2003 Topps Overview

2 09 2015

720 cards in the set – 366 in series 1 and 354 in series 2.  This is an increase of 2 cards 2002.  Card #7 was still retired at this point in honor of Mickey Mantle (for the 7th straight year).

2003 Topps Griffey with packs

  • Subsets:  Season Highlights (#332-336), League Leaders (#337-348), Postseason Highlights (#349-355, 720-721), Sporting News All-Stars (#356-367, 709-719), Award Winners (#685-708), Managers (#262-265, 267-270, 272-279, 281-288, 289-291), Future Stars (#322-331), Team Checklists (#630-659), Draft Picks (#660-674), Prospects (#675-684).  Most of these were back from last year, though the 2-player Future Stars hadn’t been around since 1996 Topps.  The Sporting News All-Stars were a throwback to the 1960’s Topps subsets.  There was no individual player tribute for only the second time since 1993.  Cards #292 to 321 feature First Year players, and the Topps All-Star Rookie team is also dispersed throughout.
  • Set Design:  The card fronts feature a blue border (the 7th straight year Topps didn’t have a white border).  The Topps logo is in red in the upper left corner and a head shot of the depicted player inside the shape of a baseball field in the bottom left corner.  This design element is similar to other set years ending in “3” (1993 and now 2013 being the exceptions).  Gold foil surrounds the head-shot and separates the player photo from the bottom of the card.  The bottom features the player name and position in gold foil over a colored background that matches the player’s team.  The backs are oriented horizontally, with the Topps logo in the upper left and the player’s name and biographical information across the top.  The team logo is in the top right inside a baseball field shape.  Seasonal and career statistics are below that, with a write-up if there’s room at the bottom.  The card number is in the bottom right corner – I really prefer when it’s at the top!
  • Packs:  Topps stayed at 10 cards per retail and hobby packs (36 per box).  They were no longer listing MSRP on the packs or the boxes themselves, but I’ve read it was $1.59, which would be a pretty steep increase.  The jumbo packs were HTA (hobby) exclusive and contained 35 cards per pack, 12 packs per box.  There were also retail jumbo packs at 12 cards per pack, 24 packs per box ($1.99).  I’ve also seen a few types of blaster boxes, two of which have 6 cards per pack.  The first one has 11 packs (10 + 1 “bonus”) for $9.97, while the second has 22 (20 + 2 “bonus”) for $19.99.  Finally, I’ve also seen a blaster with 17 12-card packs (15 + 2 “bonus”) for $29.99.
  • Rookies:  After Ichiro and Joe Mauer from the previous 2 years, there really isn’t much in 2003.  Kevin Youkilis is probably the biggest name, along with Jose Contreras.  Cliff Lee has his first Topps card in this set.
  • Hall of Fame:  14 Hall of Famers in this set, a decrease of 1 from the year before.  Tony Gwynn was no longer in the Topps set, and Tony Perez and Frank Robinson swapped out manager cards.
  • Variations:  There are 25 planned variations that use the 1970’s Topps umbrella logo.  They are extremely rare, coming 1 every 8,800 packs in series 1, 1 in 4,500 in series 2.

2003 Topps Series 1 hobby box2003 Topps Series 2 HTA Jumbo boxFor the first time in a few years, Topps didn’t feature any players on the packaging.  Series 1 boxes have a blue background, with the Topps logo prominently at the top in red.  There’s a baseball below that with a diamond backdrop and notation that it’s 2003 Topps series 1.  This is all outlined in green.  Below that is some advertisement for the record breaker autographs and relics that are inserted.  Series 2 has the same design with a red background

Promo Cards

Topps came back with pre-production cards in 2003.  There was a set of 3 cards again previewing what the design is.

There also was a set called Topps Futures which was given out at the Minor League All-Star Futures game held on All-Star Sunday in Chicago.  The set featured 6 current MLB players on the 2003 Topps design, with a photo from their day in the Minor League futures game.

