1989 TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS CARTOON

The 1989 Topps baseball card set is most notable for featuring cartoon characters on many of the cards rather than traditional baseball action shots. This was a major departure from the norm for Topps at the time and helped make the 1989 set one of the most unique and collectible in the company’s history.

While cartoon images had appeared on a handful of cards in previous years, the 1989 Topps set took the cartoon theme to another level. Over 100 of the 792 total cards featured baseball players incorporated into cartoon scenes or depicted as cartoon characters themselves. Topps enlisted the help of legendary cartoon artists like Hanna-Barbera to design the whimsical images.

Some key things to know about the 1989 Topps baseball cards cartoon theme:

Flintstones Inspiration: Topps executives were inspired by the success of The Flintstones Vitamins and felt a cartoon crossover could help attract younger collectors. They wanted to make the cards more fun and appeal to kids who may not be as interested in traditional baseball photography.

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Hanna-Barbera Partnership: Topps partnered with Hanna-Barbera, the animation powerhouse behind shows like The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo and more. H-B artists designed the majority of the cartoon illustrations seen on the 1989 cards.

Player Approval: Topps had to get sign-off from each player before using their likeness in a cartoon. Not all went for it, but the vast majority did to help support the innovative theme. Some players really got a kick out of how they were portrayed.

Varied Styles: The cards featured a wide range of cartoon styles from classic Hanna-Barbera designs to more modern anime and comic book influences. This kept things fresh and unexpected across the 100+ cartoon cards.

Popular Franchises: Many of the cartoon designs placed players into scenes from hit TV shows, movies and comics. This included visits to Bedrock, clashes with Godzilla, and adventures with Batman and Spider-Man among others.

Hidden Mickeys: As a nod to Disney, some eagle-eyed fans have spotted hidden Mickey Mouse images subtly placed in some of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon illustrations.

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Positive Reception: While a risk, the cartoon theme was a big hit among collectors. It attracted younger fans and gave the set wide appeal. The cards have grown in popularity over the decades and are some of the most iconic in the hobby’s history.

Some specific examples of noteworthy 1989 Topps cartoon cards include:

Nolan Ryan as a Flintstones character: Perhaps the most famous card shows Ryan on the mound in Bedrock surrounded by Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty Flintstone.

Ozzie Smith with Spider-Man: Features the Wizard of Oz teaming up with Spidey to make daring defensive plays.

Roger Clemens faces Godzilla: Clemens takes on the iconic movie monster on the mound in a battle to save Tokyo.

Wade Boggs in a Jetsons card: Depicts Boggs at the plate while George Jetson catches behind the plate in his flying car.

Ken Griffey Jr Anime card: A beautifully illustrated anime-style card that was ahead of its time in the late 80s.

Cal Ripken Jr Batman card: Ripken helps the caped crusader fight crime in Gotham as part of the dynamic duo.

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While the cartoon theme was a one-year experiment, it left a lasting legacy. The 1989 Topps set is one of the most creative in the hobby’s history and helped popularize the inclusion of more fun, non-traditional designs. It showed that baseball cards could be more than just static action shots and introduced the product to younger collectors. The cartoon cards remain a highly sought after subset over 30 years later.

The 1989 Topps baseball card set stands out for its memorable cartoon illustrations of players incorporated into classic TV shows, movies and comic books. By partnering with animation powerhouse Hanna-Barbera, Topps was able to design over 100 unique cards that captured the imagination of collectors both young and old. It took risks by moving away from standard photography but succeeded in creating one of the most innovative and collectible sets in the hobby’s history.

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