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Collecting the MLB All-Star Game

by Paul Angilly
July 18, 2005

It's only a single exhibition in the middle of a long regular season, yet somehow over the years, Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game has always generated a great deal of interest and famous moments while other sports' all-star contests go largely unnoticed.

Just the fact that (at least in theory) all of baseball's very best players gather in one place at one time makes the event interesting in the eyes of collectors. While it pales in comparison to World Series memorabilia, the All-Star Game has been commemorated in all types of collectibles throughout the years - including baseball cards.

As far back as 1958, Topps included a "Sport Magazine '58 All-Star Selection" subset within its regular series, although those cards didn't necessarily reflect players who actually appeared in the annual All-Star contest.

Topps recognized the actual All-Star Game participants from the previous season for the first time in 1974, with a nine-card subset in its regular issue that featured the A.L. and N.L. starters from each position side-by-side on the fronts. The backs included the box score and other highlights from the 1973 game.

The following year, Topps eliminated the All-Star subset but instead put a special "All-Star" designation on the front of the players' regular cards - while most players' positions appeared inside a baseball design on the front, cards of 17 different All-Stars had their position listed inside a star underneath an "AL ALL STAR" or "NL ALL STAR" header.

Topps continued to designate the previous year's All-Stars in a similar way through its 1981 set. Then, beginning in 1982 and continuing straight through to 1995, Topps again included an All-Star subset within its regular set, honoring starters from the previous year's game.

In 1981, 1982 and 1983, Topps produced sets of cards on thick plastic (similar to credit cards). Known today as the Perma-Graphics Credit Cards sets, there was one main issue and one special All-Star set made each year. The Perma-Graphics All-Star sets each contained 18 cards picturing the starters from that year's game, along with the player's career All-Star Game statistics and highlights.

Also of interest to All-Star collectors are the 22-card glossy All-Star Game Commemorative sets that Topps produced from 1984 through 1991. The cards featured starters from the previous year's All-Star Game, plus the managers and honorary team captains. The sets were issued as one-per-pack inserts in rack packs.

Other card companies have also been avid producers of All-Star cards through the years. Beginning with its first recent set in 1981 and continuing through the early '90s, Fleer included "Super Star Specials" subset cards in each of its regular issues. These cards generally showed photos taken at the previous year's All-Star Game, pairing players from different teams with something in common.

Perhaps the most comprehensive All-Star sets ever made were the ones issued by Donruss from 1986 to 1989. The first two sets were issued in a 3 1/2-by-5-inch size and included 60 cards. The final two sets were standard size and had 64 cards. All four sets were issued separately from that year's regular Donruss cards, with packs also including one "Pop-Up" card.

The regular Donruss All-Stars sets included every player from the previous year's All-Star Game, including managers and even cards picturing the stadiums where the games were played. The backs of the cards featured each player's All-Star Game statistics, along with career highlights. The Pop-Ups pictured the All-Star starting lineups on cards designed to be folded into a box, with the player's image extending to stand up beyond the top of the folded box.

Although it stopped producing separate sets after 1989, Donruss included All-Star subsets in its 1991 and 1992 regular issues that carried on the same design elements as the previous stand-alone issues.

With its first set in 1988, Score printed wax boxes with six different card panels on the bottom. While other companies produced similar "box bottom" cards with designs nearly identical to the regular-issue cards, Score tried a new approach - creating an all-new set commemorating the starters from the 1987 All-Star Game. Each of the six different box-bottom panels included three player cards and one trivia card, making the set complete at 18 player cards and six trivia cards.

Each year since 1991 there has been an "All-Star FanFest" event held in conjunction with the All-Star Games, offering collectors the chance to pick up special cards not available anywhere else.

Sports card and memorabilia dealers are only a small part of the FanFest exhibits, but the shows annually have representatives from each of the major card companies present, usually offering promotional cards unique to the event.

While All-Star subsets in recent years have lost some of the steam they once had, there are certainly no shortage of All-Star cards being issued today.

In fact, Upper Deck recently issued a retail-only set that many collectors might have missed: 2005 Upper Deck All-Star Classics.

Priced at about $2 to $2.50 per pack (8 cards per pack, 24 packs per box), the attractive 100-card base set mixes today's top players with frequent All-Stars from the past - with 50 regular cards, 25 "Future All-Stars" and 25 "Legendary All-Stars."

There are also two "Mid-Summer Swatches Jerseys" found per box, along with randomly-inserted "Mid-Summer Patches" numbered to 25 copies. Other inserts, found approximately one per box each, include gold base-set parallels numbered to 499, "Perennial All-Stars," "All-Star Matchup," "Midsummer Classics," "All-Star MVP's" and "All Star Box Scores."

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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