I’ve never been much for reading. As a child, I had comic books but never came close to reading one from cover to cover. In my life, I’ve probably read 10 books on my own. I just don’t have the attention span and with the invention of “Smart Phones”, things went to hell for the little free time I have. All that being said, in the 90s, I had a budding comic book collection because as a collector, I love collecting things. Something about the art, holographic covers, etc. all caught my attention as a 13 year old.
In 1993, the world of baseball cards took a turn into “high end” with the release of Topps Finest. To me, Topps cards always looked stale, had fuzzy photographs, and lazy designs. Obviously, the grand entrance made by Upper Deck forced them to turn things around because by 1991, Stadium Club entered the market. Finally, Topps was putting out cards with top-notch photography and a glossy stock that made their cards seem special to this young collector. Finest, however, was a step into the future.
I am going to say something that I won’t be able to take back. In 1993, I had no idea what Topps Finest was. Comic books were taking over my collection and with the growing Marvel cards from Impel and other companies, my baseball collection began stalled out. I was fine with this because these new Marvel cards were all the rage, despite the lack of support from the die-hard comic book community. I heard a lot of complaints over the years but it turns out many people just did not like these cards.
I sure as hell didn’t love them … THEY WERE MY ENTIRE WORLD. I would walk around looking for new card shops to visit with hopes that they would carry these packs. In 1993, there seemed to be a card shop on every corner and my mom, bless her soul, was never too busy to stop in with her son to look around and buy me a pack or two. I’ve never been a set builder in baseball but these Marvel sets taught me how to build sets and by 1993 I was a pro at finding these cards and trading for what I needed.
That year, I started buying up packs of Marvel Universe and began hearing rumblings about a “3-D” card so rare that any shop would buy the card from you, if pulled, for $100 dollars. To me, that kind of money was still a big deal so I spent the entire year buying pack after pack hoping to pull the now mythical “3-D” card I had yet to even see at a shop or card show. Keep in mind this is long before the Internet. I wasn’t even sure it existed but by God, I kept buying packs even after I finished the set.
By 1994, I was officially “over” comic books and comic cards, much like the rest of the world. It probably had to do with all the hype surrounding “Superman’s Death”, the gazillion different covers for every issue, and just one too many titles to keep up with. The same can be said about the Skybox / Fleer produced cards. The new stuff just didn’t hold a candle to the original 3 series, which I highly recommend. One day while walking into a new card shop to pick up Ultra Pro pages, my world forever changed.
Right there, in a HUGE, 5 lbs. screw down was the card I had long stopped believing actually existed. It was a magnificent sight to behold and to this day, in a world of modern cards and gimmicks, nothing will ever match the glory of seeing this card for the very first time. By this point I was back to collecting baseball cards but I couldn’t help ask the card shop owner to see the card, hold it in my hands and take in all its magical “3-D” artwork. Unfortunately, the card stayed in that shop as he wanted $150 for it.
Maybe it’s because I am a card collector who came up in the 90s but man, do I miss holograms. There was just something so creepy about them, perhaps because of the way they moved, unlike a normal photo. The technology seemed dated, even in the early 90s with Upper Deck’s work but for me it still worked. It was in fact, Upper Deck who really took the hologram ball and ran with it, first releasing inserts in their flagship brand and later producing two, all-holograms sets (SPx), which were extremely popular.
Eventually, all good things must come to an end. After back to back AMAZING hologram products (’96 & ’97 SPx), Upper Deck pulled away from holograms and began focusing their efforts on game-used memorabilia cards (which they introduced in baseball) and certified autographs, which they too introduced. It’s so unfortunate that autographs and relics ended the hologram reign considering how tired and completely dead guaranteed “hits” have become these days.
What’s even more tragic is that Upper Deck itself is no longer producing Major League Baseball licensed cards. In 2020, if the market re-opens for competition, I would give anything to see Upper Deck bring back the forgotten hologram. Remember folks, this is a hobby that thrives off nostalgia. What would be more amazing than a licenced 2020 Upper Deck baseball return with rare hologram inserts featuring today’s biggest stars and hell, throw in a signed hologram in there while you’re at it.
As for the Spider Man / Venom hologram card, unfortunately, it never made its way into my collection and despite its “Junk Wax” connotation, is still a pretty valuable card on the secondary market. As for the reason I never pulled one, turns out these “3-D” cards had stated odds of 1:180. I know I opened several packs in 1993 but I doubt it was anything close to 180 packs. Much like life, the odds were completely stacked against me at age 13 but it was truly the most memorable year of my collecting youth.
Oh, as for Skybox / Fleer, the guys who brought us those wonderful Marvel cards of the early-90s, they went out of business but not before being purchased by a little company called Upper Deck. Yes folks, Upper Deck owns Fleer / Skybox. That means that if things go right, who knows, they may one day bring back those amazing comic book cards of 1991-1993. Hey, I have seen stranger things happen in this hobby. Everything old eventually becomes new again.
Just imagine walking into a card shop in 2020 and asking the card shop owner for a pack of 2020 Upper Deck Baseball and a pack of 2020 Skybox Marvel Universe. As a collector that’s been in this hobby for nearly thirty long years, I cannot think of a much sweeter future than that. I’ve already lost Pacific Trading Cards and Pinnacle Brands, I don’t think I could handle losing Upper Deck and Fleer / Skybox. In a world ruled by Topps Company, Upper Deck MUST be saved.