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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

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!

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.

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!


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 – November 1991

My post “State Of The Hobby – 1990” was met with positive reviews and even some requests to follow up with more similar posts.  As I am a blogger who aims to please, I felt the urge to do so.  It also helps that I enjoyed browsing that old Beckett and seeing those 1989 Donruss Rated Rookies priced at that moment in time when I was buying them.  If you collected in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I encourage – nay, I demand – you find a Beckett Magazine from that era and just read through it.  There are things that you’ll remember immediately and then there are some that you will have totally forgotten about.  Those forgotten tidbits are the gems that make the $5 investment worth every penny.

Yankees Slugger Kevin Maas
The last post covered the time that Jerome Walton, Ricky Jordan and Ben McDonald were vying for young superstar supremacy with Ken Griffey Jr.  By the time this 1991 edition of Beckett was printed, Jr. had left those guys in the dust and a new crop of 2nd year players were endearing themselves to collectors.  Guys like Kevin Maas and Scott Erickson were outperforming Frank Thomas and John Olerud in value.  Another hot young stud named Phil Plantier was making Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez look like chopped liver.  The biggest takeaway from reading this edition was that baseball cards were skyrocketing in value and we were at the very beginning of the bubble that would burst just a few short seasons later.

Card Shows Were As Abundant As 90 Donruss
Perhaps nothing encapsulated card hysteria in 1991 like the card show calendar.  The calendar at the back of the magazine was 22 pages long…..22 PAGES!!!  There was a card show happening in every state including 1 in Hawaii, 3 in Idaho, 1 in Montana and 1 in the Virgin Islands.  There were 143 card shows for November in the state of Texas.  This was the height of the hobby that I remember when I was 14.  Premium cards were another hot item and they were met with hot and cold reactions from collectors as you’ll see when we get to the “Readers Write” section.

Enough rambling, let’s jump into the card collecting world from November, 1991.

Bo’s Back!
Bo graced the cover of this magazine just like he did in the 1990 edition I covered.  However, a lot had happened for Bo since that 1990 Beckett.  This cover has him in a White Sox jersey with a card in the lower left that says, “Bo’s Back!”  He was about 10 months removed from the hip injury that ended his football career and his time in Kansas City.  He was also climbing back up the Hot List as it reveals he was 20th after being 29th the month before.

Jose Can You See
The inside cover is a wonderful artist rendering of Jose Canseco.  I would love to have the actual print of this but I’m sure it’s hanging on Eric Norton’s wall at Beckett at this point.  What a beautiful photo!

I Totally Missed The Ho-Jo Craze Of ’91
The first article I read was this gem titled, “Ho-Jo’s Ris-in”.  It was interesting because I don’t remember Johnson having numbers this impressive.  He had reached the 30-30 club for the third time in 1991 and at the time, was ranked 2nd in franchise history for home runs and 3rd for stolen bases.  I don’t remember Ho-Jo being a base stealer but boy, was he ever.  He was a prime candidate for NL MVP in 1991 according to this piece.

Hail State??
The second article was on the superstars from the Mississippi State Bulldogs, beating 30 for 30 to the punch by about 25 years.  Included in the article was a rundown of Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley.  As usual there was a baseball card spin to the article that made you want to seek out those cards.

While Supplies Last!
Then we have an advertisement for the Ken Griffey Jr. Arena Holograms cards.  This REALLY took me back.  I remember collecting Jr. and Frank Thomas in these cards.  They took out a full page ad to display them too.  This was one of those forgotten gems.

Hammerin’ Hank
There’s also an interesting article that could get an overhaul since 26 years have passed.  “Most Memorable Mashes” covered a list of memorable home runs over the years.  1988 was the last year featured and it would probably be fun to complete the list with what’s happened since.  Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols are just a few that have had big time home runs since that time.

·         1951 – Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” Wins Pennant for Giants

·         1953 – Mickey Mantle hits 565 Ft Home Run

·         1960 – Bill Mazeroski HR Beats Yanks in World Series

·         1961 – Maris Breaks Babe’s Season HR Mark

·         1974 – Hank Aaron Breaks Ruth’s All Time HR Record

·         1978 – Bucky Dent Breaks Boston’s Heart

·         1988 – Kirk Gibson Seals Oakland’s Fate

Bo Knows Cards!
Here’s a nice spread of Bo’s cards from 1986-1991, surprisingly leaving out the ’87 Topps Future Star.

I then found myself at the “Readers Write” section which was fun to read then but is even more of a blast now.  It really gives you a look into what was going through our minds as collectors back then.The first was “Bogged Down” in which a reader blamed dealers for “false increases in newer cards just to pad their pockets.”  I think the response from Beckett set the record straight on this one by breaking down demand of certain new cards vs. older rookies.“Speaking Out” and “Speaking Out II” covered the frustration that collectors were beginning to see as pricing for singles, packs and boxes were starting to rise.  It makes me miss when $4.00 packs were considered highway robbery.The final piece I found interesting was a question about the 1991 Topps Desert Storm cards.  With this being 1991, it seems that no one had a real handle on the production.  We were all even less sure of how value would look in the future.  Hindsight is 20/20 I suppose.

Is That Ron Gant I See?
Before we move to pricing, there was the Hot and Cold list.  The Hot List had some familiar names with Frank Thomas (1) and Ken Griffey Jr. (2) but Scott Erickson came in at #3.  This was right after his dominant rookie season and the ’91 World Series for Minnesota.  Meanwhile, Kevin Maas and Todd Van Poppel were dropping like rocks.  It was time to get out of those investments but I held on too long.  The Cold List featured some solid names with Jose Canseco (also on the Hot List), Pete Rose, Don Mattingly (Hot List) and Bo Jackson (Hot List).  But this is the first indication that we are about to see some disappointed Jerome Walton collectors as he checks in at #7.

There is a lot to cover in pricing because we were experiencing some record breaking prices around this time for sports cards.

I Pulled A Ton Of Ron Guidry
1982 Topps – Here we are starting to see Cal Ripken’s Rookie Cards start to take off.  It was $52 and climbing as of publication date.

Sweet Lou On The Rise
1983 Donruss – Here’s that bump Ho-Jo was experiencing.

Willie McGee A Solid $5.50
1983 Topps – Ryne Sandberg’s Rookies weren’t far behind Cal.

Nice Julio Franco!
1983 Topps Traded – Holy Cow!  Look at that Daryl Strawberry XRC!

