Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 47: 1987 Topps #170 Bo Jackson RC

Looking back, we can say that some cards "defined" an entire era of the game.

For the '50s, it's rookies of future legends like Aaron and Koufax that came to represent the "golden age" of the game. Even Andy Pafko, an otherwise obscure name, comes to mind when dealing with 1950's cardboard.

In terms of the '70s, the first one I think of is the tragic '73 Topps Roberto Clemente issue. Iconic rookies of George Brett and Mark Fidrych are also among the more well-known cards of the decade.

As far as so-called "junk wax" goes, I think it's safe to say that today's subject belongs to that elite group.

Bo Jackson's famous 1987 Topps rookie may be the quintessential piece from the overproduction era.

There may be other "junk wax" cards I like better, but I have a hard time coming up with any others that capture the years in a greater light.

In a way, Bo Jackson's career turned out a lot like the overproduction era itself.

It started out with so much promise. For a few years, Jackson was a nationwide sensation, hitting his peak around 1989 or 1990.

Due to some unfortunate events and missed opportunities, he wound up hobbled and largely forgotten by the time his career came to a close in 1994.

To some, Jackson's '87 Topps rookie will always be a reminder of what could have been.

It's the same with the hobby as well.

In my eyes, 1987 Topps borders close on being the "perfect" Topps set. The wood borders, the well-placed logo, and, of course, the colorful "Future Stars" designation. (Topps can replicate the minis all they want, but they'll never come close to the real thing.)

While there were a couple brief flashes of greatness (like Topps' 1991 offering), the overproduction era left a sour taste in a lot of collector's mouths after the promise of the famous '87 set.

Maybe it's because I didn't grow up during the time period, but I've never been one to simply dismiss the era as an altogether awful time for the hobby.

On the contrary, actually.

Between all the heaps of forgotten names in 1990 Donruss or 1991 Fleer, there's some greatness to be found. Names like Abbott and Ripken come to mind. Even the "Eight Men Out".

I've always looked for things to celebrate about "junk wax".

Hence, this entire theme.


Mark Kaz said...

As someone who grew up in the "junk wax" era, I can safely say that I will forever love the cards from this time period. 1987 was my first year of collecting and, to me, this is one of the most iconic cards of all time. I'm thankful to have amassed several copies of it.

And, I totally agree with what you wrote about '87 Topps approaching "perfect" status. I think with better photograph choices (less spring training photos, please!) it would be a flawless set. As it stands, I still prefer the '89 design and card backs. But, I accept my minority status in that regard.

Great post!

JediJeff said...

Have to ask, Nick - did you dime box that Jackson?

Nick said...

It may have been a dime box find, I've had it for so long that I forget where I even nabbed my copy.

I'm pretty sure I've seen it a few times in dime boxes over the years, though.

Anonymous said...

1987 Topps may not be my favorite, but for me it's certainly the one by which all others are judged.

I love the Manager and Future Star cards. The All-Stars not so much.

hiflew said...

I think you made a fine choice as the definitive card of the junk wax era from a modern viewpoint. However, as a member of the club that started collecting in this era, that card wasn't even Bo's most noteworthy rookie at the time (that would be his Donruss card) although it has held up much better.

My vote for definitive card(s) of the era would be the 1988 Donruss Gregg Jeffries and the 1990 Donruss John Olerud. These two cards were as hot as Harper or Strasburg when they came out. Both were regularly selling for $5-10 each at the time. They are both a perfect metaphor for the era, really popular at the time...virtually worthless today.

Josh D. said...

That Bo is my FAVORITE card of all time. It's my Zistle profile picture now, and I have several copies of it. Every time I trade one away, the recipient has been happy to get it.

All those 1987 Future Stars cards are pretty sweet, but I think the Palmeiro is the 2nd best in terms of visual appeal (sorry, BJ Surhoff).