Get #FlashbackFriday Before It Is Going, Going, Gone!

You know, for the weekend.

Not permanently!

Today’s trip down the nostalgic rabbit hole of commercials is one that provides so much personal nostalgia for me. Much like toy cars at the same time, we had plenty of this nostalgic toy/collectible in our house. They were the Funko Pops of their day, geared toward kids who like sports, and took up about as much room as any respectable collection would.

We stick around in the magical year of 1988, collecting the small plastic likenesses of five of our favorite athletes and mailing their proofs of purchase to another one of those addresses so we could have a free item!

Not necessarily a sweepstakes, but still, cool enough.

What are we collecting?

And what are we collecting them to obtain?

An autographed baseball?!

Oh yes!

All the greats on this baseball – Andre Dawson, Pedro Guerrero, Wade Boggs, Mike Scott, Don Mattingly – all totally free with just five proofs of purchase from their respective packages!

As long as you send them by February 1, 1989 to this address!

Starting Lineup were introduced to the sports-collectibles-disguised-as-toys market in 1988 by Kenner, and later by Hasbro. The creation of former Cincinnati Bengals player Pat McInally, the figures started with baseball, and eventually expanded into every football, basketball, hockey, as well as auto racing, boxing, track and field, skating, soccer, and golf. They were discontinued in 2001.

McInally noticed that there were plenty of figures on the market in the likeness of GI Joe, but nothing depicting athletes. The collectible toys were popular among children, and have collectors value today, with prices for some ranging in the hundreds. The series eventually reached its decline in the 1990s when Kenner, and later Hasbro, found it difficult to release sets of players, as all notable players had seen their likenesses depicted as Starting Lineups during the initial 1988 release.

Legacy One, Inc. currently holds the trademark for Starting Lineup, as Hasbro let it lapse, and re-introduced in the late 2010s as a promotional item at sporting events. They were giveaways at several professional games in 2016 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston on October 30, 2016, the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski on November 25, 2016, and Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets on December 23, 2016. By 2017 and beyond, the figures were promotional giveaways at over two dozen giveaways across Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League.

Starting Lineups were popular in my house, a collectors item my brother had many of in the 1980s and early 1990s. He had any notable Yankees that were released (our family’s baseball team), as well as Dan Marino (our family’s then football team was the Miami Dolphins), and usually got them as gifts. I remember he had them still in their packaging, and some of them were on his walls, with other opened ones on his bookshelf.

The likenesses of the players were always pretty spot on, on par with GI Joe figures of the time. Even though they weren’t toys per se, they were still fun to collect. They’re worth something now, but they seemed mass-produced enough back then that they didn’t feel like they’d have any value. But knowing how things always find their way back into public consciousness and consumption, I’m not surprised that some of the figures have values.

I really should check the basement at my parents’ house to see if we still have them – they’d be quite the trip down memory lane!

As for this baseball, and any sweepstakes/mail aways, I wonder how many people sent their proofs of purchase to Young America, Minnesota (now Norwood Young America, the incorporation of two communities, Norwood and Young America, in Carver County, Minnesota), and got their free autographed baseball before it is “going, going…gone!”

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