Pro Set trading cards

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Pro Set
FounderLudwell Denny
Defunct1992; 27 years ago (1992) [1]
ProductsTrading cards
Number of employees
200 [2] (1991 [2])

Pro Set was a Dallas-based trading card company founded by Ludwell Denny in 1988. Denny had gained a card license that year after making and selling other NFL memorabilia in previous years. His licensing agreement with NFL Properties allowed Denny to gain access to its extensive photo library[3] and become the first card maker officially associated with a professional sports league. Across the bottom of most of his company's cards was its designation as "The Official NFL Card," a distinction it held through 1991.

During its years in the business, Pro Set got licenses from several sports associations such as NFL, NHL, NASCAR and PGA Tour to produce trading cards.


The first year that Pro Set released a product was 1989. The year marked the beginning of the modern era for pro American Football Cards. Score (who had entered the market the year before with baseball) also released a football product. For several years, Pro Set flooded the market with its product. The company managed to produce football sets through 1993 and in 1994, but Pro Set folded, due to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, citing more than $800,000 in unpaid royalties to the NFL Players Association.[4]


Pro Set made rookie cards of actual rookies (notably draft picks) and offered more color and action shots than Topps did. Pro Set claimed to have its own printing presses for its product, which could make and issue cards very quickly. For its first football card set in 1989, Pro Set released its cards in three series. The 1989 rookies were found primarily in the second series. Key rookies in the set included Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Jeff Lageman and Deion Sanders. The 100 card Series II set was sold in packs, but the packs averaged 11 Series I cards and 4 Series II cards per pack. These cards not only featured first round picks but featured later round picks. These cards were labelled as Pro Set Prospects.[5]

At its peak, Pro Set had a 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) headquarters[citation needed], where 225 employees designed various cards. In 1992, Pro Set forecasted sales of $165 million. A free magazine was published by Pro Set called the Pro Set Gazette. It was mailed to 1.2 million collectors twice a year.[6] Beckett Publications noted that in 1991, sports cards grossed about $1.9 billion in sales in North America, so Pro Set had a dramatic impact, albeit briefly.

Insert Cards[edit]


There were a number of inserts in 1989 Pro Set football, including a 30 card subset of broadcasters. There were also Super Bowl insert cards for each game that had been played. There was also a card for NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Pro Set introduced an insert card for Santa Claus that was labelled as a coach card. The first year it was released was in 1989 and it was a dealer premium. It was inserted in packs in 1990 and 1991. The Santa Claus cards included Pro Set founder Ludwell Denny somewhere in the card.[5] On the back of each Santa card is a parody of the poem "The Night Before Christmas" that has sportscard subject matter.[7] Pro Set included other insert cards in its 1990 offering, such as Payne Stewart, a comic book character called Super Pro, which was a superhero in a football uniform, a tribute to the late Joe Robbie, and the Lombardi Trophy Hologram card.[7]

Error cards[edit]


The 1990 Pro Set football card release has several errors and variations.[2] Due to a contractual dispute, and his unwillingness to join the NFPLA, the Pro Bowl card of Eric Dickerson (No. 338) was withdrawn early creating a short print.[8] Card #338 would be reissued with Ludwell Denny on the front and it was a promotional card not available in packs.[7] Card #75 in the set was meant to be Browns Center Cody Risien, but the card was withdrawn early due to his retirement during training camp, also resulting in a short print.[9] The most sought after variation from 1990 Pro Set is card #204 Fred Marion of the New England Patriots. This card is rather controversial because the card features San Francisco 49ers player John Taylor in the background and the belt from Taylor's pants came undone. The positioning of the belt gives the appearance that his private area is exposed, but it is just a shadow and the belt.

  • Other error cards and variations in the 1990 Pro Set football set include:
Athlete Error Description Correction Description
Barry Sanders 1a No ROY trophy on back 1b Shows picture of Barry holding the ROY trophy
Joe Montana 2a back reads "Kelly-3,521 yards" 2b back corrected to "Kelly: 3,130 yards"
Walter Stanley 15a #8 on back 15b #86 on back
Chris Doleman 18a error back, wrong stats, "Townsent" 18b back corrected to 104.5 sacks for Taylor; "Townsent" corrected to "Townsend"
Andre Ware 19a no draft stripe on front 19b draft stripe on front
Mo Elewonibi 20a no draft stripe on front 20b draft stripe on front
Percy Snow 21a no draft stripe on front 21b draft stripe on front
Anthony Thompson 22a no draft stripe on front 22b draft stripe on front
Franco Harris 25a wrong birthdate 25b corrected birthdate 3/7/50
Jack Lambert 27a wrong birthdate 27b corrected birthdate 7/8/52
Mike Ditka 59a SMALL FONT for "Hall Of Fame" on front 59b LARGE FONT for "Hall Of Fame" on front
Rickey Dixon 63a no bio notes under photo 63b bio notes under photo
Sam Wyche 68a no bio notes under photo 68b bio notes under photo
Ozzie Newsome 75a wrong hometown 75b corrected hometown: Muscle Shoals, AL
Johnny Holland 110a no name, number on back 110b corrected
Perry Kemp 111a Ken Stills photo on back 111b corrected
Sterling Sharpe 114a says he was born in Glenville 114b corrected birthplace: Chicago, IL
Mervyn Fernandez 152a Draft status incorrect 152b status corrected to "Drafted 10th round '83"
Art Shell 161a Birthdate: 11/25/46 on back 161b Birthdate: 11/26/46 on back, large HOF print in banner on front
Fred Marion 204a 49ers player with belt 204b 49ers players belt airbrushed out
Morten Andersen 210a name in white on back 210b corrected (name in black)
Eric Martin 216a name in white on back 216b corrected (name in black)
Jim Mora 221a name in white on back 221b corrected (name in black)
Charles Haley 289a incorrect fumble recovery stats 289b stats corrected to 5 total fumble recoveries
Ray Perkins 319a no name or position on back 319b corrected
Chris Hinton 343a no stripe 343b with traded stripe
Randall Cunningham 386a Small Print On Front 386b Large Print On Front
Dan Hampton 449a DE on back 449b DT on back
Kevin Glover 496a C-G back 496b G back
Wes Hopkins 607a Stat Categories Fumbles and Interceptions in Black 607b Stat Categories Fumbles and Interceptions in RED
Rod Woodson 626a Red fumble interceptions header) 626b Black fumble interceptions header
Rod Bernstine 627a position listed as TE 627b position corrected to RB
Anthony Miller 630a position listed as WR on the back 630b position listed as WR-KR on the back
Leslie O'Neal 632a position listed as LB-DE on front 632b position listed as LB on front
David Richards 633a position listed as G-T on back 633b position listed as G on back
Curt Jarvis 657a no "Official NFL card" on front 657b "Official NFL card" added to front
Terry Wooden 698a back number 90 698b back number 51
Pat Terrell 718a back number 41 718b back number 37
Oliver Barnett 723a position listed as DT on front 723b position listed as NT on front
Johnny Bailey 743a Back says 46 743b Back says 22
Eric Moore 744a no prospect stripe 744b prospect stripe added
Dexter Manley 772a mentions substance abuse problems on the back of the card 772b does not mention substance abuse on back
Commissioner at Berlin Wall 785a back says "peered through the Berlin Wall" 785b "posed at the Berlin Wall"


Various cards in the 1990 offering have three variations. They are as follows:

  • Card 15: Walter Stanley, the number on the back of the card is 87.
  • Card 134: Andre Rison, traded stripe on front, message Are You Missing Something is on the back
  • Card 161: Art Shell, the birthdate of 11/26/46 is on the back, small HOF print in banner on front[7]
  • There were multiple Team Draft Day varieties of Jeff George. He was featured in his Illinois Fightin’ Illini uniform. One version had the Patriots logo on the front of the card. Another version was randomly inserted in packs of Series 1 football, and featured the card, but with the Indianapolis Colts logo.


