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?


5 thoughts on “Pigskin & Wax”

  1. My first football cards were 1987 Topps. I didn’t know much about pro football then (but I already love the Mountaineers), but they were at the toy store and I’d been collecting baseball cards for just under a year. That design will always hold a special place in my heart.

    1. That’s exactly how I am. Could be the worst design ever in reality but if I collected it as a kid, I still love it.

  2. I used to be diligent about getting NFL cards of guys who went to Michigan, and that included Anthony Carter. Of course, there were not as many choices, just plain Topps, as I remember, so it was much easier to get all the Wolverines cards…not so anymore.

    And yes, The Michigan Panthers won the first USFL Championship on TD pass from Bobby Hebert to the great Anthony Carter,

    Go Blue!

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