Departing from the colored background of 1958 and 1959 and the bright, horizontal format of 1960, Topps released their 1961 set just as their original cards were designed: simply with attention on the player. The cards are bordered in white and a thin line of black, with two areas of color on the bottom where the player’s name, position, and team are shown. The remainder of the card is dominated by a colored, player portrait. The card shows its air of simplicity as it displays no team logos, autographs, or multiple colors. Apart from unique subsets, the only cards that deviated from this style were those of the rookies. Those “on the rise” displayed a “Rookie Star” on their cards, while the All-Star Rookies had a trophy presented above their name. Similar to all Topps cards, the back of these cards present a significant amount of information. At the top, the player’s name, team, and position are printed; below this, within the same box, are key player statistics and biographical information. Within the middle portion of the card, there is an entire list of player statistics, while the bottom shows two to three Topps cartoons.
SET SERIES & SUBSETS
Series One: cards 1-88
Series Two: cards 89-176
Series Three: cards 177-264
Series Four: cards 265-352
Series Five: cards 353-429
Series Six: cards 430-506
Series Six: cards 507-589
1961 Topps contains many different subsets for collectors. Those that are easier to find include the League Leaders (cards 41-50), the best performers in baseball. Team managers can be found in two different groups, cards 131-139 and cards 219-226, while World Series Highlights are seen in cards 306-313. This set also includes Baseball Thrills (401-410), which presents significant moments from the preceding year, while the Most Valuable Player cards (471-486) document the 1950s, presenting National and American League MVPs. Then, there are the Sporting News All-Stars (566-589) which include All-Stars from the last year; it should be kept in mind that these All-Stars are a component of the high-number series and therefore, difficult to find. The checklist cards of every series in this set are also hard to locate in good condition.
While Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris have always been a major focus of collectors, they are of particular interest in the 1961 Topps set. It was during this year that “the duo” fought it out to beat Babe Ruth’s home-run record (Maris finished with 61, Mantle with 54 due to injury).
As one of the largest Topps set created at 587 cards, errors were bound to occur. For one, there are three different forms of checklist number 98 and two cards of number 463 (Jack Fisher and Milwaukee Braves have the same position on the checklist). The Milwaukee card was supposed to be number 426; therefore, no card for 426 exists. Gaps also occur in the checklist at spots numbered 587 and 588, making the entire set a total of 587 cards. Collectors also must deal with the fact that 1961 Topps has two insert sets; these were released in panels displaying two cards, able to be found in either brown or green. Apart from these features, the 1961 Topps collection can be difficult to complete due to its size and also because of errors relating to centering and printing dots. Despite this, 1961 Topps remains a popular set with its famous rookies and Hall of Famers.