Monday, October 31, 2011

1988 Donruss Baseball's Best

Set size: 336 cards

Front Design: The cards follow the 1988 Donruss design, but use orange, red, and black colors fading into each other in blocks as the border. The player's photo appears in an inner white frame, with his name and position in white text in a red band across the bottom. The team logo is also placed at the bottom of the photo.

Back Design: The vertical backs have a yellow/orange-ish border, with a rounded-corner black frame surrounding the text. The player's name, vitals, team, and the card number are in an upper box, with career statistics in the middle box. The bottom section of the card describes how the player was acquired by the team.

Parallels and Similars: This set uses the 1988 Donruss design, though it isn't a parallel of the set. There are a few other issues in 1988 that follow the same design, but the orange borders are unique to this set.

Distribution: The set was sold complete through retail outlets in a special box late in 1988. Six copies of a 15-piece 3-1/2" x 2-1/2" Stan Musial puzzle were included with the set.

Thoughts: It's easy to see why this is called the Halloween set. It's the only full set I can recall (other than team issues) that relies heavily on orange (EDIT: OOPS!). The set reminds me of 1987's Opening Day - a similar set issued early in the 1987 season. Maybe due to the unique color scheme, this set is much more appealing to me than the regular 1988 Donruss release. I had to borrow the image from COMC because my example is locked in a storage box 2511 miles away.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2001 Fleer Premium Star Ruby

Set size: 230 cards

Front Design: A parallel of the 2001 Fleer Premium set, the player's photo stands out over a foil background, while a white border around three sides of the photo have the player's name (top), team name and position (side), and set name (bottom), all in a ruby red foil. The cards have an additional black border.

Back Design: The backs contain player's vital information, recent and total statistics, and a second color photo. The cards contain a serial number in the lower right, and the card number in the top right has an "SR" prefix.

Parallels and Similars: This set is a partial parallel of the 2001 Fleer Premium set, with the SR prefix, serial numbering, and foil color being the easy distinguishing characteristics. There are no other parallels in the set. Cards 231-235 are the only ones to not appear in this parallel, having been available through redemption.

Distribution: Cards were printed to 125 serial-numbered copies and randomly inserted into packs of 2001 Fleer Premium.

Thoughts: The Fleer Premium set isn't one of my favorites, mainly because of the foil background and excessive use of border space. The backs are laid out well, though, with an attractive but readable font. Some collectors would prefer full career statistics, but five years works well enough for this issue - I believe Fleer issued at least one other set that year that contained full statistics. I appreciate the fact that there is only one parallel in this issue, and it's limited to a challenging quantity. 125 cards isn't that much, making it a tough but not impossible acquisition for player collectors. For set builders looking for a real challenge, an edition of only 125 makes for a real difficulty.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Memorabilia

Set size: 51 cards

Front Design: The fronts are designed similar to the regular Goodwin Champions release. The player's photo is at the top, with his or her name and sport over the photo. A curved banner containing an eagle and the letters "M" and "C" identifies this as the memorabilia set. The memorabilia itself is contained in a gold-bordered "M" cutout, with embelishments on either side. The Goodwin Champions logo banner is across the bottom.

Back Design: The backs are much less detailed, and are printed on gray cardstock. The card number (or letters) are at the top, followed by authentication text. Copyright and logos are at the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: A dual memorabilia parallel exists for 11 players, but they are easily distinguished from the regular set.

Distribution: Memorabilia cards were inserted about one per box of 2011 Goodwin Champions. They are separated into groups, with the easiest group being 1:22 packs and the most difficult single-memorabilia tier at 1:14,613.

Thoughts: Goodwin Champions had its detractors because of the use of casual images, but I think it is one of the best releases of the year. The memorabilia checklist is pretty impressive across several sports, which makes this set even better of a multi-sport release. This is the first 2011 card featured in a long time, and the first relic card on the blog.

Friday, October 28, 2011

1985 Durham Bulls TCMA

Set size: 31 cards

Front Design: The photo is surrounded by a thin black border, while the rest of the card is blue, with the team name across the top and the player's name and position sideways on the left side.

