Topps Baseball Set Reviews

2000 Topps/Topps Traded & Rookies

Set Size: 479/135 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: Mike Lansing, Mike Lowell

Card #1: Mark McGwire

Subsets: Highlights (10) Postseason Highlights (7) Prospects (15) Draft Picks (15) 20th Century's Best (14) Magic Moments (10)

The Best Cards: #367 Chris Widger, #400 Ken Griffey Jr.

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #68 Eli Marrero (1988 stats misaligned) #212 Highlight (Burt Hooton's rookie year is '82 instead of '72) #314 John Rocker (did not lose 54 games in 1995)

My Thoughts On The Set: 2000 Topps is one of my favorite-looking sets ever. Back at century's turn, everything was branded as "Such-and-such 2000" and Topps baseball cards were no different.

This set and 1993 Topps are the only ones with vertical reverses during my 34-year collecting era. And just as with a few other sets, I just now realized while writing this piece that there were no horizontal card fronts in 2000 Topps.

A number of hot 1999 rookies were not included in 2000 Topps for whatever reason, including Rick Ankiel and A.J. Burnett. But Alex Rodriguez and Charles Johnson continued to appear, so there's that. 

Braves reliever Mike Remlinger made his Topps debut nine years after making his MLB debut. He'd been a solid young prospect for my Giants in 1991 but was omitted from the '92 set, which perturbed young me.

In recognition of the 25-year anniversary of Hank Aaron becoming the home run king, the Braves legend received a special card with the 2000 Topps design and his full career stats. It was appropriately card #44.

Wade Boggs and Chili Davis received sunset cards. Tony Phillips, who made a triumphant return to MLB in 1999 and racked up nearly 500 PA with the A's, did not.

A "20th Century's Best" 14-card subset populates 2000 Topps, acknowledging the active leaders in numerous stat categories. And some superstars—including Aaron—appear in a "Magic Moments" subset recognizing their noteworthy feats, with four variants per dude. Topps obviously wanted to mark the close of the 20th century in a special way. 

Beginning with this set, Checklists disappeared from Topps for over a decade. They were obtainable in insert form, however.

 
2001 Topps/Topps Traded & Rookies

Set Size: 791/265 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: Brian Meadows (#316 and #486) Michael Tucker (#132 and #703)

Card #1: Cal Ripken, Jr.

Subsets: Highlights (5) Prospects (25) Draft Picks (25) League Leaders (8) Postseason Highlights (8) Golden Moments (20)

The Best Cards: #279 Alberto Castillo, #443 Jeromy Burnitz, #T99 Rookies Of The Year

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #39 Shigetoshi Hasegawa (misspelled "Hasagawa") #41 Adam Piatt (no birthdate) #63 Torii Hunter ("as" misspelled as "a") #339 Lou Piniella (misspelled "Pinella") #595 Dave Mlicki (Brian Moehler pictured) #728 Prospects (Peavy misspelled "Peavey")

My Thoughts On The Set: Out of the blue, Topps upped its checklist by 312 cards, presumably in acknowledgment of its 50th anniversary. In the preceding five sets, middle relievers and utility infielders were scarce, especially from bad teams, and even some deserving regulars and top prospects found themselves on the outside looking in. 2001 Topps emphatically ended the "Dark Era", though I'm not sure why the set wasn't just numbered to the familiar 792 rather than 791.

For the first time in 14 years, Topps featured a "Now With (New Team)" in the form of Scott Karl, the Angels pitcher depicted as a Rockie.

I had few complaints about this set, though as a Giants fan I was disappointed that Felix Rodriguez and Alan Embree weren't included.

Like Roger Clemens in 1999 Topps, Jose Canseco appears with two teams in the base set (Yankees in Series 1, Angels in Series 2).

For the second time in four sets, Michael Tucker received two cards with the same club (Cincinnati).

The League Leaders subset was a little different this year, and by a little, I mean a lot. Rather than cards listing the top 10 in a few categories, 2001 Topps depicted the overall leader in several categories, with NLers on one side of the card and AL counterparts on the other. This style lasted for one set.

The Traded & Rookies set continued to be rather heavy on rookies; still, several vets not found in the base set made appearances, such as Roberto Kelly. The set also supplied one of the priciest cards of my collecting era, the rookie combo of Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki.

