Collectible Topps Baseball Cards and Sets

In the world of baseball-card publishers, Topps reigns supreme. Although it didn't begin full-fledged baseball-card production until 1951, Topps quickly mastered the art and ascended to the top of the market, fulfilling the boast of its name.

The Topps Chewing Gum Co. was founded by the Shorin brothers in Brooklyn in 1938, but the original incarnation of the company dates to 1890, when the brothers’ father started American Leaf Tobacco. Cards entered the picture shortly after World War II, when Topps began packaging picture cards with its one-cent pieces of gum. In 1948, it released a 252-card set of “Magic Photos” with its chewable product. That set included 19 baseball players. Those cards are considered by some to be the first Topps baseball cards, but they weren’t your usual baseball cards. In fact, they were blank—the magic photo only appeared after the card was put under a light.

Topps’ first full baseball card sets were produced in 1951. The company made team sets, a major-league All-Star set, a “Connie Mack All-Stars set,” a blue backs set, and a red backs set. The red backs set had 52 cards, the biggest of all of the ’51 sets, and was the most memorable of an otherwise-hodgepodge collection. While Topps may have swung and missed in 1951, it hit it out of the park a year later, in 1952.

That was the year Topps released its first full baseball card set, still considered the most collectible set ever printed. Hall of Famers such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Eddie Mathews, and Jackie Robinson had some of their best cards in that set.

The man credited with designing the 1952s, and thus escalating Topps to the top of the market, is Sy Berger. He standardized the information on each card to include the player’s name, height, weight, birthplace, birthday, photo, facsimile signature, stats, bats, throws, a short bio, and the team name and logo. Berger became the liaison between Topps and Major League Baseball players—it was his duty to sign them to contacts, a job he was quite adept at. Berger worked for Topps until 1997, and served as a consultant until 2002.

Berger was so successful in signing players to card contracts that by 1955, Topps’ competition had ceased to exist. Bowman had been the market leader prior to Topps, but by 1955 it caved to the growing giant and allowed Topps to buy it out.

Although Topps was very successful at signing baseball players to contracts, it did have one famous fail. In 1958, a Topps scout decided not to sign one minor league ballplayer t...

In 1959, the Fleer Corporation was able to sign an exclusive contact with Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams, which was a minor coup for that company, but neither the Wills nor Williams misses prevented Topps from dominating the market.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Topps faced little-to-no competition in the baseball-card market. Its biggest adversary may have been the Federal Trade Commission, which, in 1962, looked into whether Topps’ monopoly of the baseball-card industry violated antitrust laws. After a lot of long, drawn-out testimony, it was determined that Topps was in compliance with the law.

Unfortunately for Topps, this was not the last time it faced monopolization charges. In 1980, Fleer filed a lawsuit accusing Topps of restraint of trade. This time Topps was found to be in violation of antitrust laws—it could not have exclusive-rights contracts with players. This ruling allowed competitors Fleer and Donruss to enter the market in 1981, though they were not allowed to issue baseball cards with gum or alone (Fleer issued cards with logo stickers while Donruss released cards with puzzle pieces).

By 1987, Topps’ decided market advantage was a thing of the past. It gave in and became the last card company to sign a contract with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) to obtain player contracts. In the past, Topps had signed players individually, but the MLBPA began advising players not to sign with Topps, so the company caved and joined up.

