How Did Donruss Get The 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds Error Card So Wrong?

May 23, 2023

They often say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but history has shown that it’s not impossible when it comes to trading card errors. Donruss had two shots at creating Barry Bonds’ trading cards in 1987 and got it wrong at both attempts. Most collectors mistake the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds error card for the less valuable 1987 Donruss Barry Bonds error card.

As part of a special release, the Opening Day Barry Bonds card is a unique piece of the hobby’s history. This article shall closely examine the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds error card, where we shall explore its history, rarity, and value.

If you’re interested in the 1987 Barry Bonds error card, check out our in-depth article here.

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1987 Donruss Opening Day set

Times were good for trading card producers in 1987; the market was booming, with record sales and increased collector interest. Baseball cards were a hot commodity, and these companies were determined to give collectors their fill of Baseball trading cards.

1987 was also the early days for Donruss as a company. As common with most card producers, they experimented by releasing several unique and special sets. These special sets came with their unique styles and were often marketed as “premium sets” with limited availability.

One such experimental set was the 1987 Donruss Opening Day set. Donruss took a unique approach and released a set that featured players in the starting line-up of all teams on opening day in 1987.

Aptly named, the 1987 Donruss Opening Day set only focused on players that started the opening day game for their respective teams. It comprised 273 cards measuring 2-1/2” x 3-1/2” each. The set was distributed exclusively as a factory set and came packaged in a specially designed box.

The Opening Day cards were identical in design to the 1987 regular Donruss issue, except that the Opening Day cards have a maroon border instead of a black border. The front of each card bears a posed or in-action color photo with the team’s logo atop each photo. The player’s name and position are printed within the lower border area.

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This set contains several iconic cards, such as Jose Canseco (#24), Fred McGriff (#38), Robin Yount (#58), Ozzie Smith (#65), and Cal Ripken, Jr. (#133). There’s also a Will Clark (#96) and Bo Jackson (#205) rookie card. It also contains one of the rarest error cards from the late 80s – the Barry Bonds (#163) Opening Day error card.

Overview of the error

The 1987 Donruss Barry Bonds card is a significant error. While some errors are subtle or minor, Bonds’s Opening Day card was anything but subtle. The picture of Barry Bonds was missing from his card, with the image of Johnny Ray appearing in its stead.

While Bonds is widely remembered today, both players were well-known during the time. Bonds debuted in 1986 and led the National League (NL) rookies with 16 home runs, 48 RBI, 36 stolen bases, and 65 walks.

His rookie card featured in the Donruss 1986 “The Rookies” set. Johnny Ray, too, wasn’t an unknown player. Hence, it didn’t take long for rumors of a Barry Bonds card with Johnny Ray’s picture to spread.

However, while rumors spread about the card, many collectors were unsure of what the error card looked like. This was because of how hard to find the error card was.

Unlike most error cards that get spotted after release and requires recalls, the error on the Barry Bonds Opening Day cards was noticed and corrected during the printing run. It was corrected very early in the print run, and less than two percent of the set is thought to carry the mistake.

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Was the Barry Bonds 1987 Donruss error card produced on purpose?

As with most error cards, questions were asked whether Donruss had purposely produced an error card to boost value. Unlike some error cards, there was no official comment on the Bonds Opening Day error card, so all we’re left with is speculations. However, most collectors argue that both names were huge by 1987 and thus well-known by Donruss.

Bond was clearly a future star and the son of a former Major League star. He was a highly touted rookie and the godson of Willie Mays. Combines, this was the perfect recipe for an error card that would generate buzz and create value for the entire set as collectors eagerly search for it.

However, most collectors agree that this error card wasn’t deliberately created. Here are a few reasons we agree with them.

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1. Produced way before error cards became trendy

While Bonds Opening Day card contained just the perfect mix for an error card created on purpose, it was a few years too early. The trend of creating error cards on purpose to generate buzz around a set blossomed in 1989 and lasted till the end of the junk wax era in 1993. This couldn’t have been created by purpose unless a Donruss employee was way ahead of the curve.

2. Bonds wasn’t the most prominent name

While Barry Bonds was on the list of 1986 top rookies, he was way down the list. He wasn’t a big name compared to players like Will Clark, McGwire, Canseco, and Bo Jackson. If Donruss decided to pick a player to generate buzz, they would have ideally gone for the biggest name.

3. Corrected quickly

Lastly, a great way to generate buzz with an error card is to produce enough of it that collectors actually stand a fair chance of pulling it. The 1987 Bonds Opening Day error card is almost too rare to drive interest. This is because Donruss quickly corrected the card early in the print run. While news of the error card spread, most collectors never got to see what the card looked like (pre-internet era).

