Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Box of 1992 Studio. Oh, and a Samurai Sword.

This sophomoric effort from the Studio team is arguably their best. Lessons were learned and improvements made after the hokey-but-amazing 1991 release.  Let’s be honest - it could be argued by some not quite as enamored with that inaugural design as I am that it was maybe a little “dry,” even by early-90’s standards. The good news is that all the characteristics that changed for the 1992 design were very much for the better.

The obvious changes this year are the border and the backdrop. The strange mauve-ish hue that defined the ’91 set was replaced by a dark gold that wouldn't conflict with any team colors, a fact that would have been more relevant had they kept the logos in the design. Still, it does look better.

The backdrop was also changed from generic photography studio drop cloth to black-and-white action shots shown in a grainy filter. I’m certain these backgrounds would have looked better sans-filter, but they also would have taken attention away from the portraits in the foreground which, after all, are the intended focus of the set.

The original set was released under the Donruss banner, but as indicated on the '92 box and pack wrappers, Studio was now touted as a Leaf product. This was the same year Donruss was actively trying to boost the perceived quality of their flagship set. It seems the marketeers were trying to lend Studio a certain level of sophistication that the Leaf brand already had and Donruss decidedly didn't (especially after that 1990 set – yeesh).

A few other tweaks include full-color portraits, the color Studio logo (remember how big teal was in the early 90’s?), and the classy Times New Roman font and italics in the nameplate lettering. It’s a very grown-up set. I even flipped through these cards with my pinky up.

Now, let’s look at 27 guys who put the “stud” in Studio (did I really just type that?):

Does Cal Ripken even know how to take a bad picture? Somebody send me a Cal card with a bad picture. Seriously – I want to hold it in my hands; otherwise it didn’t happen.

Speaking of Cal:

A welcome addition to Studio this year was the Heritage insert which features notable players in throwback uniforms. The box gave five of these (two Strawberries), including the Ripken which is arguably the best of them all. One of my favorite inserts of the 90’s.

Luckily a lot of my PC's played in '92, and three Griffeys came out of the box which far outpaced the single Griffey I got from the '91 box a few months back.  Fantastic.

Studio brought back using the checklists to honor non-active players.  Last year it was coaches, but this year we got Hall of Famers. Great shots, though Billy looks like he's hitting on me.

This title card was inserted into packs for '92 while in '91 it was only available with preview cards from factory sets of '91 Donruss. All things being equal I'd rather have an extra player card, but at least it's one less card I have to chase.

Okay, now that the business is done, we can get down to the pleasure – the real fun of early-90’s Studio cards: those zany, awkward, spooky, nerdy, towel-rocking, perfectly-coiffed, not-so-perfectly coiffed, bespectacled, frightening, sword-wielding, eye-killing, face-melting portraits!

One of my favorite cards in the set, period.  Mitch rocks the headband the same way every other white guy rocks the headband - poorly.  The mushroom of hair on top makes his head resemble a cupcake or a way-too-full plate of manure.  Leave the headbands to Ralph Macchio, Mitch.

I love Mike LaValliere almost as much as I love pictures of Mike LaValliere.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the strip club after a road win with that guy.  You just know he raged like a juggernaut.

Jose's bicep is fun, but this card would have been a lot more fun had he not been smiling a la Ricky Bottalico's infamous "check out my huge guns" Collector's Choice card.  At least Jose is cool about it.

I threw Finley's card in here to show that he can, indeed, look human,  He won scariest card in my post about the '91 set, but here he just looks like a regular dude.  Skinny, but regular, and definitely not a zombie.

Neither of these is a studio shot.  I assuming Deion couldn't make it to the shoot that day because he was playing another sport professionally.  And Clemens was probably somewhere lying under oath. 

A pair of photography errors which are rare for Studio.  Lee Smith is cropped way too high and Ron Gant is horribly-lit.  I'm thinking there's a good explanation for both of these.  Maybe Gant had a  pimple, and Smith wore a Topps shirt.

I included this card here because of that goofy pose, but upon closer inspection the joke becomes clear.  Possibly my favorite Rex Hudler card ever.

