Modern Ramblings of a Pre-War Collector: Let’s Rank the Pro Set Santa Claus Cards
What was Pro Set’s best effort at a really gimmicky insert?
If you’re my age or thereabouts, you remember the Santa Claus cards of the 1990s. A bunch of companies later tried their hands at these sort of things but the Pro Set football sets were the ones that were the most famous.
The cards were printed from 1989 through 1993 and, if I recall correctly, were all inserts. At the time, they were heavily desired. I even remember seeing some early ones with hundred dollar price tags. But, like many things in the junk wax era, we learned that they weren’t truly as rare as believed.
Some were better than others and here’s my shot at ranking these cards for this holiday season.
#6 1993 Pro Set Santa Claus – Jet Ski
This card is a hot mess and there’s no other way to say it.
Pro Set ended its Santa Claus cards after 1993 and if this card was partially to blame, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised.
The company apparently thought that the traditional sleigh and reindeer motif was too overdone. The 1990s were high-tech times which called for high-tech cards. No, not those oversized cell phones that were the size of your standard brick. Enter Santa in an engine-powered flying jet ski. Jet ski, rocket ship – whatever it is just doesn’t seem to fit quite right.
On the card, our hero is pictured flying with a Dallas Cowboys helmet and paraphernalia, leaving the North Pole and flying over Atlanta where the Super Bowl was being played.
I don’t know, I don’t quite get it. Maybe it was cool at the time but this card seems like a gigantic bust. Pro Set was largely an afterthought by 1993 as is this card in the Santa series.
#5 1993 Pro Set Santa Claus – NFL Properties
1993 wasn’t such a great year for the Pro Set Santa issues and while they actually had two different ones that year, both rank at the very bottom of my list.
This card isn’t the disaster of the first one I mentioned but it’s just not real appealing, either.
Here, we’ve got Santa with a sack full of peaches, again commemorating the 1994 Super Bowl to be played in the Georgia Dome. He’s sitting on a crate that reads ‘Georgia Peach’ and displays the NFL logo. Other crates read, ‘Santa at Atlanta’ and ‘Pro Set Dallas.’ Santa’s wearing a Cowboys hat, holding some cards, and has a somewhat odd-looking elf looking over his shoulder.
I don’t know. Not for me. The peach-colored background. The bag of peaches. The peaches in the front. The crate that reads, ‘Georgia Peach.’ It all just sort of screams that Pro Set tried too hard with this one.
Hey. Hey, you. Did you know Georgia is known for its peaches?
#4 1991 Pro Set Santa Claus
This card’s fine. No, really, it is. But, like anything that eventually runs its course, the series sort of took a bit of a turn here.
Maybe it’s because it was printed in 1991 and by 1991, I was less interested in football cards and starting to get into basketball. There was Stadium Club baseball. Ultra. Dikembe Mutombo rookie cards. Just a lot of things pulling me in various directions. I barely remember this card and, to me, this is where the Santa series just started jumping the shark.
Santa’s pictured here in a less detailed art card with a sleigh full of gifts and Rudolph. Somewhat oddly, he looks like he’s carrying hundreds of Pro Set cards stacked on top of each other without a box. He’s in front of a modest house that is decorated with a Pro Set sign hanging outside of their door. I know, I get it. Who does that? Suspend your belief for just a minute, my friends.
In the window is a man or woman that looks an awful lot like an elf with two kids inside? It’s just a little confusing, to be honest. Is this the north pole? The Pro Set factory? A random house? Santa’s house? Has he kidnapped children?
I’m guessing that its a completely random house getting a delivery but there are some hard questions that need to be asked here.
#3 1992 Pro Set Santa Claus
This card has some issues but is at least more interesting than the others we’ve seen.
Have to give Pro Set credit for trying something different here. Santa, for the first time in the series, is picking sides. He’s pictured with a New York Giants helmet on the ground but is wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, a Cowboys belt buckle, and is on a ranch. It’s clear he’s going all in with the Dallas Cowboys.
Santa is also, as you might expect, coming with tribute. He’s got a sack full of gifts including a football and a box of Pro Set cards while also holding a fistful of singles.
The card has an all white background, hinting that it’s a white Christmas. But supposedly on a ranch and presumably in Dallas, that seems like kind of a tough sell, no?
This card could be better, I guess. But overall, I like the creativity here and taking a different approach from the first three years, which were strictly Santa in more traditional settings.
This card ranks solidly in the middle of the series for me.
#2 1989 Pro Set Santa Claus
This was the card that started it all for Pro Set. In 1989, the company created this insert that had collectors chasing it. And it also built up a ton of anticipation for the 1990 card, too. By comparison, I think it’s a pretty good one.
Santa’s wearing a hat that might look like one of those old NFL-branded hats that says ‘Chiefs’ on it. But in reality, it follows the same style as those and says ‘Santa Claus.’ There’s a tree in the background as well as a calendar nearing a change to December 25. On the table in front of him, Santa’s got a pile of cards and a Pro Set binder.
One of the cool things about the card is that he’s holding the actual Santa Claus card as well.
There’s cards, presents, a tree, a football book with Joe Montana gracing the cover, and appropriately-colored red and green paint cans in the background. I’m not sure what more you really need here. Plus, the Pro Set design with the yard markers running down the side make this unequivocally a football card that is easy enough to identify. I’m happy with this one.
One thing I could do without? Those creepy elves or people looking in through the window. Those dudes can hit the road.
#1 1990 Pro Set Santa Claus
This is absolutely the best card in the series. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure it’s all that close, either.
Santa’s 1990 Pro Set card is surely the most iconic one. It’s the first one that comes to mind when I think of the series and it’s a popular card recognized by almost anyone that collected during that era. Like I said earlier, while the 1989 card was first, that really built up anticipation for collectors that were looking for this one.
Keen observers will note that Santa has apparently retired from his playing days here. On the 1989 card, he was listed as a player/coach. On this card, he’s now only the head coach.
The artwork on this card is certainly the best. Santa is pictured here and looks to be decorating his own house at the north pole. We can surmise that it’s his house as there’s an Elf of the Month picture on the wall in the background. Looks like a hard-working chap, and all.
In particular, he’s hanging Pro Set set cards up on the tree along with some ornaments. A tree decorated with sports cards? Sold. Under it, we’ve got an assortment of presents including a Pro Set binder.
An underrated part of the card is the poem on the back, too. A football card rendition of Twas the Night Before Christmas is presented along with hobby mentions of SCD, Topps, and, of course, Pro Set football cards. Part of the poem focuses on the fact that baseball and Topps were the talk of the town with hockey and football barely getting any recognition. Those two sports, of course, were the ones where Pro Set produced sets.
Clean look, great artwork, fun poem. This card sits at the top of my Pro Set Santa rankings.