Topps transformed baseball cards from hobby to passion
There – amid the clutter of photographs, baseball reference books and notepads – marketing whiz Sy Berger, with a huge assist from graphic artist Woody Gelman, began designing a set of cards they hoped would encourage kids to chew more Topps bubble gum.
“The release of the 1952 set was the true launching point for the hobby and for Topps,’’ says best-selling author Marty Appel, who spent six years as the company’s public relations director after having served in a similar capacity with the New York Yankees before and during the George Steinbrenner ownership years. “Sy became known as the ‘Father of the Modern Baseball Trading Card,’ and it’s a title he richly deserves. That set and the others that followed clearly have stood the test of time.”
So, too, has the company that once employed Berger. Decades after the release of its iconic set, Topps continues to dominate, claiming an estimated 60-to-70-percent of the baseball card collecting market with an annual card production in the millions. Each year, the company produces roughly 30 different sets, including its innovative Topps NOW cards, which are made available to collectors immediately.
The Hall of Fame collection contains more than 200,000 baseball cards, many of which are on display in the Museum's Shoebox Treasures exhibit.
Topps also has benefitted from publicity over the auction sales of immensely popular cards such as the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, a version of which is displayed in Shoebox Treasures.
“The fact it was produced by Topps,’’ Payne says, “certainly helps further cement their brand as THE brand when you think about card collecting.”
Scott Pitoniak is a freelance writer from Penfield, N.Y.