Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The king of logos

It's All-Star Game time again.

I'm pretty sure I've watched just about every one since 1976. Several, around the mid-to-late '90s and early 2000s are lost in the recesses of my aging mind. But I know I watched them because the All-Star Game has always been an occasion in this house.

It is an excuse to celebrate baseball and the summer and the easy life. If you're baseball fan, I don't know why you'd actively shun that. I know the kid in me would never forgive myself if I skipped it. So I try to remember that kid even while they have needlessly tinkered with the All-Star Game for decades now.

Part of my ASG ritual the last few years -- along with buying special food and drink that I particularly like --  has been writing a post that focuses on the ASG ritual.

The ideas are getting short these days, but this year I thought I'd focus on one ASG tradition from back when I was collecting as a kid: Topps' All-Star Game logo.

For me, that logo is the king of all baseball card logos. We all know how important logos are in baseball cards and in advertising, business, etc. In the hobby, they have an impact like nothing else. I thought I'd recognize that impact by ranking baseball card logos from my favorite to least favorite.

These aren't company-name logos, like Topps or Donruss or Fleer. These are the logos that card companies used to add a little bit extra collectibility to their cards. And, wow, those logos have really sucked us into their schemes.

For me, none more so than the all-star logo, particularly this one:

1. All-Star logo

My all-time favorite logo, as you well know by now, is the All-Star star. Most notably used in the 1975 and 1976 Topps sets, they are 1A and 1B in my all-time rankings. There is nothing that added more potency to a card than the all-star star. The '75 set gets a couple extra bonus points from me because it made the all-star players' borders the same two-tone colors (except the Hank Aaron record-breaker card). But that '76 star was powerful as well.

The other all-star logos are all right by me, too. The banners used in '77, '79, '80, '81 and '91, the badge in '78, all very cool.

Even when Topps made separate subsets for its All-Stars, it was special. I'd prefer the logo go right on the actual base card of the all-star, to add all the more majesty to that card, but I can see the respect created by an all-star having a second card. Of course, these days with like 45 different cards for every rookie, the extra-card technique is a bit diminished. But props to some of those subsets, particularly the ones where the All-Star's head is bursting through a newspaper. Good stuff.

2. Rookie cup logo

If you are a rookie player there was no better way to get your name known than Topps plastering a rookie cup logo on your card.

This is back in the '70s, of course (and when Topps revived the practice in 1987), but those players with the rookie cups were special. For collectors looking for players who didn't start their careers before they started collecting, these cards gave us special "ownership" of those players. These were our guys. They were beginning when we were beginning and we would follow them their whole career.

Before 1972, Topps used the massive, splendid rookie TROPHY. Have you seen anything with more weight on a baseball card? I am sure if I was collecting back in the '60s/early '70s, I'd rank the trophy ahead of the cup. I do respect that trophy. But the cup is what I knew first. Claudell Washington, Bake McBride, Larry Milbourne, Bucky Dent were the first of the first. Terrific cards.

Before the rookie trophy appeared we had this:

A rookie with a star. OK, that's confusing.

3. Rated Rookie logo

I'm throwing a bone to those who collected as kids in the 1980s. Truthfully the Rated Rookie doesn't mean a whole lot to me.

But this was Donruss' answer to Topps' rookie cup. (If only Fleer figured out some sort of rookie logo). And they are to be commended for that. Topps' rookie cup correlated to the rookie team that Topps chose every year. I don't know if Donruss announced a Rated Rookie team. If it did, the Rated Rookie logo holds a bit more impact. If it didn't, this is very arbitrary, which is something that kind of ruined logo use going into the '90s.

Still, seeing that "Rated Rookie" logo, you get the feeling this card is something special. Would I have known that if someone slid me a Rated Rookie card along the bar where I was sitting on a Friday night in 1987? Probably not.

4. Super Star Special logo

God bless Fleer. This is the most Fleer logo ever. You get the sense that Fleer didn't care about making money off of cardboard at all.

The Super Star Special logo wasn't based on rookie power or superstardom. Sure, most of the Super Star Special cards featured stars of the game. But Fleer would lump the players together, often in groups that barely made sense (See "the Smith Bros.") and often made them appear semi-goofy instead of grandiose. The SSS logo often appeared on the most whimsical cards in Fleer's sets. Sometimes, SSS cards would be two cards that you had to put together to get the full picture.

One of my favorite parts of the SSS logo from the '80s is the neon font. Not so crazy about the McDonald's colors, but that's nit-picking. The Super Star Special logo is the the most fun logo of the bunch.

5. Rookie card logo

Oh boy. This thing.

I don't know what to make of this.

I understand all the grousing about the rookie card logo. How can you put a rookie card logo on a card when the player pictured has already appeared on seven different Bowman cards already? This is the mess that the trading card industry created for itself in the late '80s and '90s.

The rookie card logo doesn't mean a lot to me, unless I'm attempting to sell the card. I don't collect rookie cards so it's a monetary thing for me only and you lose some of the purity of collecting when you start looking at cards only from a "what's it worth" perspective.

Plus the rookie card logo is everything to some players and meaningless to others.

