👊 How Topps is innovating in the trading card space
Welcome to the third and final article of our three-part series in partnership with Topps. Part 1 detailed a brief history of trading cards, frequently asked questions, and key terminology to know. Part 2 highlighted two women shaking up the male-dominated hobby industry. Part 3 will focus on innovation in the card collecting space, and what that means for women’s sports.
Before digging into where the industry is going, let’s take a quick look back at how it all started. Tobacco cards were first used as a way for cigarette companies to stiffen a cigarette pack, but the industry, well, lit up from there, with trading cards evolving to featuring everything from fish to birds to flags as a way to draw in a wide range of consumers. Oh my!
From there, trade cards ultimately gave way to baseball cards, which were first printed in the late 1860s, around the time the game became a pro sport. At the turn of the 20th century, tobacco and chewing gum companies (Topps included) started packaging baseball cards with their products.
- Since then, Topps has been at the center of major innovations in the trading card space. In 1950, they expanded beyond sports, including cards from TV and film in their bubble gum packs.
- And in 1952, they launched the first true modern baseball card set featuring player statistics. Talk about leading the, ahem, pack.
Topps has never stopped innovating. Nowadays, there are countless types of unique cards, even some including rare pieces of memorabilia. Topps offers relic cards which feature a piece of memorabilia embedded in the card itself, with everything ranging from a piece or swatch of the player’s jersey (sometimes even game-worn!) to a piece of a game-used baseball.
- Plus, Topps is also making it even more fun to collect cards featuring up-and-coming stars. Rookie Debut Patch Autograph cards were launched just this year and feature, you guessed it, a patch worn in an MLBer’s big-league debut. So special.
But it’s not just on the cards that Topps is changing the game. Through social media, athlete engagements, and additional promos, Topps is literally bringing their cards to life. Tyra Banks could never.
One of our fave campaigns? Their recent Taco Bell promo. Lucky folks holding the TacoFractor card for the World Series’ Taco Bell hero (this year it was Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte, who stole the first base of the series) walked away with free Taco Bell for life. That’s a whole lot of Baja Blasts.
- Beyond food-related fun, other Topps campaigns include Topps Big League Social Follow B@ck, where the athlete whose card you own might smash that follow button on your Instagram.
- And if you’re looking to get in the actual game yourself? They also offer a Become a Big Leaguer sweepstakes, where you could win the chance to have your card featured alongside the game’s biggest stars. The possibilities are endless.
Back to the card-specific progress, you already know our favorite change over the years has been the growing inclusion of female athletes on trading cards. Women’s cards actually date back to the very beginning, with cards from the 1800s featuring women participating in activities such as ice skating, croquet, and tennis.
- Fast forward to the present day, Topps has been serving up all kinds of firsts for women’s cards.
- In 2020, they partnered with Athletes Unlimited to launch the league’s first-ever trading cards. And just last year, they inked name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals with hundreds of athletes, including South Carolina–turned-WNBA star Aliyah Boston.
- Plus, some ballin’ collectors even wind up on the cards themselves. Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark, who collected cards growing up, teamed up with Topps for her own autograph card and a sweet NIL deal, too. Buckets on buckets.
Want to be part of the changing and growing fun? Topps makes it simple. With offerings ranging from sports to pop culture, there’s truly something for everyone.
- And the best way to get started is by collecting cards from the sports and other categories that you’re passionate about. Who knows, you might even snag some free tacos along the way.