1991 Donruss – The Elite Quest

When I was in the 9th grade (1991), I was obsessed with a PC game called Space Quest Chapter 2 – Vohaul’s Revenge.  This was before a lot of the RPG games were released and I thought it was really cool.  All of the Nintendo games at the time were basically “games with a little story” and this was a “story with a little game”.  Before Nintendo, the Atari just had games that were nearly impossible to beat unless you were some sort of genius that could figure out patterns and tendencies of the CPU opponent.  Up until SQ2, the closest I had gotten to an RPG was Bedlam on the Tandy 1000.  Bedlam was a text only game that gave you options throughout the experience and your survival was based on the choices you made.  Does anyone remember this game or am I dating myself?Back to SQ2. This game sticks in my mind because I discovered it the first year I took keyboarding in high school.  We would learn how to type for half of the class and then play games like Space Quest and Oregon Trail (another great one) for the other half of the class.  We could even get extra credit if we came in before school or during lunch to work on the computer.  I used my lunch period for basketball but I did make it in to the keyboarding class a few times before homeroom to work on Space Quest.  I was offered extra credit to play PC games!  Who wouldn’t have taken advantage of that?  I wish my Trigonometry class had offered such a sweet deal!My goal was to complete SQ2 before the end of the semester.  I have always been somewhat of a completionist with video games and try to finish what I start.  That has been detrimental at times because I will spend too much time focused on one game and miss something else that comes out.  I’ve been playing Borderlands 2 since Christmas 2016 and am painfully close to finishing it.  I got 3 games for Christmas and haven’t even cracked the wrapper on the other 2.  Granted, I don’t have as much time to play video games anymore but I still enjoy getting lost in the pixelated world of make believe.As I played through SQ2, I found myself stumped at various intervals.  You controlled your player, Roger Wilco, with the arrow buttons but you had to type what you wanted him to do, i.e. pick berries.  The berry picking came during the maze screen which had a living plant with roots stretched out over the screen.  You had to navigate the roots to get to the berries.  I remember being on this screen for about a week!  I would wander aimlessly from screen to screen and just command Roger to do certain things until it worked.  I was totally flying by the seat of my pants.  I would learn that the berries were to be smashed and rubbed all over Roger so he would be able to walk through a swamp where a creature was waiting to eat him.  The berries would cause a bad aftertaste and allow him to survive.  That protective action of smashing the berries took about 3 weeks to figure out.I played this game for 9 solid weeks.  I played this game every day for over 2 months and didn’t finish it.  I made it through the jungle planet, found my way to the escape ship and flew back to Vohaul’s Asteroid.  Once on the asteroid, I even made it to Vohaul’s chamber and was shrunken down and placed in a glass globe.  It was here that I realized that I missed something along the way.  I missed the item that would free me from the glass globe.  My mission and semester ended with me completely unfulfilled and wondering what finishing the game was like.  Not until today did I go to YouTube and watch the last few minutes of the walkthrough and realized that I was mere moments from completing the game.  A glass cutter on Level 3 in the janitorial closet cost me success.  One small oversight!Sometimes we take for granted what little decisions we make or don’t make can ultimately cost us.  Because I had grown weary of the minutia of aimlessly wandering Vohaul’s Asteroid, I lost sight of the goal. I just wanted to be done.  Enter another quest that started in 1991that I have yet to complete.  I had a golden opportunity to complete it very early on but a small decision that I made cost me.  When ’91 Donruss hit the market, they introduced a new “chase card” in the hobby that has driven me crazy for the last 26 years; The Elite Series.  I have one in my safe, a ’92 graded Ken Griffey Jr, but I bought it off of eBay because just like in SQ2, I had grown weary of the minutia of aimlessly searching packs for that golden ticket.I would buy small pack lots online or I would pick up loose packs when I would find them at the LCS or a junk store.  I’ve opened what feels like 1,000,000 packs of 1991 Donruss but I’ve never pulled an Elite Series card.  I did pull a Robin Yount Legend Series from 1992 but I am still looking for that beautiful marbled design of ’91 Elite.  Like throwing the switch on Vohaul’s Life Support System, the satisfaction of pulling this card has eluded me.  Unlike SQ2, I don’t have to have an old school computer and floppy disks to finally realize that dream.  In the case of this particular box, it cost me a solid .99 and $5.00 shipping.  That’s not a bad price to chase a dream!Before we get to this box and as I mentioned above, I had my chance in 1991.  My friend David and I used to stay over at each others house on the weekend and we were always begging for packs of cards at Wal-Mart so we could open and trade.  We would usually buy different products so we could spread out the different designs and pulls amongst each other.  I remember liking football cards more than David at the time but I still collected all sports.  I believe I bought several packs of Pro Line Football while he got the Donruss baseball packs on this fateful trip.  I was looking for the Pro Line autograph insert at the time.  I never pulled that either but David did uncover an Andre Dawson Elite Series in one of those Donruss packs and I will forever remember the day that I passed on Donruss to go after an autograph of Santa Claus!So here I am back at the well again and going to take a stab at a box of ’91 Donruss.  The cards themselves are a much improved version from 1990, which was the deep ketchup red.  The new design includes a blue border that is much easier on the eyes.  The name and position is at the bottom of the card and is no longer in the cursive font from the previous year.  There is a definite ‘90’s flair with the neon tire tread marks and random hot colored lines on the blue border but that is part of the retro allure for me when I go back to ’91 Donruss.  The set was broken up into two series’ with 386 cards in Series 1 and 384 in Series 2 for a total of 770 cards.  This was a massive set to say the least.  The box held 36 packs with 15 cards and a puzzle piece in each.  The puzzle for 1991 was Willie Stargell.Diamond Kings returned as a Donruss staple.  I collected most of the DK set with this box break missing only Ramon Martinez, Edgar Martinez, Dave Righetti, Pedro Guerrero and the Checklist.  There are some big 90’s names here with Clemens, Larkin, Bonds and Sandberg.  The best name is obviously the Ron Gant!The Rated Rookie Class was actually pretty solid at the time this set was released.  Bernard Gilkey, Derek Bell, Moises Alou, Tino Martinez and Ray Lankford were all desirable names.  The biggest name was Phil Plantier.  He was highly sought after in 1991.Series 1 included the American League All Stars and I pulled; Steve Sax, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Sandy Alomar Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Rickey Henderson, Bob Welch and Wade Boggs.  The A’s were well represented.I also pulled several players that were pretty high on my prospect board in 1991.  They were high on most everyone’s board as a matter of fact.  These players included Alex Fernandez, Jerome Walton, Jerald Clark, Jim Abbott, Gregg Jefferies and Eric Anthony.The ’91 set was loaded with stars from the 80’s and 90’s.  I can’t list them all but look at this spread!  Jr., Ryan, Clemens, McGwire, Glavine, Big Unit, Boggs, Brett, Wizard, Cal, Gwynn and Doc are just a handful of the names available here.Finally, it wouldn’t be 1991 without a terribly miscut card.  Here is a Craig Biggio DK for your viewing pleasure.  I wonder how this would grade out!Alas, no Elite Series found within this box.  I did find the hero and the goat from Braves Playoff lore.  It was a box that was still sealed in the Donruss packaging so should be pretty clean for the most part.  I have seen odds ranging from 1 in 4-5 cases.  Think about that for a minute.  There were 8 Elite Cards numbered to 10,000.  There were 2 other Elite cards that included a Ryne Sandberg Auto (#’d to 5,000) and Nolan Ryan Legend (#’d to 7,500).  That is 92,500 cards spread out over approximately 4 cases per.  That is 370,000 cases with 20 boxes per case.  Using my trusty calculator, that is at least 7,400,000 boxes for a total of 266,400,000 packs!!  Now, break that down into the card total of 3,996,000,000!  So the pull rate for 92,500 Elite Cards spread out over 4 Billion??  That means that 1 in every 43,000 cards was potentially that sweet Elite insert!  My head is spinning right now!As for the set itself, the design is good and the checklist is loaded with former stars.  The rookie class in Series 1 didn’t really pan out with the exception of Moises Alou and Tino Martinez.  Diamond Kings were run of the mill but would get an overhaul in the very near future.  I can only give this set a Dub Score of 3.  If the Elite Cards weren’t quite so elusive, maybe it would get a 4 but I need odds better than one in every 80 boxes to feel like I have a good shot.  It’s not a bad set but it’s nothing that I go crazy over when I see it sitting on a shelf.  If it’s under $10, I’ll probably buy just for the chance of the Elite Card.  Maybe one day I’ll pull one and I’ll bump the score up.  But until then, this is an improvement from ’90 and a better effort than ’91 Score and Fleer.  Nothing more, nothing less.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Saturday Morning Cardtoons

When I was a kid, I lived for waking up on Saturday mornings and camping out in front of the TV for cartoons.  Cartoons didn’t mess around in the 80’s.  Today, they probably wouldn’t seem kid friendly and we’re sometimes even kinda violent but I loved them.  Seriously, watch an old Tom and Jerry cartoon today.  Jerry will chase after Tom with a 2 foot butcher knife while Tom tries to split Jerry in half with an ax!  All the while Spike is trying to eat Tom and protect Jerry.  Maybe you don’t have kids and aren’t experiencing today’s cartoons but trust me, the stuff we used to watch would never pass the ratings test today.  Mickey Mouse Clubhouse teaches how to count and spell while the Mickey Mouse I watched as a kid chased Pluto around and called him a stupid mutt.Looney Tunes wasn’t a whole lot better.  Remember Elmer Fudd hunting Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny?  How many times did Daffy or Bugs make the barrel of the shotgun bend around and shoot Elmer?  Would you let your kids watch cartoons with shotguns today?  I watch anything and everything on TV but I am careful about what my kids watch.  Well, except for one cartoon exception I’ll get to in a minute.  What about Wiley Coyote and Road Runner?  They tried their best to murder each other for entire episodes.  There was poisoned food, anvils and rockets all being used to end the life of the opposing cartoon character.  Many times so one could eat the other.  Let that sink in the next time you think something your kid is watching may be too violent.

