February 22, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown: #22. 1992 Studio

Hi there. I’m Gary Sheffield. I was just pomading my phat-ass Kid’N’Play hi-top fade. If you're wondering how I keep it so perfectly coiffed... well, let’s just say a couple drops of flaxseed oil under the tongue helps.

This is one of the most underrated sets of the early decade in terms of design and on-card content (as opposed to checklist, which was mostly a dud). 1992 saw Studio incorporate a warmly lit color headshot (less Herb Ritts and more… stock photography? The creativity of the headshot photography in this set was a little suspect) set against a larger black and white action photo. Its border design bears a strong resemblance to the same year’s Gold Edition from Leaf, though in its inverse (large gold border highlighted by a thin black frame). The thin gloss coat makes the colors pop on the front and shows off a classy ‘Studio’ watermark on the back.

Like the other Studio sets, what really gave this set oomph was the biographical data it gave on the back. While not as punchy as, say, 1992-93 Skybox basketball, the Studio sets provided more than enough unintentionally hilarious information. For a lesson in the power of juxtaposition, look no further than Paul Molitor: Intense Individual:

Hobbies are golf and racquetball… Favorite singer is Bruce Springsteen; actor is Robert De Niro; movie is Silence of the Lambs; book is the Bible.

…can you imagine being roommates with him on the road? Yikes.

All right, so this set is ranked probably a little too high. But tell me, why am I a sucker for Senior Superlative sets? Were the other brands really that boring by comparison? It’s fascinating that a brand like Studio could survive more than one or two years, and yet it effortlessly transcended its novelty status in 1991 to a real set, with real cards—produced every year—that carried weight in the Hobby almost until the end of the decade (the last Studio set was released in 1998). The brand even gave the Hobby one of its most memorable insert sets of the early decade in Heritage (debuting in this 1992 edition).

I should amend my thoughts at the beginning of this review. This set isn’t underrated: it has a weak base checklist and the design—while quality—is about on par with other sets one step up from the manufacturers’ respective flagships. What this set is is surprising. Surprising in that it’s surprising that it was made, surprising that the hobby, while reveling in its own bloated-ness, could float a set like this for more than just a year, and surprising that as a brand Studio flourished for eight years, mostly on the combined strengths of the emotional angle of the cards and the one, excellent insert set.

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