Chasing Mike Cramer

Mike Cramer, unlike other card company head honchos, was a collector like you and I. In Pacific Trading Card’s office you could find, proudly displayed, his very first baseball card; a beat-up, 1960 Fleer Babe Ruth. He had been producing trading card sets since 1975 and by 1982 he would apply for a license to produce MLB cards on the same year Donruss and Fleer were granted licenses. Unfortunately, MLB rejected Mike Cramer. He tried again in 1992 with the catch being that he would produce a Spanish set to market to market to Spanish-speaking countries. Finally, Mike got his foot in the door and began producing MLB Pacific sets in 1993. By 1998, Pacific was doing so well that MLB granted Cramer permission to produce English-only sets alongside card heavyweights such as Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, and Donruss.

How Pacific Trading Cards went out of business still remains a mystery to me but it appears that due to controversy surrounding an infamous Manny Ramirez cork relic, Major League Baseball revoked Pacific’s license, similar to what happened with Upper Deck and the asterisk card. The NFL soon followed, which left Cramer with only a hockey license and that sport and its collectors was just not enough to keep them afloat and Pacific sank (pun intended). I managed to speak to a collector who claims he was at the auction where all of Mike’s card printers were sold off for pennies on the dollar. Those printers, much like the rare and irreplaceable printers which were used for Donruss’ legendary Crusade cards, are likely out of commission by now.

While I will be the first to admit that Pacific Trading Cards weren’t my cup of tea, it’s clear that Mike was producing all these brands with passion and love for The Hobby which seems like no one in today’s card industry shares. I remember speaking to a very important person at Topps in 2008 who didn’t know about his company’s own, lesser-known brands such as 1996 Topps Laser. Maybe card companies need less, fresh-faced college graduates and more grizzled, old collectors like, say, Chris Harris, in charge of their baseball brand. Someone who is truly passionate about trading cards and not just there to collect a paycheck. This hobby needs another Mike Cramer and less Jerry Meyers and the Grass family executives.

The weird thing is unlike Jerry Meyers, who was relatively easy to track down (as is the remaining Fleer heir), Mike Cramer has completely fallen off the face of the Earth much like another hobby legend, Rob Broder. Not an interview on Beckett’s news site or a podcast appearance or even a message on a popular card forum. The man is completely M.I.A. Well, at least he was until this weekend when I believe I was able to track down the man behind Pacific Trading Cards, the infamous Nolan Ryan “Blood” card, and the legendary, still insanely-priced inserts, Cramer’s Choice. Why has one of the most famous collectors and the man who wore the Pacific crown, vanished?

I guess it’s up to me now to see if the man I found in my investigation is none other than Pacific’s Mike Cramer. Mike was a huge fan of the internet card collecting community and if anyone is willing to sit down for an interview, it would definitely be Mike. I have so many questions for the man who as an outsider broke into the world of Baseball Cards completely on his own with nothing more than hustle and determination. The man who became a photographer just so he could save money and use his own photos in his NFL cards. The man, who for some reason … unleashed the cork card on collectors who will literally bitch about anything. As it turns out, it may have been his downfall in the long run but I guess the only way to know is to … FIND MIKE CRAMER.

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5 comments

  1. I was a big fan of Pacific. It seemed to me they were the most innovative of the card companies at the time. More importantly, you could tell their products were BY hobbyists and FOR hobbyists. One thing that set them apart was their willingness to include lesser known players (the back-up catcher, the forgotten guy in the bullpen, the utility infielder, or an unsung middle lineman in football). Those of us who collect to have cards of the players on our teams really appreciated that. For example, but for Pacific, there’d be no cards of Roberto Pentagine with the Mets and, because of Pacific, there are two. I wish brands like Pacific and Topps Total were still around today.

  2. I really liked the Revolution Net-Fusions and Foul Pole inserts… as well as the Cramer’s Choice box toppers. But as a whole, most of their products were way too gaudy. They used way too much gold foil on their cards. But… I just found that Cramer card on eBay for a few bucks. Debating on whether or not to click the BIN button.

  3. I never really like Pacific when they were making cards but recently, in trying to fill out my Brewers collection, I’ve learned they did indeed print guys who no one else did. Jack Voight, Tim Von Egmund, Julio Franco Mike Myers… all have Brewers cardboard thanks to Pacific.

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