Sunday, September 3, 2017

1988-1990 Pacific Legends


After issuing his "Baseball Legends" set in 1980 through 1983 and putting them in packs for sale in 1986, Mike Cramer started issuing minor league card sets again. With the heightened interest in minor league cards -- the so-called "pre-rookie" cards that became something of a fad in the early part of the 1980s -- Cramer decided to start using the backs of his cards to promote his card shop, Pacific Trading Cards. 

As early as 1984, while his sets for teams such as the Vancouver Canadians (then the Triple-A team of the Milwaukee Brewers) were copyrighted as the intellectual property of Cramer Sports Promotions, a full quarter of the back of the card featured a cartoony advertisement for Pacific:

As the 1980s saw baseball card fever heating up and MLB issued licenses to any number of new card companies, Pacific started positioning itself to get a full license for itself. Starting with multiple non-sports products -- including a Leave It to Beaver set and the occasionally-appearing-in-repacks set for the movie Eight Men Out -- Pacific was establishing itself as a company that could create, market, and produce a set for a national audience.

The next step for Pacific was its Legends sets. For the growing company, it represented a leap toward color processing equipment and printing. It also helped vault Pacific toward obtaining a full license from the NFL Players Association and NFL Properties -- a license certainly helped by Cramer's own photographic skills in the NFL. 

After that, Pacific received a limited license from MLB so it could produce its Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver player sets. Those limited license sets proved to MLB, it seems, that Pacific could produce sets that looked good. It was about that time -- mid-1992 -- that Pacific decided to stop selling other companies' products through its mail-order business and focus solely on selling its own products. Then, in 1993, Pacific first obtained a limited MLB/MLBPA license to allow it to make Spanish language cards and, then, in November of 1993, Pacific became a licensed MLB card company. Then, in 1998, it received the license to overprint as many sets as it chose. 

In 2001, the company filed for protection from its creditors in bankruptcy. Eventually, the company was liquidated. From that bankruptcy, Donruss Leaf Playoff purchased the brand name and its rights in 2004. Then, when Panini decided to get into the American sports card market again in 2009 by buying Donruss/Playoff, Panini also bought the rights to Pacific's name, card brands, and image rights. This explains why Panini had a "Prizm" brand line for a couple of years.






The 1988 and 1989 versions are numbered consecutively as part of the same set, while the 1990 set has its own numbering. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind the continuing numbering in 1989 was, or, for that matter, why the numbering started over in 1990. 

If I am guessing, I would guess that the idea was to create a similar series of sets as the cards from the early 1980s. But, once 1990 came around, they decided to change up the card design somewhat. At first, I thought it was because they wanted to repeat players from the 1988-1989 set, but that happened in 1989 already.

Each one of the sets is comprised of 110 cards. 1988 and 1990 were both numbered 1 through 110 while 1989 was numbered 111 through 220. Each card includes a notation about where the former player resided at that time or, if they had passed away, their date of death. That was not an issue for the 1990 set, though, as all of the players depicted were still listed as living.

As you can see from the exemplars, each year's set had its own different coloration -- even the cards from the "same" set in 1988 and 1989 had different colors. The same was true for their packaging; the photos below were taken from eBay auctions linked in the captions. 
In addition, in 1989, Pacific made the full set of 220 cards available to retailers to sell as well. This eBay auction is for a sales sheet from Pacific for exactly that; a photo of the sheet is below:

In terms of set composition, all three sets included between 63 and 68 non-Hall of Famers -- giving cards to players whose careers either qualified them for the Hall of the Very Good (Steve Garvey, Gene Woodling, Clete Boyer) or were known for reasons other than their playing career (Jim Bouton, Dave Dravecky, Marv Throneberry). Here are the links to the checklists on the Trading Card Database:


If your math is okay, you might have figured out that the sets have anywhere from 42 to 47 Hall of Famers.

1988 (47): Hank Aaron, Red Schoendienst, Brooks Robinson, Luke Appling, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Richie Ashburn, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Robin Roberts, Catfish Hunter, Pee Wee Reese, Willie Mays, Leo Durocher, Bob Lemon, Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Fergie Jenkins, Sparky Anderson, Roy Campanella, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Juan Marichal, Duke Snider, Nellie Fox, Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Mize, George Kell, Bobby Doerr, Hoyt Wilhelm, Monte Irvin, Enos Slaughter, Harmon Killebrew, Billy Williams, Luis Aparicio, Jim Bunning, Orlando Cepeda, Early Wynn, Ron Santo, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Rollie Fingers, Al Kaline, Lou Boudreau, Warren Spahn, Johnny Bench

1989 (42): Reggie Jackson, Frankie Frisch, Eddie Mathews, Ty Cobb, Joe Sewell, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, B. Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Enos Slaughter, Tony LaRussa, Frank Baker, Rogers Hornsby, Bobby Doerr, Mickey Cochrane, Gaylord Perry, T. Williams, Feller, Joe Medwick, Killebrew, Boudreau, Joe Cronin, Wilhelm, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Earl Weaver, Mize, B. Williams, Lefty Grove, Mel Ott, Walter Johnson, Hunter, Hank Greenberg, Al Lopez, Arky Vaughn, Earl Averill, Jesse Haines, Whitey Ford, Honus Wagner, Phil Niekro, Edd Roush, Casey Stengel

1990 (43): Aaron, Appling, Banks, Berra, Boudreau, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton, Rod Carew, Doby, Doerr, Rick Ferrell, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Billy Herman, Irvin, Killebrew, Kiner, Mazeroski, Perry, R. Roberts, Santo, Slaughter, Spahn, Wilhelm, B. Williams, T. Williams, Tom Seaver, Carl Yastrzemski, Orlando Cepeda, Mathews, Sewell, Hunter, Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Charlie Gehringer, Feller, Kell, LaRussa, Niekro, Rizzuto, B. Robinson, Joe Torre, Weaver


Pacific started out a bit roughly in 1988 and got better as time went on. 

