A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Black Friday Countdown

I meant to get this post up yesterday, but like many people in this great country of ours, I was doing Black Friday things.  Nothing crazy - I got to sleep in a little - but my wife has made sure that every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, we decorate the house for Christmas.  This means picking out a Christmas tree and getting out the boxes of ornaments and decorations.  Busy day.

If you lived in San Diego, yesterday you had a chance to meet Padres manager Bud Black at the Padres team store.  "Bud Black Friday".  Kind of a cool concept, though I'm not much of a Bud Black fan.  Probably wouldn't wait in line to meet him, but still a pretty cool thing to do.  I think you got a free Padres hoodie if you spent more than $75, and that might've been more of a motivator for me to go there - imagine that it would be pretty easy to do in a team store, which are usually pretty overpriced.

The term "Black Friday" got me thinking about one of my favorite subjects: black bordered cards.

Here are a few gems from my collection.  All inserts or oddballs, all Padres, mostly Tony Gwynn cards.  While I love the Tony Gwynn "Black Gold" card at the bottom, my favorite would probably have to be the Gary Sheffield card in the middle.  Fleer Ultra was pretty awesome in the early 90's.

While those were all cool, there are many sets that have utilized black in the color scheme (not just inserts).  Today, I will attempt to rank them in order of preference/awesomeness.  The rankings are not scientific and subject to change, so let me know if you agree/disagree in the comments.

17. 2001 Upper Deck Vintage
The lowest set on the countdown gets docked all of it's points primarily for plagiarism.  This is a complete ripoff from the 1971 TOPPS set, the only difference being that the color of the team name looks different, and the nameplates are on the bottom.  I mean, it looks good, don't get me wrong, but zero points for originality.

16. Bowman, from ? to ?
Alright, in my time in the card-collecting hobby, I've become fairly adept at determining the year and make of a card by only a quick glance.  I'm not the best or anything, but I can hold my own.  But any black bordered set by Bowman?  Forget it.  I have no idea which is which.  If you can do it… well, I think you may have a problem.

15. 2007 Topps
I dunno why this one doesn't do it for me, but it's low on my list.  In 2007, I was still in college and didn't make time for baseball, let alone cards.  Maybe if I had been, these might hold a dearer spot in my heart.

14. 2013 Heritage (black border & Venezuelan backs)
I really like these, but they get docked points for scarcity.  Only a few players were granted the privilege of having a black bordered card, and the Venezuelan black backs were very short printed.  The magic of black needs to be shared with everybody, not held to a premium!

13. 1987 Donruss
The black borders look good with the some of the other colors in the set - purple, yellow, and red, but the gray and yellow "driving lane" of baseballs?  Points for originality, but can't say that I love it.  Like it, but don't love it.  They get dogged a few points for some of the photography in this set, though I'm a fan of these shots in particular.

12. 1991 Score
'91 Score was one of the many late 80s/early 90s Score sets that had different colored borders.  The black ones looked great, in my opinion, but in ranking of the black bordered cards, they lose points for not being black enough.  Wait, is there a better way to say that?

11. 1985 Donruss
Here is basically "ground zero" for black bordered cards.  Hard to imagine getting more basic than this: minimal border, small logos, with a few small red lines near the bottom.  You know how they say that everything goes with black?  I kinda think that brown might be the exception to the rule, and the red from the border with the yellow of Andy Hawkins' uniform isn't a great look.

10. 2009-2011 Topps black background parallels
I debated whether or not to include black parallels on the countdown, since they're not really a "set".  I decided to include them because… um… well, it's my list, and I wanted to.  I don't know how hard these were to come by, but I know that I don't have very many of these.  Apparently they stopped doing these parallels in 2011.  Don't worry though, there's still plenty of colored border parallels to go around.

9. 2011-present Topps black border parallels (serial numbered)
Speaking of which, here are some of those black border parallels.  I guess these don't really do much for me when they're side by side.  They look pretty cool when matched with all of the other different colored parallels, though.