1990-91 Pro Set Hockey[edit]

Card Number Athlete Error Corrected
1 Ray Bourque Misspelled name on card front, shows as Borque Yes
6 Dave Christian Stats incorrect: 28 games with Washington and 50 with Boston No
7 Garry Galley Text on back: "on the shelf" changed to "injured" Yes
9 Rejean Lemelin Wrong headings for goalie & 89-90 stats are for Andy Moog No
10 Andy Moog 89-90 stats are for Rejean Lemelin, was 3rd in Vezina voting, card shows 2nd No
13 Dave Poulin Flyers stats missing from 89-90 No
17 Dave Andreychuk Photo on back is Scott Arniel Yes
18 Scott Arniel Photo on back is Dave Andreychuk Yes
21 Phil Housley Trade to Winnipeg tag is missing Yes
25 Clint Malarchuk Back in action 11 days and not 2 as stated on card No
27 Daren Puppa number 27 on back of card and 31 on the front. No
35 Al MacInnis Misspelled Allan on card back No
39 Brad McCrimmon Number 39 on card front, instead of 4 Yes
42 Joe Nieuwendyk Misspelled Niewendyk on card front Yes
44 Paul Ranheim LW on front and C on back No
48 Rick Wamsley Misspelled Rich in bio on card back No
51 Dirk Graham Word sparking misspelled on card back No
53 Steve Larmer Position and sweater number in white and should be black Yes
54 Dave Manson Both photos actually Steve Konroyd Yes
57 Troy Murray Position and sweater number in white and should be black Yes
59 Denis Savard No traded stripe, Played 70 games in 86-87 Yes
60 Al Secord Alan on card back changed to Al Yes
61 Duane Sutter Wrong Position, missing Retired tag Yes
63 Doug Wilson Position and sweater number in white and should be black Yes
70 Bernie Federko Says only player from Foam Lake No
83 Martin Gelinas Back photo is Joe Murphy No
84 Adam Graves Stats missing 89-90 Detroit info No
85 Charlie Huddy French language card, no accent in 1st e in Defenseur No
86 Petr Klima Card back says born in Chomulov and should be Chomutov No
96 Steve Smith French language card, no accent in 1st e in Defenseur No
99 Dave Babych Extra space included after Forum No
100 Yvon Corriveau Washington and Hartford games not separate No
114 Brian Benning St Louis and LA stats not separate No
117 Tony Granato Plays RW and not C No
121 Mike Kushelnyski No position and number on card front Yes
122 Bob Kudelski Born in Springfield and not Feeding Hills No
127 Tomas Sandstrom 89-90 stats not printed No
129 John Tonelli Misspelled Tonnelli on card front Yes
130 Brian Bellows Back photo actually Dave Gagner, Front LW and back RW Image Corrected but position remains uncorrected
131 Aaron Broten New Jersey and Minnesota stats not separate No
136 Ulf Dahlen Rangers and Minnesota stats not separate No
146 Guy Carbonneau Sept Isles listed as Sep Isles No
153 Claude Lemieux Reason is misspelled as reson No
167 Slava Fetisov Misspelled Vlacheslav on front Yes
169 Alexei Kasatonov Stats should indicate either Soviet or NHL No
175 Peter Stastny Front photo is actually Patrik Sundstrom Yes
176 Patrik Sundstrom Front photo is actually Peter Stastny Yes
183 Glen Healy Misspelled Glenn on card back No
188 Hubie McDonough Kings and Islanders stats not separate No
189 Jeff Norton Born Cambridge, Mass. not Acton No
196 Mike Gartner Minnesota and Rangers stats not separate No
198 Miloslav Horava Misspelled Miroslav on card front Yes
204 Bernie Nicholls Kings and Rangers stats not separate No
208 Darren Turcotte GP total says 97 and should be 96 No
209 John Vanbiesbrouck Front C and back G No
213 Vincent Rideneau Wrong photo (Steve Larmer) on front No
219 Ken Linseman Bruins and Flyers stats not separate No
222 Kjell Samuelsson Born 10/18/58 not 10/18/56 No
228 Phil Bourque Misspelled Borque on both sides Yes
229 Rob Brown Front RW, back C; actual position LW No
230 Alain Chevrier Chicago and Pittsburgh stats not separate No
236 Mario Lemieux Missed 21 games not 11 No
240 Kevin Stevens Front LW, back C No
242 Zarley Zalapski Pittsburgh misspelled as Pittsburg No
244 Lucien DeBlois Front C and back RW; misspelled Deblois in bio on back No
245 Marc Fortier Misspelled Mark front and back Yes
248 Tony Hrkac Blues and Nordiques stats not separate No
254 Tony McKegney Red Wings and Nordiques stats not separate No
257 Joe Sakic Front 88 and back 19 No
260 Jeff Brown Nordiques and Blues stats not separate No
261 Gino Cavallini on back, Meagher is misspelled as Meager No
272 Rich Sutter Canucks and Blues stats not separate No
275 Allan Bester Misspelled Alan on card front Yes
290 Gilles Thibaudeau Islanders and Leafs stats not separate No
300 Jyrki Lumme 89-90 Canadiens and Canucks stats not separate No
301 Andrew McBain Photo on back is Jim Sandlak Yes
303 Dan Quinn Penguins and Canucks stats not separate No
316 Mike Liut Capitals and Whalers stats not separate No
322 John Tucker 89-90 Buffalo Sabres team affiliation and stats missing 8 games No
330 Dale Hawerchuk No traded stripe Yes
335 Fredrik Olausson Misspelled Frederik on both sides Yes
335 Fredrik Olausson Misspelled Fred on front Yes
348 Jari Kurri, All Star Card Missing Italy tag on front Yes
377 Bob Murdoch, Adams Trophy card One tie in 1989-90 should be 11 ties NO
378 Brett Hull Byng Trophy, Should be Lady Byng Memorial Trophy No
383 Gord Kluzak Masterton Trophy - Should be Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy No
385 Len Ceglarski, Lester Patrick Trophy card Missing number on back Yes
395 Brett Hull (League Leader) Born 8/9/64 not 9/9/64 No
400 Darren Turcotte (League Leader) Front RW, back C No
421 Jiri Hrdina Calgary logo on front should be Pittsburgh No
428 Jacques Cloutier White position and number on front, not black No
430 Michel Goulet White position and number on front, not black No
465 Neil Wilkinson Uniform number on front is 5; should be 35 No
466 JJ Daigneault Front Jean Jacques and back JJ No
470 Todd Ewen Photo on back actually Eric Desjardins Yes
556 Peter Zezel Card says number 25 and sweater shows 9 No
593 Stephane Matteau RC Front RW and back LW No
596 Ken Sabourin Front LW and back D; actual position is C No
613 Mike Craig Wearing 50 and card says 20 No
614 JC Bergeron Front JC and back Jean Claude No
632 Jaromir Jagr RC Stat header on back is not aligned properly Yes
668 Bob Gainey Stats and bio are Bob McCammon's No
676 Brian Sutter Coaching totals say 0-69-21 and should be 70-69-21 No
678 Bob McCammon Stats and bio are Bob Gainey's No
703 Wayne Gretzky's 2000th Point 2.33 goals per game should be 2.33 points per game No