Then there were actual fighting cartoons like Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, Mask and GI Joe.  The entire cast of characters were weaponized and had special fighting skills.  Transformers was my personal favorite but He-Man was pretty big for a while too.  I remember having the Castle of Grayskull toy with He-Man, Battle Cat, Skeletor, Man at Arms and Panthor.  My favorite toy though was Man E Faces because you could rotate his head inside his helmet and he could change into a monster.  I spent many hours battling for the supremacy of Eternia.  Man, I miss He-Man!As I got older, The Simpsons were introduced and I lived on that for quite a while.  I was never as big of a Simpson’s guy as my cousin Adam but I watched it on the regular.  Adam had the Nintendo games and collector cards for Simpsons.  He could also quote all the lines from the Itchy and Scratchy Show.  We then moved to Ren and Stimpy and I can still sit down and watch an episode if I catch it on late at night.  My favorite episode was when they played the board game, “Don’t Whiz On The Electric Fence.”  As you can see, the cartoons got more R rated as I got older.The one that I still watch today, and will let my daughter watch on occasion, when I know it’s a reasonable episode, is King of the Hill.  I actually have my DVR set to record it every night and I will go on a binge from time to time and rip off 5 or 6 episodes in a sitting.  I have seen them all multiple times but they never get old.  Hank Hill is a man’s man and he lives life the right way.  I can quote most of the episodes and even try to do a “Damnit Bobby” impression from time to time.  I only imagine that Nathan Gunderson is living a life like Hank because that’s the way it is in Texas.What does this have to do with baseball cards?  Well in 1993, the two combined to produce a unique baseball card product called Cardtoons.  This was a 95 card parody set that included MLB player cartoons on the front and crazy highlights on the back.  And while they are dated ’93, they weren’t actually released until later in ’94.  I remember finding them childish when they came out because I was trying to find Tony Gwynn autographs and $100 Elite inserts.  My opinion has changed a little since then.  I now see them as pretty interesting and a humorous look back at players from the 80’s and 90’s.  They aren’t very valuable but they are pretty fun.  There’s also a pretty interesting lawsuit you can read about in which MLB sued Cardtoons because they didn’t have an MLB license.  The courts found that a parody card didn’t fall into the category of a reproduction and Cardtoons eventually won the case.The box I have for this post includes 36 packs with 8 cards per pack.  The checklist was pretty solid for early 90’s and they even had 5 insert sets.  The most sought after of the inserts were the Grand Slam Foil cards.  They were tough to pull back when I couldn’t buy a full box.  Not that I ever wanted a full box of Cardtoons back when I was 16, but the foil cards were really cool.  In fact, I like the art on the cards and I think the cards would probably be more sought after if they were inserts as opposed to parodies.  So let’s check out the box break.

Rambo Canseco
Mark McBash

Ryne Sandbox

Ozzie Myth

Tony Twynn

Reggie October

Cal Ripkenwinkle

Will Clock

Franken Thomas

Ken Spiffy Jr.

Just Air Jordan

I was able to pull something from all 5 Insert sets and they were actually more fun than I remember.  The Field of Greed 9 card insert set formed a larger photo which was a pretty bold shot at the previous work stoppages and the current state of the game with the ’94 Strike.  My favorites though are the Foil inserts.  The photos really don’t do them justice as they are very colorful and striking.

The Politics
Field Of Greed

The Replacements

Big Bang Bucks

Grand Slam Foil

And lastly….My Atlanta Braves

This set was not welcomed by the MLBPA and Cardtoons was pretty blunt about what they thought of the strike.  You have to remember that this was a very difficult time for baseball.  The fans were very upset with what was going and many of us were turning away from baseball and card collecting because of it.  The strike was a big reason for me entering my Dark Period.  It’s all water under the bridge 23 years later and the cards can be taken as just a part of the culture at that time.  I enjoyed ripping this box and was very pleased with my Foil pickups.  I put the whole set together, including the Field of Greed and Politics insert sets.  The box only cost $13 and the cards were all in good shape and held up well over time.If you’re in a silly mood and want to go back and enjoy some art cards, this is a box to try.  The names are a little bit of a reach at times but the art saves most of the corny comedy.  I am probably leaning towards a 4 on the Dub-O-Meter because it’s a cheap box, the art is good and the Foil cards are excellent.  Don’t expect a lot of “bang” outside of the Foil but the backs of the cards do have some funny tidbits.  So while it’s not the King of the Hill when it comes to sportscards, it’s definitely better than Thundarr the Barbarian.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

1986 Topps Traded – Heeeerrrrrreeee’s Jose!

1986 was a pretty eventful year for both the country and for your humble sports blogger. Some events were awesome, some were frightening and some were just downright tragic! I was 9 and certain things freeze in your mind at that age that you carry with you for the rest of your life. Not every memory sticks but the ones that do are pretty important and meaningful, whether good or bad. 1986 was loaded with them and really stands as a pivotal year in my youth.

The year started with a horrible tragedy witnessed by most of the world on national television. In January, one of America’s most memorable disasters happened when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded about a minute after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. I was actually 8 when this happened with my birthday being in February and I, like many other school children at the time, watched this unfold on live television. This was an important launch because a teacher, Christa McAuliffe was chosen among 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher In Space program. She was going to teach a few lessons from space on the ship and I remember it being a really big deal.

I can still see the image of those astronauts walking through a galley and smiling and waving at a crowd of people. It’s one of those moments that I’ll carry with me forever. We all have those certain moments and this is definitely one of mine. I remember just staring at the TV trying to figure out what happened. The adults didn’t know what to say. The kids didn’t really even know what we were actually seeing. It was a horrible tragedy that took the lives of all 7 astronauts and captivated the nation. The compartment that held the crew was eventually found on the ocean floor with all crew members still inside. Such a haunting moment in our history.On a much more upbeat note but still frightening for me personally, I saw The Shining for the first time that year as well. You may be asking how a 9 year old would wind up seeing The Shining. Well, I don’t really remember how it happened. I just know that I was at the summer babysitter’s house and she had an older son who had the movie on the tube. I remember the first time I saw those creepy twins in the hallway. I had one of those big wheel tricycles and I was horrified at the thought of riding it around that haunted hotel. That movie could’ve broken me at that early age but thankfully, I’ve stuck with horror movies as my favorite genre into adulthood. I still watch that movie on a somewhat regular basis and I think about how paralyzing some parts were to me but I couldn’t look away. When he burst into the bathroom with an axe and said, “Heeerrreee’s Johnny!”, I almost threw in the towel.Another movie I watched that year was actually a new flick. Top Gun hit the big screen and it was more my speed at 9. I do remember being pretty broken up about Goose dying (spoiler alert) though. The best/worst memory from that movie was when Ice Man said he was “dangerous” and made a horrible clenching of his teeth that even gave us kids douche chills. I was not a fan of Ice. It was the first movie that made me hate Michael Ironside too. He knew Maverick got him whether he was below the hard deck or not – sore loser. And even in 1986, the volleyball scene seemed so out of place and unnecessary. All in all though, it was a classic movie and still very watchable to this day. There is even a rumor of a new Top Gun Reboot coming out in 2019 that will star Maverick himself, Tom Cruise. The jury is still out on that idea.

So as you can see, I’m not lying about how packed the year was with events and memorable moments. But the year was packed with something else that hits closer to home with this blog. 1986 was a tremendous year for Rookies in MLB. Specifically, the ’86 Topps Traded set was loaded. Everybody clamored for the ’86 Donruss Canseco Rated Rookie, and rightfully so. But the ’86 Topps Traded set included a few players that wouldn’t be included in other sets until 1987 so it was really a sneak peek at the ’87 hotness that was coming.The ’86 Topps Design has always seemed like one of those “you either love or hate” sets. But I have personally always loved the design. It was a total change from the previous few years with the heavy black border at the top so as to include the team name. Unfortunately, the black top border has caused nightmares with grading over the years and a “10” is quite elusive. The backs of the cards were a pinkish red that I really liked, which may come as a surprise to those who know I dislike the deep ketchup red of ’90 Donruss. But this red was more subtle and soothing to the retina. They differ slightly from the base set as the red is deeper there. The Traded Set came with 132 cards, including a checklist that included later season rookies and players that had been on the move during the season.The set can be found for $10-$15 and represents a very affordable buy if you are in the market for some big name 80’s rookies. Here are a few that are included.

Barry Bonds – The future “home run king” had very memorable ’87 Donruss and Topps cards but this ’86 Traded was ahead of the curve.

Bobby Bonilla – Here with the White Sox but would soon become a teammate of Bonds in Pitt. He had no clue at this point that he would be a millionaire way into his retirement thanks to a terrible contract on behalf of the Mets.

Jose Canseco – The famous “what am I doing here” face was Jose’s first Topps card. I wish people would give Canseco cards the respect they deserve!

Will Clark – Ultimately underrated in the collecting word today, Will Clark was a superstar in San Francisco. And his middle name was Nuschler

Andres Galarraga – The Big Cat would star in other markets but got his start north of the border in Montreal. He was beloved in Atlanta.

Bo Jackson – The greatest athlete of my generation – Vincent Edward Jackson. Side note for those who didn’t know. He got the name “Bo” from his brothers who called him a Bo “Boar” Hog when he was a kid.

Wally Joyner – Another 1B that is underrated by today’s collectors but was very good in his playing days.

John Kruk – Honestly, I can’t get past the filthy hat and Padres brown shirt. His body type eventually led to a move to 1B, much like mine in softball today.

Kevin Mitchell – If you watched baseball in the late 80’s, you know Kevin Mitchell. He was an absolute terror in the batters box and even caught an Ozzie Smith flyball barehanded in the outfield once That you have to see to believe!. Just a monster!

Danny Tartabull – Tartabull was another beast at the plate during his career. He also helped George Costanza avoid a road rage incident on Seinfeld once.

Managers – There are even a couple of big name rookie managers in this set too!

Airbrush – I couldn’t complete a post on ’86 Topps Traded without a couple of examples of the horrendous airbrush jobs. This Seaver and Claudell are really bad but there are others. The Griffey Sr. above is weak as well.

Did I mention there were a ton of rookies in this set? 1986 Topps Traded is a very affordable set and is a great one to own because of some of the big names included. I love this Traded Set and these players are part of the MLB I grew up with. To me, this would have been a great time to start collecting if I hadn’t been abusing my own psyche by watching movies like The Shining. I do remember collecting some Star Wars stuff around this time but it didn’t stick and baseball cards eventually took center stage. Fortunately, I can go back and buy these sets now and they are cheaper than some shiny variation of a middle reliever in 2017 Bowman Platinum. This set is a perfect example of what I like to sort through when I sit down and go card rummaging. Star power and affordability make this a 5 for me. It could get a knock by some for the design and lack of mint condition in most cases but I like the design and I’m not getting these graded anytime soon.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards. Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did! It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking! What are you waiting on?

