Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Team MVPs: 1984 Fleer

I'm offering another apology to 1981 Topps.

I've promised twice now that the next set that I would profile in this Team MVPs series would be 1981 Topps. But I'm delaying that yet again, because I keep completing sets!

Since my last '81 Topps promise I have completed 1984 Fleer. Since I'm going back in time with this series I can't continue to go back to the past without taking care of more recent sets! This is my first chance to determine the best card for each team in a Fleer set.

I've noticed a benefit to Fleer right away. The cards are numbered by team, so each team's cards are grouped together. That allows me to review each team all at once instead of the piece-by-piece process I go through with Topps sets.

It's also a lot of fun to determine the "best" card in a mid-1980s Fleer set as many of the photos have so much character. However, you'd be surprised how many photos are also boring as all get-out. Entire teams are boring as all get-out. I wasn't expecting that.

So, here we go, the best card for each team, separated by the MLB division breakdown in 1984:

American League East

Orioles: Rick Dempsey; Red Sox: Mark Clear; Indians: Gorman Thomas; Tigers: Enos Cabell; Brewers: Jerry Augustine; Yankees: Graig Nettles; Blue Jays: Roy Lee Jackson

Team with the best cards: Blue Jays, by a landslide. Nothing in the AL East comes close. Almost nothing in the entire league comes close.

Team with the worst cards: Indians/Tigers tie. Enos Cabell won because he was smiling, that's how tough it was for the Tigers.

Team I should go back and review: Yankees. No, not because I didn't put Mattingly's rookie card here (this is not how we determine "best" on this blog), but because I'm so enamored with the rare appearance of a Graig Nettles mustache.

American League West

Angels: Bobby Grich; White Sox: Julio Cruz; Royals: John Wathan; Twins: Kent Hrbek; A's: Dan Meyer; Mariners: Richie Zisk; Rangers: Larry Biittner

Team with the best cards: Royals, ever so slightly ahead of the Twins and Angels. I may have given the Twins demerits because of this:

Team with the worst cards: Mariners were pretty boring.

Team I should go back and review: White Sox. The Greg Luzinski card is kinda cool and probably should overthrow Cruz and his batting cage.

National League East

Cubs: Jay Johnstone; Expos: Al Oliver; Mets: Jose Oquendo; Phillies: Tony Perez; Pirates: Larry McWilliams; Cardinals: Joaquin Andujar

Team with the best cards: Expos, although there are several classics with other teams.

Team with the worst cards: Probably Cardinals, although every team is pretty strong in this division.

Team I should go back and review: Phillies. I subconsciously omitted the SuperStar Special cards from consideration, which means no "Reds Reunited" card for the Phillies (or the "Pine-Tar Game" for the Royals). This is a faux pas, I admit, but there's no time to rescan cards now.

National League West

Braves: Glenn Hubbard; Reds: Johnny Bench; Astros: Jose Cruz; Dodgers: Steve Howe; Padres: Steve Garvey; Giants: Bob Brenly

Team with the best cards: Braves. Reds are a close runner-up, followed by the Padres. Also, how awesome is that top row, featuring a snake, an ESPN mic and a barbell???

Team with the worst cards: Dodgers. Very nondescript for a team that won the NL West the previous year.

Team I should go back and review: Giants. Jeff Leonard is offering his all-time glower on his card but I went with Brenly just because he appears to have consumed all of the tobacco in the clubhouse and is now regretting it.

So that's the first look at Fleer in the Team MVPs series.

I promise you'll be seeing the 1981 Topps set next, and sooner than later. With Archives using the '81 design this summer, it seems like perfect timing.

Monday, May 21, 2018


I do not go along with the crowd. That's well-established. Both in the hobby and in life.

For example, I do not take part in sales.

This is very un-American of me, because wherever I go, inside of the hobby or out, there is someone mentioning how they "got a deal" on this or that. When I used to work in retail, there were legions of shoppers who'd wait for the weekly circular and then stampede to the mall to wipe out all the sale items before Sunday had ended.

In the card hobby, I don't have to tell you it's all about finding a sale. Dollar boxes, quarter boxes, dime boxes, nickel boxes. Finding the best deal on ebay. Finding the best deal on your favorite online shopping site.

