PS85: Chicago or St. Vincent?

anirut

Legend
I just wondered ...

We discuss so much about the SV model. What about the Chicago ones? Are they liked as much as the SV? Any love for them? Do they play differently?

In fact, the Chicago ones should even be considered the 'real original' PS85.

Opinions welcome.
 

Antónis

Semi-Pro
I cannot help you much about the differences between them, in terms of feeling, for the simple reason that I never hit with any of the legendary Chicago version.

I have a SV and an early China, and they definitely play different.

If the legend about the loose moulds is true, you can expect small differences on both racquets due to different weights, but probably not much

Obviously, you can find a bit more info out there: https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/wilson-pro-staff-midsize-chicago-st-vincent-with-no-code.450560/
 

asifallasleep

Hall of Fame
St Vincent has more power, feels less stiff and are more plush. I'd say the Chicago is the 2nd best PS85 not far behind the St Vincent. I think someone mentioned that Evert and Edberg started off with the Chicago version and moved on to the St. Vincent.
 

Sanglier

Semi-Pro
What is needed to resolve these types of questions once and for all is a double blind trial, the way they do it with those wine contests.

Select a number of frames with the same grip size and weight/balance from every relevant production location, black them out, give them random identifiers and remove the butt cap codes, then string them all exactly the same way by "coachrick" before handing them to TW play testers. The true identity of the racquet would be unknown to those directly involved in the test, and only revealed once the data have been collected.

My guess is that once the statistics have been compiled, many of the mythical qualities attributed to the SV frames will be shown to be ... mythical, unless the play tester was named Federer or Sampras.

But where is the fun in destroying a decades-old legend? ;)

Incidentally, Sampras was said to have hoarded "BSQ" frames, leading some to suggest that these were somehow even more special, the best of the best. Through my own survey of butt codes, I have come to the conclusion that PS85 frames bearing this code were the last batch produced in St Vincent, in late 1989. I have yet to come across any PS85 with a later code (namely BRQ, BPQ, BOQ, BNQ, BMQ, based on my theory of how the batches were coded). If my theory is correct, Sampras' "choice" of BSQ could be nothing more than the result of these being the last of the SV PS85 frames Wilson still had in quantity at the time he made the decision to hoard them (which makes sense since he was only after consistency). No loose mold required! :)
 

mhkeuns

Hall of Fame
I have the Chicago, St. Vincent & the Taiwan versions. Of the three, onlynthe Taiwan version feels different; more brassy feel. Both Chicago and St. Vincent feel exactly the same to me, which is plush and almost wood-like compared tomthe modern frames.

I love the Pro Staff Midsize not only for its feel and control but its deceptive power. I also love the St. Vincent Ultra 2. It has everything the Pro Staff has and offers more stability, imo.
 

anirut

Legend
Thanks for all your inputs, gents.

Of the four PS85's that I have, one is an SV with unknown actual bumper status, i.e. the previous owner fitted it with a new set of bumper grommets and had to 'modify' the grommets to fit, and the code is very faint probably with a Q ending (if not O). I have, however, cut off the bumper part already. Another is a bumper SV with recognizable Q ending.

Recently got one that's a Chicago (clear I ending) with breaking grommets. The fourth one is not clear if it has any stamped code; tried hard to spot but don't seem to be any, got it with original grommets with no bumper.

May be I should try to compare the sticks, but the result may not be that 'accurate' as the grip sizes are not the same and can alter the feel. Also the 'cut bumper' SV could have actually been a bumpered SV and this could cause the stick to be 'out of spec' for proper comparison.

And I agree with what mhkeuns said that the power of the PS85 is deceptive.
 

AlexR

Rookie
Agreed on the power. If you catch the ball cleanly the 85 is plenty powerful, and the sweet spot is not as tiny as one might imagine. Where I have some trouble is with spin. You need to work to get significant spin, but that's to be expected.

I don't have a Chicago, but I have two SVs and an early China, and I can't tell any difference. But, I'm no Sampras.

