Upcoming Topps Tier One will let you hobnob with elites via massive bat knob set



By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — nothing is perhaps more perfectly symbolic of a home run hitter than a game-used baseball bat.

And, unlike cards, jerseys and other pieces of memorabilia, the more beaten and worn out a bat is, the more impressive it is — as long as it remains complete.

For card collectors and game-used cards, bats are not always as impressive. It’s not always a love-love relationship. But Topps is intending to change that with its upcoming Tier One release arriving later this month. While bats can yield hundreds, if not thousands, of anonymous-looking wood chips to be placed into cards, the most-special pieces of chopped up gamers are the nameplates — the spot on the barrel where the player’s name is burned into the bat — and the bat knob where a player’s perhaps most-personalized touches can be seen via numbers, initials or sayings.

In Tier One, there will be a 100-card set of 1/1 knob cards for collectors to chase, including some of the biggest names in the history of the game. It’s not an accident, said Topps Vice President Mark Sapir.

“The goal was to add special content, over-deliver value on this release,” Sapir said Tuesday night. “To create buzz and excitement in hobby, provide a special chase.”

Bat knob cards are not a common thing in the hobby today — even as game-used memorabilia cards are much more commonplace than they were even a decade ago. Today, there are just 629 total bat knob cards in the Beckett.com database. (Click here for a complete checklist and to get an OPG) Many of them are 1/1 cards that few of us ever see.

Topps previously billed this release as “one of the most significant memorabilia inserts ever offered in a product” and the company already is the runaway leader in bat knob cards made previously. There are 491 different Topps knob cards in existence, while the old Donruss/Playoff made the second-highest total with just 92. The remaining companies all have made fewer than 20 knob cards.

Among the legendary bat knobs to be inserted into Tier One will be Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and many more. Oh, and you can find new sluggers, too, such as Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez and others.

It’s an impressive array — largely retired greats — and it will be a pricey one, too. In the cases of some modern sluggers the knob card might outpace the price of a complete game-used bat. (I’m expecting that as I’ll fight — and lose — to deep-pocketed Yankees fans online for what will be just the third Nick Swisher bat knob card to ever be released. It will likely surpass what I paid for even the most-expensive of my 10 or so complete game-used bats.)

And with this many game-used bats meeting the saw blades, one has to wonder … what might be in the works for all those nameplates we haven’t yet seen that much of in Topps products?

“We have a nice amount of more bats and more nameplates,” Sapir said. “We just need to find the right way and right product to include them in. We don’t want to just force it. It needs to make sense.”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Feast on a massive gallery of the actual Tier One bat knobs below and then take our poll.

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  1. dylan k 6 June, 2012 at 12:26

    imagine if they put a billy ripken f face bat knob card out in this product……. just imagine how much that would sell for

  2. Richard 7 June, 2012 at 01:11

    Will the COA be another cop out or will they explicitly guarantee that the knob is from a bat used by the player shown on the card. Without such a statement, I will NOT be interested since the weasel words they use now mean NOTHING.

  3. Tom waldron 7 June, 2012 at 01:22

    Best preview gallery in months gotta try a box u never knOw
    funny stuf– f-face gotta love it. Rather have Ruth Fox or Hank

  4. Richard 7 June, 2012 at 12:59

    Chris, with respect, having a # drawn on helps, but does not ultimately mean anything.
    The numbers that are stamped into the wood are better, but still guarantee little.
    I can easily buy a bat in the stores that are game models. I can also draw on them with a marker.
    Older bats are harder, but still available and for 99% of the people out there, they would not know
    the difference.

    If Topps is unwilling to unequivocally guarantee something as being genuine, it means they are
    afraid it can be demonstrated that it is not. This is how I see it. Old school stuff used to have simple
    COA’s on stating that it was real and used by the player. Current ones try to weasel out that it is
    even game used or otherwise actually connected to the player.

    If they don’t have confidence in the providence, why should I?

  5. chrisolds 7 June, 2012 at 13:10

    I’m not talking about uni numbers written — that helps as certain players mark bats certain ways.

    It’s the other markings that also indicate things that can be matched to bat records that companies can provide to those who research things.

    For example,


    I can tell you that bat was made in 2001 based on one of the numbers. (Off the top of my head, I can’t remember what the other one beside it means.) The top number is model number.

    Store model bats often do not carry the same factory markings.

    As for the cynical aspect of it, feel free to question it all. However, I don’t feel that they are making a wholesale effort to bamboozle their customers across the board. The ambiguity is for certain reasons — one, for example, being production of the cards. If every card has a different statement, then multiply the time spent making the cards by 100.

