When I first started blogging, the loudest and the proudest established bloggers were collectors from the 1990s.
They loved their '90s cards and wrote constantly about 1990s innovations -- the good and the bad -- like the first relics, the explosion in inserts and wacky stuff like cards in a can.
I barely knew what they were talking about. I didn't collect for the entire back-half of the '90s and the constant drumbeat of "innovation" always puzzled me and still does. When I was first collecting in the '70s and into the '80s, not once did I wish cards were more "innovative." Cards never bored me. I didn't wish they could become something else or something "more." I was happy with seeing new players and new designs every year and completely satisfied. Maybe I'm simple, but really that's all I needed.
To me, most of the '90s card inventions weren't "innovations," they were more like stunts. Most of what was created in the '90s was an attempt to get collectors back into the game as the hobby fell onto hard times after the baseball players' strike. Please take us back! Look, here's a card inside a card! Come back! This stuff is still happening all the time and the box breakers live for goofy rare cards like listing Aaron Judge as a Red Sox player. Stunts.
But, I've never needed any of that extra stuff. I don't target autograph cards. I've attempted to complete very few inserts. I'm very much a flagship man after all of these years. I can appreciate some of the new things that came from the '90s. Some of the individual cards are spectacular.
And then there's '90s tricks that makes me want to pick up the card and throw it in the fireplace.
Any card that features one player on the front and one totally different player on the back -- especially if the two players are from different teams -- is one of those chimney-bound cards. Why on earth would I want a Dodgers card with a Indians player attached? How does this make sense?
I doubt the '90s invented this atrocity, but it certainly became prevalent during the decade. Among my least favorite cards are the 1997 Donruss Limited Counterparts cards.
Because I must collect the Dodgers -- a mission that was very uncomplicated during the '70s, by the way -- I own several of these cards. Those L.A. players come waltzing into my binder with players and teams that I don't give one wit about. Hideo Nomo is dragging Charles Nagy around on the back. Todd Hollandsworth must bring Bobby Abreu along. I don't even want to bother turning the cards over.
Then there are the Dodgers that are featured on the back of the cards, that you must display back-side front, because why do I want a card of the Rockies' Eric Young facing front? So there is the Dodgers' Wilton Guerrero trying to act normal as a "card front" while featuring a card number and various company logos and legalese.
There is the actual front of the Wilton Guerrero card. The fronts scan like crap, which is because the scanner shows you the soul of 1997 Donruss Limited Counterparts. It's dark and unreadable. (The cards don't look like this in person. They're just shiny).
Here is another "card front."
On the back:
But that was what the '90s was all about -- throw a whole bunch of ideas on the wall and see what sticks. Some stuck and some slid down the wall and made a horrible mess. But companies still wanted you to pay for it.
For me, cards are like food.
I like food. I look food a lot. I like different kinds of food. But I also keep going back to my favorite foods. Not once have I wished food was more "innovative." There is so much food I like out there, it will keep me busy and happy for the rest of my life. I will be satisfied if I never come across a food "innovation." If I was that interested in food, I'd probably be traveling the world looking for strange edibles and appearing on cable. And that seems like a job to me, not a hobby.
I don't need that. The cards that are available will keep me plenty busy. There is no yearning for my cards to take me to space or whatever people want them to do now.
Just make a quality card, a quality set, that features major league baseball players of the day. I will fit that into my schedule. No stunts necessary.