Member’s Only – A Prestigious Club

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

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

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


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?

8 thoughts on “Member’s Only – A Prestigious Club”

  1. Hello J: I’m 60 yrs young & really did enjoy all of TSC back in the Day.
    I also thank you for sharing & all that you do.
    God Bless you & your’s this Holiday~jimm

  2. Tato Skins and “Magic Middles” cookies were my snacks back then…drool. Always loved the photography in Stadium Club. Never was a member, but had the dome sets and came across some Member’s Only stuff in my travels here and there.

      1. Absolutely, and at the same prices. My grandma would give me $10 and I could get a 6 pack of Coke, Tato Skins, Magic Middles, and 3 frozen pizzas for the weekend to fuel my Sega habit.

  3. I was so excited when I received my SC Member’s Only box. My favorite thing was the Nolan Ryan card made out of a heavy chunk of metal. Still have the original set laying around somewhere.

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