Friday, November 26, 2021

A whale of a set (1988 San Diego State Aztecs 50th Anniversary)

My previous post was kind of a downer, with me coming to terms that a card I'd been after for years isn't actually out there.

But in happier hobby happenings for me, another card high on my most wanted list that I had never actually seen anywhere in my several years of searching was finally spotted and secured earlier this month.

I won a listing for the rare 1988 San Diego State Aztecs All-Time Greats 50th Anniversary 22-card set, with this particular set being special because a few of the cards are autographed. Says the seller: "I got this set from the dinner back then which those players were there to sign the cards." Seems to check out and the signatures give no reason to doubt their authenticity. I'd love to someday search the San Diego Union-Tribune archives or something to see if I can find more details of that dinner event.

Funny enough, this Gwynn wasn't the whale I was after, though it becomes a jewel in the crown of my biggest player collection. Mr. Padre's SDSU cards are a subcollection I love adding to, and this one is kicked up heartily by the big, blue autograph. Weirdly sentimental to me, with Tony's signature of the era reminding me of my oldest auto of his, a signed 1989 Score card I traded for from my best friend Doug back in the day. By the time pack-certified autographs were a thing, Tony's signature had devolved a bit. I think the late 80s were the glory days for Tony's john hancock.

Chris Gwynn is also present with a signed solo card plus a combo card with big bro Tony. (Too bad that one didn't get dual signed!)

The backs are solid, with the player's SDSU stats and a bio. No card numbers, tho.

Here are the rest of the signed cards. Mark Grace is cool to see in an Aztec uniform. The late Dave Smith was a prominent closer in the 80s with the Astros (and a teammate of Grace on the Cubs for a couple years in the early 90s), though he's more familiar to me from his stint as the Padres pitching coach. Mark Williamson had some success pitching for the Orioles, 1987-1994.

Bud Black, Al Newman, and Bobby Meacham are familiar names who each got 2 cards for some reason. The respective backs are identical (Again, none of the cards are numbered). I suppose college baseball didn't get much coverage back then compared to today, no doubt limiting the resources available to whoever was tasked with creating the set. All the photos are in black & white, but at least there are some neat shots mixed in there.

Graig Nettles is another appreciated PC addition-- and likely my first time seeing him in an SDSU uniform. Besides the Nettles Brothers, I'm not very familiar with the rest of these guys. I got my degree from SDSU, but don't blanket-collect cards of all ballplayers who went to the same college as me. Guys who went to the same high school as me? Now that's a different story.. and the white whale in question...

Chris Jones is a tricky guy to collect because of all the other players with the same common name. Like myself, he went from Granite Hills High to Grossmont Community College to San Diego State. Our paths differ from there with him getting drafted to play professional baseball and me getting asked to help out at the computer shop my friend was working at. Pictured here with the header/checklist, this is a card that's been among the few cards I search for way more often that is probably healthy, so it's great to finally score it, and I didn't mind at all the fact that the Gwynn Bros autos and other goodies helped elevate the asking price of the set.

I don't want to repeat myself on the blog too much, but my big Chris Jones post was back in 2015. He took center stage on the blog again in 2019 with a terrific TTM return, one of my favorite hobby experiences ever, honestly.

My PC of the second Guy From Granite to crack the bigs is nearly complete. What's left to track down? The big one missing is his entry in the 1985 Astros Postcards set (and/or its 1987 re-release). It's the only card-like-thing documenting his brief major league career (besides modern customs). If any of you readers know any bigtime Astros collectors who might have the '85 Astros postcard set (I've already asked Bru), I'd be appreciative of any help locating it-- ideally scoring one for myself, but really even just seeing a picture of Chris Jones' postcard would be nice. Nolan Ryan is the only player from the set that ever pops up anywhere.

And I've seen listed somewhere online a 1989 San Diego State All-Time Greats set that also includes a Chris Jones card, but I'm fairly confident that's just a mislabel of this 1988 set. (Why would they make a 51st Anniversary set a year later? Maybe they did a small run of reprints if anything?) Maybe something will show up in a saved eBay search notification someday, but I'm going to assume the '89 version is a "ghost whale" and won't stress it.

The only other hole in the PC on my radar is the glossy version of his 1984 Tucson Toros Cramer minor league card. I have the regular version, but apparently there's a rare a glossy parallel.. likely a team set handed out at one sparsely-attended Toros game back in '84. Again, I'll keep an eye out for that, but it doesn't interest me much apart from checking it off the list.

I'll close out with a cute pic of Ruby from Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. She was on her best behavior, relatively speaking, and had a huge amount of fun being the center of attention for a packed house. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving, too.


  1. Congrats! Ruby looks like she is saying "please, no .....don't eat the last piece of pie"

  2. Never seen or heard of this set before, but congratulations on adding it (and landing the Jones) to your collection. I'll have to keep an eye out for that Tony Gwynn.

  3. The backs on these are really great. I never knew that Jim Wilson went to SDSU, so it was kind of fun to see that he was included in here too.

  4. Cool looking set. Great addition especially with those autos. Chris Jones rocking some nice hair as well.

  5. How much is a bud black pitching card? I have one and kinda curious.

  6. IG - cantstopwontstopcollectingOctober 5, 2022 at 4:54 AM

    I found a this Gwynn card ( non - auto ) recently at a flea market and stumbled upon this website after I couldn’t find any comps anywhere. Any idea on the value ?

  7. Sorry to the guys asking about value of these cards, I really can't help much there. I had been searching for the set for a long time, then finally found this partially-autographed set, then stopped looking. I have no idea how much singles would sell for. Gwynn and Grace have enough collectors to where those cards would likely see decent interest at auction, but for the lesser-known guys, who knows if anyone is searching for them (like I was the Chris Jones), but I wouldn't expect to see them sell for more than a couple/few bucks each. But again, just a guess on my part. Good luck!

    1. If you'd part with the signed Grace, lmk... I'd be interested in it.

  8. I actually have a that Tony and Chris Gwynn card signed by both of them. I went to SDSU and my friends out
    In a card show with the 2 brothers and Mark Grace. I saw that card and had them both sign it. Just have kept it for years .