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1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds #163A J.Ray | 1990 Topps #414A Frank Thomas NNOF

50 or 75 years from now, which will end up being the most valuable baseball card from the 80s and 90s: the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds #163A ERR J.Ray or the 1990 Topps #414A Frank Thomas RC ERR No Name on Front? I'm talking about the card that will garner the most attention (and the largest, biometric nanobot wallets) in the distant future. The top card of a generation should have: general scarcity, scarcity of high grade examples, high demand, elite player quality, and historical importance. Examples from PSA's site are below.

General Scarcity
The two rarest cards of note from the junk wax era of 1987-1993 are the Bonds and Thomas rookie year error cards. The print runs of these two cards are miniscule on an absolute scale. But compared to that of the most valuable rookie year cards spanning both decades - like Rickey Henderson's 1980 Topps RC, or Roger Clemens' 1985 Topps Tiffany, or Derek Jeter's 1993 SP RC - the print runs of the two error cards are downright microscopic. Values will eventually catch up to that fact even if it takes the better part of another century. The Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC is in high demand, elite, and a titan in the hobby, but the sheer number of copies out there, over 1,000,000 in all likelihood, takes it out of the running like most cards from the era, ergo the junk reputation.

Chipper Jones' 1991 Topps Desert Shield RC is an interesting case. While not as rare as the two error cards, there are supposed to be virtually no unopened Desert Shield packs left. So the number of cards in circulation very nearly matches the total number in existence. Even though there were more copies printed of the Jones Desert Shield (6000+) than the Clemens Tiffany (5000), there are likely to be fewer examples floating out there. Yet neither are close to matching the general scarcity of the error cards.

High-Grade Scarcity
If a card is scarce in any condition, you can bet it's even more rarified in mint condition. Let's use PSA's population report to get a feel for grade distribution and how high grade instances of each card are selling today. We'll take PSA 10s into account but there is so much variance in population count and unpredictably steep premiums at that grade. PSA 9s and 8s are probably more useful data points.

Bonds, out of 130 submissions so far:
PSA 8 (Pop 51): $700
PSA 9 (Pop 40): $1000
PSA 10 (Pop 13): $4000

Thomas, out of 201 submissions so far:
PSA 8 (Pop 92): $5000
PSA 9 (Pop 19): $15,000
PSA 10 (Pop 1): $50,000

Jones, out of 597 submissions so far:
PSA 8 (Pop 226): $550
PSA 9 (Pop 136): $1100
PSA 10 (Pop 31): $10,500

Henderson, out of 19,018 submissions so far:
PSA 8 (Pop 8642): $60
PSA 9 (Pop 1849): $350
PSA 10 (Pop 22): $27,500

Clemens, out of 1369 submissions so far:
PSA 8 (Pop 625): $100
PSA 9 (Pop 591): $250
PSA 10 (Pop 45): $3500

Jeter, out of 14,887 submissions so far:
PSA 8 (Pop 8400): $275
PSA 9 (Pop 581): $3000
PSA 10 (Pop 22): $50,000

Demand/Player Quality/Historical Significance
In Barry Bonds' favor:
Fewer instances in existence?
More 10s mean more chaseable ideal examples
HOF delay depresses current value
Prevailing modern attitude about steroids legacy depresses current demand
General dislike for the player depresses current demand
Will be appreciated for being a far better player by future generations
Better-looking card design
Higher res photography

In Frank Thomas' favor:
True RC
Pulled from wax packs
Card is worth way more today
More condition sensitive - No Thomas BGS 9.5s or 10s yet. Ten "true" Bonds BGS 9.5s (37 overall) and one BGS 10.
More popular player then and now
Correct player pictured
Not widely suspected of PED use

Ok, so at the end of this list, it really looks like you have to give it to the NNOF. Many of the arguments favoring Bonds are a reach. One is a question. The hobby was a strange one growing up. It's probably no less strange today. Everyone adored Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, and Juan Gonzalez. They pretty much ignored everyone else. Maybe that will stand the test of time. But I just can't believe that a rookie year error - and possibly the scarcest - card, of the best player of his generation, won't eventually find its way into the good graces of the baseball card collecting community in a major way.

Random questions/thoughts
Did I leave out any obvious contenders?
How many total Thomas and Bonds errors do you think actually exist?
How many have yet to be pulled from unopened packs and boxes?
Got any memorable anecdotes about either of these cards?



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    Dpeck100Dpeck100 Posts: 10,910 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great first post!

    Welcome to the boards.

    I think the Thomas because it pictures him and he is such a likable athlete. So many guys my age (39) grew up loving The Big Hurt and his size and athleticism were incredible. The card was a mythical one seeing it in the price guide at $700 so it’s alwsys been an expensive sought after card and always will be.

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    bighurt2000bighurt2000 Posts: 1,023 ✭✭✭
    edited October 27, 2018 11:24AM

    The Dmitri Young PSA 10 Frank Thomas RC should never have been graded a PSA 10 the back
    of the card has black ink bleeding. Why it got a 10 is beyond me so I think PSA 9's are under valued.


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    craig44craig44 Posts: 10,693 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The nnof for sure. I am a bit biased though. More well known card that features the player and from a mainstream set, not a box set.

