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The Mysterious 1990 Topps Debut ‘X’ Cards

16 Oct

I’ve been meaning to post about this bizarre card for a couple years now but couldn’t locate the scans I saved. In fact, these images are the only I’ve ever seen and were poached from a message board in 2009. Since I am in the mood to do a little bit of detective work, I feel now is the time to shed some light on this very unusual card:

 

 

Not much is known about this card, in fact, I’ve yet to hear any mention of it since it was posted in the legendary Frank Thomas NNOF thread on the Collectors Universe boards.

Here is what we do know:

  • Pulled from a 20-set case of 1990 Topps Debut ’89 sets.
  • 1990 Topps Debut ’89 features 152 subjects.
  • Topps likes to print cards in multiples of 11 (33 Glossy All-Stars, 132 O-Pee-Chees, 792 base set, etc…)

Here is what I think:

152 subjects doesn’t work with Topps’ multiples of 11 sheet orientation, however, 154 does. This leads me to believe that on a single uncut 154 card sheet, you will find all 152 cards plus two of these “corner” cards. Obviously, the same formula can be applied to a theoretical 77 card sheet, but one X card per.

I believe that these cards were intended to be thrown out as printer’s waste but some, apparently very few, made their way into sets.

I do not believe that the X cards were intended to depict a player. Although I did not do the research, Topps claims that this set features every major league debut of the 1989 season, which would explain it’s unusual subject number (152) , which varied each of the subsequent years lending some truth to the claim.

What’s especially odd is that given Topps’ high production run during this era, those two “wasted” spots would seem like something of loss financially. Given how often Topps put advertisements and offer cards in products, why didn’t they use those spots for something useful? Food for thought.

Obviously, all of this could be simply explained with an image of an uncut sheet but until I get a hold of one, where’s the fun in that?

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Cards you’ve never seen: 1990-91 Pro Set Edmonton Oilers Team Statistics

29 Jun

1990-91 Pro Set Hockey is a messy set. Many variations. Many uncorrected errors. Numerous printing flaws. My kind of set! Back in early 1991, Pro Set ran ads in a ton of magazines, showing a card that seems to have never seen production, Check out this ad, where Pro Set greets us in French, with a card no Oilers fan will ever own:

Why Pro Set chose this as the face of their new series is anyone’s guess. It was already approaching a year after the Oilers won the cup and much had happened since. A similar card was issued as part of the “team facts/logos” subset, but it went through a number of minor design changes before pack-out.

With Pro Set’s die-hard fan-base, and the amount of stuff that “escaped” into the market after their bankruptcy, I’m truly surprised that not a single copy of this card has ever surfaced for sale.

Card you’ve never seen: 1990 Topps John Elway Sample / Promo

12 Jun

What’s the big deal here? It’s just a regular 1990 Topps Football card, right? Nope. It’s some kind of sample shown in a 1990 issue of Topps magazine. You can immediately tell the difference by the inclusion of “Broncos” on front, at bottom left, instead of the Topps logo.

This may never have actually been produced and was maybe just a mock-up on a piece of paper, created by a Topps designer. The hand-drawn football is a big clue for this being the case.

In 1990,  the NFL did not grant Topps a license to produce football cards or use team logos (look how far we’ve come…), but Topps decided to print them anyway. Two major changes occurred: 1. The omission of team names or logos from the card fronts and 2. a disclaimer notice on back of every card, stating: “Topps football player cards are not manufactured, sponsored or authorized by any team or league.” Eventually, Topps was granted a license and the late-issued cards they produced for 1990, had the disclaimer removed from the back.

Little-known-fact: all 1990 Topps Football packaging, even the box bottom cards themselves, can be found with or without the disclaimer.

Little-known-fact Part 2: Topps was deep into the development of a 1990 Bowman Football set at the same time. This was shelved for unknown reasons (likely related to their NFL issues), but how cool would it have been to have had a 1990 Bowman Emmitt Smith RC. ‘Home of the Rookie Card,’ right?

