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

Of Bradley County Tn.

JUNE  2007

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







Card Collecting parts ll & lll

By Jerry Keys

Due to the Memorial Day weekend and publication deadlines falling around the same time, I am issuing a combination of the baseball card collecting series, groups two (1996-1992) and three (1991-1986). 

Up until 1981, Topps never had any serious competition in the card industry.  A lawsuit that year allowed Fleer and Donruss to enter card production.  By 1986, Topps was being overrun by brighter, more colorful cards made by its two competitors.  Topps began producing factory sets on a yearly basis in 1985 and in an attempt to match the sales of its two rival companies, overproduced cards in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The main addition to the factory set/hand made set was the Traded Set.  After 1982, most of the young superstars of that era had their first Topps card produced in the Traded Set.  A prime example for 1986 was Barry Bonds.

Although there was a 1986 Topps factory set issued, I strongly advise sticking with the hand made set of this year.  Hand made sets list at $25 (and bought

Jerry Keys

for about $15), and factory sets $150.  No additional cards were included in the factory set.  A popular set from 1986 Topps was the Tiffany sets (exact

copies of the Topps and Topps Traded Set).  The only difference in the Tiffany sets and the regular sets are the "glossy" player photos on the front (same photo as on regular sets) and the price.  Tiffany sets are much more expensive than the regular sets.

From 1987 to 1991, the Topps factory sets included the same cards that were in hand made sets.  There is not much price differential for a Topps factory set or a hand made set during this period.  It comes down to see, touch, feel or investments.  The price difference in hand made and factory sets for these years are maybe $5.  Most young stars of this time period still had their

rookie Topps cards appearing in the Traded Set (1987-Greg Maddux, 1988-Roberto Alomar, 1989-Ken Griffey, 1990-Dave Justice, 1991-Jeff Bagwell).

Since the Traded Sets included most of the rookie cards (some stars did have their rookie cards included in the Topps "parent set"; 1987-Barry Larkin, 1988-Tom Glavine, 1989-Craig Biggio and John Smoltz, 1990-Sammy Sosa and Frank

Thomas), these sets fluctuated in price until the rookies either developed into stars, semi-stars, role players, or busts.  These sets have long since stabilized in price because the time frame is from 15-20 years ago.  All can be picked up at a cheap price (1989 Traded being the highest at around $7, 1990 the cheapest at $2). 

The 1992 Topps was the last issue to be released all at one time.  The factory set and hand made set are similar in comparison to the 1987-1991 sets "pricewise".  The difference that year was no Tiffany set (although Topps began to produce "gold cards" from 1992-94, same photo as regular card), the factory sets came with variations (the regular factory set had ten gold cards included and the holiday set had the ten gold cards and nine 1993 Topps pre-production cards; the holiday set may cost you about $10 more than the hand-made set), and the Traded Set suddenly became important again.

The 1992 Topps Traded Set featured the USA Olympic team.  Topps pulled out a star of the future in the '85 USA team with Mark McGwire (included in regular set) and in '92 with Nomar Garciaparra (USA team was also issued with the '88, '91 and '93 Traded Sets).  For about a five-year period, the set would cost around $100.  It has dropped significantly to about $30 due to

Nomar's declining stats.  Also, for the first five years, the set could have been bought for under $10.  Nomar did not show star potential until '97.  The reason for the long separation from rookie card to major league debut (1996) was his '92 Topps Traded card was an Olympic team card, not a true rookie card.

The '92 Topps Traded was also released as a Gold Set, usually fetching about double what the regular Traded Set would bring.  The 1993-1996 Topps sets were issued in separate series, similar to their pre-1974 editions but only in two series.  The Traded Sets were last issued in set form in 1994 and were issued in pack form in 1995 (meaning only hand made sets possible).  There were no 1996 Topps Traded printed.

Topps began issuing each team's first round draft pick in 1989 and hit a minor surprise with an early Chipper Jones rookie card in '91 and came up big in '93 with a Derek Jeter rookie.  Topps also stopped producing as many cards as in the previous seven years, therefore demand rose.  Hand made sets became more expensive to purchase, as did the factory sets.  The factory sets began to be issued in different forms (as in '92) and offered gold cards, black / gold cards, cyber cards, and specialty cards (1996 Topps Mickey Mantle).  The factory set with the most "additional cards" will cost you about 50% more than a hand made set.  For example, a hand made '94 Topps set will cost about $16 and a factory set with the 26 additional cards about $24.

The 1995 Topps set differs from the others because of the print run.  Due to the '94 strike, Topps had their lowest print run since 1966 (that's what "they" say).  This conclusion has fueled the demand for the hand made set and the factory set.  A hand made set will run about $35 and the factory set either $55 or $70.  Why the difference in the factory sets?  The color of the box (I'm not kidding)!  Each factory set issue has the same number of cards (677).

The Traded Sets never matched the '92 edition's status but fared much better than the 1987-1991 releases.  The '93 Traded is "carried" by Todd Helton's rookie card, (Olympic team card) which has seen a Nomar-like decline in the last few years (you can pick up a set today for $15, compared to about $30 five years ago), unlike the '94 Traded, which is carried by rookies of Jason Schmidt and Paul Konerko.  The '94 Traded has held its own over the past five years, still costing about $20 to obtain.  It technically has an insert edition, 8 additional cards, but it was only sold in factory set form.

The '95 Traded was issued in pack form (like hand made sets) and is carried by the rookie card of Carlos Beltran.  Just a few years ago, buyers were throwing $50-60 for the set (when Beltran put together a monster half-season in Houston '04) and now it can be purchased for about $25.

I briefly touched upon the main sets in each year from 1986-1996, issued by Topps.  Topps did produce other subsets, some varied from the inexpensive (1986 Topps Wax Box cards) to the expensive (1989 Topps Heads Up Test).  There are several subsets I left out but will briefly mention below.  Most are very inexpensive and are collected (by me) just because of the players from that time frame.

Topps Mini Leaders (1986-1990) was a small set (in number of cards and size) and can be picked up for a few dollars each.  Topps Glossy All-Stars (1986-1991, actually started in 1984 but only focusing on certain years) is a 22-card set focusing on the players who started the previous year's All-Star Game.  Topps Senior League (1989-90) was a set of former major league players who had to be of certain age to play in the league.  The league folded during their second season (wrote article on the League for The People News in 1999).  Topps Debut (1990-92) was a set of players who made their major league debut the previous year.  Topps Micro (1991-93) was a super-small set, mirroring the regular sized cards.  The '92 and '93 set also included 12 micro gold / prism cards (all of the sets in this final section are sold in factory set form except for the Mini Leaders and Glossy All-Stars).

Some collectors only seek the most popular sets, whereas others only go after the oddball / more expensive sets.  What sets you choose to seek is up to you.  Just keep in mind "what you pay for a set today, will you be able to resale it for the same price or more down the road".  The hand made sets are cheaper, therefore less likely to drop in price than the factory sets.  The hand made sets are more enjoyable (see, touch, feel) than the factory sets.  But for investment-minded collectors, stick to the factory sets.