By In Stuff

The Topps Numbering System

So, now until Wednesday at 2 p.m., I’m probably going to write lots and lots of Hall of Fame things. The big one — the final ballot — will appear on Sports On Earth on Monday. But here, I’ve got a whole bunch of smaller Hall of Fame thoughts, observations, questions, suggestions … I was going to put it into one giant Hall of Fame post, but even for this blog it seemed a bit unwieldy. So, instead, you get it in smaller (but not necessarily small) portions.

We’ll begin with: The Topps Numbering System.

* * *

So remember the other day when I wrote that I jumped over to eBay to bid on a 1976 Topps baseball card set? Well, I won it. It arrived this week, and I spent joyous hours sorting those cards, putting them in plastic pages, flipping the pages, reminiscing about the Father-Son cards and the Sporting News All-Time Player cards* (as I kid I ALWAYS seemed to get the Pie Traynor), it really was a blast. I just pulled out the cards to look at them again. I can get lost in them.

*Here are the Sporting News All-Time All-Stars as of 1976, and who would probably be on the team now:

1B: Lou Gehrig — Same. Pujols could pass him, maybe.

2B: Rogers Hornsby — Same. Some like Joe Morgan more (I do).

3B: Pie Trayner — No. Mike Schmidt, probably. George Brett has his fans.

SS: Honus Wagner — Same. No one close, not even Derek Jeter.

RF: Babe Ruth — Same.

CF: Ty Cobb — No. Willie Mays.

LF: Ted Williams — Same. Barry Bonds could not win an election.

C: Mickey Cochrane — No way. Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra, I think.

RHP: Walter Johnson — Maybe same. Greg Maddux or Tom Seaver … Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens …

LHP: Lefty Grove — Maybe same. I happen to think Randy Johnson is best lefty starter ever.

But the point here is not the cards themselves — but the numbering system. I have, for your benefit, done what I have to believe is one of the most pointless research projects in the history of planet earth.

When I was a kid, I noticed — as countless kids before and since have noticed — that while the Topps numbers on the back SEEM utterly random and stupid, there is some sort of secret-code logic to them. The best players get the round numbers. I don’t remember the details of this discovery, but I do remember that really cool feeling of seeing a great player — say Tom Seaver — with a card number like 200. And I thought: Hmm, isn’t that interesting. And then I saw another great player, say Johnny Bench, and his number was 500. And I went, whoa, wait a minute: They did this ON PURPOSE!

And then you go through the cards and you see: They DID do it on purpose. The biggest stars very often have card numbers that end in 00 or 50 (I call these “Topps Prime” cards to make them sound important — I even capitalize “Prime.”)

It isn’t just 00 and 50 cards that are reserved for good players. Even minor stars almost always have numbers that end in 0 as well.

Like, let’s look at random here at a few of my 1976 cards from 360 to 410.

360: Jeff Burroughs. Former MVP.

367: Bruce Miller.

370: Ron Cey. The Penguin. All-Star.

374: Dan Warthen.

380: Bobby Bonds. Another All-Star. Mr. 30-30.

386: Ed Goodson — who along with Bill Todman produced the Price Is Right and … oh, no, that was Mark Goodson.

390: Don Gullett. Ace pitcher of world champion Reds.

393: Paul Mitchell.

400. Rod Carew. Annual batting champion. Superstar. Hall of Famer.

406: Ed Hermann.

410. Ralph Garr. Batting champion. All-Star.

And so it goes. Tito Fuentes? He gets No. 8. Lou Brock? He gets No. 10. And so on.

So here was my idea: I figured I could go through all the Topps checklists — yes, I said all the Topps checklists, hey this is my blog, not yours — and pull out the players whose cards ended with 50 and 00. And I would see which players have been most honored by Topps.

And, more to the point (as if there is a point), I would see which players were viewed as truly great and popular and awesome WHILE they were playing. One of the things people say about Jack Morris is that he was viewed as a dominant pitchers during his playing days. Well, I honestly don’t remember it that way. I remember him being a good pitcher, but I don’t remember him being Tom Seaver or Jim Palmer or even Ron Guidry.

