Topps Football

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Football cards[edit]

In addition to baseball, Topps also produced cards for American football in 1951, which are known as the Magic set. For football cards Bowman dominated the field, and Topps did not try again until 1955, when it released an All-American set with a mix of active players and retired stars. After buying out Bowman, Topps took over the market the following year.

Since then, Topps has sold football cards every season. However, the emergence of the American Football League in 1960 to compete with the established National Football League also allowed Topps' competitors, beginning with Fleer, to make inroads. Fleer produced a set for the AFL in 1960, then featured both leagues for one year before focusing on the AFL again. Philadelphia Gum then secured the NFL rights for 1964, forcing Topps to go for the AFL and leaving Fleer with no product in either baseball or football.

Although more competitive for a time, the football card market was never as lucrative, so the other companies did not fight as hard over it. After the AFL-NFL Merger was agreed to, Topps became the only major football card manufacturer beginning in 1968. In spite of the lack of competition, or perhaps to preempt it, Topps also created two sets of cards for the short-lived United States Football League in the 1980s. Many NFL legends had their first ever cards produced in the USFL sets. These players include Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and Reggie White. This resulted in a controversy when these players debuted in the NFL. Many wondered if the USFL cards should be considered rookie cards because the league did not exist anymore. The situation continued until growth in the sports card market generally prompted two new companies, Pro Set and Score, to start making football cards in 1989.

Throughout the 1970s until 1982, Topps did not have the rights to reproduce the actual team logos on the helmets and uniforms of the players; curiously, these could be found on the Fleer sets of the same era, but Fleer could not name specific player names. As a result, helmet logos for these teams were airbrushed out on a routine basis.