Update Sets

Topps again issued an update set called Traded & Rookies exclusively in pack form.  The rookie crop in Topps Traded was much more impressive than the base set.  Robinson Cano is the headliner, but Hanley Ramirez, Brian McCann, Shane Victorino, Dan Haren and Chien-Ming Wang are all in the Traded set.  Continuing a trend I don’t particularly like, Topps Chrome Traded was again included 2 cards per pack in the Traded product.

Parallel Sets

Topps Black is the new parallel set.  Topps made a parallel far rarer than Topps Gold, which was again numbered to the current year (2003).  Topps Black was numbered to 52, to honor 52 years of collecting since the 1952 set.  There was one more parallel set available in 2003 – Home Team Advantage sets were back for the 3rd year. The cards are no different from the regular cards, except they are stamped with the gold “Home Team Advantage” logo.  The Limited Edition factory sets were discontinued after 2002.

  • Gold – 684 cards (1:16 s1, 1:7 s2)
  • Black – 684 cards (HTA Jumbo – 1:16 s1, 1:10 s2)
  • Home Team Advantage – 720 cards (in HTA factory sets)

Insert sets

Topps didn’t reprint old cards in the flagship set for 2003.  Instead, they piggy-backed off of the Heritage theme for the 1951 Red Back / Blue Back sets, which hadn’t gotten that kind of treatment yet.  Series 1 had 40 cards of current players in the 1951 Blue Back design, while series 2 had the same with Red Backs.  There were a lot of familiar themes; in fact, all of the sets except for the 1951 Backs and Record Breakers were insert sets that had been in Topps flagship in some previous year.  Hit Parade moved from a 2000 Relic set to a 2003 standard insert set.

  • 1951 Blue Backs – 40 cards (1:12 series 1)
  • 1951 Red Backs – 40 cards (1:12 series 2)
  • Record Breakers – 101 cards (1:6)
  • Nolan Ryan Record Breakers – 7 cards (unsure – see below)
  • Own the Game – 30 cards (1:12 series 1)
  • Hobby Masters – 20 cards (1:18 series 1)
  • Hit Parade – 30 cards (1:15 series 2)
  • All-Stars – 20 cards (1:15 series 2)
  • Flashback – 15 cards (HTA Jumbo – 1:12 series 1)
  • Topps Draft Picks – 10 cards (5 per Blue & Brown factory sets)
  • Topps First Year Player Bonus – 10 cards (5 per HTA factory sets)

There were no insert parallels or box-toppers in 2003.  Beckett and Baseballcardpedia say that the Nolan Ryan No-Hitter Record Breaker cards come 1:2 per series 2 HTA Jumbo.  I bought a s2 HTA Jumbo box, and I can tell you that’s not the case.  Record Breaker cards come 1:2, but the Ryan cards do not.  In a box of 12 packs, I did not pull a single Ryan card.  From searching for these online, they clearly are much more rare than that.

Autographs & Memorabilia

The Autograph insert was again its own design around 40 cards (38 this year).  They also created autographed versions of the insert sets like Record Breakers.  The Turn Back the Clock autograph was actually an autographed version of the Flashback cards, with the wording modified.

On the relic side – Topps had Record Breaker relics as well.  They used the “Prime Cuts” name, featuring bat pieces in varying levels of rarity, for second straight year.  And one year after having Ebbets Field / Yankee Stadium relic cards, Topps put in another iconic baseball park – Riverfront Stadium!  OK, so it’s not quite on the level of the two New York legends, but it was a cool idea to do a farewell relic set and since I’m a Reds fan, I like it!

  • Autographs – 38 cards (tiered odds s1 / s2)
  • Record Breakers Autographs – 19 cards (1:6,941 s1 / 1:2,218 s2)
  • Nolan Ryan Record Breaker Autographs – 3 cards (HTA jumbo – 1:1,894 s2)
  • Turn Back the Clock Autographs – 4 cards (HTA jumbo – 1:134 s1)
  • Record Breakers Relics – 40 cards (tiered odds s1 / s2)
  • Prime Cuts Pine Tar Relics – 42 cards (1:9,266 s1 / 1:4,288 s2, #/200)
  • Prime Cuts Trademark Relics – 42 cards (1:18,533 s1 / 1:12,912 s2, #/100)
  • Prime Cuts Barrel Relics – 31 cards (1:37,066 s1 / 1:116,208 s2, #/50)
  • Farewell to Riverfront Stadium Relics – 10 cards (HTA jumbo – 1:37 s2)
  • Prime Cuts Autographed Relics – 10 cards (1:27,661 s1 / 1:232,416 s2, #/50)

