Die Cuts (or, as German card collectors call them, The Cuts)

Die cut cards have been around for a long time, 19th century style long time. I’m not going to write about the history of die cuts; that’s not my style. You want to know more about them, go for it. You’re not gonna get that here.

In the mid-‘80’s, Donruss put out Pop-ups in conjunction with their set of All-Stars. Here’s a Wade Boggs card:

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Here’s the eye-popping special effect:

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The worst Kellogg’s set did a better job of 3-D. Most die cuts don’t even try that hard. You just pop out the player and stick him in a little paper stand. Not very believable, if you ask me.

Every once in a while a die cut set catches my eye.  The 1973 Johnny Pro Orioles set is all kinds of awesome. Great players, good pictures, and even a couple of harder to come by cards – Brooks Robinson, Bobby Grich and Jim Palmer got two poses each! I’m still on the trail of Brooks batting and Palmer in his windup. The supply seems very scarce, but, fortunately for me, the demand is low. If I ever track them down they shouldn’t set me back too much. Orlando Pena’s card, oddly, is not die cut. Pena probably wasn’t worth the price of the labor!

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The next year Johnny Pro put out a Phillies set. While the O’s got 28 cards, the Phils got only 12. The Orioles deserved more cards, they were good. The Phillies were lousy, but, and it’s a big Kardashian-sized but, the Johnny Pro set had a Mike Schmidt card. Though both sets have a solid color background, there’s something unfinished about the Phillies set, all in white. The green of the Orioles cards seems somehow more polished. I have no idea what Johnny Pro Enterprises did, but their corporate filing was forfeited in 1979. The significance of that also something I have no idea about.

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The only other die cut set I went gaga over was a Dodgers team issued pinup set from 1963. A most incredible set of actual head shots on cartoony hand drawn bodies; it seems likely that this set, in its super cool envelope, was sold at the ballpark. They look a lot like the 1938 Goudey Heads-up cards, but so much better. They’re really big, 7 ¼” X 8 ½”.

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People are probably most familiar with the 1964 Topps Stand-ups. Weird that I never dug those; I can’t figure out why. They seem right in my wheelhouse and I probably could’ve gotten them relatively cheaply in the ‘70’s, when cards like that were easy to find and inexpensive.  I should at least have a Wayne Causey in my collection.

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Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

12 thoughts on “Die Cuts (or, as German card collectors call them, The Cuts)”

  1. I remember having some of those and never knowing what to do with them. The nice things with cards was that you could have them in binders. But pop-ups? Do you treat them as cards? Do you let them clutter your desk? My mom must’ve hated these.

    Also, I seem to recall some encased-in-plastic half-size stand-up cards as well from the late 80s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those encased-in-plastic half-size stand-up cards from Topps are called Topps Doubleheaders (different from the 1955 version). I think most of them had a miniature current year card on one side, and a miniature Topps rookie card or first Topps card on the other side. I know there was a Mets/Yankees “test” issue (either 1988 or 1989), an 1989 “regular issue” (all-stars), and it looks like a 1990 regular issue as well. This link seems to be the best one I can find on eBay because you can see the plastic cases and both sides of the Mattingly in the picture:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lot-Of-16-1989-Topps-Double-Headers-Baseball-Cards-Mattingly-Clemens-Ect-/322445445639?hash=item4b133f0a07:g:~tsAAOSw~AVYv2oi

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have one of the Oriole die-cuts: Frank Baker. It was in a mystery grab bag from a long gone card shop in Seattle. All those great Orioles and I end up with Frank Baker! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I read the post title I thought it was going to be about the more modern “die cuts,” inserts like Stadium Club Triumvirates or parallel cards like the 2009 Upper Deck X die cuts (I may be the only one who remembers those because it was the first die-cut parallel set I completed). But I can do big head cards from the late 1980s/early 1990s too …

    Topps put out a set similar to those Dodgers cards, sans the card and the body, in 1990. Much larger than a standard card size (I think I have them in 2-pocket pages, and if not, they are in 1-pocket pages), and if I remember correctly they have a suction cup on the back so you can stick them on the wall.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1990-Topps-Heads-Up-Lot-of-23-Near-Set-Gwynn-Canseco-Griffey-Jr-Bo-Mattingly-/232283861833?hash=item3615327349:g:AMkAAOSwsW9Y2Ajr

    Liked by 1 person

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