Each year, my favorite site -- COMC -- announces several different sales. The most popular is the Black Friday sale. At that time of year, there is blog post after blog post showing off Black Friday purchases. But I've never taken part.

It's not that I don't like saving money. I'm certainly not rich and I can't afford to just throw my money around. I know there are millions of coupon-cutters out there and more power to them.

I think it's the nonconformist in me. I just don't like being told what to do and that involves when and how I should spend my money. You've got a sale? Great. I'll spend my money now if I feel like it.

So, that explains how I happened to participate in a COMC sale for the very first time, even though I've been buying cards off of COMC since 2009.

COMC recently conducted its Spring Cleaning sale and I just barely got in on it before the final day.

It was just coincidence that I was ready to order some cards when everyone started marking down inventory. It was quite nice. The stars had lined up so someone was ready to take my money with a discount at the exact same time I was ready to give them my money.

So I gathered a few items that seemed right to be discounted and hit 🚢!!!!

Let us begin:

This was a holdover from when I thought it would be cool to own a Dodger card of Yu Darvish. Remember those days?

Today, it seems like the perfect thing to be marked down.

On any given day, a Clayton Kershaw card is being stolen from my COMC cart. I've almost gotten used to it. I'll put a Kershaw card in there and think at the same time "well, you won't stay in there for long."

Fortunately, this fake-retro card from Archives stayed put.

My excruciatingly slow attempt to obtain any 1977 O-Pee-Chee card that looks different than a 1977 Topps card inches a few millimeters forward with this dynamite Dave Collins OPC card. He is not wearing a mustache on his '77 Topps card. How cool is that?

Speaking of slow slogs, here are three needs from the 2008 Stadium Club set that almost no one remembers. It is a battle to see which 2008 set that I've stopped caring about I complete first: Stadium Club or Heritage?

I'm down to needing just four Stadium Club cards, so I think SC might win. That is if I don't forget about both sets completely and they both expire a handful of cards away from the finish line.

There were just a few non-baseball cards mixed in with my sale purchase. You saw the gorgeous Martina Hingis card at the top of the post, now how about these two baddies?

These are two 1975 Topps cards that I practically worshipped as a 10-year-old boy. The '75 year was the first for me purchasing cards and it was spent mostly with the glorious baseball set of that year. But as a brand new card consumer with An Allowance And Everything, I felt the duty to buy some football and hockey, too.

Of the tiny number of packs that I bought of each, these two cards emerged as absolute titans of what I had bought. I knew nothing about Alan Page and Gerry Hart but I apparently was drawn to defensive destroyers because both were mayhem in their chosen sport.

I'm a firm believer in possessing the cards that thrilled you as a child, even if it means repurchasing them. I am so excited about these two.

Let's move to something I'm collecting right now, the 1973 Topps baseball set. Being cost conscious counts when you're in the final stages of a vintage set. I'll certainly pay attention to sales in these circumstances. I got both cheaply.

All right, NOW, the sale is speaking to me!

There is nothing quite as annoying as seeing these buyback cards go for stupid prices -- and by "stupid" I mean more than the cost of a non-stamped 1975 Topps card. You're defacing the original and you want more money for it?

So all of these buybacks came for much, much more reasonable prices and with this lot I now have 237 of the '75 Topps cards in buyback form or more than one-third of the set!!!

I am very happy with this particular acquisition as there are several notables: Messersmith, Lyle, Wood, Fuentes, North, as well as cards like Harrison, Kirkpatrick and Lintz that were part of my '75 childhood. Also, to the COMC dude who has been holding the Mike Wallace buyback hostage for like two years, I GOT IT CHEAPER BUD!

Hey, maybe I'm getting sold on this sale stuff.

Final card in the sale package (well, final one I'm showing now anyway).

These early '80s Superstar cards leave a lot to be desired with their black-and-white, newsprint-like photos. But how many times to do you see Koufax and Aaron on a card together?


I had fun with my first COMC sale go-round. That doesn't mean I'll dutifully wait for the next sale to get my next batch of cards. Like everything that I consume, I get it when I want it and if I don't have the cash to get it, I wait until I do, sale or no sale.