In 1988, there were several issues. The ones that were uncorrected: misspelling Red Schoendienst's name (missed the c), having a wrong date in the copy on Minnie Minoso's card, saying Jim Lonborg played for the Braves rather than the Brewers, and saying that Sal Maglie's career started in 1945 and ended in 1917. The corrected errors: fixing a reversed photo on Elston Howard's card, misspelling Mel Stottlemyre's name as Stottlemyer, misspelling Don Larsen's name as Larson, and misspelling Jim Lonborg's name as Longborg. Makes me wonder why Red Schoendienst's card never got corrected.

In 1989, there were just two errors and neither were corrected -- misspelling Thornton Lee's name as Thornton and saying that Shoeless Joe Jackson hit 41 homers in 1911; he actually stole 41 bases and hit 7 homers.

In 1990, there was just one error: Don Newcombe's name lost its second "e" on the front of the card; the back of the card got it correct.


Either I did not have much of an appreciation for sets like this one back in the 1980s, or I simply did not ever hear of these sets when it was released. In any case, I did not have any of these cards in my collection until my return to collecting in 2014. 

Now, though, I sort of like these for having cards of players who in many respects have been lost to time in terms of baseball cards.  I mean, we almost never see Smoky Burgess, Ron Hunt, Dave Kingman, Jerry Koosman, Tom Paciorek, Moe Drabowsky, or Gary Bell on baseball cards today unless it is one of those stamped buyback cards that Topps keeps sticking into its packs.

These cards are readily available today, whether on eBay or occasionally in those repacks of loose cards. Some of the more interesting ones: an unopened box of 1988 cards for $23.64 shipped, a complete factory set of the 1988-1989 cards for $29.45 shipped, a 4-box lot of unopened 1989 cards for $74.90, and an unopened wax pack box of the 1990 cards for $33.60 shipped. Singles of these cards are readily available on eBay and through COMC, and there are a number of graded and autographed versions as well.

What do you think? Is this a set you like? Why or why not?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

1981 Topps Scratch-Offs Panels


Throughout its long history in the baseball-card industry, Topps has sought additional ways to leverage its full MLB license and, once it became necessary, the MLBPA license. Even its first major release set in 1951 was a bit of an oddball in being both a collectible card and a playable game.

There may be something of a pattern to these oddballs, though. It's not a perfect relationship, but it seems like Topps was more prone to issue an oddball set when it had more competition in the baseball world. For example, in 1958, Topps had no competition at all and did not issue any oddballs of its own. In 1959, on the other hand, Fleer jumped into the ring with its Ted Williams set, and Topps responded by printing cards on the backs of its Bazooka brand bubble gum. 

It's not a perfect relationship. For example, Topps issued effectively five oddball sets in 1964 (two Bazooka sets along with Giants, Tattoos, and Stand-Ups), but it really did not have any competition that year. Now, those oddballs could have been issued anticipating a loss in court to Fleer on an antitrust suit or just further competition from Fleer. But there were a number of other oddballs throughout the 1960s and 1970s -- during Topps's exclusivity years -- that still got issued. 

Again, it may be simply that Topps wanted to leverage its license into making more money and seeking new lines of products. That is rationale corporate behavior, after all. 

By the time 1981 came around, Topps was better positioned than either of its new rivals Donruss and Fleer to take advantage of the increasing interest in oddballs. Topps worked with Coca-Cola on some team sets, with Perma-Graphic on a credit card-like set, and had two of its own oddball products -- the Home Team 5x7 photos and these Scratch-offs.


Full Panel



This set was designed to allow kids the fun of playing baseball in the same way that their parents enjoyed playing the lottery -- through scratching off an unidentified substance from a piece of cardboard to reveal the outcome of an at bat. 

The cards came in full panels, as shown above. To get to the individual cards, perforations separate the three cards.  The panels themselves measure 3-1/4" x 5-1/4", while each individual card measures 3-1/4" x 1-13/16", according to PSA.

In stores, these cards were sold in wax packs which included a total of 6 panels. Each pack included three American League panels, three National League panels, and a stick of gum. Here's a photo from an eBay auction to show you what the packages looked like:

As the backs imply with the empty box next to the player information, those who were using these scratch-offs to play a game were supposed to make out their lineups and slot players into a batting order. AL players were numbered from 1 to 54, while NL players were numbered from 55 to 108. 