Back Design: Team and league names and the player's name, position, and jersey number are at the top, followed by vital statistics and 1984 stats. The bottom half of the card contains local sponsor logos and a TCMA advertisement banner.

Parallels and Similars: 1985 TCMA cards all carry the same design. Note that this card is a reprint, used in collector starter sets, and can be easily distinguished from regular 1985 TCMA cards by the white border.

Distribution: Team sets were sold through TCMA, hobby channels, and the team itself.

Thoughts: Not all TCMA sets contain sponsor logos, which in my mind add a bit of local flavor to an otherwise nonspecific team issue. Assenmacher is another player who made the majors, which most likely explains all the players who were reprinted - recent callups. He had a decent career, though it mainly came in on-save relief.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1985 Richmond Braves TCMA

Set size: 26 cards

Front Design: The blue-bordered cards have the player's name and position sideways along the left border, and the team name across the top. The photo is surrounded by a thin black frame.

Back Design: The backs are black on white, with the team and league names at the top, followed by the player's name, position, and jersey number. The vitals and 1984 stats are followed by sponsor logos and a TCMA banner advertisement.

Parallels and Similars: All 1985 TCMA minor league sets follow this design. Note that my example is a reprint most likely distributed with collector sets issued in the 1980s. The reprint is distinguished easiest by the white border seen in the scan - originals do not contain the white border. Several TCMA cards were reprinted (many of which I have featured on this blog), but usually there are only a few cards from any given year, and no more than one from any team.

Distribution: Cards were sold in team set form through TCMA, hobby means, and teams themselves.

Thoughts: This is one of TCMA's less attractive designs, with the blocky 45-degree angled borders and excessive use of capital letters on the front. On the other hand, I always appreciate a minor league set.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1985 Syracuse Chiefs TCMA

Set size: 31 cards

Front Design: The cards feature a blue border with the team name at the top, and the player's name and position sideways on the left. The color player photo is surrounded by a thin black frame. (Note: my card contains a white border as it was apparently reprinted by the company for use in a collecting kit.)

Back Design: The backs are black and white, with the team and league name at the top, followed by the player's name, position, and uniform number. Vitals and prior-year statistics follow, with a TCMA advertisement in a banner across the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: As noted, this card is part of the reprinted issue; real 1985 TCMA cards would have a blue border that reaches the edge of the card. All 1985 TCMA minor league sets follow the same design.

Distribution: The team sets were given to teams for sale or distribution at the ballpark; additional quantities were sold through hobby channels and the manufacturer. Approximately 3000 sets were made. The entire set was not subject to reprinting, and I believe only the Tom Filer card should be expected to be part of the reprinted cards.

Thoughts: The black border confines the image a bit more than necessary, as does the big cut taken out for the player's name. The card has about the same feel as any other TCMA issue in terms of design and quality.  I'm not sure why Tom Filer was chosen for reprint, except than he had a pretty good year with Toronto in 1985, going 7-0. He must have had an injury, because he didn't pitch anywhere in 1986 and 1987, and wasn't really successful when he returned in 1988. He's a coach with the Altoona Curve now, according to his sparse Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1998 Fleer Tradition Diamond Standouts

Set size: 20 cards

Front Design: A foil background of a baseball diamond is behind the color player photo; the player's name and the set's name is printed in foil on the bottom.

Back Design: The baseball diamond is repeated in the background over a cut diamond design background. A second photo and a writeup about how the player stands out is placed over the baseball diamond. The team logo is in the upper left, and the card number is in the upper-right.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were inserted 1:12 packs of Fleer Tradition, which replaced the Fleer flagship brand that year.

Thoughts: The scan doesn't do the background any justice, especially with all the cardboard dust on the card. That said, I'm not too big of a fan of foil backgrounds.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2005 Topps Rookie Cup Yellow and Red

Set size: 160 cards in each set.

Front Design: A color player photo is placed over a background of either yellow or red which contains the Topps Rookie Cup logo over the outline of the Topps All-Star Rookie team cup. The player's name and team are at the bottom of the card in white with black outline. The backgrounds are designed to look like printing plates. The last ten cards in the set are autographed.

