By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
November 1, 2010: The World Series and the 2010 Major League Baseball season has come to an end, which means that the Hot Stove League and talk about the 2011 season will be heating up. Planning to add fuel to the fire is the Topps Co., one of the most iconic name in sports, and certainly a company among those at the top of lists of baseball memorabilia.
To help celebrate its 60th diamond anniversary, the company is asking people to answer a question that has raged since its baseball cards first appeared: What is the most popular Topps baseball card of all-time?
Topps, which has been producing baseball cards since 1951 (for the 1952 season) and is the official baseball card company of MLB, plans to let fans, consumers and collectors answer that question. Now through Nov. 30, visitors to a dedicated microsite at the Topps Web site can to vote for their favorite Topps baseball cards of all-time. Marketing support is expected to include print, Internet and on-site marketing at collector's shows and conventions.
The list of potential all-time cards comes with a parameter: According to Topps, "We have pre-selected the 100 best cards we've ever produced," from among which the top 60 will be selected. Voting is limited to once per day per person. (Full details here.) To assist the process, cards can be sorted by year, team and position at the site.
Topps said it would begin to unveil the top vote-getters at the Web site on Dec. 18 daily, starting at No. 60, The countdown to No. 1 will continue until Feb. 15, 2011, when the Topps MLB card of all-time will be unveiled. Topps said it would then acquire "each of the 60 cards that made the list and include them in its 2011 Topps Series 1 Baseball product."
"Every collector has their own personal favorite card and now the Topps 60 countdown will give fans a forum to have their voices heard in determining the most popular card of all-time," Warren Friss, vp/GM for Topps, New York, said in a statement.
To no surprise, the 100 cards in the voting are top-heavy with the presence of Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, who is represented on 16 cards (16%), ranging from 1952 to 1969. Mantle's 1952 Topps' rookie card, No. 311 in the set, is going for more than $33,000 on eBay.
The Yankees also have the most number of cards overall: In addition to Mantle the team is represented by the cardboard hero images of Derek Jeter, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly.
Featured on multiple cards are such legends as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie May, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente and Reggie Jackson, who is among the players representing more than one team (Yankees and Oakland A's).
Prominent rookie cards include Ryan, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt and Cal Ripken Jr. The oldest cards are from 1952, the most recent is the 2010 card of Stephen Strasburg, pitcher for the Washington Nationals. Also among the cards featuring currently active players are those for Joe Mauer, Albert Pujlos and Ichiro Suzuki.
The list also contains cards of some of the most controversial players in recent baseball history, including Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds.
And thanks to the presence of cards featuring more than one player, relatively unknown MLB alumni are getting their day in the spotlight. Among them: Fritz Ackerly (who shares a rookie card with Steve Carlton), Bill Denehy (who is on Seaver's rookie Mets card), Ron Tompkins (a co-rookie star in 1968 on Johnny Bench's card) and John Hilton (who is sandwiched on a 1973 rookie third baseman card in between Ron Cey and Schmidt). Images for all 100 cards are available here.
According to Topps' Friss, "The countdown will certainly stir up friendly debate [among] fans and we look forward to creating buzz and excitement around the availability of these top cards in our upcoming 2011 product."
Topps' history dates back to 1890 and the American Leaf Tobacco Co., later relaunched as Topps. The company is now owned by investment firm Tornante, under the auspices of former Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner.