I am making enough progress in starting my Greatest 100 Cards of the '80s countdown that I think I can start cutting candidates down to the final 100 fairly soon.
It's all a bit muddled now because I've been reviewing the '80s sets in order from the start of the decade to the end of the decade and I'm currently in the middle of an evaluating disaster, also known as the overproduction era.
There were just so many cards between 1986-89, almost too many to process in any kind of objective manner. Not that there is any threat of this happening, but I will never do a top 100 cards of the '90s countdown because trying to trim that specific card avalanche to a final 100 would finish me off.
I've pretty much gotten through 1986 and 1987 -- again, it's a bit murky -- and am in the middle of 1988, and I am discovering that I am in disagreement with a lot of previous "great 1980s cards" countdowns. It has to do with cards like this:
I don't care what anybody says, that is not a great card.
Neither is that one.
And neither is that one.
Braves collectors and 1980s rookie collectors may disagree, and again, that's fine. Eye of the beholder and all that. But my issue with '80s cards like this, as far as evaluating them for a list of greatness, is that in the '80s, too much credit was given to a card's "rookie-ness" or more accurately, too much credit for being first.
You still see this in top cards of the '80s lists. How do they differentiate between the six different Bo Jacksons issued around 1986? Well, they simply go with the card that came out first. And they do have some justification for doing that. Often the card that came out first was the most sought after back in the day and remains the most coveted today.
But for my evaluating money, I would much rather define greatness with a card like this:
Instead of a card like this ...
Or this ...
The second two Jacksons are merely point-and-click shots. There is almost nothing interesting about the card itself. I don't care whether they came out first, I don't care about the hype, that doesn't say anything about the actual card to me. And that's what I'm evaluating.
(The only Bo Jackson I can assure you will absolutely be on the Greatest 100 list is his 1988 Topps card).
This doesn't mean I am down on rookie cards in this countdown. If you read my Greatest 100 Cards of the '70s list, you know that there were rookie cards in that review:
But with the exception of the Ozzie Smith card -- and he can use that glorious chocolate-and-mustard uniform as his defense -- the '70s rookie cards that made the list had more going for them than being rookies or being first.
That's what it takes to make the list: a well-rounded card.
I know collectors go nuts over this card. All I see is a boring photo on a brutal design.
I would much rather put this card on my top 100, if I want to represent young Canseco, even if it wasn't the first card to come out. It's a much better composed card, with a much more pleasing logo (rookie cup over rated rookie ALL DAY), showing a hopeful Canseco on the bench in that glorious all-green A's uniform.
Yup, not a chance '86 Donruss Canseco.
Neither of these are the first cards of Bo Jackson or Barry Bonds, but they are "greater" cards simply because the photo and the design is better. Yeah, my faithfulness to Topps is showing, but it seems pretty obvious to me -- Topps wasn't just pointing and shooting in the '80s.
However, I said back during my Greatest 100 Cards of the '70s countdown that context meant a lot when making up this list and context means not relying solely on the photo when evaluating.
Photo is a big part of what makes a card great, but it's not the only thing. The story behind the card matters, too, and there are a lot of things that make up that story. One of those things is: "what was going on with baseball cards at that time?"
So, yes, I will consider the craze over rookies that happened in the '80s (and continues to this day). But I'm not going to put a card of a head staring at a camera in the top 100. I didn't like that when I saw it in cards from the '70s and '60s and I don't like it now.
You will see the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. card in the top 100 countdown -- even though it's basically a head shot. But that card has so much more going for it than just the photo.
But overall, if you're talking about an '80s card of a young superstar ...
A card that looks like this.
Has a better chance than ...
A card that looks like this.
Anyway, the next time you see a Greatest 100 cards of the '80s progress report, it will be to announce the date that the countdown will begin.