Friday, September 23, 2016

Define the design: even more set-namin'

It's Friday, people.

You're celebrating because the weekend is here. I'm celebrating because it's looking like this Friday work night will be a little less insane than usual for a September. Small victories. We can't all go to the club and get smashed.

"Define the Design" is a nice lighthearted feature for a Friday. I haven't done one of these all year, outside of naming the 2016 Topps base set just so it would get out of my sight.

In fact, when we last left Define the Design, I had promised to find a name for the 2002 Donruss set, with help from your suggestions. As usual, I completely forgot about that, so it's time to right that wrong. Using a combination of suggestions, 2002 Donruss is now the "pinstripe curtain set." (I really did want to name it "1970s boy's bedroom wallpaper," but sometimes "simple" casts a wider net).

So let's get to naming a few more sets. The only thing this handful of sets has in common is all of them have borders -- rather distinctive borders, in fact. Borders are very helpful when naming sets. Why do you think I haven't even attempted to name an Ultra set? No borders!

So check out some sets with borders. I don't have names for all of them, so if something comes to mind, shout it out in the comments. Contributions are what makes this feature live on.

1971 Topps

Easy one. It's "the black border set." Perhaps that doesn't capture everything that's great about this set, the lower-case lettering, the bold, colorful team name, the first use of action photos for a player's base card. But come on now! The border is black! Where would 1985 Donruss and all those Bowman sets be without 1971 Topps? It's a black beauty. In fact, consider that '71 Topps' alternative name, "the black beauty set."

1986 Topps

So if 1971 Topps is the "black border/black beauty set," what's that make the 1986 set?

I really want to make this the "Ebony and Ivory set," so it can be the baseball card hobby's small contribution to racial harmony. The Stevie Wonder-Paul McCartney song was a hit four years prior to '86 Topps arriving, so it's in sort of the same era. Or maybe I could call it the "black-and-white cookie" set.

None of those names, though, recognizes the huge, sharp-edged team names in '86 Topps. That doesn't seem right. So I'll hold off naming this one for now.

1990 Donruss

I could take the easy route and name it "the red border set." Worked for '71 Topps, right? But that discounts the speckle spatters on every card. (P.S.: If you stare at the '90 Donruss design for awhile, pondering define-the-define names, your brain weirds out and the speckles start to look like mildew on a wall. "The mildew on a red wall set"? Anyway ...).

I want to reference the black speckles in some way and that's why I'm naming it:

The ladybug set.

There's probably a better name out there, but I like this one for now. People are welcome to change my mind.

1983 Fleer

There is already a named "gray border set" -- 1970 Topps. But I think the most positive aspect of 1983 Fleer anyway is the debut of the team logo on the front, which would be a practice for Fleer sets throughout the 1980s (until that dastardly 1991 Fleer).

So the logo needs to be part of the name. I haven't figured out exactly how. "Fleer's first logo set?" That's not it. I will think on this some more.

2001 Topps

The tricky part on the border for 2001 Topps is pinning down what color of green that is. I studied it extensively in last year's Topps flagship countdown and still don't know what color of green it is.

But for naming purposes, I settled on "forest green" as the color. My first thought was cars from the 1950s. But there were all different shades of green cars in the '50s. So I went in a different direction -- towards clothing.

And I found it:

2001 Topps is now the "hospital scrubs set."

I've never liked 2001 Topps more.

2005 Topps

Final set.

There is so much going on with 2005 Topps. Team word marks. Sideways team and player names. A much-appreciated set date in the lower left-hand corner.

But the overriding star of the 2005 Topps is the last name banner. There are other sets to place emphasis on the last name -- all those 3-D Kellogg's sets, for example. But I've never seen it exclaimed so prominently than in 2005 Topps.

So I'm calling this set the "last name first set."

By the way, Topps suddenly started adding "Jr." to Snow's name in 1997 and stayed with it through 2005 Topps. But for Snow's final flagship card, in 2006, he's back to simply "J.T. Snow"! Since the "J.T. Snow Jr." era came during the time when I didn't collect cards, "J.T. Snow Jr." looks very odd to me. I notice most of the other companies ignored the "Jr." I wonder if this was a "Rock Raines" thing by Topps?

Anyway, I think I have at least three solid set names to add to the "Define the Design list." Maybe a couple of more. That's up to you.

What do you think?


  1. It's too bad there's not black at the bottom on 1986, then it could be the Oreo set.

  2. 1986 Topps I think would be the Pointy-Bubble set.. Or the Geometry set..

    1990 Donruss: The Splatter Set

    As for the 1983 Fleer, I have no clue..

  3. I call 71 the not mint set. As in when you find a card from the set it is not mint.

  4. I've always identified 1990 Donruss set by the way the players names are written.

    To me, it's the cursive set.

    1. Me too. The speckles hardly even draw my attention.

  5. 1983 Fleer could be the "Lapel pin on a gray flannel suit" set. Yeah, it is a bit unwieldy, but it is all I got.

  6. 1990 Donruss (my least favorite baseball card set ever) I like the Splatter set as mention above, but there needs to be something with the Red in it. Lost on the others.

  7. I like Ladybug set (the name, not the cards). I've always called it "The Red Menace" when talking about my own mind.

  8. 1990 Donruss = the red dropcloth set. Those are speckles, not spots.

    2005 = the Dossier set. the team and name look like file folder tabs, so the whole thing is the case file on that guy...

    '86 looks like the "inflated name" set next to '71. It's like you blew up the team name and it pulled all the black up to the top of the card. Though the true inflated name set is 2008 because it has circus balloons.