Ranked: 2000s Topps Sets

The 2000s are probably the low point for Topps designs. There isn’t a single design I love. There is a lot of mediocrity, and one all-time bad design.

I didn’t collect for most of the 2000s. A bit at the beginning of the decade, and then I started up again towards the end of the decade. So nostalgia really won’t play a part in this segment.

Click the links to view my rankings of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s Topps sets.

#10 – 2002 Topps

I hope the person that decided on the color of this set was fired. It is soooooooo ugly. I’d rather have a bright yellow border, or maybe a nice lavender, than whatever this is. Funnily enough, the Chrome version of this set is probably my favorite Topps Chrome set ever. That shows that the fault isn’t in the design, it’s solely in the color. Also, there isn’t a cool rookie or huge checklist to rescue the set. Last place it is!

#9 – 2007 Topps

I appreciate the attempted callback to the beloved 1971 set, but this is a bust for me. Way too much of the card is taken up by the top and bottom black borders, and the top is mostly wasted space. The little squares in each corner do nothing for me. And don’t get me started on the facsimile signature. The only saving grace of this set is a pretty large checklist, though there are no good rookies.

#8 – 2000 Topps

This is a completely unoffensive looking set. If the border were a more interesting color, even white, it might be a bit higher on the list. But this gray is so drab, I just can’t place it any higher. We also have a mediocre checklist here. They totally missed the boat on a Mark Buehrle rookie card, even in the Traded set. Like 2002, the Chrome version of this set is awesome.

#7 – 2003 Topps

I really struggled with ranking the 2003 set. Why? Well, you see… it’s blue. It’s a really nice, bold shade of blue. But it’s blue, nonetheless. The design is decent enough, and I like the little inset picture at the bottom. But the set is just so… blue. The checklist is fairly large for the era, and there are no notable rookies to speak of.

#6 – 2005 Topps

The 2005 set dropped smack dab in the middle of a three year run of similar looking, white-bordered sets. All three look decent enough, and I have 2005 pulling up the rear. Is this the only Topps set that has text along all four sides of the card? In any case, I have no complaints. I do appreciate the large checklist, especially in the Update set.

#5 – 2006 Topps

2006 is slightly more visually interesting than 2005, but only barely. This is pretty close to a tie. I think the different angles, and splash of color, are what gave 2006 the edge. I now understand the difficult position Topps is in. By the end of 2006, I was begging them to do something different. And then 2007 came out and I hated it.

#4 – 2004 Topps

2004 Topps is my favorite of the three mid-2000s white bordered sets. I like the large team name and silver accents. And I absolutely love the little baseball man in the corner that represents the photo on the card. This set is just so clean looking. It also has a good sized checklist for the era. Once again, there are no rookies to speak of, but that was more of a Sox problem than a Topps problem.

#3 – 2001 Topps

I expected this anniversary release to be lower on the list. I mean, it’s green! It’s a decent shade of green, but the blue used for 2003 was a nicer color. For whatever reason, the 2001 set has a premium feel that no other Topps set of the decade had. I think it’s a combination of the gold accents and cool Topps 50 logo. Whatever it is, the combination gave it a cool look that landed it in the #3 spot.

#2 – 2008 Topps

2008 only has one thing separating it from the 2004-06 sets, and that is the really fun way they’ve laid out the team name here. There is also the strange placement of the Topps logo, but somehow it works. It’s all enough to overcome the dreaded facsimile signature. Are there really people out there clamoring for a fake autograph on their cards?

#1 – 2009 Topps

This is my favorite set of the decade, but it’s a relatively weak #1. It has a really nice, clean design, with the little angled home plate displaying the team logo. The photography of the 08-09 sets seems to pop more than most other Topps sets. It’s an average sized team set for the era, but it’s loaded with stars (by Sox standards). There is something about the Griffey (a player I hate) card pictured to the left that is just so classy.

Ranked: 1990s Topps Sets

Ah, the 1990s. My heyday as a baseball card collector. I actively collected cards from 1990 until some time in 1997. That was the year I graduated from high school, and at that point I stopped collecting cards for 2-3 years.

I was never a Topps guy. I was always an Upper Deck guy. I still collected Topps cards, but viewed them as second class in comparison to Upper Deck. There was Upper Deck, and there was everything else.

You can read my rankings of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s by clicking their respective links.

