The 1972 Topps Traded Cards Kicked Off Something New

In the May 26th release of the Post War Cards Newsletter, I talked about Jim Fregosi’s trade from the Angels to the Mets in December 1971. In their 1972 set, Topps still had Fregosi in an Angels uniform on card #115. But then, in a later series, Topps released another Fregosi card, #755, in a Mets uniform with the word TRADED printed across the front. It turns out that a very active off-season of trades and signings, particularly amongst some big-name players, meant that Topps ended up producing six more traded cards in their 1972 high series, kicking off what would eventually become completely separate traded boxed sets in 1981.

The 1971 baseball winter meetings, held in Phoenix, Arizona, between November 27th and December 3rd, had a lot of trades, with 15 involving 53 players. And a bunch more transactions would continue through the spring of 1972. The transaction volume left Topps in a bit of a quandary in planning and printing their 1972 baseball set. One option was to do what they historically did and airbrush different uniforms on a player’s picture. But Topps had a different plan for their 787 card set that year. Their approach was to include two copies of a few of the more popular players. Topps released these popular player’s cards in their “previous” team’s uniforms, and then, in the high-series of cards at the end of the baseball release cycle, they re-released those seven players’ cards in updated uniforms, eliminated the top portion of the card’s design, and printed the word TRADED across the front of the card. These would become Topps’ first “traded” subset.

There were seven total TRADED cards in the 1972 Topps set, numbered 751 through 757, which included:

Steve Carlton

1972 Topps Steve Carlton Cards

Carlton was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies for Rick Wise on February 25th, 1972. Carlton’s two cards are numbers 420 and 751.

Joe Morgan

1972 Topps Joe Morgan Cards

The Houston Astros traded Morgan with Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, and Denis Menke to the Cincinnati Reds for Tommy Helms, Lee May, and Jimmy Stewart on November 29th, 1971. Morgan’s two cards are numbers 132 and 752.

Frank Robinson 

1972 Topps Frank Robinson Cards

Robinson was traded by the Baltimore Orioles with Pete Richert to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Doyle Alexander, Bob O’Brien, Sergio Robles, and Royal Stillman on December 2nd, 1971. Robinson’s two cards are numbers 100 and 754.

Jose Cardenal 

1972 Topps Jose Cardenal Cards

The Milwaukee Brewers traded Cardenal to the Chicago Cubs for Jim Colborn, Brock Davis, and Earl Stephenson on December 3rd, 1971. Cardenal’s two cards are numbers 12 and 757.

Denny McLain 

1972 Topps Denny McLain Cards

The Texas Rangers traded McLain to the Oakland Athletics for Jim Panther and Don Stanhouse on March 4th, 1972. McLain’s two cards are numbers 210 and 753.

Jim Fregosi 

1972 Topps Jim Fregosi Cards

The California Angels traded Fregosi to the New York Mets for Frank Estrada, Don Rose, Nolan Ryan, and Leroy Stanton. His two cards are numbers 115 and 755.

Rick Wise

1972 Topps Rick Wise Cards

As mentioned earlier, Rick wise was traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the St. Louis Cardinals for Steve Carlton on February 25th, 1972. His 1972 Topps cards are numbers 43 and 756.

Re-releasing players’ cards in the high series prevented Topps from having to airbrush cards or disappoint eager collectors trying to get their hands on their favorite players in the early series of Topps releases in 1972. This gave Topps time to get their hands on some spring training photos of players in their new team’s uniforms for a midsummer release.

To add something new to the TRADED cards, Topps included some details of the deals on the backs of the cards. Today, the seven traded cards are among the more valuable cards in the last series.

1972 Topps Baseball Joe M0rgan – Reverse
1972 Topps Baseball Frank Robinson – Reverse

Topps didn’t make any traded cards in 1973, but they did in 1974 with a much larger group of 44 cards late in the season. Though in 1974, they didn’t obtain a picture of the players in their new uniforms. Then in 1976, they included traded cards again for players who were traded after the printing deadline. 

Finally, In 1981 Topps started to create traded sets (not subsets in the base release). So while Topps numbered the set 727-858, they were not included in packs but rather sold in a specially designed red box. The boxed set also had some hot rookie prospects and players involved in mid-season trades.

1981 Topps Traded Boxed Set

Again, 1972 was the first year Topps drew serious attention to players involved in offseason trades. While we don’t know if this was planned or simply a response to the huge number of transactions from the winter meetings, I think Topps did an excellent job of giving collectors better information for a few significant players, including three future Hall of Famers (Carlton, Morgan, and Robinson). 

Releasing traded cards eventually became expected by collectors, and it all started in 1972, happy collecting!

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