The Year in Baseball Cards: 1991

The Year in Baseball Cards: 1991

YIC 1991 INTRO Image

200 BIG3 ImageThe year was 1991, the show "Coach" was in it's 3rd season, Jack Palance won the best supporting actor Oscar for his role as "Curly" in City Slickers, one of the greatest videogame systems of all-time released (SNES), Jack Morris pitched the Twins into baseball immortality with a 10-inning masterpiece in game 7 of the 1991 World Series and the trading card world was in the midst of the era of overprinting. Below is a look back at the brands, products and cards that defined the year 1991.

In the year 1991, the baseball card world would see the birth of a brand that brought the trading card world into a whole new era of card design, that set being 1991 Stadium Club, which featured a glossy finish and top notch photography. Even though the insanely high print run led to little value 20 years later, 1991 Stadium Club remains one of the hallmark sets of the modern era.

"Big Hurt" and Chuck Knoblauch's Stadium Club cards were the cornerstone cards of my collection in 1991. Unfortunately, we all know how the Knoblauch story ends. As for Frank Thomas, he'll always hold a special place in my collection. Very few players in MLB history were as intimidating at the plate as the two time MVP. He's also one of the only players from the era I don't think did steroids, he's just a beast of man.

1991 twfo453 Image1991 was also a time when anyone with a printing press could print their way onto the baseball card scene, as off brands like Ball Street, Classic, Front Row and Line Drive created a confusing boom of baseball cards that make as little sense today as they did back then.

The food industry was also well represented, with Jimmy Dean, Denny's, Kellogg's, Pepsi, Homers Cookies, Post and Country Hearth getting in on the action. In fact, one could receive a free hologram card with the purchase of a "Grand Slam" meal at Denny's.

1991 marked the last time Bowman baseball would be one of the worst products in the industry. The following year 1992 Bowman Baseball would breath new life into the tired vintage name - in the process creating a timeline tangent that later led to the modern prospect card and arguably the hobby's greatest chase card, the Bowman Chrome prospect auto.

For around $8-$10 any desperate collector could rip an entire box of 1991 O-Pee-Chee, which outside of a box of 1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Football would be the only box I could afford as a 90's youth. For some reason Kal Daniels and Pedro Guerrero are eternally etched into my memory from the unfortunate OPC experience. There's nothing like ripping a box you are 110% positive has nothing of value in it. 

The Conlon Collection...never heard of it? Neither had I until I wrote this article, yet once I saw the cards I immediately recalled them as being the ones everyone thought were extremely valuable in Elementary school because they featured nothing but old time legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. As it turns out, The Sporting News created the Conlon Collection. I still have no idea who or what Conlon is, nor do I care to find out. Some mysteries are better left in history.

CHIPPER MJ ImageIn 1991, Upper Deck continued to lay the foundation for modern set structure by delivering a massive mix rookies, prospects, veterans, stars, inserts and even a few autographs in 1991 Upper Deck Baseball. Another card of note is Michael Jordan's first baseball card, a card that would serve as a omen for things to come.

Arguably the most chased checklist to this day remains the 1991 Topps Desert Shield set, which were  1991 Topps cards with a "Desert Shield" logo stamped on them. These cards weren't packed pulled, they were actually distributed to American soldiers stationed in the middle east during the Persian Gulf War.

To this day, Chipper Jones' most coveted card is arguably his 1991 Topps Desert Shield RC. Now onto to the real show, below is a list of and pictures of the most memorable brands and products from the 1991 baseball card season.