So the purpose of that shirt on Plantier is that you don't see it under the uniform, right?  It's kind of a function-over-fashion thing?  He looks like a '60's scifi future guy. And I can just imagine Royce Clayton on the phone with the Studio people asking, "Hey, cool if I wear my Jam top?"  It's the only instance of airbrushed Beefy-T I've found in Studio so far.

You've got to hand it to Sabo - he's really sticking with those rec specs.  From Dick Perez paintings to these Studio portraits, he doesn't take them off.  You've got to respect it.

Dibble on the other hand is Dibbling all over the damn place.  Frickin' Dibble, man.

Okay, time to hand out some awards.

Best Hair:

Helmets, flat-tops, and Mickey Morandini sporting the messy look years before its time.

This was a tough call. What am I talking about? No it wasn’t - Reardon takes it by a mile. Hirsute and Prell-commercial-clean, Jeff’s entire head exudes unquestionable manliness and an almost indescribable masculine beauty. Behold him, standing like a majestic wild mare, silent and strong, gleaming with the sweat of an afternoon meadow frolic. It is said not even light can escape the grasp of his man-follicles.

Scariest Card: 

This card straight scared the bejeezus out of me. I was flipping through the stack, haphazardly checking out each portrait when those eyes caught me like a flaming hawk in the night. After a quick change into clean underwear, I set this card aside with averted gaze and moved on, a humbler man. Thank you, Pete, for teaching me what it is to fear.

Best Card:

This beautifully-framed shot of Jose in his Pirates cap and team jacket is warm and inviting. His expression is friendly and shows character. It says, “Hey, I’m just a regular guy. Let’s go grab a beer sometime.” Oh, and let’s not forget the GIANT SWORD THAT CAN BARELY EVEN FIT ON THE CARD BECAUSE IT’S SO LONG AND GIANT AND WTF IS IT EVEN DOING HERE WHY WHY WHY????!!!!!1!!??1

When I came across this beauty while breaking packs I honestly laughed out loud. Jose with that sword is just the silliest damn thing – I couldn’t even type that just now without laughing. Think about it: “Jose Lind with that huge-ass sword.” Ridiculous.

Sorry to go off like that. Plenty of great cards in this set, but nothing touches Mr. Lind and his katana. There – I laughed again.

Here’s the Griffey:

1992 Studio #232

I think someone told Griffey he looked a little severe on his ’91 card, so they lightened things up with a fun bubblegum shot. Silly as this card is at first glance, it’s among my favorite Griffey cards of 1992 which is saying something.

And something tells me he's gotten to meet Danny Glover by now.

1992 Studio is unfortunately a one-Griffey set. I say unfortunately because the lone insert, Heritage, does not have a Griffey in it. I would love to have seen Junior in a Pilots or old-school M’s trident uni, but I suppose such designs weren't vintage enough at the time.

There is also a set of 22 preview cards the combined value of which is twenty times the value of a completed base set. These were issued directly to card shops and are pretty hard to come by. Also there is no Griffey in the Preview set, so nuts to them.

The box produced the vast majority of the set, somewhere around 80%.  I will have a want list up on my set building needs page soon enough.  The good news is there's a lot of great trade bait for you guys.  Look out for that in the coming weeks.

I would like to reiterate here that I miss Studio and want it to come back not just in name but in theme. There are a lot of us who collected in the 80’s and 90’s that stopped when we discovered girls and alcohol and had to go to school and get a job and such. We are the ones currently rediscovering the hobby, and many of us have no idea who some of those guys out on the field these days even are. A Studio set is just what we need to reacquaint ourselves with the game as it relates to the hobby.

One last thing: I am on the fence about starting the ’93 set. It’s not that I don’t like it – I love it – but it can’t match the kitschy magic of those first two sets.

Also, '93 Studio doesn't have enough swords. SWORDS. He brought his sword, folks. I still can’t believe it…

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


This is one of the funniest damn things I've ever seen.  Geaux Royals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Got Zippy Zapped (and I Liked it)

I got a mysterious package in the mail from someone with very tiny handwriting in their return address. I proceeded to experience a Tyler Durden moment as I opened the package and inside was a halved bubble mailer with Mariners logos drawn in my own hand. I had drawn on this package. What kind of sorcery was this!?!

