Topps Player Contracts Offer Collectible Look Behind the Curtain

Topps Player Contracts Offer Collectible Look Behind the Curtain

If you collect a specific player or team, you've probably got boxes or binders filled with cards. You might even have a few McFarlane figures, Starting Lineups or high-end statues lining your shelves. Often, one of the most enjoyable parts of the hobby is finding a unique treasure. Topps player contracts are relatively affordable pieces of memorabilia that are a direct link to cards. Top players and vintage contracts can get pricey, but most are reasonable.

Shop for Topps player contracts on eBay.

While most card companies deal with player unions to gain access to players, for baseball, Topps does individual deals with players. That's part of the reason why some players don't appear in Topps products.

Topps player contracts are expired. They outline the licensing rights the card maker gains from the deal. It's also interesting to see how much (or how little) that can make from such deals. Although they change from year to year, these contracts are largely generic documents that have several fill-in-the-blank spots.

Tim Raines Topps Contract 1989 Image

Besides the history behind the deal and the cards they came from it, Topps player contracts come signed by the player.

Topps sells expired contracts publicly through two venues, eBay and the Topps website. Once they're out of Topps' hands, many can also be found on the secondary market offered by other seller. Common Topps player contracts can sell for as low as $10. Hobby legends can go for thousands.

Typically, most deals run three years. This means lots of players have multiple contracts. Like cards, the first contracts often command a premium.

Because newer contracts are either still being used or need to be held onto for a number of years, you're likely to find players from 2005 and earlier.

Standard deals signed as late as 2005 show Topps paid active players $75 per year to use them on cards. These rates can vary for special deals. For example, here's a 1986 Mickey Mantle contract that paid the Yankees great $250 per year to use him on reprints, album covers and in special sets.

Mickey Mantle Topps Contract 19861 Image


Not all of these contracts have been sold since the Topps Vault eBay store was launched a few years ago. Some of the bigger contracts on the secondary market were auctioned off by Topps in 1989.

In addition to basic player contracts, collectors can be on the lookout for some variations. Some early autograph sheets have become available. These have several boxes for the players to sign inside that would be used to incorporated facsimile signatures into card designs. Typically, vintage autograph sheets have several autographs from the same player on them.

1975 Topps Autograph Sheet Billy Martin Image

Player file cards show a more primitive way of record keeping. These list the various contracts and the payments or gifts that were used in lieu of cash. Players could get gifts of things like TVs, stereos and even fine china.

Harry Kraft Topps Player File Card 1957 Image

Besides offering a unique piece for a personal collection, Topps player contracts pack a lot of hobby history into them as well. Aren't those stories what make collecting even more interesting?

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1998 Topps Signed Card Contract Homer Bush NY Yankees
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2004 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Tony Batista MONTREAL EXPOS
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1999 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Glen Barker HOUSTON ASTROS
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1994 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Howard Battle Toronto BLUE JAYS!
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Frank Viola Game Used Worn New York Mets Cap Hat and Viola Topps 93 Contract
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2001 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Russell Branyan INDIANS
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2001 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Milton Bradley EXPOS
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2001 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Brian Boehringer YANKEES
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1993 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Butch Huskey METS
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1992 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Luis Aquino ROYALS
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2002 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Mark DeRosa BRAVES
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1987 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Mel Hall INDIANS
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1988 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Andy Allanson INDIANS
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1989 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Scott Bankhead MARINERS
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1990 Topps Autographed Baseball Card Contract. Dale Sveum BREWERS
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Original 1988 DARYL BOSTON Signed Topps Contract Autographed Vault COA RARE 1 1
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Ryan Cracknell

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Ryan's collecting origins began with winter bike rides to the corner store, tossing a couple of quarters onto the counter and peddling home with a couple packs of O-Pee-Chee hockey in his pocket. Today, he continues to build sets, go after inserts with cool technologies, chase Montreal Expos and finish off his John Jaha master collection. Ryan can be found on Twitter @tradercracks and Google+.

User Comments

  1. Interesting article. I never knew contracts were signed this way. Thanks Ryan!

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