By gum, Topps moving upscale for '92, giving fans something else to chew on


Don't look now, but 1992's baseball cards are right around the corner, even though the 1991 World Series is but a day old.

Topps celebrated its 40th anniversary with a set that looks stodgy next to its stylish competition. But late in the season, it showed its innovative side with its first premium cards, the Stadium Club line.

For 1992, Topps is dressing up its regular line. Gone is the gum that vexed collectors for 40 seasons (it stains card backs, puts sugar on card fronts and defies reason that it could have been made by the same people who make Bazooka). Gone, too, is the cheap gray card stock. Backs will be white with colored borders and color photos.

Judging by the nine-card promo sheet Topps issued this month, the regular series will be taking a tip from Stadium Club. Card fronts will be full bleed, and the borders won't all be completely superimposed on the photos. The sample card of Bip Roberts shows him sliding headfirst, the card border under his left arm but over the base. The border covers Todd Frohwirth's right leg but is under his glove.

By going with expensive production techniques (full bleed and mortising over the borders), Topps is showing a commitment to upgrade (and update) its regular line.


Upper Deck is sponsoring NHL All-Star balloting this season. Punch-card ballots will be available at NHL arenas. Sample ballots are included with each Upper Deck hockey pack, and fans can vote by calling (900) 370-6NHL (95 cents for the first minute, 55 cents for each additional minute). There is a sweepstakes tie-in, and money from the 900 number goes to USA Hockey and shared NHL and Upper Deck charities.

The Washington Capitals are one of the nine NHL teams with Upper Deck sponsorship. Upper Deck will sponsor a hockey card night (Feb. 7), a youth hockey night and the Capitals alumni association. Other teams with Upper Deck sponsorship are the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues.


Pro Set's French series NHL cards will be available in the United States, as well as in Canada. The set is identical to Pro Set's Series I, except that boxes, wrappers and card backs are in French and the backs have been redesigned. Shipment to dealers is expected this month. . . . Matchbox, which has produced annual miniature delivery vans of pro baseball and football teams, is celebrating the NHL's 75th season with a set of vans. There is a two-van set for each of the "original six" teams (Blackhawks, Red Wings, Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs) -- in home and road jersey colors -- with the anniversary logo on the roof. . . . Donruss has issued its sixth annual baseball rookie set -- 55 player cards, a checklist and card-sized puzzle of Willie Stargell. In design, the cards are '91 Donruss but have a red border instead of the blue of the regular issue. Among the missing are Rookie of the Year candidates Juan Guzman of the Toronto Blue Jays and Phil Plantier of the Boston Red Sox. The only Baltimore Oriole is Chito Martinez.


The fourth set of Crown's Baltimore Orioles cards is available after a delay of nearly a month. The 501-card set, commemorating the team's tenure in Memorial Stadium, should logically have ended with George Zuverink, but team additions Glenn Davis, Jeff Robinson, Ernie Whitt, Dave Gallagher, Paul Kilgus and Dwight Evans are the last cards. . . . Fleer basketball is back, this time with full-color backs that include head and action shots of the players on a simulated wooden basketball floor. The basic set has 240 cards, up from 198 in the 1990-91 set. There are five subsets, including coaches and slam-dunk contestants. Pro-Visions cards will be inserted randomly in 14-card wax packs; "NBA Schoolyard Stars" will be inserted in 42-card rack packs, and "Rookie Sensations" will be inserted in 53-card cello packs.

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