A $3.50 Diamond King?
1984 Donruss – I had to check back in on the Kevin McReynolds from my 1990 post.  I found that it was starting to come back down to earth.  Side note – Tony Fernandez RC looked pretty good here.

Some Upward Action In ’84 Donruss
1984 Donruss – This set was also the home of a $75 Don Mattingly RC.

Valuable Cardboard In ’91
1984 Fleer Update – This set was still rocking and rolling with a huge $240 Roger Clemens, $185 Kirby and a $120 Doc Gooden.

My 1st Dream Card
1986 Donruss – Jose Canseco was hovering at $90 and was Priority #1 on my needs list.  It was worth $60 in my last post.

Woodgrain Was Not Popular in ’91
1987 – Topps has clung to that wood grain design for 30 years now and when you look at prices of the sets from that year, it makes me wonder where Topps would have been with a generic design.

My 2nd Dream Card
1989 Upper Deck – The world famous Ken Griffey Jr. #1 card was worth $13.50 in “State of the Hobby – 1990”.  One year later, it had risen to $55.00 and wasn’t even half way to its peak.  Hide your eyes Jerome Walton Collectors!

1990 Leaf – For a set from 1990, these prices were astronomical.  Frank Thomas was $60 and rising and Dave Justice was $28.

Better Than The Base Set
1991 Fleer Pro Visions – I’m not the only one who liked Pro Visions!

Pure Gold!
1991 Leaf Gold Bonus – These were as hot as a firecracker in November 1991.

Mark Whiten?
1991 Stadium Club – The “Leaf of ‘91”, Stadium Club was turning the hobby upside down with its UV coating and partnership with Kodak.  We get our first glimpse at Boston Slugger Phil Plantier at $9 and rising.

Somebody Say Card Show?
The last section of note in this edition is the aforementioned Card Show Calendar.  This was pretty unbelievable to see with my 2017 eyes.  The card shows were blowing up all over the country!  Look at this one spread and multiple that for 22 pages.  Totally unreal!!

3 Day Shows Were Normal
And what’s a card show section without an example of the autographs you could hit at one of those shows.  At a show in Arizona, you could get autographs of Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig for a total of $53!   There were numerous shows in November that were featuring Frank Thomas anywhere from $6-$10.  Do you realize how big of a name Frank Thomas was in November 1991??  He was #1 on the Hot List for a reason!

Next Time On “State Of The Hobby”
So as you can see by this revisit to 1991, the sports card industry was reaching unbelievable heights.  Card shows were popping up everywhere, card companies were starting to innovate in new and imaginative ways, some of the most recognized players in baseball history were at or near their peak and Bo was Back!  Hopefully you’ve enjoyed another look back to the heyday of collecting for me.  Maybe you collected at that same time and all of this is refreshing your memory.  Or maybe you’re a younger collector and don’t really understand just how big this hobby was in 1991.  Either way, the examples listed here should give you a pretty good idea.  The fun doesn’t end in 1991 though.  I can’t wait to get to ’92 and see what pricing was doing on Donruss Elite!


Camilla’s Always Home

I like to think I had a pretty normal childhood.  I grew up in a small town in Southwest Georgia during what I call, “the greatest time to be a kid”.  The town was Camilla and the time was the 80’s.  I’m sure people who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s think that about their childhood as well but they didn’t have Transformers, He-Man and VHS tapes!  Aside from some of the mainstream items that were popular in the 80’s there were some other local fun that Camilla provided to the kids.  I plan to cover a lot of the fun I had as a kid in that small town of 5,000 but I’m sure my readers have some of their own favorite memories that may not be the same in my memory bank.

Mitchell County Courthouse
I moved away from Camilla when I was 20 but I still go back quite often as my family, and my wife’s family, still call it home.  I technically still call it home too but I haven’t lived there in 20 years.  But that’s why they are called “hometowns” to begin with, right?  Because I go back to Camilla periodically, I have been able to see it change over the years, all in the name of progress.  And because I don’t live there anymore, I haven’t embraced the changes like a local resident might.  So with that in mind, this piece is not meant as a slight in any way to the local businesses in town in 2017.  I’ll cover plenty of closed establishments that are now new stores.  But this is coming from an entirely nostalgic perspective and is not meant as an indictment on the businesses that have taken their place.  This is less about economy and more about memories.
Original Wal-Mart Building Then & Now
We went to Camilla this past weekend for our niece’s 1st birthday and we had to stop at Wal-Mart to pick something up on the way in.  I think about it often but this time, I really stopped to think about the placement of the new Wal-Mart and the history of the area as it dates back to my childhood.  For those of you who haven’t been back to Camilla over the last several years, the old Wal-Mart closed and a new building went up right next door to it behind the old Phillips 66.  To enter the Wal-Mart parking lot coming from US 19 N, you have to turn in on the access road that runs between Mitchell County Ford and the “new” Phillips 66.  As I rode through that specific area, certain memories flooded back into my mind.  That’s what initially triggered this post but as we went through Camilla, my senses were heightened and I rattled off all the “old stores” that used to be around.
Winn-Dixie Then & Now
Back to the new Wal-Mart, that is always the first place my mind goes because it’s the first location I get to when I come into town.  The old Wal-Mart used to be the anchor tenant of the most frequented strip center in Mitchell County.  When I was a kid, the strip center was also home to Winn-Dixie, Subway, Video Superstore and a couple of local clothing stores.  Subway is all that remains from that time, although Ming Yong opened up when I was a teen and is still there.  The old Wal-Mart is now a Marvin’s Home Improvement Store AND a Hibbett’s Sporting Goods.  The Winn-Dixie is a dark, empty space.  The Video Superstore is long gone and is now the home of a beauty supply.  VS is probably the most missed for my nostalgia and got its own post HERE.
I Still Love ’89 Donruss
This original Wal-Mart location was the first place I ever picked up baseball cards.  I remember that card cube like it was yesterday.  It was loaded with ’89 Donruss, ’89 Score, card supplies and Beckett magazines.  It was the first place I went every time I entered the store.  I didn’t care what our reason for being there was; this was the only business I needed to conduct.  I don’t miss “Wal-Mart” because it’s right next door.  But I do miss the old building because it’s what I grew up with if that makes any sense.  I don’t really like the new Wal-Mart and it’s probably just for sentimental reasons.  Not only did it move out of the building I was always familiar with, it completed the destruction of another spot that I frequented often as a kid, even though the memories of this place weren’t always warm and fuzzy.  But even those memories are a big part of my youth and I always hate to see them wiped out.
Nothing Original Remains Of Phillips 66
The gas station that now sits in the location in front of Wal-Mart used to be a full service gas station, Phillips 66.  The gas station I am referring to is the small 2 bay garage type that sat in the middle of a large dirt parking lot.  In the back of the station, there was a place to park a couple of semi trucks and that’s where my dad kept his truck when it wasn’t at the house.  It was that dirt parking lot where I spent many Saturdays helping him change tires or change oil or replace carburetors.  To be honest, I didn’t know what we were doing half the time; I just knew that I was hot, bored and working on a non-school day.  Worse than that was the 4:00 mornings that dad would need to go tarp a load to protect it from rain, which couldn’t be done alone very easily.  I still remember walking on top of a load of lumber trying to stretch a tarp out in a light drizzle, still half asleep.  I’d get back home just in time to fall asleep and have to wake back up for school.