The fear gave way to relief and excitement as I pulled out the flat item within and found a pack wrapper around a stack of cards with a note that read “You’ve been Zippy Zapped.” I’ve read about these ZZ surprise mailings on the blogsphere, and now there was one for yours truly.

I was also super excited to get that wrapper open because I know (as do many of you other bloggers) that Zippy Zappy has Sega Card-Gen. I’ve never even see one of these exotic beauties in person let alone owned one, but now…

YES! It’s probably for the best that I was home alone at this point because I would not want my wife to see me lose my shit over a little cardboard picture of a dude, and that’s precisely what happened. I’ve scoured the Interwebs looking for this card but could never find one.

Card-Gen are special. It is said they cannot be bought – only given.

These were also in the pack, protecting the lovely Card-Gen specimen from the potential bends and bruises of the U.S. Postal Service. That’s Dan Wilson on a late-model Stadium Club design, two great tastes that taste great together.

A million thanks, Mr. Z, for your generosity. This is what the blogsphere is all about, and it keeps getting proven over and over again. I’m inspired to get off my ass and mail out a bunch of trade packages (the fodder is piling up).

By the way, Zippy Zappy runs Cervin' Up Cards - add it to your blogroll!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Design Timeline: O-Pee-Chee

This post is part of an ongoing feature The Great Griffey Base Card Project.

O-Pee-Chee is a candy and gum company that started making collector cards back in the 1930’s then baseball cards in 1965 through a deal with Topps. At first their cards were indistinguishable from the Topps versions in every way apart from one small aspect: “Printed in USA” was replaced by “Printed in Canada” on the back next to T.C.G. That’s it. Everything else was identical.

This changed over time; and while the cards remained more or less the same, logos were added as well as a little French in lieu of English for the Quebecois. Tres exotique, non? This made for more cards to chase which was a big deal in a time when there was only Topps and maybe a few branded oddballs. Even when Donruss and Fleer came along in 1981, there was still very little for card-crazy completionists to go after. O-Pee-Chee provided collectors with a whole base set of new trophies. Sadly, as with numerous other baseball card brands, it didn’t last.

Some quick trivia before we begin: According to Wikipedia, “O-Pee-Chee” is an aboriginal word meaning “the robin.” It was also the name of the summer cottage of one of the company’s founders. I’ve been wondering what the deal was with that name for 20 years. Boom: knowledge is power.

Here is every Griffey-wielding O-Pee-Chee base card design in order:


1990 O-Pee-Chee #336

As you can see there is no difference here compared with the regular Topps base card. Same bright colors, same wacky Buttafuoco-pants border – it’s identical. The card is printed on lighter card stock the way Traded and Tiffany cards were (but not quite as white), so the back is lighter here than the regular. That makes them easy to spot in a stack.

I’ve already done the Timeline for the Topps designs OPC uses through 1992, so I won’t go into the designs too much until the 1993 set - just the differences.


1991 O-Pee-Chee #790

Again, no difference between O-Pee-Chee and Topps on the front and a lighter brown card stock evident on the back. They even kept the massive but totally sweet 40th Anniversary Topps logo. There are more versions of this ’91 card than any other design on this timeline. Apart from the regular base card, there’s the OPC, Tiffany, Desert Shield, Micro, Cracker Jack, and uncut Cracker Jack versions. I’m probably forgetting some, too.


1992 O-Pee-Chee #50

For the first time since the 80’s we have an honest-to-goodness OPC logo in the place of the Topps logo here. That little detail made these a heck of a lot easier to spot. Apart from that, no differences here. Even the card stock is identical (finally).

I really hope you enjoyed the first half of the timeline, guys. After all, the real gems of OPC in my opinion have always been their slightly funky versions of the same Topps cards we’d seen a million times before but with a wild new name/logo and strange French verbiage. They’re fun, right?

