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1997 Topps Stars All-Stars: WTF?

banjar

Well-known member
Mar 22, 2015
1,598
Lafayette, Colorado
The 1997 Topps Stars set doesn't seem to be particularly memorable. I was out of the hobby the year before, so I don't have any memory of it. But even today, nobody talks about it. There's no buzz or nostalgia, nothing. But this set keeps coming up in my consciousness because it has one of the most obscure 90's white whales still missing in my collection. The '97 All Stars insert set.

I looked on ebay and only found 4 examples for sale right now. 2 Piazza, 1 Maddux, and 1 Bonds. That's it. And those are all cross-listings from COMC. So why the hell are these so rare? I see on baseballcardpedia that they were 1:72 packs. OK, that's pretty scarce. But still, did nobody open wax when they came out? Nobody cared? Or was the distribution limited? Or what? I search for these now and then just for fun, and I never ever see more than 5 examples, total, for sale at any time on ebay, comc, beckett.

Dunno if anyone has info or thoughts on this. Maybe this thread will quickly die, but I had to post something about these inserts. The set is loaded with all-time stars, but it's made from pure unobtainium.
 

smapdi

Active member
Aug 7, 2008
4,185
As I recall, that set was kind of unpopular and unexciting. It had autographs, but the odds were pretty long and the checklist lackluster. Kaline, B Robinson, Roberts, Bunning, and Mathews just didn't do it for people. There were no big name rookies on release, the summer of Jose Cruz Jr and Hideki Irabu. There were some good names in there but it took a while for them to become apparent. Even Lance Berkman didn't seem to pop for people at the time, and he was someone who I was pretty hyped on after his 41-homer college season. The inserts were blah. The foil parallel didn't exactly jump out at people, just a vaguely shiny version of the base card. And, after looking at some scans, I'm reminded that there was a problem with a lot of cards chipping at the edges. Whatever the process they used to make the surface feel like canvas left the edges flaky.

The one big thing I remember about Topps Stars was that the cards stank. Literally, they smelled like gasoline. I was at a show the week they came out and a dealer ripped three boxes, and a cloud of it hovered around his table all day. I ended buying all the base cards for something like $20, which was a huge steal, but he sold the inserts and I think just wanted to get rid of them. That turned out OK for me, BTW, because the next spring Kerry Wood happened and I sold the 3 or 4 copies from that lot for over $100. Anyway, the cards reeked for months, sitting in their box. I have no idea what that was about, but Topps never made cards quite like 1997 Stars, AFAIK.

The print run was fairly small, I imagine. After release, the product was lost in the deluge of all 6 card companies pumping out product nearly weekly. No one looked for it, no one opened it, there was nothing to chase. Even after Wood exploded and later as Berkman, Werth, etc. became stars, people weren't digging into the product, and the foil parallel was definitely not as coveted as a refractor. So, 20 years later, I'm not surprised a 1-in-3 boxes insert set from a set I'd be a minority of collectors even remember is hard to find. Just another hidden treasure of the peak of the Insert Age.
 
Jan 14, 2009
576
As I recall, that set was kind of unpopular and unexciting. It had autographs, but the odds were pretty long and the checklist lackluster. Kaline, B Robinson, Roberts, Bunning, and Mathews just didn't do it for people. There were no big name rookies on release, the summer of Jose Cruz Jr and Hideki Irabu. There were some good names in there but it took a while for them to become apparent. Even Lance Berkman didn't seem to pop for people at the time, and he was someone who I was pretty hyped on after his 41-homer college season. The inserts were blah. The foil parallel didn't exactly jump out at people, just a vaguely shiny version of the base card. And, after looking at some scans, I'm reminded that there was a problem with a lot of cards chipping at the edges. Whatever the process they used to make the surface feel like canvas left the edges flaky.

The one big thing I remember about Topps Stars was that the cards stank. Literally, they smelled like gasoline.
This is a set that I have fond memories of.