Hardee’s California Raisin Table Ad 1987
Before we leave this northern corridor of Camilla, we have to remember what a big deal having Hardee’s open up was.  In the southwest parking area of the Wal-Mart strip center, Hardee’s broke ground and introduced me to my all time favorite breakfast, the chicken biscuit.  I still eat chicken biscuits at Pearly’s every Saturday but remember those Hardee’s days fondly.  This was where I collected the full set of California Raisins that came with kids meals and the cinnamon raisin biscuit, which Granddaddy (Grover) would often eat.  It was also where I would take my lunch breaks when I worked at Video Superstore.  The food at Hardee’s sustained me for a good 10-12 years before it eventually changed over to a Popeye’s.  Now, it’s a brand new looking Taco Bell and I have yet to eat there.

Former Camilla Playschool
We have to go back a few years before the Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie to get to the next memorable location on my list.  This spot has been gone for quite some time but my first experience as a student was at the Camilla Playschool.  This was my first taste of “school” and “classrooms” and I met a few friends there that would stay with me all the way through High School graduation.   I don’t remember a ton from those days but I remember what the class rooms looked like, the playground and some of the faces from there.  I have taken a ride by there more than a few times just to remember the area.  I don’t really know what the building is now but it hasn’t been a playschool for probably 30 years.
The Old Firehouse – 2017
Back when I was going to the playschool on Stephens Street, my grandfather was the fire chief in Camilla.  The fire department was a small 2 story building that is still there and operates as a pediatrician’s office if I am correct.  This was an old school fire department where the firemen slept upstairs and could look over a railing and see all the fire equipment.  There was the famous fireman’s pole that helped them move quickly to the trucks when the bell rang.  One of the most vivid memories I have from that old fire department was the wooden ramp that was behind it that had fire hoses stretched out on it.  It was as good as any playground equipment I had access to and I would run up and down it much to my grandfather’s chagrin.  A newer public safety complex was built within eyesight of the old fire department when I was 11 or 12 and was much more safety oriented and thus not kid friendly.

Oh How I Loved Optimus Prime
Around the time I was running up and down on the hose ramp (I don’t know what it’s official name was), there was a store out in front of the P&C bank that had a lot neat toys for us kids to go look at.  As far as toys were concerned, there weren’t many places to shop before Wal Mart opened in ’85-’86 so this was a hot spot if you wanted to pick up the sweet item that was running on Saturday morning commercials.  The store served a much greater purpose I’m sure but there is one memory that I have about Western Auto that makes it worthy of remembrance still today.  The memory is one of Optimus Prime.  The #1 cartoon on Saturday morning for me and my friends was Transformers.  The series has come a long way from its roots in 1984.  But when this cartoon hit the morning rotation, it was can’t miss TV.  The hero of the show was Optimus Prime, Leader of the Autobots.  This Western Auto is where I scored my first Optimus toy and I will forever have a soft spot for that semi truck that turned into a walking robot.  I wish I still had it.  Not only for the memory but a quick scan of eBay shows that these original toys sell for around $1,500 today.  I always used to mess with my dad about his old baseball cards being thrown out but I guess I did the same thing with ole Optimus Prime.

This TV Weighed 1,000 Pounds
Another retail hot spot before the chains and supercenters arrived was the Curtis Mathes TV Store on Broad Street.  As a matter of fact, I think I found a photo of the exact TV we owned when I was a kid.  You know, back in the days when the kids were the remote control.  I remember seeing the end of Friday the 13th on this TV and being scared of The Incredible Hulk.  Aside from the TV though, the big draw for me at Curtis Mathes was the VHS rental room they had in the back of the store.  This was the first place I found VHS tapes and likely began my lifelong obsession of watching corny horror movies.  I can close my eyes and still see the way the videos were all lined up.  Even though I went on to work at the epic Video Superstore and Movie Gallery when I was older, I cut my movie teeth in that Curtis Mathes.
Parking Lot of BC Moore’s Looks Much Like It Did In 1988
You can’t talk retail and 80’s without a mention of B.C. Moore’s on Scott Street.  I probably got 95% of my wardrobe from B.C. Moore’s when I was 12.  They had t-shirts, shorts, church clothes, ties and belts.  But what I remember most about the store was the shoe section.  I got many a Chuck Taylor at that store growing up.  When I was a kid, they were neon yellow and orange and were actually original.  We never parked in the front, instead opting for rear parking where the concrete ramp where merchandise was wheeled into the store from trucks was located.  If the firehouse hose ramp was fun, imagine this concrete ramp for an adventurous young boy.  It’s so weird the things that stick out in your mind when you think about some old memories.
Old Piggly Wiggly – Now Farmers Home Furniture
Before Winn-Dixie came to town, the grocery store that got all of our business was the great Piggly Wiggly.  I remember loading up on 1989 Topps baseball cards at Piggly Wiggly because I could get Donruss and Score at Wal-Mart.  But interestingly enough, that’s not the most vivid memory I have of the store.  That memory belongs to the old President’s card game that was an occasional promotion there.  I can’t find any information on it now but back then, you received a card with all of the president’s names.  If memory serves, you were given a couple of tags or tickets when you bought groceries and you peeled them back much like the McDonald’s Monopoly game of today.  You had to match up all the tags with the names on the card and you would win some extravagant prize.  Not surprisingly, we never completed the cards but I can always remember a couple of presidents that were rumored to be very rare.  For some reason, I remember pulling a ton of McKinley’s and Taft’s.  I learned more about our presidents playing that game than I ever did in school.  In the not so fun memory department, I remember flipping a grocery buggy with my baby brother in it one time.  I got a good whipping for that one.
Middle School – Front, 7th Grade Homeroom, 5th Grade Hall and Gym
Speaking of what I learned (or didn’t learn)  in school, there has been a complete restructuring of the public schools in Camilla.  Now, the Elementary, Middle and High School are all at the same location.  When I was young, they were in three different areas of the city.  I’ve written before about the Elementary School HERE and the High School HERE but one I haven’t written about in great detail (yet) is the Middle School.  The Middle School I went to was on South Harney Street and used to be the High School if I am not mistaken.  This school holds a ton of memories for me.  I played marbles, started collecting baseball cards, went to my first school dance and learned how to play basketball at this school.  While a lot of memories are vague and spotty before Middle School, there are many that come in to focus during those years.
Methodist Church & Office During Rebuild
The Middle School was centrally located for the places I went after school.  My mom worked at the Camilla United Methodist Church, before and after the lightning strike and I would go to her office most of the time after school.  Even when the church was being rebuilt and the office moved to one of the historic houses on Broad, I would still walk up by the hospital (where my grandmother worked) and Dr. Shiver’s office (where my aunt worked) to use the emergency room alley as a shortcut to my destination.  Whether it was the actual church or the temporary office, I could get there pretty quickly after school and those were the days when it was much safer to allow your 10 year old to make that trip on foot.

