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Before Upper Deck, these cards were the “premium” brand

Donruss was ahead of its time in 1986. Topps was for the traditional collectors. Fleer was a little harder to find than Topps, but at the time seemed a bit bland. Donruss, though…

Runnells 1986 Donruss

Look at those blue and black stripes! And the slanted name! I don’t care that I’ve never heard of Tom Runnells, these cards were fancy and futuristic!

Am I the only one that felt this way?

I remember going to a baseball card and comic book show somewhere in Ohio, maybe Dayton or Columbus, with a friend in 1986. It was a long car ride, and I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend. I spied a 1986 Donruss Dwight Gooden card, and the dealer priced it at $3 if memory serves. $3 for a non-rookie card. Nothing released by Topps approached that! You could get Topps packs at the convenience store or gas station, but Donruss? Not a chance! Packs were more expensive, and singles were more expensive, because they were not as readily available as Topps.

I didn’t buy the Gooden card. I have no clue what I did end up buying on that trip, if anything. It was a long time before I acquired many 1984-1986 Donruss cards. I now own most of them, missing only a handful from 1984 (Dave Concepcion Diamond King and the Johnny Bench/Carl Yastrzemski special) and 1986 (Ted Power and Max Venable). They still look futuristic compared to their contemporaries. Of course, the price has dropped considerably on most of those cards, and with the internet, they are easy to obtain on the cheap. Still there is something about them that is timeless.

Topps and Fleer released update sets at the end of the year to showcase veterans that changed teams and rookies. Donruss didn’t care about traded players, but they certainly cared about rookies. Young up-and-coming players who were sure-fire future Hall of Famers like Jose Canseco and Bo Jackson were a hot commodity and Donruss needed to cash in! There was only one Cincinnati player featured in the green-and-black striped 1986 Donruss Rookies set, and it wasn’t Barry Larkin. Tracy Jones was the can’t-miss rookie in the Queen City. But boy, did he ever miss.

1986 Donruss Rookies Jones

Donruss also released a set called “Highlights” featuring gold and black stripes. Monthly award winners, Hall of Fame selections, MVPs, Rookies of the Year, and Cy Young pitchers were all included, as well as record breakers and other newsworthy events. Bill Gullickson, Ernie Lombardi, and Eric Davis all scored cards in the Highlights set. This set seems to have been produced in greater quantities and can often be found for a buck or two.

1986 Donruss Highlights Gullickson

Finally, we have the Donruss version of O-Pee-Chee. Leaf cards were the Canadian version of Donruss and were produced from 1985 through 1988 with a smaller checklist. Reds catcher Bo Diaz is one of only eight “regular” Reds cards that made it into the Leaf set.


Donruss also released a set of supersized All-Star cards in 1986 that were as big as two regular cards placed side-by-side. According to my wantlist, I have the Pete Rose card but I’m missing Dave Parker. I think I do have Parker also, but those cards are still in a shoebox somewhere and I’m not supposed to bend over right now because I’m still recovering from back surgery I had in September.


Fun Cards: 1988 Topps Tracy Jones (Expos)

Tracy Jones Montreal Expos 1988 Topps

Tracy Jones was supposed to form one of the greatest outfields in the history of baseball with Kal Daniels and Eric Davis and usher in the era of the New Red Machine. That didn’t happen. Instead, Jones was sent to Montreal in 1988, then was traded to the Giants, then the Tigers, then the Mariners, and was out of the major leagues after the 1991 season.

Jones found new life on radio in the 21st century, but was let go from Cincinnati’s 700 WLW in 2017 after ten years as on-air host. His son, Hunter, is currently in the Nationals’ minor league system.


Comparing these cards side-by-side, I see that I messed up on the nameplate by not stretching the player name. I’m not overly concerned with it, though.

Happy Reds birthday, Tracy Jones!


March 31, 1961

Tracy Jones debuted with the Reds on Opening Day, 1986, and collected his first big league hit off one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time, Steve Carlton. He also took a walk off Carlton, stole a base, and scored a run. Not a terrible debut. He is currently co-hosting an afternoon radio show with Eddie Fingers on Cincinnati’s 700 WLW.

SLTB ’88: Tracy Jones

I always like Tracy Jones. He was hard-nosed and left it all out on the field. Currently he hosts a mid-day radio talk show on 700 WLW with another local icon Eddie Fingers. It’s not always sports, but it’s always entertaining. Well, almost always. There is also an on-line Tracy Jones Fan Club.

A Gift from 30-Year Old Cardboard

I got an e-mail last week from 30-Year Old Cardboard saying he had something for me, but he didn’t tell me what. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and spied this…

Tracy Jones, the hard-nosed hustler who came up with the Reds in the 1980s and played for a number of teams during his career, before becoming a radio host on 700 WLW here in Cincinnati. He’s on the air every weekday from 3-6 pm with Eddie Fingers. He’s fun to listen to, he’s conservative on most issues, and he gives insights into the sport on a non-sports show.

Right below the Jones was a few 2008 Reds cards, 3 from Topps U&H and an Aaron Harang from Baseball Heroes. Had that been the entirety of the package, I would have been happy. I would have ended this post here. But that’s not all…

Not only did I get Tracy Jones, not only did I get some 2008 Reds that I didn’t have yet, I also got…

Chris “Spuds” Sabo, one of my absolute favorite players, one of the players I collect, autographed!!!

A spectacular gift, and much appreciated from 30-Year Old Cardboard!

Mailbox mania

This was a good week for the mailbox. A few days ago I received a pack of soccer cards from the Bad Wax Forums for being one of the first 10 people to post five times on the board. I actually didn’t even know about the contest until after I started posting. It’s a great place to talk about baseball (and other sports) cards, sets you are working on, trades, great pulls, etc. There is also a forum for the Fun Cards set which is in progress. If you are a collector, come on over and start discussing your collection with others.

Today, I opened my mail to find some O-Pee-Chee and other cards from the 88 Topps blog. Andrew is giving away cards left and right, and he even threw in a couple bonus cards in my prize. I got the Delino DeShields draft card (which was not in the regular Topps set), John Franco, Dave Parker (Cobra for the HOF!), Tracy Jones (who now has a talk show on 700 WLW in Cincinnati), Shawon Dunston (one of my all-time favorites), and Tom Henke. He also threw in a couple of Topps’ “Fan Favorites” cards, Fergie Jenkins and Ken Griffey Sr. A great surprise, and much appreciated.

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