There were no million dollar auctions. No FBI investigations. No autograph or relic cards.
Collecting sports cards was primarily a kids’ pursuit when Topps entered the marketplace in the early 1950s. It stayed that way throughout the next two decades but even as a few adult “dealers” sprouted up in the early 1970s, buying directly from Topps or selling their stock of old cards no one wanted, it was still a pretty innocent hobby.
A curious one and profitable too, for Topps, which could count on the dimes and quarters of youngsters with regularity. By then, collecting was just something every kid with an interest in sports at least dabbled in.
It’s interesting, then, to read what journalists were writing about cards back then. There were a few articles before the 70s like this one: Baseball Card Collections Reaching Peak Once Again; Salina Journal 1953.
In the 1970s, with Topps having begun to produce basketball and hockey cards along with its baseball, football and non-sports products (not to mention boatloads of candy and gum), media outlets seemed to realize that cards were becoming big business. Still kid-oriented, but big business nonetheless.
In 1973, an Associated Press reporter went to Duryea, PA, where Topps had more than 1,000 employees at its printing plant, cranking out cards now on a year-round basis. After 18 years, the company’s football card business was now 25% of the market.
The story by Jim Clark reveals that Topps had looked into doing a set of golf cards and the new World Team Tennis organization was begging Sy Berger to sign a deal. The company passed on both and a proposed pro soccer set never went anywhere.
It’s an interesting little blast from the past.