Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Ecstasy Of Gold

When some people think of “The Ecstasy Of Gold”, they think of the instantly recognizable music from “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly". Truthfully, I think of that too, but I also think of baseball card parallels. Specifically, 1992 Topps.

1992 Topps gold cards marked the first time that a whole set of parallel cards from a major company’s base set, purposely existed without another company’s involvement. Sure there were O-Pee-Chee cards every year that mimicked the Topps set. There was the 1984 Nestle set that paralleled all 792 cards. Those all involved another company in the process.

These cards created quite a stir in the teenage collecting community, which I was a part of back then. These cards came in two ways: winners and regular gold. We each tried to collect the entire set and failed miserably. We were so excited that we failed to do the math. It would take a minimum of 792 packs to complete the set. That was only if we never got a single double, which we all know is impossible.

Foil on a card was a relatively new idea in 1992. The only cards that incorporated foil on the cards were Bowman and Leaf prior to that. If I’m leaving anything out, I apologize. Before those early experiments, metallic ink was used to spruce up a card. These Topps gold cards were different.

Fortunately, I had quite a few card shops around my area back then. I was able to get my hands on a few gold cards that might not have crossed my path otherwise. There was a price to pay though. Card shops jacked up the prices on those Topps gold cards. Most had the stars for sale higher than the top price in the price guides. If there was a prime reason for the card shops dying out back then, it was greed.

Unfortunately, these two parallel sets gave birth to many others. Leaf came out with their black gold parallel later in 1992. By 1994, Stadium Club was nothing but endless parallels. Other card companies started getting in on the act and utter chaos ruled. There were rainbows of colors available for each card, it seemed. Some colors were specifically created for another pointless parallel.

If money is the root of all evil in society, then gold must be the root of all evil in the trading card industry. It does nothing but breed frustration and heartache. No longer will the fan be able to collect everything from his favorite player or team. No longer can the set collector collect the entire set. Now there are short prints, gimmicks and parallels to deal with. Not to mention numbered cards.

I’m hoping that these trends will eventually fade. I don’t mind one or two parallels, but not ten or fifteen. Even five seems like too many. There’s a saturation point where things don’t feel as special anymore. We've reached that point and went beyond. When will cards start to feel special again?

We may never get to that point again, but we can make the cards that come out special to us. We can study the cards like we did when we first started. We can find a certain quality about each card that sets it apart from the others. It’s certainly harder to do today, but it still can be done.

I don’t actively seek out parallels anymore. I don’t mind them when I get them, but I won’t be wasting time and money on them. I will acquire them by trade or by pack opening mostly. The only time that I can envision chasing a parallel card, is if it is the last card I need in a set. If I’m done with the regular sets, then I’ll worry about the parallels.

This all started in the mainstream with the 1992 Topps gold cards. With ecstasy comes madness. With madness comes foolishness. Foolishness brings a rainbow’s worth of one card. Foil begets parallels begets numbered cards begets rainbows. It all started with one set of gold.


deal said...

I generally treat parallels like regular cards. I do like to have a parallel to accent a page in the binder. 8 cards regular, and 1 card as the gold parallel. That way for the 660 card topps ser 1 and 2 you would need roughly 75 gold cards.

I haven't done this with every page, but maybe a third of the pages.

Anonymous said...

1992 Topps Gold was all about greed.

A friend busted at least a couple of cases of this stuff and the real gold rush came when we learned you can shine a penlight [in the dark] on a gold contest card to reveal if you had a winner.

You would redeem your card for a pack of about 10 gold cards in a clear plastic wrapper.

Apparently the scam was prevalent and Topps printed 'winner' on the cards acquired through the contest, making the cards less valued [relatively speaking] compared to the non-winner stamped variations.

1992 Topps was also the first year of the white card stock. It wasn't quite like Upper Deck, but it was significantly better quality than the card stock Topps had been using.

Grand Cards said...

Very well said. The rampant parallelism of cards has changed the landscape of collecting, and not for the better. I do like parallels within reason. As a player/team collector, I think that the Gold Cards are fun to try and collect. However, when I try to seek out 10 different HyperPlaid numbered cards or half a dozen different bordered cards it gets tiresome, frustrating and expensive. If you are capable of restraining yourself to collecting only certain parallels, or accepting that completing a full set with ALL parallels is practically impossible then you'll be able to weather the storm better than others. But seriously, if we were capable of restraining ourselves when each new product/fad/gimmick etc. rears its head, we wouldn't really be in this mess, would we?

capewood said...

I was an adult in 1992 and I loved getting the gold cards too.

I also like a few parallels. The king (curse) of parallels is Donruss and their new non-licensed cards are just chock full of parallels.

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