 
2002 Topps/Topps Traded & Rookies

Set Size: 719/275 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Pedro Martinez

Subsets: Highlights (5) League Leaders (12) Playoff Bound (8) Awards (24) United We Stand (7) Prospects (38) Draft Picks (11)

The Best Cards: #426 So Taguchi, #169 Jon Lieber, #565 Andres Galarraga

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #26 Eric Davis (60 SB in 2000 instead of 1) #144 Craig Counsell (wrong front photo) #160 Albert Pujols (wrong back photo) #242 Ray Durham (421 doubles in 2001 instead of 42) #291 Lloyd McClendon (misspelled "McLendon" on front) #299 Art Howe (calls Mark Mulder "Murk") #321 Napoleon Calzado (misspelled "Napolean") #470 Lance Berkman (370 BB in 1997) #T87 Cliff Floyd (backwards Boston logo)

My Thoughts On The Set: Like Jose Offerman, 2002 Topps was error-prone. There existed several uncorrected printing gaffes, including on Lance Berkman's common, and at least one massive spelling goof ("Murk Mulder" on Art Howe's common). Plus, Craig Counsell's front pic was actually teammate Greg Colbrunn.

The overall front design, IMHO, was plain and uninspired. The gold borders worked well; I'd like to see those again someday. But no more swirling banners.
On the other hand, I dug the reverses, except all the printing errors.

Multi-player Prospects cards were discontinued in 2002 Topps, replaced by 38 individual Prospects. (Rich Harden appears as James, his given first name. No connection to the NBA star.)

The "United We Stand" subset chronicles the return to action of many teams following the terrorist attacks upon New York City and Washington, D.C. in September 2001. (All MLB action was postponed for about a week.)

Tony Gwynn received a sunset card. Mark McGwire received a sunset card. Cal Ripken, Jr. did not receive a sunset card. This has bothered me for two decades and counting.

Despite finishing 2001 (and opening 2002) with the Reds, Joey Hamilton appears as a Blue Jay. Why Topps didn't print "Now With Reds" on the front is unknown.

Like with McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1999 Topps, card #365 carries 73 variations of Barry Bonds' "Race To Seventy (Home Runs)". I bought the factory set, so I only own the variation representing homer #73.

 
2003 Topps/Topps Traded & Rookies

Set Size: 721/275 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Alex Rodriguez

Subsets: Highlights (5) League Leaders (12) Postseason Highlights (9) Award Winners (24) Sporting News All-Stars (23) Prospects (10) Future Stars (10) Draft Picks (15) First-Year (31)

The Best Cards: #388 Mark Ellis, #216 Todd Hundley, #589 Fernando Tatis

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #236 Eric Gagne (zero annual games started) #409 Julio Franco (career stats all jacked up)

My Thoughts On The Set: Topps went old-school with the front card design, adding inset pics similar to those featured in early 1980's sets. I didn't collect back then, but I still enjoyed the retro touch of 2003 Topps. The company did a decent job of player inclusion, but a few teams were underrepresented, such as the Devil Rays.

In these days, sets were released sooner than they are today, increasing the odds of pulling sunset cards. Andy Benes, Chuck Knoblauch and Dave Justice were among those who received such cards in 2003 Topps. Tim Raines Sr. and Travis Fryman were among those who did not.

Devil Rays Draft Pick Jonny Gomes appears in the set as "Joey".

While the Traded & Rookies set featured dozens of vets not included in the base set, it continued to be over-saturated with nobodies on the off-chance a couple could rise to stardom. To this day I don't own Traded & Rookies, though I'm trying to figure out a way to acquire just the veteran portion of the set. (I actually don't own any T&R sets from 2002-05 for that reason.)

All-Star cards returned to Topps this year, sponsored by The Sporting News (a VERY popular magazine once upon a time). Even All-Star managers were represented. 

 

Speaking of very popular, the Dontrelle Willis (shared) Prospects card was a must-have throughout 2003 as the kid pitcher emerged as a Marlins phenomenon. Another Prospects card featured Astros P Brandon Puffer and Braves P Jung Bong; though neither man did much in MLB, I'm sure potheads enjoyed the irony.

2003 Topps introduced "First Year" player cards, similar to the Prospects found in 2002 Topps. Cliff Lee was the best of the 31; most of them didn't reach MLB. In fact, this set spent 66 cards on non-major leaguers. I got past this by remembering the recently-completed "Dark Era" of Topps.

