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    

2003 Ud Exquisite Collection Lebron James Rpa Rc Patch Auto 63/100 Psa 10 Pop 1(20) Roberto Clemente Baseball Cards (every Card Made From 1955 Rookie To 1973)Mickey Mantle - Ny Yankees - 1952 Topps - Rookie Card #3111955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Pirates Hof Rc Rookie Psa 6 Ex-mt Centered 1956 Topps #135 Mickey Mantle Yankees Psa 8 Nm-mt Centered Gray Back 1972 Topps Football #200 Roger Staubach Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint Centered 1971 Topps Baseball Complete Set Mostly Nm Garvey Blyleven Rc High Grade W/ Psa!2014 George Brett Topps Chrome All-time Rookies 1975 Topps Rc Superfractor 1/11985 Topps #401 Mark Mcgwire Usa Rc Rookie Psa 10 *high End* A's CardinalsFine 1969 Topps Baseball Card Complete Set (664) Nice! Reggie Rookie Mantle Ryan1952 Topps Ed Mathews Rookie High # 407 ... Sgc 451909 E95 Philadelphia Caramel Ty Cobb Hof Low Pop Psa 2 " Ex-mt Eye Appeal " Axl Rose 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Ssp Auto Autograph Guns 'n Roses 2014 Manuel Margot Bowman Chrome Red Refractor Auto #'d 1/51963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rookie Card1966 Topps #365 Roger Maris Signed Auto Autographed Card Yankees Psa/dna *494733Vintage Baseball (44) Card Superstar Lot ... Vg+ ... Mantle, Mays, Aaron, BerraNolan Ryan 1968 Topps Rc Rookie # 177 Nm Psa 7 !!!! Wow !!! Centered !!! $$$1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 ... Sgc 40(47) Card Lot Of 1953 Topps Baseball Cards (willie Mays, Spahn, Berra, High #s)1967 Topps Unopened Wax Pack 6th Series 5 Cards Nm/mt Gai 81969 Topps #260 Reggie Jackson (rc) Psa Nm-mt+ 8.5 Beautiful!Psa 10 Dwight Doc Gooden 1984 Topps Traded Tiffany Rookie #42t *** Tough *** 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany #11t Barry Bonds Rc Rookie Psa 10 Gem Mint CenteredRare! 2013 Topps Five Star Quotable Frank Thomas Inscription Auto /10 Hof1999 Ud A Piece Of History 500 Club Ruth Aaron Mays Rare Game Used Triple Bat 1958 Topps #47 Roger Maris Indians Rc Rookie Psa 8 Nm-mt " High End " 1960 Topps #148 Carl Yastrzemski Hof Rc Rookie Boston Red Sox Psa 8 Nm-mtVintage Baseball (25) Card Superstar Lot ... Ex+ ... Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Maris1928 George Ruth Candy Co. #3 Babe Ruth Hof Yankees Sgc 40 Vg 31962 Topps #200 Mickey Mantle Yankees Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt " Looks Undergraded " 2014 Topps Finest Mike Trout 94 Finest Superfractor 1 Of 1. Mickey Mantle 1957 Topps Yankee Card #95 Psa 81995 Topps Finest Refractor Derek Jeter With Coating Psa 101969 Topps Reggie Jackson Athletics Rookie Baseball Card #260 Psa 8 Nm-mtVintage Baseball (38) Card Superstar Lot ... Vg-ex+ ... Mantle, Mays, AaronT206 1909 Hindu Cigarettes-frank Chance, Red/orange Portrait, Rare, Sgc 20/1.5Rare! 2005 Topps All-time Fan Favorites Autograph Barry Bonds Ssp Auto /15 Mvp1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rookie - Psa 6 - Cincinnati RedsGsx 1963 Topps Bb Pete Rose #537 Rc Rookie Bvg/bgs 5.5 Excellent+ Hbv $10001968 Topps Nolan Ryan/koosman Rookie Card #177 Bvg 7.5 Nearmint+ Psa Equal Look!1955 Topps ~ Sandy Koufax #123 ~ Psa 4 ~ Rookie Card ~ Rc ~2014 Triple Threads Nationals Bryce Harper Auto 13 Cut Jersey Patch Relic 1/9 Sp2014 Topps Triple Threads Mark Mcgwire Auto #/3 Sapphire Jersey Relic AutographT206 1911 Piedmont Cigarettes-tris Speaker, Boston Red Sox Hof Sgc 20, Looks Ex+1955 Topps Sandy Koufax Dodgers Rookie Baseball Card #123 Psa 7 Nm1959 Topps #514 Bob Gibson Hof Cardinals Rc Rookie Psa 7 Nm1983 Topps #498 Wade Boggs Boston Red Sox Rc Rookie Hof Bgs 10 Pristine1952 Topps #333 Pee Wee Reese - Brooklyn Dodgers Hof - High # Set Break - ExKen Griffey Jr 2014 Triple Threads Printing Plate White Whale Autograph 1/1 AutoVintage Baseball (16) Card Superstar Lot ... Ex-mt+ ... Mantle, Mays, AaronMike Trout 2011 Topps Update Black #us175 26/60 Rookie Bgs Bccg 101956 Topps #135 Mickey Mantle Hof Yankees Psa 3 Vg Looks Nicer1983 Topps #83 Ryne Sandberg Chicago Cubs Rc Rookie Hof Bgs 10 PristineT206 Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder Hof Sweet Caporal 350 Sgc 50 4 " Looks Nicer " 1957 Topps #95 Mickey Mantle Hof New York Yankees Psa 7 Nm " High End "Derek Jeter 2012 12 Topps Museum Collection Jumbo Mlb Logo Patch Momentous 5/5T206 Walter Johnson Portrait Hof Piedmont 150 Psa 2.5 " Looks Undergraded "Lot Of (10) 2011 Topps Update #us175 Mike Trout Angels Rc Rookie Psa 9 Mint1954 Topps Ernie Banks Cubs Rookie Baseball Card #94 Psa 5 Ex

