Retro Review – Only The Finest In ‘94!

As I’ve gotten older, I have become a little more reserved than I was as a teen. I know what you are thinking. The guy who blogs about his life, has a YouTube channel and jumps at the chance to be on a podcast is calling himself reserved? Yes, that’s exactly what I am calling myself. There is a reason I write down my thoughts and experiences; because I usually don’t talk (verbally) much about them. By the time this post is done, I’ll bet that I have written more words than I’ll actually speak today. I can go hours without saying a word. I can sit in a crowded room and you won’t know I’m there. I can open up here but in person, getting me to open up can be like pulling teeth.

That hasn’t always been the case. When I was a kid, I had to be the life of the party! I was a jokester, always laughing and poking fun or singing some stupid song. I wore Jams, spiked my hair, made my own tie-dye shirts and had pretty close to the rainbow of colors in my Converse All-Stars. I am a child of the 80’s and I lived it back in those days. Life was all about being noticed. You couldn’t get a girlfriend if they didn’t notice you, right? And who wanted to hang out with the guy who sat quietly at his desk all day? No, I was loud, decked out in neon and making sure everyone knew who I was. For better or worse, it worked out when I was a kid.

I remember my mom telling me so many times that I drove my teacher’s crazy but they just couldn’t get on to me like other kids because I was just so dadgum adorable! I used my outgoing personality to my advantage and made a ton of friends of all ages, gender and ethnicity. I didn’t have a problem talking to anybody and usually wasn’t scared to try anything either. I would climb on high objects, jump off of said objects, eat weird foods, say stupid things in class and do just about anything the other kids wouldn’t because that was my schtick. Like I said, it was all about standing out and getting noticed.

Pop Culture in general during the 80’s and early 90’s was all about grabbing your attention. We were immersed in bright colors, crazy hair styles, new wave music and awesome action packed cartoons. Some of our bright landscape was likely because of color television becoming more popular in the 80’s. While around since the 50’s or so, most of America didn’t get fancy color TV until the late 70’s or early 80’s. Once the color TV showed up, television execs and advertisers made sure they used bright colors to the max! See what I did there?

I specifically remember my two favorite cartoons, He-Man and Transformers, being awesome visual experiences. On He-Man, The Castle of Greyskull was a lively green, Skeletor was Blue and Beast Man was orange. With Transformers, Optimus Prime was red, white and blue, Bumblebee was yellow, Megatron was silver and the rest of the characters made up all the other colors in the Crayola box. The Care Bears were identified by color, Garbage Pail Kids were bright and Smurfs were known for bring blue! These characters got your attention when you were flipping through the channels.

The advertisements that came on during those were pretty flamboyant too. How many of you remember Bonkers candy? This commercial was the worst but I still love watching it. Then there was this classic Frankenberry commercial. We all loved Kool-Aid as kids and they had some of the best commercials. There were even cool baseball card commercials like this one for 1992 Donruss. If you have the time, might as well watch this compilation of ‘80s Saturday Morning Cartoon Commercials!

How about some attention grabbing toys?Of course, we had He-Man and Transformers in toy form like the cartoons above. But we also had things like Lite Bright, which was a light box with colored plastic pegs that would glow when you plugged them in. You could make all sorts of designs and it was much more fun than the etch-a-sketch. Rainbow Bright was a big toy for the girls back then and she was just as her name would indicate; bright and colorful! Even our koosh balls were bright and neon!

All of my friends (and me) were big wrestling fans in the 80’s and they were rocking the spectacular brightness as well! Just look at Macho Man and Ultimate Warrior above. These guys went above and beyond but they weren’t the only ones. Hulk-a-Mania was bright red and yellow and his personality was just as vivid. You also had Ric Flair and his sequin robes, Rowdy Roddy Piper and his kilt, Road Warriors and their face paint and Bam Bam Bigelow with his flame infused tights. Pro Wrestling in the 80’s was as big of a “look at me” sector of pop culture as any!

The lively outfits like Ric Flair wore weren’t just for wrestling either. I remember wearing some pretty loud and eye popping clothes as well. I remember the sweet windsuits where you tried to see just how bold and colorful you could get. We wore silk shirts, rayon, tie-dye, Zubaz, and acid wash jeans that usually matched the color of our footwear. MC Hammer pants were all the rage in the late 80’s. I’m telling you, about every aspect of our lives was filled with visual stimulation. We were tired of the drab days of the early 80’s and we were spreading our wings!

Even our teen crushes were ready for the occasion. I remember the two Kelly’s (Kapowski and Bundy) being the most colorful (and revealing) in their clothing options. Everything about Saved by the Bell was colorful. Bundy was always rocking some pretty wild hair, which was synonymous with the rock and roll chicks of the 80’s. I’ve always had a thing for rocker chicks. Alyssa Milano and Elisabeth Shue were fairly conservative (at least in the 80’s) but even they rocked some off the wall clothing.

There is no denying, we were all about flashy! We wanted colors, we wanted bright, we wanted different. This time frame was at least from 1985-1995 and even the card companies tried to get in on the act. The early 80’s card designs were pretty bland from a color and border perspective. Donruss Baseball started changing the playing field with their mid to late 80’s colors and Fleer was occasionally colorful too. Topps was a little later to the colorful stage and while 1990 Baseball was a bold change, it was a pretty dismal effort, though nostalgic on a different level. Pro Set and Score Football brought more color to that sport. Even though Ultra, Upper Deck and Action Packed came along in the early 90’s to try and improve the quality and pizazz of the sets, it was in 1994 when I fell in love with a card that personified the boldness of my youth!

