Pro Set struggles getting back in game Demand not great for its new cards

MEMORABILIA

January 03, 1993|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Staff Writer

Pro Set, which has been trying to get back on its feet since filing for Chapter 11 protection from creditors, has garnered enough financing to produce its NFL and NHL lines.

The second series of NFL cards came out in time for holiday shopping, but, for the most part, Baltimore collectors and dealers are ignoring it.

Harry Sponseller of Straightaway Center in Glen Burnie thinks the company is out of touch with collectors.

"They went Chapter 11, and they can pull themselves up, but they have to do something," Sponseller says. "They need to do a substantial improvement to the cards to make it."

He points out that Pro Set refuses to coat its cards while Upper Deck, Stadium Club and other popular lines are coated. Sponseller says he carried Pro Set's NFL Series I but ended up selling it below cost.

There's no demand for Pro Set at Doug Sunday's Padonia Crown in Timonium. He says he's willing to buy boxes for customers who want lines he doesn't normally carry.

"I haven't had a customer ask for it," he says. "I got stuck with a lot of it last year."

Bob Fickus of Baseball Unlimited in Baltimore isn't big on Pro Set NFL for two reasons.

"It's not that desirable," he says, and "football doesn't do that good around here."

Hockey is his second-best seller behind baseball, but he no longer stocks Pro Set's NHL cards. He says last season's French version was popular.

Christmas was busy at Robbie's First Base in Timonium, but Robbie Davis says there was no interest in Pro Set.

"Everybody's afraid of it," he says.

Don Bevans isn't carrying it any more at All Star Cards in Baltimore.

"We had very little call for it," he says. "My customers who used to buy Pro Set said they didn't think they were very imaginative."

One store has sold Pro Set this year.

Tom Blair at Jay's Sports Connection in Towson says he sold out of NFL Series I and his football-collecting customers came back to complete sets by buying single cards.

"Nobody's come in asking about Series II," says Blair, who didn't order any.

What Pro Set has produced is a 700-card set that may appeal to graphic designers but gives a collector pause. An eye-catching design isn't necessarily what makes a set the way a collector wants to remember a football season.

Pro Set remains borderless, but the player and team names and team logos occupy a strip at the left or bottom (for horizontal cards) of the card. That cuts the photo area in a way that a border doesn't. Cropping is generally good, but the strip puts the photo off-balance.

Collation is good, but it should be near 100 percent when you're trying to get 300 cards from a box of 540. A sample Series II box yielded 298 of the cards, plus the Santa Claus insert card and four of the 10 Hall of Fame 2000 insert cards. Pro Set also has a card touting an Emmitt Smith offer. Those non-regular cards are the only coated ones.

The set complements the 400-card Series I with NFC Pro Bowl cards and AFC Spirit of the Game cards. There are also Super Bowl highlights.

Quarterbacks in tin

Former Baltimore Colt John Unitas is one of four quarterbacks featured on collectors tins available at participating 7-Elevens. The tins, featuring Unitas, Y. A. Tittle, Dan Marino and Warren Moon, contain two decks of playing cards. They are licensed by NFL Quarterback Legends and the NFL Quarterback Club. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Children's Miracle Network, the official charity of the NFL Quarterback Club.

Upper Deck's NFL Series II

Chuck Noll is back. The former Pittsburgh Steelers coach has analyzed 19 rookies and second-year players for an Upper Deck NFL Series II insert set. Other highlights of the 220-card set are a 10-card Dan Marino "Football Heroes" insert set -- special cards honoring James Lofton and Art Monk -- and a 10-card insert set depicting NFL stars as comic-book superheroes.

Action Packed to the races

Action Packed has joined the Winston Cup circuit with an 84-card set. Twenty-one top drivers are featured, including Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki. Recently retired Richard Petty is featured in a six-card subset and five Braille cards, the first in auto racing. Other Action Packed traditions picked up by the racing cards are randomly inserted gold-leaf cards and embossed multidimensional sculpting. Cards come seven to a pack.

Bonus autographs

Not only does Classic's 4-Sport Draft Pick Collection feature top picks from baseball, basketball, football and hockey, but its 12-card packs include randomly inserted autographed cards. Classic says more than 50 players have signed more than 100,000 cards.

Coming events

Saturday-Sunday, 1966 World Champion Orioles Reunion baseball card show with portion of proceeds to benefit the Epilepsy Association, (expected signers include Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Luis Aparicio), Pikesville Armory, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 581-9531.

Saturday-Sunday, baseball card show, (expected signers include Hank Aaron, Tom Glavine, John Unitas, Walt Frazier), Virginia State Fairgrounds, Richmond, Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (800) 899-8833.

Jan. 16-17, Bird Expo '93 baseball card and memorabilia show (expected signers include Leon Day, Gus Triandos, Ben McDonald, Arthur Rhodes, Paul Blair and Jim Gentile), Pikesville Armory, Jan. 16 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 17 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 265-7200.

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