 
2004 Topps/Topps Traded & Rookies

Set Size: 733/221 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Jim Thome

Subsets: Highlights (5) Postseason Highlights (11) League Leaders (12) Awards (23) Sporting News All-Stars (23) Future Stars (5) Prospects (5) Draft Picks (20) First Year (34)

The Best Cards: #19 Aaron Rowand, #582 Scott Rolen, #181 Jason Michaels

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #274 Mike Scioscia (mistakenly numbered #267) #702 Mike Cameron Award (Randy Winn pictured)

My Thoughts On The Set: I dug the bright, distinctive look of 2004 Topps. A few of the silhouettes, if one's mind was dirty enough, looked to be in compromising positions but by and large the feature worked well. Some of them were astoundingly detailed, and I've always been a fan of uniform numbers on cards.

Player inclusion overall was decent, but teams were not represented equally, especially the Brewers.

OPS now appeared on the reverse of batter cards, with BB and SO repositioned. WHIP now appeared on the reverse of pitcher cards. And in the bio section, trades now included the trading team.

Card #181 depicts Phillies OF Jason Michaels with a glove almost as large as he is. WHY can't Topps still bust out the occasional goofy card like that today?

It only took six years, but Roger Clemens league-leading K total of 1996 was finally bolded and italicized this year.

In 2004, Barry Bonds did not sign with Topps until December, leading to his glaring omission from the base set. Upon signing, he was added to the T&R set as card #T221, available only in card shops with a purchase of a 2005 Topps pack. His name/position font differs from every other common in either set, which I'm sure massaged his ego nicely.

The Traded & Rookies set was reduced by 55 cards, but the bulk of that was at the expense of veterans, unfortunately.

 
2005 Topps/Topps Updates & Highlights

Set Size: 734/330 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Alex Rodriguez

Subsets: Highlights (5) Postseason Highlights (12) League Leaders (12) Sporting News All-Stars (24) Awards (24) Future Stars (5) Prospects (5) Draft Picks (20) First-Year (35)

The Best Cards: #101 Jose & Bengie Molina, #42 Carl Crawford, #512 Bernie Williams

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #US38 Zach Duke (misspelled "Zack") #US184 Mark Buehrle (misspelled "Buerhle") #US270 Shaun Marcum (misspelled "Shawn")  #273 Mike Esposito (Darwinson Salazar pictured on front)

My Thoughts On The Set: For the longest time, 2005 Topps was the only Topps base set with horizontal-reading name text over vertical images...until 2020 Topps came along. I liked the design okay enough, and was surprised to learn Topps had never used just last names above photos before. Their last few looks had been inspired by past looks, or so it seemed.

The reverse fonts are essentially identical to 2004 Topps; thankfully, the photo size and bio info location differs. Speaking of bio info, just above it resides a mini-baseball diamond with the player's position highlighted, as well as a notable career or 2004 stat. Nice concept, but one problem: every last notable stat is already listed with the regular stats. Topps had the right idea, but blew it by using redundant stats instead of, say, OBP, for example.

Subsets essentially matched those found in the 2004 set, except now Barry Bonds was back on the scene.

Alex Rodriguez, who signed an endorsement deal with Topps in 2004, leads off the set for the first of many times. His may have been the worst butt-kissing blurb in the history of the company.

For the first and only time in my collecting era, two players—brothers Jose and Bengie Molina of the Angels—shared a standard common. Each had a full bio and career stats.

The Molina card, along with a "Kings Of Swing" card of Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada as well as a "Band Of Brothers" card of the Hairston brothers, must have proved popular, because the dreaded Combo cards—initially known as "Classic Duos"—debuted in 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights.

2005 Topps includes 35 First-Year player cards, the best of which were Ian Kinsler, Andre Ethier and Melky Cabrera. Yet again, most of the subjects never made the majors.

