The 1987 Topps baseball card set is one of the most iconic and collectible card issues of all-time. As the flagship set released during the height of the baseball card boom era in the late 1980s, the ’87 Topps cards hold a significant place in the history of the hobby. Let’s take an in-depth look at some interesting trivia and details surrounding the complete 660 card base set.

The ’87 Topps set marked the 26th year Topps had produced baseball cards under an exclusive license with Major League Baseball. Some of the bigger storylines and players featured included Roger Clemens’ record-setting 20 strikeout game, the Cardinals capturing the World Series title, and rookie sensation Mark McGwire launching his career with the Athletics. Beyond the on-field action, the visual design of the 1987 cards also pioneered several trends that would carry through to future issues.

One of the most iconic aspects of the ’87 Topps design was the team logo plastered across the entire bottom portion of each card front. This was the first year Topps incorporated such a bold use of team logos in the foreground of the cards. It helped instantly identify each player’s team affiliation. The liberal usage of bright team colors and logos on the borders and backgrounds also remained a visual staple for Topps through the late ’80s and early ’90s.


Of the 660 total cards in the ’87 set, there was an unprecedented mix of 656 different major and minor league players plus 4 manager/coach cards. The manager cards featured Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers, Sparky Anderson of the Tigers, Dick Howser of the Royals, and Whitey Herzog of the Cardinals. Giancarlo Maldonado became the first Puerto Rican-born player featured in the main Topps base set with his inclusion at card #25.

Every team was assigned a unique box design found on the reverse of each player card. Organized alphabetically, teams ranged from the Angels box design at cards 1-32 to the White Sox box found on cards 629-660. Each box highlighted the team name, logo, and stats from the previous season. This was another visual innovation Topps incorporated to brand each MLB franchise for collectors.

Beyond the base 660 card issue, Topps also produced severalparallel and specialtysubsets. Some of the more notableinclude:


53 card Traded set highlighting players who switched teams via trades between the 1986-87 seasons.
98 card Update/Late Issue series added players who debut late or were left out of the main set.
91 card Stadium Club premium retail issue spotlighting each MLB park.
20 unnumbered Turn Back The Clock retro style cards featuring older stars.
6 card U.S. Olympians subset saluting players who competed in the 1988 Summer Games.

Proving to be one of the toughest cards to find in mint condition is the basic checklist card found at position #660. With such a late number in the sequence, the checklist endured a lot of wear and tear versus higher number cards. The #1 Roger Clemens card is also notoriously tricky to locate in pristine condition due to its premier position as the flag bearer for the entire set.

In terms of notable rookie cards included, the ’87 Topps issue introduced Hall of Famers Tom Glavine at #521 (Mets), Jeff Bagwell at #572 (Red Sox), and Trevor Hoffman at #647 (Reds). Mark McGwire’s rookie card resides at #480 as the slugger began taking the league by storm with the Oakland A’s. Barry Bonds also had his rookie card appearance at #250 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.


When it comes to autograph variations, the most treasured of the 1987 Topps autographed cards features a signed Cal Ripken Jr. residing at position #87 in the base issue. Renowned artist Norm Saunders also contributed an autographed sketch card that was given exclusively to the Topps Board of Directors as a bonus/promo item outside of the main released set.

The 1987 Topps baseball card set defined the sport’s late 1980s “junk wax” era while also possessing several aspirational rookie cards and unique design traits that keep it an engaging collectible today. Whether seeking pristine conditioned examples of stars like Clemens or McGwire, or simply appreciating the visual time capsule of vintage team logos and uniforms, the ’87 Topps cards hold a storied place in the 120+ year history of the iconic American trading card company.

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