Doing a write-up of this set today, in 2021, is like doing a write-up of Abbey Road today, in 2021. This is a set that everybody loves and that has gracefully stood the test of time. One wrong move and I’m sure I’m going to hear about it from its many fans, so I’ll tread carefully (relax, I love it, too).
In the interest of clarity, “Overproduction Era” is that period from 1985-1995 (those dates are as debatable as the birthdays of Gen-X vs. Millennials – everyone has a slightly different take, so don’t hold me to this) during which card companies churned out what should have been an illegal quantity of cardboard. When a buddy tells me, “Hey - I have a bunch of baseball cards – can you tell me what they’re worth?” my first question is always “When did you get them?” If the answer is within this period (it always is), I have to tell them, “Probably not much.”
That said, it’s hard to lump this set in with the rest of the cards in that category. They’re just too nice.
The introduction of befoiled base cards was the beginning of the end of overproduction, or at the very least the beginnings of attempted scarcity. By the following year every base card from nearly every major brand would have foil (Topps was the big holdout in ’94 but would come around the following year).
Upper Deck would come hard with the foil in their '94 set, but in '93 player names were printed in a shiny gold near-foil that suggests Upper Deck knew exactly where things were heading. They just weren’t quite ready to commit to full-foil. Of course foil still made a number of appearances in the inserts, not to mention holograms which Upper Deck pretty much pioneered on cardboard.
|1993 Upper Deck #355|
Upper Deck’s design was pretty homogenous (and sometimes even a little boring) from 1989 through 1992, but like many of the big brands they took a major leap forward in ’93. We got a nice cursive nameplate in matte gold – it’s not foil yet but again you can recognize the progression here – printed over a single bar in team coloring. It’s an extremely simple design but also light years ahead of simply printing the name in the border which had been UD’s standard up to this point.
For the first time we got a brand name banner across the top of the card in lieu of Upper Deck’s signature green diamond logo. They even took care to superimpose the player over the lettering in the interest of noninterference with the photography.
As for the Griffey card itself, I see a young player who’s still amazed at his own talent. This is the expression of a guy who was aiming to put the ball in a certain place in the field, and it worked even better than he expected. The bat is out of sight, probably already a few steps behind him, so I assume we’re seeing the beginning strut after a left-field dinger. He’s several steps into his trip around the bases and he’s still looking - it must have been a big one. Man this guy is good. I imagine he’s thinking about the millions he’s going to make being able to push a baseball so well. That’s what I would be thinking about, at least.
|1993 Upper Deck #355 Gold Hologram|
The Gold Holograms of 1993 Upper Deck can cost you, especially in comparison with the regular silver holograms which remain dirt cheap. These were released only via sealed factory sets. These sets were sold 15 to a case, and only one set per case had the gold holograms, assuming the buyer even bothered to unseal his set.
|1993 Upper Deck #525 Checklist|
This card hurts my feelings, guys. It’s two fabulous photos (front and back) utterly obscured by other guys’ names and washed-out colors (so you can better reads those other guys’ names, I assume). The worst part is that unlike many of the photos used across the 1993 UD Griffey checklist, this is one I’ve never seen anywhere else. And it’s a great photo! There even appears to be a cameo standing back there – is that Jay Buhner? I can’t tell! Could this be a Buhner Buddy card? I collect those, and I need to know!
Seriously - do any of my Griffeyphile brethren recognize this photo as having appeared anywhere else? Who is the other guy?
I have definitely seen this backwards cap portrait in sports magazines before. I seem to remember it having graced a Beckett cover, or it might have been Sports Illustrated. Either way it deserves better than this. I feel like Upper Deck is making fun of us Griffey fans. This card is them saying “There are so many great Griffey photos out there we’re just gonna splooge ‘em all over the place with zero regard for your ability to enjoy them.”
|1993 Upper Deck #525 Checklist Gold |
And of course, there’s the expensive version.
|1993 Upper Deck #55 Teammates (w/ |
Jay Buhner & Kevin Mitchell)
|1993 Upper Deck #55 Teammates (w/ Jay|
Buhner & Kevin Mitchell) Gold Hologram
|1993 Upper Deck Jay Buhner #224 (cameo)|
|1993 Upper Deck Jay Buhner #224 (cameo) |
So 1993 Upper Deck had a whole lot of inserts as well as a ton of retail oddities in varying sizes, but it was only a hint of the complication still to come in the mid-to-late ‘90’s. Let’s start with the inserts:
|1993 Upper Deck Five-Year Anniversary |
1989 Reprint #A1
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t on the lookout for a condition upgrade for mine, but at this point I would expect to have to pay out the ear for it, so it’s not as high on the priority list as it used to be. Also at 1:9 hobby packs there are plenty of these things out there. I expect I’ll track down a better copy someday.
