Topps 1986 Baseball

Topps 1986 is among my favorite baseball sets, but I'm not sure why. The design is as basic as '80s baseball cards come, the photos are mostly generic head shots, and its best cards aren't in the base set. Still, when I think of '80s baseball cards, Topps '86 is among the first to come to mind. Followed shortly by the glorious wood paneling of the '87 set of course.

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I think the combination of simplicity and contrast appeals to me. It's eye-catching without bright colors or clip-art banners. The base set's best young players were more fan-favorite than baseball legends. Rookies Len Dykstra and Cecil Fielder are better-known today for their off-field exploits, and second-season appearances from Kirby Puckett and Orel Hershiser were culturally notable in their own rights. The six-card tribute to Pete Rose fits a similar mold, but is neat. Like many others from the era, this set is packed with Hall-of-Famers.

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Realistically it's the addition of the traded set that gives me nostalgia for the whole. Barry Bonds and Bo Jackson have been my favorite players for as long as I can remember; toss in fellow rookies Will Clark, Jose Canseco, Bobby Bonilla, Wally Joyner and John Kruk, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. The whole set will always be memorable to me, though, and I recommend it to nearly any fan of baseball memorabilia. Pair it with a re-run of the 1986 world-series for a very American afternoon and a look into Dykstra's better days. (There's a Bill Buckner card in there, too.)