Card of the Day: 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds/Johnny Ray Error

Today’s Card of the Day is an error card that was quickly corrected, but not before some were released to the public, making it an expensive and collectible modern day card. In 1987, Donruss issued a set of 273 cards after their regular issue set was released. The Opening Day set featured every player who was in the starting lineup for all 26 teams on Opening Day of the 1987 season. The most popular card in the set doesn’t show the intended player.

In 1987, Barry Bonds was playing his first Opening Day game for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After batting .223 with 16 homers, 36 steals and 65 walks as a rookie in 1986, he was batting lead-off and playing center field at Shea Stadium against the New York Mets on April 7, 1987. Johnny Ray, who is 7+ years his senior, batted third and was at second base.

Donruss had a card of Barry Bonds in their 1986 Rookies set, as well as their regular issued 1987 set, so they knew what the 22-year-old future star looked like at the time. Despite that fact, the company mistakenly used a photo of 30-year-old Johnny Ray on card #163 featuring Bonds. That was a tough miss because card #162 was a card of Ray, so quality control didn’t notice that the same player was pictured twice in a row in the set. Ray had been a regular in Donruss sets since 1982, so he should have been a familiar face.

Photo errors happen though, so the card of Bonds featuring Ray was released to the public. It was caught fairly quickly, relatively speaking, and they fixed the error. Cards from 1987 were mass produced and are plentiful to this day. I’ve seen it quoted that only 1% of the sets featured the Bonds/Ray error. Since it is an early card of the all-time home run leader, which is very difficult to find compared to most of his early card, that has affected the price.

This card can sell for $1,500+ if it’s a high grade example, so if you’re looking to add one to your collection, be prepared to pay a high price. There aren’t many examples out there that are lower grade because this card was an instant collectible, so people handled them with care from the start.

Here’s the front of the card:

Fans from the 1980s will instantly recognize Johnny Ray, who was a popular player during his day. I’m sure he didn’t have a huge problem with being mistaken for a 22-year-old at that point. One thing I’ll point out that may look odd in the photo is the two logos on front of the jersey. It’s a little photo trickery. The square logo is on all of the Pirates card in that spot in this set. This one just happens to line up just right so that it looks like it was on the jersey above the other logo.

Here’s the back of the card:

The career stats on the back are the stats from 1986. He was called up on May 30th and played 113 of the final 121 games of the season. The “Opening Day” line is from his 1987 debut and it’s a bit amusing that going 1-for-4 with a double and a walk in a 3-2 loss seemed noteworthy and possibly a little hard to believe. Bonds was one of five Pirates in the lineup that day to reach base at least twice. What was probably more noteworthy was that Bonds threw out Keith Hernandez at home plate to keep it a 3-1 game in the eighth inning.

Bonds would eventually get a corrected version of his card. Note the square logo placement:

The entire set without the error card can be found for $20 on eBay. That’s quite a steep drop from the Bonds/Ray error price. The Bonds card alone can be had for under $10 delivered.

Here are the previous Card of the Day articles. Eventually we will have a better way to organize them, as opposed to just a continuously growing list at the bottom of each article:

1913 T200 Fatima team card

2020 Topps Living Set Josh Bell

2020 Roberto Clemente Topps Throwback

1982 Topps Tim Foli

1887 N172 Old Judge Art Whitney and Dog

1973 Topps Willie Stargell

1981 Topps Pirates Future Stars

1936 R312 Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan

1959 Topps Buc Hill Aces

1982 Donruss Harvey Haddix

1991 Upper Deck Jose Lind

1982 Topps Traded Pirates set

1974 Topps Bob Johnson

1909 E90 Dots Miller

2005 Bowman Heritage Andrew McCutchen

1961 Topps Gino Cimoli World Series Highlights

1969 Topps Richie Hebner/Al Oliver

1920 W516 Wilbur Cooper

1887 N172 Sam Barkley (guest submission)

1976 Topps Pie Traynor

2020 Topps 206 Roberto Clemente

1957 Topps Bill Mazeroski

1998 Topps Jose Guillen (guest submission)

1948 Bowman Ralph Kiner

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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