Topps has come a long way since making its NFL debut with the 1956 set. That was a 120-card base set that also had an unmarked checklist and five contest cards. This year’s base set contains 500 cards — up from 440 last year — with plenty of rookies, subsets, inserts and parallels. Topps has also thrown in some variations, keying on stars from the past in several cases—Bo Jackson, Jerry Rice, Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor, Dan Marino and Mike Singletary are some of the big names.
The box I opened yielded 304 base cards, including 72 rookies. Subsets within the base set include Fantasy Studs and All-Pro cards. Topp 60 is a nod to the top 60 players in game today, and this is the reason there are 60 more cards in the base set. There is a team card from this year’s Rookie Premiere weekend.
I was kind of torn about this year’s design. At first glance, it seemed very busy to me — too many elements and perhaps not enough photo. Then I noticed that the format worked better for cards with action shots that rely on more of a big picture, rather than zoomed in or glorified mug shots. It doesn’t work in the latter instance. Perhaps I was hoping for more of a full-bleed design.
That being said, the set is very complete and includes all the top stars and rookies.
That milestone theme is put to good use with a 100-card 60th Anniversary insert set. These cards fall one in every other pack and feature Topps designs from the last six decades. Some of them are quite beautiful, like the 1959 and 1984 sets. Others, like the 1962 look, were better off left in the vault.
A new insert this year is the double-sided Past and Present Performers. This 30-card subset falls once in every six packs on average and features a player from the past on one side of the card and a current star on the other.
Two insert sets focus on the fantasy football aspect of the game. All Time Fantasy Legends looks back at the numbers some players generated to enable fantasy geeks to win their respective leagues.
Fantasy Focus looks at the 2015 production of selected stars and also projects what rookies might have a chance to excel. Both are 50-card sets and fall one in every four packs. I pulled nine of each in the box I sampled.
Some old standbys also return: the 10-card 4,000 Club, which focuses on quarterbacks; and the 30-card 100o-yard Club, which honors running backs and wide receivers. Both fall about six per hobby box.
My hobby box also had a buyback card: a 1979 card of Bears middle linebacker Tom Hicks. The card was in decent shape, albeit slightly off center. A red foil stamp denoted the card’s anniversary status.
Topps Football is a great set for set builders, and there are plenty of inserts and rookie cards to keep a collector interested. The company has had better designs before, but this one is functional. The highlights to me were the brilliant-colored inserts that paid tribute to designs from earlier Topps products.