Great. Well, say goodbye to that. Their contract with Topps came to an end and was not renewed for 1993. This means the remaining sets are all original designs, and without the Topps clout behind them they sorta skirt the line between bonafide base card and overproduced oddball.


1993 O-Pee-Chee #91

Here is O-Pee-Chee’s first original flagship design in 28 years. I don’t remember opening packs of this or seeing it around card shops or anything. I only dealt with this set when I started amassing Griffeys. I genuinely thought it was an oddball at first. So many 90’s oddballs have that washed out look you know?

Anyway, the bold team name up top doesn’t really match the understated nameplate. The best part of this design to me is the O-Pee-Chee logo in the little team-colored diamond. Overall, none of the elements here complement each other very well, and they’re all imprisoned together by that oppressive white border. I like weird stuff, guys, but I cannot get behind this one.


1994 O-Pee-Chee #22

The last independently-O-Pee-Chee flagship design, this one is actually not too bad. All the design elements have chemistry here unlike those of the previous year. No more full border, nice use of team-color and superimposition of the photography, and there’s even French on the back and front. It feels like a real set. The modernized logo I could live without, but overall this is not too shabby.

O-Pee-Chee ceased baseball card production after ’94 due to the MLB strike, and after being bounced around between card and candy companies for a while, the brand finally ended up belonging to Upper Deck. During this baseball card blackout of theirs they were prolific in the Hockey card market (which they still are) under their new owners. Only one more O-Pee-Chee baseball base set would be produced...15 years later:


2009 O-Pee-Chee #425

This is Upper Deck’s version of the classic brand, and as a whole the set is pretty solid. Upper Deck missed a fun opportunity to sneak a little French on the card back as a gesture to OPC's history, but this is probably for the best as I doubt many people would have gotten the joke. The photography is really good and the cards are colorful and attractive. They even went with the original logo over the one from ’94. Check out the little baseball position indicator – so throwback.

And that’s pretty much where it ends on the baseball front. The brand poked its head out a few other times with a trio of allegedly-higher-end “Premier” sets and a 1969 reprint insert from 2008 Upper Deck, but apart from those they were barely around at all after ’92. It just kind of went away. I assume somebody in Quebec was pissed.


There are not many mourners for this set save for the few old school guys endeared to the brand by having a few extra cards to chase in the days before inserts and parallels. The independently-O-Pee-Chee designs seem all but forgotten.

The brand remains under the ownership of Upper Deck, meaning our odds of seeing new baseball cards from this set are zilch to nada, for now, anyway. There was never much substance to the cards to begin with, so any rehashing of O-Pee-Chee would be gimmicky and totally unnecessary. I don’t feel like we’re missing much.

Wait, wait – I just made up an O-Pee-Chee joke.  Ready?

What has four corners and “pee” in the middle?
…wait for it…
A square toilet.

Sorry.  Once more, here is every Griffey O-Pee-Chee base card in order:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cavalcade of Keepers 5

Time for some more gems from the Keeper Box.

I love Josh Gibson cards.  This one is particularly nice with Josh glowing eerily in the foreground and an amazing stadium backdrop.  Something must have been tweaked to make him appear as in-focus as he is because the background is nowhere near that clear.  This guy should be a household name.

While I'm not an active collector of Mr. Larkin's cards, I have no excuse not to be.  He's a class act and has a ton of amazing cardboard out there.  This one from Topps Gallery shows him hovering in mid-air in the midst of turning a double play.  Just a great photo from a consistently photogenic player.

Note: I have two extras if anyone needs one.  First dibs to the known Reds collectors, but I'd be surprised if you guys don't already have this one.

There are two things I love when it comes to cards: Topps Gallery, and Stadium backgrounds.  Here's both.  Eric looks ten feet tall.

Javy is giving it his all in this Ultra offering, and really it could not have been framed better.  Oh, and it's a Tatooine card.  Who is it that collects those?  I've been setting them aside and have no idea who to send them to.  Anyway, go, J-Lo!

I have a bunch of Rickey Henderson cards featuring him sliding into one base or another (they were popping up everywhere in the 90's as he approached Brock's record), but this is by far my favorite.  He's cool and collected here, suspended in air as he slams into third.  I know it's subtle, but the ump watching him from the background makes this card.  Rickey did his part, too, I guess.

