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The 1998 Topps Tek Thread

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
This thread is for anything 1998 Topps Tek. Scans, discussions, bragging, transactions, market activity, anecdotes, steals, etc.

I remember back when 1998 Tek came out. I was at a show and bought a few packs. I didn't get it. The gimmick wasn't working for me and I think I was in the majority at the time. In fact, it was one of the first times that I thought things were getting a little too ridiculous with the hobby. 90 different base cards of each player and the photo was the same. Only the usually boring background doodle, many of which looked like they came from grade school art class, was different. Had I pulled any Diffractors? Who knew? They weren't marked and I didn't understand how to tell. Besides, at 1:6 packs they aren't exactly rare, right? I was grateful at the time... grateful that my guy, Rusty Greer, did not appear in the set. I felt like I was drowning as it was.

I left the hobby in 2000 and came back in 2010. I don't feel the immediacy I felt back then to finish collecting projects. I actually enjoy the long-term project. And now, I have a much different view of 1998 Topps Tek. Collecting them 14 years after their release is a very leisurely project. I'm working on collecting all of Jay Buhner's base and I don't feel any pressure to pick them up as soon as I find them. If the price ain't right I can just let them sit.

But what really interests me now are Diffractors. They are almost an enigma. Why are these cards somewhat rare when they should be so plentiful? Even if the print run is really low - like, say, 10 each per pattern, that's still 900 total Diffractors that should be out there somewhere for EACH player. If there are 900 (just an example) for each player, then why is it that in the last year and a half that I've been paying attention are there some players that I've only seen a couple, or just one, or sometimes even zero of their Diffractors for sale?

So, why are Diffractors tough to come by? One explanation that I've already alluded to is that they weren't super popular. But they weren't exactly duds either. I bet there were a ton of people that were like me and were intrigued enough that they bought a box, or at least a handful of packs, to try them out. I don't get the sense that they were gathering dust on LCS shelves everywhere like some other issues. Unopened boxes of them can still be found - they pop up occasionally on ebay, although the price seems to be going up.

Let's say that most of the 1998 Tek product is open. Why are Diffractors not hitting the market? As you can tell from many ebay listings, the reason is that this product still confuses collectors. Sellers are not calling Diffractors by name in their listings, and in some cases, they are calling base cards Diffractors. Diffractors don't really look that much different than the base if you don't know what you're looking for. They aren't marked "Diffractor" like Topps Chrome Refractors, for example. They aren't serial numbered like 1999 Tek Golds. So many of these Diffractors may be stashed in closets and dime boxes somewhere, but people don't even know they have them.

Needless to say, now I am very disappointed that Rusty wasn't in the set. Jay Buhner will have to do.

I'll end this post with the cheapest Diffractor I've found to date - $1.74 dlvd. One of the duds in the set. Someday I hope to find one in a quarter box at a show just so I can say I've done it.

Pattern 62

 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
So what's a fair price for a box? Assuming that you are going for certain players and that you want to piece the rest out... well, let's do some math.

20 packs in a box * 4 cards in a pack = 80 cards in a box
Diffractors 1:6 means you'll probably get 76 base and 4 Diffractors

So how much do Diffractors go for on ebay? Anywhere from $1.61 (Ellis Burks) to $65 (Mark McGwire), if you look at ended listings right now. And that's really about right from what I've been able to tell. But the market is really hard to judge. While that McGwire sold for $65, most Griffeys over the past year and a half have gone for $30-$40. Two Greg Maddux Diffractors went for about $22 each in auctions, but one sold for $45 on a BIN. Andres Galarraga sells for $5.51, while Travis Lee sells for $25.

How does base sell? Apart from a few players, it seems like lots sell better than singles. I think that if I were to open a box, I might try to sell what I don't want in one big lot. Not only easier, but it might make more money. Some base singles that sell well for about $5 each are Jeter, Ripken, Griffey, and oddly Edgar Martinez. I'm not sure why lots sell better. Maybe the buyer thinks they will make money by piecing it out or maybe they are going for a master set or something. But cards that you might expect to sell well, like Bonds, Frank, Juan, etc., are sometimes lucky to get a $1 bid.

