The 1994 Project – Long Overdue Follow-Up, Part 1

This post is a follow-up to a couple I wrote over a year ago… So damn long ago, in fact, that I’m just going to pretend that I never wrote about this before. Even if you had read those posts at the time, you don’t likely remember the details.

So here is the key conundrum I faced: Even though the 1990’s are the one decade within my lifetime for which I have the least amount of baseball nostalgia, it also happens to be the decade that takes up the most space in my collection. The first half of that decade was the perfect storm; An explosion in the number of sets each year coincided with my being gainfully employed, single and not yet having “gotten a life”.

The end result is that I have far, far more 1990’s cards than I honestly want… But I also don’t want to get rid of all of them. While there are damn few 1990’s sets that I view as being worth the effort of completing, I do enjoy having a representation of each season in cardboard form, but for much of the 1990’s, there aren’t many sets where I could say, without hesitation, “This is the set I wish to represent this particular year”.

At a point early last year it occurred to me… Who’s to say that it needs to be one particular set that represents a year? Why couldn’t I just pool together all of my cards for a given year, organize them by team and pick the card which best represents each player on that team? That way, it’s the best of both worlds. I end up with binders which reflect who was where in 1994, but I don’t have to pick favorites from any of the countless “Pretty good but I don’t love it” 1990’s sets.

After pondering it for a while, 1994 turned out to be the epicenter of this particular situation… A lot of good sets but no great sets, plus I had over 2,000 cards just from that year.  When I’m trying to bring some focus to my collection, I can’t justify having 2,000 cards from a year that has no real significance to me.

So I spent a number of months working on this here and there, and I’m extremely pleased with the results.  I think I got a good representation the 1994 season, but I also removed over 1,000 cards from my collection in the process.

Here are a few shots of some of the pages from the 1994 Frankenset albums (FYI, I’ve got more to say at the end of these large images):

1994 Frankenset Dodgers Page 1 Jan 16

1994 Frankenset Reds Page 1 Jan 16


1994 Frankenset A's Page 1 Jan 16

It wasn’t until after I took this photo that it occurred to me that this particular page of Red Sox is dominated by 1994 Collector’s Choice (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
1994 Frankenset Red Sox Page 1 Jan 16

One thing I tried to do, with a fair amount of success, is to limit each team to 36 cards… Which is two 9-pocket sheets with cards back-to-back into each pocket.  When I bumped up against that 36 card limit, I invoked what I call “The Bowman Rule”:  Anybody who has never appeared in the majors gets bumped.  That didn’t always get me below the 36-card limit, and right now I’ve got an “overflow” page of cards that didn’t fit into the two-sheets alloted to their team.  The Red Sox and Reds are currently the two teams that went way over 36 cards.

One problem I have to conquer with this method of trimming the fat from my 1990’s collection is that it took much longer than I would have liked for me to get from start to my defined end point.  Part of the problem was that the first time around, I was more hesitant and deliberate in selecting (for example) one Bernard Gilkey card over another.    I realize now that when selecting future Frankensets I’ll need to be a little more aggressive and have something of a “don’t look back” attitude.  If I have to deliberate more than a few seconds, then there’s no “wrong” answer in picking a card.

Before I get into the details of what I was doing, I’ll point out that this “Frankenset” does not affect my team collections.  My Mets and Orioles from these years are off in their own team binders, and I’m not changing that.

So what sort of guidelines do I use to select cards?  First off, I’m going with only “regular” cards… I’m not considering checklists, “All-Star” cards or any other type of subset.  Parallels of base cards are the only kind of insert I will consider, and generally only parallels when I don’t have the unparalleled base cards (I’m not big on parallels)

Given that I’m combining all of my sets… “flagship” sets with update sets… I’m also allowing for players to appear with multiple teams.  So, for example, Randy Milligan finished the 1993 season with the Indians, but was traded to the Expos in the offseason.  He appeared in 1994 sets with both teams, so he gets represented under both teams.

