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These aren't recyclable

I collect for the kid in me, the kid I was. I've mentioned that many times.

The purpose of my collection is to relive my childhood, yes. But it's also to advocate for my childhood, to avenge my childhood, if you will.

There is so much that I wanted that I couldn't obtain as a kid. That's a common childhood feeling. But beyond the cookies and candy and Matchbox cars that I couldn't possess were the never-ending stream of baseball card collectibles. My appetite was huge and my pockets were empty. Parents didn't just give their kids entire sets when I was collecting as a kid and allowance meant a couple packs every two weeks ... maybe.

Subscriptions to Baseball Digest and the TCMA Advertiser and Baseball Cards Magazine fanned the fire. Those publications revealed so many things that I didn't know I wanted. Renata Galasso cards, the Baseball Immortals set, Coke cards, and even non-card things like the Magnetic MLB Standings board (we had that), "championship" mugs, posters, buttons, iron-ons and storage boxes, binders and pages.

I have collected sets in the last few years that I couldn't collect as a kid. The Baseball Immortals set is complete. The Galasso set, at least the portion I pined over, is complete. The Coke sets are complete (save for the unobtainable).

Most of the major card sets from my initial collecting time -- 1974-85 -- are complete, so I've been trying to nab oddball sets ever since. I really don't have an interest in collecting stuff like 1951 Bowman or some Goudey set from the '30s. That wasn't my childhood, I never saw cards like that then. Even the 1956 Topps set, which came out before I was born, I collected only because cards from that set came my way when I was young.

So that's the perspective for why I'm showing this:

I saw these advertised in some publication somewhere as a youngster. I'm guessing it was Baseball Digest, but I don't really remember.

This is the first "Perma-Graphics" set, from 1981, and anyone who grew up at this time knows what these are. It is a 32-card set and its hook is that they are all made to look like the credit cards of the day. Rounded corners. Laminated vinyl. Official-looking backs. Fits in your wallet. You can't spend with this plastic but you can collect it.

These drew my eye instantly when I saw the ad. The team logos have a look you will never see anywhere else (a lower-case "B" fashioned into a beer mug!). I don't know who drew these but you could never get away with anything like this today with MLB-sanctioned everything. They're fun, a big draw for me, and the use of "bubble letters" in most of the logos is very much of its time and takes me right back.

A look at the back with your vitals, a detailed write-up and recognition that you are a loyal baseball fan and a member is good standing. What a relief! Note that Topps is responsible for these with the @TCG, INC copyright.

But most of you 1981 Topps fans knew that already because the photos used for many of the cards are instantly recognizable as the same ones used in the '81 set.

There are 24 cards in the set that use photos from the '81 Topps set, or 75 percent.

Those are all the matches.

The other eight cards have photos from other sources, though I haven't track down all of them.

These are probably the most interesting to me. Both Perma-Graphic cards here use the Coke airbrushed photos, but there are differences. The Sutter jersey goes from white to blue (or blue to white) and the Kingman Perma-Graphic shows a bat while the Coke card does not. (That Mets logo!)

The Perma-Graphic Rickey does not match but looks like an outtake from one of the two 1981 Fleer cards of Henderson.

These are the other PG's that don't match with '81 Topps cards. The Rod Carew and Jim Rice card photos both come from the 1980/81 Topps Super glossy sets. Carew's image here was cropped into his head shot for the glossy photo. Rice is practically a direct match. Simmons features a similar airbrushed shot on his 1981 Topps Super card but the photo is actually from the 1981 Topps sticker.

Meanwhile, the Winfield and Lynn photos are a mystery. Both were free-agent arrivals in the off-season of 1980/81 so maybe brand new images? I'd like to think so.

The set focuses on the stars of the day so there are just 16 teams represented. Unlike a Kellogg's 3D set from the time that would stress equal-opportunity among the teams, there are three Brewers in this set, three Phillies, three Cardinals and three Reds.

The Perma-Graphic brand continued in 1982 and 1983. A second set, focusing on the All-Stars from that year, was issued later in 1981. That set was vertical, not horizontal and the design for that set and the others is more ornate and not as appealing to me. Also, who ever heard of a vertical credit card?

The credit card theme was part of the appeal, too. I do remember wondering what it would be like to write a check or spend with a credit card. And though I was a teenager by this point, the "pretend" aspect of childhood was tough to put away. (The kid in me was very disappointed I didn't buy these plastic cards with plastic).
I know some collectors shrug off sets like this. There was a (very extended) comment on this blog a week or so ago bagging on these very cards even as I was getting ready to purchase the '81 set. All I can say to that is "there's no accounting for taste." I like what I like. If it came out when I was a kid, I probably want it.
If it's a lauded set from 80 years ago, well I'll take the Dodgers, but I have other things to collect that have more meaning to me. As dumb and outdated and nonrecyclable as they might seem today.


