Some of my Twitter followers may remember me mentioning that I had never received any trading cards of any kind for Christmas. Firstly, I just remembered that I in fact DID recently receive some trading cards from my mom a few years ago. Remember the Topps/LJN Baseball Talk Collection? My mom had bought the player and a few of those cards for me for Christmas when I was a kid and did so once again a few short years ago. So, other than that, I’ve never received any trading cards of any kind for Christmas.
Of course, that was until this past Christmas.
While most of my family is well aware that I run a trading card company, very few of them are aware that I am back into collecting and run a trading card blog. One of the lucky few possessing such knowledge is my father-in-law.
First, a short story about my father-in-law that is completely relevant to this post. He’s a retired principal. Throughout his years running schools, he had confiscated a small collection of trading cards of all sports, brands and years from little troublemakers. One year for my birthday, he passed that small collection down to me. I still have them sitting in my office in the 9-pocket pages in which they came.
Last year (and I do mean 2012, not 2011), my father-in-law went out of his way to attend an auction to pick up some cards for his favorite son-in-law–me! I can say that because I’m his only son-in-law. *wink wink* The box was entirely filled with what you might call junk wax, and, indeed, most of those cards were from that era. They range from 1978 Topps to 1986 Sportflics and 1990 Classic to 2003 Opening Day. It ended up being quite an assortment with two unexpected gems mixed in the rough. There was even a football card inexplicably tossed in!
The cards, as shown in the first image above, were and continue to be contained within a shoebox. The cards themselves were in no way shape or form organized. With the exception of a few stacks being separated by brand, all of the cards were sorted and collated by hand by me. It took me the better part of a day to go through each of the appromixately 1000 cards therein. Normally it wouldn’t take me quite so long, but there were over 30 different products to sort through, and I had a good time sitting back and actually studying some of the cards.
When I ran across the 1986 and 1987 Sportflics, I got all giddy like Dave Grohl in a classic rock hall of fame get-together that he wasn’t invited to but still decided to crash. What is it with him hanging out with the legends lately? I mean, I love Grohl and, seriously… good for him, but… I just hope it’s Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin seeking Dave out and not the other way around. We all know it’s the other way around, though.
Who am I to criticize? You think Led Zeppelin and any of the Beatles, as much as I love ‘em, would even consider giving me the time of day?
Looking at the three cards above and find yourself scratching your head? Maybe you’re thinking that Donruss invented the parallel card? When I was sorting through the box of cards, I originally filed all three sets into one larger stack. That’s because I didn’t pay close attention to the differences. The “purple” version is actually from Donruss’ 1987 Opening Day, a smaller set than the more familiar 1987 Donruss flagship set. The “Leaf” version was licensed and sold in Canada and features French translation on the back. Leaf produced all three sets.
The 1980s, in almost every single facet, is the decade of ugliness. Some of the ugliest set of baseball cards were designed in the 1980s. They had to have looked good to someone at the time or I seriously doubt the lead designer at Classic would have allowed that pile of pink and grey vomit to circulate. Fleer, on the other hand, pretty much dominated the 80s in trading card ugliness. It’s a crown that Donruss would happily take up in the 90s.
See what I mean? At least by 1993 the Donruss set started to take a cue from Topps and Upper Deck and started to clean things up. The designs before that, though? Just a horrible reminder of the sign of the times.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some cool concepts being used in the 1990s. Score started experimenting with artistic photography in their trading cards and, at least for me, it paid off. Some of the more memorable and striking cards come from Score in the 90s. Of course, some of the more disturbing images also come from Score in the 90s. Now, Donruss wasn’t ALL bad in the 90s. Much like the Yaz above, I always thought their puzzle cards were amazing and fun. What’s that? Trading cards? FUN??
The most abundant product in the shoebox full of old junk wax is by and far the 1991 Upper Deck set. A simple thumb-through of this set alone gives you a good idea of just how picked over this box was. As I sorted and collated and stacked and separated, it became very clear to me that whoever put this box together was smart enough to pull out anything significant. That doesn’t mean this box was a dud. Not by any stretch. Maybe I’d only be able to sell it on ebay for a couple of bucks, and maybe I’d only be able to trade it for one item off of my Want List, its real worth was in the thought and effort by my father-in-law. The real value was in the fun I had digging through the memories that these cards brought back to me.
Of course, there did end up being a couple of surprises sitting in the middle of one of the sets. I didn’t even notice them on first sort. It wasn’t until I was organizing the sets back into the shoebox that I realized what I had.
We’re now down to just 4 teams! Still available are the A’s, Mariners, Reds and White Sox. Full slots are now discounted!