Even if you’ve never seen it before, I’ll bet commons to donuts that the 1988 ProCards Auburn Astros Kenny Lofton pre-rookie card looks familiar to you.

Here, take a gander while you let that mouthful of a card title settle into your ears/brain …

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

So … does it look familiar?

Sure does to me, and it’s not just because young Lofton would become such a mainstay of All-Star lineups and postseason games and highlight reels for the Cleveland Indians in a few short years.

And it’s not just because this, Lofton’s first professional baseball card (issued the same summer he was drafted), reminds me that he really did once toil in the Astros’ system. Even appeared in 20 games for the 1991 big league ‘Stros before they shipped him north that winter.

And it’s not even just the rainbow sleeve curving behind that old-school Astros logo.

Mix all those ingredients together, and you for sure have a recipe for some good ol’ Familiar Brew.

But there’s something else here, something more fundamental, that sets off the bells in an old collector’s head.

The warm, earthy borders …

The rounded inner black piping …

The Astros logo (again) in the bottom left-hand corner.

Where I have seen something like that before?

*snaps fingers*

Oh, that’s right!

It was here …

Check 1983 Fleer prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

That 1983 Fleer gray/brown issue was the first Fleer issue I ever cared about, and it was a major upgrade over the 1981 and (especially) 1982 sets, at least to my kid eyes.

Better photos, better borders, photos on card backs(!), Super Star Specials … 1983 Fleer was a good-looking, fun set.

No surprise, then, why my subconscious picks at me whenever some other set comes even close in design — “Hey, that Lofton card could be a 1983 Fleer if you squint just a little.”

But if you’re looking for a real Lofton doppelganger in the ‘83 Fleer set, at least among the Astros, well, you’re going to be looking for awhile.

Dickie Thon comes sort of close in pose, but the mirror image effect (lefty v. righty) sort of kills the sameness vibe. Not to mention that Thon is decked out in a midnight blue Astros jersey, while Lofton dons the blazing white version.

In fact, if you click through ALL of the Astros on that team checklist up there, you’ll find just two guys who can match Lofton’s laundry.

First is utility man (non-infielder division) Danny Heep …

Check 1983 Fleer prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

And next is reliever Dave Smith …

Check 1983 Fleer prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Both in Astros home whites while the rest of their teammates sport the dark jerseys.

Neither Heep nor Smith match up with Lofton at the pose level, of course, but their Cloroxed shirts add to the case for familiarity.

So …

Have we seen the 1988 ProCards Kenny Lofton card before? Maybe, maybe not.

But we sure have seen its pieces, and they always feel like hobby home when we run across them again.

1988 Topps Baseball Cards Collecting Kit Factory SEALED

$30.00 (0 Bids)
End Date: Monday 06/21/2021 20:30:52 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1988 Topps Baseball Cards Wax Pack Sealed/Unopened

$1.75
End Date: Sunday 07/18/2021 18:40:55 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list

Lot of 2, 1988 Topps Baseball Cards, Commons

$0.49
End Date: Monday 06/28/2021 10:46:12 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1988 Topps Baseball Cards 

$380.00
End Date: Thursday 06/24/2021 22:02:45 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list

Lot of 10, 1988 Topps Baseball Cards, Commons & HOF

$0.99
End Date: Monday 06/28/2021 06:27:55 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list