Monday, May 4, 2015

Topps Football Production Photos (1984 Darrell Green and 1985 Jim Kelly)

Countless steps were undertaken by Topps designers during the course of creating sports (and non-sports) cards in the 1980s. Many of these processes remained similar to the steps used back in the 1940s, when Topps was new to the card business, and some printing principles are still in effect to this very day.

One of the production steps performed religiously by Topps during the 1980s was the creation of "match print" photos... These were full-color photographs, usually printed on commercial photo paper or similar stock, that allowed designers to not only eyeball the content itself, but also play with border cropping ideas and color corrections. These match photos often reveal a view larger than the one used on a card, and these one-of-a-kind gems are a welcome collectable for team and player collectors.

The photo shown above was used on Jim Kelly's 1985 Topps USFL card, which is pictured on the right. In this case, the photo was ultimately cropped on all four sides, and Kelly's lower legs were obscured by the Gamblers team name. During an era when bench shots were featured on the majority of Topps football cards, this superb action shot remains a collector favorite within the 132-card 1985 USFL boxed set.

Another interesting match print photo that surfaced recently features the image used on Darrell Green's 1984 Topps rookie card. Unlike the Kelly example, this match photo would undertake considerable airbrushing, and the removing of the lower 20% of the pic, before finding its' way onto Green's card. For years card geeks have wondered what exactly (or who exactly) was removed from the background of this card, and seemingly transformed into a questionable cloud that suggested Green was in need of a shower. Only now do we know that a couple of KGB agents, in full dress uniform, were standing on the RFK sidelines and doubtlessly stealing copies of team playbooks.

Keep match print photos in your thoughts; they are unique, in-house production items that will be sure to compliment any collection.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

1993-94 Citizens' Drug Free Network Jim Lachey Set

Examples of this two-card set recently popped up on Ebay, and a set was promptly added to our collection this past week. Apparently released in smallish quantities, probably to school kids in the Washington D.C. or surrounding area, Redskins lineman Jim Lachey is the subject of both cards. 

The Peoples Bank Company and McDonalds are the two sponsors listed on the cards, along with D.A.R.E. and the CDFN (Citizens' Drug Free Network) designations. The same photo of an excited Lachey is used on the fronts of both cards, though the cropping of the photo is different. The black borders are very sensitive to wear and may be difficult to find in true mint condition. Card backs are numbered "1 of 2" and "2 of 2", and both card backs feature the same Jim Lachey bio -- a bio that literally requires a magnifying glass to read. The two cards in our set also have the same safety tip on the backs, though they are inexplicably numbered 14 and 107.

I'm typically a fanboy for police, fire and D.A.R.E. sets, and I'm more than happy to add these two cards to the collection. With that being said, this effort doesn't excite me all that much... The crummy photo. The blah design. The cursed small font used for the bio. I'm just not feeling the love.

On second thought, maybe these cards weren't distributed to kids after all. Maybe this duo was simply a limited prototype set, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any info whatsoever pertaining to the cards. I'd say ten dollars is a fair value for the pair, or perhaps a bit more to a Redskins' completist.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

1988 Tastykake Philadelphia Phillies Set

The Tasty Baking Company, otherwise referred to as Tastykake, partnered with the Phillies for many years and their logo can be found on pocket schedules dating back to at least the early 1960s. The relationship arguably peaked in the 1980s, with Tastykake sponsoring stadium giveaways such as baseball gloves, Phillie Phanatic dolls, different styles of tote bags, and of course... Baseball cards.

From what I can tell, the Tastykake Phillies card sets were issued yearly from 1982 to 1989. The cards were always larger than the standard baseball card size, and were particularly large in 1988, measuring a whopping 4-7/8 by 6-1/4 inches -- if they were any larger they might be considered photos instead of cards, but these do have player statistics and other information printed on the backs. While the methods of distribution may have varied over the years, we're thinking the cards issued from 1984 to 1989 were primarily given away or sold at The Vet (the Phillies' ballpark, not the place where Toto is taken with a fever). We also believe that most of these sets were issued complete and shrink-wrapped in clear plastic, a form in which these sets can still be readily found today.

True fans and collectors should love sets of this nature, as they not only go deep into the team rosters, but also include a few special cards as well -- i.e. all of the team coaches, a team photo, and the Phillie Phanatic riding a four wheeler. Another interesting find in the '88 issue is a "Phillies Prospects" card, which features eight up-and-comers in the Philly system. In hindsight, we now know that none of these guys would achieve much at the Major League level, with outfielder Ron Jones winning the MLB longevity prize (97 Games, 264 PA, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .272 BA). Another card that caught our attention features veteran infielder Bill Almon, who is shown at the end of his fifteen-year MLB career. He was traded to Philadelphia shortly before the season began, and managed to sneak in to 20 games with the Phillies before being released on June 16; this might be the only card made of Almon in a Phillies uniform.

