counting 4 Willie Mays co-signers), but I think there are actually 76 by my count (though I could be off).
Why do I love it so very much? Let's break it down:


  • Black is cool
    . Those bad-ass black boarders are attractive!
  • The "uncirculated" encased cards are sweet. I'm not necessarily a grade-happy "slab them all!" collector by any means. But it's nice that these cards essentially come with their own hardcase. We all know how vulnerable black cards are to edge wear, so this is a good solution. Nobody's touched these cards besides the dude who signed it and maybe a middleman dude or two from Topps. Sure, you can find these cards out of their cases, but for me, I'm really only interested in them if they've got their original factory-sealed case with nifty hologram sticker.

Look at all those batting titles! Mad Dog for HOF!

  • Full stats!!! Here's where the cards really win me over. I'm big on card backs. What really turns me off from most certified autos is the back. You get a cool card with a neat autograph across it and turn it over and it's all "Congratulations! You've received a card personally signed by Mr. Homerun Guy. We here at this baseball card company pinky-swear that it's legit. Signed, the CEO of this baseball card company." LAME. Don't waste half of a card congratulating me on pulling-- or more realistically, buying-- a neat card. At least give me a little write up about how cool this player was/is, or preferably FULL STATS and a sentence or two about how cool this player was/is. And that's what 2004 Topps Retired gives you. I love that. There's a great story there among the numbers. Since all these guys are retired, you get their complete career stats, from their triumphant prime years (league-leading stats conveniently highlighted in red text), through the twists and turns to that last year or two where their numbers slid into the toilet, leading to their retirement. Fascinating stuff!
  • Blue Sharpie. Autographs look great in blue sharpie. It seems 99% of this set features blue sharpie, in all its vibrant and bold glory. I've also seen some in black sharpie, but those seem to be faded. Boo! Should have stuck to only blue, guys. All the blue autos I've seen from 2004 Topps Retired still look as great as the day they were signed about a decade ago.

  • Player selection. There're 110 base (white, non-auto) cards. And then 75 of those also have the auto versions, plus 1 (Bucky Dent) who has an auto, but not a base card version. Yeah, that's weird. It breaks my heart thinking about some of the guys who have base cards but not autos (personal favs Dick Allen and Dave Winfield not having autos in this set pain me most of all). But oh well. Anyways, the base cards are white. There are also black non-auto parallels which are numbered to 99. Oh, and the autos also have refractor parallels numbered to 25. As far as super-rare pulls, there are also printing plates for all autos, plus "co-signer" Willie Mays cards, with the Say Hey Kid scribbling cardboard with Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Duke Snider, and Stan Musial, respectively. But for my "collecting goal" (obsession), I'm just concerned with the regular unnumbered autos.

So yeah, I'm bent on collecting this set. Packs had a list price of $29.99 when they came out. A pack contained 4 base cards plus 1 uncirculated auto. The current going rate for a pack here in 2013 is about $50-75 a pop. Some of the "common" autos sell for around $5-10. These cheaper guys include the likes of Bobby Grich, Ron Swoboda, and Ron Kittle. I don't know exactly what the top-tier guys go for, honestly, since I've only been after this set for a few months now. A Duke Snider is (as of now) on eBay for around $150. And, oh, looks like a Hank Aaron just went up on eBay for $350. I've seen faded black sharpie versions of Yaz and Yogi asking for around $100. Refractor versions seem to be going for 2 or 3 times as much.

Maybe someday I'll do a "set blog" with a post for each card. But for now, I'll keep this to an occasional post. I very recently shelled out $251.95 for a hobby box (5 packs). Dumb, I know, but I'm counting it as a gift from some birthday money I received months ago. What are the chances I'll pull cards valuing even half that much, total? Probably not very good. But who knows; fingers crossed for Hank Aaron or Nolan Ryan or somebody cool as that. It's some excitement for me, if nothing else. I'll probably check in with updates on what I pull (at $50+ a pop, I'll try to spread them out a bit, perhaps use them as life rewards.. for example, after I finally go in for my dental exam, I get to rip a pack).

Anyways, enough talk. Let's check out some more pics! Most of these I don't own, just found pix online, FYI.

Here's the Bucky-- the oddity that apparently only exists as an auto, not in the base set.

Here's a black parallel. Similar to the auto versions, but without the white, signed part near the bottom. Again, these are numbered to 99.

Example of a refractor version. Doesn't look much different, but is a tiny bit more shiny/colorful/refractory and numbered to 25 on the back.


Here's a Yogi Berra refractor and a Carl Yastremski, both sadly in faded black sharpie.

Each guy with a signed variation in the set also has 4 different printing plates (one for each prime color, I guess?), each numbered 1/1 with an autographed sticker put on it by Topps. Pictured is Wade Boggs, specifically the yellow printing plate for his card. Kinda neat, but at ~$200+ a pop, I don't need to own any of them. (Though I would be happy if any fell into my lap.)

Here's an example of a dual signed Willie Mays card. There are cards with Willie signing with 4 different classic HOF guys, each numbered to 25. --But hey, what's with his signature? That doesn't look like it says "Willie Mays" at all! More like "Fame Tui (and a doodle of a ribbon or a fish)". Honestly, no way I'm ponying up upwards of a grand for one of these cards, which seem to be the going price (Though, again, I'd be stoked to pull one from a pack, or randomly find one in a stinky cardboard box on the side of the road or something).

Let's wrap this post up with the checklist for the set, including the base set and also noting which guys have certified autographed cards in the set, too.