1989 Pro Set Hits The “Prime Time”

I remember certain times in my life when I was the new kid.  I was the outsider trying to enter into a world which I had not previously been a part of and trying to fit in.  We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.  Maybe it was the first day at a new school or the first day at camp.  It may have been a new summer baseball team or a new neighborhood.  Whatever situation it may have been, I’m sure you can think of at least once where you have felt like the newbie who had to prove yourself or show that you belonged.  I most recently felt that way when I joined the sports card twitter community.I have been on some form of social media since AOL dial up back in 1998.  I remember the awe that I felt when I could “instant message” someone in another state just by looking up profiles and seeing if they were online.  It felt like something from Back to the Future with the video phones and digital billboards.  It was a little scary at the same time because you never really knew if you were talking to the person who claimed to be on the other end.  I first started out communicating with my personal friends but eventually I branched out into the cyber world.Then MySpace came along and revolutionized social media to the point of where you could add photos to your homepage, link your favorite music and even design the background to your preference.  Everybody’s first friend was Tom on MySpace and I think he’s still there.  That was where people were starting to promote their brands and you could learn more than you ever wanted to know about them.  MySpace was top of the line at one point in time.  FaceBook would eventually take over and it still remains the most popular social media site among most people (totally a guess).When Twitter first caught my eye, I was skeptical.  I created an account in August of 2009.  Wow, I didn’t know that it had been so long until I just checked my settings.  Eight years later, I’m sitting on 255 followers and they are mostly friends, family and a few sports fans.  I never put a lot of focus on Twitter because FaceBook and my blog seemed to be the best form of communication.  Plus, there is a very negative side to Twitter as well because anybody and everybody can @ mention you when they want to bust your balls.  But I eventually found the sports card community through Bean’s Ballcard Blog (@beansbcargblog).  I don’t really even remember how it happened other than one of my card related blog posts got a retweet and my traffic exploded.I’ve always enjoyed writing (especially about cards), whether just in a notebook or for public consumption via the blog.  I’ve just never been able to find a broad enough audience that could relate and share their experiences.  A lot of my friends from high school stopped collecting a long time ago.  And while they appreciate the occasional blog post about baseball cards, they don’t really sit on the edge of their seat waiting on my review of 2017 Panini Classics.  In fact, I don’t know if anyone even does that now if I’m being honest.  But I noticed a connection with people almost immediately upon Kin sharing that blog post.I had spent the previous couple of years just writing about whatever was on my mind and occasionally hopping on Twitter to see what was trending.  I have a 24/7 brain and it keeps me up most nights because it will never turn off.  I discovered that writing could help me unclutter my head from time to time and after some prodding from my family, the blog was born in 2015.  Even after I started the blog, I just aimlessly chose a topic and started writing.  It was ‘t until my post got shared with like minded card collectors that it all seemed to click.  I knew the subject that I really wanted to write about all along and I finally found more than a handful of people who were interesting in reading it.I have collected for 28+ years and have been writing privately for almost as long.  And with the help of a kind stranger, I was able to find an audience as well.  So with that, my alter-ego Twitter page, Dub Mentality, was born.  Dub has been a nickname for several years because my middle initial is W.  It’s J-Dub, Dub, Dubya, you name it.  So I began writing more about cards and I started adding followers that seemed to like the same thing I did.  Again, I never knew the Twitter Card World existed and I missed out on it for far too long.  But once I found it, I embraced it like I was 12 and opening my first pack again.Here’s where the new kid part comes in.  As is my own nature, the Twitter Community was originally skeptical of me I’m sure.  I would pick up a follower or two here and there.  I kept writing and kept reaching out to important people in the hobby like Eric Norton and Ryan Cracknell to try and navigate this new world.  I picked up the occasional MLB player as a follower, including my favorite player Ron Gant (thanks to somewhat of a Twitter movement started by NRUSSweTRUST).  But all the while, I’ve kept blogging and trying to share my experiences with other people.  And that’s what’s so cool about this whole community.  I haven’t had to be anyone I’m not in order to fit in.  I am being J-Dub, who likes sports cards, 90’s references, old cheesy movies and Deftones and I have found other people who actually like those same things!I have experienced in the last few months what we should all experience in a perfect world.  Coming together with people who share similar interests and talking, sharing and being there for each other.  If somebody on my timeline catches me talking about something I’ve been looking for, it all of a sudden shows up at my door.  I try to do the same thing.  When I see people really like something I share that I don’t PC, it’s likely going to them in the next mail run.  I think that is the way the hobby should work.  It is a hobby after all.  And at some point, we all lost ourselves in the business aspect of card collecting and it became less enjoyable.  I’m not there anymore and that’s thanks in large part to the new community that welcomed me in like one of their own.  I didn’t feel like a new kid for too long.I know it’s a bit of a reach but I am going to bring this full circle and talk about another new kid on the block in 1989.  No, I’m not talking about Jordan Knight.  If you get that joke, you earn the respect of Dub.  If you don’t, you are probably too young to know what I’m talking about.  In 1989, Ludwell Denny, an oil as described on the back of his football card, obtained a football card license from the NFL and began printing Pro Set football cards.  Topps had been the only game in town until 1989, with the exception of Bowman in the 50’s.  There may have been some brands here and there but by and large, Topps was the player.  In ’89 that changed with the introduction of Pro Set and Score.  They opened the door for Fleer, Pro Line, Action Packed and countless others to begin producing football cards.I have established here on the blog before that 1989 was my rookie year of collecting.  I happened to join the fray when a lot of others were jumping in.  Don’t forget Upper Deck and Bowman’s return in baseball.  Basketball saw Hoops start printing cardboard and Skybox would be one year later.  But in football, Pro Set was a new, colorful design that was very popular in my collection.  Score turned out to be the cash cow but hindsight is 20/20 right?  Anyhow, Pro Set was readily available at Wal Mart, Piggly Wiggly and Big B in my home town and when I wanted football that was the pack I bought.  Dubbed as “The Official NFL Card”, Pro Set was also the Official NFL Card of Dub.The set was broken up into two series’ and included only a few inserts.  Those inserts were a 30 card Announcers set and a 23 card Super Bowl Logo set.  It is known for its strong rookie class of Barry Sanders, Troy Aikman, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.  There was also a new insert with Santa Claus on it.  I don’t really know how Santa made it into the set but I know that collectors still like to pull that card when ripping Pro Set.  The set was made up of 561 cards and a wax box came with 36 packs of 14 cards, 1 Extra Point Game Piece and 1 Super Bowl Collectible.The design of the card is pretty memorable as Pro Set used a base color for different teams that included purple, green, orange, red and blue.  There were small white lines on either side of the card slightly reminiscent of ’86 Donruss.  The players name was in the center at the top with the NFL and Conference Logo on either side.  The bottom of the card had the Pro Set slogan, “Pro Set – The Official NFL Card.”  The backs of the cards had a small inset photo of the player, which was a deviation from the years of Topps with no photo on the back.  The back also included statistical information, highlights from their career and the usual vital stats that included birth and draft information.The set has a nice mixture of 80’s and 90’s stars as pictured above.  These were some of the best players in NFL history and any card with them is worthy of a spot in my PC.There were also several Tecmo Super Bowl stars that I would use to dominate the competition on NES.  While they may not have been household names worthy of mention with Montana and Rice, they were definite studs in the gaming world.The coaches were depicted on cards just as managers in baseball.  There are several notable names here including Bill Parcells, Sam Wyche, Chuck Noll and Mike Shanahan with the Raiders.These were the Super Bowl Cards that were included 1 per pack.  I ripped through 20 packs and pulled these 4 over and over.  At this rate, it would take a full case to build the Super Bowl Logo set.  This set should be worth a mint!While I opened a Series 1 box, which I picked up at the LCS for $9.95, I do own the big rookies so I thought I would share them here as well.Even though I didn’t win a trip to the Pro Bowl, I consider the box a success.  For under $10, you are really just looking for nostalgic value and this box had a ton.  If you are trying to score the big rookies, you have to go with a Series 2 box but if you just want to take an inexpensive trip down memory lane, you could do a lot worse than 1989 Pro Set.  The cards were in good condition in the “baggy” packaging and there was no UV coating or Gum getting in the way.  I loaded up with duplicates of Kelly, Montana, Bo and Elway.  It’s really a nice value for late 80’s football.  In fact, it is a fraction of what a box of Score costs.  I’d rip another box without any problem and just add more Falcons and legends to my PC.  It’s not a set that will knock you dead but it still holds up in my opinion.  The cost, rookies available and checklist of superstars makes this a solid 4 on the Dub-O-Meter.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.
2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?