    As far as the dimitry young version, there is no way that should be in a 10 holder. There is a touch on the bottom right corner and an ugly back. I have a couple myself, one of them is in a 9 holder and is much nicer in my opinion

    George Brett, Roger Clemens and Tommy Brady.

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    Stone193Stone193 Posts: 24,362 ✭✭✭✭✭

    One of the best "first" posts here in quite some time.


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    Huskies11Huskies11 Posts: 312 ✭✭✭

    Great thread, I tend to agree that the NNOF will be the winner in the long run for all the reasons you listed.

    This thread got me thinking though- at what point does a print defect become an error card? I wonder if it wasn't the Frank card would we give it that error card designation. I know that a few other cards were similarly effected, does anyone know whether they get the error designation as well? I need to revisit that investigative post on here about the 90 NNOF card, it was an amazing read.

    Currently Collecting:

    • Baseball: Griffey Jr, Red Sox, 80s/90s/00s
    • Basketball: Jordan, Bird, 80s/90s
    • Football: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Patriots
    • Hockey: Gretzky, Buffalo Sabres

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    craig44craig44 Posts: 10,693 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Huskies, the nnof thread is the greatest one ever on this forum. So much great information.

    There are other similar errors to the nnof like the 1958 herrer, the 1990 king and the 1988 comstock those last two were color variations

    George Brett, Roger Clemens and Tommy Brady.

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    lightningboylightningboy Posts: 1,483 ✭✭✭

    Very interesting analysis. Thanks. I do question the belief that 0 desert shield packs remain unopened. I have 1 from s BBCE group purchase that we did a few years ago. I would think a few others on the Board may still have theirs unopened, as well.

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    FrozencaribouFrozencaribou Posts: 1,087 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Errors and rarities have been an integral part of the hobby since the early days of collecting, so I don't see cards like the Barry Bonds/Johnny Ray card ever losing its appeal. That said, these cards are not for everyone. I would have loved to come across the Bonds error, but only to try to capitalize on its value to get a card I'd enjoy. Also, opening day was a nice to have secondary set from Donruss, as were the myriad of kmart, kaybee, and other boxed sets in the 1980's. Very surprised in retrospect that other boxed sets didn't follow suit with scarce error cards.

    Cards like the Henderson, Clemens, and Jeter will have broad based appeal for as long as there are collectors. They might fluctuate as the market does, but I don't see those three cards underperforming in comparison to other high end cards.


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    BriYo79BriYo79 Posts: 150 ✭✭✭
    edited October 28, 2018 1:03PM

    Comment deleted to avoid another ban.

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    lawyer05lawyer05 Posts: 2,141 ✭✭✭✭
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    CakesCakes Posts: 3,488 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great write up, thank you and welcome to the boards.

    I think it's only a matter of time before the Bonds start to take back off again. It might take another 20 years for many of old school writers, etc... start to die off but he will get his due as the best player of the last 50 years.

    I still get a chuckle at how magical everyone thought it was when McGuire and Sosa chased down the HR record even though both had clearly been juicing. All the hatred came out full force when Bond's made his run at the record books.

    Successful coin BST transactions with Gerard and segoja.

    Successful card BST transactions with cbcnow, brogurt, gstarling, Bravesfan 007, and rajah 424.
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    lawyer05lawyer05 Posts: 2,141 ✭✭✭✭

    @MLBdays said:
    The Barry Bonds Error card kind of foreshadows the fact that his career numbers were a fraud..... His best RC above isn't really even him at all. Appropriate I find. I think if I were a collector of Bonds though this error would be a very high priority. Nice thread.

    His numbers were not> @Cakes said:

    Great write up, thank you and welcome to the boards.

    I think it's only a matter of time before the Bonds start to take back off again. It might take another 20 years for many of old school writers, etc... start to die off but he will get his due as the best player of the last 50 years.

    I still get a chuckle at how magical everyone thought it was when McGuire and Sosa chased down the HR record even though both had clearly been juicing. All the hatred came out full force when Bond's made his run at the record books.

    agreed, but then again, he was a jerk,

    (insert your Bonds Jerk Story here)

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    ReggieClevelandReggieCleveland Posts: 3,855 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting that one card has everything but the player's name and the other card has nothing but the player's name. I think the Bonds is more of a niche card because of that. The photo of Johnny Ray hampers it.

    It also doesn't have a story. There's no lore to it. The Thomas card was a legend before the actual legend was discovered. That is another feather in its cap. But really I don't think they're good comparisons. Still an interesting conversation to have.

    Welcome to the board!


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    waxman2745waxman2745 Posts: 731 ✭✭✭

    I was chasing that 87 Bonds/Johnny Ray error in the 90s after reading about it in the Beckett book, which said that less than 1% of sets contained the error. I probably opened 10 sets from various sources but all had the Bonds version. I never even saw a photo of the error card until the mid 2000s when I saw one listed on ebay.

    buying O-Pee-Chee (OPC) baseball
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    BriYo79BriYo79 Posts: 150 ✭✭✭

    Gotta love the nineties and the error card craze.

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    BLUEJAYWAYBLUEJAYWAY Posts: 8,194 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I prefer the Thomas.

    Successful transactions:Tookybandit. "Everyone is equal, some are more equal than others".
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    garnettstylegarnettstyle Posts: 2,143 ✭✭✭✭

    Totally love the brown bordered card.


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