The Year in Baseball Cards: 1991

The Year in Baseball Cards: 1991

The 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 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.

In 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.

1991 Arena Hologram

1991 Ballstreet

1991 Barry Cola

1991 BBM Factory Set (Japanese)

1991 Bleachers 23 KT

1991 Bowman

1991 Cadaco Ellis Discs

1991 Card Guard KGJ Promos

1991 Classic

1991 Classic Best Minor Leagues

1991 Classic Draft (Box and Promo Set)

1991 Country Hearth Bread (Mariners)

1991 Denny's Grand Slam Holograms

1991 Donruss and 1991 Donruss The Rookies Box Set

1991 Front Row

1991 Fleer

1991 Fleer Ultra and 1991 Fleer Ultra Update

1991 Foot Locker Slam Fest Set

1991 Homers Cookies

1991 Jimmy Dean

1991 Kellogg's 3-D

1991 Kenner Starting Lineup (cards from actual Starting Lineup)

1991 Line Drive AA & AAA

1991 Line Drive Collect a Books

1991 Leaf

1991 Leaf Studio

1991 Leaf Baseball Awesome All-Stars Stickers (box art reminds me of the 1993 Phillies)

1991 Legends Magazine National Sports Collectors Convention

1991 Mother's Cookies

1991 MVP Pins

1991 Pacific Nolan Ryan

1991 Panini Stickers

1991 Pepsi

1991 Petro Canada 3-D Pop Up

1991 Play Ball USA

1991 Post Cereal and 1991 Post Cereal Canadian

1991 ProCards

1991 Prostars Cereal

1991 Silver Star Holograms

1991 Sporting News Conlon Collection

1991 Star

1991 Score and 1991 Score Rookie & Traded

1991 Score 100 Superstars Box Set

1991 Score Rookies Box Set

1991 Score Fanfest National Convention Set

1991 St. Vincent Stamps

1991 Swell Baseball Greats

1991 Topps and 1991 Topps Traded

1991 Topps Archives

1991 Topps Desert Shield (actually handed out to troops during the Gulf War)

1991 Topps Micro

1991 Topps Stadium Club

1991 Topps Superstars Stand-Ups

1991 Topps Toys R' Us

1991 Topps Woolworth

1991 Tuff Stuff

1991 Upper Deck and 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

1991 Upper Deck Comic Ball 2

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

My top 5 favorite brands from 1991:

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

My top 5 favorite off-brand products from 1991:

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

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

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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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.

  5. I was given a binder of baseball cards from my grandfather and I am not sure if they are of any value other than sentimental.
    They are 1991 and 1992 the sporting news conlon collection. 100’s, 200’s, 300’s all the way to 600’s.


    here is who conlon is.

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