Tuesday, February 9, 2016

1983 Minnesota Vikings Police Set

The Minnesota Vikings, in conjunction with several local Twin Cities area law enforcement agencies, released their first "police" card set during the 1983 NFL season. 

Consisting of 17 cards total, the set follows the general format used by other NFL police sets since 1979; e.g., large color action photos on the fronts and a taller card size than the standard national issues. These police cards measure approx. 4 1/8 inches tall by 2 5/8 inches wide, and were printed on soft white cardstock. 

The cards were distributed throughout the '83 football season by local Minnesota police officers and sheriff's deputies. According to the card backs, the set was sponsored by the state Neighborhood Watch (M.C.P.O.A.), Pillsbury and Burger King. Their respective logos are found on the backs, along with player biographies and a crime prevention tip. Each card is also numbered on the back.

Let's compare this police set to the Topps football set released during the same season. In their 1983 football release, which contains a total of 396 cards, The Topps Company featured just 12 Vikings cards within the set. To make matters worse, each of these cards featured the typical 1980s Topps "bench shot" photos that were unappealing to young collectors. An action packed Vikings police set was just what the doctor ordered, and several notable names emerged as an added bonus. Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant, who had never been featured on a mainstream card, makes an overdue appearance at the end of his career with the club (he would coach the Vikings one final season in 1985). Guard Jim Hough played nine seasons with Minnesota and was never featured on a Topps card.

Topps really dropped the ball with two other Vikings legends. Defensive back Joey Browner was drafted by Minnesota in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, and went on to play in six Pro Bowls; in addition, he was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. While he appears in the '83 Vikings police set (in an early training camp photo), Topps would not issue Browner's true rookie card until the release of their 1986 set. Perhaps even worse was Topps' treatment of linebacker Scott Studwell, who was drafted by the Vikings back in 1977 and became a starter in 1980. Incredibly, Studwell would not be given a Topps rookie card until 1988, his twelfth season in the league! His '83 police card pays him his due respect by showing him in action against Eagles lineman Petey Perot, and even mentions his winning the NFL arm wrestling championship on the back of the card. Both Browner and Studwell are members of the Vikings Ring of Honor, as well as the 50 Greatest Vikings team chosen in 2010.

The club continued to release yearly police sets into the new millennium, though the old method of police officers giving away a couple of cards at a time eventually fell by the wayside. The inaugural 1983 set isn't too awfully hard to find and has a current value in the $7 to $10 range.

For a comparison, here's a peek at how the Dallas Cowboys police card set looked in 1983.

Random Fact: The last card of every Vikings police set released from 1983 through 1989 features an "All Time Great" player. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton occupies the slot in the 1983 issue, and at the time held the NFL all-time records for attempts, completions, career passing yards and touchdown throws.

Click here to hunt for Vikings Police Sets on eBay

1. Minnesota Vikings Art Card/Checklist
2. Tommy Kramer, QB
3. Ted Brown, RB
4. Joe Senser, TE
5. Sammy White, WR
6. Doug Martin, DE
7. Matt Blair, LB
8. Bud Grant, Head Coach
9. Scott Studwell, LB
10. Greg Coleman, P
11. John Turner, CB
12. Jim Hough, G
13. Joey Browner, DB
14. Dennis Swilley, C
15. Darrin Nelson, RB
16. Mark Mullaney, DE
17. Fran Tarkenton, QB (All Time Great)

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