Out of the 108 cards in the set, there are just 17 members of the Hall of Fame. In looking at the checklist, that's due in large part to the nature of this set including players from all 26 teams and in part to a number of players who looked like they might be good in the early 1980s but who never amounted to much baseball-wise (Joe Charboneau and Ken Landreaux, for instance) or were essentially one-hit wonders (like Steve Stone's 1980 Cy Young Award winning season).

The members of the Hall in this set include: George Brett, Reggie Jackson, Tony Perez, Eddie Murray, Robin Yount, Jim Rice, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson, Jim Palmer, Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, Andre Dawson, Steve Carlton, and Tom Seaver.

Potential future members of the Hall include Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell, Dusty Baker (as a manager), and maybe Buddy Bell.


This set is a variation-seekers dream. 

Let's start with the panels themselves. The first 18 cards of each of the League runs -- 1 through 18 and 55 through 72 -- always appear on the top of the panel. Cards 19 to 36 (AL) and 73 to 90 (NL) always appear as the middle panel. Cards 37 to 54 and 91 to 108 always appear as the bottom panel. 

But, each of the first 18 cards does not always appear with the same two other cards and, in fact, each has four different variants in terms of the panel composition. For example, Robin Yount is card 10. His four variations in terms of panelmates include: (1) Rick Cerone [card 28] and Toby Harrah [card 46]; (2) Rick Cerone and Ed Farmer [card 54]; (3) Al Bumbry [card 29] and Frank White [card 47]; and (4) Willie Randolph [card 36] and Toby Harrah. 

The same is true for literally every single card in the set -- whether the player is a top panel, middle panel, or bottom panel. All told, this means that a complete set of panels is comprised of 144 panels. A great checklist for this can be found on the Net 54 Baseball site

That's not the end of the variations, though. I said above that a complete set of panels is comprised of 144 panels. That's probably true, I think. but it may not be.  

You see, Topps made use of the backs of cards as well. Cards 1 through 18 and 55 through 72 -- the top panels -- each have the instructions for how to play the game on the back. So, both the Tony Perez and Ted Simmons cards shown above fall into those runs. Cards 19 through 36 and 73 through 90 -- the middle panels -- each have a scoreboard to keep score of the game on the back:

So far, so good, right? Well, here's where it goes off the rails. Cards 37 through 54 and 91 through 108 -- the bottom panels -- all have advertising on back.

And I've given away the story here by showing you those ads. As you can see, there are two Ken Griffey Sr. card backs above -- one selling a ball-strike indicator and one selling a baseball hat like ones you could find at the truck stops across America in 1981. The Dave Lopes back shows the third item for sale -- a Topps "Super Sports Card Locker." 

Each of the bottom-panel cards was printed with exactly two of the three advertisements on the back. Griffey had the Hat and the BSI; Lopes had the Locker and the BSI; Doug Flynn (card 93) had the Hat and the Locker. In other words, taking all 36 of those panels into account, there are 72 total variations for these bottom panels.

So, let's step back to the Yount panel list for a moment. If you are either a crazy completist or a player collector looking for variations to add numbers to your collection, this is a potential gold mine because the reality is that you have a possibility of not four, but really eight possible panels to collect. 


I say maybe in bold and all caps because, well, I don't know if there are variations in what advertisement appeared on the backs of the Yount Panels. What I mean is this: Toby Harrah appears both with the Ball-Strike Indicator and the Hat Offer. Were his cards on the Yount/Cerone Panel all BSIs? Were his cards on the Yount/Randolph panel all Hat Offers? 

I just don't know and I have not seen anything that ties these two issues together. Does anyone know?


I definitely had these cards available to me in smalltown Wisconsin. I scratched the hell out of them. Later in the 1980s, I bought what I thought was a complete set at a card show or a flea market in Wisconsin, and kept them intact for a while. I have not been able to find that set anywhere, though, so I'm thinking that I may have broken that set up into its constituent parts. I have been known to do that.

This is the kind of fun set that Topps used to make to try to get kids interested in collecting. The same year that the scratch-offs came out, Topps also issued its first sticker set and album. Both the scratch-offs and the stickers took much of whatever money I made that summer cutting the lawn around my house. I mean, I was in the summer after third grade that year, so it wasn't like I had many options to make money. But those two together helped keep my interest as a kid. I wouldn't mind having similar sets getting issued nowadays.

If I were to be collecting this set, I'd be going at it as a completist. I'd want all 144 panels -- all the variations in player composition would be required. If I assume that the 144 panels includes all the proper variations in them such that 144 panels is complete, even that is a bit of a chore to put together. In looking at eBay, people sell the set as "36 panels, 108 cards" in the set. Granted, no one has made the very low opening bid on that set of $0.99 (plus $3.50 shipping).

In the event you're looking to get an unopened box or two to rip, that is a bit more difficult to find. For instance, a three-box lot has been listed at $139.99 plus $10 shipping. That sale does have the option of making an offer to reduce the cost, but in any event that seems to be a steep price to me. There is another single box available for $44.99 (shipping included) that does not have an offer option. 

Maybe it's just me, but that seems a bit pricy too. Yet, if there is not much supply out there, perhaps someone will buy it at that price.

If I'm spending that kind of money on this set, I'm going with the uncut sheet in this auction, which will run $59.75 (or less if you make a good enough offer). I feel like that just gives me more bang for my buck, and I have been building a strange affinity for uncut sheets.

