The word "artifacts" is usually associated with archaeological digs and historical treasures, but Upper Deck put a whole new spin on the term a few years ago with its Artifacts brand. Now in its third season, Artifacts Baseball has become known for treasures of a different kind - unique memorabilia cards that contain pieces of game-worn jerseys not usually seen on baseball cards.
According to Upper Deck, collectors can expect to find three numbered memorabilia cards and one autographed card in each 10-pack box of 2007 Artifacts Baseball.
Artifacts has a relatively small base set that should be fairly easy to put together. The design for the 70 veterans and 30 MLB Rookie Cards is the same, with a portrait of each player appearing on a background that looks like a sheet of parchment player. Colors fade toward the bottom of the photo, where the player name is printed in a font that's almost calligraphic.
Card backs look like a dossier and have ten years of stats. The entire package makes the cards look like documents which have been found after decades of sitting undisturbed, which is very fitting given the theme of the set.
Without parallels or numbering, this is as simple as a base set gets. My sample box provided by Upper Deck contained 29 of the 70 veterans and 10 of the 30 MLB Rookie Cards.
Without question, the big pulls in Artifacts are the MLB Rare Apparel cards, 1-of-1 beauties that include a game-worn button, tag and patch, with the player's autograph thrown in for good measure. Joining the fun in 2007 are Artifacts Bat Knobs cards, which feature the entire bottom of a game-used bat knob and are also unique 1-of-1's.
The good news is that those cards are impressive. The bad news is that there are only 60 Rare Apparel and 10 Bat Knobs cards floating around, so most collectors won't get a chance to own one.
Instead, many boxes will yield the more common MLB Apparel, Divisional Artifacts or Antiquity Artifacts cards, all numbered to no more than 299 copies but mostly featuring small one-color swatches. MLB Apparel and Divisional Artifacts both have autographed parallels, while Antiquity Artifacts boasts a patch parallel numbered to 50.
The final memorabilia insert is Awesome Artifacts, so named because of the large jersey swatch on each card, all of which are limited to 50 copies.
The About.com review box hit no home runs but did appear to be pretty representative of an average box with its three game-worn cards: a Divisional Artifacts Mark Teixeira (#'d to 299), an MLB Apparel Rickie Weeks (#'d to 199) and an Antiquity Artifacts Tom Glavine (#'d to 199).
Aside from the aforementioned autographed game-used cards, Artifacts has a dedicated autographed insert called Autofacts. A total of 73 MLB players inked up for these cards, which have an aesthetically pleasing horizontal layout that makes nice use of a transparent autographed sticker. The cards aren't numbered, but the list of short prints includes big names like David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero.
As expected, a single Autofacts card - of Minnesota Twins pitcher Jesse Crain - awaited in my sample box.
The Last Word
If there was ever a set worth rooting for, Artifacts Baseball is it. The theming and design really make it stand out from other baseball sets, something that just doesn't happen too often in today's market.
That being said, the 2007 edition is more style than substance. It has the feel of a boom-or-bust experience when busting a box, making it the exact opposite of its 2007 football namesake.
If you are the type of collector that likes to swing for the fences, Artifacts is worth a shot for the big payoff it might provide. Otherwise, you may just want to put together the attractive base set through the secondary market and leave the gambling to others.