1987 Topps Barry Larkin
One of the iconic card designs of the past 30 years belongs to the 1987 Topps set. As a kid, I really thought that these cards were ugly. The wood grain wasn't at all appealing to the ten year old version of me, but this set grew on me as I grew older. I love the fact that Topps copied the design and used it for a miniature insert in the 2012 Topps set. I made sure that I ended up with a complete set across the three series of cards in the Topps base set this year.
The design of the 1987 Topps set is really the closest that Topps has come to replicating some of it's design magic of the 50s, 60s, and 70s since I've been collecting. Sure, the early eighties cards sets all have their unique designs, but this set is the most recognizable 80s Topps set. The sets since haven't all been bad or anything, but the more modern designs can be uninspired and drab. They change little from year to year at times and I that in another 30 years I will have a difficult time telling the difference between the 2004 and 2005 Topps cards.
1987 Topps Rafael Palmeiro
A lot of people think of the rookie cards in the 1987 Topps set before they think of the wood background. The rookie cards were one of the big original draws of this set before the steroids era took care of most of their reputations. Barry Larkin is of course already a Hall of Famer, but there were also rookie cards of Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro. I love the cool Future Stars logo on some the rookie cards in this set. That graphic screams 80s Topps.
1987 Topps Mike Laga
My favorite card in this set is this awesome Mike Laga card. I complain about the airbrushing on cards often, but this card should be in the airbrushing Hall of Fame for many reasons. First, I'd love to know how a pink jersey got past the editors office at Topps. Second, Laga was originally on the Tigers and was traded to the Cardinals. Over Laga's right should there is a Tigers player wearing a grey Tigers road uniform. The Cardinals wear grey road uniforms. How is that a blue Tigers hat can turn red, but a grey uniform being airbrushed over for another grey uniform turns pink? Hmmm. Mike Laga is also famous for being the only player to ever hit a ball out of Busch Stadium II. It was foul, but quite a feat at one of the big 70s concrete cookie cutter stadiums.
Like the 1987 Topps set? Not in my Top 50 countdown is the 1986 Topps set. While the design isn't quite as cool, and the set lacks an important rookie card, the 1986 Topps set can be condition sensitive. I am not saying it's the 1971 Topps set, but anything before the advent of the Upper Deck sets with a black border can be tricky to find centered with good edges and corners.
1986 Topps Darryl Strawberry
While there aren't many great rookie cards in this set, apologies to all Darren Daulton and Lenny Dykstra fans, there are some good looking cards of many of the great players of the 1980s. Cal Ripken wearing the cartoon bird uniform, Nolan Ryan in an Astros jersey, and Tony Gwynn in a brown Padres uniform are some of my highlights.
1986 Topps Glenn Brummer
The set also has some great photography with a good mix of portrait style cards and action shots. One of my favorite action shots is this Glenn Brummer card with him holding up the ball and the running, Bobby Meacham ?, sliding into home. Really cool card.