You’re an old baseball card collector … or you’re an old collector of baseball cards … or both … or you have one in your life.

Point is, you need some ideas about what to buy a baseball card collector who has everything but wants more, and you don’t want to break the bank.

Well … you’ve come to the right place, Skippy!

Welcome to this list of ten great 1980s collectibles that any hobbyist will love … and they all check in under $50 most of the time. Usually a way under. And that’s for complete sets.

Oh, and there’s one entry for each year of the decade, because we do stuff like that around here.

Let’s dig in …

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1980 TCMA Baseball Immortals

1980 TCMA Baseball Immortals

In case you’re not of a certain age, you should know some context for this one …

See, before 1981, the new-card landscape was pretty barren.

That is, before Fleer and Donruss hit the scene, you had … Topps, pretty much.

And then a few oddball sets here and there, mostly also produced by Topps.

But there were also some minor league sets produced by, often, TCMA. And every once in awhile, that company would branch out a bit.

In 1980, that meant firing up their 1975 Topps Machine to produce this colorful set of “Baseball Immortals” that included every Hall of Famer there was — 173 at the time.

Thing is, this set didn’t stop there, as TCMA added to the role every year (starting in 1984) when a new Cooperstown class was minted.

By 1987, the count stood at 199, and that’s where it still stands today, with Billy Williams, Catfish Hunter, and Ray Dandridge putting a cap on the set forever.

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1981 Kellogg’s 3D Baseball Cards

1981 Kelloggs 3D Baseball Cards

If you were a collector in the 1970s and early 1980s, chances are pretty good you downed a lot of Kellogg’s cereal during the baseball season in your chase for more cards.

Who could resist these plastic, ridgy, 3-D beauties, anyway?

Not anyone I know of, no matter how much they cracked!

A lot of those cards, especially early on, are fairly scarce and kind of expensive these days.

By comparison, though, the 1981 set is plenty plentiful, maybe owing to the overall proliferation of cards as manufacturers not named “Topps” burst onto the scene.

These babies are super colorful, too, and just may have inspired Fleer’s “awesome” 1991 set … like a scratch-and-sniff banana sticker, that one was!

Regardless of that dubious legacy, the 1981 Kellogg’s pasteboards look good, and they’re loaded with Hall of Famers like Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, and Bob Horner.

Right, I know. But he’s there, and he looks pretty good, too. Not even all that fat yet.

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1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary

1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary

I have an unnatural, maybe unhealthy love of this set, as you might know if you’ve read any of my stuff on the matter, either here or on Twitter or YouTube (watched, in that case, not read).

So for now, in this space, I’ll just say that the 1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary set was a wealth of historical information for a newly-minted baseball fan in 1983 (when I first got my mitts on some).

It was also a great source of information and card-recognition practice for a new collector … and good for confusion, too.

What do I mean by that?

Go ahead and try to find a 1962 Topps Maury Wills rookie card, or a single 1975 Topps Fred Lynn rookie card.

I’ll wait right here for you to report back.

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1983 Topps Foldouts

1983 Topps Baseball Foldouts

And speaking of learning the game through cardboard, nothing ramped me up on the then-current greats faster than this set did.

There were five foldouts in this issue, each sold in its own cellophane package, and each showing Ben Oglivie on the front — which of course led me to believe that B.O. must have been the greatest player ever since he was in the top tier all across the board.

But he wasn’t.

Anyway, each foldout folded out (duh) to reveal 17 leaders in each of five categories … career wins, home runs, batting average (“batting leaders”), saves (“Relief Aces”), and stolen bases.

And I was thus introduced to the likes of Mike Schmidt and Tommy John and Al Oliver, but also Ron Cey and Rick Monday and Jerry Reuss.

Priceless.

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1984 Topps Super Baseball Cards

1984 Topps Super Baseball Cards

By 1984, I already knew who the big names in the game were, and that included youngsters like Darryl Strawberry and Ron Kittle, in addition to more obscure semi-stars like Al Holland and Bill Buckner.

All of those dudes made the cut for the 1984 Topps Super Baseball checklist.

These cards looked identical to the base issue from that year, except they were gargantuan, at 5″ x 7″.

And let me tell you, when you combine the awesomeness of that magical Strawberry rookie card with Brobdingnagian proportions — well, it was almost more than a poor mortal child could handle.

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1985 Topps 3D Baseball Cards

1985 Topps 3D Baseball Cards

The hobby was booming hard by the mid-1980s, though you might argue the absolute peak was still a few years in front of us.

But the companies were slugging it out for sure, and, while Topps seemed reluctant to let go of their mushy old card stock in their base sets, they were plenty willing to test out new stuff.

One of those “stuff” was a set that stands as maybe the most “1980s” issue of the entire 1980s — the 1985 Topps 3D humdinger.

Now, these cards weren’t 3D through some trick of photography or space-age overlay. Nope, these guys got real the old-fashioned way … namely, they were actually three-dimensional.

