Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My least favorite stunt of the '90s

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:

The Orioles' Jimmy Key. He will stay in the back in my binder. I don't need to be reminded that I have Orioles cards in my Dodgers binders.

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.


  1. Spot on about never wanting "innovation" when I was a kid collector. I don't think the idea would ever have entered my head. I suppose the burst of new products around 1981--giants, credit cards, scratch-offs--was the first real example of "innovation", although many of those things had existed before. I didn't have a problem with them, but to me they were all just cards.

    Jimmy Key was on the Orioles? For two full seasons?

  2. I'm good with trying crazy shit and seeing how it goes. Most of it will be garbage but sometimes you'll find something wonderful. Do I like these? No. Though I'm kind of happy to be getting my first batch of them in the mail just to confirm my dislike. But trying new things every year is a lot more interesting to me than running the one or two good ideas into the ground until people are sick of them.

  3. Beautiful post. Innovation makes some things better. But a baseball card is just a baseball card and it doesn't need to be anything more.

  4. Often people confuse innovation as progress, I don't. In fact, I don't consider anything as progress unless it makes whatever the product better than it was and cost less. Both are mandatory for me.

  5. As long as you always had 2 "counterpart" Dodgers at the same time, couldn't you just put both of them in the same binder page slot, Dodger side out, and never see the counterpart ever again?

  6. I don't dislike multi-player cards, but I too want them to be on the front side together. I think I might be the only person who categorizes them - and keeps stats on how many I have- based on how many people appear on the card, and doesn't try to figure out which of the two people to categorize them with.

  7. I have mixed feelings about 1997 Donruss Limited. On one hand... you're right. Not a fan of having one player on the front and another player on the back. That being said... the Limited Exposure parallels from this product are truly beautiful.

  8. Well said. I am with you all the way, except insert '60s and '70s. Yes, I'm old, but still enjoy collecting cards and reading blogs like yours. I dislike multi-player cards front, back or sideways.

  9. Is it sad or funny that I thought these were the coolest things as a kid collecting back then. Looking back now, I think it was mostly the front of the cards I liked (it's some of the better done foil for a design, as it was really bright and shone due to the texturing) since whoever got stuck on the back of the card always looked pretty drab. But these days I'd be much more into completing a Collector's Choice run than collecting this set.

  10. The 80s had their "Stunts" too. They were just less obvious to the naked eye. You yourself wrote about all the "error varation" cards when you broke a box not long ago.

    Your "main" collecting was pre and post 90s which both actually have allot in common. You were/are limited to just a couple sets a year. In the 70s you had Topps and food issues mainly. In the 80s they added in Fleer, Donruss, and UD. Four companies sounds like allot compared to just Topps and Pannini in the 2010s but there is actually more stuff out there now because Topps makes like 30 sets a year. In the 80s they made base and Traded.

    As someone that collected through the 90s I didn't see cards as stunts. There where soooo many companies in the 90s and each were making a multitude of sets, Topps, Fleer, Pinnacle, UD, FourSport, Pacific, Leaf, Edge, Classic, Skybox, etc all were competing for our money. Some survived, some merged, some excelled. They were not innovating to save the hobby after the strike they were just trying to sell their product instead of my money going to a different set. When you went to the card shop you actually had a bunch of choices depending on what stuff you liked. If you liked shiney there was a product made just for you by each company, Chrome, Metal, Certified, Limited and a whole bunch more. There were also multiple products for you if you like Retro, Lots of Inserts, RCs, Investing, (yeah, they swung and missed allot too), you were just a kid, whatever your tastes were there was a product for you made by at least 4 companies. When you had 3 or 4 choices in whatever you liked you were guaranteed to get stuff you liked. I don't ever remember going home from the shop thinking I don't really like any of this stuff but at least I got cards today. I didn't think well the new card is ____ I guess I should by some and see what it's like; no I went right for exactly what I wanted.

    Now were are back to limited companies again. I see bloggers all the time say that the hobby is stale. It isn't the innovation that is missing it is the variety. Yeah you still have your shiny set and your retro, RCs, Insters, etc but Topps puts out one of each a year and they are competing with nobody. If their shiny set design isn't so good this year no big deal, it isn't like you are going to by Pinnacle's shiny instead. No, you are stuck with Topps version of shiny (or technically you can go no logo Pinnini but seriously).

    1. Wow, that got long. Maybe I should start a blog or something. HA!

    2. 1. Yes, I would categorize all those '80s errors as stunts, too. But no one would call those "innovations," like they did with '90s stunts.

      2. Yes, that got long.

  11. You've had some fantastic, insightful posts lately. Such great stuff. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts on card collecting.

  12. Being one of those 90s fanatics I don't mind it too much as long as ti's not two super stars. Like if you put McGwire and Sosa on one, where do I sort that?!