Subscription programs like Topps’ “Montgomery Club” may have gotten more sophisticated, with exclusive cards, early access and other perks, but the roots of a Topps “club” go back a long way.
If you’ve seen a Topps wrapper from the mid-1970s you may have seen an ad for the “Topps Sports Club.” For $2.50 and a wrapper, they promised a newsletter and some other freebies delivered right to your home address.
$2.50 sounds cheap today but it’s the equivalent of $12-$13 in 2021, so kids probably didn’t always have success when they asked mom or dad to drop a check or money order to Topps in the mail.
Those who did take them up on the offer received a plain brown envelope from Westbury, NY, just ahead of each of Topps’ release.
Inside was a newsletter that carried some info on the upcoming set, a photo of the player who wrote the “guest column” in that issue inscribed to “My Sports Club Pals…”, some sample cards, a foldout team checklist and a glossy sheet with some other offers to buy stuff from Topps. The columnists included Steve Garvey (issue #1) and Bob Griese (issue #2).
The newsletter was only a few pages long and had some quizzes and trivia based on the current Topps set and other rather uninspiring content but did include some insights kids and adult collectors may not have known at the time. For instance, the football issue (#2) included a question from reader Seymour Gaskell about the 1975 mini baseball cards. Topps answered: “companies often test different sizes, packages, colors and pictures on their products. This year, Topps distributed baseball cards that were slightly smaller, but the same in all other respects as our regular cards. These were only sold in a few cities in the Midwest and on the West Coast.”
That was important knowledge at the time.
The News also carried a Pen Pals feature meant to connect collectors with each other, but with months between issues, it may not have been all that impactful.
The Sports Club didn’t last long–a year, maybe, perhaps because of the cost. Surviving, intact complete editions with the freebies still inside are pretty rare, but here’s one from the football edition that sold for $300. Here’s the next issue (#3) from the late fall of ’75.
Individual issues of the Sports Club News, the team checklist sheets (which could also be ordered on their own through a separate offer) and the photos of the players (Bob Griese and Bobby Clarke were featured) are certainly fun to own if you can find them for a reasonable cost.
And if Topps were to bring back the Sports Club for $2.50 and a wrapper, I’m totally in.