1989 Topps Overview

2 04 2011

Note that I had to “cheat” for the first time on my standard picture with the Topps Wax Pack next to a Griffey from that year.  Despite playing in 94 games in 1988, Ken Griffey Sr. was not included in the 1989 Topps base set.  However, he was included in the Traded set after his release by the Braves and signing with the Reds in August of 1988.  Junior’s first Topps card was in the same Traded set.  I realize it’s a little inconsistent, but I wanted to keep my string of Griffey showing the base design next to the wax pack.  I’m hosed once I get all the way up to the current year.

792 cards in the set – the same since 1982.

  • Subsets: Record Breakers (#1-7), All-Stars (#386-407), Turn Back the Clock (#661-665), Team Leaders (26 cards throughout), Managers (26 cards throughout), Topps All-Star Rookies (10 cards throughout), Future Stars (5 cards throughout), and #1 Draft Picks (10 cards throughout, new).  Topps again included a trophy on cards for the previous year’s Topps ASR team.  The “Future Star” subset had block letters at the top of the card.  The #1 Draft Pick cards feature the players in their college uniforms and have a stamp designating the subset.
  • Set Design: The set design features a player photo surrounded by a thin colored frame rounded at the upper left and lower right with a white border.  The player name appears in a curved banner at the bottom right beneath the team name, with the Topps logo in the lower somewhere against the background.  For the 3rd straight year and the 5th time overall (’52, ’72, ’87, ’88), Topps did not present the player’s position on the face of the card.  The back featured red cardstock with the card number in the upper left corner next to the player name and position. Biographical information was listed just below the player name, while statistics from each season and career totals are presented.  When there was room at the bottom, Topps included a player-specific tidbit and a “Monthly Scoreboard” feature, which listed player statistics by month.
  • Packs: Topps increased prices to about 3¢ per card. 15-card wax packs increased a nickel (45¢ SRP) came 36 packs per box and 20 per case.  28-card cello packs increased a dime (79¢ SRP), while rack packs were 43-cards (likely $1.29 now), and jumbo packs increased to 101 cards (my guess is these were $2.99).   New this year were 101-card blister packs available only at K-Mart.
  • Rookies: Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield are the key rookie cards from this set – these players had no update cards in 1988.  If you don’t count XRC’s from update sets – Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Robin Ventura, Jim Abbott also have rookie cards in their set.  Roberto Alomar also had his first Topps base card after being featured in the ’88 Traded set.  Tino Martinez (Bowman), Curt Schilling Omar Vizquel had RC’s in other sets, but Ken Griffey Jr. was their biggest miss.  They did get him and Vizquel into the Traded set.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 33 36 Hall of Famers in this set, down 2 up 1 from the year before.  300-game winner Don Sutton retired in August 1988.  Another 300-game winner, Phil Niekro, had been featured on a record breaker card with his brother in 1988, and Dick Williams was fired as manager of the Mariners halfway through the 1988 season.  All 3 had their last card in the 1988 set.  Red Schoendienst was also gone from the set after being included in the 1988 set on the Cardinals Team Leader card (he was a coach for the team).  Turn Back the Clock cards of Stan Musial and Bob Gibson were replaced by TBC’s of Lou Brock and Hank Aaron.  Frank Robinson was back in this set as a manager for the Orioles.  UPDATE through 2015: Roberto Alomar, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Craig Biggio all had their first Topps cards in this set.
  • Variation: Tony Oliva’s “”Turn Back the Clock” card has a somewhat notable (formerly valuable) variation where the copyright line is not included.  This was fixed very early in the printing process.
  • Active in 2010/2011: For the third year in a row, Jamie Moyer was the only player in the set still active in 2010.  Moyer was card #36 in this set.  That’s again 1/792, or 0.1% for 1989.

The blue wax box has a picture of a stack of the current year cards, with ’88 MVP Jose Canseco’s card at the top.  To the lower left of the cards is the “Topps” logo and a banner “Baseball” written hovering over the words “the Real one!” and “Bubble Gum Cards”.  The bottom of the box has 4 cards in the base set design with season highlights on the back.  There are 4 different box options, totaling 16 cards (A through P).

