When did Topps start making baseball cards?

When did Topps start making baseball cards?

Baseball cards have been a staple of American pop culture for over a century, but it was the Topps Company that revolutionized the industry and set the standard for modern baseball cards. Topps began producing baseball cards in 1951, and their first set featured a total of 52 cards, each depicting a different player from the Major League Baseball.

Topps quickly gained popularity among collectors with their colorful and detailed designs, as well as their inclusion of player statistics and biographical information on the back of each card. These features made the Topps baseball cards educational and entertaining, increasing their appeal to both children and adults.

Over the years, Topps expanded its product line by adding various subsets and special editions to their baseball card releases. They also introduced innovative technologies, such as memorabilia cards that included pieces of game-used equipment or autographed cards signed by the players themselves.

Today, Topps remains one of the leading manufacturers of baseball cards, continuing to produce sets that capture the excitement and spirit of America’s favorite pastime. Their cards have become highly collectible and sought after by both avid collectors and casual fans alike.

The Origins of Topps Baseball Cards

Topps began producing baseball cards in 1938. The company, originally known as the Topps Chewing Gum Company, was founded in Brooklyn, New York. Initially, Topps was primarily focused on producing chewing gum and other candy products.

In 1951, Topps revolutionized the baseball card industry with the release of their landmark 1951 Topps Baseball cards. These cards featured bright colors and detailed player images, setting a new standard for baseball card design. The 1951 Topps set also included the iconic Mickey Mantle rookie card, which remains one of the most valuable and sought-after baseball cards of all time.

Over the years, Topps continued to innovate and dominate the baseball card market. They introduced various card sets featuring different themes, such as All-Star players, World Series highlights, and special edition cards for specific events or milestones.

Topps also became known for their annual flagship baseball card set, which is released at the beginning of each MLB season. This set includes cards for every player on the team rosters, as well as additional subsets and insert cards.

In recent years, Topps has expanded beyond traditional cardboard baseball cards and embraced digital trading cards. They created apps and online platforms where collectors can buy, sell, and trade digital versions of their favorite baseball cards.

Overall, Topps has played a significant role in shaping the baseball card industry and remains one of the most recognizable and respected names in the hobby.

The Early Days

In 1951, Topps Chewing Gum Inc. entered the baseball card market, forever changing the collecting hobby. While baseball cards had been produced as promotional items as early as the 19th century, Topps was the first company to dedicate an entire set of cards solely to baseball players.

The first set, dubbed “Topps Baseball Cards,” featured a total of 52 cards, each showcasing a different player from the major leagues. The cards were distributed in packs of gum, with one card included in each package.

Topps’ approach to card production revolutionized the industry. Previously, baseball cards were mainly included as advertisements on tobacco products or as inserts in other types of products, such as caramel candy. Topps’ decision to create a full set of cards that focused solely on baseball players established a new benchmark for collectors and paved the way for the modern baseball card market.

From the very beginning, Topps’ cards featured colorful and eye-catching designs, capturing the attention of collectors of all ages. The early Topps baseball cards are highly sought after by collectors today, not only for their historic significance but also for their aesthetic appeal.

As the years went on, Topps continued to dominate the baseball card market, introducing new innovations and designs that captivated collectors. The company’s commitment to quality and its ability to capture the essence of the game of baseball on a small piece of cardboard have made Topps a household name in the world of baseball card collecting.

The Birth of Topps

Topps is a well-known American company that has been producing baseball cards for decades. The company was founded in 1938 by two brothers, Abram and Philip Shorin. Initially, their business was focused on selling chewing gum and candy.

However, in 1950, Topps decided to expand its product line and began producing baseball cards. At the time, baseball cards were already a popular collectible among children and fans of the sport, but Topps wanted to bring a fresh approach to the market. They introduced a revolutionary design, which included the players’ photographs on the front and detailed player information on the back.

The first Topps baseball card set was released in 1951 and featured 52 cards. The set included notable players such as Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, and Yogi Berra. The cards were an instant success, and Topps quickly became the leading producer of baseball cards in the United States.

To keep up with the increasing demand, Topps continuously released new sets each year, featuring more players and different designs. The company also introduced special edition cards, such as All-Star cards and rookie cards, which became highly sought after by collectors.

In addition to baseball cards, Topps expanded its product range to include cards for other sports, such as football and basketball. They also ventured into non-sports cards, featuring popular entertainment franchises like Star Wars and Garbage Pail Kids.