Back Design: The background of yellow or red is repeated, with black text containing vitals, rookie season highlights, rookie year stats, and career stats.

Parallels and Similars: The yellow and red sets are both parallels of the regular set - other parallels are blue, gold, green, orange, and silver, plus printing plates. There is also a parallel set by number only which reprints the player's rookie cup card, with chrome, refractor, and gold refractor parallels. There are no other sets which look similar to the regular set design.

Distribution: Red parallels were serial numbered to 499 (autographs 399), while yellows are 299 (autographs 199).

Thoughts: As a novelty, the idea of parallels looking like printing plates is an interesting concept, but I'm glad it never took hold.

Additional Images: Red Parallel:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2002 Nestle

Set size: 6 cards

Front Design: An action photo jumps out of a silver circle. The player's last name runs up the left side, beneath which sits a monochromatic portrait photo. His name and position is across the bottom.

Back Design: The circle design repeats on the back with a third photo on the left hand side. The player's vitals and biography sit to the right; recent and career stats are in a table across the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: The design is fairly unique, though it feels slightly like 2010 Topps (or should I say, 2010 Topps looks like this set).

Distribution: Cards were inserted into Nestle ice cream products.

Thoughts: For a food issue, this is a pretty attractive set. There are major issues that have weaker designs than this set. The use of three photos and full-color, full bleed designs makes this set equal to or better than many regular issues. At only six cards, it's easy to put together, and the checklist is pretty strong - Bonds, Chipper, Piazza, A-Rod, Sosa, and Ichiro.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1986 Woolworth's Topps

Set size: 33 cards

Front Design: A color photo is surrounded by a thin black border with a turning page design like the 1961 Topps issue. Unlike the 1961 set, this has yellow borders; "Topps Collectors' Series" appears at the top, and "Super Star" shoots from behind the photo. The player's name is in the lower-left corner.

Back Design: The blue and green toned backs have a white border; the background resembles home plate, the batters boxes and foul lines. The player's name and position is at the top, along the first base foul line; vitals and career highlights are beneath in "fair" territory. Yearly and career statistics for batting average, home runs, and RBI fill the rest of the card; the card number is in the upper-right corner and copyright information ((C) 1986 TCG) is in the lower right.

Parallels and Similars: None known.

Distribution: The complete 33-card set was issued in its own small box, similar to a deck of playing cards, and sold in Woolworth's variety stores. The checklist is on the back of the box.

Thoughts: While the box identifies the set as a Woolworth's issue, there is no logo or other identifying information to link the cards themselves to Woolworth's. There are several issues which have this issue. Unlike yesterday's MSA/M&M's release, this Woolworth's set has team logos and better photography. Granted, Topps probably did all the work on the design. Until now, I never noticed the homage to 1961, but it's a nice touch. The yellow isn't as overwhelming as 1991 Fleer, but it detracts a bit from the card.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1987 M&M's Star Lineup

Set size: 24 cards

Front Design: The player's color photo is airbrushed and placed in a waving blue flag border. His name, team, and position is in the bottom of the blue border; the top of the border has the card number and set name. The M&M's logo, an M&M mascot, the MLB logo and copyright information all appear on the front.

Back Design: The monotone red backs repeat the flag design at the top, with the player's year-by-year (since 1980, even for players not playing - see the Wade Boggs example) and career statistics in a few categories, and some career highlights in bulletized form.

Parallels and Similars: None known.

Distribution: The cards were distributed in pairs, attached with a perforated edge, inserted into large packages of M&M's candies.

Thoughts: I believe this is the only attempt M&M's made at inserting cards. For a 1980s oddball issue, the design is acceptable, even though it is quite strange to see the copyright information on the front. The photo quality leaves a lot to be wanted, especially Boggs here - it looks like they caught him at the end of batting practice on an early spring evening, on a day when the sun didn't even come out. Wade asks, "Wait, what's this photograph for? Candy? You're making a Boggs Bar? Oh, M&M's? Can you call them W&W's, you know, for Wades and Wades? You mean they already are W's if you hold them upside down? Well I'll be darned!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2002 Donruss Fan Club Die-Cut

Set size: 200 cards

Front Design: This parallel set has the player on a team color-faded border, with grid designs at the top and bottom. The player's name, team logo, position, and jersey number are all located at the bottom on and next to a white step design. The cards are die-cut into a shape similar to a stylized "S".