What do you think? Too rich for your blood, or worth the money?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

1982 Topps Cracker Jack


Cracker Jack started out in Chicago in 1871. German immigrant Frederick William "Fritz" Rueckheim was a popcorn seller on what is now Federal Street. He coated his popcorn in molasses, and it was a hit. Twenty-five years later, he discovered a system to make the popcorn-molasses mixture in a way that kept the popcorn from becoming a massive glob. Shortly thereafter in 1896, the Cracker Jack tradename was born.

The company stayed independent until the mid-1960s. At that time, Borden Foods and Frito-Lay engaged in a bidding war to acquire the company. While Borden won in the 1960s, Frito-Lay eventually won the war when its parent company PepsiCo bought Cracker Jack in 1997 and folded it into Frito-Lay's corporate portfolio.

Cracker Jack's association with baseball is nearly as long standing as the snack itself. Just 12 years after "Cracker Jack" became a tradename, it was incorporated into the lyrics of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by lyricist Jack Norworth, a star in vaudeville who apparently was inspired by seeing an advertising sign on the subway in New York for a game at the Polo Grounds.

In the world of baseball cards, Cracker Jack has a similarly lengthy history. One of the most iconic card sets of the 1910s is the E145 set issued in 1914 and 1915. These cards were among the first Cracker Jack prizes, and included players from all three then-existing major leagues, assuming that the Federal League counts as a major league. Thereafter, in 1933, Cracker Jack included a set of 25 pins of popular players of the day as prizes in their boxes.

Sadly, Cracker Jack no longer includes prizes in their boxes. In 2016, Frito-Lay announced that the inserts in the boxes would only contain codes for use in the Cracker Jack app on Android phones. These codes were spun as being just as good as the old days -- as one would expect a marketing person would do. The quote: "The new prize inside allows families to enjoy their favorite baseball moments through a new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic prize inside to life."

I rather doubt that that is the case.


AL Sheet

NL Sheet

Sheet photos courtesy of


These cards were issued in two panels of 8 uncut sheets with a Cracker Jack logo in the middle, as shown above. As the 1982 Baseball Cards Magazine that Night Owl scanned in back in 2013 points out, the cards were issued in conjunction with the 1982 Old-Timers All-Star game that took place at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. As The Shlabotnik Report pointed out, these cards were obtainable by mailing in proofs-of-purchase from boxes of Cracker Jack.

The set's design puts together familiar design elements from then-recent Topps sets. The Cracker Jack logo is located similarly to where the hats on the 1981 Topps cards were placed. Team names came directly from the 1978 Topps set. Player names are cribbed designwise from the 1979 Topps set. Even the colors on the back appear to be pulled directly from the 1981 Topps set.

That 1982 Old Timer's All-Star game was noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it brought baseball back to Washington, DC for the first time since 1971. Second, the game leapt into the national consciousness when 75-year-old Luke Appling hit a home run off Warren Spahn. Here's a great clip of that homer:

The excellent "National Pastime Museum" website has a detailed story about how the game came to be in 1982. Essentially, former Atlanta Braves Vice President Dick Cecil came up with the idea and took it to a PR firm that represented Cracker Jack and Borden Foods. Cracker Jack was looking for a way to reinvigorate its association with baseball, so the game got approved very quickly and most of the time discussing the game related to whom to invite. 

The only part of the game that did not come together was having Major League Baseball's signoff. That signoff never came thanks to Bowie Kuhn and his PR guy, Bob Wirz. I have no idea why Wirz thought it would be a bad idea for MLB to sign on to this event. Then again, we are talking about Bowie Kuhn and the baseball PR and advisory squad that allowed the 1981 strike to happen.

The game continued to be played through 1990, eventually moving to Buffalo for its final three years to show off the new Pilot Field in Buffalo that was built by the Rich Family (owners of the Buffalo Bills as well). 


Fifteen of the sixteen players featured on the cards in this set are in the Hall of Fame. Only card 7 -- Tony Oliva -- is not in the Hall. Oliva is a much-debated candidate for the Hall, but he has yet to receive that honor.

Here's the list of the Hall members: Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Robin Roberts, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn


The Trading Card Database does not list any errors or variations. I'd argue that it is a variation as to whether the cards were kept in the uncut sheets or if they were cut apart (hopefully professionally).


Did I miss when the Hall of Fame took the concept of an Old Timer's Game and made it a part of its annual marketing efforts? In fairness, the "Hall of Fame Classic" is hardly the same thing. Instead of Warren Spahn pitching to Luke Appling, the Cooperstown version features Steve Woodard facing off against Lenny DiNardo, or Aaron Harang and Kerry Robinson against one another. 

Perhaps a Hall of Famer's Game could be a fun addition to the enshrinement weekend in Cooperstown. I don't know why this is not a part of that weekend or a part of the Cooperstown events to have. I would guess the players simply do not want to do it -- or that enough players do not want to do it, at least.

I also don't know why only the 1982 Old Timer's Game got the benefit of having a card set issued for it. Did Cracker Jack/Borden decide that they did not want to pay for the cards to be produced any more? Did Topps get flak from its MLB licensors for using its license to print cards for a game that Bowie Kuhn did not support?

