Friday, November 20, 2015

Best Binder Page: Tino Martinez

The Junior Junkie had a cool idea, picking his nine best/favorite Ken Griffey Jr cards and putting them together in one binder page. I'm sure he wouldn't normally store these ones in a fact, he already said he keeps them in a Swiss bank overseas. However, for the sake of this exercise, he created a binder page.

I did the same last night with my Tino Martinez cards. I thought about including other players or TTMs, but decided to just keep it strictly to Tino cards. Maybe I'll do a TTM one later because this was fun.

Not all of these are my rarest or "most valuable", but there's a combination. Some are rare, some are not. Some just have a significant meaning to me or were really hard to find. Some, I just really like.

So in no particular order other than how I put them into a binder page, here we go:
This particular Tino is a common card, but I like it for a few different reasons. For starters, when I was a kid, it meant the world to me that Tino won the HR Derby in 1997. He had a career year, and by winning the Derby, to me that put him on the same level of a slugger as Bonds, McGwire, and Griffey. Obviously he wasn't, but I wanted him to have that same respect.

You'll notice the card is signed as well. Tino is a very tough TTM signer, but in September of 1999, on my birthday no less, this card arrived signed. Tino was on the DL at the time, so I figured maybe I'd send him a request, and somehow I got it back. I was a pretty smart kid, eh? Since then I have gotten Tino once more TTM, but this one is super special to me.
I wanted this card since I first saw it in 1998. That year, I spent all of my 8th grade graduation money on a box of Stadium Club, just knowing I'd pull this card. I didn't pull any Co-signers at all.

It would pop up on eBay every now and then, but I could never shell out the cash. Then, about a year ago, it showed up on Listia. I had a decent amount of credits, but I quickly put a bunch of cards up on 3-day auctions to accumulate as many credits as I could. I think I racked up close to 100,000 credits, then won it for 57,552. Nowadays, I don't think you could get it for under 100K as Listia credits keep inflating and inflating. Either way, I was so pumped to win it!

It's also from that same awesome seller who sends me tons of autographed cards. Man, I lucked out with that one.

There are still versions of this card with Sandy Alomar Jr and Andy Pettitte (which I've never seen for sale). This Roberto/Tino combo is from Group C, which is the most common. However, I think I prefer this one since it has a HOFer on it. The Pettitte would be awesome though.

Pacific has been known to do some wacky things, and this "In The Cage" diecut certainly falls in line with that. I think it may be my favorite non-auto/relic card of Tino. It's just so cool. The cage is also laser-cut, so it's a pretty delicate card. Again, Tino being included in this set was a huge sign of respect after his 1997 career year.
Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems in all sports go for mega bucks these days. Just check it out an eBay listing. Common guys go for easily $20, while stars fetch hundreds. I know it's the same across sports too. I was fortunate to get this from the AOL forums back in the '90s (where I did a lot of my initial online buying), and I definitely paid less than what I would now. It's another one of those cards that just doesn't pop up much, as it's limited to 50.

The card itself is really nice, with a refractor-type shine. This design was much less outlandish than some previous Metal designs. These cards chip really easily, and the edges of mine definitely are not pristine.

A freaking Donruss Crusade, in the words of Junior Junkie. This is another one of those late '90s insert sets that is really popular, and the cards are very scarce. They come in green (#'d to 250), purple (/100), and red (/25). They are very, very rare despite the print runs. There is a Tino graded red 10 on ebay right now for $875. Not happening. The most common of greens will run you at least $8. If you see one in a bargain bin at a card show, grab one.

Many of the cards I've seen also have some obnoxious print lines on them. I'm not sure what happened in production. You can see the line in mine right through Tino's name. I know that serious collectors strive for versions without the line.

In person, the cards are spectacular. I knew they were special in 1998, but I feel like their legend has grown a bit. Panini has knocked them off in some recent products, but there is no replicating the original set. It's that perfect. Even the Crusades that followed were nowhere near what 1998 was.