The next coupon I cut will be the first.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Awesome night card, pt. 283: more no-hit fun

The last time I wrote a post, I led off with a Nolan Ryan card. The last time I wrote an Awesome Night Card post, the topic was no-hitters.

And I'm showing a card I received from Johnny's Trading Spot for the second post in a row.

I can repeat myself with the best of them.

I'm showing this card basically because I've never seen it before and I am fascinated with it, mostly because it's taken me so long to find this particular night card.

It contains a lot of things that I love in a card. It captures a moment in time -- Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter on June 11, 1990 against the A's. It shows a salute to the fans, a tip of the cap. It comes from that time when satin jackets were the height of cool. You can also see a scoreboard in the distance and that's awesome. And, of course, it all happened at night.

The only dorky part is the lettering on the photo that says "No Hit KING". I don't know why "king" is all in caps and without the hyphen between "no" and "hit," it appears that Leaf is touting Ryan's inability to get hits, "he's no hit king!"

Ryan's sixth no-hitter merely broke his own established record. Nobody had thrown more than four no-hitters before Ryan came along. But the feat, established almost nine years after his fifth no-hitter and pitched at age 43, was so mind-blowing at the time that somebody HAD to make a card.

In fact, 1990 Leaf was ahead of the game with its Ryan no-hit recognition, thanks to being issued later in the year. Most 1990 card issues were recognizing Ryan's 5,000th strikeout, which happened in 1989. By the time those card companies got around to noting Ryan's sixth no-hitter in 1991, Ryan had thrown another no-hitter, against the Blue Jays in May of 1991.

That's what makes this 1990 Leaf card special.


Awesome Night Card binder candidate: Nolan Ryan, 1990 Leaf, #265
Does it make the binder?: He is the no-hit KING. It fills an open slot.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Welcome senility

Earlier today I read a post on Torren' Up Cards about Kenny's blogging disaster in which he spent eight months -- eight months! -- writing up a post related to some cards he received from Johnny's Trading Spot and then accidentally deleted the entire thing.

Well ... since we're confessing about stupid blogging things we've done recently while showing cards from Johnny's Trading Spot, I have one.

Remember that "Best set of 1991" post I published a couple of days ago?

I already published one of those. About cards from the exact same year. Published it four months ago. Even worse, I selected a different "best set" in that post.

Welcome senility. I've been waiting for you.

I fully expect myself to forget things. That's why I use labels for my posts so I can remind myself on whether I've written something already. But the labels failed me and when I clicked on the "best set series" labels, the most recent post that came up was from last May when I covered the sets from 1990.

So I dutifully did everything I did already four months ago, pulling cards from the same sets, writing basically the same thoughts that I did four months earlier. The weirdest thing about this is that nobody else seems to remember I already wrote that post either. The more recent "Best set of 1991" received much more reaction than the previous '91 post, and maybe everyone is just being nice, but the comments didn't give any hint that this post was a repeat.

I was so horrified when I found out (I'm being flip here but there's a tinge of seriousness given my mother's recent short-term memory issues and my grandmother's well-known memory problems, guess what's in my future?) I instantly deleted the previous post from January. It's gone.

To make it up to you, I'll be writing a "Best set of 1992" post fairly soon. I just need to wash away the whole ugly affair.

Meanwhile, like I said, I have a whole bunch of cards from Johnny's Trading Spot to display.

I received four healthy stacks wrapped in newspaper -- as many of you did. Most of the cards I owned already, that's just the way it is when you've been blogging and collecting for as long as I have. This is the breakdown:

Cards I needed on the right.

But that's plenty. Oh, that's plenty. The cards on the left will go to other Dodger causes (there's this dude trying to accumulate one million Dodgers). I have 26 binders filled with Dodgers cards. Space is at a premium.

It took me more than hour, however, to determine exactly what I needed. I can blame part of this on senility's arrival, but I mostly blame it on the 1990s. The moment I turned my back on the hobby in 1994/95, the card companies went on a card-making bender.

There you go. Most of those are from the '90s. After a number of minutes, I finally figured out I needed them all.

Kind of all from the '90s, or the turn of the century (some 2003 Ultra up top). Senility or not, I knew right away that those 1999 Pacific Paramount cards had never visited my collection before.

This is a combination of '90s/'00s cards that I either knew right away that I needed (a green Green!) or it took many binder openings and closings before finally figuring out they were needs.

