Product Highlight: 1980 Topps Pepsi

You could be the most die-hard Coca-Cola fan in the world, but if you came across one of these cards while rummaging through a dollar box you’d be excited.  Selling baseball cards with food and beverage products has been a standard since this industry began.  In 1980, this was far from a new practice.  At one point in 1980 Pepsi obviously wanted to use a set of baseball cards for a promotion.  They approached Topps who happily designed a 22-card set for them.  The complete checklist includes:

  • Ron Guidry
  • Ted Simmons
  • Rod Carew
  • George Foster
  • Rich Gossage
  • Dave Parker
  • Paul Molitor
  • Bruce Sutter
  • Gary Templeton
  • Dave Lopes
  • Mike Schmidt
  • Jim Sundberg
  • Ken Landreaux
  • J.R. Richard
  • Robin Yount
  • Steve Carlton
  • George Brett
  • Fred Lynn
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Dave Winfield
  • Keith Hernandez
  • Jim Palmer

Now if everything went as planned this set probably wouldn’t get a second look today.  But the deal fell through.  What few cards were printed up for Pepsi never made it out in the traditional manner they were meant for.  Supposedly three years later in 1983 an uncut sheet popped-up.  The cards were cutup and sold through an ad in Sports Collectors Digest.

Not much more was heard of these cards until 2005.  That’s when The Topps Vault sold a set.  In 2011 Topps auctioned off a uncut sheet during the National Sports Collectors Convention.

Only three sheets of cards were originally printed.  All of which have found their way out and into the hands of collectors.  Single cards are extremely rare.  A Paul Molitor #2 recently sold for $1,500.  Test Proofs were also sold through The Topps Vault.

Its too bad Rickey Henderson wasn’t included in this unused promotion.  That would’ve made for quite the rare rookie card.

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Product Highlight: NCAA College Basketball 2K3 for Nintendo GameCube

When an athlete doesn’t live up to the expected hype, their cards and memorabilia take a hit in price.  Its the natural law.  Unless that individual goes on to do something historically spectacular outside of their sport, prices will remain in the gutter.  But every now and then we’ll come across a crazy anomaly that defies this way of thinking.  Enter NCAA 2K3 College Basketball for the Nintendo GameCube.

I can imagine that in 2002 cards of Jay Williams carried some weight.  The Duke point guard was drafted second in the first round by the Chicago Bulls.  Right after the Houston Rockets drafted Yao Ming.  He did alright during his first year in the NBA, but nothing mind blowing.  In June of 2003, he suffered a severe motorcycle crash in Illinois.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet, didn’t have a license to drive a motorcycle in that state, and was in violation of the terms of his contract with the Bulls by riding a motorcycle to begin with.  Its safe to say that smarter decisions could have been made.  When he finally recuperated, attempts were made to get back into professional basketball.  None were that successful.  Jay Williams now works for ESPN as a college basketball analyst.

Today you can’t giveaway cards of Jay Williams.  The only cards that carry any real value are ones which have him teamed-up with stars like Michael Jordan, Yao Ming, or Kobe Bryant.  Trust me.  Collectors aren’t buying them for the Jay Williams part of the card.  In fact, they’re probably getting a good deal on a star relic and/or autograph.  Dual relics and/or autographs featuring stars and dud rookies tend not to sell for as much compared to if that star was pictured alone.

Its not uncommon for a popular rookie to be pictured on the cover of a video game.  Jay Williams received this honor with the release of NCAA 2K3 College Basketball in December, 2002.  The game was released for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube platforms.  Copies of this game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox are readily available.  The GameCube version is a completely different story.  The general consensus is that Sega decided they didn’t want to release sports games for the Nintendo GameCube anymore.  NCAA 2K3 College Basketball just barely made it out.  What copies made it to the stores didn’t sell very well.  This led to the game becoming rare.

While copies of this game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox can be bought for next to nothing, complete GameCube examples have been known to reach $200.  Although Jay Williams isn’t the driving factor, its interesting to see him attached to something that continues to sell for so much.

Product Highlight: Greatest Sports Legends – Video Baseball Cards

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Over the years, multiple attempts at merging video with trading cards have been made.  Most were met with poor reviews from collectors.  Upper Deck gave it a shot with their line of Evolution cards in 2011.  They did their best to make them look like a card, but in all honesty I think they resembled a small portable gaming system like the Nintendo Game Boy.  In good old Panini fashion, they too tried their hand at it with their line of HRX video cards.  Despite some coming with autographs, Panini’s HRX cards were met with even a poorer response.  The video on many didn’t function very well or at all.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some collectors are still waiting on their redemption.