Member’s Only – A Prestigious Club

When I was a wee lad, I remember having a “clubhouse”.  This clubhouse was a shed in my backyard that my dad used to store tools and I would sometimes go out to it and read books or play with my transformers.  It was a pretty exclusive club with me being the charter member and only my little brother occasionally attending functions.  It may have been in that clubhouse that I first developed an affinity for reading and being alone with my thoughts.  I remember having these two specific books; one about a kid learning to brush his teeth and another with the same kid learning his manners.  I can see those books in my mind’s eye right now but I can’t think of the titles.  I would love to google those and see if there are copies floating around the interwebs.Anyhow, I remember this clubhouse because it was where I could be “grown up” and pretend that I was on my own and taking care of myself.  My memory always associates that clubhouse with those tiny Dixie paper cups that used to stick on the wall in a container by the sink.  They were really there for me to rinse when I brushed my teeth, which is what I was learning from that children’s book.  But I would grab a few of those and fill them up with Hawaiian Punch and haul them out the clubhouse to keep me sustained for the hour or so I’d be “living on my own”.  It probably would’ve been easier to take a regular sized cup but I wanted to decorate “my place” with kids stuff.  The snack of choice for me back in those days was BBQ “Tato Skins”.  I think these are still around in the T.G.I. Friday’s variety but they aren’t the same as I remember them.I remember that time as being liberating for me as a 10 year old.  I also treated the shed with reverence though too because it was in fact, a club.  I have been in other clubs since like Sertoma and Rotary.  I even had an Al Bundy “No Ma’am” T Shirt one time so I consider myself a member of that club as well.  But nothing is as cool or gratifying as being in a club as a kid.  We could make up our own rules, set our own qualifications for admittance and also establish our own rewards for being members.  Sometimes you weren’t allowed in the clubhouse during a meeting if you weren’t a member.  Or maybe you didn’t get one of the cool Dixie cups to drink your Hawaiian Punch out of.  Clubs were cool and every kid deserved to be in at least one.At 14, there was a new kind of club that I desperately wanted to be in.  This club had some major perks but was quite expensive to join.  It would have taken $29.95 to be a member of this club and in 1991, I didn’t make that kind of cheddar; nor did I have the negotiation skills to talk my parents into sponsoring me.  I was fortunate enough that they were buying ’91 Fleer and Donruss baseball cards.  I couldn’t talk them into dropping a 30 spot to get me in the 1991 Stadium Club.  I could’ve reduced that entry price to $19.95 with 10 wrappers from Stadium Club but hell, those packs were at least $5 apiece and upwards of $8 in some stores.  That doesn’t seem like much of a discount on the club dues when you can spend $50 to save $10 on membership.  But I wanted in the club just the same.I’ve written about 1991 Stadium Club HERE BEFORE so we won’t rehash that whole piece.  But the “Club Membership” was a different level of card collecting in those days.  The club membership was an interesting concept that was created to provide a little extra prestige to an already premium product.  When ’89 Upper Deck hit the scene, the other card companies were sent scrambling to the marketing boardroom to try and come up with innovative ways to keep the market share they had enjoyed over the previous 10 years.  Donruss came up with the Leaf premium set, Fleer began working on Ultra and Topps’ response was teaming up with Kodak for Topps Stadium Club.  And what better spin on Stadium Club than the creation of a membership requirement for special perks?The first time I saw that Membership Insert Card was both exciting but depressing at the same time.  I knew that my membership would be blocked by the steep joining fee.  I also knew that at least a couple of my friends would become members and taunt me with those special membership perks.  What were those perks, you ask?  First, you got a 1 year subscription to Topps Magazine, which was released quarterly.  You also received Charter Member cards with 1990 highlights featuring players like Ken Griffey Jr. and Kevin Maas.  To commemorate your membership, you were given an Id Card and your very own membership number.  The most sought after perk of membership for me though was the 50 Card “Member’s Only” Set that you would receive in 3 installments through the end of the year.The first installment included cards 1-10, which were all baseball and featured a highlight from the season for the pictured player.  The second installment was cards 11-30 with more baseball player highlights and end of season awards.  The final installment was cards 31-50 and included NFL and NHL players.  The only thing missing was the sweet keychain you got for being a “Charter Member”.  Being a multi sport collector, I would love to have had the full 50 card set but I would have taken any installment at the time.  I remember some of my friends trading me an occasional single from the Member’s Only set but I never got my hands on a full set or even full installment.  That is until this past Friday when I visited Middle Georgia Sports Cards.The shop always has a generous selection of junk wax era cards and I usually spend my time sifting through boxes and displays of those cards.  I like to add a couple of new products but I spend 95% of the shopping trip looking at old wax.  As I was looking through the “Wax Packs for .15 cents” box, this little black box off to the side caught my eye.  I immediately recognized the gold embossing on the box and knew it was Stadium Club.  I had luckily stumbled on the second installment lurking on a shelf for $4.95 so I had to grab it up.  Seeing the box itself immediately took me back to the good ole days when I desperately wanted to be a member of the prestigious club.  It only took me 26 years but I can finally say that I am at least an honorary member!So it’s time to see what all that anticipation and longing was about so many moons ago.  The set looks just like the base TSC set from ’91 except it has “Member’s Only” foil stamped across the bottom of the card.  The back is also a headline and story from the Stadium Club Herald about the player on the front.  Since it’s only 20 players, I can run through the full checklist below with a small blurb about the reason for inclusion.  I’ll keep it brief as I’ve probably already bored you with all the Dixie cup talk.

  • Jeff Bagwell – NL ROY
  • Roger Clemens – AL Cy Young
  • David Cone – Struck out the side needing only 9 pitches vs Reds
  • Carlton Fisk – Oldest player with All-Star Hit
  • Julio Franco – Majors Batting Champ
  • Tom Glavine – NL Cy Young
  • Pete Harnisch – Perfect Game
  • Rickey Henderson – AL SB Leader
  • Howard Johnson – NL HR Leader
  • Chuck Knoblauch – AL ROY
  • Ray Lankford – Hits For Cycle
  • Jack Morris – Babe Ruth Award
  • Terry Pendleton – NL Batting Champ
  • Terry Pendleton – NL MVP
  • Jeff Reardon – 20+ Saves 10 Straight Years
  • Cal Ripken Jr. – AL MVP
  • Nolan Ryan – 22 Straight 100 K Seasons
  • Bret Saberhagen – No Hitter
  • Canseco/Fielder – AL HR Leaders
  • Mercker/Wohlers/Pena – No Hitter

So even though I’m 40 years old now, I still have plenty of excitement about adding this little box of ’91 wax to my collection.  I know that you can buy any and everything online now and this isn’t necessarily the scarcest product out there.  But this set was pretty important to me in 1991 and I always enjoy finding cards and sets in an actual card shop or vintage store.  Anybody can go online and click “buy” on a web page but there is still something to experience by uncovering the old school sets in an old school way.  Maybe I’m just a cheeseball but that’s the way I prefer it.  For 1991, TSC was top of the line in my book.While I gave the base set a score of 4 on the Dub-O-Meter, the things that brought the set down were the UV coating causing damage to most of the cards and the heavy toxic smell that’s associated with said coating that’s been sealed for a quarter century.  However, these cards weren’t stuck together and they also didn’t have much of an odor.  That may be thanks to them being in a small quantity and stored in a box that could get some air.  Either way, the score is bumped up to a 5 with the absence of the issues present in the box I picked through a couple of weeks ago and the importance of adding the set to my PC.  It also didn’t hurt that the set was way better than the other “Member’s Only” I remember from the early 90’s.  I’ll be keeping my eyes open for Installment’s 1 and 3 so I can compete the set and be a full fledged member of 1991 TSC, minus the ID Card and Member #.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

State of the Hobby – January 1993

In January of 1993, I was preparing to turn 16 years old.  My birthday is February 13 so the early part of the year is always exciting for me.  I usually didn’t have the usual crash after Christmas because I knew that more presents were around the corner.  But as I’ve aged, I’ve actually come to dread my birthday as opposed to celebrating it but I think that is fairly normal.  In ’93, I was getting ready for my driver’s license but I don’t think the world was ready for my driving.  After failing the learner’s test a year before, which wasn’t a huge surprise given my track record for preparing for tests at that age, I was spending that January cramming for the big one.I was also gearing up for baseball season to start as I was entering my first season as a Mitchell-Baker Eagle.  Baseball tryouts were in late February so I had to knock the rust off due to not playing for several months.  In the early 90’s, we didn’t play year round baseball like the kids do today.  We played whatever sport was in season so that meant I hung up my baseball glove in August the year before.  So in between cramming for the driver’s exam and trying to salvage my 10th grade academic year, I was also studying Nolan Ryan’s Pitcher’s Bible.  This book had me curling gallon jugs of water, doing dips in my room and throwing daily 40 pitch warm-up sessions.  I was pretty serious about the Pitcher’s Bible.  I should have taken Geometry that seriously!I went on to pass that driver’s exam, I made the baseball team and I ultimately passed the 10th grade so the work paid off.  I learned one of my first “Life Lessons” from baseball that season too.  In our first game against Thomas County Central, a school that was above us in classification, we battled them punch for punch into the 7th inning.  One of those innings was even a scoreless effort from Dub.  Anywho, in the bottom of the 7th, we were down 5-4.  After one of their pitchers loaded up the bases, TCC rolled out their ace reliever who threw what looked like 200 miles per hour to a 16 year old rookie in his first high school game.  He struck out the first batter.  As the second batter stepped into the batter’s box, I sludged to the on deck circle.  I then turned to my head coach and asked if he was sure he wanted me to hit instead of utilizing a pinch hitter.  I won’t lie, I was scared.My coach snapped back at me, “You’re hitting!”  I didn’t know at the time why that upset him but that’s where the life lesson comes in.  But before I got to the life lesson, I had to face the ace with 2 outs and the bases loaded.  The previous batter had also struck out and aside from a foul ball, nobody had made any contact yet.  I stepped into the box, gripped the bat as tight as I had ever gripped it and watched (even though I didn’t actually see the ball) a high school version of Aroldis Chapman groove a fastball right down the pipe on the first pitch.  I knew the at bat was going to end poorly.  I whiffed on the next pitch.  On the third pitch, I just threw my bat through the strike zone and somehow made contact!  It was a routine grounder to 2nd that was scooped up and tossed over to 1st for the final out of the game.   Were you expecting a game winning single?  Trust me, I wasn’t.

As I walked off the field, some of my teammates actually reached for high 5’s and patted me on the back.  I had just “lost” the game but they were impressed that I made solid contact.  The coach called me into his office while everybody was changing and told me that he only wanted players on his team that had confidence.  I was told that I needed to make the decision right then and there if I wanted to be a part of the team.  He wanted me to come to him and beg him to let me hit in a crucial situation as opposed to asking to be pulled.  He also pointed out that I made good contact and if he had to do it over again, he would trot me right back out there.  It actually turned out to be a confidence building moment for me that I have carried with me since that game.Aside from high school baseball, I was building confidence in my major league baseball card knowledge too.  The industry was changing profoundly and I was having to study my “Beckett Textbook” on a monthly basis to stay on top of my game.  New products, more shows and tons of card shops and dealers were saturating the hobby with so many options that card values were as unstable as Enron stock in 2001.  If you didn’t learn about the new products early enough, you were usually stuck with buying them at a markup cost that you knew was too high.  But you had no choice if you wanted to add certain items to your PC.  It was becoming a volatile time in the hobby and many of us chose to stick with what we knew, only adding premium when we were feeling lucky.As I read through the January 1993 Beckett in preparation for this piece, I was flooded with thoughts of how the hobby was exploding during that time and how exciting it was.  But it was also troubling to look back and wonder how we didn’t see it coming.  Some people did and they were very vocal in the “Reader’s Write” section of this issue.  I commend Rich Klein for fielding some of these doozies as there was a lot of panic and laying blame coming from the public.  Despite several readers saying that they were sure their negative piece would never make it to print, Beckett posted them and eloquently responded to them while never losing a sense of professionalism.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy at times.  While a 16 year old Dub would have wilted under that kind of pressure much like he did in the game against TCC, Mr. Klein took the high road and faced the heaters.The first article I read was “Hobby on the Move”, which went perfectly with my theme of this series being major changes in the hobby.  This article covered the hobby from 1981-1993 and outlined certain changes in the manufacturers (3 in 1981), the hot rookies that had faded (Ron Kittle), the early introduction of premium sets (1984 Topps Tiffany), the heyday of error cards and finally the move to multiple premium options in the early 90’s with Leaf, Topps Stadium Club and Upper Deck.  Even with all of the tumult in the hobby during those years, the last paragraph of the article stuck out the most to me and I try to live by it today.

