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    

1955 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc-he)Lot Of (282) ... 1983 Topps Tony Gwynn Rookies #482 ... Very High Grade1953 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle Short Print #82 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc-he)1954 Topps #128 Henry Hank Aaron Rookie Braves Psa 61952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Psa 3.5 Vg+ (pwcc)Lot Of (74) ... 1982 Topps Cal Ripken Jr. Rookies #21 ... Very High Grade1955 Topps Setbreak Sandy Koufax Rookie Rc #123 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1956 Topps Setbreak Mickey Mantle #135 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Lot Of (17) ... 1975 Topps George Brett Rookies #228 ... High Grade1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)2016 Bowman Yoan Moncada Gold Refractor Auto Card /501963 Topps #200 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Psa 9 Mint " Looks Gem " Lot Of (30) ... 1975 Topps Robin Yount Rookies #223 ... High Grade1954 Topps #128 Henry Hank Aaron Braves Rc Rookie Hof Psa 4 Vg-exLot Of (281) ... 1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg Rookies #83 ... Very High Grade1953 Topps Setbreak Willie Mays Short Print #244 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1953 Topps Setbreak Jackie Robinson #1 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc-he)1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Lot Of (25) ... 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookies #482 ... Very High Grade1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Sgc 8.5/92 Nm-mt+ (pwcc)1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie-card #311-psa Authentic-gorgeous-wow!1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Rc #98t Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Psa 8 Rc Baseball1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds Rc Rookie Psa 7.5 Nm " Pack Fresh " 1964 Topps Baseball Near Complete (92%) Card Set ... Mantle, Rose, Mays, AaronLot Of (31) ... 1978 Topps Eddie Murray Rookies #36 ... High Grade1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Psa 4 Rc Baseball Lot Of (14) ... 1975 Topps Mini Robin Yount Rookies #223 ... Very High Grade1953 Topps Willie Mays Short Print #244 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Rookie Pirates Psa 7 (oc)Lot Of (191) ... 1983 Topps Wade Boggs Rookies #498 ... Very High GradeLot Of (18) ... 1971 Topps Steve Garvey Rookies #341 ... High Grade1965 Topps Baseball Near Complete (95%) Card Set ... Mantle, Clemente, Aaron1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1956 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente #33 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1965 Topps Baseball #350 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Psa 7 NrmtLot Of (166) ... 1984 Topps Don Mattingly Rookies #8 ... Very High Grade1953 Topps Setbreak Satchell Paige #220 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1959 Topps Baseball High #514 Bob Gibson Rookie Psa 7 Nrmt1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1962 Topps Baseball Near Complete (91%) Card Set ... Mantle, Maris, Aaron, Mays1957 Topps Baseball #95 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Psa 6 Exmt1955 Topps #47 Hank Aaron Braves Psa 7.51955 Topps Setbreak Willie Mays #194 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1960 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Psa 7 Nm1953 Topps Mickey Mantle Short Print #82 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1953 Topps Mickey Mantle Short Print #82 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)2012 Allen & Ginter Bryce Harper Framed Mini Auto Autograph Rc Sp Nationals!2015 Topps Chrome Orange Refractor Addison Russell Rc Rookie Auto /25 Bgs 9.51975 Topps Baseball Complete Set Mint Plus Two Aaron Autographed CardsLot Of (9) ... 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith Rookies #116 ... High GradeLot Of (7) ... 1974 Topps Dave Winfield Rookies #456 ... Very High Grade1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens Rookie Rc #181 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)1955 Topps Setbreak Ted Williams #2 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Lot Of (189) ... 1985 Topps Kirby Puckett Rookies #536 ... Very High Grade1968 Topps Milton Bradley 177 Nolan Ryan Jerry Koosman Rc Psa Nm 7 New York MetsHank Aaron 1954 Topps #128 - Rc - Milwaukee Braves - No Creases!!! Phenomenal!!!1954 Topps #10 Jackie Robinson Dodgers Psa 71960 Topps Baseball Complete Set (1-572) *exmt/ex* Nice 2012 Topps Chrome Sepia Refractor Bryce Harper Rc Rookie " On Card Auto " 47/75

Recent News: Topps Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

The Topps Chrome Cards: Dang its bent! (blog), May 1st

Topps Chrome is the more expensive brand than normal Topps base product, like Topps Football and Topps Baseball. However with me there is one problem with Chrome cards: Bending. Unlike the normal base products like Topps Baseball and Topps ...Read more

Topps Digital Orlando looks to apps to build on iconic past
Bay News 9, April 29th

As collecting habits change, Topps is adapting by allowing fans to buy, sell and trade cards on their phones or tablets. Cards will continue to be printed, Baker said, but their focus is turning to promoting four apps: three of which are sports card...Read more

Making Consumer Online Demand A TOPPS Priority
SportTechie, April 28th

On Opening Day of the MLB season the company, with MLB and the MLBPA, launched TOPPS Now, an on-demand daily card service that captured and sourced the best image or images of the day in MLB and immediately turned the image around as a card ...Read more

TOPPS plans summer camp
Pine Bluff Commercial, April 25th

TOPPS will host a summer camp for ages 7 to 14 Monday, June 6, through Friday, Aug. 5. The camp will include academics, hands-on activities — including STEM projects — physical fitness, field trips, swimming, golf lesson, tennis lesson, sewing and...Read more

Topps Continues Rich Football Tradition with NFL and NFLPA licensed Digital Cards
PR Newswire (press release), April 25th

NEW YORK, April 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Topps is celebrating a 60-year relationship with the National Football League (NFL) by officially signing long-term agreements with the league and the National Football Players Association (NFLPA) to publish ...Read more

How Gary Gerani Made 'Star Wars' Topps Trading Cards Into an Unexpected Force
Inverse, April 20th

Today, Abrams Books releases Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, the second volume in a gorgeous book set that compiles reprints of the original trading cards from the original trilogy of Star Wars movies...Read more

Topps Digital, a mobile game app division of the classic sports company Topps ...
Area Development Online, April 19th

Dan Baker, Topps Director of Product Development, said, “Orlando has been growing in recent years as a technology center, and we've been able to find great talent here to develop the latest versions of our apps. The city has an expanding base with lots...Read more

Topps Now gives collectors immediate gratification (blog), April 4th

It's possible now through Topps, which debuted its Topps Now promotion on Monday. For 24 hours after the event, actual cards with a Topps Now logo will be available to buy for $9.99 through a link on the Topps website. Shipping will be free, Topps said...Read more