Cards you’ve never seen: 1991 Score Rocket Ismail #318A

8 Jun

Most of us collectors old enough to know who Rocket Ismail is, probably remember the controversy caused by his signing with a CFL team on draft day, 1991. He was a potential #1 pick, wide-receiver from Notre Dame, loaded with hobby potential. His decision had a ripple effect that was felt by a few of the card companies that year, who had already slotted Rocket into their checklists. Even sending a handful of samples (or printed materials showing a mock-up) out of what his card would look like.

Pictured above is Rocket’s unreleased 1991 Score card #318. In 19 years, I can’t say I’ve ever seen an actual copy for sale. So at this point, the above image is the best we’ve got.

Imagine though, had Rocket had the career that was expected of him, instead of the one he actually had – which wasn’t bad, by all means, an okay one, really…but if he had a Jerry Rice or Andre Reed type career, I wonder if any physical samples of this card would’ve surfaced by now?

Any additional info regarding this card would be greatly appreciated and posted with a credit to the source.

Cards you’ve never seen: 1989 Pro Set James Jefferson #539C W/ Scouting Photo On Front

6 Jun

If you own a copy of the great 1991 Pro Set NFL Collectible Book, not only do you own a cool set in the 9-card Cinderella Story inserts, but you get to catch the lone glimpse of a variation that has probably never reached the hands of any collector.

James Jefferson’ 1989 Pro Set card #539 already comes in 2 types: with and without the ‘Pro Set Prospect’ banner on front. Both are fairly common and we’ve all seen them any number of times. This mysterious third variety appears in the book:

The card pictured above, is actually the image cut from the page in the 1991 Pro Set retrospective book. For whatever reason, maybe just to drive Pro Set collectors even crazier, they used this picture. Pro Set seemed to like their variations to come in 3 or more types. The Riggs, McMahon, Byner and Gizmo Williams cards all attest to this. If this card actually exists, it has to be one of the rarest Pro Set cards produced to have remained hidden all of these years.

Cards you’ve never seen: 1991 Fleer Elite Baseball

5 Jun

In 1991, just after the enormous success of 1990 Leaf Baseball as Donruss’ entry into the ‘premium’ card market, the other companies were looking to launch a high-end line of cards. Fleer put together a set that was to be called ‘Elite‘ but because Donruss already had a major insert set by the same name, Fleer was forced to change the name to ‘Ultra‘ just before release.

The above images are from a 1991 SCD Basketball, Football, Hockey Collector magazine ad. This is the best image that’s out there for these samples, as far as I know. Notice how the card logos are blacked-out, recalling Fleer’s Bill Ripken bat-handle editing technique. I have no idea whether this is the doing of the dealers who were running the ads, possibly at Fleer’s behest, or if Fleer sent them samples or mock-ups with the blacked-out logos.

Makes you wonder if any physical samples are out there. Either blacked-out or with the Elite logos. I know I’d love to add a Robin Ventura to my collection!

1990 Topps George Bush USA seldom seen photo & article

4 Jun

One of the most unusual, fascinating and outright-scarce Topps cards produced is the 1990 Topps George H.W. Bush USA card. For the last several years, just a handful of copies have popped-up and they often sell for generous amounts of money. Rumors were all over the place as to this card’s origin and method of distribution since it started to show up in the annual catalogs.

Here is a great, albeit brief, article that I found in an old issue of Topps magazine from 1990. Click on the image to see the article in full:

Pretty cool stuff.

1. Check out that binder. 100 cards in there? There’s a possible $4000 on that first page alone!

2. I can’t help but wonder what condition they are in.

3. What do you think he did with it immediately after the photo was taken?

4. I wonder if he actually ever distributed the cards to people or if he just had his handlers send them as gifts, etc.

5. Where’s that binder today?