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1984 Oddball Baseball Cards

By Patrick Mondout

Here's our look at the the unusual (or "oddball") sets of baseball cards for 1984. Regular sets can be found here.

1984 Oddballs at a Glance
Drake's 4th annual set of Big Hitters was once again produced by Topps and featured backs largely unchanged from '84 Topps. With the yearly wholesaling of Drake's cards directly to hobby dealers, collectors lost interest in the sets knowing they would never have much value.
Donruss shipped a second set of oversized (3 x 5) Action All-Stars for 1984. The backs once again featured a wealth of statistics and information and even a full-color photo of the player. If their regular '84 set hadn't been an instant classic, it would have been easy to call this the most attractive & professional set Donruss had ever produced. It would have been awesome (if perhaps commercial suicide) if they had produced a complete 660 card set in their 3.5" by 5" format. 
Donruss released a second set of oversized cards in 1984 called simply Donruss Champions. The 60 card set features award winners and leaders from the present as well Hall of Famers like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth as painted by Dick Perez. Collectors generally didn't care much for cards of long-retired players nor do they like oversized cards. Those two strikes were enough to keep this set unpopular.
Fleer's 1984 Star Stickers consisted of 126 stickers plus an album. As with the Topps stickers of the era, collector's loathed them though some very young collectors clearly liked them.
Fun Foods of New Jersey produced a set of 133 colorful 1-1/8" diameter buttons featuring the top major leaguers in early 1984. Because of their small size, they featured mostly head shots of the player's and had only the players name and one statistic (ERA or batting average) on the back (along with the Fun Foods and MLBPA logos and the number of the button). The buttons were distributed in packs of three. Long proof sheets of all 133 buttons were available to distributors. Interest quickly waned in these buttons and this proved to be the only Fun Foods set.
Gardner's of Wisconsin once again distributed a very professional looking set of 22 Milwaukee Brewers cards with their bread products. The attractiveness of this otherwise obscure regional set can be traced back to New York: Topps once again produced this set and the backs of the cards are virtually identical to the '84 Topps cards.
Topps produced a 30 card set for Milton Bradley for inclusion in their "Championship Baseball" board game. There are 15 players from each league and the backs mostly feature information germane to the playing of game. As MB didn't want to pay additional licensing fees, team logos were airbrushed from the helmets and hats on the cards.
The second straight team issued set by the Minnesota Twins uses the same design as the previous year but is still one of the better looking team-issued sets. There were 36 cards issued, including one for Harmon Killebrew and even the Metrodome!

Mother's had a lot to answer for in 1984. First, she threw out all your old baseball cards. Then Mother's Cookies actually forced you to trade with other collector's to finish your set!

For the second straight year, Mother's Cookies distributed partial sets of their baseball card on "baseball card days" at the ballpark along with coupons for more cards via a mail-in offer. Once again you were not guaranteed of getting the cards you need to complete your set so you were encouraged to trade.

Partial sets of the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres were given out on July 8th while the Oakland A's, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners were handed out on July 15th, 1984. A total of 28 cards was in each set, and the Giants set featured paintings of past SF All-Stars (in commemoration of the '84 AS game being played in Candlestick Park).

Thin cards with rounded corners generally are loathed by collectors, but this set of 140 cards with attractive photography generated much interest at the time.

Nestle Dream Team by Topps was a 22 card set featuring the top stars at each position in each league. The cards were distributed in six packs of Nestle Crunch candy bars three at a time. This meant that if you were lucky enough to draw unique cards on 8 straight tries, you would only have to purchase 48 candy bars to collect the set!

As a premium for the Dream Team collectors (see above), Nestle offered uncut sheets of Topps baseball cards. The cards were virtually identical to the '84 Topps set with the exception of the Nestle logo and featured all 792 cards!

Few collectors took advantage of the offer and there was little interest initially in the cards. Some enterprising dealers bought up most of the remaining sets of sheets (it had an estimated print run of 4,000 sets) and professionally cut the cards in to standard-sized sets. The cards have sold at a premium since and remain popular with collectors. Uncut sheets can still be found but they are not nearly as desirable because of the cost in having them cut.

