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Go Back Forums > Net54baseball Postwar Sportscard Forums > Modern Baseball Cards Forum (1980-Present)

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Old 02-22-2021, 08:36 AM
deweyinthehall deweyinthehall is offline
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 166
Default 80s/90s Review

I took a break from vintage a few years ago and decided to concentrate on filling my collection with the Donruss, Fleer, Score and Upper Deck sets from 81-92. Back in the day I had perhaps a third of all these sets, but sold them off maybe 20 years ago, and the last time I collected any was 1992. Never had '84 Donruss, '84 Fleer Update, '89 Upper Deck and some others.

I just finished putting master sets together of this run, and was looking back on them so I thought I'd put my thoughts out there as to the relative quality of each. This is purely aesthetics - print runs, errors, rookies, inserts (with one exception) don't factor in.

For each year I rank each set lowest to highest:

3. Donruss - abysmal stock, lackluster design
2. Fleer - pretty darn good first entry - nice design
1. Topps - a classic "baseball card" baseball card set - teams easily sortable because of the little caps and brightly colored borders (a theme which will repeat). Also, at 726, still the greatest card variety.

3. Fleer - the images, the design and those robin's egg blue backs are just terrible.
2. Topps - not a fan of the design, and there seems to be a drop off in image quality.
1. Donruss - a heck of an improvement over 81, nice sharp design and good overall images.

3. Fleer - Nothing says collecting fun like drab, tan borders. Also I prefer nice, clean white borders generally.
2. Donruss - wait...aren't these the 1982 Donruss cards? Has anyone actually seen them in the same place at the same time? Lack of imagination, although still strong for the same reasons as 1982.
1. Topps - one of my favorite Topps sets; nice image selection and really nice, colorful design; love the mug shot

3. Fleer - Meh.
2. Donruss - nice design, but I really like the Topps set.
1. Topps - Another of my favorite designs from my time collecting it as a kid - bold team names along the end, not as good mug shots as 1983, good images.

3. Donruss - HATE dark-bordered cards, where background patterns repeat from card to card (the horizontal lines). Makes it hard to sort by team, which was a big deal when opening packs.
2. Fleer - Drab gray borders; colorful insets are nice.
1. Topps - Not a huge fan, but better than the others; like the bold team name on the diagonal block.

3. Donruss - see 1985 Donruss.
2. Topps - A few nice looking cards, but not an overall well-executed design. Lots of slightly fuzzy images.
1. Fleer - Best of a weak lot; Normally don't like these sorts of borders, but 86 was a down year.

3. Donruss - see 1986 Donruss
2. Topps - Woodgrain is a nice touch, but not enough to offset otherwise drab design and continued image problems. And still way too many paint jobs this late in the 80s.
1. Fleer - sleek Blue/White transition, nice stock, appreciate the colored lines at the bottom with the logos. Even the non-glossy versions LOOK high end.

4. Donruss - see 1987 Donruss
3. Fleer - The lines in the background make everything so busy it's hard sort quickly by team
2. Topps - without Score this'd be #1 - always loved the design.
1. Score - great stock, great photos, love the backs

5. Fleer - AGAIN with the Gray, this time with busy vertical lines.
4. Donruss - You know the drill
3. Topps - Love the design; not a fan of no positions on the front. Some very good images to offset some lousy ones.
2. Score - Poor Score - for one brief shining moment they were the best.
1. Upper Deck - Obviously, for all the same reasons others would say.

5. Donruss - a confused, confusing mess
4. Topps - The set has grown on me over the years, but would have been better had the multi-colored borders been keyed to teams (same comment on 1975 Topps), and still WAY too many paint jobs!
3. Score - A step backward on the design.
2. Upper Deck - Wait...WHAT? Still a nice set, though.
1. Fleer - I've always loved this simple, neat design.

5. Donruss - See 1990 Donruss et al...
4. Fleer - Yellow...just, yellow.
3. Topps - they really missed the 40th Anniversary boat - great design in concept, but in execution far too many grainy, unattractive images
2. Score - without the colored borders this would be my number one, over Upper Deck, which for all it's beauty doesn't seem to be trying that hard.
1. Upper Deck - a nice set sure, but see above.

