Due to information provided in the comments area by a reader on 7/15/2019, this article has been revised to include more content.
It’s subtle but it’s there. Have a closer look at each of these
two three versions of the 1989 Topps Gary Sheffield rookie card.
Left: This is the version you don’t see very often. Or maybe you’ve seen it many times and didn’t realize it, which is completely understandable. In this version, Gary’s chin is higher up in the photo and the top of his hat touches the “e” in Future Star, which is placed higher up on the card. Somewhat more of his neck chain is visible here too. Overall, the cropping of the photo is just a little further up. There’s also a flat white line along the bottom border. You’ll also notice the Topps logo is higher up on the card. This is the rarest version.
Middle: This version represents the first pass of corrections. The photo has been moved down the card so the top of Gary’s hat no longer touches the “e”, the white line along the bottom edge has been removed, and the Topps logo has been pushed down. This version is more common than the error.
Right: This version represents the final pass of corrections. In this version, the corrections on pass 1 remain with the exception of moving the Topps logo back up the card to its original location. This is the version that, if you were to buy a brick of copies of this card, most, if not all of them would be this version.
In some instances where subtle variations are found between different copies of the same card, the uncommon variation is often found exclusively in factory sets. This would support the notion that the uncommon version is less often found as a single because splitting up factory sets is generally considered a rarer act than opening packs.
1989 Topps Baseball is a set with a variety of interesting variations. The 1989 Topps Gary Sheffield fits in nicely with dialogue around errors and variations. I only discovered the existence of one of these variations a couple years back, at which point I had already put in over 25 years of collecting experience. Upon discovery, it actually took me a while to find the original error version of this card to go with my several copies of the common variety. I finally stumbled across one in a $1 bin at a show. I never, under any circumstance, thought I’d ever spend as much as $1 on a 1989 Topps Gary Sheffield rookie card but given that this was a variation of particular interest, it made sense. It was either that or a can of cola at the soda machine. I figured this was a much better investment than a frivolous commodity.