If you are interested in purchasing this set, it is widely available. For instance, Dave & Adam's Card World has the two-sheet set available for just $5.70 prior to shipping. If you want a crazy but awesome collectible, there is a fully JSA certified completely signed set available on eBay for $760 already framed. That would be a pretty cool set to have, though that is a bit rich for my blood!

Monday, July 24, 2017

1981-1983 Granny Goose Oakland A's


Granny Goose Foods, Inc., was a food company that was started in Oakland, California, in 1948 (according to SFGate; Wikipedia says 1946 without a citation) by a gentleman called Matthew Barr. Perhaps presciently, Barr soon after sold his shares in the company to his three young business partners. Granny Goose made potato chips, and generations of Californians grew up munching on them to their cholesterol's detriment.

In 1966, Granny Goose was purchased by Del Monte Foods Company. Del Monte is a massive company that focuses on canning fruit, vegetables, and broths, among other things. Things rolled along well for the company for a while until, in 1979, R.J. Reynolds Industries -- yes, the tobacco company -- purchased Del Monte Foods. By that point, RJR had already purchased the company that made Hawaiian Punch, so it was not that far flung to buy Del Monte. But, having a potato chip company did not fit for RJR, so RJR sold Granny Goose to Oakland-based G. F. Industries in 1980.

Under G.F., Granny Goose grew and expanded. In 1988, G.F. audaciously took over a company with ten times its nationwide sales -- Sunshine Biscuits Company. At the time, Granny Goose had $50 million in sales and Sunshine -- the then-owner of brands such as Cheez-It, Honey Graham crackers, and Hydrox Creme Filled Chocolate Cookies (the brand Nabisco ripped off to create Oreos) -- had $500 million in sales.

The L.A. Times story linked here mentions that G.F. Industries was "controlled by Northern California businessman Wilfred Uytengsu." This is an interesting tidbit, yet it is one that I cannot easily confirm. Wilfred Uytengsu, Sr., was a Filipino businessman in the dairy industry in the Philippines who started General Milling Corporation and then founded a Philippine company called Alaska Milk Corporation. He also served on the board of Milwaukee-based Universal Foods Corporation (now known as Sensient Technologies). But nothing in his biography or his son Wilfred Jr.'s biography mentions G.F. Industries.

In any event, the Sunshine acquisition started a string of takeovers in the takeover-crazy late 1980s. G.F. followed that purchase by buying Salerno -- a long-time Midwestern cookie company whose corporate synergies matched well with Sunshine's Hydrox brand -- in 1991. Shortly after, in 1993, G.F. bought Laura Scudder Inc. from financially troubled Borden, Inc. for less than $17 million.

Yet, by that point, Granny Goose's market share had declined rapidly in the face of tough competition from PepsiCo's Frito-Lay and Eagle Snacks, which was owned by Anheuser-Busch. Controversially, in July 1995, the City of Oakland loaned $2.25 million to entrepreneur Keith Kim in an effort to save 400 jobs in the city. It was criticized for being "typical of a series of misguided Oakland business subsidies" but, as the San Francisco Business Times article notes, the loan was repaid within a year.

Even that, however, was not enough to save the company. By 2000, Granny Goose sold off its Oakland production facility and moved to Utah. That was not enough to stop two large creditors from filing a state court action to sell off the company assets in a proceeding known as a general assignment of creditors. As part of that sale, Snak King purchased the rights to Granny Goose's corn chip, popcorn, and extruded snack lines (that's the potato chips, I think). Snak King then licensed the rights to these brands to Shearer's Foods, which now sells the chips.



Two different sets: one with facsimile autographs, one without.

Facsimile autograph version

No Autograph



Many people in our hobby talk about how the late 1980s and early 1990s was the heyday for cards in general with the sheer numbers of cards being made. Those of us who were collecting in the early 1980s, however, remember these cards as being a super-charged, high-demand set that was going for top dollar.

Granny Goose made big money itself out of the deal. This 1982 story from the United Press International wire service deserves attention for the lengths people were going to and for the prices that sets were getting. Here are a couple of the examples given by a company spokesperson:
  • One gentleman came to the Granny Goose facility and bought 30 cases of potato chips. He proceeded to pull out the baseball cards and dumped the chips on the loading dock.
  • One man from Los Angeles wanted to order 800 cases of potato chips and have them delivered to his house.
  • Another Los Angeles man drove the two hours, twenty minutes to Bakersfield just to buy the chips and get the cards.
  • Requests for the cards came in to Granny Goose from Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, and Milwaukee
The Oakland A's also had a few off-the-wall requests, including one man who wanted to buy 500 tickets to the game, donate 499 tickets to any charity of the A's choice, and then mail him the 500 sets of cards. The A's told the man that that was impossible. That story closed by noting two things: that sets from 1981 were already selling for $120 a year later, and that the A's handed out 15,000 of the complete sets of cards at their baseball card day.

Each of the four sets consisted of 15 cards. Each year, the Oakland A's gave away a limited number of the cards through a stadium giveaway, and Granny Goose included the cards in their potato chip bags. As you can see above, there was very little difference between the 1981 and 1982 versions of the set. The 1981 version was copyrighted by "East West Promotions Inc.", while the later two years of sets were both copyrighted by Granny Goose. 

