Earlier this week Topps announced that they were taking votes for collectors’ favorite designs over the last 67 or so years. Fans get one vote per decade starting with the 1950s. If you haven’t voted, jump over there now.
Hot take: card designs in the 90’s and 2000’s was terrible. There are some true dogs in the late 90’s. Truthfully, the 2019 set is the first design that I truly enjoy from Topps. It tones down the pixelated element from last season’s design and gives it a very clean, modern edge.
I think I ran into the same problem a lot of voters faced. So many awesome choices from the 70’s and 80’s and then just dead wood from 1992 through…March? The designs, particularly the ones in the early oughts, seemed to be flea market fodder by design. In contrast, the 70’s had a tremendous run of great designs. Each season there was a different flair, from the black border ’71 to the acid trip ’75 set. Every year was different, and every year was memorable in it’s own way. Same for the 1980’s. While there were elements that carried over a couple years (like the profile photo lower let from ’83/’84), every year had it’s own identity, and for 20 years Topps designed sets that aged incredibly well.
The same cannot be said for designs over the last 20 years. From 2000 to 2003 you have 4 sets that look like border color variants of other poorly designed sets. Then from ’04 through the end of the decade, each set seemed to want to pay homage to a classic set, but fails to find the same charm of the sets they were inspired by.
The past 9 years, Topps has abandoned the throwback feel (at least in their base sets), but it’s only been in the last few years that the company has started to get it’s design legs back under it.