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Top 15 Error Cards of All-Time

Posted by Vinnie Rullo on

Sports card collectors are often trying to add something unique and rare to their collections. Card companies since dating back to when Tobacco cards were printed have made notable errors on cards. Some would argue that these mistakes are sometimes intentional while others would say that these mistakes lead to a future “rarer error card” because a correction card had to be made. Most error cards in the hobby were eventually corrected and replaced, while some were left unchanged. Error cards have a certain nostalgia that sports card collector’s love; many of these types of cards are talked about daily throughout the hobby. There is still a chase element on many error cards because they are so rare and valuable. I am going to focus on the Top 15 error cards that were replaced and corrected by card companies.

1.1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name On Front (NNOF) Rookie 

The famous NNOF Frank Thomas 1990 Topps rookie card has been rumored to be made due to an early print run error that was quickly corrected by Topps. Only roughly 250-500 is the estimated print run of how many of these are in existence. This card is in fact so rare that one collector even ripped two cases of 1990 Topps (which is 1,440 packs total) and did not pull a No Name Thomas. Thomas’s regular Topps rookie is easily obtainable compared to his no name error card, although the Tiffany version is a lot more sought after than the regular Topps version. Is there any more of the No Name versions out there still buried in 1990 Topps backs? This card will always have great value and continually have that chase element for collectors hoping to find one eventually nearly 30 years later.

2.1909-1911 T206 Piedmont Sherry "Magie" (Misspelling) 

Sherry Magie’s T206 tobacco card is (supposed to read Magee) which is the proper spelling of his last name. This card is often regarded as one of the most popular error cards in the hobby. A corrected version was quickly printed but also printed with the proper spelling Magee but at much higher circulation compared to the error card. Many baseball experts consider Magee one of the greatest Phillies players during the Deadball Era. Magee had a lifetime batting average of 291 and 2,169 career hits. Does Magee get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame someday through the Veteran’s Committee? There still seems to be a relatively un-known commodity about his rare t206 error card.

3.1989 Fleer Bill Ripken F*ck Face 

The card was printed 30 years ago by Fleer and caused a huge buzz when it was first released. Ripken’s famous F*ck face card is still iconic today and often described as one of the most popular error cards of all-time. When the card was first released in 1989, it was quickly corrected but many collectors then wanted to get their hands on one. Ripken proclaims to this day that it was not his bat, and just a bat he picked up during batting practice when the picture of the card was taken. There is many corrected versions of this card including a whiteout version, white scribble, black scribble, black box, rounded black box and possibly even others. Many versions of Ripken’s card today are still very sought after especially in high-grade, as this is a must have for anyone who collects error cards.

4.1969 Topps Mickey Mantle (Mantle in White Letters) 

This card is known as the Mick’s last card when he was a player and is card number 500. There is a normal version of this card featured of him where his name is featured in yellow letters but the rarer error version or variation has his name featured in white letters. Was this version featured in white letters by accident or a mistake? Nonetheless, the version offered in white lettering is a lot more sought after. Mantle’s error card featured in white lettering will continually go up in value some collectors or buyers may not even be aware of the differences still today.

5.1952 Topps Johnny Sain-Paige Bio 

Sain would be known as the last pitcher that Babe Ruth faced during his career in 1935 and be the first pitcher that Jackie Robinson would face in 1947. Sain’s 1952 Topps card is in connection with Joe Paige’s 1952 Topps card. Collectors nowadays often use the term Sain/Paige to describe either error card. Both of the player’s backs were initially mixed up and placed on the wrong card. On the back of Sain’s card reads Paige’s background information instead of Sain’s. Sain also features a rare Black Back which is even more sought after than the error card. Sain’s error card is a lot more sought after than Paige due to his historical accomplishments in his career.

6.1952 Topps Joe Paige-Sain Bio

One of the most iconic sets of all-time initially featured an error card. The card was a 1952 Topps Joe Paige #48, which featured the wrong information about Paige and described a player named Johnny Sain instead. The 1952 Topps cards are becoming a lot tougher to find as it is and being so that this is a known error card that was eventually corrected makes this particular card even more sought after. There is even a version of this card featured where the bio is bold in black or better known as the “Black back reverse combination” which is also very un-common. The corrected version is a lot more common to obtain for collectors. Paige’s initial error card will continually become tougher to find.

