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1983 Oddball Baseball Cards

By Patrick Mondout

Here's our look at the the unusual (or "oddball") sets of baseball cards for 1983. Regular sets can be found here.

1983 Oddballs at a Glance
The 3rd annual set of 33 Drakes cards was once again produced by Topps with backs that were similar to '83 Topps with the exception of the logo.
Donruss produced its first oversized set of baseball cards with this 3.5"x5" set of "Action All-Stars." Members of the previous year's All-Star teams were featured. Unlike some previous efforts - most notably the 5x7s of Topps from previous years - the cards featured full statistics (even fielding stats!) and more background information (including hobbies) than smaller cards could hold. Their size and lack of a facsimile signature on the front made them great for autographs and you might learn enough on the back to strike up a quick conversation with the player too! 
Donruss also overproduced a 44 card set called the Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes. It featured paintings of former baseball greats by the increasingly busy Dick Perez. Collector's generally weren't fond of cards featuring long-retired old-timers, as Donruss learned.
Gardner's Baking Company of Madison, Wisconsin produced this popular set of 22 cards featuring the defending AL champion Milwaukee Brewers. The cards were distributed with their bread products and, unlike so many other regional sets, not directly to dealers. Once that became obvious, the price of the sets rose considerably. The cards - professional looking for a regional food issue - were actually printed by Topps and feature backs that are virtually identical to the '83 Topps set.
The third and final Granny Goose set of the Oakland A's was produced in 1983 and once again distributed in greasy bags of the company's potato chips. There are actually two 15 card sets. The first was made up of cards with instant winner tabs (see left) on the bottom. The second set was issued as a giveaway at a game in July 1983 and did not have tabs.
Smaller than in previous years, the 1983 Kellogg's set would be the last such set until the early 1990s. Read more about it and view a checklist here.
The Minnesota Twins issued their own 36 card set that were sold at the Metrodome. The 2 x 3 cards are one of the more attractive team-issued sets you will find from the era.
Mother's Cookies distributed 15 of the 20 cards inn this popular set of San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park on August 7, 1983. Along with the cards was a coupon for five more cards. However, you were not guaranteed which five cards you would get so the only way to complete the set was trade with other fans, which was the point of the promotion. As usual, the point was lost on some hobby dealers who had no trouble obtaining adequate supplies of the cards. It was the cookie company's first set since 1953.
O-Pee-Chee's annual subset of the Topps set featured 396 cards in 1983. A checklist is here
Team-issued police sets for 1983 include the Kansas City Royals (which were actually made for the Ft. Meyers, Florida area - spring training home of the Royals), LAPD/Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves (sponsored by Coke and Hostess), and the Milwaukee Brewers set of 30 cards. The Brewers are a special case for variation collectors: The set was issued by no less than 28 police departments - each with their own names on the cards. Thus there are 840 "different" cards to that set!
Permagraphics (or Perma-Graphics) produced its last sets of "credit-card" baseball cards in 1983. The format was the same as the previous year and the photos were once again licensed from Topps.

The cards were produced by taking the paper prints and permanently laminating them with vinyl through a high-impact process. The result was a fairly thick card the size of a Visa or MasterCard. There was a spot on the back for an autograph in addition to some statistics.

7-Eleven produced a set of 12 discs featuring Angels and Dodgers that were distributed with large Slurpee drinks in Southern California. Read more about them here.
Stuart baking in Quebec issued this set of 30 Montreal Expos with their snack cakes. The 2 x 3 cards featured bilingual backs in full-color.
TCMA's minor league team sets for 1983 included the initially very hot Lynchburg Mets (Dwight Gooden and Len Dykstra) plus the Waterbury Reds (Eric Davis), Portland Beavers (Juan Samuel), Chattanooga Lookouts (Mark Langston and Danny Tartabull), Syracuse Chiefs (George Bell, Tony Fernandez), Louisville Redbirds (Andy Van Slyke), Columbus Astros (Glenn Davis), and Arkansas Travelers (Terry Pendleton). In addition, there were a number of team-issued and non-TCMA sets such as the Visalia Oaks (Kirby Puckett), Cedar Rapids Reds (Kal Daniels), Madison Muskies (with Jose Canseco) and Las Vegas Stars (Kevin McReynolds).
The company that produced the hot dogs at Wrigley Field sponsored a "Baseball Card Day" there in 1983 and these Thorn Apple Valley set of 27 Chicago Cubs cards were given away. They are substantially similar to the '82 Red Lobster Cubs and may well have been made by the same printer/photographer.

Topps initially angered some veteran dealers with the announcement that it would reprint their classic 1952 set in 1983. Many feared it would lessen the value of the real set and confuse collectors. They needn't have worried on either account. The reprint set was clearly marked on the back as such and the cards were standard sized (the 2 x 3 we have come to expect) rather than the larger size of the originals.

It wasn't quite a complete set, however. Topps had to reach agreements with all 407 of the original players or their estates in order for them to appear in the set and five refused permission. Those five were Dom DiMaggio, Billy Loes, Solly Hemus, Saul Rogovin, and Tommy Holmes. Hemus made a considerable sum in the Houston oil business and didn't need the money. Rogovin was a school teacher in New York at the time.

Topps marketed the 10,000 boxed sets in The Sporting News for $42 meaning they have barely kept pace with inflation. The set did not sell particularly well, was sold for less than $42 for many years, and it would nearly another decade before another legitimate reprint set was made.

Topps distributed an unusual test set late in the 1983 season. The Topps Foldouts were distributed one per cello pack and each of the five different packs featured great postcard-sized photos of the stars of the era. The first pack featured home run leaders, the second pitching wins while stolen base, batting average and saves leaders were also featured. Each foldout package was clearly marked on the outside as to which category (stolen bases, etc.) and the cards folded out like an according or like some of the postcards packs you can buy at tourist traps. Each foldout had a header card with advertising and then eight more cards on the front with nine cards on the back. Some of the best looking Topps printing/photography of the era is in this set and yet it was and is largely ignored.
Topps produced its first mail-in set of Topps Glossy send-ins in 1983. The attractive 40 card set featured uncluttered glossy fronts. Purchasers of wax packs collected special game cards and sent them in (with a check for postage and handling) for one of eight different five card sets. Buying them through this method set you back $20 while dealers were selling them for less than half that. These are very attractive cards and it is unfortunate that Topps didn't do a 792 card set in this format.
Topps pleased the few collectors of these Italian-made sticker sets by making its largest set yet - 330 cards including 28 of the coveted foil stickers.
True Value hardware stores sponsored a set of 23 Chicago White Sox cards that were to be given out one player per game on Tuesday night home games. This and the fact that three of the cards (Marc Hill, Harold Baines, and Salome Barojas) were never given out at games (but instead to card dealers) made this set expensive to collect. The set was popular at the time because the Sox won the AL West and had Cy Young winner LaMarr Hoyt and AL Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle.
Wheaties sponsored their second straight set of 32 Cleveland Indians cards for 1983. The 2⅝ x 4⅛ cards were distributed on "Baseball Card Night" at Municipal Stadium.


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Image courtesy of O-Pee-Chee

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