“Lastly, collecting cards needs to remain fun.  Collect who or what you want to collect without worrying about what anyone else thinks.  It’s your collection.  A little more laughter at the local card show, and a little less investment analysis, may do us all a world of good.”

There was another great piece called “The Hot Corners” which outlined the hot players at 1st and 3rd at the time.  These were young stars that were getting a lot of publicity for their talent.  The list actually holds up some 24 years later with 2 exceptions.  The list included Gary Sheffield, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, Jeff Bagwell, John Olerud, Eric Karros and Edgar Martinez.  All of these players were considered stars for most of their career and a few are rightfully in the Hall of Fame.  The misses were Dean Palmer and Dave Hollins.  But if you collected in 1993, you remember how hot Dean Palmer was for a while!Speaking of Hot, the Hot/Cold list got a quick look before I moved to pricing.  Pricing got a lot of attention during this review because we were starting to see many new products and the years were continuing to pass since the major stars rookie cards.  After reaching #1 in October 1991, Frank Thomas was still found at the top of the hot list for 16 months straight.  The Big Hurt was The Big Get in the early 90’s when pack ripping.  The big mover on the Hot List was Pat Listach who jumped from 29 to 14 in one month and even got an article of his own later in the issue.  Jose Canseco, Pete Rose and Kevin Maas continued their appearances on the cold list.

As I moved to pricing, I knew I was going to see some changes from 1992.  There were some new hot products that were getting a lot of attention, some of the players were cooling off and some were heating up.  Some of the changes were bigger than I thought while some had defied the odds and remained stable.As previously, I had to start with the 1982 Topps Cal Ripken as it was the first major card of the 80’s.  It was valued at $75.00 but dropping.  Though it was still up from $70 in 1992.Then it was on to 1983 where Ryne Sanderg, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs all had rookie cards.  Sandberg was at $60 (-$10), Gwynn was at $40 (+4) and Boggs was at $35 (-$2).The 1984 Fleer Update set continued to amaze me.  Roger Clemens had skyrocketed to $420 (+$160) and Kirby Puckett was $360 (+$130).  Doc Gooden had entered his decline and was down $20 to an even $100.  But what an unbelievable set to own if you’re one of the lucky ones.1984 Donruss was continuing to be a hot product with a set value of $350 (-$15) but it was losing some steam.  Strawberry headlined the set with a value of $48 (-$17) while Mattingly checked in at $45 (-$15) and Joe Carter at $35 (-$10).The 1986 Canseco RC had dropped $15 to $60.And the 1987 Fleer Bo Jackson was tanking, going from $22 in 1992 to $6.50 in 1993,1990 Leaf was my favorite set for many years.  It was beyond my financial reach at 15-16 but I had friends who had them and I was totally jealous.  One friend had the full set in numerical order in a binder!  The cards were beautiful!  The white and silver complimented each other perfectly, making the design ahead of its time in my opinion.  In 1993, it continued to be a very active set and was still holding major value for a 90’s product.  This was the set to own but would eventually be passed by a 1992 product I’ll cover in a moment.  The value Leaf was spinning off was also a hot topic in the Reader’s Write section.  Frank Thomas was valued at $55, Dave Justice at $24, Ken Griffey Jr. at $24, Gary Sheffield at $16 and Steve Avery at $14.  Remember, these were mere base cards!The 1991 Leaf Gold Bonus set had leveled out and started to fall in value since the 1992 issue.  They were still holding solid value at $60 for a 26 card insert set.1991 Stadium Club was rivaling Leaf for early 90’s dominance with a $250 set.  Some of the highlights here were Frank Thomas at $30, Juan Gonzalez at $16, Nolan Ryan Tux at $14 and Jeff Bagwell at $10.1992 Fleer’s 20 card insert set (Rookie Sensations) held 6 times the value of the base set.  Frank Thomas was a $50 card while Juan Guzman was $22. Not to be outdone, Pinnacle jumped on the scene in 1992 and offered some equally stunning inserts.  Team Pinnacle was valued at $425 for 12 cards while Rookie Idols was valued at $275 for 18.  Read that again slowly.  Estimated at 1 in 125 packs, these inserts were carrying individual value of $85 for a Will Clark/Frank Thomas and $70 for a Ryne Sandberg/Roberto Alomar.  Again, this is 1993 folks.The final set I want to touch on in the pricing section was a rather unassuming one in this issue of Beckett.  1992 Bowman was a 705 card set with virtually no inserts outside of a gold foil card found 1 per pack.  This set is most well known for its young superstar checklist that included Chipper Jones, Carlos Delgado, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera.  In 1993, these cards were valued at a combined $7.00.  Today, they run about $50 for the lot.  A box of 1992 Bowman will only cost you about $225, which is virtually unheard of for the “junk wax era”.  In 1993, the set was valued at $90.  This was lower than the value of ‘90 Leaf and ‘91 Topps Stadium club (by a lot) and you can buy multiple boxes of each cheaper than one box of Bowman today.  The other notable highlight of this set that is often discussed is the odd poses and clothing used on some of the rookie cards.  Whenever you are feeling down, just google 1992 Bowman Images and look for players like Braulio Castillo, Jeff Jackson and Ryan Long.  You’ll perk right up, I promise!  This remains the most valuable and popular base set of the 90’s.On to “Reader’s Write”, which is really one of the best sections of 90’s Beckett.  One gentleman wrote in with a word of warning about Home Shopping Networks trying to prey on inexperienced collectors.  This took me back to the first few times I saw salesmen peddling cards on HSC.  These guys made 1990 Donruss seem like ’55 Bowman.  I had totally forgotten about that and got a good chuckle out of that memory.The next reader gives us a glimpse at the strain that was being placed on the modern collector in 1993.  He was very unhappy with the introduction of “all these new premium cards”.  He lamented on the days when you could buy packs for .50.Our final reader had a novel idea of providing customers with an electronic price guide.  Remember, it was 1993.The card show calendar was rocking and rolling with 23 pages of shows.  To give a little depth to what was happening now vs then, the State of Georgia had 43 card shows scheduled for January 1993 with 2 of those being here in Albany.  In 2017, I know of 3 card shows that have taken place in the last 30 days in Georgia and we haven’t had one in Albany in about 20 years.  You could still meet some major stars and get cheap autos back in ’93 as you’ll notice in the photo above.The final article I read in the issue was on Pat Listach.  Collectors from 1992-93 will recognize Listach immediately but some younger collectors may have never heard of him.  He took the hobby by storm in 1993, as evidenced in the Hot/Cold list above.  Listach won the NL ROY in 1992 by hitting .290, collecting 168 hits and stealing 54 bases.  All of those were career highs (except for a .296 average in 16 games in ’94).  He would not play more than 101 games for the rest of his 6 year career.  The star did not shine long but it was very bright in January 1993.I continue to be reminded of cards and players I had forgotten about while I work through the early 90’s Beckett Magazines I have on hand.  I am surprised at some of the values these cards had at the time as well because we have been programmed to think of the “Junk Wax Era” as just that.  But these cards still hold value to collectors who went through those times like I did.  A 1992 Pinnacle Pat Listach is one that I want to keep in a toploader, not because of monetary value but because of what that card meant to me in 1993.  The same can be said for the ’86 Donruss Jose Canseco, which can be purchased for less than $10 on eBay today.So sure, the hobby got really crazy for a while in the early 90’s and it overcorrected itself in a major way in the early 2000’s.  But it was so much fun to be a collector during those days.  It’s why I like opening a box of 1992 Studio or a pack of 1991 Topps.  It’s why I think the statement I highlighted above about collecting what you want is so important to me today.  Most of these cards may never be worth much and they certainly will never be worth what we thought when we were buying them up.  But that’s not what this is about for me anymore.  These cards are a part of the legacy of card collecting.  They are as important as the ’52 Bowman Mantle when you look at the timeline of collecting.  The “Junk Wax Era” is was a very important time for our hobby, no matter how fondly or painfully we look back on it.  I choose to look back fondly because I don’t know that I was ever happier as a collector than during those days.

