Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sports Cards and Memories Presents: My History With Starting Lineups Part 2: The Collecting Boom 1996-2000

And to think this was the SLU that started the REAL craze in my collection.
Yep, the 1996 Hank Greenberg Cooperstown collection SLU, kickstarted what would be a 5 year period where Starting Lineups RULED my hobby life. Before 1996, like I said earlier, I was a casual collector, picking up 1 or 2 figures a year. If I came across one, great, but it wasn't something I was really specifically looking for. In 1996 though, for reasons I can't explain, it allllllll changed. It was the summer of 96 and we were visiting my cousin, aunt and uncle in Atlanta (which happened to be the site of the Summer Olympics that year). We had randomly gone to the mall one day and I bought a Jeff Bagwell 96 SLU at the KB Toy Store there (I seemed to have luck in Georgia, I remember buying my 95 Juan Gonzalez at that same KB the year before). We also stopped by a Toys R Us when I saw the Greenberg. Now I was around 10 or 11 and had NO clue who Hank Greenberg was, but my kid mind was "hey he's an old baseball player, they made a figure of him, I should buy it". Idiotic, probably, but I plunked down my money, and now felt the need to buy the whole 96 Cooperstown Collection set. I liked the look and packaging of the set. So that summer I really turned on the SLU radar and starting seriously hunting for lineups. Since this was also Olympic time, Kenner had come out with two 5 figure sets of the 96 Olympic Basketball Team. These were MUST HAVES to me and the Set 2 was easier to find then set 1 (which had Shaq and my favorite player of all time Penny Hardaway)

1996 Dream Team Set, I was sooo excited when I found both

So with the combination of the Cooperstown Collection set and USA Basketball Set, my Starting Lineup collection was quickly growing. The fun thing about it was "the hunt" as I like to call it. SLU's were everywhere in their peak. It became a daily Saturday routine, hit every retailer that had SLU's and go to the Dugout (our local sports card shop) to buy a few packs of cards. It was friggin AWESOME. You never knew what you would come across. We had 3 Wal-Marts, a K-Mart, 2 KB Toys, a Target, Toys R Us, and even a Venture (does anybody remember THAT RETAIL STORE!) and nothing was greater than seeing the latest and newest lineups. Of course the really hard to find ones were probably cherry picked, but nonetheless the anticipation and surprise of going to the stores and maybe finding a gem or two was a great experience indeed. Another thing that really helped grow my collection, was the number of products Kenner was throwing out. Stadium Stars, Freeze Frames, Classic Doubles, Cooperstown Collection, I wanted em all. My favorites were Classic Doubles in all the Sports. I loved the player combinations. There we plenty of stories in this Era that I have to share, but the bottom line is that I was hooked big time. Another thing we would do, is take trips to San Antonio, Austin, Houston, every once in awhile, just to look for SLU's! I tell you, as a kid I was spoiled BIG TIME. My collection grew to epic proportions. On the card front, I still collected, but my obvious focus was on Starting Lineups. I remember even going to our local flea market and marveling at the hard to find lineups they had for astronomically high prices, just wishing and dreaming that one day they would be mine. My next few posts will be dedicated to the stories I remember from this era, and I have plenty to tell. This was a fun time to be an SLU collector and I really wish I could go back to such a fun time in my life!


  1. That Greenberg is awesome! I loved going to different cities and picking up different SLU's. When we'd go to Phoenix or Vegas, I would always try to find something I couldn't find in LA.

    Thanks for sharing. That really brought back memories of my Starting Lineup days.

  2. Yep I remember Venture. Scored a few SLU's there myself when they were going out of business in Chicago. Tons of 88s & 89s for $1.50 each.


  3. Another great SLU post. I've always been a fan of the Cooperstown Collection... and who didn't love the Dream Team figures?