Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wi-fi wax

My last trip to the flea market proved to be yet another resounding success.

As I've already mentioned, my big score of the trek was an outstanding 1962 Topps Ken Hubbs rookie, one that was far and away my favorite find of the day. (If not my entire summer thus far.)

But, as I noted in that post, I made another purchase a little later on that afternoon, one that caused me to go a bit over budget. No, it wasn't a slew of new dime box finds. And, no, I didn't make another big vintage pickup.

See, once I got to (what would prove to be) the last table of the day, I noticed a small box of unopened packs off to the side, priced at just 50 cents a piece. Curious, I took a closer look. What I found, however, astounded me.

In such an otherwise innocent box, I found fourteen unopened packs of 1998 Pacific Online on display. For reasons I'll get to in a bit, it's a set I've always enjoyed. Yet, as is the case with many mid-to-late '90s cardboard, they can often be hard to come by.

Given all that, you can imagine how surprised I was to find fourteen packs of the stuff available at the paltry price of 50 cents a piece.

At first, my budget-conscious self wanted to only pick up half of what was on display. I figured I could buy the others during my next trip.

Eventually, though, the bargain hunter in me won out. I didn't want to risk someone snapping up the remainder of the packs at a later date. And, besides, how often do you find fourteen of these things ripe for the picking?

So, for a total of seven bucks, I pulled the trigger.

Well worth the price, if you ask me.

The 1998 Pacific Online release is an interesting one, in that it doesn't hit on too many of my cardboard pleasures.

One of the first things I look for in a set is photography. For the most part, Pacific Online wasn't at the top of the game in that regard.

Still, a few of the cards I pulled featured surprisingly nice shots. This "double dip" Clayton was one of the better gets of the 14-pack break.

All in all, the set's design isn't all that great, either. Trying to capitalize on the hip new fad at the time (a little something called the Internet), Pacific had the idea of assigning web addresses for each player in the set.

The very 1990's "Online" logo on the left side of each card takes away from their appeal a bit, as do the big white website headers.

And, for the record, I tried entering a couple of the web addresses into our 2013 version of the Internet to see if they still worked.

They didn't.

That, then, begs the question.

If the photography isn't great and the design is less than stellar, why am I such a big Pacific Online fan? Why did I splurge on fourteen packs of the product?

That's easy.

For the player selection.

Aside from the 990-card Flagship set (released over three different series), today's releases are a bit claustrophobic. We've become used to seeing 100, 200, and perhaps a few 300-card checklists. That, of course, results in the same players popping up over and over again.

As you can see on the front of the wrapper I posted, '98 Pacific Online featured one lump series of 750 different cards. Not quite on the level of Topps Total, but pretty darn close.

The fact that I haven't busted anything with such a large checklist in what seems like forever is what made this such an awesome purchase.

Because of that, it was a great day to be an obscure "binder guy" of mine. Take Danny Bautista, for instance. While he did hit .302 for the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks, I doubt many people remember him these days. I collect him nonetheless.

With my Bautista collection, I'd managed to rack up quite a few of his rookie Detroit Tiger issues, along with a few of his later Arizona cards as well.

However, I'd found absolutely nothing from his "in-between" days as a Brave and (for a short time) Marlin. Not a single card. I didn't think any existed.

Yet, just as I was about to give up hope, there it was. My very first card of Danny Bautista as an Atlanta Brave. It might not seem like much to most other collectors, but it's a moment I'd been chasing for a long time.

And it's all thanks to Pacific Online.

With such a large checklist, I felt like I could pull almost anything from these packs.

In many ways, I did.

While obscure guys like Danny Bautista are this set's calling card, Pacific Online still offered up a nice selection of stars.

Between greats like Griffey, Pedro, Gwynn, and Ripken, the checklist certainly had something for the name-chasers as well.

But, again, the lesser-known guys are what first drew my attention to such an otherwise forgotten set.

Each nine-card pack came with one gold-foil insert. While it might be tough to tell from the scan, the Catalanotto was one of those rarities. The other eight cards featured red foil, which isn't something you see all too often in this hobby.

