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.


  1. This is fascinating. I think I must have come into serious collecting after 1984 (when I turned 10) as these are all familiar, but only very vaguely so and I'm sure that's because I've seen them recently on blogs or eBay. This series is really spectacular and interesting. Especially those little facts you dig up about the origins of the companies.

  2. I've picked up the Bosox from the 80's sets. Have complet 70,74 and ATG sets I aquired through mail order back in the day

  3. I'm going through all of the Carlton Fisk cards made while he played, and I just did my article about his 1982 Kellogg's 3-D Super Star set. Thanks for a great reference article.

    I will point out that the Carlton Fisk card (#25) shows that he was on "Chicago NL" in 1981. Obviously, the White Sox are in the American League. It appears the error was never corrected. In terms of card collecting, is it still considered an "error card" if it was never fixed? Or is the card just simply "wrong?"

    1. Dan -- basically, it's just considered an uncorrected error. The Trading Card Database notes this error as well as "UER"'s-25-Carlton-Fisk

    2. Tony, thanks a lot for the answer about the concept of "UER" and checking out the link to my site. I submitted the mistake to the Trading Card Database the same night I commented here, so it looks like the folks there got it updated right away.