The going rate for unopened boxes is $160 according to the most recent ebay sales. I think I'll stick with buying singles for now. I'd much rather have four Griffey Diffractors than gamble on a box. I guess the problem there is being patient enough to wait for the Griffeys to hit.

I recently bought this "Diffractor" on Beckett Marketplace for $24. I got my money back :mrgreen:

Pattern 17

 
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RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
So how much should a "set" sell for?

Good question. Assuming we are okay with the idea that one card of 1-90 equals a set, what is a fair price? Recently a seller put up three sets on ebay for $40 each or best offer, and all three sold for $40 that night. That seems like a way better deal than $160 for a box - heck, you even get more cards than in a box.

And of course you always have that hope... that hope that the person putting the set together couldn't recognize a Diffractor from base. Who knows how many Diffractors could be inside? :mrgreen:

What about a "set" of a particular player? The only one I've seen was just recently. The seller listed a complete set of Griffey for $799 or best offer. It sold for $380. That's still a pretty good haul by the seller. $4.22 per Griffey ain't bad.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1998-TOPPS-TEK-KEN-GRIFFEY-JR-CARD-30-ENTIRE-PATTERN-90-CARDS-RARE-FIND-/350577301391?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item51a009178f

I have five Griffey Diffractors, but I didn't have to pay market for all of them. Here is my favorite example of sellers having a tough time listing them. The seller did not list this as a Diffractor, and the pic is not good enough to easily tell that it is a Diffractor. I think I got it for $17:

ebay pic:



my scan once I got it in hand:

Pattern 68

 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
How close does Beckett come to accurately pricing Diffractors? From what I can tell, they aren't close at all.

Jeff Bagwell books at $15, but you can sell them for $50 on ebay. Where this can work in your favor is when sellers are going by Beckett instead of market. I picked this Frank up for high Beckett ($15). Yes, please.

Pattern 68



COMC can be fun because they provide the book value and you can make offers. When this hit for high book at $15 I offered $7.50. So happy he took it!

Pattern 37

 

gracecollector

Active member
Aug 7, 2008
6,449
Huntley, IL
I'm like you in that upon release, I was incredulous that there were 180 variations for each player. I thought that was total insanity. But in later years the set grew on me. About 2001, I found two boxes of it sitting in a local Walgreens. I ended up buying all the packs over the course of a couple months. It really is a great player collector challenge for anyone with a player in the set. The diffractors are so tough... I've had a much harder time finding them than the 99 Tek Golds #/10.

One thing I've always thought would be fun in a thread like this would be to give each pattern a name. Like Pattern 1 looks to me like "Bullets in Glass."

My Tek stats for Mark Grace are:
90/90 1998 Tek base
24/90 1998 Tek diffractors

Scans are at http://www.markgrace.com/museum/1998_TEK.html

A complete base set (one pattern per player)

And this very interesting Tek printing error.
 

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DeliciousBacon

Active member
Apr 23, 2011
3,316
Warwick, RI
I'm waiting to stumble upon a dime box at a show loaded with Tek. Every Tek I see for a dime I grab, if not for me, to try and help out someone else who's stuck collecting these. I'm still on 0 PC Diffractors, and probably always will be, unless some dealers go into their decade-plus old backstock and start selling out the stuff they though was junk.
 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
I'm like you in that upon release, I was incredulous that there were 180 variations for each player. I thought that was total insanity. But in later years the set grew on me. About 2001, I found two boxes of it sitting in a local Walgreens. I ended up buying all the packs over the course of a couple months. It really is a great player collector challenge for anyone with a player in the set. The diffractors are so tough... I've had a much harder time finding them than the 99 Tek Golds #/10.

One thing I've always thought would be fun in a thread like this would be to give each pattern a name. Like Pattern 1 looks to me like "Bullets in Glass."

