462 cards in the set – 242 in series 1 and 220 in series 2. Card #7 was still retired at this point in honor of Mickey Mantle (this was the 3rd year Topps did this).
- Subsets: Season Highlights (#200-204), League Leaders (#221-232), World Series (#233-240), Strike Out Kings (#445-449), All-Topps Team (#450-460), Draft Picks (#213-219, 438-444), Prospects (#205-212, 425-437), a Nolan Ryan Tribute card (#34) and 2 Home Run Tributes (#220, 461). The Prospects cards again have 3 players, while Draft Picks cards again have 2. Topps continued its string of tribute cards, this time honoring McGwire and Sosa for passing Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers. Nolan Ryan got a card that was essentially the same design as the base Topps cards, though it showed three pictures of him on the back. I wish they had thought to do a Maris tribute – that would have fit perfectly with what they did in previous years by honoring Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron. Also, how Topps did 3-player cards for All-Topps Team is kind of confusing – there are two first baseman cards and a “Rookies” card, but no second baseman card.
- Set Design: The card fronts feature a glossy player photo with a gold border – the third straight year Topps didn’t have a white border. There is a vertical line along the left side of the card somewhat reminiscent of 1982 Topps. The player’s name goes vertically along that line, with the Topps logo at the top left. The team name is in the bottom right. The back of the card is horizontally positioned, with the player name and position across the top on the right side. Biographical information are below that, along with seasonal and career statistics just below that. A player photo adorns the left hand side.
- Packs: Topps stayed the same with 11 cards per retail and hobby packs. Topps no longer listed MSRP on the packs or the boxes themselves, but I believe it was the same $1.29 from the previous few years. The packs feature a shot of Roger Clemens in Blue Jays attire, the Topps logo, the series and a list of what’s randomly inserted. Series 2 has Clemens again, but in a Yankees uniform this time. There’s an H-logo on the hobby packs. The jumbo packs were HTA (hobby) exclusive and contained 12 packs per box, 40 cards per box. I’ve seen 2 types of blaster boxes. The first had 22 packs (20 + 2 bonus) at 8 cards each, costing $19.97. The second had 15 packs (14 + 1 bonus), costing $13.99 per box. I’ve also seen 8-card retail packs listed as 99¢, though those may just be what’s included in those blasters. 16-card retail jumbo packs at $1.99 per pack.
- Rookies: This is again an unimpressive crop of rookies due to the “Bowman effect”. Matt Holliday is the most notable rookie card, with AJ Burnett also having a rookie card. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada had their first Topps cards in this set.
- Hall of Fame: Down to 14 Hall of Famers in this set, a decrease of 1 from the year before. Ryan replaced Clemente as a tribute card. Rickey Henderson was back in the base set after being inexplicably left out of the 1998 set – despite the fact he had a card in a 1998 Topps insert set. And two players had their last Topps flagship card in 1998 – Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley. The one NFL Hall of Famer who tends to pop up, Deion Sanders, was out after being in the 1998 Topps set.
- Variations: There are 70 variations of McGwire’s Home Run card #220, one for each home run he hit. Sosa’s Home Run card has the same effect going on – 66 variations of his card #461. Each card is just as common as the others, making these cards individually short-printed compared to other cards in the set. Some of the cards have the backs displayed upside down – (#13 – E. Alfonso, #34 – N. Ryan, #62 – V. Guerrero, #84 – M. Caruso, #85 – Jeter, #95 – P. Martinez, #96 – G. Vaughn, #143 – D. Wilson, #174 – S. Erickson) this was never corrected. Cards from factory sets have a variation, too – the backs of cards in factory sets were printed in the opposite direction from backs included in packs.
Both boxes feature pictures of spokesmen Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan on the front. Just like the prior year when Juan Gonzalez was matched with Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rican MVPs), matching the Texan strikeout kings was a good touch by Topps.
Like with the packs, Clemens is shown about to unleash a pitch with the Jays in series 1 and with the Yankees in series 2. Ryan is shown in a similar stance in series 2, but in his windup in series 1. Both times he’s shown with the Rangers. The Topps logo looms large at the top, and the write-up tells you it’s 1999 Major League Baseball Cards Series 1/2. Advertisements on the box promote the Ryan reprint inserts and autographs, as well as the MVP promotion that Topps ran in conjunction with this set.
The odds below are for hobby packs unless noted.
Topps issued a pre-production set of 6 of the regular cards.
After three straight years without an update set, Topps went back to issuing a factory Traded set. This set was 121 cards, featured traded players and rookies, and also featured an insert of one of 75 rookie autographs. Josh Hamilton, C.C. Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena all have rookie cards in the Traded set.
The only parallel this year was also a promotion. Inserted at a very limited rate, and only into hobby packs, were cards with a Topps MVP stamp. If the player depicted won MVP of the week in 1999, you could send that card in for a set of cards honoring each of the 25 winners. This wasn’t a full parallel – it consisted of the first 198 cards in series 1, and cards #243-444 in series 2. These were basically the cards that weren’t subsets – though Nolan Ryan and the draft pick cards are included, and they had no chance to win M. There were only 100 of each cards made, so the winners are pretty rare since most were sent in.
