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The Topps Company, Inc. is a company based in New York City that manufactures candy and collectibles. It is best known as a leading producer of baseball cards and other sports-related trading cards.

Company history

Topps itself was founded in 1938, but the company can trace its roots back to an earlier firm, American Leaf Tobacco. Founded in 1890 by Morris Shorin, the American Leaf Tobacco Co. imported tobacco to the United States and sold it to other tobacco companies. (American Leaf Tobacco should not be confused with the American Tobacco Company, which monopolized US-grown tobacco during this period.)

American Leaf Tobacco encountered difficulties as World War I cut off Turkish supplies of tobacco to the United States, and later as a result of the Great Depression. Shorin's sons, Abram, Ira, Philip, and Joseph, decided to focus on a new product but take advantage of the company's existing distribution channels. To do this, they relaunched the company as Topps, with the name meant to indicate that it would be "tops" in its field. The chosen field was the manufacture of chewing gum, selected after going into the produce business was considered and rejected.

At the time, chewing gum was still a relative novelty sold in individual pieces. Topps's most successful early product was Bazooka bubblegum, which was packaged with a small comic on the wrapper. Starting in 1950, the company decided to try increasing gum sales by packaging them together with trading cards featuring Western character Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) at the time Boyd, as one of the biggest stars of early television, was featured in newspaper articles and on magazine covers, along with a wave of Hopalong merchandising. When Topps next introduced baseball cards as a product, the cards immediately became its primary emphasis.

The so-called "Father of the modern baseball card" would be Sy Berger, a 28-year old World War II veteran who went home and designed the 1952 Topps baseball card set on his kitchen table, with photos, autograph facsimile, name, position, team and logo on the front; height, weight, bats, throws, birthplace, birthday, baseball stats and a short bio on the back. The basic design is still in use today. Berger would work for Topps for 50 years (1947-97) and serve as a consultant for another five, becoming a well-known figure on the baseball scene, and the face of Topps to major league baseball players, whom he signed up annually and paid in merchandise like refrigerators and carpeting.

Recognizing his negotiating skills, the Shorins sent Sy to London in 1964 to negotiate the rights for Topps to produce Beatles trading cards. Arriving without an appointment, Sy succeeded by speaking in Yiddish to Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager.

Around 1960, during a spring cleaning effort at the Topps Brooklyn headquarters, Sy hired a garbage boat, loaded 300 to 500 cases of 1952 high-series cards, and rode with them as a tugboat pulled them off the New Jersey shore. The cards were then dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. The cards included Mickey Mantle's first Topps card, the most valuable card of the modern era. No one at the time, of course, knew the collector's value the cards would one day attain. Currently, a pack of 1952 Topps is worth at least $5,000. At $5,000 per pack, the value of the cards dumped into the Atlantic on that fateful day is a staggering $1,440,000,000. Although, the value of 1952 Topps cards would not be as high today if all of these cards hadn't been disposed of in the first place.

Currently Topps produces baseball cards, football cards, and basketball cards. The company also includes different sports and personality in its Cosigners brand as well as Allen and Ginter brand.

Current Main Product Lines

Previous Main Product Lines

Topps Baseball Card Sets (by Year)

See Also