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Visual History of Topps Baseball Wrappers - 1951-2011

Visual History of Topps Baseball Wrappers – 1951-2011

Wrappers get no respect (at least when there's no pre-announced wrapper redemption programs). They leave the printer as a card cocoon. Often, we tear them open with abandon, either tossing them directly into the garbage or scrunching them up, stuffing them in an empty box and leaving them for a later that never comes. It's time to look back at the history of Topps Baseball wrappers.

At one time baseball card wrappers were unnoticed mini pop art masterpieces. Instead of canvas, they were done on wax. Intended to sell cards and sticks of pink bubble gum, they often featured ads for other novelties and even more bubble gum.

For the first few years, the wax wrappers took a somewhat generic approach. Topps' initial attempts at packs had the pop but not a lot of flair. In particular, between 1952 and 1954, Topps didn't change the ball motif much.

From the mid-1950s through to the end of the 1970s, Topps Baseball wrappers often offered stylish looks at the game. They often took generic baseball images, gave them a splash of color and conveyed them in an art style popular at the time. They should be viewed as the Golden Age of Topps Baseball wrappers.

1980 to 1991 were a low-point for wax packs where the generic baseball returned. From year to year, if anything changed, it was the date and the color of the background.

Topps Baseball wrappers made a huge change in 1992 with wax wrappers disappearing, being replaced by plastic packaging. Wrappers were also becoming more cluttered with text, cramping in info on additional inserts like Topps Gold. 1992 to 1994 Topps Baseball wrappers also saw the return of the stylized generic baseball player.

Starting in 1995, Topps switched over to foil housing for their cards. They also started using star power for the first time, adding photos of instantly recognizable players. That's how it's remained ever since save for a four-year stretch between 2001 and 2004 where the generic player made a brief return.

The gallery below features just one type of wrapper for each year between 1951 and 2011. Most years had several versions based on series and pack size. Some years also offered multiple designs in similar styles. Wrapper collectors also chase variations in ads on the sides of packs.

What's your favorite? Post in the comments below.

Visual History of Topps Baseball Wrappers - 1951-2011 62Making purchases through affiliate links can earn the site a commission
Ryan is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff.   His 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.

User Comments

james jasiewicz
james jasiewicz

Does the 1979 Topps wrapper depict Johnny Bench bating?


1987 (the year I was born). The problem is the mass production era. This why so many exist these days.

I would have to say the 1977 wrapper. Those are the packs I remember seeing in the liquor store up the street as a kid. The simple straight lines and red, white and blue combination that just screams “American Classic”.

(sorry to double-post. My previous comment was clipped after the first line.)

I was into baseball cards from 1990-1993 or so, and the 1992 Topps wrapper blew my little mind with its departure from the traditional design and materials of the packs from the 80s and earlier 90s which were still around and in large quantities. (speaking just of normal Topps wrappers – Upper Deck and others had fancy wrappers prior to 1992, which were equally mind-blowing, of course)

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