1 Willie Mays 
2 Tony Gwynn (has auto insert)
3 Dale Murphy (has auto insert)
4 Lenny Dykstra 
5 Johnny Bench  (has auto insert)
6 Bill Buckner  (has auto insert)
7 Ferguson Jenkins  (has auto insert)
8 George Brett 
9 Ralph Kiner  (has auto insert)
10 Ernie Banks  (has auto insert)
11 Hal McRae 
12 Lou Brock 
13 Keith Hernandez 
14 Jose Canseco  (has auto insert)
15 Whitey Ford  (has auto insert)
16 Dave Kingman 
17 Tim Raines 
18 Paul O'Neill  (has auto insert)
19 Lou Whitaker 
20 Mike Schmidt  (has auto insert)
21 Wally Joyner  (has auto insert)
22 Kirk Gibson  (has auto insert)
23 Ryne Sandberg  (has auto insert)
24 Luis Tiant  (has auto insert)
25 Al Kaline 
26 Brooks Robinson  (has auto insert)
27 Don Zimmer  (has auto insert)
28 Nolan Ryan  (has auto insert)
29 Maury Wills  (has auto insert)
30 Stan Musial  (has auto insert)
31 Garry Maddox 
32 Tom Brunansky  (has auto insert)
33 Don Mattingly  (has auto insert)
34 Earl Weaver  (has auto insert)
35 Bobby Grich  (has auto insert)
36 Orlando Cepeda  (has auto insert)
37 Alan Trammell  (has auto insert)
38 Al Hrabosky  (has auto insert)
39 Dave Lopes  (has auto insert)
40 Rod Carew  (has auto insert)
41 Robin Yount  (has auto insert)
42 Dwight Gooden  (has auto insert)
43 Andre Dawson 
44 Hank Aaron  (has auto insert)
45 Norm Cash 
46 Reggie Jackson 
47 Jim Rice 
48 Carlton Fisk  (has auto insert)
49 Dave Parker  (has auto insert)
50 Cal Ripken  (has auto insert)
51 Roy Face  (has auto insert)
52 Bob Gibson  (has auto insert)
53 Jimmy Key  (has auto insert)
54 Al Oliver  (has auto insert)
55 Don Larsen 
56 Tom Seaver  (has auto insert)
57 Tony Armas  (has auto insert)
58 Dave Stieb  (has auto insert)
59 Will Clark 
60 Duke Snider  (has auto insert)
61 Cesar Geronimo  (has auto insert)
62 Ron Kittle  (has auto insert)
63 Ron Santo  (has auto insert)
64 Mickey Rivers 
65 Jim Piersall  (has auto insert)
66 Ron Swoboda  (has auto insert)
67 Kent Hrbek 
68 Dennis Eckersley  (has auto insert)
69 Greg Luzinski  (has auto insert)
70 Harmon Killebrew 
71 Ron Guidry 
72 Steve Garvey 
73 Andy Van Slyke 
74 Goose Gossage  (has auto insert)
75 Ozzie Smith  (has auto insert)
76 Richie Allen 
77 Vida Blue  (has auto insert)
78 Tony Oliva  (has auto insert)
79 Darryl Strawberry  (has auto insert)
80 Frank Robinson  (has auto insert)
81 Bruce Sutter  (has auto insert)
82 Dave Concepcion 
83 Darrell Evans  (has auto insert)
84 Jack Morris 
85 Bo Jackson 
86 Orel Hershiser  (has auto insert)
87 Rob Dibble  (has auto insert)
88 Wade Boggs  (has auto insert)
89 Fernando Valenzuela 
90 Jim Palmer 
91 George Foster  (has auto insert)
92 Mike Scott 
93 Paul Molitor  (has auto insert)
94 Gary Carter  (has auto insert)
95 Bobby Richardson  (has auto insert)
96 Rollie Fingers (has auto insert)
97 Tim McCarver 
98 John Candelaria (has auto insert)
99 Dave Winfield 
100 Yogi Berra  (has auto insert)
101 Bill Madlock  (has auto insert)
102 Jack McDowell  (has auto insert)
103 Luis Aparicio 
104 Graig Nettles  (has auto insert)
105 Dave Stewart 
106 Darren Daulton  (has auto insert)
107 Gary Gaetti 
108 Tony Fernandez  (has auto insert)
109 Buddy Bell  (has auto insert)
110 Carl Yastrzemski  (has auto insert)

N/A Bucky Dent (auto insert only)

Oh, Topps 2004 Retired Signature Edition, you got me! Nice work. 

I guess I should mention that Topps returned to do another Retired set in 2005. But honestly, those don't grab me nearly as much. It's got an interesting player selection of fan favorites (and "this guy? really?!" lesser favorites), but the auto cards are white (not black? boring). And I've never been a fan of the the last name in big letters on the top. So, never-say-never, but I don't plan on collecting that one. But who are we kidding, if the day comes that I complete the 2004 Retired autos and have few bucks laying around, it'll be tempting to give it a shot. Sigh. But yeah, that's a couple decades down the road.

Break me off a piece of that Kaat! 

Similarly, the first Retired Signature Edition was in 2003. While I like that design ok, still doesn't grab me as much as the 2004 set. Again, maybe I'll break down and go after that someday in the future, but let's hope not.

Well, that's it for this blog's initial baseball card post. It'll probably be the longest I ever write, coincidentally. --rambled a bit there-- But yeah, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more on my quest of collecting this set.


  1. I've never heard of this set, but those DO look sharp. Definitely out of my price range, but that Garvey card looks great! If '92 Pinnacle has taught me anything, it's that I dig the black borders.

  2. Does anyone know where I can get the complete set?