Friday, December 21, 2018

Ranking Topps Sets by Decade; 1950s

As a nice way to close out 2018, I'm going to take the final few days of the month to go decade by decade throughout Topps history, ranking the Topps Flagship sets produced based on solely the base set design. 

Part of what inspired me to begin this mini-series was my post on underrated Topps sets from a few days ago. When I was exploring sets to place on that list, I started to ponder where each set would fall on the all-time list. However, it's pretty difficult to compare sets from the 50s to sets from the 2010s, so I thought going decade by decade would work much better.

Starting with the 1950s, I'll be ranking the Topps Flagship sets from each decade until the end of the year with a couple of breaks in between. The criteria for each sets' placement on the list will be the base set design alone. 

Hopefully, these posts will give me a bit of a better idea as to what my favorite Topps sets of all-time are as well as the sets that aren't so high up on my list.

For the 1950s, I won't be including the red backs cards from 1951 since they're technically not a Topps base set. Instead, I'll be starting with 1952 and continuing throughout the rest of the decade.

#8 1957 Topps
It's not that I don't see what Topps was going for with 1957 Topps, it's just that the basic and simple set doesn't really work with the 50s style of cards. It's the one standout set out of all the 50s products with every other year featuring a much larger variety of color.

It reminds me a lot of a Topps Stadium club set given the very minimal base card design. However, it lacks the high-quality images due to when the set was produced in. Without the top-notch photos that most sets with simple designs have, 1957 Topps is unable to be a standout in the 1950s.

#7 1955 Topps
While it's fairly similar to the 1954 and 1956 sets, the 1955 Topps set includes the less-desirable elements from both sets, ultimately resulting in a set that blends in with all the other sets that Topps has made. 

There seems to be a lot of background space that's not really being used, leading me to believe that 1955 Topps could possibly work as a vertical set rather than horizontal. Perhaps if that happened, it would be placed higher on the list.

#6 1954 Topps
With a design that resembles a vertical version of the 1955 set, 1954 Topps has a bit more to offer with the 2nd photo being in black and white rather than color. It utilizes the space provided to it quite well, something that cannot be said about the '55 set. 

However, with the team logo cutting off part of the cap and the background image located on the shoulder of Olson's foreground photo, there's literally no room for anything else on the card. Even with '54 Topps resembling the 1955 set to a degree, the 2 sets are opposites in a couple of ways.

#5 1952 Topps
I still don't have my own original card from 1952 or 1953 Topps, something I most definitely hope to change in 2019. Despite not owning an original copy, that hasn't stopped me from having a solid knowledge of the 1952 Topps set, the first base set ever released. The first of anything is typically remembered fondly, and Topps' first base set is no different. Even though it's not the best product from the 50s, the all-around design and photos guarantee that it's far from the worst.

#4 1958 Topps
Because Topps Heritage is my favorite brand, I've been able to discover vintage Topps sets from the 1950s because of that very brand. Specifically, the first year I was heavily invested in Topps Heritage was 2007, the year that 1958 was used for the set. There's a lot to like about the set. It's one of a few sets from the 50s to not include "real" backgrounds. Every card is a picture of a player in front of a unique color, a feature that differs from card to card. 

Due to '58 Topps being one of Topps' first set, there are a few minor mistakes that were eventually fixed in Topps Heritage. That's not to take away from the creative and interesting set that is 1958 Topps.

#3 1953 Topps
As I previously mentioned, I really hope that I won't have to use a Topps Archives card for 1953 Topps any longer. Rather, I'll be looking in 2019 for my first original cards from both the '52 and '53 sets. Additionally, while Heritage helped me discover some of my favorite 50s sets, another set, Topps Living, helped me learn about what a beautiful set 1953 Topps is.

Although I only own 1 card from the living set (Clemente), I see enough online to know how eye-catching the artwork is. That's in large part due to how well-made the original product is with countless iconic cards taking up spots on the checklist, including Satchel Paige and Mickey Mantle, just to name a couple.

#2 1959 Topps
1958 Topps will always remain a favorite of mine due to 2007 Heritage being the first Heritage set I ever collected. However, the 1959 Topps set edges it out just slightly due to how it elevates the '58 set yet also develops an entirely new product. If you like the '58 design but prefer actual backgrounds, then 1959 Topps is the set for you. This time around, the placement of the logo was much better, and there's no wasted space nor does the card feel crowded.

This year, I was ecstatic to see 1959 Topps in the Archives set after it previously being included in 2008 Topps Heritage. Even though Topps wasn't able to execute a few minor details, the original set definitely falls in the top 15 of my favorite all-time Flagship sets.

#1 1956 Topps
It took Topps 3 separate tries, but finally, in 1956, they were able to perfect the type of set that they had been trying to create for 3 years from 1954-1956. Almost every single detail works together in harmony on this card, in large part due to the size of the cards in the '56 set. At last, Topps perfectly executed a set with 2 pictures of the player, 1 in the foreground and 1 in the background.

Additionally, they stayed true to the 50s with different colors for the player name as well as the position and team name. The card backs, although not shown, are another strong point of a set that has no shortage of them.

It may not have come to them right away, but thankfully, Topps was able to create a near masterpiece with their 1956 set.

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