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Beginning life as Topps Chewing Gum in 1938, Topps has become a name that is almost synonymous with the sports card industry. From its corporate headquarters in New York City and its Operations Center in Duryea, Pennsylvania, the company produces cards for Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA, and oversees subsidiaries in five other countries.
The first Topps sports cards - both baseball and football - came off the presses in 1951. But it was the next season's baseball set that truly got the ball rolling on the sports card hobby as it exists today. With its large number of cards, color photography and packaging that included a stick of bubble gum, the 1952 Topps baseball set created the formula familiar to so many collectors over the past 50-plus years. The Mickey Mantle card, # 311 in that set, is arguably the most recognizable sports card of all time.
Topps products have been responsible for many developments today's hobbyists take for granted. These include the standard 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 inch size of the cards and card backs featuring player statistics. Topps also pioneered the use of Traded sets to update its releases with cards for players who switched teams or made debuts in the middle of the season, a practice that nearly every other manufacturer has followed in some form or another.
Though the brand names that Topps has used for its sports cards have changed, the base Topps brand remains a staple in baseball, football and basketball (and until recently, hockey). It also has built Bowman - a fierce competitor in both baseball and football cards in the 1950's - into a household name across all three sports. Topps seemed content to allow other companies to fill the high end niche of the sports card market when it first sprouted, but it recently has changed direction and found success with expensive brands like Sterling, Triple Threads and Paradigm. The company's retro-themed brands, like Heritage, Turkey Red and Allen & Ginter, have also been popular with collectors.
Along with sports cards, the Entertainment arm of Topps also creates non-sports trading cards and collectible strategy games under the WizKids name. Topps' Confectionery segment continues to sell gum and candy like Ring Pops and Push Pops.