Tuesday, August 27, 2013

1990's Leaf Cards

The other day I posted some 2012 Leaf Pete Rose cards. These had come in a Fairfield repack "cube" containing 250 cards. There were a lot of interesting cards in this box and I'm going to milk this for as many posts as possible.

First up, I want to share some Leaf cards from 1992, 1994 and 1997 Leaf. What I want to show is a design progression to make a point. First, 1992 Leaf.

Leaf had debuted in 1991, as a premium card set. Leaf also produced Donruss cards at this time and these were a step up from Donruss. Printed on thicker white card stock than Donruss, these featured nice photography on the front and a good sized color photo on the back. The cards were unfinished (meaning no gloss) and had no foil or other fancy stuff. The back also featured career stats and as much biography as would fit. I particularly like the framing on these two cards. There were 4 cards in the box and I didn't have any of them.

Lets jump to 1994 Leaf. I only got one of these in the box.
Two years later, the look and feel of the cards is completely different. Full bleed photography on the front and back. Gold foil on the front and holographic foil team logo on the back. The cards have a hard glossy coating. Stats on the back have been reduced to 1 year with no bio information, leaving room for more photographic elements on the back. The background features the player's home stadium and there's a close-up shot of the player on a facsimile ticket. And just as an aside, in 1992, Leaf published Donruss. In 1994, Donruss published Leaf. I bought a lot of this product in 1994 because I liked it.

Now 1997 Leaf
Again, a completely new look and feel. Still full bleed photography on the front but now with a soft focus background that fades out toward the edges of the card. A prominent Leaf logo in silver foil. The back features another photo with a soft focus background with the stats, still only a singe year, but in a box separate from the background. The cards had a semi-gloss coating. There were two of these, neither of which I had. I didn't buy much of this in 1997. I remember they were pricey and I can't claim I like the design a great deal.

So what's my point? It just wasn't Leaf doing this in the 1990's, I only used Leaf to illustrate because I had these cards handy. Everybody was doing it. Every major card brand, Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Pinnacle, Stadium Club, Topps, Ultra, and Upper Deck, made major changes to their design every year. Maybe you didn't like every design but opening up a pack of something you hadn't seen before was exciting.

Flash forward to today. Topps cards look pretty much the same from year to year. In 2012, Bowman made the first really big design change in over 10 years. Sure we love Allen and Ginter but the cards are basically the same from year to year. Gypsy Queen? A different version of A&G. What else to we have? Topps Heritage and Topps Archives. Nothing new there.


Ryan G said...

You are right in many ways - the card designs all basically changed together - from simple, boxy, and generally plain to very vibrant and cluttered, to something supposedly elegant as the market shifted more towards adults.

Today, the designs are certainly almost entirely all geared to adults, and very little changes from year to year. On the other hand, I do like some consistency in some of the sets (A&G should look like an A&G set every year, for example). It would be nice if Topps stopped giving us a choice between throwback sets or ultra-high end modern sets. I miss having a product like Stadium Club (or even just Upper Deck's flagship set) every year. And a modern-designed art set - like Topps Gallery. That said, something truly fun and new and innovative would be great every once in a while - Gypsy Queen is kind of just another throwback set, even though the design is beautiful.

Fuji said...

I love the early 90's Leaf products... because they were so plain and simple. In fact 1990 Leaf is one of my favorite designs of all-time.