I LOVE THE 1980s!

The calendar has turned to December, meaning it’s time for holiday cheer and if you’re in the hobby, a throwback to the 1980s?  Early in the week, Ryan Cracknell posted the tweet below, the first thing that I’d heard about this.

More info came out, including a post on the Beckett site, and Beckett’s January issue will be a throwback to the much better Beckett magazine of the 1980s.  It’s just my two cents, but choosing Don Mattingly as the cover boy was the perfect decision.

Later on the About the Cards show, the guys went over their top five cards and sets of the 1980s.  As a kid of the 80s that started collecting in 1987, this brings back memories of a much simpler time in life.  To pile on the About the Cards guys’ lists, I decided to share mine (even though nobody asked).

MY Top Sets of the 1980s

#5 – 1986 Topps

Much maligned over the past quarter decade, 1986 Topps seems to be getting a little more love the last couple of years.  It’s probably a case of nostalgia, but I’ll take any love one of my favorite sets can get.  I’ve long considered this set to the 1980s what the 1972 Topps set was to that decade.  They’re both a little out there.

1986 Topps Charlie Moore (via COMC)
1986 Topps Charlie Moore (via COMC)

So, why does this set make my top 5?  Easy – it’s the first cards I owned.  That grammar isn’t correct, but it’s the truth.  My first “card” was a hand collated set, a Christmas gift from my aunt and late uncle, for Christmas 1986.  Through 30 years of collecting and card purges, I always kept the set.  Unfortunately, it was at my dad’s house when it burnt down four years ago.  Since, I hand-collated my own set and it will be in my collection forever, God willing.

#4 – 1988 Score

There’s no doubt in my mind that the 1988 Score set is the most under-appreciated set ever produced.  I get it, there is a lot of this out there.  I also get that not everyone was a fan of the multiple color borders.

1988 Score Don Mattingly (via COMC)
1988 Score Don Mattingly (via COMC)

This set was a new day in trading cards.  Score produced full color front and backs with photos front and back, before Upper Deck.  The photography was far superior to that of Score’s 1988 competition.  I loved the biographies on the back.  We didn’t have the internet and this was how I learned more about players.  While I miss wax packs now, in 1988 Score was cool because it didn’t come in wax packs.

You don’t have to love 1988 Score.  One great thing about this country is that you are free to have your own opinions, even if they are wrong.

#3 – 1984 Fleer

This pick is truly nostalgic for me.  I previously mentioned that my first cards were from my uncle, but my grandma loved baseball (well, the Atlanta Braves) and collected cards as well.  The cards I remember her having were 1984 Fleer.  They were “old” to me and I remember loving how simple and beautiful the design was.  AND THE DESIGN WAS BRAVES COLORS!!!

1984 Fleer Jay Johnstone (via COMC)
1984 Fleer Jay Johnstone (via COMC)

After her passing, one of the things that I was given was a 1984 Fleer set.  Unfortunately, it met the same untimely end as my original 1986 Topps set.  Someday I need to either hand-collate or just buy a complete set.  There will always be a little hole in my collection until I have one.

#2 – 1987 Donruss

1987 was the first year that I collected baseball cards and this was one of the first two sets that I put together and completed myself.  I’m not sure if I completed this or the 1987 Topps set first, but I did finish both of them that year.

1987 Donruss Will Clark (via COMC)
1987 Donruss Will Clark (via COMC)

My parents (well, specifically my mother) always supported my card collecting.  Sometimes when she would get paid, she would pick me up a full box from Alexander’s Wholesale and bring home to me.  I think that sometimes she’d give me the full box and other times she’d give me just a few packs and spread it out.

The fondest memory I have around 1987 Donruss is being in Alabama (we lived in West Virginia) the night before my uncle’s wedding and having a whole box of these to open.  Do I have any recollection of any of the cards from that box?  Nope.  I just remember the room we were staying in was extremely cold.  Yes, that’s what I remember.  The mind is a fascinating thing.

#1 – 1987 Topps

If you’re a collector around my age that was collecting in 1987, you love this set.  If you’re not, you hate 1987 Topps.  I get that some collectors feel the set has been shoved down their throats, but there’s a reason for that.  IT’S 1987 TOPPS!

1987 Topps Tony Pena (via COMC)
1987 Topps Tony Pena (via COMC)

The memory evoked for me anytime I see a 1987 Topps card is playing baseball and after the game, getting a pack or two from the concession stand after the game.  That little part of my youth is gone, as there’s now a swing set where that concession stand used to be.

You can dislike the set all you want.  There’s a reason that so many collectors love it.

Others Receiving Votes:

MY Top Cards of the 1980s

Keep in mind, these are my favorite cards, for any number of reasons.  Some of them aren’t worth much more than the paper they are printed on, but it’s about my and my memories.

#5 – 1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies

I only collected through the final three years of the 1980s.  In those three years there was no more hyped rookie than Gregg Jefferies.  That alone is a solid reason to have the card in my top five.  Why did I choose his Donruss card?  It was short printed (whatever that means in 1988 Donruss) and was one of the last cards that I needed to complete my set in 1988.  How could it not be?  It was the most valuable card in the set!