As for the legendary quality standards of the SV frames, in my limited experience it's nonsense. One of my SVs is almost a wuarter inch shorter than the other (and pretty sure it was never modified), and the other has something weird going on around the PWS weights. On one side of the racquet, the inner edge is rounded off, while the other side is squared off. So I have two SVs that would fail quality control for a modern frame. They both hit great, but methinks the "legendary" quality is indeed just a legend.
 

winchestervatennis

Hall of Fame
What is needed to resolve these types of questions once and for all is a double blind trial, the way they do it with those wine contests.

Select a number of frames with the same grip size and weight/balance from every relevant production location, black them out, give them random identifiers and remove the butt cap codes, then string them all exactly the same way by "coachrick" before handing them to TW play testers. The true identity of the racquet would be unknown to those directly involved in the test, and only revealed once the data have been collected.

My guess is that once the statistics have been compiled, many of the mythical qualities attributed to the SV frames will be shown to be ... mythical, unless the play tester was named Federer or Sampras.

But where is the fun in destroying a decades-old legend? ;)

Incidentally, Sampras was said to have hoarded "BSQ" frames, leading some to suggest that these were somehow even more special, the best of the best. Through my own survey of butt codes, I have come to the conclusion that PS85 frames bearing this code were the last batch produced in St Vincent, in late 1989. I have yet to come across any PS85 with a later code (namely BRQ, BPQ, BOQ, BNQ, BMQ, based on my theory of how the batches were coded). If my theory is correct, Sampras' "choice" of BSQ could be nothing more than the result of these being the last of the SV PS85 frames Wilson still had in quantity at the time he made the decision to hoard them (which makes sense since he was only after consistency). No loose mold required! :)
I picked up a BOQ at a thrift shop last year and sold it. So that butt cap code does exist.
 

Sanglier

Semi-Pro
I picked up a BOQ at a thrift shop last year and sold it. So that butt cap code does exist.
Very interesting! I've only come across one "BOQ" myself, a Profile 3.5 Si 95, so BSQ was definitely not the final production lot to come out of the St. Vincent factory. Your find would suggest that they kept on making the PS85 until the very end.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the earliest lot code I've seen on a Taiwan-made PS85 is "SBO", which would have been made at the same time as your BOQ (the letter order was different on many Taiwan frames, and switched back and forth a number of times over the years).

You should have kept that thrift shop find, it's probably one of the last PS85s made in St. Vincent!


Edit: I went back and looked at the pictures I had saved from that frame. I was wrong! The code is actually "SEO", not "SBO". The letters are so close to each other that they make the "E" look like a "B". So the frame referenced above was actually made three years later than the "BOQ", in 1992, shortly after the "S-E-X" lot. This means that the earliest Taiwan-made PS85 I have encountered so far is an "SCR", made in 1990. If anyone has encountered a PS85 with an "SB_" code, I would be interested to hear about it.
 
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vsbabolat

G.O.A.T.
Very interesting! I've only come across one "BOQ" myself, a Profile 3.5 Si 95, so BSQ was definitely not the final production lot to come out of the St. Vincent factory. Your find would suggest that they kept on making the PS85 until the very end.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the earliest lot code I've seen on a Taiwan-made PS85 is "SBO", which would have been made at the same time as your BOQ (the letter order was different on many Taiwan frames, and switched back and forth a number of times over the years).

You should have kept that thrift shop find, it's probably one of the last PS85s made in St. Vincent!


Edit: I went back and looked at the pictures I had saved from that frame. I was wrong! The code is actually "SEO", not "SBO". The letters are so close to each other that they make the "E" look like a "B". So the frame referenced above was actually made three years later than the "BOQ", in 1992, shortly after the "S-E-X" lot. This means that the earliest Taiwan-made PS85 I have encountered so far is an "SCR", made in 1990. If anyone has encountered a PS85 with an "SB_" code, I would be interested to hear about it.
I have 3 RSQ St. Vincent Pro Staff midsize that I got in the summer of 1990
 

Sanglier

Semi-Pro
I have 3 RSQ St. Vincent Pro Staff midsize that I got in the summer of 1990
Do you still have these frames, VS? I strongly suspect the "R" was really a "B" that was not struck straight enough or deep enough at the bottom, making these the very same 1989-produced "BSQ" frames that Sampras was said to have been hoarding, at right about the same time you were creating your own mini-hoard! :)

According to my observations, Wilson began using the year code in 1978, starting with the letter "A", progressing through the letter "K" (skipping "I"), before going back to "A", making it a convenient 10 year cycle. This sequence appears to hold true at least through 2001 (a "D" year). I have not paid any attention to what happened after that, but I would not be shocked if the system lived on.