7. 2006 Topps Alex Gordon Rookie

 In 2006, Alex Gordon was regarded as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Topps released his rookie card, card #297 but Gordon was not currently in the majors yet in 06. His card should not have been released in this set yet, but instead it was most likely used because of a hunch from someone thinking he would make the Royals opening day 2006 roster. Gordon did not make his major league debut with the Royals until 2007. The initial mistake of Gordon’s full size card being released caused multiple different versions of this card to be made/replaced, which were a cut out card, blank gold, blank silver. His full version card is a considered a short-printed error card which is still very popular today.

8.1948 Leaf Gene Hermansk (misspelled) 

The iconic 1948 Leaf set initially released Gene Hermanski’s card #102 as Hermansk and miss-spelled his last name. The card was quickly corrected and re-released. The error card today is still highly sought after especially in high-grade examples. Hermanski is best known for playing on the Dodgers teams with then teammate Jackie Robinson. His error card is considered one of the most popular from this era.

9.1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds (Dark Jersey-Johnny Ray pictured)

During 1987, Donruss released opening day baseball cards at the time only through sets and not packs at the start of the year. This card was supposed to be Barry Bonds second Donruss card, when the card was first released the picture of the card wasn’t actually Bonds but instead his teammate Johnny Ray. The error card was caught very early, and replaced with a corrective version making the initial error card difficult to find. This error card has continually become more sought after and becoming tougher to find for buyers or collectors. Does Bonds ever make the Hall of Fame?

10.1977 Star Wars C-3PO #207 (Anthony Daniels) 

The card is easily recognized as one of the most famous error cards of all-time. This is one of those error cards that is easy to spot, where you can clearly tell what’s pictured here. The card was quickly corrected and years later, the original error card this is still one of the most sought after Star Wars cards of all-time. Stars Wars is continually growing in popularity each year and with that being said this card will continually climb in value.

11.1954 Bowman Emlen Tunnell (misspelled with Tunnel) 

During the initial release the card read with just one L instead of Tunnell. Tunnell was the first African American player to play for the New York Giants and also the first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His card was quickly corrected but the error version seems to be more sought after. The same error was actually made in 1955 Bowman as well. Many of Tunnell’s error cards are still pretty obtainable in all grades as there still could be some confusion on the spelling of his name today for some collectors or buyers.

12.Sam Vincent 1990-91 Hoops #223 (Jordan wearing jersey number 12) 

This card is also nearly 30 years old and something that is very unique. The card features Vincent driving to the hoop to make a layup with a Bulls player also pictured to his right wearing number 12. That player is actually Michael Jordan pictured wearing number 12. The story behind this card is Jordan’s jersey was stolen before this game on February 14, 1990 and he had to wear the 12 jersey. A new card for Vincent was issued featuring just him pictured in the card, making both the original card and new card of Vincent a shorter print compared to all the other Hoops cards issued that year which were readily available. Nonetheless the original card with Jordan featured wearing number 12 is quite unique and different. Could this card continue to become more popular?

13.1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy (reverse negative) 

Dale Murphy was a hot commodity during the late 1980s. Upper Deck released the famous 89 set, initially when Murphy’s card was released a reverse negative image was used; card number 357. A corrective version eventually came out with Murphy appearing holding his bat as a right-handed hitter. Murphy’s error card is still sought after today and was one of the big chase cards during the late 1980s era. This card will always be regarded as one of the more sought after error cards in the late 1980s era.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the 1957 Topps Hank Aaron is also a reverse negative? The right-handed sluggers is shown batting as a "lefty" due to the reverse negative. The card was never corrected. 

14.1981 Fleer Graig Nettles (Craig on the back) 

Graig Nettles was a very popular player with the Yankees who helped lead them to back to back championships in 1977 and 1978. His 1981 Fleer card initially released as reading Craig on the back of the card. The card was quickly corrected with the proper pronunciation of Graig. This error card created a unique chase card for collectors.

15.1988 Topps Al Leiter Rookie 

During the late 1980’s prospects were not as coveted throughout the media as they are today. One prospect who was very popular during that time was starting pitcher Al Leiter for the New York Yankees. Leiter’s Topps rookie was featured in 1988 Topps and was card number 18, but the problem was the player pictured was not Leiter. Instead, Steve George was pictured in the card who actually never made it to the majors. The card was quickly corrected with the right image (image on left is the error). Leiter had a long major league career so you should be able to tell which version is the corrected version.

Will future error cards similar to these types of cards be made? Which of these cards would you like to add to your personal collection and which of these cards will continually hold the best value in the next 10+ years?