Back Design: The S-shape defines the diagonal statistics in the middle of the card. A second photo is in the upper right, with vitals, team logo, card number, and player name in the upper right. The bottom of the card contains copyright information.

Parallels and Similars: This card is a parallel of the 2002 Donruss Fan Club set. There are five parallels (including the "Best of Fan Club" release) of the base set. This parallel should be easily identifiable by the die cut. The die-cut parallel only parallels cards 1-200; the regular Fan Club set contains 300 cards.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted 1:4 packs of Donruss Fan Club.

Thoughts: This was the "easy" parallel pull in Fan Club, and it is unclear what the purpose of the parallel was other than to die-cut the regular cards as a quick method of making parallels. The die-cut is an interesting shape (it reminds me a lot of the Z-series inserts from Zenith in the 1990s, just backwards). However, it is the definition of "unnecessary parallel."

Monday, October 17, 2011

1989 Starting Lineup Greats (Cards)

Set size: 19 cards

Front Design: The player's photo appears in sepia inside a white border. The top of the card is a white banner with the Starting Lineup Baseball Greats logo. The rest of the card has a brownish border; the player's name and nickname appear in white beneath the photo.

Back Design: The blue-on-white backs contain the player's vitals and complete career statistics including postseason play.

Parallels and Similars: None known.

Distribution: Cards were included with Starting Lineup player figurines. The figurines and cards were sold in pairs, with each player paired with another specific player that shared similar traits, or (more often) played on the same team. There is an odd number of cards, which means at least one player was in multiple pairings. Cursory research determined that Hank Aaron appears with Carl Yastrzemski or Eddie Mathews. Both pairings include the same card and figurine. I didn't see any other dual pairings, but they could exist - there are four Yankees in the set that could be rearranged. All packaging-back images shows seven pairings, accounting for 14 figures - even the Yaz/Aaron pairing shows the same seven arrangements, even though they're not on an advertised pair. While there don't appear to be any card variations, there are figurine variations, most notably the Ruth/Gehrig appearing in both home and away jersey colors.

Thoughts: Starting Lineups are cool. They were inexpensive action figures of the best baseball players of the time, AND they came with a card, too! They represent the time when toys and figurines were still about being fun, though collectors were taking note. They don't have the detail of a McFarlane, but they don't carry the price tag of a McFarlane. Unfortunately, the better quality won out, so SLUs stopped being produced after 2001.

Checklist: Cards only - figurines exist for each card, but other than the Ruth/Gehrig variations mentioned above, I'm not aware of any variations. The cards are unnumbered. If you know of any variations not listed please let me know!

  • Hank Aaron (grey Braves script)
  • Ernie Banks (away)
  • Johnny Bench (away)
  • Roberto Clemente (home)
  • Joe DiMaggio (home)
  • Don Drysdale (away)
  • Lou Gehrig (home and away)
  • Bob Gibson (away)
  • Reggie Jackson (yellow)
  • Mickey Mantle (away)
  • Eddie Mathews (home)
  • Willie Mays (home)
  • Willie McCovey (away)
  • Stan Musial (home)
  • Pete Rose (home)
  • Babe Ruth (home and away)
  • Willie Stargell (away)
  • Billy Williams (home)
  • Carl Yastzemski (home)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

1999 UD Choice StarQuest Red

Set size: 30 cards

Front Design: In a design similar to, yet even more confining than the flagship 1999 Upper Deck release, a color photo is inside a red foil trapezoid with lines emanating from the center of the card. The player's name is at the top, with his team and the StarQuest logo at the bottom.

Back Design: The lines and red color repeat in the background. A cropped version of the picture is at the top, with the team logo and player's vitals. The player and team names and a career highlight appears beneath the StarQuest logo.

