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Taking a Look at Pacificís Best Sets

by Paul Angilly
September 7, 2004

In last weekís column, I wrote about how the anticipated NHL lockout has affected plans for trading card releases this season -- including the apparent demise of manufacturer Pacific Trading Cards. This week, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at some of Pacificís best sets over the years.

First, some highlights from the era before Pacific landed its first major sports license and began producing NFL cards in 1991:

1987-88 MISL soccer -- This was the first major card issue to exclusively feature players from a U.S.-based soccer league (although Topps produced a set of NASL logo stickers in 1979). The Major Indoor Soccer League at one time included the Hartford Hellions, who played at the Hartford Civic Center (the Hellions relocated long before this set was released). This set is perhaps most noteworthy for including the rookie card of Preki, who (with the Tacoma Stars) was an All-Star in the MISL 18 years ago. Heís now Major League Soccerís all-time leading scorer and is pictured in this yearís Upper Deck MLS set with his current team, the Kansas City Wizards. Pacific continued to produce cards of the MISL through its final season in 1991-92, then made a set for the National Professional Soccer League (another indoor league) in 1992-93.

1988 to 1990 Baseball Legends -- The cards in these three 110-card sets featuring retired Major Leaguers are simply perfect for autographing. The fronts of the cards have simple designs with classic color photos (many of the same photos youíll see being sold as 8x10 glossies at autograph appearances). Although some deceased players were included, the sets focused mainly on living players, many of whom were popular card show guests at the time (and some still are). Iíve seen packs of these cards, which originally sold for 50 cents each, now being priced at $3-5 each at card shows.

1989 and 1990 Senior Professional Baseball Association -- Probably few people remember the SPBA, which was a professional league for players aged 35 and older, featuring mostly former Major Leaguers. But Pacific issued a 220-card set in 1990 and a 160-card set the following year. The league featured eight teams in its inaugural 1989-90 season and six teams in its abbreviated second and final 1990-91 season, all based in Florida. The Pacific sets can be found for just buck or two, and itís worth it just to see Ferguson Jenkins and Cecil Cooper with the Winter Haven Super Sox, Earl Weaver managing the Gold Coast Suns, Bobby Bonds with the St. Lucie Legends, Rollie Fingers with the West Palm Beach Tropics, Bill Madlock with the Orlando Juice or Jim Rice with the St. Petersburg Pelicans.

After it was granted its first major professional sports license in 1991, Pacific released a 660-card NFL set. It continued issuing NFL cards through the 2002 season, when it made 10 different sets -- Pacific, Adrenaline, Atomic, Crown Royale, Exclusive, Heads Up, Heads Update, Private Stock Reserve, Private Stock Titanium and Titanium Post Season. In 2003 and this year, the company made Canadian Football League sets.

Hereís just a few highlights from the companyís football issues:

1991 Pacific -- The companyís first issue was one of its most attractive, with fronts and backs including lots of color, mirroring each teamís colors. The backs also have a unique diagonally-oriented design. Pacific followed up its 550-card first series with a 110-card update.

1993 Pacific -- This issueís marble-style borders, in team colors, are simply striking.

1997 Philadelphia Collection -- This brand resurrected the name of the maker of NFL sets from 1964 through 1967. The cards are quite attractive, with large photos surrounded by just a thin white border on the front, along with a team logo shield over the photo. Backs include nicely-written bios and complete career statistics. Perhaps most importantly, the set checklist emphasizes players not seen in many (or in some cases, any) other sets. The top stars are there too, but even in 1997 the football card market was very crowded, so it was nice to see some different players for a change -- including Adam VinatieriĎs only rookie card (and his only card made before the 1999 season), now priced at more than $20. In addition to the 330-card regular set, packs included several Philadelphia Gold cards from a separate 200-card set. The Gold cards have a completely different design and feature top players with full-bleed photos on the front.

2000 Pacific -- A simple but effective design, with the playerís name, position and a team helmet logo at the bottom underneath a photo that goes full-bleed on the other three sides. Backs are also very attractive with a head shot, complete statistics and a bio over a ghosted-out in-stadium picture. The 450-card set offers about 15 players per team -- another plus at a time when set sizes were rapidly shrinking.

2001 Atomic -- These attractive and thick cards are easily distinguished by the die-cutting around the very large team logo on the fronts. Definitely a set for team collectors -- even the write-ups on the back tend to describe how each player fits in with his teamís history. A similar design was used for the 2002 Atomic NFL set and the 2003 Atomic CFL set.

2002 Adrenaline -- This set was made to be displayed in a spiral holder with nine-pocket pages. Each team has nine players featured, in consecutive numerical order, and when placed together the nine cards that make up a team set show an additional large photo of a player from that team on their backs, ghosted behind the traditional player info and stats on each individual card.

Next week, Iíll take a look back at some of Pacificís best baseball and hockey issues over the years.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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