Friday, July 26, 2013

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 59: 1994 Upper Deck #224 Ken Griffey Jr.

Now that the whole tournament business is over, I figure now would be a good time to make a few minor tweaks to this long-running theme.

Before, I used to wait for "The Gems of Junk Wax" to come up in the rotation of my other themes. It'd usually appear after "Dime Box Heroes" and just prior to "Covering the Bases".

Now, though, it's going to be more of a free-for-all, in where I'll post about each individual one whenever I get the inkling. I'm planning on writing these "Gems of Junk Wax" posts on at least a once-a-week basis.

Because there's so many individual gems to cover, posting about them would take forever with my previous rotation-based setup. Plus, this'll speed up the time it takes to arrive at our next GOJW tournament field of 64.

I can't wait.

Way before these became a "thing" on this blog, "The Gems of Junk Wax" was merely a little trial series of posts. Even back then, though, I had to ask myself one of the more common questions I've heard about this hobby.

What time frame does the overproduction era cover?

I've read through quite a few different answers. Some say it started in 1988 and ended in '93. Others go back to the early '80s in tracking its origin. The most common answer I've heard is probably 1987 to '93.

For this theme, however, I've defined the overproduction era as any card released between 1987 and 1994.

There's a few reasons for that.

For one thing, I tend to equate the end of the overproduction era with the tragic baseball strike, which happened in '94. Both the game and the cardboard hit their "bust" stages around the same time, at least in my eyes.

Perhaps the more important reason has to do with the cards themselves.

Although foil had been sparingly used on cardboard in previous years, I think it ultimately broke into the mainstream of the hobby in 1994. That's the year Upper Deck incorporated it into their design.

From there, card companies never looked back. From '94 up until their 2010 demise, every Upper Deck base set used foil in some way, shape, or form. Topps began a similar streak the very next year in 1995, one that's still currently going.

Because of that, 1994 Upper Deck was truly an innovative set for its time, despite the fact that it doesn't seem to get a whole lot of recognition.

Most collectors seem to treat it as merely a "meh" release, but I happen to like it. True, the foil makes the nameplates scan like crap, but UD picked up right where they left off in '93 with their truly awesome photography.

Ken Griffey Jr.'s hero-like shot is one of my personal favorites from the checklist. And, since I shockingly haven't yet inducted a card of "The Kid" into this theme, I thought now would be a good a time as ever.

Griffey rightfully received a ton of fine cardboard throughout his Cooperstown-bound career. This is definitely one of his best.

Now, whether the whole foil thing proved to be better or worse for the hobby is your own opinion.

Either way, it marked a major turning point in the history of baseball cards.


hiflew said...

I go with 1986-1993 as the overproduction era. I base that simply on the prices of unopened Topps wax boxes. You can get 1 from each of those years for $20 or less each. Cheap, unopened cards from that long ago equals overproduction.

petethan said...

I always liked these '94 UD cards. It's a rare case where I think Topps really dropped the ball with their inferior knockoff in 1996.

Incidentally, '96 has always been the year I thought of as the end of the junk wax/overproduction era. That's probably just because of my personal collecting history. But it also seemed to take a couple years for the strike to really hurt (or maybe help) the baseball card business. Plus, that severely truncated Topps set in '97 seems more like the beginning of a new era.