Perhaps Steve Rotfeld Productions did it best in 1990.  Greatest Sports Legends is a series of 207 documentaries covering some of the best athletes from the 20th century.  They first began airing in 1972, and even won an Emmy Award for their 1983 film about Jackie Robinson.  Throughout the 80’s, these documentaries were heavily distributed on VHS tapes.  The ones with a 1990 copyright date are my favorite.  You have to admit the words “video baseball card” couldn’t have been taken more literally.  Its very primitive.  The front and back of the VHS sleeves are designed to look like a card.  Whether or not all 207 athletes got this treatment is unclear.  I know it carried over into football too.

Unlike some VHS tapes, these don’t carry much collecting weight.  Its unlikely that many of us still own a device that could play one of these.  Funai Electronics was the last company to make video cassette recorders for home-use, and they ceased production in July 2016.

I use to own tons of VHS tapes, but got rid of them years ago.  Only a few remain in my possession, mainly for nostalgic purposes.  I couldn’t let go of my Star Wars and Batman (1989) VHS copies.

Product Highlight: 1999 Racing Champions MLBPA Superstar Yo-Yos Series 1

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Between seventh and eighth grade there were two big fads sweeping through my school.  The first were those Tech Deck fingerboards.  I never fully understood people’s fascination with those tiny skateboards.  Kids were constantly attempting to make cool jumps by only using one hand.  I bought one off of a classmate for a few dollars, but it wasn’t too long after that I lost interest.  The second fad was the yo-yo craze.  That one kept my attention much longer.  I had three different yo-yos.  It all started with a black-and-white Duncan.

Today it is all about fidget spinners.  Who knows what will be the “must have” thing tomorrow.  But we’re all going to wish we had thought of it first.  Companies like to cash in on these fads.  We’re already seeing officially licensed sports-themed fidget spinners hit the market.  I know the Williamsport Crosscutters are giving one out to kids this season.  It wouldn’t surprise me if lots of other teams do the same.

Racing Champions produced many diecast NASCAR collectibles throughout the 90’s.  To capitalize on the yo-yo popularity, they released more than one set of yo-yos.  It makes perfect sense that they would make a line of NASCAR yo-yos.  Seeing them release more than one set of baseball yo-yos was the real shocker.  With a name like Racing Champions you just don’t think about them issuing anything related to baseball.

It was the summer of 1999 when Racing Champions released Series 1 of their baseball yo-yos.  Although they weren’t licensed by MLB, they did get the ok from the MLBPA.  Each yo-yo in the set features a player on the front while picturing their name, jersey number, and town on the back.  The set consists of the following players:

  • Mark McGwire
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Derek Jeter
  • Mike Piazza
  • Tony Gwynn
  • Ivan Rodriguez
  • Greg Maddux
  • Kevin Brown

Another set of Racing Champions MLBPA yo-yos exist.  The checklist is exactly the same.  What differs are the foil pictures and overall color of the yo-yo.  They almost remind me of a parallel.  All were mass produced, and can be purchased for barely nothing.  Its possible that prototype yo-yos exist or existed at one time before they were put into production.  Most likely they were destroyed or taken home by someone that worked there.

Racing Champions is still around, but in name only.  A company called Round 2 now uses the name.  They still produce diecast cars, but nothing relating to NASCAR.

Product Highlight: Darryl Strawberry 1989 Saranac Glove

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Saranac.  Wasn’t that the name of a character that Johnny Carson use to play?  Oh wait!  That was Carnac the Magnificent.

Cards containing pieces of glove are seen throughout the hobby today.  Its ironic because at one time it was the other way around.  Collectors would buy gloves to get cards versus buying cards with gloves in them.  Relic cards really turned this industry upside down.

Saranac Gloves is a glove manufacturer which is still around today.  They make gloves for all types of uses including sports.  In the late 1980’s, Saranac struck up a deal with New York Mets superstar Darryl Strawberry to support their line of batting gloves.  Marketing thought it would be a good idea to package a baseball card with the gloves they wanted Strawberry to wear.  Instead of using a standard photograph, Saranac hired artist Dan Gardiner to paint a picture.  Upon seeing the final piece of work, Darryl Strawberry wasn’t satisfied with the way he thought his nose looked.  Apparently they didn’t check with him as the painting was being worked on.  By the time they found out he wasn’t happy, Saranac already had the cards printed and ready to go.  I guess it was too late to make any changes, and the whole thing was scrapped.  All printed cards at the time were ordered to be thrown out.

