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    

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Psa 1(mk) Pr (pwcc)1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Psa Auth (pwcc)1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Psa 1(mc) Pr (pwcc)1954 Topps Al Kaline Rookie Rc #201 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Rc #94 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Massive Vintage Baseball Card Collection 50's 60's 70's Only - 7,000+ Cards - $$1955 Topps Sandy Koufax Rookie Rc #123 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Ernie Banks (cubs Hof) 1954 Topps Rookie Rc #94 Psa 7 (near Mint)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)Vintage Baseball (18) Card Superstar Lot .. Nm+ ... Ryan Rc, Williams, Aaron1990 Topps Frank Thomas #414 Baseball Card Nnof Error 8.5∎ 1954 Topps Baseball Card Hank Aaron Rc #128 **high-end**2013 Bowman Chrome Refractor Kris Bryant Rc Rookie 150/500 Bgs 9.5 W/ 10 Auto1954 Topps #128 Henry Hank Aaron Hof Rc Rookie Braves Psa 6 Ex-mt Centered1956 Topps Mickey Mantle #135 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)Rusney Castillo 2015 Topps Heritage Real One Autograph! Auto Rc Card Roa-rca1952 Topps X-mas Rack Pack W/ Billy Johnson Al Brazle Henery Majeski Top (pwcc)Babe Ruth 2009 Topps Sterling Patch 6 Piece Jersey W/pinstripes /10 Game Used1954 Topps Baseball Complete (250) Card Set ... Aaron, Banks & Kaline Rc1964 Topps Baseball Near Complete (529/587) (91%) Set ... Mantle, Rose, AaronT206 1911 Piedmont White Borders-ty Cobb, Red Portrait, Psa 1.5 Nicer!2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs Rc Rookie Bgs 9.5 W/ 10 AutoVintage Baseball (103) Card Superstar Lot ... Vg+ ... Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Ott1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron Psa 5 Ex Very Nice! Look!Chipper Jones 2013 Topps Five Star Bat Barrel Plate Autograph Auto #ed 1/1 Rare 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1953 Topps Mickey Mantle #82 Psa 4 Vgex (pwcc)2014 Bowman Chrome Refractor Julio Urias Rc Rookie 032/500 Bgs 9.5 W/ 10 Auto1955 Topps Hank Aaron #47 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1960 Topps Baseball Near Complete (500/572) (88%) Set - Yastrzemski Rc, Clemente1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rookie Rc Cincinnati Reds High# Psa 3 Vg High Number1957 Topps Frank Robinson Rookie Rc #35 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rc Rookie Reds High# Psa 6 Ex-mt High Number1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 4 Vgex (pwcc)1957 Topps Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1959 Topps Baseball Near Complete (521/572) (92%) Set - Mantle, Aaron, Clemente1955 Topps Hank Aaron #47 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente R/c #164 Baseball Card Psa Grade 4.5 Vg-ex+cond 6?2009 Donruss Elite Extra #57 Mike Trout Rc Rookie 287/495 Bgs 9.5 W/ 10 AutoT206 Cy Young Bare Hand Shows Cleveland Hof Piedmont 150 Back Psa 2.5 Good+1989 Topps Tiffany Traded Ken Griffey Jr #41t Card Psa Grade 10 Gem Mint "wow"Vintage Baseball (34) Card Superstar Lot ... Vg-ex+ ... Mantle, Maris Rc, AaronVintage Baseball (25) Card Superstar Lot .. Ex+ .. Ryan & Yastrzemski Rc, Mantle1967 Topps #581 Tom Seaver Rc Ex1955 Topps Al Kaline #4 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1969 Topps Baseball Near Complete (612/664) (93%) Set - Jackson Rc, Mantle, RyanMets Rookies (tom Seaver Bill Denehy) 1967 Topps #581 - Rc - Psa 7 - Nrmint!!!1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 Psa 3 Vg (pwcc)1955 Topps Jackie Robinson #50 Psa 8.5 Nm-mt+ (pwcc)1957 Topps Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 8 Dead Centered1953 Topps X-mas Rack Pack W/ Frank Shea Jim Wilson Hal Jeffcoat Top (pwcc)1954 Topps #94 Ernie Banks Rookie Rc Hof Chicago Cubs Psa 3 Vg1979 Topps Ozzie Smith Rookie Card #116 Psa 9 Mint Perfect CenteringTopps 1973 Baseball New Trading Cards Sealed Rack Pack, Carew, Stargell1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Rc #537 Cincinnati Reds - Good/vg Condition! Rare2015 Topps Heritage Real One Autograph Red Ink Auto Sk Sandy Koufax /662013 Topps Tier One Hank Aaron Auto Sp/50 Autographed Braves Signed Atlanta Gem1953 Topps Baseball Near Complete (180/280) (65%) Set ... Robinson, Paige, Mays1953 Topps #82 Mickey Mantle Psa 4 Vg-ex No Creases Great Eye Appeal! Gorgeous!

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

2014 Topps Museum Collection Football Hot List
The Cardboard Connection, March 5th

With a name like Museum Collection, it is no wonder that the hobby has shown considerable interest in the many quality cards found in the high-end product. Given the focus on hard-signed cards and premium relic pieces, 2014 Topps Museum Collection ...Read more

2015 Topps Heritage Baseball Variations Guide
The Cardboard Connection, March 4th

2015 Topps Heritage Baseball isn't shy about variations. Collectors have five different types to watch for as they're going through their packs and boxes. Some of the 2015 Topps Heritage variations are nods to the 1966 set the product revolves around...Read more

2015 Topps Triple Threads Baseball Cards
The Cardboard Connection, February 23rd

Triple Threads has never been a shy brand. Now in its tenth year, 2015 Topps Triple Threads Baseball isn't changing that. The often polarizing set returns with a familiar mix of low-numbered autographs and memorabilia cards that its known for, as well...Read more

2015 Topps Series 1 review
True Blue LA, February 15th

I finally got my hands on some 2015 Topps cards, about a week or so after Series 1 was released. The set is chock full of Dodgers stars, which will provide a familiarity to this review of a set that has made a few changes this year. The most noticeable...Read more

Breaking Down the 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball Retail Exclusives
The Cardboard Connection, February 9th

In recent years, the main Topps baseball sets have had multiple color-based parallels exclusive to specific stores. 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball has just one. Purple is the only retail base parallel. It covers the entire 350-card set. These cards are...Read more

What Is Going on with the 2015 Topps Derek Jeter Card?
The Cardboard Connection, February 6th

Topps has been stressing the fact that this is Jeter's final base card, something that was picked up by multiple mainstream outlets. Word apparently got to the buyer who proved that something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Just don't...Read more

Spotting the 2015 Topps Baseball Sparkle Variations Made Easy
The Cardboard Connection, February 5th

Having a hard time spotting the 2015 Topps Baseball Sparkle Variations? You're not alone. The added shimmer is small and hard to see. Not helping matters is the fact that the white spot is often cast against a naturally light background adding little...Read more

2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball Variation Short Prints – Here's What to Look For!
The Cardboard Connection, February 3rd

2015 Topps Baseball Photo Variations offer pictures that are something out of the ordinary. Many are celebrations, like post-game Gatorade showers. For Paul Konerko, it shows him saying goodbye to some fans with his son snapping pictures. Sparkles are ...Read more