There was another destination I would head to on some school afternoons that was within walking distance.  That destination was the old Ambulance Service on East Stephens Street where my aunt worked.  As far back as I remember, my aunt was the director of the EMS in Camilla (until a recent retirement) and I would go to her office sometimes with my cousin Adam.  We would play basketball or hassle the EMT’s inside about mundane kid problems.  There was also a small wooden house across the road that was a storefront aptly named Shiver’s Store.  They had candy, drinks and any other snack a 10 year old could desire.  The big memory I have of that store was the huge jar of sour pickles they kept on the counter.  I bought one every time I went in there and still think about it when I see pickles in a convenience store today.

Old Stop N Shop Is Now Flash Foods
The other two convenience stores I would frequent in those days were the Stop N Shop at the fork of Scott and Butler and the Suwannee Swifty on Highway 97 at the exit of my neighborhood.  I went into the Stop N Shop almost daily either with my dad or granddaddy and would later use the parking lot as a “cut through” for when I was going uptown.  The Suwannee Swifty was my before and after school stop where I would get a breakfast hot dog or an occasional pack of ’89 Donruss.  Next door to the Suwannee Swifty was Big Boy Meats and next door to that was Cagles, at full operation before the new plant on US 19 was built.  That area has changed so much.  The old Cagles looks like a kudzu factory now and the Big Boy Meats building was leveled.
Nuk Nuk’s Is Now Kebo’s
Later in my teen years, I would go to Danny Newton’s store late at night with my buddies on the way to Huddle House for a midnight egg sandwich.  Newton’s was the only place in town you could get a Mountain Dew and a Fur Coat Care Kit in the same visit.  I remember him telling us that he bought about 50 of the fur care kits for $10 at a flea market and was then trying to sell them for $5 apiece.  I didn’t even know anybody with a fur coat.  I am certain that fur coat owners didn’t frequent that store.  You could also stumble in every now and then on a horror or adult movie playing on his black and white TV.  It was probably the oddest store in town but we would somehow end up there several times a week.  Probably because it was open later than most but the stories we picked up were also a driving force.  That location is Kebo’s BBQ now and is still a mighty fine stop on a trip through C-Town.
Big B Shopping Center 2017
As the chain stores and strip centers started to pop up in town, one that was a frequent visit for me was the Big B Drug’s shopping center.  Big B had a good selection of baseball cards which, if you haven’t guessed by now, is one of the selling points for me in regards to the value of a store.  Big B was also a smaller, quicker alternative to having to go to Wal-Mart for essentials.  A couple doors down from Big B was “The House of Music” which provided one of the greatest technological advancements ever, the cassette single.  I was going through a rap phase when I first started driving and I could buy one song on a cassette there for around $2.50.  I didn’t invest in full albums back then as I only wanted what was hot at the time.

VHS Expert
At the end of the strip center was the Movie Gallery.  When my days ended at the Video Superstore, I moved over to the Movie Gallery to continue my development as a VHS expert.  Movie Gallery was a larger corporation and more structured than Video Superstore, which ultimately led to my dissatisfaction with the job.  But I was known in my circles as the video store guy for several years of my teen life.  I don’t know if that was really good or bad but I still wear it as a badge of honor and have a strong connection with Randall from Clerks every time I watch that classic.
Legion Entrance – Courtesy of Shaun Hall
While all of these places have special memories for me, there is one place that is as bold and vivid in my mind as any memory I have from my Camilla youth.  Unfortunately, it has deteriorated beyond belief and is no longer a place of joy and laughter.  The American Legion Pool was THE spot to be on a summer afternoon in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The legion was a huge spring fed pool that had a high dive, springboard and the locally famous Super Slide.  The water was freezing cold and perfect for the 100 degree South Georgia heat.  The pool would open around 1:00 and close at 6:00 if memory serves and those 5 hours were never enough for one day.  The Legion is where I mastered the art of being shot down by pretty girls in bathing suits.  I was no Rico Suave like Jason Lee or BJ Harris.
Snack Bar and Volleyball Court – Courtesy of Shaun Hall
Aside from swimming, you could spend the day playing a couple of video games (1942 is one I remember), playing ping pong and of course, playing volleyball.  Volleyball was where you went to get noticed.  There and at the top platform of the Super Slide, where you would stand until the lifeguard blew the whistle to get you down.  The worst part about volleyball was that one of the out of bounds lines was the bathroom building and if you hit the ball on the roof, it was slanted away from the volleyball court.  You would have to exit the facility altogether and walk in the stickers to go get the ball.  The rule was that if you hit it over, you had to go get it, unless you were the young kid that could be forced to go get it.  The last time I went to the Legion was for my 10 year High School reunion and I believe I am one of the only ones that swam and tackled  the Super Slide.  I still have a hard time growing up and I’m 40.
Pool Images – Courtesy of Shaun Hall
Alas, like many of these other locations from my youth, the Legion is just a memory kept alive through pictures.  I don’t know why it fell apart like it did.  Maybe the spring stopped feeding the pool and the cost was too high to maintain otherwise.  Maybe interest waned but that is hard to believe.  Alicia and I both wish it was still open if for no other reason than to take our daughter to experience a fun place we experienced growing up.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I could drop her off and pick her up 5 hours later like our parents used to.  Things were different in 1988 in more ways than one but I sure do miss those days.

