Sunday, October 4, 2015

1981/82 Georgetown Hoyas Basketball Police Set

The Georgetown Hoyas basketball team was the subject of yearly police card sets that were first issued during the 1981/82 season, and continued through the late 1990s (up to the 1996/97 season, I believe). Quick backstory: The modern police card era began with the NBA's 1977/78 Portland Trailblazers set, while with college basketball the first modern examples were released in 1980/81 for both the Arizona Wildcats and Wichita State Shockers; Georgetown followed with their first set a year later.

The 1981/82 Hoyas police set consists of 20 cards, and consists of fourteen players, four coaches, a team photo, and a mascot card. Card fronts feature black and white portraits, flanked by a dark, large blue border with white edges. Each player's name, uniform number, position, height, college year and home town are listed across the bottom fronts. Each card back features a basketball term and safety tip, as well as a Safeway sponsor logo across the bottom. Sets were printed on very thin white cardboard stock, which makes them very condition sensitive to corner wear and "toning" on the backs.

Whether by design or luck, Georgetown's first police set has the distinction of featuring a card of freshman center Patrick Ewing, who would of course go on to make eleven All-Star appearances in the NBA, be a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and be voted to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (Ewing is also featured in the next three Georgetown police sets). Senior Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, who is also represented, went on to play thirteen productive seasons in the NBA. Another card of note is that of legendary head coach and Hall of Famer John Thompson, who guided the team quite successfully from 1972 through 1999.

These 80/81 cards seem to be pretty scarce. I have been on the police card prowl for many years, and rarely do I see these sets hit the market; even on eBay at the time of this writing, only one incomplete set and two graded Ewing singles are to be found on the entire site. I'm not sure if the production numbers were ever released for any of the Georgetown cards, but later Hoyas issues are certainly much easier to find than this inaugural set. 

The next year's 1982/83 set is very similar in appearance, but lacks "GEORGETOWN BASKETBALL" across the top fronts of the cards. On the lower backs of the 1982/83 cards, the "GAMES PRODUCTION, Inc." name is found in the place of Safeway.

At one time, during the glory years of Patrick Ewing as well as the glory years of speculative card collecting, this 1981/82 set was known to sell in the $100 to $120 range. Today's value is more likely in the neighborhood of $75 to $100.

Random Fact: According to the back of the mascot card, collecting a complete set of these cards would have won two free tickets to a Georgetown basketball game. 

1. Jack the Bulldog
2. Elvado Smith, G, Freshman
3. Eric Smith, F, Senior
4. Pat Ewing, C, Freshman
5. Anthony Jones, F, Freshman
6. Bill Martin, F, Freshman
7. Bill Stein, Asst. Coach
8. Norman Washington, Grad. Asst. Coach
9. Ed Spriggs, C, Senior
10. Eric Floyd, G, Senior
11. Gene Smith, G, Sophomore
12. Fred Brown, G, Sophomore
13. Mike Hancock, F, Senior
14. Kurt Kaull, G, Junior
15. Ed Meyers, Asst. Coach
16. Ron Blaylock, G, Senior
17. David Blue, F, Junior
18. John Thompson, Head Coach
19. Ralph Dalton, C, Freshman
20. Team Photo

Sunday, September 27, 2015

2011 DAV Cedar Rapids Kernels Set

Let's be clear about one thing... This set is ruled by a king boss, and his name is Mike Trout.

The DAV (Disabled American Veterans) organization began sponsoring stadium giveaway sets some time in the early 2000s. While the DAV cards given away at Major League parks typically feature current Major League players, the sets given away at Minor League parks usually feature current MiLB players in their Minors unis. In the case of the 2011 Cedar Rapids set, we are presented with a "hybrid" issue, as this set of fifteen cards showcases Kernels alumni who went on to play at the Major League level. Each player is pictured as a Kernel during their time with the A-level club.

The Kernels have been an Angels affiliate since 1993, the year after the Reds organization left town. Over the past 20 or so years an impressive number of future Major League All-Stars have worn the Kernels uniform, as this set attests. Mike Trout is doubtlessly the greatest Kernel player to date, and might even be the reason that an alumni-style set was chosen (he played for the club briefly in 2009, and in 81 games in 2010). On a side note, Trout was also featured in the 2010 DAV Kernels set as an active player. 

Card fronts are colorful and unique, which has been a trademark look for most DAV sets over the years. All card backs in the set are similar, with no specific details relating to the players pictured on the fronts. Each is numbered between 80 and 94, as the cards are sequentially numbered with the other Minor League sets released by the DAV that season.

The Minor League DAV sets always have modest print runs. This 2011 Kernels set was given out on Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day) at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Only 1,000 sets were printed, making this a fairly scarce prize for collectors of Trout, Kendrick, Aybar and company. Sets were originally packaged in sealed, clear plastic cello bags.

The quality controls on this release were pretty high, as the cards tend to be clean and well-centered. One pesky problem is the colored borders, which make gem mint copies of these cards virtually impossible to find even straight out of the factory cello bags (thanks to even the slightest of wear on the corners and edges). A fresh, undisturbed set is probably worth in the neighborhood of $50 or so.

80. Mike Trout, OF
81. Casey Kotchman, INF
82. Ervin Santana, P
83. Howie Kendrick, INF
84. Erick Aybar, INF
85. Bengie Molina, C
86. Jeff Mathis, C
87. Mike Napoli, C
88. Alberto Callaspo, INF
89. Alexi Casilla, INF
90. John Lackey, P
91. Jordan Walden, P
92. Bobby Jenks, P
93. Hank Conger, C
94. Mark Trumbo, INF

Friday, September 25, 2015

1985 Sports Design Products Doug West Set (Series II)

Click here to see the blog post detailing the 1984 Doug West Set (Series I).

For the second and final time, another set of 24 retired baseball stars was printed by a company called Sports Design Products. Released in 1985, this set shared virtually the same design as it's predecessor, which was released the year before. As far as I can tell, the only real difference in design between the two sets is that this second series was printed with red and blue backs, as opposed to red or blue backs. 

Sets were released in clear plastic boxes that were similar to the year before, complete with the SDP logo on the front. Cards in the newer set are numbered 25 through 48. Artist Doug West once again painted 24 original illustrations for this set. Being just 24 years old at the time this set was released, West remains an active sports artist today.

According to Sports Design Products, 5,000 Series II sets were released, with an additional 250 uncut sheets also being printed. As an active follower of the various uncut oddball sheets that surface on the market, I can't remember the last time I saw an uncut sheet from either of these two series available. Though the production runs for both sets are 5,000 each, it seems like the Series II set is slightly harder to find today. This doesn't translate to more dollars, however, and both sets maintain a current value in the $10 to $15 range. If an uncut sheet were to surface, I'd estimate it's value in the $20 to $30 range.

Random Fact: Five subjects in the set are pictured playing for two different teams (as noted below).

25. Lou Gehrig, Yankees
26. Hoyt Wilhelm, Angels/White Sox
 27. Enos Slaughter, Yankees
28. Lou Brock, Cardinals
29. Mickey Cochrane, Tigers
30. Gil Hodges, Dodgers/Mets
 31. Yogi Berra, Yankees
32. Carl Hubbell, Giants
33. Hank Greenberg, Tigers
34. Pee Wee Reese, Dodgers
35. Casey Stengel, Bees/Yankees
36. Ralph Kiner, Pirates/Indians
 37. Satchel Paige, Indians
38. Richie Ashburn, Phillies
 39. Connie Mack, Athletics
 40. Dick Groat, Pirates
41. Tony Oliva, Twins
42. Honus Wagner, Pirates
43. Denny Mclain, Tigers
44. Johnny Mize, Giants/Cardinals
45. Bob Lemon, Indians
46. Ferguson Jenkins, Cubs
47. Babe Ruth, Yankees
48. Ted Kluszewski, Reds

Thursday, September 24, 2015

1984 Sports Design Products Doug West Set

Artist Doug West painted 24 beautiful illustrations for this nifty set of retired baseball greats. Released in 1984 by Sports Design Products, the set came in a clear plastic box that featured the SDP logo on the front. According to the company, 5,000 sets were released and another 250 uncut sheets were issued. A second series of another 24 cards would be released the following year, featuring a similar design on both the fronts and backs.

Cards measure the standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" size, and are printed on white cardstock. The player's illustrations fill the majority of card fronts, with names and positions in a blue or red box across the bottom. The SDP logo appears at the lower right. Card backs feature short player biographies and career statistic totals, printed in either blue or red.

Only the best of the best are found in this set, with Yankees catcher Thurman Munson being the lone player not enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The artwork is excellent, but seems to be unceremoniously hindered by the ever-present borders found on cards of the day (Mother's Cookies were just releasing their first borderless baseball cards right about this time). I kinda like the 1960s minimalist industrial feel of the cards, but they look like something the Department of Defense could have released during the Vietnam War. These same illustrations, released today on borderless, canvas cards would truly be breathtaking.