Thanks for reading!

Breaking the Seal(s)

Careful - this post may hurt.

"Breaking the seal" usually refers to the first pee after you start a night of drinking.  It usually feels amazing and leads to future pees that happen far more frequently than before the "seal" was broken.

This term used in terms of card collecting means something much more painful.

I have a lot of Griffey rookies, and until recently I had almost every one.  Almost.  The one official Griffey rookie that eluded me was the 1989 Topps Traded #41T Tiffany.  You probably know about Tiffany cards if you've ever actively collected - they're re the super-glossy versions of Topps, Bowman, and Fleer sets from the 80's and 90's printed on white card stock in very limited quantities.

Now, with the Traded set which is already printed on white card stock the only characteristic that differentiates a Tiffany card from the regular version is the gloss coating which can be difficult to spot on a card that is encased.  For this reason I've actually been through a couple of duds purchased online (Tiffany cards are tough to buy online because you can't verify them).  The way I figured, the only way I was going to land a true Tiffany 41T with absolute confidence was to buy the sealed set, so I did just that.

The set arrived, and it sat in my Griffey cupboard for weeks before I decided it was break the seal.

It hurt to do, but I wanted my Griffey, guys.  I wanted my Griffey.

And there it was, perfectly cut and shiny as the day the Good Lord made it.  The thing was more valuable with that little gold sticker intact, but this card is 95% of the value of the set, anyway.  Plus, I got these:

A pair of nice PC cards, and....

All these to boot!  Looking back I would do it again, and I have to admit that yes, I have mixed feeling about it; but I feel glad that the cards within are being enjoyed by me and anyone cool enough to read this blog.

And yet, I should admit here that on that fateful night, after dispatching the virtue of that little '89 Tiffany Traded set, I got what you may call a bit of a seal-breaker's high.

Here is a sealed 1987 Bellingham Mariners Team Set.

As you can see on the back here, Mr. Griffey appears on two cards: #15 and #33 which is this very checklist.  There is a team photo on the other side.  Know how I know?

That's right - I did it again.

What an amazing card!  Is it wrong that this card will no longer be sentenced to an eternity facing the back of card #14 Wade Taylor?  No!  This belongs scanned and on the Internet for all to enjoy, then secured in a nice, clean screw case where its edges may remain ever sharp.  It's real nice, too.  A little off-center, but otherwise perfect.

There were also a handful of other fun cards I wasn't aware of when I bought the team set, a pair of funny names and two little kids of whom I'm not totally jealous.  I'm not.

I have a few other items I haven't broken the seal on, those being a 1993 Stadium Club Master Photo jumbo set (the Griffey is stuck between two other cards),  a bunch of small sets with Griffeys I already own loose, and a few Starting Lineup figures with cards in the blister packs.  I'll probably leave most of those intact for now; but if there's a card I need for the collection with a layer of thin plastic between it and me, I'm not above breaking said plastic.

Actually, those Starting Lineup figures might not even last the day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

He Made Me an Offer I Couldn't Refuse

Say hello to my latest and greatest acquisition: the 2012 Topps Gold Team Coin Autograph #GTC-KGJ #/30.  It's an excellent specimen of on-card autography, bright and shiny, rich in color, and larger than life.

You may have noticed it includes a heavy gold coin embedded right into the card.  At first I thought the coin may just be foil-stamped paper or aluminum (which is how they make Mardi Gras doubloons), bu this thing is a real heavy metal of some kind.  It's a very impressive card.

The card was originally won by Jason of the now-extinct Joe Average Card Collector.  You can still see the post he did when he won this baby here.  I commented on it back then with great jelliness.  Jason contacted me recently in need of some funds for an amazing baseball-related experience, and he sold it to me for far less than I would otherwise ever hope to get it for.

I don't want to overstep my bounds, but here's a picture Jason sent me of him sitting with the owner of his heritage team, the Colorado Rockies:

That's awesome, bro.  I'm glad I was able to help make that happen.  We miss you, Jason!  Thanks for the amazing deal!