My Tek stats for Mark Grace are:
90/90 1998 Tek base
24/90 1998 Tek diffractors

Scans are at http://www.markgrace.com/museum/1998_TEK.html

A complete base set (one pattern per player)

And this very interesting Tek printing error.
Wow, that is really interesting! I had no idea Tek went retail. That probably explains some things about rarity. How much were you shelling out a pack in 2001?

Ha! Great idea on naming the patterns. Pattern #1 reminds me of the old Spiderman cartoon. Like a really half-assed way of drawing a spiderweb shooting out of Spiderman's wrists or billowing smoke.

Cool error - never seen anything like that in 1998 Tek before.
 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
I'm waiting to stumble upon a dime box at a show loaded with Tek. Every Tek I see for a dime I grab, if not for me, to try and help out someone else who's stuck collecting these. I'm still on 0 PC Diffractors, and probably always will be, unless some dealers go into their decade-plus old backstock and start selling out the stuff they though was junk.
No way - the way you scour COMC you'll definitely hit one soon, no problem. Most sellers have no idea and price them based on Beckett. You collect so many guys you're bound to hit one.

Best I've done at a show is get a base Griffey and Frank for 50 cents each.
 

DeliciousBacon

Active member
Apr 23, 2011
3,316
Warwick, RI
No way - the way you scour COMC you'll definitely hit one soon, no problem. Most sellers have no idea and price them based on Beckett. You collect so many guys you're bound to hit one.

Best I've done at a show is get a base Griffey and Frank for 50 cents each.
I wish it was that easy! The one PC Diffractor I've found, a Palmeiro, was gone before I could even think about buying it. The two that I've bought were non-PC guys I bought cheap; one I sold, and the second was a Salmon I mistakenly included in my port sale on COMC the other day.
 

katieneack

Member
Apr 7, 2012
649
Northern Kentucky
The only Larkin diffractor I have seen this year was on Ebay and it sold for $30+ if I remember correctly. I think most people would say that I have a pretty extensive Larkin collection and I have exactly ZERO diffractors of him. I have offered $30 for any Larkin diffractor in many threads over the years and have never gotten one response. These things are impossible to find! It makes you wonder if there were even 10 of each. I have had a very hard time finding even the base patterns. I still need like 30 different base patterns. And it would be a lot more if Togaman hadn't sold me a lot of 20 earlier this year.
 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
Togaman helped me too. I bought a bunch of Buhners from him. I also bought his Edgars then sold them for $5 each to a guy on ebay that had bought one from me before for $5. He was still willing to pay $5 each! Made my money back.

One thing weird I noticed about Edgar's cards is that they often fall prey to spotting like water spots on glassware. I have not noticed this with other players that I collect. I got a lot of Tek in today and noticed the same spotting on a Raul Mondesi card. I wonder if certain cards were more susceptible based on where they were located on the sheet as it was cut <shrug>
 

DeliciousBacon

Active member
Apr 23, 2011
3,316
Warwick, RI
My largest PC collection is Troy Glaus, well over 1000 by this point. He has a RC in 1998 Tek, so that's 90 base and 90 Diffractors, a ton of cards that will never show up.

Someone, someday, is gonna stumble upon a 5000 count box, stuffed in some dealer's back room, that is filled with Tek, base and diffractors. Whoever that guy is, as long as he's willing to help out other collectors, will be a hero.
 

MansGame

Active member
Sep 25, 2009
15,298
Dallas, TX
Great thread and I like the idea of naming each pattern LOL...

As for me, told myself I would NEVER collect each pattern but that didn't last long once I took player collecting seriously. Here are my stats...

56/90 - Base 1998 Tek (Belle #47)
4/90 - Diffractors 1998 Tek (I have a 5th but it is a pattern double::facepalm::)

As for boxes, I've purchased two boxes in the recent past. One was a part box of approx. 8-12 packs and another was a sealed full box. I lost my teeth on the part box and looking back that was a stupid idea to buy but I had the itch... I made out great on the full box but I got lucky on the diffractors, pullign a McGwire, Belle, Cami, and two others.

