We finally reach the 1980s, during which I started collecting baseball cards. 1986 Topps is the earliest set I remember collecting, though I had some 84s and 85s, so maybe I started a bit earlier. I remember I had a Mattingly rookie, though with my initials written by my mother on one of the back corners, it wasn’t worth very much!
Going forward, nostalgia will definitely play a factor. I will try to limit it’s influence, but I’m only human.
#10 – 1989 Topps
The Topps sets of the 80s kind of petered out as the decade when on, culminating in the 89 set. It’s not ugly, it’s just kind of meh. It’s basically tied with the set ahead of it on this list, so the checklist was the tiebreaker. Technically, the Ventura card pictured here is his rookie, though he has an an 88 card that reigns supreme, IMO.
#9- 1988 Topps
Another boring set from Topps. I slightly prefer this to the 89 set, solely because it has a slightly cleaner look. There is a solid checklist, especially once you factor in the Traded set. There is a really cool Baines/Fisk leaders card here. FYI, I consider XRCs to be rookies, and in my most cases, I prefer an XRC. So the McDowell & Ventura cards here elevate the set over it’s 89 counterpart.
#8 – 1982 Topps
1982 would likely be a bit higher on the list if it didn’t have that ugly facsimile signature. As an autograph collector, facsimile signatures drive me insane. Otherwise, this is a pleasant design, with the dual “hockey sticks” framing the left side of the card. The set has a nice big checklist, but nothing interesting in the way of rookie cards.
#7 – 1987 Topps
I’m sure you are surprised to see this set so low. I enjoy the callback to the 1962 set, but something about this set bothers me slightly. It has a really muted look. The Traded cards are much more vibrant, and if the whole set looked like that it might be ranked higher. We do have a nice big checklist here, with Karkovice and Thigpen rookies.
#6 – 1980 Topps
Another set that would likely place higher without a facsimile signature. Am I the only person that hates them? Otherwise, this is a pleasant looking set, with the red position and blue team flags. Another big checklist, but it’s pretty boring. The best rookie card is probably Steve Trout. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Steve Trout once serenaded my wife at a baseball card show.
#5 – 1983 Topps
The 1983 Topps set has a nice clean design. It isn’t especially interesting visually, though it did introduce the little headshot of the player next to the player’s name. It has a rather boring checklist, though it is large, as team sets of the era usually were. There is a fun Super Veteran subset here. The base set doesn’t have any rookies, but there is a Ron Kittle rookie in the traded set.
#4 – 1984 Topps
This is where I really start to like the 1980s sets. 1984 Topps is also the first set that I’m nostalgic for. I don’t recall collecting cards in 1984, but the earliest card I remember owning was a Don Mattingly rookie from this set. Granted, my mother wrote my initials on the back, but I still loved that card. This set has an unusual but fun design, the team name down the right side and head shot next to the player name. Another huge checklist, with Greg Walker being the best rookie card.
#3 – 1985 Topps
Another fun Topps set. 1985 had an interesting, colorful design, with the slanted team name and position. It also had some fun subsets like the Father & Son and Draft Pick cards. The very large base set doesn’t have any good rookie cards, but the Traded set has Ozzie Guillen and Daryl Boston XRC’s. The Guillen card in particular is one of my very favorite 1980s White Sox cards.
#2 – 1981 Topps
I had a difficult time deciding between my #2 and #1 picks. Ultimately, nostalgia was the deciding factor, which left 1981 in the runner-up position. 1981 had a very fun design, with the little hat bearing the position and team name. I also quite like the Topps logo being on a little baseball. There was some cool photography here, with some of the most 80s baseball photos you’ll ever see. There is also a Harold Baines rookie in this set.
#1 – 1986 Topps
I’m not going to pretend that the placement of the 1986 Topps set at #1 isn’t substantially fueled by nostalgia. This is the first set that I remember collecting in real time. I specifically remember my mom buying me the Bill Madlock card at a baseball card shop in a mall in 1986. I would have been 7 years old at the time. She was a big Dodgers fan, though I never became one myself. The design here is really fun, with the team name in giant letters across the top of the card. The large Sox team set has 4 HOFers (Baines, Fisk, La Russa, Seaver), and a fun Ozzie Guillen rookie card.