Do Barry Bonds 1987 Topps Error Cards Exist?

March 20, 2023

While all trading card categories have their unique appeal, some of the most sought-after baseball cards are error cards. Over the years, the increased value of error cards has even led to many fake error card cases.

Most of these cases involve fraudulent collectors altering regular cards to look like an error card. However, the most common issue, which has been on the rise recently, is trying to make collectors believe any little error constitutes a valuable error card.

This article shall review one of such cards from one of baseball’s most famous and successful players – the Barry Bonds 1987 Topps error card. We shall explore the history of the 1987 Topps Barry Bonds card and examine the evidence to determine if this is indeed an error card or not.

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Who is Barry Bonds?

Born into a baseball family, Barry Lamar Bonds was an extremely productive hitter. He holds the record for the most home runs in a career and a single season. He began his MLB career with the Pittsburg Pirates in 1986 and played for the San Francisco Giants from 1993 to 2007.

Undoubtedly the MLB’s home run king, Bond averaged 36 home runs per season for an impressive 21 years and finished his career with 762 home runs. Aside from being a productive hitter, Bonds garnered numerous Gold Gloves awards for his left-field play.

Voted National League’s MVP seven times, it’s no surprise that his trading cards have ample demand, with some of his rarest cards going for truly impressive prices.

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An intro to the Barry Bonds 1987 Topps #320 rookie card

Like Barry Bonds’ career, the Barry Bonds 1987 Topps card has been the subject of much controversy and speculation among collectors. One of collectors’ most common questions about Bonds’ cards is whether his 1987 Topps rookie card is an error card.

For years, copies of Bonds 1987 Topps card had steadily sold for an average price of $200 for PSA 10s and $24 for PSA 9s. However, collectors were shocked when the apparent value of this card suddenly shot up, and some copies of this card were sold for over $2,000, with one card allegedly selling for $8,900.

These few big money sales were immediately followed with listings of the Topps 1987 Barry Bonds card for astronomical figures. That’s remained the norm even to this day.

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While it’s not new for a trading card to suddenly get a boost in value, this case was bizarre and absurd. Usually, collectors can point out a reason for the sudden increase in value.

It might be due to a player getting inaugurated into the HOF or performing spectacularly well on the pitch. Upon closer examination, collectors discovered that these sellers advertised all the “big figure” sales and listings as error cards.

While Barry Bonds does have a known error card in his 1987 lineup, the error is on his 1987 Donruss Opening Day card, where they used a photo of Johnny Ray.

Did collectors somehow miss an error in his Topps card, and was it only just discovered?

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Is the 1987 Topps Barry Bonds an error card?

All listings of the 1987 Topps Barry Bonds “error” card lists the error as “misprinted 3” or as “missing ink in the card number.” A close examination of Bonds’ 1987 Topps does show an “error” on its reverse side. The card number is #320, and part of the “3” is missing.

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Assessments of tens of thousands of 1987 Topps Barry Bonds show that every 1987 Topps Bonds card has the misprinted “3” on its reverse side.

This “error” was so insignificant that no one on Topps deemed it fit to address whether the misprinted 3 was on purpose (why bother, really).

Experts agree that, at most, the 1987 Topps Bonds card is a misprint rather than an error card. While the term “error cards” and “misprints” are often used interchangeably, they are two distinct categories of trading card mistakes.

Differences between an error card and a misprint

Although the words sound like they can be used interchangeably they are actually very different.

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Error Cards

An error card is a card printed with an unintentional mistake, either by design or human error. These mistakes include incorrectly spelled words, incorrect information, or inverted images.

For example, a card may be printed with an incorrect player name or position or with a photograph of the wrong player in rare cases. Error cards are usually discovered after the printing process is complete and are considered more valuable than regular cards.


During production, cards are sometimes printed with flaws. A misprint is a card with a mistake made unintentionally during the printing process, usually from a flawed printing plate.

In most cases, these misprints add no value to the card. However, some misprints can be quite valuable. Let’s look at the two types of misprints.

True misprints

Generally, printing plates are inspected before printing begins. This inspection is to spot and discard all malformed plates.

However, some malformed plates pass examination several times, and cards get printed with errors. Once the mistake is identified, the card’s producers must make a decision.

Discard the malformed printing plate, resume the printing process with a new one, or keep printing with the defective one. The printing press will keep the “defective” plates running if the misprint is not significant. However, if the error is substantial, the defective plate is discarded and replaced by a new “correct” one.

