Friday, July 24, 2015

1989 Phoenix Cardinals Police Set

The Oddball Card Collector never stops scouring the web in search of police cards. On any given evening, I'll have one eye on Master Chef and the other eye on eBay... Or maybe one eye on a Love Boat re-run and the other eye on eBay... And if I've ever learned anything from Chef Gordon Ramsay and head purser Gopher Smith, it is this: the 1989 Phoenix Cardinals Police Set is pretty tough to find.

The era of the modern-day police set was turning twelve years old in 1989 (if you consider the 1977/78 Trailblazers set the first), and many card collectors were already beginning to lose interest in this type of card. Add to that the addition of two new nationally-distributed football card sets being released in 1989 -- Pro Set and Score -- along with a bevy of good but not great players on the Phoenix roster, and this nifty Cardinals set was all but guaranteed to be a cold release.

A release that continues to be cold to this very day.

A complete set features twelve player cards, which are not numbered except for uniform numbers. Slightly larger than the standard card size, each features a beautiful on-field color photo and short player bio. The historic year of 1989 was when Pro Set and Score blew the football "action shot" doors off the hinges, whereas police sets like this were once the best way to find such photos (especially for linemen). The '89 Cardinals set holds it's own here in all the classic police card aspects, including the expected action photography. The typical childhood safety tip is found on the back of each card.

The card featuring Derek Kennard was short printed, having been recalled from the set after his arrest for drunk driving. (You'll never guess the safety tip printed on the back of his card... "Don't ride in a car if you think the driver has had too much to drink. Call someone you trust for a ride.) In the world of scarce, short printed police cards, my guess is that Kennard ranks  somewhere in the middle. It's probably worth just as much, and probably more, than all the other cards in the set combined. Tight end Jay Novacek is represented during his rookie card year, and would go on the win three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. Roy Green, a true Cardinals legend, is also found in the set. (Green played everything from defensive back to wide receiver, to kick returner, to punt returner, to rusher.)

According to published sources, a total of 100,000 sets were printed. My question is simply, "Where are they?" I consistently see other sets, printed in much smaller quantities, showing up on the web much more often than this. At the time of this writing, eBay has less than ten singles available, and not even one complete set. As elusive as these cards may be, a complete set including Kennard is valued in the ten to fifteen dollar range. A set minus the Kennard short print would probably set you back about five bucks.

(5) Gary Hogeboom, QB
(24) Ron Wolfey, FB
(30) Stump Mitchell, RB
(31) Earl Ferrell, FB
(36) Via Sikahema, RB/KR
(43) Lonnie Young, FS
(46) Tim McDonald, SS
(65) David Galloway, DE
(67) Luis Sharpe, OT
(70) Derek Kennard, C (SP)
(79) Bob Clasby, DT
(80) Rob Awalt, TE
(81) Roy Green, WR
(84) J.T. Smith, WR
(85) Jay Novacek, TE

Saturday, July 11, 2015

2008 Arizona Diamondbacks SGA Postcard Set

Postcards and baseball go way back. Waaa-aayyy back. A set of "Rotograph" postcards were released circa 1905, and featured at least eight New York baseballers including John McGraw and Clark Griffith (a decent example of these might cost you well over $1,000 each). Other postcard releases may even be older that this.

Fast-forward some 103 years later, to 2008, and a nifty set of eleven postcards were released featuring the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wait... There's a major League Baseball team in Arizona? Does Clark Griffith know about this? He should, because a downright nasty Hall of Fame pitcher named Randy Johnson is in this set. 

This set of postcards consists of ten individual player cards and a team photo/schedule card. These are large-sized postcards, measuring a hefty 7 x 5 inches. The players are featured in beautiful, color action shots that are borderless and cover the entire fronts of the cards. Backs feature the all-business postcard look, assuming that one would actually consider jotting down someone's physical address and slapping on a stamp. Each player's name and position is found on the back in small font, but the cards are not numbered. The team photo card pictures the 2008 Arizona squad, but the reverse features the 2009 season schedule... This makes sense as the postcards were distributed at the September 27 home game, the next-to-last contest of the 2008 season.

I'm not sure how many sets were printed, but as is usually the case with SGA (stadium giveaway) cards, loads of sets are handed out to non-collectors and most are never seen again -- some probably didn't even survive the seventh inning stretch, thanks to hot dogs, mustard and flying cups of draft beer. Regarding their value, these gems were released long after the card market imploded and might be of interest to maybe a handful of collectors. Putting these in the $5 to $8 price range is probably on the mark.

 (1) Arizona Diamonbacks 2008 Team Photo/2009 Schedule
(2) Eric Byrnes, Outfielder
(3) Stephen Drew, Infielder
(4) Dan Haren, Pitcher
(5) Orlando Hudson, Infielder
(6) Connor Jackson, Outfielder
(7) Randy Johnson, Pitcher
(8) Chris Snyder, Catcher
(9) Justin Upton, Outfielder
(10) Brandon Webb, Pitcher
(11) Chris Young, Outfielder

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 Soviet KGB agents, in full dress uniform, were there on the RFK sidelines to doubtlessly steal 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.