I have very few card collections given my limited resources and space, but I did decide some time ago to begin collecting on-card Royals autographs. It’s been a blast so far trying to track these things down and this is the latest addition to my collection. To view the cards currently in the collection, take a look at the Gallery. If you have any on-card Royals autos- especially one you don’t see in that gallery there- chances are I need them so don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
Digging through eBay listings to find older Royals autos is a chore. There’s a lot of digging through TTM and in-person signings. While those cards are cool, they’re not part of my collection, so I have to pass them on by. Usually when I see a posting beginning with a number before 1999, I know it’s not for me. But then I came across the earliest autograph set I’ve ever seen: 1996 Leaf Signature.
This set is massive. There are something like 450+ cards in 2 series and two or three levels of each. They made an Extended set as well. No one had imagined sticker autos yet, so this set remains awesome despite a seriously hit-and-miss checklist. You go from Mariano Rivera to sub-scrubs in less than 2 moves. Bear in mind, no one can seem to find a legit checklist of the autos from this set and they are frustratingly unnumbered, so all my info is coming from eBay. A search on Beckett brings 15 pages of results with some numbering that they either made up based on last name or were given by Leaf in 1996. Sadly, with Leaf long gone, this information will never be confirmed. There are some real top notch players in the 3 sets though, including Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson and Derek Jeter.
There are a bunch of Royals in the set, none of whom are worth much of a look except for Johnny Damon. In fact, Michael Tucker here may be the cream of the crop aside from the future Red Sock/Yankee/Ray. I always liked Michael Tucker- he played for a the Cubs for a spell and had a pretty good year as a backup, sometimes-leadoff man. He came up as a Royal, spent his best years in Cincinnati and finished out the serviceable years back as a Royal. He kicked around a bit after that and finally hung it up in 2007 after dipping below the Mendoza line in 2006. No one would argue that he was a superstar, but he seemed like he played hard and used his abilities to their full potential. According to Wikipedia, he’s playing for the independent Maryland Blue Crabs now and was rocking it pretty hard as of last year. Good for him. I have a lot of respect for guys who go from the Majors to indie teams. Those guys make next to nothing to play baseball and they do it anyway. Next time I’m in Maryland (which would be the first time) I’ll take in a Blue Crabs game and shake Mr. Tucker’s hand.
Upon learning of this set, it crossed my mind that it might be fun to try and collect it. The vast majority of the checklist can be had for One eBay (that’s $.99 + shipping) and would be easy enough to create a saved search for. But, for the life of me, I can’t find any wax of this product anywhere. One would need to seriously bust some cases to get close- especially since the big names will cost the price of a case or two on their own. Anyone know anyone who’s trying this set? I’d love to get an opinion from someone in the know!