Card of the Day: 1994 Topps Traded Jon Lieber

Today’s Card of the Day comes from the 1994 Topps Traded set. We have only looked at the 1994 Topps set once in three years here, but this is our first look at the Topps Traded set from 1994. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jon Lieber has appeared here twice, with the last time coming exactly one year ago on his 52nd birthday. A little quick math will tell you that today is his 53rd birthday. Today’s date doesn’t have a lot of Pirates history attached, at least not as far as notable transactions or birthdays, so Lieber appears here almost by default, though he did put in five seasons with the team.

The 1994 Topps Traded set isn’t much different in looks than the regular set from that year, but it is a different set. This was the 14th edition of the Traded set that Topps released as factory sets. They put out Traded sets in 1974 and 1976, but they were released in packs of the regular sets those years. This was the final year of the factory issued Traded sets for Topps. Lieber is one of 132 cards in the set in 1994. One very interesting tidbit here is that this set was released in the middle of the MLB strike, which I’ve read that it not only affected the sales of the set, but they also cut back on the amount printed. So this set is apparently much tougher to find than the regular 1994 Topps set, though that hasn’t helped the prices.

Here’s the front of the card:

This is what the regular 1994 Topps set looked like as well, with the same exact color themes used for the Pirates in both sets. One advanced way to tell this is a Traded card on front is the photo. There wouldn’t be a picture of Lieber pitching on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1994 season started. He debuted in the majors in May of 1994. In fact, he debuted in Philadelphia, so this could be his debut on May 15th. It could also be his August 4th start, since both were day games in Philadelphia.

The Pirates acquired Lieber in a trade on July 31, 1993 from the Kansas City Royals. Since he was in the minors at the time, he didn’t make it into the 1993 Traded set. You’re probably realizing now (or already knew) that the word “Traded” was used loosely, so it also included guys who debuted in the majors mid-season. However, there’s also the case of Johnny Ray appearing on a card with a trio of Pirates rookies in the 1982 set after he debuted in 1981, then also appearing in the 1982 Topps Traded set for who knows what reason (though I’m glad it happened). Same thing happened with Cal Ripken Jr that same year, creating a widely popular non-rookie card.

Here’s the back of the card:

The back has a second photo of Lieber, possibly taken the same day as the front. I like when you get two completely different looks, but these are fairly similar. The two main giveaways for this being the Traded set is the card number “67T”, and the fact that it mentions something that happened during the 1994 season under the stats. Notice in the top section that this says it is his Topps rookie card. Lieber didn’t have much minor league experience before his big league debut. He was drafted in the middle of the 1992 season, then he was up with the Pirates by May of 1994, not even two full years after being drafted. In those stats you see above, Carolina was the Double-A affiliate of the Pirates. All of the rest came from his time with the Royals.

If you are interested in this card, there aren’t many options on Ebay right now. There are enough that a few of you could get it for under/around $2 delivered. There are also 2-3 people who have unrealistic shipping charges. Then you have one card of note, which was an autographed copy going for $28. That card is certified as authentic. I’ll note that Lieber has a 2022-era autograph, despite player 25 years earlier…aka it’s awful and I’m not sure why anyone would want it.