At the tail end of the “junk wax” era in 1995, Upper Deck—in tandem with a company called Metallic Impressions—produced a set that exemplifies the excess and weirdness of the era. Taking advantage of the hoopla surrounding Michael Jordan’s attempt to become a baseball player, Upper Deck released a set of five Jordan “cards” on steel stock. The five-card set is contained in a metal box with a detachable lid.
The “Michael Jordan Tribute Set” is rather conventional in design. Paper fronts and backs are adhered to the gold embossed steel. Action photos grace the fronts, with narratives of Michael’s baseball odyssey contained on the back along with another photo. The cards are numbered MJ1-MJ5.
The first card features a Little League photo of Michael Jordan, with the back providing the inspiration and rationale for retiring from basketball and trying a sport he last played in high school.
Card MJ2 is about the White Sox sending Michael to the Arizona Fall League after the Birmingham Barons AA season ended in September of 1994. By the way, he got off to a fine start at bat and finishing with a respectable .252 average.
The final three cards are devoted to hitting, baserunning and fielding. The text details Jordan’s hard work and continued improvement.
Of course, Jordon decided to end his pursuit of a baseball career in 1995 and the bottom fell out of the baseball card market. The set I have is from the markdown section at Target, where my wife or I purchased it for my son in the late 1990s. Last summer, I rediscovered the set buried within a storage bin.
This set is an example of the prevailing philosophy of the “junk wax” era; throw stuff at the wall and hope something sticks. In the case of the “Michael Jordan Tribute Set,” it fell clanking to the floor.
“You better let Michael out of the can before he suffocates to death!”