So, I thought, hey, why not see how often Morris’ card ended with a 00 or 50 … along with everyone else.

* * *

A few quick words about the scoring process, which should interest you even less than the rest of this: One, I should say: 00 is better than 50. The best of the best get 00 on the end. The players who have 50 at the end of their numbers — some are great, some, frankly, are not. I think Topps must have been having some inner battles going on about their numbering. Some years players with 50 are clearly the biggest stars in the game. Other years, 50 is really no different than 30 or 80 or any other number ending in 0.

For this reason, in my system players get 10 points for every 00 card they achieved. They get 5 points for cards that end in 50. I add up the points, multiply that by the number of Topps Prime cards they were on and voila, we have the final Topps score.

Two, it’s important to note that Topps was VERY inconsistent in its numbering system. They started messing with giving the best players 50 and 00 numbers in 1955, but they were obviously much more committed to it some years than others. For instance, there was a time in the mid-2000s when they started giving the legendary number 300 to decidedly not-legendary players: Andy Marte, Brayan Pena, Ryan Garko and so on. I have no idea why they did this, and it was a disastrous decision deserving much scorn. But they did. They seem to be back on track now. This year, Josh Hamilton was No. 300.

Three, it’s important to note that Topps was VERY quirky in its numbering system. This is different from the “inconsistent” issue above … there were clearly certain players that the people at Topps loved and they kept giving these guys great numbers. Bucky Freakin’ Dent in back-to-back seasons got a number that ended in 50 (to be fair, he was an All-Star both seasons but … come on). Vic Wertz twice got 00 numbers. See if you can spot the incongruity in this list of players who got the 250 number in the 1960s:

1960: Stan Musial

1962: Norm Cash

1963: Stan Musial

1964: Al Kaline

1965: Willie Mays

1966: Sammy Ellis

1967: Hank Aaron

1968: Carl Yastrzemski

1969: Frank Robinson

Sammy Ellis? Really? True, he was coming off a year when he won 22 games and was an All-Star, but … really Topps? Giving him 250?

Four, I only count the card if it is a regular player card. If it’s an “All-Star” card or a player in action card or a special card reliving history or anything like that, I don’t count it. For instance, you will notice 1961 is missing in the No. 250 cards — that’s because it was a “Buc Hill Aces” card featuring Vern Law and Roy Face smiling at somebody off camera. That doesn’t count.

OK, with those caveats in mind … here are the Topps players of all time:

(Oh wait, one more technical scoring matter: Starting around 1990, Topps started giving a superstar the cherished No. 1 card. So that is worth 10 points as well, after 1990).

* * *

Honorable mention: Cal Ripken (520 points); Don Mattingly (490 points); Mike Schmidt (490 points); Ken Griffey Jr. (480 points).

It’s worth noting that Mattingly is the highest player on the board who is (1) Eligible for the Hall of Fame; (2) Not in the Hall of Fame; (3) Probably not going to be elected to the Hall of Fame. It goes to show you just how immensely popular and respected Mattingly was as a player (and the fact that he obviously had fans at Topps). But do you know who the next highest non-Hall of Famer is? Take a guess. Take two guesses. Take five. Be back with that classic in just a minute.

10. Pete Rose, 630 points.

Rose didn’t get his first Topps Prime card until 1971. He got the most respect from Topps when he was no longer a good player — he got Prime cards each year from 1983 to 1986.

9. Nolan Ryan, 720 points.

Starting around 1990, Ryan started getting the vaunted No. 1 card in the Topps set. He got that number three years in a row. In fact, it was Ryan’s greatness and coolness that seemed to inspire the Topps number people to give a great player the No. 1 card every year. Since Ryan, the No. 1 card has gone to players like Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, A-Rod (four times) and, the last two years, Ryan Braun.

