The 1986 Topps baseball card set was the 65th year that the Topps Company produced cards for the Major Leagues. Some key things to note about the 1986 Topps set include the design, rookie cards, star players featured, and overall production details.

In terms of design, the 1986 Topps cards maintained a similar style to previous years but with some subtle changes. The cards continued to use a yellow and white border and color photo. The font for the team name was changed to a block lettering style as opposed to the script from 1985. The player’s name was given more prominence and moved above the photo. Perhaps the biggest design change was that statistics from the previous season were removed from the back of the card. This was likely done to save on printing costs.

Some of the top rookies featured in the 1986 Topps set included Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox, Mark McGwire of the Athletics, Wally Joyner of the Angels, and Ray Durham of the White Sox. Clemens in particular would go on to have a Hall of Fame career featuring seven Cy Young awards. McGwire’s rookie card also gained notoriety in the late 90s and 2000s during the steroid era. Joyner and Durham had solid Major League careers as well.


In terms of star players, the 1986 Topps set featured the likes of Ryne Sandberg, Fernando Valenzuela, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, and Kirby Puckett among many others. Perhaps the biggest star was San Diego Padres first baseman Steve Garvey on the eve of his retirement. Other well known veterans included Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, and Dave Winfield. The Dodger tandem of Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax also remained very popular.

From a production standpoint, the 1986 Topps set included 792 total cards issued. This included 660 player cards, 99 minor league (“Future Stars”) cards, and 33 manager/coach cards. The entire set had a glossy finish front and back. As far as parallels and inserts, there were Glossy Send-In posters available by mailing in proofs of purchase. An “All-Star” insert set was also produced but it was limited to 35 cards out of the original 660 player allotment.


In terms of rarity, some key rookie cards are considered quite valuable today if graded and preserved well. Roger Clemens’ rookie card can fetch over $1,000 in high grade. Mark McGwire’s is also worth a few hundred dollars or more. Unlike in the late 90s, McGuire’s value has declined since the extent of his steroid use was revealed publicly. Rookie cards of Ozzie Smith, Sandberg, and Mattingly have also held value over the decades. Beyond rookies, the highlight cards are generally considered the stars and Hall of Famers like Jackson, Boggs, Ryan, and Valenzuela in high grade.

When fully assembled, the 1986 Topps base set stands out for capturing a unique snapshot of the 1980s era of baseball prior to expansion. After a few years of design consistency, Topps made some subtle changes that still retained the classic aesthetic fans expected. Between the rookie cards of future stars and photos of longtime greats, the 1986 set remains a favorite of collectors today due to its historical significance in bridging the 1970s/80s generation to the steroid/expansion era of the 1990s and beyond. While not the most valuable vintage Topps set overall, it remains an affordable and iconic collection for those intrigued by the players and times of mid-1980s Major League Baseball.


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