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1979 Topps Baseball

By Patrick Mondout

The 1979 Topps baseball card set featured an error card of Bump Wills, decent photography, and little else to distinguish it. The first printing accidentally showed Bump Wills as a member of the Blue Jays and it was quickly corrected (see below). The error version sold for the then-lofty sum of $8 at first but cooled until the Pedro Guerrero rookie card caught it in the price guide a half-decade later at $4.

The 726 card set was once again distributed in 20 wax packs containing 12 cards and a stick of gum. Cello packs of 20 cards for 30 and rack packs of 39 cards for 59 were also produced and marked the first time in years that the prices had not gone up - a surprising development considering rising inflation. Vending boxes of approximately 500 cards were also produced for hobby dealers.

The set was a disappointment both at the time and since for a variety of reasons. This set featured the ugly Topps logo from that era inside a large baseball on the bottom left of each card. With a virtual monopoly in the card market, it seemed unnecessary. The cards, especially the Ozzie Smith rookie, are often found cut off-center and the set also had only one rookie who came anywhere near Cooperstown.

Both World Series and league championship subsets are missing and there are no "Topps Rookie All-Star" trophies even though the company did present such awards for the '78 season. Lastly, the team prospect cards use black and white photography. It is was bad enough that they couldn't provide separate cards for these guys, but the photos and design of the cards seem to indicate the move was out of necessity rather than an attempt to make them look retro or classy. (Perhaps a small fraction of the photos available of such prospects were black and white so they decided to convert the whole series over?)

Other subsets include record breakers, league leaders, and all-time leader cards. The latter were similar to the subset in the 1973 set, but featured both the career and single season record holders and thus included recent record breakers Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, and Lou Brock. Team checklist cards were issued, which once again had team photos on the front but also included a separate picture of the manager in an inset.

What about me?

You'd think being an All-Star shortstop for one of the league's best teams would get you respect. But if you're 5'3'' Freddie Patek of the Royals, you are using to being overlooked. As with Richie Zisk a year earlier, Patek started in the All-Star game but did not have that fact noted on his Topps card. Once again, we address the injustice by editing his card - in this case he borrows teammate George Brett's brown banner.

The big draw to this set is the Ozzie Smith rookie. Since Ozzie was a defensive star, the card was not highly valued throughout the Awesome80s. Ozzie eventually started to hit and the realization that the greatest defensive infielder of all time was indeed heading to Cooperstown eventually brought the price of this card and the '79 set more in line with others from the era. Other rookies included Willie Wilson, Pedro Guererro, Terry Kennedy, Kevin Bass, Alfredo Griffin, Dwayne Murphy, Lonnie Smith and Bob Horner.

As with the '78 set, a number of cards were double printed. There seems to have been an active effort on the part of Topps to ensure us kids got plenty of the stars as Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, Steve Garvey, Joe Morgan, Catfish Hunter, and Reggie Jackson were among those double printed.

A checklist for all 726 cards is available here.


1979 Topps at a Glance
Back Checklist Wax Pack
All-Time Leaders Record Breaker Wills Error
League Leaders Team Prospects Team Checklist


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Year: 1979

Manufacturer: Topps

# of Cards: 726 (Checklist)

Value/Price: Check eBay (see links below)

Size: 2 x 3

Image courtesy of Topps

'79 Topps Sets!
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