8. Mickey Mantle, 880 points.

When the Mick was at his very best — in the mid-to-late 1950s — Topps had not smoothed over their numbering system. If they had, Mantle would be No. 1 on this list; every year of the 1960s except one he got a 00 or 50 card.

7 (tie). Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds, 900 points.

Irony abounds with this tie.

I don’t think this statistic gets enough play: Aaron had 6,856 total bases in his career. That is SEVEN HUNDRED more than anyone (Stan Musial is second). Barry Bonds could have hit 200 more home runs and still not had as many total bases as Henry Aaron.

5. (tie) Rod Carew and George Brett, 1,155 points.

Both appeared on 11 Topps Prime cards. I wonder if people forget how great a hitter Rod Carew was. Brett, he’s still around, active, he’ll say classic things now and again. But Carew, really, other than his mistaken role in Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” (he apparently did not convert) seems to have been somewhat lost to history, which is a shame because there was nobody like him. Every at-bat, he seemed to have a slightly different batting style. And between bunts and bloops and seeing-eye grounder and slashing line drives and opposite field dumps — he hit .344 in the 10 seasons from 1969 to 1978 and won seven batting titles. I think Carew, had he played in the 1990s, might have hit .400.

3. Willie Mays, 1,200 points.

Mays got a Topps Prime card every year but one from from 1959 to 1971. Interestingly (at least to me) the year he did not get a Prime card was 1969 — the card right after the Year of the Pitcher. Bob Gibson, Denny McLain and Don Drysdale all got Prime cards. Mays, meanwhile, had what looked for him like a huge down season — he hit .289 with only 23 homers — and Topps gave a Prime card to Felipe Alou among others, but not Willie Mays. Alou did have a good year. But still …

2. Alex Rodriguez, 1,380 points.

A-Rod, from age 20 to 31, had EIGHT seasons with a Baseball Reference WAR higher than 8.0. That’s insane. There are first-ballot Hall of Famers — Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett, Willie McCovey and Brooks Robinson among them — who never had an 8.0 WAR season. Only Hornsby, Bonds, Ruth and Mays had more 8.0 WAR seasons than A-Rod.

Not that Topps was thinking about this, of course.

Trivia answer: The next-highest player after Mattingly on the Topps all-time player list who is eligible for the Hall of Fame, not in it and not going anytime soon? It’s the Toronto mayoral candidate himself: Jose Canseco. It’s easy to forget just how popular and what a phenomenon Jose Canseco was before he got very, very lost.

1. Reggie Jackson, 1,440 points.

Reggie appearance on 12 Topps Prime cards and all 12 were 00 cards. I had no idea how this would turn out, but I love how it DID turn out. I really do think when you combine greatness, popularity, controversy, power and whatever makes charisma … Reggie Jackson really is the Topps player of the last 50 years.

* * *

A few other quick notes:

• Jack Morris appeared on one Topps Prime card, No. 450 in 1982 — one year after he led the league with 14 wins. As it turned out, he appeared on as many Topps Prime cards as Dave Stieb, and two fewer than Ron Guidry.

• But Morris is not alone in Topps snubdom. Steve Carlton also appeared on only one Topps Prime card — in 1973, right after his extraordinary 27-win season for a dreadful Philadelphia Phillies team. At least he got a 00 card — he was No. 300.

• George Foster (330 points) and Steve Garvey (240 points) were a couple of Topps favorites in the 1970s.

• Joe Morgan did not get a Topps Prime card until after he won his second MVP award. He got three after that but this sort of confirms what I thought — Morgan was criminally underrated until he was finally so ridiculously good that everybody just couldn’t help but notice.

• Bo Jackson (225 points) and Darryl Strawberry (200 points) were a couple of Topps favorites in the 1980s.

• Topps really messed with the numbering system in the 1990s. I don’t know if there was new management or what happened.

