Hobby Oddities: 1989 Starting Lineup Card Index

I like to think I know a little bit about this hobby.  There are so many undiscovered hidden gems waiting to be found and understood.  Its not possible to know everything.  When it comes to Starting Lineup figures, I’m far from an expert.  I remember these figures all over the place while attending card shows in the 90’s.  They weren’t really anything I paid that much attention to.  For the most part I just skipped right over them.  At one time I remember owning a Bo Jackson figure that came with a mini Heisman Trophy.  Like a lot of kids, I took it out of the package.

Starting Lineup figures were the brainchild of former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Pat McInally.  Between 1988 and 2001 they were produced by Kenner and later Hasbro.  (124) MLB figures were included in that first set.  Kenner enjoyed selling figures regionally.  This made it difficult to complete a set, especially when the internet was in it’s infancy.

Values for these tiny pieces of plastic vary dramatically.  Some can go for next to nothing, while others reach the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  The ones that command high prices don’t necessarily have to be of well known players either.  Its all about how many were made, and where they were distributed.

After that successful initial release, it just snowballed from there.  NFL, NBA, NHL soon followed.  It wasn’t long before NASCAR, boxers, and even golfers received the Starting Lineup treatment.  The Starting Lineup brand is still around today, but mainly used to make figures specifically for stadium giveaways.

Sometimes things don’t need to be improved upon.  Starting Lineup found this out in 1989 with their Card Index.  It was a very common thing for these figures to come paired with a trading card.  I guess they thought it would be neat to make their own album.  This just wasn’t any album either, it was smart.  Once you applied (2) of the possible (8) labels to the front, with the push of a button you could instantly open the album to the category of your choice.  No longer did you need to spend time flipping through pages.

Although a cool idea, the Card Index never caught on.  Starting Lineup cards traditionally are the same size as normal cards.  So a regular album would work just fine.  Limited category selection didn’t help either.  Unless you turned into MacGyver and figured out a way to make your own.  It can’t hold nearly as many cards compared to a normal album, and I don’t see any type of expansion feature.

Starting Lineup’s Card Index is a perfect example of how a product with such a convenient feature doesn’t come without certain limitations.  As you can imagine it wasn’t a big seller.  A few thousand were made.  Die-hard Starting Lineup collectors want them today.  Mainly because they weren’t popular, and are difficult to come by now.  Depending on how badly a collector wants one, they can expect to pay $30-$100.  If it would’ve come packed with some exclusive cards, I believe the price would be much higher.

When Kenner went out of business and/or was taken over by Hasbro, former employees took stuff with them.  Here is a mock-up card of the Card Index showing it in the early stages.  From the looks of it, at one time they were going to have it open vertically.  Somewhere along the line they switched it to horizontal.

Completely unrelated to the Card Index, check out this mock-up card for a Starting Lineup product that never got produced.  They were thinking about packaging a figure with a cassette tape.