Hobby Outposts from the North: Remembering Iooss Jumbos – In his column last week, Rich Klein discussed, in part, one of the biggest controversies during his time at Beckett – the listing and pricing of a 1992 Pinnacle baseball insert – Slugfest.

The set drew uproar because it was a retail-only insert during the hobby boom. In theory, these cards took away collector spending dollars from the hobby shops, with dealers decrying it being publicized and legitimized in the price guide bible.

Hobby Outposts from the North: Remembering Iooss JumbosAt this point, I had yet to entered the hobby media circus, and in fact was still a decade away from earning my journalism degree in Toronto; but if those cards were stirring controversy at the time, I can’t imagine the impact that one of my all-time favorite hobby concepts made – jumbo cards, particularly one of the Walter Iooss Jr. baseball inserts.

I came across these cards while making a cross-border trek with my family during the winter holiday season. The time of year was our annual venture across the line to pick up heavily discounted goodies at TJ Maxx, Target and other such stores thatย  hadn’t made their way up to Canada. While in Walmart in Fargo, ND one evening, I was browsing the card aisle and came across some of the most beautiful cards I’d ever seen, those being the 1993 Upper Deck Iooss Collection jumbo cards.

For those not familiar, Iooss is heralded as one of the greatest photographers of his (or any) generation. He had this incredible knack for producing stunning photography of sport’s greatest heroes. You may have seen a few of his photos inย Sports Illustrated without even knowing it – he shot for them for over 50 years. Still kicking it in his late 70s, Iooss is everything that a photographer dreams of doing – shooting that which he or she loves in works of art that could just as easily hang in a young fan’s bedroom as it would the Smithsonian.

As soon as I saw the Iooss blow-ups I had to have one… or two… or five. They were unlike anything available north of the border. Sure, the standard-size cards could be pulled in 1993 Upper Deck Baseball, but these were larger , roughly the same size as your standard 4-by-6-inch photo. I scooped up as many as my parents would let me get and headed to the cash register with my U.S. spending allowance. Thankfully, as a family we were still well under the duty limit.

The bonus for these cards, or at least they were at the time, was that each was serial numbered to 10,000 copies. Yes, by today‘s standards this is a high quantity, but back in the early 90s, serial numbering wasn’t standard practice and outside of some products (which I’ll talk about in a later column) you were well into the thousands of copies of any “short print” card, even autographs. Could you imagine being a player in those early days and signing 2,500 copies of a card? The prospect is completely mind-numbing.

Taking it a step further, these cards weren’t foil-wrapped and could be seen in their clear plastic casements, along with a couple packs of that year’s Upper Deck product. They were a retail exclusive that really popped out on store pegs, even amid other packages of similar products that gave larger versions of inserts like Michael Jordan minor league cards or NBA inserts.

I don’t know offhand if these were a Walmart exclusive, but for argument’s sake, let’s say they were. At the time, there were roughly 1,900 Walmarts across 45 states; so chances are that if you wanted a specific card, say Paul Molitor, your local Wally World only had five copies available (assuming even distribution). This was during an era before buying anything online, be it eBay or through a retailer, was possible. So, your only option was to walk, bike or be driven down to the store and hope that five other kids didn’t have the same want that you did.

Hobby Outposts from the North: Remembering Iooss JumbosThese cards still sit in a special spot in my collection, namely the Cal Ripken Jr. which you can see. I had the chance to meet Mr. Ripken, along with several other sports luminaries, during my time volunteering for a local sports dinner. When Ripken was announced as our guest that year, many of my cohorts got Orioles baseballs or jerseys to have him sign. I knew what I wanted – the Iooss. The space was large enough not only for a nice, clean Cal sig, but also an inscription.

For the other 9,999 owners of this card, I hope it’s still an important part of your collection. And if by chance it’s not, send me a message, because at some point I’m going to try to complete this beautiful set.

Hobby Outposts from the North: Remembering Iooss Jumbos
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