For football fans burned out -- and bummed out -- by NFL expansion, there is still a place where the league isn't expanding.
While other major NFL licensees issue monster-sized sets (Upper Deck, Fleer Ultra and Stadium Club each has at least 500 cards) that may have forgotten only the sideline gofers, Action Packed stays comparatively small. This year's set checks in with 162 in the basic set and 42 more in three insert sets.
"We keep our sets small . . . because we feel that when a person opens our cards that they're happy with what they get," says Action Packed's Laurie Goldberg. "We don't want people getting six cards and saying, 'Who are these guys?'
"Everyone who's a football fan will know every player in our set, even a marginal fan," she says.
Goldberg, who grew up in Pikesville as a Colts fan and now lives in the Chicago area, describes herself as a "good litmus test" for name recognition because she hasn't followed the NFL too closely since the Colts moved.
The set is typical Action Packed, which is to say thoughtfully executed. Card-front design is new, as it is every season. Goldberg says the idea is that it should be obvious to collectors at a glance what year their card is. "Action notes" are back, describing the action on the card front in one sentence.
Action Packed didn't wait for its update set. Card backs are up to date for players who switched teams. Fronts note the fact with a small helmet logo of the new team and the words "now with," but that little helmet is hard to spot unless you're looking for it. Players are in their old uniforms -- that's what update sets are for.
The best card might be that of the Detroit Lions' Herman Moore, a study in concentration as he follows the flight of an unseen ball, arms raised, hands ready.
Insert sets feature the Quarterback Club, top receivers and 1,000-yard rushers.
The 60-card update is out, featuring draft-round logos for all players but Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who has a rocket logo (remember, these are the only people who featured Deion Sanders on a neon-highlighted card), and free agents such as former Cardinal Gibbons star Vaughn Hebron.
Bobbing Hall of Famers
Sports, Accessories & Memorabilia's newest additions to its roster of bobbing head dolls are Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Rollie Fingers. Each retails for $39.95. SAM says production is limited to 3,000 of each bobber. Call (415) 328-2142 or write: Sports, Accessories & Memorabilia, Inc., 462 Menlo Oaks Drive, Suite 100, Menlo Park, Calif. 94025.
Masters cards update
Grand Slam Ventures (GSV), whose 57-card, $149.95 set was expected Dec. 1, ran into production problems and expects to ship the sets tomorrow. Collectors can order directly from the company (there will be a shipping charge) or call to see if their local pro shop has ordered it. Call (800) 708-0019.
Upper Deck is putting eight NFL stars (Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Rick Mirer, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino and Thurman Thomas) on 24k cards. These cards will be sold only as sets (for $960). Each card comes in a locking holder that also can serve as a display stand, and each holder has its own jeweler's pouch. Look for them in late December.
Aerial Views Publishing offers 8 x 10 mini-posters of the first day and night games at Camden Yards, final game at Memorial Stadium, Yankee Stadium and RFK Stadium and full-size posters of all but Memorial Stadium.
There are also note cards of the first night game at Camden Yards and David Yontz's limited edition prints of the first night game. Racing fans can opt for a poster showing 14 NASCAR tracks.
For information, contact Mike Smith at (800) 359-4464 or Aerial Views Publishing, 14964 Frederick Road, Lisbon, Md. 21765.
SkyBox spokesman David Robinson has a five-card insert set featuring what he thinks are his top NBA performances. Each card has a "David's Best" logo. There is also a nine-card insert set called SkyBox Center Stage, featuring color action photos spotlighted against black foil backgrounds, making the photo slightly raised and the player stand out.
Through Friday, exhibit on Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Marquard, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., (410) 727-1539.
Today, card show, Towson Marketplace, noon to 6 p.m. (expected signers include Elrod Hendricks, Sherman Obando, Al Bumbry; call for times, (410) 337-6935 or (410) 837-0870.
Today, card show and auction (expected signer is Cal Abrams), Holiday Inn-Cromwell Bridge Road (I-695, Exit 29), show 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., auction 3 p.m., (410) 795-0033.
Thursday, sports card and comic book auction, Holiday Inn-Cromwell Bridge Road (I-695, Exit 29), preview 5 p.m., auction 6 p.m., (410) 795-0033.
CARD OF THE WEEK
This month, Upper Deck will release its first Parkhurst hockey cards. The 270-card first series features a borderless design and has nine players from each team. Subsets focus on top prospects and second-year players. Each of the 270 cards will be printed using green foil to make the "Emerald Ice" set. There will be one Emerald Ice card per pack. Insert sets include reprint cards from the Parkhurst archives (including Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk and Ted Lindsay) and players drafted first overall over the past 10 years.