1990 Topps Overview

28 09 2011

792 cards in the set – the same since 1982.

  • Subsets: Ryan Salute (#2-5), Record Breakers (#6-8), #1 Draft picks (10 cards throughout), All-Stars (#385-395, 397-407), Giamatti Tribute (#396), Turn Back the Clock (#661-665), Managers (26 cards throughout), Topps All-Star Rookies (10 cards throughout), and Future Stars (5 cards throughout).  Topps again included a trophy on cards for the previous year’s Topps ASR team.  The “Future Star” subset had a star to the left and the word “Future Star” above the player name.  The Draft cards feature the players in their college uniforms and have a “#1 Draft Pick” in the corner designating the subset.
  • Set Design: The set design features a player photo surrounded by a colorful border that can be found in 6 different color combinations.  Dotted designs cover most of the border, with two corners remaining a solid color.  The player name appears in a rhombus at the bottom right hand corner.  The team name is written in block letters in the top left, with the Topps logo in one of the right-hand corners.  For the 4th straight year and the 6th time overall, Topps did not present the player’s position on the face of the card.  The back features yellow-green cardstock with the card number in the upper left corner next to the player name, position, biographical information and Topps logo.  Statistics from each season and career totals are presented.  When there was room at the bottom, Topps included a player-specific write-up and/or a “Monthly Scoreboard” feature, which listed player statistics by month.
  • Packs: Topps increased prices per card slightly. Wax packs now had 16 cards (instead of 15), and the price increased a nickel (50¢ SRP). As before, there were 36 packs per box and 20 per case.  31-card cello packs (up from 28 cards) increased a dime (89¢ SRP), while rack packs were now 46-cards (up from 43) and cost $1.49.  Jumbo packs and Blister packs (exclusive to K-Mart) were still 101 cards, and probably ran for $2.99.
  • Rookies: Frank Thomas and Sammy Sosa are the two biggest rookie cards from the set.  Other key rookie cards include Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez and Bernie Williams.  Albert Belle, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez had their first Topps cards in this set after Schilling had a card in 1989 Donruss and Belle had cards in a couple 1989 update sets.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 35 Hall of Famers in this set, down a net 1 card from the year before.  Reliever Bruce Sutter had his last card in 1989, and Goose Gossage didn’t have a card in 1990 or 1991 – though he did have one more Topps card was 1992.  Mike Schmidt had his last base card in 1989, but he was featured in a Turn Back the Clock card in 1990.  Hank Aaron and Lou Brock no longer had TBC cards, but Johnny Bench and Sandy Koufax did. Frank Thomas had his first card in this set, and after making the HOF in 2013, he helps offset the loss of Goose and Sutter.  Deion Sanders is also in the set – he’s a pro football Hall of Famer!
  • Variations: A small number of cards were mistakenly printed without black ink on the front, leading them to have no name on the front (NNOF variations).  The Frank Thomas RC is one of these cards, and it has become the most famous and most valuable error card in modern sports card history.
  • Active in 2010/2011: After 3 years as the lone player active in 2010, we now actually have a player still active in 2011 – that would be Omar Vizquel.  Ken Griffey and Jamie Moyer are the only other players who were active in 2010 and have a card in the set.

The green wax box has a picture of a stack of 3 current year cards, with a young Ken Griffey Jr. on top.  As in the past, 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 3 years, factory sets were sold to hobby dealers and retailers, and the retail “holiday” sets came in much more colorful boxes.

Update Sets

Topps again released a 132-card Topps Traded set in factory set form.  Dealers who bought a case received a mini bronze replica of Hank Aaron’s 1954 Topps card.

For the first time, Topps also released a set called Major League Debut in factory set form. The set has the same basic design as the flagship set and chronicles the first game of any players who made their ML debut in 1989.  The set was available in factory set form.

Parallel Set

For the 7th year, Topps issued a Tiffany variation in factory set form, printed on white cardstock with glossy coating on the front.  The 1990 Tiffany set came in a red box and had a production of 15,000 sets.  Topps also produced a Tiffany parallel for the Traded set.

Canadian-based O-Pee-Chee again issued a set that was, for the first time, an identical parallel to the Topps set.  The only thing to distinguish these cards is the bi-lingual backs (French and English).

Insert sets

  • All-Star Glossy – 22 cards (1 per rack pack)
  • Rookies Glossy – 33 cards (1 per jumbo pack).  The set size increased 11 cards for this set.  Topps also did a test set where a foil strip with the Topps logo.
  • 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.  This was the last year Topps issued this 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.

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 Nolan Ryan variant given to dealers who purchased the sets.

#2 – A full size bronze reproduction of Ryan’s 1990 Topps card (#1 from the set) was given to the first 2,500 dealers who ordered Tiffany sets.

#3 – Topps again issued a “Double Headers” set available in packs that came 36 packs per box.  These sets were 2-sided miniature cards (1-5/8 x 2-1/4) with a reproduction of the 1990 card on one side and the player’s first Topps card on the other side.  The set was tripled to 72 cards.

#4 – Topps produced 6 experimental Mylar stickers of cards from the Traded set; these were early test runs of the refractor technology.  Joe Carter and Dave Winfield are the two most notable names in the set.

#5 – As a favor to then President George Bush, Topps printed and presented him with about 100 cards of him in the 1990 design with a picture of him from his playing days at Yale.  Apparently his grandchildren didn’t understand why he didn’t have a baseball card even though he had played for 2 seasons in college.  Some of these cards made it to the open market, supposedly a very small few even got inserted into packs on accident.  The card is exactly like the design from the base set, and has Bush’s statistics from his 2 years at Yale.  His team is listed as “USA”.  Until looking at this card, I hadn’t realized that Bush had gone to Yale AFTER his stint as a war hero in WWII, though I guess that makes sense with the GI Bill.  Also, it looks like “41” definitely improved in his 2nd season at Yale.  I can’t wait ’til they reprint these for the 2039 Heritage set!

Upper Deck came out with a superior product in 1989 and upped the game even more in 1990 with the Reggie Jackson Heroes insert set, and more importantly, the autograph chase card.  Also, Donruss came out with its second set, Leaf – a premium set to compete with Upper Deck.

Topps responded by… increasing the price per pack and not doing much for quality.  They did drastically change the design, but the photography is worse than sets they’d come out with 20+ years earlier.

I don’t really remember buying packs of 1990 Topps – and I definitely didn’t collect Upper Deck until 1993.  I do remember the 1990 Topps design, I just didn’t buy much of it, I guess. I still loved baseball in the 3+ years when I stopped collecting – in fact, I became more of a fan.  I added Rickey Henderson and eventually Ken Griffey Jr. next to Eric Davis as my favorite players.  And the Reds won the World Series, so that made me follow the sport even more.  I guess I just didn’t do so through the cardboard option at the time.




4 responses

18 06 2013

This overview is well done, thanks.

18 06 2013

Thanks for reading!

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