Wednesday, January 30, 2013

30 Year Top 50- 1989 Upper Deck

#1- The most important set of the past fifty years is the 1989 Upper Deck set.  At the time of the set's release there were three companies producing baseball cards, the biggest of which was Topps.  Most of the card manufacturers used thin cheap card stock, little or no gloss on the cards, and serious lacked quality control.   Upper Deck's entry into the baseball card marketplace greatly changed the appearance and quality of baseball cards for the better.

1988 Upper Deck Promo Wally Joyner

The work on the Upper Deck set began before 1989 and in a strange twist, the company actually issued their promotional cards for the set in 1988.  The two card promotional set featured two Angels players, Wally Joyner and Dwayne Buice.  The Joyner card is not very difficult to find and can usually be had for around $20.  The Buice is rare and will cost several hundred to add to your collection.  I picked up this Joyner promo card a few years ago for a great price and really have enjoyed having it in my collection.  

1989 Topps Bo Jackson

The innovations on the Upper Deck card were numerous, but the most important features that distinguished these cards from brands like Topps were the glossy finish on all cards, the full color pictures on both sides of the card, and the use of holograms to prevent fraud.  The cards were instantly a huge hit amongst collectors which brings me to the lone flaw of the 1989 Upper Deck set.  Originally, the Upper Deck company had set a cap for the production run of cards around 1,000,000 per card.  That number disappeared once the cards started selling quickly.  

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

The first card in the 1989 Upper Deck set is one of the most important baseball cards ever.  If you look at a checklist on a set of Topps baseball cards you will notice that they tend to load the front half of sets with star players.  Upper Deck decided to take the opposite approach and use the first part of their sets on rookies.  The trend of making the first thirty to fifty cards "Star Rookies" ran all the through the company's last baseball card set which was released in 2010 without a license from Major League Baseball.  Upper Deck gave the first spot in their first set to Seattle Mariners prospect Ken Griffey Jr.  At the time of the cards release, Griffey Jr. was playing for the San Bernadino Spirits and had yet to actually play in a Major League game.  Upper Deck ended up actually taking a picture of Griffey in his minor league uniform and then doctored the photo slightly to make it have the appearance of a Mariners jersey.  The "S" on the hat is slighty off from the 1989 Mariners cap.  

1989 Upper Deck Craig Biggio

While the Ken Griffey Jr. card is regarded as the iconic card of the 1989 Upper Deck, there are at least five other Hall of Famers in the set.  I guess I should say, in my opinion, but in this case I think they are all on solid ground.  Biggio is my favorite non-Griffey rookie card since he is wearing the cool rainbow Astros jersey.  Biggio is also the only important rookie card which is not in the Star Rookies subset at the beginning of the set.  Instead, Biggio is in with the regular Astros cards.  The other three Hall of Famers are pictured below.  

1989 Upper Deck John Smoltz

1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield 

1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield

Card collecting changed dramatically after the release of the 1989 Upper Deck set.  While Upper Deck set the bar higher for Topps, Fleer, and Donruss, they continued to push the envelope during their twenty-one years in the baseball card business.  At the time of the sets release the Upper Deck cards were considered premium cards.  Soon after the other three card companies would follow suit with their own premier card brands.  Basically, the 1989 Upper Deck set helped all baseball card collectors.  The set put a strong emphasis on innovation and quality which is still pushing card companies to this day to constantly improve their cards and strive for them to be a quality product.  


1 comment:

  1. Not that it changes your point, but Score was in the card business at the time too, beating UD by a year and making them the fourth major card manufacturer. And while Score is all kinds of junk-wax, I would say that they were actually a step up from Topps in some ways also. They had color pictures on the back before Upper Deck.