Saturday, July 23, 2022

A Year of Topps Designs: 1981

Topps put out rather standard sets for baseball and football in 1981. They brought back a colored border for the baseball set, for the first time since 1975. Other than that, there was a cap and tiny ball for visual interest. The football set has a ribbon held down with either a pushpin or flagpole, not sure which.

In other sports, it was all about innovation for Topps. In hockey, the set was produced with a coating over the puck requiring the collector to scratch it off to reveal the player's name.

For basketball, Topps was even more innovative. They took the design of the '78 baseball set, smooshed it into a third of the set, and made a three-part card with perforations. 

Topps did the same thing in the UK for soccer, though with a much simpler design.

Maybe Topps designers were coming up with wacky ideas because they had a lot of time on their hands, as non-sports work seemed to dry up for the company in '81. There was only one non-sport card set in '81, for Raiders of the Lost Ark. With only one set to concentrate on, Topps seemed to put a lot more effort into the design than most of their typical non-sport sets of the era.

Though not cards, there was one more non-sport offering in 1981, an Annie sticker book. The stickers had a simple red border.


  1. My favorite was the basketball design. I live the cursive text... and the three on one idea was unique.

  2. Fun designs overall. The hockey scratch-off idea was a little wacky, but I wonder if the typical kid at the time found it entertaining.

  3. The 1981 baseball design is one of my favorites.

  4. The design on the Raiders set is classic. Thank goodness it was unique enough, i.e. tailored to the film, that they could never recycle it for another set.