PRODUCTS BRANDS 1991 Image

1991 Arena Hologram
1991 ARENA HOLOGRAM Image

1991 Ballstreet
1991 BALLSTREET Image

1991 Barry Cola
1991 BARRYCOLA Image

1991 BBM Factory Set (Japanese)
1991 BBM JAPANESE BASEBALLL Image

1991 Bleachers 23 KT
1991 BLEACHERS 23KT Image

1991 Bowman
1991 BOWMANBASEBALL Image

1991 Cadaco Ellis Discs
1991 CADACO ELLIS Image

1991 Card Guard KGJ Promos
vt54t34t4 Image

1991 Classic
1991 CLASSIC BASEBALL Image

1991 Classic Best Minor Leagues
1991 CLASSICS BEST Image

1991 Classic Draft (Box and Promo Set)
1991 CLASSIC DRAFT Image

1991 Country Hearth Bread (Mariners)
1991 COUNTRYHEARTH Image

1991 Denny's Grand Slam Holograms
1991 DENNYS GRAND SLAM HOLOGRAMS Image

1991 Donruss and 1991 Donruss The Rookies Box Set
1991 DONRUSS BASEBALL Image

1991 Front Row
1991FRONTROW Image

1991 Fleer
1991 FLEER BASEBALL Image

1991 Fleer Ultra and 1991 Fleer Ultra Update
1991 FLEER ULTRA Image

1991 Foot Locker Slam Fest Set
1991 FOOT LOCKER SLAM FEST Image

1991 Homers Cookies
1991 HOMERS COOKIES Image

1991 Jimmy Dean
1991 JIMMY DEAN Image

1991 Kellogg's 3-D
1991 KELLOGGS 3D Image

1991 Kenner Starting Lineup (cards from actual Starting Lineup)
1991 KENNER STARTING LINEUP Image

1991 Line Drive AA & AAA
1991 LINEDRIVE AA AAA Image

1991 Line Drive Collect a Books
1991 LINE DRIVE COLLECTaBOOK Image

1991 Leaf
1991 LEAF Image

1991 Leaf Studio
1991 LEAF STUDIO Image

1991 Leaf Baseball Awesome All-Stars Stickers (box art reminds me of the 1993 Phillies)
1991 BASEBALL AWESOME ALL STARS Image

1991 Legends Magazine National Sports Collectors Convention
1991 LEGENDS Image

1991 Mother's Cookies
1991 MOTHERS COOKIES1 Image

1991 MVP Pins
1991 MVP PINS Image

1991 Pacific Nolan Ryan
1991 PACIFIC NOLAN Image

1991 Panini Stickers
1991 PANINI STICKERS Image

1991 Pepsi
1991 PEPSI Image

1991 Petro Canada 3-D Pop Up
1991 PETRO CAN Image

1991 Play Ball USA
1991 PLAYBALL USA Image

1991 Post Cereal and 1991 Post Cereal Canadian
1991 POST CEREAL Image

1991 ProCards
1991 PROCARDS Image

1991 Prostars Cereal
1991 PRO STARS CEREAL Image

1991 Silver Star Holograms
1991 SILVERSTAR HOLO Image

1991 Sporting News Conlon Collection
1991 SPORTINGNEWS CONLON Image

1991 Star
1991 STAR Image

1991 Score and 1991 Score Rookie & Traded
1991 Score BASEBALL Image

1991 Score 100 Superstars Box Set
1991 Score 100 SUPERSTARS SET Image

1991 Score Rookies Box Set
1991 SCORE ROOKIES Image

1991 Score Fanfest National Convention Set
1991 SCORE FANFEST NATIONAL Image

1991 St. Vincent Stamps
1991 STVINCENTS STAMPS Image

1991 Swell Baseball Greats
1991 SWELL BASEBALL GREATS Image

1991 Topps and 1991 Topps Traded
1991 TOPPS BASEBALL Image

1991 Topps Archives
1991 TOPPS ARCHIVES Image

1991 Topps Desert Shield (actually handed out to troops during the Gulf War)
1991 TOPPS DESERT SHIELD Image

1991 Topps Micro
1991 TOPPS MICRO SET Image

1991 Topps Stadium Club
1991 TOPPS STADIUM CLUB Image

1991 Topps Superstars Stand-Ups
1991 TOPPS SUPERSTARS STAND UPS Image

1991 Topps Toys R' Us
1991 TOPPS TOYS R US Image

1991 Topps Woolworth
1991 TOPPS WOOLWORTH Image

1991 Tuff Stuff
1991 TUFF STUFF Image

1991 Upper Deck and 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition
1991 UD BASEBALL Image

1991 Upper Deck Comic Ball 2
1991 UPPER DECK COMIC BALL Image

1991 O-Pee-Chee (ish, the only box I ripped as a youngster):
1991 OPC BASEBALL Image

TOUGHPULLS HITS Image

GOODBADUGLY 1991 Image

My top 5 favorite brands from 1991:

  1. 1991 Stadium Club Image
  2. 1991 Upper Deck Image
  3. 1991 Score Image
  4. 1991 Leaf Studio Image
  5. 1991 Fleer Image

My top 5 favorite off-brand products from 1991:

  1. 1991 Line Drive Collect a Books Image
  2. 1991 Petro Canada 3-D Pop Up Image
  3. 1991 Denny's Grand Slam Holograms Image
  4. 1991 Kellogg's 3-D Image
  5. 1991 Silver Star Holograms Image

My 5 least favorite products from 1991:

  • 1991 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1991 Bowman
  • 1991 Classic Four Sport
  • 1991 Conlon Collection
  • 1991 Donruss (Even back then I knew they were worthless, the highest booking card in the set was .50 cents back then!)