The year code was originally joined by a second letter, ranging from "Z" to "M" (assigned in descending order over the course of the year to denote production lot, from what I can gather so far), skipping "Q" (out of some 233 frames I've looked at, only a single example shows an unambiguous "Q" lot code... possibly the result of a stamp mixup?). As there is no overlap between the year and lot code letters, one should always be able to tell which is which, regardless of the sequence in which the letters appear.

The third letter first appeared in 1983, when Wilson began making the Sting midsize in Taiwan, by Sanhosun, initially identified by an "S" in parentheses (e.g., "FT(S)"). The parentheses were quickly dropped. That same year, the St Vincent factory took over the manufacture of the Sting largehead from the original SoCal contractor. From then on, all Wilson frames were stamped with a three letter code to denote year, lot, and maker. Though the order in which the letters appeared was far from consistent, even on frames made by the same contractor.

It's relatively straightforward to decipher the meaning of the letters through 1988, because there were only five makers to identify: "S" for Sanhosun, "Q" for St Vincent, "I" for Chicago, "B" for Donnay, and "L" for Long-Y (since "Q" and "I" are not used for year and lot identification, "B" was very short-lived and appeared as the last letter, and from mid-1984 onward, "S" and "L" were nearly always the first letter of the code stamped on frames sourced from the two Taiwanese makers, it is almost impossible to be confused by the letters). However, once Wilson began to expand the contractor pool to include makers with "A", "X", "G" and "U" identifiers, the picture became a lot murkier, though the code is still decipherable with the aid of other hints. For example, the "G"-coded frames also tended to declare in plain English that they were made by "Chiao-Ta", right there on the frame, making the latter easy to date (though I had to look through quite a few of these to figure out that the first "G" is the maker code in this case).
 
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Sanglier

Semi-Pro
Very knowledge-enhancing
Just to be clear, everything I wrote above about the codes (other than the already well known ones) is the product of personal observations and basic deductive analysis; I have no access to Wilson documents that can definitively substantiate my interpretations. The only reason I feel confident enough to share them here is that I think my sample is now sufficiently large and varied to make the observed patterns and their likely meaning "defendable". I would be happy to be proven wrong by those who have direct knowledge of this information!

While I'm at it, I might as well point out that if my theory is correct, it is evident that Wilson produced PS85 simultaneously in both Chicago and St Vincent through all of 1984, because "G_I"- and "G_Q"-stamped frames exist throughout the full lot code range. They clearly made a ton of these frames that year by combining the output of the two factories (after all, this was the year of commercial launch of this model series), given how common "G"-dated examples are today relative to those bearing other year codes.

From what I can tell, the last lot to come out of River Grove was "GMI", so they kept the plant going until the very end of the calendar year, perhaps for fiscal/employee benefits reasons?

More interestingly, it is not uncommon to find double-stamped Ultra frames from this same period, usually with an "FN"(1983)-coded serial number on the grip collar and a "G_Q" (1984) code on the butt cap. I see these as frames produced in Illinois at the end of 1983, which were fully finished in St Vincent (in multiple batches) in 1984 (in order to free up resources at River Grove to make the PS series, even as Wilson was shipping production equipment to St Vincent), though I reckon this is not the only possible interpretation.
 
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xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
I feel like a majority of the difference would be quality control and the SV being slightly thicker due to loose molds. They moved to SV because it was cheaper and the workers were more competitive, leading to higher QC. Fewer frames were rejected.
 
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