The Time is Now for A Denny’s Baseball Card Comeback

Or maybe I just need a subject to wax poetically on …

In all seriousness, as an almost weekly Denny’s costumer, I have to wonder why the 65 year-old restaurant chain left the world of trading cards in 1997. These days, Denny’s still have marketing campaigns in their restaurants but are aimed strictly at kids my daughter’s age (six). In 1996, I discovered my first Denny’s card at 16 years of age and fell in love with them so much that I became a regular fixture that year until the promotion came to an end.

After being away from the hobby for 2+ years and from collecting going on 4, I can’t say I know what shape the trading card industry is in. I don’t know what’s hot, what’s not. Nor do I know what product was a success and which one failed miserably. That being said, I am a regular at shopping malls, restaurants, toy stores, etc. and I cannot remember seeing ANYTHING baseball card related these past two years. Why not a little promotion with a well known franchise with 1,700 locations world-wide?

What I do know is that in 1991, Denny’s entered into an agreement with Upper Deck to produce a 26-card set which was available in a configuration of a one per pack card with the purchase of a Grand Slam meal. My big complaint from that year is that Upper Deck chose Mark McGwire as it’s representative for the Oakland A’s despite Jose Canseco having better numbers all around. Now I know what Jose meant by racism in baseball, being left out of the Denny’s baseball card set is quite the snub.

In 1991, Upper Deck was still the King of the Hill in the trading card world despite strong showings by Topps with Stadium Club and Leaf absolutely killing the competition with their 1990 debut. However, Denny’s switched over to Pinnacle Brands in 1996. Now, as big of supporter of Pinnacle as I am, I will say in 1996, Upper Deck was THE company if you wanted baseball card holograms. Just compare a 1996 Denny’s hologram with a 1996 Upper Deck SPx card. No competition.

By 1997, Pinnacle gave up the fight and used 3D lenticular photographs, like those late-80s, Sportflics cards that were once everywhere. Once again, Upper Deck’s SPx brand killed the idea of anyone using holograms on baseball cards. Ironically, 1997 was the last year Upper Deck used holographic photos in SPx and sadly, the last year Denny’s used baseball cards to bring in customers. Twenty years have come and gone and many collectors have forgotten all about these unique cards.

Now, I am looking directly at Panini America, who has permission to produce non-licensed, baseball cards and has the rights to use the Pinnacle Brands license. Why in the world can’t they do a small, 20-card set with their refractor technology or hell, even use Dufex, which I don’t think has aged too well. A small set, with an even smaller number of parallels and today’s stars. It could easily bring back old fans of the game and more importantly, former collectors who left the hobby and never returned.

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One comment

  1. I’m not 100% positive, but I think the checklists were determined by who led the team in grand slams the previous season. Anyways… I checked Baseball Reference and both Canseco and McGwire each had one grand slam in 1990. Felix Jose and Terry Steinbach also hit grand slams that season too. Maybe the tie-breaker was career grand slams. Up ’til that point, McGwire had 4 and Canseco only had 1.

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