By Rich Klein
Ever since the "rookie card phenomenon" began in earnest in the early 1980's, collectors have been looking for a way to get early cards from major manufacturers. The first set I can remember that featured a tribute to members of US national baseball teams was the 1985 Topps set which honored those members of the Olympic Gold Medal winning baseball team that had already signed a pro contract. That grouping of players was highlighted by a then-skinny infielder who was at that time a prospect in the A's farm system. Today we know him better as Mark McGwire. His 1985 Topps “pre rookie” card was red hot until the steroid scandal broke.
Twenty-five years after those cards were printed, the concept of honoring America’s top level amateur teams is still going strong. The latest example of this is the 2010 Topps USA set which features a mix of players who may not yet have signed pro contracts and frankly in some cases may never got out of the lowest levels of pro ball.
The cards feature members of the collegiate national team, as well as those on the 16 and 18-and-under US National Teams. For these players and the collectors who like these sets, the whole thrill is watching to see which player or players explode in future years.
The other advantage of these sets for card companies is that for the most part getting these players to sign autographs is less expensive than getting established major leaguers to sign. This enables Topps to put in even more signed cards and game-worn relic type crds than they might be able to in a product filled with major leaguers.
So, what is the story with the 2010 Topps USA team box set? Each box set contains a complete 65-card "base" set and then has seven autographs and three relic cards. Because of this, the unopened set is currently available on line for between $90-110 while the base set is currently $10-20. From what I've heard at the local card store I frequent, the collectors love this set although they have not yet heard much about many of these players.
Here’s what we pulled:
Autographs: Nolan Fontana, Christian Montgomery, Phillip Pfeifer, Noe Ramirez
Triple Jersey: Jackie Bradley Jr., Gerrit Cole, Andrew Maggi
Triple Jersey Autographs (#d to 219): Nolan Fontana, Henry Owens
Triple Patch Autograph (#d to 50): Dillon Maples
And overall how did we do? Come back in about 10 years and we'll determine whether we got the McGwire out of this box or if we got the Flavio Alfaro, who was supposedly driving a truck within a few years of having his picture in the ’85 Topps set.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]