#10 – 1994 Topps

For whatever reason, this set has always bugged me. There is nothing overly offensive about the design, it’s just really boring. And I really don’t like the cardstock. It’s kind of glossy, but a very unappealing , half-assed version of glossy. Either make your cards glossy or don’t, I didn’t like this kind of half-hearted attempt. The only good thing about this set is the size of the checklist. They would only get smaller from here.

#9 – 1990 Topps

I just don’t understand what Topps was going for with this set. Ugly design, ugly colors, mostly ugly photography. It just has nothing going for it. The only reason this set isn’t in last place is the card pictured to the left. This is my favorite Frank Thomas rookie card, and quite possibly my favorite 1990s Topps card period. But other than that and a big checklist, this set sucks.

#8 – 1998 Topps

I appreciate that they were trying to do something a bit different here, getting away from the white borders of the previous 7 years, but the design falls flat for me. They would do something similar the following year, but with much more success. This is another set that just doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. There are no good rookie cards, as they missed the boat on Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee. And the set only has 15 cards in it.

#7- 1997 Topps

1997 is the year I graduated high school, and the first year where I didn’t collect cards at all. I missed a pretty average offering from Topps. The design is pretty clean, though I wish the inner red border changed based on team colors. My favorite element is the Sox logo in the corner. There are 20 cards in the team set, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but compared to some of the surrounding sets, it’s huge.

#6 – 1996 Topps

1996 eeks out a win over 1997 in a battle of similar designs. They kept the Sox logo, and removed the red border. Both were good choices. They added a little stripe with the player name and a small image of the player’s face taken from the main image on the card. All in all this is a decent looking set, probably the first one on the list. Unfortunately, there are only 14 cards in the set, and for some reason they didn’t include a Mike Cameron rookie here, so there are no good rookies.

#5 – 1993 Topps

1993’s design is very clean and symmetrical, and is printed on decent card stock. The colors at the bottom change based on the team colors, which I always enjoy. There is some nice photography, and a good sized checklist. They also repeated the Topps Gold parallel set from the previous year, but I wasn’t tired of it… yet. There is nothing super exciting about this set, but I also can’t find anything to complain about.

#4 – 1995 Topps

1995 was the first year that Topps had a geniunely premium look. With the glossy card stock, and gold foil player and brand name, this was a step up from previous sets. It also features some nice photography, and a fairly big checklist. I also enjoyed the Cyberstats insert set. This was a very solid entry for Topps. All it needed was a good rookie card and it would have checked off all the boxes.

#3 – 1992 Topps

1992 has a classic design that incorporates team colors into the design. It also features some wonderful photography, like the Wilson Alvarez pictured to the left, and a really cool Frank Thomas card. However, I do not like the card stock here. 1991 felt classic and traditional, 1993 felt kind of sleek and modern. 1992 felt like trash. There is a big checklist, and 1992 gets bonus points for featuring the inaugural Topps Gold set. If the card stock were better, this set might be #1.

#2 – 1999 Topps

This is the second set of the decade that had a nice, premium feel to it. There is something about this set that almost feels classy to me. Very clean design, with all of the text positioned in such a way that it feels very unobtrusive. I like the little “Rookie Card” designation next to the player’s name. Nice, glossy card stock. The only thing holding this set back is a pathetic 13 card team set.

#1 – 1991 Topps

How fitting that the 40th Anniversary release earned the top spot. This set has such a classic feel to it. I like the vintage-ish card stock, the really cool Topps 40 logo, the script White Sox logo, the thin red and blue borders. Everything about the design here works. There is nothing missing. I also love the way on some of the cards where the player is breaking through the border, as you see with Sosa’s helmet in the image to the left. I also love that many of the photos feature the players in their 1917 throwback uniforms. 1991 Topps really knocked it out of the park.

Ranked: 1980s Topps Sets

We finally reach the 1980s, during which I started collecting baseball cards. 1986 Topps is the earliest set I remember collecting, though I had some 84s and 85s, so maybe I started a bit earlier. I remember I had a Mattingly rookie, though with my initials written by my mother on one of the back corners, it wasn’t worth very much!

Going forward, nostalgia will definitely play a factor. I will try to limit it’s influence, but I’m only human.

#10 – 1989 Topps

The Topps sets of the 80s kind of petered out as the decade when on, culminating in the 89 set. It’s not ugly, it’s just kind of meh. It’s basically tied with the set ahead of it on this list, so the checklist was the tiebreaker. Technically, the Ventura card pictured here is his rookie, though he has an an 88 card that reigns supreme, IMO.