Times change and I understand that as much as anybody.  Stores come and go and economies evolve.  But that’s not what this was about for me.  I truly miss walking into the old Wal-Mart and knowing exactly where I needed to go.  I miss Friday Nights at the Video Superstore, where every 17 year old wanted to be.  I miss going to see my Papa at the fire department and then riding over to Curtis Mathes to have my mom rent Ghostbusters.  I miss hiding from my parents in the dressing room at B.C. Moore’s because I didn’t want dress pants to wear to church.  I still wonder about what my life would be like today if I had hit that big prize in the Piggly Wiggly President’s Game.

There are places I didn’t even touch on that are long gone in my hometown.  The old wood yard across from Centennial Stadium is now part of the rec department and is cleaned up for soccer fields.  The Huddle House closed, AC’s Steakhouse is history, Estelle’s is no more and my high school isn’t even Mitchell-Baker anymore as Baker went back to their county and we are left with just Mitchell County.  Many of my friends have moved away, neighbors have changed and I see more people I don’t know than familiar faces when I visit.  But some of the faces have remained the same and some of the stores are still open.  And every time I go “home”, I see something that reminds me of another time in my life and it takes me back to that familiar place where life was a little easier.  And regardless of the modifications to the landscape, that will never change.

Now, if Krispy Chik ever closes, we are going to have some serious problems at the Shiver house.


2017 Panini Classics – Throwback To Junk Wax

Much like Topps Archives, Panini Classics is one of my preferred sets for building among current releases.  With so many football releases, I have to just pick a couple that I am going to invest in for boxes and focus on them.  I like to pick up packs of as many products as I can get my hands on to experience them but this is one that I really enjoyed ripping last year.  It’s a very reasonable set when it comes to pricing and has a very interesting checklist with current stars, hall of famers and some past stars I haven’t thought about since I was a kid.  A lot of Panini sets include retired stars but this one has a legitimate vintage feel to me.Much like Archives, you also get a shot at a retired player autograph which is something I love adding to my PC.  I remember pulling Harold Carmichael last year and was pretty excited about it.  My biggest football pull in the last few years came in 2016 Classics with this Hines Ward #’d to 25!  By the time I pulled this, a Classics box was down to about $36.  So again, similar to Archives, you can pull a lot of basic semi-stars from yesteryear but you can also stumble on a big hit every now and then.  For me, I don’t ask for much more than that.  You know me as the guy who loves to break ’89 Donruss so do you really see me busting National Treasures to get those huge hits that are floating around?Today, many of my life’s decisions are about the level of risk I’m willing to take.  A nostalgic guy who loves collecting at its roots is not a big risk taker by nature.  And that’s really what Panini Classics is; a fairly low risk with a heavy dose of nostalgia, a guaranteed auto and the chance for the occasional jaw dropper.  The box is currently running about $70 for 14 packs.  The average box promises one autograph, one memorabilia card, a rookie in each pack and one sepia short print (new for 2017).  The base set is 300 cards with Current Stars located 1-100, Legends 101-200 and Rookies 201-300.  The design itself does not pull from a previous set like Archives and is simply a play on the card sets of my youth.  Think about the old Wax I talked about HERE and add some gloss to them.  Even the box and packs have a retro look to them.  I was able to save a few packs in this box break for my pack collection.

Base Set – Current Stars

The checklist for 1-100 is just how you would imagine.  The likes of these three players pictured along with Brady, Luck, Julio, AJ, Freeman and others.  Each photo has a pretty cool shot of the player that is very clear with the background being a bit hazy.  It reminds me of the new “portrait” feature on the iPhone, which I love by the way.  I may have to use that feature for my next personal Topps card!

Base Set – Legends

Here is where I get my money’s worth.  This is an unbelievable checklist for an 80’s-90’s DORK such as myself.  No retro set is complete without Bo.  And look at that sweet Deion in the black jersey.  There are also 2 TSB Legends in Ickey Woods and Christian Okoye.  I love this section of the checklist.

Base Set – Rookies

I’m not sold on the 2017 rookie class just yet outside of the top running backs but I’m sure there will be some that hit.  One thing is for sure; it’s got a fair share of Alabama players which hopefully is a good sign for the rest of us in the SEC this year.  Odds are that they’ll just reload like they always do but they lost some major talent.

Career Colors

This insert shows a player in the uniforms they wore during their career.  There are some solid names here with Peyton Manning, Jerome Bettis, Marcus Allen and others.  The most teams I’ve seen on a card in this checklist is 3.  I actually forgot about Emmitt’s time in AZ until seeing this card.

Classic Clashes

This insert features 2 players that had epic matchups over the last 30 years.  There are duos like Rice/Deion, Montana/Young, OBJ/Norman and Favre/Rodgers.  You know that Howie and Montana had some memorable Bay Area matchups back in the day!


As you can guess by the name and this card, this insert features a current star with a player that they emulate or were similar too from the past.  There are duos like Ronnie Lott/Kam Chancellor, Brett Favre/Matt Ryan and Devin Hester/Ty”Freak” Hill included.

The Next Level

This insert features a coordinated front and back effort to show stars in their NFL and College uniforms.  Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Brian Urlacher and Julio Jones headline this checklist.  I always enjoy seeing players in their college colors.

Record Breakers

I don’t know what it is but this is already my favorite base insert of the last several years.  I don’t know if it’s the Atari look or what but this design just hits me hard!  Luckily, I pulled a Matty Ice as my first card too.  Unfortunately, I also pulled Cam Newton and Drew Brees, division foes.  But this card is slick!  Autographed would be the only way to top this design.

Super Bowl Heroes

This insert set is just what you think by the name.  And what Super Bowl Hero set is complete without Joe Montana?  The checklist includes Terrell Davis, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw and others.

Gold Parallel

Each card in the set has a gold parallel but they don’t appear to be extremely rare.  I pulled 4 in the box of 14 packs.