5. Topps - What were they thinking with that stock? and those grainy, distorted stadium images on the backs? Eww...
4. Donruss - Nice white borders, but every card in the set has the same basic design and color scheme...
3. Fleer - Almost put this one higher. Don't like the lack of differentiation between teams, but that White/Green design really shines.
2. Upper Deck - really nice, but still not a lot of original thought into the set's overall content.
1. Score - love the white borders, the fantastic backs, and the imagination which went into all the subsets - it's easy for us to dismiss the cartoonish images of the all stars today, but after ripping a few boxes recently, I could really appreciate them. Also - the 90s Impact Player insert set is beautiful - reminds me of ProSet cards.

Anyway - thoughts?

Last edited by deweyinthehall; 02-22-2021 at 08:37 AM. Reason: .
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Old 03-01-2021, 01:45 AM
David W David W is online now
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Northern Indiana
Posts: 1,492

For 1989 there was the oversized Bowman set. I really liked it but no easy way to store it.

1990 Leaf might be my favorite set in your time frame.

1991 Stadium Club was nice, 92 not so much.
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Old 03-01-2021, 09:08 AM
ALR-bishop ALR-bishop is offline
Al Richter
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 7,035

What would be your definition of a master set for that period ?
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Old 03-01-2021, 02:16 PM
deweyinthehall deweyinthehall is offline
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 166

Originally Posted by ALR-bishop View Post
What would be your definition of a master set for that period ?
Generally speaking:
1) All Base cards
2) All insert sets to include the "every pack" run of the mill logo stickers, holograms, puzzles and magic motion cards.
3) Wrappers
4) Send-aways (where purchase of some sort of pack was necessary)
5) Contest/Advertising inserts
6) Traded/Update sets
7) Bonus cards or inserts from factory sets
8) Variations: my own delineator here is to NOT include print defects.
So, for example, I DO have: 1990 Upper Deck Jamie Weston, 1981 Fleer
Craig Nettles and 1982 Fleer John Littlefield reverse negative, but NOT
for example, 1990 Fleer Dave Martinez with the yellow "'90", 1990 Topps
Frank Thomas NNOF or the 1982 Topps blackless.
9) Box bottom cards
10) No parallels - so, I have the 1991 Donruss Sandberg Elite Signature because there's no version without a signature, but NOT the 1991 Mantle signatures because they are basically a parallel of the unsigned version.
11) Single exemplars of large-scale variations: Donruss Factory Set border changes, missing "." after "INC", 1991 Fleer jumbo pack variations.

Last edited by deweyinthehall; 03-01-2021 at 02:18 PM. Reason: .
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Old 03-01-2021, 02:53 PM
ALR-bishop ALR-bishop is offline
Al Richter
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 7,035

I think that is the most inclusive master list I have ever seen. Congrats.

While I collect any recurring print defects my variations list was whatever was listed in SCD, Beckett and the PSA master checklists
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Old 03-01-2021, 04:32 PM
deweyinthehall deweyinthehall is offline
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 166

It was fun - and relatively cheap -putting it together. The most expensive things generally were the Donruss Elites, particularly 1992, and of course of couple of the Fleer Updates - 84, 92. The 1992 Donruss Updates, which came 4 per factory set, are surprisingly hard to find and pricey when I do see them. The most tedious part was putting together the variations in 1991 Topps and all the Fleer Logo Sticker variations - some of which I still need.
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Old 03-04-2021, 08:18 PM
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Bigdaddy Bigdaddy is offline
+0m J()rd@N
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: VA
Posts: 1,240

Wow, that was a nice run through history.

I generally agree with all your ratings, except that imo, nothing beats the early UD sets. Not even close.

I liked that you rated the 1988 Score as the best that year. I thought they really had something that season with the color backs and great writeups. But repeating the same mistake as Fleer in 1982, they hit the sophomore jinx the next year. I never cared much for Score after that.

For me, the best year all around was 1984 with Donruss just edging Topps. Both were very nice sets. I've recently pulled out one of my 1984 Donruss sets and put it in a binder and am slowly working on a signed version.

And as one poster above said, the 1990 Leaf cards were top-notch.
Working Sets:
T206 SLers - Virginia League
1952 Topps - low numbers
1954 Bowman
1964 Topps Giants auto'd
1964 Topps

Last edited by Bigdaddy; 03-04-2021 at 08:19 PM.
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