#9- 1988 Topps

Another boring set from Topps. I slightly prefer this to the 89 set, solely because it has a slightly cleaner look. There is a solid checklist, especially once you factor in the Traded set. There is a really cool Baines/Fisk leaders card here. FYI, I consider XRCs to be rookies, and in my most cases, I prefer an XRC. So the McDowell & Ventura cards here elevate the set over it’s 89 counterpart.

#8 – 1982 Topps

1982 would likely be a bit higher on the list if it didn’t have that ugly facsimile signature. As an autograph collector, facsimile signatures drive me insane. Otherwise, this is a pleasant design, with the dual “hockey sticks” framing the left side of the card. The set has a nice big checklist, but nothing interesting in the way of rookie cards.

#7 – 1987 Topps

I’m sure you are surprised to see this set so low. I enjoy the callback to the 1962 set, but something about this set bothers me slightly. It has a really muted look. The Traded cards are much more vibrant, and if the whole set looked like that it might be ranked higher. We do have a nice big checklist here, with Karkovice and Thigpen rookies.

#6 – 1980 Topps

Another set that would likely place higher without a facsimile signature. Am I the only person that hates them? Otherwise, this is a pleasant looking set, with the red position and blue team flags. Another big checklist, but it’s pretty boring. The best rookie card is probably Steve Trout. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Steve Trout once serenaded my wife at a baseball card show.

#5 – 1983 Topps

The 1983 Topps set has a nice clean design. It isn’t especially interesting visually, though it did introduce the little headshot of the player next to the player’s name. It has a rather boring checklist, though it is large, as team sets of the era usually were. There is a fun Super Veteran subset here. The base set doesn’t have any rookies, but there is a Ron Kittle rookie in the traded set.

#4 – 1984 Topps

This is where I really start to like the 1980s sets. 1984 Topps is also the first set that I’m nostalgic for. I don’t recall collecting cards in 1984, but the earliest card I remember owning was a Don Mattingly rookie from this set. Granted, my mother wrote my initials on the back, but I still loved that card. This set has an unusual but fun design, the team name down the right side and head shot next to the player name. Another huge checklist, with Greg Walker being the best rookie card.

#3 – 1985 Topps

Another fun Topps set. 1985 had an interesting, colorful design, with the slanted team name and position. It also had some fun subsets like the Father & Son and Draft Pick cards. The very large base set doesn’t have any good rookie cards, but the Traded set has Ozzie Guillen and Daryl Boston XRC’s. The Guillen card in particular is one of my very favorite 1980s White Sox cards.

#2 – 1981 Topps

I had a difficult time deciding between my #2 and #1 picks. Ultimately, nostalgia was the deciding factor, which left 1981 in the runner-up position. 1981 had a very fun design, with the little hat bearing the position and team name. I also quite like the Topps logo being on a little baseball. There was some cool photography here, with some of the most 80s baseball photos you’ll ever see. There is also a Harold Baines rookie in this set.

#1 – 1986 Topps

I’m not going to pretend that the placement of the 1986 Topps set at #1 isn’t substantially fueled by nostalgia. This is the first set that I remember collecting in real time. I specifically remember my mom buying me the Bill Madlock card at a baseball card shop in a mall in 1986. I would have been 7 years old at the time. She was a big Dodgers fan, though I never became one myself. The design here is really fun, with the team name in giant letters across the top of the card. The large Sox team set has 4 HOFers (Baines, Fisk, La Russa, Seaver), and a fun Ozzie Guillen rookie card.

Ranked: 1970s Topps Sets

This is part 3 in my series ranking all of the Topps sets. Click the links to read parts 1 and 2.

The 1970s had some excellent looking Topps sets, and also had some pretty bland ones towards the end of the decade. The Sox weren’t very good in the 70s overall, so they didn’t have a whole lot of interesting players in these sets.

#10 – 1974 Topps

There is really nothing interesting about this design. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t good either. I guess it has some nice symmetry. There is a nice big checklist, and a few interesting rookie cards. Bucky Dent, Jerry Hairston, and Brian Downing.

#9 – 1977 Topps

The return of the dreaded facsimile signature. The position inside of the little green pennant is kind of cool. At least a couple of the cards this set have some actual action photography. Another nice big checklist, with lots of rookie cards, but none that are particularly notable.

#8 – 1979 Topps

I do like the cute little Topps logo in the baseball, but otherwise this is another bland set. Here we have another good sized checklist, with Mike Squires being the most notable rookie card in the set.

