It occurred to me earlier that I’ve written a lot recently about what’s to come in the world of Baseball cards, whether it’s up and coming Prospects or new products; the future of the Rookie or increases in postage costs, and while it’s fine and dandy to be looking forward in this great Hobby of ours, sometimes it’s just as much fun to look back…
So I’ve decided to go back to a period when I first started collecting sports cards, around the mid-90’s, and to look back over my favourite sets that were around at the time!
This isn’t meant to be a definitive ‘best of’ list by any stretch of the imagination, just a few random scribblings about the sets that fired up my imagination at the time and made me realise how much fun there was in collecting cards. Some of these you might agree with, others you won’t… Everyone has their own favourites after all…
#10 – 1997 Bowman Chrome
This is the set that started the whole Chrome phenomenon, all the way back in 1997. As was the trend for the majority of releases in mid-90’s, Topps produced Bowman as a two-series product rather than one large card set. These black bordered beauties employed the same card technology that Topps had been using since 1993 with their first Finest release, but Bowman Chrome was the first to put the emphasis on the Rookie Card, with collector’s vigorously chasing the likes of Kerry Wood and Jose Cruz jr!! Nowadays the popular rookies are of Roy Halladay and Lance Berkman!
#9 – 1999 Upper Deck SP Signature Edition
Upper Deck’s first foray into the ‘auto per pack’ Baseball product came with SP Signature in 1999. With a distinctive design and a huge checklist of signers (including many Hall of Famer’s) this was an incredibly popular release and almost impossible to find now as unopened wax. I remember being at a card show at the US airbase at Mildenhall when I first saw these cards… One dealer had purchased a box and had ripped each pack to sell off the autographs. I remember having the opportunity to pick up a young Yankees closer by the name of Mariano Rivera for £20 but thought it was a bit too much at the time!! The same card now books for over $150… sigh…
#8 – 1997 Fleer
Perhaps an odd choice but I’ve always felt that this was a really underrated set. This was the last Baseball set that Fleer produced before changing the brand name to ‘Fleer Tradition’ in 1998. What made this set stand out for me was a move away from the glossy card stock to a matte finish (with a gold-stamped foil logo), giving the card a more old-school feel and making ideal for autographs. Split into two series, rumour has it that the last 11 cards in Series 2 were all short-printed due to being late additions to the set. 1997 Fleer is also notable for being one of only two sets (along with Fleer Ultra) to feature the Rookie Card of Big Papi, David Ortiz, appearing on the card as David Arias.
#7 – 1997 Topps Finest
Again not necessarily an obvious choice but I came across this set through the earlier Basketball release, and although the Baseball release doesn’t have the equivalent of a Kobe Bryant rookie to make it stand out it still has enough going for it to make it an easy-ish set to put together. The complete set was 350 cards (two series of 175 cards in each) with a built around a fractured structure of card rareness, made up of the more common Bronze cards, the uncommon Silver (1 in 4 packs) and the rare Gold (1 per box). Series One is divided into five distinct themes: Finest Hurlers (top pitchers), Finest Blue Chips (up-and-coming future stars), Finest Power (long-ball hitters), Finest Warriors (superstar players), and Finest Masters (hottest players). Series Two is also divided into five distinct themes: Finest Power (power hitters and pitchers), Finest Masters (top players), Finest Blue Chips (top new players), Finest Competitors (hottest players), and Finest Acquisitions (latest trades and new signings). A fun set with sealed boxes available on eBay at pretty decent prices.
#6 – 1995 SkyBox E-Motion
An awesome and durable set from SkyBox, made on thick card-stock and featuring some gorgeously clear player photography, E-Motion had a lot going for it… but then SkyBox went and added an ’emotive’ word to each card that was supposed to summarise a quality or emotion for that particular player! These ’emotions’ went from odd to downright ludicrous, in a lot of instances, providing some great comic moments such as ‘Surprise’ for Jim Thome; ‘Fresh’ for Kenny Lofton and (my personal favourite) ‘Stroking’ for J.T. Snow!! Notable as a set that even has its own blog – 1995 SkyBox E-Motion. Hot on the heals of the truncated 1994 season E-Motion even has a complete insert set dedicated the the then ‘saviour’ of Baseball, Cal Ripken jr!
In retrospect this would be a great set to re-release today having the benefit of history on our side. I imagine we’d see some fun new designs with the ’emotions’ of ‘Liar’, ‘Cheat’, ‘Deceitful’ or ‘Juicer’!
So there’s numbers 10 through 6.
Numbers 5 through 1 coming soon!! Any guesses what will make it in?? Or what will be in the top spot??
It’ll be interesting to hear your thoughts on what you got a kick out of from the same era!!