Ranking the Top 5 Topps Baseball Card Set Designs of All Time

A few weeks ago on Twitter, a collector asked me, disregarding value completely and going strictly by design, what years were my top 5 standard Topps sets. The first two sets that came to mind were the colorful 1969 Topps football cards, which I recently highlighted in one of my newsletters, and the 1954 Topps Hockey backs, which are the best in hobby history. But this collector clarified that he just meant baseball card fronts. After browsing through all of Topps’ post-war sets (through 1991), here are my top 5 best looking Topps baseball card designs.

5. 1984 Topps

1984 Topps Baseball Cards

When you disconnect your mind from the sets being over produced, there were a lot of great Topps designs in the 80s. My favorite is the 1984 Topps set with its great dual-photo design. Topps chose some really great action shots to pair with the smaller headshots, and I think the team name in large vertical letters along the side makes for a well-balanced card.

4. 1971 Topps

1971 Topps Baseball Cards

I love the way this sets presents as a whole. The team names along the top really pop out from the black borders, and the white frame around the color photos helps focus your eyes on the player. I also think the facsimile signatures are a bit nicer since they match with the black borders, and I like that compared to other sets that feature them.

3. 1956 Topps

1956 Topps Baseball Cards

While the 1956 Topps design is similar to their 1955 set, with player portraits and in-action photos on the front of the card, what I like better about the 56 design are the more interesting (rather than single color) backgrounds. 

2. 1963 Topps

1963 Topps Baseball Cards

This might end up being my most “controversial” pick. I like the balance between the large likeness and the smaller black-and-white pictures that are in circles. I also found many of the set’s themed cards to be well executed too.

1. 1953 Topps

1953 Topps Baseball Cards

The only set I’m confident will always be in my Top 5 is the 1953 Topps Baseball set. It’s stood the test of time from Topps’ early days as one of the greatest set designs ever; the player portraits are gorgeous. Plus, the black or red boxes along the bottom with the player name, position, and team and the diamond-shaped team logo are simple but well-executed bonuses. 

In the blog’s early days, I wrote an article about Post-War Baseball Card Superlatives, highlighting the 1950-52 Bowman Baseball run as the best-looking 3-year run. As a follow-on to that article, when I shared 5 Reasons to Collect 1950-52 Bowman Baseball Cards, I wrote that 1952-54 Topps was the runner-up for comparison’s sake. But after I browsed through all the baseball sets, I realized it was 1953 Topps that pulled that 3-year run of Topps sets up (not that I’m saying 1952 or 1954 Topps designs are bad).

A few other sets I considered were 1975, 1960, 1959, 1969, and 1987. What’s funny, though, is if you ask me to put this list together in another few months, you’ll probably get a completely different answer (other than 1953). I’d love your thoughts on the best-looking Topps Baseball card designs. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments or on Twitter and happy collecting!

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