Monday, February 13, 2012
I haven't always been thrilled by miniature versions of baseball cards. Sure, the 1975 Topps minis were a first love that flourishes to this day. But there have been times when I thought I was getting cheated by smaller cards.
The example that has stayed with me all these years has to do with Kellogg's 3-D cards of the 1970s and early 1980s.
For a collector in the '70s, Kellogg's was the only real alternative to Topps, not that we thought of it in those terms. Kellogg's cards were simply cool, strangely weird cards that you could pull directly out of the box of cereal that sat on the kitchen table. No need to go to a store at all -- well, mom had to go to the store, I guess. Nobody had invented a way for cereal boxes to magically appear on the table yet.
Our only hope for accessing non-Topps cards were through buying the right kind of cereal. It was a pain-staking process. Hostess cards were already out of the question, because "that kind of junk" wasn't allowed in the house. So all our bets were on that box of Frosted Flakes. Through alternate methods of hoping and pleading, we might be fortunate to find a box of Frosted Flakes in the cupboard after a shopping trip.
Then there was the whole drama of which of us three boys would get the card. Oh, the agony.
We ended up ordering the whole set off the side of the box so we'd all get a few cards. But even then you had to wait 6-8 weeks, which we all know is about 14-16 decades in kids' years.
As you can see, we had a lot invested in these Kellogg's cards. So they better well be damn good when they arrived.
For the most part, they were. I had only seen the first six versions of Kellogg's cards (1970-76) here and there. I probably saw a couple '75s and '76s, but had never owned any until the 1977 set arrived.
This is what I knew as the ideal Kellogg's card. A 2 1/8-by-3 1/4 card featuring a color picture of the stars of the day underneath a stretch of ribbed plastic, that combined with the blurry background, gave off a slight 3-D effect.
Since we split the cards three ways among us, no one could have a complete set, but it was a thrill to have even 19 of the cards, and the tradition of ordering them off a box of cereal would continue year after year.
The 1978 set was a particular favorite of mine. And it came in the familiar 2 1/8-by-3 1/4 size. Even though I had seen only glimpses of the Kellogg's cards from '75 and '76, I knew they were also the same size as the ones I was now receiving.
Which is why this was all the more shocking:
The 1979 Kellogg's set was only 1 15/16-by-3 1/4!!! They had shaved off a whole ... a whole .... well, I'm not going to do math fractions at this hour, but they had shaved off a bunch of card!!!!!
I can remember being shocked by the narrower length. I was actually offended, like we were getting an inferior product. The cards didn't seem "cute" or charming to me. It might've been one of the first times that I had ever experienced consumer outrage.
However, a year went by and we were ready to order the cards once again.
And they were even SMALLER. The cards were now 1 7/8-by-3 1/4. The cards practically were shrinking before my eyes!
Today, I consider all Kellogg's cards as classics, and I'm happy that I hung on to the cards that were rationed off to me. But I was so disgusted at the time -- and I'm assuming my brothers were, too -- that this was the last year that we ordered Kellogg's cards off the cereal box.
So I never knew until years later that Kellogg's would move in the opposite direction in 1981 and 1982. In '81, Kellogg's put out the biggest cards it ever produced at 2 1/2-by-3 1/2. The 1982 cards were only slightly smaller at 2 1/8-by-3 1/4.
I also didn't know that Kellogg's had downsized long before, when it first started issuing cards. The 1972 Kellogg's cards were 2 1/8-by-3 1/4 after the 1970 and 1971 cards were 2 1/4-by-3 1/2. If I was a collector in 1972, I'm guessing I would have been infuriated by that move.
Kellogg's also went to a larger, non-3-D card set in 1973 before returning to 3-D and the 2 1/8-by-3 1/4 size that I knew and loved in 1974.
In 1983, the last year of the Kellogg's golden era, the cards returned to the tiny 1 7/8-by-3 1/4 size that they were in 1980. Then Kellogg's cards vanished until 1991.
In 1991 and 1992, Kellogg's put out a series of cards that were produced by Sportflics, which was basically Kellogg's 3-D cards to a younger generation. I have to admit, this Hank Aaron card is a hell of a lot cooler than this scan. I even find it much sharper than a lot of Sportflics regular-issue cards of the time. But I don't think it's 3-D.
It's also a hefty 2 1/2-by-3 5/16 in size. I'm sure it was a lot easier fishing a card that size out of a bunch of cereal than when I was collecting Kellogg's cards.
Today, I hold my late '70s/early '80s Kellogg's cards in higher esteem than any non-Topps cards of that time period. I like them better than Fleer or Donruss or Hostess. And like 1975 Topps minis, they are a true connection to my childhood, no matter what size they are. But I have no idea why Kellogg's played with the size of its cards so often.
I think I just had great expectations of cards then because cards were a bigger deal at that time and that age. You couldn't find them at every Walmart and Target. And even when you did see them at the corner market or drug store, that didn't mean you could afford them.
So when we got them, we wanted them the best that they could be.
And, you know what? They were.