by Chris Houston
Topps collectibles don’t just start and end with standard sports cards. Many serious collectors realize the importance of the multitude of other products the company put into its packs over the last 58 years.
What Topps was using as a marketing ploy in past eras has turned into another serious memorabilia collecting hobby for many. While Topps collectibles like inserts aren’t always the crown jewel, they certainly put a bit more color into any collection and always offer a challenge.
Serious collectors realize that Topps just didn’t originate the baseball card. The company also provided baseball card collectors with additional goodies that have carved their own hobby niche throughout the years. Those goodies also provided baseball fans with additional means to further enjoy the game.
In many cases, the standard baseball card is not always considered the ace of the sports collecting deck. Sometimes the inserts do outweigh the standard card in terms of popularity, value and demand. Because inserts weren’t particularly valued in the past eras, they were sometimes tossed aside in lieu of the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the set. Typically produced one per pack, the inserts sometimes appear less frequently in auctions, online inventories and card shops. The demand for the various insert sets in all four sports is fairly strong among serious collectors. Sets are smaller which should make them easier to collect. That’s not always the case.
The good news is that relative scarcity doesn’t correlate to the insert issues requiring a fat wallet. In fact, many Topps collectibles like are very affordable to the average consumer. Collectors can still enjoy a piece of the history of the game or reminisce about days gone by without having to unload serious cash. Better still, the insert sets are almost always jammed with stars. A 1968 Topps poster of Hank Aaron or Mickey Mantle will cost you about 1/10th of a regular baseball card.
Topps collectibles include everything from the 1962 “Bucks” in baseball and football to the 1964 “Stand-Ups”. The 1962 Topps Bucks were just what the name implies . Toy currency, or “bucks”, with baseball players’ faces where Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln would be served as fun extras for young collectors.
The 1964 Topps Stand-Ups allowed collectors to have a card that would actually stand up for display purposes. The 77-card set is highly prized by collectors of vintage baseball cards. Since many kids did what they were supposed to do with those cards, there are relatively few surviving examples in near mint condition and prices often reflect that fact, even though the backs are blank and the images aren’t really anything to write home about.
One of Topps’ more unique sets was the 1970-71 basketball ‘rulers’…thin, diagonal caricatures that were folded into packs of the ‘tall boy’ cards. Topps was clearly stressing the size of NBA players to kids who were getting introduced to the NBA through one of its first basketball sets since 1957. Topps produced player ‘trio’ stickers in ’71-72 and high quality examples are hard to find because of the jet black borders and the fact that many were peeled off and stuck to who knows what by youngsters.
Eventually Topps moved on to posters in the late-1960s and early 70s. Metal coins were the Topps marketing strategy for 1964 and again in 1971. Rust is a major problem with these, especially in ’64 and high grade examples bring strong prices although the coins aren’t nearly as popular as some of the cardboard or paper inserts.
In 1968, Topps showed off an even more creative side by providing game cards that were used to simulate baseball games well before the computer age. The 33-card set is easy to put together and cheap thanks to a large supply on the market. However, roller marks often turn what appear to be mint cards into something much less when submitted to the magnification process in professional grading.
These Topps collectibles are sometimes a great supplement to the collectors wanting to add to an already strong collection. There are many other similar sets in addition to those listed here. They aren’t considered a necessity, but they certainly can add a pretty nice touch to a vintage card collection.