As in, they weren’t flat at all. Rather, they popped and billowed out of their plane like a relief globe, allowing collectors to feel what each player looked like.

Of course, storage is a bear, but these things rock.

They’re also huge and plastic, both pluses and minuses.

And, like the 1984 Topps Supers, the 30-card checklist is a mixture of Hall of Famers (Eddie Murray, Rich Gossage) and merely All-Stars (Don Mattingly, Fernando Valenzuela).

If you were bored by the glut of 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ flat baseball cards, though, this set was quite a *ahem* relief.

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1986 Fleer Mini Baseball Cards

1986 Fleer Mini Baseball Cards

In the mid-1980s, there weren’t many (mini?) “old” sets hotter than 1975 Topps Minis.

Not only was the set loaded with big-name rookies like Fred Lynn, Gary Carter, George Brett, Robin Yount, and others, but the cards were unusual.

I mean, who wouldn’t want a complete shrunken parallel to the “normal” Topps set, a full 660 cards of tiny grandeur?

They were scarce, too, at least when compared to the full-sized things, and at least by perception.

So, if you were a competitor looking to take down Big Gum, wouldn’t it make sense to copy their successful formulas from the past and make it your own?

That’s what Fleer thought, so they cut down a bunch (120) of their 1986 cards gave them brand new pictures, and jammed them in a custom box.

Voila!

The world can forever revel in the glory of the 1986 Fleer Mini set, with its Dave Parker and Ryne Sandberg and Alvin Davis and Scott Garrelts cards.

Yay, blue.

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1987 Donruss Opening Day

1987 Donruss Opening Day

Donruss couldn’t be outdone by Topps and Fleer when it came to innovation and parallel sets (or sorta parallel sets).

So, in 1985, they rolled out Donruss Highlights.

Then, in 1986, it was Donruss The Rookies, complete with Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds and Wally Joyner and … wait for it … Bob Kipper.

In 1987, Donruss decided to strike early by issuing a mid-season set that featured guys who had made the starting lineup for their teams in 1987.

Cards looked just like those in the base issue, except they had burgundy borders instead of black ones, and they featured different pictures.

So different, in fact, that Bonds’ card actually featured Johnny Ray the first time around. That card was corrected pretty quickly, creating a highly desirable error/correction pair in the midst of the rookie card craze.

In all, the Opening Day set contained 273 cards and were sold all together in a long box, stacked up in bricks.

Oh … a word of caution — if you go looking for the Ray version of the Bonds, beware counterfeits, as the high prices have attracted some unwanted attention over the years.

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1988 Negro League Stars

1988 Negro League Stars

So many great players missed out on the spotlight of the Major Leagues due to segregation in the first half of the 20th century that it’s always great to get a chance to read about them and actually see what they looked like.

Of course, the players in question here are the standouts from the old Negro Leagues, which fielded star-studded teams in parallel with MLB for several decades before Jackie Robinson and others began to blaze trails in the Majors.

In 1988, the Pittsburgh Pirates treated fans to a 20-card set of the greatest players from the city’s two Negro League teams, the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Seems the cards were issued in sheet form on September 10, 1988, but you’ll most often find the perforated beauties separated from each other these days.

Mixed in with familiar names like Rube Foster and Buck Leonard, you’ll uncover lesser-known players such as Harold Tinker and Lefty Mellix, along with team cards and other goodies.

If you love baseball history and especially history you may not know all that well, you’ll adore these cards.

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1989 Topps Senior League

1989 Topps Senior League

A lot of the guys that visitors to this site once idolized, at least in a baseball way, were getting long in the tooth by the late 1980s.

So long, in fact, that a big heap of them were done in the Majors.

But there was enough interest in seeing them play and in hanging onto our (and our fathers’) youth that the Senior Professional Baseball Association was born.

Of course, that’s a lot of words for old guys, so everyone just called it the “Senior League.”

In order to play in the Senior League, you didn’t really have to be that old — 35 in general, or 32 for catchers. For reference, Carlton Fisk turned 42 during the Senior League’s first season (1989-1990) and would play another four years as a catcher in the real Big Leagues.

But we can’t all be Pudge.

We can’t all be Rollie Fingers or Fergie Jenkins or George Foster or Ed Rakow, either.

But all those guys appeared in Senior League action.

Most of them appeared in the 1989 Topps Senior League set, too.

Surprised? Nah, me, either.

Topps makes baseball cards and makes money from baseball cards, so where there are players and fans, you can be pretty sure there will be Topps cards.

And these ones look pretty good, too, with wood-grained borders and baseball-y elements that — to me — make them a combination of 1987 Topps and Starting Lineup cards.

In typical Topps fashion, the set features 132 cards — you know, to fit neatly on one of those printing sheets of theirs.

So, we can’t all play in the Senior League — no one can now — but we can all own Senior League baseball cards.

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