35TH ANNIVERSARY TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS

2022 marked the 35th anniversary of Topps’ iconic baseball card product. For over eight decades, Topps has been the dominant force in the baseball card industry and their anniversary sets are always highly anticipated releases that commemorate the long history between the brand and America’s pastime.

The 1987 Topps baseball card set was a special 700 card release to celebrate 35 years of Topps baseball cards. What made this anniversary set unique was that it contained reprints of some of the most iconic and valuable cards from past Topps series dating all the way back to 1952. Fans young and old loved being able to obtain classic cards that they may have otherwise never had a chance to add to their collections.

Topps pulled cards from various years throughout their history to include in the ’87 set, with the earliest being a reprint of the iconic 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card. Other notable reprints included cards of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Sandy Koufax among many others. In total, there were 88 classic cards recreated for the 35th anniversary set, spanning from the 1950s all the way to the 1970s. Each reprint card was marked with “ANNIVERSARY REPRINT” on the front to distinguish it from the original vintage issues.

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In addition to the reprints of yesteryear, the ’87 Topps set also included all the active major league players from that season. Some of the biggest star rookies included in the base set were Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin, and Tom Glavine. The design aesthetics of the anniversary cards paid homage to Topps’ earlier designs from the late 1950s and 1960s with a classic white border and team logo at the bottom. The photography and color tones also emulated that retro vintage baseball card look that fans loved.

The ’87 Topps set was also notable for including several special anniversary-themed promotional and insert card subsets. One was a “Topps Baseball History” subset that highlighted iconic Topps cards and moments from the past. Another was an “Anniversary All-Stars” subset that featured current players recreating poses from the reprint cards they were included with. The most coveted insert of the set were the rare gold foil parallel versions of the reprint cards that were inserted at approximately 1 per case.

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When the 1987 Topps baseball cards were released, they were an instant hit with collectors both young and old. Being able to obtain classic reprints of cards that in some cases hadn’t been widely available for decades was incredibly exciting. The set sparked a renewed interest in the history of Topps and helped introduce a whole new generation to the iconic players and designs of baseball cards past. Prices for the ’87 set remained strong well after release date as collectors cherished these anniversary commemorative issues.

In the decades since, the 1987 Topps baseball cards have taken on an iconic status of their own as one of the most memorable and collectible anniversary releases in the brand’s history. The reprint cards hold significant value today, with high grade examples of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or other classics easily commanding thousands of dollars. Even run-of-the-mill copies of the reprints hold value due to their historical significance. And the rookie cards of players like McGwire and Glavine have appreciated nicely as well considering their playing careers.

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When assessing the impact and legacy of the 1987 Topps baseball card set 35 years later, it’s clear this anniversary outing was an unmitigated success. Topps created an instant nostalgia by revisiting their rich baseball card history and packaging it alongside a new generation of players. The set sparked memories for older collectors and educated younger fans about the pioneers who came before. Its reprint cards ensured iconic Topps moments from the past lived on for future generations as well. In so many ways, the ’87 issue exemplified what makes Topps baseball so beloved after all these decades. It was a true celebration of the brand’s long tradition within the sport.

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