• Over the years, Topps really liked Sam McDowell (three Prime cards), Bill Madlock (four Prime cards), Dick Allen (four Prime cards) and Joe Torre (four Prime cards). Tony Oliva got four Prime cards too, Jim Rice got five. Tom Seaver and Kirby Puckett got seven. I’d give you the whole list but, let’s be honest, this was ridiculous to start with. Fun. But ridiculous.

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69 Responses to The Topps Numbering System

  1. Kevin says:

    Love this. I’m going to share with

  2. mrein says:

    When I noticed this phenomenon (in the 80s) I did not notice the players ending in 50 being any better than those ending in any other 0 besides 00.

    Also, and this may have been my imagination, I thought the players ending in 5 were a bit better than those ending in other non-0 numbers.

  3. Joe: This is not at all ridiculous. It’s a legitimate method of quantifying contemporary reputation that nobody else had thought of. You should win an award for this.

  4. Unknown says:

    Best blog post in the history of blogs.

  5. Peter says:

    Why do you multiply the score by the number of Prime cards rather than just summing the points? Would you get to a different answer with just a sum?

  6. Bugaj says:

    Excellent. So, 00’s, then 50’s, then 10’s, and someone is asserting 5’s. It would stand to reason that’s 25’s would be better than 10’s, but I don’t have my checklists in front of me.

  7. this is seriously Pulitzer winning stuff right here!! Do they give Pulizer’s for blogs? I seriously loved this article!!

  8. Ed Fett says:

    I question the scoring. 10 points for X00 or 1, 5 points for X50. If you play 20 years, always getting X00, that would be 10 points x 20 cards = 200. How are people scoring 1000+?

    I think this is the problem: “I add up the points, multiply that by the number of Topps Prime cards they were on and voila, we have the final Topps score.” Once you’ve added up the points, you should be done.

  9. Unknown says:

    Seems to me Pete Rose fits the trivia criteria as well. Good post

  10. agit proper says:

    The Beastie Boys name-dropped Rod Carew — that shines brighter than a thousand Adam Sandlers. (They are also almost certainly the only rappers to have ever repped Sadaharu Oh.)

  11. Mat says:

    It’s official, (as if it wasn’t already) you are my favorite writer.

    Your process of thought and explanation of how you noticed the best players on the round numbered cards was great.

  12. At some point Topps started honoring the last player in a series…at least I think. They have 330 cards per series and in 2011, #330-Derek Jeter, 660-Ryan Zimmerman, US300-Lance Berkman.

    What I am saying is: This is a great start, but it incomplete, Clearly Joe should dedicate more time to it.

  13. Budd Bailey says:

    I noticed this at some point when I was a kid, and am thrilled that someone else has gone the extra mile with it.

  14. beastman says:

    joe – it would be interesting to see where the average HOF (at least those who played in the card era) comes out and where some of the recent controversial in/out players rank on that scale.

  15. Dan says:

    After reading this, my first question was: why would Topps bother being so careful with the numbers? This is merely a theory, but my guess is that Topps wanted the best cards to appear less frequently in their packs, thus encouraging collectors to purchase more cards.

    One easy way to do this, especially without computers capable of generating the random numbers quickly, is to generate 3 one digit numbers (rather than a single 3 digit number). Then make one digit appear with lower probability than the other 9, say 0. Then assign numbers with lots of zeros to the best players. That way, when the machine fills the packs, they could control the frequency of certain desirable cards.

    • Topps printed their cards on huge sheets that were then cut down to the individual cards. So in order to “short-print” a card, they would need to print less of an entire sheet, which I think was 90-something cards. Although, in 1933, the Goudey company put out a card set and actually did not issue a card #33, hoping kids would keep buying packs like mad in order to find the non-existent card.

  16. Mark Daniel says:

    This is sort of like figuring out the DaVinci code.

  17. A complete idiot wrote this article. Willie Mays over Ty Cobb…what drugs are you on?

    • He actually has a higher WAR on both BR and Fangraphs. Not to mention the fact that the league was more competitive when Mays played, since there was a larger pool of players and better training.

      But crack. He is smoking crack.

