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 #311 Mickey Mantle Psa Good 2 New York Yankees Hof Rookie Card Rc1952 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle Rookie Rc #311 Sgc 6/80 Exmt (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1953 Topps Mickey Mantle Short Print #82 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1952 Topps Baseball Card Xmas Cello Rack Pack - Pafko On Front! (mantle? Psa?)1954 Topps Mid-hi Grade Complete Set Williams Banks Hank Aaron Rc Psa 6 (pwcc)Tony Gwynn 2/5 Jumbo Franklin Logo Wristband Patch 2014 Immaculate Padres1999 Upper Deck Hologrfx Ud Authentics Ken Griffey Jr Auto Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint!2014 Bowman Chrome Blue Refractor Auto Julio Urias /150 2000 Topps #tta40 Certified Autograph Miguel Cabrera Signed Auto Rc Rookie#1/1 Babe Ruth 2009 Topps Authentic Cut Signature Autograph American Legend1967 Topps Baseball Near Complete Set W/ Psa Hofers - Original Owner SetHi End! 1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rookie Ex-mint Psa 6 Nq(must Have Rookie!) Mike Trout 2014 Topps Tribute Game Used Bat Knob 1/1 Hot Mvp! Angles ***wow***Mike Trout 2014 Topps Triple Threads All Star Game Jersey Patch 6/9 Angels1954 Topps Jackie Robinson #10 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1954 Topps #128 Henry Hank Aaron Rc Rookie Hof Milwaukee Braves Psa 5 Ex1952 Topps Setbreak Eddie Mathews Rookie Rc #407 Sgc 5/60 Ex (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)Kris Bryant 2014 Bowman Chrome Auto Rookie Refractor 168/500 2013 Bowman Draft1952 Topps Setbreak Jackie Robinson #312, Vg+ (pwcc)2014 Topps Triple Threads Carlos Gonzalez All Star Jumbo Sleeve Patch Relic 1/1!1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Barry Bonds #t11 Psa 10 Giants Nice Card1989 Topps Tiffany #647 Randy Johnson Rc Psa 10 Gem Mint 50/50 Centered Blazer!1992 Score The Franchise Mickey Mantle Auto 1604/20001954 Topps Al Kaline Rookie Rc #201 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)2012 Topps Museum Collection Archival Autographs Ken Griffey Jr. Bgs 9 Auto 102003 Topps Heritage Hank Aaron Red Ink Auto 1954 /541954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128, Vgex (pwcc)Mike Trout 2014 Platinum 1989 Bowman Is Back Black Diamond Refractor Auto #/ 251968 Topps #280 Mickey Mantle Hof New York Yankees Psa 8 Nm-mt2014 Panini Immaculate Mike Trout Gold Ink Autograph #1/15! Rare Angels Auto!!ˆ2014 Topps Triple Threads Cal Ripken Jr Auto Jersey Rawlings Patch #'d 1/3 Rare!1958 Topps #47 Roger Maris Rookie Rc Psa 7 Nm - Nicely Centered2009 Topps Triple Threads Jersey Patch Auto Autograph Albert Pujols 17/18 Rare1959 Topps #10 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Psa 5 Ex ˆHank Aaron 2012 Topps Triple Threads Mvp Game Used Bat Autograph Auto /66 Braves1975 Topps Set Break #228 George Brett Rc Psa 8 Nm-mt1956 Topps Mickey Mantle #135 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 Sgc 5/60 Ex (pwcc)1970s Topps Football Small Collection, Includes 1984 & 85 Usfl Sets Young Psa 81953 Topps Willie Mays Short Print #244 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Rc #94 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Sgc Auth (nm-mt) (pwcc)1975 Topps Mini Baseball Lot (9) Hofers & Rookies Mostly Psa 9 Aaron, Carter Etc1952 Topps Setbreak Hoyt Wilhelm Rookie Rc #392 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1952 Topps Setbreak Roy Campanella #314 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1958 Topps #343 Orlando Cepeda Rookie Card Gorgeous Psa 8 ++ Centered!!Nice Collection Of 1960s -70s Topps Baseball Mostly Hi-grade Commons Lotˆ2014 Bowman Chrome Blue Refractor Auto Julio Urias #ed 99/150 La Dodgers Bcap-juBgs 9.5 Mike Trout 2011 Topps Finest Super Rare Refractor Parallel Rc #/549 *gem1953 Topps Set Break #147 Warren Spahn Nm-mt E23651956 Topps Roberto Clemente #33 - - Psa 6 - - Centered 1957 Topps #18 Don Drysdale Rc Rookie Hof Brooklyn Dodgers Psa 8 Nm-mtBryce Harper 2014 Triple Threads 1/1 White Whale Patch Auto Printing Press Plate2014 Topps Museum Collection Auto Autograph Jumbo Patch Andrew Mccutchen 9/10ˆ

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

Topps bring country to the city
The Southland Times, September 30th

Topps bring country to the city. The Grand Ole Topp'ry ready to go. BRIDGET RAILTON. Last updated 05:00 01/10/2014. Linda and Jools Topp. NICOLE JOHNSTONE/Fairfax NZ. TOUR BEGINS: Linda, left, and Jools Topp rehearse in the Civic Theatre ahead ...Read more

Card Corner Plus: 1974 Topps: The Horace Clarke Era
Hardball Times, September 29th

It is the final card that Topps issued for Clarke. After playing out the 1974 season with the Yankees and then enduring a midseason sale to the lowly Padres, Clarke saw his career come to an unceremonious end. The Yankees' decision to sell off Clarke ...Read more

Collect call: 2014 Topps UFC Champions (blog), September 27th

For collectors who enjoy mixed martial arts, it's a fun time. Topps' latest effort, UFC Champions, is perfect for set builders and offers enough hot cards to please collectors looking for nice hits. A hobby box contains 20 packs, with 10 cards to a...Read more

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Cards
The Cardboard Connection, September 26th

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball sees the return of one of the broadest reaching baseball-only products in the hobby. Base cards are joined by lots of mini cards, plenty of inserts, and a generous amount of autographs and relic cards. The overall look...Read more

T.J. Dillashaw Named Brand Ambassador for Topps
UFC, September 25th

The Topps Company, Inc. and the UFC® announced today that UFC bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw has been named its brand ambassador for Topps' UFC products. During his title defense at UFC 177 last month, Dillashaw earned his third straight ...Read more

2014 Topps Heritage Minor League Variation Short Prints Guide
The Cardboard Connection, September 22nd

As you shuffle through your 2014 Topps Heritage Minor League cards, make sure to keep an eye out for base variations. Like last year, Topps included 25 of these rare short prints in the minor league product. Although there is no real theme to the...Read more

2014 Topps NFL Magnetz
The Cardboard Connection, September 22nd

Aimed primarily at retail outlets, 2014 Topps NFL Magnetz offer something a little different for collectors looking beyond cards. Packs come with three die-cut magnets. Each is double-sided with the player on one side and their team's helmet on the other...Read more

2014 Topps Heritage High Number Baseball Cards
The Cardboard Connection, September 19th

Just as it has the last few years, 2014 Topps Heritage High Number fills in the gaps from the season in a 100-card factory set. Collectors will also find one rookie autograph per box. The straight-forward product features cards for those that did not...Read more