Card of the Day: Reggie White 1988 Pro Set Test #4

Mystery Solved: Why Are The Crash Test Dummies In These Sets?

Are we alone in the universe?  Is Bigfoot real?  Who really shot JFK?  These are all questions that have plagued humanity for a very long time.  But one question rises above them all.  Why are the Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry) included in two minor league baseball team sets?  I needed to find out.

According to Ad Council, “The single most effective protection against death and serious injury in a car crash is the safety belt.  Since Vince & Larry, the Crash Test Dummies, were introduced to the American public in 1985, safety belt usage has increased from 14% to 79%, saving an estimated 85,000 lives, and $3.2 billion in costs to society.  The campaign tagline, “You Could Learn A Lot From a Dummy,” as well as the crash test dummies themselves, was retired in 1999, when the U.S. Department of Transportation revised the campaign.”

Between 1985 and 1999 the Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry) were everywhere.  Their slapstick comedy promoting safety belt usage will go down as one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history.  Their popularity spawned comic books, video games, and a line of action figures.

The Oklahoma City RedHawks (now the Oklahoma City Dodgers) played their inaugural season in 1998.  Like a lot of minor league teams, they had team sets made which could be purchased at their souvenir shop.  At the time Multi-Ad was one of the key companies to print these up.  Between their 1998 and 1999 sets not many names ring any bells besides Todd Van Poppel (1998).  The most interesting cards are of the Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry).  But what the heck are they doing in here?

The Crash Test Dummies (Vince & Larry) are featured on five cards in the 1998 set – #26-#30.  Each card looks exactly alike except for the card number.  You’ll find two cards of them in the 1999 set – #29 and #30.  Once again they look alike besides the card number.

On the back of each card it reads “Vince and Larry are no rookies-these guys have been pitching safety belt use in a major league way for nearly 11 years.  As crash test dummies, they’ve had their share of hard hits.  When it comes to a save situation, safety belts and air bags are the perfect stoppers.  Take it from these two MVPs…if you want to be safe at home, wear your safety belt.”

My search lead me to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.  Their Communications Manager came back with the following response:

“The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) has a long history of working closely with the OKC Dodgers (and formerly the RedHawks) as it relates to traffic safety marketing.  Each year, the OHSO enters into a marketing contract with the team (and others around the state) to promote traffic safety at their games and events.

I’m sure the inclusion of Vince and Larry was a part of a previous contract.”

There you have it.  Mystery solved.  I wish the explanation would have been some elaborate story.  But it was just a simple marketing deal between the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

Now we can all rest comfortably.

1998

1999

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: Stan Lopata 1958 Hires Root Beer Test Set – No Tab

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Flashback Product of the Week: 1995 Fleer Extra Bases Game Test Samples

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Fleer debuted its Extra Bases set in 1994.  The cards measured 2.5″ x 4.75″ and came along with the motto “35% Larger… 35% More Action”.  Unfortunately this didn’t equal 35% more success.  The set ultimately flopped and carries very little value today.  Sealed boxes can easily be found for under $20.00.  I guess Fleer was hoping that baseball fans would enjoy these larger cards like NFL fans did when they issued their Game Day sets.

Fleer actually had an Extra Bases product in the works for 1995 before the idea got canned.  1995 Fleer Extra Bases was going to be some type of collectible card game.  The card’s designer turned their designs over to Fleer, and then a test batch was produced.  Once Fleer decided not to go through with the idea, they returned everything to the designer.  About 50 to 60 test sets were made.  Each containing 25 cards.  Eventually they found their way out onto the secondary market.

Because they are test samples, they do hold much more value when compared to its predecessor.  Its really hit or miss though and depends on the player.  They can sell from $10.00 to $100.00 each.

Flashback Product of the Week: 1992 Donruss Diamond Kings Jumbo Test Issue

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Just because overproduction plagued the hobby back in 1992 doesn’t mean you can’t have a few rare gems floating around.  Donruss put their printers into overdrive when it was time to start manufacturing Series 1 and Series 2 baseball that year.  One of the biggest cards collectors were hoping to pull was the Cal Ripken, Jr autograph.  Trust me, when your pumping out billions of cards having one limited to 5,000 copies is a big deal.

If you weren’t lucky enough to get a Ripken autograph, then you could easily sit back and enjoy the Diamond Kings inserts featuring portraits by popular sports artist Dick Perez.  Having the Diamond Kings cards as inserts versus a subset really made some collectors mad, but they got over it.

Outside of the normal Diamond Kings set, you will find some very expensive jumbo Diamond Kings cards.  These look exactly like the cards you would pull, except they are 5″x7″ in size.  They are quite rare, and collectors will pay out the nose to get the ones they need.  These jumbo cards were never officially released to the public.  Multiple stories depict their origin.  Some say they were intended as premiums for retail products.  Others say Donruss made them for specific marketing representatives.  I think they’re really salesmen samples.  Each card in the regular Diamond Kings set has a jumbo counterpart.

How much are player collectors willing to spend on one of these jumbos?  A Randy Johnson card recently sold for $535.00.

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Test Issues Are Fun!

Topps has had some funky test issues in the past, but their “Pro Shooter” Photo Marbles have to be near the top of the funky list.  I can just see kids (and adults) chucking these hard plastic balls at each other.  These were distributed with two marbles per package and there are 60 marbles in the entire set.  They are extremely rare to find and I’m sure some player collectors would love to get their hands on some of them.  Don’t ask how you would store it or grade it, but they do make interesting conversation pieces.

Test issues are some of the most ironic releases.  Topps issues a product in a certain region to “test” how it sells.  If it performs well they release more of it, and if it doesn’t sell well they stop.  What makes it ironic is that a lot of these “test issue” products only become desirable because they didn’t sell.  So what wasn’t popular, now is, because of how unpopular it was 🙂  I’m confused and have a headache!

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