The Topps Foil Test Technology That Brought Us Desert Shield and Stadium Club

Upper Deck set a new standard for card quality after they released their first set in 1989.  Collectors got a taste of what “premium” cards were like, and they weren’t about to turn back.  Other card companies had to figure out ways to amp-up their cards.  If not, they could’ve easily lost their fan base.  Adapt or die!

Topps wasn’t completely out of the loop when it came to making “premium” cards.  Long before Upper Deck arrived, Topps made Tiffany factory sets.  These mimicked the overall design of that year’s Topps set, but were printed on higher quality card stock.  To this day it still amazes me what some collectors are willing to spend on a Tiffany base card of a star.  Even when its not a rookie.  But just switching to better stock for their normal sets wouldn’t be enough to compete.  It was time to bring on the foil.

1990 Topps Baseball is a poster child of the overproduction era.  Unless you’re talking about it’s Tiffany counterpart, Frank Thomas no-name rookie, or George Bush card, there isn’t much value to look for.  The base design is one of my all-time favorites though – lots of color!  While browsing through the grocery store in 1990, I bet many of you can remember spotting those 100-card bricks known as jumbo packs.  Inside each of those packs was a specially made Glossy Rookies card.  The set commemorates popular rookies from the previous season.  Most of the players have rookie cards in products from 1989.

In order to step-up their game, Topps tested some new printing techniques.  They took tons of regular Glossy Rookies and printed a foil stripe across the front.  You can find them in a variety of colors – blue, purple, green, red, silver, and gold.  The stripe can be in multiple locations as well.  One card may have it straight across the player’s face, while another could be near the bottom.  Multiple colors for each player can be found in many different positions.  Occasionally you’ll see cards with two stripes, but I’ve never seen one with two different colors.  Usually if there are two, the colors match.  If that isn’t enough, the asterisk variations carry over to these foil tests.  Every player in the Glossy Rookies set has a card with one and two asterisks on the back.  For those collectors who are obsessed with variations, this could be an endless battle.  Ken Griffey, Jr. is the most popular foil test.

Looking back at what companies tested in order to stay relevant and in the game can be interesting.  The lessons Topps learned from this foil test issue were implemented in their Desert Shield and Stadium Club sets.

Card of the Day: Sam Horn 1991 Topps Desert Shield #598

Card of the Day: Mike Lieberthal 1991 Topps Desert Shield RC #471

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Q & A – What is the value of a 1991 Desert Shield set?

Question: What is the value of an authentic set of 1991 Topps Desert Shield baseball cards?

Answer: Right now on eBay there is a complete set with a fixed price of $3,000.00.  That is a lot of money and I think the seller is just fielding for offers.  I would say that a complete set in mint condition would be worth well into the high hundreds and perhaps the low thousand dollar range.  The 792 card set is very difficult to complete and has been popular with collectors for years.  

How To Spot Fake 1991 Topps Desert Shield Cards

In 1991 Topps created a series of baseball cards called 1991 Topps Desert Shield. These cards were sent to the American Troops during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. They look just like the 1991 Topps base cards except for the Desert Shield logo on the front of each card. There were 15 cards per pack. The Desert Shield cards are very collectible and people have created fake versions that can easily trick collectors. The Desert Shield logo on the fake cards is really bright in color. It almost has a gold look to it. The real ones have a silver, less bright color on them. Sellers have become very tricky while trying to sell these on eBay. If someone tries to sell a fake card they will darken the photo to make the logo look as if it is silver versus gold. If you are trying to put this set together and you find a card up for sale online the best way to go is to buy one that is graded and/or certified. Below I have a picture of the fake and real Desert Shield logos. The fake logo is on the right and the real one is on the left.




Here you can see how a seller tried to pass the card on the left off as real. They tried to darken the photo to change the color of the logo.