Reviewing Topps 75th Anniversary Cards!
By Kurt Kuersteiner ©2019 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards for The Wrapper Magazine
Just when you thought they’ve made card sets of practically everything, someone comes up with an idea that really is original. Here’s an example: Why not do a card set on card sets?
That’s essentially what Topps did in 2013 to celebrate their 75th anniversary. The 100 card series was entitled, “Topps 75th Anniversary series” and not surprisingly, only profiles sets from Topps. What is surprising is how much fun this series is—and how affordable.
This is a series made for card collectors. And while many have criticized Topps for not knowing much about their own history, someone clearly did some research and did a decent job relaying it on the backs. Okay, so they basically copied a lot of info from Wikipedia, but at least they got it right. (Which is more than can be said about their 80th Anniversary wrapper set.) The card stock is sturdy and the front images are clear. There’s also a “Topps 75th” foil stamp on every card… which should help prevent a lot of confusion from new collectors thinking they just found a mint Mars Attacks on eBay for only a buck!
Each series was well selected for the list of 100 sets featured. Right off the bat, I was impressed they didn’t waste any slots on sport cards. (They probably did a separate series just for those— but I really don’t know or care. I’m just relieved they gave us non-sports fans our very own compilation series.) Here are just a few of the titles included: Wings, Tarzan & The She Devil, Who-Z-At Star, World on Wheels, Rails and Sails, David Crockett, Elvis Presley, Robin Hood, Space Cards, Zorro, TV Westerns, Civil War News, Mars Attacks, Beverly Hillbillies, Beatles, Outer Limits, Ugly Stickers, Battle, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Lost in Space, Batman, Superman, Wacky Packages, Nutty Initials, Laugh In, Planet of the Apes, The Brady Bunch, Creature Features, Kung Fu, Star Trek, Star Wars, Weird Wheels, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The A-Team, Garbage Pail Kids, Fright Flicks, The Simpsons, Terminator 2, Desert Storm, Jurassic Park, and The X-files.
Those sound a lot like a Who’s Who of favorite sets from the boomer years. You may have also noticed that they are presented in chronological order. In fact, there’s a facsimile calendar image on the top right corner of each back to remind us what year it was published. Each decade has an unique back layout. There is also a line at the bottom saying how many cards were in the set and what size they were.
The text on the backs are well written and informative. They even answer a few questions collectors have been wondering for years. Here’s a sample of the write up from card #30, The Outer Limits:
“The Outer Limits aired on ABC from 1963 to 1965, tantalizing TV viewers over 49 episodes that blended science fiction, monster and science fiction themes—just what kids loved back then. Topps courted them with a set that had an appropriately bizarre backstory. After negotiating with the show’s producers for the right to use black-and-white photos of various creatures—which Topps chose to colorize—the company learned that they didn’t have the rights to episodes’ storylines. So Topps creative guru Len Brown crafted his own fantastic tales. The cards may have confused some collectors then, but today they’re a unique chapter in non-sports history.”
For the cards that were smaller, there is an 8 card subset of mini-cards, which reproduce Freedom’s War, Hopalong Cassidy, Bring ‘em Back Alive, Animals of the World, Look ‘N See, Fighting Marines, Scoops, and Jets.
If that’s not cool enough, they also have 8 samples representing some of Topps most obscure test sets. (It may be the only samples some collectors ever can afford to get for themselves.) Those titles are Superman of the Jungle, Flipper, King Kong, Crazy TV, Emergency/ Adam-12, Six Million Dollar Man, The Waltons, and Shock Theater.
Of course, no modern Topps set would be complete without parallel sets to help bankrupt collectors who are completists. This series offers “Rainbow foil” card stock (a shiny foil background on the fronts), as well as “Diamond parallels” (a similar foil but with sparkles).
There are also “autograph” cards (1:8 packs). I’m using “air quotes” because the cards themselves are not signed. Instead, the celebrity (or more often, washed up has-been) signs a clear sticker that is then stuck on the actual card. 22 different actors were featured, some of them were pretty big stars, including Barbara Feldon (Get Smart), Bill Mummy, (Lost in Space), Roger Moore (Moonraker). The less known include Burt Young (Howard the Duck), Maggie Langrick (Harry and the Hendersons), and Julia Nickson (Rambo Part 2). Honestly, Topps reached so far down in the bottom of the barrel for some of these, I actually like them more! As if the sticker autograph were not frustrating enough, three of the signers were only available by redemption. They were Corey Feldman (Goonies), Russell Johnson (Gilligan’s Island), and Van Williams (Green Hornet). Dudes, we know you have a busy convention schedule, but try to sign your stickers on time! When any of these sigs appear on parallel cards, they are limited to 150 of the Rainbow foils, and 75 of the Diamond foils.
There are also seven “cut” signature cards. (The celeb is usually dead, so they cut their signature from something else and attach it to the card.) They are Charlton Heston, Evel Knievel, Farrah Fawcett, Bob Hope, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, and Sammy Davis Jr..
An interesting add-on are the stamped “original buyback cards” (1:24 packs). These are vintage cards that Topps bought back, foil stamped with a “Topps 75th” logo, then reissued within the series. It can be anything (usually the cheaper junk, but there are some cards from the 1950s and 60s, too). This is the ultimate Never-ending Infinity series, so “collect ‘em all, kids!” Sarcasm aside, this was a novel concept and pretty clever. Sylvester Stallone signed several different Buy-back cards from various Topps series, so there’s that as well.
There are also printing plates in all four colors. Then there are the rare “Modern Gloss” parallel cards, individually stamped 1 of ten (1: 224 packs). Don’t ask me what these really are. They appear to be UV coated (big whoop), but if there are only ten of each made, we’re supposed to go crazy buying more boxes to finish them, so whatever (rolling eyes). There’s even “Topps Vault Blank-Back cards”, sold separately in Lucite holders and with a certificate of authenticity. You get nothing on the back, but since only 1/1 is made, you’re supposed to feel really lucky to own one. (I call them The Emperor’s New Clothes cards.)
But don’t let these snarky comments about the insane levels of parallel cards dissuade you from getting the base set, mini-cards, and test subsets. It really is a fun series, overall. If rich completists want to hand their wallets over to Topps, let them! (It doesn’t cost us anything—in fact, it actually lowers the price of the more common cards since premium card seekers break extra boxes and dump their dupes). So collectors who can ignore the siren call of master sets can get a really cool series for a very affordable price. Topps has put out some real stinkers in recent years, but this isn’t one of them. Flipping through the pages of these fan favorites makes it really obvious that they have contributed more than their fair share of fun cards in the last 1/2 dozen decades. So kudos goes to Topps!
100 base cards of classics (like Battle)
Subset of 8 test cards
Parallel Rainbow Foil cards
Autograph (stickers) cards, (Ed Gale, the guy inside the Howard The Duck suit).
The Non-Sports Trading Card Article Index