1991 Desert Shield Complete Set

A West Virginian's Bargain Shop Find
  • May 17, 2019

1991 Topps #333 Desert Shield Chipper JonesCards Printed For Military Personnel 

We've had sets and we've had wax packs of the very limited Desert Shield issue in the past. In fact, one set, which we wish we had thought to do a video on, was what we would call a "Factory Set." It came from someone that had picked it up near the Duryea, PA Topps office. It had been donated buy Topps for a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area school's charity auction and was housed in the colorful retail factory set box that the base set was issued in (there was no mention or notation of Desert Shield -- similar to the wax boxes) and the cards were in "vending" order (the same unnumbered order that one would find in a Factory Set -- with the same style of "stacking" that one sees in a fresh vending box). Topps never officially released the Desert Shield cards in set form to the public; it appears that they may have made a "Factory" or "Presentation" style set at least for limited or specific in-house use.  We have mentioned this observation in the past.  We have had some that have doubted the veracity of what we saw.  Topps has never confirmed the production of sets in this format.  

Anyway, it has been awhile since we have been offered a complete set of this issue, but all of that changed a few months ago when we had a gentleman from West Virginia contact about a set that he recently purchased while in Ohio.


A Preliminary Offer

1991 Topps Desert Shield Nolan Ryan

We received some images of the key cards as well as some others that were representative of the collection and verified that the set appeared to be original and authentic.  Based upon the images, we made a preliminary offer on the set based upon in-hand inspection of the set and the condition of the Chipper Jones card, which we assessed at NM/MT prior to sending to PSA whereupon it eventually graded a PSA 8 NM/MT. 

It appeared that the balance of the set was in similar condition as can be seen by these examples of Nolan Ryan, Ken Griffey, Cal Ripken and others.

Where Were Desert Shield Cards Sold

The issue was intended for United States soldiers serving in Iraq during active operations.  Many of the cases ended up sitting on US military bases and were offered for sale at the base exchanges.  Some did manage to make it overseas and we've spoken with several veterans that had them while overseas, including service personnel that were stationed in Europe and outside of the Middle East theater. 

While the original product was intended for U.S. service members, the product that remained on domestic and foreign military bases eventually made it into the mainstream.  The difficulty is that the packaging is identical to the regular 1991 Topps release.  There are no logos or other characteristics to help identify a pack or a box as a Desert Shield release.

Still In High Demand

The set is one of the more prized baseball issues of the last quarter century. The set is identical in size and the cards themselves look like their 1991 Topps counterparts with the exception of an embossed foil stamp on the front featuring a palm tree inside of a shield and the words "Operation Desert Shield" imprinted within a banner that also features an American Flag. The cards have a slightly different red ink on the reverse that shows the 40th Anniversary logo with a slight glow when viewed under ultra-violet light - one of the easiest ways to differentiate from the counterfeits.  The only non-stamped cards in the set are the checklists. 

1991 Topps Desert Shield Nolan Ryan 1991 Topps Desert Shield Ken Griffey
1991 Topps Desert Shield Cal Ripken 1991 Topps Desert Shield Tony Gwynn


In The Owner's Words

Well, why don't we just let the owner of the set tell you about the collection in his own words:

"In February of 2019, I bought a complete set of 1991 Topps Desert Shield from a bargain store in southern Ohio. The owner had purchased a collection of sports cards from an estate sale and was trying to get rid of them. I was somewhat familiar with the Desert Shield cards, but I had never seen a complete set before. I knew the Chipper Jones rookie was worth a good bit of money based on the grade of the card, but I wasn't exactly sure how much an entire set would be worth. I began researching the set for prices and realized that a complete set was rare and could be priced very high, again based on the grades of the cards. I also read where there was forgeries had flooded the market in the 1990's and I didn't know if what I had was real.

I began checking around, but no one in my small West Virginia town knew much about the set or how to spot a forgery. I then searched on the Internet for someone who could tell me what I had and how much the set was worth. I called a card shop in New York, but the guy didn't know much about the set and didn't seem interested. I saw a site called Just Collect that offered free appraisals on sports cards, so I emailed them a request explaining what I had. The next day, John called me and we began to talk about the set. I sent him some pictures of the more notable cards and he immediately called back and said their experts believed the cards to be real.

