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What Do We Know About 1989 Topps Error Cards?

May 8, 2023

The 1989 Topps baseball set is an iconic junk wax era set. What it lacks in monetary value, it makes up in nostalgic appeal.

It was produced at the height of the junk wax era, and there are several 1989 Topps error cards. While none of Topps’s 1989 error cards attained the status of Fleer’s 1989 Billy “Fuck Face” card, there are several valuable 1989 Topps error cards. Aside from monetary value, these error cards hold a special place in the heart of many collectors.

This article shall delve into the world of the 1989 Topps error cards, exploring the different types of errors present, their value, and the impact these cards had on the hobby.

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The 1989 Topps set

1989 marked Topps’s 38th anniversary of producing trading cards, and collectors especially were looking forward to another year of Topps flagship in the height of the junk wax era. Upper Deck was set to release their inaugural baseball trading set and released promo cards of DeWayne Buice and Wally Joyner to whet appetites.

The cards contained crystal-clear photos and clean designs. With several new competitors, the onus was on Topps to put forward and solid product, and they did!

The design of the 1989 Topps set featured all the hallmarks of what would come later in 1990s Topps sets. The white-bordered cards contain a colored rounded rectangle that contains the player’s photo, team name (without city), and a colored flag with the player’s name. The rounded rectangle, team name, and player name flag were often color-coded based on the player’s team and team colors.

Its reverse side is simple but practical. Black text displaying the card number, player biographical info, and full career stats sit over background shades of red/pink. Where space allowed, a “monthly scoreboard” was included with one 1988 stat broken down by month and some text discussing career highlights. These were not included for players with longer playing records due to space restrictions.

While the 1989 Topps set missed out on getting Ken Griffey’s rookie under wraps for their 1989 base set, they did give a nod up to the rookie culture. Topps filled its 1989 set with plenty of rookies, such as Ramon Martinez (#225), Rob Dibble (#264), John Smoltz (#382), Randy Johnson (#647), and Brady Anderson (#757).

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1989 Topps subsets

In addition to these rookies, Topps gave collectors lots of variety in 1989 set with tons of subsets such as:

  • Record Breakers (#1-7)
  • Manager Cards (starting with Tom Kelly at #14 and spaced about every 30 cards after that)
  • Team Leader Cards (beginning with the White Sox a #21 and spaced throughout the set)
  • All-Stars (#386-407)
  • Draft Picks (10 cards — not consecutively numbered)
  • FUTURE STARS (5 cards– not consecutively numbered)
  • Checklists (starting with #118 and spaced every 130-140 cards after that)
  • Turn Back the Clock (#661-665)

With 792 cards, the Topps 1989 set had enough room to cover these subsets. Subsets had slightly different designs than the base cards but generally stayed on theme.

1989 Topps error cards

In 1989, Topps as well as other trading card producers, were waist-deep into the junk wax era. The population of each set numbered in millions as they tried to outproduce themselves. Due to how massively produced this set was, the cards were prone to several errors. The quality control standards of the 1989 Topps set were one of the best for all junk wax era sets.

The 1989 Topps set has less than 25 error cards, all minor/subtle errors. This ranged from missing blocks of text to varying locations of the Topps logo.

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Notable 1989 Topps error cards

1989 Topps #343 Gary Sheffield

A quick Google search of the term Gary Sheffield would reveal questions such as “Why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame yet” and “When would Gary Sheffield be inducted to the Hall of Fame.”

As a player, Gary Sheffield was “really” good! He was an outstanding baseball player with a highly successful career spanning over two decades in the Major Leagues. He finished his MLB career with a .292 batting average, 509 home runs, and 1,676 RBI. While his PED scandal has somewhat limited the value of his cards, his 1989 Topps error card is still one of the most sought-after in the set.

The error on this card is a larger gap between the hat and Future Stars header. While it’s subtle, it’s still noticeable and has boosted the value of the error card.

The card at the left is the rarest and the first version of this card. Gary’s chin is higher up in the picture, and his hat touches the “e” in Future Star. Additionally, the Topps logo is higher up on the card.

The middle version is Topps’s first attempt at correcting the error. Gary’s hat no longer touched the “e” as the photo has been moved down a bit.

The Topps logo has also been pushed down. The version on the right is Topps’ final attempt at correcting the card. The Topps logo has been moved back to the same position as the first error card.

While this is a corrected error card, even the rarest version has a vast population. This has placed a ceiling on its value. The value for this error card ranges from $1 to $15, depending on the variation and condition.

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1989 Topps #605 Bob Welch

Bob Welch was a highly accomplished player and enjoyed a successful MLB career spanning 17 seasons. He was primarily a pitcher, known for his strong arm and competitive spirit on the mound.

Welch was a two-time MLB All-Star, and he won the American League Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher in 1990. His cards hold some value as a three-time World Series champion and the last pitcher to win at least 25 games in a single season. The error on this card is on its reverse side.

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A closer look at both cards above would show that the card in front is missing the point where it should say “Complete Major League Pitching Record.” The error was swiftly corrected, and cards with this misprint are worth more than 10x that of the corrected versions.

While not particularly valuable, his 1989 Topps error card is one of this set’s most valuable error cards. The value of this error card ranges from $3 to $34, depending on the condition and variation.

1989 Topps #689 Stan Jefferson

Stan Jefferson was an outfielder for five seasons in the MLB. While Jefferson had a promising start to his career, he struggled to maintain that level of success in subsequent seasons. Like most error cards in this set, you must pay attention to notice the error on this card. While the “22” written on his bat’s knob draws attention, the error is much less noticeable. There’s a pink triangle on the bottom left corner of the card’s front.

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For some reason, Topps felt the need to correct this error, requiring several attempts to do so. The 1989 Topps Stan Jefferson error card has three variants, and collectors desire all. Depending on the variation and condition, this card is valued between $1 to $8.

All Topps 1989 error cards and their variations

Although many are not particularly valuable, there are a variety of additional error cards from the 1989 Topps set.

CardDescription of Error
1989 Topps #27a Orestes DestradeE*F* before copyright*
1989 Topps #27b Orestes DestradeF* before copyright
1989 Topps #62a Alfredo GriffinRed bar over the photo in the top right border
1989 Topps #62b Alfredo GriffinRed bar partially airbrushed
1989 Topps #62c Alfredo GriffinThe red bar was removed entirely
1989 Topps #70a Mark McGwireA thin red line through the left of the name banner (above M in MARK)
1989 Topps #70b Mark McGwireThin red line removed
1989 Topps #151a Terry McGriffBackground of name/team banner partially printed in white
1989 Topps #151b Terry McGriffBackground of name/team banner printed entirely gray
1989 Topps #167a Steve SearcyA large gap between the hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #167b Steve SearcyA small gap between the hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #212a Scott SandersonDashed black right-side border
1989 Topps #212b Scott SandersonSolid black right-side border
1989 Topps #233a Gregg JefferiesA larger gap between the hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #233b Gregg JefferiesSmaller gap between the hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #303a Felix Fermin*F* before “copyright” on back*
1989 Topps #348a Ed HearnBlue streak across face
1989 Topps #348b Ed HearnStreak was removed from the front
1989 Topps #403a Kirby PuckettAS white blob over E in League on front
1989 Topps #403b Kirby PuckettThe white blob was removed from the front
1989 Topps #456a Tim BelcherWhite Dodgers name/team banner
1989 Topps #456b Tim BelcherGray Dodgers name/team banner
1989 Topps #469a Jose BautistaYellow wedge in the top orange border at left of card
1989 Topps #469b Jose BautistaSolid orange top border
1989 Topps #582a Mike MarshallA full red blotch on the sleeve
1989 Topps #582b Mike MarshallA partial red blotch on the sleeve
1989 Topps #582c Mike Marshall1/2 red 1/2 yellow blotch on sleeve
1989 Topps #582d Mike MarshallRed blotch was removed entirely
1989 Topps #588a Luis AliceaE*F* on back
1989 Topps #588b Luis AliceaF* on back
1989 Topps #594a Jimy WilliamsWhite area in J in Blue Jays on front
1989 Topps #594b Jimy WilliamsBlue area in J in Blue Jays on front
1989 Topps # 596 Kurt StillwellYellow overprint on the name on front
1989 Topps #648a Sandy Alomar Jr.Large gap between hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #648b Sandy Alomar Jr.Smaller gap between hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #662a Lou Brock TBCRed line down sleeve on front
1989 Topps #662b Lou Brock TBCRed line poorly airbrushed
1989 Topps #662c Lous Brock TBCRed line is completely airbrushed
1989 Topps #665a Tony Oliva TBCMissing copyright line on back
1989 Topps #665b Tony Oliva TBCCopyright line included on back
1989 Topps #665c Tony Oliva TBCCopyright line blacked-out on back
1989 Topps #691a Roberto KellyWhite Yankees name/team banner on front
1989 Topps #691b Roberto KellyGray Yankees name/team banner on front
1989 Topps #697a Franklin StubbsWhite Dodgers name/team banner on front
1989 Topps #697b Franklin StubbsGray Dodgers name/team banner on front
1989 Topps #711a Candy SierraBackground of name/team banner partially printed in white
1989 Topps #711b Candy SierraBackground of name/team banner entirely gray
1989 Topps #714a Joe Morgan MGRWhite blotch/mark over chest on front
1989 Topps #714b Joe Morgan MGRBlotch mark over chest airbrushed grayish-blue
1989 Topps #726a Dickie ThonYellow wedge in top orange border on front
1989 Topps #726b Dickie ThonSolid orange border on front
1989 Topps #732a Steve BeucheleLeft-leaning pink mark over Topps logo on front
1989 Topps #732b Steve BeucheleVertical pink mark over Topps logo on front
1989 Topps #732c Steve BeucheleRight-leaning pink mark over Topps logo on front
1989 Topps #732d Steve BeucheleHorizontal pink mark next to Topps logo on front
1989 Topps #732e Steve BeuchelePink mark removed from front
1989 Topps #741a Ken PhelpsWhite Yankees name/team banner on front
1989 Topps #741b Ken PhelpsGray Yankees name/team banner on front
1989 Topps #742a Mike HarkeyLarger gap between hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #742b Mike HarkeySmaller gap between hat and Future Stars header
1989 Topps #750a Bret SaberhagenPink and black blotch/marks under right elbow on front
1989 Topps #750b Bret SaberhagenPink and black blotch/marks partially airbrushed away
1989 Topps #750c Bret SaberhagenPink and black blotch/marks completely removed
1989 Topps #764a Robin VenturaRed bar under photo in bottom right border
1989 Topps #764b Robin VenturaRed bar partially airbrushed
1989 Topps #764c Robin VenturaRed bar was entirely removed

