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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

1986 True Value


True Value Hardware stores as a brand grew out of a Chicago-based retailer called Cotter & Company. It is a hardware cooperative, which means that the hardware stores with the name "True Value" are independently owned businesses. Cooperatives like these band together to create a brand, to enjoy economies of scale in purchasing from wholesalers and distributors, and to engage in marketing.

Cooperatives are not franchises, and the differences between the two are stark. Cooperatives are run by their members, which create a voting structure to make decisions on important business issues facing members such as marketing expenses and promotions. On the other hand, a franchise operation is centrally controlled. Very large franchisees may have the ability to shape overall franchise decisions, but generally, the franchisor makes all decisions on what gets sold when, for how much, and how much money will get paid back to the franchisor for the effort expended in marketing.

So, True Value. While Cotter started his company in 1948 as a hardware cooperative, the True Value trademark and brand started even earlier in time in 1932. It was owned by a company called Hibbard, Spencer & Bartlett, and Cotter bought that company in 1963. Wikipedia notes that the True Value trademark was sold at a value of $2500 in that transaction.

As time passed, True Value had to grow, expand, and differentiate itself from the big-box stores that emerged as their main competition -- Home Depot and Lowe's in particular on a national scale. Thus, True Value merged with Servistar Hardware (which had previously purchased Coast to Coast Hardware) in 1997. Accounting irregularities emerged in a 1999 post-merger audit, causing a number of hardware stores to leave True Value to join other cooperatives under the names "Do It Best Hardware" and "Ace Hardware."

These days, True Value is still a viable international cooperative with stores in 60 countries around the world and 400 different locations including Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Honduras, American Samoa, and Thailand.


The cards came in panels which could be separated out into individual cards.


This set was issued in a total of ten panels of three cards each that included the sweepstakes card as the fourth card in the panel. According to the 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, the cards were given out with a $5 or more purchase to customers at True Value hardware stores.

By 1986, these unlicensed Michael Schechter Associates cards seemed almost ubiquitous. I'm guessing, too, that MSA got a deal on the photos it used where it could use the same photos for each of the players as many times and in as many different sets as it desired. The same Robin Yount photo, for example, appears in multiple sets across a few years (such as the 1986 Jays Potato Chip Discs, the 1986 Dorman's Cheese set, and the 1987 Kraft Home Plate Heroes set to name 3).

Designwise, this is a car-crash set. The photos are all head shots, and the head shots are barely over a quarter of the card. The design is busy with all the stars and bats and balls and MLBPA logos and True Value logos everywhere on front and back. The stats are incomplete -- only the five most recent seasons get shown -- and even the vital information of the player's birthdate appears as a random number set just hanging out below the player's name.

The checklist itself of 30 cards is not a bad one. The stars of the day are mostly there -- Brett, Ozzie Smith, Ripken, etc. -- but there are some strange inclusions and notable omissions. For example, the Oakland A's get Dwayne Murphy, but the big name in 1986 in Oakland was, of course, Jose Canseco. The Padres are represented by Steve Garvey, but Tony Gwynn was already a certified superstar by 1986 -- twice an All-Star in the most recent two seasons and a third-place finish in the MVP voting in 1984. I'm not saying that Garvey should have been left out, necessarily, but Gwynn not being in the set is weird. Finally, the thirty cards in the set represent players from 23 of the 26 teams in MLB at the time -- the Giants, Indians, and Rangers were all left out.


Fully half the set are in the Hall of Fame: Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Ryne Sandberg, Bruce Sutter, Gary Carter, George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, and Wade Boggs


Trading Card Database does not list any errors or variations in the set.

However, on eBay, there appears to be a Don Mattingly variation of sorts available for a scandalously ridiculous price of $108. It might be a test print, in that it has a different number and different back entirely from the version above and the photo is cropped differently. I do not know if there are other players with this test print/variation available.


This is an ugly set. Its design is terrible with all the random stars all over the place and with corporate branding taking precedence over quality baseball cards. The photos are too small, and the unlicensed nature of the cards makes all that worse.

Yet, I have strong positive memories of it.

You see, I got the panels in my collection of this set because I would accompany my grandfather to the local True Value hardware store when he went to pick up some supplies to work in his workshop on his lawn mower or his rototiller. I remember the hardwood floors in the store -- they seemed sloped in one direction or another. I remember the small sporting good section too, as I would always pick up a baseball bat and try to swing once or twice without destroying anything.

