Sunday, December 26, 2010

1986 Fleer Update

It’s 1986. You’re the Cleveland Indians. Last year you lost 102 games. What do you do?
You sign 47-year old knuckle ball pitcher Phil Niekro. That’s what.

Hold the laughter. Phil starts 32 games and eats 210.1 innings. That’s remarkable and that’s why he is in the Hall of Fame.

About the Card

In 1984, Fleer as usual, completely ripped off a significant new concept that Topps had developed in 1981. The Traded set.  Fleer titled theirs “Update”. That’s about the extent of their imagination. How hard would it have been for Fleer to come up with a different design for the update set? What we get it a better card stock but that’s it. It’s the same design, which you can categorize under: haven’t we’ve seen this before?

This beautiful Beckett slab is sitting on eBay for a BIN price of $24.95 which is about $24 more than it's worth. Nothing remotely rare about this card and considering you can buy the entire factory set which includes a Barry Bonds rookie for $12 - I'd say this slab will never be bought at this price. Furthermore, these used a different stock for the update set so it's not its even condition sensitive like the regular issue.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

1986 Donruss

In 1986, Gary Carter led the league in GIDPs & Sac Flies. Who Knew?

About the Card
Ben Henry's Baseball Card Blog made the astute observation that 1986 Donruss invokes the popular TV show at the time Max Headroom.

There is no getting around the fact the Donruss was either inspired by or trying to capitalize on the success of the show by utilizing a blue stripe border.

I find this set to be the best design of the year. Not only because of its use of pop culture emblematic of its time and place but Topps & Fleer were particularly uninspired in 1986. The card quality was better too. Topps & Fleer seemed to be printed on toilet paper. 1986 Donruss doesn’t have any chipping issues as the others exhibit. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

1985 Donruss & 1985 Topps

Tony Perez had a very exceptional but unremarkable career that lasted 23 years. However, in 1985, at 43 years old, he was a productive bench player for the Reds with a 138 OPS+.

Cal Ripken, in 1985 was in the midst of being the prototypical modern day shortstop.

About the Cards

In the side-by-side comparison you can see that both cards are similarly designed.

Brand logo in the upper left & official team logo in bottom right.

The borders are the same size. Topps using white and Donuss using black.

Topps doubled down on the team name with a somewhat clumsy slanted stamp but Topps never was subtle.

1985 Topps is a tough set to grade due to the prevalence of poor centering. 1985 Donruss isn’t nearly hard to find correctly centered but as with any black border card – chipping can be an issue. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

1991 Leaf Blower

Leaf followed up its landmark premium 1990 set with an ill-conceived heavy border design usual reserved for their regular issue Donruss set.

Where Leaf gets credit is that they went in the complete opposite art direction. However, the credit goes to the premise not the execution. This design is hideous. There is nothing about the design that evokes baseball.

About the Card

This Barry Bonds card in particular looks as if it doesn’t have licensing rights from MLB.
There isn’t a great rookie nor a great subset or even a chase card in this set so 1991 Leaf is junk wax. The good news is that the production was solid and these cards grade gem fairly easy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1989 Upper Deck

When discussing 1989 Upper Deck you can’t overstate the impact on the baseball hobby.

Counterfeit-Proof Cards using holograms! Better quality card stock and photography. Tamper-Proof Pack.  The Junior Griffey rookie.

1989 also happened to be a horrendous year for card designs.
Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Bowman & even Sportflics all fought for the title of worst set of the year.

Let’s face it -1989 Upper Deck without the context isn’t that great of a design itself but the upstart company literally caught everyone else sleeping and forever changed baseball cards.

However, Mike Schmidt’s card wasn’t the beneficiary of all the newness. We see arguably the best 3rd basemen of all time being interviewed - presumably because his bat stopped talking.

On May 2nd, 1989 vs. Houston Astros, Jim Deshaies served up his world famous meatball to Schmidt in his first at bat and he hit what turned out to be the last home run of his illustrious career. It was the 548th time he rounded the bases and left him at #6 on the career HR leader list. At the end of 2010, Schmidt stands 15th.

Monday, December 6, 2010

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

In 1991, according to Dave Jamieson’s Mint Condition, Upper Deck printed a “staggering 4 billion baseball cards” (Personally, I believe that number is either a misprint or misinformation). Unfortunately, the base card design happens to be a low tide moment in their impeccable design history.  Considering only two years earlier Upper Deck set the baseball hobby ablaze, this design surprisingly similar to the 1990 design left Upper Deck stuck with the year’s most pedestrian set.

The adage of ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” was never more suited than for Upper Deck in 1991. Against better judgment they hit the snooze button in the art department focusing more on inserts and autograph chase cards.

About the Card

In an era where most players have several rookie cards to choose from - Pedro Martinez has only one. How he slipped through every company's player selection except Upper Deck's is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that it arrived in a year-end factory set that turned out to be a one-off idea.