O-Pee-Chee's annual abridgement of the Topps standard set featured 396 bilingual cards this year and rookie cards of Darryl Strawberry and Don Mattingly. Here is a checklist.
Team-issued police sets for 1984 included: the LAPD/Los Angeles Dodgers (for the fifth straight year), the Atlanta Braves (sponsored as always by Coke and Hostess), and the Milwaukee Brewers (given out by police and on a "Baseball Card Day" at County Stadium).
After years of eating Twinkies, Frosted Flakes, and BK Whoppers just to get baseball cards, it was a relief when the makers of PuppyChow announced a set of 33 cards produced by Topps. Alas, the Ralston-Purina cards were distributed with boxes of Chex cereal (and in a harder to find "Cereal Series" edition without the Ralston Purina logos). Unlike many of the sets Topps made for food vendors at this time, the card backs are quite different from their standard set but do feature statistics.

What Ralston Purina called its "First Annual Collector's Edition" became neither annual nor highly collectable as it was only produced once more (in '87 as a set less than half the size) and is still hard to find a buyer for due to overproduction.

Seven-Up and the Chicago Cubs collaborated on a set that looks a lot like the '83 Thorn Apple Valley and '82 Red Lobster Cubs sets. This 7 Up set was given away as a promotion at Wrigley Field.
7-Eleven produced their first regional sets of Slurpee discs/coins in 1984. Read more about them here.

The California Angels and San Diego Padres teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service to produce team-issued sets featuring Smokey the Bear in early 1984. The cards were given out at a Padres game on May 14th and in Anaheim June 16th and celebrated Smokey's 40th birthday.

The California Angels set looks like a traditional team issued set with the Smokey logo in the bottom left, but each of the Padres cards show the play posed with Smokey and some are either giving or receiving baseball tips! Like the Donruss sets of the era, the San Diego Chicken is featured as is umpire and San Diego resident Doug Harvey - the first ump to have his own card since Bowman's set in 1955!

The Padres set is one of the cooler team-issued sets of the Awesome80s and can be purchased inexpensively on eBay.

Stuart bakeries in Quebec was back in 1984 with their second set of 40 attractive Montreal Expos cards. Last year's set featured stars such as Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Gary Carter and Steve Rogers and that alone created interest in this regional set. If anything, the 1984 set was even more popular due to the inclusion of a Pete Rose card. The cards were not wholesaled out the back of the bakery and thus were truly difficult to collect as a set.
TCMA really hits its stride with their colorful 1984 minor league releases, highlighted by Roger Clemens and the Pawtucket Red Sox. Other minor league sets that were hot at the time include the Iowa Cubs (Joe Carter, Billy Hatcher), Jackson Mets (Floyd Youmens and Lenny Dykstra), Las Vegas Stars (Ozzie Guillen, John Kruk), Midland Cubs (Shawon Dunston), Tucson Toros (Glenn Davis), Vancouver Canadians (Ernest Riles, Tom Candiotti), Tidewater Tides (Sid Fernandez and Kevin Mitchell), Louisville Redbirds (Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton) and the Salt Lake City Gulls (Danny Tartabull, Jim Presley, and Ivan Calderon).
Topps produced a set of 22 Glossy All-Stars as a premium in rack packs (1 per) in 1984. The cards featured the starting lineups and the managers and honorary captains (Bench and Yaz) of the previous All-Star Game.
The second annual set of 40 Topps Glossy Send-ins was once again quite attractive and largely ignored. With all the advances in printing that have happened since, it may be hard to realize how stunning this card of Eddie Murray looked at the time. These cards were available via a mail-in offer on game cards inside '84 Topps wax packs.
A lack of interest from collectors did not stop Topps from producing its largest set of stickers (386) of the decade.
Unfazed by their failure to push their 5x7 Supers earlier in the decade, Topps released this 30 card test set featuring replicas from the '84 set (but with different card numbers). Handling these huge cards for the first time after sorting through several tens of thousands of '84 Topps was a weird experience; it felt like my hands had shrunk! They were great for autographs, however.
The Toronto Blue Jays issued their first "fire safety" set of 35 cards through local fire stations and co-sponsored by the Toronto Sun. The set is similar to other team's police sets, but these cards are standard (2 x 3) sized and generally more professional looking.
True Value once again sponsored baseball card giveaway nights on Tuesdays at Comiskey Park in 1984. The set includes 25 Chicago White Sox players and five other cards for coaches and former greats Luis Aparicio and Minnie Minoso. There was also a card for Comiskey Park organist Nancy Faust - the first ever for a female in a major card set.
Wheaties produced their third and final set for distribution at Cleveland Indians games in 1984.


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Image courtesy of Topps

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