Value review of 1989 Topps Error cards

Topps’ 1989 impressive quality control measure coupled with the millions of copies printed has ensured no massive monetary value in the 1989 Topps error cards. The set lacked any significant error, and its cards are so common that thousands of copies of even the “rarest” variation exist.

It is, therefore, no surprise that most error cards from this set sell for $30 or less. However, this is a classic set with a nostalgic appeal to many collectors. Collectors love to collect this set for “the love of collecting,” and it’s a great addition to any collection.

Topps Tiffany 1989 baseball cards

As with all Topps sets released between 1984 and 1991, Topps released a Topps Tiffany set. The 1989 Topps Tiffany set consists of 792 cards, each measuring 2-1/2″ by 3-1/2″. It was identical in design to the regular 1989 Topps Baseball issue, with a white frame, team-appropriate, colored piping surrounding a color player photo on the card front.

The 1989 Topps Tiffany set was available to hobby dealers in cases with six sets in each case. The box design features a solid blue color, a unique gold border design, and the classic gold foil seal with the words “Contains One Complete Set” printed in blue ink. The box bottom is white, and each of the 792 cards is stamped with a unique set number. It is believed that under 15,000 sets were printed.

A print run of just 15,000 sets means that cards from the Topps Tiffany set hold their value exceedingly well. The 1989 Topps Tiffany set has the same error cards as the base set. However, these error cars sell for over 20X more than the regular 1989 Topps set error cards.

Identifying the 1989 Topps Tiffany set

The vast difference in value between 1989 Topps Tiffany error cards and the base set has led to a rise in fraud cases. Greedy sellers try to pass off cards from the 1989 Topps base set as Tiffany cards. Some fraudulent collectors list their regular cards as Tiffany cards on eBay and other platforms.

Buyers have to be careful in order to avoid spending a fortune on a card that’s not what it is advertised to be. You can differentiate the Tiffany cards from the base set in a few ways.

One easy way to differentiate both versions is to look at the cards. 1989 Topps Tiffany cards are printed on white card stock with a high-gloss coating, while the base set lacks gloss coating. However, the easiest way to identify a Tiffany card from a base card is to look at the reverse of the card. 1989 Topps Tiffany cards have a bright pink background, while the base issue cards are “red gray.”

Several sellers try to “brighten” cards from the base set to give the appearance of a Tiffany background. However, a keen eye would quickly identify a brightened base card from its appearance. Check the thickness and gloss of the card and compare it with a genuine 1989 Topps Tiffany card.

Bottomline of the 1989 Topps errors

The 1989 Topps set has surprisingly few errors card for a junk wax era set. However, these few errors and Topps’s insistence on correcting all errors have made for a set with various interesting variations.

While not particularly valuable, this iconic junk wax era set holds immense nostalgic value. Many of today’s collectors grew up collecting this set and wholly appreciate the cards’ unique designs and stories surrounding them.

Overall, the 1989 Topps error cards represent an exciting and intriguing aspect of the hobby and would make nice nostalgic addition to any baseball card collection.

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