30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

I Love the 80's: Baseball Card Sets

The 80's are my jam.  They're part of my reminiscent bump in regards to great memories with friends, life lessons, and of course trading cards.  That's why when Kin over at Bean's Ballcard Blog wrote about his Top 5 sets and baseball cards of the 80's, I was stoked to sit down and create my own lists.  Today I'm going to focus on my favorite sets.  As for my favorite cards... I'll get around to ranking them in a future post.

I initially thought it was going to be a walk in the park, but it ended up being quite the challenge.  There are a few sets that set themselves apart from the pack.  However after selecting my Top 3 sets,  there were a bunch of sets in the running for the 4th and 5th slots.  To remedy this issue, I decided to create a Top 10 list instead.

But before I share my list, you should know what I based my selections on.  There were three main factorsfront card design, rookie star power, and personal nostalgia.  Out of the three, the card's design was the main thing I considered, but the other two were used as tie-breakers.

With that out of the way, let's get to my Top 10 Baseball Card Sets of the 80's...

#101982 Topps

This set proves that the 80's were loaded with awesome trading card designs.  I'm a huge fan of the Hockey Stick set design and the use of bright colors like pink, light blue, purple, lime green, and orange.  And the In-Action cards are simply fantastic.

#91983 Fleer

I enjoy simple and plain... which is the best way to describe the 1983 Fleer design.  Plus it contains one of the strongest rookie card classes from my childhood.

#81980 Topps

The 1980 Topps baseball card design is solid.  The white borders paired with the colored banners compliment each other really well, but honestly without the Rickey Henderson and Dave Stieb rookie cards this set would probably be on the outside looking in.

Both of those guys hold a special place in my collection.  Henderson was my favorite player before Gwynn came along.  Stieb is the only MLB player to attend the same high school as me.  And both of their rookie cards feature awesome photographs which will always earn bonus points in my book.

#71984 Fleer

Another simple, plain, and attractive set.  Growing up I favored the 1984 Topps and Donruss counterparts, but like your trusty baseball glove this particular design has improved with age.

#61985 Topps

This is another set that has become more attractive to me in recent years.  Don't get me wrong, I loved this set as a kid.  I couldn't get enough of the amazing rookie class.  But eventually I lost interest in this set.  In fact, in 2016 I ranked my all-time favorite Topps designs and this set didn't crack the Top 15.  As a point of reference, the 1982 design was ranked #13 and the 1980 was ranked #11 on that list.  Today this design trumps both of them in my book.

#51981 Fleer

1981 Fleer was the first complete set of cards I ever owned and it was a gift from my parents.  I'd sit around and sort the cards by positions, then build all-star teams, and wrap things up by putting them back into team sets.  I repeated this process many, many, many times.

In regards to personal nostalgia, this set is in a league of its own and that's why I couldn't leave it out of my Top 5.  And honestly... the design isn't too shabby.  I know most collectors prefer the Topps' hats over Fleer's balls, but I'm okay being in the minority on this one.

#41985 Fleer

In terms of design, this is my favorite Fleer baseball set design of all-time. I enjoy the way the gray and team colored borders are paired up and go together with the team logo in the upper left-hand corner.  This set might not have played a huge role in my childhood, but like the 1985 Topps set, it features a really great bunch of rookie cards.

Before I get to my top three favorite baseball cards sets of the 80's, I wanted to show off two honorary mentions that just missed the cut:

Honorary Mention #11987 Fleer

When it comes to plain and simple, nobody did a better job of it in the 80's than Fleer.  I really like how the card design transitions from light blue to white... with a solid blue stripe at the bottom.  Combine that with the team logo and you've got a nice design.  Plus the 1987 rookie card class was one for the ages.

Honorary Mention #21984 Donruss

If there was a charity case on this list, then this set would be it.  The one thing that really stood out after building this list is that I'm not as big of a Donruss fan as I thought I was.  Don't get me wrong.  I truly enjoy every Donruss design from 1982 to 1987.  However none of them cracked my Top 10.

1984 Donruss is the only one I even considered and that's because I opened a lot of this stuff when I was younger.  People always say that this product was much more scarce than its Topps and Fleer counterparts, but that wasn't the case in my area.

Okay... let's wrap things up and check out my Top 3 sets of the 80's...

#31989 Upper Deck

Iconic setAwesome design... although I do enjoy the 1991 design a tad bit more.  Four hall of fame rookie cards.  This is a truly awesome set.

#21987 Topps

Five years ago, I ranked the 80's Topps designs and this set came in 8th placeFive years later, it's my 2nd favorite set among all of the major manufacturers.  For years, this set was a negative reminder of when I stopped collecting for fun and started collecting for financial gain.  That hasn't really changed, but these days I choose to embrace the truly beautiful wood grained design, awesome rookie class, and the fact that I've opened up more 1987 Topps baseball than any other trading card product in existence.

And the King of the 80's Baseball Sets title goes to...

#11983 Topps

This set is one of my favorite card designs off all-time.  Plus it contains my all-time favorite athlete's rookie card.  And if that weren't enough to put this set atop my list, I also opened up a bunch of this stuff back when I was eleven years old.