During that same year of 1986, my grandmother passed away. My grandfather was lost without her -- they had been married for over 50 years, after all -- and so he spent a fair amount of time puttering around in his workshop. He would let me help him with little things here and there -- sometimes with cutting or sanding wood, other times with cutting the lawn. But I could always tell he was trying to keep himself occupied and not thinking about his loss. That led to a lot of trips to the hardware store.

If you like this set, you can find a complete set in the panel form reasonably inexpensively on eBay. For instance, here is one that is available for $7.45 shipped. As with most of the sets from the mid-1980s, there are ample opportunities to pick up individual cards for a type-collection or player collection as well.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

1980-1983 Kellogg's 3-D Super Stars


Kellogg's started as the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1906. It was an offshoot of the work that John Harvey Kellogg was doing at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he was superintendent. Basically, the company started because the Kellogg family were Seventh Day Adventists, a church which recommends vegetarianism and keeping kosher, and as part of that they invented Corn Flakes

The Kelloggs were trying to help develop new foods that would comply with that diet and help keep all the good people at the sanitarium on an Adventist-approved diet regimen. J.H. Kellogg believed that the best thing for the people there was a very bland diet -- no spicy or sweet foods and no alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. These people sound like torturers to me, but your mileage may vary.

At any rate, one day, John and his younger brother Will Keith Kellogg left some cooked wheat sitting while they attended to other matters at the family business of the sanitarium. They returned too late -- the wheat had gone stale. Being cheap/on a strict budget, they tried to roll this goopy mess into doughy sheets but, instead, it broke up into flakes. The brothers toasted these flakes and served them to their patients. Apparently the patients, who must have been starved for anything with a crunch, loved them. The brothers then patented the stuff and introduced it to the world in hopes that it would reduce masturbation. No, really.

The company developed through the years and expanded its food product lines through the 1960s and 1970s. Along the way and relevant to our discussion, Kellogg's released a few sports and baseball related sets. In 1937, for example, Kellogg's had a cereal called "Pep" (a rival to Wheaties best known for sponsoring The Adventures of Superman radio series) into which it inserted a four-stamp panel of various sport stars including some baseball players (such as Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson). 

In 1948, Kellogg's Corn Flakes in Cuba issued advertising postcards in Cuban featuring perhaps 6 different Cuban baseball stars, and Pep cereal had cards issued of "celebrities" that included 5 baseball players.

In 1970, however, Kellogg's decided to get into the baseball card promotional business. Why it chose to go with the "3-D" effect cards -- or even start with baseball at all -- is not clear. A hint might be seen in the fact that, in 1969, Kellogg's acquired Salada Foods -- the same company that issued baseball coins in 1962 and 1963. Perhaps Salada saw a jump in sales and that history informed Kellogg Company. 

At any rate and as said in the 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, "for 14 years in the 1970s and early 1980s, the Kellogg's cereal company provided Topps with virtually the only meaningful national competition in the baseball card market." The set in 1983 would mark the end of Kellogg's efforts in baseball cards until the early 1990s.







During their time as a yearly card issuer, Kellogg's messed around with just about everything. They tried going without the plastic lenticular covering in 1973. They widened and narrowed the cards. They varied the sizes of the sets -- going with anywhere from 54 to 70 total cards. They even tried a 15-player "All-Time Baseball Greats" set in 1972.

Still, by the time 1980 rolled around, Kellogg's had a pretty good idea on how to issue their "3-D Super Stars" cards. The 1980 set was their 11th consecutive year with putting one card in specially marked boxes of Kellogg's products. Even so, in its last four years of issuing its 3-D Super Stars set, Kellogg's dithered around with how they distributed the cards, the size of the cards, and the size of the set. Note: all information about distribution and card size comes from the 2011 Standard Catalog.

1980's offering, for example, was available as single cards inserted into the cereal boxes and by collecting proofs of purchase and sending that with money in for redemption. The set in 1980 consisted of 60 cards (the same as 1979) but featured the narrowest format ever for Kellogg's -- just 1-7/8" wide by 3-1/4" tall.

In 1981 and for the only time in its 3-D history, Kellogg's used a standard card sized format of 2.5" x 3.5". These yellow beauties were available only by sending proofs of purchases and cash to Kellogg's -- none of them were inserted into cereal boxes. The number of cards in the set increased to 66 as well. 

The 1982 version tracked the distribution of its 1981 counterpart -- available only through sending cash and box tops to the company to get the cards. The cards shrank in size down to 2-1/8" x 3-1/4", and the set shrank to 64 cards.

