Barry Larkin 1993 Upper Deck Iooss Collection
Walter Iooss is a photographer whose work has featured prominently in Sports Illustrated, so he was a natural fit to photograph an insert set for Upper Deck 21 years ago. Fortunately, this set paved the way for the '96 V.J. Lovero Showcase, another set that remains beloved to this day. The photography and design on these cards is light years better than the base set, making it a nice treat for collectors then and now. This Larkin is a beautiful example of what a talented photographer can do for a set.
Barry Larkin 1996 SP Marquee Matchups
Bring on the 90s inserts! In this non-die cut version, which still looks awesome, Barry's AL counterpart from the set was Albert Belle, who finished second in '95's MVP race while Larkin took home the NL crown, and whose team also plays in Ohio. Larkin won a fairly close one over Rockies slugger Dante Bichette, hitting .319 with a .394 OBP, 15 HR, and a career-high 51 steals for the NL Central champs. I love the design, which features Larkin post-swing atop a sweet stadium background.
Barry Larkin 1997 Flair Showcase Row 2
Fleer ran with the whole "ticket" theme with their premium Flair Showcase brand, and sometimes that meant that numbering an inserts got confusing, but fortunately the design still looks awesome to this day. I love the flying action shot of Barry in the field here.
Barry Larkin 1997 SP Marquee Matchups
This time there was just one version of this set in which all cards were die cut, which is pretty cool. Larkin was again matched up with a Cleveland Player in '97, but in this case it was slugger Jim Thome. Both guys had nice years in '96, with Thome hitting .311 with 38 HR and Larkin joining the 30/30 club with a career-high 33 bombs to go with 36 swipes. I prefer the '96 design a bit more, but this one looks great too.
Barry Larkin 2000 Topps Gallery
Topps Gallery was a very consistent set, and when I say that, I mean that it was consistently high-quality. The motifs of the art world translate extremely well to baseball card photography and design, including this gorgeous image from the 2000 set.
Barry Larkin 2000 Topps Gold Label Class 2
Barry Larkin 2001 Topps Heritage
I'm just gonna go ahead and say that I think 2001 is my favorite Heritage set. For whatever reason, the design really does it for me more than most of the other versions. Maybe it's because it was Heritage's debut as a standalone base set, or maybe because it was based on the landmark 1952 Topps design. Whatever the case, the result is stunning, like this Larkin here.
Barry Larkin 2005 Diamond Kings
Keeping up the theme of cards worthy of being framed, here's Barry's base card from the 2005 Diamond Kings base set. Although the true insert set was always more of a treat, I'm glad Donruss branched it out into its own set for a few years. My only complaint is that the player image is so small, but at least what's there looks really nice. His 2003 base remains my favorite so far.
Barry Larkin 2005 Leaf (#258)
This looked like a fun card to pick up since both the front and back are worth scanning. I think the Passing Through Time subset started in 2003 to celebrate 10 years since the release of the '93 set, which was way, way better than the crapfest '91 and '92 sets (though '90 was pretty good). I've always been a fan of the '95 set, with its cool logo and the shiny player picture within a baseball diamond.
Barry Larkin 2006 Greats of the Game Reds Greats
How could Barry NOT be included in this set honoring some of Cincy's best players? Greats of the Game always did a nice job of covering both the stars and forgotten guys from teams, though Larkin obviously falls into the former category. I actually have another Wolverine from this set in the form of Bill Freehan's card.
A nice even 10 Larkins gives his collection a new total of 222 cards!
Hal Morris 1996 Finest
I actually kind of went backwards here in picking up the Refractor version first, but as usual the base card is worth of being nabbed as well. Sometime soon I'll peel and reveal!
Hal Morris 1999 Paramount Holo-Gold (#002/199)
Hey, it's a parallel from what's probably my favorite Pacific set! I do have the base card as well, but I really like this Holo-Gold version, even if the serial-numbering is printed and not foil stamped.
These two give me a new Morris total of 92, and I can't wait to hit the century mark.
Chris Sabo 2005 Topps Rookie Cup
More like Topps Rookie SPUDS, right? Oh wait, he's not wearing his trademark Specs here. Still, it's a great photo of the instantly recognizable Sabo from one of Topps' cooler ideas, a set that incorporates the brand's well known yearly award for their pick of the top rookie at each position. Also, this is my 45th Sabo, and maybe I'll be celebrating a nice little milestone soon.
Stay tuned for a lot more from COMC shortly.