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The Best Topps Baseball Card Sets of All Time

reggie-rookieIn our history of baseball cards piece, we discussed at length the history of the Topps baseball card company; from their initial entry with the 1951 Red and Blue Back sets to their acquisition of Bowman in 1956.

In this piece, we wanted to have a little fun and rank all of the Topps sets starting with the ’51 Blue/Red Back issue all the way to the 1980 Topps Baseball card set. 

Now of course, we’ve noted that anything produced prior to 1980 is considered to be vintage, but we figured with this piece, we’d keep it to an even thirty years of Topps issues.  

Our rankings are based on a few different factors:

1) Overall design of the set

2) Star and rookie card power in the set

3) Collector Demand

4) Investment Potential

I’m sure there will be some that collectors disagree with, so let us know in the comments what you think are the best Topps baseball card sets.

For now, we’ve provided full writeups on the best ten Topps sets of all time.  At some point we might expand the writeups for all thirty Topps sets. 

topps-set-rankings

#1 - 1952 Topps Baseball

It would be an injustice not to include the 1952 Topps Set as the best Topps set of all time, thus, this was a pretty easy decision.  The 1952 Topps set represents the first full set entry for Topps, following the 1951 Red and Blue back issues.  The history is remarkable as well, leading to some short prints, mostly due to Topps literally dumping inventory to make way for football cards.  From the design, to the beautiful lithographed images, the 1952 Topps set has it all. 

'52 Topps Key Rookies:

1952 Topps Eddie Mathews #407 (RC) 
1952 Topps Hoyt Wilhem #392 (RC)
1952 Topps Minnie Minoso #195 (RC)

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Eddie Mathews Rookie Card from '52 Topps set



'52 Topps Most Valuable Card:

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The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card

1952 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

The ’52 Topps set is a thing of beauty, an iconic design which started what would become the standard format for the modern baseball card.  The design included a player’s autograph (taken from their Topps contract), team name and logo on the front.

Star Power

While many view the '52 Topps Mantle and Mays cards as rookie cards, they are actually not their true rookie cards, since Bowman issued cards for both in the 1951 Bowman set.  Still, with Jackie Robinson, Mays, Mantle, Campanella, Berra and more, the set is loaded with star power.

$$ Potential 

1952 Topps cards remain in high demand with collectors, especially the high profile hall of famers, such as Mantle, Mays, Robinson and Berra.  We would expect these star cards to remain popular and solid longer term investments for vintage collectors.

#2 - 1953 Topps Baseball

The 1953 set is another beautiful issue from Topps, filled with a list of the most iconic stars in Baseball history, including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bob Feller and Satchell Paige. Note while the Paige card is highly sought after, it is his 1948 Leaf card which is his true rookie card

'53 Topps Key Rookies:

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 '53 Topps Most Valuable Card:

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A 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle card

1953 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

Another beautiful set, the 1953 Topps cards were created from original artwork, some of which have come up for sale at auctions in recent years. 

Star Power

The 1953 Topps set is full of all of the hall of famers from the day, including Mantle, Mays and Satchel Paige. There is a lack of rookie card power however, thus leading to a slightly lower grade for our overall ranking here.

$$ Potential 

The Paige, Mantle, Mays and Jackie Robinson cards from the '53 Topps set remain in high demand and should continue remain extremely popular issues into the future.  We would consider these star cards to be excellent investments for vintage collectors. 

#3 - 1954 Topps Baseball

From my perspective, not the prettiest of the Topps sets, but given the rookie and star power here, the set earns the #3 ranking on our list.  The set features the rookie cards of Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline and Tommy Lasorda.  The set marked a change for Topps from the artistic designs of two years previous, and featured a color photo portrait with a black and white action shot next to their face. 

'54 Topps Key Rookies: 

1954 Topps Ernie Banks #94 (RC)
1954 Topps Hank Aaron #128 (RC)
1954 Topps Al Kaline #201 (RC)

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'54 Topps Most Valuable Card:
 

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The 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie card.

1954 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

While not the same sort of artistic feel of the 1952 and 1953 sets, the 54 issue is a big change in design, and while not perfect, it's bright colors and usage of colorful logs makes is a top design in the history of Topps sets.