Card I wanted most in 1991: Stadium Club Frank Thomas

FINALTHOUGHTS 1991 Image

Like every other year during the overprinting era (late 80's to late 90's), 1991 will likely be remembered for it's lack of long term value. This is especially the case for those who of us who grew up collecting during this time period and were unaware of what was going on (overprinting, printing after the fact).

Yet, 1991 wasn't all bad, as products like Stadium Club and Upper Deck set new standards in card design and set structure, ultimately paving the way for many of today's products. Let's just hope that card companies now understand the responsibilities that come with printing money on rectangular pieces of cardboard.  

Five things from 1991 I would like to see 2011...

  • Hologram cards - I don't think I need to explain the coolness of a hologram card to anyone reading a baseball card article.
  • 3-D Cards- I know Topps and Upper Deck has done a few in recent years, but none were very collectible. It would cool if card companies invented a new 3-D card technology.
  • Book cards - I love modern book cards, but it would be cool to see mini book cards with stats and player stories like 1991 Collect-a-Book cards.
  • Stadium Club - I still can't believe Topps  killed it off! The set photography was second to none and to me, 1991 Stadium Club, 1989 Upper Deck and 1990 Leaf were the three sets that ushered in the card era we know today.
  • Promotional cards - It would be awesome to go to Denny's and get a free Grand Slam hologram card with a meal or open a box of Kellogg's cereal and find a 3-D card in it.
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1713982930194040 1 Image
Chipper Jones 1991 Topps No 40th Logo ERROR For Master Set Desert Shield Var?
$69.99
1311572399114040 1 Image
BGS 9.5 *10* AUTO CHIPPER JONES 1991 TOPPS DESERT SHIELD RC POP 1 AMAZING CARD
$13,499.99
2215013430394040 1 Image
1991 Topps Desert Shield #333 Chipper Jones RC BGS 7 Near Mint
$224.99
1311829902874040 1 Image
CHIPPER JONES 1991 TOPPS RC DESERT SHIELD #333 50 50 CENTERING PSA 7 BEAUTIFUL
$359.99
3312726155564040 1 Image
Chipper Jones 1991 O-Pee-Chee Rookie 333 RARER THAN DESERT SHIELD PSA 9 BGS 9.5?
$11.49
2312929677284040 1 Image
Chipper Jones 1991 O-Pee-Chee Rookie 333 RARER THAN DESERT SHIELD PSA 9 BGS 9.5?
$5.50
2312929690934040 1 Image
Chipper Jones 1991 O-Pee-Chee Rookie 333 RARER THAN DESERT SHIELD PSA 9 BGS 9.5?
$6.50
3312726201744040 1 Image
Chipper Jones 1991 O-Pee-Chee Rookie 333 RARER THAN DESERT SHIELD PSA 9 BGS 9.5?
$13.49



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Brett is a former contributor to The Cardboard Connection.

User Comments

  1. As always, great article and pics. My only problem is that you failed to mention the September 1991 release of Nirvana’s Nevermind, which led to the explosions of grunge music and flannel shirts. As a college freshman in the fall of 1991, that was a huge event in my life. I still remember where I was and what I was doing the first time the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit came on the television. Ahhh…good times.

  2. @Gary Marutiak: Ha, sorry, one of the first two CD’s I ever bought was actually Nirvana Unplugged in 1993 (other CD was Appetite For Destruction). I did however own Nevermind on cassette and still have it. If anyone wants to trade me 3-5 base Bowman Chrome Miguel Sanos for it let me know.

  3. I agree 100% hologram cards need to back a comeback, in small numbers.

  4. So I’m curious… do the Ball Street cards have any value today? I have a ton of cards and found a bunch of Ball Street in my stash.

    Any direction in finding info about them or if you have any info would be cool.

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