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

Topps releases Johnny Manziel baseball card (PHOTO)
FOXSports.com, November 19th

Manziel is far from the first NFL player to be drafted by an MLB team. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was acquired by the Texas Rangers in the MLB Rule 5 Draft in December 2013. Topps also released a limited edition Russell Wilson baseball ...Read more

2014 Topps Chrome Update Series Baseball Cards
The Cardboard Connection, November 18th

You're not going to find 2014 Topps Chrome Update Series Baseball in traditional boxes. Even single packs might be a little tough to come by. Like last year, the set is only available as part of a special retail Holiday Mega Boxes that also come with...Read more

Topps is putting out autographed Johnny Manziel baseball cards
Yahoo Sports (blog), November 17th

Topps is smart to give collectors a card to pursue in a set that will otherwise only have names that hardcore baseball fans would know. It's also bound to make legit collectors angry, as they don't often care for these shenanigans. The odds of buying a...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

Sorting Out the 2014 Topps Chrome Baseball Variations
The Cardboard Connection, August 28th

Topps has confirmed that rookies Jose Abreu, Masahiro Tanaka and Xander Bogaerts have variation backs. These are written in their native languages that can be spotted on the card backs. Other variations just use strong photos, like the one showing the ...Read more

2014 Topps Football Variation Short Prints Guide
The Cardboard Connection, August 20th

Oh my, there are a lot of 2014 Topps Football variation short prints. As in over 100 of them. But while that may seem a little daunting, there are some simple ways to spot a lot of them. The variations lineup is split between veterans and rookies...Read more

2014 Topps Fire Football Cards
The Cardboard Connection, August 15th

If you're a fan of plain designs, you're probably going to hate 2014 Topps Fire Football. However, if you're intrigued by something that isn't business as usual in the design department, it might be a different story. Hobby boxes of the debuting brand...Read more

2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball Cards
The Cardboard Connection, August 14th

Over the past couple of years, it has been a lot of the same old for the flagship Topps baseball set. While there's nothing earth-shattering about 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball, things are changing. Gone are the full white borders. In is a slightly...Read more