At a time when cards utilizing autographed stickers are the norm, it's easy to appreciate when card companies choose to something different. Upper Deck's Sweet Spot Baseball has been putting signature on large pieces of baseball leather for some time, and that practice continues with the 2008 set.
Each box of 2008 Sweet Spot Baseball holds six tins (with one pack inside) of eight cards each. Autographed cards are seeded 1:3 tins, with memorabilia cards falling 2:3 tins. On average, every box should yield one Sweet Spot Signatures card and one rookie autograph.
Sweet Spot Baseball has an attractive and uncomplicated base set. It starts with 100 MLB veterans on cards with full-bleed photography. There are textured patterns on the sides that look like the stitches on a baseball, reinforcing the set's theme. The gold foil used for the team and player names is unobtrusive if a little hard to read.
Closing out the set are 50 Sweet Beginnings autographed cards with the MLB Rookie Card logo. As with most 2008 baseball products, these cards are a mix of true rookies and players who have had cards produced in previous years. The cards have print runs ranging from 199 to 699 copies, and the checklist includes official rookie cards for two of the season's most sought-after players: Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and White Sox middle infielder Alexei Ramirez.
For this review, I opened half a box (three tins) of Sweet Spot Baseball and cane up with 19 veteran base cards. It should be noted that these are some of the most securely packaged cards you'll find, with every pack inside a tin which is in turn shrink-wrapped.
Upper Deck has been continuing to come up with new ways to present the set's trademark Sweet Spot Signatures cards, and this season has the widest variety to date. The most common variety come in several tiers and are signed on a real piece of baseball leather to make it look like - you guessed it - the sweet spot of a baseball.
Variations can be found in the color of the stitches (red, black, gold or red and blue) and the ink color of the autograph (red, black or blue). There are also versions signed on bat barrels and glove leather with several variations of each.
Finishing off the assortment are special subsets devoted to Ken Griffey Jr. and the USA Baseball National and U18 teams. The print runs for all of the Sweet Spot Signatures cards vary greatly, with some one-of-one cards on the low end and runs as high as 300 copies on the high end.
With so many players on the checklist, from future prospects to Hall of Famers, it's always interesting to see who you might pull. Since I opened three tins, I had a 50 percent chance of finding one for this review, and I found a red stitch, blue ink version of Ian Kinsler, numbered to 150.
Tins without autographs don't leave collectors empty-handed thanks to Sweet Swatch memorabilia cards. There's nothing too special about the fairly standard, square-shaped swatches they present, but they do come in two, three and four-player versions. All of the jersey cards also have low-numbered patch parallels.
As expected, the two tins I opened without autographs both held Sweet Swatch cards: one was a Chipper Jones, the other a dual Joe Mauer/Justin Morneau.
The Last Word
Sweet Spot Signatures cards are always a hit with baseball collectors thanks to the attractive way they show off signatures. The rest of the set doesn't have quite the same level of flair, which may limit the appeal of the product somewhat to dedicated autograph seekers.
Still, the price of about $99 to $120 a box is pretty reasonable for what's in store. Consider the rating bumped up a notch or two for those whose primary collecting focus is autographs.