1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies
1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies

SIDEBAR:  How was Jefferies not a Rated Rookie?

Jefferies is the butt of a lot of jokes about being a “bust” and in my younger days, I was guilty of thinking that.  I think many opinions are skewed because of the hype (one of the problems I have with people in the hobby that speculate).  You can’t be a bust and play 14 seasons, bat .289 and have a couple of All-Star Game appearances.

On top of it all, Jefferies appears to be a very good man.  He’s been a great signer for Signatures for Soldiers, who raised money to help former military members.  Oh, and then there was this…

#4 – 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco

What boy collecting cards in the late 1980s didn’t want this card?  I know I wanted it.  I know that I STILL want a copy of this card.  I’ve never owned one.  I can of course afford one (now), but the prices seem pretty steep, all things considered.

1986 Donruss Jose Canseco (via COMC)
1986 Donruss Jose Canseco (via COMC)

There’s not really anything else to say about this card.  I wonder how many months it was #1 on Beckett’s Hot List?  This was THE card of the 1980s to me.  It should be #1, but it’s not.  Continue reading.

SIDEBAR:  While writing the two above paragraphs, I purchased a copy of this card on COMC.  It’s only been 30 years in the waiting.

#3 – 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy (Reverse Error)

As a young boy, Dale Murphy was my favorite player.  This is a card that I’ve wanted for 30 years, but like the Canseco above, prices seem to be a bit out-of-whack.  I know there are a lot of fakes out there, so I want a graded copy and that adds to the cost.  It’s on my card “bucket list,” no doubt.

1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy ERROR (via COMC)
1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy ERROR (via COMC)

#2 – 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson

Rickey loves Rickey and as a kid, Bean loved him some Rickey too.  As a kid, this is the first “big” card that my parents gifted me (I got it for Christmas).  I still have the copy to this day.  It’s survived all the card purges.

1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson

Sure, it’s a low grade copy.  I was a kid, why would my parents spend $80 in the late 1980s on a high-conditioned card?  I loved it from the time that I got it and still do.  I’m actually HAPPY that it wasn’t a really good copy of the card.  Why?  Because if it had been in better shape, it might not have survived a purge or some hard times when I needed money.  Being low grade, I was never going to get much out of it.  And because of that, it’s still mine.

#1 – 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken ERR (F**k Face)

You know it!  I pulled this card from a pack myself.  I’ve previously written about it and you can read about it here.

1989 Fleer Bill Ripken
1989 Fleer Bill Ripken “F**k Face”

It was definitely the first card that I remember knowing people outside the hobby were talking about.  I found out about it from my mama because she heard it on the evening (national) news.  Though the “value” of the card today isn’t what it was in 1989, it’s still an iconic card in the hobby.

Others Receiving Votes

There you have it, my top five cards and sets of the 1980s.  If you have a blog, I’d love to see similar posts on your selections.  If not, comment below and let me know what your top fives are.

If you want to see the selections from the About the Cards Guys, here’s the episode where they discussed.

If you shop online and haven’t signed up and used ebates yet, you’re missing out on FREE MONEY.  I also use it on eBay to get money back from purchases there.  Between referrals and cash back, I’ve gotten over $300 since I joined in October 2016 between purchases and referrals.  FREE CARDS!


  1. Hmmm… I gonna need to sleep on it. The 80’s were my jam. Can’t believe I’ve never thought of putting together Top 5 sets/cards lists. Lots of stuff to sift through that’s for sure.

    By the way… my Tuesday post will that 87T Pena featured in it. Great minds think alike I guess. I wrote up that post this morning before reading this.

    1. I can’t wait to see your lists! I hadn’t been reading blogs as much the last few months, but I’ve gotten back into it the last couple of weeks. Hope you get some relief with your back soon, my friend!

  2. Awesome post, and a great idea for a Blog Bat Around (I might even buy the Beckett issue!) I have vivid memories of opening a pack of ’88 in the car on my way to my grandma’s house and pulling the Gregg Jefferies RC. I thought I had struck gold – the price guide at the time (not even sure if I had a Beckett) listed it at $8, but it felt like $800 to me lol.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I know Peter posted his list earlier today and I mentioned to him that I thought it would be a great blog bat-around. I don’t think as many bloggers are reading mine since I moved (back) over to this site and was hoping he could kick it off.

      Your memories of the Gregg Jefferies is one of the things that I love most about collecting, the childhood memories it can bring back. Like you, I felt that I had gold, it was no doubt one of my most “valuable” cards at the time.

  3. This was a great idea for a bat around, and despite your concerns, it sounds like it’ll be taking off very shortly.

    I’m glad you brought up Gregg Jeffries, and his not being a bust, because he wasn’t — and you’re right, by all accounts, he is a really good person, which is something that you can’t say about a lot of athletes.

Leave a Reply