8. 1993 Pinnacle
Alright, I said that the '85 Donruss was kind of the "ground zero", but this is probably the most basic you can get.  Minimal black border, small nameplate, hard to read team name at the top.  Why is this so high on my list?  I guess it has to do with the glossy finish and the quality of the photos.  I probably should've gone with some different cards to show, but for me, the early 90's Padres were all about these three, my favorite players.

7. 2009 O-Pee-Chee (black borders)
2009 O-Pee-Chee was a pretty solid release, in my book.  While it might've been a little on the bland side, the black bordered inserts were great cards to pull.  Really made the photography pop.  Since they came one per pack, they weren't too hard to come by, so that is pretty cool.

6. 1996 Pinnacle Summit
Pinnacle remains my all time favorite brand.  While it wasn't until the past few years that I became fully aware of all the different "offshoot" sets they released (Summit, Pinnacle, Inside, etc.).  While it took a little of the shine off how much I liked them, seeing that they looked like this makes up for it.  There are a few parallels in this one too, and they all look pretty good.

5. 1993 Triple Play
Man, Triple Play was so cool.  Aside from being pretty cheap, the info they had on the back was pretty cool, moreso if you were still in elementary school.  While the '92 set wasn't a big hit in my book, I love the all caps last name in bold at the top of each card.  Really, really great look.

4. 2013 Pinnacle
I was pretty disappointed that there weren't more collectors that liked '13 Pinnacle as much as I did.  I even bought a pack from the dollar store of basketball cards.  BASKETBALL CARDS!!!  That's how much I liked the set.  The lack of logos seemed to be the deal breaker, but I've seen enough rad 90's oddballs to believe that it's not a deal breaker.  Is it perfect?  No.  Was it my favorite release of last year?  Probably.  Really bummed that it didn't get continued this year.

3. 1992 Leaf Black Gold
I cheated a little bit with the scan and included the McGriff and Benes, which are actually from the "Preview" set.  While these are also parallels, they also weren't too hard to come by.  Leaf was the pioneer of the black border parallels, and they were awesome.  Especially if you consider how boring the '92 Leaf set looks without them.  Ahead of their time.

2. 1992 Pinnacle
OOOH, I really wanted to put the '92 Pinnacle set at the very top.  Tried to justify it.  In the end, I just couldn't do it.  Still, this is one of my top five favorite sets.  From the glossy black borders, the brightly colored nameplate, the informative backs, the sharp photography, this is a great set.  You know, in my opinion.  

1. 1971 Topps
Anybody surprised by this one?  Didn't think so.  The "grand daddy" of all the black bordered sets, I have to think that if I ever put a poll up on this subject, there would be few if any who wouldn't go with '71 Topps.  This is one of the first vintage Padres sets that I ever wanted to work on and one of the first to complete.  The only reason people might not like the set is the difficulty of finding copies of cards in good condition.  Those black borders are hard to keep crisp and sharp, very easy to see any flaws.  Very few in my collection are centered or have sharp corners, but they all look great.  I've even gone on to collect all the copy cat sets that Topps has released in the recent years honoring this set (2012 Archives and 2013 Topps Update Minis).

Well, there you have it.  Lots of black borders, eleven Tony Gwynn cards, all Padres, all stretching from 1971 to 2014.

Any black bordered cards/sets that I left off?  Any disagreements?  Any hot cardboard takes?  Lemme know.

Hope your Black Friday was a good one.


  1. Well they are not completely black bordered, but 1986 Topps had a tendency to chip just like a full black bordered card.

  2. Great post. My list would be a little different... but the 71T would be at the top of my list too. It's nice to find another collector out there who appreciates early 90's Ultra. Back in 1992, I busted a ton of that product and spent a ton of $$$ trying to build a master set of Fleer Ultra baseball. I still have the set in a binder with all of the inserts (except for the 9 Gwynn autographs).