Topps Woolworth’s Baseball Card Sets of the 1980s and ’90s – Box Set Boom

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Remember the boxed set boom of the 1980s and early 1990s?

It was all the fun of baseball card collecting without the hassle of opening packs and wondering who you were going to pull. Alright, so maybe it’s not hard to see why they fell by the wayside…

Still, while most of those sets hold little value these days as a result of mass production, they make the perfect oddball addition for single player or team collectors, not to mention the nostalgia factor.

The Topps company made a number of boxed sets for various retail stores in the late 80s and early 90s, and we’ve already highlighted the Topps Ames, Topps K-Mart, Topps Revco and Rite-Aid, and Topps Toys ‘R Us sets, and we’re not finished.

Woolworth’s was one of the country’s first five-and-dime stores, first opening its doors in 1879 and thriving for more than a century before eventually pivoting specifically to sporting goods and becoming Foot Locker, Inc.

The Topps Woolworth’s cards were one of the longer-tenured sets of the era, with six sets released over a seven-year span, starting in 1985.

1985 Topps Woolworth’s All-Time Record Holders

Cards: 44
Hall of Famers: 30

One of the first boxed sets released was the 1985 Topps Woolworth’s All-Time Record Holders set, which features a mix of active stars and retired legends.

Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Frank Robinson and Stan Musial are part of an impressive checklist that includes 30 Hall of Famers among the 44 cards.

As for active players, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, Rickey Henderson, Steve Carlton, Rollie Fingers and Dan Quisenberry are the six players included in the mix.

On the more obscure side, Owen Wilson–the single-season triple leader, not the actor–earned a spot for his 36-triple season in 1912 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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1987 Topps Woolworth’s Baseball Highlights

Cards: 33
Hall of Famers: 12

After taking a year off, Woolworth’s returned with their Baseball Highlights set in 1987, and it would be a staple on store shelves for five-years running.

The 33-card checklist focuses on career milestones, stat leaders, award winners, and postseason highlights from the previous year, with the final 15 cards in the set all spotlighting the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets.

Wade Boggs, Steve Carlton, Gary Carter, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Tim Raines, Jim Rice, Mike Schmidt, Don Sutton are the Hall of Famers who were featured on individual cards in the set. Carter and Rice also found their way onto a second card for the World Series highlights.

The cards have a plain design, with a bright yellow border and no Woolworth’s branding to be found as “Topps Collector’s Series” was printed across the front. That would change in the years that followed.

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1988 Topps Woolworth’s Baseball Highlights

Cards: 33
Hall of Famers: 8

The Woolworth’s set was redesigned for the 1988 season, with “Woolworth’s Baseball Highlights” now prominently featured on the card fronts with a simple Topps logo in the bottom right corner.

The set once again features 18 cards of various record setters, stat leaders and award winners, followed by 15 cards for the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals.

Wade Boggs, Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray, Nolan Ryan and Mike Schmidt have individual cards in the set. They are joined by World Series cards of Bert Blyleven and Kirby Puckett to make up the list of eight Hall of Famers in the set.

Don Baylor is card No. 1 for breaking the career hit-by-pitch record with his 244th career HBP to pass Ron Hunt on the all-time list.

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1989 Topps Woolworth’s Baseball Highlights

Cards: 33
Hall of Famers: 5

For the 1989 set, Topps changed up the color scheme, but kept the same basic design as the previous year’s release.

The award winners kicks off the checklist this time around, with MVP winners Jose Canseco and Kirk Gibson, Cy Young winners Orel Hershiser and Frank Viola, and Rookie of the Year winners Walt Weiss and Chris Sabo accounting for the first six cards.

The statistical milestones and league leaders cards were expanded to occupy the first 22 cards in the set, with just 11 dedicated to the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics. That includes one for Kirk Gibson’s legendary walk-off home run.

The Randy Johnson card highlighting his record-setting 6’10” frame has the highest book value of any of the Woolworth’s cards, thanks to the fact that it was released the same year as his Rookie Cards.

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1990 Topps Woolworth’s Baseball Highlights

Cards: 33
Hall of Famers: 14

The 1990 set followed an identical blueprint to the 1989 release, with an identical design aside from a color change, 22 cards dedicated to individual accomplishments, and 11 cards focused on the 1989 World Series.

An impressive 14 Hall of Famers found their way onto the 33-card checklist, including the first Woolworth’s Topps cards of George Brett, Carlton Fisk, Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg and Robin Yount.

Kevin Mitchell, Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart each have two cards in the set.

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1991 Topps Woolworth’s Baseball Highlights

Cards: 33
Hall of Famers: 12

The final Woolworth’s set came out in 1991, and it was once again a carbon copy of the previous year’s design and checklist layout.

The only newcomer to the set among the Hall of Fame contingent was Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, though the set also features the first and only Woolworth’s Topps card of Barry Bonds.

Golden Spikes Award winner Alex Fernandez was included in the set, marking the first time a recent draft pick had been part of the checklist. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 1990 draft by the Chicago White Sox.

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Joel Reuter

Joel is a National MLB Columnist at Bleacher Report who has spent the last decade as a full-time MLB writer. A lifelong Cubs fan and Chicago resident, nostalgia drives his card-collecting focus. He is currently working on assembling the entire base catalogs of four of his all-time favorites—Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

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1 comment

  1. GriffeyFan 26 March, 2022 at 09:23

    Still bugs me to this day that Topps missed the mark on having Griffey Jr in at least one of these sets between ’89 and ’91.

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