The 1956 Topps baseball cards made their debut with little fanfare. The same horizontal format from the previous year was again used with the only big difference being a background image replacing the single color backdrop of the 1955 set. The modest change to card design in no way lets the public know about the drastic change that happened to the company internally. Topps had finally ended its vicious rivalry with Bowman for control of the increasingly popular baseball card market. No more fighting over player contracts and competing for shelf space and the nickels of children everywhere who were looking for the latest cardboard heroes to worship. Like most Topps baseball card sets of the 1950s, this one did have some key 'firsts' and is still one of the most collected Topps baseball card sets. Two unnumbered checklists were included which was a Topps first. Because these were often tossed away, they can carry a premium today. Also team cards were introduced for the first time in a Topps set. In an unusual move, Topps chose to honor the league presidents and so William Harridge and Warren Giles are the first two cards in the set-probably to the disappointment of kids everywhere!
Number of Cards
Though not back to 1952 Topps baseball card set levels, the number of cards did grow substantially from the 1955 set. The end of Bowman competition meant more players could be featured and the set grew to 340 cards. This would mark the continued growth of Topps sets for the next few decades.
Size of Cards
This would be the last year that Topps cards measured 3 3/4 by 2 5/8". The release of the 1957 set would see the cards shrink to today's standard.
The design is very similar to the 1955 Topps baseball card set. A full color portrait combined with a full body action pose makes up the basic image. The colored background is replaced with actual scenery and provides a better baseball feel than the prior year. The large team logos were eliminated as well. The backs of the 1956 topps baseball cards have brief biographical information and the career highlights are no longer in text, but are now represented by a three-panel cartoon. For stats, the current season and lifetime totals are still shown. A first for the company was the appearance of two unnumbered checklists.
Issued in four separate series: Series 1 (1-100), Series 2 (101-180), Series 3 (181-260) and Series 4 (261-340). Wax packs were still produced in 1cent one card or 5 cent 6 card packs with bubble gum. The use of Series and two wax packs carry on the earlier traditions of topps baseball card sets.
Mickey Mantle made a triumphant return to Topps in the 1956 set. On the field, the Mick won the Triple Crown with an awesome .353 average, 52 homers and 130 RBIs. Don Larsen would pitch a World Series perfect game in 1956 as well. Mantle is expensive in all sets, but the 1956 card holds a special place in collectors' hearts and remains one of the most sought after of Mickey Mantle baseball cards. Other key cards include Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and the Yankee and Dodger team cards and the unnumbered checklists. Even the much-maligned presidents' cards have become collectible!!