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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge (Day 13)

Day 13: One of your favorite cards from the 1990s

Back in the 1990s, I collected everything. There are so many interesting sets from that era that I could highlight here Sets that people have long forgotten or don't even know exist.
Do you remember Upper Deck Fun Pack? At the same time that Topps Kids and Donruss Triple Play was being marketed as a children's product, Upper Deck came out with an even more-90s card for children. Collector's Choice was priced for kids, sure, but let's face it: that was a poor man's Upper Deck. This was for kids. And beyond the loud base cards seemingly designed by Nickelodeon, the set had tons of subsets - scratch offs, glow in the dark cards, holograms, and art cards like the Griffey above. It wasn't childish, it was awesome.
And before there was Topps All-Time Fan Favorites, there was the Ted Williams Card Company. The two sets they issued focused on retired players, many of which were local stars. They did subsets on Negro League and AAGPBL stars and created what I think is a very attractive card set that might have been before its time.
There were plenty of failures. Topps might have had the most - DIII was an ultra-premium three-dimensional card that didn't quite live up to the hype. And Topps Embossed didn't last long. Topps Laser was too pricey. Pinnacle tried all kinds of gimmicks too - metal cards (Pinnacle XPress), coins in cards (Pinnacle Mint), cards in cans (Pinnacle Inside), cards in cards (Zenith had rip cards and Pacific had Cardsupials), other jumbo cards (Donruss Studio). I like all of those gimmicks, though. They were an attempt at bringing something new and novel to the card collecting world.

Unfortunately, the three things that came out of the 1990s were parallels (forced supply limitations getting more and more rare), relic cards (which led to controversy over cutting up valuable artifacts, authenticity, and even appropriateness - I remember the "What's next? Sock cards?" discussion coming up in card shops), and autographs. Don't get me wrong, all three of those can be fun to collect, but couldn't we have not been so harsh on Cardsupials?

And yes, cards in cans sound stupid. But the cans are great displays for a collector stacked up on a shelf, or having just one can of your favorite player next to a Starting Lineup figurine. And now cards come in nice wooden boxes or metal tins that people keep and display - with no players on the front at all! Yes, the card set inside Pinnacle Inside was lackluster at best, but the gimmick was sound, even if you needed to raid the kitchen to open your packs.

I digress. The 1990s were the peak of my card collecting years, and I enjoyed the ride. My favorite card is one that you can easily find for less than a buck, though:
Upper Deck's SP cards were some of the most sought-after inserts in their day. MJ playing baseball? Well, before he suited up for the Barons, he took BP in Comiskey Park, and Upper Deck put him on a limited baseball card. Tom Selleck with Frank Thomas for Mr. Baseball. Robin Yount and George Brett reaching career milestones. And in the 2000s, Upper Deck revived the SP inserts. #7: LeBron James tossing out a first pitch in Cleveland.

There are a lot of Upper Deck cards commemorating Rickey Henderson's stolen base record and Nolan Ryan's achievements late in his career, but this one remains my favorite. It's an art card featuring two of my favorite players at their greatest moments. Vernon Wells is probably one of the two most prolific baseball artists out there (Dick Perez, anyone?). So this card remains special for me even today, when I can sometimes find it in quarter or even dime boxes.

Let's not forget that Nolan Ryan's 5000th strikeout was Rickey Henderson. Do you think Rickey did that on purpose when he had the chance, so he would get one more mention in the record books?


  1. Rickey loves Rickey, so that wouldn't surprise me one bit. As for the 90's... it was a great decade of collecting. Sure 98% of the stuff has dropped in value. But the ingenuity from that era is second to none.

    1. Those who collected for value were doomed to fail. They almost always are.

  2. I pulled that Ryan-Henderson card when I was 9 years old. I remember buying a HUGE screw down holder at Wal Mart to keep it in. It was the prize of my collection for at least two years.

    1. Compared to today's print runs, the 1990s SPs are pretty common. But back then, they were pretty rare. I'm surprised they haven't kept their value more - the Elite Series inserts from Donruss certainly have.