I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but lately I’ve been writing up a storm. There’s a reason: I’m moving and will have only limited access to a computer next week. Besides, I’ve made you wait long enough for more of the Nineties Countdown, right?
I should come right and say it: I was a Score Man in the early Nineties. After what I thought were ugly 1988 and 1989 sets, there was little the flagship could do wrong over the next five years (divided into two distinct parts: the free wheeling, massive mass-consumption trilogy from 1990 to 1992, and the more refined, scaled-back and grown-up sets from 1993 and 1994). That’s quite remarkable, especially for an era when the best description for the majority of sets was ‘treacherous.’
Score put the behemoths to bed in style: a futuristic base card design complemented by a handful of subsets (including the benchmark ‘Dream Team’), plus decent inserts, special factory set cards and a checklist of roughly six billion (alright, that’s a stretch, but I’m not off by much). And the best part of it all? It was easy to collect. Packs were cheap and if by 1992 putting together a set through packs wasn’t really your thing (and who can blame you, what with all the high-dollar inserts making pack buying more of a lavish exercise rather than a necessity), you could saunter down to your local drugstore and buy the whole factory set.
And the trick of it was that Score knew their sets were gigantic and that collectors would want a factory set option. Hell, they even encouraged such thinking amongst the rank and file (I bought the factory set from 1990 to 1992). Why else would they have included all those attractive factory set inserts (Cooperstown, DiMaggio, Yaz, World Series)? It was as if they were saying that the only thing you’d get from buying packs (besides possibly completing the set) was pack fatigue.
But the thing about buying the factory set that sort of ruined the experience was that you couldn't enjoy each card. A lot of kids I knew didn't even take the cards out of the box once they got it home. Not me. I dumped the set out and fully incorporated it with the rest of my collection. Today I still I have the empty factory set box, but damned if I know where its contents are.
And this was a set that was meant to be thumbed through, you know? Out of 893 base cards, there were 60 denoted subset cards (including the crazy, Cool World-esque mind-bending cartoons-in-the-real-world All Stars) and at least 141 rookies and top prospect cards. That's a quarter of the set right there. That most of them didn't pan out (or their 1992 Score incarnation wasn't their real rookie) hardly mattered in the end. Overall, a glorious, gluttonous set.