 
2006 Topps/Topps Updates & Highlights

Set Size: 660/330

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Alex Rodriguez

Subsets: Highlights (11) League Leaders (16) Team Leaders (30) Combos (15) Awards (6) Gold Gloves (17) All-Stars (65) Home Run Derby (8) Classic Duos (10)

The Best Cards: #100 Barry Bonds, #UH73 Cory Lidle

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #62 Damaso Marte (Pirates front, White Sox back) #96 Jesse Crain (career games total wrong) #145 Troy Glaus (extra 2005 stats) #202 Luis A. Gonzalez (Luis E. Gonzalez career stats) #214 Wilson Betemit (got Willie Randolph's toon) #264 Huston Street ROTY (hitting header) #265 Ryan Howard ROTY (pitching header) several Team cards (headers missing)

My Thoughts On The Set: On the one hand, beginning with 2006 Topps, only players who actually played in the major leagues (or were at least on the 25-man roster) would be allowed in Topps base/Update sets. No more stacks of stiffs who never made it out of AAA taking up valuable space that should go to actual big leaguers...period. I'm talking to YOU, David Walling.

On the other hand...this was a visually unappealing set, and one that introduced a subset I greatly dislike: Combos (though they didn't have that official name in this set). They're redundant and pointless. They don't belong. And 2006 Topps started it all...boo.

My issue with the common fronts is the bar that holds the team name doesn't align with surrounding graphics. I can't for the life of me figure out why Topps let such misalignment pass, but it did. The player name banner is okay, but the little stars against the silver and black remind me of the San Antonio Spurs...an NBA team.

Many of the photos seemed hazy and there was only one, #100 Barry Bonds, that actually stood out to me. And several cards depicted players, such as Mike Matheny, with 2006 team graphics and 2005 team photos, and it was obviously intentional. Fortunately, Topps decided one set of this mess was enough.

I did like the cartoons on the common reverses, a throwback to years gone by. Most of them were informative and interesting, and I don't think I found more than one repeated toon.

For pitchers, hits allowed took the place of games started, at least on many pitcher cards. Not until 2007 Topps was it replaced on all pitcher cards.

Controversy, if you can call it that, occurred in the form of Royals prospect Alex Gordon. He had not yet made the Royals roster, but was issued card #297 in 2006 Topps. It had to be quickly pulled, and the few that made it to circulation are worth a lot of cash. I don't have Gordon's card yet...but I will one day.

Rookie cards now received an official stamp on common fronts, with one row of recent minor league stats on the reverse. Thumbs up to the former, thumbs down to the latter—I want MLB stats for all, limited or not.

Just as in 2005 Topps, 2006 Topps features a side box with a statistic that's already viewable in the batting/pitching records. Making it redundant and essentially a waste of space. 

Yankees veteran P Cory Lidle crashed his plane and died in 2006; his 2006 Updates & Highlights card reads "In Memoriam" above his name. Historically, death almost always means omission from the next Topps set; Lidle's card must have already been in production.

 
2007 Topps/Topps Updates & Highlights

Set Size: 661/330

Players With Dual Cards: Brian Burres, Edgar Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bengie Molina, Elizardo Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Silva

Card #1: John Lackey

Subsets: Awards (6) Gold Gloves (18) Highlights (10) All-Stars (51) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (25)

The Best Cards: #16 Jason Varitek, #420 Jason Giambi, #40 Derek Jeter

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #30 Bronson Arroyo (year "2" instead of "02") #50 Miguel Cabrera (blurb "and" should be "as") #123 Chone Figgins (blurb "to" should be "do") #221 Robinson Tejeda (misspelled "Tejada" on front) #245 Chad Tracy (listed as P) #249 Tony LaRussa (flagrantly incorrect managerial stats) #339 Jonny Gomes (Greg Norton pictured on back) #379 Chris Young (wrong Chris Young signature)

#417 Mike Maroth (misspelled "Mke" on front) #488 Fernando Rodney (Luis Marte pictured on front) #588 Jose Guillen (Yuniesky Betancourt pictured on front) #640 Kei Igawa (threw 3 shutouts in 2006, not 73) #UH40 Chris Denorfia (Carlos Carrasco named on front) 

My Thoughts On The Set: This set had the potential to be among the best of my collecting era, but too many mistakes did it in. As you can see above, 2007 Topps is rife with error cards, some of them inexcusable (Jose Guillen and Mike Maroth especially). And in the base set alone, three dudes received two separate, identical cards.

2007 Topps is best known, of course, for the Derek Jeter variant featuring Mickey Mantle in the dugout and president George W. Bush in the crowd. Gimmicky, yes. But it got people talking, and any positive publicity for the card industry should be welcomed, I suppose. Topps wisely didn't make a habit out of celebrity cameos going forward.