A sure-fire cure for senility is to throw a parallel at me. "Well!" I'll respond instantly, "I certainly need that one! It's a blasted parallel!"

A combination of the wonderful Jeff Shaw Ultra parallel card with some more modern parallels. The Urias Inception card has really fancied itself up, but it still loses the beauty competition to the Shaw card.

Modern goodies and very welcome. There's my first "return of Matt Kemp" cards, including the "whoops -- tee hee -- we forgot the black plate" parallel.

Oddballs! All needs, although I probably have the rubdowns already. I've never thought to put them with my Dodger cards until receiving them all at once like this.

Some unlicensed needs. Not very exciting are they?

Johnny came across a bunch of tobacco minis and checked with me before sending them. These two I picked out as needs.

And finally among the non-Dodger needs were some night cards, that great Nolan Ryan card at the top of the post and this 1961 Fleer football card. I have never seen 1961 Fleer football in person. That's pretty cool!

So those are just about all of the cards (I got a little sick of scanning after awhile) that I know I need.

It seems somewhat tedious figuring out what cards you need, especially when it comes to '90s cards, but I'm willing to bet it helps keep the senility at bay reminding your brain what you have and what you don't.

Either that or all my card knowledge is pushing other valuable stuff out of my brain -- like "posts I've published already."

Thursday, May 17, 2018

One-card wonders, update 7

The year 1986 overflowed with wonderful one-hit wonder pop records.

"Rumors," by the Timex Social Club. ""Hanging on a Heart Attack, by Device. "I Wanna Be a Cowboy," by Boys Don't Cry. "The Rain," by Oran "Juice" Jones. And "Out of Mind Out of Sight," by the Models.

Then there's "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)," by Timbuk 3, a one-off hit that became so confused as an optimistic eye to the future that it was used as graduation music fodder, as nobody bothered to notice the obvious references to nuclear annihilation.

One-hit wonders from Regina's "Baby Love" to Billy Crystal's "You Look Marvelous" to Yello's "Oh Yeah," took our minds off the growing arms race of the '80s. And if you were a card collector, you had tiny pieces of cardboard to forget about the cold war.

Even though there were three companies making cards in 1986, there are a fair amount of one-card wonders -- players who received only one card in a major set and no other. With the help of a list that Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life! provided me a few years back, I was able to determine eight players as '86 one-card wonders.

Donruss has five of them.

The above Carlos Ponce card is the first 1986 Donruss card I ever owned. That's how prominent one-hit wonders were in 1986. One pulled one in one's very first pack.

I knew nothing about Carlos Ponce then nor did I know anything about '86 Donruss. I didn't buy anything but a few handfuls of Topps in 1986. And by the time I got to '86 Donruss I was recoiling from the disorienting horizontal lines. My distaste for '86 Donruss is well-established, despite its Max Headroom nickname.

Here are the '86 Donruss one-card wonders:

32 - Johnny Abrego, Cubs (Rated Rookie)
42 - Rick Surhoff, Rangers (Rated Rookie)
461 - Dave Leeper, Royals
510 - Steve Engel, Cubs
595 - Carlos Ponce, Brewers

Topps features three one-card wonders in its 1986 set.

#451 - Mark Brown, Twins
#502 - Glen Cook, Rangers
#567 - Jeff Barkley, Indians

All pitchers, which is not a surprise considering how disposable pitchers can be.

Fleer, interestingly, does not contain a one-card wonder in 1986. (There is a player on a two-player rookie card that appeared in just the '86 set but I don't count those). One of the close-but-no-cigar players is White Sox pitcher Bruce Tanner, who also appears in the 1985 Fleer Traded set as his only other showing.

