Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Borders vs. full bleed

Borders have been a part of baseball cards for over a century.

They're pretty much everywhere you look. Tobacco cards, Topps, Donruss, you name it.

Then, right around the start of the wacky '90s, borders met their match with the advent of full-bleed designs. We're mostly back to borders these days, but the legacy of a lot of those full-bleed sets can still be seen today.

I've noticed a few different "borders vs. full-bleed" debates pop up around the blogs lately. I've never put much thought into the argument until I started reading about it.

I decided to do a little further investigation to hopefully put my two cents into the topic and see which type of card I truly prefer.

Both have their pros and cons.

As I said, borders have been a mainstay on cards for nearly forever.

They definitely bring a certain elegance to cardboard that can't be accomplished through full-bleed designs. Borders make you feel like you're holding something special in your hands.

It's part of the reason why Topps has garnered such a huge reputation in the hobby. I don't think it's a coincidence that every Flagship set ever released has featured borders. Would the '87 Topps design be as memorable without the famous wood-grain borders? Probably not.

Then again, maybe the whole border thing has been overdone. Topps has started to put me to sleep with all the boring white-bordered sets over the last decade.

They can improve their photography all they want, but a shift to more flashy borders would really get my attention.

Perhaps a full-bleed Topps set wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

The usage of full-bleed designs is a fairly new innovation. I could be wrong about this, but the oldest example I can think of is the debut of Stadium Club in 1991.

From there, more and more brands and designs started to branch out into the full-bleed world. Stadium Club continued to run with the idea during their run. Upper Deck converted to full-bleed for a few years in the mid '90s.

Many others followed.

Arguably my favorite example of full-bleed cardboard comes from mid '90s Fleer.

If you've ever held one of these before, you probably know that they have an odd matte finish that was a grand departure from the glossy domination that was sweeping the hobby at the time.

1997 Fleer is a particular favorite of mine. It truly stands out from the gluttony of similar sets that were being released in the mid '90s. Part of that has to do with the full-bleed design.

One thing I like about full-bleed is that it places an emphasis on the photography. Whether they're posed, candid, action, or whatever, we buy the cards for the pictures if you stop and think about it.

Like bordered cardboard, though, full-bleed can get boring if used too often. Plus, most full-bleed sets lack a sense of identity that make deigns like '87 Topps so famous.

I doubt we'd ever describe a full-bleed set as iconic.

In the end, I decided that I prefer borders over full-bleed.

I'll just put this way. Can you imagine '75 Topps with a full-bleed design? I can't. The colorful borders are what made the set last the test of time.

However, I do believe that there is a place for full-bleed cards in the hobby. I think we could benefit from seeing a few full-bleed sets these days. They'd bring a nice change of pace to what is becoming a fairly redundant selection of designs.

If I have to choose one or the other, I'm going with borders. Borders make the hobby for me.

I couldn't imagine baseball cards without them.


Hackenbush said...

I'm firmly in the full bleed camp. To me it's all about the photography. Like no one goes to the game to see the umpires, for me I don't buy cards for the borders.

night owl said...

I've said this so many times I'm sick of seeing myself write it:

Border and design creates memorable cards. Unless your set is the first-ever to feature full-bleed photos or every photo is the most OMG moment you've ever seen, it's just not going to stick in the brain, and therefore not be as memorable as a card set with a border/design.

That said, some borders are crap.

defgav said...

In today's colored-border parallel happy landscape, I think it'll be a while till we see another full-bleed set. Hopefully Topps can at least sneak in some via inserts.. but a full set? Won't happen for decades to come. If Topps even came out with a non-white border set again, THAT would be a big deal. Kinda sad.

BaseSetCalling said...

Gah! The meathook card! I think that Blyleven card gave me nightmares when I was little. But I like it tons these days.

There is a full bleed set on the way this fall, I would expect - a new try at Stadium Club. I'm looking forward to the cards, but I'm not generally a fan of sets that come out after the season is over. Just all wrong.

I like full bleed cards. But I'm not sure I like full bleed sets and have never completed one. The lack of border gets to be a bit much, card after card after card. After a while I need a sip of Coke and some crackers to settle the stomach.

So I liked the near-full-bleed Chase It Down insert set in Series 2 last year. Just the right amount.

CaptKirk42 said...

I tend to go with borders. Full-Bleed often times to me just looks like a wallet sized photograph or a slightly oversized business card not a trading card. There are some exceptions and I don't really follow the border vs. full bleed rules. I like what I like no reason needed.

Mark Hoyle said...

Agree with CaptKirk . Have to go with borders. Full bleed just look like small photos

Marcus said...

I like a mix of both. I suppose that I would say I prefer cards with a border ('71 Topps, '91 Fleer), but I prefer full bleed cards over cards with lame borders. The oldest example of full bleed cards would be the oddball Mother's Cookies sets, which became semi-popular for team sets in the '80s and '90s, but date back to the 50's.