Topps Magazine Back in Print! – All these years later, Topps Magazine is finally back in print. The early 1990s publication is being celebrated with an insert set in 2019 Topps Archives. The cards show players on mock-up Topps Magazine covers — Fall 2019, labeled Issue #12 for some reason (the actual Issue #12, from Fall 1992, shows Gary Sheffield on the cover).
The imaginary magazine covers have a “price” of $2.95 ($3.50 Canada), the same newsstand cost of the 16 issues that ran from 1990 to 1993. Meanwhile, the card backs resemble the magazine’s table of contents, down to the starburst in the top right corner.
The insert set checklist ranges from players who graced the cover of Topps Magazine (Ken Griffey Jr. and Cal Ripken Jr.) to some who weren’t even alive during Topps Magazine’s run (Ronald Acuña Jr., Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto).
While it’s easy to overlook Topps Magazine as another failed hobby creation from the excesses of the junk wax era, the magazine left an impact on the hobby — a key resource that, like another publication, Baseball Cards Magazine, was creating cards of current players on iconic Topps designs long before products like Heritage made it a regular occurrence.
Issues featured news and notes from the baseball card world, along with features about sports and collectibles, interviews with athletes and breakdowns of card sets. Paging through issues of the magazine today feels like opening a hobby time capsule. Issue #9 (Winter 1992, with Griffey Jr. on the cover) includes details about the upcoming Topps Kids, “baseball cards unlike any you’ve seen before … fun-and-hip cards designed for youngsters just getting started in the collecting hobby.” The sample card image shown in the magazine is Bo Jackson with the Royals — but for the actual product, Jackson appears on the White Sox, against the same illustration of players in the dugout.
A printing error involving the “Match the Stats” scratch-off game cards, good for Topps Gold Winner cards, is also addressed, with the fear that the mistake “may enable some individuals to compromise the integrity of the game.” Later in the issue, 1992 Topps is profiled. “The 1992 Topps baseball card set is the best ever, featuring new players, new designs, new card stock, new backs, new subsets, new promotions and the exciting Topps Gold cards.”
Topps Magazine Back in Print!
Another blurb highlights a baseball-themed episode of “The Simpsons.” Homer Simpson, Bart’s animated dad, has gotten himself into a pickle of the baseball kind. In an episode scheduled near Opening Day in April, Homer’s boss, Mr. Burns, bets $1 million that the company softball team will win “the big game.” Reminiscent of a famous baseball boss (hint: his name begins with G. and ends with Steinbrenner), Burns fields a team of ringers — cartoon versions of Jose Canseco, Darryl Strawberry, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr. and other superstars. Their bats and bodies are animated, but you’ll hear their real voices.
That episode, of course, was the Season 3 classic “Homer at the Bat.”
Yankees flameout, Brien Taylor, is also featured throughout the magazine’s run — including a prescient chart comparing him with 1970s pitching bust David Clyde, another lefty drafted No. 1 out of high school (a third, Brady Aiken, was drafted No. 1 by the Astros in 2014 but didn’t sign, and is now toiling in the Indians system).
Topps Magazine Back in Print!
Readers wrote about getting Todd Zeile’s autograph through the mail, or to ask about the year Topps Micro debuted (1991), the future of bubble gum in packs (gum was gone minus vintage- or kid-themed products), the reason for “Oil Can” Boyd’s nickname (it’s alluding to beer), or Charlie Hayes‘ two cards in 1993 Topps (Hayes appeared in Series 1 with the Yankees, and his Series 2 card reflected his joining the expansion Rockies) … all the types of things we could uncover immediately through Google, eBay or Twitter today.
An article in the final issue of Topps Magazine — “What’s Old Is New Again” by Donald Liebenson — focused on the popularity of vintage cards and their reprint counterparts, including the 1990s iteration of Topps Archives, which reproduced and reimagined Topps’ iconic 1953 and 1954 Topps sets. The article ends by quoting Clay Walker, then the price guide director of Tuff Stuff Magazine, all but capturing the essence of Topps Heritage when it launched eight years later.
“These cards are true Americana. A father can buy them and share such players as Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays with his son who likes Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas. After all, says Walker, two generations comparing stats of their favorite ball players “is what card collecting is all about.”
At its staple-bound core, Topps Magazine was all about the cards — each issue featured perforated cards arranged in four-card sheets.
Where Topps Archives’ insert set begins with Mike Trout for TM1, Topps Magazine went with a different hotshot player with a California team for its opening card: Padres first base prospect Dave Staton, who retired with a career WAR of 0.2, or 72.3 less than Trout. A Griffey card was included in the first issue, which featured Jose Canseco on the cover.
Some of the cards showed players on classic Topps designs. Matt Williams and Mark McGwire on 1952 Topps. Dwight Gooden on 1975 Topps. Dave Henderson on 1986 Topps. Other cards featured colorful and splashy concepts, some of which were submitted by readers. The magazine cards, across the 16 issues, form a living set — an evolving series that featured new cardboard offerings in your mailbox four times a year.
The cards reflect a blend of old and new, of Hall of Famers on new designs and today’s stars in vintage card sets. Actor John Goodman is included, too, as “The Babe.” Old and new, with a little bit of pop culture sprinkled in? Sounds a lot like Topps Archives, the card series that is now paying tribute to the magazine with the four-card perforated sheets.
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