There is a lot of talk about whether cards look better with or without borders. I can see points for both, but in general I'm a border guy. Borders help make a set distinguishable over time. Most Fleer Ultra sets will never be able to say that.
But here is one thing about bordered sets that I've never seen brought up anywhere else, and it has to do with the 1991 Topps set:
Some of the player images OVERLAP THE BORDER!
Here is what I mean:
Felix Fermin's foot doesn't get cut off at the toe just because his spikes have hit the white border. They overlap into the white space!
Why all the exclamation points?
Well, up until this time, as far as I can tell, Topps sets featured a clearly defined border. And the image didn't stray into it. Pick whatever pre-1991 set you want. There's no glove straying into the black edges in 1971 Topps. There's no bat wandering into the purple of 1975 Topps. There's no elbow bumping up against the hockey stick in 1982 Topps.
But in 1991 Topps, time and again ...
... players are breaking the border wall.
It's like they've entered into a new dimension. All those years of being confined within four corners. All those "rules" about the pristine white border. So constraining.
It didn't matter anymore. Did it, Dwight Evans' bat?
I knew there was a reason I liked 1991 Topps other than the original, terrific photography. They were literally thinking outside the box!
However, I'm not willing to give Topps full credit.
I have my suspicions that it got this border-barrier-breaking idea from somewhere else. And, no, it was not Upper Deck.
It was Fleer.
During the late 1980s, Fleer went with very thick borders. I don't even think you can call them borders in some cases. And there's no way they could get a full major league baseball player within the photo space reserved for, say 1989 Fleer.
So the players instead broke out into the border, most notably in 1990 Fleer.
I think this is where the '91 Topps idea originated.
Early '90s Classic did the same thing periodically.
But even if it wasn't original I think it was best executed by '91 Topps.
Now, if only it could have been done with 2008 Topps.