I love oddball/food sets. We didn’t get most of them in the US and, unlike the baseball food issues here (ahem, Post) they’re actually licensed, so no logo-less sweaters. Kraft seems to have produced some of the best; they made sets every season from ’89-90 to ’94-’95 and then did a couple more in the early oughts. At 64 cards, the ’89-’90 set is the smallest (the following year’s set had 115 if you count the oversized pogs they included) but it might be the best looking. A simple, white border includes the player’s name, number and team logo. It gives the cards a very uncrowded look which complements the excellent, action photography very. Compare this to the 1989-90 Topps/O-Pee-Chee set which features a lot of players standing around. Not to mention its busy composition (Its design is so quintessentially nineties that words “cowabunga” and “mondo” come to mind whenever I see one.) 1989-90 was the last hockey season before the explosion of the market in 1990-91, so these two sets are the only ones offered.
Only the seven Canadian teams are represented here–Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg–so sadly no Bruins, Whalers, etc. Some players from American teams made it into the set as the Wales and Campbell Conference All-Star teams are also featured. (There was no way Kraft was going to omit Gretzky.)
The cards came on boxes of Kraft products, including ROCK-O-RAMA, whatever that is. Here’s a typical box of Kraft Dinner, featuring the Sakic rookie from above, that I borrowed from the internet:
I’m currently reading Collections of Nothing by William Davies King. He’s a professor of theatre at the University of California, Santa Barbara but I can’t imagine him having time to do anything outside collecting. King writes abouts his endless collecting of valueless objects–from business cards to credit cards to envelop linings to produce stickers to pieces of scrap metal–but his largest (and most impressive?) is his collection of food labels. He has over 18,000, all neatly pasted into binders. Davies cuts out the front label and throws away the back so he may very well have done the opposite hockey collectors had done and kept the label and throw away the cards!
The reason I bring up King and his book is because of his commentary and observations on collecting. Cards–be it hockey or baseball or non-sport or soccer–are ephemera. They weren’t originally designed to be kept over the long term and, from a manufacturing standpoint, little has been done to change that, simply meaning: they’re still flimsy little pieces of cardboard. He writes that collecting “finds order in things, virtue in preservation, knowledge in obscurity, and above all it discovers and even creates value” (7). This explains, quite nicely, why I’ve just written about 600 words on a small, 25 year-old set of hockey cards that were originally cut out of boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Later in the chapter, King elaborates on his answer to the existential question collectors face every now and then, when moving, creating space for new additions, or dealing with the sheer vastness of their own collections. He’s writing about his boyhood stamp collection but it holds true to any. “I wanted to make my collection into an orderly and rich place where I could go” (13). I’ve been thinking about this more and more as the lockout continues. I thought that the lockout might dissuade me from collecting–and it still may–but for now, hockey only exists on the cards in my binders and boxes, and the ones I might buy.