Topps and Modern F1 Cards
To celebrate the 2023 Topps Chrome Formula 1 release on February 16, check out this definitive guide to Topps and Formula 1 cards from our good friends at PWCC Marketplace.
Since F1’s 1950 debut, the competition has built an international fanbase of tens of millions, with particularly strong support in Europe. But that number ballooned after the groundbreaking series introduced the cars and athletes of the circuit to new markets. The series led to a surge in fans that’s helped F1 grow to new heights, especially in the United States, where the sport had traditionally struggled to find a foothold amongst other types of racing.
As interest in the on-track product accelerated, interest in F1 cards closely followed. Fast forward to the 2020 Topps Chrome F1 release, and witness the turning point for modern Formula 1 collecting.
Let’s take some laps around F1 collecting history and see how we got to where we are today.
A drive down memory lane
Though the 2020 Topps Chrome F1 set signaled a new age for many motorsports collectors, it was far from the first racing release showcasing the world’s biggest driving stars.
A few other sets garnered attention over the years, several of which were only available regionally. These include Futera cards produced in Dubai and Scanlens cards out of Australia, 1991 Pro Trac’s cards, 1992 Grid Formula 1 cards (home to Michael Schumacher’s generally accepted rookie), and even the Top Trumps F1 Grand Prix card game featuring a 2016 Max Verstappen issue that some consider his rookie.
2020 Topps Dynasty F1 Glove Max Verstappen Patch Auto /10
Topps takes the wheel
In 2020, there was no active F1 card line to meet the demand from new fans who had fallen in love with the sport on the heels and wheels of 2019’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive. In response, Topps became the official sticker and trading card licensee for the famous racing circuit.
Topps warmed up the tires with two non-traditional releases that year – one a throwback and one firmly entrenched in modern-day collecting.
First, the company debuted its F1 Topps Now cards with an issue honoring Pierre Gasly’s maiden victory, which took place in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 6, 2020. The company also rolled out a sticker set.
F1 TOPPS NOW® Card #1 Pierre Gasly Secures his first Formula 1 victory at Monza
Climbing the standings with F1 collectors and fans
With the Topps Now and Topps sticker collection acting as de facto formation laps, it was time for the brand to get off to the races with its F1 offerings.
The 2020 Topps Dynasty F1 set dropped on February 19, 2021. It gave fans a chance to get a piece of the racing action in a literal sense. Every card included an autograph and/or relic of driving gear or equipment, such as glove and suit patches and zippers, with no card having a print run higher than 10.
While Dynasty was a hit with premium collectors, the April 23, 2021, Topps Chrome release continued to usher in the modern F1 collecting era as we know it.
The set made it easier for fans to buy packs featuring the first widely available, officially licensed cards of modern-day racing stars such as Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, and George Russell. The 200-card base set featured F1 and F2 drivers, their teams and crews, cars, and more.
Many of the classic Topps Chrome staples were included in its F1 debut. There were nine refractor parallels, printing plates, and autograph cards. The set also featured hard-to-find image variations of 10 cards – a hallmark of several recent Topps sets.
The release was followed by the online-exclusive sale of Topps Chrome Sapphire a few weeks later. It contained the same 200 base cards as Topps Chrome but with a Sapphire blue printing element. This premium set is perhaps best known for its stunning 1/1 Padparadscha parallels.