Parallels and Similars: This red version is a parallel of the "base" blue version; gold and green are the other two parallels. The StarQuest line was migrated to flagship Upper Deck and used as retail inserts in 2008 and 2009.

Distribution: Red parallels were inserted into packs of UD Choice at a rate of 1 in 23 packs.

Thoughts: I have a hard time finding red foil attractive. The same can be said for gold foil, only because it's been used so much by now. The cards aren't ugly, and can certainly be seen mixed in with a stack of base cards. For an insert in a low-price release, it's not too bad. I would like to have seen more done with the space on the back. Roger Clemens did much more in his career before the 1998 season!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tales of the Unknown: 1991 Playball Ken Griffey Jr.

Set size: Beckett lists 50, but it looks like the set might go into the 60s. It also appears that while Playball may have manufactured 66 or more cards, those cards are most likely distributed between other players (see below).

Front Design: Designs through the set differ, though several use the design seen here: a full bleed color photo with a two-tone bar at the bottom listing the player and team. Most cards also have a matching bar across the top identifying this as a Playball set in varying sizes. The cards I found that number in the 60s are usually identified as promos and contain a colored border around the card.

Back Design: The backs are very plain, with Griffey's name, team, and the year of issue in large print. The MLB and Mariners logos fill the bottom half of the card.

Parallels and Similars: It seems that a glossy version of the set was released in limited numbers (15,000?) and serial numbered on the back; the glossies may be identified by a line of text in place of the card number. The glossies might also have a holofoil border, but my sample size is too small to determine if this is consistent throughout. The promos mentioned above are identified on the back with a line of text between the year and card number.

Distribution: Cards would have been released through hobby channels, most likely sold as complete player sets to dealers who would then sell the sets at shows and card shops. As mentioned above, the entire "set" containing several players appears to number around 66 (plus unnumbered promos). Identified players include Griffey, Don Mattingly, Will Clark, and Darryl Strawberry, and numbering is spotty at best. It is entirely possible only 40 regular cards, plus glossy and/or gold issues of 26 cards, were released. This could hint that two players were eliminated from the release for whatever reason - the Mattingly gold cards appear to be numbered 4 and 5, and the Griffey glossies seem to be numbered in the 60s.

Thoughts: This release is quite complicated for such a minor issue in the overproduction era. I may have to go through some even deeper research to fully determine what card numbers exist for what players, and in what format. If a bit more thought was put into the back of the card, Playball's issue could have been good competition for Star, if such a thing was necessary. The individual player set never really caught on, though I wonder if it might today - there seem to be more player collectors than set collectors, and a well-developed series of player issues might do well. It's already looking like some manufacturers are moving that way - after the success of sets featuring artists like KISS and Michael Jackson, Pete Rose has his own issue, and Leaf Metal sales might be driven almost entirely by the chase for an Ichiro autograph.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1998 Donruss Days Ken Griffey Jr.

Set size: 14 cards

Front Design: The cards have a similar design to 1998 Donruss, with a foil finish and a radiating light burst. A star and banner design at the bottom contains the player's name and team, and the Donruss Days logo is at the top. The card is thicker than normal Donruss cards.

Back Design: The backs have a full-color shot on the right, with the team logo placed over it. The left side of the card contains the player's name, vitals, career statistics, and a short biography, all placed over a team logo background. The words "Limited Edition" appear at the bottom, mixed among all the licensing information, and the card number "of 14" is at the top center.

Parallels and Similars: The set is based on the 1998 Donruss issue, and several parallel versions were released that year. The set is easily identifiable by the logo in the upper left of the front of the card.

Distribution: Several of each card were sent to dealers in certain areas. To obtain cards, collectors had to redeem cards picked up at local stadiums. Each dealer received full sets, plus extra cards of local players. Each redemption card could be exchanged for any card from the set until the dealer ran out. No more than 10,000 cards of any player were printed.