So here is the updated list of what I've done so far:

1967 Topps

#344 - Ossie Chavarria, A's
#388 - Arnold Earley, Cubs
#489 - Doug Clemens, Phillies
#497 - Ron Campbell, Cubs

1974 Topps:

#8 - George Theodore, Mets
#33 - Don Newhauser, Red Sox
#37 - Dave Sells, Angels
#77 - Rich Troedson, Padres
#421 - Dan Fife, Twins
#457 - Chuck Goggin, Braves
#573 - Mike Adams, Twins 

1975 Topps

#288 - Bruce Ellingsen, Indians
#407 - Herb Washington, A's
#508 - Bob Hansen, Brewers
#524 - John Doherty, Angels
#587 - Chris Ward, Cubs
#651 - John Morlan, Pirates 

1977 Topps

#118 - Rick Jones, Mariners
#132 - Chip Lang, Expos
#137 - Jeff Terpko, Rangers
#616 - Tommy Sandt, A's
#641 - Dan Larson, Astros 

1978 Topps:

#224 - Jerry Tabb, A's
#303 - Sam Hinds, Brewers
#311 - Jose Baez, Mariners
#386 - Bob Gorinski, Twins
#502 - Pat Rockett, Braves
#516 - Gary Beare, Brewers
#521 - Steve Staggs, Blue Jays
#591 - George Zeber, Yankees
#667 - Jeff Byrd, Blue Jays
#719 - Randy Elliott, Giants

1980 Topps:

#59 - Eddy Putman, Tigers
#72 - Fred Howard, White Sox
#156 - Tony Brizzolara, Braves
#221 - Joe Cannon, Blue Jays
#233 - LaRue Washington, Rangers
#291 - Randy Scarberry, White Sox
#347 - Harry Chappas, White Sox

1981 Topps:

 #491 - Gordy Pladson, Astros

1982 Topps:

#356 - Denny Lewallyn, Indians

1984 Topps:

#116 - George Bjorkman, Astros
#159 - Darryl Cias, A's
#163 - Lorenzo Gray, White Sox
#337 - Kevin Hagen, Cardinals
#382 - Chris Nyman, White Sox
#474 - Greg Bargar, Expos

1986 Topps:

#451 - Mark Brown, Twins
#502 - Glen Cook, Rangers
#567 - Jeff Barkley, Indians

1994 Topps:

#491 - John Hope, Pirates

1986 Donruss:

#32 - Johnny Abrego, Cubs
#42 - Rick Surhoff, Rangers
#461 - Dave Leeper, Royals
#510 - Steve Engel, Cubs
#595 - Carlos Ponce, Brewers

I had planned to tackle 1979 Topps next, but I'll save that for the next time. I just happened to hear "The Future's So Bright" on the radio today at about the same time I popped on my sunglasses in the car and I took that as a sign.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Best set of the year: 1991

After basically taking the year off from collecting in 1990, I was back in 1991.

I collected a lot of stuff in 1991 -- because there was a lot to collect. They blew the barn doors off in 1991. Cards and collecting and hobby people in general would never be the same because of '91. There was no going back. The genie was out of the bottle. Everyone had an accountant. We were all going to be stinkin' rich.

And the quickest way to retirement -- in 1991 -- was to buy even more cards.

The card companies were there for you. There were no less than nine major card sets in 1991, the most ever. I'm not even counting things like Classic and O-Pee-Chee Premiere. Nine sets to collect. NINE! For the first six years of my collecting existence I was collecting one solitary set and sticking my fist in a cereal box for another. That was it.


The '91 card season is probably most notable for the growth in "premium" sets. Leaf in 1990 spawned Stadium Club and Ultra in 1991. With that many sets available it's taken me a full year to get up the nerve to continue this series. But I'm ready now.

The 1991 card season was quite an improvement over the 1990 season. There's still a lot of ick in '91 but not as much. So let's give this thing a review. Hold on, it's going to be long. Nine sets, you know.

1991 Bowman -- the front

Plusses: There aren't a lot. ... Bowman kept its set to the standard 2 1/2-by-3 1/2, easing any concerns that it would return to the oversized dimensions from 1989. ... For the third straight year, you get an unobstructed, clear view of the card subject.

Minuses: Just as boring as the 1990 Bowman set. .. I've never liked the purple gradient bar at the bottom. ... I confuse 1991 and 1990 Bowman all the time.

1991 Bowman -- the back

Plusses: As I've said for previous Bowman sets, the statistical information you received with Bowman back then was quite welcome. You couldn't find this information outside of The Sporting News.

Minuses: It's not the easiest to read.

