I’m going to open up a little for this one. I may be putting myself out there but the actual card set I’m sorting tonight has put me in that sort of mood. You see, I’ve always been a bit meticulous. I’ve always needed things to be “just so” to be comfortable. I have gone through different stages of OCD throughout my life that have ranged from mildly annoying to borderline debilitating. Anxiety can be a soul crusher at times and I am most extreme in my OCD when my tension is running high. Anxiety can heighten all of your senses I suppose but this is one of the most straightforward and frustrating for me. I won’t dive headlong into psychoanalysis and how your brain can distort reality at times, but I will focus on the OCD part for this one.
I don’t really know when it began but I do remember many times that it has taken a prominent place in my psyche. The mild annoyances are simple enough for the average person to understand. Did I turn off the oven? Did I lock the front door on my way out? Did I unplug the iron before leaving the house? I think we all have those thoughts on some level. But when I am in a hectic state, those are real stressors too. I remember leaving for vacation with my wife early in our marriage and the thought of me leaving the oven on intruded my thoughts an hour and a half into the drive for this week long trip. I tried for a few miles to reconcile my movements before I left the house. I spent a few miles on the road debating whether to even bring it up to my wife. Ultimately, I caved and I drove the 3 hour round trip from where we were back home and back to where we were. Guess what? The oven wasn’t on.
When my first daughter was born, I had a ritual that kept me up for an extra 60 minutes every night. I have always been tied to the #5 for several reasons, including that being the number of Ron Gant. But I use “5” for many of my OCD tendencies and the number has become engrained in me over time. When my daughter would go to bed at an early age, I would have to go listen to her breathe. Again, I don’t think that is so out of the ordinary. But I had to hear her breathe in 5 times, out 5 times and I had to see her chest expand with air 5 times. If those things didn’t happen in the right order, I had to start over. Try watching someone sleep, whether they are 2 or 82, and let me know how many consecutive normal breaths they take. It is rarely 5 without some sort of movement or rollover or delayed exhale. I tried to cheat sometimes and just go with 5 of any of the things I was looking for but I would only lie in bed for about 2-3 minutes and I was back in her room counting again.
I still twist the doorknob 5 times at night to make sure it’s locked but I promise that I am miles ahead of where I used to be. I once had to tighten the doorknob on what felt like a quarterly basis because I pulled on it so much, it would get loose. I would not only check the oven, I would place my hand on the burners for a 5 second count to convince myself that no matter what my eyes saw, the oven wasn’t hot. Guess how many times I would hit the lock button on my truck and hear the horn? My neighbors had to hate me at some point or another for that. I’ve gotten better with this over time as well and I only make sure I hear it honk once before going about my business.
It has invaded work as well. I went through a spell where I didn’t leave voicemails because I had no way of going back and listening to them to make sure it was coherent. I would read emails over and over before hitting send to make sure I was conveying what I wanted to say and not saying something I shouldn’t. I recounted interactions with my customers over and over in my head to make sure that they went how I intended for them to go. A person that struggles with OCD also has a hard time believing in what they are doing. The mind is already twisting things up and making you second guess yourself so when you toss in the added pressure of trying to grow a career and provide for your family, the stress increases 10 fold.
It has affected me in sports too. I like to think that I have fun little superstitious quirks but I know that they are more than that. When I play softball, I am the last one out of the dugout, I wear the same batting gloves throughout a season (even if that means I’m missing some glove fingers), I never let the bats cross while leaning on the fence in the dugout and I certainly never cross the diamond between the pitcher and catcher. I wear the same shirt for all UGA games and I eat breakfast at the same place on Saturday’s during the season. Taking it even further, if we lose, I don’t wear that shirt again all season.
The hardest part is that I think that all of this actually matters. I think that if I don’t count to 5 while twisting the doorknob, it won’t be locked. I think that if I don’t check on the oven, the house will burn down. I think that if I don’t have my steak biscuit and hashbrown casserole, Jake Fromm will have a bad day. I think that if I just blindly send emails and leave voice messages without the deep analyzing I do that I’ll turn into Andrew Dice Clay on a customer’s phone. And yes, I think the universe will somehow rob the other 100,000 UGA fans at Sanford Stadium of a victory because I chose to wear a different shirt than the weekend before.