Finally, in 1983, the Kellogg's set made its final appearance in and on cereal boxes as a 3-D product. The set was again narrower by a quarter inch (1-7/8" x 3-1/4") than the 1982 set, and it was four cards smaller at 60 total. It was once again available in cereal boxes as single cards and, again, as a full set. 

For 1983, I've been able to find a cereal box image online (once again from the excellent Pete Rose fansite, to which full credit for the image below goes) which spells out that the set was available for $3.95 and two UPC symbols or two proof-of-purchase seals from various Kellogg's cereals (Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Corn Pops, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes, or Sugar Smacks, and yes every cereal in the late 1970s and early 1980s trumpeted its high sugar content to kids):

In terms of the players included in each set, these sets are the usual effort to capture the All-Stars of the day but with some exceptions. While the 1980 set included players from each major league team, the 1981 set left out the Canadian teams -- the Blue Jays and the Expos. That's rather strange since the Expos in particular were one of baseball's top teams in the early 1980s. 

In 1982, the Expos made it back to the set thanks to Gary Carter and Tim Raines, but this time the Padres joined the Blue Jays on the sidelines. Finally, in 1983, the Blue Jays (Dave Stieb) and Padres (Garry Templeton) found their way into the set, but this time the Seattle Mariners were left out in the cold. 

Finally, any discussion about these Kellogg's cards would be incomplete without talking about the "3-D effect." If you read the fine print on the backs of these cards, you will see "Xograph®", "© [Year] Visual Panographics, Inc.", and some other legalese regarding the team logos and licensing from MLBPA. 

Xograph was Visual Panographics' trademarked manner of presenting the cards. The trademark was for "photographs having three-dimensional visual effect used as a part of postal cards, printed point-of-sale displays, printed advertisements, and printed exterior surfaces of packages and containers." A second similar trademark for the same word was for "photographic service rendered in connection with the making and furnishing to others of reproductions having a three-dimensional effect." Both of these trademarks are now dead. Visual Panographics appears to have issued one set on its own in 1975 -- one depicting the 37 presidents who had served to that point.


As you would expect for an All-Star set, these four sets have a decent number of Hall of Famers in each, though, perhaps, less per capita than you might think.

1980 (19 total): Mike Schmidt, Bert Blyleven, George Brett, Bruce Sutter, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Eddie Murray, Willie Stargell, Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, Dave Winfield, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Fergie Jenkins, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew

1981 (22 total): Palmer, Jackson, Schmidt, Ryan, Brett, Rice, Stargell, Niekro, Tony Perez, Murray, Winfield, Joe Morgan, Carew, Rickey Henderson, Seaver, Rich Gossage, Yastrzemski, Carlton, Paul Molitor, Sutter, Robin Yount, Bench

1982 (23 total): Brett, Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Seaver, Ryan, Winfield, Jackson, Schmidt, Sutter, Don Sutton, Gary Carter, Fisk, Carlton, Yount, Bench, Gossage, Niekro, Palmer, Yastrzemski, Carew, Tim Raines, Murray

1983 (19 total): Carew, Fingers, Jackson, Brett, Henderson, Yastrzemski, Gossage, Murray, Rice, Yount, Winfield, O. Smith, Ryan, Sutter, Palmer, Carlton, Carter, Fisk, Schmidt


If you know anything about the Kellogg's sets of the 1970s, you know that they were riddled with statistical and copy errors in the written information on the backs of the cards. 

Not so with these four sets. None of them have any corrected errors or variations according to Trading Card Database: 1980, 19811983.


As reader Dancfuller and his Carlton Fisk blog noted, there is, in fact, an uncorrected error in the 1982 Kellogg's set: Carlton Fisk is listed as having played in 1981 for the "Chicago NL" team rather than the AL team. Thanks for that catch!


Like most collectors over the age of about 40 or so, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for these cards that was accompanied by a bit of sadness. The sadness comes from how poorly many of these cards have held up over the years thanks to that plastic lenticular layer that the Xograph process seemed to require. The plastic causes the cards to curl -- like these four sets shown in an eBay auction:

Also, the plastic layer often cracks without anything causing it to crack -- probably due at least in part to the desire of the cards to curl up. I've borrowed this image from Night Owl's post in 2015 titled, "Get to Know Me: Kellogg's Cards":

As Night Owl said in his post, cracked Kellogg's cards make me sad too. I will also echo what Night Owl said about these 1980s cards: while the cards from the 1980s in my opinion are pretty nice, Kellogg's cards are a 1970s phenomenon. 