    • Seth says:

      And even leaving aside the quantifiable stuff like WAR, I think there’s a pretty strong consensus that Willie Mays was the greatest all-around player who ever lived.

    • David in NYC says:

      Especially if you ask Willie himself.

      And the greatest all-around player of all time is the greatest player of all time: Babe Ruth.

      Remember, aside from being at or close to the top of every hitting statistic, he was an extremely good pitcher. In 1916, at the age of 21, he led the league in ERA (1.75), starts (40), shutouts (9), ERA+ (158), and H/9I (6.4). He also finished 2nd to Walter Johnson with a WAR of 8.3, and allowed no HRs all year.

      Any argument over the best player of all time that doesn’t end with Ruth as the answer is ridiculous — because whatever hitter you want to compare him to (Williams, Mays, Cobb, whatever), my reply will be “And how many games did he win as a pitcher?”

    • schuyler101 says:

      Not an idiot. Completely legitimate argument.

  18. Reid Creager says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. And yet more… After Mickey Mantle died, they company retired the #7, so for several years, the cards jumped from 6 to 8. Then a while back, they just started printing a new Mantle card every year for #7.

  20. Llarry says:

    Aaron should be ahead of Bonds. Before 1990, #1 was almost always part of a subset (League leaders, highlights, etc). In 1974, in anticipation of the HR record, Henry got card #1 (and it had a special front layout), and cards 2-7 as well!

  21. DickAllen says:

    Joe- This is certainly not ridiculous as it was used to settle arguments as a child to determine the better player. Of course on field statistics and who fared better in our strat-o-matic baseball season were the primary factors in bragging rights, topps checklist numbering was right there! Thank you for bringing up some good memories and I would agree that Topps should be held accountable for some lapses in consistency as they should have realized that their numbering was similar to a treasury department responsible for the value of its currency. My only critique of your system would be that it needs to be indexed according to years of play as someone like Sandy Koufax is certainly negatively affected by his short career. As I quickly look back upon some of his card numbering, he, for one, may have been worthy of a higher placing…

  22. Aaron Ross says:

    When I grow up, I want to have s much free time as Joe does. Or get paid for the things that he gets paid for.

    • Then work hard to learn to do those things as well as Joe does.

    • daveyhead says:

      Aaron, I hope you’re about nine years old. Otherwise, you should realize how much work, and writing ability, goes into Joe’s posts.

    • Aaron Ross says:

      I know full well how much work Joe puts into what he does, and I am consistently awed and amazed by it. He puts out multiple columns in a week, each of which is longer than a standard column in any newspaper on any subject, and his columns are researched-packed, not just opinions (and he is honest when he is inserting his opinions).
      Just being a little tongue-in-cheek about my jealousy for the fact that Joe spends his day immersed in what the rest of us have to do during our free time, if we get it.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think the key is picking topics that will be interesting to others…. and taking some failed risks in this regard along the way. Researching an article like this, with the internet, is not as difficult as one might think. Sure, it’s somewhat time consuming, but it’s not like he’s writing a blog every single day…. and certainly most of them would take nowhere near as long as this one. It’s good work, if you can get it…. but getting paid for it is the tough part. Anyone can write a blog for the hell of it.

  23. So what number would be assigned to Moe Berg? 007? Can we figure out why the Topps Corporation went to the trouble? Is the need to rank baseball players just in our genetic code?

  24. OK, so I’m doing what everyone else without a life is…and here’s one bizarre one I came up with. Way worse than Sammie Ellis. From 1979:

    50. Garvey
    100. Seaver
    150. Wayne Cage
    200. Bench
    250. Randolph
    300. Carew
    350. Templeton
    400. Rice
    450. Concepcion
    500. Guidry
    550. Bando
    600. Foster
    650. Rose
    700. Reggie

    From Wikipedia: “[Wayne]Cage only played in the major leagues in 1978 and 1979, when he had batting averages of .245 and .232.”

    Was he Mr. Topps’ nephew?