While both were Tigers at the time of Online's release, Catalanotto and Luis Gonzalez would go on to gain more acclaim after their Detroit days were over.

Yet both make a rare Tiger appearance in this checklist.

Pacific Online was in on the ground floor with a few future stars as well.

Fresh off a trade from San Diego, Derrek Lee was still getting his big league feet wet with the Marlins in 1998. Plus, just a few mediocre seasons into his career, then-catcher Mike Sweeney still a fairly unknown quantity in Kansas City at the time.

Of course, Sweeney would go on to enjoy perhaps the most underrated career of any player from my generation.

Not to mention the subject of one of my largest player collections as well.

More than anyone else, middle relievers are given the shaft in today's hobby.

No matter how good they might be, most are lucky to get one card per year nowadays. As is the case with the game of baseball itself, closers usually get most of the bullpen hype in the cardboard industry.

That's part of the the beauty of such a large checklist. Everyone gets their time in the spotlight. Stars, bench players, rookies, and, yes, middle relievers all have their place in the Online checklist.

The Remlinger is just my second card of him as a Red. Odd, considering he spent more than three full seasons with the franchise.

After his days in Atlanta were over, Mike Stanton didn't get a whole lot of recognition in this hobby. He was a highly-effective reliever on the Yankees dynasty squads of the '90s. Still, judging from his cardboard, you'd never know it.

Now that I think of it, I can't remember the last time I added a Mike Stanton card to my collection.

While I did go a bit over budget, I walked away with nothing but smiles from my big Pacific Online purchase.

The fourteen packs were an absolute blast to dig through.

It'd be hard to crown a single king from my breaks. But, all things considered, I'd have to go with one of the few horizontal cards I nabbed with Mr. Sierra here.

It's my very first card of him in a White Sox uniform. Heck, I didn't even know he played for the South Siders until I pulled this one.

As it turns out, he trudged through a miserable 27-game stint with the Sox in '98.

Still, Pacific Online was there to document it.

I can see why a set like this never got much publicity. With the whole high-end craze the hobby was starting to fall into at the time, not a lot of people wanted "boring" checklists like this.

Not surprisingly, Pacific retired the Online brand after its lone release in 1998.

Fifteen years later, though, a batch of 14 unopened packs of the stuff somehow wound up at my local flea market.

Luckily, I was there to save a great set from relative obscurity.


Metallattorney said...

I think those red parallels are actually pretty unusual. The base set was in silver foil and the gold came one to a pack. I have never even seen a red one before, though I was aware of their existence. You got something unique there.

I guess what I am trying to say is, did you get any Red Sox you might be willing to trade?

hiflew said...

The red ones are the retail base set. The silver are the hobby base set. The gold are the parallel "Web cards" in both cases.

I absolutely LLLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE this set. You nailed the reason too. There are not many Rockies cards of Greg Colbrunn, Curtis Goodwin, Chuck McElroy, and Dave Veres. But they are all in this set. It's almost as good as Topps Total, but not quite.

Metallattorney said...

I actually preferred this set to Total. I liked Total, don't get me wrong, but too much of the player selection was due to RCs of players that would likely never make the Majors. Online actually was all Major Leaguers.

night owl said...

This set goes on for freaking forever. I don't think I'll ever complete the Dodgers team set.

It's also really ugly. Close to '95 Fleer territory.

petethan said...

Those things are just horrendous! But I see your point on the obscure players available. I may have to track down some of these in cases where they're the only option for my PWMD set.

Jeff Wilk said...

2400 baud modem FTW!

Adam Kaningher said...

Curiosity got the better of me, so I fired up the old Wayback Machine, and found this.

Pretty much what you'd expect for 1998.

Swing And A Pop-up said...

I would have had a blast opening that as well. Late 90's sets confuse the hell out of me, but I've secretly always enjoyed Pacific's offerings.

beefman said...

Wow, some great finds there, Nick. I love this set for the exact same reason you do.

About 3 years ago, a guy on Ebay had 24 packs for around $14. He had 6 lots of these 24 packs. I pulled the trigger and bought all 144 packs. I still didn't complete the set, funnily enough...

Nick J