    Some of the bats there have markings that coincide with known trends of players, some don’t. There will ALWAYS be discrepancies and there will always be mistakes made by authenticators. Does it mean every single one is suspect? Nope.

  6. Trevor Small 7 June, 2012 at 13:13

    Im with Richard here, Topps needs to change the wording to give us some confidence that it was used in a game. Sounds to me that they meet a player, have him put on a bunch of jerseys in 2 minutes, and then cut up those jerseys into pieces and count that as a relic

  7. Ron 7 June, 2012 at 13:52

    Question: Why would you put a Jim Palmer knob in this set? He was a pitcher in the American League. There was no interleague play back then. So, when did he use this bat?

  8. Richard 7 June, 2012 at 15:58

    it takes a lot less effort to put text down than it did to scan the images sent to you.
    In any case, they are not even putting down a generic COA worth anything.

    All I’m asking for is something like they used to do.
    “The material on this card was used by _______ in a professional ball game. Topps guarantees the
    authenticity of this item.”

    Currently we get something like.
    “The material on this card is not from any particular year or game”.

    No guarantee and no mention that there is any connection at all to the player or even professional sports.
    Yes, it “looks” like it was from a game, but then again, so do the sweet spot ball materials look like they
    came from a baseball, yet most are not.

    Let’s see, authentic Ty Cobb bat costs $$$$
    Bat from a common player same era cost $
    Money saved $$$. But hey, its a 1 of 1 and has a pic of Cobb on it and the suckers, er, collectors
    won’t know the difference. And it’s not like we say Cobb used is, just that it was used by someone and
    its not “our” fault people think we used a Cobb bat.

    Yes, that $300-$500 bat of a current player is likely real.
    Current players are not usually my worry since bats and jersey are frequently changed by the inning to
    provide stuff to the market if demand is high enough.

    Am I cynical? Yes. Have the big companies done things in the past that warrant it? Also, yes.

  9. crabtron 7 June, 2012 at 18:15

    1/1? That’s not quite rare enough for my taste. I’d prefer it if they were 1/0–that is, so rare that they didn’t exist at all. So rare that they exist only in our imagination. You rip open a pack and you imagine you pull one, you imagine that you hold it in your hands, the same hands that have held countless real cards in their lifetime. But in reality they hold nothing. Nothing but air. The air that we breathe, you and I, my friend.

  10. joe 8 June, 2012 at 14:10

    Chris your logic regarding the production of the cards doesn’t make sense. They are only changing the players name, not the entire statement. The COA on todays memorabilia cards are very vague and meaningless. Some of the memorabilia cards don’t even bother putting one on the card. I am sorry but “THE RELIC CONTAINED ON THIS CARD IS NOT FROM ANY SPECIFIC GAME, EVENT OR SEASON” or “THE ENCLOSED GAME-WORN MATRERIAL IS GUARANTEED BY PANINI AMERICA INC” is not a COA. It doesn’t certifie that the material/relic was used or worn by the player on the card. I love this hobby but the card companies need to step up. If these memorabilia/relics are actualy from the player they say so.

  11. chrisolds 8 June, 2012 at 14:14

    Joe: Ask them why it says it the way it is and they will tell you what I did.

  12. Richard 8 June, 2012 at 15:59

    Chris, look at Panini just did for the Basketball shoes.
    You can take a picture of an item and create a COA that can be used for every card using a piece of
    memorabilia made from that item. A bat can be used for hundreds of cards and special items like
    a bat from Cobb, Gehrig, Ruth, etc. deserve special attention to remove any possibility of doubt.
    Yes, if you see a bat from a minor modern day player few will worry. But players that are among
    the elite in desirability do indeed require it.

    Consider. Beckett does business in part by authenticating rarer old tobacco cards.
    No one is worried about a 3rd year John Kruk card being authentic.
    Everyone SHOULD take extra care when looking at a 52 Topps Mantle.
    With enough money at stake, fakes occur and that’s why they use your service since most
    people don’t have the reputation sufficient to allow someone to purchase one based on picture
    posted on Ebay. At least, not for anywhere near the same amount of money.

    If a company will not unequivocally state that an item is real, I take the the most cynical view that
    they are not confident that it will pass muster. So I don’t bother with the item at all.
    Others do the same, and an item that could sell for more, will not do so.
    As the “value” of those items drop, the demand for the packs likewise does too.
    Less money for dealers and thus eventually less money for the makers of cards.

