By Evan Weiner |
Spring 2026 is going to be a strange time for baseball fans of a certain age. For the first time since 1951, TOPPS will not be putting out baseball cards. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association will have a different trading card partner but it probably won’t be too different from the product that Sy Berger perfected for TOPPS. The modern baseball card. Kids really were introduced to players through those cards. Berger’s product cost a penny a card but was very important financially to players in baseball, football, basketball and hockey.
Berger was the baseball card man. When Berger started his job, there wasn’t a baseball card industry. In 1951, to get players to sign up with TOPPS baseball cards, Berger would give them some money, maybe $75 or give them a catalogue where a player could get something in exchange for his likeness. The players’ likeness would become extremely important as time went on. Marvin Miller and the Major League Baseball Players Association fought with TOPPS over money. Miller eventually got TOPPS to pay players $250 plus a percentage of baseball card sales. Licensing money from cards is controlled by the players association and has been used for strike funds. TOPPS played hardball with Miller, and other companies looking to get into the business. In 1980, a court allowed Miller and the players to offer licenses to other companies to produce baseball cards. Cards still bring in licensing money but long gone are the days when kids looked forward to the first series of the new year’s baseball cards. Today it’s a business thanks to Sy Berger. The new deal will pour billions of dollars into Major League Baseball. TOPPS faces an uncertain future. The days of five cars and gum for five cents a pack are gone.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.