I give the front design a solid 8.5/10; the black background and colorful squares remind me of Hollywood for reasons I cannot articulate or even fully grasp. And the autographs are a terrific touch; kudos to the company for whatever it did to obtain the 700+ signatures required. Manager autographs are not included, however, which is unfortunate.

Photography in this set wasn't particularly bright, especially compared to the succeeding 2008 Topps set. A lot of dudes received posed Spring Training photos; at the time I didn't care much for them but I'd welcome a few in today's action-heavy Topps sets.

Bernie Williams and Tim Salmon ended their careers in 2006; neither received a sunset card from Topps.

Reverse images are facial crops of front images. Some players seen from behind in their front image received different, front-facing reverse images. Why it's only some and not all, I'd really like to know.

2007 Topps is the only set of the century so far to omit League Leader cards. It (over) compensated with pointless Combo cards, which I hate and won't discuss any further.

 
2008 Topps/Topps Updates & Highlights

Set Size: 660/330

Players With Dual Cards: Willy Aybar, Rod Barajas, Darin Erstad

Card #1: Alex Rodriguez

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Awards (6) Highlights (11) Postseason Highlights (8) All-Stars (67) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (19)

The Best Cards: #457 Josh Fields, #658 Kerry Wood, #402 Taylor Buchholz

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #117 Boof Bonser (spelled "Bosner" on front) #158 Jose Bautista (Jose Castillo pictured) #389 Callix Crabbe (Carlos Guevara pictured) #517 Bill Hall (Rickie Weeks pictured) #UH128 LaTroy Hawkins (Yankees on front, Astros on back) #UH173 Randy Johnson Highlight ("List" misspelled)

My Thoughts On The Set: 2008 Topps goes heavy on white after a year of black, with colorful framing of the team names on card fronts. Is anyone else here reminded of the circus when viewing team names?

Front images were small enough without the Topps logo cutting into the frame; it should have overlapped the pic like it almost always does. 

The name change from "Devil Rays" to "Rays" for the Tampa team created some issues for Topps reverses. Some players, like Brendan Harris, are listed with the "Bay Rays". Sounds like a "Find And Replace" issue.

Updates and Highlights featured some...interesting player inclusions. Yamid Haad and Matt Ginter were among the fringe journeymen I did not expect to ever see in a Topps set. 

Because of the limited bio info space on the back, current home cities were omitted for veterans in 2008 Topps for the only time in my collecting era. I could have easily cleaned that up, but no one asked.

Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa were all denied sunset cards. But Kenny Lofton and Mike Piazza did receive them.

 
2009 Topps/Topps Updates & Highlights

Set Size: 660/330

Players With Dual Cards: Mike Cameron, Stephen Drew, Nick Hundley, Gaby Sanchez

Card #1: Alex Rodriguez

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Awards (6) Highlights (10) Postseason Highlights (8) All-Stars (72) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (20)

The Best Cards: #473 Jered Weaver, #UH306 Endy Chavez, #331 Luke Scott, #614 David Murphy, #98 Nick Swisher

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #221 League Leaders, AL ERA (says National League on front) #276 Geovany Soto ROTY (misspelled "Geovanny" on front) #381 Shairon Martis (misspelled "Sharon" on front) #UH188 Jeff Francoeur (misspelled "Francouer" on front)

My Thoughts On The Set: I didn't collect this set until well over a year past the release date for Updates & Highlights. Not even really sure why. I probably didn't like the design. To this day 2009 Topps doesn't instantly "feel like" a Topps set when I peruse it.

Common reverses received some extra attention from Topps this year; for starters, many blurbs were now prefaced with "A Niche In History" followed by a rare feat or record set by the card subject.

 

Also, the top of common reverses listed either a row of statistical splits (such as the player's highest BA vs. opponent) or the more-fun-than-I-expected 6° Of Mantle. 

What in the world is 6° Of Mantle?

Topps would connect the card subject to Mickey Mantle using just six steps (usually teammates). For example, card #95 Andrew Miller reads: "Andrew Miller was caught by Ivan Rodriguez who was managed by Bobby Valentine who played with Mickey Rivers who was managed by Billy Martin who played with Mickey Mantle."

At least once, the game took six steps when only four were necessary (Frank Thomas/Dave Righetti/Roy White/Mickey Mantle), if you were curious.

What holds this set back for me: three players received two commons in the base set, and another turned up in the Update set with his same team from the base set. That's too much negligence. But Thomas received a sunset card, and I'm appreciative of that.