Welcome to Parallel Hell!

Consider Parallel Hell the anti-Wax Heaven. It’s a world full of player collectors trying to swim against the current of the hobby greed that bleeds out of the card companies. There was once a time when all you could find in a wax box of baseball cards was regular issue base card, and maybe 2-3 inserts of your player,  if you were lucky enough. In 1993 Topps Finest made it debut, followed by Topps Chrome three years later and the ‘refractor’ became the card to own. Face it, you weren’t a true Ken Griffey Jr. Super Collector unless you owned the 1993 Finest refractor. It was all so perfect then.

Today you need a dictionary, encyclopedia, and color chart to figure out if you pulled an ultra-rare Gold Refractor or a just slightly less ultra-rare Orange Refractor. Wait a minute, why is the Orange selling higher than the Gold? And what’s all this talk about Blue and Red refractors? My brain is about to explode and I haven’t even gotten into the Pokemon-style X-Fractors and mythical SuperFractors.

Trust me, the last thing I want to see is the dullness of mid to late 80’s baseball cards all over again but when will the madness end? There are player collectors who will never reach high percentages of complete collections with all these parallels flooding the market. Somewhere, there is a Michael Bourn collector who has to track down 397 different cards released from 2005-2007. Meanwhile, a Ron Gant Super Collector has just 56 Beckett-recognized cards from his first three seasons in baseball. Guess who will have a better chance to complete his collection?



  1. Pacific is by far the biggest culprit of unparalleled, parallel production.
    The other sets are guilty also but in 2000 alone Pacific produced at least 4 parallel cards to the one base card, with all the colors of the rainbow for foil variants, Premier Date low #d cards, Holo-Purple, gold, silver, Platinum Purple, blue, platinum, Proof cards, Slight variations on the Prism card (rapture gold, rapture silver, slider silver, texture silver, tinsel silver, woodgrain silver), in addition to all of the rainbow colors there are holographic colors of each.
    In 2000 alone Pacific produced 90 different Jose Canseco cards-90!!!
    My goal is to obtain every Jose Canseco base and variant that appear on the Beckett checklist, but the parallel craze, I think, has totally killed my chances.
    The card companies have made it impossible to obtain every card produced of a player.
    So now player collecting is extremely discouraging, to say the least.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more! I was actually planing a similar post for my Rickey blog. According to Beckett, Rickey has about 4,500 recognized cards. But, only around 1,500 are from 1980-2001. The remaining 3,000 are ridiculous parallels from the last few years of his career. I once had a dream 9lofty in its own right) of owning all of Rickey’s cards, and now that’s really never going to happen. But, my new goal is to get them all through around 1998 or so, before the Masterpiece 1/1’s started appearing.

  3. I had to leave another reply, as I noticed that whatthehellme and I posted at exactly the same time. I was also going to mention 2000 Pacific Prism as the set that did me in, but decided better of it. There should not be a baseball card that classifies itself as being covered in “pebbly dots!”

  4. whatthehellme: While it’s true that “The card companies have made it impossible to obtain every card produced of a player,” why would you want to? Take a look at all those Chris Carpenter cards in the scan. Aren’t they all just the same card?

  5. Yes, basically they are all the same card.
    And that is a great question-why would you want them all?
    I have collected Jose Canseco cards for over 18 years now, and knowing there are cards out there I don’t have compels me to seek out those cards, even though it irritates me that there are so many parallels to obtain.
    I have built my collection card by card trying to set it apart from other collections like it and having a complete run of a certain set (base and parallels) is something that definitely puts my collection on another level.
    For a player collector, I think it is a must that you seek out the parallels and add them to your collection.
    As a set collector, you would have the benefit of just trying to obtain 1 card from the run and not worry about the rest.
    I hope that answers your question.

  6. I like to collect as many different kinds of cards as possible. Back in the early to mid ’90s, it was actually possible, with a lot of work, to collect at least one of each kind of card available. I’m calling each insert set, each parallel card to be a different kind of card. And I’m really only counting the cards featured in the Beckett bimonthly. I’ve been tracking how many different types of cards are produced each year. In 1994 there were 173 different kinds of cards produced and I’ve got 124 of them. But each year the number has gone up. Ten years later there were 1,938 and I have 214 of them. The peak year was 2005 with 2,661. Many of these are low numbered parallel cards that I have no hope of ever getting. The number has dropped off considerably since Donruss was tossed out and Fleer went bankrupt. Only 665 in 2006 and 630 in 2007. I’ve been planning to post something on my blog about this. I’ll try to get it up later this week. I’ve got a graph and everything (sorry, but I’m an engineer and can’t help myself).