1991-92 Pro Set Hockey[edit]

Card Number Athlete Error Corrected
15 Pierre Turgeon Born 8/29 not 8/28 No
17 Benoit Hogue Stats show two seasons with Winnipeg and should say Buffalo No
88 Paul Cyr Stats show New York, should say NY Rangers No
159 Brian Leetch Career points total shown as 329 should be 229 No
165 Brian Mullen Transaction says drafted by San Jose and was actually traded No
168 Kelly Kisio Transaction says drafted by Minnesota, was actually traded to San Jose No
219 Adam Oates Stats are off-line from top to bottom No
225 Wendel Clark Connecticut not capitalized in last line No
239 Robert Kron Type in stat box is smaller than others No
319 Pittsburgh Penguins Cup Champs Fourth line says won in 5 games and should say 6 games No
328 Neil Wilkinson Born Manitoba not Minnesota No
531 Nicklas Lidstrom Misspelled Niklas on front No
603 Kirk McLean League Leaders Leader logo shows PPG and should be GAA No


1991-92 Pro Set Platinum[edit]

Card Number Athlete Error Corrected
166 Michel Goulet Wrong photo on front No
197 Craig Billington Front photo actually Chris Terreri No
252 Dominik Hasek Misprinted Pro Set logo on reverse Yes


Of note[edit]