Star Power

While Mantle is notoriously missing from the 1954 set, there is a ton of rookie and star power including rookie cards of Aaron and Banks along with key cards of Ted Williams (who has two cards in the set), Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. 

$$ Potential 

One of the more popular sets with vintage baseball collectors, due to the rookie and star power in the set, the 1954 cards of Banks, Aaron and other stars will likely remain solid vintage investments over the coming years.

#4 - 1955 Topps Baseball

The 1955 Topps set grabs the #4 Ranking as the best Topps set of the first 30 years of Topps cards.  Yes, this is the fourth consecutive yearly set from 1952, and this wasn't by design.  The design introduces the first horizontal card for Topps and it also features two of the biggest rookie cards of the 1950's - Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente.

'55 Topps Key Rookies: 

1955 Topps Sandy Koufax #123 (RC)
1955 Topps Harmon Killebrew #124 (RC)
1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 (RC)

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The 1955 Topps Koufax rookie card is one of the key rookies in the set.

'55 Topps Most Valuable Card: 

clemente-rookie-card

Clemente's rookie card is the most valuable card in the 1955 Topps set.

1955 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

The first horizontal design for Topps, the cards feature a similar sort of look as the 1954 Topps set, although a color action pose replaces the black and white one from the previous year.

Star Power

Add Clemente, Killebrew and Koufax rookie cards to the star cards of Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and you have a star filled set. There is of course the notable absence of Mickey Mantle who had a contract dispute with Topps.

$$ Potential 

The key rookie cards of Clemente and Koufax continue to do well at auction and higher grade cards of Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays are likely to continue to set sales record.  This equates to solid investment potential.

#5 - 1957 Topps Baseball

A solid group of rookie cards, supported by the return of 'The Mick' along with an attractive full photo card design make the 1957 Topps sets one of the most coveted sets of the 1950's. 

'57 Topps Key Rookies:

1957 Topps Frank Robinson #35 (RC)
1957 Topps Brooks Robinson #328 (RC)

The 1957 Topps Frank Robinson rookie card is one of the key cards in the set.

'57 Topps Most Valuable Card: 

Mickey Mantle #95

The 1957 Topps Mickey Mantle card is the most valuable in the set.

1957 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

The full color photograph front is a first for Topps, and the simple design is a collector favorite.  The white and yellow lettering also adds an additional level of color, making the design a winner. 

Star Power

The Frank Robinson rookie card is the key rookie in the set, but also features rookie cards of Hall of Famers Don Drysdale, Bill Mazerowski, Whitey Herzog and Brooks Robinson.  The Mickey Mantle card in the set is also highly coveted by vintage collectors. 

$$ Potential 

Rookie cards of both Robinsons (Brooks and Frank) continue to sell well in all grades, albeit maybe slightly underappreciated versus popular rookies in previous year.  Higher grade Mantles from the set also remain quite popular and should increase in value over time.

#6 - 1963 Topps Baseball

This is the first Topps set from the 1960's to make the cut, and well for good reason---first there's that cool retro design which exudes simplicity with circles and bright colors.  And then, there's that oh so cool rookie card of one Pete Rose, which despite his lack of HOF credentials, remains one of the most sought after rookie cards in the hobby. 

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Bright colors help distinguish the 1963 Topps set.

The 1963 Topps Willie Stargell Rookie Card


'63 Topps Most Valuable Card: 

Pete Rose Rookie Stars #537 (RC)

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The Pete Rose Rookie card from the '63 Topps set remains one of the most sought after cards in the hobby

1963 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

Bright colors on the 1963 Topps set and a similar design to the 1953 Topps set (absent the colored portraits) make this set one of the more attractive Topps designs of the 1960's. 

Star Power

Rookie cards of Pete Rose, Willie Stargell are supported by a star studded lineup of stars such as Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron among others. 

$$ Potential 

The Pete Rose rookie card remains in high demand and for higher grade versions should continue to increase in value.  We view the Rose rookie card as one of the better investments in the hobby.

#7 - 1968 Topps Baseball

The second entry from the 1960's Topps issues on our list, the '68 Topps set has  classic, clean design with a spotted brown background with white and black borders surrounding the player's image.  The rookies of Johnny Bench and Nolan Ryan make this one of the best Topps sets of all time.  

'68 Top Rookies

1968 Topps Johnny Bench #247 (RC)
1968 Topps Nolan Ryan #177 (RC)

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The Johnny Bench rookie card remains highly sought after among vintage collectors.