Sepia Short Prints

These are found one per box on average but I got lucky and pulled a second with Steve Largent, not pictured.  Not only is it a sepia exposure, the image is different as well, as shown above.

Memorabilia Card

I pulled a nice Russell Wilson patch but it was a basic one color, numbered to 250.  I don’t get overly excited about patch cards but I’m pleased it was a star player.


I didn’t pull a retired player like I prefer but I did pull a rookie I have some familiarity with.  I hope he performs well in Minnesota and not just because I pulled his auto.  The Auto is numbered to 199 and it is a Sticker Auto.  We will save the Sticker vs On Card debate for another post.

Surprise Hit!

After I pulled the stated hits in the box, I was excited to see this 1/1 Cameron Wake Timeless Tributes.  I like the way Panini makes their 1 of 1 logo a little different than all the other serial numbers.  This was an added bonus!

Classics is one of those sets that people either really like or they feel is just “meh”.  It’s not a set that will grab the attention of the thrill seekers but it is a solid set for the old school collector in my opinion.  In a world where hobby boxes continue to increase in pizazz and cost, Classics remains a reasonable option for the simple cardboard cravings of a collector on a budget.  You can still go out and buy 2016 for less than $40 and there are some solid stars to be found.  I’ll be picking up a couple more boxes of the product this year.  I’m going to give it a 4 on the Dub-O-Meter.  Because of the cost and checklist, it’s worthy of ripping and collecting.  If it provided 2 autos or 1 guaranteed veteran auto, I could stretch it to a 5.  No matter how I finish off the scoring, it is a product I’d recommend if you are a collector like me.


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?

Pigskin & Wax

I made a cheap eBay purchase a couple of weeks ago purely for some nostalgic fun.  I bought a series of Topps Football packs from 1987-1991; one pack for each year.  This lot intrigued me because I hadn’t opened these particular years of Topps Football in quite some time and there are some pretty solid rookies to be had.  Randall Cunningham is in ’87, Bo and Okoye in ’88, Barry, Aikman and Deion in ’89 and Emmitt in ’90.  I wasn’t too interested in ’91 but it completed the 5 year stretch.  Spoiler alert – I picked up my best rookie card in that ’91 pack.  The other intriguing part of the deal was that it was less than $10 shipped.  

Topps really didn’t change a whole lot from 87-90 and it wasn’t until ’91 that they came close to matching up with the baseball design.  All of the sets have a basic white border and they really only evolved just a tad from year to year.  Each pack comes with a 1,000 Yard Club card showcasing a player that topped the 1,000 yard mark the previous year.  I don’t suppose I really had to explain that.  The packs themselves are almost identical with only color schemes being different.  Each pack from 87-90 are wax packs but changed in ’91 to the new cello type material, just like baseball.  In ’91, the gum was replaced with one more card increasing the pack size from 15 to 16. I was prepared to pull some of the star players because we all remember them.  But there were a few players that I had totally forgotten about until ripping these packs.  I won’t cover every player in every pack but there are a few in each that deserve a comment.

1987 – ’87 has a pretty basic design with dualing flags at the top of the card with the players name and team name opposite each other’s.  Those flags were the two main colors of the team uniform.  The plus for this set was that I did like the 1,000 Yard Club card better than the others but that’s not exactly a huge compliment.

The first time Todd Christensen makes an appearance in my memory is courtesy of original Tecmo Bowl.  That version only had 12 NFL teams and 4 offensive plays but the Raiders were one of the best on offense.  If Bo, Marcus Allen and Tim Brown weren’t enough, Christensen was one of the fastest tight ends on the game.  He became even more memorable for me but I’ll save that for the second card I pulled of him, hint-hint.Anthony in Minnesota was one of two receiving Carter’s and together with Cris, made a formidable duo.  He began his career in the USFL and caught the game winning TD pass from Bobby Hebert in the USFL Championship his rookie season.  He seemed to rise to the occasion come playoff time.  He still holds the NFL record for most all purpose yards in a single postseason with 642.Steve Largent is another Tecmo Bowl Legend.  Largent is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and is the first WR to catch 100 passes in a career.  He once held the record for consecutive games with a catch at 177 until Jerry Rice obliterated it on the way to 274.  Largent is also the only player I pulled in this lot that went on to be a congressman.Ozzie Newsome is better known in today’s NFL as the General Manager of the Ravens, for better or worse.  But for some of us older guys, he was a helluva tight end too.  He’s historically been ranked around #5 on all time lists from various outlets.  He’s a member of the Hall of Fame and gave the position some punch from an offensive perspective.  And not to mention, never missed a game in 13 seasons.Most packs from the 80’s include an oddball of sorts.  Mark Gastineau is the oddball in this one.  He may be an oddball in this pack but he was a stud on the field.  He still holds all of the major sack records for the Jets and made the Pro Bowl 5 times.  After football though, he spent some time behind bars for various crimes in the late 90’s.  Some people may know his daughter Brittny more than Mark but he was a very good player in his day.

1988 – ’88 was my best pack as a whole.  The ’88 base design is probably my favorite of this group.  The card uses the two primary team colors in the design at the bottom of the card in a very cool visual.

Henry Ellard was a stud with the Rams.  Everett to Ellard was a vastly underrated combo on my opinion.  This 1,000 Yard Club design was not underrated as it was rightfully poorly rated.  Out of the 5 years, this was probably ranked #4.  Lame is all I can say about it.Art Monk – Hall of Famer – 3x World Champion – 3x Pro Bowler – First WR to 900 receptions.  What else do you need to know?I’m sure Jim Kelly asked Topps if this was the best picture they could find in their file. It’s just a terrible shot of a star QB in ’88.  Kelly is another Hall of Famer with impeccable numbers.  But he’ll always have to carry around that 0-4 label in the Super Bowl, which is very unfortunate.Eric Dickerson was indeed an All Pro as this card would indicate.  Dickerson was a 6x Pro Bowler, NFL Rookie of the Year and led the league in rushing 4 times.  He even played for the Falcons for a short period.The only way you can really describe Ronnie Lott is “absolute beast!”  He could strike you, he could pick you off and he could sack you.  Extremely gifted with a combination of speed and hands at safety puts him on my favorites list.The ’88 oddball is the same player as the 1,000 Yard Club member in ’87.  But this is what he looked like the second time he enters my memory bank.  He was a commentator on American Gladiators and rocked the worst Afro/Mustache combo of the late 80’s.