1982 featured two different set versions -- one with a facsimile autograph and one without. I don't know if this is the case, but I'd speculate that one of them probably was the stadium giveaway that year while the other was the potato-chip-bag version.

In 1983, the year of the card's issuance was added to the front, and an instant winner game was added. That instant winner portion led to a humorous soliloquy from Rickey Henderson to a young Grant Brisbee (the lead baseball editor at SB Nation). 

Rickey pointed to the 1983 Granny Goose card with the contest scratch off and told young Grant, "Hey, you can't scratch that contest off. It'll make the card less valuable. You're not gonna win, so just don't scratch it off. I think the contest expired five years ago. so don't even mess with it. Ruins the value."

Rickey, as always, knew. 

Here's the links to the checklists for 1981, 1982 with facsimile autograph, 1982 without, and 1983.


Each of these sets has just one Hall of Famer in it out of the fifteen cards issued each year: Rickey Henderson.

A decent argument can be made that Billy Martin (in the 1981 and 1982 sets) should be enshrined eventually for his work as a manager. He was such a difficult man to get along with. He had major issues with alcohol, and he had a well-known propensity to cause a "take-a-number" line to form at Dr. Frank Jobe's offices. All of these factors may have added up to keep him out. Still, there are a number of articles that have plumped for his inclusion in the Hall; with a .553 winning percentage over 16 seasons (2267 games managed, 1253 wins) and a World Series Championship in 1977, it may happen eventually.

The 1982 and 1983 sets includes Davey Lopes, whose late start to his career at the age of 27 in 1972 didn't stop him from having a 16-year career. His late start -- thanks to his completing his degree at Washburn University in Kansas -- probably will keep him out.


Trading Card Database does not list any for 1981, 1982 autographs, 1982 clean, or 1983. However, a case can be made that having the 1983 set either with or without the contest tab (or scratched or not) could be considered variations.


As I mentioned above, the Granny Goose sets were in major demand in the early 1980s. They were a hobby supernova driven by Rickey Henderson's chase for the single-season stolen base record in 1982 (which he set in Milwaukee, incidentally). I think these cards, more than any, were responsible for my heightened awareness of Brewers police cards and of baseball card oddballs generally.

As a ten-year-old kid, I would look longingly at any sales of those cards I could find in the mail-order section of Baseball Cards Magazine and Sports Collectors Digest. I'd look longingly because there was no way that I could afford $120 for a 15-card set of Oakland A's. I mean, that is the equivalent of over $300 today. Minimum wage then was $3.35 an hour, so when you were poor like me and had a mom working fairly menial jobs when she could find work, that was simply a luxury beyond our means.

These days, those cards are much easier to come by. For instance, even if you were to put together the 1981 set by singles and lots off eBay, you probably would not be looking at paying more than about $25-$30 total. You can start with this 10-card lot for $8.50 and build from there. The 1982 set (no autographs; $18.99) and 1983 set ($22 with tabs and unscratched). The facsimile autograph version seems to be less available generally speaking than the other three sets, and singles for it are also tough to come by. Singles for the other sets are readily available. 

But, if you'd like one of the highest graded 1981 Rickeys, be prepared to shell out $3,508 for a PSA 8 card -- or just pay $164 for 24 months and it will be yours!.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

1980-1983 (and 1986) Cramer Baseball Legends


If you had the time, money, and ability, would you start your own card company? If you did start your own card company, what kinds of cards would you release? How would you start -- current players or greats of the past?

Those were all questions that Michael J. Cramer -- Mike to those who know him -- must have been asking himself in the early 1970s. Cramer's card shop and company, Pacific Trading Cards, became the most off-the-wall and innovative card issuer in the 1990s. But, Cramer started out his foray into issuing cards like a couple of others have: as a card-shop owner.

According to this article from 1996 in the Arizona Republic, Cramer got his start in baseball cards as a high-school freshman in 1968 while attending Maryvale High School. He started Pacific -- then known as Cramer Sports Promotions -- as a mail-order business but really made his money for the first ten years of the business -- so, until about 1978 -- by being an Alaskan crab fisherman.

Cramer helped blaze the trail that other shop owners such as Renata Galasso and Larry Fritsch later followed by issuing baseball cards himself. Cramer started with minor-league baseball and teamed with Circle K Food Stores and the Phoenix Giants in 1975 to issue a set in which Cramer himself got a card, which he used to announce the formation of an Arizona Sports Collectors Association.

As things progressed for Pacific, he left Arizona for Seattle. As a history of the company notes, Cramer moved to Edmonds, Washington, in 1977 and changed his company name to Pacific Trading Cards. He opened a brick-and-mortar store to accompany his mail-order business. His card issuing for minor-league teams took a break from 1978 through 1984, during which time he used old photos of baseball legends to put out his "Baseball Legends" set.

As Rich Klein notes in his short biography of Cramer (linked above), Cramer was not just a card-company owner. He became an NFL-accredited photography and literally took his own photographs to use for his football sets that he issued in addition to using photos from other long-term hobbyists. This was a cost-cutting measure, certainly, and it helped Cramer reduce costs in the art process as well.

