June 06, 2007

1990s Countdown #69 to #66

#69. 1991 Donruss
1991 Donruss is one of those sets that don’t deserve your time or your energy in analysis. Here’s my review of this set, in ten words or less. Blue. Green. Two series. Cheesy Donruss Elite Inserts You’ll Never Find In A Pack. OK, so that’s fourteen words, but that’s about it. Also, there were something like two hundred Rated Rookies, probably to better compete with Bowman and Score.

#68. 1994 Select
When I got my hands on sample preview cards from this set back in early 1994, I couldn’t help but ask what the point of issuing this set might be. The fronts had two photos separated by a thick gold foil band with the player’s surname stamped out, so that the photo behind it showed through. It was just way too busy a design for anything to register. It was almost like having an epileptic fit, even though nothing was moving.

In essence, Score had to release this set: with Select they effectively had a product for every price range—Score for the cheapies and the kids, Select for the middle-of-the-road and Pinnacle for those deep-pocketed, discerning collectors. The only problem was, 1994 Select was garbage, so middle-of-the-road collectors took their money to other brands.

#67. 1992 Donruss
This is one ugly set, in both design and checklist. The only card you’d be happy to get in a pack of 1992 Donruss was the randomly-inserted Ripken autographed chase card, and the chance of finding one of those was so astronomically small that opening pack after pack of this crappy set was like some kind of baseball card purgatory.

And it’s too bad, because this set had certain makings of a great (if not at least good) set. It was the first Donruss set that not only had a headshot on the back, but more than one color back there. It was just the second Donruss set that came in two series, and one of the only flagship sets to be issued in two series, giving rise to the possibility of multiple special subsets (in order to drive sales throughout the season). Instead, 1992 was the first year Donruss pulled the Diamond Kings from the regular set, putting them instead into an insert set.

Without Diamond Kings to infuse a little Dick Perez into the set, the checklist was a perfect example of monotony. This set became top and bottom blue bar hell. Granted, it was the first set without the trademark Donruss Tron-inspired borders, but without any hint of dark colors to separate the photo from the background, Donruss actually hurt their standing in the hobby. They had spent almost ten years building up an image in terms of design (very masculine, with straight lines and sparse use of color) and transitioned away from it without even the faintest whiff of pause or regret, stranding those collectors that appreciated a geek-inspired design to help them through the summer. Too bad Donruss didn’t see it that way.

#66. 1993 Select
I wanted to like this set. Hell, I did like it. It's just that, well, this set was bad. And there were a lot of bad sets in the early Nineties. A needless set that may have been decent, with decent design, but had only come about because hobby had become a virtual free for all in the early Nineties. Most were unnecessary, but some of those sets had historical significance. 1993 Select is one of those sets that I liked, were bad, and had balls enough to make a difference for sets that followed.

It’s important for its design, as it was the first Score/Pinnacle product to feature a slightly off-kilter graphical border; going all the way back to Score’s 1988 debut, all previous front-of-card design had plopped the photo in a traditional rectangle (only the two-toned infield of 1989 Score deviated, and then not even very much, as that element was layered over the photo). 1993 Select was also one of the first sets regardless of manufacturer to bleed the photos all the way to the edge (but only on two sides, and then not all the way on either side). Only the premium brands Fleer Ultra and Topps Stadium Club beat Select to the punch, and for the record, photos bleeding to the edge as a design advancement was very 1993, as Select, SP, Flair, Studio and Leaf all made the jump. By 1994, borderless fronts were par for the course.

It’s also important because it was one of the first sets promoted across two different product lines. In 1992, Donruss inserted a packet of 1992 Leaf preview cards in each of its 1992 Donruss factory sets. On paper, that’s a pretty good move: I know I was underwhelmed by the freezer-burn blue of 1992 Donruss and no way did I find myself wanting to purchase packs, let alone the factory set, but the incentive of Leaf preview cards was intriguing.

With the launch of Select in 1993, Score took this idea a step farther. Score inserted Select Stat Leaders, a mammoth though rather pedestrian set (much like 2007 Topps’ Generation NOW), one per pack of 1993 Score (an incredibly underrated set). Granted, there were a ton of cards in Stat Leaders (90), almost more cards than actual statistical categories, but odds were you’d never get the same card twice, and, if you liked the design and the gloss (oh yeah, Select had a glossy front), you might try a pack of Select.

So then it’s a shame that this set came entered the market as another needless premium set debuting the same year as SP, Finest and Flair, three vastly superior sets against which Select could only compete in vain.

I guess that's why they called it 'Select'--only a select few of us chose to collect it.

1990s Countdown Sets #65 to #62 Coming Soon


Joey said...

I still have a box of 1994 Select unopened. I just can't think of a good reason to open it.

I liked 1993 Select. I didn't buy much of it but I liked it.

Looking forward to the rest of the countdown.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Have to disagree with you on that one. Select was one of the first sets with outstanding photography.