1989 – ’89 had my second favorite 1,000 Yard Club design from this group.  I also like and remember the base designs well.  They come to mind when I think “Topps Football”.

Neal Anderson first got my attention on NES Play Action Football.  In 1990, it was the best attempt at the real thing on Nintendo.  It would only survive one year though as the king of all NES games would hit shelves in 1991.  Anderson was really good and ran for 1,000 plus in 3 consecutive seasons and he’s the #3 all time rusher for the Chicago Bears.  His career was cut short because of injuries.Andre Reed was an absolute beast in the Bills K-Gun offense.  Reed ranks 12th in all time receptions with 942 and was a 7 time Pro Bowler.  While he missed that elusive Super Bowl ring, he did get elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.  The football stadium at his alma mater, Kutztown University, is even now named André Reed Stadium.  Reed caught 3 second half touchdowns in the great comeback against the Oilers in January 1993.While we are talking about the Bills, we might as well mention Scott Norwood.  I am not going to beat up on Mr. Norwood because I think he has probably taken enough abuse over the years.  True, he did miss the decisive field goal attempt vs the Giants in Super Bowl XXV but he was historically a very steady kicker in Buffalo.  He passed OJ Simpson as the Bills all time leadin scorer while in NY.  He no longer holds that record but it speaks to how many times his field goals were true.I included this card but I don’t really have anything nice to say about Mr. May.  He’s ruined his legacy with me with his college analysis on ESPN.  Oddball!!

1990 – More subtle changes from the previous year.  However, the 1,000 Yard Club design was the worst in the set history for me.  Can you say 1991 Fleer?  These were just horrible.  The ’90 pack was the slimmest on decent pulls but I did get my biggest star QB.

Brian Blades from The U!  He played college ball on the far southeastern tip of the US and pro football in the far northwestern tip.  That’s the farthest jump from college to the NFL if you exclude Hawaii.  Aside from Pro Football, Blades has one of the strangest convictions followed by acquittal you’ll see with an athlete.  He was charged with manslaughter in the death of his cousin.  He was convicted by a jury but the judge overturned the verdict and he walked.  Later, a discovery was made that the judges father employed Blades when he was a player at UM and the defense attorney was a part of the judge’s divorce case.  That is a strange one that probably needs its own 30 for 30.One of the best!  John Elway was a true gunslinger but also had wheels for a big QB.    We won’t rummage through all of his stats and achievements because you probably already know them.  I will say that when the Broncos played the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, I pulled for the Falcons but was torn with Elway and Terrell Davis (UGA) on the opposing sideline.  If the Broncos had played ANYONE else that year, I would have been a happy man at the end of that game.

1991 – As I said before, the packs changed for 1991 from wax to cello and gum was no longer included.  There was obviously a shift happening in the hobby towards more progressive packaging and visuals but I miss the wax and gum immensely.

Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time!  He was a member of the 1,000 Yard Club 8 times and caught 1,549 passes.  That’s dang near double Steve Largent and he was amazing in his own right.  Happy with this pull.This is the best rookie card I pulled and not even one I was looking for.  But super excited to pull it.  Hamp is sometimes known for his Pro Bowls and Super Bowl ring and 5 consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons in NY.  But for me, he’s a Damn Good Dawg that got after it while he was in Athens.  Hamp is 7th on an all time list that includes Hershel Walker, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Garrison Hearst and Knowshon Moreno.  He was a fine tailback at Tailback U and is a beloved player to Bulldawg Nation!

I didn’t pull any of “The Huge” rookies from these classes but I had a great time ripping these packs and seeing the old designs and players.  I had forgotten about guys like Aundray Bruce and Ernest Givens.  For less than $10, I could do this 4-5 times a week and never get tired of it.  When you are sifting through $7 packs, remember that these gems are still out there and very affordable.  If you collected during that time, you’ll love the memories.  If you didn’t, you’ll love looking at what the product was like before gloss and serial numbers.  What is your favorite Topps set from these 5?  Which did you collect most?


State Of The Hobby – June 1990

With my recent post on my favorite Beckett Covers, I took out a few that I kept over the years.  If you’re my age, you remember Beckett Magazine before there was internet and eBay and Twitter.  We used the magazine as a Bible for collecting and we were able to keep up with who was hot, what products were coming out and where the next show was.  While I had the Bo Beckett out, I decided to give it another read.  I took my time too.  I started at the beginning, worked my way through a couple of articles, the “Readers Write” section, The Hot/Cold List, the price guide portion and then the show list.  I wanted to take the temperature of the hobby in mid 1990, so to speak.I was very much a part of the hobby in 1990 and I have many fond memories from that time but I wanted to see it in black and white again.  Believe me when I say, it didn’t disappoint.  First, let me point out very obviously that our hobby has changed quite a bit since 1990.  Card companies were printing cards with reckless abandon and we were buying them up as fast as they came off the press.  There is even one forboding comment from a reader in the “Readers Write” section that was a couple of years ahead of its time.  There were some hot rookies at the time that were making waves and forcing collectors to grab up their cards that are now only a part of cardboard folklore.  There were some sets that were just plain bad, even by 80’s standards and the market reflected it.  And let’s be clear about that part as well.  These prices we are going to discuss and the hot players were decided by their play and the market.  This was a sign of the times, not an indictment on the hobby by any means.Cards were popping up at drug stores, convenient stores, grocery stores, you name it.  The LCS was just the pricey alternative in those days.  The packs you got at Wal-Mart were the same as what you would get at a hobby shop; you just paid Wal Mart prices for them.  As you’ll see with one article that I particularly enjoyed, cards were popping up on Home Shopping Channels at this point as well.  Everybody was trying to get in on the action but we didn’t see the train wreck coming, or at least I didn’t.  I was 13 years old at the time and I was just trying to get my hands on as many Rickey Jordan RC’s as I could.  I hadn’t reached the point where I knew ’88 Donruss was oozing out of warehouses like a scene from the blob or that Jerome Walton was going to be a flash in the pan.  Maybe if I had a Beckett Almanac from the future back then!  All I knew was that cards had taken over my life and I was 100% sold just like everybody else.

So let’s look at the hobby as it was in June of 1990.

As we begin this trip down memory lane, how many of you remember this advertisement?  I always wanted this entire collection of books but was only able to score the Baseball Price Guide.  You couldn’t pay me to read a textbook in 8th grade but I would study these publications like my grandma at a book club meeting.

