The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Card Collecting, Part IV

By Jerry Keys

In part four of card collecting, we will look at the years 1981 to 1985.  In these years, Topps not only lost their monopoly on the trading card industry, they also lost their footing as the top sought after brand.  Topps encountered two rival companies in 1981 (Fleer and Donruss) and only three years later, were surpassed by each in card quality and sales.

1981 was the first year to offer an expanded traded set (smaller versions were produced in 1972, 1974, and 1976; players who were traded between production runs).  This is the only year these traded cards were numbered with the base set.  After 1981, the traded set cards were separately numbered.  The '81 set was the last one to contain 726 cards (Topps had 726 cards in the 1978-81).

This year was not a breakout year for superstar rookie cards.  The main ones for '81 were Tim Raines, Fernando Valenzuela, Danny Ainge (yes that's the Ainge who starred for the NBA Boston Celtics), Mookie Wilson, Kirk Gibson, Harold Baines, and Jeff Reardon.  Several of these also had cards included in

Jerry Keys

the traded set (some were traded-Reardon- but some were not-Valenzuela-). 

The '82 Topps set gave us the Cal Ripken rookie card and the expanded 792-card set.  As with the previous year, certain rookies from this year also had a traded set card, Ripken is one example.  Although overlooked, a couple of minor stars had their rookie from this set, Kent Hrbek and Terry Francona (value based more on his managerial talents though).

1983 saw three future HOF'ers introduced in this set.  Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, and Ryne Sandberg.  The '83 traded set was the first to exclusively produced rookie cards that were not included in the base set.  Two rookie cards from the traded set were Darryl Strawberry and still active Julio Franco.

1984 was the first year of the Tiffany sets (see description in June '07 article) for the base Topps set and the traded set.  '84 produced only one superstar rookie card, Don Mattingly.  The traded set produced numerous future semi-stars (Jose Rijo, Bret Saberhagen, Ron Darling, Jimmy Key, Dwight Gooden, Mark Langston, etc…) but was

vastly overshadowed by the '84 Fleer Update.

The 1985 set recently received a great deal of attention when Mark McGwire smashed the single season home run record (with a 'lil help).  Mac's true rookie was in 1987 but because he was on the 1984 Olympic team, his rookie card came in '85.  Topps produced the team set of the '84

Olympic team for the '85 set.  Although it is not their "true" rookie card, Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett have their first Topps cards in '85.  The trade set from this year did not produce any major stars but did gain a touch of fame when Ozzie Guillen led the 2005 White Sox to the World Series.  Much like Francona's '82 Topps card, Guillen's '85 Topps Traded card received attention after they guided their team to their first World Series wins in 80+ years.

The 1981 Topps set lists at $60 and the traded set at $30.  Both can be bought in near mint condition for about 60% value.  Occasionally you may run across a "taped" '81 traded set.  Some had tape placed on the box where you had to bust the tape to see the set.  There is no accurate amount of how many were or were not.  An easy way to tell is view the lid to the set and the two corners it fits between.  Topps Traded sets from 1981 to 1990 (after '90 they were then wrapped) were packed into those boxes extremely tight.  It is nearly impossible to open the set up (not taped) without leaving evidence of wear on the box corners.
The 1982 Topps set lists at $100 and the traded at $200.  Ripken pretty much carries both sets, meaning if his rookie card plummeted, so would the set.  The base set can be bought for around $70 and the traded for $160 (keep in mind these prices are for near mint or better sets).  There are a few Topps issued factory sets on the market (in all my years I have personally seen only three) and bring $200 or more.  And a taped '82 Traded can sometimes bring the full list price.

The 1983 Topps set lists at $100 and the trade at $40.  The base set usually costs about $60 and the traded $25.  The base set has dropped after the recent retirements of the three main players in the set (see above).  The rare Topps issued factory set brings around $175 and the traded whether taped or not brings the same amount.  The 1984 Topps lists at $60 (Tiffany at  $175) and the Topps Traded at $40 (Tiffany $70).  These could be bought for $35 and $20.  The Tiffany sets are quite rare and are sealed, therefore both the base set and the traded set command about 75% list price.

The 1985 Topps set lists at $100 and in factory set form $250 (Tiffany $750) and the traded set $10 (Tiffany $60).  The hand made '85 brings about $70 (factory form $175-full list price) and the traded about $5.  The Tiffany still brings about $600 but the traded Tiffany just $25.  Hard to imagine just a short time back the hand made set was bringing $400 and the Tiffany $1600 (thanks Mac…lots of people will never get their money back out of those now).     

Some advice to younger collectors, stay clear of the factory sets and Tiffany sets.  They're the same cards as the regular ones, just fancier.  Try accumulating the factory sets first, then the main sets.  Just keep in mind, don't pay factory set prices for the traded sets if they have already been opened.

Also, if you are buying an '82 Topps Traded, have the dealer let you open the set there, to make sure the Ripken has not been pulled.  If you open it after you leave the store and it is missing, no dealer will replace it because they are not sure you are being honest.  And if you buy a taped one off Ebay, check the seller's feedback.  If it is not in the set, you have no way of proving it.

Topps also began making several oddball sets around this time.  A few that are very cheap and fun to collect are the Topps Stickers set (made all five years and beyond), which can be purchased for about $10 each.  The Glossy Send-Ins (1983-85 and beyond) and Glossy All-Stars (1984-85 and beyond); each costing between $5 and $10.  And a personal favorite, the 1981 Topps Scratchoffs.  You could scratch out the dots and under it would be a baseball play (single, home run, etc…).  You can still pick these up for about $5, if you can find them.

Keep in mind; the prices given above are for near mint or better sets.  A 1982 Topps Traded set in EX-MT condition would only sell for $75-100.  If some prices are too high in near mint condition, try the EX-MT sets.  They only cost 50-60% of the near mint ones.  Remember to examine the key cards in the sets you purchase.  If the key cards are damaged, the price of the set drops dramatically. 
And in closing I would like to cast my ballet for the upcoming Hall of Fame voting.  First allow me to list the players I have considered "enshrine-worthy" for the past several years.  I will begin with pitchers, preceded by hitters.

Two relievers should have already been in Cooperstown, Goose Gossage (310 saves, 9th year on ballot) and Lee Smith (478 saves, 6th).  Two starters should be as well, Tommy John (288 wins, 4710 innings pitched, 14th) and Bert Blyleven (287 wins, 4970 innings, 3701 strikeouts, 11th).  And two sluggers are extremely overdue, Andre Dawson (2774 hits, 438 HR's, 1591 RBI's, .279 average, 7th) and Jim Rice (2452 hits, 382 HR's, 1451 RBI's, .298 average, 14th ). 

Strong consideration should be given to Dave Concepcion, who is in his last year of eligibility.  He was not a power hitter; shortstops of his day were designed for defensive prowess and base stealing abilities.  The other seven holdovers (Harold Baines, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, and McGwire) should receive enough votes to remain on the ballet for 2009.

Of the newcomers (11) only Tim Raines is a lock to be a holdover (garnishing enough votes to remain on the ballet-5% overall-but not enshrined).  The other ten will most likely not receive the 5% needed to remain eligible.

My picks this year are as follows:  Concepcion, John, Blyleven, Dawson, and Gossage (baseball writers are allowed up to ten nominees, I will attempt to keep mine to just five).  Oh…did I forget McGwire?  Yes I did, I meant to.