Call them regionals. Call them oddballs. Call them Ishmael. Those little sets that you see pop up on the backs of cereal boxes or in cereal boxes or at your local ballpark’s “fire safety night”. Make that used to see. The oddball set seems to have fallen off the face of the earth in recent years.
I guess to some extent given our interest in little cardboard pictures of baseball players we’re all a little odd, but if there is one particular genre of card collecting that just doesn’t get any respect, it is the inexpensive, yet often very limited sets you’ll find only in the hobby rooms of truly die-hard collectors.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I’m staying at a Holiday Inn and they’re giving away cards in the fashion we used to see from time to time at places like 7-11 or in your Tombstone pizza. The hotel chain has formed a major promotional partnership with Major League Baseball that includes free MLB audio on their wireless internet (which I’m using right now) and the card set. They’re giving away packs and the set includes about four or five dozen cards so you’d have to be the Gulliver of travelling salesmen or have a special relationship with your local desk clerk to actually get them all, but it’s nice to see.
After issuing maybe the most popular ‘food issue’ cards on the back of boxes in the early 1960s, Post Cereal climbed back into the game for several years in the 1990s, but the Kellogg’s and Hostess sets are long gone. You see them most often now at ballparks, when a major sponsor distributes a team set as part of some overall advertising deal. Kahn’s still does Cincinnati Reds cards (I think). During the 1980s and early 90s “safety sets” were all over the place, especially in Milwaukee, LA, Atlanta and a few other big league cities. Most of those traditions died awhile ago.
Regional sets, food issues and police/fire sets have all but disappeared I guess because of the rights fees involved in using player and team images. Whatever promotional value is gained by doing a set is lost in the money spent on securing the permission from Major League Baseball to print the cards. Just another fact of life in the 21st century sports world.
I admit to collecting the oddball stuff. Give me your Crane’s Potato Chips, your Redman tobacco, your Jimmy Dean Sausages. Save me your Hostess Twinkies. Eat your Twizzlers. Just give me the cards. I’ve got dozens of those weirdo sets that will probably never be worth anything. But I like them because I remember trying to wheel and deal in large quantities of one set so I could trade them off for sets I didn’t have. I’m not that into it now and have no idea why I did it before other than there was nothing else to collect back in the 80s when you put your Topps sets together.
They’re all in albums, taking up space, big and heavy and worth..just as they were then..about 5 bucks a set (with rare exception). But I can’t bear to part with them. I like the fact that not very many people have them and that they’re not run-of-the-mill. You actually had to do some work to find them and in a lot of cases, they’re much more interesting than some of the mainstream issues. I’m not quite as fired up lately as I used to be because there’s just no way to get them all. I’m also starting to think like an old person who sees the stuff in their house and wonders how in the heck they’re going to move it all when that day comes.
Still, I admit to checking out the checklist for the Holiday Inn cards and thinking..just for a minute..about making a trip to the front desk for a pack. After all, there isn’t much else to do in eastern Kansas in late May. Might as well see what they look like (team logos airbrushed away no doubt). But like most oddball offerings, there is a catch.
The promotion starts next week.