Composition of the 1980’s Topps sets

15 01 2013

The next thing I look at in my completed set posts (which I’m doing for the “completed” decade of the 80’s) is the composition of the sets.  The set size started the decade off at 726 cards, which is where it had been since 1978.  There were really just two major changes in the size / composition of the Topps flagship brand during the 1980’s.

  • In 1981, Topps introduced the update set – Topps Traded – as 132 additional cards that showcased rookies and players in their new uniforms (sometimes airbrushed) from the current season.  This was issued in factory set form only (with the exception of a test pack-out in 1985).
  • In 1982, Topps increased the standard set size to 792.  This remained in effect the rest of the decade.

So in the decade, there were 8,976 cards in the flagship Topps brand – 7,788 cards in the regular sets and 1,188 in the Traded sets.

Set composition:

  • 7,894 individual player cards.  6,776 are from the regular set, 1,118 are from the Traded set.  Out of these, 19 cards are marked “Future Stars” and 30 are noted as “All-Star Rookies”, which Topps did in ’87, ’88, and ‘89.
  • 78 Future Stars tri-player cards.  This was done one per team in the first three years of the decade.
  • 37 Team USA player cards.  16 in the 1985 regular set, 21 in the 1988 Traded set.  McGwire being the big one here.
  • 21 Draft Pick cards.  Though the subset in 1985 was historical #1 picks, while the 1989 subset was first round picks from the year before.
  • 274 Manager cards.  234 from the regular set, 40 from Traded.
  • 182 Team Leaders.  1982-1984 and 1986-1989.
  • 176 All-Stars. Not counting players in 1980 and 1981 who were marked as All-Stars on their regular card – this subset was included every year from 1982 forward.
  • 52 Record Breakers.  Done every year but ’80, ’82, and ’84.  When there wasn’t a RB subset, there was instead a HL subset.
  • 40 In Action.  1982 only, following directly after the player’s regular card.
  • 39 League Leaders.   1980-1984.
  • 34 Super Veterans.  1983 only – effectively replaced In Action from the year before.
  • 20 Turn Back the Clock.  5 each year from 1986 on.
  • 18 Season Highlights.  6 cards each of the 3 years there wasn’t a RB subset.
  • 18 Active Leaders.  1984 only – effectively replaced Super Vets from the year before.
  • 14 Father Son.  1985 only – effectively replaced Active Leaders from the year before.
  • 6 Tribute.  1986 only – Pete Rose.  There would be more of these the next decade.
  • 4 Post-Season Highlights.  1981 only.
  • 69 checklists.  6 each year in the regular set, 1 for each of the 9 traded sets.  Keep your inappropriate jokes to yourself.

Interestingly, there was one instance where the “set composition” was exactly the same from year to year – that was 1987 and 1988, which had the exact same subsets.  Also, no individual subset was included every year – though there were manager cards every year but 1982.

Representation of decade: 

The 1980-1989 Topps sets should, in theory, tell the story of the 1979-1988 MLB seasons.  Since I’m including 1989 Topps Traded in this, it also includes rookies from the 1989 season.  So it isn’t quite the decade of the 80’s when you do this comparison – 11 years instead.  During those 11 seasons, 2,411 different players graced the fields of Major League ballparks.

Of the cards from the base and future stars subset cards listed above, there are 1,828 different players featured.

To this number, there are 7 players from subsets to add because they played in the “decade” but didn’t have any regular cards.

  • Al Chambers and Shawn Abner both had cards in the 1985 Draft Pick set, and while they didn’t have any other cards in the decade, they did play in the Big Leagues in that time frame.
  • Gary Green was in the 1985 Topps Olympic subset, he played in the 80’s and didn’t have any other card.
  • Pat Combs was in the 1988 Topps Traded Olympic subset, and he did play in 1989, but didn’t get a card in the ’89 Traded set.
  • Andy Benes and Robin Ventura were in the 1989 Draft Pick subset (as well as the 1988 Traded Olympic subset).
  • Lou Brock is in the 1980 Highlights and 1989 Turn Back the Clock subsets, but doesn’t have a regular card anywhere else in the decade. He played his last game in 1979.

On the flip side, there are 8 players to subtract who had regular cards but didn’t actually play in the decade.

  • Brian Milner, Bobby Cuellar, Harry Saferight, and Randy Miller were in the 1981 Future Stars subset but never made the majors.  Milner was also in the 1982 subset.
  • Dave Steffen and Pat Dempsey were in the 1982 Future Stars subset but never made the majors.
  • Bob Apodaca and Don Gullett were both in the 1981 Topps set, but were injured in the early 80’s and had played their last game in 1978.

The 1,827 players represent 75.8% of the 2,411 players from 1979-1989.

Hall of Famers:

There were 54 different Hall of Famers featured in the flagship sets from the 80’s:

  • Players active at the time (40): George Brett, Johnny Bench, Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Gary Carter, Steve Carlton, Andre Dawson, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Fergie Jenkins, Willie McCovey, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Eddie Murray, Phil Niekro, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Gaylord Perry, Jim Rice, Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Ozzie Smith, Willie Stargell, Bruce Sutter, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, Robin Yount, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, Kirby Puckett, Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar
  • Managers (7): Sparky Anderson, Tommy LaSorda, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, White Herzog, Frank Robinson, Yogi Berra
  • Coach (1): Red Schoendienst
  • Retired players featured in subsets (6): Lou Brock, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron



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