There are a lot of little nuances when it comes to collecting baseball cards. This may even be a bit of an understatement depending on just how far down the baseball card collecting rabbit hole one travels. A prime example of this would be with the 1984 Topps baseball series.
The 1984 Topps series has become iconic in its own right. It’s not only well known to most collectors, its also easy to recognize the cards themselves. But some of the finer details of this card series may go unnoticed by most. Enter the “encased” cards.
The ’84 “encased” cards, as they have come to be known, are a rather limited run of some slightly different than normal 1984 Topps cards. The cards themselves look pretty much the same as the regular cards upon first glance, but with a closer inspection, you can notice a few obscure details that open the door to an interesting unofficial subset of this series.
Taking a look at the 1984 series, we see a main player photo complemented by a box containing an image of the players head. In the normal ’84 card print runs, the players head may slightly extend out of the box. An example would be the Mattingly pictured below.
Here we can see, in the box with Donnie Baseballs head, that the round top of his helmet extends slightly past the top border of the box. This is how most of the series is. With the encased cards however, the borders of the box completely encase the head shot and cut off any part that comes in contact with the border. This makes the players head completely “encased” within the box.
Don’t go searching through your old box of 1984 commons just yet though. You won’t find any encased cards. These cards were not released with any regular issues from that year. You won’t find them in wax boxes, sets, cellos, or rack packs. These cards came exclusively in uncut sheets obtained directly. These days however, many of these sheets have been cut and circulate in individual card form at places like eBay. Whether it’s in sheet form, or cut individually, 66 cards make up this set.
Think you have one of these encased treasures? To know for sure, simply flip the card over. All the encased cards have a completely blank back. That’s right, the sheets were printed on just a single side.
Sound familiar? I thought so too. We’ve seen “proof” sheets like this before. Not too big of a deal. But that’s just where the controversy starts with these encased cards. Many a debate can be found around the internet about the true origins of these card sheet. Some say they are proof cards. Others say they are design test cards. Does it really matter? To a serious collector it may, but in the end, what we have is a nice addition to the ’84 series if you can get your hands on them.
There are a couple other interesting details about these encased cards as well. Steve Carlton Gary Matthews each have an encased card, but Steve’s head appears on Gary’s card, and vice versa. The Manny Trillo card has him appearing in an Indian’s uniform, not an Expos uniform as in the regular set.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their origins, the encased cards cannot go unrecognized as a nice compliment to the 84 set for a serious collector. Just when you thought you had the box closed on the 1984 Topps series, it just may be time to reopen it and add some encased cards to the collection!
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