While I was barely a collector in the late 1970s -- I was as much of a collector as a kid aged 6 to 8 could be -- I still had the 1978 and 1979 sets in my collection thanks to my mom sending off for them for me. I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention in 1980 or 1981 (or we didn't have the spare money available to buy the cereal necessary to get the cards) because those sets were entirely new to me when I returned to collecting in 2014. By 1982, though, I was in full accumulation mode. That meant that I insisted on getting the 1982 and 1983 sets for my collection.

I think what makes these cards beautiful in many respects is the fact that all of them are posed photos that highlight the player. The quality of photography is good as well. It's a jarring juxtaposition to put one of these cards from the early 1980s next to a random 2016 Topps flagship card -- the smiling face of Richie Zisk next to a random pitcher/hitter in action grimace....which one looks better to you?

Due to their wide availability, Kellogg's cards from the early 1980s are easily found on eBay whether in sets or in individual cards. A few interesting highlights I have found:

1.  One seller is asking $110 for all four of these sets together. I think you can do better by buying them individually with just a little bit of effort, though.

2. This seller has an intriguing find: an uncut sheet of the 1981 set for $29.99 shipped. If uncut sheets were not a bit difficult to store/display, I'd be tempted.

3. "Zartanthegreat1" would like $25 to send you a three-card proof panel of Kent Hrbek, Bob Horner, and Gary Carter from the 1983 set. 

Just don't ask Zartan to send you any Super Sugar Crisp cereal.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

1980 Topps Burger King Pitch, Hit & Run


First off, please note that this post will not cover any of the Burger King team sets, nor will it cover the 1986 and 1987 sets that Burger King issued called "All-Pro." This set is a one-off -- a one-year only oddball from Topps and Burger King.

Burger King was started in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1953 under the name "Insta-Burger King." It literally was meant to rip off the McDonald brothers' concept -- the founders Keith Kramer and his wife's uncle Matthew Burns had visited the first McDonald's in San Bernardino, California, and liked it so much that they bought their "Insta-Broiler." This broiler -- the famous "flame broiler" of Burger King fame -- became required equipment for the stores.

Kramer and Burns franchised the concept to some franchisees, including a group in Miami led by James McLamore and David Edgerton. When the original company failed in 1959, these two gentlemen purchased the company, restructured it, and renamed it Burger King. Even today, when you fly into Miami International Airport, you can see BK's corporate headquarters just across the Dolphin Expressway off NW 57th Avenue. 

Pillsbury Company bought BK in 1967. Its efforts toward restructuring led to hiring former McDonald's executive Donald Smith to revamp the company to franchise the concept properly, to increase menu choice, and standardize restaurant designs. When Smith left (for PepsiCo in 1980), Norman Brinker took over. Between Smith and Brinker, BK challenged McDonald's for burger supremacy. But, when Brinker left for Chili's, the company struggled again. 

Since then (and I won't bore you with more corporate history), BK has gone through multiple owners and concepts. Most recently, BK performed a reverse merger with Canadian coffee giant/restaurant Tim Hortons so as to move its nominal headquarters to Canada and receive tax benefits as a result.

Full disclosure: my father-in-law works for a very large BK franchisee. Further disclosure: BK's food is much much better than McDonald's, except for French fries. Nothing beats McDonald's French fries.

One more item to know: what Pitch, Hit, & Run is: PHR was a part of MLB's Official Youth Program to get kids between ages 8-13 playing baseball. Kids were tested on their skills, and winners went to a national event. 

Here's an ad from 1979 for it. Note that this advertisement puts the ages at 9-12:

And here is a store sign that I found in a Google Image Search:

Note that the store display comes from, a Pete Rose super collector site. Full credit goes to them for this photo.


While they look like 1980s Topps, you can see the red backs here. 1980 Topps had blue backs. These images are from Trading Card Database and its checklist.


Burger King issued these in packs of three plus an unnumbered checklist with every purchase of a large order of fries. A total of 34 cards were issued -- thirty-three different players and that checklist. 

