A Longstanding Partnership Keeps Expanding
When Topps first started making Star Wars trading cards, It was indeed a long time ago — 1977, to be exact, the year that the original movie was released. It wasn’t quite so far away, of course. But ever since, Topps has held the exclusive license to create cards for Star Wars, and it’s made thousands of them.
“We’ve literally had the license since day one,” said Topps Brand Manager Francis. “It’s part of our history.”
You might think of Topps as a baseball card company, and you wouldn’t be alone. Creating collectibles for America’s Pastime launched Topps into orbit in the mid-20th century, which is still the company’s largest focus today. But a whole galaxy of entertainment cards exists outside of baseball, none more popular than those for Star Wars.
With the sci-fi franchise expanding at a never-ending rate, there’s always something new to collect, and digital and tech advances in the hobby over the past decade have allowed all kinds of fans to get involved in a contemporary way.
Topps Star Wars Series 1
Right Here, Right Now
Did you catch this week’s episode of The Mandalorian?
Head to the Topps website a few days after each new drop, and you’ll find exclusive cards featuring the biggest moments of the most recent episode. That kind of speed is rare in the card industry, but Topps Now makes it possible. The product captures the best moments in sports and entertainment, turning them into trading cards within days.
“Usually, to build a hobby product, it can take six to nine months,” Francis said. “But certain shows might not resonate the same way six months from now. With Topps Now, we can act fast.”
The process begins shortly after the episode drops each week, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Francis and his team watch the episode together, noting the key moments and characters that stood out. At some point that day, Disney will send the Topps Now team assets from that episode, like final frames, artwork, and images. Topps usually makes five cards for each episode, covering all the major moments. For example, The Mandalorian Chapter 21 cards include hi-res images of Bo-Katan Kryze and Captain Carson Teva.
TOPPS NOW Star Wars: The Mandalorian
Once the copy is whipped up, the cards are sent to Disney for approval. Though Topps Now sports cards are released the next day after an event, Star Wars cards are held for a few extra days. That’s at the request of Disney, who wants to ensure that fans have enough time to watch the show before cards are dropped. Once the cards are published, which occurs about a week after the episode becomes available, they’re kept online for a week before the sale is closed. It’s a year-round project — The Mandalorian is the focus at the moment, but last fall, there was Andor, and later this year, there will be Ahsoka, a Mandalorian spinoff.
Topps Now produces a smaller set of cards than the one released annually by Topps’ hobby team, but the immediacy is the main draw. “Our little set is just enough to keep Star Wars in people’s minds while it’s live,” Francis said.
For collectors who pride themselves on an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars, there’s also the Living Set — an ongoing project with a mission to feature every single character from every single movie, live-action series, or animated series (but only once, with no repeats). The Living Set features two characters per week; as with Topps Now, the cards are made available for a week, and once the sale closes, they’re never printed again.
Topps Star Wars Living Set
To make the cards, Topps works with two artists who each produce one weekly illustration. The blue borders and retro font choices are based on the card template of Topps Star Wars Series 1, its original card series for A New Hope in 1977. The Living Set just cleared No. 400, and if you’re worried that Topps will run out of popular characters soon, don’t be.
“You’d be surprised how often some background character that nobody’s ever heard of sells really well,” Francis said.
Topps Digital and Star Wars
Physical cards aren’t the only way for Star Wars fans to get their fix. Since 2015, Topps has also offered Star Wars™️: Card Trader, a digital app where collectors can build their PCs and trade with other community members. Star Wars™️: Card Trader has new releases weekly, and there are over a thousand cards on the app, and counting.
Gino Ferrazzano, the director of marketing and user acquisition for Topps Digital, says that the app and Star Wars are well-matched because of the sheer scale of the content available to Topps. It’s not just the original movies or the new series on Disney+ — the Star Wars™️: Card Trader app catalog also includes content from books and video games.
Never done digital collectibles? Martin Nolan, a content strategist on the Topps Digital team, says it should feel pretty familiar. “It’s everything you like about physical collecting, just faster and easier,” he said, noting that acquiring new packs and trading cards with anyone around the world is easier.
The flexibility of digital also allows the team to commemorate special events, like the Star Wars Celebration. The semi-regular convention, which routinely draws over 70 thousand fans worldwide, begins in London on April 7th. To mark the occasion — “in celebration of Celebration,” as Ferrazzano puts it — Star Wars™️: Card Trader will reward its biweekly newsletter subscribers with a redemption code for a special variant of a Star Wars Celebration pack.
Topps Digital Star Wars Celebration Pack Green and Blue Variants
The Force is Strong
Whether you saw every one of the Skywalker Saga movies in the theater or just getting introduced to the franchise through a new TV series, Star Wars has something for any fan to love, and Topps embraces this by making new Star Wars cards all year round. So it might’ve been a baseball card company first, but Star Wars cards are just as much a part of the Topps’ history.