Was there any company which epitomized an era as much as Pro Set? The company’s time frame for making cards almost perfectly matches the over-production peak. Their football products seemed to be in every North American house at one time. However, there are a few Pro Set items which are not quite as easy to find as you might think.
The first set in our tour is an issue called Pro Set Pro Files. The trading card hobby was popular enough in 1991 that Pro Set actually sponsored a television show and made a multi-sport card set that was associated with it. That set, which had a definite Texas tilt to it, is listed in the Beckett database.
Because the show had such a limited run and the cards were only released in the areas where the program was watched, they were not widely distributed. I seem to remember them being offered as prizes and that only 150 sets were made. I do remember we picked up the samples for the database at a local Dallas area show and we realized those cards were very difficult as we hardly saw them. I could not find one copy of any of the 13 known cards in a recent eBay search and can’t even offer you a photo here. I would suspect that unless a missing hoard of these cards is found, the current price guide actually undervalues them.
And yes, there was a time where card companies could actually dream of being popular enough to host their own television shows.
Another Pro Set rarity is their five-card NBA promo set, which included Michael Jordan. Remember in the early 1990’s, Pro Set owned their own printing presses and if they could secure an NBA license, they could have had an active product calendar stretching through the winter. With Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and the Dream Team on the horizon, the league was on fire.
The set included Jordan, Magic, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Tom Chambers. The cards were used by Pro Set to make a presentation to NBA officials in hopes of acquiring that league license.
While Pro Set never did receive a license (it went to Upper Deck), this set is a testament to what they were attempting to accomplish. In some ways, it’s a shame that Pro Set did not even get one year of NBA cards because the results sure would have been interesting. Would they have created a ‘living’ set like they did for football in 1991, chronicling virtually everything that happened in the league?
While the Pro Set NBA promo sets are rare, there are a couple of sets and graded singles on eBay, including Jordan and Johnson. Long time basketball card specialist Steve Taft has a set, all in PSA 9 condition, at $1,495. According to Taft, “The NBA’s decision to not accept Pro Set’s bid for licensing rights was a major reason for the fall of Pro Set, and, a key reason this is such a sought after set.” It’s not known how many promo sets exist, but in checking the book prices and considering how few of these sets exist, that is actually a very fair price level for the set.
Our third and final stop on the tour is the 1991-92 Pro Set “Puck” set. Three cards were included with each piece of chocolate candy with the 30-card complete set including some big names like Gretzky, Yzerman, Roy and Hull.
While never truly difficult to find, these cards have dried up a bit as there are currently fewer than 100 total singles and sets available on eBay. And, of course, the great question is are any of these cards still available with the original chocolate?
These are just some of the more obscure and interesting cards Pro Set issued during their brief reign as a leading card producer. There are other sets as well and we all have one advantage of living in the Dallas area in that we do have a chance to see more Pro Set material then in most other locations. There are a couple of dealers/collectors and possibly even Pro Set former employees who kept their cards for all these years.
We had a dealer at our local Southfork show who did have a cache of some of the Randall Cunningham test sets as well as some of the other Pro Set Draft promo sets. So, there is always a chance these sets and more will show up in the marketplace but that is not a guarantee. Part of the fun is the chase in hunting down and acquiring cards like this, even from a manufacturer whose time in the hobby was ever so brief.