Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The '80's greatest hits

When I counted down my least favorite card designs of the 1980s, I knew a best designs of the '80s countdown was coming.

I tried to supress it. I didn't really want to do a "best of" countdown. It didn't seem all that interesting to me. I wanted to be negative and bitter and critical. That was more fun.

But then in the comments a person or two expressed an interest in a review of the best. And a couple folks seemed to think I wouldn't be able to come up with 10 good ones.

Well, what looks "good" is entirely subjective. All you have to do is read a few posts about National Chicle to figure that out. But, believe it or not, I found 10 designs that I pretty much enjoy. And it wasn't difficult at all.

Before I get into those, a word about a few that didn't make the cut. First there is 1985 Topps, which I displayed up top. I never understood the jumble of geometric designs at the bottom of the card. It looked weird from the start. And if you think the team logos on 2010 Topps are large, what about seeing "ANGELS" in big, block letters?

So, '85 is not among the worst, but not among the best either. The same goes for 1986, which has many issues that I have rehashed time and again. But I still like it.

OK, time to get our your red pens and correct where I went wrong. Here are my 10 favorites, from least favoritest to most favoritest:

10. 1987 Fleer. I fully acknowledge that many consider this a mediocre-to-lousy set. It's just that I have a bias. I am a Dodger fan. The Dodgers look fantastic in this set. Whenever I see the Dodgers on '87 Fleer, I want to collect the whole set. Then I see Chris Codiroli on '87 Fleer and the fever goes away.

9. 1989 Upper Deck. Lots of folks would rank this higher. But from my viewpoint, it's lucky it's even on my list. It's here because I can appreciate what UD brought to the hobby and it certainly was different from what was out there. But in terms of appeal, I didn't really like it much in 1989. I ignored it. Lots of night photos, though.

8. 1984 Topps. This is a repeat of Topps' previous effort from 1983. They knew they created something great in '83, so they churned out more of the same. You may have noticed Topps likes to do that. But I still like the design. It's very colorful, one of the most colorful sets of the '80s. And I like the cut-out mug shots inside the different-colored boxes. I'm a sucker for colorful.

7. 1981 Topps. For the cap drawing alone, '81 Topps needs to be here. What a great instant identifier for your card set. I also like '81 Topps because it was the last set in which All-Star players received recognition right on their own card. I wish that would come back. The problem with '81 Topps is few of the color schemes match with the teams.

6. 1988 Topps. I can hear the screaming now. I don't care. I LOVE THIS SET. I know the color schemes are wrong for many teams (including the Dodgers). But when they got it right, like for the Mets cards, they are fantastic-looking cards. The Bo Jackson card is awesome (check out the great '88 Topps blog). The cards look great together in a binder. Very colorful. I like how the player image covers up part of the team name. It's a classic look that just works.

5. 1985 Donruss. I didn't collect at all in 1985. I maybe opened 3 packs all year. And all three were 1985 Donruss. My mind-set was so far away from collecting that year, but even in that state, when I first saw '85 Donruss, a tiny part of me screamed from deep inside "collect this set!" I have loved the black-bordered 1971 Topps set since I was a child, and this was my first experience with black borders since I saw that '71 set. I know they're a bitch to maintain, but they look great. Well, they LOOKED great. Bowman has ruined black borders forever with its overkill.

4. 1984 Fleer. 1984 was a great year for cards. All three brands available in '84 are in this countdown. I think '84 Fleer is one of its nicest efforts. A very clean design that places the focus on the photo, and an improved displaying of the team logo from the previous year. Unfortunately, the set came along when I was scaling back on my collecting. But I sure liked it.

3. 1984 Donruss. I've babbled about this set enough, so I'll try to keep it brief. For me, the best thing about this set, other than it marked a rare departure by Donruss from the cartoonish designs that plagued its '80s sets, is it was the first set that I saw in which the photo took up most of the card. People give Upper Deck a lot of credit for doing this, but Donruss did it five years earlier. The photos weren't as crisp, but, hey, people were too busy watching Ghostbusters in '84 to care about that.

2. 1980 Topps. Just a classic set. It's hard for me to think of anything from the '80s as classic. But 1980 Topps seems to be universally loved for its appearance. My lone complaint: there's a little too much yellow in the set. Yellow borders, flags, etc. I don't like yellow in sets.

1. 1983 Topps. What a crazy good card. You knew '83 Topps would be first, right? Who doesn't love '83 Topps (oh, I'm sure there's somebody)? For me, this set is the best by a landslide. There's a big gap between this one and any others. It was something to open a pack of cards in early 1983 and see the design for the first time. It really looked like something special, even if it was a take-off on 1963.

1983 is so good that the next post will be about a 1983 card, too.

OK, there you go. I guess I had something to say about the best, huh?


  1. I would add 1986 Fleer - Look at George Brett Card (it is awesome and a Nightime Photo - though it is hard to tell)

    1981 Donruss has grown on me through the years.

    1987 Topps Woodgrain, it was over produced but I remember buying over 20 boxes of the stuff.

    1985 Topps (this would be my tenth pick)

    I would take out 1989 Upper Deck, 1984 Topps (redundant), 1981 Topps, 1980 Topps

    Topp 10

    1. 1983 Topps
    2. 1984 Fleer (held up better over time than donruss)
    3. 1986 Fleer
    4. 1981 Donruss
    5. 1984 Donruss
    6. 1987 Fleer
    7. 1987 Topps
    8. 1985 Donruss
    9. 1988 Topps (this set is amazing when I look at it now compared to what I thought about it 20 years ago when I thought it was junk)
    10. 1985 Topps

  2. '83 Topps turned me into what I am today. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but it is what it is.

    I absolutely love the '86 Topps set I don't care what anyone says.

    '87 Fleer is my second favorite set of the decade, that gradiant blue does something to me.

    I have to admit, '88 Topps has held up surprisingly well.

    I'll always have a soft spot for '83 Donruss. And '87 for that matter.

    Now I'm just rambling. Meeeeemoriiiiiesssss.....

  3. It's actually pretty hard to narrow the 1980s down to just ten sets. I agree with the picks you have made, but a oouple of sets I like were left out because there wasn't room: 1985 Topps, 1987 Topps. It was a pretty good decade for Topps -- the only sets I wouldn't consider for a top ten would be 1982 and 1989.

  4. Never been a fan of '85 or '87 (mostly because I quit in '84 and those signify the overproduction years to me). But I would put '83 Fleer in there too. I know they're kinda gray, but I always thought it was a classy design. Very simple and subdued with the team logo

  5. Good calls...I always felt that 1987 Fleer would have been much improved by color coordinating the borders a bit. The blue was nice looking with some teams, terrible with others and always a bit monotonous.

    Random fact: I bought a TON of 1982 Topps despite not liking the design at all.

  6. How did I miss this list last month? I love this (even if you did dis my '82 set haha)

    This brings to mind... I'm very surprised that nobody's started a 1983 Topps blog yet. I've been considering it once I'm done with '82, but that'll probably take a few years to finish at the pace I'm going.

    I'll never forget discovering Fleer in early '83 and I was like "what the %^&%@ is this?". I hated Fleer for that. The Topps design though, was great.