We've now reached the decade that I've dreaded analyzing each set from, mainly because of how unfamiliar I am with the lackluster Topps sets from the 1990s.
I have a solid knowledge of some of the better sets from the 90s, specifically from 1990-1993. However, the last number of sets from the decade often blend together, leaving me unable to distinguish, for example, 1996 Topps from 1998.
It doesn't help that this was right in the middle of the junk wax era, a time in which Topps' popularity hit an all-time low. The end of the 1990s saw very few memorable sets produced.
Even today, I'd struggle to put together a stack of 25 or so cards from 1990s sets starting in 1995. That's how few Topps cards from the 90s have a place in my collection. They were never collected by my Dad or myself, and I have not once felt the need to rectify that.
After this post, I'll be able to move on to the 21st century with some lightly more promising decades, the 2000s and the 2010s. If you think some of today's sets are bad, try taking a trip back 20 years to the sets of the 1990s.
#10 1994 Topps
A mere few weeks ago, I ranked 1995 Topps, not 1994, as the worst Topps set not just from the 1990s, but all-time. While I haven't had a drastic change of heart, I have learned to appreciate 1995 Topps slightly more than '94, resulting in 1994 Topps winding up dead last on this list.
Simply put, the set is all over the place. We have a barrage of bright colors, an unusual font for 90s cards, and a jagged edge near the bottom that looks more out of place than nearly anything I've seen on a Baseball card in my life.
#9 1995 Topps
I said I had a slight change of heart regarding 1995 Topps, not enough to catapult the set up many spaces on this list, however. It also wasn't enough for me to be able to find a different card from the set in my collection so Orland Merced will have to represent the set twice.
I have a major problem with the borders around the images and how visually offputting they are. It almost looks like a big stack of 90s cards got stuck together and when you peeled one off the other, a bit of the card ripped off. Cards like 1995 Topps will do something like this naturally if not attended to, don't make it a feature of the entire set.
#8 1996 Topps
There's frankly nothing interesting about the 1996 Topps set whatsoever. In fact, there's one major annoying aspect, that being the use of the same exact image in 2 places on the card; once in the actual photo and another time in an unusual blue square at the bottom of the card by the player name. I can only imagine how bad some of these cards are in this set due to an unflattering photo being used not just one time, but 2 times on the card.
#7 1998 Topps
I had quite some trouble finding cards from both 1997 and 1998 Topps because of how uncommon these 2 sets are in my collection. I had to settle for 1998 Topps Chrome instead of Flagship, but that won't affect my views on the set. Overall, it's a pretty average product which can be viewed as both a good and bad thing given the other Flagship sets of the 90s.
Unlike 1998 Topps Chrome, the base set has gold borders instead of silver which don't really work with the little bit of color going on at the bottom of the card.
#6 1999 Topps
While they were designing the 1999 Flagship set, I think Topps finally discovered what made the previous years of their sets so unappealing. Therefore, they created a set so minimal and basic that there's basically nothing besides a picture and a gold border.
While such a boring product like this wouldn't be so well-received today, I think collectors were glad to have something decent from Topps after many years of disappointing sets. It reminds me a lot of 2018 Topps and how it was preceded by 2 pretty awul sets in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
#5 1997 Topps
I don't know if Topps was taking more of an old-school or a modern approach to their 1997 Flagship design, but the overall result was decent, at least as far as 90s sets go. There are a couple of different colors besides green across the set, and like 1999 Topps, it's a very basic product with nothing too crazy going on. It adds a refreshing splash of color which 1999 Topps does not do, so it was the '97 set that sneaked into the top 5 over '99.
#4 1992 Topps
The top 4 sets on this list are in a league of their own when compared to the bottom 6 sets. The first 4 years of this decade saw the top 4 sets produced. One of those set was 1992 Topps, an underrated product that got the attention it deserved when featured in 2017 Topps Archives.
In addition to a respectable and modern base set design, 1992 Topps has one of my favorite card backs of all-time with a big Topps logo right in the middle of the back of the card.
#3 1993 Topps
Home of the iconic Derek Jeter rookie card, 1993 Topps takes the best parts of the 1992 set and completely modernizing it. With a new material used for the cardstock, 1993 Topps is a basic outline for many of the subsequent Topps products.
The set featured high-quality photography, new cardstock, and just a splash of color, something Topps would rely on for decades to come. For better or worse, 1993 Topps was the beginning of a new era for Baseball cards.
#2 1990 Topps
The motto "less is more" certainly could never be applied to the 1990 Topps set with one of the most colorful and vibrant products in Baseball history kicking off the 1990s decade. The borders, team name, and box around the player's name combine to add almost too much color to each and every card.
I think Topps was trying for one last nod to what made the 70s so great; colorful and fun cards. It might not have the same appeal as 70s sets, but years after it was produced, I've come to appreciate the 1990 Topps set.
#1 1991 Topps
While the top 4 sets on this list are definitely in a league of their own, 1991 Topps, without a doubt, reigns as Topps' finest effort across the entire decade. The product featured some of the most unique selection of photos I've seen in any Baseball card set, and the set design is a perfect balance, allowing the star of the cards, the players, to stand out.
The card backs are great, the team names are done beautifully on the right-hand side of the card, and the set is overall quite appealing. Even with some dismal releases throughout this decade, 1991 Topps remains the bright spot that Topps needed.