Founded in 1938, the Topps brand hit the ground running. Rising from the ashes of a tobacco company crippled by supply line fractures during WW1 and the Great Depression, the brand we know today as the leading supplier of baseball cards started in the sale of chewing gum.
Before breaking ground in the business of sports cards and collectibles, Topps broke ground by selling the iconic Bazooka bubble gum. With a small comic featuring the character Bazooka Joe enclosed in every wrapper, Topps combined two timely novelties at once. For a mere penny, customers got a sweet treat and a hearty chuckle. That level of ingenuity would continue to evolve and solidify in the coming decades.
The ‘50s was when Topps started slipping trading cards into their gum wrappers. Initially, it was just portraits of Clarence E. Mulford’s Hopalong Cassidy. It wasn’t until Sy Berger came into the picture, that the Topps sports cards we all know and love came into being.
Sports cards were nothing new by this time. Since before the turn of the century, baseball cards were slipped into every novelty you could imagine, from cigarettes to confections. That being said, sports cards leading up to Sy Berger’s innovation were merely portraits on cardboard with an advertisement on the back for whatever company’s products the card came with.
Sy Berger took the concept in a different direction, redesigning the sports card, and changing the trajectory of the company and the industry forever. Berger’s cards weren’t just a portrait on cardboard, like the Hopalong Cassidy cards. That portrait came with their stats, their biographical information, their team affiliations, and even a copy of their autograph. It was an opportunity to learn about your favorite player, and even keep with you the closest thing to a real autograph you could get from him without having to fight to the front of a line to meet the man himself.
With Berger’s innovation at the forefront, Topps moved swiftly to the top of the industry. Decades later, the company is still going strong. Expanding beyond baseball cards and bubble gum, Topps went on to create even more iconic brands like Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages. Today Topps continues to expand its operations into the digital sphere, introducing online trading card apps and even moving into the blockchain.
The innovative nature of Topps remains forever ingrained in its DNA, and it will remain a mainstay in the industry for years to come.