Topps: The Card Industry Dictatorship
By Brendan White aka SteakNchop
Far back in time, before most of us had been born, Topps was as big a power as it is today. They have been manufacturing baseball cards since 1952 and have not stopped since. Here’s their story…
When Topps was created by the Shorin brothers back in 1938 they did not make baseball cards. All they made was bubblegum, under the name of Topps Gum. They went through a name change or two during the forties and became known as Bazooka Bubble Gum. Looking for ways to entice children to buy their gum, Topps/Bazooka would wrap little comic strips around the gum. This worked for a time, but it was far from perfect.
At the turn of the decade, Topps had its million dollar idea, to interpolate trading cards into the packs of gum. These were not baseball cards, but cards of TV cartoon stars and football players. They did have somewhat of what you might call a baseball card the succeeding year in 1951. However, the first year of the modern baseball card was 1952. This method of advertising was extremely efficient, so the following years Topps continued to print cards and put them in their packs.
These tactics were very clever, as now Topps gum appealed to two different groups of people. The first group was all the people who chewed Topps gum. Topps had always had that coterie so that was not the big improvement. It was the baseball fans that helped sell more gum now. Fans would buy the packs for the cards, not for collecting but for the stats. Back then, there was no internet to look stats up or even a book such as the Baseball Register. The best part about this is that each year these “stat hunters” would have to buy all new cards! This was definitely a winning business model.
Through the fifties and right past the sixties and even the seventies Topps soared, becoming a large and profitable company. However, starting in the eighties things began to change.
People happened to notice and appreciate a value in Topps cards, so it was not long before Topps began to make football, basketball and hockey cards as well for fans of other sports. This does take some purity out of Topps, but just increases its dynasty. People kept on chewing that gum, never stopped buying those packs. But a lot had changed.
The cards were not just viewed as little trading cards any more, but valuable collectibles. People began to pay big money for some older Topps cards of players from their childhood. The good part about the increase in value is that Topps did start selling a lot more packs of gum and cards. There were also some other things that had to happen because of this.
Topps started to mass produce the football, hockey, basketball and especially the baseball cards to an extent that today, cards from this time period are worth literally nothing. They even changed the whole point of the company, which was originally to sell gum. Instead of selling gum now, they sold sports cards. In fact, they even took the gum out of the packs because collectors did not want it to stain or in anyway hurt the condition of their cards.
Around the beginning of the twentieth century, more dramatic changes were made. Topps began to not only print the normal Topps base cards but many other sets and series. Today, if you found all the cards that Topps makes, you would find products such as Topps T-206, Topps Heritage, Allen & Ginter, Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome as well as many more. In most of these brands, sets or series Topps inserts a lot of different cards, such as jersey cards and autographs. Autographs and jersey cards from The Topps Company are commonly valued highly compared to other companies’ autograph cards, jersey cards and even patch cards.
With the market how it is today, an autograph from one of Topps’ brands such as Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects could easily be valued at twice or even three or four times the cost of the same autograph from another company. Therefore, Topps products usually have a better cost/profit ratio than cards from other companies such as Upper Deck, Donruss and Tristar. That is one reason to always buy Topps.
For non-sports cards, Topps may very possibly lead the market as well. They make cards of entertainment stars and even own Pokémon! They also continue to sell Bazooka Bubble Gum, always keeping what they started with.
Clearly, Topps produces the best products of any sports card manufacturer. They have similarities with the Yankees, of being so far ahead of any other card company or baseball team. Without doubt, in the sight of Topps, all other card company owners faces flash with anger and jealousy because as long as Topps is around, which may be for a very long time to come, they will continue to unequivocally dominate the sports card world.
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