#7 – 1976 Topps

Hey look at this, another boring 70s set! At this this year’s set has cute little baseball man in the corner that represents the position of the player. One thing that 1976 has going for it is the Topps Traded cards, with the cool newspaper headlines. Another big checklist, with Chet Lemon and Lamar Johnson rookies.

#6 – 1978 Topps

The highest ranking of the truly boring 70s sets. I mostly like this because of the script White Sox name. It doesn’t hurt that this is the set that chronicles the South Side Hitmen of 1977. 1978 is also the year I was born, so there’s that. 1978 has a huge checklist, but no notable rookies.

#5 – 1973 Topps

1973 was the first Topps set to include the little baseball man in the corner that represented the position of the player. I also like how that section of card is cut out of the image. It’s a bit more visually interesting than the sets preceding it on this list. Of course we have another big checklist, with rookie cards for Jorge Orta and HOFer Goose Gossage.

#4 – 1972 Topps

I love that Topps tried something different in 1972. This design feels like it could have been used on a Jimi Hendrix gig poster! There are a whopping 35 Sox cards in this set, which has to be one of the largest team sets out there. Not much in the way of rookies. The most notable one is Terry Forster.

#3 – 1975 Topps

Definitely one of the most colorful Topps designs. The look really suits the era, just like the 72 design does. The Sox are very well represented with various subset cards featuring Dick Allen, Terry Forster, and Nellie Fox. Plus a bunch of 4 player rookie cards, though of the Sox players are particularly notable.

#2 – 1971 Topps

I’m sure you expected this to be #1. If it weren’t for the facsimile signature, it very well might have occupied the top spot. It’s surprising that it took 20 years for them to try a black border, but it really works. The Sox set is a bit heavy on headshots, but they still look pretty good. We have a solid checklist here, but nothing in the way of exciting rookie cards.

#1 – 1970 Topps

I feel like I’m all alone in my love of this set. I think it has some of the best photography of any Topps set that came before the proliferation of action shots appearing on cards. They also look really good autographed, which is a major bonus in my book. The checklist is solid as usual, but the best rookie here is probably Bart Johnson.

Ranked: 1960s Topps Sets

This is part two of my series ranking all of the Topps sets of all time. You can read part one here.

The Topps sets of the 50s had some high highs and low lows. The 60s sets are grouped much closer together. There aren’t any amazing sets, and there aren’t really any terrible ones. Just lots of okay-ish sets. There is one set in particular that is considered to be iconic, but I’ve never quite agreed.

With all that being said, this was a very difficult list to put together. There just isn’t a whole lot of separation. Anyway, on with the list!

#10 – 1967 Topps

I’ve never quite understood why the White Sox lettering is purple. And I’ve never been a fan of the facsimile autograph. Still, this isn’t a terrible looking set. It’s thoroughly mediocre. It does have a decent checklist, though there are no notable rookie cards. There is a Tommie Agee Topps Rookie Cup card, which is cool I guess.

#9 – 1963 Topps

The only thing this set has going for it is how colorful it is. It really isn’t a very appealing design. It would honestly probably be better without the little round image in the corner. Replace that with a cool Sox logo and it might be better. Still wouldn’t be good, mind you. Decent checklist, and Dave DeBusschere and Al Weis rookie cards. The Weis card is especially notable, as he shares it with Pete Rose.

#8 – 1968 Topps

Another 60s Topps set, another mediocre design. Is this supposed to be some kind of fabric? One thing I’m definitely missing from the 50s sets is the Sox logo. Another solid checklist, but I think every 60s set had a decent checklist. No notable rookie cards, though the Cisco Carlos rookie may have seemed like a big deal heading into the 1968 season.

#7 – 1969 Topps

I’m having such a hard time writing this list… there is nothing interesting to say about these boring designs! At least this set has a clean look, which is the only reason it ranks this high. Another decent checklist, including Carlos May, Bill Melton, and Ed Herrmann rookie cards. I do wish Carlos May was alone on his rookie card.

#6 – 1966 Topps

The other thing that is getting tiresome about this sets is the photography. It’s all headshots and spring training poses. Were they not capable of action photography or something? I should have used the Jack Lamabe card for this image. Who could forgot that man’s eyebrows? Anyway, another solid checklist with no prominent rookie cards.

#5 – 1965 Topps

The best part of this set is undoubtedly the little pennant with the Winged Sox logo. The rest of the design is bland, but the pennant saves it. Another decent checklist, featuring Bob Locker and Ken Berry rookie cards.

