Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The worst year of the junk wax era
So what the hell is wrong with me? I start a post about the worst year of the junk wax era by displaying perhaps the era's finest moment in 1991 Stadium Club?
That was kind of the same thought process I went through when Chris Olds, of Beckett fame, tweeted today that 1991 ranked among the worst baseball card years of all-time. To his credit, he did mention the exception of Stadium Club debuting that year. But I thought that SC would be enough to push 1991 ahead of other ungodly baseball card years, like, say, 1990.
Olds dismissed my suggestion of 1990 being worse than 1991 by mentioning the number of star rookies to come out of 1990.
Ah, rookies. Rookies never crossed my mind when I compared the two years. I've found that this rookie deal is a generational thing. When many collectors under the age of about 35 grade the quality of certain baseball card years, one of the main criteria is "who were the rookies that year?"
But I'm over 40. I don't give a flying Brien Taylor about rookies. I never did. I never will. I'll never collect them. Ever. My collecting habits developed before the age of the rookie card being the Holy Grail of collecting. We didn't give a damn about nobodies who hadn't established themselves in the majors yet. They certainly didn't factor into whether a set was "good" or not.
All we cared about is what the set looked like, and how many star players or players from our team we could get. That is all there was.
For me, that's still all there is.
The rules over what makes a good baseball card set or baseball card year may have changed, but I'll still go by look of a set, quality of a set, and the kind of sets available, to determine whether a certain year was good or bad. Rookies don't even enter the argument.
So I decided to determine for myself, by my rules, which year of the junk wax era was worse, 1990 or 1991.
You may ask why I didn't pick 1989 or 1992 or one of those other junky years. Well, for 1987 and '88, that was early junk wax, and I like some of the sets in those years. Score debuted in '88, too. In 1989, Upper Deck began and the Topps set holds a place in my heart. 1992 marked the debut of Pinnacle, so that year is cool. And 1993 had a tremendous Upper Deck set, so I like '93, too.
But 1990 and 1991? Full. Of. Junk.
Topps: Let's face it, I was not alone when I bought my first pack of 1990 Topps, opened it and had to hold back my gag reflex. Meanwhile, 1991 Topps is an understated beauty, filled with great cards and photos.
Bowman: Not much difference between 1990 and 1991 Bowman. It's difficult for me to pick. But I am often disturbed by yellow on a card. Bowman had too much yellow in 1990.
Upper Deck: Another company that didn't change its card presentation much between 1990 and 1991. I think the 1990 set on the left is much cleaner. I'm also not crazy about that "base path" on the bottom of the 1991 card.
Fleer: I absolutely cannot stand 1990 Fleer. The first time I saw it, which was several years after it came out, I wondered how the hell they got anyone to buy any of it. I still think that way. However, it is approximately 300 light years ahead of 1991 Fleer. And I apologize that you're blind now.
Donruss: Ugh. To both of them. The 1991 Donruss design is one of my least favorites ever. It looks like something that would be produced by Fisher Price. Did the cards come with little people and a school bus? The 1990 set is barely mediocre. Something about that red border makes me instantly bored with whatever photo is featured.
Score: I've always thought 1990 Score was a less-appealing knock-off of Score's debut in 1988. As for 1991, I collected a ton of it back in the day, and I liked the set. The look of it hasn't held up all that well, with all the various colored borders, but I like the white-bordered cards a lot. If the whole set was white-bordered, it would be kick-ass.
Leaf: The debut of 1990 Leaf was awesome -- even if I never saw it. But 1991 Leaf is plain inferior.
If you add up the totals, 1990 beats 1991 by a 4-3 score. But if I add a point for the greatness of 1991 Stadium Club, then it's all even at 4-4.
At first I wasn't sure how to break the tie, but I knew I wasn't going to look to see which rookies were featured in each year. Because I don't care.
I decided to break the tie by determining which sets I would mourn the loss of if they didn't exist. I'd be sad if 1991 Topps or 1991 Stadium Club didn't exist. As for 1990, I guess losing '90 Leaf would be a bummer, but I didn't see it until almost 20 years after it came out anyway, so that's no big loss. The rest of the '90 sets could disappear from my collection forever and I'd barely notice.
And that means, 1991 is better than 1990 because of those two great sets.
Sorry, 1990. You lose.
And I was all ready to say, "Chris Olds is right again."