So what does this have to do with sports cards? Let me see if I can connect the dots for you. As a meticulous, regimented person, I have certain ways I sort and keep checklists for the various sets I am working on. I know that I have gotten better as I’ve aged in this regard too because I started the 1991 Topps project earlier in 2017. I would have never been able to handle such a project with variations, glow backs, bold backs, errors and the like with my OCD tendencies still a big part of my life. That set would have driven me CRAZY! I would have given up a couple boxes in because I would be lying in bed at night wide awake wondering if I had missed a Doug Drabek error or a Chipper Jones glow back. I’m telling you, it would have sent me into a neurotic collecting state.I know this about ’91 Topps because another set is guilty of pushing me to the brink of madness from my early days. It has always been one of my favorite sets but I gave up on building it a long time ago because of the uniqueness the checklist and its errors present. 1990 Pro Set is a set built for true madmen. It takes a certain kind of collector to dedicate themselves to collecting the entire checklist while memorizing all of the errors. There are some really big, well known errors in the set but damn near every card has some sort of uncorrected error that you need to familiarize yourself with if you are going to master it.
Let me make this clear; I love the set, the design and the players available. I love the Emmitt Smith rookie, the Andre Rison multiple inserts into the base set and the fact that Santa Claus makes an appearance. I love the Super Bowl inserts, the art cards and the Pro Bowl cards that can be found throughout. This set has one of my all-time favorite rookies that didn’t pan out in football; Percy Snow. I just hate the fact that I will never be able to fully understand the set. I hate that it got the best of me 20 years ago. I hate that it has taken me this long to write about because it somehow represents a failure on my set collecting resume. But yeah, I love the set.So here I am; a once vulnerable collector that now stands with confidence built through countless hours of sorting 1991 Topps Baseball. I have the confidence to try and tackle a set that previously left me confused and out of sorts. I have a box of Series I and II sitting before me and I am going to patiently rip each pack and study the cards before me. I am going to give this my best effort. I know that ultimate success will take time. I know that there will be moments of uncertainty and self doubt. But I refuse to be defeated by a 27 year old piece of “Junk Wax” Cardboard. I am entering the sorting ring with 1990 Pro Set and only one of us will walk out of it.The package is one that I’ll never forget. The plastic baggy was a change from the wax pack but not a revolutionary change like the ’89 Upper Deck foil. 1989 Pro Set and Score started this packaging in football but 1988 Score Baseball introduced these little flimsy bags to the hobby. For what it’s worth, the bags were harder to tamper with than the wax packs so it was based on improvement in theory.
The cards were colorful and fun for football sets. Topps had been the only player in the game until 1989 when Pro Set and Score joined the fray. In 1990, Pro Set improved upon the colorful ’89 set by giving the collector even more team oriented flare. The top and bottom borders for the set were in a team color and a secondary border carried the secondary color of the team. The Vikings had purple and yellow, the Raiders had silver and black and the Falcons had red and black. I absolutely love the Falcons cards I PC from the set.
Where this set gets wild is the error cards. Pro Set went absolutely nuts in 1990 and the number of errors/variations rival that of the ’91 Topps baseball set. Just like its baseball counterpart, this set has its own website/blog dedicated to the many oddities that can be found. I’ve embedded it HERE so you can check it out if the mood strikes you. When I go through the errors that I found at the end of this post, I will use their STAR rating to identify scarcity. The scale they use is from zero stars to four stars, with four being the hardest to find. I didn’t get bogged down in all of the zero star errors for this post but they will certainly take another several weeks to parse.
First, let’s just start with the set itself and go through some of the fun pulls. For anything in 1990, I feel like the best way to sort is to consider Super Tecmo Bowl. While all of these players may not have been household names, they were all pretty instrumental in my Tecmo passion.
The NFL was loaded in 1990 with Hall of Fame and Superstar coaches. This was actually Jimmy Johnson’s first year in the pro’s but Landry, Ditka, Parcells, Reeves, Shula and the others were big names then and now. I actually bumped into Marv Levy on my honeymoon almost 17 years ago in a grocery store in Williamsburg, VA. I told my wife, “THAT’S MARV LEVY!” and she said, “Who?” It was almost the shortest marriage in history.
The 49er’s had two future Hall of Fame QB’s in 1990 with Joe Montana and Steve Young, who appeared in Series II. There was also QB Bills, QB Browns and QB Eagles from Tecmo. And if you have any Warren Moon’s laying around that you aren’t collecting, send them to ole Dub.
Any checklist that includes Bo and Barry is A-OK with me! But this one also has Ickey Woods, Roger Craig, Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas and Christian Okoye. Dave Meggett was one of the most underrated backs on Tecmo and Vai Sikahema was hands down, the best return man on the game.
