Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday Five Top Sets from 1994

This is the worst year in my collection.  In 1994 I was a junior in high school and I really did not do a ton of collecting that year.  I have thought about it plenty of times over the years and I am not sure exactly why this was such a low interest year for me, but I think a large part of it was the products available to collectors.

I generally plan out my posts on The Snorting Bull and usually have little scraps of paper floating around my desk with ideas for new posts, things to research for upcoming posts, or to do lists of cards that need to be scanned or pulled out of boxes.  I planned most of my Top Sets from the 1990s posts over two weekends a few months back.  The lists might change slightly, but I can generally name my favorite sets from a particular year off the top of my head.  In a few instances I spent time going back through the sets to narrow my lists down to 5 cards or I have also gone back through to refresh memories of a sets features.

The list for 1994 was the last list that I finished in this set of blog posts and it took a lot of thought and a lot time flipping through cards.  Two of these sets were slam dunks, the other three are here for a reason, but if they had been released another year they would have likely missed the list and not even been a consideration for inclusion.

5.  Score Rookie Traded- As a Cardinals fan the mid 1990s were pretty painful.  I used to go with my father to a lot of Sunday afternoon games around this time and they could be pretty hard to watch.  The Cardinals had some talent on the field with players like Brian Jordan, Ray Lankford, and Gregg Jefferies.  However, their rotation featured Rick Sutcliffe, Tom Urbani, and Omar Oliveras.  Not a single starting pitcher had an ERA+ of over 100.  Quiz question:

What was the hot Cardinals prospect featured in the 1994 Score Rookie Traded set?

I should probably define hot.  Since the Cardinals were owned by one of Gussie Busch's cheap sons who was not going to spend any money to resign Gregg Jefferies, it was more a matter of what inexpensive Triple A player was going to be called up to fill the hole in the line up.  The answer was John Mabry.  Mabry is not only in the Score Rookie Traded set, he is a pretty abundant card in the set.  There are all kinds of stories that I have heard over the year's about how/why Mabry's print run in the set is huge, but there are also two short printed cards to balance out the excessive amount of Mabry rookie cards.  One of the short prints is Jose Lima.  The rumor de jour is that the printing plate for Lima's card broke during production and that Pinnacle filled the hole with Mabry cards.  There is also a short printed rookie redemption card that turned out to be ARod.  I owned the ARod card at some point, but also traded it away at some point.  The rest of the set is pretty missable and the red borders are trying hard to be the 1990 Donruss set, but failing miserably.  I dig the Lima and dig the Mabry.   

4.  Signature Rookies- This set was more of a curiosity for me.  It had huge production numbers, but it was the first one per autograph product out on the market.  There are guys in this set like Derek Jeter and Chris Carpenter who had pretty significant impact on the sport.  You can also find autographs of players like Ricky Bottalico and Jason Kendall who had solid careers in the Majors.  A few of the veterans in this set, like Bottalico, have signed little else in the way of the certified autographs.  There are also autographs of Matt Drews, Chad McConnell, and Robbie Beckett.  Not quite household names.  Did I mention the gigantic print runs?  There are a ton of these floating around on Ebay, and every outside of Jeter, is super cheap.  Fun cards to flip through......

3.  1994 Leaf Limited- This was another "super premium" set.  At the time these cards were released I did not touch this set.  At some point about a decade ago I decided these were really cool and went all in on finding these.  These cards were limited to just 60,000 boxes, hence the Limited in the product name, and at the time of their release they cost $5 a pack.  The high school me would probably be slightly irked that these cards on are this list, but are really nice looking.  Thick card stock, foil finish.  A fellow collector once told me these were the Ferrari of super premium cards from the 90s.....

I guess I have never sat down to compare this to some of the other cool high-end products from that era, but it's probably in the conversation.  The important card in the set is an ARod rookie.  Oi.    

2.  Bowman's Best- I liked these cards a lot and this set was easily one of my favorite releases every year during the 1990s.  The 1994 set was the premier of this set.  Yes, it's a premium version of the Bowman set.  I made premium sound a little bit undesirable in that write up about the Leaf Limited set, but I did not hate them all.  This product was actually at the same $5 price point as the Leaf Limited set and featured a nice mix of veteran players and prospects.  Bowman had made that cross over by this point.  My favorite card in the set, it's one of my iconic cards of the 90s, is the Edgar Renteria rookie.  He was a pretty important 1990s/2000s player for the Cardinals and played an important role in several World Series games.  I love the teal Marlins uni on this card.  

1. SP- These were the cheap "premium" cards from 1994.  I actually really liked this product in 1993 and had really warmed up to the Upper Deck products by this point.  In fact, I think I might have polished off the Upper Deck base set in 1994 before I tackled the Topps set.  I think that is the only time that has ever happened in my collection.  The SP set had a nice look to it and cool foil finish, but you were not paying $5 for the use of thick card stock.  It was a favorite at the time that reached some level of iconic status in the hay day of ARod cards.  I still think it's an important set, it just costs a little bit less to put it together now.  


  1. Man. I spent so much money on Signature Rookies back in 1994. It's actually a little depressing. Anyways... on a brighter note... one of my favorite sets of the decade was from that year: 1994 Flair. Loved the thick card stock and the dual image design. Plus the insert sets were cool too.

    1. I have dabbled in their Flair set, but not too much. I like the looks of the cards. I should probably go back and put that set together at some point.

  2. I wanted to point out that the Rodriguez insert is actually from 1994 Leaf Limited Rookies, a follow-up set that year......1994 was a weird transition year with the strike happening. 1994 Fleer was also an incredible set, with the large basic set with a great design and an insert per pack concept introduction. I think I bought more packs of 1994 Donruss and 1994 Score than anything that year, found a retail store that had them for 80c and 60c each.