After some explanation of how the appraisal process worked, I mailed the set to the company at no cost to me. The appraisal went like this: Once the Chipper Jones and the rest of the cards were examined, Just Collect would propose an offer based on the expert's opinion of how they believed the Chipper would be graded. If I were to accept the offer, a check would mailed to me after the Chipper was graded by PSA. If I didn't like the offer, the cards would be shipped back to me, again at no cost to me. How easy is that? I felt that to be a no lose situation. It basically didn't cost me anything for a professional to tell me what I had.

After a brief negotiation, we came to an agreement and the Chipper was sent to PSA. The entire transaction was very professional. John was always available to answer questions and he kept me up to date on the grading process. The owner was very reasonable during the negotiation process and I believe we were both winners in the end. That is what I would call a successful business transaction. I find myself now watching Vintage Breaks and learning more about the business that I gave up in 1992. I would not hesitate to contact Just Collect again and I encourage others to give them a chance to win your business."


How Much Was Produced

It has been estimated, but not confirmed, that between 6,500-7,000 of each of the 792 cards in the set were produced.  Obviously, many of the cards that were shipped overseas did not make it back.  The total release of the Desert Shield cards is still a very small fraction of the typical run of Topps that probably consisted of 1000 times more cards of the standard issue.

Identifying Counterfeits

Experience is the best tool in identifying counterfeits, but here are a few helpful tools that may assist you in determining if you have a real Desert Shield card or a counterfeit.

  • The bottom of the shield on authentic cards is slightly rounded while the counterfeits appear more pointed at the bottom.
  • Stars on the flag should not be blurry or fuzzy.
  • The palm leaves on real cards don't touch the border of the shield.
  • The bottom tip of the palm leaf should point between the "R & A" in "OPERATION" while fake logos have the word "OPERATION" shifted slightly to the left and the palm leaf will not align.
  • The Desert Shield logo may appear goldish or silver. Both are legit. Very shiny gold logos are usually counterfeit.
  • The red ink on the reverse should "glow" when viewed under UV light (see example below of regular Biggio and other Desert Shield cards and notice the brightness of the "glow").
Reverse Glow of 1991 Topps Desert Shield Cards under UV Light


Schedule an Appointment to Meet Just Collect at a Show Near You

Just Collect travels to several shows on a regular basis. In the New York area, we often attend the White Plains Show at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. If you're in the New England area, you can make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists when we're in the area for the Shriner's Show at the Aleppo Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. We also visit the Metro-DC area when we attend the CSA Show in Chantilly, VA. If you're in the South Jersey or Delaware area, you can also schedule appointments while we're in the Philadelphia area when we do The Philly Show in Valley Forge, PA.

We set up at The National Sports Collectors Convention every year and this year, it will be at the Stephens Convention Center in the Rosemont section of Chicago, IL and it has also been in Cleveland, Atlantic City and Baltimore in recent years. Additionally, we travel to the Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo in Mississauga, Ontario for those of you in the Toronto area that want to meet with us in Canada.

We would love to meet with you and schedule a private appointment to assess and value your collection while we are in your area, so please check out our show and travel schedule to see when Just Collect will be in your area!


Our Buying Philosophy

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the past decade. Although we are known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage basketball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, also!

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and soul into building their collection. So when you're ready to sell, Just Collect understands the feelings that you're going through and we will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.


Won't They Be Worth More if I Grade Them Myself

We discuss all of the selling options with everyone that we meet with. In most cases, selling the collection on their own will put the most money on the bottom line, but it will also take an large commitment of time and energy and one that most are not ready or able to undertake. Another misconception is that grading the collection will return more money. When I hear people say, "You're just going to grade them and get ten times the money," I almost cringe. Grading a collection can be a money losing proposition, especially if you don't know what you're doing. And most times, we grade very few, if any cards, from average collections that we buy.

We value a collection based upon the condition and the value. If a card is worth $100 in a PSA 7 NM, we're going to value it at $100 whether it is ungraded or graded. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars grading your cards, but we're still valuing them the same and paying the same regardless of how much you've invested in grading them.


We Are Always Buying

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss your collection and get our industry leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace.

Don't hesitate to check out our Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.


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