Sorry, These Cards Aren’t Actual Autographs. Or 1/1s. Or Patch Cards.


With an overriding 70th Anniversary theme, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 2021 Topps Baseball digs into the company’s past. Several inserts take a historical approach. Some use old designs with a new mix of players. The History of Topps is a timeline of sorts for key moments over the years. It’s Topps Through the Years, though, that is causing some collector confusion.

Cards of Cards

These inserts are basically cards of existing baseball cards. Fronts show some major releases from the past that were notable for a variety of reasons including any combination of autographs, memorabilia and low serial numbers.

The original 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Mike Trout has an actual autograph. The 2021 Topps Series 1 Topps Through the Years Mike Trout is essentially a photograph of that original card. Same with the “Luminaries Hank Aaron Autograph,” “Triple Threads Mark McGwire Autograph Relic” and every other card in the 30-card insert set.

The certified autograph issue marks found on the fronts of the originals haven’t been taken off, either.

Anything that appears to be a signature on these inserts is not a real autograph. It’s a reproduction. The card backs have a clear statement saying as such:

“The front of this card is a reproduction of a historic Topps baseball card. It does not contain an original autograph and/or relic. Any autograph and/or relic depicted is a reprinted copy of the original signature and/or relic material.”

But for many collectors busting packs, they’re seeing what appears to be a major hit. That’s bound to cause initial some excitement and celebratory gestures, not a close read of the text on the back. This is also a time where a lot of new collectors are coming on board. They might not know of super premium sets like Luminaries or Dynasty. Seeing those logos might not mean much.

Numbered Cards of Numbered Cards That Aren’t Actually Numbered

And then there are the parallels.

Topps Through the Years have five different types, four of which come with serial numbers: Black (/299), Platinum Anniversary (/70), Red (/10) and Gold (1/1). So for some of these reprints, there’s what appears to be a numbered stamp from the original as well as the insert’s serial number on the back.

Once you hold one of the Topps Through the Years cards, it’s pretty obvious that the Hank Aaron bat knob isn’t an actual bat knob. Facsimile signatures can be a little trickier, especially to those new to collecting.

If you were excited to pull one of these cards thinking it was an autograph and you didn’t notice the disclaimer on the back, sorry to break it to you. You’ve got a reprint. If you see a Topps Through the Years listing online and are prepared to bid hundreds of dollars on an autograph or nice patch, you might want think twice. If you see one with “1/1” in the listing, don’t assume automatically it’s a one-of-one. Make sure it’s the actual Gold parallel of the reprint with the serial number on the back.


Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. Bob Uker 11 February, 2021 at 18:18

    These modern cards are so stupid. They are reflective of the culture of celebrity worship though as they try to emulate relics of saints

  2. Ken 11 February, 2021 at 22:50

    This is from the same company that sends 10% off coupon codes that don’t work, also sends scratched $23 Jeter chromes out and makes you pay to return them.

  3. ALFREDO VELAZQUEZ 12 February, 2021 at 03:58

    I feel cheated and in a way robbed. Cause I purchased a hobby box with the thinking. That I’d at least get one autograph and or relic card from the hobby box. Man was I wrong ! Didn’t pull a autograph and the relic card i did get was some unknown player. No value

    • Ryan Cracknell 15 February, 2021 at 01:17

      @ALFREDO – Hobby boxes only promise one autograph or relic. It can be disappointing when you don’t get a good player, but you weren’t “robbed.” If hits are important, base Topps is rarely going to result in what you’re looking for as they’re not the primary focus here. Also checking out the checklist ahead of time can help.

  4. S. Spears 12 February, 2021 at 12:38

    Don’t like these reprints. There are kids and even adults getting ripped off because people are greedy and are selling reprints at original prices. Ebay is flooded with reprint rookies. Bottom line is it’s bad for the hobby!

    • Ryan Cracknell 15 February, 2021 at 01:19

      @Ryan – I’ve heard from multiple parents who have had some mighty disappointed kids upon discovering these.

  5. Tg 12 February, 2021 at 14:12

    Is it about like the 1of1 Lebron James vs Anthony Carmelo
    2003-04 card #30 one of the #30 cards is autographed in a gold generic looking signature the othe #30 in the set is not autographed any information on this particular set

  6. Al Magnusson 14 February, 2021 at 01:28

    Spot on! A reflection of not only hero worship but also a sign of conceptual desperation. Lets put out some really nice cards that no one can own any more. Wow, look what I could have had! It would be more appreciative of collectors overpaying for this junk to insert something of true value. No let’s keep inserting mostly worthless signatures and white swatches of woulda coulda shoulda’s than something of true value! Or maybe some truly artful inserts, with eye appeal that would enhance the collections of the majority. But that would take some effort, wouldn’t it?

  7. Ken Graff 14 February, 2021 at 02:30

    @Bob Uker, I agree, not to mention if you have a novice collector, they can easily be taken advantage of. Topps needs to come up with something original instead of obsessing (relying)on the past to make sales. Just my opinion.

  8. Daniel Hudson 14 February, 2021 at 12:22

    Why on earth anyone would spend the amount of money on modern cards… Reprints….. Sadly, most children are priced out of the market. These card company should be ashamed of themselves

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