Monday, October 8, 2012

Back in black

As someone with an obsession for night cards and black-bordered cards in general, I've discussed the merits of darkened cardboard a number of times on this blog.

Until Bowman obliterated the ability to feel fascinated by a set with black as its primary theme, thanks to its habit of black-bordering every set for 10-plus years, a black set was a true gift. Something instantly powerful and memorable.

Growing up in the '70s, you might remember those pervasive black velvet creations that featured day-glo unicorns, rainbows, spaceships, or other rock n' roll images of the post-hippy era. Walk into any wood-paneled den in 1978 and if the home included a teenager, you might see one. At one point in time, those were considered the height of cool.

Black-bordered cards are a little like that. Some might consider them dated or tacky. But I think they're awesome for all eternity.

I'm not of the thought that black-bordered sets are a plague, something to criticize because they chip so easily. I don't collect with condition as a primary objective. I collect because a set looks cool. Black-bordered sets always look cool.

And I'm pretty much powerless around sets with black as its primary theme.

A couple of weeks ago, @batcavlv, a collector on Twitter, sent me about 50 cards from the 2002 Upper Deck MVP set. I hadn't had any plans to add any more set completion tasks to my list. In fact, I've been trying to avoid adding any new sets.

But I saw those black backgrounds and I couldn't resist. Upper Deck MVP '02 is one of the raddest-looking sets of all-time.

Doesn't that look tremendous?

I could make that into a poster, put it on my wall, turn on some Dark Side of the Moon, and cool kids from the '70s would be knocking at my door in minutes.

In fact, I think this set is probably second on my list of the best Black sets of all-time.

What are the others on the list, you're asking? (Hey, at least pretend to play along).

Well, first a few black-border also-rans.

1991 Score would have been one of the best sets of the junk wax era if the black-border cards weren't just one-fourth of the set, but the entire set.

The black-and-white photos pretty much kill any rock n' roll cool factor for the early '90s Conlon sets.

I though the '86 set was kind of mysterious back in the mid-80s. It's not a true black-border set, though, and the subpar photos don't help.

At the height of the Black Border Era ('85 Donruss, '86 Topps, '87 Donruss), we have the tire tread set. But get rid of those baseball treads and the set might make it into the top three.

For a long time, 1985 Donruss was my second-favorite black-border set. But it's now fourth. Too many blurry photos.

But I still like it, a lot.

This is the set that overtook '85 Donruss as my second-favorite black-border set. 1992 Pinnacle is a little dated today, but at the time it was the Most Fantastic Set of 1992.

There was a point in my orgy of collecting anything that was released in 1992 (and there was a LOT of releasing going on in 1992), that I said, "OK, I'm just collecting Pinnacle from now on." It was that great.

And I've already mentioned this, but Pinnacle doubled its coolness by making the set backs black, too.

But, now, 2002 Upper Deck MVP is my second-favorite black border set. I love the black mixed with the colorfulness. I love the back-lit, electric computer imagery, the use of a variety of colors depending on the team.

It's one of those Upper Deck sets of the early 21st century that is too limited in size to be considered a "true set" by a set-collector. But, damn, it looks great.

Like 1992 Pinnacle, UD MVP even tried to extend the black-accented theme to the back of the card. Very cool.

There are other great black-bordered sets, even in other sports. My favorite non-baseball, black-bordered set is 1985 Topps football.

Of course, none of those sets can compare to what I consider the original black-border set (yes, I'm aware of 1962 Topps football), the set to which I pay homage with my own blog, the 1971 Topps set.

It is, and always will be, the champion of black-border card sets.

But I have to admit, reaching No. 2 is a pretty impressive feat for 2002 Upper Deck MVP.

So does this mean I'm going to try to complete it?

Probably not. At least not right now. Way too many other card goals.

Besides, I don't think I'll ever complete it.

Not when I have an uncontrollable desire to burn this card.


  1. Teixeira has this complete look of "Burn me - I frigging dare you" on his face.

  2. Kept scrolling and waiting to see the 1971 Topps design. Once again, you came through.

  3. Don't burn Teixeira! Waste of a cardboard that I'd love to have.