Pacific's history in baseball cards continued into the late 1980s with another Legends set (which will be documented later). So, this story on Pacific's history will continue at that point.


1980, Series 1

1981, Series 2

1982, Series 3

1983, Series 4

1986, "Series 5"


These cards were issued in four series of thirty cards each year from 1980 through 1983. Then, in 1986, Cramer/Pacific must have decided either to print more cards or repackage the cards on hand into wax packs. That led to "series 5" -- a four-card series that were nothing more than cards printed on the bottom of the wax boxes. These cards  added Hoyt Wilhelm and Arky Vaughn, two of the four Baseball Hall of Fame inductees for 1985 to the set. For some reason, Lou Brock was left out; Enos Slaughter was in Series 2. In addition, the wax box picked up one very early inductee (Grover Alexander) and one very recent inductee (Frank Robinson) that had been omitted previously. 

Visually, these cards are like a Coldplay song -- they are all yellow (sorry, had to make the bad musical reference). My guess here is that it may have been easier for the printing process to make these cards all yellow with sepia photos. That's a guess, though.

The backs feature various items of information about the players, including their position (with "Short Stop" being a regular feature), their dates of playing in the majors, their birth dates, a short biographical write-up, their teams for which they played, and their major league record. 

If the player had been inducted into the Hall of Fame before the cards were printed, then the year of the player's induction is included. If the player was not in the Hall, then his nickname was provided or, in Harvey Kuenn's case, his then-current occupation of Brewers manager was given. Finally, if the player had passed away, then his date of death is given; otherwise, his city of residence at the time of the card's printing was provided.

In terms of set composition, there is again a bit of unevenness. For example, Series 1 includes 27 Hall of Famers out of 30 cards though three of the men who are in the set (Walter Alston, Ernie Lombardi, and Billy Southworth) had not been inducted when the set was issued. Series 2 is all Hall of Famers now, but again, three players (Slaughter, Leo Durocher, and Pee Wee Reese) were inducted after the cards were issued. The 1982 set is less star-studded -- just 22 of the 30 players are in the Hall, and three of those men were enshrined after 1982 (Nellie Fox, Harmon Killebrew, and Phil Rizzuto). 1983's series has just one guy who went in after the set was released -- Richie Ashburn.


This is a star-studded set, so strap in. Here they all are:

1980: Babe Ruth, Heinie Manush, Rabbit Maranville, Earl Averill, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Bill Terry, Sandy Koufax, Ernie Lombardi, Dizzy Dean, Lou Gehrig, Walter Alston, Jackie Robinson, Jimmie Foxx, Billy Southworth, Honus Wagner, Duke Snider, Rogers Hornsby, Paul Waner, Luke Appling, Billy Herman, Lloyd Waner, Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove, Hank Greenberg

1981: Ty Cobb, Enos Slaughter, Ernie Banks, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Pie Traynor, Clark Griffith, Mickey Cochrane, Joe Cronin, Leo Durocher, Frank Baker, Joe Tinker, John McGraw, Bill Dickey, Walter Johnson, Frankie Frisch, Casey Stengel, Willie Mays, Johnny Mize, Roberto Clemente, Burleigh Grimes, Pee Wee Reese, Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Sam Crawford, Robin Roberts, Warren Spahn, Joe McCarthy, Jocko Conlan, Satchel Paige

1982: Ted Williams, George Kelly, Jim Bottomley, Al Kaline, Yogi Berra, Nellie Fox, Harmon Killebrew, Edd Roush, Mordecai Brown, Gabby Hartnett, Early Wynn, Nap Lajoie, Ted Lyons, Lou Boudreau, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Frank Chance, Ray Schalk, Bill McKechnie, Travis Jackson, Carl Hubbell, Roy Campanella

1983: Cy Young, Kiki Cuyler, Chief Bender, Richie Ashburn, Hack Wilson, Al Lopez, Willie Keeler, Fred Lindstrom, Roger Bresnahan, Goose Goslin, Earle Combs, George Sisler, Red Ruffing, Herb Pennock, Chuck Klein, Addie Joss, Chick Hafey, Lefty Gomez, George Kell, Al Simmons, Bob Lemon

1986: Hoyt Wilhelm, Arky Vaughn, Frank Robinson, Grover Cleveland Alexander


One known variation shows up on the Trading Card Database and in the Standard Catalog and it is in the 1980 set. There are two different Jackie Robinson cards -- one of his batting and one as a portrait of him. The portrait variation is more difficult to find. Indeed, TCDB does not have a scan of it.

I am going to speculate a bit and suggest that there may be additional variations based on card stock. I get that from looking at the checklists for the sets and, frankly, just looking at the scans above. Do you see the different coloration for the Kuenn and Aaron cards as compared to the Spahn and the Keeler cards? I am wondering if Pacific had to get the printing plates out to equalize the cards in the 1986 packs and ended up printing them on the gray card stock typical for Topps cards of the era. I don't know that for sure, but I could see that happening.


I had some or all the first two or three series of these as a kid. I have yet to figure out how or where I got these. I am guessing that, somewhere along the way, I found them at a card show or they were thrown in as an extra in some set purchase I made by mail order. I don't think I ever bought anything from Pacific, but it is possible. 