Thoughts: I wasn't sure what I had when I found this card in a quarter box, but I knew it was somewhat special. It's a good looking card, even with the typical Donruss foil overlay. The original 1998 Donruss design is pretty strong, and it should be a somewhat easy set to put together.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

1983 ASA Duke Snider

Set size: 12 cards

Front Design: A color or black and white photo of Duke Snider appears in a thin black frame, and his name appears beneath the photo in an identical frame. A thicker red line surrounds both in the white borders, with red bunting in the upper corners.

Back Design: A red and black border surrounds part of a "story" of career highlights that carries over from card to card.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were most likely sold through hobby means - either by ASA or through distributors and dealers. Card number 1 is available autographed and serially numbered to 2000, but entire unsigned sets were also available.

Thoughts: The design feels like a TCMA issue, and ASA might have been inspired by TCMA. ASA stands for Authentic Sports Autographs, a company which issued several similar sets in 1983 including stars like Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. Mickey Mantle had a 72-card set in 1982, also issued with an autographed version.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

1979 TCMA 50's Bill Virdon: Snow or Sand?

 Set size: 291 cards plus two "bonus" cards

Front Design: A player photo with a thin black border is printed on white-bordered cards. There is no writing on the front.

Back Design: The back has a basepath surrounding the card number, and the player's name at the top. A red band contains vitals, which is followed by a career biography. Lifetime stats finish up the card before a second red band with copyright information and the title "Baseball History Series."

Parallels and Similars: Several TCMA sets follow this basic design, and identifying the exact set usually involves checking the card against a database.

Distribution: TCMA sets were generally sold by the company and through hobby channels.

Thoughts: I could easily dismiss this set because of the lack of design on the front, but the simple concept is great for all the themed sets TCMA produced over the years. While their sets dealing with post-1950 players aren't as important, several TCMA sets feature World Series champion team sets and players from pre-World War 2, not to mention all the minor league sets issued in the 1970s and later.

This particular card stands out because of the photograph itself. What must be Forbes Field is clearly visible in the background (correct me if I'm wrong), but is Virdon standing on sand? Or is that snow? I first thought it could be fluffy frozen water, but the more I study the card, the less I'm sure.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

1983 Perma-Graphic Credit Cards Reggie Jackson

Let's finish off the phone card trilogy with this one!
 Set size: 36 cards, sized the same as a credit card - 2-1/8" x 3-3/8", printed on plastic material like credit cards.

Front Design: Two years from their first release, the design has changed greatly. The card is vertically oriented, with a color photo inside a gold border with a 1983 Super Star "plaque" beneath. A gold banner lists the player's name, team, position, and league. A white border surrounds the photo's frame.

Back Design: The backs are the same as the 1981 release, with the player's vitals, career statistics, and a highlights biography. Lacking from this card is a box at the bottom for player signatures, though at least on Jackson's card, the space remains. The biography of Jackson's card is slightly updated to reflect his accomplishments in the past two years. Reggie Jackson is card 27 in the set, and if you look closely in the bottom right corner, the last two digits of the card code represent the card number.

Parallels and Similars: A gold-tinted parallel, limited to 1000 sets, also exists.

Distribution: Cards were again produced in cooperation with Topps, and sold in complete set form.

Thoughts: The front design has become much more ornate, from a simple photo and text to this fancy plaque motif. The design itself isn't bad, but certainly feels like an early-80s Topps release. Despite the credit card material, size, and feel, they look like cards. It really wouldn't be until 1995 Studio's release that a card release looked like credit cards.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

1981 Perma-Graphic Credit Cards Reggie Jackson

Set size: 32 cards, shaped, sized, and made of the same material (plastic) as credit cards.

Front Design: A color photo is on the left of the horizontal card, with the player's name, position, and team in the white space on the right. A black line border surrounds the photo and text on the otherwise white card.

Back Design: The backs are black-on-white, and are designed similar to a regular trading card. Vital stats, career statistics, and career highlights fill the back, except for an empty black-bordered box for autographs. The card number appears in the bottom-right corner - this is card number 7 in the set. Note the TCG copyright in the middle of the bottom line of text.

Parallels and Similars: Perma-Graphic issued a few sets in this style between 1981 and 1983, but this set has no parallels and can be distinguished by its design and the 125- prefix in the card number.

