Every so often -- more often than my card-collecting ego would like -- I receive some cards in the mail from a fellow blogger and out spills a card that baffles me.
It's usually a card from the 1990s. Because I still don't have a grasp on that decade.
But I have an answer for my confusion. I haul out the 2009 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (or sometimes pop in the CD, but I admit I remain attached to actual books) and find my answer 99 times out of a 100.
Thank goodness the late, great Bob Lemke helped create this invaluable research publication beginning in 1988 (and my late, great mother-in-law purchased the 18th edition for me back in 2010). I would be much less knowledgeable about cards if I didn't own this publication.
I'm sure the series will continue without Lemke -- he had stepped down as editor after 2006 anyway -- but you know how things get when the passion behind a project disappears. You wonder how long that enthusiasm will continue with others in charge.
Besides, have you seen the crazy amount of cards being issued these days? How is all that going to be documented in a reasonable-sized volume? When we're chronicling Topps Now 23 in 2030 -- which has ballooned to 110 cards issued every day -- how is any collector in the future going to figure out what the heck they are holding?
I don't envy those future collectors. I barely keep up as it is.
Anyway, the card that made me pull out the Standard Catalog again arrived from Charlie of Lifetime Topps Project. He sent some cards that he said he had pulled for me about a year ago -- probably after consulting my since-disappeared want list -- and just about all of them came straight from the '90s.
This was the stumper.
I recognized the card as containing the 1995 Topps design. But knowing the familiar squatting stance of the '95 Piazza, this was not that card. The darkened background resembled the "Spectralight" parallels from that year, which also baffled me.
Turning the card over helped clear things up a little. I totally missed the "Pre-Production Sample" line where the 1994 stats should be, but I did see the "PP2" card number.
Having been previously stumped by pre-production '90s cards earlier, I guessed that it was indeed a pre-production. But I definitely needed to go to the Standard Catalog to confirm.
The Catalog did back up my suspicion. Topps issued a set of nine pre-production cards in 1994 Topps factory sets. A 10th card was a Spectralight parallel of one of the nine cards. This Piazza is the Spectralight parallel.
Bob Lemke comes through again.
The other '90s cards in the package didn't throw me as much as that Piazza card.
Although having never opened a pack of 1994 Upper Deck Fun Pack, I was not aware that each pack contained a team scratch-off card ... until I looked it up in the Standard Catalog.
Where the Standard Catalog comes up short is in the team-issue area. There actually are plenty of team-issue sets documented in The Catalog, but I haven't been able to find Dodgers Police sets mentioned.
The Police sets themselves don't cooperate as there are never date copyrights on these things. So I have to guess at the year by seeing which players and team members are included in the set.
I've narrowed this one down to 1995. Charlie sent the whole set.
Just about everything else in the package I can rattle off:
1995 Upper Deck Special Edition insert set needs. They scan like mud.
A 1995 Pinnacle Museum Collection parallel.
A 1995 Fleer Ultra gold medallion parallel with the medallion stamp placed almost as poorly as some of those current Topps buyback stamps.
More stamped parallels, this time from 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes.
And, of course, the famous signature parallels of the '90s.
What a world we created for ourselves back then.
There actually were a couple of regular, old base cards that I needed.
A couple of the Upper Deck Fun Pack cards. These have been weirdly elusive.
But then back to the parallels with a "rainbow foil" Stadium Club parallel from 1994.
And -- shocker -- one of the few non-1990s cards in the entire package. This is from the 2010 Dodgers team set.
It is my hope that the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards will continue to reign supreme in the collecting world, even with all the Topps Now insanity and the constant parallels.
But whoever is running that show in the future, my hat is off to you.