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Minor League Mondays: 1986 Columbia Mets team set

The 1986 Columbia Mets had a 90-42 record and went on to claim the South Atlantic League championship. Despite their on-field success, the New York Mets’ Single-A affiliate did not produce many future major leaguers. Just Gregg Jefferies, Brian Givens, Dave Liddell and David West made it to the show, and Liddell’s big league career lasted just long enough for him to have one at-bat.

The 1986 Columbia Mets team set is notable, though it’s no longer very valuable and it’s certainly not very attractive. ProCards, a company based in Pottstown, Pa., made a set for the Reading Phillies in 1985. The next year, they signed up 88 teams. Thanks to Jefferies, who seemed to have had nearly as much hype as Bryce Harper, the Columbia Mets set sold for at least $70 in the late 80s. (I seem to remember the price reaching the $100 level, but I don’t think I could document that today.)

But it’s really not an attractive set. There’s nothing wrong with the simple design, but most of the photos were shot from about 20 feet away with the players just standing in front of outfield wall advertising. A few players posed, a few players happened to be standing in front of a neutral background. But for the most part, the pictures are terrible.

Two pitchers have two different cards for reasons that are unclear to me. Jefferies’ first name is misspelled. For reasons that again escape me, team manager Tucker Ashford is missing from the set even though the trainer, general manager and assistant general manager are included.

Here’s the checklist:

  • Bob Apodaca – Coach
  • Tim Doyle – Trainer
  • Jaime Archibald – Pitcher
  • Kevin Armstrong – Pitcher
  • Brandon Bailey – Pitcher
  • Chris Bayer – Pitcher
  • Mark Brunswick – Catcher
  • Joaquin Contreras – Outfielder
  • Kurt DeLuca – Catcher
  • Dave Gelatt – Infielder
  • Brian Givens (blue jersey) – Pitcher
  • Brian Givens (white jersey) – Pitcher
  • Alan Hayden – Outfielder
  • Barry Hightower – Pitcher
  • Troy James – Pitcher
  • Scott Jaster – Outfielder
  • Greg Jefferies – Infielder
  • Geary Jones – Catcher
  • Johnny Monell – Outfielder
  • Felix Perdomo – Infielder
  • Chris Rauth – Pitcher
  • Craig Repoz – Catcher
  • Robert Rinehart, Jr. – Outfielder
  • Daniel Siblerud – Pitcher
  • William Stiles – Pitcher
  • John Tuozzo – Pitcher
  • Thomas Wachs – Pitcher
  • Mark Willoughby (blue jersey) – Pitcher
  • Mark Willoughby (white jersey) – Pitcher
  • Bill Blackwell – G.M.
  • Junior Ramsey – Assistant G.M.

I wasn’t collecting cards early enough to buy the 1986 Columbia Mets team set for its original $3.95 asking price, but I didn’t buy it at the late 80s highs, either. I think I spent around $20 eight or nine years ago. You can now get a 28-card version of the set from STB Sports for $7.95. My own set only includes one of the Mark Willoughby cards and is missing the two executives. I’ve seen the execs listed on eBay with pictures, so I know they’re out there. I can’t say the same for the second Willoughby card, though I did see it mentioned on a few sites.

Reader MJ offers this clarification on the 28 vs. 31 card sets:

My set of Columbia 86, which I bought as soon as it was released, contained 28 cards–no execs and only a blue jersey Willoughby. Odds are they updated the set later in the season (which was a common practice at the time) with the execs. And its possible that Willoughby the first wasn’t really Willoughby (also common at the time), so thus the second of him.

This was once a big deal set that I wanted but couldn’t afford… I was glad to get it at a reasonable price.

Author:

Hufflepuff. Level 43 entertainment junkie and Mets fan. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.

8 thoughts on “Minor League Mondays: 1986 Columbia Mets team set

  1. Wow, so terrible! I wonder if putting them in front of the OF wall was a nod to some of the better sponsors — or if they actually sold those ads as a backdrop on the cards. Asked for another few hundred in payment on the account. In 1986, maybe not, but in 2011, I could absolutely buy that.

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    1. I’m inclined to believe it was the “photographer” being clueless in 1986. If you look at the older ProCards sets, you do see gradual improvements in the quality from year to year as they figured out what they were doing.

      If you started seeing billboards clearly in the background of a lot of cards in a modern set, then yes, I’d figure that there was something going on. 🙂

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    1. I got into minor league cards back in the early 1990s because they didn’t seem quite as over-produced as everything else. (You couldn’t go to the store – or even the weekend card show – and buy them.)

      Now, I still like them for nostalgia – but I’m glad the production values in minor league baseball cards have improved.

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  2. My set of Columbia 86, which I bought as soon as it was released, contained 28 cards–no execs and only a blue jersey Willoughby. Odds are they updated the set later in the season (which was a common practice at the time) with the execs. And its possible that Willoughby the first wasn’t really Willoughby (also common at the time), so thus the second of him.

    My favorite minor league set, though, will always be the 1978 Stewart Tides. It’s a simple B&W set with just head-shots–and the biggest “stars” in it were Craig Swan, George Theodore, Mike Vail, Benny Ayala and Ron Hodges (though all but maybe 2 in the set appeared in the majors at some point and most with the Mets). But it’s my favorite because you couldn’t buy it as a set. You could only get them (3 at a time) by buying hot dogs at the park. That was the only year I ever made it to see the Tides play in person.

    Uploaded a few scans for anyone interested. A bit of a mustard stain on Joe Frazier but thems the brakes.

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