Thursday, March 21, 2013

What If?

Alright, I'm over this Topps thing.  I swear.  Ish.

But it did get me thinking a lot about what the hobby has been missing out on the past few years, and the cards we won't see in the future.

But this isn't the first time the topic has come up.

I like the idea of cards that never were.  The "what if" factor allows the imagination to stretch its legs and think of how very different things could be, whether in the most minute or most overarching of senses.

And luckily for collectors, Donruss wasn't ready to leave these things simply to the imagination.  Donruss issued two "what if" themed subsets in the early 2000's that are among my favorite non shiny, non written on, not too vintage-y, plain old pieces of cardboard. 

In 2001, Donruss reentered the hobby after a two year absence.  Upon their return, they wanted to make up for lost time (and get some more mileage out of some really nice base card designs), inserting a second "pack" of one card in either the 1999 or 2000 style inside of packs of 2001 Donruss.  Double thepackripping fun! 

Donruss built upon the idea in 2002's Donruss Originals set.  The base set included current players in even yeared vintage Donruss designs (similar to Topps Archives; presumably an odd year follow up set got canned), with a series of What If? inserts that came up with time-travelling pre-1981 card designs and rookies that never were.

The concept and execution of the cards is really cool, and I'm a big fan of the hypithetical 1978 design.  Who doesn't love the Cobra in head to toe gold?  It would have been cool to see a Pirate in a 1979 design for their World Series victory, but I can't be too picky.  Well, maybe I can.  It's also worth noting the Bonds 1986 Rated Rookie shows Bonds in the latter stages of his Pirate career (most likely 1991 or '92), rather than picturing him in the pillbox hat and awkward fitting pullover jersey of his rookie season.

But these cards offer a little snapshot of what could have been that is both fun and a little bit depressing.  Who knows what direction cardboard history could have gone had sets been released those years.  Who knows what other inserts Donruss might have had in store for '99 and '00.  Ultimately we'll never know.  But perhaps that's part of the fun.

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