Once again, thanks to Dan Stickney at Fadads Collectibles in Belleville, MI, I was able to pick up two boxes of ’89 STAR minor league. Dan did a fantastic job of delivering both boxes safely, and four days early. You can visit his eBay store by clicking here.
This 1989 STAR minor league set was supposed to be a 300 card, 3 series set, but it appears the series was abandoned after series 2 released. So what we have is a 200 card set split into two distinct series releases. Series 1, which I reviewed yesterday, is one of the poorest efforts I’ve seen at a national minded release. The card design was lazy, the colored borders seemed random, the reverse was muddy and worse of all the card distribution was terrible. I lost count on double dips, and after a box, I’m at 50% on the checklist (not counting the Hensley Muelens error).
The second series addresses, if not solves, a lot of the problems of the low number run. Before we get into what STAR did right, there were a few problems. Initially, the packaging seemed to have no effort behind it. The pop box is very generic. Green fading into red with a ball with “STAR” in front of two crossed bats and above that a pennant that reads “MINOR LEAGUE” above “Base Ball Cards” and the tag line “The stars of tomorrow .. today!” No pictures of ball players, no images of the cards to attract kids over. Then there’s a “1st Edition” in a comic book FX balloon, which even 30 years later, is confusing. Is this the 1st series? Is there a 2nd edition of 2nd series coming? Match that with the pack packaging that correctly reads “2nd series”, the whole thing just comes across looking like a gong show.
The set does however fix some of the major design issues that hindered series 1. The most apparent fix is that STAR went away from multiple border colors to a uniform red border color. Maybe not the ideal choice, when you have a red border around players wearing Pirates’ yellow & black or Giants orange, it does hit the eye much less harshly than the previous series.
The quality of photo used in series 2 is a full letter grade improvement. From a D to a C. The photos are brighter and a little bit more effort was put into the crop. But they do suffer from lack of action. It’s a lot of stagnant shots of players posing with a bat and not many of players swinging a bat or sliding into a base.
The back of the cards are a major improvement. The team logos are much clearer and the color is closer to white than the “faded legal pad yellow” of the early series. The print is also a uniform red, which again not an ideal choice, particularly if you consider color fade as the cards age. But, still a vast improvement over the dealer’s choice color selection.
Star power versus the previous edition is a slight improvement. Series 2 features players that have a little better recognition, we’re looking at Robin Ventura, Deion Sanders and Tino Martinez versus Steve Avery. It may be harsh to criticize player choice three decades later. Particularly when you’re talking about 200 players (overall) drawn from roughly 1500 players and 50+ teams in affiliated baseball in 1989. But, looking back at the collection, from a player recognition standpoint, you’re going to be more drawn to series 2 for guys like Ventura, Sanders and Martinez.
I lamented earlier about the awful card distribution of the blue box 1st series. It was not unusual to pull the same card twice in a pack. That is really where series 2 shines for me. As a modern collector going back to a “junk wax” set like this, the ideal scenario is to get a box, rip packs and be able to complete a low count set without having to supplement either with additional packs or by trying to grab singles off the internet.
It took me exactly 75% of the box to complete the 100 card series 2. A dramatic improvement over the blue box. It was actually pretty funny. I put the Tino Martinez card into it’s slot in the line-up and thought “I can’t have many more needs”. Then I rifled through and realized that I had in fact completed the set.
I like to look at these sets as what value do they have for collectors today. To that standard, series 2 rates way higher than Series 1. Being able to rack-up a full set inside of a box that you can get on eBay for $12-$20 is very appealing, particularly for those of us old enough to remember when the hobby was ripping packs to build sets. The design is a lot more pleasing than Series 1 which has a draw for those of us who put their sets into binders. But, for completists like me, it’s difficult to deal with series 2 independently of series 1 because this set starts at card 101. Then you sleeve it behind the rainbow border series hits your eyes very wrong. Then there’s the total lack of player appeal. Deion Sanders (who annoyingly has the only sideways photo in the set) might be the biggest name, but as a baseball player his cards didn’t seem to have much staying power.
Now that I’ve had some time to sit and think about my experience with STAR Minor League 1989, I just can’t. I can’t foist this set upon you. $27 for both boxes. But I’m going to be int for at least another $15 to take a run at completing the set.