A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Monday, March 9, 2015

Top Ten Topps Sets

All right, I'm trying to make good on getting out of my posting rut by making a few lists.  Here's another one.

Since Topps has been around longer than anyone in the game, it's fun to make lists of "THE BEST TOPPS SETS OF ALL TIME".  While I'm far from an expert, I'm obviously pretty familiar with baseball cards, so why not have a list of my own, right?

I suppose the problem with this idea is that I am a niche collector, in that I collect almost exclusively Padres cards.  For a team that entered the majors in 1969, that means that there are 18 years of Topps cards that I would have a hard time judging.  In my eyes, can a card set really be that great without Padres?

While I've gotten familiar with those sets via "retro-themed" sets like Archives, Heritage, etc., I still am going to stick to what I know best - cards that have Padres on them.

With that in mind, here are my favorite Topps sets, from 1969 to the present.  Not the best, because I have found that I rarely like things that are "the best".  The Oscars were last night a few weeks ago, and as far as I know, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Ferris Bueller's Day Off didn't win any of those, so I my favorites rarely get classified as "the best" anyways.

Alright, let's dig in...
#10 - 1986 Topps
The '86 set was the first one to show the Padres in the only-brown-and-orange uniforms, not a trace of yellow.  The design is pretty basic, but I like the boldness of the name on top, coupled with the black and white two tone-ness of the card.  I dig when there's black in the border, as evidenced by another choice further down this list.  The set has some good Padres, including Garvey and Gossage, who has my favorite card in the set.

#9 - 1969 Topps - The Photoshopped Caps
I get that the '69 set doesn't have a lot going on, design wise.  But come on!   These are about as vintage as Padre cards can get (unless you go the Pacific Coast League route from the 50's, which are much more difficult to come by).  The major ding on these cards is that the majority of the Padres have blacked out hats or are hatless, since they were an expansion team, and the majority of the low-number cards show photos that were taken from the previous year.  But cards from the first year of the Padres existence?  Gotta be in the top 10.  Here's "Downtown" Ollie Brown, the Padres 1st choice in the expansion draft.

#8 - 1984 Topps
If you haven't noticed yet, there is a bit of sentimentality attached to a lot of these picks.  While I wouldn't say that I'm a huge fan of the '84 set overall, the fact that it shows the Padres first World Series team is a big bonus for me.  It was also the year that I was born, and though I wasn't collecting right out of the womb, I'm sure I'm not the only one who is attached to cards that are the same age as you.  Maybe it's just because I've looked at them for so long, but it's almost like the pink and orange work really well together.  Almost.  This was the oldest Gwynn I had in my collection for a while.  Now it's not, but I still love it.

#7 - 1977 Topps
Looking at all of these on the same post, I'm trying to see what similarities they have.  This is the second of three cards that have the word "PADRES" emblazoned at the top.  I guess I like easily knowing what team the player plays for.  The '77 set has some big names for the Padres, like Winfield and Fingers, and to a lesser extent, Randy Jones.  While Tito Fuentes probably has a better card than Rich Folkers, I can't resist a "Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen" reference by Jerry Coleman.

#6 - 2011 Topps
This is the set that got me back into collecting.  Or it just happened to be the newest thing when I got into collecting.  I like the simple look of the nameplate, and the circle with the team logo is small, but not too small.  This Denorfia card is easily one of my favorite of all time - favorite player in a throwback uniform = hard to beat.  I've got a pretty complete rainbow for this one.

#5 - 2013 Topps
Like I said, I got back into collecting in 2011, and I liked that set, but 2012 was a mulligan for me.  The boring surfboard shape and too-zoomed in pictures weren't my style.  Though the photography was still pretty similar in 2013, I liked the design way better.  Either this one or this year's set will be my favorite of the 2010's so far.  Jedd Gyorko's rookie card is probably the most memorable of the set for me, but I also like this photo variation shot of Cameron Maybin.  At-the-wall shots are tough to beat.

#4 - 1992 Topps
This is one of the sets that got me into collecting.  My 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Seipel, had packs and packs of '92 Topps lining his room, and whenever a student did something worth praising, he'd get a stick and knock down a pack and give 'em a few cards.  That was pretty awesome.  I also like the set because of the card stock, which was of a higher quality than the previous '91 Topps set.  Little touches like the stadium photo on the back or the bat popping onto the border have cemented this set in my top five, though, obviously, nostalgia plays a huge part as well.

#3 - 1993 Topps
While the '92 set was what got me into collecting, the '93 set was when I was really at my collecting peak.  When my mom sent a huge box of cards to me after moving to Texas, this was the set that I had the most cards from.  While it gets a lot of flack (deservedly so) for the stats on the back, which are vertical instead of horizontal (and difficult to read), I love this set.  I was really psyched to see that the design was used as an SP in Topps Archives a few years ago.  Very classy looking, in my opinion.

#2 - 1971 Topps
From '90s junk wax to '70s vintage.  I'm not really a fan of the '72 set and it's really loud colors, so maybe it makes sense that I like the clean, classic look of the '73 set.  The backs are great too (also vertical, like the '93 set), and I like the details, like the colors in the nameplate and the position player guy (if I did top eleven, I'd probably include the '76 set, which has a similar feature).

#1 - 1971 Topps
It was always you, '71 Topps.  Topps has used this design a LOT in it's retro-themed sets lately, but it doesn't matter; I will never get tired of this design.  I'm a big fan of black bordered cards in general ('92 Pinnacle is my all time favorite set), and the boldness of the team name plus the colors is just perfect to me.  A knock on them is that with frayed edges, the black print on the cardboard makes imperfections more noticeable.  This only adds to how much I like this set.  Very few of my cards from this set are in good condition, and it's like saying "Hey!  Look how old this card is!  Isn't it awesome?"

Well, I'm almost positive that few will agree with my choices, but that's why the card collecting hobby is pretty rad - there's not really a wrong way to do it.  I'd like to think that my way of doing it is pretty fun.

Any here that you would also include in your top 10?  Any here that you can't imagine anyone besides me enjoying?


  1. Man, I wish Mr. Seipel was my 3rd grade teacher.

  2. I love these Top 10 Lists. I'm way too lazy to create one, but I keep telling myself that I need to do it. I will say that it's nice to see another collector who appreciates the 1986 Topps design. I also really enjoy the 1973 and 1984 Topps designs too.

  3. I'm glad to see the 2011 set getting some love. I think it's hard to wrong with the '71 set as a fave. Good call.

  4. No love for '74 with the Washington variations? Made your Padres stand out at least....!

    1. Overall, I'm not a fan of the '74 design. However, the Washington variations are super cool, and I've got the team set of those. I love 'em, but as far as a WHOLE team set, I didn't include it. Although it also has the Winfield rookie card, so hindsight might make me put it on the list, probably be 9 or 10.