1994 is the last of the “simple” Ultra sets. After this came parallels and paralleled inserts with insertion ratios astronomical by early-90’s standards. Obviously things got pretty hairy for big-name player collectors, so for now let’s take a minute and enjoy the leisurely pace of a time before the Gold Medallions, Platinum Medallions, and 1-of-1 Masterpieces that characterized the remainder of the Ultra timeline.
Look at these two!
|1994 Ultra #120|
They’re totes BFF’s. Buhner made it into the Hall of Fame speech – not much higher praise than that. I like how Junior is looking directly at the camera as if to say, “Excuse me – we are having a buddy moment. Could you please give us a sec while we celebrate our friendship with mutual being-good-at-baseball and complicated handshakes? Thank you.” Love this card.
I also like how the design is reminiscent of the inaugural 1991 design, e.g. lots of horizontal elements and a classy font. The large, etched-foil Ultra logo (on every card, btw) that replaced the flaming baseballs of the previous two sets also looks great even though it was only used for this one set.
On the back an abbreviated stat box and total lack of blurbage make space for three giant color action photos. This is an idea that would come to define a lot of 90’s cardboard: plenty of sizzle, very little steak. Not that I mind it – there are plenty of other cards (not to mention the inserts from this very set) to turn to for actual baseball information and more complete statistics. I’m willing to forgive certain sets of cards to be a little less informative for the sake of photography and foil (which is probably one of the defining characteristics of a 90’s collector). And speaking of foil, this may be the most ever put on the back of a base card.
|1994 Ultra All-Star Team #8|
All the inserts are pretty similar design-wise with player photos superimposed over full-bleed fields of primary colors populated with 90’s-style clipart. I don’t mind that Junior looks a little cross-eyed here – this is a fun, colorful card. In fact all the inserts put together have the appearance of a modern-day parallel rainbow. That big foil Ultra logo made it onto the front and back of this one.
|1994 Ultra Award Winners #6|
Here is one of my earliest Griffey inserts and a long-time favorite for one reason alone: that excellent “A.L. Top Glove” shield with the little fleur de lis. Is that thing official? As in used by MLB? Because it’s awesome. It’s a thoughtful, well-written blurb, too. Just a great card in general.
|1994 Ultra Home Run King #2|
Here is yet another full-bleed clip art background, this time in black with a brightly-colored neon silhouette. Also another totally sweet insert logo.
|1994 Ultra On-Base Leader #6|
On-Base Leaders is far and away the toughest get here, being a relatively big checklist and seeded at 1:36 packs. That’s the same insertion ratio as the Home Run Kings insert, but this insert could only be pulled from Series 2 pre-priced packs, effectively boosting the scarcity. While all the other Griffeys of 1994 Ultra can be had for a couple of bucks a piece, don’t be surprised if the price of an On-Base Leaders Griffey reaches into the double-digits.
While there aren’t any insanely rare or iconic cards from ’94 Ultra, it remains a great relic of 90’s cardboard with a lot of solid photography and some memorable designs.