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.

Panini Reaches A Deal With The MLBPA

Panini has reached an agreement with the MLBPA so they can start to make more baseball cards.  They won’t be able to use team names or logos which is a pain, but it’s definitely not the end of the world.  A little more competition within the baseball card market couldn’t hurt.  Competition should be good for collectors as long as the manufacturers listen to their customers.  Panini has released some very popular unlicensed baseball products in the past such as Elite Extra Edition and Century Collection.  Given this new deal with the MLBPA I would like to see another high-end product like Century Collection brought to the market.  That was one of my favorite products of 2010 (even though it was released in 2011).  For some crazy reason, I’m predicting a Prime Cuts resurrection.

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Panini will be taking advantage of their new MLBPA license in 2011 Elite Extra Edition and 2011 Contenders Baseball.  Contenders Baseball looks to have a wood grain theme to its design based on the Josh Hamilton card above.  It reminds me of ’87 Topps.  Its going to be interesting to see what Panini can whip up.