One of the most famous baseball cards of the so-called Junk Wax Era is the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card.

But, as great as the Big Hurt was in the batter’s box, it’s not just his Big Bat that has made that RC a hobby classic over the years, one that collectors and investors alike continue to chase with fervor.

No, Thomas’ first Topps card is so popular because it manages to combine two of the leading “manias” of that boom era — rookie card mania and error card mania.

Indeed, over the years, the Thomas RC has come to define its own acronym, the pasteboard indistinguishable from the letters: NNOF.

As in, “No Name on Front.”

If you’ve been around the modern hobby any length of time, you know the score on this one:

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The card on the left is the normal, correct version of the Thomas rookie, while the card on the right is conspicuously missing the big slugger’s name.

As I write this, in January of 2022, the card on the left is a popular artifact of Thomas’ Hall of Fame career, selling for close to $100 in slabbed PSA 10 condition.

The card on the right?

Well, it’s also plenty popular, but hardly anybody owns one: PSA has graded just a couple hundred, and they sell for mid-to-high four figures even in PSA 7.

If you study the NNOF card a bit, though, you’ll notice it’s not *just* the player name that’s missing … there are also hunks of the thin black piping gone from the left-hand border and from around some of the design elements at the lower right.

Suddenly, what at first looks like someone forgetting to type Thomas’ name into a text box takes on more of a quality-control-type of feel.

As it turns out, the Thomas RC shared a printing sheet with at least a dozen other cards that very occasionally exhibit some form of the same symptoms — swaths of white covering part of the card background, obliterated text, missing black ink on various parts of the design.

In fact, this Dirty Baker’s Dozen generally run by the moniker of “blackless” cards owing precisely to that latter bit, the missing black ink.

The Julio Franco All-Star card provides one of the more dramatic examples:

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On the right is the normal, “correct” card.

On the left is the “blackless” version — missing piping and a massive “sunbeam” sneaking in behind Franco’s back, in the upper left.

There are several theories about what’s happening here, but they generally come down to the idea that something was wrong during the printing process for this particular sheet — something was dirty or missing or … something.

Bob D’Angelo gave a good rundown of what might have been wrong in this post about a “find” of blackless 1990 Topps cards back in 2020.

And, if you want a good look at some other examples, you can always head over to eBay, where you’ll find specimens like these:

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If you do find yourself in the market for some blackless 1990s, though, take care and be vigilant — some sellers commandeer the “blackless” label for various printing defects that don’t really fit the bill, and at least the Thomas RC has been subject to counterfeit copies.

Focusing on graded copies can help reduce this risk, as one of the understated advantages of slabbed cards is that they have been scrutinized by industry professionals who generally know how to spot a fake.

You should also beware that legit cards won’t come cheaply, no matter who the player is. Indeed, these 1990 Topps errors just might dump your bank account into blackless territory, where all the ink is red.

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