Since the 1989 Guernsey’s Topps Auction, many of the Topps file albums that were sold have changed hands again. These pieces of history have continued to captivate collectors and enthusiasts of sports cards, with some albums fetching really high prices at subsequent auctions. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at some notable resales of Topps file albums and share some interesting facts about their ongoing legacy.
First, don’t forget to check out the first article in this series, Topps File Sets Part 1: The 1989 Guernsey’s Topps Auction. But the basics are that Topps kept bound volumes of card sets in their archives, and they auctioned off a lot of these albums, cards from 1953 through 1966, across the four major sports, in Guernsey’s auction. Now, let’s fast forward a few years to when some of these highly coveted Topps file albums were resold.
1951 Topps Magic Football File Binder
The oldest file set that Guernsey’s auctioned off in 1989 was the 1951 Topps Magic football set. It originally included 155 cards from Topps’ Archives. Robert Edward Auctions (REA) resold the lot and it included two examples of each card from 1 to 75 but was missing the back copy of 18. It also had extra copies of six cards. The binder sold for $7110. Most interestingly, it concluded two unopened packs (penny and nickel) and two wrappers. The five-cent pack and wrapper had never been seen before from this set. REA wrote:
This pack contains cards and gum in a 6 x 2.25-inch wax pack. This is the first example of this style 1951 Topps Magic football pack that we have ever seen, and we are not aware of any other examples within the hobby. (We have also consulted with world-renowned unopened box and case expert Steve Hart of the Baseball Card Exchange and he was also unfamiliar with the existence of this pack or wrapper. And if he hasn’t seen it, that is really saying something!) It is quite possible that Topps produced this pack design intent on releasing it on the market and then realized it was more difficult to package than the smaller 3 x 2.25-inch wax pack. The larger size suggests an unfolded panel (the cards were issued in two-card perforated panels) while the smaller size suggests a folded panel. We can only speculate about the thought process at the time, but the decision to scrap the five-cent pack has resulted in the discovery of an extraordinary and fascinating, possibly unique, rarity at this late date (two rarities, actually, as a five-cent wrapper and pack are included) that was overlooked in 1989 at the Topps/Guernseys auction, and that is now noted as included as part of this lot.REA
1953 Topps Baseball File Binder
The oldest baseball set that Topps auctioned off was from the 1953 set. This one originally had two examples of each card from 224 to 280. The cards were taken from the printing press and mounted to each page in the binder. This lot sold for $2962 in REA’s Spring 2013 catalog. It could have been much more if both of the Willie Mays cards weren’t missing!
1956 Topps Baseball File Binder
Robert Edward Auctions sold this three-ring binder and its 167 1956 Topps baseball cards for $5026 in their Spring 2013 catalog. The album originally had two examples of each card numbered 181 to 260 in the set, which included players like Billy Martin, Pee Wee Reese, and Whitey Ford. Each page shows six cards, three fronts, and backs, but a couple were dislodged. A wrapper example was also included in this lot.
1957 Topps Basketball File Binder
SCP Auctions first tried to sell the 1957 Topps Basketball file binder in their auction that closed on April 24, 2016; it appears a reserve price was not met. The minimum bid was $20k. The 40-page binder included 160 cards, two players per page, with fronts and backs displayed side by side. Tape was used to secure a few of the cards. SCP again tried to sell the set in their December 2019 auction, but a reserve wasn’t met again. The minimum bid online shows $15k. I haven’t seen this item for sale since, but I would love to see all that star power again.
1958 Topps Baseball File Binder
This 1958 Topps Baseball binder had 176 cards from the set numbered from 199 to 286, with Warren Spahn, Frank Robinson, and Richie Ashburn highlighting the lot. It sold for $4148 in the Spring of 2013. REA wrote that 43 cards had become dislodged from the pages and were loose.
1961 Topps Baseball File Binder
This 1961 Topps Baseball binder originally had two examples of each card from 89 to 176, which included stars like Willie Mays, Ed Mathews, Billy Williams, Whitey Ford, and Billy Martin. It sold for $1659 in REA’s Spring 2013 auction, and the auction included 176 cards.
This same binder was resold for $960 by REA in their Spring 2016 catalog.
1962 Topps Baseball File Binder
The 1962 Topps Baseball file binder was first sold by REA in their 2012 Spring Catalog for $1067 before being sold again in the Spring of 2014 for the same price. The binder had two of each card from 89 to 176, except only one of 160. The series is popular for Boog Powell’s rookie, Warren Spahn, Bill Skowron, Ron Santo, Gerig and Ruth, and Al Kaline. The total number of cards was 175, and the first time the binder was sold, it included one of Guernsey’s Auction catalogs.
1962 Topps Football File Binder
Huggins and Scott resold the 1962 Topps Football file binder from the 1989 Guernsey’s Auction for $2706 in October 2020. It included a five-cent wrapper and sell sheet. The album features a complete/near set arranged over 59 3-card pages. However, it was missing the front of Tarkenton’s rookie card. This set is loaded with stars, including Johnny Unitas, Mike Ditka, and Jim Brown.
1963 Topps Baseball File Binder
Robert Edward Auctions first sold this binder of 193 1963 Topps baseball cards (from 265 to 361) for $711 in their Spring 2013 auction, highlighted by Willie Mays, Ed Mathews, Yogi Berra, Bill Mazeroski, Warren Spahn, Don Drysdale, and Brooks Robinson. A few of the cards were included loose. REA then resold the binder in the Fall of 2017 for $540.
1964 Topps Baseball File Binder
This 1964 Topps Baseball File Binder was sold for $1680 in Robert Edward Auction’s Spring 2018 catalog. The album originally housed two examples of each card from 177 to 264 but was missing a few, notably the front examples of Maris and Brooks Robinson. But Sandy Koufax, Harmon Killebrew, Nellie Fox, Carl Yastrzemski, Toonly LaRuusa, Al Kaline, and Frank Robinson were all still present.
1966 Topps Baseball File Binder
Robert Edward Auctions has sold this particular file binder twice. First, in the spring of 2013, it sold for $830. It originally had two examples of each card from 265 to 352. That series was highlighted by Don Sutton, Ron Santo, Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente (but only had the back copy), and Frank Robinson (back copy only as well). It was consigned, in 2013, by the original buyer from Guernsey’s Auction. REA then resold the album for $600 in their Fall 2013 catalog with a note that mentioned a few of the cards from the latter part of the series had some minor warping.
1969 Topps Basketball File Binder
‘Gotta Have Rock and Roll’ auctioned off the one-of-a-kind 1969-70 Topps Basketball File Binder in July 2022. The final bid was $7500, and I imagine that if it were consigned to an auction house specializing in sports cards, it would have sold for a lot more. This is by far my favorite file binder; tallboys always display well!
Exploring the photos and sales of the Topps file binders first sold in the 1989 Guernsey’s Auction has been a lot of fun. As for me, I’m really hoping to see more photos from these file binders, especially some of the hockey ones. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to document these precious pieces of hobby history. Stand by for Part 3 of the series, where I’ll delve into the sales and distribution of Topps File Copy pages that Topps didn’t sell in Guernsey’s Auction. Happy collecting!