Brighter Days Ahead
The 1981 version of the New York Mets wasn't very good, finishing second to last in the old NL East, ahead of the Chicago Cubs. They were managed by Joe Torre, who would make a bigger name for himself 15 years later managing the other New York team. Two of the starters on the 1986 Mets team debuted in 1980, so they had their rookie cards in the 1981 sets. Mookie Wilson was on the multi-player rookie card for the Mets in the Topps set, which I listed under miscellaneous cards, but he gets his own card in the 1981 Donruss set. Wally Backman also has his rookie card in the 1981 Fleer set (sorry, don't own this card and couldn't find a good picture of it anywhere online).
Veering away from the Mets, this is the first post I've made showing a sample of each of the major card sets put out in 1981.
I really like the Topps set from this year, it makes good use of team colors with the hats in the corners and the photography was really good.
I also really like the debut set from Fleer with the simple baseball in the corner with the team name inside and the simple name and position next to it in a yellow box and plenty of room for an uncluttered picture. Trust me, I generally hate Fleer cards, they always seemed like the cheap set to me, even before Score, Upper Deck and some other high end sets came out later in the decade. They were always thinner than the Topps cards and the designs looked like they were thrown together at the last minute. Wait until we get to 1982 with Fleer to see how awful they could make cards.
The debut set for Donruss is also nice, but they would do better as the decade wore on. I think they put out the best sets available for several years in the mid-'80s from a design standpoint. I have no inside knowledge of this, but I wonder if Donruss was the first to use computers when designing their cards. I can point out why I think this when we get to the 1984 cards. For 1981, I like the Fleer set better, and that is why I have a preference for them when making these checklists for 1981 when there is a player who is in both Fleer and Donruss sets, but not in the Topps set. This will change when I move onto 1982.
I am not sure how distribution of cards was in the 1980s, but until there were card shops everywhere and you just bought cards in the candy sections of the grocery store, I always was able to get near complete sets of Topps and Donruss cards, but rarely ever even got one Fleer card. Usually, I picked up Fleer cards at an outdoor fleamarket in a large farmers field my parents would go to every Sunday morning to get fresh vegetables, and there was one guy there with a table full of current baseball cards for sale. This is sort of where I came up with the idea to just get the players that didn't come in the other sets, because he would charge premium prices for the rookies and hot players (OK 25 cents a card seemed outrageous when you could buy a whole pack in 1984 for nearly that price), so I would dig through the box for players that I didn't have in the other sets. Mostly this amounted to backup catchers, who for whatever reason only showed up in the Fleer set, and I could get them for a nickel, which seemed more reasonable. Perhaps this is why I think Fleer is the cheap set, because I have almost no star players on a Fleer card, unless I bought them in the ebay era.
|__||FL||69||MN||Bruce Bochy (or DO 20) ||HOU|
|__||FL||325||MG||Joe Torre (or DO 506) ||NYM|