In 1991, Topps celebrated its 40thh anniversary as a baseball-card manufacturer and rolled out its first premium set, Stadium Club.
For three seasons Stadium Club had a distinct look -- the stamped Stadium Club logo, reproductions of rookie cards on card backs, BARS statistical ratings and a baseball-motif background on card backs.
This year, Topps is going for style points. The Stadium Club logo has been redesigned and rendered in red foil. Player names look as though they came from a typewriter (first names in lower-case letters, though) and a plastic label embosser (white ink, all capital letters). Topps says the background of the first names is color coded by division, but most collectors probably won't notice.
They will notice the card backs, which are kinetic if nothing else. The rookie card reproduction is gone. The action photo is bigger, and statistics and copy blocks curve around the player's body. The player's score on the "Topps skills rating system" graph is represented by a baseball. There's a blurb for each player, with a headline that looks as if it had been printed by a child's rubber printing press (" 'E' free" for Jose Lind, who led American League second basemen in fielding percentage and had just four errors).
One of the sample cards might pain Atlanta Braves fans. It shows Ron Gant (now out for three months with a broken leg) bare-chested, flexing a bat behind his neck, looking a lot like Bo Jackson in the 1990 Score set, when he wore shoulder pads and flexed a bat.
The 270-card Series I will be out in March. Look for Series II in May and Series III in August.
Three insert sets highlight Series I. Super Team cards (redeemable for prizes if the pictured team wins a title) make their baseball debut, and the other insert cards are first-day issue cards (cards printed the first day and specially stamped) and four comic-style cards (one features Cal Ripken). Subsets highlight threesomes of three teams and 11 players who have hit 35 home runs. Orioles fans may be interested in John O'Donoghue's major-league debut card (No. 86). Award winners' cards carry a special logo.
More Upper Deck hockey
Upper Deck is bringing SP cards to its NHL Series Two as an insert set this month. Collectors will get one SP card in each 12-card pack. The SP insert set consists of 180 cards. The other two insert sets get the SP treatment. Both are called Silver Skates. One 10-card set is inserted in hobby packs, and the other set is inserted in retail packs. There are also randomly inserted cards redeemable for silver-foil or gold-foil versions of the retail set.
Team USA hockey cards
Fans won't be able to collect these during the Olympics, but Topps' Stadium Club hockey Series II features a 23-card insert set of Team USA members. There will be one in every 12 packs, but Series II won't be available until March 7. Each Stadium Club Finest redemption card may be redeemed for 12 Stadium Club Finest cards. The Master Photo insert series continues, and there are two subsets, featuring U.S.- and Swedish-born players and players who made their NHL debuts this season. The series has 250 cards plus inserts.
Dallas Cowboys fans have another Super Bowl souvenir to collect. Chicagoland Processing/Enviromint has struck medallions to commemorate the 1994 title. There are 25,000 in silver, 500 in 24-karat select and 194 in pure gold. There are also sets of Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII coins and 1993 division, conference and Super Bowl coins. Call (800) 299-MINT.
For fans of signed items, Sweet Spot's latest issue focuses on collecting magazines (for reading or signing) and baseball gloves. There are also articles on the declining value of items signed by yesterday's Super Bowl heroes and a former cover photographer for Sport magazine. The bimonthly newsletter is $18 per year. For information, contact editor and publisher Charles Kaufman, 8140 N. Mopac Expressway, Building 2-120A, Austin, Texas 78759.
Through Oct. 31, "Sheriff and His 'Boys,' " exhibit on Sheriff Fowble, who helped develop major-leaguers Al Kaline, Ron Swoboda and Tim Nordbrook, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., (410) 727-1539.
Feb. 25-27, card show, Columbia Mall, Feb. 25-26, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Feb. 27, noon to 5 p.m.; (410) 329-2188.
March 5, card show, Maryland National Guard Armory, 3727 Putty Hill Ave., Parkville, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 494-9590.
March 26, sports memorabilia auction at Christie's East, 502 Park Ave., New York.
CARD OF THE WEEK
The 1994 Classic Best Minor League Gold set has 200 cards plus two insert sets totaling 24 cards. All cards are foil stamped. One insert set features first-round picks, and the other shows five top minor-leaguers as comic heroes in glow-in-the-dark cards. The set includes players from all levels of the minors.