Few junk-era cards command more attention than the 1990 Topps #414 Frank Thomas No Name on Front misprint. I even wrote about it previously on this blog. Collectors, to this day, are still trying to pull one out of packs and are eager to bid up any card that comes to market. I’ve always wanted one, and a few years ago, I did rip a case of 1990 Topps to no avail. I’ve always been curious where this card came from. I never presumed the card was an intentional mistake by Topps to command attention. Luckily, other collectors have, again, done some incredible sleuthing.
There is an incredible thread on the Collectors Universe Message Boards on the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF card. The starter of the thread stated:
As I’ve stated before, it is my belief the NNOF error was the result of a strip of cardstock intersecting the printing dyes and several runs of the orange card sheet. Whether this was done intentionally or not, I do not know, but I lean toward unintentional because Frank was nowhere near the number one prospect at the time of the sheet’s printing, and if this were an intentional error, I suspect a higher rated prospect would have been chosen to create this variation for.BunchOBull
After a ton of research by the community, and seeing that there are far more black-less cards from the same uncut sheet of 1990 Topps (there were 6 1990 Topps sheets without double printing), the forum’s users concluded three real possibilities for the error: damaged black printing plate, dirt black printing plate, dirty rubber blanket.
Here is a photo of how the printing error impacted the 1990 Topps NNOF sheet.
On Big Hurt HOF, the thread originator concluded:
The 1990 Topps Blackless Errors occurred randomly, without intention, and for a very small press run. The existence of the Frank Thomas NNOF rookie is a matter of pure, blind luck; unlike many famous errors from that booming era in the hobby, this card – all of these cards – came to be because of an unidentified problem in the manufacturing process, most likely a dirty rubber blanket. It may be argued it was in Topps’ best interest to purposefully manufacture such a blatant error, one featuring a future Baseball Hall of Famer, as the creation of false scarcity could have driven demand for Topps products. However, the error is too random in nature, and too many cards were affected in a nonsensical way to support the idea of premeditated intention. Further more, the errors are much too scarce to support the notion of intention, as attainability is a key factor in hobby demand, and the NNOF rookie was hardly attainable, much less recognized nationally until a much later time period. Beyond that, Frank Thomas was barely a top 50 prospect at the time of printing, and many other young players featured in 1990 Topps Baseball would have had the potential to create much more interest in the product. While all of these statements are assumptions, the evidence supports this conclusion.Big Hurt HOF
During my research, it’s pretty clear that the NNOF came out of boxes and cases of hobby wax or retail/grocery wax from the east coast and not from cello, rack, jumbo, or factory cases. Additionally, it’s estimated that Topps printers performed quality control of sheets about once every 1k sheets, which would explain how between 500 and 1000 NNOF cards made their way into packs. And this makes sense considering how huge the print run of 1990 Topps was during one of the peak years for “junk” wax. Another rumor about this card is that it was an early print run error that was corrected. The printing error was certainly fixed quickly since there aren’t many NNOF cards out there, but there is nothing concrete about it being part of an early print run.
Today, the 1990 Topps #414 Frank Thomas No Name on Front Error is a 4-5 figure card. The last PSA 8 sold for over $12k, and a PSA 6 sold for over $4k. And this is among a PSA population of just over 200 graded error cards compared to over 15k regular 1990 Topps Frank Thomas cards. Becket has also graded a few cards, and in 2014, an interesting statistical breakdown was done of the card. However, BGS did accidentally grade a counterfeited No-Name Frank, so be careful if you are in the market for one.
The 1990 Topps #414 Frank Thomas No Name on Front card is pretty legendary for anyone who grew up collecting cards during the junk wax era. I hope, someday, that the card will find its way into my personal collection. In the meantime, it’s an exciting card whose history was pieced together by incredibly dedicated members of our most excellent hobby.