It may seem odd to classify a baseball card set from the 1980s as vintage, but the 1982 Topps Traded/Update certainly fits the bill.
The set is notable for the first Topps solo card of Cal Ripken Jr., but other features made it different.
But vintage? Consider this: Only five players on this year’s major league rosters on Opening Day in 2022 were born before 1982. Albert Pujols, the oldest at 42, was born on Jan. 16, 1980. He is followed by Rich Hill and Nelson Cruz, also born in 1980; Oliver Pérez and Adam Wainwright were born in 1981.
The 132-card 1982 set marked the second year Topps put out a late-season showing traded players on their new teams and notable first-year rookies. That was much better than Topps squeezing in a line on the back of a player’s card mentioning a trade in a later print run, a tactic used during the 1960s. The 1966 Topps cards of Bob Uecker (No. 91), Dick Groat (No. 103) and Alex Johnson (No. 104) are good examples.
By 1981, with Topps facing competition for the first time in 25 years with the introduction of full sets from Donruss and Fleer, marketers had a revelation — why not release an abbreviated set of rookies and players who were traded after the presses had rolled? That gave Topps card collectors a bonus over the other two upstart companies.
Those early traded sets were “sealed” with a simple piece of tape that’s typically yellowed over the years.
The 1982 Traded version adopted a new numbering system, placing a “T” after each card number (1T to 132T). The inaugural traded set in 1981 simply picked up where the main set left off, with cards numbered from 727 to 858.
The 1982 Traded set was only available as a box set, which was sold by hobby dealers who had accounts with Topps.
Like the flagship set, the 1982 Traded set cards measured 2½ inches by 3½ inches. The design is similar to the 1982 set, but each photo in the traded set is different than the ones displayed in the flagship version.
A color photograph has a dual-colored border running down the top left part of the card, with a thicker, shorter two-colored bar that stretches around the bottom left-hand corner of the card and partially at the bottom. The player’s name, team and position dominate the bottom of the card front, and there is a facsimile autograph.
Like the flagship set, the card backs for Traded boast a horizontal design. However, the color scheme is different. The regular set had a green back, but Traded uses a red background.
There is a cartoon at the top of the card back that lists baseball factoids and trivia.
The cards are alphabetical, with Doyle Alexander kicking off the set at 1T and Butch Wynegar at No. 131T. The final card in the set is a checklist (No. 132T).
As noted, the 1982 Traded set is anchored by the Ripken card (No. 98T). Ripken’s rookie cards appeared in all three baseball card sets in 1982, with the future Hall of Famer sharing space with Bob Bonner and Jeff Schneider. He appeared solo in the Donruss and Fleer sets, but the Topps Traded solo version of Ripken is the card that collectors covet because it is harder to find.
The ’82 Traded set also featured the first card of Ozzie Smith (109T) featured in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.
Ripken and many of the 1982 rookies were featured in the main set. Rookies that made it to the Traded set include Jesse Barfield (2T), Tom Brunansky (13T), Chili Davis (23T), Kent Hrbek (44T) and Steve Sax (103T).
Another card of interest is Reggie Jackson at No. 47T, as it shows him in an Angels uniform for the first time.
As far as graded cards go, there have been 20,760 submissions to PSA, with 2,394 given Gem Mint 10 status.
Predictably, the three key cards have the most submissions. There have been 14,546 cards of Ripken submitted to PSA, with 404 earning a gem-mint grade. The average price for a 10 is currently about $4,800 while 9s are available for a little under $400. Complete sets are usually available for under $300.
Smith’s cards have been submitted nearly 1,600 times, with 103 rating a PSA 10. As for Jackson, there have been 597 submissions and 105 graded at gem-mint.
That’s pretty good for a product that is 40 years old and was released around this time in 1982. As the advertisement below from a Tennesse hobby shop notes, a complete set could be had for as little as $8.95.
Feeling old yet?
See 1982 Topps Traded cards on eBay here.