I feel like diffractors have less than 10 copies of each pattern, probably closer to 5 copies of each IMO or less. As for cards "hiding", I would agree. They are "base" cards to the average collector or person who collected back in the '90s and wants to just unload their collection piece by piece, the tek cards will get overlooked. As for full sets going up for sale, for a player collector that'd be HUGE. Not sure what I'd pay for all 90 patterns of Belle, or if I'd pull the plug.
 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
So how powerful is it to use the word "diffractor(s)" when listing your 1998 Tek? It makes a big difference - you can't rely on buyers to recognize that it is a Diffractor or not.

The best example I have is to do a search of ended listings for "diffractors." You only get 7 results, but only three of those 7 are actual diffractors. People ponied up $19.50, $15, and $10 for non-diffractors of Bonds, Chipper, and Pudge simply because the listing claimed the cards were Diffractors.

Another interesting example was when a slew of individual Edgar Martinez listings hit just over a month ago (no longer in ended listings). Mixed in there was one Diffractor not listed as a Diffractor. It was a great scan and it was so obvious that it was a Diffractor that I didn't even bother bidding. I assumed it would go for around $20. I was wrong. I only went for $9 while some base went for even more! Flash forward to an auction ending today of an Edgar Martinez that IS listed as a Diffractor, and it's already up to $16.

This trickster even puts the Diffractor bv on 1998 Tek base. These two Bonds were ended early - I'm assuming the mistaken seller was paid well:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/BARRY-BONDS-1998-98-TOPPS-TEK-DIFFRACTOR-SP-PATTERN-35-CARD-3-30-/261076552970?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item3cc9600d0a

So even collectors that are educated enough to know that they want Diffractors and that they should go for a premium are not educated enough to recognize the difference between Diffractors and base.

Here's an example of a Tek not listed as a Diffractor, but the scan was good enough for collectors to realize what it was. I do wonder if it would have gone for more if listed as a Diffractor, but the price seems about right:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Alex-Rodriguez-1998-Topps-TEK-Acetate-Rare-SP-Insert-Yankees-Mariners-/190703655569?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item2c66d2da91

Now here's a Jeter that should have gone for more. I guess the main diff between this and the A-Rod is that the scan/photo does not do a good job of picking up the Diffractor effect:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1998-TOPPS-TEK-DEREK-JETER-CARD-14-PATTERN-54-/221074759583?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item3379151f9f

And here's what it looked like once I got it in hand. My pic isn't much better than the seller's. The reason is that two things affect how dazzling a Diffractor is - the lightness of the player photo and the pattern. As you can see from that Jeter, the background on the bottom half of the photo is almost all black. Not good for sparkly. The upper part has some white thanks to some shirts in the crowd. That's almost the only part of this scan that makes it look like a Diffractor Also, the pattern is mostly clear only sparsely populated with the design. Also not good for sparkly - compare that pattern with patterns 37 and 68 as shown in previous posts:

Pattern 54:



A base Jeter went for nearly that much - I'm guessing it was a couple set collectors going at it:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/DEREK-JETER-1998-98-TOPPS-TEK-14-PATTERN-48-YANKEES-/200772717032?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item2ebefc89e8

Heck, this PSA 10 Jeter base went for less:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1998-TOPPS-TEK-14-DEREK-JETER-PSA-10-B1117790-/120931047507?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item1c280d5853

No offense if it was a board member, but this looks like an awful deal. Only four packs (16 cards) for $18.50. Considering Diffractors are 1:6, this looks like some pretty bad odds. That may be a better price-per-pack deal than those that paid $160 for a box, but at least in a box you're pretty much guaranteed 4 Diffractors.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1998-Topps-Tek-4-Unopened-Packs-/180926656263?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item2a2011af07
 

