The Toughest Topps Baseball Sets From the 1980s

I’ve been writing a lot more about baseball card sets from the 1980s lately, like my deep dive on the 1980 Topps Pepsi Test Issue and 1984 OPC Baseball rack packs, among others. So I’ve been scouring my notes for anything else unique or exciting from the era to share. Well, in my archives, I found a list another collector had shared about what they felt were the hardest Topps set to finish from the 1980s. Unfortunately, I didn’t save a reference or link to where I found this list, but I thought it was a worthwhile share. I’ve added a basic summary for each set, and over the next few years, I expect I’ll write deeper dives on each of them.

1980 Topps Test Coins

The Standard Catalog describes the 1980 Topps Test Coins as follows:  “These silver-dollar size (1-3/8’’ diameter) metal coins appear to have been a Topps test issue. The coins have a player portrait at center on obverse. On reverse center is player personal data and a Topps copyright line. Coins have been seen in compositions resembling bronze, silver and gold. Some of the coins have a hole at top.”

Huggins and Scott sold this Reggie Jackson Silver test coin for $1800 in April 2014.

1980 Topps Test Coins Reggie Jackson – Front
1980 Topps Test Coins Reggie Jackson – Reverse

For more on the sets, check out this series of articles on The Topps Archives blog.

1982 Topps Blackless

1982 Topps #780 Pete Rose – Blackless

The 1982 Topps Blackless set is made up of 396 cards. Apparently, during production, some A, B, and C sheets were printed without black ink, eliminating the cards’ facsimile autographs.

1985 Topps Minis

1985 Topps Minis #760 Nolan Ryan

The 1985 Topps Minis were never released for sale but still reached the hobby market. Topps was said to have commissioned O-Pee-Chee to make this test mini set, so sometimes you will see them referred to as OPC cards. I’ve read that about 130 test sheets made it out of the factory, along with ~10 blank-backed proof sheets with vanilla paper stock and ~5 proof sheets with tan card stock. Collectors can find only 132 of the 792 cards (the single sheet) from the Topps set in the mini version. 

1984 Topps Encased or Head in Box

1984 Topps Proofs Carlton Fisk

These cards are referred to as 1984 Topps Proofs, Encased, or Head in Box cards. Sixty-six cards (half of an A production press sheet) made their way into the hobby. The cards are blank-backed. The portrait photo in the lower-left corner is entirely within the black frame on these cards.

1984 Topps Encased 66 Card Sheet

1988 Topps Cloth

1988 Topps Tom Glavine – Cloth Experimental

The 1988 Topps Cloth Experimental Issue was produced on heavy textured paper, like a high-quality paper towel. Somehow the set made its way onto the market in a “limited way.” The 121 cards in the checklist are blank-backed.

1989 Topps Heads Up!

1989 Topps Heads Up #5 Ken Griffey Jr. Test

Sometimes you will also see these cards referred to as Big Head Suckers. The 24-card test issue was made up of superstars and came one per pack.

1989 Topps Batting Leaders

1989 Topps #3 Don Mattingly Batting Leaders

One batting leader card was included in each Kmart blister pack. The red-bordered cards aren’t super hard to find individually, but you’ll rarely find a complete set for sale. The set has 22 cards.

1989 Topps Doubleheaders Mets/Yankees

1989 Topps Doubleheaders Mets/Yankees Test Lot

The “regular” Double Headers All-Stars set is very common. But the 24 Mets/Yankees cards were regionally issued and much tougher to track down, and the 8 Mets/Yankees proofs are even more challenging. The Standard Catalog states, “Each double header plastic frame holds miniature versions of the player’s 1989 Topps card, and his first Topps card, printed on thin paper.”

Given all the test issues on the list that the collector presented, I would add the 1980 Topps Pepsi Test issue to this list. What other 1980 Topps baseball sets would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments, or reach out to me about it on Twitter. Be sure to follow the blog for when I detail all these sets; you can also stay informed by subscribing to the Post War Cards Newsletter. Happy Collecting!

2 thoughts on “The Toughest Topps Baseball Sets From the 1980s”

  1. If you look closely at the 1984 proof sheet you’ll find that Gary Matthews small picture is on Steve Carlton’s card & vice-versa


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