February 19, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown: #29. 1994 Upper Deck

There are a few things I’ve never been able to figure out: the inner workings of the female brain, the inherent difference between Go-Bots and Transformers and what the point was of the elongated black and white photo in the lower left of the 1994 Upper Deck design. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never understand women, and I’ve decided that even though I couldn’t tell them apart, I liked the Go-Bots almost as much as Transformers. But that little black and white photo? I think we should get to the bottom of this one together.

It’s a funhouse mirror? The misguided beginnings of a Fibonacci sequence? Oh wait, I’ve got it… It’s a waste of precious real estate! It’s as if Upper Deck’s design team, by 1994 in the middle of the pack in terms of overall design (1. Score/Pinnacle; 2. Topps; 3. Upper Deck; 4. Fleer; 5. Puke; 6. Donruss; that’s right, ‘Puke’ boasted a better overall design than Donruss prior to 1994), all ate brown acid in the photo lab and embarked on a bummer of catastrophic proportions, only to commemorate it with a bizarrely skewed Mini-Me photo in the lower left. Don’t worry, they told themselves. Ain’t nobody gonna care ’bout a little old photo.

Well, I care, and not only because I’ve been stumped by its significance for almost 14 years. I care because it ruined a pretty great design, and ruined a possible four-year run—from 1992 through 1995—of great design that rivals anything any of the other sets had put out since 1976. (But, ah, let’s put the little black and white photo to bed. It’s tired. And it’s gotten me all riled up…)

As for the rest of the design, it’s a winner. Full bleed photography on both front and back, silver foil logo and player name on front and copper metallic typography on the back. Not to mention ample statistics and no clutter. What can you say? Upper Deck rides again.

For your consideration: before Topps re-ignited its relationship with old flame Mickey Mantle, Upper Deck had him. And while they were not so bold as to ram him down collectors’ throats in the base set, Upper Deck gave him ample voice in the insert department, including a wet-your-pants-if-you-found-it dual autograph card with Ken Griffey Jr. And one last thing about this set before we move on: 1994 was the first year of base set parallels in packs of any Upper Deck product (in addition to flagship’s ‘Electric Diamond,’1994 also saw the ‘Silver Signature’ set in Collector’s Choice, the ‘125th Anniversary’ set in All-Time Heroes and the die-cuts in SP). It’s hard to believe that Topps had something two full years before their west coast rivals, but there you go.

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