Distribution: Sets were sold for about $40 in 1981.

Thoughts: The design is quite plain, with the photo on the front of the card taking up a very small amount of space, and plenty of white space left around it. Future designs are more interesting. The company still exists, by the way, manufacturing similar (generally non-collectable) cards.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

1996 Assets Phone Cards $1,000 Promos Cal Ripken Jr.

Set size: 5 phone cards, approximately the same size as a credit card.

Front Design: A full-bleed color photo fills most of the card, with the Assets logo and player name in a band across the bottom. The denomination of the phone card is at the top in gold foil. The promo version is distinguished by the word "PROMO" running up the left side of the card in grey.

Back Design: The back contains information on how to use the phone card. The promo card has information about the upcoming set.

Parallels and Similars: There are several phone card denominations in 1996 Assets, all with essentially the same design. As noted above, this promo is easy to distinguish from the authentic $1,000 phone cards, especially by checking the back.

Distribution: The $1,000 phone cards were randomly inserted into packs of 1996 Assets, a Classic set.

Thoughts: Chase phone cards were all the rage back in the mid-90s, if you were a company like Classic. Although phone cards didn't make the full push into MLB sets, they were a way of adding actual value to minor league and five-sport sets as this. The $1,000 set contains one player from each of the five sports, but pulling one of these cards was almost guaranteed not to happen. As a somewhat-unique marketing tool, phone cards are a fun variation to collect, and a reminder of how people tried to avoid long distance charges fifteen years ago (remember 10-10-220, or whatever that code was?).

Monday, October 3, 2011

2004 Bazooka Stand-Ups

Set size: 25 cards

Front Design: A color picture of the player is placed over a two-toned background. His name, team, and position are at the bottom, and a facsimile signature is placed over the lower half of the photo. The card is scored and die cut such that the top color portion can be folded to make a pop-up style card.

Back Design: The backs are mostly blank, except for legal information and the card number at the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: This set has no parallels. However, Topps issued stand-ups in 1964, Bazooka issued stand-ups in 2003, and 2011 Lineage included stand-ups. All these issues have the same style, with minor differences in color and design.

Distribution: Cards were inserted 1:8 hobby packs and 1:24 retail packs of 2004 Bazooka.

Thoughts: As with the other issues, the Stand-Ups are a fun way to bring some simple interactivity and displayability to cards. That is, of course, if you decide to "damage" the card by folding it out.

1998 Metal Universe Universal Language

 Set size: 20 cards

Front Design: A color photo is placed over a global map with a baseball seam shadow. The player's name and set name appears in foil along the side and the cards are die cut at the top and bottom.

Back Design: A portrait appears at the top, with the player's name and team beneath. A biography about the player fills the middle of the card and is printed in the player's native language. The card carries the global map design from the front by presenting longitudinal and latitudinal lines.

Parallels and Similars: None.

Distribution: Cards were inserted 1:6 packs of 1998 Metal Universe.

Thoughts: This is a great looking set. The coloring gives it an antique map look, and the card has a matte finish that meets that illusion. The foil is minimal, readable, and appropriate. The use of different language on the back based on the player's country of origin is a nice touch (but the effect is lost when the home language is English, like with Jeff Bagwell). Among a sea of foil and shine, this set does insert design right. Fleer consistently provided great insert concepts and designs.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

1998 Donruss Elite Craftsmen

 Set size: 30 cards

Front Design: Blue bands at the top and bottom of the card border a color photo over a metallic foil background highlighted by random geometric shapes.

Back Design: The blue background carries over the geometric shapes from the front of the card, with a second color photo appearing in a semicircle. A short biographical paragraph appears on the card. The number and serial numbering appear in the upper-left.

Parallels and Similars: A red-bordered parallel titled Master Craftsmen was also issued.

Distribution: Cards were randomly inserted into packs of 1998 Donruss Elite, and are serial-numbered to 3500.

Thoughts: This set has the typical Elite feel - foil and shape-based designs on inserts that don't have a "baseball" inspiration, which is why I don't collect any of the Elite sets other than the "Elite Series" continuity insert set.