By Chris Olds | Editor
Which Topps baseball card is the greatest?
That’s the question of the day. As part of its upcoming diamond anniversary product — 2011 Topps Baseball — the longest-running manufacturer of baseball cards is producing a set of anniversary reprints. That set will include a reprint from every year, each helping tell the story behind that year’s set and more.
As part of the look back, Topps is asking collectors to help select the 60 greatest baseball cards ever made by the company. It has narrowed its list to 100 with fans helping pick the winners online at http://vote.topps.com. The top 60 will be inserted as buybacks in 2011 Topps.
The top 100 is a list full of vintage rookies, Mickey Mantles galore and many of the other memorable cards from the past — even a Jose Canseco sighting and a couple of Pete Roses (cards that are not likely to be reprinted as he’s still firmly on baseball’s ineligible list).
Fans can pick their top 10 cards at a time — and vote daily. The top 60 will be unveiled daily, starting on Dec. 18.
You can see all 100 candidates — and see my initial top 10 vote — after the jump.
While there was many a memorable card to not make the list — 1961 Roger Maris and 1962 Frank Robinson among my vintage favorites … and where’s the 1983 Topps Traded Darryl Strawberry? — here are the 10 that got my initial vote. They are more personal picks than a historic, formal big-picture selection.
1. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle — No question, the No. 1 most memorable Topps card ever made. It’s so iconic — and so valuable ($30,000) — many believe it’s his Rookie Card. It’s not.
2. 1954 Topps Hank Aaron — A card that has grown on me through the years merely because it feels like its perfectly suited for its time. It doesn’t feel too flashy, too untouchable, too valuable. (In fact, it’s pretty undervalued if you ask me at $1,800.)
3. 1958 Topps Roger Maris – There will be others that rank this card much, much lower but I think that’s a sign that this one is firmly atop my vintage want list.
4. 1959 Topps Bob Gibson – I think it’s the smile on his face combined with a slightly washed out photo and a pink bubble gum-inspired border … well, all of that combined with the fact that Gibson was one of the most ferocious pitchers ever.
5. 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson — One of my eternal favorites from well before he was The Straw That Stirs the Drink. The lime green Athletics colors don’t hurt, either.
6. 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson — A card — and set design — that was well ahead of its time. This card is absolutely perfect from the colors, photo selection, facsimile autograph and so on. It might be my No. 2 on this list — maybe even No. 1 — had I not picked via Topps’ chronologically ordered webpage.
7. 1985 Topps Mark McGwire — This card was big twice in the hobby — first during his Bash Brothers days and then — bigger than ever — in the summer of 1998. Kinda like Mac’s biceps. It, too, has shrunken these days… but it’s still a classic card.
8. 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan — A second grouping on Topps’ webpage had all of the horizontal cards together. By the time I got there, this card fell to No. 8. It’s one of the biggest cards of the modern-era market, a card that exploded in value during Ryan’s run to the strikeout record and eventually Cooperstown. Now, it’s much less valuable — $500 — and still quite undervalued if you ask me.
9. 1968 Topps Johnny Bench – I couldn’t vote for Rose, knowing that it wouldn’t matter reprint-wise, but this card showing the Hall of Fame catcher with a classic white pinstriped cap on backwards has always caught my attention. Another immensely affordable gem ($120).
10. 1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco — I had to. He was my player. However, I’ll concede that his Topps Traded card was likely his least-popular 1986 card, dwarfed by the Donruss Rated Rookie and Fleer cards. Heck, this might not even be Canseco’s most-memorable Topps card. I think many collectors probably remember his 1987 Topps card more with its wood borders, rich green uniform colors and the Topps All-Star Rookie Trophy.
There’s my top 10. I want to know yours. Be sure to vote over in Toppsland and let us know what you did via the comments here or via email.
Collecting confession: I only own 33 of the cards that made the Topps 100. Below are all 100 cards — click if you need a closer look.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.