February 21, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown: #27. 1993 Upper Deck

I’ve always liked this set. Actually… how I feel towards this set goes a little deeper than just liking it. I like like this set (if you know what I mean). Is that embarrassing? Perhaps. But let’s just say that were I invited to Upper Deck’s house for a party in the basement and we just happened to play spin the bottle, and when I spun it just by chance pointed in 1993’s direction, well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be against spending five minutes in the laundry room with the set. Alone.

Why? C’mon, do you even have to go there? Okay. Fine, I’ll tell you—but you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone. And don’t expect me to make eye contact with you while I tell you this.

It’s because I’ve never felt ashamed of the fact that I bought the factory set and paid full retail price (at least $40 at the time). It’s because it was probably the best-designed Upper Deck set from their first five years (1989 to 1994). And yes, that includes both 1993 and 1994 SP.

It’s because 1993 saw Upper Deck fall in love with gold metallic ink, resulting in the super-attractive Top Prospects design, as well as the script player name (first use of script since 1990 Donruss) on the base card front. That script on the front was classy, especially when combined with the thick white borders, the warm, vibrant photography and the sheen of the UV gloss. And because it was classy, I was classy for appreciating it, elevating me from pimply, 14-year-old introvert to discerning Man Of The World.

But beyond design, I love the little things: the Peter Gammons ‘Inside the Numbers’ subset, the obvious Score/Pinnacle rip-off inserts like ‘Then & Now’ and the Iooss Collection, not to mention the unparalleled ‘Teammates’ subset, like this one of the Texas Rangers’ ‘Latin Stars.’ (Quite a group, eh? Also, Juan Gonzalez’s hand on Palmeiro’s shoulder kind of creeps me out.) Topps has tried to bring back this kind of subset with their ‘Classic Combos’ incarnation, but no subset since 1993 has outdone ‘Teammates.’ It’s definitely one of Upper Deck’s greatest contributions to the hobby.

Finally, I love this set because it’s Upper Deck like we’ve never seen it before: quietly putting out a great, no-real-frills set, the bombast of previous years replaced by a quality checklist and a great design.

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