1986 Topps Overview

13 01 2011

An overview of the 1986 Topps set:

  • 792 cards in the set – the same since 1982.
  • Subsets: Pete Rose Tribute (#2-7), Record Breakers (#201-207), Turn Back the Block (#401-405), All-Stars (#701-722), Team Leaders (26 cards throughout) and Managers (26 cards throughout).  The Rose tribute cards show a retrospective of each of his previous base Topps card since his rookie card.  Turn Back the Clock shows Topps cards of players with significant seasons 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years previously.
  • Set Design: This set represented a significant design change from previous years; the card fronts feature a black and white split border.  The team name in block letter / team colors featured across the black top border.  The Topps logo appears in the upper right-hand corner, the position is shown in a circle in the lower left-hand corner, and the player name appears across the bottom.  The red card backs feature a darker black die than previous years and features the player name and card number in the upper left-hand corner, next to player bio and stats from each season and career totals.  If there’s room, player-specific information or a “Talkin’ Baseball” fact is shown at the bottom.
  • Packs: Cards were issued in 15 card wax packs (35¢ SRP) that came 36 packs per box and 20 per case.  Also available in 49-card rack packs, 42-card grocery rack packs, and 28 card cello packs (59¢ SRP).
  • Rookies: The aren’t any really significant rookie cards in the set; Cecil Fielder and Lenny Dykstra are the most notable.  Topps didn’t do so well here compared to their competitors – Jose Canseco had a card in the Donruss set by himself and a 2-player card in the Fleer set.  Andres Galarraga, Fred McGriff and Paul O’Neill also had RC’s in other products.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 37 Hall of Famers in this set {includes Blyleven, Cox, LaRussa}, the same as the year before.  Yogi Berra and Joe Torre were ousted as managers, and Joe Morgan had retired.  Earl Weaver was re-hired as the Orioles skipper, and the Turn Back the Clock subset had cards of Frank Robinson from 1966 and Willie Mays from 1971.
  • Variations: There is no card #171 or #51; there are 2 cards #’d 141 and #57.
  • Last Active Player: Just like 1985 – this depends on what you count.  Julio Franco (last regular season game – 9/17/07) and Roger Clemens (9/16/07, last postseason game – 10/7/07) were the last players with a card in this set.

The yellow wax box has a picture of a stack of the current year cards, with card #1, Pete Rose at the top. Below the card is the “Topps” logo and a banner with the words “Baseball” on top of a blue square.  Below that are the words “the Real one”.  The bottom of the box has 4 cards resembling the base set.  There are 4 different options, so in total there are 16 cards, “numbered” A-P.

Factory Set

For the first time, factory sets were sold to hobby dealers.  The retail sets, also known as the “holiday” sets due to their time of release, came in much more colorful boxes than the hobby versions, which are descriptive, though not colorful.

Update Set

Topps again released a 132-card Topps Traded set in factory set form.

Parallel Set

For the 3rd year, Topps issued a Tiffany variation in factory set form, printed on white cardstock with glossy coating on the front.  The 1986 Tiffany again had production of 5,000 sets.  Topps also issued a Tiffany version of the Traded set.

Canadian-based O-Pee-Chee again issued a set that was a partial parallel to the Topps base set.  Each of the cards in the 396-card set had the same design and photographs as the Topps set, with lighter card stock and bi-lingual backs (French and English).  Again, no subset cards were included.


  • Each wax pack contains a “Spring Fever Baseball” game card where grand prize winners could win a trip to any Spring Training site for the next season.
  • Again, for $2 + 60¢ S&H, you could send in for 10 “Official Topps Sports Card Collectors Sheets”; these are 9-card sheets to store your cards, similar to what Ultra-Pro makes today.

Insert Sets

  • All-Star Glossy – 22 cards (1 per rack pack).
  • Glossy “All-Star and Hot Prospects” – 60 cards (send-in).  By mailing in 6 of the cards and $1, collectors could send in 6 of these cards and $1 for one of six 10-card subsets of this set.  The set increased from 40 to 60 cards this year to include Hot Prospects.

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship

#1 – For the 3rd year, Topps created a set of 12 metal 1/4 size replicas of base cards, again called “Gallery of Champions”. There were now three variations of these cards – Bronze and Silver and (new) Aluminum, while there is a pewter Don Mattingly variant given to dealers who purchased the set.

#2 – Topps also produced a 60-card Super set again (4-7/8 x 6-7/8). The 60 cards differ from the base cards only in size and numbering. They also issued an Eddie Murray sample card for this set.

This was the first year since 1981 that a new company earned an MLB license.  Optigraphics began producing cards with its “magic motion” technology on the front of the cards that allowed you to see 2-3 different shots of the player.  These were the first cards with color photos on the reverse, however they were viewed more as a separate product than a direct competitor to Topps, Fleer and Donruss.

I was 6 years old when this set was released, though I wasn’t collecting yet, I did buy a set of these cards a year or two later. It’s the earliest set I really bought anything of; in my mind, the gap between 1985 and 1986 seems the point when cards started getting overproduced. Pete Rose was prominent in the set with the subset celebrating his history of Topps cards – and the record breaker for passing Ty Cobb – so this made it popular in the Cincinnati area.



4 responses

14 01 2011

I’ve got the holiday set! I started getting baseball cards in 1985, but started *collecting* in 1986 and this was one of my Christmas presents.

15 01 2011

A friend of mine used to get one of those every year for X-mas, starting with 1986. I didn’t even realize they had them in the non-colorful box form before that.

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