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    

1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 7.5 Nrmt+ (pwcc)1974 Topps Baseball Complete Set All Graded Psa 10 Winfield Rc, Ryan, Seaver1952 Topps 311 Mickey Mantle Ungraded Rookie Card Yankees Hall Of Fame 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Rc Psa 8 Centered1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Rc #94 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1953 Topps Mid-grade Complete Set Mickey Mantle Mays Sathel Paige, Psa (pwcc)1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1956 Topps Mickey Mantle #135 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 Topps Sandy Koufax Rookie Rc #123 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1966 Topps #50 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt Centered 1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Rc #537 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1952 Topps #261 Willie Mays ** Strong Card ** Psa Vg-ex 4 New York Giants HoferHank Aaron 2011 Topps Heritage Braves Auto Autograph1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Bvg 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1952 Topps Eddie Mathews Rookie Rc #407 Psa 2 Gd (pwcc)1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates Rc Rookie Hof Bvg 6 Ex-mt 2014 Topps Finest Ken Griffey Jr Auto Atomic Refractor On-card Autograph #1/51993 Sp Foil #279 Derek Jeter New York Yankees Rc Rookie Signed Auto Psa/dna 1954 Topps Mid-hi Grade Complete Set Williams Kaline Banks Aaron Rc, Psa (pwcc)Mike Trout Josh Hamilton 1/10 $4000 Auto Angel Logo Patch Jersey Topps Five Star1972 Topps Baseball Unopened Wax Pack 4th Series Psa 8 Nm-mt 1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Rc #537 Sgc 96/9 Mint (pwcc)1953 Topps Mickey Mantle Short Print #82 Bvg 5 Ex (pwcc)2014 Topps Chrome Mike Trout Bryce Harper Dual Auto Refractor #5/101955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Bvg 7 Nrmt (pwcc)2014 Topps Chrome Red Refractor Auto Jose Abreu 15/251957 Topps Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)Joc Pederson 2012 Bowman Chrome Blue Refractor Rookie Auto #/150 Rc Dodgers2012 Topps Five Star Tony Gwynn & Frank Thomas Dual Relic Auto Book 3/101979 Topps #116 Ozzie Smith Rookie Psa 9 Mint San Diego Padres1961 Topps #300 Mickey Mantle Hof New York Yankees Psa 7 Nm 1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. Rc Rookie Signed Auto Psa/dnaMiguel Cabrera 25/25 Auto Topps Shelf 2014 Topps Chrome Autograph Tigers 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith #116 Psa 9 Rookie Cardinals Hof 50-50 Centered Beautiful2011 Topps Update Gold Mike Trout Angels Rc Rookie 1426/2011 Psa 10 Gem Mint 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski Rookie Rc #148 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Jose Abreu 2014 Topps Chrome Gold Refractor Auto Rookie Sp /50 Chicago White Soxˆ1975 Topps Baseball Complete 660 Card Set W/george Brett & Robin Yount Rcs $6001956 Topps Jackie Robinson White Back #30 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)3/5 2014 Topps Chrome Back 2 Back Mike Trout Josh Hamilton Dual Auto Case Hit2010 Topps Triple Threads Babe Ruth Mutli Swatch Jersey /361952 Topps Early Wynn #277 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1959 Topps #514 Bob Gibson Psa 7 Set Break2012 Bowman Chrome Blue Refractor Corey Seager Rc Rookie Auto /150 Bgs 9.5 W/ 10ˆ1984 Topps Baseball Rack Pack Case 3-box Case Mattingly ~ Strawberry Rc's 2012 Topps Chrome Encounters Mike Trout Auto Autograph #/10 Angels2014 Topps Archives Major League Autograph Charlie Sheen Auto Ricky Vaughn1975 Topps Baseball Separation Proof Cards. Carlton Fisk Red Sox1957 Topps Hi-grade Complete Set Mays Clemente Mantle Aaron Williams, Psa (pwcc)1957 Topps Mickey Mantle #95 Bvg 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Mike Trout 2013 Bowman Draft Chrome Superfractor Fotf 1/1 Mini Bgs 10 All 10's1999 Topps Stadium Club Chipper Jones Derek Jeter Dual Auto Psa 10ˆˆOriginal 1956 Topps Baseball Card 1c Wax Pack Wrapper Nice!1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Rc #537 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1959 Topps Mid-grade Complete Set Mantle Aaron Clemente Mays Gibson, Psa (pwcc)

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

Schwartz: Welcome To Your Football-Card Fantasy
CBS Local, September 2nd

“I think it's going to be something new, especially for people who are currently collectors,” said Marc Stephens, marketing manager at Topps. “It's something new. We're trying to keep cards relevant and fantasy is such as huge phenomenon. It just...Read more

Collect call: 2014 Topps MLS Chrome
TBO.com (blog), August 31st

Topps promises three autographed chrome cards per hobby box. The box I sampled yielded 68 of the base cards, or 71.5 percent of the set. There were plenty of refractors, too. Regular refractors fell every three packs on average, and the box I sampled...Read more

Collect call: 2014 Topps Finest baseball
TBO.com (blog), August 30th

Talk about bombarding one's senses with color. That's what the 2014 Topps Finest baseball set does. It's a colorful set of chrome cards, filled with shades of purple, neon green and burnt orange. Sounds like a 64-crayon box of Crayolas from the 1960s...Read more

Collect call: 2014 Topps football
TBO.com (blog), August 30th

Topps always produces a workmanlike set when it releases its flagship football product every year. Not a whole lot of style, perhaps, but there is plenty of substance. If you are a set builder or enjoy a product that is easy and affordable to collect...Read more

Law of Cards: Topps Sues Maker of Alleged Knock-Off Ring Pops
The Cardboard Connection, August 28th

On August 21, Topps sued a company called Primary Colors for trademark infringement. Apparently, Primary Colors was set to launch a product called the Valentine Ring Lollipop. Topps didn't like this because it believed the Valentine Ring Lollipop...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

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

Topps' future, backers' exit both tied to digital success
The Deal Pipeline, August 6th

Topps Co.'s private equity owners' exit from their investment is as dependent on the success of a digital strategy as the sports trading card and collectibles company is. "The difficulty in the [trading card] space in the last 10 years has been the...Read more