#4 – 1964 Topps

I’ve always been drawn towards this set, and I have no earthly idea why. Maybe the teal soothes me? For whatever reason, I really like the White Sox text across the top. Nice checklist, with Don Buford as the most notable rookie card. There are three really nice looking Topps Rookie Cup cards here: Al Weis, Pete Ward, and Gary Peters.

#3 – 1962 Topps

Definitely the most iconic set of the 1960s. Most people would probably have this first. I do like it, though for whatever reason I’ve never loved it. I almost put this in second place, but for whatever reason I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Another nice checklist, with Joel Horlen and Floyd Robinson rookie cards.

#2 – 1961 Topps

Like the 1964 set, I can’t really explain why I like this set. For whatever reason, this is the set I most associate with the 1959 era Sox team that I love so much. I do like the multiple colors at the bottom, though I do wish there was a Sox logo present. This set has a wonderful checklist, though there are no notable rookie cards.

#1 – 1960 Topps

The 1960 and 1961 sets are neck and neck for me, mostly because of the checklists. I do like the 1960 horizontal design. I like how colorful it is, and I obviously like the Winged Sox logo. There is a great checklist here, with J.C. Martin and Gary Peters rookie UER cards.

Ranked: 1950s Topps Sets

Hello, and welcome to the first post in my Ranked series. This series will allow me to rank various things that relate to the Chicago White Sox. I’m one of those weirdos that loves making lists and ranking things, so I am looking forward to this!

We start with Topps sets from the 1950s. Eventually I will rank all of the decades, which will culminate in a post ranking the 10 best Topps sets of all time.

Mostly I’m focusing on the design of the cards. I am also considering things like the presence of iconic rookie cards, and the overall Sox checklist in a particular set. I definitely prefer larger team sets!

Enough of my blathering, on with the list!

#9 – 1958 Topps

Definitely the least visually interesting of the 1950s sets, with only two other sets really in competition for the bottom spot. I’m really not into the yellow backgrounds. No particularly notable cards. Does contain a few Sox legends, such as Luis Aparicio and Billy Pierce, but many of the 50s sets have those guys.

#8 – 1955 Topps

My least favorite of the “vintage sized” sets. Mostly because of the bland backgrounds. The following year’s set would do this same concept much better. No notable cards, and a terribly small checklist. Now I’m having second thoughts about putting this ahead of 1958. At least that set has a good checklist.

#7 – 1954 Topps

Basically the vertical equivalent of the 1955 set, though it uses photos instead of art. I have 1954 and 1955 basically tied. Very similar design, and small, poor checklist. 1954 gets the nod because it came first, and has a few more cards in the team set. Nothing especially notable, though.

#6 – 1951 Topps (Red Backs and Blue Backs)

Definitely stands out amongst all of the Topps sets. It’s interesting that they went from the smaller size of these cards to the much larger size of the 1952-1956 sets, and then settled on something inbetween. These are very colorful and fun. The set is this low because it has such a small checklist, though it does feature this Billy Pierce rookie card.

#5 – 1959 Topps

For whatever reason, I feel like this is a pretty iconic set. I do like how colorful it is, though I wish the cards were divided up more evenly among the different colors. Most of the Sox cards are red. It also has a very good checklist, with a few notable rookie cards. Johnny Callison, Norm Cash, and Johnny Romano all have rookies here.

#4 – 1956 Topps

The top 4 of this list are head and shoulders above the rest of the decade as far as I’m concerned. This set features some beautiful, colorful art, and has a solid checklist, including one of the most iconic White Sox rookie cards of all time, the beautiful Luis Aparicio pictured here.

#3 – 1953 Topps

This set features the most beautiful art ever featured on Topps cards, in my opinion. If this set had a better checklist or an iconic rookie card, it might be able to move up the list. I do like the Jim Rivera rookie that is here, though.

#2 – 1957 Topps

Probably my favorite design of the 1950s. It has such a clean look, and features the best photography of the decade, by far. 1957 has an excellent checklist featuring several legendary Sox players, as well as Earl Battey and Jim Landis rookies. It’s only the iconic status of the final set on the list that keeps 1957 from the top spot.

#1 – 1952 Topps

Quite possibly the most iconic sports card set of all time. This set has some beautiful images, a clean design, and a solid checklist. There is no Mantle here, but there is a gorgeous Minnie Minoso rookie card. It would have been almost ridiculous to put any other set at #1.