Tuesday, February 9, 2016

1983 Minnesota Vikings Police Set

The Minnesota Vikings, in conjunction with several local Twin Cities area law enforcement agencies, released their first "police" card set during the 1983 NFL season. 

Consisting of 17 cards total, the set follows the general format used by other NFL police sets since 1979; e.g., large color action photos on the fronts and a taller card size than the standard national issues. These police cards measure approx. 4 1/8 inches tall by 2 5/8 inches wide, and were printed on soft white cardstock. 

The cards were distributed throughout the '83 football season by local Minnesota police officers and sheriff's deputies. According to the card backs, the set was sponsored by the state Neighborhood Watch (M.C.P.O.A.), Pillsbury and Burger King. Their respective logos are found on the backs, along with player biographies and a crime prevention tip. Each card is also numbered on the back.

Let's compare this police set to the Topps football set released during the same season. In their 1983 football release, which contains a total of 396 cards, The Topps Company featured just 12 Vikings cards within the set. To make matters worse, each of these cards featured the typical 1980s Topps "bench shot" photos that were unappealing to young collectors. An action packed Vikings police set was just what the doctor ordered, and several notable names emerged as an added bonus. Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant, who had never been featured on a mainstream card, makes an overdue appearance at the end of his career with the club (he would coach the Vikings one final season in 1985). Guard Jim Hough played nine seasons with Minnesota and was never featured on a Topps card.

Topps really dropped the ball with two other Vikings legends. Defensive back Joey Browner was drafted by Minnesota in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, and went on to play in six Pro Bowls; in addition, he was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. While he appears in the '83 Vikings police set (in an early training camp photo), Topps would not issue Browner's true rookie card until the release of their 1986 set. Perhaps even worse was Topps' treatment of linebacker Scott Studwell, who was drafted by the Vikings back in 1977 and became a starter in 1980. Incredibly, Studwell would not be given a Topps rookie card until 1988, his twelfth season in the league! His '83 police card pays him his due respect by showing him in action against Eagles lineman Petey Perot, and even mentions his winning the NFL arm wrestling championship on the back of the card. Both Browner and Studwell are members of the Vikings Ring of Honor, as well as the 50 Greatest Vikings team chosen in 2010.

The club continued to release yearly police sets into the new millennium, though the old method of police officers giving away a couple of cards at a time eventually fell by the wayside. The inaugural 1983 set isn't too awfully hard to find and has a current value in the $7 to $10 range.

For a comparison, here's a peek at how the Dallas Cowboys police card set looked in 1983.

Random Fact: The last card of every Vikings police set released from 1983 through 1989 features an "All Time Great" player. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton occupies the slot in the 1983 issue, and at the time held the NFL all-time records for attempts, completions, career passing yards and touchdown throws.

1. Minnesota Vikings Art Card/Checklist
2. Tommy Kramer, QB
3. Ted Brown, RB
4. Joe Senser, TE
5. Sammy White, WR
6. Doug Martin, DE
7. Matt Blair, LB
8. Bud Grant, Head Coach
9. Scott Studwell, LB
10. Greg Coleman, P
11. John Turner, CB
12. Jim Hough, G
13. Joey Browner, DB
14. Dennis Swilley, C
15. Darrin Nelson, RB
16. Mark Mullaney, DE
17. Fran Tarkenton, QB (All Time Great)

Monday, January 18, 2016

1986 Dairy Pak Cartons Football Set

Consider yourself a hardcore football collector if you own a set of these. Consider yourself a hopeless collector if you're trying to acquire all of the color variations that were printed for these cards.

Here are the basics: In 1986, Dairy Pak, the company responsible for manufacturing and printing the waxy cartons for countless milk and orange juice companies, released a set of 24 current football player cards. These cards were printed in two colors and were found on the sides of the cartons. Each measures 3 1/4 inches by 4 7/16 inches and is bordered by a dashed line to help interested collectors cut the card off of the carton.

