Arriving from Seattle today is this blank-backed, 3.5"x5.5" black & white photo card, featuring the Cubs greatest opening day lead-off hitter of all time, Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes. This was in a lot of four, including Shawon Dunston, Jose Bautista and Willie Banks, so I'm dating this "set" to 1994, the only year those four were Cubs at the same time.
Often called just "photo cards", these types of cards have been issued for over 70 years, usually by the teams themselves, frequently displaying a sponsor's logo. These cards were long a staple of fan packs (those goody bags sent to fans who wrote to the team begging for handouts), and in the last 30-40 years have been issued in tandem with autograph signings at the ball park or other fan events.
The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards does a pretty good job of documenting these types of sets before 1980, mostly thanks to the persistence of Bob Lemke, but they don't seem to have much interest in tracking the more modern issues. In some cases, the designs can be identical from year to year. As a result, it can be very difficult to pin down to exactly when they were issued unless one is able to find several that are easily identifiable as being from the same year. Then the players in question have to be compared to team rosters to see which years they shared a roster.
These are difficult to track down, especially without already having been signed. I passed up a chance at a signed copy for $20 last year. While I was fortunate enough to find this lot of four cards on eBay, I was even more fortunate that it didn't include Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg or Sammy Sosa, otherwise it probably would have ended well out of my price range. Here are the other three cards:
*** Checklist Update ***
Having seen more of these pop up on eBay, I thought I should go ahead and start compiling a checklist for this particular issue. The year of issue is now completely in question as the recent discoveries don't all tie into the 1994 team. I'm just going to call these 1994(?) Chicago Cubs Old Style Photo Cards (in alphabetical order):
---------- UPDATE -----------
After seeing a few more of these, I now think these are two different sets. The Old Style logo is different on the Dunston, which matches several others I've seen. I've broken the known cards in to the two separate types. There is also a third version with a 1990 Chicago All-Star Game logo. I'll list those below.
1990(91?) All-Star Game logo