- MVP Promotion – 400 cards (1:515)
Nolan Ryan followed Mantle, Mays and Clemente as the tribute player this year, with reprints and Finest versions of all 27 of his Topps base cards from 1968 to 1994. 14 of the cards were inserted into series 1, 13 into series 2. This was the first time in a while that there weren’t any retail-specific insert sets.
There were Finest-themed insert cards again; Mystery Finest cards were back for another go. For this set, you don’t know the player until you peel the cover. Die-cut was a big theme this year – Lords of the Diamond and Power Brokers both had die-cut designs. There is also a Hall of Fame set, which was the first insert set Topps included that feature multiple retired players. Those cards show the player with his Hall of Fame plaque as a backdrop.
- Ryan Reprints – 27 cards (1:18)
- Ryan Finest Reprints – 27 cards (1:72)
- Picture Perfect – 10 cards (1:8 series 1)
- Lords of the Diamond – 15 cards (1:18 series 1)
- New Breed – 15 cards (1:18 series 1)
- Power Brokers – 20 cards (1:36 series 1)
- Hall of Fame Collection – 10 cards (1:12 series 1 hobby)
- Record Numbers – 8 cards (1:8 series 2)
- All-Matrix – 30 cards (1:18 series 2)
- All-Topps Mystery Finest – 33 cards (1:36 series 2)
- MVP Redemption – 25 cards (send-in)
They also had “insert parallels” again – all relating to the Finest inserts.
- Ryan Finest Refractors – 27 cards (1:288)
- Power Brokers Refractors – 20 cards (1:144 series 1)
- Record Numbers Gold – 10 cards (series 2, #/d to the specific record depicted)
- All-Topps Mystery Finest Refractors – 33 cards (1:144 series 1)
Each hobby box or HTA jumbo box contained a 3.25″ x 4.5″ jumbo card as a box topper. There were 8 different cards in each series – the 16 cards are exact replicas of the player’s base cards, except for the size and numbering.
- Oversize – 16 cards (1 per hobby or HTA box)
Autographs & Memorabilia
Each of the 27 Nolan Ryan reprints were autographed by Ryan and inserted into packs. These were a difficult pull, and if you do the math there had to be less than 100 (around 90) of each card. Topps also inserted an autographed set of current players for the first time. This was a pretty good checklist – Clemens, A-Rod and Bonds were all included. I’d love to pull one of those.
- Nolan Ryan Reprint Autographs – 27 cards (1:4,260 hobby s1 / 1:5,007 hobby s2)
- Autographs – 16 cards (1:532 hobby s1 / 1:501 hobby s2)
There were three Topps factory sets issued in 1999. These aren’t quite as limited as the previous two years and can be found for a better deal these days. Ryan and Clemens are depicted on all the sets. The backs of the cards in the factory sets were printed in the opposite direction from backs included in packs. Topps didn’t include a last day production of Ryan inserts in any of the factory sets – something they’d done each of the last 3 years.
First, hobby factory sets were packaged with a blue looks like a navy background. This includes just the 462 cards in the set.
There is also a HTA factory set, which includes the base set and 1 Nolan Ryan Finest reprint as an insert card.
The retail factory set was packaged in white background and had just the base set.
The MVP redemption promotion as described above.
Other releases associated with the Topps flagship set
#1 – Topps entered the figurine market with little figures called Action Flats. Included in the packaging for each of the 12 players is a card in the design of the Topps base set with an “Action Flat” foil stamp. The figurine mirrors the picture on the card – and there was a home and away version of each player. The picture on the card is not the same picture as the Topps base set.
#2 – Topps again issued the “Topps Chrome” product, which is a full reproduction of the base set.
#3 – Topps issued its second “Opening Day” set in 1999. Again, the 165 card set was retail only, and features the same photos from the base set. The border is silver instead of gold, and there is an Opening Day logo instead of the Topps logo.
I’m not too familiar with what happened in the card industry in 1999. I was almost a non-collector at this point. I was in my freshman year of college at this point, and during the start of baseball season I was busy pledging a fraternity and finishing up the school year. I did collect Upper Deck SP (now called SP Authentic), though I don’t really remember doing so – I just know that the last baseball set I had any cards from was 1999 SP Authentic. I also remember going to a card show that summer after freshman year – probably where I got a box of SPA. I still collected Jalen Rose cards the whole time, but this was my last baseball card purchase for 7 or 8 years.
I know Pinnacle was gone after going bankrupt in 1998. Topps including variation-only cards in the base set for McGwire and Sosa is a pretty decent change, and I guess they’ve taken that idea and run over the past decade and a half. Upper Deck came out with the Piece of History 500 set, which was at the early point of inserting game-used memorabilia into cards. This is kind of the standard as the most prominent relic set out there,