Throughout the years, Topps has remained a dominant force in the baseball card industry. Their cards are highly valued by collectors and continue to be produced today. The company’s commitment to innovation and quality has solidified its position as a leader in the sports collectibles market.

The First Set

The first set of Topps baseball cards was produced in 1951. This set is now known as the iconic 1951 Topps baseball card set and is highly sought after by collectors.

The 1951 Topps baseball card set featured a total of 52 cards, each measuring 2-5/8 inches by 3-3/4 inches. The front of the cards showcased colorful and detailed illustrations of players, along with their names, team logos, and facsimile autographs.

The back of the cards contained various types of information, such as the player’s biographical details, career statistics, and sometimes even trivia questions or cartoons. The backs of the cards also included a section where kids could assemble a complete picture puzzle by collecting all the cards in the set.

Notable players featured in the 1951 Topps baseball card set include legendary figures like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron, among others. These cards are highly valued by collectors due to their historical significance and the impact these players had on the game of baseball.

While the 1951 Topps baseball card set was not an immediate success, it laid the foundation for what would eventually become a dominant force in the baseball card industry. Topps continued to produce baseball cards year after year, making it one of the longest-running producers of baseball cards in history.

Innovations and Success

Topps continued to innovate and improve the baseball card industry throughout its history. In the 1950s, they introduced color photography, replacing the previous black and white images. This enhanced the visual appeal of the cards and made them more desirable to collectors.

Another significant innovation by Topps was the inclusion of player statistics on the back of the cards. This allowed fans and collectors to learn more about the players and their performance on the field. It also added educational value to the cards and made them more than just collectibles.

Topps also introduced a gum product in their packs, which became a popular feature among collectors. The combination of trading cards and gum created a unique experience for fans and collectors.

Over the years, Topps faced competition from other card manufacturers, but they maintained their position as the leading producer of baseball cards. They signed exclusive contracts with Major League Baseball and its players’ association, ensuring that they had access to the most popular players and teams.

Topps baseball cards became highly sought after by collectors, with certain rare cards reaching high prices in the secondary market. The company continued to release new card sets each year, featuring updated player rosters, rookie cards, and special edition cards.

In recent years, Topps has expanded to produce cards for other sports and entertainment properties. They have also embraced digital technology, offering digital trading cards and collectibles to meet the evolving needs of collectors in the digital age.

Overall, Topps’ innovations and success have made them a staple in the baseball card industry. They have left a lasting impact on the hobby, creating a rich history of collectible cards enjoyed by millions of fans and collectors worldwide.

Challenging Times

Challenging Times

During its long history, Topps faced many challenges in producing baseball cards. One of the most significant challenges occurred in the 1980s when the company faced competition from rival card manufacturers.

Topps had long been the dominant player in the baseball card industry, but its position was threatened when competitors, such as Fleer and Donruss, entered the market. These new companies brought fresh ideas and innovative designs to the industry, challenging Topps’ traditional approach.

In response to this increased competition, Topps had to adapt and innovate. The company introduced new sets of baseball cards featuring different designs, unique player photos, and special edition cards. This allowed Topps to differentiate itself from its competitors and regain its market share. The company also signed exclusive deals with key players, ensuring that their cards would only be available through Topps.

Another challenge that Topps faced was the decline in interest in baseball cards during the 1990s. The popularity of baseball cards waned as other forms of entertainment, such as video games and trading card games, gained traction among young collectors. To combat this decline, Topps had to find new ways to engage collectors and keep the hobby alive.

Topps started including special inserts and autographed cards in their sets, creating a new level of excitement for collectors. They also introduced limited edition cards and rare variations, which created a sense of scarcity and exclusivity among collectors.

Despite these challenges, Topps continued to produce baseball cards and remains a prominent player in the industry to this day. The company has adapted to changes in the market and continues to innovate, ensuring that baseball card collecting remains a thriving hobby.

Topps Today

Topps is a well-known name in the world of baseball cards, and they have been producing cards for many years. One of their most popular and innovative sets is called Topps Today. This set features cards that capture memorable moments and performances from current baseball players.

Unique Cards

Topps Today cards are unique because they are printed on-demand. This means that each card is created in response to a specific event or achievement in the world of baseball. For example, if a player hits a home run or pitches a complete game, Topps will create a card to commemorate that moment. These cards are often printed in limited quantities, making them highly collectible.