'68 Topps Most Valuable Card: 

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The Ryan Rookie card is the top rookie and most valuable card in the 1968 Topps st.

1968 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

Some don't like it, but I find the 1968 Topps sets among one of the best designs of all the Topps issues.  The brown speckled background gives it a sort of vintage look.  

Star Power

Doesn't get much better than this--rookie cards of Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench along with star cards of Mantle, Mays, Seaver and Aaron. 

$$ Potential 

Nolan Ryan rookie cards should continue to show solid appreciation. Johnny Bench, maybe to a lesser extent but still a high demand card.

#8 - 1975 Topps Baseball

Just a funky vibe with the 1975 Topps set, all kind of crazy color combinations with a design that truly stands out and is one of the best of all the Topps sets.  In addition a power packed rookie lineup here make this one of the best Topps sets of all time. 

'75 Topps Key Rookies:

1975 Topps George Brett (RC)
1975 Topps Robin Yount (RC)
1975 Topps Jim Rice (RC)
1975 Topps Gary Carter (RC)

yount-rc

The Yount rookie card is one of many star rookie cards in the 1975 Topps set

'75  Topps Most Valuable Card: 

brett-rc

The George Brett Rookie Card is one of the most valuable cards in the set.

1975 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

A bold design for Topps that embodied the colorful feelings of the worlds at the time of issue.  The colors are not loved by everyone, but I find it to be one of the more ambitious designs for Topps 

Star Power

Rookie cards of Yount, Brett, Jim Rice, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Fred Lynn make this one of the best rookie sets in the history of all Topps issues.  

$$ Potential 

There's no ignoring the availability of the cards, so we would advise anyone to buy the cards to try and find the highest grades as possible.  We don't think lower grade copies of rookies such as Brett and Yount will do well over time. 

#9 - 1956 Topps Baseball

So, let's head back to the 1950's to get the one set from the first six years of the 1950's that hasn't been covered yet.  A nice but non optimal design (at least in my eyes) and a bit of a lower end offering of rookies here led to the lower ranking for the 1956 Topps set. 

'56 Topps Key Rookies: 

1956 Topps Luis Aparicio #292 (RC)

luis-aparicio-rc

The Yount rookie card is one of many star rookie cards in the 1975 Topps set

'56  Topps Most Valuable Card: 

The Mickey Mantle card from the '56 Topps set is the most valuable card in the set.

1956 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

Topps change the front of their cards from the 1954 set to feature a full color action background behind the player portrait.  While not one of the best designs, certainly not one of the worst either. 

Star Power

A poor rookie card selection is helped out by a ton of star cards, including a return of Mickey Mantle to the set.  Cards of Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente are all highly desired cards. 

$$ Potential 

Nothing much to speak of for rookie card investments but the higher graded copies of the top tier hall of famers from the set will likely continue to be good investments over time. 

#10 - 1971 Topps Baseball

A great black border design for the 1971 set and a star studded cast of HOF rookies, such as Reggie Jackson make the '71 set one of the more desired sets from the 1970's.  

'71 Topps Key Rookies: 

1971 Topps Reggie Jackson #20 (RC)
1971 Topps Bert Blyleven #26 (RC)
1971 Topps Steve Garvey #341 (RC)

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Bert Blyleven Rookie Card

'71  Topps Most Valuable Card: 

blyleven rookie

Bert Blyleven Rookie Card

1971 Topps Set - Rankings

Design

A great black border design for the 1971 set is a big change from a Topps design perspective, although the black borders make the '71 cards much harder to find in mint condition.  Thus, there are many fewer PSA 10's from the '71 set as compared to any of the other Topps sets from the 70's. 

Star Power

The rookie card of Reggie Jackson is the big draw here, although HOF rookie cards such as Ted Simmons, Bert Blyleven along with star rookies of Steve Garvey and Don Baylor are also sought after cards.  Key stars include Tom Seaver, Rod Carew, Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron make this a great overall set. 

$$ Potential 

High graded cards from the '71 set are much tougher to come by because of the black borders which chip easily.  Thus we think that higher graded copies of Reggie Jackson along with the big stars in the set will continue to be worthy investments over time. 

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Tom - September 22, 2020

I would agree with most of these so nice work, although not a huge fan of 1968 Topps set.

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