  13. chrisolds 8 June, 2012 at 16:25

    Richard: The onus is on the card companies. If they do it, then fine. But I don’t see the move selling more or less cards to justify the time and money spent — it just won’t.Some companies used to show items — they stopped because of time, deadlines and cost that extra moves took. Ask them about the issue.

    Showing these bats shows me a LOT more detail and a lot more irregularity. If they all had blank knobs from the same relative timeframes, one could presume conspiracy much easier. It’s just not there.

  14. Richard 8 June, 2012 at 18:13

    Chris, the markings on the knob of the bat are later era phenomenon.

    Look at the cards for Ruth, Gehrig, and Cobb.
    Do you honestly see any marking that show they came from those players?
    The time, deadline, and costs are minimal when it comes from the Old time players.
    This is not a case of waiting for a modern day player’s agent to turn over something.
    Topps purchased the items for the HOF types at auction and presumably did their
    homework before dropping thousands on a real item.

    Time to take a photo? A few minutes at most once you have a general set up.
    Time to compose a COA? Less than that.
    Value by having people praise your actions and wanting to buy the product? Priceless.

  15. joe 8 June, 2012 at 21:34

    Chris, if I pull one of these cards and send it to Beckett for authentication and Beckett cannot confirm whether the bat Knob is from a Ty Cobb Topps is in the clear because nowhere on the COA (which is on the back) does it state that they guarantee that this is from a Ty Cobb bat. Topps is telling us that it is authentic but they are unwilling to put their money where their mouth is. There is not a collector alive who would by a Derek Jeter game-used bat with a vague COA (YOU HAVE RECIEVED A BAT OF dEREK jETER. tHIS BAT IS NOT FROM ANY PARTICULAR GAME, SEASON OR EVENT). Collectors want a the COA to state that the memorabilia piece (that they spent their hard earned money on) was used by that person. Why should it be any different when it comes to cards with memorabilia pieces on them.

  16. joe 9 June, 2012 at 14:23

    Chris you are so missing the point. Game dating on all memorabilia pieces would be difficult we all understand that. What I, and several others are saying is that the COA on the back of the card should remove all doubt that the enclosed memorabilia piece is from that player whether it is game used or player worn. Let me pose a question to you Chris. Let’s say a loved one purchase an Authentic Game Used Bat of your favorite player. The bat Is a Louisville Slugger bat with the players name on it. You would be stoked. Then you look at the COA and it reads “CONGRATULATION, THE BAT YOU NOW OWN IS NOT FROM ANY SPECIFIC GAME, SEASON OR EVENT.” That’s all it has on. It does not connect that bat to the player at all. Honestly, would you still be stoked or would you question the authenticity of that bat.
    Chris you and Beckett Media are the representative of we the collectors. We the collectors are screaming that we want, Just like the card companies had in the past an offical COA. That COA on the back of the card should connect the pieces of memorabilia to that player. “CONGRATULATION, YOU HAVE RECIEVED A PLAYERS NAME AUTHENTIC GAME USED BAT. WE CERTIFY THAT THIS BAT WAS USED IN AN OFFICAL MLB GAME.” This is nothing new. The card companies use to put that. The front of the card IS NOT the COA. Just like the bat that the loved one bought you, the bat itself IS NOT the COA. Your COA should read that it is an offical MLB Bat USED by that person. Come on Beckett help use make this hobby better and accountable for the memorabilia that they are giving us.

  17. Richard 9 June, 2012 at 15:14

    Joe, its even worse.
    At least in your example the name of player is mentioned in the COA.
    I recently saw a guy selling a jumbo Jersey card with a picture of Babe Ruth on the front.
    He was puzzled as to why he could not get his price which, while high, was not as high as
    some others that were smaller had gone.

    I asked him where on the COA it says that it is a Ruth game used Jersey. It did not mention
    Ruth at all. I told him that Topps could, quite legally, just put any old jersey in the card and the
    courts would simply state that it was not Topps fault that people assumed that it was a Ruth
    Jersey just because his picture was on the card. He was not pleased.
    He stated “Topps would not do that!”

    Sadly, that may not be true. This problem started about the time the companies started to
    make “associated” relic cards. Things like using stadium seats. People were buying what
    they thought was a bat card, but had no guaranteed connection to the person shown on the card.
    The companies have also made “manufactured” relics, though most of the time the will tell
    you that it is not game used. Sometimes the make a “mistake” and the COA is not clear on
    the nature of the material.

