Collectors yearning for a comprehensive football set certainly got their wish in the midst of the junk wax era. The 1992 Topps Football set is a monstrosity, totaling 759 cards over three separate series. Cards numbered 1 through 330 constitute Series 1. Series 2 features a second round of 330 cards numbered 331 through 660. The high number series (Series 3) rounds this beast out featuring cards numbered from 661 to the final card at 759. That’s alot of football cards.
Topps Football didn’t quite reach the depths of the 792 cards found in the baseball sets for many years, but it came close.
The last time Topps had a large, three series set was the classic 1972 product, exactly 20 years prior to this set’s release. The ’72 set featured a plethora of Hall of Fame rookie cards including Dallas Cowboys legendary quarterback Roger Staubach, fellow HOFers John Riggins, Charlie Joiner, and Ted Hendricks, along with other notable RCs such Hall of Fame worthy QBs Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning and iconic coach Steve Spurrier.
Unfortunately, HOF RCs were not in the cards, literally, for the set produced 20 years later but semi stars such as Pittsburgh Steelers borderline HOF defensive force Levon Kirkland and Dallas Cowboys star Darren Woodson are highlighted. Lesser known players but team favorites such as one time Steelers QB and XFL star Tommy Maddox and ESPN personality Mark Schlereth RCs are also uncovered.
The clean white borders, team color matched inner layered borders, thin color coded nameplates, and overall design mimic the 1992 Topps Baseball release from the same season. The design similarities don’t stop there as they expand to the hardwood of the 1992-93 Topps Basketball set, too. Someone should have checked the pulse of the design team that year. If these aren’t identical twins (or triplets), they are, at the very least, very similarly looking brothers on cardboard.
There were a lot of gems as far as the photography was concerned in Topps Baseball this particular season, and although there are a select few in football, the overall photo selection is solid but not spectacular.
The card backs are pretty standard for the era, as they feature a plain matte, white stock base with the player’s name, team, position, and card number at the top. You will find a text box in the middle, featuring all of the information you’d expect to find on the back of a card in the mid-nineties with a short paragraph about the featured player. The bottom third of a card featured a panoramic shot of the player’s home stadium, which was somewhat unique for the time.
The line kicked off with pretty standard 55 cent, 15-card packs with each box holding 36 packs.
The box art was a powder blue with white Topps Football font. The series was shown in red lettering. The inaugural Topps Gold cards had their very own logo and were featured prominently on the box art and the pack art. There were multiple variations of players who appeared on the packaging, ranging from Hall of Famers like Warren Moon to players who aren’t exactly household names 30 years later.
Speaking of the packs, the design featured a pixelized cameo by the G.O.A.T., none other than San Francisco 49ers receiver Jerry Rice.
For collectors mining for gold, Topps had you covered, introducing the debut of Topps Gold with parallel per wax pack, three per rack pack, and 20 per factory set.
With a lack of inserts in standard packs, the one per pack gold foiled name and team plates really jump out at collectors as they are leafing through packs.
The long-running 1,000 Yard Club inserts were featured, but they were only found three per jumbo pack. This is a set that tips the cap (or helmet) to running backs and wide receivers that surpassed the vaunted 1,000 yard plateau the season prior. A parallel gold version of the 1,000 Yard Club inserts were found randomly in factory sets.
A four card No. 1 Draft Pick of the 90’s set was featured in the high series factory set. It featured highly touted top picks such as Jeff George, Russelll Maryland, Steve Emtman and my favorite college football player of all time, Raghib ‘The Rocket’ Ismail.
Although collectors complain about it incessantly today, it was far more common for the draft picks and rookies to be featured in their college uniforms at the time and that’s exactly what was found in this particular Topps product, with series one being released in mid July of ’92, it’s understandable.
Although series one carried the bulk of the cards, many of the star players and skill position players were absent due to Topps failing to come to an agreement with the NFL Players Association to show said players likenesses in the football set. The deal finally got done between Topps and the NFLPA late in the fourth quarter, so that is a major contributing factor to Series 3 being released in a rush, which did feature many of the brightest stars (and NFLPA members) in football at the time. Series 3 was a short print in comparison to the first two series of the set.
Topps produced factory sets of both the 660-card set of Series 1 and 2 and the Series 3 run. Complete sets can be had for very modest prices. If you’re a 1990s junkie, wax boxes aren’t expensive either.
For those looking for errors and variations, there are multiple “errors” for each card that generally deal with the copyright line and text on the card back–not exactly the most fun and exciting variations to chase but we are talking about 1992, so we will give Topps a pass here.
What the set lacks in rookie star power is definitely made up with veteran superstars. There was no shortage of jaw dropping gridiron kings as the greatest of the era are featured. From superstar signal callers in Montana, Marino and Elway (and Brett Favre in full Packers gear for the first time) to backfield gods such as Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders as well as all time world class wide outs like Rice and defensive kings such as Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White all showcased in the set. Many of their cards feature classic images from a golden era of football that collectors can definitely appreciate. Just take one look at Elway launching a rocket downfield or Barry Sanders making his way upfield juking defender after defender.
At a time when the football card hobby met the junk era right at the 50 yard line, this is clearly a set that doesn’t receive much love in the hobby and, in large part, for good reason. What we can appreciate, though, is the sheer size and depth, the moment-in-time veteran star power and the gold to be found in them there packs.