This is our first look at the 2004 SP Authentic set, which was produced by Upper Deck. This is the first appearance here for Bobby Hill, who is unfortunately remembered through no fault of his own for being part of one of the most unpopular trades in recent Pittsburgh Pirates history. He was the key piece in the return for Aramis Ramirez in 2003, which did not go well, even when you factor in the somewhat short time remaining before Ramirez reached free agency. While the Pirates would have never signed him as a free agent, Ramirez went on to put up 31.2 WAR over 12+ seasons after leaving Pittsburgh. Only 21 players have put up a higher total with the Pirates. Hill played 185 games for the Pirates before he was traded away following the 2005 season.
The 2004 SP Authentic set included 191 base cards and many inserts and variations to chase. One of those inserts was the Chirography set, which included 49 cards. All of the cards were limited print, and they included variations that were even harder to find. The easiest one to find only has 75 copies. There are seven variations total, going down to the Gold Duo Tone version, while only has 20 copies. I picked the Gold version with 40 copies to feature here today for no other reason than it was the best scan available.
Here’s the front of the card:
Hill looks like he’s tired of hearing he was part of the Aramis Ramirez trade. That is not the best picture of him. I’m not sure why he wrote “Both” on the card, but hopefully he’s not trying to tell us that the back of the card has a bad picture too! To be serious though, his autograph is awful by 2005 standards, but strong by 2023 standards. You can actually make out letters in his name, making it better than 94.6% of autographs you’ll pull from packs today. Upper Deck was thinking ahead with this set by writing the player’s name behind the autograph. They knew where the autographs were going in the future.
It’s hard to see here, but in the right border above the autograph it says “33/40”, letting you know this is the 33rd of 40 copies of this card. What’s not hard to see here is that great Pirates logo on the other side of the autograph. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not a fan of those caps. As much as I like that logo, I don’t like it big on the caps (without the Pirates part), along with the yellow/gold brim.
Here’s the back of the card:
He WAS trying to warn us about the back! C’mon Upper Deck! How do you use the same slightly annoyed Bobby Hill photo twice big on the same card? At least they included the Pirates logo on the back too, because everything else here is just a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo, including the promise that it’s authentic.
If you’re interested in one of these autographed cards, they are not cheap, even for the copies numbered to 75. The cheapest one is $12 on Ebay, and it’s being sold in Canada. That price is for the one above, so it’s one of the tougher ones. The more expensive ones, which is a total of five cards, range from $15 to $23. Possibly the best deal is $19 for one of the copies of the variation limited to 20. Three people are asking more for cards numbered to 60/65. While there are no sold copies of Hill cards to reference, other cards from the Chirography set have ended for under $10 for more well-known players. One example is a Mark Prior numbered to 65 for $10. I’m sure that card was worth much more when it came out.