1991 Bowman -- overall

Plusses: Bowman increased its set size for the second straight year and was now at 704 cards strong! ... This Bowman set kicks off with five different Rod Carew cards, something that doesn't get enough attention. ... For the third straight year, the set is numbered by teams. ... Some of the cards receive gold-foil stamps related to various awards won the previous year. ... Rookie cards of Thome, Mussina, Bagwell, Chipper Jones, etc.

Minuses: Once again, I never saw these cards in any stores back in 1991. ... This seemed like the time when Bowman staked its claim to the rookie market -- you may not consider that a bad thing, but it's probably why I don't care about Bowman to this day. ... Nothing about the front of these cards makes me want to buy it. I've read where '91 Bowman was made in the style of '53 Bowman. I don't see it.

1991 Donruss -- the front

Plusses: Ummmm ... it's fun if you're like 6 years old? ... Honestly, this is one of my least favorite sets of all-time, so I'll stop here.

Minuses: I call this set "the Fisher Price set" because it looks like something that would come with the little farm animals and farm people all contained in the same cardboard-and-plastic package. "For 8 years and Under" should be plastered on every 1991 Donruss pack. ... Half the set has blue borders and half the set has green borders. What the hell?

1991 Donruss -- the back

Plusses: You're looking at the same stuff since 1982. Full names and full contract/transaction information is always welcome.

Minuses: Once again, only five years of stats. ... Half the set has blue backs and half the set has green backs. Huh?

1991 Donruss -- overall

Plusses: Well ... it's certainly readily available. ... 1991 Donruss is known, to the new breed of collectors that arrived with the late '80s card boom, as the set that brought us the Elite series, an insert set "limited" to 10,000/7,600/5,000 cards depending on the kind of insert. It created a new kind of frenzy, which was cool for those collectors, and those cards still retain their value.

Minuses: Are these the cheapest cards ever made (Elite cards excluded, of course)? If they aren't, they must be in the bottom 10. ... Wacky "variations" based on the border patterns, which I can't bother to track. ... Possibly the set I would miss the least if it disappeared off the face of the earth. ... This is smack in the middle of my least favorite period of Donruss cards.

1991 Fleer -- the front

Plusses: OK, we're not starting well, are we? I promise it will get better. ... The color choice is certainly daring, I'll give it that. ... Aside from all the YELLOW, I like the design. It is almost stately and it would look quite a bit better with a different colored border. ... If you're a fan of the Pirates or A's (and to a certain extent, the Padres), you're wondering why I'm so hard on this set.

Minuses: The same protocol for viewing an eclipse applies for viewing 1991 Fleer. ... This is somewhat the same problem as 1990 Donruss -- a border color that gets too mind-numbing when it's on every card. ... If this border was color-coded by team it would be one of the greatest sets of the '90s. ... The team logo, a staple of Fleer sets since 1983, has disappeared.

1991 Fleer -- the back

Plusses: Hey! For the first time since 1983, the Fleer card back looks a little different! And it has color and a large head shot, too! I actually like '91 Fleer's backs a lot. ... Phew! There's the team logo. ... Man that card number presentation is glorious.

Minuses: Some of the type is a little too tiny for folks of advancing age.

1991 Fleer -- overall

Plusses: Fleer tried something new, OK? We're going to give them some points for that. ... It might be the most visible set of all-time. Visible from Mars. ... This is the largest Fleer set to date. 720 cards. 720 YELLOW cards. ... If you can get past all that YELLOW, some of the photos are fun. Maybe not as fun as mid-1980s Fleer, though. ... The '91 set has some interesting extra stuff, particularly the Pro Vision cards that come in either black or white borders. The black borders rule.

Minuses: Trading cards shouldn't make you see spots after viewing them. ... The thought of completing the whole set is intimidating, just because of the color. ... Although I wouldn't put Fleer in the same lousy class as Donruss, the 1989-92 period of Fleer is one of my least favorite. ... There will be some joker who declares 1991 Fleer as their favorite set in the comments. That person needs help.

1991 Leaf -- the front

Plusses: Maybe not as classy as 1990 Leaf, but still a mature-looking front. ... The photos are well-presented by using the old-style photo-corners design. ... Pictures are nice and clear.

Minuses: For me, this is a come down from the 1990 set. I'm just not feeling it. ... No team mention on the front.

Plusses: Very similar to the 1990 Leaf design. It's well-designed and elegant, using an added color with the red. ... Complete stats! ... Interesting placement of the card number.

