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.