Brand History: Topps Baseball

SERIES 1, SERIES 2 & UPDATES

Debut Year: 1952
 
Topps Baseball has been the Hobby standard-bearer for over 70 years.
Licensors: MLB
 
As the name suggests, Topps Baseball is all about baseball.
Value Level: Accessible
 
Price points are ideal for children and new collectors.

There’s nothing collectors love more than the first. Whether it’s a Hall of Famer’s Rookie Card (RC) or the debut of a new printing technology, value tends to concentrate at the beginning of the story. Topps Baseball represents a trio of firsts. It is the first Topps card product ever released; the first Topps baseball set released each season; and the first “modern” trading card in Hobby history.

WHO IS TOPPS BASEBALL FOR?

It may sound like a cop-out, but Topps Baseball is truly for everyone. The product is designed to be all-encompassing: as the first Topps card product released each season, it features the highest representation of Major League players, resulting in the largest base set in any sport – 990 base cards across Series 1Series 2, and Update Series.

The accessible pricing makes it a great entry point for those who are new to The Hobby – including and especially children. And its long history appeals to a wide range of potential collectors: from baseball traditionalists and collecting purists to parents and their kids.

For a parent looking to educate their children, both on the history of baseball and their own personal collecting journey, there’s no better set than Topps Baseball. Through this set, you can tell a story that seamlessly connects the past with the present. If your son loves Aaron Judge, and you want to teach him about Jackie Robinson, you can put their two Topps Baseball cards side by side. If your daughter is obsessed with pitching stats and expresses her fandom with percentages, you can line up a 2021 Clayton Kershaw with a 1985 Nolan Ryan and argue who was better. 

For a middle-aged fan of Ken Griffey Jr. raising a teenage fan of Shohei Ohtani, there’s no better way of sharing that fandom than breaking out your childhood box of cards and laying them side by side with your kids’. Generations of fans, united over cardboard.

WHY TOPPS BASEBALL MATTERS

When people think of baseball, they think of Topps Baseball. It typically arrives the week after the Super Bowl, on the eve of Spring Training, as attention on football shifts and interest in baseball begins to percolate. 

Because it comes first, Series 1 sets the tone for the entire season, both figuratively and literally. For collectors, Series 1 is often the very first opportunity to see rookies on cardboard. Thus, the first Wander Franco card of 2022 was in Topps Series 1. 

Topps Brand Stories | How 2022 Series One Baseball was Made!

Topps Baseball also sets the tone in terms of its visual identity. Each year, Topps releases dozens of different baseball products, and each product manifests countless variations in aesthetics and design. Yet the design from Topps Baseball is a constant throughline – it reappears throughout the year, not only in other baseball sets (e.g. Topps Chrome) but in other sports as well (e.g. Topps F1).

The design of Topps Baseball also mirrors and reflects back the broader themes of popular culture. For 1975, Topps Baseball took on a distinctly psychedelic patterning and color scheme – a nostalgic callback to the recently-concluded 60s with distinctly contemporary updates. In 1987, Topps Baseball debuted with a recognizably Reagan-era wood-grain look, evoking the paneling of a late-80s station wagon. In the 1990s, those muted colors were replaced by bright and vibrant Nickelodeon Neon, anticipating the full-spectrum decade to come.

And in each of these years, where Topps Baseball introduced a culturally-specific visual identity, that identity was then picked up and replicated in future product releases. 

WHAT AM I CHASING?

Some of the most beloved cards in all of baseball history come from Topps Baseball. The inaugural set, released in 1952, includes what is arguably the most important card in Hobby history: the ‘52 Mickey Mantle rookie card. In August 2022, a ‘52 Mantle in near-mint condition (SGC 9.5) shattered auction records when it sold for more than $12 million dollars. If price is a proxy for importance, the Topps Flagship ‘52 Mantle is the most important card by a mile.

Other iconic Flagship rookie cards include: the 1987 Bo Jackson; the 2011 Mike Trout; and the 2024 Elly De La Cruz. Unlike the Mickey Mantle, these four classics won’t trade for the cost of a Beverly Hills mansion. But for many collectors, each of these rookies has tremendous historical – and also personal – significance. For collectors born in the 1970s and ’80s, the flagship Bo Jackson rookie is remembered as one of the most iconic cards from their youth. For millennials, it’s the Mike Trout card. And ten or twenty years from now, for Gen Z, it will be the Elly De La Cruz card. 

All iconic players. All Topps Baseball.


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