In that box of baseball card related stuff I got from the church bazaar, there was a box of 1989 Donruss, and the complete set of 1989 Topps. I thought I'd do a review of the main sets from 1989.
In my opinion, 1989 was the first year when collecting every card of your favorite players or team started to get difficult. Score cards were introduced in 1988, and Bowman and Upper Deck came out in 1989. So you had to chase 6 sets to satisfy your collecting jones. Of course, it would only get worse later and by 1991, it was getting almost impossible to get every card of a player you collected, much less every team card.
I only had three players who I had already scanned cards from each set, Bruce Ruffin, Mike Schmidt and Von Hayes. Schmidt I want to keep for their own post. I thought the Hayes cards were better than the Ruffin cards.
BowmanThis was the first year for Bowman and, in a way, was as big a deal as the Upper Deck set in that it changed the game somewhat. It was a second full release of cards from a single manufacturer, Topps. They went with oversized cards somewhat the same size as early 1950s Bowman cards. They wisely stopped that after one year. The cards are a pain in that they are too tall for regular 9-pocket sleeves. The design was relatively simple and there were no variations. Every card featured the thin red border. The backs, in another effort to be different, featured stats for the player against the other teams in his league. The cards are printed on non-white card stock. There were no subset cards in this set so if you were a player collector, you were only looking for one card. The key rookie card from this set, as for most releases in 1989, is Ken Griffey, Jr. There was also a hard to get full parallel set, Bowman Tiffany, so if you were a fanatic collector, you had a problem.
By 1989, Donruss was an old favorite, in it's 9th year. For the past few years and on into 1990, Donruss offered off-beat designs. The design featured bizarre color combinations fading from one side of the card to the other. There were about 5 different color combos which varied randomly. The cards, unlike Topps, are printed on white card stock like past years of Donruss. The backs were identical to the previous few years, featuring the past 5 years of stats and some biographical info. There was the Diamond Kings subset, so if your favorite player was one of the top players, you may have needed two cards from the set. Griffey is the key rookie card in the set. There were insert cards to this set, the MVP Bonus and the Grand Slammers sets. And as they had done before, Donruss put out a Rookies set. Also this year they had a Baseball's Best set. This was a fairly large set (336 cards), only available in a factory set. Donruss also put out a Traded set in 1989.
Also the 9th year for Fleer. This is often called the pin-striped set. Like Donruss, Fleer was experimenting with set design. There were color variations from card to card. The colored stripe above and below the photo varied, more or less, with team colors. Like Donruss, Fleer had always used white card stock. The backs were very similar to previous years with career stats and biographic information. Griffey is the key rookie card in the set. There were no real subsets in the set. There was a Fleer Glossy parallel available as a factory set and several insert sets. There was also an update set.
This was the second year for Score. They pioneered the concept of a color player photo on the back of the card. There were 5 color variations on the front and the same color on the back. The colors are totally unrelated to the team colors as you can see on the Hayes card. The back contains career stats and biographical information. Score missed Griffey in the main set. The key rookie cards are Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson. The only subset which might cause you to need to look for more than one card for your favorite player are Season Highlight cards. Score had several short sets, like the 100 Hottest stars set and an update set in 1989 which includes the Griffey rookie card.
The Topps set had a more traditional design. The color border around the photo was coordinated to the team color while the team name and player name banner were sometimes coordinated and sometimes not. The back had carer stats and biographical information laid out like most prior years of Topps. The cards were printed on non-white card stock. Topps also missed Griffey so the key rookies are Biggio and Johnson. Topps had a parallel Tiffany set available as a set and an update set, also available as a set which included the Griffey rookie card.
The real game changer in 1989 was Upper Deck. Printed on white card stock with crisp color photos on the front and back and holographic logos to prevent counterfeiting. This set also contains the hottest card of 1989, the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. Beckett lists this card at $40 today which is 5-6 times what the card from the other sets list for. You can get the card graded an 8 on eBay right now for that. By contrast, an 8 Donruss card is going for less than $5.
So, if you were a big Von Hayes fan (and hey, who isn't?) how many 1989 cards would you have to chase. Here's the list:
Bowman Tiffany #406
Donruss Baseball's Best #47
Fleer Glossy #571
Topps Big #302
Topps Tiffany #385
Upper Deck #246
That's 13 cards, not too bad. I left off the list stickers and SLU figures and cards. But Hayes isn't a good player to compare year to year. Barry Bonds was on 18 cards in 1989. In 1991, he was on 49 cards. In 1999, he was on 399 cards. In 2002, his peak year for cards, he appeared on 881 cards.