Saturday, June 21, 2008

Card of the Week: Nolan Ryan

In 1989, Upper Deck ushered in a new era for Baseball cards. They had clean white borders made with thick glossy cardboard. For the first time a major set had color photos on both the front and back of the card. A unique diamond shaped hologram was placed on the rear to insure its authenticity. The design was simple and clean. I consider it one of the great Baseball sets of my generation.

When most people think of this set Ken Griffey Jr. immediately comes to mind. As written about recently by Slate reporter Darren Rovell, his rookie card in that set is considered one of the great cards of the 80's, if not the entire history of the hobby. That card, numbered #1, was one of the hottest cards in the market. They sold for hundreds of dollars and caused grown men to go crazy.

Another card in that set that caused just as much fanfare, albeit without the huge price spike, is the above Nolan Ryan card. Numbered #774, it was a part of a 100 card update set released towards the end of the year.

Everyone wanted this card. I remember selling them for as much as $20.00 a piece. The strange thing about it, though, was that it wasn't particularly rare. Nor was it a rookie card for this soon to be Hall of Famer. Instead, collectors just plain loved the card.

It was seen as unique and special. A card showing Nolan Ryan throwing a football was a perfect match. After all, we all knew that if Ryan hadn't played Baseball he would have been quarterback for the Cowboys. Of course, if he hadn't played Baseball we never would've seen him headlock Robin Ventura and we all would be worse off for that. Nolan Ryan was the symbol of aging gracefully at a time when old men wanted to relive their youth. He aged with both pride and toughness and this card epitomized that idea.
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