It was a frosty Chicago afternoon in late December of 1991. I was on break from school. The “Christmas money” was burning a hole in my wallet. It burned hot enough to make me brave the cold and venture out to the local mall. For those who grew up in Chicago, the mall I speak of was the Brickyard. Back in its heyday, the Brickyard Mall was Chicago’s premier indoor shopping center. It was torn down in 2002 and rebuilt as an outdoor monstrosity, but I digress.
The Osco Drug store at the Brickyard had one side of an entire aisle dedicated to just sports cards. But behind the camera counter is where they kept the good stuff; cards like Upper Deck or Stadium Club, and not the usual 50-cents-per-pack swill like Topps or Score. Behind the counter was a full, unopened box of hockey cards that I had never seen before: Pro Set Platinum Series One.
Man, was I excited! Even though I religiously read Beckett Hockey Magazine, this was the first I had heard of Pro Set issuing a high-end set of hockey trading cards. I don’t recall what they cost, but I think they were around $1 per pack. I eagerly purchased the entire box. I hurried home and opened every pack while sipping hot cocoa, and made two complete, 150-card sets; the good old days indeed.
Now, 25 years later, I think it would be fun to take a look back at the first, last and only set of Pro Set Platinum hockey cards.
1991-92 Pro Set Platinum Series One came out in late 1991, while Series Two came out towards the end of the season. Each series had 150 cards for a total of 300 cards. There were also 20 insert cards, for a grand total of 320 Pro Set Platinum cards.
Player Selection – 4.5 out of 5
Platinum was about half the size of the standard Pro Set hockey set — 300 total cards, as opposed to the 615 cards issued in Pro Set Series One and Two. Therefore, Platinum focuses on each team’s best players. However, it also has a lot of players who signed with new teams over the summer or were traded that season. So, it is basically stars and traded guys.
Getting cards of players in their new uniforms was pretty exciting back then. Normally, we’d have to wait a full year to get cards of players with their new teams. Pro Set Platinum Series One was also the first set to have game-action photos of San Jose Sharks players, as well as players from Original Six teams wearing their throwback uniforms. In fact, a lot of the cards use photos taken earlier in the 1991-92 season — sometimes from just a few months ago — making Platinum feel very current at the time.
Front Design – 4 out of 5
The front of each card consists of a full-bleed photo and a circular Pro Set Platinum logo. And that’s it. Pro Set Platinum is awesome because the design is so simple. What I absolutely loved was that these cards had more gloss than standard cards, and no borders — making each card feel more like a mini photograph and less like a trading card. The Platinum logo is unnecessary, and sometimes distracting, which is why the design does not receive a perfect score. It would have been really gutsy for Pro Set to not have any logo on the front, and let the pictures do all the talking.
Worth mentioning is that some of the cards have photos where the main player is in color but the other players and the background are in black and white. This was a clever way to highlight who the subject was meant to be in pictures where it was not readily apparent. This technique has been done to death since 1991, but back then was a fresh idea.
Back Design / Stats & Info – 4 out of 5
There are no stats on the back, but so what? Instead, Pro Set Platinum uses 2/3 of the card’s backside to show another picture — often a candid or close-up shot of the player. Sometimes, the photo on the back was as good, if not better, than the photo on the front.
Beneath the picture is the player’s name, position, the card number and a short write-up on why the player is a “Platinum Performer.” Again, this was a fresh idea at the time; a hockey card that didn’t belabor stats and vitals like height and weight, but instead briefly explained why this player was good.
Subset Quality – 4 out of 5
Pro Set Platinum also had a few subsets. Most highlighted players and happenings from the 1991-92 season, though a few cards look back at the previous year.
Playoffs (5) – These five cards focus on the division, conference and Stanley Cup Champions for the 1990-91 season.
Original Six Uniforms (6) – Six cards show off the special anniversary sweaters that were worn by the Original Six teams during the 1991-92 season.
Platinum Prospects (27) – Cards of players whose rookie season was in 1991-92, including Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek and John LeClair.
Platinum All-Stars (6) – Six cards of players who appeared in the 1992 All-Star Game. The cards also recap the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game itself.
Platinum Performance (7) – Platinum Performance cards key in on players who achieved a team or league milestone during the season.
Celebrity Captains (12) – During the 1991-92 season, which was the NHL’s 75th Anniversary, each team had a celebrity captain; some even had two. Pro Set made cards of several Celebrity Captains, including Larry King (Capitals), Jim Belushi (Blackhawks), Ralph Macchio (Islanders) and Fred “Mister” Rogers (Penguins). Unfortunately, only a dozen Celebrity Captains had cards, and not all of them.
Platinum Collectibles Insert Set
A total of 20 different “Platinum Collectibles” cards were randomly found in packs of Pro Set Platinum. Cards numbered PC1 to PC10 were found in Series One packs. PC1 to PC6 feature Players of the Month, while PC7 through PC10 are of “Sensational Sophomores.” Cards PC11 to PC20, found in packs of Series Two, are of “Platinum Milestones.”
A pack of Pro Set Platinum had 12 cards. Each box had 36 packs, yielding a total of 432 cards. Collation was pretty good for Pro Set. I recall getting two full 150-card sets from a box of Pro Set Platinum Series One. If you happen to remember what a pack of these cost back in 1991-92, please let me know.
No French Series
Unlike Pro Set’s other two major releases in 1991-92 — Pro Set Series One and Two, and Parkhurst Series One and Two — Platinum did not have a French-text version.
Special Pro Set Platinum Collectors Album
A special, faux-leather Pro Set Platinum three-ring binder was available for purchase through Pro Set’s mail-order catalog. The binder had the Pro Set Platinum logo printed in silver ink on the front and on the spine. I am not sure of the price, but other binders made by Pro Set sold for $7.95, so it is safe to assume that this sold for around that price too.
Pro Set Platinum was pretty awesome when it came out. Photos were as current as possible, and printed without borders. The cards were super glossy, too. All of these features made Platinum feel like a premium set of cards for its time. They didn’t even need stats to be great. While Platinum may not be the best (or even second-best) set from 1991-92, it is still a worthwhile — and cheap — pickup. It nicely showcases the NHL’s 75th anniversary season without getting too unwieldy.
Bonus – 10 cards from Platinum that I love for one reason or another
#4 – Andy Moog – The Bruins’ goalie is getting a snow shower, courtesy of this teammate. But he made the save! (view back)
#25 – Chris Chelios – My favorite player in a Blackhawks “Barber Pole” throwback jersey. The picture was taken during the ‘Hawks home opener on October 3, 1991 — just a few months before this card came out. (view back)
#55 – Mike Modano – A great smile by the Minnesota North Stars’ young star. (view back)
#70 – John MacLean – All hell has broken loose in this Devils-Whalers game. There’s so much going on here, as MacLean tries to weave through the chaos. (view back)
#87 – Ron Hextall – A great overhead photograph of the Flyers’ netminder playing the puck. (view back)
#107 – Doug Wilson – This great photo shows the Sharks’ first team captain — and future general manager — having a serious discussion with an official. (view front)
#176 – Marc Bergevin – The Whalers’ d-man splats a Maple Leafs’ player into the boards. (view back)
What is your opinion of the 1991-92 Pro Set Platinum Hockey Set? Did you collect it back then? Would you buy it now? Do you have a favorite card. Leave a comment below.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■