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    

1956 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #135 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)2013 Topps Five Star Dual Mlb Logoman Autographed Patch Bryce Harper/mike Trout1952 Topps Mickey Mantle New York Yankees #311 Baseball Card1953 Topps #82 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Psa 5 Ex " Sharp Corners "Mike Schmidt 2015 Topps Tier One Auto Bat Knob #1/11955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Pirates Rc Rookie Hof Psa 5 Ex2015 Topps Tier One 1/1 Mike Trout Gu Bat Barrel / Plate Angels Game Used Hot!1957 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #95 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1959 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #10 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose ** Centered** *rookie* *psa Ex 5* Old Baseball Rc Card2015 Topps Tier One Chipper Jones Jumbo Patch On Card Autograph 06/10 - Braves1960 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #350 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Bryce Harper 2012 Bowman Chrome Autograph Rc Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint With 10 Auto!1958 Topps #418 Mickey Mantle Hank Aaron Dual Signed Auto Psa/dna Certified1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rookie Card Psa 7 Nm ++ High End1968 Topps #247 Johnny Bench Cincinnati Reds Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint Centered1953 Topps Mickey Mantle #82 Psa 6 Ex-mt1961 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #300 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1963 Topps Setbreak Pete Rose Rookie Rc #537 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1959 Topps Setbreak Bob Gibson Rookie Rc #514 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1956 Topps Setbreak Hank Aaron #31 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1957 Topps Setbreak Brooks Robinson Rookie Rc #328 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1971 Topps Complete Baseball Set - Mint To Nm - Psa 1957 Topps Setbreak Hank Aaron #20 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1956 Topps Setbreak Jackie Robinson #30 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Corey Seager Topps Bowman Sterling 2012 1/1 Rookie Auto Autograph Dodgers2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Mike Trout Rookie Autograph Card Angels Auto Rc Bgs 9?1958 Topps #5 Willie Mays San Francisco Giants Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt Centered1956 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente White Back #33 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1959 Topps Setbreak #514 Bob Gibson Cardinals Rc Rookie Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt1975 Topps Minis Complete Baseball Set - Mint To Nm-mt - Vending - Psa1954 54 Topps #128 Hank Aaron Hof Rookie Rc Psa 3 With Outstanding Eye Appeal!1962 Topps #387 Lou Brock Rookie Card Psa 8 Nm-mt Centered1963 Topps #210 Sandy Koufax Dodgers Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt Centered1953 Topps #220 Satchel Paige Hof Browns Signed Auto Sgc Authentic Deceased 19822011 Topps Baseball Autographed Card Contract. Mariano Rivera Yankees1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 - Rookie Card Psa 7 Hof1965 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle Psa 8 Nm-mt New York Yankees1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds Rc Rookie Bvg 2.5 G-vg2012 Five Star Bryce Harper & Yoenis Cespedes Booklet Patch On Card Auto #8/102015 Topps Tier One Prodigious Patches Jumbo Jersey Patch Buster Posey 03/101965 Topps Baseball 598 Card Complete Set Ex-nr Mint 10 Psa Graded Mickey Mantle1958 Topps Setbreak Roger Maris Rookie Rc #47 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 55 Topps #164 Roberto Bob Clemente Hof Rookie Rc Psa 4.5 But Looks Better!1968 Topps # 177 Nolan Ryan Rookie Psa 7 !! Very Tough!! Nmt!! Nice!!Jersey #/18 Auto 2006 Topps Triple Threads Albert Pujols Alex Rodriguez Bonds2005 Topps Chrome Update Ref. Andrew Mccutchen Auto - Bgs 9.5/ Reserve2009 Topps Baseball Autographed Card Contract. Randy Johnson Giants1958 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #150 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Jersey #/9 Auto 2010 Topps Triple Threads Mariano Rivera Whitey Ford Yogi Berra2011 Topps Heritage Bryce Harper Rookie Auto #d 108/154 Autograph Nationals Wow!1952 Topps Ed Mathews #407 Rookie Psa 4 Vg-ex Sharp1964 Topps Setbreak Pete Rose #125 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Bryce Harper Auto Gold Ink Bgs 10 Autograph 1/1 Topps Triple Threads 2013 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle Psa 1 Pr #82 YankeesYasiel Puig Topps Bowman Chrome 2013 064/100 Rookie Auto Autograph DodgersDerek Jeter 2013 Topps Allen Ginter Mini Wood 2/5 Psa 10 Gem Mint Sans Auto 1/12013 Topps Tier One Hank Aaron On Card Filled Redemption Auto /50! Sealed!!1969 Topps #260 Reggie Jackson Oakland A`s Rc Rookie Hof Psa 6 Ex-mt1965 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #350 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

2015 Topps Mini Chrome Football Cards
The Cardboard Connection, May 26th

Other than its dimensions, 2015 Topps Mini Chrome Football doesn't stray much from its regular-sized counterpart. And regular Chrome is largely a spinoff of the flagship set with the addition of Chrome stock. It's a hobby rabbit hole, for certain. 2015...Read more

Topps at Star Wars Weekends, May 22nd

Topps has been a licensee of Star Wars since the very beginning in 1977 when the first trading cards were released to coincide with the release of the film. Those original Topps trading cards featured the iconic blue starfield design that has since...Read more

2015 Topps Update Series Baseball Cards
The Cardboard Connection, May 21st

2015 Topps Update Series Baseball closes out the year's flagship line in a big way -- literally. Besides all the familiar chase elements, the base set expands from 330 cards to 400. In fact, the base set is bigger than each of the Series 1 and Series 2...Read more

Britain's Topps Tiles eyes commercial sector push
Reuters, May 19th

Helped by new openings and improved stores and ranges, Topps Tiles has grown its share of the domestic market for six straight years to 30.3 percent at the end of 2014 and is aiming to take a third in total, possibly this year. "Once we have achieved...Read more

2015 Topps UFC Champions Trading Cards
The Cardboard Connection, May 13th

2015 Topps UFC Champions bucks the trend of high-end MMA releases. While hobby boxes have four autographs, they are intended to be significantly cheaper than the other UFC brands from the card maker. The second release under the banner, ...Read more

Will Ferrell To Be Featured On Baseball Cards Released By Topps (Photos), May 7th

Topps plans to release 10 different cards featuring Ferrell, as well as autographed versions, in its 2015 Topp Archives collection. The cards are scheduled to be released June 10. Ferrell's famous day on the diamond, during which he played in five...Read more

Will Ferrell Autographs Coming to 2015 Topps Archives Baseball
The Cardboard Connection, May 6th

The 2015 Topps Archives Will Ferrell autographs are his first certified autograph cards. He has actually appeared on very few trading cards overall. His most notable are promo sets for Anchorman and Semi-Pro. 2015 Topps Archives Baseball is scheduled...Read more

2015 Topps WWE Undisputed Wrestling Cards
The Cardboard Connection, May 4th

Ever since Topps regained the WWE trading card license in 2005, they've focused primarily on low-end products with accessible price tags. 2015 Topps WWE Undisputed is the first truly premium wrestling card product. Ittakes things to the high-end...Read more