J-Dub

Topps Archives From The Hardwood

The game of Basketball has always been a big part of my life.  I have blathered on about my love for the hardwood before in my post, Hoop Dreams.  To get a much more detailed background of my basketball past, I you can check that one out.  My first basketball goal was a smaller hoop of the 5 foot variety that sat at the top of a small metal pole with a four pronged base.  It wasn’t sturdy at all and I had to put fire logs or cinder blocks on it to keep it from toppling over.  I eventually got smart and tied it to one of the lattice columns of the backyard shed my parents used for storage.  Once I had it fastened to the front of that shed, it could withstand all of my amazing dunks and trick shots and never fall over.  And as an added bonus, I was able to get rid of the fire logs that constantly posed a threat to my ankles that were protected only by the thin cloth found in Converse All-Stars.When the weather wasn’t cooperating, I took my game inside to the Nerf hoop that hung on my closet door.  Back then, the balls were literally circular foam sponges that were so light that you had to have laser focus to make a shot from further than 3 feet.  And dunks were tough to finish without smashing into the closet door and prompting a visit from your angry mom.  We also had a little lake place that had a huge screened in porch that had a Nerf hoop screwed into the wood siding that totally mixed indoor and outdoor elements for the perfect game.  My cousin and I would play for hours during the summer while others were swimming or skiing.  We were focused totally on hoops!Eventually, I moved to a full size backyard basketball goal that had the neighborhood kids flocking to my house for mini tournaments and 2 on 2 battles.  From 14-20, I was playing basketball 4-5 times a week either at my house, my cousin’s house, the Westwood Gym or the Mitchell-Baker Gym.  I played RA Basketball with the church, I played some basketball at the school and I played in some city leagues after graduation.  I love all sports but as for playing them, basketball carried the torch for me through my teen years.  I played the others but basketball was a cut above.  I still play it today in a recreational city league that doesn’t require you to run a 4.5/40 or have a 28” vertical leap.  It’s competitive and a mix of young and old but none of us are looking to sign a 10 day deal in the D-League with our play.Being so involved in basketball throughout my youth, it was only natural that I would collect basketball cards.  So in 1989, when I began with baseball cards, I also started picking up ’89 Hoops to add to my collection.  Unfortunately, I started collecting too late to have a bunch of ’86 Fleer lying around my collection but that set remains a part of my Sports Card Bucket List.  The big card I was after in 1989 was the David Robinson RC and other stars like Jordan, Bird, Magic, Dominique and Olajuwan.  I don’t care what players come along in today’s NBA, you will never convince me that the league will ever be better than my teen years from 1987-1997.  There were so many legends in the league at that time.  The game was exciting to watch in November and was super charged when the playoffs arrived.  You have to trust me when I say it was the best of times in the NBA.I think basketball cards in general are the forgotten hobby by sports card enthusiasts and deserve more celebration.  Mid to late 80’s basketball cards hold great value and the sets were LOADED with superstars.  And because everybody and their brother weren’t collecting them, they aren’t as abundant in collections as other sports.  I am not saying they weren’t mass produced but I am saying that there are way more ’89 Topps baseball cards in collector boxes than ’89 Hoops.  I collected heavily from 1989-1995 and probably had as many basketball cards as any other sport.  Unfortunately, my basketball cards didn’t survive my dead period like the other sports did.  I have some star cards left and have since collected newer sets but I lost track of most of the older cards in various moves from my parents’ house to bachelor pads to my current family home.My favorite basketball set is the 1993 Topps Archives Set.  The set is much like Archives Baseball of today as it used some of the current stars (at the time) of the NBA on retro Topps designs.  This was the only set where you could find basketball players on famous designs from Topps years 1981-1991.  Yes, you can find Tim Hardaway on a 1989 Topps design and you can find Brad Daugherty on a 1985.  And as an added bonus, the cards were produced in the same “High Definition” of Stadium Club so they are considered a premium set for 1993.  And before you assume the worst, these don’t stick together like 1991 Stadium Club Baseball does.  These are still in very good condition from the pack and are wonderful for the nostalgic collector.The set is numbered to 150 with the cards from 1981 designs being in the front to 1991 closing it out.  If you have a favorite Topps Baseball design from that time frame, it’s in here.  The box is made up of 24 packs with 14 “Super Premium” cards in each.  The subset for this product was a Special 1981-1991 #1 Draft Picks Set featuring; you guessed it, the #1 picks from those years.  Boxes also featured a Master Photo card that entitled “winners” to 3 master photo cards with $1.00 postage and handling.  These Master Photos were printed on 5X7 photo white stock.  My particular winning group included James Worthy, Ralph Sampson and Patrick Ewing.  Unfortunately, the expiration date on this winning insert was 1/31/94.I ripped through this box and it was almost as fun as watching Spud Webb win the dunk contest.  I was able to build the full Draft Pick subset and also the full base set with the exception of Card #67, Reggie Miller.  Miller turned out to be elusive!  I pulled two Jordan’s and countless Hall of Famers and Superstars.  As you’ll see, the design year matches the players’ draft year.  Let’s take a look at how the box stacked up.1981 Design– Cards 12-22 – Featured players like Danny Ainge, Tom Chambers and the pictured Isiah Thomas.  1981 was not one of my favorite Topps designs but seeing some basketball players on them gave them some pop.1982 – Cards 23-31 – These are very good looking.  The group includes two major names; Dominique Wilkins and James Worthy.1983 – Cards 32-42 – These have the signature small circular photo in the bottom corner.  Clyde “The Glyde” Drexler was the headliner here.1984 – Cards 43-59 – This was the best group of players for a set design and featured the ’84 Draft Class.  This group included Charles Barkley, Akeem (Not Hakeem) Olajuwan, John Stockton and “His Airness”!1985 – Cards 60-76 – 1985 Topps remains a popular set in baseball today.  This group of players featured Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone (maybe my favorite action shot), Chris Mullin and Spud Webb.1986 – Cards 77-88 – This design has historically been either loved or hated over the years.  The players featured in this group were not the best in the set either with Brad Daugherty, Dennis Rodman and Mark Price being the main stars.1987 – Just as you’d imagine, cards 89-100 are in the classic wood grain design of 1987 Topps Baseball.  There were some well liked players in this group but no bona fide superstars outside of Scottie Pippen.  Included were names like Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, Reggie Lewis and Kevin Johnson.1988 – Cards 101-114 – The design used in 1988 was a little uninspiring for my taste but it’s nice as a retro design.  The players in this group included Danny Manning, Rex Chapman, Dan Majerle, Mitch Richmond and Rony Seikaly; all household names in 1993.1989 – Cards 115-130 – This is the wonderfully classy design we all know and love from 1989 Baseball.  The group of players from the ’89 Draft is also top notch with the inclusions of Vlade Divac, Sean Elliott, Tim Hardaway and David Robinson.1990 – The “Saved by the Bell” set of 1990 Baseball was covered with cards 131-139.  The group included a pair of stars from Seattle, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, as well as Dee Brown and Dennis Scott.1991 – The final design featured in the set was 1991 and included cards 140-148.  Card #149-150 were checklists.  This group included Larry Johnson, Billy Owens, Steve Smith, Dikembe Mutombo and Rick Fox.

As far as basketball sets go, this is one of the best for me.  Sure, sets from 1986 and 1987 are more valuable but they are also out of my price range.  This is a way to own superstar players in retro Topps designs for about $15-$20.  The cards look great, they are still in good condition in the packs, the set is small enough to build easily and they are very affordable.  If you like 80’s-90’s basketball, there is absolutely no reason not to buy a box and build this set.  This is a very firm 5 on the Dub-O-Meter and was a blast to rip.  Just check them out, you won’t regret it.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Not So Classic Anymore