Barry Bonds 1987 Donruss Error rarity

The 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds error card is considered truly rare in the hobby. The error was spotted and corrected early in the printing process. The exact number of the Bonds Donruss Opening Day error cards in circulation is unknown. However, experts estimate that only a small number of the Barry Bonds error cards were printed. PSA puts the figure at less than one percent of the total print run.

The PSA population report shows 150 grades of the error and 2,914 of the regular Bonds card. The 150 graded Bonds Opening Day card represents a more significant percentage of the existing non-error Bonds cards, as there’s no point in grading those.

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Current grades of the 150 graded cards,

  • PSA 10: 13
  • PSA 9: 51
  • PSA 8: 58
  • PSA 7: 11
  • PSA 6: 10
  • PSA 5: 5
  • PSA 4: 1

Barry Bonds 1987 Donruss error value

With just one percent of the total print run containing this error, the error card supply is much lower than that of regular cards. Such limited rarity has ensured that the Barry Bonds Opening Day error card is highly valued among collectors.

A raw version of this error card sells in the $300 – $400 range, while higher grades cost much more. According to the PSA price guide, PSA 8s are valued at $1,150+, PSA 9s at $1,625+, and PSA 10s attract fees of over $4,000.

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Lots of fake cards and how to spot them

The combination of a hard-to-find error card, a star player, and exceptional market value has made this card highly desirable by collectors. This remarkable price has led to several fake cards from fraudulent sellers. There have been reports of very sketchy listings on various platforms from fraudulent sellers. Here’s Andy Broome, Vice President of CSG, take on counterfeits:

“Counterfeiters and card doctors have become more sophisticated since my awareness began in the 1980s…But part of that advancement in sophistication has to do with the advancement in technology. More accessibility to better technology at cheaper prices makes it easier for counterfeiters to produce a ‘better product.’ Is it difficult to make high-quality fakes? For many, it will be, but not for all.”

Counterfeit scams have gotten more sophisticated, and this card is a popular target for counterfeiters. However, there are four ways to spot a fake 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds card.

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Examine with a magnifying glass

Counterfeiters often create artificial damage and aging effects to give their fake Bonds Opening Day card a natural worn-out look. They may round the corners of a card, apply staining techniques, add wrinkles or make it appear as if the card was once pasted in an album.

You should also watch out for slight trims of rough edges or corners, as they could be signs of fake vintage cards. To detect fake Barry Bonds Opening Day cards, you can get a small magnification device to inspect the card. Knowing the printing patterns of authentic Bonds cards would help distinguish real ones from fakes.

Inspect the card stock

Like all sets, the 1987 Donruss Opening Day set has its own unique card stock. One way to identify fake Bonds Opening Day cards is by comparing the card stock with authentic Bonds Opening Day cards.

This comparison can help identify any inconsistencies in the paper stock or other features that suggest the card is fake. For example, if a card appears too glossy or thin compared to the authentic Bonds card from the set, it is a sign of forgery.

Any card with a different stock vastly differing from the authentic Bonds Opening Day card is likely fake. Ultimately, you can easily spot a fake Bonds Opening Day card by looking at it and comparing it to an authentic card. If you can’t find a verified authentic Bonds Opening Day card, you can consult your local card community or refer to various online resources.

Check if the card has been artificially aged

A common scam of recent has been artificially aging cards. Fraudulent sellers use tea and coffee stains to stimulate that unique age toning. Additionally, they use sandpaper and other methods to round corners and provide the appearance of surface wear.

However, carefully inspecting the card would reveal which card has been artificially aged. A webbing style pattern in certain card parts can identify many of these stains.

Always buy your cards from reputable sellers/sources.

While most marketplaces offer buyer protection and have a return policy in place for fraudulent purchases, you should only buy from reputable sellers. While you can take a chance when purchasing cheap cards from just any seller on eBay, a card of this nature requires more consideration.

Research the seller, check their feedback, and take the time to go through their reviews. A good tip is to search how many times the seller has listed the Bonds card. Items that have been listed and relisted severally were typically purchased and returned by other buyers. Lastly, slowly read the entire description as well as the return policy from the marketplace you’re making a purchase on.

The 1987 Barry Bonds Opening Day error card prices range from $2,000 to over $4,000. That’s a lot of money to spend on a counterfeit card. Ensure you purchase the authentic Bonds card to avoid spending your hard-earned money on a fake.

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Bottomline of the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds error

The perfect combination of a star player, a unique error, and an extremely limited print run made this card highly desirable for collectors. Today, this is one of the hardest error cards to find.

The value of this card reflects its rarity. However, this is a genuinely iconic error card and would make a great addition to any Baseball collection. Just remember to verify the card’s authenticity before making a purchase, as many counterfeit versions exist.

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Other popular error cards

Check out these features on other popular error cards: