My Pro Set Collection (Updated December 25th, 2021)
1989 Pro Set: “Michael Cofer” #119
1991 Pro Set: “Doug Smith” #418
1991 Pro Set: “Kevin Porter” #187
In 1989, while the hobby was hypnotized by Score, another brand made its debut; Pro-Set. Pro-Set made just as big of a splash in the hobby in '89 as Score did with one major difference; the # of cards it produced. Score, produced way too few, while Pro-Set flooded the market. Now that's not to say that the Pro-Set cards were crap. That is far from the truth and anybody who says that only looks at the book value of the sets to make that statement and they couldn't be more wrong. The initial release of the Pro-Set product was by far better than a lot of their competition. The border was perfect, the card design on the card with all the stats and bio were flawless, (See the 1989 Pro-Set: "Michael Cofer" #119 left). I was an absolute fan of the first Pro-Set release. And at that time, in the days before eBay, Pro-Set was always available at every card shop and sets were not impossible to put together, (hear that Upper Deck?). Also, this was in the days before insert sets so the "Error Cards" that Pro-Set conveniently left in production were the first "Chase Cards" the hobby truly had.
Whatever fan-base Pro-Set had in '89 evaporated in '90. If you thought Pro-Set over-produced in '89, you hadn't seen anything yet. The 1990 release, in and of itself wasn't bad, (See the 1990 Pro-Set: "Jerome Brown" #244 right), but hobby shops nationwide had more product than they could ever hope to get rid of. And that was the beginning of the end. Now when I say that the cards weren't bad, they weren't, but there was a ton of cards in the set that just weren't good at all. There were way too many Pro-Bowl cards produced, (See the 1990 Pro-Set: "Doug Smith" #418 left), that nobody wanted. And nobody had any interest in the Referee cards or the NFL Newsreel cards, (See the 1990 Pro-Set: "Newsreel" #786 below right), or the Photo contest cards. Those cards right there were what people referred to as "Junk". And unfortunately there was a lot of it!! Pro-Set also included 2 insert sets with this release; a Super Bowl MVP set and a Super Bowl Art set. Both of which are worth basically nothing. Most sellers can't give this stuff away.
With that being said, there is one card that I'd really like to have. It wasn't produced for the public. It's commonly called the "Lud Denny" Promo card. Card #338B which is an edited version of the Bill Parcells card. It shows Bill Parcells standing in the tunnel with Lud Denny's face. A total classic, even for the 1990 Pro-Set.
Unfortunately by 1991, the hobby had moved on from Pro-Set. The good thing about the Pro-Set releases was that they were 800-card sets, the bad thing, too many of those 800+ cards were junk. If most of the 800+ cards were just players like Kevin
1990 Pro Set: “Jerome Brown” #244
1990 Pro Set: “NFL Newsreel” #786
Porter on the left, then Pro-Set would've been successful, (See the 1991 Pro-Set: "Kevin Porter" #187 left), but they weren't. Instead, Pro-Set filled these sets with worthless crap that no one wanted. Pro-Set did rid itself of the worthless Super Bowl insert sets and instead replaced them with worthless WLAF sets. I must admit, I actually liked the WLAF cards, but then again I watched a few of the games so wanted cards from that league. Most collectors though didn't.
1992 Pro Set: “David Howard” RC #577
1993 Pro Set: “Fred Strickland” #264
1994 Pro Set: “Garrison Hearst” National Promo #6
Pro-Set would not stand around idly while the other card companies came out with their "Super Premium" brands. Pro-Set had to have theirs too; in 1991 Pro-Set released the "Pro-Set Platinum" set. The "Pro-Set Platinum" set was a 315-card set with a front border-less design, (See the 1991 Pro-Set Platinum: "Darion Conner" #152 right). Pro-Set was the first card manufacturer to go border-less and they did it well, too. Of course, at a minimum, I would still prefer to see the player's name and position on the front.
The one downside to this set, (other than the really low book value that this set carries), is the backside. This set has nothing in the form of stats or bio information on the back. Although I've seen worse card backs in some sets, (Collector's Edge is the worst), I did expect more from Pro-Set whose '89 set was one of the best.
The card size in the 1992 set dropped from 850 to 700. Pro-Set still produced some of the best looking cards, in my opinion, and the '92 set was no different, (See the 1992 Pro-Set: "David Howard" #577 left).
In 1992, Pro-Set started adding some quality insert sets to its line-up. Gone were the WLAF insert sets and now sets like Gold MVPs, HOF 2000, and Ground Force took the stage, with quite a bit of fan-fare too.
