Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Biggest bust/improvement: Donruss

Hey! It's Harold Reynolds again!

This is not a repeat. This is post number 2,001. I republished this card both as a reminder to enter the contest and as a lead-in to my next judging fiesta, namely, figuring out the biggest improvement and bust in the history of Donruss.

I don't think Donruss has as avid a following as the previous two brands we've compared, Topps and Upper Deck. I know I'm not crazy about many of the sets that Donruss produced over the years.

My personal Donruss favorites are 1984 and 1985. Plus, 1981 has sentimental value. I kind of like 1995, too. And 1988 and 1989 are actually growing on me. The rest you can put in a big boiling pot of ick.

The ones I don't like in the least are 1986, 1991, 1992 and 1996. I think I've mentioned before that 1986 horrified me from the moment I saw it and prevented me from buying any of it. I know I've mentioned before that if Fisher Price were to make card sets, they would look like 1991 Donruss. And, of course, 1992 Donruss is vile and nauseating, and 1996 has the most ridiculous logo placement ever.

So, if I was participating in this judge-off, the biggest improvement would be 1983 to 1984, with 1986 to 1987 as runner-up. The biggest bust would be 1985 to 1986, with 1995 to 1996 or 1982 to 1983 as runners-up.

But I'm not deciding this. You're deciding this.

A couple of other notes first:

1983 Donruss is the only set I can remember opening the first pack of and saying out loud, "Oh, come on! Really?" That's what I thought of '83 Donruss ripping off its own set from the previous year.

There is no 2000 Donruss set (I think). EDIT: There is no 1999 or 2000 Donruss set. For comparing sets, we'll have to compare 1998 to 2001.

So, now I'm looking for comments. What do you think are the biggest year-to-year improvements for Donruss and the biggest year-to-year busts? I'm looking for something like: "biggest improvement: 1989 to 1990," "biggest bust: 1997 to 1998."

Once I accumulate enough comments, I'll post a poll that includes the most nominated comparisons and people will get to vote on the all-time biggest bust and improvement in the history of the Donruss base set.

(For sanity's sake, I am not including any sets that Donruss makes these days or has made in the last few years. The cut-off is 2005).

To make your comparing easier, here's a handy look at every year of Donruss:


Wow, that 2004 was pretty ugly, huh?

All right, time to make your selections in the comments. Give Donruss some love. If you can.


  1. I like 1992. So there. Nyeah.

  2. biggest improvement 1983 ---> 1984

    biggest blecchhh 1990---> 1991

    1991 scarred me so bad, I stopped collecting baseball cards for 17 years.
    On the plus side, I didn't have to put up with 2004 because of that.

  3. I agree with Captain Canuck on the biggest improvement. 1984 Donruss is one of my favorite card designs ever.

    I'd say 2003 to 2004 was the biggest bust. 2003 was nice, very clean. 2004 was just sloppy and unnecessarily complicated.

  4. I personally was never a big fan of 1984. Its ok, I just never saw the big deal, other than a supposed scarcity. I stopped collecting around 1990, but I kinda like 1992. I too like 1981 for sentimental reasons, but I'll say:

    Biggest improvement 1981 -> 1982

  5. Biggest Improvement=1993 to '94
    Biggest Drop-off= 1989 to '90


  6. Alright, you've made me do it. You've bashed poor 'ol 1991 Donruss so much that I'm going to collect it. Poor set. I'm going to start working on my want list right now.

    Biggest improvement: 1990 - 1991 (seriously, I HATED the '90 set and I actually like the '91 set).

    Biggest bust: 1992 to 1993.

  7. Biggest Improvement:
    1985 - 1986
    Biggest Bust:
    1991 - 1992

  8. Biggest Improvement: '83 to '84.
    Biggest Bust: '95 to '96

  9. FanOfReds ~

    Prepare to be buried in Fisher Price cards.

  10. Actually 1999 and 2000 Donruss are inserts sets in 2001 Donruss. They are not actually their own stand alone set. I can get you a scan of 2000 Donruss if you want it.

    I have a soft spot for 1983 Donruss so I will shun all you haters.

    Biggest improvement - 1986 to 1987
    Biggest bust - 1995 to 1996.

  11. 1984 Set is overrated.

    The Biggest Improvement 1991 over 1990. 1990 set was just so bad, one of the worst ever.