Whenever an unreleased card is suppose to be trashed, someone almost always doesn’t follow through.  Its hardwired into a collectors brain to automatically notice that this would create a rare card.  A few found their way out.

Pricing can be all over the place.  Most aren’t in the best condition, which leads me to believe these could’ve been dug out of the trash.  Rumor has it that at one time this card sold for up to $500.  I’ve only seen one, and it was fairly beat up.

I wonder what happened to the original painting?  Do you think Darryl Strawberry would sign one of these cards if he were attending a show?

Product Highlight: 1991 GV Inc. “A Happy Baseball Birthday” Cassette Tapes

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The question “Why would they make that?” can be asked about countless products.  Its important to try new things.  Sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t.  The ones that don’t are a real blast to look at.  You really wonder what was going through management’s head at the time these ideas came to be.

When it comes to products that seriously bombed, the 1991 GV Inc. “A Happy Baseball Birthday” series of cassette tapes are at the top of the list.  One cassette tape came inside each blister package.  Recorded on each tape is a personal birthday message from a specific baseball player.  In addition to the message, each player would share their favorite baseball/birthday related memory too.  Recordings were made by Kevin Maas, Wade Boggs, John Franco, Mark Grace, John Smoltz, Tony Gwynn, Nolan Ryan, Ruben Sierra, Dave Winfield, and Lenny Dykstra.  There could be more.

On the backside of the package you’ll find a jumbo card featuring a facsimile autograph.  Despite the copyright date being from 1991, I believe these hit the stores in 1992.  Many cassette tapes came packaged with a 1992 Topps base card.  They were distributed by MDV Marketing, Inc. out of Atlantic Highlands, NJ.

If you owned the Kevin Maas tape, and could find a cassette player to put it in, this is what you would hear:

Can you imagine what it would sound like if you played them all at once?  I wonder what you hear if you play them backwards?  I’m sure there is some nut job out there who got one of these as a kid and actually believes whoever is on the tape is talking directly to them.  Lets hope they never show up to an autograph signing.  I bet if you play Lenny Dykstra’s all the way to the end, he’ll give you some stock tips.

I know there isn’t much to talk about from a design perspective.  But why would they put the laces through the word “BASEBALL”?  At first glance it looks crossed out.

Every now and then these will popup.  They aren’t worth very much.  I definitely place them at the top of the oddball pile.  One thing is for certain.  Kevin Maas really likes German chocolate cake.

Product Highlight: 1995 Taco John’s Iowa Barnstormers AFL Team Set

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Arena Football has it’s following.  You wouldn’t know that based on the lack of sales for the small amount of AFL cards out there.  Upper Deck gave it a shot, but unless you pull an autograph of Mike Ditka or Jay Gruden that box probably won’t be too rewarding.  Sealed boxes of AFL cards can be found for next to nothing.

In 1995, the Iowa Barnstormers played their inaugural season with a young quarterback on their roster named Kurt Warner.  After being released from the Packers in 1994, Warner turned to the AFL since no other NFL teams seemed that interested in signing him.  He played with the Barnstormers for three seasons before heading over to Europe, and then eventually found his way to the St. Louis Rams.  The rest is all history as this summer he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Leave it to the Iowa Barnstormers and a Mexican fast-food franchise called Taco John’s to produce what is likely the most valuable AFL card ever printed.  Taco John’s sponsored the team’s first set.  You could obtain these cards in two different ways.  First was to purchase an entire team set directly from the Iowa Barnstormers.  The second way would’ve taken much longer.  For each week of the AFL season, participating Taco John’s restaurants would give out two different cards from the set with a purchase.

The entire set consists of (42) cards.  Kurt Warner is the most notable one of the bunch.  Its his first football card.  Die-hard fans have been known to spend $200+ for one.  You’ll also find cards of him in their 1996 and 1997 team sets.  Those carry some weight too, selling for $60 a piece.

I wonder how many Kurt Warner cards found their way into the trash when it was Taco John’s week to giveaway this card?