Thursday, August 4, 2011

Before shiny there was glossy

I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy shiny cards. Topps Chrome was a wonderful invention. I've also learned to appreciate the Pinnacle Dufex era, although I wasn't collecting then.

But really my fondness for cards with snazzy finishing began long before the mid-1990s. It started in the early '80s during the heyday of glossy cards.

Although glossy items had been around for decades, even appearing in some baseball card sets, my first encounter with them were in the 5x7 cards sold in 1980 and 1981. They would come in these cool, oversized packs that we would buy at the Greek deli about a mile-and-a-half from my home.

Then 1983 arrived and Topps announced that it was making a special 40-card glossy set available. The best part was all the cards were 2 1/2-by-3 1/2, like all the other cards we collected.

But these cards weren't available in stories or in a catalog. You could only receive them after accumulating enough "runs" on an "All-Star Baseball Game" card inserted in each wax pack. When you totaled 25 runs, you could send in for five cards in the series.

The set was listed in eight five-card subsets, either on the insert card or on the wax pack, I don't remember which one. We studied those lists carefully to figure out which subset we would order first when we accumulated 25 runs (now you know where Topps got its Diamond Givewaway "digs" concept).

Of course, the deciding factor for me was which five-card list featured a Dodger. There turned out to be two of them. One with the Fernando Valenzuela card that you see up top.

And one with the Dusty Baker card. I remember being disappointed that there was no Ron Cey card.

I sent away for the cards four separate times, meaning I picked up four of the eight subsets. I think there was a small postage charge, 75 cents or something. I don't remember how I decided which other subsets to choose, since the final two subsets didn't contain any Dodgers.

This was before the era of "player collectors," so my guess is I probably closed my eyes and pointed, and that's the subset I ordered.

At any rate, here are the non-Dodgers that I still have in my possession. There are only 19 in total -- including the Dodgers -- so I must have traded one of the cards away.

The scanner cut off a couple of players' names.

The sets must have been popular -- how could they not, they were GLOSSY -- because Topps continued to produce small glossy sets in a similar "send-in" format through much of the 1980s. It also started the separate All-Star Game glossy set, many of which were inserted into rack packs. I don't like those sets as much. Not as classy as the traditional glossy sets.

The yearly '80s tradition of the glossy sets kind of diminished the unique feel of that first set in '83. I have come across a number of the glossy cards in repack boxes, but they have never yielded a card from the '83 set.

To me, '83 is the greatest of the glossies. And that's why I still have all the cards (except the one I absent-mindedly traded). I'll always remember the days, pre-chrome, pre-dufex, when you could receive color pictures of your favorite ballplayers on cards with shiny, glazed surfaces.

It created the shiny addiction I have today.


  1. man if Yount doesn't look like Marjoe Gortner in Pray for the Wildcats (
    and Hrbek is so thin!

    I remember the Pete Rose card in this set was just him with a big head of hair.

  2. I love the Bill Buckner with the outstanding mustache and eyebrows.

  3. I think Dave Winfield is thinking, "Yeah, I'm looking straight at the camera. And just what the ef are YOU going to do about it?"

  4. It was also a different type of gloss used on these cards than what you find today. These cards would accept marker without a problem from what I've seen. When I got to "meet" Roger Clemens in the 80 and got something signed, I brought one of these cards and it looks beautiful. These days you have to physically abuse a glossy card in order to get a signature to take.