1994 Randy Milligan cards

Second, the card will ideally show what the player looks like… A decent view of his face is best.  From there, I just let the general aesthetics of each card factor in… Which card has the best combination of photo and design.  I treat the selection process almost like I was choosing photos to use in a card set, which *is* what I’m kinda sorta doing.

The selected card should represent a decent image of that player with that team… nothing too “gimmicky”, even if it’s a cool card. For example, I like this card of Kevin Brown, it’s a fun card…
1994 Score Kevin Brown
…but it’s not a good representation of Kevin Brown or the Texas Rangers. This card went into the “bonus pages” in my binders.

These extra pages are for other kinds of appealing cards which don’t make the Frankenset cut.  I’m not going to get rid of this iconic (by 1994 standards) card…
1994 Topps George Brett
…just because you can’t see what George Brett looks like.

Oh, one other thing I did: I’ve come to enjoy having all of the Topps All-Star Rookies on one page, so I did the same with 1994.
1994 Topps All Star Rookie Team

If there’s another subset or insert set that I particularly like from future Frankensets, I’ll be giving them their own pages like this.

So that pretty much covers what I did… My next post will talk about some of the unexpected things I ran into while doing this project, other general ramblings on the whole 1994 Project, as well as my plans for the next “Frankenset”.

The 1994 Project, Pt. 1 – Dipping My Toe Into The Water

As I’d talked about in a previous post, I’m going to attempt an experiment in combating 1990’s “bloat” by organizing one year’s worth of cards into a single binder organized by team, where each player is represented by a single card, regardless of which set that card is from. Most of the cards which don’t end up in the 1994 Binder are candidates for purging.

I’ll confess that the general idea behind this project is not an original one… I think that long-time hobby columnist and former Fleer VP Ted Taylor was the first I’d heard of doing something like this (except he organizes his cards this way each and every year).

I originally called what I was doing a “Frankenset”, but I don’t think that’s right… In researching this I’ve come to realize that a true Frankenset has cards numbered from 1 to whatever, but the cards all come from different sets.  That’s not what I’m doing, so from here on out I’ll just refer to it as The 1994 Project.

I decided to “dip my toe into the water” by doing pages for three teams and seeing how it went, what issues I have and whether I felt like it was worth pursuing. For reasons not worth elaborating on, I selected the Expos, Marlins and Indians.

Here’s the first page of Expos, at least as it stands right now…   I don’t know how well you can see it, but if nothing else you get the gist.
1994 Frankenset Expos page

As you can see, the bulk of what I have is Topps, Collector’s Choice, Score and Donruss Triple Play.  I don’t have a lot of Bowman, Fleer or Upper Deck from 1994, and there are some other sets that I do have some cards from, but I haven’t been able to dig those out yet.

I’ve got some groundrules in mind for the 1994 Binder.  No more than 36 cards per team (2 sheets for me as I put two cards back-to-back into each pocket).  If I exceed 36 players, I will invoke the “Bowman Rule”:  Anybody who has never appeared in the majors gets bumped. If that still doesn’t get me to 36 cards, well… I’ll figure that out when I get there.

Also, anybody who has cards with multiple teams gets multiple cards. For example, Randy Milligan gets two cards because he appeared on cardboard with the Expos and with the Indians:
1994 Randy Milligan cards
I feel like this will give a better “snapshot” of baseball in 1994, plus will allow for keeping my 1994 Topps & Score Traded sets intact (at least for now).

Here are scans for the other two teams…
1994 Frankenset Marlins page
1994 Frankenset Indians page

I’m getting kinda excited about this project. Aside from getting things better organized, I think this might increase the interested in my 1990’s cards to levels not seen since… well, the 1990’s.  The other day at work I bought a repack (more about this in another post yet to come) and instead of going “meh” at a 1992 Leaf Mike Henneman and other similar cards, I thought “Maybe I should hang on to this until I get around to doing a 1992 Binder..”

Yes, that’s right, I’ve only done 3 teams from 1994 and I’m already thinking about moving forward with other years.

I have thought of some potential issues, but I’ll save those for future posts.