An absolute staple in junk wax era sets, the 792 card 1986 Topps Baseball Set has little to offer except for memories of a time gone by. This is not only perhaps one of the least liked sets from the era, but also one of the most disliked. Higher production numbers than previous years, combined with few sought after cards or star rookies have made this set less desirable than other sets of the time. Although the imagery is generally better than the previous years, the cards are still plagued by horrid off centering. The card backs often have wax or gum stains. And if that all isn’t enough… the top 25% of the cards borders are black. The black color with the standard card stock of the time leads to very noticeable chipping on the cards edges, even when pack fresh.
The cards are the standard 2.5 x 3.5 inches. They were released by Topps in rack packs, wax pack, cello packs, and as factory sets. The regular player cards consist of a player photo set on the white and black borders of the card, with the team name in large print on top. The players name is at the bottom, under the player picture. A small circle on the picture has the players position. The backs of the cards are a drab red with the usual player stats of the time. There are a few subsets within the set. A Pete Rose Tribute, Record Breakers, Turn Back The Clock, All Stars, and Team Leaders subset. Also, there are Check List and Manager cards.
Now I personally love this set. Undoubtedly. This was the current production set of the year that I really started taking baseball card collecting seriously. I was 9 years old, and the baseball card industry boom was just happening! We were buying up wax packs at Hansen’s, the corner store. I probably had 200-300 cards that I obtained from wax packs that year.
Later in life I would go back and get star cards and the set for my own personal collection. The Cards are still plenty available today. A hand collected set in as near mint condition as you’re going to find, can be found on eBay and delivered to your door for about $25. A sealed factory set for a litte more. Due to increased production at the time, there is still a supply of wax boxes available. The next years to come would see an even bigger increase in production, driving down the market for the cards that followed. A wax box of 1986 Topps can be delivered for about a respectable $35. Not the lowest prices of the still available junk wax products, because it had not quite yet been pumped out in such huge quantities.
Topps also issued these cards in the “Collectors Edition” or “Tiffany” sets. These sets are the same as the regular cards, except on a different card stock with a higher gloss front and a brighter back. There also was a jumbo sized card set known as “Topps Super” that included 60 cards from the 1986 Topps set on a 4 7/8 x 6 7/8 inch card stock. These cards have been renumbered 1-60. A 66 card “Mini Leaders” set had cards as inserts in wax packs.
In ‘Part 2’ we’ll talk about the cards to have in this set, and the key card, the Roger Clemens 2nd year card.
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