The first article I read was “Top Guns”, which covered the best arms at each position.

  • C – Benny Santiago
  • 1B – Keith Hernandez
  • 2B – Jose Oquendo
  • SS – Shawon Dunston
  • 3B – Ken Caminiti – Dude had a rifle!
  • LF – Bo Jackson
  • CF – Andy Van Slyke
  • RF – Jesse Barfield

They also covered some weaker arms by position.  Some of the names surprised me.

  • C – Craig Biggio – Guess the move to 2nd was warranted
  • 1B – Dave Magadan
  • 2B – Ryne Sandberg – Surprise #1
  • SS – Ozzie Smith – Surprise #2
  • 3B – Bobby Bonilla – Wild Arm
  • LF – Kirk Gibson
  • CF – Gary Pettis
  • RF – Ivan Calderon

The first article was awesome and gave me information I had either totally forgotten or I never knew!  The names took me back immediately and made me realize I was going to enjoy this adventure.

Next, I moved to the “Readers Write” section.  This is where the readers would write in with a question or observation and get responses from various writers or editors at Beckett.  Let me first say that there were some very arrogant readers back in the day.  There were a couple of comments that made me bristle at the tone they were taking.  While some were cringeworthy, others were pretty interesting in hindsight.

First, the one that made me cringe a bit.  It was a comparison between Jim Abbott and Gregg Olson.  But the response was dead on.  Abbott was a starter and Olson was a reliever.  How many relievers have ever looked good in the price guide?

Then there was a reader who was no fan of Rickey Henderson.  I get that his career had not completely played out yet but he was not interested in Rickey being a member of the All 80’s Team.  The whole thing seems pretty laughable today.

The last one I’ll share is the one that is a bit foreshadowing.  M.V. In California seems to have seen the writing on the wall!

Moving on to the Hot and Cold List, this was what we were after in a big way in mid 1990, or either trying to dump.Canseco, Jefferies and Chris Sabo found themselves on both lists.  Bo was the hottest player in the hobby and his cover photo (’89 Score) was one of the hottest cards.  Todd Zeile was in the Top 5 while Ben McDonald and Eric Anthony were in the Top 10.  Delino DeShields was making his first appearance on the list.  In August of ’89, Pete Rose was placed on Baseball’s Ineligible List and his spot at #1 on the Cold List was reflective of his removal from the game.  Sportsflics was getting hammered too but more on them on a moment.

When I got to the price guide portion, I automatically thumbed to certain cards that I remember being on my want list.  While doing so, I stumbled across some that I never knew were as popular as they were in June, 1990.  Again, this is a great indicator of where the hobby was at the time.  The current market always tells the story.  As I said before, the hobby has changed!

The first out of place card I saw was this 1983 Donruss Howard Johnson.  It was running only $2 less than Ryne Sandberg.

What was going on with Kevin McReynolds in 1990 to make his already $12.00 RC be on the rise?  I can’t figure this one out.

In the 1984 Topps Traded set, two American League pitchers were surprises.  Gooden was the obvious stud in the set but Bret Saberhagen at $24 and Mark Langston at $18 didn’t quite hold up.

All collectors from this era remember the ’85 Topps Mark McGwire.  Your window of purchasing this card at a reasonable price was closing fast by this point.

The window had already closed on getting the Canseco at a low level.  He was a bonafide star by this point and the card would continue to climb.

Here’s a name from the past.  Kevin Mitchell was rocking a $9 Fleer card in 1987.  For a 13 year old, a $9 card was as good as a $50 card.

Not to be outdone, Will Clark popped in with an ’87 Fleer valued at $35.  The last 4 players (McGwire, Canseco, Mitchell and Clark) were fresh off of the “Battle of the Bay” World Series of 1989.  Their cards were hot!

Here is where that Beckett Almanac from the future would’ve paid HUGE dividends!  I could have purchased 20 Barry Bonds ’87 Topps and made $2,000 on them a few years later.  This was a true buying opportunity missed!  But at the time, I would’ve traded Bonds and Frank Viola for the Greg Seinfeld RC!

Remember that Sportsflics mention above? This was ’86 and ’87.  This is what we call abandon ship time!!

This ’88 Score Update Mark Grace totally took me by surprise.  He was a hot young player but this card was huge value for 1988.

Want to know just how much Collectors thought of Jerome Walton?  Look no further than the ’89 Score and Topps Traded Sets.  In June of ’90, he was valued at a mere .50 cents less than Ken Griffey Jr. and was the second highest value in the sets.

Speaking of The Kid, this was one of the last times you could get his ’89 Upper Deck for a decent price for a long time!

Finally, ’90 Score brought us a hot young rookie who was just starting to blossom.  Big Hurt’s rookie card was .90 and would not see a 2 digit value again.

The next section of the mag was the show listings.  Shows in 1990 were abundant to say the least.  I just attended my first show in many years this past weekend and wrote about it HERE.  In 1990, you could take your pick on any given weekend within a 50 mile radius of anywhere in America.What I really found striking in these ads were the players that would be present and how much an autograph would cost.  What a time to be alive!

  • Eric Dickerson and Jim Palmer were free with admission
  • Barry Sanders – $7
  • Whitey Ford – $8
  • Willie Stargell – $5
  • Brooks Robinson – $7
  • Johnny U – $8
  • Al Kaline – $7
  • Sterling Sharpe – $5

I wrapped up my review with a read of this article titled, “Beware of Mass Media Hucksters”.  This just screams 1990 and is a perfect synopsis of how mainstream the hobby was becoming.  I tried to scan this so you could read it fully.  Great stuff!

This was our hobby in 1990.  No Twitter trading, no eBay sales to effect the market, names that we’ve forgotten were household names, a chance at Hall of Fame autographs for the price of a pack of cards today and no filter on collectors who wrote in to magazines.  As odd as it all may sound to some of the new collectors, I think I speak for a lot of Junk Wax Era hobbyists when I say it was one of the funnest eras ever!  I miss those days and in many ways, never left them.  Those that follow me know that I am a sucker for ’89 Topps, Pro-Vision and washed up prospects of the 80’s. That’s because it’s what I cut my teeth on.  And we never stray too far from our roots.  Even when those roots are made out of wax paper and high fructose sticks of gum.  It’s just a part of me and always will be.