Mar 30, 2009

The Junior High Countdown: 117. 1995 Bazooka

In this edition of this monster retrospective, let's examine, Topps's latest attempt to appeal to kids and beginner collectors. Topps Attax and MLB Showdown were not the first cards where games were supposed to be the selling point. Technically, you can go back to 1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs for such a concept.

Design: It's a simple white-bordered card with mostly in-game close-up shots. The name is in red and the team name is in white letters against a blue background along the bottom. The position is highlighted in green within a bar that has ghosts of the other positions. The back is a wheel with possible different results for the game spelled out in spaces in accordance with the probability of landing on it during the game execution. Previous year stats are at the bottom of the back.

Details: Bazooka was launched in the summer of 1995 (I remember August for some reason) with an SRP of 50 cents per pack with 5 cards a pack and 36 packs per box. There was one insert set called Red Hots that were inserted 1:6 packs and 5 per factory set. These were the same design as the base set except completely red. The wheel was also slightly altered to have more positive outcomes. The base set was 132 cards including all the big stars of the day (Griffey, Thomas, etc) with the last 10 cards being dedicated to young up and comers (like my personal favorite Rico Brogna).

Impact: Since the baseball strike in 1994, card companies have been trying to snag the elusive beginner card collector market with so-called cheap alternatives. This has led to such non-memorable offerings as Topps Opening Day, Upper Deck Victory, and Upper Deck First Pitch.

Summary: The bottom line is that simpler does not a fun card set make. There was nothing to chase and nothing to get excited for. The checklist for a beginner's set was small and incomplete, depriving beginning collectors of learning about the basic construction of a team and statistics beyond what was shown during a baseball broadcast. It was also supposed to be cheap at 50 cents a pack to entice people to buy it. The problem was this was still 10 cents per card. The 1995 Topps base set, with a more interesting design and comprehensive checklist, had an SRP of $1.29 for 15 cards, 8.6 cents per card. So it did not fulfill its niche as a cheaper collectible alternative.

Furthermore, the game was kind of terrible. It was almost impossible to succeed to score runs in the game since the hits are such small pieces of the wheel. Also, to play the game, you had to stick a pencil in the middle to spin the spinner. This kind of defeats the dual purpose for which the cards were made. This wasn't the 1950s or 1960s anymore. People like their cards in good condition and like to play games; there should be a way to provide both.

On the plus side, providing a piece of Bazooka gum in the pack was very welcome.

I tried this set when it first came out, and I think I gave most of the cards away, but I did try to collect all 50 Bazooka Joe comics that came in the gum. I'll add those to my wantlist if anyone has any spare ones lying around. Yes, the gum comics were more fun to collect for me than the cards, what a sad state of affairs.

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