    I’ve had a lot of luck on eBay in finding cards. I’ve been concentrating lately on mid-1990s cards and almost anything I’ve looked for I’ve found. I’ve really only been limited by my budget and the fact that I really don’t want to spend more than $10-$15 for any card.

  7. Yep, a comprehensive player collection is out of the question. But I would still like to get at least 75% of a few guys. Knowing how much I hate to over pay for cards I probably won’t get to that level either.

  8. Being a player collector, I want to collect as many of my chosen player’s cards as possible. For many players, this would be a pretty much impossible task that would be take forever, and cost an arm and a leg. For instance, searching all sets for Alex Rodriguez on beckett.com brings up a whopping 10681 items. Since A-Rod is such a superstar, this is not really unexpected. He is probably in just about every insert set since 1995, and of course, Topps gave him a whole 500+ cards last year with their road to 500 set.

    Since I am neither a billionaire, or a Yankees fan, I don’t bother with him. But, I still have favorite players. Take Kevin Kouzmanoff. He might not have the stardom or the power that A-Rod has, but he had a hot bat in the minors, hit a grandslam in his first MLB at bat, and had a good run late in 07 – right about when I was getting interested in cards again.

    Back in August 2007, beckett.com showed the Kouz as having about 250 cards. Today, there are 421 of them. 98 of the extras are found in the UD Exquisite Collection Rookie Signatures set which retails for about $300US. Are they 98 exciting different variations? Are they a continuity set, or a sub set? No. They are boring parallels.

    Parallel shmarrallels i reckon

    While there are some noticeable differences in these cards, the artificial rareness is just insane. The fact that people will pay significantly more for these short numbered parallels really annoys me, and I will be surprised if these cards maintain that sort of value over time

    read more here: http://thinmanshat.blogspot.com/2008/02/high-end-sets-thorn-in-player.html

  9. the bowman chrome orange is #ed to 25 the gold is numbered to 50..thats why orange sells higher than gold..i love the orange!!

  10. I love parallels. It makes collecting today a challenge. When I show my Godsons the new cards I got and they see you can get those of 5 or 1/1 cards of a payer it gets them excited. I know I will never obtain some cards. But who cares. I want the best collection of Austin Kearns. Not every card of Austin Kearns.
    Granted. Parallel madness was a pain in the wazoo with Pacific. But the amount of Reds cards I have repurchased from 1997-2000 Pacific has made it fun this time around instead of a frantic search. I even managed to find a full run of all Reds cards form all Pacific releases in 1999 and 2000 that were never serial numbered in case the cards were returned and damaged. The have all foil and markings, just no serial numbering. The dealer got them from Pacific directly when they closed.
    Who else is going to have those kinds of cards? No one but me!

  11. As a poor colletor (college student/allowance spender as a child) I was first introduced to Parallel hell in the Collector Choice era. I could never get the Gold signatures parallels. I hated it cause i couldn’t afford the golds at card shows and you could pull endlessly and get the worst named gold ‘graph ever! Hell of second thought it was that F^&%ing ’92 Topps set!!! I had the base, the “Gold Winner”, but not the “Gold”. I still don’t have those Canseco cards and it pisses me off.

  12. As a player collector, I don’t necessarily care if I ever own every Andre Dawson card ever made. Just as many as I can get at reasonable prices. The main consideration for my collection is that I have to actually like the card, or I won’t buy it. I just let a 2007 Co-Signers Moon Shots auto pass me buy a few days ago on eBay. It’s a nice card, but it sold for over $100 just because it’s a Moon Shots, and everybody wants it. In the meantime, I’ve picked up 2 jersey autos #’d to 5 this year for $25 a piece. So what sense would it make for me to spend over $100 on one card?

    Use the beckett checklist as a point of reference, not an ultimate goal. Collect the cards you really like.

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