  18. ScottW 9 June, 2012 at 21:05

    I think that all these cards should be redemption. Otherwise the hobby stores can tell the difference in weight. And you have about a zero chance of pulling one of these via one box. Due to that reason. You have to buy a sealed case so the hobby store can’t tell as easy.

  19. joe 11 June, 2012 at 13:24

    Chris you didn’t answer the question in my example I gave. Would you still be stoked or would you question the authenticity of the bat.

  20. chrisolds 11 June, 2012 at 13:45

    Joe: Not all game-used bats are the same. Some are good ones that show specific markings and use and others have minimal use. For example, I have Swisher bats that have his grandmother’s initials written in a certain way on the knob and I have others that don’t. For the Swisher bat knob card above, I would prefer it to have a “BLS” notation but it does not. Does it mean the bat wasn’t used? No. It just means it didn’t come from a bat that was a top-notch example. (Why? Swisher either gave Topps a bat that didn’t have the marking or they bought it documented from a dealer and it was cheaper than one that did have the marking.)

    So in this case, I would be more “stoked” if it had more use/customization based on what I know my player does. Does it worry me to make me think it’s not real? No.

    Do I think Topps is using items that are not game-used like some of you? No.

    Do I think it’s not a bat used by Swisher because it doesn’t have the mark? No.

    I own a Swisher bat knob card from a past set. It has no markings. I am fine with it. Would it be cooler with a “BLS” notation? Yes.

    I do think that Topps will NOT make claims that an item was used in a specific game, event, or season if they don’t know it to be true? Yes. That doesn’t mean it’s not used in a game. It just means they don’t know which one. An item cannot be game-dated — or even in some instances season-dated — in a lot of instances. Do I think they use that vague phrase because some people have complained that their white jersey swatch from a Cubs uni doesn’t match the player’s Reds uni in the photo? Yes.

    Do some people think that a bat used in spring training does not count? Yes. Are some bats used in spring training then cut up? Undoubtedly … but I also don’t think Topps is going to bother to note the difference because some people will say one is and one isn’t. In other words, they say less because they don’t need semantics debates.

    But I tell you what, I will ask Topps whether they will discuss the issue of memorabilia on the record and let you know.

  21. TIM 11 June, 2012 at 14:02

    I have some wanderful dirt that President George Washington walked on for sale. It came from his property he owned in Virginia. I want $100,000 per pint if anyone wants any. I have collected cards and dealt them for decades and all these relics cards do are help to ruin the hobby. Greed struck and that caused over production which cards from the 1980’s and 1990’s are almost all worthless exceot for a few. Most memorabilia cards are about impossible to prove they are real game esed jersey’s, bats, ball.s etc. and lord knows how many of many of them were even made since they were not numbered. I know some are numbered now but they want you to buy their way over priced products to hope you get a rare card. Has anyone really see relic cards increase in price over years? They come out and sell for a high price and a few years later, they have gone way down and in many cases, you are lucky to get a dollar or two if you are lucky.

  22. joe 11 June, 2012 at 14:28

    Chris the only thing people are asking is that the companies give use a real COA that clearly states that this is that players memorabilia. Game dating isn’t important. I doesn’t matter if it is a batting practice bat, warm up jeresy or whatever.If they are sure that it is from that person then at least state that it is.

  23. joe 11 June, 2012 at 14:33

    CONGRATULATION YOU HAVE JUST RECIEVED A PIECE OF MEMORABILIA PERSONALY USED OR WORN BY (PLAYERS NAME). WE HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR COLLECTABLE” Is not “semantics” it’s connecting the player to the memorabilia piece. We don’t don’t need player stays or a bio.

  24. chrisolds 11 June, 2012 at 17:41

    Topps has agreed to field my questions on the subject. Look for something later this week.

  25. Phil 11 June, 2012 at 17:51

    I’ll repeat my earlier post: If you don’t want these cards, I’ll gladly take them…you can’t tell me you would not have a heart attack if you hit the Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.

  26. joe 11 June, 2012 at 19:38

    Thank you for looking into this. Now it is up to the card companies to put their money where their mouth is. Let’s not forget Panini

  27. Richard 12 June, 2012 at 12:14

    Looking forward to hearing Topps reply.
    Adding clarity to the situation is important to many collectors.

    As to memorabilia that has gone up in value, I can think of a few.
    The clearest one is the 500 HR card set. Given enough publicity, a new
    interest can grow. The one good thing about the strike shortened seasons
    is that it sometimes gives collectors a chance to catch their breathe, and go
    back to find card sets worthy of their attention.

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