Check out Upper Deck tooting their own horn here. Three words in and they’re all, “Check us out.” I mean, they’re not wrong. Good lookin’ out, guys. You called it.
|1993 Upper Deck Five-Year Anniversary 1989 Reprint |
#A1 Super Jumbo #/5000
|1993 Upper Deck Future Heroes #59|
|1993 Upper Deck Future Heroes #63 Checklist (w/ Thomas, |
Alomar, Bonds, Puckett, Gonzalez, Clemens, McGwire)
They seem to have been proud of the change as they also included this amazing, hand-drawn multi-player checklist card. So having seen all the “Future Heroes” at once, were they right? Personally, I spot a handful of anti-heroes on this card.
|1993 Upper Deck Home Run Heroes #HR9|
They also expounded on the Heroes idea with this Home Run Heroes insert. They featured a very simple but extremely cool bat barrel nameplate and a serious knockout of a photo (on Griffey’s, at least). And the back is another example of a great photo intentionally made less visible, albeit by text describing how awesome Griffey is. Bittersweet.
|1993 Upper Deck On Deck With... #D13|
There’s that foil autograph again. This is the kind of insert you might expect from Studio in that we get an intimate portrait as well as a little bit of personal advice from our favorite players. The teal script over the dark blue boxes on the back test your eyesight a bit, but the advice is sound and the card is a real gem. This is the kind of insert I would have built were I not so focused on Griffeys.
|1993 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson’s Clutch |
One neat characteristic of this one is that they let Reggie pick the checklist (allegedly), and as Junior was a huge fan of the guy I’m willing to bet he was excited to be among the chosen. Then again, of course he was chosen. He’s Ken Griffey freakin' Junior. I mean, come on. Who else is Reggie gonna pick? Ron Kittle?
|1993 Upper Deck Season Highlights #HI9|
I don’t see many of these out in the wild, and I’ve always wondered why. How rare could they be? Let's go to BBCP:
So if your local dealer was one of those that met the requirements to buy said specially-marked cases, you would have to buy a minimum of five of his boxes to pull a full set, thereby guaranteeing a Griffey pull. One in nine doesn't sound bad, but it seems the opportunity to buy the packs is what was scarce. That explains the price tags on these.
The card is fully deserving of its price, too. It’s a great write-up of Junior’s ASG MVP honors with a blurb-specific photo to match. And I love the simple, gold foil UD logo on the front. It’s the little things.
|1993 Upper Deck Triple Crown |
We would finally get a Triple Crown winner in 2012 with Miguel Cabrera who was 9 years old when this card came out. If you had to make this insert today, who would you include in the checklist? I hope it’s someone whose rookie cards I’ve been hoarding…
|1993 Upper Deck Walter Iooss Collection #WI13|
I really should write about the card at some point here, but I’ve wondered about this for going on 25 years, and I’m keen to get to the bottom of it. Is Upper Deck even spelling it right because those letters do not make sense to me in that order. Maybe there’s a hint in his signature.
You know what? I’m just going to Google it. Someone else must have asked this question before. Fingers crossed:
Oh my God. A tremendous burden has been lifted from my brain. Who’d have guessed that it was YOSE? Say, I was actually pretty close. Hey, that rhymed.
|1993 Upper Deck Walter Iooss Collection |
#WI13 Jumbo #/10000
Speaking of the 1996 Beckett Tribute Checklist project, ALL THREE of the final gets were
So that’s actually it for cards you could pull from 1993 Upper Deck packs and repacks. There is still one more Griffer to talk about, though:
|1993 Upper Deck Diamond Gallery Box Set #13 /123,600|
Upper Deck made all those amazing Grand Slam hologram cards for Denny’s, so it makes perfect sense that they would also put out a product like this. I am a big fan of the colorful angles they used along the top and bottom.