1991 Pro Set Platinum: “Darion Conner” #152
1992 Pro Set Power: “Eugene Seale” #153
In 1992, Pro-Set would also release the first "Pro-Set Power" set. I believe the "Power" set was Pro-Set's "Super Premium" set that replaced the "Platinum" title in '91. Now this 330-card set doesn't have a high book value, ($12 as I write this), but if you don't like the look of this set, then you don't like football cards; plain and simple. The photography was second to none. The photos were new, unique and the player selection was definitely not something you see today. I think 2 of the first 5 cards were punters, (See the 1992 Pro-Set Power: "Eugene Seale" #153 right). There are also over 25 offensive linemen in this set, talk about a throw-back to the 70s.
Another thing this set did and I don't know if they were the first to do this or not, but the set was #'d according to the player's jersey #. Eugene Seale was #53 so his card # was #153. I thought that was a unique way to number the set.
1993 Pro Set Power: “Ricky Proehl” #87
In '93, the Pro-Set set sizes started to drop off. It was 449 in '93, where before it hovered around the 800 mark. The 450 mark is still a really good set size, most sets today stop in the 250 range.
The one thing Pro-Set stayed with was action photography and borderless cards. Or at least, minimum border cards, (See the 1993 Pro-Set: "Fred Strickland" #264 above left). Other than the 1990 set that really left a bad taste in the hobby's mouth, the Pro-Set cards were really superb, high-quality cards. I know I'll get a ton of collectors that will disagree with me, but other than the fact that almost each and every set is basically worthless, the cards themselves were very nice. If the cards themselves are thought of as "Just" football cards and not something that is going to pay for your kid's college, then they did their job.
The '93 set also had 4 insert sets included and although also not being worth very much, they also fit the bill as really good cards.
In '93 Pro-Set also added the "Power" set for its 2nd year. Pro-Set's "Super Premium" set picked up right where the '92 "Power" set left off, (See the 1993 Pro-Set Power: "Ricky Proehl" #87 above right). This time around though, the set size really dipped; 200 cards this time. And although the main set dropped significantly, Pro-Set added 8 insert sets to its "Super Premium" release. And again, although not worth much, the 8 insert sets were quality sets that did their job as far as relating the fan back to the year 1993.
By 1992-1993, the writing was on the wall for Pro-Set. The fan base had totally ignored Pro-Set and most dealers just were not buying new product. Not only that, but Pro-Set Inc entered into bankruptcy protection. The Pro-Set design team was still operating as if the new set was going to be released on time because at the 1994 National convention, Pro-Set" unveiled it's 1994 Pro-Set National promo 10-card set, (See the 1994 Pro-Set: "Garrison Hearst" #6 above left). This 10-card set would be Pro-Set's last. The main set never made it to production.
In closing, I have mixed feelings toward Pro-Set. In one hand, I liked the cards, even the error cards were fun to hunt down. On the other, there really were too many junk cards put into their product that really made for some bad sets. If a collector wanted to buy an older Pro-Set title from the early 90s there are probably dozens of sellers that would gladly give those cards away. The "Pro-Set Power" sets really are some superb sets with awesome photography. I would highly recommend those two sets to any collector wanting to grab a set from the early 90s. As a matter of fact, the only set I would not recommend would the 1990 set which Pro-Set just flooded the market with.
I have complete sets:
Pro Set Series:
1) 1989 Pro-Set Series I, II and Final Sets
A) Announcers Insert
2) 1990 Pro-Set Series I, II and Final Sets
A) Super Bowl Art Insert
B) Super Bowl MVP Insert
3) 1991 Pro Set Series I, II and Final Sets
A) WLAF Player Insert
B) WLAF Helmet Insert
4) 1992 Pro Set Series I and II Sets
A) HOF Induct Insert
5) 1993 Pro Set Set
A) All-Rookie Forecast Insert
B) Rookie Runningbacks Insert
C) College Connections Insert
6) 1994 Pro Set Set - Does Not Exist
A) Pro Set Promo Set
Pro-Set Power Series:
1) 1992 Pro Set Power Set
A) Power Combo Insert
B) Emmitt Smith Insert
2) 1993 Pro Set Power Set
A) Power Combo Insert
B) All-Power Defense Insert
C) Power Draft Picks Insert
D) Power Moves Insert
E) Power Moves Update Insert
F) Power Update Combos Insert
G) Power Updates Prospects Insert
F) Power Update Impact Rookies Insert
Other Pro-Set Series:
1) 1990 Pro Set Collect-A-Books Set
2) 1991 Pro Set Platinum Set
A) Platinum PC Insert