The list of highly collectible Topps baseball sets is vast, but a few of the more popular ones include 1955, which featured rookie cards for Roberto Clemente and Sandy Koufax, 1957, and 1968, which had rookie cards for Johnny Bench and Nolan Ryan. Although it is most famous for its baseball cards, Topps has also made football, basketball, and hockey cards.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1985 Topps 1984 Usa Baseball Team #401 Mark Mcgwire Rookie Rc Psa 10 Gem Mint1960 Topps #563 Mickey Mantle Signed Auto Autographed Card Yankees Psa/dna *65931984 Topps Football #123 Dan Marino Dolphins Rc Rookie Hof Psa 10 Gem MintPete Rose 1963 63 Topps #537 Rc Rookie Stars Cincinnati Reds Psa 5 Ex1968 Topps Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds #230 Psa 10 Gem Mt Pop 51979 Topps Earl Campbell Oilers Rc Rookie Hof "great Investment" Psa 10 Centeredˆ1993 Sp Foil #279 Derek Jeter New York Yankees Rc Rookie Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint Axl Rose Autograph Topps 2013 Allen Ginter Ssp Guns Roses Rare Framed Mini1953 Topps #82 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Psa 4 Vg-ex1983 Topps #482 Tony Gwynn Padres Rookie Rc Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint CenteredKen Griffey Jr. 2014 Topps Finest Gold Ref Auto #50/50 Greats Refractor Mariners1976 Topps Setbreak George Brett #19 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)2014 Topps Triple Threads Griffey Jr. Mcgwire Alomar Triple Patch Auto /9 Hof 1967 Topps #581 Tom Seaver Rookie Card Rc Mets Psa 9 Mint (st)1955 Sandy Koufax Psa 8 Rc ToppsFine 1969 Topps Baseball Card Complete Set (664) Nice! Reggie Rookie Mantle RyanˆAl Kaline 2013 Topps Five Star 1/1 Game Used Bat Knob Card Detroit Tigers ˆˆ1963 Topps #200 Mickey Mantle Yankees Psa 8 Well Centered *4859721976 Topps Setbreak Dennis Eckersley Rookie Rc #98 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1911 M116 Sporting Life Eddie Plank Hof Psa 6 Ex-mt " Looks Nicer " Low Pop1976 Topps Setbreak Pete Rose #240 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1976 Topps Setbreak Nolan Ryan #330 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1955 Topps Vintage Baseball Card Complete Set Vgex Clemente, Koufax, Williams $$2012 Topps Chrome Bryce Harper On Card Atomic Refractor Auto 6/10 Rc Bh Ebay 1/1Huge Lot 1956 Topps Psa Snider Clemente Ford Kaline Hodges Rizzuto Hofers!!!1909 T206 Piedmont Christy Mathewson Portrait Sgc 30 Good 2 Hof *350 Subjects1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan New York Mets Rookie Rc Hof Ex Condition1953 #244 Willie Mays Psa 6 Ex-mtOutstanding 1975 Topps Baseball Card Complete Set (660) Nice! Brett Yount Rookieˆ1983 Topps #498 Wade Boggs Red Sox Rookie Rc Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint Centered1993 Topps Finest Refractor Starter Set 100 Cards (no Griffey Or Ripken)2014 Topps Heritage 1965 Retro Hank Aaron Signed Auto Braves1965 Topps #477 Steve Carlton Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint "looks Gem" Centeredˆ1960 Topps #565 Roger Maris Signed Auto Autographed Card Yankees Psa/dna *486594Yasiel Puig 2014 Topps Update All Star Jumbo Patches Autograph Relic - DodgersT206 Roger Bresnahan With Bat St Louis Hof Carolina Brights Rare Back Psa 3 Vg 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Read Description1993 Sp Foil Derek Jeter (r) Mint, 1954 Topps #70 Larry Doby Nm++, 660++ Cards2014 Allen & Ginter Ken Griffey Jr Bo Jackson Dual Book Card Auto Relic # 6/101934 Goudey #62 Hank Greenberg Hof Rc Rookie Psa 3.5 Vg+ " Strong Eye Appeal "1984 Topps Baseball Unopened Wax Box Of 36 Packs Mattingly Rookie Card L@@k!!1959 Topps Baseball Complete Set-nm-beauty!1963 Topps #115 Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox Psa 9 *4859161956 Topps Mickey Mantle #135 Psa Nm 71975 Topps Set Break #228 George Brett Rc Psa 7 Nr-mint E236232013 Museum Collection Starlin Castro True 1/1 Mlb Logoman Jumbo Patch Cubsˆ1957 Topps Baseball Complete Set-ex/mt-nice!1976 Topps Setbreak Hank Aaron #550 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1983 Topps #83 Ryne Sandberg Chicago Cubs Rookie Rc Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint CenteredBrooks Robinson 1957 Topps #328 - Rc - Mid # - Orioles - Breathtaking!! Sharp!!Bryce Harper Nationals 2014 Topps Triple Threads Letter Plus Relic Autographs #/2013 Topps Chrome Connections Die Cut Mike Trout Autograph 1/25 Auto!1932 U.s. Caramel Rogers Hornsby #11 Psa 3.5 (vg+) Hof Cardinals (w&w) Us

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

Topps Tiles Plc's Buy Rating Reaffirmed at Berenberg Bank (TPT)
sleekmoney, October 23rd

Topps Tiles Plc logo Topps Tiles Plc (LON:TPT)'s stock had its “buy” rating reiterated by equities research analysts at Berenberg Bank in a research note issued to investors on Thursday. They currently have a GBX 170 ($2.74) target price on the stock...Read more

Collect call: 2014 Topps Heritage Minor League baseball (blog), October 22nd

Following the trend of the Heritage set for major-league players, Topps used the 1965 design for this set, which consists of 200 base cards and 25 short prints. A hobby box contains 24 packs, with nine cards to a pack. Topps promises two autograph...Read more

Collect call: 2014 Topps Stadium Club baseball (blog), October 21st

Topps Stadium Club was a big hit when it made its debut in 1991 as a 600-card set that contained two series of 300 cards apiece. Topps made use of full-bleed photography and high gloss to produce one of the nicer sets of the 1990s. The product ran...Read more

1986 Topps Howard the Duck Trading Cards
The Cardboard Connection, October 20th

Every year there seems to be one or two would-be blockbuster that falls flat on its face, rolls around a little and is mocked for years to come. In 1986, Howard the Duck was that movie. Despite having the backing of George Lucas, an emerging star in...Read more

2014 Topps Update Series Baseball World Series MVP Patch Gallery
The Cardboard Connection, October 17th

Manufactured patch cards have become the go-to incentive in base Topps retail blaster boxes. Over the past couple of years, not much has changed design wise, primarily focusing on reprints of old rookie cards and different logo patches. The 2014 Topps ...Read more

2014 Topps Mega Football Cards
The Cardboard Connection, October 6th

2014 Topps Mega Football value boxes are a retail-exclusive that mixes packs and a few Topps Chrome cards not available elsewhere. Each value box has a pair of 2014 Topps Valor, seven 2014 Topps Football retail packs and three exclusive Special ...Read more

2015 Topps WWE Wrestling Cards
The Cardboard Connection, October 3rd

2015 Topps WWE wrestling cards are a mix of the past, present and future. The company's flagship wrestling set features a comprehensive base set, several and a pair of autographs, event-used or manufactured relics in every hobby box. The 2015 Topps ...Read more

2014 Topps Prime Football Variations Guide
The Cardboard Connection, September 29th

For most sets that have variations, it's a greatest hits of sorts. They offer an alternate look at the top players of the release. 2014 Topps Prime Football Variations make the photo swap the norm. One hundred of the set's 150 base cards come with a...Read more