Cleveland Browns 1988 Pro Set Test Football Cards
(Complete Set)

In 1988 the beginning of a tranformational shift took place in the football card industry. After acquiring the Bowman Card Company in 1956, Topps had what amounted to an almost complete monopoly of the football card market. Because of this lack of competition Topps issued generic and bland football cards for years. Former Brainiff airline pilot and oil magnate Ludwell Denny saw the need for a high quality football card and signed a licensing contract with the NFL. This license allowed him access to the NFL Properties game photos of players and also allowed him to designate his cards as "The Official NFL Card". He would call his creation "Pro Set". These would be the first football cards to have color photographs of the players on both the fronts and the backs of the cards. A 1992 L.A. Times article stated, "Pro Set's cards are printed on ultra-white, stiff stock, with various coatings. Parkhurst, an elite hockey set, and Pro Set Platinum, a high-quality football set, have drawn particular praise. Denny credits the emergence of this premium market to Upper Deck Co., which began a higher-quality baseball set in 1989. These cards are more expensive to make, are specially coated, have higher-quality photographs and artwork, and usually sell for three or more times the cost of regular cards. The success of Upper Deck and Pro Set has forced the industry giants -- Topps and Fleer -- to change their look and add their own high-quality lines." Pro Set began by releasing a test or prototype limited set of football cards in 1988. This set consisted of eight cards: #1-Dan Marino, #2-Jerry Rice, #3-Eric Dickerson, #4-Reggie White, #5-Mike Singleterry, #7-Phil Simms, #8-Jim Kelly. The #6 card (seen below) was of Cleveland Browns cornerback Frank Minnifield. Since the complete inaugural set was going to be released in 1989, the copyright year on the back of these test cards was printed as 1989. The 1989 set ended up with some differences from the 1988 test set. The front of the 1989 card added the AFC logo, the team name, moved the Pro Set logo to the bottom of the card, added the phrase "The Official NFL Card", and had a different photo of the player. The back of the card switched from a vertical orientation to a horizontal one. The photos on the back were different as was the legal language and the player biographies and information. This test set was the beginning of the revolution that was about to explode on the football card market. Sadly, Pro Set ended in 1994 with the company's bankruptcy filing.

Frank Minnifield 1988 Pro Set #6 football card

Frank Minnifield 1988 Pro Set
#6 football card

Frank Minnifield 1989 Pro Set #82 football card

Frank Minnifield 1989 Pro Set
#82 football card

<< Back to 1991 Pro Line Portraits cards page
Go to 1989 Pro Set cards page >>

Back to My Cleveland Browns Football Cards page
Back to Homepage