Saturday, March 21, 2020

Cardboard History History of Cardboard: 1950-1959

The 1950s is when Topps really began to take over the card market, and in fact even other brands, absorbing Bowman during the decade. Topps non-sports efforts would be at their peak in the 1950s, although their sports dominance was yet to come, but they did make inroads with some tentative basketball and hockey sets, and the football set starting in 1956 which joined the baseball set that launched in 1951, and is still published today. The Topps baseball set is the longest running continually produced brand in cardboard history. The 1950s are also my favorite decade in automotive design, and, probably not coincidentally, also the decade that saw the best automotive coverage on cards, as well.

1950 Topps Frank Buck Bring 'em Back Alive

1951 Topps Animals of the World

1952 Topps Wings

1953-54 Topps World on Wheels

1954 Topps Scoop

1955 Topps Rails & Sails

1956 Parkhurst Sports Cars

1957 Topps Planes

1958 Topps

1959-60 Topps
With my top three favorite Non-Sports sets ever all being produced between 1952-54, I actually have a much better representation of the early 50s than I do the 1960s and 70s. In fact, once you get to 1958 and 1959, the pickings are very slim, as I own exactly two cards from 1958, but wanted more variety than another airplane card, as I do want this to be representative of the hobby as a whole. Topps started the decade doing mostly historical content, but then turned sharply to make really juvenile stuff that just holds no interest for me, and will make the 1960s a challenge to find non-sports cards for. The 1950 and 51 sets actually share card numbering, and no one that I know of knows why that was done, since they are totally separate sets. I'm actually fairly near completing the 1952 Wings set, but the 1953-54 World on Wheels set- which I would now rank 2nd, rather than 3rd if I did the linked countdown today, has a very, very scarce high number series 2 from 1954 that I've never even seen in person, let alone seen and couldn't afford. Starting in the next decade, 2 of my three sports begin to get yearly coverage, though technically Hockey got cards every year from the mid-50s on, many of the early sets are not yet represented in my collection.


  1. Old-school hockey card designs are my favorites for sure!

  2. The coolness factor of all these cards is off the charts. And to join in with the previous comments, the design of that World on Wheels set is pretty close to cardboard perfection. I've got a few in my collection, too.

    What does the back of that Frank Buck card look like?

  3. These are some fantastic cards! The blimp, East Indiaman, and Pontiac in particular really pop. I like the Jesse Owens card, too. Had no idea he raced a horse!

    There are a couple 1950's cards on my 'bucket list' that don't have pro athletes on them (though they're not non-sports cards, either) -- the 1955-56 Parkhurst Maple Leaf Gardens and Montreal Forum cards. They're very expensive though.

  4. So many fantastic cards here. I had fun going on COMC and looking at singles from the 1952 Topps Wings, 1954 Topps World on Wheels, and 1957 Topps Planes sets.

  5. Thanks for the comments. That World on Wheels set has long been a favorite of mine as well. For a time one of the Model T Fords in the set was my oldest card, although a short time as I added a Wings card within about a year, circa 1996.

    You can see the back of the Frank Buck card here:

    I wasn't aware of those two arena cards. Cool! Need more arena cards in hockey and basketball. Had a heck of a time finding a card of Madison Square Garden.

    1. Fictitious or not, that's a cool story on the back of the Frank Buck card. Thanks for sharing the link!