The Middle Ground Between Light and Shadow

I’m a sucker for 3-D cards. Not all (except when it comes to Kellogg’s), but most.  I have, in addition to Kellogg’s, a smattering of Sportflics, Topps inserts and other oddballs. Sometimes the effect works, usually through some weird angle – under an armpit, between a bat and a head. You’ve got to pick your spots.

The 1995 Topps DIII set, 59 cards featuring “infinite depth perception,” held great promise, but, like Everlasting Gobstoppers and The Neverending Story, only delivered the falsest of false advertising. The 59 cards, uber thick with heavy laminate, are a blurry mess with no discernible movement.

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I was going to post a video of the cards in motion, but there’s really no point. Unlike even the worst Sportflics cards, the DIIIs don’t budge.

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Still, I like them. They’re heavy to hold, and, though ineffective, kind of nice.

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The backs are a cube design, though Star Wars scrolls come to mind,

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and the checklist is firmly mid-1990’s, when Orlando Merced and Mike Piazza could make the same set of name players.

DIIIs are not as terrible as the pit of man’s fears, and they may not represent the summit of his knowledge, but you can get a set for around $15, which is a pretty nice zone.

 

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former 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.

16 thoughts on “The Middle Ground Between Light and Shadow”

      1. Sportflics cards weigh *a lot* with all that plastic. Which is to say that it doesn’t surprise me at all that shipping is going to kill you. Paper is heavy enough as it is without the extra plastic weight.

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  1. While poking through a dark corner of my accumulation this week I found about 400 Sportflics singles from a busting day in the early 90’s. They just don’t move me like the Kellogg’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I assume you have seen the 1997 Topps Screenplays cards (I say that fully aware that I’m sorting through a mountain of cards I bought at a show and coming across cards from insert sets from the 1990s that I’ve never seen). It looks like Nick has mentioned them a few times in posts but not actually pulled one apart to tell us how it was made. I think they are what the DIII cards were meant to be, just with the technology a little better developed a few years later. I’m not at home now but my recollection is that they have a similar weight as the DIII cards but much better “action.”

    As the 2010s have drawn to a close, are there any notable technological developments in cards in the past decade? The 1990s brought us refractors, laser and die cuts, game-used cards, cut signature cards (maybe – that may have been an early 2000s development). I haven’t really thought about it deeply but I’m not sure what novel technological developments there have been with cards in the 2010s. The card of the decade is likely the 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout, which doesn’t have any bells and whistles (for the 2000s it was probably the 2001 Bowman Chrome Pujols). Topps Bunt seems to be more lasting than the e-Topps program in the early 2000s and Topps Now has altered the supply chain, but neither of those seem like technological developments.

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    1. I don’t have any Screen Plays, but know of them.

      Interesting question about card advancement. I think Topps Now is a development of some kind, getting into card form the highlights as they occur. I’ve never gotten into them though.

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      1. Screenplays are actually a solid piece of plastic that’s like an eight of an inch thick. Nothing to pull apart.

        Two things about them make them work better than a lot of lenticular cards. The first is that they’re transparent so you don’t need as much light to get them to work. The second is that they have a lot more frames (compared to Sportflics which has, at most, three) which gives them much smoother motion.

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      2. Regarding the technology changes. I’d argue that on-demand printing counts. It’s not just a supply chain revolution it also completely changes the lead time to producing cards and opens up the possibilities of super-small runs.

        Another, less obvious, change has been the increase in stochastic screening (something that first shows up in my research in 2009). This actually works hand-in-hand with the stochastic screening since a lot of on-demand printing doesn’t use traditional line screening and as a result on-demand cards and traditionally-distributed cards will look increasingly similar.

        After a couple decades of companies trying to outdo each other with premium bells and whistles, I’m hoping that the lack of any real technological changes in cards over the past decade will eventually force companies to develop good sets instead of trying to sell gimmicks.

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      3. I’m not quite sure where this reply will end up – it’s meant for Nick. I could better define technological changes as something I, as the end consumer, would notice. I don’t have any Topps Now cards (at least I don’t think I have any), so I don’t know what they feel like. Sportflics was very different from the traditional baseball card. Upper Deck was different – cards produced after 1989 Upper Deck feel different (a 1988 Topps card and a 1993 Topps card have very different feels). Refractors and parallels don’t necessarily feel different than their base card counterparts, but they look different. Die-cuts, laser cuts, game-used, and cut signatures are all very different from a standard base card, be it a 1969 Topps card or a 2001 Topps card. But, based on what you’ve written about the screening processes, I’m assuming that a Topps Now card is pretty much interchangeable with a regular base card from 2019, other than it has a different design. And yes, I just put a bid in on the cheapest Alonso Topps Now card I could find on eBay.

        I don’t know enough about the other sportscard markets (football, basketball, hockey, soccer, whatever else there may be) to know how much the manufacturers are competing with one another. Perhaps the biggest story of the decade is that Topps was the only manufacturer with an MLB license for the entire decade. I’d guess that is part of the reason there is less change (or at least I can’t really identify the big changes like I can from the 1990s). Panini sort of competes with Topps in the baseball card market but the lack of being able to use MLB logos seems to limit their ability to compete.

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  3. JK, do you count any of the Upper Deck holographic cards as 3-D? They have the blurred background depth like the Kellogg’s issues, albeit via different tech. And how about 1995 Kromax basketball, which has full color player photos popping against a metallic, quasi-sepia in action background. Your DIII pics reminded me of Kromax, too, because both issues have a bright back designs.

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  4. I love the Kellogg’s cards, especially the vintage graded versions of the 1970s! Everytime I make a trip to MVP Sportscards I always look for new material they may recently acquired. There really is another dimension of card collecting. Signpost up ahead, the Kellogg’s cards!

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