If you were to pull a card like the one above, featuring a young Mike Piazza, you probably wouldn’t think much of it. For starters, thanks to the company who produced it and its lack of logos, it will forever be labeled an “oddball”. However, at the time of its inception, it was a surprisingly nice-looking card with a Refractor-like finish. Keep in mind, in 1994, Topps’ Refractor technology was barely a year old. As for the card above, it was produced by the company that has been protecting your baseball (and other) cards for more than two decades now: Ultra Pro. It was their high-end card sleeves that changed the card storage business but what if they could have done the same with trading cards?
Under the Rembrandt name, Ultra-Pro would include promotional cards in their product, starting in 1992. In those early years, the cards featured superstars from that era in a laid-back home environment (Jose Canseco and his Porsche) or in a high school yearbook-style photo shoot. Let’s face it, NO ONE liked these cards and if you owned any it was likely that they were gifted by your card dealer or included in a trade just so that the other person wouldn’t have to look at them. Even so, they usually found a home in the back of all your cards, among other worthless oddball releases of that time.
So, what happened between 1992’s cringe-inducing promo cards to 1994? Was Ultra Pro gearing for a more serious baseball release? Judging by the shiny card above, and many others, it may have been an option the bosses at Ultra Pro were considering. Unfortunately, for reasons we know nothing about, 1994 was the final year for Ultra-Pro Rembrandt baseball cards. Perhaps the powers that be wouldn’t grant them a license or maybe they were not ready to compete with the fine baseball releases coming out of Upper Deck and Topps, not to mention all the other companies that were still around.
I Tweeted Ultra-Pro to see if they know why the seemingly harmless Rembrandt cards were put to rest. It would be great to know why, what plans they had for Rembrandt, and even if they have any unreleased cards from that era. Unfortunately, 1994 was a long time ago and there may be too many years passed to find an employee who can answer that question. I recently discovered that there is not a SINGLE Topps employee who was around from the entire decade of the 90s. Think about that for a moment. Years and years of card history is disappearing more and more with every year that passes.
The collecting world may never know …