Factory Set

Like the previous 2 years, factory sets were sold to hobby dealers and retailers, and the retail “holiday” sets came in much more colorful boxes.

Update Set

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

Parallel Set

For the 6th year, Topps issued a Tiffany variation in factory set form, printed on white cardstock with glossy coating on the front.  The 1989 Tiffany set came in a blue box and had a production of 15,000 sets.  Topps also released a Tiffany version for 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.

Insert sets

  • All-Star Glossy – 22 cards (1 per rack pack)
  • Rookies Glossy – 22 cards (1 per jumbo pack)
  • Batting Leaders – 22 cards (1 per K-Mart blister pack)
  • Glossy “All-Star and Hot Prospects” – 60 cards (send-in).  By mailing in 6 of the game cards and $1.25, collectors could send in 6 of these cards to get 10 cards out of this set.  For 18 special offer cards and $7.50, collectors could get the full 60-card set.


  • Each wax and cello pack contains a “Spring Fever Baseball” game card.  Grand prize winners could again win a trip to any Spring Training site for the next season.
  • Some of the game cards advertised the Topps Company Store – collectors could buy T-shirts or sweatshirts with the Topps logo, or a binder with pictures of older Topps cards.

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship set

#1 – Topps again created a “Gallery of Champions” set of 12 metal ¼-size replicas of the base cards.  There were still three variations – Aluminum, Bronze and Silver (#’d to 1,000), while there is a pewter Jose Canseco variant given to dealers who purchased the sets.

#2 – Topps issued two 24-card sets called “Double Headers” available in packs that came a full set via 24 packs per box.  These sets were 2-sided miniature cards (1-5/8 x 2-1/4) with a reproduction of the 1989 card on one side and the player’s first Topps card on the other side.  Topps issued an All-Star set and a Mets/Yankees set.  Topps issued proof versions of 4 Yankees and 4 Mets that had the ’88 card instead of the ’89 set.

#3 – Topps worked with LJN Toy Company to produce “Baseball Talk” cards.  This set of 164 cards had 163 players and a checklist.  The larger cards were 3-1/4 x 5-1/4 and came 4 per pack, retailing at $4.  The set contains both current and retired players. The current players were featured on a card with the 1989 design, while the retired player cards had a replica of an older Topps card bordered by the ’89 Topps “wave” design.  Collectors could purchase a hand-held player and hear a 2-minute blurb about the featured player.

#4 – Topps again super-sized and reproduced some base cards in conjunction with Shaeffer Eaton into 9-1/2 x 11-3/4 “Sports Shots portfolios”.  This year there were only 39 “portfolios” reproduced, down from 130 the year before.

I would say this is a notable year in the Hobby – the biggest competition Topps had ever seem came out with its first set.  Upper Deck’s inaugural 1989 set sold for $1 a pack, which was unheard of at the time.  It featured higher quality paper stock, sealed tamper-proof packs, a hologram on the back to discourage counterfeiting.  Most importantly, the design was considered superior to anything else the hobby had seen, and the first card of the set was a close-up of Griffey Jr. that has become a classic in today’s collecting world.  For good or bad, Upper Deck’s ingenuity started change in the collecting world.

I remember buying packs and having a lot of cards from this set, but I stopped collecting at 9 years old, somewhere midway through 1989, and didn’t pick it back up until 1993.  I do remember buying these cards, but even though 1989 was the first year Upper Deck got into the fold, I didn’t really know much about Upper Deck until my second foray into collecting.  I still loved baseball in the 3+ years in between (and particularly became a fan of Ken Griffey), but I just remember Upper Deck from commercials when they came out.




One response

6 07 2014
2014 Topps Archives – cards #151-200 (1989 design) | Lifetime Topps project

[…] The last design from the Topps quartet of cards in 2014 Archives is a mere 3 years later – the 1989 Topps set. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: