Most collectors like myself can tell you that Topps hit their stride in the 60's and 70's, producing set after stunning set year after year. While there were a lot of choices I was able to narrow down all their sets to my personal favorite 10. Now, here they all are.
Kicking off the list is the only set from a decade other than the 60's and 70's to make the list. 1983 was so distinctive for a number of reasons such as it was by far the best set of the 80's and was the best set Topps had made in over 5 years. The bold color combinations on the bottom take up just the right amount of space while there is a headshot of each player included in addition to the image on most of the card. Considering Topps has made base sets for over 30 years since 1983 and this is the most recent set on the list shows that 1983 marked the end of an era, and that's why it's in my top 10.
The 1970's brought us the most colorful sets ever made, several of which made my list. But none were more colorful than the bright and bold 1975 Topps set. Each base card's borders are made up of 2 main colors, this one has light and dark green while also having room for a different color for the team name and a colorful picture of the classic 70's uniforms. That's a lot of colors and somehow Topps made it work. I also appreciate how they were able to include little things like the baseball where the player's position was written out. The set is very distinctive, but it has just a tad too much going on for me to like it enough to make it higher up on the list.
2 years after 1975, Topps created a set that proved white borders could work if enough other things were included on the card and thus 1977 Topps was born. The white borders are nicely complimented with yet another year of a bright team name, this one has a much better font and colors that go well with the team they're associated with. The player name also has color, as does the pennant in the top right showing the players position, another example of Topps using small details to their advantage. Then you have the image and that's it, nothing too complicated. The set itself is very 70's and has some nice attributes, but it has to do something to set it over the edge like the next set did.
Love it or hate it 1968 Topps was such a recognizable set that was a big gamble for Topps to take at the time. They took a risk by eliminating the white borders collectors had become accustomed to over time and replaced them with a daring burlap border that screamed: "pay attention to me." Unlike some collectors, I think that Topps pulled of the burlap in a way that only Topps would be able to do and that's making each card look like a work of art. I was very pleased that 2017 Topps Heritage was based on this set and I'm happy to say I collected extra Heritage this year because of the 1968 set. It still has its flaws like the 2 different styles of burlap, but overall this set paid off for Topps so I'm giving them a nod of respect by putting 1968 Topps at the #7 spot.
Directly following the most exciting World Series of all time and the most exciting Topps set of all time are just 2 reasons why 1976 Topps never got the recognition it deserved. Each card was built around 2 main colors, with a little picture of their respective position players in the bottom left. This colorful, upbeat, and just plain awesome set began an era in which Topps prices went down, which is another reason the set isn't very recognized by collectors as a favorite, but there's no way I can ignore all the great pictures and colors that 1976 brought to the table. Despite being similar to 1975 it has the edge because of the phrase "less is more." It has less color which proved to be a game-changing part of the set. It doesn't need to be the boldest set to be the best, it just needs to have the right combination of multiple factors, and 1976 does that very well.
Now we're getting into the heavy hitters with a set that leaves me flabbergasted as to why Topps has only made a couple of black-bordered set in their 60+ years of existence. The set is stunning there's no doubt about that. The dark black borders proved to be one of the smartest decisions ever made by Topps as it makes each and every image look better while still providing a fabulous border to go along with it. It doesn't get overly complex with all sorts of unnecessary features. It sticks to what it does well which is beautiful cards with stunning black borders and that's why this distinctive early 70's set made the top 5.
1965 Topps is one of those sets in which one element can bring the entire set to a level only reached by a select amount of sets. The pennant is what does that and is one of my favorite things ever included in a Topps set. The old-school 60's logos accompanied by the team name and colored flag is the best part of this set, not to mention the color on the bottom and a slight continuation throughout the trim. The pictures are also pretty great as they really embody the 60's and the players on the card. This set is for sure one of the best, but there are 3 more sets that 1965 just couldn't beat.
#3 1960 Topps
This set has more going on than any Topps set ever made and somehow they still pulled it off. The black and white picture on the left, the logo, the player's color picture, the player name in different colors all come together in a harmonious yet somewhat chaotic set that helped begin the best decade for Topps cards ever. It's easy to see why some think this set is just way too much, but the way it was styled with the color choices causes me to think that everything has a purpose on this card, nothing unneeded was included. It's a favorite of mine that I was glad to see in this year's Archives and that set rekindled my love for 1970 Topps which is part of the reason it's at #3.
This set is known by many collectors as the wood bordered set and it's not hard to figure out why. Each card looks like a framed picture and each picture looks like a work of art. This set stood out in a decade among many other stunning sets and excelled in the best decade for cards for the reason that this set is so simple. There's nothing too complicated nor is it fancy about the set. It's just a nice set with the best borders in any Topps set ever. The one thing that annoys me is the picture's bottom right corner looking like it's being folded over. I have no clue why they did this considering this is a card, not a picture glued to a wood board. I love this set, but if not for that feature it would've been #1 for sure.
To me, there is no better combination of colors, font, borders, trim, and style of a set that works better than 1972. This set is the first vintage set that my dad and I worked on collecting together, and now I'm happy to say that we're down to less than 50 cards away from completing it. The team names look better than any set before or after it and the pictures are chosen with thought and look better than most years of the 70's even years after '72. The best part of the set is the "In Action" cards which provide true action shots of some of the best players of that time. All this plus more is what a set needs to be my favorite set in Topps history.
Remember, this is just my opinion and there is no official #1 Topps set, I just happen to like 1972 a lot. Please let me know in the comments what you're favorite Topps set of all time is and why. I'm very interested to see what they are.
Also Topps if you're reading this, take notes. These are the kinds of sets we want to see made in the future.