Cards printed with the defective plate are either discarded or allowed to go into circulation. True misprints are cards whose defective printing plates got changed halfway into the printing process. They are rare, and this rarity accounts for their collectible value.

To be considered a true misprint, a trading card must;

  • Be printed from a defective printing plate.
  • The defective plate MUST be discarded and substituted by a new one without the error.
  • The discarded defective plate must be destroyed to prevent further occurrence of the error.
  • Have limited availability in the market.

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False misprints

A false misprint occurs similarly to a true misprint with one significant difference. When the defective plate is discovered, the error is usually so irrelevant that the card company decides to ignore it. Hence, the printing process is allowed to continue with the defective plates. As a result, ALL cards in the print run would possess the misprint.

We cannot consider such a card a true misprint because a conscious decision was made to continue printing with the defective plate. Misprints are supposed to happen by accidental errors and, by definition, are rare. If printing continues once the problem has been acknowledged, it ceases to be an accidental error and cannot be considered a misprint.

Our thoughts on the Topps 1987 Barry Bonds #320 error card

From the definitions above, the Topps 1987 Barry Bonds card is not an error card. It is a false misprint at best and doesn’t warrant the figures some copies are getting listed for.

Every copy of the 1987 Topps Barry Bonds card has the misprinted 3 “error”. There’s no unique “double misprint” error or hidden gem to be found. These are all terms used by fraudulent sellers when listing their cards to create a sense of extra value.

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The actual value of the Topps 1987 Barry Bonds rookie card

The 1987 Topps Barry Bonds card is a relatively common card with millions of copies printed during its initial release. Every single copy of its massive population contains the same “error” on its reverse side.

This enormous population has placed a ceiling on how high these cards can sell for. However, while this card might not be worth thousands of dollars, it still has an outstanding value for a junk wax-era card, primarly because it is a rookie card of the all-time home run leader.

The actual value of this card ranges from $3.50 to $192, as indicated on the Sports Cards Pro and PSAs website. These websites track actual sales of the cards over the years rather than far-fetched listings on eBay. While a glance at eBay listings for this card would show tons of listings for above $3,000, a card has yet to sell for such a sum.

1987 Topps Tiffany Barry Bonds

The 1987 Topps Tiffany set is a rare and highly coveted set of baseball cards. Topps produced the Tiffany set using higher-quality paper and printing techniques.

This results in a brighter, more vibrant appearance than standard cards. In addition, the 1987 Topps Tiffany Barry Bonds card has a full 3 on its reverse side. All pictures of the 1987 Topps Barry Bonds cards with a complete 3 are from the Tiffany set.

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This card’s limited distribution and premium nature had made it quite rare and valuable. PSA 9 has sold for over $400, and PSA 10 can sell for $800.

The reason for the controversy in value

One beauty of the hobby is the fact that, ultimately, collectors are the ones that determine how much a card is worth. The marketplace determines the value of a trading card, and the demand of collectors drives this marketplace.

While supply and rarity can influence a card’s worth, a collector pays what he feels is a fair price for a card. All that’s required is to convince the collector that the card is worth as much.

For a long time, dishonest trading card sellers have used eBay to push demand for some trading cards. When collectors’ interest and demand in a particular card soar, its price would be equally impacted.

Experts believe that a group of collectors with lots of 1987 Topps Barry Bonds cards attempted to drive demand and sell their cards for a lot more than it is worth. The three sales above $1,000 were likely people in on the whole thing bidding high figures for a card that’s clearly not worth as much.

If the scheme worked, they’d have convinced collectors that the card was worth much more than its fair value. They’ll be able to offload their hoard for much more. This wouldn’t be the first time such a scheme has been attempted in the hobby with a notable example being the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card.

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Bottomline of the Topps 1987 Barry Bonds “error” card

While he may be controversial, Barry Bonds is considered one of baseball’s greatest players.

It’s little wonder these crooked sellers would use his card for such a scheme. However, while this card isn’t worth thousands of dollars, its value has at ties been affected by this speculation..

Raw cards sell for the 1987 Topps Barry Bonds rookie sell for over $4, with PSA 10s selling for $200. If you’re looking for an actual Barry Bonds 1987 error card, you should check out his Donruss card. It’s a genuine error card, and a graded Gem Mint 10 is worth over $2,000.

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Other popular error cards

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