Doug West was only 23 years old when this set was released, and is still going strong in the world of sports art. You can learn all about Doug and his art right on his website

I like these cards and I like Doug West. Having an original release price around $8, a fresh set in the original box is worth around $10 to $15. I can't remember the last time I found one of the 250 uncut sheets for sale, but I imagine it would sell in the $20 to $30 range to the right buyer. Collectors have always given a cool reception to sets featuring retired players, and this set is no exception. With the release being over thirty years old now, these cards should be of interest to baseball fans who are seeking to collect limited editions that were produced before the "junk wax" era of the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

Random Fact: Joe DiMaggio is the only card in the set with a horizontal layout.

1. Jackie Robinson, Dodgers
2. Luis Aparicio, Orioles
3. Roberto Clemente, Pirates
4. Mickey Mantle, Yankees
5. Joe DiMaggio, Yankees
6. Willie Stargell, Pirates
7. Brooks Robinson, Orioles
8. Ty Cobb, Tigers
9. Don Drysdale, Dodgers
10. Bob Feller, Indians
11. Stan Musial, Cardinals
12. Al Kaline, Tigers
13. Willie Mays, Giants
14. Willie McCovey, Giants
15. Thurman Munson, Yankees
16. Charlie Gehringer, Tigers
17. Eddie Mathews, Braves
18. Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox
19. Warren Spahn, Braves
20. Ted Williams, Red Sox
21. Ernie Banks, Cubs
22. Roy Campanella, Dodgers
23. Harmon Killebrew, Twins
24. Duke Snider, Dodgers

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

1981 Pittsburgh Steelers Police Set

When your favorite team played the Steelers in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, the end result probably wasn't a favorable one for the ___________ (insert the name of any team that isn't the Steelers).

Widely considered the greatest dynasty in NFL history, the Steelers of this era showed up on Sundays with the intention of beating all comers. Badly. Just imagine being the defensive coordinator that was tasked with controlling the Steelers offense... Where do you begin? You need to cover a Hall of Fame center (Webster), who's hiking the ball to a Hall of Fame quarterback (Bradshaw), who's handing the ball off to a Hall of Fame running back (Harris), or perhaps throwing the ball to one of his two Hall of Fame wide receivers (Swann and Stallworth).


Offensive coordinators didn't fare much better against the Steelers defense. Running the ball wasn't easy against a Hall of Fame defensive Tackle (Greene) and a soon-to-be Hall of Fame defensive end (Greenwood).  Two Hall of Fame linebackers (Lambert and Ham) provided an unmatched second line of defense. A Hall of Fame cornerback (Blount) and possible Hall of Fame safety (Shell) were willing and able to handle the best opposing wide receivers.

The 1981 set is the first of a long line of yearly Steelers police sets that changed very little for over a decade... And this first set appeared none too soon, as the Steelers dynasty was coming to a close. Consisting of 16 player cards, every player mentioned above is featured in this remarkable issue. Card fronts feature a Steelers helmet and "stenciled" team name across the top. with a large action photo adorning the middle. Below each photo is the player's name, position, height and weight. Backs have a Coca-Cola and Kiwanis logo at the top, with a "Steeler's Tip" occupying the middle. The set sponsors are listed at the bottom (the local Kiwanis Club, Coca-Cola, the local Police Department and the Pittsburgh Steelers). Cards are not numbered except for uniform numbers on the fronts.

Because of the high-profile status of these players, most were well-represented in the yearly Topps football sets. One exception is legendary wide receiver Lynn Swann, who decided not to sign with Topps after the 1977 season (he is found in Topps sets from 1975-1977). He makes a welcome appearance in the Steeler's first police set four years later, and makes his final appearance in the second police set released by the team a year later in 1982.

I would challenge anyone to find a team set containing at least 16 cards where over half of the players are in the Hall of Fame. It's a fool's errand. For this reason alone, you need to own this set (you'll be a huge hit with the ladies at your next party when you whip out this baby.... women love winners!) The cards aren't impossible to find, but these '81s are probably a touch scarcer than the police sets the Steelers would release in the years following. Expect to pay around $15 for a set that's in nice shape.

Random Fact: Larry Brown was converted from tight end to offensive tackle before the 1977 season began, but is mistakenly listed as a tight end in this set.

(9) Matt Bahr, K
(12) Terry Bradshaw, QB
(31) Donnie Shell, DB
(32) Franco Harris, RB
(47) Mel Blount, CB
(52) Mike Webster, C
(57) Sam Davis, G
(58) Jack Lambert, LB
(59) Jack Ham, LB
(64) Steve Furness, DT
(68) L.C. Greenwood, DE
(75) Joe Greene, DT
(76) John Banaszak, DE
(79) Larry Brown, TE
(82) John Stallworth, WR
(88) Lynn Swann, WR