I worked in a shop at the time and I recall them releasing as a mediocre line (as several recent new/experimental lines did in recent years) but very quickly rose in price/dried up. We had trouble sourcing replenishment stock. The draft picks started to catch heat fast, especially Berkman and prospectors were calling it a sleeper set. This is within a few weeks after release. Bowman Chrome had reinvigorated the prospecting element and this set was being viewed as the under-the-radar one to watch. The owner of the shop even squirreled away a few boxes (that he sat on for waayyy too long) thinking he was gonna cash in big.

Of course, early next season, this set jumped with Kerry Wood's 20K game. I recall this card was considered his 2nd best to the Chrome and above Bowman and Bowman's best. We sold out of this card but the Bowman's Best and reg Bowman sat around.

When we and our customers broke this product, the foil inserts were afterthoughts since everyone was chasing the (admittedly weak) auto reprints RCs and draft pick RCs. I also recall the Always Mint parallels coming out very rarely. Not 1:box as stated. Always scrub players too.

And yes, the cards smelled like varnish or lacquer. It was strikingly weird and in retrospect, I really liked it. Occasionally I snag an Always Mint from COMC and they still have a hint of it!
 

banjar

Well-known member
Mar 22, 2015
1,598
Lafayette, Colorado
Thanks for the info guys. I am getting the picture about this set. A curious but overlooked set released at an interesting time. But that lacquer smell or whatever it was. I love that. I might have to pick up a cheap 97 All Stars just for the smell. And to have an example, since I'll probably never see the one I'm after...
 
Jan 14, 2009
576
Thanks for the info guys. I am getting the picture about this set. A curious but overlooked set released at an interesting time. But that lacquer smell or whatever it was. I love that. I might have to pick up a cheap 97 All Stars just for the smell. And to have an example, since I'll probably never see the one I'm after...
Also, 1998 Topps Stars stink too. I think football may be worse but the smell is strong on the '98s as well.
 
Dec 4, 2008
599
I love this thread, thanks for starting it banjar. I think one under appreciated reason for this set being hard to find is search ability...both chrome and base topps have an all star set making eBay searches very messy.

Will add this card to my running bounty list. I love the 90s stuff too and from this product I still have about 50-75 of the always mint foil parallels along with 5-10 of these 97 all stars...although pretty sure no Alomar.


Sent from my iPhone using Freedom Card Board mobile app
 

banjar

Well-known member
Mar 22, 2015
1,598
Lafayette, Colorado
Cool. Thanks. if you run across a copy of the Alomar I would be interested.

I love this thread, thanks for starting it banjar. I think one under appreciated reason for this set being hard to find is search ability...both chrome and base topps have an all star set making eBay searches very messy.

Will add this card to my running bounty list. I love the 90s stuff too and from this product I still have about 50-75 of the always mint foil parallels along with 5-10 of these 97 all stars...although pretty sure no Alomar.


Sent from my iPhone using Freedom Card Board mobile app
 

1988RedSox

New member
Feb 16, 2009
41
Maine
Another oddity about this set was my in-person autos I got back in '98+'99, have completely faded. They were brand new sharpies at the time.
 

DeliciousBacon

Active member
Apr 23, 2011
3,339
Warwick, RI
So I bought a box of this stuff on ebay, got it in tonight, and pulled a Gwynn '97 All Star. Also got an Aparicio auto, and Bonds and Bagwell Always Mints. Base cards are in rough shape, several slightly larger than standard with a bent corner, and even more standard size with bent corners. But they smell awesome!
 

goobmcnasty

Active member
Apr 4, 2014
1,572
I loved this set, years later, because of the RC Reprint Autos in it. Was it the 97 or 98 that had the super tough Richie Ashburn autograph?

(Topps sent them to Ashburn for signing, but he died before he could sign them all and send them back. A few made their way to the secondary market)
 

goobmcnasty

Active member
Apr 4, 2014
1,572
I loved this set, years later, because of the RC Reprint Autos in it. Was it the 97 or 98 that had the super tough Richie Ashburn autograph?

(Topps sent them to Ashburn for signing, but he died before he could sign them all and send them back. A few made their way to the secondary market)
 

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