Hobby Oddities: It’s Academic Player Erasers

It’s Academic, Inc. has been around for over twenty years.  They make tons of supplies which can be used in a school or office environment.  Book covers, locker accessories, and scissors are just a small taste of what they’re known for.  Over the years, they’ve worked with all kinds of licensed brands to help sell their products.  At one time (it doesn’t look like it anymore) they had a deal with the MLBPA.  One of their products to come out of this deal was a line of Player Erasers.  These are exactly what they sound like.  Pencil erasers in the shape of your favorite baseball players.  The checklist features twenty players, which seems a lot more extensive than what you’d expect from a product such as this.

  • Sammy Sosa
  • Mark McGwire
  • Derek Jeter
  • Cal Ripken Jr.
  • Mike Piazza
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Craig Biggio
  • Frank Thomas
  • Greg Vaughn
  • Ken Caminiti
  • Bobby Bonilla
  • Albert Belle
  • Kenny Lofton
  • Roberto Alomar
  • Jim Thome
  • Chuck Knoblauch
  • Bernie Williams
  • Paul O’Neill
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Juan Gonzalez

Seeing that the deal was only with the MLBPA and not MLB, team names and logos had to be left off.  I see them as more of a novelty.  A good conversation piece to sit on your desk.  As far as functionality, I’m not 100% sure how well they worked as an eraser.  On the back of the package, they advise you to rub-off the portion of the eraser you plan to use on a piece of scratch paper first in order to remove the decorative coating.  Otherwise you’ll end up with streak marks.  Given the checklist, I’d say these were released in the late 90s.

Hobby Oddities: Cards Mounted On Cheap Plaques

Every card show has that one dealer with a booth jam-packed with them.  It wouldn’t matter if the card show consisted of only three dealers.  I guarantee that one of the three is selling base cards mounted on cheap plaques.  We’ve all seen them.  Where do they come from?  Why do they exist?  Do people really buy them?

I guess the plaques are suppose to make the base cards more desirable.  My running theory is that they’ve always targeted people who don’t know much about the hobby.  They’re hoping to catch that person who thinks if a card is mounted on a plaque it means that it’s special and/or valuable.  Rarely is that the case.  Sentimental value for certain individuals is really the only thing they have going.  Perhaps owning one brings back some great childhood memories.  The Big Apple Card Company out of Sunrise, FL was a major contributor to their mass-production.  Various other companies issued them too.

Odd, cheap, and annoying accurately describe these things.  They’ll never disappear.  If there was an all out nuclear war the only things left would be cockroaches and these plaques.

Hobby Oddities: ProGard’s Pro-Index Card Storage System

What is ProGard’s Pro-Index Card Storage System?  The idea is quite simple.  Upon placing your cards in the specially made holders, you then snap them into the bottom of the box.  The holders have horizontal pegs which form a hinge when connected.  Once the connection has been made, you’re able to flip through your cards without having to worry about them falling all over the place.

Based on my personal experience, these holders can be a pain to get and keep closed.  In order to get the cards in the holders, both halves of the holders need to be taken apart.  Once the cards are placed inside, you then need to press both halves back together.  If you don’t do this correctly, once they’re placed in the box its easy for the holders to pop open.  Another drawback is that they only came in one size.  Thicker than normal cards will not fit.

I always thought these things looked like a tank.  Hidden inside (at least mine did) was a Pro-Index Commemorative Coin.  It had a special slot for it to fit and all.

In the end, ProGard’s Pro-Index Card Storage System didn’t make it.  The lack of expansion along with holders that wouldn’t stay together pushed collectors away.  It wasn’t a very flexible way to store your collection.  Albums and standard white cardboard boxes give the collector a bit more freedom.

ProGard did issue a Pro-Index Card Storage System that held top loaders.  The slots for top loaders look to have been fitted on top of the slots made for the holders which used the pegs.  Its possible the peg model wasn’t selling well and they decided to make this modification.  Or they just wanted another model available.  Neither one garnered much attention.  They came in a variety of colors – black, blue, red, and yellow.  Black is the most common color.

ProGard is/was a registered trademark owned by ENOR Corp. out of Cresskill, NJ.  For awhile they made all types of card supplies such as snap-lock cases, sports card mini albums, top loaders, polypro sleeves, semi-rigid holders, card storage boxes, and snapgard holders.

Hobby Oddities: Fleer’s All-Star Collector’s Hat

Our hobby is filled with lots of crazy stuff.  When it comes to odd merchandise, Fleer’s All-Star Collector’s Hat has to be at the top of the “What were they thinking?” list.

Mail-in offers have been around the hobby since the beginning.  During the 80s though, card companies started to offer all kinds of weird stuff on the back of their packs.  Topps, Fleer, and Donruss all offered something as a thank you for your purchase.  Card storage units, team hats, and albums are among some of the items you could get.

1986 Fleer Baseball is remembered for rookies of Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Paul O’Neill, and Lenny Dykstra.  The set’s blue borders are notorious for chipping which can make high-grade examples very desirable to collectors.  In a million years you couldn’t have guessed what the Fleer marketing team settled on as their mail-in offer for this set.

With a cost of $2.95 plus (3) proofs of purchase, you could be the proud owner of this ultra-cool Fleer All-Star Collector’s Hat.  This just isn’t any regular old hat either.  It has pocket sleeves that can hold eight of your favorite cards.  You heard correctly boys and girls.  Now you can proudly display your favorite cards on your head.

What a dumb idea.  I can’t imagine many people actually sent away for this.  You rarely find them today.  Which eight cards would you put in this hat?  I’d fill mine with eight ’52 Topps Mickey Mantle cards, and wear it outside on the sunniest summer day.

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.