If someone cares to own a complete set, all they need to do is obtain each of the 24 different player cards and call it a day. Where it starts to get difficult is when a player or set collector decides to go for all the different color variations -- and let it be known that some of these said variations are very elusive. For starters, ten different colors were used for the "SUPERSTARS SERIES" title found across the tops of the cards: black, brown, purple, green, lavender, aqua, orange, red, light blue and dark blue. But in addition to this, there are three variations for the color used to print the players' photos: black, red and blue. 

In the photo provided here you can see ten different Eric Dickerson variations, with one of the cards featuring the Hall of Fame running back's photo in red. From what I have personally seen, cards with the player photos in red or blue are much harder to find than the black. As far as I can tell, cards with red photos always have blue Superstar Series titles, and vice-versa... If my theory is true, that brings the total amount of variations up to twelve per player.

These variations exist because of the assorted color schemes used on the packaging of the different brands. I'm sure that certain colors are harder to find than others (as mentioned with the blue or red player photos), but these findings have never been published. 

The cards can be found one of four ways. They are most commonly found cut off of a carton, hopefully with the dashed border lines still intact. The second way to find these are with the partial or full side panel still intact (a special offer is mentioned below the card, either for a poster or set of four superstar cups). Finally, you may be able to find a used carton that has been left fully intact, or an unfolded and unused carton. Used cartons are scarce because of the amount of space they occupy, and unfolded cartons are maybe the rarest of all, as they apparently didn't survive in any meaningful quantities.

The James Lofton card was short printed due to some off-field troubles that were happening at the time. Lofton's scarcity puts him in the top-five valuable cards of the set, along with Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Dan Marino and John Elway.

The value of a nice complete set, cut with full borders and no creases, starts around $40. A set of four cups from the special offer is worth in the $30 to $40 range. I can't recall the last time I found one of the posters for sale, but I'd be willing to pay around $25 for a nice one.

Random Fact: Lions quarterback Eric Hipple is found on card number six, but doesn't really qualify for "superstar" status. Through the 1985 season Hipple had 25 wins versus 21 losses, along with 46 touchdown passes versus 56 interceptions. As far as the 1985 Lions roster is concerned, Hipple was still probably the best choice if a Detroit player had to be included in the '86 Dairy Pak set.

1. Joe Montana, 49ers
2. Marcus Allen, Raiders
3. Art Monk, Redskins
4. Mike Quick, Eagles
5. John Elway, Broncos
6. Eric Hipple, Lions
7. Louis Lipps, Steelers
8. Dan Fouts, Chargers
9. Phil Simms, Giants
10. Mike Rozier, Oilers
11. Greg Bell, Bills
12. Ottis Anderson, Cardinals
13. Dave Krieg, Seahawks
14. Anthony Carter, Vikings
15. Freeman McNeil, Jets
16. Doug Cosbie, Cowboys
17. James Lofton, Packers (SP)
18. Dan Marino, Dolphins
19. James Wilder, Buccaneers
20. Chris Collinsworth, Bengals
21. Eric Dickerson, Rams
22. Walter Payton, Bears
23. Ozzie Newsome, Browns
24. Chris Hinton, Colts

Thursday, January 14, 2016

1988 St. Louis Cardinals Smokey Bear

The United States Forest Service has sponsored many sharp-looking sports themed oddball sets over the years. One particularly striking design was used for several sets in the late 1980s, of which one is the 1988 St. Louis Cardinals Smokey Bear set.

The majority of Smokey sets issued during this time were larger in size than standard cards, with the '88 Cardinals cards measuring 5 inches tall by three inches wide. Most of these card fronts feature player action photos which lack traditional heavy borders; a white pinstripe is found near the card edges and frames the photo subject quite nicely. The player's name and position is located at the bottom right of each card front, along with small Cardinals and Smokey logos.

Card backs are printed in black and give a few additional player facts along the tops. The middle of card backs feature safety tips and now-classic Smokey artwork. The U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters logos appear at the bottom left.

