Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Heavy Metal

There's a lot to the resurgence of the Metal Universe set.

Most of it can be attributed to #23 on the Bulls. But even before that, it seemed like some cards from the greatest decade of collecting, the 1990s, were gaining some steam.

It makes sense. Current card releases are uninspired, rehashing the same subject matter over and over. Vintage cards are great, sure, but the yearly odes to the past are tiresome and for this collector, have made me less enthusiastic about old cards. They are forced upon us over and over in large insert sets year in and year out, making it impossible to know what year the reprint set is actually from. It's easier to lean on the past than make something new and special and out there. No Topps brand is willing to take a shot on something crazy.

Something like Metal. Some that makes Topps Fire look tame.

The end all, be all set for Fleer/Skybox Metal Universe franchise is 1997. That's fairly commonly agreed upon across all sports.

It all started with 1996, which was pretty nuts in its own right, but 1997 brought it to another level. From there it started to spiral downward a little bit, fizzling out after the 2000 issue.

But what a five year run it was!

With that, I wanted to rank each Tino Martinez Metal Universe card, as he was fortunately included in each set.

5. 2000 Metal
This was pretty boring. Can't change my mind. Gone were the unique designs, and instead this was just a metallic texture. This is what Topps Metal 2020 would look like, except it would be a reprint of a 1952 Mantle with the metallic texture. Actually, that's not a bad idea. You can have that one for free, Topps.

4. 1999 Metal
I didn't dislike the design. I liked how big and bold the player's last name was. However, all the designs were the same. If it varied a bit more, or brought in more color, there was untapped potential.

And bonus points for Precious Metal Gems if we need to justify the design using parallels!

3. 1998 Metal
Good effort. Fairly fun set by putting players in landmarks in their team's city. Very back-of-1993-Leaf-like. Tino squatting on St Patrick's Cathedral? Pretty cool. Different. The little head shot is interesting too.

2. 1996 Metal
Great card. Vibrant design. Tino on fiyah. I won't lie, if Tino was in a Yankees uniform here, it might be #1. The team name lists him as a Yankee, but he's still shown as a Mariner. Come on, Fleer! You spent all this time on the design. Bust out the air brush.

The Platinum parallels weren't the worst.

1. 1997 Metal
Duh. As a whole, I'm very high on this set. But I think the Tino is pretty medicore compared to some dudes who have terminator hands or are getting picked up by Godzilla. Maybe throw in some dynamite or something? I'm not even sure what's going on here. I think it's lightning? Maybe lightning extending from he bat down through Tino's body?

But still. It beats out 1996 for me because of the uniform and the fact that something wonky is going on here.

Long live the '90s and these amazing, wonderful, ridiculous card designs.


  1. I have very few '98 Metal and am just realizing how awesome that set is.

  2. These cards just scream late 90's.

  3. Fleer Metal was fantastic. I have some of the nonsports releases, the Pirates 96 set, and a few Jerome Bettis. I wish there was a way to get a modern baseball version of this set.

  4. yes, those are awesome cards. I'm ready for sportflics to go viral next. I'll be rich...

  5. I've been back and forth on these through my collecting history. Loved them as a kid because those early sets were comic-inspired, then hated them for a while and now back to liking them. I think the nod definitely goes to that '97.

  6. Awesome post. I wish I would have thought about this using Gwynn instead. Anyways... I'd rank 1996 and 1997... 1a and 1b. Both are fantastic. And honestly... 1998 is really nice too... but not quite at the 1996/1997 level. Then a big jump down to 1999. Then an even further drop down to 2000.