Sunday, June 28, 2015

2001 Washington Redskins Upper Deck Stadium Giveaway Set

Redskins police sets from the 1980s and early 1990s are about as common as dirt. I'm not kidding. Bring a shovel into your backyard, give it a good scoop, and look to see what you've unearthed. There will be a 1985 Redskins police set, and possibly one from 1988 if your shovel went deep enough. 

The purpose of this anecdote is to illustrate what the 2001 Redskins Upper Deck SGA set isn't; you ain't gonna find one of these sets in your backyard.

The set was released in five-card cello packs during the December 2 home game versus the Dallas Cowboys. (Four cards featured Redskins players, and one featured an Upper Deck "Bucks" discount code.) A complete set consists of ten player cards that are numbered on the backs. Two of the players, quarterback Sage Rosenfels and wide receiver Rod Gardner, are showcased during their rookie seasons. Rosenfels never threw a regular season pass during his one and only year with the Skins, but did manage to stick around the league with a variety of teams as a backup through the end of the 2011 season. Gardner was Washington's first round pick of the 2001 NFL Draft (15th overall), and managed to eek out a 1000-yard receiving season in 2002. Rod's stint with the Redskins lasted four years, with his final two NFL seasons being divided among the Panthers, Packers and Chiefs. The remaining eight cards here feature veterans who enjoyed varying degrees of fame and fortune. Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Bruce Smith lead the Pack... errrr, Skins... with twelve-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey guarding the rear. 

As previously mentioned, the cards were distributed on December 2 during a crucial home game against the Cowboys. Washington lost their first five games of the season, then went on to knock off the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks, Broncos and Eagles to even things up. The contest versus the Cowboys wound up being a close, if not frustrating game that would result in a 14 to 20 Dallas victory. By season's end, Washington would own an 8 and 8 record and narrowly miss the playoffs.

We purchased ten of these cello packs off of eBay, for a total of 40 player cards. Lo and behold, our collation was perfect and yielded four complete sets. I have never claimed to be an expert on 2000's stadium giveaway cards, especially with the random nature of these sets and the lack of references that document such things. I don't know how many of these cards were released in 2001, but do know that they haven't shown up all that often in the years that have followed. If I were forced to guesstimate the value, I'd put a set in the ten dollar range. Upper Deck produced a well-centered, problem-free group of cards here (even the colored borders are chip-free on our cards), so make sure the ones you buy look as nice as ours.

1. Tony Banks, QB
2. Stephen Davis, RB
3. Michael Westbrook, WR
4. Stephen Alexander, TE
5. Champ Bailey, CB
6. Darrell Green, CB
7. Sam Shade, SS
8. Bruce Smith, DE
9. Rod Gardner, WR
10. Sage Rosenfels, QB

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Circa 1988 New York Islanders PRIDE Set

Twelve sessions of safety. Twelve sessions of captive boredom. Twelve sessions of bribery.

Thus sums up the Nassau County Police Department's P.R.I.D.E. program of the 1980s.

Before I receive tons of hate mail for the above comments, I need to confess that I'm just being silly, and I was a police officer (and a kid) in the past... The NCPD is an excellent organization, the hockey cards they distributed these many years ago are also excellent, and the idea of having kids earn the cards was a good one.

The New York Islanders were the subject of at least a couple of these "P.R.I.D.E." sets produced during the '80s. Based on the players pictured, the cards featured here were printed in 1987 or 1988. The twelve cards are standard sized and showcase borderless action shots on the fronts, with player names appearing in small font across the bottoms. Card backs are less attractive but informative, specifying one of twelve learning sessions and giving useful childhood tips (Just keep saying "NO" and give them the cold shoulder). Drug abuse was the main focus of the twelve sessions, with minors in self-esteem, healthy eating and exercise. According to the backs, the cards were printed by Penny Lane Graphics Inc. of Hempstead, Long Island.

Hockey fans are well aware of the legendary Islander lineups of the 1980s, with LaFontaine, Sutter and Trottier headlining an impressive group of skaters in the set. Twelve bona fide Islanders are found here, with defenseman Steve Konroyd being the short-timer of the group... Konroyd played in 169 contests for the Islanders during parts of four seasons.

From what I can tell, these P.R.I.D.E. cards are hopelessly rare. Little to no information can be found about them on the interwebs, and the set we own came from a guy who actually attended the twelve sessions as a lad back in the 1980s. It would be silly to quote a value for the set, and my quota for silliness was already filled at the beginning of this post.

Session One: Randy Wood (My Rights)
Two: Steve Konroyd (Drug Use and Misuse)
Three: Jeff Norton (Consequences of Drug Use)
Four: Kelly Hrudey (Resist Pressures to Use Drugs)
Five: Pat LaFontaine (Ways to Say "NO")
Six: Gerald Diduck (Building Self-Esteem)
Seven: Brent Sutter (Assertiveness)
Eight: Greg Gilbert (Managing Stress Without Drugs)
Nine: Alan Kerr (Alternatives to Drug Abuse)
Ten: Bryan Trottier (Role Models)
Eleven: Mikko Makela (Taking A Stand)
Twelve: Bob Bassen (Culmination)

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)