There were also a few autographs that were part of a cross-product promotion that were inserted into packs:

  • Team Topps Blue Chips – 24 cards
  • Team Topps Legends – 15 cards

Factory Set

There were again quite a few different Topps factory set options in 2003.  This is actually getting kind of challenging to keep track of on my end, especially since I’m not going out and buying these cards to verify.  I’ve seen some varied information as to what’s in the actual sets.  And color is a differentiator – and I’m color-blind!  As far as I can tell, there are 4 different factory sets, one of which contains cards with the HTA logo.  Each of those factory sets contains a 5-card bonus pack making up 2 10-card sets – the First Year Card Bonus set and the Draft Picks set.

If anyone has some of the specific information on which cards came in which sets (I’m not sure other than the blue retail set below) – I’d love to know!

First, the retail factory sets were packaged with a blue background.  This set has cards #1-5 of the First Year Bonus set.  I’m fully confident I have the colors / bonus cards matched up correctly here, as I saw an auction where they showed this box with those bonus cards.  The original retail price was $49.99.

2003 Topps Factory set blue retail

The hobby factory set was packaged with a brown background.  I believe this has cards #6-10 of the First Year Bonus set, but it could possibly have cards #1-5 of the Draft Pick set.

2003 Topps Factory set brown hobby

Next, there’s a Home Team Advantage factory set, with the HTA stamp on the cards that basically make them a rarer parallel.  I believe this set has the first 5 bonus Topps Draft Picks.  It comes in a dark green box, with the HTA logo on the box.

2003 Topps Factory set HTA green

Finally, I think this is the Holiday version of the HTA set, with more blue in it.  I could be wrong, and in fact these could be the same boxes with different lighting on the pictures, but this was what came up when I searched for holiday factory sets.  My guess is this came with the final cards #6-10.

2003 Topps Factory set HTA blue holiday


For the 3rd straight year, Topps had a buyback program where they bought back 950 different cards and stamped them.  These were a different kind of stamp from the ones you see today.  Beckett calls it “Topps Vintage Embossed”, it isn’t a foil stamp like what we’ll see today, but an impression.  Odds were 1:940 in series 1 hobby, and were probably about half that in series 2.  Topps later released the print runs of how many of each card had been bought back and stamped.

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship set

#1 – Topps again issued the “Topps Chrome” product – its 8th year.  It wasn’t a full chrome reproduction of the base set for the 3rd time in those 8 years.  This time, the set was down to a much smaller 440 cards.

#2 – Topps issued its 6th “Opening Day” set in 2003.  Again, the 165 card set was retail only, and features the same photos from the base set.  The border is green instead of blue, and there is an Opening Day logo in the bottom right corner.

#3 – Topps issued a Japanese set in conjunction with Kanebo, a company that I think is a gum manufacturer in Japan.  There are 55 cards, most of them done in the same design and photo as 2002 Topps.  There are a few cards that are actually the same as the player’s 2003 Topps card.  The backs are written in Japanese.

#4 – Topps issued an inaugural set called “Topps Retired Signature” in 2003.  This was retired players on the base design, except with a white border.  It was a high-end product with 5 packs in a box, with an autograph per pack.



3 responses

14 01 2016
Hobby Box Break #12 – 2003 Topps Series 1 | addiction as therapy

[…] LIFETIME TOPPS PROJECT does a great job of writing up the info for each year’s set. You can find the 2003 one here. […]

8 08 2016

What can you tell me about the value of the 2003 bonus box set?
It comes with 11 six card packs and originally sold for $9.97 a box

8 08 2016

That’s a retail blaster of packs, not a set. My guess – it’s probably worth less than the original $9.97

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