Well there you have my favorite baseball sets of the 80's.  If you're wondering... I did consider Score and Sportflics sets, but neither company cracked my Top 10.  As for things like Kellogg's and Mother's Cookies... I decided to leave them out of the equation since they're oddball/regional issues.

Maybe one day I'll create a Top 10 list for those as well.  In the meantime, I've got to start putting together my Top 5 list of 80's baseball cards, which I hope to publish in the next week or so.

Until then...

What is your favorite 80's baseball card set?

Happy Tuesday and sayonara!


  1. I'm with you on the 81' Fleer. I actually didn't like the Topps caps.

  2. I do like the 83 set as well. Those early Upper Deck sets, including the first, were special for the extra photo on the back that was often better than th one on the front.

  3. My top 5 sets from the 1980s are: 5. 1986 Fleer, 4. 1986 Topps, 3. 1987 Topps, 2. 1983 Fleer, 1. 1985 Fleer

  4. My top #1- 83T, #2 - 84T, #3-89 Ud, #4-87T, #5- 84 D. Always changing

  5. I like 1981 Topps and 1983 Topps. 1981 Donruss stands out to me because it has pictures in MLB parks, mostly in Chicago it seems.

  6. I didn't rank but my top 5 were 83 Topps, 84 Fleer, 87 Topps, 88 Score, and 89 Upper Deck. Is funny. Seeing people rank on Twitter you could tell who was really into collecting in the late 80s since nearly everyone chose 88 Score there. Feels weird to leave Donruss off but if I were doing a next 5 85 and 89 Donruss would both make it in along with 86 Topps, 85 Fleer, and 86 Sportflics.

  7. -Really all the 1987 sets are my favorite...I liked 1988 Score and 1989 Upper Deck too....I feel like both Score and Upper Deck went down after the initial sets...83, 84, 85 are great Topps sets...1986 Topps, no comment...1980 Topps is a classic too

  8. Any of the 1987 Set designs take top spot in my book. Nice ranking!

  9. I'm probably in the extreme minority, in that 1981 Topps is my favorite set of the decade. I'm not wild about '85 Topps, but that Puckett RC is probably one of my single favorite cards of the '80s for sure.

  10. My top three would be 1983 Topps and Fleer, first sets that I collected, and the 1989 Upper Deck set.

  11. I'll probably do a post like this soon too. But the majority of mine will be from the first half of the decade, since I quit after '84 and didn't come back til 2005. '80 was my first completed set (when it was still out in packs), and '83T & Fleer, and the 1st four Donruss will populate my list. I'll throw in '88 Score with an asterisk that I didn't discover them til the mid 2000's. Nothing from '87 will be even close, especially after the saturation from last year.

  12. I've always liked the 1984 Topps design .Clunky ,gigantic block lettered team names aside,I thought It was cool that they added a little head shot down on the corner of the card.How on earth you could fit all that onto the front of a card Is beyond me.But Topps made It work.As far as nostalgia goes,I'd go with 1989 Topps.I collected a ton of those because there was a certain Alomar card In there that was worth about 4 bucks at the time.Back then 4 bucks was alot and when I pulled that Roberto Alomar card I went berserk!Only to find out later that It was his brother Sandy's card that was worth the 4 dollars.

  13. 84 Donruss is my 80s favorite. Plus, concerning Stieb being the only MLB from your high school (Oak Grove?)How about Randy Kramer?

  14. Pretty nice list and always open for debate. I actually love the 1981 Donruss design but wish they were a tad thicker. They were the first packs I bought a lot of. I also like 1986 Sportflics for the innovative design. They top my personal list mostly for nostalgia as opposed to dollar value.

  15. Nice ranking of cards and I really loved seeing the 1984 Donruss Darryl Strawberry featured. Thanks! It's great to read these ranks and I liked seeing your your thoughts, feelings, and rankings have changed over time.

  16. john miller - pretty sure you and i are in the minority, but i could be wrong.

    hackenbush - i wonder which baseball set was the first to offer a color photo on the back. i know 1988 score and 1987 sportflics did. but you're right some of those photographs on the back of 89ud were pretty awesome.

    tshenson - 86f and 86t are definitely in my top 15

    mark hoyle - 84t is solid too. great list. mine is always changing too.

    runfore kelloggs - 81d earns nostalgia points, but i have never been a fan of the design

    nick vossbrink - 88s is weird. one day i really like it (especially the backs)... the next day they're just okay.

    alan deakins & sumomenkoman - agree with the 87 statement. 87d is in my top 15.

    nick - not sure how many would call it the best of the decade, but i think a lot of collectors enjoy the 81t design.

    snorting bull - great minds think alike

    gca - looking forward to reading your post

    big tone - i like the 84t design too. for years it was my 2nd favorite 80's topps set (after 83t)

    sg488 - thanks for the info. looks like there's another guy too. ben fritz.

    baltmoss68 - 1986 sportlfics would make my top 20 list... but more for nostalgia purposes. i opened a lot of those packs. they were like my first highend product.

    peter k. steinberg - yeah... i'm sure if i redid this list next year, quite a few would be reshuffled.