Thursday, December 26, 2013

1981 Drake's Big Hitters

Click here to find Big Hitters Sets on eBay

The card collecting "snowball" slowly began rolling downhill in the late 1970s, gradually increasing in size until running out of steam in the early 1990s. It was during this time, in the late 70s to early 80s, that speculators -- in numbers previously unseen by the collecting hobby -- began buying cards with the intention of holding and selling them for a future profit. One of the card issues purchased heavily by speculators of the day was the 1981 Drake's Big Hitters set.

Produced by the Topps Company for Drake's, there was much to like about these cards. They were packaged with Drake's cake products that were only sold in certain areas of the country. Putting a complete set together required purchasing numerous Drake's products, as the buyer never knew which cards would be included inside the packages. The player lineup was nothing short of fantastic, with 33 bona fide Major League stars being represented in the set (ten Hall of Famers, plus Pete Rose for good measure). Three players were
featured with their new teams, even before the 1981 Topps Traded Series was released -- Carlton Fisk of the White Sox, Fred Lynn of the Angels and Dave Kingman of the Mets.

Collectors and speculators far and wide purchased Drake's cakes by the case, and the cards were popular sellers in the hobby newspapers of the day. It was common to pay $20 or more for a set in 1981, if the dealer in question even had a set in stock.

The bubble burst on these card values near the end of the 1981 season, when the New York marketing firm handling the promotion found out about a major "leak" within the distribution process. Apparently, complete sets of the cards had made their way directly into the hobby and were selling for high prices. Of course, the cards purchased directly from this unknown source had never been packaged with baked goods and were in mint condition. Though the original plan had been to not release complete sets, Drake's decided to do so in light of the high prices collectors were paying for these leaked cards. The sudden availability of complete sets drove the value down, as planned by Drake's, in order to make sets affordable for collectors.

Drakes and Topps once again released a very similar set in 1982 (and others in 1983, 1984 and 1985), but speculators had learned their lessons. These future sets never gained the acclaim or hype initially given to the inaugural 1981 set.

Today, the 1981 Drake's issue suffers the same fate as the other sets that were overproduced during the 1980s. Over thirty years later a complete, mint set of the cards usually costs less than the $5 to $8 range it was selling for in 1982. How's that for a great investment?

Click here to find Big Hitters Sets on eBay

1. Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox
2. Rod Carew, Angels
3. Pete Rose, Phillies
4.  Dave Parker, Pirates
5. George Brett, Royals
6. Eddie Murray, Orioles
7. Mike Schmidt, Phillies
8. Jim Rice, Red Sox
9. Fred Lynn, Angels
10. Reggie Jackson, Yankees
11. Steve Garvey, Dodgers
12. Ken Singleton, Orioles
13. Bill Buckner, Cubs
14. Dave Winfield, Yankees
15. Jack Clark, Giants
16. Cecil Cooper, Brewers
17. Bob Horner, Braves
18. George Foster, Reds
19. Dave Kingman, Mets
20. Cesar Cedeno, Astros
21. Joe Charboneau, Indians
22. George Hendrick, Cardinals
23. Gary Carter, Expos
24. Al Oliver, Rangers
25. Bruce Bochte, Mariners
26. Jerry Mumphrey, Padres
27. Steve Kemp, Tigers
28. Bob Watson, Yankees
29. John Castino, Twins
30. Tony Armas, Athletics
31. John Mayberry, Blue Jays
32. Carlton Fisk, White Sox
33. Lee Mazzilli, Mets


  1. Terrific post.... I linked this post on my blog today...