By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Baseball Editor
While Billy Ripken still has the most memorable bat knob in hobby history, the latest baseball card set from Topps certainly is giving him some competition.
Among the tough-to-find insert cards in 2009 Topps Unique are Bat Knob Relics, which have a piece cut from a player’s game-used bat. (You can guess which part.)
Found at a rate of one in more than 50,000 packs, Unique has 110 knob cards to be found — all 1/1s — between the standard and autographed sets. But what’s interesting is how this release affects the total population of a very small niche in the hobby.
It raises the total number of bat knob cards listed in the Beckett.com database to just 551 different cards — and just 132 of those are autographed. How many of those 132 came from Unique? Just 95.
How many overall knob cards exist? A majority of them are 1/1s, while some — cards with knob-size cuts touted to be from the South end of a bat — have as many as 10 copies. And, in all, there are just 17 memorabilia card sets that include bat knob pieces — and most of them pale in comparison to Topps’ 2005 Pristine knob inserts, which was — and remains — the largest set of knob cards on the market, despite Unique’s arrival.
Does including a vast array of bat knobs in Unique deplete Topps’ inventory that has been building since 2005?
“Like you said, we have not done bat knobs in some time, so we had a nice little inventory of these pieces,” said Topps’ Clay Luraschi. “We have a handful left, but not that many.
” There are many Unique pieces that can be found on cards in this product.”
The first bat knob memorabilia card was released in the 2002 Fleer Fall Classics Series of Champions Bat Knob insert set, however most of those cards were just knob cuts. (There were 10 copies of each card made.)
The largest set to use knobs were the 2005 Topps Pristine Power Core Bat Knob and Power Stick Bat Knob sets, which each had more than 130 players featured. The Power Core cards infamously had the player’s name and the bat knob designation burned into the wood (not a popular choice with this collector), while the Power Stick cards were 1/1s with the bottom of the knob.
Earlier this year, the 2009 Topps Triple Threads set also include bat knob cards — as booklets — impressive pieces to say the least.
Just a handful of the newest knob cards have arrived on the auction block and only one has sold so far — a Ben Zobrist with his uniform number affixed atop a sticker — for $232.50. Other bat knobs on the auction block are interestlingly devoid of markings, something that often gives game-used bats their charm and adds a level of authenticity.
Some players consistently mark their bats a certain way — or use a variation of a phrase, saying or other info — so they can grab their bats off the rack at a glance when they head to the plate. After all, staring at a rack of unmarked bat knobs could make things a bit more challenging than they need to be when readying to face a 100-mph fastball.
For example, New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher marks nearly all of his game bats with “BLS”, the initials of his grandmother who raised him and died from cancer in 2005, as a tribute as well as an easy reminder. Not all of his bats will carry this marking, but those that do will command a bit more interest from collectors who appreciate the unusual characteristics that players will have with their trusty warclubs, whether it’s the handle taping, pine tar application areas, knob markings or other modifications.
Hopefully we’ll see more variety in the rest of the bat knob cards that collectors find in packs of Unique.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WANT TO GO BATTY?
Bat knob card collectors should look for cards from these sets…
2002 Fleer Fall Classics Series of Champions Bat Knob
2003 Fleer Fall Classics Series Contenders Bat Knobs
2004 Topps Chrome Handle With Care Bat Knob Relics
2004 Topps Chrome Handle With Care Bat Knob Relics 1 of 1
2005 Fleer Showcase Timepiece Ink Autograph Bat Knob
2005 Prime Patches Next Generation Autograph Bat Knob
2005 Prime Patches Next Generation Bat Knob
2005 Prime Patches Next Generation Bat Knob End
2005 Prime Patches Portraits Autograph Bat Knob
2005 Prime Patches Portraits Bat Knob
2005 Prime Patches Portraits Bat Knob End
2005 Topps Pristine Power Core Bat Knob Relics
2005 Topps Pristine Power Stick Bat Knob Relics
2007 Artifacts Bat Knobs
2009 Topps Triple Threads Bat Knobs
2009 Topps Unique Bat Knob Autographs
2009 Topps Unique Bat Knobs