Minuses: I mentioned this the last time: I'm not a fan of silver/gray-dominated color schemes.

1991 Leaf -- overall

Plusses: As the first real premium set, Leaf stayed with what worked the previous year. Elegant set, quality card stock.

Minuses: 1991 Leaf is not nearly as scarce as 1990 Leaf, which you can view as a plus or a minus. The complete set is valued at rock-bottom junk wax prices, a good $60-70 less than a Leaf set from the previous year. ... I still couldn't find these cards anywhere back in '91.

1991 Score -- the front

Plusses: Color aside, I'm a big fan of the '91 Score border design. I like it better than the first three Score sets. ... There are some pretty cool photos in this set. ... The Score logo here is awesome.

Minuses: I don't get the border color choices. Blue, OK. Black, OK. White, yeah, OK. Turquoise???

This is what the black-bordered cards look like in the Score set. That is vastly better than turquoise. Perhaps you set too high a standard in a set when only some of the cards are black-bordered. But I can't help but think that '91 Score would have been even better if another color choice was chosen to replace turquoise. ... The blue and black borders are prone to chipping.

1991 Score -- the back

Plusses: Score continues to have the best card backs from this time period. I like just about everything for this arrangement. ... The giant head shot is tremendous. Score loses nothing by devoting that much space to the photo. ... The always great Score write-ups. ... I love the positioning of the card number.

Minuses: I can't really find anything.

1991 Score -- overall

Plusses: Score packs a ton into its 1991 set. Not only is it 900 cards strong (issued in two series for the first time), but it might feature the most varied and best-presented subsets ever made. Dream Team, The Franchise, Rifleman/K-Man/Master Blasters, the No-Hit Club, Highlights, No. 1 Draft Picks, All-Star teams (cartoons!). Just outstanding. ... A card of an American flag! ... This set is what collecting is all about for me. You get a lot in every pack.

Minuses: The four border colors make the set somewhat disjointed. ... I can see some of Score's fascination with purple combined with orange combined with green, which really hurt the '92 set for me, creeping into the 1991 set. ... There is a tendency for some collectors to not take Score sets seriously. I don't really get that thinking, but maybe it's putting purple type on a yellow background.

1991 Stadium Club -- the front

Plusses: Hold on to your hats. We really have something different here. ... Full-color photos with quality production. ... High-glossy fanciness. ... Some photos that you had never seen outside of Upper Deck. ... These card fronts were mind-blowing at the time.

Minuses: I know collectors who don't like borderless sets. I'm one of those people, although I restrict my quibbling to Topps flagship. Stadium Club is meant to be borderless. ... No team name. No position. ... If you can take off your Stadium Club fan-boy glasses for a moment, the photo quality looks pretty dated. ... Some of the photo selection, particularly a few of the head shots, are dorky.

1991 Stadium Club -- the back

Plusses: Forget about the borderless photos on the front, I was all about seeing that rookie card on the back. What a concept! I LOVED THIS! ... Possibly one of the most interesting card backs of all-time (it ranked very high on my Card Back Countdown several years ago). ... The strike zone stats were also cool and made people forget that Stadium Club wasn't presenting full career stats.

Minuses: That's a lot to digest if you're used to reading the a plain, gray Topps card back. ... Some of the Stadium Club stat presentations became dated, too.

1991 Stadium Club -- overall

Plusses: Anyone who grew up with borderless sets probably doesn't know what the big deal was for Stadium Club. But for the card world, Stadium Club was like watching the first Star Wars movie. What IS this? This is SO COOL. ... Probably the most popular set of 1991. ... You could sign up to become a Stadium Club member and get special Members Only cards.

Minuses: Sadly, glossy cards lose their gloss over time. There are some sets that more prone to bricking than Stadium Club, but Stadium Club cards that stick together make me sad. ... Because they're borderless cards, the cards have a sameness to them that really can confuse when you're comparing different Stadium Club sets. ... Like Upper Deck when it first came out, it was a bit pricey.

1991 Topps -- the front

Plusses: Some of the best and most interesting photography that Topps had placed in a flagship set to that time. ... A semi-iconic design that has increased in appreciation over the years. ... The first horizontal photos in decades.

