Here’s What Collectors Feel is the First Topps Set

In a recent conversation with a few collectors about the first Topps set, it got me thinking, what do collectors feel is the first Topps set - 1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs or 1952 Topps?

Before we dig into the survey results, let's review each of these two sets.

1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs

1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs
1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs | Source: Robert Edward Auctions

→ These cards have rounded corners, have playing-card style backs, and are a bit smaller than the standard size. The Red Backs are Set A (52 cards), while the rarer Blue Backs are Set B (52 cards). The cards were sold in 2-card packs with a piece of caramel candy and used for a game in which you shuffle the cards and pull one at random.

Shop for 1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs on eBay

1952 Topps

1952 Topps
1952 Topps | Source: Robert Edward Auctions

→ This 407-card set features the classic multi-series, stat-backed roster with dimensions a little bigger than the standard card (size became standardized in 1957). This is considered Topps' first major set and features the most iconic post-war sports card of all time - the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle.

Shop for 1952 Topps on eBay

In my experience, I've learned that some collectors discount the 1951 Topps Red and Blue Back sets as not being official releases due to their game nature, while other collectors didn't even know these sets existed. Sure, these sets aren't not nearly as popular as the 1952 Topps release but they're still a product of Topps from the year prior, which by their vary design makes them the first Topps sets.

In an effort to know what collectors think is the first official Topps release, I posed the following question in a single-question survey:

Between the 1951 Topps Red & Blue Back, and the 1952 Topps base set, which do you feel is the first Topps set?

Survey Makeup:

  • Ran from March 21-23, 2019
  • Marketed on Twitter, Facebook Groups, and Community Forums
  • Collected 50 Responses

The data shows that 70% of collectors surveyed feel the 1951 Topps Red and Blue Back sets are the first official Topps sets.

I was surprised to see 30% of collectors surveyed indicate that they felt the 1952 Topps set was the first release. I always just assumed that if you're presented with two options with stated origin dates and asked to select which came first, you'd select the older one by default. The results of this survey, however, falsifies that assumption.

The results show that some collectors feel that Topps began producing sets in 1952. The 1952 Topps set was the first set to showcase the classic multi-series, stat-backed roster of cards, which has become a staple of Topps' brand essence even in the modern era. That said, there are purist collectors who believe this to be why they feel Topps officially began in 1952.

For those collectors who, like me, take the first issue of anything to be the beginning of the associated thing, we'll automatically choose the 1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs as being the first Topps sets. Like them or not, here are some other famous firsts:

  • 1988 Score is the first Pinnacle set
  • Mickey Mantle's one and only rookie card comes from 1951 Bowman
  • Delino DeShields' one and only rookie card comes from 1988 O-Pee-Chee
  • Pedro Martinez' one and only rookie card comes from 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

Which of these do you feel is the first Topps set?

1952 Topps 37 Duke Snider
1952 Topps 37 Duke Snider
$57.00
1952 Topps 176 Hank Edwards Cincinnati Reds PSA 5
1952 Topps 176 Hank Edwards Cincinnati Reds PSA 5
$49.99
1952 Topps 136 Johnny Schmitz PSA 6 7894
1952 Topps 136 Johnny Schmitz PSA 6 7894
$70.00
1952 Topps Baseball Pee Wee Reese Card  333 PSA 2 MK Good Condition
1952 Topps Baseball Pee Wee Reese Card 333 PSA 2 MK Good Condition
$325.00
1952 Topps 216 Richie Ashburn PSA 5 0938
1952 Topps 216 Richie Ashburn PSA 5 0938
$165.00
1952 Topps 307 BLK Star Frank Campos PSA 8 2454
1952 Topps 307 BLK Star Frank Campos PSA 8 2454
$30,000.00
1952 Topps 358 John Kucab PSA 4 0262
1952 Topps 358 John Kucab PSA 4 0262
$230.00
1952 Topps 252 Vernon Bickford Boston Braves AN ORIGINAL CARD 66+ YEARS OLD
1952 Topps 252 Vernon Bickford Boston Braves AN ORIGINAL CARD 66+ YEARS OLD
$60.20
1952 Topps 171 Ed Erautt Cincinnati Reds PSA 4
1952 Topps 171 Ed Erautt Cincinnati Reds PSA 4
$49.99
1952 TOPPS 1 ANDY PAFKO PSA 2 DODGERS RED BACK just graded
1952 TOPPS 1 ANDY PAFKO PSA 2 DODGERS RED BACK just graded
$149.00
1952 Topps  88 Bob Feller HOF PSA 1 Cleveland Indians
1952 Topps 88 Bob Feller HOF PSA 1 Cleveland Indians
$59.98
1952 Topps Andy Pafko 1 PSA15
1952 Topps Andy Pafko 1 PSA15
$129.00
DICK SISLER PSA 10 Auto Signed 1952 TOPPS 113 PSA DNA Grade Gem MINT 10
DICK SISLER PSA 10 Auto Signed 1952 TOPPS 113 PSA DNA Grade Gem MINT 10
$54.87
1952 Topps  363 Dick Rozek Set Break HIGH NUMBER PSA 1 Centered
1952 Topps 363 Dick Rozek Set Break HIGH NUMBER PSA 1 Centered
$89.98
1952 Topps  370 Billy Hoeft Set Break HIGH NUMBER PSA 1 Centered
1952 Topps 370 Billy Hoeft Set Break HIGH NUMBER PSA 1 Centered
$119.98
1952 Topps 313 Bobby Thomson  PSA VG EX 4  New York Giants baseball card
1952 Topps 313 Bobby Thomson PSA VG EX 4 New York Giants baseball card
$188.00

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