  25. One more: as a Padre fan, I had to check to see how much love Tony Gwynn got over the years. Answer: not a lot.

    True, he was a “non-Prime Zero” every year except 1983 (rookie year, 482), 1984 (251), 1990 (403!–and it wasn’t an “off” year: 400 was Ozzie and 450 was Rickey), 1993 (5), 1995 (431– this one was an “off” year: 400 was Henry Rodriguez and 450 was Jim Leyritz), 1999 (75: might have been an honor; the 75’s that year were all pretty good), and 2000 (2).

    His only prime years were 1996 (250) and 1998 (1).

    However, there were a couple of years in which 1-5 seemed to mean something special:

    1993: 1. Yount; 2. Bonds; 3. Sandburg; 4. Clemens; 5. Gwynn

    2000: 1. McGwire; 2. Gwynn; 3. Boggs; 4. Ripken; 5. Matt Williams

  26. guest 52 says:

    Willie Mays #1 in 1966, does that put him over the top or at least past A-rod.

  27. city says:

    thanks for share.

  28. Ari Vazquez says:

    Great article. I was on ebay and I think I was bidding on the same 76 lot. Glad it went to a good home

  29. MCD says:

    When I started reading this, and based on my recollection of reading card backs, I felt for certain that Aaron and Mays would occupy the top 2 spots. I didn’t realize that in the 1950’s Topps hadn’t worked out the numbering system. I knew Ryan would make up some ground for his longevity and that hobby favorite Mantle would lose some ground by not having as long of a career as Aaron and Mays. I figured Reggie might make the top 10, but was very surprised he came out #1.

  30. AdamE says:

    Card #1 is Topps “Real” “Prime Number”:

    1952 – Andy Pafko
    1953 – Jackie Robinson
    1954 – Ted Willimas
    1955 – Dusty Rhodes (Walk off HR in game one of 54 WS)
    1956 – Will Harridge (President of AL)
    1957 – Ted Williams
    1958 – Ted Williams
    1959 – Ford Frick (Commish)
    1960 – Early Winn (22 game winner year before)
    1961 – Dick Groat (after beating the yankees in the WS)
    1962 – Roger Maris (year after hitting 61)
    1963 – NL Batting Leaders (Davis/Robinson/Musial/Aaron/White)
    1964 – NL ERA Leaders Koufax/Ellsw/Friend
    1965 – AL Batting Leaders Oliva/Howard/Brooks
    1966 – Willie Mays
    1967 – The Champs
    (Frank Robinson/Hank Bauer/Brooks Robinson)
    1968 – NL Batting Leaders Clemente/Gon/M.Alou
    1969 – League Leaders Carl Yastrzemski/Danny Cater/Tony Oliva
    1970 – New York Mets Team (World Series Champ)
    1971 – Baltimore Orioles Team (World Series Champ)
    1972 – Pittsburgh Pirates Team (World Series Champ)
    1973 – Ruth/Aaron/Mays/All-Time Home Run Leaders
    1974 – Hank Aaron (New HR Champ)
    1975 – Hank Aaron ’74 Highlight Card/Sets Homer Mark
    1976 – Hank Aaron (Breaks RBI Record)
    1977 – League Leaders (Brett/Madlock)
    1978 – Lou Brock (Set Stolen Base Record)
    1979 – Rod Carew/Dave Parker (batting Leaders)
    1980 – Lou Brock /Carl Yastrzemski (both hit #3000 in 79)
    1981 – George Brett/Bill Buckner (batting Leaders)
    1982 – Steve Carlton (Set NL Strikeout Record)
    1983 – Tony Armas (set Putout record)
    1984 – Steve Carlton (Win #300)
    1985 – Carlton Fisk
    1986 – Pete Rose
    1987 – Roger Clemens
    1988 – Vince Coleman (100 SB for 3rd straight year)
    1989 – George Bell (Hit 3 HR on Opening Day)
    1990 – Nolan Ryan
    1991 – Nolan Ryan
    1992 – Nolan Ryan
    1993 – Robin Yount
    1994 – Mike Piazza
    1995 – Frank Thomas
    1996 – Tony Gwynn
    1997 – Barry Bonds
    1998 – Tony Gwynn
    1999 – Roger Clemens
    2000 – Mark McGwire
    2001 – Cal Ripkin
    2002 – Pedro Martinez
    2003 – Alex Rodriguez
    2004 – Jim Thome
    2005 – Alex Rodriguez
    2006 – Alex Rodriguez
    2007 – John Lackey
    2008 – Alex Rodriguez
    2009 – Alex Rodriguez
    2010 – Prince Fielder
    2011 – Ryan Braun
    2012 – Ryan Braun