  • After the launch of football, Pro Set issued a 100-card PGA Tour set in 1990. The set included members of the Senior Tour and was issued as a complete set. This was the first time that Pro Set issued complete sets.[11]
  • Pro Set offered cards in various languages. In 1991, Pro Set featured football cards in Spanish, hockey cards in French and soccer cards in the King's English.
  • Ludwell Denny was trying to syndicate a television show called "Profiles," an entertainment newsmagazine for memorabilia collectors. The show had a trial run in Dallas-Fort Worth and other parts of Texas.[3]
  • As part of their 1991 Series I set, Pro Set issued a card of the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, Brigham Young University Quarterback Ty Detmer. However, Detmer had won the Trophy during his junior year and returned to BYU for his senior year in 1991. This created a mild controversy as it was one of the first times an active NCAA player was featured in a card set of professional athletes.
  • In 1991, Pro Set issued a card of Notre Dame star Raghib Ismail, despite the fact that he signed with the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. 1991 Pro Set's NFL Series I featured Ismail on card number 36, honoring him as the Walter Camp Player of the Year.[12]
  • In 1992, Pro Set created a 100-card set based on the Guinness Book of World Records. Each card was 3½x2½ inches. The cards were available in Canada, the United States, Australia, South Africa and Great Britain.The first card featured Cosmoclock 21 at Yokohama, Japan. Card 100 showed Mike Powell at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo. Cards 1-43 were classified as "Facts and Feats", while cards 44-84 are "Natural & Human World", and cards 85-100 are "Sports & Games".[13]
  • After disappearing in the 1960s, the Parkhurst hockey card brand was resuscitated in 1991 by Dr. Brian H. Price and licensed to Pro Set. After the hockey card explosion of 1990–91, Parkhurst cards were back in the marketplace. Pro Set promoted Parkhurst as a premium brand of cards. Series I and Series II were available in both English and French and featured the rookie cards of players such as Dominik Hašek and John LeClair. The 1991–92 Update Set was the final release of the year and was the most valuable of all three sets. Another key rookie card of that set was of Bill Guerin.

When Pro Set, Inc. entered Chapter Eleven bankruptcy protection prior to the 1992–93 NHL season, Price traveled weekly from Toronto to Dallas and became the unofficial hockey brand manager. The second year of Parkhurst (1992–93) was the last with Pro Set as the company went bankrupt and Price took his Parkhurst tradename and license to the Upper Deck Company, an agreement which began with the 1993–94 season.

  • In August 1992, Pro Set replaced its founder Ludwell Denny at the insistence of its lenders. Denny was replaced with a San Francisco based turnaround expert. Robert J. McLaughlin became Pro Set's chief executive officer, with the task of resolving the obligations to its lenders, licensors and trade creditors.[14]
  • In December 1994, the National Football League asked Federal authorities to investigate investments made by two former NFL Properties presidents due to their affiliation with Pro Set. The NFL's special properties committee appointed by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the properties executive committee requested the investigation into Pro Set. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York was assigned to handle the investigation.

The allegations were based on investments made by former NFL Properties presidents, John Flood, (who was dismissed in March 1994), and his predecessor, John Bello, who quit in September 1993. Neither Flood nor Bello told the league they had set up companies to invest in Pro-Set Press, a printer partly owned by the Pro Set trading card company.[15]

List of products[edit]

Products launched by Pro Set included:


  1. ^ Pro Set battles back from bankruptcy NHL, NFL Series 2 release dates delayed by Ruth Sadler on The Baltimore Sun, 30 Aug 1992
  2. ^ a b c d Remembering Lud Denny and Pro Set by Rich Klein, 8 Nov 2011
  3. ^ a b ARNIE STAPLETON (1992-05-03). "Now He's Holding a Lot of the Cards". Los Angeles Times. ASSOCIATED PRESS. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  4. ^ "Sports Cards Price Guide Subscriptions, Values, Trading, Organize |". Archived from the original on 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  5. ^ a b "1989 Pro Set Football Cards". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  6. ^ "1990 Pro Set: Building a Master Set: 1990 Pro Set Gazettes". 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  7. ^ a b c d e "1990 Pro Set Football Cards". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  8. ^ "1990 Pro Set: Building a Master Set: 1990 Pro Set Printing Variations". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ a b c [2] Archived February 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Pro Set takes to the fairways". 1990-10-26. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  12. ^ "Los Angeles Times: Archives - Ismail's Defection Cost Some Companies an Ace Collecting: Trading-card manufacturers split over whether photo of Notre Dame great should be offered with regular NFL series after his decision to sign with a Canadian team". 1991-04-28. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  13. ^ "Guinness Record Book Collecting". 1979-07-30. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  14. ^ "Archives | The Dallas Morning News,". 1992-08-07. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  15. ^ Published: December 17, 1994 (1994-12-17). "PRO FOOTBALL; N.F.L. Asks for Investigation - New York Times". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  16. ^ [3] Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.