So many of today’s collectors either forget about Sterling Sharpe or don’t realize just how good he was. He was as good as all of these guys (except maybe Rice) in 1990. Michael Irvin was on his way to making a name for himself while Art Monk was winding down his career.
For my money, it doesn’t get any better than these names. All of these players were playing at the same time and would have made The Redzone Channel a lot more riveting if it had been around. I don’t think anybody could block these guys even in 2017.
This is one of my favorite Prime Time cards ever. The red and silver from Series I was really good looking. William White and Joey Browner were ball hawking safeties that made life miserable for everybody who played against me on Tecmo. But the best Tecmo player in this stack is none other than David Fulcher. This guy was an absolute beast!
This is for my buddy Scott Berger!
I honestly don’t remember this card from the 1990 set. This was in the design of the 1989 Pro Set but was in Series I of 1990.
I remember LOVING this card in 1990. I only ever pulled a couple but it felt like a huge get. How many golfers were found in football sets?
I specifically remember Washington from the Score set first because of his purple TCU jersey. Sadly, he was killed in a car accident 11 games into his rookie season and never got to fully live out his dream. I don’t know why I remember this player so much but I always think of him when I’m ripping ’90 Pro Set or Score.
I share this card for one reason only. How many of you know what happened right after this Felix Wright hit? Click HERE to find out!
I think Jeff George may have had something to do with me saying my first cuss word back when I was a kid. Thankfully, we traded him for Andre Rison and that worked out for us. But in 1990, this was one of the cards to have in this set. The one on the right is from Series I and the left is from Series II. Both cards had the number #669 though. I told you, this is an odd set.
Another stud QB in this draft class was Andre Ware, the Heisman Winner. I think Gregg Jefferies ’89 Topps when I see this card today.
The rookie of all rookies in 1990. This is THE card to own from this set!
If Percy Snow had lasted more than a handful of seasons, I can promise you that I would have had a Snow PC. I really liked Percy and Tecmo had a lot to do with it. I love all of his rookie cards and was very pleased to pull each in Series I and II.
Here is the card that ’90 Pro Set is remembered for by many collectors. The Rison on the far right was the standard card that was pulled in Series I. Then, Series II reprinted the same card with the explanation on the back that it was missing the Trade Banner and there would be an update set for cards #’d 753-780 and the corrected version would be in there. The card on the far left is the Series II card with Rison in his Falcons jersey. I pulled all three of these!
I have this set unopened but it does include the Rison correction and a Fred Washington “In Memoriam” card.
The two main insert sets in 1990 Pro Set were the Super Bowl Hero and Super Bowl Commemorative cards. You know I am a sucker for artist cards so these remain awesome for me.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the error cards that were a little scarcer than the average in Pro Set. Again, the star beside it reveals the actual scarcity with one star being least and four stars being most scarce. I didn’t pull any four star errors but I did get a three star. This is where even a borderline OCD collector can lose it. Some of these errors are so minor; you would never know what you were looking for without a guide.
Card #198 – Wade Wilson – Three Stars – I still don’t know if this is the exact version I think it is. One of the versions has a red blob in the upper right of the card and this looks very much like a red blob.
Card #431 – Michael Haynes – Two Stars – Look very closely and you will see that a hair (or something) was on the printing plate when this card went through. Apparently they caught it and printed correct versions as well. A HAIR!!
This set has a lot to offer for the serious collector. If you are someone who likes a challenge, likes looking for minor variations and likes early 90’s football, you really can’t go wrong. It’s not an easy set to sort because of those minor variations and can really make you question your sanity at times. I enjoy a challenge but my old eyes can’t pick up all the nuances of these errors like they used to. I am forced to use guides and glasses to find some of the mistakes but it was honestly fun this time around. It wasn’t easy putting the set down each night because it was really hard to find a good stopping point. I also did have faint thoughts of Fred Marion’s belt error and the Santa Claus insert as I was lying in bed at night trying to doze off. I’ve come a long way but I’m not quite where I want to be when it comes to switching my mind off when I have to. This set won’t help that condition either. But the set gets a solid “4” from me on the Dub-O-Meter. I couldn’t give it a 5 because the cards are a little thin, condition is spotty at best and many of the big name rookies flopped. But I also couldn’t give it a 3 because it is a lot of fun, Percy Snow has two rookies, Andre Rison has three cards and Emmitt Smith has a sweet rookie. Many of you have seen 1990 Pro Set a thousand times but if you haven’t seen it in a while, I urge you to check it out again. Its dirt cheap so while you may lose sleep over the many variations; your wallet should sleep like a baby!
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?