How many were printed?

How many cards did Topps and the other guys print?
We can never know exactly how many cards were printed. That information was always a closely guarded secret. However, this was a retail product sold in every grocery store. Certain factors can provide an estimate of the print runs. My numbers are based on an arcane formula which uses Census data from each year; locations of teams; household disposable incomes; westward expansion of baseball; the popularity of card collecting in any given era; the excitement level generated by players and teams during each season; the number of Popsicles sold during each year; and the number of cards from each set currently offered for sale on CheckOutMyCards.com

(Why Popsicles, you ask? Because they are sold mostly to kids, and mostly during baseball season, just like baseball cards are!  Back then, a kid had to choose one or the other!)

... a tough decision for any boy with a nickel in his pocket...

NOTE: Double-printed cards will be twice the numbers below, short-prints will be significantly less.

SET        /   # OF CARDS     /      ESTIMATED PRINT RUN    /  # STILL EXISTING
Bowman 1948             48                                               100k                                           5,000
Bowman 1949           240                                               150k                                           7,000
Bowman 1950           252                                               175k                                           9,000
Bowman 1951           324                                               200k                                           10,000

Bowman 1952           252                                               200k                                           10.000
Topps 1952               407                                               200k*                                         12,500

Bowman 1953c         160                                               200k                                           15,500
Bowman 1953bw        64                                               200k                                           14,000
Topps 1953               274                                               250k                                           22,000

Bowman 1954           225                                               200k                                           18,500
Topps 1954               250                                               300k                                           34,000

Bowman 1955           320                                               200k                                           20,000
Topps 1955               206                                               350k                                           44,000

Topps 1956               342                                               350k                                           43,000
Topps 1957               407                                               350k                                           50,000
Topps 1958               494                                               350k                                           52,500
Topps 1959               572                                               350k                                           50,000

Fleer 1960                  79                                                200k                                          25,500
Topps 1960               572                                               350k                                           50,000

Fleer 1961                154                                                250k                                          36,000
Topps 1961               587                                               350k                                           58,000

Topps 1962               598                                               350k                                           60,000

Fleer 1963                   66                                               200k                                          30,000
Topps 1963               576                                               350k                                           65,000

Topps 1964               587                                               400k                                           65,000
Topps 1965               599                                               400k                                           67,500
Topps 1966               598                                               400k                                           70,000
Topps 1967               609                                               450k                                           72,500
Topps 1968               598                                               500k                                           75,000
Topps 1969               720                                               500k                                           77,500
Topps 1970               720                                               600k                                           80,000
Topps 1971               752                                               600k                                           90,000
Topps 1972               787                                               650k                                           100,000
Topps 1973               660                                               650k                                           110,500
Topps 1974               660                                               650k                                           115,000
Topps 1975               660                                               650k                                           120,000
Topps 1976               660                                               650k                                           125,000
Topps 1977               660                                               650k                                           130,000
Topps 1978               726                                               700k                                           135,000
Topps 1979               726                                               750k                                           140,000
Topps 1980               726                                               800k                                           145,000

Donruss 1981            605                                              550k                                           110,000
Fleer 1981                 660                                              800k                                           165,000
Topps 1981                726                                              650k                                           130,000

 

(*  About 30,000 of each card in the 1952 series were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean, after Topps printed more cards than they could sell.  In 1952, Topps had introduced a better product than Bowman, but their distribution network wasn’t up to speed, and their sales staff was inexperienced. The Bowman sales reps had built up some loyalty with merchants, and gave them “premiums” like fancy candy jars in exchange for carrying Bowman cards exclusively.  These tactics worked for awhile, but by ’53, Topps went on the offensive in a war they would ultimately win.)

One thing to remember is that huge stars (Mickey Mantle for example) did not often end up in the bicycle spokes, so the existing population of those players should be higher, because they were more likely to be saved than “common” cards were.

Now, if my numbers are significantly wrong, it is up to Sy Berger, retired Topps executive, to let me know.

By the CardHog

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