March 19, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown:
#15. 1994 Collector's Choice

Its name said it all: collectors either loved or hated this set. I happened to love it. It was the perfect antidote to a hobby spiraling out of control. A throwback created not two years removed from the sets it emulated in spirit, it was the first in what would become a kind of weird tradition at Upper Deck: the ‘manufactured nostalgia’ set. It had a parallel worth collecting (the only appearance of any type of foil within the set). Its checklist was no-frills in a frilly way. It had rookies you cared about, players you revered and a simple, seersucker pinstripe design that brought sipping lemonade on the back porch and listening to the game on the radio, Disney World’s Grand Floridian Hotel and 1973 Topps to mind all at the same time.

The Collector’s Choice brand was the logical next step in the evolution of the Kids Kards sets (Topps Kids, Donruss Triple Play, Upper Deck Fun Pack): a brand with a buy-in point (99¢ a pack, if I remember correctly) that appealed to kids as well as empty-wallet collectors. With clean, sun-drenched photography, no-nonsense stat lines and simple blurbs that pertained to the player’s performance as opposed to his favorite hobby or TV show (inevitably Cheers or In Living Color), it elevated, instead of patronized, its audience. This is remarkable, considering we’re talking about the early Nineties, when there was a general crisis in how to get kids excited about a hobby in which they could no longer afford to take part. It’s also remarkable when you remember that we’re discussing Upper Deck, a company that had not only positioned itself as technologically superior to the competition, but more irreverent, fun-loving and self-deprecating—all qualities that are noticeably muted in this Collector’s Choice set (they would creep back onto the cards in subsequent editions). It wasn’t Upper Deck growing up (that had happened the year before), but it was Upper Deck taking all of its audiences seriously, which was perhaps more refreshing.

1 comment:

ttg said...

The thing that always irritated me about this set was how the icon for LHP was of a RHP.