Mint Musings: Reflecting on Topps Football – This week’s release of 2015 Topps Diamond Football marks the end of a long, historic era. It will be Topps’ last football release, for the foreseeable future. Panini’s exclusive deal with the NFLPA will leave it as the last company standing with the ability to produce cards of football players pictured in their NFL uniforms.
Spanning a wide array of releases over several decades, Topps’ football products have long been a staple of the collecting world. No matter how you feel about Panini or any of the other football-producing card companies, the absence of Topps in the football card market is sure to leave a gap in the collecting community.
Quite arguably, the most iconic Topps’ football card is Joe Namath’s 1965 Topps rookie. The over-sized card dimensions led to them being referred to as “Tall Boys”. They remain one of the crown jewels of vintage football cards. Their plus sizing may have unintentionally foreshadowed the larger than life personality Namath would create for himself in New York.
Many people forget, that from 1970 until 1981, Topps only maintained an NFLPA license and not one from the NFL itself. As a result, football cards from that era do not show any team logos or other NFL copyrighted images. Collector’s shouldn’t hold their breath however, as there is little chance of the company repeating the same strategy.
The 1984 Topps set, while not the prettiest they’ve released, has long been one of the landmark sets in football with its several, high-profile rookie cards, including Dan Marino and John Elway. In more recent years, other NFL draft classes have left their indelible mark on the Topps flagship football card set. As was the case in 2012, with Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.
The annual release of the company’s flagship football card product, Topps Football has been a popular staple among collectors for years. Other products such as Triple Threads, Finest and Chrome have also become “go to” products, with loyal collector followings through the years.
To its credit, Topps is going out with a BIG BANG with the release of 2015 Topps Diamond Football this week. Especially coming so quickly on the heels of another premium product in 2015 Topps Definitive Collection Football, just last month.
At the time, it was the company’s most ambitious football product to date. The set is loaded with high-end content and consistently delivers several high-end rookie and veteran hits. It’s one and done swan song will no doubt leave some collectors wishing there was another year for the product to be released.
Myself personally, I remember giving my father a 1979 Topps Earl Campbell rookie card as a gift because Campbell was his favorite player growing up. I also remember opening a box of 1998 Topps Football with him and being a little bummed that we hadn’t pulled a Peyton Manning rookie card. We instead “comforted” ourselves with the “consolation” of at least getting a Ryan Leaf rookie card. Even better, was that we pulled a Mike Singletary autograph in the box. Keep in mind that this was when pulling autographs, of a Hall of Famer to boot, was still a really big deal with l-o-n-g odds.
I’m going to miss Topps’ presence in the football market. This is nothing against Panini, or any company with an exclusive for that matter. I had written earlier in the year that I was curious to see what Panini would do with their football exclusive. That question still stands, but I still believe that Panini will work as hard as possible to ramp up their efforts to deliver collectors dynamic and compelling content this year.
That being said, it’s still a shame to see Topps go. I’m not a fan of sports exclusives and would rather they did not exist. Unfortunately, that’s just the way business and sports cards are intertwined today. I’m willing to wager that many people besides myself will miss Topps’ football offerings.
It will be curious to see how this affects sales of football cards as a whole, with only one company producing NFL licensed football cards. We’ll have plenty of time to see how that story unfolds. For now, I’m raising my proverbial glass to Topps Football. It was a heck of a run that is ending far too soon.
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan as the producer of ESPN’s Mint Condition has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on the hobby in Mint Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
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