The year was 1991 and I had in my head that I could play any sport out there. I wasn’t elite at anything but I was competent at all of it. I could throw, hit, shoot, dribble, tackle….you name it. Again, not unstoppable by any means but I was never nervous about stepping on to a field with strangers because I knew I could compete. We even had a volleyball league at our rec department when I was a little older and I enjoyed that. Full disclosure; one thing I have never been able to do is run fast, which is contradictory for the poster athlete of this set. And before your mind goes there, I haven’t always been fat so that’s not the primary reason I’m slow! At 14, I hadn’t quite figured out which sport I was going to try as my main sport. While I knew it wasn’t Track & Field, I was playing little league baseball, youth football and church league basketball at that time with varying degrees of success.You see, while I was able to play all of these sports, I had some deficiency in each of them as well (besides being slow). In baseball, I was very good with the glove and was an accurate, but not overpowering hurler. I could also make contact with the best of them. What I couldn’t do was hit for power or throw 70 mph. In football, I could be elusive for a slow guy; I could catch a football and could even read blocks at that level. However, I couldn’t overcome my lack of size and was flattened on occasion. I was always one of the smaller kids among my peers. In basketball, I have always been a good ball handler, accurate shooter and deceptive passer. But the one thing I couldn’t do, now or then, was jump very high. That takes me out of the basketball equation altogether. I was barely touching the rim in high school and was in the best shape of my life! Again, size may have played in to that. You may be muttering in your head something about hockey. Well, South Georgia is not known for ice staying frozen for more than about 5 minutes, so there’s that.I watched all of these sports on TV and would emulate my favorite athletes to the best of my ability. In 1991, it was a lot easier to take in sporting events because they were on less often. That sound’s like an antithetical statement but its true. It doesn’t mean I was watching MORE sports, it just means I was watching games closer. I had 2 teams that I could watch play baseball regularly and that was the Cubs and Braves. As a youngster, I gravitated toward Shawon Dunston because he was smooth. Basketball was on TV even less often but did hit NBC on Sundays. I loved Bird and Magic and would try to shoot and pass like them. Football was one game on Sunday afternoon (Falcons) and Monday Night Football. Scott Case was my guy with the Falcons. I remember recording some games and watching them make plays over and over. If there is one thing that size couldn’t stop me from doing, it was me trying to be the smartest player on the field.The point of all of this is that I was a multi sport guy at heart. I’m just not a multi sport guy from a physiological standpoint. So as a card collector who got his full time start in 1989, imagine my initial reaction to the release of 1991 Classic Draft Picks. For me, it was my first experience with multi sport. It may be the first set of its kind but I don’t know that for sure. I know it was the first classic multi sport set, although they continued through the better part of the 90’s. When this set released, I had to get my hands on these cards. I wanted all of these different athletes available in one single pack. But not only was it multi sport, it also featured many athletes that weren’t showing up in regular sets yet. It was really a cool concept and was pulled off well in ’91. Unfortunately, 26 years later, the cards didn’t age well.The set was 230 cards and featured draft picks from each of the four major sports that year. However, there was one glaring omission from the hockey portion of the set which I’ll cover shortly. The box came with 36 packs and 12 cards per, giving you the perfect opportunity to build the base set with one box, which I did with this one. The card design was pretty basic with a gray marble border and centered, but often poorly lit, photos. The backs of the cards were very plain with a lot of blank space. And then there was the UV coating. Why did card companies do this?? You will not pull any 9’s or 10’s out of this box but even if you did, I don’t think you’d have a card worthy of the fireproof.There were also a small amount of inserts featuring some of the top prospects in each sport. The set also featured unique Raghib “Rocket” Ismail cards due to his popularity. He was actually drafted #100 overall in the NFL but don’t let that fool you. There is a reason this set focused on him to a large degree. A box also gave collectors a shot at 1 of 50,000 autographed cards. That may seem like a lot of autographs to be floating around but remember production in the early 90’s is projected at a bazillion. I would guess that it’s the equivalent of pulling an auto numbered to 99 today but maybe I’m off. Did that stop me from crossing my fingers? You better believe it didn’t!I latched on to this set for one major player, Larry Johnson. Unless you were around in the early 90’s, you may not realize just how big Larry Johnson was in the sport of basketball. He was definitely talented on the court but he also made waves in commercials and cartoons. Surely you remember “Grand ma-ma”! The Running Rebels of UNLV were well represented in this set with Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony and George Ackles also present. The Rebels were amazing to watch! Johnson had a series within the base numbered cards that detailed a one on one matchup that he had with Billy Owens, the other big NBA prospect in the set. Owens was drafted 3rd overall and had a fairly productive career averaging double figures in scoring his first 9 seasons and for his overall career. He didn’t match the superstar status of LJ though.A few other names from basketball that were featured were Dikembe Mutombo, Rick Fox, Dale Davis and Stanley Roberts. Roberts was a 7’0, 285 lb. center at LSU that was actually the starter when Shaq was a freshman. There is a report that Stanley took Shaq to school while he was there too. They would later team up at Orlando with Shaq being the big guy on campus this time around. I always liked Stanley Roberts so I had to include him in this photo.In football, the set had a heavy Rocket Ismail feel, as mentioned above. The Rocket was a wide receiver and return man at Notre Dame. He was a highlight waiting to happen in college and almost won the 1991 National Championship with a 91 yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back for clipping. They lost 10-9 to Colorado. He finished 2nd in the Heisman voting and was widely considered the automatic #1 draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the ’91 Draft. Instead of heading to the NFL, he chose to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He was still drafted by the LA Raiders at pick 100 but did not play for them until 1993. He signed a record $18.2 million for four years to play in the CFL. That’s 1991 money folks! Doug Flutie was considered a marquee player and made $1 million per season. In his rookie season, the Argonauts won the Grey Cup and he was named MVP of the game, returning a kickoff 87 yards for a TD. The next year, the Argonauts struggled; Rocket became disenfranchised and signed with the Raiders. It took him six seasons before he had a 1,000 yard receiving season and he only had two in total. He was an electrifying player but took an odd career track which likely hurt his legacy as a football player. Imagine if Rocket in his prime joined up with Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin!Instead, the Cowboys chose Russell Maryland from Miami as the #1 pick. He is listed here with other standouts from the football portion of the set. One of the underrated draft picks found here is none other than Brett Favre. Ricky Watters, Ed McCaffrey and Ricky Ervins had solid NFL careers but McGwire, Marinovich and Ismail received more publicity. For those of you who were not born yet or were living under a rock, Dan McGwire was the football playing brother of Mark. Ervins had a very decent but short 5 year career in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with Washington his rookie season.Baseball was loaded with players who went on to have good careers but one name was above all else that year. That name was Brien Taylor. Scott Boras said in 2006, “Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher I’ve seen in my life. In high school, he amassed a 29-6 record with a 1.25 ERA and 213 K’s in 88 IP. He was throwing 99 mph in high school! Unfortunately for Yankee fans, and collectors worldwide, it didn’t translate to the majors. After a few years of struggling with mechanics, Taylor declined an invite to an instructional league and went home during the offseason. While home, he got in a fight and injured his throwing shoulder. He would then have surgery, miss a full season and come back the following year throwing almost 10 mph slower. He never appeared in a major league game. A few players who did appear in games and played pretty well are also pictured. Cliff Floyd spent some time here in Albany playing for our local minor league squad, The Albany Polecats.Finally, we have the hockey highlights. As you can see from Card #1 in the set, Eric Lindros is pictured. But strangely, he is not in the base set. He was in the Hockey Classics base set that year but was left out here for some reason. I thought initially it may have been some sort of contract issue but he was card #1 in the all hockey set. I openly admit that I am not a hockey guy. But I do know the names pictured. Peter Forsberg was a bonafide star and was elected into the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame. And who could forget Ziggy Palffy? There were other names that were vaguely familiar but I just don’t know enough about the sport to talk about it. I will try to get better gang.

The set as a whole had a ton of names that were familiar and many of the players were highly touted and never made it. Harvey Williams, and RB from LSU and Scott Stahoviak come to mind. There is a ton of nostalgia to sift through if you collected these cards at one time. The price point is nostalgia friendly too as I had this box purchased and shipped for $9. There are some issues though. This was printed as a “premium” set and used a similar UV coating to Topps Stadium Club and the cards were all stuck together. They did not come apart as easily as TSC either so a stack of the cards were damaged. Also, they have that bad aroma that comes with UV coating that has been hermetically sealed for a quarter century. The cards don’t carry much value but it was fun to remember the players and the design from that set. I had a lot of these cards floating around my collection back then but don’t ever remember having a Favre.

If you are a young collector that likes hits, this is probably not a set I would recommend you try. There are just too many issues with the cards and return on investment is non-existent. But if you are a 40 year old dweeb like me that likes to harken back to the days of his youth, I wouldn’t stop you from springing the $9 to take the ride. But be warned; it did get old at about pack 24.  The set gets an unfortunate score on the Dub-O-Meter of 2.  I almost gave it a 3 just for nostalgia reasons but I couldn’t justify it.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

State Of The Hobby – April 1992

By 1992, I was starting to drive (learner’s permit) and began hitting the baseball field at high school. I was also still heavily investing in baseball cards. One of the differences for me from ’91 to ’92 was that I was turning my less than average landscaping abilities into weekly cash. I was mowing a couple of church lots from time to time but my weekly gig was at a local insurance company in Camilla. I would pop on my headphones, lose all touch with reality and mow that yard for about an hour and a half. It was a push mower but it was one of those fancy self assist jobbies that did most of the work for you. So it was me, Gin Blossoms and Pearl Jam on those hot summer days just dreaming about the cards I would buy with that $20 I was about to make.My prime target in 1992 was Donruss. I liked the design (still do in relation to other 90’s Donruss) and the price was reasonable for a 15 year old on a lawn mowing budget. But more than that, there was an insert found in ’92 Donruss that was originally introduced in ’91 that made me say a little prayer before opening every pack. If you collected during that time, you likely know the feeling of that chase well. Donruss Elite was like nothing ever before as it related to chase cards. Sure, ’90 Upper Deck introduced the random autograph but there were only 2,500 of those and I knew that was impossible. On the flip side, Elite was printing 10,000 of each player and while that sounds like a lot by today’s serial number standards, that was a drop in the bucket compared to production runs.I remember one of my best friends pulling an Andre Dawson in 1991 and it was the only one I ever saw pulled. I never pulled an Elite card from a pack. I did pull a Legend Series Robin Yount about 4 years ago from an old box of ’92 and that was pretty dang exciting! I can only imagine that I may have passed out from sheer joy if I had pulled a Ken Griffey Jr. or Nolan Ryan back in the early 90’s. Andre Dawson wasn’t even a HUGE name but my friend bounced around his room for about an hour. In 1992, subsets were ramping up in popularity as you’ll see when we get to the pricing section of this post. Fleer Ultra, Stadium Club and Leaf were taking over the premium set domination while Upper Deck was lost in the same basic design from ’89. They were still premium but they had not come very far in my opinion.The cover of the Beckett that I used for this look back to 1992 was listed in my top 12 favorites that I posted a few weeks ago. It had to have been a shot that Topps had in the file from the ’92 Topps collection as it is next to that same batting screen with the same jersey and bat. It’s almost the same pose except he replaced his smile with a stoic look. There was a major player on the back of the magazine too and I’ll save it as my last photo. It’s one of the other reasons this is on my favorite list. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what was happening in the world of baseball cards in 1992.This magazine was from April 1992 and hit store shelves just before opening day. Inside, there were a couple of prediction pieces that were interesting to read and compare to actual results. They hit a couple on the head but also whiffed on a few. That’s pretty standard for all prediction pieces. It’s important to remember that the two leagues had only two divisions each back then as well. The divisions were split up into the East and West and regionally they made no sense. There was also just one playoff round before the World Series. Beckett predicted the final standings as follows, with the actual winners in bold.

NL WestAtlanta, Cincinnati, LA, San Fran, San Diego and Houston – They got the top 2 right here
NL East – NY, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Philly, Montreal and Chicago – Most people remember the epic playoff matchup between Atlanta and Pittsburgh. But do you remember that Montreal finished 2nd that year in the division? The Mets finished 24 games out.
AL West – Chicago, Oakland, KC, Minnesota, Seattle, Texas and California – Oakland pulled out the division with Minnesota finishing 6 games out.
AL EastToronto, Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, NY, Milwaukee and Cleveland – They nailed the AL East but the surprise in 1992 was Milwaukee finishing only 4 games out of first place. Their second place prediction finished last, 23 games out.They also predicted the major awards for the upcoming season but that is even tougher than final standings. This is almost impossible when factoring in injuries, trades and other issues that come into play over a 162 game season. But it is interesting to look at what the expectations were at the beginning of the season vs. how the actual players ended up. Beckett’s prediction is listed first (along with how they finished) with the actual winner listed after.

