Monday, May 6, 2013

Donruss Hearts the '80's: 2002 Donruss Originals

1982 Design

1982 Reverse

In my collection: 1 1982, 1 1984, 1 1986, 1 1988

Griffey looks: in deep focus

Is this a good Griffey card? Yes.  A nostalgic look back at the great designs put out by Donruss when they were still a fledgling brand, but released at a time when everyone though they were toast. 

The set: I may be a bit biased because I have always had a soft spot for Donruss (except for 1990-1993), but I just think this set is the bee's knees - modern players in the classic Donruss designs of 1982, '84, '86, and '88. 

This is a 20-year-old brand that almost disappeared like so much Crystal Pepsi and Herman's Head; and yet with their new owner and MLB contract in hand, Donruss was doing exactly what they needed to do at this time: reminding the collectors of their heritage and replanting their flag in the card collecting mountain.  I think this set does that perfectly and looks great doing it.  Sadly, it seems to have been a failure in the market.

This set does have one major flaw that I take personal issue with: there are a lot of inserts but few Griffeys.  Junior is missing from the bulk of the inserts that seem like they should have been tailor-made for the guy.  More on that later.

Let's take a look at the Griffeys that did make it into the set:


The Kid was coming off a lackluster (in Griffey terms, at least) year, continually plagued by injury and still getting settled on his new team; yet here is a great shot of him in deep focus, really looking to crank one out of the park.  Classic Griffey, folks.

Plus this is the great '82 Donruss "bat and ball" design, my favorite of that year and one of the best of the 80's.  Plus you get the original 3-stripe Donruss logo and the loveably dated LED-readout.  They don't make 'em like that anymore....

1984 Design

1984 Reverse

The '84 design was strange and exotic to me since I had no cards from that set in my collection.  I have always liked the team swoosh as well as the color in this set.  Plus it's a great photo - the Kid don't mind a little shirt dirt as long as the play gets made.

1986 Design

1986 Reverse

This design has grown on me over the years, but I still find it overbearing and busy compared to other Donruss designs of the 80's.  I think it's the horizontal stripes.  They exude a "yikes" quality that makes it hard for me to take the design seriously.  Awesome picture, though, of Junior swinging away somethin' fierce.

1988 Design

1988 Reverse

Cards from the '88 set are some of the first ones I ever saw as a kid.  When I think of baseball cards in general, these along with '87-'89 Topps and '89 Donruss are the images that pop into my head.  So seeing Griffey on this great iconic design really does it for me, even with the font being a little off.

And look - it's Ken Griffey, Jr.: baserunner!  Shots like this on a Griffey card are few and far between, despite the thousands of cards there are out there.
Like I said, there are a bunch of inserts that seem Griffey-appropriate but that don't include a Griffey card.  Here's a list of all the non-rookie/pitcher based inserts that Griffey does not appear in:

All-Stars - This one is defensible as Griffey was not an All-Star in 2001.  Pass.
Box Bottoms - Only four dudes, so I guess we can let this one by too.  Pass.
Champions - Really?  I have to disagree here, Donruss.
Hit List - Really?!
Making History - Really, guys?? For real??? No Griffey?
On the Record - This is some serious bullpucky.
Power Alley - smdh

I call shenanigans on this anti-Griffite madness.  Seriously, why not just create an insert called "Great Mariners of the 90's" just to leave Griffey out again.  Unbelievable.

It's especially irking because I love newspaper-design cards and the On the Record insert may be the greatest one of those I've ever seen.  Take a look:

Exactly like USA Today except I may actually read it.

Besides all that I really love this set.

There is also a parallel here called Aqueous that was essentially the same as the base cards but with a glossy front.  I have no Aqueous cards.

Here are the Griffeys that don't appear in my collection:

#42 Promo
#42 Aqueous
#165 Aqueous
#251 (SP) Aqueous
#362 Aqueous
Nifty Fifty Bats #28 BALL #/50
Nifty Fifty Jerseys #28 BASE #/50
Nifty Fifty Combo #28 BASE/BALL #/50

The set included a very cool insert called What If? featuring a bunch of cards that were never made in pre-existing but unused designs.  These included a 1978 set, a 1980 set, and a set of big-name rookies from all four years of the base set.  All the cards from these sets featured year-appropriate photography and logos.  Neat idea for a set....

Apparently Donruss was going to make another run at Originals with the odd-numbered year designs, but it ended up being cancelled.  This hurts me to learn as I love the '89 set and would love to have seen a foil-stamped buyback of the '89 Griffey RC (drool).

It's amazing how much thought of "what could have been" there is in this hobby while simultaneously feeling "there is way too much to stuff out there."  This set certainly attacks on both of those fronts, but more than that, this set says to an unforgiving card collecting world "We're Donruss, dammit!  We were here, and we were kinda awesome sometimes."

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