I recall really liking these. For me as a kid in rural Wisconsin, these cards helped bring to life the stories about baseball history that I had been reading in Baseball Digest and in books from my local library. Names like Rabbit Maranville and Frankie Frisch and Mordecai ("Three Fingers") Brown had been almost like fairy tales to me -- players who lived only in some alternate universe. To see real photos of them was incredibly cool. 

Only once The Sporting News started with its Conlan sets 10 years later would we get a wider array of players from that era, so this set was like bringing guys from the moon to Wisconsin to me. Since getting back into collecting, I've picked and chosen my cards to get the ones I needed for player collections but I haven't gone all in on trying to get this as a set.

Thanks to the reissuance or sale of the cards in wax in 1986, these cards are reasonably available on the eBay and COMC markets. Unopened packs are not all that common, though, at least judging by what is available on eBay. There is one group of 34 unopened packs with the box (and its four cards) that is listed at $36.83, though its seller will accept a "best offer" option. One seller has a full set of all 124 cards (the box is uncut) for $77.00 shipped. From all indications, that's not a terrible price, but it is pricy to me. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1986 Texas Gold Ice Cream Cincinnati Reds


Why would a set issued by "Texas Gold Ice Cream" feature the Cincinnati Reds? There is, of course, an easy answer. That easy answer is that "Texas Gold Ice Cream" is a registered trademark -- and therefore it is a store brand -- of one of the world's largest grocery retailers, The Kroger Company, and The Kroger Company has its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kroger was founded in 1883 in Cincinnati by Bernard Kroger. It is a massive enterprise now -- supposedly, it is the second-largest private employer in the United States with approximately 443,000 employees. Its own website states that it has 2,800 stores in 35 states under two dozen different store names, and many of these locations include fuel centers and pharmacies. Kroger trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "KR." The company has dozens of subsidiaries as well, as this SEC filing shows.

Kroger filed for the "Texas Gold" trademark on April 17, 1984. It went through the registration process, which involves publication to seek people who oppose the trademark (by claiming an early use, usually...of course, I'm not a trademark lawyer) and was officially registered as of June 18, 1985. The obvious point here is that this was intended to be a store brand ice cream for Kroger to market itself.

As the link above states, Kroger did not renew its trademark for Texas Gold within the grace period allowed by law. As a result, the trademark is "unrevivable." What that means is not that the trademark is dead forever and cannot become active again, but rather anyone who wishes to use the trademark again would have to start the process over from scratch rather than being able simply to renew the mark.

In the interest of completeness, here's a cringe-worthy (to me at least) television ad for Texas Gold Ice Cream from the mid-1980s featuring a doo-wop song.



The 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards gives some important relevant details, even if Bob Lemke and his team did not have the luxury of spending part of a day Googling trademarks to find the tie between Kroger and Texas Gold. As the SCBC says, these cards were given out to Cincinnati Reds fans who attended the September 19, 1986 game between the Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The Reds were the better team at the time -- though neither the Reds (at 74-73 and 11 games behind the Houston Astros) nor the Dodgers (with a 69-78 record, 16 games back) were very good at all. Just 18,696 people attended this Friday Night game, which saw John Franco blow a win for Ted Power by giving up 5 earned runs and 6 hits over the eighth and ninth innings. The Reds finished out the rest of the year fairly strongly, finishing 10 games over .500 at 86-76.

It's almost unfortunate that the Reds and Kroger had to finalize the checklist when they did. Had they been able to wait just a little longer, this set would have featured the first ever big-league card for Barry Larkin (who actually hit his second big league homer off Rick Honeycutt in the fifth inning of the September 19, 1986 game). 

The set itself is quite plain, as you can see. A very simple design which makes the photos the important part of the card. The cards suffer from a lack of variation in the photos used -- basically every pitcher is shown on the mound at Riverfront Stadium and every position player is shown hitting. Other than uniform numbers, the cards are not numbered. This leads to a "variation," as you can see below.


Thanks to Pete Rose's gambling indiscretions, this card features only one Hall of Famer: the venerable Tony Perez, whose last game in the major leagues came on October 5, 1986 at the age of 44 years and 144 days old.


Because the set uses uniform numbers, each of the three Pete Rose cards is numbered 14. He is pictured hitting, in a closeup labeled as Manager, and on a third card commemorating his 4192nd hit. That card is the only card to feature a photo credit on the back.


For obvious geographical/location reasons, I did not have this set in my collection in the 1980s. To be clear, I did not even know that this set existed until I was looking for a set to write-up this afternoon. 

It is one of those sets, though, that intrigues me. It's a regional set I have never seen in person. It makes me wonder, though, how many of these sets are out in the hobby and how many were given away. Did all 18,696 people get the set? Were there leftovers? How many? What happened to those? Were there any in-store tie-ins to this set?

What leads me to believe that these were both somewhat limited and that any extras were destroyed is the fact that these are hardly available at all on eBay. There is a complete set available for $49.99 and a couple of singles available through the COMC/eBay tie in. Otherwise, there is bupkis. Nada. Zero. 

It seems like this set is a must-have for Reds fans, but it is also a difficult one to find.