Anyone who becomes a rookie gets a rookie card logo on their card. But you need performance for that card to have impact. That's what makes the all-star logo and rookie cup logo more powerful than the rookie card logo. Anyone with the all-star logo or rookie cup logo has done something. Not so with the rookie card logo. And, as you'll see in the moment, some other logos.

6. Future Stars logo

In 1987, Topps took the "future stars" tag that it had confined to three- and four-player rookie cards back in the '70s and early '80s, added some rainbow colors and slapped it on players' individual cards.

Nobody knows how anyone received that "future stars" logo. There was no "future stars" team declared anywhere that I knew. My guess is Topps just found some players who were supposed to be good, according to the scouts, and threw that logo on there. It's more of a "we think these guys are going to be really good" logo.

The logo is pretty and was pretty popular, too, but it doesn't mean a lot when Joey Meyer and Tim Pyznarski are featured above that rainbow logo. But when Bo Jackson or Greg Maddux is, then you have A Card.

I partially blame the "Future Stars" craze for Topps' habit of inserting players who haven't established themselves into the flagship set every year. Those current cards usually don't feature the "future stars" tag (it would be better if they did, probably), but it's the same deal (we think these players might do something). Each team has at least one of these guys -- that "why did they include this guy?" -- in the team set.

7. No. 1 Draft Pick logo

I disliked these from the moment I saw them. What is a dude in a college uniform that I don't recognize doing in my Major League Baseball set?

Some of these cards became a big deal (Frank Thomas, etc.), but they still give me the cranks. I don't want to see players who haven't made a major league roster in the sets I collect. If I was interested in college baseball, I'd collect college baseball cards.

I've been known to say that New Kids on the Block brought about the demise of the '80s. Music was never the same after that all-fronting-and little-artistry group decimated the pop scene. I'll equate the No. 1 Draft Pick logo with NKOTB. Not much good in baseball card logos came after that.

The one thing I'll say about Bowman is at least it got players like this out of the Topps flagship set. I can ignore Bowman to my heart's content and I usually do.

8. Members Only/First Day Issue/Future Stock, etc.

Time for some 1990s logos that I don't understand and I apologize if I don't get them right.

These logos, for the most part, are an excuse to create parallels (Members Only sometimes is an exception). The reason they are ranked at the bottom of the logo meter -- besides the fact that I can't read the damn foil -- is that they have nothing to do with the player pictured on the card.

They are not trumpeting a player's accomplishment or even his status. The logo could go on a checklist for what it means. It works independently of the player and therefore is fairly useless.

They also spawned this:

9. Buyback logo

Topps (and other companies now) have figured out a way to get collectors to buy duplicates of cards. By stamping an old card, it suddenly becomes "new," according to some collectors (and dealers). I don't subscribe to that idea. Any buybacks I own are organized in the year that the card was issued, not when the stamp was stamped. Because it's not a "new" card.

This is not to say I don't appreciate this Jerry Reuss '75 buyback, which was sent to me by Tyler of Rekindling the Cardboard Flame blog.

I enjoy every '75 buyback card that I don't already have (I can't be collecting dupes of dupes) and Reuss was one of them. It is the 324th 1975 Topps card that I have accumulated in buyback form. And, as usual, it is part of an exercise for me to create meaning out of these cards that shouldn't have been stamped in the first place.

But like every other thing in this hobby, that is subject to opinion.

The All-Star logo and the rookie cup/rookie trophy logos are the only card logos that I still appreciate. I probably missed some logos in the above list, but that's because that Star and that Cup are so massive compared to any of the other ones.

It's still my hope that someday Topps will plaster giant stars on the cards of players who started in the All-Star Game the previous year. But I probably will have to wait for 2024 Heritage for that.

Enjoy the All-Star Game. Those of you who can find your inner kid anyway.


  1. I always preferred the subset to the banner/star on a player's base card. But both are better than what they do now: use the regular design and slap the ASG logo on it. The design should be a *little* different at least.

    JT, The Writer's Journey

  2. Gotta love the big Topps All-Star Rookie trophy--I'll take that over the cup. As far as other logos, I do like the All-Star Game logo and Home Run Derby logo on the Topps Update cards.

  3. Are there any Donruss rookies from years they used the “Rated Rookie” logo that don’t have it?

  4. Always look forward to your All-Star post, even though you strayed this year and didn't devote the entire post to it. The All-Star game has always been a special event at my house as well. My wife usually plans a shopping trip to avoid the game. Agree with you on putting the star on the player's regular issue card. Also, agree with you on the bonus points for the 75 cards for the same two-tone border colors. You didn't mention that the star and the red and yellow borders were omitted on Reggie Jackson's card. Also, it is a little quirky that Bobby Murcer was shown as AL All-Star while shown as a member of the NL Giants.

  5. I think the Topps Rookie Cup and the Topps All-Star Rookie Trophy are my favorites. But each of these are iconic in their own way.

  6. I really liked seeing the American and National League logos on the 1990 Donruss. I know they weren't created by Donruss but those have always stood out to me. Great post and the all-star logos are tops.