It seems like ever since the first border-less cards showed up, card designs have been getting less and less creative with many sets looking similar year after year. I've always been drawn to the weirder designs and product that attempts to be innovative. I love both years of Upper Deck Fun Packs that were produced and opened multiple boxes of each. If I had been collecting at the time, I know that I would have been all over Topps Tek. It’s a shame that the boxes are so tough to find and expensive these days or I would bust some now. I've got tons of Action Packed and SportFlix cards. I've got 3-D basketball cards and baseball bookmarks.
Statistical Standouts from 1995 Leaf pre-date Ovation, whose 2000 set had a very similar design. The Leaf cards are much cooler with a leather feel to them and embossed stitches. The full image of the player looks much better than a partial image inside of a box. The cards were even numbered out of 5,000 which was pretty rare back in those days. These days the only cards numbered that high come in Topps Signature Basketball.
The 90s were full of innovation. Pinnacle had Dufex which many people still love to this day. Unfortunately you’ll only see it on things like souvenir post cards now (and In The Game hockey cards). Donruss had another great innovation with the first cards printed on wood in 1995 Leaf Limited’s Lumberjacks. That’s another beautiful set that was ahead of its time. If you get the chance, pick up a Lumberjack or Statistical Standout from 1995 because they’re beautiful cards. There were even cards printed on real silver, gold and platinum in Donruss Preferred. Not every idea was great, but at least chances were being taken.
These days it seems to be the same things over and over. The 00's certainly seem to be a decade of repetition and we're all going to come out of it with collections full of common card parallels along with autograph and relic cards of nobodies. It was much better when you had a slim chance at an autograph, but if you did get one it was going to be a major star such as Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan or Reggie Jackson. These days a player inscription is the most innovation that you’ll get.
This is why I'm excited about both the confirmed and rumored changes coming in the future. Let's see what Panini/Donruss can do to make basketball exciting again. After the excellent Murad release, it's disappointing to see Topps lose their NBA license, but they had fallen into a rut. Murad was just basketball's version of the very popular Allen & Ginter so it's not even like they were breaking new ground with that.
Years ago, I never thought that I would say it, but Upper Deck needs to lose their MLB license. Their designs have been the most repetitive of anyone's with the letter X popping up everywhere. Their sets feel like afterthoughts just for getting more autographs and relic cards out there. While the blog and Facebook page have increased their visibility, Upper Deck's customer service has been horrible. They rarely answer e-mails anymore and a two month turnaround time for damaged cards is ridiculous. Someone needs to give them a wake-up call and I think that the Razor shenanigans may have been the last straw to provoke Major League Baseball to do just that.