A complete set consists of 25 cards, which is roughly the same amount of Cardinals cards found in each of the nationally distributed sets from 1988 (Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Score). One advantage the Smokey set has over the other issues is the addition of newly-acquired players; names like Tom Brunansky, Bob Horner and Luis Alicea were not pictured as Cardinals in the national sets. In addition, the beauty of the Smokey set's photos cannot be understated, and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith's best-looking card of the 1980s is arguably found here (Smith is pictured attempting to put a midair tag on a sliding Gary Gaetti at second). Newcomer Score entered the baseball card ring in 1988 and quickly provided the best looking national set of the year, but I'd still give this '88 Cardinals Smokey set the edge, both in photo quality and design.

I'm not exactly sure how these cards were distributed (thumbing through some of my '88 card magazines will probably reveal the answer), but I'm pretty sure these would have at least been given away at a Cardinals home game. I'm also thinking that these were distributed as complete sets. Regarding the current value, my estimate for a complete set is in the $6 to $10 range. These cards aren't everywhere, but can certainly be found online with minimal effort.

Random Fact: Three catchers are included in the set. Veteran Tony Pena was the starter, appearing in 149 games (142 games at catcher) with 546 plate appearances. Rookie Tom Pagnozzi followed second, with 81 games (28 games at catcher) and 209 plate appearances. Rounding out the trio is Steve Lake, who took part in 36 games and had 59 plate appearances.

1. Whitey Herzog, Manager
2. Danny Cox, Pitcher
3. Ken Dayley, Pitcher
4. Jose DeLeon, Pitcher
5. Bob Forsch, Pitcher
6. Joe Magrane, Pitcher
7. Greg Mathews, Pitcher
 8. Scott Terry, Pitcher
9. John Tudor, Pitcher
10. Todd Worrell, Pitcher
11. Steve Lake, Catcher
12. Tom Pagnozzi, Catcher
13. Tony Pena, Catcher
14. Bob Horner, Infielder
15. Tom Lawless, Infielder
16. Jose Oquendo, Infielder
17. Terry Pendleton, Infielder
18. Ozzie Smith, Infielder
19. Vince Coleman, Outfielder
20. Curt Ford, Outfielder
21. Willie McGee, Outfielder
22. Larry McWilliams, Pitcher
23. Steve Peters, Pitcher
24. Luis Alicea, Infielder
25. Tom Brunansky, Outfielder

Monday, January 11, 2016

1980 Miami Dolphins Police Set

The modern era of football "police cards" began with sets released by the Cowboys, Chiefs and Seahawks during the 1979 season. These early sets were typically given away by local law enforcement officials, who often released one or two new cards a week. Over time it became clear that this type of distribution wasn't a practical way to get cards into the hands of kids, and by the late 1980s few departments were still releasing cards in this manner (most police sets eventually became stadium giveaways). 

The Miami Dolphins issued their first police set in 1980, and would go on to produce yearly sets through the 1987 season. Looking very similar to the '79 sets from the three teams mentioned above, the cards feature large, color action photos on the fronts. The player's name, uniform number, position,college, height and weight are found across the bottom, as well as a Kiwanis logo at the bottom right. Card backs were printed in two colors (black and aqua blue), and feature a couple of "Miami Dolphins Tips." The sponsors listed on the card backs are the Local Kiwanis Club, Law Enforcement Agency and the Miami Dolphins. Cards are not numbered except for the player's uniform numbers.

A complete '80 Fins set features sixteen cards, the most valuable of which features Hall of Fame lineman Larry Little. Calling it quits after the fifth game of the 1980 season, Little's card was withdrawn from distribution and is considerably harder to find than the rest of the set. Fellow Hall of Famer Bob Greise also has a card in the set, and this would be his lone police card as he retired before the 1981 season began. Miami's best players were included in the set, meaning most of them were well-represented in the yearly Topps football sets of the era. Running back Tony Nathan is featured a year before his Topps rookie card, and legendary coach Don Shula makes his first showing on a card since appearing on the Colts team card in the 1965 Philadelphia football set.

This set provides an interesting blend of the outgoing old guard (Little, Greise and Foley, each a member of the perfect '72 club), as well as several players who would still be around to see Super Bowls at the ends of the 1982 and 1984 seasons. The action photos found on most of the cards were a trademark of police sets, with action (and helmet logos) being conspicuously absent from the Topps sets of the day.

