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Topps complete sets could be worth something depending on the year and condition. For example, many of the Topps complete sets from the “junk wax era” (late 1980s and early 1990s) might only be worth $20-$30, but older sets could be worth much more, as well as more recent releases.
So, like most things in cards, value really does hinge on a variety of factors.
What is a Topps Complete Set?
A Topps Complete Set is the entire base set checklist of of cards released for a particular year. Complete sets do not include all insert or parallel cards, nor do they include traded or update series cards.
They typically look like this, and should be clearly marked as “complete set”:
For example, the 1993 Topps set includes series I and series II cards, but the “traded” set is sold separately. Thus, you’ll find the Derek Jeter rookie card in the 1993 Topps complete set (card #98 on the base checklist), but you can only find the Todd Helton USA rookie in the traded set.
Read More: Derek Jeter Golden Hologram
That said, it’s common for Topps complete sets to include bonus cards, such as 5 special parallels and/or other special inserts. So, while the 1993 Topps set won’t include the entire run of Topps Black Gold cards, it does include 3 “bonus” Black Gold cards in some factory sets.
The Junk Wax Era (and Soon After): Supply and Demand
Ah, the notorious junk wax era of the 1980s and early 1990s, where the mass production of baseball cards reached unprecedented heights.
During this period, Topps flooded the market with countless sets, resulting in an oversupply that far surpassed the demand. As a result, many of these sets are now commonly found, driving down their overall value.
Even more unfortunate, these are usually the sets you find collecting dust in your garage. So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re holding any of these sets, you might not be looking at a huge payday.
Here are some recent eBay sales for each of the following years 1987-2000 (prices before shipping). For visibility, I found these by checking eBay comps, which involves going to eBay, searching for “1987 topps complete set sealed” and then filtering by “sold items.”
(Please note I don’t typically like to list one single completed auction as a snapshot, so please do your own research and understand that, for whatever reason, sometimes cards sell for more than these prices or less. It also depends on the shipping, meaning if one set has shipping of $25 and another for only $10, that’s probably going to be reflected in the sales price.)
- 1987 Topps: $36
- 1988 Topps: $25
- 1989 Topps: $21.89
- 1990 Topps: $14.81
- 1991 Topps: $25
- 1992 Topps: $19.99
- 1993 Topps: $62
- 1994 Topps: $32
- 1995 Topps: $37
- 1996 Topps: $54
- 1997 Topps: $48
- 1998 Topps: $35
- 1999 Topps: $25.52
- 2000 Topps: $21.50
As you can see, most of these sets fall below $50, with a dew exceptions. Why are there exceptions? Well, no matter the era, there still has to be cards called “the best,” right? Thus, while they might not be as valuable as cards of today, the best cards from the 1980s still carry some value. More on this to come.
Older Sets: Rarity and Nostalgia
As we step further back in time, we encounter Topps complete sets from the golden years of baseball cards. Sets from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and even early 1980s possess a certain charm and rarity that make them valuable to collectors.
The scarcity of these vintage sets, coupled with the nostalgia factor and key rookies, increases their worth significantly. For example, the 1952 Topps Baseball set, featuring the iconic Mickey Mantle rookie card, can command astronomical prices, reaching well into six figures.
Since many of us will never see or hold a complete set of card pre-1970s even, here are some example prices.
(Again, another note. While it’s relatively easy to find sealed sets from 1984 and beyond, anything before that is tough, and thus many of these prices reflect pre-shipping sales of hand-collated sets and not those that are factory sealed. On a related note, because these cards have been handled and aren’t direct from the production line, the condition of the set plays a big part in the final pricing.)
- 1980 Topps: $150 to $250
- 1981 Topps: $50 to $100
- 1982 Topps: $50 to $100
- 1983 Topps: $50 to $100
- 1984 Topps: $40 to $100
- 1985 Topps: $40 to $75
As you can see, 1980 is a standout set because it is oldest, yes, but also because it contains the Rickey Henderson RC.
If you go back even further from here, you can imagine the prices start reaching past $500 and over $1,000 and so on. Values fluctuate wildly based on condition, so I’ll hold off on listing them, but hopefully you get the point.
In the world of collecting, condition is crucial, and it’s no different for sets. Those that are in exceptional condition, with cards free from creases, stains, or other damage, are highly sought after. Collectors are willing to pay a premium for sets that have been well-preserved over the years.
Not to mention that some people put together graded sets, meaning all cards are slabbed from reputable grading companies like PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) or BGS (Beckett Grading Services). These fetch much higher prices, as they provide an objective assessment of the set’s condition (and authenticity).
Topps Tiffany Sets: The Glossy Delight
Last, when discussing the worth of Topps complete sets, one cannot overlook the treasure that is Topps Tiffany. These premium editions are known for their glossy finish, higher print quality, and limited distribution. While Topps Tiffany sets were produced in the heart of the junk era, they were done so as a more exclusive counterpart to the standard Topps sets.
In terms of look and feel, Topps Tiffany sets were typically printed on brighter, thicker cardstock, which added to their visual appeal. The glossy finish gave the cards a sleek and vibrant look, making them highly coveted among collectors.
Today’s item. 1991 Topps Tiffany #140. 1991 was the last year of the Tiffany run. Cards were printed on white card stock with a glossy front and the back is white compared to the normal gray. These were only available in factory sets and had an advertised print run of 4000 sets pic.twitter.com/ZGj2rYObCP— McGriff Collector (@ICollectMcGriff) July 7, 2021
But how do you know if you have a Tiffany set if it’s sealed? Well, luckily you won’t have to bust out the magnifying glass or check on any special codes.
Here is what a Tiffany set looks like (reserved and formal) versus what the typical Topps set looks like (loud, bright colors, and pictures of cards).
Due to their limited availability and superior quality, Topps Tiffany sets have retained their value over the years. For example, the 1984 Topps Tiffany set, which includes rookie cards of Hall of Famers such as Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry, holds a much higher value compared to the standard 1984 Topps set (especially if a factory set and authenticated).
So again, are Topps complete sets worth anything? It depends! Keep your eyes out for big years and Tiffany sets.