    Biggest Drop off 1987 to 1988. Maybe because I bought so much of 1988 Donruss it made me sick to look at any more cards. There was a cheapness feel to the sets from 1988 to 1990

  12. The '84 set is the only thing Donruss ever made that was worth making.

    I'll take 1999 out of contention when I get a chance to update the post. Only legitimate sets qualify.

  13. Some of those years reflect the zeitgeist of the times pretty well. Consider the fashions being worn during some of the most hideous errors (nyuk nyuk) of Donruss.

  14. 1984 Donruss is the most overrated set since '52 Topps. The photography is terrible even for Donruss standards and the little swooshy things did not age well. 1985 Donruss beats it up, takes its lunch and then goes on a picnic with its sister. Plus you can get the Mattingly for 10-15 bucks now anyway.

    Here's the 2000 Donruss scan I promised. Even if it's disqualified please at least put it in there for completeness sake. My OCD is acting up.

  15. Photos in 1980s Donruss sets were consistently terrible. Doesn't really matter which year.

    That sounds like a future post.

  16. 1984 is horrible. Poor design and pictures. It has value because no one bought them.

    1985 and 1994 are the only sets with appeal.

    Biggest bust is 1983, it's the same card as 1982.

    Biggest smash is 1985, they capitalized on (low supply=greater demand) of 1984.

  17. Biggest improvement - 1991 to 1992. Just because the backs were different after what seemed like forever. Plus the photography in 1992 is vastly underrated.

    1998 to 2001 is a close 2nd. I really love the team colored borders in 2001.

    Biggest Bust - 1989 to 1990
    No front logos on 1990. That was Donruss's thing and they replaced it with a hard to read name and a horrible border.

    Close 2nd 1983 to 1984, I never was a fan of 1984. The team name was too hard to read on most cards. It was a bad magic eye painting on some.

    After seeing them in order like this it is clear to me that Donruss had the least amount of change from year to year. I knew it before, but it is staggering how little changed from year to year.

  18. "That sounds like a future post."

    Hey, who gets royalties now!

  19. I liked 1981 because they took daytime pictures at Chicago ballparks - sorry. 1982 was a disappointment.

    I prefer 1983 to 1984 because the former were affordable for a student and the latter were the first packs that I was too cheap to buy enough of to make a set easily.

  20. 1989 Donruss takes all. Best "D" set EVER!

  21. My favorites have always been 1994 and 1985, but I like 1984 and 1993 (woo, expansion draft cards) enough that they don't qualify for biggest improvement for me.

    Biggest improvement: 1986-->1987...otherwise, there's not much distinctive.

    Biggest bust: 1998-->2001, I hate those stars. I don't want to pretend i'm camping when i look at a card.

  22. Biggest bust--1987 to 1988. Probably because I opened a million packs of 88 and it makes me nauseous.

    Biggest improvement--Not having Donruss to 1981. No, 1981 isn't the best set, but it was the first year I collected and we could find Donruss packs 8 for a $1. Pulling a Yogi Berra card out of a pack was mind boggling, even if it was a manager card.

  23. Biggest improvement: 1992 to 1993. I always liked the 3D-looking team logo and name bar on the 1993 cards, and 1992 is just putrid and dull.

    Biggest bust: 1995 to 1996. The 1996 design looks like all of the info on the front got caught in a trash compactor. The card number on the back is pretty bad, too.

  24. Biggest improvement IMO is from 81-82, just because the 81 set is so terrible. You name it, and it is bad (cards printed on 3 x 5 card stock, blurry photos, etc.). 82 had a typewriter team name, but it was a BIG improvement over 81.

    Biggest bust, I would have to say 90. People are still finding "errors" were the black line starts to go through the script name.

  25. I agree with your top choices so:
    biggest bust - 1985 to 1986
    biggest improvement - 1983 to 1984

    I don't necessarily agree with your 2nd and 3rd choices - because I don't mind 1992, I like 1993 and I don't really like 1985. But those aren't my top votes!


  26. biggest improvement: 1992 to 1993
    biggest bust: 1985 to 1986

  27. Biggest improvement: 1984 to 1985. As the Junkie said, '84 is overrated. It's not bad, but it's not earth-shattering either. 1985 was the bomb.

    Biggest bust: 1987 to 1988. Even though I like '88, you can't deny that it's a major drop from the '87 design. Plus I think I had more trouble with keeping the corners sharp on '88 Donruss cards than any other year.

    And what is wrong with 2004? I like that design!

    JT, The Writer's Journey