(Check out our other related posts here.)

By the spring of 1985, it seemed like baseball cards were everywhere, but it wasn’t enough. Collectors wanted more and more … and more.

For the most part, the Big Three card companies were happy to indulge our excesses, and we soon found ourselves awash in minis, pewters, Highlights sets, boxed sets, Traded and Update sets, 3-D cards, stickers, pins and buttons, food cards, police cards, at-the-ballpark card, and just about any other insert-adjective-here cards you could think of.

But for all the places we could find our cardboard treasures, there was still one place where we couldn’t, at least not as far as most collectors could remember.

That esoteric location?

On the bottom of our baseball card boxes.

No, not our 800-count silo boxes or our 3200-count MONSTER boxes made of crush-resistant corrugated cardboard. We could have taped (gasp!) cards to the bottom of those babies anytime we wanted.

1985 Donruss Baseball Cards Box Bottom Panel

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I’m talking about the bottoms of the display boxes that manufacturers used to hawk their goods, in particular boxes of wax packs. For years, Topps, Fleer, and Donruss had used the tops of their boxes to tempt us with a sample of what that year’s cards looked like, but no one paid any attention to box bottoms.

Those boxes were, after all, just vehicles for moving cards from place to place, and for keeping packs nicely aligned while sitting there waiting for our hungry little hands to pick them up (not a long wait, usually).

In 1985, though, Donruss read the market like your mom can read your guilty expressions.

Seeking to capitalize on the momentum created by their landmark 1984 set — punctuated by the gigantic Don Mattingly rookie card — Donruss expanded their real estate footprint, claiming land that had lay fallow throughout the modern hobby years.

Yes, you could find 1985 Donruss baseball cards on the bottom of their wax boxes that year.

And not just rehashes of base cards, either. These were brand new cards created just for box bottoms. There were four cards in all, each of them included on every wax box of 1985 Donruss cards.

Here is the complete checklist:

The goal here, of course, was to encourage collectors to purchase full boxes to ensure they’d get the box-bottom premiums. It was pretty powerful candy, too.

I can remember my card dealer friend, Beulah, selling a box of 1985 Donruss to me (and my dad, mostly) by pointing to the box bottom and saying, “And of course you get the four good guys.”


After all, how else could I get those limited-edition cards? They were going to be worth a fortune!

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Looking back, there were some flaws in my logic. Consider …

  • Dwight Gooden was, indeed, a good guy, but that turned out to be fairly short-lived.
  • Ryne Sandberg was, indeed, a good guy, and the 1984 National League MVP. He got a bit flaky in the 1990s, though, and wasn’t a huge market driver after the mid-1980s.
  • Ron Kittle was, indeed, a good guy — in 1983. By 1985, we’d pretty much figured out that he was Dave Kingman light.
  • Lou Gehrig may have been the ultimate good guy, but his box-bottom card was a weird miniature version of the Perez-Steele Hall of Fame Diamond Kings puzzle you could put together by buying enough packs.
  • The cards weren’t really scarce. While you weren’t guaranteed to get a copy of any particular single card from the base Donruss set even if you bought a whole wax box, you were guaranteed to get one of each of the box-bottom cards.
  • The cards were made from the same mushy-brown cardboard as the box itself. Very Topps-y.
  • The cards were part of the display box and subject to all the wear and tear that entailed. If you liked your cards with scuffs, creases, and the occasional pricing sticker, these were right up your alley.
  • A lot of retail stores were happy to give you an empty box or let you have it if you bought the last few packs.

Of course, it was great to have more cards, and to have different cards of the good guys, even if they weren’t good forever or as good as we thought.

And the condition problems make the cards pretty interesting today.

For instance, you can usually find the full panel for well under $10 on eBay  (affiliate link), but graded singles (affiliate link) in mint condition can bring three figures or more.

(You can also find these cards [affiliate link] at reasonable prices on Amazon most of the time.)

Of course, all of the monetary arguments are moot when it comes to the 1985 Donruss box bottom baseball cards — and every other baseball card.

If you “need” a card, you need it.

Doesn’t matter if it’s worth a penny or a mint.

Doesn’t even matter if it started life as a bottom-dweller.

(Check out our other related posts here.)

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1985 Donruss #39 Shawon Dunston RC

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1985 Donruss Roger Clemens RC #273

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