The front of each Topps Today card features a full-color image of the player involved in the event, along with details about the achievement. The back of the card provides additional information, such as the date and location of the event, as well as statistics and highlights from the player’s career.

Availability and Pricing

Topps Today cards are available for purchase directly from the Topps website. They are typically sold as individual cards or in sets, with prices varying depending on the rarity and popularity of the event being commemorated. Collectors can also find these cards on secondary markets such as eBay, where prices might fluctuate based on supply and demand.

Collectibility and Community

Many collectors enjoy collecting and trading Topps Today cards because they are a unique way to commemorate memorable moments in baseball history. The limited availability of these cards adds to their collectibility, and collectors often seek out specific cards to complete their collections. On online forums and social media platforms, collectors discuss and showcase their Topps Today cards, building a community around this special set.


Topps Today is a popular and unique set of baseball cards that captures memorable moments and achievements from the world of baseball. With their on-demand printing and limited availability, these cards are highly collectible and sought after by both casual fans and serious collectors.

Collectors’ Favorites

The Topps Company is known for producing some of the most popular and sought-after baseball cards in the world. With a rich history dating back to the 1950s, Topps has released numerous sets that have become collectors’ favorites.

1952 Topps Baseball Cards

  • Considered one of the most iconic baseball card sets of all time, the 1952 Topps set is highly coveted by collectors.
  • Featuring 407 cards, it includes the debut card of Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, making it a must-have for many collectors.
  • The distinctive design and high-quality photography of the 1952 Topps cards set it apart from previous sets.

1969 Topps Baseball Cards

  • The 1969 Topps set is known for its colorful and vibrant designs.
  • Featuring 664 cards, it includes notable rookies such as Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, and Johnny Bench.
  • Collectors also admire the unique card backs of the 1969 Topps set, which feature humorous cartoons and quizzes.

1989 Topps Baseball Cards

  • The 1989 Topps set is memorable for its large number of rookie cards, including those of Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield.
  • With a total of 792 cards, it was the largest baseball card set Topps had ever produced at the time.
  • The set also features the popular “Turn Back the Clock” subset, which showcases significant moments from baseball history.

2001 Topps Baseball Cards

  • The 2001 Topps set is notable for its inclusion of the rookie cards of Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols, two players who would go on to have stellar careers.
  • Collectors appreciate the clean and modern design of the 2001 Topps cards.
  • Furthermore, the set features the “Through the Years” subset, highlighting memorable moments and players from past decades.

These are just a few examples of baseball card sets produced by Topps that have become collectors’ favorites. With their rich history and commitment to quality, Topps continues to produce baseball cards that capture the attention and admiration of collectors worldwide.

Topps and Baseball Legacy

Topps is a renowned trading card company that has played a significant role in the world of baseball. Established in 1938, Topps has become synonymous with baseball cards and has left an enduring legacy in the sport.

Early Beginnings:

Topps started its journey by producing chewing gum, but they entered the baseball card scene in 1951. Their first set of baseball cards, known as the Topps Red Backs and Topps Blue Backs, consisted of 52 cards and featured colorful designs. This move marked the beginning of their involvement in the baseball card industry.


Over the years, Topps introduced various innovations to their baseball card sets. In 1952, they brought out their most iconic and sought-after card, the Topps Mickey Mantle card. It became one of the most collectible cards of all time and helped solidify Topps’ reputation in the industry.

Topps continued to innovate by introducing rookie cards and special edition cards to their sets. They also paved the way for including player statistics and personal information on the cards, making them even more valuable for collectors.

Exclusive Licensing:

In 1956, Topps secured an exclusive licensing agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB), which allowed them to be the sole producer of baseball cards featuring official team logos and player images. This exclusivity further enhanced their standing in the market.

Legacy and Collectibility:

The Topps brand has become synonymous with baseball cards, and their cards have become highly collectible items. Their extensive history, iconic designs, and exclusive licensing rights have made Topps cards a staple in baseball card collecting.

Topps’ ongoing commitment to quality and innovation has ensured their enduring legacy in the baseball card industry. Collectors and fans of the sport continue to cherish and seek out Topps baseball cards, making them an integral part of the baseball world.


When was Topps founded?

Topps was founded in 1938.

Who started Topps?

Topps was started by brothers Abram, Ira, Philip, and Joseph Shorin.

What was the first year Topps produced baseball cards?

Topps began producing baseball cards in 1951.

Did Topps face any competition in the baseball card industry?

Yes, Topps faced competition from other companies like Bowman and Fleer.


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