(Check out our other player card posts here.)

The 1981 Donruss baseball cards may have been some of the ugliest and cheapest pasteboards ever produced, but they had a couple of things going for them …

First, they helped usher in a new hobby era (along with Fleer), effectively ending Topps’ monopoly (temporarily, at least).

And second, they took an unusual approach to an age-old problem.

Ever since Gutenberg started spitting out baseball cards from his new printing press way back in the 15th century, traded players and rookies have been the bane (and, eventually, the boon) of card manufacturers.

After all, it’s tough to keep up with player movement when Major League Baseball teams are basically free to swap guys at any time but your cards are pretty much static.

1978 Topps Mike Paxton

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Topps is infamous for their airbrush jobs and hatless cards over the years, and Canadian counterpart O-Pee-Chee wrote a “traded to” message right there on card fronts, along with showing the card design of a player’s new team. Topps also addressed the problem head-on with their Traded sets, and Fleer followed suit with their Update issues. Donruss eventually did their part with Opening Day and The Rookies sets.

But in that first year of existence, Donruss settled on an approach that satisfied no one, but confused plenty of collectors.

In particular, Big D showed a traded player in whatever uniform he was wearing in whatever pictures they had on hand, but they designed the card around the player’s new team.

Sort of the OPC approach, but Donruss didn’t bother with any “traded” language. Even on card backs.

Well, at least the first time around … some of the players did get a “Traded to” bit tacked onto the top of their career highlights on card backs in later press runs.

So we’re left with Jesus Figueroa in a Chicago Cubs uniform, in Wrigley, but with a Giants frame and designation:

1981 Donruss Jesus Figueroa

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Both without the “Traded to” tag on back …

1981 Donruss Jesus Figueroa (back - no traded)

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And with …

1981 Donruss Jesus Figueroa (back - traded)

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Similarly, we have the Cliff Johnson Cubs-A’s combo …

1981 Donruss Cliff Johnson

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… the Bruce Sutter Cubs-Cardinals ensemble …

1981 Donruss Bruce Sutter

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… the Jerry Martin redux of Figueroa’s Cubs-Giants getup …

1981 Donruss Jerry Martin

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… the Mike Vail Cubs-Reds Commemorative Edition Card …

1981 Donruss Mike Vail

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… and the Ray Burris Cubs-Mets throwback special.

1981 Donruss Ray Burris

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Yep, the Cubs traded Burris to the New York Yankees way back in May 1979, but Donruss couldn’t scrape together a photo that was snapped in the intervening 20-some months.

And lest you think this was a Cubs-only affliction, we get to see Darrell Porter in an unholy mixture of the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals:

1981 Donruss Darrell Porter

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And, Larry Milbourne with the Mariners and Yankees:

1981 Donruss Larry Milbourne

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And, Willie Norwood with the Twins and Mariners:

1981 Donruss Willie Norwood

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And, Bob Owchinko with the Indians and Pirates:

1981 Donruss Bob Owchinko

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And, Dave Edwards with the Twins and Padres:

1981 Donruss Dave Edwards

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And, Dave Roberts with the Rangers and Astros:

1981 Donruss Dave Roberts

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And, Geoff Zahn with the Twins and Angels:

1981 Donruss Geoff Zahn

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Did I miss any?

I don’t think so, but it’s possible. These things are everywhere, like dog hairs on a collie owner’s corduroys.

But, hey, at least the 1981 Donruss set is interesting.

And the card stock is thin enough that you don’t even have to turn the card over — you can read the back while looking at the front.

And … the photos are so fuzzy, you’ll want to curl up with them.

Just like a collie.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

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