I have almost the complete 1983 set, but very few on the 81s. But like you, I would definitely collect them!
I don't have any of those, but I definitely need to add some at some point. The team logos are outrageous!
I'm sure i have a few of those, either in my collection or my dupes boxes.
Nick said…
My dad has said pretty much the same thing about these cards from when he was growing up - the '81 set caught the tail-end of his collecting years. He knew they existed, but never had one in his collection as a kid. I love all the Perma-Graphics sets and always grab any cheap ones I can find.
Matt said…
I have never seen the PGs. Look really cool.
Jeremya1um said…
The message on the back about being a good standing collector might be reason enough to get one from the first series.
Old Cards said…
Have a couple of these and not sure why. Won't be collecting anymore but appreciate the writeup so at least I know their origin.
John Bateman said…
Renata Galasso was the big advertiser for the 1981 set for years.

Not sure if I saw these advertised ever in Baseball Digest (but Renata Galasso did advertise in them).

Never noticed the cool logos before on them either. I believe I picked up the Foster card at one time.

The mystery to me is the 1982 (and 1983) issue(s). I believe I have seen the 1983 issue before but I have never seen that Fernando card before.
Grant said…
Vertical credit cards do exist! Too bad there are no Twins in this set.
Adam Ryan said…
I’ve got a few of these myself, not sure how. Probably from random trades here and there. I never knew what to do with them so I just stuffed them in my binders. But now, I have a better understanding of what they are. Really interesting that a good portion of the set uses the same photos as 1981 Topps. Definitely gonna have to dig out the ones I have and take another look at them.
Nick Vossbrink said…
Love these. Always forget to look for them since they're never part of my explicit searchlists.
Fuji said…
Another blog featured the 1981 Perma-Graphic set recently. I love this oddball issue. My favorite thing are the logos.
bryan was here said…
I first found these at my first card show in July of '81. I think I picked up Bruce Sutter because it was the cheapest. I eventually got the whole set a few years later.

I'm pretty sure the photos that don't match the Topps cards were used for the stickers that year.
Jafronius said…
Don't think I saw these before, thanks for buying and sharing!
Jon said…
It's hard to believe that there are collectors out there who don't like these.
Bo said…
I don't own any of these, never noticed the logos before in other pictures.

Someday it would be fun to try to line up all the photos for all the cards a player had. In this era it would be doable but very time consuming.
John Collins said…
Great post. You take me back to a lot of the reasons I originally collected and still do today - you are right in that it's trying to advocate for that kid that is still within all of us. I have never done much at all prewar collecting as an adult since getting back into the hobby not quite a decade ago - 1) Mostly because it's so damn expensive, but 2) Really because I was not into tobacco cards or Goudeys or anything like that as a kid. For the most part, we never saw them when I collected as a kid, which was roughly the 1986 - 1993 era. I would love to have a Goudey Ruth if someone wants to give it to me for a fraction of what it would bring on the open market - but there is some of what you touch on here in that I can't really relate to it. I used to feel bad about such things. I don't anymore. Postwar vintage is a different story; I got into that when I was still pretty young. But it's partly that and not just because something is "from the 50's" that I still identify with it so much today. Good reflections - thanks.
1984 Tigers said…
Thanks for sharing. I don't even remember these. Only time I remember cards looking like credit cards was some inserts, including those with long distance phone minutes, during the 1990s.

I was looking through some cards stuff last night in the basement and forgot about the 7 11 disc's in mid 80s as well as Raisin Bran having some insert cards in the early 90s. I do remember and have some of the mid 1970s wonder bread football cards.

With a paper route and then summer jobs, I had more spending money than topps made sets so was usually looking for something else to buy.

I still have the 1971 APBA complete baseball set in envelopes that I bought from a friend. Those were not only collectibles but fun to play.

Paul t
RunForeKelloggs said…
I couldn't find these cards in 1981. I think I now have two or three of them. What a great set.

My magnetic standings board didn't survive the 1970s but I am always looking to find one from that era.
Michael D said…
Great post on these cards! Its got me looking for the All-star set from '81 and the sets from '82 and '83.
CaptKirk42 said…
Nice review of an oddball set. I think I became aware of this set (these sets?) well after their manufacturing date of 1981 even though I was still in the thick of collecting then. I don't think I have any cards from this set. I don't really want any either even though many of the players I "super" collect.