  31. Richie says:

    I started off as a Football card collector in the early 80’s. If I remember correctly, the Topps set had 528 cards in 1982. In 1983 I think they switched to 369 cards. Then in 1984 or 1985 they increased to 396. I think in 1982 (or maybe 1981) the card numbers were broken down by team. The Atlanta Falcons might have been cards 1 through 15. Then the Baltimore Colts were like 16 through 35, etc. But then in maybe 84 or 85 they switched to a more random system like the baseball cards.

    Every once in awhile I still get a crazy itch to try to collect a recent set of cards. It seems like the only cards I ever see in the stores, cost about $5 for a pack of 4 cards. Is this how it all is? Does Topps still make a plain old cardboard card, so I could buy a pack of 15 for $1 and try to build a set without spending a fortune?

  32. Jason Brown says:

    I think this is great — and not at all questionable as a research method. Last year I wrote a paper for MIT looking at whether baseball card prices could help predict HOF voting (the idea was to capture the “fame” dimension; results were mixed). I wish I had thought of your method instead — simple, easy to explain, and far less data gathering!

  33. bdemps42 says:

    After this post, I will be a dedicated reader. Brilliant and insightful. Even bringing into account the NY bias. Acknowledging that the #1 card went back and forth as an important number is valuable. Clearly giving Hank Aaron #1 three straight years was a tribute. Also consider two other factors: Bonds refused to let Topps print a card for him for a few years in a row—as did Williams and maybe a few others. The number 7 card has now been “retired” and is always Mickey Mantle.

  34. Pascoite says:

    Note that in the examples of odd ones from the mid 2000’s (Andy Marte, Brayan Pena, Ryan Garko), Topps was grouping prospect, rookie, and draft pick cards in one continuous block, so that’s what you’re seeing. The prime spots in there wouldn’t be picked as recognizable names for the most part.

    Topps also often reserved numbers ending in 5 for players with some star power.

  35. rdcobb says:

    “In 1983 I think they switched to 369 cards. Then in 1984 or 1985 they increased to 396. I think in 1982 (or maybe 1981) the card numbers were broken down by team.”

    Oddly enough, I just put an ’83 Topps FB set in an album two nights ago. 396 cards (Topps sets tended to be divisible by 132 as that’s how big the sheets were). The ’83 set is broken down by team as you have mentioned.

  36. This is why the internet, and in particular, why blogs.

  37. Marty Winn says:

    Please give the whole list.

  38. ali naqvi says:

    Great info..!! thanks for sharing… also visit here Plastic card printing

  39. DJ says:

    Joe, you are a distinguished and well known writer. Perhaps a note to Topps would get a follow-up to this article. They’re more likely to reply to you than your curious readers.

  40. Simple to the point and very informative enhanced my knowledge about plastic cards printing process a lot…

  41. Nathan Mize says:

    Interesting. Love it Joe!

  42. […] Jackson is the reason 1969 is so valuable. Jackson was enormously popular with Topps and the […]

  43. A change in the Topps company’s numbering system for its baseball cards has upset some fans and collectors.

  44. Posnanski acknowledged that “the cards are much better than they used to be.” But he dismissed inserts like autographs as gimmicks and said that Topps had underestimated how much fans, as opposed to investment-oriented collectors, cared about tradition.

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