Collecting Chipper Jones (1995 - 1997)

Main_medium1995 Pinnacle #111

When you see a great card like this, it’s hard not to wonder about the origin of the picture. I have no clue what the circumstances were when Chipper Jones made this catch. Is this from spring training of 1994 when he was attempting to win the starting job in left field? (Did the Braves even wear their regular uniforms that year during spring training?) Is he running in and making a great grab? Did he lose the ball in the sun and now he’s making a great recovery to catch the ball? Of course, it could just be that the picture is deceptive and this was just a routine catch.

This card is also an example of a great picture outclassing an otherwise ugly design. Pinnacle cards, and their gold foil, have not aged well.

1995 Upper Deck SP Silver #34

Hitting cards tend to depict a hitter in their follow through, so any variation from this theme, even a slight one, is welcome. In this case, Chipper looks to have ripped a pitch from the left side and is making his way to first. The best little touch in the photo is the discarded bat. It looks like Chipper will step right on it, although, I would imagine that the momentum will carry the bat out of the way.

SP cards were, at the time, a super premium item. By the standards of today, it doesn’t appear to be anything special. It’s certainly attractive enough. The design element on the left does little to distract and the rest of the card features a beautiful full bleed photo. The gold foil, unlike the Pinnacle card above, is kept to a minimum.

1995 Donruss #437

By 1995, full bleed photography was no longer an exclusive of the high end sets. Donruss moved to using full bleed photography with their 1994 base set. They used subtle color cues to set their cards apart from the other full bleed sets. The use of team colors in the otherwise busy logo and information box sets the card apart from the more generic sets issued by Pinnacle and Pacific during the period. The use of a team color backing the player name is an even more effective element. Still, any full bleed card will be judged by the photograph and this is another great Chipper photo. I always like seeing a Braves player in their road gray uniforms. Since Chipper looks to be tracking a pop up on the infield on a bright and sunny day, it’s a good thing he has on blackout.

1995 Topps Stadium Club #543

Stadium Club set the standard for quality full bleed photography from the moment of release, but the 1995 set stumbles. The photographs themselves are as crisp and perfect as ever. The new Stadium Club logo is attractive without distracting from the photography. It’s the player’s name where Topps stumbled in 1995. The use of gold foil rendered many names in the set nearly unreadable when the photograph was dark on the bottom. To see the name, you need good light and better eyesight than I have. The good news for Chipper Jones collectors is that the flaw is not noticeable on his card. The bottom of the great shot of Chipper playing infield is all dirt, so his name shows up clear as can be.

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1996 Fleer Ultra #156

I wonder what Chipper Jones was thinking when this picture was taken. It’s a great shot of the young man leaning against the batting cage. It’s a typical Ultra card from the era: great photography, but too much foil. Since it goes to reason that most of the photography from the 1996 sets comes from the 1995 season, I suppose he was wondering if his Rookie of the Year bid would be derailed by a five year veteran of the Nippon league?

1996 Topps #177

By the time the Topps base set came out in 1996, it seemed to card collectors that Chipper had been around forever. In reality, he had only played a single season. For his 1996 card, he was awarded the coveted Topps All-Star Rookie trophy logo. This wasn’t a surprise since he was clearly the best rookie in the National League during the 1995 season. That’s not to take anything away from Hideo Nomo who had a spectacular debut season. It just seems ridiculous to me that a 27 year old veteran of Japanese professional baseball could qualify.

The trophy logo is the reason to own this card. Topps use of foil on the name muddies the look of the card. The inset black and white picture of Chipper’s head is just bizarre. Only a great photograph of him rounding third is worthy of appearing alongside the trophy.

1997 Donruss Diamond Kings

When Donruss first introduced Diamond Kings cards in 1982, they were among the best and most sought after cards of each set. Dick Perez did such an outstanding job with the artwork. In 1997, Donruss replaced Perez with Dan Gardener and I’m not sure how I feel about the results. There’s just something about both his upper lip and the shadow above it that take me out of the card. Otherwise, it’s a fair representation of the third baseman. (The back of the card thinks the 1958 Milwaukee Braves could have used him at second base. That seems like a strange thought to me.)

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1996 Topps Stadium Club Members Only #10

This is your typically great Stadium Club photograph and your typically great Stadium Club card. The use of team colors in the player name design element is a nice touch. This is a great shot of Chipper tagging out the Giants long-time second baseman, Robbie Thompson. I think this would have to be an older picture of Chipper Jones. He didn’t play a single game at shortstop during the 1995 season, and he’s clearly tagging Thompson out at second. I suppose it could have been a play where the Braves had the big shift on against Barry Bonds, but that seems unlikely. It’s not a big deal, but it is one of those things I think about when I stare at a baseball card.

1997 Topps Stadium Club Stadium Slugger #376

Stadium Slugger was a subset in the 1997 Topps Stadium Club set and represents an interesting case in collecting. This subset was short printed, which made completing the Stadium Club set a little bit harder than normal. In fact, this card is so rare that it might cost you almost FIFTY CENTS to acquire. If you are particularly unlucky, you may even pay a dollar. The card itself is rather nice with the somewhat standard picture of Chipper’s left handed follow through.

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1997 Fleer Ultra Top 30 #8

Chipper was so established as one of the top players in baseball by 1997 that he was featured in virtually every subset and insert set that included hitters. Personally, I’ve always preferred cards with natural backgrounds, but the Top 30 insert set from 1997 Ultra just looks great. The photo is as crisp and perfect as on the full bleed photo cards and the backgrounds were specifically selected to enhance the photos. On the other hand, I can’t quite figure out what he’s doing on this card. Is he finishing high while batting right handed? What is that look on his face? Is he in pain?

1997 Topps Chrome Refractor All Stars #AS8

If the Ultra Top 30 is the best of his inserts from 1997, this refractor from the Topps Chrome All Stars insert set just might be the worse. The use of the team logo and the team colors in the design element on the bottom works well, but the fireworks distract from the picture itself. Additionally, there’s a lot of dead space on the card and the picture looks like it should have been enlarged slightly. The “1st Team All-Stars ’96” is one of the ugliest logos I’ve ever seen committed to a baseball card. At least it looks as if Chipper has blasted the ball.

1997 Upper Deck Rock Solid Foundation #RS5

I like insert sets because they give you a chance to get more good cards of great players and they ensure that you get at least one star in almost every pack your purchase. I think this is important for hooking people on the practice of ripping packs. Still, an insert set should serve some purpose and should be attractive. Rock Solid Foundation is one of those meaningless insert sets that doesn’t really mean a thing. This could be overlooked if the card wasn’t so dull. The faux-marble background adds nothing of visual interest. The photo is merely OK. The design elements are dull, and they include gold foil, which works fine on this card, but is, again, hard to read when placed over a dark portion of the background. This is the middle of the road for 1997 insert sets. (This card might be helped if it didn’t look like Chipper had just popped out.)

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