Diamonds in the Junk – 1990 Score Baseball

For collectors of a certain age there is something oddly comforting about junk wax cards. Far too many were printed, they’re littered with quasi-errors and print issues, and “rare” chase cards are numbered in the thousands. However, they are also full of players who are now in their respective halls of fame, the cards are necessary parts of many PSA Set Registries and a $5 or $10 investment can still bring hours of enjoyment. Not a bad deal. Here is the latest installment in the PSA Blog series called Diamonds in the Junk, where we crack some junk wax, review the results, relate them to the hobby today and have fun along the way. Today I review 1990 Score baseball cards.

THE SET

When Score first issued baseball cards in 1988, they were considered to be somewhat revolutionary in their design because, in addition to having a nice color image on the card front, they placed a color photo of the player on the back of the card. That kind of thing is commonplace now, but it was considered to be very innovative back then. Score had settled into a groove by 1990, and it was then that they produced (and produced and produced…) a colorful 704-card set that can now be found nearly everywhere, and at a purchase price lower than the cost of shipping.

The first 579 cards in this set are basically standard player cards, although a small handful feature season highlights. Cards 580-657 feature a “1990 Rookie” logo and include many exciting young players of the day such as David Justice, Deion Sanders, Kevin Maas, Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, Robin Ventura and Marquis Grissom. Numbers 661-682 are First Round Draft Picks (Frank Thomas RC!), 683-695 are Dream Team cards that feature artistic renderings of top players, and then the final nine cards represent individual and postseason highlights. There are a handful of error cards in this set, but none really shook the hobby in any meaningful way, so their importance is rather negligible.

THE BREAK

The box of 1990 Score cards that I broke was a rack box, which consisted of 24 rack packs. Each pack had three 16-card cells, so there were a lot of cards to search and the break alone took about an hour. I didn’t get any packs with notable stars or cards showing, so the entire exercise came down to the cards themselves. One thing of note with this box is that Score issued a 42-card Young Superstars I set that was released one-card per rack box. As is the case with any set of prognostication, the checklist has some stars and some duds. I mainly got the duds in my box, but such is life.

I really enjoyed this break, and 95% of the reason was the cards themselves. Back when I was collecting modern baseball, I bought a factory set of 1990 Score that I promptly stuck in storage and crossed off my want list, so I never gave the cards themselves any real attention. I am pleased to say that I was able to amend that error with this box. I’ve got to say that Score produced some really awesome cards in 1990. My box netted standard cards of 30 different Hall of Famers, and several more that were represented Dream Team and other highlights cards. All featured nice, crisp action images that were surrounded by colorful borders. Ryan, Winfield, Puckett, Eckersley, Ripken, Griffey, Fisk, Carter and many more are all in here and shown in all their glory.

The Dave Dravecky card (#550) that pictures the lefty pitcher with his arm in a sling during a battle with cancer that would eventually require the amputation of his left arm and shoulder. The back of the card features the title “Giant Courage,” and talks about Dravecky’s rehabilitation from the illness.

Card #566 recognizes the 1989 All-Star Game when Kansas City Royals outfielder Bo Jackson, leading off the game for the American League, crushed Rick Reuschel’s second pitch of the game for a 448-foot home run to dead centerfield. It was an all-time All-Star highlight that Score captured beautifully with the card.

The postseason highlights cards are loaded with stunning images, though none so dramatic as card #701. This card, titled “Lights Out: Candlestick,” recalls Game 3 of the 1989 World Series that was disrupted by a massive earthquake that hit the Bay Area and affected the lives of millions. I have always thought that an enterprising autograph collector could purchase about 50 copies of this card and send them to players who were on the field that day along with a question or two about their memories. I’d bet the result would make for a powerful collection.

I didn’t bother with sorting these cards or checking overall collation, though I suspect it was pretty good. I did get up to four copies of some cards, but that was rare.

SUMMARY

I didn’t really have any expectations going into this break, but I came out quite pleased with the results. The 1990 Score set did a great job of recognizing individual players and a superb job of highlighting special moments from the 1989 MLB season. The cards are crisp, colorful, creative and honestly, pretty meaningful. I don’t know that the low value of the set would justify the expense, but I would imagine that when placed in pages and a binder, the 1990 Score set would make a very nice presentation and a detailed viewing could occupy many hobby hours.

If I have a complaint about this set, other than the insane number of cards that were printed, it would be that the large color photo on the card backs required that the text be printed in very small font. The size and multiple colors make the printing somewhat of a challenge to read. Otherwise, I don’t really have anything negative to say about these cards.

There was a $12 price tag on this box. Considering that it contained 24 packs that each held 48 cards (1,152 cards total), I think the price was well-justified. Honestly, the appreciation I have for these cards has outlasted the enjoyment that I would have otherwise gotten from a similarly-priced carnitas plate with corn torillas and hot carrots, so I’ve got to applaud Score on a job well done!

THE DIAMOND IN THE JUNK: #697 Bo Jackson

There are a number of cards that I could have chosen as my Diamond in the Junk but the Bo Jackson Football-Baseball card is one for the ages. The same image graced many a young man’s bedroom wall on a Nike poster from back in the day. It is the most popular image of one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. The complete lack of text on the card, other than the enlarged “BO” on the back, makes a simple and bold statement. This image and this athlete were all that was needed. What more could one want from a card?

OVERALL RIP GRADE: A-

Posted by Todd Tobias

Todd Tobias is a longtime hobbyist and PSA staff member who is constantly on the hunt for vintage lacrosse issues and autographed cards for his American Football League (1960-1969) collection.

Johnny Robinson - Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019!!!

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