Of the eight Dolphins police sets released during the 1980s, this inaugural issue is by far the hardest to find today; accordingly, it's also the most valuable. A complete sixteen-card set, with the short-printed Little, is currently valued in the $40 to $60 range. A set without the Little card is closer to the $25 to $40 range.

Random fact: Running back Delvin Williams is the only player pictured in a home aqua blue jersey.

(5) Uwe Von Schamann, K
(10) Don Strock, QB
(12) Bob Greise, QB
(22) Tony Nathan, RB/KR
(24) Delvin Williams, RB
(25) Tim Foley, SS
(50) Larry Gordon, LB
(58) Kim Bokamper, LB
(64) Ed Newman, G
(66) Larry Little, G/T (SP)
(67) Bob Kuechenberg, G/T
(73) Bob Baumhower, DT
(77) A.J. Duhe, LB/DE
(82) Duriel Harris, WR
(89) Nat Moore, WR
Don Shula, Coach

Monday, January 4, 2016

1988 Donruss Major League All-Stars Set

"Junk wax" was happening in 1988, and that year's Donruss Major League All-Star cards fit the bill quite nicely (as most of you know, the junk wax era of card collecting was roughly between 1987 and 1993, when baseball cards were waaaay overproduced). More on that later.

I have always liked Donruss, even though their unusual 1988 baseball design wasn't one of my personal favorites... Well, that design was simplified a bit and became the basis of the '88 Donruss Major League All-Stars set. Exactly as the name implies, the set features 64 cards and is loaded with the prior year's All-Star players and managers. There's even a card for the Oakland Coliseum, where the game was played on July 14, 1987. Pretty much everyone associated with the 1987 All-Star Game is included, from future Hall of Famers like Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Schmidt and Ozzie Smith to lesser known hometown favorites like Bruce Hurst, Bo Diaz and Ozzie Virgil.

The cards were issued in wax boxes that contained 48 packs. Each pack held five regular set cards, an All-Star "pop up" card, and a three-piece puzzle card. There are twenty different pop-ups in a set, and a total of 21 puzzle cards will make the exact same Stan Musial puzzle that was issued with the regular 1988 Donruss baseball boxes and factory sets.

Unlike Donruss' five prior All-Star sets, which had cards that were a larger postcard size, the decision was made to downsize to the standard card size of  2 1/2" by 3 1/2" in 1988. The pop-up cards, which are flat until unfolded, are also the size of a standard card.

These Donruss All-Star sets were never very popular during their seven-year run, which lasted from 1983 to 1989. Players were rarely featured during their rookie card seasons, and the larger postcard-sized cards from 1983 through 1987 were a turn-off for many collectors.  With more and more oddball sets to choose from every new year, these All-Star cards failed to gain much market share. 

To Donruss' credit, these cards were never intended to be an investment. They were intended to be fun, and indeed, fun they are. Collectors and speculators who were on the hunt for the hot rookies of the day (Mark Grace, Chris Sabo and Roberto Alomar) could pick up an '88 Donruss Rookies boxed set to satisfy those cravings.

These cards have the distinction of being both an oddball set and a junk wax product. Because the cards were issued in packs, and were grossly overproduced, they certainly qualify for junk wax status. While they may be a little scarcer than the regular 1988 Donruss baseball cards, that's not saying much. Lack of demand and lots of boxes equals cheap fun for the oddball collector. 

It may be difficult to find a buyer, but if you do the value of the All-Star set is around $3 to $5. A pop-up set is worth around $2, and the Stan Musial puzzle should probably be thrown into the deal for free. An unopened box can usually be found for $5 to $8, and they are pretty fun to open. The collation of the cards within unopened boxes is fair at best, but you can usually eek out a compete 64 card set from the 240 cards you'll get from the box. The 48 packs found in a wax box give you 48 chances to complete the 20 card pop-ups set, but you may wind up a card or two short thanks to the seven Terry Kennedys you'll inevitably get.

You can read about the inaugural 1983 Donruss Action All-Stars set here.