Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mail Call: You Ain't Got No Alibi.

       I acquired a few odd things on Listia and eBay this week and I was stumped as to what tied them all together.  Then I laid them out and I realized there was one very obvious trait that spanned across all of these seemingly unrelated sets and designs: they are U-G-L-Y ugly.

First off is the 2012 Panini Cooperstown:
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This design is trying way too hard to be old-timey and instead looks like the framework for one of those sepia toned gangster novelty photos you'd buy at the mall or at an amusement park.  And the design is the least of the worries for this set.  Without a MLB license, Panini can't show logos.  And in not showing logos, instead of airbrushing, they decided to crop the photos in as awkward a way as possible, oddly cutting off the top halves of heads. 

2013 Panini Cooperstown is a step up from last year, but really. it had nowhere to go but up and it is a very small step.
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The design and colors are somewhat better this time around. Plus they seemed to try to use better photographs and where that didn't happen, they used the hall of fame logo on top of the photo frame to do the dirty work of copyright protection.  Still, pretty terrible rather than ungodly awful. 

In 2010 I was not living near a baseball card shop, so I was never able to pick up the HTA giveaway set from that year.  I found one cheap during a search of eBay for other things and impulsively decided to grab one. Now, I had seen these cards before but never in person...
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...and believe me, scans do not do justice to how ugly these cards are.  They are flat in both color and texture.  The jeweled border is too busy and the font they use over it gets lost in the busyness so you can barely read the player name.  The idea of having the MLB logo match the team colors seemed like a good idea, but the logo takes up far too much real estate and just sits there like a lump overwhelming everything else.  Due to the appalling design elements, the photo of the player only gets about 40% of the area of the card and then it gets super imposed on a background of more team colors shooting up like a demented sun ray (or perhaps those humungous MLB logos are radioactive).  If this was made in a first year GD class, it would get an 'F' and a 'come see me' on the cover page. 

Vintage players don't fair much better...
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...the only slight improvement is the older style photos pop much better against all that modern color rather than getting hopelessly lost.  These would get a 'D-' instead of an 'F' from Professor Max.

Also on Listia, I bought a lot of 2013 Topps Strata football cards, a brand I had seen at Target but decided was too expensive.  Even for free, I might have gotten ripped off on these.  Take a look:
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This is a design straight out of early millennium Upper Deck.  Circles and color everywhere and worse, words in the circles, all against a super-modernist metallic grey robotic background.  And as if that was not enough, Topps decided to add a team logo jutting out of the bottom element, thus giving a nice odd cover to 75% of the crotches of the players.  It's not the worst crotch logo of all time, but certainly it is a topper to an ugly ugly design.  I am getting vertigo just looking at it.

The pièce de résistance to all this hideousness is a set I never knew existed at all.  Feast your eyes on the 1991 Foot Locker Slam Fest card; they are a new low in oddball awful.  I got these off Listia and the auction showed the checklist and the promo sheet, but not the cards themselves.  I saw the players involved and decided I should own this set, wondering why this set wasn't more popular and why I had never heard of it.  Then it got to my mailbox and everything became abundantly clear:
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In and of itself, the design is not atypical for unlicensed oddball giveaway cards: very large promotional logo, simple lines, red white and blue color scheme...not all that bad, really.  But, and whoa is it a big Coco but, the photos in this set are too horrible for words. 

As an unlicensed set, you know there can be no logos, and since they are advertising their store and their TV special, Foot Locker decided to get photos of everyone in the uniform from that special.  Now, special is not a word I would use for those uniforms, the word I would use is amateur...on a ghastly level.  Not to mention most of the pictures look like they were taken with a disc camera and then the photos themselves developed by a technician's assistant at K-Mart. 
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I also love that it says Limited Edition on them too.  I wonder how many of these they made?  250,000?  500,000?  One million?  *pinky to lip* 

I am just gonna show the whole set of these because they have to be seen to be believed.  I had to scan them with the lid closed because they are so curled, the stock they used so cheap.  I wonder if they would look any better against a dark background?  I wonder if they would look better on fire?
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If you haven't been paying attention, some of the names in this set are Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Wilt Chamberlain, Calvin Murphy, John Havlicek, Tim Brown, Carl Lewis, Eric Dickerson, Earl Monroe, Deion Sanders - you can see why I took a chance with this one.  I might just keep it in tact in the set portions of my binders as a warning to the others.  This thing makes some of the Fleer boxed sets from the 1980's look like the 1957 Topps set in comparison.

Lastly, you can see from the backs that they issued these cards in series.  Yup, you had to go into to Foot Locker more than once to get your hands on these babies. 
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There were even coupons inserted into the mix but alas, they expired in August of 1991.  Even back then though I knew Domino's Pizza sucked so it is just as well.


Hackenbush said...

Those Foot Locker cards are so bad they're good. Maybe not.

night owl said...

I'm very pleased to see you describe the Panini Cooperstown sets as ugly. They are indeed. I think people get so enamored with the fact that there are old-time players on the cards that they ignore the fact that the design is swallowing their heads.

There were better designs for old-timer sets on oddball cards from the '80s.

(P.S.: I wrote a post on how disappointed I was in those HTA cards when I finally got one in hand).