Jeff Walters

1974 Topps Baseball Trivia

From a collector standpoint, 1974 Topps baseball was not the most popular year.  As such, 1974 cards and packs tend to fly under the radar but upon further review, there was a lot going on in the world that year that impacted the collector.

Let's set the context for 1974, the world was reeling from the oil crisis which greatly impacted the economy.  Perhaps the lack of collector enthusiasm for Topps baseball that year had something to do with a "reduced allowance" to spend on cards. 

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Topps was a publicly-traded company that year and publicly reported their results.  As such, we can review what actually occurred that year from reviewing what Topps publicly-stated in their 1974 Annual Report to investors.  This is some of what they said: 

  1. "A major marketing innovation was tested on 1973 Baseball Cards.  This involved marketing a single series consisting of all 660 players at the beginning of the season instead of six traditional series of 132 subjects released sequentially over a four-month period.  The test was extremely successful and the concept has been adopted for the entire country in 1974." 
  2. "In response to rising costs, the company successfully tested 15cent Sports Cards in place of 10cent Sports Cards during the latter part of 1973 and is currently marketing 15 cent Baseball in approximately 10% of the United States. If this effort continues to show positive results, the Company is prepared to move in this direction with its Football cards in the fall of 1974 on a national basis." 

Topps provided us a clear historical perspective as to what they were doing and why.  Keep in mind, pricing at Topps had been flat since 1970.  Clearly, the economic outlook encouraged Topps to run all kinds of tests from pricing to products, and that leads us to understand more about the 1974 Topps Baseball Card "season."  


How many cards are in a 1974 Topps Baseball wax pack?


Each 1974 Topps Baseball wax pack had 8 cards, which sold for 10 cents. However as we have learned, Topps also tested variations that sold for 15 cents. These versions held 12 cards.

1974 topps baseball wax pack

How big was the 1974 Topps Baseball set?

There were 660 cards in the 1974 Topps baseball card set. This set size would be the standard  for all Topps Baseball sets between 1973 and 1977. Starting in 1978, the sets grew in size to 726.

1974 topps baseball set

The 1974 Topps Baseball set also featured 6 subsets:

  • Hank Aaron Tribute: #1-6
  • League Leaders: #201-208
  • All-Stars: #331-339
  • Playoff Highlights: #470 and #471
  • World Series Highlights: #472-479
  • Topps Rookie Stars: #596-608

How many cards were included in a 1974 Topps Baseball rack pack?  

1974 topps bb rack pack

Each 1974 Topps Baseball rack pack that sold for 39 cents included 42 cards. These racks included a blue header card, but Topps also partnered with some Major League Baseball teams for a promotional giveaway that included rack packs with a special team-oriented header card.  The Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A’s seem to be the three teams where the promotion may have taken place and has been noted by collectors who have seen or owned the special rack packs. Similar to the wax pack, Topps also produced a rack pack variant for 49 cents with 42 cards.  


Why are there variations of player cards who played for the Padres in the 1974 Topps Baseball set?  

washington v padres 1974 topps bb

Prior to the start of the 1974 MLB season, it appeared that the San Diego Padres were going to be relocated to Washington. As such, the initial production run of 1974 Topps Baseball cards featured Padres players as playing in Washington, for the National League. The plans to move the team fell through at the last minute, forcing Topps to make some quick revisions. All subsequent production runs were printed with the corrected team information. As a result, the 1974 Topps Baseball card set is considered to have 18 variations, which brings the master set count to 678 total cards.


Why are there 2 different variations of 1974 Topps Baseball wax boxes?

1974 topps 2 wax box comparison

In 1974 Topps tested two types of pricing models. As such, they had two types of wax boxes. One contained 36, 8-card packs, each selling for 10 cents, while the other included 24, 12-card pack, each selling for 15 cents. As noted above, 90% of the country had the 10cent pricing, while 10% had the 15cent pricing.  


Did the 1974 Topps Baseball produce the first-ever Traded Subset?

1974 topps bb traded

Yes, the 1974 Topps set included the first-ever “Traded set” consisting of players who had changed teams at some point during the year, and was comprised of 44 cards.  1974 also marked the first year that Topps sold a complete factory set. It was available exclusively through the JC Penny department store catalog.  


Were these packs available to be purchased by collectors in 1974?

1974 topps bb 5 packs

Yes!  All of these were.  1974 was a year filled with testing for Topps. The five packs highlighted include:

1974 Topps Jigsaw Puzzle Test Issue - which included Tom Seaver on the cover. These sold for 29cents (approximately 3 times the price of a wax pack) and contained 12 stars from the day.  These proved to be a little too expensive, and too unique for the market.

1974 Topps Baseball Stamps Album Test Issue - Topps once again tried the "stamps" concept.  This one had 240 players.  Wax packs were created in the test issue style of a generic white wax wrapper and a sticker.  Each contained 12 stamps and sold for 10 cents

1974 Topps Baseball Action Emblems Test Issue - This is a bit trickier to identify as it seems there were 3 test versions of these cards. One version noted "cloth sticker," another just "sticker" and then there was a proof set from 1973.  Overall, the consensus was the packs were from 1974 and these packs are fairly hard to find.

1974 OPC Baseball - This was the annual counterpart to Topps that was released to Canadian markets

1974 Topps Deckle Edge Test Issue - Concluding this list was another test that Topps tried.  Like the others, this one didn't catch the market's fancy.  Looking back on it as collectors, it might be easy to question why Topps tried all of these strange concepts, but with the right context, it makes sense.  Topps was a public company, run by businessmen, trying to boost earnings during a very tough economic period and was aggressively testing different concepts to see which might be future winners.  The collectors would ultimately dictate the winners but it was up to Topps to offer a variety of options.


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Want to continue reading? Here are a few posts you might find interesting:

1970 Topps Baseball: Everything You Want To Know

1971 Topps Baseball: Everything You Wanted To Know

A Look Back At The 1986-87 Fleer Basketball Set

1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie: The Improbable Foresight of Upper Deck

Ichiro Suzuki Rookie: What is the value of "Once in a Lifetime Cards?"

Investing In Fleer Michael Jordan Cards? Here Is What You Need To Know

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