Again, I bought a box of Donruss in 1998 figuring I'd at least pull one Crusade. I didn't. Sadly, I don't remember how I got this card. I'd assume it was the AOL forums, once again. It ranks up there as one one of my favorite all-time cards.
I loved this 1999 UD HoloGRFX A Piece of the Series insert set so much that I completed the set (including Jeter). However, this was the first card in the series that I got.

Each card features a piece of game-used base from the 1999 World Series. As a gentle reminder, the Yanks sweeped the Braves to win the Series that year. The checklist is great (Maddux, Rivera, Jeter, etc) and the cards really are attractive. The base has a nice, rubbery feel to it.

There are also autographed versions of each card, but they are very hard to find. I do not own the Tino, but am always on the lookout even though it exceeds my collecting budget.
This 1997 Leaf Leagues of the Nation insert set was very sexy at the time. The set celebrated the first year of interleague play. On the back of the card, Scott Rolen represents the NL East. Keep in mind that Rolen was in the middle of his NL Rookie of the Year season, so it made this card a bit tougher to acquire. I know it was running $12-$15 when it came out. Now it can be had for a buck or two.

The banner portion of the card is a felt-like material. It's diecut, and you can see that the bottom of the ribbon has two points, so it's easy for these cards to be damaged.

Its also #'d to 2500, as 1997 was really a year when serially numbered cards started to blow up. 2500 was still considered pretty rare at the time, although now that print number doesn't make you blink twice.
There were a lot of great cards in this Yankees Dynasty set, but something about Tino and Paul O'Neill sharing a card just seems right. To be picky, I wish O'Neill had a nice fat pinstripe. You can sort of see one there if you looks toward the left edge of the logo.

Overall, the card is simple but tastefully done. I like the interlocking NY shape for the jersey placement.
Last but not least, this card is from 1997 Topps Stars '97 All-Stars Insert set. It's not rare or a low print run, but man this thing was tough to find. I think I searched for it for several years before I finally got one. 1997 Topps Stars was a really pretty set. I bought one pack in my entire life at a card show, and remember that I pulled a Vernon Wells RC.

While the base cards have a matte-like finish, the All-Stars insert is more of a foil refractor type. It almost acts as a hologram, but it's not. I chose this card because it reminds me how much fun it is to finally get a card you've searched long and hard for

This was no easy task. I went back and forth on a few different cards, and if you ask me for my top nine tomorrow, my choices might be different. One thing it did do was force me to really look through my Tino collection, and I haven't spent much time admiring it over the past few years. I also realized how much time and effort I've invested into the collection, and I have to assume it's one of the top few in the world. I'm sure there is a person or two out there with a better, bigger collection of his, but there can't be many. No way.

That makes me feel special.


  1. Sick page, bro. Donruss Crusade is a beast. I've seen offers for the Griffey Red go up to five figures. Personally I prefer the purple, but any would be amazing. FYI, there is also a "Call to Arms" insert for Donruss Crusade but they're just as tough to track down as the rest.

    I only recently got a Leagues of the Nation, and I've gotta say that you have to hold one in your hands to really appreciate them. I bought one at a card show in a case, but it wasn't until I got it home and out of the case that I realized just how cool it really was. It can't just be seen - it must be "felt." Yeah, I went there.

    And well done on the precious metal gems. I doubt I'll ever get the Griffey. :-(

    1. It looks like we share a lot of the same opinions for some of these '90s insert sets. I can't imagine how tough it must be to track down some of these Griffeys.

  2. Great idea for a post. I may have to 'borrow' it. ;-)

    My time away from baseball (and collecting) coincided with the bulk of Tino Martinez' career so nearly every insert you posted is something I've never seen.

  3. Awesome cards. I've found this task to be daunting and near impossible (as you'll see shortly).

    What would happen if you had to combine everything? Everything. The Tinos, the Hensleys, the Pinedas, the Rizzutos, etc...?

    1. of each??? I don't know! Hard to think about.

    2. No, like you're allowed to have as many as you'd like from each. Not just one of each.

  4. Great page. Super jealous of that Co-Signers. The fact that two stars actually held the same card and Topps was able to insert it into a pack without using a redemption is amazing.