Minuses: At the time, '91 Topps was slammed for a hum-drum design that didn't match up with other card sets issued that year. I can see where it could be considered a little dry. ... There are still quite a bit of boring head shots in this set.

1991 Topps -- the back

Plusses: (*shrug*) The monthly scoreboard is somewhat interesting although it's pretty much a concept that Fleer had used for several years. ... Some of the write-ups are interesting.

Minuses: Compared with the other card sets out at the time, this card back seemed as backward as it gets. This was your father's card back, maybe even your grandfather's.

1991 Topps -- overall

Plusses: A set unappreciated in its own time that grew into a cult classic among card bloggers. ... Topps showed that you can produce an interesting set and still retain that traditional cardboard feel. ... Topps pulled out all the stops for its 40th anniversary, inserting certificates for older Topps cards in packs (I never found one). It even gave away a grand prize of a complete set for every one of Topps' 40 years.

Minuses: Topps sure gave ammunition to its critics who wanted it to keep up with Upper Deck by issuing a rather staid set with a card back that looks like the 1989 zzzzz-fest. There was a perception that Topps was resting on its laurels here.

1991 Ultra -- the front

Plusses: I really love some of the photos in this set. ... The basic design is clean, straightforward and awesome, although I wish it wasn't gray.

Minuses: Because of the obsession with gray/silver at the time I often confuse '91 Ultra and '91 Leaf.

1991 Ultra -- the back

Plusses: Well, it sure grabs your attention. Not one, not two, but three photos of the player, with a team logo kind of floating in the air. ... It's a colorful back. You're certainly not mistaking it for Topps.

Minuses: There's not a lot to offer here. Limited stats, a pretty poor use of space. Compare this back with the Stadium Club back and Ultra falls on its face.

1991 Ultra -- overall

Plusses: The second premium set to make its debut in 1991, Ultra showed that Fleer could be about more than bizarre yellow borders. ... Fleer kind of had a reputation for haphazard photos at the time so this boosted the company's status.

Minuses: At just 400 cards, it barely feels like a set, especially for the time. ... Stadium Club kind of wiped up the floor with Ultra in '91, although I think the photos hold up better in Ultra than Stadium Club.

1991 Upper Deck -- the front

Plusses: Upper Deck continues to be all about the photo in its third year of existence. ... The logo on home plate is a nice look.

Minuses: I really don't like this version of Upper Deck. It's my least favorite of the early Upper Deck years and even into the mid-1990s. .... There's a lot of sameness between 1989, 1990 and 1991, it was difficult for me to distinguish between the three for a long time.

1991 Upper Deck -- the back

Plusses: Once again, UD really makes a name for itself with its backs. ... The hologram logo is a little home plate!

Minuses: Always confusion with how you orientate the backs of some Upper Deck cards. Now the card number is sideways! ... Limited stats.

1991 Upper Deck -- overall

Plusses: For the folks who noticed it, 1991 Upper Deck completes the trip around the bases with its "2nd-to-home plate" design (1989 was "home-to-first" and 1990 was "first-to-second"). ... A massive set of 800 cards (including the high-number set issued later in the summer) with a ton of rookies stuffed into it. ... There were a number of "Heroes" insert sets honoring folks like Hank Aaron and Nolan Ryan. The Baseball Heroes look became so iconic with collectors that Upper Deck later issued a few sets based on that design.

Minuses: I didn't collect Upper Deck at the time, but if I did, I sure would have been sick of the look by this time. Too much sameness. ... These cards are more available than any other Upper Deck set. There's a store on the other side of town that trots out plastic containers of about fifty 1991 UD cards each every so often. They just sit there because no one wants them. ... UD was still giving the 666 number to a Dodger, a tired joke that wasn't funny the first time.

OK, that's all of them.

It's time to declare the winner.

















My man, Otis! (That's Otis Nixon in the picture, not Alex Cole).

This was an easy pick for me this time.

Ranking: 1. Stadium Club; 2. Topps; 3. Score; 4. Upper Deck; 5. Ultra; 6. Fleer; 7. Leaf; 8. Bowman; 9. Donruss

Total ranking: 1. Topps-6; Upper Deck 2; Donruss-1; Fleer-1; Stadium Club-1