As mentioned before, card backs do feature player statistics and biographical information -- did you know that catcher Darren Daulton was chosen in the lowly 25th round of the June, 1980 draft? The thirty cards found in this set are not numbered except for uniform numbers, and were printed on thin, soft white card stock. Because most of these cards were tightly shrink-wrapped, many of them may show some wear on their unreasonably finicky corners.

While these cards may be under appreciated by the majority of the collecting universe, there are of course the contrarian, die-hard fans who love 'em.  Count me in. The Tastys are not rare, but they're somewhat hard to find when compared to the glut of other late 1980s baseball releases one must trudge through whilst on the hunt. With the spotlight being long since unplugged, you can grab a shrink wrapped set these days for ten dollars or less.

(4) Lee Elia, MGR
(8) Juan Samuel, 2B
(9) Von Hayes, 1B
(10) Darren Daulton, C
(13) Lance Parrish, C
(15) Bill Almon, INF
 (16) Luis Aguayo, INF
(18) Chris James, OF
(19) Mike Young, OF
(20) Mike Schmidt, 3B
 (21) Greg Gross, OF/1B
(22) Bob Dernier, OF
(24) Milt Thompson, CF
(27) Kent Tekulve, P
(28) Shane Rawley, P
(29) Phil Bradley, OF
(30) Steve Jeltz, SS
(31) Jeff Calhoun, P
(38) Wally Ritchie, P
(40) Steve Bedrosian, P
(42) Don Carman, P
(44) Mike Maddux, P
(45) David Palmer, P
(46) Kevin Gross, P
(47) Bruce Ruffin, P
(52) Todd Frohwirth, P
Phillies Prospects (Tom Barrett, Brad Brink, Steve DeAngelis, Ron Jones, Keith Miller, Brad Moore, Howard Nichols, Shane Turner)
Coaching Staff (Claude Osteen, Del Unser, John Vuckovich, Dave Bristol, Tony Taylor, Mike Ryan)
The Phillie Phanatic
The 1988 Philadelphia Phillies (Team Photo) 

Friday, April 3, 2015

1985 Chicago Renaissance Society White Sox Set

Consider yourself fortunate if you own these. If you've ever seen a set of 1980s baseball cards that were not marketed to 1980s baseball card collectors, this 1985 Chicago Renaissance Society White Sox set would probably be the best example.

In honor of both the 75th anniversary of Comiskey Park and the 70th anniversary of The Renaissance Society, a set of 18 cards was created featuring fifteen White Sox players, manager Tony LaRussa, Comiskey Park and a header card with the "75 Years" logo. Cards measure approx. 5 inches by 4 inches and are printed on semi-glossy cardboard. The cards have blank backs, are unnumbered, and come packaged in a small white cardboard portfolio.

In the words of the Society, "This unique 1985 exhibition brought together seventeen Chicago artists to offer their interpretations of seventeen White Sox players. The format, the baseball card, provides a creative link with our youth that is as refreshing as it is colorful." And boy, are some of these cards colorful indeed. And unique. Each artist was given full rein to paint their picture in the style of their choosing, which makes the set much different than all the others in our collection. First Baseman Greg Walker is painted in a realistic style, with the exception of the strange thing he's swinging at the plate. Ron Kittle looks to be the subject of expressionism, as he's pictured with a large oval head that's branded with the "Special K" cereal logo. Our favorite card is perhaps of Luis Salazar, who is depicted in action with a butterfly net, toilet plunger and straw broom. Eight naked female admirers are holding up the letters of Salazar's name, and based on the generous bulge found in the crotch of his pants, I can certainly guess why.

A limited amount of posters picturing the cards were created, and 100 special sets were signed by both the artists and players. I'm not sure how many "regular" sets were issued, but you simply don't find these anywhere (when I picked up my set off of Ebay five years ago, I had never seen them before). As a general rule, we never picture every card in a set because we want purchasers to have the satisfaction of seeing many of their cards for the first time. In this case we will make an exception, as there is virtually no information regarding these cards to be found on the web. If you'd like to see all of the set, just click the small photo below.