The card design mimics the Topps base set for 1980s but with a couple of key differences. First, as you can see, the Burger King logo features prominently here. It is in the corner where the player's position was otherwise located. Second, we have the addition of the "Collector's Series" title next to the player's name -- again, in the same location as where the player's position was. Third, we have those red backs. For reference, here's the base 1980 Topps:

Perhaps most interestingly of all, though, is the fact that Topps did not pull the trick it uses regularly these days in reproducing the same photo on the same design in 800 places. A number of the photos are different. For instance, here are the Vida Blues from each:

I went through the set, and the photos in this Burger King set fall into four categories. First, some photos are exactly the same as the Topps base set. Second, some photos between the flagship and the BK sets are the same, but the BK set is cropped differently (some only slightly). Third, some players have entirely different photos -- like the Vida Blue above. Finally, four players are shown in entirely new uniforms in the Burger King set. Here's the checklist, broken down that way:

Same: Steve Carlton, Don Baylor, George Brett, Bill North, Willie Wilson

Cropped Differently: Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro, J.R. Richard, Bruce Sutter, Rod Carew, George Foster, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Pete Rose, Enos Cabell, Cesar Cedeno, Julio Cruz, Frank Taveras

Same Team, Different Photo: Vida Blue, Ron Guidry, Jerry Koosman, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Reggie Jackson, Fred Lynn, Dave Winfield, Dave Lopes, Omar Moreno

Completely Different Team: Nolan Ryan, Bobby Bonds, Ron LeFlore, Joe Morgan

I do not have a good explanation for these changes (other than the team changes, of course). Those that were cropped differently for Burger King almost invariably improve as baseball cards -- as if someone said, "you're right, we shouldn't have cut off his feet in the photo." A lot of the different photos turned action shots to portraits. There's no real rhyme or reason to it.

How Topps and Burger King put this set together is a bit of a mystery. I mean, I feel like there were Burger Kings in Wisconsin in 1980, but there aren't any Brewers in the set. Only 19 of the 26 teams in existence at that time got cards; the Brewers, Tigers, White Sox, Blue Jays, Indians, Rangers, and A's did not get any cards in the set. The Astros got 5 (with the addition of both Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan from other teams). Why Frank Taveras and Bill North? Why one Cub and zero White Sox? 


Out of the 33 players in this set, just thirteen of the players are in the Hall of Fame -- a rather disappointing number for what ostensibly is an All-Star set. They include:

Carlton, Fingers, Niekro, Palmer, Ryan, Seaver, Sutter, Brett, Carew, Jackson, Rice, Winfield, Morgan


The Trading Card Database does not list any errors or variations.


I feel like these were not in Wisconsin in 1980. I think that for a couple of reasons. First, there are not any Brewers in the set. Second, I don't have any of these cards. I turned 8 just before the end of 1979, and my baseball-card collecting was in full swing in 1980. I put together nearly the entire 1980 Topps flagship set, but I have no recollection of ever seeing these. I feel certain that if I had known of their existence, I would have been clamoring to visit Burger King to buy fries.

Then again, I don't know that a Burger King was open anywhere near where I lived. And perhaps that is the simple explanation for how the set was put together. Places where there were Burger Kings got players, and places without them did not. It's a reasonable guess.

For the most part, the changes in photography really make this set better looking than the base set. Even the cropping changes are better other than, perhaps, the Rollie Fingers. It's an attractive set with a number of good players despite the random inclusion of just okay players like Enos Cabell. Still, though -- Frank Taveras? He was coming off a year in which he hit .263/.301/.337 with 42 steals in 61 attempts. I mean, I guess Topps/BK remembered him leading the NL in steals in 1977?

For what it is worth, the Pitch Hit & Run competition lives on today. As of 2017, it is sponsored by Scotts Company (the turf people). The local competitions have already taken place, as have the sectional competitions. The finals just finished up during All-Star Week. As the PHR website notes, Eric Hosmer, Chris Parmelee, Matt Wisler, Brewer Michael Reed, and former Blue Jay/current Lotte Giant Andy Burns are all PHR alums. The "Hall of Fame" on that site lists former National Finalists after the competition's restart in 1997 who were drafted.

Your eBay purchasing options for this one are very limited. There are a decent number of singles available, but there is only one complete set, and the seller is looking to get $25.98 for it (shipping included). There is also the "ultra-completist" set -- thirty-three unopened cellophane packs of the cards, each containing a different card on the front of each pack -- that you can buy from "buygreatinvestmints" for $156.99. Perhaps the one that makes me laugh hardest in some respects is this checklist. It's graded Gem Mint 10 and all, but it makes me laugh derisively that the seller wants $80.99 for it (shipped). It makes me laugh even harder that his/her original price was $135.99!