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8 Great Baseball Sets for Under $8

by Paul Angilly
May 31, 2005

After getting a recent bill, I realized how easy it is to spend a lot of money in a short time by combining eBay's "buy it now" option with a credit card. So for everyone like me who'd like to cut down their trading card spending and still have fun, I thought it would be good to compile a list of eight great baseball card sets that could be bought on eBay for less than $8 delivered.

Following is the list of sets I found listed on eBay during a typical mid-May day. Included is the total price for the set, including "buy it now" bid and shipping.

1993 Hostess "Baseballs" 32-card set ($4): From 1975 to 1979, the Hostess snack food company printed baseball cards on boxes of its snack cakes such as Twinkies - and what could be more fun for a young boy than enjoying some baseball cards with a Twinkie?

In 1993, the company introduced a new snack cake called "Baseballs," golden creme-filled cupcakes with frosting that resembled a baseball.

Boxes of the new product included a pack of three baseball cards of star players (such as Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Roger Clemens, Kirby Puckett, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr.), issued in two series of 16 cards each.

A complete near-mint to mint set was offered for $3, plus $1 shipping.

1996 Denny's 28-card set ($4.25): Produced by Pinnacle Brands, this set features full-motion hologram technology. The set was not well-received by many collectors due to the difficulty of viewing the image, but when done properly, it's possible to view up to four seconds of full-color, 3-D action.

Originally, the set was only available in packs of two cards for 49 cents at Denny's restaurants, but in the years following the promotion, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of boxes of the cards were dumped into the hobby, eliminating any real value the cards may have once had. But if you have the patience to view the cards properly, you could have a lot of fun with the set for less than $5.

1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson Baseball Heroes 10-card insert set ($5.99): This is a true piece of hobby history, available for less than the price of two packs of most products released these days. Put simply and with no exaggeration, this was the set that put the "chase" into the term "chase cards."

These cards were randomly inserted into high-number packs of Upper Deck cards. While the real chase was for the personally-autographed Jackson card, still valued at about $100, this insert set marks the beginning of the limited-edition insert craze that continues to this day.

1984 Drake's "Big Hitters" 33-card set ($5.99): After Hostess abandoned card collectors looking for a sugar rush after the 1979 season, Drake's Bakeries picked up the slack in 1981 by producing the first of eight consecutive card sets. The first five were made by Topps and came inside boxes of the snack foods, while the last three (1986-1988) were printed on the boxes themselves.

The 1984 edition features players such as Cal Ripken Jr., Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Eddie Murray, Robin Yount, Dave Winfield and Dale Murphy. Although originally issued one card per box, countless thousands of sets from all five of the Topps-produced years (1981-1985) were later released into the hobby, driving down prices. Still, they are very attractive sets full of future Hall-of-Famers for a small price.

1990 Starline Long John Silver's 40-card set ($6): Starline, best known for making licensed sports posters of star athletes, threw a bit of a scare into the baseball card hobby in the late 1980s with reports that it was attempting to sign Major League Baseball's top players to exclusive trading card contracts that would have kept those players out of sets made by Fleer, Donruss, Score and Upper Deck. But in the end, all that came of it was a very attractive one-time set given away in five-card packs with the purchase of a meal at Long John Silver fish restaurants.

The fronts of the cards look like small posters and the backs are well-designed and colorful. Among the players included are Don Mattingly, Mark Grace, Eric Davis, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Alan Trammell and Nolan Ryan.

1981 Topps Super Boston Red Sox 12-card set ($6.45): After introducing a popular set of 60 attractive, 5x7-inch glossy photo cards in 1980, Topps followed it up with a series of similarly-styled regional issues in 1981. In all, 102 cards were issued in seven regions, with another 15 cards issued nationally.

Available for a $3.95 "buy it now" price plus $2.50 for shipping, the Red Sox regional issue includes four Hall-of-Famers - Tony Perez, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and Dennis Eckersley - along with Frank Tanana, Dave Stapleton, Bob Stanley, Jim Rice, Carney Lansford, Glenn Hoffman, Dwight Evans and Tom Burgmeier.

1993 Pinnacle "Cooperstown" 30-card set ($6.99): During the early- to mid-'90s, Pinnacle produced several boxed sets for direct distribution through hobby channels. This 12-year-old set was true to its title, picturing 12 then-current players who have since been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor and Eddie Murray. It also includes three more sure-fire future Hall-of-Famers - Cal Ripken Jr., Roger Clemens and Tony Gwynn - along with potential inductees Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

1989-90 Topps Senior Professional Baseball League 132-card set ($7.49): A noble experiment that fell flat, the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball League brought together many former Major League players in a Florida-based league for players aged 35 and up that played during the winter months. A popular idea at first, attendance dwindled to just a few dozen spectators per game by the time the league folded midway through its second season.

The Topps set was one of four made during or immediately after the league's first season (Pacific, T&M and Elite were the others), all featuring familiar names such as Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins and Al Oliver. The nostalgia value of this set makes it worth the price.

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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