Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flashback: 2001-02 Topps Basketball

Readers, every once in a while, this collector steps outside of his usual bounds and adds a new wrinkle to his pursuit of the hobby. One of the last times this happened was in the fall of 2001, while I was still in the midst of my period of indentured servitude known as "student teaching." The world was still gaga over Anne Heche marrying a man instead of a woman, but this would soon be overshadowed by both a series of events that made Mohamed Atta a household name, and Thorzul picking up several retail packs of 2001-02 Topps baskeball cards.

For the better part of a decade (well, at least on-and-off since my return to full-time collecting in 2007), I have been trying to fill in the holes in this set, which has been the most daunting set I have ever tried to complete. The majority of this difficulty comes from the nature of how this set was conceived and constructed. 2001-02 Topps Basketball is comprised of 256 base cards. The first 220 are a breeze to finish; these are your stars, league leaders, scrubs, and everything in-between. Cards numbered 221-256, however, are a different story. Each of these cards features a played selected in the 2001 NBA Draft. When opening packs, I found very few of these, so they were obviously short printed. To complicate matters even further, several of these draft choice cards were seeded in packs only as redemptions. These redemptions, as seen below, expired in August of 2002, and I never sent in the ones I pulled. I am not sure how prevalent the practice of including short-shelf-lived redemption cards in a set was in 2001, but it seems to have been curbed for the time being.

At this point in time, buying a hobby box of this product makes no sense, since most of what I need cannot be obtained any longer because of the redemption policy. I have identified the cards I still need for this set, and I recently won a nice little stack of them on eBay for a penny apiece. (Nice.) These cards I just received fall into one of two categories:

A. Players pictured in their suits and post-selection caps. The Pau Gasol rookie is an absolute steal at $0.01. It's hard to believe that there was a time when he looked more like a well-groomed Spanish pool boy than a Bosnian freedom fighter, circa 1993.

B. Players either not present or not photographed by Topps on draft day. These guys are pictured in their collegiate uniforms with any logos airbrushed out. These look pretty cool, since you don't see too many basketball cards featuring college unis.

I also grabbed this Kevin Garnett Mad Game insert from the same seller. I recall this being one of the hardest inserts to pull. I've decided to go after all four of the insert sets as well. There was also Team Topps, a rather weak offering of stars with a forgettable design, Lottery Legends, which included a set of players selected at each of the lottery picks #1 through #13 in recent years, and Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reprints that are pretty much beyond awesome.

I realize that collecting this set is going to be difficult, but I think I am up to the task. By my best estimation, the Tony Parker card is going to be the hardest one to find. His was a redemption, and I'm guessing many people failed to redeem the card for the 30th pick in the draft. I haven't found one yet. The closest I've come is finding an unredeemed card, but that simply won't do.

I hope you've enjoyed this post on basketball cards in the middle of baseball season. Care to guess why I decided to collect some b-ball cards eight years ago?

"If there's a bright center of the basketball universe, this is the day it's farthest from."

1 comment:

--David said...

What are the chances unclaimed redemptions are still floating around a warehouse somewhere, just waiting to be claimed? If you could get the redemption cheap (or better write/call to find out first), you might be able to score one - or heck, a slew of unclaimed cards if the warehouse manager is feeling generous...