DeliciousBacon

Active member
Apr 23, 2011
3,316
Warwick, RI
No offense if it was a board member, but this looks like an awful deal. Only four packs (16 cards) for $18.50. Considering Diffractors are 1:6, this looks like some pretty bad odds. That may be a better price-per-pack deal than those that paid $160 for a box, but at least in a box you're pretty much guaranteed 4 Diffractors.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1998-Topps-Tek-4-Unopened-Packs-/180926656263?pt=US_Baseball&hash=item2a2011af07
I would have bought those 4 packs for that, no question. Even if you don't get a Diffractor, you might pull one or two base cards that a few set/player collectors are desperate for. It's not unreasonable to get $20 for a base card, that could pay for your packs right there.
 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
I would have bought those 4 packs for that, no question. Even if you don't get a Diffractor, you might pull one or two base cards that a few set/player collectors are desperate for. It's not unreasonable to get $20 for a base card, that could pay for your packs right there.
It's really quite rare to be able to get $20 for a base card. The stars kinda have to align. It's gotta be of the right player and it's gotta be a card that two player collectors are going for at the same time. The only two in ended listings are that Jeter I listed and a Ripken that sold for a $19.99 BIN. Not all Jeters will sell for even $10 - it just happened to be that one particular that sold for $24.

Same with Edgars. When I first realized his base was going for $5 a pop, just about any pattern you threw out there would get the $5-$6. Now, the two or more guys that were fighting over them have fewer holes in their collection. Some go for just 99 cents now.
 

RustyGreerFan

Active member
Jun 10, 2010
2,486
Gastonia, NC
I want to break down the checklist by team to try to get an idea of Topps' thinking when they created this checklist. Obviously they wanted to be like the All-Star game and have at least one player from each team. It looks like they also wanted to include some younger guys even over potential HOF veterans. There are probably a couple errors in here because I can't remember who was on what team when, but I did do at least a little double-checking:

7 - Braves
6 - Astros
5 - O's, Rox, Yanks
4 - Angels, Indians, M's, Marlins, Mets
3 - Blue Jays, Cards, Cubs, Pads, Red Sox, Twins, White Sox
2 - A's, D-Backs, Expos, Mets, Phils, Pirates, Reds, Rangers
1 - Brewers, D-Rays, Giants, Royals, Tigers

Angels - Edmonds, Erstad, Glaus, Salmon
A's - Grieve, Hinch
Astros - Biggio, RJ, DBell, Alou, Bags, Hidalgo
Blue Jays - Clemens, Delgado, Cruz Jr
Braves - Glavine, Justice, Chipper, Andruw, Maddux, Javy, Galarraga
Brewers - Burnitz
Cardinals - McGwire, BJordan, Lankford
Cubs - KWood, Sosa, Grace
D-Rays - McCracken
D-Backs - MWilliams, TLee
Dodgers - Karros, Sheff, Beltre, Mondesi
Expos - Vlad, Fullmer
Giants - Bonds
Indians - Sandy, Lofton, Manny, Thome
M's - A-Rod, Griffey, Edgar, Buhner
Marlins - Kotsay, Dunwoody, Renteria, DLee
Mets - Olerud, Piazza
Orioles - Brady, Palmeiro, Ripken, RAlomar, Mussina
Padres - Gwynn, Caminiti, KBrown
Phils - Schilling, Rolen
Pirates - Aramis, Kendall
Rangers - Pudge, Juan
Reds - Larkin, Konerko
Red Sox - Nomar, PJ, Mo
Rockies - Dante, LWalker, Vinny, Burks, Helton
Royals - JKing
Tigers - TClark
Twins - TWalker, Molitor, Knoblauch
White Sox - Frank, Ventura, Belle
Yanks - Bernie, Jeter, Tino, O'Neill, OHernandez
 

DeliciousBacon

Active member
Apr 23, 2011
3,316
Warwick, RI
There are 21 players I collect in the 1998 Tek checklist. That's 1890 base and 1890 Diffractors I need to have a complete PC set. Right now, I think I have maybe 35-40 base and 0 Diffractors. Ouch.
 

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