There was a sneak peek at Topps Finest with a set produced in 1992 but you couldn’t just rip packs so I didn’t see much of it. But in 1994, they were on LCS shelves and were too sharp for me to pass up, even if they were a bit pricey. They were the first real “chromium” type card available for football and they brought things to a whole new level. They hit baseball in 1993 and were a late addition to football but they earned the 1994 title. Although labeled ’94, they didn’t include rookies from that year. The rookies were from ’93, making the set at least a little odd at the time.

The box offered 24 packs with 6 cards each. Each pack averaged 1 RC and the box had an average of 2 refractors, also a first in card sets. The refractors aren’t labeled and to be honest, I don’t know which ones they were in my box. I’ll have to go back and take a closer look. Each box also contained one jumbo RC and the one in my box was this Dana Stubblefield. Unlike box toppers today, this was not in a wrapper of any kind and just loose among the packs. Though I would say it was in fair condition overall.

As you can see from the photo, these cards were quite sharp. They were bright, shiny, sturdy, and felt like something more important than football cards. They did have a tendency to stick together some 23 years later but they didn’t destroy each other when I pulled them apart either. Here are a few of the big guns in 93-94. Remember Boomer with the Jets? Oof

I didn’t hit a bunch of RB studs but I did land a Barry Sanders. Another Barry that ran tough in the mid 90’s was Foster of the Steelers. Roger Craig was on his last leg and Ricky Watters was just getting started.

The solid receivers I pulled were reminiscent of my recent ’91 Upper Deck rip. These guys had staying power. I know Shannon was a TE but he fit in with these pass catchers as much as his brother Sterling did. I was able to check Another Tim Brown off my list too.

Three of the best four defensive linemen I pulled were from the AFC West. Only Reggie White was from the NFC and he was now with the Packers as opposed to the Eagles like in my last few rips.

Karl Mecklenburg is somewhat underrated with collectors today but he was quite a player in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I honestly don’t remember Pat Swilling with the Lions but Chris Spielman was certainly memorable in Detroit. Seau, Mills and Norton make this a great group of backers.

The overall DB haul from this box was less than stellar but all of these guys were steady professionals. Mark Carrier was a league leader in interceptions a couple of seasons in the early 90’s and Mark Collins was a Super Bowl winner.

The best rookies will have their own segment in a moment but there were still some highly recognizable names in this stack. Willie Roaf had a Hall of Fame career while Rick Mirer was supposed to. Lincoln Kennedy started his career in Atlanta but had his best years with the Raiders. The others that had better than average careers were Dana Stubblefield, Robert Smith, Curtis Conway and Natrone Means.

The best QB in the rookie class was Drew Bledsoe. Many collectors today remember Bledsoe as the QB who got hurt and led to the career of Tom Brady. But those of us who watched football in the ’90’s know Bledsoe as a dang good QB. He was a 4x Pro Bowl selection, led the league in passing yards in ’94 and is a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame. This is a very nice RC of Bledsoe.

The best RC in the set, and the one I was chasing, was this of Jerome Bettis. The Bus is a Hall of Fame RB who was ROY in ’93, a 6x Pro Bowl selection, Comeback POY in ’96, Man of the Year in ’01 and a Super Bowl Champ in ’05. If that’s not enough, he was also a 2x First Team All Pro and a member of the All Time Steeler Team. The Bus was one of my favorites in the mid to late 90’s and this pull made the whole box worth it. It’s in pretty good shape too!

This set was not the easiest to score for me. In 1994, it would have received a 5 without a second thought. But in 2017, there were just a couple of small issues that brought it down to a 4. The price is a little steep for a mid 90’s product, although a very nice one. This box was $50 and other than Bettis and Bledsoe, the rookie class doesn’t have much to offer. The cards are stuck together after being sealed for a quarter century and although they came apart rather clean, the cards were somewhat warped before ever ripping the packs due to the UV Coating or Chromium Design or something. Still, I couldn’t go less than 4 because they are really nice cards and I remember just how beautiful they were the first time I saw them. At a time when everybody was trying to be bigger and brighter, Topps Finest certainly accomplished that. And even though the rookie class isn’t super deep, The Bus and Bledsoe are two really good players to chase. I also have a box of Baseball that will get a post soon and I can’t wait to rip that one!


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?

10 thoughts on “Retro Review – Only The Finest In ‘94!”

  1. Yes Sir my friend you do remind me of my, Late Son.
    He was Born on 24.08.1979 & is gone.
    You sorta Bring back thee Good Time’s we had,
    ripping wax together..
    I thank thee again for all you do~jimm

  2. I was sorry to see you left out your Miami Vice “Don Johnson” stage. I am sure someone has an Easter picture somewhere.

      1. That first picture takes me back to when you were much more extroverted – there was not a camera anywhere that you did not get in front of!

    1. Yeah, they were definitely not as bright as back in the day. They stuck together worse than Stadium Club too but they didn’t get damaged taking them apart.

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