It's difficult to establish a value for the set when examples rarely surface on the market. The original asking price for a set back in '85 was $25, and a signed set was $450. Fifty dollars might be a good starting point today, and piecing out the singles may net considerably more -- most Carlton Fisk, Tom Seaver, Ozzie Guillen and Tony LaRussa collectors don't even realize that these cards were printed. 

The October 28, 1985 edition of Sports Illustated published a story regarding the original artwork for the cards, which was sold by auction at Comiskey on August 24. It can be found here on the SI website: 1985 Sports Illustrated Article.

The checklist below gives the names of both the players and artists.

(1) 75 Years Logo Header Card
(2) Harold Baines/Ed Paschke
(3) Floyd Bannister/Mark Jackson
(4)Britt Burns/Phyllis Bramson
(5) Julio Cruz/Karl Wirsum
(6) Richard Dotson/Paul LaMantia
(7) Carlton Fisk/Richard Hull
(8) Scott Fletcher/Hollis Sigler
(9) Ozzie Guillen/Robert Barnes
(10) Jerry Hairston/William Conger
(11) Ron Kittle/Jim Nutt
(12) Tony LaRussa/George Cohen
(13) Rudy Law/Don Baum
(14) Tom Paciorek/Robert Donley
(15) Luis Salazar/Gladys Nilsson
(16) Tom Seaver/Ellen Lanyon
(17) Greg Walker/Margaret Wharton
(18) Comiskey Park/Buzz Spector 

Monday, March 30, 2015

2014 Green Bay Packers Police

The Oddball Card Collector loves the 1970s and 1980s... Good times were had by all -- well, maybe not by New Orleans Saints fans, but these times were otherwise fun enough.

But what about the countless oddball sets that have been released in the new millennium? Surely there have been sets created these past few years that deserve a mention?

Of course there are. Actually, all of them deserve a mention on this humble blog... So many cards, so little time... With that in mind, it was time to find something produced since the birth of the smartphone. A reach into the shoebox yielded this random set from 2014 -- a nifty Green Bay Packers Police set.

These Packers Police sets have basically been produced yearly since 1983, and have been sponsored by an endless variety of Wisconsin police departments. Any given year, up to a dozen or so variations may be created as the various law enforcement agencies are listed somewhere on their cards. Some versions are scarcer than others, depending on the number of cards ordered by each agency. Other than the small area on the card listing the sponsoring agencies, everything else on the cards are otherwise the same (the rosters, photos and designs are all the same). Only the most serious of collectors attempt to track down the innumerable police department variations produced for the Packers sets these past thirty-plus years, and for the most part there seems to be no premium value attached to the various departments.

The 2014 version of the set consists of 20 cards, and as the back of this card shows, the set in our collection comes from the Town of Brookfield Police Department (we're not sure which other agencies distributed the cards, but we'd be interested in getting a hold of those, too). Fronts feature a unique brushed metal look to them, though these cards are made of simple cardboard and ink. Each is numbered "Card XX of 20."

The nucleus of an awesome Green Bay club is represented in this set, and boy, what a powerhouse of an NFL team these guys are. You might need to go all the way back to the 1981 Steelers Police set to find such an impressive roster of "kick yo' ass-edness." Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Terry Bradshaw... Running backs Eddie Lacy and Franco Harris... Wideouts Jordy Nelson and Lynn Swann... Linebackers Jack Lambert and A.J. Hawk... Seeing both teams play head-to-head would surely be a game to remember.

I'm pretty sure that the old way of distributing police cards are long gone (find a cop, get a couple of cards), and at this point you'll typically find mint complete sets as opposed to random singles. The quality control of this set rates very close to a "10", and our set is free of printing defects, centering issues or bad corners/edges. If you're going to add a set to your collection, make sure your cards are uncirculated and mint!

I'd give the set a value of $5. These cards are easily available on eBay as of this writing, and the low value is due more to lack of demand than gazillions of cards being printed. I'm sure these sets were printed in reasonable quantities, especially for the smaller police agencies.

Whichever agencies those may be.

1. Ted Thompson, GM
2. Mike McCarthy, HC
3. Aaron Rodgers, QB
4. Jordy Nelson, WR
5. Randall Cobb, WR
6. T.J. Lang, G
7. Josh Sitton, G
8. David Bakhtiari, T
9. Eddie Lacy, RB
10. John Kuhn, FB
11. B.J. Raji, DT
12. Mike Daniels, DT
13. A.J. Hawk, LB
14. Clay Matthews, LB
15. Tramon Williams, CB
16. Morgan Burnett, S
17. Sam Shields, CB
18. Julius Peppers, LB/DE
19. Mason Crosby, K
20. Tim Masthay, P