1986 Topps

I was not a huge set collector when I was a kid. This wasn’t by choice but rather economics. Buying complete sets was beyond my means. As was ripping boxes. In general I only got a couple packs of each release. Still I was able to accumulate a substantial number of cards of a few sets from my youth. 1990 Fleer and 1991 Donruss are two where I was gifted a box for my birthday. 1986 Topps though is one I accumulated the old fashioned way by opening a pack at a time over years.

I’ve been working on building all three of those sets since I had made substantial progress on them decades ago. As junk wax they make nice trade package filler and many people still have piles of them just sitting around. Heck I have piles of them just sitting around too. The past year has taken me to 90%, if not higher, complete on all of them and I’ve speculated in previous posts on here that it’s going to be interesting to see what set completes itself first.

A couple weeks ago my set need list got picked up by a few people on Twitter and all of a sudden it looks like 1986 is complete. This warms my heart since 1986 is literally the first set I started building even though I didn’t know I was doing so at the time.

1987 Topps holds a special place in my heart since that set represents the set I acquired during my first full season as a baseball fan. I look at that set and am transported to the beginning of my fandom. Watching my sons go through that exact age has definitely helped me remember how formative and wonderful that year is.

1986 though is the set which hinted at the world of baseball cards. The cards were just around. They were still in rack packs at Toys R Us. There were repacks of all kinds which consisted of like 50% 1986 Topps. I couldn’t avoid picking up a couple hundred of them and while 1987 Topps takes me back to that first season of baseball, 1986 reminds me of getting into the hobby itself.


Three people on Card Twitter in particular finished out my set for me. The main bulk came from Mark Del Franco (@delspacefranco)* and Jenny Miller who combined to kill almost my entire ~90 card needlist. Mark sent me over 60 cards** including a bunch of the Pete Rose specials. I’d never seen those as a kid and only now am I noticing the red-yellow gradient that would become a go-to look for all card companies in a couple years.

*Who I thought I was following but somehow and embarrassingly, wasn’t.

**Jenny’s package hasn’t arrived yet but looks to be even bigger. They started pulling cards at exactly the same time and I never know how to manage that (especially because trades sometimes fall through) so there will be a decent amount of overlap.

I don’t exactly like the 1986 design but there’s something solid about it. An incredibly distinct font definitely helps but the black bar is a good look too in making everything standard while allowing the team colors to provide enough interest card-to-card.* The photography is also an interesting mix of action, candids, and posed photos here.

*Something we’ve lost in the past two decades of “everything must be foil” madness is big bold colorful lettering. 

Mark’s asked me to pay this forward to other collectors—which is how I tend to approach trading as well. Send out what you can to who you can and don’t worry too much about what comes back. Odds are you’ll get more back than you ever sent out. But if I ever come across a good amount of 1969 Topps duplicates or 1950s Bowman duplicates (an unlikely scenario in both cases) I’ll know who to call.

The one card Mark and Jenny weren’t able to cover was number thirty Eddie Murray. After I’d gone through my lists and figured out what hadn’t been spoken for yet Mark put out a “get this guy a 1986 Eddie Murray” tweet and sort of immediately @CollectorVt responded.

A few days later Eddie showed up in my mailbox. Once Jenny’s package arrives my 1986 Topps set will be fully complete rather than expected complete. Very cool. I’ve never put together a set from scratch and even though accumulating cards via trades is still targeted set completion it’s nice to have done 75% of this from packs.

Thanks guys!

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

9 thoughts on “1986 Topps”

  1. Although I attempted to build sets throughout the early 80’s, I’m pretty sure the 86T set was the first one I actually came very close to completing. I may have even completed it. I was also involved in a heist involving a box of 86T baseball that ruined a friendship. Not my brightest moment.

    The following year was when I started busting boxes from Price Club. I built a ton of 87T sets that year.

    1. I was always jealous of my friends who could get boxes at Price Club. My 1990 Fleer and 1991 Donruss set builds though are the result of being gifted a box for my birthday those years.

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