Baseball Cards Years and Manufacturers Ranked by Strongest and Weakest Cardboard!

Hi Folks,

   For those of you that have been collecting for many years, or for those that collect vintage baseball cards, at some point in time, you might have noticed a trend among certain years of baseball cards, and among certain manufacturers. There are just some years of cards that are close to impossible to find with sharp corners, without paint chipping... cards that will hold up if you look at them the wrong way!

   For the sake of "Vintage", which I have defined as 20 years or older, I've ranked the Top 3 strongest cardboard years with the manufacturers, and I have also ranked the Top 3 weakest cardboard years with the manufacturers. Included in deciding these ranks are considerations of the wear and tear effects of what I call "Pokemon" corners (rounded corners), wavy edges, and easy creasing. Again, please remember, this is from my experience of collecting, buying, selling, and handling thousands upon thousands of these cards over the past 30+ years that I have been in the hobby.


1) 1983 FLEER: After a decent showing in 1981 and 1982 with their first 2 re-emergence years in the hobby, the Fleer set from 1983 is built to last. This is extremely fortunate, because 3 major Hall of Famer Rookie Cards (Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, and Ryne Sandberg) are included in this set, among many other major HOF Stars. There is something different and almost space-age to the 1983 Fleer cards, and they can "take a punch" and survive, unscathed. The Winner!!

2) 1991 UPPER DECK: Another set in the 3rd year of the company's baseball card set issue, the 1991 Upper Deck issue is made of quite a strong cardboard! Although they were certainly over-produced, there are still some great cards in this set, like the 3rd year Ken Griffey Jr. Card, as well as another HOF'er, Jeff Bagwell, with his rookie card in this set.

3) 1969 TOPPS: OK, I had to throw one in for Topps, and honestly, with 50 years of time on them, these cards have held up extremely well, but, whatever Topps did in 1969 did not last, because the 1970 Topps cards went downhill!


1) 1976 TOPPS: My absolute favorite set, as I remember going to a store as a 5 year old and buying a pack (I wish I bought a few cases...what was I thinking??). However, even with 1976 cards acquired via set breaks, which is where a majority of cards on come from, there is still a major inherent weakness to the corners and the paint on these cards, and errant creasing building from the corners inward. Unless they are stored in a sleeve and a top loader, avoiding any type of handling or exposure to air, these cards are tough! The 1975 Topps card stock was not nearly as bad, however the 1976 Topps and the following year, 1977 Topps, were the two worst, in my experience.

2) 1977 TOPPS: As mentioned above, this is another set that yields very easily to excessive handling, and also, to open air exposure. Paint chipping is more evident on the 1977 cards vs the 1976 cards, but these are slightly less susceptible to errant creasing.

3) 1970 TOPPS: After a relatively banner year for cardboard strength in 1969, the 1970 Topps became one of the most crease-likely cards that have been made. The cardboard is not necessarily super weak, but there is something to the internal structure of the cards that makes them develop stacking creases, as I call them (creases that build in size and spider out across the card). It seems the lower/earlier series of the 1970 Topps baseball cards are the worst (perhaps due to the lesser amount of handling on the higher series?)

   Aside from having to deal with the issues highlighted above, I would not want the composition of baseball cards to be anything but cardboard...but to the manufacturers, we ask; Please try to copy the formula that made the 1983 Fleer baseball cards the "Iron Mike Tyson" of the baseball card collecting hobby!!

   How has your experience been with the Cardboard treasures that we all know and love? I'd love to know!


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