AL MVP – Cecil Fielder (9th) – Dennis Eckersley – Eck finished with a 7-1 record, 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA
NL MVP – Bobby Bonilla (NR) – Barry Bonds – Bobby Bo was a bust in ’92 with a .249 average, 19 home runs and 70 RBI
AL HR – Cecil Fielder (35) – Juan Gonzalez (43) – This helped the price of the ’91 Donruss Reverse Negative
NL HR – Daryl Strawberry (5) – Fred McGriff (35) – Straw only played in 43 games in ‘92
AL Batting Champ – Wade Boggs (.259) – Edgar Martinez (.343) – The worst batting average Boggs had in his career
NL Batting Champ – Hal Morris (.271) – Gary Sheffield (.330) – Also one of Morris’ worst batting averages of his career
AL Cy Young – Roger Clemens (3rd) – Eckersley – Hard to argue with the numbers above
NL Cy Young – Ramon Martinez (NR) – Greg Maddux – Martinez was 8-11 with a 4.00 ERA and Maddux was 20-11 with a 2.18 ERA. Tom Glavine finished 2nd.I would be remiss if I didn’t include this beautiful article about my main guy, Ronnie Gant.  The Hot list hadn’t changed at the top much since 1991 but Atlanta Braves were starting to take over with Avery (3rd), Justice (4th), Klesko (13), Gant (20), Glavine (26) and the Braves as a team (22). Meanwhile, Sportsflics just couldn’t catch a break with readers.I also remember full spread ads from card companies like this Fleer ad. Of course, I also remember this Rocket insert as being pretty sweet. “Over 2,000 signed”!On to pricing and we have to start with the 1982 Topps Cal Ripken that was now hovering at$70. Ron Guidry on the other hand was about to see his last month in the price guide.1983 Topps was rolling along as well as Ryno, Gwynn and Boggs were all high value cards.I had to check in on the 1984 Fleer Update set and much to my surprise, it continued to rise. Two cards over $200!1984 Donruss was also a big hit with Darryl Strawberry checking in at $65, Don Mattingly at $60 and Joe Carter at $35. Carter was in store for a huge season and postseason as well!We are beginning to see the downfall of Jose Canseco and his 1986 Donruss. We were only a year away from a baseball bouncing off of his head and into the stands for a homerun. We all should have gotten out right around this time.Fleer was the king in 1987 with Will Clark at $30 and Bo Jackson at $22.And what do we have here? Ron Gant at $7 and rising in ’88 Fleer.The ever popular 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. was still climbing in value.1990 Leaf was otherworldly with Frank Thomas at $70, Dave Justice at $40, Ken Griffey Jr. at $24 and Steve Avery at $20. Totally out of place with other 1990 sets!I had TOTALLY forgotten how in demand 1992 Donruss Diamond King was when it came out. Look at these prices!!Another extremely hot insert set for 1992 was Fleer Rookie Sensations. The 20 card set was checking in at $175!There were a ton of great reader comments from this edition so I had to really think about which ones were pertinent to this post. This one was included because it gives some of the young guys a glimpse at the selling options before eBay, Twitter and all the other online sites. “Place an ad in your local newspaper.”We have a Ron Kittle mention here so I had to include this one.I laughed at how literal this reader took Beckett’s previous advice in this one.Here’s a new feature that wasn’t included in the ’90 or ’91 editions I covered. Cardboard Art has now come to our modern technology with the Twitter follow @bsblcardvandals.The shows were still going strong in ’92 but had decreased from 22 pages to 20. Still a ton and the guests were out of this world. Look at these two ads for card shows in Pittsburgh and California.The last item of note was this sweet interview with Nolan Ryan. He had some pretty fun answers including, “I looked into buying one of my rookie cards one time, but it was so darn expensive, I changed my mind.” He goes on to say that he offered a dealer a free pitching lesson in exchange for a rookie card and was denied.The other reason this is one of my favorite Beckett’s – the back cover!

Baseball cards were still trending in the right direction in 1992. New products were including highly sought after cards and the stars from the 80’s were at the peak of their careers and driving up the value on their early cards. Some of the rookies from ’89 and ’90 were stumbling while some of the others that were mediocre their rookie season were starting to take off. Unfortunately, we were getting close to a crash and didn’t know it. We were flying on wings of cardboard that were getting dangerously close to the sun. But we weren’t quite there yet. We were still living it up at card shows and buying product all over town. We’ll take a look at 1993 next week and we might see some signs starting to surface. But as for 1992, there may be no other year I’d rather go back to and experience again in card collecting!

J-Dub

1992 Studio – Better Than Olan Mills

In 1992, I was as deep in the hobby as I’ve ever been.  I was buying every pack I saw, subscribed to Beckett and was trading cards like the Wolf of Wall Street.  I was 15 years old, playing sports year round and was a master at all the hottest sports video games.  It truly was an amazing time to be alive.  The Braves were coming off of a tough 7 game World Series loss but the future was bright and we were saying it was going to be our year.  Dave Justice was blossoming into a star, Glavine and Smoltz were dominating on the mound and Sid Bream was preparing for the 100 yard dash in the ’92 Olympics.  I’m telling you, it was a good year!

Come Hither!
Baseball card sets were multiplying by 1992 as well.  Upper Deck was in its 4th year, Leaf  was in its 3rd and Stadium Club was a second year player.  Another set that got its start in 1991 was Studio, issued by Donruss/Leaf.  The inaugural season for Studio brought a very unique set to the hobby with black and white photos of players in a studio setting.  These were all posed shots but not the kind we were used to on the field.  I remember thinking they were really classy looking and unique.  I also remember picturing players showing up at the mall for their shoot like we did as a family each year at Olan Mills.  There were some great photos in that first set including Steve Lake with his parrot and Doug Drabek with a sultry over the shoulder “come hither” look.

Color Was A Nice Improvement In ’92
In 1992, Studio made a couple of changes to their design.  The first was the move from a reddish maroon border to a gold border.  It actually works for this type of card as opposed to what Skybox tried in 1990.  They also went from black and white photos to color with a black and white action shot in the background.  I think that ’92 was a very nice upgrade from ’91.  In fact, I think that ’92 was the best Studio set of the series as later issues got away from borders and the whole “in-studio” feel.  I appreciated ’91 but I loved ’92.  They also introduced an insert called “Heritage Series” in ’92 which pictured a current star in a throwback uniform.  These were foil stamped and had a green border.  They were even classier than the base set.  Even the card stock was upgraded in ’92.

It Was All Foil For Donruss in ’92
 The box offered more cards than was standard in 1992.  There were a whopping 48 packs with 12 cards in each pack.  The set was only 264 cards and the box offered 576 cards so in theory, you could build 2 sets with a box if collation was perfect.  Alas, as with most products in ’92, collation was far from perfect and I didn’t even build 1 set with my box.  I came painfully close but I have a ton of dupes (also trips and some quads).  I did hold out 4 unopened packs to random with this post so it’s possible those hold the remaining cards to complete my set.  The only inserts in the set are the Heritage Series and I pulled 5 of those, with one being a dupe.  Most of the photos in the set are classy poses in uniforms or warm ups but a few of them are wacky like in ’91.  Don’t worry, I’ll lay those out in this post for your viewing pleasure.

Ole Gator McDonald
Much like the front of Studio cards, the back was unique from most other sets as well.  They did not lay out the season stats over the years with a little tidbit of information.  In contrast, almost the entire back of Studio is information about the player with only a tidbit of stats.  Some of the information is much needed as well.  For instance, Ben McDonald’s hobby was alligator wrestling and Larry Walker’s was magic.  The more you know my friends!  Another interesting piece of the back was the “Loves/Hates To Face” section.  McDonald struggled against Rickey Henderson who was .500 in his career with 2 bombs at print run.  Meanwhile, Walker feasted on Greg Harris with a .643 average and 3 bombs.  If there is one back that I can appreciate that was void of stats, it’s ’92 Studio.

Here is a look at what was hiding in those foil wrappers.

The Veterans
The checklist for ’92 Studio offered a great range of players from first year prospects to future Hall of Famers winding down.  This first photo is a nice group of veteran stars that included some great posed shots.  I wish Ripken hadn’t been wearing the batting helmet in his but you can’t have it all, right?  This set offered an image of players that was not available in most other sets.  There were some inserts that provided studio shots but these were top notch.  This group would come pretty close to an all decade team with a couple of missing pieces found in the next section.

The 90’s Stars
This next group of players were the guys that I loved to collect in the 90’s.  Some are Hall of Famers now but some may never gain that distinction.  Either way, these were the guys that I had in binder pages growing up. Hard to beat that Ken Griffey Jr shot!  Randy Johnson had a nice card too with him holding broken bats, an obvious nod to his overpowering fastball.  And I think Clemens is the only card in the set that doesn’t have a studio photo.  I’m not sure what happened with this one unless he missed his appointment.  I know Olan Mills was a stickler about missed appointments.

Prospecting
Then we have the hot young studs of the early 90’s.  All of these guys were highly touted at some point between 89-92 and most of them never panned out.  A few of them had pretty solid careers like Juan Gonzalez and John Olerud but none of them ever reached the status we thought they would when we were scooping their cards up.  Maybe our expectations were too high.  I know that in 1992, I would’ve been laughing all the way to the bank with this haul.  I even pulled Gregg Jeffries and Todd Zeile in the same pack!

Why??
Somewhere along the way when these photos were being shot, I see the photographer saying, “Ok, just let loose.  Be silly and have fun with this!”  Then there was blackmail and demands weren’t met and these cards ended up in the set.  I don’t know any other reason why Charlie Hayes would want to be depicted on a baseball card like this.  And what is Pedro Guerrero thinking?  Clearly, Rob Dibble is embracing the 90’s with his Top Gun pose.  Jose Lind has a samurai and Norm Charlton is giving himself a hug.  What is going on here?

America’s Team!
I pulled all of the Braves except Steve Avery and Mark Lemke.  For some reason, John Smoltz wasn’t included in the set and he was coming off a stellar postseason in the ’91 playoffs.  I don’t understand the inclusion of Greg Olson to be honest but it’s not the end of the world.  I pulled 5 Gant’s and I may send one of those off for TTM.

Heritage
Lastly, we have the Heritage Series.  These are some really sweet cards.  They are pictured in throwback uni’s and they all have gold foil borders and sepia photographs.  Lovely insert set!

48 Packs Of Pure Joy
So that’s a look at 1992 Studio some 25 years later.  The cards held up in very good condition and the packs had a very nice aroma as compared to other premium sets I’ve revisited recently.  The box offers a staggering 48 packs to sift through and I paid a meager $10 for this box.  Like I said before, I think this is Studio’s best effort and I like these cards a lot.  They are clean, classy, “junk waxy”, cheap and nostalgic.  They are basic too for the old school set builder with only one insert set added to the base.  I’d rip another box of this for $10 and not bat an eye.  The checklist offers Hall of Famers, Stars and Rookie Prospects from the heart of my collecting days.  The only drawback with this set is collation but that can be said about almost all sets from 1992.  I opened one pack that had 3 doubles in the 12 cards.  That’s half the pack for the mathematically challenged.  Even with that drawback, I’m giving this set a 4 on the Dub-O-Meter.  You really can’t beat this set in terms of early 90’s sets.  I think the phrase gets passed around a lot but this set sincerely takes me back to when collecting was fun.  This set is all about the visual aspect of card collecting.  I encourage you to find a box of this and give it a rip!

J-Dub

Scoring Scale
1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.
2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?