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Sunday, May 23, 2021


Given the cards’ small size, scant biographical information and lack of color images, Topps’ first set fell fairly flat when it was released in 1951.

“They’re really unimpressive, quite frankly. It’s really funny to look at them, and go, ‘Wow, this morphed into the cards we know today?’” Odell said. “But in retrospect, you realize it was sort of a beta test for Topps to see if they could do this.”

The Blue Backs and Red Backs weren’t huge sellers, but they sold well enough to enable Topps to come out with another set the following year. With the 1952 set, Topps began to establish itself as an industry leader.

Looking to change directions with their second set, Topps enlisted marketing guru Sy Berger, along with graphic artist Woody Gelman, to design the 1952 set. The two famously sat at Berger’s kitchen table in Brooklyn in the fall of 1951 and got to work, cutting out and assembling the new design.

The 1951 Topps set, which was the first baseball card set released by Topps, fell fairly flat, leading the company to rethink their design for the next set in 1952. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

What Berger and Gelman came away with bore almost no resemblance to the original 1951 set. The 407-player set featured large, color images, team logos, facsimile autographs and extensive biographical information on the backs. The cards were an instant hit.

“You look at the 1952 cards, and you go, ‘This is what I would buy,’” Odell said. “What Berger and Gelman did was just 180 degrees from what the 1951 cards are. It’s as dramatic a change as there ever was at Topps. Rookie year and sophomore year – just night and day.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 23, 2021 at 05:36 PM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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